My Suegra

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When I found out that my mother-in-law was coming to visit us, I was so excited! She’s never been this far from Chiapas, and I had given up hope of having her here.

I was excited, but then I got nervous. Not because of normal mother-in-law worries, but because life here is so different than what she’s used to. She wakes up in the morning and crawls out from under the mosquito net that has shredded her bed during the night. It isn’t actually a net, but something thicker–impermeable to good air flow.

To begin to cook breakfast and coffee, my suegra builds a small fire under her comal. A comal is a flat piece of metal that is commonly used to cook tortillas. She feeds the fire with wood, often adjusting where the heat is focused. Coffee (that she grew and ground) is stirred into a pot of water on the comal.

Then she begins the masa–at one time, my suegra would begin to soften dried corn with cal. I just found out yesterday that cal is lye. Yes, the same lye that makes soap… Now she doesn’t make her own masa, but instead buys in cheap from a lady who walks a round selling it. She deftly pats out the tortillas by hand, using a piece of plastic underneath as an aide to turn the tortilla while keeping it from sticking to other things.

If my mother-in-law wants eggs for breakfast, she needs to go find them–but often she keeps an eye out on where the chickens are laying around the yards. A handful of rice thrown on the ground is met by a chorus of pio pio, and the little pollitos scramble to eat before their brothers.

When breakfast is over, my suegra begins her daily chores. She washes one of her several dresses that she switches out throat the week. Other clothes are also washed by hand and hung up to dry. She sweeps–not just inside the concrete floor of the bedroom but the hard packed dirt that covers the area where she cooks and the common area where the family gathers in the yard. Until I visited Chiapas, I would have never guess that you would sweep a dirt floor.

If it happens to be a day when the water gets delivered, my suegra starts to clean out the concrete holding tank that keeps a week’s worth of water. She scrubs the tank to loosen any algae that has grown. As the water arrives, bleach is added as an extra protectant from whatever arrives with it. Victor says the water comes from the hills, and if it is the rainy season it is full of mud.

This water is used for washing dishes, bathing, and flushing the commode. While they have a toilet (sans seat), they don’t have running water–so she carries water from their water tank to the “bathroom.” It is also used for washing laundry, mopping, and brushing your teeth. When it is time to shower, a large five gallon bucket is filled with cold water, and a smaller scoop is used to dump the water on your body.

Luckily, it was evident that my worries were for nothing. The baby has quickly taken to her abuelita, and they are the best of friends. Abuelita does make her were her shoes all the time, as she worries the “cold” tile will make Ale sick. She cooks for Ale rice with veggies, tortillas, and beans–and changes her cloth diapers throughout the day.

She’s learned to operate the shower and the hot water. She carries her sweater to warm her up, because our swamp cooler makes her cold. And she keeps busy straightening up, watching Ale, and cooking.

The hardest thing for my suegra to see here was the money we spend when we eat out at a restaurant–something we do too often. Well, something we used to do too often… Now, who wants to eat out when you have a little chiapanecan cooking yummy salsas and fresh tortillas everyday?

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A Year In Review

Tonight marks my two year anniversary south of the border!  Wow!  It’s hard to believe that I was once that excited young gringa–jaded by the educational system and failed relationships in the north on her way to adventure in Chiapas!  Two years ago, I packed my bags for six months.  My friend made the comment that I could do anything for six months.  “Even if you hate it,” she said, “You only have to be there six months.”  Shortly before this, her husband had remarked that we would soon know where I belonged.  I remind myself of how broken I was–and how willing I was to be placed where God needed me the most.   That was December 31, 2011

20120108-172130.jpgMy first meeting in Chiapas.  These kids were the nephews and grand daughter of the lady who had the meeting.  A lady that we grew to love so much!

20120110-154202.jpgMy second graders at The American School Foundation of Chiapas spoke little to no english.  In order to teach them procedures, I had to make these signs.  I practiced not speaking at all (super hard for me, but effective).  I came to Mexico with a couple of phrases, but I had to learn fast!

My first year in Mexico proved to be exceptional!  Shortly after arriving, I fell in love… with the country!  It wasn’t long before I met my husband and we decided to tough it out.  (It helps when it isn’t that tough, eh?)  I returned to the United States without him–pregnant and hoping to land a job.  And I did!  It just wasn’t in the United States!  Victor and I moved to the northern state of Coahuila, and I began teaching here.  We struggled some those early months–mostly with money and the lack of support that I initially felt from my employer.  That took us to December 31, 2012.  One year in Mexico!

20120121-162216.jpgI always felt like it was rude to take pictures of the indigenous people in San Cristobal.  I didn’t want to be THAT gringa.  This doesn’t even really show a fraction of how wonderful and lively it is there!

20120324-204953.jpgVictor and I met in San Cristobal.  The rest is history…

(Sidenote:  My one year in Mexico is also my husband’s one year in Mexico.  He arrived just a week before me, and we are patiently waiting out his ten-year ban.  It sounds so harsh, huh?)

It’s been strange to read on Facebook status updates how horrible 2013 was for people.  I feel almost displaced from their happiness–but I do understand what it feels like to have several wrong turns on your road to bliss.  How blessed I feel to be in this country with my family!  What a full year this has been!

January 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor and I started 2013 with our civil ceremony.

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February 2012

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Victor and I went to a hotel for my birthday.  Really, it was just so that I could get a good bath.  How nice it was to get in the pool!  I felt weightless (obviously, I wasn’t…)

March 2013

birth.jpgOur little Alexandria swam into the world a couple months later.  Having a water birth was ahhhh-mazing!  Being able to have Ale at home was great too!  I was able to sleep in my own bed!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle’s first visit with the workers who were in town for Special Meeting.  She was one week old here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpecial Meeting (Ale’s first meeting) with a special visitor who swooped in to save the day!

April 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took Ale’s first trip to Monterrey to get her American birth certificate and passport.  We met some of the sweet friends, and Victor had his first gospel meeting!  He was astonished by all the young people.

May 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor made his choice to serve God known to our little church.  

June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle traveled to the United States where her best friend tried to eat her upon meeting her.

July 2013

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IMG_0642We’ve been to visit both families–and ALMOST all of Ale’s cousins, aunts, and uncles (short one cousin and one uncle).  This is Ale with her abuelos in Chiapas.

August 2013

IMG_0860We settled into our “new” house, and started a new school year.

September 2013

20130918-172659.jpgWe went to Alexandria’s first convention. 

IMG_0834And she cut her first teeth…

October 2013

IMG_1615Mommy’s first work trip away.  Guess who wasn’t upset at all?

IMG_1653Ale’s first Halloween–dressed as the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

November 2013

20131128-222758.jpgMy first Thanksgiving away from home.  Ale’s first Thanksgiving.  And Victor’s first Thanksgiving in Mexico!

December 2013

Ale_Dec3113.jpgAle has made us squeal with joy, and she just gets better everyday.

My Mexicans

Before my husband was my husband I sent him on an important trip. He was heading to San Cristobal for the day, and I wanted him to buy a pretty hand-embroidered dress for my friend’s new daughter.

They are very delicate, girlie, and quite lovely! Usually white, flowers of purple and pink are embroidered on the front and around the bottom.

Instead, my husband returns with some kind of woven jumper…

I took it home laughing, and when I found it this summer–I decided our daughter should wear it. This is what I came home to:

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A Poo Emergency

I have a friend who uses the expression “Poo Emergency” more frequently than you would imagine. Let me tell you, being back in Chiapas makes a stop on the side of the road look like nothing…

I realize that after a hiatus from writing, you probably weren’t expecting this post today. After all, this summer has been full of all kinds of family fun. Bebita and I have been all over meeting new family members. Sometimes, the things that weigh heaviest on a blogger’s mind come from somewhere deep inside…

Using the bathroom in Chiapas isn’t squatting over a hole in China–but it isn’t a pretty thing. It was one of the things that I had the hardest time getting used to last year. I mean, seriously, I know toilet seats aren’t necessary, but they sure are nice! (Do you think Mexican men got tired of their wives complaining, and they just decided to take them off?)

We carry toilet paper with us everywhere too–because apparently that’s also not a given…

My newest experience involves my husband’s sweet family. Most of the houses have a crude sort of bathroom outside. (Think outhouse without the smell–and an actual toilet to sit on.) His sister decided to move her “bathroom” to inside her house. I use the word inside lightly, as there is an open area to the side of the bedrooms where the family cooks, eats, visits, and…uses the bathroom.

Oh! And to flush, you fill a bucket with water from the rain barrel by the better old bathroom location. How could I forget that!

This particular morning, I was hurting while mentally willing the family to get up from the table a mere five feet away from the open air bathroom. By “open air” I am referring to the fact that I can look up at the guava tree while I’m using the facilities, I can see the family move about through the shower curtain, and I could join the conversation without raising my voice if I were a braver soul.

Instead? I clench my muscles and explain to my husband that my bowels are rebelling against tamales and tacos. (Yep. We no longer have secrets, it seems…). We work as a team to fill the water bucket before I go–as to quickly remove the wastes as soon as possible.

The privacy of the Starbucks bathroom was not wasted on someone unappreciative today as we made our way back to “civilization”.