A Travellerspoint blog

Day of the Dead

I dug it

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This past Friday, when all of the kids in the States were enjoying their school Halloween parties, we were getting down with the Day of the Dead here in Mexico.

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El dia de los Muertos (or All Souls’ Day) traditionally consists of building private alters for the deceased in your family - most typically using sugar skulls and marigolds to accent the favorite food and drink of those who have passed on. This is a way to pay respect for those no longer with us. Here, the kids of each classroom at the Ixaya School (http://www.tashirat.com/orphanage-school/ixaya-school/) built group alters for their annual Day of the Dead contest. Each multi-tiered sculpture popped with color, glowed with light and tickled the taste buds. Let the party begin…

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The whole afternoon was dedicated to the dead. Costume and alter contests brought out the spirits, but it was the living that could be heard throughout - laughing and carrying on like kids do. It was refreshing to take part in this morbid holiday, respecting both the dead and the local culture.

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Later on that night, I put my chaperoning shoes on and tried to remember what it was like to dance the night away at age twelve. The Ixaya School hosted a Day of the Dead dance that brought out kids ages 10-17. The DJ kept the beat bumping as the older crews broke into break (dancing) segments, while the younger ghouls chased each other around the dance floor. Around 10:30pm, two stilt dancers took to the floor and by 11:30pm, the remaining ‘adults’ joined in with feel-free foot-work to shut the place down. The day and holiday experience was complete… and I was dead tired.

Posted by triptime 20:54 Archived in Mexico Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Boys will be Boys

God made dirt - Dirt don't hurt

sunny

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After another successful climb up into the clouds, this time making it to the top, Karly and I arrived back at the Ashram to find it under construction.

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The boys were in building mode. The dirt area designated for concrete mixing had been taken over by our own slew of construction workers. Dirt + Water = Fun. Sometimes, it’s that simple. Add a few toy cars and a couple of your mates and it’s magic!

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No crying, no fighting, a bit of sunshine and some mud on their clothes - the perfect way to spend an afternoon, watching boys be boys.

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Posted by triptime 10:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Saddle-Up!

Mexican Field Trip

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While working for the City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks, I was fortunate enough to be in a position, and a community, where I could effect a number of kids in many different ways. I now find myself in a totally different environment, but still with the same opportunity.

I have been asked to be the field trip guy, among other things. Now that’s the job of jobs! The goal is take the older kids, 10 years of age and up, on an outing every Sunday. This is right up my alley. I accept.

So this past Sunday, we started the trend.

I didn’t know exactly where we were going. A few different ideas and places had been tossed around Saturday night, so I told the kids to be ready at 8am the next morning.

The ‘fall back’ time change played into our favor as we scurried around Sunday morning making breakfast, fixing sack-lunches and preparing the van. The Tashirat go-to taxi driver, Pedro, was right on time and after a quick pau wau, we had our destination(s) set.

Nine kids, two gringos (myself and the Scotsman) and Pedro drove upward and outward towards Lagunas de Zempoala, but not before we ran out of gas. As we left Tepoztlan, steadily climbing, the engine began to putter. The gas station was insight at the top of the hill, but the van was on its last few gulps of gasoline. We limped into the station without a drop to spare. While we waited for our turn at the pump, Big Red shut down. The push to the pump was minimal this time, thank God.

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Winding and climbing, the curves began to get to a few kids (myself included), but before faces turned green, we had arrived. Speaking of green, I felt like I was in the middle of the Colorado wilderness - a thin-stretching lake tucked back between the pines, nestled in at the base of smoky peaks. iQue bonito!

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We had beaten the crowds to this weekend hot-spot, so we were easy targets for the handful of caballeros trying to saddle-up our crew on horseback. After proper negotiations, we were able to slash the price in half and get eight of our nine willing kids (plus this gaucho) off and riding on selected noble steeds. Giddy-yup!

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A half hour of bouncing, trotting and holding on for dear life provided an amazing glimpse into a green and rugged Mexico I never knew existed. Mountain streams feed the lake, adding a fun obstacle for some of our horses and riders. Once finished, we dismounted and caught up with the rest of the gang. We watched a few locals pull rainbow trout from the stream with their hands and then a few of the adventurous boys proved that they could successfully make the leap from one side to another.

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The day continued with a walk around the lake, with an added twist. Craig had all of us picking up trash along the way, keeping nature natural. By the time we looped back around, it was time for our picnic lunch on the hill where we were joined by a shy armadillo and two hungry horses.

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Next.

To finish off the day, we reloaded into the van and Pedro delivered us to Los Columpios (The Swings). I was intrigued.

A few of the kids had been there before, so they were our guides through the assortment of tree-hung rope swings in a park setting. It brought back memories of the old rope swing my sister and I had in our front yard growing up. We warmed up to the big ones. Some had tires attached and other were simply cut tree branches. Craig and I had a blast pushing the kids higher and getting creative with ways to go two at-a-time. We definitely made our presence known in the park, adding a ton of laughs and screams.

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The day was magic. The kids were the most well-behaved and gracious kids I have ever taken on a trip. Days like this mean so much to us all! So where to next???

Thanks to Uncle Brad (Villers) for donating the money to make this trip possible! The kids want to know when you are coming to visit… and so do I.

Posted by triptime 16:26 Archived in Mexico Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

This is me now

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The sounds of weeds being whacked.
The revving of engines.
A horn.
A crack.

A slight breeze pushing the leaves.

Tiny chirps and roosters cock-a-doodling.
Insects scurry, some just chirping.

Almost still.
Almost bliss.
Feeling clear, but which direction to steer?

Shoes off, sitting on rocks.
A valley lays before me, barbed wire within grasp.
An abundance of lushness, wet puddles, damp socks.

No one around,
just me and the keys,
just me and my peace.

My mind is at ease
and my body some aches.
Working on routine,
working out kinks.
All while looking out at jagged peaks out of reach.

This is me now.

Posted by triptime 16:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

First Day Off

We climb a mountain

semi-overcast 25 °C

I had just gotten settled. Well, as settled as anyone changing his life style 180 degrees from the past year could be.

Craig (my Scottish soccer-coaching volunteer of a roommate) and I were told by the sweet-voiced staff liaison Karly that we were going on a nice hike to see some waterfalls. That was her pitch and we bought in.

Karly orchestrated the Nissan SUV through the tiny, back alleys of Tepoztlan, gradually making our way up a tree covered path. We parked and embarked. Within 10 minutes, we were turned around and heading back in the same direction - we had gone the wrong way. Actually, I think this was all part of her plan. A distraction tactic. We passed a few others heading in a new direction and soon learned of the right path. But as rumor had it, there wasn’t much water running from the falls.

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“Say guys, what do you think about climbing to the top of that peak over there?”

Craig and I took a look.

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“You mean that one?”

“Yeah, it looks like you can go up right there!”

“I don’t know. I think it’s steeper than you think.”

Karly was all for giving it a go.

“Lets at least get to the base and check it out.”

There was no trail in sight. We hopped fences, navigated patches of corn stalks and hacked our way through head-high brush until we reached the base.

At first, we were just testing the rock, picking good grips and finding good foot holds. Next thing we knew, we were a 100 feet up and looking down.

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This was about the time when Craig mentioned that he had never climbed a rock (of any sorts) in his life and that he might have a ‘we’ fear of heights. Perfect timing. We should have turned around then and made our way back down, but Craig said he would push on.

The rest of the climb was full of mumbled curse words and reminders to “not look down”. Karly led the plunge and once near the top, scouted for an alternate route down. No such luck.

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In between pep talks and positive reinforcement spiels, I took in the scenery of the surrounding area. The rainy season was coming to a close, but its effects were still in full bloom. Spectacular.

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Going down was a slow and grinding experience. I went first, looking for the best route and talking Craig down from above. One step at a time. It was a true team effort reaching solid, level ground again. At times, we glimpsed down, wondering just how exactly we got up that stretch in the first place.

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No ropes, no special shoes and no common sense. Craig summed it up as “true madness”, and it probably was. I’ll have to admit that my heart was pumping pretty hard and my “What would Mom say?” beacon was blaring from start to finish, but we came out of it with a bit of dirt under our nails, a few leaves in our hair and smirks on our faces. Not a bad first bonding experience in this new home away from home. I can’t wait until next weekend!

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Posted by triptime 19:56 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

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