Thursday, May 19, 2011

Now that I'm home...

So, my original plan was to journal each day while I was in Mexico...things would be fresh in my mind and easy to transfer to you all.  However, things didn't work out that way.  We had to journal (on paper, *gasp*) and hand it in before the airplane ride home, so my "school" journaling took priority over my blog.  I did try to do a few vlogs, but after the first 2 successfully uploaded, anything after that just refused to.  Go figure.

I've been home for some time, and again, it was my intention to update the whole blog again, but, as you all likely know, LIFE HAPPENS.  The kids missed me, Mr. Delusional did too, and the schoolwork wasn't going away.  However, now that things have calmed down (a little) and I've gotten back into the swing of things in "real life" I decided (after a bit of nudging by my instructor no less) to finish the blogging about this trip.

So, I'm just going to review my thoughts/feelings about each of the centers that we visited - not all of them are positive.  I'll include links, where possible, to each place.  Also, I'll write another blog post about my general thoughts of the Practicum Tour in general.

So, here are the places we visited:

  • Feed the Hungry - wow, this organization is unbelievable...from simply providing (healthy) food to the children in and around San Miguel de Allende, they also provide scholarships for those children to continue on with their education, are implementing a library program and building community resource centers. Anyhow - not only are they providing the food for the students, but teaching the parents about nutrition, and implementing programs like community gardens and the like.  Also, the kitchens themselves are manned (or womaned, ha!) by local women - so Feed the Hungry is then also providing work opportunities for women, too.  I love this organization!  If you love it too, you can click here to go to their donation page
  • Casa Hogar Santa Julia - This place was gorgeous, the girls were just as beautiful, and the madres were pretty cool too.  They are certainly providing for those girls, and they definitely have need (clothes, money, donations, etc) but -- I just didn't "get" it.  Only girls are allowed in, so not only are they torn away from their parents, but also any male siblings too.  When we took the girls to the swim park, my charges grabbed my first, I thought it was a desire to take pictures, but they wanted to see the pictures...she told me she wanted to look for her brother.  Broke. My. Heart.  Also, we brought our donations (there were a LOT, thank you to everyone who brought something for me to take!); they brought in some girls, pulled out a few items for them to "ooh" and "ah" over, and then had us pose with a child and a felt too contrived for me.  I understand that some donors like/want/crave that - but for me, it was off-putting.  However, these girls ARE being helped, so don't think it's all negative.  If you'd like to help them too, click here for their donation page.
  • Casa Ayuda - This is the place that eventually took my heart.  They were so fantastic here, much like Santa Julia, Casa Ayuda took in children, but they refused to break up the brother/sister combos.  As his household expanded, Victor saw the need for early education in his community.  He built a preschool/kindergarten.  Then, there was a need for elementary, so they added on to that....when we were visiting, the framework was up for middle/high school area (but they'd run out of money, so it's been put on hold for a bit).  I'm currently working on finding the complete mailing address for Casa Ayuda....but in the mean time, you can find them on Facebook, perhaps if your Spanish is better than mine, you'll get the information before I do!  EDIT:  I've got an address!!
Casa Ayuda
San Gabriel 13
Colonia Providencia
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tel 154 7688
  • CASA - (the website is down right now, sorry!) - this place is fantastic too.  They have such a variety of programs: community center, maternity hospital, family health clinic, Midwifery program (includes Mexico's only government-accredited school of midwifery - too cool!!), Daycare (for children up to 6 yrs), a library and a counseling/anti-violence program.  The whole place is really fantastic, and once the website is up, I'll post it.  In the mean time, if this is a place that you'd like to donate to, you can send your checks/cheques payable to: San Miguel-CASA, Inc.

                                    Address is:  PMB, 220 N. Zapata Highway, Ste. 11
                                                       Laredo, TX 78043-4464

  • Casa de Los Angeles - This is essentially a free daycare for women in need.  When I was there, there were children as young as 3 weeks (the one that I fell in love with was there since he was just 2 days old!!) all the way up to 6 years.  Okay, there were a few older ones because it was still Easter Break and moms had to work and had no place for their older children.  I'm amazed at the good work being done at this place as well, I wish that I'd had more time to spend there, but 2 hours was all I got.  :(  Some of the other lucky girls got to go back for a second day...  Anyhow - they are also desperate for donations, if you'd like to do so, click here.  (ps, you can also volunteer to work there!  Sweet!)
  • Colegio Rudolf Steiner - this is a Waldorf based program and it is amazing.  Sure, the kids that go here pay a tuition for it, but it is, never the less, an absolutely amazing place.  When I first walked in and got the tour, I thought "my, this is a little crunchy" but after sitting in on a morning class with the kindergarteners, I was hooked.  I saw design elements, teaching strategies, and programming that I want to bring over into my own dayhome.  It's really fantastic and quite an interesting philosophy.  
  • A center that I didn't get to go to (I was visiting the Waldorf school) was Centro de Crecimiento.  From what I've heard, this place was also very moving for the students who went there...they certainly didn't stop talking about it!  In my limited time in Mexico, I didn't see anyone with a disability - at all.  I'm not sure what, if anything, culture has to do with that.  Anyhow, Crecimiento is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with disabilities.  If you'd like to donate, you can click here.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


We were warned from the very beginning not to drink the water here.  We are not to use it to brush our teeth, and we are not even to use our dishes unless they are dry.

But - the habit of sticking your toothbrush under the tap and brushing was just too much for me to break.  I'd always remember after I'd had the toothbrush in my mouth, or better yet, as I was putting it away.

Well, my habit has come back to bite me.  I was sick last night.  Violently, horrendously sick.  I don't want to disgust you with details, but let's just say that both ends were going so strongly that my body still aches from it today.

I hurt.  My stomach feels like I've been punched by Mike Tyson, my aching back and arms feel like I've been through boot camp.

So, a little word of advice from your dear friend Hethr:  When in Mexico remember to use the bottled water for anything that will eventually go into your mouth.

Pray for me friends.  I don't know if I'll survive another night like the last one.

Getting Lost

A few days ago I was sent with a smaller group of other students to the orphanage to play with the girls and bring some of the donations down to them.  We arrived in a cab, spent a fun few hours playing with them, and then decided we'd walk home to see San Miguel de Allende on the way back.  It was only about a 10 minute cab ride there, so we thought it wouldn't be so hard.  Our teacher even said, "If you get lost, just keep the Parish of San Miguel in your sites because our hotel isn't far from there."

This is our group - very, very lost
Ha, easier said than done.  We found dead end after dead end.  Within the down town area, all the street names are written on the sides of the buildings, this was not the case out there.  We had no idea where we were and our limited Spanish was quite the amusement for the locals that we asked for directions.

We turned one corner and found a little store - bought some pop and tried to ask them how to get back to our street, we just got shrugs.

We walked for about 20 minutes, found a gaggle of children hanging out on their front step and asked them, they laughed and laughed....we asked them where the parish was and got these stares of "you've got to be kidding me" -- they pointed down the street and after two steps, we saw the parish - very far away, but so very obvious that we now understood why we got the looks we did.

We met a man on the side of a street and asked him where we were on our map.  He motioned to us that he didn't have his glasses, so one of my classmates, Gail, pops hers off her head and gave them to him.  He still couldn't find where we were.

Suddenly, I realized that I was missing my camera.  A surge of panic washed over me as I remembered last having it at the place where we bought our now empty pops.  We were torn - do we turn back and try to find it after all those twists and turns, or do we just give it up as a lost cause...that's when I looked at another student, Linda, who had my camera slung over her arm...she even forgot she had it too!  So the hunt to get home was back on.

We knew we were getting close when we went from dirt roads to a new, nicely paved one.  Still nothing looked familiar.  We walked for another 10 minutes or so.  We saw two men holding an adorable little baby on the side of the street chatting away to one another.  We walked up to them, holding out our map and asked, "Donde??"  One of the man looks up and says, "You lost?"  Oh, how sweet it was to hear English!!  He tried to find where we were on the map, told us our map was too old and then said, "You're only about a 10 minute walk from where you want to go....if you know what you're doing."

Right.  We had no idea what we were doing!!  He told us to stay on this road and eventually a cab would come.  He was right.  We all piled into the back of the cab - we were rescued by Alfredo.  With all 5 of us in his car, we made it bottom out on every speed bump (of which there are MANY).  He charged us an extra 10 pesos, but we made it home.

What an adventure!  It ended up taking us more than 45 minutes to get home...but I wouldn't trade in that experience for the world!

Friday, April 29, 2011

More thoughts

It was my goal to journal every day while I was here...I've done that for the practicum portion of the trip, but haven't been able to get to it on my blog.  I think that the problem is that there is so much for me to take in, the place, the sights, the emotions...and I just need time to sit down and process what exactly I'm feeling before I can do much more.  I've even had trouble sleeping, and I think it's the same reason, my brain is just digesting everything that's happened that day.

Yesterday though, we got a bit of a break in the afternoon and went to the hot springs just outside of town.  At first I felt it was a bit of a waste of time, but I didn't realize how much I needed a break until we had it.

So - here are my thoughts on some of the other places that we visited:

Casa Ayuda - (Oh how I wish they had a webpage so you could donate....going to ask if there's possibly an address or something just in case) This is a foster-type of home here in San Miguel de Allende.  I use the term "foster-home" very, very loosely though, because it's not anything that's set up by the government.  In fact, Victor (the father) doesn't get any help from the government because he refuses to cater to only boys or only girls.  He felt that it was important that children who were fleeing violence (or dropped off) were able to stay with their brothers/sisters.  This unisex form of care is ... shall we say "not looked well upon" here.  So, Victor and his family make due.  I forgot how many of his own children he's got, but on top of them, he's got another 17 fosters in his care right now.  The youngest was about 8 and the oldest is 20 now and has decided that rather than going back to his family (or out in the world) that he would stay and help out Victor.

The children at Casa Ayuda do a lot of "making due" - in the words of Victor, "What some people see as garbage, we find use and beauty in." 

So, the children use what is available to them to make book shelves, toys and other such necessities.  The older children helped to build a school where children from the neighborhood come to learn (90 kids).  They used old pallets to build a roof for it and the wall was just bits of wallboard patched together like a puzzle.  However, these were some of the happiest children that I've seen.  They had a spirit about them that I just couldn't describe.

Hmm...I thought that I was going to get more out than that.....but I'm thinking that I need to take a break now.  I'll write more later.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Reflections on Day One

Wow. There are not a whole lot of words for what I experienced today. What an amazing place this is; it is visually stunning.Your senses are overwhelmed by the majestic beauty of it all. I woke up this morning to the chirping of birds and the babble of water outside my window. I sat on the patio, alone, as the world woke up around me. The streets began to come alive with cars going to and fro...a dog barked...a cat stretched lazily and curled up in a pool of light from the breaking dawn. I was inhaling peace with every breath.

Eventually, the casita owner and the rest of the students woke up – we were served breakfast (so good!) and given an overview of our day. We were to be given a presentation at 10am, and then out to the orphanage by noon. It didn’t seem like too much, and I now understand why.

The morning’s presentation was given by Dianne Hart of Feed the Hungry – this place does SO much more than simply feeding the hungry. They have invested into the schools by building kitchens so that the students can have meals. Then, they needed to hire cooks to make those meals, and they 2 women from each municipality to hold the positions. On top of feeding the hungry, they also educate parents and communities about healthy eating, preventing malnutrition and teaching them how to grow community gardens so that they can plant and grow their own fresh vegetables.

They’ve also expanded and have started a scholarship program where they pay for the children to continue their education. In places where most children didn’t go to school past grade 6, they now have them in grade 10. The students have goals and ambitions now (architects, dentists, nurses, chefs) and they have hope. Hope is the most promising thing.

Her presentation was moving and stirred my soul. Please consider donating to their cause (you can choose if you’d like your money to go towards the educational or the nutritional aspects).

We had a bit of a break and then when right to Casa Hagar Santa Julia – oh my gosh...this place literally moved me to tears. The Madres have taken in these girls, most of whom are not orphaned, but abandoned. Some are removed from their homes due to violence (physical or sexual)....their stories are just horrifying. However, the Madres don’t want you to focus on the girls’ past; instead they want us to look towards the future – what can these girls be? Why were they chosen to be here? How can we help them to become strong, proud women?

We got a simple tour of the centre – it’s beautiful. The girls are learning self-sustaining life techniques such as cooking, sewing, jewellery making and more. They are all quite self sufficient and polite. I was amazed at how “together” they are. The older ones looking out for the younger, the younger ones polite and well-behaved. They were thrilled that we were there (they are so starving for motherly attention) and it was just an amazing thing to sit back and watch. They served us lunch (delicious) I ate a roasted chilli pepper (not the best idea!) and then we had a birthday “party” for the Madres (4 birthdays within a month!) – it was fun, it was heart warming, and it was so memorable.

When we left, Robin (a volunteer there who is essentially the translator for us all) told us, “You are all in our hearts, you are a part of our family.”

I sobbed. I tear up just recalling this now.

Today was a day that I will not forget any time soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

53 hours

That's right, only 53 hours left before I leave!  We learned that our first full day there we'll be going to be spending at Feed the Hungry.  Other than that, apparently part of the process of the trip is learning to take things as they come at you.  As a Type A personality who likes to be well planned out and prepared for everything so that I can excel - it's hard for me to accept.

So, instead I've been dreaming about my Casita.  Yup, we were also told which lovely Casita we'll be staying in, and the one I've been assigned is gorgeous (not that all of them aren't!).  I've also been assigned my room mates -- which is cool.  All this time, I'd been planning on rooming with a different person, and though I'm a little disappointed to no be with her, I understand the reasons behind it.  Gail and I have agreed to some early  morning coffees on our balconies.

So, my bags are packed (and  yes, my donation suitcase is FULL)  I am so thankful to all of you who have donated in some way or another.  It's much appreciated.

Oh - and I also discovered that there is free internet in our rooms, so -- I'll be blogging/vlogging my experiences (assuming I have the time).

I can't wait!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

6 days!

(total cross post from my main blog, but you'll understand I'm sure)

Oh, and I'm also planning (hoping) to be able to vlog while I'm there.  I'm wondering if a little daily posting to youtube would be too much...I'll just play that by ear.  Onto the cross post now:

I'm leaving in just 6 days.  I'm so excited that I could just burst right now.  I've been trying to contain it because Iman's birthday is on Friday --- I can't be more excited about my trip than her birthday now, can I?

Anyhow - while I'm in Mexico, I have another course starting.  The instructor is just awesome and has already posted up the first 4 units.  I really want to get at least 2 of them over and done with before I go (that's totally do-able) BUT...

(there's always a but, isn't there?)

But, I'm so excited that I can't even really concentrate! This course is on children with special needs, and normally I have a lot to say on it (it's something that really interests me a lot) but all I've been able to do all day long is run over the list of things I want to do in my head:

  • recheck my bag - do I have everything (good thing I did that, because I almost forgot my pajamas!)
  • write out a list of "things" for my mom while she's here (she's awesome and taking care of Adam.)  This will include things like his normal routine, his likes/dislikes, how to turn on the TV and switch it to the DVD so she can get a little reprieve now and then... etc
  • write out a list of things for my older kids to do (feed the fish, clean their rooms, not make grandma never want to come know, the usual).
  • try to get that stupid sink fixed
  • ^^ ditto for the dishwasher.
  • write a not for Mr. Delusional to remind him that the light in my oven has been burnt out for months, and the dryer light just burnt out today.  
  • remind Mr. Delusional to buy me printer ink so I can print out my reports to take on the plane.
  • oh yeah, print out my boarding tickets
  • ask for more donations (hint, hint peeps!)

  • let my mom know how my deep freeze is organized so she doesn't get lost.
  • laundry - clean underwear is essential in this house!!
  • Ironing....not cause I want to, but because I don't even want to face it when I come back.
  • birthday party for Iman on Friday (daytime with a few of her friends, evening with the whole family)
  • Saturday = family fun day/time spent together before we leave day/try to get to sleep because I have a long day of plane rides and apparently a bouncy, jiggly, vomit-inducing bus ride to the casita the next day.

Yeah...and I'm trying to get some homework done.
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