Noche Buena

My parents are visiting for the first time. Their first Christmas gift was a surprise : a two hour crash course with our Spanish teacher.  My mother now speaks a decent Spancais / Franish and my father is up to seven words and four phrases.

I am very proud of their rapid language acquisition and keen interest in learning the Mayan and Yucatecan culture. For Christmas Eve, my father ate pollo con achiote and my mother even tried some of the fresh salsas and poc chuc, a Mayan delicacy.

Yesterday, we explored the ancient civilization of Uxmal, developed around 500 AC. Today, we drove through the present-day pueblos to find Hacienda Ochil.

We are living in and amongst some of the oldest civilizations in history.  What a way to celebrate such an important occasion.

Feliz Navidad! Que Dios te bendiga.

Love to all tonight.

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Magical Christmas Boxes 

In a small barrio in Merida, 75 of some of the “least-reached” children in the world were blessed with shoe-boxes sent by Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, to be distributed by C-Quest’s ministry partner, Pastor Miguel, in a Christmas outreach event.

Each child attending received a shoebox full of regalitos (gifts): jugetes (toys), cepillos de dientes (toothbrushes), lazos (hair bows) and camioncitos (little cars), lovingly assembled by families from Canada and the US. Not a single child left empty-handed or without a huge smile. The looks of surprise on their faces expressed joy and appreciation as they received their shoe-boxes.

The Mexican people, and more specifically, the Yucatecan people, adore parties and family gatherings, and this outreach event served up both. The children were treated to a free show including music, dancing, magic tricks, balloon animals, and hot-dogs. They all had a turn to swing a bat to hit a traditional metallic piñata and scramble for dulces (candies) as they poured over the concrete below. Pastor Miguel wrapped up the fiesta by sharing the story of the most important Christmas gift these children could ever ask for: the birth of a Saviour.

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Amigo Gama

This is our amigo and one of our ministry partners, Gama Canul, a very inspiring Mayan man (notice the height difference to Kary) with a life story that is not your ordinary “I once was a lifeguard and then decided to take up a career in rowing”.

His main project, Camp John 3:16 is quite an endeavour, even though it hasn’t yet opened its doors. Today, the camp consists largely of open land, with a few acres farmable for tomatoes and papayas, a couple of large multi-purpose buildings that C-Quest teams have helped to build and paint, and a large palapa-style cook shack.  Someday soon, families and kids will sleep in hamacas and enjoy 3-4 day camping trips where they will enjoy getting to hang out with inspiring youth counsellors, taking vocational courses (everything from plumbing and computer repair to sewing and embroidery), swimming and playing sports and learning life skills that every kid oughta have. The hundreds of kids from the pueblos who will come will never have experienced anything like it.

You will hear much more about this during our journey. For tonight, just a photo of a new friend and inspirational hombre.

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Extinction Theory

This is mind-blowing.

Want to see a little bit of history in the making?

Want to know how the dinosaurs likely went extinct?

Need one more reason to come down and visit us?

There’s something here in Mexico for the scientist too.

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The Chicxulub crater (/ˈkʃəlb/Mayan pronunciation: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ]) is a prehistoric impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.[2] Its center is located near the town of Chicxulub, after which the crater is named.[3] The age of the Chicxulub asteroid impact and the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary) coincide precisely.[4] The crater is more than 180 kilometres (110 mi) in diameter and 20 km (12 mi) in depth, making the feature one of the largest confirmed impact structures on Earth; the impacting bolide that formed the crater was at least 10 km (6 mi) in diameter.

The crater was discovered by Antonio Camargo and Glen Penfield, geophysicists who had been looking for petroleum in the Yucatán during the late 1970s. Penfield was initially unable to obtain evidence that the geological feature was a crater, and gave up his search. Through contact with Alan Hildebrand, Penfield obtained samples that suggested it was an impact feature. Evidence for the impact origin of the crater includes shocked quartz, a gravity anomaly, and tektites in surrounding areas.

The age of the rocks marked by the impact shows that this impact structure dates from roughly 66 million years ago, the end of the Cretaceous period, and the start of the Paleogene period. It coincides with the K-Pg boundary, the geological boundary between the Cretaceous and Paleogene. The impact associated with the crater is thus implicated in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, including the worldwide extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. This conclusion has been the source of controversy. In March 2010, 41 experts from many countries reviewed the available evidence: 20 years’ worth of data spanning a variety of fields. They concluded that the impact at Chicxulub triggered the mass extinctions at the K–Pg boundary.[5][6] 

Source : Wikipedia

Strike

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ve got a full on strike on my hands today. I came home from a C-Quest meeting this afternoon to pick up Rachel for her 4pm tutoring appointment and was met with full cannons.

Rachel formally declared that she does not want ANY MORE PEOPLE MAKING ME DO ANY MORE WORK ANY MORE I AM DONE WITH ALL OF THIS AND ALL OF YOUR IDEAS ABOUT ALL OF THE STUFF AND ALL OF THESE PEOPLE SO THERE I AM NOT GOING TODAY.

To which I calmly replied, get in the car.

She is with Maestra Diana right now, polite and respectful no doubt. The cannons are not aimed at her.

In one hour I will be in the battlefield again. Lord hear my prayer.

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Little Fatima

It turns out that there are other types of orphans I had not previously known about.

I’ve learned that there is such a thing as a temporarily orphaned family.

These are families or individuals from faraway and neighbouring pueblos who normally have a good bed (a hammock), a roof (palapa style, made from palm leaves), food to eat (cochinita pibil tacos and tortas) and perhaps a regular paying job (road construction, house cleaning, tortilla making).  The reason they are orphaned is that they are living on the streets around the public Hospital H’Oran in Merida, trying to get medical assistance for a loved one while they wait outside.  There are no big hospitals or sophisticated clinics down the road when you live in a pueblo, pueblito or comisaria. These people travel for hours by bus to get here, and they don’t leave until they have received treatment or worse, until someone’s life has passed.

There are no Ronald MacDonald houses here. No support homes for families of cancer treatment. No free yoga at dusk. These families survive on the streets, eating what meals might be served on a given night by a warm hearted church, soccer team or charity organization. On a good week, there might be a meal every night.

I don’t want to get you down – in fact let me tell you that at one point during the evening, as we served over 300 pancake dinners with the kids and others from C-Quest, I thought I might be back at the UT campus on a Friday night, on the quad. After most had eaten,  a group of roughly 40 gathered around one guy and a guitar, dancing and singing a glad sounding i-yi-yi-yi song. They were having a good time.

Normally I would be the type to grab Kary and the kids and go up and join them, but this night, we had a different place to be.

One family stayed behind, choosing instead to stay close to pancake central, as we continued to feed a dwindling line of late diners. It was easy to see that their situation was perhaps a little more painful.

While Kary, Ryan and Jacqueline stayed on the cook line,  Rachel and I went over to meet the family of 4 year old Fatima, from the neighbouring state of Quintana Roo.  This family of 5 was homeless and on the street last time Pastor Miguel saw them. This night,  they explained that they had found a place to sleep, a room, somewhere near the hospital. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Fatima had had an operation on her feet, and either was or became paralyzed as a result of the operation. Now her lower back is inflected, black and blue and curved strangely. Her father explained that they needed a special prescription creme but that they couldn’t afford it. Pastor Miguel stepped in to speak to the father in Spanish, consulted with Gary, Kary and Joanne, and before I knew it, Kary, Miguel and the father walked off to find the nearest pharmacy. I sure hope that cream brings at least a little bit of relief to this girl.

Please allow me to end on a positive note.  This little girl Fatima was a bundle of smiles.  Rachel took a liking to and hung out with her for quite some time, unwrapping little candies for her to enjoy and making her laugh. She never looked sad at all.  At one point I took this photo on my phone and showed it to her. She immediately lit up saying “Me gusta mi silla , me gusta mi silla!” — which means “I like my chair, I like my chair!”  Maybe she had never seen herself in her wheelchair until that moment, I’m not sure. She sure liked the looks of it.

Something to think about for the rest of us. A pretty positive outlook for such a little chica.

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Orphaned Seniors

In a barrio just south of Merida called Colonia Nueva Sambulá live 48 orphaned seniors, along with, surprisingly, 6 teenagers and 2 toddlers. In small cramped quarters consisting of two multi-purpose rooms for sleeping and eating, a small kitchen, one shared bathroom, and a small staff bedroom, lie wall-to-wall cots, mattresses and the odd hospital bed. A washing machine hums and jerks on the front porch, a woman hangs laundry to dry on the roof, and a couple of rusty tricycle people-movers lean against a fence decorated with ceramic roosters.

The staff at Casa de Los Abuelos spend their day caring for these elderly men and women, many of whom are missing limbs and confined to a rickety wheelchair. Mental illnesses and disabilities aside, these people are beautiful. At long tables down the middle of the common room we served bananas, watermelon and pancakes, prepared on the C-Quest portable grill out front.  Pastor Miguel and his wife Alicia led the group in song and prayer before breakfast was served, and although it was not entirely clear to us what was said, one message was clear : these people are grateful and give thanks to God, por todo.

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