The other Mexico

Ryan and Kary at Frida Kahlo's houseIt has been a while since I have put up a post and I have been gently reminded of that.  The truth is I enjoy reading Darcy’s blogs as much as you do and I didn’t want to break her momentum.

A couple of weeks ago, I took Ryan on our first father-son trip to Mexico City (population 30 million), with 2 tickets to a professional soccer (futbol) game in hand (a Christmas present from Darcy).  The games between the home team America, and the visiting team Toluca was held at the 105,000 person Aztec Stadium.  Ryan and I had a great time bonding together

It was an action packed weekend that included sightseeing the President’s palace, an Aztek city that Mexico city was built on top of, the Centro Zocalo, a guided tour of the 65m high Revolution monument, going inside the famous artist Frida Kahlo’s house, eating Pozole and Mario pancakes at the Mercado in Coyoacan, going to the fair, and being a first hand witness of a real Mexican manifestation where workers, communists and anarchists marched against the government on the Mexican Labour day.  Oh yeah, we also saw a futbol game which saw the hometown America team win 3-1.  With our new “Fan-alia”, Ryan and I are now officially team America fans.

We went with my friend Oscar Hernandez who is a big America fan. We stayed at his parent’s house and spent all weekend with his family.  What impressed me most about the trip was the way his family openly showed love for each other.  There were the initial greeting hugs and cheek kisses of course, but throughout the weekend there was a ongoing showing of affection between them: sister and brother holding hands, Oscar and his nephew arm and arm, son with his arm around his mom.  Culturally, showing physical affection to others is the norm here.  After all, they are Latin.

I admit, this outpouring of affection to family members, or others, is not something that I grew up with or that comes naturally.  It was sure nice to be part of the inner workings of a Mexican family that weekend and to be able to share it with my Ryan.

There is Esperanza

Those of you who follow the C-Quest blog will know that Casa de los Abuelos is one of the projects we support that has a tendency to break hearts.

Estela and her son Noe, along with a few other young ladies who help out around the ‘house’ work tirelessly and without complaint. Estela rises at 5 am from her hammock in the entry way, to help the nearly 40 abandoned seniors to survive and thrive while living in a grungy, foul-smelling and ill-equiped home for so many relegated to wheelchairs and walkers.

This morning we served their favourite pancake breakfast, soft enough for the toothless many, yet sweet enough to bring back memories of days gone by living with family. We visited, danced and sang a little, painted nails and handed out balloon animals, our standard fare when we bring a team to meet these special abuelitos. At one point I asked Alecia to help me as I struggled to understand a single word one woman was saying to me. She kept laughing and repeating a phrase that I couldn’t understand. “She is speaking Mayan,” Alecia said with a smile. “She is reminiscing about rice and pork.” We all nodded in agreement as the Mayan, Spanish and English language barrier melted down and left behind a puddle of laughter in its place.

If you walked in the door of this seniors home, you would be shocked. I’ve said many times, this is not my grandmother’s Mayflower Residences facility for the elderly, with three square meals a day, push-a-button nursing stations and nightly beanbag tournaments.  As for me, I am now used to the stench and the sight of things that once made my stomach turn. I can deal with the grime. I can deal with the depends and the drop cloths.

Something is changing in me. I no longer leave feeling like my heart is broken. I no longer fear the worst for these people.  In fact, I am beginning to feel quite the opposite.

These 60, 70, 80, 90 and yes, even 100 year olds who have been literally left on a doorstep, with no family to be seen ever again (or only in a blue moon when the gallo crows) are living in a palace. Not a physical palace, no, of course not. They live in a spiritual palace, where the love of Estela and her family permeate all remaining shreds of physical need, leaving behind the love of a Savior.

This shift in my own perspective has come little by little, with each visit. Today, it was Esperanza who moved me again. She presents a beautiful glow from every spot on her withered body. Her smile lights up the room. Her orange house coat reflects the color of her battered hammock. She gushes her thanks, praise, and adoration for those who came to serve this morning, thanking God for every precious collegiate from Canada whom  must have flown all the way down to Mexico just to bring her these warm and delicious pancakes.

I sure hope she feels that way. I hope she knows how much she glows.

Esperanza means Hope.

There is Hope in this home. It has nothing to do with food (there is little), beds (they are soiled), bathrooms (they are limited) or activities (they are infrequent).

The hope of Esperanza comes from something she knows that will carry her home.

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Photo credit : Starla Hoffe

Unproud

I’ve decided to share a rather undesirable part of me.  It’s embarrassing but it is true.

I lack patience.

Home Depot, May 4th, Merida, Yucatan.

Objective : Pick up two doors and two door frames which were purchased two days prior and are ready for installation at mini-home makeover project, roughly two hours ago.

Expected duration in store : 30 minutes.

Final duration in store : 2 hours and who knows how many other painful minutes.

It’s not that great of a story so I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say : language barrier, misunderstandings, multiple departments, language barrier, factory defects, paper tickets, disappearing people, inefficiency, job security, human nature, language barrier.

Painful.

For their part, Jacqueline and Ryan were pretty good about it. Rachel, not so much.

I wonder where she gets that from.

Toward the end of the escapade, I got a grip. Look in the espejo Darcy. Rachel gets this impatience thing from you. Every time you go to Home Depot you can’t contain yourself, can you?

You know I’m married to Mr. Engineer. Kary is the quintessential man who can spend two hours in Home Depot and come out feeling pretty refreshed. Enlightened. Enthusiastic for the task ahead. Connected. Bricks and mortarly inspired. Spiritually alive.

Me? Dead. Drained. Bored. Frustrated.

Oh, sorry, was that Rachel I just described?

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Must keep self under 24 hour lock down and then reassess status. Reboot may be required.Home Depot 2

Adelante

I’ve been reading a book that a pastor gave us before we left. He told us that this book, and the study of mercy and grace, had shaped much of his view on life.  The book made it down to Mexico in one piece, and I recently cracked it open. I have been mulling over questions such as ‘What is grace? What is mercy? What is the difference?’

As seems to be the way things go in my life, I stumbled headfirst into a field trip about mercy and grace this morning. So long book, hello life.

On the way to meet our spanish teacher, I was pulled over by a policeman. I know that shocks you, that this could happen to someone like me.

It seems (what?) that I took a wrong turn (wrong?) down a one way street (one way?). Don’t laugh, but this was my second infraction, and yes, of the same category. Not on the same street lest you think to yourself: once wrong, twice foolish. The last time this happened I was one block away from our church, so an entirely different crime scene.

As they usually do, the policeman asked for my license and insurance. Next, he pulled out a rule book and proceeded to use some verbs I haven’t learned in Spanish class. We haven’t yet covered criminal behaviour, and I am still working on past tense verb conjugation which is an important part of understanding a crime scene. The conversation went something like this (translated to english for your convenience, with sound and visual effects):

Officer : “Something something something” (serious)

Darcy : “Si?” (curious, unsure, anticipative)

Officer : “Something something you drove down a street the wrong way something something” (serious)

Darcy : “I am sorry. I do not know. One way road. Excuse me. Canadian.” (using apologetic tone and facial expression of self condemnation for criminal activity, longing for additional vocabulary of apology)

Officer : “Something something infraction something” (serious)

Darcy : “Yes sir, an infraction. Infraction? Yes?” (serious)

Officer : “Something something something 15 days plus verb I don’t understand plus something something something ” (even more serious)

Ok, at this point I just heard 15 days. Is he telling me I have to make tacos at his aunt’s cocina economica for 15 days to pay my dues? Or do I have to do 15 days of road work on the pereferico with a pick ax? 15 days of campaign duty for the underdog political party? Or 15 days in the pen? Will this be maximum or minimum security, I wondered.

I’m thinking, no matter what, this is going to inconvenience a bunch of people. There will definitely be bad press for C-Quest, not to mention the disgrace to the family name. How will I get to Home Depot with Pastor Miguel and Alecia tomorrow to buy a toilet and a door frame? Where will the kids find food? Will I have wifi in jail? What will Kary say? Will my Spanish improve through this experience?

Next, I think, estoy tranquilo.  I am calm. It will be okay. God is with me. I just blogged about green toilets. I have perspective on life. My life here is only temporary.  Prison could do me some good. There are many Christians who have found much peace and closeness to God by serving time. This could be my chance.

Then I got more practical, less spiritual.  I remembered, the last time this happened I only had to pay a small fine on the spot and ask the policeman if he wanted to come with us to church. (This is part of another story but suffice to say there was a misunderstanding. Rachel gave me a lot of grief after I paid my fine and proceeded to invite him to church. He looked a little surprised I guess. I was sure he said something like “I would like to come with you.”   “MOM. HE WAS NOT ASKING TO COME TO CHURCH. HE WAS MAKING SURE YOU WERE NOT GOING TO DRIVE DOWN A ONE WAY AGAIN ON OUR WAY TO CHURCH.  HE THINKS YOU MIGHT DO IT AGAIN. SO EMBARRASSING.”)

Now back to the main story.

I waited, holding my breath, ready to receive my sentence and pay the penalty of my sin.

The officer took one more look at my license and then at me, and then he said :

Adelante.

I deserved wrath. I got adelante.

Is that mercy? Or is that grace? You decide.

Thank you Mister Policeman.

***

“Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” – A. W. Tozer

“(Grace is) the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Mercy is not receiving something that we deserve, and grace is receiving something that we don’t deserve.” – Steve McVey, Grace Rules

 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ” Luke 6:27-36
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