Greetings from Mexico! It has been about 3 weeks since my arrival here, a good part of which was taken up by our 9-day orientation. About a week ago, I moved in with my new family in Tehuixtla, a small town south of Cuernevaca in the the state of Morelos. There are 11 people living in separate houses around a small courtyard. The family (here) consists of a grandfather, grandmother, 3 daughters, one son, and 4 grandchildren. There are 3 other sons, one more daughter and 3 more grandchildren that I know of that live elsewhere, a far call from my small family! They have been very hospitable and I am looking forward to getting to know many of them as the year goes on.
I can finally tell you more about my work site, since I have worked approximately a week there! Rancho la Troje is a small, organic farm. There are orange trees, corn, Chinese beans (very similar to green beans), pigs, sheep, chickens, worm composting, and more. My boss is an American (and now Mexican citizen as well) named George Anna, who is very involved in her new community of Mexico. The first week was spent mainly learning the basic chores that have to happen everyday, mainly feeding the animals and watering certain plants. Two brothers work (very hard) to keep the place running, and I am learning the ropes from them. George is devoted to the practice of permaculture. Permaculture is short for ‘permanent agriculture’, meaning using natures principles to grow crops, and is one of the many things I will be learning about. Hopefully I can get some pictures up soon of both my home stay and the farm!
Another culture I have been learning about is the social one here in Mexico. Usually, I don’t think it is all that different, but then I will come across something, a word, a gesture, a view I haven’t seen before, that makes me remember how big the gulf is between our two worlds. The farm is filled with many jury-rigged tools, quick-fixed fences, and other things that would have been long ago replaced in an American environment. Reading here is not a common activity, one of the main forms of activity in my family back in Texas. And these are the small, every day things compared to larger cultural items such as gender roles, views on religion, home life in general, even issues of space. Right now what I tend to notice are the dissimilar items, what is probably an effect of culture shock. My reference point is still that of the American, the white, the educated, the privileged few. I hope part of what this year will bring is new reference points, however partial they might be. Then I will be able to be able to view more of the world through the eyes of those who are different, the other. I have been able to read quite a bit, and when Spanish ties my tongue and the effort of trying to speak is giving me an all too real headache, it is a refuge. Perhaps it is also a crutch, but only the future will let me know that (though I still welcome any comments on that issue). One of the books I am reading talks often about the other and how we view them is often more skewed than we think. We often ascribe aspects that are not present, assume viewpoints that don’t exist, and generally view them as ourselves. The last is the most difficult to break. For example, as I stated earlier, one of my great joys is reading. Here in Mexico, reading is generally viewed as a non-event. Not that it is bad or malicious, but seems to be viewed as doing nothing. I cannot fathom how someone could come to this conclusion, as I see reading as the primary passage of knowledge. How can that be nothing? I am almost afraid to learn, but if I do not, then why did I come here? Certainly it was not to introduce Mexicans to American culture, I am sure they get more than enough of that. Nor was it to hide in an ivory tower and read all the books I brought with me. I am here to experience. So when I am feeling run down, tongue-tied, overwhelmed, or simply homesick, it helps to remember all of you at home supporting me in this, along with all the books. Thanks to all of you.
P.S. Thinking about Lutherhill and all the good friends I made in La Grange, hoping they don’t have to deal with anymore fires. Please keep them in your thoughts!