Sunday, September 19, 2010

Settling In: Thursday, September 16

Pete and I just arrived at home from a lovely evening out, first dining with a large group of kids and staff, and then out for a drink with a small group of staff. Within five minutes of opening the door, we saw two small lizards and one cockroach in my apartment. Despite the occasional wildlife that appears in my apartment, Pete and I are very grateful for our living situation. We knew from the start that we would be living separately, given the fact that we are not yet married. Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw “Welcome Melissa y Pete” signs hanging outside of the upper and lower doors of the Casa Verde, or green house, that is located just one door down from the Casa outside of the exterior gates. Pete is on the second floor and I’m on the ground floor of the same house. Technically, we’re living separately, but close enough for comfort. I definitely feel more content and safe knowing that at night, he’s only 20 feet above me. Within a few minutes of our arrival on Monday, Lupita and another staff member came to the Casa Verde with groceries to get us started and dar la bienvenida: eggs, fruit, veggies, crackers, cereal, and more. They made us feel right at home. 

So first, the nitty-gritty of living in a new environment, and then some stories about the amazing and beautiful interactions that have happened during our stay thus far. The first morning I woke up in my new apartment, I lifted the toilet cover and found a cockroach in my toilet. The next night, I felt something on my foot as I was happily showering in my cold (but not ice cold) shower; also a cockroach, which prompted me to let out a blood curdling scream. Good thing I wasn’t in earshot of the kids who would have thought I was having some type of emergency. The third cockroach in the bathroom was the one we found this evening, just hanging out in the shower. Pete kindly took it outside to its proper home. 
Another thing about being new to this environment and spending much more time outside than I’m accustomed to in the US is the dramatic increase in bug bites. I just counted on my legs that I have more than 30 red, itchy dots...and boy do they itch! These little critters tend to go for the lower leg. I just asked the doctor who works at the Casa what she recommended and she gave me the name of an anti-itch cream. She also says that she puts OFF cream on when coming to work. Pete and I had bought some natural bug repellent, which smells citronella-y and nice, but I think it’s now time to go for the DEET. 

Although bugs are part of life here, I must say that I am very pleased with our living situation. I have a ton of space to spread out and host visitors **hint hint** and it’s nice to have our own personal space just outside of the Casa gates (where kids can’t peek into our windows), but so close to go back and forth as we need to. And to reiterate my previous point, I am so happy and relieved to be close to Pete.

Now, for the warm, fuzzy, and special stories. We arrived at a time when Mexico is celebrating their 200th year of Independence and it is quite a privilege to experience this celebration with them. There have been various ceremonies held at the Casa, including a flag presentation/competition, in which the kids presented the flags that they had created and were rated by a panel of judges, which included Pete, Owen, Dr. Monsterrat, Lupita, and myself. They also had a special ceremony at school in which they sang patriotic songs and ate delicious traditional Mexican foods (and so did we, of course.) 
We are special guests, certainly, but this time our presence is different than either of the other times I’ve been here. As Owen says, we kind of fade into the background. While the kids have more adults to give and receive their love and affection, we’re not the rock stars that we were when we came with a large group. They’ve settled into the fact that we’ll be here for eight months and not every moment needs to be ceremonious. I believe our presence is beginning to become a comfortable part of their routine. It will be more so when we determine a schedule for what we’ll be doing long-term. It seems that it might involve some English teaching because they no longer have an English teacher hired by the Casa (apart from the classes they receive in school.) We’ll have a meeting next week to determine our roles more definitively. 
Time out to say a huge thanks to Owen, a member of our church who has established an ongoing relationship with the Casa. He visits about every six months and the kids love him dearly. If he did not pick us up from the airport and take us to try to get a visa-related card that we needed in Guadalajara, I don’t know how we would have made it to Colima with our multiple ginormous suitcases. ¡Muchas Gracias, Owen!

Many of the kids, both boys and girls, but mostly girls, have commented on my emerald stone engagement ring. Two gold hands embrace the stone and form the band. They ask me if Pete gave it to me, and I say "yes." They know that it symbolizes our engagement. Sometimes I think about leaving it off because it might get dirty, look too valuable, etc., but every day I choose to wear it because it not only symbolizes something special for Pete and me, but for many of the kids who have noticed it as well. Various kids have expressed enthusiasm and curiosity about our wedding and future family. I have sensed that they value the positive, loving relationship that Pete and I have with each other. The ring is a symbol and continual reminder of that. Throughout our time here, I look forward to modeling healthy and positive interactions not just between me and the children, but between Pete and myself, man and woman, which I think is so critical that they see, especially given some of the family dynamics that they’ve experienced. 
One of the highlights that I’ve experienced so far is having a post-dinner conversation with Lupita, the Casa Director on one of our first nights here. I’ve admired Lupita since I met her, but I gained an even deeper respect and reverence for her as she shared with me her stories about God, faith, healing, “coincidences,” and more. I won’t share her stories here because they are hers, but I will say that one thing that stood out to me was that she said she is crazy for believing in God. “Who believes in a being you can’t see?” This coming from one of the most deeply spiritual and faithful people I’ve ever encountered. She’s quite amazing and I have so much to learn from her. 

Things kids have taught me:
--Today, a teenager, O, taught me how to shoot a basketball in a totally new way so that it spins through the air and into the basket. 
--Yesterday, a child, T, taught me how to make various models of really great paper airplanes. 

Final note: Pete is also keeping a blog: Please feel free to visit his site too. I promise that we’re not writing the exact same thing. 
Take good care. I’ll be in touch.
Melissa (aka Meli)

1 comment:

  1. Great to see your blog posts. What happened to the English teacher? I thought she was a pretty permanent fixture there.