Thursday, March 29, 2007

Moving day!

Well tomorrow is moving day! We should roll out at about 8pm, get to the airport to pick up our driver by 10:30pm, then off to Zacatecas. Hopefully just a brief layover to unload the stuff I'm leaving there then on to Texas. I'm anxious to get home and take a break. I feel like I've just been going going going lately, without much time to rest. Will be good to see my family too and friends.

I hear there is some nasty weather about in Texas. Hope I don't run into any of it driving.

See ya'll soon!


Monday, March 26, 2007


Packing progress about 40% - I have most of my clothes packed and my extra toiletries and computer stuff. Need to go through my books and sort those I'm leaving vs. those I'm taking and pack up a few odds and ends here and there. I will pack my car with the zen of a master tetris player. Everything will fit. There is no other option.

Student packet progress 60% - It occured to me today that they really won't need these until May, so I can stop freaking out about them. I will be teaching them for two weeks in the states in April, and probably two weeks in June, so its just May that needs a packet. it will be fine. Chill Rachael...find your zen place.

Diet progress -18 pounds. The stress is causing me to eat more, but the persistant stomach trouble is balancing everything out. I just hope I don't go crazy on the fast food when I get back to Texas.

Spanish progress - just ordered an expensive program to get over this tope. Its promises conversationally functional spanish in 30 days. I tried it out online free and the structure really makes sense and works for me. Fingers crossed, I WILL learn spanish gosh darn it!

Overall I'm feeling pretty good. Much calmer about things these days. Everything is going to be fine. I just have to keep repeating this to myself. I think I will make one last trip to San Martin to take them the extra clothes and blankets and such that I'm going to leave behind.

I talked to my boss today, and in addition to the pay, the free housing, internet and telephone, I will be eligible to enroll in a Masters program at the Universidad Autonomo Zacatecas. Another reason to get my Spanish skills rolling!

The future is exciting! Its the place to be, so I've got to stop living in the past.
Moxie says I've got to stop typing on this damn computer! Enough already! Lets go play!

I love my dog.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Random thoughts running through my head.

The chickens went to their new home tonight out in San Martin. Moxie helped me round them up in the back yard and load them into their box. She FINALLY got to chase the chickens. She was so happy I thought she was going to explode.

Out in San Martin the local vet was out vaccinating all the dogs and cats against rabies. Its a state funded program, free rabies vaccines for dogs and cats in el campo, out in the country. You can get them free in town too if you go to the centro de salud. The U.S. should have such a policy. More people would vaccinate their pets. Watching the vet work was interesting, as an ex vet tech. The man was missing three fingers on his right hand, one could only guess how that happened. It made drawing up the shots and pushing the plunger on the syringe tricky, but he managed it. His animal wrangling skills were, interesting to say the least. I say wrangling because it was. These are ranch dogs, not used to be restrained in any way. A rope around the neck and a loop over the muzzle to control the head and prevent bites. The next part was intriguing. They flipped the dogs over onto their backs to give the injection in the thigh muscle. Why put the dog is such an uncomfortable and scary submissive position? That injection can be administered with the dog standing. But I guess they weren't really interested in the comfort of the dog.

The culture here is very different, especially with regard to animals. This same night at San Martin I spotted a baby bunny being housed in a bird cage and fed tomatoes. Most of the things I see here with the animals flies in the face of everything our culture says is right and proper animal husbandry. But it works. So is it wrong, or just, different?

This was probably my last visit to San Martin for several months. It felt weird. Something is very wrong in that community, but as an outsider (after all these years still an outsider) I may never know what it is until its too late. Lupe is going to the doctor on Sunday. I'm glad for that at least. I will worry about those girls day and night. Sometimes this job is so defeating.

I decided today that I really hate drunks. People who drink to excess are about the most inconsiderate, self centered people out there. Getting drunk is just plain selfish. What about the people that have to take care of your sorry drunk ass? What if those people are your children? Do you know how pathetic you are as a parent, when your child has to make sure you don't do something stupid while you're drunk? DO you really think that kind of responsibility should rest on a childs shoulders? I hate to be the one to break this to you, but your friends don't like taking care of your sorry drunk ass either. While I don't mind being the designated driver, I do mind cleaning your vomit out of my car upholstery. When are you going to grow up and take some responsibility for yourself and your actions? Oh, and I don't buy the "but I was drunk, I didn't know what I was saying/doing" excuse for a second. Being a dumbass and drinking more than you can handle does not excuse you from being a civilized human being. Saying nasty hurtful things and doing nasty hurtful things, is unacceptable, whether you are under the influence or not. Just because you can't remember what happened last night doesn't mean I don't. The rest of us, mature enough to have a good time without getting wasted, have to live with the memories of your insults and abuses. I hate being around you when you are drunk. You are a mean, arrogant prick. I wish you would just grow up!

There. Glad I got that out of my system.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Big Changes

Well its been a big day. My boss was in town and we met this morning about the future of the school. We both agreed things cannot continue as they are. We are digging ourselves into a financial hole, all for five students, four of whom could give a damn about school. All the while there are communities that really need and want what we have to offer. So the decision was made to make the students studies more independent, with me leading classes once a month for a week, the rest of the time spend in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, teaching in rural and urban settings there. In this setting I am poised to help the most possible people with my limited resources (namely, me).

Zacatecas is no Mazamitla, and there are things I am going to miss about this place. The natural beauty, there is simply no comparrison. Zacatecas just does not have it. The open areas and offlead romping places for Moxie. I'm sure Zacatecas has them, I just have to find them. And I will miss my kids, as much grief as they have given me lately, I am going to miss them. But Zacatecas has an awful lot to offer me. A nice home, in town, rent free. Running water and hot water pretty well guaranteed. Laundry on site. A women who comes in every day to clean and cook for us! Real meals, of real food! Wireless internet and telephone. Gas for my car paid for. And the opportunity to complete a masters program at Universidad Autonomo Zacatecas for free. Not to mention I will be working in the communities which is my real passion, helping kids of all ages and local teachers. I'm excited about the opportunity, but still sad about the end of this era.

The worst part was telling the kids today what was going to happen. They were really broken up about it. Part of me wants to be angry with them. They were warned. Syl was here a few weeks back and told them if they didn't shape up, he would move me somewhere else, and yet they did nothing to improve their behavior or work ethic. At the same time, they are just kids. I expected alot of them, and they gave me very little, but at the end of the day, they are just kids. I hope that they wake up and realize their whole future is riding on their getting this education. I hope they are willing to work for it. But I cannot work for them. I've done my part, time for them to step up and do theirs.

Syl keeps telling me it will be different working with these kids, truly living in poverty. They will know the value of education and will work for it. Lately, I've felt as if I was teaching in the U.S. with how spoiled and lazy the kids were acting. I really hope this new arrangement works out because teaching in the U.S. is my last resort. I am very catlike in that I don't like change. Its hard for me to adjust and this is a huge change for me. Its major faith time. I just have to believe. Thats the only thing that will see me through this.

So if you are of the praying persuasion, pray for me. And pray that my spanish improves about 300% in the next month. That would be great. Thanks.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wet, wet, wet

Calm before the storm

All in all, its been a quiet week. I've been sick with a stomach virus and there was a nasty run in with Pato and the kids earlier in the week, but other than that, everything calm and even. The new batch of spring breakers arrive on Sunday, so that should put an end to that.

We went back out to Las Juntas today for the afternoon. The kids just love it and we use it as their P.E. time. This is my favorite picture of the day. Syl always says, if you don't like the out look, try to the uplook. So I looked up and shot this picture today. I rather like it.

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Moxie did a ton of swimming. I thought she would wear herself out after about 20-30 minutes. No. Two hours we played in the water. She finally took her ball over into the sun and laid down. Whew! We only lost one ball this time. Moxie bit a hole in it and it filled with water and sank so deep I couldn't get to it. Poor Moxie was frantic swimming in circles and whining looking for her bally. I felt so bad for her that I trudged back across the river and up the steep rocky hill and down the road back to the car to get her another ball to play with. Good thing I love this dog.

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Moxie is a little motor mouth when it comes to two things, tennis balls and agility. I took some rapid fire (as rapid as my camera would let me) shots of Moxie barking and this is what I came up with.

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Hahaha. I think they're funny.

Finally, spring is officially here. The goats have started kidding.

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With spring comes the brutal sun, heavy rains and taxes. Fortunatly, this year my Mom , being the miracle worker that she is, managed to pull enough stuff together so that I am actually getting a return this year. I thought I would owe close to a thousand. Thanks Mom!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Seven on their own

Pat Benetar once wrote a song called "Hell is for Children"
I think that would have been appropriate background music for tonights quiet drama.

I've been working in a community called San Martin for six years now. During that time I've come to know well a family of seven children who have known more tragedy and pain in their short lives than most people have to face in a lifetime.

When I first came to know these kids, they lived together with their parents in a shack at the bottom of a hill, in abject poverty. The roof leaked. Flies filled their mud floored two room home. The kids bellies were distended by hunger. They wore shoes much too small for their feet. Their clothes, dirty and threadbare, barely kept the mountain air at bay. We would bring them gifts of clothes and toys, only to find their mother had sold them. Both parents are mentally diseased, and their children suffered endlessly at the hands of a cruel mother and an incompetant father.

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This is Patricia, she is seven in this picture. The bottoms of her feet are so covered in sores she can hardly walk.

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The kids together in front of their parents home.

Fast forward to two years ago. The oldest girl, Carina, was sixteen. The youngest, a boy named Oscar, was only four. Rumor has it, the mother caught the father having sex with one of the girls. No one really knows why for sure why she did it. In a fit of rage, she threw all seven children and her husband out of the house. Later, she repented, and allowed the two boy children and the father back into her home, but the five female children were sent to fend for themselves. With nothing but the clothes on their backs (as their mother had burned all of the childrens clothes and toys after she threw them out) the girls built a small shack for themselves with the help of their uncle. That shack would come at a grave grave price. They girls were living on his land, and had become his personal property. The abuse they escaped at the hands of their parents, was revisted on them by their Uncle.

These children are trapped in their own private hell, in the community of San Martin, Mexico. Future Without Poverty made repairs and improvements to their shack, brought electricity and running water to their home, brought them clothes, shoes and food. We are even bringing these children education, teaching them to read and write so they can get better jobs as they cannot afford to attend school. What we cannot do, is protect them from their own family. These kids are beaten, raped and tormented by their own family, and their is nothing I can do to stop it. Now, the unthinkable has happened.

Lupe, the second oldest daughter, is pregnant by her abuser. Another child will be brought innocently into this brutal life. If there is any mercy, the child will be a boy. She is only sixteen years old. She hides her face when she smiles. She doesn't fully understand where babies come from. She doens't know how this happened to her, or why. She doesn't know how to feed, clothe or protect the child. She's lonely and scared. The rest of the community is talking, dishing out the Christian guilt like shame was something never visited upon them. Lupe has been shunned by her peers.

What can I do in a situation like this? Be her friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. Bring her vitamins, be certain she sees a doctor. But what of her circumstances? I want nothing more than to take all of these kids far far away from San Martin. Someplace clean and safe, with warm beds and nourishing food and good people to care for them. I doubt these kids believe such a place could exist, and I am beginning to wonder myself. I don't think I've ever felt so helpless.

Hell is for children.
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Like Lupe

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and her sister Nayeli

If you are the praying type, pray for these kids. Pray for Lupe, of San Martin Mexico. God will know which one you mean.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Las Juntas

I took the kids hiking today out to a place called 'Las Juntas' named for the twin waterfalls. Everyone had a good time including Moxie. When she saw the water she ran splashing right into it. This was her fist time in a river, or any water that flows. She's used to a lake or a swimming pool. She jumped in right above the little waterfalla and was swept over the side to the pool below. She climbed out, shook off and ran to do it again. Crazy dog! Here are some pics, enjoy!

The main waterfall
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"Las Juntas" the waterfalls that give the area its name.
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This is the one Moxie went over.
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A few shots of the River.
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Moxie Love!
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Otter Dog
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Throw the ball! We lost three balls because she couldn't get to them before they were swept down river.
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I have tons of the kids but I'm not sure if they would want to be posted in their swimsuites. I'll just post this one, its my favorite from today anyway.
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

but who will stand up for me?

An insult flies in the face of all things sacred and of course, you have a right to be angry and defensive. It's good that your loved ones stand up for you.

But who is there to stand up for me? I cannot stand up for myself (it isn't allowed)

Will anyone ever, stand up to defend me, against the near constant onslaught of unearned insult?

If I must smile and make nice while taking my beating, can't you?

Why is it that the rules seem to be different for everyone else but me?

Don't feed the federales!

Poor Spooky took a good hit today.
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It should have been a walk away case. Each person paying for their own damage and going on from there, but it wasn't to be. I wasn't in the car. This whole happening is my fault because I allowed a sixteen year old to drive my car, up the street, to a friends house. As to who was at fault, we may never know fully. Just the other driver and Meghin, both say they didn't see the other. The other driver had the right of way. Initially, the other driver wanted to just walk away, each paying for his own damage.

Thats when well intentioned parent of one of my other students made things more complicated. She insisted the accident was the other drivers fault. By the time I arrived on the scene, the man was no longer willing to walk away, he was wanting us to pay him more than $2,000 pesos in damages to his vehicle (My car got the worst of the hit)

Great. I don't have that kind of money. Meanwhile, the municiple police show up, but the stretch of road was out of town limits thus out of their jurisdiction. The state police show up and its the same story, this is federal highway. The other driver tells the police to call the federales.

By this time I am near tears. The first thing you learn as a gringo in Mexico, is don't mess with the federales under any circumstances. You will lose. I could just see my car disapearing under a mound of Mexican Tapa Rojo. Glad as I was that this parent was there for my student when she needed someone, she had just made our situation so much worse and didn't even realize it. She kept going on about what was fair and right, where I was more concerned with a reasonable outcome wherein I got to keep my car!

I was desperate to make a deal with this guy and get out of there before the federal police showed up. Meanwhile, the young girl who was driving was understandably unnerved by the inicident and highly emotional. She kept alternating between breaking down into tears and shouting insults at the other driver. Unable to get her to calm down, I sent her home. With her gone, I was able to get my boss on the phone, to talk to the other driver to make a deal.

Pato will fix his car. I will pay for it. He agreed. I just had to take him over to talk to Celia about the details. This whole situation was killing me on a number of levels. First, that I was going to have to come up with money to fix not just one but two cars, and that it was Celia and Pato that were saving my ass on this one.

Unfortunatly, I've been at odds with Celia and Pato since I had to suspend their daughter from school last semester for cheating, excessive tardiness, and disrespect. Suposedly, I was to treat her like I would any other student, and not give her preferential treatment because she was the daughter of my co-workers. That was the idea in theory. In practice, it didn't go over well. They felt I was un-duly harsh on their daughter. (Despite the fact that another student was suspended that day for the same offense) They felt I didn't help her enough. The fact of the matter is, Fani doesn't want to go to school. If she wanted to, she would. I had lifted her suspension and invited her back as a proverbial white flag some months ago. She returned for two weeks then dropped out again. Since the initial suspension, I had no contact with Fani. Her classes those two weeks were taught by completely impartial third parties, who all came to the same independent conclusion about Fani, she skips school, comes late, leaves early, is disrespectful, and isn't serious about studying. Be that as it may, I am still very much the bad guy in the eyes of Celia and Pato. Try as I might, things are still very tense between us. To their credit, they do all their namecalling behind my back, to other people. Sides have been taken, mostly theirs. Feelings have been hurt, mostly mine. But I'm still nice. I help Celia where I can, I am cordial with Pato and their family. But you can feel it, like a hurricane beneath the surface. Its all fake.

Meanwhile, My young student who wrecked the car has similar feelings towards Celia. I sent her home to stay. I was at the school with the other driver and Celia when she walked in with her friends. Celia made a remark about her driving and I had to physically pull the student off of Celia. She exploded like any hotheaded teenager already under pressure would have. I appologized to Celia and the other driver multiple times. Yet another situation where my kids embarrassed the hell out of me. (I still haven't found out which of the kids decided to throw their poopy toilet paper on the ground in the downstairs bathroom when they found there was no trashcan in there, intead of finding a trashcan and disposing of it properly. My boss walked in on that one and I could have died from embarrassment!) I sent my students home again, made my appologies and sealed the deal about the cars.

It has not been a good day. This situation with Celia and Pato has got to be resolved at some point. We can't continue to work in a pressure cooker like this.

Meanwhile, I have to come up with the money to fix this guys car.(My own car will probably be getting the plastic bag treatment at least for now) Roughly two hundred U.S. Dollars is the estimate. Might as well be two thousand. I have no one to borrow from and no reserves. I already owe more people more money than I think I will be able to make in my lifetime (at this rate anyway). I will be in the States two months over the summer. I need to get a good paying job during that time. I'm looking at boarding kennels that may need seasonal help. Anyone else have any ideas, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Amazing how far a little appreciation goes

Well my bosses visit went well.

He gave he students a good talking to this morning regarding recent misdeeds. I've felt a little overwhelmed by these kids recently. I can't get them to come to class on time, do their homework, pay their fees, clean up after themselves, or not do drugs in the school. For pities sake you would think we were in the U.S.

I told my boss, and I believe this, the problem is right now we have the wrong population of students. We need to get back to our roots, go out to the communities where they are BEGGING for schooling and teach the kids there. These kids want it, but not badly enough to really exert themselves to get it.

So we are going to graduate these kids that really want the diploma, then go fully subsidized community classroom. These kids we will be targetting can't afford to pay for any sort of schooling, so we will be seeking sponsors from the U.S. I'm very excited as I believe this is where we are truly needed.

The kids we have now, while they have less and work more than most kids in the U.S. are quite frankly spoiled and lack motivation. Maybe Syl inspired something in them today, but I really doubt it. The one that needed to hear it most wasn't even there.

In any case, I feel empowered by it. He laid down the law. Now they know, any further incidence means expulsion, no ifs, ands or buts.

Meanwhile, he said two things during the talk that made me feel much better about everything in general. First, he thanked me for doing the work I am doing. Sometimes, its just good to hear. I'm not ashamed to admit I need occassional reassurance or I start questioning myself. Second, he told the kids that I could be used elsewhere, and I believe him. For once, I'm not questioning my place in the organization. I know I am needed, as long as I have the passion, there will be work for me here.

So nothing is really any better than it was before, but I feel better, and that makes a big difference.

Anyway, back to work!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fish Farm Progress

Well we've worked three full days now on the fish farm and have made some progress. We have the frame completely up, and the drain installed and the floor poured. We just have to run some pipe from the river and mortor the walls, then build the chicken coop.
I forgot to bring my camera again today,but others have promised to send me pics. As I have to continue on with classes I won't get to help out anymore on this project. But I did alot, and have the sore muscles, blisters and ripped up hands to prove it!

If anyone wants to invest in a worthy cause, try the "buy Rachael some decent work gloves so she doesn't tear her hands to shreds when she does a community service project" foundation. My hands are hamburger from tying wire. Everytime I bend my knuckles the wounds break open and bleed, making tying something of an adventure.

My boss comes in town tonight for just under a day, EEP! For some reason I am anxious as hell right now. My heart is pounding.

We don't have any money, as per usual. I had celery for dinner. Seriously. I know every non-profit goes through the lean years before it really hits its stride, but come on, this lifestyle really wears on me sometimes. Every now and then, I miss KNOWING that when I turn a faucet on, water will come out. I miss carpet. I miss grocery stores and fast food. I miss Ice cream, alot, but I think its because its that time of the month. I miss being able to wash and dry all my laundry in one day. I miss my cats and my family. Just once, I'd like to turn off the lights not worried about rats! and I'm Really tired of a certain level of attitude from certain team members.

At the same time. Texas doesn't have these amazing trails and streams to walk Moxie and get away from the maddness. Texas doesn't have my kids either, or the communities I work in. Texas never made me feel as happy or fulfilled. So it's a fair trade really.

But still, I'm hungry, my fingers are bleeding, and I started today so I guess I'm entitled to a certain amount of grumbling.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The circle of life.

I'm so excited. Tomorrow we start the Flor del Campo fish farm project. Our consuting director s down from Virginia to oversee everything and I got to spend the day picking his brain about all sorts of things. This is how the fish farm is going to work.

A 20ft cement tank, 4 ft deep. Water piped in directly from the local river, with total changeoever every four days. Build over the top of the tank, is a large chicken house, with a slant wire floor. We will feed the chickens, the chickens will spill feed and defecate, all into the water. This will in turn feed the fish and the algea and phyto plankton/zooplankton that the fisth will eat. The fish will also eliminate in the water, and the water as it is cycled out of the tank will go to irrigate local farmland. To produce the feed, to feed the chickens. Its the circle of life, isn't it glorious!

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The best part is, the fish farm is projected to bring in $500-$1000 (U.S. Dollars) a month initially in profit to the community. That is a small fortune in this area. And it will only grow from their.

We are going to start with Tilapia, then add Trout. Once we have the tilapia going, we can use the refuse from the fileting process to dry and mix with soy and alfalfa to make our own trout food (much cheaper than buying it pre-made). Finally, we want to use solar heaters and build a tank to raise large shrimp! The fish will be sold market fresh, or smoked. This little project ensures everyone in the community a job and an income. This is just the beginning. Several other communities across the state in and in other states are watching Flor, success means an end to poverty for more than just this one community.

When I get bogged down in the inane details and drudgery of this everyday life in Mexico, I sometimes lose sight of the big picture. I am a part of something so much bigger. This project is just what I needed to recharge my enthusiasm for this work.

So, we went to price chickens today, and they were just so cute!
The brown one is Thunder, and the White one is Lightning. Tom thinks they are both Roosters, so we may have a problem. But I'm hoping one is a hen. Come on Lightning, make with the eggs!

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Finally, today is Thurstons third birthday. I'm sure he is celebrating by wreaking havoc or destroying something. The big galoot! He's ornery and he breaks things and he picks fights with the other cats but you just have to love him! As Mom always says, even baby Monsters need love.

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