Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall Newsletter

For anyone that didn't get an emailed copy of my newsletter you can get it here. In my newsletter I talk about my work site, review some new and exciting food, and give a short Spanish 101 lesson.

I would also like to thank my September and October sponsors:


2- Wayne & Ruth Eubank
15- Ken & Mary Musselman
16- Mike & Beth Dana

28- Dwayne Daehler

If you would like my next newsletter to be magically delivered directly to you inbox sometime around New Year's, you can comment, message, email, or snail mail me your email address.

If you would like to know more about becoming one of my daily sponsors, leave a comment and I'll be in touch!

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Spanish is getting better. It sounds awful.

Yes. You read that right. I know my Spanish is getting better because it is sounding worse. You're probably thinking this makes no sense. Hear me out.

When I arrived, I was very careful when speaking. I would have to think what I wanted to say, carefully translate it, and stick to words that I already knew well. I could manage some small talk, but not much more.

Now? Now it's getting interesting. At the dinner table we've had discussions about current events, economics, soccer, politics, and traditions from both here and the US. Rather than carefully planning my simple sentences then speaking, I've started spitting out my thoughts as I think them. My grammar has been all over the place- and I often use the wrong word, try several similar words, or have to stop and ask- but I can clumsily manage to convey a wider array of ideas. My family and coworkers have been very patient with me and have helped and corrected me many times. I am so thankful for all they are teaching me.

I've also noticed my thoughts have started mixing languages. Today as I was writing notes for work, I found myself switching languages multiple times in the same sentence or mid-list. A few times I've managed to entertain my fellow YAGMs by switching languages while speaking, too. I'm sure I'm not the only one in our group that's been doing this.

I can only hope that my Spanish will keep getting better and that, just maybe, one of these days it will finally start to sound better too.

¡Mis amigos!
I should probably dust these off again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mail time!

Well, almost.

I finally managed to get to the post office during business hours. To my September sponsors, your post cards are on the way! They may take a few weeks to get there, but they are in the mail. Thank you for your patience!

You can check out my Sponsor-for-a-Day sponsors in the calendar on the right. These sponsors will get a postcard in the mail telling what I did that day and a special mention in the newsletter (coming this month!). If you would like to sponsor me for a day feel free to shoot me an e-mail for more information.

Friday, September 27, 2013


I didn't pack a watch.

That was one item that was listed on our packing list and discussed a number of times in our orientations. Pack a watch. You won't want to pull your phone out to check the time. You may not even have a phone. It was also a mission I had for myself for Chicago orientation and in-country orientation before arriving in Tepoztlan; find a watch.

Now, I haven't worn a watch in years. My reasons being that many watches are made with metal wrist bands. I have sensitive skin. Seeing as I balk at the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a 'nice watch' -because I don't wear them that often- I stick to the modestly priced watches. Usually from Target. These watches usually make my wrist quite itchy, so I stop wearing them. And since I never wear my watch, I don't want to spend a lot of money to get a better one. I see a pattern here.

My mission was to find a watch that didn't have a metal band, most likely a sports watch. Not the most fashionable, but something that would serve me this year. I never did find one I liked. Mission incomplete.

I didn't pack a watch.

And you know what? I've been fine without one. I do have a local cell phone. Given the number of smartphones I see everyday in our little, touristy town, I doubt checking my cellphone for the time would make cause me to stand out too much.
Though I do love this little guy.
And the surprising thing is I've not felt the need to check the time constantly. (And then check it again because you weren't really paying attention the first time.) The tempo of life is much different here. Often, time is more like a guideline. Relationships and people come first. The clock is secondary. I don't have to leave my breakfast, half-eaten, to rush out the door to get to work. (I would be more likely to leave it half-eaten because I'm not used to 2 or 3 course breakfasts, but that's a different story.)  If I stop to talk to a friend on the street, those few minutes won't make or break the rest of my day. It is a very freeing mentality to take life as it comes, in it's own time.

I didn't pack a watch. And I'm so glad I don't need one.

Addendum: I may have forgotten a watch, but I did remember to borrow my mom's travel alarm clock. (Thanks, Mom!). If I had any doubts as to its origin, it reminds me every day.
I have yet to turn the alarm "On" and yet it still goes off every morning without fail. 
Rise and shine!

I'm not sure if this is US time influence it has picked up or a bit of Mom Magic, but I have yet to be late to work. Thanks, alarm.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Naturalia is a non-profit organization that began in 1990 with the goal of saving the Mexican wolf. 22 years later they have expanded their goal to species and forest conservation. They publish a magazine, Especies, and have multiple offices in north and central Mexico.

I am working in their (small) office in Tepoztlan. On my first day (Monday) I learned about their current project, education about the importance of the local ravine to the local environment and cleaning the ravine. We started the morning by shooting some video that will be used in a promotional commercial and met with the director of the local elementary schools to get permission to hold a workshop with the students later this month. I spent most of the day watching and listening. (Side note: Junior year of high school, our Spanish class had a vocabulary unit on eco-tourism. At the time I remember wishing for more 'useful' vocabulary. Now I wish I remembered more of that unit.) I've spent the last two days looking at some of their publications and resources to find out more about the organization and what it is that they do. My dictionary has also been getting quite the workout.

I have already learned quite a bit and am excited to become more involved in the ravine project and more as time goes on!

For more information about Naturalia, look for the link at the top of the page, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter (En Espanol!) And of course you can stay tuned here and hear more as my year continues.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mexican Dinner

As part of my YAGM experience I am required to raise funds to help offset the costs of my year of service. To do this, and help answer then multitude of questions I've been getting, I decided to have an informational lunch at church to help explain the program, where I'll be, and what I might be doing.

The menu

First, I would like to thank my lovely mother for all of her help with the preparations and cooking for this meal. There is NO WAY I would have been able to do this without her. Love you, Mom!

Because, really, it was a lot of food.

And now the menu, so you can try the meal yourself at home.


Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber Salsa

and from the wonderful Pastor Scott at Christ United Methodist Church, the newly dubbed "Guatelasagna" seeing as we were in Guatemala when we discussed this recipe.

We also had sides of rice, beans, and delicious bread from a local Mexican Bakery, Mama Inez.

All set up!

After lunch, I gave a presentation about my upcoming year in Mexico. If you would like to view the presentation slides, click here.

The meal was a great success. Many members of my congregation were very interested in the program and what I may be doing this year. I was nearly able to meet my fundraising goal, with the help of matching funds from Thrivent, and, quite importantly, there weren't too many leftovers!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pack Nothing

I have been trying to find a good way to start this blog. I have a few half written posts telling about YAGM and how I got to Chicago. I suppose it's time to jump right in and fill in some of those details later.

Tomorrow morning (not-so-)bright and early we leave the University of Chicago campus and Lutheran School of Theology that has been our home for the past week and board a plane to Mexico City. Right now, as I'm sorting through mixed emotions of excitement for what lies ahead and some sadness at who and what will be staying behind, I would like to share a poem.

This poem has been read several times during our first week of orientation and each time I have found it very powerful.

Passover Remembered

Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Pack nothing.
Bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.

Don't wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing.
Be ready to move at a moment's notice.

Do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind-
fear, silence, submission.
Only surrender to the need of the time-
love justice and walk humbly with your God.

Do not take time to explain to the neighbours.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.
Then begin quickly, before you have had time
to sink back into old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire, and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place you have not yet seen.
The stories you tell one another around the fires in the dark
will make you strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you, and some follow you
and at times you will get weary and turn on each other
from fear, fatigue and blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing for this
for hundreds of years.

I am sending you into the wilderness to make a new way
and to learn my ways more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all.

Some will be abandoned by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those who have known you since birth
who feel abandoned by you.

Some will find new friendships in unlikely faces,
and old true friends as faithful and true
as the pillar of God's flame.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused
and lose your way.

Continue to call each other by the names I've given you
to help remember who you are.
Touch each other,
and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go,
remembering the way back from before you were born.
So you will be only the first of many waves
of deliverance on the desert of seas.
It is the first of many beginnings-
your Paschaltide.

Remain true to the mystery.
Pass on the whole story.
Do not go back.
I am with you now and I am waiting for you.

In 4 hours we will head to the airport- though we have packed plenty- and begin a new mystery and adventure.