Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Unwelcomed Day Off

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (33-34) "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  (ESV)

Have you ever had one of those days when things just don't go as planned?  Today was suppose to be our first chance to venture out, find a church, and learn about worship in a different culture.  Instead, I woke up feeling worse than I had when I went to bed.  By early afternoon, I was running a fever.  This was most definitely not on my to-do list!  Even when things don't go as we planned, God has a way of teaching us a lesson.  We decided that Kris would go check out a small Spanish Baptist church and I would stay home with the kids.  Elyse kept asking why were weren't going to church, so we decided it would be fun to have church at the house.  
Toler Praise and Worship Team
Kieran and Elyse quickly volunteered to lead the singing.  We are borrowing a keyboard so I can help lead worship in a couple of weeks, so Kieran decided to play keyboard and Elyse lead the singing.  We sang "Jesus Loves Me", "Jesus Love the Little Children", "My God is so Big", and "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus."  I decided I would teach on one of the parables found in Matthew but instead I opened right up to the verses on worrying.  My Bible probably falls open to that verse naturally since I've read it so many times.  Kieran inherited my gift of worrying so I though this would be a good set of verses to discuss. 
Some flowers outside our place in Mitla

A beautiful poinsettia not worrying at all!
After church, Kieran and Elyse drew pictures of birds and flower.  "Do not worry" is such a simple lesson yet so hard to live on a day to day basis.  When I woke up from my nap this afternoon running a fever, I immediately started worrying about missing class tomorrow and not being able to move in with our host family.  I quickly stopped myself and meditated on these verses.  Nothing surprises Him and nothing is outside His control (not even a nasty bug or virus). 

Now it is time to take my medicine, say a prayer, go to bed and trust that God will take care of the details.  "Our God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY, there's nothing my God cannot do (for you)!"  Buenos Noches! 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Market Day!

After a great week of classes, it was very nice to sleep in this morning and relax a little.  I still wasn’t feeling very well, so Kris let me sleep a little longer.  After breakfast and a video chat with our family in Idaho (technology is wonderful), we decided to head to the market downtown.   

Saturday is market day for the town of Mitla where we are staying.  The main square downtown was transformed into hundreds of little stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to fresh meat and dried fish.   This weekend starts the celebrations for Day of the Dead and many of the stalls were selling products related to that celebration such as pan de muerto, oranges, apples, flowers, and sweets.  The women were dressed in colorful dresses and men carried huge baskets on their backs.  We ended up buying some sausage for a cookout tonight and some ice cream.  For lunch we had fried cheese and chicken empanadas that were very delicious.   We saw the famous fried grasshoppers but decided to wait on that delicacy! 

Showing off their market finds!
  Kieran thought that everyone in Mexico seemed very busy and decided they should spend more time just relaxing and playing! The kids were quite excited to see cotton candy which included vampire teeth and Dora/Diego play pesos!  Elyse was a popular sight for everyone at the market.  The ladies commented on how beautiful she was, and we noticed a lot of pointing and smiling from people walking past! 

Guarding the grill
The evening ended with a nice cookout with our fellow new arrivals here on campus with all our tasty treasures found at the market.  We had cheese quesadillas made with Oaxaca string cheese, stuffed peppers, chorizo (sausage), chicken, salsa, chips, guacamole, and flan.  Then, of course, we had a few American staples like hot dogs, mac and cheese, and French fries – a true blending of culinary cultures! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vamos a Comer! (Let's Eat)

"He gives food to every creature.  His love endures forever.  
Give thanks to the God of the heavens.  His love endures forever." Psalm 136:25-26

Dinner at Taco Brown
 Today in our workshop, we talked about the importance of understanding the culture of eating wherever we go.  As Americans, we have a very specific view on what time we eat, where we eat, what we eat, and with whom we eat.  When we move into a new culture, those eating norms for us will most likely change.  I remember noticing this difference when I visited Italy while in college.  Dinner in this culture is a time investment!  I doubt the expression “eat and run” even exists in that language.  Dinner consisted of several courses with long periods of discussion in between the courses.  A dinner (not even a special occasion) could take several hours.  In some of the indigenous villages here in Mexico, the guest is often given a seat of honor, usually separated from the rest of the group.  One of our colleagues talked about being invited to someone’s house for dinner, her family was given a table outside under a nice shade tree.  The Zapotec wife served them dinner and then went in the house.  The family waited for the host’s family to join them, but they never did.  They ended up eating outside alone.  To the Zapotecs, this was a way of honoring their guest.  The culture of eating not only involves place and time of eating, but also the foods they eat.  Food that people consider common in one culture can seem strange and bizarre in another.  In some cultures, however, polite refusal of strange food is not an option.
Enjoying his quesedilla!
I mentioned yesterday that Kieran is our reluctant eater when it comes to trying new things.  He is starting to venture out a little.  Today, he ate cactus fruit at school and admitted to liking it!  He really enjoyed his quesadilla at dinner and before bedtime he told me that his new favorite food was Mexican yogurt!  Actually he said, “Mexican yogurt is the best thing in the world!” 

Elyse, on the other hand, is our adventurous eater!  She rarely turns her nose up at anything.  Every day, during our training, we have been provided with a delicious Mexican lunch consisting of some sort of meat in a sauce with vegetables or black beans and rice.  Of course, fresh tortillas are always included.  While Kieran is eating his jelly sandwich and banana, Elyse is building her own taco! She loves filling the tortilla with a little of everything on her plate, rolling it up and eating it!  Tonight we went to a local taco restaurant called Taco Brown.  A nice couple from the center treated us and it was wonderful.  Riding by on the street, you probably wouldn't even notice it.  It only had 6 tables!  

 However, the lack of space was soon forgotten when they brought out the plate of pork that had been cooked on a spit beside an open fire.  The pork was then cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers and the most amazing cheese I’ve ever tasted.  It was served with a plate full of small tortillas.  Elyse took a few bites of her cheese quesadilla that we ordered for her, but she soon took over my plate of food.  At the end of the evening, we think she ate somewhere between 6-8 tacos!  

Our lesson in eating cross culturally has just begun, but as long as Mexico keeps making yogurt and tacos, I think we'll do just fine!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Same Differences

"One culture only reflects part of the image of God." -Day1 Multicultural Training
One of my favorite things about traveling to a new country is learning about all the new things related to culture- food, dress, music, architecture, language, etc.  I love learning about new places and people.  Since arriving in Mexico, I have been struck by the beauty of this place.  The bright colors of dresses hanging in the stores; the smell of sweet bread drifting from the panaderia and the sounds of fire crackers going off all throughout the city.  These unfamiliar sights, smells and sounds are exciting to me.  However, the differences that I enjoy are the same differences that make this transition difficult for our 6 year old who truly longs for things to be the same.  As soon as we landed in Mexico City, Kieran started to become uncomfortable with everyone speaking Spanish all the time.  He asked me if we could have a “No-Spanish” day soon.  Sunday, we went to a Spanish church service, and once again he was not impressed with their lack of English skills.  He enjoyed the fresh tortillas we had for lunch, but he really wanted to melt cheese inside so they would be like the quesadillas he was use to eating. 

Three days after arriving, Kieran is still apprehensive about all the Spanish being spoken, but now he follows his complaint with “Mommy, how do you say _______ in Spanish?”  We’ve been praying that Kieran would have a good experience during this orientation in Mexico, and we’ve been trying to focus on the similarities between his culture and this new culture he is experiencing.  He still isn’t quite ready to dive into some new things like the food (he had mac and cheese for dinner and a jelly sandwich for lunch), but we’re already starting to see that he is opening up. This evening, we walked down to the town center to check it out, and we stopped to get drinks from a little shop.  Kieran was trying to decide between Sprite, Fanta Orange and a Mexican Grapefruit drink.  Finally he said, “I want to try a flavor that I’ve never tried before.” So, he chose the grapefruit flavor and loved it.  It also helped that we found a painting of Spiderman and Princess Aurora on one of the store fronts.  As we were walking back he said, “Mexico is interesting.”  I have a feeling it won’t be too long before he starts to enjoy the same differences that I do.