Saturday, January 24, 2009

A birth, a death, and life inbetween

It's been a monumental few weeks here in Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla, Mexico.

A Baptism

A very nervous godmother accepted her responsibilities to Devani on Sunday at the Catholic Church in La Manzanilla. I wasn't nervous about helping Devani -- we've been involved with her since before she was born, and her mother, Mimi, and her grandmother, Irma, have become close friends. And her great-grandfather is Xavier, who has taken care of many of us when we've stayed at Santana's in La Manzanilla.

The problem was the thought of the ceremony in Spanish (no, I'm not fluent yet) in a church service in which I'm unfamiliar. Several of the Mexican children in the village had advised me that the Padre would ask me many questions and just say 'si'.


We took our 11-year-old neighbor, Brianda, with us, with a request to nod or shake her head if I turned to her during the ceremony with a look of panic.

Fortunately, the Padre decided to ask all the questions of the padrinos --- the godfathers. So Michael got to squirm for a bit but did fine. And, yes, he's now official a Godfather...

One of his most important responsibilities was throwing pesos and candy to the children (and adults!) waiting in front of the church after the baptism. He handled it like a pro, of course. Our neighbors say that if you don't throw gifts, the children will fart at you --- I guess a Mexican concept of 'trick or treat'?

The loss of a friend, Isabel Jordan

Some of you have heard that a good friend of my cousin Lynn and her partner Suzanne had taken a bad fall from some stairs the first night she was visiting in them in La Manzanilla. Michael and I were called upon to take her to the emergency service north of us in Careyes, where the doctor confirmed she had two fractured ribs and some internal bleeding. We were told to drive her on up to Puerto Vallarta to the hospital where a surgeon would be waiting. Careyes has two ambulances but no paramedics or drivers.

After a week in the hospital, two surgeries, dialysis and other interventions, Isabel passed away from a heart attack at 81.

Should any of you think, well, she was 81, she wasn't like any 81 year old that I've known. The Monday I drove them all down from Puerto Vallarta to La Manzanilla, I had bought two low water, high volocity toilets, chairs, and a lot of other provisions for our Arroyo Seco compound. When we arrived in Arroyo Seco, Isabel and Michael unloaded the truck into the bodega, our California garage. She was stronger and more sure footed than I am --- and probably more than most of all of you.

I only met Isabel this winter when she officiated at Lynn and Suzanne's wedding in Marin, just days before Prop. 8 (to ban gay marriages) was officially approved by the voters. She was an icon in Yalapa and will be missed by many.

What Isabel taught me in my short time of knowing her is that 81 doesn't have to look like what I thought it would look like, that I should remember to live each day like it's my last, and that those of us who live in rural areas of developing countries have given up the luxury of 911.

All good reminders.

In other news...

An apprentice

It's been lovely getting to know our construction maestro again this year. He built our wall and the palapa last season. This year he brought his 16-year-old son, Antonio, with him while his son is on a long holiday from school (they go back mid-February). Antonio works side by side with his father, learning a trade –– and much more –– from dawn until past dark. Their home is in Sayula, where the Maestro and his son return by bus every 10 days for a three day visit. While they're working, they live in a small rental house in Arroyo Seco.

The constant murmur of conversation while they work is a delight --- sometimes I see them stop and laugh and talk if one of them is making an important point. If I'm moving something heavy, one of them races over to help. Sometimes they will stay for a late, light supper and talk with us.

It's a joy to see a father apprentice a son --- maybe it's something our country could relearn as we try to strengthen the fabric of our American culture.

No mas construction!

We're closing in on this year's construction in Arroyo Seco --- fortunately our money has run out at the same time as my patience. Everything has gone exceptionally well. It's just that I hadn't realized the full impact of having people in your home making a lot of dust and noise from dawn 'til dark and the constant lack of privacy. So whatever we've built by February 1, that's it for me this year.

Sure hope the new toilets flush by then. Because it's time to start going back to the beach.

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