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A Mayan New Beginning

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

My Christmas this year was quietly spent in Oaxaca. As with any holiday season I get many greetings from friends. But the ones from Patty are always especially rewarding.

A bit about my Mexican-American friend. She married a Mexican National in the states, left all her family there, gave up her home and moved to Mexico with Jose to begin his legalization process. This entailed a hefty fine for his being in the States as an undocumented person and a long drawn-out and expensive and bureaucratic process. It has been 6 years and they are still in Mexico with little hope of getting the money together. So they are barely making it with Patty teaching English to young folks in her home and Jose trying to get work as a mechanic even though he has a college degree in it.

Patty’s Christmas letter 2012
“Well, we’ve made it to the end of the year and despite all of the dire predictions, we partied like it was…going to be 2013 in a matter of days!

With the help of some of my 40+ past and current students and their families we celebrated with as much hope and joy as possible and in the process consumed 150 cupcakes; 400 cookies (sugary stars, frosted Christmas trees, chocolate chip and strawberry filled); 60 quarts of piping hot homemade fruit punch (guayabas, apples, whole sugarcane, tejocote, raisins, plums and piloncio boiled for about 4 hours); and bowls of mole, beans and rice, and just about anything else that happened to wander by.

Thank you all so much for the wonderful e-mails and prayers that have been great company this entire year. I always look forward to hearing from you. When things get particularly tough I gather all of your Love close to my heart, and always seem to find myself on the other side.

The Mayans didn’t predict the end of the world, but rather the end of one cycle, and the beginning of another. In this New Beginning I pray that all of your days are filled with enough Love, Joy and Laughter to get you through whatever difficulties you may encounter along the way. And, as always celebrate the good stuff and kick the junk to the side.

Patty’s “letter” on behalf of Jose:

“What Jose Roberto Did While I Was Busy Trying Not To Get Whacked By The Crazed Mob That Was Chasing Swinging Piñatas…”

“This is what happens when you leave a guy alone for way too long, with too many loose ends-or metal pieces.

Though Jose comes from a long line of stone sculptors (endless cousins and uncles with a multitude of workshops in the neighboring town of Escolasticas) most of whom make a livingselling their beautiful artistry around the world, Jose has never shown much of an interest. As most of you know he works as a mechanic alongside his brother, Carlos. Unfortunately, lately there hasn’t been as much work as we could hope for. Usually, he and his brother sell damaged car parts to a local recycler, but unexpectedly, Jose said he was bored and starting to get a little stressed-out, when he decided that he would take some of those used car parts and create something else.

As you can see he has been busy even if he hasn’t had too many cars to repair.

The first piece he made was Don Quixote which he just sold on Christmas Eve for $300 pesos-about $24 dollars. He has another request for Don Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho Panza.

Jose was nice enough to create a statue of a figure seated with a book (actually a small, rustydoor hinge) in its hands, aptly named the “Student.” I raffled off the Student at our students’Christmas party. Each attendee received a ticket, including their family and friends. The interesting thing is that of the dozens of people present, the statue went to one of my younger students who really struggles to read and to retain information (I suspect he is autistic). God knew what He was doing. The little boy was beyond thrilled and was absolutely beaming with a smile that could hardly fit on his little face!

I don’t think I could be prouder of Jose, and if nothing else, he brought a bit of joy to my little student and his family.

Once again, Jose has shown me that when things look the bleakest, it’s the perfect time to do something for pure pleasure. And, within that, there might just be something more, something beyond the obvious. Something unexpected, and really sweet and good, for more than just ourselves.

I hope your Holiday Season is as Blessed and Joy-filled as ours.

My response:
I wish more people in the world were as good and unselfish as you and Jose. You are wonderful models for the Mexican people around you. As with our Latino high school drop-outs in our alternative education program, we just felt like we were planting seeds. You may not always immediately see the happy results of your labors…just know that you are indeed making a difference in people’s lives. They will think back on what you have modeled for them. It’s what makes life worthwhile.

I may have told you this. A baby sitter in LA from a Chinese family a couple doors up from us found me on FB about a year ago. She called me and told me what an influence we had on her at the age of 12. She used to go through our books and skim them while sitting the kids which she said opened up her world. She expressed such gratitude, it made tears come to my eyes. She since went to college and is now married to a pediatrician (!) and has a lovely family. We never know how we affect people. It was almost scary to me to realize why it is such a great responsibility to model healthy behavior. I get similar feedback from former CREATE students who are on FB with me. (Thanks to modern technology) It makes my life worthwhile. 🙂

And thanks for being such a good partner for each other.

Loy Krathong in Tak Thailand

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.

Loi means ‘to float’, while krathong refers to a usually lotus-shaped container which floats on the water. The traditional krathong are made of the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. For many Thai it symbolizes letting go of negative thoughts. However, many ordinary Thai use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water,

Loy Krathong takes place all over Thailand and parts of Lao and Burma but Supaporn, a Couchsurfing friend, and I traveled by bus 7 hours from Bangkok to Tak situated on the banks of the Ping River in NW Thailand to experience the Loy Krathong Festival there.

The Yi Peng Festival takes place at the same time so as well as Krothongs floating down the river we enjoyed hundreds of thin rice paper lanterns floating up in the sky. It is a time for making merit.

Waiting for the evening festivities, we also visited Bhomipol Dam about 3 hours out of Tak. But the bus dropped us off well before the dam. Supaporn put me out on the road to hitch a ride. They will never pick me up, she said, but they will stop for you! Ha! The last time I hitchhiked was Europe the summer of 1965! This sexy Thai guy from Chiang Mai picked us up in his pickup. He had a string of medals on his dashboard which he explained was from his work doing research on Bonsai…one of the King’s many projects to provide jobs and benefit the people of Thailand.

A Birthday in Oaxaca

Friday, June 15th, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1822" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Richard, Lulu, Carlos and Lumina"][/caption] I'm counting my blessings that couchsurfing has given me this morning. I had the best birthday ever yesterday! A lovely couple (she from Uh ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Mixe Wedding

Saturday, April 14th, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1737" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Open Fire Kitchen"][/caption] [Continue reading this entry]

Thanksgiving 2011

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
I was invited to a wonderful Thanksgiving potluck...turkey, trimmings and all. Far more than any of us could eat in a week of course. Most of these young people ... [Continue reading this entry]

Guelaguetza Time Again

Monday, July 19th, 2010
oaxacaoaxacaguelaguetza1.jpg OMG narrow colonial streets are overrun with buses bringing dancers down from the mountains and by cars full of Mexican tourists. Calendas plug up what the cars don't. Calendas are processions with ... [Continue reading this entry]

Alternative 4th of July by X

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

China’s Opening

Saturday, August 9th, 2008
With an unlimited budget, China's most illustrious film director has achieved a lush multimedia feast that I cannot imagine will be surpassed anytime soon. As expected it was embedded with the political...for local consumption as much as for ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fun For Young And Old

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
Young and old revelers hanging off of pickups and sangtaews fling plastic pans of water from a garbage can at the traffic going in the opposite direction. Small children aim at cars and pedestrians alike from the sidewalks. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chinese New Year Of The Rat

Friday, February 8th, 2008
Chinese New Year's Eve Wednesday February 6 2008. Words cannot do justice to the fireworks we viewed across the city from the rooftop of the Hilton Hotel at midnight. It was so cold Josh had trouble holding a camera. ... [Continue reading this entry]

“El Grito” Cry For Independence

Saturday, September 15th, 2007
In two days, Mexico will celebrate Independence Day on September 17. It is traditional for the governor to enter the Governor's Palace, now a museum since the teacher strike of last year, and utter the "cry for Independence" at midnight. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Watch People Paid To Attend The Gueleguetza

Friday, August 3rd, 2007
The Governor's people handed out money to those who attended the commercial Gueleguetza. The Governor wanted to make sure the auditorium was filled.

Birthday Fiesta

Sunday, June 17th, 2007
Even though my birthday was last wednesday, I had preferred to stay in the zocalo to watch the June 14 commemoration. So last night I picked up friends Sharon and Max and we went to Mica and Bardo's for cena ... [Continue reading this entry]

Xalapa Veracruz

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
About 5 miles from Cuatapec, Charly and I caught the annual Xalapa (pronounced halapa) Fair the night before we took the comfortable 1st class bus back to Oaxaca. A small nino was earnestly helping his mom set up her display ... [Continue reading this entry]

Wedding In Teotitlan del Camino

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
My friend Bardo is from Teotitlan del Camino near the Puebla border and his parents, three brothers and a sister still live there. Bardo's father, Don Bardo, a furniture maker, and Dona Mari raised six children in their big open-air ... [Continue reading this entry]

CoCo’s Cantina

Saturday, February 17th, 2007
The last time Max partook of his Brandy Presses at Cocos, a working man's bar with classic swinging louvered half-doors near his apartment, he met with an altercation with a burly self-professed "communist" Mexican who insisted on appropriating Max's drink. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Christmas Season

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
The Christmas season begins with the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 and continues until January 6...the Day of the Three Kings when presents are opened. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora ... [Continue reading this entry]

San Andreas Huayapam Fiesta

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
Last week, with friends, I attended the annual San Andreas Huayapam Fiesta about 25 minutes northeast of Oaxaca City. Very well organized with a lot of people for such a small pueblo. There was a local band that ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day Of The Dead, Black Mole, Hookah Pipes

Sunday, October 29th, 2006
Went to my landlord's home yesterday morning to make black mole...pronounced "molay" a Oaxacan specialty that is always made for the Day Of The Dead and served exactly at 11:00 on November 2 for the spirits of the dead who ... [Continue reading this entry]

Marriage Blessing

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
My sons Josh and Greg have flown onto the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands from Beijing and Las Vegas respectively. Josh and Amy will have Malcolm Miner, a close friend and retired Episcopalian minister bless their civil ... [Continue reading this entry]

Guelaguetza “Postponed”

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
The Asemblea of teachers and social groups succeeded in shutting down the indigenous dance festival, the Guelaguetza, that was scheduled for the 17th & 24th of July. Governor Ruiz announced the festival would be postponed but no other date was ... [Continue reading this entry]

Songkran Water Festival

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
Day before yesterday was New Years in Lao. Yesterday was New Years in Thailand, although the celebration continues for several days in these countries. We get it again! Leila took a cheap bus to Kao San Road while I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sabaidee Pi Mai Lao!

Thursday, April 13th, 2006
Lao New Year (and in Thailand) is a time to encourage young people to absorb the spirit of cleaning their temples, houses, stupas of their ancestors and apparently the bodies of anyone, especially the foreigners they come across. The purpose ... [Continue reading this entry]

Faithful Tuk Tuk Driver

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
eWCBF9KYWi73omUCUHRffw-2006185115650300.gif Nice to have someone faithful to me. I trust Supoat, in his 50's, with soft face and warm bright eyes. I call him when I need him to drive me somewhere in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Strangers in the “hood”

Monday, October 24th, 2005
I've never been in a city that has such diverse but tight little neighborhoods. The first question asked by anyone you meet, after what do you do, is where do you live. Soon you know the tenant ... [Continue reading this entry]

Central Park

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
In any given week in the summer you can choose from any four or five street fairs and on this day we chose the Columbus Street Fair on the Upper West Side of Central Park. Stall after stall for ... [Continue reading this entry]

Three Minute Wedding

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
On a lovely Sunday, September 4, 2005, Bob and I followed Josh and Amy to a specialty jewelry store in our gentrified Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn to pick up their hand-crafted rings. Amy's mother, Debbie, works at a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Royal Wedding

Saturday, April 9th, 2005
I have both CNN and BBC on my television in my apartment so I often switch back and forth. It was interesting to notice after the nuptual blessing that the Royal couple was barely out of the church when ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trekking Northern Thailand

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005
gatQye8keZlS3vpnwrOvxg-2006186163905868.gif As soon as we returned to Bangkok from Bali Bob took a train to Chiang Mai for a trek in northern Thailand near Mae Son Hong. I stayed in Bangkok to have some ... [Continue reading this entry]

No Sleep on the Full Moon

Thursday, March 31st, 2005
DSC00024.JPG A great day watching the dolphins as the only tenants of a great little resort hanging on a cliff over the easternmost point of Bali in Amed ended in a very uneasy dinner surrounded ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sights And Ceremonies

Thursday, March 31st, 2005
The Balinese are Hindu...but a Hinduism that is overlaid by ancient animist beliefs...a world away from the Hinduism as practised in India. To the Balinese, spirits are everywhere and offerings are put out in shrines in every field and on ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bali Indonesia

Monday, March 14th, 2005
YO7AUDZtFfSX7xB1nfH9pw-2006170165110990.gif Bali.JPG Godday!!! (with an Aussie accent we picked up here!) We are currently in Bali Indonesia. It was a spur of the moment decision to head down here. Tomorrow ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kindred Spirits in Quindao

Saturday, October 30th, 2004
East China.gif Walking by the Foreign Language Bookstore in Quindao, just up the street from my comfy clean hotel room that a tout from the railroad station led me to...80 yuan she says..that's about ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ruili China

Saturday, December 28th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Coming down out of the mountains we were happy to see Ruili lying in the green lush valley below...a larger city than I thought...a Chinese/Burma border town with a mix of Han Chinese, minorities ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, August 6th, 2002
There are many expats in Bangkok who love this city and it's people for many reasons. One day I struck up a conversation with a Brit woman sitting next to me on the SkyTrain who worked for an international ... [Continue reading this entry]

Extremes In India

Sunday, August 4th, 2002
Back in Delhi the next day Bob and I are walking in the middle of the street as usual to a shopping area from the hotel when I noticed that one of the men lying on the sidewalk was dead...large ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mr. Singh’s Rickshaw In Udaipur

Sunday, July 21st, 2002
We take the offer of Mr. Singh, the Sikh driver of an auto-rickshaw, a small, noisy, three-wheeled motorized contraption with no doors, to take us around the narrow streets that are filled with cows, people, dogs, pigs, men in dirty ... [Continue reading this entry]

Asane’s Taxi Tour

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai, we took a three-hour government sponsored tour in an Indian-made Ambassador car with "Indian A/C" which is a fan that sits on the dashboard. While we were waiting for Bob to run back to the hotel for the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hip Notting Hill

Sunday, February 17th, 2002
We didn't realize that our neighborhood was "hip" until we were sitting in our hotel/bar in Notting Hill a couple days ago and I noticed a newspaper clipping pinned up on the wall above me with a picture of Clinton ... [Continue reading this entry]