Saturday, January 05, 2013

hello 2013!

i am sitting in the atlanta airport loving the free wi-fi. another adventure under the belt and back to my other life. you know, the one involving law school, the nation's capital, and the world's best baby sister. it feels appropriate that i spent the last few weeks of the year of music and movement making my first solo international adventure, meeting people - young and old - from all over the world, and quite literally dancing into 2013. 

as i took in the last of many blessings received during 2012, i pondered what theme might keep my superstitions at bay during the incoming year. let's face it: the kid that used to beg not to get out of bed on friday the 13th for fear of bad luck still keeps a cabin in my soul. i thought about the ways in which i have grown and changed since leaving detroit. i considered all the things i want to do this year - skills to acquire, people to meet, sanity to keep. 

my theme started to take form as i listened to the lara bravo family repeat in unison a prayer for safe travel. talking with chike, luz, and jordan further convinced me i was on the right track. i have long believed that god is in each of us because he is our creator. and it has often been my experience that i can see god most clearly through people who have differing beliefs about his existence and identity. still, my faith often fails in trusting that god - the one i pray to and the one i see in the world around me. so as i aim for a year of improved stillness and compassion, i am renewing my effort to put my confianza en dios continuamente. this language comes from the spanish translation of a book of mormon verse (alma 57:27). although the english version says,"trust in god continually," confianza can also mean confidence and faith. this mix of meanings is exactly what i will be looking for in my 2013 adventures. so my spanish-learning adventure ends, or continues? 

until the next blog-worthy expedition: may you encounter sparkles daily and love it every time!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

a mighty power for foreigners

"so how many months will you be staying with my family?" alonso teased this morning at breakfast. my death stare prompted a spanish translation for his family. then, five heads turned to see my response.

"pienso que...siempre," i returned with a smile. originally, i had planned to visit guanajuato for a weekend and to stay with alonso's family in silao at the same time as two other wcl guests. but as well-planned excursions often do, it fell apart and i ended up making a solo visit, friday through sunday. on saturday, i got the grand tour of guanajuato. i came after a long line of international guests who have followed up on alonso's hospitable invitation.

i met alonso last fall when he applied for students united's mentoring program. from early on, he made it clear that he came from a beautiful part of mexico, near the city of guanajuato. i didn't think much of it because i'm from detroit and find it to be one of the most beautiful places in the usa. but my interest piqued as my winter adventure drew closer and other people - kate kelly, the friendly tapatio on my flight from atlanta, wouter from the language school - informed me that guanajuato was a must-see. even so, i was wholly unprepared for the potent arrow that struck me when i finally arrived. after maybe a dozen reverent praises - wow. you weren't lying. guanajuato is amazing. - alonso responded with clear satisfaction: "it has a mighty power for foreigners."

my visit took a turn when, on sunday morning, alonso informed me that his mother would like me to join the family for new years in the mountains. he explained that i could go with his family and return to guadalajara late on tuesday evening. ever-adverse to unanticipated changes, i protested:

"i have classes and a bus ticket i have already paid for."
"you want to practice spanish, right? why not practice with my family in the mountains?"
"i don't want to impose. it's your last few days with your family."
"mamí! un momentito, porfa!"
"alonso, no -"
"mamí, puedes explicarle sobre tu invitación a las montañas, por favor? christiane está ocupada porque ya ha pagado por cursos y una boleta por guadalajara."

i emailed wouter about monday classes and asked him to let the bustamantes know not to worry about me before piling into the car with victor and marisa (alonso's parents), alonso, ilse, luís, mariano, our bags, and two remote-controlled helicopters. the ride started out in silence. then rufus wainwright's cover of hallelujah came on the radio. i began sing along quietly. then mariano's pre-pubescent soprano voice came from the backseat. luís and ilse joined on either side of me. after dancing it up to el sondito, the ice was officially broken and the ride passed quickly with stories about mexican artists and legends. what followed was the magic life is made of: stepping into someone else's life for a brief moment. observing religious practices, family jokes, vacation mishaps. then listening as a friend confides about their perspective on what is transpiring. and occasionally stepping away from the wall to participate:

"christiane, conoces thalia?" marisa asked at new years eve dinner.
"sí. un poquito," i replied, happy to have a captive audience with which to practice past tense verbs. "cuando tenía diecinueve años, mi padre trabajaba en alemania. por eso, viajé a -"
"christiane," alonso interrupted with a chuckle, "my mom was asking about thalia - the singer who is playing right now - not italia."

collective laughter covered social shame and the festivities continued. at midnight we ate twelve grapes to reflect on each of twelve months. then the dj turned the music up and we danced our hearts out until 2. un mil gracias to the lara-bravo family for making my farewell to 2012 one for the books.

Friday, December 28, 2012


i was a little homesick on christmas. not for lack of fun - the bustamante family did a stellar job of including me in their christmas eve celebrations: in the afternoon, tera let me sew up the lomo, which was stuffed full of fruits and nuts, in preparation for la cena. we went to a contemporary-style mass at 9 then gathered with aunt and cousins back at the house to welcome in baby j's birth. as i listened to the animated dinner conversation, taking cues from body language when my ears failed me, i was happy. but when the celebrations were over, the nostalgia returned. so i made my way to bed and drifted off to the sounds of bedford falls and george bailey's voice.

the funny thing about homesickness is that it often motivates me to set out looking for the familiar; an activity or a food or a person that is sure to make me feel at home. as any directionally-challenged extrovert can attest, this often leads to adventure.

on tuesday, miami brad and i hopped on the 80 bus for la barranca de huatatín to do a little trekking.
we met some friendly hikers along the way.
brad got tired before i did so he turned back early. the hike was pretty rigorous so i was happy to see a middle-aged couple selling fresh piña y naranja juice when i reached the top. on the bus ride back to t-paka, i did what cannons do best - sleep. i woke up thirty minutes later, disoriented, and got off the bus immediately. i was only 40 blocks early. so i took the opportunity to explore a new neighborhood and make it back to the jardin hidalgo just in time for a sweet treat.
i decided to try for a visit to the lds temple in zopopan on wednesday. i took the tur bus (which is WAY nicer than the standard buses) to the center of the upscale suburb and set out to find my spiritual haven. en route, i stumbled across a mormon church.
a poinsetta-filled municipal building.
someone's pet cochino.
street art.
and a giant christmas festival in front of a large catholic church. yes, erin, the giant speakers pumped out iterations of feliz navidad no fewer than three times in the twenty minutes it took me to eat my elote with lime, salt, and chile.

i arrived back at the bustamante's just in time to convince canada mike to take the maestro's cumbia class with me. we danced our hearts out - occasionally to the actual beat - for a full hour. 

i never found the temple. but i did find myself ready for a good sleep, another day of language classes, and a trip to the teotihuacan pyramids. and so it goes with homesickness. it starts with a craving for the familiar. but the cure often lies in the unknown and the adventure that comes with it.