Tag Archives: Apizaco

Rupe Reunion 2011 Trailer

So my super-cool Uncle Brian, YMCA Director Extraordinaire, is putting together a movie of our time together.  The trailer was released today and I just had to share it.  I’ll share the finished project after the premeire!

Traveling Back

I’m closing up a beautiful 29-day vacation, 20 of which were spent in Mexico with my family.  I flew down on 12/10 and spent a week and a half helping my mom get ready for our family reunion.  On the 20th and 22nd we were joined by most of our Rupe clan and ended up with a group of 13: my parents, brother, and me; my Grandma, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Marilyn; and Uncle Brian, Aunt Lynn, Jachin, Adrienne, Amy, and Allison.  We all flew back on the 29th.  Never in my life have I taken a vacation like this, and I would be remiss if I didn’t spend some time chronicling it.  I’ve written about how going home rearranges my whole sense of self, but I have to balance that with sharing the pure joy and fun that I had during those 3 weeks.  I could write about it start (I got gyped into buying an “executive” van taxi ride from the airport to the bus station in Mexico City) to finish (Cheeseburger with grilled onions from In-N-Out), but that would be boring in the extreme.  So instead, here’s my top 10 list.  There are a lot more than ten, but for the sake of time, space, and your sanity, I have to draw the line somewhere . . .

10. Battle of the Refrigerated Room

All the girl cousins (me, Adrienne, Amy, and Allison) got to stay up in Misa’s apartment (more on him

Girl Cousins!

Sallie, Amy, Adrienne, Allison

later).  This room is fantastic except for one little problem: it’s frigid.  Cement houses in Mexico tend to warm up during the day and lose heat at night.  This room is built over the shed and has 4 outside walls; even though it gets steamy during the day, by 6am it’s colder inside then out.  Amy and Adrienne got the bed, and Allison and I were on cots.  The cots were really comfortable, except for the fact that the air under the canvas basically meant we were lying on an ice cube.  But Allison and I were not to be dissuaded.  The second night we rounded up every extra blanket in the house.  We were warm on top, but it didn’t fix anything.  And all four of our noses were still frozen in the morning.  So the third night we pulled up the heated mattress pad and commandeered the gas heater.  Allison took the mattress pad, and I put four blankets under my sleeping bag.  We put the heater to work and voila! We slept warm and cozy for about 9 hours straight.  It doesn’t sound like much when I write it out, but trust me . . . it was a significant accomplishment.

4 girl cousins + 2 days = demolished bachelor pad

9. Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Allison drew my name in our gift exchange and got me the top priority item on my Amazon wish list: Voyage of the Dawn Treader blue ray.  I was thrilled with the movie as it was, but the best part came later on Christmas evening when all four of us girl-cousins piled onto my parents’ bed to watch the movie.  It was very cozy and comfy, with Amy and Allison fighting over the foot of the bed against Adrienne’s legs.  I wish we had taken a picture.

8. Mexico City    

On the 28th we made our pilgrimage to Mexico City.  I was thrilled with the bus

Adrienne, Allison, and Amy in Mexico City

ride there because it was the only time I really got to spend talking with Jachin.  We ate at the Casa de Azulejos (House of Tiles), which is now a delicious restaurant called Sanborn’s.  We did a little sightseeing, a little shopping, and ended the night with the “special” highlight of the week: an outdoor Folkloric ballet at the French Dictator Maximilian’s Chapultepec palace at the top of the city.  I’ve been to 3 in my life, and these shows depicting the dances of Mexico are incredible.  I must have been about 7 when I saw the first one, and not too long after that I was enrolled in a folkloric dance class at our local cultural center.  I must have been about 8, and the 3 other girls in the class were teenagers who’d been dancing for years.  My dad told me this trip that I came home from that class saying that feet were not made to move that fast!  I think I lasted about a month.  I was not destined to become a wonderful dancer of the zapateado, but I sure do love watching it.  This show started off a little strange with the most Mary-

focused nativity pageant I’ve ever seen (and some wild onion turban-headed Persian wise men on real horses), but by the time it ended I was proud to be at least partly affiliated with the Mexican culture.  Sometimes I think it’s a real shame that most Americans are transplanted.  The only people in our country with such a rich unified cultural tradition are Native Americans, and we don’t give them enough credit.  I suppose we have the Charleston, but it’s not really the same, is it?

7.  Repelling

A few years ago my heights-avoidant father decided that repelling would be a good team-building activity for his missionary candidates.  So he took a class and, against his better judgment, performed a practical “exam” with his instructor.  He’s been hooked ever since.  When I met my parents in Acapulco a year ago he kept looking for places for us to repel.  I turned him down on the basis that I didn’t like the idea of landing on the highway or on rocks in the ocean far from shore.  But at home dad has a couple of tried and true spots to walk backwards down a rock face, so I went.  He didn’t want to wait for the rest of the
family to show up, so he and I went with 3 other guys from the church during my first week there.  I was a little nervous, but am pleased to say that I’m no wimp and did a great job.  We went again when the rest of the family was

there, and I also went down the “intermediate” cliff.  I don’t think I’m as hooked as my dad is,

but there is definitely a thrill that comes from walking down a wall of rock.  And I have to admit, it’s impressive how my dad

ties all those ropes together, and I’ve rarely seen him so happy doing anything.

6.  Christmas at Church 

Church traditions are what I miss the most about Christmas every year.  But, like I wrote about before, my memories become rose-colored shrines to all that is good in the world.  Christmas is always a search for the magic we felt in childhood.  Here’s the thing: this is perhaps the one situation where reality is better than the memory.  I will never be so prolific a writer that I could adequately explain the amazing combination of Mexican Christmas and church.  Misa was in charge of the program, and he did an amazing job.  Over 200 people showed up, the worship service (including a great tambourine troupe) lasted over 30 minutes of joyful Latin church music, and the kids put on a great pageant.  As if that wasn’t enough, there was food.  Great food.  Food that is Christmas to me.  Sopes, tamales, buñuelos, apple salad, jello . . . and ponche.  Wonderful ponche.  A drink so delicious that all other forms of punch are named after it.  You can’t get it in America because you can’t get tejocotes, guayabas, and sugar cane.  It’s wonderful stuff.

PONCHE!!!

The festivities culminated with piñatas.  I don’t like piñatas – they’re dangerous.  When done properly, they can cause serious brain damage.  When I was about 6 I got kicked in the head in the middle of a piñata pile . . . and that was the last time that happened.  From then on I was the smart one that walked the perimeter picking up all the stuff that the other kids pushed through their legs in their candy-hoarding zeal.  I got a good haul without the potential brain injury.  Now that I am clearly not a child anymore, I certainly didn’t expect that I was at risk for piñata involvement.  The third one was reserved for the young adults.  I’m not really one of those, either.  There I was, innocently taking pictures, when all of a sudden I heard my name being chanted.  Crap.  The pressure of 30 people shouting my name was too much.  To deny the request would look absolutely ridiculous.  The greatest potential risk of piñata breakage is being the one who actually breaks it: not only does a bunch of stuff fall on your head (which could include sugar cane and pottery – both of which are quite hard), but you could be trampled when everyone else attacks the ground around you.  My strategy was simple: don’t break the piñata.  This is easily accomplished while blindfolded.  Naturally, there was no blindfold.  So . . . being able to see and being taller than everyone it would have looked really ridiculous if I didn’t get in at least a couple of good whacks.  I looked beseechingly at Enrique who was driving the piñata, trying to communicate with my eyes that I didn’t want him to make it too easy.  I think he got the opposite message.  I managed to make it through my 10 seconds of piñata swinging with a few good swings but without actually breaking it.  By the end, I had conquered an old fear . . . sort of.

One Piñata to Rule Them All

5. Family Piñata

Okay, let’s face it: American piñata hitting is just silly.  The thing is fixed on a rope, blindfolds are optional, the riot is minimal, and loot collection is relatively polite.  To do the thing properly, only one side of the rope is fixed – the other is held by someone standing on a roof whose job it is to make it very difficult for the hitter to connect . . . or, in some cases, a little easier.  Blindfolds really should be used, even though the church piñata was lacking on this point.  The riot really is orchestrated chaos, involving a combination of the “Dále Dále Dále” song and a mix of shouted instructions to the hitter that may or may not be accurate.  And when the thing finally breaks . . . sweet, innocent, respectful children become nothing more than rabid animals.  It’s a free-for-all, and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt or kicked or trampled in the violent race for the shower of candy and fruit.  Every little break before the candy counts, too.  The cones are especially important, because they serve as candy holders; there’s only a few of them, so you’re pretty cool if you score one.

So, in our efforts to encourage cultural awareness, we got the family a piñata to break on Christmas Eve.  Dad took me, Adrienne, Amy, and Allison to the market to pick out and fill one.  Before break time, we taught everyone the song and coached them on the importance of assertiveness and borderline violence, even (and especially) toward loved ones.  Then dad perched himself precariously on the overhang and away we went, youngest to oldest.  Everyone took a turn (except dad) right up to Grandma, who was allowed to break it.  I think some sugar cane landed on her head, but she made it through okay.  I was proud of the rush for cones, and my cousins did a pretty good job of picking up every last peanut.  In all fairness, it was a full piñata for only about 10 people, so they had an easier time of more work.  They fought it out, though.  The funniest moment was when Jachin’s turn came.  He’s about 6’4,” so dad (who had been sitting on the overhang) dangerously teetered himself to a standing position so he could cause a proper challenge and make the game last for the rest of us.  Then the girls started shouting opposite directions that he believed, and he spent almost his whole turn swinging wildly in the opposite direction of the piñata.  We were all crying with laughter, and my dad didn’t even move; I think in the end he made it easier, and Jachin finally got a hit in when he figured out the girls were tricking him.  It was hilarious!!

4.  Amy’s song

On Christmas night we all trouped over to church for a short evening service.  It was pretty cool to have so many Rupes in the room.  In our church the music tends to last at least half an hour, and songs are repeated lots and lots of times.  I like this method, which is not usually what you see in the US, but it can get a little redundant if you don’t know the words.  I was starting to feel a little anxious for my family when I glanced at Amy, who was standing next to me.

What I saw was my littlest cousin (who’s not really so little, but always will be to me), eyes closed and hands raised, worshiping God with words that she didn’t understand.  My heart soared and I again marveled at a God who speaks to our hearts regardless of location, language, skin color, and any other possible barrier.  I don’t think I’ll ever lose that mental picture of our sweet Amy.

3. Getting Ready for Christmas

I went 10 days before everyone else with the specific purpose of helping mom get everything ready.  I wiped down every dusty branch on the Christmas tree.  We cooked and baked, and made lists, and beds, and moved tvs, and went shopping . . . so much shopping.  I got to climb up in the attic and pull down all our decorations that hadn’t seen the light of day in 5 years.  We pulled out decorations from my childhood and found places for them in the new living room.

I pulled down a box of hundreds of pictures that I sorted during my days of smart-mouth related bedroom confinement, and had a blast sorting through them to create collages to put under the protective plastic in the living room.  I put 14 Christmas CDs on an MP3 player so we could blast Christmas cheer through our

airspace.  I spent a few hours walking through downtown with my dad looking for obscure details to put into our incredibly detailed 2-page scavenger hunt.  I spent hours developing the 12-page “International Rupe Reunion Handy Dandy Handbook” that included tips for living, a calendar of events, a map, a list of handy phrases, wifi codes, room assignments, and where to find more toilet paper.

In my foray into the attic I discovered about 8 boxes of my old books, toys, and random stuff.  I found my old Fisher Price tape player; my poster of Zach, Screech, and Slater (shirtless!); and my Benji dog.  Best of all, I found our family Nancy Drew book collection that spans 3 generations (we thought it was sold at a garage sale by someone who didn’t care) and a collection of  6 beautiful limited edition carousel horse music box plates given to me by my Grandma Wiedling that I thought had been lost in a move.  (I could mention that these were in a box labeled “Ship to Sallie” in my own handwriting, but that would imply that my parents put this box back into the attic instead of shipping it to me . . .)

Most of all, this time of preparation was just a great time to spend with my mom.  I know she was disappointed that there was so much to do that I did most of the decorating without her, but I was glad I could be there to help.  Christmas Eve was especially nice: neither one of us was feeling that great, so we stayed home while everyone else went sight-seeing.  We spent a quiet day baking and cooking for Christmas.  In the end the turkey never thawed, but we had plenty of food to go with the ham so it was all good.  It was such a blessing to spend time with her.

2.  Germ-a-palooza

Gross, but accurate

My parents invited a neighbor to the Christmas program on Sunday the 18th.  She came, so we sat with her to eat.  She had to leave early because her son was home with a bad cold.  Monday I started coughing.  Tuesday my throat felt like one of those baskets with a snake in it that Chinese illusionists cram full of swords: scratchy as a basket, slimy as a snake, and sliced raw.  Wednesday my lung capacity seemed to be about 1/3 normal, and I actually went to bed.  Since I couldn’t sleep, my brother watched a movie with me.  We went downstairs after the movie, and I discovered that my dad had sat on the couch and slept for about 4 hours.  Neither one of us gets sick very often, and we’re not usually wussy patients.

On Thursday my dad was supposed to go to Mexico City to get the second round of family.  I managed to drag myself out of bed, but he wasn’t moving.  He had a fever of 101.5.  I was invited to go to the doctor with him, but I turned down the opportunity – I really didn’t think I was sick enough for professional intervention.  As they were leaving I went into this massive coughing fit, and Misa instructed me to get in the van.  Dad and I sat for 40 minutes or so waiting for a consult at the hospital, then they practically forgot about me sitting in a cold room with a thermometer in my armpit while the doc saw him.  When the nurse came back for me the thermometer was so stuck to me that we almost couldn’t find it; she took my temp again, and I had no fever; I was, however, declared to be much sicker in my lungs than my dad.  Mom and Misa left that afternoon for Mexico City looking a bit peeked, while dad and I sat pathetically on the couch staring at each other and counting the minutes to our next dose of something.  The drugs kicked in and, fortunately, I was feeling well enough in a few hours that I was able to set up beds for everyone who was arriving that night.  Grandma and Aunt Marilyn did an amazing job taking over all the kitchen projects that mom and I had planned for that day.  Thanks to a combination of delayed flights and lost luggage the group didn’t get back from Mexico City until about 2am; this was a good thing, because everyone wanted a low-key day.  Which was also nice because mom was so tired and fighting a milder version of what dad and I had that she slept a good chunk of the day.  A few days later, Misa (who stayed with his family in Mexico City) posted on Facebook that his throat was on fire and he had a really bad cough . . . that I’m sure he got from me.  By the end of the trip we were all feeling better, although at our last meal in the airport we were passing around antivirals and benzocaine cough drops while normal people would share breath mints.  My cough has gotten worse again since I’ve been back; I just got off the phone with Misa, who told me to go back to the doctor – I coughed at least 40% more than he did during our conversation.

I know it’s a strange thing to put this shared sickness on my top 10 list of favorite events, but it really was a shared experience that was a significant factor in the dynamic of the trip.  We went through it together, and our greeting still involves “how are you feeling?”  We shared germs at Christmas 2011, and we’ll never forget it.  It sucked to not be able to talk or taste properly during most of the time I was with my family, but it all worked itself out.  Fortunately, no one else was drawn into the fray.

1. A New Brother

Most of the other things on my list are really about tied for position.  But the greatest blessing of the trip

Will my pack from 1984 help Misa keep track of his stuff? Most likely not.

really is in the top slot.  It has nothing to do with the Rupes, but everything to do with family.  It came completely unexpectedly, which is probably why it blessed me so greatly.  In the missionary world, you have two kinds of family: the first is the family you’re related to, which is permanent but distant; the second is the family God puts in your life, which is generally fluid, but consisting of relationships that are deeply woven throughout their duration.  Then there are a few relationships that span both worlds: not blood, but forever; not obligated, but deeply committed.

Enter Misael.  I’ve written about him throughout this blog and mentioned him on Facebook, so people have been asking me about him.  He’s my new brother.  My parents first met him a few years ago during a missions class they were teaching.  Misa wanted to be a missionary, and spent quite a bit of time studying in preparation for the ministry.  He’s spent quite a bit of time in several countries working alongside other missionaries.  Last year he began working part-time helping my parents in the administration of LAMM and promotion of Inmersión, then he started helping out with the church.  Ultimately, his calling has been confirmed as a support to missionaries rather than as an actual field missionary.  He left his parents’ home in Mexico City, moved into the frigid apartment over my parents’ shed, and now works with them full-time with basically only room and board as compensation.  In January he’ll be going to India for 4 months to develop some first-hand understanding of what it’s like to live on the field so that he can better support the LAMM missionaries.

Praying? Facebooking? In his case, quite possibly both.But that’s just what he does.  He IS a pretty amazing man.  After 3 hours, I felt like I had known him my whole life.  He didn’t join LAMM looking for a family, but LAMM is our family so he got us anyway.  And he joins in with gusto.  He’s not shy about sharing anything but he gives far more than he takes with his help, support, and just by creating an environment people want to be in.  He’s hilarious and willing to do just about anything for a laugh.  He loses his stuff all over the place, and works tirelessly to do the best he can on any task he undertakes.  He wants me to visit more often so that my mom will cook more, and was completely thrilled to discover we had an attic and owned Christmas decorations.  Best of all, he loves my parents.  And he understands them.  He’s in on all the insider information and history of our family, and he guards it without judgment.  I am no longer worried about my parents, no longer concerned that no one is making them slow down and pace themselves; I watched Misa head for the stairs to drag my dad out of bed and to the doctor.  We talked, and without my asking he assured me that I could go home and trust him to assume all the “son responsibilities.”  “Live with open hands,” he told me.  “That way you can receive all the blessings of God without hanging on so tight that you miss out on whatever’s next.”  True to that, everything he cares about in the world fits into a small suitcase and a laptop bag.  Misa could use your prayers.  He will be the next leader of LAMM, and that’s a daunting thing to train for.  He needs financial support, he needs to learn English, and he needs favor to get a visa to the States so he can start building relationships with the LAMM leadership.  He also needs a lot more heat in his room.

The greatest blessing of my trip was gaining a brother, as well as a new peace for the well-being of my parents.

And there you have it.

Imagine if I’d written EVERYTHING!!!

With my favorite mountain in the world, Malinche, behind me, I prepare to step backwards off a cliff . . .

A Clashing of Worlds

My first thought this morning was that I was much too warm, but that I didn’t have enough blankets.  I was vaguely aware that it was late morning, but it was much too quiet: no dogs barking, no trucks outside, no clanging at the shop across the street.  I became aware of a heavy vibrating mass on my back, and a second one pressed up against my side.  Slowly I become aware that I was lying diagonally across a queen-size bed.  My bed.  I open one eyelid: the clock my grandparents gave me for my high school graduation reads 10:36 in large fluorescent green numbers.  Maybe it was a dream.  Maybe I’ll fully regain consciousness and discover that it’s December 9th, and that I get to ride an airplane to Mexico tonight.  “It can’t have been a dream,” I tell myself.  “I know too much about Misa to have made it all up.”  I lift my head and see my packed suitcase on the floor.  Tentatively, I reach for my Droid and look at the “Countdown to Apizaco” widget on my home screen; what once read over 300 days now reads “0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds.”  I land back on my pillows as Striper jumps off my back with a growl.  Again I reach the conclusion that air travel is just too fast for the human psyche to keep up.  After 20 days in Apizaco my body is home, but my brain is stuck somewhere over Texas and my thoughts are trapped in central Mexico.

Okay, so waking up this morning wasn’t exactly like that.  But if I could have scripted the event, that’s how it would have gone down.  I’ve been writing this blog in my head for a week now, knowing that I would need to find a way to process the transition back into my real world.  This is not a blog about my time in Mexico, but about how the time has affected me.  I cannot go forward until I stand still and process how going back has changed me, and I can never go back without being changed.  It is this part of the process, and the next few days thinning into weeks that I think are the real reason I don’t like to go back very often.  I have probably spent months of the last 17 years trying to work this whole identity thing out in my head.  I don’t know if it’s normal for TCKs to do that, but I’ve never been normal.  I’m pretty sure that I feel these things more deeply and analyze them more fully than anyone else I know.  I have always known that the bi-cultural me has a Mexico side and an America side, and that I am fully neither.  I have come to understand that I function well within each world if I can isolate it.  I am more American now than Mexican, and I’m okay with that for the most part.  Trying to explain this so concretely, though, is oversimplifying in the extreme.  It’s easy for anyone to understand that I, in a sense, flip between two different personalities following the norms and rules of the culture I’m in.  But to leave it there is like saying that under the candy coating of a peanut M & M is just chocolate, while completely ignoring the massive nut.  And this conflict turns me into a massive nut.

I think I figured something out this trip, though: it’s not just two worlds colliding. . . it’s four.  There’s the obvious conflict between my American and Mexican cultural identities.  But there’s also the less obvious and infinitely more powerful conflict between the Mexico I knew and the Mexico I continue to discover.  And understanding the conflict between the second two causes me to reexamine the dynamic between the first two.

I love the Mexico that I knew.  Passionately.  I remember it as a simple place with careful rules that made everything clear.  You knew what was expected of you and what to expect from others.  When I left when I was 15, I was loved and had close friends and a great boyfriend and a place in my world where I belonged.  I knew that my friends were very poor and had worked 40+ hours a week since they were younger than I was so their families could eat, but they practically lived with us and shared everything we owned; I never really thought about what it must have been like for them to go home at night carrying the weight of

VBS - 1987?

VBS – 1987?

such worry in their hearts.  I knew in the back of my mind that I was special because I was American and white and blonde, but the people that mattered to me had known me my whole life and, to this day, I really don’t think they thought of me that way any more than they were forced to.  When I came to America, though, I discovered that I was a perfectly ordinary person – smart and musically gifted, but odd and perfectly normal.  Certainly not special enough to command the same amount of attention and care that I was used to.  I don’t know that I was exactly spoiled, but I had lost my place in a carefully arranged world and was never able to truly find a new place.  And the Mexico I knew became romanticized in my mind as Home, the origin, the place of simple hope and innocent living.  The older I get the more I realize that this view is simply the view that I had on life as a naive girl who just didn’t have a clue.  The thing is, I LIKE thinking of Mexico like this.  It’s comforting to believe there is such a safe haven in the world.  A place where a 13-year-old girl can walk to the market alone to buy the day’s groceries with no worries other than how many guys will start reciting all the English words they know to get her attention (ki-chen, tay-bel, window, dore).  A world where 3 guys will take turns carrying her stuff and opening doors, while she brings them their dinner at night.  I like these memories.  I cherish them.  I don’t mind that they are built up in my memory as a sort of shrine to innocent childhood.  I know that there are drug cartels and kidnapping and poverty and immigration issues, and I do care. . . but that is not MY Mexico.

But it wasn’t just me that grew up.

My dear friends grew up.  They’ve all left the church now.  One is angry.  One’s in jail.  One is celebrating 3 years of sobriety – I’m so proud of him.  The most special of all to me seems to have simply given up.  My town grew up.  There were 2 paved streets in the town 32 years ago; now the city is so big that the roads can barely hold all the cars.  15 minutes away is a shopping center with a SAM’S Club, Super Wal-Mart, and Home Depot . . . Wal-Mart has a free shuttle into town.  My parents technically live a block past the city limit, so their street isn’t paved yet, but there’s a main thoroughfare right behind their house and a big gas station a 2 blocks over.  We used to practically live out in the country, but all the land has been filled and the horizon is now stiff with buildings rather than blanketed with tree-studded fields.  I don’t really like it.  Even worse, I continue to discover that 20 years ago things were not really what I allowed myself to believe them to be.  As I sat and reminisced with an old friend a few weeks ago I commented how simple things used to be.  He looked at me with his big sad eyes, still caring and protective, and said quietly, “Well, they were simple for you, and we protected you.”  Realization of what I’ve always known and never allowed myself to truly dwell upon hit me like never before: his childhood and adolescence, so intertwined with mine, was more radically different than I could ever have imagined.  Knowing and understanding are two different things.

It’s not that I mind the changes necessarily, but I hate the destruction of my rose-colored memories.  I don’t want to replace them with updated and more accurate information.  The protection of any stable understanding of my life depends on them.  When they are shaken down and seen in clearer light I am forced to study my own identity outside of my surroundings, outside of what I believed to be true.  I wonder how much of what I thought I knew and understood about the world was jaded and skewed because I was so sheltered and protected by the people who loved me.

Which brings me back to the first conflict.  Sort of.  It really wasn’t such a big deal this time.  The culture shock was minimal.  Usually I’ll come home and feel guilty over how much I have and appalled at the selection in the cereal aisle, but that’s about the same in both places now.  What is sold at the SAM’S Club my parents go to is 85% imported from the US.  If anything, I’m intensely bothered by the decreasing contrast between the two worlds.  It just isn’t fair to Mexico to be poisoned by American greed and gluttony.  But I suppose it’s the way of the world.

What does strike me is the grief that I’m feeling today.  To be completely honest, being away from my parents and family isn’t particularly difficult. I’m used to it.  It’s a necessary component to the rhythm of my life.  It’s not a good or bad rhythm, it just is what it is because that’s how things are.  I tried calling my mom 5 times today and couldn’t reach her.  I’m not heartbroken; I know she’s okay and knows I got home safe.  I miss them, but that’s not the source of my grief.  I just really like Mexico.  I like the smell of cement and the sound of dogs barking and walking on uneven sidewalks, and the bustle of streets crowded with pedestrians.  I enjoy the thrill of jaywalking and delight in the intimacy of kissing everyone on the cheek when you say hello.  I love the cadence of the language and the joy in the music and tastes of Christmas.  I find joyful refuge in traditions that run as true as blood, things like the precise way in which a piñata is broken . . . as essential and fundamental as the triple-dog-dare protocol.  Despite all the changes, I think I truly am at my best and truest when I am there.  Maybe it’s just that I’m only there on vacation, but I feel freer there.  It is home – not because my family is there, but because it is where I began.  I suppose it’s kind of like salmon swimming upstream, fighting to get back to the fresh waters that fostered their lives even though they know they’ll get bounced right back down again.  There is something about being in Mexico that makes me want to find a new purpose.

But yesterday, after standing in the Volaris check-in line for an hour, enjoying a lovely Italian dinner in the airport with my parents and Misa, and emptying my carefully crammed backpack so the TSA guard could declare my laser-inscribed Starbucks crystal “muy chido,” I got on an airplane and flew away.  I lugged my 70 pounds of luggage up the stairs and into my apartment at 1:30am PST, read my Christmas cards, and went to bed.  This morning, I woke up in California.   It didn’t really hit me until I crawled out of bed starving at 12:30 and realized that the only thing there was to eat was canned soup and a handful of Wheat Thins.  As I unpacked I was hit alternately with happy memories and waves of tears and self-pity that I wasn’t still there.  And my conviction is renewed that God gave us feet instead of wings so that we could process and enjoy change at a slower pace.  Air travel, while still my favorite way to move about the globe, is just too jarring.

So now, as my mind reverberates with the cacophony of mental vibrations resulting from the clashing of my many worlds, I am forcefully reminded of the word God spoke into my heart when I was 17: “I have given you a homeless heart.”  Today, I feel that deeply.  Here I am in my little apartment, the place I have called home longer than any other, but I feel strangely out of place.  This awkwardness, this sense that I have traded brightness for stability, will continue until the vicious and monotonous pace of work and life sweep me up again.  In a few weeks this grief and inner conflict will be a distant memory, and I will again be comfortable in this habitat that I call home.

The question is . . . do I want to be comfortable?

Tlaxcala landscape with Malinche and Cuatlapanga (I think this picture was taken by my cousin Allison)

Tlaxcala landscape with Malinche and Cuatlapanga (I think this picture was taken by my cousin Allison)

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