I am in Miacatlán, Mexico for five days to see my son Andrew where he works at an orphanage called Nuestros Piqueños Hermanos. I will also do massage sessions for some of the year-of-service kids and some of the staff. Here are some randoms – thoughts, learnings, and happenings from this first day, Lunes, in Mexico.
It probably is possible to shower without soap. Or hot water. But after a long long day of travel (insert various tribulations; I assure you will not be creating anything imaginary) a cool morning breeze across a cobblestone plaza can make you feel refreshed too.
The secret family whistle comes in handy when my child is an adult – its usefulness did not die simply because he no longer gets lost in the grocery. Perhaps he muttered some morning plan to me late last night on the bus – the one that we did make for the last portion of the airport to village to the next village trip, but I was comatose. All these years later, the whistle is now a summons and a comfort for the madre instead. Andrew knows how to find me in this place – knows I need looked for! – and is whistling from outside the arcade of the old hacienda that serves as my lodge.
If you miss breakfast, your son tossing you freshly made bread roll while walking across the plaza tastes as good as anything you could dream up. I comment on its vague…..sweetness?…. he reminisces it tastes like Holy Bread from his childhood. Andrew leads me to the morning gathering for students in the courtyard of the school section. Everything freshly damp and cool from the night rain, early morning noises from the dorms, employees beginning to stir, sharing the same longitude and latitude with my boy is a convergence of perfections. I’m not even mad at United about my luggage being lost in a Bermuda Triangle. Rumor had it last night that perhaps it was still at Dulles. If however, it’s been stolen I hope the someone somehow really needed a dozen massage sheets and cream.
Fifth grade boys pretend here too that a hug is not particularly agreeable to them. Try again with a bigger smile, comment with surprise in a language they understand (all caps) HOW MUCH TALLER THEY ARE than your last visit and a shy grin will begin. Go in for a third hug saying with exaggerated pantomime that you yourself will have to start growing or for sure they will pass you up and by then, a boy you met two years ago who is now in the middle of his life’s adolescent renaissance will be hugging you back. I continue up the stone road to the clinic portion of the orphanage and a room designated for massage while Andrew heads for his boys.
People’s low backs and necks hurt the same in Spanish as they do in English. I do not need to speak Spanish in order to feel under my hands what hurts. Of course Andrew’s cheat sheet of phrases I knew I’d want to say comes in handy. Later he tells me it’s no big deal that I used the word aqui instead of asi all day. I thought I was saying ‘like this?’ but he laughs and tells me at least I wasn’t telling people “I’m a jelly donut” all day. I love that he knows this reference and it is another reminder that not having my kids little is turning out OK day by day. Perhaps I am capable of leaving behind the reminiscing so that I can learn to be with him here and now.
My back will hurt just as badly in Spanish as in English if I stand on concrete and work at a table too high. Aye-yi-yi
Cursing at a massage table whose legs are jammed and therefore unwilling to be lowered, feels equally satisfying in Mexico as in the U.S. PLUS works just as well. I am relieved to not have to give up the cursing portion of my language and personality.
Massage in a hot room (which they all are) is still massage in a hot room. But. – kids chatting during OT across the courtyard, various people tending to their morning clinic duties, a baby fussing, strange birds chirping loudly – all outside the unscreened window, do NOT ruin the ambiance here in Mexico. Not for me or my new clients.
A baby wandering into the room to check-it-all out also does not ruin the ambiance. Angel’s (‘Anhail’) two year old baby self actually made Selene finally relax her head. Perhaps the familiar of her day infused into something unfamiliar was the key.
Two year olds entertain themselves the same everywhere. This new addition to the orphanage likes to pull books from shelves and sit and read. PS. I knew it was a book because it said libro on the outside. I know this word because our library at my school in VA has this label next to the label ‘library’. It is possible to ascertain the exact moment any two year old loses interest in a book because he notices something much more glamorous within reach – my iphone. (Useless to me here except for the timer.) I wondered if anyone was going to notice Angel had been missing for 10 minutes, but realized everyone in the medical clinic courtyard knew he was contained so why chase….? Nothing for me to do but pull out the old stand-by — distract distract.
It is moderately possible to do one handed massage just for a moment while you lift the lowest edge of the sheet to show – a secret shelf-cave underneath the table. It is entirely possible to play peek-a-boo with a toddler while giving a massage. They do most of the work.
If you are a pre-menopausal female, you will receive the gift of your period after a 3-month absence, the first day you arrive at an orphanage in Mexico and it will arrive during your first clients’ session and afterwards there will be no one in the courtyard at that moment who speaks English. This is not an easy thing, nor one I was willing, to pantomime.
Six-year old boys everywhere are still eager to do homework – tarea – if you sit with them. Especially when cookies are the apparent end reward. Some portion of the thirty-five of them are in continual motion, ebb and flow, across the tile floor where they study on their bellies. They lounge like puppies across my lap and ask and ask for help, re-explaining it in new vocabulary with faith the new version contains words I DO know. It does not. I begin naming body parts since I now have a firm grasp of the ones that hurt everyone, but this seems random to them – because it is – so they kindly, smoothly flip to old tarea pages to demonstrate the English words they learned earlier in the year. Such a simple gift! Do old homework that they already know, because that is what I could understand. Exaggerated compliments and thumbs-ups whether for figuring out something new or demonstrating something mastered are received with pride all the same.
It takes a really long time to say, “No we don’t have guava juice; yes we have cold water.” A LONG time. And this is not my attempt at speaking Spanish – it’s Andrew’s fluent conversation with anyone we pass. Whether in town or at the orphanage he is quite chatty with people and not so skilled at inclusion. When they continue for ten minutes and I finally ask for a summation, it is always something like, “He told me he will meet me at 10:00.” Once I challenged Andrew that his translation could not possibly be true. So he added, “Well, the man also said your mother looks like your sister.” I stopped asking after that. I know a manipulative compliment when I hear one.
I blame my mother for this woeful inability to speak Spanish. We were the only family in our town to eat let alone hear of tacos. After my parents lived in Texas for a time, they acquired a taste for ‘Mexican food’. Why couldn’t she have loved another language and passed that along. I blame my mother. I do so with conscious happiness because I have a mother.
My son is especially fond of the Kinders. This word should have audio background with the music from Psycho playing each time you read it. The Kinders (are you hearing it?) are an enormous section of rolling, running, jumping, balloon-chasing little children. These children go to age 5 and boys and girls are included in the section. They are especially fond of Andrew as well. Possibly this is because he lets them climb him like a totem pole. They scamper around him hanging on his legs for a ride while he drags them around, chatting to this one and that one and bopping another in the head with a balloon. They assume this is how my interaction will be with them and while the workers lounge around in a relaxed fashion, and Andrew is happily existing as a piece of playground equipment, I am not so sure of what to do with the barrage. He doesn’t even hear my cries for help interpreting the unending questions tossed my way. The Kinders do not know how to smoothly switch gears like the boys in Andrew’s official section where I helped with homework. Instead they go in for the kill sensing my ineptitude; they fire questions at me louder and climb somehow higher on me. I do not even remember inviting to hold anyone…. I am, afraid. This makes them more climby and more conversational. I see a 9 month old in the arms of one of the women and ask to hold him thinking my tormentors will melt away into the shadows. But they love this baby with enormous fascination and since he’s the newest in their section, they aren’t tired of pulling his legs, kissing him on every inch of bare skin, encouraging his hand to grasp theirs or violently shaking his arms all while I am holding him trying to use him as a shield. Scratch Plan Baby! But Andrew is in an involved elaborately gesturing conversation with Maria who lives full-time with these very young children. The nonsensical gibberish goes on and on and on and I am sure they must be discussing War and Peace because did I mention they go ON AND ON? Eventually, do not worry, the ending of this is that I do not get killed by the Kinders. And the baby keeps all his appendages. Just in time the driver from United comes and delivers the lost piece of luggage! The timing means I have to be grateful to United and for this I have a somewhat begrudging attitude. This is almost as begrudging as I am towards Andrew; turns out the War and Peace conversation that lasted until practically miñana translated simply to, “Will your mother take some cheese to my sister in Maryland?” “Of course”.