Monday, March 2, 2009

The First 2 Months of 2009

It’s been awhile since we last blogged, so I’ll give you a brief summary of the past 2 months. Since returning from the holidays we’ve been working with the government and the mental health institutions here in Q-town to set up a domestic violence couples group called JUNTOS. It’s been a lot of work coordinating with all the therapists and locales and I’m excited to say that we have six different sites up and running, servicing approximately 40 couples.

We had our first visitors Eric and Danielle who were great to have. Will arrived shortly after they left and stayed about a month. Naomi, Will and I have also been traveling locally and getting to know a bit of our surroundings.

We got to visit El Geiser a hot spring on the border of Hidalgo.

We also got to climb the second largest monolith in the world (4th tallest) called the peña in Bernal.

This small town attracts people from all over the world and they say the people who reside there live to be 100.

For my birthday we went to visit with our good friends Josh and Missy in Guadalajara.

We celebrated by going to Lucha Libre and pounding back Josh’s amazing pizza. The man can cook!

The last few weeks I’ve been preparing for my mid-term evaluation for the Fulbright and Naomi, Will and myself hauled ourselves down to Mexico City for a the mid term and little fun with friends. My presentation went off with out a hitch. The Fulbright commission put us up in the same fancy hotel we stayed in for our orientation. The “Museo de Arte Popular” was a hit with Will.

We almost lost him to a few devils at the museum.

We were also hosted by Tim who was gracious enough to let us stay in his pad and got to meet his friends Jen and Warren who are amazing and hopefully we’ll get them to come up to Q-town for a visit.

We also got to spend some time with a really sweet friend of ours Yamel and her partner Coy.

After 5 days of fun and mid-terms we’re ready to head back.

Traveling on the bus….
We’re on our way home from Mexico City, where we reunited with the Fulbright crew. It was really incredible to see people again, and see their midterm presentations.

The variety of topics and projects was impressive, including: studies of artists and writers, multiple lenses on migration (for example, how it affects education when kids move back and forth between the US and Mexico, migrants on their way to US from Central America who impact and are impacted by Mexico, Americans living in Mexico, and indigenous families who move to cities to find work), artistic endeavors (the amazing photo journalism of Josh Meltzer, Black Feminist Performance Art, modern dance, a story project, print and papermaking, la musica and poetry combat), language instruction and developing programs to validate and measure fluency in indigenous languages, rainfall in the Sonoran Desert and how weather patterns are shifting, transportation and carbon emissions issues in Mexico, public policy to address drug trafficking, explorations of health insurance in Mexico, studies of lizards and tree fruits, and of course Jose’s fabulous short documentary video of his work here.

I was inspired and provoked by the many different ways of approaching and interacting with Mexico. It is easy to get caught up in our particular situation, our projects and our ways of being. It is always good for me to be reminded of the myriad of possibilities available in life.
We also got to laugh a lot and visit with friends. All of this came at just the right time. Since the holidays things have gotten very, very busy, which meant that it was a relief to go to a hotel and be social for a while!
Right before heading off to Mexico we finished our second draft of an article for a special edition Art Therapy journal, that is being jointly published by Ibero-Americana Universidad of Mexico City and Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles.
We also had our 4th supervision for the therapists involved in our new project JUNTOS.

You may remember that we attended a training on Group Couples Therapy to address Domestic Violence. We have been involved in adapting this program for the state government where we live. So far, groups have met 2 or 3 of the 18 weeks, in 6 locations around the state. It is pretty amazing how quickly things can happen here!
My brother Will was with us for about a month, and got to join us in D.F. (Mexico City) on his way to study Spanish in Nicaragua. We had a great time hanging out with many friends, and one of the highlights was our journey to the southern part of D.F. where there are canals. Long ago, the Aztecs anchored rafts in a lake and planted fruits and vegetables on top. Now, the rafts are islands topped with nurseries and everything visitors might need on an afternoon boatride.

We hired a driver, who used a long stick much like the Gondolier pushers in Venice, and we took off down the canal at an unheard of pace, crashing into other boats as we moved along! Smaller boats sidled up next to us to offer freshly cooked elote (corn on the cob, or in a cup, slathered with your choice of toppings: lime, chile, mayonnaise…), quesadillas, cervezas, flowers, whatever our hearts desired.

We made pitstops to pick up other friends, use one of the many toilets available for a small fee (but the largest I’ve ever seen in Mexico… about 30 cents!), and to get ice cream! Meanwhile, there are boats of mariachis who perform,

and we saw more performers at Quinceneras and weddings along the shores. There was also an amazing dancer on the shore, who might have been a little off balance, but was great fun to watch.

There was a traffic jam that was caused by a low hanging electrical wire that got caught on the Name Facades on top of two of the boats. One driver jumped up and down to detangle the wire from his boat, while on the shore a man used a broom to try to lift the wire our of harm’s way. It was easy to imagine that that happens many times a day, and difficult to understand why it wasn’t hung higher…

Another highlight was an impromptu jam session with 2 talented musician friends at a small gathering.
Now that we have completed midterms it feels like we have limited time to travel around and visit all the people we know and explore the many places we haven’t yet seen! We also have more projects going on now in Queretaro. Vamos a ver!

Will and I had the pleasure to go to the land of Monarch Butterflies in the state of Michoacan. The butterflies come down in November from as far north as Canada and winter in the mountain reserve until mid-March.

It was a little overcast by the time we got to the top of the mountain, so we didn’t see millions of butterflies flitting about, but we saw them huddled together in the trees

and saw and heard thousands of butterflies. That’s right, heard. Who knew? The sound of the butterflies’ wings flapping was an amazing noise to behold. Will likened it to a gentle rain. We had a great time following our guide up the hill… he was very comfortable with the altitude as we climbed from nearly 9,000 to 12,000 feet! We also supported the locals by buying delicious blackberries and avocadoes.

On our way out of the nearby small town we had the weirdest experience. We came up to a corner and noticed the sign:

At the same moment we heard John Lennon singing on Will’s iPod. He says he doesn’t have much John Lennon music on there. Synchronicity.
We also saw a bus trying to make its way out of a tight situation.