Monday, April 17, 2017

Two months in San Cristóbal de las Casas

Here we are winding down two months in this "other home" in Mexico. It is our third season here and we are already booked for three months next Spring. We have many memories and here is the place to remember them. I write these for us - for our memories as one year blends into another and we want to remember specifics about these trips.
Rotunda at Bellas Artes, CDMX

We are often asked whether we like it here better than San Miguel de Allende. It is a very hard question and the comparisons are difficult to make as each place fulfills different needs. As San Miguel gets more and more crowded and "fancy" we tend to like the feel of San Cris better. The weather at this time of the year is perfect here but we hear tell that the winters are colder than SMA and there is a much longer rainy season. The real differences are the much younger friends and connections here in SC (barely any retired expats) and the very large indigenous community which is part of the daily life in this town. The textiles and colors in this area are NOT to be missed. Similarities are the great organic markets, good restaurants, yoga and meditation. Our busy volunteer life is much more prevalent in SMA where we are part of several organizations. Here in SC our creative juices are flowing more actively though it could be only a function of more time for creativity here than SMA. As I have written before - I am preferring to be in the present and enjoy each place for its life at the moment and comparisons are hard to make but I have just done my best to answer the most common question presented to us in either place.

Comida at Rosetta in CDMX
The Tiffany Screen at Bellas Artes
We began this trip with three days in Mexico City (now called CDMX- Cuidad de Mexico) with Maria Elena and Tomy. We stayed in La Roma, a new neighborhood for us and enjoyed a visit to the Castle at Chapultapec and the Ballet Folklorico in the beautiful Bellas Artes (our first time).

Our house in San Cris
Lauren at Frontera
Then we were of to San Cris, back to the beautiful home with view of the city and bountiful garden. We think it is the very best location in the city. We did stay for several weeks in another airbnb home which also had positives - meeting new friends, sharing a kitchen and cooking together with others and a place for visitors. We shared a fun week with Lauren who was visiting from SMA.

Hanging the show
colorful beans

The main highlight of March was spending time with Lena Bartula - an incredible artista from SMA who had a large installation exhibition of her huipils made from various recycled products in a historic building - La Enseñanza
at the opening

"Behind the labels" - represents
the labels and where our clothing
comes from.
Maruch leading the opening ceremony

We knew each other before she came to SC but not in the way we are all friends now. We were happy to help with the installation process with another friend, Victoria Pierce. I was able to help organize several private showings/tours of her work and then happily spending time with her and Patricia Smith (also from SMA) visiting communities, other textile workshops and dismantling the show in early April. The opening of the show was different than any I have attended. It began with Maruch and her chants and "limpiaza" for the energy surrounding the show. This is apparently typical of art openings in Mayan communities.

Spending time in the space of such a creative person surely rubbed off on me. I was introduced again to Taller Lenateros - a paper making studio/workshop that makes books (the paper, the printing via serigraphia or silk screen and the binding processes.) I took a workshop in printing as well as binding. I am now in the process of designing a book that will be more of an art project along with various details of my life and my "peeps". Stay tuned until next year when I return here for several months to work on this project.
Petra y Yoli at Lenateros

Some of the colorful paper
my hand stitched books

The whole area of Chiapas which is the large southern state bordering Guatemala is Mayan country and there are many small villages surrounding San Cris that each have their own clothing as well as textile designs. In the markets one can notice which village each woman comes from depending upon her clothing. This year we visited San Andres Larrinzar which is about 45 minutes away and shopped for textiles for friends.
The men's hats of San Andres Larrinzar

bought these two pillow covers
 la maestra Kelsang Kunwang
We pass most of our days doing a mix of the following activities: I go to yoga and various art activities, Ricardo goes to daily meditation at the Buddhist center and has dedicated much of his time to learning the 24 form of Tai Chi (Kung Fu style). This was a goal that he had set for himself and he found a teacher here that was able to help him master this. I enjoyed many hours looking outside in the garden and seeing his gently flowing moves in this "dance". I am proud of him for dedicating this time to something very important for himself and for reaching this personal goal.

Colorful doors of San Cris
Colorful storefronts
We have also both dedicated time to a drawing a day. This is a creative as well as meditative practice. I cannot believe that I am nearly through with 4 months of doing this with no thought of discontinuing this practice. What will I do each day for the rest of the year. It is one of the things I wonder about but every day there is something new to see (or not - my feet, hands, etc. are with me every day and are always good options to draw!)

Friends (as you all know) are very important to us and coming back yearly gives us a chance to reconnect with them.
Vanessa and Fausto 
Erin and Philip
Set - my vegan soulmate
in San Cris

So, once again, if you made it to this far of this post - thanks for traveling with us. We are heading back to San Miguel de Allende for 2 months and then will see many of you as we travel again in the USA for several months.

Happy Spring to all and love from the two of us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016...our year in review

To our friends and family at the closing of 2016,

Winter in Buxton, England 2016
How might we highlight this year? We will both give some of our thoughts and feelings this year. 

Fun in Chiapas
For me it has been another year of personal growth and great “one day at a time” experiences. We began the year in Europe (Spain, England and Portugal) and enjoyed the varied cultural experiences. Most of you have followed the blog posts on the details so no need for that here. The big thing I did realize during that time was that travel is another creative endeavor for both of us. The planning and executing of our trips and what we do daily to connect with art, music, visual experiences and the internal creative growth that comes from experiencing other cultures, people and customs is very rewarding to me. Following Europe brought us back to Mexico – first to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas and later to San Miguel de Allende. 

Our garden in San Cris
Chiapas has become a very special place for both of us. For me it is a chance to focus on myself as we have less volunteer and social engagements. I spend time with yoga and with Richard who has time for Tai Chi and meditation. We both had time to draw in our art journal books and had several visitors. With these visitors we get a chance to see the special sights and indigenous communities and re-experience the things we have loved about Chiapas since our first visit. Happily we will return in Feb 2017.

Summer at Silver Bay with
Vogel Family
The places we call home – San Miguel de Allende and USA (North Carolina) followed and it is in both of these places that we have our communities. I am happy to say that I have kept my connections in the USA even though we spend more time each year in Mexico. 

Indian dinner with Rosey in Chapel Hill

Summer in a doll house with Sophia
People are so important to both of us. I feel that I am becoming more and more introverted each year as I find the need to spend time with myself but it does not exclude the importance of connecting with YOU, our “peeps”. I think that we came close to seeing most of the important people in our lives and if we did not see you last year, perhaps it will be this year.
Trying paddleboarding at
Lake George, NY

Fall brought us back to SMA and here is where we will finish this year. Our program “Libros para Todos” had another very successful year in November and I am proud that I was a founder of this program and now able to step back a little as others are taking it on.
Libros para Todos 2016
September at Iyengar yoga
convention in Monterrey, MX 
International Yoga Day,
San Miguel de Allende
Yes this is me, hanging
from the ropes in San Cris
26 years together
My gratitude is great as we come upon our 26th anniversary (Dec 30th) and close to 30 years together. I cannot imagine a better life than one that is shared with my friend and partner Ricardo. I also am grateful to have my good health as I just completed 70 years and the amazing opportunities that we have to experience life in way that we have intentionally chosen. I would be remiss not to mention the sadness and anxiety that has come with the election in the USA and I only hope and pray that somehow the two sides of this divide will find ways to communicate and try to understand each other to work towards peace in the world.

Once again, I am grateful to all of you – our family and friends who travel this technological world with us.

Happy New Year and Feliz Año Nuevo to all,

2016 a year of growth and travel.

Buxton, England 2016 and hopefully
again in 2017
The more I see of the world the more I come to believe that there are no borders except for the ones that we are told exist which I believe, are rooted in prejudice.  I feel very lucky to have come to this point in my life where all of us are equal and can celebrate the holiday season as a gift for all.

River walk in Chiapas
TierrAdentro breakfast in San Cristobal de las Casas
This year we have traveled to many different places and many were repeats. Traveling like we do helps me to see the subtle differences in cultures and how people interact within these differences.  This has given me a mirror to project my own beliefs that have been conditioned since childhood.  I'm not the same person and I wonder how I will be in a year from now.  These differences are beautiful to behold and when the opportunity to share them with others arises it's like starting life anew. The joy of travel is such a gift that keeps on giving through direct experiences with others and the memories that will last a lifetime. I have found some special places in the world this year that maybe have been a part of my past lives,. These places may not work for everyone but for me I hope to return to them again and again.  I loved Cabo de Gato and Granda in Spain; Porto in Portugal; San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico and Buxton, England to name a few.
Picnic in Chiapas with
 Maria Elena & Tomy
I am hoping to find many more places that bring this type of charm. 

Veggie b-b-q with Stephan on LI
Susan and I are like vagabundos now roaming to different locations as the time permits, meeting new people and getting to share our thoughts, beliefs and especially having shared laughs together.

I am wishing you all a great New Year and as always I'm sending my love.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Libros para Todos weekend with Francisco Hinojosa

As the year comes to an end, we celebrated another wonderful weekend in and around San Miguel de Allende, MX with children and author Francisco Hinojosa.

Excitement at El Huizachel
Getting out of bed on Wednesday, Nov. 9th was indeed difficult for me - having to face the he election results in the U.S. The main hope that got me going that day was the realization that we would be among hundreds of children in rural communities of San Miguel who had read this year's chosen book "La Fórmula del Dr. Funes" by noted children's author Francisco "Pancho" Hinojosa. He was joined by his wife, Tanya Huntington. It was an easy way to take our minds off of the election.

A large gathering at El Huizachel.
Pancho signing books
Early we were off to the community of El Huizachel with 150 children, with many that were bused from other communities to join together. It is hard to describe the joy of the children when they realize that they are meeting the author of the book that they had all read together. Their teachers have been involved from the beginning. This year we held two teacher's workshops to help them plan their classes of reading with various exercises for the children. Besides reading, many wrote about each chapter in the notebooks that were provided to them as well as drawings.

Drawings about chapters in the book.
Pancho read one of his other books "La peor señora del mundo" which the children enjoyed. After questions and answers, Pancho spent time signing each book with the name of each child. This time also allows all of us volunteers to interact with the children, looking at their notebooks and enjoying the camaraderie. 

the mamas providing lunch for all
All the while on the side of the outdoor area where the children were sitting, the local mamas were preparing a lunch for their children, for us, and for the invited children from other schools. It is amazing to see how they can work with little to provide so much.

The after school programs meet in SMA
Handing out bookmarks
"Team" Libros - Armida, Susanita and Daniela

After leaving El Huizachel we headed back to San Miguel for another event at St. Paul's Church. Here we met with several after school programs which came by bus from their communities. Others were local to San Miguel. The program was similar - Pancho read his book, answered questions and again signed all the books. Each child also received a bookmark with information about Libros para Todos. Several of the children presented Pancho with special drawings that they made.


Signing books at La Cuarilla
Showing their notebooks at La Cuadrilla
La Cuadrilla
Thursday November 10th was another full day. First was the community of La Cuadrilla  for 75 kids and then directly to the community of Los Ricos where we were to meet 100. As in years past, this involved walking about one mile and crossing a little footbridge as during or after the rains, the road is flooded and impossible to pass with a vehicle. 

Authors of the last 3 years - display at Los Ricos
Walking across the bridge to Los Ricos
The events in each community were similar but the communities are all so different. The common ground was the fact that they were all so well prepared and the smiles would warm the hearts of all. We are working to find out whether these special events have long term effects for the children with respect to their reading. In this, our fourth year, we have seen more interest in the teachers, especially as a result of our teacher trainings.

Listening intently at Los Ricos

Friday morning the group had quite an adventure when they went to Estancia de San Antonio. The bus that had been hired to take the children from Naciones Unidas, a private bilingual school outside San Miguel was too large to go down the road to this small community. Somehow, another local bus was procured after waiting a bit at the side of the road. The children, along with Pancho, changed buses and off they went, only to break down at the side of the road along the way. After more time and a repair of the problem, the buses headed along to Estancia de San Antonio where the teachers, students and mamas were waiting (they were approximately one hour late). The plan was to share food - the parents of the local school preparing for the families in the campo and vice versa so there was NO way that we were not going to have this all happen. It did happen and went smoothly. For the children on the bus it was a real adventure and Pancho had time to sign all the books and make direct connections with all the children. As they say - a good time was had by all.

Saturday morning we had one large event of 200 people, mostly children from local schools as well as rural communities who were again bused into San Miguel. For these rural children, coming to San Miguel and to Bellas Artes, one of our most beautiful buildings, is a special treat. After the event when there was still time before their buses would pick them up, they were able to wander through the various art galleries. For many, this too was a first.

As we are now in the planning mode for the coming year I would like to THANK all our family and friends for the support for this project this year and the years past. I am proud to have started this and also proud of Daniela Franco who has taken the lead as the Director of this project and we are growing in many ways. Our team is larger and we have had some successful fundraising programs so that we will be starting the new year with a Writing Workshop for 20 children in February (they will write their own small books), a "Pop Up Library" that will be set up in one or more rural communities and plans for a "Spring" read with local authors. This is all in addition to our planning for another "Big Read" in November 2017. THANKS to all.