Nogales, Mexico: Sowing on a Windy Day

 

100_2547I was so pleased to be invited to chaperone my school’s mission trip to Mexico. It was exciting to be going back to Mexico lindo y querido, but there was also an element of the unknown. This was my first time in the Mexican state of Sonora and I didn’t know very much about Cuirim House, the mission we were visiting. (If you are learning Spanish and wonder what “cuirim” means, …it’s Irish.)

As typical in Mexico, the trip started with a change in plans. There had been a miscommunication and we arrived in Nogales 24 hours earlier than the mission had expected. This gave us a little more time to settle in, but also put some strain on the staff and required flexibility on our part.  We had several projects to cover over the week. Some of our jobs included heavy labor, mixing and carrying concrete, assembling pallet boxes, and installing fences. Other tasks were lighter and involved more interaction with the community. One of the jobs I enjoyed doing was helping with the Kids Café. Twice a week, the neighborhood children are fed by volunteers from the local church. In the summer, when groups come, we are able to give the regular volunteers a break. We served the food, washed all the dishes, and played with the kids. This freed up the ladies to enjoy a relaxing art class and later a Zumba class led by one of our group.

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In the evenings, the local pastor organized a World Cup Tournament for 10-15-year-old boys which was held in the park close to the church. The boys all took it very seriously! Our team set up a few carnival games each night in the basketball court adjacent and served food to everyone. No one on our team spoke Spanish, other than what they had studied in a month or two of preparation. I was very pleased to see how they all worked out ways of communicating and were flexible in their assignment to make sure the kids were having an enjoyable time. I also liked translating when necessary and talked with some of the parents who had come to watch the game.

Traveling anywhere outside of your culture comes with challenges, but it had been a while since I had been in a place with so much material need. It is interesting that the more one sacrifices (even voluntarily), the more seed there is for discontentment. Without running water, I instantly became a little more selfish, seeking out comfort in any form. Frustration over Mexican locks (already experienced in Guadalajara) was heightened when I couldn’t get in the bathroom door in the middle of a thunderstorm at night and with no cover overhead. When I had already been in the hot and stuffy kitchen for an hour, I really wished someone else would take care of the rest of the dishes. When I finally put away the dirty shirt I had worn a few days in a row and was enjoying a fresh one, I really hoped someone else would volunteer for the job that involved going outside in the drizzle and moving more dirt. When I was completely worn out and siesta time had almost passed, I hoped the threatening rain clouds might mean a delay in the afternoon work project. It was humbling to recognize. We must daily turn to Christ to have his attitude that values others more highly than ourselves.

One of the verses we learned in chapel this week was from Ecclesiastes 11.  “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap…In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” This passage caught my attention. My personality looks ahead and plans everything out. If something is likely to go wrong, I try to problem solve beforehand. If something is completely out of my control, like the weather, I will probably cancel instead of trying. Rainy season was starting in Nogales and every day around 2 or 3 PM, the wind would pick up and the sky would blacken. Being on top of a hill, we could watch storms approaching from either side. Sometimes, it would blow over quickly, sometimes it would nearly blow you over, and sometimes it would rain steadily for a long time before stopping. We always had afternoon work projects planned and the World Cup Tournament in the early evening. I am the kind of person who would see the clouds and call it off. Mr. Donohue, the missionary, had learned to see the clouds and still plan to go out and work. It’s a good lesson.

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One on the neat projects we worked on was building garden boxes out of wood pallets and delivering them to homes in the neighborhoods with some good top soil and seedlings. The local pastor would then schedule visits to check up on the plants and be able to build stronger connections in the community. The missionary’s son said the passage from Ecclesiastes had been an encouragement and a challenge to him as he was trying to start this ministry. There were many challenges that would have seemed like a reason to turn aside, but they had kept working and trusting God. Who knows, but God, what the fruit will be.

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All photos are my own.

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Saludos Sayulita!

Our little weekend trip to the beach literally started with a flash and a bang, when lightning struck the ground very close to where we had stopped for road side tacos. This was followed by an hour or so of heavy rain. Our luggage was in the back of an open truck, but fortunately we had put all the luggage in garbage bags (not entirely water proof it turns out, but better than nothing). Those who had been riding in the back of the truck crammed up front with us for the remainder of the trip after tacos. We reached Sayulita around 9 in the evening and after getting the keys to our super cute bungalow, we went into the town square to look at the shops and watch the people dancing to the band playing in the gazebo (a feature of almost every Mexican town I have been in).

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After going to bed early and sleeping in late, we enjoyed biscuits and gravy with eggs and bacon for breakfast before heading to the beach. We had heard that there was a pretty beach just a 10 minute walk away from the main beach area. We got all of our gear together and went to check it out. We walked past some super fancy villas and then came to a little sign pointing us away from the coast toward Playa de Los Muertos.

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This was a little short cut through a cemetery of sorts to a beautiful cove. This cove had natural rocks around it which we all enjoyed exploring. The waves were fairly gentle and more than half of the beach was naturally shaded by palm trees. I didn’t even have to set up an umbrella to be in the shade and read my book! That was a wonderful experience.

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After lunch, we decided to check out the main beach. It was quite a bit more crowded and noisy. There were also a lot of vendors and people offering to braid hair, give massages, make tattoos, etc. I hope you all appreciate the irony of this picture. In case you can’t read the key, the red flag means “no swimming”.

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For dinner, our group got to meet up with a couple from Lincoln who spontaneously decided to camp at Sayulita the same weekend. It took some looking, but we finally found a place where there was enough seating for 10 of us which also offered seafood tacos at a reasonable price. Shrimp tacos are just amazing. We got caught in a heavy rain on the short walk back to our bungalow so we hung out under an awning for about 15 minutes until is stopped. Rainy season isn’t over yet apparently!

Sunday morning, we all went our own ways until departure at 1:30. I enjoyed an hour or so at Playa de Los Muertos by myself. It was so lovely to just rest in the shade as I read The Princess Bride and listened to the waves crash. I also got some coconut ice cream in town because it was quite hot and how could I pass up coconut ice cream at the beach?

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The ride back had beautiful mountainous views. Our weekend wasn’t even over when we got back because we had Monday off because a good chunk of Guadalajara was celebrating the Virgin of Zapopan. I took the afternoon to go with my housemates to El Centro in Guadalajara to see the cathedral, the theater, and some other sites. We had a great time.

All photos are my own.