Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Before I take you to Guadalajara (on the most miserable bus ride ever), here are some parting shots from El Grullo:
This is Dona Chayo. She was Edgar's first grade teacher at La Escuela Las Pilas (the same school Edgar's mom and Lili went to). Dona Chayo is retired, but she picks her grand kids up from school every day. She stopped me and asked Edgar's name. She taught for 30 years. When I told her I was surprised at how big the class sizes are in Mexico, she said, "Oh, this is nothing! I used to teach 50 or 60 at a time!" I wondered how she would remember Edgar out of all that. He says he caused a lot of trouble. (Lili's looking a little like her aunt Thelma. :))
On my journey up to the Capilla, I encountered the tile that Edgar's family donated when the Capilla was dedicated. They paid for that stair.
I love these flowers. They were all along my hike up to the Capilla.
My view from the top.
The first sunset I saw in El Grullo. I had to hike up to see it.

Our bus ride from El Grullo to Guadalajara was probably the hardest part of our whole trip. I found our bus driver before we even got on the bus to ask if we could watch an appropriate movie. Between puffs on his cigarette he told he had no control over what movies came on--that it was all controlled from Guadalajara. I don't know if I believe him or not, but there was nothing more I could do. The movie was a violent one, followed by one with sex scenes. Ay, Mexico! I kept covering Lili's eyes. We both felt queasy--and not just because of the movie. The road is so windy. The most difficult thing, though, was Marcos and his incessant crying. We had been so busy packing up and running here and there, that Marcos had missed his nap. I read in Parent's magazine years ago that before traveling, one should still have one's child nap, and not just assume said child will sleep on the trip. They were right. Marcos was so exhausted and he wouldn't sleep. I bet he cried for 2 hours. I know everyone on the bus hated us. I decided it was their punishment for wanting a trashy movie. That didn't make me feel much better though. At one point, a little old lady said, "Senor!" (Edgar was holding Marcos at the time.) "What is wrong with that child? GIVE HIM TO ME!" Edgar handled it well. I wouldn't have known what to say. Edgar said, "He's just tired." We kept passing Marcos back and forth. At one point Edgar looked pretty desperate and I suggested taking the little lady up on her offer. Edgar finally got Marcos to sleep by standing up with him and holding on tightly as the bus swayed him around the curves. Edgar was holding sleeping Marcos when Ruben started throwing up on Edgar. Again Edgar had the worst of it all.

Fortunately, there was a happy end in sight: The Hotel San Francisco Plaza. It's a "historic" hotel that gave us a good deal--the third night was free. It is very old, but I liked it. They didn't have an elevator, so we made the wise choice (considering all our luggage) to bunk on the bottom floor. We were usually the only people in the lobby, which was right outside our room:

The kids loved the birds in the lobby. I liked them too, but there was an old boiled egg in their cage that made me feel sick whenever we walked by.
Our room had a wonderful, HOT shower with a lot of water pressure and the shower head was taller than I am! I loved it so much I took a shower that night and the next morning. We all slept great that night too--even Marcos. The next morning, we met the Sorensens for breakfast. That afternoon we took our kids to their house. They had arranged babysitters for us so we could all go to the temple together.
(Yes, dear reader, I am pregnant. My figure is not just the result of too many taquitos.)
The Sorensens back yard.

Marian told us a lovely story about the temple. There are pigeons everywhere in Guadalajara. They are always making a mess on the statues downtown. The Angel Moroni on the temple, though, never gets dirty. There are night hawks that scare the other birds away. Recently they took the Angel Moroni down to re-gold him. There were no bird droppings on him. She said that even the animals respect the Lord's house. It was so great to be with the Sorensens.
The Mariachi Square in Guadalajara. We never did get to hear the mariachis there. We saw them, but you have to pay to get them to play. I was hoping someone else would pay and we could get a free concert. It didn't happen.
Saturday Edgar's Tia Lupe and cousin Gaby took us all around downtown Guadalajara. This is a theater.

The Cathedral

We bought some souvenirs that day and walked A LOT. We got back to our room at about 8:00. We packed everything up, set our alarm for 3 am and went to bed. Our poor children had a hard time getting up, but they were cheerful about it.
They weren't so cheerful at 4:00 when we got to the airport and found out our flight had been canceled and that we would be waiting FIVE HOURS until our flight.

Marcos was perky for awhile. We fed everybody and then took up residence in a dark corner of the airport Burger King. Liliana fell asleep on a booth, I got Marcos to sleep in the stroller, and Ruben fell asleep on Edgar. I put my head down on the table and fell asleep. Poor Edgar's the only one that didn't sleep. The good news was that we got a direct Mexicana flight. It was a nicer airline. They served breakfast and didn't charge us to check luggage. If only we'd known we were flying with them, we could have enjoyed 4 more hours of sleep at our hotel. We got to Las Vegas around 1:00. By the time we got our car, ate, and drove all the way home, it was 9:00. We were thrilled to be home. We unpacked that night. Marcos helped:
He carefully arranged the stuff from our bathroom bag into the toilet. (As if I haven't put enough about toilets and toilet paper in this travelogue!)

So now we are home. We are loving the reliable plumbing, having the kids in their own rooms again, having our queen size bed back (we are far too large for the double bed we were using in El Grullo), having more than one bathroom, hot water spontaneously coming out of the tap, and our washer and dryer!

Looking at these pictures, though, I already miss Mexico a little. As Lili said, "It's our country too!" The kids are now dual citizens.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shhh. Don´t tell Edgar

Edgar is over at our house cleaning and packing and I´m sneaking in a little blog session. We are taking te bus (ugh) to Guadalajara this afternoon. Tomorrow we will spend time with the Sorensens (Traci, they are David Sorensen´s parents who serve in the Guadalajara Temple as President and Matron). They´re from our home ward. We will go to the temple tomorrow night and we get to do the work for Edgar´s great-great grandparents. We´ll get sealed for them and then seal their four boys who died as babies to them.

Yesterday we went back to El Limón trying to get birth certificates (Edgar´s Tía--the one who is a nun, actually she´s the Mother Superior at her convent) is gone now. She´s in the hospital with her mom, who isn´t doing well. I took this picture from the balcony of the City Building. It turns out they only have birth certificates from 1900 and later. We´d have to go to another town, and we´ve run out of time.

This morning Edgar´s dad and his Tía Malena were waiting for me at Ruben´s school. That´s a little awkward since they don´t talk to each other. Edgar´s dad wants us to eat with them. His aunt just wanted to say good-bye. I don´t think we have time to eat with Rafael before we go, but we´re doing it anyway (we might not have time to blog either). I´m giving Malena some leftover food. The other day when we ate at her house she had made this delicious corn bread that she doesn´t make very often because it uses 5 eggs. We had 4 eggs left over. She also charge some meat at the butcher´s to feed us. Edgar gave each of his aunts some money. I´m glad. They´ve all been so good to us.

We spent our last night like we did our first--entertaining visitors until very late. It was lovely of them to want to say good-bye. I feel melancholy this morning. I´ll miss this place. I have people I say hi to every morning on the way to Lili´s schoool. There´s the one-legged man who sweeps i the plaza and the ancient beggar lady who sets up at the mercado about the time we pass by. There are also two very nice shop keepers on our street who always greet me. They know Edgar´s family.

One of my goals here was to hike to the Capilla (a chapel dedicated to who else? The Virgin María). It´s only about a 20 minute hike up, but it is all uphill. I finally went up for the first time last night. I was going to go every morning, but it didn´t happen in our morning rush to get the kids off to school.

This just in. I´m having trouble posting pictures and I have to hurry back and help my husband get ready to go.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Burning the Castle?

Another new experience for me: celebrating "Las Fiestas" in Melaque. Every town, it seems, here in Mexico has a time when they celebrate. Four years ago when we came to El Grullo, we came during the Fiestas here. The first ten days are to celebrate the Catholic Church (mostly the Virgin María) and then the remaing ten (?) are to celebrate the town. This time we didn´t want to come during the Fiestas because we wanted the kids to go to school. There is no school held during the Fiestas.

When we were in Melaque (the town we stayed while at the beach) though, we caught some of their Fiestas. I don´t how I missed this when we were in El Grullo last time, but for the ten nights of the Church celebration, there is a "castillo"--castle that is burned at 10 pm in the town square. It is to honor María somehow. People who have experienced a great miracle or blessing, buy a castle (that doesn´t look like a castle--it looks more like a really tall stick full of fireworks) in honor of the Virgin and donate to the celebration. Each night the castle is more elaborate until the final night. I think we caught the 2nd night.

We forced our kids to stay up that late. (They were exhausted. It reminded me of when I woke everyone up from their nap our last day in Disneyland and insisted on going back and getting our money´s worth. The kids just wanted to sleep!)

The burning actually started late (what a surprise--here in Mexico!). The whole event was accompanied by a Mariachi band and another band.

Every few minutes fireworks from the castillo go off and sparks and actually sparklers fly into crowds of people. The people scream and laugh and run. Children run under the castillo, directly under the sparks, with cardboard slabs or boxes over their heads. Edgar did that as a child.

Edgar was talking amiably (I try to catch photos of him looking pleasant because his natural reaction to a camera is a frown) to a man from Ontario Canada. We encountered more English speakers than Spanish in that town. A lot of northerners winter there.

These aren´t friends of ours, or even acquaintances. They just were in the right place at the right time.

These are the kids running under the castillo as it burns.

I´m late to pick Ruben up from school. His teacher will have my hide!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Beach

We had a wonderful time at the beach. We were mostly at Cuastecomate--a calm little cove. We drove the 2 1/2 curvy hours in Edgar´s dad´s truck. It was better than taking the bus, but was rather uncomfortable--especially for me. I held both boys on my lap. Incredibly enough, we all managed to fall asleep (except Edgar) twice.

The view was lovely on the drive, but Lili and I had a hard time enjoying--be both felt so sick.

We left so early that we got to the beach at 9:00 am on Thursday. We had the beach to ourselves most of that day. There were more people on Friday and Saturday. When Edgar´s relatives came (they own a restaurant right on the beach) we ordered wonderful seafood from them--shrimp and fish and octopus. After eating, I felt so sleepy. I stretched out on a lawn chair and the lovely ocean breeze lulled me to sleep. Marcos had a long nap in a hammock.

After I woke up, I went swimming with the kids. Edgar didn´t get in the water until Friday.

We rented a bungalow from Edgar´s relatives. It was new and nice and had hot water coming out automatically from the sinks and shower. Amazing.
The view from our bedroom there.
Across the street.
We did everything we could think of to do at the beach. Lili collected seashells.
We dug about in the sand.
We sipped coconuts and then ate the meat from inside.

By about 12:00 on Saturday we were tired of sand and salt and being beach bums. It was lovely for a few days, but I don´t think I´m really a beach person. We piled back into the truck and headed for El Grullo.

The kids and I all fell asleep, but then woke up when Edgar stopped to get gas. We went inside to buy water and ice cream and go to the bathroom. (The bathrooms were free and they had toilet paper!) The problem was that right before the entrance to the women´s bathroom, were horrible trashy magazines at my children´s eye level. I covered up their eyes. When I bought the ice cream, I told the woman I had a complaint about the magazines by the bathroom. I told her they were inappropriate for children and that they were right where my children could see them on the way to the bathroom. She was very unconcerned. I repeated that they are inappropriate for children and adults. I don´t think she cared.
Yesterday we went to church again. (Edgar´s aunt told me I look very "weird" in this skirt.) As the dear sisters were hugging and kissing me good-bye, I felt so grateful for them. They´re this country´s answer to the trashy magazines, horror movies on the bus, and Vegas-style dancers to honor women. They are beautiful and modest and they know who they are.

I am late for a dinner engagement. So long.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday y Algo Más

I forgot (in my haste to report about the ranch) to write about Sunday. Our first Sunday here Marcos had a fever and so Edgar, Lili, and Ruben took a taxi to Aútlan (about 1/2 hour by taxi, an hour by bus) to go to church. Nobody was there and it was all locked up. They waited about an hour and then took the bus home. They were gone about 3 hours.

We weren´t sure what to expect this week. The branch members were there, though, in full force. They had had stake conference the week before in Manzanillo (3 hours away). During the opening song, "Praise to the Man," I started crying. They were singing with such fervor and I felt the Spirit so strongly. It was great to be in the familiar church setting. Also, the man who blessed the bread for the sacrament spoke so humbly and reverently, it brought tears to my eyes. There are four full-time missionaries there and they were planning to have 5 baptisms that day. They ended up having only 2 since the other 3 investigators (all in the same family) didn´t come to church. The Church really is the same everywhere.

Marcos went to his first hour of nursery. He loved the snacks and playing with toys. I stayed with him. Lili didn´t want to go to Primary unless she could be right by Ruben. They came and got me out of Sunday School (Edgar was with Marcos then) because Ruben kept bugging Lili, and they didn´t know if they should separate them or not. Again, the Church is the same everywhere! Ruben could cause trouble in any Primary, anywhere. We caught a bus quickly from Aútlan, and the ride to El Grullo was so long and hot and sweaty and smelly. Poor Marcos fell asleep in Edgar´s arms. After we got off the bus, it seemed like we had to walk forever to get home. It was so hot.

That night we went to the Plaza to hang out with the rest of the town. They were getting ready for some event, and we decided to stay and see what it was. It took quite awhile and I was worried about the kids getting to bed on time. Then they started. A woman was introducing the evening. She is the president of a women´s group here, and she said March 9 is International Woman´s Day. It was an event to celebrate womanhood and they had chosen 24 women from El Grullo to honor. Women went around giving carnations to every woman. I got one. I was thinking it was all so nice and then I saw one of the performers. She was so scantily-clad and looked like a Las Vegas show girl. I couldn´t believe it. I asked Edgar if she was one of the performers. He said yes, and we left. I was so bothered. What a slap in the face to womanhood! I couldn´t believe a women´s group would honor women by objectifying them. I also hated that we seemed to be the only ones that had a problem with it. There were so many families and children there!

We continue to have lots of invitations to eat. This morning Edgar´s Tía Malena met me at Ruben´s school to invite us to eat at her house at 2:00 today. I stayed at Ruben´s school awhile to volunteer/observe and when I got home I told Edgar about it. He had been out and about with Marcos and had run into his Tía Bertha and agreed to have lunch with her at 2:00 today. They both wanted to have us before we go to the beach (tomorrow morning). Edgar called Tía Malena and we are going to her house now on Monday. On Sunday, Edgar´s cousin Noé invited us to eat and then other family members invited us for the same day. We´ll go there later. We will have a day of feasting rather than a day of rest.

It was interesting to be at Ruben´s school. The teacher is very strict and doesn´t seem too happy in her work. The 3-4 kids who misbehave get most the attention. She kept wanting me to translate for Ruben. I think Ruben will learn more if I don´t go. I told her she does a good job with so many kids. She said last year she taught 37 three-year-olds!
The clock on her wall (like the one at Lili´s school) doesn´t work either!
We couldn´t find Ruben´s glasses this morning. He looks so different without them. Some of the kids wear uniforms and so don´t. The same is true of Lili´s school.
Ruben loves wrestling with other little boys.
I don´t think Ruben would love school nearly as much if it weren´t for the playground.

Yesterday we had a calm day. We didn´t visit anyone and nobody visited us. It was kind of nice. We had Family Home Afternoon because we thought someone might come. We went to the Plaza and also a playground place lasat night and bought tacos and ice cream. Here are some pictures of the kids. They love playing on these things.
Marcos loves horses as much as his brother.
Lili prefers a good horse.
Marcos wants to do whatever his siblings do. Last night he insisted on having Edgar floss his teeth.
Tomorrow we´re off to the beach for 3 days. I don´t think I´ll be blogging. Edgar´s dad is letting us drive his truck there so we don´t have to go on the bus. Also, it´s a great time to go. Lili´s school is cancelled tomorrow, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday! I think her teacher just needs a break. I found out that he has an afternoon session of about 40 first-graders too! Ruben´s school is cancelled Friday as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Family History and El Rancho

All my ranch pictures are at the beginning, so I´m going to start with that (yesterday). We met Cecilio and Guadalupe on Friday. Cecilio is Edgar´s dad´s second cousin. His grandpa (also Cecilio) was shot when he was in his early 30´s. Cecilio´s dad was his only child. Edgar did the temple work already for Cecilio Sr. This Cecilio lives on a ranch, Yerba Buena. They invited us to come today. Edgar´s dad was driving out that way yesterday, so we went yesterday. It was better because we didn´t have to get the kids out of school. Cecilio and Lupe were not expecting us, but they dropped everything, called their kids to come. They all live close-by and share an outdoor shower and toilet. The women got making tortillas. They grow the corn that they grind to make the maza for their tortillas and they make tortillas every day. They were the best tortillas I´ve ever had. Edgar´s dad took steak and Cecilio started a fire and started grilling it. They had beans and homemade salsa and their own homemade queso fresco--cheese. It was heavenly. They have cows and chickens and dogs and cats--there was even a dead lizard (the kind you eat, Edgar told me--who knew you eat lizards?) that the kids liked playing with. They live right by a river and they swim in it, only when it´s hot. We were dying--sweating like crazy. I touched the water. It was warmer than Boulder Creek on its hottest day. They let us swim, but only if I got the kids heads wet (to prevent coughing). I didn´t understand how those two were related, but Edgar told me just to do it. I didn´t put water on my own head, but I did the kids. The funny thing is, that last night, in bed, I kept coughing. None of the kids did.

We had a great time. We were there about 4 hours and they acted like they had nothing to do but entertain us. They were so kind and so self-sufficient! I was really impressed and told Lupe so. She said she can do a lot of things, but she never learned to read. Her grand-daughter was there. She´s only 16, but she quit school after 7th grade. I don´t know why. Their school there goes to 9th grade.

Swimming in the river. Until 15 years ago, they didn´t have electricty or plumbing. Lupe washed clothes and children in this river. She has 8 kids!

The dead lizard. (We didn´t eat it.)

Most of the family that was there.
Their living room--a little blurry. It´s full of Lupe´s handiwork. She gave me a table runner she´d just finished to remember her by. She is so kind.

We gals in the kitchen (though I had nothing to contribute to the meal).

Cows here.

Lupe was very concerned about the safety of the children.
Cecilio barbequing.

There are amazing flowers all around their house. I love this picture of Marcos.

The outside of the house.
We had a wonderful time there. I felt like I´d stepped back in time. All the ancestors I´ve been researching lived on ranches. Now I feel like I know what their lives were like (a little).

We have been on the go. Friday we ate at Edgar´s dad´s again. We ate fish (people are very strict about not eating meat on Fridays here). The fish was looking at me, but it tasted very good. We met Rafael´s second cousin, Cecilio, and his wife, María Guadalupe.
We also drove around the outskirts of El Grullo. We saw sugar cane fields. The kids loved it because Edgar let them sit in the back of the truck.

On Saturday we went to El Limón--the town where Edgar´s dad grew up and where I´ve found the most family history information. We started out at the cemetery. It was kind of disappointing. When I was at home I thought that if I could only be here where all these people are buried (I have copies of the death certificates saying they are buried here), maybe I could find out more about them--like when they were married and when they were born. I realize now I was thinking of the well-groomed and thorough cemeteries we visit on Memorial Day in the Salt Lake Valley.

Here (and I guess anywhere) the quality of the grave depends on several things--how long ago the person died, how much money the family had then and how much they have now. There are all extremes.
I was standing in the same place when I took these pictures. The above grave is a mini church. It has names on it. The one below has some bricks holding the tin down. There are no names.

About half the graves are unmarked and when we got there, Edgar told me that his dad had heard that some of the family had extricated (is that the right word?) some of the older dead family members to make room for new ones. I still can´t believe that would be true. I think folks here respect their dead more than that. I started on one end and Edgar started on the other. We were looking for his great-grandparents, some of their children who died, and maybe even his great-great grandparents. We found nothing. It was hot and humid. Our kids were hungry and tired. I felt defeated. We went to visit Edgar´s dad´s cousin--María del Refugio Cobián.

She was darling. She never married and she runs her own little shop in the town. She has cancer and has been pretty sick off and on for the last 6 years. She didn´t have much information for us, but she did remember her grandparetns. She said her grandpa was a grump, but that her grandma was a dear woman. I said, "Isn´t that always the way?" No offense to anyone intended. She said we should visit another woman (Rafael´s cousin on his mom´s side) who might know a lot.

This other cousin owns a store too. We went there, but she had gone to Guadalajara for the day. Her two sons were there. We told them who we were. I tried to buy chips and bananas for the kids, but they insisted on giving them to us for free. We´re cousins, after all. They directed us to their aunt--Edgar´s paternal grandma´s neice, Tía Trini. She was great. She has 10 kids and there were grandchildren all over the place. She made each of them come and shake our hands because we are their tíos. Our kids were outside playing with her grandkids. A aldy came buy selling something. She couldn´t see Edgar and me, but she talked to Tía Trini.

She said, "Who are these white kids?"

Tía Trini said, "Part of my family, that´s who."

"Well, why are they so white?"

"That´s just the way they are and they´re part of my family!"

She had valuable information for us. She told me where Edgar´s grandma was born. I hadn´t been able to find her. She said that the family had to move around a lot in those days because it was during the Mexican Revolution.

Next we went to the convent in El Limón to visit Rafael´s cousin, Elvira. She is a nun. I wasn´t sure if the kids could go in. The only convent I´ve been in was in Poland I didn´t have kids with me. The sister that opened the door was so kind and welcoming to our kids. She took us into a garden area. Edgar couldn´t remember Elvira´s name to ask for her, but I did. When she came, she looked confused.

She didn´t know us. Her mom is the last surviving child of her generation. She´s had a stroke and if not doing too well. Elvira takes care of her in the convent most of the time, but that day she was in Aútlan at the hospital. She told us she´d call when her mom is back so we could visit her. I told her I wanted to find out about her grandparents´birthdates. She told me she could go to the civil registry on Monday (yesterday) and get me copies of their birth certficates because they were registered in El Limón. She was such a dear woman, and seemed to be a pure, kind soul. The convent sells bread to make money. She gave the kids some. We were about to leave, and I asked her if she knew where her grandparents are buried in the cemetery. She did! She told us they are near where her sister is buried, so she knows. She said they are simple crosses, about in the middle of the upper section of the cemetery. I was so excited. We went back to the cemetery and looked and looked. There were a lot of unmarked crosses, or crosses where the writing has been worn off. The care-taker was there. He hasn´t worked there long, so he didn´t know where everything was. He was really old and he knew Edgar´s great-grandpa. He said he knows all his kids and grandkids too. He showed us one of Edgar´s great uncle´s graves. It was nice, but didn´t have a name anywhere. Weird. He didn´t know where Edgar´s great-grandparents are buried. We were all exhausted, hungrgy, sweaty, and really hot. Edgar promised me we´d return, and we came back to El Grullo.

A few other random pictures
¨Sunday night at the Plaza.

Another Tía. I don´t even remember her name.
Rubén and his finished homework. He obviously did the work himself. He was proud of it. I hope the teacher will be pleased. I saw another little one´s homework yesterday and it was obviously done by her mom.
Clean clothes! We finally broke down and paid to have our non-white clothes washed yesterday. It cost about $15 for three loads and we´re thrilled. After all, we are on vacation. Who has time for laundry?