Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Sometimes Actions Speak Louder than Words

I have gone to mass quite often since living in Guadalajara.  My reasons for attending have varied.  I have gone because someone has lost a loved one, I have attended infant baptisms, First Communions, and even mass prior to a birthday.

I love how Catholics go to mass to honour or to thank God for something.

The very first time I attended a mass here was for a first communion for the daughter of a friend.  The invitation stated the hour of the mass, which Parish it would be in, and then where and when the celebration (party) would be held afterwards.

I anticipated seeing all our friends from the gym at the mass, as they all tell us how Catholic they are.  Other than the family of the child whose first communion it was, one other lady from the gym was present!

But, for the after party/celebration...tons arrived for that! Was not the event the First Communion? Was not the whole thing religious? So why did most of them not attend?

The picture beside is from a Quinceañera we attended.  It too began with a mass.  Here too, the amount of people at the party, versus the amount who attended the mass, was very different.

I love the fact that there are many traditions and rituals, but it sometimes appears to evidence what we might call legalism or Phariseeism - bound to tradition but having forgotten the reason behind it.

Now, this is not a criticism of the Catholic Church.  I have attended beautiful masses, where the Priest has done a great job.  In the picture you can see the that priest is in front of the Quinceañera. He actually directed his talk to her.  He challenged her to guard her faith.  It was wonderful..

Whether one is evangelical or Catholic, one must guard their faith.  We need to make sure we don't just guard the traditions, but our faith as well. I sometimes liken the tradition to a Coke bottle, and the faith, or relationship with God, to the contents. You need the first to 'contain' the last, but there is no question as to which is the most important. We need to ensure that our faith is based upon Scripture and not on tradition.

I need to make sure that I am following Christ and not a tradition, or a person, or a 'religion'. I keep insisting, as I talk with people here, that it's not about religion but rather about relationship - a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, which changes my values, attitudes, and behaviour.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Cultural Differences

I am constantly amazed when living abroad.  I have lived in Latin America on and off for years.  I have live in Mexico for many of them.  But yet I often experience, or maybe rather notice, something new.

This weekend I went to a baby shower for my friend's upcoming grandchild.  Baby shower's are not something new for me; I have attended many.

My first observation about baby showers here was that I often got invited to them, when I did not even know the mother, sometimes never having even met her.

But, what I observed this time was that they have a baby shower for every child a mother has: first, second, third, etc.  We often only throw a shower for a first baby.

The next thing was that often the mother, or mother-in-law, hosts the baby shower for her grandchild.  I can't say that that is something we do in Manitoba.

They also go all out.  The place is all decorated; that's normal.  They serve a meal; not common in Canada.  We would more often have snacks.  They have a lovely, decorated dessert table, regardless if it is breakfast, lunch or supper.  They give party favours to all the guests.

My neighbour ladies who attended the shower
Standing is Tina, is the mother-in-law who hosted and her the very pregnant daughter-in-law
Lastly, they always know the gender of the child and have chosen a name.  I don't think that is common back home although maybe now it is.  In my day we wanted it to be a surprise and had names chosen for either gender.

This shower was hosted by my friend Tina, for her grandchild.  It is this couple's third child, all boys.  The child's name will be Iker. I had met the mother on a few occasions as I have attended some family events they have thrown.

It was a lovely morning.

On that same day, but in the evening, we attended a Quinceñera for our friends' 15 year old daughter.  We have attended many of these over the years.

A Quinceñera is the birthday thrown for a 15 year old daughter - it is a 'right of passage'.  A little like 'sweet sixteen' although much more significant (or a guy back in Canada getting his drivers licence).
Diane, Ernie, quinceañera en blue, her mother in pink, and the 'padrinos' - dad was busy when we took the pic
They usually thrown a huge party, often going into debt or saving for quite some time, in order to host it.  Depends of the economic situation of the family.

We have attended very elaborate ones and simple ones.

When I am at one of these, and I see a younger girl, I will often ask them if they want a big party like that.  I get varying responses, some say no, they would rather want a trip.  Some say yes, and then there are those that say they want both!

What I noticed this time around is that 15 is young.  She is a young lady but emphasis on young.

I noticed at this party that the young lady is highlighted in various ways.  She dances with her father and her God (padrino) Father.  Then she often preforms something.  I was at one where the young girl did aerial silk.  It was amazing.  This particular event the young lady danced with 3 professional male dancers.

This is what struck me, the way they danced.  The young men were older then her and you could tell they had practiced quite a bit.  Then they put her on a chair and danced for her!

 I thought it was maybe a little bit to much for a 15 year old girl, whereas everyone thought it was great!

But, a bit later, she danced with her father, her god father, and three other men.  They also had prepared this.  That was fun, but also something I can't see happening with my people back home but maybe it does happen...

Another thing I noticed again was how formal these things are and how Mexicans love to dress up.  I compare that to how informal we seem to have gotten back home.  I was shocked last time I was home to see people in shorts and flip flops at a wedding! NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER, WOULD THAT HAPPEN IN MEXICO!

I have come to appreciate their love for formal events and their love of getting all dolled up.  The women often get their hair done and their make up professionally done.  Everyone always looks stunning.  Even the young people are all done up. Changes how people act.  It's nice.

So, we continue to learn and grow here.  We love so much about Mexico and its culture.  We will miss it tremendously.  

Coming Soon

Greetings my friends, 

We have enjoyed having some friends from Steinbach over for a few days - they had been spending some time down at the ocean (La Peñita) and decided to come to GDL to visit!  We are going to take them for breakfast this morning and then put them on the bus to return. 

 So, today it looks like the blog post will have to be posted a bit later in the day... I hope you'll check back! I'm hoping to share some cultural things I've learnt this week.   

I plan to describe a 'rite of passage',  a 15 year old's (female) birthday party, know as a Quinceañera....

...and a baby shower for my friend's grandchild... Iker

I should be back to get that up around noon.  See you soon...!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A Loooong Weekend - Road Trip

Our plans for this past weekend were simple, drive to Queretaro to visit life time friends.

Immigration Mexico had other ideas.

When we arrived 4 years ago, we took out temporary residency, as is required.  After four years, they require you to apply for permanent residency.

Well, since we are returning to Canada at the end of April, we, along with the lady at immigration, decided it would make more sense to just extend our temporary residency for another year.

Well, her boss did not agree with her.  She denied that option. Then gave us two options. The first, apply for permanent residency within five days - virtually impossible!  Or, option 2, we had 30 days to leave the country and turn in our paperwork! We could then come in as tourists.

So our plans changed.  Instead of a long weekend with friends, we had a short weekend with friends and a trip to the border.
Pablo and myself, Ernie, Martha and their son Pablito
First things first.  We arrived in Queretaro early afternoon to spend some time with these wonderful friends.  This family (one son and grandson missing) lived next door to us in Chihuahua.  They became very good friends and we have continue our friendship over the miles.  They are so very special to us. 

We enjoyed a wonderful barbecue on their rooftop patio while we did some catching up on our lives.  We talked life, family, work, and faith.  It very quickly went to spiritual matters and ran long and deep.  It was such a wonderful afternoon and evening.

The next day we did the touristy thing and hit the road together.  We took in two towns, one they had never visited (a small typical Mexican mining town, turned ghost town) and the second was well known to them and lovely. 
Us in the ghost town!

From there we drove another 2 hours to Bernal.  It was a quaint little town, very touristy. 

The attraction to the town is the big rock you see sticking out of the ground in the background.  You can climb to the top (almost) and there are tours up there.  We did not to that.  We walked through the town and had lunch.  
Lunch was gorditas.  Although it looks like a cookie, it is not.  It is blue corn flour made into a pocket (somewhat like a pizza pocket) and filled with whatever you pick.  There are lots of options.  Ernie chose his favourite, which is rajas (chilli cut into strips with onions and cream).  I chose meat with chilli pasado and tinga (chicken in a tomato/chilli sauce), they chose chicharron (pig skin, not crispy but chewy).  But there were about 10 different kinds.  They were all very good!

The evening was spent playing table games, snacking and visiting.  It was a rich time for us.  It would have been nice to visit longer but alas, not possible this time round. 

Sunday morning we got into our car and headed to the US border (Laredo, TX).  It was a loooong day of driving.  That said, the roads were new and made for good driving time.  We arrived during daylight hours.  Having never been at this border, and border towns being notorious for poor signage, we were unsure of how this worked.  

But if Ernie is good a something, he is extremely good at asking at the border.  While we had though to just cross and not turn in our paperwork, as the sign said they were closed.  With a few questions to a young man who seems to look like he knew what he was doing.... we got rerouted and got it done.  Just wanted a little tip.  That was an answer to prayer!

Made it to our hotel by 6:30ish.  Got settled, had a quick supper and crashed.  Monday we did some errands and a little shopping, more relaxing and then hit the hay.  Tuesday Morning we were once again on the road.  

This was our worry, immigration.  Not because we thought we wouldn't be let in, but we had some complicated paperwork issues that we were concerned about.  And, as our son Chris said, 'Oh ye of little faith."  He told us that when things are difficult, seemingly impossible, that's when God shines!  And He did.  We got through within an hour.  PTL!  We were given 180 days (more than enough to finish up here) and a new vehicle permit.

So from there we had a 10 hour drive back to Guadalajara. We were stopped twice by the Federal Police. Both times we were let go with a 'just checking'.  Arrived home at 7:30 p.m., tired but glad to be here. 

So once again we are extremely thankful.  God has gone before us and behind us.  He has answered our prayers, even those prayed in doubt.  

We are in the throws of packing up as the people who bought our furniture are here and wanting it.  We will 'camp' for a bit and then move into Reimer's house for the last month.  

We continue to covet your prayers as we say our good byes both here in Guadalajara and in other parts of  Mexico.  We are headed to Chihuahua to say good byes to the rest of our neighbours and spending a day with our church people, as those relationships are dear to us too. 

Goodbyes hurt but with social media we are able to remain in one anothers' lives. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Amor Y Amistad

February 14th in Mexico is celebrated not only as a day for couples but to celebrate friendship.  Thus, while we refer to it as Valentine's Day, they call it "Day of Love and Friendship".

It's a day to show your friends that you care about them.  To honour friendships.

So an event to do just that was planned for the gym friends.

We arrived, most were late, even after the arrival time was changed to an hour later!  We were asked to come in gym clothes, black, red or white.

  Some missed the text regarding that, due to the flood of comments in the chat group.  So, while most of us were in gym clothes, and within the colours given, others not so much.
We began the event with snacks and drinks and lots of laughter.  The organizers had arranged a wonderful Italian lunch.  So half the buffet was pasta, the second half was veggies, mash potatoes and meat! Italian? Not sure but very good.  
Then we moved on to sports.  While she had planned lots of activities we mostly did the first thing.  Playing soccer.  The men went first.
 So the blue team was mostly the younger guys, some of which actually knew how to play.  So there was a little bit of chatter about a stacked team.  Those on this team would have said that was not so, of course.

The other team was the 'old guys' and they would say their team was most definitely not stacked.  So, with those comments you can guess who won the game! the blue? No! Actually the red won, or it was a tie, depending on the decision regarding a contested goal!  But fun was had by all.  Intense, male fun.  Competitive.

During their game, the ladies were to cheer them on.  This too can become competitive.  But mostly we just laughed at them and at ourselves.

Following the men, the ladies got their chance to play.  Also Red and Blue: 

This game was very similar to the men's; the younger ladies against the older ones.  So, we lost!  But, apparently, my Canadian girl, hockey mom-ness came through.  I am a bit rough and tough.  A dear friend has my foot print on her leg!  

But, even despite that, we too had tons of fun and laughed at one another. 

This event is just one of the many we have attended with our friends from the gym.  These are people who have touched our lives deeply and whom we will miss.  These are some of the faces that are firmly printed upon our minds and hearts.  

Ernie with Cesar, Alex and Doc 
At present (as most everybody already knows) we are returning to Canada, and we are 'in mourning' as we will be parting ways soon.  We are thankful for social media and the ease with which we can communicate with our GDL friends.  The world is so much smaller today.  

Lolita, Laura, Adri myself and Hilda
Four years of seeing most of these people, on a daily basis at the gym, plus the many social events on the weekends, has left a mark on our hearts.  These are friendships that we trust will last a lifetime.

 We continue to build on these friendships, we continue to give our hearts, and love.  We feel loved by them and I believe they know we care as well.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

As you have done unto the least of these...

Now you may look at this sign and think Sid is tooting his own horn.  But, if you know Sid, you know that that is not the case.

Every year, at the school at the dump, the graduating class picks a person to honor for their graduating class - obviously Sid got honoured that year for all his efforts.

It is truly amazing how this site has grown over the years.  From a small one building idea to a school yard with several (4) classrooms.

I have always been impressed by Sid Reimer and what he has done in Ixtapa.  But this time around I was impressed by different things.  I also saw more things at the dump then ever before.  So let me share what those observations were:

   1)  This video shows something that you can't explain easily.  Sid knows a half dozen words in Spanish yet he has accomplished amazing things.  While that is impressive...this video shows something else.  Those kids, up there, love Sid.  He has a relationship with them.  Love is shared without words, it is shared with actions.  It is felt.

Home #1
2)  Here are two homes close to the school.  You can see a difference.  Home #1 is not overly neat, or clean.  Home #2 has plants, even a fruit tree.  She is trying to make is nice.
Home #2
It sort of speaks to attitude.  You can always choose you attitude.  "I may be living in the dump but I have pride and will try to plant beauty around   me."

3)  Now a surprising thing I saw this time was that salesmen come up there! Amongst all the trash, people put up little stores to sell chips, drinks, etc.

4)  Again, Sid has half a dozen words in Spanish but he has relationships with everybody.  They know him and he knows them.  He greets everybody and stops to chat.  There is a sense of community right there amongst all the trash.

5)  This is what I observed this time around that I have never seen...the hopelessness.  The further down into the 'bowels' of the dump you go, the poorer and poorer it gets.  
 To see people, men, women, children & young people picking through the trash to earn a living in the hot sun is unbelievable.  I could see how they lack hope.  I can see why they think there is no point in sending their kids to school.  {Don't need school to pick trash}  

But at the same time, they are friendly and kind.  They wave as we drive by, they shout out a greeting and they smile.  You see children, barely clothed, running around and playing.  You see happiness, if one can dare to say that.  

picking through the trash amongst the buzzards
If your perspective on life is not changed after a drive through this area, you have a heart of stone.  We, in our western world, rarely see this sort of thing.  We can chose to write a check to donate and never lend a hand, a physical hand.  It is easier to write a check.

One can also have a hundred reasons why they aren't doing anything: too old, no time, no money, too busy, etc. etc.  But really those are only excuses.  Sid takes his holidays and gets active.  He is not the only one, there are many tourist who come alongside and help.  We can all help, little by little. 

When we visit Sid and Gladys we stay in the same hotel they do and we laugh and refer to it as a 1 Star Hotel.  After a morning at the dump, suddenly this same hotel has 5 or more stars!  Perspective. 

Pray for the people who live not only in Ixtapa at the dump but for the poor worldwide.  We often forget how much we have, how truly blessed we are.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Last week Thursday, the Reimer's and us, hopped on a bus and headed to Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico.

For those of you who have not visited might want to give it a visit.

We went to get some R & R and to visit our very good friends Sid and Gladys Reimer.

We most certainly enjoyed the pool, some great times of eating out, and visiting.

And, as only my husband can do...or so I think...much silliness.  {Spos mott senne}

John and Ernie can be a little crazy.  Probably helps to unwind!

So we relaxed in the pool, played some Frisbee, sat around and caught up on our lives, shared some challenges, and just got refreshed.

But, as per usual, we did not just sit around and relax.  Ernie is not a very good relaxer.  Plus he LOVES people.  He wants to see and talk to everybody.  So, while we came to visit with Sid and Gladys, we saw and visited a lot of unexpected people as well.

Apparently Ixtapa was the place to holiday for Manitobans this year.  We met all kinds. Our first night out we met a whole table of Steinbachers... Doyle and Raquel, Dorinda and Mike, Brent and a few more.  So of course we stopped to chat...till around 11 p.m.

Then we got together with Vic and Jayne.  We were hockey parents together for years.  They were with friends of theirs, so we did lunch.  Great catching up.  Some very meaningful discussions along the walk after lunch.

We even met some new 'old acquaintances'.  Staying just a couple doors down from us was a man who atended church with Ernie way back when (late 70s).

We went to a restaurant that is owned and operated by Manitobans from Rosenort.  Some great ribs.

Plus we went to Sid's heart ministry, which is the dump ministry, to see the school and the kids.  Just a blessing to see how it continues to grow, reaching more and more kids.

{But, I don't want to say too much about that because tomorrow I will do a separate post on the dump.}

So, while we went to rest, we didn't actually rest overly much.  We were able to enjoy the other foreigners for Sunday morning worship.  It was a beautiful place to worship God. Nothing like warm weather, palm trees and sunshine to bring your mind to how awesome God is.

Later that evening we enjoyed a time of encouraging one another in the ministry, with the pastoral couple from this church. It was a blessing to pray for one another.

So, while we are still not rested per se, we are refreshed.

 God is so very Good, always.  We always come away from Ixtapa, and visiting with the Reimer's (Sid and Gladys) feeling blessed and refreshed.  Ernie needs a little more of this...