Hello dear blog readers!
This month, many of my fellow YAGMs have been participating in a #YAGMPhotoChallenge for the month of March. Every day of March they were challenged to post a photo matching the theme of the day. I knew I would be horribly inept at keeping up on a day to day social media post, so I have saved everything for this one blog! Also, a few of these are so open that I don’t have a photo and will instead have short vignette featuring an aspect of my life here in Mexico that goes with the challenge. So let’s get started!!
For reference, the format is the daily theme in bold, followed by a photo (if I have one) and then the caption giving more info.
Day 1 – Your home:
I live here with my host mom Oliva, my sister Ani, and her baby girl, Isabella.
Day 2 – Your primary placement:
I work at La Albergue Sagrada Familia, a short-term migrant shelter in Apizaco, Tlaxcala. This is actually an older photo. Right now we are in the middle of renovations for expansion!
Day 3 – Your cohort:
This is a photo of my cohort from our Border Retreat in February.
Day 4 – Your first friend in your site placement:
My first friend at my site placement was Fernanda (second from the left). She was always very patient with my Spanish and even helped me correct some of my grammar. Unfortunately, she had to change her schedule, so I don’t see her much anymore, but we always ask the other volunteers to pass on saludos for us! On the far right is Doña Soccoro, who is my best pal at work right now. She always lets me help her in the kitchen and doesn’t mind working away in the quiet presence of one another.
Day 5 – Your place of worship:
This day doesn’t have a photo associated with it. Similarly, the Mexico YAGM program doesn’t have as strong of a tie to physical church space as some of our fellow cohorts in other countries do. While some people have access to a Lutheran church in Mexico City, out here in Tlaxcala I would be hard pressed to find some fellow Lutherans. Although, my shelter is connected to a Catholic perish, so we have had quite a few religious celebrations there. That being said, the lack of a physical church has given me the opportunity to find God/Church in my everyday life (see days 6 and 25 for images of my “church”). Additionally, my cohort has mini church services whenever we get together. So I always look forward to our retreats where we can read the bible, celebrate communion, and sing a few hymns.
Day 6- Your favorite place in your placement city:
This is the view from an overlook of the city of Tlaxcala.
Day 7 – Your local currency:
These are Mexican pesos! The current exchange rate is that 1 US Dollar is approximately 19 Mexican Pesos. The coins in the bottom right are a $10 peso, $5 peso, and $1 peso. For reference, my favorite street french fries (with Valentina’s sauce and cheese sauce) cost $16 pesos.
Day 8 – Your breakfast:
My everyday breakfast here is an egg (scrambled), cantaloupe (cubed), and on really great days, oranges (juiced). Sometimes I switch things up and eat just cereal or I get pineapple or mango instead of cantaloupe. But the eggs and cantaloupe are very consistent.
Day 9 – Your fall retreat:
This is a photo from our Fall Retreat when my cohort and I hiked La Malinche!
Day 10 – The thing you miss most from home:
No photo for this day! There’s simply too many things to put in one photo. I think what I miss most is my sense of familiarity. The ease of knowing the dominant language, the foods that I grew up eating, the comfort of having access to more than the same 6 t-shirts. I also deeply miss my friends and family members that live in the US. That being said, this year has challenged me to living simply and exploring new experiences and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Day 11 – What you do in your free time:
As you know (since you’re reading it) I spend some of my free time writing blogs! I actually am usually writing in my journal (check out day 16) but the things that really hit my soul down deep get edited and put into a blog on ‘The Eucharist and the Stranger” to share with you. Writing is a huge way for me to process all of my surroundings and is definitely a tool for helping build my relationship with God.
Day 12 – Your favorite food in country:
I must admit, I am cheating on this photo a little bit. My favorite food in Mexico is actually probably cecino tacos or tacos al pastor (or any snacks with Valentina’s sauce on them!). However, I wanted to include this photo because I do LOVE the access to fresh fruits and vegetables here in Mexico. A fresh squeezed juice in the morning is the best way to start a day!
Day 13 – Something/someone that has challenged you
My Spanish has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since I arrived here in Mexico, but every day I still struggle with this beautiful language. I miss the ability to communicate and express myself full-heartedly with ease. That being said, occasionally someone in Mexico will compliment me on how much I have improved and it makes my heart delighted. Additionally, it has challenged me to stay present and focused in conversations instead of passively listening (even if sometimes my brain feels melted by the time everything is all said and done). I also have landed a few jokes here in Mexico (truly the best accomplishment).
Day 14 – Your country’s flag/crest:
This is the Mexican flag. In the center is the coat of arms of Mexico, which includes a Mexican eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus eating a rattlesnake. This is a symbol of Aztec legend that the Aztec people would know where to build their city once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake. According to what I looked up online, the color symbolism of the flag has changed a bit over time but that the green represents hope, the white symbolizes purity, and the red stands for the blood of the heroes who fought for independence.
Day 15 – Something that brings you joy in your placement:
This fur-baby is the shelter cat, Coco. My coworkers like to joke that I’m the only person that Coco is nice to (and I’m not complaining!)
Day 16 – Something you’re proud of:
These are my journalS. That’s right. TWO Journals! I recently finished my first one (on the left) and have started on the second. I have a love for writing, but in my 23 years of life have never had the commitment to finish a journal (or even get past week 3). I don’t write daily, but I would say I at least write once weekly and sometimes more if there’s something on my mind.
Day 17 – Something considered good/bad luck:
So my family hasn’t mentioned many things for good luck or bad luck and I definitely don’t have a photo. The best I can come up with is that there is a lot of concern about witches here in Mexico. Especially when my niece Isa was very little, she slept with religious symbols near the bed as a protection against evil mischief.
Day 18 – Your sending community from the states
This is nowhere near the entirety of my sending community, but it is a quick snapshot of a fundraiser that my church (All Saints Lutheran Church, Lutz, FL.) held in January to support my YAGM year!
Day 19 – Your favorite holiday celebration thus far:
This is a photo of my sisters & cousin dressed up as chinelos to celebrate the first day of Carnaval in Tepoztlan, Morelos. I also briefly dressed up as a chinelo and was able to do the brinco alegre (jolly jump) dance.
Day 20 – Someone/something you’re grateful for:
This is my sweet sister, Ani and her baby girl Isabella. Ani has welcomed me into her home and been a true sister to me! I am grateful to be able to share the experience of watching Isa grow and learn over the first 9 months of her life.
Day 21 – Local flora/plant life:
These giant trees with purple flowers have been blooming all over the place in Tlaxcala since February. I love the pop of my favorite color showing up throughout the city.
Day 22 – What accompaniment looks like:
There’s no way for me to fully capture the spirit of accompaniment in one photo here in Mexico. It has looked so many different ways in so many different times. It looks like sitting with my family for hours as we waited for news about Isabella’s birth and helping cut vegetables for meals at the shelter. My first experience of accompaniment was actually being accompanied by a stranger! On my first day of work, I got a bit lost and wasn’t sure I was in the right combi. I nervously asked a fellow rider if she knew the location I was trying to find. She and all the other riders began to discuss if they knew where I was trying to go and eventually figured out that I was looking for the church (Plot twist: it had a different name than the shelter). I’m not sure when she was supposed to get off the combi, but she told me “I will accompany you there to make sure you arrive safely.” I think about her often when I’m on my way to work.
Day 23 – A goal you have before you leave:
This is a photo I took off the internet, but in my state of Tlaxcala there is a forest known for its big firefly population. The season doesn’t begin until July officially, but I’m hoping if I go in June before my year ends, that I might be able to see a few early starters!
Day 24 – How you greet people:
The standard for greeting people in Mexico is a kiss on the cheek anytime someone enters (or leaves) a room. For people you’re just meeting, a handshake will usually suffice, but the kiss on the cheek is more common. Aside from that, there’s also the general greetings for good morning, afternoon, or evening.
Day 25 – Where you see God:
This is La Malinche, the inactive volcano/mountain that my cohort and I hiked back in November for our Fall Retreat. I can see Malinche from my house, throughout my bus ride to work, and from my work as well. The time I spent at the La Malinche cabins was a time of spiritual reflection and growth for me. Now, in my daily life, I look to it (and God) for strength and a reminder of the beauty that this year holds.
Day 26 – Your primary mode of transportation:
So these pictures are from the internet but they look just like the ones I take everyday. The top is a combi, which is similar to a shuttle bus. They take you shorter distances within the city and cost a minimum of 7 pesos to ride (occasionally more if you’re going a really long way). The second photo is a bus (obviously). I take one of these to get between my home city of Tlaxcala and my work city of Apizaco. Right now there is construction between the cities so my transportation is taking longer than usual. I spend about an hour in transportation each way. I usually pass the time listening to music, journaling if we are stuck in standstill traffic, or sleeping.
Day 27 – Selfie with the first person you interact with today
Since I didn’t do this day to day, I don’t have a selfie with the person I first interacted with today. However, it’s almost always my host mom Oliva and my sister Ani since we all eat breakfast together before I leave for work.
Day 28 – Your favorite drink in country:
This is a popular hot drink for around Christmastime, especially at Posadas, called Ponche. It is similar to apple cider. It’s made with cane sugar, cinnamon sticks, jamaica leaves, apples, tejocotes, guayaba, and prunes.
Day 29 – A daily ritual:
Every night after we finish eating dinner, I take a shower and then I come out and join my family for some evening Netflix before bed. At the beginning of the year we watched every episode of Grey’s Anatomy and now we are on the hunt for a new show.
Day 30 – Something you will miss most from your placement:
I’m going to miss watching this little girl grow up! It’s been a huge joy to me to watch her roll over for the first time, experiment with big people food, become more chatty, and just generally living in the world. She’ll be baptized this upcoming fall and I’m sad to miss it but I’m glad the future volunteer will get to love her as much as I do!
Day 31 – What makes up your community:
To fit my entire community in one photo would be quite the accomplishment, but alas, I am not going to attempt that. Everything you have seen in this blog is part of my community. I have my sending community from the United States, my family that has welcomed me into their home here in Mexico, and my work site at the shelter which allows me to be in accompaniment with them daily. I also have my cohort, who have been rocks for me this year, and my country coordinator Meghan, who has gone above and beyond to be a leader, friend, and mentor for all of us. I am grateful to the YAGM program for allowing me to expand my world to include all these people in it and for their grace in expanding their worlds to include me too.
Thanks for joining me on this photo journey of my year here in Mexico!! I am always happy to talk about my experiences here, especially in my blogs. But I am grateful for this opportunity to show you a little more about my daily living.
All the best,