Sunday, September 19, 2010

Some highlights

I've always been about moments rather than the big picture, and I want to share some moments from the first three weeks of our new school, Taller Colibri.

On our observational tour to list simple machines, we had to stop to let a gigantic tractor cross in front of us, its gears madly turning, leaving gouged mud in its wake.

Jacobo designed a full-on roller coaster that successfully made a wheel fly through the air.

Pancho coaching Max on how to hit a soccer ball with his head.

Geni at recess, opening up seed pods and showing them to the baby goats.

Over a few days, Samuel crocheted a tiny cap for a finger puppet.

Max set to work writing a book in the handmade notebooks Suzana had made.

Steve took the older group to the Graphic Arts Institute, where they pored over Leonardo DaVinci's sketches of machines.

Maestra Suzanna, the world's best teacher, taking the class on daily walks to the nearby river, where the kids keep a journal of its changes.

Maestra Rachel created a journeyboard lesson for the kids, who are now slowly painting a pictoral tale.

Every few days, someone asks hopefully, "What do we do tomorrow?" It's a beautiful life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rain on me

I haven't had the space in my life to properly blog about this, but I think it's important to reflect on the fact that it can be tough when things go wrong and you live abroad. When we got back from our very long, very drawn-out summer vacation, and pulled into Oaxaca, the kids were ecstatic. It was 11pm and raining and they could not wait to get back to their rooms. We stepped into the house to find the power turned off. And the upstairs somewhat flooded and definitely still dripping.

Max wept and gnashed his teeth, though Geni seemed to take no notice of the changes and happily set to playing in the darkness and wetness. I felt like melting into the floor. It was too much, all of it, and I couldn't see a way to fix our lives. Steve's and my room was dry, so we all slept there, curled in the big bed, and I stared at the darkness and felt my stomach hurting.

So many thoughts ran through my mind: Do we call this house a mistake and move on? Should I fly the kids back to California and try to get someone to clean up this mess which will surely take a year and cost us too much money? Do we try to find the guys we paid to fix the roof before we left?

In the morning light, I saw mildew growing on Max's walls, furniture, toys, books, and everything still dripping. The wood laminate floor bowed with the moisture and humidity in the house. I was going to have to make life feel normal for the kids, even though I felt kicked down, hard.

And then, a slow unfolding. Houses in Mexico are not like houses in the United States. In Mexico, they flood, they leak, you patch them up, you seal the roof, it slowly dries out. You wash away what mildew you can with vinegar and water or diluted bleach. You launder everything. And it all costs so little, nothing like what it would cost to clean and repair a flooded house in California.

Still then, I heard news from friends. All their houses had leaked or flooded. They had tarps over their roofs, buckets everywhere, closets and drawers filled with water. Someone had a river of mud wash through the first floor of her house, and now lives on the second floor. The stories get more dramatic, too. Far from Oaxaca city, but still in Oaxaca state, a good deal of the Isthmus is underwater. People use boats to navigate the streets. My problems got smaller.

It's three weeks since we pulled into town. We're living in a lovely apartment for the month, as our house slowly dries out and we get work done. For me, this is the lesson of living abroad, where handling a perceived crisis feels so lonely but getting through it makes you feel like you have the world on your side.