1.I was fired from my volunteer job at the Anglican Diocese of Southeast Mexico (sort of).
2. I had a tire explode while driving.
3. I lost my two front teeth
4. Our neighbor, a gentle drunk with obvious cirrhosis of the liver died yesterday morning..
1. Since April or so I have been volunteering at the Anglican Dioceses of Southeastern Mexico headquartered here in Xalapa in a small, trim cream-colored compound on Avenida de las Americas, a very busy main thoroughfare divided by a green island at the top of Xalapa near the hilltop park called Macuiltepec. The parking lot is tight, to say the least, and negotiating my way into it is a challenge. Leaving is takes a slow and patient effort as one pulls forward and edges back and pulls forward again, trying not to hit plants, let alone the buildings.
It is a tiny diocese whose seventeen or so churches sprawl across a large and diverse geography. I suspect altogether there may be around three hundred parishioners, but that is only a guess. Among them are Indigena whose first language is indigenous, notably Zapoteca in Oaxaca, and working class Mexicans and people who are university educated and farmers and pueblo dwellers and Americans who've come down for the beaches of Cancun.
The Bishop. a slight man probably in his sixties, is charming. He is elegant and courteous in an old-fashioned, gallant way. He depends for help with most of his diocesan business on his son and wife and now on a former Catholic priest.The diocesan office is a kind of family store. The diocese sponsors a number of aid projects for which it depends on funds from US Episcopalians. Because of these projects and the increasing complexity of life in general, the diocese is growing more complicated and hasn't found a balance yet between individual churches and the diocese itself, and it hasn't yet managed to find strong local bases for running the projects. Growing pains. The people sending down money from dioceses in the United States would like to know more about what is happening with it. In fact, they'd like to know more in general. And the individual churches in our diocese would benefit from more communication across parishes and regions.
So the Bishop, the former Catholic priest, and I all went to lunch to talk about the problems in the small corner restaurant across the street from the diocese: a busy, crowded place with tables for two around which three and four people sat all crammed together.People ordered the excellent and cheap food from the blackboard. Wait staff wove their way through the crowd with the food held overhead.
The Bishop is not fond of the American obsession with forms and efficiency. Having lived here for close to six years, I more than sympathize with him. Forms and the worship of efficiency are ways of putting barriers between human communities and human souls. But on the other hand, I do understand the Americans' wish to be sure that their money is being used properly. What to do? .My church in San Antonio, St. Francis, produces under the expert direction of Holly Zook, a more than outstanding newsletter. Parishioners are the regular columnists; there´s lots of news about parishioners and the parish, lots of information about parish projects and of course discussion of various church issues. I remember looking forward to its arrival. A similar newsletter could be a catalyst for drawing the diocese together and keeping people not only informed but engaged.
So at out luncheon, I asked why doesn't the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico produce a newsletter like that? All we need to do it are our computers and Microsoft Publisher and the goodwill of people in the parishes. A cheap, easy to access almost everywhere kind of solution. I didn't mind doing the kind of work needed to draw it together. I had been anxious to have more to do than occasional translations. The Bishop and Byron were enthusiastic and filled with their own ideas.
We got back to the office and the Bishop mentioned that his wife had done a little Boletín about eight months ago. He printed out a copy. It was a charming newsletter, mostly directed to funding sources and written by the bishop's wife. According to the Bishop, it appeared she wasn't planning to do more, and besides, we had in mind something more expansive which would not only be addressed to funders but to all the parishioners (feligreses en español). So I worked with the help of the former Catholic priest and the Bishop for several weeks contacting people for articles, putting together a format, etc, etc, etc.
And then last week the Bishop's wife entered the story. A petite, pretty woman in her late fifties or so, she is a force to be reckoned with. She did want to do it again and to do it her way. And you know how it goes with Bishops. So the new version of a newsletter is on hold and I unfortunately spoke my mind a little too clearly (but quietly) so I am kind of persona non grata con la esposa del obispo y tambien con el obispo.
2. So anyway, I was driving home from this rather unpleasant day at the diocese on the main Xalapa-Coatepec road when I heard a big bang. Jim had been worried about some strange noise he kept hearing which he thought was a bearing and kept saying in his deep warning voice, "I hope this doesn't mean the wheel is going to come off. We have to get it checked." He'd been saying this for weeks. Of course since both of us tend to want to be sure of our facts before we do anything rash about getting a tire checked, we hadn't done it yet.
Anyway, at about the same time I heard the big bang, I saw a large curled black object sail past the window. It made no sense to me, but I knew it must have to do with my car and the big bang. The car started to lurch in a dramatic way. Surprisingly (to me) I stayed quite calm and managed to pull off the road. Two small trucks came to offer help. This is normal here, helping. And a very pleasant couple of middleaged men changed my tire for me. They were shocked at its condition and so was I. I will post some photos of the most dramatic tire blowout soon.
3. So the next day, we parked the car to take the dogs for a run down the main road past our colonia. Desafortunadamente (I bet you can figure that word out) a woman with a small, lively pup, possibly a Jack Russell Terrier, decided to do the same thing, walking maybe 100 feet ahead of me.. Jim was right near her and Cosi and Rita started tugging like mad, as did her dog. Well......the terrier was full of energy. Rita and Cosi bounded up to her and the three of them jumped around in a happy but agitated state. Jocko decided out of the blue to lunge toward them. Not for nothing is he called El Grandote. I had his leash pulled tight and wrapped around my wrist so I could keep control under just such circumstances. He wears a (hah hah) training chain around his neck. Little good all that did. I found myself flat on my face on the ground with my two front teeth, whole, lying about a foot in front of me. Sob.
Jim came running back and he and other runners helped me to the car and helped Jim retrieve the dogs. People always help here, as I said. Jim who is truly a wonderful husband and remains so in time of need rushed me home where we wrapped up the teeth. Jim called our doctor who told us to go to Urgencias in Sanitorio San Francisco where he'd meet us. We actually got lost on the way to San Francisco and a taxi driver WITH passenger guided us till he was sure we'd find it. Even getting lost, traffic was amazingly light and we got to the hospital early. A very nice doctor took care of me very carefully and then, deciding the damage was not earth shaking, said I could go home. It cost 360 pesos or about 35 dollars. But we wanted to make sure Dr. Huesca, our doctor, knew he didn't have to come. It took some calls to reach him, and he asked us to wait as he was about five minutes away and just wanted to make sure everything was okay. He came and did. No charge for that.
So obviously, I went to a dentist. I couldn't have lost my teeth in a better place to live as a lot of people in our colonia are without them. But I am still vain even at my advanced age and am not going to be able to live without my front teeth and face the world. So the visit to the first dentist, a trauma dentist, cost 300 pesos or less than 30 dollars. The panoramic xray was 165 pesos or about 16 dollars. I have an appointment with the reconstruction dentist for Tuesday.
4. This needs a post of its own, which will be next.
I have talked about costs in this post, but much more important is the human kindness. Yes, there is plenty of violence in Mexico, but it is the human kindness that lingers in my soul.