Suspiro means sigh of relief - it's the name of the coffee shop I always come to to teach my English classes, and it is my current location from which I am writing to you. Seemed rather appropriate for the day's topic.
Contentment. How do you define contentment? How do you know when you’re truly content?
Sitting in the backseat of Bodo’s Chevy something-or-other-that-they-don’t-have-in-the-States listening to Bodo practice his English with Jay as they discuss the intricacies of photography lighting. Chamo is half-listening in the front seat. My hair is being blown about by the wind from the cracked window as we fly down the highway on the way to ultimate practice. I am in a stupor of contentment. My worlds have interwoven so beautifully – I have found community here.
My new roommates are amazing. Jay’s Spanish has improved quite a bit from “que tal, amigo? (what’s up, friend?)” to basic verbs and hitting on women. Maggie and I crack each other up and have conversations that challenge me to stretch my memory back to my foreign policy and European diplomacy classes. We complement each other’s humor and intellect and I appreciate her presence so much. The other morning she and I were discussing the merits of being completely informed of current affairs versus taking the Buddhist “the news of the universe will come to me” approach, when Jay shouted, “Oh my God – breaking news!... Design your own board shorts competition!!” This is a perfect example of my life right now. Sadly, it will change again soon as Jay is heading back to the states on Aug 1.
Last Sunday we all went to a baby shower for Dany and Chamo (good friends - the captains couple on my frisbee team). Jay kicked butt in the all-male competition to talk on the phone, hold a babydoll and hang as many clothes on the clothesline as possible in one minute. Our table won the competition to dress someone up as a stereotype baby. We beat out Chinese baby and Harry Potter baby with our Apache baby; I think it was the lipstick war paint and the tissue paper tomahawk that set us apart. Totally PC. Inspired by our competition, we spent the evening at the movies watching the final Harry Potter movie. Ah, the end of an era…I can't have imagined a more satisfying weekend.
I think my favorite week of work so far was last week. We had a summer camp for the kids in Tecuanipan. Each morning, cappuccino in hand (gracias a mi boss, Miguel, who was living with us for the week with his 2 kids), we began the camp with English class. We taught them how to jump and shout and run around and the hokey pokey. We built on an environmental theme, predominantly focusing on water issues in the town. The first day we cleaned up the riverbank and made a monster from the refuse. We watched a movie about a little boy who saves his village, and did theater and art projects based on water. A rich man is hoarding all of the water of the townspeople – how do you save the town? Their productions were hilarious.
We took them to the pyramid and taught them how the Aztecs and their predecessors used their environment to build an incredibly advanced civilization. They helped us build with cob (and even some of the kids came back this week to help us mix it because they enjoyed it so much). On Friday we took them to the zoo. Holy cow. The first part was a drive through. They gasped at the lions and squealed as an ostrich approached the driver’s window to taste Manuel’s shirt. We wandered through the butterfly garden, watched a bird show, fed a few kangaroos and finally took them home around 5 in the afternoon. It was great because a lot of the mothers accompanied us, so we served as the backup for them. Even so, we were exhausted after a full week of planning, educating and entertaining. But it was fantastic! Who the hell knew that I wasn’t completely terrified of children? This is a dramatic change in my character.
So now things are moving more slowly. Jay hopped a bus to the coast to go surfing, Maggie and I are working on blogs for the events of the past month (ie sitting in a café eating pie), and we intend to drive down to Chiapas next week with Beto. I’m really excited – it’s supposed to be an incredible state. I have to leave the country to renew my visa, and I was considering bussing over to Guatemala from Chiapas. But I feel much more comfortable (even though my bank account won’t) hopping a plane to Houston for a couple days. I’m going to eat brown rice. And organic food. And good beer. Upon asking Jay Stritter, with whom I’ll be hanging out during this time, if we could please please please go for Chinese food, he responded: We have Chinese food. Or Thai. Or Vietnamese. Or Korean. Or Mexican (lots of these). Sushi. North Korean (they just give you an empty plate and some meaningless currency. But it's ok because you get to pretend your leader is a Supreme Being). I wanted to share that little snippet with you because it’s hilarious, although not very tantalizing. Chinese buffet with vegetarian mushu, here I come. I won’t even care if the building has bull horns on it like everything else in Texas.
So, how do you know when you’re content? I feel so at peace. So grateful for my life here. I love my neighborhood, my friends, my boy, most aspects of my work…so what is it that makes me so restless? In November, I return Stateside to good friends, to a wedding, to a sweet road trip with my mom, and then…and then I ask, and then?.
I know people with just a few bucks in their bank account and no plan for next week. But they feel free. And I feel pulled. Pulled in every which direction trying to find the release for this relentless pressure to be doing more and something meaningful. Whatever it is, it’s never enough. I just wish I could understand what that call was saying - it’s like there’s static. But you can guess which end that’s probably coming from. I guess I’ll mention that I started applying for grad school. I found a program that I love, so now it’s just a matter of getting there and paying for it. But I’d like to come back to Mexico after the holidays and work in a similar field until then. I wish I could balance the drive that I have with the patience and appreciation for the moment. Externally I think I can, but quieting the mind – that’s the real art form. In the meantime, I think I’ll have more Mexican pie.