Sunday, November 18, 2012

Los Niños de México

The young doctor came to visit my parent's home one evening last month. Her husband drove and looked after their four year old daughter during the consultation with my mother. I sat at the other end of the chesterfield as Abril clung shyly to her father, barely looking at the English speaking stranger. Pulling out my iPad, I focused the camera on her and she smiled, then laughed, then stood on her head in front of the device. My daughter called on Skype and Abril saw our dog and home two countries and thousands of miles away. The language barrier was overcome with technology and I had a new friend. A few minutes later I got up to peel some hard-boiled eggs and tried my very rudimentary Spanish. "Huevo," I said to Abril. She looked up brightly and said, "Egg, yellow egg." Her kindergarten English topped my Spanish.

Earlier in the week I went to a small town with my brother and sister-in-law for a children's Bible class. The children met at 6:00 PM in the front yard of a very modest house. An unconscious man, drunk or stoned, lay on the sidewalk beside us as the full moon shone down on very dark streets. The children were delightful and wanted me to take pictures and listen to the English words they learned in school. They sang, listened to the story and did their lesson in the poor light. A couple of young teenagers used the light from a cell phone to illuminate the pages.

The waiting room at the cancer centre was exactly that;- a place to wait and wait. A little boy sat with his father while his mother entered the chemotherapy suite. A priest prepared to give the daily mass for the sick and the boy became restless. His dad gave him a cell phone and the child sat on the floor happily playing a game. Medical technology at this hospital was on par with hospitals in Canada and the staff members were knowledgable and efficient.

I walked around the school on my brother's property during classes. The uniformed children arrive at  7:00 AM when the day is still relatively cool (for me) and then leave by 2:00 PM. I looked at a display of pictures of famous people including Christopher Columbus and Steve Jobs. Christopher Columbus changed this part of the world forever but to this generation, Steve Jobs and other technology giants are the explorers of new horizons.

Mexico receives plenty of negative press related to drug violence and corruption. In the faces of the children I see hope and optimism for the future. Through technology they are connected to the global community. Through education and good mentors they hold the potential for change and a brighter tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Día de los Muertos

Flowers were for sale everywhere for the Day of the Dead
I spent two weeks in Mexico in October to be with my parents who are struggling with their health. The area they live in is beautiful and I am content being around the property. Our main outings were to the hospital and shops for food and medicine, but we went to a lovely restaurant for breakfast the last day I was there. The day was November 2nd, the Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos which is a national holiday and a remembrance day of sorts.

A Catrina at the airport
Mexicans do not observe Halloween as we do but November 1st is the day they remember deceased children and the next day is a day to remember deceased adults. The celebrations are a mix of traditional Mexican culture with an injection of Catholicism. Similar observances were marked by the Aztecs centuries ago.

On the way home we stopped by the main cemetery in the city. The adjacent park was filled with elaborately decorated altars containing ofrendas of favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and personal items of the departed. Flowers, wreaths and food were for sale and the mood was celebratory. Marigolds are the flower of choice for this day.

Toward evening we walked to the local cemetery just outside the small village where my family lives. I was surprised to see buildings built over many of the graves, some very elaborate and others very modest. Families sat together visiting and eating. The graves are decorated and in some areas, people stay all night by candle light hoping to visit with the departed.

When I left the next day, I noticed an altar in the Guadalajara airport and a couple of  Catrinas stood in prominent places. I took a lot of pictures and the 2 minute slide show below combines images of the city celebration followed by photos of the village cemetery.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I pedalled my bike along roads and trails on this unseasonably warm November day. The trees are now bare and fallen leaves have lost their colour as they rustle dryly in the wind. November with its grey skies, cold winds, darkness and death aptly symbolizes Remembrance Day in the northern hemisphere. No month is drearier or more wearisome.

We visited The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa last month. Walking through the corridors, passing through time, we reviewed our country's military history in art and exhibits. I observed more than one young boy viewing weapons, tanks and other war machinery with keen interest and excitement. But war is not "cool". It is disturbing, disruptive, destabilizing and deadly.

Our pastor challenged us today with the question, "What will you do with what has been saved through the sacrifice of others?"

What will I do with the freedoms I enjoy as a citizen of this country?... freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

Gertrude Kearns- Dallaire #6

Today we remember those who have fallen in wars before I was born as well as those who lost their lives in conflicts during my life time. Canada's war history is brief compared to other nations and for that I am thankful. May we use our freedom to promote peace, prosperity and goodwill around the world, not for selfish ambition and divisive arguments.