Here is a guest post from one of our long-term volunteers. Enjoy!
This week was jam packed with fun activities, including the highlight of the week, which was the beautiful, sunny, and extremely humid Acapulco beach. But before talking about how burnt my bum got, I'm going to recap a bit on Monday through Thursday:
LUNES (Monday): Chloe was nice enough to bring me to the Ejército de Salvación (Salvation Army) where we played with the niños for the afternoon, kicking a ball around, helping them with their homework, and most importantly ripping them apart when they got in fights. Who would've thunk that entertaining kids for a few hours was so tiring!
Tuesday was probably the most eye-opening and humbling day that I've experienced so far whilst being in México. We went to a neighborhood in Cuernavaca called La Estación, which is essentially a slum smack dab in the center of Cuernavaca. It used to be an area where train workers would stop to spend the night, and eventually it evolved into an actual neighborhood (I believe its called La Estación because there's an actual train station, and it's a historical area). La Estación is a very controversial area within Cuernavaca because the government wants to physically move the people living there (which one of the sisters at CCIDD estimated that there are 5,000 families living there). The reason to do this is because the surrounding area is very developed. There's a Mega (big grocery store), a Costco, and one of the main bus stations in Cuernavaca, i.e. the area is prime real estate, and the government wants to further advance the area in order to clean it up. In theory, "cleaning up" the area would be ideal, but displacing thousands of people to who knows where would be difficult, and immoral to say the least. Here are some pictures of the area.
Every 10 minutes, Cathy, who is part of CCIDD and has been working in La Estación for seven years, would stop and explain to us the good, the bad, and the ugly that was happening in the barrio. The good is that CCIDD has been working with La Estación for 35 years, providing funds, workshops, and most importantly shelter and access to social welfare for people in the community. Cathy explained to us that she and other volunteers had helped numerous community members to build walls and roofs to protect their houses, while for other people they had provided funds so they could get surgery or take care of certain illnesses. The bad is that many households don't have access to proper sanitation (including toilets and water), so the water running through the streets is extremely dirty. Also, a large number of women in the community have more than five kids, and lots of them are single mothers because their husbands have either left to work in the United States (and some stay because they have new families there), or some of them have died. There's a lack of sexual health education in the community, so a majority of the women don't use protection and get pregnant... Which leads me to the ugly: There are many people in the community who have HIV/AIDS and don't know about it, or don't talk about it because it's a taboo subject in La Estación. When I first heard this, it was horrifying, and I think it's mainly because in my culture I've grown up knowing about this, and talking about this with my family. It was definitely a shock being in the community, and many of the volunteers talked about our tour all week.
On a more positive note, Cindy (the volunteer coordinator) and I went to La Huerta de Lucía on Wednesday. The huerta, which is owned by a lovely frenchman named Jean Louis and his wife, was one of the most beautiful and tranquil places I've visited in Cuernavaca so far. It's a farm located a little bit on the outskirts of the city, and they grow everything from your regular everyday crops like lettuce and corn, to medicinal herbs such as Arnica, to fruits I had never seen or heard of before (zapote, chirimoya). They also have rabbits!
The really cool thing about this huerta is that they use it as an exchange place, where people from other local communities can exchange their goods for crops from the farm, and then Jean Louis and his wife sell their goods at a few organic markets throughout the week. Other local products include soap, dressings, fruits, vegetables, grains, cheeses, meat, eggs, sweets, alcoholic beverages, pasta, etc. It's a localvore's dream!
Here are some new spanish words I learned at la huerta: chiquihuite (little basket); higo (fig); zapote (sapodilla plum); arándano (cranberry); huitlacoche (corn fungus); maracuyá (passion fruit)
On Friday, five of us embarked on the journey to Acapulco, the closest beach resort town. The bus ride was easy peasy, and we got to watch some action packed films (Face Off!) We had a killer view of the beach from our hotel room! We ended up relaxing everyday in lounge chairs, getting heckled by beach vendors, and trying as hard as we could not to get burnt while getting the perfect tan
We ate some delicious food and had some exotic drinks. Probably the most exciting event was when we watched the clavadistas, the cliff divers, jump into the turbulent dark waters at a height of 35 meters!!! We had an awesome view from this hotel called La Quebrada, where we not only got to watch the divers, but we also got to see a few traditional Mexican dances from various Mexican states. Estuvo padre!!!
Another REALLY big event that happened while we were at the beach was that we moved houses! And when I say we, I mean the other volunteers and Casa Hoy staff were nice enough to grab our bags for us and move them to the new place while we were soaking up the sun (Gracias, guys!). We're a little further outside of the center, but it's a really cool volunteer house, and we have the chance to cook our own food here! So I'm pretty excited
There are FIVE new volunteers this week, which means we are 12 volunteers for the time being. It's a packed house, but very fun to get to know new people from all over the U.S. and Australia!
More volunteering activities this week to keep us hustling and bustling! Hasta luego