Starting things off right in Mexico – Tortillas and Beans!
Over this past week a group of 21 of us got the chance to participate in a once in a lifetime experience. After lots of packing, organizing, meeting and snacking we packed up into four vehicles and began a trip to the southern part of the Baja. We were all eager to see what was down there, and not really knowing what to expect was all part of the fun. We had made plans to deliver clothing, beans, rice and flour, and members of our team had plans to run workshops on different things including candy making, green houses and, most importantly, first aid.
Throughout the course of the week we experienced so many different and equally amazing things it’s difficult to pin point where to start. The things we did ranged from sleeping on the beach under the stars, climbing mountains, seeing and touching a monster of a cactus, learning to make flour tortillas, teaching an English class and playing with kids from a small community. The entire time I just kept thinking to myself about how surreal it was experiencing these things and it felt like we were living on the set of a movie. One comment that we made while we were driving through the desert was that it felt like we were driving through the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Strange looking trees, plants we had never seen before and large cacti scattered everywhere in funny shapes were all around us as our truck bumped along through the desert. Although we didn’t get to accomplish everything we had planned, I can come away from the trip saying that I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world for getting the chance to see understand everything that we did.
Out of all of these things, one night in El Rosarito stands out to me over the rest. Some of us were privileged enough to spend an afternoon with a local woman as she taught us how to make tortillas. Let me say that we do not give people enough credit for what they do. I had no idea that something as simple as making a meal could be so difficult. There were about six of us watching her make the first few and trying to mimic her technique. It seemed like she was a machine making tortilla after tortilla, all of them perfectly round, even and flat. The ones that we managed to make, however, were the furthest thing from round. We had ones that looked like triangles, blobs and tortillas with gaping holes. No matter how hard we tried it seemed like we would never get it right, and try as we might we were not able to communicate with our host. The most we managed to tell each other was that she was not able to speak English and we laughed in saying that it was alright because we were not able to speak Spanish. All that we could do when we knew that our tortillas were not the right shape was giggle and that seemed that she couldn’t help but do the same. Despite the fact that we couldn’t really communicate, it was great to be in presence of each other. She showed us around her home and we got to learn a little bit about the way that she lives. Looking at her beautiful paintings was another highlight of the day for me, they were so precise and the colours were so vibrant. I am sure that knowing the language would have broken down more barriers but it always amazes me how far a laugh or even a smile can go. I was also amazed by her willingness to welcome strangers into her home and spend time with us and finally share a meal together. Eventually everyone came together for a dinner of some perfect looking and some not so perfect tortillas and beans. It was pretty easy to tell which ones we made, but to be honest it didn’t really matter, they all tasted the same. The last hour of our visit was spent laughing and singing while her son played guitar. I really think that we as Canadians could take a big lesson from Mexican culture and learn to value the time that we have to spend in the company of people we care about over the value of time found in a business, work day. Our visit came to an end because it was time for us to pack up and move on to another town. In parting we smiled, hugged and she gave us kisses on the cheek. While I was walking away, I glanced back one more time, smiled again and we exchanged a knowing look, it just didn’t feel like quite enough to thank her for everything she shared with us and all that we can learn from her. (Nikki)