Adventures in Mexico

Adventures in Mexico
At a tequila distillerywith the daughters over Christmas

Monday, February 14, 2011

Violence in Guadalajara and Mexico

Recently there have been incidents in Guadalajara that have finally made the news in the U.S. Here's what has happened:

On January 21, in the middle of the night, criminals stopped traffic on the road to Lake Chapala south of the airport. They set two cars and a trailer on fire, blocking the road. They also threw grenades into a police station and a bar, but no one was hurt.

On Tuesday night (again very early in the morning) February 1st, there were 7 or 8 incidents of various kinds. Another blockade of the same road happened between the city and the airport. Grenades were thrown and some buses and cars were set on fire. One incident was somewhat close to our office. There were no injuries. It was supposedly in retribution for the arrest of two of the leaders of one of the drug cartels, La Resistencia.

The next day there were banners on some of the bridges accusing the police of being in the pay of one of the other cartels. Residents of the City spontaneously decided to march against the violence. We saw the march, with young people and mothers and more wearing white and carrying balloons.

The governor and other officials met to coordinate efforts to fight the violence. Meanwhile, the gov's daughter sent a tweet that said, "why were the students marching against the drug cartels - they are the best customers!" This caused a little furor but it disappeared quickly.

The U.S. Consulate issued an official warning to citizens that they should not drive on the airport road after dark. The local officials thought this was overreaction, and pointed out that:

“Guadalajara isn’t in the top 50 cities with the highest intentional homicides rate. New Orleans has 52 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants, Baltimore 34, San Luis Missouri 39, Oakland 23 and Detroit 33,” Guzman said. “(The state of) Jalisco has 11.2, Guadalajara 10, Zapopan 10 and Tonala 11.”
Things were quiet until 4 am on this past Saturday, when two vehicles drove up to a bar, opened fire and then threw in a grenade. Six people died, including a man from Venezuela and a woman from Colombia. There had been an "altercation" earlier that night between two groups. It sounds like a criminal act more than a terrorist attack, except that grenades aren't normal criminal weapons.

All of these incidents happened long after we were asleep. We still feel very safe here. Other Volunteers have stayed in their sites until they no longer feel safe, when no one was out in the street at night and their colleagues asked them why they didn't leave.  There were thousands of families out for the birthday celebrations for the city this past weekend. The fact that the Panamerican Games are coming here in October means that they really really want the city to be safe and are devoting a lot of resources to security.

We aren't supposed to be very political here, but we can have opinions. It seems to me that the war on drugs here may be hurting the country but even so really needs to continue. This country has suffered so much from the fight and some say they should give up, that they can't win. However, if they give in to the narcos all the efforts and all the deaths are for nothing. The U.S. needs to stop the weapons that come into Mexico and help our southern neighbor in its difficult task. We are helping some, but we could do more. Having a successful Mexico is a good thing for the U.S.

Meanwhile, back in San Pedro four miles from our US house, there was a shooting on Sunday. When are you really safe? If you worry about these things, you won't enjoy life as much, that's my attitude!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Amazing Woman Called Patí

Last week we went on a field trip with the "Environmental Specialists" from our training group to the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. It covers one third of the area of the state of Queretaro, almost a million acres, although as with most preservation in Mexico, most of the land is still privately owned, just declared to be a park. We headed up into the mountains, on windy roads. Peace Corps always seems to worry about motion sickness (which thankfully never bothers me) so dramamine was available and seats were assigned based on sensitivity.

We passed through gorgeous scenery on route to our first site - Quatro Palos. This tiny town (142 people) clings to a mountain ridge with splendid views of mountains and a cool rock formation called Media Luna. As part of the Reserve's work, they are trying to make it an ecotourism destination, with a lunchroom, a trail to an overlook (with a fee), and a campsite. It really was beautiful, and our lunch was delicious, but the question always remains - will this bring some money to the town and will the introduction of tourism be good for the town? All in all, I think in this case the answer is yes. They already have earned enough to bring electric wires to the town, although there's no power yet. The school is benefiting, along with the teenagers who have been trained to give ecotours. 

Martha Isabel (Pati) Ruiz Corso, from the Rolex Awards website
Later after more windy roads we went to the headquarters of the Reserve, a complex of buildings with offices, labs and a small shop, and heard a presentation by Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, the son of the woman who founded this Reserve. It seems to me that it is often the case that one visionary person makes change happen. Martha Ruiz Corzo (called Pati, I don't know why) and her husband retired in the mid-90s from jobs in the city and went back to where his family was from. She realized that the land needed protection and spent a number of years working to build support for the idea. In a relatively short time (less than 10 years) she was able to have the are designated as a federal reserve, and to have the people of the area vote yes on the idea even though it meant restrictions on the way they could support themselves. She then engaged government and international support to buy key small parcels of land and to build her program, focusing on preservation, economic alternatives and empowering women. She sought out and won international prizes to get recognition for the Reserve, recognition that was followed by more donations and a strengthening of her ability to stand up to oposition interests, like the loggers who tried to attack her. She was a music teacher and she sings, making people cry at international gatherings. She's a board member of the World Economic Forum. She is very powerful, but at the same time an ordinary Mexican woman who has done great things.

It doesn't hurt the effort that the Reserve has lots of charismatic megafauna (I love that phrase) like jaguars and pumas, plus rare and exotic birds. Roberto explained some of their funding comes from "selling carbon credits." I put it in quotes because he isn't really. The staff of the Reserve has figured out a way to monetize (put a dollar value on) the conservation that they are doing. They charge $15 per acre for land that is preserved. However, it's not really an offset - all of their donations come from nonprofit groups. It's an excellent start on trying to quantify the value of a preserved acre using some kind of scientific analysis, but until governments begin requiring carbon offsets for impacts, there won't really be a market. 
The Reserve is made up of numerous different entities. The overall reserve is just a declaration by the government, which means that people can't collect wood anymore or run cattle freely through the forest. There's the Grupo Ecologica, which helps start sustainable projects to help people, does scientific research and more. There's Sierra Gorda Ecotours, which organized our trip. They train and employ local people to serve as tour guides.There are five or more other entities, each set up for a specific purpose like qualifying to implement a particular government program to help the local people. Bosque Sustenable, or Sustainable Forest, helps with forestry issues.

Some people evidently have mixed feelings about the Reserve. Some say it's like a family business. Pati and her group have enough international clout that they can negotiate with the government about funding and development, which of course isn't popular, particularly with those on the other side of issues! They successfully stopped a power line through the Reserve and are now fighting a proposal to put a road through one of the major natural areas. We visited a number of their projects during the trip (which I'll describe in a separate post) and it seems to me that they are doing a great job. They are succeeding at land preservation.

What does this mean for the rest of Mexico's natural areas and parks? Well, most of the parks are managed by or with SEMARNAT, the park service. In 2012 there will be a presidential election, and if, as is widely expected, the PRI regains power, every government job in the country can be reassigned. It makes it very difficult to do long-term planning when terms are just six years and when the new group does not want to continue the work of the previous group, but rather wants to start new initiatives. Hopefully the Sierra Gorda Reserve can serve as a positive model for other preservation efforts.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What are we doing here?

We are visiting a Peace Corps couple in this little town of Matehuala. This is our site visit, where we are supposed to get a chance to see what actual volunteers are making of their assignment.

This couple is assigned to a government office here, but have found it difficult to make their jobs work. It comes back to the question of our mission here - are we working to preserve land as part of the park system, or are we here to do community development. Of course it's not either/or but I feel as if Peace Corps has encouraged volunteers to do projects that are more like the general community development programs in most countries. This couple has found that their boss is the only parks official looking out for a very large area. She saw them as clerical help and tried to get them to do her job, including lots of paperwork and menial tasks. They had to set boundaries which they seem to have done pretty successfully.

Now they are working on a project to bring desalination distillers to a small town. They have applied for a grant for the equipment which will allow each family who participates to have a few gallons of clean water a day. This will be huge for them. It's a really good project. Their boss sees it as indulging them, which is interesting.

This couple also are both enrolled in one of the masters' programs in the US and need to come up with theses while they are here. She's been doing baseline documentation on the vegetative communities in the park, which will certainly be a valuable addition to the knowledge base for park management even if her boss thinks that's also not all that helpful.

This has been a good lesson to make sure our expectations of what we will accomplish are reasonable. However, I still have questions about whether we are here to do community development or to help preserve critical habitats.

In some ways the best option to preserve these critical habitats for posterity would be to relocate the villages somewhere where they would have more options for self-sufficiency. This area is pretty remote and with the water table falling it's hard to see that there are viable options for people to continue living in the parks. However, the government has nowhere near the resources that would be needed to relocated them successfully. 

So I still ask, what is our goal here? Maybe it is goals two and three of Peace Corps - increasing understanding of the US and increasing our understanding of another country. I certainly already feel that I have learned so much about Mexico. I want to keep thinking about goals as I continue along in this adventure.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Old stuff - Mexico, France and the US

One of the things that has surprised me the most about our trip is the heritage of Mexico. We have visited a number of places here that were built in the 1600's and 1700's, beautiful churches and haciendas, and even a few from the 1500s. The University of Mexico was founded in 1551, before my ancestors even thought about going to Massachusetts. 

When we visited France and Italy, one of our favorite things to do (in addition to hiking up mountains) was to visit historic sites. There were indeed many from the middle ages, but many of the buildings were more recent. There's often a mix of buildings from many ages.

Of course, in California, nothing is more than about 150 years old. We visited the Salem, Massachusetts area a few years ago, to connect with family history, and saw a few buildings from the late 1600s and from the 1700s. We lived in a village in Pennsylvania, "Historic" Fallsington, where the oldest building, a log cabin, was from the 1760's. The architecture in Mexico feels older and more ambitious than any of those places. 

It's not so much the number of buildings and the dates, but the scale of the buildings. Here in Mexico there are magnificent churches. We visited the Sanctuaro de Atotonilco, known as Mexico's Sistine Chapel. It's a world heritage site outside San Miguel de Allende, it was started in 1740 and took 35 years to complete. The most amazing part are the frescoes which were done by a local artist named Miguel Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre. 

The entire inside is covered with scenes from the life of Jesus. 


Of course Lupita and Tonio knew the nun who was keeping an eye on the place and she let us in to see one of the chapels that is usually closed to the public. The entire chapel was covered in silver. On one of the walls was a self portrait of the artist.

Back in the main church, there is a statue of Our Lord of the Column, Jesus on his way to the cross. It gets carried in a procession to the city during Holy Week and is credited with several miracles. As with much religious art in Mexico (and we noticed this as well in Peru) there is a lot of blood. In the back room we were able to see a wall of oil paintings showing the deaths of the Apostles - very gruesome. I think the worst was the guy who was flayed (skinned to death).
This church was on the list of the world's most endangered historic sites in 1996 but has had some restoration done in recent years. I think it's amazing that we'd never heard of this remarkable church so close to the US. A recurring theme for me so far is how little I knew about Mexico, a country so close to our own.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sustainable Development
This post is partly tarea (homework) from the field trip, answers to questions posed by Peace Corps for us to think about, but I think the questions and thoughts might be interesting.

1.    What issues/activities/aspects caught your attention during this trip?

What caught my attention was the question of ecotourism. It was mentioned at several of the sites but how it would work to better the lives of the local people is really a question. There has to be a reason for tourists to visit. There’s a big difference between local and international tourists – they say that Mexican tourists are less interested in outdoor activities and hiking. With the downturn in tourism due to bad international publicity about the violence, does it make sense to focus on eco-tourism right now? The various places we visited all presented different aspects of this question.

At the first stop, the Parque de Gogorron, we visited a beautiful hacienda. It was privately owned and being converted to a hotel, but it was pretty run down. The two Zorro movies were filmed there, and they left many of the sets in place with the idea that this would make it a tourist destination, which it did for the locals for a while but it hasn’t lasted. The sets were not made to be permanent, of course, so they are disintegrating. Plus they are fake, which is such an irony – the attraction is the constructed old Mexico while the lovely hacienda is there behind the set. There are evidently ruined haciendas like this all over the country. Remembering our stay in Spain in the historic parador hotels run by the government, I wonder if a system like that could be developed here.

The second stop was at a town called Kilometer 58. Of course, the first thing they need to do is to get an attractive name, or a cool story as to why they are called that. We walked in the hills, which were lovely, but it’s unclear if there’s much more than pretty hills to attract visitors.

The third was the success story of the trip. Media Luna is a hot springs/stream/archeological site/tourist center that has been popular for decades. The members of the ehido (communal farm) who own it have developed it beautifully with help and some funding from the government. For many years the site was abused – scuba divers removed archeological items and fossils (mammoths, etc.) from the caves that are as much as 90 feet below the surface. Now they own the concessions and control uses. Evidently during Holy Week many thousands of Mexicans came to picnic and party there. Now they are charging admission (much higher during Holy Week) and restricting the number of visitors to a maximum of 3500 at any one time.

2.    What approaches or strategies seem to be producing positive results and why?

Media Luna is certainly the most successful of the places we visited. It has a unique attraction with a history of tourist activity.

3.    What challenges did you identify?

For Media Luna, the challenge is to make sure that the benefits of the development reach all of the members of the ehido. We asked how the revenues were divided and they said that some went to the poor and elderly if they needed help. They need to maintain the restrictions on overuse, but they seem to be doing a good job. I think this is part of an issue that affects anywhere that wants ecotourism and is owned by an ehido – how to manage change communally.

Another challenge is to make money from ecotourism. Media Luna has it solved, but the other two places are far from deriving any revenues from their locations. They need a lot of infrastructure, something to attract visitors, and marketing to bring them in, all major challenges.

4.    Why do these challenges exist?

 The challenge regarding management and who benefits from ecotourism exists because of the nature of ehidos. When land is communally owned and decisions must be made by a group, it is more difficult to make progress.

The challenge regarding how to benefit financially from ecotourism has two parts – how to attract tourists and then how to get them to spend money in the village. These are challenges of ecotourism everywhere.

5.    Are those challenges related? How?
They aren’t really related.

6&7. What would be an alternative approach? How would you start?

The problem of who benefits from ecotourism is really outside the scope of a Peace Corps volunteer, although it would be possible to encourage the involvement of women in any project with which you were involved, in a way that might result in benefits for them.

Bringing tourism to a remote town is a big challenge. I’d bring in someone with experience analyzing markets (if possible, perhaps another volunteer) who could look at whether there were people who could access the location. I’d consider the pros and cons of the site as an attraction – how good are the roads, are there other sites nearby that could also be visited, is there a rare bird for birdwatchers or an usual animal that might be seen, are there stories or legends that might attract people? I’d consider the infrastructure, roads, welcome center (which could be a one-room building with small exhibits), toilets, food, clean water.

8. Do you think the alternative approach you described above would be welcomed by the community leaders?

I think the ideas would be welcomed if there really were the potential to derive financial benefits from the development. I think it would be important not to raise expectations that would not be accomplished.

9. How could you promote your ideas to help get them adopted?

If we determined that there was potential for ecotourism, it would be important to engage the community in discussions about what was needed. I would talk to the town leaders, both men and women, to make sure they supported the ideas. It would be best if many of the specific ideas came from them. I would work with them to make plans and develop projects that could qualify for funding.

10. How do you think sustainable development is linked to daily activities within the communities, or how could they be linked?

Sustainable development is very much linked to daily life. If what is proposed is not consistent with what people are used to doing, it will be disruptive and less successful. Ideally the roles played by community members with development are improved, by training and experience, versions of what they have been accustomed to doing. It is important to consider the needs and wishes of the community when proposing development.

Ah, Peace Corps

I wrote this in word when I didn't have internet so it's out of chronological order.

Peace Corps has changed since we were in Ghana. In essence, there’s much more talking at the volunteers. It’s all bearable, and very earnest. In Washington we had a day with the other volunteers. We broke into teams and drew pictures of threats and expectations.  The artistic abilities of the group varied considerably and some were pretty silly. Under threats there were lots of guns (fear of violence), sick people (hard to draw) and stick people all alone (isolation, inability to learn the language). For opportunities, people drew mountains, happy people speaking Spanish. 

WE also had to do skits about situations that real volunteers have faced. One was a volunteer planning a trip to the beach, and inviting colleagues even though they had a deadline that wouldn’t be met. We all agreed that this was a problem. Another was a volunteer holding a party with lots of alcohol, with a female volunteer deciding to walk home in the dark. All agreed that there were lots of things wrong with this scenario. Our skit was about Bob, whose girlfriend wanted him to come home and who was feeling ill and not participating in class. Bob needed to be committed to the 27-month experience and after encouragement from the other volunteers he decided to stay.

We finished at six and then met sister Debbie and her husband Ray for a delicious dinner, then went back to the hotel to finish some internet stuff and repack. WE had to gather in the lobby at 1 am, yes, 1 am, for a six am flight. PC said that they wanted to be s,ure that there were not problems getting to the airport. We were all on the bus by 1:45 and at National Airport, the one right in DC about 2 am. Of course, the airport isn’t open at that hour. Nothing opens until 4 am so we all sat around talking in an exhausted way until  then, when we checked in. WE had priority boarding (very exciting), and some of us were able to sleep on that flight and the one from Dallas to Mexico City. When we arrived there, we got on another bus to Queretaro, where we’d be staying.
It was fun seeing the Mexican countryside during what was supposed to be a 45-minute trip. WE went through the city and out the other side, then headed down a smaller road through some villages. The streets got smaller and smaller. At one point the bus had to go backwards and forwards many times to make a turn. Finally we ended up at a dead end, much to the amusement of a number of small boys who watched us. After much discussion, the bus backed up and returned to a point where it could turn around.  More maneuvering resulted in our arrival at the hotel 2 hours after our arrival. A great introduction to Mexico!!
The hotel/conference center was lovely. It was a former hacienda with sections built in 1620, rock walls with slit windows,  crenellated roof, a church and a cloister where the rooms for the couples were located around a courtyard full of flowers. The grounds were immaculate, with green lawns, bougainvillea, and fruit trees. The meeting space was in the former mill, a round room with stone walls and floors. They had hung tarps behind the arched windows that flapped behind all the speakers. Our rooms were comfortable, small and a bit Spartan, but very nice. 

During the three days at the resort we did lots more role playing, breaking into groups, talking about our expectations. The program started in 2004 with ten volunteers and ten staff. Now there are about 35 volunteers working. Our group of 39 (or maybe 40; one guy hasn’t arrived yet) will more than double the size of the program. There are twenty plus staff members, plus eight contract language teachers who help with the program as well as teaching us.

The trip back into Queretaro was les eventful, and we met up with our host families. We took a tour of Peace Corps headquarters. Each day now we meet at a local university, Universidad Marista, a private Catholic college that teaches engineering, law, the sciences, marketing and educates novices for the convent. It’s very beautiful (a recurring theme in Mexico so far!), centered around a brick and stone building that was a textile factory.  There are many other buildings, with white walls and brown trim around the windows. There are tall trees, green lawns and decorative plantings everywhere.

We’ve had several lectures on learning styles, which could be useful for us as we try to work with our counterparts. However, it’s more about us. WE took a learning style inventory, about how we learn as individuals. After plotting our results, we ended up as an accommodator, diverger, converger or assimilator. Everyone could recognize their characteristics in all the categories, but many (not all!) were accurate within our category, for me, as a converger (who knew?). The learning part was really right on – I “perceive information abstractly and process it actively, learn by testing theories and applying common sense. … I have a limited tolerance for “fuzzy ideas”!! However, they then extrapolate the learning style to our leadership styles and say that convergers are rigid and domineering which I sure hope is not true. It’s all interesting in its way.
I'll talk more about training later.

Lupita and Tonio

Our host family is great. The Mom is named Lupita, the Dad, Antonio (called Tonio) and there's a teen-age son called Juan Pablo. They also have three older children in their thirties, all married with children. One of the sons has traveled all over the world. She talks a lot, and is very good about being clear and slow. We've already discussed families, religion and politics. Her religion is very important to her and she wanted to know about our religions. We told her we didn't go to church and she asked if we were atheists. We said that we were respectful of religion and she was OK with that. She told me that she thinks all religions are good and that we should all live in harmony.

We talked and exchanged photos on the first Saturday night, and then settled into our room. Their house is very nice, in a residential area near the Peace Corps office and the Marista University where we have our classes. There's a big driveway, a backyard pretty much filled up with a trampoline, and a lawn in front. There's a gate to the street which is locked but they don't lock the house. More or less across the street there's a lovely small private park.

Our room is upstairs, across the hall from Juan Pablo. We have very hard twin beds (which they helped us push together). We have a private bathroom although we'd love to have a new shower head since it's just a big dribble. The parquet floor in the bedroom is coming up so it's a little disconcerting to walk and dislodge the tiles. There's a big closet with a lot of stuff stored in it where we can put our suitcases and warmer clothes. We feel very fortunate to be in such a nice place.

On Sunday morning they asked if we wanted to go to their town. Of course we said sure, and we got into the pickup truck (John sits in the front seat of course, with Tonio, while Lupita, Juan Pablo and I sat in the back). Juan Pablo would clearly have rather been home playing soccer with his friends but they said he needed to know his history and he was quite nice about it. He had an i-pod with a funny mix of American songs. Monday was his first day of school (Catholic school) and he was happy to be going back to see his friends.

We drove for about an hour to San Miguel Allende, a beautiful town in the hills. Their families each had haciendas there that were confiscated by the government in 1917. They are still bitter. Lupita said that she wouldn't mind so much if it were being used productively but now it's pretty much been abandoned. As we walked down the street, practically every person they met was a relative and they stopped and said hello. We went to the history museum to see the painting of her uncle that was on the wall and she knew the person taking tickets. In the church they met Tonio's uncle. We went to a convent and they met one of Juan Pablo's teachers and then Lupita's niece and some other relatives. They had a long conversation and fortunately John and I were able to try reading some of the exhibit captions out loud and try to translate them. The city is really gorgeous, with a lovely cathedral (when we went in we bumped into Tonio's uncle). It is full of Americans (she says that many of them are very involved in preserving the city), and immaculate.

When we returned to the truck it had a flat tire. Now, this was no ordinary truck. It had oversized 22" wheels and low profile tires with a fancy center and unusual lug nuts. He called a truck to come and pump up the tire. I went into some of the shops which had beautiful merchandise, much nicer than anything I've generally seen in shops that feature Mexican crafts in the U.S. There was a jewelry store that was like a museum, beautiful gems, silver work that was like small sculptures, children's spoons, and much more.

After the tire was inflated we drove outside the town to a vulcanizing shop, a storefront operation in an area of lots of shops much less fancy than those in the town center. It turned out that it wasn't his truck - he'd traded his car for the weekend with a friend of his brother's so we could travel in style (also to transport our four suitcases to the house - two years is a long time to pack for!). It also was the case that the tire had previously been patched in the same spot and the first attempt to fix it didn't work. Not only did he not want to buy an expensive new tire for the truck, even if he had wanted to buy one it probably was not available. After much discussion, they decided to try patching it again. John said that the first patch should never have been made because of the location of the problem. However, they decided to try again.

Meanwhile, we haven't had any food since breakfast and it's getting toward 3 pm. I was actually very patient (really, I was). Lupita finally walked down the street with us to a restaurant where they were grilling chicken outside. We went in and enjoyed some delicious chicken with tortillas, beans, rice and salsa, overlooked by a giant tv playing the Incredible Hulk very very loud.

Finally the tire was fixed and we thought we'd head back but they took us down more cobblestone roads (which made me worry about the patch on the tire) to another church. I'll describe it more later and post photos but it was one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen. After that we drove home, with one more stop - at their second house (they also have a rancho in the country that they rent out). It was two rooms, pretty basic. They may be starting a business (he recycles glass) there but it wasn't clear. They needed to water the fruit trees and roses they had started in the yard.

When we got back to the city he drove us by the aquaduct which had giant brightly-painted sculptures between the arches. Lupita asked me if I wanted to go home or see more. I knew she wanted to go to church so I said go home and she was quite relieved. During the day, every time we passed a church she crossed herself, once full scale, and then smaller on her forehead, nose and lips. We passed a lot of churches.

We are lucky with our hosts! It's pretty intimidating but it's clearly a good way to force us to learn to speak Spanish.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

couldn't be better

We're at the Hacienda Castillo with the other 37 volunteers in our program. The temperature is perfect and there's a group sitting on the veranda typing away. We had lectures today (boring but I was well-behaved) and started our Spanish lessons. I'm in the intermediate group. I'm braver at trying to speak than I thought I would be. I think it's because I was speaking French last month. They really want us to be speaking fluently when we are done. John's been studying hard and is making great progress.

OUr group is really interesting. There are nine in the technology transfer program with John. There are about six in a new environmental education program, and the rest in various other environmental programs. There are some recent college graduates, some with advanced degrees, many with lots of interesting experience. Counting us, there are four or five who were volunteers before - one in Malawi and one in the Philippines.

We will hear where we are going on Saturday, which will be great. We think it will be Guadalajara but we aren't sure. We'll also meet our host families where we will stay for the next ten weeks.

This place is a hotel/conference center. The buildings are old and it's pretty basic in terms of amenities but it's beautiful, there's hot water from 8-10 in the evening and 6-8 in the morning, and there's internet access as you can see. What could be better?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mexico here we come!

At the very last minute we were invited for Mexico. I'll be doing conservation work and John IT consulting. We are so excited. Today was my last day at my job. We can't wait!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Maybe Mexico?

We have an interview tomorrow morning at 7 am. Maybe maybe we'll get an invitation to Mexico. Here's hoping!