First impressions…

5/30/12

The thing I love about Mexican restaurants is their eccentricity. Every item seems random and slightly out of place. Take the restaurant we visited for lunch on Tuesday for example. The wall was covered with bicycles, frogs and lizards. The chairs were multicolored and the ceiling was draped with striped banners. But, the neat thing about the eccentricity is that looking at the whole picture, it all fits together.  The cities in Mexico in general can be described the same way. There are no rules as to color, size or shape of the buildings. Everything is random!

I can’t help but be excited in such an environment.

As we traveled from Queretaro to Amealco and then to Chiteje de Garabato on Tuesday, there was a very clear transition from the city to the village. The paved roads turned to cobblestone and instead of buildings in the background, we were greeted with a sprawling landscape of mountains. As our taxi cab drove us into Chiteje I couldn’t help but stare in awe at how untouched this area was by technology. All the houses were built using concrete and rebar; only a select few were painted. Going from house to house involved walking on dirt roads and hearing the sounds of angry dogs.

The family that we were staying at was Dona Emma’s. She graciously offered us a small building close to her house that belonged to someone else in her family. We were amazed at the accommodations because they far exceeded our expectations. We were also humbled that she offered us a better room than the one that she and her family stayed at.

After settling down in our new home for two weeks, we set off to find Francisco and Sofia, old friends of Melissa who had received greenhouses last summer.  Francisco mainly used his greenhouse for flowers (since his job was selling flowers) but Sofia’s greenhouse was loaded with plants. I was amazed to hear that Sofia had actually won awards for her eco-friendly gardens but it made sense since she was one of the main leaders of the Ecotecnia initiative. We conducted our first interview/evaluation of the greenhouses with Sofia and heard some inspiring updates. After a tough winter, it seemed like most of the plants were thriving much better in this hotter climate.

On Wednesday, we all woke up early in the morning to meet the principal of the middle school to tell him of our plans to build the greenhouse. He quickly agreed to the idea and helped us choose a lot in the school grounds for the greenhouse. We arranged to begin excavation of the ground on Friday morning. Although Melissa will be leaving us then, the rest of us can’t wait to take on this new project! Originally, we had also planned to continue computer classes that Melissa and Kristin started in IAP, however we were pleased to hear that after their visit, the school actually hired a formal teacher! Although I was disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t need to carry our lesson plans, it was awesome to hear that something GPI students started something in the school interested the students that much!

For most of the rest of the day, the four of us ventured back to Amealco to take care of last minute business before the Friday start date. In addition to leaving with bags of fresh fruits, we also left with a better idea of the exact timeline of things that we wanted to accomplish. First order of business would be to complete the greenhouse which would hopefully be finished by next Tuesday (06/05/12). Any extra time would be used to finish conducting interviews and evaluating them. Once these were done, we want to talk to other village leaders such as the doctor in the clinic, the teachers of the school, the mayor and the police to have a better idea of the village dynamics. On the Wednesday before Paula, Marcela and I leave, we plan to visit Gaby in Queretaro to close up the project. Lastly, the Thursday before departing we hope to spend a day exploring Mexico City! I can’t wait!

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