Pictures are from our trip through Mexico, and hanging at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México http://www.morelia.unam.mx/campus) where my uncle works.
Phillip is an amazing driver, and we are truly grateful to be safe and sound in Morelia. Our first couple weeks will be in the city dogsitting, so stay tuned for El Terreno Reverdecer updates in mid-April. In the meantime we'll be walking dogs, keeping tough dogs away from little dogs, going to language classes and eating mangoes. Oh, and figuring out 2017 taxes.
Pictures are from our trip through Mexico, and hanging at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México http://www.morelia.unam.mx/campus) where my uncle works.
Smooth border crossing; only papers reviewed were our passports (glad we didn't spend $600 on health certificates for the dogs, and they didn't even check the vaccine records we brought). The bikes and grill must've made us fit some camping stereotype for travelers because once they inspected the box Phillip built to hold the kitchen and be a bike rack, they weren't concerned with any of our other stuff. One agent did lift a corner of the bed and then seemed to agree with my conclusion that it's too much hassle to get into the storage tubs below, and he waved us through.We asked how to get stamps in our passports, having heard we might need those when we go to the consulate in Morelia to buy our actual temporary resident visas (see earlier post). Waiting and filling out that form took longer than our inspection. We left eager to get as far into Mexico as we could before dark, with nearly 700 miles to Morelia.
We stopped for fuel, bathrooms, letting the dogs out (they haven't noticed we crossed a border, by the way). An hour into this trip we reached the edge of the borderlands, at least in the sense that we came to the checkpoint at which they check vehicle import permits. "Isn't that part of our temporary resident visas?" I asked, and showed him our approval. "No." But we already have Mexican auto insurance, we're so official, it seemed to me, so I showed him our proof of insurance. "No." We had to return to the border.
As we drove we realized all this did sound familiar, but the process of moving to Mexico has been slow and often imprecise, and we're really sleep-deprived (see last post).
We drove back, had to pay US$1 per page of copies and needed copies of all sorts of things, including our van registration. At first we could only find last year's, and had flashes of horror that we might have accidentally left it in files in my parents' barn. In that case we would've either gone back to the US and applied anew for temporary resident visas (our current approval is only good for one entry to the country, so we really need to get to Morelia and buy our official cards) or waited for my mother to find and FedEx the registration to... where? The hour we spent between border and vehicle checkpoint was nearly sin servicios. Desperately, we explained that we had an up-to-date plate, could we just show him? "No." One more search...yes!
Oh, stress and sleep deprivation do not bring out the best in us!
So now we're back on the highway hoping the sun sinks ever so slowly and we can drive out of Nuevo León before dark (considered a particularly dangerous place to be).
Still, grace. As we left San Antonio today we realized that when we'd applied for these visas in Atlanta we expected to cross in Nuevo Laredo and she put that in our records. Later Phillip read that crossing by told road a few miles away in Colombia would be easier with less traffic since many people avoid the US$3.50 toll.
We called the Atlanta consulate and left a voicemail on the visa line asking if this would make a difference. After I hung up I realized I said our names but not our phone number. Even so, Consular Maria called us back to say, "it won't make a difference, have a great trip!" (See earlier post about this friendly, helpful official)
Why am I surprised when people are so kind and helpful along this process? Oh right, because in the US many people first feel suspicious of anyone who wants to be in our country.
One of many reasons we are drawn to Mexico for this van-dwelling permaculture adventure is to increase care and interest across this border. More soon - love from 3 hot dogs and 2 tired humans
stuck in San Antonio...
As some of you know, we had to replace the van's transmission a couple weeks ago. As we were leaving Atlanta for a disaster recovery volunteer week in Missouri, our hearts stalled in our throats as the van couldn't shift into third gear. We drove very slowly back to our friends' home, grateful this hadn't happened in rural Mexico. We missed the whole workcamp since it took a few days to rebuild the transmission, but now the van is ready for the next long haul, right? Nope, while they were working on the transmission, day 3 of them moving it around the lot and test driving, the van wouldn't start. This is a familiar problem, but we've replaced the battery, Phillip did some work on the starter - what next? Then it spontaneously started. So perhaps a fuel pump? Or ignition switch? Or ?
We took it to a new mechanic who said all they could do was start replacing parts, so they suggested we wait til it break all the way.
That happened last night in San Antonio. We are visiting my cousin, walking along the charming river and enjoying this beautiful climate and friendly community. Three people and three dogs piled back into the van at 9:30pm to drive back to my cousin's house for the night. We would get up before dawn to drive a few hours to the border and we were nervous about whether we'd be turned back for more dog paperwork, we weren't nervous about the van. But it wouldn't start. Definitely not the battery - Phillip checked and charged it from the solar panels just to be sure. Maybe we'd need a tow, but maybe it would spontaneously start again?
To enjoy the riverwalk we'd parked at a school, since it was evening and the lot was empty, just a block from the path. But not an appropriate place to park overnight. So Phillip and I decided to sleep in the van with the dogs as impound insurance, and my cousin called a friend for a ride home.
Psalm 30 kept swirling through my mind as I heard stories of grief and loss. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. The residents of Nichols, who went to bed relieved that the rains of Hurricane Matthew had flooded the river, but the water wouldn't flood their homes. They woke up to find that flooding upstream in North Carolina breached dams, and at least one dam was opened on purpose to protect North Carolinians, and the tiny town of Nichols sat in four feet of water for two weeks. I'm glad I don't have the choice about which towns will flood. Click for more pictures from Oct 2016.
Weeping will linger many, many nights for the families who sent sons, brothers, a husband to North Carolina to rebuild homes, and two men will never come home. The road accident happened in a neighboring community rebuilding from the same flood that we were helping rebuild from.
You have turned my mourning into dancing.
We remembered together how fleeting and fragile life is, and were once again grateful that we sold our trailer to "simply" live in the van. Hauling a trailer is scary.
Ten members of our team are Old Order Mennonites from Wisconsin. Their inspiration to come was a death in the family, and part of their grief was to get away together and serve others. Weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning. Life's heavy losses require more than one night of weeping, more than three days bereavement leave. But the balance of night and day is part of God's genius design, that our lives be a balance of rest and work, of loss and joy. Or as we remembered as we played, a balance of taking apart and building up.
How many homes have you had? Home defined as an address you've lived at for at least three months? 23 for me. 25 if I count our trailer and our van (they don't get their own address).
Our faith ancestors had countless family homes, and as a people moved from homeland to homeland. Garden, ark, Canaan, Egypt, the wilderness, Canaan again, Babylon, exile into nearly all the lands of this earth.
How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? cry Judeans in exile, May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, Jerusalem. Psalm 137
Judeans in exile also hear God's call to make home, to find home, in that foreign land. Seek the peace of the city in which you dwell. Plant gardens, grow and harvest, grow your families, too.
Daniel's home flooded 15 months ago and he's been staying in a nearby town. A few of his cousins live on the same street and have been staying other places, too. One cousin moved back a couple weeks ago and as I cleaned trim to put back in Daniel's house, this cousin came over to chat. When he told me "there's no place like home," it didn't sound cliche.
Storage stashed, van overloaded, dogs getting in the groove, and we learn from at least one obstacle per day. e.g. Today one of the bikes came loose from its mount and was dragging behind us and we were so glad it was a bike we'd found in a dumpster! With some TLC it will eventually be rideable.
We had a full and fast month with family in friends in Indiana, and headed for North Carolina at the end of January. After a quick visit with Beth & Lydie, we ventured to South Carolina's Huntington Beach State Park to camp at the Atlantic Ocean. It was a treat to get back "home," to living in the van. Even after getting rid of so much *stuff* we have too much with us, and it's a hassle to move things off the bed to pile ourselves into it, then have to move so much back to the bed to get into the fridge/freezer, then unload the van seats onto the freezer to drive somewhere. We're going to eat through two tubs of stuff, then we'll be in better shape!
I've had a funny thought process in the past couple weeks. I hear about an appealing job opening and think "I should apply for that," but of course I shouldn't! Somehow I have this sense that I'm unoccupied, since I have no formal job - but we chose this season of adventure and volunteering and sabbatical. But the old habit of a job supplying my purpose is the habit I'll be breaking in the weeks to come, practicing every time someone asks me "What do you do?"
Which we're getting asked a lot today as we started a week of volunteering with Brethren Disaster Ministries in Marion, South Carolina. We're working in a rural community of ~400 that flooded terribly, and only ~80 residents have been able to return home. We'll have more to say about it soon!
Jesus says several times that the first will be last and the last will be first. He doesn’t say let’s all be equal.
He says the first will be last, and the last will be first. I want to preach the good news of equality, but that’s not what scripture says. Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5) Not, blessed are the meek, for they will share the earth with the mighty. They will inherit the earth.
It’s not only Jesus who says the first will be last and the last will be first. The theme of reversal flows through both testaments:
Can you think of more biblical reversal stories?
Luke 6:25 "Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:25 "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
Jesus teaches it, and Jesus lives it! Son of God, most revered rabbi, stripped, spat on, mocked, crucified, he goes from mighty to meek, and then from death he rises.
John 12: 24-25 Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Bearing fruit seems like a grand, luscious finale. But it’s also a starting over, because it is the seed for the next life, the new generation. Bearing fruit has something to do with the cycle of reversal that we find throughout scripture. A tree grows strong enough to bear fruit, it is mighty, but only after the fruit comes to earth, as meek as could be, lying on the ground waiting to rot or be eaten, only then does the seed find soil, and life continues.
I wish Jesus had just said, let the first and last join hands and become equal. But he said they would trade places. And then once the first is last, being last means becoming first. I wonder if Jesus is reflecting the genius of nature, the divine design of everything around us and within us. Because there is no equality in nature – at least not for more than a moment. What might look like equilibrium in an ecosystem is actually continuous change, even if it results in a stable ecosystem.
Science might call it dynamic equilibrium. I bet you’ve seen these shapes in your lifetime, as culture moves from conservative to liberal to conservative to liberal. The church, too. Or from rigidly organized to innovative then back to rigid then back to innovative.
Was Jesus tuning in to the reality of human, family, political, chemical, biological systems over time when he preached the first will be last and the last will be first?
Hillel the Elder was a rabbi living when Jesus lived – maybe they even met! A gentile, someone who wasn’t Jewish, told Hillel the Elder “I’ll convert to Judaism if you recite the whole Torah standing on one foot.”
Before TV entertainment came in public spaces through conversation and challenge. Remember all those stories of people taking Jesus on? The Pharisees and Sadducees often, or bystanders, challenge Jesus with tough questions – who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? This woman has had seven husbands and each died – who will she be married to in heaven? Should we pay taxes to the Empire or not?
These conversations happen in public spaces, as Jesus and his friends stand around – like kids on playgrounds or teenagers in malls or adults in coffeeshops or bars. We like public spaces where we can be with some people we know, and some people we don’t know yet. Pleasant familiarity and exciting novelty in just the right blend.
When Jesus and his friends hung out like this they met the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus but wouldn’t give away his possessions. They met the woman about to be stoned. Hillel the Elder met someone ready to convert to Judaism if he could simply recite the Torah standing on one foot. Hillel the Elder couldn’t pass up this opportunity!
He picked up his foot and said:
“What is hateful to you, do not do to another. This is the whole Torah; the rest is explanation; go and learn.”
The Golden Rule shows up in every religion – but don’t take my word for it; these children can tell you.
....Some people call the negatively-phrased version the "Silver Rule" as in, not quite as precious as "Golden Rule" because it's negative:
India's farms are industrializing and monoculturing so the Saturday organic farmers' market in Pune is part of reclaiming relationship with and knowledge of traditional, wholesome foods.
As beautiful as tea plantations are, they're supported by pesticides and fertilizers that damage the soil and the farm workers. Workers who organized recently and now make at least $6/day. Doesn't pay for much health care.
Tata owns most of India's tea plantations, produces most of the world's tea, and is the largest company in India. Their name is on most cars and trucks here too. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tata_Global_Beverages
We've visited countless markets on this trip, as markets are along most roads, full of cheap plastic junk or low-cost other items often made in China. Even the food isn't sold by producers; direct farmer's markets are rare - yet returning! - so farmers may be able to make a profit. Debt is the main reason as many as 12,000 farmers commit suicide each year in India.
Now that we're in Kochi the fish is often fresh!
Organic India is just one company making a positive impact for people and the rest of creation. More hope in the next post.