Monday, August 17, 2015

Mexico: Exploring Cuernavaca

Three years ago, I went to New York in August to the Macy Girl Scout training center for a training on the new Global Action initiative. Three years and a good amount of volunteer work later, I am in Mexico with 11 other people talking about Global Action and bringing girls to Mexico.

I first crossed the border in 2008 with Rana, Juan, and a month old Leo. We crossed over from Arizona, had some food, and they made me sit on a burro and wear a sombrero. On the list of countries visited, it counted. It may have only been a few hours (like my experience on the Zambezi river booze cruise in Zambia), but it still counted.

Finally, I'm making it legitimate with a trip to the interior. We all flew into Mexico City from various US locales and identified each other by the Girl Scout scarf/shirt we were all sporting. I felt 13, wearing my uniform to attend a GS trip, easily spotted by the GS on the other end. We found our shuttle driver, and he drove us the two hours to Cuernavaca. Traffic, Mexican music on the radio, the mountains around us. We weaved through a mountain pass and soon found ourselves pulling into the entrance to Nuestra Cabana.

Nuestra Cabana is one of three international world centers for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. I've been to two overs (London and Switzerland) but still need to visit India. It was built in 1957 and has these beautiful terraces on four different levels. Palm trees, birds of paradise, cacti, and manicured lawns with flowers everywhere. Except for the faint traffic noise, you'd think you were in an oasis.

We were shown into our door rooms where there are 10 twin beds, sheets and towels embroidered by guides from different countries and large window views into the gardens. A large water filter cooler is here for us to replenish our water bottles. We can't drink the water or brush our teeth with it, so I'm getting used to brushing with my water bottle in my hand so I don't forget. I'm even getting used to putting the toilet paper in the garbage can and not flushing it (clogs their water system). A dip in the pool both yesterday and tonight. I could get used to this-but not getting any water into your mouth.

The food has been unexpectedly great. Apparently, the guides who work here have a vegan friend, and she has made some delicious meals for me. A potato casserole with some sort of tofu purée/cheese substitute thing, breakfast waffle, pasta, amazing stuffed peppers, and desserts: Nutella-like vegan spread, cookies, carrot cake. I mean, wow.

Meals are served family style, and the person at the head of the table serves, another person fetches the food (the hopper), and the person at the end pours drinks. It's an intricate camp system. Small tables with lots of talk and sharing of personal stories, GS history, etc. it's social time and quite fun.

This is mostly a working trip with lots of meetings, so a quick one last night, the next two morning, and a final afternoon. We are sharing ideas, brainstorming, and thinking towards the futures trips. The afternoons and one morning are devoted to showing us a bit of what the girls can experience.

Today, downtown Cuernavaca. We piled into taxis and winded our way there. I would have never remembered how to get back. Soon, we were getting out at the foot of Cortes' palace. We headed straight to the cathedral, passing stores and restaurants to be visited later. The cathedral square was a fiesta. Last Thursday was the holiday remembering/celebrating survival over the Spanish conquistadors. There we'd people everywhere, and food, drink, and men in the costumes meant to mock the Spanish, looking funny in their clothes, beards, and Diablo faces. It made me think about the importance of rethinking Columbus Day in the US, which is happening In some places. They posed with us and we took heaps of photos.

We saw the cathedral and the Guides told us some of it history. It's a gorgeous, eroding, working church. We then headed back towards the palace, where we split up. Some went shopping, some hunted down tacos, and most of us went into the palace museum. The museum was an understated collection of artifacts and history of the area, mostly in Spanish, but kind of a relief to not compulsively read everything.

Then, on the second floor, great views and an entire large wall with a Diego Rivera mural. Fascinating mural that I'd like to know more about, as it's scenes were clearly of the conquest, slavery, and cruelty. The mural went up and over and around the windows and doors. I wish I could have seen some Frida Kahlo...anything.

Having gotten our cultural activities taken care of, we went to the craft market to shop. Traditional, handmade, and some things less authentic, but so much color. We bought a few things, then Ashley and I ran to a shop where one of our leaders had just bought some cool earrings. It was a quick shopping spree.

Tonight was International Night and Mexican Fiesta Night. Since the other group here is made up of Canada and five Caribbean and South American countries, they had planned activities and booths on their countries for the night. We started off with an amazing Mexican dinner. Lemonade in brown ceramic mugs, a special vegan plate set aside for me: stuffed peppers and toasted mini bread squares  with veggies. Then, we wandered the booths and talked of their cultures.

Then it was time for the Mariachi band. Incredible! There were three guitarists, three violinists, and a trumpet player. They played and sang, we danced and danced, and Congo lined, and the limbo stick, and danced and danced.

The Mariachi band left and we began our International night with presentations from all the countries present. We were asked at the last minute to do something, so we rallied with "This land is you land." I could have swore the Canadiens in the back were having a guessing contest as to what song we'd pick and one girl mouthed, "nailed it." Then there were great presentations from

There is no better way to end a party then with a piñata. We trekked to an outdoor area where it was strung up between buildings. A few people were blindfolded and took some swings. Finally, the leader ripped it Open further and the candy was fetched.

It was almost ten and time for a dip in the pool. The perfect way to cool down after a hot afternoon. Around 2am we were woken up by the most intense rain/thunder/lightning storm. Perhaps because we are at 5,000feet, it felt like we were right in the storm itself. Our swimsuits and towels got another soaking on the line. This morning, we were all tired from a long night, but grateful it didn't happen during the day while we were exploring Cuernavaca.

Today: more meetings and then an afternoon at the ruins of Xochicalco.

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