Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Pilgrimage: L'Arche International Family Day

On pilgrimage day, we awoke to clouds and a sense that rain was on its way.  Regardless, you could feel the excitement and anticipation all around.  This was the day we had been dreaming of and planning for now for months.  After sharing a warm and delicious breakfast together, we left the house at about 8:20.  We got dropped off at the chosen meeting spot, which was approximately 2.5 km from the Sanctuary of Schoenstatt, where we would celebrate liturgy together and share a meal after the pilgrimage.  During the majority of the morning, it did indeed rain...and yet the rain and clouds would not dampen our spirits.  We marched on, cheering and celebrating L'Arche in Mexico and around the world.

There were 60-80 of us walking together: daily life members, family members, friends, board members, members from the L'Arche community in Mexico City, our PACOS friends...and more. We sang and chanted together the entire way.  Viva El Arca!  Throughout the day, I was aware of our friends in L'Arche around the world having their own unique celebrations- honoring 50 years of L'Arche.  I was holding them in my thoughts and prayers...and I know they were holding us in theirs.

“We mark a time of Jubilee in order to be strengthened for the journey ahead.  We are a pilgrim people, sharing a journey.  We have a sense of our destination and we are not sure of what lies ahead.  We need each other, not simply in a collective sense but we need each member to contribute her or his gift.  The actions of remembering, of reconciliation, of renewing relationships, of celebrating and giving thanks, enable us to become more aware of our identity and then with renewed hope and energy we can go forward in 
living our mission.”

Eileen Glass, Vice-International Leader of L'Arche 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

memorial concert: music is the universal language

On Saturday, October 4th, after an amazing pilgrimage experience, we headed into Queretaro Centro for a memorial concert in honor of a dear friend of the community who recently passed away.  He was a musician who spent time (along with his wife) sharing his musical gifts with the community. This was an opportunity for his family and friends to celebrate his life- by creating some beautiful music together.  The concert was held at a museum in the heart of the old historic district of Queretaro.

We were delayed arriving due to the heavy traffic.  It was a beautiful Saturday evening- and it happened to be the feast of St. Francis, so folks were out and about celebrating with all kinds of fun, festive activities.

The twelve of us filed into the beautiful room where the concert was...and they were just about to begin.  We received a warm welcome and Moises, Jose, and Evan headed straight to the front of the hall with Mireille.  Later, Bertha and Doug would join them as El Arca was honored and celebrated throughout the concert.  The friendship between Daniel and the community was clearly felt and experienced that evening.  I had arrived to the concert a bit fatigued and unsure about what would lie ahead.  Shortly after the music began, I could feel my spirit begin to lift and I began to come alive again through the music.  While I did not know this man and I could not understand all that was being said about him and his life, I felt connected to him (and everyone in that room) through the music.  
Music is the universal language...what a gift!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lunch with our PACOS friends

In the midst of our all our pilgrimage preparations, we headed back to the house where an amazing lunch had been prepared by our dear friend Chavo (former community leader who visited L'Arche Tahoma Hope and L'Arche Noah Sealth in 2009).

 He and some of his friends had been cooking for hours and they set several tables in the shade of the trees out back.  Our friends from PACOS joined us...and it was quite the feast!

PACOS is a long time friend of and partner with El Arca en Queretaro.  They, too, are getting ready to celebrate their 15th anniversary.  We were excited to know that they took us up on our invitation to come and celebrate with us.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nuevo Taller!

We've gotten behind on our blogging as our days have been so wonderfully full.  It's Sunday afternoon and I've chosen to stay behind while the gang went to visit San Miguel de Allende to the north.  I look forward to hearing stories and seeing pictures of that beautiful place.  In the meantime, I want to share some experiences from Friday, October 3rd.

After a lovely breakfast- pancakes!- we headed over to the taller (the workshop) at 9am.  It's a quick walk, just one block away.  We arrived to a small group of folks (Memo, Rocio and Moises) doing Zumba in a large multi-purpose room.  What a great way to start the day!

Again, we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a tour of the beautiful space.  It's bright and airy with lots of different rooms- for dancing, working, baking, sharing meals together, doing yoga and listening to/playing music.  There is also a great courtyard with a raised garden beds and picnic tables for eating outside when the weather permits.  I was touched to see a lovely framed sign/painting from my friends at L'Arche Portland (Rodney!) hanging in the office.  There are literal signs all around that speak to the deep and rich friendship between El Arca en Queretaro and the Western Region of L'Arche USA.

There was a lot of excitement at the workshop on Friday- not only because our pilgrimage would take place the next day, but because we welcomed 15 friends from a sister organization in Mexico City.  They came north to be with us as we celebrated L'Arche International Family Day.  More on our friends from PACOS later...

We spent much of the day preparing for the pilgrimage.  We were split into three different groups.  Group 1 (Doug and Pat) went to the big, beautiful kitchen to make cupcakes.  Yum!  Group 2 (Javier) worked on banners for the pilgrimage.  Group 3 (Patty) worked on an art project involving lots of little arks.  We love arks!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dance Party With Friends

The Dance party with our friends.
Upon arriving back at home,  some of us were on the verge of sleeping but in all manner things L’Arche okay its expected – a dance party began and that was really a joy. 

  I heard all the commotion downstairs so I went to investigate and all the core members had pumped up the music and began dancing.  The assistants were working in the office and two took their time away.  Patty Doug and I joined them and had a great time.  We danced to some American music, latin music as well as michael Jackson.  Everyone was really tired but we enjoyed it so much.
Xavier, Christina and Cathy were out at a local radio station promoting  the Jubilee and some local events that El Arca is hosting coming up in November.

It was great to see the fathers of Memo and Jauna, and talk to them for a bit.  Everyone had a great time we danced for nearly 2 hours and then realized we should rest so we sang songs and Xavier broke out the harmonica and we dazzled them with some American songs and a few latin American ones.  We tried to also teach them “Row, Row, Row your boat”  in rounds and that was fun. 

Washing Clothes before the storm

Washing Clothes

When it’s the rainy season and you need to wash clothes, you do it when its sunny and you hope for the best.  It was Ivan’s day to wash so the goal was to get things washed before him.  Doug and I began at 7 AM, yes Doug we are going to do some work and there isn’t any coffee, but we will have our hot cinnamon water drinks with Tea soon, not bad, not bad at all.

I realized last night that I only had two pairs of socks and those two pairs were used well the first 3 days. So I needed to do laundry and Doug had some things he needed to wash as well. 

It was a great opportunity to get some things clean and use their techniques, the sinks are built for this and we used a bit of detergent in water, mixed, added clothes and began scrubbing and dunking and scrubbing and dunking.  I had to show Doug that he could really get into it and eventually he was working those clothes into cleanliness.   It was a beautiful day and our clothes were just about dry when we got home for the Hot Spring Pools. 

Good thing as a thunderstorm came in and it has been raining ever since we had our last meal for the evening.  Its such a soothing sound, calming our senses as we concentrate on the rhythm of the drops beating upon the metal roof, the skylight the tile patio.

So we will have to dry the next load inside possibly, there are lines outside and inside.  the panoramic gives you a good idea of the community and the space they have, the clothes lines is on the right when you look out the back upstairs patio. 

Hot Spring near Queretaro with El Arca Community

Hot Spring Pools – There is a blue hue to all the pictures because all the pools were covered above with blue tarps casting an air of azul.

Olivia the Psychology Teacher, supporter of the Taller ( Workshop) has gone here  with her husband for many years. She has visited many hot springs but these are the best and are quite helpful for all the aches and pains.  Great timing for the pilgrims as we are all a bit sore from the hike up the Pyramid of the Sun.


Located near Queretaro is a wonderful day trip for balnearios seekers. This unique spot features a geyser known for its' spouting waters which are diverted into nearby soaking pools. Since there are no hotels in the immediate area you do need to plan for a day excursion only.

We arrived early, not before we maximized all potential spaces in the cars – This is to say if the car held 6 there was 8, if it held 4 there were 6, you get the idea, it was a grand exercise in sharing and space coordination.  I can give you one guess who you think got the front seats.  Somethings are cross cultural in all communities in L’Arche. 
Xavier also drew the driving straw as he was the largest of his car, he did quite well managing the roads to the pools.  I kept seeing his face in the rear view mirror in front of us and his smile said it all.  We all had some fun rides.

Upon arriving it reminded me of a waterslide park from the 80’s in the off season, none  of the food vendors were open but the pools were and they were caliente.  There were only three other people at the pools once we arrived.  We staked out our spot and then began the process of changing, going to the restroom, changing, moving our stuff, getting better spots and then we all enjoyed a dip.
The water was various temps of hot, nothing super hot but all enough that Patty was our hydrator making sure we were drinking water at all times.  Didn’t really come to our attention until we got out and sawy how much we had been sweating.
It was a fun time to bond in the water.  Doug had a great time swimming, a usual activity in the week and the rest of us also enjoyed it. 

Memo raced Xavier and myself and I barely beat him trying my hardest, granted I was doing freestyle and he was doing butter fly.  Then we matched strokes and he passed me like a fish away from a net.  Xavier challenged Memo to swimming underwater, also a gift of memos.  He is a fantastic swimmer and part of the special Olympics in Queretaro.  He had a mean flip turn and could move from breast to back to freestyle seamlessly.   In the spirit of play and building relationship he also raced a few other fellows and it was so great to see them try their hardest and memo again showed them we all have different abilities and gifts.  

It was a soothing day for Maggie, it took her almost an hour to get close to the water and then finally it was all in clothes and all, she had a smile for days. 
Juana too enjoyed it, Olivia almost had her asleep so tranquil and relaxed .

We had some scares with the number of hoses, tubes and other obstacles around, also the bathrooms were a bit interesting as some were for small kids and well lets just say we have a heads up on where not to go next time.  Ouch, quite the goose egg memory.  

By the time we left it was quite hot outside muy calor and the cars were almost unbearable. The ride back seemed a bit roomier; maybe because we lost so much water weight, who knows, it was nice, we rocked out in our car to some 80’s rock and enjoyed listening to the planning for the big event on Saturday.