Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I am back in D.F. (i.e. Mexico City), and for a few days Chris and I were back together. Chris came with my class on our weekend excursions to Plaza San Jacinto and the Zocalo downtown, and she joined us for all of our meals. It was great to have her as part of the group: I certainly felt more complete, and I think she enjoyed being able to interact with a friendly group of people after living in a big house by herself for two weeks. (Plus, she got to show off some of her knowledge of Mexican history on our tours – my wife is so cool. ☺)

But now Chris has left for a hotel downtown, where she’ll stay for a few days with other Fulbright grantees as a sort of orientation to the program, etc. So now I am all alone in a big house by myself. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But of course, it’s not really that bad. My companeros are staying in the house right next door, which is where we share meals, etc. For the last three days we have had full days of language classes. On the positive side, my beginner class has learned lots of new forms and tenses at a faster pace than before, but on the negative side we’re no longer in homestays with Mexican families, so we’re not practicing as much Spanish in real situations as much as we were the last two weeks. I am really looking forward to being done with these particular classes, just so I can get out of the little compound of the Lutheran Center, because it’s starting to make me claustrophobic: y’all know how I need my exploring time…

One item of note from the weekend: On Sunday evening we went to a worship service at San Pedro Martir, a progressive Roman Catholic church just south of here (to anticipate your question, Lutheran churches are hard to come by in Mexico…). San Pedro Martir is, like most iglesias barrios (neighborhood churches) here, set within a low-walled courtyard. There is a small older building, probably hundreds of years old (such a thing is quite possible in Mexico, where it seems like most of the old churches are older than the United States), and then there is a newer building, also small and very simple but with walls almost entirely of glass, so that the service seems to be almost outdoors.

Inside the sanctuary of San Pedro off to one side there is a sort of wax-figure of San Pedro Martir – Saint Peter the Martyr. I don’t know much about this particular San Pedro’s martyrdom, other than that he was killed by an axe to the head. I know this because in the wax-figure statue, the axe is still there, in his head. San Pedro’s eyes are still open, and he is holding a Bible…he looks pretty much like a normal saint, except for the, um, axe-in-the-head. Kim, our leader at the Lutheran Center, finds it amazing that his eyes continue to remain so serene-looking, despite the fact that he has had an axe in his head for decades.

San Pedro Martir is also very welcoming of visitors, including the many visitors Kim brings there as part of the Lutheran Center programs. As part of their warm welcome, they will typically invite the visitors to sing a song for the congregation. Yep. If your visiting group feels the need to be a choir for the day, San Pedro is the place to go. Following a group reflection on a related Bible story the previous evening, our group opted to sing "Pescador de Hombres," known in English as "You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore." (It’s in the ELW hymnal in both English and Spanish.) At some point someone got the impression that I was a musician, and so I was asked to accompany the group with my guitar. (I hadn’t played in a month, so I tried to dampen expectations, but of course one of the reasons I took guitar lessons was for just this sort of occasion, so…) David, my roommate in Cuernavaca, also plays the guitar, so we worked out the chords (which were written in a different notation in our Spanish songbooks – who knew chords had to be translated too?) and practiced for the half-hour or so before it was time to leave.

When it came time to perform, our song went over well, but the best part was that, once they realized what song it was, the whole congregation joined in, singing a song they knew by heart. It reminds me of what Zach told me about Pete Seeger, that he didn’t do concerts to hear himself sing, he did them to hear the audience sing along together. It was a communal event, truly.

So I am glad I brought my guitar. You never know when you're going to need it...


From Michigan with Love said...

#817 in the ELW! That's right...I follow your travels every morning from my desk! And let's face it matt...our women (I can't way wives yet so don't be offended at my use of the feminine) will always be cooler that we ever will be!

Andrew Daglas said...

"At some point someone got the impression that I was a musician..."

You're walking around everywhere with your guitar slung over your shoulder and a harmonica strapped to your head just waiting for that to happen, aren't you. "Wha? Me? Play? Gosh, if you insist!"