I got in! Next month at the end of January, I will be attending the US Breastfeeding Committee meeting in Washington DC. Now I was not chosen for one of the freebie slots offered to two people from each state (my buddy Charlene got one of those) but I was selected for on "Open Slot" which just means I pay my own way. Unfortunately this means I won't get to go to Mexico for the San Miguel Walk. Both events happen over the same weekend. I'll miss Mexico and San Miguel.
My favorite memory of both times is watching from across the street as hundreds stream into the local parrochia (church) to participate in the special mass and recieve the special blessing before the walk begins. It is pitch black 0utside and the moon is high. Its about 4:30 am and the air is cool. We are all dressed in layers since the temperature will reach about 80 degrees at midday, but at the start of the day a hat and gloves are needed. We mill around our truck as the cook hands out atole (a hot corn meal based drink that is thick and reminds me of hot chocolate) and tamales (usually cheese tamales for breakfast, at first I don't care for the taste of them and stuff two of them into my pockets, several hours later during the walk, I am ravished and they taste like mana from heaven) We will walk about 8 hours today, the first 5-6 before we stop for lunch. The mood is quite festive and as the walk officially begins at sunrise, it appears the whole town has come out to see us off. They line both sides of the streets as the walkers or peligrinos (pilgrams) as we are called head off into the great distance on the road out of town. We are preceded by native dancers and municiple bands. There is a great clamor of humanity as 10,000 souls stream out of San Miguel on the road to San Juan De Los Lagos in the neighboring state of Jalisco (actually there is no road, we mostly travel through mountain ranges and cow pastures- somehow the leaders know the way). Onlookers press oranges and bottle water into our hands, it is said to be a blessing to give something to the pilgrams during their journey. One of those oranges becomes a blessing to me. The thin air and high altitude are hard on a midwestern girl. At one point I am dizzy and tired from dehydration and low blood sugar. I remember the orange in my pocket, peel it and gulp it down. Its sweet juices immediately revive me as I continue walking... The town of San Miguel seems a second home to me. Its streets are sweet and familiar. I have a favorite park, a favorite restaurant, favorite shops, a bank I prefer, and an internet cafe where gringas are warmly welcomed by the owner. When I return I would like to stay a month and attend language school. The locals are used to foreigners and are very patient with those who don't speak the language well. I get stares on the street because I wear my hair very close-cropped and because I am dark-skinned. I'm sure they don't see much of either. I take to wearing a straw hat or serape over my head to keep from drawing so much attention from my nearly bald head. I am head and shoulders above most of the indiginous indians, even the men. I am so tall and so fat- this too makes me stand out. Estrella, my American guide reminds me to smile to soften my face and put them at ease, or else I look severe to them. She is right, when I smile, they always smile back. All this and so much more I will miss of San Miguel when I am not there next month. The street vendors selling my favorite snack, cool peeled cucumber drenched in lime juice and sprinkled with red pepper. Sitting down to miskas (mexican scrambled eggs with vegetables and torilla strips cooked into the eggs) at my favorite haunt. The slower and decidedly different time frame. I usually started my day with fresh fruit at around 7am but didn't have a real breakfast till nearly noon. Amazingly (to me) all the restaurants were still offering breakfast at noon. Lunch time didn't start until around 2pm. Here in KC, you'll get no breakfast after 10:30 unless you find a restaurant that serves breakfast all day. Dinner time was about the time I usually went to bed! I would purchase cheap and abundant avocados and tiny flavorful limes along with handfuls of fresh cilantro and make my own guacamole for snacks or meals at tiny little store front shops that were located about every other block. Or for a few pesos, I could buy a freshly made tortilla stuffed with chicken, napoles (cactus), and beans from a street vendor. Can one be homesick for a place that is not actually their home? My heart, my head, (and now my stomach) tells me that it must be so.