Tag Archives: volunteering in mexico

Modern Day Marias–Maria, an indomitable woman

What was Maria’s life like in Egypt?  She was a foreigner, unfamiliar with the best places to buy meat or flour, unsure of her welcome in the community.  Did she keep to herself, hiding behind her new roles as mother and wife, or more likely,  did she take on tasks within the community and become a woman other women sought out for counsel or assistance?

Today’s Modern Day Maria is the latter.  She has always been liberal in sharing her wisdom in our virtual community of women here in Mexico.  Her words have soothed many a troubled heart.  Her wisdom has lit the candle of hope for others.  It can be said of today’s Maria that “Strength and honour are her clothing”  (Proverbs 31:25) and “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31: 26).  Here is her story.

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I’m Maria. I go by Maria De Acosta as I’ve adopted my husband’s family name as I have no family of my own. I am from California. I now live in a small village on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula. I am here by choice 10 years – how it came about is a very long, personal story. I met my husband here in Mexico. I had known his family for many years. He moved back to town and his family introduced us. I knew my in-laws for years before meeting my husband, so it was an easy transition to a family relationship. I loved my mother-in-law dearly. My father-in-law stays to himself. My husband’s sister is the head of the family and is very supportive of me.

Has my life changed? Incredibly so! I am forever a foreigner in a foreign land. I will live out my life here in Mexico. I find myself closer to the people of this town and find a richness of life I’d never known before. I’m able to serve the community as a volunteer in the veterinary clinic and dental clinic. I love it passionately. Living in service is a true privilege! I want to learn to use the anesthesia machine at the veterinary clinic, and I want to be trained to clean teeth at the dental clinic. Much opportunity is here.

I learn every day the value of simplicity, making do, repair and reuse. As to belief system, I do not hold to a religion. I hold myself to being honest, kind, helpful and ethical – that will never change! I realize I am more intelligent, capable and gifted, stronger emotionally than I ever knew. Since moving to Mexico, I speak Spanish better. I wish to become fluent in Spanish but have no formal teacher – everyone in town is my teacher. I want to become as fluent in Spanish as I am in English.

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Like Eartha Kitt said whenever she’d come onstage, “I’m still here!” This means I’ve overcome the challenges, persevered and not only have survived them but welcome them into my being. The most defining moment of my life was when I swam out of my house in a flood with two kittens in my arms, got to safety on high ground. I heard there were two people still in their homes on the river, so immediately put the kittens into a car with a couple of guys staying out of the hurricane; I was the only woman to volunteer to be one of 5 people to go back down into the river to search for these people. They were found hanging on the window bars of their house. Their lives were saved that night.

I have lived through several hurricanes and floods. I faced death several times in the first hurricane/flood. I have lived in less-than-desirable conditions and have suffered and seen suffering and death. I have saved my own life and saved the lives of others, human and animal alike. I have not run from this to escape; I am still here. Goodness has come from this that has changed my life forever and contributed to the tempering of my heart, mind, and soul to make me a better person – I hope a better example of humanity.

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I’ve done a lot of living in my 65 years. I have a house to live in now. I designed it and my husband built it. Life here in the desert village of Mexico I call home is very tough and isn’t for everyone. I’ve seen people come and go in this town and can tell with a glance who will stay and who will leave. It’s as if the town itself, not the people who are always gracious and welcoming, but Nature here Herself, who chooses to embrace you or cast you out. So far, She has chosen me to stay here and I feel calls me her child.

I have dreams of doing a bit of travel. It’s been my life’s dream to travel throughout Mexico. Summers are hard for me – the heat, humidity, and isolation. Looking forward to the Winter Season of activity and service to the community helps get me through. I have too much free time, unfortunately, particularly in the 5-6 months of summer. I write when something comes to my spirit and wishes to be said. I am a singer. I am looking for a music system to replace the one lost in the flood – I feel if I can sing again, a big part of my soul that is hurt and damaged will be healed. (I’m surprising myself now as these words flow forth, just watching them and realizing their candor and truthful directive). I make aged cheese and roast coffee. My goal is to be self-sufficient and use locally-sourced products. I am putting my husband’s daughter through university. The financial burden is troubling.

I’m inspired by people who are living in service of others – not to change things, impose their values on others, but to enhance lives. This is exciting to me and utterly worthy of respect and assistance. I want to stay active and of service as long as I can. To do this I am taking a yoga class. I’m 65 years old and wish to keep my joints flexible and muscles toned well into old age.

If I could it all over again, I’d have matured quicker as a young person and chosen a clarity of life sooner. I’d have chosen to study well in college.

When you’re faced with life or death, you choose life, I’ve learned. One day death will choose me. I know that death is only a breath away at any time, but until it appears I will go on living ethically and hopefully giving beauty to this planet I call home.

maria4

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Claudia’s San Pancho Marine Turtle Adventure–The First Day

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The next day I was directed to the Costa Verde Ecological group found on America Latina Street between India Street and China Street. Entering I was found by millions of mosquitos waiting for someone with hot blood to arrive. I recommend taking a good mosquito repellant and covering all exposed skin.

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After I knocked several times I woke someone up, a volunteer named Sally, who told me everyone had gone on an excursion to the ocean to see turtles and dolphins mating. I almost cried because I did not arrive in time for that, but I said I would be back at 5 to find them, so I did and they were. Joslin, another volunteer, met me in the afternoon. She spoke more Spanish than Sally. She told me Frank (the group’s director) was asleep but maybe would not be long in coming down. After waiting a few hours Frank finally came down and greeted me. I was ashamed because I felt that maybe my English pronunciation would be deficient and because he hardly spoke any Spanish, but he managed to make it clear who he was. (Claudia has been studying English with me for about 2 years on an irregular basis. Her English is better than she thinks.)

Frank was a little serious, I guess it’s because of his age but he was very friendly. He showed me around the place. I also met Season, an 18-year-old volunteer who was also friendly and understood a little Spanish. She helped me understand better certain things Frank said. She showed me a basket with newborn baby turtles. I got all emotional because they were so cute and took pictures of them. Joslin came back right then and asked if they were ready to be released and insisted I take pictures with the baby turtles to prove that I had been there. She took the camera and took 3 photos with one of the turtles in my hands. She told me that I just needed to find a mother turtle nest to earn my Team Tortuga Tattoo.

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Frank told me to come back at 7 pm to free the baby turtles into the ocean. A friend of mine knew I was visiting. I suggested he come and experience the release since he had no idea this organization even existed. Unfortunately, because he was in a hurry, he fell down the stairs of his house which slowed us down and meant we missed part of the release. Frank suggested that we attend the 1:00 am guard shift which would be a safe time to see the turtles on the beach.

My friend had some more bad luck. We failed to see any turtle moms on our 2-hour walking guard shift. We only saw a few small crabs peeking out of their holes in the sand. Frank dodged them with the Buggie (vehicle). We saw a lightning storm out to sea. We listened to Frank tell the story of how he got there, what people do with the turtles and their eggs, what the group does with people in the community to encourage the preservation of the sea turtles that arrive at its beaches, the difficulties with poachers, police, government and hotel owners. The lights confuse the mother and baby turtles. They think it is the moon that will guide them back to the ocean. Babies and moms are stranded for hours until someone finds them and helps them or a poacher gets them.

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After we finished our guard duty, we returned to the group. Frank said that he was sorry that we didn’t see any turtles, but that happens sometimes. My friend still thanked him for the experience. Frank showed him where the eggs were stored and explained the rescue process a little more. He also referred him to the group’s website for more information. Finally, we all went to sleep hoping that the next night we would find turtles.

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Al día siguiente me dirigí al Grupo Ecológico de Costa Verde, que se encuentra en la calle América Latina, entre las calles India y China. Al entrar al lugar no había nadie más que miles de mosquitos esperando a que algún sangre caliente llegara, así que lleven un buen repelente porque que saldrán con poca sangre de ahí y no olviden cubrir bien todas partes porque se dirigen al lugar dónde no hayas colocado repelente.
Después de que toqué varias veces desperté a alguien, a una voluntaria llamada Sally, quien me comentó que habían salido a una excursión al océano para ver tortugas apareándose y delfines. Casi lloro porque no llegué a tiempo para eso, pero me indicó regresar a las 5 para poder encontrarlos, eso hice y así fue. Quién me recibió en la tarde fue Joslin, otra voluntaria del lugar, era quién hablaba más y mejor español; me dijo que Frank (el director del grupo) estaba dormido pero que tal vez ya no tardaba en bajar. Después de esperar algunas horas por fin bajó Frank y me saludó yo me sentía penosa porque que tal vez mi pronunciación sería deficiente y más porque casi no hablaba nada en español, pero logré comunicarme con él y decirle quién era.
Frank es una persona un poco seria, me imagino que es por su edad pero es muy amable; él me mostró el lugar y también conocí en ese momento a Season, una voluntaria joven de 18, también era amable y entendía un poco más el español, ella me ayudaba a entender ciertas cosas que decía Frank y llevo una canastilla con tortugas bebé que habían nacido en esos días, sentí mucha emoción porque todas se movían y eran tan tiernas y tomé fotos de ellas. En ese momento llegó Joslin de nuevo y me dijo: “¿Lista para liberarlas?, ¡Pero debes tomarte la foto con ellas! Así podrás demostrar que viniste” Tomó la cámara por mí y saco 3 fotos con una de las tortugas en mis manos. “Bien ahora, sólo te falta encontrar una mamá tortuga con su nido para ganarte tu Team Turtle Tattoo”.
Frank me indicó regresar al lugar a las 7 de la noche para liberar a las tortugas bebé al océano pero no pude liberar esa noche el grupo de tortuguitas; un amigo conocido de Vallarta supo de mi visita, le comenté sobre el grupo y le sugerí venir para que viviera la experiencia ya que él no tenía idea de que eso existiera por ahí cerca, pero por andar a prisa tuvo un pequeño accidente cayendo por las escaleras de su casa y eso hizo que nos perdiéramos de la parte de la liberación, así que Frank me sugirió asistir a la guardia de la 1:00 am, ya que era una hora segura para ver tortugas en la playa.
Para mala suerte de mi amigo, al hacer nuestra guardia pasamos al menos dos horas y media paseando en la playa y no logramos ver a ninguna tortuga mamá en la playa, sólo varios cangrejos pequeños que se asomaban y escondían en sus agujeros en la arena y que Frank esquivaba con el Boogie car para no atropellarlos; una tormenta con varios rayos a lo lejos sobre el mar y la historia de cómo Frank llegó ahí, lo que las personas hacen con las tortugas y sus huevos, lo que el grupo hace con las personas de las comunidades para fomentar la preservación de las tortugas marinas que llegan a sus playas y las dificultades que tienen con los ladrones, la policía, el gobierno y los dueños de los hoteles ya que las luces de tales confunden a las tortugas mamá y bebés, pues piensan que es la luna y su luz es quien las guía de vuelta al océano. Varios bebés mueren al quedar atrapados en otros lugares y las mamás quedan atrapadas en otros lugares por varias horas hasta que alguien pueda encontrarlos y ayudarlos, si es que un ladrón no las encuentra antes.
Después de terminada nuestra guardia, regresamos al grupo y Frank dijo que sentía que no hubiéramos podido ver tortugas esa noche, pero que a veces así pasaba y mi amigo aun así le agradeció la experiencia y la historia, pero por mostrar interés Frank le mostró también el lugar donde almacenan los huevos y le explicó un poco más. También le sugirió visitar la página: Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C. y que ahí podía encontrar más información y finalmente cada quién se fue a dormir para esperar si a la noche siguiente hubiera tortugas.

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