Ah…Oaxaca…how I learn from thee...

It's been a while since I've written about trips to Mexico, so I guess I'm due… This last week-long trip was really well-timed and amazing, especially leading into recording my new CD (which will be available in June!!) because it reminded me to be less cynical, be more honest, and always remember to tell people that I care about them.

The message of this upcoming EP is exactly that. I think that I take for granted a lot of the time that people know how I feel about them…though they may, why would I ever assume? What a great way to spend time and energy - telling people that they matter to me and that I care!

Anyway, as always on trips to Oaxaca, I got to visit my friends at Casa Hogar - they're all growing up so fast - and I got to see my friends in the dump as well. Those were quick visits, but since those relationship have been developing and growing for the past 11 years (what??) I was happy that we got to spend a lot of time working in Santa Maria Tepexipana, which is a village near the southern coast of Oaxaca.

As many of you know, Bryan and I have a third member in our family (and I'm absolutely not referring to Chip), the wonderful and lovely, Gabriela Chavez Hernandez.

For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting her, Gaby's story should be a book. Here are some highlights:

  • she was born in the car on the way to the hospital.
  • at age 4 she asked to move in with her grandparents because she missed them.
  • at age 11, admiring her teacher, she asked her parents to send her to a Oaxaca City children's home so she could keep going to school.
  • she graduated in the top 5% of her high school class, while being in charge of a roomful of younger girls.
  • she flew through the ESL program at Norwalk Community College so quickly that they reassessed the program, with her on the panel.
  • she's getting perfect grades and will soon have her Associate's Degree from Norwalk in Business.
  • she's been college shopping to decide where she's going to go and get her Bachelor's!

And those little bullet points infer but don't even tell you that she's patient, brave, incredibly kind, hard-working, tireless…you get the picture right?

Gaby is the first Simply Smiles scholarship recipient who has come to the United States, and she understands that it's a huge responsibility. She does not take her role as an example for others lightly.

Gaby has been to the jungle to help with the food distribution program before, so the kids and families know her. And she grew up in a village similar to theirs, so they know she understands them.

So, bringing it back to this trip…when I was in the jungle this time around talking to the kids about school, passing out breakfast and lunch, helping them with homework, and watching movies (Lady and the Tramp & Finding Nemo, you have to have fun too!) two kids asked me specifically about what high school was going to be like, and after that quick conversation, I asked them if they had ever thought about going to college.

They didn't say much, but had sweet smiles on their faces, and I asked them if they wanted to go to college, and if they would go if it were possible? Their answers were a quick 'yes', so then we started talking about Gaby (who they know), and her scholarship, and how hard she was working, and how she had to learn English. And you know what made their eyes the widest? The fact that she lived with me!

Up until now, I think the kids have thought that we live in some kind of spaceship or something…we travel on planes to get to them and have passports, our lives are incredibly different, but as soon as they realized that someone who grew up in a village, speaks the same languages as they do (Gaby speaks Zapotec and Spanish - English is actually her THIRD language!) lives in that other world with us, I think it became a lot more real.

And of course, then I started daydreaming about having these two kids and a bunch of others live with us, and sometimes come on tour with me, and it just ended up somewhere awesome in my head!

So - this trip was amazing, I can't wait to go back, and in the meantime I will be sending letters to these kids to remind them that I'm always proud of them, always inspired by them, and that I think of them all of the time.

Because, how else could I ever expect them to know?

This lesson - to me - was an important one. I need to be reminded of things often, so I'm really grateful that these kids helped me see more clearly.

Go tell somebody how great you think they are right now - go!!!

Have a great day, Kristen

ps…if you want to share your stories - please do! E-mail, comment, call me, whatever makes you most comfortable.

pps...enjoy the photos below!