Monday, September 29, 2008

Goat Conference

Our reason for going to Mexico really was for a Goat Conference. Ned has attended them in various parts of the world every four years since we have been in Pretoria and since he became involved with Saanen milk goats. It stands to reason that goats would also attend a goat conference - and here is the proof!

Of course, Saanens are the best - in my opinion anyway.

Flamboyant Entertainment

A group of colourful musicians serenaded us during the traditional dinner served in the evening of the first day of the conference. The tabourinist jumped and danced around, displaying a high level of energy - I became breathless just watching him! I was surprised at how high the guitars were held against the shoulder.
Note the goat banner in the background - leaves one in no doubt that it is an International Goat Conference that we were attending.

Danza Conchero Chichimeca

This statue depicts the dance of a Chichimecan warrior. Note the rattles around his ankles, which traditionally may be rattlesnake rattles and seed pods. They also accompany their dance with an instrument made from the carapace of an armadillo (hence the word conchero)

Chichimeca was the name applied to a group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples, of varying ethnic and linguistic character, who lived in the northern part of Mexico, and became the dominant people in central Mexico. They resisted the military colonization of northern Mexico by the Spaniards during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Templo de Santa Clara

This church is one of the loveliest in Mexico with ornate gilded carvings.

A feature of the churches in Mexico that belong to the Roman Catholic denomination, is the number of side altars and alcoves dedicated to various saints, heroes, Franciscan monks & nuns, and rulers of note in the history of the nation. Here is an example of one. Not all churches have such ornate dedicated areas.

The grounds that originally were a part of the convent cloisters have been opened up to public use. This section is a memorial to one of the heroes of the revolution that ended in independence being gained for the nation in 1810.

In one corner of the plaza, a church service of a different kind was in progress - where the people are informally gathered and are listening to a preacher in the open air.

The fountain in the centre of the plaza is, for me, a reminder of the living water that is available to all, whether they attend the more formal traditional Catholic worship services in an extravagantly artistic surrounding, or whether they are exposed to the gospel in an informal setting under trees that are carefully manicured and maintained in a non-ecclesiastical environment.

It was explained to me that the Protestant Church is growing in Mexico for the following reason: Those who prefer to practise their faith for one hour on a Sunday - and that's enough for the week - remain Catholics; those who want to get divorced, become Protestants, because the Catholic church does not sanction divorce. That wasn't my limited experience of Catholics! In all the churches I visited there were worhippers present and praying at all times of the day. The wonderful thing is that the churches are never closed (locked) - something that we in South Africa ceased to have many years ago, because of the increase in crime and theft. What an indictment against us that is!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The best way, we were told, of getting into town was by taxi from the hotel - who would drop us in the historical centre from where it was easy to get taxis back again. So our first visit had us being dropped at Jardin Zenea - one of many plazas which are generally characterised by having a statue to some hero, a fountain, a variety of stalls, benches and trees. These 'shoe shine' stands caught my attention immediately.

I haven't seen the likes since I was a child and went shopping in Johannesburg City Centre. That brought back fond memories! However, I doubt that the local inhabitants suffer pangs of nostalgia from that informal business operation . Their's would more likely be from the various statues continuously reminding them of their history and their independence.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Convento de la Santa Cruz

The convent of Santa Cruz in the historical centre of Queretaro is a 16th century church and monastery that served as the headquarters for Emperor Maximillian (previously Archduke of Austria until he became emperor of Mexico with Napoleon III's help) and his forces, and later as his prison before he faced the firing squad in 1867 after being betrayed and deserted when the French troops were withdrawn.

This statue depicts the conversion of the indigenous inhabitants to Catholic Christianity. The plaque on the base of the statue reads 'IEL ES DOS!'

A Franciscan monk, Fray Junipero de la Serra, is said to have planted a miraculous tree in the convent by thrusting his staff into the ground. The tree is alleged to be the only one of its kind in the world to have cruciform thorns. Look closely at picture to see the shape of the thorns. The thorns are sold in varous ways - plain from the branch, or enclosed within plastic crosses etc. This is a close up of the branch - a type of acacia tree.

I'm glad I didn't live in that place during those times!

Hotel Mission Juriquilla

Our hotel was the closest we managed to get to any of the historic missions in Mexico. The missions were established by Franciscans, and consisted of a chapel/ church with adjacent and connected buildings housing the monks, and situated in a square around a central courtyard, all enclosed by a high wall ( for security?). The hotel is built on the same plan.
This is a picture of the chapel - obviously an old building - baroque, dated from the 18th Century.

The inside of the chapel - consisting mainly of altar area, closed off from the public, with a few benches where visitors may kneel to pray. There was a wedding on the Saturday (30th), and the guests sat on chairs on the porch. The barrier in front of the altar was removed for this ceremony. Note the pink skirt that Jesus is dressed in on the cross. This is a feature of the crucifix in the churches that we visited - a skirt, but not necessarily pink, adorns the Christ figure - for modesty??

The entrance to the hotel complex is like the entrance to a Mission - only one. Unlike the Missions of yesteryear, the main entrance to the hotel is not gated up and closed off during the night - although other entrances are locked at night.

This is a view down the outside of the square around the courtyard - our room has windows opening onto this lane.

A view of our bedroom - spacious with two double beds, a desk and chair, coffee nook, inbuilt couch, dressingtable area, TV, leading through to a shower, loo, washbasin area, and an entrance hall with cupboard. Lots of place to rest and recuperate from whatever!

The passages emulate the spanish colonial style of street with doors leading off the street into an oasis of peace that you would not expect to find judging by what you see from the street.

We were certainly very comfortable here!

Missing Baggage

What do you do when you arrive in Mexico City after a 2 hour flight from London, a 4 hour wait in the air terminal at Madrid, and an 11 hour flight from Madrid - and find that your suitcase did not arrive with you - even though your husband's did and they were booked on at the same time? The answer is - nothing much! There is nothing you can actually do except report it to the powers that be - who confidently informed me that the luggage would be delivered to my hotel when it arrived. Yeah, sure, I thought - in your dreams and mine. And so we continued our wait for 5, which became 6, hours for our flight to Queretaro -arrived there close to midnight, and were transported to our Hotel Mision Juriquilla Queretaro - to collapse into bed at about 01h30.

I didn't have my pjs - so wore a T-shirt of Ned's. At least I did have a change of clothes in my back-pack that I carried on the plane with me. The thought crossed my mind that this may be the Lord's way of giving me a new wardrobe of clothes - also in my dreams perhaps!! We ventured into Queretaro by taxi later that morning (Saturday 30 August) to see what I could get to better clothe myself - and managed to get a couple of items to tide me over - for how long we did not yet know.

Surprise surprise - reception phoned on Sunday morning to inform me that a phone-call from the airport indicated that my baggage had arrived at 03h00 that morning and would be delivered. That too I thought might be the subject of dreams and decided to wait and see before becoming excited. And would you know - on Monday morning my suitcase was waiting for me at reception, having been delivered during the night!

Forgive me Lord for my cynical scepticism - and thank you for returning my belongings to me. Amen.

Oily Chart Company

This is not the D'oyly Cart Company - not at all. But it is a company of people who love Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and produce one every year. The company consists of Ma's Boys (a group of 12 gentleman? who sing negro spirituals, madrigals, barbershop etc type songs under the direction of Margaret Rodseth for fun and to raise funds for various causes) plus a variety of friends. family and like-minded enjoyers of music and acting.

The operetta is cast and produced in six weeks (one practise a week) 'from scratch' with much enthusiasm. This year the production was The Yeoman of the Guard. Ned could not take part because we were overseas for four weeks, but we did attend the performance on Saturday night. Great fun was had by all - especially the performers. I found that the show improved dramatically after interval, after I had consumed a couple of glasses of red wine!

Bless the Lord for shared interests, opportunities to have fun, and the fermented fruit of the vine:)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wonderful Friends

There is nothing that beats relationships that last and continue where they left off no matter how long the intervening space of time has been.
On 27th August we departed Redhill and drove up to Ipswich to be with Brian and Julia Webb, Becky, Andrew, and Tasha (Julia´s niece, daughter of her younger sister Jenny). Dave and Liz Grant came to supper that night and it was great to catch up on their news as well. What a blessing it was for us to be cared for and ministered to by the Webbs at this end of our journey - which has been pretty hectic all told.
On the 28th (Wednesday) we strolled around the village of Nacton where they live - in the country which is really a stone´s throw from the city of Ipswich. Ned took many pictures of the ´free-range pigs which were almost adjacent to their cottage. His main photo taking is of ´possible teaching material´!! Once a teacher, always a teacher! In the afternoon we had tea with Terry and Kate Robinson - long-ago neighbours of Ned´s family in Bulawayo - and wandered around Christ Church Park nearby- Plenty of history - going back to King Henry VIII and his disputes with the monastery and others in this area. Saw a memorial to 9 martyrs from 1538-1556. Hard to believe in our lives that there was such persecution - we are certainly sheltered from it, but it is certainly still alive and well in the world - and may even become a threat in England as the adherence to Islam continues to increase aggressively as is happening in the cities.
Before leaving Ipswich we drove down to the local Nacton picnic site which is on the river that ends at Felixtowe. Nacton is across the river from Pin Mill of Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons) fame. I must read the books again now that I have a picture of the area where they were written!

We spent a few hours with Steph and Joop van der Toorn at Brantham - shown around the two parishes that Steph is vicar of (excuse bad sentence construction!). Once again, two old churches dating in part from the 12th Century.
Leaving them we moved on to visit cousin Phil and Corinne in Colchester. Had supper with them before moving on to London to deliver the car and sleep at the Holiday Inn briefly before continuing our journey on to Mexico.

It has been a wonderful two weeks - well worth the talking, driving and navigating and disagreements about directions, sharing photos (ours of Ian and Julz wedding which contain pictures of the whole family), lack of sleep, and enjoying each other. We have ministered and been ministered to. We have shared joys and struggles and prayed for each other.
We are truly blessed!

Living a Double Life

29 August was a long day´s nite. We arose at 03h00 to get ready to catch taxi to Heathrow for 06h40 flight to Madrid, then wait for flight at 13h00 to Mexico City. This time we got it right to book our baggage straight through to Mexico. The journey took 11 hours to travel 4 and a half hours, arriving Mexico at 17h30 local time. So while I was snoozing, wiggling my feet, walking up and down the aisle, waiting for time to pass, I was also landing in Mexico, going through passport control, collecting baggage (and finding my suitcase missing!), waiting for connecting flight to Queretaro, travelling to the hotel and booking in. (Minus my suitcase, which the lady in the baggage area of the airport assured me would be found and delivered to the hotel).

So the night that I was living was not the tomorrow it should have been but the last night that I´d already lived! Just goes to prove that I am not as old as I thought I was. Or perhaps I´ve fallen into Narnia?? Only time will tell!