After I left the Colonia Juárez I spent a few wonderful days with close academic friends in El Paso and Truth or Consequences. Well, some of them. Then, I proceeded to travel to several places not advised by the state department. In fact, just today I began reading up on the travel advisory for Mexico and realized I should never have gone to the Mormon colonies, taken a side day trip to the Capulín colony, or really ever left my home in Ohio.
To leave El Paso I got on a bus whose stops are not marked, and which has no phone number you can call, to get to the Ciudad Juárez airport. I showed no passport to re-enter Mexico and I think I only had my luggage scanned out of what can only be called a Canadian sense of duty. Upon my uneventful arrival in the airport, I waited for a plane, went to the city of Chihuahua, charged my phone, left my phone charger in the airport, and got on another plane to Torreón. In Torreón, I followed the advice of my friend Rafa and ate truly delicious Lebanese food as well as some good gorditas. But the gorditas were better in Durango. It’s just a thing. I also went to starbucks and bought a phone charger at radio shack. My new charger works better than my old one, so I’ll call that a win. I have now just realized that this was apparently a dangerous state for travel. After an uneventful day (and two nights in an un-airconditioned Airbnb – never making that mistake again) I woke up and went to the bus station to go to Juan Aldama, Zacatecas. The bus was everything that is good about Mexican transit – a stop long enough to use a bathroom not on the bus and (in Durango) someone bringing gorditas onto the bus. I have now also realized that I should never have gone to the state of Zacatecas because it is too dangerous. (Some people I met in La Honda, Zacatecas told me they let their daughters take some forms of transit by themselves in the city during daytime hours, so I think I was ok).
In the Mennonite colony (or grouping of villages) in the former hacienda of La Honda, now called the La Honda colony, I had a great time. I stayed with one of my second cousins, Anna, and her husband, Peter. Anna speaks English, Spanish and Low German, and her husband speaks Spanish really well, as well as Low German. Since Anna is not as good at speaking any language I speak, she started teaching me Low German. This was an excellent use of my time, and I am sure provided entertainment for her. It provided entertainment for me! The first day I was there I ate sunflower seeds and drank coke (this is simultaneously the most Mexican and the most Mennonite thing I have ever done). Then I had faspa. Of chocolate cake. And coffee. It was so good. And then there was supper after. I need to re-institute faspa into my life. Who doesn’t want a non-nutritious bread-or-pastry based snack around 3 or 4? (Of course, the people were probably only feeding me this additional meal because they had a guest. But whatever. It was amazing).
I also had the opportunity to visit with some other people who are related to me, and who know my dad (hashtag Menno-famous by association). The first day I spent with a family whose parents are deacons in their church, and who have four daughters. They fed me enchiladas (amazing), showed me around their colony (grouping of villages), and the school where two of the daughters are teachers. While the mom and daughters were getting a meal ready, I played a bit with the youngest daughter and got her to teach me some animal names in Low German. Some of them I knew. She called a cow a vaca, for example (that’s Spanish).
Later on that day, I continued with my learning. For supper, Anna took me out for tacos. She ordered fifteen for each of us and I thought I’d die, but then I realized that they were tiny. And delicious. And I ate them all. Then I went to Low German Bible study. I had brought along a Bible in English, so at least I understood part of what the minister was talking about. The lesson was, in part, about being fearless, and I, being of the anxious persuasion, was already familiar with some of that vocabulary in Low German.
The final day, two of my second cousins made me tacos. I watched them so I kind of figured out how they prepared the meat and the salsa. They showed me some of the pictures of their students (they are teachers in their church’s school) and took me to visit some other relatives. It was wonderful to reconnect with some people I had met before, and to see a bit more of the villages.
My time in La Honda was full of visits – some with family I had met before, and some with family I had not had the opportunity to meet until a few weeks ago.People were so kind to me, feeding me what can only be called the most delicious cuisine – Mennonite sommerborscht, Mennonite anise-flavoured nuddelsuppe and Mexican tacos (not at the same meal). Always with a side of instant coffee. I would venture to say, in Low German, even though the language, like the culture, surely eschews pride, that this was a very successful “Spat’seare met Frintschoft.”