The days of the waning year string out like the final stretch of an old roll of parchment; brittle, frayed, finite.
With them come the warmth of Christmas, the hope of a New Year.
Folks all over are traveling distances to be with loved ones and family. Plenty of others are utterly and acutely alone. Shortest day; longest night. I juggle the disparities.
Soon I, too, will be joined by family and we will feel reverence in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
The school in Bacabureachi is quiet now that its occupants are on winter break. The local children are tucked back into their village homes.
It’s the kids from the big cities that I am thinking of. The school director (who doubles as bus driver) and the teachers had to dig into their own pockets to purchase enough diesel to power the borrowed school bus and deliver most of the students to their families in Cuauhtémoc and Chihuahua. What do they return to?
From Dec. 5-13 Amigos de Kórima staged our third work party in Bacabureachi.
Three of us -- Joselyn Fenstemacher, Trey Gerfers and I -- arrived first and, with a couple of helpers from the village, prepped the roofs for new galvanized sheeting.
Soon three more volunteers -- Charles Angell, Todd Elrod, and Jeffrey Keeling -- arrived from Presidio and Alpine, and in the following days the roofs were completed.
We have now re-roofed seven of the 11 buildings in the school compound, which include the dormitories, classrooms and the cafeteria/kitchen. The school is beginning to look different from the sad and dilapidated place I first visited in 2013.
The fifth day we held our posada, or Christmas celebration, for the children and some of the villagers. We contracted a local cook to prepare 170 plates of food and decorated the cafeteria.
The day started with the distribution of the new shoes and socks we had purchased for each child (106 in all).
Then followed the indigenous games staged for us by the students. They included the boys' ball run (rarájipari), the girls' stick and hoop run (ariwueta), girls’ and boys’ wrestling (lucha), boys’ archery (arcos) and dancing (matachine). Some were in costumes; they showed pride.
After lunch activities resumed with the annihilation of five large piñatas punctuated by bombardments of candy; happy pandemonium ensued.
The late afternoon saw us all -- Gringo, Mestizo, and Rarámuri – dancing together. The music was mostly Rarámuri, which meant we kept to the traditional slow footwork in an undulating circle, following the movements of the leaders.
However, the audiotape made interesting shifts. I heard John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” rendered in a country and western style – in Spanish, of course.
Grabbing one of the elementary teachers, I gave him an impromptu lesson in Western swing. By the time “Louisiana Saturday Night” (also in Spanish) played, he invited me for another round.
I recall some kind of a line dance, with Texans leading the way. It was wonderful. Barriers evaporated and we all wore huge grins.
In the course of the week we were also able to facilitate the correcting of a dangerous electrical situation, restoration of power to the girls’ dormitory, and repairs to get the school van operational again. We purchased a goodly amount of classroom supplies, and left money to get enough medicines (including lice remediation) to minister to the children over the winter.
We tried -- and were unsuccessful – to repair seven more broken windows. Sometimes circumstances and cultural differences keep us from being effective.
Forward steps are heady; we try to learn from the inevitable backslips. The school director – we call him Profe – has promised to board up those windows in the coming vacation days.
We happened to be there Dec. 12, el día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. There, as here, it is a day of celebration and honoring. We were invited into the church to observe the rituals.
As we entered, faces turned toward us, welcoming us with smiles. I would not trade that dim, frigid church, with the wind blowing in, and the costumed matachines beginning their ancient dance that would last all night, for anything more comfortable.
Thanks to all of you, we are gaining momentum and a footing in the village and in the school. People are grateful and let us know with words and smiles.
Much remains to do. We had not seen Bacabureachi in winter. As we expected, days were warm and nights were quite cold. With very little indoor heating, the cold penetrates.
The students displayed their characteristic energy and warmth. But we were struck by noses streaming ribbons of yellow and green mucus, dull hair, dirty skin and open sores.
When we looked into the bathrooms and at the outdoor washing stands, we saw dysfunction and unfinished work. Our board meets in January to address this ongoing problem and make a plan.
So, here we are at the close of the year. Our application for nonprofit status has been filed. We have accomplished much; big tasks await.
Do we get tired and discouraged? Yes. Do we want to give up? No. Are we building bridges with our neighbors? Yes. Are we making a difference? Absolutely.
We are incredibly grateful to you for supporting our vision and backing us. From Bacabureachi to the Big Bend and beyond, we send our heartfelt thanks.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas season, we look forward to more partnering in 2016.
Pilar Pedersen, and Amigos de Kórima