Monthly Archives: November 2004

Chapter Five – El Paraguas


El Paraguas: Para el sol y para el agua.

The Umbrella: For the sun and the rain.

Rose became accustomed to the routine of her temporary life in Morelia. She gradually got used to the dogs and roosters, and was able to sleep through the night. She figured that the two hours of walking she did per day helped as well. At least, with all of that walking, she could be allowed to finish off the good food and guacamole she had for lunch. Supper continued to be spare, but she learned to get a snack in the afternoon to compensate.

She had already been to her first two classes of the day – the first was with a jovial man named Luis and the second was with a young woman named Maria. Before she went to explore the streets and market, she went into the computer lab and checked her e-mail. Things were going well at home, so after sending off a couple of e-mails, she headed for the Internet. Google Search, to be exact…

“Our Lady of Conyers:

Welcome to the Web Site of the Shrine of Our Loving Mother. The Shrine is at the site where the Blessed Mother appeared 49 times on the 13th of the month from 1990 to 1998. She appeared monthly for 3½ years and then annually (each Oct. 13th) until October 1998. Well over a million pilgrims have visited the apparition site with several crowds estimated to be as high as 100,000 pilgrims. Most of the apparitions occurred in the apparition room at “The Farm,” 2324 White Road, Conyers, Georgia.

Our Loving Mother Said that Her Purpose in Coming to Conyers Was to Bring People to Her Son

At Conyers the Mother of God, under her title, Our Loving Mother, once said that her purpose in coming to Conyers was to bring her children to her Son, Jesus. Jesus requested many times that Masses be said at the site. In this way He could be fully present for the pilgrims in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

• Catholic Church Established at the Site

• Catholic Spirituality Center Established at the Site

• The Catholic Church’s Policy on the Apparitions”

“Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?” Rose thought to herself. Especially for people who leaned toward the obsessive-compulsive. Rose was, like many people, accustomed to instant gratification. Now, with the arrival of the computer and all of its miracles, she was able to relieve her curiosity – as soon as she reached a computer. Not that she was lazy – Rose loved libraries and bookstores also. This time, she was grateful for access to the Internet, because she was curious about her memory of the Lady of Conyers. Of course, there was a website.

The web page was basic – it was a white background with a copy of a pink prayer card on the left side. It was entitled “The Shrine of Our Loving Mother,” and an alternate site was offered in Spanish. She knew that she should be virtuous and read the site in Spanish, but something caught her eye at the top of the web page. It was a blue bold link that read:

“October 13, 2003 Healing at the Conyers Apparition Site”

Intrigued, Rose clicked on the link. She was surprised to see her name, jumping off of the page. The story was a testimony and it read:

“Rose lives in West Central Florida. On November 21, 2002, at the age of 38, Rose had brain surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The surgery was to remove an A.V.M. that she had since birth. The surgery lasted 9 ½ hours and left her paralyzed on the left side, blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, a speech defect and severe pain on her left side. Despite taking two pain pills four times a day plus a pain patch on her shoulder the pain persisted and did not leave her.

On Monday August 23, 2004, the feast day of Saint Rose of Lima, Rose had what she called a “dream visit”. A beautiful lady, dressed in white, appeared to her and told her to go to Conyers on the anniversary. She called her dad Charles, who lives in Conyers and asked when the anniversary was. He told her it was October 13th.

Rose came to Conyers on October 9th and took part in the events on October 12th and 13th. On the 13th, in the apparition room, during the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, Rose saw Jesus and the Blessed Mother floating around the room. The Blessed Mother was touching and hugging everyone inside and outside the room as they prayed while Jesus was looking around.

Rose heard the Blessed Mother then say to Jesus, ‘I said many will come, so you will have to heal many.’ Then during the 4th Glorious Mystery, Rose heard the words, ‘Listen, have Faith, be Patient, work hard (Rehab) and it will come (Healing).’ At that time, the pain left her completely. The Blessed Mother then told Rose to read Psalm 40.

When the Rosary was over, the Blessed Mother told her to go out to the large white outdoor statue (Our Loving Mother Statue) and pray for her friend Jackie.

Rose returned to Florida on Friday October 15th. On Monday October 18th, Jackie told Rose that her son was in a head on crash with a truck. He suffered a broken jaw, cheekbone, nose and wrist plus he was badly bruised and he has no pain. Jackie thanked Rose for her prayers.

Two weeks later, Rose is still without pain which she had suffered for 23 months.”

Fascinated, Rose clicked on the prayer card. She read on:

“Honoring the Mother of God

From the Commandments that God gave to Moses we read:

“Honor you father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you …”

[Deuteronomy 5:16]

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets: I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

[Matthew 5:17]

We have every reason to believe that Jesus honored and loved His Mother on earth and that He continues to love and honor her in Heaven. As disciples of Jesus, we should imitate Him in honoring and loving her as well.

Moments before He died on the cross, Jesus gave His Mother to all of us when He said to His Mother:

“Woman, behold your son!” [John 19:26]

and to the Apostle John:

“Behold your mother!” [John 19:27]

Jesus was not just giving His Mother to John, He was giving His Mother to all of us as our spiritual Mother and as the Mother of the Church!

As we look upon this image of Our Loving Mother, let us see ourselves as being like the Baby Jesus and being in the arms of our spiritual Mother.”

Rose thought to herself that Mary sure got a lot more attention here than God or Jesus. She had been brought up Protestant, and even with a Catholic grandmother she did not know the reason for this. Still, it was refreshing to see the focus on a woman. She thought that Catholicism was priest-centered – led only by men. She knew about the nuns, but knew little of convents.

Well, except for the one she had seen on The Sound of Music…

It was time to go to class, so she clicked on the prayer card. It had a picture of the Virgin Mary, and this prayer was on the inside:

Angel of Peace Prayer


Most Holy Trinity –

Father, Son and Holy Spirit –

I adore Thee profoundly.

I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood,

Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ,

present in all the tabernacles of the world,

in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges

and indifferences whereby He is offended.

And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and

the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

“Let this prayer be echoed all

over the world.”

Chapter Four – El Catrin


El Catrin: Don Ferruco en la alameda su bastón quería tirar.

The Dandy: Don Ferruco in the Alameda, he wanted to toss away his cane, polish his steps.

Rose returned to the school, and took two hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons. The first was with Elda, a diminutive woman who was supposed to teach her grammar. She worked with Rose briefly on the present tense, then plunged into the relationship between the preterit and the past tenses. Rose enjoyed the lesson, but despaired of ever telling the two apart. In addition, she had once toyed with the idea of teaching abroad. If she had to work one-on-one with each student, she was sure that she would be exhausted by the end of the day.

Her next class was with Sr. Garcia on the sunny rooftop patio. They sat at an umbrella-topped table and he led her through the basics of reading a text. He was a very elegant gentleman, seeming more Spaniard than Mexican. Rose knew from experience that there was a cultural line drawn between the Mexicans who believed themselves descended from the French and Spanish settlers and those that came from mixed or pure indigenous blood. Sr. Garcia spoke correctly, dressed sharply – even for such a casual school – and looked like a college professor. He also gave her homework – something she had not expected. He asked her to write a paragraph or two in Spanish.

Rose left the Instituto Baden-Powell, and headed carefully for her home stay. With the help of her map, she was able to bypass the square and find the main road that would lead her to her next crossroads. She passed several doorway shops, including one that sold printing supplies. She passed under an apartment that had a large blue macaw sunning itself on the balcony. Confined to its cage, it shrieked and squawked periodically. The weather in Morelia was quite mild, even in mid-afternoon, and Rose was enjoying her walk.

At a corner, she came upon a vacated discotheque, and turned right around a small park. Along the park was a series of murals depicting themes of science and medicine. She even saw a group of boys (young men?) working on a mural. She deduced that it was sponsored by the nursing school for the University of Morelia and the Cruz Roja (Red Cross). She wondered if the murals changed as the students moved on. From the corner on the other side of the square, she took a left, and headed for the bosque, or city park.

The bosque was a large wooded area (bosque meaning “woods” in Spanish), and Rose could see that it was modeled after a Spanish, or European park design. There were four large broad walkways that converged on a central axis, with two more narrow walkways running from corner to corner. At the apex of the square was a statue of a woman. In the center of the park was a small amusement area, with tame children’s rides and a miniature train. There was also an area built up with hills of added dirt and with wooden ramps that was frequented by boys on bicycles and skateboards. It differed from a French garden in that the walkways were more rugged, and the trees not as pristine as those in Europe. All of the trees were painted from the root to halfway up the trunk with whitewash, like pecan trees in Louisiana were painted. She thought that she recalled that being an insect deterrent. Along the walkways were white cement benches, where couples sat and homeless men slept.

As Rose approached the last commercial street that led to Feli’s house, she took note of businesses that she wanted to visit. She resisted the urge to buy another Diet Coke to drink with lunch, knowing that this would seem too gringa for mere words. She passed by an ice cream shop called La Michoacana, decorated with a painting of a lovely Colonial woman. Paletas, or ice cream on a stick, were very popular in Mexico. These were hidden by a shaded overhang from the direct sunlight and stacked in pyramids with waxed paper between them. Rose toyed with the idea of buying one, but she was almost home and lunch was waiting. She knew that she was hungry, too, even though she had had breakfast – something she rarely indulged in at home.

When she got to the house, Feli was out in her front yard, washing down her sidewalk. Her house was very neat, surrounded by a high adobe wall with a security gate, and with a covered walkway leading to the front door. It reminded Rosa of a house from the sixties. It reminded her of her great-aunt’s house, full of old furniture. Unlike her great-aunt’s house, it was pristinely clean. She had the impression that Feli spent all of her free time from dawn until dusk scrubbing down the inside and outside of the house.

The meal was sumptuous. Rose knew that lunch was the biggest meal of the day, and was glad that she had saved room for it. There were tacos, and sopa azteca, a fabulous dark soup flavored with dried chiles and chicken. Condiments such as avocado slices, fried tortilla strips, and white crumbly cheese were added before eating. Feli urged the avocado slices on her grandson first, and then on Rose. She evidently did not like to waste food. Eduardo, her grandson, was obviously used to this, and refused politely, and did not budge. That left the rest to Rose, who could not refuse just yet. For dessert, there was a light pudding.

After lunch, Rose returned to her room and took a long nap. She got up and decided to walk back toward the center of town – mainly as an excuse to check her e-mail. When she got there, fewer students were crowded around the computers, so she had more time to read her e-mails. There was a long communiqué from William, telling her what he had been up to since she left. Her mother sent a letter full of questions about the journey over, and Rose decided to fill her in on the details later, since she was not coming for a month.

While the journey over had not been unduly taxing on Rose, it had been confusing at times. After her plane landed, she endured a long line and wait to get through customs, and then braced herself for an assault on the taxi fleet outside. She was very cautious, because she had heard all of the stories of taxicab abductions – of tourists picked up by one of the numerous Volkswagen Beetles painted white and green and forced to withdraw money from an ATM, then dropped off in a remote place – or even assaulted. She had information from the school on what to do about taxis, and was determined not to be taken advantage of.

As she exited the airport, she was immediately greeted by a man with an official-looking badge around his neck. He said, “Taxi?” and proceeded to take charge of her. Hold on Pancho, Rose thought to herself, and balked. He looked official, but when she said that she needed to go to the Observatorio Bus Station, and asked how much it would cost, he pointed at a mini-van and said, “Four hundred pesos.” That was roughly forty dollars, so Rose replied, “A mini-van, for just me?” and pulled out the literature from the language school. She indicated to the man that a taxi-ride for that distance should cost no more than twenty pesos, and he looked at her, then summoned a smaller taxi (not a VW Bug) and took her two hundred pesos.

Rose tried in vain to compare the taxi driver’s identification badge to the photo registration on the dashboard, but gave it up. Still fearing the worst, she also tried to take note of landmarks and highway exit signs as they alternately careened through the city and came to sudden halts when they were unavoidable. By unavoidable, that meant that there was a wall of cars preventing any forward advancement. If there was any kind of opening, her taxi driver took advantage with the expertise of a jockey finding a hole in the herd of horses ahead of him. They reached Observatorio Bus Station without any mishaps, and she got out of the taxi, waiting for the driver to fetch her bags from the trunk.

As she approached the station, noticed her first dog of the streets. It was a large German Shepherd mix, lying on its side against the wall of the station. It did not move. Rose was sure that it was dead, and she did not want to go over and find out for sure. She entered the station, quieted by the thought. As she entered, she was faced with a long bank of bus company ticket counters. Two buslines in particular had been recommended, so she looked for the next bus going directly to Morelia, and purchased a first class ticket, which was only $12.00. She approached an equally long bank of food stands and convenience shops and purchased a burrito and a Diet Coke to eat while she was waiting for the bus. She headed for the special waiting area and sat down, after checking her largest bag.

In Mexico, the bus is the preferred mode of transportation for tourists (except for the adventurous who decide to drive their own or a rented car). Trains are less desirable – slow and over crowded and prone to thieves. The bus stations in Mexico City are outfitted like vintage airports, with time tables, waiting areas, and luggage check in areas. As Rose boarded the bus, a uniformed “stewardess” offered her a packaged snack or sandwich and a cold drink to take on the bus. There was a toilet on the bus, and reclining seats and televisions. On the televisions, short programs and movies were shown.

Rose found the trip very pleasant. There was a re-run of an American movie that she had already seen, so she was able to follow the story, even with her limited Spanish. She tried looking out of the window, and noted the monotony of the landscape as they went through the outskirts of the city. Everywhere there was construction, buildings and houses of cinderblocks in various stages of formation. There were also ugly portions of cleared land and Rose was appalled to see a mountain that had been chopped away at from both sides, so that all that remained was a tall column of bare dirt with grass on top of it.

When she reached the Morelia bus station, she noted that it wasn’t as grand as those in Mexico City, and she had to walk up a long stepped walkway to reach the main building. Once outside of the building, she flagged down a taxi, gave him the address for her host family, and paid the equivalent of $2.50 to get there. It was still daylight outside, and she got her first glimpse of the cathedral and plaza.

She wrote all of this to her mother, with the promise to check out a hotel for her and to make reservations as soon as possible. She then logged off of her computer, and made her way back to Feli’s house, where a snack awaited her. On her first night, there had been a more substantial meal, and Rose knew that the regular evening meal would be smaller, but this was ridiculous. She made a mental note to supplement this meal outside of the home if necessary.

Chapter Three – La Dama


La Dama: La dama puliendo el paso, por toda la calle real.

The Lady: The lady, taking an elegant walk along the main street.

Rose studied her map carefully. She determined the best way to approach the main plaza and headed in that direction. She had over an hour before her next class, and decided to visit the cathedral. Morelia, the capital city of the state of Michoacan, was a beautiful city. In the center – or what used to be the center – of the city lay a grand plaza, surrounded on all sides by a street, which was in turn banked by buildings. Most buildings housed hotels and cafes, and the entrances were shaded by a covered promenade. Vendors of all kinds set up in the arches that looked on the square, displaying their goods in carts, on the sidewalk, on tables, and on makeshift clotheslines rigged inside the arches. The consequence of this set up was that the cathedral and plaza were obscured from most viewpoints.

The cafes that extended off the hotels had inviting tables set up, with menus, glasses, and silverware set out on colorful tablecloths. People wove in and around the tables, stopped at vendor stalls, greeted friends and colleagues – Rose had to pay attention for traffic jams and sudden stops ahead of her. Rose was enamored with all things Mexican – she was attracted to the bright colors and intricate details. The needlepoint and painted items, the ceramic tiles and vessels, the copper and crosses and statues – she wanted to buy everything she saw.

She resolved to wait and make her decisions carefully – she had the whole summer to choose her souvenirs.

An old woman came up to her with a basket of cards. As she came closer, Rose could see that they were prayer cards with images of Mary – in particular, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Rose was familiar with Mary, who was the mother of Jesus, and the importance of the Virgin to Catholics. Her grandmother had been a devout Catholic, but her patron saint of choice was St. Francis of Assisi. Most images of Mary in her memory were wan, pastel images with rays of light shimmering behind her raiment. The Mexican version of Mary, however, was quite different. She wore a lovely gilded red dress, a gold crown, and a green veil which fell to her feet. Her hands were held before her in prayer, and her head bowed demurely, eyes closed in meditation. There was a small angel at her feet, and spiky rays of gold emanated from a space behind her body. It was a beautiful image.

Rose stopped the woman, and said, “Cuanto cuesta?” She hoped that she would understand the answer.

The old woman replied, “Diez pesos, senora.”

Ten pesos was almost a dollar, and Rose knew that she should make a counter-offer. But there were some things you just did not barter on. She thought that the Patron Saint of Mexico qualified as one of these cases. She paid the woman, and decided to stop in a café for a Diet Coke (her first of the day) while she read the pamphlet that came with the image. In it was a retelling of the legend surrounding the Virgin in both English and in Spanish. It read as follows:

“For more than three hundred years, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe has been celebrated and revered in Mexico as the Patroness of Mexican and Indian peoples, and as the Queen of the Americas.

She stands on home altars, lends her name to men and women alike, and finds herself at rest on their skin in tattoos. The image of Guadalupe is reproduced on candles, decals, tiles, murals, as well as old and new sacred art. Churches and religious orders carry her name, as do place names and streets. Far from vulgarizing her image, these items personalize her and maintain her presence in daily life. She is prayed to in times of sickness and war and for protection against all evils.

The story of Guadalupe begins in December 1531 in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) when the Virgin Mary appeared four times to the Indian peasant Juan Diego. He was on his way to mass when a beautiful woman surrounded by a body halo appeared to him with the music of songbirds in the background. As the birds became quiet, Mary announced “I am the Entirely and Ever Virgin, Saint Mary.” Assuring Juan Diego that she was his “Compassionate Mother” and that she had come out of her willingness to love and protect “all folk of every kind,” she requested that he build a temple in her honor at the place where she stood on the eastern edge of Mexico City. (This spot has been identified as Tepeyac Hill, the site where once stood a temple to the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin.)

Juan Diego went directly to the bishop of Mexico to relate this wondrous event. The churchman was skeptical and dismissed the humble peasant, who then returned to Tepeyac Hill to beseech the Virgin Mary to find a more prominent person who was less “pitiably poor” than he to do her bidding. Rejecting his protestations, the Virgin urged him to return to the bishop and “indeed say to him once more how it is I, Myself, the Ever Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, who am commissioning you.”

Juan Diego returned to the churchman’s palace after mass, waited, and was finally able to enter his second plea on behalf of the Virgin. This time, the bishop asked the humble native to request a sure sign directly from the “Heavenly Woman” as to her true identity. The bishop then had some members of his staff follow Juan Diego to check on where he went and whom he saw.

The next day, Juan Diego was called to the bedside of his dying uncle, Juan Bernadino. The old man, gravely ill, begged his nephew to fetch a priest for the last rites of the church. The following morning, before dawn, Juan Diego set off on this mission. He tried to avoid the Virgin because of his uncle’s worsening condition, but she intercepted him and asked “Whither are you going?” He confessed that it was on behalf of his uncle that he was rushing to summon a priest. During this third meeting, she assured him that the uncle was “healed up”, as she had already made a separate appearance to him. This visitation would start a tradition of therapeutic miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe. She also comforted Juan Diego with the assurance that she would give him sure proof of her real identity.

On December 12, 1531 the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego for the fourth time and bade him to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill and pick “Castilian garden flowers” from the normally barren summit. She helped him by “taking them up in her own hands” and folded them into his cloak woven of maguey plant fibers. Juan Diego then set off to the bishop’s palace with this sure sign of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe’s identity. As he unwrapped his cloak, the flowers tumbled at the churchman’s feet, and “suddenly, upon that cloak, there flashed a Portrait, where sallied into view a Sacred Image of that Ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God.”

This imprint of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, the “Miraculous Portrait” as it is often called, hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Millions of pilgrims visit the site every year, often approaching on their hands and knees for the last yards of their journey to petition the Virgin for a miracle.”

Rose drank her Diet Coke as she pondered this information. Off-handedly she noted that the Diet Coke tasted different from that in the United States. Sweeter, maybe. Like this bit of information about Juan Diego and his discovery. Rose was not a particularly religious person, but she liked to think that she maintained a connection with God, and was open to miracles – when her cynical side did not yell comments from the sidelines.

Rose had once lived near Conyers, Georgia. For years, a woman claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her regularly – once a month around the 13th, she thought it was – and spoke prophecy. Conyers became a regular Lourdes, with thousands of people crowding to that cow pasture around the woman’s house to hear the words of Mary from this woman’s mouth. Rose was sure that lots of money was made as well – Catholic pilgrims seemed awfully fond of souvenirs. She had even seen a bumper sticker once proclaiming a pilgrimage to see “Our Lady of Conyers.” Eventually, the sightings tapered off, and Mary stopped appearing in Conyers. Rosa had read somewhere that the visitors were becoming a nuisance. Perhaps the woman had cashed in on her fame enough.

Rosa then remembered a time that she was driving in the country east of Conyers. In her rear-view mirror, she suddenly saw a large image of Christ’s head, rising out of the earth. She only saw his head, but upon it stood a crown of thorns and she could make out clearly the expression of agony on his face. She recalled braking sharply to see it more closely. She realized that the image was in the form of an uprooted tree. She remembered with amusement her simultaneous thoughts: one that she was lucky to have seen this vision and the other that she should buy that plot of land and capitalize on her discovery.

Rosa was prone to this sort of random, free-associated stream of thought.

Chapter Two – El Diablito


El Diablito: Pórtate bien cuatito si no te lleva el coloradito.

The Little Devil: Behave yourself so that the little red one doesn’t carry you off.

The next morning, Rose was greeted by her hostess, Feli. She was awake, but lying in bed until the very last minute that she needed to get up and get ready. She was offered the first use of the shower and stood under the moderate amount of water offered. In her preparatory literature, she and her fellow Spanish students had been cautioned to be modest in their use of the family’s resources – although it had not specifically mentioned water as a commodity. Rose also had a bottle of water, as she knew that even brushing one’s teeth with tap water could make her vulnerable to “Montezuma’s Revenge.” As it was, she had noticed that many Mexican homes now took advantage of water services, with weekly deliveries of filtered water.

She went into the kitchen, and had cereal and fruit and juice while she listened to Feli’s constant stream of conversation. Rose was not a morning person, and making conversation in a foreign language early in the morning was not her forte. She tried to listen actively and not just say “yes” or “no” whenever she heard a break or inflection that seemed to need a response. That was a strategy that sometimes got her into trouble. So, she got the general idea that a niece was coming to pick her up and to take her to the Instituto Baden-Powell by car. She then realized that she was expected to make it back home on her own for lunch. She promised herself to pay careful attention on the trip over. Usually, Rose did not pay attention to how she got somewhere when she was not the driver.

Ana, the niece – or neighbor? – arrived. Introductions were made, and Rose was ushered to a compact car of indiscriminate make and age. Her resolve to pay attention to landmarks was shaken as Ana went careening through the streets of Morelia, only stopping abruptly when forced to by oncoming traffic. Rose did not want to be rude, so she comforted herself with her back-up plans. Plan A was the use of a city map that had been provided by the school – surely she could read a map, hoping that Feli’s street was included. Plan B was to take a taxi, as she had from the bus station. Although she could not take taxis every day, it was not a big expense. Since she would be paying, perhaps she could make the driver slow down.

The Instituto Baden-Powell was an attractive narrow building painted a colonial orange-red (terra cotta?) trimmed with yellow. The sign hanging over the door was made of iron, fashioned especially for the building. The corner fountain across the street made a more reliable marker. At the moment, Rose had forgotten her concern about making it back home for lunch, but she was becoming aware that she would also be responsible for finding this place in the morning as well.

After she presented herself to the front office, introductions were made, and she was given a tour of the school. Its appearance from the outside was misleading. Behind its narrow frontage lay a warren of small rooms, designed for small group or private lessons. There were tape machines and even television monitors in some of the rooms, and an extensive library of resources available to the instructors in a sort of private teachers’ lounge area. Rose’s favorite area was the rooftop. There was a free-standing thatched classroom there, as well as several patio tables with umbrellas. She could see pairs of students and teachers conducting class in this open place, under the blue sky.

As promised in the brochure, there was a room with six or seven computers arranged on the wall, where students were taking turns accessing the internet and their e-mail. There was a pay phone, and telephone cards were sold at the office, along with stamps and other minor school supplies. As they passed this area again, Rose was ushered into a larger classroom with student desks placed in a circle with their backs to the wall. There, with other new students that were starting that Monday, she was given an assessment test to complete. She noticed that there were all sorts of people in the room – even a young couple attending with their children.

When she emerged from the testing, Rose decided to check her e-mail. She had been unable to use the telephone at her host home – this was one of the ground rules of staying there. Apparently, telephone charges were high in Mexico, so to avoid conflict with the family, students were expected to use outside phones to call home. She had several e-mail messages, including one from William, one from her sister, and another from her mother. Her father was not computer-friendly, so her sister did his communicating for him. Rose fired off a couple of responses, and then wrote an entry in her web log. She had begun this electronic journal before her trip and was planning on keeping a running commentary on her experiences in Mexico.

Rose’s level was determined to be beginner to intermediate, and she was given a schedule with four individual teachers, who would instruct her for four separate hours. Her first two classes would be from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. After that, she would have a two-hour break, and then take two more hours of classes from noon to 2:00 PM. Since she had been told that the walk back to Feli’s house would take 30 minutes, Rose was determined to stay downtown during her two-hour break – the better to explore and shop. She ventured carefully out for the first time and vowed not to go to far from the school for fear that she would get lost before she returned for her noon class.

As she made her way down the street, Rose was immediately accosted by a small boy. Identifying her as an American – for Rose had a hard time looking like anything but the whitest woman in the area – he immediately petitioned her for a handout. Rose had already experienced homeless street children on the streets of Mexican cities, and just shook her head to indicate that she wouldn’t give the boy any money. It was inconceivable that she did not have money, but after following her for a few blocks, he gave up.

Next, she came across a stray dog. Just as the boy had, this dog seemed instinctively to see the possibility for an easy mark. In fact, Rose had rescued most of her pet dogs from the dog pound – her current pooch, Serendipity, had been a mangy puppy hanging around her school. When an older teacher saw her petting the dog, she scolded, “Don’t touch that thing – you don’t know where it has been!” Rose looked at the teacher, picked up the puppy, and drove it to her house. Serendipity had been with her for 8 years.

She tossed a cookie to the stray dog. Unfortunately, this only resulted in encouraging the dog, which followed her all the way to the center of town. She would have to remind herself to be more hard-hearted, or else she would attract every animal in town! Rose loved Mexico, but it was often hard to reconcile this beautiful country – which had so many riches in culture and food – with the intense poverty that claimed many of its citizens. As a child, she had reacted in anger – not to the injustice, but to its very fact spoiling her love affair with the abundant tourist opportunities available south of the border. She was more mature now, but she still harbored resentment – this time for bearing witness to a fact of life that she personally could not change.

Chapter One – El Gallo


El Gallo: El que le cantó a San Pedro no le volverá a cantar.

The Rooster: He that sang to St. Peter will not return to sing again.

It was three o’clock in the morning, and Rose could not sleep. It was not the heat: this part of Mexico was surprisingly cool at night. Nor was it jet lag: she had not really changed time zones drastically. The bed was comfortable, the family was asleep, and she was relieved that she had made it here by herself with no mishaps. What she had not expected, in the middle of Morelia, which was a good-sized city, was a crowing rooster.

Wasn’t it too early to wake up – even for a rooster? Before that, it had been the dogs barking. There were a lot of dogs in the neighborhood. Just when she thought that there would be quiet, the dogs started again. Before that there had been a rainstorm, and the grandson of her hostess had come into the room and climbed on the foot of her twin bed to shut the windows.

Now it was rooster time. Rose’s family had had chickens for a while, but she did not remember being awakened by the rooster this early in the morning. She did remember how mean her family’s rooster had been – how she and her mother had plotted its death one weekend while her father was out of town. They didn’t follow through with it, but the rooster lost his life in a chicken raid by neighborhood dogs. She remembered returning home from school to scattered chicken carcasses strewn around their old Victorian house. She also remembered having to go out with her sister and collect the corpses in plastic trash bags – was this some sort of twisted character building exercise invented by her parents? They moved on to pigeons after that.

She tried to sleep with her pillow over her ears, but she could still hear them – there were more than one of them. Who in the world kept chickens in the city? Mexicans, that’s who. How practical! She wondered where they lived. Most yards in the city were rather small – she had already been surprised to discover that dogs were often kept on the roof! Most roofs in Mexico were flat-topped, with slight walls surrounding them. Other dogs just had to be trusted to make their own walls. She wondered if any other livestock lurked in the vicinity.

She had another chicken thought: one Easter, she and her sister, Violet, were given two chicks to raise. They were very young and very cute, but they died after a few days. To make matters worse, they were about to leave on a family trip just when they discovered the dead chicks. In order to give them a decent burial (they had made a graveyard for deceased pets under their house, which was raised off of the ground), she and Violet decided to store their bodies in plastic bags for the couple of days they would be gone. When they returned, the bag was crawling with maggots…

But this was not the kind of thing to be thinking of when trying to sleep! She tried to clear her mind, but it was a long time before she was aware of having slept. She wanted to sleep, too, as she had been up the night before very late – packing, and checking to be sure that everything would run smoothly at home while she was gone. She had never been able to sleep on airplanes, and was not able to sleep on the bus, even though it was very comfortable and featured reclining chairs. This was her first time traveling to Mexico alone and she felt like she had to be alert at all times.

Rose had decided this year to take a trip to Mexico and to learn the language. She had fallen into teaching French after returning from her second year abroad. At that time, an intervention was engineered by her well-meaning mother and a friend. The bottom line was this: get a real job – the free ride was over. Luckily for her, foreign language teachers were in demand at the time, and she was able to skip the dreary education classes in order to secure a position teaching high school French in a small town in Georgia. She had learned the hard way that teaching was a veritable minefield of politics – and she was not yet adept at adopting a teacher’s mask of propriety.

She was learning that flexibility was the key to staying employed in teaching. Interestingly enough, this was contrary to what she had imagined a teaching career would be like. She had loved her teachers, but felt that they had taken a rather safe path, trading adventure for security, a meager salary, and summers off. Her parents had both been teachers, but had moved on to different careers. Her father worked in the petroleum industry before it went bust, and her mother was an interior decorator.

Rosa was content for the moment with being a teacher, and it was for some of the reasons she had disdained at first. She had adequate health insurance and was visiting Mexico for the summer because she had vacation. School could be unbearable at times, but the vacation time made up for the stress! She could not imagine working in an office environment or in any other career that allowed only two weeks off per year.

From her beginnings as a high school French teacher, Rosa had moved on to teaching sixth grade “exploratory” French and Spanish. Since there was already a French teacher at the middle school, and she taught exploratory French as well, Rosa actually found herself with the bulk of the Spanish classes. This was fine with her, as she had traveled to Spain and Mexico and was adept and creative at teaching culture. The trip to Mexico was part of her plan to bring her Spanish up to a higher level, but it was mainly an excuse to travel, partly on the school system’s dime.

There were a few sacrifices made to make the trip possible. Rosa was leaving her boyfriend, William, for the entire summer, and she was also entrusting her 8-year old dog to her mother’s care. On the bright side, her mother was going to come and visit for a week later that month, and then her father and William were going to spend a week traveling with her. William had also gallantly offered to care for her dog and her mother’s dog when she came to visit. Rosa’s parents were divorced, but both had given her fond memories of trips south of the border when Rosa and Violet were young.

At the moment, Rosa did not feel homesick, although she would have like to have her dog with her, as she had in France. Her dog was not a barker… This fact reminded her of the reason for her insomnia, as she woke again to barking and crowing in the wee hours of the morning. She prayed that all of her nights would not be this long.