We learned a great deal during our time as volunteers and guests in Temixco. Estela seems to be gradually realizing and defining her vision of a center for her community. Her center, which is based in her home and garden, offers a place to play, eat, take classes, and use her temezcal (Mexico traditional sweat lodge) for children and adults of the community, the same community she grew up in. Some of the most admirable things she offers are healthy snacks and meals for children who don't have enough to eat at home, a garden and home in which members of this sometimes struggling neighborhood can relax, and free English classes for the community. She possesses a real sense of the realities of the area, as well as a genuine wish to give and help.
The most satisfying activity for Peter and me was teaching English to a group of wonderful kids from the neighborhood. Other tasks included cleaning, painting, and doing yardwork in her center and in the health center of a colleague. She explained that the local orphanage, understandably, prefers volunteers who can commit a serious amount of time as the children take time to build trust and then get attached. She also explained that when volunteers stay a month or longer, she sets up regular and individualized work for them, such as regular yoga classes that one volunteer, who stayed several months, offered to children. Volunteers who are on shorter visits tend to stick to more basic tasks, and help, generally, with whatever small chores need to be done.
Estela's organization is small and new; she is, it seems, still clarifying its structure and breadth. Volunteers should be able to tolerate ambiguity, able to handle a somewhat unstructured environment.
We stayed in the upstairs of Estela's home and center. This provided an inevitable and very enriching integration with her family, almost all of whom live close by and are constantly stopping by. Her brother, who lives next door and is a professional language teacher, gave us personalized Spanish classes. Her mother, who lives down the road, cooked for us, showed us how to make pinatas, and was always welcoming. Her many siblings and neighbors came by and were extremely nice. Estela and the women in her family cooked us authentic dishes. When we expressed interest in a certain neighboring town or site, Estela often arranged a visit with herself or one of her sisters as a guide. We were taken to extraordinary archeological and natural sites, caves, mountains, ruins, and villages.
Estela maintains some very strong convictions. She is interesting, well-meaning, and well educated. However, volunteers should be prepared to accept her views on health, lifestyle, and community. They should be ready for a mostly vegetarian diet and should be aware that there is no alcohol in her home. Volunteers should be flexible and tolerant.
All in all, the experience offered a glance into the lives of the people in this community. We were made to feel a part of this community. These were a very interesting two weeks and a wonderful way to start the New Year.