Sunday, April 16, 2006

Turn about is fair play

All right.... For all of your up north who I've been calling and emailing and saying, "Hey, it's 75 today!" or "I hope you're enjoying the snow, it's warm and sunny here"... Now's your chance. It was 106 degrees here today. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 103. 101 for Tuesday. Looks like it's cool and 70s back in MN.

Even 106 isn't too bad down here, but, I wasn't at home this weekend. We were in Del Rio, TX which is right on the border across the Rio Grande from Cuidad Acuna, Mexico. We went there for some special Easter church services. Del Rio is known for Lake Amistad which is where the Rio Grande, Pecos River, and Devil's river all combine. In addition, there are a bunch of natural springs all over the area. This all combined with 106 degree temperature made it pretty hot and sticky. The Easter services were outside in a park pavilion. There was a gentle breeze blowing and we kept a big cooler full of ice and drinks on hand. Overall, I actually fared better in the heat than I thought I would. I took 2 or 3 showers every day because I was sweating like a pig, but other than that it was a good time.

Del Rio is actually a pretty nice little town of about 35,000 people. A lot of the people there are pretty poor, and many of the buildings are old, but most of them are clean; you can tell that most people there take pride in what little they do have. This is in stark contrast to Brownwood, where our poor areas are just plain dirty. Palm trees dot the landscaping in Del Rio and a bunch of natural springs flow through the city in man-made irrigation ditches. The water is extremely clean and the most beautiful aqua-blue / turquoise color. Very cool.

We met a number of people who really don't have much at all - but were very happy. This was really good for me because it reminded me a lot of the poverty I saw as a child in Costa Rica. Also, there were a bunch of people in the services from Mexico who only spoke Spanish, so the services were bilingual. The poor guy translating had to switch back and forth between translating Spanish to English and English to Spanish depending on who was speaking. It's been about 17 years since I was fluent in Spanish, and unfortunately, I can only recall very little. After being "immersed" for only 2 days, I was starting to remember my Spanish. I was amazed. I think we'll have to head down there some more so I can work on being bilingual again.

The folks in Del Rio were very gracious in many ways, not the least of which was keeping us fed. On Saturday and Sunday they provided food for everyone: Rice and Beans, home-made tamales (YUM! - no.. Double-YUM!), home-made Salsa, fajitas, banana pudding, fresh watermelon, etc. When you sit for a meal, they serve you. When you finish your plate, someone comes by and drops another plate in front of you. They are very proud of their food, and they get offended if you don't eat it. This is a bit of a challenge for Anna because, while she likes most Mexican food, there are certain things that she won't eat. She didn't want to offend anyone and prayed before we left, "Lord, help me to eat when I'm not hungry, when it doesn't look good, and when it doesn't taste good."

When we showed up on Saturday morning a bunch of the guys were standing around eating soup. The pastor from Del Rio saw us walk up and said, "Come try some of this good soup we have made. It's a Mexican delicacy."

"What's it called?"

"It's called Menudo. It's very good, just try a little bit, even just the juice."

Menudo. Menudo. My Spanish was coming back. There was something familiar about this name. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to try it, but I consented.

He dished up a little bit of the broth for me.

I tried it. It was flavorful, but ohh... it was greasy. I didn't care for it. He asked if I wanted more.

"No, I'm sorry, I don't care for it," I replied. I looked more closely at the kettle of soup and asked, "It's made from intestines, isn't it?"

"Yes, cow. I'm sorry you don't like it." He was grinning from ear to ear and I could tell he was enjoying every second of stretching our cultural boundaries. The 20 year old strapping kid next to me turned a bit pale when he realized what he was eating, but then continued on and seemed to like it. Maybe he was just trying to prove his manliness. He regretted it later.

I walked over to get a glass of water to get the taste out of my mouth and looked back over towards "the soup". I didn't know whether to laugh or fear when I saw the pastor dishing up a bowl of soup for Anna. Her reaction was about the same as mine.

- - - PAUSE - - - -

Can any of you imagine my wife eating cow intestine soup?

God still works miracles. OK, we can go on now.

- - - - END PAUSE - - -

Anyway, later on this Mexican fellow walks up to us and says, "You didn't eat that stuff did you? It's disgusting. I don't even eat it, and I'm a Mexican."

Later, as the song service ended and the minister came forward to speak, we saw the 20 year old eat-all macho guy quietly exit the service and make a mad dash for the bathroom. He was there for a while.