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Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 4

How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds

By the time we left Pedro’s house it had been dark for a long time, and Anthony and I had been up since 4:30 a.m. that morning. We were exhausted.

At the girls dorm I lucked out and was assigned one room by myself; the privilege of being the only female, I suppose. Anthony and Dave were sharing another room. At this point in time, those beds were looking really good. But before we could go to glorious sleep, our hosts had everybody circle up in the living room and they brought out a guitar to sing some songs.

marjorys-room-at-the-tarahumara-girls-school-in-creel-mexico

Marjory’ s room at the Tarahumara girls school in Creel

Then it was time for prayers. And they were excruciatingly long ones in English, Spanish, and then in Tarahumara. I looked over and saw Anthony weaving in an attempt to stay standing.

And then finally my prayer was answered and we got dismissed to go to our rooms.

“Poor Anthony,” I thought as the sound of Dave’s loud snoring came across the hall into my room. Had Anthony thought to bring a pair of earplugs? If not, he was probably not going to get much rest. I put a pillow over my head to shut out the sound and went to sleep.

luzdivini-one-of-our-hosts-at-the-girls-school-in-creel-mexico

Luzdivini, one of our hosts at the girls school in Creel

 

The Tarahumara Girls School

When I got up the next morning Dave was gone, ostensibly to work on logistics. While we waited, Luzdivini and Javier were kind enough to give Anthony and I a tour of the facilities and tell us a bit about the girls. Most of the girls went home on the weekends as their families didn’t live that far away. But one very shy and pretty girl named Angelique could only go home on major holidays because she lived too far out. She was the most traditional of the girls and held closely to her family’s customs.

My heart really went out to this young woman. The feeling was so strong that I wondered why. There must be some connection, but it eluded me at the moment. It would be almost the end of the trip before I would realize what it was.

angelique-a-tarahumara-girl-at-the-school-in-creel

Angelique, a Tarahumara girl at the school in Creel

Angelique was related to Patricinio, the famous Tarahumara violin maker. Javier mentioned that we would probably be going very close to where her family lived, and I suggested that Angelique write a letter to her family and perhaps we could deliver it for her. She brightened at this and got pen to paper.

Delivering that letter would turn out to be both a blessing and a curse.

Rooftop Water Storage Tanks in Mexico

During our tour, I asked Javier about the tanks I saw on the tops of buildings. There were also tanks at ground level that were piped into gutter systems which were clearly for rainwater catchment. But why would anybody have a tank on top of the roof? Javier explained that electricity and water supply in the town were very unreliable. So when the utilities were on, everybody would pump water up to tanks on tops of their houses so that they would have gravity fed water available during the frequent blackouts.

tanks-on-top-of-buildings-because-utilities-are-not-that-reliable

Tanks on top of buildings because utilities are not that reliable

Dave returned and we headed out to Pedro’s house to take him up on his invitation for breakfast. “Dave,” I asked, “can we stop by the grocery store on the way?” When you’re paying a guy $20 a day to carry a pack, having three hungry Americans show up on his doorstep would surely be a strain on his family. Plus the night before when I had suggested I would bring eggs, I noticed his wife’s eyes light up.

We bought armloads of groceries; eggs, sausage, cheese, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, and tortillas – probably enough to feed Pedro’s family for a week. This did a lot to ensure our presence was deeply appreciated and the welcome was genuine. Pedro’s wife was a good cook. I never did find out why Pedro lived in the city. Dave told me that in previous years there have been a string of droughts that forced many of the Tarahumara off the land. They came into town to find jobs so that they could feed their families. And in all too many cases, as happens round the world, they succumb to alcohol or drugs and thus begin a downward spiral that few can escape from. Pedro was on the up and up right now, but I suspected there had been problems in the past.

pedro-in-his-small-but-comfortable-home-in-creel-mexico

Pedro in his small but comfortable home in Creel

After breakfast I asked, “Where’s the bathroom?” Pedro’s bubbly young son was assigned to show me. We walked down to the end of the block and across the gravel road. The boy pointed to a grove of trees and then sat on a big rock with his back to me. He politely waited for me to do my business. It took me a moment to realize… Oh, the trees are the bathroom for the subdivision.

How Much Gear Do You Really Need?

Back at the house, I noticed that Pedro took only a knife, a blanket, and a jacket. He bid his family farewell and we all headed back to the girls school to do a final gear assessment and prepare to go on the bus.

We definitely had too much stuff. We spread it all out on the floor and decided what to take. The most important pack was the one filled with all of Anthony’s video gear. Cameras, lenses, computer, batteries, memory, tripod… it was a pretty heavy pack. We had to take this pack and Anthony manned up to carry it.

Anthony and I slimmed down our personal loads by leaving a bag full of clothes at the school that we would pick up upon our return to Creel.

A Surprise Blessing at the Tarahumara Girls School

The heaviest, bulkiest gifts we gave away to the girls. We laid out the packages of cloth and sewing kits that I had brought on the floor in the living room. The girls eyes widened when they understood they could take what they wanted, and the stuff just simply evaporated. School supplies and most of the tennis balls also disappeared pretty quickly. Dave picked up one of the two tents and turned it over thoughtfully in his hands. They were inexpensive 3-man tents I had picked up at a local sporting goods store just before leaving. I had brought them along mostly at the insistence of my husband who had been getting more and more worried about me. “Hon, there have been heavy rains in that region lately,” he said with real concern in his voice. “Just one good soaking and you’ll be miserable.”

He was right, of course. Since none of our regular personal gear was the right size, I picked up these two tents at the last minute. And by bringing them, I had committed a cardinal sin of any expedition; it was gear I had never tested.

“I’m not sure we will need two tents,” Dave said, “but I think we should take one just in case.” He turned to Javier and asked, “Would you be in need of a tent?”

Javier looked like he had been struck by lightning. Apparently one of the girls in the school had an opportunity for some very important studies a long distance away. They had gotten most of the supplies she needed for the journey, but the one thing that was missing was a tent. They just didn’t have the resources to get one and the whole school had been praying on the issue.

I felt a twinge of apprehension as a ghost popped up to remind me that I had never tested that tent, and it was a cheaper brand. But Dave assured me that as soon as we left, they would be setting it up and testing it out. The instructions were printed clearly in schematics on the side.

So with much lighter packs, many good wishes, and sincere prayers for a safe journey we headed out. We still had lots of gifts to give, and knowing our packs would continually lighten made it easier.

javier-gives-us-a-tour-of-this-small-church-for-the-tarahumara-girls-school-in-creel

Javier gives us a tour of this small church for the Tarahumara girls school in Creel.

 

Heading Out to the Bus Station in Creel

On the way to the bus stop, Dave wanted to show us one other thing. It was a small Tarahumara Indian buying cooperative. We could fill the last remaining crevices in our packs with some additional small lightweight gifts that would be greatly appreciated the further out of town we got. Things like raisins, pecans, dried peppers, and other spices.

It was on the way to this little co-op that we heard the unmistakable sound of gunshots.

organic-seed-alliance-seed-saving-guide


This article is Chapter 4 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
Chapter 9: Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here
Chapter 10: The Biggest Surprise of the Trip
Chapter 11: Another Tarahumara Myth Busted
Chapter 12: Sleeping with Rats is Better than Freezing
• Chapter 13: COMING SOON

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This post was written by Marjory

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