I'm taking a break from life as it is, to tell you a story.
It could take several posts to get to the end of the story.
There will be love and heartbreak, and more love, and more heartbreak...
...and a happy ending.
The story starts here.
* * * * *
We rode in the back of a cattle truck to get to the tiny village of Tlalcosteptl. I'm sure we were a sight: a group of 40+ North Americans hanging over the wooden sides of a cattle truck, riding through the crowded streets of Puebla, Mexico.
The village was nestled into the side of an extinct volcano called La Malinche. It was the home of 25 or 30 families; all from the Tlaxcalan Indian tribe. While the leaders of the tribe spoke Spanish, the majority of the villagers spoke in their native dialect: nahuatl.
At the base of the volcano was another town called San Miguel Canoa. We were asked to walk, not ride, through that town, and to keep our voices low and to stay together in the group. The people in the town were suspicious of 'white men' and only because they trusted our leader were we allowed to pass through in safety.
I learned later, from a woman who was considered the priestess of the village, that the Indians were guarding sacred records hidden somewhere in the volcano, and outsiders had been shot in the past for getting too close.
We all breathed a sigh of relief as we left Canoa and the air was once again filled with laughter and anticipation.
I have never in my life seen poverty as I saw it in the village of Tlalcosteptl.
Just 20 miles away, the city of Puebla was a thriving metropolis, and yet Tlalcosteptl had neither running water nor electricity.
The homes were made of dried corn stalks, and the people of the village made their living by farming.
As we unloaded our gear into the tiny schoolyard of the village, the villagers quietly left their homes and came to watch the spectacle that we were.
We pitched our tents, dug a hole that we built walls around with a tarp for our latrine, and spent the rest of the afternoon attempting communication with the children of the village.
We were there to work, but we were also there to be taught life changing lessons...we just didn't know it.
Just a few months prior to our group arriving, another group had been to the same village and started the construction of a two room schoolhouse.
Our project was to finish the school, and build a brick plaza in front of the school.
We worked hard every day, from early in the morning, until the sun went down at night.
The villagers worked alongside us, and we developed trust and friendships with people we couldn't even talk to.
Although the above picture doesn't show it, I was the happiest I think I had been my whole life in that village.
It was as if a part of my soul I didn't even know was missing, was found the minute that cattle truck dropped us off on the side of that volcano.
The reality I had known my whole life was entirely different than the reality these Indians knew, and it didn't take me very long to realize that perhaps their reality was the better one.
Children who had nothing were content and perfectly happy to play in the dirt.
Parents worked hard from sunup to sundown to eek out a living for their families.
The food these people had to eat came from the crops they grew.
And although they could stand at the edge of their home in the evening and look down and see the lights of the city of Puebla, they rarely found a reason to leave.
As a group, we became family.
We loved each other and became the best of friends.
And before too long, as will happen with any group of young people, crushes were developed.
Jeff loved Angie.
Becca loved Darren.
Camille loved Jared.
Taylor loved Camille.
Justin loved Ann from Connecticut.
Kristin loved everyone.
I loved someone too.
Someone with the most amazing blue eyes I had ever seen.