Catherine has gone to Mexico for the summer. She is travelling with American Friends Service Committee. Here are links to her project:


Below are her emails to/from us, most recent first:



So I didnt email you all last week bacuse I didnt feel like it. Thats all. Not because I was doing something extra exciting. Although the festival was pretty exciting.


For San Salvador, who is the patron saint of Huehuetla, So there was dancing, a bunch with costumes and head dresses and I wish I could tell you how the music was but I couldnt hear it because there was this obnoxious band playing at top volume on the stage right next to the dancers. Which was disappointing, but The best were the Voladores, which translates to `^the Flyers^. What they do is put up this huge pole, a couple days before the festival, I dont know how many feet it was but it was almost as tall as the church, if that gives you any idea, and there's are like ten dancers, usually all men but there was one woman in this troupe (one of the dancers was Juan who we know from the proyecto de verano but is in one of the other communities so that was pretty cool) and they dance in a circle around the pole, playing a flute and a drum and then, four at a time they climb the pole to the platform on top, attach these long ropes to their waists, and then all at once, fall and the platform spins and they all spin down lower and lower until they reach the ground. It was crazy.


It wasn't really sunny but the sky was so bright it was really hard to watch the platform for very long, but the moment when they all fell was amazing. They all wear these tall pointed hats and have kind of streamer things attached to their wrists.


We also went to see Huapango which is a kind of music thats really common here, its like all they play on the radio. I cant explain how it sounds, but there are 3 instruments a violin, guitar and jarana which is like a tiny guitar. The violinist kept falling asleep though which was pretty funny and the guitarist kept elbowing him and he´d wake up and play a little more and then doze off again. There´s a dance that goes with it thats really easy, for the women anyway, its the same step over and over, the men do this kind of shuffling stomping step. But the only people dancing were these two extremely drunk guys who looked like they might kill you with they way the were stomping.


This was the week of fiestas, we had three days in a row, Sunday we went to Xonalpu (next community) for the mass for San Salvador and to Mari´s brother´s for a fiesta which was really just a meal (I still don't understand what exactly constitues a party here) and then we went to these water falls which are really close to his house, and swam in all our clothes. It was gorgeous, and a really beautiful day.


Monday we went to the festival here. and Tuesday was the party in our house, for Lidia and Rene´s birthdays. A bunch of their family came from other towns. The night before, we killed a turkey!! and by we, I mean Valdemar. the rest of us watched and helped pluck it. They did it in the kitchen. Carmen, hung it by the feet from the ceiling, it didnt even move, i was surprised and then he broke its neck, which took longer than I expected, and then we plucked it, which was gross at first, but after a while it wasn't at all. And then a bunch of us sat and watched while Carmen cut it apart, which didnt gross me out at all, i was too fascinated.


Then for the party we made mole, which is the strangest combination of ingredients ever-bananas mashed, crushed crackers, chiles, chocolate, other things I can't remember, but its a sauce that goes over the turkey or whatever meat youre using.


hmmm what else. Today is Saturday and we leave on Wednesday morning. We came today with Lucia who had to take the bus home to Mexico city because she starts school on Monday, but when we get back to Mexico city we're going to stay at her house. So all the goodbyes are starting a little early. I'm sad to have to leave, it's not like I want to stay here forever or anything, and I'm excited to see everyone and start school, but its weird because I know I´ll never have this experience again, and especially in living with the familiy, its not like I am super close with them or even know them really well, but to live with people for 7 weeks is something pretty powerful. And at the beginning, they were all super shy with us and us with them, but something changed in the last 2 weeks I don't know how, and we´ve all been talking a lot more, and more at ease I guess and Valdemar´s been going everywhere with us, working on the stoves and all. Like two weeks ago, when I woke up, Rolando came over to me with his arms out and says ´´Abrazame´´ which means Hug me. and it was funny because it was like he had just learned that word or something and after that its been hugs all the time from those two. Aggghh I am going to cry so much when I leave.


So this afternoon we´re having a party in the store, with all the families well not all, but some at least. We made pinata this week with the kids an its sort of a goodbye/thank you party, one more day to say goodbye.


So we have to go pick up the cake now. Last week we had a cake for the birthday party and it weighed like 20 pounds, mostly because of the board it was on, we got a ride back to Kuwik but I had to hold it in my lap, without any covering, over all these bumps and rocks. I was so scared it would go flying out the window.


On that note, goodbye, I wont write again till after this is all over, or maybe I won't write again, who knows.

love you



Oh oh I forgot to tell you about my nicknames, so Catherine is kind of impossible in spanish so it becomes Caterina, and my group was calling me Cat, but when we got to Kuwik, the kids had never heard that name before and asked about it and I was telling them what it means in english, gato in spanish, and they told me that cat is mitsi in Totonaco, so I alternately answer to Cat, Cati (a lot of the adults use that), and Mitsi. Or as one boy says ´´Mitsi Cat Mitsi Cat´´ and then laughs



Oh my

So only have like 2 weeks left here. I am in Cuetzalan which is like 2 hours from Kuwikchutchut by bus, well 3 if you count the hour we walked to Huehuetla. It's a bigger town, The call it a ¨^Pueblo Magico^ which I'm not really sure what that means other than it has some beautiful churches and a huge market. and a lot of tourists, I heard english on the street for the the first time today (other than Hello! Hello!! Hey baby I love you!) We got up at five in order to get the 8 am bus in Huehuetla, because they don't do daylight savings in Kuwik, but Huehuetla does, or the other way around, I'm not sure, but in any case, we lose an hour when we leave Kuwikchutchut. Although it seems pretty flexible. Some families go by one hour and others by another.


So that "festival" that I said we were going to? not a festival at all. Not even a fiesta. It was like 3 hours of community organizations' representatives (in Spanish and Totonaco) making speeches. and then everyone got a tamale. and a cup of fruit punch. It was interesting, but really hot and not what we had expected.

But next weekend there's a festival for the patron saint of Huehuetla, which we're going to (fingers crossed that theres more to it than tamales!)


We`re halfway through with the stoves (the reason the took so long the first week was because the families didn't have their dirt ready (you have to screen all the rocks and roots because otherwise you cut your hands a lot in molding the mixture) so we were screening 8 buckets of dirt before beginning the actual process of the stove, but now its a lot faster because they have the dirt ready), tomorrow I think were going to start cleaning the garden up, because we have to wait on more materials for the stoves and then the church roof.


This past weekend we went back to Zapotitlan for "Medio Camino", two days with all the groups, talking about what we've done so far and sorting out problems. Let me tell you, I am so lucky to be in Kuwik and in this group. There's one group were its cold and rainy all the time and the community literally is in the clouds, I saw pictures. My group gets along the best out of all of them it seems, some of the groups have huge conflicts between the facilitators, between participants. Most of them are not living with families, but in school buildings and things like that, so I feel pretty lucky having this experience. and we cook pretty much all our meals, with the family, except for on the days we've been doing stoves, on those we ate with the family whose house we were at. I like that we can do that.


And a lot of the other groups speak English among themselves, which I am so glad we haven't done that. That is one of the most interesting things I've gotten out of this experience, living in another language. Although during Medio Camino, 3 other girls from my group and I spent like 3 hours speaking English. It was so funny it just happened all of a sudden we had been talking in spanish and then Amy (she's from DC) came back from the internet place and sat down and started telling this ridiculous story about an email she had gotten in English, and then we just decided to keep on. And it was funny, I felt like we were talking about the same things we talk about all the time, but the way we could say them was different. and it was SO WEIRD to hear each other's voices in English, I hadn't thought it would be so strange but they changed so much.


alright. more next week or whenever...


love you




So every time I send an email I tell myself im not going to do it anymore because it messes with my head to have to think in English again, and for the rest of the day i have a hard time forming sentences in Spanish because I'm still thinking in English. but then a week goes by and I really want to write again and tell you all what{s happening because there is no way I'll be able to remember all the details or explain it to all of you at once like this. so.......



I've only been in Mexico for 3 1/2 weeks and with the Proyecto de Verano for 2ish but it feels like forever. and thats not a bad thing. I just can't believe how much has happened in such a short amount of time.


Anyway, I'm in Huehuetla, today is our free day, and I came with Felix, who is from Germany (by the way did I tell you that it takes an hour walking to get here?) the others are going to come later but Felix needed to go to the bank so we came in the morning, but when we got here it turned out the bank is closed Saturday but open sunday. I guess because Sunday is the market day.


We're coming back tomorrow though for the festival, which is the culmination of a conference thats happening here on indigenous communities and the environment. Each group from the Proyecto de Verano sent 2 people to the conference, but my group is the only one in which everyone gets to go to the festival, because were so close. the other groups are like 5 hours away. So we're pretty lucky. Hmmm what else...


So we made 3 stoves this week, one in the store, one in the house were I stayed when we visited the first time and one in Doña Soledad's house. we stayed at her house for a few days to work (the other house was next door) so we wouldnt have to climb back up the mountain every night to sleep. and then it rained and we couldnt leave because it was too dangerous. When i rains here it really rains! and when it rains, you really cant do anything but wait. We{ve been joking that that is what were learning to do most in Mexico, to wait.


Everything happens a lot slower here. At the beginning we planned to do one stove each day and have the afternoons free for cultural exchange/games/crafts witht the kids. But this week we spent the entire day in finishing one stove. Theres really no other way to do it because once you start you cant wait till the next day, because they're made of a mixture of cement and dirt and sand and stuff (which we mixed with our feet, it was quite fun) and you have to use it before it dries out. Its hard to explain the stoves without seeing them. I will draw you a picture someday, well actually i took pictures of the whole process, even better.


Staying at Soledad's was nice, to have a change of scenery and be with another family. Her daughter Reina is 9 and is like a little sister to all of us, she has three puppies, who eat maraculla, a fruit that I THINK is passionfruit but I'm not sure because I had never tried it until the other day. but its amazing whatever it is. (they eat more than maraculla,obviously, but it was really funny, we were holding them and the were eating it out of our hands, they're going to be vegetarians, Reina says)


We might stay the weekends there, to give our other family a break. Although when we came back the other day they said they had missed us. Its a lot of people to have in one house but they tell us they're enjoying it.


Every day Alex and Rolando get flowers from the tree behind the house and to give us, ¿te gusta? (you like it?) so we always have flowers in our hair and pockets and all over the house, you can eat these flowers too but they dont taste that special. They also like to say ¿te gusta esto? (you like this?)and then flip their eyelids inside out.


Don't think I wrote about carrying water. So every day we go with Lidia and Mari to the spring to fill the water jugs. There are three that hold 15 kilos, a bunch or smaller jugs and a lot of 3 liter soda bottles that we fill and take back to the house. In the kitchen there's a huge bucket for water for cooking, and outside there a tank for water for washing clothes and bathing. The spring is like a 10-15 minute walk, and to carry the 15 kilo jugs there is strap that goes across your forehead and the jug is on your back. its heavy but doable.


There is so much more I could say, but I feel like I don't have the words to explain it properly right now. later.


well im off to the market to get some mangos and things.

love you



ok. So I am going to try and recount really fast what has happened in the last week or so since i wrote.


So we were in Zapotitlan for like 2 days and them we came back to Kuwikchutchut, with only half our group because the others were sick, . Originally we were going to live in the school because classes are over for the summer and its not being used, but then it turned out that we didnt have permission. From the judge. I dont exactly understand the political arrangements of Kuwikchutchut but ther is a president and also a judge and various other people who are in charge of things. We have not met the judge yet but apparently a lot of people in the community have had problems with him before this.


There is a womens cooperative, Mujeres de Candelaria, here that runs a store, and other community projects and they have been amazing, always helping us out with whatever. And so when we couldn't stay in the school, we were going to stay in the half of the store that is not being used, so we set up our cots and everything and then someone realized that it wasn't a good idea to stay there because it is right next door to the cantina and there are always drunks sitting outside the store and they thought they would bother us.


So that night we slept in a house like 5 minutes away, (there were still only 5 of us at this point) and this woman, Doña Soledad, who speaks a lot of Spanish and has been super friendly and generous, offered that we could stay in her house for the rest of the summer, she has a husband and one daughter and a lot of space. but the only problem is that she lives at the bottom of the mountain, like a 30 minute vertical hike, i´m not kidding. So we weren't sure, but we waited till the others got here and what we wound up doing is living with a family were one of the girls in my group stayed. So we are 18 people living in a one room house!!!!


Well actually Carmen and Manuel, the parents sleep in the kitchen which is a separate little house, But there are Carmen and Manuel, their kids, Valdemar (16) and Lidia (20) their sister in law Mari whose husband works in puebla and only is home one week a month and her three sons:Rene, the baby, Rolando(5) and Alex(4) and the grandma Nicolasa. !!! And their two dogs, and a kitten and like fifty turkeys and turklings or whatever their babies are called and chickens. Rolando and Alex are hilarious and so much fun.


So we´re quite cosy! It has been working out well, we´re all taking turns cooking, in groups of 2. My day is Wednesday, with Nicole but we´re also making lunch today. My tortillas have improved a lot!!! We´re building 10 stoves. well not exactly building them but converting the ones that are already here so that the smoke goes out a chimney instead of into the kitchen, they cook over open fires on a kind of platform stove. But we couldn't start until yesterday because we were waiting for SEDEPAC to send the materials.


After the stoves we're going to help fix the roof of the church, well more like build a roof because right now there isn't one at all there are all sorts of plants and bushes growing inside. and after that were helping clear a garden that used to be used for medicinal plants and will be again. In the afternoons we´ve been playing with the kids, near the store, games and crafts and soccer and things.


Oh man I have so much more to say but I have to go. I will write more again, in a week or so. Next weekend is a big festival in Huehuetla that were going to. yay! and then five more weeks?



love catherine



Hi catherine,


Sounds like sooooooo much fun I am so glad you are having the time of your life it sounds like and I am very excited for you.


Angela and I are in Malawi now with Brian and Mike and kids and of course you know how great they are ! We had no bags initially when we arrived yet they came the next day just doing somehang out and went to a village celebration yesterday where some volunteers just finished their home stay very fun but scarey driving at night too many people walk and on bikes on the road.


Happy to hear of your adventures and chris arrives today it will be good to have him back with us.


We had a great time in Capetown Angela kept on saying this is like being in Boston it is a very cosmopolitian city we will catch up later on it .


Love Ya Liz



Okay so i said i wasnt going to write in english anymore but i want to tell you all how it was. i just wrote it all in my journal in spanish and we´ve all been talking about it so it doesnt matter.


I am back in zapotitlan after 2 days in Kuwikchutchut, which is like 4 or 5 hours by bus (little mexican colectivo buses) or back-of-pickup-truck, as the case was today. When we got to Huehuetla, the closet town, we met Jose who is the regional president of UNITONA which is one of the organizations sponsoring this whole mexico summer project and he took us to Kuwikchutchut.


When we got there all the women were in the church with these flower necklaces the yhad made for us and incense and we met everyone and there was a big meeting and they divided us up between families. The family i stayed with had 5 kids, a baby girl who was scared of me and only stared at me and cried for the first day, a girl who is 6 who was really funny and only wanted to play. she didnt speak a whole lot of spanish , they learn it in school, but she kept playing with my bracelets, taking them off and attaching them to my earrings or necklace and trying them on. there was another girl, 16 and 2 sons, 12 and 19, the 19 year old works in puebla but he was home for a few days. they wereall kind of shy but really nice. and kept giving me food. at the meeting the first day, after everyone was done talking they went around with all these bags and plates of food, tamales and sort of tacos with beans and chiles and tomatoes and these empanada like things. so good! and then we went back to the homes and ate dinner again, and i actually ate a third dinner because i slept in the house next door, where another girl in my group was staying, because my family didnt have room because all the kids were home. so i had tamales later. and mamey, which is this fruit i had never seen before...except in frida kahlo paintings..hahah. but it has a hard skin and you break it open with your hands and its orangey pink inside, with a huge pit.i dont know what it tastes like. i cant think of anything thats similar. and pineapples. they have a huge field of them, i had never seen them growing, but they grow on like little bushes in rows. oh my god and the most amazing bananas, platanos, they are huge and soft and taste like strawberries!!! really! Guadalupe, the 16 year old, and Rosa, the mother let me help them make tortillas. it was SO HARD!!!! they were laughing at me so much because mine were the ugliest tortillas youve ever seen! they were funny shaped or holey or in pieces. They stuck to my hands . Theirs were perfect though, exactly round andreally fast. practice i guess. i ate so many tortillas these last couple days i thought i would explode. we were using them as spoons so i had to use a lot to finish my food. last night we had chicken soup, and Rosa gave me one of the organs, i still dont know which one, Gloria told me the name in totonaco but that didnt help me at all and now i cant remember evne that. I didnt even know how to eat it. guadalupe saw me trying to cut it with my spoon and she´s like ´´oh no, you have to break it with your hands´´ AAGGGGHH!!! i didnt weant to eat it but they gave it to me special because i was a guest, so i did, thatnk god i practiced swallowing pills before i came because thats what i wound up doing, breaking it up into small pieces and washing them down with coffee.the coffee here is really good. i never drink it at home but they make it with sugar and vanilla. mmm.

wow so all ive talked about is food. hahah oh well, what do you expect from me? there is a lot more to tell but i have to go right now.

more later





So my alfred email wont open properly, so im using this address.


Oh my god so i am in the internet cafe of Zapotitlan, Puebla, Mexico, which i didnt even exactly know where that was until about two days ago. Its not on hardly any maps of mexico cause its so small, but its in the Sierra Norte, we came on a bus, and had to go up and down all these tiny, windy little mountain roads, so beautiful here. I am so glad i came!!!!


When i was in mexico city i was kind of scared because i felt like my spanish was awful and i couldnt say what i wanted but once we met as a group i was fine. im still not as good as a lot of the people here, especially the ones who speak spanish as their first language, but everyone´s speaking it so i just figure it out as i go along.


There are like 50 of us, maybe half from the us, and the rest mexican, puerto rican, peruvian, english, german. the last two days weve been staying in an old mission here, having orientation and stuff. its SO HOT. were all drenched in sweat 24 hours a day, but its been raining around dinner time the last couple days. which was nice. today we got broken up into our small groups for the rest of the summer, 9 people each, including 2 facilitators who've, done the program before, and tomorrow were going for 2 days to stay with a family in the community where were going to live (each group goes to a different community in the sierra norte) mine is called. I cant remember the name of mine right now because its in Totonaco (the language of the people who live there) and its complicated. one guy in my group is Totonaca though and he´s been teaching us some phrases.


Most of the people in the community speak spanish too though, From what i hear at least! I really will have no idea until i go i guess!! I feel like this whole summer is going affect everything in my life, but i dont exactly know how, so i am kind of just doing everything as it comes and seeing what happens. I dont know!!! I m sorry this email is so discombobulated. language is really weird for me right now, its like the english side of my brain is starting to shut down, so im not really thinking in english exactly but the spanish side of my brain hasnt entirely opened up, so im sort of in this weird space between languages. i´ve been trying not to think too much in english or read it or speak it . ive been writing my journal in spanish, it just seems too weird to translate whats happening and what i feel and think into english when everything is going on in spanish.

but i just broke my rule i guess. oh well.


the town is really pretty, totoally surrounded by mountains, a market and a bunch of little stores, a river, a church with the craziest altars and statues. i love it!


we went to meet a honey farmer yesterday and he took us up the side of the mountain to see his hives and told us about what he does. we´ve been doing a lot of group activities and talking about the program and the communities and things.



ok well i am going to go now but i will email you all again. there is a town like 30 min walk from the community where there is internet, i hear..... we`ll have to go there to get supplies on days off anyway.



i love you all!!!!


PS happy 4th of july!! i didnt even realize it was today until the afternoon.

ps2 can you forward to don and peggy?




So i'm alive! and im here. i just ate breakfast at the hostel and now im not sure what im going to do the rest of the day. most of the museums and things are closed on mondays, but ill probably just start walking and see where i end up.



yesterday i had absolutely no concept of time. i didnt even see a clock until like 9pm. but i took a nap and then walked around the zocalo-the city center, big open square where people hang out and sell things and perform. there were these crazy acrobats/breakdancers doing a show when i went through.


and this huge cathedral-enormous, i have never seen one so big in my life. the mass started while i was inside so i stayed. it was interesting..


and i ate these amazing tostadas for dinner, huge blue corn tortillas with beans and chiles and cilantro and hot sauce and crumbly oaxaca cheese. it was so hot i could still feel the sauce in my chest/stomach like three hours later.


Liz you will be happy to know the hostel is right across the street form Super Soya natural health store!! so if i need some arnica i will know where to go.although, from my window they appear to be selling ice cream as well. theyre closed today though, i guess monday is the mexican day to close everything.


The hostel is really nice and clean. my room has like 12 beds ad big lockers, and something between a balcony and a window that i can seen the buildings of the zocalo from. people are friendly, i ate breakfats with two women from sweden and australia who are just traveling around north and south america for the summer,


okay! my time is about to run out but i will write more another time.!

i love you!




/ 6-26-07