Monday, May 1, 2017

Compassion and Commonalities

Hello Friends and Readers!

I took a break from blogging last week, but am back! I took the week off for a couple of reasons. The first, was that the internet was down Saturday night and much of Sunday. How wonderful to unplug! The second, was that I was feeling a bit uninspired. The post about my accident got a lot of traffic. There are reasons for that. People shared it and friends were worried about me. Thank you everyone for caring! Unfortunately, the follow-up post basically got about a sixth of the views. For those who did not read it! The post essentially said: We are okay! We love living in San Juanico and I NEED YOUR HELP to bring used car seats to the people of our sweet pueblo! Aside from a couple of amazing folks who reached out to help (you know who you are! And THANK YOU), I didn’t hear much from anyone.

Some of our past times this week. The mini olympics in Zaragoza! What fun!
Lola writing a book about fairies, giants, and surfing
Back to School for both the kids!

Today's post is inspired by the lack of response to last weeks post, and also reader's reactions to the fact that no American’s helped me during our accident.

What is it about despair and tragedy that people respond to? And what is it about being okay, but asking for help that detracts people? What makes people want to help and/or not help? What pulls at people’s at people’s hearts and why? Do people really need help? And do we help others simply to make ourselves feel better?

I am reminded of once upon a time, back in 2006, in the most northern reaches of India, I traveled with a group of teachers and students. We came from many walks of life and were all there for different reasons, but that summer we were brought together by the spirit of adventure and curiosity.

The most breathtaking views in the world are in India!
The magnificent Taj Majal. My goodness, that was some hot humid weather!
Some of the folks we adventured with!
I’d never intended to travel to India, but found myself there, in awe of the magnificent beauty of the himalayas. To this day, I proclaim it the most influential trip of my life. The poverty there is astonishing and I think it tends to leave Western travelers in deep retrospection over what they have. The cities in particular are the most humbling. People sleep in the streets with their only possessions. They look hungry. The empathy I felt was sobering and over a decade later, still leaves me in quiet reflection of gratitude.

Fresh off of my BA in Anthropology, I was full of excitement and inspiration for the culture. I had written my undergraduate thesis on the death and dying rituals of Tibetans and ended up in India in the hopes of learning how Tibetan refugees were practicing their funeral rites differently. I ended up on more of a cultural tour versus an opportunity to do research. This travel experience incited my lifelong fascination with the polarizing impacts of global tourism and transnationalism.  Certain memories stick with us and one particular event, that I refer to as The Rain Jacket, is an incident that I think of often.

Our group was lucky enough to be introduced to the Changpa people in the Changtang region of Northern India. This is a region in Ladakh, as well as Jammu and Kashmir. We were in Ladakh. They are the 'people of the Changtang plateau'. Chang (region) and Pa meaning 'people of'.  They are a pastoral nomadic tibetan tribe whose existence is endangered due to globalization and political strife. The only indigenous group to have free reign on the tibetan plateau across the political borders, they sustain themselves off the land and have for centuries. They raise yaks and goats and nomadically travel with their animals to fresh grass pastures for food.  When they find new pastures, then all set up their camp until the grass is gone and they move on. The yak is very important to them culturally, and they use every part of the yak: bones and hair for the huts and clothing, and the milk. Their homes/tents are called repos and made of all yak hair.
The Changpa

We were introduced to a small tribe and welcomed into their tents; where they made us yak butter tea and shared their food with us. The floor of the yurt was covered in hand made yak woven wool and there was a cooking fire in the middle. They were clothed in a mix of western clothing and traditional garb and showed us how they wove rugs and blankets and made clothing out animal pelts. I found it to be absolutely beautiful. What a miracle these people were and what a far cry they were from the technological and consumer driven world that I lived in. Twenty-five years old at the time, I was inspired by the simplicity and beauty of their nomadic life on the Himalayan plane. As we stepped from their tent and headed toward our van, an eighteen or nineteen years old from our group tearfully hugged one tribes women. She then removed her brand new North Face rain jacket, worth several hundred dollars, and handed it to the women. I observed this in shock and disapproval. I wasn't that I disapproved of her empathy, compassion, or generosity, in fact, for that I applauded her. But as we returned to the van and began our way back to our campsite full of expensive western camp gear, I asked her if she thought the woman really needed the rain jacket.

From my perspective, she needed that rain jacket about as much as she needed a new computer. This woman was nomadic and lived a life completely different than ours. This was not an impoverished woman on the streets of New Delhi. This was a person living a life connected to her environment and living off of her environment. She was not living in poverty, she was simply not living in a world that was driven by consumerism that provides products that separate us from the land. Her life was beautiful, from my perspective, she didn’t need the rain jackect, she had everything she needed. For me, I felt, that we needed to learn from her and better understand her world; not project our own cultural standards of poverty on to her and then try and fix it.

Did she need the rain jacket?
I contemplate this all of the time. How can I integrate, try to understand and help people in global communities that are separate from my own? I have so much learn and gain when I travel. How can I use travel and tourism to uplift people rather than metaphorically consume them? How can respectfully enjoy another culture without overshadowing the experience with my own bias? These are tough questions for me.

The Rain Jacket experience will forever illicit relevant thoughts and conversations for me regarding privilege, poverty, relativity, consumerism, needs, wants, compassion and consumption.

I often find myself reflecting on this while living here in San Juanico.  I do my best to appreciate and accept this world, without projecting my own judgements onto the people here. It’s a confusing thing to try to fully understand. I was born into my American world and they into their life here. Most of the people would like to have more. Their world is certainly not as polarizing as the nomadic tribe in India. Yet, from my view, they are far more content with what they have than Americans. I imagine that they must think us Americans are a little crazy with all of our clean shiny new things.  Our strive for perfection. In so many ways our world perspectives are miles apart, yet we relate on a basic human level. We all want the best for our families and to live well. Our concepts of living well differ and that is okay! We all have a lot to learn and consider from each other.

A blurry photo of us coming together with the community!
This brings me to empathy and compassion. I think that girl who gave her rain jacket away had something a lot of Americans don’t have. She literally gave the jacket off of her back to her fellow man and she was probably really cold for the remainder of the trip! There is something incredibly beautiful about that, albeit, I think the jacket would have been better appreciated from one of the people in the streets of a city, versus the woman in the nomadic. Her intention was really admirable. I think, in general, the more that we have, it would appear, the less we give. Why is that?

I have still have a lot of emotional processing to do regarding the car accident that I was in with my kids. The terrifying images of flying off the road and feelings of terror that we were about to die still come back every time I close my eyes. My way of processing it, is to try to help other families stay safe in cars here in this town. I think there are a lot of things that I could give to this town that people would not need and perhaps not use…but I think the people here would use car seats if I brought them. I don't want to bring just a few. How would that be fair? I want to help every child in this town be safer when driving on the Baja Hwy 1.

Every mother I talk to here in town, says that she would love to have seats for her children. So many people here have shared with me their accident stories. The roads here are dangerous and the people here don’t have the access or the money to buy car seats to keep their children safe. I think you readers can easily help me out. I promise, I will send you photos of the families you help!

I am not asking for much here. Just that if you live in Orange County and have an older seat; to drop it at my house. If you don’t have a seat or don’t live in Orange County then donate $20-$40 for me to buy seats. Personally, I would rather have used seats, because it is more sustainable, but I intend to purchase these inexpensive Cosco seats with any money donated. 

The kids and I are really excited to bring seats to the kids this in town. I want you to imagine driving on one of the twelfth most dangerous roads in the world and having your kids in your lap of crawling or all over the back seat. If these people had the seats, I think they would use them! This isn’t a rain jacket situation. These people drive and they know car seats equal safety.

Please help!

Several people have referred me to the Target trade-in promotion currently happening and I am a little confused by this. Target says they will discount your next seat and recycle the seat you trade in. Perhaps they are suggesting that I contact Target about getting old seats? Am not sure. Thank you for thinking of me but...I WANT your old seats. Give them to me, not Target. Pretty please? Bring them to my house in Orange County if you live there. The folks in San Juanico don’t necessarily want brand new seats, they just want car seats. I am hoping to bring a mix of used and new.

Once I have thirty to fifty seats... I will put on an event in town where I discuss the importance of car seat safety and give the seats that you have so graciously donated!!

I want to personally thank you for providing the seats for this campaign! It means so very much! I officially have two donated seats from Diono, six seats donated from Alison Silverson and her friends, and one from Peter Garfinkle. I also have two that I am giving. Which means I already have eleven seats!!!

I have been asked why I don’t have a gofundme going. I am open to the idea, but gofundme takes a cut and so far I have had three people offer to donate money. For me, this isn’t enough to make it worth the gofundme. If it does become worth it, I will let you know. For now I am excepting donations via paypal. Thank you Ashlyn Terry, Shelly Mead, and Blythe Rowan!

It’s funny how things don’t work out how we plan. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be trying to bring car seats to a pueblo in Mexico, yet here I am. This week’s post was supposed to be about trash and how we deal with it in the States versus here in this little pueblo…instead it turned into nostalgia about India, needs, and compassion, and rant about how I want YOU to help me bring car seats to this town.

I suppose in a small way it is about trash, since I want your old car seats.  Next week I will dive deeper and share about our family’s visit to the local dump. Until me about how you can help at

Hasta entonces, mas tarde…

And thank you for your generosity!



  1. The best part of your blog is that the kids one. I mean how beautifully they are engaged with these work and I can see that every one of them having a great time too. Keep it up

  2. I have seen people of small communities or who are already poor enough usually are the ones with bigger heart. They love mankind truly.

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