Experiencing the “Wild Goose Festival” July 13-16, 2017 |Hot Springs, North Carolina

After my family returned from our time in Mexico, we hopped in the car for the nine-hour drive down to North Carolina to experience the “Wild Goose Festival” located in a small mountain town of Hot Springs.

If you haven’t experienced the festival, you should.

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What is the Wild Goose?  Simply put – the Wild Goose is a Celtic image for the Holy Spirit.  The metaphor of a wild goose is one which evokes the image of an active, beautiful and utterly unpredictable pattern of flight.   The wild goose is about adventure and surprise with a new variable direction.  The flight of the goose is one that is taking in a community.  Geese share a common direction, and they honk together in a manner that supports the other geese.

The festival is committed to being an inclusive community rooted in the Christian tradition of radical hospitality (welcoming all people – of faith, or no faith), non-violence, always evolving, and relationships between people matter.   Conversations are bold, and questions are most important.

The Wild Goose festival is perhaps best described as a gathering for the arts, music, spirituality, community, social justice and for those who are seeking a common humanity by breaking down stereotypes and the social imagination of North America culture.

 

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Participating in the conversation, “The Spiritual Parenting Revolution” with Lynyetta Willis

 

I attended a few workshops during my time at the Goose, although there are over 200 such workshops that attendees can pick from what is of interest to them.  On Saturday morning I attended a workshop entitled, “Conservatives are from Mars and Progressives are from Venus:  Finding Our Way in Another World.” The speaker, Jennifer Ould, invited us to think about what it might look like to invite and welcome those who are against us, and to include those who would like to exclude us.

If we want any sort of meaningful change in the world, we have to practice new ways of engaging each other and recognize in our own selves our anxieties and defenses that diffuse our ability to remain open to dialogue and to meet our fears with loving nonviolence.

I enjoyed participating in “Jams and Juice” with my family.  “Jams and Juice” is like karaoke for kids, or Beer and Hymns and hymns (minus the beer).

 

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My daughter, Linnea, along with others singing at “Jams and Juice.”

 

Another great session was one on personal relationships entitled, “The Value of Burning Bridges” hosted by the speaker, Melissa Greene.  Melissa spoke about the importance of burning bridges when, at times, it is necessary to move on from a relationship that is no longer healthy and life giving to allow a stronger, sturdier bridge to be built in place of the unhealthy ones.

 

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Melissa Greene discussing the value of burning bridges

 

I really enjoyed Beer and Hymns held each night at eleven.  It’s a beautiful thing when people sing together.  For many, this is a spiritual practice.  “Beer and Hymns” is the event that is just what the name indicates.  Local musicians including guitar, mandolin, according, banjos, djembe drums, washboards, play ‘spirit’ lead hymns that are played faster and louder than normal.

 

So Long … (For Now)… San Miguel

It was tough for all of us to say goodbye to San Miguel de Allende.  After a month of learning Spanish verbs and to converse in Spanish, it was time to say ‘Hasta luego’  because we would love to have more time in this beautiful place!

We left San Miguel via Leon to Chicago on July 10th where we stayed the night at Karen’s parents and then left for North Carolina on the 11th for the Wild Goose Festival.

While there is a lot to miss, I think what I actually enjoyed was that I was just a person like everyone else.  My identity in “the States” didn’t matter. No one cares.  Who I was, was not as important to who I am in the present.  No one was impressed by titles or occupations.  I felt like I had a fresh start at something new.  I was a blank canvas, or in a word -free from the labels and baggage of my native culture.   I felt human!

Nuestros eventos en San Miguel de Allende y el estado de Guanajuato

We continue to have a great deal of fun in  the state of Guanajuato (click on the link) visiting museums, cultural sites, learning Spanish and meeting new friends.

The state is considered the epicenter of the Mexican Independence of 1810 and especially around San Miguel de Allende, Irapuato, Guanajuato City, and Dolores Hildago.

We enjoyed watching the La Fiesta de Los Locos in honor of San Antonio de Paduca.   The literal translation is the “party of the crazies.”  The festival takes place in San Miguel de Allende every year in the middle of June.  The exact origins of this festival are lost in the mists of time, but locals recall a time when the local farmers and gardeners would venerate the saint for a good growing season and harvest. Their celebrations came to include creative dances and dress, and the festival has only grown since then.

 

We traveled to Ciudad Guanajuato with our friends from Iowa to visit the beautiful mountain town.  This colonial town is absolutely gorgeous.   It’s tunnels carved through the mountains are fascinating and the beauty of the city amazed us.

One stop in Guanajuato was at the Mummy Museum.  More information about the Mummies of Guanajuato is here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummies_of_Guanajuato

 

We visited the Christo Rey monument about 20 kilometers outside Ciudad Guanajuato.  The monument is place in what is believed to be the geographic center of Mexico.

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The Mexican state of Guanajuato is know for growing frescas (strawberries).  The city of Irapuato is the center of production for the state.   We enjoyed our visit with friends to the strawberry fields where we picked our own berries.   Locals are quick to mention the berries are the sweetest in the world.  The soil creates the perfect growing conditions for the sweetest berries.   Local law prohibits using any pesticides and the berries are totally organic.  They are not like the strawberries in the United States.  They are smaller and way tastier!

 

Week One in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel (SMA) is truly a unique place.  It’s got the mystic of a 15th-century colonial city and the charm of a small village.  While it might be true that not everyone will enjoy the 5:00 A.M. bombastic fireworks that wake the town at 5:00 A.M. for the past two days, they serve as a reminder that this is town is different.  It’s typical of a laid-back Mexican slower pace and relaxed rhythms of life.

My best description of cities in the US of SMA is imagined if New Orleans meets Santa Fe.  Of course, being a 15th-century colonial city, there is the Old World charm with 600-year-old cathedrals which have welcomed the faithful and stood as a witness to the years of Mexican history and the progress of society.

 


Where else but in a town like SMA can you wander into the Jardin (garden) on a balmy Thursday evening to find a religious festival in progress with dancing and mariachis?Or a parade of lanterns held highly the devout, and the hundreds of devoted followers attending the white daisy-draped casket-like float held high by eighteen strong Mexicans men?  We gringos wonder which saint is celebrated?

The first week taught me that pace of life in North America is so different from the slow-moving, carefree, less hectic life in the “States.”  There is a mantra about the town – “No es importanta!” Relax.  Being busy isn’t life.  One’s worth isn’t depending upon how busy one is.

Of course, in my situation, I have three small children with me.  People back home have asked, “Is it safe?”  Hmmm… Is it safe in the US?  Do we in the US live an illusion that we are “safe?”  And, what do we mean when we ask about safety?  From what are we trying to protect ourselves?  People?  Food? Violence?

 

 

On Tuesday, I began a class in the Spanish language and had progressed in my comfort of speaking with locals in a short amount of time.  I still have a long, long way to go concerning being completely fluent in Spanish, but my comfort level, particularly with Spanish verb tenses is slowly increasing.

A big blessing for me is my language teacher, Socorro.  She tells me she’s taught Spanish to foreigners, many Gringos, for forty years.  She’s feisty, fierce, funny as hell, and demands correct syntax.  She’s my kind of teacher!

 
Every day, I (along with Karen) spend four hours of language class from 9 to 1 with a 30-minute break at 11:00.  Followed by homework of learning verbs and verb tenses. The entire class is in Spanish for the first hour-and-a-half is spend on the lesson and the second 90 minutes is conversational Spanish as we practice speaking the language with Socorro.  It’s a safe space to attempt to expand our comfort for speaking Spanish with native speakers.  Students come from colleges in the US to spend some time learning to speak the language.  Many students have retired from their occupations in the US and spend some time in  SMA.

San Miguel is rich in educational offerings.  It’s kind of like a college campus of arts and language.  While the town is known as a center for the arts, there is most defiantly a wide variety of class and educational opportunities. The class has been a great way for me to meet some new people from the States as well as local folks.  Learning Spanish is so important to be able to enjoy time in San Miguel.  Don’t expect people to speak English! I find the locals to be forgiving and accustom to guys like me who are trying to hone their language skills.  If nothing else, I shrug off my attempt to speak, and together I share a laugh with those whom I speak as I feebly try to communicate.   I try not to be so hard on myself for my lack of fluency.  It’s a work in progress, yet anyone who has immersed one’s self in a culture where a different language is spoken can be sympathetic to the lack of fluency.

 


Along with my class, my two older daughters attend school a few blocks from our apartment.  Analise is entered third grade in the fall and has been placed in the appropriate eight-year-old classroom.  Half her day is spent learning in Spanish, and the other half is in English.   She, too, struggles with the lack of language but is having fun.  In fact, it’s been heartwarming to see her classmates run up to her on the street to greet her and say ‘hola Analise‘!

My four-year-old is in the preschool and loves it.  She gets to have a lot of fun and makes artwork and enjoys her immersion in Spanish as she is helped by Ms. Pati, her English-speaking teacher.

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Arrival in San Miguel de Allende

We arrived in San Miguel de Allende (SMA) with little issues on Monday, June 12th.  After departing from Chicago, we arrived in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico around 4:30 and subsequent hour-and-a-half road travel to San Miguel.

Check out more on San Miguel de Allende.  I don’t think Santa Fe, New Mexico has the same number of artists and art cooperatives as SMA.  SMA is a unique place with traditional Mexican culture, historical colonial roots, retired North Americans, and artists.  It kinda reminds me of an old school Austin, Texas before all the high tech came to town.

Our apartment is perfect.  A quaint, artistic three bedroom with a roof deck with a view of the cathedral.

Within twenty four hours of our arrival, we have accomplished much including: find our bearings, enrolling our girls in school, finding my (and Karen’s) language school, find a taxi to the supermarket, eating dinner at a local place, interacting with the locals, and finding time this afternoon for siesta.

Not much happens from 2-4P.M.  I can totally understand with the beating sun!