Old Folks and Orphans

There are a lot of old folks and orphans in our area of Lake Chapala and throughout Mexico.  From the perspective of a gringa from the United States, there are a rather startling number of kids in orphanages around here.  And a rather startlingly low number of old folks’ homes.  I think that’s because most old folks remain in their family home with their children and grandchildren.  Extended families under the same roof are pretty much the rule. 

On the other hand, a lot of the kids in the orphanages aren’t really technically orphans in the sense that both their parents are deceased.  A goodly number of kids wind up there because one or both of their parents just can’t or won’t care or provide for them.  When the kids are in an orphanage they at least get something to eat everyday and some education, either of which they might not get if they lived at home. 

And lest you think this is something totally indigenous to Mexico or third world countries, if you have any, ask your middle aged Native American friends whether they were placed in boarding schools and/or with foster families when they were young so that they could have the same advantages. 

Anyhow, whether the old folks live at home with their families or the orphans live in an orphanage, they can mostly all use a little something more.  And because Christmas coincides with the beginning of the cold season down here, it’s an ideal time to give them some gifts of warmth….as well as some gifts that they might enjoy. 

As I told you in a previous post, some of my friends and I have volunteered to get some gifts for the old folks and the orphans.  And yesterday was “orfink shopping day” for me.  It was Thursday, which means that the tianguis is going on in Joco, so that’s where I headed first. 

My great friend Jonnie and I have each “adopted” an orphan for Christmas.  Both reside in a place called Love in Action in Chapala, one of the towns a bit east of me.  [You can check out their website here:  http://www.loveinactioncenter.org/.]   One of the women who belongs to a Yahoo group to which I belong serves as an “elf” on Christmas at LIA and her husband serves as Santa.  This year she appealed for help to the women in the group and got a great response, including the response from Jonnie and I. 

 A couple of weeks ago, Jonnie and I each got our orphan “assignment.”   Jonnie got seven year old boy Noe and I got eight year old boy Jesus Leonardo.  [Okay, I’ll admit it.  Jonnie and I just got two names and I chose Jesus because, as I’ve told you before, I need all the help I can get getting into heaven.  You’re reading the scribblings of a woman who is trying to cover all her bases.  I used to wear a Star of David with a cross and a crescent inside and keep a statuette of Buddha in her house and who now has a Virgin of Guadalupe in a place of honor here in Joco.   And I’m a firm believer in reincarnation.]   Jonnie’s a bit surer in her beliefs. 

Nonetheless, Jonnie and I are in this together.  This orfink thing, I mean.  So yesterday it was off to the Joco tianguis and environs to get our shopping underway.  And this is what I learned:  if you are going to “adopt” an orphan for Christmas, an orphan who needs and/or wants clothes, choose a girl!  I found the cutest things for girls, but young boys?  Not so much. 

Invariably, I would go to a stall in the tianguis displaying sweatsuits for girls only to be told that no, they had nothing for boys of that age.   And that’s something that both our boys asked for [or were forced to ask for by adults]….warm clothing….sweatshirts and sweatsuits].   Oy gevalt, what’s a mother to do??? 

Well, I’ll tell ya what this mama did.  I bought one pair of heavy duty, cowboy cut denims and three sweatshirts to be divided among our two kids….pair of pants and one sweatshirt for Noe, because the pants are his size, and two sweatshirts for Jesus.  Well, okay, I actually only found one real hooded sweatshirt in either size, but the other two shirts are fleece type things without a hood, but very warm….and yet very cool!  All new and all, in my opinion, very stylin’!  The kinda things that your practical and yet “with it” grandma would buy you.  [Oh, wait, is that an oxymoron???] 

I will keep on the lookout for some sweatpants for the boys, but yesterday I pretty much gave up on finding them at the tianguis and decided to look for some other things that the boys would enjoy.  Both their lists had included requests for “cars and toys,” so that’s what I was searching for.  I kinda remember when my son Steve was seven or eight and he was also totally into “cars”….as in Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels.  And apparently so are the kids down here because that’s what’s for sale at the tianguis and shops I went into!  Guess some things don’t change much.  Like boys and their toys. 

And luckily, an old guy at the tianguis was selling these types of vehicles, which are way more common here around Lake Chapala than real “cars”:

[Sorry about the flash in the middle of the pictures.  It’s hard to get a good picture of something through plastic, I’ve discovered.] 

I wasn’t sure what other types of toys young boys liked, so I consulted with my friend Dom in Arizona whose son Jack is now in middle school.  I figured Jack could remember what he liked back then.  And also checked with my blog friend Leslie [http://www.lacocinadeleslie.com/] who is mother to four younger kids.  All the kids happily came back with the answers “cars and Transformers.” 

Who knew that transformer toys were still so popular???  Again, boys and their toys!  And while I couldn’t find any Transformer type toys at the tianguis, I found them at the “Three Peso” store right down the street.  [As with the “dollar” stores in the US, the three peso stores here don’t sell many things that only cost three pesos, but they still have some great deals.]  So I got each of the boys one of these:  

And they must be authentic because that’s totally Japanese writing; right???

In addition, my friend Jan who now lives in Washington state is down visiting brought Jonnie and I some cool tops and one of those wooden paddle things with a ball attached on a string.  It’s been all I can do to keep from opening that thing and playing with it!!  So that’s even more toys for the boys!

On my way home from the tianguis, I needed to stop at our local “large” grocery store for a couple of things and lo and behold, what did I discover there!!  Crappy plastic “stockings” but filled with great candy!!  Including Tootsie Rolls!  [Nothing says love to a little kid more than candy that yanks out their remaining baby teeth!]  And I gotta tell ya, as an anthropologist concentrating on Africa, I was thrilled to see something called “Tutsi”! 

But just in case you’re still thinking that I’m a neglectful “grandma,” here’s proof that I’m not.  And, really, my favorite purchase of the day.  How cool are these???  And do you know what they are??

Yep, that’s right!  Toothbrushes!! 

Because also on the list from the kids with, I’m absolutely sure, MAJOR prodding from the adults at LIA was “hygiene products.”  Jonnie and I figure that the only hygiene products that seven and eight year old boys really need or want is soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.  And I gotta tell ya, these toothbrushes are WAY cool!! 

So that’s how the shopping for the orfinks goes.  On Sunday, I’m going to a garage sale being held by another member of my Yahoo group who has new and slightly used sweaters on offer for 20 pesos each.  And I’m totally gonna stock up on some for the old folks!!  Won’t be as much fun as shopping for the kids, but I’m still feeling pretty happy about the whole thing! 

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the US in case you don’t hear from me again before!

About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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7 Responses to Old Folks and Orphans

  1. Wonderful job, my dear friend! Jesus is going to be one very happy little boy come Christmas morning! 🙂

    Glad I could help.

    • Barbara says:

      i always figure that on christmas morning if jesus ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy. although i think i’m paraphrasing! ja ja ja ja ja.

  2. K says:

    Gonna’ be a warm and fun Christmas for some of our folk here Lakeside.
    So many folks here have pitched in to help to make Christmas Merry!

    • Barbara says:

      they really and truly have! my posts make it seem like it’s all about me [which, of course, it IS], but lots of people are doing lots of things! my buddy K here being one of the ones who has done the most!

  3. gped2 says:

    That was a nice thing to do, “grandma.” I am sure that your boys (yours and johnnies) will really appreciate and enjoy the gifts that you have selected for them! Grandpa Ed

    • Barbara says:

      i’m not sure we’ll ever know, uncle ed. but, yeah, i think they’ll like what they’re getting. hopefully especially the toothbrushes! best to you and your’n on thanksgiving….and congrats on getting out of hell and into….well, not heaven….but something closer!!!

  4. Deborah Emel says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I am in Ajijic for a couple of weeks and in my spare time I knit baby things. I was hoping to leave the finished products here for needy children. Do you have any suggestions as to where? or who? I could leave these things with – maybe half a dozen or so baby hats and some booties. I would like to do this next Wed – 27 Nov. Muchas gracias! Deborah

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