Oct. 27th, 2006

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I like the chance to get to know not just an area when I visit, but people of the community as well. I came down to Mexico City to represent Pacific Yearly Meeting at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of La Casa de Los Amigos, Mexico City's Peace Center (Centro de Paz) and home of Mexico City Monthly Meeting. I've had a chance to visit with Friends from all over North America who've also made this journey, as well as volunteers here at the Casa, who've come from around the world. Worship Sharing (Grupo Compartida de Adoraccion) this morning was wonderful. Our group was tiny, only 4 of us there today, and had been assigned as a Spanish Language group. All 4 of us were gringo NorteAmericanos, but we dutifully kept to the Spanish requirement we were charged with AND it was a nurturing spiritual experience for us, at least in this Friend's perception. I fully expect we'll double in size tomorrow.

The presentation that followed in the main conference room, introduced people who'd been involved in the Casa and its work, since its inception. Many who're here, both from Mexico as well as outside the country, were volunteers at Quaker led workcamps in surrounding Mexican states, dating back to the 60's through the 90's. I had not been aware previously that the Peace Corp was in part modeled on Quaker workcamps like these, not going in to make improvements to communities as outsiders, but rather helping those communities first identify their own needs and and then help them fulfill them. Jean Duckles, who now must be in her 90's, was here. She and her late husband, Ed came to Mexico City from the US in the 40's, raised their family here, and were central in the founding of Mexico City Monthly Meeting, as well as the formation of the Casa, after this building was donated by the estate of the late muralist, José Clemente Orozco. It was Jean who unveiled the plaque on the front of the Casa, identifying this as the Centro de Paz. The future of the Casa seems more energized that I had expected it to be, and the plans for projects addressing social justice issues and economic violence are in the works. My goal for the next couple of days is to try and get some sense of the health of the Monthly Meeting, and how it can be renewed, having lost most of its older members. Still after meeting many of the staff of the Casa, I feel hopeful.

After lunch, there were a variety of workshops to choose from, but I found myself deep in conversation with a young man from the UK, now volunteering here at both the Casa de Los Amigos, as well as Casa Ananda down the block, an organization with a special outreach to street youth. We talked at some length about life choices, life work, and our individual places in this world. He's contemplating medical school, having left his career in I.T. back in the UK, after finding it no longer spoke to his condition, or his desire to DO something meaningful with his life. He's also trying to figure out just how to meet someone to share his life with, who'll also share and support his life goals. Finding a physician who entered the field to make a small piece of the world better and who's been happily partnered for 25 years, made me a target for some rather pointed philosophical questions, as well as a bunch of practical ones. It felt like a better use of my time that going on the architectural tour of the casa.

After cafe y botanas at 6 pm, we all returned to the conference room, where those attending the celebration formed small discussion groups with people from the local community, who come here weekly to practice their English language skill, as well as talk about social justice issues. And after that I had a dinner engagement! I'm grateful to say I made a lovely new friend today.

I wanted to get some sense of the gay community here, so I hopped onto Bear411, when I awoke yesterday, to see who might be wanting to meet visitors to the area and show them around, which in turn led me to Romy. I pulled up profiles of local bears and his sounded, well, friendly! He picked me up at the Casa at half past 8, and we went to have dinner at what he promised was one of the best taquerias in Colonia Roma. The food there did not disappoint, nor did my dinner companion. He's an absolutely delightful bear in this early 30's, who just returned home to the Districto Federal, after working in San Francisco for the past 2 years. My brother went to Rome to go to school, and returned not only with a degree, but a nice Italian Jewish girl. I go to Colonia Roma, and befriend a delightful Jewish Bear. Go figure.

After dinner, we went back to his brother's place to meet friends. I had no idea what to expect and was taken a bit by surprise by the opulence of his brother's home. It's in a fashionable part of Mexico City, which is becoming even more so; think Manhattan's Soho, or Seattle's Queen Anne district. Romy's brother is an antique dealer and decorator (and yes, he's Family); he's furnished his home in striking antiques, more 18th century paintings than I have ever seen outside of a museum, and ultra-modern electronics and home amenities. His place could easily be featured in Architecture Today. Their friends were a warm collection of chic, mostly 30 somethings, both gay and straight, some Mexicano, others visiting from Europe. We then went out to a bistro, newly opened in the Plaza Angel, where Romy's brother also has his gallery. I did a major double take when we arrived, as I literally walked right past that gallery yesterday, when I visited the Zona Rosa and wandered thru the Plaza Angel, hunting for gifts for friends and family back home. Many areas are already decorated for the up-coming Day of the Dead, and the Plaza Angel has life sized, elegantly dressed paper mache skeletons on display. My camera ran out of memory, as I tried to take a shot of a particularly impressive, skeletal coquette, in floor length victorian ball gown, feather boa and plumed hat. Where? Immediately in front of the bistro's entrance and two shops down from his brother's gallery, of course. Not that I knew that yesterday.

The 10 of us found comfortable drawing room style seats in a alcove on the second floor of the bistro, eating tapas and sipping refrescos while Romy's brother schmoozed a bit with the owner. A few minutes later the owner, woman in her 50's chicly dressed in black, strolled past with two other women, one of them a handsome blonde, strikingly dressed in ivory. I overheard Cristobal whisper to Olga something I couldn't hear clearly other than the name, "Silvia Pinal". I recognized that name, but from where? Then I realized I had seen in on the front of more than one Spanish language edition of "People" back home. (Hey, with my practice, what else should I have in my waiting room?) I turned to Romy, and asked, "That was Silvia Pinal?" He nodded. "Here?" He nodded again. "Many famous actors and actresses frequent this place, though she is particularly well known here in Mexico," he told me. Having her saunter past here, would be somewhat akin to having Jane Fonda, or Meryl Streep wander past you while out for drinks, with friends. For those of you unfamiliar with her, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvia_Pinal.

So, what did Romy and I spend much of our time talking about tonight, in this chic, well-heeled and fashionable crowd? Quakerism. Social Justice. Politics. Spirituality. He's picking me up again tomorrow night after the program to hit a bear's holloween party for a few hours, and this Sunday is planning to come check out Meeting for Worship.

Well the hour grows late, I need to head off to bed. What a perfectly lovely evening this has been!

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