Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My last days at Rancho (Finally)

I've been procrastinating for ages but I've finally become fed up with myself so prepare yourselves for a whirlwind of semi-coherent posts.

 Before I begin updating everyone on my most recent travels in the Mexican Yucatan, I want to finish up the documentation of my experience at Rancho. This particular post is taken from 3 or 4 posts that I started while at Rancho but never actually finished.  I've opted to focus on quantity and inclusion rather than quality and cohesion as the former requires more decisive action than I'm willing/able to contribute in a single night.

Two significant changes occurred in my final 2 weeks at Rancho.  First, Joelle left to wakeboard back home one last time before the end of summer; leaving me to take over her job running Rancho's fitness program. And second, the Ministry School began, which meant my curriculum proof-reading job finally ended (needless to say if you read my last post, I did not miss the work).

Although I was initially apprehensive about both transitions, the timing seems to have been overall very beneficial.  Although my till-now empty dorm room was now now packed to the brim (quite literally actually, we're talking 3-person bunk beds) full of young men who speak English even worse than I speak Spanish (but insist on trying to converse regardless) and the increasing temperatures combined with westward facing windows, no shades, fans or ac made the place a veritable fly-sauna (no joke, every morning we'd sweep out heaps of flies that had lived and died there the day before), Joelle's office at the gym afforded me ample opportunities for isolation and respite. Where before I would spend all my time outside of meals in my room, I now dared to enter it for the sole purpose of sleeping.
Angel Medina illegally
working on his chin-ups

I was supposed to be making the students pay $10 before they use the gym, but after I tried to explain the rules the first few times I decided I'd just let Joelle deal with it when she gets back. Truthfully the place is little room with some rusting weights a couple partially working pieces of equipment. It's really not worth paying $2, let alone $10.  Plus and I have to live with these guys and I don't want to be the dick that kicks them out of an empty gym, I don't really care how indignant the rest of the staff get.

I've actually had people come in and be like, "We don't think their supposed to be in here"  I just told them I had sent them to the office to pay their dues and assumed it was all taken care of, you know, since I don't speak Spanish.  They all got kicked out anyways.

Also I have to admit, I feel pretty bad for the bible students here.  I live like this for a month and I'm at my wit's end.  And I have internet access, connections with staff (which I'll get to later) who can take me off campus every once in a while, and an office in the gym with a fan where I can just sit and lock the door if I need to. These poor fuckers are stuck here with literally nothing to do all weekend except sing 'kum ba yah' or sit in their over-heated, fly-ridden dorm room all day.  I'm not exaggerating.  This place is hell incarnate if you don't have a way off campus or some-kind of staff privilege.  I try to tell myself that somehow its part of the training since they are preparing themselves to go into ministry where you're basically a slave until God decides to bless you with enough success to become your own leader; but the whole thing just makes me uneasy.  It's little wonder the supernatural plays such a crucial role in this whole system when people faced with realities like these as alternatives.  I really just don't want to think about it too much.  For the time being I've decided that if I don't have something more fulfilling to give people, why deprive them of their purpose?  People are drawn to Rancho for a reason, for most of them it's the best option.  I'm not willing to step up and offer something better so what good am I doing with my criticism?

Anyway, enough with feeling bummed out.  One of the perks of my new job is the all the windfall exercise I get.  I work out like 5 hours a day and I feel fucking amazing.  I wish I could take this job with me everywhere I go because I know I'm not going to have the discipline to exercise on my own while I'm on the road.

After Joelle left, everyone wants to be friends with me all of a sudden.  I'm not sure if they feel bad for me or they just didn't want Joelle to think they're moving in on her brother or maybe just didn't have any excuse to talk to me until I became their personal trainer.  Whatever the case, I am now feeling very much a part of the gang.

Miguel, meditating on the distance
that he embodies so well.
Today after church(Sept 7th?) Miguel befriended me out of the blue.  I'd met him my first day here when Joelle was trying to get him to build her a porch. He's the Mechanic/Handyman at Rancho and grew up here since he was a kid. I had an instant liking for him because like me he's just a little too cool for school (no really, I feel bad for him; kinda in a similar way to how I'm always feeling sorry for myself, if that makes any sense).  Also everyone insists on calling him 'Pato' ('duck' in Spanish) instead of 'Miguel'.  I guess the story is that when he was little he'd follow Jimmy (the head leader at Rancho) around campus like a duckling ('Patito'). Whatever the case I don't feel like the name really compliments him very well and I can relate to being called something other than a name you've chosen for yourself.  Miguel came out to the movies with us in Tijuana when I first got here. We watched Now You See Me with Spanish subtitles.  I don't know, it was kind of awkward some reason, ask Joelle. Since then Miguel and I had exchanged greetings in passing but never really entered into a conversation. Today I was sitting outside the church after service waiting for lunch because the dorm was too hot and crowded.  He sat down and just started talking. Asking me questions about myself and my travel plans and what not.  Honestly I was thrown off guard.  My friend Jaime, who has known him all her life, will attest that such behavior is slightly outside the scope of his usual aloof persona.   I kept waiting for some kind of point to be brought up or for some aim to be revealed, but no it seems he was genuinely interested in bonding.  He even opted to ride with me to the airport and see me off.  Truthfully I can't really remember the last time I felt so honored and even though I'm still a tad bit suspicious (something about an old dog I guess) I've been cursing myself ever since for not giving things a go back at the beginning of the month when there were still differences to be made.

Keeping the gym open for everyone.
(Note: NOT Jaime)
By far the most significant relationship I've fostered here has been with Jaime (Name Changed) , Co-director of Hospitality at Ranch. After our first fitness session she lingered a bit to chat and being in a rare socializing mood I was doing my best to keep the conversation rolling but I noticed that she didn't seem to be in any kind of hurry.  She was my last appointment for the day so there wasn't anything to interrupt us except a gradually imposed awareness of the time (and dinner, which I completely forgot about.  The conversation was a fairly natural evolution of self-expression and mutual appreciation for one-another's experience.

Jaimy spent a a significant portion of her childhood at Rancho and had recently been 'adopted' by Rancho's main leaders (I use quotations because the adoption occurred after her 18th birthday [She's now 24] and isn't legally binding, but in this culture they take 'spiritual adoption' rather seriously and familial terminology is strictly adhered to [often to the utter confusion of outsiders] and her new 'parents' still exercise a remarkable level of influence in Jaime's life).  She's communicated a desire to leave Rancho and attend BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) but is experiencing resistance from her 'parents'.

When we finally found our way out of the gym we were immediately solicited in campus wide game of hide-and-seek.  Apparently one of the Rancho kids had run 'away' and the onduty staff were running around with flashlights calling for him.  I was told it happens fairly often with one of the boys, but its not a big deal because he's afraid of the dark and never wanders far.  An hour later we found him in a tree.

I refused Jaime's offer to come eat left-overs at her parent's house because I thought it might be awkward going over there so late, but she must have realized I missed dinner that night because when I returned from my bucket bath later that night, there was a big plate of food sitting on my bed.

The next week Jaime was my best friend and we spent nearly all our free time hanging out or texting. She brought me the best Fish Tacos of my life for my lunch break, showed me the best restaurants in Tecate, and took me out with her friends for the weekend.  And just as I was beginning to feel at home, it was time to leave.  And that's how I got my first real taste of what the rest of my trip has been so far.

I tell myself I don't really have anything to write about here but even as I'm writing this there are bible students casting demons out of eachother right in front of me.  Teens with an overload of hormones, the need to feel significant, and a warped world view.  I shutter as I remember my own exorcisms back in my hardcore religious days.  Terribly awkward and forced things, too much emotional angst and no intellectual paradigm to give it a constructive meaningful form.  The screaming and spitting and frothing and puking, or trying at least trying to and all the while not trying to and uncertain if your putting on a show for yourself but you have to try it because really nothing else makes sense of how you feel in that moment.  That kid is really going to regret chucking his cell phone like that in the morning..