It's been a few weeks that I've been silent - I thought my computer had died! Luckily, it seems it was only an episode of overheating... it's been a bit of a struggle to follow-up with my weekly reading and exercises to deliver for my studies, especially since the internet here is slow and intermittently dropping each day! Hence I decided to let my blog a bit aside to focus on connecting in the present moment. In this post I will share with you the last 3 weeks and my journey from Guerrero to Oaxaca state, where I currently am.
A bit more about Amigos de Animales shelter
You may remember in my last post that I mentioned Tuesdays and Fridays being important days for the association. Indeed, every Tuesday, the team of Amigos de animales goes to the poorest communities outside of Barra de Potosi/Zihuatanejo and distribute food for their pets, as well as feed stray dogs we encounter along the road. I was lucky to join once and it's been a beautiful, yet also hard experience.
The people we visit live usually in small wooden one-room "house", with a tin roof. Their "kitchen" is usually outside consisting of a fire pit. They often have chickens or a turkey roaming around their yard, and a few dogs/cats. Many families make a living out of brick making, and with little money they manage to feed their family and buy primary necessities only. Their pets get to eat meals left-overs or whatever they find on their own. Many look undernourished; so the pet owners looked happy & grateful when they saw us arrive for the weekly food distribution.
The Tuesday feeding round is important as it builds the relationship with the community and most critically enable education too. The daughter of Gris (the shelter manager), Adriana and one volunteer friend of her use this time with each pet owner to discuss the value of spay & neuter. Many owners agree to have their animal sterilized, and that plays a big role in keeping the number of roaming stray dogs under control. Beyond the health benefits (prevention of sexual transmitted disease, such as TVT cancer in dogs), it helps behavior as dogs & cats are less aggressive and territorial once spayed.
Fridays are the actual clinic day. That is when all the dogs/cats from the owners who agreed to the sterilization procedure during the Tuesday round are brought to the vet. The service provided by the Amigos de Animales association is unique in that it considers the needs of the community to make these sterilizations successful. Many people don't have a car and wouldn't be able to bring themselves their pet to the vet, let alone pay for the surgery. So Adriana & Gris provide transport cages to the owners the day before, pick the animals up on Friday morning and bring them over to the clinic. Once the procedure is over and the animals are awake & well, they bring them back to their owners. All of that for a modest contribution of 100 pesos per cat / 200 pesos per dog (equivalent to 4 / 8 CHF) to cover the gasoline of the transport. The vet fees are entirely paid for by the association. In a way, the association offers a "all-in-one" service to ensure the highest chance that people do not miss the opportunity to spay & neuter their animal(s).
Saying goodbye to Barra de Potosi... and travelling South
After 3 weeks volunteering at Amigo de Animales, I grew fond to many of the dogs & cats, especially since many of them slept in our yard and we were interacting closely with them so many times per day. The time spent with Gris and her family created strong bonds with I will never forget. And the amazing food they cooked too: tamales, home made bread for Dia de muertos :P I am grateful that I've been given the opportunity to live so close to a Mexican family who dedicated their heart & soul to saving cats & dogs in their local community.
The other volunteers and myself also connected with a few young locals who lived near the beach volley court, and run kind of a mini-bar next to their house. The ~40 villagers - most of them cousins of each other - living nearby would gather there on Saturday nights, dancing to Mexican music while watching locals playing volley for hours (trust me with this heat, I wouldn't even last 5 minutes!) Amazing memories that I will cherish.
After spending a month apart, it was time to get reunited with my husband. We chose Puerto Escondido, a lovely small city of 50'000 inhabitants famous for its big surf waves and chilled vibes. It is located in the state of Oaxaca, which is right below the state of Guerrero where I was till now. Not far, one may think... but Mexico is a huge country and there are not always proper highways to travel fast. Nonetheless, I decided to do the trip along the Pacific coast by bus, because you know me: I love to do like the locals and share a bit of adventure. After 15 hours of travel and 2 buses including an overnight one, I made it happily into my darling's arms despite being sick (I most likely had food poisoning the last evening prior to my departure).
I actually visited Puerto Escondido 10 years ago when I first traveled to Mexico. The memories came back swiftly, and I'm glad the beauty of the local beaches haven't changed much. We are staying in a small hostel with a friendly atmosphere, where several other travelers are volunteering long-term too. We became part of "la familia", sharing dinners and fun evenings together. It's quite nice to have some social life again and not only surrounded by animals!
I started volunteering at a shelter called Perros en Puerto, located a bit outside of town, in the middle of a field area. I go every morning to help the owner - Annette - who has about 80 dogs in her care in a very well designed and efficiently run shelter. She's been doing this alone for >12 years and I'm deeply impressed by her commitment! Luckily, she also has some long-term volunteers who live in Puerto Escondido and come to give her a hand regularly. The dogs have beautiful, colorful dog houses in their pens and a huge yard to run & play with one another. Add to this the twice-daily feeding round with high quality kibbles and you can call this a Mexican dog paradise!
We are planning to leave the Pacific coast soon to discover another gem of Mexico: Chiapas! More nature, forests and lakes, this state is further South from Oaxaca and at the border with Guatemala.
Until then, let's enjoy the beauty that each day has to offer. I hope you're safe & keeping well, no matter where you are - keep your spirit up! Thanks for reading and sending warm greetings.