Our last day in Cuana began with mass at 7:30am, evidently the only hour where I do not sweat all the way through mass.  It was in English, but the older ladies who had completed the rosary stayed graciously with us through mass in a strange tongue and a few others wandered through the always open doors.  It was good to pray in our language again and a reminder how important it is for anyone to have the opportunity, no matter how fluent they might be, to feel at home by hearing the prayers of the mass in their mother language.  The sign of peace was just that as our group walked across the aisle to greet these women dressed in their colorful customary clothes.

Then there came a difficult time for all of us as we bid goodbye to our friends in Cuana.  It seemed impossible that a few short days ago they were strangers to us and now we left with heavy hearts as we said our farewells.  I was struck by Nieves in particular.  A bright fifteen year old with good insight and a cool easy going manner that delighted us.  At home, she would have as much potential as any of our children for advancement and career.  What does Cuana hold out for her?

We then took the long road back to Acapulco, made less intimidating this time having experienced the road to Arroyo Cumiapa.  Upon arriving at the PIME house in Acapulco and the first seats with cushions we had luxuriated in all week, we set out for lunch beside the Pacific.  The cool ocean breeze mitigated the Acapulco swelter and we delighted in being together, relaxed and transformed by the odyssey that largely lay behind us.

Fr. Graziano then took up us one of the high hills that ring Acapulco Bay to see homes more extravagant than any I have seen in the States built into cliffs far too high for any of the famous divers.  Joey correctly diagnosed our reaction as reverse culture shock.  I turned to Graziano and said, “No campesinos aqui (No peasants here!)”  Atop the mountain stood a stunning, modern ecumenical chapel and a cross whose commanding position above the shore reminds one of Cristo Redentor statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro.  I have been blessed in my life to see beautiful sights many fine cities, but I never saw one as sweeping and gorgeous as Acapulco Bay.

We were indeed amidst a great bounty after being accustomed to destitution.  It was difficult to reconcile the one story high twisting waterslide that belonged to one private home with the scenes we had witnessed just beyond the mountains opposite the bay.  A favorite person of mine once made my favorite generalization while on a similar trip to Ecuador – “If you are rich in Ecuador you must be a jerk.”  Of course it is not true and we are not free of vast economic inequality here in the US or here in Schenectady.  But mindfulness and awareness as we experienced and hope to share is an imperative part of being united, of knowing we are blessed so as to be a blessing to others.

The rest of the few short hours were a time to remember the community from which we had come and the community we had formed.  A great place for tacos and singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody played loudly in a parked car. A vicious game of Catchphrase.  Most staying up way too late for a 4:30am leave time.

The next morning we got off almost without adventure.  An announced delay in Mexico City brought nervousness that we might be stuck overnight in Atlanta quickly followed by excitement about being stuck overnight in Atlanta for one last night together.  Alas, we arrived home safely to the families, people, and a parish that had made this journey possible.

This was a pilgrimage – a trip to a sacred site.  And the rutted roads, the concrete of the floor, the slope of the hills were all holy ground to us.  And holy too were the four churches and the people of God that thrilled each of us.  Jesus came among us a pilgrim far from his true home to invest in humanity the very love of God.  And we are all pilgrims in the quest to experience that divinity Jesus knew fully.  Where to find that spark?  Look among the poor.  Look to your need.  Look to fall in love.  For us, and hopefully in some way for you, we came to Cuana, Yolo and Cumiapa.  And it was a journey to a sacred site for there we found Jesus.