My Way: Audrey Chew
I am living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with my 3-year-old daughter, Maia, and working as a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher in Mexico’s first ecological school.
I remember when I read the first “My Way” nearly two years ago, and I thought, “I will never, ever write one of those!” That was when I was eating all raw foods, and now, neither raw foodist nor vegetarian, and here I am giving a peek into my life.
I discovered raw foods in 2006 when I was only 18, one year after becoming a vegetarian. I decided to give it a go just for the fun of experimentation. I continued with it only for one summer, but in 2007, after giving birth to my daughter, I became ill with hyperthyroidism. I went back to raw foods for the following two years for health reasons. I am grateful for the healing that these foods provided me at that time.
A year ago, I made a choice which has radically changed my life: a move to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Here in the Caribbean, I have joined a community of teachers in an amazing initiative–Ak Lu’um International School—which is the first ecological school in Mexico and a developing Waldorf school. My understanding of “health” has been evolving daily since becoming a part of this community.
Now living in a different culture and economy and viewing poverty from a whole new perspective, I am increasingly thankful that I have food to eat at all. Having a daughter with severe celiac disease and other digestion difficulties, I am thankful for any food that is digestible and that provides nutrients to the body. We don’t abide to any particular “diet” other than strictly “gluten-free.” Cooked or raw, I believe it is best to eat whole foods that are fresh, local and organic whenever possible, and even more importantly, to live a life rich in nutrients for the spirit and soul.
My Way: Audrey
Thursday - I wake up at 6:00 am- 15 minutes before my set alarm. I have been practicing not using an alarm by preparing myself the night before for the hour I must wake up.
Breakfast is a glass of water with fresh lime, yogurt with amaranth and raw honey (local and raw), and I grab an apple as I run out the door.
At 7:30 we have a teacher’s gathering at school to begin the day as a family with a verse, eurythmy, and a song.
“Estoy aqui. Abierto a la vida. Abrazo el mundo con amor, y lo llevo a mi Corazon”
“I am here. Open to life. I embrace the world with love, and take it to my heart.”
8:00 and my kindergarteners begin to arrive. We go together to the school kitchen to get the vegetables of the day, and together we prepare a salad. Today it is simple: lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and lime. At 10:30, our school chef, Señora Laura, finishes making us broccoli and eggs. We all sit down together by candlelight to sing “thanks” and share a meal.
While the children are outside at recess, I see that one of our papaya trees has a ripe papaya to eat. I bring it in and the children and I eat it together.
Our school has well over 30 papaya trees, is covered in passion fruit vines, has several lime and lemon trees, nopales (cactus), spinach, mango trees, chaya (a leafy green), tomatoes, peppers and banana trees growing. One of the school’s fathers has been attending biodynamic courses to help us with the gardens. Our goal is eventually be completely self sustainable. Along with our gardens, we use solar electricity to run a fan in every classroom and a computer in the office, we have a composting bathroom, maintain chickens and turkeys, and have our own water source.
We also have a dog, Pixie, and several cats that live at the school. Another one of our big excitements of the day is that one of the school’s cats has had kittens. We all visit the mother and her three adorable orange kittens.
On Thursdays we have a staff meeting after school. At the end of the school day, the teachers close the school day together with a song and verse, and we prepare the table to share a meal before the meeting begins. The centerpiece of the table: a single passion fruit flower. Today, Señora Laura has made us a salad (lettuce and tomato) and soup with epazote (a delicious, common herb down here) and mushrooms.
The staff all goes out downtown together to chat after the meeting, and once finally at home, I snack on mandarins with my daughter and am in bed by 9pm. Mandarins are not quite in season, but they starting to come out which means soon one of my favorite winter treats will be available—fresh mandarin juice!
Friday - Today I wake up a full 30 minutes before I need to. It is still quite dark. I get up to take laundry off the clothes line, prepare my daughter for school, and I grab an apple to eat for breakfast as I walk out the door.
The teachers meet together in the dome, as every morning, for a moment of group unity to start the day.
Verse of the week:
Resurrected deep within,
I can sense the breadth of my own being
And, filled with strength
Send radiant thoughts
From sunlike soul forces
To help resolve life’s mysteries,
And give fulfilment to many a wish
Whose wings were crippled by hope.
Rudolf Steiner, Calendar of the Soul: Week 28
I prepare salad with my children again (this time just lettuce and lime juice) and Señora Laura makes us spinach tacos with the spinach that grows in one of our gardens.
I stay late after school today to talk with the team of preschool teachers. We plan for the upcoming weeks when our children will be living a celebration of Day of the Dead. In a Waldorf School, we study and follow the rhythm of the year—including seasonal changes and festivals—and we bring this rhythm to life through the classroom curriculum.
I head home, get cleaned up, and go out for dinner with my boyfriend, Jaime, and my daughter for fresh seafood. I order a filet of fish with steamed vegetables. My broccoli-loving daughter steals my broccoli and eats the tops off of them.
In the evening, Maia goes to sleep at Jaime’s mother’s house, and Jaime and I head to the jungle and into a cave where a concert is to be held. The band is called “Bole.” I have never heard of the band before, but I figure anything in a cave is something worthwhile to attend. It turns out to be relaxing music by candle light, deep into an INCREDIBLE cave. The best part is walking through the cave before the music even starts. I could have spent hours upon hours walking around.
One of the most amazing things about the Yucatan Peninsula is that underneath the entire peninsula is a system of underground caves. Many of them are filled with water and open up to tropical swimming holes of crystal clear mineral water called cenotes. The cave we head to is a part of a park with a large underground river called “Rio Secreto.”
Saturday - I wake up with my daughter at 7:30am. I grab a glass of water and begin to tidy up. We eat yogurt, amaranth, raw honey, and apples for breakfast.
The plan for the day is to head to a local, non-profit pet shelter (“The Peanut Pet Shelter”) to volunteer in the Saturday dog washing. When a teacher misses a faculty meeting at Ak Lu’um, they make up for it by volunteering their time to another local non-profit. I love that the consequence can be something so enjoyable. Unfortunately, I have trouble getting in contact with the shelter to find their location, as they recently have moved to a ranch in a nearby village. I decide to reschedule for next Saturday.
Homeless dogs and cats are a big problem throughout all of Mexico. Starving, sick, and often abused animals run through every street in town. The Peanut Pet Shelter puts forth an amazing effort to give these animals a new chance of life and family. Definitely a worthwhile cause to check out!
At noon, my daughter helps me prepare lunch. We make a great big salad. We don’t have a lot in the refrigerator today, so we go with something simple. She cuts the lettuce, and I cut up cucumbers and tomatoes. I serve it with fresh lime juice and sea salt, and tahini on the side. My daughter is a tahini freak and eats three plates of salad with tahini to dip her veggies. She calls it her “special sauce.” We are fortunate to have someone locally who sells fresh, raw tahini, as I have no blender or food processor.
1:00 is nap time for my daughter while I do some preparation for my week at school and start a bit of house cleaning armed with vinegar, tea tree oil and water.
In the afternoon Maia and I walk to a local park, La Ceiba, which is an ecological park that preserves natural wildlife. We bring a few plastic bottles, as they have started the first recycling efforts in town. An extra surprise for us is that today is the monthly Saturday community market at the park. It is just finishing up so we get to listen to some music and pass by the last few booths before they pack up. They are selling plants, baskets, natural soap/sunscreen/repellent products, local honey, clothing, jewelry and more. Afterwards, Maia plays on the swings there at the park.
Tonight for dinner: eggplant, carrots and chayote (a type of squash) in homemade tomato sauce.
Shortly after dinner, we get cleaned up, I tell Maia her bedtime story, and I stay up for a little bit of “me” time.
Sunday - I wake up at 6:30 with my daughter. She tells me that it is best to get up at the same time as the sun. I suppose she has a good point, but I am tired. We go into the kitchen so that I can cut up fruit- apples, mandarins, bananas. I lay in bed and read all morning while she digs in the dirt on the back patio, right outside of the bedroom.
At 11:00, we pack up to head to the beach. First, we make a stop at a local restaurant that makes fresh juice to pick up a liter. We go with a fruity one today with orange, pineapple, strawberry and kiwi. It was a nice treat for a hot, beach day. We meet friends and stay at the beach a few hours. There is hardly any beach (sand) today because the “almost” hurricane we had a few days ago really brought the sea up high, but that is the only evidence of the storm. The sea is gorgeous, calm and turquoise and the sky is clear blue. I brought a few bananas to snack on, and everyone is grateful to have them after swimming!
At 2:30 we head to my boyfriend’s mother’s house to celebrate the birthday of a cousin. She has made fresh, green mole using a variety of greens, herbs and chiles which was something I had never tried. I tried it with some fresh tortillas, black beans with epazote, vegetables and rice, while everyone else ate chicken.
Once we get home, I eat the salad that is still leftover from yesterday, get Maia ready for bed, review my planning for my week of classes, read, and am in bed by 9:30.
I have to admit, that when I started reading back on my last few days, I began to feel anxious about sharing my diet with everyone. “Wait, that’s not healthy! That’s not raw! That’s not even vegetarian!” But, then I remember that one of the biggest steps to living a “healthy” life is not to judge, starting with not judging myself.
My name is Audrey and this is My Way
What a beautiful life Audrey. Thank you for being of such wonderful service to Mexico, which is dear to my heart. Please consider checking out Audrey's Walforf School in Mexico, and offering support if you are called to... or hit her up on Facebook!