The Great Escape

Movie in Spanish, anyone?

Today I basically had to pull teeth to get my roommates to come to town. I think my class has given the new girl a run for her money. She’s dismissed them early twice. You don’t do that with a bunch of boys–they act like wild animals.

After sharing tacos and learning new Chiapanecan words, we went to check out the theatre. See, the deal is that the movies are in English with subtitles. That is, all the movies except the one I watched. It was in Spanish.

This was good. I had to really think and pay attention. I did NOT understand everything, but that’s the nice thing about movies: you don’t need to understand all the words!

My roommates were “tired” and went home. I, on the other hand, don’t get tired after work anymore. I stayed in town for the movie and a bit of shopping. By shopping I mean the need for a blanket: it was like 50 or 60 last night! (hee hee). Shopping woes I will share with you next…

I rode a Collective bus back to my part of town. I proceeded to ride around with them for miles, because 1) I was too timid to pull the cord. 2). I was trapped in the midst of the people, and I didn’t want to speak Spanish in front of them. 3). I wanted to see where the bus goes. In case you’re wondering, my name for a collective is a Bat-Out-Of-Hell.

For my birthday week birthday wish, I would like my roommates to adopt my It’s Mexico! motto. When something breaks or doesn’t go well, they have to say, “It’s Mexico!” in a very cheerful voice. Will this be annoying to anyone not on the It’s-Mexico-Train? Yes.

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A Shortage of Many Things

Can I confess something? I’ve peed in my backyard twice in the last eight hours. See, we found out the hard way our water isn’t working. It wasn’t a major concern at first, because it goes out at least every other day. When the water goes out, we just flick this switch and get the pump turned on. Unfortunately, it really went out today. More unfortunate is that we found this out after I used the bathroom. Fortunately, we had mop water to pour into the commode tank…

So, when I returned from meeting yesterday afternoon, I headed upstairs to ask the neighbors if they had the same problem. In the course of this event, I discovered the rooftop. Why I didn’t suspect we had one is beside me. I was sooo happy when I found it! I want to buy a hammock to go up there! Sigh. Life is good on top of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Last night I met a cute delivery boy too, who, of course, is in love with me. I say that jokingly because they all confess their love. He is extra cute though because he speaks English, and drives a motorcycle. (Worried yet, parents?) The good news is I am a hot commodity in Tuxtla Gutierrez. The bad news is I am uninterested in 99.9% of the men due to what I want that they ain’t got. If you’re thinking money, shame on you!

Anyhow, plans are in the works to celebrate the greatest year of my life (so far) on Friday. I’m determined that nothing could happen to make 28 any worse then 27 ended up turning out. Twenty-eight. Wow. Seeing it written out is funny. I remember when I moved to DC Jenny was 28. I thought she was too old to have so many factors left to straighten out. (Sorry, Jenny–still think this blog is “funny?”) Let this be a lesson, all you judgers out there: this too could happen to you.

So, here’s to the kick-off of my birthday week! In honor of this blessed occasion, I will share something I want everyday. Today: More piña in this leche and piña drink I just bought. Oh, and a Mexican boyfriend to teach me Spanish. Until I speak the Spanish, I’ll settle for the “language of love.” (That was for you, Daddy.)

P.S. The water is magically working again.

What’s the Point?

I remember when my friend went to Germany, he said he didn’t go to meeting because he couldn’t understand anything. He didn’t speak a bit of German, and to my knowledge, never learned any while he was there.

The thing is, I feel sooo frustrated sitting in meetings where I may understand a line or two. Giving my testimony is hard too, because I can’t really say what I’m thinking about. It becomes a muddled, immature version of my thoughts. Today the thought actually went through my head, “What’s the point of this?”

Now, before you flip out and I get lecture galore, I have worked through it all on my own. It’s just difficult to sit in something so similar to what I have at home. I sat there today crying the whole time (by the way, they DONT have kleenexes on every corner, so I wiped my face on my shirt and my nose on my hands…) thinking about my meetings in Tennessee and Virginia.

Ugh. Please send me emails with happy thoughts. I need them.

I totally love Mexico and feel “at home” here. I just can’t communicate effectively and it is getting to me today.

Fiesta!

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Today was the first birthday party I’ve attended since I’ve been here in Tuxtla. I’ve heard about how parents go aalllll out.

It was fun! I hopped a bus to Coita in enough time to make my ride to the party. Then I found out that they forgot I was coming. It was a little awkward. I keep getting forgotten, and so I’ve decided from now on I’ll just make it if I can get myself there. It doesn’t help that I can’t really communicate enough to call them up and make sure our plans are still on. Ugh.

So, anyway, this party was cute! I decided to play some of the games with the kids because I was obviously the outsider at the party. I had three young girls sitting around me for a while, asking to learn English. It is funny how open kids are, and how they will slowly say things and act things out. I also thought it was interesting because they asked for their names in English. Cute!

The best part was little Isaac (pronounced Ee-zack). I just love him–he loves his little cousin (actually his niece), and when she got ready he kept saying how pretty she was. When he got ready, he came into the kitchen and said, “Look!” I, of course, told him how guapo he was (I know that word…haha) During the party, he danced with Aleli (I have no idea if it is spelled correctly, but it’s pronounced Ah-Lay-Lee). They were dancing so quickly they kind of blurred. When I have kids, I want one just like Little Isaac. He even loves on me, and he doesn’t even know me.

They had fun games and lots of music. I even heard Achy Breaky Heart in Spanish. It was a fun time, for sure!

Cute Isaac and the Piñata
Cute Gabriel and the guitar
Fun song and dance

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Can You ‘Si’?

When I don’t understand people, I find myself nodding and saying, “Si! Si!” It’s helping me to understand that when my students tell me that they understand–when they nod and say, “Yes!”–it’s a bold face lie.

A couple days ago I had an eye appointment. That was interesting considering I don’t really know the names of the letters in Spanish. It was super fast, then they put these funky robot glasses on you to walk around in. I walked like a robot. No, it’s true, I did. When you’re an alien, you’re allowed to do crazy things. In fact, everything you do or say is so funny, it helps you live up to expectations. Really, lady? This is normal?

Whose idea was it to wait until they came to MEXICO to get contacts? Oh, yeah…So, I made it through the appointment by finally asking her to write down what she was saying. Today, I went to buy the contacts, and they were 700 pesos for six pairs. Sigh. Considering the appointment is 0 pesos I guess that is pretty good! I’ll just plan on wearing each pair an extra month. That will take me until Fall–or until my eyes fall out from the bus pollution blowing in my face everyday…Which ever happens first.

In other Mexican news, I have a new roommate. She’s Chinese, but down here they call her Chino. I keep wanting to correct them because it sounds so rude. I mean, if I am from Outer Space, she’s from Never, Never, Land or some other obscure location no one living can tell you about. People stare at her more than me.

I have a plan though: I am making friends with all the people who stare at me by talking to them as often as I can. They don’t expect it, and I like to believe it endears me to them. In reality, it is probably just their entertainment each day: Oh, here comes that crazy white girl–let’s see what we can get her to say today!

Speaking of crazy, will someone tell Mexico that just because it is “Winter,” they are not allowed to sell things like this when it’s in the 80’s?!

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In fact, someone should also let them know that community pools would be nice. It’s too hot to not have a tan. It would make the sweat okay, if I knew I could go swimming after work. But noooooo, thank you, Tuxtla Gutierrez, I have to hand-wash my smelly work clothes instead.

Open House

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I already get gawked at a lot. On the street. At the market. Standing in line for the bus. Now, the school has invited the padres of fifty kids to come gawk at me for a couple hours. Niiiice.

I wonder if the Real Housewives will still love me when they see how little their children know?

Today is our open house. Basically, that means that we will have to work late. I will have parents drifting in and out of my classroom to introduce themselves and say hello! I had my kids write about their families IN ENGLISH yesterday. Can I explain how telling that was? Some kids were interesting: they didn’t know the words, but knew the structure. Most others didn’t know structure or words. Big sigh. I am going to call this reality check time.

It has been fun creating these drawings though–the best is when THEY create them. We are getting this mutual understanding, my kids and I. If they ask–I will help! This means (mis)behaviors have lessened significantly. I’ve started hanging words all over the classroom. I really can’t wait to play bingo with them. That will be awesome.

It is good that I know some Spanish too. There are some words that are needed that pictures can’t describe. I feel like this is where the powers that be and I disagree. Ideally it would be best to NEVER speak English. I see First graders who respond to this nicely. My little boogers know very little English. Plus, for some reason, I have 50 kids–and only somewhere around 12 girls. Anyone see a problem? Those girls will be in Heaven by the time middle school rolls around…

Anyway, here’s to a night of trying to speak enough Spanish to get by!

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Latin American Men

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Necesito novio de Mexico. I’ve decided that it will be much better for me to learn Spanish, AND muy divertido!

Men down here are hilarious. They are so quick to hit on you, but it isn’t with whistles or crude comments (not that I know of yet). Instead they tell you that you’re beautiful or that they are in love with you. They don’t stop either when you shut them down. It doesn’t seem to bother them–they just ask another way.

There is this cute kid that works at the school. He’s twenty, and I am so not interested. I keep trying to spare his feelings by telling him that he is young and I am old. “Eight years is mucho grande!” I say. “No importante in Mexico,” he replies. “Dos anos con mi ex-novio–no lista,” I try again. “Mismo con mi novia,” he fires back, as he tells me she is now with otra novio. Sigh. The one great thing is that I get to practice speaking a lot. I even told him the same–that we spoke different languages. “I will teach you Spanish,” he said. Mainly, I get to say “No” a lot. Ahhh, he is quite adorable.

It really doesn’t matter if they are young or old down here:

Our guard at school is the best–he is old and my favorite person in the world. He is so cute when I wear my traditional bag. It never fails–if I do something different like wear a scarf or belt with my uniform, he comments on it. He also loves that I try to speak Spanish with him (this is the same man who told me I needed to practice when I first moved here). “Profera!” he says jovially, “Muy bonita!” I sure do love old men. P.S. He isn’t hitting on me, but he is a sweetheart!

My vice principal is from Canada, but has a Mexican husband. She is super sweet, and I told her how much I love it here. She tells me now that I need to fall in love. “With Chiapas or a man?” I ask her. “Both!” she replies. I wouldn’t mind if Mexico became a permanent thing–but he would have to be a rich man! I’ve got American bills to pay!

The Most Delicious Hotdog

Yum.

I couldn’t wait to write about the most delicious hotdog ever created. Plus, I want to write about it before I get sick from eating street food–and it loses it’s luster.

Sigh.

So, I was walking home last night, and I decided to buy supper on the street. This was mainly because the Bodega has funky chicken and veggies right now. My first time there, a man asked me if the spots on the meat were normal. Plus, I was feeling pretty lazy.

I stopped at this stand on a side street. These people are there everyday, and sometimes they even have music. I thought it was a taco stand until I got close. I almost walked on when I saw it was a hotdog stand (these people eat a lot of hotdogs). In any case, I was curious and hungry. That’s usually a pretty good combination for trying something new… The street vendors seem to have a hard time understanding me though–as most people can [kinda] figure out what I’m saying.

Part of the problem is that I am thirsty for words (The teacher in me just sighed. What a beautiful phrase!), and so I ask “Que es?” and “Como se dice?” for everything. This tends to confuse people, as they wonder why I act like a child (Especially when the word for hotdog is…hotdog). Often they just laugh and say they have no idea what I’m saying. This is probably because I speak like an alien too: “Me come in peace. Want hotdog.”

I should have thrown all my doubts out the window when the first thing the cook did was throw butter on the griddle. Ummm, what doesn’t taste good with a 1/4 cup of butter? She is grilling these thin slices of meat, while I am thinking, “Hmmm. Weird hotdog. The picture doesn’t look like that.”

Finally she grabs a bun, and actually gets a hotdog out of the inside of the cart. Again, I’m thinking, “Weird. Wonder who that meat is for?” She quickly asks if I want it picante, to which I nod. On goes the hotdog, then grilled (fried, I guess in the same butter) onions, habanero sauce, some kind of pepper/cabbage relish, mustard, ketchup, mayo, and finally, the meat. Turns out, the meat was a kind of bacon. Soooo good, fried crispy on top of my hotdog.

I sure wish I had taken a picture of this thing. I ate it before I got a chance. I would like to get another, but I don’t know if that is a good idea. I find it is better to completely resist delicious Mexican food. I already walk by the bakery with my hands up shielding my eyes. The next person I’m going to avoid is the cheese lady (there is this amazing cheese that is salty and similar to mozzarella–it is like string cheese though). I suppose the hotdog stand lady will join her. Sigh.

Teaching English

I guess maybe I am going about this differently, but I think of my main purpose (as a teacher here) is to teach my kids to read. Teaching them English isn’t my main goal, although it is super important. In purposing to teach reading, they are, in fact, learning English from the basics (which they are somehow missing…)

Is this wrong?

I guess I’ve been thinking of the building blocks for reading, and phonemic awareness and phonics are where I focus my energy. I am teaching vocabulary as well, but mainly as we come to words or sight words. For example, today we did writing. I told the kids I would help them with words. I will post pictures of the words that we drew and wrote. It was great!!

I am starting Spanish classes with random people at school. Some of the groundskeepers have asked, and I am more than happy to oblige them. I feel like it is something I can do to help more. I just don’t feel like I really know where to begin!

Do I teach practical lessons: what to say when you meet someone or need something? Do I teach language arts: the ABC’s and sounds of letters/ words? Do I teach vocabulary: verbs and nouns?

Help! How did you learn a new language?

Three Things I Want To Learn in Mexico

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1). How to speak Spanish.

This obviously has to be first on my list. I was sitting next to this sweet (I think) lady on the bus today. She was just talking and talking, and I somehow managed to struggle along with her. I think she was telling me her Mom was sick here in Coita. She said she couldn’t sleep. I understood that much–but there was so much I couldn’t understand! I see the value in hanging out with just the Spanish speakers, because it is hard to switch back and forth. In fact, yesterday, the teacher I traveled with and I tried to keep the Spanish thing going. I know I’ve only been here three weeks, but I’m hoping for major growth soon!

2). How to make Tamales.

Me gusta tamales con pollo y mole. Mmmmm! I buy tamales from this little lady down on the corner for fifteen pesos (for three). I know it isn’t super traditional, but how good would tamales be if they had cooked vegetables inside? I keep thinking of different things to put in them that would make them a bit healthier. In Chiapas, people use banana leaves to wrap them in (as opposed to the corn husks).

3). How to Salsa dance.

This is obviously a biggie after Friday night. In my head I picture myself dancing the night away, pero in reality… Everytime I hear music I want to move now. It is real music here (not the canned music of the United States). In fact, on the way back from the market someone was playing American pop. I felt like my ears were hurting–it was as if the tranquility of the town was being stolen away. Perhaps if I understood more of the words in songs I wouldn’t feel that way. Traditional music sure is amazing!