Me Gusta Mexico.

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I don’t know how that happened overnight. I don’t want to leave! I guess it is a good thing that I have months before I have to pack my bags…

San Cristóbal is soooo different than Tuxtla Gutierrez. First of all, the elevation is much higher. It is more of what I expected from Mexico–with old streets of stone worn smooth from all the people walking on it. Shops and restaurants line the streets, and last night it was hopping! It’s cold too–in Tuxtla yesterday it was in the high 80’s. I froze here in San Cristóbal last night. I had two warm blankets I cuddled under all night to stop the shivering.

Apparently the market is at night–weird, right? These ladies spread their blankets on the ground, and put their clothing, hats, bags, etc. all around. As you stop to look, they use flashlights to point at the goods. I scored a beautiful bag for $100 pesos. It is a lot in pesos (like I could live on this for days and days–weeks if I only had tamales), but it is only $10 American dollars. Of course my Mexican friend helped out with this smooth whistle when a price was quoted–then she would suggest her own price.

The music is amazing! I danced my feet off too–pero, necessito clase de bailar. I need a dance class. This older man was great. He told me what to do. My friend just kept saying, “Move your hips! You have to move your hips!” It was a lot of fun, and I got to hear amazing music! I must have moved my hips, because they are sore today!

We walked to the market again (the daytime market) today. It was really great–we had to practice Spanish, because our Mexican friend wasn’t with us. I bought another bag–a little one. I justify my purchases by telling myself I will give them away at home. I bought a coconut from a man in the market. He had a large sack with ice and coconuts. He cut a hole with a knife, and stuck a straw inside. It was a little expensive though. You can see my new bolsa too (Please excuse the messy hair–I am going on a couple hours if sleep in a freezing cold room…)

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Sigh. I don’t want to leave! I am making plans on spending my birthday here for sure. I’m hoping our new friends from last night will come back too. Mucho divertido (spelling?).20120121-162306.jpg

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I’m So Excited (And I Just Can’t Hide It)

I’m about to lose control and I think I like it!. No wait, that is totally false. I love having control. That is totes why I am a teacher–we’re control freaks!! I should say: I’m about to lose control on a dance floor and I can’t wait!

I uploaded a couple videos of my kiddos for you. The Fairfax County teacher in me is freaking out a little–then I remember that these kids are all over the school’s Facebook account. It is a great time of day in the morning as my babies get all ready for school with morning exercises. The gym teacher always plays music with a nice beat, and leads primary school in a five-ten minute warm-up. This is what greeted me today.

Seriously?! Where did these kids get moves? They dance with me in class too… Like literally grab my hands and dance.

So, I am sooooo excited because I get to go to San Cristobal today!! Two teachers and I are hopping on the bus sometime this afternoon to travel an hour to a town I’ve heard about non-stop. I can wait to buy an amazing bag there. I stand out too much with my practical traveling bag! (I mean, let me just be clear that there are no white people in Chiapas…There are some light skinned people, but the mystery of Mexico City is gone.) Apparently there are a ton of hippies and tourists from all over the world too. I think we are staying in a hostel–which I’m totes okay with. I bet it isn’t the one that has a bon-fire every night. One weekend I will stay there!

I seriously cannot wait to get out of the City! Chiapas is supposed to be amazingly beautiful. I am counting down the minutes until the bell rings…

Musica? Si, Por Favor!

I started Spanish class. I was feeling pretty full of myself for being able to half carry-on conversations with strangers. Spanish class brought me back to reality.

It is taught by another teacher. The whole class we speak Spanish, and she must have the patience of Job! “No se _______,” we kept saying. Instead of telling us in English, she helpfully mimed or used synonyms. Today we listened to music and tried to recognize words and phrases in songs. It was muy dificil, but I did learn of a group that I now love. Their lyrics really speak the desamor of my heart.

The Real Housewives met again today–can I tell you I really like them? I held one Mom’s baby, which might be weird in the States, but it was completely normal here. I am really learning to love their kiddos too, and I’m even getting hugs. It’s necesario por mi. I hear great things everyday, which really helps me love my job! Sigh. (a sigh of contentment) Parents tell me their child is muy contento all the time. I’m going to start saying the same.

This afternoon I found out that one of my [favorite–and oh, so adorable] students has a dad that plays soccer professionally. We found this out when boys went up to him asking for his autograph. Tonight I saw them at Starbucks too. Let’s just say that there is a reason why this kid is amazingly cute. His parents are both beautiful! (Incidentally, he made my day when he signed sit down to another student today. I got this ha-ha laugh inside me.)

It also made my day, as I am sitting there in Starbucks (in my normal corner away from eyes that stare at the alien speaking English), and another student walked in the door. His whole face lit up, and he said, “Hi, Miss Jania (pronounced Han-ia)!” He gave me a hug–and his mom said a quick hello. This is the same kid whose mom walked into my room today as I sang, “Si-lencio, Di-e-go, Por fa-vor-or!” (Can you imagine that? It’s to the same tune of someone chanting “Let’s go, _____” at a sporting event.)

Oh! I was going to tell you what a Real Housewife suggested! She said, “Maybe you could print lyrics to songs so they actually learn what the words are.” Awesome idea. I can’t decide what songs to print though–ideas?? Today I played Adele, and some kids began singing…kinda. It sounds like a mush of language. They do the same thing when they sing my songs from class (which they learn speedy quick). Eenie-meenie-minee-mo becomes meemie-meemie-eyenie-oh. It is all I can do to not laugh at them. Bless their little hearts…

The Versatile Blogger

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So sorry I have been a slacker…

Thanks to Jamie, for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger! Her blog, when the road is no longer seen, is great! It is all about her journey of self-discovery and revelations about the world around her.

The rules for it are:

  • 1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
  • 2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  • 3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
  • 4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Without further ado, here are seven tantalizing tidbits (ha!)

  1. I am currently doing something I have wanted to do for about six or seven years. Teaching in a foreign country is one of those things I wondered if I would regret not doing. Lucky for me, life has a way of handing us exactly what we need WHEN we need it.
  2. I love teaching, but really I don’t know that I will do it forever. I see myself going to school to be an administrator or specialist sometime in the near future. The changes that are being made in education aren’t all good–and if I truly want to make a difference, it might be somewhere out of the classroom.
  3. My family is nutso. Wait, that isn´t really about me. Well, I am part of my family, so I guess I am a bit nutty too. Although, in my defense, I tell my mother all the time that I am her only normal child.
  4. Sometimes I feel frustrated waiting for other people to act. I feel like I have this idea of what they should do in my head, and so often I become disappointed when they don’t make the choice I would make. I am learning to let other people make mistakes. It is crazy hard, but I feel like maybe it is preparing me for motherhood.
  5. I have music buried inside of me. It really wants to come out, but I lack the discipline needed to tickle the ivories. I hope to find myself in lessons again someday soon. Until then, it makes appearances in the form of humming and singing.
  6. I’m an artist. It took me a while to call myself one, but it is true. I paint murals mostly, because what I do can’t be contained to a piece of canvas. The other day I watched these graffti artists retagging the wall near my house. I have to say that I am itching for some spray paint, but the “rule follower” inside me is scared. I am (not so secretly) hoping that Mama and Daddy will let me spray paint the shop. (They let me paint murals downstairs…it doesn’t hurt to try, right?)
  7. I love old people. I think it is because Mamaw took me around to visit old people when I was younger. I love the way they sit around in front of stores. I love the way they talk. I love their wrinkly hands and faces. I really love old men. I want to collect an old person the way that Chealea Handler has a little person.

Eek! I have more to say! I am totally gonna break the rules.

More than you ever wanted to know about me:

  1. I tell people I am from NOVA now. When they ask where I am from, I think for a split second Tennessee. I sure do love Tennessee, but I have no idea why my transplant in Virginia was sucessful. Can’t I be from two places? I mean, I’ve lived in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Florida too–but I don’t claim them. Ay ay ay…
  2. I used to think I had sooooo many friends when I was in high school. Sometime after college, I realized that I have very few friends and a lot of people with whom I am friendly. I am totally okay with this.
  3. I heard about a brother worker that does calculus to relax. One of my favorite times of day right now is when I lay in bed at night and learn math. It sometimes hurts my brain. It also gives me this sense of success. Me gusta matematicas.
  4. I talk to my mom every day. I missed one day last week. The world stopped turning for a moment.
  5. Twenty-seven was one of the worst years ever. I have a feeling that twenty-eight is gonna be my year. I am allowed to have more than one year. Twenty-six was my year too. I am preparing for thirty to rock my socks off. I mean, I’ve already had my quarter-life crisis. What could possibly go wrong that hasn’t already? (I don’t want an answer to that question.)
  6. Someday soon I am going to start running again. Somewhere inside is a skinny girl. She is sharing my body with her twin who loves carbs and math. The sidewalks here are trecherous, but the other day, I saw someone running beside the sidewalk. I think I might commit to doing that at some point. Weekends are great because there is no traffic. A gym would be nice too if I could find one.
  7. I am a sucker for people who need me. Yesterday, I bought the most disgusting fruit from this guy on the street. He told me they come from big trees in the mountains. They look like olives or cherries and taste like trash. Five pesos are gone because he was old. I also can’t say no to dirty children in the American part of town. I want to take them all home with me and teach them how to read.
  8. I just sang, “I’d like to teach the world to read…” to the tune of “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”
  9. I am stopping now so that I can do what the devil twin is saying to do: go buy fresh tortillas. I am going to make some black beans and veggies for the skinny twin…just to shut her up.

Welp. I will leave you with some blogs I follow. There won’t be fifteen. I am going to give you fifteen minus the nine extra facts I gave you about myself.

And two that need to put on the writing pants again:

So, there we go! Thanks for entertaining me and for reading all about my life. It isn’t too exciting, but it is better than not living at all, eh?

¡Buen Dia!

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I learned about this expression the other day: Sometimes when you leave someone (or you’ve said, “Hello,” as you walk by), they will follow it up with, “Buen Dia!” The correct response that I have been told is, “Igualmente!” It’s like saying, “Back atcha!”

Today was a good day.

I mean, it started kinda shaky. I laid around in bed a little longer, and kept hitting my snooze button. When I finally headed to the kitchen, I was told that my alarm sounded like an air raid. “Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t realize you could hear it.” “Oh, the neighbors could probably hear it,” I was told. Well, I guess that’s paying them back for the daily fireworks…

Then, on the way to school, this crazy mama dog tried to attack me. For real. I was swinging my purse at it just to keep it away. Luckily, this student showed up in his car to save the day. Ay ay ay!

All of that changed when my students showed up. We seriously had the best day ever! We did our dancing activity to some hip hop music today. It was just a good day… I read The Gingerbread Man to the classes. This was me half-reading and half-performing. I acted out the verbs as well as translating some of them. It was especially great, because it was the old school version. You know, the one where the Gingerbread Man slowly dies– bite by bite? First a quarter was gone, and his legs were missing. Then half was gone, and the little man was just a torso and head. Next only his head was sitting there. Finally it ends with the Gingerbread Man unable to talk anymore.

It was a fabulously gruesome storybook.

We played a great game as I was teaching them sight words. One word is see. “Tu sabes see?” I asked them. “Ver!” someone translates helpfully. Naturally, we played “I Spy A Color” for the next 20 minutes. It was a huge hit, and hopefully my kids now know the word see. (For example: “I see the color blue–azul.” “I see the color brown–cafe.”)

I see a teacher who is very happy in her job. Anybody? Anybody?

Ways To Travel In Mexico

1). Four wheeler
True story. The other day, while waiting for the bus, I saw a four-wheeler cruise by like it belongs on the highway.

2). Standing in the back of a truck!
This is one of the strangest things, and I giggle every time I see someone standing in the back of a truck. Even dump trucks!

3). In the arms of your mother
This wouldn’t make the list if it were on the street. Babies are NEVER buckled in–they just ride on someone’s lap! Young children pile all over cars–hanging out windows.

4). Bicycle taxis
The only other time I’ve seen these is in the movies portraying Asian cultures. Bicycles are hitched to a buggy of sorts. (Incidentally, they are used to haul food carts and trash too…)

5). On the back of a bicycle standing up
I always imagine how it would hurt in a wreck. I used to see kids in Florida do this too. They hop on the axle from the back spokes and ride.

6). Three on a motorcycle
This is really interesting too. The roads are crazy here, so when I see people without helmets I cringe. Even worse is when three people are on the same motorcycle–child in the front all hunkered down. Sigh.

Dos Semanas (Two Weeks)

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This weekend has been interesting. I get pretty lonely when I’m not busy–like yesterday while doing laundry. The best part about laundry day was these three random pairs of undies I found out in yard. I finally asked my roommate about them and she said she thought they were mine. When I left I found this young couple outside. To make a long story short(er), they were the neighbor’s upstairs. She was so nervous and embarrassed. It was really funny.

We went downtown yesterday. My roommate pointed this out, and I think it’s amazing and worth sharing. As you know, the Mayans once inhabited this area (I can’t wait to see the ruins!). Well, the roomie bought this book that is a translation of a Mayan history. I remember seeing this when we studied the Mayans in school:

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I can’t find info about this online, so I’m trusting my roommate’s translation. She said it was a map of the Mayan’s world–with them being the center. What I want to share is that our city is organized the same way. There is a Centro of town, with the streets growing in number from there (Much like King Street). They use the directions to label the streets too. I thought that was cool.

I am dying to buy these bags I found at the market yesterday. I’ve been assured that I can find real indigenous bags in San Cristobal, and that I need to wait. I am hoping they’re super cheap. I find that I think people ask more for things from me because 1). I am white. 2). I don’t speak English. I’ve left the local fruit stand twice because they’ve quoted prices higher than the Bodega. Grrr… Today I was told eggs would be ten pesos for six. I pay 44 pesos for 30. Sorry, local farmers. Make it worth my while please. I’m not made of money!

Oh! So the market was amazing. It was so many street blocks I can’t even describe it. There was a cafeteria area there with piles of shrimp (camarones). They were accompanied by someone shooing the flies away. That is unappealing enough on its own, but add that I had shrimp the other day when I got sick and I say again, “No Thanks.” We did buy coconut milk that was served in a plastic bag with a straw stuck inside. It was delicious. I could have stayed downtown forever, but alas, I was not alone! (Of which I am grateful…)

Today I bused it by myself to Ocozocoaulta (hooray!). The bus wasn’t too bad, but it smelled like fish and fresh produce. Meeting was small–just three of us for the first meeting and four for the second. I remember a worker at convention in VA saying, “When you pray, remember the Skeleton Coast.” I feel like I need to ask the same for Tuxtla Gutierrez. It brings a smile to my heart to sing songs that have been translated from English. I loved that a young mother gave out “Teach Me How To Choose” today. Her sister labors in Panama or Costa Rica. I tried after meeting to explain that the hymn was written by a sister worker for her younger sister. I don’t think I said it correctly…

My Spanish is improving everyday! I just can’t wait until I have a better grasp. I want to get more from our little meeting! I did understand the oldest woman (who also leads the meeting) when she asked that God would speak to our hearts. Reading the hymns is a little easier (because I can take my time), and yesterday I found that I can read children’s books. I use the same clues I have taught for years: look at the pictures, look at all the words you do know to figure out the words you don’t know, break words apart, etc.

Ahhh… And on that note, another week is beginning, and I need to get my head in the game. All the thinking in Spanish made my cerebro muy cansado. Sigh.

Party Every Night!

My roommate said the other night, “It’s like there’s a party every night, and no one invited us!” It’s the perfect way to describe nights–as I lay in bed listening to fireworks and music.

I was walking home Thursday night, just as it was getting dark, I heard live music! I love live music, so I turned into this “establishment” called Mr. Fish. Basically, it is a local dive with a guy playing a keyboard. The people in the restaurant were singing, older looking people–most wearing cowboy hats. They were quite adorable.

One of the guys working there walked up to me as I slinked in the shadows checking it out. In my broken Spanish, I explained that I heard the music while walking home that night. He smiled and let me know that cerbeza was $15 pesos (Less than $1.50 American dollars). I promised to come back Friday night, and the idea of doing something fun like listening to music sounded too inviting to pass up!

It finally happened, thank you, Mr. Fish. You know how you hear horror stories of getting sick? That didn’t happen to me–until last night…

My roommate speaks Spanish, so she helped me order. For something around $10, I had a drink, soup, and fried shrimp. The soup came out, and I lifted a whole shrimp (eyes and all) out of it. Hmmm… That should have been my sign, but I didn’t want to seem like a rude American. My meal wasn’t really anything resembling shrimp–but I’m assured that it was. And it was quite delicious. They serve plain mayo next to it, so I mixed some hot sauce in for a little flavor.

The rolling stomach happened sometime about two-three hours later. Just to give you an idea (without sharing too much information), it was like something was alive in there. No kidding! You could hear this rumble start on one side and travel all the way across. It felt like really intensive gas pains. Ugh. No thanks. Even the homemade cheese I bought on the street didn’t do that, so I am thinking something was wrong with the restaurant…

I was all better when I woke up to the sound of fireworks this morning. Apparently, the party continues.

Revelations

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1). I love fresh tortillas.

You might think that you love Mexican food, but unless you buy fresh (literally just made and still hot) tortillas, you can’t talk. I don’t know about the rest of Mexico, but corn tortillas are common here. People eat them like we might rolls, or naan. You tear them and scoop up your food. And when they become a little dry (like they are when we buy them at the grocery store in the States) they make chilaquiles!

2). Mexico is where I belong.

I was thinking about the turn of events that brought me here. Really, my thoughts went back to a couple years ago: I remember writing a note to Jenny telling her that I really felt I should go to Mexico. Then I fell in love, and my plans changed. This fall, I decided again to go to Mexico. My loved ones weren’t too hot about the idea, and it didn’t really work out anyway. The next thing you know, a week after I had planned to fly down before, I am here. It’s not a happy-ever-after story right now, but I am confident it will be when all is said and done. Who knows? I might fall in love with Chiapas and stay! In any case, God’s plans are what’s best for us, and I’ll [try] to trust in them.

3). I can live on just a few Pesos.

After buying some necessities, I’m pretty much able to make cheap meals. I bought 30 eggs for 44 pesos the other day. It’s about $4.00. Hot sauce is 5 pesos–$0.50. Fresh tortillas are about $0.30 for 30 or so. I bought homemade cheese for less than three American dollars. Spinach is about $1.00 for a huge bunch. Basically, it is almost like a game for me now.

4. Every school has these people: cheerleaders, workers, whiners, know-it-alls, control freaks, slackers.

It’s funny how once you’ve been in a school, they are so apparent at first glance. Slackers are late for meetings, talk in the back, and leave quickly. Control freaks like to use information to control other people. Everything is a secret (even if it isn’t). Know-it-all’s have solutions for everything, and offer unsolicited advice. Whiners are always the teachers who complain if their schedule changes one day, and the miss out on their “planning.” Somehow, it always ends up being an issue of Fair vs. Not fair. Cheerleaders feel the need to be super positive, even when bad things happen.

5. This is my chance to be like Teacher.

I am reminding myself that my hero, Anne Sullivan, had it far worse. My kids call me, “Teacher, Teacher!” It sounds like teeecher. It kinda drives me crazy, but I am reminded that Helen Keller did the same. In fact, today, I have been teaching my kids American Sign Language signs for things like bathroom, stand up, sit down, and the ABC’s. It seems to really be working!

6. Something about this place makes me want to dance.

It might be the dancing exercise in the morning. It might be the fact that my kids boogie like crazy when I play musica. Yesterday they told me that downtown they have traditional music and dancing every night at 7:00. Old men go down there and dance with all the ladies. I do love me some old men… (No, really.)

¡Ay ay ay!

My “go-to” phrase of the day: ¡Ay ay ay!  (Pronounced Eye, Eye, Eye!)

The good news is my students are normal–they don’t have consistent behavior patterns, and make their teacher batty.  Can I tell you my favorite part about teaching here though?  During the middle of the day, the students have Recess/Lunch as one combined window of time.  No one is exerting adult control by saying, “You have to eat before you play!”  They figure it all out.  We have six grades on the playground at the same time.  There isn’t a problem, because the kids play with their peer groups naturally.  Yesterday I had to fill out a reflection, and that is what I put under my favorite thing about the job so far.  Seriously, when I talk some of my teacher friends into opening a charter school with me, this will have to be into the plans.

My kids are starting to like me, regardless of my  constant mangling of their language–as well as me muttering in English today about how tired I was of them not listening.  I mean, why would they listen?  It is painstaking and boring.   In any case, we successfully completed a book project today, where they basically filled in the blanks for their own version of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear.”  It was a great informal assessment of their knowledge and work habits.  We brainstormed people and animals together on the board.  It is always great to see who the “artists” of the group are.  Even my kid who I was told never completes work, made his book.  I felt properly chastised when one student had me in his book.  “Miss Jania (pronounced Han-ia), Miss Jania, What do you see?”  His illustration was a picture of two BIG eyes with an open mouth.  Hmmm…

Because of today’s experience, I am wondering if it would be better to make a word wall that is subject based:  Animal words, Activity words, Places, People, etc.  I think I would still need an alphabetized version too.  I believe we might work on this some tomorrow.  Yesterday, I commissioned my AP (and resident artist) to make posters illustrating “No Touching.”   As a joke, I wrote, “Hugs Not Slugs” at the top (Slugs as in punches…).  She created this amazing poster of two slugs with their arms around each other.  I will attach a picture tomorrow for you to see.

Side note:  Have I mentioned that this school clears out when three o’clock comes around?  It is completely deserted.   

We have this great staff member here who is a teacher in Canada (I forget which part…)  He was telling me today that they have this option where teachers can accept 80% of their paycheck for four years, then take the fifth year off.  HOW AMAZING!  It makes total sense!  He decided to take the sabbatical this year, and teach here for the experience.  I am totally sold on the idea, and I feel like teachers really need some time off every once in a while.  I said to him, “Did I tell you that I quit my last job?”  He said, “Well, you probably had to, huh?!”  No one quite understands the pressure and soul-sucking experience of teaching like a teacher.  Likewise, no one understands why we keep coming back to the profession!  I should start making a list for my charter school–I will add Five Year Plan to the top.