Breakfast In Mexico

I’ve been eyeing this lady who sells food and drinks in the morning. She has a couple coolers, and a basket of yummies.

Unfortunately, she’s almost always surrounded by lots of people. I have drawn my temporary line at being gawked at while I struggle to make sense of the Spanish that attempts to escape my mouth. That is no more.

Today, armed with a Mexican I braved the sweet ladies. I stood by as he asked what they sold. I let him pick out my pan for me. I even sweetly held his coffee so that he could pay. Then, I drank with gusto delicious Arroz con Leche! (It tastes like someone poured milk in our sweet breakfast rice at home…)

YUmm… It was great. And cheap. I got a pan (the bread is different–a little dry, but it had sugar sprinkled on top) and my delicious drink. They also sell cafe, but when you buy cafe on the street it ALWAYS has sugar in it. Always. The Mexicans love their sugar…

My favorite breakfast I’ve prepared is black beans with eggs, cheese, and habanero hot sauce. That requires waking up and fixing breakfast… My other option is stopping at the gas station on the way to work. I’ll tell you this–breakfast on the street beats the 20 pesos I pay for coffee and a dry granola bar any day. I might even swallow my pride and try again tomorrow.

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Proud Visa Owner

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I didn’t share my Friday adventure with you. It’s super exciting for me, but maybe not as much for you… I got my visa!! It is good for one year of work in Mexico. Can I tell you again I don’t want to leave? I know at some point someone will tell me to hush and stay in Mexico…

We left school Friday to head to immigration. There is an election this year here, and I am sorry to say that I am ignorant about what is going on. All I know is that election ads are painted on walls here.

20120226-211603.jpg (Sidenote: I am equally as ignorant about the election in the States right now…I feel like I am so out of touch with reality! I read on Twitter today about some of it. I am pretty happy to be away from Washington D.C. right now, that is for sure!)

As we were driving, I saw what, at first glance, looked like the normal Manuel Velasco ad. Then I realized it wasn’t… I just about died! How funny! I have since realized it is just another ad for someone else. It was much funnier when I thought someone was joking around.

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I was glad for my little meeting this morning. The daughter and her family have returned to Mexico (City…), so we were down to what I assume is the normal size: four. My friend went with me today, and another man was there as well. Can you imagine four only? It’s hard to believe… In any case, it still lasts for forty-five minutes, so no worries! I’m grateful for every minute–even the minutes that include me not knowing what is going on…

It is wonderful to understand more now. It is hard to believe that it is has been two months that I’ve been in Chiapas! When I think back to my first couple weeks here, I am grateful for so much growth in my Spanish. It was pretty painful there for a while! I’m starting to pickup some expressions too. That is what really makes me feel Mexican.

Por ejemplo:

Que Bonito!

This is what they say when the kids are acting up with each other at school. Literally translated it means What’s beautiful?

I feel silly adding the other expressions because I don’t understand all the words. One is about buying a ticket. It’s kinda the equivalent expression to Mom’s You’re-crusing-for-a-bruising. When someone is teasing you, you can say blah-blah-blah-boleto. (I probably should wait until I know all the words to use it…hmm?)

Parque de Marimba

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Hooray! I am officially a Chiapanecan! I believe so at least, because I finally went to Marimba Park!

Marimba Park is where all the old people go on the weekend to dance. Video. The band plays in a gazebo of sorts, and all around it people dance! My favorite is the guy in the red hat…

We ate that yummy corn, and when we left we saw these guys! Video Pretty amazing, right?

I wish you could see all the old people. For someone who loves old men, it was like a dream come true! When we first arrived, I even saw the same old man walking around saying hello to all the pretty ladies. He looked too white to be from Chiapas–so I’ve already invented his story in my head: When his wife died, he surprised his children and grandchildren by selling all the things that reminded him of her. Then he moved to Chiapas. He comes to Parque de Marimba to dance on the weekends. All the ladies love him because he is a smooth-talker. Okay, so maybe it needs more details, but I like to imagine it my way…

Wise Men Say

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When I played Fools Rush In today, this is what my student did. At one point, he even put it under his shirt to pretend it was his real corazon. They love it when I tell them the music is about love. Oh, sure, I have my moaners and complainers…or at least the kids who pretend to be slow dancing. For the most part, they are really pretty accepting of all-things-love.

The Mexican people are very loving (despite what you hear of violence). They hug and kiss each other all the time. My kids will lay on my lap, or tell me they love me. Couples are making out on every street corner. Kids hug and hold each other so much, that it’s more strange to see them not touching.

I’ve tried to explain to friends how important human touch is to me. People don’t understand as much at home–because everyone is so stand-offish. (Reason four hundred and twenty-three on why I might belong in Mexico…) I realize there are exceptions. My family MUST be Mexican. They’ve got the loving part down pat…

Fly Me To The Moon

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When we went out on my birthday, I heard “Fly Me To The Moon” in Spanish. I love the Frank Sinatra version, so today I downloaded the song in Spanish.

What is it about great music that really can turn your day around?

Thursdays are a long day for me. I have zero breaks during the day–and by the end of the day the kids are like wild animals. Today we went outside for the last 30 minutes and played Sharks and Minnows and Freeze-Tag. I taught them the fun version–you know, where you crawl through the legs of people to unfreeze them. This is one of the best things about having boys: they loved it.

After school I made a southern supper. I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately, and get a little bummed when I can’t find certain things at the store. For example, cocoa powder. I live in Chiapas for crying out-loud. Why can’t I find cocoa powder? (I’ve started saying, “En Mexico, no exista…”)It makes me laugh about it instead of throw a fit because I can’t make cookies.

I can’t figure out how to bake either. I wanted to make corn bread, but I don’t know if I can use cornmeal they use for tortillas. And if I can, do I mix it with flour? How will I make biscuits?

I’m going home for Semana Santa, and I feel like I make a list in my head of things to bring. Really, I don’t have any “things” I want–just food products and spices. Although, I think I’m shopping at the wrong place. I feel like I need to hit up more markets like the one I found in San Cristobal last weekend.

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I mean, they have forty kinds of beans and live chickens… Surely, I can get my hands on spices. Right?

Estoy Contenta

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I love that word contenta. I think I’m using it correctly… I have been thinking of this all day, so some of you have already heard my thoughts on the matter.

People use the contenta/contento word like we would happy.. When I first began teaching my class of wild animals angels, the Real Housewives would tell me that their child was contento. I feel like it is more than being happy; it is like being satisfied and happy rolled into one.

I think of what a blessing it has been for me to escape move to Mexico. Life is so different here, and I can’t imagine returning to my old life. You know, the mentality in the States is More-Bigger-Becoming-the-Best. It is no wonder that other cultures call us infidels, because it is a life of vanity. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that it is a necessity to become driven in the States. It’s the norm! The problem (one of many) is that you push yourself, and work really hard–for nothing. Rarely is the payoff worth it.

The documentary Waiting For Superman exposed (and dramatized) the American teaching profession. I love that I don’t have to be Superman here. I can accept help–and even ask for it–without being viewed as someone who isn’t putting enough time into my job. In Virginia, I went to work at 6:45-7:00. I worked an average of 60 hours a week. It was never enough. (When will America’s Education Pendulum swing again?)

I realize that I’m lucky. I had the privilege of packing my bags and heading to Mexico when my Quarter Life Crisis hit. I am so glad that I trusted God enough to lead me. If I had known the bessings that were in store for me, I may have been a little less depressed during my struggles–although honestly, I don’t know that I would appreciate the view so much if I didn’t have to hike the mountain. That’s the nice thing about hiking: you know that you won’t have to go up forever. Eventually, you get to go down again.

It’s when we get to rest and recover that we have the strength for the next obstacle. I realize that my struggles in life aren’t over. I know that more problems, stress, and heartache will come. I am glad that I know the source of comfort and strength. I’m glad I know that those problems don’t matter in the end outcome.

I remember being sad and confused about where life was leading me. My friend said, “Soon we’ll know where Nino belongs.” At the time I felt very dissatisfied with that comment. I mean, after all, confusion is never in my plans. I have always liked clear choices and clean decisions. I’ve always liked planning tomorrow. But when what you plan doesn’t work out–do you have a Plan B?

Now here I am: Contenta in Mexico. Gone are the societal pressures that made me feel inadequate and unsatisfied. Gone are all the things that filled my room(s). Gone is the expectation of what my relationships should look like.
Who would have known that life would be so grand?

Open Mouth–Insert Foot

I have seriously opened my mouth many times recently. See, the bad thing about my Spanish is it puts me in the same position I was in when I spoke English: I say too much.

The other day, we were riding home in the car. I learned the word “tanto.” It is like saying so in English. Don’t ever make the mistake of saying you are so hot. Trust me. You will get weird stares and maybe inappropriate offers…

Today, someone asked about the dancing in San Cristóbal. She wanted to know about the men there. I explained that it was a lot of fun. I then proudly told everyone (in Spanish) that our friend danced with all the men. Only the words hambre(hungry) and hombre(man) are too similar.

This is what I realized today: at some point I learned enough Spanish to understand people. In a parent-teacher conference today, I understood almost everything! Someone said I had learned a lot–and I feel just as surprised as they are. I am using my power of language every opportunity I get.

I guess I can best sum this up by explaining what happened today. One of students with special needs came up to me, told me he loved me, then held his hands over my mouth, and said, “Cerrar la boca!” Close your mouth!

OCC Propaganda

It’s funny: I am listening to music (and wouldn’t be able to understand the words anyway), but message is loud and clear.

See, the bus ride from Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristóbal isn’t really long, but they play entertainment movies for us while we ride. Before the movie comes on, there are about 15 minutes of commercials.

The first commercial has a man who is playing the part of an angel. He brushes his feathers, reads a little while, plays chess with an unseen being, sleeps while flying, etc. Then, he guides a family onto the OCC bus, and disappears at the door. In the next screen, it shows drivers practicing in a driving course. The course is wet and full of turns, but the fast driving buses safely maneuver through without mistakes.

In the next commercial, a good looking man is riding a mostly empty bus. I’m assuming he is going home to his wife, as he longingly looks as his wedding ring. He lays his head down, and looks up to see an adorable toddler gazing at him. After playing peek-a-boo, the next scene shows the toddler reaching his hand out to him. As the sun pours in the window behind him, he reaches up and shakes hands with the boy. Of course, he is no longer sad.

The thing that always makes me laugh, is these people don’t look Mexican at all. They are the whitest actors they can find. It’s the same thing on the advertisements in town. When you see posters in the U.S., the people are all very multicultural. There are always boys, girls, blacks, whites, and Asians. Here, I rarely see actual Mexican-looking people in ads.

It would be nice if my confidence was made stronger by these advertisements, but the fact that it is taking our bus driver ten minutes to get through the toll might be a problem. Maybe his angel didn’t take his halo off and play hula-hoop with it. Maybe his angel forgot to brush his wings today. Or maybe he is just another bus driver driving just any old bus. Maybe if I had a beautiful child (or a handsome man) in front of me, my spirits would be lifted and I would enjoy my ride. I’m just saying…

Five Tidbits About Bathrooms in Mexico

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There are somethings that no one tells you when you come to Mexico. Important things! These are five Mexican bathroom facts for you:

1). You might not have water due to faulty systems. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and store water to flush the commode. If not, you might find yourself peeing outside like me!

2). Toilet seats are apparently unimportant. When I first saw a toilet without a seat, I was so surprised! I really thought maybe it was being repaired. No. No importante in Mexico… Today, I went in a bathroom where every stall was missing a toilet seat! Crazy!!

3). Toilet Paper might be outside of the bathroom.. It the States, we are used to having paper where we do our business, right? Not so here. I have made the mistake of not checking in advance more than once. Toilet paper is sometimes outside of the stalls. Imagine what a problem that could be! And on the subject of toilet paper:

4). Don’t Flush Toilet Paper! This is important, but no one tells you when you come to Mexico. I feel like you should get a Guide to Living in Mexico. It would include this. It’s pretty gross, because all bathrooms have trashcans with gunky paper in them. Apparently, there are some hotels that don’t allow Americans because they don’t follow rules like this. Honestly, it is really hard to remember!

5). Space and function are more important than appearance.. Yesterday, I used the bathroom where the (seatless) toilet had a metal pipe a couple feet overhead that you turn on to add water to the bowl to flush. In most traditional homes, it seems that everything is together. The bathrooms are tile, and the shower is coming out of the wall to drain in the floor. There isn’t an actual shower like we have in the states that is separate. It’s interesting, as I imagine the commode and sink get wet too!

Consider this a business course for you. Now you won’t be surprised when you conduct your business.

Watch Out For Me!

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I am just on fire today. Seriously, you better stay away–or bring your sunglasses, because it might hurt your eyes…

It all began this morning. I chatted with the director, and received news that the real housewives still love me. Whew! I must be doing something right. Taming lions. That’s what I am doing. You have probably seen others like the picture above, but the first I saw was for teachers. It’s true, you know. You should have seen my “wild things.”

So, I realized the other day that I am having to change a lot as a teacher. Teaching in Mexico is an amazing experience, and I feel like I am starting to get somewhere with my babes. They are really great kids–not at all the cretins I was led to believe they were. I like to tell people that solely because I like to use the word cretin. With a class full of boys, I have to be pretty tough. I was reminded that I need to take care of my girls too though. I scared one last week–probably because the boys aren’t used to hearing “no.” I get frustrated when they don’t listen, but understand me fine and dandy. Little boogers.

So, today I made it my goal to speak quietly. See, not only am I a loud person, but the concrete building doesn’t help matters. I seem even louder!! Of course, my Mexican kiddos responded the same as my students at home. Quiet teacher+quiet class=ahhhh… It helped that some of my kids had a Word Study word sort with s, h, and sh. Every time I explained the sort to a child, I said, “shhhhh…”

Then, after school I went to the office to use the computer. To help me practice/understand I translated a song, “Yo No Se Mañana.” Well, let me tell you…that was a mistake. I asked a girl in the office to clarify one line. It didn’t make sense to me, because it was talking about being thirsty. For each other. Ahem. One of the new teachers said, “Are you translating your text messages?” Ha. He obviously knows nothing about my love life. Maybe I should let him read my slit-your-wrists post from two days ago.

The good news is my Spanish is greatpassable! I still have such a long way to go, but it is day-by-day. My advice to everyone is make yourself speak the language. The other day I met this boy from Knoxville (weird, right?) for coffee at Starbucks. He walked up to the counter and ordered in English. I said, “Do you always order in English?” “Oh, he speaks English,” he said. “Well, I make them speak Spanish to me,” I replied. It’s true. I want to
practice every chance I get!

Oh, so the biggest success was when I came home. We had no water again. Don’t you worry: I fixed it! I watched Raquel last week, and sure enough! No problem! Woo hoo!

My battle of the day is yet to come. I found out that I majorly overpaid for the taxi to my job the other day. It should have been 30 pesos, and it was 50. Each way. I told the people at school that I need to speak better Spanish so that I can be Mexican. And get a tan. I will not pay more than 40 pesos today. The taxi drivers better be ready for me. I will fight for my right to party pay-like-a-Mexican.

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