Blessed Beyond Belief

Tonight I feel so blessed. I lay here in bed thinking of my stressful day–anticipating tomorrow’s sure-to-be stressful day. But that’s life.

I can say that with a smile right now. That wasn’t the case this time last year.

In fact, today one year ago, I was laying in bed crying over my stressful day–anticipating a year of stress to come. I talked to the people who love me most, and I went to bed that night crying and praying simultaneously. My first day back to work, and I already felt like someone had dropped a pile of bricks on me.

The next day, it was as if a weight was lifted as I went to talk to my administrator. I listened to her twist my words and blame me for my unhappiness. I replied with respectful–yet hard to hear, I’m sure– observations of the problems that were tearing apart a great community school. I know now that I was given peace and wisdom–and calmly, I (with help from my friends) moved out of my classroom. My apartment was loaded down with boxes of books, puppets, an easel, and more. Most of those boxes are still untouched at my Dad’s apartment.

Some people have a hard time understanding how my family has supported my wild-and-seemingly-irrational choices of the last year. I could have never imagined the journey that has been my life this past year. Some things are bigger than we can dream.

So, here I am: in Mexico. Teaching again–when I swore a year ago that it wasn’t the profession for me. Here I am: lying in bed smiling over my stressful day. A lot has changed in one year.

Oh, I know the heart that planneth–naught but good for me…

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Walking Zapatos

How many of you walked to meeting this morning? In the hot sun? In sandals?

How many of you walked to and from the grocery store last night just to buy tortillas?

It’s actually one of my favorite things about Mexico, but fewer people walk here. I suppose because it’s quite the jaunt. In Chiapas, our store was less than 1/2 mile away. Here, it is at least a mile. (We do pass another store on our way…)

I say the expats here don’t really know how lucky they are. Taxis are cheap–and the school provides so much help. They also thought it was strange Friday when I headed to a co-worker’s house on foot.

You know what’s really nice though? I get to know my husband better. I mean, we walk for miles–and all we can do is talk! So we do. We talk about family–his, mine, ours. We talk about meeting. Yesterday I told him the story of Moses (I was shocked that he had never heard it!) He tells me his plans, and I make plans for us. And in between it all–we get to learn all about this mess of a city we moved to!

Last weekend we stumbled upon a Train/Railroad Museum. This is my boss-man.

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Jefe is the boss…

We met the fattest Mexican kid ever–and I fell in love.

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Oh, the places you never thought you’d end up!

A Heck of a Mess

So, when I was home in Tennessee for a short while, I received a letter telling me that “suspicious activity” had been registered on my SunTrust account.  I just chalked it up to using my card in various countries, and went about my way.

I went about my way until I ran out of pesos and needed to access my SunTrust account.  Then we had problems.

So, I called yesterday, and the lady assured me that yes, I am a victim of fraud.  Luckily, the guys at SunTrust are on top of it, and they stopped the bull before he wrecked the china shop.  Only my china shop is so broke, it would be more like a donkey in a plastics store in Mexico.  (They have these weird plastic stores, where everything you could want that is plastic goes to die.  Bowls, cups, buckets, water bottles, etc.)Sun

Yes, I did spend seven dollars at Cash Saver.

No, I did not spend 350 dollars at Walmart in Minnesotta.  In fact, my account hasn’t had that much money in a long time!!

So, today, when I called back, I found out that in order to access my account, I would have to join a circus and jump through hoops.  Seriously.  I have to call from the ATM.  Okay, lady,  I explain We just have one teensy tinsie problem.  In order to call you, I have to be at home.  On Skype.  That won’t work.  Okay, lady, I’ll try.

Victor and I walked to the ATM.  Surprise!  It didn’t work.  We walk home.

I decided that Victor could go to the ATM, and I could stay home.  I would send him a message when I am on the line with the SunTrust guy.  Then he would quick-as-a-blink withdraw money for us to live on.

Good plan.  Good plan if you have saldo on your phone.  Saldo is credit for pre-paid phones.  All cell phones seem to be pre-paid in Mexico.  Guess what you need to get saldo?  Money.  Guess where you get that?  The ATM.  Guess what you need?  A functioning ATM card…

We stopped by a co-teacher’s house and asked to borrow her phone–promising to recharge her some saldo.  Plan in action.

I go home and write out directions for Victor.  (He’s such a man.)  1) Go to the ATM.  2)  Call me.  3)  Get money.  4)  Get Saldo.  I quickly call the SunTrust guru when Victor lets me know he is there.  By this time, everyone in America is off work, and the wait is FOR-EV-ER.  With my iPhone (skype) on one ear, and Victor on the other, we completed our routine in the Big Top.  My hoop jumping days better be over, SunTrust.

Are We in America?

It’s strange here.

I went grocery shopping the other day at Al Super.  I bought milk.  In a jug.  Imported from the United States of America.

Weird.

People drive in their own lanes here.  The taxis don’t swerve all over the place, AND you have to wear your seatbelt (in the front seat).

Double Weird.

Our house is amazing.  I have three bedrooms, two bathrooms (with showers), a huge living space, an American style kitchen (a built-in stove, cabinets, counter tops), a swamp cooler (it’s kind of like an air conditioner), and a washing machine!!

Am I blowing your mind?

You are probably thinking it is no big deal.  I mean, after all, all houses have those things.  So wrong. Chiapas was nothing like this.  Don’t get me wrong–I am not complaining a bit about the conveniences of Torreon!

The weather is really different too.  It is hot.  Chiapas was hot and humid, but it is very dry here.  We don’t sweat at all (In Chiapas, the back of my head was always wet from sweating).  The days are hot and sunny, but around 6:30-7:00, it starts too cool down some.  The park across the street becomes littered with people running, biking, roller blading.  The path way is paved too (Our old park had a gravel track.)

I almost feel cheated–like I am not REALLY in Mexico.  If it weren’t for the bikes stands selling ice cream on the street and in the park and the desire of vendors to put hot sauce on watermelon, I would wonder.  Even the Mexican food here is more like what we are used to in the United States.  I had burritos covered in cheese sauce the other day.  I actually have become acclimated to real Mexican food, and I scraped the sauce off to the side.  We have the most delicious little creations called gorditas.  The name makes me want to refrain from eating them, but I can’t.  (Gordita means little fat one).

Gorditas (as far as I can tell) are made two ways.  The first time I had them, they were corn gorditas.  It’s almost like a round disc of cornbread stuffed with something delicious (beans, cheese, potatoes, peppers, etc).  Since then, we seem to only see flour gorditas which, in my opinion, aren’t as tasty.  Yum.

It makes me want to go eat one now.  Maybe I will.

Bienvenidos de Torreón–Welcome to Torreón!

I made it!

I’m sitting in my living room, trying form the words to describe Torreón. As I was flying into Torreón, all I could think of was that cartoon Durango. Remember how they just stumble around the desert looking for water? That’s life in Torreón.

Today was our first day of school. Whew! The first day always knocks me down. Luckily, I only have 19 students! Big change from my classrooms of the last four years! I’ve got some stinkers (haha, auto-correct tried to make that “drinkers”), but their children seem great! Just kidding, second grade is always full of some boogers who like to test the limits.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We have bible study (in Exodus), and it’s pretty close by! I’ve been in contact with about fifty workers. Technically, I wrote one–and he replied to me and many others. I sure do miss my friends at Downings, but we have our own convention this Tuesday!

It’s hot as can be here, and luckily they replaced the motor on my swamp cooler today. Unfortunately, that’s because it broke last night. I was a bear… I think I took three showers to cool down through the night. I even dreamt of what to say to them today. Weird.

I guess hot and grumpy Jania has returned. Someone get me an air conditioner ASAP (or I may lose my husband before long!)

South of the Border, She Went Back One Day…

It’s one of my favorite songs–the one I grew up hearing my Mamaw sing.  I’ll share the lyrics, and you’ll see why it means so much these days:

South of the border, down Mexico way
That’s where they fell in love
When stars above came out to play.
And now as they wander,
Their thoughts ever stray
South of the border–down Mexico way.

It goes back to tell of how he left her, and she became a nun… not exactly the ending to my love story, but sweet, none-the-less!

I have refrained from detailing my woes in job-searching this time.  I figured you’ve already heard it once, and you know the drill.  This time, I have really focused my energy on three counties here in East Tennessee.  My goal was to stay with Mama, pay my bills, and work on Victor’s paperwork for returning to the States.  I have purposefully applied and sent resumes/emails to a gazillion schools.  Okay, not quite that many–but it’s pretty close.  In one county, I sent emails AND paper packets (resume, letters of reference, etc.) to over twenty schools.  In. One. County.

Turns out that living in East Tennessee isn’t what the good Lord has planned for me.  Funny:  It’s the first time in fifteen years that I’ve wanted to be here–and it isn’t working out!

A week ago I woke up depressed and unsure of myself again.  I did what any good depressed person would do, and promptly went back to bed.  When I had sufficiently moped, I crawled out of bed, and begrudgingly went through the routine:  Check for jobs.  Apply to jobs.  Email principals. 

Then I decided I might as well check out Korea’s status on job listings.  Turns out they only had one.  After scanning the rest of the globe, I slowly made my way to Mexico.  I felt a sense of dread come over me at the thought of moving back to Chiapas (which is totally curious, because I was so happy there).  I decided to check out the other two schools with available jobs.  The first was a bust.  The second had a position, so I quickly sent the same email I send to everyone else.

An hour later the principal called.  (I thought he was my bill collector for the student loans I can’t pay.)  He said he would call back, and asked for a time when Jania would be available.  This really gave me a little time to breath and get my thoughts together.  When he called the second time, it was with a job offer.

WHAT?!

Turns out I really DO belong in Mexico.  I’ll be leaving this weekend…

Video Propaganda for the American School of Torreon (Video)

Corny Business

Princesa Dyanita and Maci–Dee Dee did actually shuck that corn in front of her (with a little help).

When we were young, I remember Mama and Mamaw getting all kinds of fresh produce to put away for winter.  One time, someone delivered a pickup truck with the bed loaded down with a mess of green beans.  We pulled them off the vines, strung and snapped them for canning.  Another time, I remember sitting beside the cow pasture shucking corn.  We would pull the husk off and throw them over the fence (where all the scraps went…in the country, you don’t throw food in the trashcan…)  Everything had to be inspected, and more than once we were instructed to lick our calf over (redo the job we hadn’t correctly sufficiently completed).

Just the other day Mama showed up with a bag of sweet corn.  They really could stand to get a little of that stuff in Mexico–corn there was all dry and not sweet at all.  I took it out on the porch and asked the kids to help out.  I showed them how to pull the pelo de elote hair of the corn off, bringing the shuck down with it.  They had their own methods…

At one point, my witty nephew, Spencer (who recently got a haircut–thank goodness!), said, “Look, Nino!  An ear of corn!”

We were going to scrape all the corn of the cobs and freeze it for later use, but quite frankly, we couldn’t pass it up!  Especially when we discovered it was pretty good raw, and Mama took pity on Dyana–who cleaned a half of a raw cob…

Delicious summer yummies!  Ummm Ummm!  (To be said while rubbing your tummy and licking your lips…)