Food is My Love Language

I have a friend who always tags her foodie pictures with #foodismylovelanguage.  And I get it!  Because there are a few of us who show others how much we love them by feeding them every opportunity that arises.

I love preparing special meals for our visitors–surprising whomever I can with a meal from their homeland.  I had a game night for Minnesotan friends from work where I made Tatertot Hot-dish.  Ick.  They loved it.  I didn’t.  When our visiting worker from the Dominican Republic vetoed Italian food, I cooked an all day affair which turned out to be Sancocho.  Sometimes I like to ask if anyone wants something special–and I have whipped up everything from chocolate chip cookies to cornbread and beans.

I don’t just cook foods from other places for other people though–often I will think of someone, then cook a food that reminds me of them.  For example, I have been really homesick for Chiapas lately.  I normally visit there during the summer months, but we are skipping our trip this summer.  What came out of my kitchen as a result was black beans and salsa–which we ate with tortillas and fresh cheese.  I roasted the onions and peppers on the stovetop before adding the blacked parts to my tomato pulp (procured by “shredding” the tomato flesh on the cheese grater).  The more time consuming the project is, the more time I have to think on them!

This morning I made homemade cinnamon rolls–too many!  I still have a pan of cinnamon rolls sitting in the kitchen!  There’s a gallon of iced tea on the counter-top, and buttermilk just waiting for some biscuits to be made tomorrow.  Our basil plant needed to be cut back, so I made a friend’s pesto recipe a couple days ago (and shared the frozen pesto leftover with another friend who stopped by to visit).

I may not be able to be all the places that I am thinking of today: Virginia, Tennessee, Chiapas, etc.  But each memory inspires something new to happen in my kitchen.  Memories of those places are taking over my mind–and dancing across my plate.  Oh, yes! I do believe that food is my love language too!

A Year In Review

Tonight marks my two year anniversary south of the border!  Wow!  It’s hard to believe that I was once that excited young gringa–jaded by the educational system and failed relationships in the north on her way to adventure in Chiapas!  Two years ago, I packed my bags for six months.  My friend made the comment that I could do anything for six months.  “Even if you hate it,” she said, “You only have to be there six months.”  Shortly before this, her husband had remarked that we would soon know where I belonged.  I remind myself of how broken I was–and how willing I was to be placed where God needed me the most.   That was December 31, 2011

20120108-172130.jpgMy first meeting in Chiapas.  These kids were the nephews and grand daughter of the lady who had the meeting.  A lady that we grew to love so much!

20120110-154202.jpgMy second graders at The American School Foundation of Chiapas spoke little to no english.  In order to teach them procedures, I had to make these signs.  I practiced not speaking at all (super hard for me, but effective).  I came to Mexico with a couple of phrases, but I had to learn fast!

My first year in Mexico proved to be exceptional!  Shortly after arriving, I fell in love… with the country!  It wasn’t long before I met my husband and we decided to tough it out.  (It helps when it isn’t that tough, eh?)  I returned to the United States without him–pregnant and hoping to land a job.  And I did!  It just wasn’t in the United States!  Victor and I moved to the northern state of Coahuila, and I began teaching here.  We struggled some those early months–mostly with money and the lack of support that I initially felt from my employer.  That took us to December 31, 2012.  One year in Mexico!

20120121-162216.jpgI always felt like it was rude to take pictures of the indigenous people in San Cristobal.  I didn’t want to be THAT gringa.  This doesn’t even really show a fraction of how wonderful and lively it is there!

20120324-204953.jpgVictor and I met in San Cristobal.  The rest is history…

(Sidenote:  My one year in Mexico is also my husband’s one year in Mexico.  He arrived just a week before me, and we are patiently waiting out his ten-year ban.  It sounds so harsh, huh?)

It’s been strange to read on Facebook status updates how horrible 2013 was for people.  I feel almost displaced from their happiness–but I do understand what it feels like to have several wrong turns on your road to bliss.  How blessed I feel to be in this country with my family!  What a full year this has been!

January 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor and I started 2013 with our civil ceremony.


February 2012

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Victor and I went to a hotel for my birthday.  Really, it was just so that I could get a good bath.  How nice it was to get in the pool!  I felt weightless (obviously, I wasn’t…)

March 2013

birth.jpgOur little Alexandria swam into the world a couple months later.  Having a water birth was ahhhh-mazing!  Being able to have Ale at home was great too!  I was able to sleep in my own bed!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle’s first visit with the workers who were in town for Special Meeting.  She was one week old here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpecial Meeting (Ale’s first meeting) with a special visitor who swooped in to save the day!

April 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took Ale’s first trip to Monterrey to get her American birth certificate and passport.  We met some of the sweet friends, and Victor had his first gospel meeting!  He was astonished by all the young people.

May 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor made his choice to serve God known to our little church.  

June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle traveled to the United States where her best friend tried to eat her upon meeting her.

July 2013



IMG_0642We’ve been to visit both families–and ALMOST all of Ale’s cousins, aunts, and uncles (short one cousin and one uncle).  This is Ale with her abuelos in Chiapas.

August 2013

IMG_0860We settled into our “new” house, and started a new school year.

September 2013

20130918-172659.jpgWe went to Alexandria’s first convention. 

IMG_0834And she cut her first teeth…

October 2013

IMG_1615Mommy’s first work trip away.  Guess who wasn’t upset at all?

IMG_1653Ale’s first Halloween–dressed as the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

November 2013

20131128-222758.jpgMy first Thanksgiving away from home.  Ale’s first Thanksgiving.  And Victor’s first Thanksgiving in Mexico!

December 2013

Ale_Dec3113.jpgAle has made us squeal with joy, and she just gets better everyday.

A Poo Emergency

I have a friend who uses the expression “Poo Emergency” more frequently than you would imagine. Let me tell you, being back in Chiapas makes a stop on the side of the road look like nothing…

I realize that after a hiatus from writing, you probably weren’t expecting this post today. After all, this summer has been full of all kinds of family fun. Bebita and I have been all over meeting new family members. Sometimes, the things that weigh heaviest on a blogger’s mind come from somewhere deep inside…

Using the bathroom in Chiapas isn’t squatting over a hole in China–but it isn’t a pretty thing. It was one of the things that I had the hardest time getting used to last year. I mean, seriously, I know toilet seats aren’t necessary, but they sure are nice! (Do you think Mexican men got tired of their wives complaining, and they just decided to take them off?)

We carry toilet paper with us everywhere too–because apparently that’s also not a given…

My newest experience involves my husband’s sweet family. Most of the houses have a crude sort of bathroom outside. (Think outhouse without the smell–and an actual toilet to sit on.) His sister decided to move her “bathroom” to inside her house. I use the word inside lightly, as there is an open area to the side of the bedrooms where the family cooks, eats, visits, and…uses the bathroom.

Oh! And to flush, you fill a bucket with water from the rain barrel by the better old bathroom location. How could I forget that!

This particular morning, I was hurting while mentally willing the family to get up from the table a mere five feet away from the open air bathroom. By “open air” I am referring to the fact that I can look up at the guava tree while I’m using the facilities, I can see the family move about through the shower curtain, and I could join the conversation without raising my voice if I were a braver soul.

Instead? I clench my muscles and explain to my husband that my bowels are rebelling against tamales and tacos. (Yep. We no longer have secrets, it seems…). We work as a team to fill the water bucket before I go–as to quickly remove the wastes as soon as possible.

The privacy of the Starbucks bathroom was not wasted on someone unappreciative today as we made our way back to “civilization”.

A Year To Remember

I woke up this morning knowing that today’s date is rather important.  It marks the one year point that I’ve been in Mexico!  I think back over the last year with awe.  In fact, I just read my post from a year ago–I wanted to remind myself what was going on.  Because I remember being a little scared and nervous, but Mama said today, “You didn’t act like it!” I was excited, but nervous.20120101-093628.jpg

I think of just one little year, and all that can be done.  Of course, what I should say is “…all that can be done IF you let God do the leading.”   One year ago, my life was so confusing.  I had quit my job, moved home, and just gotten out of a relationship.  I remember telling my ex’s sister, “I don’t need to date–I know what I want.” And goodness!  I really did know what I wanted, but apparently God knew what I needed.  I suppose that could be the lesson of the year for me:  You may think you know what you want, but God knows what you need.

I was heartbroken when I didn’t get that job in Northern Virginia.  I remember thinking, “Yes!  God is leading me back to where I belong!” When it didn’t work out, it was hard for me to get my thoughts back in the right place.  Then I got my first job in Mexico so speedy quick, there was NO denying that it wasn’t right.My_Cheese

My job was at times frustrating–but overall, stress free!  I thought that maybe it was because I was in Chiapas at a developing school, but then I got the second job in Mexico.  Both placements were in second grade–a grade I had previously taught three years in Northern Virginia.  My students have been polar opposites, but I love teaching here!  I work a normal schedule.  I used to tell people that I worked an average of 60 hours a week, and they would stare like they couldn’t believe it!  In the States, I would go to work early, stay at work late, work on Saturdays and in the evenings–and there was always something else to do.  My summer “vacation” was full of professional development, and  lists of things to do followed me everywhere.  No more.  I have a job.  It is not my life.  I love my job, but I now know that when I leave this job–another will be waiting around the corner.20120302-221758.jpg

And then, this morning Victor said, “Why didn’t your phone work?” He said this just out of the blue, and I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about.  So I asked for clarification.  “In San Cristobal…why didn’t your phone work?”  The weekend we met, my phone broke.  I tried calling him.  He tried calling me.  But it was on the blink.  So, when I decided to go to San Cristobal, I had very little hope of actually seeing him again.  But, I decided, “Well, if my phone works and I get to see him–Great!  If not–I love San Cristobal!”  Literally, the minute I walked out of the bus station, there he was.  He had no clue that I was there–he had just gone for a walk.  Man couldn’t orchestrate something so wonderful (except in Hollywood).20120324-204953.jpg

Life is strange.  I spent the better part of my 27 years planning for the next day, week, month, year, etc.  Not one of those plans worked out.  When I quit planning, and FINALLY reached my breaking point, I remember praying emphatically,  “No more.  I don’t want to make any more decisions–please just lead me to where I belong.”  And since then, I have received more than I could have ever planned for

I am just reminded of the poem given to me from our brother workers upon my high school graduation.  The second verse says,

Seeking God’s will cannot guarantee that you will not shed some tears, but they’ll not be the bitter, burning drops from misdirected years.  His plan will never keep from you any pleasure that is worthwhile, so trust him to lead you on a way that holds peace in every mile.

So, yes, I think of myself a year ago, and I remember the fear–not the bravado.  I could have never planned a year full of so many blessings.  The other day, a stranger at the fabric store rubbed my belly and said, “Bendiciones! Bendiciones! Bendiciones!” It’s like saying, “Blessings! Blessings! Blessings!” I know that is what’s in store: more of God’s blessings for my little family’s life.  And that’s my wish for you this New Year’s Eve…

Bendiciones! Bendiciones! Bendiciones!


Victor and I after meeting Sunday.  No wonder why strangers rub the baby belly, eh?


I Like That Man

“I like that man, Nini!” my three year old nephew told me the other day.  This is after he and his sister decided that they wanted to Skype with Victor.  Of course, that really consisted of them sitting on my lap avoiding talking to him–except with short mysterious answers.  “Where is your dad?” Victor asked in Spanish.  “He’s at work all day long,” replied Orlando.  All day long is his new addition to every sentence.  i.e. “I love chicken all day long!”

When all the family was in, it really warmed my heart when my brother’s two oldest sons wanted to talk to Victor too.  I finally went and laid down as he asked them about their family, etc.  When the Spanish lessons began, the connection went out.  “Aww, man!” exclaimed Jacob, “It was just getting good!”  When we recovered the call, the kids hopped back on the computer and the conversation went on.

See, Skyping with your husband in Mexico is always a family affair.   Half of the time, Victor will position the computer so that I can chat with his mom, sister, or the niece of the day.  Yesterday his niece, Paola, sat beside him the whole time, resting her head on his shoulder, occasionally asking questions.  That was the first time I had met her.  Later I called his cell, and she asked, “Is she teaching a class right now?”  “No,” Victor replied, “she’s busy with other things.”  “Well, can she call on the computer?” she suggested.

When his sister is around, I get questions like, “When are you coming back?”  Turns out that they are all still pretty apprehensive that I will choose to return to Chiapas…

I don’t mind the family calls really.  I think the only time that we’ve had a private call was in the middle of the day last week.  Everyone in both houses were gone, and it was almost strange to not have a niece or nephew walk by and wave.  The beauty of Skype is that the call is more personal–And my mom will tell you that she feels like she already knew Victor when I announced my new husband.  (She likes to “read” people, and apparently studied his every move.) Getting to know new in-laws via a computer might actually take some of the pressure off, huh?

I love that he takes the time to talk to these kids he’s never met–and I know that he will be just as attentive in person.  He sure is charming Mexican with a heart of gold.  I like that man!


Teacher Let the Monkeys Out


School’s out! School’s out! Teacher let the monkeys out!

Today is my last day in Chiapas. Tomorrow morning bright and early I hop on a plane to Tennessee. It’s so strange that it is all over. I am tired and ready to go home, but I will miss my friends at The American School Foundation of Chiapas (and, of course, my other friends!).

Today is a good day to really love students. There were only six out of 52 there the last two days–that helps me love them more. Plus, I don’t have to calm the down and scare woo them into submission at the end of the year.

Andrés was pretty cute today in his angry birds gettup. Not quite as cute as when he proposed to me last week–on one knee, I might add!

My favorite is that he dances with me. When we play the dancing game, he whirls me around. He talks in Spanish about loving me, and pushes his friend away when he tries to cut in. He really lays it on thick–kissing my hand, holding my hand while we walk to Salida (dismissal). What a cutie! Imagine what he will be like when puberty hits! Watch out world!

Before we left he ran up for a beso. I hope you can see the rotten all over him!

The Last Buying of Gifts

I’ve been thinking about what I need to take with me next week when I leave. Basically, it boils down to this: Regalos. My gifts for my family.

It’s interesting, I haven’t gone crazy shopping this trip. I know that I will be back (Lord willing…) in December, so I don’t feel as pressured as some of my co-workers do to buy! buy! buy! I also haven’t been to a couple of places that I would have loved to visit, such as Palenque (the Mayan Ruins) or Puerto Arista (the beach). I mean, the Mayan ruins have been there a long time–I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time soon (unless, of course, they were right…). And the beach–well, I can wait for that.

Victor went to San Cristóbal yesterday to check out paperwork and such. He is also planning on moving there when I leave, so he has to find a job/accommodations. I sent him with a list of my nieces and nephews and their ages. He had loose orders: Buy gifts. Don’t spend too much. I am oh-so-glad that he went. If I were shopping for the kids, I would still be there deliberating: what to get for this one? Would they fight over that? Will she like this–or am I wasting my money?

Not Victor.

He came back and handed me 11 almost identical gifts. Score. No fighting will be taking place at the receiving of regalos.

Now, here is where he messed up: I wanted him to buy a beautiful, handmade, dainty dress for my friend’s new baby. I even drew a picture of it on my list of things to buy. They are gorgeous–white with hand embroidered flowers. I didn’t give too many instructions, as I didn’t want to frustrate him while he was doing me a favor.

He brought me overalls.

Ugly overalls.

They are handmade as well–made from woven material that the indians make. But, man! They are ugly! My little sister MIGHT go for them, but it will really be a toss-up. I should save them until I have a baby. Maybe then he will see how atrocious they are. sigh. It’s still worth it for the other 11 presents…

The biggest items are my mom’s hammock chairs that I bought before spring break. I am hoping those will fit in my suitcase, along with my election propaganda umbrella that has El Guero’s face plastered on the side. I figure if the hammocks were deemed unsafe to carry on, then the damage I could do with him would be tremendous.

I guess the thing is, I plan on coming back. So the same attitude I have about seeing things is transferred to gifts. I will hopefully be making enough money when I return to buy the nice leather bags that I can’t afford now (but would make perfect bible cases). I can buy dresses and shirts for my sisters and nieces. I can take orders for hammocks–and make sure my suitcase is large enough.

Emo Jania

I’m becoming a bad blogger as my time here winds down. I feel like such a mixed bag of emotions.

I really excited to go home. I credit this to my family being in town when I arrive. Mama and Daddy’s house will be turn into a zoo, with children sleeping all over. People will be piled into the living room, and if I’m lucky, some kids will still be awake (probably Jacob–he’s a night owl).

Then reality will hit. This is when I get a little anxious (just thinking about it doesn’t help…) I will attempt to secure a job as quickly as possible. I will send resumes and letters to everyone around, and hopefully land something before school starts. But if I don’t, you will have one frazzled teacher on your hands. Again.

Lastly, I’m sad to leave my life here. I love Mexico and my friends and new family that I have. To think of leaving them behind makes me a pretty mopey 28-year-old.

Breath in, breath out, Jania! Trust the future to the father’s hands he knows and plans your way!

Mexican Election Propaganda

I’ve been sighing over the blatant propaganda thrown around here in Mexico as election day approaches.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but do you remember when I shared the pictures of the “Go Verde” and “Let’s go, Women” painted on the side of the road?  That was six months ago (almost).

Since then, it has only multiplied.

I, an outsider, can totally spot it.  I’ve asked some of the Mexicans about it–but they brush it off.  “Everyone does it,” they say.  But it isn’t true.

In this country of corruption from the top, the people who seem the most trustworthy are the people who are being put on display.  And for one party to advertise this much–it says to me that they have a lot of money backing them up.  Which means they will probably win.  I want to share this foreigner’s observations.

In Chiapas, we have a man running who has blue eyes.

He is the one that had all the advertisements way back when.  Even in remote towns in the middle of nowhere walls are painted.  I thought that Mexico was attempting to live a “greener” lifestyle.  Turns out that is just the political party.  So when I saw signs that said, “Tuxtla Go Green in 2012” it was really a political party spreading poison.

What has really been getting me though, is what has happened the last month or so.  Posters have popped up all over the place.  This very white man with blue eyes getting friendly with the natives.  The darker natives.  All of them are dark.

I mentioned this.  I was told, “You just associate Mexicans with being dark.  Quite a few are light-skinned.” Well, yes, I do.  This is because until I moved to Mexico, every Mexican I met was dark.  This is beside the point.  Actually, this should be saved for a different day–because I have a lot to say about the air of prejudice that has me begging for a human rights revolution…

You can’t fight with the facts though.  And here they are.  This guy, hangs his posters of him in friendly positions with various dark people.  He has posters for grandmas.  Posters that actually say, “My promise is with Grandmothers, and with all of Chiapas.” Posters are hanging for single mothers.  There are posters with children.  Posters displaying athletes.  And every single “other” is dark.

If you still aren’t convinced, they’ve started painting new signs.  Vote for the White Man.  Not kidding.  Guero is a word that is used to describe anyone here that is lacking pigment.  And the signs are calling him “The Guero.”  I am sorry–who said that this wasn’t a display of color?  And someone explain to me why all the polititians are light?

I’ve also determined on my own that they rely on the ignorance of the poorer populations to win.  The small towns in the middle of nowhere have the same signs painted.  The people have also been given free t-shirts–how generous!  gag.  I am betting that they are relying on the most popular name–as we were even given propaganda today with the other parties’ candidates missing.  This was an example that showed us how to vote.

Of course you should vote for him–because like all the posters say, “Because the people want him.” And we know who “the People” are.

Stop Buggin’ Me!

Chiapas has a special little insect.  I have been getting to know him pretty well this week.  Apparently, this is the time of year that the nucú comes out.

My first clue was the one that I snapped a picture of several weeks ago.  It was the biggest ant-looking creature I had ever seen.  A child a school caught it–and we were all fascinated.  This was before I found out that people eat these guys.  Then I REALLY became fascinated.

At the ball park (soccer stadium) across the street–we were infested with flying ants.  Victor pointed them out–and told me that people eat them when they get big.  They put hot sauce on them and eat them with a cold Corona.  A girl at work said that people fry them, put lemon and salt on them and eat them in tacos.  The little guys have these fragile wings that brush off with the merest friction.  The big guys…well, they’re big.  I’ve hunted down some pictures for you–but rest assured, my kids will provide me with plenty of opportunities for more shots this week.

On my way to work two days ago, I saw this older man and woman walking along the road picking something up.  I couldn’t really see what was going on until I got closer.  They were snagging all the little nucú insects that had for some reason accumulated through the night.  They didn’t pay me much attention, so I kept walking.

The last two days as school these pesky friends have really been the rage.  It started when I saw that the students had turned paper water cones into holding envelopes.  They fit nicely inside their pockets.  Then the problem grew when I noticed that several boys were making their way to Oscar’s desk throughout the day.  He had turned his pencil-case into a cage of sorts.  The next class period, a girl came in with her lunch-container-turned-viewing-center.  I couldn’t bear that she didn’t seem to know about the need for living things to have oxygen–so perhaps I encouraged her by poking holes in the top for air flow.

I must have encouraged someone, because today I literally had to check pockets and pencil cases to make sure my class was nucú free.  Boys came back from lunch with boxes they had added grass and sticks to for a natural environment.  I told Pablo that he needed to do something with my pet–and the next thing I know, he zipped it up into his backpack.

I’ve been complaining about losing my kids to summer lately–but it just hit me: maybe I need to use these guys to my advantage.  I will have to do a lesson on insects and creepy crawlies.  I also need a taste of one.  I have to see what all the rage is about…


Photos from and