A Year To Remember

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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 myself.blog

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!

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

 

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Spring Shower

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Sometimes I wake up and wonder what I will tell you about that day. Something always comes along…

Last night we took the convey to San Crostobal. Conveys are a little scary because they drive so fast–but they are so much quicker! On the way we listened to some good country music I downloaded the other day: Dolly Parton (of course), Johnny Cash, and more! Victor wanted to hear country, and I refuse to play the new stuff with the exception of just a couple artists.

I played Seven Spanish Angels, and was reminded of us singing it when we were younger. It is a lot more fun when you have someone singing, “Well, well, well…” in the background. It is also a lot more fun when you are ignorant of the years of Mexican bloodshed.

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I came to San Cris solely to buy souvenirs for everyone at home. On the way, my friend told me about a man named Marcos. Click here to read about him. He was the Robin Hood of Chiapas: robbing the rich to give to the poor. He is also the leader of the Zapatista movement for indigenous rights here in Chiapas. They sell ninja looking, masked men in the market. I bought a wooden top–because I am a sucker for anyone who helps the needy.

We went back to the hotel to collect our bags, when suddenly the sky opened up. The air grew chilly down-right cold, and it began to hail. We decided to wait it out instead of walking to the bus station in the rain. True to my last name, I fell asleep on the couch. When I was awakened a short time later, I decided it would be better to wade through the water barefoot to the bus station. This was a good call.

I’ve heard “the rainy season” mentioned with dread–and that doesn’t come until July or August. Tiempo de Aguas Time of Water gave me a little taste of what is in store. There is a reason why the sidewalks are two feet above the street. It was like a river through the town! Abandoned mango and candy stands threatened to wash away, as Mexicans crowded in doorways just out of the rain.

While I received plenty of strange looks (A white girl walking barefoot? What?!), I will tell you this much: I was able to put on dry shoes when I was safely inside… <

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.

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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