House Hunting Woes

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I. Can’t. Do. It. Anymore.

I have been all over creation looking for a place to live. I have things I will compromise on and things that I won’t.

I Can Live Without:

Hot Water Mexico stays pretty hot. We haven’t had gas for a week, and I really only squeal a little in the shower. We have a boiler anyway that you light when you need hot water–so it was only turned on once a day to begin with.

Paved Roads As we walked around this weekend in search of available places, I found that the further away from the city the less frequent are paved roads. Before all you Tennessee people start scoffing, know that dust IS a major problem. Because it is hot, we have to leave doors and windows open. To say I can live without paved roads is saying I will mop and dust frequently…

Air Conditioning Anyone who knows me is probably fainting. I hate being hot. I am content with the two fans I have blowing on me at night. For some reason, hot in Mexico is expected. I’m not going from hot day outside to cool day inside. Everything is hot.

Washers and Dryers I have a Mexican man who not only does my laundry sometimes, but shows me how to do it correctly. Apparently if you don’t rub fabric to fabric you are just cleaning the sink… The lavanderia (laundry lady’s business) isn’t that far away either. I feel pretty good supporting small honest businesses.

Things I Can’t Compromise On:

A Kitchen Maybe it is because I like food. Maybe it is because I like cold drinks. Maybe it is because I enjoy cooking. In any case, I need a kitchen! I can’t rent just a room somewhere, because I want to be able to eat something other than tacos from the taco stand!

Privacy I will go ahead and blame this on Daddy. I think we get it from him anyway. It is the reason (one of many) that I have a problem living with a roommate. I like my privacy. I like being able to close my door and not see you or hear you.

Internet I know I’m a little spoiled. It is so nice to blog and talk to my family at home in bed. I hated going to Starbucks everyday to use the sometimes functional Internet. I want to connect when I want to connect.

Please can I find a house soon? I’m not asking too much, eh?

My Mexico Diet

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I have a problem. Seriously. It’s called My-Jeans-Don’t-Fit. Of course I am happy to be on my Mexico diet, but this really is a problem! I want to have a pair of jeans–they are perfect to bum around in. But the women here have these tiny bird legs. It doesn’t seem to matter how chubby their stomachs are (I’m blaming all the meat they eat for that…), their legs are small.

I, on the other hand, do not have bird legs. Or bird anything–despite the fact that my jeans don’t fit.

It’s pretty great actually. I mean, I walk all over the place. I am sure that is what has done it. I really enjoy it too (most of the time). There are occasionally days like today. I’ve been trying to get a migraine all day. Note to self (and Jenny): get some migraine meds when I come home… I have walked on the loud streets cursing the existence of trucks and buses. I glare into the sun, cursing the fact that I forgot my sun glasses, all the while creating more wrinkles.

Then there are walks like this morning, where I stop and look at the glorious sky. How can anyone doubt a God with something that beautiful? Or tonight, when I saw the moon shining so bright–even while it was still day. I love these kinds of walks.

I’m even getting pretty good at texting and walking. The sidewalks here are treacherous. They seem to be built in pieces-perhaps by whatever business is there. So, you have constant ups and downs. I step up on curbs and over rocks telling myself that it is good for my legs. It’s my version step aerobics.

I’ve also found my new favorite snack: mangos. The smell of them makes my mouth water! This is how I like to eat them though: with hot sauce, chili pepper, lime and salt. They serve them like that on the street. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask the lady for half an order–as one whole order is too much. Today, I just decided to make my own. It seemed easier.

Oh, Mexico! (You have to analyze the different ways I say “Oh Mexico.” Sometimes it is in exasperation–other times in adoration.)

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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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.

Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop?

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I am pleased to tell you that today was an amazing success.

Last night I was here pretty late (Hooray! for 12+ hour days!) getting some things together. When I quit my job last August, my goal was to leave quickly. I ended up just deleting so many files on the computer, because of convenience. Now I am recreating some things, but for the most part it hasn’t been a huge issue.

Last night, with the help of google image searches and Microsoft clip art, these came into being. They made my life a joy today:

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We used Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? as a first book to read to the kiddos. It’s great because it has animals and colors–plus it’s totally predictable. We played a game of our own version (which helps me know the names of the students). Afterwards, they drew self-portraits. Yesterday, my afternoon class drew self-portraits, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to try today with me. Here is Diego’s from yesterday:

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And today:

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He told me today those were his muscles…

This afternoon, I learned a version of Monkey in the Middle. Only when someone caught my ball, they pointed at me and shouted, “Gato! Gato!”

Gato=cat

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(And this was funny–I feel like it needs a caption that says, “What I feel like when you speak English…)

Solo Cup

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You may think that my title is referring to the red cups that some country music star sings about. Not true. Solo is Spanish for alone or lonely. Today I bought one lonely coffee cup. I figure
1) I don’t have roommates.
2) I don’t have visitors.
3) It suited my mood.

The other day my friend Lynn said that she cried on the second day she was in Costa Rica. It finally hit her the second day. Last night I was feeling a bit like Fievel (from An American Tale) as I looked at the stars from my bed. The sky was bright, and the strange sounds of this new place seemed to get to me. “Somewhere out there…someone’s thinking of me, and missing me tonight.”

Don’t get me wrong–I’m still super excited to be here. I’m just really looking forward to school starting, meeting this weekend, and roommates (or chickens…which ever come first). I’m going to check tomorrow to see if I can get some chickens. I’ve been wanting do have some hens for eggs for a while–and I think my back yard is perfect for them to root around in. Plus, if I don’t grow attached to them, I can eat them.

I wanted to show you the walkway on the side of the house leading to the back yard. It’s where I will wash my clothes (by hand, believe it or not…) The neighbors have these beautiful flowers that come over the wall to give us a little beauty on our side.

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Oh! And this I took today on my walk back from the Bodega. This might be one of my favorite things about Mexico. Boring houses don’t belong here!

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P.S. Someone better email me. I paid $10 pesos to ride the bus to McDonalds to get online, and $16 pesos to get a drink so they wouldn’t run me out like they do the poor kids who come to play or peddle their wares… Hopefully I can figure out how to get online at school tomorrow so I won’t have to ride the conejo (city bus) just to get online.

Oh, and someone give me a pat on the back, because I am starting to understand more!! I actually knew what I was agreeing to when I nodded my head at the McDonald’s boy!!

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

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I have an apartment! It’s rather large–with three spacious bedrooms and a late living area. I will be getting a couple roommates, so naturally, I chose the best room. Actually, to be honest, it was hard to pick a room! I ended up going with a room with access to the back “yard.”

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I was pretty excited to find quite a few basil plants–and I am hoping to attempt pesto at some point. A sweet school employee showed me around today, and she thinks someone might help me get a little garden started. I am super excited about that–and I am hopeful that some tomatoes and other good yummies will soon be found here!

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The school is amazing. We are on the outskirts of town, in an area that is more what I expected. The side streets are more like small alleyways with room for one car to pass at a time. The government is paving, which means that in fact they aren’t paving… The government school was a bit heartbreaking. There’s rusty broken playground equipment, and classrooms that are open and small. More on this at another time.
Mi escuela:

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Back to my school: it’s in a fenced in area ferociously protected by three adorable dogs. The guard affectionately referred to one as gordo (fatso). The buildings house five hundred students from daycare (age 1-4) through high school. The middle area is like a courtyard with the cafe, library cabin, and outdoor stage off to the sides.

The view from my classroom on the second floor is beautiful!

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My room isn’t large–an currently is covered with a thin sheet of dust over everything. There are windows along the side that open to allow a breeze to pass through. I am looking forward to getting in there and getting started! I hear my kids are pretty “bad.” They scared the last teacher off (kidding), and seem to have earned themselves quite a reputation (not kidding!). They sound like just my cup of tea! I can’t wait to see how much they know and understand. I guess it will be the perfect opportunity to practice my Responsive Classroom, seeing as how I will be talking very little and modeling a lot!

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School begins for me on Thursday–which means I have tomorrow to get my things in order here at the house. I want to wait to grocery shop later–because there is a little fruit stand that is currently closed, but very close to my school. Today I walked to the closest market for some things–the Bodega is like a downsized Walmart. Fruit is super cheap–so I’m super happy!

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The Wheels on the Autobús

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Today I laid in bed until pretty late–don’t ask me how considering the fact that it might be more comfortable on the tile floor… After skyping a bit, I decided to brave the town. So, armed with bravado, my Spanish-English dictionary, and pesos galore I was on my way.

The school left a Mexican cell phone at the front desk for me. Have you seen something so simple it is difficult? That’s this phone. I received some info telling me to take the phone to the Mexican version of 711 to buy minutes. The guy was probably sad to see me walk through the door…as last night we had an issue with me not bringing enough pesos.

I handed him my phone and nodded to whatever he said to me. Pointing at the screen I could see a list of minutes, ranging from 20 to 200. I went ahead and bought 200 minutes (it only charges me when I call people–I can receive calls with no cost). Then, he asked the million dollar question…what my number was. I, of course, laughed and said, “Un momento…” When I tried to call one of the school employees pre-programed into the phone, all I heard was a string of Spanish. Sigh. Of course I heard Spanish. I am in Mexico after all! I smiled at the clerk and said, “No comprende espanol, y ella decir in espanol. No se.” I haven’t been able to check myself, but he got the idea: I don’t speak Spanish.

I decided to go to a place there were sure to be some Americans lurking around: McDonalds. Just as I walked in the door I heard English. Score! I asked for some help, and began to explain my story. The man said, “Are you Jania?” Seriously, what are the odds that I would run into my principal in this city? He helped me figure out my phone number (in my phone under “Me.”. Duh…) and offered his help when I explained my plans for the day (Explore via city bus…)

Before I set off, I decided to grab a bite at this cute roadside restaurant. Okay, imagine if your house was on the road and you just made the porch into a restaurant. The front was painted bright pink, and the porch had red Coca-Cola tables sitting in front. As I began to order the man said in soft English, “Where are you from.” He was a sweetheart, and allowed me to practice saying words and asking questions. I ordered chilaquiles con carne asada.

20120102-155250.jpg Yum! Basically, it’s cut up tortillas (corn) with some kind of sauce and funky cheese. As I got a quarter of the way through my lemonade, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Will this make me sick?” “Did they use bottled water?” “Where did this ice come from?” I haven’t gotten sick yet, so I guess the water was safe!

I appreciated my principal’s offer as I set off on my adventure. Oh! I also am pretty sure I was yelled at in Spanish as the bus driver made me get off the bus again and board correctly through the front door. Oops. I used my new phrase of the day, “Lo siento!” It wasn’t long before the area looked more desolate, and I crossed the bridge to reboard a bus headed in the opposite direction. It sounds like New York City as the taxis and little bus-vans honk their horns. I’ve learned this is how they communicate with the people waiting on the street. It means, “Do you need me? I can take you where you want to go!” If you want a ride, you throw up your arm. If you don’t, you ignore them.

I rode through downtown. Imagine China Town minus meat carcasses everywhere. The store fronts are tiny rooms like that–with bags, shirts, clothes. Before long, we were again out of civilization. That was my clue to again hop off the bus to head back to the American part of town where my school wisely boards their new teachers.

(I didn’t make it back to the bus before I saw a man casually carrying his machete, a teenage girl rotund with a baby, and a man hold his daughter over a grate to pee.)

Hola de Chiapas!

Hola, amigos! Just a short one to let you know I’ve arrived. The flight was gorgeous with mountain peaks showing themselves through the mist.

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They must have known I was coming, because I must have seen five signs welcoming me!

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I was lucky to have a couple English speakers on my flight from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez. One of the guys I met actually attended my school when it first opened. It turns out that the “house competitions” are, in fact, modeled after Harry Potter. He says I will love it!

I have been (attempting) to communicate in Spanish. People seem understanding, and the people in Chiapas are just as eager to attempt English. The poor taxi driver must have thought I was a nut. I spoke in broken sentences to ask about the area–or exclaim over the “mucho colores!”. There isn’t too much traffic on a Sunday morning, and I was excited to see thatched roofs and roosters behind chicken wire.

They must have been afraid I would leave if the hotel wasn’t a paradise. The weather is perfect at 9:00am with a light breeze. Sigh. Can I just stay at the hotel?

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I’m heading to grab a bit of comida (food) now–as there is a mall across the street… Mucho love to you all!

P.S. Until I open my mouth I seem to have them fooled. The people at the Hilton last night talked to all the white people in English except for me. They quickly learned the error of their ways…