More photos from Sunday’s adventure around SLP

The poinsettia were particularly lovely. They are native to Mexico! In Mexico, the poinsettia is known as Flor de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve Flower.
The poinsettia were particularly lovely. They are native to Mexico! In Mexico, the poinsettia is known as Flor de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve Flower.

I had such a great day Sunday. Not a lot of info here, just photos from Sunday with Meliza and her family, plus Marc, another teacher.

We stopped by a large shop that sold plants and flowers. Though we didn’t get the yellow marigolds Meliza wanted for the Dia de Los Muertos alter, there was plenty to see. And Marc got an aloe plant.

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Next we drove through Parque Tangmanga, the largest in San Luis Potosi, and one of the largest parks in all of Mexico. It has everything. slp-mexico-october-2016-155-copy slp-mexico-october-2016-156 slp-mexico-october-2016-158-copy

Not sure you can see it, but this is human bowling–a person climbs into a large plastic ball and rolls to knock over pins. I must try this!slp-mexico-october-2016-159 slp-mexico-october-2016-160-copy slp-mexico-october-2016-163

Another unique sport–knock ball. It’s soccer, but the players all have a huge balloon around them. Hilarious!

Mostly, it's a peaceful place to spend a day.
Mostly, it’s a peaceful place to spend a day.

Villa de Pozos

Ready for Brunch!
Ready for Brunch!
Happy family, ready for brunch!
Happy family, ready to eat!

A splendid adventure Sunday! Marc has a lovely student named Meliza who asked us to join her family for brunch in Villa de Pozos, a suburb of San Luis Potosi. It’s an old city with an amazing church that’s probably 500 years old. For me, the best features were the great barbacoa and Meliza’s lovely weekend home.

I can’t believe how good Meliza’s English is! She’s only starting level 15, but she’s already fluent. Her entire family speaks English, but other languages as well. They are world travelers and even spent 3 years in Russia. We had lots to talk about.

This was our brunch spot--and it's a popular place. We had trouble finding a table.
This was our brunch spot–and it’s a popular place. We had trouble finding a table.
The restaurant makes their own tortillas here and use them for sopes and gorditas.
The restaurant makes their own tortillas here and uses them for sopes and gorditas.
The Chilaquiles must have been good, because he didn't speak a word, just inhales him. How I miss having that kind of metabolism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilaquiles
The Chilaquiles must have been good, because he didn’t speak a word, just inhaled them. How I miss having that kind of metabolism.
A big smile for Huevos Divorciados (divorced eggs)! Notice the eggs are divided by frijoles and red and green sauces (rojos y verdes salsas). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huevos_divorciados
A big smile for Huevos Divorciados (divorced eggs)! Notice the eggs are divided by frijoles and red and green sauces (salsas rojos y verdes).
I had menudo, a traditional spicy soup made with beef stomach (tripe). The broth was amazing, but the stomach was, well, just ok. If you have trouble with odd textures, this isn't for you. I learned later that I could have just gotten the broth. I also had two barbacoa tacos. So tasty! I added onion, guacamole and a squeeze of lime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menudo_(soup) (BTW, oddly enough, Menudo is also the name of a traditional soup from the Philippines. It's made with liver, not stomach. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menudo_(soup)
I had menudo, a traditional spicy soup made with beef stomach (tripe). The broth was amazing, but the stomach was… well… just ok. If you have trouble with odd textures, this isn’t for you. I learned later that I could have just gotten the broth.
I also had two barbacoa tacos. So tasty! I added onion, guacamole and a squeeze of lime.

(BTW, oddly enough, Menudo is also the name of a traditional soup from the Philippines. It’s made with liver, not stomach.)

This is consume con carne--a meat soup with broth. Marc said it was excellent. Now that it's gotten chilly, we are both missing soup! Unusually, this was lamb, not beef or pork. The coffee is Cafe de Olla, a traditional way to prepare coffee in Mexico. The distinct flavor of Café de olla is derived from cinnamon and piloncillo. To prepare, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_de_olla https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panela
This is consume con carne–a meat soup with broth. Marc said it was excellent. Now that it’s gotten chilly, we are both missing soup! Unusually, this was lamb, not beef or pork.
The coffee is Cafe de Olla, a traditional way to prepare coffee in Mexico. The distinct flavor of Café de Olla is derived from cinnamon and piloncillo. To prepare, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot.
A car decorated for a Quinceañera--a girl's 15th birthday, a big celebration in all of Latin American. It marks the age when she goes from being a child to a woman. I hope to attend one of these parties while I'm here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quincea%C3%B1era
A car decorated for a Quinceañera–a girl’s 15th birthday, a big celebration in all of Latin American. It marks the age when she goes from being a child to a woman. I hope to attend one of these parties while I’m here.
Meliza took us to see their weekend home. The house is finished, but the garden area is still under construction.
Meliza took us to see their weekend home. The house is finished, but the garden area is still under construction.
The roses are in bloom.
The roses are in bloom.
The garden is still under construction, but already has many lovely features.
The garden is still under construction, but already has many lovely features.
This niche is all tile. I only wish I could have shown off the ceilings--large domes, made of brick, and topped with a windowed "chimney" to let in natural light.
This niche in the kitchen is all tile. I only wish I could have shown off the ceilings–large domes, made of brick, and topped with a windowed “chimney” to let in natural light. It’s a beautiful home and decorated so well.
I love the decorative details of their house. Today it's decorated for Dia de Los Muertos--the Day of the Dead.
I love the decorative details of their house. Today it’s decorated for Dia de Los Muertos–the Day of the Dead.
This is my favorite feature--their altar, almost ready for the Day of the Dead celebrations. November 1 is for children who died young. November 2 is for adults. Photos of those who have passed are displayed along with sugar skulls, decorative skeletons and offerings of the things they liked in life: cigarettes, tequila and favorite foods. Here, Meliza adds photos of her grandparents. Also notice the candles on the floor, arranged into a cross.
This is my favorite feature–their altar, almost ready for the Day of the Dead celebrations. November 1 is for children who died young. November 2 is for adults. Photos of those who have passed are displayed along with sugar skulls, decorative skeletons and offerings of the things they liked in life: cigarettes, tequila and favorite foods.
Here, Meliza adds photos of her grandparents. Also notice the candles on the floor, arranged into a cross.
Mariachi Frogs!
Mariachi Frogs!
This is a "cookie" composed of two thin wafers (similar to those used at church for communion) with some extra tasty caramel (cajeta) between.
This is a “cookie” composed of two thin wafers (similar to church communion wafers) with some extra tasty caramel (cajeta) between. There was a bowl of these on the altar, but I gobbled this one down. Hope that’s not sacrilegious.
The living room with bar.
The living room with bar.
Amazing kitchen with some of the best tile work I've seen. I'm envious! In my shared kitchen, it's just too much trouble to cook.
Amazing kitchen with some of the best tile work I’ve seen. I’m envious! In my shared kitchen, it’s just too much trouble to cook. I’d live in this one.
Their weekend house is decorated with Mexican art, including these dolls.
Their weekend house is decorated with Mexican art, including these dolls.

It was a great day and we also visited a greenhouse and drove through a park. More photos to follow!

A new branch, student evaluations

This is the second branch of English Unlimited. I'd never been there, but since I'm teaching here now, I had to go looking for it. It's located in the El Centro area, the old town. Near lots of shops and restaurants.
This is the second branch of English Unlimited. I’d never been there, but since I’m teaching here now, I had to go looking for it. It’s located in the El Centro area, the old town. Near lots of shops and restaurants.

10/22/16

Student evaluations were more than 4 weeks ago. I knew that some of the teachers had been given their evaluations, but I had not. It did concern me, but I don’t see the director, Michael, often, since he’s not in the office much. He rarely speaks to me when he is, so our verbal exchanges are typically about something that’s going wrong. So when he called me into his office yesterday, I just assumed I was in trouble for something, though I couldn’t think of anything I’d done. Michael’s face never gives anything away (I bet he’s a good poker player) but his body language didn’t look positive.

Honestly, I thought I might be fired. I mentally prepared myself for the worst and began creating a Plan B.

Instead, he gave me the student evaluations, though at first I didn’t understand what he was handing me. There was no heading, the type was small, the room dark and the format unfamiliar. I couldn’t read or comprehend the information. It was clear that he thought I would immediately grasp the document’s contents, so he was incredulous when I explained that I didn’t know what it was, nor had I seen something like this before. This did not help the mood.

He reluctantly interpreted the report for me. The evaluations were some of the highest anyone could expect to get. In fact, he said it was one of the best evaluations he’d ever seen. He even said that when he saw scores this high it made him proud (notice he didn’t say he was proud of me). The comments section was positively glowing: “Best teacher ever” and “She is a patient and kind teacher” and “Best class I’ve ever taken.” The most heartening comments came from my beginner class. I’d taken over a Level 1 class, but reluctantly. I had been so worried that I was doing a poor job for them since I speak so little Spanish.

I know I should be happy, and I am, but it took a while before I could enjoy the good news. The meeting was so uncomfortable! Of course, it’s difficult to take praise from someone (seriously it shouldn’t be, but it is), but it feels particularly uncomfortable to get it from someone you rarely hear pleasant comments from. Also, my mind was still prepared to be fired and I couldn’t just drop that feelings. When you are expecting something bad, hearing good things just feels like a setup. While Michael’s mouth was saying very positive things about me and my teaching, he didn’t smile. He’s just not a “smiley” guy. And his body language still appeared negative, to me. Basically, it felt surreal. I only realized the meeting had been a positive one AFTER it was over.

I also found that I’m being moved to the El Centro branch. It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are many positive things: I can walk to work in about 10 minutes without using a bus. I have four classes, back to back, so there’s no sitting around waiting and no split shift. All my classes are in the evening and located in the downtown area where there are lots of cafes and restaurants. On the other hand, however, I’m almost completely isolated. I’m the only teacher and Veronica, the lone receptionist, speaks zero English. Michael told me that my lowest class would be a level 3 (out of 24 levels) but it turns out that I start the shift with a level 1 class. I’m not convinced that I’m a good teacher for beginners, but my Spanish has improved, so it’s a better situation than when I did it before. Based on the past, this probably means that I will have this same schedule next session. Michael seems to change up teachers every other session. If so, that will take me up to the Christmas break.

Elections and private student conundrums

This photo was taken in the lobby of the school. The kids were asked to help decorate for Halloween with drawings of monsters. One of them drew a picture of Donald Trump, in the center!
This photo was taken in the lobby of the school. The kids were asked to help decorate for Halloween with drawings of monsters and creepy things. One of them drew a picture of Donald Trump, in the center!

10/21/16

Tomorrow is the new schedule. I dread this day every 4 weeks. I start waking up extra early and have trouble sleeping a few days before it. Some of it is the feeling of zero control, but some of it is simply that it is completely last minute. If you give a new schedule to people that late, you aren’t interested in discussion or compromise. It’s take-it-or-leave-it. I’m pretty sure one of these days I’ll just hand in my locker key and walk out. Good thing we are always paid just before we are handed the schedule, though that also makes it look as though someone is welcome to walk out.

I’m concerned, also, about the long term health of the school. There are fewer students than this summer when I started. The teacher coordinator positions at either branch have not been replaced. Though there is a new calendar schedule for next year, it simply doesn’t look like the school is growing. Can it keep me gainfully employed through July? I had a conversation with a couple other established teachers about possible ways to find private students, if it comes to that. It’s not what I’d like. I don’t find private students to be reliable and getting paid is a constant hassle, but it’s good to be prepared, just in case. I’m meeting with Erika, my landlord’s boyfriend on Saturday as a possible 1st private student. We are meeting at Starbucks near the school. (I was right about the reliability of private students. He canceled about an hour before the meeting.)

I keep mentioning it, but the flowers here are just lovely. Often they are cascading over walls or supported by wrought iron fences. No idea what this flower is.
I keep mentioning it, but the flowers here are spectacular. Often they are cascading over walls or supported by wrought iron fences. No idea what this flower is.
The roses get a second season here. While summer is still pretty warm here, it's not as hot as Atlanta was, nor as humid.
The roses get a second season here, too. While summer is pretty warm here, it’s not as hot as Atlanta was, nor as humid.

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A typical meal for me. The drink is the "Popeye," with spinach and pineapple juice (espinacas y piña). On the plate are gorditias--two corn tortillas form a pocket and can be filled with anything. I ordered nopal (cactus) and simply chose a second at random from the items I couldn't translate, moronga. It was surprisingly tasty, even after I found out it's pig's blood.
A typical meal for me. The drink is the “Popeye,” with spinach and pineapple juice (espinacas y piña). On the plate are gorditias–two corn tortillas form a pocket and can be filled with anything. I ordered nopal (cactus) and simply chose a second at random from the items I couldn’t translate, moronga. It was surprisingly tasty, even after I found out it’s pig’s blood. BTW, this meal is at Fruity Fiesta, which has been a favorite place for me until recently. They keep getting my orders wrong–somehow I end up with double what I requested, and of course, I end up paying double. I though it was my poor Spanish, but I was really, REALLY careful this time and it happened again. I think they just want more money out of the gringa. This doesn’t happen at other restaurants.
Can anyone identify this?
Can anyone identify this?
Typical side street in my neighborhood.
Typical side street in my neighborhood.
Bad photo, but Marc found a new lunch spot. I'll be coming here a lot because you get to make a huge build-your-own salad. This will make it even easier to get veggies in my diet.
Bad photo, but Marc found a new lunch spot and we went there. I’ll be coming here a lot because you get to make a huge build-your-own salad. This will make it even easier to get veggies in my diet.
The restaurant is very small--a true hole in the wall. It'd never pass inspection in the USA--no bathroom, not even running water! The "kitchen" is a stove, fridge and a few assorted shelves, like this one, that holds a steamer, waffle maker (they use it to make "pannini" sandwiches) and blender. But things look clean, the food is fresh and the price is low.
The restaurant is very small–a true hole in the wall. It’d never pass inspection in the USA–no bathroom, not even running water or sink! They have a large bottle of water for use in the kitchen. The “kitchen” is a stove, fridge and a few assorted shelves, like this one, that holds a steamer, waffle maker (they use it to make “pannini” sandwiches) and blender. But things look clean, the food is fresh and the price is low. Also, the staff are lovely.
Here's the salad selection.
Here’s the salad selection.
She steamed a cheese-stuffed zucchini for each of us, no charge.
She steamed a cheese-stuffed zucchini for each of us, no charge.
Here's my salad with sandwich--bacon, cheese and mushrooms (tocino, queso y championes).
Here’s my salad with sandwich–bacon, cheese and mushrooms (tocino, queso y championes).
Here's Marc with his salad and a large piece of fish. We got the order to-go since there's only a couple tables.
Here’s Marc with his salad and a large piece of fish. We got the order to-go since there’s only a couple tables.

An evening stroll through El Centro

Alameda park is located on one edge of the old town area in SLP. It's lovely. This is the duck pond.
Alameda park is located on one edge of the old town area in San Luis Potosi. It’s lovely, large and well used. This is the duck pond. Many of it’s features could use some attention, particularly fountains, but it’s still a beautiful park and I’m impressed how the Potosinos use their parks and plazas.

After our exciting adventure in Cerro de San Pedro, Alex left Marc and I off on the far side of the old town in San Luis Potosi. It allowed us to walk through El Centro to get home and enjoy the perfect weather and hunter’s moon out that night.

This is the huge church across the street from Alameda park. There was a wedding going on, so we just stepped inside.
This is the huge church across the street from Alameda park. There was a wedding going on, so we just stepped inside.
We stopped at one of the many Costanzo candy stores. It's a local candy and chocolate factory. Tasty stuff. Looks like they are ready for Halloween! http://www.chocolatescostanzo.com/2014/
We stopped at one of the many Costanzo candy stores. It’s a local candy and chocolate factory. Tasty stuff. Looks like they are ready for Halloween! the locals are very proud of this local business.

I love street performers, like this clown in Plaza del Carmen.
I love street performers, like this clown in Plaza del Carmen.
So many lovely churches
So many lovely churches
There's a king Tut exhibit that I really must catch in the old town.
There’s a king Tut exhibit that I really must catch in the old town. This exhibit is just off the Plaza Del Armas.
Wish I knew what this play was about, but there was a lot of laughter. Seemed a bit bawdy.
Wish I knew what this play was about, but there was a lot of laughter. Seemed a bit bawdy. Plaza Del Armas.