As the year winds to a close, it’s time to celebrate Christmas! Last year I was in a predominately Muslim country, so I saw few Christmas decorations. This year, I’m in Mexico and it’s overwhelmingly Christian, so lots of holiday cheer. On the other hand, it’s a nice warm mid-70’s F each afternoon, so it doesn’t really feel like winter. Personally, I love the weather, but it’s like there’s two seasons. Warm and a bit cooler. With no chance of snow or even frost, the flowers are in bloom and the leaves never change color.
I’ve been too depressed over the election to post to my blog. I continue to journal, but it’s all negative, with a few rants. I don’t think anyone wants to hear it and I don’t believe my opinion will change anyone’s mind. I’m sure many believe that I am overreacting. I hope they are right, but I don’t see anything positive coming out of this next presidency. I’m trying to be patient (not my strong suit) and wait to see what will happen. I am using the time to rethink my priorities in light of this immense change in the direction of politics, humanitarianism, poverty and world peace. We will just have to see what the new Trump presidency does, but if his cabinet picks are any indication, it’s not good. For the time being, I will hold off on considering coming back to The States or working for a US supported agency, such as the Peace Corps (Of my two top picks, one program was canceled and the other postponed).
In the meantime, here are a few things that have happened.
Saturday, we ended another 4 week session at school. Some of the grades were VERY low in my weekday classes, but I only failed one student. Several others got notes from me indicating that they had fallen behind and needed to catch up or they would fail next session. All my Saturday students are great. I will continue the next four weeks at the downtown location, where I’m the only teacher through the week. The original receptionist, Veronica, will no longer be working there. It seems some money is “missing.” She was not nice to me, so I won’t miss her. Fortunately, Poncho replaced her, so the place doesn’t seem so lonely.
Today, I moved to a smaller, upstairs bedroom. The pluses are that it’s less expensive, has a great closet, will be much quieter (I was wrong on this point), and my neighbors are all nice. The best perk is that I’m now sharing the best bathroom with much better roommates. Unfortunately, I just took a shower and the water pressure is much lower and there’s hardly any hot water. Also, I have only one electrical outlet and it isn’t grounded. That’s going to make it impossible to use my electric kettle or space heater, unless I can find adapters (I did). You can’t have everything.
Today is a Mexican holiday, Revolution Day. This past weekend, I had planned to go to a party but it was changed from Sunday to Saturday and I didn’t find out until the last minute. If it hadn’t been for the room change, I’d have gone out of town this weekend since it’s my first 2 day weekend since I got here. I kind of feel the opportunity was wasted.
I’ve been hand washing my clothes for the last month. It’s not much fun, but the woman at the place I liked quit and the owner doesn’t keep regular hours, nor does he do a good job. I tried a second place, but it was more expensive and they lost a black sock, a bra but gave me a pair of men’s underwear. Ick. I’ve been too depressed to give another place a chance. As the weather gets colder, I’ll be forced to find a new laundry place.
We’ve had nice sunshine for the last two days, but it was cloudy and rainy for 2 weeks before that, the after effects of Pacific hurricanes. It was so depressing.
I continue to worry about the school. Enrollment seems lower than when I came in July and I don’t see anything being done to change it. Last session I had 24 hours per week, a schedule I like, though many would consider “light.” This coming session, I’ll have only 19 hours a week—which is the bare minimum to pay rent and eat.
I finally get private Spanish classes two days a week. Orlando has announced he’s not returning after Christmas break. While he could continue to take classes, he’s lost motivation and will drop out. Marc and I were sharing a class, but are several chapters apart in the book. Learning Spanish is a high priority for me, but not for him. I’m grateful we will get separate lessons now.
I continue to learn Spanish, but seem to be at a mental plateau. With the depression, I’ve continued to force myself to move forward in the text book and on DuoLingo.com, but retention has been poor. I’ll have to keep reviewing these sections.
I am lucky to be meeting new friends, generous friends, who help me see this lovely country. Meliza and her family too me to San Miguel de Allende, the day before Halloween. The city was all decked out for Day of the Dead, too!
San Miguel de Allende is a city and municipality located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It is part of the macroregion of Bajío. It is 274 km (170 mi) from Mexico City and 97 km (60 mi) from the state capital of Guanajuato. Historically, the town is important as being the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, whose surname was added to the town’s name in 1826, as well as the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule by the nascent insurgent army during the Mexican War of Independence.
According to Wikipedia: “The main attraction of the town is its well-preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. This and the nearby Sanctuary of Atotonilco have been declared World Heritage Sites in 2008.”
From Visit Mexico: “San Miguel de Allende is a city that manages to be both quaint and cosmopolitan at the same time. Once an important stop on the silver route between Zacatecas and Mexico City, its historic center is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. With its narrow cobblestone streets, leafy courtyards, fine architectural details and sumptuous interiors, San Miguel de Allende is arguably the prettiest town in Mexico.”
Lots and lots of shopping! This is a tourist area, so prices were higher than in San Luis Potosi. I was also shocked, pleasantly so, to hear so much English! It’s not only American and Canadian tourist, but ex-pats, too.
Interested in this fascinating holiday, celebrated throughout Mexico? Here’s some info.
From Wikipedia: “Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States. It is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008 the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The holiday is sometimes called Día de los Muertos in Anglophone countries, a back-translation of its original name, Día de Muertos. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico where the day is a public holiday. Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. Gradually it was associated with October 31, November 1 and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christian triduum of Allhallowtide: All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world, being absorbed within other deep traditions for honoring the dead. It has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation’s schools. Many families celebrate a traditional “All Saints’ Day” associated with the Catholic Church.
Originally, the Day of the Dead as such was not celebrated in northern Mexico, where it was unknown until the 20th century because its indigenous people had different traditions. The people and the church rejected it as a day related to synchronizing pagan elements with Catholic Christianity. They held the traditional ‘All Saints’ Day’ in the same way as other Christians in the world. There was limited Meso-american influence in this region, and relatively few indigenous inhabitants from the regions of Southern Mexico, where the holiday was celebrated. In the early 21st century in northern Mexico, Día de Muertos is observed because the Mexican government made it a national holiday based on educational policies from the 1960s; it has introduced this holiday as a unifying national tradition based on indigenous traditions.
The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is similar to other societies’ observances of a time to honor the dead. The Spanish tradition, for instance, includes festivals and parades, as well as gatherings of families at cemeteries to pray for their deceased loved ones at the end of the day.“
I survived my first night at the downtown location, El Centro. It’s a fair facility and certainly large enough for a school. Much larger than we need at the moment. I’m the only teacher, with four classes back-to-back, so the other classrooms are empty. I have only a handful of students in each class—5 is the top count, though no more than 4 showed up in any single class, and the fourth student was 23 minutes late, with no book, for a 50 minute class. Only 1 in the first class. I can’t believe the branch is profitable yet, and of course businesses must be profitable. I hope that improves.
The students are definitely not as advanced as those in the main branch and they show up quite late. It’s a struggle to communicate with Veronica, the lone receptionist, as she speaks no English. When she speaks to me it’s rapid-fire, so I have to keep saying “lentomente. Por favor.” (Slowly. Please). I can usually understand if she speaks slowly, though it’s clearly difficult for her. Or she chooses not to. Sometimes, she seems able to break her speech up into phrases. Whatever works. I asked her to call the students who were on the roster, but didn’t come. She told me “no.” Well, she’s in charge of the office. Actually, I wasn’t given a real roster. She gave me a blank one to fill out. But since no one had filed Orlando’s rosters from last week, I could see who had been in the previous classes. Basically, I’m on my own in this branch.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know.”
My new favorite restaurant, Green Bo, wasn’t open at 11am. No explanation, but small places are like that around here. So instead I bought a gordita de horno (oven gordita) on the street. It’s the most filling meal you can have for 13 pesos. It’s a dense, stuffed biscuit swimming in salsa rojo. There’s a couple ounces of meat (today I chose shredded pork) and a biscuit that might be mostly whole grain wheat with some corn meal or perhaps other flours. It’s got to be dense to stand up to all that salsa. It’s served in a sandwich-sized, plastic baggie and you have to take bites directly from the bag. You can’t put it down or the salsa will spill. At least I always have variety!
I went with Meliza, her family and Marc to San Miguel de Allende. So many photos of a lovely city. It will be a separate post. Or two!
A difficult start this morning. First, the guy in room #2 is taking progressively longer in the bathroom each day. He now takes 2 full showers a day and each time the bathroom is covered in suds and water. Seriously—the walls, the shower curtain, the shower floor is covered in dense foam. The rest of the bath is wet. Today he was in the shower so long that the drain couldn’t keep up (it is quite slow). Water had spilled into the bathroom, under the door and even the hallway had standing water. This morning, he was in the shower before 6:30a and didn’t leave until 7:40a—all while I waited with a full bladder. Clearly he has a problem. I’m sympathetic, but I have rights, too. He uses two bars of soap a week—I know this because I’m the one who takes out the trash, not him. This is the man I believe to be the cross dresser—but I’ve no complaints about that. I just wish that if he would reduce his shower time to 30 minutes (My own is well under 15 minutes most days) and sop up the water when he’s done.
I started to leave my clothes at my usual laundry today, but I’m quite cautious now, especially when the woman who runs the place isn’t there. She does a great job, but three times in 3 months I’ve gone to pick up my clothes and the place wasn’t open during regular hours. There was no note, so I didn’t know when they’d be open. I have few clothes and I need them! Plus, the laundry isn’t on my usual route, so I need to make a special trip to leave off or retrieve clothing. I believe the women has been sick, since I’ve not seen her. I find that when the woman isn’t there, the place isn’t run well. (Orlando later told me he had things missing.) I assume the man who is there in her place is her husband, but he is quite lazy compared to her. Fortunately, my Spanish is getting better, so now I’m able to ask “Are you open tomorrow?” (¿Estás abierto mañana?) The man didn’t look at me. He just said “mediodia” (noon) while he began writing up the laundry receipt. Presumably that was when I could pick up my clothes. “Are you open after noon tomorrow? Sometimes you are not open.” (¿Está abierto después de mediodía mañana? A veces estas no abierto.) I pointed at his sign that says he’s open from 9am to 8pm. He didn’t look at me, but just said, “Si. Mas o menos.” (yes, more or less) That’s practically a guarantee he won’t be open. “No. Necesito mi ropa. La semana pasada, espero tres días por mi ropa.)” (No. I need my clothes. Last week, I wait three days for my clothes.) So I’m trying out a new place this week. We will see how that goes. At least it’s on my usual route.
Marc, the newest teacher from Canada, has been very sick. It’s worse than the normal stomach complaint one gets as they move to a new country. He’s had vomiting with the diarrhea, can’t eat and has no energy. When Orlando told me on Thursday last week, I gave him some diarrhea medication. Friday morning, I covered his level 15 class. His Saturday class was canceled. Sunday, he came with Meliza and her family to San Miguel de Allende, but was too exhausted to even get out of the car, except for bathroom breaks. He should not have gone. He thought he could do classes Monday morning, but called in sick. So yesterday, Michael took him to the hospital. According to Marc he has inflammation of the stomach and intestines and was given a ton of medication. He’s out for at least 2 more days.
So far, I’m not crazy about the downtown school branch. I like how close it is to my flat and my schedule is very efficient. BUT the students miss a third to half their classes, are late when they show up and rarely do homework. It’s disheartening. And while the receptionist is cute and perky, she isn’t interested in learning any English, nor in helping me in any way. She simply refuses to speak slowly so that I can understand—and that’s when she will bother to speak. I had to ask twice yesterday to be paid and she simply refused to get me a new black marker, because she was busy texting. I had to rummage around until I found one. When I asked last week for her to call students who were not in class, she said, “No.” That word is the same in English as Spanish, so there’s no mistaking it. I asked Michael for assistance, but I don’t know if she called them. Last week I had to step out of my classroom to ask her and her friends to quiet down so that I could teach. I keep reminding myself: “Not my monkeys; not my circus.
Still finding the new branch challenging. Yesterday I tried to print some original dialogues that would reinforce the day’s lessons. The procedure is to email them to the admin address. But the new branch has no printer. I didn’t know that, but the office staff at the main branch did. They didn’t print them for me, even though I was at the main branch for my Spanish lesson. The female office staff only speaks and does errands for the male teachers. They are quite rude to me and other female teachers. Finding this very disheartening. If it gets much worse, it may be untenable. Since the receptionist at the downtown branch called in yesterday (family emergency, with no idea how long it will be) Michael and his son stood in. I took the opportunity to talk with Michael about this. He confirmed that the office staff knew about the dialogues I wanted printed and he’s discussed it with them. I’m not holding out hope that anything will change, however.
Am finding the general misogynistic attitude here in Mexico quite depressing. I expect it from men, but am disturbed to find how often it comes from women. Brainwashing? The young women in our offices simply fawn over the men—flirting, batting their eyes—and they can’t do enough for them. It’s accepted in this culture. I don’t expect them to hang on my every word, but I do ask that they do their jobs when it comes to my needs. They are paid for it, though I suspect badly. I’m not here to change them, but I do need their support to do my job. I’m not getting it.
Last night was Dia de Los Ninos—the day of the children, also called the day of the angels. Only about half my students showed up for class. Tonight is to honor the adult dead. I hope I’ll have students in class. It’s an unofficial holiday, but a culturally important one in Mexico. Many businesses and at least one other language school is closed.
I texted Erika, my landlord, yesterday about the situation with the bathroom. She responded that she’d take care of it. This morning I’ve a spot of diarrhea, so the bathroom availability is key. The man in room #2 hasn’t taken a shower, but he was in the bathroom for 20 minutes. Since I couldn’t hear a sound behind the closed door, I knocked. He grunted, so I used an upstairs restroom. I do hope this situation improves. Sharing a bathroom with people you don’t know and don’t share a language with is difficult in the best of times.