The life of an English Teacher

They hand trim the trees into great shapes. I've seen birds and spirals.
They hand trim the trees into great shapes. I’ve seen birds and spirals.

8/13/2016

I’ve survived my second week of classes, with includes Exams for each class (except my one off-set class, which had an exam last week.) I still have today’s class, Level 9, to grade, and that will take a while. There are now 18 in the class! It’s really too many for the room, but usually 1 or 2 people don’t show up, so that helps with space. Next week I give oral exams, which don’t take as long. I’m still learning the paperwork, but keeping up.

Today may or may not have been Amanda’s last day. She’s been the temporary head teacher, but has accepted a new fulltime job with Honeywell. I say “may not” because the head teacher at the smaller, downtown branch quit when she found out that the scheduling duties for the main branch would fall onto her. So now no one is doing scheduling and we are halfway through a 4 week session. Amanda indicated she was willing to do some of the duties, part-time, but she has to work things out with Michael, the director. I hope they can come to a fair agreement for everyone. Both branches need someone to do scheduling.

I’m figuring out ways to keep my food costs down while still eating healthy, with the added degree of difficulty that I don’t want to use the kitchen much. I’ve decided that my fruits and vegetables twice a week will probably come from a gaspachos (mixed fruit and vegetable “salad” in a cup, see previous post) or a smoothie/liquados. I just found a whole, freshly barbequed chicken (chicken a la Lena) with corn torillias and salsa for 100 pesos (about $5.50US)! I’ll be eating on that all week. While there are many small grocery stores (tiendas de abarrotes), they don’t carry much that I’m interested. It’s mostly snacks, soda, water and maybe beer. I need fruits, vegetables, wine and easy to prepare proteins. I end up walking many blocks to get a slightly larger store. To find a real supermarket, I need a taxi, especially to come home with all the groceries. And I still don’t have much space in the refrigerator, so I can’t get much in bulk anyway. Eating on the street may turn out to be as cost effective, and certainly easier, than shopping and cooking.

There’s no washer here, but there’s an excellent laundress about a block away. I pay 40 pesos for a week’s worth of laundry—about $2.20US. Everything comes folded perfectly and is done in 24 hours or less. There are (slightly) less expensive places, but I’m so happy with her service, that I doubt I’ll change.

There’s a leak on the drain of the bathroom sink, just as it connects to the wall. I noticed it yesterday morning and let the landlord know right away. Possibly it’s been leaking for a while and I just thought that people were splashing water onto the floor when they used the sink. Orlando tells me this is an intermittent problem that doesn’t really get fixed, just patched. I can see that the connection from the drain to the wall is a mismatched pipe, and it would be difficult to seal the two. To fix it correctly, you’d need to replace pipe. I also notice that the drain doesn’t have a u-trap. The bathroom downstairs doesn’t either. It’s not the best set up, but I’m told that is the way work is done here. By contrast, the tile job in the bathrooms is excellent and the floor in my bedroom has relatively new “mock” hardwood that is laid very well. Maybe it’s just plumbing?

Enchiladas Suezes--It's not really swiz cheese, but it is good. This is a common entre here, and the corn tortillas hold chicken and are covered in salsa verde and cheese.
Enchiladas Suiezes–It’s not really swiz cheese, but it is good. This is a common entree here. The corn tortillas hold chicken and are covered in salsa verde and white cheese.

8/15/16

Monday. The bathroom sink is still leaking. Auturo said he would fix it over the weekend. He came Saturday around noon. He pulled out the pedestal (which is easy since the sink is mounted to the wall and doesn’t sit on it). He put tools on the floor. He opened the door to the terrace (which has giant cockroaches at night), left mail on the upstairs tables…..and that’s it. Nothing. He didn’t come back Sunday either. In the meantime, Orlando used the sink just as he always does so the floor is wet with god-knows-what. I texted Arturo again today (Monday). He didn’t reply. I can avoid using the kitchen, but I NEED a bathroom.

It’s surprisingly dry here. My skin often feels gritty and I’m grateful to wash my hands (assuming I have a working sink). I actually damp mop the floor to my room most days (with the head of floor dusting mop I brought from Russia. Got tired of buying one at each place. Still need to find a handle that fits it, though). The computer screen always needs to be wiped off. The humidity is 60% today. I don’t think I’ve ever lived somewhere with low humidity. I like it, but use 10 times as much skin lotion and my lips are often dry, close to cracking. This weather makes my neck look wrinkly and old. I hate that.

The hand towel and washcloths in the kitchen are the same ones that were there when I moved in 20 days ago. Ick! I already know the dishes aren’t clean. I simply can’t use the kitchen, except in a very limited way. I’ve not been able to find paper plates, but I broke down and bought disposable, Styrofoam plates. Bad for the environment, but at least I’ll live. Will continue to look for a more eco-friendly option. In the meantime, I have my own cup (borrowed from the kitchen), silverware & knife (mine) which I wash myself and keep in my room along with snacks, like nuts, fruit, avocados and whole grain crackers. And cheap red wine. I’m still eating on the barbecued chicken I bought over the weekend and arranged in my tiny fridge space. Still tasty.

Mr Yogurt's doesn't look like much, but it's clean and the staff are friendly.
Mr Yogurt’s doesn’t look like much, but it’s clean and the staff is friendly.
Mr Yogurt's old tricycle, parked out front.
Mr Yogurt’s old tricycle, parked out front.

8/16/2016

Yesterday, another teacher quit. In the three weeks since I arrived, that’s three at our branch and one at the smaller, downtown branch. Paolo didn’t even give notice, just walked in and said he was done. His classes were canceled last night and I pity the person who has to find a replacement. (Turns out he had few hours and was only being paid 45 pesos an hour.) Saturday was Amanda’s last day. She had been willing to stay on part-time, though she wanted a higher hourly wage to do so. Seems Michael, the director, didn’t want to do that, Also, Amanda felt Michael blamed her something that she didn’t do. She’s not coming back. Edwardo had already given his notice when I met him my first week. The pay is poor. There’s no guarantee with scheduling. Communication is meager. Basically, it’s every school I’ve worked at so far in the last 2 years. The one bright spot is that yesterday was payday. Not only was the money on time, I didn’t have to go begging for it. That’s something.

Another good note is that the bathroom sink in the apartment was finally repaired. I can wash my face and hands again without stepping into the shower. And I don’t have to wear boots in the bathroom. It’s a miracle!

This is my second visit to Mr. Yogurt's, but I just noticed these signs. They read, (left to right} "A coffee--$25 pesos" "A coffee please--$20 pesos" "Good Day, a coffee please--$15 pesos" It pays to be polite.
This is my second visit to Mr. Yogurt’s, but I just noticed these signs. They read, (left to right} “A coffee–$25 pesos” “A coffee, please–$20 pesos” “Good Day, a coffee, please–$15 pesos” It pays to be polite.

8/17/16

Mexicans are expressive people and talk with their hands. I can relate to that. However, some gestures are different from what I’m accustomed to. When a Mexican puts their thumb and forefinger about an inch apart (as if they were measuring a small distance) it means they are talking about money, probably the lack of it. If someone is too busy to talk, or can’t speak to you when you greet them (such as you are in a busy classroom and they are in the hallway) you can crook your pointer finger as a way to say “hello.”

This was unusual. It's an Italian soda with "perlas explosivas." OK, so the pearls didn't really explode. The pearls are balls of juice with a thin outer coating of something like tapioca. You could pick the flavor soda and the flavor of the pearls. My pearls were mango and really good. The soda is Mojito, but it was too heavy on the mint and not enough on the lime (plus no rum). It ended up tasting like liquid chewing gum. But my breath smelled fresh! Also in the photo are the candies we were given with our bill. There are sweet and salty--two tastes that are commonly put together here. In fact, if a candy is sweet tamarind with salt and chili, it could be named the national candy.
This was unusual. It’s an Italian soda with “perlas explosivas.” OK, so the pearls didn’t really explode. The pearls are balls of juice with a thin outer coating made of something like tapioca. You could pick the flavor soda and the flavor of the pearls. My pearls were mango and really good. The soda is Mojito, but it was too heavy on the mint and not enough on the lime (plus no rum). It ended up tasting like liquid chewing gum. But my breath smelled fresh!
Also in the photo are the candies we were given with our bill. There are sweet and salty–two tastes that are commonly put together here. In fact, if a candy is sweet tamarind with salt and chili, it could be named the national candy.

8/18/2016

I just had an amazing sandwich at a place called Mr. Yogurt’s. Orlando had recommended the restaurant and it’s right near the flat. It was the best Cuban sandwich I’ve had since I left Atlanta. These are called tortas. They aren’t like the dry bocadillos we had in Spain. The bread is yeastier, though a tad smaller, and toasted on the grill. There was an abundance of meat (both ham and bacon) and cheese, plus mayo, lettuce, tomato and avocado. I also had a liquadoes, a mixed fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie. This one was called “Iron Woman” and had beet, carrot, banana, a little honey and yogurt. YUM. I walked away stuffed, with my minimum daily requirement of fruits and veggies.

Also, I’ve learned that my name is translated as Berta here. Interesting. I like Beth better. Even Bet (since they can’t say the “th” sound).

This is my Tortas Cubana. This one was actually taken the second day. The first day I had one, I forgot to bring my phone so I couldn't take a photo. It was so good, I got another the next day. This sandwich was $38 pesos.
This is my Tortas Cubana. This is a photo of my second sandwich. The first day I had one, I forgot to bring my phone so I couldn’t take a photo. It was so good, I got another the next day. This sandwich was $38 pesos.

8/19/2016

Just began my end of session paperwork. This is not the fun part. I’ll give about 25 oral exams tonight and 18 more tomorrow. Next week, final exams. The four week session is just flying by. All the paperwork is done by hand, which seems unnecessary in the computer age. A shared Excel spreadsheet would do the trick. I wouldn’t have to rewrite the grades on different forms, not to mention the lengthy names. Seriously, everyone here has four names and they use them all! I’m getting writer’s cramp. And then, someone else has to take my handwritten notes and put them into the computer. It seems like such a waste of time (none of which I’m paid for) and so much chance for inaccuracy when copying from one sheet to another. But it’s not like anyone cares about my opinion.

Really wondering about the schedule for the next 4 week session. I expect to have the same number of hours, or even more, since we have fewer teachers. I prefer just to work in the evenings, not a split shift where I come in for a couple hours in the morning and then a couple hours in the evening. Morning classes begin at 7am—too early! And evening classes aren’t over until 9pm. It’s bad when you have to do both. It doesn’t appear I have any choice, however. Of course, we have no one doing the scheduling, so anything can happen.

This is the Iron Woman--beet and carrot juice, banana, yogurt and honey. A Vampiro is the same, except no yogurt. Tasty! This liquodos was $25 pesos.
This is the Iron Woman–beet and carrot juice, banana, yogurt and honey. A Vampiro is the same, except no yogurt. Tasty! This liquodos was $25 pesos.

Museo Regional Potosino

The is and old convent and church, Aranzazu Chapel, now re-purposed as a history museum, Museo Regional Potosino. It's free on Sundays! Behind it is the Templo San Francisco and the San Francisco Garden. This used to be all one complex. This was the Convent and the chapel is on the second floor.
The is and old convent and church, Aranzazu Chapel, now re-purposed as a history museum, Museo Regional Potosino. It’s free on Sundays! Behind it is the Templo San Francisco and the San Francisco Garden. This used to be all one complex. This was the Convent and the chapel is on the second floor.

Also on Sunday, I stumbled into the San Luis Potosi Regional History Museum, Museo Regional Potosino.

I walked toward the old town area after breakfast. I love to read signs as a way to learn more Spanish. I seriously think this says "dead hand bar."
I walked toward the old town area after breakfast. I love to read signs as a way to learn more Spanish. I seriously think this says “dead hand bar.”
Bad photo, but a great candy shop. This is Costanzo Chocolates, made locally in SLP. http://www.chocolatescostanzo.com/2014/
Bad photo, but a great candy shop. This is Costanzo Chocolates, made locally in SLP.

I was thirsty and stopped for something cold. Sometimes, I don't actually know what I'm ordering. I basically looked at the sign and thought, "paletas agua? That sounds good, whatever that is." I got the grosella flavor.
I was thirsty and stopped for something cold. Sometimes, I don’t actually know what I’m ordering. I basically looked at the sign and thought, “Paletas agua? That sounds good, whatever that is.” I got the grosella flavor.
And this is a paletas agua--a Popsicle! Grosella flavor turns out to be currant. I call this a win.
And this is a paletas agua–a Popsicle! Grosella flavor turns out to be currant. I call this a win.
This is called Aranzazu Square, after the chapel. It's now the home of the museum.
This is called Aranzazu Square, after the chapel. It’s now the home of the museum. I love that it was free today.
Inside
Inside

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 112 SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 113

The museum has recreated an old Mexican cocina, kitchen. That table is stone, not wood.
The museum has recreated an old Mexican cocina, kitchen. That table is stone, not wood.
other side of the kitchen.
other side of the kitchen.

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 118 SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 119

Then steps lead you to the old church.
Then steps lead you to the old church.
Brush up on your High School Spanish and translate this for me.
Brush up on your High School Spanish and translate this for me.
Entrance to the church
Entrance to the church
It's even more beautiful than this photo.
It’s even more beautiful than this photo.

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 127 SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 128

This is one of three strong boxes on display. n Spanish, this is a "caja fuerte." Even now, some banks often have "caja" in their title and cash registers are called "cajas." See how much I'm learning?
This is one of three strong boxes on display. n Spanish, this is a “caja fuerte.” Even now, some banks often have “caja” in their title and cash registers are called “cajas.” See how much I’m learning?
Funerary sculpture of a Franciscan monk.
Funerary sculpture of a Franciscan monk.
I spent an hour in the Museo Regional Potosino. By now, I was getting hot and thirsty, so I dropped into this pub, located near Jardin Francisco. The name translates as the Caterpillar and the Barley--La Oruga y La Cebada,
I spent over an hour in the Museo Regional Potosino. By now, I was getting hot and thirsty, so I dropped into this pub, located near Jardin San Francisco. The name translates as the Caterpillar and the Barley–La Oruga y La Cebada.

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 143

This begins....Beer is good for your heart....
This begins….Know that…..Beer is good for your heart….

After drinking a beer and studying my Spanish vocabulary, I headed home for the evening.

Another quite pedestrian street. It's best to stay in the shade. The temperatures haven't gone much past 85F, but the sun is fierce.
Another quiet pedestrian street. It’s best to stay in the shade. The temperatures haven’t gone much past 85F, but the sun is fierce.

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 150

I even caught a photo of this swallowtail butterfly.
I even caught a photo of this swallowtail butterfly.
I love the little hidden side streets. This one is pedestrian only and has a fountain, lots of bougainvillea vines and benches.
I love the little hidden side streets. This one is pedestrian only and has a fountain, lots of bougainvillea vines and benches.
This cracks me up. It's a Papa John's, just like you'd find in the USA. Even the slogan is the same: Better ingredients, better pizza.
This cracks me up. It’s a Papa John’s, just like you’d find in the USA. Even the slogan is the same: Better ingredients, better pizza.
Centro San Luis Potosino de convenciones, desde 1980 (SLP convention center, since 1980). This is near my flat and it's often lit up on Saturday night with ladies in long gowns and men in tuxes and dark suits. Must be a very fancy place to rent for special occasions.
Centro San Luis Potosino de convenciones, desde 1980 (SLP convention center, since 1980). This is near my flat and it’s often lit up on Saturday night with ladies in long gowns and men in tuxes and dark suits. Must be a very fancy place to rent for special occasions.

A Sunday at San Francisco Garden

This Park has a religious name San Francisco, after one of the first religious congregations to arrive to Mexico, but it's official name is Jardin Guerrero, after an Independence war hero. Around this Plaza you can see three churches, two Catholic churches and a Protestant church, although in this photo, you mostly see trees. It's a nice, shady spot to enjoy on a sunny afternoon.
This Park has a religious name San Francisco, after one of the first religious congregations to arrive to Mexico, but it’s official name is Jardin Guerrero, after an Independence war hero. Around this Plaza you can see three churches, two Catholic churches and a Protestant church, although in this photo, you mostly see trees. It’s a nice, shady spot to enjoy on a sunny afternoon.

I woke up to a beautiful day Sunday. The sky was especially lovely with high, cumulus clouds. I got an extra hour of sleep, too, and that felt great! No classes, but I did have papers to grade, so I headed out to find breakfast on Ave. Carranza, the main drag in SLP, which is also closed to traffic on Sunday mornings.

I started breakfast (desayuno) at Los Volcanes, the Volcanos. I ordered chilquiles, tortilla chips covered in salsa verde and cheese, huevos a la mexicana and coffee. And every breakfast comes with a side of refried beans. I've tried their coffee before and it was horrible--I swear it is sweetened with red hot candies. I decided I had to be wrong and tried it again. Mistake.
I started breakfast (desayuno) at Los Volcanes, the Volcanos. I ordered chilquiles, tortilla chips covered in salsa verde, cheese and sliced avocado, huevos a la mexicana and coffee. And every breakfast in Mexico comes with a side of refried beans.
I’ve tried their coffee before and it was horrible–I swear it is sweetened with red hot candies. I decided I had to be wrong and tried it again. Mistake. Same coffee.
This is breakfast! At least it was filling and only cost 55 pecos, about $3US. Seriously bad coffee, though.
This is breakfast! It was very filling and only cost 55 pecos, about $3US. Seriously bad coffee, though. I’ll never order it again. I did get all my papers graded, though.

After breakfast, I walked to the downtown area to check out San Francisco Garden, Jardín de San Francisco, also called Jardin Guerrero. With the bright sun, it looked like a cool place to people watch and review my new Spanish words.

Plaza San Francisco is quiet, shady plaza is one of the city’s most restful and quaint gathering places. Its western side is dominated by the imposing Templo de San Francisco, a Baroque Franciscan temple dating to early 18th century. Also here is the Casa del Artesano selling craft items from throughout Mexico. This sculpture is of Vincente Guerrero.
Jardin San Francisco is quiet, shady plaza. It’s one of the city’s most restful and quaint gathering places. Its western side is dominated by the imposing Templo de San Francisco, a Baroque Franciscan temple dating to early 18th century. Also here is the Casa del Artesano selling craft items from throughout Mexico. This sculpture is of Vincente Guerrero, a hero from the War of Independence. The garden is also named after him.
Lots of artists sell their wares here.
Lots of artists sell their wares here.
This plaza/park was originally the Franciscan Temple and Convent Square, In the 1970's the square was completely renovated and the streets opened to pedestrians only.
This park was originally the Franciscan Temple and Convent Square, and much of it was destroyed. In the 1970’s the square was completely renovated and the streets opened to pedestrians only.
There is a central fountain, placed here in the 19th century, and I'm sorry that it has barely been working when I've visited the park.
There is a central fountain, placed here in the 19th century, and I’m sorry that it has barely been working when I’ve visited the park. There are lots of benches and places to sit.
In addition to churches, there's also the convent of San Francisco. Here you can see some of the sisters, in white, in the background having a bake sale. Another sister, dressed in brown, is resting on the bench in front.
In addition to churches, there’s the convent of San Francisco. Here you can see some of the sisters, in white, in the background having a bake sale. Another sister, dressed in brown, is resting on the bench in front.
The entrance to San Francisco Temple faces the garden. This is one of the most important temples in the city, both historically and artistically. It was here that the Franciscans started their ministry, though their first building was in the Plaza de Fundadores (Founders Square). The temple is a Latin cross floor plan and vault, ornamented facade in worked stone and one of the most beautiful vestries of the region. There was a service going on, or I would have taken photos inside.
The entrance to San Francisco Temple faces the garden. This is one of the most important temples in the city, both historically and artistically. It was here that the Franciscans started their ministry, though their first building was in the Plaza de Fundadores (Founders Square). The temple is a Latin cross floor plan and vault, ornamented facade in stone and one of the most beautiful vestries of the region. There was a service going on, or I would have taken photos inside.
This is area is part of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro--The Royal Road of the Interior Land was a 1,600 mile (2560 kilometer) long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, from 1598 to 1882. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Camino_Real_de_Tierra_Adentro
This is area is part of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro–The Royal Road of the Interior Land was a 1,600 mile (2560 kilometer) long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, from 1598 to 1882.

This is the Secretary of Culture building, also facing the garden. This side view is from one of the pedestrian streets surrounding the church.
This is the Secretary of Culture building, also facing the garden. This side view is from one of the pedestrian streets surrounding the church. I particularly love the architecture.
In the tiny bit of shade, the vendors sell gifts.
And this is the other side of the same street. In the tiny bit of shade, the vendors sell gifts.

SLP, Mexico, August 2016, 108

 San Francisco Garden-- Jardín de San Francisco. This city plaza is surrounded by numerous historic landmarks.

San Francisco Garden–Jardín de San Francisco. This city plaza is surrounded by numerous historic landmarks.

Learning Spanish, eating Mexican

Breakfast started with a gordita. No, this isn't Taco Bell. This is two corn tortillas filled with one of a dozen choices. This one is nopales, a type of cactus,
Breakfast started with a gordita. No, this isn’t Taco Bell, folks! This is two corn tortillas stuffed with one of a dozen choices of fillings. This one is stuffed with nopales, a type of cactus,

8/10/2016

Two great things that happened today:

1). Even with the light pollution of the city, I saw a falling star! It’s the Perseids meteor shower and this is supposed to be the best one for a decade. Tomorrow night is the height of the shower.

2). I realized I could understand most of the Spanish lyrics of a song playing on the radio of a car that was stopped at the light as I walked past. Progress!

This is one of the restaurants I'm trying this week. It's sort of upscale for a breakfast place--not the "comida económica" of my neighborhood. Here, a breakfast comes with coffee, usually for about 50 pesos ($2.75US). The name is a tad unfortunate, but they serve fresh fruit drinks.
This is one of the restaurants I’m trying this week. It’s sort of upscale for a breakfast place–not the “comida económica” of my neighborhood. Here, a breakfast comes with coffee, usually for about 50 pesos ($2.75US). The name is a tad unfortunate, but they serve fresh fruit drinks.
And here are the specials at Fruty Fiesta! Desayunos--breakfasts Huevos al Gusto (eggs the way you want them) Jamon--ham; Chorizo--a typical Mexican sausage; a la mexicana--Mexican omelet; Salcicha--a sausage I've not tried yet; Rancheros--Ranch style. Chilaquiles--fried tortilla strips typically topped with a spicy tomato sauce and cheese. Cafe--coffee Comida Corrida--fast food Sopa del Dia--soup of the day Arroz--rice Milanesa de Res--a beef cutlet, Milanese style Milaneza de pollo--same as above, with chicken Guisando del Dia--stew of the day Vaso de agua fresca--a glass of one of the various fresh fruit smoothies/juices.
And here are the specials at Fruty Fiesta!
Desayunos–breakfasts
Huevos al Gusto (eggs the way you like them)
Jamon–ham; Chorizo–a typical Mexican sausage; a la mexicana–Mexican omelet; Salcicha–a sausage I’ve not tried yet; Rancheros–Ranch style.
Chilaquiles–fried tortilla strips typically topped with a spicy tomato sauce and cheese.
Cafe–coffee
Comida Corrida–fast food
Sopa del Dia–soup of the day
Arroz–rice
Milanesa de Res–a beef cutlet, Milanese style
Milaneza de pollo–same as above, with chicken
Guisando del Dia–stew of the day
Vaso de agua fresca–a glass of one of the various fresh fruit smoothies/juices.
Breakfast! (Desayuno!). Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), salsa verde (green sauce), frijoles con queso (refried beans with cheese), and huevos a la mexicana (eggs in the Mexican style--notice the red tomatoes, green chiles and white cheese. It's the colors of the Mexican flag). On the right side of my plate is the remains of the gordita. The meal is served with a cloth covered container of hot corn tortillas, which you can just see on the right edge of the photo.
Breakfast! (Desayuno!). Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), salsa verde (green sauce), frijoles con queso (refried beans with cheese), and huevos a la mexicana (eggs in the Mexican style–notice the red tomatoes, green chiles and white cheese, the colors of the Mexican flag). On the right side of my plate is the remains of the gordita. The meal is served with a cloth covered container of hot corn tortillas, which you can just see on the right edge of the photo.
Notice the bowls of different items? Most restaurants have a kitchen in the back, but bowls of different tortilla or torta (sandwich) fillings in the front.
This is at the front of the restaurant. Notice the bowls of different items? Most restaurants have a kitchen in the back, but bowls of different tortilla or torta (sandwich) fillings in the front.
This is how the gorditas are made, right in the front of the restaurant. Earlier, she was heating baskets of fresh corn tortillas for each table.
This is how the gorditas are made, right in the front of the restaurant. Earlier, she was heating baskets of fresh corn tortillas for each table.

8/11/2016

I’ve gotten into a routine here in Mexico. I wake up about 8am, check and answer emails and social media while drinking my first cup of coffee. I’ve got a hot pot in my room, which I bought here, and a filtering water pitcher that I brought from Russia. Maybe I have a second cup of coffee while doing 2 quizzes on DuoLingo. Then I stretch and do some abdominal exercises—nothing fancy. It’s a 15 minute routine. I grab breakfast in the kitchen—usually something simple that requires little or no cooking, but I try to include protein.

Then I study from my Spanish notebook and text and prepare for my first two classes—trying not to spend too much time at it. I stick to the school’s materials and only add something if I really need to.

After that, I’m free to do my daily chores, explore the city, work on my blog, stream Netflix or go for a walk. At 3pm I got to Spanish class. My Spanish classes are now only 2 days a week (not happy about the change since it was originally 5 days a week), on Mondays and Wednesdays. However, I sit in on Orlando’s classes on Tuesday and Thursday. He’s a full level ahead of me. I don’t get everything, of course, but I try to get the broad strokes of the grammar, and focus on new vocabulary and listening.

At 4p I teach my first two classes—Levels 23 and 8. I prepare for the second set of classes—Levels 16 and 11–during my one hour evening break. If I have time, I review Spanish vocabulary again. Classes are over at 9pm, and I take the bus just over half of the 2 mile walk home.

My schedule may be completely different in the next 4-week session.

I walked by this several times before I went in. To me, gaspachos is a cold Spanish soup. Not in Mexico! Here it's a mixed fruit and vegetable cup, with candy or dried fruit toppings, a spicy sauce.
I walked by this place several times before I went in. To me, gaspachos is a cold Spanish soup. Not in Mexico! Here it’s a mixed fruit and vegetable cup, with candy or dried fruit toppings, and a spicy sauce.
I had the small (vaso chico--child's glass). 30 pesos is about $1.65US. It was actually a huge amount. I've seriously never seen anyone pack down fruit and vegetables like this woman did--well worth the price.
I had the small (vaso chico–child’s glass). 30 pesos is about $1.65US. It was actually a huge amount. I’ve seriously never seen anyone pack down fruit and vegetables like this woman did–well worth the price.
This is the gaspachos--apple, green melon, watermelon, cucumber, shredded carrot, mango, jicama, pineapple and probably more that I forgot. I topped it with a few gunny bears (my guilty pleasure), a ball of tamarind, and some dried cherries. Then they pour a sweet pepper sauce on top and sprinkle a few chili flakes. It was a whole meal. Tasty.
This is the gaspachos–apple, green melon, watermelon, cucumber, shredded carrot, mango, jicama, pineapple and probably more that I forgot. I topped it with a few gummy bears (my guilty pleasure), a ball of tamarind, and some dried cherries. Then they pour a sweet pepper sauce on top and sprinkle with a few chili flakes. It was a whole meal. Tasty, but a mess to eat.

I’ve mostly figured out the routine here at the flat so that I can get a shower when there’s hot water. I’m simply not cooking much in the kitchen and if I can find paper plates (not Styrofoam) I’ll use those instead of pre-washing my dishes before use. I don’t cook much—mostly warm up ready-made enchiladas or cook an omelet. The couple in room #2, next to mine, moved out, so I “borrowed” a set of sheets (they had at least four), a chair (I left one chair and a desk) and a wastebasket from their room to use in mine. That will save me some money, since I didn’t want to invest in a temporary room.  No luck finding another place to live, though. I’ve asked around and heard a few promises, but nothing has come of it. I’m making myself comfortable here for as long as needed, but without spending much money on the situation. Payday is Monday for the first half of the month. I’ll need all of it to make the rent.

Among my chores today was sending my mother’s birthday present. Mexican mail service leaves something to be desired, so I tried to send it FedEx through Office Depot. Their sign indicates they have this service. Except they don’t. They will have a different international shipping service in 2 or 3 weeks (Translation: probably before the end of the year.) A nice man at the store gave me directions to another shipper. First he said to walk two blocks (which turned out to be 5 blocks. This happens so often that I always as for the street name, “Cual calle?”) and make a right. I had to open the package to prove to the woman behind the counter that I wasn’t shipping something illegal. The whole thing, with walking and going to two places, took 2 hours. But the good news is that I was able to do the transaction mostly in Spanish and only had to resort to Google Translate a couple times.

Every day I get an opportunity to practice my Spanish. Tonight, I took the bus coming home from class. An older man sat down beside me. He looked to be a farmer who had spent many hours in the sun. One arm wasn’t working and he had a crutch. He began talking to me and I told him, in Spanish, that I only spoke a little Spanish, that I spoke English. He was undeterred. I had an awful time understanding him—partly because of my poor skills with the language and partly because he had only two or three teeth, so his pronunciation was poor. I had to say several times, “Lo siento. No entiendo.” (I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”) Eventually, I understood he was asking if I lived in the center of the city. “No, vivo antes del Centro” (“No, I live before the center” meaning I would get off the bus before we got to the center city neighborhood). Then I heard the question, “Casada?” (Married?) Oh dear! I just learned that word this week and here it is! Well, I figured I could out run him if there was a problem, so I answered honestly. “No estoy casada.” I was so glad when my bus stop arrived.

Also, I found this YouTube video about Gapachos in Mexico. Enjoy

My first week of teaching in Mexico

This is my neighborhood.
This is my neighborhood.

8/2/2016

Last night was my first night to teach classes. I’d been given only the text book, in advance. I wasn’t given the attendance sheets or information about how many would be in my class and very little on how to proceed. One of the three secretaries speaks almost no English. Naturally, she was the only one working last night. It was pretty messy with long lines of students paying for classing, finding books, getting their grades from their previous class (which ended Friday) and only one person there to help them. It isn’t how I’d run the place, but it isn’t my school and I don’t have to worry about anything but my classes.

The good news is that the textbooks are easy to follow, each class is only an hour, and there is more than enough material to be covered. It’s not the worst curriculum I’ve seen, though it could be better. Also, Mexicans have a high tolerance for disorganization and imperfection. Keep a smile on your face, make an effort for your students and don’t sweat the small stuff–that’s my motto through this. My students were great–attentive, funny and hardworking.

I also started Spanish classes yesterday. There are only two of us and I am well below Orlando, the other student. He’s been here for a while and has learned a lot. He also took Spanish in high school. While my Latin will help, it’s not the same. And…ahem…high school was a LOT longer ago for me than for him. I’ll have to work very hard to keep up. Today I have to find the textbook, memorize the Spanish alphabet and work on some new vocabulary words.

Sometimes you try things and they don't work out. I bought this thinking it was sangria, but it's sangrita, or the mix for "Coctel Vampiro." A description online says, "Viuda de Sanchez is authentic sangrita from Mexico. It is owned by Casa Cuervo and is by far the best selling sangrita in Mexico. Although it looks like a Bloody Mary Mix, it is much different in taste and ingredients. There are no tomatoes in sangrita; the red color comes from chili de arbol. It refreshes and cleanses the palate after each sip and enhances the taste of your favorite Tequila. The most popular way to consume Viuda de Sanchez is to sip alongside a good tequila and some lime; this is known as a Bandera (Mexican Flag - Green, White Red)." It tastes like a fruit and vegetable juice with too much salt.
Sometimes you try things and they don’t work out. I bought this thinking it was sangria, but it’s sangrita, or the mix for “Coctel Vampiro.” It’s also a chaser for tequila. A description online says, “Viuda de Sanchez is authentic sangrita from Mexico. It is owned by Casa Cuervo and is by far the best selling sangrita in Mexico. Although it looks like a Bloody Mary Mix, it is much different in taste and ingredients. There are no tomatoes in sangrita; the red color comes from chili de arbol. It refreshes and cleanses the palate after each sip and enhances the taste of your favorite Tequila. The most popular way to consume Viuda de Sanchez is to sip alongside a good tequila and some lime; this is known as a Bandera (Mexican Flag – Green, White Red).”
It tastes like a fruit and vegetable juice cocktail with too much salt. Won’t try it again.

Michael put me off again for getting a work visa. Maybe Wednesday.

Finding it a challenge to deal with all the people in this flat. It’s moderately clean (occasionally the kitchen isn’t) and very quiet, but there’s more than a dozen people living here and only one hot water heater and one kitchen. It’s a bad recipe. I went to the store this morning and bought lots of nuts, some fruit, whole grain crackers and a bottle of cheap wine. I also bought lunch meat, canned tuna, tortillas and ready-made stuff that is easy to assemble or microwave. I gotta find another place. I should have immediately taken the apartment I saw Thursday. It was so tiny and more expensive, but would have been better than this. It’s already rented to someone else. My mistake. And I’m paying for it in cold showers and lower nutrition.

There's always a lot of commerce on the streets, but this one is particularly packed with food vendors. This is in front of the hospital near my flat. I'm told it isn't a great hospital. Across the street is a hospital supply store right beside a store that sells religious candles, photos of saints, rosaries and crosses.
There’s always a lot of commerce on the streets, but this one is particularly packed with food vendors. This is in front of the hospital near my flat. I’m told it isn’t a great hospital. Across the street is a hospital supply store right beside a store that sells religious candles, photos of saints, rosaries and crosses.
When it's lunch time, you can't even walk by this area--lots of people standing on the sidewalk, eating and talking.
When it’s lunch time, you can’t even walk by this area–lots of people standing on the sidewalk, eating and talking.

8/3/2016

My 2nd day of teaching English classes went better than my first. Great students with good attitudes. I think Mexico is a good place for me, but I’ll need to make some adjustments. My students, particularly the ones in my last class at 8pm, arrive late. So far, I’ve counted them “on time” as long as they are there within the first 10 minutes of class. I’ve discussed it with Amanda, and she suggested to drop that to 5 minutes. I admit, I’m a time Nazi, but I am relaxing this stance. The rest of the world is just looser with time. So far, my record for late arrival? 41 minutes for a 50 minute class?

Got my book for Spanish class and went through the first 3 sections. I’m behind, but my vocabulary increases daily. I practice my Spanish on my students and they usually understand and correct me when needed. At least they don’t laugh quite so hard at my pronunciation of the local language as the children in Vietnam did.

Still trying to find a better apartment, but I got a hot shower this morning–the 1st in 4 days! 15 people + 1 hot water heater. You do the math.

….and at 10am I got a text from the Director, canceling our appointment to go apply for a work visa. Again. Re-set, for tomorrow.

In front of one of my favorite restaurants, vendors were selling rambutan--a tropical fruit native to SE Asia. I am surprised to see it here.
In front of one of my favorite restaurants, vendors were selling rambutan–a tropical fruit native to SE Asia. I am surprised to see it here.

8/5/2016

After rescheduling three times, Michael and I finally went to Immigration and applied for my work visa. He was late meeting me at the school (he didn’t offer to pick me up at home) and then made me wait while he did some work in his office. By the time we got to Immigration, the line was pretty long. Michael let me know that this is the one and only time he will go to Immigration with me. After this I’m on my own.  There will be at least 2 more visits, so I better practice my Spanish. He said that he was “doing me a favor” by finding me an apartment and going with me the first time to Immigration. Nice to know where I stand.

I paid over $200US for the work visa and the process will take about 2 months. According to my contract, the school will reimburse me after one year, IF I am still working full-time with them. I already paid money in Madrid at the Spanish Embassy to get the initial work permit that would allow me into the country. That won’t be reimbursed. It doesn’t seem likely that at my current pay, I’ll ever get my initial moving expenses paid back. If you want to make money, this is not the place to come.

I found the second hand store on the edge of el centro.
I found the second hand store on the edge of el centro.