Dead bugs, new fruit and gringas

Churros on the street. These are just fried dough, coated in cinnamon sugar. Traditionally served with a chocolate dipping sauce.
Churros on the street. These are just fried dough, coated in cinnamon sugar. Traditionally served with a chocolate dipping sauce.
I'm surprised at how many stores sell very fancy ball gowns. Mexicans seem to need very fancy clothes! At many places you can rent the dresses.
I’m surprised at how many stores sell very fancy ball gowns. Mexicans seem to need very fancy clothes! At many places you can rent the dresses.
If you take the time to look, many old buildings have interesting architectural features, like this Mercury statue.
If you take the time to look, many old buildings have interesting architectural features, like this Mercury statue.
Here's a long shot of the building.
Here’s a long shot of the building.

8/21/2016

Sunday morning. The house was quiet so it seemed like no one was awake. I stepped into the shower and just put my head under the water when the hot water gave out. Wet hair, but too cold to wash it. Great. I gingerly washed the rest of my body in cold water and got dressed. I keep looking for another flat, but no luck so far.

In positive news, Thursday the place was sprayed for bugs. I don’t like the chemicals, but am at least grateful that it was done while I was at school. The next morning, the floor of the downstairs common areas were covered with dead crickets. Most are still there this morning. The even better news is that I specifically asked that the upstairs terrace (which is right outside my room) be sprayed too. Dead giant roaches everywhere. Pretty sure it barely makes a dent in the population, though.

This is oral exams week. Friday I gave about 25, plus 6 written exams for my off-set Level 8 class. Saturday I gave 17 more oral exams and graded two late written quizzes from Level 9. I’ve already started my paperwork for finals week, which is this week. Final exams in 3 classes are on Thursday. That’s the easy part. There are also final exams on Saturday and I have to teach, review and give the exam PLUS have all of them graded and my paperwork turned in by 1:30p. Since the class is officially over at that time, it’s pretty much impossible. And you don’t get paid until the paperwork is in. Ah, the exciting life of an English teacher!

Jardín Tequisquiapan, which I walked to on Sunday in search of breakfast.
Jardín Tequisquiapan, which I walked to on Sunday in search of breakfast.
Jardín Tequisquiapan is very popular. There are often food stalls, but not on this Sunday morning. Many people were walking with their dogs. The park is on Carranza Avenue, which is closed to cars on Sunday mornings.
Jardín Tequisquiapan is very popular. There are often food stalls, but not on this Sunday morning. Many people were walking with their dogs. The park is on Carranza Avenue, which is closed to cars on Sunday mornings.
They even had some activities for kids, including face painting and these easels set up for painting.
They even had some activities for kids, including face painting and these easels set up for painting.
Shoe shine and conversation.
Shoe shine and conversation.
Flautas at El Cubato. They weren't very good, but I'll give the place one more try.
I finally found breakfast for Sunday morning, but got quite a long walk in before I found a place open. Flautas at El Cubato. They weren’t very good, but I’ll give the place one more try since the staff is really nice.
This is where I get my whole, barbecued chicken, Pollo a la Lena. It's 100 pesos and includes salsa and tortillas.
This is where I get my whole, barbecued chickens, Pollo a la Lena. It’s 100 pesos and includes salsa and tortillas.

8/23/2016

Difficult day yesterday. Nothing was really wrong, I just slept badly and it was tough to get everything together and really going. Orlando invited me out for breakfast and that was nice, but I might have gone back to sleep if he hadn’t. Then Spanish class and 5 straight hours of teaching—including tutoring for a set of young teen-aged triplets. The boys were pretty spirited and would have been a lot more fun if I had more energy. I did have to tell them a few times to watch their language—you shouldn’t speak like that to an English teacher, after all, I know all those words …..and a lot more appropriate ones. As it was, it took all my strength to pretend it was amusing (or at least not overly insulting) and continue. I’d HATE to have them in class—they’d ruin it for the other students and I’d get annoyed with them quickly. Bright, but seriously affected with testosterone poisoning.

This morning, I woke up before 7a, got on the computer, but didn’t last 20 minutes. Fell back asleep for 2 hours. Groggy now, but better rested. I think for my energy level (and my waistline) I need to join a gym. I need to find an hour for more intensive exercise and some weightlifting at least 5 days a week.

There are workers at a half-constructed apartment building just outside my window. They pound away every day, but I can’t see that they are making any progress. It seems in a month I would be able to see some difference. But they do produce dust. I have to damp mop the floor daily.

This is a popular "candy" made of amaranth, a traditional cereal grain here in Mexico. It's not too sweet and probably better for you than most snack items. I've seen it sold on the street, but didn't know what it was.
This is a popular “candy” made of amaranth, a traditional cereal grain here in Mexico. It’s not too sweet and probably better for you than most snack items. I’ve seen it sold on the street, but didn’t know what it was.
Here is the wheel of amaranth unwraped--very little sugar with a few nuts and raisins for sweetness. I'll get more of this. More on amaranth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth
Here is the wheel of amaranth unwrapped–very little sugar with a few nuts and raisins for sweetness. I’ll get more of this.
More on amaranth.
This is outside my window. I hear them working on this 6 days a week, but I don't see any progress.
This is outside my window. I hear them working on this 6 days a week, but I don’t see any progress.
"Urgent: (female) Employee request counter. 18 to 25 years old. Make application here." That wouldn't even be legal in the USA.
Sign in shop window: “Urgent: (female) Employee request counter. 18 to 25 years old. Make application here.”
That wouldn’t even be legal in the USA.
These are the restrooms. You get use to M (mujeres) for women and H (hombres) for men.
These are the restrooms. You get use to M (mujeres) for women and H (hombres) for men.
Who knew? Indian nuts = cashews
Who knew? Indian nuts = cashews

8/24/2016

This is a tough week. Finals week for four of my five classes and oral exams for my fifth class. Tonight I give a review for three of my four classes. Tomorrow I give the exams. I’ve got all the paperwork done ahead, but I can’t finish it before they take their last test.

According to an email from Michael, the final grades for each class are due at the end of class, on Thursday, the day you give the final exam. In previous sessions the weekday classes have been due on Friday, day after the exam. I questioned him in an email to be sure that’s what he meant. It was. Of course, it’s physically impossible to do. Through the week, the students have until the end of class, only one hour, to finish their final exams. THEN you have to grade the exam, add the grade to your (hopefully already prepared) top sheet on each student, staple the exam to it, and total the final grade. You also have to update your form that contains all the students (Well, most of them. Six were missing from my form). Physically impossible. I didn’t argue with him. I find that a waste of time. He’d just get more entrenched into his position and I’d get more frustrated. Plus, it’s a great way to get fired.

Saturdays are the worse for final exams. You really do have to turn everything in right away. I will have to start the final early—it’s the only way. I can’t leave or be paid until I turn in all my grades for that class—and there are 17 students taking the final. Every teacher I’ve talked to says that’s a record number in a single class. Just grading the exams will take over an hour. Yea, me.

Having trouble buying clothes--everything is tight, short and sleeveless. It's...well...kinda slutty.
I’m having trouble buying clothes–everything is tight, short and sleeveless. It’s…well…kinda slutty.
See what I mean?
See what I mean?. Even the clothes for old, fat women are worn tight. No fat woman needs that much spandex.

For today’s walk, I went to El Centro to buy more underwear. Since I have to have it done at a laundria, I find I need my meager clothing stash to stretch for more days. Since it’s not terribly hot, I can wear shirts and pants an additional day, but I needed more undies. Bought more socks when I arrived and that’s helped, too.

During the walk, I went a different way and discovered several small eating places nearby that I hadn’t known about. There’s a cart that sells gringas for just 12 pesos (doce pesos). It’s a grilled tortilla with cheese and meat. I had bistec (beef steak, but probably really just hamburger). It’s about 2 ounces of meat and an ounce of cheese—perfect for a snack. Served with lime and salsa. I also stopped at one of the fruit and vegetable vendors. They sell ready-to-eat cups of diced fruit. I bought tunas, prickly pear cactus fruit. This was my first time to try it as it’s a season fruit. Tasty—sweet, rosy flesh, full of edible seeds, and at least three servings for 15 pesos (quince pesos). While I was in the mood for trying new things, I stopped in the downtown area at a stand I’d seen several times that serves a griddled bread. I bought a bag of 5 for 12 pesos. It’s just sweet dough, cooked on a tiny amount of oil. Nothing to write home about.

I noticed that the fruit and vegetable sellers are selling pumpkin blossoms, too. If I could cook in the communal kitchen, I’d buy a bag and fry them up!

Lots of fruit and vegetable sellers. This one is in front of the hospital.
Lots of fruit and vegetable sellers. This one is in front of the hospital.
She sold me a bag of cactus fruit, tunas, from the prickly pear cactus. They are in season right now.
She sold me a bag of cactus fruit, tunas, from the prickly pear cactus. They are in season right now.
The tunas come in many colors.
The tunas come in many colors.
This gentleman is making my gringa--I think it's the cheese that makes it a gringa (also a word used for Americans). Tacos never have cheese, despite what you see in the USA.
This gentleman is making my gringa–I think it’s the cheese that makes it a gringa (also a word used for Americans). Tacos never have cheese, despite what you see in the USA.
The prices are good.
The prices are good.
And here's my gringa--a good sized snack with salsa verde and limes.
And here’s my gringa–a good sized snack with salsa verde and lime.
I've passed this vendor several times but wasn't sure what she was selling.
I’ve passed this vendor several times but wasn’t sure what she was selling off that hot griddle.
I got a bag of five for 12 pesos and hoped there was a filling inside them. As you can see, they don't have a filling. Kinda dry, but like a cross between a sweet biscuit and a pancake, but dense in texture. Cheap and filling, but not my thing.
I got a bag of five for 12 pesos and hoped there was a filling inside them. As you can see, they don’t have a filling. Kinda dry, like a cross between a sweet biscuit and a pancake, but dense in texture. Cheap and filling, but not my thing.
Lots of little stands on the street with food, This one sells snacks in El Centro.
Lots of little stands on the street with food, This one sells snacks in El Centro.
Another fruit seller, this one in El Centro on the corner of the Jardín de San Juan de Dios,
Another fruit seller, this one in El Centro on the corner of the Jardín de San Juan de Dios.
This school is in session again as of this week. Unfortunately, they let out just at the time that I need to go to MY school. It's chaos.
This huge grade school is in session again as of this week. Unfortunately, they let out just at the time that I need to go to MY school. It’s chaos.
Cars and children everywhere--the noise alone is deafening.
Cars and children everywhere–the noise alone is deafening.
And 15 minutes before the school lets out, three snack stands set up to feed them, making the parking even worse.
And 15 minutes before the school lets out, three snack stands set up to feed them, making the parking even worse.
Then two blocks away THIS school lets out and they block off half the street for the cars to pick up the children. I must find another way to get to school.
Then two blocks away THIS school lets out and they block off half the street for the cars to pick up the children. I must find another way to get to school.
This is the menu as my favorite taco stand near the school. The Three Brothers. But so far, I've only seen one brother.
This is the menu as my favorite taco stand near the school. The Three Brothers. But so far, I’ve only seen one brother.

Yes, I’m a bit shocked at how many of my photos are about food. That’s just me.

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.

Sweaty tacos?

Here's the tacos de canasta dealer nearest my house. Her's is a relatively post set up. Some folks just stand on the corner with a basket. The tacos look a tad oily and are nearly translucent in the middle. They are served with the salsa of your choice, I chose verde (green).
Here’s the tacos de canasta seller nearest my house. Her’s is a relatively “posh” set up. Some folks just stand on the corner with a basket. The tacos look a tad oily and are nearly translucent in the middle. They are served with the salsa of your choice. I chose verde (green) and took them para llevar (to go).

Tacos sudados or “sweaty tacos” doesn’t really sound all that appetizing, does it? Fortunately, they are called tacos de canasta “basket tacos” here in San Luis Potoasi. Either way, they are a steamed taco. They’re easy to find, sold on street corners. They can be messy to eat by hand, but try them anyway, even if you need a bib.

Here are the varieties she sold: Cochinita--suckling pig (which I will try next) Deshebrada--"shredded" meat, usually beef. Tinga--this is what I tried, chicken seasoned with onion, tomato, peppers & potatoes. Pleasantly spicy. Chicarron--pork rind Papa--potato Huevo--egg Bisteck adobado--beef marinaded in adobo sauce. All are flautas (white, wheat tortillas) with contents slowly cooking into a thick stew--like a taco baby food, and even more comforting.
Here are the varieties she sold:
Cochinita–suckling pig (which I will try next)
Deshebrada–“shredded” meat, usually beef.
Tinga–This is what I tried, chicken seasoned with onion, tomato, peppers & potatoes. Pleasantly spicy.
Chicarron–pork rind
Papa–potato
Huevo–egg
Bisteck adobado–beef marinaded in adobo sauce.
All are flautas (white, wheat tortillas) with contents that are slowly cooking into a thick stew–like a taco stuffed baby food, and even more comforting. YUM.
These are Tacos de canasta--tacos in a basket. They’re the soft, steamed tacos sold on the street, and they’re usually stacked in cloth-covered basket. The good thing about the steaming is that they are "fairly" sanitary for street food. Also they come in many varieties since they can be stuffed with anything.
These are the Tingo Tacos de Canasta–cpicy chicken tacos in a basket. They’re the soft, steamed tacos sold on the street, and they’re usually stacked in cloth-covered basket. The good thing about the steaming is that they are “fairly” sanitary for street food. Also they come in many varieties since they can be stuffed with anything. I managed to get the verde sauce (not shown) all over me.
A perfect drink with them, if it's too early for cervaza. This water is bottled in a nearby town and the locals swear it cures a hangover!
A perfect drink with them, if it’s too early for cerveza (beer). This water is bottled in a nearby town and the locals swear it cures a hangover!