Split shifts come to an end!

It was National Taco Day this week and I celebrated with local tacos--these from a cart a half block from the school. Notice how the plate is covered with a plastic bag. That way it can be reused without washing. Only the bag is tossed. A good option for vendors of stalls who don't have much water.
It was National Taco Day this week and I celebrated with local tacos–these from a cart a half block from the school. Notice how the plate is covered with a plastic bag. That way it can be reused without washing. Only the bag is tossed. A good option for vendors of mobile stalls with no water hook up. Saves on trash, too.

9/29/16
I came perilously close to missing my early class this morning. Woke up at 6:35, an hour late! Good thing I lay out all my clothes and have my backpack ready the night before. I was out the door in 4 minutes, with no coffee (a true hardship!). Because of the repair extravaganza in my room yesterday, I didn’t get my afternoon nap. To make matters worse, I had a hard time settling down to sleep last night. Only one more day of this schedule. I hope. There are few mirrors in this flat, but I got a good look at myself yesterday. Lack of sleep ages you and I certainly feel bad much of the time. I don’t have the energy to see the city or go out and I’ve made several stupid mistakes because my concentration is off. Most have been small, but I almost stepped in front of a moving car a couple times. I don’t think I can do another bad split shift. It’s not safe or healthy. Marc is supposed to take over my 7am class and while he does have some evening classes, I notice that his last class ends at 6pm. Not 9pm. He’ll get a full night’s sleep, which should help.
Despite the morning drama, I made it to class before the students and gave the final exams for Level 2. I’ve started grading them and so far they seem to have done better on this test than the quiz two weeks ago. Feeling a bit better about my ability to teach. Students can learn a lot in 5 weeks. I’ll miss them, but not the 7am start time.

I have seasonal fresh fruit and veggies every day, but usually this is how I get it--one cup at a time. A cart down the street now understands that I want a mixed fruit cup (vaso de fruita mezcala), though it may also includes cucumber, fresh coconut and jimica. Tasty. I also have pomegranate seeds 2-3 times a week along with avocado.
I have seasonal fresh fruit and veggies every day, but usually this is how I get it–one cup at a time. A cart down the street now understands that I want a mixed fruit cup (vaso de fruita mezcala), though it may also includes cucumber, fresh coconut and jimica. This particular cup has watermelon, papaya and jimica sprinkled with chili. Tasty. I also have pomegranate seeds 2-3 times a week along with avocado.

9/30/16
I’m finding it difficult to stomach the very different reception my new, male colleague from Canada has received compared to mine. The girls in the office simply fawn over Marc. (also the gay, male attendant.) They giggle and ask questions and laugh at anything he says. These are the same young women who barely say hello to me. In fact, the woman in the morning won’t say hello or print things for me—which is her job. (Based on results, she’s there to catch up on her texting.) I had thought most of the female office workers simply didn’t have the English language skills and so tried not to be offended. I was wrong. Patty sat patiently with Marc yesterday, showing him how to fill out his time card. She managed several completely understandable English sentences and phrases, including polite words. To me, she just threw the paper on the table and said, “Now!” (Since she isn’t my boss and I wasn’t on the clock, I responded, calmly, “No. Soon.” I finished what I’d come in early–on my own time–to do, then I did the time card.) According to Marc, the director, Michael, has met with him several times to check on him, which certainly didn’t happen with me. Also, Michael just opened a “conversation” class on Saturdays, for Marc. I had suggested a class like this to Michael and he thought it a “bad fit for the school.” .
Marc is in my former room back at the previous flat. The landlord, Arturo, couldn’t do enough for Marc, even taking him to lunch yesterday. Of course, it might have been a mild shock for Marc to find he was on a potential “date” since Arturo is gay.
The female students crowd around Marc, too. Yesterday, during class, I had to walk out into reception and ask if they could bring the volume of the flirting down a notch or two, since I had students trying to take an exam. Marc is a 30-something guy of average intelligence and appearance. He seems nice, but he probably doesn’t get this kind of attention from women back home. I’m happy he’s had a positive reception and hope he enjoys the new attention, but suspect these young women are looking for a “rich” foreigner to marry and rescue them. It’s like I’ve time warped back to the 1950’s USA.
Anyway, I’m finding it difficult and I am a bit jealous. It’s not that I want him to be treated badly. It’s just that I’d like to be treated well, too.
Got up at 5:30a for what I hope will be the final time. I had no class, but still had to show up to do paperwork. I finished grading the Level 2 class and am very pleased with their improvement over the previous quiz. Also graded the Level 9 class (both are offset classes, so one week behind the others). The grades were pretty good and two students I feared would fail, didn’t, though the way the points system is set up, you have to do VERY poorly to fail. One is a young woman, Valarie, who showed serious improvement in the final 2 weeks. I think it scared her to realize she was about to fail. I don’t think she wants to learn English, but her mother insists. The young man, Edgar, however, just barely passed the course. He didn’t pass his quiz or final exam (THIS is what I mean about the points system). I’m grateful I won’t be his teacher next session since I don’t think he can pass without substantial extra work. Since he doesn’t do his homework, that’s not likely to happen. The extra paperwork and scrutiny a teacher gets when she fails a student is tiresome (at best) and demeaning (at worst).

The tamale vendor is just about a block from me.
The tamale vendor is just about a block from me.
I bought 3 tamales, each different flavor, for 24 pesos ($1.25US). They come wrapped in this natural packaging--corn husks. Then they're steamed, making a perfect street food--filling, cheap, easy to eat on the run and reasonably clean.
I bought 3 tamales, each a different flavor, for 24 pesos ($1.25US). They come wrapped in this “natural packaging”–corn husks. Then they’re steamed, making a perfect street food–filling, cheap, easy to eat on the run and reasonably clean.
....and here's the inside of one of the enchiladas. The flavors I got were lomo rojo (spicy salsa over pork loin), pollo (chicken with vegetables) and queso y papas (cheese and potatoes).
….and here’s the inside of one of the tamales. The flavors I got were lomo rojo (spicy salsa over pork loin), pollo (chicken with vegetables) and queso y papas (cheese and potatoes).

10/1/2016
My new favorite quote, “Love is always a calculated risk. But I’m bad at math.”

I love this name--The Contented Heart Taco restaurant.
I love this name–The Contented Heart Taco Restaurant.

10/3/2016
Three straight days of sleeping 8 hours a night. I feel, and look, like a new woman! Yesterday (Sunday) I had the energy to walk around the old town for over 4 hours, taking photos, trying a new food, investigated some shops and looked into churches. That’s what I’m here for, not working all the time! For the next three weeks, I’ll just have 3 evening classes, plus Saturdays. It’s less money, but I think it’s worth it. Also, if you missed it, I posted 2 YouTube videos about SLP.
This morning I successfully found a place to put in a new zipper in my favorite grey hiking pants. I’m sure my new hobby of eating tacos had NOTHING to do with needing a new zipper! The seamstress only charges 50 pesos and the pants will be ready in 2 days. Excited to find this place.
Looked at a couple used bicycles at a second hand store (bazar retro). One had a broken seat and the other a bent rim. The guy was asking 1,000 pesos for either and I’d need to pay for extra work on each. Not a good deal for me. For double that, I can get a new bike. I’ll keep looking, but it would save on transportation costs and I’d probably investigate more of the outlying city if I had a bike. If I’m not run over by a car, that is.
Applied to potential school #3 yesterday (Sunday). This morning, the school’s director asked for an immediate interview before 1pm  and seemed reluctant to answer questions by email. Had to ask twice for the two school locations (he didn’t give me actual addresses, just plazas), which are far from my flat and from each other. When I asked about buses that went to these locations, he simply stopped communicating. The school also has one very recent (September 2016) and very negative review online. Pretty sure I have my answer on the school. Three down…..
Seriously depressed over the upcoming election. If Trump is elected, I’m not sure I’ll be going back to the USA for quite some time. I think this is the most important election of my lifetime and I’m shocked and appalled that a misogynistic, hate-filled, self-centered, liar can be so close to winning the White House. Hilary wasn’t my first choice, but I’ll take her any day over Trump. Voting overseas is VERY DIFFICULT, but I’ve finally found a way to get an absentee ballot. I’ve printed it and filled it out. I still need the signature of a witness and to figure out how to send it. My earlier absentee ballot appears to be lost in the mail. I’ve lost friends on FaceBook over this election, possibly real life friends, too. It saddens me, but I am compelled to take a stand and to vote my conscience.

Sometimes I drink my greens too. This is a combo of juiced, mixed greens, nopal (cactus) and a bit of honey (miel). 30 pesos for at least 16 ounces.
Sometimes I drink my greens too. This is a combo of juiced, mixed greens, nopal (cactus) and a bit of honey (miel). 30 pesos for at least 16 ounces.
I don't know what these are called yet. They are sold occasionally on the street near my house--dense biscuits with filling. Then the vendor pours spicy red salsa into it. 13pesos and very filling.
I don’t know what these are called yet. They are sold occasionally on the street near my house–very dense biscuits (probably made with a combo of coarse ground wheat and corn flour), partially opened and stuffed with filling. Then the vendor pours spicy red salsa into it. 13pesos and very filling.
And here's the biscuit, ready for eating. Just one was filling enough. A good value, though.
And here’s the biscuit, ready for eating. Just one was filling enough. A good value, though.

10/5/2016
Still feels amazing to get a full night’s sleep. This new schedule is less money, but so much better for my health. I hope more evening classes will open up, but I can make it on this reduced amount now that we’ve gotten a pay increase and I’m in a less expensive flat.
Today I retrieved my pants from the seamstress. A perfectly installed new zipper for 50 pesos (about $2.60US) in less than 2 days. I expected the zipper alone to cost more than that.
Also found a good tamales vendor down the street for breakfast—yes, tamales are breakfast food in Mexico!

The photos on today’s page are all from this morning’s outing.

There are some lovely old houses here. Don't you want that elaborate front gate? You can't see it in the photo, but the ceiling on the upstairs porch is painting with cherubs.
There are some lovely old houses here. Don’t you want that elaborate front gate? You can’t see it well in the photo, but the ceiling on the upstairs porch is painted with cherubs.
OOOoooo an Italian restaurant. Must give this a try.....
OOOoooo an Italian restaurant. Must give this a try…..(translation of last window: Typical Italian food)

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.