Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Updates...

Since I wrote that last post, my blog got sick. I hope it wasn't with the swine flu. But I'm now on my school's network, so I'll give you some more details...

Last weekend I went with my dear friend Kim to Puebla, a gorgeous, colonial city about 2 hours from Mexico City. We went a little crazy at the hippie markets there, buying lots of scarves, jewelry, and the pottery that Puebla is famous for (see below). Kim has gone home for the weekend to her bro's college graduation, so she was definitely stocking up on gifts. :)

It was a blast, we did a lot of relaxing, and it was SO good to get out of my house after 2 weeks of quarantine. We went on a tour of the city, but because our trip was so short, we didn't get to see a lot- so I'm going back this weekend. My French friend, Nina, lives in Puebla but I didn't get to see her last weekend, so we're going to hang out this weekend. :)

Like I said in my last blog, I'll be leaving Mexico in a little over 2 weeks. I'm excited to go home, but especially after going to Puebla last weekend, I'm reminded of how much there is to see and do here, and the incredible people to meet. Kim and I wanted to be friends with all the hippies ;) People have really taken the time to be patient with me, and share their stories with me, and that has been a huge gift.



As you've probably seen elsewhere, yes, things have calmed down quite a bit. Since that first week, the Monday or Tuesday after the announcement was made, things have really started to get back to normal here outside Mexico City. From pictures I've seen and friends I've talked to, things have been really different in Mexico City, streets deserted, etc. But here in the State of Mexico, even though we haven't had school and a lot of things were shut down this past weekend for the 2 back-to-back holidays, it seems as though people are returning to normal, daily life. I've been able to go out at least once a day since last Thursday, to a friend's house in Toluca (the capital of the State of Mexico), or for birthday festivities in Tenango, etc. It's good to get out of my house and return to a sense of normalcy.

I had really been looking forward to experiencing Cinco de Mayo here in Mexico, but alas, because of all of this all the festivities and parades, etc. that had been planned were canceled.

I watched a presidential address on Monday evening, in which the president (Felipe Calderón) congratulated people for following the guides about staying home, etc, and also congratulated the government and armed forces for acting so quickly to contain the spread. He told us that high school and university students will return to class tomorrow, Thursday, and that the younger students will be going back next Monday, May 11th. So a few more days of "vacation" before everyone's back.

I've been hanging out with friends lately, mostly my neighbor Francisco and work friends of his; they've all been very kind and welcoming to me... I wish I had pictures, but unfortunately, my camera broke a few weeks ago and I have to wait till I'm back in the States to get it fixed. :( hopefully I can piggyback on my friends' cameras for the remainder of the time...

But. I have to figure some details out, but if all goes well, I'll be home towards the end of May. I'm excited to see my family and friends, but I've also really enjoyed my time here. Whenever the subject of me leaving comes up, people ask, but, don't you want to stay? Haven't you liked Mexico? That's a hard question to answer in only a few seconds, which is what people are looking for. Yes, I have loved my time here, I've met some wonderful people, seen some incredible things and had experiences that I will never forget. However, I'm also excited to get back home and get started on the next chapter of my life, which will be a Master's in Hispanic Linguistics at University of Illinois at Chicago--where I'll have an assistantship, which means that I'll be teaching 3 sections undergrad Spanish-one of my dream jobs! :) So, I also have a lot to look forward to...

Thanks for reading~ Besos

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hey Faithful Readers...

I'm still fine. The situation, however, has become more serious as the days wear on.

The following are a few questions/answers from the Naperville Daily Herald, they might use some of the info for tomorrow's paper...

3. What is the mood like down there right now?
That depends on who you ask. As I mentioned in my interview with WBBM yesterday morning, on Saturday afternoon I went to a birthday lunch for a friend. People were generally taking it lightly, not wearing masks or anything, and making plays on words (the word for flu, influenza, is similar to the word for influence, influencia, so people are saying things like, wow, that influence is really strong, things of that nature). However, later in the evening, I found myself chatting with a work colleague of my friend, and he was more somber and cautious in his perspective on the flu. Some of the people who were supposed to come to the party earlier, who live in Mexico City, did not come for fear of leaving their homes and traveling. A few that I talked to were 'barricading' themselves in their home, planning to cook for themselves and not go out all weekend. I attended a wake later that night, and approximately 50% of the people were wearing masks.
I live in a small town, so my perspective is different from that of my friends who live in larger cities. Both my Mexican friends and my fellow Fulbright and other international friends, again, have mixed feelings. I have been reading both the international and Mexican newspapers online, and yesterday (Sunday), it was all over the news, so I found myself sufficiently nervous. However, when I went grocery shopping later in the evening with my neighbor, I found people out and about as normal; who knows whether they were (like me) planning to be eating at home for a while, and planning ahead, or merely going about with their normal activities. Some people were wearing masks, particularly the employees at the stores.
My friends in Mexico City and Toluca that I've been in touch with are all feeling strangely-the streets are abandoned, nearly everything is closed, and it seems that everyone has their own opinion on what is happening. Some think the government is overreacting; others think they are not telling us the full story as to not incite panic in the population. Nobody really knows how long this is going to last, or how serious it is going to become.
My advisor here at the University tells me that she is worried mainly because even in the face of other health scares, the government has never stepped in like this to close schools, museums, movie theaters, masses, soccer games... so I would say the general perspective is one of uncertainty, concern about where we will go from here.
My friend and fellow Fulbrighter Caley McIntyrelives in Mexico City, and has told me that it would be ok if I passed on his blog, in case you're interested in a perspective from closer to the epicenter:
4. Do you find yourself forced to spend your time indoors? Are you able to go to work?
Both the advice from the Mexican officials as well as my official Fulbright contacts are highly recommending staying inside our homes, and even beyond that, preparing our own food and eating at home, to avoid the risk of eating food contaminated by people with the flu.
Since I am working at a University, no, I am unable to go to work because schools here are closed until after Cinco de Mayo, so returning May 6th (tentatively). So, yes, I have been spending a lot of time indoors, doing a little bit of work from home, being in contact with friends and family, and keeping an eye on the news. Also, the amount of public transportation has also been reduced, so it would also be a challenge to even get to work (I, like many people in Mexico, rely on public transportation for my needs), even if I could go.
5. How do you get groceries or other items that you need?
I have several friends with cars in the area, all of whom have been very supportive. My neighbor, in particular, has told me that I can call him anytime with a request or whatever it might be and he will help me out. I feel very confident that I will be alright in terms of physical needs; if I were to need anything or feel sick in any way, he would be who I call.
6. I have seen photos of people wearing surgical masks. Are you doing the same thing?
I would say between 40-60% of the people I come across in a day are wearing them; I have not gotten one yet, but I have heard that they are sold out and therefore nowhere to be found.
7. What things are you doing to protect yourself?
Generally, taking normal flu precautions; washing my hands at regular intervals, staying at home, avoiding large gatherings, being aware of sick people around me, preparing my own food...
8. Are you planning to leave Mexico and come home?
I had considered it, especially after a conversation yesterday afternoon with my parents, who are obviously concerned for my safety. However, after being out and about, and hearing from the Fulbright organization here in Mexico, I feel confident that following these precautions and staying here, near friends that I trust to take care of me in case of any problems, is going to be the best option. I have faith in the global medical organizations to a. find a vaccine and b. be able to disseminate it to the people who need it. I hope people are paying attention to these precautions being promoted by both the Mexican and international bodies, and the epidemic/pandemic can be brought under control as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading, thanks for your concern for my safety, and thanks for your prayers! I know my family appreciates it, too!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Almost Famous

Friday, April 24, 2009

ABC tonight

Also, be sure to watch ABC news tonight, I might be on it! ;)

Swine Flu Outbreak in Mexico

Nobody worry, I'm fine. But, in case you missed it on the news, similar strains of a swine flu found in California and Texas have been cropping up all over Mexico, specifically Mexico City and the surrounding State of Mexico. Which is where I live. We are on our way to being under quarantine, all the schools have been closed for today, we've been told to try to stay away from public transportation and really anywhere lots of people are gathered, since it is an airborne virus.

Yikes. But we're being careful, laying low, etc. Handwashing, covering our mouths and noses, etc.

I was planning to go to Mexico City on Sunday for a friend of mine's birthday, but alas, it's been prohibited.

More to come...


Monday, March 30, 2009

A quick update...

thank you, computer, for your assistance in procrastination.

Really quick... March has been a great month, especially on the weekends...

Last weekend I went to visit my friend Kim in Cuernavaca, and we had a great time. We ate out several times, went shopping, relaxed by her pool, went to a waterpark/river... Cuernavaca is sort of the playground for wealthy chilangos, residents of Mexico City, that come for the weekend, so there is much fun to be had. Expensive fun, but fun. :)

Last week was my last full week before I head off to vacation in Costa Rica... and also one of the last weeks of the quarter, so I took advantage of the time we had left and made a Jeopardy review game of all of their materials from the quarter for the TOEFL students... it ended up being a BLAST. The students had a really good time... some were quicker than others, but generally, it was really fun. :)

This past weekend was quite full... Friday during the day I went to Toluca for some festivities at Memo and Victoria's school, a French film and discussion... I actually understood more than I thought I would, which was fun. My friend Laura called and invited me to a motocross event for that night, and I said sure. So we went into Mexico City with a few of her friends, and let me tell you, I love motocross. Who knew?! I mean. I'm sure if I knew about motocross, it would be old hat, but it was my first time, and I really enjoyed it. I'm going to see if I can put up a video of it so you can see...

Saturday I was invited by my neighbor Francisco to go to Mexico City with a few of his friends to watch the Mexico/Costa Rica game... we went to this nice restaurant, and watched the game, then the mariachis arrived, then a live band played... we were there for a loooong time, but it was fun. :)

Aaaaand... tomorrow I leave for Costa Rica! My friend Courtney is getting married this Saturday, so my friend Hannah and I are going down to help out and then take a little vacation... getting all of Holy Week off is one of the bonuses of living in Latin America. It should be a blast... more to come on that! I'll also be celebrating my 23rd birthday there, which will be great. :)

Thanks for reading, and happy spring!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I forgot it was St. Patrick's Day.

I didn't even wear green! That is so lame.

It has been an eventful past few weeks. Allow me to catch you up, you faithful readers, you...

Since returning from Cancún, I've taken no big trips to speak of. It's been a lot of hanging around here, going out around Toluca and Metepec, and several birthdays, both Memo's and Heather's. Both were very different but equally fun; there was a lot of Mexican music at Memo's surprise party, and puro hip hop at Heather's this past Saturday. My Fulbright friend Kim has come to town each of these three weekends, which has been a blast. She's from Madison, so we have the Midwest connection, and she's just a blast to hang out with. It's my turn to go visit HER in Cuernavaca this weekend. :)

Re: School. My friend and colleague Julio César quit about 3 weeks ago, leaving his 5 classes mid-semester. I don't blame him, there was drama, etc. and it actually worked out great for me, because one of his classes has since been given to me! I feel like a real teacher now. :) So I've been with them, actually giving class, for about a week and a half, and they're very bright, nice and actually (for the most part) do their work and participate. They're level 2-A, so a pretty basic level, but they've all had enough English throughout secondary school that they catch on pretty quick. Every day it's a challenge to keep the material dynamic and interesting, but at the same time fomenting their opportunities to participate and ask questions... but I'm really liking it. I'm still in and out with 15 other groups a week, keeping me quite busy, but thankfully I'm getting into the swing of things.

My next big trip is to Costa Rica for Holy Week, as well as the few days before, to celebrate my friend Courtney's wedding, with Hannah Jane... I leave 2 weeks from today. Egads! Much to do...

Oh yeah, and this weekend my friend Carlos invited me to a temascal, really similar to Native American sweat tents... The structure was made up of black garbage bags and woven rugs, and there was a hole in the ground in the center of the temascal, where white-hot stones were put, then water was poured over the rocks and steam generated... I tell you, I have never sweated that much in my LIFE. Water was streaming from each and every one of my pores... It honestly felt like I was in the shower. But it was cool. It was a little hard to breathe, especially since I was already a bit congested, but I'm glad I did it. After we got out, we had cold water poured on us... Yikes!
Thanks for reading! Besos~

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Butterflies and Cancún!

Some of my favorite days in Mexico...

Last weekend my friend Kim came up from Cuernavaca on Sunday, and she and Anne-Marie and I rented a car (!) and drove to the next state over, Michoacán, to visit a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Strange, you might think, but incredible.

I got to drive, which was awesome and super liberating, and really made me feel like Mexico is my (temporary) home... crazy how having a car for a 24-hour period can do that to you... So about 2.5 hours after we left our house, we arrived at the butterfly sanctuary and began the climb/trek to the top of a hill where the butterflies congregate... They migrate to Mexico every year for their reproduction process, and then return to their homes in the US and Canada once it starts to warm up. As we climbed, we saw a few butterflies, but nothing like people had described to us. Once we got closer to the top, however, we were overwhelmed with how stinkin' many butterflies were fluttering (and in that quantity, buzzing) around. I'm putting a few pics up here, but it's so hard to understand without being there... I highly recommend the experience. On the walk back down, after thanking God for such an awesome sight, we got to eat some num nums, mole poblano, some nopales... deeelicious!

Theeeen... as if life couldn't get any better. I had a great week at school, the students were pretty participative, and I was looking forward to my weekend in CANCUN with my mom and sister...

I met them in Cancún on Thursday afternoon, and it was SO good to see them both... it felt like it had been a really long time since Christmas. We were picked up by our hotel's shuttle, and we made our way to the zona hotelera on a strip on the Caribbean... our hotel was nice, the people were too, a little pushy perhaps, but it was to be expected. We had a nice room, a nice view with a deck that walked out to the pool/beach... it was great. Friday it rained, lame, so we ended up at the high-end mall... our most glorious find there was the aquarium, with specimens from the local waters... I tell you, I really missed my calling to be a marine biologist. The three of us were duly fascinated. That afternoon we ended up closer to our hotel, walking along the beach, relaxing, reading, chatting, catching up, laughing... there was a lot of laughter. To be expected.

Saturday was our favorite day... after some runaround in the morning, we found a catamaran that would take us to nearby Isla Mujeres and some other places for a relatively fair fee... We hopped on the boat and promptly began soaking up the rays... the first stop was snorkeling through the reef, which really felt like a lazy river, with the current just pushing us along as we swam through schools of angel fish. Next we made it to the actual island, walked around for a bit, felt harrassed by some of the vendors... then back on the boat, over to our lunch site, a delicious buffet, then back on the boat heading back to Cancún, where we were pleasantly surprised by the next activity-what they called the Spinnaker. It was basically a huge sail with a rope attached to it that you sat on as the wind blew you around-- a huge swing. It was SO fun. All three of us ladies did it-awesome.

Sunday we got a bit of a late start, due to me not feeling 100%, but that left plenty of pool/book time... That afternoon we made it over to downtown Cancún, to the market area... we got a few good deals, thanks to my Spanish... I actually heard people saying, "Oh, she speaks Spanish, give her a better deal..." Who knows if that was another tactic, but it was relatively satisfying. Shopping really wears me out, especially that kind of shopping... some of the vendors (mostly men) don't really get how to sell to people like us... not accosting us is probably a good start. Oh well.

Monday was our last day, so we took advantage of the shuttle and water taxi our hotel has with 2 of its partner hotels... they were definitely swankier, so we enjoyed their beaches and views for a bit before heading back to the airport... and it was over! The weekend sped by, but it was a blast! SO good to see part of my fam, and to feel rejuvinated after being with them, making plans for the future, etc., reminding myself about the bigger picture. And it was also kind of them to stock me up on books and Trader Joe's items :)

Now back to the grind for a few weeks before my next big adventure... more on that later!


Friday, February 13, 2009

January and Fevrary

So much for my New Year's Resolution. Oh well...

So the rest of January was pretty eventful... it literally sped by! A quick breakdown:

-The week of Jan. 12th was the first week of class, and my first week with the 20 different classes... we did a really fun activity, the students had to come up with 3 questions for me, and then the chiste was that each student would come up and have to answer the question as if s/he were me. If they answered it the way I would have, they got a point; if not, they got an X. The students seemed to enjoy it, and I had a blast, too!

-That weekend, on Saturday night, my neighbor Francisco invited me with a few friends to the Festival del pueblo (Town Party, loosely) de Tenango, about an hour away... his friend Jorge's parents live there, and his mom cooked mole-rojo and verde- and we ate WELL. Then we went to watch the fireworks in the downtown, Jorge and Anita and I ended up on a rollercoaster, we ate more (don't ask me how) sweets and tacos and played foosball for like an hour. It was super fun. They're all older, but I really like hanging out with them. Most little towns around here have a party once a year... It's been interesting to observe the "work hard, play hard" attitude of Mexicans... some work 6-7 days a week to make ends meet, but when it's time to kick back, they really know how to party... Octavio Paz wrote an essay on the Mexicano and the fiesta, I'm in the middle of it... it's fascinating!

-That week (Jan. 19-23) was our conference in Mexico City with the other English teachers from Venezuela and Colombia... it was SO interesting to hear about people's different experiences. We Mexico ETAs learned that we have it pretty good, especially in terms of our schools' organization. It was a little weird to meet the Venezuela ETAs, because I had originally applied to Venezuela, but they were all very kind and super smart-and very invested in their side projects, something on which none of us Mexicans have focused. But. We had a few panels, went to some ruins, I saw my friend Anna (Colombia ETA) who I had met studying abroad with CIEE in Chile... it was a blast! Friday Mexico ETAs headed to Coyoacán, to visit the house of Frida Kahlo... I'm going to have to go back, I missed most of it due to a migraine, but what I saw was cool.

-Jan. 24th was my housemate Anne-Marie's birthday, so a few of us headed to Valle de Bravo (where her bf Fernando has a house) and we found a lake by which to have fondue... we got there a little late, so we cooked and ate in the dark, but it was really fun-and delicious! There’s nothing like eating fondue with Frenchies. The next Wednesday the Toluca friends took her out for a sushi dinner...

-Another activity with the students, this one a little review before exam week, so with some teachers I did some activities and with other teachers, others. I try to keep things moving, and everybody’s pretty flexible, thankfully.

-That weekend we had Monday off, so I went to visit my friend Timoteo in Guadalajara…we met at my volunteer job in Chile, and he’s Mexican and studying here in Guadalajara… G. is a beautiful city, I absolutely loved it! I am definitely going to have to go back… it is huge, and with lots of construction going on sort of confusing, but there is so much to see… I barely scratched the surface! I took a bus tour while T was at work, and it was beautiful. And warm! My favorite parts were the murals by José Clemente Orozco all over, and the 3 story market!!! It’s ginormous. I ate some delicious tacos de birria there (from a goat, a Jaliscan specialty). Saturday and Sunday we went to (random!) Puerto Vallarta, not expecting the 6 hour bus ride, necessitating an overnight stay… it’s a really cute place, nice beaches, a beautiful boardwalk… and I love the beach!

-That week was exam week, so it was pretty chill for me, just proctoring exams.

-Last weekend I spent most of my time in Toluca with Victoria and Heather and Memo, it was really nice to lay low a little and enjoy my friends. On Sunday I went with Memo and Bruno and Memo’s French friend Natalie to Valle de Bravo, we walked around, went tubing, and had a delicious lunch… it was fun to be a sort of tour guide. ☺

-This week was (obviously) the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, so with the more advanced classes (TOEFL level) we worked with “In My Life” by the Beatles, I blanked out some key words and they had to listen and then we discussed the meaning of the song… with the lower levels it was L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole… we had a good time with it. ☺

-This weekend is also going to be chill, in preparation for next weekend’s vacation to CANCúN with my mom and sister! I’m super pumped to see them… and obviously to spend time at the beach. I think we’re going to try to hit up the pyramids at Chichén Itzá, also…

WHEW! Thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Quarter

So that Wednesday I went into school to firm up my schedule for the new quarter, expecting (as discussed) that I would have a level 3 class all to myself… but when I got to the university to talk with my boss, I realized that that was not the case… I was pretty bummed out at first, I had been really looking forward to conducting my own class based on a more rigorous and department-wide curriculum… Alas. Turns out that because they’ve hired several new teachers, there just wasn’t room for me to have a class if all the other teachers were going to maintain their hours.

So instead, I will be conducting speaking activities in 5 groups a day, 4 days a week, for a total of about 400 different students, at varying levels (meaning more preparation). I think as the quarter progresses, small changes can be made, but that’s basically it. At first that bummed me out, too, because I had wanted to keep some hours flexible for other things that might come up, but. I am also a little nervous about planning in terms of pinning down the various teachers with whom I will be working throughout the week to find out exactly how they want me to help…

This weekend was chill; I was in bed sicky face on Friday, then on Saturday Victoria and Memo and Bruno (a friend of Memo’s) came to visit, we went to the market, got some nummies, and then Victoria and I hung out for the rest of the day. We spent a lot of time on the tiny grassy area in front of my house… way better than inside my frigid house… That night my neighbor Francisco invited us out with a few of his friends to La Cantina de los Remedios, for food and mariachi… it was a blast!

Today (Monday) was the first day of class, I was with 3 different teachers for a total of 5 groups, some mid-level and others TOEFL-level… my activities took up most of the class time, but they were dynamic and I had lots of energy, so I think the students enjoyed their first days. :P I was also exhausted after 5 classes in a row…

Next week we ETAs have a conference in Mexico City with the ETAs from Venezuela and Colombia as well, which should be a blast! Each of us has to do a presentation about certain aspects of our experiences in our respective countries, and though they’re short, we’re all expecting to learn a lot. I’m also excited because my friend Anna that I met in Chile will be here as a Colombia ETA… it will be good to catch up with her and meet some other like-minded folks. More on that as it gets closer…


Upon return to Mexico, life sped right back up…

I got to my house from the Mexico City airport around 3:30 pm on Friday the 2nd and left at 4:30 back for Mexico City, to the bus station, to visit my friend Brandon in Acapulco… I got there around 12:30 and went directly to a restaurant where Brandon was with a few friends… we were out until pretty late (or really early, depending).

The next day we spent by the beach, checking out bus tickets for our next destination, Puerto Escondido, another beach getaway in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, about 7 hours south of Acapulco. We boarded that bus at 3:30 the next morning, arriving in Puerto Escondido around 11. We figured out that arriving to our ideal destination to visit our friend Peter, San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southernmost state of Chiapas would be impossible, unfortunately, so we decided to head back up into central Mexico to Oaxaca City… another 8 or so hours, leaving at 11 that night. Confusing, I know. Us too. That was not our favorite bus ride; unfortunately the bus driver felt the need to drive as if he were driving in a video game… but oh well. We got to Oaxaca City safe and sound, if a bit sleep-deprived, and found ourselves a hostel in which we spent a few good hours napping.

When we woke up, we found ourselves joined in the hostel dorm room by 2 Germans and 1 Mexican, traveling together… Lizzy, Alonso and Anselm. They were super nice, and invited us to tour the city with them and go to Monte Albán the next day—we obviously took them up on it. :P They knew the city pretty well, and we had a blast hanging out with them. English was the lingua franca, which made it fun to listen to their idioms and communication styles…

Monte Albán was cool; it was a Zapotec/Mixtec site that also maintained strong ties with Teotihuacán... we didn't have a guide, but it was fun climbing the little pyramids and looking out over the whole site; the ball court was cool too...

Our favorite finds in Oaxaca City, apart from the gorgeous churches and beautiful handicrafts, were a gelato stand and a health food café called Guaraná. They had some incredible fruit juices and snacks…

Brandon and I both had to get back for some pre-school starting meetings, etc., so we said goodbye to Oaxaca and our new friends on Tuesday afternoon, and we headed back to Mexico City… we ended up staying with a fellow Fulbrighter that night, and heading back to our homes on Wednesday morning…

Thursday, January 8, 2009


New Year's Resolution: be better about blogging.

Now that that's out of the way. Back in Mexico after a wonderful Christmas break at home! We had Grandma and Grandpa in from Arizona, Aunt Kathy and Uncle Clay in from California, and surprise guest Great Aunt Beverly from Wisconsin! We (I) almost ruined the surprise more than once, but it was all worth it to see Grandpa and Aunt Bev's reunion! ;)

We played lots of Sheepshead, lots of Settlers of Catan, ate lots of good (and familiar) food, and generally had a lovely time. It's so nice to have family around, yet since we get together so little throughout the year, it also makes us value the time we DO get to spend together... It was good to see a few friends, also, and be around some wonderful, loving people for a solid 2 weeks. ☺