Just keep swimming.

On Saturday I will have been in Mexico for a whole month. Wow. Time seems to be really flying lately. Since my last post so much has happened. We finished our second part of orientation, which was again held at a convent, and while there we had the opportunity to visit (almost) everyone’s work sites. There are 9 work sites between the 8 of us and they range from teaching English, to informing people about reproductive rights, to ways on how not to waste your waste. After our week at orientation 7 of us went to Tepoztlan, a nearby small town, for a festival weekend. On Friday of that week 6 of us climbed a mountain to get to the Tepozteco pyramid, which was lit-up for the celebration of the anniversary of the baptism of the king Tepozteco by the Catholics.

Some of us have started working at our work sites, but not me. I am in my 3rd and final week of language school, and I feel like I have been learning so much every day. I graduate tomorrow, and although my Spanish skills still remain pretty mediocre I’m hoping that I will be able to manage when I start at my work site on Monday. I will be working with the Fundacion Berea and I will be teaching English in their Colegio to students in kindergarten  to age 15. I will also be working in soup kitchens (comedores) that help feed the families in surrounding areas (more to come on these communities later). I am slightly nervous about starting work on Monday for a variety of reasons: I don’t have a teaching degree, my Spanish is not super great, and I don’t want to feel lost. But, I will work my hardest to get past these factors and just try to teach the children to the best of my abilities. I have a feeling that they might end up teaching me more than I teach them.

Here I am being introduced to a class at Colegio Berea

Besides language school and my future work site I feel like I have been adjusting relatively well to living in Mexico. Let’s talk about food. I have always considered myself a very picky eater. If something is green there is a good chance I won’t eat it, if something has a weird texture I also won’t eat that, but recently my tastes have been changing. I decided to expand my pallet and eat whatever my host family gives me (with the exception of chiles). I am discovering that there are some foods that I seriously misjudged. For example, Fish. I remember vividly why fish made it to the top of my “Do Not Eat” list. I was in the second grade waiting anxiously in the lunch line because they were serving my favorite meal: chicken nuggets with a peanut butter square for dessert. After I got my plate of nuggets I sat down at my table and hastily popped a nugget in a mouth waiting for the savory taste of chicken to please my taste buds. However, the taste never came. As fast as I had put the chicken nugget in my mouth, I had spit it out on my plate. I had been deceived, fooled, tricked, by Cod cleverly disguised as a chicken nugget. From that moment onward I had decided that I would not give into the trickery of fish, and so for 15 years I stayed far, far away from those watery demons. Yet, my strike against fish ended last Saturday when I was eating some really super delicious tacos that I later realized had fish in them. I loved the tacos, but how could this be? Fish were my enemies, and I was giving in? I then realized how my 7-year-old self had influenced my decision about something so minuscule. I don’t want my pre-judgments or pre-conceived notions to get in the way of all this year has to offer, so I am going to try and be like a fish and go with the flow, and try new things, even when I am “positive” that I won’t like it.  I’m sure there will be many times during this year when I feel lost or confused, but I am going to try and stay positive and take advice from Dory in “Finding Nemo”: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.You know what you gotta do when life gets you down? we swim, swim, swim.”

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Donde hay fe

So I was on my way home from language school today and I got on the number 7 ruta. Oh how I hate las rutas, but anyways, I was lucky enough to snag a seat in the very front seat right behind the driver. The front of this bus had many many interesting things hanging from the ceiling and adorning the rearview mirrors. Probably about 50 stuffed animals were dangling from the ceiling, and it was a smorgasbord of many characters. There were your generic circus and zoo animals and there were also many characters ranging from Snoopy to Tony the Tiger and my personal favorite Hello Kitty. I was so distracted by all these animals at first that I didn’t even notice the piece of paper that was hanging right in front of my face. It said “Donde hay fe hay amor. Donde hay amor hay paz. Donde hay paz está Dios y donde está Dios no falta nada.”  Which translated (by me, which means it is possible that this is wrong.) says “Where there is faith there is love. Where there is love there is peace. Where there is peace there is God and where there is God nothing is missing.” As much as I hate La Ruta this little sign really brightened my day and I know have a new-found hope and faith that the rutas won’t always be horrible.

On a side note, here is a picture of the first thing I see every morning when I walk out of my house:

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Me no speako Spanisho. My first week

I have been in Mexico for 10 days so far and it has been such an interesting time. We had a 3 day orientation in a convent, which was a great way to start this journey, and last Saturday I met my host family. I have been staying with my host family this past week and they are wonderful. My Spanish skills are very rough and I find myself using a lot of hand motions to communicate.  Even though I minored in Spanish in college, it doesn’t help me much. Being able to read and being able to speak are two completely different games. My Spanish-English pocket dictionary has become my best friend. It’s unreal how much I don’t understand. I feel like I am stuck between radio stations, there are moments of clarity, but they are mixed in with a lot of white noise.

Since my Spanish skills are pretty lackluster I will have to spend a few weeks at Cetlalic, a school for learning Spanish in a progressive environment. I just finished my first week there and already I feel like I have slightly better conversation skills. In the weeks to come I know my Spanish will improve, but for now there are a lot of frustrations.

Besides the language barrier things have been going pretty smoothly. I made it to school every day on time by taking a bus (la ruta), which in itself is an experience and a half (I’ll write a post solely about la Ruta in the future), without getting lost. I have also been able to successfully lead taxi drivers back to my house (surprisingly with how bad my sense of direction is.)

Back to my host family, they are saints for putting up with my horrible communication skills. They are very patient and help me when I get stuck on words. I am currently living with 6 other people: My host mom is Licha, a leader in many Christian based communities in her neighborhood;  My host sister that lives with me is Mireya; and upstairs lives Licha’s brother, Alfonso, her sister-in-law, Minerva, and their 2 kids Paloma, who is 9, and Alfonso, who is 6 and super adorable. Oh and also with their very lovable dog, Galleta (which is like Cookie in English). The family loves to joke around and everyone is always pretty positive so I think I am fitting in well.

The food. It seems like everyone wants to know about the food. I have not had anything that was out-of-the-ordinary yet. I told my host family that I did not like spicy foods, and I have not had any encounters with spicy yet. I have mostly been eating tortas, which are sandwiches with more of a bready-bun (that’s a horrible description, I know), and ham, cheese, and beans. Also, I have not gotten sick yet!! But there’s still time.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned because things may get much more interesting in the future.