Jan 25, 2017

The Day Got Brighter After All

Friday, after depressing myself by watching too much inauguration stuff, I distracted myself by reviewing my plans for my English class later that afternoon.  You may remember that I'm teaching a Conversational English class for high school students.  Here the high schools are called Preparatorios, or Prepa for short.  There is a Prepa in Chapala, about 5 miles east of Ajijic, and another is in Jocotopec, about 10 miles to the west.  And I think those are the only two around the lake.  At least one of my students lives on the south side of the lake and has a very long bus trip to get to the Jocotopec Prepa.  They're public schools and tuition is free, but the students are responsible for their uniforms, books, and other supplies.  For some families, those expenses are too high.  So a few years ago a Canadian woman, Pat Baxter, started a group, called Pathways, to have people "adopt" a student for a year.  This means that people donate money to cover those extra expenses (about $135) .  This year, starting last summer, someone donated enough money to create conversational English classes. If you go here, you'll see a picture of me (terrible pic) teaching in our tiny classroom.  I have about 10 students and a bilingual assistant. You can see Claudio in that same picture.

To qualify for the program, students have to have and maintain an overall grade average of 85%.  All of them want to go on to university.  They're very focused on learning and are fully engaged. No students are bored or inattentive.  Because of course, if their grades fall or they don't participate, there are dozens more students waiting to take their places.  Anyway, initially they were fairly shy and reserved, but after about two months of our class, they've completely loosened up, and we have such a great time.  I think it's like being on stage and feeling the audience is completely with you.  For me, it's exhilarating.

So Friday I wore all black and explained to the students that I was in mourning because of the inauguration.  They were totally on board with that and contributed their thoughts about the impact of his presidency on Mexico, the US, and the rest of the world.  They're quite well informed and were right on the mark as far as trade, tariffs, the wall, of course, and world economy in general.  (One student called him "evil."  About halfway through the class, I saw and heard dozens of children racing down the street, a real stampede.  My first startled thought was, Are they running from the bulls?!! But we walked out onto the sidewalk, and behind the children was a parade coming down the street.  Friday was El Dia de Santo Sebastien, the patron saint of the neighborhood where our class is and where we live.  The parade consisted of lots and lots of men with face paint, dressed as women with gigantic boobs.  They were throwing confetti and candy to everybody alongside.  Then came the saint himself, carried on a palanquin.  He was being paraded throughout the barrio so everybody could see him.  Normally, he stays locked up in a case in the Ajijic Centro Cultural.  After St. S, came a straggly brass band of sorts, then Indios in costume.  Most of them were pretty impressive except for one fat guy who should NOT have been wearing the skimpy loincloth thingy he was wearing.  I had left my phone inside on the desk, but I asked some students to take some pics with their phones.  I hope to get a couple to share.

So, after the parade, we even managed to get back to class.  They were writing dialogues based on their everyday lives, and they were hilarious.  Such a funny sense of humor.  One boy's dialogue with another boy was complaining about how he couldn't get a girl to like him.  They're learning English and I'm learning even more Spanish, I think.

Anyway, after class, I started walking home--two blocks, five minutes.  As I was walking on the sidewalk along the carretera, a man was coming toward me--gringo, long hair braided in back, with guitar slung over his shoulder.  As he got even with me, he said, "Good choice of outfit for today!"  Completely surprised me that anyone else noticed my mourning clothes.

But the day wasn't over yet.  We had met a couple the week before at the Friday service and potluck at the synagogue and arranged to go out to dinner with them. So Sandy and Linda came here, we had a glass of wine, showed them the house (always the same reaction--OMG!), then walked over to Pedro's, a couple of blocks away.  Pedro/Peter is Canadian but he's cooked and opened restaurants all over the world--a traveling man. His latest place here is particularly convenient for us, but we also like the consistency of the food quality, and the ambience.  So many restaurants here have NO ambience.  Inside the restaurant, there are booklined walls and fireplaces.  And that area leads out to an enclosed garden courtyard--very pretty,even romantic! So we had a good dinner, good conversation, but the evening wasn't over yet.

Our neighborhood saint had made his way to the same street Pedro's is on, one street over from ours. So, walking back to the house, we stopped at the corner that had been blocked off for the mariachi band, decorations, and lights--brilliant blue lights that sort of got in the way of good pictures.  Nevertheless, we took a couple of videos and some photos.  Then continued walking home.

This is a terrible video.  The bright blue lights strung up above the street blurs everything, and the sound is even worse.  Believe it or not, they sounded pretty good and they weren't at all drunk, like they sound. :0


video

So what had turned out to be such a dark day ended with bright lights, music, and happy, happy faces.



Jan 20, 2017

Black Day in History

January 20, 2016

Watching the inauguration in spite of myself, like being drawn to watch a train wreck. I'm so sad to see the Obamas leave.  I remember watching his inauguration 8 years with Gaby who was only 3 years old.  She had practiced saying "Barack Obama" and recognizing him whenever she saw him on TV or pictures.  Now, at eleven, she has no memory of any other president.  I'm so glad that she has him as a model to measure all other presidents against throughout her life.

The first inauguration I remember is Kennedy's.  It was so cold in DC that day, everyone so bundled up.  But his words were so powerful and made such an impression on my 12-year-old mind. We can never know what lies ahead, and I suppose it's a good thing that no one could have had a premonition for what lay ahead.  I'm so fearful now of what's to come.  I see the images of the capitol, Washington Monument, the view down the mall.  They're so filled with symbolism and meaning, and so many people feel that deeply.  I can never see those monuments without being stirred, conscious of the words and promises of the documents they represent. I could never teach the rhetoric of those documents to students without chills, realizing how long they've held true and how many people have often held true and fast.

Sen. Schumer is reading a powerful letter from Civil War soldier Major Sullivan Ballou.

And now Clarence Thomas is swearing in Mike Pence as vice-president.  How appropriate..

Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings "America."  Beautiful song, but he's so unworthy of anything so majestic.

Chief Justice Roberts is now swearing him in. God help us all.  And now Hail to the Chief.  Chief Enemy of the country.

Now his speech:  "transferring power from Wash. DC and giving it back to you the people." He's calling all politicians self-serving who have fleeced the American people.  As if his own pockets will not be lined with more money. He's made no sacrifices for public good, and refuses to do so now.  "the people became the rulers of this nation again...the forgotten people of our country will be forgotten no longer." Reference "the movement" that put him in office.  Back to the poverty of the ?inner cities...school systems flush with cash...the gangs...American carnage"

Grand promises with no hints of how to pay for them. "When you open your hearts to patriotism there is no room for prejudice." "Most importantly we will be protected by God." This man is so far from Godly. Lightning should strike him down.

Benedictions: Rabbi from Simon Wiesenthal Center reads a psalm.

Now Franklin Graham, strident evangelical. "Wants all people to be saved...only one way through Jesus."

Bishop Jackson, African-American pastor--reminds me of Douglass' "What to Me is the Fourth of July?"

Commentators all saying the same thing--this was a campaign speech, not an inaugural speech, also predicted by Bob.

It's over.


Dec 12, 2016

A day in the life....

Last Friday was a full day but not atypical, so I thought I would share it so all of you can see how we spend our days doing "nothing."

Isabel, our housekeeper, comes in for 4 hours on Mondays and Fridays at 9:00.  We usually set an alarm for 8:00 and then manage to roll out of bed by around 8:30.  We prefer to be up and dressed when she gets here so we don't look like the lazy slobs we really are.  Friday we were up, let the dogs out, made the coffee, and then realized it was 9:15 and Isabel wasn't here.  Not only is she never late, she's usually early by 15 minutes or so.  She takes the bus from Chapala where she lives with her husband, son, and daughter.  Soon after, she came in, and I could see right away that she seemed upset, apologized for being late, but she was ready to work.  She had gotten a phone call on the way here while she was on the bus.  She explained that her son had been in the hospital in Guadalajara for two days, and she had been with him.  Early that morning, she left him there with her mother so she could come home, take a shower, and come to work.  Except, the hospital had just called and said he was ready to come home, and she needed to come sign the discharge papers before noon.  But she said she was ready to work anyway and would go later.

We told her no, of course not, and that we would take her to the bus station in Chapala immediately so she could catch the bus to Guadalajara.  So we hopped in the car and set off.  Isabel speaks English about as well as I speak Spanish--which has a lot of gaps.  But she explained that Geraldo, her son (15), has hemophilia and has to be hospitalized fairly often.  This time he had been at school and suddenly began hemorrhaging from the nose. So he was rushed to the hospital. She said that instead of blood transfusions, they administer something called Factor 8 intravenously which helps the blood to clot. Then they keep him until they determine that he has stabilized.  She also told us that she, her daughter, and most of the other women in her family are carriers, or portadoras, and many of her male cousins and nephews also have hemophilia. I didn't ask her how long her family had known this, or if she had known about it before giving birth, but since abortion is still illegal (except for the health of the mother) in most states in Mexico, there's not much that could be done even if detected before birth. Anyway, she was quite anxious and we dropped her off at the Chapala station so she could take the express bus to Guadalajara--about 40 minutes. (She told us today that he's home and doing well.)

So, there we were in Chapala unexpectedly so we checked out an artisan shop where they make equipal furniture, thinking about putting an equipal couch on the terrace so I can be comfortable when I fall asleep reading in the afternoon there.  But we didn't really like anything there.

Back west toward Ajijic, we stopped in San Antonio for what would now be brunch instead of breakfast as we'd originally planned.  Cafe Negro is a cute little place for breakfast and lunch only, indoor and outdoor seating.  They have very good food, and best of all, they have GF bread.  Bob loves their Reubens, of course, and he had French toast the other day.  I had a fruit plate with cottage cheese.  Talk about color--the fruit plate is so colorful and varied, it's beautiful: watermelon, cantelope, strawberries, kiwi, guava.  No mango yet, not in season.  The berries are so plentiful, we eat them every day, especially the blueberries and blackberries.  The stands are full of strawberries, raspberries, figs, ciruelas (a small orange plum), and plenty of others. And then our mandarina (tangerine) tree in the garden is so loaded that we can't give enough away.

So after brunch, we went to the viveros nearby to pick out a couple of pots of bouganvilla because we've been decorating the terrace upstairs with plants.  Beautiful plants all over the place, and so inexpensive.  The pots of bouganvilla were 35p each--less than $2 each.  Here's a view from the terrace as of this morning:

After the viveros stop in San Antonio, we headed back home, stopping one more time at our favorite viveros, Eduardo's, just a couple of blocks from us.  We had already checked his plant stock, but his bouganvillas weren't as nice as the other place.  But we got a couple more pots and more bags of dirt.

After we got home, I reviewed my lesson plans for the afternoon. I don't think I've blogged about it, but I'm now volunteering once a week, teaching an English conversation class to high school students.  I have about 10 students, plus two bilingual assistants which is great for splitting up into small groups for lots of practice.  The classes are sponsored by a group called Pathways, which offers scholarships for high school , or prepa, students.  Tuition for public schools is free, but there are additional costs such as uniforms, books,supplies, etc. that some families just can't afford.  These students receive sponsorship for those additional items, and they are required to maintain regular attendance and an 85% overall average in school.  This year is the first for the conversation classes.  The students are highly motivated with plans to go on to university.  I'll write more about them another time.

Although the class location is barely a 5-minute walk from home, Bob dropped me off in the car because I had bought some supplies--a flip chart, and so on--too bulky to carry.  The "classroom" is a tiny space with a couple of mounted white boards and some dry erase markers.  No internet, no projector, or smart board.  I didn't realize how dependent I had become on technology at hand in the classroom until I started preparing for these classes!  But they all have smart phones and we have a class group on Facebook.  The class is from 3-5 on Friday afternoons.  And Friday's class was so exhilarating to me.  I know it's the same sort of thing actors feel when they have the audience with them.  Such a high, and I haven't felt it for a long time.  These kids are so eager and fresh, not jaded and bored.

Bob walked over to meet me after the class with both dogs and that made a big hit, especially Princess Daisy.  So we walked back home, two blocks up toward the mountain and one block west. At home, we quickly fed the dogs and then headed out again to be at Friday evening services by 6.

You know that we joined the synagogue last September.  A small community, it reminds us a lot of our years in Japan and the Philippines--very close and welcoming.  They don't hold services every week, but usually one or two Saturdays and one or two Fridays.  The snowbirds are beginning to drift back so it appears that activities are picking up.  Friday nights are potlucks, so the brief service is done sitting around tables set up in an L-shape.  We have a paid lay leader who leads the services on Saturdays and some Fridays.  David (Rosett) is from NYC and has had a mostly international life after growing up there.  Oddly enough, he was born in Yokosuka, Japan while his father was in the Navy JAG corps in the late 50s.  He's taught all over the world and is married to a very nice woman from Guadalajara. He's funny and very laid-back.  The congregation is from all over, as you might expect--US, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Morocco, Czech Republic, among others. It's quite a change to step into the synagogue, decorated with Oaxacan wool rugs on the walls, with an ark (with a regular-sized Torah and a baby Torah).  And, of course, when the service begins, it could be anywhere but it's all so familiar.  Afterwards, we do the blessings over the wine and challah and then eat, sitting around the tables.  And again, it's warm and familiar--mishpocha, I guess, as it's meant to feel like.

And that was the end of our day--a very good day.

Dec 10, 2016

Saturday, December 10. 2016

Unlike Susannah, I'm not all that good at coming up with creative titles.  Enough already that I get some words on the screen, right?

Standby, because I have a pretty lengthy blog brewing in my head, but I'm not quite ready to commit the time to it.  Maybe tomorrow.  I mean, I's almost 4:30 and I've already done a lot today!

My main cooking goal for this week was to prepare cabbage rolls, like Nonny used to, and I have a few times.  The days got away from me so this morning was the cabbage roll day.  Had some trouble finding a slow cooker that didn't break the bank.  This kitchen only came with two appliances--coffee maker and blender. (No Mexican cocina is ever complete without a blender.) But Bob found one on the shelf at Walmart the other day.  So this morning I chopped and mixed and cooked and got the cabbage rolls in the slow-cooker just before noon.  (Smells wonderful.)

Then we went to fulfill a couple of errands--always errands.  First we stopped to make a hair appointment for me at a different shop. (Not happy--another story.).  Then to the plaza to the Everything Store, aka locally as the Dollar Store.  I think the first name is more appropriate because you can almost find EVERYTHING there that you can't anywhere.  It's very small with an opening onto the sidewalk that's only about 10 ft.  It continues this narrow path into the store for quite awhile before it widens up to about twice the width, but not for very long.  It's a tiny little store with things crammed on shelves and mostly only the women who work there can find anything.  So we particularly to find playing cards (sure I brought some but can't find them).  While we were there, we bought a Rummikub game and dominoes because, of course, we're in Mexico and everybody plays Mexican Train.  Bob lucked out and found on a shelf--all by himself--a wire brush for cleaning  the grill.  Big day!

Then to the carretera where we found the vendors who sell blankets.  We keep a couple of blankets on the couch in the den where we hang out most of the time.  The dogs love it, although Howdy has to be boosted from the back, but we needed a couple more so we can rotate with the washing.



 Then we found a yummy bakery someone had recommended.  I bought a little caramel-pecan cake, and Bob bought two GF pecan muffins.

And now I want to read.  So no more blog for today.

Dec 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 2016



I don't think I've ever seen this aerial shot of the memorial straddling the ship with the outline of the Arizona beneath.  Very moving.  But Susannah knows how memorable this day is for me, for both of us, I think. I'll add more to this blog later because I want to recollect as much as I can that amazing week, the biggest adventure of my life.

Nov 13, 2016

What happened to the perfect weather?????

Well, for about a week, it's been overcast with heavy clouds sitting right on top of the mountains directly behind us, and the lake and mountains across are invisible. The temperatures have dropped as well with highs in the low 60s and overnight lows about 55.  Then Friday came the deluge; it started raining and it's pretty much been raining ever since.  Here's a picture of the terrace shiny with rain.


You can see that beyond the wall we have no view.  This is evidently the result of an unstable low pressure system pushed very far south--called "el norte."  In the northern estados along the border, the low temps have dropped below freezing and there's even snow in the highest altitudes there. Highly unusual, we're told, but then it's just tagged as another signal of global warming.  I guess we'll just standby for much more of that.  😞

Mexicans are walking around in down jackets or vests with knit caps pulled down over their ears.  Your dad is freezing, wearing his flannel jammies and sweatshirts.  So cold is he that we actually turned on the gas fire this morning.


Too bad I didn't see this coming; I could have had some hot chocolate in the pantry.  Appropriately, it feels very much like November/Thanksgiving weather. It's also good to know that Tuesday the "sun'll come out" and the temps will rise by 10 degrees.

Nov 3, 2016

Long Day in Guadalajara


There's a beautiful song called Guadalajara.  Here's a great version.


Beautiful scenes from all over the city.  Unfortunately we weren't anywhere near them today. This is mostly what we saw instead:


We were on a mission or two or three:  
  • card stock to print cards with our names, addresses, phones, etc. so we can hand them out to new people we meet
  • a small blackboard for our kitchen list
  • a doggie gate to block the steps from the garden down into the carport so the dogs won't run out into the street and get run over when we leave them out in the garden and open the garage doors to go somewhere in the car (I know. We have at least two in the garage in Louisville.)
  • a small folding drying rack (I know. We have at least two in the garage in Louisville.)
  • a small drill for you-know-who (I have no idea how many of those are floating around Louisville.)
  • and other assorted things
First we visited Petco (where we found a $100 USD fancy doggie gate with a smaller gate set into for the cat if we had one). Looks like this:
Cute, huh? btw, this image is from Target where it's listed for $36.99 USD. So, absolutely not.  Besides, see note above about how many we have back in the USA. Home Depot provided the drill but not much else we needed. Walmart was useless, and Sam's Club much the same.  Didn't go to Costco because we aren't members. Office Max was our one success, where we found both the cardstock and the little blackboard.  All of these stores happen to be on one main artery of the city, Avenida Lopez Mateos which stretches from SW to NE.  Access is very easy for us by going west through Jocotepec where HWY 80/15 becomes Lopez Mateos.  The problem with the street--and all the other main streets in Guadalajara--is that they're all limited access with side streets running parallel--laterals.  So sometimes you have to go miles north in order to find a cross street (called "retornos") that will let you cross over and go South, the direction you really want to go in.  We spent a lot of time going unwillingly in the wrong direction because sometimes we just couldn't get there from here. Frustrating on top of not finding what we wanted.

Times like this we really miss Amazon! But Bob is a pro: no way can you compare driving in Manila, Tokyo, Paris, etc. with Guadalajara.

After we got home, while I was checking Facebook, Maritza tapped me for a video message.  Very cool.  We had a nice little chat.  She put her little boys on so they see and say hello to Bob.

Then we went upstairs to the terrace off our bedroom to watch the afterglow of the sunset. It was so pretty turning from gold to pink to red.  Below us, it looked like a postcard with the village, the church steeple, the still lake, and Mt. Garcia silhouetted in dark blue against the darkening sky.  I've tapped the official photographer to get some pictures at the same time of day.

Busy day but tomorrow will be quieter. Lazy day at home with some pool time in the afternoon.