What I’m Into: November 2013

November has been a quiet month. Being the only student in class has been great for my Spanish learning! As I write this, though, it’s December and I’m going home tomorrow so it’s a little difficult to concentrate on Spanish learning right now. Also I’m taking 6 tests today so I can finish Level 3 early (when Emily and I bought tickets, staying an extra week cost $300 more per ticket, so we chose to save $600).   It’s been a quiet month, but a great month!  Like last month, I can’t believe it’s already time to review another month of What I’m Into (inspired by Leigh Kramer). 

Carnival

The little town I live in has a festival every year in the first week of November. There were many events, including free barbacoa (meat) night, licuado (smoothie) stands everywhere, terrifying carnival rides, a rodeo, and more. Many events, like the rodeo, were expensive so I did not take part. However, buying cheap chocolate milk drinks and going to free barbacoa night were definitely highlights of early November.

IMG_1179

 

 

Carnival

Books

I read a lot in the beginning of November and finished quite a few books. But by the end of November, I got distracted by Mexico and friends so my reading time diminished. Maybe over my Christmas break I’ll write some reviews of the books I’ve written? But maybe not, I have a lot of pop culture to consume in a month. I only have 4 books left to read to reach my goal of 50! It’s definitely within reach.

Some highlights from November include:

Columbine by Dave Cullen (one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang (I started this in September, but trailed off: the first half is better than the end. I’ll see how the sequels are when they’re published)

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain

Cocinando Buen Pollo

In early November, my Mexican host mom told me she wanted to learn how to cook American dishes. so I started this month by making my other mom’s recipe, Good Chicken. But, since we cooked in Spanish of course, we called it Buen Pollo. Essentially, Buen Pollo is chicken cooked in a pan with chicken broth, thyme, bayleaf, and tons of garlic, then served over rice. It is delicious and tastes like America. It was a great dish to make with my Mexican mom, because it is similar in style to Mexican dishes but with American sabores (flavors). We had so much fun cooking together and it was great practice for my Spanish.

Buen Pollo

Skyline Night

One of my favorite foods in the world is Skyline/Cincinnati Chili. Other people would eat a bag of chocolate or a whole pizza: I would eat an entire pot of Skyline Chili. You can make Skyline Chili on your own with a packet of Cincinnati Chili seasoning (purchased at Kroger in Dayton), ground beef, tomato paste, and water. And of course spaghetti, onions, and cheese. So after an adventure at Super Che, Emily and I bought the necessary ingredients and made Skyline for our friends Dave and Laura. They had never enjoyed this delicious dish before we introduced them—and now they have been converted to Skyline! Nothing tastes like eating Skyline in the restaurant on the way to Lakeside, but it was amazing to eat a taste of home and vacation here in Mexico.

Skyline

Tiny Death Star

Have you heard of Tiny Death Star? It’s just like Tiny Tower, except STAR WARS. If you didn’t know, I love Star Wars (thought not as much as my sister does). So of course I downloaded this awesome game. If you have an iPhone or a PC, you need to download it. It’s fun and addicting and it makes your phone make R2-D2 noises.

Thanksgiving in Mexico

What do you do with nearly 50 Americans (and 5 Canadians) in Mexico who want to celebrate Thanksgiving? You plan a large fiesta, of course! My sister was the main planner for this event—it takes a lot of planning to make sure there’s enough delicious Thanksgiving food for that many people! We had a delicious meal together, complete with three turkeys (including a smoked turkey—I never want to eat not-smoked turkey ever again), mashed potatoes, rolls, vegetables, and more. My contribution was stuffing, which I made with my Mexican mom. It was so good—it smelled and tasted like America. After dinner, we had a small variety show that was hilarious and included impressions of all the Spanish School teachers. Then, to cap the evening, we watched Elf projected on a sheet on the side of a house. Nothing says the start of the Christmas season like this festive movie!

I had grand plans for live-facebooking this festive day, but the internet service here conspired against me. The day before Thanksgiving, the internet went through some reconfigurations, and we in the Spanish School didn’t get internet back until Thanksgiving evening. While my live-facebooking plans were dashed, Emily and I were able to talk to our parents on Thanksgiving night.

It was a little strange to eat turkey and stuffing underneath palm trees, but it was also awesome.

Thanksgiving

The Rock

The mission base where I live is called Roca Blanca, which simply means White Rock. There is an actual Roca Blanca/White Rock just off the coast in the PACIFIC OCEAN. Some Spanish School friends love to scuba dive and got a group together to go in boats to the rock. I went with friends who weren’t planning to scuba dive (I prefer to breathe air above the ocean, thank you) and we climbed all the way to the top of the rock. I also had the opportunity to snorkle—it was amazing to see so many fish! By the end of our little trip, I was a little tired of the sun and the ocean, but I was so glad I had the opportunity to go.

Mexican Wedding

I went to a Mexican Wedding! A woman who had worked at the base for many years got married on the last day of November, and everyone in the world was invited! In true Mexican style, the wedding was scheduled to begin at 4, but the service didn’t begin until nearly 6. I actually didn’t sit in the audience, because I and a handful of other Spanish students were roped into helping serve food at the wedding. Now, when I was told I would help serve, I thought food would be served buffet style. Nope, I was a waiter. Who can only sort of speak the same language as the guests. But, I was waiter-ing with an American Spanish School student and a Mexican Bible school student, and all I really needed to know how to say was, “¿Necesita más tortillas?” (Do you [formal] need more tortillas?) or “¿Quiere más agua? (Do you [formal] want more water?). I don’t know if I made for a great Mexican wedding waiter, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Mexican Wedding

El Fin

If you had told me in January (or February, March, or April) that I would spend my November, my Thanksgiving (or really, any time at all) in Mexico, I wouldn’t have believed it. These last three months, September, October, and November have changed my life in so many good ways. In such a short time, I’ve gained a new language, new family, new friends. I have a ways to go in becoming fluent in Spanish, but at the end of November, I finally feel like it’s possible and that I will eventually actually be able to speak and understand. Now, I am going to finish taking the million tests I need to take to finish Level 3 before I skip out on the last week of school to go home.

Sunset at a Mexican Wedding

Sacrificios Que Dios Requiere

As part of Spanish School, every student is required to give a devotion in Spanish to the whole Spanish School. Today was my turn, so I thought I would post what I shared in Spanish this morning. Yesterday I decided I want to speak on Micah 6:8, but I wasn’t sure what exactly to say about these verses. Then, I remembered that in college, I wrote a paper on Micah 6:1-8 for my Minor Prophets class.  While this was not a devotional paper (it was 19 pages long with tons of footnotes and was mainly about the history and context of the passage), I was still able to use it as inspiration for my talk.  In my paper, I made the conclusion that in this passage, Micah is saying that God does not require grand sacrifices–instead he asks only for us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before him.  And that’s what I shared today:

6¿Cómo podré acercarme al
y postrarme ante el Dios Altísimo?
¿Podré presentarme con holocaustos
o con becerros de un año?
7¿Se complacerá el Señor con miles de carneros,
o con diez mil arroyos de aceite?
¿Ofreceré a mi primogénito por mi delito,
al fruto de mis entrañas por mi pecado?
8¡Ya se te ha declarado lo que es bueno!
Ya se te ha dicho lo que de ti espera el Señor :
Practicar la justicia,
amar la misericordia,
y humillarte ante tu Dios.
          Miqueas 6:6-8
Estos versículos hacen la pregunta y responden a la pregunta: ¿Qué sacrificios requiere Dios?  Miqueas habla de sacrificios grandiosos, como holocaustos de becerros o diez mil arroyos de aceite.  Hoy, no sacrificamos animales, porque Jesúcristo, se sacrificó por nosotros.  En nuestras vidas, sin embargo, todavía necesitamos hacer sacrificios.  A veces pensamos que tenemos que hacer sacrificios grandiosos, excepto nuestros sacrificios grandiosos son diferentes de los sacrificios del Antiguo Testamento.  Quizás estos sacrificios son dejar casa, mover a un nuevo país, o vivir en una tierra desconocida.  Estos sacrifcios son buenos, pero no son los que Dios requiere.  Miqueas dice en el último versículo, los tres cosas que Dios dice que son buenos:
Practicar la justicia,
Amar la misericordia,
y Humillarse ante tu Dios.
Estos requisitos, estos sacrificios son difíciles, pero son todo lo que Dios requiere. ¡Gracias a Dios!
Roca Blanca Beach
Roca Blanca Beach

What I’m Into: October 2013

So, where did October go?  I can’t believe it’s already time to review another month of What I’m Into (inspired by Leigh Kramer).  In the past month, I finished a level of Spanish school, said goodbye to new yet dear friends, went on a three day clinic trip to the mountains, started a new level of Spanish, met new friends, and continued to enjoy life here in Mexico! October was also the month that reliable internet returned!  Everything is better now that I can communicate, get new ebooks, and do other internetly things without taking a taxi to  the next town. Here’s hoping it doesn’t leave again!

Dusk at the Beach
Dusk at the Beach

Spanish Learning

For the first part of October, my classmates and I hurtled toward the end of Level 2. In mid-October we took finals, and good news: we passed! I may or may not have cried for at least 10 minutes in the middle of my final because a good friend left to start a journey home in the middle of finals taking, but don’t worry, I was able to finish. After finals, we had a week off, but most of us students who remained went on a three day clinic trip to the mountains. It was a great trip, but it deserves its own post.

But, vacation can’t last forever. The last week of October, the new session of Spanish School began. Everything is different for me now in Level 3. Besides the changes in the students here at Spanish School, I embarked on a new adventure: I am now the only student in my level. Every other level here has so many students that each is split into two sections. We make many jokes about also splitting Level 3, but I can only be in one place at a time. Being the only student in my class is great for Spanish learning—I’m just exhausted by the end of the school day! Even in just a week of class, I can see a significant difference in my ability to speak and understand Spanish because I spend so much more time conversing in and listening to Spanish in class.

Cassie, Me, Jenna, and Moriah at the beach
Cassie, Me, Jenna, and Moriah at the beach

Books

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books in 2013. I use the Goodreads Reading Challenge to keep track of how many I have read and see how many I have left. As of now, I have read 38 books and I have 12 left. According to my Goodreads tracker, I’m 4 books behind the pace, but I have read 12 books in my time here in Mexico so far, so I think I should be able to manage 12 more by the end of the year. I’m in the middle of at least 12 books right now (check out my currently reading list—it is real. Try not to look too long at my to-read list because it’s ridiculous and I love it).

I want to write a love letter to ebooks. It is thanks to the wonder of ebooks I have been able to read so many books here in Mexico. Some really great new books have been published in my time here, and I’ve been able to download them IMMEDIATELY, which has been magical. I had about $40 worth of credit card points that I have been using to feed my ebook habit—I’ve used about $30 so far, so I’m running out! Thank goodness for the Tulsa library and its vast ebook lending library.

I had a lot to say about each of these books, so I’m going to allow them their own future post(s). I’m trying to be better at actually reviewing these books I read. My favorites of the month, though, were When We Were on Fire and Allegiant. Here are my favorites of the books I read this month:

TV ReWatching with Subtitles

With each show I rewatch, I learn a whole new set of Spanish vocabulary. With Chuck, I learn words about spies and nerdery. However, sometimes the Chuck subtitles seem a little lazy, so I don’t count on its accuracy 100%. On my lone season of Parks and Rec, there are some fun words about small town politics as well as quite a few silly and joke-y vocabulary. Also, the subtitles for P&R are much more creative and accurate, trying to find the best way to translate the jokes. I’ve also watched a few episodes of Bones, where there are a number of complex scientific words. It’s great to use TV watching as an excuse for gaining new vocabulary.

A View on my Walk to School
A View on my Walk to School

Spanish Movies

When I was last at the Super Che (supermarket) in Puerto Escondido, I happened to glance at the large pile of DVDS. Lo and behold, they had Orgullo y Prejuicio (Pride and Prejudice) and Mas Barato por Docena (Cheaper By the Dozen) for less than $10 for both DVDs! And, they were made to be watched in Region 1 (US) as well as Region 4 (Mexico). Watching the movies with Spanish voices is so much more beneficial than just watching with subtitles. I promptly spent the weekend watching both movies with my family, which was great fun!

El Fin

As I publish this story, I have less than 5 weeks left here in Mexico. My sister and I return home the first week of December, one week before the last day of school. Tickets were $300 more apiece to return the second week of December, so home a week early it was. I’m looking forward to Christmas at home and to seeing my friends and family while I’m home for a month! But before then, I can’t wait to see what November will bring.

Me at the Beach
Me at the Beach

Tututepec

At my language school, they hope to teach us about more than just Spanish grammar and vocabulary. When you learn a language, you need to learn about the culture and history, too. One way to better understand the people you are talking and listening to is to learn about their past. Because there are many indigenous people groups here in southern Oaxaca, there is a lot of different history to learn.

One of those indigenous people groups is the Mixtecs. From around 800 to 1522, the Mixtecs were an empire at the same time as the Aztecs and Mayans. Their empire was vast and their power was great, but for some reason this people group was always left out of the story when I learned about the Aztec and Mayan Empires and the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s.

The capital of the Mixtec Empire was Tututepec, which still exists as a sleepy little pueblo up in the mountains. No longer the capital city of a great empire, it is now the county seat, with a town square, a Catholic church built in the 1500s and a small museum about the history of the Mixtec people. I was able to take pictures of the town center and the Catholic church, but the museum prohibited pictures.

Catholic Church in Tututepec
Catholic Church in Tututepec

The museum in Tututepec is small, but it has significant artifacts, including a large stone idol depicting a fertility goddess from the religion of the Mixtec Empire. Few artifacts still exist from that time: almost anything relating to the Mixtec religion (and by extension anything relating to Mixtec Empire history) was destroyed by Spanish priests who came with the conquistadors. While I understand the impulse to get rid of false idols, the destruction of hundreds of years of history of a people is a loss for those of us learning today. There is so much we don’t know about this 700+ year empire, but the Tututepec museum displays the artifacts and facts that have been discovered about the Mixtec Empire.

Inside the Catholic Church in Tututepec
Inside the Catholic Church in Tututepec

One of the things that struck me about the art and artifacts of the Mixtec people was how similar it looked to Chinese art I have seen. I thought that I was just seeing things, but in the museum, they have statuettes uncovered in archaeological digs that appear to depict people with Chinese features, as well as people with African features. Perhaps people from China and Africa made their way to Mexico many hundreds of years ago?

View of the Area from the Church
View of the Area from the Church

The funny thing about history? As we learned about the beginning of the Mixtec Empire around 800, I thought of when I traveled to Iona, an island of the coast of Scotland. The saint Columba landed on Iona in the late 500s and started a monastery there. Monks were trained there and the famous Book of Kells was started there in the 700s, but by around 800, the Vikings came and destroyed the monastery. Iona and Mexico are thousands of miles apart, but it’s crazy to think about how such monumental historical events happened around the same time.

Mixtec Art in the Town Office Buildings
Mixtec Art in the Town Office Buildings

When the conquistadors came to Mexico in 1522, they didn’t exactly conquer the Mixtecs. As I was told the story, the way the Spanish took over land was by striking deals with smaller people groups already subjugated by the Mixtec Empire. That way, the Spanish had a built-in army of sorts when they approached the Mixtecs. Apparently, the king of the Mixtec Empire offered to make a deal with the Spaniards, but his overtures were rebuffed, and then, as this sort of thing almost always goes, battles broke out. Instead of being conquered, though, the Mixtecs fled high into the mountains where the Spaniards couldn’t reach them. With the people scattered, the Mixtec Empire as it was vanished and the Spaniards took over the area.

Cassie and Me
Cassie and Me

Those Mixtecs that fled to the mountains are the ancestors of the Mixtecos of today, of my friends here who have Mixtec heritage. In many of those high mountain villages, there are many people who still only speak Mixteco, not Spanish. In Tututepec we had the unique opportunity to attend a Mixtecan celebration honoring their Mixtec heritage, complete with their own style of music and dancing (and had we been able to stay longer, also food). At this little celebration, tiny Mixteco women taught some of us how to dance, sharing a part of their ancient culture with us.

Tiny Mixteco Woman Teaching Cassie and Elaine to Dance
A Tiny Mixteco Woman Teaches Cassie and Elaine to Dance
A Tiny Mixteco Woman Teaches Cassie and Elaine to Dance (sorry for the blurry picture–iPhones are not great for capturing motion!)

Learning about the Mixtec Empire at the museum and being able to experience a taste of Mixteco culture at the fiesta were great additions to my Spanish School experience. I’m thankful to be studying Spanish at a school that values the history and culture of the local area. My studies of the Spanish are richer with this background knowledge of some of the people I meet and talk to every day.

City Offices in Tututepec
City Offices in Tututepec
View of the Mountains on the Drive Home from Tututepec
View of the Mountains on the Drive Home from Tututepec

Spanish School Family

Yesterday, I wrote about the school side of Spanish School. Now that school is explained, I want to talk about the more entertaining part: the people! I am one of 23 Spanish School students in this session. We range in age from 18 to 71, and we are a lively bunch. The group divides fairly neatly into two categories: the young people and the couples. There are four older couples (as in, they have children and grandchildren older), the middle-aged couple, the youngish newlywed couple, and 13 young people. We also have seven teachers, including my sister Emily (who is an additional member of “the young people.”

I am the oldest (by only a few months) of the young people, but I appear to be the youngest. In fact, one of the young gentlemen here asked me, upon my arrival, “So, have you graduated high school?” Because he was already friends with Emily from earlier in the year, I knew how old he was, and I had to restrain myself from saying, “Oh honey, I’m two years older than you.” (Ah the trials of appearing 16. People keep telling me I’ll appreciate it when I’m older, but I keep getting older and I still don’t appreciate it.)

Essentially, as a group we’re a funny little Spanish School family, made up of older, wiser people who are responsible and study a lot and go to bed on time (and I mean this as a sincere compliment), as well as we younger people who like to run around and be silly and study occasionally and go to bed late. We young people have a lot of fun together attempting to experience all the interesting things our area of Mexico has to offer.

Taco Tuesday
Taco Tuesday

I liken the Spanish School family to a large family vacation or reunion. At a family reunion, you’re with many people you like and love, but you can move around and hang out with lots of different people. There’s almost always something entertaining and/or cultural happening, as well as plenty of people with whom you can enjoy that cultural entertainment.

Spanish school family (among the young people) includes, but is not limited to:

  • sharing food, sometimes by literally taking food off of other people’s plates, while other times it just means giving what you don’t want to eat to the hungry young man sitting next to you
  • getting lost in the city and not having a meeting point planned but finding each other anyway because Emily and I were in separate groups and sometimes we can read each others’ minds
  • having a group Bible study in English but going to Bible study mostly because the newlyweds bake cookies and have fresh fruit (FELLOWSHIP and fruit)
  • throwing impromptu late night swing dance parties
  • having a bonfire birthday party on the beach
  • and more and more

Whenever you’re in such a close environment, studying, living, eating, celebrating together, you become close quickly. We plan each others’ birthday parties, throw impromptu swing dance parties, discover new restaurants and revisit old favorites, explore cities, study the Bible in English and try to read it in Spanish, learn about each others’ lives before now and where we want them to go. It’s messy and great and awkward and wonderful all at the same time.

The sad thing about Spanish School Family is that every 7-8 weeks, the family changes. Today, many of my new friends leave and move on to other adventures. The lone Level 4 is moving on to a new job in the states, the Level 3 who is my housemate (we live in the same house and share a Mexican family) is returning home (and both these people have become dear friends—today is awful because they’re going; I’ve been crying all day), and all of the older couples are going on to other adventures.

The trouble with becoming close to people, with becoming friends, with becoming family is that it hurts when you have to say goodbye. And this weekend is just the first round of my goodbyes here—I have two more sessions of Spanish to learn and new friends to make! The joys of friendship, community, and family, though, are well worth the pain of saying goodbye.

Cassie, Emily, Sarah, Jenny, Joey, Peter (front row) Nathan, Mark, Dylan, Rob (back row)
Cassie, Emily, Sarah, Jenny, Joey, Peter (front row) Nathan, Mark, Dylan, Rob (back row)

Spanish School Life

Now that I’ve been in Mexico for seven weeks, it’s more than past time to answer the question: So, what am I doing here in southern Mexico? Since the beginning of September, I have been attending Roca Blanca Spanish Language School in the state of Oaxaca. The goal by the end of my time here at the school is (obviously) to become fluent in Spanish. I want to give you a little glimpse into how I’m trying to accomplish that goal.

Spanish School is in session every day Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 1:00 PM with an hour break for almuerzo (breakfast/brunch/first lunch). On “A” days, I have gramatica (grammar), fonetica (phonetics), vocabulario (vocabulary), and laboratorio (laboratory—basically practicing speaking Spanish). On “B” days, I have gramatica, verbos (verbs), patrones (patterns), and traducción (translation). After a couple of alternating ABABAB days, we have “C”days, which just means it’s time for a test. This goes on for 7 weeks, then there is a week break before the next session starts.

Currently, I am finishing Level 2 out of 4. I was able to begin in this level because I knew enough Spanish to skip Level 1. Most of Level 2, though, has been review for me. Nearly all my grammar lessons have had concepts I’ve learned before, but had forgotten. It’s been a great way to ease back in to learning Spanish.

Next session, I will complete Level 3, then when I return to Mexico in January I will complete Level 4. I plan to stay an extra month past Level 4 to keep practicing my Spanish in this “immersion” setting. If I’m putting this much time into learning the language, I want to make sure I know it and can use it!

The hardest part, of course, of language learning, is understanding what people say and then being able to speak back. You know, having conversations? For Level 3, I will be the only student in my level, because my current classmates are moving on to other adventures and no one new is entering into Level 3. Being the only student in my class will challenge me in my language learning because I will be the only one responsible for knowing the answers. I will miss my current classmates, but I’m excited for this new part of my adventure.

Me with my Nivel Dos classmates and our vocabulary teacher
Me with my Level 2 classmates and our vocabulary teacher

Comida

One of the most important parts of any new living situation is the comida (food).  There are a lot of things I like about the food here, and there are things I really really dislike. Here, though, are a few of my thoughts on comida.

The Mexican eating schedule is very different from the American schedule. You eat a little desayuno (breakfast), like oatmeal, before school, then almuerzo (lunch/brunch) is at 10:00 AM. Comida (lunch/dinner) is at 3:00 PM, then cena (dinner) is at 8:00 PM. I eat almuerzo and comida on the base in the comedor (dining room), which is served cafeteria style to everyone who works and learns at the base. Some days the food is better than others—Mondays are the worst because there aren’t many people on the base so sometimes they just serve leftover tortillas covered in watery beans, which is not my favorite meal. Then, there are days where they serve shrimp soup, with a rich and delicious stock that might convince you that you’re at a fancy restaurant. That makes up for hot dog soup days.  Yes, hot dog soup.

The best restaurant in Cacalote is Maria’s taco stand. The tacos are simple: just barbacoa (“barbecued”meat) and tortilla, fried. Each taco is only 6 pesos, and an order of tacos comes with a roasted cebolla (onion). The salsa verde is delicious and insanely spicy, to the point where the comment was made, “Hey Sarah, did you know that your lips get bright red when you eat spicy food?” Well, if I didn’t know before, I know now! Also, when I say it’s the best restaurant in Cacalote, it’s the only restaurant that isn’t a bar that is open every night. There’s a family who makes tlayudas (Oaxacan quesadillas) some weekends, but that’s about the only other option. Fortunately, Maria’s tacos are the best.

Those who know me well know I don’t like milk. I can’t remember ever drinking a glass, because I find it disgusting. The texture, the taste, everything. Chocolate milk on the other hand, is delicious. And I can get chocolate milk in a box anytime I want. It’s delicious, but there’s never enough in the box.

ChocoMilk
ChocoMilk

Another great Mexican snacky is galletas (cookies). Sharing a package of galletas around the lunch table is a common pastime. Triki-Trakes, Empreadors, Maravillas, and Marias are just a few of the tasty options.  Healthy? Not at all. Tasty and delicious? Yes.

A great thing about living near the Pacific Ocean, as I do, is that there are a lot of dishes that include seafood.  One of my favorites dishes when I’m out at a restaurant in a nearby town, is shrimp cocktail. Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.

Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp Cocktail

Watchers of PBS may know of a show called Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless. Last season, he traveled throughout the state of Oaxaca, enjoying plates of Mexican cuisine and then showing viewers how to make similar dishes. One episode is set in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, Puerto being the closest “big city” to little Cacalote. This spring in America, my family watched this episode and I was enamored with a dish called encamoranadas (shrimped things), which are basically shrimp tacos. So, when I found myself at Playa Carrizalillo I had to try these shrimp tacos. I split them with my roommate Cassie (in Spanish, her name sounds like the word “casi,” which means almost, so sometimes we call her Almost) AND THEY WERE AMAZING. They were Mexican expensive (100 pesos, which is about $9) because we were at a tourist beach, but it was worth every peso.

Encamaronadas
Encamaronadas

I’m excited to see what else I will eat in my next two months here in southern Mexico!

What I’m Into: September

I live in Mexico now. One month in, and it is awesome. I go to school every day from 8 AM to 1 PM. I eat Mexican food. I have made new friends and run around doing fun activities. I go to the occasional Bible class to work on my Spanish listening skills. I don’t internet much (yes, internet is a verb) because after the first week, it stopped working in the Spanish school, and it’s a lot of effort to get to the next town over to internet. Basically life is grand and I love it here (even when it’s hot, even when I have a zillion mosquito bites—It’s worth it). Estoy feliz.

My categories of What I’m Into (Inspired by Leigh Kramer) are a little different than normal, because my life is different than normal. This opportunity to live in another country, learn another language, and just enjoy life in another culture with great people is rare. And I’m embracing it.

Spanish

Learning a language is a lot of work. This should surprise no one. I’m in class for four hours a day, learning the ins and outs of Spanish grammar and phonetics, memorizing vocabulary, practicing the actual speaking and understanding of Spanish. I’m actually pretty good at learning how to read and write Spanish, and I’m even good at reading aloud, pronouncing Spanish mostly correctly. But understanding when other people talk to me and actually speaking to others? That…is very difficult. I live in a house with a family with two kids and another Spanish School student, so we talk in Spanish (as much as I can). Having another Spanish School student in the house who can speak and understand more than me is nice when I need a home conversation clarified. I go to church, devotions (worship services on the base), and the occasional night Bible school class to practice listening. It’s great, but it’s exhausting. Language learning isn’t easy!

Side note: A problem with learning Spanish is that my spoken English is starting to deteriorate. Being in between languages means sometimes you don’t make any sense at all.

Mi familia Mexicana
Mi familia Mexicana

 

Revistas

I have purchased 3 revistas since I arrived in Mexico. I always choose Vogue Mexico, but I decide on other magazines based on the cover and if there are any interviews and articles I might find interesting. The covergirl of Marie Claire Mexico Latin America was Rachel Bilson, and Elle Mexico is some model I don’t know but the magazine was celebrating its 19th birthday, so it looked festive. I go through the magazine, translating the Spanish text into English. It’s fun practice with words I don’t generally come across in my school vocabulary.

Spanish Learning via Entertaining Media (Currently DVDs but I want Podcasts)

I brought a number of DVDs with me to Mexico, and I go through an episode or two every night as I get ready for bed. None of my DVDs have Spanish dubs, but they do have Spanish subtitles. This will come as a shock to no one, but I started with Chuck, and in the month of September, made it through Season 2. It’s actually been helpful to my language learning because I start to recognize through the subtitles ways to use grammar and vocabulary I learn in class. I’ve also been watching Season 2 of Project Runway with the Spanish subtitles, and it is enlightening. It’s a great complement to my revista moda (fashion magazine) habit, reinforcing my learning of words like estilo (style), diseñador (designer), y pasarela (runway). Also, TIM GUNN EVERYBODY. Carryon? Continúa! Make it work? Resuélvanlo como sea!

I would absolutely LOVE to watch Project Runway Latin America, all in Spanish, but I don’t have internet and even when I do, streaming video is sometimes a little much for it. If anyone has PR:LA on DVD or knows how to get it cheaply, LET ME KNOW. Or Mexico’s Top Model. Just really, any funny reality show with Spanish talking.

Seriously, though, I’m on the lookout for Spanish podcasts, sermons, or anything similar to practice listening instead of just reading. It’s surprisingly difficult to find Spanish podcasts in the iTunes store that ARE NOT specifically for language learning (I don’t need that, I need people speaking Spanish naturally), ARE in Mexican Spanish and NOT weird Spain vosotros Spanish, and ARE remotely interesting or even good. Where is NPR Mexico/Latin America for my podcast habit? I ask you.

On my Walk to School
On my Walk to School

Books

I’ve been reading books in English. Reading a whole book in Spanish is still beyond me. Maybe next month?

Due to luggage weight restrictions, I didn’t bring many printed books. Thanks to borrowing books from new friends and ebooks I can download from the library when I do internet, I’ve been able to read a little. Let’s face it, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with new friends (see a future post—my stories about my new friends/classmates got too long for What I’m Into: September), not reading. I’m just going to highlight a few noteworthy reads from this month.

Have you ever wondered why airport security is the way it is? If you have, read The Skies Belong to Us. This book tells the story of the rise and fall of “skyjacking” of commercial airplanes in the 60s and 70s. At first, some hijackers/skyjackers would take over a plane just to redirect its path to Cuba or some other exotic destination. Later, though, the skyjackings would take a turn to violence and ransom demands. It’s a complicated story of disturbed skyjackers,airlines willing to pay exorbitant ransoms rather than increase security, and a public afraid of being skyjacked while flying around the United States. Books like this one about no as well-known times in history are some of my favorites. Learning about a moment (or decade) in time where life was completely different is fascinating.

My favorite kind of book is Young Adult Literature. However, I have a number of random gaps in my YAL repertoire, books I never happened to pick up as a child or young adult. I’m trying to fill some of those gaps, in case my pipe dream of becoming a bilingual children’s/young adult librarian comes true. My gap-filling attempt this month was reading Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. As Spanish School classmates saw me reading this book (as I had borrowed a printed copy, because my library doesn’t have it as an ebook), they would gush over how much they had loved the book when they had read it. Unfortunately, I did not have the same reaction. It feels like a book I would have enjoyed reading at age ten. However, at 25, I don’t find some of its quirks as endearing as I might have when I was younger. I would definitely recommend it for children, but I did not personally love it. I am planning on reading the next three in the series, because they are available here and because I like to complete things. Also they’re short and don’t take very long to read.

I’ve known the story of the five missionaries martyred by the “Auca” Indians in Ecuador in 1956 forever, but I had never actually read any of the books written by those who loved those missionaries. A friend had a printed copy of The End of the Spear, written by Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, and I read it in a weekend. I grew up reading missionary stories, but had fallen out of the habit as an adult. While I have a few stylistic and editing critiques, overall I really enjoyed The End of the Spear. It really is a powerful story of how God’s love can change history, change lives, change stories.

The End

September 2013 has been a great month. I love being here, and I can’t wait to see what the next two months bring. I’m going home in December for a month, then returning in January for three more months. I just hope I can speak and understand Spanish by then!

In case anyone is wondering, I can receive mail here. If you’re interested in mailing me something, let me know (email, facebook, etc—I’ll check it eventually!) and I can send you the address.  

 

View of the Spanish School
View of the Spanish School

Hola

Hola de Mexico!

I have now been living in Mexico for  two and a half weeks, three weeks three and a half weeks. Time keeps marching on, and the internet stubbornly refuses to cooperate. After the first week of glorious internet, the supply was cut off, thanks to a number of factors, including the one person able to fix the internet being out of town for a week, then that same person stuck on the other side of a collapsed bridge, and then the discovery that the cable bringing the glorious internet to the Spanish school from the main office was submerged and NOT waterproof.  Thanks rainy season! As of right now, there is no end in sight to the internet drought, save for the occasional trip to the Pasteleria in Rio Grande (a 10 minute taxi ride away from Roca Blanca)  where I can drink a moka and eat french fries and sometimes obtain internet. Like, right now.

So, to catch you up on the first crazy two and a half-ish weeks! I’ve become accustomed to school life again. Frankly, that wasn’t very difficult, because I like school and I only have four hours of language school a day. School, while it is the point of my time here in Mexico, has not been the crazy stuff. The crazy has been day after day of somewhat extraordinary happenings, including but not limited to:

  • a 20 hours-long power outage (Week 2)
  • lack of internet, which was partially caused by said power outage, but was perpetuated by only one person knowing how to fix it and that person being out of town, and now stuck on the other side of a collapsed bridge (Week 2, 3, onwards)
  • a teacher’s strike keeping us from a taco trip (Week 2)
  • three days of torrential rain from the cast-offs of a Pacific tropical storm and an Atlantic hurricane (Week 2)
  • high water preventing us from going to Puerto to take friends to the airport (Week 2)
  • Mexican Independence Day! Viva Mexico! (Week 3)

More things have happened since then, but nothing nearly as crazy as that second week here in Mexico.  A brief overview of the first two weeks is all I’ve prepared so far for the blog, and I want to at least get a little bit of news out to my small but devoted readership.

Oh, also I’m learning Spanish. In the midst of all the chaos, class happens, power or no power. Learning a language is challenging, but entertaining.   I’ve had more than a few days of somewhat mild panic, thinking that there’s no way I’ll ever be able to truly understand or speak Spanish.  Ah, the joys of language and learning.

Someday, regular internet will return! (Or it won’t.)  Until then or until forever, I will attempt to collect my thoughts and experiences to share once a week, or whenever I make it to Rio.  Here’s hoping the internet makes a triumphant return soon!

Playa Carrizalillo
Playa Carrizalillo

What I’m Into: August 2013

Tomorrow I’m moving to Mexico, so my review of August needs to be posted early. I liked things, so here is What I’m Into, modeled off of HopefulLeigh’s What I’m Into” series.  (I’ve never been good at introductions.)

TV

My main TV conundrum here at the end of August has been what seasons to take with me to Mexico.  While I mainly rely on my best friend Netflix in America, I’m cancelling it for the months I’m away in Mexico.  I’ve accumulated a slight TV DVD collection over the last few years of my favorites, particularly Chuck and Bones.  I also found Season 2 of Project Runway at Half Price Books in Dallas, so that’s making the trip. TIM GUNN EVERYBODY. What makes the cut depends on the size of DVD case I can find and how much I end up deciding I actually “need.” Let’s face it, Chuck, I need. Yes, I have a problem and no, I don’t care.

I began Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I liked it, but I quickly realized how much crossover there was with the “new” series Angel (and when I say new, I mean new when season 4 of BTVS started, not new as in it premiered last week).  And I didn’t have the time or the inclination to try to watch both shows at once and figure out the overlaps and crossovers, so Buffy/Angel is going on hold until after my Mexican adventure.

I forgot how much I loved Battlestar Galactica.  While debating with myself on deciding a new show to watch next, I watched the first episode of Season 1, “33,” and now all of a sudden I’m almost done with season 2, having pressed Next One! Next One! Next One! repeatedly. (That link is to a clip from Portlandia–their over-the-top take on binge-watching Battlestar Galatica is hilarious and also accurate).  I loved Battlestar Galactica the first time I watched it over a year ago, and it is still awesome. I’m pretending the parts in the 4th season where Apollo/Lee/Jamie Bamber has the worst hair in the history of ever just don’t happen.  BSG is bleak and upsetting and I love it. It’s not for everyone, but if you like drama, ethical conundrums, realism in a bleak world, and ridiculousness, BSG is for you. Also, if you like women to be in your shows and to be spectacularly awesome, this show is for you.  PS I want to be Starbuck, but not really, but I do.  Also, CYLONS.

Books 

When I get busy, reading slips down my list of priorities.  August has been a flurry of surprise nannying, visiting friends in Arkansas, meeting lots of people for coffee, spending time with my parents, and just getting ready to change my life. So, I’m tired, and when I’m tired books are hard, so I bond with Netflix instead.

Two books, though, did make their way into my hands: Insurgent and Cuckoo’s Calling.  Unfortunately, I only read one, Insurgent.  I felt similarly about Insurgent as I did about Divergent. It was fine, there were parts I didn’t like, but also parts I really enjoyed. While reading Insurgent, the author, Veronica Roth, celebrated her 25th birthday. Upon discovering that fact, I felt a little bit unaccomplished in life, as I am also 25 and feel as though I have yet to have any accomplishments as impressive as publishing three books (or, almost three, Allegiant isn’t published until later this fall). Then I remember that I have played a part in potty-training 3 small children and I feel like my life has more meaning.

Sorry, Cuckoo’s Calling, I wanted to read you, but Insurgent was easier and you had to go back to the library for someone else to read.

I’ve discovered a number of new books that I’m interested in reading, including March by John Lewis. When I discovered the existence of March last night after watching a special on the March on Washington in 1963, I immediately wanted to buy the book for my trip. Alas, at both Barnes and Nobles it is out of stock. I also discovered that Cory Doctorow wrote a sequel to his awesome and publicly/freely available Little Brother at some point, and I never knew. The sequel is called Homeland, and it continues the story of kids trying to survive what the blurb on Goodreads describes as a “tyrranical security state.” Both books deal with hacking, security, rights, and America–I highly recommend Little Brother and can’t wait to read Homeland.  These are just two examples of books on my to-read list, but alas they will probably have to remain unread until my return from Mexico.

Packing for three months with a 50 pound limit makes one appreciate ebooks. While I did remove two pairs of shoes to make room for a book, not many physical books will be making the journey to Mexico. This pains me, but I need clothes and tea bags and kleenexes. And somehow they add up to 50 pounds even before I pack books? Alas. Thank goodness for ebooks. 

A book available only as an ebook that I’m currently reading is Every Shattered Thing by Elora Ramirez.  I knew her from her blog, and grew to know her brother through participating in her Story 101 Community.  She’s a brilliant writer, and just released Every Shattered Thing within the last week. I have an ARC, but I’m buying it. Come on, it’s $2.99!  You can get it as a Nook edition or a Kindle edition.

Music

I’ve mostly been listening to Vampire Weekend, Ellie Goulding, and the XX. It’s unlikely that I will be discovering any new music in the next few months.

Magazines

I love my September Vogue. There’s something about such a giant tome of fashion, culture, and sometimes weirdness that is so fascinating.  And you know what’s great? I’ll be in Mexico shortly, and there’s a magazine store that I love that has Mexico Vogue and Spain Vogue AND MAYBE I CAN GET TWO MORE SEPTEMBER ISSUES TO READ IN SPANISH ONCE I LEARN IT. I just hope they’re still in stock when I get there.

PS

This is happening. Bright and too early tomorrow morning, I will be on my way to Mexico with my sister.  I will have internet, but no iPhone (and I just got one!) service.  Fortunately I finally figured out how to suspend service for 3 months without billing, which is fantastic!  So I’m going, no strings attached, to learn Spanish. On Sunday I’m going to be on the beach, drinking a Mexican Coke and eating a shrimp cocktail. On Monday I’ll start language learning.  As Hermione says in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?

Roca Blanca

What I’m Into: July 2013

Well, July happened. I went on a family vacation and then bridesmaided in another wedding.  I just got a short-term 2-3 day a week nanny job to make a little money before I move to Mexico. And I liked things, so here is my What I’m Into, modeled off of HopefulLeigh’s What I’m Into” series.

TV

Because I was traveling a lot in the early parts of July, I really didn’t watch a lot of new TV. I was enjoying my family and doing nothing, and then I was bridesmaiding.  There was a lot of rewatching of my perennial favorites, like 30 Rock and and HIMYM, but for most of early July, I didn’t delve in to new TV. Also, all my traveling caught up with me and I got some kind of allergies/cold/sinus infection combination and I pretty much laid in bed for many days.  Along with continuing rewatches, I picked back up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched the first season sometime last year, but then just dropped it.  It is my new favorite thing, and I’m already almost done with Season 3. It’s crazy and weird, but it’s fascinating.

Books 

My family vacation to Lakeside is where I read. A lot. Hours in the car and on the porch of our rental home are spent reading, reading, reading. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you will see many pictures from various family members of this years time at Lakeside, and in nearly every picture, I’m reading a different book.  I finished quite a few books this month, and started/got stuck/abandoned quite a few, too.

I love being able to catalog my reading habits on Goodreads.  It frees up a little space in my brain, so I don’t have to remember every single book on my to-read list (which is ridiculous) or even recently read list. It’s also fun to catalog my thoughts as I read.  See especially my reading updates on Killing Kennedy, in which I quoted it’s ridiculous foreshadowing of Kennedy’s upcoming assassination. Spoiler Alert: Killing Kennedy is about the Kennedy Assassination.

I finished 8 books on my vacation (including the aforementioned Killing Kennedy).  Two favorites were Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm and The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School.  Both of these books are memoirs of women who left their normal life and decided to do something crazy, something that they’ve always wanted to do: working on an oyster farm and going to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, respectively.  I really enjoyed these books, because I love memoir and because I highly identified with stories of crazy life change. Shucked, I happened to find on Anthropologie’s Instagram.  Yes, that’s weird, but it had a pretty cover and hey I judge books by their covers.  Let’s face it, I love memoirs, and I wish I had brought a dozen more.

When I last went to Mexico, I read America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines by Gail Collins, which detailed the history of women in America for its first 400 years, up until about the 60’s. Somehow, I had no idea she had also written a “sequel”about the incredible changes for women since 1960, When Everything Changed The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.  I highly recommend both of these books if you enjoy history.  Neither are action-packed, but they’re fascinating.

When it comes to “beach reads,” I have a very low threshold for inanity. However, after taking The President’s Club to read on the dock, I quickly realized that I needed to bring something a little less educational.  The answer was Divergent.  Once I conquered the slow first few chapters, the book LITERALLY jumped a speeding train and became a fascinating and quick read.  I finished it in about a day, and my cousin and sister were able to finish it by the end of the week. If you like dystopia or young adult lit, give this book a try. I’m on the waiting list for its sequel at the library and I’m just hoping it arrives before I leave. 

My other favorite of books I read on vacation was The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I first loved Maureen from her fabulous twitter. She is constantly hilarious about all sorts of random topics.  Now that she has a puppy, she is on fire. I email my best friend tweets from Maureen about 10 times a week.  Madness Underneath, sequel to The Name of the Star, was simultaneously great and horrifying (in the best way), which is exactly how I like my entertainment these days.  I typically don’t enjoy books about supernatural phenomena, but Johnson’s spin on a ghost story is different from any paranormal story I’ve previously encountered.  If you like England and humor, try it.

Music

I’ve been trying out Spotify’s “Discover” feature, whereby it suggests similar music to what you have previously listened to or it reminds you to listen to a song you haven’t heard in awhile. Their suggestions are good, but I’ve rarely ever found music that I fell in love with from an algorithmically chosen suggestion. My enjoyment of music is rooted in what the music is paired with.  For example, was the song in an important scene in a favorite TV show? Which really means, was it in Chuck?  See nearly all of my recently played music for more than the last year on Spotify. Wanting to listen to music from Chuck was 90% of the reason I used Spotify in the first place. Vampire Weekend and the Head and the Heart are examples of bands I have started to enjoy based on liking more of their songs than what appeared in Chuck, etc.   The recommendations and suggestions from a computer program just aren’t the same.

Magazines

One of my favorite air traveling pastimes is to buy a New York Times or an unexpected magazine while I wait in the airport.  Apparently, Dallas Love Field does not sell the New York Times, or they had just sold out by early afternoon.  In protest, I went the complete opposite direction of the NYTimes and bought a $3 Teen Vogue with Emma Watson on the cover.  It was hilarious and terrible and totally worth $3.

Teen Vogue
Teen Vogue

PS

Next month, I will start posting from Mexico.  I don’t know what media I’ll be consuming once Spanish school starts, but I’m sure I will find a way to stay entertained. It just might be in Spanish.

What I’m Into: June 2013 Edition

It’s time again to talk about What I’m Into, modeled off of HopefulLeigh’s What I’m Into” series. Eventually maybe I will come up with my own creative title to describe a post about things I like. But anyway, here’s June.

I love my new laptop. In January, my previously beloved laptop crashed. It soured me on Macs for the foreseeable future, plus they’re expensive. My parents were gracious enough to buy me a new laptop for me to use on this next adventure in my life. It’s a Dell, a PC, and it’s taken a lot of getting used to. After 7 years of Mac/iPad use, it’s been different. But it’s a thing I can type on, store things, and find and consume media, so it’s awesome.

TV

Apparently I need to move to Bluebell, because it is a magical southern place where all the men are very attractive.  Where is Bluebell you ask? It’s the magical Southern setting of Hart of Dixie.  I don’t know if this show is well reviewed, I don’t care that sometimes a few lines are awkwardly delivered, I don’t mind that the drama is often on par with a soap opera. But I love this show, a lot.

Somewhere towards the end of Season 3 of the West Wing, this show got less interesting. I stopped watching. And then, with extra time on my hands, I decided to at least finish Season 3. IT GOT BETTER. Some shows, you just have to stick it out through the rough patches.  I don’t know if I’ll keep on with it, seeing as I only have a few months left with my friend Netflix now that I’m moving to Mexico. Must prioritize shows!

I finished the existing seasons of Parks and Recreation. As I said in my last “What I’m Into,” I am still part  Leslie Knope. I would say that I’m excited for the next season, but I’ll be in Mexico, so it will be awhile before I get to see it.

I still love Chuck. I will rewatch it forever.

Books

As I’m re-figuring what I’m good at and what I like, I have returned to my first love: books. I’ve nearly hit my limit on items checked out at the local library–spoiler alert, the limit is 50. I have tall stacks of books beside my bed, and I’m in the midst of most of them. I am not a monogamous reader: I read many, many books at a time. So, I have not finished many this month, but I’m working on many.

The best book I’ve read this month? Hands down, Eleanor and Park. It’s the first book in months (since last edition’s favorite, Brain on Fire) that I devoured, that I picked up at any spare moment to try to finish. It’s a young adult novel set in 1986, two teenagers meeting on a bus and falling in love. That sounds lame, but it isn’t.  If you can get your hands on it, read it. It’s awesome.

Magazines

I like magazines nearly as much as I like books, but for different reasons. Yes, I read magazines, but they’re different generally from books in that I wait for them to come in the mail. I love mail. I didn’t work in my college post office for three years for no reason (ok, working with my best friends and having awesome bosses were other positive factors).  Seeing my favorite magazines in my mailbox is the best. I’m currently subscribed to: Smithsonian, Wired, Interweave Knits, Vogue, Sojourners, and Entertainment Weekly. None of these things are alike. I have a variety of tastes.

Smithsonian I like because through my subscription, I’m a member of the Smithsonian Institution. My backup plan to the current backup plan I’m now using is to live in Washington DC and spend my life at their museums. Valid plan right? Wired I was subscribed to for quite awhile, then last summer it expired without me being notified, and I was annoyed so I didn’t resubscribe and just bought copies at used bookstores. A month or two ago, I won a free subscription, so Wired is back in the mailbox.

Interweave Knits helps me pretend I’m still good at knitting. I haven’t knitted much in the last two years, but I like the inspiration of pretty knitted things. This subscription will probably not be renewed when the incessant renewal requests next come in the mail. Vogue I love because it is beautiful and shallow and deep at the same time.  Where else can I look at pretty clothes and read fluffy articles about actresses and also read insightful interviews of people like Chelsea Clinton?

Sojourners is a magazine dedicated to social justice and Christianity. It’s kind of everything I want to read about at this stage in my faith life.  I enjoy reading about current events and issues with a not-uber-conservative Christian perspective. Entertainment Weekly is a great pool or beach read.  When I’m bumming around the internet, I tend to only look at entertainment that specifically interests me, and a magazine like EW is great for introducing me to books, movies, TV shows, and more that I might not otherwise stumble across.

Music

I’ve really enjoyed Vampire Weekend’s new album, Modern Vampires of the City.  I still don’t know how to talk about music, except to say I like it. I like the way it sounds? Their singing is awesome? Let’s face it, my calling is not going to be a music critic.

Other

One of my main activities in June was learning some Spanish using Duolingo.  I’m currently on a 21 day streak, playing DuoLingo Spanish lessons at least once a day.  It’s a fun and entertaining way to refresh language skills or pick up new simple skills.  In addition to Spanish, they also offer Portuguese, German, French, Italian, and English (if you’re not a native English speaker).

PS

Let’s face it, June 2013 was not great.  And by not great, I mean perhaps one of the worst months of my adult life.  Some of these “things” I was into in June, though, vastly improved this month. Also,the month has ended on a lovely note in which I bridesmaided in my college roommate’s wedding. I’m exhausted now, but it was beautiful.

WMMHTW 1

My favorite podcast is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, “NPR’s entertainment and pop culture round-table podcast features spirited discussions of movies, books, television, nostalgia, and — every time — what’s making us happy this week.”  One of the best parts of the podcast is the last part of that description: what’s making us happy this week. This segment is where the four members of the round-table share some pop culture-y thing that they have enjoyed recently and think others would enjoy. This item could be a new band, a comic book, a tv show, anything entertaining.  They have a rule that they generally follow where what is making them happy should be relatively accessible, and not just, “I’m going on vacation.”  Let’s face it, though, sometimes the prospect of vacation is so exciting that they can’t help but share anyway.

So, in the tradition of PCHH’s what’s making them happy segment, I am going to attempt something like that, as an even more regular tracking of what I like, instead of the “monthly” posts on what I’m into. Sometimes collecting a whole month’s worth of entertaining items can be overwhelming, as evidenced by the fact that it’s June and I’ve written twice in 2013 about what I’m into.

What is making me happy this week? With my new bounty of time, I’ve been diving in to my piles of unread books. And then, a book I’ve been waiting months for finally was ready for me at the library: Eleanor and Park.  It’s come highly recommended on my corners of tumblr and twitter, especially by author John Green.  I’m just a few chapters in, and I already love it. It’s set in the 80’s, a love story between two high school students. I’m excited to see where this book goes.

Blank Pages

Sometimes things fall apart. There’s all sorts of cliches and nice words about how things falling apart can lead to better things and whatever, but those are just words. True words, sure, but seemingly irrelevant ones when pieces of life are crumbling.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to explain the happenings of the last two months. Even if I do figure it out, though, it’s unlikely that those thoughts will make an appearance here.  All that can be said is that I am no longer working at the Little Light House. I am pursuing a different dream, to regain my dormant Spanish skills in Mexico, where my sister lives. In late August, I’m moving to southern Mexico for a couple months. And then? Who knows.  The book is open and the pages are blank–we’ll see what story gets written.

What I’m Into: March, April, May 2013 Edition

This post started out as What I’m Into: March 2013. Well, it’s June now, so whatever. 2013 continues to be an exercise in learning to put up with “things I do not want.”  Stress, disappointment, frustration, you name it, 2013 has brought it.  March has been notorious in my life for being weird and disappointing and great all at the same time. April wasn’t any improvement. May and early June could be classified as some of the worst weeks of my adult life thus far.

Enough about bitter disappointment, that’s a story for another day.  There have been things I’ve liked these past months that have brought some happiness into some of the blergh and awful that seems to be 2013’s watchword.

TV

I fell in love with Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler? I am her, people. I am her. Ok, not all of her, I like to think I’m a bit more self-aware and I don’t really care about parks. But the episode where she visits her manfriend in Washington DC? And she has detailed plans of everything she wants to see and do in DC? That is exactly me. I share her unbridled passion museums and history and other random things. And Ron Swanson? He is literally the best.

Books

I haven’t finished a book in quite awhile. In March, I read a few comic books, Plain Janes and Friends with Boys. They’re so short, but I really enjoy a graphic novel now every once in a while. The best book I read in March, though, was Brain on Fire. It’s the horrifying true story of a 24-year-old woman’s descent into madness because of a rare autoimmune disease, a diagnosis that took time and $1 million of tests.  As I was still 24 when I read this book, all I could think was: This could have been me. Some true stories never hit close to home because they could never possibly happen to me–but what happened to her is not that impossible. This woman’s story is powerful and fascinating: read it.

Music

I saw Muse in concert. It was absolutely magical. The concert was truly an amazing multimedia experience. I had never been to the BOK Center in Tulsa before, and I was amazed at all they could pull off  in one concert. A mountain of video screens coming down from the ceiling. Live video of Muse performing on those screens that looked so polished that it took quite awhile for me to figure out it was live. It was so good, it ruined me for listening to their music on just a plain old laptop.

Movies

I saw one movie in March. Admission, with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. And it was AWFUL.  Let’s never speak of this again.

Other

I don’t know how I neglected The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last month, but I did. Let’s be honest, the LBD was one of my favorite media experiences of late 2012 and early 2013. This retelling of Pride and Prejudice in modern-day America was spectacular.  It ended in late March, 100 episodes of hilarity, happiness, tears, and magic. Watch it. Seriously.

Here’s to the rest of June bringing better things.

Full

I have stacks of books unread. Lists of story ideas unwritten. Room messy. Life unorganized. I want to read those books, write those stories, clean my room, organize my life. But lately, the fullness of being involved in the lives of so many, of loving so many people keeps getting in the way of these things I want to do “for me.” Eventually, I believe I will strike a better balance where I get better at setting time aside for those creative (or life organizing) “me things.” But for now, even as I look at some of the things that have fallen by the wayside in my life right now, I am delighted by the life I get to live, even while missing some of those things. Baby showers, making food at 10 pm for a potluck tomorrow, wedding showers, hanging out with friends and getting half-price sonic shakes, graduation parties–and that’s just this week! Life is full of people I love, and it is good.

In other news, this weather is ridiculous. Yesterday, it was too hot. Today it is too cold. Dear weather: please just be sunny with a high of 75.

25

Today, I am 25. 

I got to spend my birthday in my favorite place, the Little Light House.  Some days, I can’t believe how blessed I am to work at such an amazing place, where miracles happen every day, where I am loved, where I am doing a job God made for me.  I mean, kids like Colton bring me birthday signs–how much better does it get? 

Colton brought a Happy Birthday sign for me for the day!
Colton brought a Happy Birthday sign for me for the day!

 

My life is incredibly different than it was a year ago. Last year, I was working in the classroom, doing a job I loved. I was an Associate, the assistant teacher in a classroom with 8 children with special needs and one staff kid. I was exhausted, and I loved it. But God opened the door for me to work in a new department, where I’m in charge of getting the word out about the Little Light House. And now I have even more responsibility: part of my duties now include grantwriting, helping to make sure we have enough money to keep providing services to these amazing students. It’s a little terrifying and overwhelming–but I think this is going to be a great year.

Four months ago, my computer crashed and I lost 2.5 years of my life, in a way. All the pictures of my two years of teaching are gone. I’ve found a few here and there, and I have at least one of every student. I worked on no major creative projects in my life post-college, so I didn’t lose anything creative. But that’s not that great, because that’s just sad. I didn’t write much about my students, my life, because I was exhausted and because I couldn’t figure out how to navigate that line of telling my story and their stories without telling too much. And when I say I couldn’t figure it out, I really mean that the thought just overwhelmed me so I didn’t really try.

So, I don’t know what I’m doing creatively this year, but may God bring back the stories I’ve lost. I always thought I’d have pictures of my students and my time in the classroom to jog my memories, but since they’re gone, I’ll just have to remember. I don’t have any master plan–I’m just going to see what happens and what stories God brings back. Here’s to remembering, and to investing in multiple backups so this never happens to me again. 

Enough about my computer and lost things. This is going to be a good year. I have stories I’m telling, work projects I’m launching, grants I’m writing, and life I’m living. 

And even though I don’t teach any more, I still get to spend time with kids like Calex.  Life is good.

Calex and me on my birthday.
Calex and me on my birthday.

 

What I’m Into: January and February 2013 Edition

I have strange taste in things. Perhaps eclectic might be a better word? In any case, I’ve been wanting to keep better track of what I have liked, what I have enjoyed, what I’m into.  I follow many blogs, and a couple of my favorites do “what I’m into posts” (Leigh Kramer and Sarah Bessey) and I’m trying to follow in their style with the things that I enjoy.
What I'm Into January February 2013

TV

My favorite new and currently airing shows that I watch every week are Bones, Castle, White Collar, and Big Bang Theory. My if-I-have-time shows that I tend to watch in spurts are New Girl (there’s really only so much “quirky” I can take), and Once Upon a Time (loved the first season on netflix, second season isn’t on at a convenient time so I don’t always remember to watch). I’ve also been catching up on 30 Rock and the Office so I can enjoy their final seasons.
My current netflix favorite is the West Wing, which is the worst, meaning it’s the best. I also occasionally enjoy Hart of Dixie, because boy I love the South.
For a couple days in February, I was home sick a couple days, so I went back to my forever favorite Chuck, on DVD. I. Love. That. Show.
Let’s face it, I really like televison shows. I’ve talked about my appreciation for television before, and my thoughts really haven’t changed. It’s just such a great medium to experience when my brain is overwhelmed by all the other information and feelings that stick to me throughout every day.

Books

I read the most when I’m traveling. Over the last two and a half years, I’ve poured so much into my job and other endeavors that the effort of reading as much as I used to was too much.  I’ve been trying to bring my reading habit back, but it was nice to travel for a week in January to get a head start on my goal of reading 50 books in 2013. The best I’ve read in January were Seven, America’s Women, and The Revolution Was Televised, all of which I read in Mexico. Seven was challenging, America’s Women was historical and upsetting, and The Revolution Was Televised was fascinating.  I recommend all three,  but I can’t think of anyone who would be simultaneously interested in Christian sacrificial living, history and women, and televised drama of the 90’s and 00’s besides me.
In February, I traveled again, this time to Florida. Because of reasons, I was not quite on my normal level of vacation reading, but I did finish some excellent books. I sometimes like comic books and I always like Firefly, so I enjoyed the first installment of a Firefly comic called Serenity: Those Left Behind. Next I finished The Name of the Star, which was hilarious, fantastical, and set in London. Does it get much better than that in young adult literature? The just-released sequel The Madness Underneath is sitting at my bedside, begging me to read it, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Lastly, I read Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran. I’m a sucker for memoirs, particularly about women in the Middle East.
I really hoped to read Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith on my trip to Florida, even buying it so that I could conquer it on vacation. Aaaaand I got a couple chapters in, and then accidentally left it on the plane. I hope someone who needed to relearn the essentials of faith picked it up. I think that’s the first thing I’ve ever left on a plane. Just glad it wasn’t the work iPad.
As always, I have a giant stack of books next to my bed that always hope to get read, but rarely do. At the top of that pile right now are Brain on Fire, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, and Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America. We’ll see if those or any others get read anytime soon.

Movies

The last movies I watched in the theater were The Hobbit and Les Miserables in December. I can’t think of any new movies I’ve seen this year–any movies I’ve watched have been repeats, like She’s the Man or Sleepless in Seattle. I am not a movie person as I am a TV person.

Music

With the recent demise of my laptop, I lost all of my music (among other things). I have since been trying to discover new music. Well, new to me music. I often find tunes that I think are awesome, not to discover that everyone has been listening to it for months. I don’t care, I like what I like whether people like it or not. I always cannot always explain what it is I like, I just like it.
My first discoveries/purchases of the year were Imagine Dragons and the Lumineers. These bands were my primary musical entertainment while visiting my sister in Mexico. More recently, though, another me band was recommended to me, Local Natives. When I first learned of them,they had just released a new album, so I had a lot of music to experience. Upon first listen, it sounded so familiar, even though I’m certain I had never intentionally listened to them before. I eventually discovered that one song played in an episode of my beloved show Chuck. Hence, these two albums have been played on repeat a lot since I learned about them.
The Civil Wars have put out a new album of sorts in the form of the soundtrack to a new documentary called Place at the Table. Guys. It’s folk instrumental that sounds like the South. It’s like it was made JUST for my hidden love-the-South-and-all-its-weirdness side. If I knew how to share a Spotify playlist, I would. But since I don’t know and I don’t care enough to find out, just search for it. It’s good. Now I need to see that movie.
I’m going to a Muse concert on Sunday–I had forgotten how much I liked this band. So, in anticipation of this concert, I’m listening to some of their more recent albums that never made it on my radar.
 

Other

Another thing that I love is podcasts. It can be difficult to find a truly good podcast. It has to update consistently, have great content, and more. The best podcast I’ve found lately has been Pop Culture Happy Hour from NPR. It’s four NPR writers, talking about pop culture every week. And not sugary gossipy pop culture, no, NERDY pop culture. Just listening to them talk about all the things happening in music, movies, tv, etc, while using words that make them sound like they swallowed a dictionary makes me feel smarter.  Also, every week they have a segment entitled “What’s Making Me Happy This Week” in which each member shares a pop culture-y thing that is making them happy. Listen, it’s great. It’s a thing that’s made me happy for longer than a week.
          Lakesidegirl

Discipline

When I started 2013, I had ideas of what I thought the year would like like. Then things happened and a lot is not what I thought it would be. My laptop crashed and I still haven’t done anything about it because I don’t want to deal with it. I got a nasty stomach bug on my Mexican vacation and spent two days sleeping off the sickness. Other unexpected things are happening and I don’t really know what to do with them except wait and see what happens next.

As I started this year, I really liked the idea of One Word 365, and even picked a word, “whimsy,” inspired by my reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. Then life happened and whimsy was not even close to how 2013 was going to be defined.  Whimsy as my one word went out the door and it has been replaced by “discipline.”  With the loss of things that were important to me, I decided to take that unpleasant opportunity and change parts of my life, one discipline at a time. They’re simple disciplines, but, a la The Happiness Project, it really is sometimes the simplest of changes that can bring about happiness.

First, I pick my outfit for the next day every night. I kind of hate doing this, but I’m much happier in the morning with everything already decided when my early-morning brain is not interested in thinking or deciding. After two years of only having to decide which color uniform polo to wear, this whole choosing “professional attire” is still difficult, even though I’ve been doing it for seven months. The simple discipline of choosing ahead of time means I can think less at 6:30 AM.

Second, I pack my lunch for the next day every night. I eat better and more healthily when I choose at night instead of in a rush in the morning. Again, the simple discipline of choosing ahead of time means I can think less at 6:30 AM.

Third, I joined a gym and I work out with a coworker and I go to Yoga/BodyFlow classes. Part of my motivation for this discipline is the “Healthier You Challenge” that’s happening at my work. I don’t care about losing weight, I just want to be fit, strong, and healthy. In theory, this regular exercise should help me be healthier. I felt good for the first few weeks of this new discipline for me, but the fact that I’m lying in bed with a cold writing this post would seem to lend less credence to the theory of exercise improving health. Thanks preschoolers!

Fourth, I want to read 50 books this year. Right now, according to my Goodreads Challenge widget, I’m right on track, having read 6 books so far this year. I’ve been trying to read one book a week alongside my other activities in my work health challenge. I have been slightly successful.  Lately, being with other people (going to work events or Bible study or hanging out with friends) has taken over reading time. Also, I like to sleep.

This all brings me to today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. My hope for this Lenten season is to keep going with the disciplines I’ve started, as well as being open to adding new disciplines along the way. I’m also not going to Starbucks. I generally only go once a week or so, but it’s a luxury I’ve come to expect and I really need to not expect it anymore. I want it to be more holy than that, but that’s just what it is.  I’m also going to attempt to write more during this season for this blog, but that’s going to depend on what happens in my life these next 40 days.

Let’s see what happens.

Losing

My laptop crashed yesterday. Most of what’s on it is replaceable or redownloadable or unimportant. It’s just stuff. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway. Except there are the pictures of my students for the last two years, the only two years I might have teaching, gone. And every other picture I’ve taken in the last two years, gone. And other random things that I keep remembering that I won’t get back.
I’m angry that I wasn’t prepared and didn’t have backups of those pictures. I know better, but I didn’t do it because figuring the best way seemed so difficult. Now that I know how it feels for them to be gone, it would have been worth the hassle.
I feel ridiculous being so upset over some pictures, a laptop. So many worse things have happened and are happening to people I care about. It’s just a computer, it’s just pictures. But it hurts. A lot.
Thank goodness for Facebook, and our generations need to share things online. Thanks to that need, I do have a lot of picture. Two years of my life won’t go undocumented after all.
Normally I’m very good at forcing myself to feel a certain way, to get over sadness, to find the silver lining. But I can’t/don’t want to right now. Sometimes it’s ok to be sad over lost things. I’m thankful that it’s just a computer, it’s just pictures–but I’m still sad I don’t have them.
I went to sleep last night hoping I would wake up to it all being a nightmare, because that’s what discovering my computer blinking a ? at me felt like. It wasn’t a nightmare, it’s just life. In the meantime, in the midst of being sad about losing, I am blessed by amazing parents who come home early from work because I’m sobbing into the phone over a computer and who will let me just be sad. I work at an amazing place filled with ladies who prayed over my computer and hoped for the best for me and who will be there for me even through the best didn’t happen. I have an amazing best friend who went with me to the apple store for moral support, so I wouldn’t cry all over the apple genius. Although we did decide that we want name tags that call us geniuses. And I have as God who is there for me, even when I am sad and lost, even when I feel bad for feeling sad, even when I’m angry at myself and everything.
Also, I’m going to Mexico in a week. It will be warm there, and my sister will be there. Win/win. Even when I’m lost, I am blessed.