What I’m Into: April 2014

In April I came home! ¬†I said my goodbyes to my sister, my Mexican family, and many American, Canadian, and Mexican friends. ¬†I managed not to cry until I sat on the plane in Huatulco, bound for Houston. ¬†When I finally arrived in Tulsa at the end of a long travel day, I was so excited to see my parents and my friends Christine, Rebecka, and Brett waiting for me at the airport. ¬†¬†It’s hard to go home when you’re leaving another home–but it’s so great to be¬†at this home.

I had a lot of plans for my first month back in America, but things didn’t turn out exactly like I’d hoped. ¬†Also, it took me forever to write about April. ¬†But here it is, What I Was Into¬†in April, inspired by¬†Leigh Kramer.

Sunset from the flight to Tulsa

Sunset from the flight to Tulsa

Health and Food

After more than six healthy months in Mexico I got sick within 48 hours of coming home. ¬†At first it seemed like just a little virus, but after a series of unfortunate events (including many¬†trips to the doctor, getting better then getting sick again, a blood test, and a CT scan) it turns out that I have some kind of kidney inflammation. ¬†I’m waiting to see a nephrologist (kidney doctor), but the earliest appointment I could get is in the end of July. Until then, I’m drinking a lot of water, sleeping a lot, and eating a low sodium diet.

That sounds easy, doesn’t it, just eat less sodium? ¬†Don’t add extra salt, don’t eat salty foods? ¬†Alas, sodium (and too much of it) is in almost everything. If I want to make a simple sandwich at home, I can easily eat over¬†1000 mg of sodium in just ¬†the bread, lunch meat, and cheese. ¬†That doesn’t sound terrible, until you learn that it’s recommended that you eat about 1500 mg of sodium a day, 2300 mg should be your upper limit, but most of us eat more than 3400 mg a day. ¬†I’ve been trying to eat between 1000 and 1500 mg a day (or less if I can manage it) to take care of my kidneys while I wait to see the doctor and see what’s going on. ¬† Some foods, like fruits and vegetables, naturally don’t have much sodium. ¬†Many, many other foods also naturally don’t have sodium but have tons and tons of added salt and sodium because that’s how we like to eat our food: salty. ¬†And eating out? Is nearly impossible. ¬†There is no such thing as low sodium fast food or restaurant food

I’ve had many friends who have eaten specific diets, some by choice but most for health reasons, like eating gluten or dairy¬†free. ¬†No matter what your dietary need is, it’s hard to eat differently than everybody else.¬†Eating low sodium is difficult–there’s no special section for low sodium foods, you just have to spend a lot of time at the store reading nutrition labels. ¬†Thanks to the amazing help of my mom, though, I’ve been able to consistently eat low sodium, even when it’s challenging. ¬†Believe me, no salt-added food tastes way different than typical food.

Job

April was not all dreary health and eating problems. ¬†Ten days after I returned fro Mexico, I was offered a part-time job as a Bilingual Circulation Clerk with the Tulsa Library! ¬†I emailed¬†a resume for this job in March, letting the library know I would be home from Mexico in April. ¬†The¬†day before I left for Tulsa, my mom let me know that the library had called my house (thank goodness I put my house number and not my cell number on my resume) wanting to talk to me about the position. ¬†I was able to interview my first week back and the next week I got a call offering me the job and I started the next week. ¬†I still can’t believe I got a job that quickly and that I now work at the library. ¬†It’s been great so far and I’m excited to see where this position will lead me. ¬†It’s been so great to immediately use my Spanish at work. ¬†I worked really hard to learn that language–I don’t want to lose it now!

Books

I had hoped to read a lot in April and get on track with my 100 books in 2014 goal, but being sick ruined that for me. ¬†When I’m sick, my brain refuses to concentrate on reading. So I spent a lot of quality time with HGTV, but that’s for another section. ¬†I did read five books in April, but here are my two favorites:

I won my copy of Girl at the end of the World in a contest from Elizabeth Esther. ¬†She eloquently tells the story of her abusive childhood in a fundamentalist cult, and how she was able to leave and start over: ¬†I highly recommend it. ¬†Boxers is a comic/graphic novel telling a story from the time of the Boxer Rebellion in China. ¬†If you don’t know what that is (and even if you do), I recommend reading Boxer to learn more about that important time in history.

TV

Dear TV, Thank you for being there for me when my kidneys decided to misbehave and my brain decided to take a vacation. ¬†I especially want to credit HGTV, along with its shows House Hunters, House Hunters International, Property Brothers, and Income Property. ¬†I do not thank Love It or List It or Love It or List it Too, because they’re horrible shows. After watching a ridiculous amount of HGTV, I feel¬†qualified to¬†go buy and remodel a house. ¬†As I can barely keep my room clean and I have no money, though, it seems unlikely.

I’d also like to thank Parks & Recreation and Bones for having solid seasons (though Bones might not actually be over yet?) for me to enjoy when I returned from Mexico. ¬†I still have the P&R finale on the DVR and I rewatch my favorite scenes, especially when Leslie Knope meets Michelle Obama.

Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama

Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama (found here: http://seattletostorybrooke.tumblr.com/post/83777876794)

The End

April didn’t go exactly as planned. ¬†Instead of reading, I watched HGTV. ¬†I started organizing and decluttering my room, but persistent fevers in the beginning of April made me lose my steam and not it just seems too overwhelming. I wanted to jump into new opportunities, maybe visiting a Spanish speaking church or finding a Bible study or just being with people, but I spent a lot¬†of April exhausted and sick instead. ¬†I was very sick. And I’m better, but I’m not fully well either. However. ¬†I did turn 26 on April 16 and celebrated my birthday with some of my favorite people (just see the list of the people who met me at the airport). ¬†I got a job! And a bilingual job¬†at that, at the place where I hoped to work. ¬†Here’s hoping for a healthier May as I figure out how to live my life here in America.

PS Please enjoy the pictures below. I’m sure it would be prettier if I interspersed them throughout the post, but that’s more work than it’s worth.

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Gris (my Mexican “mom”) and me

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Me with my friend Irma

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Emily and Me

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Me and Melody (my Mexican “sister”)

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Moriah, Natasha, Pamela, Genna, Me, and Emily

What I’m Into: March 2014

The month of March has been my opportunity to try all kinds of activities here in Mexico. I was able to go on a couple of medical outreach trips with the clinic, I helped a little in the preschool and primary school, I taught English, I read a lot, and more. It’s been my last full month here in Mexico, and it has been a good one. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to stay past my Spanish school graduation to practice my Spanish and enjoy some more time living here in Mexico.

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Outreach

One of the best ways to practice my Spanish was translating for doctors on medical outreach trips. It was difficult and challenging, but very rewarding. After all, the only way to improve my ability to speak and understand Spanish is to practice (and make many, many mistakes).

Mixteco village in the afternoon

Mixteco village in the afternoon

On one of the trips, we needed double the translators because we went to a village where many people speak only Mixteco, an Indian language that sounds similar to Chinese and has no relation to Spanish. The patient would speak to a Mixteco to Spanish translator, then the translator would tell me in Spanish, then I would translate for the doctor. Then the doctor would have a question and we’d send the question back down the chain of translation. It’s a long process, but a fascinating one.

I learned two words in Mixteco, because I learned to recognize them in context: √Īa’ni meant nothing and u’u meant pain. While many people in this part of Mexico in various villages speak Mixteco, learning these two words (or any in Mixteco) is only useful for that particular village. Go to the next Mixteco village, and the dialect is a little bit (and sometimes a lot bit) different: in a different village, the word for pain is different. Language is overwhelming in its ability to change and morph in different settings, even as close as the next village over.

In addition to being able to practice Spanish and learn more about another language, I had the opportunity to see a number of interesting medical cases. I even attempted to explain genetics IN SPANISH to a young woman who had only finished middle school and whose first language was also not Spanish, because the doctor thought she might have a genetic disorder. I’m not sure how successful my explanation was, but I tried.

Books

I finished 8 books in March, including a manuscript written by a fellow Spanish school student. It was so fun to read a book by a friend and then be able to discuss it immediately after I finished reading it. When it’s published someday soon, I will rave about it.

According to my Goodreads Challenge, I’ve read 17 books in 2014. Since I have read an unpublished book, I can’t add it to my Challenge. Hence, I’ve actually read 18 books this year. ¬†I’m not on pace yet, but I’ve decided to stop worrying about pace and enjoy what I’m reading.

Favorites from March:

My favorite published book I read this month was the Poisonwood Bible. I remember being told long ago that it was a book that made all Christians and missionaries look terrible, and it defamed the Bible, so I shouldn’t read it. Well, none of that was true. Instead, once I actually read the book instead of believing what other people thought about it, I learned that it was a fascinating story describing the course of history in the Congo in the 60s through the eyes of a misguided missionary family. I loved this book and recommend it highly.

Next Steps

I have just days left in Mexico. I am sad to leave this place where I have learned so much and where I now know and love so many people. I am also excited to go home and see what will happen next. I really have no idea what I’ll be doing, because sending resumes by email from Mexico isn’t a particularly successful method of job-hunting. I’m so thankful for my time here, but I’m ready for what’s next.

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What I’m Into: February 2014

As I publish this post, it’s mid-March. The internet hasn’t been great here, so most days the thought of fighting the internet to upload pictures in order to blog is just too much. Hence, this post about February is nearly three weeks late.

February was a great month in Mexico. After months of classes and hard work, I have graduated from Spanish School. As I’ve said every month, I still have far to go in my ability to speak and understand, but after completing Level 4 I have all the tools I need become fluent. I just have to keep practicing! While I’m not fluent yet, I’m on my way and I can understand and communicate so much more than I could when I started school in September. I’m staying until the first week of April to keep practicing my Spanish (I knew back in September that I wouldn’t want to leave as soon as Spanish school was over) and to just enjoy living in Mexico for a little while longer.

In other good news, my sister returned! In the middle of February she was able to finalize all her paperwork and come back to Mexico as a temporary resident. Part of the reason I came here to Mexico was to spend time with sister, so it’s great to have her back!

This month, I successfully found someone in Cacalote who cuts hair, made an appointment for a hair cut, and asked for a specific hair cut, all in Spanish. To top it off, I also got the hair cut I asked for, which means I can speak Spanish after all! For a day or two, my hair cut was all people wanted to talk about at Spanish School‚ÄĒnot a lot happens here, so any change is news.

Look, Emily came back! And my hair is short.

Look, Emily came back! And my hair is short.

Books

I finished five books in February. This pace is still not quite where I need to be to read 100 books this year, but not being in Spanish School anymore might help me with that goal.

Books I finished:

Oaxaca

To celebrate my graduation from Spanish School, Emily and I went on a weekend trip to Oaxaca City, the capital of our state. It’s a beautiful city that is unfortunately only reachable by a terrible mountainous bus ride. I’m almost done with a post describing our trip‚ÄĒuntil then, enjoy these pictures from beautiful Oaxaca City.

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Olympics

Those who know me well know how much I love the Olympics. I have watched every Olympics (Winter and Summer) religiously since the Atlanta Games in 1996. Alas, I don’t have access to satellite or cable television, the internet is slow, and even if the internet wasn’t slow NBC doesn’t allow people outside of the US watch its broadcasts online. Our weekend trip to Oaxaca, though, coincided with the last weekend of the Olympics, and our hotel had fast internet AND cable TV. We caught snippets of different events, but it was just a treat to watch some of the competitions.

It’s quite different watching on not-NBC, where they show every contestant in an event, sans effusive’ commentary and replays. One of the main events being shown was downhill skiing, where we watched many skiers slide off the track while others finished the course many seconds from the medals. As soon as one skier finished (or didn’t), the camera went straight back to the top for the next competitor. Even if there was a spectacular wipeout, we didn’t see it in an instant replay. It’s surprisingly fascinating to watch the same course being skied dozens of times.

This is a sight never seen on NBC, where the tapes of the winners and Americans are packaged for a prime-time American audience. I missed that familiar packaging and story-telling but it was entertaining to see a different side to the Olympics. I look forward to watching the Rio Olympics in 2016‚ÄĒbut I had no idea I’d be in Mexico for Sochi, so who knows where I will be for Rio. I just hope not actually in Rio de Janiero: I learned Spanish, not Portuguese.

Looking Forward

March will be my last month living in Mexico. I had no idea last year that this would be my life, but I’m thankful for it. I hope that after spending this extra month practicing Spanish after Spanish School, I will feel more confident in my Spanish speaking and understanding abilities. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Mexico, but as I get closer to April I’m more excited to return and see what’s next for me in Tulsa.

What I’m Into: January 2014

I began January in my cold home of Oklahoma, waiting to go back to my much warmer home in Mexico. Winter used to be my favorite season, but this year, going from the warmth of Mexico to the shock of frozen weather in Oklahoma was just too much. Who knew that I, who used to love cloudy, dreary days, would miss the sun so much? By the end of my time in Oklahoma, I was over the weak sun and early sunsets. So off I flew to my other home in Mexico (a couple days late, but that’s another story) to finish up Spanish School and enjoy the beautiful weather. January was pretty great: Here’s¬†What I Was Into¬†inspired by¬†Leigh Kramer.

Travel

My travel to Mexico was supposed to be simple. I would take two short flights, then get picked up at the airport about 2 hours away from my final destination of Roca Blanca. However, thanks to bitter cold, changes in the FAA’s rules for how long pilots can work before they have to rest, and incompetent airlines, my travel became much more difficult. My first flight from Tulsa to Houston was cancelled the night before it was scheduled to leave, and despite the promises of United’s website, I could not just easily rebook online. And when I tried calling (approximately 15 times), the automated system asked me a number of questions then simply told me it wished it could help, but operators were too busy, call back later, CLICK.

It was very stressful to go to bed not knowing if I was going to travel the next day or not, or if I would have to wait another week for the next flight to Huatulco. When my mom and I went to the airport the next morning (a Monday) to talk to an actual human to fix my flights, it was 5 degrees. All I could think was: I was supposed to be in 80 degree weather today!

Fortunately, the human employees of United are excellent. A wonderful ticket counter attendant was able to switch my whole itinerary to fly to Puerto Escondido, an airport only 45 minutes away from Roca Blanca. That was a much better alternative than waiting a whole week more for a flight to Huatulco! My flight to Houston would leave on Tuesday at mid-day, I would spend the night in Houston, then fly to Mexico City early Wednesday, then go from Mexico City to Puerto, arriving in the early afternoon on Wednesday.

My itinerary was changed at no cost to me, but because my flight issues were allegedly ‚Äúweather-related,‚ÄĚ the airline did not have to pay for my hotel in Houston. I bet the airlines were pretty excited to have that terrible weather the same weekend as those rule changes, because it sure saved them a lot of money in hotel and food vouchers.

Once I actually got on my way, everything went smoothly.  My hotel in Houston even had 2 TVs!  I also got to experience the Mexico City airport for the first time, which was awesome because I could actually communicate with workers and others in the airport. Hurrah for international travel!  It was a lot of traveling and a medium amount of stress, but I made it to Mexico, just two days late.  It was such a relief to finally arrive in my other home.

Inside the Mexico City Airport

Inside the Mexico City Airport

Why yes, that is a turboprop with the Mexico City Airport in the background

Why yes, that is a turboprop with the Mexico City Airport in the background

Flying over Mexico

Flying over Mexico

Nivel 4

In January I started my final level of Spanish school! Once again, I am the lone student, which makes decisions like who in the level will give the first devotion pretty simple. My speaking is improving, but I am still struggling with understanding more complicated conversation and almost any conversation from someone speaking at a normal speed. I’m glad that I’m staying here until the beginning of April after the end of my time in Spanish school to have more time to practice here.

TV

I’m a big fan of shows from the USA Network, like Psych, White Collar, and Monk. One show I always knew I would like be never took the time to watch was Covert Affairs. I’d seen an episode here and there with a friend, but if I were going to watch it, I wanted to start at the beginning. I bought the first three seasons on sale once, and kept them for a rainy day. Or, as it turned out, a sunny month in Mexico. I finally started watching, and promptly finished all three seasons in January. It was amazing. Spies? Strong female characters? Washington DC? Trips to the Smithsonian? Positive inclusion of a character with a disability who doesn’t constantly need help and is most often the one who saves others? SOLD. The fourth season has aired, but is not yet available on DVD, so I will have to wait until I go back to the US to find out what happens next. I highly recommend Covert Affairs.

Books

I set an ostentatious reading goal for 2014: 100 books. I basically need to read 8 books a month to pull that off, and I only finished 4 in January, so I’m going to need to pick up my pace. I might not read 100 books this year, but I definitely won’t if I don’t give myself that goal, so I’m at least going to try.

The two main highlights of my completed books in January were Shatter Me and Under the Never Sky, two dystopian young adult literature (YAL) novels. I’d been in the beginning of both of these books for quite a while, but could never get into them. Then one day that changed and I I was quickly reading both of them. This was occasionally confusing, because while they are unique, the female protagonist and strange dystopian world combination sometimes made me forget which one was which.

I loved Shatter Me more, because I thought the author’s writing style was fresh and different. For example, the main character’s thoughts that she is ashamed of or scared of are presented with a line through. It was a great way to show her confusion, without constantly having her say, oh I don’t know, I’m confused. I identified with the character, because sometimes my thoughts feel that way, words running across the screen of my mind, some of which need to be struck through because they aren’t quite right or just not ready to be thought yet.

As always, I’m currently reading many books, including Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist and the sequels to the aforementioned dystopian YAL, Unravel Me and Through the Ever Night . ¬†I really enjoy

Music

Thanks to church and worship services here, I listen to a lot of great worship music in Spanish. In my down time though, I prefer to give my brain a break and listen to some English. In January, I listened to a lot of Florence + the Machine, Brooke Fraser, and Alison Krauss. Apparently January is the month for female artists for me?

New

When I came to Mexico back in August 2013, the main thing I was not looking for was a man. I came to Mexico to learn Spanish, to get away, to live in another country for awhile, to spend time with my sister. Starting a relationship was not on my list of things to do. At all. Well, then Kevin came to Spanish school in October. And then we became friends. And then he liked me and I liked him and then I went home for Christmas and we communicated nearly every day and then I came back to Mexico and now we’re dating. ¬†!!!

I was here in Mexico last January, visiting Emily. My life is literally nothing like it was then, except that I’m back in Mexico. Had you told me then just how much new there would be in my life now, in January 2014, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now here I am in Mexico learning Spanish, and so is Kevin, and it’s pretty wonderful.

Sarah and Kevin

Looking Forward

In February I will be graduating Spanish school. I’m not returning to America right away, not until the beginning of April. I wanted to spend more time practicing Spanish after school and to spend more time with my sister. Alas, my sister is still in America waiting on things like paperwork and redtape to sort itself out. I’ve gotten really good at explaining in Spanish the whereabouts of my sister‚ÄĒthat happens when everyone is asking you in Spanish where she is. ¬†I hope that in February I can report her return!

Sunset over the Pacific

Sunset over the Pacific

What I’m Into: December 2013

Ah December. ¬†After spending the first week of the month in Mexico, my sister and I returned home to family, friends, food, pop culture, and more. Being home has been lovely, but it’s time to go back to my other home! ¬†But before I can go back to my Mexican home, it’s time for December’s edition of¬†What I‚Äôm Into¬†inspired by¬†Leigh Kramer.¬†

Books

In the beginning of December, I didn’t finish many books. My typical reading time was taken up by finishing up Spanish school and returning home, among other distractions. I made up for this lack of reading, though, at the end of December while on vacation in Florida. Here are my December favorites:

The important thing is that I accomplished my goal of reading¬†50 books in 2013¬†by reading 53! ¬†If you’re interested, I created a shelf on Goodreads of my favorite books read in 2013.¬†I’ve set a ridiculous goal of reading 100 books in 2014. I read so many great books in 2013 and I can’t wait to read more in 2014, whether I hit that goal of 100 or not.

Catching Fire

One of the main goals on my “In America To-Do List” was to watch Catching Fire. ¬†The first week back, my sister Emily and I went to see Catching Fire in the iMax. Let’s just say, going to the iMax as one of the first pop culture experiences after being in Mexico for three months was a little overwhelming. ¬†After I got over the initial shock of loud noise as the movie started, it was a great experience! I read Catching Fire in 2009, so I had forgotten most of the finer points. I loved this movie, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do for Mockingjay (even if they are dividing the last book into two movies).

TV

Another In America goal was to catch up on some of my favorite TV shows. Thanks to the wonders of resubscribing to Netflix and a free trial of Hulu Plus, I was able to enjoy some episodes of favorite shows. I saw season 8 of How I Met Your Mother and mostly hated it.  I caught up with both Parks & Recreation and Bones and really enjoyed both shows.   I had other shows on my list, but seeing friends and family were higher on the priority list.

Disney World

My grandparents have become the kind of people who winter in Florida, so this year for Christmas my family went to visit them in Florida for Christmas.  My sister and I had never been to Disney World, so our family went for a day. And, as expected, it was Magical.

Alice in Wonderland

Castle by Day

Florida

After Disney World, my family and I went to the gulf coast where my grandparents stay.  It was beautiful and so nice to be away from the cold temperatures in mostly sunny Florida.

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El Fin

This December was full: tests, travel, family, friends, and more. As I finish up this post, I am preparing to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) to return to Mexico, a day later than planned thanks to bad weather leading to a cancelled flight. ¬†We won’t even talk about the incompetence of United’s phone, website, and app, but once I went to the airport and talked to an actual person, I was able to get my flights fixed. I can’t wait to get back to Mexico!

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‚Äôm 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.

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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‚ÄĒand 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‚ÄĒit 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‚ÄĒI 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‚ÄĒit 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‚ÄĒit 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, ‚Äú¬ŅNecesita m√°s tortillas?‚ÄĚ (Do you [formal] need more tortillas?) or ‚Äú¬ŅQuiere m√°s 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

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‚ÄĒI’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‚ÄĒit 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‚ÄĒI’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