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

Blurs

Today two of my kids did something ridiculous during Morning Circle. I could’t stop laughing so I had to cover my face and pretend I was crying so the kids wouldn’t notice I was laughing at them. Because whatever it was, they weren’t supposed to be doing it. But I have no memory of what the ridiculousness was.

My days are sometimes such a blur.  My students do hilarious and random things that I can’t always remember, even if I want to remember.  It’s like being a parent, but with fake children.  But still with  bodily functions. And tantrums. And screaming. And crying. And timeouts. And, as I like to call them, costume changes (meaning me having to change into scrubs because some kind of bodily fluid makes its way onto my clothes).  Never a dull moment, my job. Those moments are sometimes disgusting, but never dull.

Passing Time

Much has happened since that terrible week back in May. I was having an allergic reaction and infection from a brown recluse spider bite. Which went undiagnosed for four days and three different doctors. I dislike my primary doctor.

From about my birthday in April until early June, I was kind of in a fog of unhealthiness, from a stomach bug to allergies to being eaten by a spider. Then the summer session at work was CRAZY. Good, but crazy.

This summer was the summer of travel. And I thought I traveled a lot last year! I think I just liked these destinations a lot more than say, Kansas City. I went to Colorado for a wedding, to Lakeside for recharging, then to DC for an adventure with one of my college roommates. I love travel. It’s exhausting, but it never gets old. I don’t have any travel plans in the near future (some significant hopes, but no plane tickets or driving maps at the ready), which is starting to bother me. I feel like I learn so much when I’m in a new place having an adventure.

I have a new class of children. They’re incredibly different than last year’s children. One of my children from last year still loves me, calling my name across the room when she sees me in Large Group time: SAWAH. She also likes to beckon me with her finger saying, “C’mere Sawah,” and patting the spot beside her. It breaks my heart a little that she isn’t with me anymore and that I can’t just sit with her when we want, but she’s a big girl now in a big girl class. She still calls me “My Sawah.” Right now there are few things in my life that warm my heart more than that.

I’m slacking off in my writing skills. I obviously haven’t written here in months and haven’t written much of anything anywhere else either. It’s one of my favorite skills and I don’t want to lose it. I don’t know if I’ll ever go to grad school again or if I’ll need it when I get there. But I’m looking at making grant-writing one of my skills, so regular writing is a definite necessity.

I make no promises.

Hello There October

I spent the first two days of October in class for grad school.  I’m never doing a weekend class again–I hate sitting for that long. I also hate having no weekend.

So, where did September go? It passed in a blur of preschool, grad school, and trying to figure out my new life. Preschool is going fabulously.  I love my job. The childrens, all nine of my students, they exhaust me. But oh, they are hilarious.

Grad school is not my favorite thing in the world. It takes up time I’d rather be spending working on stuff for my students or trying to develop a social life or sleeping.  However, grad school is the means to becoming a special education teacher someday.  Right now, being an assistant is fabulous.  But I don’t want to be an assistant forever.

I have had limited success in finding a social life.  Where are all the people my age and at my stage of life?  Surely there are people in my area who are recently graduated from college and working full-time.  I haven’t met them, though.

I did find ultimate pick-up in September.  Fear didn’t want me to go–but I went anyway and I had great fun. I still suck at Ultimate. I can never get in the right place at the right time.  I rarely touch the frisbee. But, it’s good for me. I forgot, though, that I was really blessed this summer to play on a summer league team with guys who would throw to me. In this pick-up, guys don’t seem to throw much to girls and the few girls view me as competition. HA.  Life is funny.

So the blur of September charged on to the present experience of October.  September was BUSY. October will also be BUSY. Every day is filled with things to do. I love it. I just wish I had extra time to sleep…

Bring it October.

So Long August

This month has been INSANITY. And I love it. At least most of it.  I have fabulous thoughts about this month and I hope to write them down someday.  However, because of the insanity, I don’t know when that will happen. Maybe Labor Day weekend?

Probably not. I’ll be sleeping. Because I wake up every day at 6 AM. And I work 40 hours a week. And I’m taking 9 hours of graduate classes.  And I’m attempting to maintain friendships of those near and far, including 24-hours only trips to Arkansas and meeting up with friends near and far for snatches of time.

I don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to sleep, but that’s ok. I love my life right now. Except I don’t love grad school.  Maybe that will change.

September…bring me sleep.

Also, bring the Little Light House $500,000. If you read this and haven’t heard yet, the school I work for/adore is in a contest on Facebook to win $500,000. Go to Littlelighthouse.org and click on the Kohl’s Cares link and VOTE for the Little Light House!

[Also, Ravelry/UU, I miss you. Someday…I may have free time again and I’ll come back.]

Bring it September.