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: ña’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.

photo (12)

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—not 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—until then, enjoy these pictures from beautiful Oaxaca City.

IMG_1988 DSC06730DSC06727

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—but 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 “weather-related,” 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—that 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

Vote

I voted today.  I’ve voted before, but only by absentee ballot.  Today was the first time I’ve ever voted in a polling place by my home.

I vote because I like being involved.  I listen to NPR, read the newspaper, and make myself informed.  Even when my candidate or position isn’t elected or approved, I still take great pride in voting.

I vote because 100 years ago, I would not have been allowed.  Simply by virtue of being a woman, I would not have been allowed to vote (or considered a full citizen, really).

I vote because I’ve been in the home of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi. I stood in the driveway where he was assassinated, saw what’s left of his blood stained onto the concrete, heard the story of how his wife watched him die then fought for three decades for justice.  I learned how Medgar Evers fought so that African-Americans in the Deep South could exercise their Constitutional right to vote. He was killed because of that fight.

I vote because I’ve met Medgar Evers brother, Mr. Charles Evers. I listened to a man (who has personal photos with every recent president, knows personal stories about the Kennedys, and refers to conversations with President George W. Bush as “When I was talking to George”) talk about the importance of voting, being involved in what’s going on in America. He knows. His brother was murdered, assassinated for the right to vote.

I vote because I’ve stood just steps from where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.  He was murdered because of his fight for the rights of others, including the right to vote.  I’ve learned the history of the movement for which he is the face at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorriane Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve seen through pictures, movies, and stories how he and others sacrificed to bring civil rights to all Americans.

I vote because when half of America doesn’t get their way tonight, no one will riot or turn to extreme violence to try to get their way back.

I vote because I have had so many opportunities to learn about America’s history.  Through reading books, traveling around the country, meeting people, and hearing stories, I have learned the importance of voting.

I vote because the sacrifices of others made it possible for me and for others to exercise our right to vote, peacefully.

I vote because I want to keep it that way.

I vote because as a young white woman in the Midwest, no one will question my right to vote. I want to use my votes, my knowledge to do everything in my power to ensure others have that same privilege.

I vote because I cannot remain silent.

I vote because that gives me power.

Whirlwind

May can be summed up in one word: whirlwind.  Everything has changed, ended, begun, continued, stopped, started….  Everything is the same but everything is different.

I graduated.

I moved away from JBU, Siloam Springs, and my first “house.”

I moved home.

I realized I am a nerd and an athlete.

I had a week of random and mostly unidentifiable anxiety.

I went to and played in DIII Ultimate Frisbee Nationals in Appleton, Wisconsin.

I played my last game as a college ultimate frisbee player.

I added two states to my travel list: Wisconsin and Iowa.

I leave for a new adventure tomorrow.

I have spent and will continue to spend far too many hours in a car.

Whirl away May.

Where Am I Going?

I like taking pictures of my feet in different places. This place is Columba's Bay on Iona

Sometimes, I have no idea where I am going. I love having a plan, a map, a guide. But sometimes I have to cast aside any notion of a plan and just go where I am going.

This is terrifying.

For whatever reason, I often take pictures of my feet.  It’s a way of remembering where I’ve been.  It’s also an inspiration to keep on going.  My feet have stepped (in the case of the above picture) where saints have walked. Where history was made. Where almost nothing happened. Where someone died. Where someone lived.

I look back to remember why I am going forward.  I think of memories (some painful, some glorious, some dull) and see how those experiences have shaped me into who I am.  Sometimes I like how they have shaped me. Sometimes I do not.  Whichever way the memory runs, remembering encourages me to keep going.

Where am I going?

Where will my feet be pictured next?