Felices Fiestas!

Felices Fiestas!

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat.

I’ve been putting pennies in the old men’s hats! This time of year, a lot more of the beggars are children. It makes me very sad. They wait at the corners and approach the cars while they are waiting for the light. I try to keep spare change in my car for them. Of course, you can’t give money to everyone, but I do my best to give to at least one person every day.

Lots of news from Querétaro!

Lyn

Lyn accepted a part-time position with UCO — the Universidad Contemporanea. Don’t be fooled; it isn’t a university. Rather, it is an IB preparatory school. Lyn will start teaching English two hours a week to prepare students for taking the IELTS exam. Passing this test is important for students going off to college. It is also one of the tests that many adults take in order to certify their English skills for various jobs.

I’m really thrilled he took it, even though it isn’t a lot of hours at first. There are several reasons:

1) He can get acclimated to the school at a slower pace. My understanding is that the school has rigorous requirements for the teachers as well as the students. Starting slowly will give Lyn plenty of time to get used to their process.

2) The school is located very close to The Anglo. In fact, it was my academic director who forwarded Lyn’s CV there. He and his wife, Paloma, have been lobbying for Lyn to get the job. UCO is about three blocks away.

3) In the fall there will be an opportunity for him to teach Math in English. I actually met the Math department head at The Anglo Christmas party. She is so excited that Lyn is going to be joining them!

4) The hours are during the regular school day, so Lyn will be spared the hassle of a rotating and unpredictable schedule that is part and parcel of teaching at a language school. I honestly don’t mind the schedule, as long as I don’t have to get up at o-dark-30 after working late at night. I don’t like to do the same thing all the time, so it is perfect for me. And, since we are moving closer to school, the schedule won’t be as difficult.

The other great thing is that he will be working. He needs that. We need that. $$$$$

The Holidays

Posada in Querétaro
You go girl! The piñata doesn’t stand a chance!

We went to our first Posada last night. Our community hosted it, with all the traditional fixings — from food to the star-shaped piñata for the kids. Of course, we walked to the front gate and sang the traditional posada song (I need to work on learning that for next year). One half of the group stood outside the gate and sang the parts of Joseph & Mary asking for lodging, while the other group stood inside the gate and sang the responses. Of course, we ultimately let them in!

The children really enjoyed the piñata. I took a lot of pictures. They were sooooo cute!

The food ranged from mole sandwiches and tunafish to traditional ponche — a delicious spiced cider served hot. Yummy! Several of the homeowners brought tequila and other traditional beverages, as well.

Flor de Alfalfa / Rancho Hondonado

Breakfast in the Cave at Rancho Hondonada
Breakfast in the Cave at Rancho Hondonada

We have also been doing some touring around Querétaro. A week or so ago, we toured an organic dairy farm where they make artisanal cheeses and yogurt. It was lovely! And, we got to pet the calves. We went with another teacher from the Anglo and his wife — Rodrigo and Eunice (pronounced Ay-oo-neece-ay).

The ranch is about an hour from our house. They have over 1000 cows that are very well treated! They play them music and give them treats when they are milked to keep them happy. Happy cows make sweeter milk. As part of the tour, we saw where they make and store the cheese. We were treated to a lovely breakfast/cheese tasting before heading out to see where they plan to put the vineyard. Yes, vineyard. It will be lovely, but it will take some time before they are actually producing enough grapes to make wine. Of course, there are vineyards all over the area where they can get good wines.

I had been hoping the tasting came with wine, but no. It was early — around 11:00 in the morning — so, alas, no wine. But… they had the most delicious hot chocolate.

All in all a very wonderful day.

The Anglo Christmas Party

Me, Mercedes & Joe: Teachers at The Anglo.

I am very fortunate to work at such a great school with such great people! Really. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work. The conditions, the people, the pay and benefits are all amazing. I’m so happy.

Naturally we had to have a Christmas party and gift exchange. I am always a bit reluctant to participate in these things, but this was really fun. Gifts had to be less than $12 US, and everyone submitted three things they would like, which made it easier to pick something.

Me and Caro, another teacher from The Anglo.

The party was very well organized, and EVERYONE came! That, in and of itself, is amazing. From the security and parking attendants to the cleaning and sales staff to the teachers and administrators. It was amazing.

Stay tuned… I have more news. Just need to process! TTFN (ta-ta for now)!

 

 

The entire Anglo crew! Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traffic!

Traffic!

I couldn’t think of an appropriate name for this post, but Traffic! will do. You see, traffic in Querétaro is totally insane. Along with it, there is also the insanity of trying to park downtown.

As seems likely the longer we live here, I finally got a parking ticket. Lyn and I had ventured to El Centro Historico for an afternoon stroll. Having found the “perfect” spot, we set off to enjoy the city sites, stop for a quick bite to eat, and do some shopping, mostly of the window variety.

My parking ticket.

On one walk about, we actually passed our car in its gloriously convenient, and, I believed, free location. But, when we finally decided to head home, there was a long narrow strip of paper under the windshield.

Honestly, I thought it was someone’s grocery store receipt, because that was what it looked like. However, on closer inspection, I realized it was really a parking ticket. A parking ticket!

There was so much information on it to decipher, but it clearly was for my car, parked in a “no parking” zone. I didn’t see the signs, although the ticket says they were clearly marked. Oh well.

Unlike other parking tickets I’ve received over the years, this one did say how much the “infraccion” would cost me.

A day or two later, the young man who cuts our grass translated it for me. He then asked, “did they take your license plate?”

Wha?

Apparently, this is the custom. They leave you a ticket and take one of your license plates. I hadn’t noticed, but they sure as heck took my plate! I suppose it is good motivation to get you to pay the ticket, although I drove around for several months without any plates on my car and never was stopped. Jonathan (the gardener) thought the ticket would be about $180 pesos, which would be discounted if I paid it within 90 days.

So, the following day I drove to the location indicated on the ticket, totally terrified of what the process might be. It was actually a breeze and very well organized. We went about noon, which is a good time to go places here, as lunch is typically around 2:00 p.m. and traffic is light.

The place was totally devoted to parking tickets. First, you go to a window where they validate your ticket. The second window is where they tell you how much you have to pay. This was the disappointing part, as it turned out that, even with a 50% discount, the fine was $500 pesos — that’s about $25! Well, seeing as there was nothing to do about it, I paid the fine and went to the third and final window, where they gave me back my license plate and a receipt for paying the fine. They also asked for all my information (name, address, cell phone number, email, etc.). For what purpose I hope I never learn.

I suppose it was a good thing it happened when it did and that it was as easy to remedy as it was. I am quite averse to “firsts” as they raise my anxiety level to new heights. Fortunately, Lyn was with me, which made things a bit less stressful.

Lesson Learned

The last couple of times we came downtown (like today), I did myself a favor and parked in a lot. For 25 pesos (about $1.25 US) you can park for quite some time. Sure beats a 500 peso fine!

Back to Traffic

So, last week there was some event going on in El Centro Historico. Living as we do in the burbs, I had no idea. I try to leave at least an hour to get to work, since traffic is unpredictable. On this night, it was beyond insane — it was a freaking parking lot!

I left my house at 6:10 to be on time for a 7:30 class. It usually takes about 25 minutes. The longest prior to this particular night had been an hour and 15 minutes. On this night, that record was squashed — after two and a half hours, I still hadn’t made it to school.  Since class is over at 9:00, I made an executive decision at 8:45 to head back home.

It seems that the traffic was due to something called the Christmas Train. One of the big department stores sponsors it, and people from all over head into downtown to see it. Interestingly, on this night, the event was cancelled, but word hadn’t gotten around. Everyone still showed up.

The only bright spot for me was that the traffic was literally moving at a snail’s pace and I was able to text my students from the car. They were very cute. They were actually doing classwork and sending me photos of what they had done. I sent them additional things to do, and all-in-all, the class seemed to get along without me. Phew.

Of course it only took me 15-minutes to get back home. The stress took its toll on me. I actually had TWO glasses of wine instead of my usual one.

Day Trip!

Day Trip!

Last week, our friends, Tiffany and Tom, invited us to go with them to Dolores Hidalgo. They were heading out there to look at possible tiles for their new home. They had been there before and knew that it was a center for ceramics. Since I don’t work on Fridays, I had a free day.

Lyn and I hadn’t been to DH before. It isn’t far — about 45 minutes on the other side of San Miguel de Allende. Neither of us knew anything about it other than it is one of those quaint Mexican towns.

After stopping to look at tiles, we ventured into the town, parked the car and headed out to the plaza. The town itself looks like a lot of towns — colorful stucco homes, lots of churches and plazas, and street vendors occupying many streets. Apparently, there was some type of festival going on. There were many vendors selling unusual flavors of ice cream. Things like mole or shrimp and octopus. Ick.

There was one vendor selling huaraches. They were really beautiful! I was so tempted to try on a pair, but I didn’t. I’m still trying hard not to spend too much money.

The chapel for quiet contemplation.

After looking around the plaza and the marketplace, we went to see some of the churches. They were amazing! The first one we visited was done in a Baroque style. Very ornate! In two of the apses, there were these incredibly carved walls. Of course, there were also life-sized statues of Jesus, Mary and others. One of the chapels was extremely simple. The room was reserved for quiet contemplation and prayer with plain white walls, a simple alter and flowers.

The main altar.
Intricately carved apse.
Wine bottle map.

Another stop on the tour was the Wine Museum. Very interesting! While it wasn’t a huge exhibit, it did have interactive displays and a really fun map of Mexico made out of wine bottles. The building where the museum is housed is a former hospital. The grounds were lovely, and included a terrific Italian restaurant.

Courtyard of the old hospital where the wine museum is located.

I’m not sure the name of the second small town we visited. There wasn’t a lot there, but the quaintly cobblestoned street was lined with vendors. Again, we stopped mainly to look at the church. Apparently, it is referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico. Once you walk inside, it is clear just why.

The ride back to Queretaro was quiet. I was falling prey to a bad cold and drifted off every now and then. Needless to say, the next few days were spent sipping tea and trying to cough up a long. Yuck. All better now.

It’s done.

It’s done.

So, Lyn is back home, and with him he brought me some warm hand-me-downs and, most importantly, five canisters of Spark! Oh happy Day!

The clothes arrived just in time for a cold snap. Yesterday it was 6-degrees Celsius — a little above freezing. I don’t know what I would have done without the warm sweaters Saadia sent down. I layered as much as I could to get through my class.

The school isn’t heated. In fact, in the middle of the building there is a very large circular opening (maybe four-feet in diameter) with just a decorative grate. Thankfully my car has heat. And, even more thankfully, our AC unit is also a heater. That meant we had heat in the bedroom. That, extra covers and two cuddly dogs did the trick.

Today is warmer, but the temps will drop again once the sun goes down. Good thing I moved south to avoid the cold winter weather!

On the Boise front…

Lyn’s mom got moved into her new room at the assisted living place. Lyn’s brother managed to get it all done. I can’t dwell on it, or the whole thing will make me crazy. I’m just glad it’s done.

Other news…

Lyn had a job interview this week. This is a good thing. The school is right down the street from my school and almost exactly across from where he used to work. Hector, my academic director, recommended Lyn for the job. Hectors wife works there too, it’s a preparatory school, so high school students. And, they told Lyn that next year they want to offer math in English. That would be awesome! Of source, we’re not counting chickens yet.

Happy Day of the Dead

Happy Day of the Dead

Halloween was last week. Here in Querétaro, they celebrate Halloween as well as Dia de los Muertos (Nov. 2nd). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, as I had been told  that kids do trick or treat — sometimes for two days — but a bit differently than in the U.S. For example, rather than saying “trick or treat,” they sing. Of course, since I was working, it didn’t matter. I didn’t see anyone.

Turns out that our condominium had a small party for the kids at the pool that evening. They asked what houses would participate so they would only go to those that were on the list. Phew. Although I did buy candy. I’ve been taking it to school for my students.

Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — is what I was looking forward to. I had been invited to go to an event in a cemetery. Everyone I told about the invite said I would absolutely love the experience. Unfortunately, I had to work (again) that night and missed out on the opportunity.

The tradition around Dia de los Muertos is fascinating. In fact, at my school, we participated in a school-wide competition that involved creating an elaborate altar with seven levels. Every level has certain requirements, including food and drink, religious images, use of specific materials (ash, seeds, flowers, candles, etc.), and the highly decorative skulls that are so popular.

Pan de Muerto

There is even a bread called Pan de Muerto. It is a sweet bread with a depiction of bones on the top. It is very yummy.

 

Initially, I was assigned level 7 (the floor), and one of my students and I put together a little display. Ultimately, the school redid it, but I thought ours came out nicely.

Me and Fabiola’s level 7 display. Ultimately, it was replaced with the one below.

Bottom line — Our School Won!

Here’s a pic of the schools alter:

The Anglo’s Day of the Dead altar.

The school also decorated the halls. Since the idea is to celebrate the dead, they had photos of famous English and Mexican writers and celebrities posted around the building, as well as hand decorated paper skulls and halloween decorations. It was very festive.

On Halloween, the school hosted a costume competition for the kids. They were very cute. All-in-all, it was a fun day.

Of course, Christmas is coming and they are already plotting the next competition — a door decorating contest.

Drama. Ugh.

I’m an unusually happy person. I wake up singing. No joke! Singing. But these past few days have tempered even my sunny disposition.

Mi Suegra

My mother-in-law, Mary, has been in the hospital for the last three weeks. My husband went back to Boise to help her transfer ultimately to an assisted living situation. In the meantime, he has to be her full-time caregiver. He’s never been good at these types of things, and now he is responsible for making sure she is compliant with her care instructions. Never mind that he has to get her to acknowledge that she can’t stay in her apartment, will have to get rid of 80% of her stuff, and probably won’t be able to keep her dog. No fun.

Even though he will be there a total of 20 days, there is so much to be done that it is doubtful he will get through it all. His brother will be coming to help out for a couple of weeks as well. Ultimately, I don’t know what is going to happen, but there isn’t anything I can do about it from here. I’m working really hard on letting this one go.

Mi Familia

Even though the new baby is only a week old, there is already drama on the home front. I really dislike drama. Now I am the one in the barrel. My niece is angry with me because I said she needed to be respectful of her grandparents who are getting on in years and have their own issues. You see, she and her boyfriend and the baby are moving back home, into Bob & Ellen’s house, that is. Having a newborn baby around isn’t easy when you are the mother, never mind when you are older. Crying babies, dirty diapers, extra people and a dog can all add a lot of stress, never mind expense. More laundry, more showers, more electricity, more people, more money.

What can I say? Bob and Ellen have been the bedrock of this family for 50 years. They have given and given and given, yet it is rare that anyone takes their feelings, needs or wants into consideration. It makes me angry.

They, however, just keep putting up with it. “Going with the flow,” is what Bob said to me this morning. At some point, the “flow” just might drowned him. And then what will the family do?

Ah, well. I promised myself I wouldn’t get too enraged about this. Again, I have to let it go.

Let it go.

Let it go.

Let it go!

It’s a Boy!

It’s a Boy!

I just learned that my niece, Jennifer, had her baby. She wasn’t due until the end of the month, so it came a little early. Nevertheless, he’s a healthy 7 lb 8 ounce baby boy named Bryson Bruce.

It was welcomed news during a period of intense stress over health issues with family. My brother-in-law just had a hip replaced, my step-dad is going through chemo (again), and my mother-in-law has been in the hospital for three weeks and will likely be there a while longer. Being in another country has left us a wee-bit helpless in all of these situations. Although, in some ways, it has been a blessing.

In fact, one of the reasons we left the US was to get away from the hassles of caring for everyone. I admit, I’m a fixer, and if I were there, I would be doing everything possible to make everything “right,” which is what I always did when I lived there. That made me totally crazy and stressed out. From here, while I feel powerless, I at least am more sane not having to be the one to do everything.

With regard to my side of the family, they are well equipped, emotionally and financially, to handle their lives. My husband’s family, well, not so much. So, right now, with his mom in the hospital with a recurrence of breast cancer and a brain tumor, we are paying for people to assist and support her as well as doing whatever we can from afar. Fortunately, Lyn has taken over the responsibilities of managing it all. I couldn’t have done it for many reasons. First, I’m working full time. Second, I am not the one who should be making decisions about her healthcare. It’s time for Lyn and his brother to take over.

So, that where things are.

My beautiful, very pregnant niece, Jennifer.

Congratulations Jennifer! I can’t wait to get pictures of the newest addition to the family. And, please, remember that Bob and Ellen are getting on in years and have their own issues. I love you, sweetie! Be good.