Time is flying

Time is flying

I can’t believe it has been over a month since I wrote anything here. It isn’t because I don’t have things to say — I always have something to say — it is more because I have been so busy!

Teaching

I started my new job about six weeks ago, so I have completed the first round of classes. I definitely LOVE THIS JOB! I am having so much fun. The people that work here — the teachers, the administrators and the staff — are just wonderful people. Every day you are greeted with kisses and hugs, coffee and plenty of happy people. And that’s just the people who work here.

The students are equally wonderful. They are typically excited to be here. They pay a lot of money for the opportunity and are motivated to achieve their language goals. There are a couple of younger students (teens 14-19) that are a bit more challenging to engage. After all, they already have school work to do. This just adds to it. Nevertheless, if you can find a way to engage them, they bring an incredible life to the classroom.

For example, I have one 17-year-old student that loves science fiction movies, so, yesterday, we talked about SETI, METI and the pros and cons of finding life on other planets. We also talked about movies like Arrival, which was focussed on decoding language in order to communicate with visitors from another world. When possible, I also bring Marvel and DC comic movies into the discussion. They are very popular here.

If there is a downside, it is that some of the classes are small, like two people. Sometimes both students are absent. When that happens, you have to stick around to be sure that they don’t just show up late. That is a little dull. In fact, that is why I am working on this blog! I know for sure one of my students isn’t coming. The other hasn’t reached out to me yet, so I can’t be sure if she’s just late or not coming at all.

Business Classes

I did have the opportunity to teach at a business, too. It was a course on telephoning and teleconferencing. At first, it was very challenging, as the materials were not really appropriate for the level of the students. Additionally, the materials were out of date. It took a while for me to actually figure out how to manage the class. My midterm reviews from them were not good. In fact, I would say some were downright mean.

Nevertheless, I carried on and got through. After it was all over, they were happy.  They even wanted me back! That was a big surprise. However, here, they rotate the teachers to give students different perspectives and expose them to different styles and accents.

My business class at PSL.

The Home Front

In August, Lyn got a job teaching 7th Grade English. At first, he really liked it. But the honeymoon period was over quickly and the students’ behavior became unmanageable for him. I met the kids one night when we were at the mall. A big group of them were also there.

Lyn’s 7th graders

 

The end result was that he quit the job. It was best, although he was very sad, too. He really liked the kids; he just couldn’t control them so he could teach effectively.

In the long run, this was a good thing. Shortly after he left the job, his mother developed some serious medical issues and, as of right now, is in a rehab hospital. Lyn’s time is being devoted to managing her care and, alternatively, to studying Spanish.

Ten months and counting

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 months since we left the US. While the first month was in a different city, it was effectively the start of this grand adventure. We are finally getting a little time to explore and enjoy ourselves. Lyn is starting to drive and get out and about on his own. This morning he is grocery shopping while I work on my lesson plans for the week.

I’m always checking in with him about this move, if he thinks it was a good thing or if he has any regrets. He seems to be content overall. Me? I’m happy as a clam. I’m making friends, going places, learning new things. If only I could get some exercise, I’d be even happier. Ah, well. Soon.

 

 

 

A New Normal

A New Normal

Most weekdays

5:15 a.m.

  • Get up (really?).
  • Feed the dogs.
  • Shower, if time.
  • Dress.
  • Eat.
  • Take meds, vites, etc.
  • Kiss the hubby good-bye while he slumbers
El Refugio at 6:00 in the morning.

6:00 a.m.

  • Leave. If I’m lucky, I’ll get their before the students do. Class starts at 7:00. Ah, traffic!

7:00 a.m.

  • First class of the day. Everyone looks tired. I know I am. Here we go, though.
  • Smile.
  • Get the students talking.

9:00 a.m.

  • Head back home.

10:00 a.m.

  • C’mon mom! Let’s play!

    Take a nap, if possible. (Dogs: seriously? what about our walk? You’ve been promising….)

  • Work on lesson plans.
  • Freelance assignments.
  • Laundry, dishes, housework, pay bills, make calls….

2:45 p.m.

  • Head to Juriquilla to pick up Lyn at 3:30.
  • Hit the bank or grocery store on the way home, or sometimes stop for a bite to eat.

4:00 p.m.

  • Lyn vegges, naps and/or showers while I start dinner.

5:00 p.m.

  • Eat (standing up).
  • Wash dishes.
  • Review lesson plan for evening class.

6:00 p.m.

  • Head back downtown to teach.

7:30 p.m.

  • If I’m lucky, I’m there a few minutes early. If I’m not, I’m running in the door three steps ahead of my students.

9:00 p.m.

  • Head back home.
  • Get the morning’s materials together so I don’t forget anything.
  • Drink a glass of wine.
  • Shower.
  • Prepare clothes for tomorrow so when I wake up in the dark I can find them.

11:00 p.m.

  • Collapse into a coma-like state. 5:15 will be here before you know it.
The Anglo glows in the dark to greet me each morning.

Saturdays

6:00 a.m.

  • Wake up.
  • Slug coffee, breakfast, meds and vites.

6:45 a.m.

  • Leave for school. Traffic is lighter. Phew.

7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

  • Class.

2:00 p.m.

  • Fill out class paperwork, talk with colleagues.

3:00 p.m.

  • Home.
  • Nap.
  • Drink liberally.

Sunday

  • Thank you, God, for a day off. Well, not really.
  • Grocery shopping, laundry, housework.
  • Me and Jonathan at my favorite place — the pool! He’s helping me with my Spanish.

    If I’m really lucky, a quick dip in the pool.

Monday…

Repeat as above.

Oh, wait! I have another class starting tomorrow. A business English class on telephone and teleconferencing skills. M,W,F from 4-6 p.m. Looks like Lyn will have to find another ride home.

TTFN

 

 

What a Week!

What a Week!

Hello world. (as WordPress would say!)

Now that I’ve had a two-hour nap, let me bring you up to date.

The last couple of weeks have been very exciting for us. Both Lyn and I have started our new jobs. Amazingly, both of us are still upright!

The amount of energy it takes to teach is incredible. Both of us spent Saturday in a near coma. Lyn, after five days of teaching teenagers. Me after one six-hour class. The adrenaline of “performing” for that length of time takes its toll. Not that I mind! I had a great time!

I was sooooo nervous! The Anglo has very particular ways of doing its lesson planning. The materials are different from what I am used to as well. Never mind trying to make a six-hour class interesting.

My first attempt at lesson planning was okay. After meeting with Hector a few times and sitting in on a couple of classes, I finally found my own voice. The second drafts were much better. And, surprisingly, I was able to fill up all that time! Of course, it helped that the students had been taking Saturday classes there for a while. They knew what to expect. In fact, the group was primarily made up of the students from the class I sat in on, so everything felt familiar. There was one new student. He blended in very well.

Lyn, too, had a good week. Unlike me, though, he is an introvert. So, by the end of the week, he was totally spent. But, he LOVED IT. He has around 100 students in four classes. From what he tells me, they are really adorable. Typical pre-teens, yet since they have been at this school for a while, they know the routine.

The school has some very strict policies. In fact, even the teachers have to conform to a dress code: blue pants, white or blue shirts. The shirt color is determined by what day of the week it is. It certainly makes it easy to decide what to wear, particularly given that Lyn gets up around 5:30 in the morning to get to school on time.

Oh-Dark Thirty

Good morning, Querétaro!

Speaking of 5:30, I have another new class that started today at 7:00 in the morning. That means that I have to get up at 5:30 too! OMG. While painful to the max, there is one benefit — I get to see Orion setting out my window. The mornings are a little cool here, so, for me, choosing my outfit is a bit more of a challenge. I am trying to be organized. I actually picked out my clothes last night and had them ready to go.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was how much traffic there would be at 6:30 in the morning. Who the heck is on the road? I hit so much traffic, that I had to call the school and have Hector start the class for me. A typical 15-20 minute drive was 45 minutes this morning.

Lesson learned. Tomorrow I’m getting up and leaving even earlier. Hopefully, I will be able to sleep tonight. A two-hour nap can sometimes make that challenging.

Payday

One of the more interesting things about working here is the every company has its own banking relationship. For us, that means that each of us has to open a bank account at a different bank just so we can get paid. My account is at CitiBanamex and Lyn’s will be at Scotiabank. We have a third, joint account at Santander.

Opening a bank account here is almost as much work as getting a visa. Seriously! You need so many documents to prove that you are who you are and live where you live. It’s crazy. CitiBanamex was fairly easy, although it did take me two trips. Lyn is having a bit more trouble. He’s already gone twice — once with me and once with some bilingual friends to help translate — and still hasn’t been able to open an account.

The first issue is just the timing. The bank only opens new accounts during the week until 3 p.m. and until 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Well, Lyn works until 3:30 every day, and I work until 2:00 on Saturdays. He can’t go alone as he doesn’t speak enough Spanish.

Some of my friends from the dog park volunteered to go with him for the second trip. It turned out that Lyn still didn’t have the right documentation — they wanted the original copy of our electrical bill and our lease contract. This is because our electric bill comes in the name of our landlord. It is too complicated to change it, so we just pay it. That means another trip is forthcoming. We are going to try to do it tomorrow, as he can get out a little earlier. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I did get my first paycheck. For less than 15 days, it was just shy of my monthly salary at Globoworld.

YES!

The Anglo

The Anglo

Last time I posted, I mentioned that Lyn and I were going to Mexico City so I could sign my contract with The Anglo. The day consisted of two three-hour bus rides and one almost and hour meeting. All-in-all, fairly uneventful, yet very interesting. I was very glad that Lyn went with me. After all of the horror stories I heard about Mexico City, I really didn’t want to make the trip alone.

Of course, all the talk was just that. the trip went quite smoothly with absolutely no drama.

The Bus

The bus line we chose was Primera Plus. It’s considered the best line for this type of trip, and now I know why. You wouldn’t believe just how luxurious this bus was!

  • The seats reclined considerably.
  • The head rests cradled you head so you could easily sleep without that nasty crick you get on airplanes.
  • The windows had sunscreens and curtains.
  • There were “leg rests” that you could use to support your legs in a comfortable position.
  • They gave you complementary food and drinks before you got on the plane.
2TXG%IpNR0ODR2O0qyD%Hg
Lyn and Donna on the bus.

In addition to the fancy bus, the bus station in both Querétaro and in Mexico City was as fancy as most airports, complete with shops, dining options, cafés, and waiting areas. Not only that, but they took security seriously, with metal detectors and security guards that checked you going out to the buses and before you boarded.

Impressive.

The Anglo Antonio Caso

The Anglo is amazing. The school we visited was in the middle of their summer programs. Lots of kids wandering about. The Antonio Caso branch is also where the administrative offices are located. To get there by taxi took about 10 minutes. The cabs in Mexico City are pink and white. The driver, of course, was amazingly friendly and gave us advice as to what to do once my meeting was over.

Once we got to the school, we were escorted into the administrative offices, where I met with the HR director, Alex. What a sweet young man, and very professional. We had spoken over Skype and by phone, so I knew what he looked like, although he was taller than I expected.

Mostly our meeting involved reviewing documents and signing them. Not much to talk about. We did cover some policies and procedures (code of ethics, professional standards, etc.), and once again he reviewed the very ample salary and benefits.

Mexico City

xboXjsHHRu6E6bCIfxaknQ
Museo de la Revolución

After the meeting, Lyn and I followed the recommendations of our taxi driver and walked to the Museo de la Revolucion. It occupies a large square surrounded by cafés, restaurants, businesses and stores. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right on the corner opposite the museum, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

I can’t remember what I ate, but it was yummy. Lyn had a beautiful paella. Really beautiful. The only issue was that the seafood adorning it came complete with heads and bodies — shrimp, crabs, mussels, etc. Lyn couldn’t quite handle it, so he mostly ate the rice. I completely get it; I’m one of those people who can’t look at my food “whole” either. He usually isn’t bothered by that, though. Oh well.

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend, so after lunch we wandered around the square a bit then headed back to the bus station. On that particular day, Bic (the pen company) was hosting an enormous coloring activity on the grounds. People were lined up to get in. I believe it was a promotion for a new line of colored pens.

ZAr1NOHkQraRe%eQ2BSGxw
Bic Coloring Promo

Since our dogs were left unattended, we decided not to dally too long. We had left the door to the garden open for them, but they get nervous after more than a few hours. We didn’t want to give them a reason to misbehave.

Mexico City has a population over 25 million people. It is HUGE! While we didn’t see very much of it, we did see enough to make us want to return when we have a few days to really explore. It isn’t like NYC with all of the skyscrapers, although we did see some. It is more sprawling. From what we’ve been told, there are many “neighborhoods” where you can live and work and never need to travel beyond them.

Start Date

Back to my new job…

Technically, I started today, although I had an orientation session on Tuesday. There is a lot to know. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, but overall, I know I made a good decision.

I’ve been working with the Academic Director, Hector, who is delightful. He is kind, organized, patient and professional. He will be my mentor over the next few months.

My first class will start on Saturday, August 25th. It’s an adult group of intermediate students. I now have most of the materials and will be reviewing them (over and over and over) prior to class. Plus, this coming Saturday, I will be sitting in on an existing class. I’m quite nervous, but also sure that I will be just fine. I’m always nervous when I start something new.

Lyn

Meanwhile, while all this is going on for me, Lyn has also been looking for a different job. He really would like to go back to his roots and teach Math, but those positions aren’t readily available, at least not that we can tell.

He did, however, get a call from a private school in the area, Sun Hills Valley, that has a really big campus just outside of town. When he originally interviewed, they  didn’t have an appropriate position. Since then, though, they had an opening for an English teacher and have interviewed him a second time. He’s had to take some psychometric tests, as well.

His one disappointment was the pay. While more than Globoworld, it isn’t much more and the workload is a lot more. It is a formal school where he would teach four 7th grade English classes every week day. The advantages are things like summers and weekends off. But the pay was a stumbling block for him.

I suggested that he counter the offer, which he did. They are discussing it, and Lyn should have an answer by tomorrow. With his Ph.D. and teaching experience, I feel fairly certain they will do their best to meet his request.

Phew. If all of that comes together, we will actually be making a reasonable amount of money on which to live. My extra students, freelance work and pension will go a long way to keeping us comfortable here, and maybe even let us put some money back into our savings.

The Weather

I do believe rainy season is here. We’ve been having thunderstorms every night. They are quite frightening! The lightning comes down in streaks just like in those fancy photos of lightning storms. And the thunder is so loud it shakes the buildings. On top of that, it doesn’t just rain — we have a deluge! Some places get hail, which is odd given the climate here. But the rain! I don’t know where the water goes. Near our friends house, the torrents actually blasted a cement sewer cover five feet in the air. The road took a beating, too.

Poor Sophie is really struggling with the storms. She shakes almost uncontrollably at the slightest hint of rain and has taken to  hiding as far away from windows and doors as is possible. I think if she could get under the furniture, that’s where she would go. Alas, she’s a bit too big for that.

Izzy could care less.

Hmm. I guess we are all still getting acclimated to our new environment. At least now there is a rainbow in sight!

 

Free at Last

Free at Last

Last week we celebrated our new “freedom” by driving to Peña de Bernal. It was an easy drive, although we ran into a bit of traffic near the airport. They are building a new bridge and the road is a mess at the intersection where most of the construction is. Being a Sunday, there wasn’t anyone there directing traffic.

Drivers here take every opportunity to push ahead, regardless of what is going on around them. Trying to get across this intersection was challenging, as it involved four lanes of traffic crossing four lanes of traffic. What a mess.

The problems with this intersection created problems for miles. It took nearly 45 minutes to travel about 3 miles as a result.

Lunch in Peña de Bernal

We didn’t spend very long in Peña de Bernal. There were a lot of people there that day. I think there may have been some kind of tournament or festival going on. We ended up walking up and down the main road, stopping for lunch, and then heading out again. Even though it was brief, we enjoyed getting out of Querétaro for a little while. Oh, the gorditas were delicious! We had carne adobado gorditas, which were made with a blue corn masa. Wonderful. Didn’t drink any beer since I was driving. Next time.

This week, Lyn and I have spent most of our time preparing for our classes. My time at Globoworld is coming to a close, so for me, it has been a bit sad. I’ve been telling my students about my job change and preparing them for their level evaluations. They get so nervous about these things, but they will do fine.

Yaudiel and Luis leaving work after class.

Some of my students want to take me out this week to celebrate both the completion of their class and my new job. I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoy these guys. They are hardworking and fun. It has been a joy to see them improve their English skills.

Change Is Good

So, what’s next on the agenda. Hmm. Lyn and I are traveling to Mexico City on Friday to go to The Anglo-Mexican Foundation HQ where I will sign my contract. We are going to take the bus to the airport and then Uber to the school. The HR manager asked me to bring 4 photos, which, I assume, will be for ID cards and things. Fortunately, I have lots of photos left over from our immigration process.

I am excited about starting a new job, although I am also nervous. Change is always good, even if it stresses me out for a while. I will need to get familiar with new processes and procedures as well as how to use different materials. The school does have an online platform as well as a text book. That will be different.

The materials we use at Globoworld are a bit dated. Recently, in looking around for other materials to use with my private students, I came across the company that created them. There is a new version, which I was surprised to see, looks remarkably similar. I think what I don’t like about these materials is the use of cartoonish drawings. I feel like the drawings are a bit insulting to the adult students. What was really interesting is how common these drawing are in all of the ESL texts I found.

The one set of materials that was different from the rest was from National Geographic Learning. Their texts use TED talks and the gorgeous photography the magazine is known for. I have to say, though, that I found the information presented a little confusing, but I could get used to it! Remember, change is good.

Turns out that the materials in most of the texts I’ve seen follow the same pattern. They teach English while covering a set of general life skills topics. For example, the first level is covers the basics of meeting new people, describing things and places, getting around (transportation), family relationships, urban and suburban living, etc. In this way, they address the proficiency standards set forth in the CEFR (Common European Framework) for learning a second language while developing the necessary vocabulary and grammar structures.

Lyn is making it his mission to recreate much of the materials with newer images. He spends a lot of time working on his classes. He has taken a keen interest in teaching pronunciation. This is a difficult area. He is really enjoying it though.

This Weekend

Tomorrow we are going to Santa Rosa with our friends Tom and Tiffany. Santa Rosa is a a little town just over the hill from here. They live closer to it than we do and have gone there on many occasions to eat and shop. The town is not known for being friendly to strangers, so it will be interesting to see it with people who are known there.

I have driven through the town many times as it is between our house and several of the companies where I have been teaching.

Happiness is a long run. Sophie & Izzy post-exercise.

I am also continuing to make new friends here. Just today I met a couple — Yvonne & Roberto — who work for Proctor & Gamble/Gillette. The lived in Boston for four years and their English is perfect. Naturally, we met because of the dogs. I had Sophie and Izzy out playing and they were also there with their two dogs, Molly and Nina. Molly is a pug and Nina is a French bulldog. The four of them got along famously, as did we humans.

Private Students

Last week, I was giving a private lesson to someone who lives in El Refugio. We typically sit by the pool where it is a little cooler for our lessons. This past week, we were working on “sometimes/anytime/no time, etc” with our toes in the water when a family joined us. The pool isn’t very big, so of course they could hear everything. One of the children, a girl around 8 years old maybe, started showing off her English for us. After our lesson was gone, the parents asked me if I gave English classes and how much I charged. They also asked me about teaching children, which I am not keen on. The kids here are a bit wild and I don’t have the energy to be their domesticater.

Also, while I am flattered by the interest, scheduling private classes is difficult when my work schedule is so irregular. I will have to see how it goes after I start my new job.

Not a day later, I got a text from the husband of a former student. They also live in Refugio and want me to give them private lessons. We are going to meet next weekend to discuss how we might make that work.

I asked Lyn if he was interested in taking on some private students, but he isn’t. At least for right now. I totally get it. Unfortunately, I feel like I have to take on as much as possible so we have enough money to live. I’m okay with that for now. And I really love my students. I figure if they are willing to take time out of their busy lives to study English and pay out-of-pocket, they are truly motivated and will do what it takes to succeed.

Speaking of money, it will be interesting to have a bigger income. I am curious to see how it will change things. I’m also still working on getting my Circuit City pension. I called the other day and was told that I should be receiving it by the latest October. Dang bureaucracy! Oh well. Better late than never.

More later!