Success!

Success!

My Dallas trip was a success, but not like you would think.

The plan was to get up early Wednesday morning and go to the Social Security office and complete my application process. However, before I got out of bed, my phone rang. Would you believe it was the US Embassy in Mexico City?

Yep. I spent $1500 to get a phone call! Geez. That said, however, there was some additional good news: Because of having been married previously for more than 10 years, I am entitled to a larger monthly benefit than I would normally be — about $300 a month more. Down here, that is a lot of money! Can you do the happy dance?

Other business:

While I was in Dallas I had a couple of other things to do, such as pick up my AdvoCare products — I can’t live without my Spark! — and complete setting up a direct transfer from my US bank to my Mexico bank.

In addition, I was able to reconnect with my friends Mike and Emily Biddler, who are the parents of my good friend Jeane Brown. The timing couldn’t have been better. Not only did we have a lovely dinner, but the Biddlers drove me to pick up my Spark.

By Wednesday night I had successfully completed two of the three goals I had for the trip.

Unfortunately, I also visited the bank that afternoon. That part didn’t go as planned. Turns out that the banker in Boise didn’t complete the process on his end, which meant I couldn’t do what I needed to do to get the system working. The alternative was to start over. That wasn’t going to work, though, because I would have to come back in a week to send the first transfer. It MUST be done in a branch. That was the initial problem when I set it up in Boise (or so I thought) in the fall.

It took a second trip to the bank on Thursday to confirm all this, which left me with an entire day to myself in beautiful Dallas. Not that I did anything fun. I just went back to the hotel and rested.

My room at The Hotel Lorenzo

Speaking of the hotel, it was the Hotel Lorenzo. A very cool, modern and funky little hotel with a great happy hour bar/restaurant. I was able to get my meals there without breaking the bank.

The carpet in the room made me a little crazy. Basically, it was a black carpet with white text on it — quotes from Shakespeare! The text was fuzzy, so you couldn’t actually read it, but I did my damnedest! “To be or not to be, that is the question….” Finding the sentences that went together made me absolutely insane, but, hey — English major! I couldn’t rest until I found them!

In the lobby restaurant, each wall had photos of different artists — Dali, Picasso and Warhol, were some of them. In the main part of the lobby, there was a hallway with TVs that each showed one eye blinking. On the other side was a mirror. Weird, but interesting.

Best part? The bed was super comfy and I slept really well.

Other view

The last thing I did was to purchase some items in the CVS pharmacy that we can’t get here — Zicam spray, ear plugs for Lyn, and moleskin for my tender toes!

Overall, mission accomplished, I think. We’ll see when the first check arrives!

It’s 2020 and I’m such a slacker!

It’s 2020 and I’m such a slacker!

Geez Louise, it’s been about 6 months since I’ve written anything here. Of course, like everyone on the planet, the advent of the new year means a new resolution to do better. Well, let’s just see how that goes.

So, to catch you all up, Lyn and I are still living in Querétaro and teaching ESL. The last few months were quite interesting, with lots of things happening.

The Anglo

Lele

I completed one year at The Anglo in August. And, the good news is, my contract was renewed for another year. I’m so glad, as I just LOVE my job! I love all of the people who work there — and I do mean all of them, from the cleaning staff to the administration. It is a very closely knit family.

A visit home

The key benefit of having completed my contract is that I had a month-long paid vacation. I took that opportunity to go back to the US and visit my family in NY and friends in Idaho. Overall it was a great trip. I was able to meet the newest addition to the family — my grand nephew, Bryson. What a sweet little baby! I also had the chance to see my #1 nephew, Joey, play soccer. He’s a goalie. It was a fun day to sit and do something so normal with family!

Me and baby Bryson
Me and Bryson

I also had the chance to catch up with my beautiful nieces, both of whom are growing up so fast! Being a mom will certainly do that to you, so with Jenifer it was no real surprise. My precious Bells, though, is growing up too quickly. What a gorgeous young woman she is!

soccer game
Joey on the field

Of course, no trip home is complete without some shopping. I definitely had some quality time at Macy’s, where I bought myself lots of things to get me through the winter here in Querétaro. It does get cold here, and, even in the summer with the AC on in the classrooms, I needed some warmer things to wear.

hiking in the Boise foothills
Me, Ziva and Reese in the Boise foothills

While visiting family is great, the best part of the trip was the week in Boise. I was able to catch up with most people, celebrate my birthday with my best friends, and enjoy some quality outdoor time. We hiked in the foothills every day. It surprised me how well I did considering that I haven’t had a lot of exercise since living in Mexico. I was actually able to keep up with the others. I think it may have been because I’ve been living at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.

2019 Birthday dinner
Birthday dinner at Gino’s

Of course, I did a bit more shopping. Ultimately I had to buy another suitcase to get all the stuff home, which also included several month’s supply of AdvoCare products that I can’t get down here. It was so worth it though.

I also spent a little time with Lyn’s mom. I don’t even want to discuss that fiasco. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating that experience was. Let’s just say the first meeting took place in the ER. Nuff said.

Back home

Coming home is always the final destination, and I was thankful to be back with Lyn and our four-legged family. I still had a few days of downtime before going back to work, which I needed to recover from all that traveling!

Once here, I had a birthday party (our first in the new house). It was great fun! I learned how to dance Cumbia, and we ate, drank and danced the night away!

As the year continued, we had our first Day of the Dead while living in El Centro Historico. That was very fun! There were public alters everywhere, and the colors and decorations were beautiful. Of course, we even had an altar at school. Last year we had a competition. This year they just set one up in the lobby.

Day of the dead Lele doll

One of our friends, Tiffany, came over and we walked all over town the night of the celebration. We tried to go to a cemetery, but it was closed by the time we got there. It was interesting to me that, in such a catholic country, there are so few cemeteries. You would think there would be more.

One of many public altars. Note that the skull face in front is made from different types and colors of seeds

 

There were some public buildings, too, that had altars set up in them. In those cases, there seemed to be a theme, for example, in one building, each neighborhood had an altar.

There was also an indigenous exhibition of Mayan dancers. The costumes were just amazing! It was a little difficult to see everything since the dancers were performing without a stage. We were still able to get a few photos. They used a lot of fire in the performance, too.

Indigenous dancer costume.

Back to school

Naturally, I returned to work. My class schedule was pretty light the last few months of 2019, which was ok with me. I always feel a little guilty when I get paid for not working, especially when all the other teachers have multiple jobs to earn enough. It wasn’t without it’s frustrations, but, alas, that comes with the territory.

2019 Xmas party in CDMX
Christmas 2019 in CDMX

The Anglo had a wonderful Christmas party in Mexico City. That was so much fun! They had a great band, gifts, dancing, glow-in-the-dark face painting, tequila, and more! It was a long way to go for a party, but it was worth it. They bussed us, too, which meant we could sleep on the bus.

Xmas 2019

And that, my friends, brings me almost up to date!

It’s a party!

Christmas vacation

Blue Hawaiian by the pool

This year, Lyn and I went to the beach. We planned the trip earlier in the year when a mutual friend suggested we meet somewhere for Christmas. She ultimately wasn’t able to make it, so I invited one of my colleagues from work to join us. I already booked two rooms. She jumped at the opportunity. She, her son and her mother ended up going with us. It was a lot of fun.

Rocio, Ruben, Lyn and Me on the shuttle

My goal for the trip was to relax, which I did in spades! We mostly sat by the pool, where I sipped my 2-for-1 Blue Hawaiians. The only activities we planned were to go to Tulum and snorkeling in Cozumel. It rained the day we went to Cozumel, but it didn’t matter much in the water. We did get a bit soaked getting back to the hotel shuttle, as we had to walk all the way down 5th Avenue. Nevertheless, it was a very good day. Well, except for the fire coral I ran into to. Man did that sting!

2020

That pretty much brings us up to today, January 2, 2020. We’re not much for new year’s celebrations, so we stayed home and kept the animals calm as all the fireworks went off. The explosions kept up until after 2 a.m., so we started the new year a bit sleep deprived. Oh well, there’s another 364 days to rest.

Classes don’t start again until the 11th or so, so we still have time to rest. We did buy some new things for the house — a couple of very nice rugs, which are nice to have now that it is so much colder in the morning. I am also quite thankful for the warm clothing that I bought on my US vacation. (Oh, I forgot to mention I went shopping in Playa too, but only bought a couple of things — shoes and a bag.)

We are still working on getting our pictures and decor on the walls, but it is coming along.

A few more pics

Saadia, Denise and me, Boise 2019
At home with Bob
Me and Ellen, NY 2019
Mi cuñada, Flor, and me in NY 2019
Bob and Stef at Joey’s soccer game
Me, Lyn and Ruben in Playa del Carmen, 2019
One of several “cocodrillos” at the resort in Playa
The flamingo area at Vidanta
Me and my Bells, NY 2019

 

 

Chunk 2: Xilitla & Hotel Tapasoli

Chunk 2: Xilitla & Hotel Tapasoli

Ok, since I have a little time, I’m going to fill in the blanks about my winter vacation. As you know, one of the teachers (Jodi) from the TEFL program in Puerto Vallarta come to visit us in Querétaro. She and I took a driving vacation to some of the most amazing places. Here’s where we started:

The Road to Xilitla & Hotel Taposoli

A little map to help you see where we went!

Jodi ran into some travel problems right off the bat. There was some kind of weather problem in Mexico city and she was unable to leave on the day she planned. She wasn’t alone. Quite a few tourists were also stranded. Of course, she at least could go home and try again the following day.

Once again, however, there were problems with the flights–delays, cancelations, etc. — so I took it on myself to see what I could do. Ultimately, I was able to find her a flight that eliminated having to go through Mexico City, but it meant she would have to spend the night in Guadalajara and leave first thing in the morning.

Since she was now delayed by two days, our new plans involved leaving for Xilitla immediately from the airport.

Jodi Donna Road to Xilitla
Photo op!

The road to Xilitla was long — about 4 hours plus some time for photos and food. It was a little nerve-wracking for me to drive into the Mexican countryside. This country has a bad reputation when it comes to traveling in certain areas. Fortunately for us, we were heading into a very popular vacation area in the mountains.

Delicious Margarita

If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought we were driving around some areas of the west, particularly in Idaho, where the elevation reduces the amount of tall trees. It was a perfect day to drive, and we made very good time, stopping only a few times to take photos.

A beautiful lookout. Unfortunately, it was not well maintained. What you can’t see in the photo is that, behind the cross & building, people have used this spot to dump garbage.

We did stop in one small town for a bite to eat. Wow. I can honestly say it was the best meal we had on the trip.

Restaurant Carretas

Amazing seafood, especially considering it is about as far away from the ocean as possible! The margaritas were also spectacular. I hope I get to visit this place again sometime.

 

View of the valley from the cross overlook.

 

Strategic Choices

When we planned the trip, we decided to stay in “interesting” hotels wherever possible. We were not disappointed. In Xilitla, we chose Hotel Tapasoli. The photos made it look like a visit to Hobbiton. We weren’t disappointed! While we didn’t stay in one of the hobbit houses, we still had an amazing stay.

Hotel Tapasoli
One of the “hobbit house” rooms at Hotel Tapasoli

We met a couple of nice people in the parking lot that invited us to see there hobbit room, which was right on the edge of a cliff with a spectacular view of the valley. There was another couple there too, enjoying the view over a glass of wine or two. We were invited to join the gang. Of course, we had brought some wine on the trip with us, so we added it to the festivities.

Hotel Tapasoli Breakfast
Breakfast with Alfredo and Evie

The couple we met were very from San Luis Potosí, a small city that was on our “to do” list for the trip. Of course, we talked about places to go, people to see, and politics. Alfredo’s English was excellent, so the conversation was quite animated. He and Jodi got into it over Trump. I tried to stay neutral and calmer, but watching the exchange was very entertaining.

The following day, we met them again at the hotel restaurant — a lovely deck with a great view. The food was amazing! I had chilaquiles, the local breakfast choice. It is a combination of tortilla chips, eggs, beans, rice and whatever else you want, with red or green salsa. It is hard to describe, but absolutely delicious!

Chilaquiles

After breakfast, we headed to Jardín Escultorio de Eduard James, a famous sculpture garden in the jungle. Of course, google and apple maps both failed me in the GPS area. We managed to get a little lost, but not too badly. After all, as in most mountain towns, there is only one main road. Once you find that, you’re golden.

The Jardín is amazing! Acres and acres of amazing buildings and sculptures designed just for this place. Lots of steps, though, so if you have bad knees, you may want to just buy a photo book.

I did buy a few things here: a T-shirt for Lyn and a small, hanging parrot for our new house.

 

Jardín Escultorio de Edward James
Jodi in the Jardín Escultoria de Edward James

We ended the day by heading to our next venue — Tamasopo — where we were looking forward to experiencing the amazing blue waterfalls. Stay tuned. We’ll cover that in Chunk 3.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter

OMG, it has been a hell of a few weeks, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Job

First, I am excited to say that I have been offered a new teaching position at The Anglo Mexican Foundation. I am very excited to be starting there in the near future. I don’t have an official start date yet, but I’m expecting it to be sometime around the 20th of August.

Of course, everything here is a process. While we are permanent residents of Mexico, questions about whether we need additional work visas was a questions. Turns out, we don’t. Phew. I was really dreading having to go back to Immigration!

However, I did need to go online and register with more government agencies and get the Mexican equivalent of a Social Security Number.

The new job is very similar to my current position. That is, it will have a split schedule, as the students are primarily working adults that can only attend classes early in the morning or after school or work. I will also be working Saturdays, as I am now. That’s okay too.

The real benefit is the dramatically increased salary, paid vacations and holidays, savings plans, life and health insurance, a month’s vacation each year, and a paid round-trip ticket (up to $750) anywhere I want to go at the end of the contract year.

The Anglo has been around for 75 years. They have 8 schools in 4 cities. The school in Querétaro is brand new. It has 20 classrooms well equipped with monitors, white boards, and materials. They have a rooftop cafe and a bookstore on the lower floor. They have both an academic director and administrative director, as well as staff to handle the day-to-day operations.

I am so excited to get this opportunity!

Car

Second, this week I successfully obtained license plates (placas) for our car. I am very excited about this, especially since it means that we can now take trips around the region and explore. This weekend, we may go to Peña de Bernal. I understand the monument is interesting and the town is quite charming. They have a reputation for good gorditas and beer. I’ll let you know!

Other

Last week was a bit problematic. Not only did Lyn lose his phone, but I had a terrible experience with a student. This week, I lost my car keys. Aargh. This won’t come as a big surprise to those of you who know me. I can’t keep track of anything when I’m feeling rattled. Fortunately, we have two keys, and another one can be obtained from the Honda dealer.

I also learned this week from a cab driver that Mexico offers discounts to people over 60 through their Instituto National Por Adultos Mayores (INPAM). I believe it was going to get this discount card that I lost my keys. I did get the card, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use it toward the fees on my license plates because it did not have my full name on it. Here, everything has to match.

At the time I got it, I was so consumed with checking the spelling of my middle name (Porretto, aka my maiden name) that I forgot to look to see that my last name (Geisler) was there! Oh well.

Sunrise over Querétaro

The sunrise this morning was fabulous. See the photo above as well.

Come visit me, peeps! Miss you all.