Where does the time go?

Where does the time go?

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything here for weeks! Of course, when I was sick, I didn’t have much to say. However, a lot has happened since then. Let’s see if I can remember it all.

First, I’m still not entirely better. Now I think it is just allergies. While I tested positive for cats, dogs and dust, I also know by experience that I am allergic to molds and mildew. I know this because every rainy season, my allergies go into overdrive. When I lived in Virginia, I was alway sick at Thanksgiving (November), because that was when all the leaves had fallen and were decomposing everywhere. In California, it was in the spring, when it rained the most. Here, I’m not exactly sure about the seasonal conditions, but I know it has been raining a lot, mostly at night, when it’s cooler. The mornings are lovely, but a bit damp, and I think this may be the cause of my continued snottiness and congestion. I still get that pain in my cheekbones and scratchy throat, although now it is probably due to postnasal drip. Nevertheless, it is quite annoying.

Just for fun!

For a little while, I was able to function quite well without having to take allergy meds. Now I’m back to it, every day. Sinus wash, allegra, nasal steroids. Life with allergies. I guess it is better than the constant feeling that I’m getting sick.

Rainy Season

We knew there was a rainy season here in Querétaro, although no one could really say exactly when that was. When it first started raining every night, we were told that it wasn’t rainy season, just storms from the Pacific. We had a few rainy days, but typically, the days are bright and sunny, just like back in Boise.

Querétaro reminds me so much of Boise. Just bigger. The main exception is that you don’t see as many people out riding bikes and running, and there are no paths through the hills for hikers and their dogs. I miss that. Still, people here are creative about how they exercise.

Yesterday, I saw some women in the park working out with soda bottles as weights. There was a group of them working out together. Cheaper than the gym, right? I am still hopeful that I will be able to join a tennis club at some point. I just need a little more money!

Back to rainy season.

A street in El Refugio during a rainstorm.

When it rains, it pours. Literally. I’ve never seen so much rain collect on the streets! Drainage here is problematic, although they have these enormous ditches everywhere, which I assume are to help. Still, the water comes so hard and fast, that the roads become rivers. The manhole covers can’t handle all the rain and turn into veritable fountains! If this isn’t rainy season, I’m a little worried…

Retirement/Pension

Speaking of which, I finally received the application I needed in order to receive my pension from Circuit City. This was the one thing I got out of my too many years of marriage to my first husband, and I’m determined to collect it. Of course, since Circuit City bellied-up years ago, the pension is being managed by the government. Can you say “red tape”?

The agency in charge — PBGC — Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp — actually contacted me in January, before we left for Mexico. They asked me to fill out a form online in order to determine my monthly benefit. After that, I never heard anything.

When I called, they told me I needed now to apply for the benefits, and that could be done online. So, I looked. I couldn’t find anything. Of course, during this time, I was leaving for Mexico to take the TEFL course, preparing our house for sale, and doing all of the things necessary for our upcoming adventure. Needless to say, I ran out of time.

In February, after we returned from the course and during the 10-days between that and closing and moving back to Mexico (yikes), I tried to call again and was told I had to go online. Still, I was unable to find anywhere where I could actually apply for the benefits.

Hence, we moved. Once again I went online, only to get no information. On the website it said that I could apply by phone, so I called again. We are in April at this point. The woman I spoke with told me that I could not apply on line because there were forms to sign and documents that needed to be provided. They would send me the application by mail.

If you’ve been following this saga along, you know that mail here is complicated. The last thing I had FedExed to me took two weeks, and the mail can take months. After this explanation, they suggested I change my address to a US address (a friend’s, etc.) and they could then fax or email me the documents. (However, the agency could not. Huh?) So that’s what I did.

My friend, Mary, back in Boise, did receive a notice of the change of address for me. She has been patiently waiting every since for the actual application, which, by the way, arrived here on Tuesday, July 10th. The letter inside was dated May 11, and the previous letter that had been returned to PBGC was dated March 10.

Holy cannolies Batman! Needless to say, Mary never received the application. Fortunately, we did. I still don’t understand what the issue was. All that needed to be attached was proof of my birthdate, via copy of my passport. There was one place that needed to be signed and dated. Other than that, which I could have done with my PDF app, there was nothing of real consequence. Just stupid bureaucracy!

I had the application completed and ready to mail back to them within 10 minutes. There is a FedEx office across the street from our neighborhood. So, in less than two days, the application was completed and returned. Will someone please tell me why this had to take more than six months? I just don’t get it.

That said, I should be getting a nice sum of money shortly (whatever that means), as they owe me retroactively to last April (2017).

Now I need to get my body back in tennis-playing shape, so once it arrives, I can join a club and get started! Gosh, I miss it!

Socialization

The other new thing for me is that I found someone to go out with. Laurie is a fellow teacher at Globoworld. She is a few years younger than I am, but a lot closer than the other teachers there. Last week, she and I went out on a Friday night to one of the plazas near where she lives in El Centro. We drank a bottle of wine and ate a local version of french fries. Delish!

We had so much fun we are doing it again tonight. I’m not sure how good an idea it is to go out on Friday the 13th, especially with a supermoon expected, but what the heck. A girl needs a little girl time and wine! I haven’t been drinking a lot of wine lately. It is too expensive on our budget to keep a bottle in the fridge. Now it is a special treat when I’m out with friends or for dinner with Lyn, not that that happens too often.

La Truckeria

Valet parking at La Truckeria!

Last Saturday night, our friends Tom and Tiffany (www.epicureanexpats.com) joined us for dinner at La Truckeria, a food truck place right near our house. We also invited our neighbors, Victor and Guiliana, to join us. It was a lot of fun.

These food truck places are very interesting. Both of the ones we’ve visited have been similar — they are largely outdoors although within a gated area closed off from the street. In the center, there is a bar, and around the outside of the courtyard, there are food trucks and small buildings where people prepare food. There is a waiter that brings the various menus and you select what you want to eat and drink, and they bring it to you.

The entrance to La Truckeria

The tables are set around the bar and everything is outside. At La Truckeria, there was a small swing set and slide for kids. This came in handy, as Victor and Guiliana brought their two children, one of whom is about 4 years old. The adults took turns taking him to “the park” and swinging him.

The food was good and plentiful. I ordered ribs, envisioning ribs like they serve at Applebees. I was mistaken, though. They were HUGE and quite meaty. We also had shrimp tacos with cheese, which we grew to love when we lived in Puerto Vallarta. We ate them everyday there! The kids had pizza and pasta, and Tom and Tiffany ordered something that currently wasn’t available, so I think Tiffany had a shrimp taco and Tom just had a margarita. Now that’s my kind of meal!

 

 

 

 

Looking ahead

Looking ahead

I’m not sure if I’m glad the weekend is almost over or if I’m dreading the week ahead. Both options seem right.

Lyn and I spent all weekend working on our various assignments. Have I mentioned how much I hate grammar? It isn’t getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse. All of the various tenses are jumbled in may head, making it hard for me to write in fear that I am breaking the rules! At this point, I’m so tired, I don’t really care. Now, that’s the attitude!

Checking In

Today I also tried to make contact with some friends and family. Apparently, everyone is going ahead with their lives without us.  (;>(  Oh well, what can you expect when you up and move thousands of miles away, to a foreign country no less! Geez, Donna.

Next week, Justin and I will be teaching 6th graders. While I’m looking forward to that, I am also thinking about the 4th grade class that Lyn and I taught last week. I totally forgot to take pictures of them.

Friday’s class was very distracted. The regular teacher was taking some of the students out of the room and sending others in. While I recognize that we are the “substitute teachers” for that one hour a day, we are still trying our best to accomplish some things and hone our classroom management skills. Friday’s lesson never really got off the ground, so Lyn and resorted to our back-up plan — coloring! We had the kids put their names in big colorful letters on a sheet of paper and then write or draw one thing they like and one they hate. We then put the finished works on the board.

Although I didn’t get a photo of the drawings in class, I did take them home and post them on a wall for a photo so I could share them with you.

Saturday Night Fun

The rest of our group decided to go out Saturday night to a drag show. Apparently the talent here is quite good. Lyn and I opted to stay in for several reasons, among which was my constant need for a good night’s sleep.

By the photos they posted, it looks as though they had a blast!

Another Friday! Three Down…

Another Friday! Three Down…

Friday has come around once again. Thank you God! This week was challenging on so many levels — the coursework, the teaching, the walking, the planning, the meetings and the meet-ups. Phew. The good news? We now have three teaching practices behind us and only seven more to go!

Unfortunately, this weekend is not going to provide a reprieve. On the contrary, it is going to be used for studying, lesson planning for a 5th grade class with a new teaching partner, preparing for my “grammar workshop” and completing our first assignment — to develop 10 communicative activities around 5 different grammar topics.

No pressure!

Trump’s Impact on Our School

There is no easy segue into this topic, so here you have it:

Trump’s fear mongering about Mexico is having a direct impact on our TEFL school’s programs and very existence. Apparently, all but ONE TEFL student originally scheduled for the February program has cancelled because of Trump’s assertion that Mexico is not safe for Americans.

BULLSHIT!

I feel safer here than I do back in the States. The people here want us to enjoy their country and feel welcome. They go out of their way to help us get around, find places to eat and shop, and to experience all of the beautiful places and things in their country.

In fact, I LEFT the U.S. because I no longer feel welcome there.

Trump has created an environment in the U.S. where I, as a woman, no longer feel safe or valued. I can’t imagine what it is like for my friends of color. I am unwilling to go back to being a second-class citizen. I will not sit down and shut up. I will not allow some fat white man with orange hair to tell me what to do, where to go, and with whom to do it. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am, as has every other woman I know.

Lyn and I consciously chose to move to Mexico because we love the people, the country and the culture. We have ALWAYS been welcomed here, wherever we are visiting. In fact, those Mexicans we have met over the years go out of their way to make sure we enjoy ourselves.

Here in Puerto Vallarta, however, I feel as though I have the world by the tail. Everyone I meet is excited that Lyn and I choose to live here and help them and their families be more successful by teaching English in their schools. They are thrilled when we visit their beaches, stores and restaurants, and are even more so when we attempt, however poorly, to speak their language. Almost everyone I tell that we are training to be English teachers asks me to help them with their English. Unlike Americans, they don’t expect us to be fluent in their language.

Huh.

Our School and Its Programs

The school where we are training (Vallarta International Academy) not only teaches native English speakers like us how to teach English abroad, it also teaches English to the local population, who see speaking English as a stepping stone to a better job and a better life for themselves and their families.

Since the people here make far less than most Americans, the locals are unable to pay as much for the English classes. As a result, the TEFL program at the school subsidizes its ability to offer its English classes. Our tuition is what provides sufficient money to pay teacher salaries, classroom rents, supplies and more. So while we pay $1,500 each for the TEFL course, a local student, regardless of age, pays just $45 (around 900 pesos) for one month of classes.

That means that just a few people cancelling out of the TEFL program has a dramatic impact on the ability of locals to get ahead, for the school to meet its expenses and for the teachers to keep their jobs.

Come to Mexico

Friends, please think for yourselves. Don’t let some racist, sexist narcissist stop you from visiting this beautiful and SAFE country.

Is there crime or violence here? Of course, just as there is in NY, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Boise. Do you let that stop you from traveling around your home town or to cities around the U.S.? Of course not, because you are smart enough not to go to walk down dark streets in bad neighborhoods in the middle of the night, or to talk to suspicious-looking strangers or to get into a stranger’s car. All things you were taught when you were in grade school.

So why are you allowing unfounded rumors spread by the U.S. government to keep you from visiting Mexico? Hmmmmm?