UGH!

UGH!

What a cluster! Never, ever, EVER trust UPS when they tell you “no problem.” Boy, did I learn that the hard way!

So, when last I wrote, we were waiting for UPS to arrive between 2 and 5 p.m. on Thursday to pick up all of our worldly possessions. I worked so hard to get everything the way they asked me to, to dot every “i” and cross every “t”, but to no avail.

When the driver and his 18-wheeler arrived at our house, he wouldn’t even come in the door. “I can’t take that,” was pretty much what he said.

“What?” (My response.)

Turns out that UPS Freight cannot pick up boxes that are not on a pallet and shrink wrapped.

They also cannot deliver to a residential address.

Oh, and you need a customs broker.

And,….

The list goes on.

Once again, I get on the phone with UPS. Once again I am transferred to at least four different people. Finally, after I break down into tears and hysterical sobbing, a woman in Florida arranges to have a regular UPS truck come and pick up the boxes.

An hour later, a very nice driver shows up at our house.

Now, this is where things get complicated. You see, it is almost 5:00 by then. The new owners of our home are sitting in their car in front of our house waiting to get in to do a walk through. The realtor has also arrived and is giving me shit about how his clients have a legal right to do their walk through and la-di-dah, blah, blah, blah.

Well, this New York girl had had it up to her eyeballs and went into battle mode with this young punk. You see, we still owned the house until 9:00 a.m. the following morning, and if he didn’t back up and straighten out, he was going to deal with the wrath of god in the form of one 5-foot 1-inch NY bitch.

Poor Lyn, my sweet little southern boy husband, just stood there muttering “she’s been drinking” (ok, a little wine with friends who came to give support), while my dear friend Mary watched with glee. She had never seen this version of me up close, and she was pleasantly surprised to see me in a rare form.

Needless to say, realtor-boy wisely backed down. Mary, the UPS man and I put all of the boxes into his truck, and Lyn and I collected the last of our things from the house so the buyers could do their thing.

They’re very nice people…

On the way out, I introduced myself to the buyers and tried to explain the chaos. They were quite understanding and kind. They, too, had recently relocated from the midwest and understood the trauma associated with moving long distance from a home they lived in for many years.

I had written them a letter and left them with good information about the house and the services they might need. Lyn and I had thoroughly cleaned the house in order to leave everything in the best condition possible. We went far beyond what other people do. I wanted to make them feel welcome and know how much we loved the house. It’s just the way I am.

Back to the UPS saga

So, once we got everything on the truck and I cried and cried and cried, we followed the truck up to a UPS store in Vista Village. The store is a franchise, so not technically UPS. The poor owner – a lovely woman named Elisabeth – was not prepared for what she received. It was like something from a bad dream — we had to explain again and again and again what was happening. Ultimately, around 7:00 p.m., we decided there wasn’t anything further we could do until the next morning, after our 9:00 a.m. closing appointment.

To be continued…

I hate moving…

I hate moving…

Ugh. Moving is a drag. Moving to another country is even more challenging. To date we have packed a few boxes, watched our living room, dining room and patio furniture leave without us, and have made travel arrangements for us and our pets. Still no place to live in Queretaro, although I’m confident something will turn up.

Our Fur-Babies

Traveling with five animals will be stressful enough. Just going through this move has been more than our new kitty can handle. She is behaving quite badly and I may need to re-home her before we go. I can’t have a bad cat in a rental. I hate to do it. I’m very attached to my pets, but Coco is fairly new to us and is quite shy, which means we haven’t really gotten that close. As it was, we rescued her and her kittens, all of which were adopted. Since then we’ve tried to get Coco to be part of the family. She is in love with Jack the Cat, but could easily live without us. I already made her plane reservation, but that can certainly be changed.

Boxes Everywhere!

Right now the house is a freaking disaster. There are boxes, papers, decor, clothes, and other detritus of life everywhere. We didn’t really unpack (what’s the point), so our suitcases have a prominent place in the middle of our bedroom.

Yesterday, we had some art appraisers come and look at the dragon (see photo above) and my great uncle’s oil paintings to determine if they would be able to sell them for us. At this point, they can just keep them if they can’t sell them. I don’t have the bandwidth to consider anything else.

It was amazing how different the house felt once all the artwork was off the walls. So far, we have packed 8 boxes. Not a lot, I know. Apparently, we were very good at getting rid of things!

This weekend, another friend will pickup our guest bedroom furniture, TV and remaining kitchen things. That will leave us with just our bedroom furniture and the couch in the den.

On the 15th, everything else goes, including us. We will have to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights before leaving for Queretaro on Saturday, Feb. 17. Yikes. No turning back now.

God help us!

Yelapa

Yelapa

Lyn and I finally took some time to go do something. It was a beautiful Sunday. The weather was perfect. So we went to Yelapa.

Yelapa is a a small beach town south of Puerto Vallarta. You can only get there by water taxi, and that takes 45 minutes. It was well worth the ride. This little cove is a slice of heaven. The shore is lined on one side with palapa bars and restaurants that serve amazing food. We actually had the best meal we’ve had so far right there on the beach. Coconut shrimp with rice, steamed vegetables and toast. Delicious! The margaritas knocked me on my fanny, but that didn’t stop me from meeting some lovely new people and engaging in very interesting conversations.

While the prices for things here were a bit higher than in Vallarta, they were very reasonable by American standards. Our delicious lunch cost us about $15 US. My margaritas were $5 each. The boat ride was the most expensive things we’ve paid for since getting here — a whopping $640 pesos (about $30 US). That’s round trip.

We spent the few hours we had relaxing by the water, watching other tourists do those things tourists do, like parasailing and such. The waves were a bit rough, so I didn’t get in the water all the way, but I did get more than my feet wet. Score! I can’t go back to the states without having been in the ocean. I just can’t.

Of course, there were the many people selling their wares along the beach. My heart went out to the children trying to sell conch shells they had found. At least in Yelapa, when you tell them “no thank you,” they stop asking. In Vallarta, they just keep after you. It drives me mad!

I did meet my new best friend. For those of you who know me, I just LOVE iguanas! This big boy was partnered with a young man who, in addition to shopping for paying photo ops, was selling some weed. I served as translator for him, which landed me in the wonderful position of having his iguana all to myself. I did give him a tip when he finally came around to gather his pet. I loved this mini dinosaur! They are so amazing, colorful and calm herbivores. I really want one! Oh well. Not sure how Jack the cat would respond. Izzy would have a field day with one, I’m sure.

The Week to Come

This week is our last here in Vallarta. Fortunately, both Lyn and I are teaching adults. My class starts early tomorrow, so I won’t keep at this much longer. I need my rest after today’s excursion.

Fingers crossed, by the end of the week we will know where we will be living. I’ll let you all know as soon as we find out. Saturday we we will be heading back to Idaho to tie up all those loose ends before moving to Mexico for real. Lots on the horizon.

Stay tuned!

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?

 

 

It’s Friday!

It’s Friday!

So sorry I was not able to write this post yesterday. It was a very long day, starting with early morning teacher observations, three hours of class and lesson planning for next week’s new activity — teaching!

Trying new things

Lyn and I decided to try eating at the little place where we usually go for coffee during the class break. Bubble Waffle. How do you describe a bubble waffle? Think about the reverse of a waffle, where there are indents in a waffle, bubble waffle has filled bubbles. Inside the bubbles you can have Nutella, chocolate, etc. On top they add fresh fruit (we had strawberries), whipped cream, ice cream and chocolate syrup. I have to say, this was the most decadently delicious lunch. Much more like dessert.

Today, Lyn and I went to another small restaurant in the shopping center where our classes are held. La Canasta specializes in breakfast. We had freshly squeezed orange juice, the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had, and pancakes. OMG. My mouth and stomach were in heaven! I have largely given up coffee since I started drinking Spark, although now I think I will start up again, just for the taste of that delicious brew at La Canasta! The woman there showed me the secret: she adds a curl of fresh cinnamon on top of the grounds when she brews it. So simple. So wonderful!

Friday night outing

Originally, our class planned to go downtown for drinks last night. Plans changed when Andrea told us about the Sea Turtle Camp. This camp — quite literally — is in a town called Boca de Tomates, about 30 minutes north of where we are. We went together to get an Uber (35 pesos for three people!), which left us down this long, dirt road in the middle of some type of nature preserve. The road was fenced on both sides because of the crocodiles and ocelots. Ok! So when is the last time you saw a crocodile up close? These are salt water crocodiles that also hang out in the marina area and will come out of the water to snatch some tasty food. The mosquitoes already like me way to much. I’ll stick with those flesh eaters, thank you very much!

We didn’t see the ocelots, but I am sure they are there.

Despite having gotten a ride to this point, it was another 5-10 minutes of walking to get to the beach. Those of you who have traveled to Mexico before know that there are surprises around every corner. This was no exception.

Once around the bend, there were a number of open-air restaurants along the beach. We had to walk another 5-10 minutes down the beach to get to the Campamiento de Tortugas. There were a couple of “guides” there who spoke about the sea turtles and why it is so important to ensure their preservation.

Baby sea turtles at Campamiento de TortugasThen the fun began! First, we were introduced to the baby turtles in a big bin. There were probably close to 100 of them. So cute!!!!

Donna and her baby sea turtlesSecond, each of us was given a small bucket with three baby turtles in it and instructed to name them and make a wish for each. Mine were Ralph, Rosita and Ignacio. Rosita was a tiny thing, but determined! We all set our babies free at the same time and encouraged them to get to the sea quickly so they didn’t get eaten by birds. A couple of the babies needed a little help. You see, they never stop trying to get to the sea, even if they are in a container. This wears them out entirely, resulting in sluggish turtles.

Our class

All of this activity took about as much time as it takes to watch the sunset, so we got to do both, making for the best 15-minutes of the day and the week.

A welcoming people

Sorry to disappoint you Mr. Trump, but the Mexican people are the most welcoming and warm people you will ever meet. Last night was just more proof of this. You see, after we finished with the turtle release, we walked back to one of those little restaurants on the beach. There were six of us students and another couple who joined us. We ordered fresh fish, shrimp quesadillas and more and sat chatting for almost two hours! I had a quesadilla and a Pacifico for 50 pesos ($2.50!). We were the only customers, which meant that the four or five people working there had to stay until we were done.

Let me just say that it was PITCH BLACK by 8 p.m. Remember the walk down the dirt road? We were looking at having to do that in the dark. But rather than leaving us to our own devices, the woman there offered her brother to drive us back to the main road where we could catch the bus.

Not only did they give us a ride, but they made sure we got on the right bus and didn’t pay too much for the fare. A whopping 10 pesos each. That is about 50-cents U.S. Most of the time we’ve been paying 7.5 pesos each.

Our new friendsThe ride back to the main street

Every day we meet more wonderful people here. People who don’t mind our poor Spanish and who try their best to help us when we are lost or can’t understand something. I am so glad we are doing this! I can’t wait to have an actual home here!

Sunday: Day 2

Sunday: Day 2

Mexico is a Catholic country. Not surprisingly, therefore, many places are closed on Sunday. Today we learned that people who don’t work on Sundays include our 24-hour security guards. Fortunately for us, I was able to use my foot to dislodge the rod holding the gate down and open it. Otherwise we and our groceries would still be standing out there! A young man in the apartment closest to the gate told me later about the Sunday issue and promised me he would get a key for us tomorrow.

Before we were so challenged, Lyn and I wandered around Villa Vallarta — the shopping center across the main road from our apartment and where the school is located. We met a gentleman named Arturo who works at one of the shops. Most people are very kind to us, but even more so when we tell them our plan to move to Mexico. Today we learned that moving to Mexico will make us “salted feet,” i.e., locals/natives.

We then rode the bus to Marina Vallarta, where the cruise ships come in. It is also home to the 24-hour WalMart. The MEGA store close to us is more than adequate for most of our needs, but the WalMart has precios baja (lower prices) and carries even more goods than the MEGA, including food.

I have taken to the habit of carrying my foldable sacs with me, so we took the opportunity to do a little grocery and other shopping. First on the list were pillows. The ones here are ok for sleeping, but inadequate for reading. So pillows, pillowcases and some cleaning supplies made it into the shopping cart. I also bought some sharp knives (don’t get me started on the kitchen here) and some additional forks and things.

Once again, I cooked. This time spaghetti with meat sauce. It is nice to eat in. As much as I like to eat out, I enjoy my own cooking and know it won’t make me ill. As time goes on, I expect to have provided this apartment with spices and utensils that most normal adults use everyday.

House Update

Last night we received the first offer on our home in Boise. Cash, $5000 over list. Wow. First offer. There has been one more, and another is expected tomorrow. Looks like the house is going to sell!

Poodles!

Sophie and Izzy have been cooling their heels at Kassie’s house while the house is being shown. They seem to have settled right in!