Chunk 3: Tamasopo & San Luis Potosí

Chunk 3: Tamasopo & San Luis Potosí

The saga continues…

Our next stop was Tamasopo, which is known for its “cascadas” or waterfalls. As with those falls at the beginning of our trip, I expected these to be somewhat remote. I was wrong! In Tamasopo, the waterfalls are right on the road, easily accessible by car, and surrounded by conveniences such as restaurants, shops and bathrooms.

At first, I was hesitant to go in the water. It wasn’t that warm, being January and all, but I decided it was worth it. I actually changed into my bathing suit in the car so I could partake of the water. Since I hadn’t planned to swim, I didn’t bring a towel. Fortunately, they sold those in the shop, along with inexpensive water shoes — necessary for walking on the rocky river bottom.

The water was perfect! We had a great time, even using the rope swing and jumping off the rocks nearby. There were other people there, of course, but not too many. One of the benefits of off-season travel.

The hotel we stayed in in Tamasopo was very nice. While the room wasn’t anything special, the grounds were lovely, and all the rooms looked out over a sprawling green space with large pools. There was a river close by, so you could actually hear the sound of the water cascading over the rocks.

I did have a problem in the hotel due to mold. My allergies had a lot more fun than I did! I reported it to the hotel so they could fix it. I imagine it is typical for a room with stone walls situated in a damp area.

We didn’t stay long here, just a day. By 4 p.m. we were back on the road heading for San Luis Potosí.

The Mountain Pass

A lot of this trip involved driving on windy mountain roads in the dark. This section of the journey was no different. What surprised me was the amount of traffic. I suspect that it was due to there being only one road connecting these areas. Sort of like going into one of the U.S. national parks. You just have to be patient (not my strong suit).

When we got into SLP it was dark, once again making finding things a bit of a struggle. Fortunately for us, I had booked a hotel right in the historic downtown of the city. Score! Of all the places we stayed, this was the most modern and comfortable. Naturally, it was also the most expensive. But who cares! Having a big comfy bed with a great comforter walking distance from everything was worth every penny!

SLP isn’t a very big city, so we were able to hit the highlights in one day. The only issue was that some places were closed because of King’s Day — January 6. This day is when families exchange Christmas gifts. There is another tradition, too, involving putting a small figure of the Christ child in a cake. The person who is served the piece with the figure is responsible for bringing or making tamales on 2 February. I like this tradition, even if, in retrospect, it seem a little canibalistic.

The night we arrived, we walked around the block to the main plaza where they were having a holiday light show. All I can say is, WOW. Amazing. I am attaching a short video for you. Basically they developed this show so that it blanketed the main cathedral. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Hundreds of people were just standing in the square watching.

Among the highlights of SLP was visiting a prison that has been converted to an art school and museum. It was technically closed to the public, but since the school was still open, the security guard allowed us to go in and look around. If anyone stopped us, we were to tell them that we were looking at applying to the school. Ha! The security guard was very knowledgeable about the history of the place. It was clear he appreciated our interest in it as well.

Centro de los Artes, San Luis Potosí.

Floor plan Centro de los Artes.
The inside of the buildings are used for classrooms and galleries.
One of the sculpture gardens between the buildings.

We pretty much walked the length of the city and back along the main boulevard, stopping to investigate the street vendors and churches along the way.

Next stop — Dolores Hidalgo & Guanajuato.

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

The Saga Continues

The Saga Continues

Immigration

Everyone told us the process was challenging. I thought I had all my ducks in a row and that, for us, it would be a breeze. Well….

Paperwork

In my last post, I mentioned about the fact that everything on your paperwork has to match your passport. Apparently, this also includes your receipt for the fee you paid. Since this was done before we knew how important this was, when we went back to immigration with the new, corrected form, we were told that our receipt was wrong.

Lord have mercy. Could they not have told us this the previous time? It seems that they get to a problem and…just…stop. If they had looked through everything, we could have corrected this, too. But no.

The Money Pit

Apparently, this is not as easy as getting a new receipt or simply correcting the old one. The money is gone. Disappeared. Vaporized. Vanished. We have to pay this amount again.

The HR person at Lyn’s office said we will eventually get it back by filing a tax form, but that takes some time. Right now it means we are out $5,000 MX. This is half of money month’s pay for one of us. So $10,000 is an entire month’s pay.

Dallas Bound

Did I mention that I still have to go through this process? Next week I head back to Dallas to get my permanent resident visa, which was held up until I could prove, by way of an Apostille birth certificate, that I am who I say I am.

Once again, I am getting up at oh-dark-thirty to catch a 6 a.m. flight for 24-hours in Dallas. Another $1,000 US bites the dust!

Hopefully this will be the last trip. After that, I have to do the immigration dance Lyn has just been through. Of course, all of this is just the beginning. There is more to be done, once this initial part is completed. We still don’t have plates for our car. We have to register with immigration and notify them of any changes to our status, etc. Of course, they will take taxes out of our checks, as piddling as they are. Yikes.

Stay tuned!