Saturday, December 31, 2005

A New Year Recipe: Grapes, Suitcases, Sweeping and Red or Yellow Colored Underwear

New Year’s Eve traditions abound in Mexico. At the strike of midnight twelve church bells ring at which time you are to eat twelve grapes (one for each month of the year) and make a wish, grab your suitcases and take a symbolic walk out the door so that you will travel in the new year, sweep around the house to make a “clean start” all while wearing either red underwear for love in the new year or yellow for money. There’s so much to do it’s no wonder the festivities last until well into the morning, at least after 5 a.m.
I toasted in the New Year at Karina’s house and just after midnight we took a taxi to Tania’s. As we walked in, Karina and I were given a bag with 12 grapes. I tried to remember to make a wish as I popped each into my mouth. Tania said that at midnight she ran out of the house with her suitcases – she really wants to travel this year and has an appointment in a couple of months at the U.S. Embassy to hopefully get her visa. We sat around a big oval table with her whole family, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and her grandma. We and enjoyed a fantastic festive meal with tasty meat, pasta, bread, salad and plenty of tequila and other beverages to go around. Around 2:30 I was ready to call it a night, but as there weren’t any taxis available, I went with Karina and Tania to another party.

This party was under a big white tent and music blasted from the speakers while videos played. I was then ready to leave around 5 a.m. and a taxi picked me up sometime before 5:30 a.m. I had a great time and look forward to incorporating some of the Mexican New Year’s Eve traditions into my celebration next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Winter Break with Carrie Day 3: Tepoztlán to D.F.

Details to be posted ASAP. To see photos from our day, click on the title of today's entry or copy and paste the following into your browser:

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Winter Break with Carrie Day 2: Taxco to Cuernavaca to Tepoztlán

To see photos from Day 2 of winter break with Carrie, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Details of the day to be posted ASAP.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Winter Break with Carrie Day 1: Taxco

To see photos from Day 1 of winter break in Taxco, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Details to be posted ASAP.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

If I May Say So, “Feliz Navidad”

To see photos from Christmas in Mexico City click on the title of today’s entry or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

At the risk of being “un-PC”, I’ve used the term “Merry Christmas” in today’s title. I’m mystified by the news from the States that people are in an uproar about the presidential “holiday” cards that don’t show a Christmas tree (or is it “holiday tree”) and that say “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas”. Doesn’t it make sense that since the cards are sent to people of all denominations they have a general greeting? Our society is so sensitive that now Christmas trees are being called “Holiday” trees. What holiday besides Christmas involves a tree? Trees have no place in Hanukkah, and I don’t think with Kwanza either. At the same time, I was pretty satisfied that for the five hours that I was out today, not one person said “Merry Christmas” to me.

Not knowing what was open or closed on Christmas day in Mexico City, this afternoon I ventured to the Historical Center, to the big park Alameda that is right in the middle of the city. I had read that some of the cows from CowParade were displayed around there, so I was on the hunt. I found a few along Avenida Juarez, across from the park, and took photos of the two that I liked. After capturing the couple of cows, my Jewish stomach sensed that it was Christmas and directed me to Chinatown, which is actually more like ChinaBLOCK. The couple of Chinese restaurants are just by Alameda Park. There I bought an egg roll, rice and vegetables and took it to go – I had more exploring to do.

I walked to the main plaza, the Zócalo, and found where Christmas was being celebrated – until then I hadn’t seen any signs that it was Christmas. The plaza was full of people, each surrounding building was covered in lights and there were vendors and traffic everywhere I looked. All over the square were stands with hot dogs, hamburgers, corn and cotton candy. The cotton candy floated in the air and kids of all ages jumped to catch the escaping treat. Covering the ground were vendors selling sweaters, hats and scarves and toys like giant balloons, sparklers and action figures attached to parachutes.

On my way home my American heart was beating nostalgically so I stopped at Wal-Mart and was surprised to find how crowded it was on Christmas night. Continuing with the American theme, I watched some NFL football broadcast on ESPN en español. I was shocked when the announcers wished the audience a “Feliz Navidad” AND “Feliz Januká.” Has being PC crossed the border?!? I hope not.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Couple More Cows - Across from the Parque Alameda

Alameda Park, right in the middle of Mexico City, attracts families, couples, strollers, food vendors and seemingly anyone who wants an audience like clowns and preachers. When the Aztecs were in Mexico City (then called Tenochitlán), the site was a marketplace. In 1592, the governor of New Spain converted it to a public park.

The first cow is titled VACA PICADA – named for the cut tissue paper that is often used as a decoration in Mexico.

The second photo is of VACA PICADA with the Torre Latinoamericana in the background.
From this skyscraper, the Latin American Tower, you can observe the whole city from the 42nd floor observation deck.

The third photo is of VACA PICADA in front of the monument Juárez Hemiciclo, built to honor President Benito Juarez. The Juárez Monument, also referred to as the Hemiciclo (hemicycle, or half-circle), faces Avenida Juárez. This monument commemorates the dead heroes of Mexico, with Juárez taking center stage.

The last photo is of VACA MARIACHI.

Mariachi is a type of musical group, originally from Mexico, consisting of at least two violins, two trumpets, one Spanish guitar, one vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar) and one guitarrón (a small-scaled acoustic bass), but sometimes featuring more than twenty musicians. Mariachi music as we know it today originated in the 19th century.
Mariachis often wear a “charro” suit, a waist-length jacket and tightly fitted wool pants that open slightly at the ankle to fit over a boot. Both pants and jacket are often ornamented with embroidery, intricately cut leather designs, or silver buttons in a variety of shapes. A large bowtie, a wide belt and a large sombrero also often are part of a Mariachi outfit.

Polanco’s Cows and Condesa’s Too

To see photos of the cows around Polanco’s parks and in Condesa, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Holy Cow!

To see photos of the cows roaming Reforma, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

There are about 250 cows in Mexico City – fiberglass cows that is, as part of CowParade. The first exhibit of CowParade took place in Switzerland in 1998, it mooved on to more than 19 cities around the world, including Chicago in 1999 (I still remember the Eli’s Cheescake Cow). As the majority of the cows in Chicago were displayed along Michigan Avenue and the surrounding areas, here in D.F. the majority of the cows roam along the main road of Reforma, while some graze the parks in Polanco, Condesa and the Historical Center. They will remain until February 2006, when they will be auctioned off to raise funds for local charities. Mexico City met the requirements to host CowParade as it has a large population (about 20 million in the metropolitan area), a “cosmopolitan” character and highly developed visual arts traditions.

CowParade works by commissioning artists to decorate the fiberglass cows which are publicly displayed in one city and later auctioned off internationally to benefit charitable organizations in the host city. Grupo Lala, (a milk company) is sponsoring the Mexico City exposition.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Break Is ALMOST Here!

Students gather by groups to enjoy some food.

A rock band played in the patio.

After the students left for the day, the teachers gathered to share a meal. That's the principal to my left.

To see more photos from the students' gatherings, the concert and the teachers' gathering on last day of school before winter vacation, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

GOL - The Student Soccer Tourney

To see photos from the soccer tournament on the last day of school before winter vacation, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Last Day of School Before Winter Break

To see photos of the last day of school before winter vacation, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Following the special schedule that was set last Friday, school began with the Pastorela (telling of the Christmas story) just before 8:30 a.m. From the first bell at 7:30 until then, students chatted, flirted, chased, grabbed and hit each other and were then arranged in a semi-circle in the patio area to watch the show. The performers passed the microphone among themselves as they raced through their lines and the background scene changed once, from “heaven” to “hell”.

Afterwards, the soccer tournament ensued; the fierce competition began on Monday and continued Tuesday. The school spirit was fantastic – students surrounded the field and cheered on their counterparts. Each team was made up of four players and, thanks to donations made to the school from the link on this website, there were prizes for the winners of the boys and girls’ divisions. Each winning team received an authentic Nike soccer ball and each player on those teams collected a water bottle and a chocolate candy cane. The winner of each game was the first to score and if at the end of ten minutes no goal had yet been kicked, penalty kicks broke the tie. While the games took place on the concrete field at one end of the school, on the patio one student beautifully played an electronic keyboard while another sang along.

As the soccer games ended, students gathered in their “homerooms” to enjoy a snack. When I saw the two gigantic boxes of Benedetti’s pizza, cartons of ice cream and liters of refreshments, I thought I was so lucky to have been assigned to be with Group 1C – rather than one that was enjoying ham and cheese sandwiches. The feeling didn’t last long as I spent a lot of energy trying to tame the wild animals of the group. Students wandered in and out of the classrooms and then were drawn back to the patio area by the noise coming from the “stage area.” While a band played, I hung back, as far from the monster speakers as possible, while others gathered in front of the stage. When the students left around noon, the teachers gathered in the kitchen to enjoy a meal together – there was a carrot salad with apples and walnuts, a pasta dish and meat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Check back soon to read the entry "The Early Bird Catches the Worm"!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

One Full Friday

At 6:23 a.m. I left my apartment and reached the metro at 6:30 a.m. When I exited the metro in Iztapalapa I hopped in a “bicitaxi” and continued to school. The ride was a cool one, as it’s only about 40º F, or maybe even lower, in the mornings.

When I entered school it was a bit eerie, I had never heard it so quiet. The patio was dotted with groups of students huddled in circles, sharing some gossip and talking before the school day began. The bell rang three times at 7:30 a.m. - and no one flinched.

I settled into the teacher’s room in the office and gathered my belongings for a 7:30 “citatorio” (disciplinary meeting) set with the principal, three students who had caused problems the day before and throughout most of the year, and their parents or guardians. I made a great effort to arrive at school before 7:30, only hitting snooze two times today. In Mexico, time is not so rigid (clearly as students are still gathered in the courtyard at 7:38) – so a 7:30 meeting could begin anytime before 8:30. The earliest I ever have to arrive to school is on Mondays at 8:00 a.m. “Citatorio” is always arranged according to what time the teacher enters school, which for me would be at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays. When the time was set Richi became quite frustrated, saying that his mother was at work then. I did have a hard time doing a favor for Richi, as he hasn’t made this experience easy for me, but I would have a harder time living with his mom having problems at work just because I wouldn’t come in before 10:00 a.m.

So, just after 7:40, Richi appeared with his mom. I showed her his card that is covered in negative points for standing without permission, talking out of turn, making noises and bothering and distracting classmates. During our meeting, Richi sat in his chair solemn and contemplative the whole time. His mother lifted his chin with her finger more than once, guiding him to look at the principal or at me while we spoke. We talked about his great opportunities, aided by the fact that he has U.S. citizenship, as he was born in San Diego and lived there until he was four years old. To take full advantage of his opportunities, he needs to learn English and most importantly, become disciplined and respectful. We’ll see on Monday if this conversation made the slightest impact.

When the meeting ended, the principal asked me to have the “prefecto” see if the other two boys were in school. Since Group 1A was just down the hall in P.E. I took a look myself. It was about 8:00 and the teacher hadn’t arrived yet and those boys were not present either. The group was alone, bouncing balls inside the classroom that smelled of body odor. I visited with the students for a bit and completed a survey for Sharon that asked about reading preferences and frequency. I sent those who were bouncing the basketballs outside of the classroom and engaged the few remaining students in conversation about what they want to do when they grow up. As they told me of their desired professions, I had them come up with a question that they could use if an English-speaker came to their workplace. Susan, the future lawyer, said, “¿Qué hiciste?” and I wrote that on the board with its translation, “What did you do?” Denisse and Karla, who plan to become flight attendants, said “¿Le ofrece algo?” and in addition to that question, I wrote in English, “Would you like something?” Dayami, who wants to be a chef, said “¿Qué le ofrece?” and I also wrote, “What would you like?” Sharon, the future pediatrician came up with the question, “¿Qué tienes?” and “¿Qué te duele?” so I wrote, “What’s wrong?” and “What hurts you?” Mari would like to be a veterinarian and said, “¿Qué tiene tu animal?” and I wrote, “What’s wrong with your pet?” When the bell rang at 8:20 Group 1A took off for their next class and I returned to the office.

Later, one of the maintenance men came to let me know that a mother was here for “citatorio.” I walked with Miguel’s mom to the principal’s office; she said that Miguel was home sick. When I explained that yesterday Miguel had imitated me, my mannerisms and instructions, his mother was not taken aback at all since she said that he often does that to her. I continued that in the past month Miguel had started talking a lot during class, and across the room to a girl, who was probably the negative influence. Again, his mom wasn’t surprised since she said that he never stops talking and has been that way since kindergarten. The principal and mother discussed the importance of associating with the “right people,” especially given the area in which Miguel lives. The mom described their neighborhood with drug dealers and users living all around them. Then they talked about a sixteen-year-old who had just been killed there by drug dealers on Monday. The session abruptly concluded as the principal asked the mom to speak with Miguel about being respectful.

The bell rang at 10:30, twenty minutes before “descanso” begins, so the teachers could have a meeting about Wednesday’s schedule, the last day of school before winter break begins. After more than an hour, it was decided: 7:30-8:30 Pastorela (acting out the Christmas story), then soccer tournament finals and finally a rock band will play.

My first of two classes began at 12:00 where we met in the computer lab to continue working on a PowerPoint project. Thalia asked to work with Ana, after already having worked with Luis for two days. About ten minutes later, she asked to work with Grecia, her THIRD partner in two days. When at the end of class I announced the Stars of the Week, Luis came at me to show me his card and ask why with eight points he hadn’t won. I told the class that these Stars of the Week had at least fourteen points. While the Stars rummaged through the prize bag, I had to ask Luis four times to stay in his seat.

After school I returned home, quickly changed into workout clothes and proceeded to Café Spacio that serves “comida corrida” – a four course, main meal of the day for $40 pesos – and has Internet. Then I walked a couple of minutes to my gym where I used an Elliptical Trainer while watching Scrubs on the TV.

My day was still in full swing when I hopped aboard a “pesero” just after 7:30 p.m. to make my way to Ada and Jane’s houses for Shabbat Dinner. It takes almost an hour to get to their houses (not because of distance, but because of traffic), which makes it hard to get motivated for the journey, but the effort is always worth it - I still can’t get over how much I feel a part of their family. I love playing with Ariela and Daniela, Ada and Enrique’s four-year-old twin girls, who are at the “silly stage” now. I always leave Shabbat much more knowledgeable than when I arrived since they all, especially Moishe and Enrique, love teaching me new vocabulary, expressions and jokes. They are all extremely thoughtful and patient, taking the time to explain their jokes since the meaning often gets lost in the translation. This Friday was truly a Mexican Jewish experience as we sang the blessings with traditional Mexican music blasting in the background, coming from the houses next door. Later, in true Mexico City fashion, as the traffic had already dissipated when I left at 10:50 p.m. I zipped on home in less than fifteen minutes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Risky Business

To see photos from my bowling outing, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

I ate a hog dog from a stand on the street! It’s late and I’m still up – I think I’m afraid to see what kind of effect it will have, hopefully it will go unnoticed by my digestive system. Miriam, one of the Fulbright grantees, has raved about how tasty the “street hot dogs” are, but I have remained skeptical as a life-long lover of a kosher hot dog. At these street corner stands, the dogs sit on a hot plate, wrapped in a thin, fatty slice of bacon. The bun gets heated for a couple of seconds before joining the hot dog to be served on a napkin. The condiments include ketchup, salsa, tomatoes and mayonnaise – not exactly a Chicago Dog. I don’t even know how to describe the flavor since I don’t think I tasted it; I was too scared of what I was eating to be able to pay attention to its taste. I was so anxious that I even had mine with ketchup, even though I always have mine plain. The upside of the experience – each dog costs only 10 pesos.
* The attached photos are not from the actual event, as I was too grossed out at that time to take a photo of the experience.

The night started well enough. On COMEXUS’ new roof garden, I enjoyed wine and cheese with Karina and some of her co-workers. Through the eternally hazy polluted sky we could see the Mexico City skyline – not exactly Chicago’s, but it was still nice up there.

From there, Karina, her friend Tania and I went to bowl. As the three of us are going to the Luis Miguel concert in January, it’s pretty strange that his music was playing over the sound system the whole time. With our neon green bowling shoes on and a bucket of Pacífico on our table, we were ready to begin. Each of the four games we played cost 25 pesos, a special for playing during the week. I came in second three times and figure it has to be because Tania must secretly practice in her spare time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

And the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that Guadalupe was there . . .

To see more photos, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

Since Saturday evening, the air has been bursting with what sounds like bombs at worst and booming thunder at best, but are actually “fuegos pirotécnicos” – fireworks. “Bombs bursted through the air” all day Sunday, then all throughout this afternoon and into this evening too. Besides the intermittent booming, last night music and singing began around midnight with the neighborhood dogs howling along. Why all the excitement? Well, it’s December 12 – Virgin of Guadalupe Day, Mexico's most important religious holiday.
On this day, people from all over Mexico and beyond make the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe, on the Cerro of Tepeyac, outside of Mexico City, to pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some arrive by bike and others walk. Our Lady of Guadalupe (La Virgen de Guadalupe), a Roman Catholic icon, was the title given to the Virgin Mary after appearing to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, at that location in 1531.
Mary told Juan to go to the bishop and ask that a church be built on the hill so she could be close to her people. The bishop, needing proof of this vision, asked Juan to have a miracle performed by Mary. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from a hill, even though it was winter and the area was scattered with cacti. He found roses and presented these to the bishop. When the roses fell from his cloak, an icon of the Virgin remained imprinted on the cloth. The apron containing her image has been hung in the church built on that spot. From then on, Spanish missionaries used the story of her appearance to help convert millions of indigenous people in what had been the Aztec Empire. Guadalupe.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What a Cheesy Weekend!

Thursday, December 8 – Sunday, December 11, 2005

To see photos from my weekend with Sward, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:

It’s all too appropriate that my “Cheesy Weekend” was spent with Sward (Sarah is her given name), one of the biggest Cheeseheads I know. It all started Thursday afternoon when we checked into the Marriott hotel (thanks mom and dad for having extra nights that you had to use before the end of the year) and received a complimentary cheese platter. We stuffed our faces full of soft, scrumptious Brie.

Later on that evening we met up with Andi and Karina to go to the David Copperfield show. Copperfield’s illusions are amazing, I can’t stop wondering how he “transported” an audience member to the Philippines to be with his father; made a car “appear” on stage even while there were audience members surrounding the area; and predicted a “lottery number” – the same one that his father had played every week – that about five different audience members contributed to making. But I also can’t stop thinking about the sentimental, touching and sweet moments that I thought came off quite cheesy. Besides all of those “moments,” Copperfield also took the art of “play on words” (of which I am a huge fan) and pushed it over the edge, often taking away the funny and leaving behind a lot of cheese.

The next day, the cheese was entirely my fault. Irving Berlin’s song “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” looped around my head all day. Sward and I began the day with the Marriott’s incredible concierge breakfast, full of cream cheese and bagels and more Brie. Then, we worked out and enjoyed the whirlpool and pool. It was a “heavenly” day, but no need to go so far as to sing a Berlin song all day – and unfortunately for Sward, out loud a bunch of times. At 3:00, however, it was time to check out, leave Fantasyland and head back out to the real world.

From the hotel, I had the cab take a spin down Masaryk, not exactly the “real world” as we passed all of the disgustingly overpriced stores; that are empty every time I pass by. We spent the night in Coyoacán, much more my style, “down to earth”, enjoying dinner at my favorite restaurant, El Mesón Santa Catarina.

Saturday’s Tae Bo workout with Colorado was cheesier than all of the previous events put together. First, he was wearing face paint, as if he were in combat or something. After each of the ten “rounds” he stopped, talked and had someone kick or punch the Styrofoam on which was written the round’s number. A couple of times he said, “We are family” and even gave out towels on which that phrase was stitched.

Later that morning, we finally made it to Sanborn’s where the “molletes” – a “bolillo” (roll) with beans and cheese melted on top – were as incredible as Sward remembered from when she was here four years ago. From there we walked all over San Angel’s cobblestone streets, browsed the markets and Sward found a beautiful blue and white ceramic serving bowl for her mom. We had appetizers at San Angel Inn and returned to Coyoacán where we had “queso fundido” (melted cheese) and cervezas.

That evening we walked around Coyoacán’s weekend market area and made it to the quesadilla stand area for “elote,” corn that was barbequed, cut in a cup and topped with lime, salt, mayonnaise, cheese and a little chile powder. Then, we bought a giant cup of “horchata,” rice water that was made with oats and cinnamon; it was the tastiest I have ever had.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at Las Lupitas where Sward had another version of molletes. We returned to the quesadilla stands for another round of “horchata,” unfortunately it only tasted like chocolate milk this time around. Unfortunately, when 12:00 rolled around it was time to redirect to the airport; at least the Traffic Gods were looking out for us as we zoomed the whole way there, avoiding any traffic – quite unusual for Mexico City.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Making Your Way in the World Today Takes Everything You Got

To see photos from the Wednesday tianguis in Iztapalapa, click on the title of today's entry, or copy and paste the following site into your browser:
On Wednesdays, while on the metro approaching the Acatitla station, where I disembark for school, I can see the action stirring all along the main road, Ignacio Zaragoza. The commotion is because of the Wednesday “tianguis” – the stands that make up a vast outdoors market. When the train comes to a stop, I clamber up the yellow, steel stairs and while looking straight forward, walk across the bridge that lies above the busy street below. When I reach the other side, before going down the stairs, I look out and locate the “bicitaxis” that I have quickly learned I have to place before making it to street-level. Once I am sucked into the market it’s hard to tell in which way I am walking, as if I’m stuck in a maze and then am pushed and pulled and turned around like I’m trying to make my way through a car wash.

The first time that I left school on a Wednesday I attempted to reach the metro by penetrating the market. After walking for about a half hour I realized I had no idea where I was. I looked towards the sky to try and find the metro’s yellow platform; but I couldn’t see it. Once I emerged from the grasp of the market, I found a “bicitaxi” that I took all the way (around the corner) back to the metro.

Now I know that if I want to make it to school on time on a Wednesday, I need to leave home a bit earlier than usual. In the “tianguis” today, I encountered a new obstacle – a parrot. In a spot that was difficult to pass by, the bird was sitting on a man’s shoulder. A lady approached them and asked if the bird bites. The man said, “Yes, he does.” With that, the lady reached her hand out to the bird, which in turn went berserk. It started flying overhead, fluttering in circles, then back and forth, all while squawking relentlessly. A couple of feet ahead I saw the light, the outskirts of the market, and with the force of a lineman pushed my way towards safety.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Boy with the Golden Smile

Last week was a disaster for Luis; he made it into the blog a couple of times. The week started well enough, but the second day, as you may recall, I didn’t allow him to enter class. Then, on the third day, he didn’t last very long after entering class.

Today, the first class of the week for Luis, was very different. He didn’t speak in the hallway and, once in the classroom, he worked diligently. He seemed very motivated to finish his pen-pal letter today – the last day that I would accept them. He was excited to tell his pen pal about his favorite musical group, Queen, and have me write the titles of his favorite songs from the group.

At the end of class, Luis was one of the last students to leave. His pen-pal letter was complete, but he wanted to take it home to add drawings. As he stood by my desk waiting for the letter, I commented, “Your behavior was perfect today.” Instantly, he was beaming. His smile was so genuine and joyful. When I close my eyes and picture Luis at that moment, the corners of my mouth instinctively curl upwards as I think about how he looked so proud and full of confidence.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It’s a Good To Be Alive Day

On bright, sunny days, when the sky was blue and she was enjoying her company, my Grandma Ruth used to exclaim, “It’s a good to be alive day!” All day today I kept saying that to myself.

Beginning with springing out of bed (after hitting the snooze button about five times) at 9:15, eating a bowl of cereal – Banana Nut Crunch – and a cup of hot green tea and fast walking over to the health club. I made it there for the THIRD time this week! Today’s Tae Bo class was quite challenging, much harder than the video. After twenty minutes I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it an hour. One guy did leave early, and I told myself I had to make it thirty minutes. I stayed the whole hour and felt great afterwards; it’s always that way.

When I left the health club I walked a couple of feet and ordered a cup of mandarin juice. The guy sliced open a bunch of mandarins and squeezed them using an industrial size, steel juicer that took both hands to operate. I walked around for over an hour, and bought many games of “lotería” (bingo) for my students back in Chicago, my favorite chocolate covered mini-marshmallows and a bunch of DVDs.

I walked to the center of Coyoacán and bought a bolillo at the bakery and next door some Manchego cheese. I hopped in a cab and once I arrived home, I settled in on my sunny patio, in the swing chair. “The Green Mile” was playing on my laptop as I consumed my bread and cheese.

I just dropped off every dry-cleanable piece of clothing I own and a suitcase full of wash and walked back to the center of Coyoacán. I’m sitting in the small restaurant Café Grifaldo, tucked in a corner off of the main plaza and enjoying a tasty, satisfying and refreshing salad – green, crisp lettuce, tomatoes, walnuts and goat cheese.

It has been an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable day – “A Good to Be Alive Day.”

Friday, December 02, 2005

No Means No

TGIF since it’s time for a couple days off, as class was pretty unsatisfying today. The same students who always disturb class were just as trying today, and the handful that work hard each day persevered despite the turmoil. While working to finish her pen pal letter, Maribel asked me how to say, “Soy güera, delgada y alta.” She couldn’t hear my answer, however, with students whistling, making noises that sound like animals and talking. I had to sit down next to her so she could hear me say, “I’m light-skinned, skinny and tall.”

As the students entered the room, Luis pushed Thalia – not very smart, since just yesterday I didn’t let him into class after he couldn’t behave or follow the initial instructions I give in the hallway. So today, I called Luis back out to the hallway to let him know that his pushing was unacceptable and that he already had one strike. Within a couple of minutes, he was pushing Vicki’s desk forward with his feet. And, not long after that, he was doing it again and I sent Vicki to find a “prefecto”.

When the “prefecta” arrived, Luis began pleading with me for another chance. He swore to me that he’d be good, if I just let him stay. He has had a hard time with impulse control so many times before that I can’t allow him to stay, he seemingly can’t seem to stop his bothersome behavior. The purpose of “three strikes and you’re out” is so that the students do have warning before they have to leave the classroom. Many of the students have learned that pleading with me doesn’t make a difference; when I say “no” it means “no” and I don’t change my mind.