Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Expo

The Expo was Thursday evening and it was glorious in typical Mexican chaos.

The Spokesperson situation was handled by having each Country/Grade represented by a child tell about the Country speaking in English wearing a banner with the Country’s name and then having a child wearing a Translator banner who spoke in Spanish. I am proud to report both Oldest Son and Youngest Son translated perfectely in Spanish!

However, this approach took longer since 17 Countries were represented. The 2 hour event went 4 hours! No one seemed to mind.

There were child decorated booths with childish homemade items for sale such as toilet paper rolls painted and converted to pencil holders, mini-flags, decorated pencils, cupcakes, etc. We are the proud owners of many of these trinkets.

Food! Yes all kinds of food items for sale donated and made by the parents.
This is our 2nd big event at the school (the other was the Christmas show) and I have thought about how this event differs from the similar school shows in the USA. It is the uninhibited dancing and joy shown through music. Every Country/Grade presented a dance routine in full costume and much enthusiasm. It just made me feel happy. Youngest Son did an authentic dance from Jalisco in full Mexican regalia and his partner Tessa, was beautiful in her yellow Mexican dress.

There were also moments of raw emotion. The 3 and 4 year olds sang Imagine where each child wore costumes and banners from different Countries. There were many teary eyes in the audience.

The finale was the entire school singing We Are the World. The Director gave Youngest Son the microphone several times along with a couple other Kinder3 girls. I am tearing up as I write this paragraph.

Oldest Son and Youngest Son ran around with their friends and had a special evening. They are comfortable and safe in their school. Once again we feel positive about this wonderful year they are experiencing.

I am starting to think it may be harder than I anticipated to go home to the USA for me …

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Overheard: Husband and Oldest Son

Husband to Me: "I got the best compliment I have gotten in a long time."

Me:"Really. What?"

Husband tells me that when Oldest Son playfully punched him in the stomach then this was the surprised exclamation: "Daddy, your stomach is not soft anymore!"

Husband joined a gym a couple months ago and has been watching what he eats. Husband turns 50 this year! Yeah Husband!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interesting Turn of Events

Youngest Son with his sombrero for his Mexico costume for The Expo.
Perhaps we "made a difference." This is part 3 from the last two posts - the topic that just keeps giving.

Guess who is a native-English language Spokesperson for Kinder3? Youngest Son! He will talk about Mexico in Spanish at The Expo next week.

It appears that the fallout from Oldest Son being added as the native-English language Spokesperson for 3rd Grade is a wider adjustment in The Expo's protocol.

I am guessing that many of the Grades/Countries will now have 2 Spokespersons:
- A native-English language Spokesperson giving a speech in Spanish
- A native-Spanish language Spokesperson giving a speech in English

We are somewhat amused and awed by the turn of events. This approach makes allot of sense if you have a multi-cultural school who is putting on a multi-cultural event. And many (most I think) of the parents only speak Spanish so they will get learn about all the Countries too.

Life is never dull here.
Wonder what they will do next year ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Child's Heart is Mended

This continues yesterday's unfortunate event ...

This Morning
Husband and I went into school office to talk with Director. She was not there. Assistant says there is no availability today to meet. We explain our situation and indicate we must have a meeting today. Reluctantly we are given an afterschool appointment.

This Afternoon
We see Oldest Son briefly before our meeting and he indicates there has been a Misunderstanding. Really.

We sit down with Director. Director is an attractive, well-spoken and fairly dynamic woman who speaks 4 languages. She immediately explains to us:

(1) That a parent on the Parent Committee felt that native English speakers should be not be eligible to present the country information in English at The Expo (this parent was aware of Oldest Son's role.)

(2) The Teacher misunderstood and relayed to Oldest Son and whole class that it had to be a child born in Mexico (this goes to the definition of who is considered a Mexican Child - note Oldest Son along with 4 other children were eliminated by this definition - even those students who may have a Mexican heritage.)

(3) Director talked with Oldest Son today and gave him the option of presenting the information in Spanish and another child would present in English. Oldest Son enthusiastically agreed to be the Spanish-speaking Spokesperson for Germany (I suspect to the Director's surprise.)

So Husband and I agree this is a reasonable solution.


Husband and I believe that this “explanation” was quickly developed today when Director learned of our afternoon meeting. That is okay though. The fact that Director knew we would not just let this turn of events by without challenge spurred them to provide a workable solution.

Oldest Son is happy and will get a better educational experience by having to do it in Spanish. He already knows it in English but now he will have to practice and make sure he can do it all in Spanish. He is quite confident.

This has been an interesting study in Human Nature.

Bad Judgment. Jealousy. Bigotry.
At its best we had a Director and a Teacher severely mishandle a difficult situation. At its worst, we have Adults exhibiting jealousy and bigotry.

Hurt. Disappointment. Acceptance. Flexibility. Confidence.
Oldest Son was raw with hurt and disappointment. With obvious support from us, he quickly accepted his fate and was grateful that we were going to try to talk with Director. He then embraced an alternate approach with confidence.

Anger. Love.
Husband has been very angry. Notable because Husband is a very mild mannered man. I think the combination of his son being hurt and the underlying prejudice sent him over the tipping point. Husband’s love for Oldest Son triggered an intense protectiveness.

Me. Well I have been rather calm. I quickly saw the value of the numerous life lessons to be exploited. Adversity is an important part of life. As a parent, I am grateful for opportunities to build strength and character in my children. I knew this would not permanently damage Oldest Son’s life and he would be stronger as a result.

Note to My Fellow Bloggers Who Commented
Thank you so much. Truly. Your comments were supportive, helpful and provided me insight into how to both handle and view this situation. You really did make a difference. Your time and opinions are appreciated. It is a nice feeling to have this extended community to help handle unknown situations in Mexico.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Child's Heart is Hurt

Today we have had a different kind of Mexico experience - painful, disappointing and confusing.

THE major event of the year at kids' School is The Expo. All the grades are divided into two groups and assigned a country. The Third Grade is doing Germany and England. Oldest Son is in the Germany group. The teachers and kids are working really hard on research, booths, costumes, dances, music, items to sell, food, etc. All the parents are invited the evening of 2/26 to The Expo. There is a Contest for Best in which I was asked to be a Judge.

Oldest Son was selected to be the Spokesperson for Germany about 2 weeks ago. The selection process included the Teacher listening to all students recite the Germany information in front of the class to determine who knew and delivered the information in the most appealing and knowledgeable way. Oldest Son has been VERY excited and proud to be chosen. This selection honestly meant a great deal to Oldest Son - he has been talking about it every day. We have been gathering the pieces of his costume, printing pictures for his class, etc.

According to Oldest Son, School Director and his teacher were talking when he arrived at School this morning. Teacher took him aside and told him there had been parent complaints that a Mexican Child should be the Spokesperson thus Oldest Son could no longer be the Spokesperson. The teacher announced to his class and the Mexican students all delivered the Germany information to class so she could choose another student.

This Afternoon
Oldest Son cried and cried as he told us the story. He does not want to even participate now – of course. We are flabbergasted to say the least. On so many levels. We have comforted Oldest Son and made sure he knows this has nothing to do with him personally nor his friends.

We use this as one of those teachable moments to discuss the harsh realities. Parents, everywhere, make bad choices and show intolerance. We explained to him what it means to be a minority. We tell him it is not fair. We talk to him calmly but truthfully.

I am disappointed and my heart hurts for Oldest Son but I am not surprised. This is the real world that I cannot always shield my children from experiencing. Husband is more on the angry side.

We will go to School to talk to Director and Teacher. We are hopeful a compromise can be found but are doubtful. We will advocate for our son. We will love and comfort him. We will try to make sure this occurrence does not overshadow all his positives at School and in Mexico - of which there are so many.

Another life lesson in Mexico – just as important as all the others.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guitar Lessons

Guitar Lesson book kids brought home - it is in Spanish.

So we have purposely avoided any extracurricular type kid activities while in Mexico. Let’s just call it Parent Burn Out. See my prior post for the soapbox.

We now seem ready to expand just a tiny bit since:

- Oldest Son and Youngest Son are now in the 2nd half of their school year and are both very comfortable in their studies. We appear to have weathered the Spanish transition.

- Youngest Son has been asking to take music lessons for over a year.

- Oldest Son has bonded with his Music Teacher at school who raves about Oldest Son’s recorder playing abilities. This Music Teacher provides lessons after school.
- Lessons after school do not interfere with our weekends.
- Guitar Lessons and books are in Spanish and both kids can function in a Spanish world now.

- Husband plays guitar and can guide their practice - enjoyable for Husband and another way to bond with kids. (I have less than zero musical aptitude!)
- For both kids, twice a week for 1 hour each Guitar Lesson by Music Teacher is only $1,200 pesos per month (that is about $23 USD per week!) – oh my gosh!

So we have made an agreement with the kids to try the lessons for 1 month. We think it is important to expose the kids to music lessons so this is a great opportunity before we re-enter the USA kid rat race.
Husband and Youngest Son practicing hand placement:

Sunday, February 8, 2009


My Saturday was balanced.

Work - I spent 3 hours working this morning but sat with kids with my laptop while they played around me.

Kids & Exercise - Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I went on a bike ride - sort of. Kids biked while I jogged. We had a good time. Youngest Son is doing very well with his biking skills.

Reading - While on our bike/run, Oldest Son and I discovered a "borrow book shelf" at complex office. I agreed to let Oldest Son read Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien - I am a little nervous about the complexity for him. I also picked up a fluffy fiction book which I read through the afternoon. So nice.

Rest - Took a little nap!

Wife - Managed to have quality time with Husband which included a night out with friends and dancing! The Twisted Rose has a really fun Salsa Band. One of my "secret" loves is dancing but I have never learned to Salsa Dance. I started getting the footwork down tonight but need more practice - definitely!

Balance. A day to day struggle in any country. Today I succeeded. Tomorrow - we will see ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009


With the Moving to Mexico this year and writing a blog, I have hooked into the blogger world of Expats.

We have friends with a daughter in 3rd grade in living in Madrid, Spain for one year: (check out their fabulous history laced adventures!)

A recent post from this blog included:
"Knowing what I now know I am embarrassed that I got this far in my life before having lived outside the United States for any period of time. It only takes willingness."

I think this is a powerful statement. I have been mulling it over.

I feel incredibly privileged be taking this year abroad. For our family, it was tough pulling off the actual Move to Mexico but this probably had more to do with deciding to move in late March and then leaving the USA in June - these 3 months were very intense!

Personally, I wished I had taken some time to live outside of the USA right out of college. And I mean LIVE not visit. The rhythms of the life in a location are always changing. It is interesting to see how our Pacific coast ocean village changes from month to month, from holiday to holiday, from rainy season to dry season ...

I feel like I have acquired more sensitivity to different ways of doing things. Who am I to judge what is best? “Best” is different for everyone and there are way too many variables in this world to decide there is a “right way.” I will go home with more empathy and tolerance.

I will certainly be more understanding of those with English as a second language. It is hard for many of us to learn a new language as an adult. I am maxed out with work, family and experiencing Mexico so putting in the study hours for Spanish has been impossible for me.

I hope for Oldest Son and Youngest Son to recognize there is a big, wonderful world beyond the USA that they can choose to explore. I wish for them to gain the knowledge and confidence to choose the paths right for them and to realize there are many, many options.

I am thankful to be a USA citizen. The opportunities, freedom and education gained in the USA are what make venturing to other countries possible.

We will go back to the USA in July knowing this year was a priceless gift with rewards too numerous to outline in one blog post. Will we do it again? If the right opportunity and circimstances presents itself – you bet!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Our Spanish Superbowl

Superbowl. Football. About as American as you can get. Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son engrossed right now – watching and cheering. Husband explaining to his two sons what is happening play by play. All three piled together on a loveseat.

Wait. There is something not quite right. Oh Yeah – all the explosive commentary is in Spanish. Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son do not even seem to notice. I ask Oldest Son and Youngest Son if they understand. Youngest Son proceeds to tell me some football fact about how it took 6 years to get … okay, okay he clearly understands the Spanish commentary.

Wait. No over-priced, obnoxious commercials. Most of the commercials are in Spanish and many are of a public service variety. Two commercials, Lays potato chips and Modela beer, seem to be made in Spanish especially for this American event.

Just for the record, Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son are all cheering for Cardinals.