Sunday, July 19, 2009
My view from front seat to back of SUV - every inch is full - good thing Youngest Son is small!
We left at 7am (about an hour later than we had hoped) and arrived at the Hampton Inn in Saltillo at 9:40pm. Whew. Here are some highlights of today’s Road Trip.
Taco Stands – I Love Them!
We got our first tacos and tamales at 10:30 am from roadside stop off 15 outside of Tequila. Youngest Son and I had bean/steak small tacos and Husband had chicken tamales. I dressed mine with cabbage, salsa and pickled onions.
Our next stop was late afternoon where Youngest Son ordered quesadillas and I got flautas dressed with cabbage, tomatillo sauce, salsa and crème fresh. Husband got a cheeseburger and it had a slice of ham on it which he quickly removed – pork creeps into everything in Mexico!
The day's meals totaled about $11 USD.
Youngest Son Antics
Scene #1 – In car headed down Mexico highway.
Youngest Son “I gotta poopie.”
Mommy “Can you wait a few minutes?”
Youngest Son “No, I gotta poopie.”
Mommy “Well, you are going to have to wait because we cannot stop here.” (no facilities in sight and no shoulder to pull off onto)
Youngest Son “I went poopie.”
The scene deteriorates from there with me quickly finding a Poopie Bowl and you do not want the rest of the details. Side note: Poopie Bowl now joins Vomit Bucket and PeePee Bottle for our Road Trips.
Scene #2 - Federales Checkpoint # 3 of 4 (we were pulled out 2 of the 4 for search)
Federales ask to purchase our Roller Blades. Husband respectfully declines to sell.
Youngest Son “We can sell Oldest Son’s!”
Note: Oldest Son is not with us ...
Quota is My New Favorite Spanish Word
We took a different route this time by going through Guadalajara to Quota 80 to Aguascalientes. It was a bit out of the way but we avoided the curvy, curvy curvy (but very, very, very beautiful) 54 route. Quota describes the toll roads in Mexico and they were worth every peso today.
We almost made a Mexico Road Trip with no wrong turns which never, ever happens. We made it all the way to Saltillo with no major logistical issues. We arrived at Saltillo just as it got dark and there is tons of construction. So we had to back track a bit but all is well.
We leave at day light tomorrow and cross the border at Nuevo Laredo.
Below is pic from car window of view between Zacatecas and Saltillo. Those "trees" always make me think of Dr. Suess!
5:30 am drip, Drip, DRIP
Awaken by drip, Drip, DRIP. Husband, Youngest Son and I are sleeping in master bedroom with wall unit air conditioner. It is leaking allot. On the wood table. On my 2 computers! “Husband!” We spring into action with towels and pans to catch the water. Yes, we have done this before so know the drill. Computers seem fine since I caught it early.
drip, Drip, DRIP. Husband cannot go back to sleep since it is like water torture.
Pack Pop-Up Camper and SUV. We have 1 majorly rude exchange which is good for us when getting ready for a trip. Husband is in shock that we actually got it all in the truck. We brought all in two trips but only going back in one. Husband is then stressed about the weight - good grief.
We gave 2 large loads of stuff to our housekeeper which helped.
We did have some trailer hitch drama which went something like this:
- Trailer hitch stolen several months ago off SUV
- Husband gets 2 new hitches when in USA in May
- 2 New Hitches do not work the greatest
- Husband orders another hitch
- I go out of my way to pick up while in USA on last trip
- I forget to bring them back to Mexico last week!
- We are going to make due with what we have and cross our fingers
One of 2 loads of stuff we are giving to our housekeeper.
1:00 pm-2:30pm Mexican Landlord
Mexican Landlord and Property Manager arrive for check out. All in good order. We discuss many repairs Mexican Landlord needs to make mostly around water leaks and talk for awhile. Mexican Landlord says is going to do a total re-do with new kitchen, plasma television – we will see – he definitely could since he made a sizeable sum from us this year having the villa rented in USDs for 13 months straight.
Housekeeper arrives. She cannot get a truck to our house to pick up stuff today. Our SUV is full now. We arrange for Property Manager to meet Housekeeper after we leave. We give her an extra couple weeks of pay – she has 5 ninos.
Husband secures items on top of Pop
1:00pm-3:30 pm More Packing
Complete securing items on top of Pop-Up Camper. Oh my gosh we can relax a bit.
3:30pm-6:30 pm Relax Watch a movie, swim in pool and take showers.
One of our favorite taco stands in el centro that has been closed since April - I hope it re-opens in high season.
Walking through village to taco stand.
We check out the igaunas while waiting for our tacos.
I will "finish posting our walk later - gotta head out so we make it to Saltillo before dark!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The setting is in the pool beside the ocean at high tide. The roll of the waves is soothing. The sounds of a large Mexican family on holiday are pleasant.
Husband, Youngest Son and I lit imaginary candles reciting the blessing, pretended our cerveza was wine singing kiddish and held up invisible Challah for the Hamotzi:
Hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz
We give thanks to God for bread
Our voices join in song together
As our daily prayer is said:
Baruch atah adonai,
Elohaynu melech ha'olam
Hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz
who brings forth bread from the earth.
I wish for Oldest Son a very special Shabbat tonight. His first Shabbat at Jewish Sleep Away Camp will be filled with song and tremendous fellowship. I think of the Shehecheyanu:
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.
This joyous blessing is recited at the arrival of any long awaited occasion. Holidays come once a year, as does sinking your teeth into the first cherries of summer, and events such as b'nai mitzvah or the arrival of a new baby. All of these are occasions to say the Shehecheyanu. Any kind of a "first" ... First Shabbat at Jewish Sleep Away Camp and our Last Shabbat for this Move to Mexico.
Reciting this blessing enriches one's appreciation of the little things in life.
Friday, July 17, 2009
We are packing up today. I think I have a healthy appreciation for books until I look at the numbers of kid books (just kids not even mine or Husband’s) I packed today then I wonder if it is more of an issue …
12 Holiday (Thanksgiving, Kwanza, etc.)
16 Eyewitness Non-fictions (World War I & II, Pirates, Cats, Dogs, Boats, Cowboys, Vietnam, etc.)
60 Youngest Son Beginner Readers (mostly paperback)
57 Oldest Son Books (5 Ancestors, Biographies, Classics, Artemis Fowl, Mysterious Benedict Society, etc.)
5 Magic Tree house
3 Flat Stanley
87 Paperbacks (Magic School Bus, Scooby-Doo, Curious George, etc.)
26 A-Z Mysteries Paperbacks
106 Hardback Picture as well as Non-fiction
43 Paperbacks (Non-fiction Science, Nature, History, etc.)
1 Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh (I read to Youngest Son this year and cried at the end)
49 Comics (Avengers, Spiderman, X-man, Secret Invasion, etc.)
29 Spanish Books of various kinds
GRAND TOTAL: 547 Books!
Before you judge me too harshly, here is what Oldest Son said to me last week when we were planning a trip to the local 2nd hand book store in USA – I swear he did!
“Half-Price Books is my Heaven.”
And I do not regret that I brought all our books but I am not sure I am going to have room to get them all in the truck ... update ya later ...
While waiting, I calculated some travel statistics for the year:
- I spent 245 days in Mexico this year (out of 13 months.) The rest was in USA working.
- I had 25 round trip flights between Mexico and USA with 3 others within the USA.
- We did 2 round trips via car between USA and Mexico.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
16) Electricity Here It Is, Here It Is Not: During the rainy season, we can just expect the electricity to go out at some point when it rains but not always, of course. We really did not mind much. I just had to be flexible with work since all my work was via the internet and on the Vonage phone.
17) Books: Not much of a focus on books coming home from school or required reading. I guess it really did not technically affect our lifestyle that much because I had the casa stocked with lots and lots of kid books (wish me luck getting them all back to USA.)
18) Shots and Meds: We have been able to buy all our pharmaceutical needs right over the counter! And very inexpensively too! We have found when we do go to the doctor when sick that they give shots frequently along with several oral medications.
19) Medical Care Paid Out of Pocket: We never used our medical insurance in Mexico. We just paid directly to doctor which was always incredibly cheap.
20) Small Tiny Ants: Everywhere and on every crumb in minutes.
21) Commuting To Mexico: So one of my biggest surprises or miscalculations was how often I would travel back to USA for work. Grateful, grateful, grateful for the income. But, I missed my family very much and my personal experiences in Mexico were somewhat more limited than I had expected. Our family probably would have traveled a bit more within Mexico too. Husband took on all the heavy hitting childcare. However, I am not complaining just explaining. Husband and I would do it again in a heartbeat! The trade offs were well worth it.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
2) Weekends Free: With the complete elimination of extracurricular activities for the kids for the first 7 months and just a couple kid activities after school the last few months, we got our weekends back!! Actually, we got way more unscheduled time all the time.
3) Taco Stands: Eating at the taco stands through all of Mexico has been fun, cheap and yummy!
4) Lack of Punctuality: Getting where ever whenever is just the way it is – once you accept and embrace this cultural style – it is a major stress reducer. This includes no shows.
5) School Trust: We did not know in any level of great detail what was going on with the kids’ curriculum, what they ate for lunch, when tests may pop up, etc. We had to listen to our kids, pay attention to the little information we got and be observant. Then Let Go and Trust Our Instincts.
6) No Trophies for All: There are winners and they get rewarded. Deal with it.
7) Fiesta! The school celebrations, birthday parties and other events are joyous and uninhibited full of song, dance and sweets!
8) Topays: Speed bumps are everywhere and it is a full time occupation to watch for them as you drive!
9) Seasons: I have enjoyed living through a full year with 6 months of dry season and 6 months of rainy season. I reacted strongly in a positive way to this climate and its impact on the land, the ocean, the temperature, etc.
10) Adventure: Just the act of living in another country and culture created unexpected experiences constantly which I have loved.
Timeline: I return to Mexico Thursday. Husband, Youngest Son and I have one more big road trip which we will begin on Sunday to return to USA.
Morning over the Sierra Madre mountains. I have become very fond of these mountains.
Somehow, Husband and I waited the entire year to drink our first beer and tomato juice and worcestershire and jugo maggi and tobasco and lime and salt - quite refreshing!
Ahhhh - brothers above ... and below Youngest Son crashed asleep in his shark towel.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I am soooooooo back in USA. This is how our first 2 hours in USA went. We landed. Got through immigration and customs. Took taxi and dropped off 200 lbs of luggage. Jumped in car immediately to take Oldest Son to swim party with his friends. Can you say thrust back into the “kid social whirlwind?”
Oldest Son said as we rode in the taxi “I am luckier than most of my friends.” He was referring to being in Mexico for a year. At the same time, he was extremely excited to be home in USA and thrilled to be seeing his friends at the party. His emotions are very healthy. He appreciates our adventure while still loving his home. It is not one or the other.
I will mostly have to adjust to the more focused, ubber parenting approach in USA. Today at Jewish Sleep Away Camp I decided it was time for me to leave the new parent (of camper) meeting when a parent asked “The Menu was not posted as of yesterday, when will it be up on website?” Since I have not known what my kids ate at lunch at school for the last year, this just did not seem like something I am overly concerned about …
On the other hand, I was filled with bitter sweetness as I dropped off Oldest Son for 12 days! A parental threshold – my Oldest Son off on his own for the first time. Again, Oldest Son was extremely excited. He is a natural risk taker as shown by the picture taken on our last family outing in Mexico where he is diving off the second level of our excursion boat after we got special permission from the Captain.
I go back to Mexico later in the week for Husband, Youngest Son and I to drive back to USA. Here is what Oldest Son will be doing in USA ...
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Kinder 3 Visitation Day
On June 25th, we attended a special parent breakfast and schoolroom presentations for Youngest Son in Kinder 3. Frankly, it was impressive.
We first visited the English classroom where the Teacher had prepared a program with the children to demonstrate their English speaking skills. The children were so cute and their English was commendable. Youngest Son volunteered his Mommy to answer a question presented to me by each child in English and I was to respond in English (I was one of only a couple parents who could speak English). I happily answered their carefully worded questions: What is your favorite color? How old are you? On and on along these themes … when it was Youngest Son’s turn to ask me a question – he asked me “Te gusta chile, cebolla y ajo?” in SPANISH! The whole class cracked up and I, of course, could not answer him without an English translation of “Do you like chile, onions and garlic?”
We then moved on to the Spanish classes. The first stop was a mini-class on mathematics. The kids “went shopping” and showed how they could count the pesos needed to “buy items.” The final Spanish stop was reading, writing and play acting a doctor's scene.
July 3rd was Kinder 3 Graduation day. Youngest Son was a proud graduate and we were part of a large audience of proud parents. This was graduation for all the major transitions:
Kinder 3 – Preescolar – 35 graduates
6th Grade – Primaria – 24 graduates
9th Grade – Secundaria – 20 graduates
12th Grade – Bachillerato – 5 graduates
It was held at a local hotel and the school did a very nice job including a slide show presentation with current pictures and baby pictures of every graduate.
The Kinder 3 group then gathered at Peter Piper Pizza for an afternoon party. Think Chucky Cheese but not so obnoxious. The kids got a tour of the kitchen and played games. We finally headed home around 4pm. Fun was had by all.
How has this year been?
Kinder 3 is the ideal age to move a child into a 2nd language. There was very little stress with Youngest Son this year. He was learning to read and write in 2 languages just like his classmates. I know he did not understand everything at the beginning but in Kinder3 there is not allot of complicated issues. We did not hear any compliants from him, the teachers or the school ...
Youngest Son finished his year with honors. Just like the upper grades, diplomas are awarded in Kinder 3. Youngest Son ended the year with 1st place diplomas in Spanish and English! Youngest Son naturally combines his intelligence with spirit and lives life to its utmost fullest. While the acquisition of his Spanish skills brought on a bit more playing and talking in class, it was never extreme or a major disturbance and demonstrated his great ease with Spanish (how is that for spin!)
Youngest Son brings smiles, wit and laughter to this family every single day. Husband, Oldest Son and I love him with all our hearts. Youngest Son has the gift of making each day new and different.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
We decided to Move to Mexico in late March 2008. Oldest Son had been in preschool and lower school with the same set of kids and families since 18 months of age.
Oldest Son’s Spanish aptitude was shaped as follows:
(1) Twice a week Spanish classes at his school from PK-2nd Grade. He knew basic stuff like colors and counting. He could read Spanish phonetically and had knowledge of how Spanish alphabet is pronounced. But reading comprehension was very, very low i.e. not much of a Spanish vocabulary. His accent was pretty good.
(2) During April and May 2008, Oldest Son attended twice a week 1-on-1 tutoring.
(3) In June, Oldest Son did a 2 week Spanish immersion camp at local International School.
(4) Throughout April to August, Oldest Son used Rosetta Stone software on average 1-3 times per week.
First Few Months of 3rd Grade
Oldest Son entered 3rd Grade with the day split between a Spanish Teacher and an English Teacher. Most of the kids are Mexican with Spanish as their 1st language. This school is a small Mexican private school with an English immersion program. It is NOT an Expat school.
Hard. Hard. Hard. Oldest Son’s Spanish half of the day was completely in Spanish. His teacher only speaks Spanish. No translation available. Oldest Son did the best he could to track in class. Homework was tough. An assignment that should take 10-15 minutes would take over 2 hours. Husband and Oldest Son would laboriously translate the Spanish to complete his work. Oldest Son, Husband and I had a family meeting. We all agreed we needed more help. We worked with the school to get an after-school tutor twice per week.
First Round of Spanish Exams
In October we got our first dose of Spanish Exams. The 4 days of exams covered all subjects (math, science, grammar, history, etc.) and were completely in Spanish. It was stressful because the teachers were very direct in their expectations that the students study and do well. Oldest Son actually did okay on this first round. We were all pleased. I think this was when Oldest Son first started to realize that he was actually getting better at Spanish and that things were probably going to be alright.
Second Round of Spanish Exams
As soon as October Exams were completed, there was another round in December! Oh my gosh. As you can guess, Oldest Son was less stressed since he knew what to expect. Oldest Son did better than October. Again we were very pleased. We then went on winter holiday.
January through June
January was the complete turning point. Spanish became a non-issue. Oldest Son was basically fluent. He could function in Spanish class as well as English class.
The next round of Spanish Exams brought a 2nd place Spanish diploma and the round after that brought a 1st place Spanish place diploma. I think I am safe in stating that no gringo at this school has ever gotten a 1st place Spanish diploma. (The entire year he had received 1st place English diplomas.)
He proceeded to gather various awards and accomplishments in Spelling Bees, Oratory, etc.
There was the whole Expo situation in February with life lessons galore. See previous series of posts for the gory detail. (Feb 17 - 28)
Mexican schools are big on competitive education – this one is anyway. They have a contest for everything and do not hesitate to publicly acknowledge the winners! Thankfully Oldest Son has been motivated by this paradigm. We are fortunate because I am not sure this approach is best for all kids.
Year End Accolades
Today was the final school assembly for distributing diplomas and year end awards. Oldest Son received several awards including 1st place Spanish and English diplomas AND the Medal of Excellence for Entire 3rd Grade for total year recognition (see medal in pic)! Tears are in my eyes as I type this sentence.
I am overwhelmed with admiration for my Oldest Son. He has shown bravery, perseverance and pride throughout the year. While we are certainly thrilled with Oldest Son’s academic success, there is so much more. I believe this journey has created strength of character and self-confidence that will shape his choices and decisions for all of Oldest Son’s life. Our parent-child relationship has grown stronger as we worked through the adversity together.
For anyone considering time in another culture and in another language with their young kids, do it! Realize it is not easy but the rewards far out way the challenges.