Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jesus is my GANGSTA BOO

The title is a play on the early 2000s craze of the t-shirts that said "Jesus is my Homeboy." I should have bought one of those t-shirts years ago, haha.

Anyway...This morning I decided to get up at 6am to write an article response, take a few minutes nap, prepare for the day, then head off to school on the bus. Admittedly I should have left a little earlier, but I was at the bus stop at a good time. Of course the roadway became a little crowded right when my bus was coming, thus it passed me. A lady waiting on a different bus was passed right after me as well. I think her bus could have made it to the curb to get her, but that is just my opinion. Again, why are they not riding near the curb to pick up passengers!

After waiting in the early morning chill longer than I'd planned, another bus comes. I sit down in the first seat. After realizing my surroundings through my morning autopilot phase, as if the brisk winds outside didn't do their job of waking me up, I noticed that the overhead dash of this bus was remodeled and fixed up nicely. In the center of the dash was the word "gangster", below was a new radio/tape deck/CD player, and just below that were several speakers delivering a crisp, but not loud sound. The music selection for the morning - 90's 2000's Rap/R&B tunes that I haven't heard in years. Because I was passed by the earlier bus, I kept checking my phone to calculate whether or not I would have enough time to stay on the bus the whole bus ride or if I would have to walk from the mall near school. As we approached the huge intersection near the mall I looked at my phone one more time and decided to take the ride. Once I made my decision I tried to relax and reminisce with the music. I also convinced myself I made the right choice by saying I trust this bus driver. He was a young man I've ridden with before (you know that's bad when I know the bus drivers on different routes :D). I like him as a person from what I've observed on several encounters with him: his driving is fast, but not reckless; he stops for everyone; he goes out of his way to stop for or drop off a passenger in hectic situations; he doesn't try to run over pedestrians and allows other vehicles to pass in front of him; and he has a mild personality and doesn't cackle or yell to the guys at the check point, he says what he has to say and moves on.

I promptly arrive at my bus stop across the street from school at 8:15am, class is at 8:35am. Enough time to maneuver the morning rush at the express print computers in the library to print my article response.  Even before I told him to stop at the bus stop he began to slow down and looked back at me as if to say, "I know this is your stop." I thanked him, as is the custom here when getting off of the bus, and he said "hasta luego/see you later," which is the phrase the bus drivers use with their patrons. I thought this guy is good! Right when I got off of the bus I had a "duh moment."

Here it is:
Yes, I had to wait a little bit longer in the cold to get my bus, but it was the right bus for me at the right time. I enjoyed music in the midst of agonizing over the time. What I should have done was relax completely after coming to terms with trusting the bus driver, based off of past experience. Just like when we put our trust in God, we still doubt even though we know what He is capable of - we continue to check the time unsure of when we will reach our destination. Once we turn something over to Him we need to FULLY turn it over. It defeats the purpose of the blessing if it is received with less than 100% faith- the blessing is deprived of the appreciation that it is owed. So instead of being on the bus and thinking everything will work out fine, I got off of the bus saying NOW everything is ok, which is not too late, but human nature - that is our challenge as Christians, having 100% faith before the outcome manifests itself.

As usual I never intend to write about God on my blog (mainly because it is for school), but when He moves He moves and I can't help but to share (another Christian duty). Even when it is just the simplest thing like getting to class on time on a bus with great music and a great bus driver, I can't help but to smile and say, "Jesus you R my GANGSTA BOO!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Snapshots of Spring Break/Easter Week/Semana Pasqua

Every year in Mexico spring break is during the week preceding Easter Sunday. The week is called Semana Pasqua. I wanted to go down south to the states of Oaxaca or Chiapas, but it did not work out. Instead I went to Ezequiel Montes, Alma's hometown, to spend the weekend with her and her family. It's a small town north of Queretaro that welcomes you with an overwhelming smell of manure from the farming. To me it smells more like weird dog food, hahaha! Another interesting aspect is that many of the farmers' wives dress in Michael Kors, Coach, Gucci, etc. I asked Alma's sister why everyone is so obsessed with buying designer clothes. Alma and her sister, Giulanna (sounds like Yulianna), explained that it's a competition between the women there in the town to see who gets which clothes. They told me that some of the families build houses as big as Alma's family's ranch, which is a decent sized ranch. So my idea was to pitch a show called, "The Real Housewives of Ezequiel Montes." I think it would be a hit!

So here is the week at Alma's in photos:
 So our project for the week involved lots of cooking and practicing our homemaking abilities... For this particular dish I was in charge of squeezing the limes we picked from Grandma Bele's lime tree.
 Here are a bag of tiny potatoes that are similar to our redskin potatoes, but these are a more natural version.
 Alma washed that potatoes, put them in a skillet with chiles, chicken broth powder, and the lime juice I squeezed.
 She also made Nopales Asados/Grilled Cactus. This is the edible cactus that is very common here. It's shape is very thin and looks like fins. She sliced them vertically, brushed the grill with oil, and light salted the cactus.
 They turned out great. They are very tasty. They have a similar flavor of tangy green beans.
 Homemade dressing Alma learned how to make from a salad making class, lol. CUTE!
 Veggies for the salad.
 A traditional drink here is called Jamaica. It is basically tea made of Jamaica leaves.
 I have never seen an apple corer/slicer in action until spring break! Yes, I am easily fascinated. :D
 Here chile goes on EVERYTHING! The red liquid is made of fruit and is called chamoy. Then the red chile crystals is a little sweet as well. They come in a twin pack. My favorite is the powder.
 Information/Description around the corner from the house.
 A tortilleria. Fresh tortillas!!! The tortillas here are lighter in color and weight than in Queretaro.
 Our table setting for our kitchen concoctions.
 My plate. The potatoes were beyond delicious!
 Ok...this is where the week took a drastic plunge...above is our attempt to make cookies from scratch. We did not wait for the butter to completely soften by room temperature. Alma thought it would be ok to heat it in the microwave for a bit. Bad idea. (I know a few people reading this will be seriously disappointed in me, haha, sorry guys)
 Our dough that is way too sticky because of the butter incident.
 Later in the evening we went to the town square where they started the reenactment of Christ's last days.
 Alma and her nephew Emiliano (Guli's son) in the town square. I love this kid. He's 8 months but wears 18 months clothing. HUGE!
 The main church (1 of 2 in town).
 Guy cooking up tacos, burritos, hamburgers, etc.
 Me and Maria Paula (Guli's oldest) at the restaurant.
 The restaurant is called Maclonos, a play on McDonalds, haha.
 I ordered a burrito...My first burrito here in Mexico. I'm glad I waited to have one in Ezequiel Montes. I was skeptical at first because of the salsa verde/green salsa, but it was so tasty!
 My main man Emiliano. I think I made a rap for him after we were done eating.
 Next time in the kitchen we attempted to make homemade, marshmallow fondant. Our guidance was a YouTube video.
 Coloring the fondant.
 Pretty colors.
 Pictures of the family ranch. These pools are non chlorinated and filled with natural well water. The large pool has the natural algae on the bottom and the water is very hot because of the water coming from way underground. The smaller pool they scrub and keep clean and the water is much cooler.
 This is the best swimming pool experience I've ever had in my life! So relaxing and natural.

Poolside luncheon with Alma's family from her mom's side. Alma brought our salad, we made more potatoes, and I made Middle Eastern salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, white vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper...My salad was a hit and the ladies asked me for the recipe.

Emiliano with Alma at the ranch.

I really enjoyed being with Alma's family that week. They were so welcoming and made me feel like I was a part of their family.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hay Muchas Cosas (There are many things)

It has been 20 days since the last post. So sorry about that :D. I have been very busy with school the last couple weeks. Here is quick run down of a few major events:

3 weeks ago I was a bit under the weather. I went to the school medico, described all of my symptoms, understood my prescription for antibiotics and cold medicine, and went to the store to pick up my medicines ALL in Espanol. I must say that was pretty good for feeling terrible, but having to keep my composure and not break down - "I just want to speak English and go lay in bed!" Not to mention it was exam week and had to teach in the evenings. But I made it!

2 weeks ago I weighed myself. My friend Vickey and I weigh ourselves once a month to track our weight loss/gain. We both decided to do this because she is on a weight loss quest and has been doing a great job! Also we both live with host families. Just like the freshman 15 (15lbs), it is common that people who live with host families gain weight because the families keep you nice and full, lol. So on March 15th I weighed in at 142.2lbs, which is down from 146.4lbs on February 17th. Not bad for just going to Pilates class 3 days a week!

Last week Maurice came to visit me! We had a great time walking around the centro/downtown and hanging out with friends. On our 1 year and 3rd month-a-versary Maurice decided it would be a great idea to propose to me!!! We were at a sushi restaurant with Alma and Itziar (who knew). After we were done eating he starts to sweet talk me and say he has to get something off of his chest. My brain started putting things together and I just freaked out. He drags me out of our booth and I'm just hysterical and start hugging him. He gets on one knee to ask me to be his wife and I think I said yes before he finished his sentence, lol. So now I am engaged. I feel old for some reason and all grown up, haha. Immediately people asked when the date of the wedding is. I told them I have no idea, I JUST got engaged like 5 hours ago. The wedding will probably be in 2 years or so. We both are going to graduate school this fall and need to follow the plans God has for each of us. So we will have to wait and see :D. Also during the week Maurice was here I had presentations/group projects due and papers so that was a lot as well.
 Prior to the proposal at SushiRoll restaurant in Queretaro
 Me freaking out about Maurice asking me to marry him!

Today we had the second fitness test for Pilates. You have to run 6 laps, do situps for a minute, do pushups for a minute, do a 50m dash, and flexibility test. All of my marks improved from January!!! That is great considering I haven't seriously trained. Also it sucks to run at such a high altitude. Although, this time I pushed myself and ran 3 laps straight (don't laugh I am a sprinter/jumper), I walked a lap, then ran the last two laps...This week is supposedly my last week teaching my beginners English morning class (we will see what happens for real). Then next week is Semana Santa/Easter Week/Spring Break. After spring break there are only 3 more weeks of school left at the TEC. At first time seemed to crawl. Then all of a sudden time flew by. Now I just have to finish the semester strong and make my mark!

***Oh SHOUT OUT to my Cooperative for Education family for having me prepare botiquins/first aid kits for the tours to Guatemala during my internship with them last fall. I was on the bus a few weeks ago and saw a first aid kit and I started laughing to myself. Despite the huge red cross on the white tin box, I knew exactly what botiquin meant and what the box should have in it! To this day I smile whenever I see one :D

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The halfway mark!

Ok so it's been 2 months since I arrived to Queretaro. At first the days seemed to crawl, but once February hit the weeks rolled by. I have had a few adventures, mostly on the bus since I spend most of my time commuting, and I have met many new and interesting people.

A couple weekends ago a few of us got together to celebrate Alma's friend's birthday. Her name is Marina and she is in Queretaro for a couple months after spending time in Namibia being a teacher. She is also teaching here. Once she returns to Germany she will start her professional life and enter a teacher's rotation program. If I remember correctly her specialties are English and History. 

Alma and I in the club Margarita Blue for Marina's birthday celebration in the up and coming/ritzy neighborhood called Juriquilla where they buy/sell the houses in US Dollars...crazy...

This past weekend the International Programs office coordinated a trip to the state of Puebla. We left early Friday morning and traveled to a small city in the hills of Cuetzalan. There we went hiking to see waterfalls, repelling (which I didn't do), and caving. Saturday We went to Cholula to walk around the largest pyramid base in the world and to shop the local market. Afterwards we went to the city center of Puebla , which is similar to Queretaro, but much bigger and more European. Not to mention the lunch we had in Puebla was the best food we had all weekend! It was truly beautiful to see everyone out with their families, the balloon vendors, and Girl Scouts selling chocolates on a very nice day. We rested our heads at a lodge that was really nice and would have been a little better if it weren't raining and if we could spend more time there. But we rose early Sunday morning to go see another waterfall and do outdoor activities (rope bridges and zip line). On Sunday we were supposed to go horseback riding or biking in the valley near the waterfall, but because of the rain from the day before it was too damp and dangerous. So we had lunch early and headed back to school.

Left: Me next to some tree sculpture in the center square in Puebla. 
Right: The girlies walking the streets of Puebla. It almost looks like a movie set!
The girlies by the waterfall early Sunday morning

Back to my adventures and meeting interesting people. Today I met  a young American girl from Miami, FL whose parents are Argentinian (dad) and Cuban (mom). She is recently engaged to a Mexican whose parents are friends with her parents. The young lady sat in on one of my English classes, because she may become a teacher soon as something to do on the side. She's really nice and only 22/23 as well. She's a physiology/physical therapist/massage therapist person and looking to open up shop here, but manual labor stuff doesn't pay well in Mexico so she doesn't know how its going to pan out and might have to work in a hospital, but many don't have rehab centers here. Her fiance teaches english at a school and he's a pastor! I might try to visit their church this Sunday because it's a Christian church. They dont have many members since Catholicism is the dominant religion here. In the United States there is a wide variety of religions and there is a variety here too, but nowhere near as religiously diverse as back home.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Speaking of Ethics...

It's starting to be consistently warmer as we move past the rainy, cool winter weather. Just like at home warmer weather means more folks coming out! The whistles, stares, and stupid lines, "Ay guapa (hey good looking/sexy)," are increasing! It seems that heat is a catalyst for foolish behavior. During my internship in DC a couple years ago I took a course called Peaceful Solutions and we discussed catcalling. I think there is a different culture in Mexico in comparison to the United States, but I feel like women are annoyed either way. At home in Cincinnati men make stupid comments or stare....extra intensely and it bugs me. And here in Mexico it's like 10x as frequent, but either way I'm bothered...So does that make it right whether it is more socially accepted here...I'm going to go with no. I talked to a group of English students in class the other day during their lesson about the same subject. First, they are all men. Second, they said oh that's normal that is just the culture. Then I asked them if they know if that annoys women or not. I told them it annoys me. One student asked, "How about if a guy says you look nice today or something like that?" I replied that I wouldn't mind that at all and that that is a much better approach. But then I really baffled them when I said, "But that rarely ever happens..." Sad story I know.


This week for Ethics class we broke up into groups by major and had the assignment of filming an ethical dilemma in our field of study. Our group, International Relations, decided to do a spin on an actual event. Congresswoman Barbara Lee D-CA was the only one who voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which would allow former president Bush to target any persons he thought posed a threat to the United States. This resolution gave him broad powers in a time when there wasn't enough information regarding who was responsible for September 11, 2001. Barbara Lee had to make an ethical decision when considering how she would vote on the issue. Her words are below:
Barbara Lee
I voted no not because I opposed military action but because I believed the AUMF, as written, granted overly-broad powers to wage war to the president at a time when the facts regarding the situation were not yet clear. I warned my colleagues to be 'careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.'  "It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events—anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.... The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action."

 Our video...sort of funny. It is a bit hard to hear because of background noise from filming at school, sorry about that. ENJOY!

New hair do by Vickey Wall...I look like a little kid, but oh well, lol.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day & Happy First Sunny Day in Weeks!

My Philosophy regarding Valentine's Day...is that EVERYDAY is an opportunity to show love to your loved ones!...Although the anticipation of receiving and passing out Disney Valentine cards in grade school was an awesome feeling :D.

 First things first...I am seriously going to try my best to keep the posts as short as possible from here on out...Seriously lol.

Last week: Last week was exam week. The school here coordinates when exams will be, like midterm exams. There are 3 exam weeks and then there are finals. I think I did a good job. I will get one test back this coming Friday, one this afternoon, and for Spanish I got my exam back yesterday I did a great job! So that is nice. It was a little stressful because I started the English job last week.

This weekend: Saturday Alma invited some girls up to her hometown, Ezequiel Montes, which is really close to Bernal. She mentioned me being a bridesmaid in her wedding before, but Saturday morning she gave a formal little speech about how we all are important people in her life and she would be honored if we would be her bridesmaids for her wedding! In March she will have the civil wedding and August will be the full fledged wedding with tons of guests, the flowers, the food, and all that jazz. As it has been for weeks now, it rained all day Saturday and a little on Sunday. Sunday Alma, 2 other girls, and myself had breakfast with her whole family (her brother and sister and their families and her parents), visited her grandma's place and went to Bernal to hang out before leaving town. Right after breakfast Alma's sister was so fascinated with my hair and started playing with my tiny curls, then Alma's mom joined in, and Alma's sister had her daughter join in against her will. They were too funny and super enthused!

Above are pics of the bridesmaids with mini bridesmaid(just missing Itziar who is in India) cupcakes (L) and then a pic of Alma, Marina (her friend from Germany who is in Queretaro for a couple months), and myself at Bernal (R). It was so foggy there you could barely see the mountain when looking from a distance.

This week: Yesterday I taught a 7am English class! Crazy I know. I definitely got lost on the bus and was late to the class. I normally come from school and coming from home was so different. Then I had to catch an unnecessary second bus. I was not happy, but I made it and the class went well. I am picking up some extra classes of students who need English for the companies they work for. Sadly, my schedule does not match their desired course schedule so I am not sure how long I will be teaching these additional classes. I may just be working with them until March when they can get the schedule they want with another teacher (who is yet to be hired), but for now I am playing things by ear, which I sort of don't like just because I like to have a set schedule. I don't mind being told things the day of, but it makes a difference when you have your own transportation and can get places faster and save A LOT of time on traveling. Ah well, again...more classes = more experience. I shouldn't complain.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Just Because He's Good" (Title of today's entry in the Our Daily Bread publication)

It's been a little over a week since the last post...Sorry about that, but honestly I got a bit lazy :D. At home in Cincinnati I am always busy, like nonstop ALL THE TIME, even when I'm at home. Here I have a lot of down time and I am appreciating it. I'm sure my host family probably thinks I'm a loner, but I think a semester "off" just relaxing is much deserved after almost 23 years.

But of course God won't let me sit completely still. Last week I mentioned I interviewed for a position to teach English at a conversation center. What do you know, I got the position to teach 3 nights a week! Last Wednesday was my first day and I co-taught with the director Alex. He's really nice! He's probably only a few years older than me and started the company 5 years ago here in Queretaro, I think he's from Queretaro. The company teaches other languages besides English and they try to get native speakers in the languages they teach so that students can hear the language spoken naturally. Last Friday Alex brought in 2 of his friends who were visiting from Australia to sit in on the class so the students can be exposed to a different accent. They had a hard time with that, but it was definitely fun. I lead the entire lesson so that was cool. I've always wanted to teach English as a second language and this is an awesome opportunity to do it in another country. Only down side is that it's across town...well really there just isn't a good way to get there. It's like trying to find a good way to get to College Hill from UC...depending on where you are going in College Hill you have to figure out do you want to take Ronald Reagan West, Hamilton Ave, or Winton Road, hahaha.

Anyway in reflecting on how God is constantly working in my life, keeping me safe, and sane I would like to share a few insights:

The first is that latest module we have been studying in Philosophy is the existence of God. We look at how popular rational thinkers of the last few centuries argue that there is no way a rational person can believe and have faith in God (or any other deity) because there is no proof of His existence and that things about Him just don't add up. On the other hand there are theories that support his existence like miracles and how everything about earth had to be just right for human existence. A few philosophers even said that it would not be a good idea not to believe in God just in case there is a God. If you choose not to believe in Him and it turns out he exists then you are out of luck, so it is smart to just believe in Him. My favorite argument for the existence of God is that trying to have understanding without faith will only get you so far. If you believe you are taken to a whole new level of understanding that knowledge cannot get you to alone.

My second experience ties into philosophy class and that God puts us in different situations and somethings are so coincidental that they have to be orchestrated by a higher being. Last Thursday I went to Vickey's house to hang out with her and take out my braids. On the bus ride home I sat in the front next to a middle aged man. He was a bit shifty in his seat. He puts his head back on the seat and then asks me in Spanish what do I put in my hair to make it smell so good. I told him I didn't understand and asked if I speak Spanish or English. He then repeated his question in English and I laughed and told him just whatever I wash with and put in it daily (I really wasn't trying to go into it and talk about how I use a shea butter based product...but for you natural hair people out there try Shea Moisture products on your hair :D). He said it smells really good! Then he asked me what I'm doing here in Queretaro and then he goes into how he lived in Louisiana and somewhere else in the States for a bit. Low and behold he was a part a first responder crew that went to New Orleans right after Katrina hit. He was there to build railroads so that supplies could get to the area. He told me about how soon after Katrina there was another huge storm that came in and that everyone had to be put up in hotels and that it was a scary experience for him. I was so amazed by experience and I thanked God for letting me hear such an unexpected story.

Thirdly, even more unexpected is that Friday the director of the Master's program I applied to at University of Kentucky emailed me asking me for additional documents that he needs to complete a nomination application on my behalf for a scholarship. I have not even been formally notified by the school that I have been accepted! Then again this is also the man who told his students at the annual conference the department does that he is trying to recruit me, haha...Whether I choose to go to University of Kentucky or not for my Master's I can see that God is trying to give me hope through this whole graduate school process.

Since I have been here I try to read the Our Daily Bread publication my mom sneakily stowed in my luggage. Honestly I always have a hard time keeping up with it. But for some reason just like reading a horoscope the days I do read it it directly corresponds with what I'm going through that day. The day my boyfriend had a music audition I prayed for him then I turned to that day's entry and it was titled "Thank God for Music." Then last Sunday I talked to my friends from back home and one of them I haven't seen or heard his voice in a looooong time and day's entry was titled "Genuine Friends." This past Monday my mom and I were talking and I told her I was so grateful for things in my life and that I know it was God's doing and she was happy that I knew that..Monday's title was "Consider the Source." And the title of today's entry as referenced in the title of today's post is "Just Because He's God." Everyday, whether I read the Our Daily Bread or not, it is important to know that what we go through God is good. In Philosophy we read parts of the Book of Job. In chapter 38 God rhetorically asks Job does he really know of His true powers and how He coordinates the rising and setting of the sun daily and all the great things He does. Even when we are challenged by a situation we should not feel forsaken by God or question Him as Job did when he was pushed to his limits. Yes there are trying times, but indeed we should keep the faith in the One who is beyond our comprehension and all powerful.

So with that I pray for the best for the readers of today's post. I love you ALL (yes those who I know and do not know).

Pictures from this weekend:

The three pictures above are from the school musical on Monday "Las Ranas," which means the frogs. I went with my friend Rachael (from England). It was neat because the students used all of the area around the pool and there was some synchronized swimming as well. 

The pictures above are of Blanca and me making something called Panocha. It is not a traditional Mexican food, but something that her family makes as a tradition. It is wheat flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and cinnamon kneaded together. Once all mixed together we rolled pieces into balls of dough. Instead of using a rolling pan to flatten them she uses a cool press thingy. You place the dough between plastic for easy clean up then press the lever toward away from you. That makes perfect tortilla sized pieces of dough. After that brown both sides of the dough on the stove just like you would to heat up tortillas. Wait for the cooked panocha to cool and enjoy with tea, coffee or spread jam, honey, whatever you like on it. Blanca spread peanut butter on hers. The dough is not very sweet so it does not interfere with whatever you decide to put on it.