Saturday, September 1, 2012

these days

I am in my third week at the American School Foundation of Mexico City.  An entire year has passed by since my last blog post.  I am finding myself compelled to write and to share, to reflect.

The past year finishing at my former school was challenging and rewarding.  There were lots of struggles with the institution and the organization of the school, which all make my successes even more rewarding.

A lot has happened, including a new pet, a new job, a new house, and new adventures.

Here are some highlights...

I adopted a little street dog, Canela:

My students created a technology-rich family event with their own websites and a QR code scavenger hunt to navigate their parents through the day:

Roberto, not just a highlight, but someone who has been there to lean on, to adventure and goof off with:

I also was able to spend a significant amount of time traveling throughout Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia the past year:

More from me in less than a year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

new year's resolutions

I never really make resolutions at the turn of the calendar year, but at this juncture in time I am finding it very natural to make resolutions about the coming year. This past year has been one of my most challenging, but after lots of hard work and struggles, I see this year unfolding before me full of promise. I made the difficult decision to stay for a second year and I believe without any doubt that it was the right decision. After getting to travel all over the country with some friends here, I went to Seattle for the other half of my summer break. I was steeped in love, laughter, nature, good coffee and good company and truly have returned prepared. I was able to spend time with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family and somehow leaving them to come back to Mexico hardly felt sad. I have come back incredibly refreshed and armed with so many things I now know I need. My cab ride from the airport greeted me with crowded streets full of colors and sounds and it just felt good to be back. I start Spanish classes at UNAM in one week, signed up for real internet, and am joining a gym... my resolutions include action, acceptance, travel and fierce positivity. After a year where I felt like I was so bombarded with challenges that I constantly kept my head down, I am ready to look up and out and take in a fuller experience this year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

one thing i know i have shared

At the end of the year, when everything is so exhausted you can't remember what it was all about, I had a moment this morning where I could see it again clearly. Today, I had the fourth and final read-a-thon with my fourth graders. Each quarter we have had a day entirely devoted to reading and it has been one of the most rewarding things to spread a love for reading to my students. They get so excited about the read-a-thon: they bring blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and their favorite books. I bring popcorn and a book in Spanish and join them on the floor to read. Every ten pages they read, they take a green paper circle to tape to a caterpillar that started in one corner of the room and has slowly wrapped its growing green body around the walls of our classroom representing our collective reading and our collective love for it. Today, since it was our final event, I opened the event to parents or family members. Several parents came today and I think they found it quite confusing as they walked into a silent room. How could their child be so excited, talking nonstop about a silent, no frills event? Could this really be it? Our school focuses so much on throwing parties and having big shows and performances as the events the students share with their parents. And here I was, inviting them for a quiet moment on the floor with their child. It was so touching to see. One student was particularly inspiring to see; a girl who struggled and hated to read in the beginning of the year brought her busy-and-important politician father, in his designer work clothes and fancy shoes, to come and join her to read together. She was wrapped up in a blanket as they shared a book together on the floor. It was such a lovely and simple thing. In an affluent community, these types of moments are not the ones that get the glory. But the love for reading, the love for reading together that my parents gave to me, shared with me, raised me on... beyond all the data and doubts and difficulties when trying to sum up accomplishments at the end of a school year... this is one thing I know I have shared with my students.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

the cool seat on the bus

the other day i took the bus during peak hours. usually i take the bus during peak hours against the flow of traffic so there is a comfortable amount standing room on nearly any bus i take. this time though, i was going with traffic and i was running late. there was definitely no choosing a less crowded one, i just had to jump on the first bus and squeeze my way into a little cranny between a woman and her baby and a worker and his buckets. this fortunate place was just at the top of the steps and happened to be with a handrail nearby. i was squeezed up into the windshield, and after shamelessly complimenting my eyes, the bus driver had to ask me to move because he couldn't see in the side mirror.

more and more people piled on the bus through the front and the back, squeezing into each other with the doors barely closing behind us. soon after, i noticed two fingers holding two pesos out of the corner of my eye. since my little perch was right by the fare box, soon all new comers were passing their fare up, up, up, up and i put each one into the box, took a ticket from the driver and passed each one back, back, back, back. after i silently indicating to the driver it was my stop, i dodged through the crowds and sprang out the door. my friend mariela was waiting for me and as i told her about my trip she was laughing and laughing. she said passing money on the bus like that is something that has long disappeared but used to just be the way the bus worked... she told me i had a "true folkloric bus experience." it certainly ended up being one of my favorites!

Friday, March 25, 2011

familiarly foreign

After hitting the snooze button for an hour and a half, I had to get up out of bed and dodge the feeling of dread about going to work I’d been having all week. I got ready at super-late speed and ran out the door. I bought a hot drink and a pastry from the sweet street vendor who knows my order now. I darted through traffic and flagged down the bus, driven by a man who knows the stop where I get off now. As I sat on the bus, holding my champurrado so it wouldn’t spill, I realized this is the exact same morning as I've had countless times in Seattle. Oversleeping, dreading work, being a regular somewhere, running to the bus… The sensation that countries and borders are fabricated social concepts washed over me. At the same time, I watched a very different world go by outside the window of the bus, I thought about how very different countries and cultures truly are from one another. And because the times that I will do this same morning again in Mexico are few enough to count, I thought about how I can make the most of this experience. How can I soak up everything there is to learn and see… How can I push my fluency, how can I experience the culture more fully... I am learning so much about humility, the importance of relying on others, about how to build a life for myself when everything comfortable and familiar is very far away. And although these are quests that will never be fully realized, in my time here I want to struggle each day to make the most of it. And the small comforts and familiarity I’ve (re)created for myself here that make a new country less foreign and make myself less of a foreigner, are landmarks of a small success in that process.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

a pleasant surprise

After turning in an English exam, a sixth grade boy told me, "I've never written anything like that before in my life. It really came from deep down in here," pointing to his heart. I dug through the pile of exams when I got home and fished his out first. We had been doing a unit on civil rights and the students responded to a prompt where they were an African American activist in the 1960's who was asked to write a speech for Martin Luther King to read at a rally in Washington DC. His response really was lovely:

"Dear friends,

Today we're here to protest about our rights. We all know that white people think we're different, but do not ever think that too, my folks. We are all equal! Just because another person tells you to do something, or to feel something are you doing to do it!? If they tell you to act like a dog, like less than you are, are you doing to do it!? Of course not, and all stops here today, folks.

Let's change our topic a little. I know you have heard that we're about to convince the president to think differently about our rights, but some of you think that it won't work. It will! It must! He is thinking but you should continue with the protest, continue with our actions. White people will notice they need us, and that we won't help them until we have the same rights, the same treatment as them.

Folks, believe in it. Believe in hope, believe in god, pray he will surely hear you and help us with this. Folks believe with all your heart that we can, because if you believe it we really can do this!

(clap, clap, clap)."

Indeed. Clap, clap, clap!

Monday, February 21, 2011