Saturday, November 27, 2010

my neighbor

Since I last wrote, I saw more of the city than I had in all my time spent here previously, put together. Museums, neighborhoods, pyramids, festivals, día de muertos (which was amazing beyond anything I could have imagined), taking a boat to a nighttime play performed on an island, and most importantly, listening to my neighbor take up a new hobby: woodworking. Even now, in the dark, I am listening to the misguided clattering of wood and tools. The "box" he made for a Christmas gift took hours daily for over two weeks in its construction and I am fearing for my sanity as his new coat-stand project is just now underway. At the end of a busy day at school, just when all the "Medi, Medi, Medi's (phonetic spelling of Mary)" are starting to dissolve from my ears, I've relaxed long enough that grading papers at home starts to seem doable, the clacking and pounding starts literally echoing through our enclosed little courtyard. And now, upon the start-up of his power saw, I think I am going to go find a cafe.

Monday, October 25, 2010


As I continue with the final stages of my masters, this weekend I think we stumbled across the most useful component of the program yet. I don't remember what the R&R in the course title is supposed to stand for, but reconnected and refreshed was how I was feeling after 5 hours of being glued to my computer. Seeing the familiar faces of members of my cohort in their respective countries, sharing struggles, supporting each other with ideas, empathy and solutions was much more refreshing and useful than I anticipated. It was so nice to talk to people with similar training, background and language about some of the heaviest issues we're lifting as new teachers. Hearing about the successes and challenges that everyone is facing, finding out how everyone is making it in a foreign country and learning a language while being a first year teacher was truly inspiring. I feel lucky to know a group of passionate, adventurous people who are having experiences parallel to my own around the world. After a bout of school-related stress dreams, it feels pretty nice to walk into my classroom on a Monday morning with a little inspiration in my pocket.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

words from a student

Last week, my 6th graders had an assignment to look at this link about the BP oil spill. They wrote some comparative statements about its size and a reflection/response with their thoughts, feelings, and ideas... Here is one that I want to share:

"The thing that happen affect us and that is why we have to work together. Because the oil spill is killing the water, the nature, the animals, and also the humans home. We have to work together to save it if we want that our sons live here because it is very probable that the world will not die because a ball of fire comes from the sun. It is more probable that we die because we kill our animals, our nature, our home, we pollute our air. It is funny we can't live without our atmosphere, air, water, nature, food and what are the things that we are killing? Do a question to yourselves: why we destroy the things that we will die without? ¿Why we destroy our home if it is the home that gave us life? Only 1/5 of the world is trying to save it, in the reality it is less than that helping. We can do it, but only together¡¡¡¡"

Friday, October 1, 2010

a list

Since I have been in Mexico, I have filled my days with the little things that typically characterize my life... things that are simultaneously interesting, boring, silly and lovely... A short list includes:
  • singing with a mariachi band in front of my co-workers
  • waiting and waiting and waiting for change from a machine that clearly says it does not give change
  • taking the metrobus for the first time late night post-cantina (sorry mom, but fortunately it turned out to be one of the amazing women only cars)
  • accidentally buying toilet paper con aroma and subsequently scenting my bathroom like a giant grandma-baby
  • crying in a class meeting about racism in front of my 6th graders
  • climbing through the window of a vacant house to discover the most amazing rooftop view of the city i have seen to date
After a day of confusing, stressful and broken Spanish conversations, a brand new washer/dryer unit is sitting in the middle of my kitchen and instead of trying read the directions to install it, I am going to climb back up on that rooftop.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

the line between us

before i came to mexico, i experienced a lot of questioning and skepticism about why i would come to this country. there was a distinct, tense and racially charged undercurrent to these comments. once i arrived i have become increasingly aware of the presence of an anti-american sentiment here; equally as tense, equally as charged. the politics, the border, the walls, wars, identities, and imperialism that complicate our shared history have very real implications in the lives of real people.

it is easy to forget, on either side of the "border," that history and hatred between countries manifest themselves in subtle ways in peoples' hearts and minds, and serve to do nothing but injure.

this made its first, undoubtedly of many, appearances in my classroom this week. i am struggling to unpack my own political and personal identities and motivations while encouraging my students to do the same. we had a tearful class meeting following a day of heated rhetoric about perceptions and stereotypes between our countries. i hope to teach empathy and activism to my students; i intend to learn empathy and teaching as activism side by side with them. i want to build my daily curriculum around these ideals; lessons that i need to learn myself.

as i struggle to find ways to do this, i am inspired again by a friend, a teacher i admire, a student of his own students and a true student of this life, who has reminded me in the past that teaching in our time is precarious, necessary work as we walk the precipice of change and reform...

"Teaching tears us down. It is its very nature. We have to give into it. Let go of what we think teaching is and step out there, vulnerable, and willing to fail. We live in praxis, forced to constantly reinvent ourselves. You know how (shotgun degree/ practice/ theory/ philosophy/ friends lifting you up/ millions of thoughts, books and ideas) but now comes the hard part: trusting yourself..."

Monday, September 20, 2010


i'm not sure if i learned anything in graduate school. i was giving my students instructions today and they all were looking at me like i was crazy... which made me remember that i'm speaking a foreign language, so i am always sure to show directions in writing, with pictures and with actions. after having two other students explain what to do in their own way and another student explain in spanish, i took some questions and let them go to work. as soon as we went into work time, a line of at least seven students gathered around me and asked the dreaded, "what are we doing?"

what am i doing????

Sunday, September 19, 2010

pirámides y antropología

The long weekend allowed for me to explore the immense Museum of Anthropology and the Aztec pyramids in Teotihuacan:

In front of the pirámide del sol after climbing back down.

The super giant Mayan calendar in the museum.

One of my favorite photos yet, and the catalyst for a photo project I have always been wanting to do on Mexican alters and ofrendas.

María Catalina and María Elena.

A photo of the pyramid of the moon taken from on top of the pyramid of the sun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

poco a poco

As the world I left behind me grows closer together within itself and farther away in the distance, I am struggling against the exponentially steep learning curve that washes over me daily. Learning a new culture, a new language, learning how to do my job, how to live in one of the biggest cities in the world, I find that who I truly am has become very exposed to me. This puts a sense of purpose into my perspective when I am flooded with feelings of nostalgia and longing for the life I made for myself and left behind in Seattle. Some days the absurdity of my being here makes me laugh out loud, and other days the reasons all seem perfectly clear.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

día de la independencia

as far as adventuring goes, there have been a few besides fourth grade fiascoes and playing catch up with my job. one includes a trip to the historic center of the city to see el zocalo all dressed up for the bicentennial. last night was the 200th anniversary of mexican independence from spain. everything was lights and fireworks for el grito, where the president addressed thousands and thousands of people with a bell and the call and response "viva méxico!" it was really awesome that i was able to be here for it, so i celebrated with my friends by having a little dinner party and watching fireworks all over the city from on top of my apartment building.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

cuidad de mexico

Hola a todos! Welcome to the revival of my European travel blog, repurposed now for stories about Mexico living. I arrived three weeks ago to Mexico City and have been warmly welcomed by my co-workers, students and their families. I'm living in a sweet little hacienda-style apartment with exposed brick, arched doorways and a fireplace. It faces the garden that has fruit trees and cactus and a little street cat that is trying to adopt me. I'm up in the hills above the city, a very long distance from the city center. There is a market close by, with most of the things I need, but I am severely missing the short walks to coffee shops, vegetarian restaurants and parks that luxuriated my Seattle life.

Yesterday I bought a fresh-made guitar from an old man who had finished building it in the adjoining shop last week. It should be nice to have it around for the every evening thunderstorms. It has been funny (dumb) to be replacing so many of the things I left behind in my ultra-haste to leave Seattle... as a late-hire, I left my home and friends in Seattle, in what some would rightly call a frenzy, to arrive in Minnesota to travel to Illinois to celebrate a beautiful wedding to then arrive in Mexico and start work the next day. I had two days of workshops and two days to set up my classroom before the first day of school. But after that first day, I feel like I have been at this school forever, and have been a teacher for always.

More from me soon about students, mariachis, cultural blunders and other adventures...