Monthly Archives: June 2014

Museos Y Mas

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Although I prefer to be outside in the sunshine, the rainy season is upon us and is relentless, so I have now begun to venture indoors on my excursions.

Hospicio Cabanas was the first treasure I found. In another lifetime this ancient building was an orphanage. I was delighted with the view I found just beyond the entrance.

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Next I headed indoors to peruse some art. The murals on the walls and ceiling by Orozco were amazing!

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I then headed into one of the smaller galleries to view a collection called  “Amen”  by artist Gaal D. Cohen. This one really spoke to me.

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I found this on display in another room.

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The next museum on my agenda was Museo Regional De Guadalajara. The main floor has several rooms containing artifacts and relics.

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I climbed the old stone steps to the second floor and found some awesome art and busts.

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Whenever I have ventured into other pueblos in Jalisco, churches have been at the top of my list. So I have decided to start exploring some of these in Guadalajara.

This week I visited Templo De San Jose De Gracia in the Centro Historico.

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Although it was late morning, I was surprised to see quite a few people praying. This limited my photo opportunities as I take care not to disturb or offend people when I take pictures inside a church.

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Another church I visited was Templo Nuestra Senora Del Carmen, located just off of Pavo on Juarez.

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Numerous other churches and museums scattered throughout Guadalajara await my visits. And I have a growing appreciation for the culture and the beauty of this incredibly amazing city in which I now live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once Bitten Twice Shy

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“But Teacher, no intiendo”. This is one of the most common expressions I hear in my classroom. I completely understand their frustration as I am struggling to learn Spanish. “Oso” is a bear. So how can the expression “Que oso” possibly mean I have done something rather ridiculous? 

“Pan comida?” Not really. Learning any new language, especially for an adult, is not easy. But I would like to reflect on some of the more memorable idioms and words that have puzzled  my students here in Mexico.

“Sick and tired” –Now this is an expression that I accidentally  used one day in class when I had taught a grammar point giving numerous explanations and examples, and was totally exasperated as the students just didn’t seem to grasp it. I was immediately bombarded with advice ranging from I should be at home if I’m sick to I should get more sleep so I wouldn’t be tired. 

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broke”–What did you break so that you have no money? One student even stated that it would be hard to break money because pesos are very hard.

“white lie”–If you don’t like your friend’s new sweater, why don’t you just tell them? You shouldn’t lie about anything.

“pretty picture”–Pretty is supposed to mean beautiful, not ugly.

“hit and run”–You crashed the car and drove away in the car, not by walking

“give me a ride” –This constantly baffles students as it doesn’t exist in Spanish.

“skeleton in the closet”–Most of my students do not even know what a closet is. And when I explain it, then they tell me that if it’s for storage, why do you say a skeleton is hidden in the closet. Isn’t that where it should be?

There are numerous idioms involving body parts that students find very confusing.

“bite your tongue” — Teacher, won’t it hurt if I bite my tongue? No, it means that you should not say something rude. Keep the words to yourself.

“break a leg” — One of my students is an actor and a dancer, and was absolutely horrified the first time she heard this expression. Once I explained that this is a way to say “buena suerte” I was rewarded with a big grin.

“get cold feet” — Your feet do not necessarily get cold, but you may be nervous about doing something and feel scared.

“costs an arm and a leg”– Teacher, you don’t buy arms and legs. They are already on your body. You don’t buy them for money. You don’t sell them to buy something.

Then we have some common English expressions that Mexicans use that differ from the meaning a native speaker would expect.

“invite me”–If you want to have coffee together, you should invite me, not ask me. In English we tend to use the word ‘invite’ for occasions such as parties.

“reunion”–This is what a Mexican calls a meeting, whether it’s for coffee or business. My students were rather perplexed when I informed them that in English this means an event where people get together when they haven’t seen each other in a long time.

“in this moment”–I hear this often instead of ‘at this time’ or ‘right now’.

“go walking”– This is commonly used in ‘go walking across the border’. In other words, you cross by land and not by air.

And idioms are only the beginning. We then must consider the grammatical rules and all the exceptions that exist. But that is another post in itself………………

Play Nicely With The Other Children

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Housemates. Roommates. We’ve all had them over the years. My nuclear family were my first ones, then my spouse and then my children. But I’ve been submerged in a totally new category now. It’s called living with strangers, many of whom have become great friends.

Known here as shared housing, this is basically how I have been living for close to four years now in Mexico. Basically you have your own bedroom in a house, but you share all the common areas with others. For some reason, these are referred to as “apartments” rather than “rooms”.

My first year in Mexico the school found me a home with a single lady in her 60’s. She was a very traditional Mexican lady, what we would call old-fashioned in Canada. Rosamaria also did not speak a word of English and wasn’t interested in learning either. She detested computers and despised the modem that was installed to enable a WiFi connection for me. She complained religiously to the school that I used the air conditioner in my bedroom excessively. But the most distinctive trait was her paranoia. I had to unlock two gates and two doors to gain access to the main house. The laundry area was on the other side of a covered outdoor terrace…….and three more locked doors to deal with. And she insisted that I keep my bedroom door locked at all times, even if I was only steps away in the kitchen or the living room!

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My second year in Mexico began in Irapuato. The house itself was comfortable but the housemates left a lot to be desired. Luis was  a young man from England who constantly had his television loudly blaring soccer games. Elizabeth was from South Carolina and sharing a bathroom with her was a challenge as cleanliness and hygiene were seriously lacking from her vocabulary.

I then found myself in Tlaquepaque ( a suburb of Guadalajara) sharing a house with a parade of other teachers when I taught at a language institute that first semester. Maureen was in her 60’s, an alcoholic and we always feared we’d find her at the foot of the stairs one morning with a broken neck. Adam  was an interesting young man from Ireland who unfortunately wound up in jail here and was subsequently fired by the school. Miriam was from Norway, and she still divides her time between the two countries as her boyfriend is Mexican. I always look forward to spending time with her when she is in Mexico. Alfredo was from California and has become a good friend. If you ever need a suitcase packed in a hurry, he is definitely your man!

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The next semester began and new housemates arrived. Alan was a young man from Ireland who moonlighted as a dj at a bar. Sharn was from Australia and wound up moving in with a Mexican boyfriend. Brandon was from Wisconsin and we still keep in touch today. He is an avid reader and works in a library back in his hometown.

I returned to Tlaquepaque in the fall after spending several months back in Winnipeg. This time I moved into a house located on Zalatitan that I shared with four others.

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Only one of the others was a teacher and that was a former housemate, Adam from Ireland. Lennart was from Sweden and was traveling and learning Spanish. We still keep in touch on Facebook. Joe came from Hawaii and was volunteering his time down here. Joe returned to Guadalajara a while ago and we got together for lunch one day.  Manuel was a Mexican whose family remained in Mexico City although he was working in nearby Tonala, another suburb. When Lennart moved out, Kate moved in. She was a teacher from California. Although she only lived here for a month, we became great friends. I visited her in Puerto Vallarta last spring, and she is now teaching in Colombia.

When Kate moved out, Angela moved in. She was very young, right out of high school in England, and wound up teaching English here. Totally ignorant of grammar, she was unable to differentiate between gerunds and the present continuous tense, confusing her students immensely. Annie was from Oregon and was here for about three weeks. Very young and immature, she drank heavily, passed out in a friend’s car one night and  had to be revived in a shower at another friend’s house.

 I returned to Tlaquepaque via the Baja Norte and Culiacan in November, after spending several months in Winnipeg again. I came home to the house on Zalatitan to find two housemates. Omar was an English teacher from Oregon. We became great friends and I recently went to Tototlan to visit him after he moved away. Stephen was from B.C. and we have known each other for a couple of years now as he comes here to study Spanish for several months of the year. Sean arrived from Colorado and introduced me to the world of blogging on WordPress. Sean and Omar were notorious for blasting a variety of music through the speakers in the living room, and it became all too quiet when they both moved out. Here is a pic taken at Christmas when we all prepared a sumptuous meal together.

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Roos spent a month here learning Spanish. She came from the Netherlands and decided to stay in Guadalajara, but moved to another area of the city. Srinath and Michelle came from Montreal for a few days, as did Andres from California. Yves from France was here for two nights. And then Oliver arrived. He was an Asian who had lived in Calgary for three years after leaving China. He gets the award for the strangest person I have ever met in my life, as well as the most despicable. And when it came to the bathroom, he was even worse than Elizabeth in Irapuato had been! The landlord actually had him move to another area of the house so that I would no longer have to share a bathroom with him, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when he left.

At the moment I have only one housemate. Ben is from Ohio and his passion lies in playing poker on the internet. I enjoy having him around and have long forgiven him for using my warm vanilla sugar body wash when he first arrived.

Despite the odd difficult housemate, overall it’s been a fantastic experience. I have met people from all over the world; from different cultures, religions and backgrounds. They often speak other languages and always have many interesting stories to share.

This lifestyle has also provided me with an education one simply cannot get living a traditional (what some people call “normal”)  lifestyle as I did for the first half century of my life.

I enjoy a freedom and independence unlike any I have ever known, and I look forward to many more housemates in the future, wherever in the world I may choose to live.  

 

A Week In The Life…………….

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I’ve been back in Mexico for seven months and it’s June already. The transition between seasons is very different here than in Canada. While my friends up north are enthusiastically digging in their gardens after a never ending winter, I have been enjoying beautiful flowers and delicious local produce year round.

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The rainy season has begun and we will now use our umbrellas to protect us from the rain as well as the sun. But our daytime highs continue to be in the low thirties Celsius.

Thursday was my day off and I welcomed the chance to sleep late. I wandered down to the square and sat in the Jardin Hidalgo. This is an excellent place to strike up a conversation with a local and practice my Spanish. And here are some other friends who come to visit regularly, adding to the ambiance of the garden.  

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In the evening Rob and I went to Vic’s for dinner. On the weekends, one of my neighbors down the street fires up his grill and cooks delicious hamburgers, hot dogs and other Mexican specialties such as lonches, enchiladas and more .

Friday was another day off and it was an opportunity to do laundry and other tedious household tasks. In the evening I met my language partner Isaias and his nephew David at Jahanve, my favorite coffee shop.

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I awoke Saturday morning to a gloomy overcast sky. I taught my first class in the morning and was delighted to see the sun shining brightly by the lunch break.

My Saturday class was a Conversation Club where my students chose interesting and stimulating topics with which to improve both their vocabulary and oral skills. I left school that day with a skip in my step.

My friend Rob picked me up and we headed to Soriana to get some groceries. Back at my house, with the aid of a couple of caguamas, we made a spectacular salad and an incredibly delicious lasagna. As an afterthought I threw together some garlic cheese toast. Apple enchiladas completed our homemade feast. Here is Rob preparing vegetables for the salad.

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And then I looked at Facebook. And I could not believe the photo of my daughter in a harness preparing to jump off a 4 story building! 

Photo: Going for a jump.

The next morning when I checked Facebook I found this photo my friend David in Winnipeg had posted.

Photo: Thank you for all the birthday wishes ..... and to B.B. for keeping me crawling into a bottle of scotch ..... let's make it official , wrote off my Pontiac and trying for, closure ..... add on kijiji ..... how will you spend your 55 th nsay ?

David had lovingly restored this beauty in 2012 and it was now an Autopac write-off!

Monday dawned early for me, at 5:30 am actually. Shortly thereafter I was off to Zapopan to give my students a grammar exam. Their grades were exceptionally high and I was really pleased.

I then stopped at my neighborhood tienguis to buy some fresh fruit and veggies. I have my favorite vendors who recognize me now. When I first arrived here I had to buy a whole head of cauliflower, and they are huge. I now have my vendor trained. When he sees me he immediately cuts one in half and puts it in a bag for me. My fruit vendor knows that I want  containers with half a pineapple and half a watermelon, freshly cut up. I really feel like a local when I stroll through this street market.

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In the afternoon I found myself in Miravalle giving a grammar exam to my other students. Then it was back on the Macrobus and to my house. 

Tuesday was my day off. I slept late and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home. Duolingo was on my mind and I spent almost four hours practicing  Spanish on my computer. I totally empathize with my students when it comes to learning grammar in a second language.

I went for a long walk afterwards to clear my head. I did some shopping in the square and then stopped for one of my favorite treats………….a churro with cajeta and azucar.

On Wednesday I was up early again to teach in Zapopan. My students had their oral exam and did exceptionally well again. I am so proud of them!

When I returned home in the afternoon, I spent time chatting with a new housemate before heading out to teach my afternoon classes.

Today is Thursday and once again I have a day off. The morning was spent on learning Spanish and writing. This afternoon I am off   to Cinepolis to see Malefica, in Spanish of course!

 

And another seven days in Mexico has flown by……………