Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Novel We Should've Been Writing All Along

Candace writes in pink, Josh writes in black. Thus it was decreed in a moment of genius, thus it remains.

Hmmmmmmm... so the last thing we said that wasn't in a rush (and inexplicably underlined {not my fault...}) was that we had started our TEFL program. A LOT has happened since. First, the program.

Candace and I finished all of our class hours and got the diploma! Yay! I will definitely say that my favorite part of the experience was not the lesson planning, but the class time itself. I now secretly envy all the teachers who have taught the same course ten times. They bypass all the headache that makes a good first lesson.

But planning each lesson to death has its benefits. Candace and I had 10 hours of normal classroom teaching, an hour of one-on-one lessons, a peer-observed class, and two conversation classes. So, 14 in all.

Our group of trainees was a surprisingly even spread of English speakers, most notably omitting Australia. We had 3 Canadians, 5 Americans, a woman originally from South Africa, and the token Brit. A very agreeable group who constantly engaged each other with their differences. In other words, a riot. :

Ok, so maybe not quite that, but you get the idea... ;D

The class was actually rather difficult, mostly due to the brevity of the course. We mostly stayed around the center of Guadalajara, seeing the sights there and generally hanging out with our fellow trainees and people at the Casa.

There's much more to say about this since it was the majority of our time in Mexico, but that's for later. yup.

In retrospect, I heartily agree that Guadalajara is the most "classically" Mexican city we visited. Not too many foreigners, tourists, or strange international stuff. Just a very cultural, very Mexican, very enjoyable city. As a place to live, I was really glad to have spent most of my time in Guadalajara.

After the course was over, the class went their separate ways rather quickly. Candace and I hung around for four days to take a free week of Spanish classes that came with our TEFL program. Exactly a week after we graduated, we took a day bus to Mexico City.

There are too many people in this city. Now that I have that out, we can go on.

I am totally cool with having millions of people all decide that they want to live in one place, as long as the streets and subways are adequate to support them. Candace and I had a bit of a rough time getting to our hostel in Mexico City, but hey, this is why barbecues were invented, so that we can talk about it.


It all started when I decided it would be an AWESOME idea to carry 150 pounds of combined luggage through the Mexico City subway system. At 7 PM. On a Friday night.

Our hostel was way down in the center of the city by the cathedral. Each station has, at minimum, 2 flights of stairs to get from one line to the opposite direction. Triple that if you expect to change lines. Heavy heavy suitcases. truth be told, though, I have a feeling that 100 of the 150 pounds was mine...

I have never eaten a can of sardines, so I can't comment on the metaphor happening there, but as far as I know, when you open a can of sardines, they don't come spilling out onto the sidewalk. That is exactly what happened in the trams. Old men shoving and pushing onto the subway -- once the doors closed their faces were spread against the glass like little children making faces.

Somehow we managed to squeeeeeeeeeeze onto one of the trams. Down several stops, Candace gets off like she is supposed to, and when I try to follow, ten people surge aboard, I can't get off and away I go to the next stop. I tried hailing a cab for 15 minutes, waited another 15 trying to get back on the subway, no cell phones, oh noes, nightmare, what if what if, and then at last we found each other and were off to our nights' stay.

Getting off the subway with 100 lbs of stuff that first time was surreal. I consider myself to be a more or less polite person in public transportation... but this was not the time for civility. When we stopped I thought I could jump off with the rest of the exit-ers and then the getter-on-ers would get on.

They were not waiting.

Doors open. Three sinewy seconds go by; I squeeze toward the door. Then, I'm hit. A massive wall of human muscle and bone thrust me back. Then I begin to yell.

As I said, I consider myself to be polite, but when I couldn't even cross the two feet to the door, I heard myself shouting, "No! No! NO!" thrashing almost horizontally to get off. Somehow I did.

I did not take this picture; nor does it capture the sheer volume of people who were waiting on every platform that evening. But perhaps you can get a small visual taste of something that was certainly a more physical experience than anything else.

Mexico City was pretty cool. Massive, but not nearly as dangerous as the movies make it out to be. No "Man On Fire" happening in the city center.

I was actually impressed with the Federal Police. They are the burliest looking police force I have seen (except perhaps the South Koreans that kicked me out of the Seoul airport). Seriously, these Mexican police just strolled the streets with submachine guns, riot helmets, huge pickup trucks, and bulletproof vests. And I honestly think there was one within yelling distance everywhere we went.

We saw a big park, the cathedral, a museum of modern art. One advantage of hostels is always the people. I have now found the reason Facebook is truly valuable. "Yeah, don't have a cell phone. Email is awkward and nobody does that anyway. Facebook!"

We spent... four days there? I'm sure the pink text will append greater truth to my words.
After Mexico City, we took an overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta.

PV is nice but waaaaaay too touristy. No, I didn't want the last guys' display of bracelets, and I won't want yours either. Neither will I want the next fellow's 2 minutes from now. But I'm exaggerating... I would say hawkers came by closer to every 30 seconds, on the beach anyway. no kidding!

The rest of the town, in my mind, wasn't anything special. The locals seemed to know a bit more English, which they took as an opportunity to hassle you. I actually felt less safe in PV than I ever did in Mexico City. I think PV would be a wonderful place to come if you stayed in one of the ritzy hotels and blew tons of money and just had private drivers take you from one activity to the next.

For Candace and I, though, there was Sayulita. It's this little town about an hour north of PV, and it is lovely. It had all the nice beaches of PV, waaaaaay less people, almost no nice hotels (with their exclusive private beachfronts), and just a better laid back type atmosphere. So we literally just sat on the beach, and bodysurfed, and did nothing for 2 days. We started naturally accumulating knotted dreads, which I'm sure the home audience will pine to know that I washed out and did not dye turquoise.

The weather was fantastic and sunny during the day, but hot and still at night. We managed a dingy little second-story room right on the waterfront for quite cheap. Candace has pictures. which she is to tart to post right now.
maybe later tatter

We ate fish tacos and judiciously applied sunblock. I saw a dead bird on the beach. The next day a man buried it. This describes the activities and pace of Sayulita.

Candace and I were sitting at the beach, just chilling, when we both slowly began to discover that the other had no intention of getting back in the water that day. When this realization struck, we knew it was time to move on. We bussed back to PV and decided to get along to Los Mochis.

Los Mochis is not exactly a coastal town, but it is along this interior coast of Mexico. It is a loooooooong bus ride, but this one we also made overnight. It was generally unremarkable except that we got searched for drugs about four times I'm pretty sure... and also the first 3 hours of the ride were FREEZING. The AC. OK. Now this one I am going to contradict.
It was bone and mind numbingly, cold, freezing, tundral, and arctic the whole time!!!
ok. can we say that Candace was a little cold? Yes. But she dashed off the bus at one of the stops to grab a towel, and spent the rest of the trip semi-mummified and much better...

I was in my sweater, my FOB cap, my pants, and I was so cold I was pulling off seat covers to wrap in. Look outside... nope that's not rain, that's condensation.

Also, my new life purpose is to be a bus driver just so that I can wait 'til someone goes into the rear bathroom stall, and then take that bus over a sweet jump and hear them yell all the way....

Monday, June 16, 2008


Pyramids! and stuff

but I am on a weeeeeeeird rented cafe computer in sayulita, so cant talk for long. more later. enjoy the pics.

Monday, June 02, 2008

¿Dónde vives?

Yes, so on the anniversary of our fourth week here, I'm finally releasing some pictures of where we live. :} So... This is the Vilasanta, yeay!

Front Door:

This is the main living room, on the left side you can't see it but there's a big flat screen tv where the football games are dutifully watched.
The big square window at the back is where the dining room is, and the kitchen is through the left door and to the left.
To the right is a little hallway leading to a little room

This is the living room at night.

This is the little room by the little halway. You can see the kitchen through the window and door there.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the kitchen. A big loverly gass stove, a movable island table, all the tupperware and utensils you could want (well, ok, except you do not find lids to fit the tupperware, soooooo... that's fun).

And in the dining room is this...
I look at this every day at breakfast.
I love mexico.

The living room again from the upstairs veranda. Our room is actually the one right in the middle on the right side, you can just bairly see our door.

And this is the veranda. Loverly potted plants

Veranda again. The street below is Rayon.

And last but not least.
Same Dew, New view.

getting a haircut in Guadalajara: zero pesos (haha!)
getting a new feeling on my head when I swish my hair: priceless

Saturday, May 31, 2008

At the end of the day

you might have done more
you might have blabbed less
you wonder where the time went
yet you know exactly what you did
you are glad it happened
then you wander where it will end
you want to push things further
you want to let it all go
you wanna embrace every moment
yet you need to see the big picture
you wanna do it right tomorrow
you wanna start with a fresh new day
you could tell them all your adventures
you could spew what's on your heart right now
you want to iron it all out
yet you know that you are in process
you look in the mirror and know what you are...
at the end of the day you look at Christ, see that its all covered by Him, and worship.
and that is what counts at the end of the day

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
Psalm 63:6-7

-Candace (the pink didn't work today)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

We Live!!!

y'all had probably started to wonder...

Well, the delay in posting can be explained by the start of our TEFL program (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)! It's been quite busy but it's a very solid program, and we've got a solid group of fellow trainees.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pics of the actual building where we've been working so hard, but it's become a second home to us, we're usually there from 9 to 6 Mon-Fri... sometimes seems like a first home, sheesh!

This is what our routine looks like...

8:00ish - Wakey wakey (eggs and bacey. OK not really. Cereal. But it rhymed.)
well, yes it does.
as you can see even though we didn't have any pics of our daily routine,
I felt possessed to still give you a pictorial representation of our day...

8:45 - Walk to school, 8 blocks or so

9:00 - School! Fortunately, as part of our course learning to be teachers we have an ice breaker (ie game) every day. We've all agreed that it's all pretty much down hill after that... ;D

1:00 - Lunch! Again, we've been working hard all morning on grammar and teaching methods and lesson plans and we're happy to launch into a nearby lobby to... discover our lunches. Several of the students are staying with Mexican families who pack their lunches for them. Every day we all eagerly watch eachother unpack the surprises that the "Moms" send them (which to our English speaking tummies can still be... gastronomically unfathomable). Josh and I pack our own lunch but you'd be surprised how even your own lunch can be surprising after it's been in the fridge all morning

3:15-5:15 - We spend the afternoon either preparing to teach or actually teaching our class. Our classes are usually 5 to 15 or so students and we are observed each time by one of our teacher trainer. The students have been great. They can be quiet, they can be rowdy, they can be confused or bored, but all in all they are eager to learn and a joy to teach.

6:15 - We usually go home around this time, make some supper, chill for a couple of hours, then watch some tv or listen to music before we crash. Good times, good sleep.

now that I've tried to convince you of how hard we work I wanna post the pictures that I do have, which are, of course, of everything but work... Oh well, fun is to be had!

This was a very special and occurrence for us, it rained in Guadalajara!!!
Rain is always an enrapturing experience, but rain in a dry and sometimes dirty city is wondrous. This was taken from the upstairs covered veranda, where I rushed to look at the beauty.

Alrighty, this was a pretty cool experience too. We got to go to a football game! (Ok Americans, I know we call it soccer, but seeing that the Spanish version is fútbol anyways we shall call it by the the world-recognized name!)

This is the stadium where our team was playing, for that day we were Chivas fans! There are two teams in Guadalajara and this one was in the playoffs. You will know them by their red and white shirts! Chivas!!!

These were the non-Chivas fans, from the opposing team. Almost the whole stadium was filled with Chivas fans, but there was a very brave and vocal contingent from Monterey. This is them pumping their right fist in the air, as they did regularly for... three hours.

The band of utmost hardcore Chivas fans were on the opposite end of the stadium and they must have been there for hours before we got there. These people tirelessly chanted, shouted, jumped, sang, and waved everything within reach that was red or white, flags, umbrellas, shirts, anything. At a climatic moment in the game we saw an enourmous red and white flag unfurl that must have covered hundreds of people. This is what it looked like to us, on top of the choreographed smoke that also appeared on cue.

I am rather ashamed to say that I apparently got no actual pictures of the teams playing. Whoops. The best I can give you is a shot of the very strange half time festivities...

And this, dear friends, was taken on May 21st no less, our dear brother Ben's birthday. When we got out of school Josh said, "How about we celebrate Ben's birthday by going out to eat." Sounded great to me. So we walked around til we found a nice joint in a hotel and sat ourselves down. So here Ben, this was for you, bro. ;D

And finally, last night we did go and see a movie, in English. But how can you not see the new Indiana Jones movie when it comes out, cornyness or not?!

Speaking of cornyness, before the movie Josh and Foss, a fellow trainee, devoted some of their valuable time and pesos to an arcade game in the lobby. The sport they were playing? Football of course! As the picture indicates, Josh emerged the victor...

Hasta luego mis amigos.
Buenas noches.

Friday, May 09, 2008

¡El Zoológico!

Well, after a couple of days wandering around, Josh and I decided to go on a full blown day outing on Friday - the zoo! Even back in the states we'd heard that this was a very nice zoo, and who's too old for a zoo in the end?

Also for us this was a breakthrough day of learning the bus system! Well ok, that meant asking around, studying the bus system by book and internet, and finally walking 30 minutes to the bus stop we'd hoped would take us to the zoo... but hey we made it!

This was trusty Autobús 62 - our ticket to adventure.
cost: 50 American cents

I was rather charmed by the lady who sat patiently knitting while the bus bounced and flew down the road. She must know were she's going. :)

Front Gate

Josh kindly took this one of me, my hippo shirt, and my hippo friend. (he was kind of the still, stony, quiet type but that's ok)

Blue monkeys on pedestals. Don't go all rushing to your local home decoration store all at once...

This is another one I took, I thought these monkeys were so cute - they were like little old men with beards!

The polar bear! It eventually gave up pawing at its little food cave to come cool off.

I got this one of him swimming right by, we and the people around us were exited!

Look! Mexico!

Hehe, Josh was the better photographer than I that day, and here's the proof.

the gorilla portrait.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

We are in Mexico! Things are cool! The flight down went quite smoothly. Guadalajara is hot and dry. We easily found our cab driver and he loaded our things and we were off. Candace was talking up a storm with him. But now I am getting ahead of myself because we have pictures. There is pictorial continuity here, people! Alright.

Oh, by the way, Candace wishes me to say that regardless of whose name appears at the bottom of the post, this is Josh. We will both post here. I will suggest to her that we differentiate our posts by putting her text in bright bright fuchsia. hardy har har...

(hey, stranger things have happened. Oh and we changed the title of our blog to match the title of our trip. Being the quirky bunch we are, we've always given our major trips a name like The Best of the West, or the Cool Beans trip. For this trip Josh and I had several names suggested to us, but while we were driving around Houston, cranking the radio, we heard that musical... uniqueness which is the Beatles, and in a moment we knew the name of our trip - Good Day Sunshine. :D )

This is Candace packing. My experience was much the same.

This is Candace's dashing tie-dye headband. given by my mommie :*

IAH Airport.
Talking to mum.

Soaring high above the clouds.

Landing in Guadalajara.
I took this picture because I was so struck by the terrain change once we crossed into Mexico. As we swooped over the mountains surrounding the city, most of the trees (bushes?) seemed to be barren, saving sap I suspect for the rains that will seemingly come next month and make everything green. But for now, this was the land that greeted us.

OK, textual and pictorial continuity have been realigned. This is the cab driver. He was nice about explaining things as we drove, using slow Spanish.

The Guadalajara cathedral. We met some other students from ITTO after checking in and went with them to this plaza to eat. The cathedral holds masses a few times every day.

And it looks even more amazing at night! This is five minute walk from our hostel. :D

So that's all the pictures we have for now. The hostel staff are nice and we have wireless, which is probably the biggest (nicest!) surprise to me.

And I concur with my esteemed colleague. I just have to say that we both agree that we were very blessed by the whole trip over and the accommodation situation here (photo tour forthcoming...)! We have a great room with plenty of storage , a big kitchen to cook in, free washer and drier, and just a great feeling about the staff, safety, and all!

Many thanks to everyone who was praying for us as we traveled - those prayers were answered!!!

So today we already stopped by the ITTO school, and they were very nice, walked around a bit, then came back for our siesta time. :) We'll probably do some more shopping later on and enjoy our free days before the program starts.

Hasta luego!
(until later... for you non Spanish people! :D)