Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Utensils - Mexican Style

A few years ago I went to a BBQ cookout at a friend's house in Texas. She, along with most of her family, was born in Mexico and is now living in the states.  Mexicans sure know how to season the carne (meat) and asar (grill) it to perfection.  Along with the frijoles (beans) and arroz (rice) there was salsa (salsa) and pico de gallo (chopped up tomatos, onions, jalapenos, cilantro with lemon juice).  Everything in parentheses are translations for my gringo and guero (Yankee and white) friends.

So I loaded up my plate and sat down to eat except I couldn't find a fork or knife.  I asked my friend about utensils and she informed the me, the nitwit northern foreigner, that's what tortillas are for.  Huh?  Observe this, she says to me as she folds a tortilla in half and then rips into two pieces at first and then rips the half piece into two more pieces.  Then with the same skill level as Asians eating pieces of rice with chopsticks, she used one piece of tortilla to scoop bits of meat, frijole, rice and salsa into another piece of tortilla to eat sans utensils. This ritual goes on until the plate is wiped clean. It looked easy enough so I gave it try.  The tortilla tearing went OK but the scooping part didn't go so well.  I ended up with a smear of beans and the meat fell out before it hit my mouth. Fast forwarding to present day I am proud to say that I can now use tortillas like utensils. Maybe not as good as my friend, but most of it gets in my mouth instead of my lap.

Now, if I can just get the hang of chopsticks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pochos


The term pocho, as defined by the greatest source, Wikipedia, since the encyclopedias in your home that were sold by the door-to-door salesman:
  • A person of Mexican heritage who is assimilated and acts "American" (a "wannabe" American).
  • A Mexican-American who can speak little or no Spanish.
  • An American who speaks Spanish and acts "Mexican" (a "wannabe" Mexican).
  • A person who frequently crosses the U.S.-Mexican border and feels at home on both sides of the border.

Today I was in Normal Land, also known as Texas, although some would say "thar ain't nuttin' normal 'bout Tuh-ex-us".  Kind of hard to disagree with that one. Actually, Iowa is Normal Land to me.  I'm not saying Iowa is the greatest place to be right now because the temperature is hovering around 0.  That would be ZERO as in bone-freezing cold.  But from now on, Iowa will be known as Normal Land and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas will be known as Pocho Land.  The following is an actually conversation I heard this afternoon at Denny's between the waitress and the customer.

"Quieres los French fries?" asked the waitress.
"Si," replied the customer.
"Quieres los seasoned French fries?" questioned the waitress.
"Si," replied the customer again.

I've heard other conversations like this in the past.  My dear friend Norma who I worked with at a school in Mission was talking to another teacher one day and the dialogue went something like this:

"Vamos a Walmart so we can comprar los zapatos,"  (Let's go to Walmart so we can buy shoes.)
No puedo. After school voy a llevar mija to soccer practice.  (I can't. After school, I gotta take my daughter to soccer practice.)
.
And that is how 3/4 of the Valley speaks.  Some would say they are bastardizing the Spanish language. Others would say they should learn to speak English correctly.  I, personally, think Pocho Land is a unique blend between Mexican and American culture and as long as both parties understand each other, that is the most important thing.  After all, the word Spanglish is listed in the Oxford English and the Merriam-Webster dictionaries so it must be a recognized form of language? 

Excuse me. Tengo sueño. I am going to sleep porque estoy cansada.  Good noche!






Friday, November 26, 2010

More Troops Have Arrived

Written by E. Eduardo Castillo , AP, " Mexico will send more troops and federal police to try to control drug violence that has spiraled into warfare in parts of the northeast along the U.S. border, the government said Wednesday. The goal of "Coordinated Operation Northeast" is to reinforce government authority in the two states most heavily affected by a surge in violence following a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs, federal police spokesman Alejandro Poire said."


Uh, yeah.  They are here and all over the place. I am still working in Reynosa although I am no longer in my own apartment.  I left school today with another teacher and the road leading from the school was blocked on both sides of Hidalgo Blvd by men in camouflage. They weren't driving military type cars. They were in black SUV's. I almost said soldiers but, let me tell you, not all dudes dressed like soldiers are really military personnel.  We went to my teacher friend's home and he informed me that if the "transitos" aka traffic cops were not doing a checkpoint in his neighborhood, then the guys blocking the road were really soldiers.  He was right... no checkpoint.  Apparently these transito checkpointers are really the CDG (Cartel Del Golfo) guarding the drug lords' homes in the neighborhood. And when there is "activity" in the neighborhood, the CDG transito checkpoint guards hightail it to who-knows-where. 


Like the proverbial bad penny, they will turn up again.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I've Had Enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I need to put a few more exclamation points on my title.

Let's recap the past year's events.

1. Moved to Reynosa in August 2009 with a few pieces of furniture brought over in a few trips by my van.

2. Heard first balacera (gun battle) in November 2009.  It was far enough away that it wasn't an immediate danger, but it was my first one so it freaked me out.

3. The war between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel heated up in February 2010.  For those who don't know the history of these groups, the Cartel is the one of the many gangs in Mexico that is responsible for getting drugs to the United States also known as the Land Where People Pay Big BUCKS to Get Their Fix. The Cartel used to be partnered with the gang called the Zetas. The Zetas are trained in military operations and are the enforcers.  Then these two gangs that were in cahoots decided to declare war on each other. Add the Mexican Army to the mix and you've got a 3-way shootout. Some days I didn't have more than 3-4 students  come to class because there was a threat that there would be violence at schools.  Why the schools?  Because where do the gangsters send their children to school?   Private schools, of course! Other times the school would be disrupted because a gun battle would occur and parents panicked running to the schools to get their children. Of course, the teachers had to stay.  We are expendable, apparently.

3. A fellow teacher (Mexican nationalilty) was kidnapped on the way home from his 2nd job teaching English at a business.  He was forced to drive his car. At some point he decided if he was going to die, he was going to die trying to escape so he ran. He escaped but lost his car, cell phone and computer. His car and belongings are never seen again. He escaped with his life.

4. On a beautiful day in March 2010, I was eating dinner and watching TV when I hear "POW, POW" and automatic gunfire and grenades. I get on the computer to check Twitter, our only news source.  This gun battle is about 6 blocks away near S-Mart.  It is dangerous to be a journalist in Mexico and telling the truth is hazardous to the health.  In this same month, 4 journalists are kidnapped in Reynosa.  One was killed.

5. In the beginning of April 2010 , my sons came to visit me. We were getting ready to head to Mexico City when another gun battle erupted very near my home.  My grown boys' eyes become as big a saucers.  "Mom," said the youngest son, "you weren't joking about the shootings???"  Pshaw.... like I'd make this stuff up for my sons' amusement.

6. In September 2010, although gun battles rage around the city over the next few months, I don't hear much. We moved to another home in the Mil Cumbres area, I was informed by Sergio that he had a gun pointed to his head and was told by the commandante to get out of the house.  I had trouble believing it until I talk to the landlord. Apparently several other neighbors had received the same threat. I still don't get what the desired result was supposed to be????

7.. In late September, at 2:38 A.M. a gun battles raged behind our house. I could hear the bullets whizzing and grenades exploding. We cower between the bed and inside wall until we feel safe.

8. So we moved to a house that is out in the country, on a dirt-rutted road, full of bugs and broken windows. There were no working sinks. I had to turn on the shower to brush my teeth. I HATED this place. And then there was another gun battle just down the road. Yeah, this place was soooooooooo much safer.

9. Sergio and Angeles go back to Mexico City.  I refused to stay in the horrible house. Last Saturday I am moving my furniture when a roadblock was created right before my eyes. Roadblocks are created by the bad guys by moving semi-trucks that they commandeered and place them sideways across the highways. Gun battles generally follow.

I've had ENOUGH!!!!

I've moved all stuff to Edinburg and I am doing a daily 3 hour commute to my job.  I love the school where I am teaching. The staff has been great. I really love my students. They are the best. What am I to do?

One of my fellow teachers has offered me a room in his house.  I can stay there Monday - Thursday night and head to Texas every weekend.  I'll give it a try for a while. I would like to finish the school year, if possible. If not, I have to let it all go.

I hate Reynos-HELL

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Memories of Lynn - UPDATE with photos

Lynn's 3 best friends, Teresa, Amy and Deanna


There will be a memorial service this Saturday, October 30, 2010, for my sister Lynn.  The tombstone with her photo was finally completed and placed on her grave.  Photos will be coming. I wish I could go but I've been home to Iowa several times this year and it is expensive every time I go.  So, instead, I've written something that I hope one of my family members will read.   

Memories of Lynn

It's been 8 months and 6 days since the day we received news that you were no longer with us.

I take that back. You are with us every day in our hearts and our thoughts. Sometimes I pick up the phone and think, "I need to call Lynn." And then I remember. The phone call call would be super-long distance to the heavens. So if I can't call you, then I must go on memories to keep you with us.

Memory #1 - You were always an agile child. I remember one time when you fell asleep in the crib with your legs in the splits and your forehead planted on the mattress. Do you think you can still do that?

Memory #2 - I must apologize for making you yell bad words at Ronnie Rooks, the neighbor boy, when you were about 2 years old. But the look on your face was precious when Ronnie came running in the house and chased you down. Ronnie only meant to tease you. He was such a tease.  But that was rotten of me. I'm sorry.

Memory #3 - Remember the time when you were about 8 years old and got caught stealing from the Hy Vee store? Luckily the manager knew the family and he told you to go home and have your parents call. Deana and I spent the day telling you how you were going to "get it" when Mom and Dad got home. You spent the whole day in nail-biting suspense of what was going to happen to you. I think that was punishment enough because I don't think you ever stole anything again in your life.

Memory #4 - Speaking of rotten older sisters, I have to make another apology. I'm sorry that Deana and I trained our dog Candy to attack you. You couldn't venture down the steps without the Maltese attack-dog ready to tear your socks apart. I don't think you owned a pair of socks without holes until sometime after your 18th birthday when the dog was finally too old and frail to attack.

Memory #5 - Pink. Your pink room,  Your pink clothes. Your pink prom dress. I'm wearing your pink Iowa shirt as I write this. But you are much prettier in pink than me.

Memory #6 - The Rick Springfield poster on your closet door. And the New Kids on the Block doll.  It was Joey, wasn't it? I teased your mercilessly about that. But you didn't care. You had learned how to handle the teasing after the Hy Vee incident and dog attacking years.

Memory #7 - The Square D years. For 10 years we worked together and I saw you every day. I'll never forget the day you pulled me into the broom closet and showed me a piece of paper that said you were pregnant. I told you, "You're going to be a mommy!" I was so happy for you because I knew what a great mom you would be. And I was right.

Memory #8 - Your awesome decorating skills. Your eye for color and putting things together in a room. I wonder where Andrew got that skill from?

Memory #9 - All I need to say is "Pee Wee Herman..... Ha, ha."

Memory #10 - Your wicked sense of humor. I've got to be careful with this one because I can't divulge too much, but I know about that "something bad" you confessed to doing last February. Don't worry. I won't tell and neither will the others.

Ten memories don't make a dent in the 40 years of memories I have of you. But I will keep writing about them so I can keep you with us forever. It was a sad day last February 24, but what would be even sadder is to forget you. I promise that will never happen. I love you, Lynnie, the Pooh.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Well, I could talk about the new house that we were forced to move to.  I could talk about how it is infested with bugs, and I have no kitchen. Or a railing on the stairs or upper landing. It's on a dirt road with ruts big enough to swallow cars whole. The dust is everywhere. And for the first week I had to turn on the shower to brush my teeth because there was no working sink in the house.  But no one has threatened us and hopefully it is safer.

But I don't want to talk about that.  Too depressing.  So let's talk about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and how it relates to dogs in Mexico.  If you believe in this theory instead of God as the Almighty creator of heaven and earth, then you believe in survival of the fittest. And it is only the fittest that survive in the dog and cat world of Mexico.  You see, I was feeding Gordy, the skinny dog, until Moose, the fat dog, shoved Gordy out of the way and took over the food bowl.  Gordy took his bony butt and wandered off.  I tried to coax Gordy inside the gate so I could shut it and then he could eat in peace. But, nooooo, not even starvation could tempt Gordy to accept my charity.  And then Moose figured out how to crawl under the gate and wait for her daily ration. I thought about taking Moose with me to the new house, but she shows too much food aggression to be around my Daisy Dog. And she is not starving. 

Darwin, if you are correct, Mexico must be breeding a whole new race of super dogs. Your namby, pamby cousins north of the border wouldn't survive a day on the streets with their dog bowls with names, knitted sweaters, penchant for belly rubs and squeeky toys.   And I won't be feeding any more street dogs.... unless they come in the house and kill a few bugs for me. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Rude Awakening

Last night I was sleeping peacefully when I got a rude awakening at 2:38 A.M.  Gunshots.  Grenades. Automatic  weapons.  I waited a few seconds just to make sure I was hearing what I was hearing before I nudged Sergio.  Yup, it was battle somewhere behind our house, but it was really, really close.  Sergio woke up Angeles and we huddled together between the bed and inside wall for about 20 minutes.

My family and my stateside friends have told me it is time to get out of Mexico and, definitely, get out of Reynosa.  If it weren't for Sergio and Angeles, I would have been gone by last summer.  What am I suppose to do?  Abandon them?  Thanks to the strict immigration laws of the USA, they do not have visas yet.  We are working on getting the visas and we want to do everything legally.

I was reading an article yesterday afternoon about a reporter who is tired of interviewing victims. http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2010/10/tired-of-interviewing-victims.html
It sounds a little cold and callous at first, but he is on the mark. If you read my last blog, it was full of anger over being threatened.  Although I am not thrilled about moving, I hope the new home is in a safer area where we won't be threatened, bullied or dodging bullets.    

Friday, October 8, 2010

WTF???? We've Been Threatened

I had a blog idea all lined up about food (again) in Mexico.  It will have to wait because I am going to put the word out there in case I go missing, end up dead, or, to the least, get beaten to a pulp.

WE'VE BEEN THREATENED!


I am a little pissed about it. I should be scared, but, NOOOOOOO, I am pissed off.  Here's the story...

On Wednesday, Sergio was home around 10 A.M. when someone came to the door claiming he was speaking for the comandante who, I think, is suppose to be the local head bad dude.  Sergio told him we were renters, not the owners.  The man said that our landlord is not the owner and we had until next week to get out or we would have a big problem.

WTF???  It's a good thing Sergio is much more diplomatic than I am.  If it had been me, I know would have told this asshole to go fuck himself and given him directions on how to do it.  And then I would be writing this from my grave right now, because I would be dead.  A little morbid humor always helps lighten the situation, right?

When Sergio first told me the story, I thought, "Yeah, right."   I mean, seriously, who goes around threatening people out of the homes?  What is there to gain? Did the asshole want to extort money to let us stay?  I wasn't there to hear the conversation, but I don't think the asshole asked for money. So what's the angle?  Does the asshole think he can move his narco buddies into the house?   So I talked to the landlord last night and, yes, I believe he is the owner.  His parents live next door.  He has the legal papers.  He built the house.  Maybe he owes the wrong people money?  He told me that 3 other neighbors have received the same threats.  When I told my story, I left out some details and when he told me the story about the neighbors, he filled in the same details that I knew but didn't tell him.

Now what do I think? Is this a real threat, or does the landlord want us out?  I believe the landlord is telling the truth, but, then again, who knows?  Or does the landlord owe the wrong people money?  Or are the bad guys so desperate they are running around trying to threaten people out of their homes?

I just spent a shitload of money setting up this house and now I am suppose to move? All I gotta say is WTF??  And WTF am I suppose to do?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gordy, the skinny street dog

Gordy is too skinny. He got the name because of the Mexican penchant for giving nicknames that are opposite of a physical trait. Gordo is fat in Spanish so I named this street dog Gordy, an American name, because this dog also happens to be a guero or blonde.

Gordy's has a few scars, no doubt from a few street battles.  But he doesn't even seem aggressive because as starving as he is, he allowed another dog to share his food yesterday.  He won't let me near.  He is wary.  But he's always at my gate waiting for me to come home.  

Did anybody love him when he was a puppy, but now they've forgotten to feed him?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is this a sidewalk or a stairmaster workout?

I had to start walking again even though this is a scary proposition in Reynosa. My CVI (chronic venous inflammation) is acting up again in my left leg so I need to get out and get my circulation going. The best way is to walk.

And getting around Reynosa is exercise.  Just like the stairmaster at the gym.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Scary, Scary Mexican Clowns

Mexico must really love clowns.  Every comedy program on television has a clown. Maybe if I understood the language better, I would think they are funny.  Instead I think they are lame.

Or scary.  I swear every street corner in Reynosa has a clown.  I think most of them woke up that morning and decided, "Hey, I know how I can make a few pesos. I'll dress myself up in a clownish way and beg for money."

One, in particular, scares me the most. He usually hangs out on the center in some mismatched dirty clothing, and a little white paint on the face with a red nose. The store where he hangs out is always playing some loud, thumping music so he kind of dances along with the noise.  Actually to say "dancing" is too far fetched. He kind of squirms along with the noise.
Sparkles

I don't hate all clowns.  Any child of the 1960's should remember Bozo the Clown.  In my hometown I know of 2 local clowns.  Sparkles the Clown makes awesome balloon figurines but he doesn't make a sound. That's because Sparkles is deaf. Literally. But the clown I really loved was Mombo.  He was on the Dr. Max Show, a local children's program from the 1960's and 1970's on Channel 2 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The show was awesome since it included Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny and all Looney Tunes, David and Goliath, and Gumby,   We were out of school at 3:30 and parked in front of the television from 4 to 5. Any child of that era will recognize Mombo.  I even had an autographed photo of Mombo that I received when my Bluebird group appeared on the show.  Mombo was a foil for Dr. Max and always in trouble.  But what I really loved was Mombo's magic tricks.  Mombo's real name was Fred Petrick, a graduate of my alma mater, Coe College, and by all accounts a wonderful person. He died in 2001 at the age of 94. RIP Mombo.
Mombo

Anyway, the point is while I was growing up my clown contact was minimal.  Sparkles, Mombo, Bozo and the occasional circus clowns.  Here in Mexico one could have hours of clowning around daily whether it is on television, birthday parties, or just down the road at the next corner.

That's just too scary.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thievery

I'm fuming so it's a good time to post another blog, right?  I had friends over on Friday night. I won't say who because all of them except one are innocent.  I've had my share of rat bastard thieves like Eddie but this one really ticks me off because I thought these were my trusted friends.

I am missing a container with Bella Pierre makeup.  Seriously, folks, who steals makeup?  Apparently one of my friends didn't think I would miss it.  This makeup belonged to my sister who is now deceased so it was special to me.  No, I didn't misplace it. It's always in my makeup basket in the bathroom and goes right back after I use it.

It's a choice of one of the 5 women (or three men) who were in my house. Now I am suspicious of everyone that was here and that's not fair.  Seven of them don't deserve to be clouded with suspicion, but that's what is going to happen whenever I see one of them.

Whoever stole it, I hope you go to hell along with Eddie (aka Edward Cadena, Edward Mendez Cadena, Edward Rhodes... I just wanted to make sure I get his name out there again so everyone knows he is a thief and no one should employ or trust this jerk.)

P.S.  After rereading, I realized I need to add this post script.  Many people know I have several gringa friends here in Reynosa who also write blogs.  They were NOT at my house on Friday.  I want to be clear about that!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gunshots or Fireworks?

Last night I went to a nice local bar inside a casino with a couple friends.  We enjoyed a couple beers, the singer with the full band wrapped inside his synthesizer and later the mariachis.  They were handing out free shots of tequila, free food, and I also received a nice hair clip in the flag colors.

When we were leaving and walking to the car, we all heard something like a gun shot. BOOM!  And then another BOOM! Followed by another BOOM! My friends said, "Oh, God, they are shooting again."   But the BOOMS were too rhythmic.  Look up in the sky... It wasn't a bird. It wasn't an airplane.  It wasn't Underdog.  It was FIREWORKS.

It was nice to see celebrations instead of fighting. Viva Mexico!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nicknames

Mexicans love nicknames.  Most of them don't resemble the given name.  For instance, Paco or Pancho is a nickname for Francisco.  But I never did understand how we English speakers get Bob from Robert. Here's a few others I've learned.

Lalo = Eduardo
Pepe = Jose
Nacho = Ignacio
Chuy = Jesus

Many nicknames are given for a person's characteristics. Some of them aren't flattering to us English speakers. How would you like someone calling you "Gordo" AKA "Fatty"?  In Mexico, the recipient of this name is not insulted.  A friend's 5-year-old son is called Gordo. The boy's real name is Carlos, but the poor child is on the chunky side. The politically correct side of my brain is telling me they are traumatizing this boy to a lifetime of teasing because he is too heavy. One of my friend's husband is called "Chino" which is "Chinese", but he is called Chino because of his curly hair.  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  When is the last time you've seen a Chinese person with curly hair?  I've been called gringa (obviously), guera (white girl), gabacha (English speaking white woman) and, my personal favorite, bollila (white bread). 

The only person I know that has no nickname is Sergio.  I'm sure we could come up with one for him.  Any ideas?  


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New House Photos


The house is still a wreck but getting better day by day.  Yes, I had kitchen cabinets when I moved.  I still had to bring over a free standing cabinet because I've got too many gadgets.... not that I use them much. I am not a big time cook.  It's like a rule... when women hit 50, they retire from cooking. My mom always cooked but gave it up for her 50th birthday. I must have hit 50 about 20 years ago.


Anybody have any ideas on what to do with the yard??  It's nothing but dirt.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Moving to a New House in Mexico

I moved into a 3 bedroom house very close to the school where I teach.  What an experience, I must say.  It is a newly built wood-framed house with some recycled materials like the kitchen cabinets and the doors.  Yes, I said wood-framed house, just like the United States. The part I really like is the windows are brand new with double panes.  And they tilt in for cleaning, if I had the desire to clean them.  I might... someday.

Here's a laundry list of things you do not get when moving into a new home in Mexico:

1. Stove
2. Refrigerator
3. Boiler
4. Closets
5. Curtains or blinds
6. Air conditioning

For item #1 just across the border in Texas is what I call "used appliance row". I bought a gas stove for $150 and Sergio installed a 45 kilo LP gas tank that he found for 700 pesos.  The stove is awesome. It is full size unlike my other apartment's little stove.  And the oven uses Fahrenheit degrees!!!!  My old stove was labeled 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 for the oven temperature which I never did get the hang of and it didn't work very well.  Pizzas tasted like soggy cardboard so I did the Mexican thing and used the oven as storage.  I baked cookies in my new stove just to test it and they were AWESOME.  I can't wait to try a pizza.  While I was at the "used appliance row", I bought a washing machine for $80.  I hung clothes line around the palapa in the backyard. Oh, yes, I have a palapa in the backyard. How cool is that?

For item #2 Sergio's partner got a refrigerator from a school.  It is an Amana side by side and it is huge.  It needed a new compressor.  So for $120 I have this super cool refrigerator (pun intended).  At the old apartment I had an early 1970's vintage refrigerator that had been spray painted but all the rust was seeping through and when I moved in, I could tell it served as a roach motel. And the milk would last about 2 days before starting to become cottage cheese.

Item #3, the boiler.  I hate cold showers.  Everyone who knows me knows I hate cold showers.  All my blog readers know I hate cold showers.  I've bitched and moaned about cold showers because I had the world's suckiest boiler at the old apartment until the school finally decided I had bitched and moaned enough and installed a new boiler. Guess what? I am taking cold showers.  And I am not liking it one little bit. I won't last until December.  I won't last until October.  I may not last until next week even though it is 100 degrees everyday and the water coming in isn't exactly cold because of the heat.  Did I say I hate cold showers?

Item #4, the closets.  I can not believe that an American-style house was built without closets.  What's up with that?  So I went to Home Depot and bought the brackets, poles and boards for a shelf on top of the brackets.  It works.

Item #5, the lacking of window coverings is common in all new construction.  No surprise there.  I went to Walmart last weekend and bought 8 mini-blinds for (gasps in surprise) $3.96 each.  They look great!

Item #6, the air conditioning.  Even worse than having no boiler is no air conditioning in this incinerating, hellish, super-duper hot, tropical heat. Sergio installed a mini-split that takes the edge off of the blazing temperature, but it's not big enough.  It's being sent to the bedroom and so a better one can be installed for living and kitchen.  Soon.  Very soon.  Did I say very, very soon?

Also on the list is getting cable and internet.  Luckily, I have a neighbor who neglected to secure his wireless connection so if I sit in right direction and the sun and moon are aligned correctly, I can leech off the neighbor's internet. Which is what I am doing right now to publish this.

Moving is a good thing.  It forces you to clean out your closets and get rid of things you haven't used in years. Just ask my folks.  After a lifetime in Iowa, they are in the process of moving to Texas.  Mom, it's time to get rid of the Home Interior decorations from the 1970's.  Dad, the leisure suit in your closet should go.  But then again, maybe not.  After all, your closet/museum has been a source of amusement for me and my sisters for years.  We're talking about a man who still wore his Navy issued swimming trunks 50 years after discharge.  Woo hoo, way to go Dad!

Dad and his Navy issued swimming trunks, cerca 1951

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rio Grande Valley rudeness!

I HATE crossing the bridge between Mexico and Texas.  Anzalduas, Hidalgo, Pharr, Progreso, etc.  The lines are miserably long.  The worst in the whole process are the lane cutters.   At the Hidalgo bridge, the right lane is the preferred lane because it splits into 4-lanes at the end while the others don't split.  Consequently, the right lane is longer.  So the lane cutters pay their toll, drive half-way across the bridge and then at a moment's notice they cut in front of you if you hesitate for even a second.  This is made worse by all the vendors on the bridge. I'm so afraid I'm going to hurt one of them, I hesitate a lot. Therefore, the lane cutters jump at their chance risking life, limbs, or, to the very least, scratches and dents in their car and mine!  Yes, I've been hit by one of these jerks.  Makes me so angry I feel like playing bumper cars and whack their ass back to their own lane.  Nah, I ain't gonna do it.  I'd probably take out a bridge vendor in the process.  I don't want to hurt the poor bridge vendors (no matter how irritating they are) who are just trying to put food on their table.  But I'll make an exception for the one that swore at me a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Iowa - The Land of Tall Trees and Tall People

I'm an Iowan - Idiot Out Wandering Around Nowhere.

That joke was told to me by a good friend who happens to be from Minnesota.  You know why Iowa is so windy?  That's because Minnesota sucks!   JAJAJAJAJA (LOL en espanol)

I arrived in Iowa today.  I drove my parent's Ford Explorer while my dad drove the big moving truck. They are in the process of moving to Edinburg, Texas.  The first night we stayed in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the Bedbug Motel 6. It was nasty and I would give it a 0 star rating because the sheets and blankets were stained. We spent the night at my cousin Sherri's house in Knob Noster, Missouri last night. That was fun. It was a Culberson gathering with cousins Candi, Kelli, Jordin, Shane, Anna, Ham and kids. Oh, yeah, I meant to say Jordin, my first cousin, once removed. (hahaha, inside joke - she'll get me for it the next time we get together).  We told stories or made confessions about rotten things we have done in the past.  We told stories about my sister Lynn, who died tragically in a car accident this past winter.  I confessed how my sister Deana and I many years ago trained our Maltese dog  to attack Lynn.  It sounds worse than it really was even though Lynn would jokingly claim she needed years of therapy because we had traumatized her for life. OK, I admit to feeling guilty, just a little. But, dang, it was funny when that 8 pound dog would chase Lynn up the steps and then stand guard so she couldn't come down the steps.

So here I am in Cedar Rapids. My parents have a huge maple tree in the front yard. At one time they had a willow tree that seemed to be as tall as the clouds. All trees in Reynosa are dwarfs. Tonight I was walking around Hy Vee, the local grocery store, and marveling at how tall everyone is. I am only slightly above average in the height department here in Iowa which means I am a half-foot taller than everyone in Mexico.  It must be all the corn and pork products that we consume in Iowa that makes us grow so tall. Or it's the lack of fear of a gun battle in our neighborhood.

I will be returning with tomatoes and sweet corn.  And nobody will dare to put mayo, cheese OR chili on my good ol' Iowa sweet corn.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Miss Daisy Dog's Eating Ritual


Picture this... you make yourself a meal, set the table, pour the drinks, dish out the dinner portions on your plates, and then using your mouth, scoop up a few bits and place them on the carpet to eat. OK, so my dog doesn't pour drinks or set the table, but she does have quite an eating routine.  It might start with the cat venturing too close to the food bowl.  The cat does not touch the dog's food, but this will prompt a feeding frenzy. "Grrr, grrrr", she says as Mr. Sam Katze gets too close the meal. Then Miss Daisy Dog scoops up 4-5 pieces of dog food, removes them to the carpet, and spits out the bits to eat one at a time.  I don't get it. The cat doesn't have a problem with eating over his bowl. 



But at least this habit isn't disgusting like a few others Miss Daisy Dog has committed in the past.  She's been called a few things like "tampon breath" and "cat shit breath" just to name a couple.  Eeeeeewwwwww!  I hope ya'll weren't eating or about to eat. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Mexican Open to the Public Pool

Ahhhhh, how do you spell relief from the relentless summer heat in Mexico especially since all the roads to the beach are closed due to flooding?   Well,  I'll tell ya.  Pay $40 pesos (about $3.50 USD) and go to a public pool where the RULES are so different compared to public pools in the USA.  I've been to a few public pools around the USA and the rules are fairly consistent.  Let's review the rules for public pools in the USA and then Mexico.

Public Pools in the USA:
1.  Must wear proper attire (no jeans, belts, shoes, and men must have a liner inside the shorts so body parts don't fall out)
2. No flotation devices (makes it hard for lifeguards to see drowned dead bodies at the bottom of a pool)
3. Unsafe behavior will ensure lifeguards activate their sound alarms (whistle blowing for back flips into pool, playing chicken, pushing others into the pool, etc.)
4. Bringing alcohol is strictly prohibited, let alone the pool selling alcohol.  Most who patronize a public pool in the USA are under 21 or mothers with their young children.  Can you imagine a group of mothers with margaritas in their hands watching their toddlers?

Public Pools in Mexico (or at least the one that I went to in Reynosa)
1.  Wearing bathing suits is optional. In fact, many do not use this option.  Many were wearing jeans, belts, t-shirts, or every day clothes.  Some of the women were wearing camisoles that when wet you don't need any imagination to see what is underneath.  One woman was wearing a bra, underwear and fishnet stockings.  Yes, I said fishnet stockings.  I wish I had taken a photo cuz I don't think anyone will believe me. I went to the pool with my friend Amanda and she's the one who spotted the woman in her swimming attire so I am the witness to the truth! 
2. They sell flotation devices.... cheap. And blow them up for you. 
3. Lifeguards? What lifeguards?  Swim at your own risk. I saw teenager playing chicken, people pushed into the pool fully clothed and below is a photo of a young man flipping backwards into the crowded pool.  Everyone better get out of his way.
4. Not only can you bring your own food, snacks or meat to grill, you can bring your own beverages.  And if you didn't, there is a full bar for your drinking pleasure.  I had 2 beers.  Next time, I'll have a margarita. 

Basically I am saying the public pools in Mexico are not as safe as pools in the USA, but a lot more fun. However, the pool was so crowded (it was a Sunday) and I rarely saw anyone go into the restrooms so I assume the pool was being used consistently as a giant toilet.  My legs were the only body part I allowed into the water. It still was refreshing, along with the beer.

Left: This young man was pushed into the pool, shoes and all.
Right: Back flip into the pool.
Below:  The entire crowded pool

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lasagna..... with jalapeños

Sergio and his daughter Angeles are here with me. That's another story and another long post for sometime in the future.  Sergio requested lasagna for dinner so I made it.  Mmmm, good.  Layers of pasta, hamburger, tomato sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Cheesy good!  Angeles made a good effort and managed to choke down some of it.  You might say it isn't exactly her favorite dish.

Making lasagna does require a little effort and dirtying a few pots and pans.  And I made garlic bread too.  It's not like I can run down to the local HEB and pick up a loaf of garlic bread. So if garlic bread is wanted with lasagna, it has to be created. I set the table, make a pitcher of mango juice and served everyone.  Ahhhh, the blessed part where I get to sit.   Then I hear, "Where's the jalapeños?"

What!???

Who eats lasagna with jalapeños?  That's just wrong.   And so is corn on the cob with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili, otherwise known as elotes.

My mom and dad arrived from Iowa last week to their home in Edinburg (about 25 miles away).  They brought some most EXCELLENT sweet corn and tomatoes from Iowa.  The first night Sergio and Angeles arrived, I made hamburgers with tomatoes and sweet corn.  I made sure they knew that this sweet corn was NOT to be eaten Mexican style, but only with butter and salt.  I totally understand why Mexicans eat THEIR corn with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili, because, as far as I'm concerned, Mexican corn (elotes) is gross and should only be eaten by pigs. The only way it can be eaten is with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili to cover up its nasty taste.  I may sound like a corn snob, but I am entitled.  The USA produces more corn than any other country in the world and Iowa is the state that has produced the most for the past 14 years.  (fact checking on http://www.iowacorn.org/default.aspx - the official website of Iowa corn). Heck, we even have a corn cam where you can watch the corn grow -  http://www.iowafarmertoday.com/corn_cam/   Yeah, we're never bored in Iowa.  There is always something to do.... like watch the corn grow.

So to recap the lessons learned in this blog.
1. Lasagna is not to be eaten with jalapeños.
2. Sweet corn from Iowa is boiled and then slathered with butter and salt... NOT mayonnaise, cheese & chili.
3. Iowa produces more corn than any other place in the world and is so proud of this fact that they even have a corn cam.
4. Rita is a corn snob.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bed Potato and Random Thoughts

I did a spectacular backwards swan dive from a chair today.  If I were an Olympic judge, I'd give myself a 10. In some of the classrooms, the teacher's desk is up on a platform something like 8-10 inches.  I'm a little fuzzy about the details because I kind of blacked out for a second but I'm guessing one of the back legs of the chair was off the platform and, well, you can do the calculations about what happened when I took a seat.  I don't exactly remember hitting the floor but I do remember feeling like I had been tasered.  I felt paralyzed like the time I was 5 and stuck tweezers in an electrical socket and was completely unable to move for what seemed like an eternity.  Smooth move, Rita.  Even more embarrassing than crash landing in a classroom is being pulled out on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance in front of the all the parents coming to pick up report cards.  At least the students were not in class to witness my extreme klutziness. I was in too much pain or I would have done the "queen's wave" as I was rolling by the crowd.  The x-rays were fine and the end result... a pulled muscle. It hurts to breath, move and, especially, laugh. Don't make me laugh.

So here I sit in my bed, popping pills with pillows propped up behind the back and laptop on lap.  Not exactly doped up but relaxed enough to feel comfortable.  And write about silly things.  Like Bimbo shirts.  I've been around Mexico long enough that I don't snicker anymore when I see the men (or women) wearing shirts emblazoned with a huge BIMBO.  I believe it is a brand of the makers of bread and sweets something like Hostess Ho-Ho's.  It would be like a US citizen wearing a Wonderbread shirt.  But I was reminded of the English meaning of bimbo when my family came to visit in April and they snickered when they saw someone wear such a shirt. This is a public service announcement to anyone who owns a Bimbo shirt. Don't wear said shirt in Smalltown, USA because everyone would point, stare and then run you out of town after tarring and feathering.  However, I don't think I would wear a Ho-Ho or a Ding Dong shirt either.

I've blogged about potholes large enough to swallow cars in Reynosa before, but now that Hurricane Alex has passed I've been watching the roads disintegrate before my eyes.  Nobody drives in a straight line because we all play "Dodge the Pothole". Everyone who drives around Reynosa must be careful of driving through standing water because who knows what lurks beneath the waters.  I wouldn't be surprised to find alligators.  To be fair, there are areas on the Texas side that are almost as bad but it's not as likely to find a missing manhole cover with a tire stuffed in it.  I can only hope that the newly elected officials of Reynosa will do something fixing the roads around here. We can always hope, can't we?

The other day I was in line on the international bridge between Reynosa and Hidalgo where the signs clearly state "No Pedestrians" and "It Is Illegal To Buy and Sell Items on the Bridge".  Apparently the hundreds of Mexican vendors did not get the message.  OK, so they been around the bridge for like a hundred years selling bottles of water, peanuts, paintings of the Virgen, gum, sun screens for windows, or whatever makes a quick buck.  Usually you will get you window(s) washed whether they need it or not AND whether you say yes or NO.  They work their way well into US territory and the Border Patrol apparently do not try to fight a losing battle over this. Fine. No problem. Usually, I set my head into the automatic shaking mode of NO and they go away and leave me alone. Until the other day, that is.  These vendors have developed the motto "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, again."  Vendors knocked on my window. I shook my head no and went back to my phone call. They knocked again.  And again. After numerous knockings most gave up except one. I was talking on the phone and he started yelling at me after knocking several times. I looked up to see this angry seller of cheap bracelets and necklaces.  I shook my head no and pointed to the phone.  He actually yelled back at me, "Me vale madre", which the English equivalent is "I don't give a shit."  On US territory. Yes, he had crossed the international line to cuss at me in Spanish in my own country. Oh, yeah, like yelling at me like that is really going to make me want to buy his crappy jewelry.  I've got an idea. I am going to load up my car to sell items like, oh, let's say, $1 shoes from the Korea store. Then I am going to hawk them on the bridge for $2 or $3.  I'm going to wave them in the vendors face trying to force them to buy a pair. If they shake their head NO then I am going to cuss at them in English.  In Mexico.

And, so, here I lie in bed on meds, like a potato, with random thoughts in my head.  I wonder what I can think up tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hurricane Alex Is Coming

I will keep name of the rat-bastard thief, Edward Cadena AKA Edward Mendez Cadena, Eddie Cadena or Edward Rhodes, age 33 from Port Arthur, TX on the first line of each blog until the sheriff catches up with him. The full story was published June 17.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Hurricane Alex is coming. Yup, he's on the way.  No, I am not referring to the storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.  I am speaking of my almost 6-year-old nephew on his way here with his grandparents.  Look at his photo and tell me if doesn't look ornery???  Is it a coincidence that they name the first storm of the season after my nephew?  I think not.

I'm sure his mother is up in heaven having a good laugh about it all.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dialing in Mexico - How Do I Make a Phone Call?

I still have a US cellular phone but with a Mexico plan. I know it's kind of a pain for anyone with a Mexico cell phone to call me.  Sorry.  Here's a few things I've learned about using a US cell phone in Mexico. 

When I am in the US or close enough to the US and I am not roaming...
1. I can call any US cell phone as normal.
2. To call a Mexico phone, I need to dial 011-52 plus phone number including the area code (is that what it is called in Mexico, an area code?).  Example: 011-52-899-158-xxxx
3. If that Mexico phone is a cell phone, MOST of the time I need add a 1 after 52.  Example: 011-52-1-899-158-xxxx.  I did say MOST of the time because I do have a friend with a Mexican cell phone that does not require the 1 after 52.

When I am no longer close to the US and start roaming...
1. I need to dial 001 plus area code and phone number to call a US phone. Example: 001-956-566-xxxx
2. If I want to call a Mexico phone, all I need to dial is the area code plus number. Example: 899-158-xxxx.

Even when I am in Mexico City, I still need to dial the entire area code with my US cell phone.  For example, if I call my friend I need to dial 552-158-xxxx.  But apparently if you are calling from a Mexico City phone, you can drop the 55 and just dial 21-58-xxxx.  Does this apply to cell phones or just home phones?  I am so confused.  And speak of confusing, that brings up another thing... texting.

To text a Mexican cell phone no matter if I am roaming or not, I need to dial 011-52-899-158-xxxx.  Do not us the 1 after the 52.  And to text a US cell phone, roaming or not, I just use the area code and number.

I think I just about covered it.  I think I understand.  Now I am off to do some quantum physics or calculus equations, just for the fun of it.  OK, not really.

P.S.  I had to change some settings in my blog and, grrrrr, I will have to approve your comments before you can leave them.  It's not because I am afraid of negative feedback.  If you write something negative, I could care less.  I'll still publish it.  It has to do with a rat bastard thief named Edward Cadena, aka Edward Mendez Cadena, aka Edward Rhodes, aka Eddie Cadena.  He was a trusted friend and a fellow teacher until he stole from me. He can sue me for publicly calling him a rat bastard thief. I'd love to see him in court. I don't think he will because when someone is a rat bastard thief, the last place he will ever want to show up is in a court room.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shopping Challenges On This Side of the Border

I am just barely above average at 5'8" tall which is mountainous compared to the average Mexican woman (or man), weighing more than I should, and wearing size 9 shoes.  I tried to buy shoes once in Durango.  The largest shoe size anyone carried was a Mexico size 6 which, according to the conversion charts, is a size 9 in the US.  Huh, uh!  Feeling like one Cinderella's ugly step-sisters, I tried to stuff my foot into the shoe like a sausage.  Finding clothes in the 14/16 range is only slightly difficult, but I find that pants are cropped for petite woman so they end up a couple inches above my ankle.  Is showing the belly button still in fashion with wearing shirts too short?   So what's a gal to do?  Well, like thousands of Mexicans, I head for La Plaza Mall in McAllen to do my shopping.  Even on the Texas side, I often find the clothes too petite.  I'm getting used to wearing clothes Mexican-style (too tight).

I do love Mexican food with all types of salsas but shopping for food can be a challenge too, especially when I crave some white people food.  Frozen food section at S-Mart, Soriana, or HEB? Yeah, right! Practically nonexistent.  No self-respecting Mexican would eat an .88 cent Banquet frozen dinner.  The produce section is usually the brightest spot of the stores, although sometimes the tomatoes are a sorry looking bunch.  I miss the good 'ol big boy tomatoes from Iowa.  Peppers are abundant with 3.2 million different varieties.  I already did a blog on the oil section, er, I mean, oil aisle.  However, what throws me off is the cuts of meat.  In Iowa I had never seen thin slices of chicken legs/thighs, bones and all.  Many of the cuts of meat are sliced thin like bacon.  I won't even go into the chicken heads and feet I saw at the tianguis in Mexico City, but what's up with the whole chickens?  They are like really super yellow.  I'm scared to eat them 'cuz I think the chickens died of jaundice.  And when I am dying for a good ol' Yankee pot roast, I have to head to the Texas side to find a huge hunk of round meat. Even on the Texas side it is difficult to find a roast section at the stores.  While I'm there in Texas, I also pick up Swiss cheese since I am unable to find it in Reynosa.  The turkey I bought for Thanksgiving was bought in Texas which brings up a whole other topic... stoves.  Most Mexicans use their stoves for storing dishes and tupperware.  Amazingly, our Thanksgiving turkey came out steamingly and juicely delicious even though we had no thermometer and the stove was set at 5 (as in 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5). How do you translate that into Fahrenheit? Or Celsius?  I can deal with Celsius and other odd metric measurements as long as I have the internet to do a conversion.

I'd love to hear from others about their food and clothing challenges especially if you don't have the luxury of shopping in Texas regularly like me.  How do you cope?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Donkey Carts

UPDATE: I was informed that animal above is not a donkey or a burro, but a mule. DUH! Like I know the difference.  I was raised in Iowa so I can educate the people about the differences between corn and soy bean fields or cows and pigs.  And just because I was raised in Iowa doesn't mean I was a farm gal.  I was raised in the 2nd biggest city in Iowa, a huge metropolis with more than 100,000 people.  OK, maybe I should have left it at the 2nd biggest city, but then people will actually give me a deadpan stare and ask, "There are cities in Iowa?"

On my first trip across the border a few years ago, I saw a donkey cart.  I thought donkey carts only existed in caricatures on pots for plants.  Lo and behold, they still exist in Mexico.  Trying not to stare too hard because I didn't want to appear like I'd never seen such a thing before, I tried to figure out the purpose of this antiquated mode of transport.  As near as I could figure, it was full of garbage.  In the US, I know certain types of scrap metal is worth money, but this cart was full of corn husks, scrap wood and a CD nailed to a board among other things.  This guy regularly goes down my road. What is the value in this junk?  Are people paying him to haul away their junk?  Please enlighten me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Los Ebanos Ferry

About a 1/2 hour from Reynosa is a small little town called Diaz Ordaz.  It was a few years ago the first time I went there and I was impressed.  It's small but close enough to Reynosa if you want to do some real shopping.  It is a quiet little town that seems to escape most of the heat from the border wars.  I love the seafood restaurant just off the main drag. Another little hidden treasure nearby is the hand-drawn ferry across the Rio Grande.  Up to three cars fit on the floating pontoon and, as you can see by the photos, it is pulled across by hand.  You can even help pull it if you feel the need for exercise.  The bad... it closes at 3:00 PM whether or not you are still waiting in line to cross.  Too bad, so sad.




Across on the Texas side is an old general store that appears as if it hasn't been open in a while.  The sign on the window says "Pot Drinks."  I wonder what they were serving there? 


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Seedier Side of Life in Mexico



.  
You're never too old too learn something new.  I went to Monterrey last weekend to meet a couple friends and have some fun.  They were in Monterrey because their stepfather went there for heart surgery.  They are not familiar with Monterrey just like me.  So we were searching around the bus station to find a fun bar, kick back and have a few beers.  After poking our head in a few doors, we settled on one that had a live cumbia band.  Cool.  I dressed up for the occasion.  I was wearing black dress pants, blue dressy shirt and my high heels... all of 2.5 inches.  I am somewhat tall for an American at 5'7" but that's giganormous for a Mexican.  Well, let me tell you I was severely underdressed compared to the rest of the women in the bar.  Or should I say I was overdressed?  I mean these girls barely had anything on at all.  Their dresses were so short they kept yanking and pulling them back down to cover their underpanties. It was amusing to watch the routine.  Dance, twirl, yank.  

And there were a lot of them dressed just like this.  Most were thin or at least reasonable.  A couple were just plain fat.  Then I noticed the men.  Some were young, but there were quite a few older men slobbering over these women.  I kept thinking, "Why on earth would a young woman wearing a slutty dress with 5-inch spiked heels want an old man with a huge panza hanging on them?"  

And then Carlos enlightened me.  They were working girls.  The club hires them and addition to their salary, the men pay 10 pesos a dance and buy the drinks for the girls.  So let me get this straight????  These girls get all dudded up, get paid to dance, drink free, and they don't even have to serve the drinks?  You mean to tell me all the time I went club hopping in the USA during my youth and danced with the men for free?  Geez!  I should have been charging a dollar a dance.  I could be rich now. 

P.S. Jumping for joy, jumping for joy! I got a new boiler yesterday. It's been 24 hours and it is still lit and the water is still warm

Monday, April 5, 2010

That Was FUN!

My sons and one significant other finally came to visit their ol' mom in Reynosa.  On the second night here we had a barbecue party complete with a live band.  Judging by the mess I cleaned up the morning after, a good time was had by all.   Even the 'gun' incident didn't spoil the good time.  The drummer ran an errand and when he parked in front of the house, another car pulled up with a group of gangsters and they put a gun to his head. Apparently they were satisfied he was just an inebriated party boy and nothing happened and the party went on. I'm going to paraphrase a favorite line of my friend Lindy... I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.

Since Reynosa isn't exactly a party town without guns, we decided to get out of this shithole.  Sorry for the bad language which I don't normally use, but I just can't come up with a more appropriate word for this town right now. We hopped an Omnibus and headed for Mexico City.  As soon as we landed at the north bus station, we hopped another bus and went to the pyramids in Teotihuacan.  Here's the evidence that we made it to the top of the sun pyramid.  Yes, I made it to the top too. Someone had to take the photo.

Back in Mexico City, I met a fellow blogger Jessica and her beautiful family.  We ate at a local tianguis and the food was awesome.  Then we rented a car and took off for Acapulco.  Acapulco is expensive.  Acapulco is FUN.  We found an expensive but very nice hotel called Costa Azul.  It is about 6 blocks off the beach.  I'd hate to see what the hotels on the beach cost.   After an afternoon of sun, beach, waves, and beer, we went back to the hotel to clean up and find the night life.  We met the best taxi driver in Acapulco named Alex and he took us to Carlos & Charlie's, an excellent choice.  Not cheap, but it sure was FUN.  The waiters like to mess with the customers and they like to dance for your entertainment.  They like to make YOU dance for their entertainment.  And the clown who will make body parts and appendages for you was hilarious.  I can't wait to save up and go to Acapulco again.  Alex, will you be my driver again?  You are the best!

We drove (or should I say snailed) our way back to Mexico City again.  Apparently all the Chilangos went to Acapulco for the weekend and the traffic was bumper-to-bumper on the way back.  We got back late, had dinner with Jessica and Guillermo and then took off via the Metro to the bus station.  And here we are back in nasty Reynosa where the gun battles continue daily.  Apparently the police are afraid of any buses coming to Reynosa because we were stopped and checked our bus several times.  The last federal policeman that entered our bus was very grumpy.  I guess I wouldn't be too pleasant if I walked in his shoes.

The kids leave tomorrow.  They had a great time.  I had a great time.  I am going to miss them. I already miss Acapulco.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Listing of Good Things about Mexico

My favorite things about Mexico are...

1. I don't pump my own gas.  In fact, I am not even allowed to pump my own gas in Mexico.  But I never put gas in my car when I lived in Iowa. My ex-husband tried to convince me that the "gas fairy" doesn't exist.  My car was always riding on empty because I DETEST putting gas in a car.  Magically, the car would be full of gas the next time I drove it after coasting home on fumes. The ex tried to convince me that he PUT the gas in the car, but I would cover my ears and run.  LALALALALA.  I'm not listening because I know gas fairies did and still do exist.  Nowadays I just pay the man at the Pemex gas station and, voila!, the gas fairy fills the car.

2. I don't wash my own car.  It only cost about 4 or 5 USD to get my car vacuumed, washed and dried, all by hand.  There is even a little shack where you can sit and buy a $1 beer while waiting. Cool!  The only thing getting me wet is my beer.

3. Yesterday while I was at hairdresser, I paid someone about $20 to sweep, dust, mop my 5 room apartment and clean the bathroom.  I know I should clean my own apartment but I don't want to do it.  Besides, that would mean less time for Facebook and blogging.  Or working on my resume.  I can easily find a million reasons to justify paying for a maid.

4. Parking lot attendants in uniforms blow whistles to help me back out of a parking spot.  I admit it. I have issues with putting my car in reverse. It started in high school when I took out part of the garage door frame. The attendants also take back shopping carts.  This is nice.  You never see parking lots in Mexico full of shopping carts like Walmart in McAllen.  My car has enough dings from my backing up problem.

5. Tacos.  All kinds of tacos.  Except tripas.  Those are just wrong. And so are sesos (brains).

6. The water truck.  They come down the street with a loudspeaker blaring their arrival.  The nice young man brings me 2 five-gallon jugs of water upstairs to my kitchen. Nice!  In fact, many different trucks drive around so you can shop from home.  In Ciudad Valles, the bread truck comes around a night. I've also seen a fruit and veggie truck and a tortilla truck.  The trick is learning to distinguish the arrival of which truck??  The loudspeakers are about as clear as mud to me.

7.  The buses are wonderful.  If anyone has ever taken a Greyhound bus in the USA, then you know it sucks. The seats are uncomfortable and barely recline.  Due to copyright laws, Greyhound is not allowed to play movies on the bus. And the Greyhound stops in every podunk town making a normal 24 hour trip into 48 hours.  I've tried several different bus lines in Mexico.  Omnibus is a favorite.  The seats are large, cushy and reclines to a nice sleeping position.  And they play 2-3 movies.  They are in Spanish, but I can follow a movie in Spanish.  (I still can't watch the news in Spanish because they speak too fast.)  I get on a bus for Mexico City at 8:00 in the evening, watch a couple movies, fall asleep and wake up in Mexico City in the morning.  Warning!  Bring along drinks and food because this bus barely stops.

What are your favorite things about Mexico?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Hope This School Isn't Teaching English Like This!

I was checking around on the internet for schools. I came across this English translation for a certain school's website that promotes their bilingual education.  Even though I am an English teacher, I am not the grammar and spelling police.  I've been known to end a sentence with a preposition.  Example: "I don't know where it's at."  I'm always telling Miss Daisy Dog to go lay down.  For you grammatical-challenged people I am suppose to yell at my dog to go LIE down.  Lay in the present tense is for placing objects some place.  Lie in the present tense is for a resting or reclining position, or the fib you tell your spouse that you didn't spend too much on the dress.  I have problems spelling certain words. Occured? Occurred?  Ocurred?  How about necesary, or is it neccesary. Hmm, that doesn't seem right. It must be necessary?  Cementery or cementary? Well, you get the idea.  I think all of us have mental blocks on how to spell some words.

However, this particular website promoting their education and bilingual program is just awful.  I can usually tell when someone has thrown a paper into an online translation program, but I am not sure about this one. I think someone may have actually written it.  I don't think a translation program can spell this bad. I hope the person who wrote it is not an English instructor at the school.  Read it and weep.

http://www.norcerod.edu.mx/pagNuesInst_i.htm

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Saw a Firetruck!

I'm sick to death of posting about the balaceras (gun battles) so here's a different topic.   I saw a firetruck tonight.  An honest to goodness firetruck.  And not just 5 minutes before I was discussing with Linda (teacher from Canada) that in all of my time in Reynosa, I had never seen a firetruck.

I've had these strange things happening to me lately.  Ever since the death of my sister, I've been picking up vibes and sensing things.  A couple are too personal to write about involving my sister but here's a happy one, for example.  I was driving near my hometown in Iowa last week with my father when all of the sudden I thought of someone that I hadn't thought about in more than 20 years.  I was wondering where he was and what he was doing.  The last I knew he was in Colorado. Well, guess what?  When I returned to Reynosa this week, he emailed me.  He had done a google search and found me.  And he lives near my hometown in Iowa.  How strange is that?

Anyone have any tarot cards and a crystal ball to loan me?  I'm going into business.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm a POW

I am a prisoner of war.   

I returned to Reynosa last weekend after the funeral of my sister. I was thinking of blogging about something fun like the donkey carts on the streets.  Maybe next time.  I was sitting on the sofa eating dinner at 6:45 tonight and watching TV when I heard something that sounded like gun shots and explosions.  It was warm today so I've got all the windows and door open.  So I turned off the TV and listened for about 5 minutes.  I heard something like another explosion.  But around here you never know if it's a car backfiring.  Fast forward about an hour when I get a call from my contact who works for Mexican customs and claims to be in-the-know. He tells me to stay in the house and do not go out.  Geeeeeeezus!

I am now on the computer tuned into our only news source.... Twitter.  Everyone is twittering that there is a gun battle down at the SMart on Morelos, just a few blocks from here.  Yup, I am sure I heard it. 

We kept hoping it will get better.  It isn't. I am polishing my resume.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Note To All...THANK YOU!

I shouldn't write this while I am so tired because I am afraid I am going to forget someone.  There have been a lot of wonderful people who have been awesome helping our family during our time of sorrow.  To everyone who wrote, emailed, called, blogged, facebooked, came to the visitation, funeral or stopped by the house I want to say THANK YOU!  There are too many of you to thank individually.  The amount of food that people dropped off could have fed an army.  We didn't need to cook much all week.  Lynn had many friends and family that loved her.  There are literally hundreds of people that were personally touched by Lynn.   


Thank you Judy Avis and daughter Paulette Hearn.  You both are true friends through thick and thin.  I know it means a lot to my mom that you both were there for her during a most difficult time.  To Lynn's friends that have been there forever like Amy Adams-Whitaker and Teresa Beers, you guys are the best.  The memorial at Buffalo Wild Wings was very touching. Thank you Amy for helping me pick out the music.  The song "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me will always be a special memory for me.  I don't know if I can listen to the song in the future without crying.  I didn't know Amanda Tandle but she is the creator of the facebook page RIP Lynn Culberson-Mota and Amy and Teresa are the administrators. So many message have been left on Lynn's facebook page and her tribute page, I still haven't had time to read them all. Andrew's friend, Sarah Rosales, age 10, sang the most beautiful version of "I Will Remember You".  Girl, you have a beautiful voice. When you are old enough to quit your day job, go for it.  You can sing professionally. Thank you to my cousins Sherry, Candi, Dona and Jordin for coming from Missouri and Pennsylvania.  Everytime we are together I laugh and laugh.  How many Culbersons does it take to figure out how to set up a television?  The entire class and several instructors from Northeast Iowa Community College came for the visitation and funeral.  Wow!  Thank you to Kimmy Sloman who read the beautiful poem that she posted on Lynn's facebook.   Thank you Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Dean for finding the poem on Lynn's facebook and bringing it to our attention. A special thank you to Scott Reggentin, Lynn's study buddy and close ally in the nursing program.  Your stories about Lynn will keep me going for a long time. Please keep in touch.  


Last, but most important, my nephews Andrew and Alex, you deserve the biggest thank you. You two have been very brave facing the death of your mother.  Remember, your Aunt Deana said your mom's spirit will live on your hearts. Nothing will ever take that away from you.