Saturday, September 27, 2008

Viewing things from afar

I have had a great tutor for the past few weeks named Octavio. Yesterday in particular was interesting as we talked (in about as much depth that I could muster in Spanish) about the political scene in Estados Unidos and the debate. Octavio is well read in the politics of America and he, like many Mexicans, is just as interested in the upcoming election as I am. How could skin color possibly affect a person's capacity for intelligence? Octavio and I both wondered. Octavio asked me whether I thought it was truly possible for McCain and Palin to win. Sure, I do not have that answer. However after watching Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric, and hearing Obama and McCain speak last night, I am more convinced than ever about my choice for president.

In other news, the trumpet practicer who lives next to us is practicing again. He is getting better... trills and all. My bike is fixed. Well, sort of (see below). The neighbors around us have been out sweeping most of the morning (this is big here- I have to work on this). Josh and I will make plans for the day. We discovered a terrific park close to us with running trails and lots of green space. Perhaps we will head there?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If you are still wondering...

... about my bike, it's not fixed yet. This is something that I am trying to adjust to... it literally takes a whole day to get something like that done when you don't know a city, and don't have a car. It was also a challange to try and mail something today. Post offices are few and far between here, and when we finally found one, it took quite some time before we could buy the postage to mail our letter. To recap, most of my day was spent searching for a post office and a bike repair shop. I think I found the shop, but I have no idea what kind of hours it keeps. So I locked the bike outside of the supposed shop, and will head back to see what is going on tomorrow. You might think that it is peculiar that I do not know whether or not it is a bike shop. Yet there are a large number of businesses that do not have signs. You just have to know that they are there, and be lucky enough to catch them when they are open.
This is like the orange juice lady near our house. I managed to catch her one morning selling fresh-squeezed juice from her house. But I haven't managed to find her again. I will keep trying.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting into the Groove

I thought this would be a good lead-in photo for today. These are wall hangings that we bought (and lost for about 45 minutes) a week ago. They popped out of my bike basket when I hit a pothole (a blog posting focused on Mexican street and sidewalk hazards soon to come) and we did not realize it until we made it to our place. Miraculously, we retraced our route and found them... sigh.

This morning Josh went to film a family that works on one of the main arteries through Guadalajara: Calle Federalismo. The husband, wife, and their niece clean car windshields while the two-year-old plays in the median and the 9-month-old sits in the stroller. They do this seven days a week, primarily so that they can make enough to pay for their lodging in a pay-by-the-day apartment.

I spent the morning working on beginning designs for the Cerro Del Cuatro artisan group and then had the opportunity to visit the same run-down bike shop as Josh when I flatted a bike tire on my way to class. I paid $1.50 to have a tire patched (which had already been patched 3 times). Normally I would have objected and suggested something different, but I haven't worked up very good Spanish bike terminology as of yet. So I politely waited in the midst of piles of tires and tools and trash, while a dirty poodle rubbed up against my leg. The owner of the shop remarked over and over about my old (probably crappy) bicycle. About 6 hours later (after attending class and CODENI), when I went to ride my bike back home, the tire was flat again. So I left my poor bike locked up downtown.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Casey

Today is our nephew (sobrino) Casey's birthday (and my mother-in-law, Angela's). I wanted to use this post to show my favorite photos of him.

Not so happy about fireworks, 2005

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Flooding and Bosque la Primavera

It is the rainy season here in Guadalajara, and during this season in particular we have been told that there has been an unprecedented amount of rain. Yesterday was the mother of all rainy days, as we were left unable to leave a Papeleria (paper store) for nearly two hours as a 2-3 foot high river flowed down many of the city's streets. People were taping big bags over their shoes and calves in order to leave the store. We decided to wait it out. Thus, I made some really terrific paper selections (as pictured above). Josh will have photos on his blog soon.

Today we had another Saturday field trip. We rode our bikes downtown and caught a bus to the Bosque la Primavera (Spring Forest)- a huge nature preserve on the outskirts of the city. It took us nearly 2 hours to get to this place by bus, which made us appreciate our vicinity to Mill Mountain in Roanoke a great deal more! Yet it was a great experience to get out of the city and into someplace quiet and natural.
We walked down to el Rio Caliente- a hot river, which is fed by hot springs. It was so peculiar to dip my hands in water, expecting it to be cool, and having it be quite the opposite. We ate our sandwiches and papaya next to this steaming body of water. Also... I have a weakness for collecting rocks and can now add obsidian to my collection. It is so glossy, sharp, and beautiful. Josh even used a piece (the circled one below) to cut open his pocket, as the zipper broke and he needed his wallet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cerro del Cuatro II

Today Josh and I biked to the center of town and took a bus up to Cerro del Cuatro where a group of women were once again meeting regarding the forming of an artisan cooperative. As the cooperative becomes more of a reality, it has been stressed to the women that they will all be depending on each other to follow through with their role in the organization.

Josh is encouraged to try on one of the shirts (this one was a bit small)

Mother and her children head to catch the bus to the city center to sell potato chips and for the kids to attend school.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vuelta a México

Today is México's Independence Day, 16 de Septiembre. Last night Josh and I headed to the main square to see hoards of people celebrating. Josh is sure to have better coverage of this on his blog in the coming days, as I left immediately after the fireworks because of continuing fever symptoms (which I thought had subsided). But I will offer a little sense of the scene... there were vendors everywhere, selling everything from noisemakers; glowing jewelry; fried pig skin; pretty-colored drinks in clear jars; face-painting supplies; sombreros; fake mustaches and beards...
At 11:00 the mayor of the city stepped out onto the balcony over the main square to lead the crowds in shouting "VIVA MÉXICO!" and then the fireworks shot off. Wow. The only downfall (aside from the fever), was a downpour of rain (which helped the fever, I am sure).

And onto today. We headed to the main square again, thinking we were going to see a parade (which had already ended). Instead we encountered an even more exciting event, the Vuelta a México; a professional bike race in México. In the center of the city the racers were supposed to do 18, 4km laps. Due to rain, this turned out to be more like 10 laps. Josh worked his way beyond the race barriers and in with the press and managed to get some wonderful shots, I am sure. It made me very happy to see him able to gain access to an event that he loves. Today made me miss my green racing bicycle. But the old Schwinn will due for now.

Bikers from American Beef, the team of the winner (unfortunately, the winner is not pictured here)

Josh photographing a Guatamalan rider

The winner for today

Monday, September 15, 2008


Over the past couple of days Josh and I have made some happy discoveries in our neighborhood:
#1: There is a place three blocks from us that is known for the best pozole (chicken or pork and hominy stew- a regional favorite) in town. And the restaurant appears to be someone's house converted into a business (Roanokers imagine the Homeplace- except much, much smaller). Diners walk in through the kitchen and then make their way upstairs and grab a seat. For around $8 we had two heaping bowls of pozole with horchatas (sweet rice drinks). #2: The following morning we discovered a huge outdoor market (called tianguis) four blocks from our place. Stalls stretched for at least 15 blocks along a street, selling everything from verduras (vegetables), homemade quesos, meats, pig skin, frutas, honey, cleaning supplies, cheapo DVD's, freshly made tortillas, plants...
We loaded up on veggies and fruits, bought a few pirated DVD's, and selected plants for our back patio area. I was especially happy about the plants (see images). It is pretty cool to be in a place where so much can grow outdoors.

Chayote, a new vegetable I learned about. Cooks like squash. Cool shape.

Now, today I was having a pretty crappy morning. I woke with a bad headache and felt sort of feverish, and then I walked to school and it was pouring rain the whole 40 minutes, and buses kept driving by soaking me further. But then. I found out that my tutor for the week will be Octavio, a very kind Tapatio (Guadalajaran) and I left after our two hour session feeling renewed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

MAZ Museo de Arte

Today Josh and I went on what he was calling a field trip. We had a breakfast of pancakes (our list of items to bring from the states is growing and includes baking soda... what we have been using just doesn't cut it), and then mapped out a route to bike to Zapopan- a nearby colonia that is quite the opposite of Cerro de Cuatro. We headed to the contemporary art museum called Museo de Arte de Zapopan and viewed a really wonderful and extensive exhibit by the artist Daniel Lezama. Afterwards we caught the end of a wedding in the nearby cathedral (neat sketch of the cathedral here- Josh will surely have photos from the wedding on his blog).

Yesterday morning was also an adventure of sorts as we went to the U.S. Consulate and met with the "Consul General de los Estados Unidos" and the "Consul de Prensa y Cultura." They will serve as a great resource for us in the coming months.
We went through four different doors for security and checked our bags at the entrance... it made me feel somewhat important to be allowed through! And inside we were greeted by portraits of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condeleza Rice.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cerro del Cuatro

Yesterday Josh and I headed up to Cerro del Cuatro with Danielle to meet with a group of women who will be forming an artisan cooperative. Cerro del Cuatro is a very poor colonia in Guadalajara, situated on a hill (cerro) with what used to be roads now littered with boulders and trash. Along with the jumble of former roads is a sea of gray, cinderblock homes, many without glass for windows, doors to rooms, and tile floors.
The women in this group have been creating embroidered bags, napkins, place mats, and scarves (to name a few items), using designs and techniques passed on from their indigenous ancestors (Otomí). An idea emerged from a young woman working with Danielle to form an organization that would represent the women and help them receive fair pay for their crafts, as the women have been selling their work independently down in the city center for much less than it is worth. Josh and I have now entered the scene as potential photographer/videographer and designer for the website that will sell their goods. This is all in the beginning stages and is very exciting. It was quite an experience to see these women in their environment, and indigenous designs that have survived for generations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Checking my math skills

Hoping that my dad will not check over my work (as he did when I was in high school), I am posting an image of Esmeralda's and my scribblings for her division worksheet. I worked with the CODENI kids last night at the library, and told a few that I did not know Spanish very well, but Math, yes? Well, as long as it does not involve anything beyond division!
Tonight I played volleyball for a while with the kids and then navigated for the first time on my own, on my bike (about a 15-20 minute ride) back to nuestra casa. Then Josh and I headed to our local tamale stand where- apparently- they make 400 fresh tamales each day. I will have to bring my camara the next time we head there... my favorite blend is pollo y verduras (chicken and vegetables).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More on CODENI

Last night I stopped by the library to visit the CODENI kids. Before I write about the evening, I want to explain more about what CODENI is, as I realized that I have not yet done so on my blog! The best way for you to understand this organization, which was begun by former Roanoker Danielle Strickland, is to visit their site.

And let me explain a little bit more about what happens in the evenings. Monday through Thursday from 6:30-8:30, children meet at the library downtown Guadalajara. This allows for them to get off the streets where they and/or their parents are working, and into an environment where they are able to focus on their studies. During these sessions they are given the opportunity to play and create, and make friends. The younger kids meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the older kids meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The kids cycle through three groups: one for tutoring/ help with homework, one for recreation, and one for activities focused on childrens' rights. Fridays are set aside for recreation completely, where the kids might do something like take a city bus to go and play soccer.

CODENI is non-profit, and all of the kids who participate in this program are able to do so because of contributions and grants. If you would like more information on how you can help the organization (sponsor a child for example), visit the CODENI's sister site, AHALA, based in Roanoke, VA.

Many of the photos above feature Panchito (Little Pancho), one of the funniest little boys to watch. He gets so animated when he plays sports, hopping up and down, diving and jumping all over the place. Really cute. We played volleyball for a bit in the busy plaza outside of the library. It amazes me that the children stay pretty focused and do not wander off to go and see what else is happening in the plaza.
Yesterday I also began my first day of private tutoring in Spanish with Noami at the IMAC school. I will do this for two hours every day for the next four weeks. Lastly, I do not know why I am so excited about this, but we also purchased two woven floor mats yesterday at the San Juan de Dios market.