Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quick Update

We are getting settled in the new house. It's much bigger, much quiter and much closer to work for me which are all nice things. I'll post soon about the move including pictures. To get yourselves prepared, just start imagining. My favorite picture is called Couch Piñata, so that might give you an idea!

Right now we don't have internet or cable at home so I haven't been updated in the blog or facebook world. I have been getting all caught up on my Mexican soap operas. I know the whole line up. We start with Lo que Callamos las Mujeres, followed by Cada Quien su Santo, then Pobre Diabla, Mujer Comprada and, Ramon and my personal favorite, Pasión Morena. I like reminiscing back to when I first moved here and I would watch these channels and not understand anything. Now, I can follow the stories (which are super complicated, not) and even listen along from another room.

Little by little, I'm getting everything unpacked and put away. My prize to myself will be a Christmas tree, so I'm definitely motivated. I think we'll do a little painting this weekend to get rid of the institution white walls and hopefully on Sunday we can put up a tree!

More stories and pictures to come, soon!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Can you spare some change?

Today I have been inundated with the money.

We are having a shared Thanksgiving activity between sixth and first grade. This requires each of the over 400 children to bring change and for all of the teachers to count it. Can you imagine counting over 150 bucks in nickels? Fun, huh.

Then, I decided to run "quickly" to the grocery store before heading home. I grabbed to couple things I needed and lined up in the "10 items or less" line. Of course, the person in front of me had to argue the difference of 3 pesos on a pair of socks, so they sent me to a different line. I line up and the lady in front of me has to argue the price on her 3 for the price of 2 toothbrushes and decides to buy 3 instead of 6, which required the teller to make a return on 3 toothbrushes. She then proceeded to pay her over 50 dollar bill with, that's right, change. Count out 50 bucks in nickels while you have 5 people in line behind you, puh-leez.

Ghandi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I'll change by using less change, I think.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moving on up

Ramon and I are moving! I've lived here since 2006 and have made many memories in this little place. We live on the 4th floor, which means lots of stairs. If at 21 weeks pregnant, those stairs wear me out, I don't want to find out what will happen at 30 weeks or worse, with a carseat and stroller!

An apartment opened up in the same complex where Ramon's parents live, so we'll be moving from Cholula to Puebla at the end of the month. It is a 3-bedroom apartment, on the first floor, and it gets lots of sunlight which will be great during the winter. (Yes, it gets cold. No, we don't have heat) It will also be nice in the spring when I have to go to work, because Ramon's mom will be watching Baby Alvarez.

But, before we move out, I want to share some pictures of our first Casa Alvarez. I'll be excited to have more space and more closets! Fitting two people's things in one closet and one kitchen has been quite the headache. (Which is partly why there's no pictures of the bedroom, it's kind of still full of boxes and wedding presents)

What you see is what you get. This is the view from the front door. The only thing missing is the bedroom and the bathroom. When you think your house is small, it's not!

I won't miss the fireworks. I won't miss the constant bell ringing. I won't miss the marching bands. I won't miss the chickens, goats, etc. BUT, one thing I will miss? The view! This was taken right out the kitchen window and I've been blessed with some beautiful sunsets behind the Popocateptl!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Neighborhood Saint Day

This weekend marks the feast day of the saint at our little neighborhood church. The church is San Dieguito, and I would tell you more, but I can't find any information. Anyway, the way of celebration seems to me to be quite a combination of Catholic and native ways. It all started on Thursday night, or was it Friday morning? I don't know, I was trying to sleep. A man set up his keyboard and huge speakers and started singing the Mañanitas (like Mexican Happy Birthday) to the church and then continued to sing for a couple hours more, pulling out classics as well as pop music. Then, the fireworks began. You might think, Cool! Fireworks. But no, they aren't the pretty fireworks. They're just big huge loud bangs. Today, the drums came out. Drumming, drumming all the live long day and a man playing something that looks and sounds kind of like an oboe. This will likely last all night long. So now, we've got music, fireworks, drums and oboe-man.
I've included pictures so you can see the view of the festivities from Casa Alvarez. As you can see, we have a straight shot to the church (built in the 1600's) so there's nothing to muffle the noise!
View from the kitchen...

Zoomed in on the drummer and oboe-man. Mind you they are not playing a particular song, it's basically just lots and lots of noise. No real beat, no tune.

The bright side, at least it's a nice view! The Popocateptl letting of some steam.

San Dieguito, pray for us. (and I wouln't mind if you asked God to let me sleep through the drums, oboe-man, and fireworks tonight!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Gringa's Guide

As Gringas in Mexico, my friends and I have joked about writing a book. This book would share real experiences, real situations, and real advice that you can't get from the Lonely Planet! I was thinking about this today and what kind of chapters might exist in this book.

Ch. 1 Why?...Why Not?
This chapter would be dedicated to answering all of the why questions that surface in the first year abroad. Why does the bus sometimes come for in a row and then not for 20 minutes? Why

Ch. 2 The Weirdest Thing Outside Your Door
This chapter is pretty self explanitory. Each participant would recount the strangest things they've seen on the street in front of their house. My experiences would include tigers and monkeys in a truck selling tickets to the circus and a boxing ring blocking the intersection.

Ch. 3 Say What?
This would be for all of those special little comments that are made by people who think they're being nice or knowledgable but you really want to sock them in the face. Examples would be, "Te ves más llenita" meaning "Wow, you got fat." Another would be upon inquiring why grown children live at home into their forties, getting the response "Es que las familias norteamericanas no son unidas, por eso no entiendes." This means, "US families don't care about eachother, that's why they don't live at home."

Ch. 4 Doing What Will Make Me Sick?
Illnesses in Mexico are just as intriguing as the culture. There are so many things one must learn in order to survive. Walking around with no shoes makes you sick. Getting mad after eating avocado makes you sick. Wind blowing on your back makes you sick. The list goes on and on...

These are just my preliminary ideas, but you get the picture. I think that we could really make some money and take over the culture, travel sections at Barnes and Nobles across the country!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Doubting Shannon

A few weeks ago, my good friend Stephanie called me to tell me that she'd sent me two packages. One had a childbirth workbook and a drawing from Lucy. And the other? Two bags of candy corn pumpkins and a can of pumpkin puree....Essentials for survival, of course.

I was excited when two weeks ago I got the package with the books. Though, I'd be lying if I wasn't bummed that the pumpkins didn't arrive. I invented a whole story to myself that some customs agent in Tijuana was eating all of my candy pumpkins and finally resigned myself to the fact that I would never see those delicious pumpkins...

Until today! Three weeks after she sent it, I got another package! Needless to say, one bag is already almost gone.

So, I'd like to apologize formally to the imagined customs worker who I so meanly portrayed as a pumpkin stealer in my imagination. Dear Mexican Mail Service, I'm sorry. I promise not to doubt you again....about pumpkins.
I just so happen to have a picture of Steph on a Mexicano Postal Bike taken on the day of my wedding. I kind of hope this bike delivered my package. Love you, Steph!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

December Plans

Early this morning, while most of you west-coasters were sleeping, I was buying a plane ticket. Thanks to, my new best friend for flights, I was able to get a flight for the 27th to the 30th of December. It's going to be another seriously quick trip, but that was how we could make it work this time. I will be going on my own this time, though I'll be bringing Baby Alvarez for his 2nd trip to the US in his short little lifetime.
So, clear your calendars ladies and gentlemen, that is if you're interested in seeing me. Here are some things I'm looking forward to in my whirlwind trip:

Mom and Dad's House...
I love hanging out with Mom and Dad, the Christmas tree, the stockings, and, all of the CHRISTMAS COOKIES!

Seeing the rest of the family...

Last year was fun with the snow, but I'm hoping for a green Christmas this year. It will make seeing everyone and running errands so much easier.

Erin and I playing in the snow last year.

Justin and Liam and their matching hats from Aunt Donnie.

Caitlin and Josh opening pressies.

Other things I'm looking forward to...

-Seeing friends, hopefully!

-Eggnog Lattes (decaf this year!)

-Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates

-Garden Delights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden

-Target and Baby's R Us, AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baby Update

Ramon and I went to my 4 month check up yesterday. Baby Alvarez is doing great!

The doctor was surprised by how much the baby grew this past month. He/She was awake and moving around while the doctor used the doppler to hear his/her heartbeat. It was the first time Ramon got to hear his baby's heart beating and he was really exited about it. In 2 or 3 weeks we will have our ultrasound to find out if Baby Alvarez is Al or Ally. It will be a great Thanksgiving present!

I'm pretty excited because so far I've only gained 2 kilos, which is about 4 1/2 lbs. So far, I haven't had any crazy cravings or aversions. Although, I can't go a day without an apple and I really don't want ham. We'll see if I'm still as lucky for the next 5 months!

The bad news is that my doctor is going to be taking a bunch of time off next year to spend more time with her daughter and grandson. Good for her, bad for me. So, I have to come up with a list of doctors so that she can recommend a new one to me. I think it's funny that she told me this right before she took my blood pressure....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Family and the Holidays

There are a lot of things in life that make you adjust and readjust your definition of family. My definition of family for the first 12 years of my life was Mom, Dad, Erin, and Caitlin. Then, along came Justin and our family grew. 3 years ago, the family grew even more with the arrival of Liam. This past summer, both Ramon and Joshua joined our family.

I've also now joined Ramon's family. Sometimes, though, I kind of feel like I've left my family in order to begin a new one. Ramon and I aren't two individuals anymore, we're one family with a little one on the way.

When I get out of class for Christmas break, I can't just hop on the soonest flight and spend 3 weeks at "home" with "my family." My awareness of this changing definition of family has become more acute as we approach the holidays. It took me a while, but I've adjusted to the fact that I have to work on Thanksgiving. I won't wake up Thanksgiving morning to mom in the kitchen already cooking away and dad looking through the basement for Christmas lights and hanging them. I've adjusted to the fact that Thanksgiving will be made by me, on the Sunday after, and I have to have a bowl of jalapenos between the turkey and the yams.

What's been the hardest, and it's a challenge I haven't ever faced, is the changing definition of Christmas and family. As Ramon and I look at our finances, how little or much that we make, and the financial requirements of the year ahead, (buying a reliable car, moving to a bigger place, paying for hospital bills and everything a new baby requires), flying both of us to the States at the busiest travel time of the year just isn't as easy as it was last year when it was only me.

It's hard for me to believe, and even harder for my raging pregnancy hormone infested self to come to terms with the fact that I may not be in Bellevue or have "my" family around me this December 25th. Nothing is decided definitively yet, but I know the challenge that awaits me. I need to be okay with whatever happens. If we get to go to WA, I can share my family traditions with Ramon. If we stay, he can show me his. Either way, we'll get to know eachother even better and start making family traditions of our own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I can't make this up.

Sometimes I hate my job, I'm sure everyone does.

Sometimes I love my job, I'm sure everyone does, too.

Today I had both of these experiences. In the morning, I wanted to curl up under my desk and hope that the children would disappear. In an effort to be positive, I'll spare the details on the negative part and get to the silver lining of my day.

The students are in a unit of inquiry that looks into different perspectives and points of view, how these lead to conflict and how we have to listen to others to live together in harmony. To get the kids thinking about perspective and point of view, I decided to have them write a story about eating from the perspective of the food. Pretty straight forward, right? After 10 minutes of working, one kid raises his hand to ask a question. He asked the following:

"Miss, is it okay if the story's fiction?"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can you hear me now?

The following conversation took place between yours truly and a lovely employee of the Comision Federal de Electricidad. To preface the conversation, here in Mexico your light bill comes once every two months and you have about a week to pay it before they come and shut off your electricity. I always pay my bill within 48 hours of getting it. Partly because its only around 10 bucks and that doesn't break my bank, and partly because if I don't I'll most likely forget. Anyhow, this months bill was due October 23rd; I paid October 19th. Imagine my surprise upon arrival to Casa Alvarez to find my electricity had been shut off.

Me: Good afternoon, I have a question. I paid my bill with plenty of anticipation and today I arrived home to no electricity. Can you please tell me why?
CFE: Give me your Service Number.
Me: blah blah blah a list of 12 numbers in Spanish
CFE: Did you check your interrupter?
Me: You put a lock on my meter. I have no light.
CFE: Did you check your interrupter?
Me: What's does it look like?
CFE: I don't know. I've never been to your house.
Me: Well, could you explain it to me so I can tell you if I checked it?
CFE: Do you have a fuse or a breaker?
Me: Oh, I get it. I have a breaker. It's fine. Did you hear me when I told you that you cut off my light?
CFE: Your light is not cut off.
Me: Yes, it is.
CFE: No, it isn't.
Me: Whatever. Gracias.

Good thing I have neighbors who know how to use wire cutters. Long story, short. We cut the wire lock and turned the electricity back on. I just wonder, how can someone in an office, who hasn't been to my house, tell me that my light is on? Umm, ma'am, I'm in my house...The lights not on...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is it all about me?

I will never claim to be selfless. In fact, I will claim to be selfish. I can't deny that I want things the way I want them, when I want them, with no ifs, ands or buts. I do consider that most often things can be done my way or the wrong way. However, in my selfishness (and maybe this is a selfish thought), I like to think that I consider the wants, needs, opinions, and desires of others.

I've noticed lately that most, if not all humans with whom I come into contact, share this general selfishness. I've also noticed that a lot of people are taking selfishness WAY too far. So far, that they end up putting their ever so precious self into danger.

There was a woman behind me on the way to school the other day and she couldn't handle the fact that I was in the fast lane and not going twice the speed limit. She couldn't even glance into the slow lane to notice that I was passing 5 cars and the moment the lane was free I moved over. While she was flashing her high beams and honking, I'm sure she sent me to a place far, far away that I have no desire to visit now nor in the afterlife. When she finally, a whole 30 seconds later, got to pass me, I noticed she had her young daughter in the car with her. One wrong move and she could have easily killed herself, her daughter, me and my child just because she thought she could go super fast and tailgate so close we were almost kissing bumpers at 50 mph.

Another example is the NWA flight where the pilots flew past their destination because they turned off their headsets and were using their laptops. These actions put their lives in danger along with hundreds of others. Now they will probably, and should, lose their pilot's licences and their livelihood. All because they were too selfish to focus on their job for the couple of hours it takes to fly from San Diego to the Twin cities.

I want to reiterate that I'm not writing to make any sort of claims of perfection. However, I think we all need to start considering others a lot more than we consider ourselves. It's so often that we hear: Do what's right for you. Don't worry about anyone else. Self first. Etc. You know what I'm talking about.

I've decided that I'm going to challenge myself to be less selfish, to consider others more, to eliminate my jealous and negative thoughts, to be thankful for all the things I do have. I hope you'll join me, even if it means just putting the seat down so your wife doesn't tell you to, or smiling at your coworker even though he/she makes you want to scream. I don't know what ideas you'll come up with, but I hope you'll share so that we can all start being a little more selfless and a little less selfish.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My, how you've grown

Baby Alvarez is getting bigger every day. I wore a skirt yesterday. Apparently I don't do this much because one of my students said, "Miss, are you really happy today? Why are you wearing those clothes?" I had to come clean and tell him that none of my normal clothes fit me, and maternity is still too big. Baby is almost 18 weeks old. I'm happy to report he is no longer puking, wretching, gagging, etc. This makes his mother extremely pleased.

Ramon is totally excited about the baby. He goes to bed after me, but sometimes when he gets in bed, I wake up because he's talking to my belly. You can tell Ramon is all about the baby, he didn't feel the need to include my face in the belly pics. You'll have to imagine my beautiful smiling face.

At 15 weeks

At almost 18 weeeks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The woman's woman

The following is a real event that occured in my home between 3:15 and 3:45pm.

A hole was drilled in the wall to make a place to hang my aprons. (Yes, I do realize how weird that sounds.)

Another hole was drilled in the wall to make a place to hang my calendar.

The entire floor was swept and dust cleaned from aforementioned holes.

Mexican red rice was cooked to delicious perfection.

Dishes were washed and kitchen was cleaned.

A load of laundry was done.

All of this was done by me and while wearing a skirt.
Bring it on, Baby Alvarez. Your mommy is a rockstar.

Saturday, October 17, 2009 crazy sometimes.

Driving in Mexico. Many will never have (or take) the opportunity to drive in this lovely country I call my home. The first months I was in a constant state of almost heart attack while behind the wheel. Now, my skin has been toughened and I can take on the biggest bus and the wildest taxi driver. There are some things you can't explain about it until you do it for yourself. In this post, I'll at least try to let you in on a few of the idiosyncracies of driving here.

1. I've gotten the question often enough, "Can you do that?" To which the only plausible answer is, "It looks like I already did."
2. Signs, speed limits, one-way streets, stoplights, brake lights, etc can be considered as suggestions, not requirements. Free right turns do not exist.
3. Lanes are also a suggestion. When in doubt, ask yourself this, "Do I fit?" If the answer is yes, it's a lane. If the answer is no, it's probably still a lane.
4. Busses will race and cut you off and start moving while you're getting on and off, just so that they can get to one stop and sit (while blocking traffic) for 10 minutes and drink a coke.
5. Speaking of busses, bus routes are also suggestions. Don't be surprised if your normal route one day ends up on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, the driver probably forgot something at home.
6. There is a special dance that happens at the changing of a stop light. Since both running the red and jumping the green are acceptable, the cars magically drift through the intersection in slow-motion rivalling even the greatest choreographed ballet.
7. There's no such thing as a close call, you either hit or you don't.

Now that you know some general rules, I'll let you in on a few of my own secrets that just make me sense of the madness and make my own enjoyable moments.

1. Sometimes I drive down the middle of what I know is supposed to be one lane in each direction street just because I get sick of rule #3.
2. I never let cars in that don't use turn signals.
3. I use my horn; it's so satisfying.
4. I shake my head at people; It's even better when they're looking at me.

So, next time you're stuck in traffic or get cut-off. Thank God you're not driving in Mexico...and use your horn.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'd call myself trilingual.

I like to say I'm trilingual.

Why, you ask? Native English speakers, with little to no knowledge of the Spanish language, I invite you to decipher the following actual phrases commonly used among students.

1. My impress don't have tint.
2. My brother she have his bird day party old the day.
3. Miss, I can go to the nursery because my panza dolerme?
4. The proposite of that excursion was explore the piramid.

Have I stumped you yet? Here are the translations.

1. My printer doesn't have ink.
2. My brother(or sister, one must ask the name to determine gender) had his/her birthday party all day.
3. This is a question. Miss, May I go to the nurse's office because my stomach hurts?
4. The purpose of the field trip was to explore the pyramid.

These are just a few smatterings of how I prove that I'm not only fluent in English and Spanish, but also Spaniglish. Another example,

Teacher: "What are you doing?" Student: "Anything!"

I know my student means to say nothing, but I can't help but think that he or she is really trying to trick me. I think they're doing anything OTHER than what I've asked to be done.

Last, but certainly not least, the use of apostrophes. The following words, in Spanglish of course, all contain apostrophes.

1. Paren't
2. Wan't
3. Studen't

Oh, the list goes on and on. But, you get the picture. Spanglish isn't Spanish and I'm sure you concur that it's certainly not English. It's possible to speak it, write it, read it, etc. Doesn't that make it a language?

Excuse me, but I think I'll update my resume.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


As the US fights over healthcare, I spent my afternoon at the IMSS. That's Mexico's social security, or nationalized healthcare. It applys to all children and any person with a job. Through the IMSS you get paid sick leave, and in my case they will be paying my salary for the six weeks before and the six weeks after Baby Alvarez is born.

I must admit that most US citizens wouldn't accept for one second the quality of service, supplies, hospitals and doctor's offices. It's honestly pretty gross. The white sheets are graying. The walls look like they haven't been painted in years. The nurses don't use gloves when they give you a shot...You get the picture. On the other hand, I think to myself while I'm there, "If a third-world country like Mexico can provide nationalized healthcare, why is it so difficult for the US?" They can make this, albeit low quality, system work AND the senators, deputies, presidents, government offices, etc are still taking home huge chunks of tax pesos. I'm by no means an expert or really even that informed about the healthcare struggle in the US, but I like to have opinions any way.

On another, related, note, most people I know have horror stories about going to the IMSS. I must have an angel at the IMSS because so far, knock on wood, I've had no problems. I made changes to my schedule without standing in line, got an appointment (I need 5 to get maternity leave) within a week of when I asked, and my doctor is normal and seems to be up-to-date in her medical knowledge (not always a guarantee). Hopefully it will continue that way!

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's in a name.

I decided to name this blog Casa Alvarez and have it be focused around our home and life here in Mexico for a few reasons.

One obvious reason is that we're so far away from my family and friends which makes it hard to share the daily goingson of our little family. I want to be able to give people a peek into our life so you can see that a lot is different and a lot is the same. I think there are often so many things that I now consider normal, but to many are unfathomable, hysterical and/or just plain bizarre.

Another reason is that this is kind of a self-help outlet for me living abroad. One of the hardest parts of adjusting to life here has not, in fact, been getting used to the chickens and goats next door, the clowns on the bus, constant fireworks or marching bands on any given evening. (all true) The hardest thing has been trying to make Mexico "Home."

When you travel, you get to see the best parts of a place; when you immigrate, you get to see it all. Yellow chicken and no Cheez-its goes from being a weird nuisance to a daily reality. I could probably find a deeper analogy, but its early in blog history to get sappy.

As my understanding of this place has evolved, I have learned that to really make Mexico home I have to work hard. I'm not nor will I ever be a Mexican. But, there's a real chance that I may never live in the US again. Home is where I make it, how I live it, and what I make of it. I have decided to make my home here, right now in our tiny 1 bedroom apartment. It's small, it's got cement columns that make it seem smaller, but it's ours. It's home, it's our first Casa de los Alvarez.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New to this part of the E-world

By popular demand, if a facebook status quiz counts as popular demand, I have decided to join the blogging world. The reason? To share my day-to-day goingson, to give you insight into my thoughts and opinions, and to maybe just maybe make you smile or laugh every once in a while.

2009 has proven to be quite the year for me, I got married to an amazing man, José Ramón, finished my masters degree, and am expecting my first child. Because of all these changes, there just might be interesting things to share. Plus, living in Puebla, Mexico for many of you is a completely foreign and strange endeavor, that I promise has its hilarious and/or humbling moments that just need to be shared.

However, I make no promises. I don't promise that this will be interesting or entertaining and I don't promise I'll be any good at it. I do promise to try, though.

So, if you dare, check back and see what life is like at Casa Alvarez.