Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Home of the Free




















"I'm just going to ask her 'dónde está las galletas', I want to see those chickens!" my sister announced.  I tried to imagine our neighbor's reaction when some gringo woman pops her head over the wall that runs between our houses and asks her where the cookies are.

I went to Wal Mart to get my mom and my sister some things that they had forgotten before arriving in Mexico.  As I checked out the booze aisle, a man offered me a free shot of Dewars.  I rarely, if ever, go to Wal Mart in the U.S., but I just might change my toon if they adopted some of Mexican Wal Mart's policies.

Most homes in Mexico use propane tanks instead of, you know, gas that mysteriously shoots out of the wall through some kind of pipe like Americans have.  Roaming trucks with catchy songs cruise the neighborhoods constantly, in case anyone's tank ran out.  Strangely, the trucks in our town do not have a catchy song.  They belch out an airhorn like noise and a deep, pre-recorded voice perpetually asks, "Do you have gas?" as if the whole town is on the verge of a collective fart. 

My sister and I decided to check out a hole in the wall bar that Alec had spotted before heading back to Atlanta.  It featured some interesting local color and a few horses parked out front that had carried a couple of the patrons to their afternoon watering hole.  We sat at the bar and had some beers and observed.  I was surprised when a Mexican woman with a star tattooed on her face suddenly slid between us, simultaneously putting one hand on my sister's thigh and grabbing my left butt cheek with the other.  Without even registering what she was saying to us, I exclaimed "That's my sister!", in way of declining her offer for a three way.

"Wow," Holly stated when she finally walked away, "that's breaking all kinds of laws".

Sunday, June 28, 2015

La llegada

We crossed the border three weeks ago.  After a grueling first day on the road, we made it to the Houston area.  Late in the evening, we stopped at a rest area that described itself as "secure".  As I walked on the little raised wooden paths in search of the bathroom, I began seeing signs that were anything but secure.  "Beware of poison ivy" and the more sinister:  "Stay on paths.  You may not see them....but rattlesnakes are watching you".  After locating the bathroom, I got lost on the less than secure paths and ended up where all the eighteen wheelers were parked.  Great, I thought, truckers, poison ivy and rattlesnakes. 

The second day, we drove south toward Nuevo Laredo.  We had our car permit, our Mexican car insurance and Lola's paperwork, as well as our passports.  In true Mexican border fashion, we were waved through without even being asked to slow down, even with Lola barking like a vicious beast.  We actually wanted to get our tourist cards; Alec would be flying home and they ask for it sometimes at the airport.  We circled the town with its bumpy narrow roads for at least an hour and could not find a customs area.  We drove by the river where Mexicans hung out on oneside and Border Patrol sat staring at them from the other.  We finally gave up and headed south.  About ten miles out of town, we were stopped at a customs checkpoint.  Good, I thought, maybe they can give us tourist cards.  The man at the gate asked for our passports, examined them, then asked us where the customs stamps were.  I explained to them that we hunted all over and couldn't find the office.  He looked at us, and told us to drive back to Nuevo Laredo and get stamped. 

We drove back angrily.  It was hot.  We drove all over town again.  Suddenly, Alec hit a massive tope that smacked the bottom of the car loudly.  The smell of gas filled the car.  Liquid was dripping from underneath.  We made it to the customs area and spent nearly an hour getting stamped, then slowly drove around the town, late on a Sunday afternoon, looking for a mechanic.  We actually found one who waived us into his yard.  Alec walked Lola while I stayed behind with five men in a junkyard while they checked the car.  They jacked it up, climbed under it, combed over it and revved the engine.  Finally, the oldest man told me there was not a leak.  We paid him twenty dollars and hit the road again.  When we hit the customs checkpoint, we were waived through emphatically, though we finally had the toursist cards to show them.  When we finally made it to our destination outside of Monterrey, all I could think of was beer, which was not being sold because of an election. 

Monday afteroon, we arrived at our destination near Lake Chapala.  The house we rented was even better than we had thought, with multiple terraces and a pool.  Lola snaked along the stairwalls and terraces as if she had lived there her whole life. 

We had arrived. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Love That Won't Give Up

Post planning days are usually pretty easy going affairs.  Post some grades, clean up your desk, check your computer out for the summer in case you actually decide to get ahead for "next year", hand in your keys.

To the contrary, Monday was a grueling, full day of work.  We spent the day with state DOE and district folks, re-writing our new, obligatory, standardized test and the bevy of accompanying paperwork.   By the end, I was stressed out and bitchy.

Tuesday was a second day of fun times with standardized test writing, as well as finishing grading a four part test for 150-ish kids and a two part test for around 100 kids.  And, entering all of those grades in the system.

Wednesday brought a new type of hell, with posting additional end of year grades for all 250 plus kids as well as determining the amount of growth each child accomplished, via heavy data entry on Excel spread sheet and additional entries in the system to report this growth.  And cleaning up the desk and doing the check-list.

Thursday was supposed to be the first day of summer!  Yet, the district requested another day from us.  That morning, I took Lola to the vet for her Health Certificate for international travel.  She nearly trashed the place and by the end, she was panting, I was sweating and shaking and the vets were looking at both of us like we were nuts.  We left with the certificate.  Later in the day I reported to the district offices to finish our work.

Friday, I prepared for vacation.  Late in the day I received a message that the district required still more alterations to our rubrics for our standardized test.  It could be completed via email, but some forms needed to be signed, at the office, within the hour.

Saturday, at seven a.m., Alec, Lola and I pulled out of the driveway and drove to Mexico.