Thursday, January 31, 2008

Never Can Say Goodbye

I'm feeling sad tonight, because it was my last night of work teaching at the Cambridge Academy. It was so difficult to say goodbye to my students, who I'd grown attached to. There were so many little in jokes, like how my teen class wondered whatever happened to Hugo, the boy who asked to go to the bathroom and never came back. We always told each other to check for Hugo when we went to the bathroom. Three of my teen students brought me a giant ceramic candle holder with glitter and statuary, just the most classic teacher gift ever. Some things transcend cultural boundaries, and this candle holder is the last in a long line of jokey mugs, off-brand stuffed animals, and battered jewelry. My adult students all gave me kisses on the cheek and told me how I had helped them.

And to think this all came down due to a measly three hours a week! Because I taught only 16 hours instead of 19 hours, the powers-that-be decided not to pay for my work visa. Ah, you know how it is--you take on emergency shifts, you substitute for friends who need to go out of town, but, when it comes down to it, the administration worms out of paying whenever it can.

It's a shame because I know I was an effective teacher. On the other hand, the school doesn't need effective teachers, just teachers, so I was quite expendable.

So I've found other work now. Online work that may or may not pan out, but I am open to the next adventure. Just a little sad at the same time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dr. Manuelita and the Crystal Pendulum

I've never seen anyone write about how many colds you can catch when you move to a new country, confronting some new types of germs. It's ironic, because the winter is so gorgeously beautiful here, with highs in the 70s and 80s, and our whole family's had one thing or another passing around since Day of the Dead. It doesn't help that poor baby Genevieve seems to be going through her cycle of colds, just like Max did at her age. It's so challenging to be sick in a foreign county. We can't find our favorite remedies; we have no family around to help us; we can't always understand what doctors recommend.

As much as we hated to do it, we had Jenny on antibiotics in October and then in January. Of course, they didn't help her at all. And then my dear friend Gabby told me about Dr. Manuelita.

She's in one of the most simple yet beautiful little courtyard buildings I've ever seen, on Calle Humboldt, near Llano Park. A little signboard outside signals that it's a homeopathic pharmacy.

But what gives Dr. Manuelita the honor of this Harry Potter-sounding blog post title? Her crystal pendant which she swings like a pendulum, North-South then East-West, over a piece of paper with the patient's name written on it.

As she rotates the crystal she describes the patient's trouble. In Jenny's case, her whole bronchial system was suffering and she needed something to strengthen her immune system. Jenny was delighted with the news, or perhaps the pendulum, and decided to sing and dance for the doctor.

Then, Dr. Manuelita and her assistant labored for an extraordinary long amount of time to type up tiny labels that said "JENNY" and apply them to seven tiny bottles of pills and a dispenser of drops. Jenny was to take four from bottle one, wait an hour, then four from bottle two, and so on, until she ran through all the medicine.

That night, she didn't wake up shrieking at midnight and require watching The Teletubbies to chill her out. And, in the morning, Steve was allowed to walk away from her without causing her to cry. She was happy, playful, energetic--just like the old Jenny.

Next October, as winter approaches, the whole family's going in for the crystal pendulum treatment.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Max and the Baby Jesus

Well, here we are, atheists adrift in Christian-landia, for it is Three Kings Day, the day of the Epiphany. I should begin, though, by saying that this year was my first experience of this holiday traditions, and I loved it.

All over Mexico, people are baking and sharing the Rosca de Reyes, which is a round, sweet bread with candied fruits, sort of like fruitcake. There are little plastic baby Jesus dolls inside the cake, representing the need for the baby Jesus to be hidden to be protected.

Each guest slices into the cake and examines his or her piece to see if the baby Jesus is inside. Well, there we were at our neighbor's store and, wouldn't you know it, Max scored the baby Jesus. He paraded through the street holding the tiny, eerily white baby over his head. Receiving it means good luck for the year!

Receiving the baby also means that Max is the money behind a party he must organize on February 2nd. The Feast of the Candelaria requires Max hosting a tamale party and putting up the funds to purchase tamales for everyone who was present at the cake-slicing.

By afternoon today, the zocalo was jumping with Three Kings chaos. Blocks in four directions were closed and filled with market stalls. I saw many many wonderful things, such as wrestler dolls in a wrestling ring; Pink Panther patches; three tostadas for a dollar; light-up roller skates; and Powerpuff Girl socks (purchased!).

There were calenda processions in the zocalo and, to Max's delight, cascarones-smashing. Max loves buying these eggs filled with confetti and then cracking them on our heads. I have to admit, the day felt...lucky.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

First joke of 2008


"I accidentally put on my underpants with a sock in them, so it looks like I had a big poop."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Books to look forward to...

Now that Maxito reads in Spanish, I am trying to read to him in English every night, from books that are beyond his picture books. So we began with "Pippi Longstocking" which, with the cultural stereotyping edited out by me, was enjoyable.

Next up was "Alice in Wonderland" and tonight we finish "Through the Looking Glass" (a little tedious, though I have always liked "The Walrus and the Carpenter". The chapters run long and there are too many parenthentical asides. I wonder if I should be critiquing parentheticals when I am within one?).

Then he will choose our next book, probably "Mary Poppins" (which, if I recall, will also require some editing) or "The House at Pooh Corner". I keep trying to sell my personal favorite, "Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth" by the almighty E.L. Konigsburg (who can forget "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"?), but so far Max is not persuaded. Other possibilities: "The Wizard of Oz", one of Jenny's folklore collections, or "Sideways Stories from Wayside School". Or, the Bible...ha!

Well, here it is two days later, and I thought I should update this post to share Max's choice. "Garfield Takes the Cake". Not exactly what I was aiming for.