Sunday, September 19, 2010

El Grito de Independencia! The Cry of Independence!

Los Eventos de el Bicentenario 2010 have come and gone and boy did we have a blast! The kids enjoyed a 5 day weekend and every inch of San Miguel de Allende was in a festive party spirit. Of course we participated non stop! Days filled with parades,  concerts, dances, re-enactments of historic events (Insurgents galloping on horses in force down the cobble stone streets of town...extremely hair raising and exciting with just a thing flimsy packing twine between my boys and the galloping insurgents), bullfights (We hated it- very upsetting and walked out after the first bull was killed- augh, so barbaric), fireworks,  and lots of good food, face painting, outlandish wigs, clothing, flag waving, limonada and cervezas!

Our most exciting events were Los Fuegos Pirotechnicos- Yes fireworks!! Todd and I  are thankful that everyone still has their eyesight, can breath and have all limbs in tact...(my eye did sting for minutes after an ash fell like a meteor into it) Days before the big night we noticed these huge scaffolding like structures being delivered to the jardin (center of town where everything important happens) and with some explanations of local friends we learned that these hand tied, popsicle stick like structures would later be assemble to stories high and be the launching point for thousands of fuegos (fires). It beat KFOG KABOOM by leaps and bounds not because of the technology (no match for that) but because the excitement and fevor in which the people enjoyed this crazy event! one  torch started a stream of events, fireworks, whirligigs, whistles, explosions, color, smoke and flying embers up to 150 feet high! While the traditional huge fireworks were booming  higher overhead (like our July 4th show)  I have never seen the kids so excited. They ran around free as monkeys in the jungle, laughing, screaming and completely blissed out! It was a crazy site to behold.  Rules don't really seem to be that strict and people take responsibility for themselves. To our amazement, we did not see anyone get out of control, witness one foul word said or belligerent bystander. In fact with our gaggle of 8 boys, the Mexican folks around us offered shoulders to perch on for a better view with a  jovial playful nature during times where we were in the middle of sardine like situation with boys whining
that they couldn't see anything! 

These are memories that will last forever.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Singing through the wee hours

It's been dark for hours, the fireworks have come and gone, come and gone and come again. Laying in bed, I listen to Mexicans partying somewhere close by as  I can hear numerous voices singing in unison. Songs unfamiliar to me, yet clearly national favorites. I want to absorb more or catch of glimpse of something: What am I missing out on?....Pulling on my white cozy robe and sheepskin slippers I tiptoe through our dimly lit garden and up the narrow stucco and tile stairs to our terrazza where the sky is a mixture of clouds holding onto the city glow and the open darkness where stars twinkle. Looking over San Miguel (a favorite spot in the house) La Parroquia is completely dark so I know it's late. The singing becomes clearer as it floats over the treetops and houses. It sounds like families- definitely a mixture of sweet and low tones. Is it a wedding, birthday or just friends gathering? The wind is soft and warm. My family is all sleeping soundly and I cherish this magical connection to the greater whole. Just a few minutes is all it takes before I come down again and  wonder whether a cup of tea will help me get back to sleep.  The clock blinks 3:20am. No tea, I am too drowsy.  Thoughts of my sister enter my mind and I send her a little prayer. Time to go back to bed. For the moment, it's all quiet again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

California Boys Impressed

Tacos, Futbol y Helado- Summertime Sweetness

So the last week of summer has come to an end...bittersweet moments floated through our dinner conversation tonight...but the habits we have established these past 4+ weeks are almost too fun to let go. "Why do we have to go to bed so early tonight(9:30)?" "Let's go to Xote again!!"(Water park outside of town) "Let's go hang out in the Jardin tomorrow and listen to the Mariachi bands" "Can you take us to Parque Juarez to play futbol?" "What's wrong with having another helado? (ice cream)...They only cost a buck!" "Tacos from the puesto again??" "YES boys, they are healthy, yummy, easy and CHEAP...and NO MORE COKE!!"

So from our mouths to our feet, we have been enjoying San Miguel immensely and everyday there has been a different adventure or impression made. We play at the Deportiva- an outdoor sports center on the edge of town where they have tennis courts (I biffed on Sunday running for the ball while stepping in a divot- my ankle hurts today!). Outdoor weights made of cement filled coffee cans on a bowed bars; Bare yet well loved futbol fields; Covered basketball courts, Kids big and small running everywhere with puppies, babes in arms laughing...And the hormonal teenagers all entwined, giggling or whispering, its one or the other.

The freedom of leisure and people enjoying themselves here is amazing. The potholes and danger zones we skirt by everyday would not be tollerated in America- We would be so busy getting our panties in a wad filing complaints of what wasn't perfect that we would never actually enjoy the warm sun and the green hills adjacent the sports center. The stillness of just sitting, watching and feeling the cool breeze blow though our hair is easily done here. I am dropping the guilt of always having to do something productive. Its such a different way of being and I really enjoy it.

Nothing is fancy or posh on the edge of town. Mamas y Papas are snoozing on the benches while they listen to the tinny sounds of samba from their cell phones as the little ones play on the merry go round (the metal kind we used to have at our playgrounds in the 60's). And there is so much activity!! People are out and about LIVING. This is what hits me so clearly...They really spend lots of time socializing and just spending time together. It has such a different pulse than anywhere I have been in the US or places I have traveled in the world. It has such a warm, heart filled vibe. A "buenos dias" is always returned with a big smile and friendly statement back. People are easy going. Time has slowed down.

How and Why is Mexico so different from the US- yet so close in proximity? Why don't we understand each other better? We listened to Warren Hardy talk last week about the different values that Mexican culture has vs American culture. It was fascinating and touched upon the black and white differences of our histories. He quoted a famous philosopher; Jorge Castanava, "The relationship problem between US and Mexico is simple: USA refuses to acknowledge it's history and Mexico refuses to forget it." It opened our eyes more to how much Todd and I want to learn, read and understand. He talked about the challenges each country has faced, how history has shaped each culture and most interesting is what each country's values are as of today:
The top three values in Mexico:
1. Personal Dignity and Respect- Pride, social protocol
2. Family/Friends/Trust- The rule of law did not protect the people but family will.
3. Free time. Not a consumer oriented market (compared to US)- live from their hearts.
The top three values in America are:
1. Financial Opportunity and free enterprise. Material acquisition.
2. Time and it's control (time filled, time lost, wasted, used, spent, gained, given, made the most of, killed and the best- TIME is MONEY)
3. Individual Freedom- self made person, manifestation of dreams and we are all unique.

How did each country develop these values and why?
Where are we going from here and what can we learn from eachother?
What seemingly insurmountable problems does each country have?

This is why we moved here. To not only learn and educate ourselves but to hopefully give our children a broader perspective on world cultures and values. It becomes so clear that we are a product of our environment- the positive and the negative.  The people and powers around us greatly influence how we think, feel, act and react. There are so many different paths one can take. We need to think for ourselves and ask lots of questions. We are not looking for perfection, we are looking for truths....all of them. We will be lucky if we just find a few here.....
Goodnight to sweet summer- Welcome autumn.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What the heck is "Una rama de apio" ???

So the more I listen and and the more they talk....the more I realized I absolutely stink at spanish......Crap!! Apprehension just doesn't come as quickly as I would like.

So I leave this morning with 3 folded bolsas (plaid plastic woven bags), 200 pesos in my pocket (22 bucks) and a list from Irma -housekeeper and daughter of Juana the cook- as to what I need to buy for Enchilada Verde and Sopa de Pollo -our next two comidas (Afternoon main meal). All in spanish of course and as I understand many of the things on the list, there are about four or five that I didn't. My first stop is to the amazingly cramped yet has everything...."Verduras y Frutas Tienda" (Vegetable and Fruit shop)which is no bigger than a garden shed. It's about a 15 minute walk through narrow cobble stone streets through our beautiful colonial town.(I love saying OUR!!!)

Irma showed me the ropes last week and today I was ready to venture out on my own to pick up all the necessary ingredients. So I arrive to this bustling little tienda on Calle Insurgentes, know the drill of dropping my bags on top of what ever box of veggies is unoccupied and start reaching over all the other mamas who are doing their daily comida shopping too.
  1. 10 chiles serranos- easy
  2. 1/2 kilo of tomatillos- easy
  3. 2 cebollas (onion) guessed right.....
  4. UNA RAMA DE APIO.....what the heck was that? Such a long name? I just stood there as a few senoras reached over me, gently prodding me out of the way while I contemplated this phrase.....hmmmmmmm. 
  5. Cilantro- I know that is the same word in english. 
The next veggies were: Calabaza, Zanahoria and Ejotes... hmmm not sure what those are either. As I lean over to an unsuspecting customer who couldn't have been more than 5' with gray-black hair pulled in a bun, brown, wrinkled face, carefully yet quickly hand inspecting her choice of guavas and dropping them into her plastic bag....I asked, "Perdon Senora, Por Favor. Que es Una Rama de Apio?" as I point to the phrase on my crumpled, torn shopping list. She nods and points to the back corner middle bin which is full of celery. "Gracias!" And as I try to squeeze my way behind bottoms and between the center counter, I politely reach the celery yet cannot grasp it.  The joven (youth) who works there grabs the celery and then he did something odd....He broke off just one stalk and handed it to me, smiled then put the rest of it back in the bin and continued with his work.

It finally occurred to me that UNA RAMA must mean "one stalk" or something like that. ("One branch" is the literal translation). I was delighted at the fact that I didn't have to buy the whole stinking thing!! How practical!! How clever and smart!!  This is SO FUN!!! That is the kind of stuff that just tickles me and why I love being in a foreign place.... Come to find out, you can buy as little or as much of anything you need. A sprig of cilantro, a dash of cinnamon, one fork- I left the tienda with a full bag of veggies and fruit...Content with my purchase of veggies and ripe fruits for 38 pesos ( $3 US dollars) I continued onto the pollo (chicken) tienda, the queso (cheese) store and stopped to buy 10 rustic forged hooks for the bedrooms.  Finally, I took a taxi home for my bags were heavy, laden with goodies and I was hungry! And by the way...the Enchiladas Verdes Juana cooked were out of this WORLD!!!!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They arrived!

Todd and Tommy arrived the other night, finally!! Tons of baggage (we ended up shipping very little as it was more cost effective to pay the airlines for extra duffles) and two taxis to bring them home. We have everything we need, plus more...But we are especially thrilled to have our mountain bikes, speakers for the ipod and the tennis rackets. (We cranked John Denver while doing dishes tonight. Nod to Mom and Dad and the good ole 70's)
The reunion was an energetic one. Will and Marky could hardly wait to see Daddy and Tommy and were bouncing off the walls all day. Once they walked through the big double doors, it was sheer joy! We went to bed incredibly late AND no one slept in, of course.  The the next day was rainy and overcast, within a few hours of boisterous play, the boys were tired and quickly back into the routine habits of insulting each other and one-up-man-ship! Yet, still thrilled to be together ? I guess so....As a girl, I don't always get that.
Anyway it has been overcast and rainy since they arrived and much of our clothes are wet and getting stinky. We have no dryer here and the sun is a great source keeping the house fresh and dry. I hope it comes out again soon.
Unpacking will be a slow process as we pull what is needed when venturing into town to explore. Yesterday we rented two quadimotos (4 wheel ATVs) and went for a ripping 4 hour ride into the countryside. What a blast!! Perfect weather is rain which provides tons of puddles, mud, excitement and skidding! Here in Mexico there is no age limit and before long, Will, Tommy and Marky were driving these powerful rigs (Todd and I passengers)kicking up mud and having the time of their lives, squealing with enthusiasm. On our way back from a ancient tiny town and back along the presa (resevoir) it started to rain buckets, we could hardly see. Emerging from the country side and back towards town, we cruised up the cobblestone streets, navigating through traffic, and rivers that minutes ago were streets.  Drainage Pipes that hang off roofs and over the streets drenched us even more. It was like we were the dudes in a video game, dodging and careening to avoid traps and tags. We arrived back at the shop, squeezed the water out of our clothes and quickly hailed a warm steamy cab to bring us home. At the house, the boys jumped into a hot, full tub and we all got our core temperatures back up to normal. I curled up in my favorite white fuzzy robe and jumped under the down comforter...felt like a cold rainy day in December in Orinda.....and fell asleep.

I had a dream. I had a dream that I was crouched by a river so vast, it looked like the sea. Naked with my clothes draped over my back, I was contemplating jumping in. "Todd, see that buoy out there? Let's swim to it" We looked out quietly. Then on the bank behind me I felt people walking by, only able to catch glimpses of colored pant legs shuffling pass and no longer were we alone. I suddenly felt ashamed and embarrassed to be so exposed, not wanting to be seen.
I jumped in, the water was cool, enveloping and safe. No longer did I feel self conscious in the proximity of strangers. Perfect were the next moments as we swam toward the red bulbous can, Todd near by. Calm was the surface of the water, the atmosphere was tranquil and the light of the sky soft. Yet when we were far from shore, the current quickly became intense, so forceful, I could barely keep my head above water. Panicked and scared, I struggled for each breath frightened how quickly everything changed. Completely alone, flailing I fought to swim ashore. Finally, down stream I reached the river's edge again, face in the sand, body completely limp I lay there, relieved and corpse like. I watched myself dreaming.
Focusing my eyes within the small radius around me, I realized the sand was littered with skins, discarded, shed snake and lizard skins. Translucent, delicate and dry. Gorgeous and strange I wished to show this to the boys. And there in the middle beneath the skins, lay a earthen clay Buddha like vessel half buried in the sand. I reached for it, and with my finger scooped away the sand, amazed that this small treasure would hold a single tealight candle, one that wouldn't go out in the wind for the concave shape would cradle and protect the tiny flame.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

After saying goodbye to friends in Mexico city; Anabel, Emilio, Fernanda y the curly headed angel, Diego, we got into our van overstuffed with bags, dog crate and headed towards San Miguel de Allende, our final destination- 3 hours north of "la cuidad".
We had just spent a whirlwind two days in Mexico city with the Heredia's. Anabels extended family included her mom, step dad, cousin, sister and brother in law and numerous others we learned about through conversation. We arrived to there modern home and experienced amazing Mexican Hospitality. Mom had a full table of traditional foods to eat and immediately welcomed us as we stashed our bags,  relieved to have leg room and get our large, over zealous dog out of her crate. Our kids were thrilled to see each other and spent the next  waking moments within the 36 hours romping around and laughing where ever we were! They took us around Mexico city in at times, pouring rain where we:
1. Attempted to board an overcrowded double decker tour bus (Completely got Soak #1) The rain was impressive!!! Gatos y perros!! (Not actually sure if that idiom translates in spanish!)
2. Visited the amazing Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology museum) where the kids bounced through mesoamerican exhibits and aztec artifacts....most impressed with the grand tombs(there were skeletons!) of these amazing and ancient cultures.
3. Ate another tasty meal at a traditional restaurant off the Zocalo (Main square in DF). I just love how this culture allows children to be so free, even in white tablecloth establishments! Yes, that means the boys were laughing out loud, crawling under the table, at times fighting (just my boys) and even fast walking (like they do at pools- that barely restrained yet energetic style boys 7-12 possess) around some of the other customers. I was tensely mortified at moments, but solo in that feeling apparently. Kids are kids-sleeping in elders arms, laughing, quarreling...all in the open. Vivir la vida! I hope I can chill like the Mexicans before too long...
4.  Walked around The Plaza de la Constitución, or Zocalo. This is the second largest public square in the world, second to Red Square. It is the historic center of Mexico and has significant buildings of church, state, culture and Aztec ruins flanking each side. Pretty amazing in scale with a gigantic Mexican Flag waving in the middle. There were people from all walks of life: artisans selling indigenous crafts, Aztec dancers in exotic feathered costumes, tatooed hip younsters, old grimy beggars, families hanging out, protesters (their tents have been set up in the square for over three months apparently.)It also was the main party zone and headquarters for FIFA Cuppa del Mundo complete with performing rock bands and gigantic screen tv. Needless to say we held the children close as this enourmous square was pumping with stimulation and variety.
5. Escaping the noise we ducked into the gorgeous Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) where we saw a grand altar made of oro (gold) that Marky found quite impressive and Will couldn't believe how crooked the expansive floor was. The church has sunk incredibly over the past 430 years - Not only is it a massive amount of weight and the soil below is quite soft but the brazen Spaniards built their entire city on top of the sacred center of the great Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. So hence the crazy sinking of much of centro. Restoration Specialist's main concern is to just ensure that the sinking is uniform and balanced so the buildings actually remain upright.
6. The Great Temple (Templo Mayor) was pretty cool, as it is recently discovered evidence of more Aztec culture, which Marky had studied for his 3rd grade house building project. He decided to do Montezuma's palace and here it was, remains of his great city. Yeah, Marky thought it was kinda neat but the stand adjacent selling pseudo raybans with Mexican flag imprints on the lenses was more alluring and only 80 pesos...I bet if you asked him about the ruins, he may just give you a blank stare....but you wouldn't know it because he's sporting his ultra cool shades...
7. Finally we got drenched again!!! (Soak to bone #2) We and the crowds huddled under the massive rotunda of the Bellas Artes as the moist dusk air turned to another torrential downpour. After jovially waiting several minutes for it to abate, we decided to make a run for the parking garage and splashed through the pond that previously had been the Zocalo.
Our brief time in Mexico city was great and a memorable way to enter such an exhuberant country.

Our first days in San Miguel have been amazing and the weather perfect. We had arrived Saturday afternoon and were warmly greeted by Juana, Irma and Carlos, the cook, her daughter the housekeeper and the gardener. I'm pretty sure I've died and gone to heaven. Juana has cooked for this household for 19 years and is an amazing little wisp of a woman who I instantly fell in love with.  Her guacamole, pollo con championes y hotcakes are divine...(And it's not only because I didn't have to prepare it!!) Not to mention they are also our spanish teachers by default! The boys are a bit shy, but I think they will become fine friends within a few weeks.
The following day we walked forever seeking a shop that sold "pelota de futbol" as the boys have futbol fever and hung out in the Jardin to watch the "cuppa del mundo" with all the other fans. It was lively and the kids played ball in the Jardin under the pink glow of the colonial gothic church, La Parroquia.
We have spent the following hours of the day unpacking and settling into this old hacienda we now call home. It is so so so cool- 70 yrs old and traditional mexican style with colorful tile bathrooms, kitchen and brick floors and white stucco walls. The weather is perfect during the day and  balmy at night.  Couple nights ago we finished the day by bringing sleeping bags to the rooftop terrace and as we snuggled in looking over the twinkling city and watched the heat lightning. I read to them by candlelight of old cracked lanterns I found in one of the closets. Later that night, it down poured a warm rain which quieted the barking dogs and gave the earth a fresh, organic smell. The boys didn't even wake...they were tired, sleeping like rocks and I am happy to be in such a beautiful place. We look forward to 10 days from now when Tommy and Todd arrive. We miss them a lot and can't wait to share this amazing adventure.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2 1/2 weeks till take off!

Wow, I can't believe it's almost here. There is still so much to do before Will, Marky, Dog, three 50lb duffle bags and I get on the plane for Mexico city in 19 days. July 8th departure from SFO.
Packing for MX, packing up our house for renters, donating and purging (the stuff we don't want to unpack later....Oh how rewarding that part is!! I am being ruthless!) injections, directions, bank accounts, telephone, mail, blah blah etc......Lots of stuff to keep track of, organize and cross off the list....more to go. STRESSED??, un poco ;) but if I wasn't I would just be glued to the TV absorbing my favorite sporting event - FIFA World Cup Futbol and enjoying the lazy days of summer.....Now we are just sleep deprived as we catch up on who won today with late night viewing. (Cameroon lost to Denmark today- boo hooo)
Anyway, Tommy and Todd will join us in San Miguel at the end of the month as Tommy is on the all-star baseball team! So the little ones, dog and I are starting our adventure as planned. Yet one glitch is that we have to fly into Mexico City (instead of Leon) which is 4.5 hours south of San Miguel because of our beloved pooch. Non stop SFO to MEX city is only 4+ hours and only the big jets take large pets. So I am in the process of figuring how to finish the last leg of the trip- Bus, van or private car? Price and sanity will be weighed. I just have to keep reminding myself to breathe and I love it when friends drop by and give me a big hug and pull my head out of a box or closet!
The kids? They are humming along with the program and they won't admit it but we see our excitement is rubbing off on them. We ask them to purge their rooms, put aside a few things they want to bring and talk about what it may be like in Mexico and what we may discover. They still like to ask,  "why are we doing this?"  and is it possible to only "go for a little bit?!!" But the concept of riding horses, driving ATVs, riding in the back of a pick up, Vacationing at the beach are all good things.
To sum it up though, I was driving Marky and Will somewhere the other day and they were playing the familiar game of "What would you rather do/be/have?" and one offers up two scenarios like being blind or deaf, Having a pool or a trampoline- you get the idea. Well it unfolded like this... Marky says "Will, would you rather be in California when there is a huge earthquake, trees falling down, buildings crashing on you, dams breaking in Mexico for a year?" Will, pause for seconds while contemplating.....finally he said with with an exaggerated sigh, "live in Mexico" I of course laughed and laughed and considered it progress.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

San Miguel de Allende it is!!!

Since the sleepless in Guanajuato night, much has transpired.  Much to my relief and excitement, Todd arrived and I gave him the grand tour of Guanajuato: Houses, town, meandering calles, las escuelas, mercados, hilltop vistas etc...HE LOVED IT!!! (of course!)But the burning question was what schools should the boys attend and how deep is the deep end? What is healthy immersion vs unhealthy immersion? What will the first 6 months look like in a full immersion mexican catholic school of 350+ kids where NO ONE speaks any english? Head of Primeria: Madre Josephina was absolutely fabulous and I knew within a millisecond of meeting her, that she was a divine human being....yet still the red hot question remained....

The following day we took off to check out San Miguel de Allende, the next Colonial town on the map, one hour away and a lot more famous/international town....It's on the must see of small cities list of Conde Nast travel site. San Miguel is magical in an entirely different and unique way from Guanajuato. Yet more gringos, more swank shops, top rated restaurants and possibly less Mexican? Dreams are funny in that way...It may be that we don't really experience authentic Mexico until we can speak the language fluidly and relax down to the slower pace of life and then it may unfold before us...And maybe "that" Mexico is EVERYWHERE across the country and we will just need to be patient, slowly peeling back the layers. There in lies the fabulous mystery of living and traveling to a different part of the world: Sounds, smells, light, and feel of the air is so new and fresh that it heightens one's awareness to an epic extent.

OK, back on the earth....findings on San Miguel:
NUMERO UNO: We found two fantastic schools in San Miguel and that pretty much frosted our cupcakes. The Waldorf school for Will and Marky and Vic's school for Tommy.
NUMERO DOS: We fell in love with an old hacienda style casa near centro that has a pool/yard  perfect for kids and dog. Despite the fact that we don't know for sure if we will be able to rent for the year,  I can't help to feel positive vibes that it will all work out.

Marky and Will are to attend The Rudolph Steiner School in the outskirts of San Miguel and it's totally worth the 15 min yellow bus ride out of town.  High dessert foliage flanks the dirt road driveway to school and we arrived at an idyllic country setting with multiple small adobe classrooms, organic veggie garden and quaint rotunda performance hall. Each interior glowed with color washed interiors and ceilings draped in long swaths of cloth. Quintessential Waldorf Style. It was heart warming to see so many joyful children tossing bean bags while doing their times tables. The school is full immersion spanish with about an hour a day for English, which I think will become our kids favorite class (may even trump recess). A few of the teachers do speak english and many of the kids come from biracial, bilingual families. It was comforting to know that even though our kids would be learning in spanish, they would not be completely isolated in a difficult situation....they would be understood in their mother tongue.

Tommy will attend Victoria Robbins School that is highly unpublicized school (not even a single sign outside the door). Like many things in Mexico, only a vigorous hunt upturns treasures. And a treasure this is. We walked into a small interior courtyard filled with about 60 kids all middle school to lower Highschool. The kids were mostly speaking english yet I think everyone of them is bilingual and it's a flip flop situation to the waldorf school. Most of the day he will be doing his studies in english and an hour or two of spanish each day. Todd and I were welcomed to talk with all the kids in an informal way and we were so charmed and impressed with these young adults and knew that Tommy would fit in and thrive. When we asked these children about their bilingual experiences they shared much...most importantly they told us not to put Tommy in a full immersion situation in Guanajuato....that would just be too brutal...we listened and learned.

Friday, April 30, 2010

School options?

Breakdown on Day Five, Guanajuato: The night before Todd arrived and After a very long day of looking at almost every school in Guanajuato, the exhaustion and fear crept in and gave me a violent shake. It was the school thing....The previous day I was high on all the amazing culture, architecture, people, cool old baseball field in the center of town, Casa possibilities etc...yet to date, I only visited one school.

The Waldorf School which was 15-20 minute drive outside of town. Through my westeren eyes, I saw a complete lack of beauty at this dusty campus, and the cock fighting business adjacent to the school didn't help my impression, but my heart really sank when I sat in on the 6th grade class And the teacher belabored the syllables in el-e-fan-te (all in spanish)for what seemed like an eternity. I just imagined Tommy sitting next to me in this cramped little classroom of 7 kids wondering what the heck was he doing here and that he was right, his parents did make a huge mistake in moving to mexico and this was crazy. Yet I had put that fearful thought out of my mind after that first morning realizing the Yeccan Waldorf school was not going to be the place for the kids, I had so many more schools to check out and I would find the right fit for my was out there, i just had to keep looking and questioning.

Monday morning arrived, David a bilingual friend of the innkeepers pick me up at 8am and we headed out to check out every colegio school in a 15 minute radius of town center. There was La Salle- the established Catholic school at the end of Le Presa, Insituto Guanaguato- the progressive montessorri like school outside of town, Colegio Valenciana- the prestigious
bilingual school on the top ot the hill above GTO and a few other schools that did not have any buzz to them (based on my contacts) but I would check them out anyway. Quickly,I had learned that everything was like a treasure hunt in this town, never quite sure what you may stumble across.

By the end of that day, I was burnt out from all the sputtering of Spanish I had manage to let tumble out of my mouth during the 7 visits We made (thank goodness for David in clarifying my questions and filling in the blanks) and my enthusiasm and spunk were zilch. When i finally reached my room, I just crumpled down and cried. There was no perfect fit...the fact that my boys did not have a command of Spanish was going to be a huge challenge for all of us. And I didn't have an ounce of energy to creatively think of a solution. Restless was my sleep

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It's 4:09 am Mexico time its pitched black and I'm bright eyed after having slept a few hours. Propping myself up in bed,I grab my iPad and it's bluish glow illuminates this simple room. I'm Intoxicated with excitement over what has transpired in the last 30 hours here in Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Todd dropped me off at Orinda Bart Thursday. Perfectly clear fresh California day and I was SFO bound to catch a plane to Leon Mx. My assignment was to take 10 days to check out two cities- visit schools, scout out housing for long term rent and explore the town through the eyes of us all or at least to attempt to. The answer will be clear on whether we are going to live in Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende. Todd arrives Tuesday and he is going to get an ear full (in a good way)
After 24 hours in this vibrant university town of Guanajuato,the birthplace of Mexican Independence (our Boston) I am in love! This dynamic, colonial town is a beehive of life and the people I have encountered range from the cabbie who insists I own a shampoo company (Sampou: yes we were conversing in spanish obviously not very well due to the lack of clarity about what i do), to the innkeepers setting up arrangements for me to get across town using a sorely out of skew turista map with lots of finger pointing to the online "americans who lived here" friends I,ve made. These four gals are available by the touch of a phone, generous with information, masters at multitasking and genuinely excited for us.
I visited one school and two homes today, serendipitously met a mom in a park while contemplating el mappa. She actually was the mom of the little gringa girl i met in the waldorf 3rd grade classroom today(she helped with translation between me and her teacher) Daughter like mother, they were both charming. I became a barnacle and followed Alex(mom)around for the next two hours while she showed me favorite spots in the city: The colonial Instituto de Musica where her 5th grade boy takes viola to the baseball field where you just show up on Sunday morning and you are on a team: No try outs, age breakdown or organized uniforms....this was a goldmine! I cant wait to show the boys! The day finished up by taking in the amazing hillside views at dusk of this colorful city and grabbing a bite to eat and dos cervecas at an outdoor cafe. Viva la vida

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's official!

Well, It's happening! We are going to live in Mexico for a year- July 2010-July 2011! The dream of many many years to live abroad with our family is here. The time is now and we are seizing the moment with excitement, wonder, hard work and yes, a little bit of trepidation.

You know the discussion shaped up over last Thanksgiving dinner up in the farmlands of Oregon. We were celebrating at the Fisco's and Amanda and I began talking about taking the littlest kids out of school, (no big deal, right?)saving tuition money and heading to Mexico for a few months. The guys and Tommy would come down once middle school was out. Perfect solution to the wet days of Winter, fulfilling my desire to immerse the kids in a latin culture, explore the idea that we can live quite happily in a foreign culture where we don't speak the language (yet) and live day to day with a adventurous attitude among the warmth of Mexico and it's people. Well, you know once you start dreaming and verbalizing at the same time....inertia implements process!

Todd pondered this "I (Jen) can take the two little ones down..." and didn't want to miss out on an adventure nor split the family up for more than a few weeks. So further date nights led to further discussion about our dreams and desires. "The time is now" was on the tip of both of our tongues. So let's live abroad for a year and leave this summer. By January I was telling everyone who's path I crossed we were going South. Come February, Todd still had to break the news to Mom, Dad and his work! Our styles are opposite, yet intent united.

So that was the beginning. The dream has been given light and nourishment. No longer a passing wish or whispered joke. We will rent out our home for the year, take the dog, leave the cats and chickens, have Sue look after our yard, be the hired house cleaner and we'll go from there. Todd will continue to work via internet and occasional travel. It is amazing what he can accomplish on his laptop with a hookup...The decision is made. Where we would land was the next question.

After reviewing stacks of travel books, .com sites, stories of others adventures we decided to narrow it down to move to the state of Guanajuato where the beautiful colonial towns of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato are located. We are leaning toward San Miguel but Guanajuato is still an option. I have been twice to both of these towns and know they are fantastic places to bring one's family. Once I go visit the schools and rental options, I think the answer will be clear.

Spanish classes began in January, I am taking a daily course at Diablo Valley College and loving it although its a boatload of homework. The kids are already learning spanish at school and we have a spanish tutor coming twice a week. It's brain aching to learn a new language!

The boys are mixed about all the hub-bub. Tommy is definitely against the move and thinks it's for the most part a stupid idea. Marky is moody about the concept- happy one moment, grumpy the next and Will? He mirrors the moods of all yet pretty upbeat. As for responses of friends and family.....definitely a mixed bag of "you're CRAZY..." to "that is FABULOUS!" It's all very interesting and reminds us how very alive we are!

We will keep you posted with all the ins and outs of stirring up the pot as we plan our move to Mexico.