Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mexican Sign Language (“lengua de señas mexicana” or LSM)

Mike and I just returned from a grocery store and we had a neat encounter at the tortilleria (the stand that sells fresh tortillas.)

Mike was ordering tortillas de harina and a woman standing at the stand began motioning to the tortilla clerk. I’m not sure what she was saying, but I thought she might be reading Mike’s lips and possibly using sign language to clarify Mike’s request with the clerk. (Years ago I studied American Sign Language [ASL] and I eventually received an AAS degree in sign language interpreting – although I never actually worked as an interpreter.)

Over the years in the States I would see people using ASL all the time, but I would not attempt to use my rusty ASL unless it was absolutely necessary. And in Mexico City I saw many people signing, but I did not attempt to talk with them. That said, I don’t know what made me do it, but in my best ASL I asked the woman if she knew sign language. Her eyes lit up – but bear in mind that ASL and LSM are different languages, although some signs appear to be universal.

Somehow, some way using ASL, LSM, Spanish (the clerk seemed to know both LSM & Spanish), and English we had a conversation! The woman explained that she had lost her hearing from some sickness while she was pregnant, but that her daughter can hear and she helps her mom by interpreting Spanish into LSM - most hearing kids of deaf parents are bilingual. I told her that Mike and I had moved to Guaymas… Mike got involved in the conversation and she told us that she works in a factory nearby. We thanked them for their help and said goodbye.

I walked out of that store thinking that I CAN live in Mexico and communicate. Maybe in Spanish, maybe in English and I guess maybe in ASL/LSM.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sitka at the Beach

Our doggie, Sitka, is such a treasure! She made the whole 5,000+ mile journey with us from Seattle to Guaymas without any problems. Plus, she acted as our security doggie - no one messed around with our truck with Sitka in it!

But it has been so hot and humid here that Sitka isn't getting the same amount of exercise that she's used to. And I'm not sure that's bad...I don't want her to get sick or weak from the heat. It's just that I feel guilty seeing her lying around the apt all the time.

So we got up early and took her to a deserted part of the beach that we had never been to. Sitka loves water and she RAN into the Sea of Cortez! We didn't bring any toys, but some coconut husks were floating around and we used them for her to play "fetch" with. A couple of times she got over her head (she has never been a strong swimmer) and I was ready to jump in if needed, but even though she looked worried when she couldn't feel the bottom she did just fine. And don't call the Humane Society - we didn't let her get out too far.

Finally it was time to go home and figure out how to clean her up.
Sitka usually rides in the extended cab of the truck so she can enjoy the AC, but today she was so messy and wet we put her inside the canopy where she used to ride in Seattle...back window open wide with her big head taking a beating in the wind. She loved it!

Once we got home we got her in our shower and cleaned all that saltwater off. I used to shower "with her" in Seattle, but this was my first try in Guaymas. I can say that I'm happy we have an open shower - it made it a lot easier and the clean up wasn't bad.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Guaymas Commerce Part I

A glimpse into commerce in my town...

This is the place we buy our drinking water. We take in our two 5 gallon containers, they wash them and refill them with purified water. It costs $6 pesos/container (about 0.60 US cents.) It's fast, efficient, clean and one of the guys carries the containers out to the truck for which I give them a tip.

Recently we took our truck to this auto shop for an oil change and a check on the transmission and differential. It's located about 6 blocks from our apt and Lolita's son, Chuy, said they do good work. It is a very small shop and they do a lot of the work right on the street or across the street in a little vacant space. We left the truck there, walked home, and picked it up in about 2 hours. It was $300 pesos (about $30 US dollars.)

Here we have Lolita's Hotel Ana. As you can see, it is a corner property that is fairly large. I haven't been in a room yet, but the office/entryway is beautifully tiled and it looks very nice.

In the US we have small convenience stores called 7/11. Here in Mexico we have OXOX (say Ox-oh) and just like the 7/11 stores they are virtually everywhere!

Contrary to the big, shiny OXOX stores, are the Abarrotes...these are tiny stores that offer just some of the basics. And it seems like they are located about every 50 yards from each other. I happen to like this one because of the name...

El Centro is packed with various businesses and I'm lucky I was able to get this pic without causing a traffic accident. A Zapateria is a shoe store and if you double click on the pic you can enlarge it to see the variety of shoes in the window. Also notice yet another variation on the spelling of my name...

This last one is not related to commerce, but it caught my eye nonetheless...I always thought these meeting places were without signage.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I'm here to report that we had absolutely no idea that the water in Guaymas and Empalme had been shut off for 4 days!!!

In fact, I was so excited to know that it came back on last night I washed a load of towels and rugs this morning and had no problems. One thing I did notice, however, was this sticker inside the lid of the washer......if you only knew how many times I have spilled olive oil on myself while cooking...but I have yet to self-combust!!! Have YOU???

So back to the title of my post...we have an "okay refrigerator" in our ample apt, however, it has just one door and the inside door for the freezer compartment is missing and our ice cubes melt and we can't keep any frozen food and I want ice cream and whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa...

Today we asked Lolita if we could replace our refrigerator and she gave us the thumbs up. Her son, Raphael (who used to live in this apt) will take the old refer for now and we will take the new one with us when/IF we ever move out.

To help you understand what we are dealing with see these pics:

Old refer...

New refer!

Old freezer...

New freezer!

Old fridge...

New fridge!

It's not a giant investment, and it is not a giant change in our lives. But just knowning that we have reliable refrigeration we won't need to shop for fresh foods everyday and we won't need to worry about foods not being kept cold enough. Mike got very sick over the weekend - he had a 103F temp - and we don't know if it was bad food or not, but it got us thinking...

There you have it...our thoughts for today and the things we did after thinking about it all...about thinking about the small space we had for our refer (that matched none of the basic refer specs) and about how many stores we went to in
Guaymas to find the perfect refer...and about how many times I pulled out my tape measure (in inches/yards, of course!)...and about how many refers were just 1.5 inches toooooo wide...in the end we moved our kitchen counters, stove and sink 3 inches to make it fit. Ahhh...how challenges make us finally use our brains!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Do you realize how valuable water is? The next few days will tell…will tell the citizens of Guaymas and Empalme.

You see the public water supply for Guaymas and Empalme was scheduled to be turned off beginning today at 8:00pm and turned back on on Tues at 8:00pm – although Lolita told us that it was actually turned off yesterday. During this time, the government will conduct a study on groundwater wells for public use.

So how do these two communities get through 4 days with no running water? Well, our apt has a tinaco on the roof. I don’t completely understand how it works, but a tinaco stores water. So we’ll have that supply until the tinaco is emptied. (That’s why we would not have noticed when the water was actually turned off yesterday.)

We also filled up our Coleman cooler and our dirty clothes bucket with water from the shower so we’ll have enough for basics like flushing the toilet. For purified water, we had our 2 five gallon containers filled and we topped off our other 2 small containers. Lastly, we have some purified water bottles stashed in the refrigerator.

We won’t do any laundry and showers will be QUICK! Hopefully, with our conservation we won’t run out and the government will turn the water back on as promised….

The irony of it all is that it started raining during the night and this morning it is still coming down hard. This is the first day of hard rain we’ve experienced here in Guaymas. Rain when there is no running water. Funny, huh?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Los Barcos Restaurant "Review"

Wednesday evening Mike & I were joined by Brenda & Roy (from Guaymas) and Bliss & Jim (from San Carlos) for dinner at Los Barcos, a Guaymas restaurant on the malecon – close to the area in which the cruise ships will soon dock. (See Brenda’s post for more info. We understand that Princess and Holland American are 2 of the cruise liners that will be visiting Guaymas.) Here we all are – Roy, Mike, me, Bliss (hiding), Jim and Brenda.

We planned to meet at 5:00 for an early dinner. Bliss & Jim were running late and by 5:45 we were all there catching up with each other. There were 2 or 3 other tables of diners and the first time our waiter came to take our order we had not even looked at the menus. We continued yakking, but then found that the kitchen was closing at 6:30 (!!??) so we needed to order.

Our meals were served, a variety of shrimp and chicken in tacos, sautés and Mike's breaded shrimp. The food was good, the price was right and we were outta there by 7:30 or so. It would have been nicer if we could have lingered a while...so if you ever go there ask about the hours of operation before you go! (As an aside, I had stopped in Los Barcos yesterday to make sure they’d be open at 5:00 – I had no clue that I should have asked what time they closed!!)

The staff was quickly closing down Los Barcos and the 6 of us stood outside the door…still talking…when a group of 4 travelers from Italy approached Los Barcos. They had just gotten off the ferry to Guaymas. They looked tired and hungry and when we told them the restaurant had just closed they looked very disappointed. We told them about a couple of other nearby restaurants and they explained that they only had a limited amount of time before they had to catch a bus to San Carlos.

Jim graciously offered the weary travelers a ride and somehow they all piled into Jim and Bliss’ car as they headed out for the short drive to San Carlos. The car was packed, but they all got in!

Mike and I continued visiting with Brenda and Roy as darkness approached. We finally said our goodbyes and headed to our casas. It was a lovely time with our new friends in Mexico!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Week 5 in Guaymas

Well, Nancy in Mazatlan was right…after getting through all the minutia, we are beginning to feel at home in Guaymas…grocery shopping, buying water, having coffee, getting an oil change for the truck. There are many people here helping us in our transition and following are some of their pics:

Our favorite coffee shop, Barista, is just down the street from St. Mary’s Preschool and it has free wi-fi and we go there to log on. Two baristas are Fraly behind the dulce (sweet goodies) counter and Marcela who had the day off but came in to log on. They also have great sandwiches and crepes!

This is our landlady, Lolita, and her grandson Alejandro. Alejandro is home from college in Ciudad Obregon for the summer (his mom, also named Lolita, has a house connected to our apt and to Mama Lolita’s house) and he hooked up our TV cable for us. Lolita translated my St. Mary’s Preschool teaching contract for me and we are helping her with her new laptop. The pic on the wall in the background is Lolita’s brother, Father Jose Antonio, who died in an auto accident 24 years ago, but he remains close to Lolita’s heart. Lolita owns the Hotel Ana across the street and gives Spanish and music lessons out of her home - Brenda and Bliss are two of her students. AND Lolita is related to one of the former Presidents of Mexico!!

Pancho (in the middle) is a boat captain and he is repairing Raphael’s boat that is resting on the Lolita “compound” property. Raphael is Lolita’s son and he has a house with his wife and kids next to Hotel Ana.

This is Alejandro’s younger brother, Francisco. He is 16 and we never quite know what he is up to around here…but he has spent a lot of time helping Pancho out with the boat repair.

Chuy is Lolita’s other son and he has an apt that connected to the Lolita, Lolita, Cynthia & Mike structure. And this is Lolita’s housekeeper, Maria Elaina. Maria Elaina has been very helpful to us!

Here we have our former neighbors from the “casita” (small house) next to ours, Joel and Tomas. Below Tomas are his daughter, Aranza and her girlfriend, and Tomas’ wife, Judith sitting on the bed.

Well, there you have it. Our new friends. There is a big celebration in the plaza going on right now so we're outta here!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Born to Teach!

I gave my first English lesson for my little neighbors today! This is German, Aranza, and Gerardo. They are staying at Hotel Ana in a separate “house” that shares our driveway/parking area. We have seen them playing outside everyday so today Mike and I invited them in.

We used crayons in coloring books and stickers in sticker books. Mike “supervised” and Sitka basically got in everyone’s way! We had some cokes and chocolates wrapped up like dineros.

But the most fun was playing Hangman. It’s a game in which you guess a secret word by guessing the individual letters in the word. We played in Spanish and in English. I learned some new words and they learned some new words.

Unfortunately, they are leaving today with their parents to go to Mazatlan for a month before heading home to Mexico City. We fell in love with all of them and Mike gave each one of them one of his baseball caps as well as the coloring books, crayons and stickers. They were a joy to be around as we all stumbled through each other’s language.

Adios mis amigos.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Teaching Contract Signed!

This week I signed my contract with St. Mary's Preschool - associated with Colegio Navarrete, a primary (grades 1-6) and secondary (grades 7-9) private school. I am scheduled to begin orientation on August 18 with classes starting the following week. The schools must be pretty important to the community as they have their own directional sign off Lopez, one of the main streets through Guaymas!

The campus houses both the Preschool and Colegio Navarrete and the scenery is just beautiful. This is a shot of stairs that lead to what must be an outside stage.

And this is the Preschool itself from the stage stairs.

This is also from the stairs - showing the gates into the Preschool and the surrounding neighborhood.

And here is a great pic of the Director of the Preschool, Elsa with her 2 daughters, Lucia and Maria Paola. Maria Paola will be in my English class!

On another note, Richard from Scotland found our blog and we have been emailing each other. He will be arriving in Guaymas in August and he will also be an English teacher at Colegio Navarrete. If anyone has any housing ideas for Richard, please send me an email.