Thursday, August 28, 2008

No Rain!

But no school for the children - only the teachers. Teachers and support staff reported to school today and will do so again tomorrow. And on Monday we will have a second "First Day of School" - with the teachers and the children.

We are using this extra time to finish classroom "decorations" and Lesson Plans. The Spanish teachers each have a set classroom, while I will rotate through the 3 classrooms thoroughout the day. The Spanish teachers have done a wonderful job setting up their classrooms.

They each have the Spanish alphabet taped to the wall, letter by letter, using a specific font we teach to the children. They also have identified many classroom items like table, chair, pencil, calendar, computer, Science Center, Art Center, Library, etc. with a little sign in Spanish next to the item/area. (At least I'll learn the Spanish word for classroom items since I'll be looking at the Spanish words everyday!)

So today I added the English alphabet to the opposite wall in each classroom. And I taped up signs with the English word next to many of the Spanish words already on the walls. The classrooms now have a nice, bilingual feel to them!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rain Day #3

Geez. No school again.

But I have been using the time at home to find numerous classroom ideas on the internet. We have a curriculum with specifics to cover, yet we have the creative freedom to teach the specifics however we like.

We haven't had any additional leaks in our apt, but we have the towels and mop ready.

I've enjoyed lazing around with Mike after a full week at school last week for Orientation/Training. I'm going to miss him A LOT the day I actually drive off for school again!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rain Day #2

My friend, Brenda, here in Guaymas wrote a very descriptive post about our rain and flood situation due Tropical Storm Julio...check it out. And in case you're wondering, yes, school was suspended again today. Dang. The teaching delay is frustrating!

Unfortunately, our front window and the ceiling in our bedroom closet leaked. Leaked a lot. Leaked so much we could barely keep up with wringing out towels and mopping up the water.

Early on we moved all boxes from their hiding places (under the bed, under the couch, stacked in the closet) and got them up and on a piece furniture to keep them from getting wet.

For a few hours all we did was wring and mop. I still didn't know if school would be suspended or not so I went to sleep. Mike stayed up and mopped as needed. I got up at 5am and took my turn mopping. At around 6:30 I read on the Guaymas website that school was suspended. I confirmed with Elsa and finished wringing out towels.

Mike and I took a drive through town and were really surprised by what we saw. It's amazing what devestation water can cause. We're home now and it's coming down pretty hard. Our hearts go out to those here who are faced with evacuation and loss of property.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rain Day!

Today was the first day of school at St. Mary’s Preschool in Guaymas. However, it rained heavily last night…in fact, there was so much rain that I decided not to walk Sitka on the malecon and I slept an extra hour instead. But Mike got up, I had coffee and I excitedly got ready for work. It is just a 5-10 minute drive to the school and I was there right at 7:00am.

Some of the children began to arrive and I went to the Preprimary (age 5) classroom which is where my first English class of the day is held. I already knew Maria Paula (her mom is the Preschool Principal, Elsa, and her dad is the Colegio Navarrete Principal, Gerardo) and I remember some of the other children from the Open House last week. Class doesn’t start until 8:00 so we used this time to introduce each other and practice saying our names. Many of the children went to St. Mary’s last year so they are familiar with the classrooms and where to hang up their backpacks.

The rain kept falling and right before 8:00 Elsa came to say that school had been suspended for the day due to the rain. Due to the rain?! HA As a native Seattleite (where it rains a lot), all I could do was laugh. But in Guaymas we see flooding and large pools of water because there are no drains in the streets and the ground is not able to soak up the water.

The parents came back to pick up the children they had just dropped off and the other parents were notified that school was suspended. The few children that stayed included Elsa’s three children, one of the Spanish teacher’s daughter, and two sisters that were going to stay for the day. As it happens, they had all gathered in the Preprimary classroom and we spent time drawing, practicing handwriting and looking at pictures of snow and Sitka on my laptop. Then we had our little lunch snacks. Next they all gathered umbrellas and went outside to run around in the rain. The wind picked up and so did their energy! I let them blow off their steam and then we came back inside.

They got out building blocks and entertained themselves while I began working on next week’s Lesson Plans. I was a little disappointed, but I know I’ll have plenty of teaching opportunity in the upcoming months.

Meanwhile, Elsa’s phone was ringing off the hook about how the storm has just begun and at around 1:00 we vacated the Preschool – except Elsa stayed for a book delivery. Hopefully, we'll be back tomorrow and have a genuine First Day of School!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Open House at St. Mary’s Preschool

Yesterday we had our annual Open House for the parents and children of St. Mary’s Preschool in Guaymas, Sonora. It was held from 6-8 in the evening, at the Preschool, with activities for the children, info for the parents, food for everyone and fun for all. One idea behind the Open House is to introduce the children to the school and teachers in a fun way so that come Monday morning they will look forward to school and lessen their separation anxiety (from their parents.) I would say the Open House was a rousing success!

At 6pm it is still quite warm (and humid) on an August night in Guaymas. So while the playground area was open to the children we also had activities inside the air conditioned classrooms. My activity was fishing in the fish pond and it was set up outside. I had a pool filled with water and little fishing poles with lines that had magnetic tips. The pool was stocked with various magnetic fishies – sharks, puffers, rays, dolphins…you dip the line in the water and snag a fish.

Our guests began arriving right at 6 which is a bit surprising… after all we are in Mexico! And before long the preschool was brimming with little kids playing on the outdoor toys and rushing in an out of the 4 classrooms. How they have that energy in the heat is beyond me. Soon enough the fish pond was the place to be and I was meeting most of the children right there. The students had nametags and it was a good way for me to introduce myself and talk to them. What I noticed right off the bat is how quiet their little voices are. It was a strain to hear some of them, and if they had a name I wasn’t familiar with I had to ask them to repeat and repeat and repeat until I got it. They probably thought I was hard of hearing.

I had little stickers to put on the children as they successfully “caught” a fish and the stickers were the motivation to catch another and another. Most of them called me, “Maestra” (teacher) and it hit me that I really am (almost anyway) a teacher. While a few of the children were quite outgoing, some were very shy and some even had an older sibling to help interpret what I was saying. I was struck by how kind the older ones were to their younger family members. There was also lots of hugging and kissing among the children. It’s a very touchy, feely environment – even in the sticky heat.

Later I sat through our Principal, Elsa’s, presentation to the parents and at the end I was introduced as the new English teacher. I said a few words to the parents and then Elsa interpreted what I said for them. I was welcomed and I felt very comfortable although I was the proverbial “fish out of water.” Snacks followed and the fishing continued…we left around 9 and I was so ready for a shower.

When I rolled into our apt I was pleasantly surprised by Mike. He had cleaned the whole apt (even mopping!) and all I had to do was relax. I think I am going to enjoy this role reversal…

Today I left school with lots of stuff to consider while finalizing my Lesson Plans for the first week of school. But like I said a few days ago, I love school!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lesson Plans

I spent most of my day working on Lesson Plans - reviewing the templates used for the Primary grades and then creating my own version for the Pre-School. I will have three 1.75 hour classes a day. The 8:00 class will be with the 5 year olds, the 10:00 class with the 4s, and the 12:00 class with the 3s.

That means there are a lot of Lesson Plans to create! I've got lots of ideas swimming around my head. I just have no idea what a 3 year old is going to understand in a language the child doesn't know. And what if they start crying for their mammas? And what if they get into a spat with another child? Worst of all, what if my teaching is so bad that they fall asleep???

If anyone has some good, simple, worthy teaching ideas for pre-schoolers, please let me know!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Antonio Banderas & Eddie Vedder

I'm working on lesson plans and Mike is watching Desparado - a movie based in Mexico starring that Spanish beauty, ANTONIO BANDERAS!!!

Now anyone who knows me well knows I have been an ardent Pearl Jam fan since 1991 and I have been in love with lead singer, Eddie Vedder, since 1991.

As I watched pieces of the movie all I could see in Antonio was Eddie! In fact, I got so distracted that I spent/wasted waaaaay too much time looking for pics of them on the web. Check it out...Antonio and Eddie. Don't they look alike???And yes, I know this has nothing to do with school or moving to Mexico or anything like that. But sometimes a girl just has to dream about dreamy men.

p.s. The movie is actually pretty good - although it is a little corny.
p.p.s.s. Mike and I both felt fine today. I guess we had the short version of the problem...yippee!

First Day of Work

Well, the day started out just fine...Sitka and I got up at 5:30 and took a power walk along the malecon. She's the power. I'm the walker. We have done this on occasion, but I'd like to make it a morning habit.

Richard and I got in the truck and headed to the school. We met the other teachers in the Primary area where Richard will be teaching and then I was asked to go to the Pre-School to meet with the Principal and the Spanish teachers for the Pre-School.

I was met with open arms by Elsa, the Principal, and 4 young(er) Mexican Spanish teachers. The Spanish teachers know little English and since I know little Spanish we struggled a bit, but we did have Elsa to interpret. A couple of times Elsa had to leave the room and we worked to understand each other. I have a feeling my Spanish will improve quite quickly in this environment!

We worked on ideas for the Pre-School's Open House this Thursday. The teachers will have activities for the kids and Elsa will meet with the parents. Then we'll all come together for snacks.

We also stocked the 4 classrooms with all kinds of "tools" for teaching. I am amazed at the wonderful resources available to us.

Around noon the Spanish teachers went with Elsa to review some required governmental info while I stayed in one of the classrooms to begin reviewing the cirriculum and thinking of lesson plan ideas. That's when it hit me.

My stomach started gurgling and I guess I had Montezuma's revenge, also known as traveler's diarrhea. Luckily a bathroom was closeby and I used it multiple times. Soon enough it was time to go home and I crawled into bed and stayed there until 6:30 this morning. No power walk today.

The weird thing is that I hadn't eaten anything unusual and we always drink purified water. But Mike also was also having the same symptoms. ???

Oh well, I'm sure I'll remember my First Day of Work for a long time! And this morning I feel pretty good.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Old Farts

It finally hit me yesterday - Mike and I are getting OLD.

We met up with Richard, Gregorio and Crystal (English teacher who just arrived in Guaymas from Maine) yesterday and they came over to look at the casita Lolita has for rent. Richard decided to take it (yeah!) and then we all went over to Lolita's to make the arrangements. This means Richard will be living about 30 feet from our apt on the Lolita "compound" that includes Lolita, Lolita's daughter, Lolita's 2 sons, Lolita's 2 grandsons and Hotel Ana. One big(er) happy family!

After all that we made plans to rendezvous at the hotel to go to San Carlos for a night out. All that sounds good, except for one part. And this is where Old Farts comes into the story. They all agreed to meet at TEN PM!!!

Now Mike and I are just in our early 50s, but we are usually in our nice, cool bed by 9:00 and often asleep by 10:00. I guess it comes from years in the corporate world when we had to get up soooo early to make it into the office for a long day of work.

And you might think that since we've been in Mexico almost 3 months that we would have adapted the Mexican day...sleep in a late breakfast...walk to the store...take a siesta...say hi to a snack...sit outside and enjoy the cool evening...and then go out and party like rock stars.

But no. We're old now.

Anyway, we did meet at the hotel at 10:00 and there were more teachers there that will teach at the same school. We all ended up going into the hotel resaurant and Mike and I were home before midnight.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Richard from Scotland

Last night Mike and I greeted Richard from Scotland at the bus station and gave him a hearty welcome to Guaymas! He traveled from Glasgow to Newark to Phoenix by plane and then from Phoenix to Guaymas by bus.
We were also met by Gregorio, another teacher from our school. We got Richard settled into his hotel room and then Gregorio took us all to Poncho Villa's for some live Mexican music on a late Thursday night. It was after 11:00 and I was surprised to see that people were coming in for dinner at that time of the night! (Especially considering that Mike and I are usually dead asleep at that time.)
It was great to finally meet Richard who has been exchanging emails with me for the past couple of months. He's got that crazy Scottish accent. A Scot speaking Spanish was very interesting.This morning Richard goes apartment hunting with Gregoria and another teacher who is staying at the same hotel. And this afternoon we are all hooking up to take a trip over to San Carlos. Only 3 more days of FREEDOM!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wireless Phone

Mike worked for Cellular One which was acquired by AT&T, which spun off a separate company called AT&T Wireless, which was acquired by Cingular Wireless, which was acquired by AT&T. (And I joined the crazy wireless world in 1995 when it was AT&T Wireless.)

During that time we both enjoyed the benefit of wireless phones with either free or reduced usage fees and equipment prices. Once we made the decision to move to Mexico we cancelled Mike's service and just kept my phone active.

About a month and a half ago we got a new phone with Telcel here in Mexico. We've been telling people our new phone number and that we would eventually cancel our AT&T service.

Well, today the AT&T service was cancelled. The number I had for so long is no longer active. Wow. For some reason when I looked at my AT&T phone and it said "No Service" it really hit me that this move to Mexico is permanent. I got all emotional. Over a phone!

So if you need/want our new number send me an email at

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I woke up again last night at 2am. And I almost got up to write a post, but it was just so nice and cool in the bed...

Anyway, I've been thinking about time. When Mike and I both had corporate jobs our lives were run by the clock. Had to get up at a certain time, had to get into the office, had to have meetings and conference calls, had to complete deadlines, had to work overtime, had to make time to spend good time together.

And look at that crazy sentence and see all the references to TIME.

Since we got to Guaymas it seems like we never even consider time. For several weeks after leaving Seattle I was never really sure what day of the week it was, let alone the date. No kidding. I quit wearing a watch and without the constant of my desk with a calendar and the clock on my laptop I lost track. And it really hasn't mattered.

But yesterday morning around 8:30am I headed out to Hermosillo (about 1.5 hours away) to do some shopping, with the goal of being home by 4:30 when Bliss was coming over. I made good time getting to Hermosillo and my first stop was at Sears. After Sears I went to Home Depot. My last stop was Wal-Mart. While sitting in the truck, I noticed the clock said 1:15. Since I needed to be on the road home by 3:00 I thought no problem.

However, I grabbed my cell phone to call Mike and I noticed the phone clock said 1:45. For a half a second I thought the cell phone clock was fast by half an hour. I kept thinking about it and finally realized that the cell phone was correct and the truck clock somehow was late by half an hour.

In my Guaymas life a half an hour amounts to virtually nothing, but just knowing my "time" had been cut by half an hour sent me into a shopping frenzy! There were so many things I wanted to buy at Wal-Mart. (Yes, I know that sounds so crazy since I had never, ever even been in a Wal-Mart until our first visit to Mexico City in March...) I was panicked and I rushed through that store. I drove home safely at a nice clip (80mph/128kph.) I walked into our apt at 4:29 and Bliss came over minutes later.

I write about this because a fundemental piece of Cynthia has changed significantly. And I like this pace...I like being lazy...I like not knowing what time it is...I know it'll all change with school starting next week...but right now it's 5:00 somewhere...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Playa Algondones

I recently "met" MS and GB after reading their blog SV Gallant Fox. They are from the Seattle area and they live and travel on their sailboat. MS suggested that we find Playa Algondones - a beautiful beach just north of San Carlos. (About 20 miles from Guaymas)

So yesterday morning we packed our beach gear and headed out. We have been to San Carlos a few times, but never to any beaches. The drive into San Carlos features Tetakawi Peak. This is popularly known as Tetakawi, or "goat tits" - imagine the pic turned upside down and you'll get the drift...

From here you can see the Guaymas beach in the distance.

And here is an anchorage with many of the boats quietly bobbing up and down.

Finally, Mike is set up on the beach...there were less than 100 people there - much different than the hundreds of family members we usually encounter on the beach in Guaymas.

The sand is white and HOT! But so clean and beautiful. The water was warm and no sign of stinging jelly fish!

There were just a few vendors on the beach - jet skiis, clams and a guy with his wheelbarrow full of treats like nuts and candies. We also saw several fishing/clamming boats hit the shore and unload their bounties.

We love this beach - thank you MS! And we recommend it to anyone who is in the area.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

School's Starting!

When Mike and I first decided to make the move to Mexico we knew we'd need to work for about 10 years before we can retire and draw on our retirement funds and Social Security. And we knew we'd be limited in what work we could legally do in Mexico so we followed the lead of our friends, Denise and Billy, and got certified as TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), with the goal of teaching English.

We originally accepted teaching jobs in Mexico City (DF) and visited DF in March. On that trip Mike had seizures and brain surgeries (check the March posts.) Undaunted, we returned to Seattle and sold our house, then drove to DF but changed our minds about living and working in DF. We drove west and have since made our home in Guaymas.

Mike's having some issues with reading and writing - eye strain - and he is seeing a new doctor here in Guaymas. We're not sure if Mike will ever be able to teach. Meanwhile, I have a teaching position (teaching English to preschoolers at a private school) that begins on August 18. The first week will be orientation/training for the English teachers in the school that includes preschool, primary and secondary levels. The following week classes will start.

So for the last 8 weeks we have been exploring Guaymas and the surrounding communities, setting up our household, adjusting to the heat and humidity, meeting new friends, eating new foods, and helping our 10-year old German shepherd in adapting to our new life here.

This time has been so luxurious and I'm envious of all the expats who don't need to work. But at least I love school. I loved being a student as a kid, as well as an adult, and I took many, many years to finally get my University degree. September always meant "getting" to go back to school and I looked forward to every autumn for that very reason.

The twist is that I have never been a teacher - let alone a teacher of little ones. Little ones that speak a language I am just learning.

In my 20s and 30s I worked in the restaurant industry - cocktail server, food server, bartender, manager. And that is a crazy, fast-paced industry. I still have nightmares that I'm working in a restaurant and my section fills up and I can't get to everyone and I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat - relieved that I don't work in a restaurant.

The weird thing is that this week my nightmares have morphed from scenes in restaurants to scenes in classrooms...ugh. I have exactly 18 days left before my first class...stay tuned.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Housing in Guaymas

We feel so lucky that we have the opportunity to live here in el Centro in a really great apt - thank you Lolita!

And as we drive around Guaymas we see many different types of housing so we thought it might be interesting to show some pics of what we have seen...

This first pic is on the street that leads down to Hotel Ana and our apt - and see the sea in the distance. I love driving down this street!

And following is a closer shot of the houses on the left side of the street. See how they are bulit right next to each other, sharing common walls? These homes face west and I'm sure they get quite warm from the sun all night the families in these homes sit outside with the kids playing close to the street.

A lot of houses are built right into the hillside - and there are numerous hillsides in Guaymas. Not only do the house colors vary, but the style and condition of the homes vary as well. We're not sure which ones are occupied and which are not. This was also taken at the top of the road that leads to our house - looking the opposite direction from the water.

This is an apt building close to the Immigration office. It was one of the first apt buildings I remember seeing. I can't help but wonder about the heat - considering this shot is facing west. But I do see some air conditioners and maybe the apts run lengthwise with an eastern exposure that allows for some breeze through the apts.

Here is an interesting shot of a house that stands alone and looks very sturdy. I think it was the "sturdiness" factor that caught my eye when I took the pic. Funny enough I had not even thought about all the concrete buildings in Guaymas until my best friend, Cheryl, pointed it out to me. A good percentage of the homes in the Seattle area are built from wood so now that I think about it the construction material here is very different. I wonder how old it is?? And I also wonder how you might be able to research a property. Just today Lolita told me that her house sits where her husband's family's original home stood for TWO HUNDRED YEARS!

This is a neat looking house - or is it a hacienda - that overlooks the roadway leading to the beach in Guaymas. And here is another house that is in the colonia close to the beach...I don't know that colonia's name, but there are many stand alone homes here...many of which are new.

The school I will teach at (Colegio Navarrete/St. Mary's Preschool) is located in a nice part of town with many houses. See this pic of a large house that sits solo on a lot above the schoolgrounds, hugging the mountainside.

Below is a neighborhood of houses that we can see on the way to the beach. They remind me of the many bucolic neighborhoods on the Eastside in the Seattle area. My presumption is that they are fairly new and maybe fairly expensive. I have yet to check out real estate info since we've been here.

Lastly, this is a brand new neighborhood in Norte Guaymas. We stopped to get out and look inside the little houses. And then we noticed what appeared to be a real estate agent showing a couple one of the houses. They flagged us down and provided us info about the houses (in Spanish so we only understood a portion of what they were saying) and told us where to go to inquire further about purchasing one. We explained that we're happy in el Centro!