So on weekdays, I get up around 7 am. I have a very short, but hot/warm shower. I was very pleased to hear that daily showers are the custom here! I then come back to my room and make my bed, get dressed and tidy up. I would anyway, but certainly this is a house where order and cleanliness are important. According to the cultural information from my school, this is typical. I then have breakfast which is made by host mother Angeles. Typically it includes fresh squeezed orange juice, fruit or yogurt and something hot. The "something hot" can be soup, tortillas, eggs or just about anything. While this is certainly a different group of foods than I normally eat for breakfast, they are usually very tasty. I am slowly convincing Angeles that a cold breakfast with cereal is good too. Here cereal (such as corn flakes or rice krispies) are more regularly eaten for the last meal of the day around 9pm.
I usually leave the house between 8 and 8:15. It is a bit cool in the mornings so I usually wear a light jean jacket or cardigan over my t-shirt. My ensemble is complete with jeans and running shoes. It is about a 10 minute walk downhill to the bus. The buses honestly seem to run every 5 minutes, so scheduling is not a problem. Buses cost the equivalent of about 55 cents and they are generally comfortable and clean. The bus ride to my stop is usually 10-15 minutes depending on traffic. Then there is a 10 minute walk downhill to my school - this includes stopping at a little store to buy my morning coca-cola light!
Classes start at school at 9am and run until noon. Each week the morning maestra (teacher) changes, but you have the same class and teacher for 3 hours for each of the five days (in a week). There is a 10 minute break from 9:50-10:00 and another one from 10:50-11:00. Typically the first hour is discussion of what you did the night before (a good exercise to get your brain working on using past tenses) and then moves on taking up the tarea (homework) from the night before. The maestra moves around the table and reads over your shoulder correcting your written work as we go. It is all done in a friendly and helpful way and so surprisingly does not feel intimidating. When the tarea is completed, we move onto the new lesson for the day. The really cool thing about CETLALIC, my language school, is its social justice focus. Even the example sentences for the grammar points are often linked to womens issues, poverty or gay and lesbian issues. This is such a great fit for me. At noon, there is a slightly longer 20 minute break and that is when most of eat the lunch that our host Mothers packed. Typically this is a sandwich and a piece of fruit.
On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday there is "conversation" from 12:20-2:00 with a different maestro/a than in the morning. As this sounds, this is an opportunity to converse on a wide range of topics. Often students bring questions about mundane issues such as where to buy a particular object or how to get your cell phone to work. We have also discussed more significant issues such as drug trafficking, the basics of the Mexican Government system and the need to preserve global resources (land and water). On Monday following the discussion, is an orientation for new students. If you aren't new, this means it is a short day and you are done at 2pm. On Tuesday from 12:20-2:00 there is a presentation on some aspect of culture. On Wednesday, there is a video from 2-3 following practicum. Last week it was particularly interesting on the Zapitista movement in Chiapas. Thursday from 12:20-2:00 is "field trip" day. Last week this got rearranged a bit so that we could visit a really big local festival on Wednesday in honour of Carolina of the Candeloria. She is a Catholic Saint (I think, I am still a bit confused), but everyone goes to mass and brings dolls in baskets and flowers. This is a symbolic representation of Jesus being presented in the Temple. Interestingly, it is the local tradition that Christmas decorations stay up on this day. So it was not until Thursday this week that all the Christmas trees and other decorations were taken down! Friday after conversation is the despidida (farewell). There is cake and students who are leaving are presented with a diploma. Then everyone including the maestro/as go around the circle and talk about their week. I find this really hard to do - to share what I want to say in Spanish! Last week was easier than the first, and I expect next week will be slightly easier again.
The main meal of the day is served between 2-3, so after school is a walk uphill to the bus, a slightly less pleasant bus ride as all the high schools get about the same time and the bus is usually packed, and a walk uphill to my casa (home). By this time in the day, it is usually a very sun and warm 25 degrees, so my jacket is tucked away in my backpack. This meal can vary a lot too, but often is tortillas stuffed with something, and rice or beans, sometimes some raw vegetables. After this meal, I sometimes go and use the internet in a small store that has 6-8 computers (at the bottom of the hill) or various other errands. It gets dark around 7pm and I don't like to be wandering around in the dark by myself. My barrio (neighbour) is very alive and well lite, so I don't mind walking from the business section at the bottom of the hill back to my house in the dark. It reminds me somewhat of a Toronto neighbourhood with a main street with little shops and then houses behind.
The 7pm until bedtime can be a bit boring. I do my homework and work on other Spanish stuff usually for an hour, have some personal devotion and reflection time and write in my journal. I read, craft and do other little projects, but on nights where I come home directly from school and don't go out, the evenings can be a bit long. However, the neighbourhood kids often play on the street until 9ish. Many of them are finding me interesting and I have had some particulaly interesting conversations with a few of them. They like to ask me the English words for stuff and really enjoy teaching me the Spanish words for things. Angeles has a church meeting every night, but usually comes to my room for a chat when she returns. By then find my brain so tired that it is difficult to sort out anything much except the schedule for the next day. The only TV in the house is in my host parents bedroom. I don't feel very comfortable watching it there, also it is all in Spanish and usually by that time of the night by brain is very Spanish tired. There are also two more meals, one around 6pm and one around 9pm. I typically pass on both. Sometimes I'll have a little snack in the evening such as fruit or a cookie (I must confess, I have fallen in love with oreos because they are the only thing I have found that tastes like home). I find that my diet has switched almost completely from mostly meat and veggies with some fruit, a few carbs and little dairy to mostly carbs (tortillas and white bread), dairy (everything has cheese and sour cream on it) with some fruit, a few veggies and almost no meat. I am getting used to this and my digestive system seems to making the necessary adjustments. Sometimes I go out with other students after school and do things, but even then, I am usually home by 9pm. The buses stop run at 9 and then you have to take a cab, which gets a bit complicated because after 9pm it is recommended that you don't flag a cab down,but rather call and request one. This means you have to have a phone and know where you are, which can be a bit confusing at times. However, this works well if you are at a restaurant or at someone's home, as the Cuernavacians are typically very kind and helpful. I have learned this week how to charge my computer battery at my house, which means that I can play music and computer games as well. Next week I'll talk more about the general customs and lifestyle, so you will understand more about why charging my computer has been such a challenge.
Thanks to all of you who are following my adventures. I miss you all, but I am having an amazing experience. I can hardly wait until the day when my Spanish is good enough to have a real conversation about real issues my Central American friends. They are amazing, bright and passionate people, a lot like my friends in Canada.
For your info, I am attaching a picture of my bedroom and of the terrace where I spend most of my evenings.