A dismantling of sorts

Life is never stagnant. And while that is often a good thing, it also means that we must be amenable to change, even unwelcome change.

Just delighted with the new yeguita, Shadow.

Just delighted with the new yeguita, Shadow.

My husband had been complaining for 6 months or so about the cost and effort required to maintain our two horses, Joey and Shadow. He had opted not to plant anything this past year, and alfalfa was mighty expensive. He was especially irate about feeding Shadow, my son’s horse. I don’t know why as she didn’t eat any more than Joey, but we all knew that Joey was my husband’s consentido (favorite). He was constantly yammering at my son to contribute something towards Shadow’s feed. My son had no job. He’s 14 years old. He often took care of the horses when my husband was working or otherwise unavailable. There was no reason that he should have to pay for Shadow’s food in my opinion. It caused a decided rift in our home.

Beauty and Joey

Beauty and Joey

In the meantime, I sold Myrtle, which was registered in my name, without his explicit written permission, although I told him about the transaction. Then, my husband pulled out his trump card. The horses, Shadow and Joey, were both registered in his name since my son is a minor. He, therefore, could sell them without our permission. He started offering Shadow to various people he knew. On several occasions, someone would come by the house when he wasn’t home and I sent the prospective buyer away with a tick in his ear.

kissing horse

Then the day arrived when a serious buyer came and we were all present. My husband gave my son the final say in the matter. Tired of fighting about it, he agreed to sell Shadow. The deal was made. My husband kept 500 pesos for his commission and 500 more for the cow barn guy’s commission in making the deal but gave the rest to my son. He suggested that my son buy a motorcycle with the proceeds, but I vetoed that. No 14 year old needs a motorcycle. I took the money and hid it from the both of them. My son wanted to use some of it to buy school supplies, but I said I would pay for all of those. If there is something my son wants, and it is deemed worthy by mamush (me), he can spend the money. Otherwise, it’s to be saved for future needs.

Beauty and Shadow and proud Poppa!

Beauty and Shadow and proud Poppa!

That night I cried. We had known Shadow since she was born. She was a lovable, gentle mare. And now that chapter of our La Yacata adventure was done.

posing with Joey

My husband also decided to sell Joey a few weeks later. I had no issues with that. Joey had always been more temperamental. My son and I had often fantasized his sale. Now the horses are gone.

My husband used the money from Joey’s sale on new tires for the truck. He redesigned Shadow’s stall to accommodate the goats. Joey’s stall, with its new roof, will eventually be a new chicken coop. At the moment it is being used to store construction material for a job he has building a house in La Yacata.

Moving on.

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Filed under Alternative Farming, Animal Husbandry, Homesteading

Juggling all the eggs in one basket

 

small-poppins

So it’s been just over a month since the beginning of the school year and my schedule has me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This year, at the school I work at, I’ve had the owners hire a second English teacher to cover the kindergarten classes and first grade. I continue to teach second grade through sixth grade. I thought it would free up my time some so I didn’t feel like I was dying at the end of each day like last year when I taught 2 kindergarten classes and five elementary classes (I combined some of the groups into mammoth groups to accommodate the school day and my availability). However, although I’ve given up some tasks, I have taken up others.

Instead of teaching kindergarten, I designed the curriculum and textbooks that the kindergarten will be using for all 4 levels, maternal, first, second and third grade. That took more than a few hours of my already limited time. I like doing that sort of work, but it doesn’t compare to the joy of teaching the little lovely happy souls ages 2-6.

The curriculum is already in place for first grade, but it’s been challenging to bring the new teacher up to speed. She’s had more experience at teaching kindergarten than elementary and the additional requirements that come with elementary teaching include things like diagnostic tests, parent meetings, grading with numbers rather than excellent, very good, good, regular, deficient and so on and new to her. Plus, the textbook we use comes with video and computer game components and she’s not really tech savvy. I’m glad that she’s open to learning these things, but it means more work for me at the moment.

Then there’s the pay. I’ve been making less money for more work each year I work in the Mexican school system. When I started, I made 85 pesos per hour and had 8 weeks off in the summer. Now I make 70 pesos per hour and have 4 weeks off in the summer. Of course, everything else has gone up in price during that time. Tortillas used to cost 6 pesos per kilo, now they are 13 pesos per kilo. And the peso had devalued to 19 per US dollar what seems like permanently now.

I’m also supposed to get a provisional teaching license from Guanajuato. Because of all these educational reforms, I’ll need to take the official exam too. The thing is, everybody knows the system is rigged. Several teachers I know that took the exam last year and passed, this year took the same exam and didn’t. What’s up with that? The list of requirements SEP requests keeps getting longer and longer and each required document has a price. So is it really worth it when I make $68.75 USD per week?

mototeacher

Then there are my private and Saturday classes. Since I’ve been working online, I decided to only teach private classes on Wednesday and Thursday during the week. I only kept my long-term students. However, lately, students have been canceling left and right. I have 7 classes scheduled for those two days, last week, I only taught 4. The same thing happens on Saturday. I have 4 scheduled for Saturdays, last week I only taught 1. If I were depending on these “regular” classes for my weekly income, we’d surely starve to death. Not to mention I haven’t raised my prices since I started. I still only charge $50 pesos per class, per student, per hour. That’s $2.64 USD per hour.

Camille Online

You might think that my online classes are my salvation. After all, they pay in US dollars. However, I’ve had internet connection issues this month. One day, my internet dropped just for a minute. I was able to return to the class, but my audio wasn’t working. The tech person instructed me to restart my computer, so I did. Only when I did, Windows 10 decided it needed to do updates. My computer was out of commission for over an hour while they installed. Then another day, the internet went out 10 minutes before my scheduled shift, in the entire town. It returned the moment my shift was over. Then, I’m only scheduled for about 10 hours per week, although Labor day weekend vacation requests bumped my schedule up to 15 hours. It’s not enough to live on, dollars or not. Plus, if the internet continues to be so unreliable, I’m pretty sure I’ll get fired.

I haven’t come up with any good solutions yet. I’ve committed to this schedule until December, then I’ll have to reevaluate the value of my time. Suggestions anyone?

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Filed under Employment, Teaching

Playing Tourist–Teotihuacan

The Pyramid of the Sun is quite an impressive structure. That's a person way up there on top.

The Pyramid of the Sun is quite an impressive structure. That’s a person way up there on top.

About 20 years ago, which seems a lifetime ago, I came to Mexico for a study abroad summer session. One of our day trips was the pyramids of Teotihuacan. It was an incredible experience that I now wanted to share with my son. So I did.

My son thought he’d be super cool and not try to nap before we left. It’s really quite impossible to point out the flaws in logic to a teenager. I opted to wear my granny rebozo instead of a jacket, reasoning that it would double as a blanket on the trip. It’s really quite impossible to point out the flaws in logic to a middle-age adult. However, besides those obvious lapses in judgment, our trip was mostly disaster free for once.

We left at 1 am from the bus station in Moroleon for our trip to Central Norte de Mexico (North Central bus terminal in Mexico City). This was the most costly leg of the journey at $497 pesos one-way per person. I noticed while we were checking in, that there were discounts up to 50% available for students and teachers during vacation periods. Unfortunately, neither my son or I have school identifications to take advantage of the reduced rates. I plan on remedying that situation before our next trip!

We arrived shortly before 7 am in Mexico City. We opted to splurge on cappuccinos (31 pesos per cup) to help wake us up. We also had to shell out 5 pesos each bathroom trip, however, it was totally worth it. The bathrooms were clean and toilet paper was unlimited even if it required a bit of hokey pokey to get through the full-body turnstile.

Buy your tickets to see the pyramids here!

Buy your tickets to see the pyramids here!

After freshening up, we set out to find the ticket counter for the pyramids. We ended up turning the wrong way in the terminal so it took us a bit longer than anticipated to get going, however, the blue pyramid was a big clue that HERE we could buy the tickets. We arrived 5 minutes before the next scheduled bus out to the site was due to depart. Tickets to and fro were 46 pesos each way per person and the trip took about 45 minutes.

You can take a hot air balloon tour over Teotihuacan.

You can take a hot air balloon tour over Teotihuacan.

We arrived before the compound was open for business, so we sat in what seemed to be the security guard break area and watched the hot air balloons pass by for about 20 minutes. My son said there was no way he was getting in a one of those, so we crossed that off the things to do list.

The admission price was $65 pesos per person again with a discount for Mexican teachers and students which we couldn’t take advantage of. We were literally the first people through the gate. We stopped to use the facilities again and delightfully found them to be quite clean. Two for two– score for the bathrooms! The souvenir shops at the entrance were not open yet, but some of the mobile vendors were already there.

The first man we came across was selling lovely silver bracelets. Of course, we really had no need of lovely silver bracelets, so we didn’t buy any, however, he was amiable enough. He said we should follow a certain path and leave at a different gate to get the bus back to the central. He also said that we should buy the items from the indigenous vendors as their items were hand-crafted rather than the cheap Chinese imports that the little stores sold. He said we should climb the Pyramid of the Sun and hold our left hand up to the sun in a fist at noon to absorb the blessing of the sun in the form of cosmic energy. We thanked him and went on.

Some of the remaining plumed serpent heads at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan.

Some of the remaining Plumed Serpent heads at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan.

Our first stop was the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Although the structure itself appeared in ruins, there was a lot of activity going on. Apparently, archeologists have recently discovered sacrificial victims buried around the site leading to previously unknown information about the unknown ancient culture that built these massive structures in Teotihuacan. Both the Temple and the human remains have been dated to sometime between 150 and 200 CE.

The archeological dig near the Temple is extensive.

The archaeological dig near the Temple is extensive.

One of the even more recent discoveries is the tunnel beneath the structure, 15 meters below ground and 130 meters long, that ends in what appears to be funeral chambers beneath the pyramid, discovered in 2011. The tunnel and chambers are also dated to about 200 CE. In 2014, large quantities of mercury were discovered in one of these chambers along with jade statues, jaguar remains, a box of carved shells and rubber balls.

There is some speculation that the Temple was actually a large calendar. At one time, the structure may have had up to 260 feathered serpent heads. Each head has an open mouth which may have held a moveable marker.

Centuries later, much of the original pyramid was covered by a stone platform. This renovation, which occurred sometime in the 4th century, drastically changed the appearance of the structure and is thought to be a result of changing ideologies, from spiritual to political domination.

My son and I climbed around on the structure for a bit. Access was limited with the idea of monument preservation in mind.

We headed back to the Avenue of the Dead and heard the strangest animal sound. Turns out it was a jaguar whistle. Oh, we just had to have one of those! Unfortunately, the vendor wanted 200 pesos for it, which seemed a bit high. So instead, my son bought a crystal pyramid from a different vendor. The asking price was 70 pesos, but the vendor said as it would be the first sale of the day, he’d lower the price to 50 pesos. Trato hecho (Done deal)!

Atop the Pyramid of the Sun with the Pyramid of the Moon in the background at Teotihuacan.

Atop the Pyramid of the Sun with the Pyramid of the Moon in the background at Teotihuacan.

Our next stop was the Pyramid of the Sun. Scaling its 246 feet was made easier than my ascent 20 years ago by the addition of cables, but it still was quite a feat! This pyramid is the third largest in the world and the largest structure in Teotihuacan. Although the pyramid is currently associated with the sun, it’s more probable that it was dedicated to Tlaloc, the water deity whose ancient name translates as “encierro del sol” (He that entraps the sun). The pyramid was built over sacred caverns which are only now being explored. Additionally, the remains of child sacrificial victims have been found at the corners of the building thought to have been made at the ritual dedication at the start of construction. In 2004, 12 human remains and several animal remains were found in a vault in the pyramid also thought to have been sacrificed.

Local lore states that in order to absorb the cosmic energy present at this holy site, you should stand at the very top of the Pyramid of the Sun and raise your fisted left hand.

Local lore states that in order to absorb the cosmic energy present at this holy site, you should stand at the very top of the Pyramid of the Sun and raise your fisted left hand.

We didn’t have enough energy to climb the Pyramid of the Moon, which is the oldest of the three main structures. In this courtyard, ceremonies in honor of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, also known as the Chalchiutlicue, companion to Tlaloc, were held.  She was the goddess of fertility, childbirth, marriage, water and crops.  She personified both life and death as she was the destroyer of the fourth world, causing the devastating flood in retaliation to Tlaloc’s abuse against her.

The ancient Great Goddess of Teotihuacan (or Teotihuacan Spider Woman

The ancient Great Goddess of Teotihuacan

Some archeologically digging in front of the Pyramid of the Moon.

Some archaeologically digging in front of the Pyramid of the Moon.

There was some excavating going on here too however, I wasn’t able to find any information on what may or may not have been discovered recently.

Standing in front of the Pyramid of the moon with the jaguar whistle.

Standing in front of the Pyramid of the Moon with the jaguar whistle.

We bought one of those jaguar whistles here from an indigenous vendor in the courtyard in from of this pyramid. As it was his first sale of the day, he reduced the price to 100 pesos. It’s the coolest thing and my son frightened all his friends with the weird, wild sound.

Getting a little cranky with all the up and down walking.

Getting a little cranky with all the up and down walking.

Then, we took a wrong turn on our quest for the on-site museum and were in this series of never-ending up and down courtyards for awhile. Our legs were already jelly and that bright idea of staying up all night that my son had, finally caught up with him. He started to get a bit cranky.

The model at the museum was neat, but not nearly as amazing as the Pyramid itself.

The model at the museum was neat, but not nearly as amazing as the Pyramid itself.

We turned on what appeared to be a goat track and fortunately, found ourselves in front of the museum which turned out to be well worth the effort. Our entrance tickets were good for the museum, so there was no additional cost, which was just dandy. There was a good selection of artifacts on display and a huge model of the entire Teotihuacan complex.

Some of the vendors had their own altars set up asking for blessing for the day's earnings.

Some of the vendors had their own altars set up asking for blessings on the day’s earnings.  However, you won’t find any Hail Mary images. The old gods are honored here.

There was a little store beside the museum so we did a bit of shopping. My son bought a hieroglyphics necklace, which broke almost immediately after we arrived home. However the quartz and obsidian necklaces that he bought from the indigenous vendors more than made up for that poor buy.

We started getting hungry so we set off with nourishment in mind. There seemed to be no restaurants anywhere. We followed the smell of frying onions to the back of a shop where there were a few tables set up behind the rows of chips and soda. They only had tortas de huevo which kinda resembled an egg McMuffin on a croissant, but we were starving, so anything at that moment would have been fine. Two sandwiches, two teas, and a bag of chips nearly broke the bank at $200 pesos. Well, we were starving.

Smack dab in front of the souvenir shop/restaurant were the remains of a residence. Of course, we had to tour it, even though Mr. Crankypants hadn’t fully recovered, even with a full belly.

The front of the residence we toured.

The front of the residence we toured.

The remaining walls of the residence

The remaining walls of the residence

The inner courtyard of the residence.

The inner courtyard of the residence.

We wandered around a bit more and discovered a herb garden. There were only a few plants, however, each had a marker with its name and its traditional medicinal use. This is the type of stuff I love!

Palo dulce is one of the medicinal plants my husband uses to treat our animals.

Palo dulce is one of the medicinal plants my husband uses to treat our animals.

There was also a nice area of statuary.

statue

 

Our next stop was to take a little siesta under a tree not far from the garden. I dozed for about 15 or 20 minutes or so, but my stubborn son did not close his eyes. When I woke up, the clouds were darkening, so we decided to head toward the exit.

Napped a bit under this tree.

Napped a bit under this tree.

We joined the swarm of people heading out, stopping just long enough to buy some ceramic skulls that the vendor offered for a two for one deal because of the coming rain. We made it to the bus stop right before the heavens opened up, only the bus was already full, so we had to wait about 15 minutes for another one.

The view from atop of the Pyramid of the Sun.

The view from atop of the Pyramid of the Sun.

We arrived back at the bus terminal hours before our scheduled trip home. Taking the bull by the horns, I went and successfully changed our tickets at the ticket booth. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself and my Spanish skills on this trip. Yeah me!

We had just enough time to treat ourselves to Subway subs before the bus back to Moroleon left. My son had the intention of sightseeing via the bus window, but the moment he sat down, he was out for the count. He slept the entire trip back, which took twice as long as the trip to DF. I watched 4 movies on the bus tv screen, dozing a bit during the boring parts. It really seemed like a never-ending bus ride, but we did finally get back in one piece.

A little more history about Teotihuacan:

The name “Teotihuacan” was given to this area by the Aztecs when they discovered the ruins around 550 AD. It translates approximately as “the birthplace of the gods.” or “place of those who have the road of the gods” reflecting the Aztec belief that the gods created the universe here.

The once thriving city was abandoned centuries before the Aztec arrived. Evidence of the burning and destruction of the temples and upper-class dwellings supports the theory that there was an internal uprising. This civil strife was probably the result of a period of drought related to global climate change after a catastrophic volcanic eruption and subsequent ash fallout.

These ancient ruins make the list of the 13 wonders of Mexico and are definitely worth a visit.

 

 

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Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Tourist Sites in Mexico

Zulily

zulily

Somehow Brexit has been messing with the Mexican peso. But since I’ve been earning a few dollars, that’s been to my advantage. So what’s a girl to do but go shopping!

As I hate, I mean hate, shopping here in Moroleon (quality, price, selection, size, you name it, I hate it) I was delighted that Amazon had opened a Mexican branch. Shipping for non-imported items was free with orders over 500 pesos and DHL delivery was prompt and reliable. (See Trade Route Established). My only hangup is that Amazon didn’t accept Paypal, so buying meant transferring my dollars from Paypal to my Mexican bank account, which was a 5 to 10 day wait, before purchasing.

Then I was introduced to Zulily! Zulily is kinda of like an online outlet store. Items are discounted but not available in every size or color. And, much like an outlet store, sometimes you have to sift through stuff to find a good bargain.

Shipping fees to Mexico are 120 pesos, which really is pretty good. The catch is all the items you order are sent to the central Zulily warehouse and then packaged together to be sent to you. This might delay the package some. Well, I’m used to slow mail.

Shipping is free for any other orders you make to the same address until midnight of the day you place the order. Any tax and duty fees are included in the price of the product, so there aren’t any surprises at checkout like with Amazon. AND Zulily uses DHL which I have found to be far superior to Fed-ex and the local postal service in my area of Mexico. (See Shipping Fiasco)

After browsing longer than I should have, I put a pair of jeans, a shirt, some shoes and a bra in my shopping basket. I headed like Little Red Riding Hood to the checkout and paid up. Later, I was second guessing my purchases. So I went back and ordered another pair of jeans and some undies. There, that ought to do it. Oh, and some sheets. Ok, I was done.

I placed my order on June 29 and the estimated delivery date was July 16. I had it shipped to the school since that seems to work the best. School was officially out for the school year, however, there was someone at the front desk for most of the morning and on Saturdays, I was there faithfully teaching English classes (See Saturday classes)

To my delight, my order arrived on June 14. No missing items, no lost boxes, and the clothes fit just right. I was super pleased with the experience. Now, let me take a look at the school items on sale….

 

 

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Filed under Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico