Category Archives: Guest Blogger Adventures

A Day in the Life in rural Mexico State

Daisy shares a day in the life in a small town in the state of Mexico.

What is my typical day like? Well, it starts off pretty early in the morning, as I regularly get up around 4:30 am to teach Chinese students online. There are a million companies out there, some needing a degree, some not, but most paying between 15 and 25 dollars an hour. I am lucky enough (or unluckily enough, since those student loan payments are still a burden) to have a BA, but in addition, I got my TEFL off of Groupon for 39 dollars. I haven’t had it turned down once since most companies just want to be able to tell students (and their parents) that the teachers have a piece of paper.

But wait! What about me? Well, I have been living in rural Estado de Mexico–central highlands, altitude 8000 feet where I often wear sweaters in my house even in summer-close to Mexico City but quite countrified–for the last 8 years. My husband is Mexican and my two children (8 and 3) were born here. I never had a plan to move to Mexico but once life circumstances put me here, it was like I was made for it!

Compared to the families around me (a good proportion of whom I am related to by marriage) you might say my husband and I are a bit unconventional. I work from home, online teaching and WordPress support, while he is in charge of the kids. Since schools have a nasty habit of informing the parents the day before of some vital meeting or big project due, it’s nice to have someone not working. Plus, he made such a small amount of money for the long hours he worked, I worked really hard to convince him to leave his job and just do side projects when he was bored. It’s not always easy on his self-esteem since it he is the only stay at home dad most people have seen before, and it goes against the strictly defined gender roles of the area, but it works for us.

Working online has enabled me to really add to our creature comforts. There is nothing like the satisfaction of a hot shower, after taking bucket baths for several years. I used a contraption like this to heat our water; basically, electric coils wrapped around a block of wood. It is the same concept used to heat up water in an electric kettle, but it was a shock when I first saw it. It’s totally safe, you just have to remember to NEVER test the water by touching it!

As I mentioned, I get up early, work a few hours with the Chinese schools, then do some hours with another online ESL company that has daytime hours.. I try to not work from 12 to 3, since that is the main meal time in Mexico. I cook while he goes and picks up the kids. Then after we eat our main meal, I go back to work while he helps with homework and coaches his soccer teams. We don’t eat any processed foods, and I buy all our vegetables, meat, and fruit and local mercados (markets) or shops, not in the grocery store. It just seems fresher to me, and I like buying from the exact same person I have been buying from for the last 8 years, and knowing I am supporting that individual instead of a corporation.

If it is the weekend, you might catch us at a party that we can fully enjoy, knowing we helped pay for it. Cooperation is still alive and functioning in my area, where there is a great big circle of party love going around and around. I am proud to be asked to be the madrina (godmother) of the bouncy gym, tents, etc since these same people did the same for me when I had my daughter’s tres años presentation (3-year-old presentation). I only paid for the food!–which was still a lot, considering it was for 300 people! I know that some people have not had good luck with this sort of setup, but it works very well where I live–and I really think it strengthens the ties that bind the community together. When it works, it is a great deal–entertainment for the whole family, food, and drinks, for about 1500 pesos–the same amount you might spend at a semi fancy restaurant. I still consider myself lucky I landed in an area where people dance cumbia instead of grupero or norteño.

I often rage on expat pages because of their ignorance of how difficult life is for average Mexicans. I think that they have a Pollyannish attitude about corruption and crime, such as murders and kidnappings that can fall heavily on rural areas, but which don’t usually affect expats living in tourist areas.  Even though I am lucky enough not to live in a narco area, my house has been broken into several times here, and we have a big problem with assaults on buses. If you are a woman in an abusive relationship….good luck. I have seen several cases where the police refused to file charges, even with physical evidence of abuse. I think the issue is the impunity. Hardly any crimes are solved here, and people don’t feel they can rely on the police to help them. That is the big difference to me.  I think what happens with the Pollyanna folks that if you have everyone asking you constantly why you would go to such a dangerous place, you want to defend Mexico’s honor but if you are here, you want to defend the people who are suffering and not getting help from their government. Having said all that though, I feel quite safe and  I love that my children can play outside in a great big mob of 20 cousins with no supervision; I love that they can explore their independence by walking to the store alone (well, with 5 cousins in tow). Yes, we have tablets and TV, but the majority of their time is spent outside playing, which lines up perfectly with my beliefs about how to raise emotionally resilient and communicative children.

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A Day in the Life in Mérida

Geneva, who writes the monthly series Southern Comfort Food Mexican Style, shares her daily life in Mérida, Yucatan. 

What is an ordinary day? A day in the life of any human being should never be ordinary, for every breath is precious, every moment is valuable.

My daily routine looks a lot like that of any other work at home wife.  We wake up, have coffee, maybe have breakfast, do a few chores around the house. He goes to work and I go to work on the computer. I do a few more household chores. At the end of our workday, we have dinner, read, check social media, sometimes watch a movie. Sounds pretty normal, right?  

Early morning has always been my favorite part of the day. I love sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, drinking a hot cup of coffee in the cool of the day while it’s quiet before the rest of the world wakes. We are both very early risers, waking usually between 4:00am and 5:00am with no alarm clock. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we used an alarm clock. So, our schedule is very different from most of the people we know, many of whom are getting ready to go out for dinner about the time we are going to bed.

But it’s our household chores which stand out as being different from the chores we did in the states. Twice a week, we start laundry by 6:00am so it has the best chance to dry on the clothesline before afternoon rains.  We have had the rains surprise us and we wound up with a full load of laundry laying in the mud twice, so the earlier the better. My husband runs a garden hose from the kitchen faucet to the washing machine so that it fills faster, time being of the essence and all.

After breakfast, I wash all the countertops with soapy water and spray a vinegar/baking soda mix around the window ledges and baseboards to discourage ants, and my husband mops the floor. This is the tropics, and insects are a part of life, so these practices are necessary. Fortunately, most creatures prefer to live outside, like termites, snakes, scorpions, cockroaches, and iguanas. On the other hand, ants live in the walls and the electrical systems so they can visit us any time they like.

 

Twice a month, my countertop becomes a high school science lab slash cocktail party for ants.  I whip up treats for my little friends. The key ingredient is boric acid, which when eaten by the ants, will kill them. Unfortunately, they can be a little picky.  So, I mix boric acid with a little flour for my bread loving ants and add a few drops of milk to part of it so that I have both wet and dry bait on each piece of cardboard. The worker ants eat the dry food and take dry food to the other workers, so the dry food is always popular. The wet food is carried to and fed to the larvae, which produce the food for the queen.

After a couple of applications, we noticed a huge reduction in the number of ants, but we continue treatments for prevention sake.  I do variations for different ants, peanut butter for the protein-loving ants, and soggy cardboard for my cellulose loving ants. At the same time the bait is out, I treat all my wooden furniture with orange oil, which I also distilled myself.  

As with all things, what one becomes accustomed to is what seems normal, so this routine feels quite normal to me, and I’d much rather do this every few weeks than spray harsh chemicals in my home, especially in my kitchen.  But I hope that even this routine never becomes ordinary, even in an ordinary-seeming day.

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https://www.facebook.com/NickAndNinaSpecialtyServices/

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A Day in the Life in Owl Valley

Sarah Sass from Homestead Uncensored has shared a day in her family’s life in Owl Valley.

Today is a bright blue Tuesday in the first months of rainy season.  To tell the story of today as a constant norm is to cheat dry season’s Sundays when abundance is entangled in drought.

There is no typical day here, only the hope that today is what you have prepared for.

Today will look very different from three days from now when calories begin to run low and water levels drop with no guarantee of relief.  Keeping this in mind puts “today” into context, regardless of abundance or lack.

Knowing that rainy season alleviates as much as it exacerbates helps to tell the whole story of a normal day on a homestead in Mexico.

Our days exist in the vesica pisces of harder and smarter.  The meeting place for comfort and the archaic.

Early morning is devoted to animals.  Scythe cuts back alfalfa.  Corn that came in by the ten-thousands is milled to cover the day’s needs.  Three buckets of river water to fill the trough.  Independent cat finds a mouse while hungry dogs play chase underfoot.

This routine is repeated before the sun sets.  Only then, the cat dines on the day’s last basking lizard.

After the final dog is fed, my day of housework begins while my husband makes a mental checklist of the farm’s to-dos over the last cup of coffee.  Today: Cut carrizo for roofing on the new sheep shelter.  Collect mineral-rich “black gold” from the banks of the flooded river to contribute to the piles of goat manure which will feed baby avocado and citrus trees in coming months.  He leaves for the fields with a machete and shovel.

Coffee beans roasted and ground.  Pineapple vinegar started with breakfast scraps.  Harvest is tucked in to begin their fermenting slumber. Kombucha’s black tea steeps while amaranth bread doubles in size.  I sort lentils alongside the six-year-old as he draws the flags of North America and learns that ‘y’ sometimes impersonates a vowel.

All meals and all lesson plans are made from scratch and consume the entire morning.  Everyday.

Halfway through the morning dishes, there is another chore for the list: replenish the household’s 1200 liters of water from downhill.  Before the well can be uncovered, a neighbor, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and toddler grandson are in our living room.  They have come to invite us to their home for tejate.  In the next hour.

The actual act of drinking tejate is all of three minutes, yet this invitation will consume the rest of daylight.  I send along freshly baked muffins in my place.

With water’s return and a house to myself, dishes are finished, floors are swept and mopped, beds stripped and remade.

Barrels of last night’s rain need filtered for laundry.  It has gotten late and afternoon clouds lurk around the adjacent foothills; it’s best to postpone towels and blankets for another day.

Twenty gallons filtered and divided up between buckets posing as washing machines; in dry season they stand in for bathtubs when only warm water will do.

Sheets, pillow cases and throw rugs washed, rinsed and spun.  By hand.  Everything is washed by hand.

Next up kitchen towels and napkins.

Then child’s clothing.

Finally husband’s.

Beginning the cycle again with my clothes in a week from now.

The shortage of time and covered clothesline drags the chore out over five days.

To avoid musty disappointment, I need to catch the early day heat and pre-storm winds, yet outrun her raindrops.  This takes planning.

Rainy season renders the river unusable as the water takes on the hue of ore.  This limits our laundry water supply to what collects in rain barrels.  Assuming storms don’t lose their sense of direction in the dark and head into other foothills, leaving us dry but with a turbulent river.

Once the river settles, washing returns to the banks where under the shade of soap nut trees and ancient Sabinos, socks are scrubbed one-by-one in the canal while the child digs holes in the sand with a chunk of broken coconut shell.  We watch Kingfisher dive among the shallow waters and Crab scuttle; our footprints in the mud alongside the chickens’.

There is a trade-off for laundering in paradise.  Schlepping the wet clothing back uphill to the covered lines, yoked over the shoulders.

Totally worth it.

Agrarian and domestic toil may only appear harder as their true genius is kept secret.  Fifteen hours of laundry strengthen bodies and determination.  Corn harvest pulls us together for weeks as we shuck and grain and retell old stories.   Eating homegrown and foraged meals around a fire under a canopy of stars fills more than ravenous bellies.  Today is always a great day.

In the last minutes of consciousness, a reflection of the day fills me with accomplishment for all the work that was done.  Gratitude that no one was injured, no animals fell prey, and for the rainy hours, we three spent on a 500-piece puzzle of mushrooms, ferns and blackberry bushes.

Before succumbing to exhaustion, I reach for my husband’s hand, both raw from work.  My mind isn’t on tomorrow.  Only the songs of the tree frogs while a swollen river babbles on about cycles, flow, and human’s faulty need for predictable permanence.

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A Day in the Life in San Circo de Acosta

Hi Y’all. My name is Bonnie Bautista.

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I moved to San Ciro de Acosta, San Luis Potosi in October 2017 after losing everything to hurricane Harvey. My husband is from Ciudad Valles which is a few hours away from where we now live.

 

Our days start about 7:30 am when we wake up to go exercise. I walk while hubby jogs 10 laps around the local soccer field.It usually takes 45 minutes. The weather is normally still cool from the night before, averaging about 62 degrees in mornings.

After our walk, we sometimes walk a few blocks over to a local food stand which sells gorditas. I love the chicharron gorditas. If we return home instead of going to eat then hubby goes on a 10-mile bike ride while I prepare breakfast. Normally it is just eggs and chorizo or potatoes and fresh tortillas although I don’t make the tortillas. LOL Sometimes our neighbor boy, who is 11, joins us for breakfast.

Afterward, we shower and drive to next town 45 minutes away to buy supplies for our taco stand. Traffic and parking are a nightmare. I’ve yet to drive here in Mexico. We park on the side of the road and walk to the mercado (market) for vegetables and other supplies needed daily and often stop for a bite to eat as all the walking makes me hungry.

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Upon returning home around 1 pm it’s super hot outside, about 90-95 degrees, so we take a siesta with the fan going full speed. By 4 pm it’s time to prepare the salsas and meat to sell for that day. We open up at 7 pm and stay open until 11 pm. Thankfully the temperature drops back to the 60s once the sun goes down. We work Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The other days we usually go to the Huasteca area to Tamasopo or Tamul or Ciudad Valles. There are beautiful waterfalls in our area.

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