Tag Archives: working in Mexico

Transition year

mototeacher

If you recall, a few months ago, I outlined my busy work schedule (Juggling all the eggs in one basket) and wondered if really these things were worth the effort I was putting into them.  I decided shortly thereafter that they were not.  Thus began the transition year.

The first to go was my Saturday classes. (See Saturday classes)  Some days I had been pulling in a whopping $600 pesos, but more often, I had a single class.  $50 for a 6 hour day was not profitable.  So when my student finished the book we were working with, I told his mother that I was going to take a break from teaching on Saturdays.  She and her 8-year-old son were disappointed, but I consoled them that I may start up again in the Spring.  The uncle, who had been my student but gave his hour to the nephew, sent me an email demanding to know why I wasn’t going to teach English anymore.  I explained that I was still teaching English, just not on Saturday mornings.  I had too many other obligations and I needed more time to do things like laundry and shopping.  He wasn’t happy.  Oh well.  Can’t please everyone.

I still taught online Saturday afternoons, but I wanted to transition to my new place in Sunflower Valley (See A Room of Her Own).  It took over a month, but I finally was able to make the little house my base of operations rather than the school.  Having a kitchen made the afternoons easier.  There’s a little store across the street, so whipping up a light meal for a hungry teenager boy was more manageable.

Then I started dropping my afternoon private classes one by one.  The first to go was in mid-November.  We finished our book and that was that.  She begged and pleaded that I not abandon her.  I told her that I’d start teaching in the spring but that if she really wanted classes, she’d have to come to my little place in Sunflower Valley.  She said she would. We would see.  That freed up 2 hours a week.

Then in December, right before Las Posadas, I dropped the other 3.  All of them said that yes, it would be a good idea that I took a break, but that they didn’t want to lose their classes.  Maybe I could drop everyone else, and just teach them?  When I said that I really was planning an extended break, like maybe until Semana Santa, their eyes went wide and said, well, they’d be waiting here for me to return and give them classes again. That freed up 2 afternoons per week.

I didn’t start teaching afternoon classes after Semana Santa. Instead, I began going through my things at the school, readying it for my final transition.  I reviewed the supplementary books I had made for each grade level for errors and changes.  I also checked that there were assessments and exams and grade sheets for each unit of all 6 levels.  I would be leaving the entire system in place for whoever takes my place.

Finally, in July, I told the owners that for health reasons I would not be returning the following school year.  It’s not that I hated my job at the school.  After all, I had designed the entire ESL program myself.  I was getting some results, not as much as I would have liked, but some.  I had my own classroom, which is a rare perk in the schools around here.  Yet, at $65 USD per week, it was not in my best interest to continue. The health problem wasn’t invented.  I’m really working myself to death at this rate.  

I interviewed and recommended 2 teachers, one for first, second and third grade, and the other for fourth, fifth and sixth grade.  Yep, two teachers were needed to replace me.  I agreed to do a training session with them in August before everyone returns to classes.

The owner asked if I would consider staying and teaching at least 2 groups or at least the phonics classes since the main focus is pronunciation there.  Nothing doing.  I would, however, make a book for the sixth-grade group for the new teacher to use.  And if I got around to it, make a recording for the phonics books.

My first schedule with my newest online job came out the week after we finished classes.  Twenty-six hours paid in US dollars.  So provided I have a full schedule each week (and with online work nothing is a given) I’ll nearly triple my income for half the work and less than half the time.  

Hasta la vista baby!

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Working boy

My son has been carrying on like a typical teenage boy about how BORED he is with his life. So I decided it was time to find him a job. I sent an email to my local acquaintances listing his stellar qualities and work experiences and asked if anyone knew of a job would they let me know.

I also started scanning the streets for help wanted signs. There were a quite a number, however, for the most part, they were looking for empleadas (female employees) because they are “known” to be more responsible than male employees. Whatever.

Of course, the other glitch is that although my son looks 17 with his bitty ‘stache and impressive height, he’s only 14, thus underage for most positions. So our cruising around didn’t get us very far.

Then my boss’s husband’s sister sent me an email asking if my son was employed. If not, she could offer him some hours at the papeleria (stationery store). He’d work there before but was replaced with a ‘chacha (girl) after a few months with no explanation.

The catch is he would be working with the elderly mother as sort of a caretaker/salesperson until the daughter gets home from work and takes over. She’s well into her 80s and quite set in her ways, which makes it a bit challenging to work there and all. Well, we’d give it a shot.

The first week he was supposed to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday from 3 to 8. I took him to work, and the store was closed. We knocked on the door, and the old lady said his hours started at 4. So he went back at 4. Then she stated that I had said he would be starting at 5, which I hadn’t. I sent an email to the daughter and asked for clarification of the hours. 4-7:30 was the response. However, that changed yet again, now it’s 4:30 to 7:30. All righty then!

The days changed too. His days would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and not Saturday. Well, ok. But then on Monday, she changed them again. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and not Friday. My son changed his guitar lesson from Tuesday to Friday to accommodate the hours. Then on Tuesday, the days changed yet again back to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Well, the music class was already scheduled so he wouldn’t be going on Fridays. (See Music Lessons)

Meanwhile, my son was invited to be a chambelan for a quinceanera party. Dance training would be Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 pm. (See Attending a Quinceanera) Now he was up to his eyeballs in activities!

So, feeling overwhelmed and missing his computer time, my son didn’t want to work anymore. He said he “hated” the job. It was SO BORING. I told him that I would take him home right after school then. That wasn’t enough motivation. I said he would need to tell the girl whose party he was supposed to grace with his presence that he could not participate in the quinceanera because he didn’t have any money for the formal attire required. OK MOM I’LL GO TO WORK!

His arguments for not working were valid. He is only 14, and none of his friends have jobs. He doesn’t like it. It is pretty slow for the most part. He would rather work for himself. I said that would be great! Did he have any start-up money for his business? Nope, well, then he’d have to work at a ho-hum job until then. I reminded him how many hours I was currently working and he said that was different because I was a mom and it was my responsibility, but he was a kid and didn’t have to. So I replied that because I was a mom, I should be home baking cookies instead of working and as a male, he needed to be gainfully employed, that is if we were going to talk about stereotypes and all.

So now his hours are on Monday and Wednesday only so that he can continue with the guitar classes and begin the dance classes. I told him to stick it out until December and then we would talk again. He whined and moaned about that, but I think he’s going to try.

In the short time that he’s been working there, he has already made an impression on the local clientele. A teenage girl, maybe 16 or 17, stopped to pick up some supplies, clearly expecting to be waited on by someone else. When my son asked her what she needed, she sputtered and choked. He asked her again, and she mumbled and blushed. The third attempt allowed her to spit out her paper needs and my son packed them up in a bag. She then circled the block 3 times casting furtive, longing looks his way. He asked me why she acted like that when he had done nothing to provoke the response. I told him that teenage girls all go a bit crazy and act like that and he should just be kind when they are rendered speechless in his presence. I also told him he should be thankful that she didn’t run into a light pole. (See Knockout)

I expect as word gets out, business will be booming Mondays and Wednesdays between 4:30 and 7:30. Don’t you?

working boy

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Lifelong Learning

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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ghandi-quote-lent-2015

Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

jimrohnmotivationalquote

Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part, they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of alcohol, inventory processes, and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

cultural learning

Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

natural

Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers, and someone somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

caves

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that became a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He thinks he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

bike repair

Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

planting

However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

 

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Failing at your own business–Freelance Test Writing

So the second online writing employment that I managed to snag was nothing like the disaster of Freelance Writing Essays. This job although based in China, just like the Essay Writing job, was run by an Irishman and I think that made all the difference. My assignment was to write articles for a TOEFL preparation course. Again, since I have quite a bit of experience working with English as a Second Language learners, I felt fully confident that I could handle this job.

The first requirement was to send a list of possible article topics for approval. I remembered the admonition, “write what you know”, so choose Mexican-related topics. My list was:

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Women in the Mexican Revolution

Environmental law in Mexico

NAFTA

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Volcanism of Mexico

Merida Initiative

Yo Soy 132 social movement

The Irishman, my primary contact, approved the first 6 topics and asked for more information on the last two. I explained a little further but admitted that perhaps the Merida Initiative and Yo Soy 132 were too recent of topics to be included in a  collection of articles. And sure enough, The Irishman replied with “I’d be fascinated to read about contemporary Mexico; sadly we can’t allow contemporary social issues at all. For history and related topics, anything that might be controversial or too anachronistic, I’ve decided the most recent that we can go is the fifties, maybe sixties. The historical material tends to focus on subjects well out of the range of the majority of living persons, both to provide a challenge from unfamiliar information and to avoid controversy.”

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

Well, that’s ok, I had plenty to work with here. I wrote up an article on the Monarch Butterfly Migration and sent it out. The Irishman made some minor revisions and explained how the article should be formatted and named. I revised a little more and sent it back. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. I was a happy camper and immediately started in on the second topic.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

I’ve done research before on Women in the Mexican Revolution (See Stories of the Revolution–Marcelina) and so was gung-ho about writing this one. I tried to be a little too creative and set it up as if it were an excerpt from a longer text. I also tried to rush the article and forgot to include my sources at the end. So the Irishman, out of concern that I had plagiarized the article, asked for some revisions and clarifications. I wrote back assuring him that the article was my own and that I had purposely written it in that manner and apologized for leaving off the sources. I made some adjustments, rewrote the beginning and ending paragraphs, added my sources and sent it again. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

popo

I skipped down the topics list and spent the next week working on Volcanoes in Mexico. I sent the Irishman an email mid-week. “I have been working on the volcano topic and was wondering if I should include images, if not in the text then for the questions. The volcano topic would lend itself nicely to that sort of question.” To which he replied “Your suggestion is well meant but it makes me a bit worried; before you go on with this writing work you need to be aware that we are trying to emulate the tests that we’re targeting with as much authenticity as possible. We’re trying to get everyone to write in accordance with really precise criteria and alas, things that I might like or you might wish to include have to be discarded if they don’t resemble the tests. It’s not always an interesting process… though one does get to research and read about a nice and wide eclectic set of topics. So, no, no images.”

Okie dokie. No images. I wrote it up and sent it along. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. No revisions were necessary. The Irishman even sent me a rhyme that he remembered when he acted in the university as a mouth-warming exercise “Popocatepetl, Copper Plated Kettle.” I believe he was pleased with the article.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

I decided to finish off the natural topics before I moved on to politics and researched and wrote an article on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. While doing the research on this topic, I ran into article after article about the preservation problems in Mexico. I bookmarked these articles for future use in Environmental Law in Mexico. I sent my article in. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

I set to work on NAFTA. The Irishman seemed especially keen that I focus this one on the trade in South and Central America with North America with “plenty of detail on development over time and effect on Central American society.” Well, this one was a doozy. I had some vague ideas, mostly from seeing how the movement of factory jobs from the U.S. to Mexico affected U.S. small towns but hadn’t ever really examined the effect of those factories on Mexico. Again, I discovered issues with contamination and other environmental catastrophes that I bookmarked for the Environmental Law in Mexico article. This article took me more than a week to complete but complete it I did. I thought perhaps I was dancing on thin ice with the inclusion of the Zapatista movement since that might be considered “anachronistic” but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

By far, the most complex piece was the article on Environmental Law in Mexico. I found, much to my surprise, that Mexico does indeed have excellent laws specifically geared for environmental preservation. The problem is the enforcement of those laws. Let me tell you, I was way over my head with this one. I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. I thought that perhaps again I was on the line about the time frame since I included situations that continued up to the 1990s in the article, but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

However, now I had exhausted my topics list. So I sent a new one. And the Irishman responded “Amazing work. I’m totally humbled by how much-condensed reading you put into that last one. It’s clear that you want to pursue things related to Mexico. The interest and dedication that you have is a credit to us. That said, the highly contemporary nature of the trade agreement pieces puts them just a little bit at odds with the precedent given by the available body of previous pieces. Therefore, I’d love it if you could direct your energy at exploring older portions of the country’s history; I hope that’s okay. Therefore, of the topics below I think the architecture and the handicrafts might be the best direction to take, assuming you can bring the same expertise as you did with these latter economic/political ones.”

pyramid

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica.

Well, I guess those last two were a little too recent after all, but he liked them. I assured him that I would be more than happy to work on more historical pieces. I decided to go as far back as I could with Mexican history and researched Mayan hieroglyphics. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. Then I wrote about Mesoamerican Architecture, focusing on the ancient pyramids of Mexico. And on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. And my final article was about The Florentine Codex written in the 16th century. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Sadly, the company that the Irishman worked for decided it had received enough submissions and my job ended the first week of February. It was fun while it lasted, though!

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