Monday, February 6, 2017

Finding an English Teaching Job in Mexico City

So you’ve decided to take the leap and move to Mexico City. No matter your reasons for moving to this megatropolis - whether it be for the adventure, the ability to live a more low-cost lifestyle, to gain experience after earning your teaching English certification, or maybe just to eat the food - Mexico City is a bustling city full of opportunities for native-English speakers. A bit of basic information to answer some frequently asked questions about teaching English in Mexico City:

  1. Can I make a living teaching English in Mexico City? The answer is “yes, you can!” There is plenty of work here to go around although wages are all over the place. One can enjoy a decent, comfortable life living on teacher’s wage but don’t expect much in the way of being able to save anything.

  1. Do I need TESOL/TEFL/TESL certification to find a job? The answer is “no,” although I am reluctant to state this as I consider myself a professional language teacher who spent time and money to earn my TEFL certification. But the truth is, there are many schools that will hire you purely for being a native English speaker and having a college degree. However, keep in mind that it is common practice for private “adult” language schools to hire you, give you a book and tell you that your first class is tomorrow. So, having little to no experience might be fairly overwhelming.

  1. How fast can I find a job once I am settled in Mexico City? You can find one pretty fast, under a week if you are in the right place at the right time. Definitely no longer than a month. Be mindful though that your first job offer might not be the best one. Word of advice: make your move to Mexico City with a little padding in the savings account so you aren’t strapped for cash and forced to take the first job offered to you.  

  1. Will most schools sponsor a work visa? Unless you are accepting a full-time job offer, the answer is normally “no.” However, I wouldn’t worry too much about working legally in Mexico during your first 6 months to a year. If you are a US, Canadian or European Union passport holder, Mexico opens its arms to you with a 6 month tourist visa. Seeing as there are hundreds of taco stands in broad daylight who most definitely are not claiming their earnings or paying full taxes, it’s only natural that private English “adult” schools follow suit as well. Most do not require a work visa (nor sponsor one) and it is a very common practice to “pay under the table.” If you plan on staying in Mexico for an extended period of time, then I would recommend finding a school that will sponsor your work visa, or find a handsome muchacho or muchacha to marry to take care of the visa issue.

  1. What details should I factor into accepting a position? Number one thing to take into consideration should be travel time from your home. Personally, I don’t accept any job that I have to ride public transportation to. That might sound a little “snooty” however having to ride public transportation every day can be exhausting not to mention time consuming and costly. On the flip side, I am fulling willing to walk 2-3 miles and/or ride my bike, but that’s a personal choice. If it’s a full time job, with benefits at a school you love, then it may be well worth it to commute over an hour. Second thing that should factor into your decision is how many hours the position is offering. Is this position going to be twice a week for a couple hours or will you be able to fill your schedule? Sometimes it better to decline a job that offers you a few hours a week to keep your schedule open for those full-time positions. [On a side note: when looking for a place to live, I highly recommend choosing a centrally located neighborhood such as Roma, Condesa, around Paseo de La Reforma or El Centro in order to broaden your scope of job opportunities. Although areas such as Coyoacan and Polanco are lovely, they really limit you in terms of job opportunities as you are rather secluded from other parts of the city. And whatever you do, don’t move to Santa Fe!]

So, what types of jobs are out there and where should you start looking?

[Note: At the writing of this blog, the peso was at an all time low (21.5 to the dollar) and projected to lower over the following months and so I purposely did not list “typical” hourly wage amounts as these will most likely change over the coming months/year.]

  • Craigslist - this is a great place to start your search. A number of private and franchise schools exclusively advertise here and you can get a job quickly that pays decent wages. I personally worked for a great “Business English” school called Wall Street English, although, in the end, Business English was a little too dry for me (but could be a great fit for others!) Word of advise: The interview process a school takes you through is a great way to gage its quality. Generally, they should ask you to do a short “mock teaching” presentation on a grammar topic either in front of the English Coordinator or sometimes in front of actual students while you are observed. Moreover, if hired, they should offer some sort of training on curriculum or a review of the book they use. It should be a red flag, if after reading your CV and talking to you for 15 minutes they hire you on the spot and ask you to start tomorrow.
  • Teaching at an Elementary School - If you’re looking for a stable income and enjoy working with children, then teaching at a private elementary school is a fantastic option. Aside from stable income, elementary schools in Mexico City offer paid holidays and vacations during the summer and Christmas breaks. If you are looking to land a year-long contract, it’s best to get yourself moved over to Mexico City in the early Spring and begin job searching. Most of these schools look to fill their yearly contracts in the Spring to start in August for the new school year. They are also going to want to see that you are settled and already living in Mexico City. Here is a list of International and Bilingual Schools is Mexico City. Note on working at private elementary schools: At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that these schools are businesses. Parents invest a lot of money into putting their children in these fine schools and don’t want to see that investment go to waste. Similarly, the administration does not want to see an unhappy paying client and thus blatant verbal attacks from unhappy parents and disrespectful children are a common reality for teachers. This is by no means a blanket description for all private schools in Mexico City, but it’s more prevalent than unheardof.

  • Subbing at Elementary Schools - Both Teachers Latin America and the American School have subbing programs. Daily pay rates were pretty dismal but it’s a great way to tour different elementary schools in Mexico City as well as a way to get your foot in the door at a specific school.

  • Going at it on your own and advertising your teaching services - This is a great way to make a higher hourly wage by cutting out the middleman of teaching through a school or agency. You also cut out travel time by choosing a place to meet that is close to your house as well as enjoy the freedom of making your own schedule. Most people advertise their English classes on Craigslist however, there are some downsides. Scheduling and cancels/no shows as well as finding reliable students can be tricky - also teachers run the risk of being stiffed (always ask for payment up front!). Word to the wise: never meet at your house unless you know your student well and feel comfortable inviting them into your home. Also, set a price that is accessible to a middle-class, Mexican population that makes an average of $15-$20 USD per day. Lastly, consider choosing coffee shops in centralized, safe areas that are easily accessible by metrobus or metro such as Condesa, Roma or el Centro Historico. Advertising classes in Polanco or around Paseo de La Reforma may draw up some business from the wealthy elite and/or businessmen and women, although many of them may choose to go through an agency that screens their teachers rather than finding one off Craigslist.

Links that I found helpful when starting my job search in Mexico City:

  • Teachers Latin America Hiring Fair - They normally hold this in April or May and you can do some mass interviewing with some top schools. I attended in 2016 and found it very well-organized and professional. I got two job offers out of it! (Any questions, feel free to contact Mark Webber, He’s very responsive to emails and well connected with primary schools in Mexico City)

  • The American School Foundation Jobs Page - Although they do a majority of their hiring in the Spring, they have ongoing job openings, including subbing. Also, they are one of the few schools who has international hiring fairs in the USA, so check if there is one going on near you!

  • Montessori Schools in Mexico City - There are actually quite a large number of small, private Montessori schools in Mexico City, and to secure a job at one of them it may require you to do a bit more research. First, check if the school as an English component to their classrooms and if they do, reach out to them directly via email. Keep in mind that the primary language at these schools is Spanish and that English classes are a supplementary component. So, if your Spanish is sub-par, it may be more difficult for you to excel at the school when it is more difficult to connect with other colleagues and the administration. However, Montessori schools can offer you a more personable experience by working in a small school environment.

Good luck and happy teaching!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

7 Months and Couting in CDMX

Wait, what? 7 months already? Where has the time gone. Here are some updates on Ray and I and how life is going in Mexico City.

Work, work, work - In mid-July we were hit with a huge blow - the job opportunity here in Mexico with SolarCity, the one that was originally supposed to be for 2 years came to an end and Ray and his team were told to relocate back to the US. Although SolarCity had given Ray and his team a variety of explanations for the transfer back, we pretty much blamed it on a young company being overzealous and unprepared for their first international expansion. What I think SolarCity failed to see, however, is how much the initial relocation had drastically changed people’s lives, as we and the rest of Ray’s team had dropped everything to move to Mexico and had no home to go back to. At that time in July, I had just been offered a new full time English teaching position at a Montessori school close to our house and was incredibly excited about it. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up a job that could further my career, something that I was looking forward to. Ray did end up transferring back to the US for a few months to aid in the transition but after weeks of feeling like a “fish out of water” back at his old position in roseville (and missing his wife back in Mexico!), we decided that we would take our chances and see what Mexico had to offer us. Having dedicated so much heart, soul and money into this international move, we really wanted to see it through, at least through to the time that we had originally expected to be here (1-2 years). Ray has since parted ways with SolarCity and has been offered numerous positions with other companies (as Ray says, “Solar Energy is the Gold Rush of the 21st century!”) He has been doing a lot of work from home and is loving it!

Unfortunately, in the end, the position didn’t work out at the Montessori school and I decided to end my contract in late October. It was a huge blow after making the decision to stay here based on this position and Ray and I went back to the drawing board. Professionally, it has been quite a year of ups and downs for us and there are days where we ask ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here? Nothing ever goes as planned.” But if Mexico City has taught us anything thus far it is to be flexible, resourceful and thick-skinned. We truly believe that something brought us here to Mexico City and we still want time to “figure that something out.” That something might very well be travel and life experience, or it may be that dream job that’s just waiting around the corner. We are both incredibly optimistic and stand firm behind our choice to stay in Mexico. If I learned anything from living in Spain, I know that in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years in the perspective of your whole life is so small and yet it can have such a huge impact on the person you grow to become. As for today, we are grateful to have a roof over our head, food on the table, a little money in the bank, family and friends that love us, and most importantly, each other.

~ Don't be afraid to take an unfamiliar path, sometimes they are the ones that take you the best places.~

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup
Hours of food prep and cooking - Being a fervent supporter of Trader Joe's while living in California, I realize now how utterly spoiled I was having fresh, pre-made meals and plethora of local and organic products at my fingertips. All in a one-stop-shop! Don’t get me wrong, Mexico City is up and coming on the organic scene with organic shops and markets opening up left and right. But, I have all about given up on the one-stop-shopping. Grocery shopping and food prep is an all-day affair in my house: I get certain produce, cheeses and nuts from various vendors at the local market (I have to roll my little cart over there with my reusable bags or I end up arriving home with a mountain of plastic bags), tortillas from the tortilleria on calle Coahuila (not Calle Medellin) on Saturdays because they are closed on Sundays, organic meat and speciality products from the tiny shop on the other side of Colonia Condesa (much faster to get there on my bike), a select amount of American products that I can only find at Superama (the dreaded sister store of Walmart which I cringe at buying things from but desperate times call for desperate measures and I just can’t go without my Kashi cereal and San Pellegrino italian sodas). Then off course there is usually a monthly trip to Costco which involves a taxi ride because we don’t have a car.

Then comes the food prep. After that terrible stint with a parasite from eating market vegetables, I started religiously disinfecting all fruits and vegetables by soaking them in a mixture of water and Microdyn drops which, you can imagine, is rather time consuming. However, each week I have become a bit braver in trying new things. I have added kale, collard greens, pomegranate seeds, mango and guayaba to my weekly repertoire. Unable to find quality juice on the shelves I have been experimenting with aguas frescas (a mixture of concentrated fruit, water, and a touch of honey or raw sugar). Aside from produce, I have tried a variety of canned food items here, hoping for a Trader-Joe’s-like quality and have been thoroughly disappointed. So, I have been experimenting with things like homemade black beans, peanut butter, lentil soups with swiss chard and ground turkey, butternut squash soup with a touch of ginger, large batches of lemon hummus with fresh garbanzo beans that I have to “re-hydrate” the night before, baked goods and sweets like banana bread and vegan chocolate balls with dates and cocoa powder. And to add to all of this cooking experimentation, we are yet again, without a dishwasher (I said our last apartment would be the last place we lived without a dishwasher but, alas, here we are). So, you sort of feel like you spend half your life washing dishes in our house but, we’ve worked out a nice system, we put on some music and I wash as Ray dries. We have some great conversations and actually, now that I think about it, spend a lot of quality time together (go figure!)

At the end of the day however, there are so many positives coming out of this:

  • Eating whole foods - It’s incredibly empowering to be in complete control of what is going into your body - knowing that the majority of the food we consume does not have a nutritional label on it.
  • Mercado 100 - Organic Produce
    Supporting local farmers and agriculture - although it is much more work to drag my little cart over the Mercado Medellin with my reusable bags than to pop over to Superama across the park, it feels so good to support local agriculture and farmers. To be able to navigate yourself through the maze of stalls and know exactly where you’re going and what you need. Not to mention the culture experience of purchasing products from the local markets is so enriching - the people, the language, the smells, the noises, the colors - you can’t even put it on the same playing field as going to a grocery store.
  • Savings! - although eating out in Mexico is very inexpensive in comparison to the US, we are saving a ton of cash having gourmet meals at home.
Weekends and social life - As I reminisce on photos of Halloween parties, dinner parties, salsa nights and CASA de ESPAÑOL events, part of me does feel a bit of homesickness thinking about the huge social circle and life we left behind in Sacramento. And yet, there is no part of me that feels the least bit bored or not mentally stimulated because we are doing so many different things that continue to enrich our lives. Aside from our constant travel schedule, we still enjoy the weekends by discovering all Mexico City has to offer. When we first got here, we made a huge list of “must sees” in el DF and we are using our weekends to check things off of it. So though our salsa dancing outings are non-existent and social get-togethers limited, we are staying enriched in different ways. As time passes we are solely building a mini network of friends and a support group of people we can call on in times of need. However, we do really look forward to our trips home to Sacramento - see you all for the holidays!

10th Annual Giant "Alebrije" Exposition

The sculptures were on Paseo de La Reforma

Hand-embroidered pillowcases
Home sweet home - We have really settled into our quaint neighborhood - La Condesa - and neighboring Roma. We have our “go-to” restaurants, most of which are “fondas” or places where they offer a 3-5 course meals for around 75 pesos (or $4 USD) during the lunch hour...I know, it is pretty incredible how cheap food is here. We have added a number of small upgrades to our little apartment and it finally feels warm and inviting. It has sort of become our safe-haven where we can get away from the chaos of the city. We have created, what we call, our “mini home gym” with Ray’s mini pull up and push up bar to get out his energy while working from home. About 3 nights a week we turn our front room into a yoga studio - we dim the lights, light some incense put on some background music and do a “free class” on youtube. We have considered getting gym memberships but the truth is we are walking and running around so much just living our normal lives (I have to walk about mile and half round trip just to get my groceries from one place) that we arrive home pretty exhausted. It’s incredible how much more active you are without a car!

Handmade Ceramic Plates from Guanajuato
The longer I live in Mexico City, the more the city starts to grow on me and the more I understand why an estimated 1 million Americans have chosen to live here. It is true what many say, that once you get around the city’s rough edges, there is this beauty all around you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to survive your first Cervantino

During the month of October, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Guanajuato hosts its annual Festival Cervantino, an internationally recognized performing arts festival (it’s the 4th largest of its kind in the world). El Cervantino is named after the famed Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes (who wrote Don Quixote), and dates back to the early 20th century when college students would perform his plays in the plazas of Guanajuato. The festival became official in 1972 and opened up to include international acts, although it does still focus on artistic creations in the Spanish language. The festival encompasses a wide range of genres including opera, contemporary dance, theater, visual arts, film, literature and multimedia as well as a variety of workshops, exhibits and conferences which can be seen in indoor and outdoor spaces. This year’s official invites were Spain and Guadalajara (2016).

Steps to the university - outdoor movie theater

As a first time festival-goer, I felt that there was limited information out there on how the 3-week festival works exactly, so I thought I would put my experiences out there in cyberspace in hopes that someone else can benefit from them.

When to go?

Lovely streets in el centro histórico
The festival is 3 weeks long so there is a lot of flexibility on when to go. My husband and I came for the first official weekend which is noticeably “más traquilo,” or calmer, than the subsequent weeks/weekends. The streets were full of life but weren’t overcrowded. There were a variety of great shows (but maybe not the top shows of the festival). We never had to make a reservation at any restaurant and there were plenty of available taxis to take us where we needed to go. Obviously, if there is a specific show that you’re going for then of course, go during that time, but if you are flexible, maybe consider going towards the beginning for a more relaxing experience.

How to get there?

The best way to arrive to the city is by bus as there is no major airport in Guanajuato (you’ll probably fly into Guadalajara, León or Mexico City if you’re coming in from out of the country). If you’re looking to travel in a bit of luxury I highly recommend purchasing tickets with the bus company ETN no matter which major city you’re coming from. Also, book your return tickets in advance as buses will fill up fast as the festival gets busier. Keep in mind that the Central de Autobuses in Guanajuato is about 15 minutes outside of El Centro Histórico and you’ll have to go over (and through!) a few mountains to get there (I was thinking, where is this taxi driver taking us?) But, you will enter the city through one of its famous tunnels! A taxi ride should be between 40 and 70 pesos depending where you’re going. Also, at the writing of this blog, UBER had just started up in Guanajuato. There weren’t a whole lot of drivers yet but we did use it a few times and were very pleased with the service.

Where to stay?

Airbnb house
I am a wholehearted supporter of and use it pretty religiously when I travel. The times we have stayed in Guanajuato, the houses have been particularly amazing (see photos) and the hosts especially hospitable. They can give you great local tips and most importantly, the best places to eat! (more on my recommendations below) One downside of Airbnb (for some) is that you will probably be about a 10-15 walk from the center which normally means quite a bit of walking uphill. However, as the locals will tell you, the center can get very loud and rowdy during the festival, especially on the weekends so keep that in mind. There are, however, a plethora of lovely boutique hotels in the city who will most definitely hike up their prices during El Cervantino as well as fill up fast, so get your reservations in early! Same goes for Airbnb, get your reservations in early – I would say 4-6 months in advance. Although, the tricky part for some about booking so far in advance is that the official festival schedule normally isn’t up on the website until about 3 months before. But if you’re flexible about what shows to see then it shouldn’t be a problem booking ahead of time.

Airbnb kitchen
Airbnb mosaic mirror and blue dresser

How exactly does the festival work?

When looking online this was the part I was most confused about in regards to the festival: If it’s a 3 week festival, how does it all work? The city is transformed into a variety of outdoor and indoor stages where they have a pre-planned lineup of artistic shows - adult and children’s theater, concerts of all types including symphonies and opera, acrobats, folkloric dance and ballet, outdoor film showings and academic events, readings and short plays of the work of Miguel de Cervantes and much more! When you go to the official Cervantino website you can see the variety of shows offered on certain days which all have very detailed descriptions. So rather than purchasing one ticket to attend the festival, you purchase separate tickets to see certain shows during the time you are there. Some shows are offered more than one day, others no. Some shows take place in outdoor spaces so although tickets to sit front and center sell out fast you can still show up early and get a pretty good view of the concert without paying. Any event that is held in the Alhóndiga de Granaditas has free outdoor seating and also plenty of space to view the concert from the sides (if you show up 30 min or so before). Anything that is held in an auditorio or teatro will be inside and you will have to purchase a ticket. We purchased tickets ranging from 80 pesos to 250 pesos for various shows.

Concert in the Alhóndiga de Granaditas

Plaza de La Paz at night

Purchasing tickets can be tricky. Using can be a nightmare. A word of advice: make sure to use a credit card with raised numbers on it (not flat) as when you go to pick up your tickets at a “ticketmaster distributor” they will take a carbon copy of your card which must have raised numbers (I know, so archaic!). You cannot simply print your tickets online (I learned all of this the hard way). As my husband and I were just attending to get an overall feel for the El Cervantino, we preferred to avoid the ticketaster fees and headaches and purchase our tickets in person at Teatro Juarez. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and there were some tickets available for the weekend shows and others that were sold out. But we were flexible and saw a variety of shows (even if they weren’t our top choices) and still had a great time. So, it really depends if you are set on seeing a particular show (which in that case I would recommend purchasing ahead of time on ticketmaster and paying their fees). But if you are open and flexible, choose a variety of shows in the lineup for the days you will be there and see what tickets are still available. I also highly recommend looking at the lineup of children’s theatre as we saw some pretty spectacular shows!

A lot of the theatres and auditoriums are located outside of the historical center so you'll have to catch a taxi or UBER. These should cost you no more than $50 pesos and the best place to catch them is along Avenida Benito Juarez across the street from Comercial Mexicana. Taxi rides are incredibly fun though as they take you through the sea of underground tunnels and then up high into the mountain offering breathtaking views of the city only seen by car. Plan to arrive 30 minutes early for general admission shows to get a decent seat.

What else is there to do in Guanajuato?

El Pipila and El Mirador – Behind Teatro Juarez there is a cable car (or funicular) that will take you up the mountain to the statue of El Pipila and the quintessential breathtaking view of Guanajuato. It’s $25 pesos to go up (subida) and $25 to go down (bajada). Purchase the “subida” and skip the bajada. There is a clear path back down to Teatro Juarez and it’s a lovely walk!

View of Guanajuato

Museo de las Momias – If seeing dead people doesn’t make your skin crawl, this eerie museum is definitely worth a visit. To get there, you can take a taxi for under 60 pesos or if you’re feeling adventurous hop on one of the many “colectivos” (buses) that say “Momias” that stop in Plaza de La Paz. General admission is $55 pesos.

Las Minas – Have a taxi take you to one of the many silver mines surrounding the city. Be aware that they keep very strange hours. We tried to go to both La Valenciana and El Nopal around 2:00 pm on a Saturday (during one of the city’s busiest times of the year) and both were closed because of “who knows why.” But they are open for visitors so just be patient if they aren’t open the day that you go. Although we never did make it inside, my understanding is that they give you a hard hat and offer short tours (in Spanish) where they take you deep into the mine. Admission is under 50 pesos.

Mercado Hidalgo – If you’re looking to enjoy some tacos, tortas or aguas fresas, this is the place to go. The top level is full of shirts and souvenirs. Located on Av. Benito Juarez.

Mercado de Los Hippies Quetzalcoatl – Located just a block up from Mercado Hidalgo on Cuesta de Mendizábal, you can find an array of handmade jewelry, leather products, incense, clothing, henna and tattoo parlors, a small selection of ceramic work and more.

Plaza San Fernando – My favorite square in the whole city! They also have an outdoor stage with a variety of events going on in the evenings. I would recommend stopping for a coffee at ClubCafe. (We asked several restaurants with outdoor seating that were closer to the stage area if we could enjoy a coffee or a beer on the terrace but because we weren’t going to have a full meal, they turned us away).

Plaza San Fernando

Callejoneada and El Callejon del Beso – If you walk past Teatro Juarez after 5pm you’ll be bombarded by a variety of men dressed in medieval garb trying to sell you tickets to a one of the city’s famous “callejoneadas.” It is a type of “walking serenade,” during which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes weave their way through the cobblestone streets while playing music, singing popular folk songs, telling stories and reciting local legends. Like any highly commercialized city tour there are good ones and not so good ones. See who is wearing the most traditional clothes and also ask them to give you some history about their group. If they are based out of the university and have been doing it for 20+ years then that’s probably a good sign. Also, ask if they will be taking you past “El Callejon del Beso.” Cost should be no more than 150 pesos.

Where to eat?

La Victoriana – Although it is a little bit outside the city center, this Victorian mansion turned café and pottery shop is worth the taxi ride. Their cafe latte and pan de queso are to die for. They also serve breakfast and lunch.

Mestizo – Don’t let its basic décor fool you, this hole in wall makes some exquisite traditional Mexican food at an affordable price. We ate their three times in a 4 day period.

El Midi Bistró – Located upstairs in the posh “Cuatro Casas” building, the café serves great brunch options on Saturday and Sunday and salads during the lunch hour.

Latte at La Victoriana

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Month #3 in Mexico City - Finally Settling In

I really feel like we have finally settled into life in La Condesa and along with that has come a sense of natural rhythm and normalcy here in Mexico City. My stress level has gone down considerably as I have adjusted to the new pace of life. It’s the little things, like knowing where to find certain food products, the best grocery stores to go to and the local cafe with the best coffee, pastry and strong wifi. I walk through Parque Mexico in the middle of the day and chuckle as I watch the dog walkers trying not to get their 10 dogs (of all shapes and sizes) all twisted up with the different leashes. Then you have the experienced dog walkers who have their 10 dogs lined up, laying down and waiting patiently to be walked again. [Note: I’ll never understand why so many people in La Condesa have dogs if they have to hire someone to walk them everyday, but hey, every each their own]. I walk with confidence through Mercado Medellin and know exactly which stands to buy my cheese from, my fruits and vegetables from, my fish and meat from. I have started learning names of the different vendors and they have learned mine. I purposely take the long way home or turn on unknown streets to stumble across new things and I keep my notebook handy to write about my discoveries.

Mural en El Centro Histórico

Organic Produce - Mercado 100
You get used to waking up to these strange but distinct sounds - birds chirping, a distant sound of a guy selling churros, the blender from the lady next door. At night, aside from the constant sound of distant honking horns, there is also this distinct high pitched screeching sound, like a singing tea kettle, that comes from los carritos de los camotes selling hot sweet potatoes. I chuckle every time I see the guys that circle around with a modified bike selling tamales oaxaquenos using a very distinct recording that repeats something like, “¡Tamales oaxaqueños! ¡Ricos tamales oaxaqueños!” The strange thing is though, is that you hear the same recording in many parts of the city and you wonder, wow, this guy must be in great shape if he can pass through all of these neighborhoods! But then, I read somewhere that a while ago one guy made a recording of himself selling tamales, because he had become famous for his ad. Now, everyone who sells tamales all over Mexico City uses that same recording thinking that they too will have the same success (here is an actual recording). At least once a day you can also see or hear the truck that blasts a different recording announcing that they are willing to pick up any basic used home appliance. A rather distinct female voice on the recording dictates in a monotone voice all of the things that they pick up, “lavadoras, secadoras, licuadoras, tostadoras, estufas, refrigeradores, microondas etc.” After a while, this one can really get under your skin as it’s not the most pleasant recording while enjoying your morning cup of coffee, but it adds to the jumble of unusual sounds.

Azulejo en Polanco
I have learned how to cross the street with purpose and a bit of aggressiveness - if not, I would never be able to cross the street! I have fallen in love with a type of sweet snack made with honey and amaranto, called dulce de alegría (roughly translated to “sweet delight”). Amaranto is a type of grain (called amaranth in english although I had never heard of it until now) and was a staple in the Aztec diet. However when Cortez and the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, amaranto crops were burned and its use forbidden. Luckily, the little plant has tough roots and was never quite eliminated. Amaranto is a strong source of protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It’s a lot like quinoa but softer and a lot cheaper! They sell the alegría bars on every corner and in every metro station so I never have to go far to get my fix. Aside from my new found love of amaranto, I frequent a small juice stand a block from my house that makes me pretty much any kind of smoothie or fresh squeezed juice my heart desires for $1.25 or under (try to beat that Jamba Juice!).

For an update on what I’m doing to fill my time here: I just finished my Spanish course at CEPE (El Centro de Enseñanza para Extranjeros) at UNAM and am enjoying a bit of relaxation time. I am happy to announce that I have accepted a permanent, year-long teaching position at an elementary school not far from my house. I will be teaching English to 4th, 5th and 6th graders and I am elated to have this opportunity to grow in my profession. Not to mention that having a full-time job that I enjoy really grounds me here in Mexico City and gives me purpose - something I think I have been desperately searching for since I arrived. The position starts in mid-August and I couldn’t be happier. Until then, Ray and I are planning a 2-week backpacking trip to the Yucatan Peninsula - it’s a rather spur of the moment decision and we plan to hit the road any day now!

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