Buen dia,

I have not written on my blog for a while, which is sad. Anyway, I’m back after two and a half months with something to say.

It’s difficult to live just where you are in terms of choosing activities, things to put your mind to, which keep you in time and place. For instance, I am impatient to head home in one month to Oregon, where I’ll spend the summer with my family after this year lived abroad. Because I am impatient, and similarly, home-sick, I call home often, email my friends plentifully, and pass unnecessary hours on Facebook looking at pictures of family and friends who I am not with, but wish I could be.

One activity that keeps me in time and place is art.

Place: depth of field: representation: patience

Feeling that time and place are synthesized is one reason I enjoy making visual art. The other is that to represent what is in front of you on paper, in the case of painting and drawing, forces the artist to realize space and dimension, two concepts that to a great extent define place.

In the most simple terms, place is our surroundings, which each of us relate to because of our bodies that know space and dimension, not only because our eyes show it to us, but our whole body responds to it. When we are in a room we know a different space than when we walk outside in our neighborhood. Furthermore, architects construct space for this very purpose: to bring our bodies into the awareness of space, dimension and place. So there is a phrase that relates to the body: “The eyes of the skin.”

Many types of subject matter in art interest me, from the human figure to architecture. Still, in my opinion the most interesting artwork is that which represents space through depth of field. I am not going to come up with and write here a theory for how art can represent it well. To translate depth of field from reality to paper is an accomplishment! I am merely stating my preference as an artist and viewer; artwork that shows depth of field, no matter the subject, is entirely interesting.

I will never forget learning about what Caravaggio, an Italian artist active in the late 1500s, was doing with his paintings. His works explored ‘depth of field’ when others relied on traditional compositions and views. Because of this shift in representing Biblical narratives, the viewer could actually relate to the image by means of sensing space.

Now everyone knows that I do not find Andy Warhol’s work that interesting. Ha.

To connect art making to living in a place

Making art takes patience as much as it takes time. But no matter the degree of patience it takes from moment to moment, you must understand that you are doing nothing more or less than being. Maybe you are being still, maybe you are moving, but by making art you are definitely being, and to be requires patience. By way of basic observation, the word itself, in any language, is difficult to grasp as a concept. You are not being something, you just are. To be is the auxiliary verb stripped of extended significance. It forms the perfect tense by showing things that have happened up to now but are not finished yet. And it signifies patience.

8:00-10:30am

Today I made art in the morning, my favorite and most productive time in which to create, and I told myself that even if this painting may not achieve technically what I hope it may, it is an act of patience and being. That alone is reason enough for me to make it, though I still hope it will look satisfactory.

I do not think that the process of making art is art’s main purpose. I know the reasons for making art are faceted, as the dialogue of history proves, and am interested in seeing all its origins and translations. But at its heart, art is human expression, and is made by a person in specific place. Because art is so so purely human, coming out of patience and often times an inner dialogue, it is worth truly considering.

Though not everyone makes it, it seems as elemental and natural as people building shelters in which to raise families and live. It is not as practical as preparing physical shelter, yet still as strong an inclination. In addition, the reason not everyone makes art, and why everyone makes sure a house gets built, is that it takes courage. Making art involves risk and the patience to keep taking risks again and again. The inclination for people to make art has yet to fade with time, putting it alongside building shelters in terms of what is natural, intuitive and needed.

Heading “home” in a month

I am very excited for my soon departure home to Oregon. I and my dear friend and roommate, Bridget, are soon going different directions, she back to the U.K. to see family and friends as well.

During the latter part of my stay here I have agonized over how to live here, to stay here not only in my body of course, but in my mind. Living abroad this past year has brought on loneliness and estrangement, as well as a resulting irritation with my position as an outsider. However, none of these things posed threats toward my creativity; art making naturally became the way I realized where I was, reflecting the necessary patience it takes to live life. Here I refer to living life in general, and would never want to limit patience to circumstances, because circumstances, though they change, do not have the power to remove patience from being human. We are always waiting on something, and art helps up wait there, and in turn, view with wonder the basics of our sensual existence: color, form, line and depth.

Please look at work by Tacita Dean on this London gallery website. Explore the works and exhibitions pages, as well as her biography. I am interested in her drawings and photographs, and want to watch her short films.

  • Roaring Forties: Seven Boards in Seven Days [Detail], 1997
  • Chalk on blackboard
  • 7 works, 240 x 240 cm each

http://www.frithstreetgallery.com/artists/bio/tacita_dean/

Now, if you have the time or the will-to, the following link will take you to a video, which helps explain the process behind one of her film exhibitions at the Tate Modern.

The video, FILM, is at the very bottom of the web page article.

Here’s the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/8841556/Exhibition-in-focus-The-Unilever-Series-Tacita-Dean-at-Tate-Modern.html

Favorite quotations of mine from this little video titled, FILM, are these:

“It can be magic. What else can you do in this space, I don’t know, other than create magic? It’s an illusion. Of course. Film is an illusion. What I am saying is, this is a beautiful medium, it’s a different medium. Let’s keep it.”

“For me, failure would be for people to have said, well I should have just done that in digital. Of course you can, but then you can’t as well.”

I also like her thoughts on the definition of “nostalgia” in how it relates, or doesn’t relate, to this type of film making.

I like how her work fully explores the medium itself. FILM does explore the subject matter of her film, but so much of the art is about the medium itself, so I think.

And I love how much she loves her medium, so much that she wants to keep it alive and current, to preserve it and its purpose in contemporary times.

 

My little guerrita

I am sitting in my room drinking Abuelita and coffee. I drink a lot of chocolate milk here, in both hot and cold form depending on the temperature outside (hot in the day and cold at night). I am not exactly sure why I drink so much of it. I guess the combination of protein, sugar, chocolate and hot liquid just do it for me. Really, without chocolate milk I’d have a hard time in life.

I have recently felt a loneliness and even ennui in living here. It is an emotion that naturally comes from being a foreigner, of feeling socially estranged by means of language and cultural barrier. I feel very strongly here the social inhibition of Mexican women’s tight friend groups and the often assuming, sexually charged positition of Mexican men toward white women- guerras or gringas or in my case, guerrita! The names can be laughed off easily. They’re just names for obvious foreigners like my friend Bridgette and I. Deeper cultural shock, as I mention befored, is not easy to laugh or shake off, and is the reason for the sometimes long periods of desperation I feel here, desperation for friendships, that is. It only makes sense that I would feel this way; I am not in my country and therefore, I cannot easily relate to such a different culture. And it makes even further  sense to me, because after the five or so months I have lived here, I can count on one hand (or four fingers) the people here whom I trust and believe care about me just for me-not for money, pleasure or whatever reasons actual friendship can be placated.

That being said, the differences between Mexican culture and my own have been, and are still, worth learning through this one year experience in Guaymas. And that is why I am writing this- to talk about the loneliness in light of the presence of love I do feel here.

Last Sunday I was feeling especially disillusioned with the purpose of me being here- asking myself questions like, Why am I passing my time in a place where I feel lonely? Especially when I have this family I adore who I can go to and recieve love from?- Yes. Those do sounds like questions of disillusionment don’t they. So, I felt these questions come over me, and over this last week I decided that I was not going to leave this place, or even dislike it for giving me these feelings. Basically, I don’t have a nice packaged answer for myself or anyone else, but I decided a few things. Those things are:

 I need to ask God for the things I lack, to be specific in my prayers, and to not feel bad for asking and asking desperately; Another is a thought that I naturally developed here because of loneliness, which is, ‘God’s grace is sufficient.’ Fortunately for me, I am reading Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Inner Voice of Love,” which contains pages of specific advice that the author gives to people who need God’s love in their life. The quotation under the page heading, “Keep Choosing God,” is: “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” The author posits that we must keep choosing God. Whatever other voices we hear, voices that are not of God’s love for us and our love for ourselves, we need to choose God’s love. These words, perfectly concise in Nouwen’s writing, are my direction for this time in Guaymas. And I know they are truth for all of us at any point in our life when we feel lonely, estranged and thus, confused.

Then tonight I read an email by my friend Mary from college, who is especially attentive to trying to find truth and purpose in her life’s course. Mary has been traveling for the last year in India and is now residing for 3 months in Austrailia just working there. In her mass email to friends and family, she referred to her littlest sister’s bucket list. The last point of her sister’s bucket list was “Live my life.” Mary found this statement special, at the very least because it came from a very little girl.

Like Mary I also find this statement strikingly motivating or full of a transformatitve energy. I want to not always be thinking of what I will be doing in three months or a year, what I will be doing when the hard things in life pass, where I want to go next and especially, what I want to accomplish and do. There’s some good purpose to these thoughts, but I think mainly there is a force in them that disables us from living life, and when I say that, I mean living the actions we believe in, living as the person we want to be. The point is, I do not want to think about who I want to be all of the time, but rather live out who I am. As for myself,  I am always planning my life in anxiety for the future. I am obsessed with figuring out what I want to do and accomplish. A lot of the time I think I do not have eyes to see who I am. That is a pity. I want to be different in this way.

Now, if you don’t know who you are, that makes this all difficult. So first, we need to ask for wisdom in knowing who we are and what we believe. We first need to know what defines us and believe that we know the truth about who we are (more easily said than done perhaps, as this isn’t something we figure out over night but that we can seek in order to find). Then with that wisdom of our being, we can live the live we have. We can start out with our days; naturally we can start in the morning, make morning prayers, and carry them with us into the night. We won’t pretend that life is not difficult, but perhaps it is less complicated than we make it. Perhaps one simple thing we can do is live the values and purposes we believe in, live or demonstrate by action what we think and feel. These thoughts of living life give me hope that even in life’s lonely or confusing times, we can humbly approach the throne of grace and ask for wisdom, knowing God is a God of joy and smiles, and intends these gifts for us if we wait with Him ad let him be in our pain.

I mention now things that I am thankful for that happened this week. First of all, I worked harder at my job this week than any week. I turned in all of my study guides and exams for 3 grades in on time! And I turned in more than half of my lesson plans (major accomplishment).

After school on Wednesday I attended a parent-teacher meeting, just me and Adriana’s parents, because she has recieved 3 bad behavior notes this year, all from me in English class. Her poor dad started to tear up when he spoke about how important it is to him and his wife for Adriana to not recieve these notes for her behavior in English class, because they are tyring to get through to her how improtant it is that she obeys the different rules of every place she goes, and if not, they have to take things away form her, even her attendane at school. I found that admirable as parents, and I sympathized somewhat with their distress. Anyway, Adriana in the last two days has done so much better in my class! She does her work, actually finishes it, asks me questions to make sure she does it right, follows instructions and over all, she must be either scared to death of not coming to school anymore or has some sudden realization that it’s importnat to follow rules. It’s tough for little kids to understand that or to act it out. So this is good news for me, Adriana and her family.

My job teaching has become exponentially easier since coming back this term in January. It has taken me the last 5 months to even feel capable of teaching here. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. When I first got here and was thrown into this position with all its responsibilitiy and insanity, I had no idea what I was doing. In November I had a moment when I was standing alone in my class during my break (no children, no noise) and I thought: I have been doing this for 3 months. How in the world have I been doing this?? Really I had no idea and still don’t. It was all just so new.

Now I can say that I enjoy my job. My job here is the reason I am here. I am starting to realize that in the midst of my loneliness here, these children are joy for me and their joy and life is to be appreciated and not over looked. I must remember that every day I make contact with these children and thus, I need to stop thinking about what I will do next, where I will be in the future, before I start wishing my life away, really. We are not promised a life without difficulties and the sometimes sharp edge of emotions and circumstances. But in all these diffiuclties, we are promised some joy and perhaps for me, this piece of joy that is my kids at the school will become enlarged as I realize how great it is that they are in my life and I in theirs (well, I don’t know if they feel that way, but I do feel that way about them). How else are we meant to live life if not in thankfullness and appreciation?

I want to be thankful for everything I have- for my family back home who loves me and I them, my friend Bridgette here, because without her I would not have been able to live here in the past 5 months (soounds extreme, but it’s totally true) and the ocean and mountains here that every day exist whether or not we notice or appreciate them.

I want to live my life and not always be one step ahead in my thoughts. I want to live life in the home of God’s love and believe, without anxiety, that God has something prepared for me at every turn and will not let me slip out of His sight.  I want to live life in thankfullness, believing that God is a god of joy, laughter and smiles, who enters people’s pain and therefore understands it, ready to take you through it more boldly entrusted to His love.

And…. I don’t want this post to be any longer. It has a 1918 word count. If I remember correctly, that’s like a 5 and a half page paper. As with anything you choose to read, thanks for giving your time.

In love and joy, Mikie

A recent drawing of a potted cactus. It is “potted” in a Modelo beer can.

 

I have been listening to this album by Youth Lagoon. The man is 22 and from Idaho. Beautiful music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_g0TpTmIIk

There’s a verb in spanish, “disfrutar,” which I believe simply means “to enjoy,” but I find this Spanish word has a connotation of  getting all you can out of life, or “suck the marrow out of life (Thoreau),” which I think should be everyone’s desire. Spanish seems to make the meaning of words more full, somehow.

Anyway, this is how I feel about making art.

***

Hello everyone,

When I went home (to Oregon) over Christmas break I made these images. There are five.

A note about photographing visual artwork: I do not like it. Maybe if I had a scanner I would feel differently (many of these photos are simply of poor quality; yuck). I do not like photographs of work, because they subtract from the real piece. What do I mean by “the real piece?” Art work has nuances that only a person’s physical presence can make exist, and when the nuances are lost, I feel that the work will also lose its integrity. I feel this way about all art, but especially about collage, as it’s an especially tactile art medium. For collage in particular, the photograph to a certain degree removes ‘depth of field’ from the work. However, photography is the most practical way to show it to people and therefore, it is very much worth it.

If you are reading this post and about to view the images, you are my only audience. And that is why I have a blog, because someone has to see what’s being made.

Why is my work in a sketchbook, with that awkward fold, or canyon, in the middle?

Art and a transient life-style: My work at this time of year is in a sketchbook, because my life, as I teach English in Mexico, I think is transient.

Rough-drafts are useful! Sketchbook work appears as rough draft work. Hints the word, “sketch.” That is somewhat true in my case; I believe all my work in the past year is rough-draft material. I believe that one day it will be used for more advanced projects. Rough drafts stand alone as useful; they may or may not be uased to make something in the future, but they are still good work. It’s all work and it’s all practice. You can always improve.

So, I think roughdrafts, and by extension, sketchbooks,  help us make important decisions in our artwork. They get us somewhere. They are maps for something in the future, or maybe the image will not be developed further into something else, but that’s not all that bad.

Making practical goals: My goal in the next four months is to develop a sketchbook. The word “develop” is significant to me, because it implies work. Work in my sketchbook may be basic, but it is still work. In this new year, I want to set a practical goal for myself, one I know I can manage, one that will not loom over me and always make me feel pathetic for not accomplishing (I can easily do that with artwork, such as make five refined water color paintings, one a month. That’s a lot for me).

 

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for. Sorry I worked it up.

***

I call this little exhibition: “Waves and Whales and Whale Bones”

“Wave One”

paper bag, magazine, napkin

“Wave Two”

paper bag, pen and ink, pencil, magazine

-For Mary Schuberg who loves riding waves

“Whale Bone One”

paper bag, water color, pen and ink, pencil, coffee

“Whale Bone Two”

paper bag, pen and ink, pencil, Blue whale diagram, water color, magazine

“Detach and Discard”

bus tickets, tortilla chip label, freshness seal, butterfly wing, ticket stub

A Note on Process

For me, artwork is mostly if not all about process. It is what I love about making art. Awareness of process is common knowledge among artists. I made these images in a flow of time, at 6 in the morning drinking coffee and listening to jsut about anything, from hip-hop to the Rolling Stones on my ipod. I work best in the morning.

So, I want to pose the question to artists: When do you work best? That’s a specific question. A more broad and open-ended question is: How do you work? What is it like to work on your work? Does you work raise questions? If so, what questions come to you when you work? Yes, the answers are open-ended, free and unprpedictable. I think all artists must share these questions, and individual asnwers, in common, and I think that is a beautiful thing.

For me, these photographs do not relate all that much to my work. They certianly do not relate to the work itself, to process, that is. In these photographs, process seems to vanish, although I can remember how I made it, the time, the thoughts, the moment I had to take a break and return later, because I couldn’t look at it any longer.

Recording thoughts after art making

One thing I like to do after I finish a “session” of artmaking, is record my thoughts with words. Most often I have questions in my head, for whatever reason. Maybe that is because to make art is to take risks; to ask questions and then resolve them. It is a process, so naturally it involves questions, problems (be they conceptual or practical) and ultimately, resolution.

After making the previous five images, I wrote:

1. Can nature be structural? How so?

Nature and structure (city; architecture; inorganic form/line): Are the two at odds, or can they be integrated, if only in images?

3. Can language be visual? How so?

I hope that artists would record (with words) some of their thought processes in the artmaking process. And, I would hope that we could share them. I wish I had a blog just for that.

Buenos noches, Thanks for looking at this.

View of Tetakawi from Piedra Pintas Beach

So much time has passed since my last post that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Because it is Christmas and most of us are at home with our families, I’d like to comment on how Mexican culture  around Christmas time sent me the direct signal: go home to your family. I write this, because from my experience life in Mexico centers on family.

Since I arrived there in mid August, I have watched all members of the family interact with eachother on a daily basis; at the beach- the father and his daughter, the mother with her grandmother and child and so on. Each are so close, able to touch each other, and I cannot see Mexico being any other way. Many people live at home or in the same city/town their whole life. Because of this family-centered aspect of their culture, even more intense around Christmastime or Advent, I knew it was time to go home for Christmas.

On the twelve hour bus ride to the U.S., a Mexican friend asked me if I got home-sick while I’d been living in Mexico. I’ve been living there four months. I thought back over this time and quickly had my answer. I told him that I had not been home-sick, but instead a new feeling affects me that I’ve not known before in living away from “home.” I told him that I do not miss my “home,” as in my country and my literal house. Rather, because Mexicans tend to spend much time with their family and live in great proximity, and I have no family there (feeling like I am a single drop of my family-ink on the page), I feel an absence, which can be described as loneliness. I do not want to go “home.” I want my family to be here with me. Whether or not one would call that home-sickness I don’t know, but I see it as something a little different, and only a people whose daily rthyms exist in family could have caused this emotional development within four months time.

Now at home, not only am I eating my share of home-made Christmas cookies and my mom’s exeptional cooking, I am experiencing what are probably small adjustments to U.S. culture. For me, home is always home, because my family is a stable thing that opens we with huge, warm arms. However, there were some cultural adjustments, and I do not think they are huge, because four months in a foreign country is not that much time, but still enough to change you a lot. Here are the differences between Mexican culture and U.S. culture that affected me immediately:

Time

The idea in the U.S. that someone is on their way to an event, but boy are they late, because it’s ten minutes pas the starting time stated on the dinner invitation. This really grabbed my attention. I realized I don’t pay much attention to time at all, and that is because of Mexico. Even the first period class I teach begins ten to fifteen minutes “late” on the regular. Everything/person just comes when it comes.

Piedra Pintas Beach, Isla de Tortuga (?)

Salutations/ Saludos

It’s a little wierd if you say hi to someone on the street, a stranger, that is. One’s capacity for two people to be strangers to eachother is much less in Mexico than in the U.S., due at least to the practice of exchanging salutations for morning, afternoon and evening for those who pass eachother on the street.

It is custom. My coworker and I walk to the bus stop ever morning at 6:30 and see a woman with her entire head, minus her eyes, wrapped in a scarf. We pass eachother and through her scarf hear, “Buenos días.” At 6:30 am, up before sunrise and walking in the cold, she saludes us. So then, when I come back to the U.S. I say hello, and a few good afternoons, to strangers.  I feel like I am taking a risk, like those ‘hellos’ and especially ‘good afternoons,’ which demonstrate an awareness of the time of day, which seems only natural in Mexico, were out of place. And so they were.

I Love to Speak Spanish and am Selfish About It

On Christmas Eve my sister and I went shopping at “El Gallo,” a Mexican food market in what we refer to as “Little Mexico” in my hometown, Medford, Oregon. Now that I’ve lived in Guaymas for four months I have a highly increased interest in Mexican culture everywhere. Knowing Spanish has invigorated such an interest, because it enables me to have interactions with people. My Spanish  has improved much over four months, from all the listening and the decent amount of speaking I do.

So, as part of me adjusting to U.S. culture after four months of knowing something much different, I went to this market just to hear people speak Spanish and to feel like I was at home. I had no intention of buying anything; I could get it all in one week’s time. The butcher said hello to me in Spanish, and because it was effortless for me to make this simple sort of shop conversation,  I enjoyed myself and inside was smiling at my competence. Yes! I thought. I’ve succeeded. I can talk to Spanish-speaking people outside of Mexico.

And it is worth noting that while I was in this store, I thought I was in Mexico. Once I engaged with someone in Spanish and hear it being spoke around me, I was back in Guaymas. I felt very comfortable and happy.

I went outside in the cold and ordered my sister and I tamales in Spanish, though stumbled awkwardly at the beginning, because I was self-concious speaking Spanish to a person who was fluent in English. So we spoke Spanglish, and that was okay. But I’d rather of spoken just Spanish. That is why I am living in Mexico, so I can be in situations where Spanish is all that is spoken. In those moments, I am dependent on all that I have learned so far, and I make mistakes, and then I try to learn from then in that moment if the person is willing/able to correct me, or later when I can look it up in a language book.

Hermosillo, the capital

Champurrado

Is a hot drink made of corn. It is like drinking a tamale (but not spicy) and is wonderful! I bought a vasito of champurrado from the market and again, felt like I was in northern Mexico, in my town.

Buñuelo

A delicious Christmas holiday pastry! It’s a fried tortilla topped with a clove, cinnamon and orange syrup and sprinkled with walnuts. It tastes like heaven. For my family I flew home a case of buñuelos in my suitcase. I got to Oregon with pieces of  buñuelo everywhere in my clothes.

Posada

Is a big party that happens at one’s workplace on any given day (not sure) in the two weeks prior to Christmas. My posada was on the last day of school/work at Colegio Navarette where I teach.

For the kids there are a lot of traditions. Each grade takes part in a song that reflects how Joseph and Mary seek shelter are are continually denied until finding the stable; they eat tamales, beans, rice and hot chocolate; hit a piñata; recieve a lot of candy and last of all, my first-third grade students performed a Christmas carol ‘song and dance’ that we practiced for two weeks. I was so proud of them, because each grade knew all the words, and performed with such enthusiasm. They are great dancers, these little kids.

After the kids leave, the teachers sit down to a big meal of tamales, beans, rice that lasts until about 6pm. Phew!

Parting Notes

When I crossed the border of Mexico and the U.S. I met some friends originally from Guaymas living in Tucson, a Mexican man and wife raising their children in the states. When we went out for dinner I spoke only in Spanish to the waitress, because I was not ready to transition completely to speaking English, which would be the big indicator for me that I was no longer in Mexico. I ate my torta feeling that I had not yet left Mexico, which is likely a natural feeling in Tucson. When I got further north to Oregon I knew I was in a different country. No longer did I see red-rock mountains and mesquite. I was instead beneath grey sky, with moisture hanging in the air, and there was a frost on the leaves.

First off, to my Aunt Lynn and Blews cousins! Thank you Aunt Lynn for reading my blog. I am happy that you liked the part about listening to the pebbles move underwater in the ocean. I need to listen for that again soon.

Thank you Amber and Ed for reading. There are many wonderful dogs here, and a lot that end up dead in the street. I say this so matter of factly, because it is matter of fact. But anyway… let’s not dwell on that aspect of Mexico.  A huge hug to you four! I hope you had a wonderful time in Wales.

I think it is definitely time for me to write another blog entry.

Three weeks ago I moved to a new house with my friend and ESL coworker from the U.K., Bridgette. This is her second year in Mexico and teaching at Colegio Navarette; she loves her kids and the job, which for me are two inseparable things, and is the first ESL teacher to teach a second year at this school. That says a lot about Mexico, the city of Guaymas and the school.

            Three days ago the ocean got much colder. It was sudden and caught me off guard. I went for an evening swim and noticed I was the only one in the ocean. The wind had picked the waves up, and for the first time I did not recognize the ocean here; I could have been back in central California waiting for sets of waves, except that these were too small to catch, even with just your body. Still, this was the first time I had seen waves at Miramar and left the water cold and rushing toward my towel and clothes.

            Today there was white tip on the sea. The wind was crazy, like the Pablo Neruda Poem “Wind on the Island,” and the opening line, “El viento es en caballo.” If you have not read this poem, please read it once in English, and five times in Spanish. It will surely charm you, and especially if you pay attention to the wind. You kind of have to when you live by the sea; it changes the water drastically.

            Last night, our boss Gerardo and his wife Elsa invited Bridgette and I to their house for carne asada tacos. This is a staple in the state of Sonora; look at the Sonoran flag, and among other important icons like a shark, a miner (I think copper mineral) and a bale of golden wheat, you will see the prominent cow. This is because STEAK is vital to the economy and identity of the state. Guaymas is on the ocean, and yet, I have had little seafood. This is in part due to my tendency to not go to seafood places with friends, but in equal part due to the fact I just shared with you about eating beef, which is seasoned and prepared in many different ways, and usually in a tortilla. Anyway, we hung out with our boss and his wife, eating carne asada, drinking Elsa’s tamarind margaritas and Panela cheese with chips. You won’t find tamarind margaritas in the states, but it’s not actually a shame, because maybe it is best that one can only find them in Mexico so that they are that much more special. They are the best kind of margarita in my humble margarita opinion. And… Panela cheese.If you like cheese, you must try Panela cheese. Again, I am not sure you can get it unless you mozy on down to Sonora.

Until 1am, the four of us talked about public education methods in Mexico, ESL teachers at Colegio Navarette , their perspective on the importance of Mexican children learning English from native English speakers, dogs- dogs we’ve had, dogs we want, a certain cockroach that I had seen pick up a piece of popcorn and run off (before dying under a shoe), family and Mexican children. Then they drove us to our home just a block away. We didn’t realize that we’d moved so close to our boss and his family, but it’s not a bad thing since they are wonderful, wonderful people.

When we first came to the house, we met their children who are our students. Maria Paula is in third grade and one of my favorite students. She is very bold to try and speak English, but I think I realized why when I visited her home. Her brother, “little Gerardo,” named after his dad, is in 7th grade and speaks English amazingly well. I was shocked. Bridgette was his teacher last year, and she says that he has really picked up English. Even with the work of the teacher, some students grow in a language, and some students don’t. Maria Paula told me that she likes my class and I told her that to hear that makes me very happy. I told her that I like her class, third grade. Really, they are my favorite grade.

Last week was exams week, and yesterday, Friday, I spent ALL DAY issuing exams. From the start of the school day at 7:25 to 2pm, I stood up and monitored my three grades in their exams that I wrote for them based on my learning goals for them.

Each of my grades is so different from the other. It is amazing the difference even between first and second, because they are just one year apart. The personalities change much in one year. And third is a world apart from first. In my mind, the first graders are like babies, and the third graders like children coming into a more mature identity as kids, as they have a bigger understanding of their world around them, their homes, culture and community. They joke about being drunk, which I sometimes think is a little sad, but then I know it is because they see their parents drunk, and they are just gaining an expected awareness of what goes on around them. I love most teaching this grade, because they are able to move creatively within a language. As they learn English, they ask me questions regarding what they want and need to say, and they are receptive to my constant mini lessons in class.

There is the overall daily lesson plan, and then there is my desire for them to speak only English in the class room. I only speak English to them. When I first started the job and until just two weeks ago I found myself allowing bits of Spanish to slip out of my mouth. I knew I shouldn’t have, not only because we are told not to as ESL teachers, but because it is the wrong thing to do; they need to only hear English in the class. Speaking trace amounts of Spanish is desperate moments does not help them, and I think I have messed up in this area a few times when I got desperate to communicate with particularly misbehaved students about respect. But, I have decided that for myself I will not speak any more Spanish. I can see how ultimately there is no need for it. If they do not know a word, I need to not say it to them in Spanish, because sometimes I do know it, and send them to their dictionaries. Now I keep a Spanish-English dictionary on my desk for this purpose.        

I am very happy with my job right now. When I first started it, it really stressed me out. In the last three weeks I have learned the ropes in ways impossible when I first got here. This shows me that this particular job gets better with time. Are any teachers reading this? I imagine this must be true of teaching. A seasoned teacher is better than a complete rookie. Hm… I feel like I am talking about Jedis. Maybe I am.

I also love my kids. Their faces and voices give me so much joy. Well, they do drive me crazy, but many of them have days of work ethic in my class, (you live for these days), and not only that, but they are loveable despite their lack of proper behavior. It is often that I make RESPECT the subject of impromptu lessons in my class.

I love Mexico. Is it too soon to say love? No. I love it. In many ways I feel that for me this a perfect country away from my home country. I feel comfortable here and every day I see so many things that make me smile and think, “I love this country.” The list is so big I cannot make it out. Don’t come here, or you may never leave. Either that, or you will find it too much of a shock and get out quick. I see both reactions in people. Maybe it is either for you or not for you. I don’t know. Just a thought. Whatever the case, black, white or grey, people in Mexico are mostly happy.

The weather last week turned colder. Normally you (yes, even the majority of Mexicans) would not willingly leave your air conditioned house until about 6pm, and even then your body is still a lake of sweat. But as of late, the mornings are cool, as are the evenings. There is a wind, like I told you before, and this little wind keeps you cool. My friends and I no longer sweat rivers just standing waiting for the bus. Yes, the sun is beating down on us, turning my Northern skin a little pink and maybe darker, but it’s not like it was two weeks ago. The first day of fall just passed. I believe a new season has begun, so it better not just be a cold front like people are saying. I am ready for cotton long sleeves and not turning on the AC full blast, or at all, at night. I have been eating a lot of soups lately. Bridgette and I love soup, and this new one I am obsessed with, Gallina Pinta… and Cheese Soup. It’s not what you think. It is a light soup with blocks of soft white cheese in it. It’s wonderful.

Last weekend we went to Hermosillo again, to the capital city. I always say, “This is my town,” because I feel that it is. You just gotta go the city sometimes for the city pace. We go to these authentic Mexican cantinas with mariachi bands and nothing but Tecate – Whatever people in the states think of Tecate, it is Mexico’s beer and drink of choice. Last weekend we went to a bar where a horse auction was taking place. The name of the bar in English is “Charlie’s Job.” Funny name. Anyway, I wanted to buy a horse, but because I can’t afford that right now, I kept my hands on my lap. I don’t have enough money to burn THAT hole in my pocket. But oneday, one day I will have a horse ranch with a small creek and a tree. My husband will rope cows and we will have a chili garden, maybe somewhere south of the border. If this never happens, I will just write a little country song with plenty of slide guitar about it.