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Friday, October 21, 2011

Danza a la Matanza

This week is really special in Mexican Culture. Not only is the Panamericana coming into town tomorrow (to which I am going--- YAY!), but they have a special ritual called the Matanza this time of year. Mexicans consider the goat as one of the cleanest meats around. For this reason, they take the utmost care of these creatures. They walk for an entire year in these pastures where the goats can only eat a certain type of cactus and drink cactus water- nothing else. They are really special. So this time of year, the goats are sufficiently grown to be eaten--and that they do. For like 300 pesos a plate. These goats are SOOO expensive. The dish is called Mole de Cadenza (or something like that...), and honestly I hope they don't buy me any because I don't really like Mole (Moh-ley). Mole... ugh. Well, some is good. I had this Mole soup one time and it was SUPER good, but the other stuff is really gross. Regular Mole is like saying, "Here, let me pour really fake, disgusting chocolate on your meat. Would you like to add sugar to that?" Blech. Really, they dump sugar on it. Anyway, if it tastes anything like regular Mole, no thank you. But apparently it is a delicacy, and you can only get it this time of year.

Because of the significance of these goats, they have a party to go with it called the Danza a la Matanza, or the Dance at the Slaughtering. Yeah, rather gruesome. I totally thought they were going to slaughter the goat on the stage. They didn't--at least not the day I went. They have another ceremony where they kill all of them, and I chose not to attend that one. Anyway, we watched this really cool presentation where they dance with a goat on their shoulders like a mink.

The goat had a bunch of leis around its neck. He was fit to meet the queen.
Ay, blasted woman with a basket who danced into my shot at the last second.

Anyway, so this poor goat had to sit there and be carried around by some guy, and it bleated a few times as if to say, "Get me down!" Poor thing. Oh well, all is good and fun in Mexico. The other weird thing was that they were dancing around with Tamales and Tequila too. We decided the three T's of an awesome Mexican party are Tamales, Tequila, and Turkeys. Yes, they do the same thing with a turkey.

This guy was really into it, and he kinda flailed the turkey around a bit, but hey, at least it looked cool. The first time I saw it, it looked like it was dead. The second time, it looked like it was fake. The final time, I saw it move of its own accord, thus making it a live turkey. I have excellent skills of deduction.

We had a great time. The people in front of us did not have a great time because of the Americans with long legs digging into their backs. Yeah, totally not my fault. I felt so bad. Being tall and white here makes you stand out BIG time. I am about a foot taller than most Mexicans. It kinda bites when all the teachers are together because we can't sit anywhere for more than 30 minutes without getting talked to about "a business arrangement to get into the states" or something like that. Honestly, some people. Being white, however, gets you on TV and in the Newspaper. Yeah, we were totally on TV. They took our pictures for the Newspaper (we looked to see if they had a badge, not just some random person taking our picture and asking us for our name), and we're watching to get a copy of the paper here that we are in. They said it should come out in the next few days, so we'll see.

Overall, it has been a good week. It's been weird though- this lady that was sitting behind me in church last Sunday grabbed a lock of my hair and held it for a while. I turned around, and she said, "You have such beautiful hair, Sister." I thanked her, of course, but it was weird. Then the very next day, 2 of my kids touched my hair and said, "So beautiful." I just don't really know how to react to that. I'm glad my hair pleases you. My Spanish teacher taught me how to gratefully thank a person and politely tell them not to touch my hair. That may come in handy someday.

Well, this is hump week for my being here- only 2 months left to go. I am incredibly saddened by this fact. I feel like I need to sit down and analyze my time here and see what I feel like I'm missing. I don't want to leave this place with any regrets, so I better make sure I do everything I can. One thing is for sure- I really want to go to a Luchador match. Better make that happen quick.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are you a MexiCAN, or a MexiCAN'T?

I've pretty much decided that I am going to base the remainder of my time in Mexico on this video:

Yeah, changed my life :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You sold it for HOW MUCH?!

Today has been such a good day. It's the first in a long time that I haven't been forced to break the Sabbath. Let me begin by telling you that human beings need Sundays. It is a fact of life. And not just to be able to go have fun and party at the Disco Techs, it's a day for deep thought, meditation, and growth. I hope to be able to have more Sundays like this one while I'm here because it has been so wonderful. I was able to bear my testimony today, and it didn't go so bad. It's hard to express things that I feel in Spanish because it doesn't flow naturally out of my mouth yet. With time, I hope it will. But I wanted to share what I talked about here because it has consumed my thoughts. I would also like to point out right now that I am in no way judging anyone who is reading this because who am I, a sinner, to judge someone else? I am merely commenting on my own life, which is, I believe, the point of a blog. Therefore, don't think for one minute that I am talking directly to any of you.

Here in Mexico, it is really easy to get pirated movies very cheaply. Like it's on the sidewalk on every road in the city of Tehuacán. They are only 10-20 pesos which is like a dollar. Sweet deal, right? I will admit that I have purchased many of these movies, and the quality is actually really great. It's just like a regular movie! But everytime I buy one, I kill myself a little inside. I know it's wrong. I would never steal a movie out of a store or download one off the internet, why is buying pirated movies any different? I found that I was trying to justify it to myself, and that is when I knew I had a problem. There was no way around it. Buying pirated movies is stealing, and that's the end of it.

While I was thinking about this predicament I was in, I remembered a talk given in one of my Young Women's classes. 'How much would you sell your integrity for?' they said. I wouldn't sell it for anything, of course! It's my integrity! I can withstand watching R rated movies and crazy boys. But I sold my integrity for 20 pesos the day I bought a pirated movie. You'd think my integrity would be worth more than 20 pesos!

Another thought that came to mind is that you need to be who you want to marry. Okay, it's true, I like boys. And I can't wait to be married to one of them. I just want to be really awesome for him, okay? He deserves it. Whoever he is. That includes throwing out/giving away my pirated movies. I don't want a husband who justifies bad behavior, so I can't do it either.

The straw that broke the camel's back, however, was the thought of Lamoni's father when Aaron was teaching him about the gospel. 'I would give away all my sins to know thee...' How powerful those words are. Am I willing to give up buying movies really cheaply in order to know my Heavenly Father better? What else am I doing that is preventing me from knowing Him? What else am I doing that is preventing Him from blessing me? How much happier could I be? Let me tell you, I'm pretty dang happy. But could I do something that would provide greater happiness? More prolonged happiness?

Ah, the things to think about on a Sunday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Going somewhere new forces you to have expectations. Okay, at least in my life, whenever I move onto the next stage of my life or do something I've never done before, I always expect certain things. There was no exception in my coming to Mexico. I've learned that when you expect things, you can almost always count on them to fail you. And yes, Mexico was no exception to that one either. Let me explain.

When I was planning to come to Mexico, they told us that we would be living with families that would most likely have children. These families wanted their children to learn English, so having a native English speaker in the house is conducive to that very outcome. I also imagined that my family would be cooking a lot and would want me to help them cook. I thought I would become an expert at Mexican-food cooking by the time I got finished. I imagined finally having little brothers and sisters, of which, being the youngest, I never got to experience. I was so excited for this.

When I got to Mexico, things were so different from what I had expected. My 'parents' (if you could really call them my parents) are 27 years old. We live with Martha's parents, but Martha and Toño are my providers. They are young, have their own friends, and do cool stuff like skydiving and repelling. Heck yeah! So sure, it wasn't what I had expected, but it was still awesome. But then that means they do these kinds of things on Sundays. Not... the... greatest... Man, it has been difficult. It's just interesting because I had imagined this cute little family with little kids and going to church together, and it's like I'm being thrown back into high school. I have to defend my standards often. We hang out with Toño's friends, and they are not the best people in the world. All I'm saying is that I'm glad I don't know Spanish bad words because I think they're saying them a lot. Luckily I was able to go to the Distribution Center in Oaxaca and get a picture of Christ visiting the Nephites, so that brings a bit of home back. Anyway, it's just different than what I had expected. I was not expecting to have to deal with hungover Mexicans. I was not expecting to go to weddings and watch everyone drink and smoke and wonder why I wasn't. I was not expecting to have to tell someone I couldn't hold a bottle of beer 'just for a picture'. Can you imagine what people would have thought if that picture got out? I, of course, would not drink any, but she wanted to get a picture with me holding the bottle, just for picture's sake. She kept insisting, and there was no way I was giving in. I'm about 85 percent sure I offended her. But I didn't take it. It's a whole new world here.

Bottom line, however, is that even though I am not being put in the same situations, I am still having the same feelings of growth and adventure that I thought I would. I am experiencing Mexico to its fullest, and that is exactly what I had expected. I expected to be growing spiritually, and that is happening too. The Lord had something for me to gain here, and He is giving it to me in a way I never would have thought. Not only that, I'm getting some experience on the side. It's nice to know I'm being taken care of by Someone who knows everything. Isn't that a wonderful feeling?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Independence for Mexicans and for Teachers

Last Thursday (the fifteenth) was Mexican Independence Day. Okay, actually it's the sixteenth, but they celebrate the night of the fifteenth through the sixteenth. It was pretty awesome. There were tons of rides, shops, and cheap tacos. They also do this thing called a Grito. The Grito is a tradition taken from many many years ago when Miguel Hidalgo, a freedom fighter of the day, ran out into the streets yelling Viva Mexico!! So every year, the people go to the town square and to that same thing at midnight. We, unfortunately, watched the one on TV that happened in Mexico City. I was hoping to go out and be part of that, but Martha and Toño decided it would be better to go later. I got decked out anyway.

For some reason, they like to cut their bushes in the shapes of birds for Independence Day. I'm still not sure why they do that one, but it's pretty cool I guess.

The next day, because we didn't have class, we decided to go to a place called Cuetzalan for the weekend. This place is home to many indigenous Mexicans, many of which don't even speak Spanish. It tested our Spanish skills as well as theirs. The city itself is absolutely amazing because Mexico made it into a Magic City, which is where they can't tear old buildings down to make new ones. The city really is magical. Cobblestone roads, old dome churches, 4-feet tall old ladies carrying twice their size on their back, the whole nine yards. Not to mention the Pyramids. But these weren't any old pyramids. These pyramids were built in such a way (4 buildings making a rectangle with only 2 passageways) that if you stood in the center and talked regularly, people at the very top of the pyramid could hear you. If you clapped, the echo was right behind rather than delayed a little bit. It was AMAZING.

After we went to the pyramids, we went to the city center because all the vendors from anywhere remotely close to the city of Cuetzalan came to sell their stuff. I got some really cool stuff for really cheap. And I even used my newly-acquired bartering skills! I am so proud of myself- I didn't pay full price for anything! Okay, I did pay full price for the food, but only because I got 2 gorditas and 2 empenadas for 10 pesos, which is like 75 cents. I wasn't going to push that one. Anyway, so as we were shopping around, everyone started gathering to the very center where there was a huge pole. We're talking like 50 feet up. They take the tallest tree in the forest and cut off all the branches and add a ladder on the side. Then 4 people climb up to the very top with ropes and they swing around the poll coming down. In Cuetzalan culture, they try to get as close to God as they can, and then they try to connect their umbilical cord with God again. They swing with their head down and their feet high and their belly up, trying to connect with God again. It is really cool to watch. I got a video of it, but it doesn't seem to be working on this computer. I'm afraid photos will have to do.

We had to take little camionetas (which is just a guy with a truck that has tarp over the back that drives from little towns to Cuetzalan) and we walked a huge amount of stairs and steep roads. Cuetzalan could put San Francisco to shame.

Such a beautiful city. And everything is really cheap, too! We stayed at a cute little place run by indigenous women. They made us whatever we wanted--really, they didn't even have a menu. We had maracuya juice every morning, too. Maracuyas are definitely not found in the states. But they kind of taste like Clementines, but not quite as sour. They are in the citrus group, but more on the sweet side. All I know is that they were delicious, especially juiced. So here is our cute little place we stayed in:

And a banana tree. Yes, I felt like hopping on top, jumping on alligators, and busting through barrels. (Donkey Kong reference.)

This leaf below is what they call an Elephant Ear or A Poor Man's Umbrella. The sap is like Poison Ivy though, so it's a ride on the wild side for those poor men.

Overall, we had a wonderful day off and an adventuresome weekend. México never ceases to amaze me with its beauty and delicious food. Martha and Toño said that I should have weighed myself before I came to see how much weight I'll put on. Oh that's not offensive here, for the record. Ba da ba baa baaaa.... I'm lovin' it :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's Catch-up time.

Hey, it's been a while! Everyone still out there? Don't worry, I'm still alive. And I finally have access to a computer that I can put pictures on. That is good news for you guys!! There is so much that has happened that it may take a couple of blog posts to catch you up. I'm sorry that the internet at our school is sketchy. I finally found out that there is a desktop computer in my host family's house that I can use. It is really slow, but it works. Okay, now time for a little catch-up.

I tried my first Helote a while back, and I am totally addicted. I think I'm going to start my own Helote business when I get back to school. I'd make bank! Especially off of the RM's. Helote literally means an ear of corn, but this way that they prepare it is totally delicious. Don't be scared of the whole Mayonnaise business, it's just to hold the cheese on. You can't even really taste the Mayo. So it's a layer of mayo, delicious cheese, and chili powder sprinkled on top. It is so amazing. Behold.

Yeah, deliciousness on a stick. The food here is just pretty much amazing. A ton of it is fried, so that always helps in the deliciousness department. My family likes to show me new things, so it's a pretty rare occasion when I get something that I've had before. My favorite things I've had thus far are Gorditas and Huaraches. Gorditas consist of tortillas stuffed with beans and delicious meat and then fried. It's like a stuffed scone, except not sweet. Then Huaraches are tortillas that are stretched out and have beans inside and salsa verde and meat and all that good stuff on it. They are flat, but they are fried too. Oh man oh man, they are good. I just love mexican food.

Tehuacan is a relatively small city, but it still has a mall. We went to the mall (all 5 of us teachers) to go see a movie one Saturday. Movies here only cost 35 pesos which is about 3 bucks, and it's a nice theater! I was pretty excited. We went to Crazy, Stupid Love, and it was really funny. It was also a little bit sketchy for my taste, so I don't think I could recommend it to you, but it was still really funny. I didn't know anything about it except that it was PG-13, so I went for it. The other cool thing was that it was in English with Spanish subtitles, so we weren't completely lost. Hooray for American movies! Anyway, when we were on our way to the theater, we had to pass through the mall. Look what we found.

We all BUSTED a gut when we saw this. I tried to explain to my family that Athlete's foot is a fungus that is not good, but I don't think they understood. Oh well, I got a kick out of it.

Last of all, Alicia and Danielle's family has a ranch about an hour away from Tehuacan, so Saturday they invited me to go with them. We had such a blast! And it was just what I had expected rural Mexico to be. Tons of corn and little cute old Mexican women. We ate corn soup, smoked corn, and steamed corn with lime and salt. May I just say, regularly cooked corn with lime and salt is really good. You cut the lime in half and dip it in a bowl of salt, and then you rub it on the corn like a stick of butter. I don't know how else to explain it other than that, so I hope that is satisfactory. Anyway, I think I'm just going to let the pictures talk now.

Oh, for the record, it's Mexican Independence Day on Thursday, so there is more to come. Get excited.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Things I've learned in Mexico... so far

Sorry I haven't been able to post-- I don't really have access to a computer very often. I can usually use the one at the school, but the internet hasn't been working for a while. I finally went over to a friend's house and I'm using her computer, so unfortunately no pictures today. I can tell you about what has happened so far, though.

1. Cockroaches are not that scary if they aren't on your body. When they are though, it's the creepiest feeling in the world. I was taking a shower one morning and I felt something on my leg, so I kicked to get it off. I looked down. Yeah, ROACH. Totally the grossest thing ever. So then I started running away from it in the shower, but it kept following me. I finally splashed some water on it and it flipped over, so I was safe. Oh man, it was crazy. Anyway, I've gotten over that hurdle, so I guess it's downhill from here.

2. Mexicans know Mexico is scary. My family has big pieces of glass cemented on the top of their 15-foot-high walls so people don't try to get in. The outer doors are always really thick metal- whether it's a big sheet of metal or metal bars, it's pretty secure. They also always walk in the middle of the street at night so bad things don't happen. For all you worriers out there, don't worry. My family here is probably more worried than you are. They take every precaution possible and don't let me walk anywhere without them.

3. Mexicans don't know how to use an oven. Really, they don't. In every Mexican house I've been to here, they always store things in the oven like their big pans and griddles and stuff. It's super weird.

4. Mexican men are really blunt. Well, actually, all Mexicans are blunt. But especially the men. I was walking with one of the other teachers, Tracy, and this guy was like "So where are you from?" And we were like, "Oh, the US" (He was talking in English). And then he said to me, "Oh cool. Well, do you want to go get dinner with me and then see a movie?" And I was like "Whoa. Uhh... I gotta go now...." So yes, it's official, I've been asked out on a date here. There was no fooling around with this guy. I think people in the States could take a lesson or two from this guy.

5. Zumba classes are way more intense here than in the US. Or at least at BYU-Idaho. And they're always taught by gay guys. ALWAYS. Man, those guys can move their hips like gyroscopes. One guy wore sunglasses the whole time we were doing the class, which was weird, but he loved looking at himself so he had to be looking his best I guess. I think that being a Zumba instructor was the best career choice for him because he can just look at himself all day long. Gay guys here also have nails that are pointed. They're really long and they're cut so that they come to a point at the top. Unfortunately, the word for gay in Spanish is gay, so we can't talk about it in class.

6. Everyone who cooks for Americans asks if the food is too spicy. I, personally, can handle a lot of spice, so I always tell them no, but they always ask. They're afraid of making it too spicy for us gringos. I appreciate that, but I'm totally cool with it.

7. You cannot avoid street food. I was always told, "Don't eat the street food! You'll get sick!" But the families here buy chicken and pork off the street and cook with it anyway. There is just no way around it. I decided to bite the bullet and go for it so that I could get used to street food. I did end up getting pretty sick on Sunday, but it gave my family permission to dote on me, and they love doing that. We had to have the whole spiel about no tea or coffee or alcohol that day, but luckily they brought me herbal tea, so I didn't have to turn it down. But after that one time that I told them, they have defended me ever since. If someone ever offers me coffee, Marta will always speak up first- "No no, ella no toma cafe." It's nice.

8. There is a special way that you eat with tortillas. You can eat it like a taco, but there is a special way you do it. You break off a piece of it and fold it in a particular way (it's too hard to explain without pictures), and then you eat everything like that. Potatoes, soup, beans, everything. Usually there's no silverware. It's been fun to see the look on their faces when I eat stuff with a fork. They always say "No, with your hands!" It's been fun to learn a new way of eating.

Overall, life here is so great. I've only taught the ninos once since I've been here, but it's okay. I will get better at teaching eventually. To be honest, yesterday was pretty bad. I was almost in tears after the first class. I felt like I was really thrown into the lion's den. The second class went a lot better, but I just don't know what to do about that first class. There are so many kids in it, they're super crazy hyper, and I really don't have any idea what I'm doing. The school in Mexico is kind of unorganized right at this second because we don't have a lot of teachers here. Everything is just packed and it's really hard to teach the ILP program with too many kids. I'll get the hang of it, but yesterday was pretty disastrous. They said in training that you'll get it in about a month. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Hope everything is good in the States. Life here is pretty amazing. I really do love it here, and I'm glad I get to be here for so long. Thanks to everyone, especially the fam, for all your support. Love you guys!!!