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Archive for the ‘Mexico Travel’ Category

Louie getting Roscoe ready for a walk in the Coach House.

Louie getting Roscoe ready for a walk.

Jackie and I have been thinking about Mexico again.  It’s not as if we actually stop thinking about Mexico, in fact, since we last returned from Bahia de Kino, Sonora, pretty much everything we do is in relation to returning to Mexico.

Loving Mexico, its people, its diverse geography, its history, its culture and art, is the easy part.  Getting there is always the challenge.  I don’t mean just driving to Mexico, I mean also all the preparations that are necessary before you even hit the road.  But retirement is about challenges and for us its also about traveling.  Retirement is the time to travel and of course the best time of year to be in Mexico is from fall to spring.

I just read a blog post from a former teaching colleague of mine who will be retiring from teaching at the end of this school year, and the subject of her post was the common dilemma of what to do with your pets if you want to travel the world.  I certainly could empathize.  I left her a comment pointing out that this is a sad truth about pet ownership and traveling when retired.  What to do with those pets who somehow have managed to survive, right along with you, until retirement.  I have to say that, for me, and I think to a lesser degree for Jackie, I worry about the dogs when I have to leave them behind for a drive to the store. I’m thinking to myself, Will they be there when I get back?

We’ve been to Mexico twice and left the dogs behind, under the care and supervision of Jackie’s sister, Erica.  We made an agreement, so I could rest easy about them, that I would Skype Erica once a week while we were in Mexico so she hold each dog up to the camera on the computer so I could make sure they were all right.  It helped, but the dogs looked too relaxed; I thought they would at least look as worried as I was feeling.

Now, we take them with us to Mexico. Or maybe they take us. I don’t know anymore.  There are really no other satisfactory options.  As long as we can drive where we want to go, then we can take the dogs.

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I’m reminded of a conversation I had once with one of my Hispanic students. We were talking about the different ways in which we can learn a new language, especially while living in the country where only that language, for the most part, is spoken.  His language-learning challenges are typical of what the majority of Hispanic students face in school on a daily basis. Unlike native speakers, Hispanic students must understand both the social language spoken in the typical American high school hallway, and the academic language that is principal mode of instruction in the classroom.  The two paths shouldn’t, but sometimes do, cross. If your living for any length of time in a different country, you’ll need to learn the language as quickly as possible.  As a tourists visiting the U.S. or Mexico, I need only learn enough to get by.  Of course, I’ll never improve because I’m avoiding any situation that requires me to put sentences together and speak them aloud.  But I understand it’s a little risky to initiate a conversation in Spanish or English if you don’t have any confidence in your language skills.  Fortunately, when I was teaching, there were many teachers who took the extra time to encourage Hispanic students to be successful and reaffirm that they have the ability to learn.

Jackie and I were strolling through the Zocalo in Mexico City one summer morning in 2008. We were in front of the Catedral Metropolitana, when three teenage girls came up to us and asked if we would speak English with them as part of a school assignment. (I can hear it now: find two Gringo tourists in the square and practice your English with them). How apropos. They each had a little script and asked us questions: “What is your favorite food?” “What kind of music do you like?” and so on. They recorded our responses. I tried a little of my Spanish with them, but they just giggled. Very sweet girls. Jackie took a picture of us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The grand Catedral, a very beautiful structure, dominates the Zocolo from every angle of the square.  Up close, the exterior reflects an assortment of architectural styles and influences. Inside, rows of columns support four identical domes. The five naves and fourteen chapels were mostly designed by the Spanish architect José Churriguera, who died in 1725.  Like most Mexican churches I’ve visited, the cathedral is full of religious paintings, altarpieces, and statues, much of it from the colonial period, reflecting a variety of artistic styles.

catedral metropolitan

Inside, the magnificent Altar de los Reyes and the Altar del Perdón, created by Jerónimo de Balbas in 1737, overwhelm the senses.  It’s hard to think that all this gold without thinking about the Mexican braceros who dug it up in the mines and hauled it to the surface on their backs.

Altar de los Reyes, 1737

Altar de los Reyes, 1737

El Altar del Perdón

El Altar del Perdón

In front of the cathedral Indians in Concha dancer costumes dance for tips and sell a variety of  crystals, gemstones, skulls, dried alligators, and herbs and incense, especially sticks of rock-hard sage.  All are believed to provide some sort of special protection from various afflictions.  Sage is burned in the square, its smoke encircling visitors to the square wishing for its healing benefits.

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Singing corridosOne of the most enjoyable elements of Mexican culture is the ubiquity of its art and culture.  It is so interwoven into the fabric of society that you encounter art and music everywhere.  Even in the least expected places and times (at least for a Norte de Americano).

In San Miguel a small, al fresco terrace-like restaurant, La Terraza sits in front of the Santa Escuela de Cristo (the Teplo de San Rafael) where Jackie and I would regularly relax after nuestras clases del español de la mañana, sip cervaza Indio, and watch the people make their way, always unhurriedly, about the Jardin.  As we sipped our cervazas, once in a while a little boy (my guess the son of one of the friendly waiters) would suddenly burst out—as if he could no longer bear keeping it inside him—into a corrido and sing his heart out, completely unrestrained,  for the customers.  He never had to ask for tips, and he always got one from us.  His singing was magical.  It’s hard to imagine Mexico without its music.

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