Sunday, September 20, 2009


Mayra was set to pick me up at 9. It was 9:30 of course before she got there. She still discussed "dinner at La Ceiba" as if she hadn't been the one to ruin the surprise for me. We made our way to Iván's and were the second ones there. Quinantzin was the only other person there! What an anti-climactic, ruined surprise guys! Thanks, really!
I walk into the house and there was the larger than life Radamés. Alma had cut her face out of a picture and added it on top as well as a personal Spanglish message. I had expected the man. And I had assumed she would do something semi-sweet with it, but I wasn't really ready for that. We got some quick pictures and then I made Mayra take me back home to change clothes.
It was such a hot night, that I was already starting to sweat through my new top, and I had only been there five minutes. I was chugging cold water and not doing any activity, so I decided I needed to put on something a little more "sweat friendly." I used the white skirt (and not being able to sit down on anything outside) as my excuse to most, instead of hitting them with the too-honest, "I'm sweating like a man already and I don't like the way this outfit looks with sweat rings, lines, and puddles!"

Departure Depression Hits

Saturday morning, I got up before 10 to make sure I didn't miss Alma. However, I couldn't find her. It had already been the hottest I'd ever been for like months leading up to then, so I was well-versed at staying in my room with the air on and listening to hear who was coming and going. I didn't think she had anything to do or anywhere to be, and I also didn't think she would leave without saying goodbye to me, but she was nowhere to be found. I did get a little worried.
Finally around 1, I heard her and Mamá Alma come in. Alma came upstairs and told me that there was a crowd downstairs and to join them if I wanted, so I did. Shania and Neyva were there as well as Mayra, Quinantzin and Elvira.
We all chatted and it was as if Alma wouldn't be leaving within the hour...
Alma came down with too much luggage (and too many pairs of shoes), and Shania and Neyva went to work. Fresh back from a year in the US, they took out several pairs of jeans as well as shoes. They put a carry-on sized suitcase inside the big suitcase so she would have something to fill up for the return home. They got it all worked out and convinced her that she wouldn't need all those shoes or jeans since she'd want to buy lots of other things; this was not an easy feat!
She said her goodbyes to everyone and Mayra and her gang left. That just left Shania, Neyva and me. I didn't realize that Shania was no longer going to Mochis with Alma, so we discussed that and the plan (maybe "tacos for dinner" with Quinantzin and Mayra?). Then she asked me what I was going to do all afternoon. I responded, "I guess I'll just sit here and cry."
Of course I was being funny, but it made me break down. So Alma and I hugged. And cried. And hugged some more. I gave her advice for the US. She wished me well in my return. It was awful.
Then out they went. She and her mom hit the road to Mochis and Shania and Neyva went back home. About 20 minutes later, Mayra called me to see if I wanted to go eat lunch with her and Quinantzin, since she knew I was sad. I told her no thanks, and she could certainly hear it in my voice that I was crying. Thankfully, she realized I just needed to be a lone and cry it out.
Cry it out I did. I sobbed for a good hour. Then I got a cold washcloth and attempted to "cool away" the damage. Good thing I had hours before the big surprise.

Friday- preparation for depression

Alma took off work Friday, but spent her whole day running around. I think she actually ended up working quite a bit, too! She had deliberately told everyone she was going to Los Mochis on Friday night to catch her flight on Saturday so she would have time alone on Friday night. Alone, though, of course meant time with the 4 amigas (Johana, Ocyé, and Karina).
Alma came to pick me up later in the afternoon (5ish?) and we ran by Centro de Idiomas to pick up her last check before she left. From there, we were dropping in on a quick dinner at Italiannis for some Inglés en Primaria teachers that were moving or leaving for a year on some sort of exchange. I had just eaten there earlier in the week with Shania (I totally forgot that night when filling in the events for this week- one of Shania's friends from "grad school" had a birthday and we went to eat with them. It was good food, but too much both in quantity and in price.).
In complete Mexican style, they told the waiter it was my birthday, so they sang "Hoppy Beerthday to Jew," while serving me free bread pudding. I had to admit that it was to die for.

Anyway, back to Alma's last night! So she and I made it to Italiannis. It was Alma's last night, but it was also the last time I would see some of these teachers. The English Program paid for the meal (so I probably should've enjoyed some of it), and we chatted. The girls were planning on a Girls Night In, and we committed to going, but of course, the true intentions were never there...

I got one last picture with Imelda:
After that, Alma and I left to run an errand. We had to go pick something up for my "surprise" party on Saturday. It was the larger-than-life size Radamés, the politician who had run unsuccessfully for something while I was there.
From there, she dropped me off at home, while running the poster man to Iván's house- keeping the "secret" from me. Everyone still thought I didn't know. Yeah right. Terrible secret keepers.
Once she got back (almost an hour later), we waited on the girls to come pick us up and we went for some late-night tacos. I must admit they were good. I was trying to be a little healthy to prepare for re-entry into the US, but I also figured, "Who knows how long it'll be until I'm here agin, so I should eat everything I can that I don't get at home." That definitely included late-night red meat packed tacos.
We had a fun time and I was super-sad when I realized it was time to go home and that I might not see those girls again. We got back to the house and all teared up a bit, and then they went on their merry ways. Alma went to her room to get in bed so she could be well rested for the US. She had been told that her days would be long and to be ready to work once she arrived. I'd never seen her choose sleep over fun before, but she definitely did this time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thursday, July 9- SURPRISE!

Well, Thursday was Juan Carlos's birthday; he's Mayra Loca's brother. The plan was Bavaria, however, Shania had said she had wanted to take me to sushi, so she and Alma and I were going to go for sushi first. The place we were going was new. We got all dolled up and after Alma had run all her errands after work, she came home and picked me up. Somehow, we were there relatively early. We were supposed to meet at 9. We got there around 9:15, I think, but apparently it wasn't going to just be us and Shania. Eli (pronounced Ellie) was already there, but we were waiting on a crowd of about 7 more... Hmmmm.
Shortly after, Conci joins us, and Shania and Neyva. Ocyé, Karina, and Vicki also arrive.
We finally get seated and the waiter/manager comes and whispers to Alma. I look around and there is no mariachi band, so I figure I'm safe from karaoke. She still has a suspicious face, though, so I ask her what she had said to the guy. She said she asked him if we could go ahead and order (because it was approaching ten by the time we sat). A few minutes later, he was coming out from the kitchen with a banner.

I had secretly been wanting one of these banners all year. They're pretty much a Mexican staple for any party- birthdays, going aways, coming backs, you name it. Shania got one in the airport in Mazatlán when she got home. I quickly realized that this sushi was actually about me! That was a nice surprise. It wasn't the whole crowd. In fact, it wasn't even the typical crowd, but it was Shania and Alma's doings and it was all for me. I wanted to cry. As if I hadn't been crying enough the whole week before thinking about Alma's upcoming departure!
We had a decent dinner. It was not our favorite sushi, but it was okay. The manager was at least funny and helpful. We often raised our hands as a table to get his attention. He loved us. We would never, ever share that we didn't absolutely love the place, though since it was owned by narcos. As the banner came out, Alma asked if we could hang it on the wall. He mumbled something about the tape pulling off the paint and then named the narco group and said they'd just pay to redo the wall if something happened to it. I clearly didn't catch all that, but Alma retold the story to those around her, and I asked clarifying questions.
We finished up there and had another stop. We walked over to Bavaria for a few songs, dances, and Happy Birthday hugs for Juan Carlos.

We met up with some of the "usual suspects." I was thankful that it was not ridiculously hot this time. It's almost always suffocating in there, but this time it was almost cool. Almost.
After a few songs and chit chat, we made our way out again. There was one more stop. Elvira had some PISI party at a bar on the other side of town, so we were going to meet up with her. Quinantzin was with her. As we were making carpooling arrangements in the parking lot, Alma looks at me and asks if I have the keys. Of course not! She had left her purse in the car in order to have less in her hands while dancing, etc. Well, what had happened was she had given Ocyé her keys and money while we were at sushi. In the middle of our time at Bavaria, Ocyé had decided she needed to go home. She told us all goodbye and left, but Alma failed to realize the location of her keys!
At that point, we needed a plan. Alma needed to get to Elvira's party, so she rode with Conci and Shania and others to the bar. I rode with Karina and Neyva to Ocyé's house to get the keys and drop off some paper. We went back to Bavaria where I drove Alma's car to the bar. The original plan had been for just Karina and Neyva to take care of it. However, Shania remembered that Neyva can't drive. As if that would stop anyone in Mexico, but apparently their year in the States affected them a little. Just kidding. Kind of.
I entered the picture to drive the car. By the time we got there, the bar was closing, so we called it a night and headed home.
It was a good night. I was really sad thinking about Saturday. The good news was we had one more day before Alma had to leave.

Wednesday, July 8- school and school...

Alma had told me that I could have her car on wednesday since I needed to go pick up the certificates for my students from the English office (remember the frantic call from Maribel). I got up and was ready by 9 to take her to work. I dropped her off at Centro de Idiomas and then went to the English office (after stopping at Superpan for a donut. Okay, and maybe a danish- so much for watching what I ate this day- but I had begun subscribing to the theory that I wouldn't be there much longer, so I had to take it all in!). From there, I stopped by school and left the certificates with the 6th grade teacher. Of course, they all apparently were under the impression that I should've been there with them handing out everything. I didn't realize this until much later. At any rate, even if they thought I should've been there, Inglés en Primaria couldn't even ask me to be there since the last paid day was June 30. The principal asked me to come into his office. They spent thirty minutes just looking at me basically. That's the polite thing for them to do- ask me in, socialize- but there wasn't much to talk about, so it felt like a gigantic waste of time for me. Welcome back, American Laura!
From there, even though I wasn't hungry, I decided to stop by for a raspado. Again, who knows how long it would be before I could have one again! By then, it was close to 11 and time for me to go back to Centro de Idiomas so Alma could have her car back. When I took her her keys into the office, she told me I should go visit Shania and Neyva in their classroom. PISI has a summer program for kids from 8 am until 3 pm. The English stops at 1, but that's still a long day. Shania had the 5 year olds. She doesn't prefer the younger ones, so it was super comical that she was with them for five hours a day! It was definitely fun to see her teaching. And the summer program is a great idea, of course. I took some pictures of her classroom decorations. I also got one of her in the floor with the kids around her. This is not school exactly, but it's a very structured situation. However, it's still Mexico. We talked a lot about the differences that day because she was trying to teach them procedures for being quiet, etc. It wasn't going so great.

They were working on professions and gluing pictures of their heads to cutouts of bodies htey had colored.

Bulletin board of commands used in class.

A thematic bulletin board of words they were learning.
I had no plans, but I wasn't interested in being with 5 year olds for much longer, so I left and went to the mall and then home. I think that night must've been a low key night at home, because I have no pictures and no recollection of anything that would've been worth writing about!

Super Salads

Mayra had told me on Monday that everyone wanted to get together just to hang out before Alma left and to plan our trip to the US. There had originally been talk of a trip to Chicago at the end of July (just days after I would land in Nashville). It was a skydiving thing, and Iván was planning on diving, Hector was going to be working there, Alma was going to change her ticket from the end of her Dartmouth experience to get her to Chicago instead of Mexico, and Quinantzin was just up for an international trip. Being Mexicans, they had not planned one detail since the original thought crossed their minds months before. I, of course, wanted to take advantage of great SouthWest flights, so I needed details people! I wasn't certain I wanted to go, but I figured a chance at being with my Mexican friends on US soil was something I shouldn't pass up...
I was so excited because we were going to eat tacos at the place called La Ceiba, where the quesadillas are bigger than your head (remember the girls didn't tell me I needed to share with someone). I was careful all day about what I ate (since my 15 tortilla belly pounds were more and more evident, I figured the weeks leading up to my departure were the best time to start being cautious) and was starving by the time I was picked up by Alma.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I realize we're not going to La Ceiba, but instead we're going to Super Salads. Need I remind you that this is the place I ate with Tania the one time I got sick during my stay in Mexico. Hours and hours of vomit. While it had probably been two months or so since "the incident," I still was in no mood to get over it. I protested by ordering a panini instead of a salad. I just couldn't bring myself to munch on that limp lettuce that had caused my all-nighter with the toilet. The discussion about the trip was almost humorous. For one, I hadn't been in on the previous conversation (apparently weeks before) where they decided that Chicago was out and now somewhere within Mexico was in. Well, that pretty much completely sealed the deal that I wouldn't be a part of it. On top of that, they didn't discuss anything trip related! Oh, Mexican planning.
They had asked me to bring my laptop so they could look into flights, etc. That of course didn't happen. Part of the hold up, though, was Alma's unwillingness to commit. She couldn't be certain of her return time to Culiacán from her program at Dartmouth. She was hoping to go to a Coldplay concert, and after that she and Shania had potential plans for travel within Mexico. It was basically just an excuse to go out to eat.
Now, I must admit that my mushroom and cheese panini was divine. The fruit lemonade was good, too. The issue was refills. This was one place that refills were actually free. The service, however, was subpar. It got comical. At one point, I had waited so long, that I just got up and got it off the bar. This was after, of course, I had asked twice for a refill. Of course, when Marco or Iván asked for something, they got it immediately! That sat well with me.
Later, Mayra changed her water to a lemonade. Again, minutes passed as her cup just sat on the bar. I was about to get up and get it when Marco signaled our waitress.
The night ended very oddly as Alma got a phone call, whispered to me that she'd see me at home, and told the rest of the table basically the equivalent of I'll be right back. Mayra and I both realized we wouldn't see her again until much later (as in possibly the next day), but the boys got really worried as we were leaving that we should call her and let her know we were leaving so she wouldn't come back looking for us. It was very strange.
Also at dinner, we had had several conversations of the surprise going away party. In front of me. But it was semi-in code, so I just pretended to not be listening. Yeah right.
Quinantzin, never too quick on the uptake, had to be pulled aside after dinner by Mayra. She explained to her that yes I knew but that I was pretending I didn't, etc. Again, Mayra, what good does it do to tell me something I'm not supposed to know and tell me to pretend I don't know if you're going to tell other people that I know?!
The fact that Alma was being so shady about when she was leaving Culiacán (her flight supposedly left on Saturday, but she was going to Mochis on Friday, but then she told us her flight left on Sunday and that she and Shania were maybe going on Friday still to Mochis, but that she just wasn't sure of her plans), that I was hoping that meant she'd still be in Culiacán for my party on Saturday...
Mayra took me home and Alma was not there yet. I just went to bed. Not that I had big plans for the next day- pack, cry, repeat- but it just made it seem all the weirder that she had left to "be right back" and was still not home.

Here we go

I apologize for the dramatic delay in the final posts. To say I've been bust these three weeks of being home would be quite the understatement. However, couple that with a severe dose of unexpected culture shock (it did not look like I expected it to!), and you get no blog entries (or even attempts)! We're well on the way, though.
I last left you with two weeks left in Culiacán, but only one week left with Alma before her big departure to my homeland. We had been to Cosalá with the PISI folks and it was a great time. After getting back, Mayra had blown the surprise in order to secure my attendance at my own going away party. So now we're to the week of Alma's departure...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16

I obviously have lots of catching up to do, but at this point I have neither time nor internet. I'm currently at Starbucks to take care of a few more things before running all over this town to get last minute pictures and things. I wouldn't want my faithful readers (Lori, Mrs. Wallace, Bewley) to be worried. Mom got an email from me explaining this.
I leave in less than 48 hours for Cozumel. Then it's just a week until Nashville and my tour of Kentucky. Much love to all and I apologize in advance for the tired funk of depression I'll be in for a bit when I get back!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mexican Communication

(*Note: written Tuesday evening)

I got a call this morning, okay, almost afternoon, from Maribel.  She had that urgent franticness in her voice that seems to come every time she needs anything.  It’s always needed that exact moment.  She asked me why I hadn’t come by the office.  I was confused.  She had wanted to make a Tres Leches Cake with me one day this week and told me to text her when I got back in town.  I told her Sunday I was back but that I would probably sleep the day away on Monday, but any other day would be good.  No mention of the office.  She was fine with that.  No mention of the office.  Or which day for the cake for that matter.

Needless to say, I was confused with this call.  Since it was nearing time for her to leave the office, and it was evident in my voice that I had not been up for long, she realized I wouldn’t be making it in today.

Turns out there are certificates from the 6th grade test I administered months ago it seems.  They have to be delivered to the 6th graders.  I assumed they were out of school since the 3rd was the last day, but she said I had to come pick them up and deliver them.

Well, I got frantic as usual.  Then I told myself to chill out.  If it didn’t happen, ni modo (oh well).  It’s going to happen.  I’m going to take Alma to work in the morning and then use her car to run my errands.  But the “teach them a lesson” gringa in me says, why did I work it out?  Why didn’t I just tell them I couldn’t?  Maribel was telling me this about the certificates as if I’d been told 15 times.  When I asked her how I Was suppsosed to know this she said, well, you hadn’t been told, but remember we were waiting for the certificates for the event.  No, actually, I didn’t remember that, and how waiting for the certificates for an event I wouldn’t even attend has correlation to my delivering them to school tomorrow, I’m still not sure.  Anyway, while there are so many things about this country, city, place that I will miss, the education system, school, and complete and total lack of organization within it (and consequently within the lives of most of its citizens) are not among them.


(*Note: written Tuesday night)

Mayra and I went to see The Proposal last night (Monday night) and I loved it.  I absolutely loved it.  Though I thought Sandra Bullock seemed too old for the guy.  But it’s okay. Age difference was just the elephant in the movie for me.

Anyway, as we were on our way there, Mayra blurts out that there’s a surprise going away party for me on Saturday but she didn’t want me to up and go off to some other Mexican destination because I hadn’t been warned.  Clearly these Mexicans have never pulled off a surprise, and why would they have?  That takes communication and organization.  Neither of which the country is known for!

She has a point.  I very easily could’ve gotten an invite from someone on Friday or Saturday to do something and I would’ve gone, ruining all their “plans.”  I have yet to explain that you just get the surprisee to commit to something for that time period and then actually pull off the surprise.

However, this mumbling seems like I’m unappreciative.  I’m so excited they’re doing it for me.  I could think of no better way I’d want to leave this country than with great memories of a party with my friends that was created with me in mind.  Just me.  Not some shared birthday party.  Not a typical Mexican party that you throw for yourself.  A celebration of me.

I’m going to miss them.  Surprise-ruining and all.