Today was a great day! I slept really well for the first time since I arrived. I even slept a little later than usual before I ventured downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was the usual fruit, toast and eggs. Not bad, but I’m ready for something new!
In school today, we spent a lot of time discussing some very detailed grammar questions. I enjoyed hearing the answers that our teacher gave us because they forced me to rethink a lot of what I thought I knew about some very fine points in Spanish. We left class a little early today because we were granted permission to observe at a public elementary school, also known as a Primaria. We arrived at the school during lunch time and were able to observe the students having their lunches outside in a large courtyard. We were then able to go into a classroom (mine was 3rd grade) to observe a teacher and students in action. Here are ten things that I learned during my visit today to the public primary school in Cuernavaca. Keep in mind that this was a public school in a large urban area so not all Mexican schools will resemble this.
1. Public school children in Mexico wear uniforms, many of which were torn or dirty.
2. School in Mexico is divided into Primaria (grades 1-6), Secundaria (7-9) and Preparatoria (10-12)
3. Students do not eat in a cafeteria, but rather sit outside on the concrete and have their lunch.
4. Classrooms don’t use overhead lighting, but rely on sunlight to provide visibility in the classroom.
5. 3rd grade students are mastering their multiplication facts
6. There were no computers or other visible technology in the classrooms.
7. Students jump up and down when they want to answer a question (just like the US)
8. Students speak without waiting to be called upon (just like the US)
9. Mexican teachers think they work too hard and no one appreciates them (just like the US)
10. Kids love visitors and line up to hug them when they leave (just like the US????)
It was a great visit. I wish I could have taken photos, but we weren’t permitted to do so. I did snag this photo of the lunch/playground rules. It means “I don’t shout. I don’t run. I don’t push.” Amen.
After schools, we took a taxi to the public market in Cuernavaca. Wow! What a crowded, dirty, busy, crazy place! When I was here in 1991, I remember going to the market and more specifically, I remember the beautiful flowers. Today, I saw the flowers again, but I also saw the produce, the herbs, the clothes, the shoes, the candies and the meat. Oh dear Lord, the meat! I think I saw every internal organ of a cow and of a pig today. I know that I saw intestines, livers, brains and even some pig heads (see below). It was really warm in the market and bugs were flying everyone. No one was wearing gloves or using refrigeration at all. It’s a wonder e. Coli isn’t more rampant. There was a time when I might have tried something, but I’m not that dangerous today! The colors of the produce and the various stands of school supplies, candies and flowers were gorgeous. I have posted a few pictures below so that everyone can see how visually overwhelming the public market can be
After the market, we took a taxi home for dinner. Today, we had picadillo (ground beef with vegetables), jicama with tajin (a lime, salt and chili powder conconction), onion soup and rice. It was tasty, but after four days of red meat, I’m ready for some fish or chicken!
I walked alone to my friend Lora’s neighborhood for another Zumba class. It’s amazing that so many nice homes have barbed wire to protect them. This is a city that is in fear. It’s evident everywhere I go. I don’t feel unsafe, but I sense the reluctance of people to live out in the open. We take many things, like our personal safety, for granted. In Cuernavaca, the wealthy live behind gates and walls. They drive in cars wherever they go. The poor are on the streets, using public transportation and eating from street vendors. There’s no in between, no true middle class. I was well aware of this before I came, but it’s still difficult to comprehend.
One a lighter note, our Zumba instructor made me do some of the dances with handweights to challenge me. It is so fun to hear exercise words in Spanish. I’m going to try and go at least twice next week. I took a long walk home and stopped at a convenience market for some yogurt and juice for my dinner. I just don’t want any more tortillas, cheese or salty foods today. I hope my host mom didn’t mind when I got home and my things were in her refrigerator. We have very specific rules about what we are allowed to do in our homes. We aren’t supposed to enter the kitchen without permission. She said it was fine so I’m going to believe her!
I handwashed some of my clothes tonight before settling down to eat my yogurt and write this blog. Each day here has provided a wealth of experiences. I am thoroughly enjoying myself in spite of some of the mishaps along the way. Tomorrow, I have class until 1pm and then I’m going to a mezcal processing site to learn how this drink is made. I also get to do a tasting. Talk about an amazing happy hour!
Finally, one of my personal goals during this trip is for someone to ask me if I’m a native speaker. In my 20s, this was a common experience. Today, I was asked where I teach college Spanish in the states. When I explained that I teach 7th grade Spanish, this person couldn’t believe I wasn’t a college professor. Not exactly the question I want, but I’m getting closer and that’s proof that this trip is doing for me what I had hope it would do!