Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween in Mexico - Suddenly Scary

Halloween is my favorite holiday and I feel lucky that here in Mexico (especially on the border) the people celebrate Halloween AND Dia de los Muertos.  It's like you get to extend the fun for three days!

Last night however we had a strange scary experience that I wish to write about.  I should start by explaining the difference between Trick-or-Treating here in Mexico compared to the U.S.  In the U.S. (at least where I come from) usually around half of the houses in a decent sized neighborhood are handing out candy.  In the U.S. people leisurely stroll around neighborhoods and children end up collecting way more candy then they'll likely eat.  Here in Mexico it's around 1 in 50 houses.  Mostly it's businesses that hand out candy with residences being a new trend that's slowly taking hold.  

SO, what happens when you get a big neighborhood full of 2000+ kids and only 20 places handing out candy?  A feeding frenzy.   Like piranhas, running, yelling, rushing to get to one of the few places before they run out.  Last night as we began our trek down the street with our neighbor friends we saw a lady come out to begin handing out candy and heard a kid half way down the street yell - ACA!!! - and within seconds the lady had a line of over 60-70 kids in front of her house.  She hurriedly passed out candy and by the time my kids got there she was OUT.  That fast, about 30 seconds and she was done.  

That happened all night long and being that Niko is so small and slow he often ended up with no candy.  I've never been sad on Halloween before, but seeing his face drop so many times was a real buzzkill, poor kid.  Luckily at his age it's all fun and games 10 seconds after a defeat and I loved him for that.  

On to the scary event last night.  Last night amongst the running (yes, you have to RUN here if you're going to get any candy in this 30 minute window) a truck pulled up beside me with two men inside wearing scary as shit clown/monster masks.  I was scared because I didn't understand why they were stopping next to my kids and I (we were ahead of the pack) and rolling down their window.  I was about to run for it when the man reached his hand out the window and started handing them candy.  

Serial killer masks, black truck, on the street, handing out candy - SILENTLY.  I was so shocked that I just stood there and let it happen, like, I was momentarily brain dead.  Once I had my wits about me again we walked on and looked back - and the feeding frenzy had begun.  

All I could think was "Um REALLY???"  "That's NOT QUITE SAFE I DON'T THINK?!!?"   When our group got all together everyone was wearing strange looks on their face and so I asked "WHAT was that? Shouldn't we look at that candy?  What did you get??"  The parents all started talking at once about how strange it was and started taking out the beer shaped lollipops that were given.  (LOL are there beer shaped lolli's in the U.S.?  Cuz we do in Mexico!)  Everybody was just kind of shrugging their shoulders when one of the moms kids popped his in his mouth.  Reaction?  Laughter and jokes about how he would be the test lab rat and that if he died in a few minutes then we'd all know.  And then off we ran for more possible houses.

I of course had to have a little bit MORE of a freak out then that and asked my husband what he thought.  He confirmed my suspicions that the men were cartel members.  It was obvious to everyone and I guess the reason why they weren't truly concerned by the obvious (frightening!) taboo.  It's just KNOWN in Mexico that the cartel (the good ones) don't hurt kids intentionally. Sometimes they're caught in the crossfire and that's life, but for the most part women and children are left out of ugly business.  

So, it was just our friendly neighborhood cartel doing their (freaky!?) part on Halloween.  The cartel is often seen on Christmas handing out toys in poor neighborhoods and so the candy truck was no bit surprise.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dream Come True - American in Reynosa

When I was a little girl my mom took me to the library and it quickly became a place that I considered it to be a magical.  The librarian stuck in my head over the years growing up and I could think of no better job than spending my entire day amongst books.  When I was considering college courses I dreamt of being an editor because it meant I could read all the time - unfortunately I considered my lack of skill in spelling and grammar detrimental to this goal.  My most favored dream was to be a book reviewer for a magazine but I thought it unattainable because I couldn't figure out what courses a person took to attain such a lofty position (lol, can you tell I didn't have a counselor?).  

Anyhoo, I couldn't figure out how to get my dream job and so settled on taking course after course of whatever interested me most.  I don't think I accomplished anything in two years but the broadening of my vocabulary, and then, my husband was deported and my vocabulary career was brought to a halt.

If you've known me you know how I searched for a jobs that I was qualified for on the border in Texas and came up with ZIP for my lack of Spanish.  I worked as a hotel front desk clerk for two years and learned the horridness that the trade has to offer.  Finally an American friend convinced me that my bright white skin and American accent qualified me for an English teaching position at private schools in Mexico.  

I walked in to a private school and was hired on the spot, in about 10 minutes time.  (Not a school I'd send my kids to thinking back, nice security measures!) I learned to teach English and what classroom management is with the help of Google and small evil first graders that sent me home crying for the first three months.  

After gaining experience and years I tried out for a better school, one that actually cared about my sanity and skills, requiring many interviews, a psych eval, having to plan a sample class and present it to a group.  It was THE most intimidating experience of my life and I was scared to death the whole time.  But then, suddenly, I was a new teacher at a new beautiful school that resembled something that I thought I could stand up and be proud to represent.  Finally something in Mexico that I could be proud of.  

After teaching a while I was offered a position in coordinating the elementary English program and took on THAT challenge for the next couple of years, once again reveling in the opportunities that Mexico had brought to me.  

And then, the school librarian gave her notice.  (That's right, our school in MEXICO actually has a library!  And a library big enough for a staff of two (a huge deal here considering in a city of a million there's only one public library))I saw my dream job open right there in front of my eyes and pretty much died a little each day thinking that I wouldn't be able to have it.  It was THE worst six months of my 30-something years toiling with my current unsatisfying position and fighting for one that would be an actual dream come true. 

In the end it all worked out.  I gained a lot of weight from stress eating, formed new wrinkles in my forehead and put myself in a pretty ugly state of over-stressed, but it DID happen.  I fought and I (with a shit load of help) won.  

I am now the library coordinator, spend my days surrounded by books and figuring out ways to inspire 640-something kids to want to read.  It's my JOB to kindle the love of reading in their hearts and help their fires to grow.  I'm SO full of ideas and joy that I haven't even needed all that Pjnterest has to offer, although I admit to spending hours at home pinning over and over beautiful ideas that I might one day use in our library.  No matter how busy my day gets (who knew librarians were so BUSY??) I still go home every day feeling that I had a great day.  I smile at my kids and husband when I walk in the door these days and I can once again sleep at night.  I'm back on track with my eating habits and beginning to care about hair and makeup once more.  It's amazing the effect job stress (or joy) can have on a person.  

We believe at our school (in MEXICO!) that giving the gift of the love of reading to these children and to the people of our community, that we WILL change lives.  We believe that these children will have the opportunity and skills to grow up and CHANGE their community and Mexico along with it. Readers are life long learners and will be a new and exciting generation sent out into Mexico to hopefully make changes for the better.  We believe it is true and we believe we can be a part of this change.  I am at the wheel of this movement and can't let myself forget for even a minute how lucky I am and how important of a job I have.  

So! There's my update for this time, I found my dream job and a real purpose right here in Mexico.  I'm blessed that my children are able to attend this school and I remember to be grateful for what life has brought my way.    

If you're new to Mexico and in despair with no job or a job that you hate do have hope.  I struggled and fought for over six years to be where I am now but it's not impossible.  Keep going, keep searching, make your OWN way.  

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dirty Bus Driver

Say what?

I've seen a lot of things written on the back of the public transportation busses over the years here, but this one threw me so far for a loop that I actually dug my phone out of my purse and snapped a pic.  

Usually it's things religious oriented or something to show how manly the driver is, maybe about his family (HAS anybody ever seen a lady bus driver here??).  But perverso?

Um... I feel this requires a trip to Google Translate.  I mean, perverts don't go around town broadcasting "I AM A DIRTY PERV!" right?

I thought about leaving you to ponder it yourself but I'm off to Google as to not be a tease.  for those of you who know more Spanish than me, consider me sticking my tongue out at you.  ;) 

I'm back!  SUPER speedy service you've got right here now.

Aaaaaaaaaand it translates to!!!???




I'm not getting on THAT bus.  

And...well...huh.  I mean, well he'll you know?  Not much else to say.  Just damn.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Americans in Reynosa, Americans in Mexico

  Hello out there!

I've finally gotten to a place after having two babies in two years and then waiting another couple years that I can look at my blog and think "Hey...I could DO that again!" I'm curious about how it might go, I'm not a new girl in Mexico talking about all of the crazy new and exciting things that I'm seeing/eating/doing anymore.  I can't say that everything is old hat, by far not so!  In fact, I saw a horse drawn trash cart today (old news) BUT it had two dogs riding on the ROOF of it, (har har) happy as ham standing up and enjoying the ride.  I've got to get quicker with my camera phone. 

Anyhoo, one of the friends I have here in Reynosa that is American mentined that she "knew" me way before we even met, by reading my blog.  It got me to thinking that even though I'm really content and have so many friends that I can't believe it, that there are probably new women like me coming here all the time. Maybe they DON'T have an awesome support system and maybe they're waiting for friends like I was.  

So, it's time to (really) dust off this old blog and make sure that the beacon to other gringas in Reynosa (or Gringos, that happens too!) is still flashing a light out there where it sometimes feels pretty dark.  

I hope I find you!

- Gringa

Friday, April 25, 2014


It' looks as if I've abandoned my blog but the truth is children work and FB have taken over.  BUT, I still have all of these "Ooooo that needs to be WRITTEN DOWN!" moments that fill my head and bounce around ...and around... and around and I'm going a little bonkers.

After over five years here it surprises me that I'm still surprised by the people and culture here and heebeegeebies I need an OUTLET for it all.  SO, I've (soldout?) created a # hashtag  (of which I thought were really douche-baggy until I read the one about #fatgirlproblems and laughed until I cried.  Which was good, because I didn't pee.

Anyhoo, I'm going to go and hashtag my brains out so that I can get all of this SHEEEEETT out of my head and on to the Internets so that I can sleep better.  What did people DO in the olden days?  Write... books?  Boo, no time for that.  I'm hashtaggin bitches.  

#gringosnmexico  (on FB)

Read it, use it or ignore it but it's there now and I'm as happy as when the PAAAAANNN!!! man comes back after you missed him the first time cuz you didn't have enough clothes on to go out in the street.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ears! Pierced!

I'm 31 years old and finally got my ears pierced. 
Two days ago at work with my babies :)
 I tried about a year ago at Wal-Mart in the states but the lady put one in that faced LEFT and another that was so crooked it looked as if the stone were depressed and looking at the floor.  It was horrible. 

I've honestly trying to up my image for work this past year, lost the 50 pounds, got a lesson from the kinder teachers on how to wear makeup -they honestly GRABBED me one day in the morning and said "We're giving you a makeover!"  I didn't even know them that well but I guess they just couldn't deal with a grown woman not wearing her war-paint.  Once in the school I worked at before this one I was actually taken into the OFFICE to have my boss tell me that I should try out wearing eye shadow and mascara.  THAT pissed me off, but these ladies were kind and funny and I felt like a princess. 

Of course they made me look like a prostitute, but in the end I learned enough to start going about it on my own. 

Do they have piercing places in the mall here like anywhere else though?  Uh..not that much.  I went today and nobody could even tell me if a place EXISTS in this city of 1,000,000 people.  Yet all 6 of the ladies I asked HAD pierced ears.  One mentioned that everybody just takes their baby girls to the doctor when they're a few days old and he does it.  Seriously, nobody could give me a place.

See?  They even put makeup on DAISY!
Aaaaaaaaand then I picked up Daisy from my neighbor/babysitter/Friend and told her my dilemma.  She laughed and told me I was silly, that people just do it themselves here.  She said she's done her daughter twice, her sister in law and a cousin or twelve.  She told me to go get them and she'd do it for me.  
So.  I did!   I went home and got ice cubes, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and the pointy tipped earrings.  Of course when I got to her house she looked at the alcohol like I was insane and instead made me stick the earrings into a clove of garlic for one minute.  

Ohhhhhh Mexico.  Garlic DOES have antibacterial killing .....stuff and I thought it was pretty smart.  (although I still threw them in the alcohol for good measure, despite her dismay.)

2 minutes later and I had pierced ears - and it didn't even HURT!  They said bee sting but I barely felt a thing and it hurt A LOT OF FREAKING SHIT LESS than it did at Walmart with the gun. 


Just to show you that he DOES smile.
So, waist - smaller, face - makeup! and today - earrings.  I don't think I've ever SEEN a Mexican woman without pierced ears.  It's like...un-heard of.  Like a secret sin or something.  So the fact that I'm 31 and couldn't wear earrings was another glaring insult in the eyes of fashion here. 
Plus, I've always wanted to buy all the spangly earrings I see in stores  :D

I deal with well-to-do parents on a daily basis and have honestly taken it in that it would do me well to look my best.  People respect you more when you look like you care about yourself and it's high time I DO that (and reap the benefit of that bit of added respect.)

Next is my hair.  I've had the same hippie hair cut since I was....born.  I've only deviated ONCE into the land of layers and then went strait back to my hippie hair.  Alas the time has come though and my boss knows a man who's apparently the GUY to go to. 

I've even started buying clothes that are wardrobe pieces and not just my normal kooky shit or t-shirts. 

Maybe it's the water here?  I mean really who AM I?  Or maybe I'm getting old?

Or mature?  Or just care about my job.  I think the real fact is that I'm around so many other people who take pride in their appearance that it's rubbing off and I just plain want to fit in.  Plus, it feels good. I'm second from the right in this picture, I don't even recognize myself!  Lipstick! Blush! 

Aaaaaaaaaaand I'll  no longer be that weirdo gringa no-earring/makeup wearing FREAK.  Cuz they really did think I was a freak. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I know, you think I'm gone, another one bites the dust!   It's pretty much the truth but a new gringa in town said she had read my blog BEFORE we ever even met, and when we DID meet it was by chance.  Anyhoo she said that it helped her a lot and it really touched me and I remember that there are probably more new women and men like me coming here all the time. 

SO, if I'm not going to delete my blog (which would be like cutting off a HAND) I should at least update once in a while so that people still know I'm living here in Mexico and how things are doing. 

The past few years have been so crazy and I know the future will be as well, even more so perhaps, but I can at least UPDATE right??

My two year old and three year old are sleeping right now.  I can't believe I've had two children since moving here. 

I'm on holiday from my job right now, another Mexican holiday - there are so many! - to get me off of work that is becoming increasingly more difficult and detailed but supports my family and allows my children a good education. 

My husband has now finished a full school year cycle at the trade school and is quite the handy man.  We have a big ole sign out now that says he repairs washers, dryers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and mini-splits.  And lol, in small letters - blenders and their parts, where it all started for him.   In August he's going back to learn how to do more - car air-con and then maybe on to welding.  It's amazing how cheap the education is and yet how much it has changed his life here.  I feel so blessed!

I just got back from a 4 day stay in San Antonio.  I saved up and went with my boss to the International Reading Association conference.  I attended a gazillion conferences and learned so much I don't even know where to start.  I also enrolled myself this week in an online study in classroom management on Edumy.  I'm doing as much as I can to learn more about education so that I can keep up with my position AND provide a better education for the students I'm in charge of looking after.  Our School had 400 something my first year, 650 something my second and we're aiming for 800 this next August.  The place is growing like crazy and I had better be with it! 

My husband and I had finally come to an ugly head in our relationship a few months back.  I actually asked him to move out and he did.  I thought it was over between us, the stress of Mexico and two babies being to much for us to navigate, I thought we had destroyed our marriage but luckily was wrong.  I had a good friend at school talk me into at least TRYING marriage counseling even though I thought it was for nothing.  My husband JUMPED at the possibility of us working out and found us someone right away. 

So, we went to counseling separate for a while and then together.  The counselor was like magic and our marriage today is better than EVER!  I can't believe it some days how happy we are and how lucky I am to have had people around to help us through and navigate. 

On a note, if you're wondering I never planned to move back to the U.S.   I promised him that I would never take the babies back to the U.S. and leave him behind - how could I??  Unless he were harming them I really never would, I would stay here till they were grown, it's my home now.  

I still miss my family and a couple of close friends from back home but am lucky that my parents come to visit a couple times a year.  And I've made such good friends here that life is a good place to be. 

Yes, the lights still go out sometimes for a day or the water still shuts off for a half a day or day sometimes but it doesn't bother me anymore, it always comes back on.  I've learned to make an ugly peace with cockroaches (although I WILL NOT give up on killing as many as I can) and ziplocks are now my new best friend. 

OH!!  I've lost almost 50 pounds the past almost year now!!  That's new!  YEE HAWWW!!  I've been on the Atkins way of eating and love LOVE it.  I also joined a gym and have gigantic man biceps, it's true, but I look and feel great.  I've never been this small in my entire life and when I see pictures of myself on FB or anywhere else I still can't believe it's me.  I'd still like to lose another 20 pounds or so, depending on muscle gain, but I'm in no rush, the diet and exercise slowly chip away yet I don't starve and I don't go insane with the gym.  I actually ADORE lifting weights and do it for about 2 hours a night, 4 nights a week.  I've made new friends at the gym, it's right near my house and everyone is so friendly. 

My Spanish has come leaps and bounds over the years but I still suck donkey balls at conjugating verbs.  It'll get there though, I need more for my job and so it's become a priority. 

Alright, I hear a baby rustling around in her room.  If she's QUIET with the door closed that means something bad is going down ;) 

I'll catch up with you all soon, I'm still here and things are better than ever!  :)

- Gringa

Monday, January 7, 2013

My French Baby

I think this baby has speant a little too much time outside on the ground learning the ways of our dogs. He likes to KISS like this.
Lucky for him his Daddy is more maternal than me and will actually oblige him once in a while. I however have seen him BE kissed BY the dog with his tongue out just like this. And enjoy it.
Daddy however has earned his undying and everlasting love, so, that's nice and all. Today is my big boy's first day of school and I am probably a mess. (I'm writing this the Saturday before because I'll be too busy that day to do anything but freak out) He's just a BABY, a weeeeee one. Widdle. Widdle and small and sweet. He doesn't have to go to school but my friends and co-workers got me thinking when they said "What is he learning at home with daddy all day?" And then I thought of tongue kissing the dog and I was sold. It's nothing like daycare in the U.S. it's....SCHOOL. They have books, make projects, have music class, art class, motor skill class (aka gym), learn songs and dances to go with them. They spend a half a day with a Spanish teacher only learning Spanish and the other half learning only in English. How to count, the colors, body parts the Alphabet, phonics ect. Daisy has been going since August and I'm freaking AMAZED.

Speaking of Daisy (let me not dwell on Niko or I will again begin to have palpitations and consider running across the border with him to escape the reality of growing up, live in the woods and become feral people) Check out that beauty. And TELL ME - just WHY in the world has she suddenly (when I try and give her a kiss) she stops me, puts her hand on my face and says "No Mami, Asi." and then TURNS my face away from her lips so that she may kiss me on the CHEEK.
CHEEK KISSES!? Whaaa?  HUH? But....but I'm Mommy. She's THREE, she can't be disgusted by me yet! Daddy still gets lip-kisses. Boo. I imagine it's the Alexa complex, ugh, booooo. It means she's developing normaly and all, but it's still lame. (Google it if you need to know more but my psych. prof. was way too graphic and I'm scarred for life, any explanation I give would be icky)

But WHATEVER little CHEEK kisser. Wait till Niko goes through that stage, THEN we'll see who gets the lip kisses! HA!! Just please God, let him forget about the tongue by then. Cuz damn.