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.