Aaron's blog

Frisbee and flight changes

By aaron.axvig, 25 November, 2006

I got a bloody nose tonight playing frisbee.  The disc hit me from the side, sharing the stinging between my cheek and nose.  Now my nose is really really really sore (the cheek is not quite so sensitive apparently), but no bruise so far.

Tomorrow my mom is going to be looking into changing my flight ticket to Mexico City to this Tuesday instead of next Tuesday (my last test is this Tuesday).  So, if that works, I'll be busy packing on Sunday and Monday.  But it should be fun to have an extra week in Mexico City (I'll still be going home December 28th).

Trip to Saltillo

By aaron.axvig, 18 November, 2006

Today I went to the city of Saltillo.  Our intelligence showed that Saltillo is renowned for its blankets and linens and things, and my mom had recently placed an order for some of those items.  Plus it would make a nice little day trip.

We (Christin, from Tennessee, and I) left at 7:00am in a taxi to the bus station.  It was a 1.5 hour bus ride to Saltillo, in a very nice bus.  The route was very scenic, with jagged mountains on both sides.  It was pretty cheap too--just $5.50 for each of us each way.

Outside the bus station:

Landscape

We then crossed the street and walked past a bunch of shops and stores.  One was Waldo's Mart, which we felt horribly inclined to go check out.  It was just a discount store.  We didn't stay long, primarily because of the Christmas music that was playing, composed of meowing and barking sounds.

Waldo's Mart

There were no blankets too be found.  We decided to head downtown, where there would be markets.  So a local told us to get on bus 17.  Annoyingly, a different bus 17 would drive right by us every 5 minutes (no matter how hard we tried to flag it down), and after four times we asked and found out that we had to go to a different corner to get on it.  10 minutes later we were downtown.

The first market we went into had a lot of jeans, shirts, and bootleg movies and music for sale.  After walking around for 1/2 hour, we went looking for something else.  On the way, I saw a man standing by some sticks that were angled from the sidewalk to the building.  They looked kind of like a broken picture frame (a very thin one).  So as I went by, I stepped in between them, being VERY careful to not knock them over or break them.  I guess I should have been as observant as I was careful.  The man standing there hollered something, and I looked down to see wet concrete.  Luckily it wasn't very deep, and really only the sole of my shoe went in it.  But the guy still had to re-smooth the surface.  Note that I successfully managed to not touch any of the sticks.

On we went, making note not to go back down that street lest we get mugged.  A couple of stores later, we were ready to eat, and found a quiet little place.  There were some nice old ladies working there, and when we asked what some of the items on the menu on the wall were, instead of explaining she took us back into the kitchen.  She practically gave us a tour of the place, showing what went into each item.  Very interesting.

At first I ordered 7 gorditas, which are tiny little tortillas (but thicker, like bread) that are cut to create a pocket in the middle and stuffed with meat, cheese, or beans.  But then I saw chilaquiles on the menu.  I've been a fan of the chilaquiles at the cafeteria on campus (fritos and cheese melted with lots of grease, slopped on a styrofoam tray), but my mom said the chilaquiles she had in Mexico City were entirely different.  So I went back and revised my order to chilaquiles.  This time they were like this (soft chips, frijoles, and some cheese):

Chilaquiles

They were just as good, but I'm sure more nutricious.

The ladies then tipped us off to where we could get the linens, and off we went.  There seemed to only be one store in the market that had them, but they had the variety of selection that I needed so the mission was accomplished.  We asked a policeman which bus would take us back to the bus station, arrived there 15 minutes later, and were soon on our way back home.

Large Mexican blanket

Mexican blankets

Classes are wrapping up

By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2006
Building on Tec de Monterrey campus

Here's a picture I took on campus the other day.  The building on the left is where 3 of my 4 classes are.

It's getting to be that time of the semester.  I had my last class of Mexican Business Management on Tuesday, and the last class of Importing & Exporting in Mexico Wednesday night.  My other two classes will be done after tomorrow, and then I'll just have 3 tests to worry about.

I played Ultimate Frisbee again tonight, although I had a pretty bad night with lots of bad throws and missed catches.  I'll get 'em on Thursday though.

Shipping things to me

By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2006

Just thought I'd mention real quick that if you were planning on sending any sort of package to me that you might as well not.  It will take about 4 weeks (if not longer), and by then I'll be long gone.

San Jose weekend 5

By aaron.axvig, 13 November, 2006

Well, this was the last weend of the Mexico Rural program (until next semester when the next group starts I suppose).  I had to miss paint-ball with several of the other guys on my floor to go, and they gave me lots of heck about it, but I had a lot of fun anyway.  I've thrown in lots of pictures this time, and some of them are just randomly interspersed so don't take too long trying to relate them to something.

I think this weekend was the one in which I got the most Spanish practice.  The advisor also said that my ability had improved noticeably since my first weekend there, which I guess I hadn't really noticed because it's such a little by little change.  But now I catch myself sometimes "eves-dropping" on conversations without really thinking about it, and then realizing a few seconds later "Wow, I just understood that without thinking about it."  Don't get any false expectations though: I'm still not that good when they just rattle of sentences haphazardly.

Children playing

Saturday morning we just did some regular activities like flashcards and a game of matching pairs of cards (memory).  I think I must be getting old, because those kids sure showed me up and I was always forgetting things.  Or maybe it was just that there were four of them and only one of me.  The cards were of words that have to do with elections, democracy, and justice.  It was for the civil unit that we do every week.

Tree and front of school

Lunch was some sort of cheesy sandwich that looked suspiciously like I wasn't going to like it (yellow potato salad between two slices of bread was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it).  It ended up being pretty good.

Playing a game

In the afternoon we had a rally for them to celebrate that it was the last day.  We wrote questions covering different topics and for different age groups; I wrote questions for the kindergartners:

  • What color are grapes?  (One kid was smart enough to answer both green and purple, which I hadn't anticipated.)
  • How many fingers do you have on two hands?
  • What number comes after 6?
  • What color are avocados?

The last one actually has a nice little story.  For the first two groups when I asked them the question ("Que color son los avocados?") the kids gave me strange looks and then answered "Green."  The third group did the same and answered both red and green, but the fourth group just gave me the dumb look, like they were wondering what avocados are.

Solely by looking at the word avocado, one would think it's a Spanish word.  After all, it's rather difficult and tedious to say in English, and all the vowels are pronounced correctly for it to be Spanish.  But the real Spanish word for avocado is "aguacate."  I'm really not sure how most of them got the right answer.

After all the groups were done, those in the group with the most points were the winners and got prizes.  Everyone else got participation prizes.  Then it was time for the piñata.

We debated for a while how to properly tie the rope, and finally decided to hang it from a tree.  So I went up in the tree and tied the rope.  However, they tied the other end so that it was hanging on the ground with a lot of extra rope.  I didn't really know what was the grand plan, but I'm not an expert at the art of piñata so I let them go ahead with whatever.  Then two of them had me walk around to the other side of the school building, and before I knew it they were hoisting me onto the roof.

With me up there, the piñata could hang halfway between the roof and the tree.  I wrapped the rope around my hand at first, but then requested that someone throw a stick up to me to wrap it around.  Then I tried to hold that with one hand and take these pictures:

Pinata holding
Pinata has broken

I was in charge of making sure the piñata didn't get destroyed by the first kid, and I guess I did alright, because I held out for so long that one of the teachers ripped it open and pulled the candy out after a little while (some candy had already been spilled).  I thought they should have just told me to go a little easier, but no harm done I guess.  I tried to take some surrounding area pictures while I was up there too:

Mountains from roof

It was pretty cloudy so the mountains aren't real clear.

Mountains

Mountains

The corn fields are one of their primary sources of food, and this road is the main one through town.  There are two more towns of about the same size 2 or 3 kilometers away on either side.

Gravel road

This is the schoolyard.  I guess it's going to be redone next year, but it sure is kind of run-down currently:

Schoolyard

For supper we had hamburgers again, which were again some of the best that I've ever had.  We walked to the little shop in town and had a Coke, and then came back and played some cards.  First we played the two games that I taught them last weekend (spoons and BS), but they wanted to learn something else.  So I tried to teach them Go-Fish, but it pretty much flopped, basically because it's the most illogical game of all to determine who actually wins.  More details can be written about that if you would like.  The second "flop" of the night was when we watched part of Supertroopers.  I think there were three problems: the laptop screen was to small to really see anything, the dialogue was too fast for them to understand the jokes, and everyone was pretty tired.  I guess I should make clear that all of this was just us teachers (school hours are from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 2:30pm to 5:30pm Saturday, and 9:00am to 11:00am on Sunday).

School building

Flagpole and burning barrel in the schoolyard:

Flagpole and burning barrel

Breakfast in the morning was cereal.  Apparently I missed the memo and didn't bring my bowl, but I think only one other person did, as almost everyone was eating out of cups.  Then some of the kids showed up for class an hour early, so we played with them for a while.  I had brought my frisbee this time, so I took that out and showed them how to throw it.  I don't think they had ever seen one before, but they caught on pretty fast.  Surprisingly, it was also new for the college students I was teaching with.  I bet the kids would really have been amazed to see the Ultimate Frisbee game that I played in on Friday night (which I didn't get so sore from this time, by the way).

We did some quick lessons after that, and then cleaned up the school (sweeping, mopping, and washing the blackboards).  I took some pictures of the roadside on the way back (at the request of my dad).  They will be in the post right after this one, which you've probably already read because it's on top of this one.

San Jose weekend 4

By aaron.axvig, 7 November, 2006

It continued misting on Saturday morning as I walked to the bus, but stopped by the time we all arrived at San Jose.  That doesn't mean the mud stopped though.  Mud was the bane of my existence for the whole weekend.  Mud on my shoes, mud on the sidewalk, mud on the floors, mud on my pants.  It pretty much sucked.

Things were still pretty fun though.  This time I helped teach the 3rd-6th graders.  It was definitely more exciting than watching kids color.  We had a mock election, played dominoes with math figures, practiced subtraction on the board, and reviewed what our rights and privileges are.

For lunch we had tacos.  Supper consisted of two of the best hamburgers I've ever had.  Breakfast the next day was pancakes.  I think I made out like a bandit, because it ended up costing me a grand total of $3.50.  I guess this is because most of the kids that brought the food said at our meeting today (where we calculated the cost) that they just took most of it from their parents cupboards.  And somehow 2kg (4.4 lbs.) of meat were reported to only cost $4 total.  We all wondered if we had actually been fed dog meat or something similarly cheap.

I'll be going on the final trip this weekend.  We are going to have a little party for the kids, including a piñata and movie, in addition to the regular activities.

Cold weather

By aaron.axvig, 3 November, 2006

Yesterday was really cold.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until I was already outside, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  So, as I walked to class in misty, 50 degree weather, I ate my apple and shivered to death.  That's probably why I have a sore throat today.

I was smarter for my evening class, and wore pants and a sweatshirt.  Today is still the same misty rain, but a little bit warmer.  I guess it is supposed to continue through the weekend, so I need to pack prepared for San Jose, which makes me wish I still had my jacket.  That's right mom, I lost my jacket.  Don't worry though, I know where it is.  It's at a friend of a friend's house.  So I have about a 50% chance of getting it back, because I don't know where the house is.

San Jose pictures

By aaron.axvig, 31 October, 2006

Here's some pictures from the last weekend when I was at San Jose:

Christin and I telling about the US and our states (North Dakota and Tennessee):

Aaron and Kristin in front of Mexican classroom

In the classroom

A horse riding in the back of a pickup:

Horse riding in the back of a pickup

The group of students that I teach with:

Teaching group

San Jose weekend 3

By aaron.axvig, 30 October, 2006

Well, I guess this is a bit late by now.  I'll blame it on the weather.  For a few days it was cloudy and misting all day.  And Monday was the first time since I've been here that I felt cold.

We had to bring our own food for the trip this time, so I packed some sliced ham, a bag of chips, butter, mustard, peanuts, biscuits, and bread.  I had plenty to eat, especially considering that one of the residents cooked hamburgers for $2 each.  Mine was really good, with all kinds of stuff on it (yes mom, I managed to eat some tomatoes and ketchup).

Teaching was about the same as the past weeks - more coloring, glue, and glitter.  We played soccer a few times, and I got to be the goalie.  I guess I blocked about 1/2 of the shots.

Sunday morning myself, Kristen from Tennessee, and James from Australia gave presentations about our states/counties to the 3rd to 6th graders.  We ended up talking for about an hour.  In planning for that last week, I was really glad that I had some smart people at home looking out for me.  Grandma Jean had sent me some newspaper clippings about Medora and the drought, and I had some post cards that are gifts for later (though most of those featured South Dakota, but were still interesting).

Frisbee and soccer

By aaron.axvig, 30 October, 2006

Last night I finally remembered to go to frisbee club.  The other guy on the floor always forgets to come to my room and get me at the right time, and I've had trouble remembering to go also.  He still forgot me this time, but I didn't.

There were about 18 people there, so we split up into 2 teams and played Ultimate Frisbee.  I think I actually did alright.  Though I didn't make very many good throws, I excelled at catching.  I suppose the height advantage helped a little bit.

We didn't keep score, but played from 7:45 to 9:00.  Then I had a soccer game to play in.  We lost, but I think we played pretty well.  I didn't play a whole lot again, but almost all of our team was there and I was tired anyways from running around a different soccer field chasing a frisbee.  My body is complaining about the workout too, as I had sore knees yesterday, a sore hip today, and sore ribs right now.  But I'll still be trying to remember to go to frisbee club next week.