Aaron's blog

Shipping things to me

By aaron.axvig, Thu, 11/16/2006 - 03:00

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, Mon, 11/13/2006 - 03:00

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 pi√Īata.

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 pi√Īata 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 pi√Īata 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 pi√Īata 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.



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:


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, Tue, 11/07/2006 - 03:00

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 pi√Īata and movie, in addition to the regular activities.

Cold weather

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 11/03/2006 - 03:00

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, Tue, 10/31/2006 - 03:00

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

Frisbee and soccer

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 10/30/2006 - 03:00

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.

San Jose weekend 3

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 10/30/2006 - 03:00

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).

Big Papa

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 10/27/2006 - 03:00

Today at 1:00pm all the international students took a picture together.  (Except for the one guy on my floor who partied too hard last night and slept though it.)  It actually went surprisingly fast, and afterwards I went to a new restaurant with some friends.  Their signature food is the "Papa Especial," or Special Potato.  So of course I got that.

It turned out to be huge--probably a liter of mashed potatoes mixed with two kinds of cheese, covered in finely chopped steak.  It came in a sort of tinfoil bowl.  I somehow managed to choke most of it down, and then waddled home.  I'm headed to the pool now to enjoy what may be one of the last days where it's warm enough to do that.

Tetra Pak

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 10/25/2006 - 03:00

In Mexico there is an interesting little innovation called Tetra Pak.  In the grocery store there are cartons of milk sitting on the shelves, warm.  Evidently, they don't get old because they have been sanitized using the Tetra Pak process (which is owned by a company, also called Tetra Pak, which invented the first paper milk carton and is based out of Sweden).  This process involves heating the milk to higher temperatures than pasteurization, but for only a few seconds--much shorter than pasteurization.  It is then instantaneously cooled to avoid killing all the nutrition.  By killing all the bacteria at the high temperature, there is nothing to make the milk get old while sitting on the shelf.

They offer a couple of different flavors of this, in addition to the regular plain milk.  I've seen chocolate, strawberry, and cookies and cream.  The strawberry is pretty good; I haven't tried the others yet.

I don't know if this hasn't made it to the US yet or maybe I just never saw it there, but I think it's an interesting little thing.

San Jose questions answered

By aaron.axvig, Tue, 10/17/2006 - 03:00

My mom left a comment with a few questions, and I thought I'd answer them for all of you:


Sounds like you had some fun activities for the kids. Do you ever see their parents?
What do they do?

Have you been to their homes, or at least past them? Do these children go to school
during the weekday, or perhaps they will when they are older? Are they needy, happy,
content? - Susan Axvig

Some of the mothers drop their kids off at school, but most don't.  There is one that usually chats for a few minutes with our supervisor, and she's pretty much the only one that we ever see much of.  I think that the mothers usually stay at home, and most of the fathers go to bigger towns or cities (like Monterrey) to work each day.

The town is not really in tip-top shape.  Some of the houses have roofs made of pieces of many different things (corrugated aluminum, wood, etc.), and they usually have rickety fences around them.  I think almost everyone has a few animals, like pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs.  The kids do go to school on the weekdays too - our mission is to improve the education level above what it would otherwise be.

I believe almost everyone is content.  Maybe the kids are just excited whenever they see us.  But the adults don't seem horribly depressed either.  It appears that there might be some problems with alcohol, as sometimes a pickup full of drunk men will drive into town, presumably returning from their "jobs."  I'm not really sure about that sort of thing though.

So there you go: some more details.  This weekend we have to pack our own food, so I'm planning to head to the grocery store and get some bread and croissants, and maybe some fruit too, just to make my mother happy.  :)