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 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.



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.

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 piñata and movie, in addition to the regular activities.

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

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).

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.  :)

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 10/09/2006 - 03:00

San Jose was lots of fun again.  The weather was beautiful--just a little too hot in the afternoon but nothing like the last time.  Here's a picture of me with some of the students:

Aaron and some Mexican children

And here's another one from last time when we were playing in the water (yeah, that's their drinking fountain):

Mexican children playing in the drinking fountain at their school

One of the activities we did this week was making picture frames using pictures we took of them two weeks ago.  They decorated them with glitter, confetti, and pipe cleaners.  Then I got to "engineer" the stand to prop them up (a bent piece of cardboard taped on the back).  After that, we made bubble solution using dishsoap, which the kids had a lot of fun with.

We also did a lot of coloring.  They colored animals and then had to decide if they should glue them on the ocean or in the forest.  And then they colored four cut-out people and four sets of clothes, dressing them in the clothes appropriate for each season.  Last, they colored some weird-looking thing that was supposed to be a ham with a face (it wasn't very convincing).

At the end of the day on Saturday we had a movie party for them.  They got some fake money, and we let them buy popcorn, drinks, and movie tickets from us.  The first movie was "Over the Hedge," and I promptly fell asleep at my desk even though the movie was interesting.  When I woke up they were halfway into "Ice Age 2."  It turned out that "Over the Hedge" was too boring for the little kids so they switched movies.  After all the kids were gone we walked to the neighboring town called Los Angeles about 2 kilometers away (the students that were teaching there rode on the same bus with us), and then walked back in the dark.  There were a lot of fireflies along the road.

Back in town, we stopped at a store to get drinks.  I was really thirsty and got a liter of milk.  Then we played Uno, and I learned a new phrase when the girl to my right told me "I'm going to make you little pieces" in a threatening manner.  It turns out that is a very literal translation of "te voy a hacer peazos."  I think it's about the same as "I'm going to destroy you."  So of course I let her win.  After that we ate tomales and watched Napoleon Dynamite.

It didn't rain the next day, so all the students showed up for class at 9:30 after we had our breakfast tacos (tortillas with beans and potatoes).  Class was over by noon, and we cleaned the schoolhouse for an hour and then hopped on the bus to head home.

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 10/09/2006 - 03:00

Alright, this one came to mind on the trip back from San Jose on Sunday.  All I could see out the bus window was about 1/2 mile ahead (when lucky) and about 20 yards to the sides.  This--and the construction-slowed traffic we were stuck in for 10 minutes--made me wish to be at the top of a big hill on I-94, with a wide open view.

And it would be alright to throw in an exit sign that says "No Services."

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 10/02/2006 - 03:00

I was going through ideas of what to teach the little kids this weekend and thought about having them make a poster split into four parts--one for each season.  So I started imagining what kind of cheap things they could put on the poster for each season (leaves, flowers, etc) until I wondered what they would use for snow.  At that point I realized that they don't have seasons quite like I'm used to, and quickly moved on to other ideas.  Maybe some other time I can teach them about the North Dakota seasons.

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 09/18/2006 - 03:00

Today I got signed up for a volunteer program—Mexico Rural.  I think it is going to be a lot of fun.  The guy in charge explained it as being like No Child Left Behind, in that the purpose is to bring up the education level of students in small towns.  Groups of 7 or 8 students leave Tec de Monterrey at 7:30 Saturday morning.  My town, San Jose, is about 1.5 hours away.  School starts at 10:00, and goes until 6:00.  Then we spend the night at the school (we’re supposed to bring a sleeping back, blanket, and pillow) and teach for a couple hours on Sunday morning, getting back to Monterrey at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

By aaron.axvig, Mon, 09/18/2006 - 03:00

Tonight I met with the actual students that I will go out to San Jose with.  They are all Mexican.   At the meeting they talked to the advisor about what sorts of activities they had planned.  I got assigned to a group with three other girls that will be teaching 3-5 year olds.  For this weekend my job is to get 50 balloons and write the 5 vowels 10 times on separate pieces of paper (one vowel for each balloon).  Then, the students will have to pop the balloons and match sets of the 5 different vowels.