Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finally got a shot on the sly of Dave with his new facial hair. Well, half of it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

This weekend's highlights:

Friday, Dave and I saw our first movie in Mexico. The movie theater plays a couple of movies a week in English with Spanish subtitles, so we saw Hancock. I liked it alot. It only cost about $4 per person and a big thing of popcorn was about $3. Laura watched our kids for us. I've been about 4 weeks straight with no break from the kids so it was a welcome couple of hours.

Saturday, we went to a party at the Lakeside Society. They were earning money for the art program they do. They had a clown for the kids and sold food from various restaurants in the area. The kids had hoped to sell some art they made at the art classes but we couldn't find it. Then we were invited to a birthday party for a kid turning six in our development, Diego. They swam in the pool, had a magician, 4 pinatas, and a huge cake. Birthday parties are apparently a huge deal here. They usually invite everyone's whole family, spend oodles of money, and it lasts hours. This one, the swimming started at about 2pm and though we left at about 8pm, we could see people still out til 10 or so. We had planned on going into Guadalajara for the day, but then remembered the birthday, so maybe next week.

Sunday was our third Sunday at church. The kids really like primary, it's so much smaller I think they feel more important. I got asked to be a teacher in the womens' organization. I'll teach once a month in English, of course. Dave got asked to set up the chairs and organize the sacrament every week, so we'll be arriving early every week. Apparently, this congregation has a bit of trouble, because they have to mix English and Spanish. It's very hard for the the nationalities to mix. While many of the Americans know some Spanish and the Mexicans know some English, it's not enough to truly integrate the congregation. It gets hard to concentrate in the main meeting, because all the speakers have to be translated. It kind of breaks the momentum of a talk. I have to admit that even though I've really never liked speaking in church, it will be doubling daunting here. I hope they ask Dave first.

After church, we took a drive around the lake. We saw a couple of villages and tried to impress upon the kids how poor they are and how lucky we are. I'm not sure they got it. Kids don't see a dirt backyard and hanging laundry and think poverty, they think mudpies and forts. I hope it sinks in somehow while we're here.

For dinner we cooked out with some nieghbors; Diego's parents, Fausto and Madeline and some Americans, Dion and Po. It was nice. We had to explain the whole no beer and coffee thing which is always fun. I bought some steaks for it on Saturday at a local butcher's. I explained in my broken Spanish that I wanted 6 steaks, but he gave me 5. And then later I realized he gave me back about $10 too little change. The steaks we pretty tough and we learned that almost all of the meat here has to be marinated for about 24 hours to be chewable. Everyone was polite and ate some anyway. Live and learn.

Monday: The kids found an abandoned kitty and played with it most of the day. Dave and I don't like pets, but it was nice to have the kids occupied. We'll probably take it to a shelter tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just another day (or two) in paradise

Yesterday, we took the kids horseback riding in Ajijic with Joce and her mother, Laura. Laura had been such a great help to us since we've been here. She's our rental agent, the Primary President at church, and had helped us get settled with school, shopping, etc. The kids went riding for about 15 minutes but that was enough for my inexperienced kids. Cost 140 pesos, about $14 for all 4.

Today, went into the Ajijic outdoor market, tianguis, for some chicken and shrimp. Laura was there to help me, but I bought the chicken and shrimp all on my own. Luckily for me, the stall workers understand broken Spanish. Then it was a quiet day at home. While Charlie had a siesta, we went swimming. Then the kids set up a tent, borrowed from Joce, in the spare room while Amelia and I made apple cake.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Here are a few pictures we took yesterday.

My kids and Joce in the car on the way to the park.

These are little bugs that come in everytime we open a door. They are called bobos.

This is the pool we use everyday in front of all the construction workers.
I'm a little offended there have been no cat-calls.

The kids at the Saturday art lesson (more like freeforall) at the Lake Chapala Society.

This is a car we saw on a drive, 12 Mexicans stuffed into a Suburban.

Lastly, our cute little Charlie. Just thought it was a good picture that Dave took.

Still working on a picture of Dave with facial hair.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Been a few days since I updated. I can only use the computer in the evening when Dave is not and it's hard to motivate myself to move from the sofa. We've spent the last few days swimming alot, playing with Joce, going to the street market, looking at other rental properties, and visiting the school that the kids will attend. Dave tried to prepare me before we looked at a few of the rentals and the school. He said remember this is Mexico. To be honest, the houses have surprised me. Very old and though not dirty, just not updated at all. Usually great grounds though. Grass and trees, cobblestones. The school wasn't as bad as I had imagined. Nothing to brag about, but nice grounds and o.k. buildings. Met a few more people and practiced my Spanish. The problem with my spanish is that I think of everything in English, then Spanish, before I even try to say it, and by then it's usually too late. But I'm getting used to the accents and can pick out more words from a conversation than I could last week. The street market was cool. It's every Wednesday in Ajijic. They sold fruit, vegetables, meat, bags, shoes, art. Nothing great but the atmosphere is cool. It's only about 5 blocks from home, so we'll walk most weeks. Looked for a stroller for Charlie yesterday, about $45 for an umbrella stroller, so Dave has his first item to retrieve for me when he goes to the States next month.
I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow. Always feel so touristy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The bad and the good

Today had some bad moments that ended in good ways.
First, the kids were incredibly bored. We don't have a backyard, or any other kids around, and it rained most of the day, so no swimming. They played computer monopoly and complained. The good came when our rental agent, a member of our church, came by to check on the phone that was to be installed. She brought her daughter, Jocelyn or Jocie for short, and she, Riley and Jane played for about 3 hours. She is 10, speaks English very well and is supercute. A friend! Then we found out our house might have no wires for connecting a phone system, something Dave needs desperately for work. Though this is not entirely resolved, we called the owner of the house and he said he's willing to do whatever we need to to get it here. Lastly, I ended up being out on my very first "driving in Mexico" experience -- after dark. This is something everyone has told us not to do. I had gone grocery shopping (yes, again) and tried to hurry but the store was farther away than I had remembered and I missed a turn getting there that cost me some time. On the way back, in the dark, driving for the first time, I didn't miss a single turn to get home (and let me tell you there are some tricky places and not many street lights). Obviously I was praying hard, but I realized that I was being blessed extra because of all the people I know that our praying for me too. Thanks everyone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our New Home

After driving to a Walmart in Guadalajara to stock up on some things, we drove to our new home in Ajijic. We've only leased it for a month and that was probably a good call. I've linked pictures that the rental agent put on the website. As always they show the best they can. The backyard actually looks like this now.
Yes, that is a construction worker, no zoom on the camara.  He's building a new Walmart directly behind the house.  There's about 6 houses identical to ours in the complex and a pool and rec area about 100 meters from our front door.  We went swimming yesterday and the kids had fun, but I was worried most of the time about the noise.  There is one other white, retired 
couple in the complex.  The rest are Mexican, but speak varying amounts of English.  The groundskeeper speaks none.  There is one other child, 6 year old Diego.  He and Riley are about the same size, so maybe they'll play together.
Our first night was exciting.  We ate macaroni and cheese, watermelon and yogurt.  Not exactly local.  We put the kids to bed.  Riley and Charlie in one room.  Milli and Jane in the other.  The girls share a bed, so that's been a fun adjustment.  After they went to bed, we had a visitor, our very first scorpion.  It was smaller than I had imagined, so not as creepy, but probably a better hider.  I don't worry too much, except Charlie would probably try to touch it if he found one.  We understand that the stings are mostly like a bee sting, unpleasant, but not deadly unless your allergic.  The neighbors said that the construction brings them out; they've found about 30.  I tried to take a picture of it but Dave killed it too fast.
In the morning, I was awakened by the sound of Walmart construction, roosters and Dave working in his office (my room).  While Dave worked, the kids and I unpacked, played and went for a walk.  We couldn't get very far as there was a lot of water in the streets.  Dave said that for over a week it had rained nonstop till the day we got there.  This is the street in front of our complex. Supposedly much lower than it has been all week.
After he worked a half day, we went to the Sorriana supermarket, did some more shopping and went out to lunch/dinner at a really good seafood restaurant.  Dave tried to order everything in Spanish, but luckily the waiter spoke English.  Dave is really picking up Spanish quickly, and I think with a pretty good accent.  I just can't get the words to come out of my mouth.  The kids and I tried to order in Spanish too, with some success.  Jane had been pretty cooperative about trying to say stuff, but Riley fought it pretty hard the first couple of days.  He seems to have realized he's going to have to try in order to understand and communicate.  
Saturday, we took the kids to the Lake Chapala Society for an art class.  They got to paint, color, draw, cut and paste.  And they get to try to sell the art.  That got them pretty excited.  There was a 15 year old Mexican boy that was amazing.  We signed up to be members and looked through the English library they have.  After lunch I took the kids swimming and met some more neighbors.  They let us know they were happy to have some well behaved kids in this house.  I hope they still feel that way at the end of the month.  Saw another scorpion.  Got burnt.
Today is Sunday.  We went to the Ajijic congregation of the LDS church, and met many people.  They've been so nice.  Dave and I are the only gringo members between the ages of 18 and 60, but that o.k.  A lot of the Mexicans spoke some English.  There were about 10 kids in the Primary Sunday School including ours.  They do the service in English and Spanish with translators and the bishop is from Idaho.
And now I'm caught up.
So far I miss Ziplock bags, an ironing board and the kids friends (I could always pawn off my kids when they got on my nerves), but I still think this will be a great experience.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We're Here

The kids and I got up at about 6:30am on Thursday morning. ( I meant to get up at 6am, but fell asleep after I turned the alarm off.) We rushed around to finish packing and load the car. We opened presents with Charlie during breakfast (it was his birthday; good thing he doesn't understand) and tried to cram those into a bag somewhere. Somehow in the 4 days we spent at my parents, my stuff multiplied. Anyway, we drove to my friend Juli's to get a ride to the airport. We got there with plenty of time to drop our luggage with skycap and check-in. Unfortunately, Skycap doesn't do international flights and for a minute I panicked that I would have to lug 7 bags, 2 carseats and 4 children into the check-in line. The Skycap guy must have seen my panic and offered to help (with tip, of course). Getting onto the plane went smoothly and the flight was good until Charlie got tired. After 30 minutes of crying he finally fell asleep about 30 minutes before we landed. Milli did too. We got off the plane last and I dragged the very cranky and bladder-filled kids through the Visa line. No problems there. I didn't even have to show them the Notarized permission slip Dave worked up for me. Next was getting luggage and Customs. After a bathroom break, I again panicked a little when I couldn't see anymore luggage carts. Hoping she understood English, I asked someone that worked there about it and she got one for me. Everyone had been so nice to me. Customs was a breeze too. Being very last in line might have helped too. Finally we exited into the terminal and saw Dave waiting for us. I can't tell you how glad I was to see him. And he looked so handsome in his new mustache and goatee he was growing. (I'll somehow snap a pic for you). Dave got the car and we were officially in Mexico.
I'm going to try to catch up one of these days so I can actually write about something that happened that very day, but not today.
More later! Love and miss you all!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dave made it! He said the trip went smoothly and customs was a cinch. I think he took the Nothing to Declare option. He got to Ajijic in the evening and our rental agent met him to give him keys and show him the house. He said though sparsely decorated, it is fairly new and clean. Drawbacks are the backyard is made of cement and backs up to the construction site for the new Walmart. Oh, well. Finding a house to rent had not been as easy as we would have liked. With Ajijic being a sort of retirement community for expats, the norm in housing is 2 bed, 2 bath. So finding something with 3 bedrooms has been hard and most owners don't want to rent to a family with 4 kids. (I don't blame them, we were willing to lose money renting our house to a couple with no kids). So we found this place in a part of town called San Antonio that is close to town center and has 3 bedrooms. The kids like the fact that it has a pool we can use in the subdivision. We signed a contract for 2 months, and will look for a more permanent rental.

The kids and I gave up the keys to our house to the Brownes this morning and made a last trip to the community swimming pool. We'll miss Highland and all our friends, but look forward to this experience and the chance to show the kids that not everyone is as lucky as we are in Utah.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dave supposedly went over the border into Mexico early this morning. In my last post, I wrote that Dave arrived in New Mexico on Saturday night. Sunday he drove a long day and got almost to Laredo, TX; only 4 hours away before he had to stop. Monday, he drove to Laredo and finished most of his paperwork early so that the crossing into Mexico might be easier this morning. He had to get an FMT (tourist visa) and a sticker for importing the car. He said those two things took him 1 1/2 hours, so hopefully this morning was much faster. My only concern was for customs. We've read conflicting reports about how to go about customs with the stuff Dave has in his car. As I understand there are two lines, To Declare or Not to Declare. Officially you are supposed to declare anything new you bought in the U.S. over $1000 (I think) or any goods you have for sale. We have only our personal items, but unofficially we have heard they will tax any desktop computers or items that seem unneeded on a tourist trip to Mexico. Dave, of course, has a desktop and two screens. Checking is also random, so he might not get checked at all. But if he does get checked, and he's in the Nothing to Declare line, they might hit him with an extra fine. But if he is in the Something to Declare line, they will tax him for sure. In Laredo, Dave got the oil changed on the car and happened to sit by a U.S. Customs worker, so he asked him what he thought. The guy said if it were him, he'd take a chance in the Nothing to Declare line. We'll see how lucky we get.
As for me, I've got a few more hours of cleaning on the house and some last minute errands to run and we're ready. The kids spent yesterday with some good friends, and I got a lot done. Thanks Deb!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dave left this morning to start his 4 day roadtrip to Ajijic. We had a fun week visiting with friends and family and packing up the house. In fact I'm still packing it up. I kind of thought that it wouldn't take me very long since we're not taking very much and we're storing most of our stuff in the house, but I was wrong. Besides the fact that I haven't cleaned almost anything but dishes for 2 weeks, so the house is a disaster. We are renting the house to Dave's cousin Cam and his new wife, Sarah, and they'll be using all of our furniture. We're packing all the other stuff into the unused bedrooms. I suppose I'll spend most of Monday and Tuesday cleaning.
Dave had made it this first day to New Mexico. He says the Sienna is taking the trip well. By the way, the car has been another part of our story. We decided that since we could only take one car to Mexico that we'd trade in the Grand Caravan and the Infiniti at the same time (and save some sales tax) for a new van. We did this about a month ago, so we've been a one car family for that long. It actually hasn't been too bad and we expect it to be even easier in Mexico.
The kids and I are now at my parents house in Alpine till we fly out on Thursday. Boy I'm glad we decided to fly everyone but Dave. 4 days in the car with 4 kids, not my idea of fun. But I am nervous for Dave. He is usually the primary driver on our family roadtrips, but he has a tendency to get drowsy after lunch. I'm usually there to keep him awake. So pray for him, please.
Look for Dave's comment after this post.