Spanish Immersion at Veracruz's Spanish Language Immersion Schools

The Language Immersion School,    Veracruz's Spanish Immersion



 
American owned and operated. Lodging, meals, and materials are included. Come to Veracruz by plane (we'll meet you at the airport), bus, or car. Non-traditional Spanish immersion optimizes your learning in this especially safe, very friendly city.   (About Us--click here)


Archive, STAFF, Page 1--Mexico and Veracruz Blog

Past Blogs from the STAFF of
The Langauge Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico

Titles of Blogs on this Page

Outliers [Veracruz]

Reorientation [Mexico]

Now You See It. Now… [Veracruz]

I Didn’t Hear the Whole Story. [Veracruz]

Magnificent Buses [Veracruz]

Just Like in CSI [Veracruz]

Proof of the Pudding [Mexico]

Man’s Best Friend [Veracruz]

Bus and Taxi Service [Veracruz]

Another Terrific Loss [Veracruz]

The First Non-Essential Outing [Veracruz]

A Double Hit [Veracruz]

Shaded Parking [Veracruz]

Very Loud, Very Sharp, Heavily Metallic, BOOOOOM [Veracruz]

Special Moments [Mexico]

But be sure to also notice over in the lower left… [Veracruz]

Injured Angel [Veracruz]

We Keep A Low Profile. [Veracruz]

FTD [Mexico]

It Just Keeps Happening. [Veracruz]

--Beginning of status report-- [Veracruz]

Leaving No Stone Unturned [Veracruz]

Doubly Admirable Progress in Veracruz [Veracruz]

Better to Learn from the Experience of Others [Veracruz]

La Bamba [Veracruz]

Pinocchio [Veracruz]

Five Weeks of Immersion, for Me [Mexico]

Something Else You Never Knew [Mexico]

I’ve Retired. [Veracruz]

How Long Does It Take To Get a Gig? [Veracruz]

How Exciting Is It? [Veracruz]

Harping on What’s Next [Veracruz]

In These Days So Negative, A Wonderful Positive [Veracruz]

After School on Tuesday [Veracruz]

How You Know You’re Special [Veracruz]

Modernization of the Airport [Veracruz]

Twelve Sleeping Rooms, Fifteen Bathrooms, and … [Veracruz]

Green Eggs and Ham [Mexico]

Outlandish [Veracruz]

This Is Our 300th Blog. [Veracruz]

New Kid on the Block [Veracruz]

Sharing Our Cool Breeze [Veracruz]

Rocker Rewickering [Mexico]

Confession--Veracruz Has Three Flaws [Veracruz]

It Felt Good To Be in Yanga [Mexico]

More and More Popular [Veracruz]

We Have Arrived… [Veracruz]

Sharing Toys [Mexico]

It Looks Bad to Us Foreigners, but It’s Good! [Veracruz]

Our Private Side [Veracruz]

Sometimes Something Very Special [Veracruz]

X Marks the Spot [Veracruz]

A Stunning Architectural Insight [Mexico]

Putting It in the Shade [Veracruz]

Ocean Travel [Veracruz]

We Finally Got Ours [Veracruz]

Strange Sounds [Veracruz]

Imagine the Odds. [Veracruz]

A Not Good Idea Taken Too Far [Mexico]

I Worried for Nothing. [Mexico]

That’s a speed bump. [Veracruz]

The Best Books I Ever Read [Veracruz]

A Beautiful Environmental Solution!!! [Veracruz]

Dancing … The Stars [Veracruz]

Got It!!! [Veracruz]

A Cool Hat, And You're a Popular Guy [Veracruz]

We Don't Recommend Losing Your Camera, But If You Must... [Veracruz]

With Broken Hearts [Mexico]

Eating in the Library [Veracruz]

How You Know You Live In Paradise [Veracruz]

Leo, a Fishy Tale [Veracruz]

The Ultimate in Grocery Delivery Machines [Mexico]

Disaster! No Birthdays [Veracruz]

Jingle Bells from Veracruz [Mexico]

Clean Power [Veracruz]

Absence Makes the Heart… [Veracruz]

The School’s Key Man [Veracruz]

Precious Moments, Precious Memories [Veracruz]

Deterrence [Veracruz]

Check out this Halloween Costume [Veracruz]

Day of the Dead [Mexico]

Why Were They Here? [Veracruz]

Good Things Come from Going to College [Veracruz]

An Old Mexico Floor [Veracruz]

Smiles and Tears—Both Saying Thank You [Veracruz]

A Testimonial from Within [Veracruz]

Why Must There Always Be “The Rest Of The Story?” [Veracruz]

Home Sweet Home [Veracruz]

A Work of Engineering Genius [Veracruz]

Definitely Unattractive! [Mexico]

Neatly Tucked Away [Veracruz]

Minor Surgery [Mexico]

View from the Top [Veracruz]

A Master of the Marimba in the Making [Mexico]

Wow!!! Look at This! [Veracruz]

Talk About a Set of Keys!!!!! [Mexico]

See It Here First!!!!! [Veracruz]

City Services [Veracruz]

Soon to Be Totally Infamous—Our Locksmith! [Veracruz]

We Are Deeply Saddened [Veracruz]

Back When I Was a Kid [Mexico]

Patched Up on a Porch [Veracruz]

Topping Off My List of Clues [Mexico]

Adding Another Travel Option to “by plane, bus, or car.” [Veracruz]

“…I’d rather have class!” [Veracruz]

Beautiful Guitar Music [Veracruz]

Double Parking in a Bus [Veracruz]

Local Sausage [Veracruz]

That’s What You Call an Ice Cream Cone [Veracruz]

Somewhere Beyond the Sea... [Veracruz]

Captain of the High Seas [Mexico]

Riding High [Mexico]

Here’s a Hot One! [Veracruz]

“Estas Son Las Mañanitas Que Cantaba…” [Veracruz]

A Break-In Caught on Film [Veracruz]

A Message to the Board of Governors of the FEDERAL RESERVE [Veracruz]

I Saw a Ship Come Strolling In. [Mexico]

A Doll's Party [Mexico]

Sometimes You Just Have to Face Up to Things. [Veracruz]

One Room, a Loft, and Breakfast [Mexico]

Having Lost Self Control [Mexico]

Fresh Frozen Fruit [Mexico]

The Iceman (doesn't) Cometh [Veracruz]

Harmonic Motion [Veracruz]

Bathrooms—They Seal the Deal [Mexico]

Danger on the High Seas—Right at Our Corner [Mexico]

As Close as We Can Come [Veracruz]

A CFO’s Suggestion [Veracruz]

To a Crackpot Never, but to a Cracked Pot Why Not? [Mexico]

15394 [Veracruz]

Taking a Picture at the Picture Show [Mexico]

Just Saying Flour or Corn Used to Be Enough [Mexico]

The Low Down on the Harbor [Mexico]

Beckoning Us Home, Safely [Veracruz]

An Octopus Hunter’s Tour of the Reef [Veracruz]

Lightning Striking Twice [Veracruz]

Happiness Is a Corn-on-the-Cob. [Mexico]

Gracias Having Fun [Veracruz]

Veracruz—A City for All Ages [Veracruz]

A Great Idea Getting Even Greater [Veracruz]

Four Hundred Years Late or Just in Time? [Mexico]

How Much Music Is Enough? [Veracruz]

Help and Double Help for Veracruz [Veracruz]

A Beauty in the Bodega [Veracruz]

Live Music at the Party [Mexico]

Jorge's Entrance Test [Veracruz]

Rushin' to the Ballet [Veracruz]

A Guitar for Me [Mexico]

Canon, Kodak, Nikon? [Veracruz]

The Search [Veracruz]

The Library Is Open. [Veracruz]

Keeping Veracruz Safe [Veracruz]

Stage Center [Veracruz]

The Queen's English Rules the High Seas. [Mexico]

Hundreds of Thousands, Even Maybe Millions, of Letters [Mexico]

Just Like Back Home! [Mexico]

Out on the Town!!! [Veracruz]

Even the Sea Urchins Stayed Home [Veracruz]

Very Sad News from Veracruz [Mexico]

The Artist Agreed [Veracruz]

It's in the Mail [Mexico]

We Bought a Top of the Line HD Video Cam, and It Didn't Work. [Veracruz]

Five Gallon Plastic Friend [Veracruz]

Eighteen Half Moons [Mexico]

There's Always Action on the Bus. [Mexico]

And Idea Who "Bei Duo Fen" Might Be? [Mexico]

Ceci’s Back At Work, and Her Baby Has Great Day Care. [Mexico]

Strolling Guitars for Strolling Minstrels [Mexico]

Carnaval’s Over, and We’re Cleaning Up, and Cleaning Up, and Cleaning Up… [Veracruz]

Attending Beethoven’s Ninth and Many Weddings All in One Day—We Were Very Busy. [Mexico]

Happy New Year!!! Happy Birthday!!! And “Hen Hao” [Veracruz]

We're Going To Be Grandparents [Veracruz]

Music to Our Ears [Mexico]

A New Business for the New Year [Veracruz]

Technology, Good or Bad? [Veracruz]

There's Glistening and Jingling and Ringing and Roasting and Cheer. [Veracruz]

We Promised You a Better Movie. [Veracruz]

A Letter to Santa Claus [Mexico]

Awash with Jealously [Veracruz]

When We're Dual Purpose It's Double Good! [Mexico]

On A Clear (windless, smooth ocean, low tide) Day [Veracruz]

Hotdogs and Tricycles [Veracruz]

Three Bucks and a Bat to Boot [Veracruz]

My Kingdom for a Good Banana Split [Mexico]

Making Safe-As-It-Can-Be Veracruz Even Safer [Veracruz]

Music and Music and Music and … [Veracruz]

We’re on the Map [Mexico]

Bus Music [Mexico]

Write Away!!! [Veracruz]

The 5th of May Was a Long Time Ago. [Veracruz]

It’s Going So Well That We’re Doing More. [Veracruz]

A Lot of Spanish Being Learned; A Lot of Enjoying Mexico [Veracruz]

An Expression Cast in Stone [Mexico]

What Comes Around Goes Around. [Veracruz]

Lightning Struck Twice [Mexico]

A Good Catch Close to the School [Veracruz]

A Licenciada Showed Up This Morning [Mexico]

Staying Put [Veracruz]

Number 100, An Easy-As-Pie Milestone [Veracruz]

Winning by Losing [Veracruz]

Afro-Caribbean Festival in Veracruz [Mexico]

The Hernandez House [Veracruz]

They’ve Been to Shangri-la. [Mexico]

Over and Out, and In [Veracruz]

How Do You Run an Airport without a PA System? [Veracruz]

The Harvard 3, and Our Congratulations [Veracruz]

When You Run Out of Bathrooms [Veracruz]

“You Taste Much More Everything.” [Veracruz]

More than Just Good Food [Veracruz]

Piling It On [Veracruz]

Two Down, None To Go—That Sure Makes Life a Lot Prettier. [Veracruz]

Great to See Him at Dinner, and Even Better to See Him When You’re Sick [Veracruz]

When the Coconuts Come Down, the Fun Goes Up. [Veracruz]

It’s a Grind, and It’s Great [Veracruz]

Going Down the River by Chevy [Mexico]

Time Flies [Mexico]

An Incomplete Photo, A Political Machine [Veracruz]

Icing on the Cake [Veracruz]

We Splurged, and it's Everybody's to Enjoy. [Veracruz]

Polyurethane in Veracruz, and It's All Over the Floor [Mexico]

Modern Technology Making Life Better [Mexico]

Coffee's Ready at 6:15 [Mexico]

We Went to the Party. [Veracruz]

Silence in Noisy, Happy Mexico [Mexico]

Estadía—A Practicum We Would Call It. [Mexico]

A Gasoline Smell—Diesel Said the More Trained Noses. [Mexico]

New Mexico Says This Beautiful T-Shirt. [Mexico]

It's Great To Be Back Home [Mexico]

The Alligator Who Lives Down the Street [Veracruz]

Ivethe Graduated from College Last Night. [Mexico]

I’m Only Guessing, But I Think I’m Right. [Mexico]

We Pour It On, but Some Want Even More. [Veracruz]

Two Great Things Are Happening—An Update [Mexico]

Gardenia Blossoms Floating Upon the Pool [Mexico]

This Is a Test— for Medical School [Veracruz]

All Over the Road [Veracruz]

How to Save Twenty Thousand Bucks [Mexico]

The Bus Driver Left His Money Behind. [Veracruz]

Fourteen Students from the School Went to the Theater to Say Good-bye. [Mexico]

These Things Happen (and we’re always proud). [Veracruz]

Only Thirty Inches Long, But It Still Counts. [Mexico]

Guero Guero, Guera Guera [Mexico]

Buses Lined the Street. Cars Were Everywhere. [Veracruz]

He’s All Wet—One of Our Charlantes, That Is. [Mexico]

In the US We Wouldn’t Mention It, But Down Here It’s Worth Shouting About. [Veracruz]

We're Waiting for a Package [Mexico]

Gone Fishin’ but not Gone Very Far. [Mexico]

The Call and The Vote [Mexico]

Veracruz Shows Respect for Street Vendors [Veracruz]

Two Weeks of School and Then Yucatan and Guatemala [Mexico]

Close to Exploding [Veracruz]

How to Make a Perfect Parade Route in Mexico [Mexico]

Jazz Under the Stars [Veracruz]

Not Small Potatoes [Veracruz]

The Pianist Had to Wait [Veracruz]

Enjoying Old Friends [Veracruz]

Your Laptop--Even If It’s Broken [Mexico]

Wide-Eyed and Ready to Dive In [Mexico]

What's a Tianguis [Mexico]

Two Hours in the Market [Veracruz]

Mexico's Architecture [Mexico]

Mexico's Merchant Marine Academy [Mexico]

Plus One Dollar A Day [Veracruz]

Looking Back Over The Stats [Veracruz]

A Working Christmas [Veracruz]

Our Third Christmas At The Language School [Mexico]


Veracruz

Outliers

We’re a mature group. Our mean student age is about 49. (Our mean and median student age values are very close to one another.)

So, how did we end up with four students in their twenties and early thirties this past week.

It’s a good thing Linda has a Master’s in Probability and Statistics. And it’s a good thing I, her always dazzled by her husband, listen to her.

Outliers! These young adults are outliers.

That, of course doesn’t mean they are outlaws or aliens or anything unseemly. It just means that a weekly group with a mean age at about 34 instead of 49 (it's 34 because we had two “regular” age students to average in) is about 3 standard deviations away from the mean. (Oh the jargon of statistics! Standard deviation has nothing at all to do with deviants.)

It’s important to mention that our student ages seem to pretty well fit into a normal distribution (normal in this usage not having anything to do with being a normal person).

So, a week like this should happen, on average, about once in every hundred weeks.

But it happened once in two hundred weeks; that’s more than 3 standard deviations out; that’s “interesting.”

Linda just picked up a pencil and is reaching for her calculator.

I’m staying with round numbers. I’m posting this immediately.
by Eric, Feb 23, 2013
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Mexico

Reorientation

Rafael’s back. He’s been gone for three years. But he’s with us once again. We like having him here. He’s a great kid, except now he’s a great young man.

I ran through the first Sunday four-hour tour of the city with him. He’s led it before, but it’s been awhile and some things have changed.

During the four hours, I had a chance to teach him a few new things.

Back home, up there, (and so also at school) we do everything the hard way. Down here, as you’re about to see, many highly practical, lesser “engineered” solutions take hold.

This one has to do with electricity. Consider how your electric meter is so securely and neatly mounted to you house. Oh, so much effort it takes to do it so correctly, to do it exactly up to code.

A non-standard installation of an electric meter and Rafael of The Language Immersion School in Veracruz MexicoBut if you have  a still rooted tree trunk, a yellow rope, and maybe some concrete reinforcing wire, as I was explaining Rafael, you can save yourself a lot of unneeded work.

He listened politely.


by Eric, Jan 10, 2013
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Veracruz

Now You See It, Now…

It was all there all summer long.

It was in action, with kids zipping through it and parents standing close by and families on shore getting ready for the fun.

And then a few weeks before our (Linda’s and mine) vacation it came ashore. The school year had just begun. The beach wasn’t loaded with kids. That made sense.

Now I’m worried. When we got back from vacation (eight weeks later, and what a super vacation we had) it had changed from
elegant splendor (see the picture)             to this (see the next picture).
the waterslide with all its beautiful colorsthe waterslide with it tubes missing

Such beautiful colors and architectural design, such perfection in form follows function, so many happy kids splashing and yelling and playing, a mini-cosmos of how the world could be, should be.

It’s so sad.

I’m worried about what’s next if this sequence continues—tragedy.

But I’m an optimist and Veracruz is wonderful. And so maybe like Phoenix rising…, maybe it’ll be here once more, here for the kids.
by Eric, Dec 11, 2012
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Veracruz

I Didn’t Hear the Whole Story.

I didn’t hear the whole story, but what I did hear was the beautiful part.

We had just finished dinner in a restaurant we particularly like. A man, a few years my elder, came to the table to ask if all was well.

We’d seen him several times before. We thought he and his wife were the owners. He told us his daughter is the owner, but he and his wife are very often there.

His English was exceptional. It turns out he was born in Germany—he was five at the end of WWII.

US forces occupied the part of Germany in which his family lived. There was a heavy knock on the door of their apartment. He stood by his father’s side as his father opened the door.

A huge soldier holding a huge rifle filled the space. Other soldiers were behind him.

The little child heard kind words as the soldier spoke to the father.

The soldier pulled from the pocket of his fatigues a pack of gum. One stick was left. There’d been no gum, no candy in the child’s world for a long time. The soldier tore the stick in half, and the child’s hand met his.

We were hearing a magic moment from sixty-seven years ago, hearing as if it were only yesterday.
by Eric, Dec 5, 2012
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Veracruz

Magnificent Buses

In Copenhagen the city buses were incredible. They were magnificent; almost unimaginable.

A set of buses in Veracruz.  Photo by The Language Immersion School.Back home (in Albuquerque and Tucson) we have very fine buses. In Italy (where we were before going north to Denmark) the buses were likewise very fine.

But in Copenhagen they were perfect—one look for the entire fleet, very modern and high tech design, no scratches in the paint, smooth ride, no graffiti, extra comfortable seats, super well driven, and oh I could go on and on.

They are a credit to the engineering and management decisions of the Danes. I say this with full respect and admiration.

BUT there was one thing their buses lacked They lacked character. They had no personality. They weren’t exciting. I didn’t bounce around. I didn’t sway to the jumping of lanes. I didn’t feel any too fast acceleration and even too, too faster braking. They’re too easy to get in and out. I wasn’t astonished by the interiors or dazzled by the outward visuals.

Yesterday I took these pictures for you—one more proof that life in Veracruz is more, uhmm, uh, I can’t find the word.
by Eric, Nov 27, 2012
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Veracruz

Just Like in CSI

Crime Scene Investigation: A vile event occurred. People were hurt. The culprit was unknown. Those heading the investigation had no idea where to turn.

(Truth be told, as always it is in this blog, I’ve never seen an episode of CSI, but all the weekly plots must go kind of like this.)

The chief of the investigation stands, maybe nervously, maybe agitatedly, to the side, and the CSI specialists slip into action. The chief descends the open stairwell and has coffee and Cantuccini (that we brought back from, of all places, Copenhagen).

The CSI’s worked on.

Opening, probing, sifting, searching and searching, dedicated members of the force checked for evidence in every nook and cranny.

Outdoors, indoors, everywhere, and finally under the concrete floor of the bathroom out back they located trace evidence of the remains.

Iron Oxide was the give away—a clue they could hardly miss. The old galvanized pipe was little more than a ribbon of rusty orange.

Rafael, a master craftsman, and his son Rafa hunt for the hidden water leak.Paula and I had spent days and days and days and days over several months looking for the leak—a leak costing a hundred dollars a month in water (and in Veracruz that’s a lot of water).

Rafael, an incredible craftsman and his son Rafa came over from Puebla. The looked in the likely, but easy, spots first (as in the picture) and then turned to the likely but tough and tougher spots (no pic of this because I was having coffee). Well before noon they summoned me to view the rusty ribbon.

And now I know how the C.S.I. guys can do all of that stuff inside an hour long episode. CSI’s are fast.

by Eric, Nov 18, 2012
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Mexico

Proof of the Pudding

We went to Naples. I went along for the ride; it’s a great vacation. Linda went to work.

She went to work on her Italian. A few blogs down the list I mentioned she’d been studying Italian.

With her instructor in Veracruz, Linda’s approach to Italian was exactly how we teach Spanish, but with one serious difference. She couldn’t do any out-and-abouts or Thursday fieldtrips or be out on the town.

Even so with the conversation driven classes (just like we do for Spanish) she could speak and understand. But it wasn’t nearly as free flowing and automatic as it would have been had she had our full program.

So here we are rounding out her Italian study. We go everywhere, buses, trollies, trains, subway, on foot, and everywhere she is talking to people. Day by day, I see the change--I see the incredible success.

Linda not only wanted to learn Italian, but she (well, okay, me too, but with her doing all the work) wanted personally to test our own approach to teaching a foreign language.

Here are my findings. All humble aside for a moment—Our approach to teaching a second language is super effective. (And, in fact, I have never seen, nor been told of, a program that works as well.)

Mathematically speaking: Students with lots of desire to learn + great program = high success.

And, a secondary point but one arising from my own onsite field research, I recommend the Margherita pizza with at the very least one bottle of beer.
by Eric, Oct 10, 2012
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Veracruz

Man’s Best Friend

Yes, this is a dog story. And it’s familiar, to a point.

We all know how Fido sits at the gate and waits for his master or his mistress to return home. Lassie used to wait for Timmy; Rin Tin Tin waited for Rusty. With longing eyes and eagerness to jump up and down with joy and lick like crazy, it’s a dog’s life.

But what do you do if you master doesn’t go out the gate and down the road to work? What if he works in a small boat fishing for a living and passes out of site over the horizon?

A dog sit on the roof looking out over the ocean in Veracruz.It’s no problem for a smart pooch.

You just get yourself a high up look out point and you scour the waves with your eyes until you see him and his boat racing back to you.
by Eric, Sept 12, 2012
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Veracruz

Bus and Taxi Service

We have excellent bus service and taxi service. We wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.

On one corner of our block we have buses headed both ways passing by every couple of minutes. On the other corner we have a bus, only running every 8 or ten minutes, headed right past the big downtown market.

Taxis are even more prevalent than buses. We almost never have to wait for one. Here’s a look at our corner.

The Language Immersion School has incredible bus and taxi service right at the corner. An un-Photoshopped picture is still worth a thousand words.





by Eric, Aug 20, 2012
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Veracruz

Another Terrific Loss

We live for these losses. School has two primary goals. The first and most important is that our students learn lots and lots of Spanish. (And they do.) The second is that our staff has more opportunity and brighter futures because of having worked here.

With Wendy doing her internship (at a hospital only 8 blocks from here), Ada working for a local university and having a full scholarship to work on her master’s, and Tahere working for the United Nations at their national headquarters in Mexico City, we continue to have so much to be happy about.

And we have even more. Maria has also moved on. You probably don’t recognize the name. It’s really Mariaconcetta, and she was here for two years. But she didn’t teach students. Instead she taught Italian to Linda. Her day job was teaching at the finest private university in Veracruz.

Now I get again to sound (again for the hundred billionth time) like a proud husband.

Mariaconcetta wanted to do a master’s. Linda told her about the master’s in Applied Linguistics our daughter finished two years ago. Maria was interested. She and Linda investigated. This is the situation they faced—Maria’s Italian (you surely surmised), lives and works in Mexico, and wants to attend a U.S. university on a scholarship and to be a teaching assistant to be able to pay her living expenses.

Linda (proud husband once again) found the right contacts, got a very positive response, and then guided Maria through the entire process.

Right now, on a tuition and teaching assistant two-year package that’s worth right at thirty-three thousand dollars a year, Maria is attending orientation and come next Monday morning will be teaching.
by Eric, August 20, 2012
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Veracruz

The First Non-Essential Outing

Say that things have been difficult for a while. For example a broken ankle, and say that you keep your moving around to a minimum working for the best healing possible.

You go to the pharmacy, and you’d buy easy to prepare foods, and you’d do the banking. Not the most exciting parts of living in Veracruz.

So what might you do on your first non-essential outing—your first hedonistic pleasure excursion in months.

Huevos Rancheros cooked to perfection; Salsa Ranchera that’s a tiny bit too hot; Frijoles Refritos that blend just right with the egg yolk; and to top it off as a midday taste treat, a cola.

Two blocks from school you'll find huevos rancheros just as good as they get.

Plus, Plus,

Plus the added magic so special for me for any occasion, being side-by-side with Linda.
by Eric, July 16, 2012
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Veracruz

A Double Hit

We took a double hit this weekend—two sharp blows and speaking selfishly it makes us a little sad.

We lost two members of the team—wonderful young employees, wonderful special people, wonderful friends for life.

Wendy worked through Friday, and Ada worked through last night. And now they’re gone. It’s like there are two empty spots in the nest.

Ada right now first thing this Monday morning is in her new job working for the Assistant Administrator for Instruction in a Veracruz university. Part of the job is a full scholarship for her master’s (which she’ll start in September). It’s a perfect job for her. It will tie together all of her educational background and her work experience. She’s been asked (by us so I guess it’s not legally binding) to check in once a week to let us know how it’s going. We think she’ll love it.

Wendy starts her internship on July first. She’ll officially be Doctora Wendoyln Reyes. Today she’s in some mini-course the medical school requires them to take the week before their internship starts. Being an intern pays about 65 dollars a month—bus fare. She’ll be in Veracruz’s largest hospital. It’s a very good internship. The hospital is just 7 blocks down the street. If her bus fare runs out, she can walk “home” for a hot meal and a few moments rest.

We’ve lost lots of employees over the years. Sometimes the sadness feels very, very good.
by Eric, June 25, 2012
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Veracruz

Shaded Parking

We doubt that you can believe just how full service we are. Daily outings, Thursday fieldtrips, A/C throughout, fruit bowl, coffee all day long, staff with whom you can practice until nine at night, and on and on, we offer so much.

The Language Immersion Schools marimba teacher parks in the shade up on the school's sidewalk.  this is okay in Mexico.We know of no other school that pays so much attention to detail.

We go so far as to even offer a shady place to park your car.

It’s lucky the curb isn’t very high.
by Eric, May 21, 2012
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Veracruz

Very Loud, Very Sharp, Heavily Metallic, BOOOOOM

It happened right out front. Loud, sharp, metallic, boom!

I bolted from of my chair.

A barrage of heavy impacts followed, less loud but highly percussive.

I was at the door and pulling hard. (Then I unlocked it and pulled again.)

Safety is always an issue. And our take on this has probably been too narrow, too limited.

More than a thousand times we’ve said (or handed out in written form) that “the very most dangerous thing in Veracruz is the sidewalks”.

But now we’re considering amending our safety advisory to be, yes, you’re got it, “. . . sidewalks and streets.”


by Eric, June 14, 2012
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Mexico

Special Moments

Mari’s little girl slipped quietly through the door and around the marimba. She moved in tiny, self-conscious, confident, ballerina-like steps.

She was holding one of her notebooks—she’s in first grade.

Linda and I didn’t quite catch on.

She tiptoed a few steps closer and held out her notebook closer to us.

At that moment, Linda and I learned that in elementary school they write a child’s grades in the child’s notebook.

Incredibly good grades are earned by the wonderful first-graderTen is like an A+.

Nine is an A.

And that’s all you need to know.

I took this snapshot the next day.

Great grades;
Super student;
Wonderful kid!

And wonderful of her (in her quiet, so very sweet little way) to let us in on such a special moment!
by Eric, June 1, 2012
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Veracruz

But be sure to also notice over in the lower left…

A harpist is coming to Veracruz (the State). She visited us last week. Once she’s fully moved down, she’ll perform (she plays and sings beautifully), and she’ll teach.

This is a story of Amazing Coincidences!

She’s coming down from Tucson; we came down from Tucson eight years ago.

She plays the harp (with her she had a beautiful small folk harp); the school has a harp (of a different style) and we’ve been wanting to offer a combination of Spanish immersion and Veracruz harp.

She will live up at Villa Rica beach and come to Veracruz. We are in Veracruz and take our students up to Villa Rica beach.

In conjunction with her husband and his firm she’ll participate in community service activities in the Villa Rica beach area. Through our school we participate in community service activities here in Veracruz.

You may be of the opinion that the above, although interesting, isn’t necessarily enough to be newsworthy, worthy of a spot in our famous (humbly let me say in our somewhat famous) Blog About Veracruz and Immersion.

A wonderful harpist is coming to Veracruz to perform and to teach.But there is a clincher--an additional coincidence to be added to the list. It’s the coincidence that fully warrants space herein and maybe space in the local papers and air time on the radio.

Just as Linda did three weeks before, Meesha, our state’s new harpist, also suffered a freak accident, and she too broke her ankle.

We tell all our students, and the picture is proof positive, that the biggest threat to your safety in Veracruz is the sidewalks.

We’re very sorry we didn’t have a chance to tell Meesha. Just as Linda did three weeks before, Mecha, our state’s new harpist, also suffered a freak accident, and she too broke her ankle.

We tell all our students, and the picture is proof positive, that the biggest threat to your safety in Veracruz is the sidewalks.

We’re very sorry we didn’t have a chance to tell Meesha.
by Eric, May 20, 2012
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Veracruz

Injured Angel

I’ve been trying to write this for five weeks. I started three different times. It’s tough. I’m writing about the incredibly positive response to an emergency situation. It’s tough when the one you love more than life itself is the one who’s hurt.

But now she’s doing great.

Linda fell. Her ankle was injured. It looked bad. It was here at school, upstairs in our room—one of those terrible, frightening freak accidents.

I had to get her to the emergency room. I didn’t know how to move her. I didn’t know which hospital to go to. It was about 7:50 in the morning.

Long ago Dr. Rivera gave us his cell number in case of emergency. I dialed it. He was home having breakfast. I explained. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” he said.

“Which emergency room?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “Your house.” He was at our front door in 18 minutes. He did all those twisting things orthopods do that hurt the loved ones, me, as much as they do the patient. Paula was with us. She’s working on a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. He told her he needed some cardboard.

A box from a new toaster we bought wasn’t right, nor was the box from a shelving unit. From the closet I grabbed a tennis shoe box. Three’s the charm. He tore it and then folded it and curved it. He looked at Linda’s ankle and bent it into an “L” shape. He’s an artist in cardboard. It was an emergency splint. He wrapped ace bandages around it. Immediately Linda didn’t hurt as much.

Then he dialed a phone number and gave our address. “I’m late for surgery,” he said. “The X-Ray tech will be here in about 15 minutes. I’ll be back after surgery.”

A guy showed up with a box about a foot cube. He took two shots and left, leaving his mini-X-Ray machine here. Soon he was back with the films.

Dr. Rivera wasn’t back from surgery for two hours. But the tennis-shoe-box splint was working magic. The ibuprofen was helping. I could have used a shot of something.

In Veracruz, the doctor came to The Language Immersion School to put a cast on a patient. In he came with a bag from a drug store. He looked at the X-Ray. The tip of the ankle bone was broken off. He asked Paula to bring a small pan with water in it.

Right there at the edge of the bed he started he building (making, forming, preparing—I don’t know the word) a cast. “The angle,” he said, “is very important.” On went the “stocking” and then the multi-layer wrap of soft cotton. It was like he was sculpting. He adjusted a little here and a little there, and then he took the remaining two packets from his drug-store-bag. It was the “exoskeleton” stuff, the fiber glass, and keeping the angle just where he wanted it, he applied this final coating.

And that was that—just like it was no big deal. He could get to his patient much easier than his patient could get to him. And so he came.

In Veracruz we get world-class medical care. In the US we never got such patient-oriented medical attention. We’re deeply appreciative.

We’re also appreciative for being treated so incredibly fairly. Doctor visits, x-ray, and supplies all came to exactly 3300 Pesos.
by Eric, May 07, 2012
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Veracruz

Our Hard Working Staff Working Hard

We’re followers of Deming’s Continuous Improvement. You’re never as good as you can be. So, the thing to do is keep getting better, ever better.

We were able to get the staff together for a couple hours for several days running.

Linda and they worked on how to do anything and everything better. What they did one day they revisited the next already looking to make it better. Improvement is never ending.

Our staff is great. They’re into it. They’re totally motivated and very responsible. They want to school to be strong; they want us to keep getting highly positive and heart-warming reviews from students. They know it’s good business to do a super job, and they know it’s simply the right way to be.

Everyone contributed; everyone learned. They all worked hard. Next week we’ll be better than last week. And, if you read our testimonials and recommendations, last week, as all the weeks before, we were doing great.

The staff of The Language Immersion School in Veracruz, Mexico participating in in-service training--aart of our continuous improvement.While Linda led the learning, I was busy on computer stuff. Around lunch time I slipped in to get a picture.

I had trouble getting them to look at the camera they were so captivated by, so into, so busy at what they were doing.

If you can’t beat’em, join’em. After I snapped this picture (with only two of them looking at the camera) I sat down and had some guacamole too.
by Eric, Mar 31, 2012
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Veracruz

We Keep A Low Profile.

You’ll see that we do the moment you arrive at school. We don’t have a sign or a banner, or a logo, or a doorman. We don’t have glitz or anything showoffy. We don’t have anything.

We don’t advertise. We don’t go meet community leaders. We don’t partner with local schools. We don’t belong to Rotary. We don’t do anything to get the school known.

Safety isn’t an issue in Veracruz. It never has been. Even during the couple of weeks that had a few ugly moments, safety wasn’t a question. But, for our sake and everyone’s at school, we are very safety conscious.

We do any no-effort or almost-no-effort thing we can think of to add a layer of safety. It takes no effort not to put up a sign or not to meet community leaders. So, following our no-effort doctrine, we don’t.

We do lock up tight at night, almost-no-effort. We stay lightly locked during the day, almost-no-effort. Sometimes we walk different routes to and from the bank, almost-no-effort.

I think you see how this works.

While Linda and I were walking between the deli counter and the imported cheese island at the supermarket last Sunday from over my shoulder I heard, “Jamon?” It didn’t register. Linda told me the kid asked if I want some cold cut ham. Now and again I buy a quarter kilo sliced very thin.

Armed with four grocery bags holding fresh French bread, a new head of lettuce, the ham the kid sliced, and more, we hopped into a taxi.

“Alacio Perez?” the driver said.

Low Profile doesn’t actually always work completely perfectly.
by Eric, Mar 16, 2012
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Mexico

FTD

FTD was on the windows of upscale florists throughout my childhood. I knew it was a big deal.

I googled FTD to be able to tell you exactly what the letters stood for.

Google first brought to my attention that FTD is talking about Facebook Transmitted Disease. But this form of virus isn’t from my early years.

Then I found FTD with a little registered trademark sign and products mentioned for sale. I clicked and looked and looked. The FTD people didn’t seem to want me to know what FTD stands for. I started getting a little suspicious.

In a historical article I found out that FTD means Florists' Telegraph Delivery. I guess if I were up there I’d be a little touchy about Telegraph being my claim to technology in the 21st century.

A small florist cart and a young man making a living selling flowers close to The Language Immersion School.But down hear it resonates.

The other day I saw what might be an actual original FTD delivery vehicle just now freshly dispatched by an old-fashioned telegram.


by Eric, Mar 9, 2012

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Veracruz

It Just Keeps Happening.

Our employees go away.

We work hard to help it happen.

Jorge, who would have been working right now today, is on a bus to Mexico City and about to hop a flight to Argentina.

He won a full scholarship, including airfare, to a university in Argentina. It is a one semester exchange. His parents are so proud. And so are we. And we’re so happy for a great young man to have such a growth opportunity.

Regardless, I don’t like to say good-bye to those who are wonderful to have around.

In Mexico life is often bittersweet. Jorge is headed to Argentina to spend a semester as a university exchange student.  All of us at The Language Immersion School wish him the very best.  And we're all very proud.Sad moments frequently come with a little bit of built-in consolation.

At the center of the picture in front of Jorge is a tres-leches cake with lots of icing and fruit on top.

I had three pieces.
by Eric, Mar 05, 2012
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Veracruz

--Beginning of status report--

It’s been three years and four months since the stock market fell apart.

It’s been, as best I can remember, three years and one month since the swine flu hit.

It’s been ongoing that there has been terrible, heartbreaking violence up along the US-Mexico border.

We’ve seen the urls of many immersion schools in Mexico expire, the sites no longer online, the schools gone.

There’s no denying that we ourselves have been stressed. A proud husband speaks—during times treacherous, my wonderful Linda has guided to school always safely.

The crew has been stressed far more strongly than we. Constantly we’ve heard the worry they’ve felt. It breaks our hearts that day by day they’ve lived with uncertain futures these troubled years

Somewhere during January or even this month, we don’t know when, the sun rose.

These three difficult years seem to be easing, finally. The future, better let me say our crews’ futures look stable. Another couple of months and we think they’ll look better than stable.

I have no words to tell you how relieved we are. We’re breathing deeply again. Optimism is creeping back into our planning.

The crew is feeling it, too.

It’s been a very long three years, and as for so many in American and around the world, it’s been exhausting.

We’re so proud of the crew. It’s been hard down here, and hard times use people up. But the crew has held together, always courageously and often beautifully.

They never gave up. They may have moved forward worriedly, but they kept moving forward.

Paula, just finishing her fourth semester of her bachelor’s in nursing, got two A+’s and three A’s. Ada got super high grades on her national certification exams. Jorge won a full scholarship for a semester at a university in Argentina. Angelica’s son, in a university with an experimental schedule (one course at a time like US summer school) just pulled a 98% in a class which many failed. Wendy’s studies in medical school (now in her fourth year) are going super strong.

The list continues—Mari’s little girl, her pride and joy, is growing up happy and bright and fun and last week was reading to me (first grade); Ana has a side business of bringing cars down from the US to sell in Mexico, and Tahere continues to position herself—back to the university to take more French this semester—to work overseas for an international charitable organization (an NGO) as soon as the world economy gets enough better.

They all will keep progressing, but now the hardness of progressing in spite of a terribly harsh setting will be lifting and soon they’ll have the joy of working hard in a world that once again is back on track.

We admire them. We applaud them.

So, “How are thing down there in Veracruz,” you may ask.

Times were tough, no doubt. They’re still tough, but the end is in sight. And things always were well and things now are well, and the future is going to be the best ever. --end of status report--
by Eric, Feb 18, 2012
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Veracruz

Leaving No Stone Unturned

We’re always working very hard to find the best of the best, the nicest of the nicest, the happiest of the happiest, to work with you (and all our students).

I’m sure you’ll agree that absolutely without fail this is exactly what we should be doing. It’s our responsibility to you.

Our newest staff member is feeding the sharks at The Veracruz AquariumLooking here and there, near and far, high and low—that’s how seriously we take building a top notch team.

This week we took our responsibility to a new depth.

Yep, there’s our newest staff member, right there nonchalantly feeding the sharks.



by Eric, Jan 26, 2012
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Veracruz

Doubly Admirable Progress in Veracruz

Sooner or later bad ultimately gives way to good.

Long we’ve wondered when the lying, thieving, lazy, crooked, cunning, contemptible traffic police would get their comeuppance.

And now we know.

The traffic police, the “transitos,” are a totally separate jurisdiction from the real police.

Corrupt top to bottom, the best first step toward a solution, clearly, is to clean up the top.

Consider it done!

Today our two side by side cities, Veracruz and Boca del Rio, have new commanders of their transitos.

Each of these new commanders is an active duty Admiral on loan from the Mexican Navy. (A dazzlingly heavy duty response in my humble opinion)

I just asked a grizzle-faced, uncouth, unpleasant taxi driver (who scared me a little) how he liked the change. A slight but gentle and hopeful smile took hold of his not-gentle, without-hope expression.

“It is very good,” “Now finally it will be honest and fair.”

The Federal Government has taken another very significant, very positive step toward meeting its commitment of a safe and clean Veracruz.
by Eric, Jan 25, 2012
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Veracruz

Better to Learn from the Experience of Others

Of course, it’s better to learn from the experience of others, but sometimes one repeats the experiment simply by an innocent mistake.

Dave and Mary Jo were headed back to school from the mall. They chatted with the taxi driver.

Once here Dave paid, and they slipped out of the cab and headed to the door.

As they were slipping out of the cab, in the picture you’ll see what slipped out of Dave’s back pocket.

Dave's wallet was returned by a Veracruz taxi driver.The taxi driver yelled, and Dave turned around. The driver was leaning across the passenger seat and had his arm out the window.

And just as you see it now in Dave’s hand, the taxi driver was holding up Dave’s wallet.

Before Dave could put together the right words to say a very, very big thanks, the taxi was rolling on down the street.

Credit cards, wallets, purses, it’s all happened before. And because this is honest, warm, and caring Veracruz, it will happen again and again in this happily just right way.
by Eric, Jan 17, 2012
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Veracruz

La Bamba

It was at the top of the charts back when I was in high school. You probably don’t hear it that much up there anymore. We hear it all the time—especially in the zocalo.

La Bamba is the best know example of Son Jarocho, the traditional music of Veracruz.

Along with it goes Veracruz’s beautiful ballet folklorico.

As a part of world music, Son Jarocho must be becoming more and more popular. We’ve had several inquiries about it the past few months.

So we’re working to offer it in the same manner that we offer Mexican marimba. (You can see what we’re doing with marimba by clicking on its tab on the nav bar.)

With a little luck we’ll have a page mounted for Son Jarocho within the month.

In addition to lessons, we want to be able to have students, should they wish, build their own jaranas. We have a world famous group here in Veracruz. Building a jarana with them is as good as it gets.

Members of Mono Blanco build beautiful jaranas.

It’s fun to add traditional music, marimba and now Son Jarocho, to what we do.

But!!!! We’ll never lose sight of what we’re all about. We’ll never lose our focus on getting people speaking Spanish and speaking it better and better.

Son Jarocho will be fun, the kind of fun that makes learning Spanish more meaningful and, we’re pretty sure, easier.

And remember, as La Bamba tells you, “Yo no soy mariner. Soy capitán; soy capitán.”
by Eric, Jan 4, 2011
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Veracruz

Pinocchio

Pinocchio to the rescue at The Language Immersion School in Veracruz, MexicoEvery time he told another lie, my heart hurt. Every bit that his nose grew longer, I wanted to cry for him. I told him to be good. I stood by him. I was his friend.

And he paid me back—big time.

We had a plumbing emergency, on a Sunday of course. I went in to fix it. A defective part fell apart in my hand. Water was gushing up in the air.

“Use ME,” yelled Pinocchio.

Good friends, forever.


by Eric, Dec 19, 2011

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Mexico

Five Weeks of Immersion, for Me

I’m exhausted. Depleted is a better word. Totally used up is how it feels. But I’m excited as can be and raring to go. For five intensive weeks I’ve been thinking it, saying it, reading it, playing it, writing it, singing it, and dreaming it all night long.

And I love it.

Just like so many of our Spanish students I had been working hard, but I couldn’t pull it all together. Just like them, I needed immersion to make magic happen.

Terry Baldridge came to Veracruz for five weeks. His is a professor of music; his PhD is in musicology. He was gathering the traditional marimba music of Mexico.

I just happened to be here with a marimba, a struggling (but not starving) student.

With incredible patience, Terry worked with me for hours every day. I received the miracle of immersion, and I’m moving forward very fast.

Terry Baldridge PhD took me through 5 weeks of immersion on the marimba, and I'll be forever thankful. I asked Linda to take a snapshot for me to put here. It was to be my well-deserved, big-publicity, get-famous-quick photo op.

I was too worn out to show up.

Linda used an avatar.

I’ll be forever thankful. Terry gave me a wonderful, life-long-lasting gift.

by Eric, Dec 5, 2011
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Mexico

Something Else You Never Knew

Here's were power poles come from.Stately, majestic, towering, and tarry, the array of power poles in America (and worldwide) lights up our worlds.

Straight grained, straight as an arrow, and standing straight up, they are amazing structures.

But even more amazing is where they come from. Power poles, you’ll now remember forever, come from power trees.

by Eric, Nov 17, 2011
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Veracruz

I’ve Retired.

When you weren’t looking, I retired. You can easily understand—long hours, constant problems, working seven days a week for years and years. Probably you’re happy for me.

In Mexico titles and status are a very big deal. My status is retired.

Titles and status down here are much more important than reality. Give a manager a bigger title or bigger status and you’ve got a happy employee. You don’t to waste any money giving a raise.

Titles and status aren’t tied too tightly to what actually is. You can have the title of junior-king but really be nothing more than a peon in the organization. You can be regarded as a big man (or woman) in your field but actually know almost nothing about it.

Perception gets great play, and reality doesn’t count for much at all.

Regardless, I’m enjoying being retired. I do wish an official title came with my status.

But I can’t really say anymore about this right now. My coffee break’s about over, and I have to get back to work.
by Eric, Nov 9, 2011
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Veracruz

How Long Does It Take To Get a Gig?

How long does it take to get a gig in the zocalo. Well, if you happen to be a professor of music, it doesn’t take long.

Terry (professor of music) is with us. He’s studying Spanish and getting around all the marimba music he can. Among the many projects he has in the mill, one is to teach marimba to a group of Guatemalan kids who live in his college town.

He’ll actually be building several marimbas for them to play. Helping these kids preserve their culture and folk music is a kind of project that’s dear to our hearts.

But back to the question, “how long does it take to get a gig?”

Last night we saw that if you’re a professor of music who just happens to play both the accordion and the marimba, you’ll be working double duty on you first night out on the town.

Terry, a music professor plays at the zocalo in Veracruz

Like all the wonderful people of Mexico, the musicians in the zocalo love to share their music and happiness.

How long did it take for Terry to get a gig? As we say in Spanish, it happened “en un dos por tres.”
by Eric, Oct 31, 2011
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Veracruz

How Exciting Is It?

How exciting is it to be waiting while your father gives a marimba lesson.

(I, myself, love to hang around and listen.)

How dynamic, how inspiring, how life-enhancing?

Our marimba teacher's son, Carlos, is patiently waiting while his father give lesson to one of our students.Well if you’re nine, as Juan Carlos’ son lets us see, it’s not all that stirring.

So we snapped a photo and carried in a whiteboard and markers and erasers to lighten his load.

He’ll be back, and so the whiteboard will too.

But maybe he won’t need it. Even though he’s nine today, tomorrow he’ll be ten. And you never know--maybe with the added maturity of one year…

by Eric, Oct 13, 2011
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Veracruz

Harping on What’s Next

I won’t harp on it. But I’ll listen. It’s an interesting visual, and with my ears open and eyes closed it doesn’t come across as an imposter.

Delfino Gutierrez playing an electronic harpThis highly stylized, high tech piece of hi-jinks is an electronic harp.

Playing it is Delfino Guiterrez, one of the very finest harpists in the state of Veracruz.

It’s all about expectations. To me a harp is wooden with gentle curves and has beautiful grain and a luminously polished finish. It’s an instrument that speaks with sparkling beauty and radiates joyfulness.

Delfino plays especially well and the evening was a delight.

I hurried home and hugged our old, beat-up harp. I promised it I would get its holes patched and buy it all new strings, pretty, colorful strings.

Our old, beat-up, retired, beautiful harpIt’s been retired for quite awhile now, but before retiring it worked for twenty or thirty years or maybe more, night after night, in the zocalo and around town.

It’s not snazzy like Delfino’s electronic. In fact, I have to admit to myself and to you that it’s just run-of-the-mill.

But who cares? For a very long time to come it will live on in happy bits and snatches of memory in thousands and thousands and thousands who dined and danced and sang and partied to its songs.
by Eric, Oct 4, 2011
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Veracruz

In These Days So Negative, A Wonderful Positive

The news is pounding and relentless. It sounds like America is turning harsh. Politics seems to be all about being against anything and everything. Looking out for each other, caring about those who need a little boost, loving thy neighbor are looking to be discarded has-beens.

It’s hard to take, hard to see the country I love looking like it’s losing its heart.

Some days it would be easy to give up; some days it’s hard not to.

And some days we’re reminded about goodness and decency and humanity and humility and caring and those thousands of words I love to hear and to type and to see in action.

Sister Yolanda Borbon is at school this week. She's the

Sister Yolanda Borbon, Congregational Teasurer of the Order of the Good Shepherd is in Veracruz this week and is headed to Peru.

Congregational Teasurer of the Order of the Good Shepherd (http://www.buonpastoreint.org). The sisters work in over seventy countries.

They turn a cliché back into words of meaning and heart and action. The sisters do good works.

Today instead of reading the news, I’ll think about what they are doing, about what can be done. I’ll think about what I hope my country, my home, will again turn to. It’ll make me happy.

by Eric, Sept 19, 2011
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Veracruz

After School on Tuesday

We didn’t see Kevin Monday; we wanted to, but he only works three evening a week.

We did see him Tuesday--backpack full, big smile, well dressed, hungry, and a college kid.

His mind was already abuzz with new ideas. We must have talked for over an hour. He’s headed for international commerce and expects to work in import-export and international shipping.

It’s a great future here in Veracruz.

Kevin, Angelica's son, started college this week.Mexico is full of roadblocks that keep kids from being able to attend college. Public universities can handle only a small fraction of high school graduates wanting higher education. Private universities, although reasonable by US standards, are too expensive for most families. Working your way through college is almost impossible--there are very few jobs available and most of those that do exist don’t have flexible work schedules.

Kevin is very lucky. He’s a fine young man, and there’s no doubt at all that he fully merits his good luck.

He understandings how lucky he is, and this has made him all the more committed to doing school well.

Kevin is Angelica’s son. She’s a proud mom.

And we, Linda and I, are proud by-standers.
by Eric, Sept 9, 2011
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Veracruz

How You Know You’re Special

When people take a moment to recognize you, to do something special for you, that’s one way you know you’re special.

Jose Luis, the man who delivers our gas cylinders did just that. He’ll get a bigger Christmas bonus.

When a cylinder is empty, you can either have it refilled or you can just have an exchange.

Modern art on the gas cylinder at The Language Immersion School in VeracruzWe started with beautiful new blue cylinders.

Immediately they were exchanged for banged up old orange cylinders, and those for other old banged up orange cylinders. On and on it went. It’s no big deal.

But the other day. Jose Luis hand picked just for us modern art.

I couldn’t see the artist’s signature. I’ll check on the back side.


by Eric, Aug 27, 2011

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Veracruz

Modernization of the Airport

It’s just incredible what people think of. I simply don’t have anywhere near as much imagination as they do.

We went to the airport to pick up a new student, and we almost stumbled over the newest improvement to both security and beauty.

Coming out from the carrousels, where we wait to meet students, we used to have a blue nylon belt carried on pipe stands (like you see all over the place). We now have designer bases with carbon dioxide absorbing fill.

I’m worried. The fill will inevitably extend vertically and become even more densely packed. I might have to poke a telescope through it to spot our arriving students.

New plants at the airport might make it harder for you to spot us.This picture is how it looks to passengers arriving today.

If the plants are tall and thick when you get here, look for my telescope.


by Eric, Aug 16, 2011
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Veracruz

Twelve Sleeping Rooms, Fifteen Bathrooms, and …

Twelve sleeping rooms, 15 bathrooms, commons, lots of open areas—what’s it take to keep it all looking good?

Corrosive, humid, warm environment—what’s it take to keep it maintained?

Heavy usage, lots of regular old fashioned wear and tear—what’s it take to keep it up?

Maybe you already know. If you’re not sure, here’s a hint.

HINT: One answer fits all.

Surely now you’ve got it. But to be sure you’re right, click below to check your answer

We fixing up another floor at the Language Immersion School.Yes, what it takes to do all this and so very much more is a wonderful crew with a terrific attitude.

by Eric, Aug 9, 2011
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Mexico

Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham sounded so wonderful to me as I read about it to the kids.

Can a classic ever be made even better? I know it’s presumptuous of me to ask.

But, well, maybe yes.

Had Dr. Suess every visited Mega Commercial in Veracruz, we’d have been delighting in reading Eggs and Green Chorizo.

Here's a chorizo we rarely see in Veracruz
by Eric, Aug 3, 2011

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Veracruz

Outlandish

One of our young teachers and her fancy nails.The young women of Veracruz (kids I call them because I’m old enough that that’s how they look to me) are sweet, and gentle and friendly. They’re well mannered; they’re well behaved, and their dress is modest.

But when they cut loose they’ll set you back on your heels.

It’s that very special beauty of youth—it’s sweet, gentle, absolutely-not-timid outlandishness.

by Eric, July 28, 2011
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Veracruz

This Is Our 300th Blog.

It all started on Christmas Eve back in 2006.

I like to tell you about things down here—things that I find especially sweet and touching, or things I find particularly amusing, or things I think are of general interest to lovers of culture.

I rarely talk about language acquisition and about the more serious side of the school.

And, I take no credit for the success we’ve achieved. But I am proud.

This small and friendly school of ours is exceptional at getting people speaking Spanish and speaking it better and better. It feels good to be part of teaching that is so highly successful.

But still no credit for me.

Unless, of course, I evoke the principle of community property.

The credit all goes to Linda. She has developed an incredible approach to Spanish. More than just being proud, I love her so very, very, very, very, very much.

I sit back (working diligently, of course, not being the lazy type) and think about how Linda makes all of this work so well. Some years ago I wrote a few online articles about it. That was back as it was evolving, back before we had over a thousand successful students.

I’ve decided to start writing about it again now that it has passed, with flying colors, the test of time.

So we’re opening a blog in WordPress. It will be up in a few weeks. Linda and I will co-host the blog. In it we’ll talk about the serious side of immersion study and about important (albeit touristy) history and happenings in Veracruz. The URL is http://spanishimmersionschool.wordpress.com (this is a cut and paste link).

But you know me. You know I’ll never stop writing about the things so dear to me—the fun and human happiness of school and Veracruz. I’ll always be here—the part of me that so enjoys our wonderful life.
by Eric, July 21, 2011
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Veracruz

New Kid on the Block

Up there you’ve got Starbucks. Down here we’ve got Italian Coffee. And just as with Starbucks, they’re everywhere.

They’re established; they’re popular; they’re an institution, and they’re under attack.

The renowned and truly famous Gran Café de la Parroquia, the spot where coffee is served right, has gone viral.

Our Spanish Immersion students are beginning to find La Parroquia coffee shops all over Veracruz.Here’s one that’s so new that the sign wasn’t mounted more than ten minutes before we snapped this documentation.

I’m not really a Parroquia fan. So why do I even mention this?

It’s all about image and status, about being cool and being hip. Imagine if you came to town and asked (innocently, of course, lacking up-to-date info) where you’d find the nearest Italian Coffee.


by Eric, July 17, 2011
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Veracruz

Sharing Our Cool Breeze

Actually it doesn’t belong to us—the wonderful, cool, afternoon and evening breeze that comes in off the open ocean. But it does blow right down our sidewalk (and right in through our open windows).

Lots of tourists borrow our breeze. They gather, sitting on the edge of our porch, waiting for their bus (parked along the street) to be ready to go. They buy ice cream and drinks and trinkets and whatnot from the tricycle mounted street vendors.

Our Spanish immersion school has a wonderfully cool ocean breeze on summer evenings.  Neighbors and tourists often come sit out front to enjoy it.Sometimes neighbors from the callejon (that runs through our block) come borrow our breeze. Our street is angled just right to get the best airflow. The callejon is angled exactly wrong.

You can spot which neighbors are pros at breeze-borrowing. They know all the ins and outs of maximum cool-breeze-pleasure. Pros bring chairs.

by Eric, July 14, 2011
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Mexico

Rocker Rewickering

As a kid I was fascinated by wicker furniture. I remember chairs with holes in the wicker and wondering how they could be repaired.

Repair is easy. You simply catch a rewickerer as he’s biking down the street. (I should have known.) And he hangs your chair in a tree. (I could never have known.)

Across the street from our Spanish immersion school a rocker rewickerer is reweaving a chair.Using his handlebars as a spindle for his roll of new (and today plastic) wicker, he weaves as smoothly and quickly as a spider spins.

We have a tree. If you have a chair needing repair and you can’t find a rewicker technician, check with your airline…

by Eric, July 11, 2011
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Veracruz

Confession--Veracruz Has Three Flaws

It is difficult to confess that Paradise (Veracruz) may be a little less than purely perfect. But you might remember that I have recently alluded to this.

Veracruz doesn’t have Fig Newtons or Bit-Size Shredded Wheat; I’ve been totally forthcoming in admitting this.

And this third of three little flaws I am simply a little late in mentioning. We also don’t have cornbread mix.

Now for dinner at the Language Immersion School is Veracruz, paradise, we have hot cornbread.Sheila came to the rescue.

Good husband that I am, I share kitchen responsibility with Linda. With high spirits and gusto, I butter the baking dish.
by Eric, July 07, 2011
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Mexico

It Felt Good To Be in Yanga

Well over 400 years ago, an enslaved African prince, Yanga, led a slave rebellion here in Mexico.

This statue is in honor of La Yanga, the leader of a slave rebellion that ended up in creating the first free colony in the Americas.He and his followers found cover high on the mountainside, and finally they settled a little to the southeast of today’s Orizaba.

After many failed attempts by the Spanish Army to defeat the escapees, Yanga negotiated a peace that created the first free colony in the Americas for those brought from Africa as slaves.

Three of us on the staff and two students went to Yanga. We gathered information so students can make Yanga a weekend trip.

It felt good to be in Yanga; it felt, even all these years later, like a celebration of victory.
by Eric, June/15/2011
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Veracruz

More and More Popular

A couple of years ago we started teaching the Subjunctive using an explanation that works.

Students who had never mastered the subjunctive found this new way of looking at it to make good sense.

We’re proud to be able to say that our students are not just studying the subjunctive but that they are in fact conquering it.

Nowadays lots of our students want subjunctive. We needed more crew to teach it.

Linda set aside time in the schedule, and pulled together everyone who hadn’t been working with it. We explained to them the explanation that works.

At The Language Immersion School our Subjunctive Intensive Spanish Immersion has grow so much we needed more of the staff to help us teach itThey’re ready!

(In the picture with the crew is Carlene from California. And I, shy I, am behind the camera.)


by Eric, June/13/2011
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Veracruz

We Have Arrived…

More than arrived, we’ve gone classy; we’re part of the beautiful people; we qualify for the jet set.

The moment of transcendence fell upon us at dinner a few days ago.

The waiter poured a bit of wine in a large flask. He sloshed it around and decanted it into a standard size wine glass. It looked taste-test ready.

Spanish immersion students have their wine's resipration time hastened by an aeratorHe held an open-mouthed device above the flask and poured the wine. We heard air sucking in and saw the wine dance. He left the flask on the table but cleared away the device and the standard wine glass.

We have time in Mexico to let wine breath naturally. We’re relaxed; we’ve got plenty to talk about.

But I’ve got to admit that the little aerator is absolutely as uptown as it gets and cute as can be.

I want to know who gets the wine he made off with.
by Eric, June/07/2011
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Mexico

Sharing Toys

One of the many beautiful things about Mexico is how well kids play together, and how well they share their toys.

At The Language Immersion School, your are invited to share our marimba.For more than a couple of years now, I haven’t qualified as a kid, but my most special of toys, a gift from Linda two years ago, I love to share.

With a little help from Juan Carlos, Mari’s daughter, Jenny, is playing her first notes.

We're all kids, and sharing feels... (your words go here.)
by Eric, May/31/2011
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Veracruz

It Looks Bad to Us Foreigners, but It’s Good!

The people of Veracruz love having the soldiers, and also the marines, in town, on the streets, armed, and ready.

“The Army and the Marines are honest,” a cab driver told us yesterday. “And most of the Federal Police are honest.” We hear this all the time.

The people want them here. When the military is looking super officious, the folks walk on by.

Over the shoulder of a staff member of The Lnaguage Immersion School, you can see an Army patrol on duty near the zocalo.This photo shows them looking officious. When the military looks relaxed, the people stop to chat. The military hears everything.

There are a whole lot of reasons why Veracruz always has been safe (except when the pirates used to attack) and why Veracruz is so safe today. Having the military on patrol, on top of all the other reasons, is icing on the cake.
by Eric, May/25/2011
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Veracruz

Our Private Side

We all have one, of course. Our private side wherein lies our dark secret, a secret so private that it rarely sees the light of day. We strive to keep it that way.

But, in the throes of despair, I had to leak word.

A wonderful breakfast--Fig Newtons and a cup of hot teaI just love Fig Newtons with a hot cup of tea for breakfast. They’re not available down here. I went six years without even seeing one.

I’ve never heard anyone own up to loving Fig Newtons.

But I couldn’t hold out any longer. I owned up, and Rob, three weeks ago, came to the rescue. Jack, coming this weekend, is replenishing my stock.
by Eric, May/12/2011
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Veracruz

Sometimes Something Very Special

Every day’s a good day in Veracruz, but sometimes something very special turns a day absolutely great.

I walked into the living room, and Linda and Kevin (who covers school three nights a week) were looking at some papers in a folder.

I don’t know if it was Kevin who said it or if it was Linda, but I got it.

My eyes jumped to the papers—official as could be.

Kevin had just finished enrolling in college. He’s majoring in business focusing on international trade.

Kevin is on duty at The Language Immersion School with his college acceptance papers open in front of him.Check out the photo. You see his papers, his promise of a good life, sitting on the table in front of him. And you see the look and demeanor that says he’s now confident he truly has a future.

Opportunity in Mexico is hard to come by. Kevin was thinking he’d only be able to do a certificate program--better than nothing but far from great. Some of the school’s students have been very encouraging to Kevin and very helpful.

Wonderful things happen in wonderful Veracruz.
by Eric, May/09/2011
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Veracruz

X Marks the Spot

A day will come, maybe ten years off or maybe twenty, when I’ll retire.

And then I’ll sit.

I’ll sit on the X I’m going to spray paint on the concrete to reserve my spot.

Right now it’s only a narrow path of big rocks, but soon it will be a concrete covered seawall.

One day I'll retire and sit all day long on the new seawall at the end of our block.Ocean crossing ships coming and going, waves large and small, sea spray and sunrises and moonrises, and families of happy tourists walking around and vendors selling good things to eat—what a wonderful place it will be.

One needn’t worry about being retired when one retires where X marks the spot.

And friends needn’t worry either. I’ll paint us a big wide X with room for lots of chairs.
by Eric, May/05/2011
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Mexico

A Stunning Architectural Insight

Arches and curves and straight lines and vertical and inclined surfaces—all of this makes easy sense to me in the evolution of architecture. These all grow right out of structural needs.

But all those gargoyles and things, what was the inspiration for them? How did anyone come up with the idea of putting heads and demons and angelic forms and trumpets and animals and on and on all over buildings.

Veracruz is a wonderfully warm, caring, and accepting place. Many of life’s challenging questions are answered here.

But who would ever have thought of coming to Veracruz to discover the secret of the unknown inspiration which long ago led architects and master builders to begin using all those gargoyles and things.

Could this be the inspiration for gargoyles?

Lots know that form follows function.

And a few of us (you too, you’re in on this) know that ornamentation follows big black birds.
by Eric, Apr/27/2011
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Veracruz

Putting It in the Shade

Juan Carlos showed up for my marimba class. It’s a morning class and a pretty early start for a musician. He comes directly from home.

But this week, Semana Santa, Juan Carlos had a very early morning performance at the Gran Café de la Parroquia. From there he came directly here to give me my lesson.

With him came his marimba. This is the first time he ever brought it along.

Juan Carlos showed up to give me my marimba with his own marimba on top of his car.This is how marimbistas carry their instruments around, but usually it’s on top of taxis. Like a kid in a candy store I always wanted to flip a marimba up on top and flip it off.

“It would be bad for your marimba to leave it out here in the sun,” I said. “Let’s put it in the garage.”

“Out here's okay,” he said.

I insisted.
by Eric, Apr/23/2011
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Veracruz

Ocean Travel

It keeps getting more and more affordable. And, I think, more fun also.

Headed out to the high seas through the mouth of the harbor (at the end of the outer seawall) we caught sight of these new vessels. They were in formation.

They’re actually a new take on an old design.

And, as I must point out to you if you shop only at Sam’s Club, this new design is now available at a new low price at Costco.

New light weight, low cost kayaks are now available in Veracruz.Every time we go there shopping for the school, with my thinking focused on student happiness, I point them out to Linda.

by Eric,
Apr/17/2011

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Veracruz

We Finally Got Ours

That can be a good thing, you know.

And probably you’ve had yours forever. We always used to have one. But for seven years we’ve been waiting.

“When you see the furniture store,” we would say, or “When you see the bus stop open to the sea.” This work-around has served over 800 students plenty well.

After seven years we now have a beautiful street sign on our corner by the sea.But now, finally, we got our own.

The colors are very nice.


by Eric, Apr/16/2011
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Veracruz

Strange Sounds

I hear Spanish all day long. I hear lots of native Spanish and lots of student Spanish that keeps getting better and better. I hear it so much that it simply sounds regular.

But once a week for some months now there’ve been strange sounds coming from the class area next to my marimba.

Linda’s taking Italian, and she’s a super excellent student (and wonderful and beautiful and the love of my life).

Here’s a picture of Maria, Linda’s teacher. Linda is taking Italian classes, and this is her teacher, Maria. She’s fully fluent in Italian, English, French, and Spanish.

In about six months it’ll be time for immersion classes in Italy.

I’m so happy Linda’s having fun learning another language.

I love pizza.

by Eric, Apr/14/2011

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Veracruz

Imagine the Odds.

“Hi,” said Linda. It was a big happy Hi.

“Huh? Oh Hi! Wow…”

We’re in Flagstaff visiting our son. (And getting a little R and R for ourselves.)

Talia is a chief at a resort hotel at the Grand Canyon.

Linda and I stopped in a small shopping mall to buy a larger suitcase to bring back a bunch of books for school.

So, two of us; one of the somewhere between 800 and 900 who’ve studied with us and who are spread all around the US and Canada; in a city where neither of us lives; ending up three feet from each other, and not being so involved in our own shopping that we see each other.

Purely a coincidence; purely by chance; against amazingly incredibly huge odds, there’s a message here.

Starting tomorrow (we’ll be back in paradise) I’m a lottery aficionado.

Send Pesos and I’ll cut you in on our tickets.
by Eric, Apr/11/2011
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Mexico

A Not Good Idea Taken Too Far

Here's a ladder in Veracruz, Mexico made of three different ladders wired together.Lightning struck twice. In my prior blog I showed a real doozie of a ladder. In its way it was an extension ladder. And actually, sort of anyhow, it was safe.

A couple of blocks down the street I found a three part extension. I was awestruck.

I don’t want to bias your opinion.

You’ve already got some experience with these hybrid climbing devices, and so this time you’re the judge.
by Eric, Mar/14/2011
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Mexico

I Worried for Nothing.

Turns out it was safe after all. I say the ladder go up. I saw the top end. I especially saw the Not-OSHA-Approved ladder extending multi-wrap-tie-connectors.

Up from behind our neighbor’s wall popped a head, then shoulders, and more and more moving upward.

A ladder extension is cobbled together.It’s an engineering thing—were the tie connectors sufficiently stout, were they tied in a super strong twist, were… were… were…? I held my breath.

Relaxed as could be, he started to paint. He knew his engineering—the strengths of his materials.

In a country where the boss doesn’t have enough money to by OSHA compliant tools, the work must still be done. Experienced workers do know the strength of their cobbled together solutions, and they work out fine.

“So,” I hear you asking me, “Would you climb the ladder?”

Since you’re not here I don’t have to answer.
by Eric, Feb/28/2011
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Veracruz

That’s a speed bump.

Folks are driving very slowly these days in front of Wal-Mart. (Yep we’ve got Wal-Marts, but down here the well off folks shop there.) Folks drive slowly because Wal-Mart now has the ultimate in speed bumps.

My first quick look reminded me of a concrete footing ready for the bricklayer to lay up a block wall. Here's a speed bump that will shoot you right up in the air.It looked like it would blow tires and bend rims.

I got closer. It wasn’t the totally vertical side wall I thought I saw. But it rose at more than 45 degrees—more up than forward. Hit it at 15 mph and you’ll be launched.

We don’t have a car down here. But we do rent from time to time. The next time we have a rental—yes, some adventures are irrestible.
by Eric, Feb/27/2011
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Veracruz

The Best Books I Ever Read

Yep—the ones I read to the kids, and then read with the kids, and then the kids read to me. Wonderful books and wonderful memories.

The library, a librarian would say, just grew by 35 titles.

But we know better—we know that the library just grew by 35 happy, happy memory makers.

Our thanks to Nora yet again. The library has been lucky enough to have many children’s books on the shelves that Nora donated on two prior trips down. And now we have even many more.

Curious George and 34 other great kids books got added to the library todayIn order to assure that the books in Spanish are actually in good Spanish, I told Linda I’d take on the responsibility of reading through them.

I’m already deep into Jorge el Curioso. He’s an old friend. I missed having him around.

I’m looking for a kid I can borrow.

I’m going to take up babysitting.


by Eric, Feb/19/2011
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Veracruz

A Beautiful Environmental Solution!!!

In the US we tend to avoid the bus. I thought it had to do with convenience or saving time or safety or insufficient population density. But I was wrong. Now I know how to increase bus usage. Just think—cleaner air, less congestion on the streets, fewer traffic jams.

A beautiful bus interior in Veracruz.It’s simple as can be.

Our buses just aren’t pretty enough.

Be honest—could you resist riding on this bus?


by Eric, Jan/31/2011

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Veracruz

Dancing … The Stars

You can do it, and it makes great sense.

Learning Danzon, a beautiful but very complicate dance, requires a good teacher and practice in a studio. In not too much time you’ll have the basics.

But the studio, the best beginning point, isn’t where Danzon belongs. It’s as much a part of the cultural of Veracruz as is Son Jaracho and Ballet Folklorico.

The zocalo is where Danzon belongs—outdoors, in the cool evening sea breeze, under the stars, surrounded by admiring viewers. And Danzon should not be danced to a stereo. It needs live music with its full and fresh sound, its variety, and its quirks.

Small bands and skilled couples bring the flow of music and movement to the zocalo—to the dance floor.

Maybe you’re not yet ready to go public? Maybe you feel you need more practice?   Don’t stay away!

Dancing under the stars, this teacher and student are practicing Danzon on the fringes of the crowd. There’s always space for you, and music for you, and the breeze and the stars. You’re welcome and you’re wanted. Bring you teacher and dance the night away on the fringes of the crowd.

by Eric, Jan/30/2011

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Veracruz

Got It!!!

It took a little waiting, but Ron brought it to us yesterday. And now it’ll be easy for the library to grow like a weed.

It’s an address in the US where we can receive donated books.

The problem has been that it’s just way too expensive to mail books from the U.S. to Veracruz. But now it’s going to be just like mailing then to a friend—third class, book rate, low cost postage.

Our books-in-English-lending-library is a free public service to the people of Veracruz. The idea is that a great way for local folk to improve their English is by reading—and to get them reading we need page-turners, modern novels so interesting and exciting that you (and so they) just can’t put them down.

Here's the address where you can send used novels for our free public service Veracruz English Library.If you got an, or several, or a bunch of old paperbacks (but hardback are also great) and you don’t mind a low cost trip to the neighborhood PO, we’ll put your fun reads to use down here.

The address is to the left. It’s the original, no chance for a transcription error.

You can browse the library catalog at www.veracruzenglishlibrary.com. If we’ve already got a book you’re thinking of sending, send it anyway. Top-notch libraries need multiple copies of popular material.
by Eric, Jan/23/2011
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Veracruz

A Cool Hat, And You’re A Popular Guy

You wouldn’t think that all it takes is a cool hat. Well, just take a look.

What makes this hat super cool is that it says 100% JAR-8.

Say it out loud and it’s One hundred percent JAR Ocho. Pull it together and it’s one hundred percent Jarocho, the people of Veracruz.

The hat say JAR-8, and pronounced it comes out Jarocho--a person from Veracruz.“Too slick for words,” you affirm. “Cooler than cool,” you effuse. You’re right! And I have the proof.


Right there hanging out with him—wall to wall chicks.





Jarocho faces are painted all along the wall of this University.

by Eric, Jan/18/2011

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Veracruz

We Don’t Recommend Losing Your Camera, But If You Must…

It happened in an OXXO. These are Mexico’s equivalent of Circle K convenience stores.

Jeff set his father-in-law’s camera on the counter.

Purchase in hand (but not the camera) they walked out.

On vacation a missing camera is soon noticed. A couple of hours later they were back in the OXXO.

“No,” was the first answer. But Jeff knows Mexico, and so he asked another employee.

Jeff got Steven's camera back.  Jeff left it in a OXXO, and the clerk's kept it safe.I wasn’t there to record the exact words, but the answer was, “Yes.” An employee had tucked it safely away awaiting the return of the tourists.

Jeff offered thanks in word and deed. The deed was a 100 Peso bill that he placed on the counter. He got another “No” answer.

He slid the money to their side of the counter. “No” persisted. “No” prevailed.

Veracruz is full of wonderful people. To those working in OXXO the reward was the simple pleasure of giving back a lost camera to a foreigner.

Sure they needed the 100 Pesos; OXXO doesn’t pay well. But taking the money would have sullied their true reward.

If you simply must lose your camera, get to Veracruz as quickly as you can.

And then you too can thank the wonderful people we’re so lucky to live among.
by Eric, Jan/17/2011
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Mexico

With Broken Hearts

Sadness we can’t describe is ripping at us. We passed through the intersection many times a week. We shopped at the supermarket. We used to teach at Pima College. We know the medical center. We bow our heads.

Ugliness has overtaken so much of the conversation in America. And racism is increasing so terribly.

We support immigration reform. We weep about the hell along the border that exists because Americans buy illegal drugs. We understand the imperative of teaching children in a language they understand. We stand firm with the founding fathers insisting on the separation of church and state.

We know more about Mexico than do most Americans. We know wonderful truths about the people of Mexico, truths that need to help guide America’s view. We will make ourselves heard. We will push (as much as two worried private citizens have the power to do) to move America to a much better, more decent place than this to which it has sunk.

And, of course, we ask that you also help America.


by Eric and Linda, Jan/9/2011
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Veracruz

Eating in the Library

Or Reading in the Dining Hall. Either way it’s part of a growth package.

We moved our books-in-English-lending-library to the dining hall. It has more space. It’s closer to the coffee pot. It has more tables. It’s more accessible.

We also have two university students publicizing the library. They are going all over town visiting English classes in schools and colleges, and they are distributing literature.

Ron Wilson and his daughter Amanda are in The Language Immersion School's dining hall where the Books-in-English lending library is housedRon Wilson runs the library on Saturdays. Here he is with his daughter Amanda. By having native English speakers in the library, we double our effectiveness.

The basic idea is that if locals read page-turners in English their language skills will increase dramatically. Then, couple that with a chance to practice conversation with native English speakers, and you can see a homerun in the making.

We’re so very appreciative of the generosity of our donors. We’re at 418 titles and growing. You can see in the picture that we have more shelf space available …

You can see the library’s online “card” catalogue by going to this cut and paste link. www.veracruzenglishlibrary.com It’s 100% public service. It a small way we get to thank Veracruz.
by Eric, Jan/08/2011
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Veracruz

How You Know You Live In Paradise

Two years ago we went to Italy for three weeks. It was absolutely wonderful. And then, we were so happy to be back in Veracruz.

A year and a few months ago years ago we went to Chiapas for three weeks. It was absolutely wonderful. And then, we were so happy to be back in Veracruz.

A year ago we went to Taiwan for three weeks. It was absolutely wonderful. And then, we were so happy to be back in Veracruz.

In December we went to San Francisco for two weeks. It was absolutely wonderful. And then, we were so happy to be back in Veracruz.

A map of paradise--a map showing Veracruz, MexicoOur son summed it up. “Of course,” he said, “It’s easy to end a spectacular vacation when you’re going home to paradise.”

He’s a smart kid. (I made the map.)
by Eric, Jan/02/2011
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Veracruz

Leo, a Fishy Tale

And it’s a really big one at that. Also, it’s tail not tale.

Leo, a beautiful fish joins the staff at The Language Immersion School.The young fellow saw a beautiful, rust colored, fancy finned fishbowl-fish at the Mall and adopted him. Fish though he is, his name is Leo.

The paper coffee cup Leo was living in wasn’t the best of digs, and so the young fellow and Mari headed out to the pet shop in the old city market.

From the transparent-walled house they bought for him, Leo is watching everything that’s going on at school. Since he was unable to go to Canada, he’s the newest member of the staff.
by Eric, Dec/31/2010
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Mexico

The Ultimate in Grocery Delivery Machines

When I was a kid the grocery store had an old Cushman motor scooter for deliveries. The fish monger had a bike with school-kid baskets. As I got a little older one of the first vans built was pressed into grocery service. Today Linda and I use a taxi to bring home the groceries.

Here's a very inventive grocery delivery cart.  It was spotted at the zocalo in Veracruz, MexicoMy newly acquired perspective (gained, as you might guess, down at the zocalo) makes all of these old-fashioned solutions look terribly unimaginative.

Here’s the ultimate, along with the proud inventor. It is appropriate technology at its best. by Eric, Dec/28/2010
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Veracruz

Disaster! No Birthdays

It happens, and it happened again—we had a young one with us and nobody was having a birthday. That meant no piñata.

It’s not against the law, of course, but it is totally contrary to school policy.

So this young student could have a pinata, we had an un-birthday party during La Comida at The Language Immersion School.We were between a rock and a hard spot.

Linda saved the day by doing what every good mom knows to do.

We had an UN Birthday piñata party. by Eric, Dec/21/2010
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Mexico

Jingle Bells from Veracruz

We have no “one horse open sleigh” but we do have a one donkey scrap-metal cart.

And we don’t have “ice and snow” but we do have a delicious ice cream called nieve.

Juan Carlos plays Jingle Bells on the Mexican marimba.We don’t have Crosby singing “White Christmas,” but right here today we had Juan Carlos playing “Jingle Bells.” And we have high white walls that look like an Arctic landscape.

Click on the picture and you’ll go to the music.
by Eric, Dec/17/2010
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Veracruz

Clean Power

The power company is washing our transformer to remove the salty, conductive sand that blows in from the beach.For computers, we all use surge protectors. Big computers often use isolation transformers or uninterruptible power supplies or motor-generator sets to have electricity perfectly free of spikes and surges and other sine wave defects.

But in Veracruz we’ve got better than any of that. For clean, nothing beats having the power company wash our electricity. by Eric, Dec/07/2010
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Veracruz

Absence Makes the Heart…

For so long now, for some six or seven years, I’ve missed one of those oh so comforting, simple pleasures of home.

It wasn’t life threatening, but surely life diminishing.

Now the absence has ended. Costco gets the credit. I’ve been actively celebrating the end of this sad drought with such zeal that I’ve almost made myself sick.

Mari makes great desserts.  But once in awhile we need an old-fashioned, delicious pumpkin pie.

In an hour, we’re headed back to buy another.
by Eric, Nov/22/2010
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Veracruz

The School’s Key Man

From this little 'puesto' on a corner in el Centro, we get the best keys in town. In every organization, there is the key man or key woman.

I’m sure my blogs have made my level of importance here at school dazzlingly clear.

And so I know your first thoughts about who the key man must be.

But sometimes things aren’t quite what they would seem. by Eric, Nov/17/2010
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Veracruz

Precious Moments, Precious Memories

Linda and I went to the weekly concert at the White House, and it was touching.

The Casa Blanca aka Casita Blanca is the home of the famed composer and performer Agustin Lara. The small concert hall is decked out as a 40’s radio station in which were held live shows.

They don’t feature RAP at the Casita Blanca, and I don’t think they even feature Salsa. But you’ll find wonderful old Veracruz music.

We heard wonderful music at the Agustine Lara House this week.This week two young guitar players flanked the singer. She turned out to be 78 and was singing up a storm. In honor of Mexico’s 200th birthday, she sang patriotic music about Mexico’s long road to freedom and then she moved to pop music dating from as far back as the 30’s.

Sitting beside us was a family trio—daughter, mother, and grandmother. The daughter looked to be 45 or so. The grandmother was thin and frail and very slow moving. She sat motionlessly, leaning on her cane. Her face never turned from the stage, her eyes didn’t move. She could have been asleep.

The preciousness of the moment showed only on her lips. So very, very slightly she mouthed the words of the long ago love songs.
by Eric, Nov/13/2010
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Veracruz

Deterrence

Mexico really puts on a show. Careful design has gone into making cops look scary. The idea, of course, is to deter would be offenders. Cops are is overly officious uniforms, police cruisers look unfriendly, and to let you know they’re watching you, cops are always flashing their red lights.

In Veracruz, Mexico the parking meter police are now wearing this new uniform.Now that we have parking meters, we have a whole new group of enforcers and deterers (I’m not sure it’s not a word, but it’s the right idea).

I’m running a focus test.

Would this parking abuse deterer deter you?


by Eric, Nov/09/2010
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Veracruz

Check out this Halloween Costume

In Spanish a costume is a “disfraz,” and they’re as much fun here as up there. Masks, “máscara,” have a long tradition in old Mexico. Back on Monday, at about high noon, Halloween popped right in front of my eyes. Often there’s a fine line between fright and laughable.

I was as relaxed as I could be (getting prepped for a crown is not the lowest stress of all moments). The dentist stepped away for a minute, and then right in front of my face came this.

Dr. Gerado Pádron is one of Veracruz's finest dentists.I said, “What?” But my ears heard only a gurgling sound.

Dr. Gerardo Padrón is a superior dentist. The quality of dental care in Veracruz is excellent. The price is far below that in the U.S.

And after the gurgle of “What” passed and recognition set in, the chair, as always, was again a happy place.
by Eric, Nov/04/2010
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Mexico

Day of the Dead

In its way it’s a wonderful tradition. In addition to the sadness of having lost a loved one, Mexico also has a happiness of remembrance.

An altar remembering lost family members during Day of the Dead celebrations in Veracruz, Mexico Altars are built, and foods and treasured items are set out for the loved one to enjoy. Families have picnics in the cemetery. Today one family brought its guitar and was singing favorite songs along with their lost one.

It’s not from my past, and so I know I don’t really know the feelings. But somehow unlike Clementine—lost and gone forever—it’s like lost but always with us. And that’s very nice.

Along with the happy moments of reunion, there is a sense of being at peace with death. In caricature, skeleton replace skin, and the dead rejoin the living. And happy families celebrate their love.


Live size caricature in the zocalo are part of Veracruz's celebration of the Day of the Dead.
by Eric, Nov/02/2010
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Veracruz

Why Were They Here?

A marimba group was playing out on our sidewalk yesterday. I wondered why they set up right there—right outside of where we have the school’s marimba and where anyone passing by can hear me practice.

My first thought was they were cool guys and they wanted me to jam with them.

Ecstatic though I am about of my progress, I haven’t lost all perspective. My first thought faded rapidly.

Then I thought maybe some friendly neighbor sent them to give me a little comparison—a comparison that would shame me into closing the doors and windows when I practiced.

A roving marimba group is playing in the shade in front of school.Hurting or not, I felt I owed you a photo of this roving marimba group.

Doing right always pays off.

As I looked at the photo last night, I saw the answer—I saw why they were here. My spirits soared. They were there, right there in front of our living room, through the wall from our marimba, positioned for the whole neighborhood to hear and see, positioned exactly there because…

because in that exact spot they were standing in the shade.
by Eric, Oct/29/2010
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Veracruz

Good Things Come from Going to College

I was walking across the campus of the University of Veracruz. Linda is taking Italian, and I was headed to meet her.

A beautiful full moon is rising over the University of Veracruz.And turning a corner I saw the moon rising.

Another wonderful moment in Veracruz--hand in hand, carrying her books, walking my sweetheart home from school the pathway lighted by a full moon.
by Eric, Oct/23/2010
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Veracruz

An Old Mexico Floor

What a crew! What a miserable job! What a result!!!

Paula and Mari worked on it full time for two weeks. Nohemi and Angelica helped when they had time.

Down in a blog below you can see how tough a job it was. Once they popped the wood up, they were faced with the terrible task of removing the 1950’s era mastic that glued it down. It was like dried out tar.

With the wood floor gone and all the old tarry mastic removed, our old floor, now our new floor, is ready for furniture.Today we’ve got a beautifully restored, traditional, old-style Mexican tile floor in the living room. Nothing can damage it. It’s our new, forever look.
by Eric, Oct/10/2010
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Veracruz

Smiles and Tears—Both Saying Thank You

A woman almost eighty living alone; A woman in her sixties living alone; A young mother with two children; A husband so worried about his devastated wife; A young man still living at home, that’s the list.

They lost almost every in the horrific flooding associated with the hurricane. Recovery is nearly impossible down here. They and thousands more so needed help.

Our sincerest thanks to Anna and Charlie—past students and good friends—for an amazingly generous gift.

We made sure the money went where it would be very helpful.

Expressions told the story.

The women smiled, big thankful smiles. And warm and touching spoken thanks followed. It’s as if the help was an answer to a prayer.

The husband stood frozen. He expected no one to help, to help him with a terrible burden. He’s a nice guy, but he’s Mexico tough. Tough guys sometimes can’t keep a tear fully hidden.

The young man didn’t know that people do such very kind things as Anna and Charlie did. It took him a moment to catch on. He’s a fine, hardworking, dependable young man. He’ll catch on so well, that just like the women and the husband, he too, if he can, some day, in time of need, will pay forward.

Anna and Charlie, for helping in so generous a way the people of Veracruz, people for whom we care so very much, we will be forever thankful. And so will they.
by Eric, Oct/08/2010
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Veracruz

Good-Bye To Our Beautiful Wood Floor

Our beautiful wood floor with it new coat of urethaneWe worked so hard to fix it up. We couldn’t find a floor finisher, and we ended up sanding it with a four inch belt sander.

And then we couldn’t find urethane. So we used spar varnish. It didn’t hold up too well, but Home Depot came to town and brought urethane for floors with then. We sanded lightly and made the floor even more beautiful than before. All a labor of love.

Our beautiful wood floor with wavesThen came the hurricane. The wind carried in water. The water soaked in, the floor expanded, and it popped up looking like a bunch of moles had been tunneling under it.

Paula (the best maintenance person in all of Veracruz) took over. The wood is all gone, and the mastic is mostly gone, and the beautiful old tile is beginning to show.

The beautiful old tile isn’t beautiful yet. But by the time Paula is done with it, you know it will be.

Our soon to be beautiful ceramic floor tile with part of the (now) old wood floor showingThe next time nature sends a nasty storm our way there’ll be no damage. It’ll be like water off a duck’s back.
by Eric, Oct/4/2010
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Veracruz

A Testimonial from Within

Linda needs an Angelica or a Paula or a Mari or an Ada or Ana or Nayeli or Jorge or Nohemi or Wendy or Kevin.

What they do for our students she needs someone to do for her.

Linda’s taking Italian at the University of Veracruz in a traditional classroom setting. The Prof. is great, and he explains well. But she, just like everyone else in the class, isn’t learning to speak the language, or as we say, learning to use the language.

Once again from firsthand experience, we’re seeing what we’ve known for years—the traditional classroom is great for gaining knowledge about a language, but almost never does anyone learn to speak it.

So Linda is busy looking for an Angelica. She’s got two leads to follow up. That Linda is looking for an Angelica is a testimonial from within.
by Eric, Oct/2/2010
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Veracruz

Why Must There Always Be “The Rest Of The Story?”

We got home and stayed home, stayed safe. By staying home we didn’t see.

It rained heavily up in the mountains for several days as the hurricane blew inland. The Jamapa River flooded.

Carlos, our glass repairman, saw the water in his new home rise over four feet in about an hour’s time. Everything’s ruined. Thousands upon thousands live in Carlo’s part of town, Colonia Puente Moreno, and all with first floor homes have lost almost everything.

Paula’s brothers live there. The water in their house was six feet deep. Mari’s mother’s home, in Colonia Carranza, and her mother’s mother’s home flooded over three feet deep. Mari hasn’t even told us yet. The emotional despair is so extreme that many who have suffered don’t know how to ask for help.

The young man who delivers our five gallon bottles of drinking water lives out there. He was away from the neighborhood when the water rose. He stayed away for four days; he couldn’t make himself go see.

Reyes, who does our laundry, is collecting towels and rags and any old clothing from his clients—anything to clean the mud off walls and scrape it off the floor, and anything clean to wear.

Jorge spent the last four days out there helping in any way possible as part of the volunteer labor force. The stories are so sad.

At the same time life stops, it must go on. We thank all the powers that be that the school survived. We’re still in business and so the crew still has jobs.

We can offer Doña Vici (Mari’s Mom) and Mari’s grandmother a place to stay until they begin to get back on their feet. We can make sure our staff has enough cash to get through. We can give towels and clothes to Reyes. We can make sure the sweet little old lady down the callejon is okay.

As we do every bit as much as we can do our hearts break because our every bit as much is really so very little.
by Eric, Sept/25/2010
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Mexico

Home Sweet Home

Everybody’s safe. That’s the whole story. School is too close to open ocean, and so we left town.

Claudia said it was five horrific hours. Angelica after putting a brave face on the situation used some term I don’t even know in order to describe how scary it was.

The sea surge, we’re told by the folks in the corner store, brought sea level up six feet so it almost topped the seawall at our corner. Two more feet and it would have flooded our main floor.

It was a category 2, and the eye hit 15 miles north of us. I’m going to read more about hurricanes. It seems that we were on the side of the circulating wind that does less damage. It hit viciously up at Cardel, La Mancha Lagoon, Villa Rica beach—spots so many students know so well and enjoyed so much. Our charlantes will be a scouting party next fieldtrip day, and we’ll be able to check on our friends up there.
by Eric, Sept/20/2010
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Veracruz

A Work of Engineering Genius

Riding around on a tricycle with a large tub of what started out to be hot water, the corn-on-the-cob vendors have wandered the streets of Veracruz forever. But forever, by the end of their runs, their water has cooled and so has the corn. It’s still tasty, but hot is better.

And thus this work of engineering. Looking closely at this homemade 3-wheeler you see fire down low, like an old fashioned coal furnace, and a chimney above. There’s a barrel laid on its side, and in it you’ll find the cobs floating in water, all-day-long-hot water. A high-tech cart for the corn on the cob street vendor.Welded to the side of the drum is the condiments carrier—a slide out drawer with sticks, mayonnaise, chile powder (that’ll have you gasping for breath), and, of course, cut up limes.

It’s upscale thinking scaled down to the level of need. The first I saw it, I stood shaking my head yes. My eyes were fixed on this perfect example of appropriate technology.

There’s more to this perfection. See the steering wheel; it actually works.

There’s still more. All day long these guys cry out “Elote, Elote.” I’d be hoarse in an hour. But here, here on the marvel of engineering, do you see the guy pouring something into a small tank on top of everything? It’s water going into his steam boiler. Just like on old-fashioned steam locomotives, on this hot-spot-of-modern-design he’s got a steam whistle. It’s a small one, but it’s shrill and loud—and everyone who’s once seen him knows it’s crying forth his tech victory. It sings, “HOT Elote, HOT Elote.”
by Eric, Sept/13/2010
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Mexico

Definitely Unattractive!

I never saw one before. Nobody I asked who has lived only here in town has seen one.

But leave it to Nohemí—she was raised on a rancho. She loved it there. School was two hours away on foot. The closest bus was about that far away. Life, she says, was happy. And always interesting.

A shelled cockroach--cucaracha de concha--found in the underbrush in Mexico.

“Cucaracha de Concha,” she said. “Viven en el monte.” Shelled cockroach is what she said. They live in the underbrush. It’s about the ugliest bug I’ve ever seen.

But, I knew you’d want to see it!
by Eric, Sept/08/2010
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Veracruz

Neatly Tucked Away

A class spot that not in the main class area.What do you do when you close your main class area for construction? We’re lucky to have such a spacious facility. Facility is a pretty fancy term for our two side-by-side old, large, traditional, gracious Mexican houses. But it’s a perfect space for school. (Not to mention it’s also a perfect location.)

We just slid classes into available nooks and crannies and kept on going. Maestro Rafael got the main class area and the dining hall and the kitchen for a little extra remodel (just taking advantage of his being here).

We had several thousand square feet of air conditioned space left to work with, and so everything and everyone fit very comfortably. Here are three quick snapshot to give you the sense of it.
by Eric, September/04/2010
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A class spot that not in the main class area. A class spot that not in the main class area.

Mexico

Minor Surgery

We needed a little doctoring. We had to act before things fell apart. A layer was beginning to peel off and could come loose at any time. It was about one by three feet. I’d never seen concrete delaminate like that. I feared extensive major surgery.

It’s far at the back of the house. One of the finest craftsmen I’ve ever met, Rafael Bernabe, came from Puebla to handle the emergency for us. He did a little exploratory, and smiled. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In fact, for Rafael it was small potatoes.

But still the damaged portion was a foot and a half wide and five feet long. The re-bar was badly corroded, but, thank goodness, the concrete remained strong.

The hole in our roof where the re-bar had corroded.

Reconstructive work required opening it up to about a foot and a half by twelve feet. Rafael had to build a new crossbeam. It was The form is in place and the rebar is ready.to be seated on top of two existing beams.

At the moment he’s got the site all cleaned up, the form’s in place, and he’s placing the new re-bar. Tomorrow he and his son Rafa will pour the concrete. The patient, our wonderful old Mexican home by the ocean, will need three days to recuperate, and then the downstairs-outback class area will be all normal once again.

Master craftsmen are respectfully called Maestro in Mexico. Rafael is among the best of the best. In his hometown, where they so well know the superior quality of his work, he’s known as “el Maestron.”
by Eric, Sept/02/2010
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Veracruz

View from the Top

Not the movie, we didn’t see it. Instead I’m talking about the view from the top of the totally refurbished landmark Hotel Emporio; the view is incredible. The hotel is right down the street from us, and it and Hotel Mocambo are the two great old hotels in Veracruz.

The view from the rooftop restaurant of the newly refurbished Hotel Emporio.

The refurbishment of the hotel, maybe we should say the reconstruction since it took three years, was finished about a month ago. The view from the rooftop indoor-outdoor restaurant is dazzling, and it’s yours for as little as the price of a soda (or far far far far far better, a margarita).
by Eric, August/09/2010
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Mexico

A Master of the Marimba in the Making

I know you think I’m talking about myself. Alas, I’m not. But when Rick walked in and picked up the sticks, the teacher (the young, very talented Juan Carlos) knew he had a live one—a natural born marimba player.

Anyone is welcome to take marimba lessons. It’s a super fun extracurricular activity.

A student and friend, Richard is taking a first try at playing the playing the marimba.
Standing around listening, we were dazzled with Rick’s first time at the sticks.

As for how my own playing is coming along (mentioning this because I know you are curious)—it’s absolutely no exaggeration and fully fair to say that my hour a day of practice is surely helping out and I’ll let you know when I’m ready to give my first concert.
by Eric, May/29/2010
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Veracruz

Wow!!! Look at This!

I’ve looked and looked. For six years I’ve been looking.

This comes close to being a true doughnut. Twice for only a fleeting moment I found them, but that simply leaves one with a festering desire.

Yesterday we found this. It’s almost right. The icing is perfect. The dough is close. The overall flavor works fine in a pinch.

When, oh when, I ask, is Dunkin’ Donuts coming to town?
by Eric, May/28/2010
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Mexico

Talk About a Set of Keys!!!!!

Jailers have big rings with huge keys. Property managers have cabinets full of all sorts of regular keys. School custodians have a bunch of like-looking keys, and Angelica has the most beautiful, the most powerful, the sweetest, the most magnificent key of all.

When you have a job with benefits in Mexico you’re on you’re way to home ownership. Angelica had some home-ownership benefits accrued from a prior job, and now being with us for a little over two years, she had the purchase credits she needed.

Angelica has the keys to her new Infonavit home in Veracruz, MexicoAnd Saturday Angelica got the keys. There’s no way we could be as happy and excited as the new homeowner herself, of course, but still we’re very, very, very happy.

Not a work in progress, but instead a project in progress—Claudia should have a house in four to six months, and Paula and Mari will have enough credits late next year.

Four families snuggly tucked away in brand new, fully modern homes—thinking about it makes our wonderful life feel even more wonderful.

We thank everyone who’s come down. Just by being here, you’re part of making this miracle come true.
by Eric, May/24/2010
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Veracruz

See It Here First!!!!!

Don, our good friend Don Murphy, sent us our video, and it’s terrific. He’s an incredible cameraman.

He’s with Big Shoulders Digital Video Productions, in Chicago. We thank Big Shoulders very much for letting Don bring down over ten thousand dollars worth of first rate movie-making equipment.

We’re posting it here first. It’s the week in the life of a student. (But actually it features two students because nothing in Mexico comes out exactly as planned).

It’s a little too big on the screen to fit here, and so CLICK and it will open up. It might take a few moments to buffer.

We’re posting it in a variety of places.

My cell number’s on it just in case, you know, Hollywood wants to call.
by Eric, May/22/2010
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Veracruz

City Services

Veracruz prides itself on the public service it provides to citizens, and sometimes even we are truly amazed.

Yesterday we started walking home from the tourism office. And right there, in the shade, with a cool ocean breeze, on the wide covered walkway that surrounds City Hall, we stumbled upon a new city service, clipping the citizens.

Getting clipped at the Municipal Palace (City Hall) in Veracruz

Usually when you get clipped by City Hall, you’re talking about taxes or fees or fines.

Getting clipped by City Hall in Veracruz costs you nothing.
by Eric, May/19/2010
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Veracruz

Soon to Be Totally Infamous—Our Locksmith!

You’ll only be able to see him at appointed hours. He’s been in jail now for some time.

Our locksmith is appearing as a hardened criminal in Mel Gibson's next movie.  Part of it is being filmed here in Veracruz.They let him out at night, and last night he had our locks in pieces.

He speaks a little when he’s incarcerated. And although I’m not exactly sure what all is going on it doesn’t matter because you’ll be able to see everything for yourself.

I don’t know the name he goes by, but by remembering this picture   you’ll surely spot him.

Mel Gibson’s next movie, it’s being filmed in our local hoosegow, and stars (in our eyes) our locksmith.
by Eric, May/11/2010
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Veracruz

We Are Deeply Saddened.

Although we were raised in New Mexico, we’ve been residents of Arizona (teaching at Pima College) since 1992.

We are deeply saddened that Arizona’s legislature passed and Arizona’s governor signed the pernicious, narrow-minded, short-sighted, and absolutely foolish immigration law now so widely (and rightly so) under attack all around America.

But good for Tucson (our town) and Flagstaff (where our kids live)! They are filing legal action against the bill.

And good for the Phoenix Suns (our NBA basketball team). Today their jerseys say “Los Suns.”

And good for decent folks all over America who are telling Arizona that foolish, flawed legislation isn’t the American Way!

We know many people in Arizona. They don’t want this law. They know it’s wrong. They didn’t want the state legislature to pass it. They want it repealed or struck down immediately.

Arizona is a house divided.

The side that has forgotten about human decency, and treating neighbors well, and fairness, and actually solving problems—the side that has forgotten those things that make us a good people—had the votes one sad day last month.

We, The Language Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico, tiny though we may be, stand side-by-side with Tucson and Flagstaff and with the Phoenix Suns. Side-by-side, we stand with the America we love.
by Eric, May/05/2010
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Mexico

Back When I Was a Kid…

Yep, back when I was a kid, even a big kid, the milkman left glass bottles early before I awakened.

And for a few years he returned midmorning and looked inside our refrigerator to see what else we might need—butter, half and half, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream sandwiches (my contribution to the list).

Here in Mexico, we still have home delivery.

Milk is still delivered to your door in Veracruz.Fresh milk is delivered every day. It’s not too cold, and on hot days it’s not cold at all. Pasteurized—I don’t know. Homogenized—depends on the roads between his place and the city.

Based on the wisdom of crowds, we’re probably missing out on something really good.

But just in case the crowds might happen to be a little wrong…
by Eric, May/03/2010
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Veracruz

Patched Up on the Porch

The quality of medical care down here is excellent. We had to go in for a post (very) minor surgery follow up.

The doctor’s office is in a just completed new building. A construction crew was touching something up using an industrial solvent to which Linda has a strong allergic reaction.

So, for safety’s sake, we waited on the porch.

The surgeon came to to porch to check and re-bandage the site because we couldn't enter the building.And the doctor, a great guy, armed with tape and instruments and sterile gauze and disinfectants and sterile gloves and some stuff I didn’t recognize, came walking out the door.

Right there, right where the whole world could see (although we have to admit nobody really cared enough to look) he checked the incision and changed the bandage.

Veracruz is so special—even going to the doc’s office is a surprising and happy adventure!
by Eric, May/01/2010
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Mexico

Topping Off My List of Clues…

We’ve been here long enough that we can saunter up to a taxi, act cool, sound like we know what we’re doing, and get the honest and correct fare.

Lately something’s been going a little wrong with the price. And in fact the entire conversation in the cabs has begun to change. The taxi drivers are asking us how we’re liking our vacation. I have only one clue

These are great hats for sun protection, but they're bad for getting the right price from a taxi driver.

to follow up on. Lately, finally listening to the good advice of our good doctors, we’ve begun wearing hats.

You be the judge. Have I lost my “I’m-a-local-cool-guy” look?
by Eric, April/30/2010
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Veracruz

Adding Another Option to “by plane, bus, or car.”

On our home page we invite you to come down by plane, bus, or car. But now our corner is getting a little fancier, and we can upgrade this to read Come to Veracruz by plane, bus, car, or sailboat.

Construction is just beginning on the Veracruz marina for ocean-going saleboats and regattas.Off to one side of our open ocean at the end of the street the city is building a marina. The government thinks it can improve tourism by bringing ocean-going sailboats and especially regattas to town.

I’m skeptical. But I have to be open-minded; maybe having it will pay off.

More important to the politicians (I’m still trying to be open-mined) is that the ribbon cutting will look pretty cool on the front page of the newspaper. We’re only a few months from elections.

Long-term it’ll keep our open-ocean open. There won’t be a hotel or shopping center. Our view of the ocean will be preserved. We’re so relieved and so happy.
by Eric, April/14/2010
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Veracruz

“…I’d rather have class!”

Here’s a consider the source statement. It came from Joey, a young man who was with us last week. He’s in eighth grade and has been studying Spanish. After his first day of classes, the staff brought us great reports about working with him.

Tuesday at lunch he said, “I don’t even want to go on the fieldtrip. Class is too much fun. I’d rather have class!”

We and all the staff work hard to make class fun and happy and full of learning and excitement and be very focused on getting students speaking Spanish and feeling comfortable doing so and be a very positive experience.

When an eighth grader is so happy with class that class seems better than the fieldtrip, we’ll take that as being our report card.

We’re pleased and proud. It sounds like our classes are exactly what we want them to be.

And we’re proud of Joey. He’s a fine young man, great to be around, and he’s serious about school.
by Eric, April/10/2010
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Veracruz

Beautiful Guitar Music

They say that the worst live music is better than the best recorded music.

Luckily I’ve never heard anything near the worst live music, and so I can't attest to this.

But I do know that sitting in the office and listening to Jorge give guitar lessons is a treat. Beethoven, The Righteous Brothers, Jorge’s Guitar Lessons—the winner

Guitar lessons at the school are always available to students when Jorge has timeevery time is Jorge.

We’re waiting for things at school to ease off enough that we can slip over to Paracho (in Michoacan) for a few days and buy a couple of handmade guitars.

The guitar maker we like the very best is Salvador Placencia. He makes four guitars at a time in his little shop. They’re beautifully crafted and have a wonderfully sweet sound. I’ll get you some pictures.
by Eric, April/03/2010
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Veracruz

Double Parking in a Bus

We were cruising along, on a busy street, with lots of traffic, and suddenly we stopped. Right there, in the street, in all that traffic, with horns blaring at us, our bus driver double parked.

Look at the driver’s seat.


Now you see him. Here's our driver driving along.


Now you don't. Now he's not here, and we're double parked in traffic.


Our bus driver ran into this shop and is buying a lottery ticketThat’s because he hopped out and ran in there (you can see him) to buy a lottery ticket.


by Eric, April/01/2010
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Veracruz

Local Sausage

I was in the Mercado Hildago, the open city market, yesterday. I love that place. We were there looking for the guy who custom finishes Panama hats.

I found sausage—Veracruz Link Sausage. I know that to make links you grind a lot of stuff and stick it into intestinal membrane. I try not to think about what the stuff is or think about the membrane.

Two young men here in Veracruz were making link sausage.Sometimes you see things and just have to pay attention. I saw two guys pouring liquidy bloody goop into a funnel that opened into a clear tube. I looked closer.

There was a big pile of the liquidy bloody goop on a stainless steel tray on their counter. Link sausage housing were being stuffed with link sausage inners.

We’ve got to buy some and get everyone together for a sampling. I’ll let you know.
by Eric, Mar/29/2010
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Veracruz

That’s What You Call an Ice Cream Cone

Here you can get many brands of ice cream, and Guero Guera is probably the most popular.

Here's a tall ice cream cone from Taiwan.As happy as we are with our local ice cream cones, we have to accept we’ve been one-upped.

When you live in Veracruz, it’s hard to decide where to go on vacation. We just came back from three weeks in Taiwan.

And in Taiwan you can get the mother of all ice cream cones. I wasn’t even brave enough to try one. Linda made it a little more than half way through.

A little kid sitting close by put us to shame. She ate the whole thing.
by Eric, Mar/28/2010
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Veracruz

Somewhere Beyond the Sea...

That’s all the farther we stay with the song’s lyrics. This is all about a post card we found yesterday.

The Language Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico sits at the water's edge across the harbor from the historic old fort San Juan de Ulua.
It’s an aerial photo of the historic fort San Juan de Ulua, and the background passes over the harbor to the waterfront beyond.

So here’s the song—“Some Where Beyond the Sea, Are We.”
It’s a short song. I circled the school in red.
by Eric, Mar/07/2010
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Mexico

Captain of the High Seas

Actually Capitán de Altura is what it’s called, and it’s a big deal.

Carlos studied English with us and then worked for us while he was a student at the merchant marine academy. Tuesday, I attended his professional exam.

Visitors were allowed only to attend his presentation. The presentation portion is followed by a closed-door, cordial
but intense (viciously intense are the rumors) grilling by academy staff.

Carlos Atla, graduate of Mexico's Merchant Marine Academy is taking his professional exam.Here’s a snapshot I took during his presentation. The room was dark but his presentation was highly illuminating (even I learned a lot).

And of course he did excellently both with his presentation (I’m an eyewitness) and with the questioning (this I learned from a secondhand source).

He’s not capitán de altura yet, but since Tuesday’s success he’s credentialed to be as high up as second officer. Being a third or, even better, a second officer is a super job.

He’s with a very good company and, by all indications, on a career path to the top.

We enjoy helping the merchant marine cadets with their English. Those who study with us end up with great jobs. English is the language of the high seas, and being good at it makes job candidates especially competitive.

To Captain (almost) Carlos go our thanks for having been a super employee and our congratulations for success already achieved and for success that without a doubt is headed his way.
by Eric, Feb/27/2010
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Mexico

Riding High

I still haven’t found a marimba teacher. A guy playing on the street in front of the school showed me how to hold the mallets, and so I’m practicing scales.

Carrying a Chiapas marimba upside down on a taxi in Veracruz, Mexcio.I’m learning other things too, as I wait for a teacher.

For example if you want to take your marimba to a friend’s house to jam a little you don’t need to buy a pickup or rent a moving van.

Just, catch a taxi.

A couple of pillows attached for protection, and then it’s alley-oop, and your marimba is riding high.
by Eric, Feb/22/2010
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Veracruz

Here’s a Hot One!

And it’s available to everyone. Un Lechero, coffee so thick that it makes syrup look watery. And then choose your poison, super hot water or super hot milk. To be a lechero, as the name tells you, it has to be milk.

These guys are highly skilled. No need to slip back from the table.

Hot milk is added to super thick coffee to make a lechero at the Parroquia Cafe in VeracruzAlthough the first time or two you might feel your legs tightening and your heels digging in.

But trust comes quickly—a couple of super delicious lecheros and your legs will be as relaxed as a rubber bands at rest, and your taste buds will be readying for extra hot, extra frothy, extra tasty, extra special, totally gourmet pleasure duty.

Buen provecho!

by Eric, Feb/07/2010

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Veracruz

“Estas Son Las Mañanitas Que Cantaba…”

Mexico knows how to throw a party—we had not one, not two, but three birthday girls. We had a live happy birthday chorus. And we had live music.

And to top it all off we had a five (pointed) star piñata.

Sister Jude Ellen, Susan, and Channa were our crew’s honored guests.

A Party for Three Birthday Girls

And part of our crew was the chorus.

Part of The Langauge Immersion School's crew doubles a the chorus.

A party in Mexico is much more than just the party. The happiness and laughter begins before the party starts. Setting up for the party is a party. Running down to el centro to buy tres leches cakes is a party; hanging the piñata is a party. And still no guests.

Then the guests arrive (actually everybody gets back from the daily outing and comes in to eat). Even though the party has already been running for a couple of hours, it’s still a surprise party. The birthday girls’ (or boys’) faces light up when they walk into the dining area and that turns another great day in Veracruz into a very special day.

Before we came to Mexico, I thought piñatas were for kids.

Sister Jude Ellen of the Good Shepard Sisters helps us open the piñata to get to the treats inside.
by Eric, Jan/29/2010
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Veracruz

A Break-In Caught on Film

I got a great shot of the action. It was a classic break-in. I’m an eyewitness. He rode up on a Hell’s Angels motorcycle, grabbed a handful of breaking and entering tools, and began destroying the deadbolt without so much as looking around.

Click, not a computer click but a real camera click. Take a look.

Our locksmith is replacing a broken lock.  He's fast and he's good.

We’ve got some background on him. Rafael is his name. His wife is Berenice. They live somewhere up on the north end of town, next to a dance hall.

And he has a heart of gold, and is as kind and gentle a guy as you’ll ever meet. The dance hall, which is theirs, is a salon de fiestas—a party hall—for kids’ birthdays, and quinceañeras, weddings, graduations, and any other excuse happy Mexico can come up with to get together and have fun.

He’s a smooth operator, highly skilled at his trade. But his technique is a little noisy. Regardless he had the door open in less than five minutes.

And that was good, because we had a student showing up within the hour to use the room.

Maybe lightning will strike twice—if your room’s lock fails just let me know. Within minutes you’ll hear Rafael’s motorcycle. Watch him in action. He’s a locksmith extraordinaire. You’ve got a standard to hold him to. He’s a pro; it’s okay to hold his feet to the fire. He’s got five minutes, that’s it—that’s the time limit, to get you in!
by Eric, Jan/26/2010
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Veracruz

A Message to the Board of Governors of the FEDERAL RESERVE

You all forgot to send me a survey. I’ve got important info for you—hot data.

America is coming back. We’re living proof.

I don’t know how you failed to ask-- to send us a survey or call us on the phone or drop by. We’re as mainstreet as you can get. We’re a small but highly significant indicator. We’ve got good numbers for you.

The Language Immersion School has bounced back from the recession is running full.Here’s proof, a shot I took of today’s La Comida. There are no empty seats (except mine, of course).

Although it’s a different economy, we’re all one world, and here’s some good news for Mexico. We’re hiring. And we’re full-up for the next few weeks, and things are looking very, very promising for spring and summer.

Like so many, we weathered the storm. We were especially lucky. We came through unscathed. On behalf of all the crew we thank everyone who came down during these tough times.

And our thanks to all who are here now and are coming. It looks like we’ll be back to normal from now on.

But still many back home and down here aren’t back to normal.

It’s not okay until everybody’s okay!

Our hearts go out to those who weren’t as lucky as we were. We hope they’ll feel the recovery very, very soon.
by Eric, Jan/13/2010
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Veracruz

I Saw a Ship Come Strolling In.

It wasn’t sailing even though it was a sailing ship. And it wasn’t steaming or even dieseling. But it was riding high and moving smoothly.

The owner, who also was the seller, was very proud. It was hand crafted and perfectly matched to the slightly modified baby stroller he used as his mobile showroom.

A handmade sailboat is taking a stroll down the malecon.“Four months,” he told me. “It took me four months to build.” It must have been built from a thousand small pieces of wood. It was easy to believe it could take four months. (But it was just as easy to believe that it’s a mass-produced replica imported from China.)

Regardless, my camera and I, we got this shot and then managed to escape before he began talking price. Escaping before the pricing starts is a valuable and time-saving self-defense Mexico skill that takes years to hone.
by Eric, Jan/11/2010
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Mexico

A Doll's Party

We get our presents at Christmas, but it’s different in Mexico. Down here the kids’ big morning (or big night, the night before) is Día de los Reyes Magos—King’s Day. It’s the day ending the twelve days of Christmas.

There’s also a present for the whole family and friends who might be visiting, and neighbors who might be around. It’s the King’s Day Rosca.

The rosca is an open-centered oval pastry (or circular or a squared-off oval). Three colors of candied fruit lay on top. The colors represent gold, incense and myrrh. Inside the rosca are little plastic dolls representing el Niño Dios. The old story is that Baby Jesus is hidden in the rosca to protect him from danger.

Winner's of the right to host the Fevruary 2nd party at The Language Immersion School.The fiesta gathers around the rosca, and excitement and anticipation run high. Whoever gets a baby doll must help throw a “reunion” party, all the same folks are invited, on the holy day of the Virgin of Candelaria, February 2nd. All pretend not to want to find a doll in their piece, but I know better.

Lucky for us, our students are fully exempted from the party-giving requirement. We’re going to be full the week of the second. The party-givers, wonderful and understanding people though they are, might be just a tiny little bit upset sleeping on the living room floor.
by Eric, Jan/07/2010
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Veracruz

Sometimes You Just Have to Face Up to Things.

And what we just had no choice but to face up to was Facebook.

I don’t know how kids navigate it. It’s got more ins and outs and this’s and that’s and here’s and there’s than I’d ever be able to keep straight.

We (both Linda and I) have had Facebook accounts for a while. We got them some months ago so we could see what this new phenomena was all about.

Well, this afternoon, to celebrate the first day of the new year and the new decade and the blue moon, we started up a Facebook Page. A page (for those of you who know as little as I did a week ago) is a formal structure for a business or brand name or movie star (ah, we are making a movie about the school) or band or organization—I guess it’s for anything that’s not an individual or a group.

We’re off to a busy start, and already we have a lot of tuning up to do. But we’ve got our feet soaking wet, and we’ll be able to make improvements every few days.

People on Facebook have friends. Pages have fans. Coca-Cola has millions of fans. We might never catch up.

If you’ve got a Facebook account and you’d be so kind as to become a fan of the school’s Page, we’d be very appreciative. You can find it by searching “Spanish Immersion in Mexico at The Language Immersion School” in Facebook’s search box.

The Page is only a few hours old, and already it has two fans. Watch out, Coke!

Thanks to Anna Little for finding us so fast. We’re complimented.

And thanks to Linda (my wonderful Linda) for being my first fan.
by Eric, Jan/01/2010
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Mexico

One Room, a Loft, and Breakfast

In what is said to be the State of Veracruz’s most beautiful town, Tlacotalpan, a couple of weeks ago on vacation we spent the night in a very attractive small hotel. For breakfast they suggested we go to the “casa particular,” the private home, half a block down and across the street.

We walked in through the open front door, passed the living room furniture (all pushed together), walked past the empty area bordered by a breakfront and came to a stop next to the kitchen table. The house was one big room. The front half sported a sleeping loft.

Sitting at the kitchen table we waited our turn while the owner, chef, waitress, dishwasher, attended to orders written on scraps of paper sitting in the window above the sink. “Just a moment and I’ll take your order,” she told us. We had no idea we were an hour down the food chain (really the chain of food).

A delicious breakfast spot in Tlacotalpan is this woman's kitchen.The woman pressed homemade tortillas in wooden press and then “palmed” them to exactly the right size, set them on a stove-side table to wait their turn, laid them out on the “comal,” the flat skillet, spread oil and salsa, added cheese and sometimes chicken or chorizo. At the same time she’d have “empanadas” frying in the grease pot or bananas frying on their own pan.

She’s a production machine. Probably 30 styro plates of breakfast headed out the door as we sat starving.

Then came our turn. Perfect “picadas,” and terrific “empanadas.” Hot coffee strong exactly to our liking (that means we added crystals to the cup of hot water).

Absolutely delicious food, but even better was enjoying the parade of locals coming for their carry-out breakfasts. Fun conversation, happy people—Mexico all around at its best.

Tlacotalpan is one of our fieldtrips. The case particular, this unmarked private residence with the open front door, a hotspot none of us ever knew about, likely will become the perfect first stop when students bus down to this perfectly beautiful town.
by Eric, Dec/28/2009
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Mexico

Having Lost Self Control

We’re very responsible adults.

We’re extra especially responsible fiscally. Even though we’re smaller than we were a year ago (because of the economy and the swine flu scare) we still have eleven families depending on the school for their livelihood. We’ve very careful.

But self-control suspended itself (el autocontrol se suspendió, the wonderful Spanish reflexive that absolves one of all culpability). We travelled deep south in Chiapas and

For students who want to take extra-curricular lessons on the marimba, we now have a beautiful, full-size Nandayapa Chiapas marimba in the school.

bought a marimba.

But rest assured that this isn’t just any marimba. It’s a Nandayapa. It’s full-size, excellently tuned, extra well built, and a feast for the eyes.

And if it’s a feast for the eyes, for the ears it’s Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas dinner, and a Fourth of July picnic all rolled up into one.

Sometimes we’re a little slow on the uptake. Somehow, finally here in our sixth year, it occurred to us that we should be offering marimba lessons to those studying with us. It’s an instrument that is fun from the start.

So maybe it wasn’t irresponsible at all. Maybe it wasn’t a loss of control. Maybe it’s an act of friendship, sharing this wonderful part of Mexican cultural. Maybe, in fact, it would be irresponsible, now that we thought of doing it, not to do it.

I hope my being first in line to take lessons doesn’t cast doubt on anything.
by Eric, Dec/26/2009
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Mexico

Fresh Frozen Fruit

We spent several nights on the forested road that leads from the town of Palenque to the ruins themselves. On the small hotel’s grounds was a restaurant under separate management.

Tourists (after the economy fell and the swine flu scare hit) are finally beginning to come back, but only beginning. We ordered hamburgers (we’d eaten only Mexican food, which we love, for over a week), and (you’ll all approve of this) as part of a healthy diet, we ordered a fruit plate to share.

All they had, the restaurant owner told us, was cantaloupe, pineapple, papaya, and bananas. We told him that was great.

Preparing dinner had lots of stuff going in and out of the microwave—frozen French fries, frozen hamburger patties, it made sense.

Frozen papaya and cantaloupe.  It's a surprise sensation. Frozen everything is what it was. I exaggerate; the banana wasn’t frozen.

Microwave defrosted pineapple really isn’t too bad.

You might want to take two nice bite size pieces of cantaloupe, and two of papaya and put them in a deep freeze overnight. Then, when you’re really ready, microwave them so that they are partially frozen and partially warm. Probe them a little with a fork. Particularly notice the texture.

Chew slowly for full effect!

Why two pieces of each?

Because, misery loves, and in this case deserves, company.
by Eric, Dec/24/2009
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Veracruz

The Iceman (doesn't) Cometh

Way back in 1940, The Iceman Cometh hit the streets. It was impressive but heavy, I think. It was before my time. In its opening production, it ran 136 times (the trivia one finds on the net).

Veracruz has The Scrap-Metal-Man Cometh. I don’t know when it first hit the streets, but it’s been on a roll for at least the six years we’ve been here. It plays 365 times a year and some days there’s an early matinee and a late matinee (when they muscle in on each other’s territory).

The scrap-metal-man on his horse drawn cart is passing down the street.Old refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners—these are the favorites.

Partially intact wood cabinets are okay, and used mattresses are almost gold.

The cart has a sound system that calls out the production’s arrival. I like how especially bright the sound is.

On yesterday's run, the sound was bright orange.
by Eric, Nov/30/2009
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Veracruz

Harmonic Motion

You think about all kinds of things bouncing along the back roads in a third class bus. Sometimes a bump sets the bus oscillating a little. I start thinking about sympathetic vibrations and harmonic motion.

But yesterday, coming back from the ruins at Zempoala, it was good vibrations and harmonica in motion.

On the bus near Zempoala this man played a few tunes for us on his harmonica.We were all the way in the back of the bus. Coming from up front we heard the melody of Mariachi Loco, and then this old guy--I’m old enough that I get to say this now—this old guy stood up and began walking back toward us.

He played us three songs.
by Eric, Nov/27/2009
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Mexico

Bathrooms—They Seal the Deal

We wanted to study in Mexico, he told us, and we looked at a number of sites. Yours looked like just what we needed.

And then I read , he went on to say, deep in your student blog someone commented that your bathrooms were the best in Mexico.

I embarrass easily, and writing about plumbing can turn me red. But our drain pipes do work great. (I feel a little burn starting in my cheeks—a little red coming on.) In all of our 16 bathrooms, we flush paper. There’s no unattractive trash can sitting next to (as they say down here) the W.C.

Our staff does a terrific job, and we have a wonderfully high level of student success. That’s more reason than one needs to come down. Making it even better is Veracruz itself. The people are wonderful and everywhere you go you participate actively in local life.

What more? What more could we offer than excellent schooling in a great place with wonderful people all around, and lots and lots of interesting and fascinating places to visit, and tons of history and culture, and the Gulf, and the pyramids?

Well yes, that’s right, as a student said los mejores baños en todo México.
by Eric, Nov/23/2009
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Mexico

Danger on the High Seas—Right at Our Corner

Televisa, a Mexican TV network, was back. And with them came, once again, a make-up truck and a props truck, and trucks for lighting and power, and meal service, and dressing rooms, and STARS of the highly popular telenovela Corazon Salvaje (a soap opera), and the Spanish Galleon.

A replica of a Spanish Galleon is tied up near the Aquarium's dock. They needed rough water and wind and killer waves. They came on a stormy weekend and nature obliged with rough water and wind. But this is Veracruz, gentle Veracruz, and killer waves we would never have.

Well, we did have one. And it took a lot of work. On the dock at the Aquarium, scaffolding was assembled, a plywood ramp was built, a huge hinged water tank was mounted high in the air at the upper end of the ramp, it was pumped full.

The special effects crew build this scaffold to create the effect of a killer wave.

The Galleon was edged up to the dock. Lights! Cameras! Action! and then came the call for the Killer Wave. The water tank tipped, water surged, the ramp filled and flowed, and the killer wave flooded over the decks.

Such drama.
by Eric, Nov/11/2009
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Veracruz

As Close as We Can Come

You’ve heard of Water Gate (from the days of Nixon) and of Trooper Gate (from a much more recent time). We’re worldly, and we try to hold up our end of things down here.

This chicken could be attempting a break in, or it could be just dropping by. But our world is full of fun and happiness and gentleness and warmth. And so you can see how we’d have an impossible time successfully holding our own against Nixon and against the troopers.

Anyhow, here’s our entry. Here’s our very best effort. And yes it does fall short, but regardless, from our world in Veracruz, in fact from a front yard just down the street from school here is CHICKEN GATE

Veracruz won’t get on the FBI’s most wanted, but without question we’re up there. We’re first rate, blue ribbon stuff.
by Eric, Nov/7/2009
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Veracruz

A CFO’s Suggestion

A CFO, a couple of months ago, told us that no one ever explained Spanish as well as Linda does, and that no one ever had better learning and study suggestions, and the everyone should have the chance to learn from Linda, and, of course, we couldn’t help but listen to wonderful words like these.

She said that we should build a website so that those who can’t come join us in Veracruz can still benefit from her lessons. What else could I do; I got right to work. I’m pretty good with HTML, the standard website writing code. But the kind of site she was recommending requires PHP and MySQL. I felt like I was back in college working on a semester project that was over my head.

Linda prepared wonderful material—material that captures the calm, very successful style she brings to teaching. She prepared the right amount of material. It’s a month by month site, and for each month there’s enough to keep one from forgetting one’s Spanish and there are new things to learn. It’s not so much material each month that one would fall behind and become frustrated.

Now it’s time for “consumer testing” and a “beta release” and other marketing things I don’t really want to even be aware of.

I know Linda’s part is super. I hope my part, the layout, the appearance, the functionality lives up to what she has done. I have to test it. I have to do a survey—yep, I need a focus group.

A beautiful cracked pot holding a thriving small tree is taped up with cellophane tape.

Here’s the most aggressively I’m willing to do focus groups—if you have time and don’t mind looking at the demo and letting me know your suggestions (especially suggestions for improvements) I’d be very appreciative. The site isn’t designed for you (this is my way of saying I’m 100% not trying to sell it to you, please understand I’m not); it’s designed for those who can’t come to Veracruz. BUT, your feedback will help me greatly.

If you have the time, the site is at www.spanishwithlinda.com. On the homepage click on Demo.

This is our 200th blog. Good friends and bringing Linda’s new website to life make it an especially meaning milestone for me.
by Eric, Nov/2/2009
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Mexico

To a Crackpot Never, but to a Cracked Pot Why Not?

I’m not suggesting you do this to the friendly crack pot who lives down the street. But when super glue fails, here’s a cracked pot treatment that you just can’t beat. We stumbled on it last night outside an Italian restaurant.

A beautiful cracked pot holding a thriving small tree is taped up with cellophane tape.

Would we ever do this? The restaurant is a secret clue to the answer.

Yes, you got it--When in Rome, do as the Romans.
by Eric, Oct/30/2009
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Veracruz

15394

It doesn’t look like much, but we’re very happy about it. And, humble though we are, we’re letting ourselves feel a little proud.

It’s a Continuing Education Provider # issued by the California Board of Registered Nursing. We were notified on Monday that our proposed two-week course, “Speak Spanish With Your Patients,” has been accepted by the board. The course awards 70 continuing education contact hours.

Communication with “Spanish-only” Hispanic patients has two major requirements—one, of course, is being able to speak sufficient Spanish and the other is being sufficiently culturally aware.

Speaking enough Spanish goes without saying. Imagine what could happen trying to take a patient history in Spanish if one’s language skills weren’t good enough.

Culturally aware is more important that we might at first guess. Even the kindest and most empathetic of nurses can got caught, totally unaware and totally innocently, in a cultural bind. We’ll deal with Hispanic views, conceptions, misconceptions, and concerns about healthcare, and at a more general level we’ll deal with a variety of related cultural aspects.

The crew is delighted. In this scary economic period, it makes their world safer. And it’ll add new dimensions to their teaching.

From a business perspective we’re very happy. From a human perspective, we, too, are delighted. It’ll feel very good to contribute, albeit indirectly, to more fully patient-oriented healthcare for the non-English-speaking Hispanic community in the U.S.
by Eric, Oct/28/2009
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Mexico

Taking a Picture at the Picture Show

For those of us who don’t like violence, it’s hard to find a movie to go see. Yesterday we found an okay movie and a picture you might never see again.

The movie you can see—it’ll run for weeks. But the picture was with all its fun and laughter will never replay.

The camera was set on auto--the timer doing a ten-second count down. The scene assumed its final shape. I had no time to lose. It was now or never.

I did an old-west-sheriff fast draw. My Sony was out of its case, powered on, and aimed before their camera ticked away to zero. The laughter got even louder. My digital shutter snapped; their camera flashed and the crew cheered.

Ushers and ticket-takers and cleaners and ticket-sellers come together for a picture at the pictures.

Only in happy Mexico!
by Eric, Oct/26/2009
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Mexico

Just Saying Flour or Corn Used to Be Enough

“And your tortillas,” was the last question asked when we ordered at our favorite Mexican restaurant back home. Usually we said, “Flour.” And where we lived that meant wheat flour.

Down here flour tortillas aren’t nearly so common and about the only time we’re asked is when we order a queso fundido. It comes with flour tortillas, but they ask thinking we might prefer corn.

It’s all about to become ancient history. Now it looks like we’re going to have to start selecting from a list of options. If it keeps up we’ll have to run through a decision tree. Just look at this!

Corn tortillas now come flavored with chipotle and with jalapño.

Flour is still flour but for corn we’ll have to say, “Maíz sencilla, maíz con chipotle, or maíz con jalapeño.”
by Eric, Oct/19/2009
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Mexico

The Low Down on the Harbor

It comes so close to the harbor’s walls, it’s so big and fascinating, it’s so—well, you could just lean there and watch it by the hour. It’s a gigantic floating vacuum cleaner.

This very large dredger is vacuuming away the harbor's bottom to make it deep enough for the supersize ships that'll be showing up.

Veracruz is an especially busy port. From the front porch we’re always seeing ships coming or going. They wend their way (safely, thanks to good Harbor Pilots and accurate GPS) through the treacherous (but oh so beautiful) coral reef system.

Existing docks have been made bigger over the past couple of years. New docks that will be even bigger yet are soon to be under construction. They’ll be for the supersize ships being built today.

The new ships require deeper water. The harbor’s floor must be lowered. This floating vacuum cleaner is doing that right now.
by Eric, Oct/16/2009
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Veracruz

Beckoning Us Home, Safely

Well, not the us that’s you and me, but the us that’s our fellow humankind sailing for Veracruz on a dark night.

The lighthouse is on Sacrifice Island. It sits atop a coral reef, one of many coral reefs that make the approach to Veracruz Harbor so dangerous.

Fernando, a local fisherman, and a good friend, is taking Americans for a tour of the reef. From shore, it looks like this.

From some points out at sea it also looks like this. White light says, “Come this way; the coast is clear.”

Elsewhere it’s red. “Not this way,” it says. Ships headed for the red light are on a collision course with a reef.

If a ship runs aground, the reef will be battered and bruised, but always it, the reef, wins.

What for us is a novelty, a delightful, beautiful off-shore ornament, is a true lifesaver.
by Eric, Oct/15/2009
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Veracruz

An Octopus Hunter’s Tour of the Reef

Fernando is a “pulpero,” an octopus fisherman. He’s also a great guy, a good friend, and fun, and full of the happiness and wonder of Veracruz. Every so often he takes folks out for a ride on the ocean. That’s him at the helm.

Fernando, a local fisherman, and a good friend, is taking Americans for a tour of the reef.

He’s proud of his Totanac heritage; and the heritage is strong within him. I’ve never seen anyone so at home in the water, so able to commune with the underwater world.

On one outing a visitor was not only fully engaged in a medium size octopus but full wrapped up in it. He gives us a look at sea creatures I never knew existed--bulbous slimy rippled odd-shaped this’s and that’s, and long skinny things, and flowers that aren’t, and rocks that move, and more. Turtles are a special treasure to him.

He loves sharing this place, his ocean, his world.
by Eric, Oct/14/2009
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Veracruz

Lightning Striking Twice

A couple of months ago we had five students who, in addition to studying Spanish, were of service to the people of Veracruz in one way or another.

Lightning has struck again—lightning that lights the way to the future. The Good Shepherd Sisters have an initiative underway in the southern part of the State of Veracruz (one of many they have throughout Mexico). They are making big changes in the way of life of the many marginalized women and children participating in the project. (www.buenpastoreint.org)

With us, improving her already good Spanish, is Sister Brigid Lawlor, Congregational Leader (Mother Superior) of this international order. The Good Shepherd Sisters have programs is 72 countries.

Leadership for Mexico, housed in Mexico City, joined her here at school last weekend.

The Congregational Leader of the Good Sheperd Sisters and four sisters from Mexico joined us in Veracruz.

Bringing a voice to those who have been muted, bringing opportunity into the lives of those without opportunity, bringing options to those heretofore locked into poverty--this is kindness and caring and loving at its very best.
by Eric, Sept/19/2009
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Mexico

Happiness Is a Corn-on-the-Cob.

Not just any corn-on-the-cob will do. You’ve got to have a stick stuck into one end of it, and it has to be covered with mayo and fresh lime juice. Maybe it works the very best with just a thin, thin dusting of chili powder.

To this, to complete the recipe for happiness, all you need to add is a child.

A little girl is happily eating an

Magic moments fill the hearts of Veracruz.
by Eric, Sept/18/2009
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Veracruz

Gracias Having Fun

Gracias was born to work. Scooting around on the ocean is such light duty that she probably doesn’t even notice our weight.

But today she’s hard at it. They’re drilling test holes in the ocean floor just a few yards out from the fishermen’s dock. The dock is going to be totally rebuilt. Gracias, with Captian Jiniguero at the helm (steering her and shuttling materials back and forth between the shore and the driller’s barge), is their work boat.

Gracias is hard at work shuttling materials out to a drilling rig just off the fishermen's dock.

We didn’t rent her out. We loaned her to Jiniguaro so he would have a week or two’s work. It pays well.

And (we’ll believe it when we see it), the drillers say that their firm will give Gracias a makeover when the job is done.

There are so many difficult decisions associated with this project. We’re thinking maybe a sky blue interior with a oyster shell white outside. And then the lettering maybe should be a deep but bright red. The seats and the front deck… And the paddle, right now it’s safety orange. That’ll clash, and so maybe a pastel…
by Eric, Sept/12/2009
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Veracruz

Veracruz—A City for All Ages

Veracruz was right in the middle of pre-history; it immediately became important in Spanish colonial life, and it remains important today. But those aren’t the kind of ages (epochs, if you will) I’m talking about.

There’s so much going in in Veracruz. It’s a great place for little kids and middle kids, high school and college youths, young adults, middle adults, and (like me) older adults. It’s fun and interesting and safe and fascinating for everyone.

A couple of nights ago, a few students and Linda and I were walking home after an incredible a cappella choral concert at the Clavijero Theater. The zocalo is on the way home, and in it a statewide ballet folklorico contest was in swing.

Dancers were everywhere; photo-ops abounded.

Sister Brigid and Genny are invited into a photo-op with a ballet folklorico group from Cordoba.

Sister Brigid (Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd) and Ginny (just out of high school), as you can see, were “invited in” for a snapshot.
by Eric, Sept/06/2009
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Veracruz

A Great Idea Getting Even Greater

Our books-in-English lending library has over 300 titles, and it keeps growing and growing.

We’re about to expand our focus. The idea, credit where credit is due, came from Nora of Calgary. She bought a couple of children’s books (in Spanish, of course) to use while she was here. Kids’ books have wonderfully fun writing styles and word choices (especially the adjectives).

Nora suggested that we add children’s books (in Spanish) to the library. Books are so expensive that many families just don’t buy any. Having them available through the library will make it easier for moms and dads to read to their kids.

Nora donated the first two books (they’ve already had their first reader—I love kids’ books). She also left a contribution for the purchase of a few more.

The are the first two books in our kids' books lending library.

If you happen to have a child’s book in Spanish that you might part with, please email us. We’ll send you an address in the US or Canada of someone who can bring it (or maybe, as I let myself get carried away, even them) down.

Again let me say it, and I’ll say it a million times more and every time heartfelt--we’re deeply appreciative to each and every one of you who’ve helped the school be of help to Veracruz.
by Eric, August/22/2009
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Mexico

Four Hundred Years Late or Just in Time?

It showed up at the dock yesterday, the dock at the Aquarium. It was a blustery day for August. The old sailing ship worked at its mooring lines. Rather than secure its square sails to the yards (the horizontal bar from which the sails are hung), the hands un-tethered the lower edges and let the sails flap in the wind.

Columbus’s crews or Cortez’s or even the crew of the pirate, Lorencillo, would have known how to tie up the sails. This was a big clue that the ship didn’t simply arrive 400 years late.

Another big clue was all the video gear and movie-makers’ trucks and the 10 foot diameter propeller fan (for whipping up a storm), and the hustle and bustle, and even the limos, and everything else I had to walk through to get the photo.

A Spanish Galleon is tied up at the dock at the end of our street.

It all became very clear. The sails were flapping because it wasn’t deckhands handling the ropes, it was stagehands.

The end of our block is in the movies again. We’re going to be the setting for some part of a tele-novela usually filmed at the studios in Mexico City.

The setting of a soap-opera, that’s our new claim to fame. We used to be the setting of a commercial for a popular Brazilian beer. Our corner on the ocean is on its way to making it big in showbiz.
by Eric, August/21/2009
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Veracruz

How Much Music Is Enough?

I almost know. Qualitatively I can tell you that lots and lots is enough, but I can’t yet answer “How much Music is enough?” with exactitude.

Research, we feel a need to let you know, on this topic was diligently performed by Linda and yours truly. It took over three hours of staid, static research time. We suffered so you could know. Here are our findings in very graphic   form.

There were these guys, A group in Veracruz’s zocalo playing Danzon.

 

and these guys, One of three or four Norteño groups at the zocalo.

 

and these guys, Sometimes there are six or more marimbas playing.

 

and these guys, They all have names but we call them the red mariachi (shown here), the green, the blue, and the black mariachis.

 

and these guys, Here's another marimba group..

 

and these guys, And here's another mariachi group.

 

and these guys, Harp and jarana (and sometime guitar) for a Veracruz style musical group.  La Bamba is the best know example of Veracruz music.

 

and these guys, Here are the blue mariachis.  Often the lead singer wears a different color.

 

and these guys, Another marimba group is ready to go.  Notice the mallets.  The ball on the end of the mallet is uncured rubber.

 

and these guys, Here's still another marimba group.

 

and these guys, Next I came across the red mariachis.

 

and these guys, This norteño group was partially protected by an umbrella.  No telling why.  These pictures were all taken at night and it wasn't raining.

 

and these guys, This Veracruz group features our friend Guillermo on the harp.

 

and these guys, This group is kind of new, and I'm not sure what they play.  I think it's bolero and trio.

 

and these guys, The only double bass painted white is in this shot.  These two member of the group are trying to catch up with the others because someone wants a song.

 

and these guys, This solo player might be the best solo guitarist playing the zocalo.  He's the lead in yet another norteño group.We almost feel as if we know this guy.  He's the lead in yet another norteño group

 

and these guys, This guy is also new to us.  The groups seem to get more action, but thinking practically about pay for a minute, working solo has great advantages.This guy is new to us.  We wish him well.

 

And with all of them, all in the zocalo, all at the same time, there was ALMOST enough music.

by Eric, August/05/2009
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Veracruz

Help and Double Help for

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had folks down studying with us who are professionally involved with Veracruz (the City and the State). They’re doing fascinating work.

Dr. Rex Koontz, an art history professor from the University of Houston and Contador Manuel Alverdi, President of the Fomento Cultural de Veracruz talk about the Fomento Cultural's development program.It started two weeks ago with the arrival of Dr. Rex Koontz, Art History Professor from the University of Houston. He’s performed extensive, authoritative work on the iconography of El Tajin. His latest book, released in April, is Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents: The Public Sculpture of El Tajín. We've already ordered ourselves a copy. (Double Help—Rex has offered us invaluable guidance in our search for funding to help the Fomento Cultural de Veracruz. In this photo he’s talking with the president of the Fomento Cultural.)

Christina Hernandez, PhD candidate in nursing from UNC, is with us. She’s surveying local women gathering data about attitudes toward health. Her intent is to bring more culturally appropriate health care to Mexican immigrants in the U.S. We all know that health care is more than science and technology. It gets complicated working cross-culturally, and she’s working to ease these complications. (Double Help—she’s guiding us relative to licensing and training for our program to prepare nursing graduates of the University of Veracruz to work in the U.S.)

With pyramids all around us, it’s easy to forget that Veracruz also is home to archaeological remains of Spanish Colonial life. At school this week is a Krista Eschbach, PhD candidate from ASU who has spent time working within the City of Veracruz excavating early Spanish Colonial structures. They’re close by—right down in El Centro. One of her excavations helped refine the location of the wall that used to surround the city. (Double Help—she’s bringing us incredibly interesting information and stories that are greatly expanding our knowledge of and sense of the history we’re right in the middle of when we do what we refer to as simply walking around town.)

From the Univ. of Kentucky we have Kyle Mullen, a master’s candidate in archaeology. Kyle’s been working in the Yucatan this summer. His next large project, maybe next summer, will be working in the south of Veracruz on Olmec sites (Double Help-- in a year or so, we hope, he’ll bring us stories from his Olmec work.)

Especially reassuring to us is a safety appraisal of a recently retired USAF officer. In addition to other areas of expertise, he is highly knowledgeable and experienced in security. After a week in Veracruz he told us that this is an amazingly safe place. And the eight mile run along the water, where the school is and most school activities are held, is an incredibly safe part of this amazingly safe city. (Double Help—we have unquestionably held this to be true all along, but confirmation from one in the “know” feels extra good.)

And I want to be sure everyone remembers that Alli is here. She’s from the Humphrey Institute at the Univ. of Minnesota. She’s doing all the hard work down here for the Fomento Cultural funding project and the Univ of Veracruz nurses to the U.S. project. She has the books in English lending library under such good control that we’ve had her hand it off to others. Alli is a graduate intern. He work is a free service to Veracruz. Likewise, our language school is carrying out these projects totally non-profit--as a public service.

Running, side-by-side with Linda, an immersion school in happy Veracruz—what a wonderful life!
by Eric, July/28/2009
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Veracruz

A Beauty in the Bodega

On a regular schedule the crew goes through the bodega, the storeroom, and tidies up. In every storeroom there are treasures you just don’t need but simply can’t disregard.

A new one showed up last week. It was about 2 feet long but not at all wide—not wide enough, we thought. It was a vivid green, and especially beautiful. We wanted to catch it and return it to the wild, but it was too skittish. I couldn’t get even close enough for a better picture.

A beautiful but too thin iguana visited our bodega last week.

We fed it. We hoped that would begin to help with it not being wide enough. We kept spotting it for three days. The fourth day we didn’t see it.

We did an unscheduled tidying of the bodega. Nothing was left unturned, but it didn’t turn up.

Sometimes a little food goes a long way. The little bit it took to give the green guy a full belly is probably by now blocks and blocks on down the road.
by Eric, July/24/2009
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Mexico

Live Music at the Party

I heard it from down the block—mostly I heard the accordion and singing. I looked around and couldn’t spot it. It was the music of the northern part of Mexico.

I nailed it down. It was coming from a pick-up truck. Often families at the beach for the day play their music while they eat from their ice chests. It didn’t sound like a car stereo, it sounded live. You can almost always tell when it’s live. I crossed the street for a better angle.

I saw, and I innocently meandered down the street to get this picture for you.

A musical group plays while a family has a picnic lunch from the back of their pick-up

I got spotted—caught in the act—not red handed but maybe a little red faced—innocence lost. But Mexico loves pictures. The family started laughing, and the musicians got serious. They sang louder and played harder and stood straighter.

I snapped the shot. They toasted me with their soft drinks and waved good-bye. The musicians, without missing a beat, gave a formal little bow.
by Eric, July/22/2009
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Veracruz

Jorge’s Entrance Test

Getting into the university--it’s all decided by taking a test.

You go to the university, to the office for the major you want, you show them the papers that say you’re about to graduate from high school, and you ask for a “ficha,” a ticket. The ticket is your permission to take the entrance test.

Jorge got his ticket, prepared diligently, and on the appointed day he and about two hundred and seventy others went to the University of Veracruz to take the civil engineering entrance exam.

He called a few minutes ago. He made it. Here’s the url if you’d like to take a look-- http://www.uv.mx/aspirantes/publica09/documents/veracruz.pdf.

The University, on its website, publishes the name and ranking of all of the “aspirants,” to use the university’s word, who took the test. The rankings and the name of the student achieving the rank, are listed from the very best to the very worst. (Imagine coming in last. They also publish this in the newspaper!)

Civil Engineering had about 270 students take the test. The program had space for slightly over 200.

Here’s a little bit of the ranking page from the UV website.

On the small part of the page from the UV you can see that Jorge came in #3 on his entrance test.

You’ll see Jorge’s name.

AND

You’ll see he came in NUMBER THREE.
by Eric, July/10/2009
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Veracruz

Rushin' to the Ballet

We were late. It was my fault. We got to the corner and waited and waited (maybe two minutes, but when you’re late that’s forever). We had fifteen minutes to get to the ballet; the Russians were here.

The driver seemed very calm. You get a calm driver once in a while. I caught myself telling him we were very pressed for time.

Ambulances with lights flashing and siren blaring drive more slowly. I’d freed a monster. We cut into the space that didn’t exist between the car to the left and the car in front. He was braking and accelerating at the same time. We slid through a tiny opening (moving at the speed of light) between a car and a bus but didn’t scrape either of them. We pulled to the left curb to go right, and, zoom, we took the lead inches in front of two buses doing a double right turn.

We slowed for a transito (a traffic cop). They’re a bunch of crooks and never before have I been happy to see one. We got to the theater with nine minutes to spare.

A ballerina with the Russian State Ballet

This traveling group of the Russian National Ballet was absolutely sensational. It was so good it made the top half of the front page of the paper this morning.

We took a bus home.
by Eric, June/28/2009
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Mexico

A Guitar for Me

I’ve tried, on and off, for years to learn to play classical guitar. I have no great aspirations; I’d be happy playing, oh say a few mariachi songs, a couple of “trios,” maybe several US ‘60s pieces. Not much really.

And I’d like to add to that the easy to play Pachelbel’s Canon and for sure also Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. That’s all; I’d ask no more—just a few happy pieces and a couple of slightly more ambitious ones.

My problem is all those frets and so many strings. I only have two hands and ten fingers total. I’ve searched and searched for a solution.

The other night at the zocalo, I may have found it. My hopes are surging and my heart rate is up.

I saw this guy who makes a living playing his guitar. He’s an older guy, and so his music’s good enough to have fed him for many, many years.

And his guitar—it’s a wonder of wonders. It’s the answer to my hopes and dreams. It’s a marvelous synergistic convergence of art and engineering. It’s innovative but traditional. It can be played with only two hands and only ten fingers. It’s everything I ever needed.

A strolling musician performs using a guitar with three strings.

Count the strings.
by Eric, June/27/2009
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Veracruz

Canon, Kodak, Nikon?

A tradition in the zocalo is the tableside photographer. The photographers meander through the open-air restaurants with their Polaroid cameras.

They are historians of happy times, family times, party times, or lover times. They’ll crop and mount your picture in a keychain or set it in a bangle to hang as a charm from a girl’s bracelet. Families get the photo intact—big families need the film’s full width.

This guy was taking snaps, and his camera caught my eye. T’was not a Polaroid, and not a Canon or Kodak or Nikon either. Not an oak or a walnut. His camera was a Pine.

A photographer uses a homemade camera to take photos at the zocalo.

With it he plied the narrow routes between the outdoor tables taking photos and delighting folks with not “Kodak moments” nor “Polaroid moments”, but with the new kid on the block, with those ever to be cherished “Pine moments.”
by Eric, June/23/2009
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Veracruz

The Search

The Books-in-English Lending Library is open and growing and growing. Within a couple of weeks it will have over 300 titles and be headed toward 350. We’ve marked it off our “to start” list and moved it to our “keep it going strong.”

Funding for The Fomento Cultural de Veracruz is newly now atop the “to start.” And we’re ready to jump in and get moving on this, the school’s next community project. It’s at the top of the list because as endeavors go, it’s pretty much straightforward.

The Fomento Cultural is an A.C., an Asociación Civil. It’s like a US 501 (c)(3). It has tax-free status with Hacienda (Mexico’s IRS). And it is investigating adding tax-free status in the US. A provision under NAFTA allows deductions against US taxes for donations made to A.C.’s in Mexico who have this status.

Straightforward project, sadly, doesn’t mean easy project. Tomorrow Alli (the bright and delightful intern from the Univ. of Minn. who’s with us for ten weeks this summer) will be back deep in the data base of thousands upon thousands of US donors. It’s a needle-in-a-haystack search.

Alli’s doing a great job, and she’ll find the needle or several needles. Then we’ll buckle down to grant writing.

The Fomento Cultural does a top-notch job for Veracruz. They bring dazzling fine and folk art presentations to the City’s Teatro Clavijero. They are a spectacular service to the community. They, automatically since we’re in Mexico, have a very difficult struggle with funding.

So, for this top-notch organization, we’ll (or mostly Alli’ll) write some top-notch grant requests.

One day soon, one day when all the searching and scribing is done, when all the brain power and persuasive writing we can bring to this is packaged, when “it’s in the mail,” we’ll do what everyone does. With hope and highly positive anticipation and great expectations and a touch of worry and a dab of fear, we’ll cross our fingers, and hope, and wait for the postman.

And also, the morning after we’ve mailed it, we’ll (you’re right, Alli’ll) jump right into the next project to be newly atop “to start.”
by Eric, June/15/2009
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Veracruz

The Library Is Open.

Donated books from the US, and books left behind when students went home, and books from our own reading came to a grand total of 273.

For Veracruz that’s a lot of books in English all in one place. Last night they were all over the living room.

Books in English have always been a luxury. Most folks never could afford them. But starting yesterday, books in English, page-turners, became available to everyone and available free of charge.

We stopped by earlier in the day to tell the City Library what we were doing. The City’s top librarian at first simply didn’t believe we were making “good reads” in English available to everyone free of charge.

She’s so happy with what we’re doing that she’s supporting placing a link to our (and yours too) library in the City’s website. That’s high praise.

Even higher praise is that folks came last night and perused the books and lingered and visited and enjoyed the library.

And the highest praise of all is that everyone who came, a small but happy crowd, requested a library card.

How’s that high praise? (I’m anticipating that you’re asking.) Down here libraries don’t let their books out of the building. Books wouldn’t get brought back. So we’re charging a deposit.

In fact we’re charging 150 Pesos. Here and especially now that’s not peanuts.

Money never measures what’s really important in life. But that they paid the deposit says they were very happy. That’s a loud and clear indicator that the library is on its way to being a very big success.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed.
by Eric, June/04/2009
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Veracruz

Keeping Veracruz Safe

They stop you in the walkway just before you get to baggage carrousels.

A quick infra-red temperature-taking (no more old-fashioned mercury thermometers under the tongue), and without a fever you are welcomed to Veracruz.

Well, with a fever you’re also welcomed. But the medical team will assure you don’t have H1N1.

Medical teams at the airport helped keep the influenza H1N1 from coming to Veracruz.

As a precaution, all incoming and departing passengers have been checked since the outbreak occurred. We’ve had so very little flu in this part of the state that I’m beginning to think the virus just doesn’t like the clean smell of fresh ocean air.

Surely there are more scientific reasons for so little flu. One, now you know, is that the City (as well as the State and the entirety of Mexico) is being especially careful.

I took this photo last Wednesday. Friday night, the medical team’s tables were gone. They were also gone from the departure area.

The team being gone is another very positive sign. The scare was extreme. The response was (and rightly so) full strength. But the flu itself, thanks to all the powers that be, is mild.
by Eric, May/25/2009
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Veracruz

Stage Center

Alli Shurilla, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, has just stepped to stage center.

She’s serving her internship with us--400 hours of difficult and dedicated work. The first project we handed her is to explore funding mechanisms for the Fomento Cultural de Veracruz (FCV).

The Fomento Cultural, a not-for-profit, is under contract with the City of Veracruz to stage fine and folk art events. Most events are performed at the old and beautiful Teatro Clavijero. The FCV stages professional events from around the world and also stages lots of local K-12 performances.

A graduate student spending 10 weeks at The Language Immersion School is looking for funding for the Fomento Cultural de Veracruz.

Alli, on the right, and Arquitecta Maria de Jesús Diaz Rámila of the FCV are, I have to admit, interrupting preparations for this weekend’s event so I could take the photo.

Alli’s first few days have been a tremendous success. She’s already well liked (especially important in Mexico) and well received. We thank the Humphrey Institute.

Alli has what it takes. And that’s great because a project like this takes a lot.
by Eric, May/23/2009
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Mexico

The Queen’s English Rules the High Seas.

Or at least standard, mid-western, US, regular English is being spoken by some of the best Cadets at Mexico’s Merchant Marine Academy, and they and their greatly improved English will soon go to sea. One day these competent young adults will be Captains and Chief Engineers.

Today they’re gathered around the table getting better and better at the international language of the high seas—or spoken of less gloriously, they’re here in English class.

They are serious, hardworking students. Their English is growing by leaps and bounds.

Merchant Marine Cadets in English class at The Language Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico They’re great kids, and they’re highly motivated. To get the best jobs, they have to graduate high in their class plus they have to have a fine command of English.

The best jobs last year, and the year before, went to the Academy’s best who studied English with us.

Sounds kind of cool. (I know this is a sentence fragment.)

But we’re not proud that our “kids” come in first. We want all of the kids to come in first.

Truth is, it feels a little wrong to be the determining factor in who gets the best jobs.

So, our challenge is to find ways to be available to more of the top-notch Cadets.
by Eric, May/17/2009
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Mexico

Hundreds of Thousands, Even Maybe Millions, of Letters

Little letters, some capitals but most not, almost all black, forming words and sentences and paragraph and chapters, and telling page-turner stories.

From Nancy Krohn and her husband came our first box of books for the library.

What’s in a Box? Excuse my non-literary rewrite of Shakespeare, and there’s no great love tragedy here as there was for Romeo and Juliet. But there is the everyday small tragedy that this box helps to begin to overcome.

a box of books that is the beginning of our books in English lending library

Students of English in Veracruz have almost nothing fun to read. Just like you learn Spanish better doing fun and interesting things, it’s easier to learn English with lots of good reading.

The library is open to high school and college students who need “good reads” in English. The box (it arrived half an hour ago but we already peeked) is full of them.

It’s the beginning of a not-for-profit library. The library is a public service. It’s a way to help good young folks build skills that greatly heighten their ability to be competitive in an always desolate job market in a world of devastatingly little opportunity.

So what’s in a box? There’s great stuff--hope, and opportunity, and better futures for wonderful kids.
by Eric, May/11/2009
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Mexico

Just Like Back Home!

It feels just like back home. Some things have to be just the way they’ve always been, or they don’t quite work.

Happy Mother’s Day to every mom every where. And, of course, a very special and personal happy Mother’s Day from me to Linda.

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is always on the 10th of May. This time (tomorrow to be exact) it falls on Sunday.

Mother’s Day back home, back through all our loving memories, was on Sunday. Last year down here it was on Saturday, and on Thursday the year before. It just didn’t feel quite right.

Already today, tomorrow feels perfect. And I hope perfect describes the day every Mom will have.
by Eric, May/9/2009
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Veracruz

Out on the Town!!!

Yep! Last night we were out on the town.

There were people everywhere. And music, and dancing, and dining, and partying and all that amazing regular Veracruz stuff. There were families and extended families and friends and even one couple that looked to be on a first date. (They seemed to be very nice kids; we’re rooting for them. Yes, but okay, it’s none of our business. However happiness in the making, you know, you can’t not, well…)

Anyhow, how do you mind your own business out on the town. You visit with the tables next to you. The waiters want to talk. The taxi drivers talk faster and faster as they drive faster and faster. They’ll throw you a curve as they jump lanes. The street vendors are ignited. You have to tell them no thanks two times or maybe even three.

The marimbas, the harps and jaranas, the mariachis, the salsa groups, they were all there.

Most important of all, just regular old everybody was everywhere. Even happy people get scared. But they get over it fast, and just as fast they get back to what makes Veracruz so special.
by Eric, May/03/2009
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Veracruz

Even the Sea Urchins Stayed Home

Here in Veracruz we’re all okay. There’s almost no influenza. But around town it’s a little eerie.

Yesterday a student went to Sacrifice Island and Cancuncito. Cancuncito has white sand, brain coral, colorful fish, and so many black spiney’s, so many sea urchins, that it can be dangerous to walk around in the surf.

Yesterday it wasn’t dangerous. The sea urchins must have stayed home. Today almost everybody has stayed home. Around town it’s quieter than Christmas morning.

Buses are almost empty, and so are restaurants. There are no tourists, and you hardly pass anyone on the sidewalks.

The aquarium is closed. It’s never been closed.

Walking around you don’t hear the happy sounds of Spanish or the fun and friendly talk of families and friends. Pretty much, you don’t hear anything.

Quiet Veracruz—it feels injured. But the Sea Urchins are right. Today, and tomorrow and for some more tomorrows after that, we hope everyone who can will stay home. We hope everyone will stay extra safe.
by Eric, April/30/2009
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Mexico

Very Sad News from Veracruz

The sound of things is that the new flu strain came from the western edge of the State of Veracruz. I could say that we in the City of Veracruz are lucky, but lucky isn’t the right term when people are getting hurt.

The village the authorities suspect to be the origin of the flu is closer to the City of Puebla and to Mexico City than to Veracruz. That would explain the flu going in that direction instead of coming here.

Sadly, it will be everywhere. Until we know where it’s headed we’re advising folks not to come down. We’ll be sending out emails starting today.

Here comes the wrong word again. Luckily for us, we’re especially close to the clean breezes coming in off the ocean. We’re not in a crowded part of town, and we have lots of open airy space inside the school’s facility. We should be fine.

Being fine isn’t enough when many around us will be in trouble. So today the question we’re trying to figure out is how can we help our neighbors and their neighbors and so on across town without putting ourselves at risk.

We’re confident we’ll find the way.
by Eric, April/28/2009
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Veracruz

The Artist Agreed

A few days back we uploaded some pronunciation and vocabulary videos we made. They’re designed to offer a head start to those just starting out with Spanish.

The voice, but you’ll have to agree that still counts as being the performing artist, is one of our own. It’s Jorge. In addition to his already full curriculum, he’s taking guitar, music theory, and chorus. We asked if we might post his picture; it’s nice to know to whom you’re listening. Modestly, the artist agreed.

Jorge, the voice of our online vocabulary and pronunciation videos

Most of Jorge’s hours with us are on the weekend. When no one wants to practice Spanish, he practices using the “house” guitar.

It’s a catch-22. He’s there to practice with you. But sometimes students don’t want to practice. They just want to sit there…and become invisible…and listen.

Culture is an important part of immersion. Culture adds richness and fullness (and anyhow, it’s how we rationalize our way out of the catch 22).

And also, thankfully, there’s this. Jorge is a very responsible young adult. After awhile, after responsibility has nudged him just the tiniest tad, he sets down the guitar, and much to the chagrin of the invisible whoever’s there with him is practicing Spanish.
by Eric, April/24/2009
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Mexico

It’s in the Mail!

Although it’s not a good thing to hear about a check—“Your check is in the mail, trust me”—it’s great news about a box of books. And, trust me, it’s true. A box of books is moving our way.

The books aren’t for us. They’re for local kids, high school and college kids. English is part of the curriculum at most schools, but there’s almost nothing in English for them to read.

It’s a problem with which we can help. Nancy Krohn (who studied with us in March) and her husband have shipped this box of books. We’re deeply appreciative.

We’re going to ask everyone coming down who has some extra books (fiction and nonfiction, hardback and paperback) to bring a few if they can.

We’d like to get, maybe I’m dreaming, a thousand titles, a thousand interesting reads.

It’ll be a Lending Library Plus. We want to get kids reading. If they read, their English skills will grow by leaps and bounds.

So in addition to plain old shelves (heaped high with wonderful books), we’re thinking of having tables and cookies and juice and coffee so they can relax and peruse to their hearts’ content. A good cookie helps in finding the right book to check-out, in finding a page-turner to read cover-to-cover with gusto.

We’ll have to charge a deposit, or the books won’t come back. We’re realists. The deposit will be a fully refundable, to be returned when they surrender their cards.

Having a lending library to help the youth of Veracruz is a way to thank Mexico for letting us be here.
by Eric, April/23/2009
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Veracruz

We Bought a Top of the Line HD Video Cam, and It Didn’t Work.

Yes, we bought a beauty of a video cam. It’s a tremendous camera. We bought it to make pronunciation and vocabulary videos for beginners, and it didn’t work, at all.

State of the art, high dollar, high definition, and fancy simply wasn’t the answer.

So we started going through options. We considered using a production company. The videos have to be useful and at least not unattractive. We talked to some college kids and thought about trying to get our videos to be a college classroom project.

We considered a big online learning platform like eCollege or Blackboard or WebCT or the freeware, Moodle. How hard did it have to be?

All we were after was letting very beginners learn some useful vocabulary and get a handle on pronunciation before coming down. This will give them such a head start. We’ll start using the vocabulary they learn right from their first minutes of class.

It was just too good an idea to let die. But we’d been fighting with it for six months.

Then national news hit. A guy named Khan was putting math videos on You-Tube, and they were helping a lot of kids. We watched one. It was very clear, very straight forward, and very successful.

We were ready to tap out our bank account to buy the technology, whatever it might have been.

I emailed him—a little gutsy, even maybe presumptuous—but we had to know his secret.

“Screen capture,” he said, “there are many free programs.”

It worked great!

To see it, all you have to do is click “Online Pronunciation and Vocabulary” up on the navigation bar, and then scroll down and click a lesson, a free lesson, made on a free program, in our free time (while our video camera sits on a shelf, free from use).
by Eric, April/19/2009
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Veracruz

Five Gallon Plastic Friend

There we were cruising along. And then, there we were, parked.

We were parked right in the middle of the road, way out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around but beautiful vistas.

The driver hopped off the bus. And so did his money-taker. Pretty soon thereafter, I did too. And I went reaching for my camera like a gun-fighter for his six-shooter.

They had a branch stuck in the gas tank.

using a tree branch to check for diesel

It was a dipstick-tree-branch. They were dip-sticking for diesel. It came out dry.

A diesel-stained five gallon plastic container was at the ready, and off it (and the money-taker and another guy) went.

A little more than an hour later they topped the hill coming back.

coming over the hill and down the road with five gallons of diesel

In moments the party was over we were on our way.
by Eric, April/12/2009
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Mexico

Eighteen Half Moons

Sounds kind of mystical or even a little hippie. It’s not. Could it be the name of some fancy boutique resort? Could be, but it’s not. Maybe it’s a page from a coloring book teaching kids to count. Great guess. But not right.

It’s all about great taste. These are the food specialty of Pachuca, Mexico, and they’re delicious.

Eighteen half moons with markings show the different flavors of Pasties Pasties ready for lunch

Pachuca is a mining region, and long ago miners from England were brought over to work. With them they brought the Cornish meat turnover. The half moon sketch in the upper left corner is my favorite, the minero (the miner). It’s filled with beef, potatoes, and green chili. Linda likes the mole verde. I can’t even begin to figure out its filling.

To jazz up the selection, Veracruz has added some new fillings—chorizo and potato, ham and cheese, and a rice pudding dessert treat among others. Regardless, as is almost always so, nothing beats the originals.

In English the turnover is called a pasty, and here in Mexico that became paste. If you look closely at the picture of the pastes (I have to say it in Spanish) you’ll see the marks and then you can use the sketch to see what we’re having for lunch.
by Eric, Mar/28/2009
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Mexico

There’s Always Action on the Bus.

Back home the city bus is a pretty dull ride. It in Mexico, the bus is where it’s at. You never know what, but something good is sure to happen. We were riding home from the office supply, and a kid hopped on.

He started talking, and we heard him. We were more than halfway to the back. The bus was noisy, and he was clear as a bell. He wanted to sell us (all of us on the bus) a CD for only twenty pesos.

Music started playing, clear as could be. He said a song title, and the music jumped to a new song.

He turned to the driver and we understood.

A homemade backback, battery powered sound system

If this doesn’t take your breath away, I just don’t know what will.

“What could be next?” you might wonder.

Imagine matched kids hopping in the front and back doors at the same time. Yep, bus aisle stereo.
by Eric, Mar/21/2009
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Mexico

Any Idea Who “Bei Duo Fen” Might Be?

The accents aren’t there because I don’t know how to put them, and so figuring out who this might be is extra tough. It’s Pinyin, and it came up in a Mandarin (Chinese) class.

Mandarin is tough to pronounce, but now knowing what language it’s in can you guess at the name?

The Chinese characters are no help at all. But here it is with the good old Latin alphabet also. (I took a snapshot of the corner of a page where it was written.)

Beethoven written in Chinese characters, Ping Yin, and in English

We were talking about hearing his Ninth performed by the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra a few weeks ago. The Mandarin teachers said “Who?” Beethoven, it seems, isn’t all that easy a name for native-Chinese-speakers to hear.

It’s pronounced, as close as we can get in English, BAY DWO FEN. “But the music,” we were told, “is the same.”
by Eric, Mar/16/2009
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Mexico

Ceci’s Back At Work, and Her Baby Has Great Day Care.

We’re happy to announce that Ceci is back teaching. Her maternity leave was totally successful. Little Miguel is doing great. Ceci’s back at full speed.

Remember a day a grandma’s. They were great days. Or the days we visited our aunts. Wonderful times. And once in a while our cousins or a great aunt. Or that special of special times, our great grandmother. It’s all such special memories that it has me writing in sentence fragments.

Imagine the wonderful day that each day will be for baby Miguel. The extended family in Mexico is the world’s best day care. Playing with grandmom, play with aunts and grand-aunts, keeping the cousins entertained, a baby in Mexico goes to child care by staying home.

And every best of days has the best moment of all. Amidst all this happiness baby Miguel gets passed into his mother’s arms and loved and cuddled and tenderly held…until maybe a cousin wants another turn, or maybe great grandmom.

Ceci’s back, but to little Miguel it’s like she never left.
by Eric, Mar/02/2009
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Mexico

Strolling Guitars for Strolling Minstrels

This is the kind of thing you never think about. It’s one of those you-get-the-answer-before-you-get-the-question. The answer made itself known, and so we’re starting with the question. Where do strolling minstrels buy their strolling guitars?

We were in the copy shop in El Centro. We turned to the street, and there strolled the answer. More clearly, there stood the answer.

Strolling guitars come from

a strolling guitar seller in El Centro in Veracruz

strolling guitar sellers.
by Eric, Feb/28/2009
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Veracruz

Carnaval’s Over, and We’re Cleaning Up, and Cleaning Up, and Cleaning Up…

Carnaval is a huge party. And it's more fun than you can imagine. And it’s more of a mess than you can imagine. Trash is generated by the ton, especially along the parade route. And that, of course, is where the school is. There’s no better place to be; there’s no messier place to be.

We go to every parade; one we go to in person and sit in the grandstands in happy awe. The other five we go to by simply staying home.

We walk out onto the front deck, and we see it. We go anywhere in the school building, and we hear it and feel it.

The walls vibrate, they’re brick. The floors vibrate, they’re concrete. And the windows seem like they’re about to explode from their frames.

We close for Carnaval. It’s easy to guess why.

But back to the tons of trash. We stay closed for a few days after the parades are over. We’re closed for cleaning.

City crews flood the parade route. And they flood the waterfront neighborhoods from the boulevard for three and four blocks inland.

The city crews have dump trucks and 55 gallon drums on 2-wheeled dollies, and everywhere they’re sweeping and shoveling. It takes a couple days to get it all.

Cleaning up after Carnaval

The parades ended Tuesday night and already the street is presentable again. Tomorrow it will be its normal impressively clean self.

Students will arrive this weekend; classes start Monday. Maybe here and there around the neighborhood they’ll spot some small bits of brightly colored confetti stuck in crevices and corners. But that’s it. That’ll be the only evidence left of the wonderful (and oh so loud) week we had.
by Eric, Feb/26/2009
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Mexico

Attending Beethoven’s Ninth and Many Weddings All in One Day—We Were Very Busy.

The world-class Xalapa Symphony Orchestra was in town performing at Veracruz’s beautiful Teatro Clavijero. We had second level box seating fully distant from the stage. Fully distant in this small-scale European style opera house is 16 rows back from the stage. The performance was incredible, magnificent, magical, delicious, triumphant, spectacular, and add your favorite superlatives, add fifty or sixty. What a concert!

And what a close to a wonderful day. We played hooky from school, and spent much of the day at a high window overlooking the zocalo. We saw the city assemble a stage with a head table 16 people wide, even in Mexico this is a lot. Then they set out what looked like seven hundred or eight hundred chairs (but our guess was low).

They fully draped each chair in lush white fabric. They brought floral arrangements; they set up a huge sound system. A flock of reporters were roaming around. The chairs filled. The head table filled. The Municipal President spoke. The P.A. system was highly distorted. The sound reverberated from hotel walls and restaurant walls, and off the cathedral, and off the Municipal Palace. It was almost impossible to understand.

But marriage vows are universal and “mujeres” followed by a short, resonating paragraph, and then “hombres” followed by another were marriage vows if ever we heard them. Good cheer and music followed, and then an old couple crossed to the middle of the stage and stopped, and bent over, and from our distant vantage point it seemed they signed. And then another old couple and then another, and then more--young couples, couples middle aged, older couples, some brides in wedding gowns but most in their Sunday best, they kept coming and coming and coming. We gave up counting.

In this collective wedding, 650 couples tied the knot.

the Xalapa (Jalapa) Symphony Orchesta prepares to perform Beethoven's Ninth, and 650 couples tie the know at a collective wedding in Veracruz, Mexico

What would ever serve to top of the evening after joining 650 proud and happy couples? What could ever top off a cultural moment so touching and at the same time so exciting?

Little could, for sure, but what evening is there, anywhere in the world, that isn’t perfectly concluded by Beethoven’s Ninth.

We watched the wedding, watched on and off, together, Linda and I, from our hotel room balcony across the street from the zocalo. And together, but together alone yet surrounded by a packed house, we attended the concert. What wonderful, unforgettable gifts Veracruz gave us on our anniversary.
by Eric, Feb/14/2009
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Veracruz

Happy New Year!!! Happy Birthday!!! And “Hen Hao”

Chinese New Year started at noon on Sunday our time, and we had a happy celebration with the young women from Taiwan who are with us right now. Today is one having a birthday, and we had a traditional Mexican piñata party. Hen Hao (it’s missing the accent marks) says Very Good—our progress at learning Chinese is “very good.”

Young women from Taiwan studying Spanish and teaching us some Mandarin while they are here

The girls are a pleasure to have here at school with us. They’re learning Spanish at warp speed. We’re coming along very well with our Chinese study. Linda and I hope to visit China one day, and being able to speak some Mandarin (the official one of China’s more than 100 dialects) will make our trip so much better.

Their chosen English names are Elena and Penelope (left to right). Their real names are (again the accents are missing) Xiao-Fan Chang and Pei-Shan Chiang. They’ve been friends since high school. Elena graduated in architecture and Penelope in psychology. They are a credit to their families. We congratulate their parents.

In order to help myself learn the hard-to-form sounds of Chinese, I’ve been making videos of their lessons. The videos are great to study by. You can find them by going to our Mandarin page and clicking on the link. I’m headed there now for more (and more and more and more and more) pronunciation practice.
by Eric, Dec/28/2009
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Veracruz

We’re Going To Be Grandparents

No, Ceci hasn’t had her baby. But she will any day now, and we’ll let you know right away. Ceci’s baby will have a wonderful bisabuela here in town, a wonderful great-grandmother, and we’ll be close and supportive friends of the family.

We’re going to be grandparents to triplets, or maybe even quadruplets.

We’ll have to wait to know. Their mom hasn’t moved aside long enough for us to peak.

Soon we'll be grandparents to some baby birds

They're right outside the door to the upstairs front terrace. She's got a great view of the ocean.

We’ll just stand back for now and wait for babies to be born. Then to know if they're triplets, or quadruplets, or even quintuplets, we’ll count the tiny beaks raised high to caring parents.
by Eric, Jan/07/09
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Mexico

Music to Our Ears

Families and group of friends were walking down the street and laughing and singing. The City lighted the sky with a beautiful and very loud fireworks display. (It came from behind the aquarium, and you could see it all from the balconies and front deck.)

And then even better, New Year’s day afternoon Ali (from England but she’s spent the past year and a half teaching in Mexico) walked into our office and all smiles said, “Today I can talk in Spanish without thinking.” So good to hear—after only a week, her intermediate Spanish is suddenly flowing without pre-thinking.

Last year ended sounding just right too. “This is the nicest place I’ve ever been,” said an author of a book to be released next month (we got to read a proof) . And a week or so before that a retired accountant said, talking about the outings and fieldtrips, “The people who have a seven-day bus tour never get to do anything like this.”

Everywhere has its own special sounds. And these sounds, sounds that say school is as successful and fun and friendly as we work hard for it to be, are extra special to Linda and me.
by Eric, Jan/02/09
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Veracruz

A New Business for the New Year

Not a new business for us, the school has us busier than busy can be—it’s a good thing we enjoy it so much. We wish you the happiest of New Years.

But back to business: this is the first business venture for its owner. And its owner is one of our own. Paula has been saving part of her pay every month for the last three years.

This week she used some of her savings and bought a pick-up. She’s contracted for a sales and delivery route with the Veracruz office of soft drink bottler.

She’s staying with us, thank goodness, and we hope entrepreneur or not that she stays with us forever. She has a trusted and proven employee to tend the route.

Paula, the owner of Veracruz's newest business

Look at that smile. Imagine the excitement. We're all so happy for her.

Next week, we’d be willing to bet (if we did bet, but we don’t), she’ll start saving for the next unit in her fleet.
by Eric, Dec/31/08
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Veracruz

Technology, Good or Bad?

a parking meter in Veracruz, MexicoIt’s an old debate, and it’s come to Veracruz. We have CAT scanners and maybe MRIs, and Blackberries and IPhones; it’s all great stuff. And we have nifty rescue boats, and, as always, excess sets in.

Things have gone too far. Say what you will, this shouldn’t be.

And it won’t work anyhow.

And it’s ugly.

I give them six months.

Parquimetros, Yuck!

by Eric, Dec/28/08
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Veracruz

There’s Glistening and Jingling and Ringing and Roasting and Cheer.

Today’s our fifth Christmas Eve here at school.

The ocean is glistening under the bright sunlight; tricycles are jingling the clusters of bells they use to announce themselves as they roll slowly down the street; church bells are ringing, and at the corner store hams and turkeys are roasting.

The city is filled with the good cheer of happy, close, and loving families. Christmas in Veracruz is about family togetherness. (Presents are 12 days from now on Kings’ Day.) Christmas is a celebration of kindness and friendship and sharing. And Christmas is a celebration of Mexico’s deep faith.

I ask you allow that I wax sentimental for but a moment. Christmas is a time when I remember how good life has been to me. I give thanks. I have Linda. There is nothing else in life I wish. Having Linda, for me, is having everything.

Together, we, Linda and I, have our family, and we have the over 600 new friends we’ve made, students who’ve come down. We have Veracruz friends. We have Veracruz to live in.

We’ve been blessed with a joyous life, and we thank all of you who have added so much to its wonderfulness.
by Eric, Dec/24/08
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Veracruz

We Promised You a Better Movie.

We went to the malecon last night, just in case.

Coming from school we walk the long leg first. A beautifully lighted cargo ship was coming in. You might say your ship came in. That’s because after passing the inner sea wall, and the guy selling the fishing rigs made from a piece of one-by-four, and the high school’s fishing trawlers, and getting to the navy dock (this all happens in a length of three blocks) we saw it.

We saw wet light lifting to the sky. And we heard it. We heard mariachi music.

It was another block and a half ahead of us. We picked up the pace, and I readied our camera. We had a promise to keep.

As we got close, it stopped. We waited. Nothing happened. I slipped around to the control booth. “En un rato,” he said. More excitement in just a little bit. “How little a bit?” and now you can tell I’ve been here long enough to know a little white lie.

“Twenty minutes.” It came and went. But we waited because you’re waiting. Another ten minutes, and it burst forth.



There’s a sing along part. You’ll notice that someone sang along.

You can sing along too.
by Eric, Dec/19/08
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Mexico

A Letter to Santa Claus

“Please look after the widow who lives down the callejon,” that’s what we wrote.

She’s a sweet little old lady. She must be seventy-five. She lost her husband eight months ago. We have no idea where her (now in their forties or fifties) kids are.

She gets a pension. And she has access to second-rate health care. Thank goodness she has her house. We wish it had a room that was air conditioned.

Her pension might be seventy dollars a month. Probably it’s closer to fifty or forty. She ran out of money in November. In one of those moments that tears your heart out, she came to our door (we only know her to say hi) and asked to borrow twenty dollars. She had no food.

I was out. Linda lent it to her, of course. The little old lady (we don’t even know her name) took it and went directly to the store on the corner. She passed back by with corn tortillas and some vegetables.

A few days ago she came by and asked for Linda. I told her Linda couldn’t get free, but could I help her. She handed me twenty dollars. Sometimes you just have to choke back how things feel.

I thanked her. And then I told her that since she paid us back, she had credit with us. As long as she paid us back, she’d have credit.

That the best we can do. We made it a business relationship. She doesn’t have to feel like she’s begging. We don’t care about the money, but we do care about her dignity.

We think, at least we hope, Santa has figured out something to do. It’ll help a little. It won’t replace kids that seem to have drifted away. It won’t bring her husband back.

Here in the holiday season, even with all the scary troubles our economy faces, we remember how lucky we are to be Americans.
by Eric, Dec/17/08
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Veracruz

Awash with Jealously

For a year now they’ve had a fountain with lights and music. The fountain jets streams of water higher or lower and shoots up more or less of them in keeping with music. The lights are red when the music’s urgent and a gentle green for more pastoral moments. The music is standard, well-known classical and semi-classical fare.

They have it over in Boca del Rio--the sleepy (but the music is so loud it keeps people awake at night) little town at the southern end of the run of beaches. I’ve been awash with jealously because we don’t have one, or at least we didn’t have one.

But now we do. And maybe we had it all along and nobody could make it work. I was walking the malecon today taking pictures of everything. Coming toward the fountain I saw the water was spouting. I took a snapshot.

I rounded the corner and started down the long leg of the malecon. I heard my favorite music, mariachi. I turned around. The fountain was shooting streams high or lower, more or less. For the first time ever I took a movie with my digital camera.

You can watch it here. You might have to allow Active X so your browser will let you see it.



I’m going back to get you a better movie. But what a start!
by Eric, Dec /15/08
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Mexico

When We’re Dual Purpose It’s Double Good!

He told us that he more than met his goals.

He told us that comprehension is by far the toughest part of Spanish for him and that his comprehension grew by over 50%. A fifty percent growth in comprehension for one who is at an advanced level of study is incredible. Congratulations are fully in order!

He told us he is returning next year for another study-stay. We’re already waiting for him to be back with us. And he also said that “This has been the best vacation I ever had.”

Our goal is that lots of Spanish is learned. He sure learned a lot, and you can guess that makes us feel very good.

We have a non-school goal; we want students to have a wonderful time in Mexico.

A student who is now in his retirement years has gone, as you can imagine, on lots of vacations. That he said, “This has been the best vacation I ever had,” makes us feel good twice over—double good.

Learned lots of Spanish and best vacation ever—Veracruz is a great spot for immersion.
by Eric, Dec/07/08
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Veracruz

On A Clear (windless, smooth ocean, low tide) Day

You can see it far better on a clear day. You can get a glimpse of it most days. When the wind is blowing and the surf up, you can’t see it at all.

For nine years I’ve been looking out to sea to see the tubes sticking up out of the ocean. It’s a shipwreck on a farther out coral reef. It looks like two stubby pipes sticking up from the ocean. You can see it from the school’s front door.

A ship, long ago run aground on a reef in the Veracruz Coral Reef System, is visible from the front door of our language school.

For nine years I’ve wanted a better look. I’ve considered learning to scuba dive just to end up out there near it. I considered paying the fisherman to let me ride along with them for the day so I could get a look. I’ve schemed.

Today it dawned on me to try a shot with our eight-month-old new camera and its “teleconverter” lens. How did I not think of this eight months ago?

I had to “Photoshop” the color, brightness, and contrast to get it good enough. Today I can see it for the first time. It’s dazzling.

The long run aground ship is seen much more clearly through a telephoto lens.

I’m drawn to it like a moth. To learn to scuba, to get an open-water rating, (you can immediately sense that I’ve been investigating) only costs $450 and two weekends. I have to get you a better picture.
by Eric, Nov/28/08
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Veracruz

Hotdogs and Tricycles

Around the malecon venders sell hotdogs, hot cakes (believe it or not), tacos, and other foods that require a gas grill. That’s a problem. The vendors show up at about five o’clock in the afternoon and work close to midnight. The gas grills have to come and go, like clockwork, each and every day. And they are too heavy to carry.

You might know the solution—a tricycle. With its boxed front to carry the heavy grill, and with shelves built over the front wheels (like flattop fenders) for the condiments and drinks and plates, and even bags with extra supplies dangling from the handlebars, a tricycle solves all but one problem.

With all the weight it’s hard to pedal. It’s so hard that often vendors have to push instead of pedal, and sometimes it takes two pushers.

Or, we learned the other night, it takes 5 HP.

A tricycle carring a hotdog grill is powered by a motorcycle.

What a contraption! But, credit where credit’s due, what a solution!
by Eric, Nov/26/08
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Veracruz

Three Bucks and a Bat to Boot

In the beautiful Clavijero Theater, Veracruz’s smaller performing arts center, superior musical performances are common. Last night we attended a violin and piano duo playing Schubert and Frank.

We expected to pay fifteen dollars each or maybe twenty, or only ten if we were very lucky. We paid thirty Pesos each—less than three dollars each. It’s a steal. But it’s also a way to make the fine arts accessible to almost everyone, and that’s good.

We sat far to the side so Linda could watch the style of the pianist. Here’s a view of the duo (plus the page turner) from where we were sitting.

A Violin and Piano Duo Performing at Veracruz's Clavijero Theater

And here’s the bat.

A Bat Flying Over the Musicans at a Violin and Piano Performance at Veracruz's Clavijero Theater

The bat circled the auditorium over and over again and each time it passed over the stage. They fly so fast. I got dizzy watching. The musicians, the troupers, never missed a beat.
by Eric, Nov/25/08
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Mexico

My Kingdom for a Good Banana Split

Ever since I was a little kid living in a little town on the old US Route 1 I’ve loved a good banana split. Everywhere they make them here in Veracruz I’ve tried them, and, sad to say, they don’t hold a candle to the tiny Dairy Queen that was out along the highway.

What tastes good is all a matter of expectation, and my expectation is

A Dairy Queen Has Come to Veracruz and Brought Us Great Banana Splits

It opened three days ago. We found it yesterday. Already we’re regulars.
by Eric, Nov/10/08
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Veracruz

Making Safe-As-It-Can-Be Veracruz Even Safer

Totally non-political in this very political country--that’s us. We’re absolutely removed from politics in Mexico. I know the name of the president, the governor, and the mayor, and what parties they belong to, and that’s the extent of my political knowledge.

So, my thanks to the city is pure; it’s in response to services rendered.

Veracruz is the safest city we’ve ever been in. We walk the malecon at two in the morning without worry. (Sure, we’re alert, but we’re not concerned.)

But as safe as it is, as safe we think as any city can be, the city’s tourism office went for more. They added another group of police.

A Veracruz Tourism Officer adding even greater safety to this already very safe city

In addition to tourist safety, they’re also deployed to be generally helpful, and they are. Having them around is good for the tourists, and so it’s also good for tourism. That’s a good use of city money.

Our thanks and appreciation to the tourism office. City tourism is housed on the ground floor of the Municipal Palace—they’re easy to find.

The staff of the Veracruz Tourism Office

As you would expect in this gracious city, the staff is happily and helpfully “a sus ordenes,” at your service.
by Eric, Oct/9/08
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Veracruz

Music and Music and Music and …

We were in the Zocalo Saturday night. We listened to the marimbas, a norteño band, a salsa band, and some son jaracho. We heard the brass band on the bandstand playing for the “hour of danzon” (a very popular stylized Veracruz waltz).

It was getting late, and so we left the musicians, still playing as they strolled through the restaurants, and we walked right into more music—right in the middle of the walkway connecting the zocalo to the malecon.

An Andes music group we heard on the way home from the zocalo

The group is playing El Condor Pasa, that beautiful Andes melody that Simon and Garfunkel recorded as “I’d rather be a forest than a tree. Yes I would, I really would…”

We didn’t look on the far side of the municipal palace to see who was playing over there or walk two blocks to Plaza Campana to hear the Salsa group.

But we did pass ballet folklorico on the malecon as we continued walking home.

The ballet folklorico dancing we saw on the way home from the zocalo

Yesterday we went to the sensational Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa and arrived just in time for a Sunday early afternoon concert. We heard a 16 member Rondalla. It’s all male voices, beautifully harmonized, singing warm and close and caring love songs.

The Rondalla we heard in the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology

There’s wonderful music everywhere in and around wonderful Veracruz.
by Eric, Oct/6/08
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Mexico

We’re on the Map

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we’ve gotten to be such a major player in language immersion that we’re on the map. What I’m saying is that geographically, in terms of everyday life, our location is on the map.

(Let me put major player to rest. We’ll never let ourselves get big. We maintain our enrollment cap. We’ll never be a major player because that would cost us being who we are. Being a major player requires putting business ahead of teaching. Yuck! (“This above all to thine own self be true,” said Shakespeare to me back when I was in seventh grade.)

But our corner is on the map. It’ll be on TV and maybe in magazines. There’s no more being on the map, in terms of everyday life, than being the location for a beer commercial. That’s our corner—a beer commercial corner.

Yesterday and the day before a couple of Carnaval style floats and about 20 people in Carnaval costumes were there surrounded by camera and sound crews. Some beer company (we don’t even know the name) from Columbia was making a commercial. We’ve gone international!

carnaval-like float at the ocean end of our block

It’s a great corner, opening fully onto the ocean. It’s the view from our front deck. It’s a big part of why we chose to put the school here. I hope the quality of their beer upholds the quality our corner.
by Eric, Sept/14/08
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Mexico

Bus Music

OPENING PARAGRAPHWe got on the bus the other day, one of the city buses that runs half a block from the school, and had to squeeze (very tightly) past a lady who was in the aisle by the driver.

City buses are so good that we rarely take a taxi, never wish we had a car, and only once in a blue moon wish we had a pick-up.

Also good is the music.

After we were seated and the bus was going, and rocking a little, and already changing lanes, the lady centered herself at the front of the bus, reached up for a handrail, and began to belt out mariachi.

She wasn’t at all bad, and she wasn’t exactly the best, but she was live. After the first couple of lines, the crowd was with her. We were too. I wanted to sing out loud.

She’d warble a bit when the bus swayed. When the horn accompanied her there was dissonance. Like everybody, we heard only what was good, and we loved it. I, pretending to be audacious tourist, reached for my camera.

Live music on a city bus in Mexico

She, of course, was singing for a living. She walked the aisle when she was done, and it looked like she made five pesos more than a day’s minimum wage—pretty good for a 15 minute stint and then off to the next mobile stage.

It’s the bus for us. We’ve never had live music in a taxi.
by Eric, Sept/13/08
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Veracruz

Write Away!!!

And you can do it Right Away!!!

Linda has wanted to study Italian now for a couple of years. So, she took a course here at the local outlet of an international (and very costly) language chain.

Their method is fully defined, and the sequence is cast in stone. The instructors don’t individualize, don’t go off on tangents, don’t do a lot of things including they    don't let you write.

Everything is oral, nothing is written. You can’t take notes. You can’t touch a pen or pencil. And the instructors can’t write anything either. Even though I’m plenty jaded, I was shocked.

What about all of us who are good at taking notes and remember better when we write it down? Where does this leave us?

What about how we used to write a word that was giving us trouble four or five times or even ten to help up remember it forever?

Linda feels she missed catching a lot of material because she couldn’t catch it on paper.

But here, right away you can start writing away and keep writing all you want. That’s because it’s all about how you best learn. And that’s a decision for you to make.
by Eric, Sept/09/08
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Veracruz

The 5th of May Was a Long Time Ago.

That was when we got busy for the summer, and this summer we were our busiest ever.

The staff was great. We’re proud. And far more, we’re very appreciative.

We never once had to go over two students to a class. We never once had trouble covering all the sessions. They never got sick (even when they were sick), they never got tired (even when they were tired). And they always had their positive, happy, helpful attitudes.

In the back of my mind I kept hearing the old refrain, “When the going gets tough…” Since May 5th we’ve had more than 80 students staying mostly two or three weeks. A few folks only could stay for one, and some stayed for six.

One more week and then we’re all going on vacation for a few weeks. School will be out of session. Everyone deserves a rest. Everyone needs a rest. They’ve earned it. They’re getting it.

I wish I had a picture of them to put right here. We’re still too busy for me to be able to get them all together. “There are students to teach and there is work to be done,” that’s what they’d tell me if I tried to pull them all into the living room for a group photo. That’s how dedicated they are.

And that’s why we and those who come down to join us are so lucky.
by Eric, Aug/18/08
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Veracruz

It’s Going So Well That We’re Doing More.

Our approach to Spanish—teaching the using of Spanish—has worked incredibly well. We’re proud of how well it works, and please forgive us for this non-humble moment. That Spanish is going well is the basis of a decision we made.

The girls from Taiwan were a delight to have here, and they’d like to come back. They have friends who’d like to come to Mexico. They’d all like to teach here at the school.

They’ve got the same wonderful personalities as do our staff. They’re just right for how we feel about teaching. And they speak Chinese.

So, as you might already be guessing,

Mandarin Immersion, Mandarin characters, Simplified Mandarin Characters, Chinese Immersion

Linda and I are going to learn Chinese (not exactly what you guessed), as we make it available to everyone (exactly what you did guess).

As early as October, we’re offering immersion in Mandarin. The folks of Mexico need it, and so do Americans. Mandarin is well on its way to being a major business language. English, Spanish, and Mandarin (Chinese)—those are the languages to know.

And so we say, “Why not know all three?”
by Eric, July/31/08
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Veracruz

A Lot of Spanish Being Learned; A Lot of Enjoying Mexico

It’s been a very busy summer, and it’ll be very busy for another month. A lot of Spanish is getting learned and a lot of great folks are enjoying Mexico. We’re working long hours and having a wonderful time. But all work and no play makes Linda and me miss out on Veracruz.

So we slipped out last night and went and sat in the zocalo. As always there was music, dancing, happy conversations, families and kids, vendors and vendors and vendors, and this

hot chili, carrots, and other vegetables

bit of flavor I’d been missing. The green chili, jalapeno, will curl your tongue. The carrots, taken a little at a time, to me are as refreshing as can be.

After I’d nibbled on carrots for a while, the two-hour law kicked in—the two-hour law says you just can’t be out around town for two hours without something dazzling happening, something new or beautiful or rare or silly or even a little dangerous. Maybe it’ll happen in only seconds from leaving school, but for sure, whatever it is, it will happen in under two hours.

Here’s what the two-hour law gave us last night. I ordered a torta and French fries, and to go with the fries, the waiter brought this.

bright red catsup in a Log Cabin maple syrup bottle

I confess to having hesitated a moment before deciding to go ahead and squeeze the Catsup on my fries.
by Eric, July/26/08
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Mexico

An Expression Cast in Stone

I was early for an appointment in El Centro, and so I dropped into the City Museum.

I hadn’t been there (and yet I love the place) for over two years. I was passing time refreshing my memory and enjoying the exhibits.

I turned the corner and came face to face with

An Olmec head housed in the City Museum in Veracruz

this face.

It’s an Olmec head (una cabeza olmeca), and it's taller than I am. I’d refreshed and enjoyed so much that by the time I looked this guy in the eye, I was almost late for my appointment. I took a quick photo and ran.

The museum is a stop on our out and abouts. It has many Olmec carvings, layouts of the early city back in 1600s and 1700s, a look at early shipping and trade, stories of the pirates who entered the harbor and ran amuck around town, and much more.

It’s one of many enchanting spots students visit as they participate in the culture (past and present) of Mexico and practice Spanish with Veracruz’s warm and friendly people.
by Eric, July/12/08
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Veracruz

What Comes Around Goes Around.

I know I’ve got that backwards, but this time it happened backwards. A few blogs down below I talked about Joe III and his credit card. He left it behind in an ATM in a very busy pharmacy.

Three hours later we were there, and so was it. He got it back—that’s the “comes around” part.

Today Linda and I decided to have tortas for a late afternoon snack, the delicious tortas that they prepare in little grocery store on the corner. Tortas take eight or ten minutes to make (it’s worth the wait), and so I decided to relax at the three-stool lunch counter.

I sat down, and right there, right in front of my eyes, lying lost on the counter was a debit card. No telling why, the store doesn’t take cards. But there it was, all alone and left behind, and waiting to fall into unscrupulous hands.

It didn’t exactly fall into my hands. I had to pick it up. I read the name (I have no idea why) and carried it to the cash register. I handed it to the owner.

She read the name and for a second looked worried. But then she shook her head yes and smiled. The card had started its journey home.

And that’s how the “goes around” part comes second up in the title.
by Eric, July/11/08
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Mexico

Lightning Struck Twice

Joe III left his debit card behind. Ask him, and he might tell you he’s getting pretty good at this—he’s done it before.

He had taken us out to dinner. He reached for his card. He searched his wallet. He ransacked his pockets. His card was gone—left behind in a very busy ATM in a very busy pharmacy on a very busy part of the malecon during a very busy tourist weekend.

We went back. Optimism drove us, but pessimism controlled us. We stood at the counter. No sales clerk looked at us and smiled, none came over to help us. Pessimism gave way to acceptance and then to defeat.

I explained our story (hope springs eternal). “Tiene identificación?” said the salesclerk. She took Joe III’s driver’s license and without speaking walked away.

As she returned, four minutes or more later, she handed back his ID. Joe III didn’t start putting it away. Turning to me he slid the ID a little aside and a card showed below.

Joe III holding up the debit card he left behind in an ATM.

Twice in Mexico, Joe III lost his card. Twice he got it back. Lightening had struck for the second time. And in its momentary brilliance we saw, once again, how wonderful the people of Mexico truly are.
by Eric, July/03/08
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Veracruz

A Good Catch Close to the School

Veracruz has wonderful seafood, and anybody can tell you where—where to pay an arm and a leg. The well-known seafood restaurants are among the pricey restaurants here in town.

But by looking around, you can find delicious seafood at reasonable prices. And to us these restaurants are priceless. One is where the alligator lives. That’s two blocks away. On fieldtrip day, there’s a great little restaurant at La Mancha, and also at Villa Rica Beach (also a fieldtrip) you’ll find one.

A seafood palapa close to The Language Immersion School where Spanish language immersion students enjoy excellent, fresh fish and shellfish.A block in and three to the left is how to get to another. We walked past it for two years saying to ourselves that we should give it a try some day. We should have tried it the day it opened!



A superb shrimp dinner at a very reasonable price in Veracruz.They do a spectacular job with fish. We saw a couple of Robalo being severed yesterday that could almost make you drool.

For us it’s the shrimp, and yesterday brochetas de camarón were unbeatable.
by Eric, June/24/08
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Mexico

A Licenciada Showed Up This Morning

The government of Mexico bestows titles on college graduates. In its way it’s like the Queen of England bestowing knighthood.

A ceremony is performed, a oath is sworn, and the graduate is titled. A chemistry major becomes Quimico, a physicist becomes Fisico, an accountant becomes Contador. If you’re a liberal arts major you become a Licenciado(a).

Paola, yesterday, left school at lunch to go to the University and there, amongst family and friends, she swore her oath.

Today she came to work smiling all over. Since we have almost no titles, it’s hard for us to understand the cultural significance. But here in Mexican culture, titles are a very, very big deal!!!! A titulo (a title) is the key to a successful future.

Licenciada Paola has just received her title (her titulo), and we join her parents in being very proud of her.

Licenciada Paola may leave us in September, and even leave Mexico. She’s making plans to go to Spain to do a master’s. It will be wonderful for her and invaluable for her career. (And once again we’ll sadly and happily lose a great employee to a better job and a great future.)
by Eric, June/23/08
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Veracruz

Staying Put

The Hernandez House’s first group of students wouldn’t budge. “It’s a terrific location,” is the consensus.

And they’re right. That’s why we picked it up for our busy season. For walkers it’s a joy. It’s a few blocks closer to the inner seawall, the main part of the malecon, and the zocalo than are the school’s main buildings.

But as always in life there are trade-offs. Its overall bus service isn’t quite as good, the corner store is not nearly as good, and it’s farther from the restaurants across from the beach and along the boulevard.

Here’s the first group, the no-budge group—now known as the infamous Hernandez House Gang.

The Infamous Hernandez House Gang resting up after Spanish Immersion at The Langauge Immersion School's newest addition to their facilities

Here or there, both locations are wonderful. Wonderful locations in a wonderful city, we couldn’t ask for more.
by Eric, June/19/08
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Veracruz

Number 100, An Easy-As-Pie Milestone

This is the 100th entry in our Blog. Back during the Christmas of 06, back when our blog was one entry long and then two, a hundred blogs was far beyond my thinking.

Our thanks to all who have contributed. We appreciate the wonderful comments, and we enjoy sharing the happiness. Blogs from those who’ve studied with us help us offer a much fuller view of just who we (the school) are and what school’s like.

Now long ago, in my school days writing a 5 paragraph essay was taxing. Today writing about Veracruz is easy as pie.

As one grows older one does see more when one looks at the world, and that’s made writing flow more freely.

But the really big change (from long ago ‘til now) is the subject matter. So many wonderful things go on around the school and around the city that there’s always something to talk about.

Veracruz—a wonderful place to blog about, a wonderful place to study Spanish, and for Linda and me, a wonderful life.
by Eric, June/19/08
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Veracruz

Winning by Losing

It’s a crazy goal for a business, but one of our goals is to lose our employees—to lose them to better jobs with great futures in this ever difficult Mexican economy.

Saturday we lost Carlos. He graduated from Mexico’s Merchant Marine Academy. He’s off to the high seas. His girlfriend’s heart (she’s from Tennessee) is broken.

Carlos and Amanda at Carlos' graduation from Mexico's Merchant Marine Academy

His job is one of the best starting jobs any graduate will have. A Chilean shipping firm held an employment competition. The competition was open to all at the Academy and was based on comprehensive testing (including English). Carlos came in first.

So we’ve lost big—lost a great employee to a terrific job. But we’ve won big because his success makes us so very happy.
by Eric, June/18/08
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Mexico

Afro-Caribbean Festival in Veracruz

Sitting on the East Coast of Mexico, Veracruz was the end of the line of the trade routes coming through the Caribbean. With trade comes culture. Veracruz’s early music was strongly influenced by Afro-Caribbean music.

Each year, to celebrate this vibrant cultural contribution, the Instituto Veracruzano de la Cultura hosts the Afro-Caribbean International Festival. Music, dance, art, photos and video, scholarly investigation, and fun run for six days.

The best known piece of Veracruz music is La Bamba (an old song, but a hit in the US on the top 40 charts by Ritchie Valens back in ’58).

This year the Festival is dedicated to Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran, 1908-1996. He was an anthropologist known for his studies of groups left living on the fringes of society. Much of his work looked at Afro-Caribbean groups in Mexico and Afro-Mexicans.

We’re on our way to learning more about him and his work. Mexico, in many ways, has done a very good job with race relations. Maybe Dr. Aguirre Beltran’s work has important things to tell us.

The research will be very easy, easy because of “It’s a Small Small World.” His granddaughter, we found out last week, is our good friend, Dr. Olga.
by Eric, June/17/08
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Veracruz

The Hernandez House

Cross the street to the ocean’s edge and keep on going for a thousand feet. At the end of your walk the water’s 36 feet deep. You don’t have to hold your breath. The seawall’s there. Ocean going ships are passing so close you could throw a rock and hit one.

The Hernandez House is our third building. It’s closest to the seawall and the harbor. It's right across the street from the Yacht Club. Linda and I’ve been there for three weeks.

Immediately next door are our good friends, Scubaver. From the front gate to the bus (or taxi) is 4 steps. Its location is incredible. It’s closer to El Centro and the zocalo than are #61 and #57 (our other two houses). Like #61 and #57, it’s half a block from the water’s edge.

Miguel is staying there now. Angelica’s there afternoons and into the night while Miguel’s attending his classes at the University. (And for awhile, we’ll be back in #61.)

Here are a few views of Hernandez.

Graduate students from Taiwan Visiting The Language Immersion School

Graduate students from Taiwan Visiting The Language Immersion School

Summer and winter are the busy times for immersion, and all three houses will be full.
by Eric, June/07/08
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Mexico

They’ve Been to Shangri-la.

Last night we heard about Shangri-la, and Kyrgyzstan, and a village in the north of Taiwan.

Five young women, graduate students from Taiwan, dropped by. We talked about planning for “responsible tourism.” It’s not a term I’d heard before, but I like the sound of it.

Near Shangri-la they’re helping a Nomadic people move from an economy resulting in deforestation to one offering cultural and eco tourism.

They’re designing a university campus in Kyrgyzstan. There are extremely delicate cultural and religious issues to be handled along with the design process.

Through an educational program for the Tayal tribe of Taiwan’s original inhabitants (actually their descendents, of course) they’re helping to revitalize the old culture.

The group is here in Veracruz to present a paper at Edra29.

Graduate students from Taiwan Visiting The Language Immersion School

The young women are very interested in responsible tourism in the undiscovered and pristine State of Veracruz, and they have the same question that we have. How can the state develop tourism that actually helps the locals and provides that help in “responsible” (my new term) ways?

Even without the new term, our school’s been involved in this in little ways for three years now.

Just lately we’ve found ourselves at the front end of a larger project—we’re looking at bringing foreigners to town for responsible-eco-tourism activity on the Veracruz Coral Reef System (Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano).

We applaud these young woman. We admire what they’re doing. And they’ve shown us what our project needs—we need some graduate students.
by Eric, May/31/08
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Veracruz

Over and Out, and In

The construction of the new bathroom is over; we’ve cleaned up and gotten out, and already a student is in.

Our thanks to Miguel. He’s a trooper if ever there was one. He’s a terrific student (university), and he’s a fine craftsman.

This is Mexico and starting with the very first floor penetration we encountered hidden conditions that made the job a nightmare—extra thick concrete almost everywhere we had to drill, beams the didn’t seem to belong where they were, extra deep main house drain line, different outside diameters of the same-size drain pipe, and the list goes on and on.

But here’s what Miguel and his super expert helper (I mention humbly) did.

Another Bathroom for our Spanish Language School in Veracruz Mexico

A few blogs down the page, you can see the “before” photo.

No only is Miguel a great guy who’s great to have around; he’s great for the school.

And now we’re already planning bathroom number 16. Don’t tell him.
by Eric, May/27/08
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Veracruz

How Do You Run an Airport without a PA System?

That’s a question that never before came to mind. I’m not sure what you’d do at O’Hare or Kennedy or Benito Juarez in Mexico City.

But now I know what you’d do in Veracruz. The way around this monster of a problem is to “talk softly and carry a big megaphone.”

Secruity official at the Veracruz International Airport using a megahones.

Standing in front of the departures area, and aiming his megaphone at the arrivals area, this young man kept everyone well-appraised of what was up (and what wasn’t, of course).

His megaphone was clearer and less distorted than the airport’s PA system. It wasn’t as loud, but it was far easier to understand. I liked it.

Low tech, often the better answer to high tech problems.
by Eric, May/19/08
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Veracruz

The Harvard 3, and Our Congratulations

Mexico is full of things that probably will never happen again. Most are odd or funny or downright strange. Once in a while, though, the probably-never-again-event is totally and purely impressive. The Harvard 3, they’re impressive.

Three young women are with us right now. They are finishing up their MBAs at Harvard this semester. They’re headed for great jobs. They have tremendous ability, and their futures will be fantastic.

Three Young Women Finishing Their MBAs at Harvard Are in Spanish Language Immersion with Us.

We’d be happy for this probably-never-again-event to happen over and over again. We’re proud they’re here.

But even more, we’re proud of them and their world-class achievement.
by Eric, May/13/08
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Veracruz

When You Run Out of Bathrooms

What do you do when you run out of bathrooms? We started out with seven and added an eighth three years ago.

Then adding the old spacious house next door to our old spacious original house, we added another six. All of them, as I immodestly talked about once before, are paper-flushable. (This means NO foul trash can next to the toilet as is so common in Latin America.)

But still the question—what do you do?

You call Rafael Bernabe. He lives in a pueblo in the State of Puebla. He is a master craftsman—he’s an artist in concrete, brick, plaster, and all such trades. He built our new bathroom.

What do you do when Rafael can’t come to town for at least two months?

Our answer is we’re glad that his son, Miguel, is living with us. Miguel is a university student studying engineering on a full tuition, room and board scholarship. He’s well trained by his father. Today I’m his helper and will be for a week or so to come.

Miguel is building another bathroom.  Now our Spanish Language School will have 15 bathrooms.

Yes, we’re building another bathroom. I needed to take a break. My back is sore and my hands are sore—and Miguel is going strong.

I used to take five, then ten. I’m taking fifteen, and then I’ll be back in there, back as a fine young man’s helper.
by Eric, May/02/08
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Veracruz

“You Taste Much More Everything.”

We just got back from seeing the Panama Canal (we played hooky from school for a week). Like any vacation, of course, it had its ups and downs, and that was the best part of all.

Being there—seeing it and riding it, is fantastic, and it all can be done solely in English.

But if you only speak English, even with English speaking guides, there’s so much you miss.

In addition to the canal itself, we took a couple of tours around the area.

There was an English-only speaker with us. He got the facts. We got the facts and far, far more. We got to participate in the culture and visit with the people.

As our bed and breakfast owner said, in a Latin country if you speak Spanish, “You taste much more everything.”

And I don’t know any better way to put it.

P.S. We stayed at Patty’s Casitas (www.pattyscasitas.com), and it was wonderful.
by Eric, Apr/30/08
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Veracruz

More Than Just Good Food

Everybody was busy eating and talking. This was during La Comida, our big midday meal, last week. I took the photo not because so much food was going down, but because of how good lunch sounded.

Not the sound of flatware clanging, but the sound of talking, lots of talking. Talking in Spanish—and laughing and having fun. Language getting developed.

part of the group eating the big midday meal

We hear it all the time, of course. And we love it. Good food, good friends, good charlantes and instructors, it makes for lots of learning.

Beginners to advanced, nobody’s worried about making mistakes. Nobody’s self-conscious. Everybody’s in it together.

What a job we have, Linda and I—sitting around, having fun, talking to friends, and, very special to us, having the joy of listening to everyone’s Spanish grow.
by Eric, Apr/03/08
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Veracruz

Piling It On

We work hard to make sure you have all the Spanish you can use each day—six hours of class, someone to practice with from 7 AM to 9 PM, breakfast and La Comida in Spanish, but that’s not the kind of “piling it on” I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a great class experience with a bright 12 year old, a great experience that just happened. We were doing class at the conference table in our office. We had, just by chance, our ziplock baggies of change (Peso coins) on the table. To have a few minutes of numbers practice, the money bags looked inviting.

Just how high can you pile it on? Counting by ten-Peso pieces, five-Peso pieces, and ones and twos, we ran an experiment. Remember, this experiment required counting coin by coin (super practice).

Well, life was still pretty stable, even though a little wobbly, to this point—

You can stack 600 Pesos.

He kept counting and piling on, and the moment came. The bright young student added a two-Peso piece—and...

But you can't stack 622 Pesos.

So now you know. We can pile Spanish on all day long, and you get to cry “Uncle” whenever you’ve had your daily limit. But when it comes to Pesos, going from 620 Pesos to 622 Pesos is where the world comes crashing down.
by Eric, Mar/27/08
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Veracruz

Two Down, None To Go—That Sure Makes Life a Lot Prettier.

It was prettier last night at the ballet folklorico on the malecon, and it was prettier in the zocalo for a light late dinner.

Earlier in the day it was prettier riding the “Boca” bus all the way to the end and back. It was prettier walking the beach with Linda, and even just wandering around the neighborhood for exercise.

Cataract surgery, my second and so last one, is all over. I see a clearer, brighter world. And the healing is almost complete. Yesterday, finally, I set out as my regular self and began doing my favorite things. Veracruz is wonderful.

Today, in another hour or two, I’ll be out around town again.

First thing out the door I going to go see Gracias (our boat). She’s floating again. She spent a month on the bottom of the ocean, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Jiniguaro and the fisherman gave up waiting for me and surfaced her.

And after seeing Gracias, maybe for the first time in months I’ll walk the seawall.

And then what will I do? I don’t know. I’ll just have to play it by…………eye.
by Eric, Mar/13/08
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Veracruz

Great to See Him at Dinner, and Even Better to See Him When You’re Sick

Dr. Luis Salazar had dinner with us a few night ago—actually he was a few tables away enjoying a night out with his wife and kids. He is a first-rate, high quality, well and fully trained, US quality, skilled doctor. That’s good news.

Dr. Luiz Salazar, excellent physician, and one of many in Veracruz available to you should you need to see a doctor.

The even better news is that here in Veracruz there are many first rate, high quality, well and fully trained, US quality, skilled doctors. Many have studied in the US, Europe, and Canada. Many speak English.

It’s fair to ask, “Why in Veracruz?” The answer has nothing to do with medicine, it has to do with safety. Most of these very high quality doc’s have come here because of their families. Mexico City is the intellectual center for medical studies, but it’s dangerous. Veracruz is the place where they can practice and not be worried about their kids getting home safely from school.

Highly competent medicine--we need it because we live here year around. And should you need it, together we’ll just hop in a taxi…
by Eric, Feb/11/08
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Veracruz

When the Coconuts Come Down, the Fun Goes Up.

Imagine a million people lining the boulevard that runs along the waterfront and a coconut falls. That’s worse than ouch; it’s seriously dangerous. The coconuts have to go. And so, right now they’re on their way.

It’s because Carnaval is coming. It’s early this year. It’ll be here at the end of the month.

Coconuts cut from palm trees on the Carnaval parade route

At this moment bleachers are being assembled on both sides of the northbound lanes of the boulevard, banners are being mounted, lights are being strung, dance groups ( several hundred people in size) are practicing in the colonias (in the neighborhoods), gorgeous floats are being built, and even the tugboats are being spruced up.

We’re in the time of the winter winds. Likely there’ll be wind during at least one of the six spectacular Carnaval parades. Carnaval is for fun. It’s an incredible party (but here in Veracruz, of course, it’s a family party). None of us, the millions who’ll sit in the bleachers and see the parades, want anyone to get hurt. Wind can be almost as good as monkeys at bringing coconuts down.

The serious business of coconut cutting will end soon and the serious fun of Carnaval will begin.

Veracruz knows how to throw a party.



And, just so you'll know I'm on the up and up, look below—a coconut caught red-handed.

A coconut felled by the wind lying on the sidewalk near the Baluarte de Santiago
by Eric, Jan/19/08
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Mexico

It’s a Grind, and It’s Great

We’re intense when it comes to you learning a lot of Spanish, but it’s not nose to the grind stone. Nor is it so much pressure and pushing and pulling that it feels like being caught in a meat grinder. And even though accordians play in the zocalo we don’t have any organ grinders.

What we do have is a coffee grinder. I’ve been a Folger’s regular grind person for years. I was always plenty happy, but… But freshly ground coffee from the new grinder makes a spectacular cup.

Our thanks to John for finding one here in Veracruz. They’re not ubiquitious by any means. But he got one. So far I’ve had pay de limon, flan, and rosca de reyes with the new coffee. I’m a convert.

Our brand new coffee grinder  bring rich aroma and flavor to your Spanish study at The Langauge Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico

Out thanks to John also for another reason. He’s here brushing up on his conversational skills. He needs them. He’s headed to Honduras to work in a free clinic. The last two years he’s been there performing orthopedic surgery and probably will be there for years to come. On behalf of all those he helps, we express our appreciation.

And, of course, for the coffee grinder too!
by Eric, Jan/11/08
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Mexico

Going Down the River by Chevy

It sounds like a car commercial. But it’s not down the valley along side the river—it’s floating down the river.

And bouncing and bashing into rocks and spinning and getting soaked. Yesterday a family went whitewater rafting at Jalcomulco. Chevy ran the river with them but in his whitewater kayak.

He and his brothers and sister own Aventuras Sin Limites. Rafting with them (and maybe doing some zipline and rappel) is a day trip or overnight if you’d like. Jalcomulco is an old town, traditional and colonial in design. It straddles the Rio Antigua.

Rio Antigua is a great family river. The rapids aren’t extreme, but they’re exciting as can be. Chevy went along yesterday because he speaks some English (and his wife Yunuen speaks a lot). Very few in Jalcomulco speak more than a few words. We had two very-beginners-at-Spanish in yesterday’s group. Chevy and his family are absolutely and highly reassuringly safety conscious.

So, if you don’t speak much Spanish but you want a river run, or if you want to shoot the rapids with the captain of Mexico’s national whitewater rafting team, plan a day going down the river by Chevy—right by Captain Chevy.
by Eric, Dec/31/07
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Mexico

Time Flies

“Time flies, as they say, when you’re having fun, and today is our third Christmas Eve,” I wrote a year ago, “here at school.”

Today is our FOURTH Christmas Eve here at school. Time has flown so fast that I just don’t know where it went. It’s okay that time is zipping by because we’re having fun.

For the fun we’ve had we thank everyone who’s studied with us. It’s you all and your wonderful personalities that make this such a great job. It is a job, and Linda and I work hard at it. We’ve both had good jobs in the past, but nothing comes even close to matching how good this is.

What we do—the language school—is so enjoyable and so much fun that for us it’s like we’re forever on vacation.

It’s a Christmas present to us from you. Thank you, thank you all so very much.
by Eric, Dec/24/07
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Veracruz

An Incomplete Photo, A Political Machine

I was standing in the curb lane. This is Mexico; it’s fine to stand in the curb line. I was trying to get a good photo of our “lona.” A lona is a tarp, and it’s also (as in this case) a foldable sign with grommets for tying it up.

We contribute, in our small way, to a number of things. Now and then we take someone to an especially good doctor. We offer a small scholarship (but big enough to be very helpful), we use small vendors, and for the Christmas concert this year, we made a donation to the Fomento Cultural de Veracruz—the public service group that brings fine arts performances to several local theaters.

So there I was in the street trying to get a good photo, and I was being jostled. I resisted. I needed a better picture. A policeman ordered me out of the street. I was shocked. This isn’t playing by the rules. Even so I moved. I moved just in time not to be jostled and smashed by an incoming limo, the limo of the governor of the State of Veracruz.

Gracefully and without any show of annoyance I accepted being displaced by the governor—and being without a decent picture of our lona.

Here it is, the best I, victimized by a political machine, was able to do.
Sign for The Language Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico hanging from the gates of Clavijero Theatre
by Eric, Dec/16/07
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Veracruz

Icing on the Cake

Hector finishes all his class work this semester. He’s going to be a high quality, and surely highly successful mechanical engineer.

He starts his “residencia profesional,” engineering residency, in less than a month. So, yep, we’ve lost him. We keep losing great charlantes and teachers—to promising and exciting futures. We keep finding new great charlantes and teachers (not that it’s all that easy), and we’ll keep losing them.

Hector, at The Language Immersion School, after having found out that he's been awarded the engineering residency at Tamsa.

Hector (as did Yvethe several months ago) will graduate “por calificaciones,” for grades. His grades are so high that he won’t have to do undergraduate orals or write the undergraduate thesis.

And then yesterday, The Icing On The Cake!!! Hector learned (and so we did too) that he landed the most sought after engineering residency in Veracruz. He’s been selected by Tamsa-Tamaris, by far Veracruz’s largest and most important employer. He’ll pioneer a brand new non-destructive testing program for the QC group.

And he’ll do well. We wish him the very best, and, of course, we already miss him. We’re going to have a party.
by Eric, Nov/22/07
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Veracruz

We Splurged, and It’s Everybody’s to Enjoy.

Surely you can understand. We had to do it. We’re a school in Veracruz, after all, and part of what we offer is participating in the local culture.

And anyhow, we really wanted to. So we splurged; we bought a harp. It’s for playing Veracruz music, music full of lively rhythms and bright sounds. La Bamba is from Veracruz. Bam ba Bamba, Bam ba Bamba took Richie Valle all the way to #1 on the pop music charts.

Our harp worked the zocalo for years. Carried back and forth through the long run of restaurants during dinner and often ’til dawn, stopping to play at every table where a song was requested, our harp was part of a typical three person Veracruz group. With it played two garanas, miniature guitars, and the musicians sang.

Just think of the thousands and thousands of tourists and locals who’ve sung along with our harp. I guess that really makes it everybody’s harp, and we’re happy so many got to enjoy it.

A Veracruz Music Group in the Zocalo; 
			Come Study Spanish with Us in Veracruz, MexicoThe Language Immersion School and the new Veracruz music harp.

Look at it closely, and you’ll see that being a Veracruz harp is a hard life. In and out of taxis, knocking against tables and chairs, plying it’s way through crowded seating, it’s lived a long and happy life.

And it continues to. You can take lessons on it. Linda and I are, and the staff is. Our teacher, Guillermo, plays harp in a Veracruz group in the zocalo. We’ve listened to him for over three years, and now we’re listening at home. And when it’s our turn, we’re playing.
by Eric, Nov/10/07
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Mexico

Polyurethane in Veracruz, and It’s All Over the Floor.

Hardwood floors are high maintenance at best. But also at their best, they’re beautiful. When we were fixing up the school building, now over three years ago, the hardwood in the commons area and office area looked terrible.

We had to sand the floor. We couldn’t find a floor sander in Veracruz. But, 4” belt sanders were sitting on the shelf waiting for us. If you’ve stayed with us, you know what an awful prospect it was sanding the floor with a belt sander. If you haven’t studied with us, take our word for it; sanding the floor was an ordeal!

We found spar varnish (boat varnish) and gave the floor three coats. It looked good. But strong as it is, spar varnish couldn’t stand up to all the traffic. The hardwood’s appearance was slipping away.

We considered tearing it out; we couldn’t. Someone in Veracruz had to carry Polyurethane. We decided to search.

We got one coat down yesterday, and already it’s beautiful again.

Shining Hardwood Floor in the Commons Area Where You'll Study Spanish in Mexico

Everybody’s gone on fieldtrips today, and so tomorrow we’ll give it a second coat and Monday a third. Until then it’s only a short jump from the bottom stair into the garage. It’s fine with everybody. (Veracruz attracts the nicest of students.)

By midweek the sofas and overstuffed armchair will be back in place, and also the coffee tables, newspapers, and magazines (all in Spanish, of course). We’ll have our office again, and the email computers will be on their desks. And what for me is best of all, Linda’s piano will be there waiting for her to play.

Glance again at the picture. Maybe as I listen to Linda playing Beethoven, I’ll need to wear sunglasses.
by Eric, Nov/08/07
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Mexico

Modern Technology Making Life Better

Well, I admit it’s a small thing. But is affects everyone’s life at school. So, here’s technology making everyone’s life better.

The quickest glance will show you that it’s different, but it’s when you use it that you see just how much improved it is.

On the edge of our kitchen, available to everyone, sits our water bottle.

Until today we had the model on the left. Getting the bottle in position without spilling takes practice, but the big problem with it is that it dispenses water none too quickly. And then about an hour ago

          The old and the new in water bottle  dispenser technology at The Language Immersion School, Veracruz, Mexico

we got the great new setup that you see on the right. It’s sleek. There’s no spilling. And best of all, it’s fast.

If you used our old one, you should come back just to see how good this is.
by Eric, Oct/16/07
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Mexico

Coffee’s Ready at 6:15.

I guess we do it because we’ve always liked a cup of coffee first thing. It’s just part of the routine; we’ve never really thought about it.

But Bill did, and he said it’s another one of those little things that make being here feel different from other places.

He told us about a school here in Mexico he’d been to where every cup of coffee cost 60 cents.

I’m sure it doesn’t cost us 60 cents to provide you with a cup of coffee.

But even if it did, we wouldn’t charge.

Enjoy your morning coffee. There’s plenty. In fact there’s plenty all day long. Or have some tea if you prefer.

And there’s lots of fresh fruit, and sweet rolls, and popcorn.
by Eric, Oct/07/07
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Veracruz

We Went to the Party.

It’s in the zocalo every fifteenth of September. It doesn’t really get hopping until about 9:00, but we get there early to get a good table. It’s Mexico’s independence celebration.

All our old friends were there. For the last three years they’ve been there on Independence Day, and they’ve been there all the other times we’ve been there. We go to the zocalo about once a week.

Several marimba groups we know well was playing. The Salsa group was hard at work. Three or four Norteño groups were plying the restaurants’ seating. The mariachi bands were assembling. The Veracruz groups (La Bamba) we first got to know eight years ago were there.

a marimba group a salsa group norteño group 
mariachi gathering Veracruz group 

The peanut, chili peanut, chili habas (we just call her the nut lady) came by our table and so did her sister. The indigenous dancer from Papantla came by. The lady who sells, but never to us, cigars was there. The older woman who sells coral jewelry showed up.

Nut lady Indigenous dancer  
Cigar lady Coral lady 

And so were the picture taker and the charcoal portrait lady and the kids selling flowers, and the shock-box jokester, and the pirated wristwatch sellers. The lady in the nursing uniform asking for a donation to some place we don’t think even exists was there.

Shock jokester Wristwatch vendor Nurse collecting 

There were dozens of unarmed cops lazing around—there’d be nothing for them to do—not there, not then

There were thousands of good friends whom we don’t know yet but we see all the time—the regular folk of Veracruz.

They were packed in shoulder to shoulder starting at about 10:00. It was a close to gridlock as a crowd can get by 10:45. It is every year.

shoulder to shoulder filling the zocalo alcalde giving the Grito  

The show on the bandstand ended. The military performed the flag ceremony. The Grito, Mexico’s most patriotic moment, was shouted. Our friends waved flags and cheered, “Viva Mexico,” and cheered and cheered. Fireworks filled the skies.
by Eric, Sept/16/07
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Mexico

Silence in Noisy, Happy Mexico

Movies, church, concerts, it’s in the culture, it’s part of the happiness, Mexico is never silent. Always and everywhere someone is talking. But, during the symphony? During church?

At first I was shocked, and then (in culture bound fashion) maybe even a little offended. But with time I was able to place it in perspective, cultural perspective, and accept it.

Happy, friendly, emotional people talk to each other and talk all the time. It’s part of what makes Mexico wonderful.

I learned that the sounds of talking would never stop.

But I was wrong. I heard silence. I heard the silence of respect, of anticipation, of love.

The Alcalde, the mayor of Veracruz, stepped to the microphone on the balcony of the municipal palace right above us and the thousands in the zocalo. It was the moment before the Grito.

And during the moment, Mexico was silent.
by Eric, Sept/15/07
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Mexico

Estadía—A Practicum We Would Call It.

Miguel has been staying at the school the past three months. (We’ve been so full that he’s been bouncing around from available room to available room, but that’s fine with him.) He’s doing his estadía.

The dictionary isn’t much help. It says estadía is a stop or a stay. It’s far more. Miguel is here in Veracruz (he’s from Puebla) working in industrial electrical and mechanical maintenance for a large business. The estadía is part of the graduation requirements for everyone taking his major. It’s 600 hours, and it’s unpaid.

The practical experience is valuable. He has another month to go to get all 600 hours done. Completing his estadía is the last thing he has to do to finish his AA.

He’s a great guy. The students enjoy talking with him—in Spanish. Talking to him offers fascinating perspectives on working in Mexico.

We’d like all our students to be able to visit with him. And we like having him with us. He’s Elia’s brother. His father, Don Rafael, is the finest craftsman I know in Mexico.

            Miguel Sitting in The Language Immersion School's Living Room

Miguel wants to continue school and get his BS in Industrial Engineering. There’s a fine university here in Veracruz to which he can transfer…

I pretty sure you already know the ending to this happy story.
by Eric, Feb/09/07
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Mexico

A Gasoline Smell—Diesel Said the More Trained Noses.

I walked the half block to the corner. That’s were the ocean is. And I saw 20 or so sailors, a fire department rescue squad, a unit from civil defense, two Navy motorboats, some police, a bunch of City employees, a TV camera crew, and a lot of onlookers.

It was just another beautiful sunny day on the water’s edge. I had no idea what was up. I thought maybe somebody was making a commercial or a political ad; it just didn’t look real.

But it was deadly serious. I crossed the street, and then I saw the floating containment barrier. It was a spill. But I couldn’t see anything. The barrier made a semi-circle starting and ending at the water’s edge and at its most distant point was maybe 70 feet out.

Sailors were walking in the shallow water flopping what looked like white hand towels. What’s up, I asked. (No quotes because I asked in Spanish). Diesel, a sailor told me. It had been raining, and a storm drain was emptying into the sea. Somewhere inland the runoff water was getting contaminated with diesel.

I could smell it. It was as if a car had flooded. It was almost nothing. I couldn’t see any telltale signs of a rainbow on the water. The white towels were staying almost white.

I can’t imagine that there was even a gallon of diesel that these more than 20 sailors, 2 motorboats, rescue squad, civil defense, and etc. were combating.

Overreaction? No, not at all. Mexico loves its environment. It’s a very special part of the people’s “patrimonio,” their inheritance, their birthright. Often they don’t have money to protect it, or laws to protect it. But when they have the needed resources, they go all out.
by Eric, Sept/07/07
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Mexico

New Mexico Says This Beautiful
T-Shirt.

Paula is wearing it. We were sent 14 T-Shirts by a delightful family who spent 3 weeks with us, and Paula chose 2 that to her were especially beautiful.

New Mexico, home to the family and where Linda and I were raised, is written on the shirt. And, of course, it meansNew Mexico, the Southwestern state that has so successfully brought its three cultures together.

            Paula wearing a beautiful T-Shirt sent to us be a wonderful family in Las Cruces, New Mexico


As I took the picture of Paula, New Mexico took on a second meaning. Look again at the picture. You’re looking at the face of the new Mexico—Mexico where young women are beginning to have opportunity at good jobs and good futures.

We love seeing this new era in Mexico showing itself all around us. We’ve very proud that our school is encouraging this new era.

The stories are sweet to the ear. When a mother of young children tells us her kids are going to go to a good high school because now finally for the first time in her life she can set aside a little money each week, being part (in our very small way) of the new Mexico fills our hearts.

So, on behalf of all of us here at the school, our deepest and warmest thanks to all seven of you in Las Cruces, NM for the T-Shirts. They were a most delightful surprise.

And also our thanks to Paula for bringing a second wonderful meaning to words so special from our childhood, New Mexico.
by Eric, Sept/05/07
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Mexico

It's Great To Be Back Home!

No questions about it, hands down, without even giving it a thought, that’s how it is and how it’ll always be—no matter how you say it, SAFETY FIRST.

A hurricane was coming this way, and so we (students, staff, Linda and I) left town. Together, we went far inland. We just got back an hour or so ago. The hurricane missed Veracruz. It came ashore about 120 miles up the coast.

We were so relieved. Veracruz hasn’t had a hurricane in fifty years at least and maybe many more years than that. The folks here just don’t have any practice getting prepared. Many don’t have money with which to prepare. They sit and wait for the TV to say, as it always has, that the hurricane, once again, isn’t coming here.

So much injury and heartbreak was avoided here in the city. Up the coast is thinly populated, but even so we were still worried sick for them. There have been no deaths. It’s a blessing.

Maybe a hurricane never will hit Veracruz. It doesn’t matter. Anytime one is heading this general direction, we (students, staff, and us) are leaving. Forever, SAFETY FIRST.
by Eric, Aug/23/07
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Veracruz

The Alligator Who Lives Down the Street

Veracruz has so much to do. It’s a tourist town (the tourists are Mexicans), and so entertainment and happy moments are everywhere.

For instance—visiting the alligator who lives two blocks inland from us. A little over six feet long, and a little over 18 years old, she’s never had anybody to eat. She only eats chicken.

And she sits around just waiting for foreigners to come touch her. Well a couple of days ago, six of us hiked the two blocks to see if she was receiving guests. She was. Our being there didn’t even cause her to bat an eye—or even open one.

Su Jin and our staff visiting the alligator who lives down the street

We chose a good day. Flanked by Elvira and Ivethe from the school’s staff, Su Jin, a special education teacher from California, can now tell her elementary school students what an alligator really feels like.

Convincing as the photograph looks, I doubt her kids will really believe that you can trust an alligator who only eats chicken.
by Eric, Aug/07/07
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Mexico

Ivethe Graduated from College Last Night

Mexico is so full of happy moments. Last night’s moment was spectacularly happy for us. Ivethe (Yvette) graduated from college. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

We want her to find a good job, but, of course, deep down inside we want her to be here with us forever. She’s a terrific talent and has a terrific future. Good jobs aren’t easy to find in Mexico, but she’ll get one. And then there’ll be no stopping her.

Here’s how happy she was last evening.

   Ivethe looking so beautiful at her graduation from college in Veracruz, Mexico

Her family was there. You can imagine how they felt. If you’d have been there it would have touched your heart. Our deepest congratulations to her parents.

Ivethe graduated “ titulo por calificaciones,” and that made last evening even sweeter. In Mexico, after all your course work is done you have to write an undergraduate thesis, take a hammering set of undergraduate exams, and pay a lot of fees (unless, here’s the super-student’s loophole, you graduate and receive your “titulo por calificaciones,” title awarded by grades).

Ivethe’s grade point average is over 90%. She’s exempt from the thesis and the exams and the fees. She’s done; she did it and did it with excellence. The whole story is written for all of us to see in her warm and beautiful and ever-so-happy smile.
by Eric, July/21/07
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Mexico

I’m Only Guessing, But I Think I’m Right.

First of all we have to remember that we’re talking about Veracruz, both the city and the state. It’s so safe down here that we have to force ourselves to remember to be careful.

With us is a very independent student (he bused to school from the Texas), and over the weekend he traveled to a beautiful spot about two hours to the south. He went right through the town he was headed for without realizing it and ended up getting off the bus far out of town in exactly the middle of nowhere.

To get back to where he was going, he tried to flag down every bus heading in the right direction. None would stop for him. He was standing in a tumbledown bus stop. There was a bus-stop sign. But still, none stopped.

Granted, they were rattletrap buses, but the fact remains, he couldn’t get them to pick him up. (You might ask why we’d let a student go on a trip like that. The answer is that it’s safe around here.) Finally a bus stopped.

It was going exactly where he needed to go.

Good luck? Maybe. But here’s my guess. The bus drivers who didn’t stop kept on driving by because they weren’t going where our student was going. They didn’t want to make things worse. They didn’t want to take him to another wrong place.

But the driver going where an American (standing alone along the side of the road in the middle of nowhere) needed to go stopped and picked him up. The bus drivers, all of them, were taking good care of him.

So that’s my guess, and I’m pretty sure I’m right. These are wonderful folks down here. And they look out for us foreigners.
by Eric, July/17/07
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Veracruz

We Pour It On, but Some Want Even More.

The majority of immersion schools have four hours of focused instruction a day. We have six hours of focused instruction, and that in and of itself is a lot. Six hours plus a native speaker available to practice with you from seven in the morning until nine at night is more than most anyone can do.

Yet, once in a while we’re asked if we can offer eight hours of focused instruction—four two-hour sessions.

It’s not often that we’re asked, but it’s often enough that we’re adding in an extra daily two-hour session as an option. The latest request was yesterday. As the student said, she works eight hours a day anyhow.

So, if you need eight hours (heaven help you), you’ve got it.
by Eric, July/15/07
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Mexico

Two Great Things Are Happening—An Update

We’re going to offer Aviation English (ICAO Level 4), and we’re expanding.

AVIATION ENGLISH is coming in October. ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organization) is about to hold international pilots to a higher level of competency in English. Air traffic controllers dealing with international traffic must also meet this more demanding competency.

With air travel safety going up a notch, passengers everywhere are the big winners. The ICAO requirement is Aviation English Level 4. Coming to Veracruz to participate in the Level 4 training program are two close family friends. The husband has flown for many years. Aviation English will be taught at our principal facility here in Veracruz.

Our expansion is happening out of town. We’re opening a SMALL BRANCH of OUR LANGUAGE SCHOOL in an isolated village sitting right on a beautiful beach about two hours up the coast. It is designed for intermediate and advanced students. It’ll be an English-free environment, and practicing with the happy, friendly locals (in addition to formal class work) will offer incredible opportunity for improving your Spanish.
by Eric, July/08/07
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Mexico

Gardenia Blossoms Floating Upon the Pool

It was thirty-some years ago, and the memories are so special. Friends who traveled Veracruz way back when they were graduate students came to visit. They’re family friends from our Pima College days.

She’s still with Pima and is a Dean of Instruction. Part of her reason for coming down was to review the school. She gave us the highest of marks and compliments thatwarmed our hearts.

Also they came, she and her husband, to revisit a wonderful part of their past. We shared that past with them for a day as we motored to El Fortin de las Flores.

The resort hotel they loved so much is still there, still beautiful, and still enchanting. Gardenias are no longer floating upon the pool’s water but instead bring color and fragrance and texture floating in the fountains. The formal gardens and the colonial architecture are so inviting.

Grand and Gracious Old Mexico in so many ways and so many places lives on today. Finding it is as easy as driving across town, or driving up the coast a little or driving west to the close edges of the mountains.

Mexico cherishes its past, and its past will live long into the future. We teach our students how to travel and encourage them to take advantage of the weekends. Finding wonders from the past enriches the years to come.

Many of our students will revisit Veracruz, revisit what then will be old and wonderful memories. Maybe we’ll be invited along to share a most special day.
by Eric, June/26/07
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Veracruz

This Is a Test— for Medical School

Entrance into the medical school at the University of Veracruz is based on the taking of a single test.

A month ago 1087 took the test, and Wendy, who works here at the school, was one of them. This year the top 190 will be admitted.

The scores were posted on the Internet today.

Wendy got a look at where she placed, and I got a photo. See the smile!!!!!!!
An Employee of The Language Immersion School 
			Gets Accepted to Medical School at the University of Veracruz, Mexico

Wendy starts medical school in September.

Congratulations to her parents for raising such a wonderful young adult.

Congratulations to Wendy. She’ll be a tremendous doctor.
by Eric, June/15/07
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Veracruz

All Over the Road

A pickup truck hung a U, and out of the bed fell an ice chest. The pickup stopped on a dime.

It was a scuba shop’s truck and fortunately no tanks broke loose, but ice-cold bottle watered went helter-skelter. People from both sides of the street came running.

And because this is Veracruz, you know how the story goes. As fast as they could, dodging traffic, they scooped up the errant bottles and put them back in the ice chest. They lifted the ice chest and put it back in the truck. One of them banged (with his open hand) on the side of the bed to tell the driver they were all done.

The good folks of Veracruz scurried back out of the street, and the pickup drove off. No one seemed to give it a second thought.

From the sidelines (and in silence), we Americans cheered!
by Eric, June/14/07
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Mexico

How to Save Twenty Thousand Bucks

A student who was with us the past couple of weeks works off-shore on the petroleum platforms near Ciudad del Carmen. He also runs cattle on his place in Louisiana.

On an out-and-about down in el Centro with one of our instructors, he chanced to meet a man who turned out to be the president of Veracruz’s cattlemen’s association. Our student was invited to a livestock auction.

The association’s annual get together (a huge state fair is what it looks and feels like) is going on. This auction, instead of being held on the cattlemen’s fairgrounds, was being held on the beach at a resort hotel.

Subasta is Spanish for auction, and this one is the annual meeting’s big membership event. It’s an auction of show stock, and its invitation list reads like a who’s who.

Our student met several ranking officials in Mexico’s equivalent of our Department of Agriculture, and he met the governor of the state of Veracruz.

He also met a cattleman from Monterrey who runs the same type of cattle. They ended up talking about importing breeding stock to the US. The talk got pretty serious. Our student is investigating the ins-and-outs. If it all goes okay, on thirty head he’ll save about twenty thousand dollars.

Studying Spanish can be very good for business.
by Eric, June/07/07
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Veracruz

The Bus Driver Left His Money Behind.

I sat wide-eyed. The bus driver of a rickety old bus loaded with poor looking passengers stopped, opened the door, set the brake, and left. And behind he left his cash box sitting wide open. You can see just how wide open that is by checking the upper right photo on our page Cultural Tourism w/ Spanish.

He had around four hundred pesos just sitting there right up in the air in front of everyone. It would have been very easy to grab a bunch of it and then take off running.

I wondered if I’d rise to the situation and prevent a thief from dipping. I didn’t get to find out. After a tense couple of minutes the driver got back on the bus soft drink in hand.

Risking all that money (and down here that’s a lot of money) for a bottle of pop, it seemed pretty crazy to me.

But then I remember what I remember every time I see something like this. We’re not in NYC or L.A. or Mexico City or Paris. We’re in Veracruz. Nobody is going to take his money. It’s against the rules. Down here we just don’t do things like that.
by Eric, June/05/07
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Mexico

Fourteen Students from the School Went to the Theater to Say Good-bye.

Fourteen students and four staff went to the symphony a couple of nights ago. There was a fine, up-and-coming violinist, and there were four choruses.

Tickets were hard to get, and we were split--half in third level boxes (palcos in Spanish) and half up higher in the gallery. At intermission we traded locations. We were kind of conspicuous. The locals think it’s great that Americans attend their symphonic performances.

The conductor, Carlos Miguel Prieto, is fantastic. He’s young, and we think he has an incredible future. We’ve never seen a conductor so animated and so enthusiastic. It may be déclassé to say it this way, but the musicians play their hearts out for him.

He said good-bye. I was dumbstruck. He said he was leaving. I was heartsick. Years ago I heard Ormandy live. Toscanini’s Beethoven stood out in our music collection. Probably all of us watched Bernstein spin magic on his children’s concerts. There are many great conductors, but this going-to-be-great conductor who said good-bye was ours.

He’s now the new conductor of the National Symphony of Mexico. It’s a big and important step up. I should be happy for him. Okay, I’m happy for him; I’m just very unhappy to lose him.

I’m proud that fourteen students and four staff helped carry on the longest sustained applause that I’ve ever heard. We’ll go to Mexico City so we can applaud some more.
by Eric, May/28/07
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Veracruz

These Things Happen (and we’re always proud).

We lost a teacher last week. She’d been with us from back when we opened. She’s very good, of course, and we’ll miss her. But we won’t be sad. In fact, we feel good about it.

What it is we feel good about is that she’s decided to go back to the university to study French and Japanese (on top of her Spanish and English). Any business worth its salt cares about it employees and is into employee development. That she’s adding two more languages (for which a lot of the credit goes to the environment of our school) says that in addition to doing our job for our students, we’re also doing our job for our employees.

We’ll stay good friends; we’ll always let her pick up a few hours here and there if she needs a little financial boost. And we’ll have a party for her, maybe with a Pinata even though it isn't a birthday, when she finishes--and we'll be proud and happy as can be.
by Eric, May/22/07
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Mexico

Only Thirty Inches Long, But It Still Counts.

The other day we headed up the coast to check out an ecotourism spot we’ve know about for a couple of years but never had time to visit. At the end of the article I’ve included a photo of thirty-inches-long-but-still-counts.

Thatched roof cabins (clean and very roomy), incredible bird watching (along a major migratory route), nature tours of various costal environments (foot tours, bike tours, boat tours, and since we’re in Mexico burro tours, and trips to a small but important near-by ruins are at the heart of their diverse activities. It all makes for a wonderful few days stay. You can see them at www.ecoturismolamancha.com

It’s a grassroots conservation activity, and I’m convinced that these are what will finally protect environments (piece by piece) world wide.

The president of this delightful small business is David Díaz Romero and the president of the vigilancia (those who keep the area extra safe for you in this already safe state) is Guadalupe Barradas Ramirez. They’re proud of their beautiful ocean side, and they’re proud of how they’re protecting the environment.

We got to go along on the mangrove tour (by motorboat on the beautiful and large lagoon), and that’s where we came upon our thirty inch friend. For the first time in my life I actually saw an alligator in the wild. It might not yet be big enough to bite off my hand, but it could easily manage a finger. And for me, that’s enough to make thirty inches count.

alligator at Eco Guias La Mancha
by Eric, May/08/07
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Mexico

Guero Guero, Guera Guera

Almost A Sorbert--that’s the best description of a typical Veracruz ice milk that’s a great treat all year around. Like so many wonderful things in Mexico, it comes with its own special sales presentation. “Guero Guero, Guera Guera,” is called out from every one of the ice milk shops.

The flavors are guanabana, mamay, banana, mango, pineapple, coco, all-fruit, and even the street vendors roaming around on their tricycles (and carrying only a few flavors) call our Guero Guero, Guera Guera. It’s tradition.

What it means, loosely translated is blondie. Or more fully, “Hey blondie, come buy some of my ice milk.” Most Americans feel it’s aimed, with warm and friendly humor, at them. Most Europeans feel the same way. Even most guide books think it’s aimed at the Americans and Europeans. But, most Mexicans know better.

The vendors yell it at everybody. And everybody has fun.

I bought a delicious chorizo torta, spicy Mexican sausage on a roll, at the corner store yesterday. I ordered it in advance, and it was waiting for me at the counter. Guero Guero, it said on the bag. They didn’t yell it out loud. But still, I was honored.
by Eric, Apr/20/07
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Veracruz

Buses Lined the Street. Cars Were Everywhere.

All the buses, all the cars, we didn’t care. They parked in front of our garage access. That didn’t matter. They unloaded a lot of people. That was great. They were here to have fun. As always, they behaved well. Many were family groups. The beaches were packed.

So was the Malecon. Over the sixteen day Easter break, according to government estimates, three million tourists came to town. The city was bulging.

Veracruz, is a tourist town. Three million tourists over Easter is proof of the pudding. It’s a happy and fun party town. But somehow it’s also a family place.

For the whole two weeks, with the exception of our school’s students, we saw only two Americans. I don’t remember seeing a single European. There were a couple of Orientals, but I think they were part of the crew of a ship docked in the port.

One of the many reasons Veracruz has so much to see and do is that it’s a tourist town. And one of the reasons there are so many people with whom you can practice Spanish is that the tourists (3,000,000 of them the past two weeks) are happy, friendly Mexicans.
by Eric, Apr/16/07
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Mexico

He’s All Wet—One of Our Charlantes, That Is.

Whitewater rafting is always exciting, and always wet. One of our Charlantes got wetter than usual. It was a big boulder, both long and high. The river was low, and so the only route was to go close to the rock and then hard left.

He rode up with a family of four. Mom, Dad, and boys 13 and 10. “High side,” yelled Chevy. The family leaned high, water pushed in and the ten year old swooshed up, over and out the high side.

Jonathan, our charlante, went right in also—jumped in—and surfaced right beside the young guy. The rafting company, owned by Chevy and his three brothers, is strongly into safety. There was no real danger; Aventuras Sin Limite rafts with maximum safety. It was pretty scary, of course, and the 10 year old handled it like a trooper.

Real danger or just scary feeling, it didn’t matter. One of his charges, the very young one, was in the water, and Jonathan responded. We’re very proud.
by Eric, Apr/08/07
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Veracruz

In the US We Wouldn’t Mention It, But Down Here It’s Worth Shouting About.

We hear the comment, a comment conveying appreciation and even thanks, that our plumbing works great. And it does. And since we live here year round, we’ve very happy about it also.

Allow me to be a little indiscreet, but our toilets flush well. In Latin America this is a big deal. Also, indiscretion continuing, our bathrooms don’t smell. This, too, is a big deal in Latin America.

If you reflect on it for a moment, it’s easy to see why the students’ comments carry a sense of relief and the fore mentioned thanks.

Our water is clean, and the couple of times I drank a glassful by mistake, I suffered no ill effects. For this too we’re thankful, but we still use bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Our hot water is hot. Our drain pipes don’t block up. We don’t suffer interruptions in city services.

The pressure isn’t the high pressure found in the US, but it doesn’t matter. The showers are more than amply supplied.

The bathroom fixtures are fully modern. (With the exception of one old-fashioned shower head that we left in just for looks. This too isn’t a problem because it’s fed by a standard modern shower valve.)

I wouldn’t go so far to say that we’re proud of our toilets (indiscretion unabated), but we’re very happy with them and so are our students.
by Eric, Mar/26/07
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Mexico

We’re Waiting for a Package.

We’ve been waiting for six weeks. Granted the package is coming from Denmark, but even so, the world’s not that big anymore.

Down here mail isn’t left in your mailbox, and packages aren’t set inside the screen door. The service here is super—mail is handed directly to us.

Of course, there’s a downside. We have to be here for it to be handed to us, but that’s no problem because someone is always here.

There’s another problem, but it’s not a big one either. The mailman doesn’t ring the doorbell (well our old one used to, but he’s been on another route the past six months.). The mailman lets us know he’s here by blowing his Post Office whistle. Post Office whistles all sound the same, and they don’t sound like any other. There are plenty of us to hear the whistle. It all works fine.

So where’s the package? Maybe we know. Day before yesterday we got our old mailman back. Whenever he’s not running late (usually he’s running late) he stops for a few minutes to practice his English. It was great to see him again.

His old fashioned leather mail bag was overly full. Lots of mail he told us. It’ll be awhile before he catches up, he went on to explain. He’s got a mountain of mail to wade through and deliver, and packages too.

Why? I asked in Spanish. I didn’t want any miscommunication.

Our mailman of the last six months had been very sick for two weeks. So there’s two weeks to catch up.

What? I was so bewildered that I can’t remember if I continued in Spanish or fell back into shocked English.

He couldn’t deliver it. He was sick.

Our old mailman, and now our current mailman once again is great. He’ll catch up in a week or so. He smiled, proud of the super service. Our package is coming.
by Eric, Mar/19/07
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Mexico

Gone Fishin’ but not Gone Very Far.

A six year-old is with us, and the ocean for him (just like for everyone) is pure magic. He found our fishing poles, and thenall he talked about was wanting to go fishing.

Where better to go fishing than at the fishermen’s dock. Fishermen were everywhere and their 27 foot long, open, ocean-going boats were tied up on both sides. We weren’t having any luck. I could see they felt bad for the little guy.

Fishermen, glancing our way, clustered and re-clustered. They were talking up a storm and smiling at us like we were totally out of our tree and desperately in need of help.

A sixteen year old fisherman, named Michel, wandered over and asked how we were doing—like he didn’t know. Not having any luck, I told him. He stood and watched a little longer. What are you using for bait, he wanted to know.

Bacon! What could be better, bacon cut into fish-bite sized chunks. Only a silver platter could be more alluring.

Oh, was all he said. They’re all so polite, and they’d never butt in. He held out his fist and opened his hand. Lying in it were 5 minnow-like silvery fish. He smiled. He didn’t tell us we were wrong. He didn’t tell us what to do. None of the fishermen would ever embarrass us.

How do I hook them, was my question. He showed me how, and I kid you not, within ten seconds of throwing it in the water, we hooked a fighter. I handed the pole to the six-year old. He reeled it to the edge of the dock. The fish jumped and jumped again, and the little guy started bouncing around.

We put another silvery little fish on our hook and got another great strike. Something is tugging on my line, is how he described it.

A fisherman came over and pointed down the dock. All he said was Michel, and then he went back to working on repairing his nets. I went to see what Michel wanted. Lying on the dock were two handfuls of the little fish. I called the kid, and we loaded up. Fish in the ocean began to strike like crazy.

A retired-looking guy fishing about 10 feet from us was using shrimp—the best all around choice. You’re welcome to some of these I told him pointing to our tiny treasures. Politely he declined. I offered again. He jumped up and came and got some, only a polite few.

The kid caught another fish. Fishermen smiled. Veracruz, everywhere, is wonderful.
by Eric, Mar/13/07
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Mexico

The Call and The Vote

It was an urgent call. We went looking for Elia, and she called right back. The conversation was fast and emotional. The green one or the white one, we had to wait for pictures.

Nothing is more special to a Mexican girl than her quinceañera—her sweet sixteen party (but here it’s sweet fifteen). Parents save for years to pay for these parties. The biggest single expense is the girl’s dress.

In Mexico City, they couldn’t decide. It was down to two dresses, the green one and the white one. They wanted Elia to decide.

These are big decisions, and Elia was touched. Family includes family in so many wonderful ways in Mexico. The photos came in. The green one was beautiful and vibrant. The white one was classic and regal. Elia needed help.

So, staff and students, we all looked at the pictures and talked it over, and then we voted. It was a split decision, and so we continued to talk it over. The vote held. Green was the winner.

The call went back to Mexico City. The memory of the magical moment will be with each of us forever.
by Eric, Mar/11/07
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Veracruz

Veracruz Shows Respect for Street Vendors

A couple months ago now, Veracruz removed all vendors from the malecon—actually from the main part of the malecon, the part in El Centro. The vendors didn’t take it very well. They called the mayor to task and asked the governor for help. They gathered in the street and threatened to march back in.

Of course, this is Veracruz, and so they are too gentle, and too friendly, and too well-behaved to really march back in. To honor this and to keep the vendors from losing face the city had to act. The city filled the entries to the malecon with riot police. They wore flak vests, and helmets with face masks, and carried huge shields and big sticks. They were ready for action, and that made the vendors feel respected.

The action the swat teams were ready for was to joke with locals and tourists and buy bottles of yogurt and bags of potato chips at the corner stores. They were ready to lean on light poles and even sit on the curb with their helmets sitting next to them.

They were doing their jobs just right.

The problem is that the city limits the number of vendors on the malecon, and in fact they have to. So long as the distribution of permits is fair, that’s okay with us. The receipts from the permits help offset the malecon’s extra costs, and that makes sense.

Out of town vendors were coming in and squatting on the malecon. They were refusing to leave and making a scene. They truly were getting to be a problem. The city was right to act and has acted with admirable restraint (the use of swat teams not withstanding).

We want our vendors back. We never buy from them, but they’re part of the setting. Lots of Mexican tourists buy from them, and so they’re also part of the fun.
by Eric, Mar/05/07
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Mexico

Two Weeks of School and Then Yucatan and Guatemala

After his two-week study-stay, a student left on a trip he’d been planning for 20 years. His Spanish worked great. His trip was spectacular.

The great ruins at Palenque was his first stop. Then he bused to Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan. There he went to Chichen Itzs and Uxmal. That would have been plenty, but 20 years to make a plan turns out to be more.

Via Belize, he went to Flores in Guatemala and the wonderful Tikal ruins. This surely was enough to complete any twenty year plan, but what about El Mirador in northern Guatemala. That’s the dream finish to a 20 year plan. In and out, it’s five days on horseback, four nights in a hammock strung up in the jungle-like growth, and plenty of time at the only partially excavated ruins.

This 20 year trip has turned out to have two phases. El Mirador has to wait, but not wait long. Time pressures, even a 20 year trip of trips has time pressures. Two weeks of school was all he needed to set him free on this trip. We love to see it happen.

He’ll be back in a few months to meet up with the horses and ride to El Mirador. Time pressures have taken him home. His love of cultures present and past will bring him back.
by Eric, Feb/25/07
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Veracruz

Close to Exploding

We’re closed for Carnaval. And so today we treated ourselves to a student’s first day. We took ourselves on the double decker bus, had lunch on the Malecon, and toured the boulevard. We’ve been so busy that we get to do this for ourselves only about once a year.

Today there was explosion in the air. We felt it as we passed by the zocalo and then down by the artisans’ shops. The feeling continues as we passed the navy dock, the T dock and the small fort. As we got back on the downtown streets it was at a critical level.

People are walking a little too fast. They’re bouncing a little to high. They’re speaking a little loud and extra rapidly. They’re jaywalking worse than ever.

Then we went to the parade route and bought bleacher tickets for tonight’s parade and tomorrow’s. This place could blow at any moment.

It’s so close to exploding it can barely contain itself. There are red hot pockets here and there. I’m counting the minutes. The party is about to blow wide open.

Music and dancing and singing and joking and food and drink—it’ll be everywhere. And then the parade will come. Things will focus a little for about three hours, and then it’ll blow wide open again but even bigger. A million people come to Carnaval, but we just stay home. The school is 47 steps from the parade route, the party route.
by Eric, Feb/17/07
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Mexico

How to Make a Perfect Parade Route in Mexico

It takes a lot of people, and maybe half of them need to be workers. You also need to have a lot of advice givers standing around.

You have to truck bleachers to town and then assemble them—about three miles of them. The parade route is about two miles long, and for a mile and a half or so bleachers are assembles on both sides of the street.

You have to hang lighted signs from every street light. Make it two signs per pole, lighted signs about four foot square. If you don’t have enough light poles, also use the coconut trees.

You need soft drink stands every hundred feet. Bring them in by the flatbed load and set then behind the bleachers. Do it at night so everyone living close by can hear. They’re sheet metal sheds, and so they’re plenty noisy.

Close the boulevard here and there, now and then, when you need to. Send the cars and buses scurrying for alternate routes. If we need a bus, we’ll just go looking for where they are. They can’t be more than two or three blocks away.

We don’t want rain, but Carnaval isn’t dry. Put in bigger sheet metal sheds for the beer companies. Beer companies like dancing girls (after all this is Carnaval), and so make the roof a dance floor and set up a sound system.

Mark the bleachers and sell the seats. Make the seats about the right size for a ten year old so you can pack in a lot of people. There are eight parades. Every seat is sold eight times.

Make room for the coconut vendors and for the hot dog vendors and for the pancake vendors and the raspado (snow cone) vendors and the ice cream vendors. Let them pick out (and pay for—the City needs to offset expenses so every vendor of every type pays) their spots. Make sure the tamale vendors and chili relleno vendors are nicely spread out.

And get the street cleaners and their 55 gallon drums on wheels ready—it’s great part time money high school kids. Have them ready by the dump truck load. They ride low in the dump bed on there way out from the City Yards and ride high on a mountain of trash to get back.

Most important of all, get the maybe a million tourists ready to come to town—maybe only for a day, maybe overnight or for a few days. And those of us living in town, we’ll suspend reality and be tourists for a few days too.

The floats, the marching groups, the soft drink sellers, the tamale vendors and on and on are important, but what really turns the boulevard into a perfect parade route is a million happy, partying spectators.
by Eric, Feb/13/07
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Veracruz

Jazz Under the Stars

A sax, percussion, a guitar, and a base—the jazz was great. It was a free concert in the Museo de la Ciudad and well attended. A couple of folks from the school were there.

They had no idea the indoor concert was under the stars. There had been no reason to look up; the action was all around them on the ground floor.

But then the lights went out. No emergency, battery-powered lights came on; no emergency generator roared into action. Nothing. Well, nothing except more and more great music. The bass wasn’t quite as loud; the guitar was hard to hear. And above, the moonlit sky was visible.

For about ten minutes the slightly quieter jazz continued in pure darkness. The audience continued to listen as if not noticing the loss of electricity. But they noticed, of course. They just didn’t care. Nothing was wrong. The lights went out; that was all.

And ten minutes later the light came back; the guitar came back; the sky faded; the music continued to continue. Electricity comes and goes. (We don’t lose it often.) Good music is everywhere in Veracruz, and about this the people do care.
by Eric, Feb/03/07
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Veracruz

Not Small Potatoes

I bought large ones to go with a steak, but I could have gotten small potatoes. I venture to say that in the little corner grocery (14 ft x 50 ft) they have probably three thousand different items.

I don't know how the owner does it. And I don't know how we'd do without the store. In spite of our best laid plans, we probably go there three or four times a day. True, it might just be for ice cream, but that still counts.

The store is fun to visit. It's a great place to talk about anything. Soccer is always a winner. Even the weather makes a great conversation. Anything in Mexico is something great to talk about.

Veracruz is filling with Oxxo's. They are like 7-11s or Circle Ks. They're showing up on lots of corners. They don't have several thousand items--and definitely not the several thousand we need.

And there's no hanging around at the long counter and talking or listening. Oxxo is a convenience store.

The corner grocery store is a great convenience, but it's far, far more than just a convenience store.
by Eric, Jan/21/07
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Veracruz

The Pianist Had to Wait.

Veracruz has a European style opera house. Teatro Clavijero is small, beautiful, has great acoustics, and doesn’t have a bad seat. Reversed seating is called numerado, and general admission is galleria.

Last night about fifteen of us from the school went to a piano concert. It started late (only ten minutes, but even that’s unusual). Finally, the pianist took his place, focused, and then refocused. We all refocused.

We heard the sounds of children, lots of children. The sounds were ascending—not getting louder but moving up the stairwells. The pianist, all of us, waited.

Light flooded in from opened galeria doors. More than a hundred grade school kids came in, shushed and as quiet as a hundred grade school kids could be.

The pianist, looking relaxed and happy, waited. Veracruz loves its children. The galeria fell silent.

The pianist focused. Liszt, Brahms, Chopin, and well-behaved kids filled the concert hall.
by Eric, Jan/14/07
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Veracruz

Enjoying Old Friends

Spanish is such a beautiful language, and it’s a big language. There’s always more to know, more to understand, more to share.

And so Spanish learners keep on studying. Many students come back to school for a second study-stay. This month 5 students are back for the second time.

And that’s great.

School’s an academic space, and even more it’s a human space. We always enjoy being together with old friends.
by Eric, Jan/10/07
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Mexico

Your Laptop--Even If It’s Broken

Bring your laptop on down with you even if it’s broken. We have Ethernet, wireless, and even excellent computer life-saving.

Serafin Baldormar owns a computer networking and support business, and he’s good. Right now he’s getting one of our email computers back on line. The poor computer’s been around the world—more correctly, Chinese language software, Japanese language software, and all kinds of other stuff. The computer has served us well here in Mexico, in Ecuador, in Chile, in Peru, in the US (of course), and it’s like a member of the family. But finally, its innerworkings had been so stressed that it just completely gave up trying to connect to the net.

I, too, completely gave up. I was ready to throw it in the trash, in Spanish we say throw it to the trash, but instead Linda said Serafin was the answer. I’ve been watching him. Over the last two hours or so I’ve seen problem after problem ruled out. He’s deep into nooks and crannies of the operating systems, nooks and crannies I had absolutely no idea existed. Surgically he moved ever closer to the problem.

And now, we’re back on the net (using Ethernet); the months ago lost audio is back, and at the moment we’re moving toward being wireless. I say we because I’m supplying support (coffee, ice cream, cheering and heartfelt appreciation).

There’s lots of excellent talent here in Mexico. Like everywhere, there’s also lots of very bad talent. It’s all who you know. And for us knowing Serafin is very lucky.
by Eric, Jan/09/07
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Mexico

Wide-Eyed and Ready to Dive In

A nine-year old from the US is here at the school for an extended stay. Her eyes were so wide, her expression was so filled with happy anticipation—Linda had just set our Rosca de Reyes on the table in front of her.

The King’s Day Ring, la rosca de reyes, is a ring cake with red and green and yellow and brown candied fruit on top. It’s pretty; it’s delicious, but best of all is what’s inside.

Down here children get some presents on Christmas, but the super special toys are King’s Day gifts. They kids open their presents on King’s Day eve, and the whole family plays together the entire next day.

“Oh no, I thought it would be this big,” said the young girl. Her hands signaled a size of about 8 or 10 inches long. She’d spotted a 2 inch long baby doll escaping from the side of the rosca. There are many more dolls inside. The rosca is cut, and whoever’s slice contains a doll wins.

What’s won is the chance (a social imperative) to give a party on February second. Everyone gathered for the rosca and chocolate milk on King’s Day will re-gather on the second for a “follow-up” party. (Mexico is the land of fiestas.)

A student who’s just arrived from California said they’d had a rosca yesterday brought to work by one of his staff. It was a big one, like ours, and it contained only one doll. “Not down here,” said Elia (and I’m translating). “With only one doll, with only one person ‘winning,’ the party wouldn’t be big enough. We put in lots of dolls—at least four but six is better.”

I sure hope the nine-year old gets one. We’ll ask her to throw the February second party, and everyone, whether or not they also got a doll will pitch in and help. And if she get’s a doll, I’ll have my camera ready to get a picture of her wide-eyed, happy-as-can-be expression.
by Eric, Jan/07/07
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Mexico

What's a Tianguis?

That’s a great question. It’s not a flee market; it’s not a thieves market. Most days of the week it’s nothing more than steel tubes—vertical, horizontal, arched, and crooked.

But twice a week here in Veracruz, it’s a clothing market. It’s snazzy, and it’s cheap. It’s only here Thursday and Sunday. The rest of the week, the vendors are grouped elsewhere—we don’t know where.

Many of the young women who work for us shop at the Tianguis, and so do some of the guys. All of them love to take students there for Out-and-About labs. It’s a popular spot.

“Stores” are formed by hanging tarps from the tangle of steel tubes. Fancy shops also have tarp roofs. It’s all open front onto the interior walkways. And it’s noisy.

A lot of the noise is happy shoppers, most often families, and the rest of the noise is music. From all directions, from all over the place, stereos are blasting out all kinds of music. Most of it costs 20 pesos (about 2 dollars) a CD. Lots of the albums contain far more hits than the 18 dollar CDs in the music stores. The CD are “pirates.”

And there are tables. Lots of tables and mostly full. They’re in rows, and one family’s seating picks up where another family’s seating leaves off. The people are so friendly that there is no need for individual tables. Everybody sits together. And they eat, and eat, and eat.

So a tianguis isn’t a flee market or a thieves market. And it’s not a street fair. Nor is it a bunch of clothing retailers or a bunch of music stores or run-on restaurants.

For us, and for you, what’s a tianguis. A tianguis is an adventure in happy Mexico.
by Eric, Jan/04/07
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Veracruz

Two Hours in the Market

It would be easy to spend all day in the central market, but Out-and-About Labs only last two hours. Mercado Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla has hundreds of puestos. We’d call a puesto a stand—a vegetable stand, a flower stand, a dry goods stand.

There are fifty or maybe even a hundred vegetable puestos. Many sell the same thing. I’ve never known what causes a person to choose this one or that one. Some of the sellers have been in the same puesto for years. So, my best guess is customer loyalty.

One likes to talk with old friends, even when shopping for carrots and chilies and potatoes. The market is full of conversations.

Some stands only sell citrus. Some only sell brooms and mops. There are butcher stands, some for beef, some for pork, and some for chicken. The meat hangs (un-refrigerated) above butcher counters. You can point at exactly the piece you want. (We don’t buy our meat at the market.)

There are canaries and parakeets, curtain rods, clothes, shoes, and shoes, and shoes. There are a few seamstresses, shoe repairmen, and a bunch of tiny individual kitchens, all in a common area and all serving to a common set of tables.

You’ll also find fresh flowers, potted flowers and plants, tools (of assorted quality), herbs, dried chilies (probably 30 varieties) repair parts for blenders, magazines (new and used), school supplies, natural medicines, and so much more I can’t begin to remember it all.

Two hours just isn’t enough time. But it doesn’t matter. You hop on a bus at our corner, and hop off six minutes later right in front of the market. You can go as often as you want.

It’s one of our favorite places. When two hours just isn’t enough for you, we can all go back together.
by Eric, Jan/03/07
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Mexico

Mexico's Architecture

The school is in a wonderful piece of old Mexican architecture. All our students are out for the weekend. All our staff has gone home to celebrate the coming of the new year. Linda and I are here all alone—but that’s okay since all alone together is the purest of happiness for us.

What we can’t decide is where to be as we sit together. Right now we’re on the two-seater in the living room. We’re looking at the high ceilings and the arches and the concrete handrail that runs up the stairs. In a little while we’ll sit together out back in the open, covered classroom area. It’s a study in architectural volumes that Mexico does so well. After being there a while, we’ll probably go sit on the roof and look at the ocean. Or maybe we’ll got to a balcony to look at it.

Then maybe we’ll be together in the space next door. We just picked it up, and we’re busy remodeling it. It’s even bigger than this place. Its upstairs front deck is a great place to sit together. But sitting on the huge front porch, wrapped with ornate wrought iron, is fun because of all the people passing by. Also, there’s the outback turtle pond (without turtles).

The school is loaded with great places to sit around and study or practice Spanish or just to sit around and be together.

Usually we sit here and there and everywhere throughout the day and evening talking and practicing and visiting with students. But tonight, all alone together, we just can’t decide.
by Eric, Dec/30/06
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Mexico

Mexico’s Merchant Marine Academy

It’s right around the corner and right on the ocean. We’ve walked by it for two years every time we go to the school’s small craft. I’ve tried to get in for a look around, and today, finally, I made it.

There’s a mockup of a ship’s bridge in which they ignite a smoky fire, and the students must enter in near zero visibility to “save” shipmates. The planetarium is fun, the ship machinery shops are a special treat to me, but best of all was (school’s out and nobody is there) getting to go to the restricted area high up next to the dome.

The view is fantastic. I was looking right along the seawall (it’s open to tourists) all the way to the mouth of the harbor. I had a bird’s eye view of the docks and the ships loading and unloading. We see them from dockside all the time, but this time I saw them from above. Even turning inward and looking across the rooftops deep into the city was beautiful.

Restricted “deck” it might be, today. Right after the holidays I’m going on a campaign to make it a “tourist stop” for our students. I’ll let you know.
by Eric, 12/29/06
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Veracruz

Plus One Dollar A Day

You can walk to the malecon, or to the zocalo, or the beach. It’s not really big exercise, but it’s healthy. Or for a dollar you can ride there and back on the bus.

You’ll want to go out in the evening. You’ll probably want to take the bus, and so you need to budget this extra dollar a day. But if you’re trying to control costs, that’s all you need to budget. A dollar a day (if you want to ride)--Monday through Friday a dollar a day is all you need in addition to our school’s weekly price. There are no hidden costs, no surprises, no “optional activities” list. Everything we do at the school is included in our price.

Here’s my caveat—you will have to eat recalentados for dinner. The freezer has plenty of leftovers, and everyone is welcome to them.

But that’s it. The Thursday field trip is included, all daily outings are included, study materials are included, breakfast and La Comida are included, personal laundry is included, internet access (including use of our email computers) is included. The list is on our Prices page.

You know, right from the start, what school will cost.

Weekends are on your own—your room remains yours, of course. (And usually there are plenty of recalentados.)
by Eric, 12/27/06
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Veracruz

Looking Back Over The Stats

It year’s end, and like everybody, we’re looking back over how things went. They went super, but there are always things we can make even better.

One big thing is that our instructors and charlantes depend on what they earn here at school. We use mostly part-timers. We do it so you’ll get a broader variety of native speakers with whom to work and practice (we try to have you work or practice with at least 10 during a 2 week stay). Also this is their fun job, and it shows.

We staff to be able to maintain small groups even at peak enrollment. That means that during average enrollment we are overstaffed. We should tell staff to stay home. But we won’t.

Money is tight in Mexico, and the economy is harsh. Their part-time money for working with you is very important to them and their families. So, we pay them whether we need them or not. This is bad business. Here are some stats.

Over the year our classes averaged 2.09 students. Our fieldtrips averaged 1.39 students per charlante, and our Out-and-About Labs were almost always one on one.

So, is bad business in this case actually good business? Over and over, our students tell us it’s good for them. Good for you is good for us.

But far more than anything, it’s good for our staff. Paying them whether we need them or not—it’s not bad business; it’s fair and just and respectful. It’s good business.
by Eric, 12/26/06
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Veracruz

A Working Christmas

We don’t close for Christmas. And since we’re open we have a lot to do. That’s because we don’t let our staff or teachers work on Christmas day. Christmas is for family, and the staff has all gone home.

But Miguel and Rafael are here working. They’re not regular staff (although they’re related to a staff member). By working two weeks at Christmas, they make enough for Miguel to afford spring semester at his university. He and Rafael will work here a couple of weeks this summer, and that’ll cover fall semester. This very little bit of money means affording or not affording higher education.

Next Christmas Miguel will be graduating. Rafael will only come back to visit. That’s because Miguel will be making enough to help him afford college, and also their sisters, Adriana and Estefania. Family taking care of family is an old and beautiful Mexican tradition. In small ways and only now and then the school gets a chance to help the tradition stay strong.
by Eric, 12/25/06
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Mexico

Our Third Christmas At The Language School

Time flies, as they say, when you’re having fun, and today is our third Christmas Eve here at school. Noche Buena—that’s what it’s called, and it is a most special night. I’ve never seen so much food as we saw last Christmas Eve. Families come together and sit around a feast big enough for an army. Everyone eats too much, and even so the serving platters look to have been barely touched.

It’s great—all the left over food is just another excuse to get back together to try and finish it all up. The same groups get back together on Christmas Day and laugh and talk and eat and eat. We’d say they are eating the leftovers, and they say, with warmth and beauty, that they are eating the recalentados, the reheats.

Family, friends, and spending time together, maybe that’s why time has flown so fast. Maybe that’s why we have so much fun down here. And maybe that’s why having the school and all the happiness that goes with it for us is like a Christmas present.
by Eric, 12/24/06
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The Spanish Language Immersion School in Veracruz, Mexico

Spanish Language Schools, Veracruz Mexico Spanish Language School

Spanish Immersion, on the ocean in Veracruz, Mexico