Sunday, August 21, 2016

That Was A Whirlwind

The universe is in balance...always
My return trip to Tehucan is a precise example of why there is balance in the universe. As my trip from Mexico to Niagara Falls was flawless in every way possible, well with the exception of the long self induced wait at the Mexico City Airport, it was only logical the return trip would not be "quite as smooth" so to speak. Missed flights, long waits, no sleep but I made it back in one piece. At 11 am I found myself sitting in the Zocolo with a hot cup of coffee watching the Mexican day unfold right before me. I was indeed back.

But first up the whirlwind beer swilling tour that was my week in Niagara Falls, photos not available!  In no specific order it was, Jakes Chip Wagon, Grand Central, Clancys, Dunn Street GrillIvans, Doc Magilligans, and The Bull Market. There were pizzas, wings, steak subs, hamagoop, and lots of Tim Hortons. Visits with Meema, Winnie, Lynne, Marina and Maycee, Nick and Kate, Melissa and Arron, Kim, Paul and Leo, Ken, Ruth, Seguin, Vanstone and Reggie, Ken Semenack, Sue and Clarence, Joe and Rose, plus the many friendly familiar faces I met when I was out and about.

There was also the sudden and shocking death of an old friend that reminded me of how fragile and short our time really is. Someone said "it's pretty scary". I do not think they understood the power of those words as they spurted them out without really thinking about it. Everyone was very sad on FB and then posted pictures of various life events right after. Could you at least wait 24 hours after you express how sad you are before you post something inane. Oh, but you express remorse and the world saw it, good for you.

I missed the final Tragically Hip concert because I was in transit back but thanks to the wonderful world of torrents I have it in my grubby little mitts. Yes "Canada was Closed" on Saturday for the final national broadcast of the their final concert. Even the BBC wrote about it.  For those who do not know Gord Downie, announced in May that he had terminal brain cancer and the band headed out on a real "farewell tour". The Tragically Hip is as much about Canada as hockey is, and that is a strong statement. Yet another reminder to stop screwing around and embrace this life for fuck sake! Stop worrying about the god damn bills, they will get paid.

A massive thank you to Gord Downie, Gord Sinclair, Paul Langois, Rob Baker, Johnny Fay and Davis Manning. You are now and will always be...Tragically Hip.

“No dress rehearsal, this is our life.”  -- Ahead by a Century,

Finally I took this from my nephew Ryan's Facebook page who clearly nails the Canadian sentiment.
"Every cottage you've ever gone to. Every campfire you've ever sat around. Every road trip you've ever embarked on. Every basement you've ever sat in. Every time you ever picked up a guitar for an impromptu jam session with your buddies. Every time you may have had a few too many beers, and decided that smoking a joint would be a good idea. Every time that you tried to find a playlist that everybody could enjoy. Every time you wanted to get nostalgic. Any time you wanted to feel something. The Hip was there. What an incredible last show, as we bid our likely last farewell to Canadian icons."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Serious Roadtrip

Ready to hit the road
The semester is over, the final grades have been submitted and good-byes have been said. It's "Go Time". I have been chomping at the bit to get on the road again and the final two weeks of the semester dragged on and on and on, as they do. However it is always good to head home to regroup a bit, even if it is for only week. All things considered I have been wearing the same clothes for the better part of a year. I am going to go through my clothes that I have stored at my house like it was my birthday. I do not know what I will find but I do know it will be a welcome sight from what are becoming the dirty old rags I am currently wandering around it.

My favorite white travel pants will be taken out for one last trip. They were ripped pretty good from where I was attached by the dog a few months back. Time has taken it's toll on a coral colored long sleeve dry fit from MEC that has been with me for 15 years and 25 countries.  It is odd how you get attached to quality clothes that have served you well on the road.

Now there are the numerous Quetzel Trekkers T-shirts and singlets and the 2 items that I have undivided brand loyalty for. Columbia wrinkle free short sleeve shirts and Merrell hiking shoes/boots. After that its the markets for used (vintage) to get me through. Let's see how long the Fedora lasts.

I walked the 20 minutes to the school and arrived just after 9:00 am to wrap up the semester. Packing for me has become second nature plus I was leaving quite a few things here in Tehuacan. That meant for the first time ever my pack is ultra light. I was going to be jumping in and out of modes of transport so a light pack will be an odd treat. In and out in 15 minutes. I had a bus to catch.

 First stop, the ADO bus terminal on Indepencia Dr for the 11:30 bus to Puebla. I was meeting Scott Nydegger, a fellow teacher and housemate who left earlier for his Saturday morning ritual. Coffee, breakfast and then beer, regardless of the time. Scott has been know to knock back 3 Litres of Corona by 10:30 on a Saturday. He showed up at 11:15 stinking like a homeless guy. The only issue is when he does drink to much he tend to pontificate ALLOT but mostly about American Politics. It's his life and over the years I have developed the innate ability to shut people out so he catches on quickly without issue.
The 140 peso, 2 hour ride to Puebla was easy aboard the ADO comfortable and modern bus terminal. It was easy and uneventful. Once there we grabbed a "secure cab" from the CAPU bus terminal to the Estralla Roja terminal where I was to catch my bus direct to the Mexico City Airport which I think is a fantastic idea. Scott was anxious to find a room the night and a beer (he was catching his flight in the morning). I had zero desire to start drinking so I grabbed my ticket for the bus to the airport. I had only had a 15 minute wait for the 2:30 departure. I payed my 290 pesos, walked through security and arrived at the gate to which I was given water, soda, cookies and headphones..all free, yes sir FREE. Not a huge expense to be sure but what a nice gesture and I needed headphones. This bus was the luxury liner in the ADO fleet where as Grey Hound, Grey Coach or any other North American bus service can not compare. Next stop was the Mexico City Airport 3 hours away. I was asleep in about 10 minutes.

I made a big mistake in my over zealousness (is that word?) to get to the airport. My flight was leaving just after midnight and the ADO bus dropped me off at the main entrance to terminal 1 at 5:00. I can kill 7 hours easy enough especially with Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez being big, modern, clean, bright and filled with food vendors of every type. I love wandering airports and hunger was not going to be an issue, but lugging my rucksack around for 4 hours would be a pain in the ass. I found the AC check in but was told they open 3 hours before the flight departs. I grabbed a huge torta, found a table, put my ear buds in and fired up the Ipod mini all the while watching the world go by. At 9:00 I wandered to the AC desk, checked in and was through security by 9:15 without ever having to take off my shoes.  I was airborne in no time, asleep just as quick and waking up to the morning lights of the Toronto Skyline.  The flight was as uneventful as was the walk through Customs and Immigration..surprisingly.
The long walk from the flight to immigration was a great way to wake up after a Red Eye flight. The airport was eerily quiet at 6:00 am. There were maybe 10 people in the huge holding pen that is Pearson Airport Customs and Immigration. There is a new process where you put your Customs and Immigration form into a machine, which spits out a copy. Efficient but a critical waste of paper if you asked me. Anyways I took my verified papers toward the customs desks. There were two desks open and each were talking to someone. I was the next in line which I have never experienced at Pearson. There were two officers standing where the line would begin. One young officer waved me over and we went through the process right there. I have a one minute conversation with a younger woman officer who was polite and kind of funny. I was processed an on my way to baggage in no time flat. Who ever came up with the new processing process deserved a promotion. A job well done Canada Customs.
Next up, the painful experience that is the luggage carousel. Experience has proven to me that I needed to be ready for the elbows up roller derby experience and  a long wait. So I found my place and started to muster up the carousel attitude when "boom" there its was, my rucksack coming up the ramp. WTF is going on? From landing at 6:00 am, through to custom then off to luggage I was on my way by 6:45. Efficiency may have rued the morning but my state of confusion clouded my mind.

When I took the UP express last September to the airport it cost me $25.00 one way. The price now was $12.00 and although I had time I did not feel like battling the TTC. I was up for the rocket to Kipling Station, the Subway East to St. George Station, switch trains and jump on the University line to Union Station. That would take no less than an hour but the UP express was a quiet and quick 20 minutes. I pulled into Union Station and wandered aimlessly and a bit perplexed at both the ghost town and the emptiness. Union Station has been under construction for over 2 years and everything that I knew no longer existed, figuratively and literally. I needed to regroup and coffee was my highest priority but Timmies was not where it usually was. "The Horror, The Horror"
When the light bulb went off and I remembered that I lived in Toronto for 15 years I calmed down and clued in that there was a Timmies by the Royal York Hotel so off I skipped with visions of Maple Dips dancing in my head. I had 90 minutes until the final leg of my trip so with large coffee and 2 maple dips in my grubby paws I sat at the window and woke up with Toronto.

Union Station and the GO Train oh man I have done this miserable journey many times as a commuter. As a traveller the GO (Government of Ontario) train service is a decent regional train system. I managed to get on the Niagara Express which is a direct train to Niagara Falls with just a few stops along the way (Exhibition, Port Credit, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines) with a travel time of about 2 hours. It was nap time again. The only trouble with nap time was the train was filled with happy and excited weekend and day trippers. That makes a 2 hour trip fun and fast because most people are open to chatting and conversation is easy. The porter was also in a great mood and added a bit of humor into the spirit of the journey.

With all the transportation and connections I had to make this trip went flawless BUT I know the way the world works. I have a trip back to Tehuacan that includes stops in Cleveland and Houston before I arrive in Puebla. From there it's a late night cab right to the Centro where I have a room booked. Then an early morning but Tehuacan. I have to be prepared for every shitty situation and douche bag I have to deal with along the way. It was flawless and enjoyable getting here so it only stands to reason it will be the Poseidon Adventure on the return.

24 hours later it was time for the famous Jake's Fries

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Exit Spring Semester

Another semester in the books with 39 more smiling ESL students hopefully learning a little something along the way. I had previously spent the first part of the semester at the Discovery Middle School, a private privileged school that presented some unique challenges. I was teaching 3 groups of students who were elite and entitled and they literally ran the school. Some were great students but most were Hyenas and a huge challenge. I embraced this as best I could but when the school year ended in July I had a huge sense of relief (not the first teacher to feel this way with this school). I transferred full time to the Heslington ESL Language Institute full time with 5 classes of one hour each.
Co Teachers and Classes
My time in Mexico got off to a bit of a bumpy start. After 6 months in Nicaragua and another 6 weeks on the road traveling I hit Mexico. Within days I was greeted with a crazy bout of food poisoning which lasted over 2 weeks. I managed to get to Palenque, Oaxaca and San Cristobal but was a bit spirit was limited. I hit Tehuacan, found my apartment and settled in for what was to be a 3 month teaching contract.

The co-teachers and staff at Heslington were / are some of the nicest and helpful I have met along the way. Others were complete douche bags but that is going to happen isn't it? They were next on the list to leave so their shared time was limited. I was also now in shared housing with various personalities which was survivable as I had my own room to escape to when I did not want to deal with what became the daily "whining and complaining routine" of a few of my housemates.

10am Fluency Workshop 1
My schedule was now a breeze after the end of Discovery. A morning fluency class at 10 am started my day, and what a class it was. In my short time as an ESL this was by and far the most energetic, fun, inspired and hilarious class I have taught. Their fed off each others energy and never once did I hear the moan of "ah teacher this is boring" even when my lesson plan sucked. They embraced it and just rolled with it. The picture is missing a few of the students who contributed to the mayhem and madness that became the class.

4:00 Pre - Intermediate
6;00 Fluency Workshop 1
7:00 Fluency Workshop 1

Next up was another great group of students, 4:00 pre-intermediate. They would do anything if they did not have to work out of the boring workbook. Missing are 3 students who contributed to a very fun crew who tortured each other if they made mistakes. During any games they were insanely competitive and the gloves came off for anything the resulted in the prize being a bag of skittles.

The 6:00 Fluency class was a bit of a challenge. Half of the class was motivate while the other half needed dynamite under their collective asses to get them going. I have never seen so many 15 year old kids so tired in my life. That being said the Mexican parents tend to have their kids going 24/7. Extended regular school, athletics, English classes, music or whatever else to keep them active. I learned it is a combination of keeping them out of trouble and trying to give them as much of an advantage a possible. When I learned that tidbit I took a different approach and we moved along pretty well. Although they were tough to keep "entertained" while they learned.

7:00 Fluency was the anti 6:00 Fluency. Ready to learn but so quick to torture each other about everything. It did not help that I would egg them on. We are missing the only girl in the class who kept the boys on an even keel when they got a bit rowdy. She tolerated nothing from them and held her own.

Finally the 8:00 beginner class. A nice way to end a long day as the class was quite a bit slower as you can expect. The three girls were keen and eager to learn and help each other. Not much in the way of "banter" because of their lack of English but this class was helpful in my Spanish as we used both language to help them understand when they did not. Not the best policy, well it is actually against school policy but whatever, it worked.

We had a nice going away party with the 6;00 and 7:00 classes combined for a Taco feast and a few games. I kept telling the students that "I did not like Tacos"  just to get a rise out of them. Some students were in such a state of suspended animation and shock at that comment that they committed so making sure I had "the best Tacos in Mexico" and they did not disappoint.

During the latter part of the semester I was asked to come back for the Fall term until December 14th. It fit into my personal schedule and this school gives me the freedom to experiment  and even deviate with lesson planning as long as they learn material. Aside from the copious amount of information on various ESL teaching sites and Pinterest (believe it or not) I found Breaking News English and News Flash English to be invaluable and a break from the ordinary.

There are faces missing in the pictures both students and teachers including everyone at Discovery. Not to worry as the fall semester starts on August 22nds. I will have 6 classes, some returning students but many new faces. Challenging, shit yeah, but that is the way it should be. After all I am rocking the $450 a month salary. Thankfully tacos are $1.25 each