Monday, March 1, 2010

Laundry and School in Mexico

Do any of you regular bloggers have any advice? I can´t post more pictures here and I don´t know why.

Our trip here was challenging. Marcos was the main problem. He didn´t feel well. He had a fever and he cried almost constantly on the plane. By a tender mercy, he and I had a row to ourselves on the second (long) flight. That was good, but Edgar and I just passed him back and forth, over and over. The bus ride from Guadalajara to Autlan was the hardest. It was on very windy roads and the driver went about 40 kilometers (around 20 mph) an hour. It took about 5 hours. He started showing a horrible movie about vampires. At that point, Lili and Marcos were asleep, but Ruben was watching. I tried to get him to look out the window and I tried to read to him. I was waiting for the bus to stop so I could go ask the driver to change the movie. Edgar told me the bus wouldn´t stop again and that I couldn´t ask the driver to change the movie. I decided yes, I could, and I went forward. I was also trying very hard not to throw up.

The driver offered me a seat right by him and I stayed there the rest of the trip (about 3 1/2 hours). I asked if the movie could be changed. I told him that it was inappropriate for children, that my child was scared, and that I try to protect my children from such things). He said that if I´d asked earlier, he could have had another movie, but that the other passengers would be mad if he changed it at that point. He said, "Next time, talk to the driver first." It´s crazy that they would think it is appropriate to show a horror movie in a public bus, where children are present.

The driver and I talked the rest of the way about family and values and religion. I wished for a pass-a-long card. He was a nice man. He ate and drank as he drove and gave me a piece of gum. Lili got sick too and came up and sat with us. Marcos also got sick and threw up all over Edgar.

After Autlan, we took a taxi to El Grullo. Our kids couldn´t believe we STILL weren´t there. Neither could I. We had traveled for 22 hours. Edgar´s aunt was here to greet us and then another aunt, uncle, three daughters and a boyfriend. We were starving, grumpy, sweaty, exhausted, smelling like vomit (Marcos) and urine (Ruben had an accident). WE DID NOT WANT TO ENTERTAIN! They were just happy to greet us. They FINALLY left two hours later.

I need to write more--especially about yesterday, but I need to leave now. We have to go visit Edgar´s friend. I want to post more pictures too, but I don´t know if I´ll be able to.

Edgar told me his mom has a washer here in her house. I was glad. Today I learned that there are washers and then there are WASHERS that also RINSE and WRING. I knew I´d be hanging clothes out on the line, but that´s no problem. I mean, I used to be The Laundry Queen. Well, I´m still the queen, but it is a whole different kingdom down here. It takes a lot more to rule with these laundry tools. This is the "washer," and I use that term very loosely. In this "washer," we add soap and turn it on for up to 19 minutes, depending on how fragile the fabric is. It agitates, and that´s all.
This is the washboard, where we scrub the clothes against the cement indentations to get the soap off. We also douse the clothes with water from the bucket (which we don´t go far to fill--it´s just right here in this basin).
I only had one hand here so I could take the picture. In reality, it takes at least both hands and maybe a foot or two. Marcos was taking a nap and Edgar (after doing the first half of the laundry load), went to pick Lili and Ruben up from school. Next time, I´ll go for the kids. This is intense work.Then we wring out the clothes. This also requires two hands. Edgar used Lili´s blanket when Marcos threw up on the bus on Saturday, so we had to wash it. It was so heavy (flannel and all). After I finally got it somewhat wrung out, I hung it up on the brittle rope and the rope broke, spilling all the other clothes on that line on the cement floor. I tied the rope back up as well as I could, but it was falling apart.
Finally, we hang the clothes on the old brittle ropes. With my first light pair of pants, I didn´t think of wiping the rope off first. They got a little grimy. Later they fell off during another line break, when our clothes were too heavy and pulled the nail clean out of the cement wall. I´ve decided that clothes are going to have to be pretty darn dirty if I´m going to wash them here. Those pants finally got clean, but it took a lot.
I don´t mind the view. Those flowers just grow spontaneously and the blue sky goes all the way up. There´s also no wind.
Since we had some line breakage, I ended up hanging some clothes up on some random nails on the wall. That was only one load of clothes. I might do another load--next week or so, when I get up my courage. I had to take a nap after this. I hope I will always appreciate my washer at home that does it all. I´m sure such washers exist here too--we just don´t have one.
I didn´t sleep well last night. It was the kids´first day of school. I was so nervous. Lili didn´t go to sleep until almost 11. We still are affected a bit by the time change (we´re two hours later here). She was exhausted when I got her up. We had corn flakes and "creamy" milk (it´s whole milk and Ruben said it was very creamy--that it must come from a "real cow" with bananas). Edgar went shopping Saturday night, and we didn´t have much. Tomorrow I´ll do a better breakfast. We went shopping while the kids were in school. I was loading up the cart and Edgar kept telling me I was getting too much stuff. I told him I don´t want to go to the store everyday. My usual shopping experience involves Super Wal-Mart and my mini-van. As we were paying it dawned on me: we have to carry all these groceries home! Fortunately, Edgar´s a big, strong man. He had Marcos in our hiking baby-carrier backpack and had both hands. We made it home.
Anyway, Lili was very excited. When it came down to it, the boys weren´t ready (we had to wake Marcos up--which I hated to do, poor child), and Edgar said I should just take Lili to school. I was a little nervous about that. We walked by the school yesterday, but I´m terrible with directions and Spanish is not my first language, you know. I wanted to be there with Lili, though, so we went. We were late--we left just a few minutes before 8, when school starts. There were other mothers walking their children to school. I didn´t think there could be too many schools around, so I started following a nice-looking mom and her daughter. She started talking to me about getting to school on time. I asked her if we were going to La Escuela Las Pilas (Lili´s school). "Oh, no," she said. We had passed it. We had to turn around and run back two blocks and up another street.

We went in and I asked a teacher where we could register. I´ll take pictures of the school another day. It´s different. There is a big metal fence all around it that is only opened when kids come in and go home. Every room opens to outside and the walls to the rooms seem to just be metal mesh or something. It´s never too cold here. I went to the director´s (principal´s) office. I said I needed to register Lili. A guy (whom I found out later is the computer teacher) told me they were all full and we couldn´t register. I told him I had called the director a month ago and that he had said we could. I looked at the group there and said, "I don´t know who the director is, but . . ." and they told me he´d be back soon. Meanwhile, I looked at the wall of pictures of teachers. Most of them looked like glamor shots--it reminded me of Uncle Rigo (is that his name? Napoleon´s uncle?). The director came. His hands were wet, so he offered me his forearm to shake. He said, "Oh, yes, from the United States?" and went to find a teacher that would take us. They didn´t need her birth certificate or anything. Because we´re just visiting for 3 weeks.

We went to her classroom. It was very full. There are 20-30 kids there. The teacher is Maestro Ramon. I was expecting a woman (I even brought a gift for "her"--lotion. How´s that going to work?) He has a very kind face, and that made me happy. He had Lili sit down by another little girl--they share a little table right in the front. They were in the middle of something (we were late), so I didn´t get to talk to him as much as I would have liked. He told me I could come back at 11 to pass Lili her lunch throught the fence. School gets out at 12:30. Even better than I thought (1:00). As soon as we got to the classroom, Lili became a turtle. She huddled into me. She was no longer excited. I helped her get to her desk. I told her to be brave. I told her I´d be back soon with her lunch. Then I just had to leave. I tried to hold back my tears until I left the school yard and walked past the director´s office, but then I cried openly on the street. I haven´t felt so helpless since we had to leave her in the NICU everyday after she was born and we couldn´t even hold her. I feel mostly in control and in charge of her happiness, and today I felt out of control. It was 6:30 at home, so I called Cor. She told me she cried each time she left her kids for school--and that was in Wells. She told me to wait until I left Ruben. I told her I wasn´t as worried about him.
Ruben´s excitement in going to school never waned--especially when he saw the swingset (Lili´s school only has a place to play soccer). And, he will talk to ANYONE in English. He doesn´t care if they understand. He knows how to say "Can I go to the bathroom, please?" perfectly. Everytime we practiced with him, and asked him his name or how old he is, he´d ask to go to the bathroom. Last night he said, "I know one thing in Spanish. ¿Puedo ir al baño por favor?" What a nut. His school is for kids about 2-5, and he was excited to be there. We talked to the teachers. We have to pay 25 pesos (we thought that was what they said, which would be less that $2.50) for the month. Edgar went to pay and we found out it´s actually 250 pesos (more like $25 for the month--that makes more sense). Edgar was embarrassed though because he didn´t have that much money with him. Ruben had no problem when we left and seemed to have no problem the rest of the morning. His school is from 9-12 and they feed him (for 5 pesos a day--less than 50 cents).

Edgar and I (and Marcos) got to Lili¨s school 20 minutes early to give her her lunch. She is a brave little sport. We sat and waited forever. Finally, at 8 minutes to, I stood up by the fence and watched for her. The sun was very hot. The lady with the key had helped us in the morning and when Lili finally came out, the key lady directed her to us. She ran to us, and said, "Mommy!" She was so thrilled to see us. Lots of parents were there, feeding their children. It was interesting. Some of the kids sat down and ate on the cement sidewalk. I talked to Lili. She said she was okay and that she liked it. I asked her what the girl´s name is that shares her seat. She didn´t know (still doesn´t). She took her lunch and said, "Bye, mom." Then she went about 20 feet away to a bench in the shade and ate. Edgar and I (and Marcos) stood there in the hot sun and watched her from the other side of the fence. A few girls talked to her, but she didn´t answer them much. Then they moved on. I wanted her to go to the bathroom, so I asked some older girls if they knew where it was. They kindly took her. (It was so weird to be separated by that fence--like she´s an inmate or something. I guess it´s for safety.) Soon one of the girls came back to ask if I had any toilet paper. What? What kind of school doesn´t provide toilet paper for the inmates? I had a leftover napkin for her lunch. We kissed Lili through the fence and told her we´d be back in about an hour. She looked like she might cry, but she was brave and went off. She had about 8 minutes left to play.

Later, when Edgar went to pick her up, the teacher told Edgar she can read. That´s good to know. Edgar asked if I could go and observe. He explained about our homeschool and how hard it is to get authentic materials. He told us we can keep Lili´s reader. That´s great news. It is HARD. It has so much writing on each page. If it were English, Lili couldn´t read it too well. I feel like she must be way behind. He did say she can read. Anyway, I get to go on Wednesday (Lili´s birthday--I´m so glad). I´m going to pay a lot of attention and see if these children really read this book. Lili read two paragraphs to the teacher, and otherwise they were all reading "silently." She wrote numbers and an assignment on the board. At the beginning they went outside to play some kind of ball game. Lili started crying because she wanted me. The teacher took her back to the class. Lili told us all this later--not at lunch. Despite it all, she can´t wait to go again. She said she loves school and she made a friend (it´s her seatmate--whose name she doesn´t know). Some older girls asked if she wanted to play with them, but she said no, because they weren´t in her class. I told her she can play with anybody and that maybe tomorrow she can ask to play with them.

I also want to take treats for the kids on her birthday. Edgar said they don´t do that here. He also said you can´t complain about movies on the bus or volunteer in the schools here (I´ll be going to Ruben´s school anyday I want as well, BTW). I guess Edgar hasn´t learned yet that he has an outspoken, American wife. Well, maybe he has.


Thelma said...

I loved reading this. You're my hero. What a wrenching experience (and I'm not just talking about the laundry). I think you'll be so glad it all happened though. Think about how hippety happy you'll be when you get home to your washing machine. I may go kiss mine.

That's great Lili gets to keep that book. I look forward to hearing more. I can't help you with your photo problem without more info. I may not be able to help even then.

Take care of your outspoken American self.


Jennifer said...

Wow. Brave children, a brave Mommy & brave Edgar! I will sing praises to my washer tomorrow. I'm so sorry Marcos is ill. (We are still sick here... I hope his passes quicker than ours.)

Luke & Isaiah will love to look at the pictures of their long lost cousins in the morning. I showed them where you are on a map today. Luke wondered if he could go too. I told him he missed the bus.

Good luck!! We love you.

Leigh said...

What an...adventure! Can't wait to hear more! Brendon would love for me to do something like this.

(I don't know anything about blogger so I can't help with the pictures.)

Hannah Stevenson said...

Reading about Lili's first day just made me cry! What a brave little girl and what a brave Mama!

You are amazing Olivia. And I just kissed my washing machine.

Love you,

Hannah Stevenson said...

P.S. WHAT A TRIP! Vampire movie? SHEESH!