Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TEFL Inspired Haiku

Mexico City and teaching here once inspired me to go on a Haiku is some of the stuff that came out of me. I am sorry to inflict this upon you, dear reader!

From the streets of Mexico City...

Officer wanders
Body armor itches, it seems
Wanting to go home

Talking to himself
Frantic knuckles and fingers
Insanity plea

Sitting on the bench
Hunched, wrinkled old old man
Checks an ancient watch

Dust and grey concrete
are gravestones but green living
things find a way

On the metro, line 3

Balderas tuna can
Shuffle poke is that my hand?
or yours on my bum

Blind vendor arrives
with something salsa. Good thing
she can't see herself

Sweat metro Juarez
we swim in each others wet
Heat! I am a slut

A flash! An empty seat!
Who will win the precious chair?
Old lady, no fair!

Hurtling underneath
Metroman writes poerty

Random Mexico City

Desmadres are why
nothing opens on Sunday.
Even words are tired

Montejo beer mug
and no-eyed fish are somehow
not what I wanted

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize

Congrats to Liu Xiaobo. Fight the good fight!

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the "fraternity between nations" of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world's second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China's new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China's constitution lays down that "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration". In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China's citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power". Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Oslo, October 8, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodbye, Leslie Neilsen

Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday. He will be missed. One of my favorite comedians of all time, Leslie headlined some of the best comedy of the 80's and early 90's. The Naked Gun series and Airplane! are some of the finest examples of slapstick comedy.

Heroism in American movies always lives a whisker away from self-parody, and Leslie Nielsen was blessed with the skill and the opportunity to play in the cracks between the two. Would the actor, who died Sunday at 84, have been as mindblowingly funny in 1980's "Airplane!" if his Dr. Rumack had camped it up and played for laughs? Of course not: The genius of the performance is that it's the exact same one Nielsen had given eight years earlier as the ship's captain in "The Poseidon Adventure" -- same stoic deadpan, same wooden professionalism, same earnest cluelessness. The only differences were the surrounding madness and the star's knack for timing,

Unifying Spanish Writing

The directors of 22 Spanish language academies from around the Spanish-speaking world have met in Guadalajara, Mexico to discuss changes to the language with some points on writing.

Precisó que se determinó eliminar los acentos en las palabras “solo”, “este”, “ese” y “aquel”, porque no existe una diferencia fonética, por ejemplo, entre el adverbio “solo” y el adjetivo “solo”, y consideró que la diferencia de significado puede definirse perfectamente en el contexto del texto.

“Pero si en algún país, alguien dice, a mí me gusta, yo necesito acentuar estas palabras, ¡pues hágalo, no hay problema!”, dijo Moreno de Alba, quien insistió en que la ortografía razonada de la lengua española —cuya publicación estará disponible en México y España en diciembre— es la propuesta que los académicos de la lengua hacen para unificar el uso del español en los países hispanohablantes, y no un tratado de prohibiciones.

Removing the need for a few accent marks here and there will save me some trouble when writing.

The directors have come to the idea that the language needs a bit of modernization and some type of standard between countries, but was careful to indicate that countries should be free to choose their forms to maintain unique traditions.

Now, if someone can help me find the enye on my US standard keyboard, I'd be feliz.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mexican Food - A World Heritage

The U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization has placed 'Mexican food/cooking' on a list of important intangible cultural heritage bringing a recognition and protection to the culinary art in the country I call home. Of course, this is something every ex-pat living in Mexico simply takes for granted as one of the top reasons to live in Mexico.

Yahoo News on the story.

MEXICO CITY – The quesadilla had more zip Wednesday and the taco tasted just a bit sweeter as Mexico celebrated its food being put on the United Nations list of intangible cultural heritage, alongside the lofty art of eating in France.

The U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognized everything from the growing of corn, beans and chilies to Mexican dishes prepared with grinding stones and mortars as an ancient process worth safeguarding in the face of encroaching global influences.

"Collectives of female cooks and other practitioners devoted to raising crops and traditional cuisine ... express community identity, reinforce social bonds, and build stronger local, regional and national identities," said the committee of 24 countries that determines the list.

The group, meeting in Kenya this week, announced additions to the list Tuesday that also included flamenco in Spain and carpet-weaving in Azerbaijan.

UNESCO, known for designating world heritage sites such as Peru's Machu Picchu and India's Taj Mahal, also lists traditions such as performing arts or social practices as activities worth preserving.

"I heard about the UNESCO thing this morning on the TV, and I was drooling all morning," Martin Tellez Romero, 45, said as his snack of beef-and-cheese quesadillas sizzled on the griddle of a sidewalk stand. "I couldn't even wait until lunchtime."

I was captured by Mexican food long is easily the number reason I live here and not in Canada (with the much better climate being a close second). Every time I make a trip home, I can think of only one thing...the good food I'm missing. It's difficult for friends and family back home to understand since first-world Canada offers just about every dish one can imagine, but it is never quite right. Far from right, actually.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Deported - From Mexico?

Here's an interesting story of American deported from Mexico back to the US. "Crash" is not exactly your average American business traveler or tourist, but here is his story of being deported from Mexico back to the US, which is surprisingly similar to the stories of many, many thousands of Mexicans experiencing the same fate each year.

From the New York Times.

TIJUANA — The two men could barely communicate. One was a Mexican laborer, the other an American wanderer, neither with any pesos in his pockets. But they bonded, having just gone through similar ordeals.

“The migra got me,” lamented the downcast Mexican, using slang for the United States Border Patrol.

“I know what you mean,” said the American, sitting on a bench near Tijuana’s seedy Avenida Revolución, strumming his guitar in the hopes someone might toss him some change. “I was deported, too.”

The United States government formally deported or otherwise returned more than a million foreigners — most of them Mexicans — according to immigration data. That figure has risen steadily over the years. But much to the surprise of many Americans, there is a trickle of deportees that flows north from Mexico to the United States as well.

Between January and September, the National Migration Institute, Mexico’s immigration service, deported 350 Americans, some of them lawbreakers who had finished prison sentences in the country, but others merely travelers who were found to be without proper paperwork.

More at the story link above...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery Missile Launch

Weird story on the wire right now about the launch of a ballistic missile off the coast of Los Angeles. No one seems to know where the missile came from. A story to watch today. North Korea? China? Secret US missile launch?


More at the Globe and Mail.

The Pentagon says it's trying to figure out whether a missile was launched off the coast of southern California and who might have launched it.

Officials with the navy, air force, Defence Department and North American Aerospace Defence Command say they are looking into a video posted on the website of Southern California television station KFMB.

The video appears to show a rocket or some other object shooting up into the sky and leaving a large contrail over the Pacific Ocean.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said Tuesday that officials can't confirm that there was a launch and if there was, by whom. He says officials are talking to civilian and defence authorities who control and monitor air space.

Friday, November 5, 2010

They Gave It Away?!!

If you won 10.9 million CDN dollars in a lottery, what would you do?

Travel the world? Buy a fancy car, or several of them? Retire?

How about just giving it all, or most of it to charity?

From the BBC...

A Canadian couple who won $10.9m (£6.7m) in lottery winnings in July say they have given away $10.2m of the prize to groups in their community.

Allen and Violet Large said they were plain country folks who needed no more than "what we've got".

The two said they had donated about 98% of the cash after helping their family.

The elderly pair gave the money to churches, fire departments, cemeteries, the Red Cross and hospitals, where Ms Large has undergone cancer treatment.

"We haven't bought one thing. That's because there is nothing that we need," Mr Large, 75, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Large, a retired welder from Canada's Nova Scotia province, added that he and his wife were quite content with their 147-year-old home and everything else they already owned.

"You can't buy happiness," he said.

Noble. I'm not so sure I'd have it in me to do the same...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching in Mexico - When Problems Arise

There's a good discussion (well, argument might be the best word) developing over at the ESL Cafe between a teacher and a school owner, with the school in question being Culturlingua based in Los Reyes, Mexico. A recently departed teacher is airing her grievances on the Cafe about the school and the owner of another branch of the same school (someone I happen to know fairly well) is responding. It's gotten a bit testy but there is also a lot of good information there about some of the problems both new teachers and language schools face working in this industry. A recruiter with an interest in this case has also chimed into the thread.

Good read, I leave you to it.

The Discussion

This is a feedback on Culurlingua, an English institute in Los Reyes, Michoacan

I worked for Culturlingua for two months (September and October 2010). My goal was to work in Mexico, therefore I didn’t mind the low salary given that TEFL market was extremely stagnant in August 2010 in Latin America. Most job offers are not posted on-line in Mexico, one would need to live here and find connections in order to find his/her ideal job. Therefore Culturlingua is a gateway into Mexico, a stepping stone for better jobs. But here is what you need to know if you are considering an offer from their institute:

The institute is extremely business-oriented. All policies are set to bring about profit. If a student registers a month after the semester has begun, they would not hesitate to place him/her in your class. You have to think of how she/he can catch up. Students are not allowed to fail; they would be allowed to re-take the same tests multiple times until they pass it. No materials are provided. The bookshelf where their materials from the age of Joseph Stalin are stored is always locked. If you care about your students, develop your own materials, you may be reimbursed. We were not.

Teaching: if you are looking forward to being challenged as a teacher, this job is not for you. You can only work within the structure of the book. Textbook comes first. The objective is to finish it, whether students learn or not. However, if you are a beginner teacher and are looking for a job where you can experiment without people breathing down your neck, this job is for you. The director, Ms. Cecilia Belmont, visits the school once in a blue moon. She may or may not sit in your classes. When she does, she will not offer any constructive feedback. She will isolate a few students and will criticize them for not participating or speaking Spanish in front of the entire class. That is why students do not have a good relationship with her.

Accommodation: The house is old, the T.V belongs to the World War I era, mattresses are uncomfortable, and there is a leak in most rooms. The kitchen has every gadget needed for cooking which is convenient, and a cleaning person comes every Friday to clean the house, paid by the school. This semester we had rats, the school did not take initiatives to remedy the situation until we threatened to leave. Cable, internet, cleaning materials, and gas are all paid by you. Services are relatively cheap.

Benefits: Money is sufficient for a simple living and traveling. However, you need to exit Mexico for your visa will expire in 6 months. The school will not provide visas. The whole program is structured in way to bypass immigration laws (yes! You work for them illegally), it’s been registered as a “language exchange program” where you teach English and receive Spanish lessons in return. Spanish classes were the highlight of our stay in Los Reyes, our teacher was wonderful.

Privacy (or lack thereof): the administrative staff of Culturlingua has some severe paranoia issues with their teachers. I understand that some teachers in the past might have given ammunition to this paranoia, but we were a group of professional teachers who went to work and came back to the house. No parties, no guests, no binge drinking. In spite of that, the receptionist would drop by unannounced to check around the house. We also suspect that she had come when we were in class and entered our rooms. The cleaning lady had been advised to spy on us while she was cleaning. Our Spanish teacher was admonished every time she spoke with us outside of class. She was advised never to interact with us after class.

Immersion into Mexican society: I came here thinking I would be guided to get to know this marvelous country by the school. The staff does not bother giving any sort of guidance, tours, maps, and tourist info. to their teachers. They maintain a healthy distance with their teachers. We worked here for 9 weeks not knowing exactly where the receptionist lives in this small town. We had to search everything on our own. I never felt a belonging to a group or an educational team, there were never any gestures made out of hospitality or mere friendship to ensure we are happy. Knowing how warm-blooded Mexicans are, this behavior surprised me.

We voiced out our problems from the beginning: lack of incentives, lack of materials, lack of openness and trust. They never listened. The entire system is set in a way to bring teachers from English-speaking countries (to sell their ‘native’ image) keep them for five months, and adios! There is a myth about past teachers. They deny that numerous teachers have breached their contract and left in the middle of the night without informing the school. You might want to ask them for a recent reference. They do not have any, with the exception of one or two teachers who somehow survived. There were four of us here in Los Reyes and Periban. We gradually lost motivation; we found better jobs and left the school in the space of five days. I take with me the wonderful memories of my interactions with my amazing students. Overall, I do not recommend this position to anyone.

Best of luck,
Los Reyes Teachers, 2010

A quick question- did you get to see the contract BEFORE you accepted the job and came? OR was the first time you saw the contract when you arrived in Los Reyes?

Another comment- maybe the secretary was visiting the house because she was concerned about the rat situation that occurred?

I am the owner of Culturlingua in Tlaquepaque and I wish to state my connection right now- to be up front and open.

Hit the link above for the rest of the conversation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Legal, After 101 Years

I will never again complain about long waits at immigration in Mexico for my visa renewals.

From the BBC.

More than a century after she crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the US, Eulalia Garcia has become an American citizen at the age of 101.

"I feel really good about what I have accomplished - at my age and with my health," she said.

Ms Garcia, who entered the US on 12 October 1909, became a citizen on the 101st anniversary of her arrival.

She said the first thing she wanted to do as an American was vote in the mid-term elections on 2 November.

"Sure, I do - for the best [candidate]," Ms Garcia said.

The naturalisation ceremony took place on Tuesday in a federal courthouse in Brownsville in the US state of Texas, where Ms Garcia has lived almost all her life.

She now joins an elite list of only 15 immigrants over 100 years of age who have been naturalised as citizens, according to the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescue - Watch it Live

In about two hours, rescuers will begin winching up the first of 33 miners trapped for 2 months 700m underground. You can watch the rescue live at the link below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chilean Miner Rescue

Hours away. The rescue shaft is a mere 34 m from reaching the thirty-three miners, trapped some 700m below ground since August 5th.

It will still take three to eight days to rig up the rescue bucket and winch and those last days may feel like weeks to these brave souls. This most incredible story of fear, hope, and salvation in one of the world's most dangerous industries is at 64 days now, but the final chapter is upon us.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tlatelolco Massacre, 42 Years On

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of what is known as the Tlatelolco Massacre where on October 2nd, 1968, Mexican government forces opened fire on protesting students and killed many dozens of people. Numerous attempts have been made at seeking justice, most recently under the last Mexican president Vicente Fox but to no avail.

Every year, students and ordinary folks alike march to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas to mark the event.

Wiki background on the massacre.

On October 2, 1968, “La Noche de Tlatelolco” (the Night of Tlatelolco), around 10,000 university and secondary students gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas to protest the government’s actions and listen peacefully to speeches.[14] Along with the CNH members, many men and women not associated with the CNH gathered in the plaza as spectators of the demonstration. The students had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! ("We don't want Olympic games, we want revolution!"). Rally organizers did not attempt to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area. 2 helicopters, one from the police, and another one from the army, overflew the plaza. Around 5:55 P.M. red flares shot from the S.R.E. (Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations) tower. Around 6:15 P.M. another 2 flares were shot, this time from a helicopter (one was green and another one was red) as 5,000 soldiers, 200 tanks and trucks surrounded the plaza.[14] Much of what proceeded after the first shots were fired in the plaza remained ill defined for decades after 1968; however, much has been corroborated by since released information from American and Mexican government sources.

Today's march begins at 1:30 PM with more details at El Universal in Spanish.

The government of Mexico City today is also offering an apology to the families of the students killed in 1968. Again, El Universal reports.

This apology is coming from the wrong people as the federal government was responsible, not the city government, which didn't even exist in 1968 as Mexico City was directly ruled by the federal government at the time. This is more about current Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard's run for the presidency in 2012...he seems to be out apologizing for everything and making grand proclamations about national affairs a lot lately. I like the guy as mayor but think he would not make a good president.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coup Fears in Ecuador?

BBC reporting...

Ecuador's president has denounced a "coup attempt" after mass protests by members of the security forces against his government's austerity programme.

After being forced to flee a rally at a barracks in Quito, Rafael Correa said "the opposition and sections of the armed forces and police" were to blame.

Mr Correa said they would have to kill him first to achieve their goals.

Sigh. The turmoil never ends in Latin America. It just shifts around from place to place.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chilean Miners Update

Good news out of Chile for the 33 miners trapped 700m underground. Rescuers expect they'll be out sometime between mid-October and early November. Previous estimates had the rescue hole drilled by Christmas.

From the BBC.

Thirty-three miners trapped underground in Chile for nearly two months could be out sooner than thought.

Rescuers digging to reach the men say one of their drills has cut through 50m (164ft) of rock in 24 hours.

At that rate they could be ready to bring the men to the surface by the middle of October.

But they have warned that they could yet run into problems, and the government still says it could take until early November to get them out.

One of the three drills digging rescue shafts - the T-130 - has now penetrated more than 300m (984ft) of the 630m (2,066ft) of rock separating the miners from the surface.

"This headway is some of the best we have had and it is due to the better continuity we have had with this drill," Andrew Sougarret, the head of the rescue operation, said.

"We have reached 300m, which is the area where we have had the most unfavourable geological conditions, so hopefully we can think about maintaining this rhythm of drilling."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chilean Miners

The story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped some 700 meters underground has had me on edge for weeks now. It was with jubilation that we heard they were found alive and with trepidation we heard it may be months until they could be rescued.

I read of their story every day, knowing that there will be that story one day, sometime before Christmas, where we see them emerge finally from the depths. This is one of the greatest human triumph stories of our times.

Today, the cage that will eventually pull the miners to safety one-by-one was delivered to the mine site.

A cage specially built to help rescue 33 men trapped underground in a mine in Chile has arrived at the mine head.

The steel capsule will be used to pull the men to safety one by one, once a rescue shaft wide enough to haul them up has been drilled.

Relatives of the miners were allowed to get into the narrow cage, which is little more than 50cm (20in) wide.

It is expected to take between 20-30 minutes to pull each miner up from their shelter at a depth of 700m.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Waiting for Superman

A new documentary is due out soon covering the complex and divisive topic of public education in the United States. The film is directed by Davis Guggenheim famous for his work on An Inconvenient Truth.

The film promises to move you and this blogger is certain that many teachers in the US will feel quite uncomfortable with many of the messages the film presents.

Time magazine also recently ran a special on the film and on US public education in general.,8599,2016978,00.html

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mexico City Earthquake - 25 Years On

On September 19th of this year, Mexico City observed the 25th anniversary of a devastating earthquake that in 1985 killed between 6000 and 35000 people and flattened numerous buildings, schools, and a major hospital. Every year since that quake, the Mexico City government has run major earthquake drills at all public buildings. Many businesses also participate. This year's simulation involved over 6 million people.

Living in Mexico City means I'm sure to feel another big one sooner or later. I've felt a number of smaller tremors over the years and one good sized shake in 2003. It's not something one can get used but nor is it something you live in fear of everyday. You just hope you know what to do when another big shake comes along.

The most recent simulation generated a report that some 3000 buildings in the city are at risk of serious damage should another monster 8.1 quake occur as did in 1985. At risk are buildings in Iztapalapa, Cuauhtemoc, and Venustiano Carranza districts (none of which I live in) as buildings in those areas are quite old and both underground and overhead infrastructure present particular risk in these high-density areas.

Monday, September 20, 2010

10 Most Unswerable Questions

Courtesy the BBC and Ask Jeeves

1. What is the meaning of life?

2. Is there a God?

3. Do blondes have more fun?

4. What is the best diet?

5. Is there anybody out there?

6. Who is the most famous person in the world?

7. What is love?

8. What is the secret to happiness?

9. Did Tony Soprano die?

10. How long will I live?

and I'll one of my own...11. Where is this guy's head?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ah Here's a REAL Bicentennial

Oktoberfest turns 200! Celebrating drinking beer for 200 years...oh yeah!

From the BBC

It all started with a “yes”. On 12 October 1810 Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (the future King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen exchanged their marriage vows, thus kicking off a mega-bash that culminated five days later with a spirited horse race. The party was such a rip-roaring success that the Munich magistrate decided that it warranted an annual repeat performance.

Over time, many other traditions were added. Carnival booths appeared in 1816, the folk costume and riflemen's parade followed in 1835, while the brewers first paraded in 1887. And since 1950, the Oktoberfest has officially opened with the tapping of the first keg by the Munich mayor.

And so it will be again this year. At noon on 18 September 2010, Mayor Christian Ude will launch the world's biggest collective drink-up with the magic words: O'zapft ist! (It is tapped!). For the next 17 days, more than six million normally prim and sober citizens from every country in the world will descend upon the Theresienwiese festival grounds (Wiesn, for short) to guzzle towering mugs of beer and engage in good cheer and outright debauchery. This year is the 200th anniversary of the tankard-clinking marathon and the city of Munich has come up with some unique ways to mark the occasion.

For a primer on the Oktoberfest, report to the Münchner Stadtmuseum (Munich City Museum;, where a special exhibit tracks its evolution from Bavarian royal wedding gala to beery extravaganza. There are plenty of fun displays, like the oldest beer keg, an epic painting that graced the festival entrance on the 100th anniversary, and fancy dirndl (traditional women's dress) designs through the ages.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mexican Independence Day!

Today and tomorrow, Mexico celebrates its bicentennial - 200 years of independence and 100 years since the Mexican revolution. Parties abound throughout the country.

Having a 15 month old daughter means I won't be able to join the evening festivities, which culminate tonight with el grito - the president of the country reciting the famous cry of independence that started this whole Mexico thing. It's at 11 PM so Stella will be fast asleep. We've decided to spend the evening at home with friends and drinks, but we're taking in some daytime activities today and tomorrow as there is much music, dancing, and fiesta-making all over town.

Here's how we celebrated a few years ago, back before I became a father.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

28th Annual Mexico City Marathon

and there's not a chance I'll be in it!

From El Universal

La celebración del 28 Maratón Internacional de la Ciudad de México desquicia el tránsito vehicular en la zona centro y poniente de la capital del país.
Con la participación de más de 15 mil atletas, a las 7:15 horas inició la carrera en la avenida 20 de Noviembre, con un dispositivo para garantizar la seguridad de corredores y público en general.

La ruta de 42 kilómetros que siguen los competidores esta mañana nublada y de escasos espectadores comprende 20 de Noviembre, José María Pino Suárez, Doctor Río de la Loza, Chapultepec, Sevilla, Thiers, Ejército Nacional, Homero, Horacio, Presidente Masaryk y cruzará la Segunda Sección del Bosque de Chapultepec.

Los maratonistas continuarán por Salamanca, Durango, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas y Alfonso Reyes para incorporarse al Circuito Bicentenario, Revolución, Río Mixcoac y regresarán por Insurgentes Sur, Avenida Juárez, Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas e Izazaga, para volver a la Plaza de la Constitución.

Además de esas calles, las autoridades capitalinas mantienen cerradas al tránsito vehicular avenidas como Juárez, Hidalgo y el Paseo de la Reforma.

15,000 people participate in the annual event which closes off many major streets in high end Polanco, down Reforma Avenue, past my place, and through Chapultepec park. I'd forgotten about the event until I took te dogs for a walk this morning and found Revolucion avenue closed off and cranky car drivers honking their displeasure.

Mexico City Marathon 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What to do with a wild 15 month old in Mexico?

Take her to gymboree, of course! Burn off some of that energy.

For the last 6 weeks, mommy and daddy have been taking Stella Olivia over to gymboree for 45 minute sessions in playgym (instructor lead activities), music (instructor lead banging on things and dancing), and open gym to use the facilities as parents see fit.

It's been a blast and both a great outlet for Stella's growing energy and a way for her to socialize with other toddlers her age.

Some video from today's open gym.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EFL Jobs in Kabul. KABUL??!

Someone at the ESL Cafe is asking about jobs in war-torn Kabul. Hard to believe. Anyone have a job lead for this person?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reading Arabic 'hard for brain'

according to the BBC.

Israeli scientists believe they have identified why Arabic is particularly hard to learn to read.

The University of Haifa team say people use both sides of their brain when they begin reading a language - but when learning Arabic this is wasting effort.

The detail of Arabic characters means students should use only the left side of their brain because that side is better at distinguishing detail.

The findings from the study of 40 people are reported in Neuropsychology.

When someone learns to read Arabic they have to work out which letters are which, and which ones go with which sounds.

It is the ability to tell letters apart that seems to work differently in Arabic - because telling the characters apart involves looking at very small details such as the placement of dots.

Professor Zohar Eviatar, who led the research team, said: "The particular characteristics of Arabic make it hard for the right hemisphere to be involved. When you are starting something new, there is a lot of [right hemisphere] involvement."

more at the article linked above

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homeless man calls 911 from hot tub

asks for towels, hug, hot chocolate!

Oh my this is funny...

From CBC.

BEAVERTON, Ore. - A homeless man who called 911 from the hot tub of a suburban Portland, Oregon home and asked for towels, hot chocolate and a hug.

He didn't get any of those items — he got arrested for trespassing instead.

Beaverton police say Mark Eskelsen called 911 from his cellphone, identified himself as "the sheriff of Washington County," and asked for medical help.

He later admitted he wasn't the sheriff but informed the dispatcher he'd been in the water about 10 hours and his towels had gotten wet.

As he put it, "I just need a hug and a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows in it."

The Oregonian newspaper says arriving officers arrested Eskelsen for investigation of second-degree criminal trespass and improper use of 911.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mexican Federal Cops Shown the Door

and don't let it smack your pompis on the way out.

According to a BBC report, some 3200 federal police officers of varying ranks have been sacked - some 10% of the force - for corruption or incompetence. Adios! Of course, many will now probably find work with the cartels, which is little more than a change of uniform since the job is the same.

The federal police force in Mexico has sacked almost 10% of its officers in an effort to combat corruption.

The 3,200 fired officers had either failed to do their job properly or had been linked to corruption or organised crime, said Commissioner Facundo Rosas.

Mr Rosas said more than 1,000 others faced disciplinary proceedings and might also be sacked.

He said none of the officers would be allowed to work in police forces at local, state or federal levels.

More than 4,500 officers have been sacked since May, said Mr Rosas - many had been charged with crimes.

At a news conference, Mr Rosas, said some of officers had been accused by subordinates of having links to drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez, the country's most violent city.

The commissioner said this was only the first stage of a purge of Mexico's forces and that more than 1,000 others faced disciplinary proceedings and may also be sacked.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paternity Leave?

A story from the BBC caught my eye.

The politics of paternity leave

It is those precious early moments with a new child that so many fathers treasure. A time to bond with their offspring and offer invaluable assistance to the mother.

After welcoming new daughter Florence into the world, Prime Minister David Cameron is taking his statutory paternity leave to be with his wife Samantha.

But it is an experience that not all his fellow fathers feel they can justify. Thanks to decades of shifting attitudes, their reluctance is not based chiefly on chauvinism or a belief that childcare is woman's work. The problem, instead, is money.

Some 45% of new fathers said they did not take paternity leave, according to a 2009 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Of those, 88% said they would have liked to have done so, and 49% said they could not afford it.

As it stands, new fathers with long enough service are entitled to £124.88 a week for two weeks, or 90% of their average weekly wage if that is lower. Assuming a 40-hour working week, it is a figure that comes in well below the minimum wage.

Fathers can take an additional 13 weeks off, unpaid, before the child turns five and, from April 2011, new mothers will be able to transfer the second half of their year-long maternity leave to the father. But this too will be unpaid, thus, again, of little help to those without the necessary savings.

For many families, the situation reinforces the traditional norm that the father is the breadwinner and the mother the homemaker.

Self-employed in Mexico, there is no government scheme I could have taken advantage of. As parents, we simply took the decision to reduce my schedule and workload to stay at home more while mommy went back to work. Mexico doesn't offer very much by way of maternity leave as it is, so I wouldn't expect there to be anything for fathers.

Maternity leave in Mexico (for those employed and paying into the Mexican social system) allows 100% paid leave for a full 88 days. That's all. Half of those days must be taken before the birth which is absurd as many women, including my girlfriend, are just fine working right up to almost the last moment. After the birth, mommy is tossed off paid maternity leave a mere 5 weeks later.

Some people get better packages through their work and private insurance, which we could have done as well. Had it been impossible for me to adjust my schedule, mommy would have certainly taken a full year off work.

I think Mexico hasn't made any changes to the maternity leave system simply because no one is pushing for it. Mexican families are much larger as a rule than their British or North American counterparts, and at every age a child is almost always in the company of aunts, uncles, and grandparents who usually live in the same neighbourhood. While women are certainly a large and important part of the Mexican work force (to varying degrees around the country), families are generally close and it is not common to see a women select career over family.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Google as a Recipe Book

The google wonders never cease to amaze. Yesterday, I heard about a trick any bachelor can use to whip up a delicious meal using very few ingredients, which is often the state of a bachelor's fridge.

Got nothing but pickles, mustard, and a can of beer? Google it up and have a fine meal. Well, maybe not in those extreme's how to do it.

Go to your fridge and try to identify as many edibles as possible. Do check expiry dates and mold as google can't fix everything.

Get online and over to google. Now, simply key in the stuff in th fridge and let's see what comes up.

I tried mustard, ham, peas, apple juice and got back 520,000 hits, with the first page being all recipes. Of course, you'll need a few more ingredients from any recipes you get, but a least you have an idea what to pick up at the store or locate elsewhere in the kitchen.

Give it a need to call for pizza.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Raising the Kids to be Bilingual

You might think that a pair of Canadians raising a child in Mexico means the achieving bilingualism is automatic - taken for granted. That was my thinking when we chose to have a baby. After 14 months, it's proving to be more work than I thought, but not an impossible challenge.

We speak mostly English in the home with Stella, though reading time is a mix of both as we've collected an enormous library of children's books written in both English and Spanish. I've been using select programming from Nick Jr, a channel carried on Sky (Mexican satellite tv provider). Dora la Exploradora and a few other programs that are 90% Spanish. We also have a nanny that watches Stella when both mom and dad are at work (about 40% of the year) and she speaks 100% Spanish. So, it looks like we have all the right tools in place.

Stella is not talking yet...a few words here in there, and lots of ba-ba-babble. I'm told that kids raised in a bilingual environment will normally take a bit longer to start speaking so no worries as yet. What I'm most impressed with is her ability to understand either language.

Whether it's Spanish or English -though mostly English - Stella demonstrates a very understanding of what's said to her. "Please bring daddy the ball" is answered quickly by her looking for the ball (among a mountain of toys) and bringing it to daddy. Using some Spanish like "donde esta la pelota?" is producing the same result.

It will be interesting to see what her first phrases are, beyond the yes/no, hi/bye, mama/papa words she's already using. I am hoping it won't be something like:

"Papa, here's the pelota. Donde esta my bottle of leche?"

But even if it is, I'll still be happy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The End of Plastic Bags in Mexico City

Mexico City is joining the ranks of many of cities in the world by trying to eliminate the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. After two years of preparation, grocery stores caught issuing plastic bags to customers will be fined.

The idea is to of course reduce or eliminate the scourge of plastic in our environment, which remains for long periods of time.

For two years now, all the major grocery store chains in Mexico City have been pushing "la bolsa verde", green bags mde of recycled plastics or other environmentally friendly material. I have a good stock of them myself though I'll admit, I've still been collecting the regular plastic bags to use in small waste bins in my home and for doggie poop bags.

El Universal story

Desde mañana, lleve sus bolsas al supermercado

El gobierno capitalino anunció que la ley para erradicar el uso de bolsas de plástico que dañan el ambiente entra en vigor como está previsto, por lo que a partir de mañana jueves existe la posibilidad de sancionar a los establecimientos que regalen esos artículos.

La consejera jurídica Leticia Bonifaz manifestó que la mayoría de las tiendas de autoservicio ya entrega bolsas hechas con materiales biodegradables, por lo que evitarían eventuales multas.

La funcionaria señaló que la Ley de Residuos Sólidos no representa “una persecución ni cacería de bolsas”, sino que busca crear conciencia para que se reduzca el consumo de plástico y regrese el uso de los morrales y bolsas de tela.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mexicana Airlines - No Hay Vuelos

When I fly back to Canada for trips home, I usually fly Mexicana. There's a direct flight Mexico City to Montreal at a good price - under $600. Not any longer it seems.

Mexicana started scaling back its international operations as it seeks bankruptcy protection.

From the Vancouver Sun...

Ailing Mexican airline Mexicana on Monday suspended a string of international flights after last week seeking bankruptcy protection in Mexican and U.S. courts, a company statement said.

At least 15 international flights would be affected, including between Mexico and Vancouver, Montreal, London, Madrid and cities in the United States and Latin America, the statement said.

Mexicana, one of Mexico's biggest airlines, blamed its financial woes on the high cost of labour, after failing to reach a deal with unions on major cost-cutting.

The 89-year-old airline said in a statement Sunday that it would gradually reduce operations after its financial situation had seriously deteriorated. It said it would give priority to passengers returning from summer vacations and would release information on its website, mexicana. com, and on Twitter.

Grr...just as I was about to buy tickets to go home for Christmas. There isn't another airline or route that comes close in price or flies directly to Montreal. Not only that, but Mexicana is the last civilized airline out there - one that doesn't kick you in the teeth for carrying more than a tote bag. An airline that serves reasonably edible food, without charging you extra for it. An airline that send the drink cart down the aisle with complimentary drinks including alcohol.

Hopefully it will get sorted out soon, but I fear that the last great airline will not be the same creature when it comes out from Chapter 11.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Driving in Mexico

Nuts. Bonkers. Drive you round the bend and back again after running you over and leaving you for dead.

Sometimes anyway.

Mexico City has something like 4 million cars on the road and I swear not a single one has a driver that knows what he or she is doing. Here's a video I took to illustrate it, from a pedestrian bridge that passes over a major thoroughfare in the central west end of the city.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Raising Children in Mexico - A Canadian's View

14 months old is my little Mexican-Canadian daughter...frijolera and canucka, all rolled into one little ball of joy and smiles.

My girlfriend and I are both Canadians, living and working as teachers in Mexico City and when we decided to start a family, we made the decision to have our baby here. That choice entailed lots of questions and research, not only on hospitals and doctors, but on legal questions of nationality and long term factors like education. We're happy with our decision while our daughter reaps the benefits of being dual-cultured well on the way to being bilingual.

Here are some thoughts I have on the challenges and benefits of having a child in Mexico as a foreigner, in case you've stumbled upon this post looking for information on the subject.

Health care. Canadians often take health care for granted, given our universal coverage. Mexico is a good example of what happens to a country that has a two-tiered system and little oversight. A mixed and confusing bag of all levels of care, ranging from very low-cost state care to high-cost private care with anything and everything in between. We had some specific traits we were looking for in a hospital and doctor and after awhile, we found what we wanted.

While we had access to nearly-free care, the state system didn't meet our needs. We wanted to ensure that mother and baby would be together at all times, instead of baby being in the nursery all day and night. We didn't want formula to be given to the baby - breastfeeding only. As the father, I wanted to be in the delivery room and stay with mother and baby in a private room.

After looking at several hospitals, one finally fit the bill and the delivery went smoothly. It certainly cost money, but not an unreasonable sum. The doctors we'd chosen were unbelievably good - attentive and available. All in all, it was a better experience than we could have found in the Canadian system.

Nannies, diet, and playtime. We also needed to make some decisions on work, childcare, and schedules. I am lucky to be able to set my own hours at work over the course of the year, so the decision was made for me to play stay-at-home dad for much of the first year. A nanny would help out for the times I did need to work.

Choosing a nanny turned out to be easy. We live in a mixed neighbourhood with plenty of families and have gotten to know many of our neighbours over the year (we bought an apartment in central Mexico City just before Stella was born). Our nanny lives with several of her family members half a block away and has a three-year-old son of her own. She has been a dream and an inexpensive one at that. Stella is quite happy with her and we rest easy knowing she is in good hands while we work.

Nutrition and diet for Stella are other important factors of course. Both my girlfriend and I are big foodies and healthy eaters and the food in Mexico is the top reason we both choose to live here. We wanted to ensure that Stella ate as healthily as possible right from the get go so access to whole and natural foods was important. Local fruits and veggies are a year-round thing and very low-cost here. Very little processed foods are to be found in my cupboards or on Stella's plate. We started her on solids at 6 months of age, introducing fresh avocado, peas, carrots, and a few other usual suspects and haven't looked back. It amazes me thinking back to my own childhood how many things I refused to eat and here's Stella, gleefully trying everything we offer - and none of it has ever come from a jar, a can, or a tetrapak.

Nationality and Education. Having been born in Mexico, Stella was automatically given Mexican citizenship. The hospital provides a record of the birth which one brings to the Registro Civil (civil registry) to obtain a birth certificate. Super simple. Getting her Canadian citizenship was a little more time consuming, mostly due to a change in laws in Canada right around the time of her birth. Nonetheless, after a couple of trips to the Canadian embassy and a number of documents, her citizenship card arrived after 10 months. Strangely, the embassy was able to issue her a Canadian passport with few questions asked, and in less than 15 days whle she was still still a few months old.

Education is probably our biggest concern - and paying for it. Like health care, education in Mexico offers a dizzying array of choices, from state-provided to all levels of private. Stella will be able to attend my girlfriend's school at a significant discount, but it's still expensive. Pre-school and kindergarten will be our first proving ground and both quality and cost will be concerns. Down the road, there is university to consider and while we'd like her to attend a Canadian university, Stella will have to be a resident to avoid the costs of enrolling as a foreign student. That may mean doing at least 2 years at a Canadian high school, complicating matters. I guess we'll see.

All in all, raising Stella here in Mexico is the best thing we could have done for her. She gets the best of both worlds and leads a happy, healthy little life.

Until the terrible twos, at least.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to Shcool

Uh-oh. How embarrassing.

Workers have misspelled the word school on a road approaching a high school in North Carolina in the United States.

Crews painted "shcool" on the approach road to Southern Guilford High School.

The road had been recently repaved and crews were working to mark out the school zones.

The company which was responsible said it had "made a mistake" and it would be fixed. A spokesperson said the paint was "interim paint" that is used before the final paint is applied.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An American friend and wiki-freak in Mexico City has been working hard to update some wiki sites and her latest effort has to been to catalogue famous and historical buildings in the Centro Historico area of Mexico City.

Her work can be found at

Big thanks to her for making it easier to find and list these gems.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blog's Back!

After a disaster with my last long running blog, I took a break from blogging. I lost so much really good material that it was really disheartening to try to get back to it.

But I couldn't keep away. ;)