Monday, December 19, 2011

Mexico City Going Green

Continuing a long process under Mayor Ebrard, the latest large project is to close the city's largest dump, which has been receiving less and less refuse as recycling programs started several years ago begin to have an effect. I've seen this dump - huge does not describe it. I remember reading a stat some time back saying that Mexico City produces enough garbage to fill Estadia Azteca each day. That's a lot of garbage. BBC has the story.
Mexico City has closed its main rubbish dump, Bordo Poniente, which is one of the world's biggest open-air landfills. At its peak, hundreds of lorries were dumping more than 12,000 tons of waste each day. That figure had already been cut in half this year by new recycling and composting plants, officials said. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the closure would significantly help reduce the capital's greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Ebrard said his government would seek bids to establish a plant to turn the methane gas given off by the accumulated waste into energy. A cement company has agreed to buy 3,000 tons of dry waste daily to burn as fuel.
more stroy at the link above. Note: I've been away from posting for awhile, I apologize. My son was born two months ago and with family visits, work, a new baby, and holiday dinners and gatherings, it's been hectic. A new post to introduce Felix Joshua is coming soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Alebrije Parade Mexico City

Went to the 5th annual Alebrije Parade from the Zocalo to the Angel of Independence today, put on by the Museo de Arte Popular. This is one of my favorite events in the city and my daughter now 2 years 4 months old is starting to appreciate it too. She was a little too young for the previous two parades.

There were some 250 floats this time around, getting larger each year. The parade begins in the Zocalo and marches up to the Angel of Independence monument on Reforma Ave where each float is parked for a week while viewers vote for the best alebrijes. If you missed the parade today, take a stroll down Reforma any time this week to see them for yourself.

Some of my favorites...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Bigger Family

Finally! Our son Felix Joshua Courchesne Dixie was born at 9 AM October 17th, 2011, coming in at 8 pounds (3.75 kg), just two days before his due date. Another Mexican Canadian as I work on my hockey team.

His timing couldn't be better. My in-laws flew into town to give us a hand with the dogs and our 2 year old daughter during the hospital stay, arriving a mere 4 hours before the contractions started. They've been a big help.

We had our first night home from the hospital last night and as can be expected with a newborn, no one got any sleep. I'd forgotten about the sleepless first night with a newborn.

More pictures and posts to come!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Work Visa For Mexico - The New Process

All kinds of changes have been happening at the Mexican immigration department on policy and in technology for applying for and obtaining a work visa which was formally known as the FM3 - it is now simply called No Immigrante, and with fewer categories to apply under. Those which affect most foreign TEFLers in Mexico are Independent status, employer-sponsored status, and rentista which is what most retired snowbirds have.

All in all there have been few changes. Instead of a passport sized booklet, the visa in now a photo ID card. Some of the application process has been moved online and it generally takes a little less time now to process the visa.

There's a discussion about the new process over at Dave's ESL Cafe.

djpresidente begins:

I'm newly-arrived in the DF and in the process of applying cold turkey at a number of schools. In an interview yesterday, I was told that the process has changed so that you don't need a sponsor and there is one visa/permit for everyone not applying for permanent residence. I haven't found anything on the forum or the internet about this, so I thought I'd ask here, as it looks like a lot of people are going through the application process right now.

As I understand it, the old book has been replaced with a card, but that is the only change I've found so far.


PS If you know of any good job openings in the DF, be sure to let me know!

I reply:

I'm going into migra on Tuesday to renew my visa and to help someone get their first independent visa (no sponsor as you note). I'll post the most recent checklist here for new visas. At last check, the paperwork for the card is not much different from that for the old booklet.

There are apparently going to be more changes coming later this year though.

and I continue with:

For the moment, nothing has changed regarding the independent visa. You still need to pay for the visa at the bank using a form they give, and bring in the receipt, original and copies of your passport, original and copy of the application printed from the migra website, copy and original of your degree and/or teaching qualifications, and a letter in Spanish outlining what you intend to do independently and how you are qualified to do it. File that and they summon you back to complete the process bringing in photos and another short application, proof of address, take your fingerprints and it's done.

I asked some staff at DF migra about the upcoming changes but they had very little concrete to say. They did confirm that the rumour of no longer being able to turn tourist or business visas into work visas from within Mexico is not true.

The discussion continues, adding detail on bank deposits, taxes, and apostilles for foreign documents. More at the link above.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Success in TEFL

"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore."
-Dale Carnegie

Success in teaching abroad - a not so easy goal to achieve it seems, after reading through some of the comments on popular TEFL web forums such as The ESL Cafe and ELT World. TEFL is not exotic beaches, easy money, and a 24 hour a day party. If you found my article thinking it was, then stop reading now. I'm going to talk about WORK.

Teaching abroad is a very select set of challenges to thrust yourself into. A new language, a different culture, strange food, and unknown risks are not what most people call fun. It takes a particular brand of daredevil or world-beater to see these hurdles as attractive. That particular brand of person is common among those that succeed in teaching abroad but the most important factor that each one knows is that it is imperative to have goals to succeed on, and the willingness to see them through.

I meet a lot of different people in my line of work in TEFL. Young recent college graduates, out for a year abroad to work on their Spanish. Retired folks from a variety of fields settling into a warmer climate. Career teachers looking for a different country. Thrill-seekers and people who just can't settle in one place. Many find their niche and do well in Latin America. Many others don't.

Defining success in teaching abroad has to start with defining your goals and finding the means to achieve them. The two most common goals I see - improving one's foreign language skills and turning EFL work into a meaningful career - are difficult and worth examining here.

"I want to improve my Spanish, so I think teaching in Mexico or Chile will help".

Teaching abroad is often seen as a means to earn your way through a year-long stint in a country while learning the language. While this is true, it's very easy to lose focus on improving your language skills by getting lost in teaching English. Leaving aside that much of your day is spent working in English, your social circle can sometimes remain in a rut - an English-speaking rut - of co-workers and students. It takes effort to find opportunities outside the class (and sometimes inside the class) to work on your Spanish.

The first thing you can do before setting out for travel and work is to restrict your job searches to schools that offer free or subsidized local language classes as part of a job offer or as an option. Many language institutes offer this to teachers if you ask. If such classes aren't available, your next bet is to look for local language course providers in your chosen country that offer classes at a price and schedule that fits with your EFL class teaching.

Think about expanding your social circle and trying out new activities. Learning the local language doesn't always need to come from sitting in a classroom. Look for local groups around other interests you have, such as sports, art, or museums. Think about things going on around you and have a willingness to dive in.

"I'm thinking of getting into teaching back home but I'm not sure it's the right thing for me. I don't want to invest years of study and a lot of money in this field and find out I don't like it. I think a year abroad teaching English will help me decide."

A common jump off point for teaching abroad is a TEFL or CELTA course - a four week intensive set of classes and teaching practice designed to cram a large amount of information into your head and get you out working at language institutes and schools as soon as you pass the course.

From here, it is again easy to lose sight of the goal. A lot of people see their initial course as the end of training. Spending a year in the classroom will give you a good idea as to what it is to teach, but building towards a career in this field means constant study, more courses, and finding the right ladder to better jobs be they at home or abroad.

When looking at your first job, it's good to ask about professional development. Some schools can connect you to further training such as TEFL for young learners or diploma courses such as the DELTA. Beyond EFL, the international school circuit is a great place to seek opportunities. IB training (International Baccalaureate) and workshops can be found everywhere and some schools will help pay for higher degrees through their international networks.

Teacher organizations and associations are great places to network and locate further training or leads to better jobs. MEXTESOL is an example for Mexico though there are dozens of others to choose from, not only locally but online as well.

These are the practical tips to success in teaching abroad but the real effort is in staying focused and working hard. The opportunities are there if you take them.

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will." Vincent T. Lombardi

This entry contributes to the ESL/EFL Roadshow, a blog ring of ESL/EFL teachers and TEFL teacher trainers around the world. October's project is hosted by Ted at TEFLTips. Here is the Roadshow Roundup that shows TEFL Success as other teaching bloggers see them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's with the price of avocado?

Ridiculous. 80 pesos a kilo...80 PESOS! I think it's cheaper to get avocado now in Canada where it of course does not grow in the 11 month long permafrost.

Mexicans scream CONSPIRACY! According to the BBC anyway...

Recently, it's felt as if the whole country has been talking about the same thing - and for once it's not football or the latest hit telenovela. Around dinner tables, in street markets and at work, it's the price of avocados that has been on everyone's mind.

From costing a couple of dollars per kilo earlier this year, avocados went on a constant price climb which appeared to know no end - rising all the way up to $5-6 per kilo. I heard of sightings of a kilo of avocados for more than $8.

In a country that takes its food seriously, this was a recipe for disaster.

Soft as butter and slightly sweet, avocado was first grown around 12,000 years ago in the south of Mexico. It's now a delicacy prized the world over.

But the origins of its name are not so elegant. The word avocado comes from "aguacate" in Spanish, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl Mexican native language "ahuacatl", referring to a certain intimate part of the male anatomy. **

In Mexico - where 40% of the world's avocado crop is grown - this fruit is sacrosanct. In fact, Mexicans are estimated to eat up to 8kg of avocado each, every year.

Avocados go with everything: they are a key additive to the delicious tortilla soup, a layer in the Mexican multi-level sandwiches known as tortas and - last but not least - they are the basis of that most famous of Mexican dips - guacamole.

And you don't want to mess with Mexicans and their food. Back in 2007, the rising price of tortillas - the flat-corn bread that is a key source of calories for the poor - sparked a series of protests around the country known as the "tortilla wars". So, with prices through the roof, was I about to witness an "avocado war"?

If I was, I had to find out the reasons for the price hikes. And here I discovered that there is something else aside from food that Mexicans seem to enjoy - urban legends.

Anger brewing

I talked to a security expert who claimed he knew the reason for the spiralling price. The great majority of Mexican avocados come from the state of Michoacan, in the west, a region badly affected by the presence of drug cartels.

The cartels, the expert told me, are expanding into the business of extortion, and are targeting avocado growers. The criminals demand a fee for every kilo that is transported through the dangerous roads of Michoacan, and that fee forced up the final consumer price.

Nonsense, the head of the local avocado producers' association told me. The cause of the price increase is simply a bad harvest.

Carmen, our cleaning lady, had her own conspiracy theory. "I blame the gringos," she told me. "Americans have taken a liking to guacamole, so all our avocados are heading north." Social networks were brimming with comments about how "aguacates" were quickly vanishing from Mexican dinner tables - and the anger seemed to be brewing.

But then, an epiphany. I was sitting in the back of a cab, silently hating Mexico City traffic, when an ad burst on to the radio - from a local supermarket, promoting a kilo of avocados for just over $2. Was it over?

At my local food market, I confirmed it. At most stands, avocados now are around $3 per kilo, and the prices still seem to be falling. But if there's something I learned over the last few months, it's that I can't always be sure that I'll be able to have my avocado - and eat it.

Thankfully, yes, the price has come down. I saw some at the local market for 30 pesos a kilo...still a bit high, but a much more reasonable price.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The TEFL Job Interview - Latin America

Here is an article I had published some years back, about the typical job interview you can expect when coming out of a CELTA or TEFL course and looking for that first job in Latin America.

Congratulations! You just finished your EFL teacher training, those grueling four weeks of sweating over coming up with interesting ideas for classes, of pouring over page after page of theory, of juggling type three conditionals.

Well you're all done. So what’s next? All this time, you've been dreaming about what wonderful new things you'll see and do in Santiago de Chile, in Buenos Aires, in San Miguel de Allende. You've also been worrying about apartments, about plane tickets, about work permits, but the most important event has yet to come: the job interview.

There's still a job interview? Yes, and all that hard work you did is about to pay off. But what will it be like? What will they ask me? Do I have to talk in Spanish?

Don't sweat it. It's probably nothing like what you are expecting. Knowing a little about what a DOS (Director of Studies) looks for in a teacher will help you do well in an interview. First, did you know that most Directors of Studies are from the UK, or the US? Your average DOS started out just like you are – teaching abroad after an initial intensive training course. Even if he or she isn't a native-speaker, it's a job requirement for them to be very good speakers of English, so either way, your interview will be in your own tongue.

You might now think that the next question has something to do with modals, or with communicative approaches, or inductive reasoning. You would be wrong in this case. Invariably, every DOS has the same worry – how long is this person going to commit to my students? This is easily the most difficult part about managing human capital. Too often, the pile of resumes on a director's desk is littered with the same acronyms and objectives. John Doe, CELTA, looking for a summer position, Jane Teacher, TEFL, can stay 8 weeks, and so forth. Most school directors know that it takes time for a teacher to develop a good rapport with students. They also program classes by semester or by level, lasting anywhere from 3 months to a full year. What they don't want to see is a teacher who can't complete a semester or level, since it is quite difficult to rebuild rapport with a new teacher halfway through a student's studies.

Should you be serious and professional or casual and open in the interview? The best answer is simply to be you. The person on the other side of the desk wants to know what you'll be like in front of a group of people - so be that person. An overly serious person may give the impression of having difficulties getting students to open up and communicate in the classroom while someone who comes off as too casual or not serious enough gives the impression of disorganization and sloppiness. The ideal? Don't be afraid to ask questions and make comments on what you see. Be friendly and smile, but stay focused. This is the person the students will see and a DOS simply must be sure that you aren't on either extreme.

What about grammar? The fear that most EFLers have when completing a training course is remembering all those grammar terms and rules. Yes, you need to know them. You are going to teach them after all. Most likely, you'll be asked to write up a demonstration class, or perhaps even deliver one to a few students or other teachers. You may be given a grammar point and asked to develop a class plan around that – introducing the point in context, running a few practice drills using it, then finishing with an output exercise that demonstrates student comprehension.

Know your students. Having knowledge of who your students will be will go a long way. During the job interview, you can win over any DOS by showing great interest in the types of student the school attracts. Aside from the obvious questions as to age groups and proficiency level, ask from where the school draws its students. Are they professionals, university students, exchange students, etc? Getting to know your student shows an interest in people and tells a DOS that you can connect on a personal level with your students, and most importantly, that you are flexible – ready to teach from a variety of platforms.

Sound simple enough? Of course, don't ignore the obvious stuff. Dress smart, be confident, and let this DOS know that you are the right person for the job.

Now, with that out of the way, you can focus on the important stuff. Getting your plane tickets, arranging accommodations, and discovering a new corner of the world. Good luck!

This entry marks my first article contributing to the ESL/EFL Roadshow, a blog ring of ESL/EFL teachers and TEFL teacher trainers around the world. September's project is hosting by Sharon of TEFL Tips fame. Here is the Roadshow roundup that shows Interview Tips as other teaching bloggers see them.

Teacher Get Together Sept. 24th

Several of us are meeting up al centro Mexico City on Saturday, Sept 24th and you're welcome to join us, same place as the last meet up since it was easy for everyone to find.

We'll add the book swap to it this time. If you have some books you're willing to part with, bring them. We frequently end up with piles of books to exchange, everything from paperbacks to EFL texts.

Saturday, September 24th, 4 PM

Restaurante Gante Cafe, corner of Madero and Gante streets al centro. Bellas Artes is the closest metro stop. We'll be on the patio. Feel free to contact me by email if you need better directions.

Google map link

Monday, September 5, 2011

-ed Endings for Spanish Speakers - Pronunciation

A discussion developing over at ELT World on how to get spanish speakers to properly pronounce the varieties of words in English that end in -ed. The three sounds - Ed, /d, and /t are all usually rendered as -Ed, as found in the words ratED, sportED,and dreadED.

The ELT World discussion.

Teresa Lopez begins:

I am preparing some lessons on the different sounds that the -ed ending can produce, but I was wondering if any one knows if there are any rules about when it sounds like ¨t¨, when it sounds like ¨d¨ and when it sounds like ¨ed¨. I have a class of Upper Intermediate students that stuggle with that and aside from going over lots of words and how they are pronounced I can´t come up with anything else. Well, I kind of figured out on my own that the -ed is more pronounced when the word ends in ¨t¨ or ¨d¨ because of the difficulty of the same, or a very similar sound, right together.

NCTBA offers links:

Enjoy, Teresa! And always remember, Google is your friend!

Melee offers:

I'm not sure if its in the links already posted, but I have my students put their hand infront of their mouths and say a verb in it's base form
If they feel a burst of air at the end, they will put a /t/ at the end to make it the past. If they do not feel air on their hand they will put /d/ at the end of the verb. If the verb already end in a t or a d then they will put /Id/ at the end of it. You can use the words voiced and unvoiced if you want, or you can not use them if you think your students aren't interested in the metalanguage. I usually do use them when teaching at the university because I say something like "those of us who study language call this voiced" because my engineering students never seem to realize linguistics is a science, and I think they should.
Either way I always ham it up a bit. Tell them they shouldn't be feeling any spit on their hands just air, getting them to try to put the opposite sound on (its not easy to change from voiced to unvoiced at the end of the word--the whole reason for this in the first place.)

Old English File one has a lesson on this that I really like, about a woman leaving her husband. it uses all regular verbs and is arranged in three collums so the students can notice the sounds. And as an extention it uses the song Yesterday on the premise the husband is singing about his wife who has left him (Now you gone and it looks as if their here to stay...)

See the full discussion at the link above.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Too Many Pigeons? Get an Eagle

Mexico City has started using Golden eagles tasked with overflying some of the city's subway installations in order to scare away pigeons, whose poop can cause damage to electrical systems and infrastructure.

El Universal has the story in Spanish.

Para evitar que el excremento de las palomas causen daño a los techos e instalaciones eléctricas de estaciones del Sistema de Transporte Colectivo (STC) Metro, un grupo de águilas sobrevuelan los inmuebles para “espantar” a las aves y así evitar que formen sus nidos.

Francisco Bojórquez, titular del organismo de transporte capitalino, confirmó que se utiliza la presencia de estos depredadores con la intención de “asustar a las palomas para que no aniden y prevenir el desgaste prematuro de las instalaciones”.

Detalló que las águilas sobrevuelan estaciones como Ciudad Azteca, en la Línea B, o La Paz, que es la terminal de la Línea A Férrea que recorre la calzada Ignacio Zaragoza.

I've seen one of the fantastic birds up close when a handler brought one to my girlfriend's school to show off to the kids. Pigeons have a reason to be scared.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mexico City - Drivers vs Bicycles

Things are heating up in Mexico City between bicyclists and drivers. As the city pushes its Green Plan, including encouraging more bicycles and installing more Ecobici systems, driver frustration was given a voice through Radio 13 Noticias' announcer Ángel Verdugo when he suggested that bicyclists that fail to follow the rules of the road should be 'run over'. El Universal online has the story, in Spanish.

Ernesto Corona, vocero de Bicitekas, dijo que la asociación de ciclistas urbanos levantó una denuncia ante la Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal (CDHDF) en torno a declaración del comentarista Ángel Verdugo, quien criticó a los ciclistas que no respetan el Reglamento de Tránsito Metropolitano.

Ángel Verdugo, comentarista radiofónico, aseguró que los ciclistas "son la nueva plaga que está a punto de causar daños severos en el Distrito Federal", debido a que muchos de ellos no respetan los códigos de Tránsito.

Corona dijo que revisan otras acciones en torno a lo que consideró "incitación a la violencia" y añadió que la declaración contra los ciclistas es algo muy grave, sobre todo en la situación de violencia que enfrenta el país. "Empezar a generar más violencia en realidad no es nada bueno para la situación que estamos viviendo y sobre todo para la gran cantidad de gente que esta empezando a utilizar las bicicletas en la Ciudad de México y en el resto del país".

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Language of Rioting

The BBC has an interesting piece covering the language of riots...language driven by social media, social underclasses, and mayhem.

BBC article online

From shot 29-year-old Mark Duggan referring to the police as "feds" to the nuanced use of the word "community", the language of the riots and the response can tell us something.

It may have been England that was shaken by violence, looting and disorder.

But many of the terms used by its perpetrators came from a very different place altogether - and, due to coverage of the rioting, they have found a wider audience than ever before.

"If you see a fed... SHOOT!" read one message circulated on BlackBerry Messenger, imploring readers to riot.

Another, widely reported in the aftermath of the chaos, urged everyone to "up and roll to Tottenham [expletive] the 5-0". There were myriad references as well to the "po po".

"When kids talk about the feds, it's obvious that they're not talking about the FBI," she says. "They know that's not how things work over here. It's like a code - politicians and the media don't understand."

She highlights home-grown phrases like "bully van", meaning police van, and "shank", meaning knife, as evidence that UK street culture is not just passively replicating the language of the US inner cities.

Indeed, Jonathon Green, author of the Chambers Slang Dictionary, points out that many of the messages which circulated during the riots included non-US phrases.

These included exhortations to defend one's "yard" - used in its Jamaican-derived sense, meaning home - or one's "end", a home-grown term referring to an area of a city.

more at the article link above

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Metrobus Line 4 - Mexico City

Mexico City began work this past month on the next metrobus line - number 4 - to run cross town east/west between Buenavista (the train station) and the airport, crossing the heart of the city in the Centro Historico. I assume they are grabbing 2 or 3 lanes of Eje 1 Norte to do it.

Bravo! Another good project by the city that seems dedicated to favouring public transport over private. Drivers will moan about it for a couple of years then get used to the faster flow of people and cars through the area.

Looking forward to lines 5, 6, 7...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mexico City Expat/Teacher Get Together July 30th

We'll be having a teacher and expat get together in Mexico City this Saturday, July 30th at 1 PM. Meet up is at the patio of Restaurante Gante Cafe, at the corner of Gante and Madero streets.

Most of us are EFL teachers but the meet up is open to all. No need to RSVP, just show up!

Here is the google map link.

View Restaurante Gante Cafe in a larger map

Closest metro is Bellas Artes. See you there!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mexico City Foodie

I found a new resource!

The Mija Chronichles, by Leslie Tellez a Texas expat living in Mexico City. She is ALL about the food (as I am) and has a blog covering a wide range of food topics for the grand capital of Mexico.

I'll be a regular reader...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ESL vs EFL in North America

An interesting discussion developing at the ESL Cafe, which started out talking about a preference in Canada for non-native ESL instructors but distilled out to a talk on some of the differences EFL and ESL teachers find in their craft. One to watch.

The full discussion is here.

dmocha begins:

When I came back to Canada after teaching for several decades overseas I knew it might be tough to break into the ESL market. One university English language programme told me flat out that overseas EFL experience was of limited benefit in getting an ESL teaching job in Canada. Another decade later and I know that they were right.

While on the hunt for ESL jobs I began to encounter another barrier to employment. I’d never even considered: anti-native-speaker-ism in the immigrant English language teaching sector. The premise is that having native-English speakers as instructors in immigrant oriented ESL programmes sends the message that ‘native is best’ or conversely ‘non-native is second rate’. As a result I’ve seem programmes (federal government funded programmes no less) which have zero native English-speaking teaching staff. (Male staff? Since most of the immigrant learners are women, having men in superior roles would send the wrong message too.)

For those of us who rely on our native speaker status to open doors overseas, who see how non-Caucasian native English speakers are often less employable and are paid less when they are just as good, this can come as quite a shock!

Speaking for myself, I doubt very much I’d enrol in a Chinese language programme in Beijing if I knew the instructors were not native speakers of 北京话.

My purpose in writing this is not to complain but to provoke a discussion on the issue of ‘anti-native-speakeristic’ approaches to language teaching, in terms of language learning, acculturation and teacher (un)employment.

PS If you think your many years of successful teaching overseas, your published papers and higher education count for much in Canada (at least) think again. Plan on retraining for a new career right from the get-go. Don't waste time; time is money.

nomad soul responds:

dmocha, I wonder how much of this comes from the belief that you're supposedly out of touch with the culture because you were overseas for a lengthy time. Even though you’re a native speaker, employers may perceive you to be similar to an immigrant in that you now have to acclimate back into the culture---that is, you’re estranged from the culture, which is essential for teaching ESL. Additionally, I think TEFL is misunderstood by TESL folks because of the “foreign” component. For example, I know several ESL teachers who have said they can’t fathom going overseas to teach because they’d be teaching on foreign soil and in a foreign context. Geez, and having "suspect-sounding" countries (e.g., Yemen, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Togo, New Guinea...) on your resume/CV could be an issue. Your TEFL experience would probably be more appealing if you'd taught in Mexico, China, Japan, Poland, etc.

johnslat adds:

"Additionally, I think TEFL is misunderstood by TESL folks because of the “foreign” component."

From my experience, I'd say that there is a fairly widespread prejudice among ESL employers in the States against EFLers.

I'd also say that, like all other prejudices, it's wrong-headed. Would we all agree that EFL students usually have it harder in learning English than ESL students? After all, the ESL students are generally surrounded by English whereas for many EFL students, the classroom is the only time they may get to speak English (the enterprising ones can read, write and/or listen to it outside the class, though I'd say, many don't.)
And when the students have it harder, doesn't it logically follow that the teachers have it harder, too?

Again, I can speak only from my background - 22 years as a EFL teacher and eight years as an ESL teacher. And I would have to say that in my estimation, the EFL colleagues that I had were/are (generally speaking) more competent than most of my ESL colleagues (the main exceptions being ESL non-native speaker teachers.)

But again - that's just my experience.


spiral78 chimes in with:

I've worked in a couple of places in North America providing classes for immigrants: the teachers were 90% native speakers.

Non-native speakers were employed primarily teaching lower levels, not due to any lack of proficiency (they were all very high level English speakers) but because their teaching methods tended to the more traditional. This is what many newcomers seemed to expect and to respond best to - they were then 'weaned' up through higher levels to more participatory/learner centred classroom styles.

nomad soul agrees:

The ESL teaching situations I've observed in the US mirror spiral's description but with native and non-native speakers teaching all levels. It's probably relevant to the demographics of the area. But employers will hire whomever they want for whatever the reason.

The job market for ESL teachers is competitive and one way to make sure you're not forgotten or ignored is by networking. Teachers who head overseas for a time and then return to their native shores especially need to keep a connection with their home teaching community. TESOL events are a good venue for meeting and networking with one's peers. Linkedin is another way to network and it's free.

follow the rest of the conversation at the link above...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Internet Changing the Way We Remember

BBC has a story...

Computers and the internet are changing the nature of our memory, research in the journal Science suggests.

Psychology experiments showed that people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers.

When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored.

The researchers say the internet acts as a "transactive memory" that we depend upon to remember for us.

Lead author Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University said that transactive memory "is an idea that there are external memory sources - really storage places that exist in other people".

"There are people who are experts in certain things and we allow them to be, [to] make them responsible for certain kinds of information," she explained to BBC News.

Co-author of the paper Daniel Wegner, now at Harvard University, first proposed the transactive memory concept in a book chapter titled Cognitive Interdependence in Close Relationships, finding that long-term couples relied on each other to act as one another's memory banks.

"I really think the internet has become a form of this transactive memory, and I wanted to test it," said Dr Sparrow.

Now, where did I leave my car keys?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mexico Wins Sub 17 Tourney!

I don't often get excited about football - soccer, but Mexico is having a banner year. A couple of weeks after defeating the US for a win in the Copa de Oro, Mexico's under 17 squad tonight came away with the championship after defeating Uruguay 2-0. The tourney was hosted in Mexico.

These are difficult times for many people in Mexico, fighting both negative world opinion and a cartel war at home. The sub-17 win is exactly the kind of thing Mexicans need to lift the spirits and keep the pride shining.

Guadalajara hosts the Pan American games in October giving the Mexico side another chance to shine in sport in 2011.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mexican Trucks Across the Border

Mexican truckers will finally be allowed across the US border past the 40 km limit they previously had. This ends a 17 year NAFTA dispute and ends Mexican tariffs against a range of US products coming into Mexico.

BBC has the story.

US and Mexico have signed a deal to allow their trucks to use each other's roads, after a 17-year dispute.

The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement called for Mexican trucks to have full access to US highways, but they were kept to a border buffer zone.

In 2009, Mexico imposed higher tariffs on dozens of US products in response.

Officials said the deal would address safety concerns over Mexican vehicles. Business groups welcomed the accord but US trucking unions have condemned it.

Under Nafta, US and Mexican carriers were authorised to cross the border.

But the the US refused to allow Mexican trucks full access, citing concerns of their ability to meet US safety and environmental standards.

Mexican vehicles have generally been allowed no further than 40km (25 miles) into the US.

The Mexican side has pushed hard for Mexican trucking to have full access to the US as agreed upon in the NAFTA agreement in 1994. The US has put up legitimate concerns but slow to propose solutions in areas such as cross-border checks and safety regulation compliance. Trucker unions in the US have put up the biggest objections fearing loss of jobs and income for US based truckers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Home Alone Dad Day 8

One day to go...mommy arrives tomorrow.

We spent the morning at Parque Mexico with my cousins who pitched in to entertain the hellion.

Mommy had better be bringing me some duty free Crown Royal...I have earned it.

Untitled from Guy Courchesne on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Home Alone Dad Day 7

We're in the home was all about partying! Mexico City's annual gay pride march starting at 11 AM and we arrived to find that it didn't start until about 1 PM. Stella fell asleep in my arms so I only got the barest of footage.

Mommy's colleague the Fongster held an end of year BBQ at her place which got rained out to some degree. Hamburgers, music, and busting up some furniture was still the order of the day however.

And how could you top it all off better than with a 4-2 Copa de Oro final victory by Mexico over most hated rival USA?

Mommy is home in two days...

Untitled from Guy Courchesne on Vimeo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Home Alone Dad Day 6

Some relief today when the nanny came by to take Stella to the park and to help clean up around the pad. It started raining around 2 PM and stayed that way so Stella the Artist and I remained inside, colouring, tickling, and reading.

Miss you lots, mommy.

If that video doesn't load for you because it's blocked, here's the Vimeo version.

Stay at Home Dad Day 6 from Guy Courchesne on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Home Alone Daddy Day 5

Rain put a damper on our outdoor plans today. After downloading Dumbo and Pinocchio, calling Domino's Pizza, and serving up ice cream, we hardly noticed the rain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Home Alone Daddy Day 4

Someone gave us a tea set for Stella's birthday (thank you whoever you are!)...oh, why didn't I unpack this three days ago? Stella loves it!

We went super girlie today, playing dress up, having tea, frying ants with a magnifying glass...oh no, that last one was my childhood as a boy. We had fun nonetheless.

Special note to Kristen - wish I could have found the original blue dress.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Home Alone Daddy Day 3

Daddy's Log, Playdate June 21st, 2011 - the Longest day of the year. We docked at Port Velarde today for some much needed R and R. The base commander was more than happy to provide swimming and babysitting services. This is Day 3 of our journey with 5 more to go. I think we may just make it after all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Home Alone Daddy Day 2

I don't know if I can make it. 6 more days and I am utterly and completely OWNED by this little hellion.

Send help.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Home Alone Daddy

Today I embarked on a perilous journey...perhaps the most challenging challenge in the history of challenge. Today, mommy left for an 8 day conference in Washington DC leaving daddy, home alone, with a monster.

I've faced tough battles in my time but this one will test my limits. I plan to keep a log, for future generations of stay at home dads, in case I don't survive to tell the tale.

Day 1.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go the F*CK to Sleep!

Not actually for kids, but EVERY parent can appreciate this running away best seller.

See it on Amazon.

This book was actually leaked early and Internet piracy has vaulted into must-read and cult status. But the best has only just arrived with a Samuel L Jackson narration of an audio version.

Listen to Samuel read. (you probably don't want your children listening)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canadian Senate Page Brigette Marcelle

I have to give a shout out for this young woman, Brigette Marcelle, who was up until today a page for the Canadian Senate. Ordinarily, it is humdrum quiet in the House of Commons in Ottawa (for anyone but a politico) and pages are usually university students or young people interested in the parliamentary system. I have to imagine that young Brigette thought that being a page would give her insights on government perhaps looking at a future in the government. No longer.

Some are going to say that this was opportunistic, or a mere expression of youth that caught the media lens. No way, says I. This young woman worked to get to where she was and I think it took a great deal of courage to make the statement she did knowing full well that all of her dreams were the cost of making the statement.

Yesterday, a simple page. Today, on center stage.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mexico City Markets - Foodie Paradise

A friend had a story of hers published recently over at and I thought I'd share it here. The topic is one of my favorites - Mexico City markets, which range from once-a-week farmer's street markets, to permanent neighbourhood level traditional markets to the gigantic (600,000 sq feet!) Central de Abastos. Her story can be found here. Some exceprts...

As we always say, one of the best ways to explore a place is to mingle with the locals at the market, and that's especially true in a dynamic destination like Mexico City.

Locals Leigh Thelmadatter and Alejandro Linares Garcia share their insider market guide to Mexico City.

"I went from market to market for years, because Mexico is in its markets." - Pablo Neruda

The beauty of Mexico City's markets lies in the diversity. From antiques to livestock to authentic cuisine, there's something for everyone.

For the foodie ...

At the more food-centric markets, you will find small dishes called antojitos (cravings) which include tacos, quesadillas, filled tortillas, local specialties like barbacoa, huaraches, Mexican-style shrimp cocktails, fried bananas, fruit salads with tropical fruits and fresh squeezed juices, even beer and aged tequila.


This is the city’s high-end food market, offering the freshest produce and the widest variety of fine cheeses and meats. With imported and domestic products, there's everything even exotic meats and seafood like ostrich, alligator, manta ray, snails and more. Fine bottles of aged tequila can also be found and chefs roam the stalls daily.


One of the city’s of the oldest, and the largest of the traditional markets, is in the old La Merced monastery. From food to housewares, this market offers a variety of goods.

The market sits near what used to be the docks that received most of the foodstuffs from all over the Valley of Mexico, when it was still filled by five lakes and the city itself was an island.


Jamaica is pronounced ha-mai-ka, and named after the hibiscus flower. It is one of the largest vendors of produce but is best known as the city’s and country’s largest cut-flower and ornamental plant market.


This market specializes in live animals (including some illegal species), dishes and party supplies.

However, what makes this market notable are the aisles dedicated to herbal medicines and the occult, including paraphernalia related to Santeria and a skeletal figure known as Santa Muerte (Saint Death).

I've been to all of these, with La Merced being my favorite. I always find something new every time I go.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mexico City Transformed

Something I've been saying for quite a number of years living here in Mexico City...nice to see some recognition from abroad. Transformation doesn't come's been a long series of steps, some large some small.

The Toronto Star writes:

MEXICO CITY—Why can’t Toronto be more like Mexico?

Not the country. The city.

Just a few years ago, the question would have seemed absurd.

After all, Mexico City has long been written off as a hulking urban disaster zone — too big, too violent, too crowded, too dirty.

Don’t even mention the traffic.

The motorized madness can still be horrendous, and the Mexican capital faces many other stubborn problems. But under visionary Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the most populous city in the Americas has been transforming itself in numerous and surprising ways, most of them jarringly at odds with the place’s recent and mostly dire reputation.

Poverty remains widespread, but the city that goes by the name of Mexico now boasts a host of improvements, including extensive dedicated bike lanes, a highly popular bike-sharing system, much winsome public art, handsome pedestrian malls, enhanced public transit, reduced crime levels, diminished corruption and even improved air quality.

“This is not to say we have turned into Vancouver,” concedes Jorge Fuentes, spokesman for the Mexico City Secretariat for the Environment. “But, each year, the indices get better.”

Meanwhile, the metropolis that began life seven centuries ago as the Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlan has become an oasis of liberalism in a largely conservative land.

“Mexico City has become more tolerant,” says Jorge Carrasco, a reporter for the weekly newsmagazine Proceso. “Everyone goes around as they wish. Everyone dresses as they wish.”

Toronto’s legions of bike-riding “pinkos” — to use Don Cherry’s felicitous epithet — can only look on in envy and, perhaps, despair.

During his five years in office, Ebrard has de-penalized abortion within the capital region — this, in profoundly Catholic Mexico — while also passing laws that legalize same-sex marriage, authorize adoption by gay couples, and permit euthanasia in some circumstances.

Rob Ford would be horrified, of course, but Rob Ford was not singled out this past December as the world’s best mayor by the City Mayors Foundation, an international organization that promotes sound local government.

Ebrard was.

Nor was Rob Ford’s city honoured last year by the Green Index for having a top environmental management plan.

Mexico City was.

Can we possibly be talking about the huge, fuming, cacophonous conglomeration that only a decade ago seemed to be hurtling pell-mell for urban Armageddon, where upwards of 20 million people were shoehorned into a toxic valley haunted by armed thugs, where 3.5 million cars daily befouled the thin highland air, and where almost everybody suffered from chronic bronchitis?

In a word, sí.

It’s the same place, all right — but the place has changed.

Rest of the story at the link above. I'd love to hear your comments if you're in Mexico City, have ever visited, or want to know more.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mexico City Cantinas

Here's a great story from the BBC looking at Mexico City's forgotten cantinas. I'm not a big cantina goer myself but I do enjoy visiting when out with new arrivals to the city. There are some low-down fun places in the centro historico, crumbling away.

BBC Travel has this one.

Clustered around the historic centre of Mexico City are hundreds of old and crumbling cantinas. Following years of neglect, the cantinas and city centre are now staging a comeback.

"The government has rescued the centre. The streets are cleaner, safer and customers are returning," said the Ricardo Mancera, the operator of the La Ópera cantina. Cantinas are a cornerstone of Mexican cultural heritage and the emergence of a young art and design scene in the centre is helping to keep the cantina tradition alive.

Cantinas were historically a private space for men to drink, talk and play dominoes. Now a refuge for men and women, cantinas are busiest between 2 pm and 5 pm, but stay open until midnight. Beer and tequila are the drinks of choice and many cantinas serve botanas (appetizers) after a few rounds of drinks. Music is part of cantina life and wandering guitarists and singers ply their trade for around 30 pesos a song.

The best cantinas in the centre are within blocks of each other and easily visited on foot.

See the story for a review on some of the best hidden gems in old Mexico City, including:

El Tío Pepe (Independencia 26, at Dolores)

La Ópera (5 de Mayo 10, at Gante)

El Río de la Plata (República de Cuba 39, at Allende)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chimp Gestures

My, my, turns out chimps will use up to 66 different gestures to communicate with each other. I've been able to get away with maybe three or four to cover all scenarios.

From the BBC

Wild chimpanzees use at least 66 distinct gestures to communicate with each other, according to scientists.

A team of researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland filmed a group of the animals in order to decipher this "gestural repertoire".

The team then studied 120 hours of footage of the chimps interacting, looking for signs that the animals were intentionally signalling to each other.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Previous studies on captive chimps have suggested the animals have about 30 different gestures.

"So this [result] shows quite a large repertoire," lead researcher Dr Catherine Hobaiter told BBC News.

"We think people previously were only seeing fractions of this, because when you study the animals in captivity you don't see all their behaviour.

"You wouldn't see them hunting for monkeys, taking females away on 'courtships', or encountering neighbouring groups of chimpanzees."

Dr Hobaiter spent 266 days observing and filming a group of chimpanzees in Budongo Conservation Field Station, Uganda.

more of the story at the link above

Impressive. Mexico City residents - also known as Chilangos - have a good repertoire of gestures at their disposal as well, most often seen while driving. Here are some of the more common ones.

Thank you.

Sometimes seen while driving though it is rare to thank someone for doing something nice. Usually you are being cut off or cursed for something you did to someone else.

Gimme a second.

This doesn't refer to a male member - oh I've seen some foreign guys put off when a Mexican woman did this to them on the dance floor. Need a second before responding to someone's request? Show them the little inch.

That's it, that's it, that's it!

Trying to remember something but can't then someone says it? That's it! Extend your index finger and wag it like scratching an itch.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easter Week - Mexico City Passion Play

It's here, it's finally here! Semana Santa - Easter week break, the second most important holiday period in Mexico after Christmas. For many, that means a week (or two) of fun in the sun. 22 million strong Mexico City practically empties out as Chilangos head to the beach.

Not everyone leaves though and in fact quite a number of people from other parts come to DF to witness the famous re-enactment of the last days of Christ. The Passion Play in Iztapalapa district has been running for decades and draws many hundreds of thousands of the Catholic faithful, as well as tourists. I have been once and it is quite the experience. Here are some videos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MEXTESOL Mexico City Conference April

Otherwise known as an Academic Saturday. The Mexico City chapter of MEXTESOL will be holding this conference this Saturday, April 9th, 2011 at the Museo Britanico-Americano from 4:00 to 7:30 PM. The Academic Saturday is open to members and non-members alike, with non-members paying only 40 pesos at the door. Yearly memberships are available for 200 pesos.

Visit MEXTESOL at their site for more information.

The bulletin for this Saturday's event can be found here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Texcoco Fair - Mexican Rodeo

The 2011 Texcoco Fair is set to begin soon, running from April 8th to May 1st. I've never been to this fair but have always wanted to go, especially with it being so close to Mexico City.

2011 Texcoco Fair Program

The Texcoco Fair is heavy on music with many artists of the norteño variety (northern Mexican music, something like country/western).

As well as music, the fair features great food, a rodeo, horse show, bull fighting, and cock fighting (unfortunately).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sexism in Spanish Language - Mexico

From the BBC

Mexico's interior ministry has published a guide on how to reduce the use of sexist language in a nation renowned for its machismo.

The Manual for the Non-sexist Use of Language is being distributed to government offices across Mexico.

It seeks to reduce comments that enforce gender stereotypes, as well as the default use of the masculine form in the Spanish language.

The manual was written by a body that tackles violence against women.

In its introduction, the manual describes itself as "a tool to familiarize federal public workers with the use of non-sexist strategies in the Spanish language".

It discourages the use of phrases such as: "If you want to work, why did you have children," and: "You are prettier when you keep quiet".

Interesting indeed. Mexico is quite the macho country, in language, attitude, the home, and everywhere else though I've always experienced it here as a two-sided coin with good and bad. Mexico City is not nearly as macho as the countryside can be what with a fairly liberal and modern mindset in its populace. I am curious as to how to eliminate the default use of the masculine though as I know of no neutral form for some words, such as sibling or parent (hermano/a and padres/papas).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mexican Economy

is set for a strong bounce upwards, according to the BBC and the Mexican finance minister.

BBC story...

Mexico's problem of drug violence is serious but there is no evidence investors are being put off, Mexico's finance minister has said.

Ernesto Cordero told the BBC that the tourism sector also seemed unaffected by concerns over violence.

Mr Cordero, speaking in London, said that Mexico was set to continue its strong economic performance, with growth this year set for 4% to 5%.

The effect of rising oil prices on the US recovery is a key concern, he said.

The minister said that Mexico was facing and solving the problem of criminality, a reference to the drug-related violence that has seen high murder rates in some regions of the country.

"There is no evidence investment is not coming to Mexico or that investors are being put off because of violence," he said.

The drug war has undoubtedly harmed the tourism industry in many places in Mexico, including Acapulco, Mazatlan, and others. But it isn't hurting the rest of the economy strangely.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Carlos Slim - Rich and Gettin' Richer

Carlos slim, already the world's fattest fat cat, got fatter. 38% percent richer this past year as a matter of fact.

BBC and forbes report:

Mexico's Carlos Slim has topped the latest Forbes magazine rich list, as his wealth grew by more than a third.

The telecoms magnate's fortune rose by $20.5bn (£12.65bn) to $74bn, again beating Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($56bn) into second place.

More than 200 people joined the billionaires list as their numbers rose to a new record of 1,210, Forbes said.

Six billionaires connected with Facebook are now on the list including, Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker.

They are joined by Facebook investors Peter Thiel and Yuri Milner as well as co-founders Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz, who is the youngest person on the list at 26.

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was the biggest loser, down $17bn to $6bn.

I could certainly use a handout...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's mango season!

Oh how we love mango season here in Mexico. There is a good variety of mango that grows here, but the juiciest, tastiest, mango-juice-running-down-your-elbow mango is the Mango Manila, pictured below.

Mango season in Mexico runs from early February through to about June, with the Manila type first one off the trees. When I lived in Acapulco, we had four mango trees on the property, one of Manila and three of the Paraiso type, which I don't like very much. Come February and March it was positively raining mangoes.

The paraiso mango. I don't find them nearly as juicy.

My daughter loves mangoes and it was one of the first fruits she tried. Full of iron, mango fruit is rich in pre-biotic dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds.

Mangoes can be a bit of a pain to cut up and serve. I'd normally just peel them and chew around the pit but that's extraordinarily messy for a 20 month old. Here's a way to cut mango into cubes to more easily serve to a bowl with natural yogurt and granola in our case.