Sunday, January 30, 2011

Museo Papalote Mexico City

The happiest place in Mexico City! I can't believe I went 10 years living here without having visited, though since it is for kids I guess I didn't have a good reason until now.

The museum in Chapultepec park is geared towrds kids and features hands-on science, tech, and cultural exhibits. There's an IMAX theatre inside and constantly changing feature exhibits. What impressed me most were the dozens of workshops run every hour by great staff, everything from how paper is made, to working with electricity, to art and more. Stella is too young for the workshops, so we stuck to the under-3 displays and exhibits but we'll be back every year I think. 12 dollars gets you in.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mexico and Canada - A Comparison

Thanks to The Mexile for this find, who compared Mexico to his native United Kingdom (fact: you are 400 times more likely to drink tea in the UK!). While Mr. Denness is just about to leave Mexico to return home after about 6 years in Mexico and is understandably looking into his options, I'm staying put.

But, it might be fun to see what differences there are, using If It Were My Home...a nifty website that compares any two countries, presumably by using widely available statistics.

So let's see how the old country stacks up against Mexico.

The Results

I would:

Use 9.8 times more electricity living in Canada. and pay a lot more for it too! Win for Mexico.

consume 4.2 times more oil in Canada.. I don't drink oil. I also don't have or need a car. Win for Mexico.

spend 4.7 times more money on health care in Canada. Eh? What about universal health care? I guess it's not free. Win for Mexico.

make 2.8 times more money in Canada. Actually, it's probably much higher than 2.8 Win for Canada.

have 72.03% less chance of dying in infancy in Canada. Since I'd already been born before this survey, I'll call this one a draw.

have 51.79% more chance of being unemployed in Canada. Ouch. So I guess I wouldn't be earning 2.8 times more money being unemployed now would I? Win for Mexico regardless.

have 46.8% less babies in Canada. I have one child now, born in Mexico. I'm not sure how I would explain things to folks in Canada if I'd had 53.2% of one baby there. Let's call this sill category a draw.

experience 33.4% less of a class divide in Canada. Wonderful, I'd have to mingle with the great unwashed. A win for Canada, badly needed at this point.

live 5.03 years longer in Canada. I should hope so paying so much for health care! Win for Canada.

have 11.99% more free time in Canada. Not sure I believe this one. Christmas season alone in Mexico would seem to scotch this stat. We'll give it to Canada pending an appeal.

be 33.33% more likely to have HIV/AIDS in Canada. Whoa! Another dubious stat. Win for Mexico.

Final score Mexico 5 Canada 4

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mexico city taxis - fares going up

Taxi rates in Mexico City are on the way up, after many years without an increase and near constant complaints by DF taxi drivers, whose rates are fixed by the city.

Story at El Universal

Taxis rides are already very cheap in DF - cheaper than anywhere else in the country, and the rise is modest.

New rates are now as such:

2-door taxis (such as VW bugs) now start at 6.40 pesos (up from 5.80) and go up 1 peso every 250 meters or 45 seconds.

4-door taxis start at 7.04 pesos with the same per-meter rate.

Sitio taxis start at 10.56 and rise 1.25 pesos per 250 meters.

Overnight taxis will still tack on 20% to the fare, as before.

To put it in simpler terms, a ride to the airport from my area in Escandon will rise from a total of 60 pesos to 68 pesos. I can deal with the rise as taxi drivers deserve the break.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teaching Mexican Teenagers

Are they all gruesome to teach? Spoiled little brats? Let's find out.

A discussion over at the Cafe Mexico section is raging.

Doublethinker begins:

I just started a job two weeks ago as full-time sub for secundaria and prepa (eventually as other teachers leave I'll get my own classes). I was super excited to get the job because it pays a lot and I really, really wanted to work with youth. Also, the principal, vice principal and all other staff are really nice and they do a lot of professional development. It's one of the more expensive private colegios in the city (I'm not going to mention the name.)

I knew it would be hard and there would be behavior problems, but I am shocked, just shocked at how bad the kids are. I wish I could just be the laid back teacher, but if I don't discipline 75% of each class just talks over me and completely ignores their work. So (encouraged by my principal) I've decided to be strict so the students will actually work and pay attention. Not "sit down you little *beep*" strict, but "Juan, Maria, it is really frustrating to try to teach with you two yelling, this is the third time I've asked so you need to go down to the office." Nice but firm... so I thought. Instead the kids are revolting and calling me a bitch and threatening to tell their parents.

Now, there are some nice groups, but others are devils. Today one class was so rowdy I asked a few people to leave but the behavior continued. I needed to show consequences so I called the principal in (a very nice lady.) She gave them a quick talk about respect and told them they have to stay in for recess. (With a few exceptions, the 6 good students could leave.) As soon as she left I started hearing a lot of "que tonteria de puta" and as soon as recess started they literally swarmed me and yelling at me and pushed me out the door.

I really want to teach, and there are a lot of nice students at the school and it brings me a lot of joy talking to them and encouraging them and hearing their opinions. But I just don't know if I have it in me to be good at classroom management.

Soooo... I'd like to ask, for those that have taught in Mexico (preferably at a similarly fresa school) and abroad, are my students really bad or are all adolescents so impossible to control? I'd like to think that if I can get through a couple years here that if I go back to Canada or another country to teach that the behavior will be a little better. Like, is it all uphill from here? Or perhaps my personality would be more suited to returning to adult ESL or even primary school.

Thanks for your opinions!

EP adds:

Secundaria and especially prepa in Mexico will either make you or break you as a teacher. It's not a nice experience per se, but you do learn a hell of a lot. I hated it too but after I taught prepa for a year, everything else was much easier and funnily enough, my prepa students are the ones that remember me most when I see them around the city.

Follow the discussion at the link above.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Si Means No

Navigating a new language in a country not your own is difficult to say the least. Sorting out a new culture along with the language can be frustrating. What do you do when you arrange to meet someone at 4:00 PM let's say and they show up at 4:30 or 5:00, as if there was no difference?

Welcome to Mexico!

We're having a good discussion about the ins and outs of communicating and language in Mexico, trying to sort out the subtle signs that indicate a cultural difference, over at the ESL Cafe.

I wrote:

One of things I think is difficult to get used to arriving in Mexico for the first time is the cultural cues in communication that tell you what a person is really telling you. Little things like ahorita to tell you to wait awhile (or dismiss you) or how to schedule a meeting when time is flexible.

So what are the cues - verbal and non-verbal - that tell you what to expect?

In a job context, I can think of some English phrases we use to be polite, or to dismiss someone 'nicely'.

Q. Hey boss, how about a raise this year?
A. Let me get back to you on that or I'll look into it

After 10 years here, I still don't have it all down to the science of Mexican, though I can spot a lot of hidden meaning. Ideas?

EP responds:

I think I'm at the point (after nearly 6 years here) where I accept the way things are done here, and even do those things myself. I may not like certain things (like lateness or that annoying signal for 'wait a second') but I don't get offended anymore. Time is not used in a productive way in Mexico, and probably never will be.

fieldsofbarley adds:

Yes, I was thinking about this the other day. When I first arrived the "si-no" issue pissed me off big time, as well as the lack of formality (you make arrangements to meet with someone, then they cancel at short notice).

Mexican Spanish is full of "subtleties" like these. I´ve also noticed the way people start asking questions: "no tendria...?" (wouldn´t you have...) or "le molesto con..." (I bother you with...). It´s as if they anticipate a negative answer and they try to mitigate the psychological effects of a "no".


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Reyes Magos - First Time for Stella

Stella got her first visit from los Reyes Magos in Mexico City this year, after we decided to start observing the tradition, alongside Santa. Los Reyes visit Mexican kids on the evening of January 5th. Some kids write a not to the Three Kings and leave it in their shoe. Other kids tie the note to a helium filled balloon and launch it into the sky so that it reaches the home of the Three Kings, behind the stars.

We decided to try the balloon method.

The tears dried up when we found out the three kings answered our letter super quick!