Thursday, December 24, 2009

We're Back!!

Alright, so we're back from Mexico so I thought it prudent to give a little report. It's not going to be too long because I have to prep for Christmas but as you can see it will include some pictures. So we left early on December 8th. It was -28 that morning. We traveled from Winkler to the U.S. border in Emerson and then on to Grand Forks. It took a little longer than expected to get there because a warning light went on in the car so I had to slow down. That was a little scary. All I could think was, "just get us to the airport". We made it to the airport obviously. When we got there I dropped off Tina, took her jacket and mitts and went and parked the car. I left my jacket and toque there and ran to the terminal. I parked in economy so it was a bit of a hike. When I got to the terminal Tina told me she forgot to give me her boots. She was not lugging them around Mexico. So back to the car I ran and then back to the terminal. That was cold!!!! Finally we got on the plane and were off. In Minneapolis we were worried about the storm coming up from the Midwest throwing a wrench in our plans. Fortunately it only hit in the afternoon. The flight to Cancun felt a little long but landing and getting out into +28 was kind of nice. We spent the first 5 days at the Xcaret Grand Flamenco Resort near Playa del Carmen. It was really nice but a little confusing at first because it's sooooo big and the maps aren't that great. It's really easy to have lots to drink there. It's an all inclusive resort so all the drinks and food are included. Margaritas taste very good when the temp is pushing 30 degrees. It was a very relaxing time for Tina and I. It had been hectic with work for Tina and school for me so it was great to unwind before we headed off to the colonies. For those of you who don't know the real reason for the trip was for research. Royden Loewen, who chairs Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg is writing a book on the history of horse and buggy Mennonites in North and South America. He has about 8 researchers heading off to different areas to gather stories. Some of you might remember Tina heading to Mexico in January to do this. At that time she made it to most of the colonies on the Yucatan Peninsula but still had two to go to. That was the reason for the trip. We just included a little vacation time as well. We didn't do much at the resort other than sit at the beach and do a bit of dancing. There were tours going out to different areas. But we only had 3 full days at the resort so decided to rest and enjoy the outdoors rather than push ourselves. We got a lot of reading done. I read Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs and Tina read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. We both enjoyed them a lot. So on Saturday, Dec 12 we headed off to Hopelchen. We took a bus from Playa del Carmen to Merida. From there we had to walk to a secondary terminal to catch a bus for Hopelchen. We caught the last one for the day 5 minutes before it left!! Thank you God for your traveling mercies. So we rolled into town at about 7pm. It was dark already and there was lots going on in the main square. Fireworks and shops and people walking around. It was a major festival on the Catholic calendar. I haven't quite figured it out yet but I think it was Guadalupe or something. I'll look it up some time. There are some Amish in Hopelchen helping out the Mennonite Colonies in that area so we headed off to their place. Tina had been there in January. We actually ran into Jonas in the main square. He was heading off to a restaurant where his family was, so we joined him. It was outdoors (it's so nice) and we enjoyed Ponochos, Tacos and Orange Fanta. Ponochos are a small torilla that is a little thicker and has chicken and peppers on it. I made sure to add a little Habanero sauce to give it a little kick. We spent the night at a neighbor lady's spare room. The next day we were off to Neuvo Durango colony, which is about 1 hour southeast of Hopelchen. When we arrived we walked into a room with 10 preachers from the surrounding colonies. That was a little freaky. But Tina was her charming self and by the end had set up some interviews and made a contact with the other colony that we wanted to go to. We spent 4 nights in the colony with the Deacon and his family. I went to some of the interviews, read my book and played one afternoon with the three granddaughters. I even got to go to an Old Colony school one afternoon. Children only go to school until they are 12 years old. I find that a little sad because I met some children who were very sharp. But on the other hand for the lifestyle they live they don't need much higher. When I walked into the school I thought I had walked into Anne of Green Gables. Kids were on benches with long desks using slate boards and chalk. (Chalk pencils that is) They sang the catechism and did the multiplication table by rote chanting it in unison. When we walked in with the teacher all the children stood up and the teacher said Gaun Dag (Good Day) and the children replied with the same in unison. A very different experience. On Thursday we got up very early and we had a buggy ride to the nearest village which was about 1 hour away. From there we took a taxi to another town to catch a bus. The taxi was interesting. We pulled up at this house that had a truck with Ontario plates and a van with no plates. Then a Mayan kid comes out who looks about 12 years old and gets into the drivers seat. I think he was 15. He drove well. So we went to the town and took the bus back to Hopelchen. That afternoon we took a taxi to the Mayan ruins at Xtampac. It was kind of funny. We booked the taxi and he drove around a bit and ended up picking up a girl. From our limited understanding of Spanish he wanted to find someone to help him pass the time while we were at the ruins. She certainly did that in a kanoodling sort of way. Anyway, after the ruins he drove us to Santa Rosa Colony. It's a Sommerfelder colony (they have trucks). We stopped at a house at random and asked the people if they would drive us to Chavi Colony. No problem. So off we went to another colony. It was a little different there. We were a different people's places almost every night. That Sunday we went to an Old Colony church service. THAT was different. It's hard to explain because I didn't understand it but the singing was very different because there was no harmony and was more like a drawn out nasal high pitched Gregorian Chant. Weird, I know. One song took about 10 minutes. The preacher then preached for almost an hour. He needed to go toastmasters. Tina said she's heard better Old Colony preachers and not to base my views of Old Colony preachers on him. OH, NO KIDS. A person was not allowed to go to a church service until they were near baptism age. (About 17 or 18). That afternoon I put on a mini-show for the people we were staying at. I juggled oranges. They loved it. HONEST. That evening we stayed in Jolnon Colony at a house right beside where the bus picks everyone up. We were on the bus till Merida and from there to Cancun, we were on our way home!! That night we stayed at a hotel right across the street from the bus depot. Very handy. We had a nice meal at the hotel and I had my first cold beer in over a week. It tasted very good. The next morning it was off to the airport. We got there early and made it through security so we could do some Duty Free shopping. That was fun. Then on to the plane for a flight to Minneapolis. When went through U.S. Customs it turned out the border guy spent 20 years on the North Dakota/Manitoba border. He was very well acquainted with the Winkler area. What were the chances? So, after a short layover were on our way to Grand Forks. It was -10C when we arrived. Much warmer than the -29C we left behind. The highlight in Grand Forks was that the car started. YAY!!! The trip home was less than 2 hours but felt longer. We really wanted to see the kids. So we pulled into our garage went to the door and were greeted by the two most important people in our lives. We missed them soooo much. It was good to feel their arms squeezing our necks. The made us this great sign too. That night Emi and Tina slept in the bed, I slept on the couch and Griffin slept beside me on the floor. We just all wanted to be together. So, that's my story of Mexico. I'm sure there's lots I've missed but we can talk about that some other time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

To Mexico We Go

Tina and I are off to Mexico tomorrow morning. You can see on the map the two main places we'll be. We're a little nervous. We're flying out of Grand Forks so that means crossing the border. It generally goes smooth but what if it doesn't? Then we fly to Minneapolis. They have a winter storm warning in effect but the snow isn't supposed to really hit until the afternoon. Our plane should be gone by 11am. Here's hoping. We're very excited. The reason we're going down is Tina needs to do some research on some Mennonite Colonies near Hopelchen. (see map) She went in January by herself. This time I get to go and it's our 15th wedding anniversary this month so it's sort of a celebration for us. We'll be in Playa del Carmen the first four or five days and then it's off to the colonies for a week and a bit. We'll be back on the 22nd. Just in time for Christmas. We are so lucky to be able to do this. Our parents are awesome. They will be splitting time taking care of the kids. We'll miss them muchly our sweet little munchkins. So please pray for us for safe travels and that Tina can get her work done and that our kids will be safe and won't miss us too much. If it works I'll blog a bit from Mexico. Don't count on it though.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's been a while

I just really liked this picture which is why I've included it. Griff and Ems are so much fun. I've had a chance to realize that this last day or two. So semester is pretty much done now. I have one take home exam to do by for Tuesday and then I can put the past 3 months behind me. It hasn't been easy. There have been a lot of issues that have come up. I'm just happy to let our a great big sigh and look ahead. I would like to talk about a few things I learned at school this last semester though. It's good to reflect in order to reinforce those ideas that have been formed. I'm never going to be able to fully express (or properly express) some of the things I've learned/felt but I'll try.
Teaching K-8
The lessons learned were hard to put my finger on. I think one of the big things is the importance of being grounded in your teaching philosophy so you know where you plan on going. It also keeps you focused and consistent which will make it easier on the students because they'll learn to know what to expect. My practicum is also a part of this class. I've really enjoyed being in the classroom. I continually try to hone my classroom management techniques. I taught a double period math class this last week. It was fun/chaotic and I'm not sure they fully comprehended squares and square roots. I hope they retained at least a bit of it. *note* I wonder how many teachers ask the same question everyday. I can't wait to get back into the classroom in January.
Aboriginal Education
This class actually ended two weeks ago. It was the kind of class I needed because we got to share and actually be a little bit of a community. Not like a theatre class (best community ever) but still good. I learned a lot about the residential school system. It was horrible. The effects are horrible. Two, three, maybe even four generations have had their culture stripped away. The purpose of the schools was to eliminate the "Indian" culture and make them contributing members to the Canadian society. I can't even explain how sick I feel. I'm glad Aboriginal people are gaining a voice again. My favourite part was the sharing circle at the end of semester. For an hour and a half we sat in a circle passing around a rock. When you had the rock you were the only one who could talk and you could share whatever you want. There was some heavy stuff that came out in that circle. But it reinforced to me how a safe environment will allow a student to make themself vulnerable to express feelings. I hope I can gain a smidgen of that feeling when I teach.
Educational Settings and the Sociology of Learning
I often came out of this class wondering why I'm wanting to teach at all. The system is so skewed towards the upper class. We may say there is equal opportunity to succeed but that is not the case. Our prof was great. We had a lot of readings to do but they all had application to the course material and made sense. Except for the Bourdieu article. That was just painful. I learned a lot in this class and appreciated the dialogue that went on in regards to a number of issues. This course was one of three options for 3rd year Integrated Ed students but I think everyone should have to take it. It's a real eye-opener.
So Tina and I are off to Mexico in a few (4) days. We'll spend the first 5 days in Cancun and then it's off to Hopelchen for a week and a bit on a Mennonite Colony. We're a little stressed out making plans for the kids while we're gone but also looking forward to this time together. At the end of the month we'll have been married for 15 years. I think I love Tina more now than I did when we got married. Or at least I know how to love her better. Gosh, I can't believe how long it takes to adjust to someone. Well, it was worth it. Well I gotta go exercise so my body is beach ready by Tuesday. It's possible right?