Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday July 16

Okay, so just exactly how are we going to cram all of those Talavera pots and platters into our suitcases for the trip home? Today seemed to be the beginning of the transition from Global Volunteer back to plain old tourist, and when Carl handed out the evaluation sheets at breakfast, we were jolted into the realization that this project is coming to an end and we are thinking of home.

But today isn’t the time for nostalgia or reminiscing—it is more a time of tying up loose ends. We took one final group picture for the poster that Jeanne and Ofra are putting together for the Posada las Campanas gallery of Global Volunteers. We settled small debts that were left from last week’s taxi rides and we huddled over the computer changing flight times and comparing departures. Some of use are still trying to make those phone cards work and others are finalizing bus schedules to Guadalahara and San Miguel de Allende.

We walked the mile to UTNG, familiar with those uneven sidewalk humps that were threats to our safety just a week ago. And now we can easily maneuver those congested intersections like the locals, and we can easily find building D and the English offices when we reach campus.

For eight days the English faculty has welcomed us into their space, where we’ve hung out between classes getting to know Vero, Gaby, Lucio, Chuy, Bill and Rosalia…two weeks ago we didn’t even know they existed and today we feel the bond of sharing a common goal—teaching those kids to say “bizzy”, not “bussy” and “pr-ah-ahblem”, not “pro-o-blem. Today we worked on possessive pronouns, dialogues to use in a store if you have a “prah-ahblem”, weather vocabulary, and parts of speech. We volunteers went to our last Spanish class with Chuy but today no curious students hung around the door to get a glimpse of us struggling with a second language.

This afternoon many of us were running last-minute errands, buying the small stuff—bracelets for the grandkids, tiny iguanas for the neighbor, and a t-shirt for the friend who doesn’t quite rate a Talavera pot. Brenda gave her presentation dealing with accounting to a packed auditorium and Ellen and Jeanne shared their thoughts on the importance of learning a second language and how it has enriched their lives. Jeanne statement that "You can curse the dark or you can light a candle” seemed to resonate with everyone as the real purpose of our stay here.

We have learned many things during the last 12 days. We know to cross the street to avoid bird poop falling from the sky. We know that a motorcycle just might roll down the hotel hallway at midnight, and that the water might be hot or it might be cold, and that we might be able to make a cell phone connection—or not. But one thing we all know for sure is that the beautiful lady at the hotel desk—Gigi—will never understand a word that we say.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Life is a journey...not a destination. Enjoy the trip!"

Classes didn't begin until 11:20, so we were able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The servers have gotten to know our preferences, such as who likes huevos con jamón or sin jamón. Most of us made it up to the University, although two of our members were unfortunately too ill to volunteer today. We all wish them a speedy recovery.

Three classes were on our schedule, but attendance was sparse at the first class and the second class was canceled completely due to a conference given by a representative from Pemex. After a one hour break we continued with our third class.

Team III stayed on campus for Conversation Club but no students attended today. At 5:00 they helped Gaby with a Continuing Education class. Vickie particularly enjoyed working with 11 and 13 year old students who were at the intermediate level in their English. All of the team members worked with groups of two or three playing a game planned by the always organized Gaby.

Amelia bravely gave a talk on Human Resources to about 30 students who were attentive and appreciative. One of her students approached her afterward and said, "Excellent, Amelia!"

Our evening meal was a barbecue hosted by Pompeyo at his other hotel just a few blocks away. Everyone was in attendance at our outdoor tables cooled by a fresh breeze. We were served steak, sausage, guacamole, tortillas, vegetables, and quesadillas. Wine and tequila were offered by our generous host. We walked back to our hotel tired but happy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday, July 10

We were all up bright and early for breakfast at 7 AM so Team I, Ofra, and Toni could leave at 7:30 for the trip to Victoria. Unfortunately, due to a communication error, they did not get underway until after 8:00.

The rest of us went to our classes at UTNG starting after 10:00. One of the topics of the classes was the weather---vocabulary and expressions.

Teams II and III had a Spanish class with Rosalie. We learned some common Spanish expressions such as " Buen Provecho " which Mexicans often use in place of "Buen Apetito". When Rosalie learned that some of us were planning to go to San Miguel on the weekend, she gave us her telephone number there and said to call her and she would be happy to show us her Mexican home.

After lunch, Jesse, Emily, Gail, and Karen took a taxi to visit the mausoleum of Rey Jose Alfredo Jiminez. The driver played his music for us on the return trip. Churches were also visited and others checked out pottery shops.

For the volunteers who went to Victoria, they were assigned groups of three to six students. They helped their groups in putting on a skit. They coached them in pronunciation of the dialog, memorizing, and acting out the situations. After the skits were presented, the students taught the volunteers a Spanish song and the volunteers taught the volunteers the students an American song, the most popular one being "The Hokey Pokey".

After lunch, local artisans visited the school and there was an opportunity to purchase items such as embroidered work, straw baskets, and bags. The volunteers were then taken on a tour of downtown Victoria.

The day ended with volunteers talking to people from the school, be the person working in the Registrar's office or the janitor.

In the evening we all gathered together again at the restaurant "Pollo Sobrusco" for the evening meal.

Submitted by Gail Feagins


A woman of courage enters a room and everyone is put at ease. There is something appealing in the way she walks and in the way she holds herself.

Submitted by Brenda

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 9 08 GV Dolores Hidalgo

Awakened by the kama kazi stealth mosquito prior to the 5.40 Church bell alarm. I think the Church Bells is the only prompt and predictable thing in Mexico.

Carl, Sue and I had our first experience at the Gold's Gym...prior to buying our 2 week pass we perused the Photos at the front of Gold"s of LA which has photos and autographs of all the famous members, and decided that I will look like Michelle Feiffer and Carl will look like Mel Gibson after the two weeks, it was guaranteed when we paid.

Had a good breakfast at Plaza one of our two (and basically only) eating emporia in DH --the waiters try not to groan when they see the mob of 16 descending upon them.

After breakfast we went to UTN for our 3 classes in a row. It was gratifying to start to see some familiar faces and to feel a sense of knowing them a bit from the last time we met, and I personally hope that we have the opportunity to work in small groups with the same students again when we go back to the same classes next week, since it helps to feel a connection with them. Although it was good to move from Ice Breakers (since you can only talk about your home town ,family and favorite Mexican foods so many times) to more structured tasks, the level differences seem to be challenging for some of us, since it seems like sometimes the materials we are asked to use are difficult for some of the students. One of the "interesting " lessons included a set of questions such as WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOUR COLLEAGUE SMELLS? and WHAT IF YOU ARE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY AND YOU ARE EATING WITH A GROUP OF FRIENDS AND AFTER OFFERING TO PAY YOU REALIZE YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR WALLET? OR: WHAT WILL YOU WEAR ON A SPECIAL DATE . I knew there was a problem with comprehension when one of the boys in my group said he would wear a dress on the big date.

In discussion with others it seems the experiences are varied in terms of level of understanding of the students and positive outcomes in terms of impact of the small group conversation sessions.

Our team and a few others decided to forgo the cafeteria lunch and go back into town to eat, and ended up back at guessed it , the Plaza. On our way back the Plaza Central was filled with soldiers and army trucks. Some of our members were sure we were about to observe an insurrection or at least a demonstration. When I asked "que paso" to a bystander, the answer was "Nada" so undeterred , I asked a soldier, who told us that the army school students were on a trip around Guanajuato to sight- see and learn about the military history.

Some of us went off to see the Tomb of Jose Jimenez, the famous Ranchero singer and composer whose tomb is a huge sombrero and rainbow colored serape with names of his songs engraved along it, also some pretty interesting mausoleums and grave sites in other parts of the cemetery. Others had their own adventures--Juani at the Church, observing the charms and prayers pinned on the saints, Jesse with the tourism booth woman in the center square; Ofra buying aluminum foil for wrapping sandwiches; Amelia and Ron doing some local shopping.

The day ended with a special dinner guest, Carl's wife Mitzi joining us at the other (not-Plaza) restaurant , Diana providing the session on tourist destinations worth seeing in DH (a very challenging task given the huge range of possibilities that she had to choose from) and a rousing sandwich making session of Turkey, PBJ and Tuna sandwiches on Bimbo bread for Team 1's trip to Victoria tomorrow, an adventure that we are all looking forward to.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our day began very early. At 6 AM, we met in our hotel lobby and boarded a nice coach bus, along with our hosts from Dolores Hidalgo, Chewy (Jose Jesus) and Jaime and 20 students from UTNG. We traveled for 2 hours to UT Leon, where we were greeted by many English teachers and staff who made us all feel welcome.

After a lovely breakfast reception, groups of 2 or 3 Global Volunteers along with several students from UTNG went to their assigned classrooms - 6 classes each lasting one half hour. It was a whirlwind! In between, we managed to have a delicious lunch prepared by several students in the Culinary Arts program at UT Leon.

I was paired with Ellen and we had a wonderful experience. In several classes, the students were at a beginning level and enjoyed our asking each of them about their families, favorite food and free-time activities. Apart from the popular activities such as playing soccer and listening to music, many students enjoyed sleeping, shopping and watching TV, not at all dissimilar from their peers in the U.S. We also found out that our students enjoyed a rousing round of hokey-pokey! The more advanced students had prepared questions, such as "What do you think of President Bush?" , "How do you feel about racism?", "How do you like Mexican culture?", "What do you do to help the environment?", "What are your hobbies?", "Why did you decide to be a Global Volunteer?". We had very good interactions.

After lunch, some of us met with teachers from different areas. My group met with engineering teachers. They wanted to practice their skills in English with us. One of them, Javier, a mechanical engineering professor, gave us a brief tour of his laboratory/classroom.

Altogether, the day was very well organized. By the time the bus came for us at 3:30 PM, we were pretty tired and were glad to return to our home away from home, the hotel Posada Las Campanas. Our day was capped by a delicious dinner at the restaurant El Carruaje. Thanks, Carl! Thanks, Volunteers, for a great day.

Contributed by Ofra Dose

Quote contributed by Jeanne Anderson

If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If you plan for ten years, plant a tree. If you plan for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.

Kuan Chung

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday, July 7th

We were off and running today with a day of conversation at the university. We started with a wonderful breakfast where we met Jaime, Gabby and Marcia from the University. Emily ordered a vegetarian meal, but hers did not come, so she ate a regular meal anyway - then her vegetarian meal came and she ate that too. Don't know how she stays so slim eating like that. I was sitting next to her and I kept an eye on my food! We had a meeting after breakfast and they explained what our jobs would be at the University. We all introduced ourselves and told a little about our life.

After the meeting, we headed to the University. Most of the volunteers walked, but a few of us got a ride with the University staff. We were met by Veronica, Rosalita and Lucio. The president of the University gave the welcome speech. We all stood up and introduced ourselves the the students. Two students from the University also welcomed us, in English. They both did a great job. We all went our separate ways with our our team members. We spent time in the classroom with the students. The teachers gave us specific ideas to work on with the students or just told us to do general conversation. The students were very shy and quiet. The were all very nervous about speaking English.

After our classes, we all went the University cafeteria and had lunch. Group 1 stayed at the University to do more conversation. We were to meet Carl in the lobby for dinner at 6pm. However, it had started to rain and it was pouring. The streets were flooding and began to come up on the sidewalk. Of course, we had to take pictures. But the best part of the rain was Pompeo making boats out of paper and floating them down the street. We waited till the rain stopped before we ventured out for dinner. The streets were still flooded in places and we were all soaked by the time we reached the restaurant, but i don't think anyone minded. It was an adventure. We all ordered dinner and wouldn't you know, the lights went out. It seemed a perfect ending for a fun day. The lights went on and we enjoyed our dinner and good conversation. As we headed back to the hotel, it began to rain again. We all headed to our rooms to dry off and for a good nights sleep. Susan got her suitcase today and she was very happy about her new clothes. It has been a good day for the global volunteers.

Todays thought for the day was presented by Diana.

So, whatever you want to do, just do it.....Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential.
by: Gloria Stinem

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday, July 6

Well we're all here, and raring to go. Excited but also a little apprehensive, can we really be helpful to the students!! Oh I should say we're all here but my luggage isn't, hopefully soon. Saturday night there was lightening and some of the loudest thunder I've ever heard. So sleeping was very intermittent. Finally up at 7am and breakfast with the group at 8 am in the hotel. First thing at the dining room I ran into Ron and Amelia team members that I met on the Australia program. What a surprise and great to see them. Breakfast was a good buffet, then we were off, but not until we had a group picture at the front of the hotel with Carl trying to juggle four cameras. We met Chuy this morning. He's a teacher at the school.

There are fifteen team members and last night we met all but one. Emily flew into a different airport and was taken directly to Dolores Hidalgo. At 9 am we left for Dolores on the bus. It was a beautiful ride, but I think I missed quite a bit because I fell asleep. We are staying at the Hotel Posadas Los Companas, right near the center of town. Carl called to say he would be late because he had mechanical difficulties, so Chuy took us on a tour of the town. We know where the basics are, bank, money exchange, and internet cafe.

He also took us through the flea market. Very interesting. Lots of different sights, sounds and smells. We had lunch at the hotel, a very good chicken and veggies. After that we all went in different directions; some took a walk up to Universidad to see how far it is, others found an internet cafe, and still others did a little shopping. I went for a walk with Amelia and Ron and found a large shop of Talavera ceramics. Very tempting maybe we will go back.

Back to the room and a rest for awhile after checking on the Mexicana website for status of lost luggage. Nothing yet, and no answer at the phone number provided.

Dinner at 6 pm with Carl at the hotel. Very good carne asada, with guacomole, chips and margaritas. Carol had a wonderful Margarita shower three glasses and all. Team meeting during and after dinner. Introductions were made in Spanish, a new twist on the introduce the person next to you, and all of those preceding. Interviews of teammates, and introducing them to the team. Three teams were set up, and team goals were established.

Lots of questions were asked about how this teaching thing was going to work. How many students per volunteer, is it teaching or conversing. All of this will depend on the teacher, and we are reminded to be flexible. If the teacher has instructions, we follow them, if not, we wing it. Size will depend on the class. Each team is assigned to specific times frames, and no one team works more than a few hours a day. Some teams are working offsite and are gone the whole day. We also have an "entertainment" committee made of Diana and Ellen. Offra is in charge of seeing that lunches are made on days we are offsite.

This is going to be exciting and wonderful!!


Thought for the Day: "Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nations compassion, unselfish caring, patient and just plain love for one another." Erma Bombeck