Wednesday, May 7, 2014

One Year Later

I finally changed our heading picture from this:

To this:

...which was taken just last weekend in Union Station by my talented photographer sister.
I also made the words say we are now in Virginia. Well, we've actually been here since LAST SEPTEMBER. And so goes our blogging existence.


The last of Wonderful Mexico

My parents came to visit 

We also took a road trip for the ages to Mexico City and the wonderful Guanajuato - during Semana Santa (Holy Week) nonetheless, so it was crowded, electric, and fantastic. 
The Teotihuacán Pyramids: Racing to the Pyramid of the Moon 
View from the Moon: The Pyramid of the Sun
Cubby appreciated Diego Rivera's murals at the Palacio Nacional.
(If "appreciated" = "was scared of the scary faces and wanted to go home.")
Yes, there was a Bob Dylan citing in DF as well

Universidad de Guanajuato. White against blazing blue.
N took this on a solo trip up the hillside, while I was back at our place with sick Deevie. 

But even from inside our perfect little rental, the vistas were amazing.
Overall, the visit was one for the ages. I could never put into adequate enough words to explain how nice it is to share our experiences with family and friends. I am so thankful that my parents and N's parents could - and wanted to - visit us in Mexico! I do not take that for granted. Financially, health-wise, adventurous-spirit, having preconceived ideas about Mexico based on Breaking Bad, etc. I know those words don't line up grammatically, but you get my drift. There was a lot to consider before trekking it to GDL, and I for one appreciate it very much.

It was sort of funny taking my dad to the Costco near our house though. "We are never sending you anything from the States again! You have EVERYTHING here!" 

We said a sad good-bye to my dear, amazing grandmother 

flying back to the States to celebrate her extraordinary life. The kids even got to paint in her garden, which she worked in until the day she passed away. Grandma truly remains with us everywhere and in everything. As my father put it once we returned back to Mexico, "Now Grandma knows what your life is like there."

We visited our favorite places one more time 

Chacala with the Gs

Our place was on the hillside, with infinity pool. Kids would wake up and swim in pool. Then we'd go to the beach. Then come back and we'd all swim again. 
Cubby actually enjoyed the sand, and really enjoyed the fresh mango we ate -
inadvertently sprinkled with a little sand
A tradition I've done for as long as I can remember - place/date marker in the sand,
feet optional. In this case, Birdie joined me.
N and I ran the complete shore length back and forth twice each day.
Totally attainable for us as we checked off one instance of our 4x a year exercise routine. 

    Tapalpa with the Zs

Horseback riding near the famous rocks of Tapalpa. S and I opted out - mainly due to lack of sports bras.

 N thinks he can make it, silently pointing like Babe Ruth.
Thankfully he realizes he is not spring-foot man. (Name inspired by Cubby.)

 S brings ingredients to make sugar cookies!
One problem: the house has nothing that even resembles a cookie sheet.

 Church in Tapalpa Square. I remember when Cubby was an infant and could say one word - a form of "tick-tock."
On our first trip to Tapalpa shortly after we arrived in Mexico, he loved pointing at that clock tower and shouting "tick-tock!"

I love Mexican popsicles. This one is "tuna" flavored, with a perfect touch of chile

A last trip to our beach: Chacala once again, this time with the Zs

 Perfect snack: tortillas with some chopped up aguacate, jitomate, cilantro, limón i sal.

Birdie and Deevie

 As I mentioned, tradition.

And I have an apprentice!

Our amazing hillside rental again had an infinity pool.

Do we have to leave?

We said good-bye to school 
(a.k.a. the American School Foundation of Guadalajara)

We'll miss a lot about school, and are very thankful for our overall positive experience there. The girls both spoke Spanish after two years, having had none before we arrived. Birdie even joined the regular Spanish program after one year with her teacher's recommendation. It was a struggle for her though, so we opted for Special Spanish one day a week and that seemed to go ok. We loved our teachers and our wonderful driver Chema. We will also miss the school itself - open air halls surrounding the main field.

One of my favorite things: eating in the open-air cafeteria. The options were fantastic, and so fresh.
The kids loved getting cut up fruit or vegetables (cucumber and jicama) after school. With lime and salt, of course.

One last celebratory cactus fruit cup. Me gusta la tuna!

On the last day of school, I'm pretty sure we were the last people on campus - just me, Birdie, Deevie and Cub. No one wanted to leave. Cubby and the girls played until the janitor asked us to move so he could clean. We wandered around and said good bye to each part - the gym, the classrooms, the pool, even the water garafons. We said good-bye to the "gran arból" (giant tree) just outside the gates. 
Me: "Remember this tree? On the very first day of school two years ago, I pointed it out and said 'tree is arból'." The girls couldn't believe they didn't know even that when we arrived. 
Before we left for good, Deevie kissed the rock wall surrounding the school.

I love how in the end, they took all their good memories of school with them. All the struggles with language, hatred of swimming days, hardships with new culture and making new friends was left behind - or at least was a faint memory they could laugh about and reflect upon thoughtfully. 
Birdie even asked if there's any possibility we could be in Guadalajara again so she could graduate from ASFG. 

We had our home summer school - 
mainly in an attempt to fill up those loooong, hot days

Each morning began with singing the Star Spangled Banner, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and Work Book pages (the girls each had summer bridge activity books for corresponding grades and Cubby had a big Pre-K book filled with age-appropriate activities). After that we'd either go on a quick walk or do exercise around the house, then have a specific craft (per above: that day we did Corn Husk doll making).

Note: Laying it out like this with photos makes it seem like summer school was a utter, complete success. NOT. There were many complaints, whining, and a few straying students who got bored - and complained of not wanting to do what was on the agenda. It's amazing to me that I have this many good pictures of our home school because when I think about it, it seems like we did this strongly for like 2.5 days. Birdie in particular was generally very excited about school and woke up with her usual bing! wanting to know what the day's plan was. Deevie wanted to sleep in - which I let her since it's summer. And Cubby just wanted to cub around - but with Mommy, which was limiting since I was usually the sole instructor. I did have the bright idea to ask Eva and Esme to help out though, telling them that any day they taught they wouldn't have to do any housework but they'd still get paid. Time is money people, and I've never cared too much about housekeeping anyway. Score. 

 Paper weaving. This was a perfect activity for the girls.

 Curtain/wall decor craft, lead by guest-teachers Eva and her daughter

 Cooking! Eva taught the girls to make guacamole. Birdie has made this or salsa several times by herself.

Some days we'd have "student choice" activities. Deevie decided to do a unit on drawing faces.

Then she made Toothpick People. We ended up using these in a point-system for class.
If someone got a question right, they'd get a Toothpick Person. Eventually Deevie was giving these out to everyone that came by the house.

Canvas painting: landscape by Deevie, self-portrait by Birdie. I especially loved this activity.

 Box diorama making with guest-teacher Esme, using recycled soda bottles.

 Folding unit. I have a wonderful memory of Grandma teaching me how to tri-fold a towel - and once she taught me that one way, I never went back. My mother taught me how to fold shirts in a similar way, and again, I have been programmed to that one way. Why not pass this on? I made the instruction sheet and cut out cardboard "guides" for each kid, even Cubby. Boy I am optimistic, huh?! That didn't go so well. I remember him throwing the cardboard back at me and asking me to play cars. Birdie LOVED this though. She spent a good hour refolding and organizing her drawers after we did a few practice pieces. Then she asked if she could do my drawer.

We got our hair braided for ol' times' sake

We ate our favorite neighborhood tacos from Taco Petón

Perfectly grilled arachera, guac, pico, soupy frijoles, warm corn tortillas, grilled onions….mouth watering

We ooh-ed and aah-ed at the very random Mexican hail storm - in JUNE

We hosted our last guests in our GDL home, 
the wonderful O family

who N and I last saw at their wedding before the addition of their four kids. I was a little worried about having guests so soon before our departure, but who am I kidding?! I am a last-minute person by nature, and any prep for moving would've happened after the O family departure, whether they had come or not. And a big plus to having guests that late in a tour -- we got to revisit so many key places that we love - and miss very much.

Every weird and not so weird flavored popsicle you can imagine - made with the freshest ingredients.
Cucumber! Coconut! Strawberry and cream! Jicama! Tuna! Coffee! Avocado!
(Usually with a "con chile" version as well.)

Michelada on the Ajijic pier, made to order: Mexican beer, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, Maggi sauce, ground pepper, salt, fresh lime juice, ice, orange and cucumber slices for garnish, and plenty of Tajin on top.

 Wall art in Ajijic. I wonder if I could do this on a wall in my own home. Hmmm.

 Horse-back riding in Bosque Colomos. It was a little bumpy.
("A little bumpy" = "I think I'm going to hurl!")

 Jardines Japones. Who would've thought I'd find Japanese sereneness in the middle of Guadalajara?
We love feeding the fish and squirrels.

 Our Lady of Zapopan Basilica

 Hands down the best restaurant (of many) in GDL: iLatina
Here I am with one of our favorite appetizers: the sashimi infused with lime juice and sesame oil, served with tortillas. Our other favorite was the sashimi tacos. Good gracious I'm hungry.

iLatina decor. Love it.

 Taking a bus tour of Guadalajara -- otherwise paying to see all the sites we saw on the drive into the city!
We love seeing Minerva in all her glory though. N saw this every morning heading to the Consulate.

The last night we let the kids stay up as late as they wanted - past midnight. Birdie and Deevie got along so well with the O boys - they were thick as thieves. That last night the older kids made fresh tortillas, using their new tortilla presses they'd bought in Tónala. I got roped into pan cooking them. Fun Mommy.

We generally prepared to leave GDL

 Physically (how in the world did we amass so much crap after only two years?!),
 Mentally (is it possible to eat anything without lime, salt and chile?), 
and Emotionally (so hard to say goodbye to Eva, Esme and all our wonderful friends)… 

Stuff. This particular pile is the "van" pile - i.e., stuff that would go in the van to be driven by hired driver to the border where N would meet it to drive the rest of the way to Va. Yes, Buzz Lightyear was N's trusty co-pilot the whole way.

 Look at all that random "don't know where it goes" filing up the ledge!
It gives me hives just looking at it now!

Packing, against that wonderful yellow wall.


Good-byeing. We won't see that load of stuff until a year later in Sarajevo, summer 2014!

Last pedicure with Birdie and Deevie at Pedra Luna, walking distance from home.

Hugs for dear Esme.

 One last building of block city with dear Eva.

 The last glance I took: that streak on the floor was from the last humungous bag of apparently juicy trash that I dragged out.  Goodbye lovely purple wall!

 Trying to capture it all. Adios Z house, and our house!

Adios vigilantes! "Soy Roberto - como Roberto De Niro."

N had left before me by plane to meet the van across the border. I flew with the kids, each of us wearing our "Yo (heart) Guadalajara" shirts to N's parents'. I remember leaving the airport and taking a deep breath of hot and breezy summer air, with the hint of fresh-cut grass. Birdie was beside me, and I remember her smiling and saying, "That smells like America."

And with that, our time in Guadalajara, Mexico was done.

"All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, 
for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves."

~ Amelia Barr


  1. I can't even begin to say what a wonderful, detailed, colorful, tasty, amazing report this is, Narra. You really are document a fine family history. I think this also needs to go into a physical album. Maybe we can make one of your postings when you're in Hawaii. I'm also putting together family photo albums, which everyone can share via iPad or Kindle, starting with the 1970s. I ended throwing all those albums from Grandma's into our shipment, even though most of it had been scanned.
    You Gs lead such rich lives, so great for the children, and for the four grandparents who get to share it.
    My favorite is the appreciation for the rich colors and fresh tastes of Mexico -- you know, it's always been my favorite cuisine -- that makes your reports so fun to read. Can't wait for the next Hawaii chapter. It'll be enhanced by another big family reunion with Raki and Elise's wedding.
    We really should try to get Charis and Roger out here before you head on to a very different and surely culturally rich life in Sarajevo.
    Love, Papa

  2. Thanks very much for your comment, Papa! I learned journaling from watching you, and being able to type and post digital pictures with clicks of buttons here and there pales in comparison to hand-written, hand-drawn pages in Hong Kong-bought clear binders. ($1 each, if bought in bulk! I still remember going to that one store.) Anyway, I truly believe EVERYONE has a colorful life. You just have to know where to look. Besides, you're sort of biased, no? :) I plan on doing a Virginia chapter here - but this one took me over a year, so don't go holding your breath.

  3. Narra, this is so beautiful! I got tears reading it. I agree- you do such a good job of telling this story! It just seems like you really lived- and loved- GDL and Mexico. I love this.