Thursday, July 21, 2011

All good things must come to an end!

Hello everyone!
We are officially coming down to our final last day at ICO in Oaxaca! Here's our summary of what we've done this week.
1. We've learned how to cook some authentic Oaxacan dishes in our cooking class. We can't wait to try out the recipes on our families and friends!
2. Marcia toured with En Vio, an organization that helps women to build or better their businesses. She was allowed to visit their homes and see how hard they have to work to make a living.
3. Becky and Niki took a trip to see the countryside and spent a good portion of the day at a natural spring and waterfall on the top of the mountains. Thanks to a great hired driver they enjoyed beautiful scenery and some unknown local villages.
4. We think we all have shown improvement with our Spanish language skills, never mind that Becky and Niki ended up with fish-filled danishes for breakfast instead of the fruit-filled danishes they thought they were getting! Ay Caramba!

Tomorrow is our last day of classes! It will be sad to leave our new friends! It has been a great experience! We are hoping this isn't just a "once in a lifetime experience" and are already dreaming about returning next summer!

Hasta Luego Oaxaca!

~Becky, Marcia, & Niki

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boosting the Local Economy!!

Here's a list of today's accomplishments:
1. Two of us were able to barter in Spanish in order to get the best deals on belts, skirts and purses. Who would have thought that Marcia would suddenly become shy?!
2. We found the lavandaria where they laundered and folded our clothes. If only we could have that done in the U.S. for $4.00!
3. We separated and were able to meet up again in downtown Oaxaca with only a minor complication. Good thing Marcia was wearing a brightly colored shirt, and had a nice big red umbrella!! It also helped that Niki and Becky have good eyes. Refer to the first post where we mentioned that taking care of Marcia is a full time job!! Seriously!
4. We successfully toured the shopping mega of Oaxaca, with no tour guide needed!! Lots of purchases. Next purchase: extra suitcase!
5. We found another amazing pizza place!
6. Becky managed to walk in and out of a BIG puddle. We're lucky she stayed standing after that, with the help of a kind gentleman who was passing by!
7. Niki used her filter with Marcia, but her facial expressions told Marcia to STOP talking! We are all impressed with Niki's self-control! (Marcia could walk faster and keep up to Niki and Becky if she stopped talking!)
8. We toured two beautiful cathedrals in Oaxaca, and only one of us was reminded about the "no flash" rule! We'll keep you guessing on that one!!

We look forward to touring three villages tomorrow to see the local artisans. More to come!


~Becky, Marcia & Niki

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Work and Play!!

Hola everyone! We are now in our second week of stuyding at ICO! We are getting used to our busy schedules. Here is what we do daily:
1. We each have breakfast with our homestay families. Niki has a huge breakfast offered to her each day, Becky requests fruit, yogurt and bread and gets to eat a variety daily, and Marcia eats fruit, yogurt, coffee and a small breakfast sandwich.
2. We walk twenty minutes to school on a very busy street, and we need to remember that pedestrians have no rights. We have found out that it takes six eyes to get us across the street! Every walk is an adventure!
3. Classes begin at 9 am and end at 1 pm. Niki and Becky are working on vocabulary and basic sentence structure, along with common phrases and a little slang!! Our professor is very organized and entertaining! We will be giving an oral presentation on Friday. Marcia is working on more advanced sentence structure, conversational skills, projects, and presentations. Advil with breakfast helps!!
4. We eat our large meal at lunch time, at nearby restaurants. Because little English is spoken in Oaxaca we have to use our Spanish everywhere we go; guess that's what they mean by immersion! We realize even more what our Spanish-speaking families and students at South Beaver Dam are experiencing when they first arrive.
5. We attend workshops offered at the school in the afternoon between 2 pm and 5 pm. Our options include cooking, salsa dancing, traditional painting of wooden animals, and conversation classes.
6. At 5 pm all of us have our "intercambio" session. We have each been assigned a member of the community who is wanting to improve their English speaking skills. They, in turn, help us with our conversational Spanish. We are thoroughly enjoying our opportunities to develop relationships with our intercambio partners.
6. At 6 pm we either head home or grab a snack and then visit with our senoras, study, work together, and connect with family members back home. Sleep comes easily for us, that's for sure!

The weather has been beautiful, even for Marcia! She is enjoying the unseasonably cool weather! Becky and Niki are wearing sweaters, wishing we were getting tans! We are adjusting to the daily rains, and we have all decided that we should have brought waterproof backpacks!! We even experienced a small earthquake last Friday morning!

Last weekend we participated in two excursions offered by the school. On Saturday we traveled to Monte Alban, and entered the Zapotec world where we walked through the famous ruins! The ancient city is surrounded by the Sierra Madras mountains. We climbed lots of treacherous steps and had a fabulous tour guide who spoke to us in English!
On Sunday we visited three villages. We saw demonstrations in natural dye-making and rug weaving, visited a local market of artisans, and saw the largest tree in Mexico which is over 2,000 years old! We each managed to spend a little money to boost the local economy!

This weekend we have more plans to see and experience the Oaxacan culture.

Again, we are so thankful for the opportunities we have been given.
Thanks Fund for Teachers!


Becky, Marcia, & Niki

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Food, friends and fearless!

We have completed day three and here's what we've learned in no particular order!

1. Food! We've had three days of eating and the food here is amazing! Between the three of us we've had several types of the famous mole sauce (its a specialy of Oaxaca), we've eaten stuffed squash blossoms, tostados, quesedillas, squash leaves, cactus salad and hibiscus sauce. Ordering off the menu is an adventure when the waitress or waiter knows no English!

2. Friends! We are all staying with different families in Oaxaca on the same block, and each of us is having a unique experience.
Marcia is staying with Virginia who is a very caring, generous, paitent lady and loves to visit. She is always curious to know what happened each day, and is a great helper with her homework. Marcia has two girls from UW-Stevens Point staying in the same house.
Becky is staying with Gaudalupe and her son Miguel. Gaudalupe is a very affectionate lady and walked all of us to school on the first day. She also loves to visit and helps Becky study at night! Becky feels very induldged and pampered by her senora!
Niki is staying with Oliv and her maid Marisol. Oliv and Marisol make very filling breakfasts each morning (thank goodness for the twenty minute walk to school), and the house is always spotless. Both of them are making Niki use her Spanish more and more to communicate! Niki also has another girl from San Francisco staying in the house with her. Her Spanish is a little bit better which helps Niki out a lot!
We are all meeting great people in our classes as well as our instructors. What a great opportunity it's been to make friends!

3. Fearlessness! We are being forced to function out of our comfort zones! Here's what we've accomplished:
1. We've mastered the ATM machines.
2. We now can get to and from the school on our own.
3. We have learned our way around enough to get to four restaurants.
4. We know how to get our own taxi.
5. We helped our friend find her way to a doctor.
6. We found diet pepsi and chocolate!
7. Marcia lived through her placement test! She was the only one worried about that! Niki and
Becky left their's blank!
8. We've exercised out untapped creativity in a painting workshop! Pictures to follow!
9. We are living without tv. Becky is missing her HGTV and has threatened to redecorate a few
places here!
10. Marcia has found out that there is life beyond "Farmville!"
11. Niki and Becky have found out that taking care of Marcia is a full-time job!
12. Niki has learned that she can live through taking freezing cold showers!

Please let us know you are reading this by becoming a follower! Look up in the upper right-hand corner to do this!
We are having a great time!! Next time we will tell you more about the school!!

Hasta luego!

~Marcia, Becky & Niki

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 1 in Oaxaca

We have all arrived in Oaxaca now! Our homestays are next door, and across the street from each other. Our hosts are very accomodating and our homes are very pleasant. We are enjoying the beautiful scenery, foilage and birds. We've all had "fluent" conversations via hand signals and pictures! None of us realized what a challenge total "immersion" would be, and we've been immersed to say the least!
Today was our first day of classes! We found our way to the school, and back home, and back to the school again! We are getting really good at using the ATM machines too! We are looking forward to getting a little more comfortable everyday, with the area and the language!
We've discussed how it must feel for a Spanish-speaking child to come into our schools, and we are brainstorming ideas for how to make that transition easier.
We are off to dinner and a little more exploring. Good walking shoes are a necessity for this city!
Adios! Hasta luego!

~Marcia, Becky, & Niki

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Traveling to Oaxaca!

Hi everyone!
We wish we could be telling you about Oaxaca, but we are still in Houston! It's a long story, one we've told to everyone who works for an airline (that we will not name) who has been given the daunting task of trying to get us to Oaxaca! Here's the short version: we left Beaver Dam on Friday morning at 7:30 am, our flight out of Chicago was delayed, we missed our connecting flight out of Houston, we turned down the un-named airline's offers to fly into remote areas of Mexico where we would have to rent cars, take busses, or hitchhike to Oaxaca. Apparently the flights to Oaxaca are limited, overbook, or cancelled, from anywhere and everywhere, and for everyone and anyone. After we pleaded with every agent we could find for two days, no exaggeration, we landed in a hotel for the past two nights! Debb and Marcia made it on to a flight to Oaxaca last night on standby, and we (Becky and Niki) stayed behind! After snagging the hotel for free, we found out that our bags were sent without us to Oaxaca, well we hope that's where they are! Can you imagine either one of us without our makeup and hair products? We did get the go ahead from the airline to go out and buy what we we did!! We desperately needed swimming suits to sit out by our hotel pool today! After 48 hours of being in the same clothes, even the hotel clerk gave us some new t-shirts! We are looking forward to something in a pretty glass and working on our tans today! It's been sooooooo stressful, haha!!
We all definitely took on the challenge of seeing how "nice" we can be to some very over-worked and confused airline employees! We think it's paid off!! Our best option until just lately was to fly out next Wednesday, but somehow the crabbiest agent we dealt with miraculously found room on a flight tonight (Sunday) to Oaxaca at 6 pm. We think he was just tired of us, or our clothes, so he added us to the list. Who knows, we might have a seat on the wing, or be wearing blue uniforms and serving drinks!
So there you have it! We had a great buffet breakfast with diet pepsi of course. The only thing suffering is our budget!
If your summer is slow and you really want to know what we are doing, we will post later!

~Becky and Niki