May 2008

Social classes in Mexico

This is my last week in Mexico, and as word now gets around that I’m leaving soon I’ve been receiving a LOT of invitations to lunch (which in Mexico is called comida, is at 3 pm, and is the main meal). So I’ve been a bit of a social butterfly lately, and it has been an interesting experiment in anthropological research.

I’m very proud of myself

While my language school will likely give me a certificate saying that I’ve taken courses in Spanish, they can’t really certify that I can *speak* Spanish in any practical way — even giving me a Spanish exam would only prove that I can pass a Spanish exam, not that I really *know* the language. No, for this kind of certification some other form of test is required — a test I gave myself this morning.

I took a taxi.

By myself.

Narnia in Spanish

I went to the movies last night with Padre Roberto and a couple of his friends. We went to see the new Narnia film, Prince Caspian. The theatre did have a showing in English, but the next time was quite late, so we decided to see an earlier Spanish version. The others were a bit worried for me — Padre, vas a entender la pellicula? was their question — but after all this was Narnia, not some ultra-complex political thriller.

About that illness I wrote about…

It seems I managed to avoid the worst of it.

I was a bit tired for a day.

Padre Roberto was bedridden the next day, for a day.

And the pastor, Padre Luis, just got a visit from the doctor prescribing him antibiotics and ordering him off his feet for 4 or 5 more days.

The doctor’s diagnosis is about the same as my original guess: bad food (probably chicken) which, in the case of the poor pastor, has led to full-on food poisoning.

Just to emphasize, though: I’m doing great! No problems at all since that one icky-ish day.

Just who is the teacher here?

As I think I have mentioned before, every Monday we switch teachers at the language school where I am studying. This time my teacher, while Mexican, is actually a baptist. Which can mean only one thing: more conversations about religion!

Yesterday, our topics were the “imperfect” verb tense, the existence of God and the problem of evil (i.e. if God is good, why is there evil in the world), and spiritual warfare and exorcism. Oh, and I think there was some other bit of Spanish grammar in there…

Why is Easter always on a Sunday when Passover isn't always on a Sunday?

From a faithful reader:

Since Easter is the celebration of the Crucifixion & Resurrection of Christ which took place during Passover why do we not celebrate it at the same time as the celebration of Passover? When did the change take place and why?

First, a bit of background. The feast of Passover, in the Jewish calendar, is on a fixed date, the 14 day of the month of Nisan. Just as Christmas can fall on any day of the week, so can Passover.

Distractions during prayer?

A friend writes:

I have a question that I hope you can answer for me or maybe give me some direction on. How do you keep focused when praying. I know this may sound odd, but I often experience my mind drifting from one thought to another while saying my nightly prayers. The harder I try to keep what I'm saying front and centre the more distracted I become.

Your question about distractions during prayer is very old. Many saints faced such issues, and a lot of wisdom has been passed down through the ages about this.

Chickens and eggs

I am tired because I am fighting off an infection?

Or am I fighting off an infection because I’m tired?

Don’t worry folks, nothing serious, no fever or other major symptoms. I think the chicken I ate in a local restaurant yesterday afternoon is having some fun with me. So I am off to bed early tonight, as I have a big day tomorrow.

Murder in the rectory

There was a death in the rectory of the parish last night.

The murder was premeditated.

The victim had six legs, long antennae, and answered to the name “cucaracha”.

It was death by shoe, after a brief pursuit.

The perpetrator was able to sleep at night thereafter.

Karaoke in Mexico

Last night I headed out to a local restaurant with Padre Roberto and his youth group, to say goodbye to one of the young members who is off to Sweden for an engineering stage. First came drinks, then came snacks, and then the dreaded karaoke machine!

Ever since my trip to the Philippines in 2005 I have done my best to avoid karaoke, as I overdosed on it somewhat while there. But there was no getting out of it now. And as you can imagine, the young people just HAD to get their priests on stage.

Abortion, contraception, condoms, and in vitro fertilization

My classes run each day from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, and then from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm.

The first part is heavily focused on grammar and vocabulary. Basically, it is your traditional notion of class. The second half, however, is more conversation practice. The teacher and the students talk about one or more subjects of particular interest or concern. So what did we talk about today? Just take a look at the title of this blog article. And yes, all in Spanish.

Finished book one (UPDATED)

It’s been a few days since I last posted, due mainly to a set of evening thunderstorms leading to a lack of reliable Internet. So I will compress the last 3 days into one post.

Monday I began with a new teacher, Ana-Maria. The school, I have learned, requires students to change teachers every week, so as to expose them to different teaching styles, different ways of speaking, etc. It sounds wise enough, and actually helped me see where I was weak and where I was strong from my first week of lessons. I still have a lot of work to do.

Estudiar, estudiar, estudiar…

Apart from watching the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica last night, I’ve been spending most of my free time studying. Vocabulary, conjugations, miscellaneous grammar…whew, it’s a lot! Still, the various resemblances to other languages makes it no too bad – it really is more a question of memorization than anything else, and that should come with practice.

Happy mother’s day – twice!

Today is Mother’s Day in Canada (the second Sunday of May).

However, in Mexico it was yesterday (it is a fixed date, i.e. May 10).

Hence my dilemma: do I call mom on Saturday? or Sunday?

I decided that when in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do. Among other things, it avoids getting funny looks from people when they ask me if I called my mother and I would have to reply “no”.  :-)

Hable con ella

I was back in class today. Walking back home, I realised I am starting to think in Spanish.

The school had organized a conference this evening, on the geography of Mexico, but I was a bit tired so I skipped it. Still, I was not lazy! I watched a Spanish-language film called Hable con ella (in English: Talk to Her).

Conclusion about the film: At times sweet, at times sad, at times just plain weird. Like the bit about the bullfighter woman. You have to see it to understand it.

Contemplating the Tilma

I took a break from school today to make a special trip. The diocese of Cuernavaca was doing a special pilgrimmage to the famous shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, and I was invited to go along. It promised to be a chance to meet the entire clergy of the diocese, including the bishop, and to join with them in prayer and devotion. I just couldn’t miss it.

But first, I had to get up in the morning…

Evening intercambio

This evening I headed back to the language school to participate in an “intercambio”. This is where local Mexicans who are interested in improving their English get paired up with students from the school who then have a chance to practice Spanish. Except it didn’t quite work out that way…

First day of school, and I am pooped

I had my first day of class today. First, the good news: I am breezing through the grammar, again thanks to my previous experience of Romance languages. The director of the school asked me how much Spanish I had done before and I said “None.” Then, after a brief test (the result of which is that they put me at a more advanced initial level) he asked me again, and I replied “Well, I have been here since Friday.” He stopped asking after that.

Greetings from Mexico!

I flew from Dorval airport yesterday morning for Mexico City, for the start of my first trip to Latin America. The flight was Air Canada, and I got lucky — the plane was only half full, meaning that I got a whole 3-seat bench to myself. Not that it changed all that much, as all I did was sleep…