Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hiking Guanajuato

We live on Panoramica, the road that rings the city of Guanajuato, and the mountains seem very close.  Now we know just how close, as last weekend we were off the road in ten minutes of walking, and headed up, up, up, to a landmark chapel and cross known as La Bufa.

We paused to look at horses and cows wandering by, admire the cactus, discuss the rock formations and red earth (we needed our friend Liz the geologist to help us know what we were seeing), wonder about the chapel carved into the base of a rocky band, and slowed to scramble a rock chute that led up to the saddle.  
From there the city looked so much smaller and contained, and the wide open green and rock mountains
stretched out in every direction.  We resolved to camp up top another time.

Noah said he saw a scorpion, we cringed at a party of gringos loudly repelling, and picked our way up the rock to the white cross at the top edge.  In some places steps had been chiseled into the pinkish rock, and we saw can lanterns (a candle and sand in a paint can) that people
had used to light evening climbs. 

It looks like we can head out in almost any
direction hiking here, since the city is surrounded by the mountains, although the 
terrain then flattens going west towards Leon (which is what you see behind us in the photo where Dana is snacking).  So much hiking available, and yet 
there isn't exactly a word for it in Spanish.  One can go walking in the mountains, but not hiking.  Interesting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blue Mushrooms and Blue Classrooms

Dana's class visited the neighboring town of Santa Rosa, and Tom went along as a parent volunteer, to hike with a botanist and learn about local plants to finish the 4th grade's botany unit.  From Dana's point of view the technicolor fungi and the blue mushrooms were the highlights.  The kids even cooked and ate those indigo mushrooms.

At Colegio Yeccan Waldorf, Dana is in a class of eight students with a super friendly and caring teacher.  Dana's friend Danae is bilingual in English, and helps Dana understand some of the teacher's instructions.  The math works well when Maestra Elisabet writes it on the board, and Dana writes her essays in English.

Noah is one of seven students with a bilingual teacher originally from the US, and uses Spanish with his classmates, although they also speak some English as it is taught twice a week at the school.   Both kids are in classic Waldorf surroundings - pastel blue  classroom walls, wooden desks, tile entryways.  And they do movement class on the roof terrace.

After their morning block with their teacher (Noah just started perspective drawing and Dana's will be a math focus after they finish up botany), both kids have a variety of classes.  Twice a week in addition to movement class they have: woodworking, handwork (knitting for Dana - they started with making the knitting needles out of wood and just chose their yarn, sewing for Noah), English, music (singing and playing the recorder), and German.  The two German teachers are young college-age volunteers who are here for the year.  Apparently it has been a long-standing program exchange program.  For our kids it is quite a puzzle to learn German through Spanish, although both German teachers speak English well.

Tom and Laural attend Escuela Mexicana classes three hours a day (grammar, vocabulary, and conversation) plus two hours a week of salsa dancing.  We're also doing an hour of homework a day.  The school is located in el centro, so we walk the kids to school along the panoramic ridge where we live, then head down to our school.  It is yellows and oranges and has three levels, with the middle level having an open patio and the upper level a rooftop terrace where yesterday I had all my classes and got a little sunburned (it is also where the last photo on this blog was taken).

Most of the Waldorf students are Mexican, and we make small talk in Spanish with their families in the morning and afternoon.  We talk longer in English with a family from Switzerland and others from Colorado and New Hampshire.  After the social time, we say buenos tardes to the University of Guanajuato student who sells cheese on the corner, and head home to make smoothies and hear stories of blue mushrooms and blue classrooms.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Living at 6700 feet, the elevation of Guanajuato, or 7000 feet, where our apartment is on a street aptly named Panoramica, makes me breathe a little harder than I would like as I hike up from el centro.  If we stop for a moment along the way though, the amazing view is of multicolored buildings, interspersed with the domes of churches, layering out in every direction and topped with the rock and green mountains that ring the valley.

Our neighborhood includes many dogs.  We have a beagle next door, two pugs on the other side, and uncountable others who live on people's terraces or rooftops.  We are learning to tune out barking dogs, although when Tom go
t up and checked one noisy night he watched cows passing by in the street below us.  The soundtrack here also includes lots of fireworks going off (warming up for Independence Day mid-September), grumbly-geared buses and frequent music.  Last night it was a New Orleans-like street band, often salsa wafts from bars below us and once we walked by a guy working on his car and blasting Michael Jackson.

We are learning something new every day, and that's not even including our formal school time.  Tom and Noah ventured to the tienda (a tiny store attached to a home) across the street for a five-gallon bottle of water.  Now we know if you return the previous bottle, the charge is 22
pesos ($2.20 US dollars), and what the shop owner's living room looks like.

A week into being here, we've followed many different callejones (little alley-pathways) down to el centro, wandered there to get our bearings, checked out a string of parks and little resevoir
lakes on the edge of town, met interesting international folks, pantomimed with our energetic landlady, and of course started our schools.

Noah and Dana are at Colegio Yeccan Waldorf, a five-minute walk from the apartment on our same ridgetop, and Tom and I have classes at Escuela Mexicana.  (If you do follow the links, the Michelle mentioned in the Waldorf article has the 7th grade now and is Noah's teacher, and both sites have some photos.)  

In the photo of Tom walking, the white building is our apartment building, and we're the second balcony up. What looks 
like a driveway closer to him is actually the start of the callejon we take up to the kids' school.  More on our schools next post.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shifting Photos


Our week in San Diego involves shifting from bicycling trip mode to living in Mexico mode. The transition means adjusting the clothing and gear we have with us, trading bike panniers for backpacks, reviewing some basic Spanish, and adding books.

Several sources have said it is difficult to locate English language books in Mexico, so we went to secondhand bookstores to load up for 10 or 25 cents a book. (Added a few new books as well, but only one hardback - The Magician, sequel to The Alchemist, which everyone read on the bike trip.) How many books will the four of us, typically pretty voracious readers, want to read while in Mexico? Heading into a completely new adventure, that is yet another aspect we cannot exactly predict.

With my sister, we have visited the San Diego zoo, the community pool that has a huge water slides, the beach for another round of boogie boarding, the horse lady in the neighborhood so Dana and cousin Alexi could ride, and the three cousins have had plenty of play time. Meanwhile we're packing up the tandems to send home by Greyhound bus, cleaning and sorting the camping gear, wrapping up details (checking on the boy we hired to mow our lawn at home, purchasing shuttle tickets to get us to the Tijuana airport), and deciding where we will pack all those books.

While it is bittersweet to let go of the bicycling, we're excited to shift to Mexico. And if you have a teen or want a little young adult literature, I'd recommend my friend Jennifer Bradbury's novel SHIFT, a well-told tale of two boys who bicycle across the United States after they graduate from high school and a mystery when one of them doesn't return.

We fly south Sep 4, and will return to the States in January with stories to tell and (I hope!) conversational Spanish. Once I've navigated an internet connection in Guanajuato, I'll be able to report on settling in there.  Meanwhile, we wish everyone well with their September transitions as back-to-school, work, and weather changes shift us all.