Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel

This book is full of wisdom and practical advice for all. With utmost humility and tact Groeschel delivers key truths through personal stories and experiences that come from a genuine and refreshing walk with Christ. While the book is not some intense and exegetical work, it is still a valuable resource.

I often picture books like this as a chance for the reader to sit and listen to the teaching of someone who has walked with Christ for many years. With the conversational style that characterizes Groeschel's writing you feel as though he is simply talking with you as you read. As I mentioned before, this book is not some earth-shattering, mind-blowing theological piece that you can only take in small amounts; ostensibly you could read this book in a day. However, in spite of the simplicity of the message and the lessons presented, this book hits home in may key areas and truly challenges the reader to examine if their life is centered on themselves or on Christ.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Hippie

In San Miguel my roomies and I went on a hike. There is a large hill that overlooks the whole city. I had heard that there was a market in that direction as well, so we took off to find it and catch a great view. It didn't take us long to get from the zócalo to the top of the hill. It was a fantastic view, and certainly it was worth the time. We never found the market, (we found it with the whole group later) so we decided to just walk back.

On the way down we saw a sign of sorts painted on the doorway of a house. It said something about an art gallery, so we walked in. Inside we met a man and a woman (husband and wife) and their godson whom they were taking care of for a time. He had grown up in Bermuda whereas his wife was from Germany. When we entered their house they showed us their "studios" which were simply their bedrooms and living room (and somewhat the kitchen). Claudia showed us how she makes glass beads and some other things. Bruce showed us some of his artwork from the past few years.

His art was fascinating because many of his older paintings represented some quality realism. His more recent stuff was a bit more of an oddity (but no less in quality) and something you would have expected from a guy with a bunch of old toys hanging in the tree by his house. He would construct different things out of toys and he had created ingesting collages from cereal boxes (http://www.stuartfineartstudios.com/index.php/cereal-box-art.html). They showed us around and were very pleasant to talk to. He even walked with us down the rest of the hill since he had some errands to run.

Overall, it was nice to meet another random person in San Miguel. They also gave us their business card. If I continue to meet such fascinating people, I'll consider the trip to be quite successful.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Bartender

As of a couple weeks ago I had never really been in a bar. I had been in restaurants with bars but never actually sat at a bar. It's nothing personal; I just haven't made a habit of it. I think my biggest fear is related to the fact that I know almost nothing about liqueur and am certain to embarrass myself, since the only phrases I know is "on the rocks." I don't particularly enjoy ice, so it is an almost useless expression for me.

As my roomies and I were walking around San Miguel a couple weekends ago, we walked by a bar that was particularly empty. We entered and sat down at the bar. Now Matt recommended that we all get "Disarronno" so we all did. It is not a very strong drink and later on I found that my consumption of it could cause my masculinity to be in question. The tasty drinking (and emasculating) beverage was not the highlight of the night. We ordered our drinks in broken Spanish only to discover that the bartender spoke English perfectly well.

He shared with us that at one time he had been an illegal immigrant to the United States. When he was 18, he snuck over the border in a truck of some kind. The truck apparently had a false bottom enabling him and others to hide in the few inches of space that the fake floor created. He asked about who we were and what we were doing in Mexico and it was an enjoyable conversation. He even gave us some free French fries.

The next night we returned, pretty much just to talk to this guy. He told us his story and how he eventually came to be a legal immigrant in the states and lived there for about 9 years. We stopped back one last time on Sunday just to say goodbye. I'm glad that we were able to meet him and spend some time talking and hearing about his experiences. He is just one of the many interesting people I have been able to meet on this trip and I certainly hope to meet more.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teaching: Initial Thoughts

I apologize for how late I am on posting this. A lot has happened since my last update. But first I should mention a few random things. I discovered Jícama (Mexican Yam) which is very sweet and good when eaten raw. I ate some at home and then decided I would go get more at the supermarket. Also, the cops around here always have their lights on. They never turn them off and it is quite blinding when they drive by.

I began teaching tenth grade very quickly after arriving here at the school. I am teaching a unit on poetry which is fortuitous because I taught poetry at my previous placement. After a couple days I pretty much had all of my students' names figured out, which was nice. As I mentioned previously, I had to create a poetry unit for my time here. I didn't have any of my resources from home so I feel very good about the fact that my lessons have been going well.

This school is a wonderful place to work and a great area to live. Teaching with 80minute periods has been great and I really feel like it enables best practice to occur. About 10 minutes into my very first class, one of the administrators came into my class and sat in the back. Presumably she was there to observe my cooperating teacher but since I was teaching it was pretty nerve wracking.

As I mentioned before, I apologize for not updating this. However, I have been updating my personal journal, and I will be relating the many stories within to you over the next couple weeks.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I think I previously mentioned how there are many people at the house I am staying in. Well our "host brothers" cousin stopped by to add to those numbers the other day. He took us out to a friends apartment to hang out and then we went out and wandered around Roma. It was a lovely area and we stopped at a nice restaurant eventually. I have been very fortunate to spend a lot of time meeting people from Mexico City. My cousin, as he quickly considered us to be his cousins, introduced us to many of his friends from his university as well as a couple other friends. It was a great evening of just getting to hang out with people and chat.

Today we went to a market and shopped around. The guys and I wandered off and found a very beautiful garden which was actually located in a private neighborhood. No one yelled at us so we didn't think it was a big deal. We then ate some Quesadilla's with Huitlacoche which is a fungus that grows on corn. It was really good.

Later we went on a boat ride in the borough of Xochimilco. Basically you float down a stream in this boat with chairs and tables, and people pull up alongside the boat and sell you beer and/or try and sell you knick knacks and other touristy items. It's essentially a "party boat." It is like a 2 hour ride and fortunately most of the time I was able to enjoy good conversation with some friends.

Some of the others went to a Soccer game but Paddy and I returned home. I hit my head on the roof of the subway when I stood up and a lady laughed at me. It was humorous. Actually, this entire trip has been filled with evidence of my lack of athletic ability. I almost fell down the stairs the other day and my shoulder subluxated.

I'm hoping that tomorrow I will be able to go and find a cafe and just sit and work on educational stuff. Another student on the trip is teaching 10th grade English as well and we are hoping to collaborate sometime tomorrow on lesson plans and ideas. I might just chill tomorrow for the most part...read my Bible and then On The Road. I'd like to meet some random people in the city so I think if I do any exploring it will just be for that purpose. I'm stoked to get back in the school on Monday.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Zócalo, Metro, and Condesa (oh and teaching too)

I did my best to fit in. Apparently, unless you are working out or doing something that requires shorts Mexicans are pretty much always in long pants. Many are completely dressed up in a suit and tie. There was a half day at the school so the entire group went on a "touristy trip" to the Zócalo. I decided not to change and just wear my teacher clothes in spite of the heat. It actually wasn't bad. 

In order to reach the Zócalo (the square pictured above), we finally had a chance to ride the metro. The metro was packed to the extent that I actually had to push other members of our group onto the car or they would have missed it and had to wait for the next one. I wish that cities in the US had as extensive of a public transportation system as Mexico City. It is extremely cheap to get around.

My housemates and I were able to split off from the group eventually. We went on a tour of the Templo Mayor (a replica is pictured below) 
Apparently they just continued to expand it. and add levels by just building over the smaller one before it which helps to give it that "stepped" look. After a tour of the actual ruins you then go through a museum which has many of the original artifacts encased within. It is very extensive and although we went through at a relatively slow pace, we could have spent much more time there. 

We rejoined with the group for a bit and just walked around the city and looked at some of the cathedrals. After the rest of the group left to go home we continued to walk around and managed to get a little bit off the beaten path, which was nice. I was starving and we passed a stand that was selling freshly made plantain chips which are the greatest. Even though we had been warned against the possibility of incessant diarrhea from food on the street, I bought some and they were delicious. A day later, and I feel fine.

After returning home and eating an awesome home-cooked meal we went out exploring again. Condesa is a very nice neighborhood near where we are staying. One of our "host brothers" showed us around the area. Often Mexico City has a reputation for being dusty and dry but the streets are lined with a lovely verdant green that adds to the beauty of the area. Next we will check out Roma which is another nice area nearby.

As far as the food goes, as I said, we have been fortunate to have great home-cooked meals. However, eating out here is so cheap compared to the states. There is a stand right outside the school that sells a lot of great food. I can get a sizable and delicious (comparable to a burrito from chipotle but way better tasting) burrito for about 25 pesos (or $2).

I begin teaching poetry and grammar on Monday. I will be teaching 10th grade which is nice because that is what I taught in Pittsburgh. Most of my time in the school has consisted of me observing, getting to know the students, and preparing my unit for the next three weeks. I will try to update this again tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Finally, I have a spare moment to update this blog as promised. The travel to Mexico City was relatively uneventful, which I suppose is a good thing. We arrived at the airport and went immediately to the American School via a convoy of white suburbans. The traffic is not actually that bad. It is very tightly packed in the streets but the rules of the road are basically the same as the states and it is not hard to get used to.

After getting to meet some of the faculty at the school we were then introduced to our host families. I am staying with three other guys (Paddy, Zane, Matthew) and our host family is an elderly lady with two older sons (late 20's ~ early 30's). Two of their friends are staying at the house as well so we have a lot of people that we can talk to and that are willing to show us around the city. There are also two dogs at our house (Chihuahua and a Black lab). 

Our neighborhood is very nice and there are many restaurants and shops nearby. Paddy, Matthew, Zane and I have figured out the neighborhood for the most part. We have walked around a lot as well as bought subway tickets for our commutes and flowers for our host mom. I am already used to the weather for the most part. It is currently about 70 degrees with a high of 90 later.

I was a bit worried about getting used to the currency, since that wasn't something I really had to worry about in Haiti, but it was really easy to get used to. The Spanish hasn't really been a problem either. I can read most if not all signs very quickly and have already successfully navigated many situations using just Spanish (in spite of the fact that it is probably very hard to understand me). I really need to work on simple past and future tense since those are pretty basic.

I'll talk more about the school at another time when I have a chance to update this again. I will try to update about once a day or so.