What a week!

Honestly, this last week has been one of the most draining weeks I have had in a long, long time.  Why you say?

  • First week of school for our kids in a new school and country where very few, outside of a Finnish family speak English and my Spanish is pocito
  • With the exception of yesterday, each day this week there were Cuthill ninos (especially Jacqueline) crying, panicked and holding on to us for dear life at drop off time…They did not want to go to school
  • We signed up the kids for swim lessons at the school (remember no English and our very limited Spanish)
  • Ordered uniforms for school (at one point I think I was ordering Jacqueline a high school cheerleading uniform)
  • An on again-off again home rental negotiation that was like no other I have been involved in and that left us scarred, bruised and emotionally challenged, but taught us a valuable lesson about some differences between Mexico and Canada.  We made our first offer on August 8th.  As late as yesterday we were so frustrated with the process that we were looking at other house options.  The biggest stress was the fact that we need to move out of our current rental home tomorrow (I did bring a camping tent).   Contract signed last night at 10:30pm…Yeah!
  • It is mucho Calores here between 10am and 5pm.  It just zaps you of energy.  We are all feeling that for sure.
  •  Waking up at 5:30am every morning, take the kids to school for 7:30am start and then back home late in the evening.
  • Jacqueline has an ear infection and had to go to the hospital last night with Darcy and our real estate agent while I was dealing with the house rental.  Good news….Got immediately in to see a Pediatrician who looked at Jacqueline, gave her some medication and only charged 500 Pesos Cash.  She is going to be fine.
  • Trying to get our cell phones set up on a plan, figuring out how to get internet for the Casa, sign up for a Gym membership, sign up for Spanish lessons for Darcy and I as well as after school tutoring for the kids, searching for a Garabanza to get the necessary school supplies for kids at a place that I don’t think a 25 year Meridian could find (it was in the back of an aluminum fabrication shop).
  • Helping with homework (Did I mention that our Spanish is limited)…Thank God for Google Translate.

I list these stressors, not to seek your pity, but to be transparent about the pretty intense adjustments our whole family has been going through this week.  I am a person who trives in a routine….This week was anything but.  We have, and will continue for the next while to experience the “culture shock” we have been trained on.  Through it all God was faithful and never put us through anything we couldn’t handle.  We are also a little stronger family unit because of it.

The good news, is Darcy and I can see the light through the tunnel now.  This upcoming week will also be busy getting settled (immigration, moving in to our new rental home, getting furniture, opening a bank account, getting those cell phones set up, and of course helping our kids with their adjustment and homework). 

After that its smooooooth sailing  🙂


Ryan sleeping in truck



Skeletons must not be cut

I wrote last night’s post and forgot to publish it until today. What a difference a day makes. Kary read it as soon as he saw it and said “that is nothing like today – what are you talking about, Ryan being unflappable?”.

Yesterday we had two kids in the thumbs up position, one kid in thumbs down and two parents at the mas o menos position. Twenty-four hours later we had not one, not two, but three aircraft in dire condition. Good news was that by the end of the day everyone was doing ok except Rachel who I think got a mild heat stroke. Like we needed that on top of everything else.

The day started with a bit of confusion with Rachel’s homework from the previous day. Rachel was in tears and concerned about her science homework not being right. (Recall : lunch waiter, translation, fish skeleton idea, drawing and cutting). She was obviously worried about it and convinced me to come in the classroom to talk to her main teacher, Ms. Maria (she goes by Ms. Mar but make no mistake, she is in the club). Ms Mar speaks no ingles. I am still inept but doing my best to be brave with my broken Spanish.

Here you go:

Darcy, via charades and Spanglish : Hello. Good day. Nice to meet them. The sky is pink yesterday? Good? Here is Rachel’s homework. Good?

Ms Mar : hello! oooooh! No book! Cut no! No use pen! Use lapiz! (Big smiles) Rachel good!

Darcy : lo siento! Mistake me , not Rachel! Good?

Ms Mar : no problema! Rachel good!

Darcy : calligraphy book? Page 17? Good?

Ms Mar : oooooh! Good here! Not so good here y here. Not good? Slow? (Sound effects and gestures showing to stay on the lines, sounds of not being good) Good!

Darcy : Claro, good! No pen yes?

Ms Mar : no pen , no cutting book! Good!

Darcy : Ciencas book – good? Skeletons?

Ms Mar : ooooooh! Nooooooo. Internet. No. (Lots of Spanish, ?????)

Darcy : oh? (Confused)

Ms Mar : yes! Good!

Darcy : good! gracias Ms Mar!

Ms Mar : Good!

Things will improve dramatically with time.

Speaking of language, Kary and I enrolled this morning in a Spanish school in downtown Merida. We asked for the fast acting drug version and they countered with a 40 hour private tutoring option which we took. It’s not working yet. I thought Mexico was good with the drug thing but apparently not in this state.

I need to work on the embarrassing phrases and mixups section right away. I have walked away from several conversations thinking that I may have referred to my nice girlfriend from Canada which would be highly embarrassing for both of us and for the kids. The word for married and tired are very similar which also poses a linguistic problem.

The good news is that when we registered the kids in sports this week, I managed to avoid calling the coach a fork.

Seriously, these words are very similar. Don’t think this couldn’t happen to you.


A Pemex opportunity

Days like these stretch us beyond our limits. Oh wait, that’s why we signed up for this.

The good news is that we are safe, we are happy, and we are here because we are supposed to be here. I seem to recall a sermon or two that taking a leap of faith is not going to be easy,

First of all, the big niños are still doing super. Jacqueline did much better today and only cried for a little while. She got to do some kind of puppet thing in English class In front of the other students and also went to the magic science bus today (this thing is very cool). She seemed to be much more confident and proud of herself today. Rachel is cruising with her friend’s help and Ryan is unflappable and still curious, although purports to not know what anyone is saying. We learned words for exoskeleton, mutlipier, supersonic, and ‘trace with your finger’ during homework time this afternoon. We went to La Parrilla for tacos and air conditioning after school and the owner’s son Eric was friendly and spoke perfect English. We sucked him in fast and he helped us with the kids’ homework. The waiter Leo drew sample skeletons for Rachel – a pez and a ninja turtle to be more specific. They loaned us scissors (tijares) and helped us to unscramble the unfamiliar instructions in the kids taeras liberetas (homework books). Thank you God for Eric and our waiter Leo. I think they saved us at least an hour and maybe a box of Kleenex. Each day, the homework is getting more complex and I am freaking out to see that they are laying the groundwork to begin multiplication right away in grade 3 math. (Rachel does not know I am freaking out so please don’t tell her. I try to keep a very cool and calm demeanour where possible when approaching a new school unit that requires a level of educativo that one does not yet have. Soon, I will pass her off to dad as I am certain that engineers are better equipped to teach math than scientists, and I have heard they are good with the girls.)

On a personal note, our gas tanque was at an all time low this afternoon. Yes, another irony given what happened on our trip down. Turns out that although Pemex has a monopoly on gasolina then can’t be paid to fill up your personal gas tank. Not that I can figure anyway. New business opportunidad?

It’s a complicated situation but suffice to say that those of you who know how hard it is to do business deals will appreciate that that ‘the deal is not done until it is done’. This is true here too, in renting homes. At the final meeting yesterday with the home owner, he did not show up and instead sent a lawyer in his sted, and proceeded to show us a different contract clause that allows him to increase the rent each year by 9 percent. Not mentioned in the original offer. Long discussion, translation, and polite but firm words were said through our representing realtor Lorena. Won’t bore you with the details of the last few days but tension is getting high as time is running out.

I will just leave it with the dilemma we face tonight – we have no place to live starting on Monday and today is Wednesday. Right.

For those of you whom are so inclined, we appreciate your prayers that this gets resolved mañana. We are very tired and stretched by everything going on and just need to land the plane soon, get moved this weekend and ready to tackle week two at school. With so many other adjustments going on as a family, getting a house rented is a PBDOEL (pretty big dealo on el listo).

Here’s the thing. The kids are adjusting and having fun. I think Jacqueline was making up a song in Spanish tonight and the accent was coming through. We are making friends all the time. The parents and teachers are all extremely friendly and helpful and we have been offered free rooms at a the Finnish family home if we need them. We joined a YMCA-like facility today and they have tennis courts. We are all swimming every night and seeing the most gorgeous sunsets and sunrises I’ve seen in a few years. There were no lost uniforms today. Give praise and thanks in all circumstances. And never stop praying.


Mega tears

Day two on the new school mission field was a rough one.

For those who know our kids, you would guess the spitfire would not be the one having trouble with the adjustment and that little miss in control would be the one with the melt down. Ryan was of course never the suspect in this one.

Alas, we were wrong. The good news is that Rachel came home with more friends today. Jacqueline, although being quite smothered with affectionate new friends who like to kiss and hug a lot in true Latino fashion, had a panic attack as we tried to say goodbye. A English teacher / administrator named Lijis saved the day and we escaped but not without hearing the after effect.

Got a call from the school an hour later politely suggesting an early pick up for a few days.

Jacqueline ran around during recess as if nothing had happened at all, holding hands and studying rocks with another Maria.

I would say that we are good to go for tomorrow but there were more tears at bedtime tonight. Have been invited to a play date with another Maria so perhaps that will help to break the ice.

For those wondering about the pizza stain, yes it appears to be permanent.
Yo estoy muy not happy about that especially after he dropped ketchup on today’s spare shirt.

Also for those wondering about the uniform upkeep, I have not found a spare minute for an ironing job and may be the first foreign parent expelled as such.

To combat this I am considering a name change to Maria. I think the Maria’s get special considerations.


Five Marias and a Shirt Stain

A long awaited first has now transpired. We have thought about, prayed about, fretted about and planned for almost a year and a half : the first day of school.

Synopsis :

5:30 alarm clock (harp, iPhone, soothing)
5:45 kids up and dressed in adorable and clean* uniforms, tucked, buttons intact (mamasita, Girl Scout sewing badge, 1979)
6:00 fast yogorto and granola breakfast, uniforms still clean*
6:10 massive gear load
6:15 in truck, enroute from Chelem to Collegio Rogers Hall in Merida
7:10 arrive at school, find legal parking, avoid embarrassing maneuvers in front of other parents
7:11 begin profuse sweating
7:30 meet Rachel and Ryan’s teachers and about 5 different Marias, say goodbye
7:35 pray that that one of the kids introduced knows 3 words in English
7:45 pray they are sitting next to our kids
7:50 pray for anything and everything
8:00 meet Jacqueline’s teacher and several more Marias, say goodbye
8:02 receive ‘thumbs up’ sign from Jacqueline signifying that the eagle has landed
8:05 cry (padres, not the niños, just a little, without fanfare or recognition, with parental courage and honor)
8:30 attend Starbucks therapy

Sigh. It’s over now. This first can never occur again in our lifetime. The experience of going to a foreign school for the first time, done. Finito. Termino. Our children will now consider foreign school immersion a cake walk, a proverbial walk in the park, easy-peasy, no problema, no big dealo.

Like they can do this in their sleep.

Now for the end of the day:

12:30 pick up Jacqueline, big hugs, lollipop
12:35 talk to teacher, mostly in pantomime and drime
12:40 melt down begins
12:45 chocolate milk bought at cafeteria
1:00 eagle has landed again, all systems good
1:30 Rachel descends, happy, content, confident, con Amiga
1:35 Ryan MIA – search mission deployed to field
1:40 Ryan retrieved, safe, calm, no big deal, where ya been papa, I been here all this time
2:30 lunch at small authentic Mexican restaurante, Chili’s, debrief and interrogation begins, video and photographic documentary torture completed
2:45 first uniform destroyed (guess who*)
7:00 foreign assignments completed (encrypted)
7:30 flight records documented and journaled
7:45 New Words for Pesos implemented (good training tool until Rachel got too competitive)

Mission mañana will see nuevo territory.

* clean (English) , limpia (Spanish)
1) free from dirt, marks or stains
2) morally uncontaminated, pure, innocent
3) made impossible when one drops piece of messy pizza on new white uniform shirt which appears to be permanent


New crop of leaders

We spent the day with the Bethany team debriefing and reviewing what they experienced over their week with C-Quest.

The 24 participants went around a circle and answered questions such as “what did you learn”, ” what was
most meaningful”, and “what will you do when you go home?”

These questions opened up some laughs and a number of tears.

Some of the highlights (names changed):

John felt incredibly overjoyed and energized to help people in need.

Rick noticed that the people at the seniors’ home were open- hearted despite their terrible living conditions.

Jeremy commented that we need to step up with our government in Calgary to do more about homelessness.

Tim, a self professed ‘do-er’, found more meaning when he looked up from the work he was doing (weed whacking) and saw the faces of the children around him.

Julia wants to look up more, and stop looking down on herself.

The kids enjoyed playing soccer and hula hoops, performing with puppets and making bracelets and ballon animals for the children in the villages.

Janet is dealing with the pain of her husband’s passing and knowing that he wanted to take their family on a missions trip someday. This was his dream too.

Lonnie remarked about the strength of the partnerships with pastors Miguel, Ricardo, Gama and others. He was amazed by the work they were doing in their communities and how the team was able to plug in and help them.

All loved serving in the villages of Hunucma, Ekanab, at the orphanage and at the seniors home. Some even loved the optional crochet and knitting night with the ladies at church.

They bonded as a team, and as a family. They all got way out of their comfort zone and learned some survival skills, living in the heat and humidity. They persevered long and tiring days.

Two women discovered piña colada chocolate bars and will never be the same.

Most importantly, I am pleased to report that Calgary is the recipient of 24 energized citizens, young and young at heart, with hearts bigger than when they left.

Let’s see what they do next.



A brief word about transportation.

For those of you who took a train, car or bus to work today, take a moment to consider what life would be like if this was your main form of transportation. This is the rapido version of these bike things.

The plus : less pollution. Can take grandma, kids and several pigs with you.

The minus : takes a while.

Maybe that’s not so bad.


The Orphanage

Buenas Tardes Amigos,

Yesterday, along with a C-Quest hosted short-term mission team from Bethany Chapel Church in Calgary, we visited a Salvation Army Orphanage in Merida.  There the Bethany team performed a Christian based creative arts program (all pre-recorded in Spanish) that included a drama skit, puppetry, a drime, chalk art, balloon animals, bracelet making, and some high energy dancing (All I can say is that I tried my best to keep up with the groove).  There were about 40 children and caregivers from the orphanage that took it all in.  It was great to see the children smile, laugh and get involved.  I always enjoy getting to the point in the program where I can sit behind a few kids and ask them there names and some basic questions in my broken Spanish, help them with a few words of English (which they are eager to learn and try), and have them teach me a few new words in Spanish.  It truly is reciprocal.  Our kids got to play with some of the Mexican children on their playground and help them try on some shoes we brought for them.

Jacqueline is such a breath of fresh air as she doesn’t seem to have any difficulty making new friends.  She is upbeat, positive, and doesn’t let the language difference get in her way one little bit (see attached picture).  Rachel is also making friends at the C-Quest events we go to and that is a great sign for her.  Ryan, being the most reserved of the three (and probably because he’s a boy), doesn’t seem to have a strong desire to make new friends.  He’s a go with the flow kind of guy.

Earlier in the day, we went to a new parents orientation at the kids school.  In the one hour presentation from the Primaria Director (aka Principal of Elementary), I can honestly say I understood about 30 words (but I did laugh when all the other parents laughed).  The powerpoint pictures really helped….I now know the parents are taking a camping trip together, we are going to be on garbage duty sometime in the year, and the school is going to throw us in jail if we disobey the rules.  Yikes!

Today we hung out at the Casa.  Tomorrow we hope to go to Merida again to finally look at the draft rental contract for our home we are looking to move into starting Aug 31st (our contract runs out of our current Chelem casa on that day).  I hope it all works out, or we might be camping sooner than we thought  🙂

Hasta Luego,


photo 2







Eight buttons

Here’s something I didn’t expect to be on the job list. Sewing buttons.

We went to the kids’ school yesterday to meet Directora Paolina, see the kids classrooms, pick up books, buy school supplies and try on uniforms.

We might still be in the land of ‘everything is awesome’ (for Ryan’s fellow lego movie fans) but these girls uniforms are just too cute. Little navy checked pinafore / apron style dresses with pleated skirts (adjustable red buttons to be sewn by mamasitas), white ankle socks with Mary Jane shoes and short sleeved white button down shirts. Two uniforms per niño to be washed and pressed each day (you read that right). Rachel and Ryan also have a sports day outfit which looks like a soccer uniform. As expected the boys fashion is not as exciting but at least Ryan gets to wear shorts to school every day.

The kids enjoyed seeing their school for the first time, before first day of classes next Monday. Jacqueline’s favorite thing was the ‘kinder’ playground. Rachel loved the magic school bus that is parked on the school grounds for science labs. Ryan’s pick was the display case with all of the huge soccer (football) trophies. The teachers and directors were very kind to all of us and most of them spoke English really well. We are invited to a newcomers reception on Wednesday with the kids. Met a Finnish man (with a phd in physics) whose children have been at the school for 3 years and proudly reports that the math program is very strong.

(Imagine Finnish accent) “They teach them the right way, the old way we used to learn, none of this nonsense they teach today. They have to multiply and divide big numbers by hand. Might be 15 numbers by 15 numbers and take a few pieces of paper but they have to figure it out. Get one number wrong and the whole thing falls apart.”

Ok, these little niños are not quite ready for that level of math.

I’ll start by sewing the eight buttons.



I think it’s about time to show you what it really looks like down here. No more sunset beach photos for a little while.

I can sum It up in the same way we talk to the kids. It’s not good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse.

It’s just different.

We go around the table every night to share something we saw today that was just different. We talk about garbage, recycling, food, culture, religion, language, health, and ‘alone dogs’. To name a few topics.

By far the most common theme is the living condition of the local people. It is hard to believe what constitutes a home here.

I will share many more of these as we go.

Buenas noches.