Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Semana Santa, gift giving and quitting a school

From Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday Mexicans are mindful of the life and death of Jesus, or they vacation.  The week is called Semana Santa (literal translation - saint week)

Most Mexicans profess to be Catholic.  And yet, the feel of the country is secular. On Christmas Day in Morelia the shops and restaurants were all open and people shopped.

Although this is a Holy Week, most business are open.  Yesterday was Good Friday.  The small shops were respectfully closed, but Soriana and AlSuper, the big food and general merchandise stores, were open as was McDonalds, Burger King etc.  

The Easter Bunny does not visit Mexico.  However, the Soriana Store has a display of chocolate bunnies and eggs.

About a month ago I went to a baby christening.  It was a Sunday afternoon affair.  There were about eighty guest.  Gifts piled high.

I kept wondering when the gift opening ceremony would begin.  I cautiously asked about the tradition in Mexico and was told opening gifts at the party was optional.   The parents chose to take the  unopened gifts home.  I was a little disappointed.   North of the border one of the main events of a party where guests bring gifts is the opening of the gifts at the party. 

Mind you, the thought did occur to me that opening gifts at a party might be a little rude.  A poor person might bring a meagre gift while a rich person has the means to purchase something more extravagant.  I began to wonder if I should even have put my name on the gift.

Last Wednesday I attended a baby shower.  I was the only non-Mexican in attendance.   This time I didn't put my name on the gift.  The option of when to open the gifts was discussed.  It was decided that it would be fun to open the gifts at the shower.  

I've spent a couple of Saturday nights with two American teachers living and working here in Chihuahua.  I'm sensing a cultural difference between myself and them.  But, I can't put my finger on the difference.  I'd like to think I'm more reserved.  But, when I mentioned the possibility to my Deloitte students they laughed.  And so, I'm assuming it's not that I'm more reserved.

Thinking in English was the school I was working for, and I was sacrificing too many of my principles.  The name alone bothered me.  To speak English a person doesn't need to think in English.  As far as I know, at first, and for a long time thereafter, adults learning an additional language use the words of their other languages to make connections to the new language.  That's the way our minds work.  New stuff connects with the appropriate old stuff.  

Two weeks ago Mexican immigration began investigating the school.  The owner hired a lawyer.  All of the other foreign teachers are illegals.  Myself and two Mexicans, one of whom doesn't work at the school, were asked to meet with the lawyer.  It was all so obviously on the shady side.

One of my fellow teachers, concerned immigration would catch up with him, parked his car, which has Pennsylvania license plates a block away from the school.

Enough said about the school "Thinking in English."  

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