I have been home for three days now on vacation at my parents' house in KY and it has been really nice but really weird at the same time. I didn't grow up in Paducah, but rather in Louisville. For that, I don't have my friends here and when I come here, it is really just to see my parents and sister. My cousin came down too from St. Louis and we have all been spending the last couple of days eating, drinking, eating some more, hanging outside and swimming, and shopping at some of the local art galleries. I have been spending most of the early afternoons walking around in my bikini and have been loving it. No labcoat this week!

Tomorrow morning we will drive up to St. Louis where the majority of my extended family lives and have the surprise birthday party for my dad. I can't wait to see my grandparents, aunts and uncles and other cousins. Even better, I can't wait to see the look on my dad's face. I am so impressed with my mom, as she has planned a rather large party. My parents just surpassed their 39th anniversary in June and they are still very much in love. They will do anything for each other. Any chance they get, they'll let you know how they met in the summer of 1966 at a JCPenney sidewalk sale in downtown St. Louis. It is so cute to see them together.

I fly back to Guadalajara on Sunday night and am looking forward to enjoying the remaining 7 weeks. One of the best things about Guadalajara is Sunday mornings when they close off a major street for joggers, bikers, and walkers for a 6-hour period. You see so many families together and the air seems fresh without cars and with the sun shining, it makes you just so happy to be there. I go out for runs along this street and just get lost in the moment.

I will also enjoy the last remaining weeks with my new friends I have met at Solectron. They are so funny, especially the girls I have gotten to know in my department. The other people are so polite and will never tell me when I make mistakes in Spanish but I have let these girls know that it is encouraged to let me know (and ok to laugh at me too!) when I make the mistakes. We were in the dining room at work one day and I meant to say that I wanted to eat some red grapes, but I said I wanted to eat some red birds. The word for bird and grape is really close and I just wasn't thinking! Before I left for vacation, they posted a picture at my workspace of a plate and a red bird on it, with the words Bon Appetit on it. I almost died laughing! I also get the word for landlord wrong sometimes, at least the way I have been using it. You have to say "owner of my apartment" and not "my owner" like we would say "my landlord". Otherwise, it has a sexual connotation. Their comment was, "Natalie, didn't realize you had a night job!" I think they really like having the Gringa (me) around the office. I will certainly miss seeing them everyday.


internship, etc.

So I started working here in Mexico a few weeks ago, on May 15th to be exact. It has certainly been an experience. We (Jared, the other IMBA with the internship) and I started the first few days at Solectron watching a series of on-line videos, complete with tests at the end. We had three chances to pass each test, and there was a particular course that I did not pass. The Spanish was worded funny and so I had to go to the IT office ( a little shamefully) to get this test refreshed and try to take it again. That was kind of embarrassing. We also had about 10 live courses in Six Sigma practices. Some were interesting, but others I feel like I could have skipped. The last one was this past Friday and I found my mind wandering and thinking about what I was going to do that weekend. Then the instructor asked me something and of course I wasn't paying attention and he thought it was because I didn't understand his Spanish and so he asked in English.

Anyway, I am making a lot of friends at Solectron and many of us eat together every day. One of them is taking her Black Belt test this weekend and we are probably going out afterwards to celebrate. I am learning a lot of interesting Spanish words and phrases that they didn't teach us in school, a lot of slang. People in my office are also asking me a lot of questions on English slang. The other day, while I was drinking a bottle of water, someone came up to me and asked what a shrink was, because they heard it on TV. I thought I was going to choke on my water, and laughed pretty hard before I answered. I am not used to the long hours, though. We work from 8am-6pm, with only 30 minutes for lunch. Sometimes we are expected to stay longer. By the time I get home, it is usually 7pm, and then I go running and eat, then sometimes head to the cafe to work on the Internet. I have been going to bed pretty late and my body is starting to pay for it.

One thing I am really looking forward to is my upcoming trip home. I am going home for my dad's 60th birthday party July 4-8, flying into St. Louis, where my cousin is picking me up, then we are driving to my parents' house in Paducah, Ky, a few hours away. I am so looking forward to just hanging out with my cousin, her fiance, my parents and sister. My parents live next to two really large lakes, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, and we are probably going to go out on the boat for an afternoon. Good, because I had this nice tan going here in Guadalajara and find that it has been fading away since I started at Solectron. I hope to get that back for a while at least. Then, back to St. Louis on the 7th for the party, and then I fly back to Guadalajara on Sunday. I am getting a case of homesickness and that's why I am already talking about this trip a month out. I can taste my mom's margaritas and chocolate chip cookies 3,000 miles away.

Other than that, not much else going on. I did not get to take the trips before the internship started as I had planned because there was too many things going on in regards to our work visas and I thought it best not to leave the country. Plus, I my wallet was stolen during that time, and I really couldn't go anywhere without credit cards and ID. However, I am going camping tomorrow about an hour from Guadalajara with some of my friends from here. It will be awesome just to be with good company and get away from the city. Hopefully I will have pictures to post with this trip soon!


new chapter in Guadalajara

Well, all of the IMBAers left me here in Guadalajara on Saturday. Right now, there are four of us still here, two that are still looking for internships and then myself and the other IMBA student who is working for the same company that I am. It is a much different place without everyone, much quieter. For the May 1st Labor Day holiday here, I slept in until sometime after noon, watched some movies on TV, then went to Starbucks. I am sure I might have actually gone somewhere if my buddies were here, but I the good thing about everyone being gone is that on Saturday and Sunday, I spoke more Spanish than English. I hung out with my new architect buddy for a bit and then went to a birthday party for one of the IMBA students still here.

We were supposed to start working on Monday, April 30th, but it turns out that we don't have the correct documents. We have the FM3 for students, not for working. The company lawyer is working with the government to get this expedited but we are thinking it could really be a while before we are going to be allowed to start working, maybe even a few weeks. I am sitting here at the cafe I always go to, wondering what I am going to do with possibly TWO WEEKS of time off. There is only a few answers I am coming up with: Cabo San Lucas for a beach week, a trip to Copper Canyon up north and the famous train ride, or to Machu Picchu in Peru. I am leaning towards the third option. I really wanted to go in August before I returned to the States, but if I have all of this free time, why not now? I have started checking airfares and am finding some agreeable rates. I just hope I get something together in short notice and hopefully leave this weekend. Or, I could go to Brazil, Chile, or Bolivia...I know people in those places. So much to think about...


spring break/landlord

After a long spring break week in the indiginous regions of Oaxaca and Chiapas and long walks through the jungles, the Mexican Track is back for the final three weeks of class. It has been hard to come down from the high of spring break. I went with 10 other students, a tour guide, a school coordinator, and a van driver. We crammed into a van that fit 14, and we had exactly 14 people. There was absolutely no room to breathe in that van, and not enough room to sleep comfortably. The first night, we drove 15 hours to get to the general region where we would be vacationing. We drove through winding mountains with no shoulder and crazy drop-offs. The bus driver kept driving way too fast and the tires would squeal with every sharp curve, which was like once a minute for an 8-hour period. Many of us were postive we saw him falling asleep too. In total, we endured half a dozen checks by the military police, which is pretty normal in Mexico.
The trip was absolutely amazing, and I saw sights like I've never seen before. I saw live monkeys in the jungle, beautiful waterfalls, plains that looked like it could have been anywhere in rural South America, and villages of indigious people that despite living in wretched poverty, still strive to preserve their way of life and retain their traditional dress. There was something very peaceful about it. The only downside was seeing the children on the streets trying so hard to sell their goods and wares. It is a very poor region and this is the way they have to get by. When we were nearing one of the waterfall sites, the van driver and the tour guide pulled off the side of the road and went into a store, leaving the door open. A half dozen children actually climbed into the van and begged for us to buy their fruit. At another site, the children actually set up a rope as a roadblock to make passing cars stop and maybe buy something. This whole experience was definitely eye-opening.
On another note, I am getting settled into my new apartment great. After about 5 weeks of having the window in my bathroom uncovered (with no window whatsoever, just an open space in the wall to the outside) the landlord has finally fixed this. The landlord, by the way, is hilarious. Him and his wife are Mexican Buddhists, which is weird in Mexico, considering that 90% of the population is Catholic and more resistant to other religions. One Sunday morning, I was getting ready to go out for a run and he noticed that I had the sniffles. He asked if I was sick, and I told him that I have allergies and have had them all of my life. Well, the next night, as I was getting ready to leave for the cafe around the corner, he pretty much invited himself into the apartment with a portable DVD player and a DVD with some testimonials of patients who were miraculously "cured" by a quack doctor who gave his patients herbal pills. My landlord doesn't believe in modern drugs and believes that herbs are the cure-all. We must have been watching that dumb video for over an hour. Wow.
Then there is the issue with the "bichos," or creature bugs, that I sometimes find in my apartment. As the weather gets increasingly warm, I am finding lots of ants and cockroach friends crawling around. I called the landlord and told him that we probably needed to get someone to come out and spray the place. His response was that all bugs have a place in the world and that we shouldn't kill them, even when they are in the house. Well, I just went out and bought a can of Raid, and regardless of what he says, I am having too much fun watching the poison take effect on the bugs.
I also told him at one point that I was interested in getting my eyebrow pierced and he was going to come with me. However, this was back in early March, and I have since decided not to. I read up on the process and there is a 6-8 week healing period and there is always a chance of infection. I didn't want to risk getting an infection in Mexico. Plus, my fellow IMBA classmate and I have to visit the company we are interning with this month, and I would not be able to take the bar out at this point yet. My window of opportunity has already come and gone. He still asks me about this, though, and says that I won't get an infection if I take the herbal pills from that doctor from the video!
Tonight he told me he is going to set me up with one of his friends. I really want to say "no thanks" but at the same time, I am curious of how weird his friends are. I have to give it to him, he seems to care about my well-being a lot. I do enjoy living where I am.


new place

One of my friends from the IMBA program, Stephanie Brown, came for a visit this week and the day she arrived, the running water went out for an indeterminate amount of time. It was absolutely a great time...showering at school, scheduling bathroom usage, etc. But we didn't let it bother us too much. I might have been a little ansy because with all of the trips to school and such, I decided it was time to move somewhere closer to town. It took only two days to find a very cute one-bedroom furnished apartment in a wonderful area. There are cafes, art galleries, and bookstores all within walking distance. And the best thing, it is only 2 blocks from the bus stop, versus my current 25 minutes walk!!! I am so psyched and I know it will make my experience in Guadalajara so much better. The landlords, Mexican Buddhists, are extremely cool. They have promised to introduce me to their friends and get to know people in the area. My search was a little fun...and I mean a little scary. There is an Internet roommate matching service I was using when I was looking for a place, and there were actually a few guys that contacted me, looking specifically for a younger foreign woman. I think they wanted more than a roommate... :)

Anyway, I was just thinking how this will be the 6th place I've lived in in the last 12 months. I know, it's crazy, but it has been a crazy 18 months. Moving to South Carolina was part of the frenzy, though. The day I move in, March 1, will be the first anniversary for me officially being single on paper. This seems to be a popular day for starting over, at least in my life. I think I will celebrate it with some friends here, maybe drinks in my cool new neighborhood.

We had an assignment today where we had to look in the classified ads here for job postings. I came across so many crazy ads for professionals. Here is an example, translated into English:

Accountant wanted
20-27 years old
Woman, Single
Good looking

This wasn't just one, there were several like this. This would never fly in the States. It just reminds me how good we have it back home, at least with women and jobs. It is by no means perfect and the U.S. does have a lot of room to improve with women's job opportunities, but at least we can find great jobs over 30. Can you believe it, I am nearly too old to apply for this job!


Things are getting better in Guadalajara, I think. Despite finding out this week that customs forgot to stamp my passport and that it might be a real problem in the coming days in getting my visa registered, things are becoming a bit more relaxed. I am meeting new people, reading an excellent book in Spanish about World War II, and am planning on doing some hiking at a nearby canyon this weekend or next. I will also be signing up for a class on Mexican cooking here shortly.

That said, I still do miss some things that some may find silly, such as peanut butter in large jars. It is very hard to find peanut butter here and the only place I've been able to find it is at Super Wal-Mart and even then, they are only in very small jars. So, even though Wal-Mart is a 30 minute walk each way, I will go out of my way to go there to stock up on peanut butter and Quaker Oat Squares, my all-time favorite cereal. I cannot do without my peanut butter and Quaker Oat Squares. It is amazing what one will do for food.



I went for my first haircut in Guadalajara yesterday. My fellow IMBAer and friend, Kate, went with me. I was going for something sexy and chin-length and had picked out a photo I liked in the salon. Well, then the lady started cutting away. I guess with my terrible command of the Spanish language, I wasn't very good at explaining what I wanted because she cut and cut, mostly in the front, and pieces here and there in the back. It wasn't long before I realized I had a SERIOUS MULLET!!! We tried to explain that we wanted the back cut off but she still kept cutting in the front. By the time she came to understand, my hair was now ear-length. It has been hard to get used to the look, as I look very different than I did before. I suppose it will grow back and (hopefully) be shoulder length by August when I return to Columbia. Kate and I can't stop laughing when we think of this and it'll probably remain a funny story for a long time.

Also last night, I hosted my first Mexican fiesta with my roommates. It was a great time and a lot of the IMBA class came and got to meet some of the Mexican students at Tec de Monterrey, where we study. The cops even came because the music was too loud! That said, I'll probably be looking for another place when I start my internship here on May 1. While living with the students has been interesting for sure, I am finding it very challenging because they are undergrads and much younger. I think I might prefer roommates who are young professionals closer to my age or a little older who go for the wine and dinner parties over the wild and crazy ones. I love the neighborhood that Kate lives in...very electic and artsy and more my style and I can see me being very happy there.