Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nearly Halfway to the End!


Not much to report as of late other than the fact that it's been a month since I last wrote which means that I must be busy…

…which is very much true. 

I'm in the home stretch of finishing up this first half of the semester (!) which means I'm that much closer to being completely done with undergrad round two! There is still a boatload of things that lie between me and that wonderful, blessed, hard-earned Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree, but at least it's very much on the horizon and within sight. 

Things like this help the time pass and remind me to keep going:


Husband brought this beautiful surprise home for me today after he got done with a shadowing experience and then took me for a coffee date to catch up (talking face-to-face for more than just a 5-minute span of time!) and do some non-academic pleasure reading for nearly two hours

It was absolutely glorious. 

The only reason this wonderful expanse of time together was possible was due to the fact that he just took an exam yesterday and hasn't been slammed with too much work yet. I'm not complaining at all, though - I will take whatever time I can get my hands on these days! 

This coming Friday marks the beginning of a fantastic thing at my school called Fall Break, during which students are free from classes starting on Friday evening through Wednesday morning of the following week. I'm planning on doing lots of sleeping in, wearing my pajamas all day, baking, brunching with friends, and of course working ahead on school stuff so I don't have an anxiety attack due to overwhelming stress in the coming weeks as I start my NIGHT-SHIFT internship. 

Aaaaand on that note, I shall leave you with this:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Quarter Life Crisis

source
(totally not my cake but it does look pretty delish…)

I've officially entered my mid-20s, which puts me one step closer to being 50.

(Thanks, Husband, for informing me of this as soon as I woke up this morning)

Although he made up for it with a lovely breakfast in bed:


(obviously I chowed down as soon as it was in front of me…those cheesy eggs and buttered toast sure were scrumptious)

Yesterday (Saturday) we walked to and late-lunched (3pm) at one of my favorite restaurants in our city and splurged on a tasty scallion-cream cheese-butternut squash-caramelized onion-pastry appetizer, gigantic sandwiches (tuna pasta salad sandwich - what the carb?), and seasoned warm potatoes AND topped it off with the most delicious carrot cake to go (which we enjoyed later that evening with cold glasses of milk and an episode of our latest Netflix find). 

Today (Sunday) we headed out in the morning to try a new church in the area, Tropical Smoothie for a free (!) Kiwi Quencher (my fave, btw), World Market for a little shopping spree courtesy of Husband, homeworking at home (major womp womp…had to happen at some point), froyo with my side of the family, and a nice long walk with Hobbes. 

All in all, a wonderfully relaxing way to spend my birthday weekend. 

PLUS, my main birthday present from Husband was a ticket for a front row center seat to see my favorite musical artist perform live later in October. Cannot even handle my excitement!

I'll leave you with this very precious photo of my nephew trying to steal some froyo: 


The determination! 

Now if only I could channel some of that to finish up the rest of this studying / homework I've neglected all weekend long... 

Oh, and what's my quarter life crisis, you may ask?
Nursing school. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

So Hobbes had two accidents today...

Hobbes is soooo pouty.


"Oh, I didn't mean to piddle on the carpet twice. But I do make the best pouty faces, don't I?" 

Yes, Hobbes. Yes you do. 


----------

ALSO, this is how I feel these days:

source

Monday, September 2, 2013

Tennessee is too far away.


Yesterday I was able to visit with my dearest friend from college, Andrea. She lives in a far, faraway land (Tennessee) working and going to school (read: is super busy) but her parents conveniently have a house in our city and she has family living on the other side of our state so she comes back often to visit and I get to reap the benefits of being around and close enough to snatch up some of her visiting time. 

Because I had spent all day Saturday at the lake (and doing no studying or homework whatsoever), I had planned on Sunday being my catch-up day. Fortunately, I was able to sneak away from my books and laptop for a while to head over to Andrea's parents' house. Ironically, Andrea's parents hadn't flown in yet but I was able to spend time with Andrea, her sister and brother-in-law, and their cute patoot little boy Elliott and huge fluffy dog Daphne. I brought Hobbes along since he's still so small and easily portable (not to mention Andrea requested it, anyway). He loved all the attention, romping around the backyard area with Daphne, and of course licking up any and all crumbs knocked over from Elliott's high chair from their kitchen floor. 

Here's too much cuteness rolled into one photo that Andrea's sister managed to capture:


Look at the size comparison! Elliott wasn't too sure what to think of jumpy, licky, hyper little Hobbes, but he eventually warmed up and even petted his back a few times in the end. It was super cute to watch them crawl around on the floor with each other. 

I love that I have friends that span across the country so I have the ability to visit and explore other cities / states but man, I really miss having them closer around. It was so nice to just sit and catch up with Andrea. You know those friends who just get you? And no matter how much time passes between phone conversations or hangouts it's like you just pick right back up from where you left off? 

And the ones who back in undergrad would go out and buy a matching pool float device so you could go water running together without shame? 


Yeah, that's me and Andrea.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello again...and Labor Day Legacy continues...


I know I know I know.

Documentation of this summer was at an absolute ZERO on the priority list. Therefore, hardly much of anything was put down in writing and I know I'm going to completely regret it years from now when I want to look back and remember what the heck we did with Husband's very last summer of freedom. He did a much better job keeping up over the past couple of months between talking about 4th of July, bringing Hobbes home, Hobbes having worms (GROSS), and his weird GI hospitalization BUT we both glossed over writing about camping with friends (thankfully Jamie wrote a post), Husband going out to Maryland to visit his niece, and taking a spontaneous road trip to Colorado to finish up the summer scratch that. He wrote a post HERE chock full of photos from the road trip! 

But.
BUT!

School is now officially back in session and you know what that means - routine.
And we all know I thrive on routine. 
In fact, I think I've written before about how bad I am with keeping up with blogging when I have free time and strangely conversely do pretty well when I'm tackling a big schedule of things lined up. I'm fairly certain that just confirms my alleged type A personality. 

Anyway.

I figured Labor Day weekend would be a good way to ease back into the blogging bug, considering I am now in my 8th year of the "Labor Day Legacy" - meaning, I won't have Labor Day (tomorrow) off for the 8th year in a row. Yowza. 

Thankfully the start of the school year hasn't been too painful. Over the summer I adjusted my sleep schedule to include earlier bedtimes to evoke earlier waking times. Although the majority of my classes don't even start until noon, I'm hoping that getting up earlier and exercising will motivate me to start studying and homeworking in the mornings rather than feeling rushed later in the evenings and nights. While the classes themselves are going to be the most difficult I've encountered yet in nursing, for the first time in my seven (!) years of undergrad, I will not be working while in school. I think having only school to focus on will help me feel less anxious about having enough time to fit everything in and get it all done. I'm so thankful to not have to work!

Yesterday, in celebration of it being the first weekend of the school year (i.e. no copious amounts of studying/homeworking to do), I was able to go over to a friend's house for a lovely day on the lake. We ate to our heart's content, floated on a tube with sangria in hand for a couple of hours, rode the jet ski until our bodies were sore and heads were spinning, watched our puppies play together, got cozy for a night in of Great Gatsby, and had wonderful conversation throughout the entire day.  She snapped a shot of Hobbes on the deck behaving himself (and looking so much older!): 


Today it's back to reality and getting my behind in gear for this week. Husband sadly stayed home yesterday to work on school stuff (his second year of med school is now a week underway, too) and today we are both sitting in our study room chained to laptops and books (and iPad, in his case). Coffee pot is full for endless supply, Hobbes has multiple toys to keep him occupied, and we are ready.

So.
Yeah.

Here's to the start of my LAST (…and most challenging…) semester of nursing school!
Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Hobbes Sleeps"


Welcome home, Hobbes! 

Last week Saturday, we made the one-hour drive to the breeder's home and picked up the fluffiest, fattest, most roly-poly pup of the litter. Seriously, this dude was definitely bigger than the rest of his siblings. While he was "last choice" of the males (there were only two and the people before us in the picking line chose the other boy), it didn't make any difference to us because we absolutely loved him as soon as he was in my arms. 

Husband wrote a whole post with photos HERE on his blog. 

As far as how the past five days acclimating to his new home have gone, Hobbes has been doing extremely well. He is starting to like his food (and therefore totally chows down when a bowl is set in front of him), is drinking water like a boss, hasn't had any accidents in the house (…yet…), and is getting more rambunctious and playful each day. 

I've started an album on my phone entitled, "Hobbes Sleeps" to document the strange contortions he molds himself into each time he naps. A few whole bunch of my favorites include:

Day 1: Sleeping during the car ride home (as you can see I'm mildly excited)


Day 1: Asleep on my in-laws' porch during his 1st visit


Day 1: So tired he fell asleep with his head wedged between his feeding tray and water bowl


Day 1: Fell asleep on me while we watched HIMYM


Day 1: Needed some alone time and obviously fell asleep


Day 2: Snoozing while shopping at Chow Hound


Day 2: A favorite sleeping position = on his back


Day 3: Not sleeping, but getting tired outside during a short walk. Look at the size comparison - the hydrant looks gigantic!


Day 3: Another "too tired to eat" shot 


Day  4: Appropriate namesake photo


Day 4: He looks like he's trying to escape from his crate but really he's just so tired he doesn't even care where his limbs are or what they're doing


I'm so happy we got this little bundle of fluff. While we enjoy the puppy phase immensely for the sheer cuteness factor, both Husband and I are looking forward to when he's more trainable and able to obey commands…and let's be honest - in control of his bowels, because running outside hoping he won't poo or pee inside really makes me anxious. 

Welcome to our little family, Hobster Lobster :) 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Update - Summer 2013 thus far!


Oof. 

Blogging has not sounded appealing in the least for the past month and a half. BUT I need to kick my rear back in gear because it's SUMMERTIME for goodness sake and I actually have time to write and document. 

So, here it is.

1) Anniversary. Specifically, mine and Husband's of four years of marriage. 

Each year Husband has given gifts in accordance to the list of traditional gifts. Year 1 (paper) involved commissioned artwork capturing one of our engagement photos with colored pencil with professional matting. Year 2 (cotton) has honestly been forgotten. Whoops! For the life of us, neither Husband nor I can remember what was given! Yes, we are ashamed. However, Year 3 (leather) makes up in the memory department because he bought me a real, honest to goodness, bright red, leather kate spade purse that is perfection in the form of a handbag. Wonderful

Since the fourth year's traditional gift is "fruit and flowers," it was a bit difficult to figure out what he'd do creativity-wise. However, he definitely came through with a gorgeous bouquet of roses, lilies, and gerber daisies awaiting me when I arrived home from the airport at 12:30am on the day of our anniversary. In addition to the flowers, he fulfilled the "fruit" portion of the gift with my favorite dried fruits (chocolate-covered edition, of course) and later that weekend we headed over to the Melting Pot for some delicious melted cheese and chocolate yumminess. 

(apologies for the low-quality photo courtesy of my iPhone)

2) Strawberry picking. Since Husband was still in the throes of his summer semester throughout June, I entertained myself in a number of ways. Not only was I working full-time during the weekdays, but I also found things to do on the weekends - such as strawberry picking with my sister and her family. It was so much fun digging around with this troop! And let it be officially known that I am a perfectionist when berry picking, as it takes me twice as long to get half the amount of berries that a family of five (four? The baby doesn't really count since he even hold his own head up completely yet) collects altogether. 






3) We have a new niece! This is the FIRST grandchild on Husband's side of the family and they're just a teeny bit happy SUPER EXCITED about it. Husband wrote a post about it HERE


4) 4th of July. We watched fireworks with friends along the river with front row seats to the action, I went fishing for the first time in my life (and subsequently caught a whole boatload [no pun intended] of pike and bass), Husband cleaned fish for the first time in his life, we had the most beautiful beach day with our awesome new SportBrella, we went and visited 3-week-old golden retriever puppies, and slept in and ate our weight in food basically every day for four days straight. It was fabulous. Husband wrote a huge photo-filled post about fireworks, fishing, and the beach HERE and about visiting the puppies HERE and about why we're even getting a puppy HERE.  

Taken from Autumn's blog

Taken from Husband's blog





Taken from Husband's blog

Taken from Husband's blog

5) PUPPIES. As in, WE ARE GETTING ONE! Hence, the previously mentioned puppy visit. Two weeks until we bring one home and we are RIDICULOUSLY excited about it! 


6) Summer schedule. IS FILLING UP AND GOING BY TOO FAST! We have so many more things planned and going on in the next month and a half of this break and I want to slow down time so we can really soak it all up. I love summer, especially in our great state where endless sandy beaches, sunny days and cool nights, ice cream shops, sunsets, and lots of walks and bike rides abound. 

I never want it to end.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Feliz cumpleaños, Esposo!

Consider me fallen off the blogging bandwagon. 

I'll be back, I swear. I've had a draft on TextEdit summarizing thoroughly describing the events of our day of flying back to the U.S. from Mexico for the past three weeks. Seriously. I swear I'm going to finish documenting what happened those last seven hours. Really, I swear. Just, eventually.

For now, I want to say HAPPY 28TH BIRTHDAY Husband!


Cute patoot. 

We've already celebrated with gifts from me on Friday, eating out at the restaurant of his choice and stuffing our faces with homemade blueberry crisp courtesy of his wonderful mother on Saturday, kind of celebrating with my family through celebrating my niece's 7th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese's (Husband's first time ever experiencing the token and ticket goodness) on Sunday, and brunching here post-exam this morning. The rest of the afternoon will be spent working (me) and West-Wing-watching / napping / studying (him) and then we're off to stuff ourselves with pizza and hang out with some of Husband's friends from college for the night. 

On the docket for updates on the blog include:
- The summary of our day of flying back home from Querétaro
- Celebrating Husband's and my 4th anniversary
- Summer break thus far - welcoming the first niece / grandchild on Husband's side of the family, battle wounds from being attacked by my friends' cat, strawberry picking with my sister and her family, working as a research assistant, etc. 

One last note - we're dog sitting for Husband's mom and stepdad as they're off visiting their newest little addition to the family and I must say this pupper is quite cute:



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

El último día en Querétaro

Well, the time has come. Sadly, this will be my last post from Querétaro. To say that I've had an unforgettable, amazing, and fun time here would be an understatement. I truly loved every opportunity and experience that came my way over the last three weeks (yes, including the murder of the salamander and being eaten alive by mosquitos at night...because really, at least I'm in Mexico at all). If I had the chance to do it all over again, I'd snatch up the possibility in a hot second!  

In the morning, Jonathan was scheduled to meet with the Cultural Heritage class at Express Arte Caffe at 10:30am. Around 11:30am, the whole group was hoping to meet in one of the plazas that had giant "QUERÉTARO" letters on display and get a group picture around the letters. Afterward, the students were supposed to prepare a tour of the city to show Jonathan various places to which they've gone and learned about over the past few weeks. Following the tour, it was the Senior Seminar students' turn to meet with Jonathan for class discussion.  

Since Mary and I were not a part of the class meetings and therefore didn't have to be anywhere until 11:30am, we slept in and then went out to breakfast around 10am at the Breton bistro we went to with Barry the realtor. We both ordered our usual coffees (mocha for Mary, café latte with a hint of cinnamon for me) and Mary got an omelette while I enjoyed some quiche. While we ate, Mary worked on reviewing and accounting for the budget and I began re-reading the third book of The Hunger Games on my iPad. We were sitting right by the door with a cool breeze coming in as soothing music played softly overhead. It was SO relaxing to sit, sip, eat, and read in such a comfortable environment! By the time we had eaten our fill, it was about 11:30am so we headed to the plaza to meet the students and Jonathan. We ended up taking individual photos by each letter of the "Querétaro" sign (including Jonathan as the exclamation points!) and Jonathan is planning on using Photoshop to create a little montage of it all. The students and Jonathan then went on their way while Mary and I did some last minute browsing / shopping around downtown. She was so sweet and bought me and Husband some giant mugs to bring home - I'm very excited to use them for morning coffees in bed together this summer! We then went to the exchange place where I was able to "sell" my pesos for U.S. dollars and then we headed home. 

I started packing and started to get worried about bringing everything back home. On the way to Mexico, my suitcase clocked a nerve-wrackingly impressive 49.5 lbs - only a half of a pound away from being too heavy! I swore then and there that I would use up some of those liquids I had to haul (sunscreen, a full bottle of contact solution, shampoo, conditioner, etc.) and pare down on the weight. Unfortunately, while I've since used up nearly everything, I've also made some purchases and received gifts that may outweigh the difference. I think I'm going to have to stuff my backpack full of my pottery and hope for the best with the rest along with all my clothes and shoes in my suitcase. 

During my packing, I was hit with a huge wave of generalized weakness and dizziness. It reminded me of when I had mono back in 2008 during the spring semester of my sophomore year of college - it felt like a ton of bricks had hit me in the face and I couldn't move my body without it taking a physical toll on me. Luckily I had packed up most of my things so it was easy for me to stop and take a break. Mary suspected I was dehydrated and possibly experiencing a sugar crash at the same time, so I chugged a bottle of water and made myself some crackers and peanut butter in hopes of snapping me out of the fog. When I still didn't feel better 20 minutes or so later, she suggested I go upstairs and lie down, even if I couldn't fall asleep (since I told her I'm not a good day-sleeper / nap-taker). For the next two and a half hours or so, I lied in bed reading, only getting up at least 4-5 times to flush the water going through me out. I started to feel better, albeit still slightly dizzy and on the edge of developing a headache. 

It was good I was improving because Montse and Queta came over to our casa (with the children they babysit for, Cailen and Bastián) to say their final goodbyes. They came bearing presents, which was just too nice of them. Mary and I each received beautiful silver necklaces with unique stone pendants. Along with these necklaces, they also gave Jonathan, Mary and me each a bag filled with lots of sweets and candies unique to Querétaro. I was delighted to see more of the "Glorias" goat's milk caramel candy and am looking forward to the others that I didn't recognize. They stayed for just a bit since Montse had to work at 8pm but it was so good to see and talk to them one last time. As we were hugging, Queta told me that whenever I want to come back to Querétaro, I (and Husband!) always have a place to stay at their home - ella me dijo, "Mi casa es tu casa" (she said to me, "My house is your house"). Perhaps one day we can take her up on the offer :)

Jonathan, Mary, and I then headed downtown in search of a place to review and discuss how this May term went. Along the way, we of course had to stop at the panadería that she and I have been frequenting nearly daily to pick up our usual galletas (cookies). Jonathan had been teasing us about our daily stop, but really I had no shame! The woman who has rung us up every time was there tonight, so Mary and I explained this was our last visit and thanked her for helping us. She wished us a safe trip for tomorrow and bid us farewell for the last time. After picking up our sweets, at Mary's and my strong recommendation, we eventually decided to go to Di Vino to have dinner and this "meeting." It was cathartic and refreshing to hash out details and a review of our perceptions of this trip. Additionally, I was glad to be given the chance to voice my opinion and make suggestions for the next year. It was during this time that I could see just how much time and energy and thinking it takes to be a professor - Mary and Jonathan work SO hard to keep this trip running and I didn't even realize it until just tonight when we had this meeting. While I don't necessarily envy Mary's job right now because I see how much it requires of her, if I could have the opportunity to travel with students as a leader, I could see myself someday being a nurse educator. BUT that's a long long loooooong ways down the road...

After STUFFING ourselves yet again (Mary had a salad, Jonathan a chicken dish, and me spaghetti along with Mary and I splitting creme brûlée and Jonathan eating a chocolate lava cake on his own), we headed back to the house from downtown for the last time. I called Eduardo and arranged for him to pick up Jonathan in the morning and bring him to the airport since he's leaving on an earlier flight than us. He went to bed right after while Mary and I stayed up a while doing some more packing and getting the house ready to be left back in Gema's hands. Mary went to bed soon after but I decided I wanted to stay up and write this last blog post while in Mexico. Unfortunately, I don't think our internet is working so this post might not actually get posted until I've landed back in the U.S...

As for tomorrow's agenda, Jonathan will be flying out around 11am. Mary and I will be getting picked up by Hector from UAQ who will take us to UAQ to meet with the rest of the group. We will then pile on a bus that will take us about an hour away to the airport, from which we'll leave at about 1:30pm for Dallas / Ft. Worth, Texas. The flight will take about two and a half hours. Once in Texas, we must get through customs, but luckily we have a six hour layover so most likely we won't feel rushed. Our flight from Dallas back to our city in Michigan will take about another two and a half hours, making our landing time about 12:30am on Thursday "morning." Husband is planning on picking me up from the airport and I'm very much looking forward to being reunited with him! 

Here's to safe travels tomorrow :) 

Adiós, México!

         

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Medicina tradicional y la cena final con las familias

Today was my last day with scheduled activities. I can't believe it was three weeks ago that all of us met back home for lunch and to buy gifts for our host families - time has really flown by! Since we didn't have to meet at the university until 10am, Mary and I took Jonathan to our trusty Express Arte Caffe for coffees and breakfast. I feel like I've been there nearly every other day to work on blog posts, eat lunch, have a coffee, etc. and the same server is there EVERY TIME so I really shouldn't have been surprised when he was there yet again this morning. I get kind of embarrassed each time I go there and he sees me - I've never been a regular at a coffee shop in my life and based on how I feel so silly here I don't think I will ever be one at home. Anyway, Mr. Usual waited on us, as usual, and, as usual, did a great job. Yikes, I just might have to go there tomorrow for one last café and bid him farewell...

We walked over to the university to meet all of our students, who were going to spend a few hours with Nanci learning about and making different traditional medicines. While the group got settled in a classroom for a lesson, Mary and I worked out and paid the transportation fees that we incurred during our time in Querétaro. At first it seemed like they were charging more than double what Mary paid last year so she had Antonio, the transportation director for the nursing school, confirm the amounts for each weekend trip. After a few phone calls, the total price was brought down to a more reasonable amount. Hector, one of the drivers, exchanged some dollars for pesos for us and drove us to the university cashier where we paid in full. We walked over to the little university store to browse for a bit and then went back to the nursing department and joined the group in the lab, where they were starting to make some of the medicines. I paired up with Ellie B. while Elli M. and Katie were together, Ryan and Heather paired up, and Hannah and Sarah became a team. We all started off by making some cough syrup out of eucalyptus, garlic, red onion, cinnamon, "bugambilia" flowers, rosemary, and a few other ingredients that I don't remember and soaked it all in water. We then strained the liquid out and added honey and sugar, bringing it to a boil for everything to dissolve together. Once it had cooled, we were each able to try a cup (the recommended amount for ingestion) and were all surprised by how sweet and tasty it was! Nanci gave us some empty bottles and we were also each able to fill them to bring home. 

Moving on, we made tinctures for weight loss, calming the nerves, and lowering blood pressure. This was different in that water was put in a giant glass jar and the ingredients were added until it was all filled up. The bottle was then shaken and placed on the counter to sit for 20 days. Once this time had passed, the liquid could be placed in eyedrop-like bottles and patients are instructed to add 20 drops to cold water and drink in the morning before eating. Additionally, we made "magic ointment" designed for treating burns, bruises, etc. We started by taking globs of vaseline, plopping it into a large pot, and making a water bath over the stove to melt it. Once it became liquid, plants and other ingredients were added to the pot. After mixing thoroughly, the pot was taken off the heat and set on the counter, where like the tinctures it would sit for 20 days. Unfortunately, since these all required sitting before bottling and we're leaving in a couple of days, we were unable to take what we created home. However, Nanci brought out bottles of these medicines that had been prepared earlier for us to take home and try. I'm looking forward to getting a cold and trying out my cough syrup and trying out the tincture before one of my exams, since I grabbed the one for calming nerves and let's face it - I need all the help I can get to control my anxiety before I take tests!

It was such a fun afternoon working in the lab and creating these medicines. It is crazy yet really cool to think that these nursing students take a class on creating traditional medicines for a whole year. Back home at our nursing school, we talk and write a research paper about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) twice - once in pharmacology and a second time in special topics. Mostly we just discuss the basics of various CAMs to make ourselves aware of the practices. However, we do not learn about incorporating them into patient care, let alone take a lab course to actually create different CAM medications! It was so interesting to read about how each plant helps which part of the body and I'm really looking forward to trying them out once I need them :) 

A few of us walked downtown after we got done with the medicine class and I took them to the candy shop, a little chain called Dulces Bernal, where I bought the "Glorias" dulce de leche de cabra (goat's milk caramel) candy. After buying one to try and giving each of them a sample, several of the students promptly bought some to bring back home as gifts.  After that, I took Ryan to La Mariposa just down the street so he could experience one of the delicious malteadas (milkshakes). When he realized he didn't have enough money, though, I then took him to the bank downtown to get money from the ATM. We returned to La Mariposa and he ordered a malteada de vainilla, which he let me take a sip of and was SO satisfyingly tasty! We walked really far up and down the street in search of this wooden figurine shop where I wanted to buy Mary a present. She and I had run into it on one of our first days in Querétaro exploring the area and there was this cute little nurse wooden figure that she liked. I made a mental note to go back to it but forgot about it until today. It was siesta time (about 2:30pm), though, so a lot of the shops were closed and I couldn't find it. I decided to give up and just go home, shower, and get ready for the final dinner we had tonight at the restaurant El Fin de Siglo. 

I decided to leave early to try to search once again for the shop. It was after nearly an hour walking up and down several streets that I began to get frustrated with the lack of signage for Mexican shop names and their hours. Often stores close between 2-5pm for comida (lunch) and siesta time, closing and locking up doors and windows and not leaving any trace that they exist - no sign above the door, no store hours posted in the window...nada. I really did give up after walking down the same street for several blocks three separate times just to make sure I hadn't missed any clue where the store was located. Sadly, empty handed, I walked to the restaurant to meet up with Mary and Jonathan at 6:30pm to verify everything about the reservation was in order - which it was! Five tables of 8 seats in the large dining room, separate tables for the desserts and drinks, salads, and buffet of entrées...everything was all in order and it was only 6:35pm. 

Mary had a seating plan all figured out based on the number of family members students had reported would come to the dinner. However, she quickly had to throw that out as people arrived, starting around 7:10pm. As they trickled in, I took photos of each family and Mary moved around where everyone would sit. Some had reported fewer than the number that showed up while others said someone in their family couldn't come after all as soon as they walked in the door. I ended up sitting with Montse, Queta, Angel, Ruth, Mary, and Jonathan. Once everyone had arrived, Mary thanked everyone for coming and opened up with a word of prayer (in Spanish! she did a great job). Then the eating began - I was so hungry since I hadn't eaten much of anything since breakfast at Express Arte Caffe that morning it was GREAT the whole thing was a buffet. There was poblano cream soup, spaghetti alfredo, frijoles con arroz, pollo en mole, a huge variety of salads, and much more. I ate two helpings of food along with two pieces of a yummy and refreshing gelatina dessert. The group of students and I surprised Mary with a frame we'd (Ryan) bought and a picture that we'd (Elli M.) printed of us on the day we all took a tour of Hospital General and were wearing our white scrubs for the first time of the trip. The students also handed out gifts to their host students and Mary presented Nanci with a gift. I gave Montse and Nanci each a personal gift, Mary also gave Ruth and Angel personal gifts, and there was just a LOT of gift giving going on all around! Once everyone had finished eating, everyone went outside so we could get a group picture with EVERYONE in it. The poor hostess girl juggled about five or six different cameras and struggled to take a couple of photos on each while we moaned to get it over with. The families slowly trickled off, and before we knew it, Mary and I found ourselves in almost the same position as our first night - sitting inside the restaurant with Ruth and Angel (and Jonathan, this time), chatting about and reflecting on our time in Mexico. Like I said before, I can't believe three weeks have gone by already! It feels like just the other night we were sitting together in Las Monjas discussing our goals and objectives for the month... 

All in all, the whole trip has been absolutely amazing and I cannot believe I was so lucky to have been able to experience it. I'm so grateful I was given the chance to travel to Querétaro and learn about their culture, the health care system, and make lots of friends (both American and Mexican) along the way. It's hard to believe that tomorrow (today? It's already 12:30am!) is our last full day here and then we leave the next morning to head back home. I'm really glad I decided to blog about each day so I can look back on my time spent here. I will forever cherish the memories from these past three weeks! Tomorrow the students will be meeting with Jonathan for both a short class and lead him on a tour of city highlights. Mary and I, on the other hand, will be packing and tying up loose ends before we head off so we'll have to see how interesting (or not) my post is tomorrow (and if the wifi works in the casa!). 

Hasta mañana :) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The longest post EVER - el último viernes, sábado, y domingo

This blog post is coming a bit late due to a combination of spotty internet along with a busy schedule that doesn't leave too much time for writing. But I am determined to keep up with daily documentation! I've come this far so I have to keep up! Thus, this will also be the LONGEST post ever...just a fair warning!

Friday was our second day at Hospital General and our final day in the hospitals here. Mary actually went with Ryan to CRIQ (another physical therapy campus through the university) and Nanci couldn't stay with us for the day because she had to go to the Corregidora campus for other classwork so I was flying sola with the nursing students. Nanci stayed long enough to get the students situated on their floors and with their nurses and then she had to take off. At first, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do - I've never been in the "clinical professor" role! I sat down and realized I didn't have my book with me to pass the time so I played some Fun Run on my phone (practice mode only since there wasn't any internet access) then headed to the emergency department to observe. I saw Marcos from the previous day but he was busy with documentation so I didn't bother him. I was shocked to see some of the same patients still there from Thursday, but I guess with a hospital at full capacity there isn't anywhere else to have those in critical condition stay. Mary later reported this even happens in the U.S., though, so perhaps my shock was unwarranted - goes to show how I need more clinical experience still. After spending some time circling the unit and scanning some charting (so amazing how I can just pick up any and every patient chart here), I made rounds on the floors to check on the students.

Heather and Sarah went off their unit for a break and I joined them. We sat outside eating our granola bars and talking about how their day has gone so far. When I told them I was able to observe in the emergency department for a while, they asked if they could just do a walk-through to see what it's like. When I agreed to take them there, I was NOT expecting a paparazzi / celebrity-like, response from the staff! We had only made it about halfway around the unit when we got pulled into the middle of the pathway by Marcos and another nurse asking to take our picture. There were patients all around us, just staring as they were lying in their beds, so I said okay while crossing my fingers it would only take a second. However, what followed was a steady stream of various nurses and doctors jumping in and handing people their phones or cameras to snap a shot with the gringa enfermeras (us). There we were, just standing in the middle of the emergency room with patients all around us, with staff taking 10 minutes to get at least 50 photos with us. While we were flattered, it was also somewhat embarrassing. After thanking us, one of the physicians told us the department chief wanted to meet us so we shook hands with him and explained what we were doing for our May term in Querétaro. I'm almost positive the reason we got so much attention was because Heather and Sarah are super cute blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls :)

I brought them back to the unit and made some more rounds with the other floors. Hannah and Ellie B. were sitting at the desk with their nurses and Elli M. and Katie had paired up together with one nurse to help care for a very critical patient. When I went back to Sarah and Heather, one of the nurses gave them supplies to do a curación (cleaning) for a recent double-amputee post-op patient on one of his incision site so I stayed to assist them. We ended up not only cleaning his surgical site but we also changed his dressing, gown, and bed linens. I loved being able to converse with the patient in Spanish (even though he was slightly sedated) and provide direct patient care. When we finished, the patient's son thanked us for helping his father, which felt so rewarding. After we washing our hands, it was time to leave so the group gathered back together and caught the UAQ van that took us back to campus.

That afternoon Elli M., Ryan, and Katie came back with Mary and me. While they only intended on staying long enough to change their clothes and head downtown, they ended up staying for lunch and then we all played Euchre for hours. They helped us plow through some of the dinner leftovers and once everyone was full, we sat down on the patio upstairs outside and Mary brought out the cards. I hadn't played Euchre since high school so I was more than just a little rusty (along with Ryan) and the others had to walk me through the rules and strategies. It took a few rounds but eventually I got back into the groove and partnered with Mary against Katie and Elli M. They won the first game but Mary and I beat them in the second one. We'll have to go for the best two out of three in the airport or something on our way home!

Bob and Maria are the people who own the house and apartment that Mary has rented and stayed in the past two years for this May term. However, they have since stopped doing long-term rentals for their properties because Maria was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing treatment. Due to the extensive work that goes into short-term rentals, they switched to long-term and were unable to have a place for us to rent this year. However, Mary has developed a close relationship with them over the years. They invited us over to their house (as they do for Mary each year) so Friday evening went over to their casa for drinks and appetizers. It was only a few minutes from downtown and our casa so we walked on over. Their home is gorgeous! When they let us inside we stepped into their large and open entryway that led straight into the courtyard, where there was a table set up with lots of food. Maria said Bob makes a mean margartita, and with that description how could I not accept one? (She was right, by the way.) We sat and chatted about our time in Mexico, how Bob and Maria have sold their home in West Virginia and settled in Querétaro completely, a little about myself, how Mary and her husband have been doing, etc. It was so peaceful to relax and sit around the table, casually talking while the sun began to set and with a wonderfully cool breeze. Maria gave me a tour of the house, which they had renovated and re-designed when they bought it years ago. It was absolutely beautiful with original stone walls (it used to be a convent), a very Mexican / Spanish-inspired kitchen with lots of colors and tiling, high ceilings, and just lots of open space. Mary and I had such a great time catching up with them and I'm so happy they invited me to come along with Mary for the visit.

Later that night I met up with some students and their host siblings in La Plaza de Armas. First we headed to a bar and had some beers to commemorate our last Friday night here in Mexico. Afterward, Elli M. and Sarah headed home for the night while Katie, Hannah, Ryan, his host brother Alex, and I went to La Mulata for some dancing. While we ladies were surprisingly let in for free, the boys were charged 120 pesos each! If we had known they'd have to pay so much we wouldn't have gone in, but they have separate entrances for males and females so we didn't even see each other and find out they paid so much until we were already inside. Unfortunately, the music for the night wasn't very interesting and there were tables spread across the dance floor with people sitting. We stayed until about 2am and were kind of disappointed with how the night turned out. We officially decided last week at Barra Habana where we went salsa dancing was the highlight of our time experiencing night life here in Querétaro.

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Saturday was a very long but very fun day. We started off by meeting at the university at 8am and were happily greeted by a giant luxury bus. Mary had been fighting all week for us to get a larger bus for today since our trip would require lots of time in it (nearly four hours each way) so we didn't want to get stuck with the small minivans and economy vans we've been regularly getting here. Her advocacy definitely paid off and we all gladly settled in the big, comfy, plush seats in preparation for the ride. The Mexican students that came with our group included Sindy (with Heather), Alex (with Ryan), Eduardo (with Hannah and Katie), Mini (with Elli M.), Esme and her family - husband Hugo, daughters Pili and Carol (with Sarah and Ellie B.), Nanci, and Nanci's friend Sandy. It was a big group!  In preparation for the long, winding drive through the mountains, I took TWO Dramamine tabs as prophylaxis for my motion sickness before we drove off.

Our first stop was about two and a half hours away, into the Sierra Gorda to see las grutas de Los Herrera (the Herrera caves). There was a huge parking lot with a small cafetería that held baños (at a cost of 5 pesos to use...) as well as a bunch of swings and little huts with grills for picnics along the hillside. On the other side of a metal bridge that crossed over the entrance into the caves, there was also a small playground. Mary bought the tickets and everyone enjoyed the (cold!) hour-long tour through the caves, where we walked through 7 different "rooms" and our tour guide pointed out fun figures that the rocks have formed that give each room a different name. Despite people all around me talking, I loved listening to the quiet of being underground - it was very peaceful. After we finished our tour and took a serious amount of group photos, we hung around the area a bit and played on swings, walked around the hillside, and just enjoyed being outside and looking around at all the surrounding mountains.The weather was wonderfully cool with clouds blocking the scorching sun and a constant breeze that even prompted me to keep my long-sleeve zipup jacket on. Such a difference from the city where I'm always sweating! I was very content with the change :)

We drove a few minutes down the road to the extremely hilly town of San Joaquín for lunch. Mary intended on having us eat at a restaurant they went to last year called El Burrito but it was closed when we arrived and we couldn't figure out when (or if) it would open later that day. We walked back down and up some hills in search of a restaurant to have lunch, which turned out to be way more of a challenge than we anticipated, considering everywhere we looked either only served breakfast (no thanks) or wasn't open at all. Finally, some of the students went on a search and discovered a great restaurant called El Torito that had well-priced food. I'd been craving some good old American food lately so I ordered a hamburger and French fries and was SOOOO glad I did because it was DELICIOUS (and cheap at only 30 pesos = approximately $3 USD). I wasn't even the least bit ashamed to eat the whole thing!

It was a good thing we ate to our fill because our next destination required lots of energy for hiking. We had been planning on going to see some nearby waterfalls called Cascadas Maravillas about a half hour's drive away. However, we ran into a bit of a problem when we found out our large and luxurious bus wouldn't be able to make it through the winding roads to the town we needed to go to. After Nanci did some talking to locals, Mary decided to have us take two pickup trucks to the town - with us riding in the back! It wasn't like we were just sitting in the back cross-legged and hanging on for dear life, though. The trucks were obviously meant to hold people since they had benches on each side and railings to hold onto during the ride. I think this made us all feel a little better and more confident jumping in the back...a little. The ride to the town turned out to be awesome, though! It was actually COLD for us to ride in back (again, a nice and welcome change in my opinion) and we were able to see the most gorgeous views of the mountains and clouds. I didn't feel unsafe at any point of the ride :)

We ran into another small hitch when we got to the town, though. There was a rope strung across the street and people at a hut demanding money for entrance. We hadn't been told about this so we were all a little wary and thought back to when some random person charged us 3 pesos each at Bernal to use the bathroom - I had later gone back and nobody tried to get me to pay, pretty much confirming our suspicion that the bathroom was actually public for anyone's free use. Anyway, Mary paid for everyone nonetheless and we actually received very official looking tickets so this was probably a different situation. Probably. The drivers made a stop at the top of a hill which turned out to be the beginning of a very long 2-km walk down to the falls. Luckily the clouds kept things cool, but my quads were screaming after 20 minutes of constant contraction as I walked downhill. The signs said it would only take a half hour, and I didn't time it, but I'm almost positive it took longer (45 minutes? An hour?) than that to make it to the waterfalls. Once we reached them, though, it was well worth it - it was so pretty! The water was crystal clear and Hugo and Esme said it was super clean because it came from so far up the mountain. Some people walked down further where there was a manmade pool with filled with water from the falls and jumped in (I didn't join them). They said that while it was freezing cold, it was also very refreshing and clean. We spent a good chunk of time enjoying the falls, dipping our toes or fingers in the water, and taking photos in effort to capture the beautiful scenery. The walk back up was PAINFUL (more so than the walk down) and I'm just grateful my calves didn't cramp up at any time during the hour-long trek back up to the top. Heather, Ellie B., Hannah and I had left a little before the others because we knew it'd be quite the hike and wanted to take it slowly with plenty of breaks along the way. The clouds kept us nicely covered and shaded even though we were dripping sweat anyway. I can't imagine what it would be like to try to hike down and up underneath a scorching sun! I'm so glad we didn't have to find out. We made it up before the rest of the group with little Pili, Eduardo, and Nanci quickly following. As the rest of the group trekked up the last upward stretch of hill, Pili began shouting the encouraging words, "Sí, se puede!" which means "Yes, you can!" It was so cute and I think everyone brightened up a little with that!

After everyone made it back up (some of the Mexicans even did so in their jeans, sweaters, and layers of clothing = impressive) and our legs were officially shaking and / or like Jello, we piled back in the pickups for the ride back. It was a good thing we were in the back of those trucks because we all needed to cool off AND air out (we all completely sweated through our clothes) before getting back on the bus for the three-hour drive back to Querétaro. I'm almost certain everyone fell asleep at once and stayed that way for the remainder of the ride (I know I did). My legs were so stiff after sitting and lying in the same position sleeping for three hours that I'm really surprised I made it off the bus at all.

Mary and I walked back to our house and concluded that we were both starving since we hadn't eaten since our lunch in San Joaquín, before we had burned off all our lunch calories and then some hiking to and from the waterfalls. Without even bothering to shower or change clothes (at least for me, since Mary ended up putting on a different shirt), we walked downtown to a nice Italian restaurant called Di Vino that she had gone to last year and raved about. We each ordered a well-deserved glass of wine, a pasta entreé (gnocchi for me and ravioli for Mary), and crème brûlée with fresh fruit. It was hands down the BEST meal I've had thus far, though this could be somewhat skewed since I was famished from our long day of travel and the strenuous hike from earlier that day... We walked home completely stuffed (we joked about having to be "rolled outta the restaurant" from ingesting so much food), each took showers, and then crashed into our beds for the night.

All in all, well-enjoyed day :)

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Today (Sunday) was a VERY welcomed day of sleeping, after our busy and energy-filled Saturday. I didn't wake up once during the night and slept until 9:30am - a full nine and a half hours of solid sleep! Montse and I had made plans to go to San Vicente, a nearby town about 30 minutes away that specialized in leather goods, to do some shopping. She had said she'd pick me up around 11am but called me in the morning to switch it to 1:30p. I later found out that she switched the time because she went out to breakfast with her boyfriend, another nurse, when he got off work :) Mary originally wasn't planning on going with us, but when the time switched, she (and Jonathon, the other professor from school, who flew in just this morning) decided to come along. Montse picked us all up and we drove to her house, where we met up with her sister, Abby, and Abby's boyfriend, Alan. We then piled into Alan's car (Montse, Mary, Jonathon and I squished in the back) and made the drive to San Joaquín. We stayed for a couple of hours, browsing the shops filled to the brim with purses, boots, jackets, wallets, and other items made from leather. Mary bought a pair of soft leather gloves for only 12 pesos but eventually decided against some of the beautiful jackets she tried on. I found a bag that I liked but couldn't justify the price (or suitcase space!) so I left empty handed. Jonathon, Mary, and I did try some homemade ice cream from a street cart with the flavor piñón (pine nut), which sounds kind of gross but was actually REALLY good. Montse enjoyed an elote with chili powder and cheese on it, which I tried and found tasty.

Alan dropped Jonathon, Mary, and me off in the downtown area so we could confirm our reservation for our final group dinner tomorrow at the Fin de Siglo restaurant. We then went across the street and I bought a bag of Mexican "Gloria" caramel candies to that I'd tried at Bob and Maria's to bring home. Afterward, we decided to eat dinner at the American time of 6pm and went to San Miguelito (the third time going there for me...). We walked around after we finished eating in search of a Día de Los Muertos figurine for Mary but to no avail. We also were disappointed on our walk back home when we wanted to take Jonathon to our favorite panadería for some daily galletas (cookies) and found it closed for the day :(

The rest of the evening was spent writing this WHOLE blog post on the patio, doing some laundry, and basically taking things nice and easy on this relaxed, last Sunday here in Mexico. Tomorrow Nanci is going to teach us how to make traditional Mexican medicines during the morning / afternoon and then we are having our final dinner with the students and their host families along with Bob and Maria, Montse and Keta, and Ruth and Angel. I can't believe we are really in our last days - it feels like we JUST got here! While I'm sad to leave and am going to have a difficult time saying goodbye in a few days, I must say that I am looking forward to going back home to Husband and enjoying a beautiful Michigan summer filled with beach days, settling in our new rental home, running, catching up with friends, and starting up my job doing nursing research at school. Let's just hope summer doesn't go by too fast!

Whew.
Thanks for staying with me during that doozy of a post. I'm hoping my next one won't include a summary of more than one day and be so extensive!

Hasta luego :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hospital General y una salamandra en la casa

Spotty internet - hence this post is from yesterday (Thursday):

Today we headed to Hospital General bright and early in the morning. Mary decided we needed the exercise from the 20-30 minute walk so we made the trek over from the university to the hospital by foot instead of our usual van ride. At one point we had to use a bridge to cross over the busy highway. According to everyone else, the bridge wasn't that high up. To me, on the other hand, thanks to my fear of heights, it felt like I was a mile off the ground. I gripped Hannah's hand the whole time and tried to focus on looking up instead of down. Everyone else was taking their time snapping pictures of the view and I just sped along. Luckily Hannah (who is also my motion sickness buddy) just charged ahead with me. 

The group split up in pairs among three different floors - post-op, internal medicine, and intensive care. I honestly can't remember who was where but the pairs were Heather and Sarah, Elli M. and Katie, and Hannah and Ellie B and each were subsequently paired with a nurse on the floor. Once we got the them settled, Mary, Nanci and I headed down to the Urgencias unit. Mary was especially curious to observe this area because she is an emergency nurse back home in the U.S. and has been for over 30 years. Nanci also said that she is interested in possibly pursuing a job in emergency nursing so she was eager to see this unit as well. 

When we first arrived, there were already some beds lined up against the wall since the rooms were all occupied. The heat and mixture of odors was present but not completely overpowering, though it still made me feel a little dizzy - I made sure to drink plenty of water. We met one nurse in particular, Marcos, who spoke English because he lived in Georgia for a few years. He let us follow him around for a while and we were able to visit with a patient who had suffered complications from a brain surgery that left him handicapped. It was so sad to hear the story of how the surgeon had made a mistake that resulted in brain damage and subsequent neurological problems. When I asked Nanci if legal cases were often filed in Mexico and she said that although they are, it is always a long process that takes a lot of time and effort and energy to work out. From what I have gathered, it appears that there is not the same sense of "entitlement" and frequent blaming of health care workers for deaths or medical complications like there is in the U.S. When we were in the clinics, Nanci had explained to me that Mexicans more or less accept these things as being inevitable given the situation and there wasn't anything that could be done by the health care team to prevent them from happening. When we later returned after taking a break, the floor was even busier and people were seated in chairs along the wall waiting for beds with their IVs already started. I was allowed to start an IV on an elderly patient and he had such a good vein that I got flashback right away! The nurse stepped in to collect blood samples and then I helped her hook up and start the normal saline solution. After all this great practice with IV starts, I'm hoping that I will feel very confident in completing this skill on patients once I get back to the U.S. and start my Adult clinical and internship in the fall. 

We then went to check on the pairs on each floor and spent some time in patient rooms with them. At one point, we were on the intensive care unit and were able to visit with the family of a burn patient. He had suffered third degree burns after an electrical accident at work. Mary, Nanci, Elli M., and I were given disposable gowns (which we later found out we were supposed to share and use to go in the room in pairs rather than all four at once...the nurse manager was not happy with us for using them all at once...) and masks to wear. When we entered the room, I was immediately hit with the smell of burned flesh. This paired with the fact that the room was at least 10 degrees hotter than the already-warm floor hallway and the fact I was feeling funny in the emergency unit made my head spin a little. I tried my best to listen to the conversation Nanci was having with the family member but I was just trying to concentrate on not locking my knees and keeping my breathing even. Mary explained the differences between the treatments in the U.S. compared to Mexico for burn patients. For example, the patient's skin was open to air whereas in the U.S. there is a certain covering they use to put over the body. Subsequently, the open air dries the skin and they use heparinized solution (a blood thinner) to break up the dried blood for debridement and cleaning. The covering used in the U.S. contains a solution that keeps the blood from drying. Later, once we had thanked the patient's family for taking the time to talk with us, Nanci said that there was a great need for nurses to work in the burn hospitals (which is where this patient was being transferred later). Apparently there is a shortage because hardly anyone wants to work in these facilities. Nanci said that because of this need, she would be willing to work in one of these hospitals to do her part in helping these people. It was inspiring to hear about her great desire to help others, especially those who are underserved. 

After checking on all the floors, the three of us (Mary, Nanci, and I) wandered into the peritoneal dialysis area and were surprised to find a young teenage patient who appeared to belong in the intensive care unit with dozens of medications and tubes. As we were looking over the patient's chart to review the reason for hospitalization, diagnosis, and symptoms, I could hear and see a family member carefully and gently providing care. He had brushed her hair so it was shiny and laid flat on the pillow and was singing softly as he massaged her feet and calves. When we walked in to talk to him about exactly what happened, I could clearly see the pained look in his eyes while he explained how his daughter had gotten there yet also the tenderness he showed as he rubbed her feet and held her hand. I don't know what came over me but I suddenly felt tears sting my eyes and threaten to cascade down my cheeks. I excused myself from the room and let them fall down my face. I couldn't believe this young patient's grave prognosis and my heart broke for her father who so obviously adored her. I hope and pray for them and the rest of their family as they work through this difficult time, that God watches over them and brings them comfort. 

Hospital General was definitely busier than the other clinics and hospitals we've visited thus far. Not only were people lined up in the emergency unit, but rooms on the floors often held 2-4 patients, and all the rooms were at full capacity. It amazes me that on average, the nurses who work on the general floors have at least six patients each and those in the intensive care unit have at least three critical patients at a time. It is for this reason that often family members are very involved in patient care, providing baths, helping with feeding, assisting in the bathroom, and changing clothes. Without the assistance of unit techs, I am sure the nurses are grateful to have the help of willing family members. 

When we got back to the university in the afternoon, Mary and I headed home to eat before going downtown to run some errands. We exchanged dollars for pesos, retrieved some money from the ATM (with a bank withdrawal fee of $69.50 pesos! eek), and were sorely disappointed when we found out from the department store that they didn't carry small fans, or any fans less than $299 pesos (about $25 USD) for that matter. It's been so hot and mosquito-y in our rooms that we were really looking forward to picking up some cheap fans for the remainder of our time here. However, we left the store empty-handed and refused to take the long ride to Walmart (suggested by the Del Sol department store employee) in search of small fans. To drown our sorrows, on our walk back home, we got iced coffees from Express Arte Caffe  to go and also picked up some freshly baked cookies and cheese bread from our favorite panadería down the street from our house. Once we got back, we settled onto the patio and read while sipping our drinks and taking bites of our baked goods. 

We did this until 7:30pm rolled around, when Melisa picked us up. We went downtown to San Miguelito (the restaurant with the fabulous margaritas) and met her 31-year-old student, Juan, who meets with her twice weekly for private English classes. Melisa had decided him meeting me and Mary would make for great practice since we are native English speakers. We spent two and a half hours drinking margaritas, eating some totopos (tortilla chips) and guacamole, and having some good conversation. We found out that Juan is planning on traveling to New York City in June and will be staying there for two months to attend English language school. Although he is a lawyer who works as a public notary in Mexico, he wants to improve his English and was granted time off to go to this school. Melisa had him practice asking questions so he also was able to learn about me and Mary and the U.S. It was fun having things flipped for once here where we were the ones being asked to speak more slowly and repeat things! 

Melisa drove Mary and I home and we had our final goodbyes since we will not see her again before we leave next week. When we walked into our house, we were "greeted" with a nasty surprise - a salamander hanging out in our entryway! It was actually really gross - almost translucent with beady eyes and about six inches long including its tail. Mary screamed right away when she saw it and I ran upstairs to grab my camera! She got the broom out from the cleaning closet and attempted to get it to run towards the front door and outside. However, it kept circling around one of the pillars and out of her reach. Mary was screaming the whole time for it to just get outside and I had this mixture of laughing, snorting, and screaming coming out of my mouth at the same time. We must have been quite a sight, two American women jumping up and down and yelling at a tiny lizard, one trying to bat it away with a broom and the other just taking pictures the whole time. One of the neighbors who was walking outside with her son asked if we needed help and without hesitation we unlocked the door. Her son walked in, grabbed the broom that Mary had abandoned on the wall when the thing wouldn't move, and proceeded to shoo it away from the pillar and stomp on it when it tried to escape, all the while we are still freaking out and jumping up and down. He managed to beat it to a pulp and sweep it out to the street, but we didn't realize until after we thanked him and shut the door that THE TAIL HAD BEEN LEFT BEHIND AND WAS NOW TWITCHING ON ITS OWN (I kid you not). I went back to screaming while Mary had no idea what was going on and just followed me into the living room as I jumped up on the couch. She then went to look to find it and when she did, resumed the screaming right alongside me. Since our neighbor boy was long gone by this point, having already gotten rid of the salamander's body, it was up to us to get the (thankfully-no-longer-twitching) tail outside to join it. It took about 15 minutes of screeching and maneuvering the tail over our stony entryway before we could sweep it out. 

All in all, the whole process probably took about a half hour to 45 minutes. People were definitely outside on the street either watching us, laughing at us, or both as Mary and I couldn't help ourselves but absolutely freak out about the incident. It seems like everything is starting to creep out in this house now - the salamander, the mosquitos and we've found four cockroaches (one in the fountain in the entryway, another in one of the bedroom doorways, and the other two outside by the washing machine). If there is anything that is making me look forward to going home, it's the lack of these things in my home! Though, I can't speak too soon, since Husband sent me a picture of a huge spider in our bedroom...I'm going to try to ignore that for now, though...

Ay caray. 
Let's hope and pray and hope and pray again that we don't have to deal with THAT again. 
Ugh. 

Hasta luego :)