Adventure, Educate, High School, Humanities, Mexico, Photography, Travel

Pulled South of the Border

Hola mis amigos!  Hailing you all from sunny Mexico.  I left chilly China on December 21st and spent a month back in Oregon before heading down to my new job teaching high school humanities in Mexico City.  Mom came down with me for the first ten days and we wandered and explored a bit before I had to check in to my new school.

My apartment is great.  Spacious and bright (I took this photo at 5:30pm with no lights on and its north facing!).IMG_3215

The school is quite nice.  It is 125 years old and I believe the oldest in Mexico.  The name is the American School Foundation of Mexico City.  It is an international school but is at least 70% made up of upper class Mexicans.  All are great kids.  I have to say they are fun to teach.  ASF Collage

I teach 10th grade World History and 12th grade US Government.  I have surprised myself, I thought I would love World History and muddle through US Govt.  But it is the exact opposite.  I’ve turned the US Govt into a focus on power: who has it, who wants, how do you get it and how do you keep it.  Its been fun to re-learn alongside the kids and we are having great discussions.  World History on the other hand, I am finding tedious.  I feel confined by it.  But it may be due to the fact that I am pretty much following someone else’s lessons as she has worked here for a number of years and I came mid-year.  So my creativity is stifled and I realize now how important that is for me to enjoy teaching.  My US Govt class I am the only teacher, so no need to collaborate – freedom!

The teaching schedule is ideal.  I teach 2 World History sections and 3 US Govt sections.  I’ve never had it so easy.  Coming from China where I had 5 different classes to prepare for, this is wonderful.  We teach on a block schedule so classes are 80 minutes long and every other day.  If I stay next year, I’m lobbying to teach TOK (IB Theory of Knowledge), US Govt and World Issues.  They do not offer the IGCSE class Global Perspectives I was teaching in China and I really wish they did.  It was a great class.  Hopefully I will at least get TOK if I stay.

The 10th grade students just finished their personal projects.  Apparently it is a 3 month independent study on whatever interests them.  Then they present to the whole school in booths, kind of like a science fair.  Here are a few of my students:ASF Students Collage

Maria wrote her first novel (she was one of three of my students that wrote books) and she is now trying to get it published.  Diego designed a water recycling and earth friendly building.  Maria (yes, I have many) taught a janitor to read and speak English well enough to pass his English exam and get into a local college.  Another student, not shown, built a solar powered scooter.  Some weren’t so stellar, but for the most part I was quite impressed.

The city itself is much more beautiful than I had expected.  There are 22 million people here in Mexico City – yes, much bigger than my little ‘ole Guangzhou of 14 million!  But the vibe and architecture and people are so completely different.  The buildings are shorter. Not everything is a 15 story high-rise apartment building.  Instead I live in one of the taller buildings (smo0shed together like brownstones) in my neighborhood of Condesa and it is 3 stories high.  I’m on the top floor.  Trees are abundant, streets are narrow, birds are everywhere.  Of course the weather is completely different as well.  Mexico City sits on a high plateau at 7,382 feet (2,250m).  So it is crisp, not humid.  The sun is hot when it hits you, but then stand in the shade and it is cool.  The mornings are 46F (7 C) and by afternoon it is up into the mid 70’s (22 C).  So layering is a must.  And since buildings do not have heaters (unless they are portable), everyone wears coats until late afternoon. But the glorious sunshine is out nearly every day.  I think I have seen only 2, maybe 3 days where it was cloudy most of the day.  So that alone makes me so very happy.

I live in a very nice neighborhood (and more expensive).  It is where many of us teachers live.  There are streets with the center between lanes as a walking park.


I live 10 blocks from a gigantic park (nearly double Central Park in NYC) called Chapultepec and it is fantastic.  There is a quiet area in the park that has classical music piped in while you sit and read.  Click on the picture and you can see and hear it.

On Sundays many of the streets around my neighborhood and around the park are closed off to cars for four hours so that bikers, roller bladers, runners and walkers can enjoy the streets.  Its wonderful.  Sundays are a day when people are out in the parks and museums.  Although there are parts of the park that are packed, others are nearly empty except for the exercisers.

The most crowded section of Chapultepec park. This is where all the vendors are, so they draw a crowd.


I just joined EcoBici.  You pay approximately USD $35 for the year and you get to use these bikes for 45 minutes at a time.  And there are stations all over the place so when you get to then end of your time, you simply drop one off and get another one.  It is great.  Today I had my first ride and although there are no gears, it was so fun to get further afield and see more of the city and the remote parts of the park.

EcoBici station. This was taken on a Sunday when the bikers owned the streets.


A little train takes kids and tourists around the park. I think it runs on electricity as there is no noise.


Here are some random photos:

Gluten Free Bakery
I’ll try to refrain! This was in an Irish bar bathroom. Looks it was made in Asia though!
Beautiful sculptures are found everywhere, along with fountains.
This guy hand sweeps (notice the broom) my street every week day.
Some buildings are definitely in need of some love. Took this on my bus ride home.
Although worn out, I loved this building.
One of the beautiful homes, behind a fence, on my walk to the park.

So I think that catches you up.  I’ve been down here a month and it is great.

Until next time, adios amigos!




2 thoughts on “Pulled South of the Border”

  1. Your letter brings back my love of the colors and character of Mexico. And i don’t hear anything about crime and dangers. Sounds wonderful Gretchen, keep those letters and photos coming. Pura vida, Sandy

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