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School shopping Mexico style: Would you like salt with that?

So you haven’t heard from me in a week, because I’ve been buried. Under a crazy, long list of school supplies and needed documents to register the kids for school.

I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you, I am not exaggerating.

Take a look at this list.

Yes, it’s like a size 8 font, and it’s full of everything a school aged child could possibly ever need from rolls of toilet paper, to sheet protectors (uhm 100 of them!) to games, puzzles, paint, and letter trays.  Oh, and a plastic cone and a yoga mat for good measure.  Jaxon’s list was a page long, while Serafina’s was 3 pages long (though to be fair, her’s was in a larger font.)


Not only is the list long, it is incredibly specific.

Like, painfully specific.
It’s not my mediocre Spanish either. Remember my husband’s first language is Spanish, and he didn’t know what half the items were either.

Because they are items like:

– libreta tipo frances de 100 hojas de rayas. 
– 1 làpiz “mi primer làpiz” marca norma
– Cuaderno rayita A de 10 mm, mi primera cuaderno norma

Ummmm yeah!

Took us a bit to figure out “norma” was a brand. Like Crayola, or Mead, or Bic pens. And they have A, B, and C “models” of notebooksBack in my day there was college ruled paper and wide ruled paper, not a full spectrum of paper choices.

We decided on a school a week ago, and I was looking forward to our final week of summer. I imagined taking day trips up into the gorgeous hills that surround Oaxaca. Us strolling the cobblestoned streets leisurely as we explored our new city. I envisioned sipping fresh coconut water, savoring plates of delicious, fresh ceviche, and buying a few nice pieces of art for our house.

Alas, a little salt in my best laid plans. And not the kind I had anticipated!

Instead of lounging and leisure, the last week has been spent largely motoring around in Oaxaca traffic, (which is a white knuckle, jarring experience set to a melody of horn honking, one need not experience firsthand to appreciate) chasing down an impossible list of “supplies.”

School does starts this week, but I was still impressed by the crowds of people in every school related store. The sheer numbers put even the most arduous Black Friday throngs to shame. And I don’t know what it is about shopping in Mexico, but the stores are loud. Blaring music pulses from every TV and stereo. The other day in a big box store I’m ashamed to name, they had hired a DJ. It was like an auditory assault as shoppers walked through the entrance. I’ve been in nightclubs whose speakers couldn’t compete with that guy’s set up. How can I even think about what I need to buy with all that racket?  

But, after a serious effort (three full days of non-stop 9am to 6pm, shop, shop, shop…) we did it. Well,  most of it. We still have to get approval from the teacher, and $450 USD later, we’re still shy a few items.

And now you know why you haven’t heard from us.

I didn’t forget about you while frolicking through the hillsides snapping pictures in flowy, linen pants, and sipping Margarita’s under the bougainvillea. I’ve been elbow to elbow with all the other mom’s trying to get her babies ready for back to school. And I’m absolutely feeling like a foreigner who doesn’t quite know what’s going on. Hopefully I don’t embarrass my kids. Well, that’s probably a given, but oh well.

Tomorrow’s the first day, and our uniforms are all pressed and ready to go. As well as, every last pencil, crayon and paintbrush labeled. Whew.

I think mama’s earned a little refreshment.
Why yes, I would like salt with my margarita.

Below are a few photos I did managed to snap during the marathon school supply stock up. Look how lovely this city is, it’s hard to be anything other than grateful here.

But I thought it might be nice for you to know it’s not always salt and limes around here.


PS. I promise I will write a comprehensive post that shares what documents we needed to enroll the kids in school, and what the true cost of enrollment, plus uniforms, books, and all hidden fees really was.

But for now, don’t let them tame you!


Tiffiney Lozano is the creator of the Mama Said Project and two crazy humans. She offers workshops for women craving connection with themselves and the world around them. After 18- months of continuous travel she and her family are finding adventure in the everyday from the comfort and beauty of their home in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe.

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