Posts Tagged ‘baja’

The Best Christmas Meal Ever

I was just leaving the upscale restaurant in La Paz after a wonderful dinner with friends when I passed the man on the corner selling tamales. Seeing the huge pots of steaming corn wrapped in husks brought me back to a memory of my first Christmas in Baja just two years earlier.

It was just two years ago on Christmas morning that I was walking my dog Bruce through the neighborhood of Loreto Bay in Baja. It had only been 3 weeks since I had moved here and didn’t really know anyone. I had a budget of 1,000 pesos a month to spend on food (which broke down to about $20 U.S. dollars a week).

The week before I had made my first trip to the grocery store and spent nearly all my allotted money for the month of December since I also had to buy laundry soap and cleaning supplies as well as groceries. As I was walking Bruce, my mind wandered to Christmas’s past. I thought about times spent with my children when they were little running to see what Santa had brought them, spending the day with family and lots of wonderful food. I didn’t realize how lonely I was until the tears started falling down my cheeks.

I was lost in thought and didn’t hear the old pickup truck pull up beside me. The wife rolled down her window and spoke to me in some English but mostly spanish.

“Senora, would you like to buy Christmas tamales to take home to your family?”

She was probably my age, but due to living a hard life she appeared much older.

“No, gracias, lo siento, no pesos.” I replied, afraid to even ask how much one tamale would cost.

“Senora, I made these myself, you can’t have Christmas dinner without tamales.”

In my broken English I told her I was alone for Christmas but maybe I could find the money and buy one tamale.

I looked at her and her husband in their old beat up truck which seemed like it should have been in a junk yard and not on the side of the road looking for people to buy their tamales.

I saw the hard work and knew that no matter how poor I was, I didn’t know what poor really was. I knew that my pesos would help support them and their family.

“Un momento,” I said, “let me go to my casa and find some pesos, I will buy one.”

I walked down about a hundred yards to my casa and started looking for some change. I remembered I had a few pesos left from the shopping trip the day before. I looked for change and grabbed what I had, even if I didn’t have enough for a tamale I wanted to give the money to them.

It probably took me 15 minutes to find the money and return and as I walked around the corner they were still there waiting. I wondered to myself how long they would have waited, but then I remembered I gave them my word that I would be back and your word is your promise in the Mexican culture. They smiled when they saw me and I showed them the only money I had left in my hand.

They opened up the back of their pickup truck and inside a large beat up silver pot were stacks of tamales. At that moment I wish I would have had money to buy them all from them so they could go back and celebrate Christmas with their family.

I handed the man the money and he said, “gracias, senora, Feliz Navidad, now you will have the best Christmas ever.”

The wife put two tamales in the little plastic bag and gave me a hug.

“One for you and one for your perro, Feliz Navidad!”

I walked away from that experience a changed person. I had little to give to someone who had even less.

Their faces may have been worn and tired but their spirit was alive and shown through their eyes.

When I returned back to my casa I put the Tamales on a plate and Bruce and I had the best meal we both have ever eaten.




Read more

Helping the children in Loreto…won’t you join me?


Miramar Children 4











I was fortunate to have spent the last 5 years of my teaching career at one of the wealthiest schools in the United States. As a teacher we had so much at our fingertips. We had a supply closet that was packed full of paper, pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc. We had a copy center that we would submit our papers to and the next day all copies would be made and placed in our teacher boxes. We were served breakfast and lunch and if we wanted dinner to bring home for $5.00 we could bring home dinner for our family. We had white boards and smart boards. We had computers and overhead projectors and televisions in every room. We had a budget that we could buy extra supplies with that may be needed to do our jobs better.

I remember when I left my job to move to Palm Springs I knew that I could never teach anywhere else again. I had the perfect job and anywhere else would never come close. I spent the next 7 years doing a different type of teaching. I worked with adults teaching about memoir writing. I enjoyed those years very much and then last year I had the opportunity to move to Baja to focus more on a new addition to my business of women’s writing retreats.

I have spent the last 10 months writing and leading retreats and then last week there came an opportunity to teach children once again. I learned the teacher that taught english in one of the poorest communities of Loreto needed some help. Another retired teacher named Kathleen and I drove out to Miramar. The unpaved road with the stray dogs and poor dwellings they lived in gave way to an elementary school in the distance.

Our first day we were greeted by nearly thirty 6th graders. We gathered two groups outside in a circle where we could practice english. Vocabulary and common greetings were what we worked on for that morning session. I glanced inside the classroom to see bare walls and a torn paper homemade map on the wall. The desks looked like they had seen better days when these children’s parents were in school. Some of the desks had no backs to the chairs and some of the chairs had no desks.

Although my spanish is limited we were able to communicate that morning. They connected to a smile and they knew I was there to help them. I left with feeling such a sense of gratitude that they wanted to learn how to communicate with me.

The next day I arrived with my friend David and we worked with 3rd graders and 6th graders again. I had some flashcards we played games with and at the end I gave them each a sticker. As they lined up so excitedly they spoke to me in english: almost all said thank you, some said have a nice day, others said see you tomorrow. I was hugged and hugged and hugged.

As I am writing this from my air conditioned villa that is just steps away from the Sea of Cortez, some ten miles away from Miramar I think of these children. I think of their smiles and gratitude. I know that their lives will be profoundly changed if they learn english. They won’t have to settle on being a gardener or a housekeeper. They will have the opportunity to go to college and learn a trade and become very successful.

Today I saw a new generation of hope for the children of Loreto. I plan on making a difference in the lives of the Loreto people. I can spend the time in the classrooms each week, but I want to encourage you to help, wherever you are.

When I left yesterday the principal came to us and spoke. Silvia, the english teacher translated for her, but in short she wanted to thank us for coming to her school. She told us the doors are open for us whenever we would like to visit.

My hope is that you, my friends in the United States and beyond will help the children of Miramar. I will be posting updates about what I am doing in the school each month. If you would like to donate I have a pay pal link set up at all you need to do is click on Tammy and that will take you to a page where you can see the paypal link to the right. Any amount will help the children of Miramar in Loreto. We will use the money to make copies of worksheets, I will purchase supplies that are needed each month. When friends come from the states I will have them bring things down. Thank you for your help.

Miramar Children 3

map on the wall of the 6th grade classroom

Miramar Children 2

Imagine sitting and trying to learn on a desk like this


Miramar Children 5

6th grade boys

3rd grade student

3rd grade student

3rd graders eager to learn!

3rd graders eager to learn!

working with the flashcards I brought

working with the flashcards I brought

learning to write in english

learning to write in english

proud of her work

proud of her work

stray dogs love the children at the school

stray dogs love the children at the school

fun learning English!

fun learning English!


Read more

"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
Wendy Price, Palm Desert, CA

Read More: Writing Teacher Reviews

Amherst Writers & Artists

Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.

writing retreats for women

International Directory of Writing Workshops