I have experienced some culture-shock back in the US, but not as much as I had thought. As I had been thinking, it is weird to be surrounded by the english language again, and by people of my skin color. I always drew looks in Mexico just because I was white, and with time I hardly noticed anymore. But now I am noticing that I’m not getting looks from everyone I pass on the street, and it is a little weird. But all in all I have transitioned back quite easily. While I didn’t miss American food, I did miss Thai food, which is my favorite type of food. My first meal upon entering the US was at a Thai restaurant, and it was one of the best meals of my life. But aside from a few small adjustments, I have pretty much gone back into my old routine. My weekly schedule switched back to my American schedule, and it’s just like before I left. It almost feels like I was two different people and I just switched back: Mexican Aaron and American Aaron.
By the way, this is what Mexico looks like during the rainy season. We were in Oaxaca on the coast when two tropical storms hit at once. At one point we waded through waist deep water where the road used to be to get back to the hostal.
This was the view of inside our hostal.
After 6 weeks the program is now over. The last week was both fun and sad at the same time. It is sad to say goodbye, but lot of fun was had. Most of the group went out to a really nice salsa club. I have been taking salsa classes at school over the past 6 weeks, and I finally got the chance to try out my newly acquired skills. All in all it went pretty well and it was fun.
Lots of people are pretty anxious to get back to the states, but I honestly am not ready to go back. I suppose that’s a good thing, since I will be spending two more weeks in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Overall I had a great time in Mexico on this program. I kind of feel like I am moving all over again; this is my home I am moving away from. It doesn’t feel foreign anymore. Sure there are differences on the surface, but once you get below the surface people are pretty much the same. However, as incorporated as I may feel into this culture, I will always be regarded as an outsider because of my skin color. It is quite obvious that I’m not from Mexico, and that will always be a barrier. I guess this is perhaps what it feels like to hispanic people living in the US. Even if they were born in the US, they are often judged as Mexican.
In week 5 I remember feeling weird that I only had one week to my Mexican friends and family and leave. I will still be able to talk to them on facebook, but it is still sad to be leaving even though I’ve only been here a few weeks. Still, it’s cool that I will have people I can talk to in spanish online every now and then to my spanish up. I really like the city and I have loved living here in Mexico.
On the weekend, we took a trip to San Miguel. The town was a cool colonial town, but the most unique thing about it was the number of white people walking around. Apparently it’s known for having a large ex-pat community from the US. It was weird walking down the street and seeing other americans around; I’ve gotten so used to being the minority here. I think it will be a culture shock when I get back to the US just to be surrounded by white people speaking english again.
We went to a soccer game as a group, which was pretty fun. I was under the impression that the crouds at soccer games were really wild in latin america, but they were fairly mellow at this one. I think it’s because the Queretaro team doesn’t have a very big or crazy fanbase. One thing that shocked me at the game was that the couple sitting in front of me was giving their baby beer. The baby was pretty little, and they couldn’t get him to stop crying so they gave him some sips of beer. The baby was very mellow after that. They only gave the baby a few sips, so I don’t know if it was really that bad for the baby, but it was so strange to see.
Week 4 went pretty normally. Life in Queretaro keeps moving along, and another week is over. It´s weird how fast 6 weeks can go by. Week 4 is already more than half-way through the program, and only a couple weeks remain. I am not really ready to go back, I feel like I haven’t been here very long (I haven’t actually been here anyway).
Week 4 we went to a town called San Joaquin in the Sierra Gorda mountain range. The area was really pretty, but it wasn’t a great experience all in all. We went to a kind of resort with ziplines, rock climbing, archery, etc. types of things. We got completely ripped off, and everything was way overpriced so no one really wanted to do much after we learned how expensive it was. We all did the zipline, and it turned out that it was 50 pesos for one cable, about 10 seconds of zipline. That seems pretty expensive, even for US standards. In the US I’m pretty sure they would normally let you do all the cables after you pay for the zipline. It was pretty deceitful, and wasn’t helped by the low quality food they brought us for lunch. All in all, I think it was a learning experience for a lot of people in the group. It reminds me of why I don’t like to go to really touristy places.
I realize that it is well past week 3 at this point, but I will post anyway. I am definitely very comfortable here in Mexico at this point. I have kind of gotten into a rhythm and Queretaro almost feels like home now. Some people in the group have gotten homesick, but honestly I still feel great to be here. Other students have been craving hamburgers and they have been organizing hamburger outings, but honestly I don´t crave American food in the least bit. The food here is so much better than the food in the states, I can´t see myself ever getting tired of it. But I never really loved hamburgers that much anyway, so maybe that´s the reason why I don´t miss them.
We took a trip to go see Mexico City and the pyramids at Teotihucan, which was pretty awesome. The pyramid of the sun at Teotihuacan is apparently the biggest pyramid in the world (not the tallest, just the most massive). There are pyramids in Mexico City, but not much is left of them because the Spaniards used them to build cathedrals. It´s amazing to think that the City of Mexico is built on top of an ancient civilization. And that civilization was in turn built upon a different, older one. Things seem so much older here than back in the states. There aren´t really any ancient cities in the US.
These are the ruins in Mexico City. I like this picture because it shows the old and the new. In the back you can see the big cathedral built from the stones of these ruins.
My second week in Mexico has gone well. I am getting more and more settled in; I definitely feel a lot more used to living here. I am staying on top of my schoolwork, but it is sometimes hard to force myself to be responsible. It´s weird to be in Mexico and have homework to do; It´s like I´m on vacation, but I still have schoolwork to do. The workload is not bad at all for taking 12 credits in 6 weeks, but it´s still a little weird to be in Mexico with work to do.
Last weekend we took a trip to Guanajato, which was really cool. The town is very unique. The town was a mining town set up during colonial times for it´s gold. The entire town feels like it was chiseled out of the mountain that surrounds it. There are a bunch of streets that are underground, and there are even 4 way intersections in tunnels. I guess it was easier to go under the mountain than over it. The streets above ground were all quite disorganized, skinny and slanted every which way. There was obviously little city planning when it was first settled. The town was so unique and I have never seen a town quite like it.
I didn´t get any good pictures of the city streets, but here is a picture looking down on the city.
Here is another picture of Guanajuato. I believe this awesome-looking building is their university.
Also I mentioned it was a mining town. Here is a picture of the descent into a mine.
My first week in Mexico has been great. I am now feeling pretty comfortable and settled in here. Sometimes I even catch myself thinking in spanish at the end of the day. The city is really nice, and quite different from Eugene. The city has a very colonial feel to it, with cobblestone streets and lots of beautiful churches. The sidewalks are also really skinny here, and it is often not possible for two people to walk side by side.
This is a view at one of the main plazas in town. As you can see, the buildings are also much more colorful than in Eugene. Walking around, you see lots of reds, pinks and yellows. Also, some of the streets are made of red stones. I learned that this is because they come from a quarry near the city in which all the stones are red.
My spanish is going quite well. I talk with my host-mom everyday in spanish for a couple of hours, which is really good practice. Most of the other Oregon students don´t want to speak in spanish, but I made a few Mexican friends that I am able to speak spanish with. This was one of my goals before coming, and I have already done well with it. Before coming, I told myself that I wouldn´t just hang out with the other Oregon students; I wanted to meet Mexican friends and step outside of my comfort zone a bit. All in all, it has been a great week!
I actually arrived in Mexico last Thursday night, but I haven´t had much chance to get online until now. My arrival at the airport was fairly easy. Having been to Mexico before, the change to spanish- was not nearly as difficult as the first time. The hostel I stayed at was really nice. It was situated downtown at the main square of the city. Everyone there was really nice, and I felt very comfortable there.
This was the view from the terrace of the hostel.
Walking around the city, I could already tell that I was in a different country. Other than the fact that everyone was speaking spanish, the city had a very different feel than any US city that I have been to. We don´t have giant cathedrals in the US like the one in the above picture. Additionally, while walking around the city I found a lucha libre randomly going on in the park. They had set up a stage, and there was a big crowd gathered around to watch.
This is so Mexican — I love it!
The lucha libre really sealed the deal; At this point I knew that I was for sure in Mexico.
Before I make my pre departure post I just want to introduce myself really quick. My name is Aaron Cole and I will be studying spanish in Queretaro, Mexico for 6 weeks. I picked this trip because I wanted to better my spanish skills, and I know that there is no better way to do that other than to go to be immersed in a spanish-speaking country. I am minoring in spanish, so this program is a really great opportunity to get some credits that I need and greatly improve my spanish. I know several other people who have done this trip in the past and I have heard nothing but great things about is, so I am really excited to go!
(I am especially excited about the food)
I am going up to Portland tonight and catching a plane tomorrow morning, so the moment of departure is finally here. The entire summer I knew it was coming, but it hasn’t really sunk in until now. Part of me still doesn’t really believe all the way that is it happening. I know I will get off the plane in Mexico City and be overwhelmed with all the spanish, but I will get used to it.
One of my goals for my time in Mexico is to look as little as possible like a gringo. I realize that this will be extremely difficult since I am really white with blonde hair and blue eyes, but I want to fit in as much as possible. I want to experience the culture from the inside rather than see it from the outside like a tourist.
I will try to blend in better than these guys
Now I think I will go spend the next 24 hours or so switching my mind over to spanish so that I’m not so culture shocked tomorrow.