Week 5 – Mexico

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 – Mexico

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.

Week 3 Mexico

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.

IMG_2064[1]Teotihuacan

IMG_2075[1]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.

Arrival Home!

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Sorry for taking so long to post this last blog assignment! Things have been super busy since I got back. Well. Once we got to Texas I already debated getting on a flight that just so happened to be going back to Mexico….Courtney, Josh, and Sarah wouldn’t let me though :( I was excited to come back and see my family and friends but at the same time I didn’t want to come back to reality! I made so many friends there in Querétaro and had just started getting really close with quite a few of them that made it so hard to say goodbye. I’m already planning a trip back this Winter Break….haha we’ll see if that’s possible though.

So I went straight to Taco Bell the second I left the airport…which is ironic because you would think I want real Mexican food since I was there for a while…but I missed the American version of Mexican food…maybe cause I knew I wouldn’t get sick? Who knows. I can eat cheese again!! Which makes me happier than it should. I was also glad to escape from the heat for a while!

I definitely miss Querétaro…like…a lot. I would totally go back and live there for the rest of summer but I have another adventure coming up…I’m visiting my family back in Kuwait for about a month so maybe that will keep my mind off Mexico. Or maybe it won’t. I still keep in touch with my host parents and the friends I made. I skype with those friends to keep up my Spanish and then in return I help them with their English!

 

Take me back please…?

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Arrival Home

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Ayat and I didn’t want to leave! It was nice to be back in the US though, with smart phones that worked and announcements we could understand.

So, first of all I realized when I went to write this post that I had combined my arrival post with my Week 1 post- oops. Well, anyway, my arrival back in the US was a bit more gentle that my arrival in Mexico. For one thing, it was mid-day, not the middle of the night, and I was well-rested and with-it. For another, everything was in English and I have a lot of experience traveling in the US. It made me laugh though, even in five short weeks, I had gotten so used to planning things out in my head before I went to talk to anyone that I kept doing it even when there was no need. Customs was just as fast of the US side, but less stressful in that I didn’t need to worry that they would ask me a question I didn’t understand. It was a bit odd switching back to dollars, and no longer needing to recalculate prices in my head to figure out what things cost.

I already miss the beautiful architecture and cobble-stone streets, although it is nice to be able to cross the street without worrying again. I miss being able to walk everywhere, and I feel like I’m getting out of shape already. It felt a bit weird to drive after five weeks of being a passenger, but nice to have a seatbelt. Also, being allowed to flush the toilet paper again is glorious, enough said.

I’ve been missing the food terribly, my sweet grandmother tried to make me refried beans but they weren’t the same at all. My mission for this fall is to learn to cook real Mexican food, Querétana style. It is wonderful to see my family again though, and nice to be able to go traveling around at the drop of a hat.

American style American food is pretty scrumptious too :)

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And it’s nice to see old friends again.

Preparing to Return Home

Nooooooooooooooo!

Even after all the ups and downs I have had here in Mexico, that was my overwhelming feeling every time I started thinking about leaving. I love Querétaro, the people, the city, the food, the shopping, the ambiance, the plazas, and the nightlife. I will miss friendly welcoming smiles, and people who open their hearts and homes to us. I will miss the beautiful cobble-stone streets, even if I trip on the sidewalks a lot. I will miss the delicious food, corn tortillas with every meal, two ice cream shops on every block, and bakeries full of warm delicious bread at all hours. I will miss the street carts full of fun trinkets, beautiful clothes, and hand-made artisan crafts. I will miss the anthros with their loud music and videos to match, with lights flashing and people dancing Cumbia in the aisles. I will especially miss el Centro with the wide plazas, gardens and fountains, filled with people all hours of the day and night, talking and playing, watching, dancing and eating; heart and soul of the city. I will even miss the stares, and feeling like I always stand out. The one thing I have decided is that somehow, someday, I am coming back.

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Delicious taco.

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El Globo- one of my favorite bakeries.

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Street carts selling mostly food items.

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Artisan crafts and trinkets

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Plazas with people and music, dancing and life.

When I look back to what I was expecting coming into the trip, in some ways I was very close. The cobble-stones and a few of the buildings did remind of Europe, especially in the historic district. In other ways though, the city reminded me more of San Francisco with tall narrow houses crammed together and wrought iron bars on all windows.

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I also learned that Banda is more popular in Mexico than the stereo typical Mariachi.

I’m glad that the Spanish was not as difficult or scary as I though it would be before I came. It was hard to transfer my Spanish knowledge from the classroom to day-to-day interactions, but I improved little-by-little, and I never felt completely lost or overwhelmed (though I did feel slow sometimes).

Querétaro Week 4

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On Friday we decided to watch a game of fútbol (soccer) because it is a very popular sport in Mexico. I have to admit, I honestly didn’t enjoy it a ton. It was fun, but it was my first time watching professional soccer and I didn’t understand what was going on half the time. Also, people just weren’t all that energetic and excited in the area we were sitting. I kept comparing it to hockey in Alaska, where the whole arena is often screaming and chanting, and there is loud music at every pause. Most of the soccer audience was fairly quiet, although there was one section that was loud, and they all were dressed in team colors and on their feet for most of the game. I kinda wanted to be in that section, because at least then  it’s more exciting.

 

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On Saturday Ayat and I went to a Mexican BBQ with some friends. It was fun to get to go to a real fiesta, and the food was delicious, if a bit spicy. I tried the chorizo first, which wasn’t a very good idea because I felt like my mouth was on fire for about a half hour after. They also had carne a la brasa (grilled meat) and nopales (cactus) that were delicious and not spicy. After eating everyone sat around talking and drinking, and when most were a bit tipsy the dancing started. The dancing was really fun, mostly Cumbia and Bachata with some other styles mixed in, and some “American Style” too. The party was in someone’s backyard, and thankfully it was partially covered because it rained a ton.

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On Sunday we went to a water park not far outside of Querétaro. It was cloudy and mild, so not exactly the warmest day to get wet, but there were a surprising number of people there. It made me wonder how crowded it gets on a hot and sunny day. The group only went on two of the rides at the park- first a roller coaster, and then a water ride. I went on the water ride, which was a bit chilly, but it was humid enough that we warmed up quickly. After the water ride I walked around in my swimsuit (I didn’t want to get my clothes wet) and I got stared at a lot, which caused me to notice that mostly only pre-teens and younger were wearing only bathing suits. I’m really not sure why, but it could be a modesty thing. After that we walked to the poolside though, so then it didn’t matter as much.

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On both Monday and Tuesday I went to a popular gathering spot called College Bar. Now, College Bar is interesting, because it offers a wide range of very American foods and drinks, yet is popular with the Mexican young people. On Monday nights they have very cheap beer and the place is filled to the capacity, quite literally. They have a huge crowd outside waiting to get in, pushing and squeezing and so tightly packed that they can’t move, and new people are only let in when others leave. I found it interesting how much closer they are willing to stand than Americans do- and for long periods of time. I got caught in that crowd on Monday, and it was my second time in two days being pressed against strangers in a crowd. On the way home from the water park on Sunday we rode an overcrowded bus, and ended up standing and jostled against strangers for the better part of the trip. I hadn’t noticed much of a lack of regard for personal space before that, but the tight squeezes obviously bothered me more than the people from Querétaro. Those from Mexico also have little compunction about shoving their way through a crowd, which in the US would be considered rude.

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On Wednesday I went to a summer Jazz festival, which was really quite neat. It was a free concert and there were a ton of people who gathered in the Plaza to listen. There were two different groups who played, neither of which I can remember, but one of them was Latin American and the other was from New Orleans (and sang in English). Audience behavior in Querétaro was very similar to audience behavior in the US, clapping after solos and at the end of pieces, but quiet during them. Both groups got called back for encores, although there everyone chants “otra otra.”

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Thursday was the anniversary of Querétaro, and there was music and festivities everywhere. In the afternoon there was a large banda in one of the Plazas, I think it was a Mariachi group, but I don’t know for sure. At night there were beautiful fireworks over the Centro Historico. I wasn’t able to be in the Plazas at night, but I could see the fireworks from my bedroom window.

 

Querétaro Week Three

 

 

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On Friday we all headed out to Mexico City, starting with an afternoon in Teotihuacan to climb the pyramids. It was interesting to learn about the ancient cultural practices of the area, although the thought of the many human sacrifices made there through the years was disturbing.

 

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The building ruins were quite interesting to me as well. You normally see pictures and hear about the pyramids and the sacrifices, but rarely about the surrounding buildings and the people who actually once lived there. I didn’t understand everything that our guide told us, but of other ancient civilizations where those of high status lived closest to the cultural centers- places of religious or governmental importance.

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I decided that these stone steps were bleachers, as they have the right configuration. Seeing as how they are facing another temple, I think they might have been for the powerful people of the day to sit and watch the sacrifices, but I don’t know for sure.
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An interesting thing about modern Teotihuacan is the over-abundance of vendors. There are people everywhere shoving their merchandise in your face and offering low prices. Further from the pyramids there are established stalls offering the same goods (mostly) for higher prices, and areas with swarms of waiters pushing menus in you face. The sellers are for the most part indigenous people but unlike the street vendors in Querétaro, they were not dressed in traditional clothing.

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The next day in Mexico City we took a walking tour of town, starting with the Metropolitan Cathedral which is as large and ornate as any in Europe, but a different style. It was constructed over a period of many years and contains many chapels dedicated to different saints as well as two beautiful pipe organs. It is still in active use, and there were in fact two different services in progress while we were visiting (Sat morning about 10am)

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This was very interesting, a representation of the original island Tenochtitlán made as a monument next to the cathedral.

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A representation of the original piece, done in the original coloring. This carving was in the original Templo Mayor, and tells a (fairly gruesome) legend from the Aztec beliefs. The stone depicts the moon goddess Coyolxauhqu who led an attack by her siblings against her mother, the earth goddess Coatlicue for becoming pregnant by a hummingbird. The child sprang out as a fully grown warrior to protect his mother and dismembered Coyolxauhqu, placing her head in the sky as a comfort to her mother. It is thought that after their hearts were remover, human sacrifices were thrown down the steps (to where the disk was placed) and dismembered as Coyolxauhqu was, and their heads separated to the skull rack representing her head.

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A wall of skulls covered over in plaster from the original Templo Mayor, now at the nearby museum.

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Like the nearby cathedral, the Templo Mayor was built is stages, but it is far older and was the central sacred place of Aztec Tenochtitlán. The first temple was built around 1325, and the seventh and last before Hernán Cortéz arrived in 1519. Thousands of human sacrifices were made here over the years and many ancient offerings have been found.

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The Palacio des Bellas Artes is an important part of the historic center of Mexico City. The museum is built in a style reminiscent of the French, castles complete with miniature gardens and abundant marble and statues. It contains the National Theater, and murals by famous Mexican artists such as Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

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Our last stop on Saturday was to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum. I have learned a lot about Frida Kahlo in various art and Spanish classes, so it was really interesting to see her house and her art. Some of her art verged on disturbing, but there was a lost of interesting history in her house, and some traditional art that she had collected as well. One thing that I found fascinating was an article framed on the wall talking about Mexican high society and comparing it to that of England and East Coast America, with “drawing room teas” and the like. Her clothing was neat to see as well, and I loved the blend of tradition and fashion that she exhibited.

On Sunday we went to the Chapultepec castle, and then the National Anthropological Museum. They were both fascinating and full of history, but we were all a bit tired by then.

In my ESOL class we visited an English class again, and interviewed them about their education in Mexico, especially their experiences with learning English. It was really very interesting. It was quite obvious from listening to them that there is a big difference between the quality of public and private education in Mexico. In the US, private schools often offer a more specialized type of education or are religiously oriented, but in Mexico they offer a much higher quality education. A Mexican public school might have 50 students in one class with one teacher, where a private school would have 20 students and offer English classes from elementary. According to the students (and logic) it is very very difficult to learn much in a Mexican public school because there are simply too many students for the teachers to provide any sort of one-on-one guidance or tailoring. I would really like to teach in another country some day, but I don’t think I could deal with having 50 students at one time. Even the thought of it is overwhelming.

 

Arrival Home

Coming home ended up not being as difficult as I though it would. I was thinking that we would go through customs in Mexico, not in Texas, and was concerned I might say something wrong. However, we didn’t go through customs until we made it to Texas, and we all flew through! I was so ready to be home, to see my family and friends, but now am missing all of my Mexican friends and family! There was one portion of my trip from Queretaro to Mexico City that I had a problem with. The guy at the ticket counter, when he checked my bag, gave me the wrong ticked stub, and I had a hard time getting one of my bags, because I didn’t have the “right” ticket. The guy was asking me whats something specific in you bag so I know its yours…I thought and thought but all I could think of was clothing, luckily he got busy and just handed me my bag. I was very happy. Other than that the trip was problem free! We even made it to PDX a little early. This program taught me so much and I would not trade this summer for anything. I cannot wait to return to my home away from home and see my friends and family. Queretaro will always be home to me, and the people who live there will always be close at heart. I made friendships with people in our group that will last a lifetime, and we all even talked about going back to Queretaro in a year for a reunion! As for now I am happy to be in the good ole USA, but also cannot wait to return to good ole Mexico! Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 1.44.47 PM

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Return Home!

Arriving in the US was a great experience! Being able to understand everything that was said to me was a great feeling! I didn’t have to question whether or not I heard someone right! What has been interesting to me though is that since I’ve returned back I have answered some peoples questions in Spanish. Just simple questions that I answer yes to or say thank you but it sounds funny to me.

I’m thrilled to be back in the US with my family but do miss Mexico!
voodooclaire