Monday, December 22, 2014

I think I felt more outside my element coming back into the US than I ever did in Mexico. I felt like I adapted really well, and I knew I would have a hard time adjusting to things when I got home. I am only here for a month and then I return to Mexico for one more semester. And I'm so thankful for that. Before I left Mexico to come home for a Christmas visit I was feeling comfortable in Mexico, like it was starting to feel normal. I finally knew where I liked to do homework, get my produce, favorite place to get tacos and still exploring and discovering new surprises. I feel even more confident traveling and even more intrigued by what I don't know or haven't seen. A lifetime will never been enough to experience all of Mexico. Sounds so cliche but Mexico stole my heart my first visit when I was 13 years old. The food is rich, the people kind and humble, and the streets unchanged. Just before I left Mexico I went to the state of Oaxaca and fell even deeper in love with Mexico. I stayed two nights in Oaxaca city, dined on the most delicious mole, grasshoppers, and mezcal the region had to offer. The rooftop restaurant offered views of the famous cathedral, the street became flooded with a wedding parade of oversize puppets and folklore dances and even a small firework show. You just never know what you will you see when you go exploring. We made to a Sunday market outside of town an hours bus ride. A woman selling tortillas, the basket balancing on her head, her hair long and grey and braided in two and connected at the ends by a red ribbon. Languages other than Spanish fly through the air and mix with the smoke from the barbecue pits in the middle of the food stalls. We purchased two slabs of beef, onions, a chile and threw them on a grill like the others. We ate our food in the plaza in the center of the market. We just ate and witnessed the rhythm of this small Oaxaca town. We left the city and stayed a night high in the mountains, the altitude and climate were that of Pacific Northwest, and the views were vast and green with few house speckled about. We went on a short day hike and traveled on to the beach. We stayed four days on the beach in Oaxaca and did nothing but keep cool swimming in the ocean, obsess over the next fresh seafood meal we would eat, and read our books. We visited a eco reserve to visit crocodiles and Iguanas, and went swimming with sting rays. It was the perfect end to a perfect semester. The last thing I did before I left Mexico was see my very favorite Latin American band in concert in Mexico City. Every time I leave a place I have been in Mexico, I wonder how it could get any better, or in sheer amazement that was an even better trip than the last. Those experiences make me so happy and relieved I have one more semester in Mexico. Next semester I will travel to areas I have not been yet such as Puebla and Chiapas, I have plans to attend two more concerts, plus I have friends and family visiting in the Spring so I will get to play tour guide. I am beyond excited and hope I can keep up my Spanish while I'm home on break. On an educational note: I will be teaching in Spanish next semester in a public 5th grade classroom and hopefully taking another Literature class with my favorite teacher from last semester. Yeah! So much to look forward too.
Feeling outside my culture

Today is my first US celebrated holiday away from family. I have managed to enjoy every moment. Of course I would love to have family around, but I'm seeing that lives goes on elsewhere. Here is a just a normal day of finals, writing essays and presentations. Other students had big feasts with their friends, but the cloud of finals week still lingers overhead. It has been a wonderful semester, and I'm only half way done with my study abroad experience. Two weeks ago my friends and I ventured to Tequila, Mexico to view the oldest tequila distillery. I decided to save money on a tour train and venture by myself by bus and meet up with them.  I felt like I was walking through a museum as I saw the antique agave crushing wheel of stone and aged wooden and copper machinery. The center of the town had a colonial chapel like most of the towns in Mexico. I enjoyed some local food and headed back to the big city. From there we met up and headed to the beach for a few days of surfing and relaxation before finals. We stayed outside of Puerto Vallarte in a little surfing town where we camped on the beach under millions of stars. Just listening to waves crash and swimming with billions of bright bio luminescent plankton. They brighten like fireflies in the ocean when the water moves around them. To get to the beach where we camp we had to pass through a cemetery that was lit up with candles but pitch black and quiet surrounding it.  The atmosphere was eerie and beautiful all at the same time. I had the natural child like instinct of being afraid of ghosts or dead people but also felt intrigued by the glowing light and attention to detail of the grave sites. Their loved ones must visit every day. I didn't want to leave the beach but I had school work I needed to finish up. Only two more weeks and I will be in the great state of Oaxaca for a week. I will get more beach time then.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I love enjoying the city on my free time. Most of the time adventuring downtown solo. I feel more independent and free. I ask more people for directions and get into conversations with strangers more. Mostly fun, sometimes strange. Just take the bus, and get off and see what you find. Two weeks ago I found the art museum I had been hoping to find, turns out I found it on the free entrance day of the week. This past week I took my book to the park to read and watched as people moved about their day. I have never been to New York City but the park reminded me of Central Park must look like. Lush green gardens, with fountains and statues in the heart of a bustling, commercial city. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the garden.

Some friends and I took the bus to a pyramid outside of town. That is a church built on top of an indigenous pyramid during the colonial period. 

We also caught a soccer game on a Friday night. 

This is the view from the private school I teach at. It is located at the top of hill, once you pass through a very poor neighborhood and a public school. The difference between the two schools is astonishing (the private school not pictured). 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Queretaro Food Festival

This post is brief and may make you hungry, or not. Always try new things.

I loved visiting downtown Queretaro this past weekend to try the prehispanic food of the area at a festival in el centro.

Some of my favorites were stuffed squash flower, which I successfully made at home.

My new favorite protein is crickets. They are light, crunchy and salty, similar to a potato chip with legs and more protein. Cricket taco from a Oaxacan restaurant, and a cricket sope from the festival.

Rabbit tacos with mole sauce were so delicious.

The slow roasted sheep was juicy and greasy, a flavor so rich and unexpected.
The beautiful colors of the market. Love bringing home my fresh fruits and veggies home. The challenge is to eat them before they go bad they are so fresh!

Friday, October 10, 2014

This past weekend some international friends and I headed to the beach for some rest and relaxation during our long weekend to celebrate Independence day. We traveled nine hours by bus to Zihuatanejo and stayed in a beautiful condo overlooking the ocean.

 (View from our condo in Zihuatanejo one beautiful morning)                                (Mariscos Michigan, amazing seafood)
 It was a much more touristy city than the others I have visited but the people are so friendly and nice, we felt so welcomed. I traveled with a Canadian, German, Turk, French, and an Argentinian. We had a waitress take our picture with her after we sang her happy birthday. She said her dream was to learn English and travel to Jamaica. People were amazed by our diversity and happy we came to visit their town. We walked many places, to downtown to eat fresh seafood, to different beaches, and saw a live band play cover songs. We took the public bus, an old school bus, to Xtapa to see the other beaches. We were happy we were staying in the smaller town of Zihuatanejo where massive hotels were non-existent. We ate a few times at a restaurant called Mariscos Michigan, a name that made me laugh but the seafood was amazing. I had coconut shrimp one night and octopus the other.

We made it back to Queretaro late the night of the Independence Day celebration. We missed the part where the mayor addresses the city but it seemed like all of Queretaro was still downtown. A live band played music in the city center and people danced everywhere. Downtown was beautiful and joyful. We were tired and ready for sleep but happy we made the trip downtown to see the celebrations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Downtown Queretaro, Independence Day)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I feel like I have finally settled into my school routine, balancing my internship, two days a week in a private school, balancing my work load, five classes, plus enjoying my new surroundings. I have found that sometimes, you'll just be tired; get over it and enjoy what your world has to offer. I was happy I adventured out to a Cuban bar on a week night to experience live music and salsa dancing. I sat and watched in aw as women twirled, led by men they have never danced with before, yet somehow they spoke the same dancing language. It was a beautiful sight to see and encouraged me to take my dance lessons at the Tec more seriously. They have probably been dancing for many many years, we all start somewhere.        (San Miguel de Allende pictured)

Last weekend we took a day trip to San Miguel de Allende. A beautiful colonial city with the highest Caucasian population in Mexico, the place where gringos go to retire. The churches are plentiful and magnificent. Used in colonial times to convert and teach the natives the story of Christ. The churches are elaborate and Jesus is present in many scenes of suffering, think nativity scenes. The message may be clear to a historian, but I still struggle with how an indigenous person, speaking a completely different language might have interpreted the story of Christ when the Spanish arrived. It has been a truly enlightening experience to learn about Latin American history. I am able to go downtown to the market to mail a letter and see exactly what we talked about in class. Studying abroad is truly the best way to learn a subject, make a connection and experience the content. It is bringing together all of the things I have learned in school while allowing me to question more. I have a unique opportunity in Mexico to learn through my classes: history of education in Mexico, Latin American history, a literature class, spanish communication geared towards Mexican culture plus my internship working in a 5th grade classroom twice a week. I learn, I see. I learn, I do. I learn, I experience. Queretaro is a colonial city like that of San Miguel de Allende but with even more historical and governmental significance, on a grander scale. This morning I am off to the biggest, oldest market in Queretaro to buy a blanket and some produce, maybe walk around downtown a little bit. The country is getting ready for Independence Day next week and the town is turning green and red with pride. I love my city, my country and I wonder what I will learn today.

(Queretaro pictured)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My first weekend adventure

My past weekend was simply a dream. We took two buses and a taxi deep into the heart of Huasteca, a region in the mountains with a very jungle like climate. We arrived, six foreigners (two from the States, one from Canada, another from Turkey, and lastly, Germany) at los Tipis Friday afternoon and immediately felt relaxed and right at home.
 I woke up that morning and took a bath and read my book on the roof of the main yellow building and enjoyed views of green, dense jungle that covered the mountain side. Later that afternoon we walked up the hill to the surreal statue gardens of Edward James, a man from England who escaped the everyday world to create his own dream land. His property had waterfalls with swimming pools, massive buildings of detailed staircases and floral accents. He created his own world.

Later that evening we hired a tour guide to take us to El Sotano de guayguay's, a huge cave/ sinkhole and a good hike into the jungle. Every night 100,000's of sparrows return home. The first circle above in a group, then by some force of nature, dive into the cave at great speeds. They sounded like whips shooting into the cave. Green parrots crowded the trees around the caves and squawked at the show. Apparently it is good luck if you get pooped on, and all of us were lucky that day. We ate enchiladas huastecas from the local natives that take care of the land. Most of the tiny towns in the mountains are indigenous (I learned in class that Mexico has 69 different spoken languages thanks to the native population, and sadly indigenous languages world wide are rapidly going extinct and unspoken). Our bus ride home the next day transported many going to and from the big Sunday markets to feed their families or sell their products. I feel like we got to experience a whole different culture in Mexico. It was beautiful. It was a small insight on the different social situations in Mexico and the big difference between urban, city living and life on the outside.