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. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Orientation is over, classes will begin

Today was the last day of orientation and I met wonderful people. I was the only native English speaker in my group but not the only foreign exchange student, two other girls were from Venezuela and Argentina. My team captains were so patient with my Spanish and I felt so comfortable. By the last day I was even up on stage dancing in front the entire student body orientation. Ok not by choice but I still did it and had a great time. I was even complemented on my rhythm and the director even said, "Hey you can dance". Pretty nice compliment for me! It encouraged me to sign up for Salsa dancing lessons 3 hours a week. I also met a wonderful girl from Hidalgo, a neighboring state, whose parents moved to Queretaro a few months ago and opened a restaurant. They invited me and two other friends to join them for dinner at "Meson de los Santos" or the great table of the Santos family. We were able to try a little bit of everything and I left stuffed. I watched the cook make tortillas and I ate them while they were still so hot. I learned you tear your tortilla and use your fork to spoon the fillings of different meats and chili sauces into one bite, if you put all your fillings into the whole tortilla it's a taco. They told me they are my family and I am always welcome to come to the restaurant anytime whether I want to eat, need help on my Spanish homework or just want to hang out. The hospitality is incredible in this country.

My neighborhood is quiet most of the time except for small bursts of activity. A guy selling tamales on his bike yelling "TAAAAMMMMMAAALLLLLLEEEEEEESSSSS". Every night, rain or shine, he'll be around selling tamales so keep an ear out if you are hungry. I'm going to let my stomach adjust a little more before trying them but it is a wonderful thing to hear. We also live near many churches that light fireworks in celebration of the saint of the day, so you hear them most nights, or on Sundays starting at 6 am. Students in my neighborhood play instruments, the violin and the piano can be heard at random times. The birds sing and the dogs bark, families organize, music blares. The sounds of a healthy neighborhood. Garbage is picked up everyday, except Sundays, either hung on hooks or in baskets that look like disc golf baskets without the chains. I live near a very lively part of town but far enough away to avoid the loud late nights. I keep asking myself what did I do to deserve such a great experience but I know my positive attitude invites positive moments, so I just remain thankful.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My first day in Mexico

My first day in Mexico was straight out of dream. I couldn't have imagined it better myself. I got off the plane at 6 in the morning feeling exhausted and nauseous. I had just ended a two week, 4 state, 6 flight trip around the west coast to visit my family. As I left customs with my bags, I expected to need to catch a bus to Queretaro but was relieved to see my name typed out on a piece of paper held by a driver who would take me to school. I slept the whole way after we watched the sunrise over Mexico city, with the friendly company of two students from Paris. When we arrived at the Tec we left our bags and started in the Housing Workshop, a small computer room full of foreign exchange students and local students making calls for them. Paula was so sweet and helpful. My first look at an apartment lead me to a dead end, but a refreshing walk. Roads, street lights and signs seem unorganized to me and crosswalks underutilized, but I kept an eye out and enjoyed the chaos. When I returned Paula came and told me someone was here with a room available, "the girl in the pink shirt". I approached her and we chatted a little bit. She took me to see the place and it had everything I was looking for: close to campus, big kitchen, bed and friendly environment. It was just what I imagined. I was moved in by 1 pm. I knew I was happy to live with international students or locals to help with my Spanish and I am lucky enough to have the best of both worlds, Sarah is from France while Erick and Yolanda are from Mexico. Yolanda took Sarah and I to El Mercado de la Cruz, the big open air market in Queretaro. She showed us her favorite stall, how to look for the best produce and seafood, and helped me get use to the peso. Yolanda made us a traditional dish for dinner, quesadillas with a rich white cheese similar to mozzarella but way better flavor. She was cute to apologize for the poor quality corn tortillas she used (store bought in a bag), but the kind available in the states so I didn't have a problem. She also made huitlacoche. A dish made with onions, jalapeno, a green herb I forgot the name of, fresh corn and moldy corn. The moldy corn has something added to it to make it mold and the kernels turn black and puffed up.

I squirted some lime on mine and went back for seconds. It is a mild flavored dish that I hope to make again myself. I am so lucky to have found this living situation, make friends already and be immersed in the culture. Not everyone I have met is as lucky to live close by, or with as great of company, or even have a place to live yet at all. I know I took a nontraditional risk at finding my own place to stay, but it has given me great rewards. This is what I had in mind when I decided to study abroad, a positive attitude can take you a long way.