Friday, December 21, 2007
The “VIP” movie experience was so fun! We went to Plaza Galerias on Wednesday, the movie theatre is in the “nice” mall, and we saw “La Brujula Dorada,” or The Golden Compass. We got to the mall not knowing any show times or even how everything worked. We went to the VIP lounge and bought our tickets, which were about $6 each and then sat at the bar to wait for our show. We were there at 9 and the show didn’t start till 9:30 so we had a drink. We had cervezas with salt and lime juice, the salt was around the rim of the cup was so fine and delicious with the corona! We went in the theatre around 9:20 and found it to be so comfortable. The chairs really were like lazy boys and they were so spacious. There were about 15 rows of chairs and the chairs were paired in twos. Great for a date! When we purchased our tickets, we had to choose where we wanted to sit and since we bought them last minute the only two seats together were on the 2nd row, but it really wasn’t that close. It was not uncomfortably close like you would think. So there were waiters who took our food order and Janae ordered sushi and I had a delicious sandwich with French bread and cream cheese, tomatoes, ham and salami. Any time you needed anything, you just had to push a button and a little light lit up next to your chair. It was so cute! I mean, I know we have places where you can eat and drink in the movie theatres in the U.S., but this was fancy. Anyways, the movie was alright, entertaining for sure.
Last night Janae and I wanted to go for salsa lessons at Mambo Café. We have heard about this place since day 1 and wanted to check it out and learn to dance! On their website it said to be there right at 8 p.m. So….we’re dressed all cute with our skirts and heels and arrive right at 8, but could not find the door to the place! We didn’t know how to get in and when we finally asked these two guys who were sitting outside what to do, we were told that the salsa teacher was a “no show.” Let down is an understatement! So we went across the street to “Pub,” that was the name of the place, to have a drink and waste time because we knew Mambo Café would at least pick up around 10 or 10:30 and we wanted to dance. We were the only customers in Pub and it was so weird! Given it was really early, but it was still weird. They had a pool table and we played a couple games but by the time we were done it was only 8:45, so we decided to go to Carlos & Charlie’s restaurant, which was nearby. The atmosphere at that place was way better, there were people and waiters and food! We ordered pina margaritas, shrimp cocktail and clams. I have never had clams before, but they were soooo good! I’m definitely ordering them again soon. They came on a plate that was piled high with sea salt and the clams were covered in melted cheese and spinach. Delish! The shrimp cocktail came in a big margarita glass full of cocktail sauce, lemon and onions and they brought crackers and bread to eat with our food. Again, the waiters were so interested in what we were doing here in Mexico yada yada. One of them came over and made us flowers from napkins! With his lighter he burned one side of it and twisted the napkin until it really looked like a flower, Janae got a carnation and I a rose. After eating and drinking we decided to go back to Mambo Café and we ended up having a great time. We get dropped off by the cab right outside the place and there was a line to get in, not really a line, but tons of people standing around to enter and there were guys picking and choosing who could go in. Janae and I were picked out of the crown instantaneously and walked right up to the front and inside with no problem. They love us. The inside of Mambo Café was crazy. We had to walk through this long, dim lit hallway with like paper covering the walls to get to where you sit, drink and dance. You could tell there was stone behind the paper, I wonder why they covered the walls with that stuff. Cheap but cool décor. Anyways, so we joined some people who had a table on the bottom level where the dance floor was, there were like 3 levels that faced the stage. It was very open and spacious, until the live band came on and everyone rushed the dance floor! Janae and I would be dancing together and random people, even like couples that were dancing, would grab us and put us in the middle of this “circle” they were dancing in and cheer us on. It was so crowded that you couldn’t dance without bumping into people, it was hectic. The live music was great, just what we needed. There were lights flashing and fog, so fun! Anyways, we got tired of dancing, like literally my legs hurt from bustin moves, and we decided to head home.
WE GRADUATED FROM KUKULCAN TODAY! We passed with A’s and got a diploma and everything! I can’t believe I have completed 2 years worth of Spanish in 7 months. I was so fearful when I found out I had to take 2 intermediate years of a foreign language (meaning you have to take beginner 1 & 2 and then intermediate 1 & 2). I had no choice, my major required it. No way around it, just through it. I took Latin in high school, which was no help, and had no previous experience with the Spanish language. I am terrible at English grammar and expected the worse. I was so scared because I had no chance for failure; if I failed a Spanish class, my expected graduation date could have been delayed and I wasn’t having that, even though I love college and want to stay in as long as possible! So it was Span 1 and 2 over the summer, 3 in the fall and 4 in the winter. Worked out perfectly. I really can’t believe its over, I’m kind of weirded out. Anyways though, we took our last tests today which went well. I scored an 87 on the grammar part and a 100 on the oral exam. I now know all of the verbs, tenses, moods, conjugations, irregulars, etc. Not perfectly, but I know them and how to use them. I am far better at reading and writing than I am speaking, but plan to improve that when I am back in the states. I don’t want to let the language out of my head, I want to use my Spanish knowledge when I begin my career, not sure how yet though. I also want my children to be bilingual. Probably trilingual. Anyways, after school today there was a little graduation ceremony held for Barbara, Janae and myself and our teachers and the staff sung us a song in Spanish. We were each given a Kukulcan t-shirt, our “diploma” and transcript to receive school credit. This trip was totally worth it, but I am SO GALD Janae was here to go through this immersion experience with me. I really don’t know what I would have done without her. Before I left, I was so confident that I was going to be fine and not be home sick, but if she had not been here I would have been totally down and just lonely. This really was a culture shock. I think two weeks was just the right amount of time though, although my teachers beg to differ. I could not imagine being here for any longer, although I would like to come back to visit one day. The city was beautiful and full of life. Great place. Great experience.
We are going out with a bang tonight, we plan to make our way to Starbucks here in a little bit and then meet up with some friends from school at one of our favorite places, Universal restaurant, around 9. Sleep tonight is a must because we are having a cab pick us up at 7:45 to get to the bus station at 8. The bus will leave Cuernavaca at 8:20 and take us to the airport in Mexico City, which is about an hour and 15 minutes away. Our flight is at 1:25 and they told us to get there 3 hours early. America here we come! I cant’ wait to see my peeps. It feels like it’s been forever!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
So, I am officially living with Janae in the Vitali Suites on campus at Kukulcan. She is the only one living here at school, so its kinda scary, plus it is more convenient for us to hang out and do stuff together when we live together as opposed to having to call each other on the cell phone (and hope that the call goes through) and me take cabs from the school to my host family’s house and back by myself, etc… So, here I am.
On Monday we had classes and after that, with map in hand, we walked our dirty clothes to the Laundromat. After that we went to Wal-Mart (yes! There is a Wal-Mart here) to get some grub and some snacks for our lunch break at school and for breakfast in the mornings. We bought Honey Bunches of Oats, bread, milk, cream cheese, pineapple, tomatoes, cucumbers, diet Pepsi, macaroni and cheese, and Lean Cuisines. Before we stocked the kitchen, we would walk to a nearby store (there are 2 of them) to buy chips and diet coke, at least now we can eat at our convenience.
On Tuesday we picked up our laundry and what an experience that was! We got to the place and our stuff was not done drying yet so we said that we would come back. We went across the street to get some diet cokes and were asked to take a picture with the daughter of the store owner, who was like 5. The older woman and her daughter were just so excited to see Americans. She asked where we were from and what we were doing here, etc. I mean, we feel like celebrities everywhere we go. Especially when random people yell at us and take pictures. The whole time we were trying to have a convo with the woman, this guy across the street was snapping away and waving us down. We were like “really?” After we were done chit chatting we went next door to a thrift shop and it was full of junk. I mean, I know that’s what thrift stores are, but it was tiny and it had the most random things! Anyways though, we got our clothes and came home and ventured to Plaza Galerias, which is a “nice” mall here in Cuernavaca and we ate at Chili’s!!! This mall was really clean and had some American stores and a food court with like Burger King and Dominos. The big department store there was Liverpool, but it was weird because there were no doors to it, it was like just a huge entrance that stretched out along the wall and there was like a Krispie Kreme store next to it with no doors also, so you just walk in and out as you please. Hope that made sense. We wanted to compare the Chili’s in Mexico with American Chili’s and the food tasted exactly the same, if not better, maybe that was because we were craving it so much though. We had chips and queso and delicious margaritas, and of course I ordered my usual Turkey sandwich and Janae ate a chicken sandwich. The waiters were so friendly and all wanted to know where we were from and why we were eating there instead of eating local food and we explained that we missed it. After eating, we walked around a bit and bought some really cute heels for $40! We found that to be a great deal. We also went into “Pull and Bear,” which was set up like Abercrombie & Fitch with dim lights and loud music, but the style of clothing was different. Like on the men’s side, right as you walked in, there was a display of t-shirts that were bright colors with Sesame Street characters on them. I mean, I don’t know what guys in the U.S. would wear things like that, and they were for kids our age. They had trendy, cute things though for girls and prices were about the same. We bought sweaters for $30. We left the mall and came home to do our homework (we are such the good students) and got ready to go out. We heard from the staff at school that “Harry’s Bar” is great on Tuesday nights because its “International night” and students from other schools around the area gather there. So, we got there around 10 and it was free bar till 12. (But you would all be proud that we did not take advantage of that as much as you would think!) When we first got there the place was dead, there was like one group of local guys who were trashed and they were singing loudly to the songs in Spanish and dancing around, they were entertaining to watch. We met some friends from school there and hung out till about 1. We met a guy who had lived in New York and knew very good English, but it was hard to hear him over the music. I don’t know how “International” it was, but there were certainly some people of other origins there. The music that they played was what they meant by “International,” like they played Fergie, The Cranberries and other American songs and there was a screen where the music videos were being projected on. It was a cool place, and when we left it seemed to be really “happening.”
Today at school wasn’t bad, the days go by fast when you think about it because there are so many breaks, but the Spanish is tiring. It literally wears my brain out, its grammar for 3 hours, then conversation class for 2. Conversation classes are the more fun ones because we just talk about different topics. I have the same 2 people in both my classes, Barbara, who is a mom from Colorado, and Sonia who is here for a 12-week program, she’s from Houston. Yesterday in conversation class the teacher just had Barbara and I (because Sonia was out with E-coli) talk to each other and ask questions to get to know each other, I asked her what she liked to do, where she has lived, what she is studying, how many kids, their names, etc and she did the same minus the kids part. Today we read “en voz alto” a little background about tattoos and then there were questions that we read aloud and we just got to talk about how we felt, what we thought, our opinions. After school we made some mac & cheese and it has never tasted so good! I think tonight we plan to go to the movies, Wednesday is 2-for-1 tickets, and we’ve been told it’s a pretty cool experience because you can sit in a “VIP” area and lounge in a lazy boy and be served food and drinks. So, we’ll see!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Where to start? Friday…we took our exams at school and got outta there and I went to my host family’s house to eat and gather some things because I planned on staying with Janae all weekend. So Priscilla and I go home and have this really good soup with vegetables in it and these really little beans and our mom asked us to try it with banana slices, estaba muy bien! After eating, Janae and her parents scooped me up from the house to hang for the weekend. Janae and I got ready and went out to the downtown area to a place called “El Pomodoro,” it was a cute little pizza- pasta restaurant. We were there with 3 other students from school and after eating, decided to go to another restaurant nearby. It was cold out and the restaurant we went to gave us shawls to wear thank goodness because we sat on the patio. I really liked that place. It was in the middle of the “square” that was downtown and it was a really cute Italian place. There was a live band playing Gypsy Kings upstairs at a private party and the atmosphere was nice. We were not there for long and afterwards went to a club that was within walking distance. We didn’t know what we were getting into…there were strobe lights and a fog machine and that place was hectic! We were for sure the only tourists in there. To make a long story short, I lost my camera and it sucked! Janae and I were dancing and I just had it on my wrist and it must have fallen off, but I didn’t feel it because I had a little wrist purse on as well. Anyways, we did what we could to get it back, like tell the employees and the front door man, but shit, we’re in Mexico. I don’t blame the person for taking it, but it just sucked. So, pictures will be postponed.
ANYWAYS, on Saturday we went to the city Tepoztlan with Ana Garcia, the woman who Janae’s mom was taking cooking classes from. She is an amazing chef and seriously is so cute! Here is the link to her page: http://www.lavillabonita.com/
She works in Cuernavaca but lives in Tepoztlan and speaks English very well. She is married to a man named Rob, who she met when he was studying Spanish here years ago for University of Texas in Austin. She took us under her wing and could not have been more hospitable. We met her for breakfast Saturday morning and after that headed to Tepoztlan, which was a 35 minute drive from Cuernavaca. My jaw was dropping at how gorgeous the scenery was in that city. There were so many mountains and they were so beautiful; like out of a movie or something. So we went to a market there for jewelry and other souvenirs and the mountains were surrounding it. It was just amazing to look up and there be a huge cliff right there. Very surreal. The market itself was beautiful too, except for the food part. I was already not feeling very well and we would walk by and see dried crickets or whole goat heads- mmm. The smells were just undescribable, at times I had to breathe through my mouth. The vendors had clothing, pottery, jewelry, hand made soaps and lotions, little trinkets, shoes, cooking utensils and other random things to sell and most of the shops were set up along with one major street. It was fun to see so many different things but like most markets, you just keep seeing the same things over and over with the vendors. It was great and I got some cool stuff. Janae and I got these really cute skirts and I also got a pair of really pretty silver earrings. After this market, we went to another market in another city about 30 minutes away, which I forgot the name of, but this market specified in pottery and we were for sure the only tourists there. This market was not so “touristy,” like the town was really small and unknown and that market only goes on during the weekends, as opposed to every Wednesday and Sunday like the one in Tepoztlan. I saw real poverty there and it was hard to imagine what these people go through everyday. Many people were begging for money and were in need of new clothes or a shower or even shoes. It really opened my eyes and made me feel good that I was helping those people when I bought things there. Pottery there was dirt cheap. You could buy 5 or 6 pieces of nice, big pottery for like 20 bucks. I couldn’t load up because I’m scared that the pieces I did buy will break or that I won’t have enough room or something. We left there after about an hour and went to Ana’s home in Tepoztlan for dinner; she was kind enough to have us over. Her husband cooked steaks and she made a delicious potato dish, with cheese, cream and peppers. She also served fresh sliced cucumber with salt, pepper, vinegar and some olive oil. Soooooo good! It was so simple, but so fancy looking and seriously to die for! So we ate at her lovely home, which was picturesque. Her house is one of those really cute little Mexican looking ones, with bright yellow paint and vines growing all over it and flowers everywhere. The front of her house faced the mountains and there was a hammock on the front porch that looked so relaxing. Her golden retriever, Chuy, meets you as you come to the front door. The inside was filled with beautiful items. Like a unique, carved wood couch with pretty blue cushions, this huge mirror that had intricate detail that hung in the living room and made the place feel so spacious, cool Mexican designed runners on their tables and just really pretty stuff. The house was really open and airy too. After eating we caught some cabs home and crashed out. We slept like babies since we were up so early.
Today, we were up by noon and met Janae’s parents at the Universal restaurant that we have become fond of for lunch. After that we walked around and did some shopping. We are back at home now and Janae’s mom has been kind enough to treat us all to massages from this lady Ana referred her to. I am up here in about 20 minutes and can’t wait! I haven’t had a massage in a long time and really could use the tension release. We chose to have an exfoliating ones with mango lotion and sugar.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Hola! Thursday night was wild. After school Janae, her stepdad David, Ranae, who is another study abroad student and a native speaker, and I walked to Plaza Andromeda for 2-for-1 beers. Can’t pass that up! We met at this little pizza place and sat outside to enjoy the hot day. We downed a couple and soon after that David had to go get Janae’s mom from cooking school so Janae, Ranae and I decided to go downtown. We went to a restaurant called “Universal,” pronounced ooo-knee-bear-sal and had some nachos and wine. Nice mixture. Janae’s parents met up with us and we took one too many tequila shots, but it was so much fun! While eating and drinking, kids come up to you with arms full of jewelry, like necklaces and bracelets, and try to sell you things. The little girls are so sweet you can’t help but buy from them, so I purchased some beautiful turquoise earrings. The girls are so young; maybe 7 or 8. Señors would also come up with baskets they had woven and pottery and masks they had made, but we wanted to go to the “mercados” to purchase those kinds of things. So after eating, drinking and dancing we headed home, to the school where Janae and her parents are staying. The funny thing is that I had to call my Mexican family to let them know that I wasn’t coming home that night, but was kind of tipsy and think I made a complete fool of myself while leaving a message in Spanish. Here is what I think I said: “Hola Susie! Es Miyan y voy a quedar con mi amiga en la escuela anoche, gracias!” Janae joked that I might have said “Esta bien?” at the end, which means “Is that okay?” but I was leaving a message. Anyways, it was funny. We were home and in bed by like 10, but had to get up early for our exams today (Friday). I was freaking out because I didn’t know what to expect, but they weren’t that bad. The grammar test was harder of course, but I passed and everything was fine. It was mostly over Subjunctive, which I have been familiar with since Spanish 2. So I’m ahead of the game and only have my Spanish teachers to thank. Little shout-out: Gracias Alba y Beale-Rivaya! Anyways, so tonight Janae and I made plans to meet Ranae and Luise at the restaurant we ate at last night (Universal) and after that we plan to walk around and maybe hit up some other hot spots. Will fill ya in.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Yesterday was a holiday in Mexico, Dia de Guadalupe, and even though we had to go to school, other people here were off work and celebrating…loudly might I add. All last night Priscilla and I heard what we thought were either cannons or some sort or really loud machine, but in fact, the random loud BOOMS that we heard were fireworks. The fireworks were not like normal fireworks; they were not pretty and were not for entertainment purposes, they were for celebrating. We heard them all day while in class, like they would go off every 20-30 minutes, and the loud noise actually made you jump because it was SOOOO LOUD. After school, Arturo, who is one of the instructors at Kukulcan, took the 8 of us on an excursion to Chapitel Guadalupano, where there is a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and to Templo de San Jose, a church that was built in 1538 by the French. The two monuments were right next to each other and nearby there was a huge market going on because it was a holiday. Parents dressed their little girls in those bright colored, floral stitched dresses and the little boys wore very cultural clothes and had mustaches and side burns drawn on their faces. This was done even to children who looked like they should not be out and about yet. The church was packed and so much was going on at once. We were all just standing there observing for a while and we would see people begging for money, moms breast feeding in public and people eating and drinking things that I have never seen before; I didn’t know what half of the stuff was. Of course there was corn, but there was also lamb and goat, these moist sticks of what looked like wood that you suck on and they were soaked in Tequila, tons of sweet bread and cakes that would have cute sayings on them like “por mi jeffe” (for my boss) or “por mi novio” (for my boyfriend), fresh fruit with whipped cream and a variety of juice drinks, like pina colada, strawberry, pineapple…they tasted like daiquiris without the alcohol. There were many set ups for picture taking around the church “Templo de San Jose.” There would be like backdrops of Jesus with Virgin Mary and right next to them would be a goat and some chickens tied up and it was at least 80 degrees so I felt bad for them. There was one set up that had a similar background and, sitting on a block of hay, there was one of those little horses that are outside of Wal-Mart that you pay 25 cents to ride and kids could sit on it and have their picture taken. The church sessions ran every hour or so and when people finally cleared out we were able to go in and take some pictures. The detail of the church was exquisite and the place was just gorgeous! After seeing the monuments and experiencing the market we cached a cab back to school. Janae, Priscilla and I decided to hang out in Janae’s room (she lives on campus) for a while and use the internet, relax and then go for Italian food. It’s a challenge doing things and going out because of the language barrier; it’s actually kind of intimidating not knowing really where you are and where to go and how to get back, etc…but we got over it and had Maricello, who lives on campus and tends to the gardens, sweeps and is in charge of the school’s “up keep,” call us a cab. He is so nice and helpful although at times we can’t understand each other. We told him we wanted to go to “Marco Polo,” an Italian restaurant in the downtown area of Cuernavaca and he wrote down the name of the street that it is on and he even waited with us for the cab to make sure the driver knew where to take us. In the cab ride on our way to the “Centro,” we saw like a parade of people dancing, singing and shooting off fireworks in celebration of the holiday and people were standing outside of their houses and shops to watch the event. It was really cool. We got to the “Centro” and were surprised at how cute the little downtown area was. There are churches are in like the middle area of downtown and surrounding them are shops and restaurants, like a square. We walked into this outdoor shopping area where the restaurant was and there were little stores full of souvenirs, clothing and collectibles. We were hungry and decided to shop later so we went upstairs to Marco Polo. The restaurant we ate in was perfectly romantic. It was very “classic Italian” and must be a popular tourist attraction because they even had menus in English. We sat upstairs on a balcony overlooking downtown and in the background we could see mountains; the scenery was picturesque. Janae and I ate pizza, mine with black and green olives and hers with ham and pineapple, and Priscilla ordered fettuccini alfredo. Of course we drank wine with our meal and a glass was only $1.20! Our entire meal was around $20 and the portions were large, pretty good pricing. After dinner we walked around the street that the restaurant was on and Janae and I bought these really cute sun dresses with floral stitching, we had seen the little girls wearing them at the market earlier and we wanted one, we also bought some flip flops for 4 bucks! Doesn’t get better than that! There are so many little shops that sell shoes on the side of the road, its so cool. After our little shopping spree we hailed a cab and returned to the school so Priscilla and I could get our bags and go home. More to come.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Yesterday was great! I woke up and had clean clothes because my bags arrived. I had coco krispies for breakfast with a side of fresh fruit: grapes, melon and mandarin slices. Delicioso! School at 9 and then Priscilla and I came home for lunch with our host family. We sat down for lunch with Susana, the dad, Juan, and one of the sons, Marcos, who I am guessing is in his 30’s. We had vegetable soup with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, peas, corn and tomatoes for our appetizer. It was really good and salty. After the soup we had chicken with like a corn sauce. It was really good, but lacked in the salt department and needed a little sprinkle. We drank lemonade and had a chopped and screwed conversation while mambo music played in the background. The dad has a pretty cool music set-up in the living room with surround sound that he is pretty proud of. Marcos invited Priscilla and I to a party, or a “reunion,” for businessmen that him and his dad work with or for. Not really sure what it is exactly that we will be going to, but will give more details Friday. Priscilla and I just nod and say yes a lot. We told Susana that we wanted to go to the golf course here in Cuernavaca and she told us to get ready and that we had some other places to go also. So, we leave with Susana and Marcos, clueless about if she is going to drop us off at the golf course or if we are even still going there or what! We just go with the flow here. But anyways, we ended up dropping Marcos off at work and Susana took us to Hotel Camino Real Sumiya. Sumiya means “place of peace, tranquility and longevity” and those adjectives perfectly describe the atmosphere of this hotel/ palace. I have never seen anything like it; I want to live there. The residence belonged to Mrs. Barbara Hutton Woolworth, who was heiress to the Woolworth’s fortune. The construction of the place lasted six years and was finished being built in 1959. Mrs. Woolworth was married, for the 7th time, at this palace to a Vietnamese man named Raymond Doan Vinh Na Champassak. The palace is completely themed Japanese and it is simply beautiful beyond words. We met a nice man there from Michigan who was nice enough to take our picture. Priscilla and I were in complete amazement at how spacious and calm the place was. The stress level was like minus 20. Anyways, after leaving the hotel we attempted to go to the golf course in Cuernavaca, but it is in a restricted community and the security guard told us that it was already closed and that we could come back another day. Susie said she would take us Friday, so we’ll see. After the golf course attempt, we went to the grocery store, or the “super,” and Susie bought food for us to eat. Priscilla bought guava and I bought an Asian pear and some other goodies to try out. We get home and help Susie with the groceries and finish our homework, yes, tarea cada noche! It is dinner time around 8 and Susana, Juan, Priscilla and I all eat together in the kitchen at the little bar that they have. Breakfast and dinner are eaten at the bar in the kitchen and lunch is eaten at the table in the dining room. We had tuna and crackers and peanuts for dinner. The tuna came in a can already mixed with corn, peas and carrots and Susie just added mayo. The crackers were Saltines but it was cool because instead of the crackers coming in long bags that you have to twisty tie after each use, they came in individualized packages with like 4 crackers in them so the rest of the crackers in the box won’t get stale so quickly. Maybe they have this in America, but I have not seen it and it was cool. With dinner, Juan made me a drink with Cabrito Tequilla, coke and lime juice. It kind of tasted like a margarita. After dinner, for dessert, rich hot chocolate is what is served. At the supermarket earlier Susie told us to pick out some desserts that we liked, there was a whole section with fresh sweet bread and treats of that sort. So, I chose a sugar cookie with sprinkles and we also got like crescent rolls with chocolate baked into them. Priscilla picked out a muffin that was half chocolate, half vanilla and it was soooo good! We always dip our desserts into the hot chocolate and eat them that way. It’s cute how they do things here.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
After a breakfast of fresh papaya, bananas and watermelon, Susana took us to school. We had to be there at 8 a.m. this morning for orientation; usually classes will begin at 9. To my surprise, there are only about 7 other students studying at Kukulcan this winter break. Good thing about that is more one on one time with teachers, more time for explanation and questions…bad thing is that we wont meet so many other study abroad students and there is not a big group to travel in.
From the outside, the school looks like nothing. It is in the middle of a community and there are no signs for it or anything, just an address. Even cab drivers have a hard time finding the place! The school is breath-taking though; it is very open and spacious. You must ring a door bell and say your name into the speaker to enter and then you walk downstairs to the office area, which is in like a fancy enclosed patio. The doors are all glass and they remain open at all times because of the beautiful 70 degree weather. If you exit the office area and walk outside, you walk into a little garden with a fountain in the middle of it and there are tables set up around the garden for “conversation” classes. The grammar classes are held inside classrooms, so the teachers have access to a dry erase board, and conversation classes are held outside in the beautiful gardens. The school seems to be brand new or just really well kept. Everything is spotless, but that could be because there is a man who lives on-campus and all I ever see him do is sweep. Nonetheless, the school is beautiful, seriously like a paradise. Janae and I are thinking maybe the school was a really big house or something before because one of the bathrooms on-campus looks like an old bathhouse. Like, the floor is made of marble and when you walk in the ceiling is being held up by pillars and there is a shallow tub in the middle of the room with gaudy faucet handles and whatnot. That could just be the design of the place, but whatever.
Our daily school schedule is grammar classes from 9:00- 11:40 with two 5-minute breaks and then we break for a 15-minute lunch. This gave Janae, her step-dad David, another study abroad student named Sonia and I just enough time to walk to a nearby shop to buy some snacks. We bought trusty Diet Coke (or as they call it Coca-Cola Light) and some Ruffles that were in a green bag and instead of tasting like sour cream and onion, they were like a spicy cheese flavor, good but weird. After lunch, we have conversation classes from 11:55- 1:40 with one 5-minute break, and then we have an extra curricular class. The “elective” class is always at the end of the day and there is something different everyday. For example, today we had a cooking class in the kitchen on-campus and we made “Tinga de Pollo.” We shredded chicken, diced tomatoes and onions, pressed tortillas and fried them. Then we ate them. Tomorrow we have a “cultural” class, Wednesday is the “excursion” day, Thursday is “vocabulary,” and Friday is the arts and crafts day. Exciting stuff!
School ends at 2:35 and Susana was waiting in the office area for me and Pricilla when we finished with cooking class and she took us home to eat lunch. We had rice and meat with mushrooms. I couldn’t tell you what kind of meat it was; it was very thin and almost flavorless. The meat, mushrooms and rice were served with tortillas and I made one and could not even finish it. I was still getting over the “Tinga de Pollo.” After the meal, Susana took us to an underground shopping center where I could exchange my dollars for pesos. I exchanged $64 and received $680 pesos, that’s a lot of $100 bills to carry around, I kind of felt like a baller even though it really wasn’t that much money. Whatev.
I am officially in Cuernavaca, Mexico!!! I got here, but not without a hassle. My flight arrived to Dallas (from Austin) over an hour late, which was stressful because a) I was supposed to deliver Janae’s passport to her so she could board her flight and b) I had to catch a flight myself that was already boarding when I was “checking in.” Needless to say I was running through the airport like a madwoman! But, I made it…without my bags!
I arrived to the airport in Mexico City around 4 p.m. and made my way to the immigration lines, then to baggage claim. Well, baggage claim is not so simple here. It was pretty shocking- little kiddos running around screaming everywhere and bags were not going around on a conveyer belt like in America. The baggage claim part was confusing and it seemed like no one knew what to do or where to go…or it could have just been me. In the airport in Mexico City, there are people putting all of the suitcases on the floor and you just kind of walk around and find yours. Not very many people could understand English (I know, I know I’m supposed to be speaking only Spanish, but I was completely freaked out) so, I ended up asking people at the service desk where to look for my bags and they informed me that they didn’t make it to Mexico City yet, they were on a different plane than the one I was on and that they would have to be delivered to my temporary address here in Mexico. They reassured me that my belongings would get to me the next day and I had no choice but to trust them. So, I go through customs bag less, feeling so naked, and meet up with Janae’s parents and our chauffer at the restaurant, Freedom, in the airport located right outside of the “customs” area. Boy was I happy to see Janae’s parents! So, we had some Mexican beer and waited for Janae (because she was unable to get on the flight with her parents) - I’m telling you, it was a hassle!
So, we leave the airport and our chauffer drives us to Cuernavaca, which was about an hour drive from Mexico City. It was dark outside at this point and we couldn’t see much of the scenery, but we were able to see outlines of mountains and Mexico City reminded me of Israel. The buildings were old and there was a lot of congested traffic with horn-happy drivers. There were tons of busses and taxis and we saw an above ground Metro. Public transportation= no es una problema! I’m not sure if this is only for Mexico City or for all of Mexico, but it is mandatory to not drive your car (if you own one) at least one day a week. Supposedly the last number on the license plate dictates which day you are not allowed to use your car and you are heavily fined if you do. This is what I have heard.
I arrived a la casa de mi familia around 8 p.m. and was greeted by mi mama, Susana, and another study abroad student, who I am rooming with in this house, Pricilla. She is from Houston and goes to The University of Houston and is 22 also. We are getting along great and I’m so happy she is here with me at the house to go through these daily challenges; it’s kind of like I have a built in buddy. I had not eaten anything all day (except for a potato bagel from Einstein’s that my mom and Ben brought me when they met me at the airport in Dallas- thank you guys so much for that!!!) so I was hungry and Susana warmed up some soup for me, which is hard to describe- it was green and had a smooth texture and now that I think about it kind of tasted like broccoli and cheese, but not really, I also had some chicken, which was delicious and some cold french fries, which were not so delicious. I sat in the kitchen at a little bar that they have and ate my meal with Pricilla, Susana and Juan (mi papa). Susana sent one of her older sons to fetch some “sweet bread” for us, which were like pastries, and we dipped them in hot chocolate.
The house I am staying in reminds me a lot of Israeli homes also. The floors are made of marble and there are little collectible tokens and trinkets everywhere! The house I am in, and most of the homes I have seen around Cuernavaca, are built tall and have multiple stories. Like, from the garage you walk up a flight of stairs to get to the front door, and on this level there is the living room, the kitchen, bathroom and mine and Pricilla’s room and then you can go upstairs again to get to a master bedroom. The bathroom is two rooms, one with a sink and the other with a toilet and shower, but there is no tub, just a door that you shut when you shower. Susana and Juan do not have little children so the place stays pretty quiet. There is not a TV in the living room or in the room Pricilla and I are staying in. It’s weird because I am so accustomed to falling asleep with noise (like TV) because Chris snores, but I found it peaceful to get sleepy playing sudoku in complete silence.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
So...I am one lucky lady! I have always wanted to study abroad and NEVER thought I would actually have the opportunity to, but here I am...about to leave for Cuernavaca, Mexico in 5 days! I applied for a study abroad schlorship at school and actually was awarded enough money to cover tuition and was left to pay for airfare and luxuries. I owe it all to my mom and dad for funding the rest of my trip and want them to know that I am so thankful. My feelings are mixed as I am full of anticipation and excitement, I have no idea what to expect. This will be the first time for me to leave the country on my own. I feel so grown up! I am quite the "over packer," more like the biggest "over packer" ever, so packing for a 2-week trip is going to be a huge challenge for me. I am sitting here typing while the suitcases Dandi let me borrow are sitting in a corner of my room empty, its an intimidating feeling. Ill get over it and get through it, but probably not untill Thursday evening.