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After leaving

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My host parents just dropped me off at the airport, and I’m already missing them. They’ve been very good to me and I will definitely stay in touch with them.

During my time here in Merida I learned a lot about Yucatan, its people and culture. Yucatan is a very proud state and they do have a lot to be proud of. Merida is a beautiful and very peaceful city, and was given the title “Ciudad Blanca” for being one of the cleanest cities in the entire country.

Yesterday I once more had the time to see my wonderful sponsored child and I’m happy that I could spend my last day in Merida with him. He was so happy to see me and gave me lots of drawings and hugs. His mom is pregnant (5th month) and told me something very special. She said that it feels like I’m a part of the family and that if the baby is a girl, it will carry my name. It was the most beautiful thing and I’m so happy to be part of the sponsoring program. In case you are interested, it is called CFCA (www.cfcausa.org). It is so wonderful to sponsor a child and be able to visit it on your study abroad trip. It helps you use the language and moreover, it’s just an amazing experience that will give you lots of happiness.

Here are some photos of the feria and my sponsored boy:

On the feria that Chepe and I went to we got to see two very amazing shows – a dolphin show and a medieval knights show. He was fascinated and loved hopping on roller coasters, watching the shows, and eating sweets. It truly was a wonderful day and it was nice to see the happy Yucatecan families, until I was reminded that Mexico IS a 3rd world country and that behind all the happiness there are still so many problems. We saw lots of little fish that were for sale, but in some tanks the pumps stopped working, so that all the fish in there had died. It was terrible to watch, but nobody seemed to be in charge of it. Also, we entered to a building full of butterflies and the lady in the entrance told us very responsibly that we may not touch the butterflies. But once we entered, we saw huge signs saying “Butterflies for individual sale”. That is even less responsible than touching a butterfly. Why would they just give such a fragile animal to anyone?

So concluding my study abroad experience I had a wonderful time, learned a lot, traveled a lot, saw many beautiful places, met many wonderful people and enjoyed Mexico to the fullest, while I was also always aware that it’s a country with many problems and that you should not close your eyes to the bad things and just look at the good things. It takes a bit of both worlds to really understand and appreciate Mexico! Thank you IFSA-Butler for the wonderful experience!

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Goodbye Merida :'(

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Soon I’m going to have to say goodbye to Merida and all my friends. The last 3 days I’ve been invited to dinner and lunch every day, while trying to cramp in my last final essays before I would have to leave.  My friends’ mothers invited me to lunch and to take one last photo with them (I love Mexican moms! They are so incredibly caring and generous!) Also my host family took me out to have some Pizza and I treated them to dinner at a German restaurant. They absolutely loved it and told me they are going to order their Christmas dinner there.

I’m very sad to have to say goodbye to my host family. They are incredible people, and from stories I’ve heard everyone who has stayed with Doña Silvia was so happy that they never wanted to leave and go back home. Tomorrow they will take me to the airport and I know it’s going to be so hard to say bye. Yesterday my host mom made me my favorite food one more time (Chayote with rice and her amazing beans) and I ate so much even though I wasn’t hungry at all :D)

Yesterday we had a Thanksgiving/Goodbye party at the IFSA-Butler office with Diana and all the host moms. Everyone had a great time and the food was delicious. This is a photo of some of the girls (and Tabor :) the only guy) in the current program.

Right now I’m writing this blog entry with mixed feelings. I’m so sad to have to leave soon, and I’m looking at my room, thinking this can’t be true. The semester passed by so fast :( but on the other hand in 2h I will see my little sponsored child Chepe, who came all the way from Tabasco to see me one more time. We’re going to go to the local feria and I’m sure we’re going to have a great day. Here is the link to the feria: http://www.feriayucatan.gob.mx/2013/#

They have dolphin and horseback riding shows, a musical on ice, a circus, rollercoasters and lots more. This is actually one of the first days I will have to take a sweater with me because it’s getting a little “chilly”(?!) outside (Merida-chilly… 75 degrees Fahrenheit) , so I couldn’t take Chepe to the beach again. But I’m sure my last day in Merida will be amazing!

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Sooo….

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

… I went back to Yaxunah and had the most beautiful day! I cannot say it often enough: Try going there as many times as you can because it is a once in a lifetimes experience!

This time I went with another Japanese friend and a girl from China. To get there we need to take the bus to Piste from Merida downtown, which takes about 3h to arrive. It costs 60Pesos one way, which is about 4.5 Dollars. Then we need to take a cab for about 20min, which costs 100 pesos, in our case 33 Pesos each, since we split it between the 3 of us. Once we arrived my friend Victor was already waiting for us. He showed the Chinese girl the Cenote that is right in the entrance of the town, but since she doesn’t know how to swim, we just decided to take pictures of it. Then we started our walk through the actually relatively small town, but it took us forever to walk one block because there were so many wonderful children who approached us.

Right before we had left we had bought lots of candy and little toys in downtown Merida. Where you get off the bus the street is full of little stores that sell candy for piñatas. Since the bags are big the candy is not too expensive, and so we stuffed some in our bags to give to the children. They were incredibly happy. No matter what you give them, they will be happy about it and thank you with a big smile. Of course we also brought along lots of dog food, and as always it was very difficult to watch the poor little starved dogs walk through the streets.

When I walked towards the house where I had stayed for two days last semester, the children were already outside and playing. When they saw me, they stared and yelled: “¿Cómo te llamas?” When they realized it was really me, they came running and hugging me. Also the mom came outside and gave me a big welcome hug. I think we were standing there talking for about an hour, until my friends and I started walking again and noticed that we had about 15 kids around us who would follow us anywhere and tell us so many stories. They were so fascinated by our cameras and umbrellas that they kept on taking hundreds of pictures of each other, so that it was hard to get the camera back. But we managed to take some nice photos of the group, which I will upload below this blog entry. Also, one dog was accompanying us all the time. His name is Bronqui and he watched over the kids all the time. It was very cute :)

A cat that we had already seen last time was waiting for us in front of its house. It was supposingly a few months old, but it was tiny and very starved. We fed it some Whiskas wet food, and once we opened the package the kitten’s mouth was already on the opening trying to get to the food. It must have been very hungry. The kids were jumping and playing and asking us to hug them and lift them up. When suddenly a man with ice cream came cycling around the corner the kids all ran his way, asking us if we could get them some vanilla ice cream. They were jumping and yelling and with their big smiles of course we couldn’t say no. In one of my pictures you can see a little boy, happy as he could be, with his little ice cream cone in his hand. It’s so good to know how happy you can make them with such small things.

I can’t really describe in words what a wonderful experience we had, but it was definitely worth sitting in the bus for hours and getting up early in the morning. I think in the beginning the Chinese girl was a bit concerned because she didn’t know the town was so far away. But I noticed that as soon as she was with the children she understood why we had travelled so far.

I’m so happy we got to see our little friends and they know they have a very special place in our hearts :) I will never ever forget about Yaxunah and its amazing people (and dogs!) 😀

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Being foreign in Merida

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Soon I will have to leave Merida and I thought it would be nice to tell you guys my experience as a foreigner in Merida. First of all EVERYONE will help you with whatever you need. People here love foreigners and most often you will easily stick out. Don’t get mad if people here classify you and just assume about your origin without even knowing you. Like anyone who looks Asian will be classified as a “chinito”. In the beginning I was shocked, but now I see that there are indeed many Chinese people in Merida and low-income communities usually don’t have much international confrontation. It wouldn’t occur to them that someone would hop on a plane for a few hours and come all the way from Japan or Korea to Merida. After all, they really don’t mean to offend, which you can tell because even the friendliest lady might classify your origin just because she has always met Chinese people in Merida and that’s all she knows. But that’s why you go on a study abroad trip. Because you want to get to know the world and look for the international confrontation, so that you can value and understand differences between countries and cultures.

So the same thing has been happening to me and I have been classified “gringa” by everyone around me, even my own teachers. But I don’t mind it anymore. I understand that the way people judge is always based on their experiences and as being able to study abroad is a privilege that unfortunately not everyone can take advantage of, they think differently about foreigners.

My favorite part is definitely being foreign in class because it’s the best way to make friends. If on your first day you are a bit shy and don’t feel like approaching people, probably all of your classmates will approach you, offering their help and asking you so many questions. One guy from my class whom I didn’t know just offered me all of the class material I had missed (because for the first 2 classes I still hadn’t arrived in Merida) and handed me his papers while sitting empty handed in class, not being able to take notes. Some of my Mexican friends have criticized this behavior a bit because they say that among Mexicans this kind of friendly gestures don’t happen. That might be true, but I still think it’s nice to know that people care enough to make the best out of the short time you have during your study abroad.

People here are also very excited about practicing their English with you. Of course that’s the worst thing you can do (because you are here to learn Spanish!!!) but in the beginning when you maybe can’t express yourself as much as you would like to it helps if your friends understand English and you can show your true self. I’ve found that some very talkative people (in English) who come to the UADY suddenly talk very few when it comes to using Spanish just because they can’t express themselves.

Teachers as well will be INCREDIBLY helpful and answer all of your questions. I’ve met so many great teachers over the last two semesters and feel like I developed a special relationship with them. Some of them would even hug me, and we might joke around a bit. (The FCA professors are the best. My Finance professor would tell us about the Black Metal concerts he would go to with his son! :)) If you show interest in your classes, don’t worry about participation too much. I mean SURE, pay attention and try to understand what’s going on, but your teachers know it’s not as easy for you to communicate and follow along in a class that’s entirely taught in Spanish.

What is very common in school is that students will approach you and ask you to help them with their homework for English class. I’m not sure if all the people who interviewed me were from the same class (I highly doubt it), but I gave a LOT of interviews. The students would have to use their English and asked you questions and get excited to hear you talk. Other homework assignment for other classes would be held in Spanish, also in form of an interview, and they would ask you questions about your country and learn a bit about you. The UADY is very interested in its foreign student body.

Maybe by being a foreigner in Merida you will never know what it really feels like to be Yucatecan just because people will always treat you a bit differently. But it’s so nice to know how well Merida receives tourists and foreign students. Probably that’s why you will find so many Americans and Canadians in downtown Merida who have already made Yucatan their new home!

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Internationality at the UADY

Time November 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The UADY is a very international school. I made friends with lots of Chinese, Japanese, American, German, French, Swiss, Argentinian and Spanish students, as well as with students from all over Mexico. It’s nice to have so many international friends because you learn a lot about different cultures from all of them.

My Japanese friends taught me how to make Sushi and I’ve already put my new skills to trial and it turned out great. I’m actually planning on visiting them in Japan in the summer and finally see that beautiful country that they had told me about throughout the whole semester.

My Spanish friends also taught me a lot about the history of their country and many beautiful cities in Spain that I need to visit. One day they invited us to a party they had organized where all of the Spanish guys were dressed up in traditional outfits, with a white shirt and a red bandana around their neck. They also prepared some meat for us, “estilo español”. Unfortunately I couldn’t try it because I’m vegetarian, but it looked great! They were playing Spanish music all night long and had invited probably more than 50 people. We all had a great time.

My Argentinian friends also prepared dinner for us one night. One of the girls was absolutely in love with Mate and had brought her Mate cup and straw from Argentina to have us try some. I had never heard of Mate before. It was bitter like coffee but with the consistency of tee. I liked it :)

My German friends make me overcome any homesickness I might ever experience. It is nice to be able to talk in German because neither in Mexico nor in the US do I use my native language, and I can tell that my German is getting worse and worse over time. That’s why I like talking in German and feel a bit closer to my home country where I haven’t lived in a long time since I’m attending university in the US.

Well, and my American friends from the IFSA program are just the funniest bunch I’ve met. They are very nice and we are all getting along great. This semester there is only one boy in the program. Last semester there were three. It’s strange that so few boys come to Mexico because you would think that they are attracted to the beach, the tequila, the adventure and of course the beautiful Mexican women 😉 I’m not sure if it’s because on the IFSA page the Mexico program appears more attractive to girls. My friends and I had a long talk about this, and we cannot quite figure it out. Mexico is the perfect place for girls and boys. There are many adventurous places like the grutas I already talked about or the Cenotes that all the guys love. Usually they will have contests and jump off into the Cenotes from 5 meters high or more. I would definitely recommend the Merida program to any boy because apart from the Grutas and Cenotes, you can also do awesome bike tours, travel to beautiful beaches, play tons of soccer and enjoy the many many fiestas!

These last two semesters have been a very international experience for me and just as my friends have taught me many new things about their home countries I have also encouraged many of my friends to find an interest in Germany as well as the US. :)

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Mexico and SOCCER!

Time November 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Mexico is absolutely in love with soccer. It is the number one national sport and I don’t know any Mexican person who doesn’t love soccer. As you might know, a few days ago Mexico was in danger of not qualifying for the world cup in Brazil. The atmosphere was crazy around here. We were watching some of the games at school. At FCA they have some TVs so large flocks of students would stand around, yelling and cheering for their country. They were very serious because they couldn’t allow their team not to quality for the world cup because that would be a great shame to them. Before one of the deciding games, a small boy was shown on TV. The reporter asked him what he would do if Mexico wasn’t going to win, and he (probably 5 years old) answered: Que se mueran!

On the day of important soccer games you would see that some of the teachers at the UADY wouldn’t show up for class. Obviously soccer means a big deal to them.

Also in my host family soccer is very important. My host dad is actually fan of the German national team, so in the summer I got him a German jersey which he wears with pride. But he also cheers for the Mexican team, the “Tri” as they say because of the three colors of the flag and the team’s jersey. Sometimes we would watch the games while eating dinner, all of us in our Mexican jerseys.

Mexican soccer is a part of the Mexican identity. Everyone has their favorite team. The most famous teams are America and Chivas. I’m a devoted Chivas fan. They are an amazing team that’s 100% Mexican and has the most titles in the country. America is the rival and once they face each other, it’s like all of Mexico just suddenly stands still. Everyone will be in restaurants or bars watching the game.

I love soccer and I especially love Mexican soccer. And I love being here in Merida and being able to share that passion, while watching the games with my friends while wearing my Mexican jersey! Definitely a great experience if you are a soccer lover :)

Here is a picture of my boyfriend and me in front of the Chivas stadium in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico!

chivas
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Finals are approaching :(

Time November 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This is the time of the year when you are the busiest. Lots of coffee and sleepless nights. Finals are approaching and I have to handle about 3 exams and 5 essays in 3 weeks. I’ve been studying a lot and meeting at Starbucks with my friends almost every day. Even though we’re studying, I enjoy spending my last weeks hanging out with them. The last nights I haven’t been getting lots of sleep though, but my host mom takes good care of me. Once I finished all the coffee in the house and it was already 10pm, she asked me if I needed more for the night. Having to finish my essay at night I nodded, but I felt bad because it was already so late and I didn´t want to make her feel obliged to go out and get me more coffee. Without me asking her though she immediately offered to go to a store and buy me some new coffee.

In the next days I still have a lot of plans, but also need to handle my exams. I definitely once more want to go to the town called Yaxunah (which I talked about in another blog entry) and say by to my little friends there. We have been talking on Facebook and I’m very sad that probably I won’t see them in a long time. I also invited my sponsored child Chepe to come visit me one more time. There is a fair in town that I would love to go to. They have horse and dolphin shows as well as rollercoasters and shooting boosts. I’m sure he will enjoy it because probably it is his first time seeing something like that.

I will also need to say bye to my friends within the next weeks, and that will probably be the saddest part. We all have a shirt that says “Amistades para siempre” and I don’t doubt it. I’m sure we’re all going to be in contact with each other even after I leave. You really get attached to them though after two semesters.

And then I also need to say bye to my host family. I’m going to give them a frame with a photo of us and invite them to a wonderful German restaurant here in Merida. They have been wanting to taste the food of my country for so long, and so on one of our last nights together I will invite them for dinner. I’m sure it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye because my host mom still tells me every day how similar I am to her real daughter and that sometimes she forgets that I’m not actually her daughter. Knowing that I’m leaving soon, she has been hugging me every day with a sad look on her face, but we will definitely stay in touch, not only for all the delicious recipes she promised to send to me by Email.

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Classes at the UADY

Time November 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The UADY consists of many different facultades. The first semester when you get to Merida you will have to take a Spanish course at the IFSA office. I absolutely loved my Spanish class because it helped me practice my Spanish a lot and my teacher was a very funny and actually famous guy because he sings the opening songs for some Telenovelas that every Mexican woman watches day in and out. For those of you who don´t know, Telenovelas are very dramatic TV series that are on TV all day long. Usually they tend to attract the female gender, but last semester there was one male student who loved watching Telenovelas with his “abuela de aqui” and gossiping about the characters of the show. They had a great relationship and it was very cute how excited he got when he talked about “Abuela”.

Also you will have to take a class called CEP. That class is also taught at the IFSA office (which is close to your host family’s house) and you will learn about how to enjoy your study abroad experience to the fullest, how to overcome culture shocks, how to adapt to new situations while studying abroad, etc. Diana and her husband teach the class and always bring delicious cake to class. It’s fun and also great because everyone in the group gets together and we can interchange our stories and experiences.

When you come to Merida you should make sure to not have very strict requirements from your school. I know that all my friends came here being able to experiment with different classes from different carreras and had a great time taking photography or tourism classes. However, I’m a double major in Intl. Studies and Spanish with a minor in Business and I’m a senior now. So I needed very precise classes. The UADY does offer many interesting classes, but probably not as many as your home university does. I would try to look into which classes you will need to take before coming here, just so you can be very prepared. Diana has helped me a lot though and I’ve gotten into all of the classes I needed.

The Psychology faculty and the Tourism faculty are right next to the Anthropology faculty. This is probably where you will take the majority of your classes. The Psychology faculty is brand new. I’ve never been inside but it looks very fancy from the outside. The Business, Science and Medicine faculties are in different places of the city though. I absolutely love the Business faculty and have made lots of great friends there. I would say that it is generally a little bit more laid back than the Antropología and the students there just love to party. Each faculty has its own character, but if you are thinking about taking a Business class, definitely tell Diana that you want to take it at the FCA (which is the Business, Accounting and Economics faculty). Some of the economics classes are also taught at the Antropología, but it’s really great to attend two faculties and make many more friends than you would by just studying at one faculty.

Generally the classes are very interesting and you DO need to study and do your homework, but the teachers are also very helpful and know that Spanish is not your first language. They will help you anytime and go easy on you. This semester I’ve taken two literature classes, one history class, 1 archaeology class and one finance class. I’ve worked quite a lot, but definitely also learned a lot. And I could always count on my Mexican friends to help me with whatever questions I had.

So my advice is that if you don’t have a very tight schedule, definitely try out some of the photography and tourism classes. I only heard good things about them! The literature classes are great and interesting, but you will have to read a lot and I’m sure that once you’re n Progresso at the beach you don’t want to take your Spanish Medieval Literature book along. Try to enjoy the semester to the fullest and go on lots of weekend trips because you will see that one semester is over in no time. I wish I could stay longer, but I’ve already been here two semesters and in May I will already graduate from my university in Texas. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m so happy that I decided to come here!

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The weather

Time November 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been in Merida for 2 semesters now. At the beginning of the first semester my host mom took me to buy an umbrella. During the entire 1st semester (January-May) I only needed it once. If you are from a very rainy or cold place, you will love Merida. Tons of sun and lots of beach to get tanned.

The spring semester was very warm and the sun was shining every day. All of the families offer their IFSA kids a bed as well as a hammock. I think the hammock was the 1st biggest surprise to me when I arrived in Merida, and now it’s already part of my everyday routine. Everyone in our group was scared of sleeping in a hammock because they might fall at night. However, the hammocks your host family own are of great quality and huge!!! The hammocks, which btw you can buy all over Merida and in many different colors and designs, actually come in many different sizes. There are even hammocks for couples.

Hammocks are great especially once the summer is approaching. It will get very hot in Merida – we’ve had 105 Degrees Fahrenheit at times. You will appreciate any open window in a moving bus, going to the beach, and of course your hammock because you feel much less hot laying in your hammock at night than laying in your bed. They are actually very comfortable because they take the shape of your back. I was told that for people with back problems they are the idea solution.

In the summer I wasn´t in Mexico because I did an internship back in Germany, but once I arrived in Merida at the end of August, my host mom Silvia had told me that it had been unbearably hot. You can tell that Global Warming is kicking in because all around the year it has been very hot and she said those temperatures are not normal. The first weeks back in Merida, during August and September it was very very hot in Merida. I mean I don´t want to complain because I’m from Germany and there it rains a lot and it gets very cold. But I had to ask my host mom for a second fan because the nights were so hot that I couldn´t sleep. Now it’s November and finally the temperatures are nicer. Even though the sun is still hot when you’re walking outside, at night your room won’t heat up as much and it is much nicer to sleep. You might not even need a fan.

Some host families will have ACs in your room, but they don’t usually turn them on because of the electricity bill. The electricity in Mexico is one of the most expensive things. However, if you talk to your host family they will usually allow you to turn it on for a bit. I’ve survived without the AC though and it’s been great not to sleep with two blankets like I would in Germany right now. (The classrooms in the Facultad the Antropología also have AC, however in the Business school they do not. Usually the classes there are in the afternoon/evening though, so it doesn’t matter as much.)

The summer is usually hurricane season, but according to my host mom there hasn’t been a single hurricane in Merida for I think about 15 years. And the years before when the hurricane hit, nothing really happened. The host families houses are save and they know the drill. In August and September we did have quite a lot of rain though. Which of course wasn´t all too bad after sweating lots. With the rain it would still be warm outside and after a few hours the sun would return. As long as you have an umbrella you will be fine. Since the streets don’t soak up the water well it would be great if you could bring your rain boots if you’re planning to study abroad in the fall. Unfortunately I don’t own any and so my feet got a bit wet sometimes.

Even though sometimes the temperatures were really warm I have to say that this is exactly what I had been looking for. Sometimes I talk to my mom on Skype and a few days ago she told me that it is already snowing in some parts of Germany and that it is raining all the time. Whenever I hear that I am so glad that I chose sunny Merida! Besides all my friends back home are very jealous of my tan! :) Just bring some sun screen and hats and you will love it here!

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Hoy en tu comunidad!!!

Time November 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hoy en tu comunidad is an amaaazing event! I went two weeks ago and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve made. Hoy en tu comunidad is a community service offered almost every Saturday by the Facultad de Medicina de la UADY. Only bad part – you will have to wake up VERY early because you need to be there at 7am, but it definitely is worth it.

Hoy en tu comunidad is a way for students from the UADY to go to pueblos outside Merida (between 15min and 3h away) to help the town with many different favors. The towns are very poor and don’t have a lot of money to pay a doctor (nor do some of the towns even have a doctor). They also barely have vets or psychological services.

On the day I went, a lot of students had gathered in front of the medicine faculty. All of the medicine students were dressed in their white outfits, but there was a few volunteers like me who had come to help with other services to the town. We were A LOT of students and filled up 4 big tour busses. The town we went to is called Espita, approximately 2.5h away from Merida. On the bus ride we made tons of new friends and even though it was so early in the morning, we didn’t want to sleep, but just joke around with our new friends.

Once we got to the town and got off the bus, the whole pueblo was there to greet us, children, parents, dogs, police – everyone! They were applauding us for wanting to help them and it made me feel great to be able to make them smile with just my presence.

The medicine students started giving vaccinations to the dogs and checking their weight. Inside a house they were giving out citas para consultas medicas. Since the people were very poor, all the consultations and the medicine were for free. In another place the students who are studying dentistry were showing the little children how to brush their teeth. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. One child would get on a chair and show all of the other children how to do it. With lots of applause we congratulated them for what they had just learned, and each of them got a toothbrush and toothpaste to practice.

The parents of one girl came up to my friends and me and told us that their daughter needed some help with math. So we set up a round table with little pieces of paper where the kids could do some basic calculations. They were very eager to learn and liked to get their answers right, so they could show off in front of their friends. It was a lot of fun to teach them and they were very grateful. They started becoming so attached to us that they grabbed our hands and dragged us out on the playground where we would play and run for hours.

Then I met a little boy who was about to cry and didn’t want to talk to anyone. It felt horrible to see him be so sad. They told me his parents are poor and sometimes he has to help them sell Papas y Chicharrones. That’s why the other kids in his school made fun of him and his grades were very poor. We approached him, but he didn’t feel like talking to anyone. Once I found out that he had a sister who had been playing with us all the time and was all happy I started talking to her, trying to get her brother involved. After a while we discovered that he was very good at a game called Tazos. They are little plastic pogs that you place on the floor and then throw another tazo at them to flip the one on the floor. I was horrible at this game, but the sad little boy seemed to like it because he was very good at it. So we played for a long time and his mood completely changed. We all were happy to see him smile, but unfortunately there was nothing else we could do for him. We just kept on telling him that he was an amazing little boy and that he has lots of talents and shouldn’t listen to what others say. I hope he is doing better, but unfortunately I guess I won’t find out.

Later on, people from town offered to show us around a bit. We hopped on the back of a Pickup truck and drove around town where we could see a beautiful old church. We got off to walk around a bit and took lots of photos. There was one boy with us who needed to write an essay on agricultural practices and he was very interested in how they make the honey. The police offered to take us to the ranch where a local man was producing his honey. My Japanese friend was extremely excited because it was her first time in a police car. Once we got to the ranch, the guy welcomed us and showed us all around, and explained for a long time everything we needed to know about honey while showing us his bees from a safe distance.

Coming back from the ranch, the Pickup truck was of course already headed back to where we originally were. So we took a tricitaxi for 5 pesos each. They are mopeds that have a bench attached in the front part, so that one guy on the moped could take up to 3 people in the front. It was an amazing experience and the wind felt nice on the warm skin.

At the end of the day the town had organized drinks and food for everyone and made a long speech about how grateful they were for our help.

I had learned a lot, met lots of new friends, and definitely had a great day. The smile of the children and the happy faces of the parents were definitely worth waking up early!
Here are some pictures of the trip :

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Public transportation

Time November 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Before I came to Merida I was very concerned about having to ride the bus to school. Having been to Mexico before, I didn’t think it was going to be safe, especially as a girl. So before the program started I asked IFSA-Butler if they could provide transportation for us to go to school. They ensured me though that it is safe and told me that our host moms would practice riding on the bus with us to show us which buses to take and how to get to school.

I was very skeptical on my first day of having to take the bus, but my host mom was right next to me. Since I had to go to another faculty as my friends because I was taking business classes, she wanted me to know exactly where I’d have to go. So we walked 3 blocks and then got to the main street. There we stood waiting for the bus, and once it arrived she lifted her arm (in the beginning I never quite liked this way of stopping the bus because I felt shy and awkward if the bus passed by without stopping, but after a while it’s pure routine and you won’t mind it). The bus stopped and we got aboard. 3 pesos for students with IDs and 7 pesos for anyone else. 3 pesos. That’s about 23 cents. The buses are very different from buses in the US even though you can find a variety of buses in Merida. There is the normal “cheap version” for 3 pesos. The bus will shake a bit with every whole in the street, but it’s safe and the majority of students take it. You will never find a maximum capacity sticker in the bus. One of my friends actually mentionded: “There is no maximum capacity. But that’s ok because the bus driver has about 15 pictures of Jesus and the Virgin.” Which is actually true :)

Those buses usually turn into lots of side streets and if you are in a hurry you will probably take a Combi. The Combis are small vans (very safe, with licensed and registered drivers) that pass by almost all the time. They will just follow the main streets because they go all the way to the little Pueblos outside Merida, but by saying: “BAJA!” you can get off anywhere you want. Those Combis cost between 7 and 10 pesos and as I mentioned are a safe way to travel.

Then there is buses with AC that go on the same routes like the normal buses but are much nicer with their AC and more comfortable seats. They cost 7 pesos as well.

And then of course you have the option of taking a cab. You probably shouldn’t take the sketchiest one with neon lights and loud tunes that making the car vibrate. But they as well are safe way of getting around and I’ve never heard of anything bad happen (in Mexico City though you should only take licensed Taxis and check for the Taxi driver’s name and taxi number, just in case :) ). Taxis are very cheap here. Actually there is also the normal kind, and then there is the Taxi Pirata. Those are taxis that look like normal cars, and don’t say taxi, but they provide the same services. You just call them and order one and it will be A LOT cheaper. Also a great way to travel. As always and as in any other country I’d recommend to the girls to travel at least with one other person, but seriously Merida is very very safe – and nothing ever happens here.

Merida is used to tourism because it is a beautiful city with lots of history and amazing architecture. Lots of Americans and Canadians come here and buy a cheap colonial houses that need renovation and turn them into beautiful palaces. So you will certainly find extranjeros in downtown Merida, which also helps with feeling safe :)

So, I can just say that I haven’t had any trouble with the transportation in Merida. I’ve been able to get anywhere by bus or taxi and I’ve actually had a bus driver taking me in his huge bus through the tiny streets to get me all the way to the house where I live because it was late and he was an elderly person who said that “he doesn´t want a young lady to be waiting alone in the street at night.” Again, a proof of Yucatecan hospitality :)

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Stay in shape :)

Time November 20th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So if anyone is interested in doing sports while studying abroad and would like to know what Merida offers, I can ensure you there are a lot of options. All of the IFSA students live very close to each other and around the area there are various fitness studios (with your student ID you will pay between 15 and 35 Dollars per month). Actually, there are a couple of very fit host moms that will get you better deals because of their memberships. Diana, the IFSA program director, is very good at Yoga and always offers to take you with her to her Yoga classes. Recently she gave me a ride and we passed by a fitness studio that exclusively offers insanity classes. It looks pretty intense and they offer classes 6 days a week (I think about 5 times per day).

The fitness studio that I go to is called Gimnasio Damas. It’s a fitness studio for women only, which is great because Mexican man are very machistas and if you are a foreigner their eyes will follow you anywhere (nomatter what outfit you wear :) ).

Almost around every corner you will find Yoga studios as well as Zumba classes. If you would like to save money, then you might want to check out the free Salsa classes they offer in a park near the IFSA office (Diana will have information on that). I went there once and it was great. A lot of people of all ages and gender will join in the park and follow the dance moves of a very passionate guy who brings along his stereo system and dances for hours, non-stop. It doesn’t matter if you know how to dance because nobody is watching you. You can just go to have a good time, learn some Salsa and at the same time burn some calories.

Dancing is a part of the Mexican cultures. The Mexican children grow up moving to their parents’ cumba, salsa, merengue… beats and it seems so natural when they dance. I feel like the talent for dancing is in the Mexican genes. So while you are in Merida, you should definitely try to take some Salsa or Zumba classes! Try something new :) And besides if you are a girl you definitely will be asked to dance at some party and the later the night, the more likely you are to hear some nice Cumbia or Salsa tunes. And if you are a guy, well… Mexican girls seem to love American boys, but an American boy who knows how to move his hips of course has even greater chances with the ladies :p

Apart from this, the city also frequently offers marathons and provides public gymnasiums where you can go for free and use the soccer or tennis fields. Of course the UADY also offers afternoon soccer classes (probably also other sports, but I only inquired about the soccer classes).

Oh, and there are many pools around. But most host families will actually have a pool in their backyard and you will be so thankful once the hot summer months approach and you are sweating in you hammock.

So if you are very athletic – don’t worry, there are a lot of safe and clean options for you to workout in Merida.

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Hospitality of the Yucatecans!

Time November 20th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Yucatecans are known for their hospitality. I would like to tell you about an invitation I received a week ago from a family I have never met in my life.

I was on Facebook when suddenly a friend of mine messaged me: “Nina, when do you have time to have lunch with a Mexican family?” I was confused and answered: “On Friday, but who is inviting me and why?” My friend Luis explained that he is friends with a really nice family from Merida who just wants to invite a lot of friends of his to eat at their house and have a good time.

So on Friday I took a cab with two Japanese girls, another German girl and Luis. It took us a while to get to her house because she lives at the other end of town and because the taxi driver stopped to get gasoline and cigarettes and really wasn’t in a hurry (Actually I think people just don’t like to be in a hurry here in Merida. I’ve never seen anyone who has been in a hurry – people here just take it slower and easier, which I think is one reason why many people enjoy the Mexican culture so much. Obviously they are also very hard working, but they know how to enjoy life to the fullest and get everything done at their pace.)

Once we got to her house, the lady (probably in her 40s) greeted us and invited us in. She was very friendly and seemed like she had never met a stranger. Her son and his friend moved the table and chairs so that we could get comfortable, and even though it was so hot she moved the fan to us, while she was sweating. She had prepared freshly squeezed Guayaba Juice, Sopa de Frijol, tostadas with pumpkin seed paste and chocolate pudding as a desert. She also brought us 3 different sauces, bread to dip, and pico de gallo.

Everything was delicious, but I couldn’t believe that someone whom I didn’t know would go through the trouble and just prepare such a big meal for me. The lady and her sons were very interested in all of us and we talked for a long time. My Japanese friend Asami, who was with us, told the lady that she was leaving Mexico soon to go back home. The lady got very sad and couldn’t understand why Asami didn’t want to stay forever. Then she offered to have a goodbye party for her (even though they had just met once before). She and her sons have a Piñata business (which you fill up with candy and hit with a stick until it bursts open) and she offered to make a Piñata Sushi roll for my friend Asami and decorate her house for the party.

Unfortunately, a few days before the goodbye party one of the lady’s sons got sick and she had to cancel the party. :(

This kind of hospitality is what the Yucatecans are known for. They are very helpful – e.g. one time I was at the supermercado and had my hands full with groceries that I wanted to put into my backpack. However, I was having some difficulties because my hands were full, and the zipper wouldn’t open. So one security guy saw me and immediately rushed to my help.

Once you are in Merida, you will see it’s true, starting with the friendly welcome at the airport, and the nice taxi driver who will ask for your whole story and will tell you everything about himself, so that you probably won’t get around knowing all of his relatives’ first names and stories. :)

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El Pueblo Fantasma – Misnebalam

Time November 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Misnebalam is a small pueblo just outside Merida. On one of my last nights in Merida during the first semester it was time to say bye to a bunch of friends, who were returning to the US while I would go back to Germany for summer vacation. It was very sad to have to say goodbye because I’ve made so many friends from all over the world and we became really close.

So we met up in a bar, but soon decided that with all the noise it wasn’t a nice way of saying goodbye. Two of my friends had a car and offered to take us to the beach where we could talk in a nicer atmosphere and enjoy the beach one more time before leaving. On the way to the beach one of my friends from Merida pointed out that there is a very famous ghost town on the way to the beach and it’s name is Misnebalam.

We were all tempted to check it out and so we went off the highway and turned into a squetchy little land road. There was literally nothing around us but fields and endless darkness because it was already about 10pm. After driving for a bit we finally reached the first houses. But no one was there. There was no light, no people, nothing. Just empty houses. Suddenly we saw a big school building and a few lights moving. We weren’t sure who was there so I got off the car and asked. The lights came moving towards us from the distance and soon we saw that it was 5 people with cameras and heavy equipment. They told us they were from a show called Evidencia Paranormal and were trying to find the ghost of a little boy who was assumed to have lived there before he took his own life.

That sounded pretty creepy to us but it also sounded like a perfect adventure before saying goodbye. So we asked to join the group of men and women and they let us participate under the condition that we keep extremely quiet unless we see or feel something paranormal. To be honest I didn’t really think we were going to find anything out there, but I swear once we entered the building it starting getting much colder all of a sudden and we could feel the wings of bat flying by our heads.

They had several devices which they let us use. For example they gave me one little device that could measure electromagnetic energies. They told me that whenever a presence approached, I would see green lights lighting up. I tried it out in my hand and moved it a bit and didn’t get any signal. Suddenly the guy from the show yelled to the ghost and asked him to come into our middle. The machine creepily started flashing up. Then we would all hold hands and yell: “MANIFIESTATE!” while the guy separated me from the hand of a friend and told me that the ghost was coming through.

True or not, it was such a creepy and at the same time amazing experience and we had so much to talk about once we left the place. When we got in the car, the mirror on the left side of the car was hanging loosely from the side (even though I have to admit it was a veeeeery old car :)). And since the town was completely abandoned we left in a hurry though not all of us actually believed in ghosts.

Misnebalam is famous and many people have come there to film ghost videos. If you type it in on youtube you will find some evidence. Apparently, about 20 years ago the town was abandoned in a rush. Everybody had packed up and left in a hurry, which explains why all the buildings look like people still live there. It was an incredible experience and we were fortunate to have a video to remember everything. Here is the link to the youtube video. Enjoy :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbOspVf-0Ng

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Living in a host family

Time November 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Coming to Mexico with IFSA-Butler, the first semester you will only be able to live with a host family, while the second semester you can decide whether you want to live by yourself or with a host family.

Even though I had the choice to live with my friends for the second semester, I chose to stay with my host family. They are such loving people and I never felt like a stranger in their house.

Staying with a host family is a wonderful experience because they care for you like your real family but at the same time you can experience becoming more responsible and independent. Since I’ve met my host family for the first time, they have accepted me as a part of their family. Every week my host family would tell me that it feels like I’m another daughter of theirs and my host mom doesn’t want to think about the day that I’m leaving back to the US. My host mom would treat me just like her own daughter, fix holes in my clothes, gossip at the dinner table, and talk about everything I would talk about with my own mom.

I live with a wonderful lady called Silvia and her husband Raul. One of their sons sometimes comes to visit with his two sons, and we would sit at the table and talk and laugh. The two boys are hilarious and often too shy to say hi to me. They would hide behind the door and blush. But once they overcome their shyness they would hug me and smile.

My host mom always gives me rides when I need to get somewhere, she would call taxis for me and triple check their numbers and write them down on a piece of paper, so that she can be sure that I’m save.

Of course I also have to do some things on my own, like my laundry and my personal shoppings. This gives you some personal space and makes you feel more independent, while at the same time you know that you have your host family if you don’t know which bus to take, which brand to buy, or what cellphone service to purchase.

Even though I could have lived with my friends and probably have fiestas almost every day, I decided to stay with my host family because they can be fun too and they care for me just like my own parents.

When I get back from classes, the delicious lunch is already on the table. When I have Internet problems, my host mom will call to get the Internet fixed asap. When I need to go somewhere real fast, she will take me in her car immediately.

There are just so many advantages of living with a host family, and as much as I liked my time living on campus I always missed this feeling of coming home and having someone who wants to hear about your day. And another advantage of my host family is that they have a beautiful house at the beach where they would take me with them on weekend trips to enjoy chilling in the pool and going to the beach :)

PS: This is a photo of my host family and me and the boy who stayed with them 2 years ago (he came to visit them because he as well had such an amazing time living with them :))

host-fam
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The IFSA-Butler Staff in Mexico

Time November 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In this post I would like to tell you how amazing my experience with the IFSA-Butler staff in Mexico has been. Diana is “the lady in charge” as you might say. She is from Ecuador and a very fashionable woman :) Her husband, Francisco, used to be a teacher at the UADY (I don’t think he is anymore) and is also a very fun person to be around. Once you arrive in Cancun, the two will pick you up, holding up welcome signs. Just seeing Diana, you will know why she is so awesome. She jokes around with everyone and most of the time it will feel like you’re talking to a good friend rather than the director of the program.

Once a semester she invites you to have dinner at her house with Francisco and her beautiful Labrador dog. She cooks the most amazing meals and everyone loved whatever she served. When she invited my group, it was supposed to be a nice dinner, but it turned into hours of talking, dancing, and joking around. We would turn up our tunes on her stereo system and she would join in the fun.

Whatever you need, don’t hesitate to talk to Diana. She has the best addresses for finding cheap teeth whitening options or laser hair removals :) (Honestly, if you are interested in either one, Merida offers very cheap and good options.) She will also take Yoga classes with you or meet up with you in the IFSA-Butler office to do a morning workout. This semester, one of the girls brought along all of the insanity workout DVDs and some of us would meet up with her to drop some Mexican-Tortilla-Pounds (because the food is sooo good here some workout is recommended :P)

Diana also helps you with anything you need for school. She will talk to teachers for you, print and scan documents for you, talk to your home university etc. Pretty much, whatever is on your mind you can count on her. This semester, the boy who stayed with my host family 2 years ago came to visit. His credit card got stolen on the bus so he called his parents to have the bank block it. However, they were on vacation and something went wrong, so suddenly all of his cards were blocked. He immediately went with Diana and I remember he returned hours later from her office, with a smile on his face because they had worked something out and he was expecting to receive a new card soon (meanwhile my host mom gave him a bit of money, worried about him like his own mom must have been).

Once you come to the IFSA office, you will ring the bell and Don Freddy will open the door for you. He is a wonderful person and is always in the office to keep it clean and take care of it. He is a bit older and enjoys being in the office and seeing the IFSA kids. He doesn’t have any family, so he pretty much lives in the office, but you can see he enjoys being part of our little IFSA community. His smile will always put you in a good mood.

diana
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Places to go

Time October 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Merida is surrounded by many amazing places and in this blog entry I would like to tell you guys about some of the nicest places I’ve been to and I would still like to see until the end of the semester.

Isla Holbox is a beautiful island surrounded by Caribbean light blue water and lots of white beaches. The island is very small and a great place to relax over the weekend. You won’t find a single car driving around there because there are no real streets. It’s mainly just sand. So the people who live on the island use quad bikes that visitors can rent on a daily or hourly basis. There are lots of restaurants that cook delicious food and prepare fresh seafood. At night you can lay under the palm trees at the beach or in hammock and enjoy the comfortable breeze while listening to the calming waves or enjoying a nice bonfire with your friends. The island offers a lot: horseback riding at the beach, snorkeling, kitesurfing and beautiful sunsets. From August until early spring the most exciting thing to do in the island is to go swim with the whale sharks. They grow up to 12m long and look like giant sharks, but they only feed on plants and algae. Some boats will take you out into the ocean for a few dollars and will put a life vest on you, so that you can jump in the water and take lots of amazing pictures with the beautiful giant animals. Isla Holbox is only 5 hours drive away from Merida, so the best thing is to take a bus at night. From the mainland you can take a little fisher boat or a ferry (that cost about 3 Dollars) which takes about 20min to arrive at the island.

Here are the best photos I took on my trip to Holbox:

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Progreso is the closest beach to Merida. Even though the water is not as blue as it might be in Isla Holbox or Cancun it’s still a nice place to catch a fresh breeze and go for a nice dive. Especially on the weekend it’s a nice option for some refreshment because it can get pretty got in Merida almost all year long. And the best thing about Progreso is that it’s only about 20min driving distance from Merida. There are a couple of buses that take you to Progreso for only about a Dollar or if you’re lucky you will find some friends with cars. In the beachfront they sell beautiful handmade artisanry and hammocks.

Here is a photos I took about 2 weeks ago when I invited my sponsored boy from Tabasco to come visit me and go to the beach for the first time in his life:

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Celestun is a beautiful beach and an Eco reserve that is home to hundreds of different species of birds. But the most common photos of Celestun that you will see on the internet are the ones of the vast flamingo flocks that migrate to Celestun over the winter months. The beach is about 1-1.5h away from Merida and definitely worth a weekend trip (still on my to-do list!!! :)

flamingo

Rio Lagartos is located in the northwest of Yucatan. I haven’t been there so far, but I’ve seen beautiful photos from my friends. What makes it so special is that the water there is rose colored (due to small microorganisms, which the flamingos eat – thus their beautiful pink color). Definitely worth a visit not only for the amazing pictures, but also to see a lot of beautiful birds, possibly even crocodiles (the name Rio Lagartos translated to English means “Crocodile River”) and if you are very lucky, at least according to what I’ve read on the Internet, you might even catch a glance at a jaguar coming down to the water to drink. This place is as well on my to-do list and I’ve already checked for the bus connections from Merida, which are cheap and have a pretty frequent schedule.

pink-water

The Riviera Maya is probably known to most people because of its importance as a paradise for tourists from all around the globe. Cancun has beautiful beaches, light blue Caribbean water and is a great place to go clubbing. The best club there is called the Coco Bongo. I’ve been to that club and highly recommend it because they offer live shows and you might see Spiderman swinging from the ceiling, the next moment be inside a Brazilian Carnival full of balloons and confetti and the next moment just dance like in any other disco. Here is the link to their website: http://www.cocobongo.com.mx/coco2010/inter/main/1/

coco-bongo

Of course Cancun offers much more, like jet skiing, diving, snorkeling, horseback riding etc. There are two places I highly recommend which are called Xel-Ha and Xcaret. They are very famous ecological parks and the biggest natural aquatic parks in the world. There you can swim with dolphins, see traditional Mexican dances, ceremonies and shows, walk through the beautiful vegetation and swim in Cenotes, enter to a grotto, use zip bikes (like a bike you sit in which hangs down a zipline – looks like a lot of fun!) or use the rope-park where you can swing into the water or try to balance yourself between two loose ropes to the other side of the shore.

xelha

Playa del Carmen is also a beautiful beach where lots of tourists come. Personally I feel that the differences to Cancun are the color of the water (not as blue as in Cancun) and the types of tourists (Cancun is known to be a party place for teenagers, while Playa del Carmen is a bit more laid-back and focused on the relaxation of the visitors – yet of course they also offer great clubs and bars!). When I went to Playa del Carmen I stayed in a hotel called Sandos Caracol which is an ecotourism hotel. It was an amazing experience and we were greeted very friendly and immediately upgraded to a VIP room with my very own hot-tub right next to my king-size bed. The view from our room was straight out into the jungle. Right by the room door there would be raccoons and iguanas passing by and a few steps away, where there were a few more trees we would see monkeys hanging down from branches. In the entrance of the hotel there is a cenote for you to swim in, a few meters away some nice pools with bars that offer nice refreshments, and another few steps away the beautiful beach with its white sand. Almost right next to the hotel you can visit Mayan ruins. I definitely recommend this hotel if you plan on staying some days in Playa del Carmen.

sandos

Chiapas is definitely my favorite place of all. It is situated in the south of Mexico and borders with Guatemala. I went on a trip with about 30 friends from school and we had the best time. First we went to the ruins of Palenque (I will show some pictures below). They are in the middle of the jungle and in the distance you can hear monkeys and even jaguar growling (of course they don’t get close to you :) ) You will find many people selling local artisanry and I highly recommend bringing along money because you will definitely want to buy some of the beautiful handmade table clothes, tequila glasses, jewelry, bags, tshirts, and jaguar pipes (if you blow into them, you will hear a loud sound which sounds very much like a jaguar).

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After that we went to some waterfalls nearby and took a bath in the refreshing water. It was a great view and of course we were able to take lots of amazing pictures.

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Then finally after a long drive we finally reached San Cristobal de las Casas, which has got to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. The small little and colorful houses remind of colonial times. The atmosphere is very different from Merida, the temperatures much colder because San Cristobal is situated on top of a mountain. The city is very safe and at night we would slander through the streets, enjoy live music and delicious food in various restaurants. The city is always full of visitors from all over the world. I met a lot of Europeans that had come there to stay for over a month because there is just so much to see. The prices are much cheaper than in Merida and the ladies on the street always carry lots of beautiful scarfs and decorations with them that they sell to you at really good prices. They put a lot of effort into their work and are very talented, so I didn’t get around buying 3 scarfs, 1 tablecloth, 3 key chains, one belt etc. Let’s just say I bought a lot because the colors and details they are able to incorporate in their handmade work are incredible. Some of the ladies from Chiapas actually travel all the way to Merida and you will find them downtown because unfortunately they are very poor even though they have much talent. It’s a very interesting cultural experience and the smile their little children will give you once you buy something from them makes you feel very happy.

At day time we would go to see different churches, go horseback riding in the forest, or just stroll through the beautiful streets.

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We also went to the Sumidero Canyon close to San Cristobal, which is a beautiful narrow canyon surrounded by a national park. We went on two boats through the tall walls of the canyons. The nature is so powerful and you will feel so small in the giant canyon. It was a great experience and we took hundreds of photos.

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So these are just a few places of the many places you can go visit either over the weekend or during vacations/long weekends. Merida has such a great location, close to the beach and in the middle of the jungle which is home to the Mayan culture and lots of mystical adventures. This is one of the many reasons why I love being in Merida!

 

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Let’s talk about FOOD!

Time October 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I would like to use the opportunity and tell you guys a little bit more about the Mexican kitchen. All of the host moms in the program cook excellent! Mexican mothers put a lot of time, work, and love into buying fresh ingredients and fixing up a delicious meal for their family.

In my host family I have never eaten any fast food products and I’ve also never encountered any problems with finding vegetarian food options.

When you arrive in Mexico and say you’re a vegetarian most people won’t understand your life choice. If you tell them “No como carne, soy vegeteriana”, they will most certainly get back to you with the following answer “Ni pollo? Ni jamón?” Most Mexicans consider meat an important part of their dietary and they cannot imagine that you simply decide not to eat meat (of course you will also find Mexican vegetarians once in a while but I have to admit that it’s rather rare). You have to be very specific and let them know that you don’t eat any meat, nor chicken, nor seafood. Best is if you say you don’t eat anything dead.

Apart from that confusion that most Mexicans experience about a vegetarian, there ARE a lot of amazing food options out there. Mexico is known to have one of the best kitchens in the world. I’ve heard somewhere that supposingly it has the No.1 kitchen in the world (but I’m sure all the Italians and French out there might not agree with that :D). I would certainly believe it though just by looking at the numerous sauces that spice up very simple meals in so many different ways.

The Mexican kitchen never gets boring. My host mom sometimes spends hours on the Internet looking for new recipes to serve me, and once she finds one, she tries it out immediately and sits in front of me, nervous about hearing what I have to say. We almost always talk about healthy food at the dinner table and it seems to be very important to her that she offers me healthy food that I like.

I really appreciate all the effort she puts into feeding me.
In the following I will show you some delicious Mexican dishes that she has prepared for me.

 

flauta

Flautas: Are delicious corn tortillas that you fry in oil to make them really crispy. You can fill them with chicken, but as a vegetarian I prefer eating them filled with potatoes. On top you put some lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado and a kind of cheese called queso fresco. You can add some delicious salsa and on the side serve a bowl of beans to dip the flautas in. Definitely one of my favorites!

 

molletes

Molletes: Molletes are crunchy bread rolls (pan francés, bolillo) topped with a layer of bean cream. You put cheese on top, and if you’re not vegetarian you can as well add some ham. For the final touch you should add some slices of avocado and a lot of delicious Mexican homemade sauce. Love this plate!

 

chicken-tostadas-56407

Tostadas: A crispy flat tortilla with a bean cream on top. You can add pieces of chicken if you like, but for the vegetarians it tastes amazing also without the chicken (that leaves more space for the fresh vegetables that you can add). Put lettuce, onion, tomatoes, queso fresco and avocado and as always don’t forget the sauce (I feel like that’s one of the most important ingredients because pretty much every Mexican plate comes with sauce. It doesn’t always have to be spicy, but I love it that way. My Mexican friends would always tell me: It has to swim in sauce, then it’s right and Mexican! A little sidenote here: With all that sauce your hands and your plate are going to be very messy, but in Mexico they say that it’s not Mexican if it’s not messy! :) )

 

tamales

Tamales: Tamales are an indigenous plate that consists of a masa of corn filled with either meat or vegetables (e.g. rajas). They are wrapped into a banana or corn leaf and cooked in hot water or hot water vapor. As always add a lot of beans and sauce and you’ll have a delicious meal!

 

panuchos

Panuchos: Are very Yucatecan and I’m sure there is probably no one who leaves Yucatan without having tried them. They are crispy, fried tortillas stuffed with a thick layer of black beans and topped with pretty much the same things the other dishes come with – lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado, sauce… (and of course if you are not vegetarian you can add chicken or turkey pieces). Even though the meals all are very simple and consist of similar ingredients, every plate is unique and extremely delicious. The Tex-Mex food I’ve had in Texas is good, but once you’re in Mérida you will taste the real deal! :)

 

Those are some of my favorite meals that you can easily prepare without meat and still maintain the delicious taste. So if you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry! In any restaurant you can always ask to remove the meat and instead use potatoes or cheese :)

 

Buen provecho!

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VIVA MEXICO!

Time September 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone,

On the 15th of September we celebrated Mexico’s independence day, so I’d like to start this blog entry with a loud VIVA MEXICO! :)

I actually took a flight to Mexico City and enjoyed an amazing weekend in Mexico’s beautiful and giant capital. At 11pm the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, rang the bell of the Palacio Nacional and together with hundreds of Mexicans I stood in the crowd on the Zócalo and yelled VIVA MEXICO! It was a great experience to stand among all the Mexicans with their shiny Mexican decorations and the little mustaches you could buy all over the city. I myself was dressed in my Mexican jersey, with a huge Mexican hat and the colors of the Mexican flag all over my face.

While in Mexico City I also went to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids of the sun and moon. It was a very impressive view and I got to climb all the way to the top!

Let me remember what else I have been doing the last weeks that I would like to tell you about :)

My classes in the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (UADY) are great and I love my teachers. The teachers from Merida are just so kind and always want to help you, especially if you’re a study abroad student. They are very interested in who you are, what you study, and what it’s like in your home country.

Actually, in one of my classes I even received a big applause for having traveled this far to visit and learn about Mexico.

Some of my classes are a little bit difficult, for example my finance class can be challenging at times, but I made so many friends within no time who make print outs of the material for me without me even asking for it – the students at the UADY are just so kind and helpful! They offered to study for exams with me and gave me their facebook to contact them if I have any doubts about the material.

Even though I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the semester and wondered whether I could find such good friends like the ones I had last semester, I now am very relieved to know that there are always great people who want to be friends with you.

Besides school I also started volunteering at the animal shelter again. They have actually constructed many new kennels since the last time I had been there and their place is full of cute, tail-wagging dogs and cats waiting for their forever home. I also got a friend of mine interested in volunteering with me. She is also from the IFSA-Butler program and just like me loves animals. Here are some photos of us walking and playing with the dogs:

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Unfortunately, there are many stray dogs on the street and Merida is a very dry region (there are only about 3 months a year where you will experience some rainfall). Many times you will see skinny dogs wandering through the streets, looking for food. And sometimes you will also see dogs who got hit by a car. Of course this is very shocking, and being in a 3rd world country you have the opportunity to really make a change. Often times you will hear that there’s nothing you can do. But there is. And the experience of helping out at the animal shelter or teaching local children English is very rewarding. If you are interested in doing volunteer work – Merida is a great place to gather many different volunteer experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.

Tomorrow I’m going with a bunch of friends to a Mayan town called Yaxunah. It’s very close to the pyramid of Chichen Itza. We are taking lots of presents for the many children of the town and I also bought a big bag of dog food. We are very excited to visit the town, interact with the locals, swim in the cenote that is located in the town center and maybe learn a few words of Maya. The great thing about Merida is that it is a big and modern city only a few minutes away from the deep jungles, Mayan pyramids and a lot of very interesting Mayan culture.

Last semester I went to Yaxunah and got to meet a lot of great children that I’m still friends with and that I will visit tomorrow. Here are a couple of photos of the wonderful kids from Yaxunah:

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Before I forget to mention it – we also went on an amazing trip on September 8th with the whole IFSA-Butler group. We went to the pyramids of Uxmal where we got to climb up and had an amazing view. Two students from the UADY accompanied us and explained us all about the history of the site. After that we went to a cacao museum close to the pyramids where we got to try freshly made hot cocoa which we added our own combination of spices to to make it extremely delicious (see photo). At the museum we also became friends with some cute little spider monkeys that were trying to steal our cameras and seemed very interested in pulling our hair :)

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The last weeks have been so much fun and there is so much more to come!

All the best from Merida :)

Nina

 

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