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Nuevo Año y Viejo Lugar

Time January 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Happy 2014, world! I’ve been home exactly two weeks but it feels like I left Mexico ages ago. I have just as many feelings about my study abroad experience as when I was leaving and they remain unprocessed, despite having an abundance of thinking time now. My friend who studied abroad last spring said she’s only just beginning to believe it happened and still hasn’t begun to analyze her time there… so I’m taking it easy. While for the most part home is the same as ever, I have retained some aspects of my life in Mexico; my madre and I have been emailing and I’ve been in touch with my IFSA-Butt and Mexican friends as well; I excitedly started talking in Spanish to the receptionist at my doctor’s office when I found out she was from Mexico and she told me I have a Yucatecan accent; I still occasionally forget that I can throw toilet paper into the toilet here and end up having to reach back into the garbage can to properly dispose of it. #thingsiwantontheinternet

This is my last blog post and I thought I’d briefly review the to-do list I made at the very beginning of my time in Mérida, four months ago.

  • Go to Oaxaca (beautiful, cultural city with lots of sights and crafts and foods) –> beautiful, check
  • Take Salsa classes –> all of September, check
  • Teach English –> once a week the whole time, check
  • Go to at least five different beaches –> Holbox, Progreso, San Crisanto, Sisal, y Trinidad
  • Go to Chichén Itzá (huge Maya site, one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”) –> and four other ruinas, check
  • Learn to cook at least a full day’s worth of Yucatecan meals –> my madre gave me a cooking book as a farewell regalo in addition to teaching me throughout the semester, check
  • Go to a cenote –> check, check, check, and check

I managed to accomplish everything on my to-do list (which is by far the most satisfying feeling del mundo) and also travel to la Ciudad de México, Cuba, Chiapas, Yaxuná, and explore my little city of Mérida exhaustively. Now it’s time to sign off so I can go cook Mexican food with my family (because that is all I want to eat ever) and bundle up to go for a walk in the cold afuera of New York City. Thanks for reading this blog! It’s been an adventure, de veras.

Saludos,

Willa

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Los Viajes Finales

Time January 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m leaving Mexico tomorrow morning which means right now I am lying in a pile of mostly dirty clothes and filled notebooks trying to figure out how to fit them all into my suitcase and what the best way to smuggle Cuban cigars back into the US is. I’ve been here a third of a year / four months / 18 weeks / 125 days and have so many feelings about leaving and very little time to process them. Let’s not talk about feelings, though, let’s talk about the last week in which I traveled to Mexico City and Oaxaca!

I traveled to Mexico City and Oaxaca! I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like to talk about them, but I’ll try to do the best I can using lists instead of actual descriptions. Two of my best friends from home flew down to travel with me which was super much fun. The D.F. is amazing and felt really familiar and comfortable to me in that it’s very similar to New York, only a batrillion times the size.

Some highlights of our stay in the D.F. include:

  • Spending a day walking around Chapultepec, one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere consisting of 1,695 acres and located in the middle of Mexico City. We got to go to both the castillo and the museo that are in the park too!
  • Checking out the Centro Histórico at night.
  • Going out to a salsa club called El Mojito.
  • Finding a super cool, cheap feria with lots of rollercoasters.
  • Trying this weird drink called pulque that Mexico City is famous for.  Pulque is thick and tingly and tastes somewhat like sour yeast.  It also apparently continues fermenting in your stomach.  The more you know!

Oaxaca is beautiful and reminded me a lot of Chiapas in that both cities are small and colorful and surrounded by mountains.  Some highlights of Oaxaca:

  • Going to El Tule, the biggest tree in the world that is over 2,000 years old and whose trunk literally couldn’t be captured by my iPhone camera.
  • Walking around the incredibly overwhelming mercado.
  • Trying tlayudas and enmoladas, both of which are super yum.
  • Learning how algodón and mezcal are made on two different tours.
  • Walking up to the Hierve el Agua to see absolutely breathtaking mountains.

After a 24-hour bus ride I’m back in Mérida, which feels like home, trying to enjoy my last moments before I’m back to my other, much colder, much busier home where I’ll be left missing it here.

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Familia y Reflexiones

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

This weekend my mom and Romy visited me in Mérida which was great.  I got to show my family around my little city, introduce them to my friends and madre, swim in a pool, and share a bed with by far my favorite cuddle buddy in the world.  They left too soon!

The semester here is coming to a quick end with my finals finishing up within the next few days and I’m leaving Mérida soon.  I’ve had both a lot of time and incessant pestering and group discussions to encourage me to reflect on my experiences here.  So here goes.

Becoming fluent in Spanish has been a huge goal of mine for years and it’s the main reason I decided to study abroad here.  The way in which I was most ignorant before coming here is probably how easy I thought it would be to suddenly just speak fluently.  Since then, I’ve learned two things: first, most people have a very different definition of fluency than I have and second, my definition of fluency is really hard to reach.  I was surprised when my grandma visited just over a month after I got here and asked me how it feels to be fluent in Spanish now.  To her – and to many people I’ve learned – fluency is being able to understand and convey basically anything you want.  My definition of fluency, however, is being able to speak Spanish as easily and smoothly and thoughtlessly as I speak English.  Reaching the first definition – feeling myself respond to people without having to find words, realizing I’ve gone five hours straight listening and speaking and thinking completely in Spanish without English ever trying to butt in, having a friend tell me I was speaking Spanish in my sleep – has been hugely, hugely gratifying and further motivated me to keep studying and speaking Spanish once I get back home.

Some other ways in which I was ignorant about this experience:

I thought I would hang out only with Mexican students.  I didn’t care who was going to be in my program because whatever I want to integrate I’m going to be fluent and just be with the people who live here, obviously duh.  Turns out, this is a lot harder than it seems.  A lot of the students here, shockingly, don’t care about becoming best buds with someone who is going to leave in four months and can’t understand your jokes.  The people who do want to be good friends with me do because I’m white and not because of my delightful personality and they are mainly interested in talking about US pop culture from about ten years ago and what 9/11 was like.  I have made one or two great Mexican friends here who have taught me a lot about their culture and their slang and I will miss a lot.

The friends I’ve made in the IFSA-Butler program are wonderful and I’m so incredibly grateful that I met them all.  It’s been both comforting and necessary to have other people here going through more or less the same experience as me, who would explore new cities with me and make me stay out late and pick up microwavable popcorn so we could lie in my bed and watch some nice English-language chick flicks to give our brains a rest.  They’ve been a huge part of this experience for me and I love them for it.

I was also ignorant to think it would be easy to maintain a long-distance relationship just because I had a really strong one.  You can’t expect to be apart for four months (or however long) with such a small fraction of the interactions that actually make up your relationship and have both people still feel exactly the same and as excited and in love.  I totally still think it can be done with the right people and the right circumstances and an understanding that it might get hard.

The last and most important way in which I was ignorant was to think studying abroad would be a big, beach-filled, dancing-filled, primarily euphoric experience.  It has been beach-filled and dancing-filled and great, but it’s also been really challenging.  It’s hard being in a country with nobody you’ve known for more than a few months speaking a language that gets harder the more tired or upset you are.  It’s hard standing out no matter where you are or what you do.  It’s hard watching your friends learn to live without you and doing all of the things you love at school.   It’s hard feeling so far from things sometimes.

A lot of people have been talking about how abroad has “changed” us.  They see studying abroad as this huge life-changing journey in which they find who they truly are, learn to appreciate all of the beauty in the world, and come home with a daily meditation routine and a tattoo of a map on their ass.  Honestly, this is great for them.  Abroad is what you make of it.  If you want to make a big change in your life, abroad can be a really great place to start that.  If you want to go out five nights a week and flirt with people who have funny accents, abroad can be a great place for that as well.  If you want to start instagraming exclusively pictures of sunsets and tea, abroad can help you out.  Go crazy.  I wanted to study abroad to learn a language and travel and that’s what I did.

I don’t want to have to have found some deeper meaning to my life.  I believe that I can change anywhere I am.  I believe that there is beauty everywhere and it is more important to me to be able to acknowledge it all around me all the time than to have to go find it in another country.

One of my good friends here said to me recently “I know you don’t really believe in change, in yourself or others.”  It’s not true.  I completely believe in change for everyone.  Most of the work I am interested in depends upon people’s ability to change.  But I realize I’ve been really resistant to change myself.  I’ve been so, so happy with everything in my life for so long.  I’ve loved my family and my friends and my boyfriend and my school and my work and who I am with all those people and doing all those things.  So maybe I’ve been a bit afraid and I’m always a bit stubborn.

Here’s something I’ve learned: change can happen whether I like it or not.  And while I’ll always be changing slightly with my surroundings and my situations, at the core, I’m still me no matter where I am or who I’m with.  I care about the same things, I sing under my breath while I write papers, I find meaningful relationships with new people wherever I go.  And that’s really, really comforting.

It’s Thanksgiving and this blog post has already gotten way hokier than blog posts should ever be, so I figure I might as well just continue with a list of some things I’m thankful for:

  • My family.  You are the most fun, smart, talented, caring, and loving people in the world and thank God that you are the four people I’m stuck with for the rest of my life.
  • My friends from home.  Being here has made me feel so incredibly supported and loved from home.  I’m so grateful to have so many people I care about and I can’t wait to be back with you all so soon.  You’re like the family I got to choose!
  • Mis amigas aquí.  En serio, no puedo imaginar mi vida sin ustedes y es loco que sólo hace cuatro meses que nos hemos conocido.  Son divertidas y amables y requeté-padres y les voy a extrañar demasiado.  Nos vemos pronto.  También, y’alls a bunch of kooks.
  • All of the opportunities I have and have had.  I’ve said this before but I honestly think I am the luckiest person in the world.  I’m able to go to a university I could not be happier at.  I’m able to study things I am super interested in and passionate about.  I’m able to travel all over the world.  I have the freedom and the privilege to make decisions for myself.  I’m still so young and there’s still so much left I can do.
  • Somehow, miraculously, Mérida is only 66 degrees today.

I’m going to miss Mérida.  I’m going to miss jerking around in the noisy, deteriorating buses.  I’m going to miss the smell of freshly baked bread that always comes from the panadería next to my house.  I’m really, really going to miss my madre, one of the most caring and inspiring and all-around genial women I’ve ever met who I’ve been lucky enough to live with and talk to and learn from for four months.  I’m going to miss the heat and the barking and okay maybe not the bugs but almost everything else.  I’m already saving money to come back.

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La Isla Grande

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

Monday night I got back to Mérida after 11 busy days in Cuba with the lovely Olivia and Alicia in which we traveled to Trinidad, Viñales, and La Habana.  The country has such an overwhelmingly rich culture and complex history that I will most likely need far more time to really process my viaje and be able to speak eloquently about my experience there.

So, unprocessed and without eloquence here are some things that stood out to me:

Cuba has an incredible energy.  Music and art are respected and nurtured and at all times and points throughout the country you will find music playing from the windows and paintings covering the walls.  Our first Sunday we wandered to Callejon de Hamel where there is a weekly Afro-Cuban music celebration.  The street itself is covered with beautiful sculptures, drawings, and poetry.  Filling the street were all sorts of people.  A camera crew was filming a music video for an Española artist.  A band of eight or so men were playing song after drum-heavy song.  Three costumed dancers were parading through the crowd ringing cowbells.  A group of rappers quickly befriended us by freestyle rapping (sorry to sound like such a white girl) for about fifteen minutes as soon as we arrived, and after helped lead us away from the drunker of the men there.

While the overwhelming impression of Cuba’s culture is one of drinking, dancing, and general merrymaking (sorry to sound like such a white 70-year-old man), there is also an underlying ambience of poverty and a lack of many of the rights we consider basic in the United States.  Under the socialist ruling of the Castros, political dissent is repressed and any citizen caught speaking out against Fidel or Raúl can count on imprisonment (though after serving their time, ex-felons of Cuba benefit from a great reintegration program that puts the vast majority directly into employment out of prison).  Because of this, all of the people we stayed with refused to say a word against the Fidels or their government even in the safety of their living rooms and it was hard to get an accurate impression of how Cuban citizens actually feel.

Olivia, Alicia, and I were eager to learn as much as we could about Cuba while we were there, and took turns reading aloud from the history and politics section of our guidebook.  It was crazy to find how little we’d been taught in school about Cuba, besides the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how much is kept really hushed in the United States.  Some fun facts:  Cuba’s literacy rate is 99.8%, higher than the US and the tenth highest in the world.  Cuba has a state-controlled economy and dual currency system (1 CUP = approximately 20 CUC) where the CUP or Cuban peso is the currency in which most citizens are paid as the vast majority of the labor force is employed by the state and the CUC or Convertible peso is set to equal the value of the US dollar and is used in the tourist economy.  Because of this, many doctors, dentists, teachers, etc. leave their jobs after finishing years of school because they are only paid what amounts to about 15 CUC a month and there is far, far more money in the tourism industry.  In every casa particular we stayed in and every tour we went on the house-owners we met had gotten degrees in various fields and then left to make a much better salary in tourism.  Those who don’t leave, according to the people we talked to, find other ways to make a few extra bucks.  If someone works in construction, he might sell some extra cement and supplies on the side.  If someone works for a tobacco factory, he might set up his own under the table business to sell cigaros to tourists.  In a recent survey cited in our guidebook, every single student in a 4th grade class said they either wanted to go into tourism or a “private sector” of employment when asked about their dream jobs.

As you can probably imagine, this affects tourists immensely.  One of our main activities was walking around the cities in order to get a feel for everything and save money and we couldn’t go anywhere without being offered thirty casas to stay in, restaurants to eat in, bars to dance at, taxis to take, jewelry, cigars, books, posters, t-shirts to buy.  Even more vicious and overwhelming than the constant harassment from vendors, was the constant harassment from men.  My madre warned me before I left: “no te cases” (don’t get yourself married).  I should have taken this more seriously.

Every man I passed either whistled, hissed, blew kisses, called out, or grabbed at me.  It was hard to remain upbeat and excited about exploring when I constantly felt attacked walking outside.  It was hard to act friendly and eager to meet new people when the vast majority of the people who wanted to talk to us were men, and 95% of those conversations consisted of the following phrases in varying orders and a combination of broken English and Spanish: “where are you from?”, “you’re so linda/bella/bonita/guapa/sexy/beautiful”, “you want boyfriend?”, “where are you going?”.  I actually preferred when they spoke English because I absolutely hate that any of them might think I was ignoring them because I didn’t understand their Spanish and not because what they were saying was often disgusting/degrading/stupid/offensive.

While we were able to laugh about some of the things we heard when we were safely back at our hostels (for example, “novios gratis” or “free boyfriends” was one of the most common things that was shouted at us… and to think – here I’ve been paying my boyfriend all this time!) while we were outside, it quickly got us down and one of my prevailing impressions of my time in Cuba is a feeling of discomfort and resentfulness.

But we had a lot of fun too!  Here are three of my highlights:

  1. Celebrating Alicia’s 21st birthday.  We ended up extending Alicia’s birthday so that we could celebrate once in every place we stayed.  Most of the celebrations involved incredibly fun Cuban salsa and disappointingly bad mojitos.  Cuban salsa is really different from Mexican salsa in that there’s way more hip action, you dance closer to your partner and don’t move as far for vueltas, the woman has more freedom to improvise and move independently from her partner, and the music is so freaking good.  Suffice it to say I enjoyed myself while the other girls were finding their novios gratis.
  2. In La Habana, we managed to find a partido de beisbol where we got in for what amounted to about ten cents each and bought loads of cheap snack foods (personal favorite is this bar that tastes like a combination of peanut butter and cookie dough) while we watched the game.  We came late but still got great seats and it was one of the least-touristy things we got to do which was nice until we ended up having to leave because too many boys started surrounding us and asking for kisses and we couldn’t see the game.  Still though, fun for a while.
  3. The family we stayed with in Trinidad was genial.  The family consisted of a married couple and the wife’s mother who is the best cook in the world and made us huge (really, huge) feasts every night.  They were super welcoming and friendly and talked to us really honestly about their experiences and culture, even if they didn’t say anything specifically negative about the government.

The last great thing about our trip to Cuba was that it made me miss and appreciate México a lot.  It made me realize how happy and comfortable I’ve become and how much I love Mérida and my life here.  During our last night in Cuba, I considered for a rato staying in Mérida for the spring semester but about two hours of mental pros and cons lists and nail biting later, I realized that would be crazy.  So instead I’m just trying to get excited for Christmas and going back to Wesleyan (not a difficult task) and really enjoy every second of my last month here.  Woo!

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Chiapas: Día de los Muertos

Time November 7th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

On November 1st, while Americans were all busy recovering from their previous night’s sugar binge, Mexicans were waking early to haul crates of flowers, food, photos, instruments, crosses, candles, and streamers to the altars and graves of their dead family members.  In addition to walking around the different altars set up in San Cristóbal, we got to go to the cemeteries and churches of two indigenous communities nearby, San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán.  Unfortunately for this blog, the gente of these communities believe that photos taken of people steal a part of their soul and on top of that, my computer somehow managed to delete all of the photos I took from October 31st until now, so I will try my best to describe the festivities without the ayuda of photos.

The cemetery of San Juan Chamula was a medium-sized field bustling with people.  Pine needles and flowers were sprinkled on each grave and on top of that, photos of the dead were placed by colored crosses along with heaps of the foods and alcohols that the person liked so that when their souls came back, they would have their favorite things.  The living drank coke and other sodas all day long to burp all of the evil out of them and cleanse their souls and bodies.

The church of San Juan Chamula was surrounded by pine needles that nobody was allowed to walk on.  Inside, large patterned banners hung diagonally across the high ceiling.  Billowing smoke from incense and fires was caught in the rays of light shining in from the windows and drifted upward to hang faintly at the crest of the church.  Colored candles lined the rows of saints along each wall.  Down the center of the church was a procession of men carrying saints on pedestals and flags, playing music with guitars, trumpets, drums, harps, and accordions.  Outside, the church bells rang along with the music and fireworks went off like gunshots disappearing into the pale blue sky.

The cemetery of Zinacantán was at the top of a mountain so we got a nice hike with a breathtaking view on our way up.  The cemetery was small and purple.  Everywhere, people were dressed in bright purple and pink flowered shawls; purple flowers covered the gravestones.

The atmosphere on día de los muertos is as different from American funerals and cemeteries as possible.  Instead of dressing in all black and mourning the dead, wearing glasses to conceal crying, playing somber music, and then having to mourn privately after the funeral, here people dress colorfully, play festive music, and celebrate the lives of the people who have died, acknowledging that death is part of life and that their spirits will return to celebrate with them each year.  It is a much, much healthier attitude towards death in my opinion.  Two of the girls in my group made their own little alters for their fathers in the lobby of our hotel which was beautiful.

Yesterday morning I went on a boat ride through a huge canon, covered with trees and waterfalls, surrounded by birds and alligators, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and now totally photo-less.

I just got back from the 13-hour bus ride from Chiapas, sad to leave San Cristóbal and return to school, but surprisingly comforted by the smell of the humidity that greeted me as I stepped off the camión.  Now I’m back for just enough time to take a test and do a very necessary load of laundry before I leave on Friday for Cuba where I’ll be traveling for ten days!!!

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Chiapas: el mejor lugar del mundo

Time November 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

¡Estoy en San Cristóbal de las Casas y nunca quiero salir!

Scattered update while I torrent scary movies (happy Halloween!) in the lobby of our hotel.  First, it is cold here.  I’m wearing a sweatshirt and under a big wool blanket.  It’s an incredibly welcome change.  Second, it’s great being in a hotel with all eleven of us students on one floor together so we can leave our doors open and actually spend time together as if we were in college.

Now some actual things about the trip: we left Mérida in a little camión at 2:00am on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning and promptly ran over a broken bumper on the highway and got a flat so we waited on the side of the road right next to a cute little strip club for about an hour while the driver changed the tire.  Other than that, the ride was fairly smooth.  At about 11:00 in the morning we stopped at Palenque to see gorgeous Mayan ruins and cascadas in the jungle.

We got back in the car around 2:00 and finally made it to Chiapas around 8:00 Wednesday night.  Chiapas es tan hermosa.  It’s in a valley surrounded by mountains, a beautiful change from Mérida’s flat nothing.  It’s also cleaner and quainter than Mérida, with colored paved roads, tons of little artisan tienditas, lots and lots of delicious vegetarian restaurants, beautiful old churches, incredibly intricate textiles, live music everywhere, and a huge mercado.

Here is a cuento I found on a t-shirt that I bought today:

Fanto tenía piernas demasiadas cortas y cuatro trompas.  Por esto todo su niñez fue sufrimiento.  Pero un día encontró cuatro ruedas de una carreta vieja.  Hoy es el elefante más interesante que he conocido.  Con sus ruedas ha viajado por todo el mundo y con sus cuatro trompas, que utiliza como bocinas, toca también melodías muy hermosas.

Quick translation:

Fanto had legs that were too short and four trunks.  Because of this, his childhood was full of suffering.  But one day he found four wheels from an old cart.  Now, he is the most interesting elephant that I’ve met.  With his wheels he has traveled the whole world and with his four trunks, which he uses as horns, he also plays beautiful music.

¡Buenas noches!

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Yaxuná

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

This Thursday to Saturday I was on a program excursion to Yaxuná, a tiny little pueblito with under 100 families.  Despite very little to no warning about the activities (purely manual labor) that we would do there, and the lack of preparation (packing clothes that could get ruined / bringing activities to do while it rained in the empty 100 square foot room that four of us occupied) that preceded the trip, it ended up being an almost-enjoyable experience and I’m definitely glad that I got to see the town.

Without dwelling on the bad aspects, here are some things that stood out to me:

  • El idioma.  The people of Yaxuná speak Maya more than they speak Spanish, and often only learn español en las escuelas.
  • Las casas.  The homes are all wood and straw huts with indoor and outdoor hammocks and tiny TVs.  No beds.  No bathrooms.  Lots of people sitting together in every chair and stool working and eating and talking juntos.
  • Los niños.  Because Yaxuná is tiny and everybody knows everybody else, and because adults are working or spending time together all day and houses are so small and hot, children and babies play out alone on the streets.  I realize this is more strange to me than most people because I’m from New York where even twelve-year-olds can’t always be alone outside, but Yaxuná is different from anything I’ve heard of in any state in the US.  Babies as young as two years old were out on the streets at night with groups of other children ranging from eleven years old down.  They didn’t cry or whine, just sat and watched and played with the other kids.  It took a significant amount of self-restraint not to pick up a particularly cute red-pantsed baby boy and take him home.
  • La música.  From 5 in the morning to 11 at night, music mexicana blasts from every home and tiendita.  People are singing, whistling, humming constantly.
  • Los animales.  Never have I ever seen more starving and sexually active animals in my life.  Dogs, cats, roosters, chickens, and pigs all roam the streets and in and out of houses, often fornicating to create more starving and sexually active animals.  I could count the ribs on most of the puppies I saw.  Roosters start cacareo-ing around four in the morning, well before sunrise.
  • El Centro Cultural.  Yaxuná has a fairly new cultural center that is beautiful and is clearly a significant source of pride and community for the gente.  That and the newly renovated LOL-HA cenote (does nobody else find this as funny as I do?) are both small attractions for tourists and other gringos to come contribute to their village.My trip to Yaxuná marked the beginning of many more viajes that I have scheduled almost back-to-back from now until I go back to New York.  It’s nice to have a home base to come back to in Mérida where I can catch up on work and sleep and get really flippin’ excited for my other travels.

    Next stop: Chiapas!

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Playas y cumpleaños y abuelas y menos lluvia

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

Happy two months together, Mexico!  Almost halfway through my time with you!  Ah!

Apologies to those of you who have been anxious for my next post (Mom), cómo vuela el tiempo…. Here are some things I’ve been up to:

A group of about fifteen kids from IFSA-Butt and UADY rented out a beach house in Sisal (tiny beach town like an hour away from Mérida) last weekend where we built a fogata and introduced the Mexicans to S’mores, played a few shameful games of Beer Pong in which it was obvious how long I’ve been away from college, swam desnudos in the Gulf of Mexico, and slept in colored hammocks gently swaying in the thick, salty breeze.

Wednesday was my friend’s 21st birthday so we celebrated the fact that she has now been able to drink in Mexico for three years by going to a karaoke bar (these are a big deal here) and buying her enough tequila to be able to sing Isabel by Luis Miguel in front of a very enthusiastic crowd.  It was beautiful.  Earlier, another friend and I had surprised her at our favorite paletaría with cupcakes and candles and a super guapo birthday card.

My grandma came to visit at the end of last week which was super fun!  Her goal, other than to see Mérida, was to spoil me rotten so during the two days that she was here I ate at restaurants, slept in a room with AC, took the nicest shower I’ve taken in months, and got the world’s most heavenly massage.  My madre was incredibly excited to meet Grandma K and prepared a wonderful (huge) meal for us in which I got a great workout translating back and forth for them.  In general, having my abuelita here made me feel really competent in my Spanish-speaking.  Normally, the only times that stand out to me are when I don’t understand something or don’t remember how to say something, but with my grandma here, I noticed how easily I was able to say everything she asked me to say for her and how much I was communicating in a language she doesn’t understand, a language that I couldn’t understand five years ago but have been determined to teach myself.  Estaba bien orgullosa.  Also, she bought a sombrero.

Other than that, Mexico and I are both pretty much the same as ever.  The rainy season is coming to a close, leaving Mérida theoretically a few degrees colder than when I first got here, though it still hurts to walk outside between 11:00am and 3:00pm and when Skyping my parents last week, my dad asked at least four times: “why are you so shiny?”

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Todavía Chida

Time September 30th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week I came down with a cold and decided it would probably be better to hold off on writing so that my posts wouldn’t become more self-indulgent than blogs inherently are.

Pre-illness I had a great time going to see a Mexican Blink 182 cover band playing at a club here last Saturday night.  To paint a quick picture, imagine a packed audience of sweaty men and a stage of four fairly scrawny teenage boys screaming into microphones with thick Mexican accents: “Feet fell short dis time her smile fade in da summer place your and in my I leave when I wanner…”

On Sunday there was an excursion to San Crisanto, una a villa de pescadores, where we went on a beautiful boat ride through mangroves and were able to witness firsthand a buttload of mosquitos.

I realize I mention mosquitos a lot, but they are an important part of my abroad experience and should not be overlooked.  Some unique locations on which I have found mosquito bites include: palm, knuckle, bellybutton, armpit, and eyelid.  I’ve begun to think of the ways in which I refrain from scratching my constantly itching body as a type of meditation, which is sometimes almost nice.  Alternatively, I’ve discovered that the coarse, uneven wall in my room is an invaluable herramienta.

(So much for this blog post not being self-indulgent.)

In San Crisanto we were able to rent bikes and ride them to a private beach, lined with palmeras and totalmente empty.

I’ve officially been here for six weeks, longer than I’ve lived in any other place beside New York and Wesleyan.  At UADY, people recognize me and stop to say hi.  I have more of a horario fijado since I’ve started taking weekly Salsa classes and teaching English at UADY’s Facultad de Educación.  I’ve discovered the best spots to go to do homework when I need a change of ambiente, AC, and dependable wifi.  I’ve gotten used to the incessant barking that echoes up each block I walk down, and when a car is approaching on the opposite side, its distant grumble making me feel entirely enveloped by growls; I’ve gotten used to that too.  I have a frequent costumer card at the Oxxo near my house for the overly sweetened iced coffees I get more times a week than I’d like to admit.  I know how to cross the streets without looking like a tourist.  Someone actually asked me for directions the other day.

As I’ve acclimated to more and more here, I’m able to claim them as my own: my school, my room, my neighborhood, my Oxxo, my lavandería, my city.  But as much as I feel like they’re becoming a part of me, I’m also realizing more and more that I’m never going to belong here.  No matter how well I know where I’m going or how conventionally I dress, my skin is still a light beige color and my hair shines blonde in the sunlight.  And for those two qualities, I will ceaselessly be stared at.

As a young and somewhat attractive female, I know what it’s like to be stared at.  But here it’s entirely different in that nobody tries to conceal it.  People stare blatantly, continuously, whether or not they’ve seen me see them staring at me.  I’m not sure if there’ll ever be any getting used to this.  My current coping mechanism is returning their stares with a fairly goofy smile and then going back to whatever I was doing, trying not to mind the audience.

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El Grito

Time September 17th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Happy Independence Day, Mexico!

Brief history:  El Grito de Dolores was the event that marked the beginning of la Guerra de Independencia on the 16th of September, 1810.  Several months earlier, Mexican priest Miguel Hidalgo began planning a revolt against the Spanish colonial government.  By September, he had managed to set over 80 pro-independence prisoners free and on the 16th ordered the church bells to be rung to gather his congregation and encourage them to revolt.  It wouldn’t be until September 28th, 1821 that Mexico would finally win its independence.

Less-brief account of the celebration:  Every September 15th at 11:00pm, a bell is rung in every large city by the presidentes municipales, who then repeat a cry of patriotism, echoed by the crowd below.  I arrived in the Centro with friends a few hours early to enjoy the ambiente – Mexican flags, face paint, huge sombreros, fake mustaches, loud music, atascado sea of street food vendors.  We walked around, snacking on paletas and watching a few incredibly intense games of Dance Dance Revolution.  At 11:00 the bells started ringing and we scurried over to the Catedral.  A friend and I managed to push our way to the front so we could see Rolando Zapata Bello, the Governor of the Yucatán, call out the names of war heroes to which the público roared back ¡VIVA!  The speech built until todo el mundo shouted ¡VIVA MEXICO! repeatedly and then dissolved into the Himno Nacional Mexicano as the church bells rung and fireworks began overhead, close enough that the sparks fell through the trees above and left gun powder in our hair, quickly filling the plaza with smoke glowing green red and white.

Además de la noche, there have been many other tipos of celebration in honor of Mexico’s Independence.  Friday everyone was ready to go hard in anticipation of the three-day weekend so some of the IFSA-Butler students and I met up with a bunch of our UADY friends at a bar to dance and tomar well into the night.  At some point we transferred to the house of one of the UADY students where we tomamos más and played Nunca Nunca He (Never Have I Ever), with which I got far better practice using the preterite perfect than in any activity I’ve ever done in Spanish classes.  The following morning my madre was thrilled to learn that I had gotten home around 5:00am, saying that’s how it is here with all of the young people and she was glad I had fun.  Definitely a very different reaction than I would have received from my mom at home, which would have involved a lot less hand-squeezing and a lot more eye-rolling.  Yesterday before I went to the Centro, my madre hosted a big almuerzo with relatives and neighbors and lots and lots of food and toddlers (two of my favorite things).  Today, I didn’t have class due to the celebraciones so I spent my extra time doing homework  working out  talking to my Mexican family  watching Louis C K stand-up on Youtube.  No regrets.

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Más y Más Acostumbrada

Time September 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Oh man, how extraño switching to English.  Starting September 1st everyone in the IFSA-Butler program decided we would speak and write exclusively in Spanish then forward, having had the time to get to know each other well in English.  Now I can’t help but feel guilty or incómoda writing in this language, even though obviously it’s easier.

I just got back from the cine, where tickets cost $30 pesos ($2.25 dollars), air conditioning prevails, popcorn somehow tastes fresh without un montón de chemicals, and huge cushioned seats powered by remotes recline into the shape of your blissed out cuerpo.  I just saw the worst movie in the world but oh man was it nice.

Earlier today I went to a restaurant called Eladio’s with some friends from UADY after class.  There are several Eladio’s all over Mérida, well known for their botanas which come gratis with a single drink order, so that it’s common for each person to order a $35 peso cerveza and then have a free meal of unlimited delicious Yucatecan dishes.  Super yum.  And friends!  I have friends now!  They’re students from Mérida and other parts of México who I’ve met in classes or through IFSA-Butler peeps.  Mexican friends definitely help the adjustment.

Recently, things have been clicking a lot more for me in terms of feeling comfortable and happy here – not just glad to be here because I want to become fluent in Spanish and “have the experience”, but truly glad to be here just to be here.  I’m pretty sure there were a solid five hours of classes and then hanging out with friends in which I listened and read and spoke in Spanish without even acknowledging that it was another language.  It was an incredibly exhilarating thing to realize.  Además, time moves a lot faster when I don’t have to concentrate on every word spoken and after I’m left with much more energy.  Of course there are still times when my mind just blanks and I can’t understand or produce any language.  My English is rapidly deteriorating.

Between lunch out and the movie, no he hecho casi nada tarea hoy, which I have to work to not stress out about.  It’s been interesting trying to get a feel for school here.  I have to keep in mind that I’m not expected to produce the same caliber of work here that I do at Wesleyan.  Classes here for the most part seem much more laid back, and I think teachers will cut me some slack for being a gringa, at least at first.  It’s hard because I always like to feel on top of things, but it’s not at all worth being miserable during my relatively short time here.

In other news, I found out that wila, which sounds identical to the way my name is pronounced here, is a fairly offensive Mexican grosería meaning cheap and/or dirty prostitute.  So that’s a bummer.

This weekend I’m looking forward to a bit of a descanso to catch up on all of my readings for class (a 20 page text that would normally take me an hour to read thoroughly in English, takes me about six hours here) and hopefully go back to Progreso, the beach about thirty minutes from where I live.  And then Sunday there is an excursion to Uxmal!  Super emocionada to go and then regresar to blog about it!

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Holbox

Time September 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Thursday night, five of the girls in the program and I boarded an overnight bus heading to Holbox for the weekend.  Holbox is a tiny little island located off the state of Quintana Roo, home to flamingos, pelicans, el tiburón ballena, and about twenty trillion mosquitos, most of which are now filled with some portion of my blood.

Friday morning we transferred from bus to boat to watch the sunrise over the water and the thin strip of island approach.  We walked the five blocks across the island to our hostel, where we slept outside in hammocks until the office opened and we were able to check our things into our room, throw on bathing suits, grab a delicious mess of tortilla-egg-and-cheese goodness, and walk across the street to the beach.  Where we swam, tanned, read, and slept all day.

It’s hard not to feel like the luckiest person alive when you’re lying in a hammock, watching the shadows from the leaves above you dance across your leg and the clear turquoise water glimmer beyond the pages of your book, listening to the waves crash and the breeze through your hair, swaying gently with your toes trailing through the sand…

By evening, all of us were ready to explore the island and half of us were horribly sunburned (relatives will be pleased to learn I was among the unburnt, though somewhat pink and embarrassingly freckly, half of the group) so we headed back to the hostel to change and walk around the island.  Our wandering took us to dinner, where most people shared Holbox’s famous fresh lobster pizza and I had my usual (delicious) quesadilla dinner.  After dinner was helado de arroz and after helado de arroz we went back to the hostel where we watched the sunset from the roof.  Thus marking the first day I ever watched the sun both rise and set.

Instead of going out we went to the hostel’s mosquito-y movie den and watched Harry Potter 5.

Saturday morning we woke up early to get to our tiberón bellena tour by 7:00.  I managed to sleep the entire two hour boat ride, ingeniously creating a pillow by sticking part of my towel into the side of my life jacket and letting my head bob against it.  Somewhere along the line between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, we found the sharks.  From the boat, we could see their sharp fins above the water and the huge mass of their 40-foot bodies fuzzily outlined beneath.  From the water, they were breathtaking.  White spots lining an immense, navy blue back, huge flat mouth, gils lifting and closing, small fish hiding in the crevice of fins.  It was the first time I’d ever gotten an adrenaline rush from just the image of something.  Following its path mindlessly, feeling the pressure of the water from its beating tail, hearing only the sound of my breathing through the snorkel.

We each got to jump in twice.  I was lucky (or very determined) and was one of the few to swim alone with a shark for a while both times.  My second time in, I followed a manta ray too, wondering if it was safe to be swimming with.

Back in the boat we sailed around and saw dolphins, flamingos, and pelicans.  We stopped along a marshy coast for lunch and more snorkeling through the shallow water with schools of catfish.  A pelican flew super close to me which was exciting until it pooped about five inches away from me in the water, at which point it became both exciting and gross.

At Holbox, we beached and ate and at night decided we were too tired to go out to the raucous island parties so we grabbed our pillows and more bug spray and watched Harry Potter 6.

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La Primera Excursión

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

One of the best things about the IFSA-Butler program is that they plan four excursions to other parts of the country (generally still in the Yucatán) for the group.  And while it’s fun to choose where to go and figure out plans independently, it’s also very, very nice to have someone who is knowledgable organize and pay for everything for you.

Our first excursion was last Sunday and consisted of trips to Chichén Itzá, a cenote called Yokdzonot, and the colonial city Izamal.

Contrary to popular belief, Chichén Itzá is actually the name of the entire historical site and not just the largest and most famous pyramid there.  It was one of the most thriving Maya civilizations between the 9th and 12th centuries and its ruins are now an incredibly popular tourist attraction.  The name Chichén Itzá comes from the Maya words Ji – boca, Chen – well, and Itza – the name of the tribe that lived there.  Together it means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”.

At the mouth of the well of the Itza is beautiful and we managed to get there early enough to beat the crowd and explore the ruins at our own pace.  The site is huge, with three main sites and many smaller ones branching off.  Some of my favorites were the El Castillo (the big one) and the Juego de Pelota.

After about two hours, the group had seen plenty of Maya ruins and I had perfected my running-iguana impression (in case anyone wants to give it a try, it involves lifting your butt up and awkwardly moving your legs and arms at opposite times, whole body waggling – watch this starting at 1:32 for more pointers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W_8BySmVzU) so we got back into the bus and headed towards the cenote.

Yokdzonot is incredible.  It is a huge cenote with cool water, a zipline overhead, and fish so tranquilos you can touch them.

We ate lunch at a little restaurant at Yokdzonot and then headed to Izamal, a small city that is known as “La Ciudad Amarilla” because all of its buildings are painted yellow.

There are several theories as to why it was painted yellow.  The first and more widely agreed upon is that after Juan Pablo III visited their town, locals were proud and wanted to cover their entire village with their color.  Another theory is that the buildings absorb the sunlight instead of reflecting it off and giving off more heat.  A third theory has something to do with the yema de un huevo but the guide was talking very fast and I didn’t catch the whole story.

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Una Semana Completa

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

Today marks my one week anniversary with Mexico!  We’re celebrating by napping and raining, respectively.

The seven days that I’ve been here feel much, much longer.  I’m unsure if it’s because of the insane number of things that I have learned and experienced in so little time or if it’s because each day is structured into two mini-days, in which I wake up early, nap mid-day, and go to sleep late.  Whatever the reason, last Thursday feels like ages ago.

Here are some things I have accomplished and/or adjusted to in the last week:

  • I went to three museums
  • I took a bus tour of the city
  • I went out to the Centro twice at night
  • I finally remember to throw my toiletpaper in the trash instead of the toilet
  • I have a somewhat competent understanding of how the streets and buses here work
  • I bought a cheap cell phone
  • I’ve acquired at least two mosquito bites within every five inches of my body
  • I’ve spent a lot more time with my family here
  • I found a gym near my house
  • I took my first week of classes

I’m not going to be able to write about everything right now because I still want to get a decent amount of homework done before I go to sleep, but I will elaborate a bit on a few things.  And photos!  I took more photos.

First, a brief background on Mérida and the Yucatán Peninsula.  The Yucatán is in the southeast of Mexico between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, above Belize and Guatemala.  It was home to a thriving Maya civilization until the mid-16th century when Spain invaded and conquered the area, putting many natives to work as indentured servants.  When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, most of the state was used to create huge plantations on which the Maya were forced to work.  In 1847 there was a revolution that lasted 50 years until an agreement was reached and the Maya received rights.

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To this day there are many Maya ruins and elaborate homes from the Spaniards’ reign throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, and Mérida has the highest percentage of indigenous people of all cities in Mexico.  Because of its diversity and somewhat secluded location, the Yucatán largely has its own culture separate from the rest of Mexico and is the only state with zero involvement in the Narco Wars.  According to our program director, Mérida is one of the top ten safest cities in the world (source not found).

All this to say that there are an unbelievable number of things to do and see here.  So far, I’ve been to the Museo del Mundo Maya, the Museo del Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán, la Catedral, la Palacia del Gobierno, and the Museo Casa Montejo.

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The bar scene here is wonderful.  I went out my first Saturday with a group from the program and then again last night for one of the girl’s cumpleaños!  I tried mezcal, a native Mexican tequila-like drink made from agave, the first night out but no me gustó so last night I just danced instead.  The bar scene here is wonderful because of the dancing.  Somehow, everyone here knows how to do all of the different types of dances and are super willing to teach.  It’s not at all a sleazy and there’s an incredibly open and alegre atmosphere.  At the bar we went to last night, there was a grupera band playing cumbia y salsa on a tiny stage right on top of everyone, smiling at todo el mundo dancing to their music.

The streets here are all numbers, with odds going in one direction and evens in another.  Outside of the Centro, most of the little streets don’t go all the way through, so it’s common to skip 4 or 6 numbers each block.  For example, I’m on Calle 19, entre Calle 54 y Calle 50.  The buses that go to UADY and to town stop at the Arcos, which are a few blocks away and a very helpful (and beautiful) landmark.

For all those of you who were worried about me getting kidnapped or killed in a cartel fight, worry not: if I am going to die in Mexico, it’ll be on those buses.  The bus that I take to and from UADY is siempre packed with people in the seats, in the aisles, leaning against the cracked front window, standing in the open flapping doorway, watching the grey sidewalk whiz by, holding onto a pole as other people push against their backs for more room and the bus leaps unsteadily over speed bumps.  The driver holds the large thin steering wheel in one hand while the other hand organizes a bowl of coins into their appropriate slots and changes gears.  Where a maximum occupancy sign would be on a New York bus, there are three different colored pictures of Jesus.

Class sign-ups here put Wesleyan’s system to shame.  There is a two-week shopping period after which you enter online which courses you want to take.  And that’s it.  No pre-reg, no adjustment period, no add-drop, no frantic pleading emails to teachers.  You try out your classes and then you take the ones you like.  (This would be a lot simpler, of course, if it weren’t all in Spanish.  Never again will I take for granted how easy it is to take classes in a language I am fluent in.)  As of today, I am almost 100% decided on my class schedule.  At UADY I am taking three classes: Psicología de la Comunicación (Mon Wed 10-2), Psicopatología (Tues 12-2 Thurs 8-10), and either Comunicación-Educativa or Historia de la Sexualidad y Perspectiva de Género (both Tues Thurs 10-12).  We had to take a placement exam for the IFSA-Butler program’s Spanish classes and I was placed in the higher of the two levels (a slight disappointment after the prospect of one easy class) which is Tues Thurs 4-6.  And last but not least I’m in a Community Engagement program through IFSA-Butler Thurs 6-8.

So many exciting things!  With one week behind me, I feel like I have a better sense of what the next seventeen weeks may hold.  And while my main objective is to remain open-minded to all the possibilities that may arise and not get tied down with too many goals, I really like lists so por fin…

A flexible list of things that I would love to do and places that I would love to go while I am abroad:

  • Go to Oaxaca (beautiful, cultural city with lots of sights and crafts and foods)
  • Take Salsa classes
  • Teach English
  • Go to at least five different beaches
  • Go to Chichén Itzá (huge Maya site, one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”)
  • Learn to cook at least a full day’s worth of Yucatecan meals
  • Go to a cenote

¡Adiós!

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(Find the iguana)

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Qué Padre

Time August 19th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In a tank top with the overhead fan on and a floor fan set to high and pointed directly at my face, the temperature is actually quite pleasant.  It’s not that I’m not used to weather in the high nineties (or thirties – what?), it’s that I’m not used to the kind of humidity that clings to every surface and makes the air feel heavy on my skin.  My first night here when I asked my señora about biking, she laughed and said everyone would be soaking wet and dehydrated before they traveled two blocks.  Even just walking around and being inside, I have to remember to drink a lot of water, especially because with meals there’s mainly just jugo or leche.  Other than sitting by fans when I’m home and drinking a lot of water, the only other remedy for the heat I’ve found is cold showers.  Apparently it’s common here to take three showers a day – one in the morning, one after the afternoon siesta, and one before bed.  So far, I’ve only been taking one shower each day because it’s only a matter of minutes after I’ve dried off before my skin is sticky again.  I actually have no idea whether or not my shower has hot water because I’ve only ever turned on the cold faucet, which produces a warmish and very meager trickle of water.  Still, if the worst part of my abroad experience is the fact that I’m going to be perpetually moist for four months, that’s hardly cause for complaint.

Here are some things of note other than my sweat:

The IFSA-Butler program in Mérida consists of eleven students total – ten girls and one boy.  Three of them are from the University of Denver, one is from Barnard, one from Kenyon, one from Wesleyan (hi), and the rest I don’t remember or hadn’t heard of.  The vast majority of them are either majoring or minoring in Spanish or International Studies.  I am the only student not in the anthropology school here, which I don’t mind because I want to meet and make friends with the Mexican students here and I will be with the IFSA-Butler students twice a week for our Spanish classes.  The problem is that because so few extranjeros study psychology at UADY (La Universidad Autónoma De Yucatán), the program advisors have very little information on classes and when I met with them today, were under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to take any classes in the psychology department at all.  I talked with them about it and did some research myself and they are trying to work it out so that I can take the psychology classes as planned (porque si no, tenemos un gran problema) and will let me know on Monday what the deal is.  I’m going through the classes in the anthropology department now to see if I can figure something else out just in case.  Very stressful but either way something will work out!

The program director is from Ecuador and loves to tell story after story of all of the mistakes students have made and problems they have encountered in the past – the Amish girl who drank for the first time and was almost arrested because she passed out on the sidewalk, the boy who fractured his finger his first night in Mexico on the overhead fan, the girl who took in a stray cat and hid it under her bed, the boy who kept getting STDs….  Possibly more difficult than dealing with psychology course sign-ups has been listening to the program director talk about sex and dating.  My Wesleyan-self squirmed listening to a sex talk that at times alarmingly resembled Robin Thicke’s song lyrics:  Here there is a game that people play, where the girl if she is decent first has to say “no no no” but even so the boy knows there is something there and so he has to be determined….  Do whatever you want!  If you want to date someone, date them!  If you don’t, don’t!  Just make sure you don’t tell them one thing and then change your mind later because then they will still think you’re together and not want to let go…. Here, it doesn’t really matter what you say happened after the fact.  To the police or to the people that you talk to, it doesn’t matter if the person put something in your drink or if you wanted something different at the end of a night, to them if you’re on a date with them, you’re on a date with them and the rest doesn’t matter.  Suffice it to say, it was all I could do to keep myself from spewing liberal, anti-slut-shamey, no-means-no, sex-positive feminism all over the classroom.

I’m living in a neighborhood called Colonia Jardines de Mérida with an older woman named Señora Rebeca and her 23-year-old daughter Mariana.  Señora Rebeca has another daughter and many young grandchildren who visit a lot, which I’m very excited about.  Señora Rebeca is really nice and friendly and for some reason loves that I have a boyfriend at home.  She’s incredibly accommodating in terms of food, which is a huge relief since our Señoras are supposed to provide us with three meals a day and I can be nearly impossible to feed.  She’s hosted many vegetarian students before, and has been asking a lot about which ingredients are gluten-free.  Today she somehow managed to find galletas sin gluten!

Food in general is very good and mostly all naturally gluten-free since everything is corn and rice based.  I’m still not at all used to the eating schedule which is generally a big breakfast as soon as you wake up, a big lunch around 2:00, and a small dinner after 8:00.  So far I have been really full after meals and really hungry before the next meal.  Snacking is uncommon and leaving food unfinished is rude.

I haven’t been able to see much of Mérida itself since orientation has been so intense and time-consuming but tonight a group of students from the program and I are going to the Centro so more on that to come.  My house is close to the IFSA-Butler office where most of our orientation is so I’ve been walking there and back and getting a bit of a feel for the neighborhood.  The houses are one or two stories high and painted different colors.  They’re pressed together in a line along each street, their boundaries set by each color’s perimeter; 613 to 615 is marked by beige to blue.  There are iron gates, also painted, in front of each house, then a small courtyard or garage if the family owns a car, then the casa.  The sidewalks along each street seem to serve less for people than for the trees and bushes that grow copiously through the cracked cement and adamant dirt ground.

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¿Qué otra cosa…?  Speaking Spanish is good most of the time.  I think I’m in the middle in terms of Spanish abilities compared to the rest of the students in the program, including the two native Spanish speakers.  Somehow, when I imagined learning Spanish abroad, I always saw myself totally immersed and speaking Spanish all the time and never thought about the fact that it’s actually really hard work.  But the accent here isn’t nearly as difficult to understand as I read it would be and I’m learning different regional sayings (everything great or cool here is padre – oh qué padre, wow es padre).  Even though it can be really exhausting, it’s so neat being able to just hear another language and then know the things being said without it ever having to pass through English.  Occasionally I still feel like what the hell am I doing here when I could be at home with everyone I love… but that feeling passes and I should give myself more than 48 hours to adjust.

That’s all for now!  I’m meeting up with two girls who live near here to go in to town in a few minutes.  I’ll try to remember to take photos of things other than the sidewalk before my next post.

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Salida

Time August 15th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

24 hours from now I’ll be in an airplane somewhere over the Eastern Coast of the United States, possibly going crazy with nerves and excitement, most likely sleeping.

Right now I am on my living room couch at home, taking a prolonged packing break to finish my library book and enjoy some New York City sunlight.  Throughout the past week – and summer – friends and family have been asking me how I feel about going abroad.  Am I nervous?  Sad?  Scared?  Excited?  In the past, whenever I traveled and did new things, I threw myself into them with very little to no thought.  I’m discovering that I did this not because of my innate and inspiring bravery (as I would previously have liked to believe) but because I’m bad at anticipating or articulating my feelings about change.

So, nervous?  Yes.  Sad?  Yes.  Scared?  Yes.  Excited?  Yes.  Am I going to miss my friends and family and cheap Chinese food and the color of fall leaves blanketing campus?  Yes.  Am I excited to immerse myself in a new culture and meet interesting people and take classes in Spanish and fall in love with a country I’ve never met?  A billion yes.

Everyone says that time abroad flies by, so here is my attempt to capture bits and pieces and save them here, in the everlasting world of wordpress, to remember my time in Mexico and share it with you.

See you on the other side!

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