Friday, July 22, 2016

So You Wanna Hear About The End

Just got back from lunch with all of the host moms and students for our final goodbye and end of the program. It's a little weird to get thrown together with a bunch of people you've never met before, but then to find yourself pretty attached to those people after only 5 weeks. One of the girls in my class is leaving tonight, and then the rest of us will being leaving starting tomorrow. I'm here until Sunday, but for the most part my times here pretty much over. I'm gonna go out tonight to watch a movie and probably get some food later with some people, but I still don't really know how to feel about being on this end of the trip. I don't know if 5 weeks is long enough to be able to say I lived in México as opposed to saying I only visited, but I definitely feel like this place started to feel like home a little. Definitely ready to go back to my real home, but I'm really gonna miss this place when I leave. Whether its the ability to go out to one of the plazas and go listen to music or get some sweet bread at 7 a.m., life here's been pretty fun. School was kinda dumb, but I think I did learn a lot in the end. Won't miss getting up at 6 every day, but I will miss the friends I made here. My quirky host family was a lot of fun too. In the end, it's a bit of a bittersweet end to a really fun time.

Got a really good farmer's tan line, an even better watch tan line, and got more mosquito bites than I ever could have imagined, but most importantly I think I feel a lot better about my confidence in Spanish. I for sure have a lot more work to do, and I don't think I'll ever be perfect, but I've made a ton a progress. Words come out of my mouth when I'm speaking that I don't necessarily know where from, and I haven't translated what people say to me into english in my head in forever, the words just have meaning to me just as they are. I think I've almost gotten rid of my English speaking accent, though that'll probably stick around forever no matter what, and I still can't roll my r's that well, but I'm still satisfied. I still want to learn more, and I'm still having a ton of fun trying to get better. Even though sometimes there's a lot of awkward misunderstandings, it's an exciting trip.

Given my arrival here was fairly eventful due to who I am as a person I'll likely do something that'll make life difficult as I try to make it back home, so I'll probably post about that whenever that happens, but for the most part all the exciting stuff has already gone down. Thanks for following along if you did, and since the Internet is forever, you can even go back and look at the stuff you missed if you did! I started being able to grow a tiny bit of facial hair on my chin while I was here, but don't worry I'm still for the most part recognizable. Hopefully see some of you guys soon!

There really wasn't anything cool out there, I was just looking out for the picture
Squad up at Frida's

Thursday, July 21, 2016

México City Is In México, Why Can't Kansas City Get it Together?

Just finished my last test of my time here, now I just have one more presentation to give then I'm done! I probably won't finish this before then, but just some temporal background for ya. In the meantime I thought I'd talk about my time in Mexico City my second week here, since I never really got to that.

Had one presentation to give my second week of school in history class, but for the most part class wasn't too difficult. If I could change one thing, I would've wished it was a little better paced, given I had next to no homework the first 3 weeks and then these last 2 weeks have been the most work I've done in a very long time. Anyways, after a week of going to class for 4 or so hours then taking a ride home with our Uber driver Fernando, I got to sleep in a little on Friday. If you count 6:30 sleeping in. I do. Walked on over to the center campus to meet up with the rest of my group after some breakfast with my host grandma, and decided that I was done trying to fit in and wear pants every day. I would much rather look like a tourist than sweat the whole day in 80 degree weather. One of my better concessions this trip. It was about a 3 hour trip on the same bus we took the week before, with the same driver too. Once we got to the city, traffic was worse than anything I'd ever been in before. Once we actually got in, we made a stop at the house of Frida Kahlo, where there's a museum now. Giant blue house. That was pretty cool actually, but it was definitely a pretty touristy place. We stopped and had some lunch at a place that was a little less than sanitary but I'm still alive so I guess it wasn't too bad. Had some spaghetti noodles in what seemed like spaghettiO water and some some other stuff, but nothing too exotic.

After that we got back onto our bus and headed towards our hotel so we could drop off all our stuff. México City felt more like a New York than anything else, it does have about a million more people after all, and had the tall buildings and wide city streets I'm used to. Our hotel was called "Hotel Canada", for reasons I'm not sure. It was shoved between two other places, as is the Mexican style I guess, and all you could see was the door at the entrance. It was bigger on the inside though, and we all got our keys from the front desk. Since I'm the only guy I got my own room, on the top floor to boot. Even then that was only 6 floors up but still. Actually, they don't start counting floors until you go up a floor, so it was technically the 7th floor. Compared to the bed I have at my host family, the bed I had felt like heaven. I thought about just going to bed right there, taking the next 17 hours to sleep for no real reason at all, but decided against it at the last second. Instead, I watched cartoons in Spanish for about half an hour. It was only about 3, but I took an unnecessary shower anyways. My hope was that, in contrast to my shower at my host family, I would have hot water for more than 3 minutes. As if on queue, an imaginary genie said to me, "Be careful what you wish for...", cause I for sure got hot water, but instead of a, "Oh yeah this is a nice, hot, relaxing shower", it was a, "If I get in this shower I will very likely die", kinda shower. There was a knob for hot and a knob for cold, but the cold one didn't work so it was just hot. In other words, for the next 2 nights it was a "Hop in for 2 seconds, hop out, soap up, repeat", kinda process. In then end I'm not sure which of my two showering situations is worse. .

Later that night we all hopped on the bus again and went to a museum of anthropology, and it had stuff from all sorts of different ancient cultures like the Aztecs and the Tolmecs. We didn't have a whole lot of time so I basically did a speed run through all 6 different parts of the place, and even then I still got to see some pretty cool stuff. They've got the original Aztec calendar there and that was pretty amazing, it was yuge. Pics to follow. We only had an hour to run around there so it wasn't a whole lot but it was still a good experience. After that we headed back to the hotel for the night. Went out and walked around for awhile with some friends that night, and got some pretty good tacos, not gonna lie. One thing to note, I haven't had a single burrito or hard shelled taco here once. Silly U.S. and its silly food. It was pretty cool to walk through the street at night because there was a ton of people and there were lights and excitement going on everywhere. We also went to dinner at a restaurant one night, but I don't remember which night. Weird thing about that: since the city was just one giant lake when the Aztecs had it, the entire city is sinking a little. They didn't do anything to the ground when they built all the buildings in hundreds of years ago so there are some buildings, like the one we went to that was at least 10 stories tall, where you have to walk uphill to get to one end of the building to the other. Pretty crazy.

Next day we went to another museum and also went to a place where you could see a temple that was still somewhat intact in the city. That was pretty cool. Getting my days a little mixed up, but at some point during that time we got to go to Hidalgo, a place with some leftover ruins of the Tula. They had some cool pyramids and even a couple of fields with mini arenas around them where they played the ball game where if you lost you got sacrificed! Or maybe the other way around, I don't exactly remember. That was kinda crazy though, because there were temples if you looked one way, but then half a mile the other direction you could see gas stations and fast food places in the other direction. A very strange juxtaposition. That was really cool, but what really got me was the Aztec temples we got to see the other day. I thought the ones at Hidalgo were big, but here they were incredible. For one, it took like 2 hours to get to the top of one of them because there are so many people trying to get up that they only let about 25 people go up at a time, and then theres like 2 checkpoints on the way up that you have to wait for as well. Some pretty steep stairs though. Really cool view of the place though, and you could see just how big of a city the Aztecs had. Again, pics to follow.

In general it was a pretty fun weekend trip. Got pretty sunburnt but saw a lot of cool stuff, and am super glad I was able to go and run around en even bigger city than Querétaro. Avoided getting sick again, at least for the most part, which wasn't true for everyone. Definitely was a trip within a trip for the books, and its a good thing I'm writing all this down cause I'd probably forget most of this if I didn't.

Well I finished all my school stuff a little bit ago, so now I'm actually done with school. Feels so good to get that over with, gonna be honest. Gonna find out grades tomorrow and then just hang out with my family and new friends for the next couple of days! I'll probably post one or two more times, so savor these last sweet moments!

Getting a little selfie action on top a temple

One of the streets in México City

Nice little calendar

Looking down from the top of the temple of the sun

Looking up from the bottom of the temple of the sun

Original square in México City, these buildings have been here since the Spaniards first built them

On top of a temple in Tula

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hey, Real Quick

I've only got one more day of class left, and that's tomorrow. Got 2 presentations to give and 1 test to take. Probably gonna be a long night of preparation, but after that I'll finally be able to relax a bit. Plus I find out what grades I'm gonna get in my classes since I've for the most part had no idea this entire time. The last week or so has been pretty rough, had something big due in at least one of my three classes almost every day for the last 2 weeks and it's been taking its toll! After tomorrow I'll have Friday and Saturday to enjoy my last little bit of time in México before I get on another bus to the airport Sunday, and catch up on here, cause there's still some stuff I haven't gotten to. Anyways, this just a quick update since I said earlier I'd be trying to post every day a couple days ago and I haven't. . . Back to that workload at level 10 thing. . . Gotta finish up a presentation on the Reform War between the liberal and conservative parties in post-colonial México though, be back tomorrow!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cultured, And Other Things I'm Not

Well the power keeps going out cause its raining so hard the electricity can't find its way to my house so this will probably be pretty short, given I have 10% battery left and am in the dark.

My host mom just handed me a serrano pepper so I guess I gotta eat that. I am eating that as I am typing this. It is hot. Yeah. This was a poor decision I kinda just went for it and that was a mistake on my part. Its only about 3 times hotter than a jalepeño I just looked up so I guess that's not bad I guess I'm just a wimp. I also just accidently agreed to having her put these in my eggs tomorrow so I gotta find a way to shut that down kinda soon. I once ate an entire Habanero pepper with my cousin Andrew so it's not that. Still tearing up quite a bit though. Need some milk.

Back to real life. Went to mass with my host mom/grandma today (not sure what to call her cause she's my real grandmas' age but also her youngest kid is 22 so there's some conflict going on there). This was my second time since I've been here but it was still a cool experience to be in a giant cathedral with giant pillars, statues, and various other old stuff. Not necessarily my beliefs or ideas of church, but culturally enriching nonetheless. It was super echoey though so I really couldn't understand anything the whole time. It was only about an hour though so it wasn't too bad. After many cycles of sit, stand, kneel, turn around the priest said the last prayer and everybody hugged each other. Right on.

The church was only about 3 blocks away but we stopped for popsicles on the way back cause why not, then my host mom and I walked around the city center a little bit just for fun. Watched some guy play the bassoon for a little then called it a day. I saw a lady selling what looked like to me tortillas so I asked my host mom if they were in fact tortillas and she said no they were communion wafers that you could by. Rad I said, okay not really, and then we made it home. Got to work on some homework because though I still have only 4 days of school left I have like 87 things I gotta get turned in at some point this week. I was working so hard I didn't even see my host mom leave until she came back through the front door. She walks over and sets down a big bag of the communion wafers I asked about earlier, not even kidding. I didn't even think you were supposed to just have those if you're a Catholic. But I'm not even that anyways, and now I have like a lifetime supply of these things. Or I could get 'em all out of the way and just have a bowl of these things for like 2 weeks and do it that way. I don't really know it's a sealed bag so I got some time to think about it.

Calmed down after that pepper now and its still raining super hard but the powers back on so that's an improvement. Went out and stood in it for about 10 seconds and basically felt like someone sprayed me down with a hose. My kinda entertainment. Gotta get back to some homework though because I got a test and a presentation to give tomorrow so that's gonna be all for today, thanks for reading!

Also the picture below has nothing to do with anything I did today but it was two guys I saw yesterday after the soccer game and they had giant rooster heads on and it was just super great

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Today I Spent Some Money On Some Things

In a break from retrospective story telling, today's post is about same-day events! One of the girls in my group has a host family that's super into soccer and has season tickets to the local fútbol team here, the Gallos (Roosters). They invited her to come along to a game today, but she told us about it and 6 others of us ended up getting tickets to go to. We weren't able to get tickets yesterday because of school and life, so we had to go a little bit early today to make sure we could still get some seats. After sleeping in til about 9, we walked my usual 25 minute school route with one of the girls that lives a block away to meet up with 2 others so we could ride together. After sitting in the Burger King parking lot for a little bit our Uber guy showed up in a Nissan Versa. Not even kidding, out of all the Ubers I've taken while here, which is like once a day, 9/10 times they have a Nissan Versa. I don't get it. Rocking out to mariachi music, we made the 3 mile jaunt cross the city and got dropped off in front of the stadium, which honestly was a bit lackluster. There was quite a bit of trash and other stuff just laying around so that was kinda lame, but we found the ticket place and talked with the ticket lady for about 5 minutes trying to decide the best spot to sit. Found a relatively close spot for 140 pesos, so that was great.

It's actually pretty weird, after living here for a month, American things seem comparatively expensive. A ticket to a soccer game is the equivalent of like 8 bucks. I can buy a full dinner for 2 bucks. A 3 liter of coke for 1. I mean, inflation is a little higher since it's about 19 or so pesos a dollar, but it's gonna be hard to get used to paying 10 bucks or more for a dinner or even more than 25 cents for a bag of chips. Whole thing about experiencing different cultures I guess. . .

Made it back to our side of town, ran around for awhile, then I went back home cause I needed some food. It was around 12 and the game wasn't til 5 so I had quite a bit of time to kill. Plugged my phone in and hung out for a little bit but then went and visited my host grandma at her store to see what was up. She gave me some soup like she usually does after school and some bread and some chicken so that was a plus. In all honesty, if you put all the fruits and vegetables I've ever eaten in my life before coming here in one pile, and all the fruits and vegetables I've eaten since coming here in another, the 2nd would be bigger. In all senses except physical I am a cantaloupe. I get a pile of fruit in the morning along with a salad and usually some sort of egg thing, then for lunch its always vegetable soup which includes cucumbers, squash, carrots, celery, and like stuff I don't even know but basically vegetables and broth, then avocado on top of some even more salad along with a meat, then finally dinner, also usually paired with some tomatoes or some other thing from the ground. It's probably super great for me, but at the same time my digestive system was in no way prepared for it all. Healthy me though so good on that.

One of the girls host family has a cousin that drives a taxi so we got him to take us to the game, cool how connections work like that. We got there and it was kinda just like any other american football game I've been to, scan your ticket, find your side of the stadium, and find your seat. Coming from Oregon and having been to Autzen and Reeser, generally larger stadiums, the stadium here kinda felt small but it was still a really cool atmosphere. Everyone was wearing blue, including us cause we had bought ourselves some jerseys before getting there, and the opposing team had their own side too. A big difference though between home football games and here fútbol games though is that the opposing teams section had a 10 ft tall fence around it with barbed wire over the top. Also with about 20 security guards both inside outside and around the cage thing. Guess it gets pretty rough in awhile in there.

Game itself was super fun too, lots of cheering, lots of booing, and also a ton of rain I wasn't very prepared for that. Okay but back to the price of things that I talked about earlier. Stuff is pretty cheap all time usually, and that's cool. But it starts raining and immediately the food vendor people switch roles and start selling ponchos. Not nice ponchos by any means they were literally colored saran wrap with sleeves. I was thinking they were gonna be like 10 pesos, maybe 15, given that's how everything has worked thus far. I ask for one and they were 50 pesos! I know that's only like $2.50 in real life but that was over a third the cost of my ticket to get in there! People were buying them though, so they definitely got the supply and demand thing down. Other funny this was that as soon as it started raining, and it doesn't sprinkle in Querétaro it either pours or is nothing by the way, nearly our entire section just got up and left. I don't know if they walked to where the cover was or what but they were not having that at all. We stayed right where we were though cause we're Oregonians and we don't care that were freezing cold and dripping wet, at least that's what we told ourselves.

We ended up winning 2-0, so yay us. I think it was the first round of some tournament so even more yay. We got the same cousin to pick us up again and after a bit we were back close to home. The girl that lives a block from me and I then walked home in hopes that it wouldn't start raining again. Bought a cinnamon roll on the way back, good decision there. Super cool coincidence though, when I got here the first week I had a host sister that's 17, but I haven't seen here since week 1 and here it is end of week 4. I didn't really know where she went she was just gone one day but no one said anything about it so I just went with it. As I was about one block away from home there was a bus dropping people off the bus and she was getting off of it! I yelled her name cause it was kinda far away but luckily she heard me, barely though. Apparently, she got accepted into Notre Dame, who after some research Morgan says has only an 18% acceptance rate, and had to go to some orientation thing in Indiana. She was only back for 3 days to get the rest of her stuff from her mom's house(not the one I live in) before going back, so I was super glad I got to actually say bye and thank her for helping out a ton the first week because she knows English and I had a rough time getting into my Spanish groove when I first got here. Anyways that was just pretty cool cause I don't know what the odds of just so happening to walk past the same bus stop she was getting off at on a Saturday night are. Weird man.

So that was my day! Got home and ate some quesadillas with my host dad too. Adios para ahora!

Get the haircut everybody else is getting they said, it'll be fun they said

Okay but the guy with the jacket over his head gets it

Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Sunburns Don't Make a Right

I've gotten a little behind on here unfortunately, but I've still got about a week and a half left before I'm home so I'm planning on pumping a post out everyday, if I can, to make sure I can get all the stuff I've done on here before it's over! This said, get ready for some potentially long posts. . .

At the end of my first week in Querétaro, I was getting pretty good at my routine. I don't know what it is about here, but at home I haven't been able to effectively wake up before 6:30 since high school, no matter how hard I try. Here though, I've been getting up at 6 everyday for the past 4 weeks now, except a couple of weekends, no matter what time I go to bed. Not always the easiest thing, but it's been working for me. This is probably gonna be a problem when I come back and time moves back 2 hours and I find myself waking up at 4 a.m for no reason. . . Classes were fun within reason, but by the end of the week I was pretty ready for a break. Didn't have a lot of homework, so that wasn't really a problem, just the sheer amount of Spanish in my life was more than I was used to. A couple of nights that week we went to a restaurant or two as a group so that was a nice way to relax.

That Saturday we all packed on a little tour bus and went off to Bernal, the home of La Peña ((The Pain) I'm sure there's some sort of story behind that. . .). At the time we were told that it was the 3rd tallest monolith in the world, but a little research showed that it was actually the tallest in the world! At 2510 meters, or around 8200 feet, it was quite the climb. Unfortunately you can only climb about 3/4 of the way up without equipment, but the view was still amazing. Still not fully acclimated to the 6,000 foot increase in elevation, we took a ton of breaks on the way up. I was, and actually kinda still am right now, still not fully recovered from my time in the hospital a week before the trip with my bleeding organs and all that but I did my best. Got stopped about twice for some older women to take a picture with me so that was a little odd but I rolled with it. Made it to the top after about 40 minutes though, took the Insta pic we all came for, and then ate the quesadilla my host mom made for me on a rock. Don't feel afraid of heights that often, but standing up there did get me pretty close to that. Didn't help that I decided to climb up there in my newfound Teva's from Goodwill either though.

After our walk down, we walked through the town below for about 2 hours, and had it not been so hot, I probably could've stayed a lot longer. Bernal is nicknamed 'pueblo mágico' (magic city), for some reason I probably wasn't listening to when it was explained, but I went with it anyways. Tons of shops and all kinds of food, I even got to see a giant loom where they made huge tapestries in the back of a store while they listened to Neil Diamond. Side note, I'm pretty sure every person asking for money, in both Bernal and Santiago de Querétaro, has the exact same bowl to put change into. Almost every one I've seen has the same baby blue cereal bowl and I don't really know what to do about that. Anyways, after about 2 hours we were all super tired and ready to head back. I bought a couple of some things for some people back home and got to climb a rock so it was a pretty good day.

On our way back we got to watch a movie on the bus' tv screen. Even though it did weird staticky stuff the whole way back every time we hit a bump, and believe me there are many, it was a good ole time. We all got dropped off at the central campus of our university, though not the one we actually go to, so we were able to walk home from there. At least most of us were, some people took a taxi. One of the girls lives a block away from me so we just walked home, but after a super full day and hiking after my last workout was 3 weeks before and I'd sat in a hospital bed for 4 days in between that, I kinda wanted to take a nap on the street first. Avoided giving in to that desire though, and after about a 25 minute walk I made it back home. Super lucky for me, my host mom was almost done with dinner, something I'd been waiting for ever since we left. Even though the Doritos I bought at a gas station were sub-par, I was ready for some real food. I don't remember what we had, but probably some beans and some sort of chicken, cause we have that quite a bit. Took my barely above comfortable temperature shower, chugged some water and did a somersault into my bed, despite the sunburns. Gotta be careful when I do that though, there's something in the middle of the bed that pokes out so potential for minor injury there.

Be back in a relatively soon time!

Had to wait for about 10 minutes for two people making out to move for this one

View of La Peña from the city below
She needed the pic; to show her husband presumably?

It was about 75% as scary as it looks to get this one

Monday, July 11, 2016

Walking's Free, If You Can Stand It

For the most part, the following week was much of the same thing. Up at 6, out the door by around 7, class by 8, leave by 2:30. My first class has 6 people in it, but my 2nd and 3rd are only 2 other girls, so I generally hang out with them during the day because every one else has class when we don't, and vice versa. Between classes we usually get our homework done in the hour break we have so that we don't have to worry about it later that night. We found a little cafe with a really nice guy that's always there working, and by now he knows that I'm gonna buy a chocolate muffin, and they're both gonna get a coffee. Cool little system we got. We also found a little spot next to the cafe with tables and benches made out of palettes that's pretty cool to hang out at, but unfortunately one day they re-finished all the wood and didn't realize it and so now I've gotta figure out how to get wood finish out of one of my pairs of pants. . . Besides that though, life there is pretty uneventful. Every once in awhile there's other Mexican students that we say hi to but that's usually not the case unfortunately.

For the first week, I met up with some of the other girls to take the bus to school, but we found that the bus timing is dismally unreliable in the mornings. Well, in the afternoons as well. Generally all the time late, never not late. After the first day of school we waited an hour for a bus to take us the 4 miles home we needed to go, so that was pretty dumb. I would've just walked but the roads are actually pretty scary. After a couple of days we decided that we'd just take a taxi home since that would be a lot quicker. The bus is 9 pesos, so about 50 cents, and a taxi was generally 110 pesos so about 6 dollars, but since we could split it and it would certainly beat waiting an hour that's what we did. After one of the girls in my class told her host mom how we were consistently late to class in the morning because of the bus she offered to take us to school in the mornings, she offered to take us as long as we would help with gas a little. So now, instead of walking to the bus stop in the mornings I walk to her house where I meet the other girl in my class so her mom can take us to class. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk there as opposed to the 10 minute walk to the bus stop but I don't mind, especially since Pokémon Go just came out and I have that much time to catch Pokemon on my way there. . .

Eventually we got tired of some questionable characters driving our taxi's so we decided to try using Uber, it was just about the same cost and 100% of the time clean and this way, the drivers actually wanted to talk to us since being friendly is kinda part of their job. So since about week 2 we've been taking Ubers home from school. The three of us have found some pretty cool drivers that way. Just last week though, we found a really cool guy who drove us home, and we asked if he could pick us up everyday since we liked him so much. Long story short, Fernando now picks us up everyday at 2:30 and drops us all off where the two girls live, and I walk home after that. He's not a part of Uber when he takes us home so we just pay him when we get out, but we like it a ton since he's kinda our friend by now. Basically, I've been making friends in the coolest and most unexpected places. The cool thing is even though I'm not making friends with every person I meet, most of the time the people I talk to are super nice when it comes to going slower when I need them to so I can understand, and when they hear I'm from Oregon they almost always tell me welcome to Mexico and that they hope I have a great time here. Not necessarily a big difference from back home, but it's still reassuring, and has definitely helped me get more comfortable talking with people here.

Come back whenever the next time I post again to learn about. . . I don't know yet. Haven't thought that far. There will be more though. Promise.

P.S. The picture this time is from the cafe place I talked about, its basically just a tent with some red tables and chairs next to one of the university buildings

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer School, Like You've Never Had It Before

It was still dark when I woke up, and for someone who hasn't woken up before 8:30 for almost a whole school year, 6:00 was way too early. The light switch in my room glows in the dark, so that's cool. Got shown how to use the shower, it was relatively easy despite my previous concerns, and I had some breakfast comprised of a plate of fruit, some eggs with some peppers in them and some sauce on top, and a bowl of cereal. Wasn't quite ready for the spice right off the bat but I went with it anyways. Not usually much of a breakfast person but I've had to learn to be since I usually don't get food again until about 2 unless I buy my own later in the day. With a mouth that was still burning a little, I said goodbye to the grandma, the only one awake this early, and walked to one of the other girl's house so we could walk to the bus stop together. Only took about 10 minutes to get to the bus stop once we figured out what road it was on, and then we waited for our bus. Definitely something to be said for being the only group of white people among the throng of people waiting for the bus. Bus after bus came through the stop as it was a pretty large connecting stop. The funny thing is, there's not much room for the buses to pull over to pick people up. That doesn't matter though, the buses will just stop in the middle of the 3 lane road and wait for people to pile in or file out. Cars will honk every once in awhile but it really doesn't seem like much of a deal for most people.

Got on the bus after waiting for about 20 minutes, paid my 8 pesos (little less than 50 cents), and we were off. Squeezed between about a million people we took the 25ish minute ride to our university. If it were an Oregon bus, it probably would've taken 40 minutes, but luckily for us in Mexico you don't even have to stop fully to let people on or off the bus! About 10 rolling stops later it was our turn to get off, but unfortunately our stop was still about a 5 minute walk to the school. Interestingly enough, this isn't because the stop is a couple blocks away or anything like that. Our university used to be an airport, and it's literally, not figuratively, built on a runway. I mean it's got buildings and sidewalks and other cool road things now, but it still takes quite awhile to walk from one end of a tarmac to the other. Recovering from this little surprise, we realized we were now 10 minutes late for class. The other half of our group found another way to school so the 6 of us or so walked, but now with haste, to the building where our classes were.

First class for me was Mexican Civilization, and because school isn't in session here, it was just 6 of us in that class.We mainly just learned names and talked about what we'd be doing for the next 5 weeks. Learning stuff about Mexico more or less. All of my Spanish classes at OSU/Linn Benton have all been Spanish speaking only, at least in terms of the teacher, so I've been exposed to that before, but there's just something different about classes here. Not sure if it's the different accents the teachers have or what, but it's definitely a little bit harder to understand than my classes back home. Nevertheless, after an hour and a half my first class was over, but the next one didn't start for another hour and a half.  I took this time to walk around the campus a bit, but eventually found a place to sit at an outdoor cafe under a tent with some chairs. Since that day I've spent every break I've had in that spot actually. I talked with some of my classmates and tried to figure out what my next class was going to be, but overall it was a pretty chill time.

Second class was Advanced Writing, but this class only had myself and 2 other people in it. I think that this class is my favorite, at least for now, because it's main focus is sharpening grammar skills and general use of more complicated sentences, something I think is real helpful when it comes to real world application. Also even though I can't speak Spanish the best, I feel like I'm generally knowledgeable when it comes to grammar so it's where I feel the most comfortable. We mainly just talked to get to know each other this time, but by the end my brain was so tired from all the Spanish I was using a listening to! I was going on almost 3 hours in one day and the most I've ever had to do before was a 50 minute class. In any sort, it's a lot of work. But it's been worth it.

Third class was Advanced Communication, and like the others, was mostly spent getting to know each other and figure out what we're gonna be doing for the rest of the time here. Like the second, this class is also just me and the same 2 girls, so the one-on-one time with the teacher is super great. This class has turned out to mostly be about improving conversation through talking about world events and problems, but again, it's been really helpful to have to be able to find new and different avenues to talk about a subject because that's exactly what you have to do when you're talking to someone in day to day life.

Class was actually pretty hard, and by the time we were done I was ready to sleep for a very long time. Spanish is hard. Having to speak Spanish all the time is really exhausting when you're not used to it. Which I guess is why I'm here, to immerse myself in the language so I'm forced to use it. Not exactly the easiest thing to do, but it's really helped a ton. I think that because I have to be so dependent on my Spanish for so long and so often, I've made more progress in this short time than I ever have in one of my 10 week classes at home. Even though at times I feel pretty discouraged with how much practice I still need, I do think I've been able to look back at situations I've been in and can see that I'm getting better, if only slightly, at communicating effectively with others in Spanish.

Still got a lot of time here left, and still have a lot of stories I haven't shared yet, so I'm gonna keep pumping this out as long as people are reading them! Be back soon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fight the Urge to Drink the Tap Water (Plz)

Despite my unusually exciting entrance into México, the rest of my trip to my host family was pretty uneventful. I walked with my group (all girls but me) a couple blocks to a plaza to wait for some taxis to take us all to our host families. After only a mild amount of confusion, I got in a taxi with 2 of the other girls and we set off with only a printed google map of where our houses were. Having never seen the houses before, we were up for a bit of a challenge. First house was pretty easy to find, but that still left the other two of us. Using our flawless Spanish we were able to get pretty close to one of the houses, and we both got dropped off in front of the one that wasn't mine. In theory mine was super close though. Just to clarify, when I say house I'm not talking about the thing with a yard driveway and a neat little walkway. No, here, at least the specific here in which I currently live, a house is a door among many 2 feet from the road, and honestly it's still kinda crazy to me.  From the outside, at least from someone who's used to comparatively large houses, you'd never know entire houses existed where they did. Each block is like one giant building, divided by walls and doors on the inside. I guess think like the house in The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis but different. . .

Anyways, by an uninteresting turn of events I made it to my own house, and I met the whole family. It was Father's Day, so there were a ton of people over. In the moment I had no idea who anybody was. Now that I'm removed from that time though, I for the most part have been able to figure out who all the people were. In no particular order: the grandma, the dad, two daughters, the two people that live upstairs, the couple that rents a room from the grandma, someone from next door, and two chihuahuas. Everybody wanted a hug and got a couple of unexpected kisses on the cheek. It was quite the event. We ate a ton and I tried to get in on the conversation as much as I could, but I was pretty exhausted from everything I'd already been through so I didn't have a whole lot of success. In the end though, it was really a great time. I was immediately made a part of the family, something that isn't always the easiest to do with someone that came from another country and showed up at your door. I'm super thankful they did though, because being somewhere that's not your home for an extended period of time is hard! Every day I get to eat a meal with at least one of the parts of the family, and it's been a really great opportunity to practice Spanish.

Back in the past tense, after we ate dinner and everybody who didn't live here left, I got settled into my room. I've never actually had my own room so in some ways this is kinda a step up. . .  It's got everything. A bed. A dresser. A window. A pillow. Not much else that I need. Kinda warm at night but other than that it's a good little spot. Has a singular wall outlet with one socket, so that's a little bit a bummer but you make due you know? It was around 10 P.M. when I finally got settled down to go to sleep, only to realize I had to wake up at 6 the next morning to meet people to catch a bus to get to school the next day. Disappointed by this revelation, I read my Bible a little bit and then turned off the lights to find that my bed was not exactly the same quality of the one back home. I was too tired to care much then though. I was desperately in need of sleep and even more in need of a shower but that would just have to wait for the morning when someone showed me how to work it. Other people's showers are hard enough to figure out how to work in the U.S. I wasn't about to fiddle with a Mexican shower for 15 minutes if I could do anything about it. Even though they said mosquitos would come in if I did, I opened the window so it would cool down a bit and fell asleep, kinda sweaty, pretty tired, but super ready to see what the next day held. (It held a lot)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I Only Talk To Strangers When I Need Something

After about 2 hours of trying to sleep among seemingly constant potholes, I made it to the bus station in Querétaro. Wasn't that big of a place, but it still felt pretty different to anything I'd been to before. I went inside to try and find the lady in charge of my trip, but since I hadn't been able to get the WiFi to work that the bus supposedly had, I wasn't able to give her any heads up of when I'd be there. There wasn't any WiFi in the station, but my phone was about to die anyways so that wasn't going to be much of a help. I wrote down her number so I could have it to maybe use someone else's phone if need be, but I thought I'd try one of the pay phones first. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any of them to work. Some wouldn't take my money at all, and some would tell me the number didn't even exist. All the while trying not to panic, I tried to think of how else I could get in contact with her. I saw a guy my age tag was on my bus and asked him if I could maybe borrow his phone. He said he didn't have a phone here cause he just got back from his study abroad in Canada, but his mom was coming to get him soon and she would have one I could use. She probably wasn't gonna be there for another 30 minutes though, but I said that was okay cause it'd be possible that the person coming to pick me up would be there by then. 

She didn't, but the mom my new friend Eric showed up about 40 minutes later. When she got there he asked her if she had her phone, but she didn't, she'd left it at home. She said her husband probably did though, so I walked out to their car with them. When I got there I found out that the dad's phone was dead, and now I was kinda stuck. I was worried maybe I misunderstood something and was supposed to meet up somewhere else, but now I didn't have a phone or a way to call anybody. Things like this always seem to happen to me. Eric told me I could come to his house and use their house phone or Internet or whatever I needed, but that idea was pretty scary to me. It woulda been scary to me even in the U.S.  with someone I just met. I'd already waited an hour longer than I thought I should've had to though, and I didn't want to end up being stuck somewhere, so I decided to go with them. Eric said their house was only 15 minutes away, so hopefully I'd be able to figure out what was going on soon.
Their car was kinda small, and between Eric, his mom, his dad, and Eric's girlfriend from Guatemala it was a pretty tight squeeze, especially with all of our bags. I was in the middle of the Xterra of course. We drove around for awhile, and the city was super huge and had a ton of traffic, but eventually we made it to their house that was in a somewhat out of place gated community. Got inside and and tried their phone with the number I had written down, but it still didn't work. Plan A, B, and C were now all out the window. I had 4% battery left on my phone and I remembered I was friends on Facebook with a couple of the people on my trip already. I messaged one of them and got a number for the person in charge of our trip that had the area code I was missing and called her. Finally it worked. She said she was about to get to the bus station just now. Apparently, all the other people on my trip who had taken the same bus ride took 4 hours to get to the bus station. I only took a little over 2.  Since I was only able to send a message of when I left, she had thought I'd be there around 1130. Traffic has made her a little late, so in the end I probably could've waited at the a station and it all would've worked out, but I would've been sitting in a bus station for over 3 hours. Instead, I was now 30 minutes away in Eric's house meeting all of his extended family, eating some gorditas his grandma had made me. 

Eric's mom was able to call me a taxi to take me to where the rest of my group was, and I was finally able to relax a little bit after all the crazy stuff that had happened. I finished off the gorditas and horchata and started packing up all my stuff. 

The taxi arrived and I hugged everybody goodbye, thanking them a ton for helping me out and making me food and just generally being so nice. The cab driver has a purple vest on, normally that woulda been a little weird but I hadn't gotten good sleep in 2 days so I wasn't gonna get too caught up on odd clothing choices. I saw the hostel everybody had stayed in the night before and knew I was finally almost there. I hadn't even met up with my group yet and I'd already had way more adventure than I had signed up for. It was 1 pm though, and the day was still young! I got all my stuff out of the cab and walked through the door of the hostel to find my group waiting there. Study abroad in Querétaro, México could now begin.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Nothing Bad Has Happened Yet

I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to trying to figure out where I am. I mean, sometimes I still get lost in Corvallis. 

This said, one of my biggest fears when it came to this trip was the very act of getting here, given that I had to take a plane from Portland to San Francisco, then a plane to Mexico City, and then find a bus to take me the 3 hours to Querétaro. My first flight left at 6, and got to San Fran about 730. Easy stuff. Bought some soup from a Mexican restaurant (Get a head start right?) while I waited out my 2 hour layover. Eventually found my the gate for my next flight and had to take quite a walk to get to the international flight side, but I found a seat next to a girl watching a YouTube video of popcorn popping (90% sure of this), and a guy playing Angry Birds. Both with their phone volume all the way up, thankfully. 

With 15 minutes before boarding the guy at the desk calls for all unattended minors to come up to the front so they can get them seated first. Before I could even finish the thought of, "Who sends their kid alone to Mexico?", close to 30 little kids get up, tiny rolley suitcases trailing behind them, and get in line. Apparently, a lot of people send their kid alone to Mexico. Unlike the first flight I took where there were kids crying running around the whole time (10/10 would reccomend), I didn't hear anything from any of them the whole flight. Unfortunately. 

Finally got on to the plane and found my seat in the very last row. A guy with a frilly white button up shirt came and sat next to me, but that's a bit of a misnomer because only 2 of his buttons were actually buttoned. He asked me if I spoke Spanish and I said for sure, but probably not the greatest. We got to talking about where we were from and where we were heading, and when I told him I was studying abroad in Mexico he got super excited. There were places I had to see, food I had to eat, and places and food to avoid! Every once in awhile he'd ask his wife how to say something in English when I couldn't follow, but it was a super cool first Spanish speaking experience. Then as quickly as our conversation started, he ended it by saying the flight was only so long, and he had some shows saved up he had to watch. This was understandable, and so I told him thanks for talking with me and let him get to trying to figure out how to work his iPad. I tried sleeping as best I could since I would be landing at about 5 in the morning and have to start doing stuff as soon as I arrived, but it never quite happened. 

Eventually I heard the captain say we were getting close to landing a couple hours later, and I got to work on the immigration and customs cards I had to fill out. Looking out the window as we approached the airport was incredible. I thought Portland was big, but this place put that thought to rest. There were lights for what seemed like miles, rolling up and down hills and just about everywhere else. The design of the roads didn't seem to have much reason behind them judging by the street lights I could see, but that almost made it even more interesting to look at. We landed at the airport and after awhile I was able to get off and grab my bags. Even though I was the thirstiest man alive because an air vent was blowing on me the whole time and I didn't have any water, I made it out to the station where they stamp your passport (which was a very weak stamp compared to the one I got from Japan if you ask me), and made it to baggage claim pretty quickly. I got some pesos from the kiosk and made it outside to the general airport area. 

After walking around for awhile I found the station to buy a bus ticket. It was 620, but another bus wouldn't be leaving until 730. I took this time to find a Starbucks and get a muffin, as well as text some people that I made it. I got to the bus station about 15 minutes before it would leave so I had time to make sure I could figure it all out, and after making sure my bags made it on to the bottom of the bus I hopped on. I found my seat next to a guy that I presume had spent his entire life sleeping in that very seat because of how sprawled out he was. It was all right though, it was only gonna be a 3 hour bus ride. I put my backpack under my feet and watched the city go by for awhile, and my seat had fold out foot rest so that was nice. Hoping to get at least 2 hours of sleep before arriving, I fell asleep still kinda wondering if I'd actually gotten on the right bus.