Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Museos-Música-Mange y mas


It has really been too long since I´ve written! I apologize! I have experienced so much since the last time, it was really hard to limit this blog and I´ve been working on it for awhile, so some of it is slightly out dated! Forgive me?

So it begins….. Xalapa has two large museums: the MIX and MAX. The Museo de Antropología, MAX is the second largest in Mexico and has the largest number of Olmeca heads housed there. I have been 3 times and STILL feel like there is more that I have not seen, or seen close enough! The state of Veracruz is what is known as the Golf region of Mesoamerica. Los Olmecas are the most ancient of three civilizations that lived this region over the centuries. They were around from 1900-900 B.C: over 3000 thousand years ago! There are 17 Olmeca heads in total, 7 which are now in this museum.

Anthropologists think that the heads may represent important governors or players of the game Pelota. Pelota was a very important part of many Mesoamerica cultures and is one of the few things that transferred to different groups over all the years. Jaguars and snakes were important animals and played an important role in the Olmeca culture. I am taking a Culture and Civilization class that is all about Mesoamerica and all of the ancient civilizations, and there is so much more that goes into these cultures and into each individual piece.
My wonderful boyfriend came to visit me early March and we hit up MAX and MIX too. MIX is the Museo Interactivo de Xalapa- Interactive Museum! It was my first time there and there was a college recruiting function going on in the main lobby so the rest of the museum was empty! It was just us and a Personal guide! :D The guide took us to all the most fun exhibits like the bed of nails, SUPER tug of war, foot piano, marimbas, and a space shuttle! They also have an IMAX theater and a planetarium.

We also went to el jardin de esculturas, the waterfalls at Xico, the symphonic orchestra of Xalapa, la playa and much much more! It was really nice to have Kyle here for a week or so, but it was terribly sad to see him go. Only a few short weeks later, Nikki, my youngest sister and her Friend Justice came to visit. I showed them around Xalapa a bit, hit up the beach a few times, and even took a day trip south in Veracruz to Catemaco. I have to say I am very lucky to be able to have so many people so close to me be able to come visit me, to experience my life here for a few days.

Here are a Few Pics from their visits!

And The Girls

The weekend after Kyle left I went with other exchange students to a Festival at Tajin. Tajin is the site of ruins of the Totonaca civilization and every year during the spring solstice they have a big cultural festival with crafts, food, and lots lots of music. We camped and ate cheese and chips sandwiches for 3 days. We ate tostados and quesadillas too, and don’t get me wrong they were great but nothing surpasses festival food like the home-made sandwiches we had! I made a maraca and a dream catcher as well as a little Totonacan style vase. We had to carve down the stick for the maraca, and somehow I got a HUGE stick and was carving for like 45 minutes when one of the organizers came over and took it away and whittled it down to size. I was happy for the help but slightly discouraged. Later we went to make dream catchers. I had so much fun making mine, and I knew it wasn´t perfect but I liked it just fine. However, the helper did not and once again he grabbed it and started tightening string after string until all were perfectly in line. Great. Good. Thanks, I guess. At the clay tent, you could make whatever you wanted to. Some made little statues of ancient peramides, others ash trays. I tried my best to make a vase that I knew how. When I finished it was fragile, unbalanced and beautiful. You´ll never guess what happens next….. Perfection. Yep, once again they fixed it right up! Do I look so helpless? Or do I just REALLY suck at crafts? Who knows. Don´t get me wrong it was a good vase, but it wasn´t My vase. Hours later while it was drying in the tent, I scotched over to let someone sit next to me, and landed on the vase. Now it is crooked and full of holes. That’s more like it! When I got home I added ribbon, buttons and leaves to my dream catcher and my maraca is still unfinished. They are mine after all!

Los Voladores de Papantla


They had so many other interactive activities at the festival too. For example, we found ourselves caught in an African drum circle! It was so great to be a little rhythm in the grand scheme of a song.

It kinda made me miss my days in the school marching band! There was also an interactive play-type-thing called Senmsorama. This was by far my favorite part of the entire trip. They blindfolded you and you became the main character of the play. We were not allowed to speak either, so it gave us an opportunity to really pay attention to our other sources. They walked us through the scenes: Starting as dirt, the earth. Growing into a tree. Being cut down. A walk through Garbage. A magical recycling revelation. Becoming a stream. And ultimately back into human selves. The focus was to open our eyes to the terrible things that are going on to our world in regards to the relationship between the human race and mother Earth. It was the most emotional, magical 45 minutes of my life and really opened my eyes.

All day everyday there was free music and free dancing. Sometimes they were African dance or Salsa lessons. Other times they were groups dancing. Every night there were concerts starting at about 8 going till 2 or 3 or later into the early morning. One night, some friends invited us to enjoy the concerts from backstage! Some of the artists we saw include: Lila Downs (who I enjoyed quite a bit), Julieta Venegas, Sonex (a local band from Xalapa!), Pit Bull, Don Omar, and Rubén Blades y 6 Del Solar (Salsa). In addition, there was a place called the ´Chill out tent´ with and Indie setting. Very relaxing, and always with lots of electronic music to rock out at! Because we were often the only people dancing at the concerts (with the exception of salsa, lots were dancing) we kept bouncing back and forth between Chill out and the main concert. We would carry the energy where ever we went, it was such a Blast!! We arrived at the festival Friday afternoon and I headed back to Xalapa at almost 3 in the morning arriving in time for a quick shower and breakfast before my 9 a.m class on Monday! Woooofta.

Before I came to Mexico several friends who had lived here advised me to be careful with the street dogs. I think I have been more frightened by dogs behind gates then ANY street dog. Some of them jump really high and bark furiously just because you are walking by. Most of the street dogs however just hang out taking naps under pick-up truck beds or park benches. I met a really cute small city puppy in Naoliinco, about an hour up into the hills from home.

He Looked A Bit Like This:

I saw him peeking around a corner at as, he was even smiling a little bit. When we got closer I saw that he had what appeared to be a leash on and I got really excited that he was someones pet and not out on his own. So when he came closer I didn’t hesitate to give em´ a lil´ pet on the back! Javier and his girlfriend weren´t paying the pup any attention and they just told me to be sure to wash my hands really well after. However, there was something in their faces that disturbed me, they looked half shocked, half disgusted that I was playing with my new friend. I didn’t understand and didn’t care to pay much attention to it thinking that they just saw him as any other dog around. When I turned around to see the puppy down the path, eager, waiting for me to play some more, waging his tail with a doggy grin on his face, is only when I understood. The leash was not a leash at all. It was a rope. Tied around his neck sometime before, now too small, cutting into his skin. He was no longer anyone’s pet, and hadn’t been for awhile. My heart broke. My eyes filled with tears as he came trotting closer and I saw the open wounds on his upper hind leg and behind his ear. I wasn’t sure what had happened to him. I stood there staring at him, staring at me confused at why I had suddenly stopped playing with him, just like everyone else had. I felt so much for him, so terribly helpless and alone for him. I loaded my hands with hand sanitizer and let him follow me everywhere. We played catch a bit until I had to leave, leaving him hurt and alone again. I felt so bad, like if I Really wanted to help him I could have. I could have cut the rope off. Fed him something. Played longer. But I didn’t. I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day after my 9 o´clock class, a friend asked me what happened to my neck. I was surprised, I didn’t realize there was anything wrong with my neck at all. A small red rash had about the size of 2 quarters had appeared. Instantly I thought of my little, fox like friend. After showing it to Licha she advised me it was likely sarna or mange from touching the pup. She gave me some cream. Three days it was gone, but I still think about going back and trying to find the lil´ fella.

A Few Xalapeño dogs:

Sorry to end on such a sad note but there it is: Music- Museums- and Mange. Oooh Mexico : )

Have a Pleasant week and Hope all enjoy Spring!

P.s- Went Rafting!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Roosters aren’t the only ones Confused.

In my neighbor, there lives some roosters.

Growing up in South Dakota, traditionally I thought that Roosters crowed at sunrise to let their owners know “Hey! It’s time to wake up!” Naturally, the first morning that I heard a rooster in the morning I thought to myself “Awesome! Now I don’t need to buy an alarm clock!” figuring I would just get an early start to the day. However, when I rolled over I realized it was only 3:30 in the morning! I didn’t need THAT early of a start to find my way around a new town. Silly confused chicken! However, after being continuously woken up by him and his friends several times a night for consecutive nights I started to think “No wonder they cut your friends up, sell them for cheap on the streets, and fry them at Chicken Fried Chicken!”

Then I felt bad, found some earplugs and started to sleep better.
Unfortunately for them, chicken is popular comida and is served in many different ways: fried, stewed, or baked. Generally, they pull it off the bone and eat it in a tortilla with chilies or other veggies.

A special dish that was served at my house after a good baseball game is Tlcuache. This is not a Spanish word, it is Nahuatl, one of the 62 native languages of Mexico. It means POSSUM. EEeeeek! I am pretty confident that Juan, my Mexican dad, caught it, cooked it, and ate it all up.

My family told me that they’ve tried turtle too. Lucky for my Nueva mascota, a baby turtle who found a home somewhere deep in my heart, I don’t eat animals. Fish and turtles are popular pets. I even met another girl on the top of Pico searching for a rock for her turtle’s tank and have made a play date with some turtles living with some good friends!

Dearest Dedo De Pies

Vegetarian dishes in Mexico are hard to come by, but it still is not very difficult to find other vegetarian stuff to eat. When I first broke it to my family that I don’t eat meat they replied just like everyone else “Well what do you eat then? Salads?” Ha ha, I love it. Licha does an amazing job and always has vegetarian options at the house and for dinner and having vegetarian options available in the house at all times. There always is a bunch of black frijoles and tortillas, which makes a yummy simple combo! Sometimes I eat them with fresh onion, tomato, lettuce, and cheese to add too. It is like having homemade been burritos complementing the main dish EVERY night at dinner!

My favorite things that Licha makes are empanadas de papa. They are tortillas with mashed potatoes, peppers, onions, and/or jalapeños inside, folded in half, and fried! She has also made them with meat inside or empanadas with cheese. Super yummy! And convenient. We easily took them to the beach with us and they make a great snack too, hot or cold! Licha is becoming interested in the Vegetarian lifestyle and has been eating a lot more vegetarian meals. It makes me excited :D

Here is a picture of Desaunar: Brunch

This past weekend we went to La Esperanza, where Licha’s parents live, for a fiesta. It was a celebration of the town, where everyone and their friends are invited for homemade food, live music, and Lots of fun! We started the day out with tamales de acote, or a type of corn, rice, and mole. Most other people had BBQ chicken too. In addition, I had my first of tequila! Wooof! Not too terrible! I also tried bean tamales and a new type of frijoles with rice in a tortilla! Yum!! Other things that were served include BBQ rabbit, Conejos, and a special sopa, soup, with lots of parts of vacas, cows, including intestines, stomach, and nerves. No Gracias!
The fiesta was super fun! I went with Licha, Javier, Charito, and my other new friend, Maddi de Ingletera!

Maddi y Yo

Maddi stayed with us at Licha’s house for a week while waiting for an apartment to open up. What a blast! Licha has 11 brothers and sisters who have kids, some of who have kids of their own, so at the fiesta not only were there at least 70 family members but also their friends and other friends of the family! We estimated about 200 people there constantly, some leaving while others were arriving! I got to see a lot of the family that I’ve met before and got to meet some new people too! A group of us jovenes went to the juegos mecanicos, lieterally translated= mechanic games, means= carnival rides! Woooooooooo! We went on one called the Kamacazi that flipped you upside down, similar to the ring of fire at the county fair. I can’t decide if I liked seeing the mountains upside down OR hearing Maddi say the f-word with an English accent more!~ We walked around and checked out all the vendors, bought some maracas and a fried banana with chocolate, crème, and sprinkles! Later we went to one of Licha’s sister’s houses and ate some more, yum! Later a bunch of went to a ‘dance’ which really was a concert! There was a band called Los angeles de Charly, Charlie’s Angels! It was really fun trying to learn how to dance to a new type of music with all of Javier’s cousins, aunts and uncles. The dance was similar to salsa but slower steps. We arrived back in Xalapa after 2 in the morning and I slept like a rock!

Earlier in the week I stayed out late a couple of other nights learning new music and dance moves. Thursday we went to a bar popular for extranjeros where one of our friends, Conrad and Bruno (also from England) were mixing electronic music. After that we went to another salsa club, Maddi’s first taste of salsa! I did a lot better this time and had a blast, but like my first experience, Maddi felt a little out of place. Friday night a bunch of us went to a new café with tiny benches and tables like in Japan. “Super Chido!” After that, we went to a club with electronic music where we could forget thinking about rules when we danced and really just got silly! It was fun to experience this new type of music for the first time in Mexico. Normally I don’t go out much so it’s been fun dancing all over the place and trying new drinks. I’ve found something called Clericot that I like a lot. It consists of red wine, fruit syrup, and diced apples floating on top! I’ve also tried a coconut daiquiri, un perla verde (green pearl), and a few different types of beer(Sol, Corona, Dos XX, Indigno, Victoria are a few populars) - not my favorite, but it’s what the majority of people drink here so I thought I’d give it a try.

When I go out to eat I usually grab Sandwiches, quesadillas, and crepes de tres queso at cafes in el centro. There’s one café called Hojas Verdes that has the best Hamberguesa de soya I have ever had!

Usually I drink a freshly squeezed juice or really yummy coffee. I’ve tried a couple different types of veggie-friendly Pizza that varies from stuffed crust cheese without sauce to pizza with celery, carrots, and/or mushrooms. All of which are very tasty. In addition, I’ve tried plenty of Pasta. Spaghetti with green sauce, red sauce, and lasagna too. Nom Nom Nom! In bigger restaurants, I’ve found it more difficult but searching a new menu for vegetarian options is never easy, and searching a new menu in Spanish is a whole other adventure.

Just like searching menus, taking a taxi is always in adventure. I dare say that Xalapinian taxistas come close to the level of craziness of any Las Vegas taxistas! The traffic in Xalapa is intense! It’s not like the traffic I’ve previously known from waiting on the freeway in Denver, Atlanta, or Chicago. Here the traffic is Hurry up and wait! Every car drives as fast as they can, wherever they like until they reach any other stopped cars. In order to get to their destination faster than their neighbor, they pretend there are no lines on the roads and that 2 inches between them and the next car is sufficient to pass! I feel like I’m a camera guy in the Kentucky derby every time I get in the backseat of a car here!

A little taste of traffic but this picture does not due it justice!

Elisabeth and I hopped in my first taxi heading to Wal-Mart in order search for some gifts for her friends back in Cuba. When we left, we took another taxi, and dropped her off in el Centro first. Here I was left alone in taxi for the first time. Still new to the city, I struggled to say my street name. Come to find out, the driver was new to Xalapa too! He asked me what was close to my house, and I couldn’t think of anything that stuck out during my walk to school en el centro everyday that week. I called Licha, my Mexican mom, to ask her where I should tell the taxi to take me. However, she miss understood, and thought I was checking in, explaining that I was in a café close to the house, with Elisebeth and that I would take a taxi home, “Cuidate Desi”. I was really on my own. The only thing I could think of was the baseball field where we had watched a professional baseball game a few days before…

(The game!)

Turns out there are more than one field in Xalapa. So I figured I could find my way from los lagos, where we had some pizza one time. We went there and headed into an unknown neighborhood. We drove around talking, laughing, and searching for my house. 45 minutes later, I stepped out of the most expensive taxi ride to this day with a smile on my face and a story to remember. Usually I try not to take taxis and really enjoy walking but I do enjoy talking to the taxistas because they are always really nice and eager find out where I am from and how I like Mexico. They always tell me the best places to visit and I’ve even had a few invite me to have dinner with their families. They are always patient with my Spanish but compliment me on how much I know. I like talking with them because they always have different accents revealing different stories of where they’re from, where they’ve been and where their children are. I feel like they are like the average Mexican citizen working all day, every day. I’ve really learned a lot from them. Thanks Silvestre, Jugo, Omar, Paco, Caesar, Fredi, and Ricardo!
Well folks that’s all for now! I’ve done lots more but it will have to be saved for later! More pictures too!~
Hasta Luego! Nos Vemos!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Let the Advetura Begin

Hello! I am a junior at Black Hills State University and am Studying abroad in Xalapa, Mexico for 5 months! I want to teach Spanish in the United States when I graduate, but I am still undecided at what level. Originally, I wanted to teach high school Spanish, and then I learned about Immersion schools starting at the elementary level and I have been thinking more about teaching that level lately. In order to better my language skills, it was in important decision for me to study abroad. I am writing this to keep track of my journey as I experience the Mexican culture full-on for the first time! I hope that by sharing my adventures, family, friends, and anyone else who stumbles across this will get a new point of view of the Mexican culture and of an American student immersed in it. And so it begins….

The Arrival:

On January 7th, 2010 I flew out of the Denver International Airport, shot through Dallas-Fortworth airport without problems, and arrived in Mexico City in the afternoon. This was the first test. At first, I was nervous because I knew that I HAD to use my Spanish for the first time alone. The airport was really busy, and confusing. I just started asking lots of questions at information desks and at terminals where I thought my flight might be. Eventually, I found my way through customs and to the Mexicana Click terminal where they told me to wait until my flight was assigned its own terminal. Finally, I got on the plane heading for Veracruz, the city inside the state of Veracruz. As the plane took off, I saw Mexico City underneath me: Lots of colorful houses, all really close together, small streets with lots of cars, and Tons of tiny little people! I met my family Javier and his mom Licha at the Veracruz airport in the evening with both my suitcases, about the same size as me! One as I was waiting, there were men shining shoes, it amazed me that people had time to sit, relax, and get their shoes shined because in the U.S airports, people are usually very stressed out and do not have time to smile or say hello. I was glad to have finally arrived.

The Family:

I was introduced to Javier through my good friend Lyndsie, who lived with him and his family the past Spring when she studied here in Xalapa. Javier is a civil engineering student and has 3 semesters left, about the same as me. His mom Licha works with computers for hospitals in Xalapa. Juan, Javier’s dad, is a dentist. The live in 4 bedroom house, with an apartment and garage below. They have a small personal gym in another area of the house, above the dental lab where Juan works. They have three dogs, that live outside most of the time. I got a baby pet turtle with the permission of Licha. Named him Dedo de pies, or toes :D. The house is located about 30 minutes walking time from el centro, or the downtown area, where my school, La Escuela para Estudiantes Extranjeros (EEE), is located. It is a very calm part of town.

(photos: Mi hermano Mexicano, Mi calle, Los perros, y Mi Casa)

The School:

The school is small and everyone who works there is very helpful. During the normal semester there will be only about 100 foreign students. My first class was a small 2 person intensive Spanish class consisting of mostly grammar work and some vocabulary practice. It was 3-4 hours of class a day for two weeks; now we have 2 weeks of vacatons. The other student, Elisebeth, is a Human Geography student from Norway. It is her first time in Mexico also, however she has studied abroad in Cuba for 4 months as well as in California for a year when she was in high school. We became quick friends, p

racticing our Spanish and continue to explore the city together. In class, we practiced in direct and direct object pronouns and practiced using them together as well as the uses and conjugations of present subjunctive verbs, as well as career and body parts vocabulary. Most of this was a review of things I already learned but with additional new information and Mexico-specific examples that have already been put to use when speaking.

The first week I was in Mexico I visited Cempoala with my family. Here is a photo of the civilization that lived there many many years ago:

Also, I've had the pleasure of visiting the Jardin de esculturas in Xalapa. My aunt Tei has an exhibit. We arrived late in the evening and didn't have enough time. We couldn't find her art but found Lots of other really amazing work. I will return for sure!

In Addition, this past weekend, I went to my first Salsa Club. I think this was my real first dose of culture shouck. Not only have I never been to any sort of dance club, but one with live Salsa music form a Cuban band and people dancing Salsa together in between tables! It was truly amazing, I was aw struck and couldn't do much at all. I just had to sit back and take it all in for awhile. I danced a bit and felt really silly because it was the first time I really had NO clue what to do! I just had fun with it and tried not to notice how terrible of a dancer I was compaired to everyone else. I had a lot of fun and plan on going back, as soon as I get some practice in front of the mirror in ; )

Also, I went to the beach this past Saturday. It was Beautiful. The first time I've swam in the ocean with a sandy beach! I swam in Italy but it was a totally different experience. It was very realaxing to lay down, take in the sun and listen to the waves. Or jump in and flop over the waves as they passed! : P I caught a glipse of two fish swimming together INSIDE a rolling wave: It was incredible! I saw some cute sea birds and some big scary ones trying to eat the little ones too. :l There were lots of tiny little crabs racing on in the sand, they were really cute!

Then on Sunday, I went with Javier and his Biking team to the tallest Mountain in Mexico: Pico de Orizaba! It took about 2 hours to drive there! We piled over 18 people, bikes, backpacks, food and more into 3 vehciles and made the journey to a small town at the base of the mountain. From here we met up with a guide to follow to the top of the mountain! It took another 1 or 1.5 to get there, four-wheeling it the entire way! We spent about an hour taking in the beauty at the top, and then Headed down on Bicycle! It was such an adreniln rush! I have never done anything close to that before!!

I’ve only been here for 3 weeks and I already know my Spanish has improved. I learn more and more every day. I have learned lots from my family and have taught them a lot already too. Just a little taste of my adventures, Many More to come!