Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Semana Santa

This week is Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter day. Those with religion take this week seriously as an important religious time. For others it is a vacation week. Huge numbers of people leave the city this week, and apparently it is empty and boring in Mexico City. We thought we’d be there doing nothing, but then our neighbors, Erick and Miguel, invited us to Puebla.

We are staying at their grandfathers house, who has plans for four full days of sightseeing. We arrived exhausted last night, and found it really awkward here. We were in the city’s downtown for 7 hours today, and it isn’t much more comfortable to be around the grandfather. He is very controlling and kind of snotty. We weren’t allowed to choose when or where to eat today. The grandfather thought Jose should sleep in his bedroom in the spare twin bed. We left before nine in the morning and didn’t stop until 5 pm, the hour the grandfather had planned to return to his house.

Today we visited the fort where the 5 de Mayo battle took place, a few churches, and some plazas. We walked for 7 hours, and looking back, I’m a little confused about how we spent that much time for how little I feel like I saw. I was tired, hungry, and just about at my wits end with the grandfather who seems unable to be nice.

Tomorrow we are going back to the town of Cholula. I love that place enough that I doubt he will be able to interfere with my joy much. It will be Anna’s first time visiting and I know she’s been excited to go.

I think we are going to leave on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Erick and Miguel’s mom told us she would pick us up and drive us home, but as I suspected would happen, she is flaking out. I don’t really mind because that will give us more flexibility for going home. Plus, the grandfather says dogs aren’t welcome in his house, and she is taking care of Cholula for us and I’d like to know that Cholula isn’t being left alone in an apartment.

Anna is happy to be traveling, but Jose and I are counting down until we go home. I just have to keep telling myself I’m having an “experience.”

Happy Semana Santa!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ready to Travel

We have been in Mexico City since the end of January, and I'm itching to get out of here. The three of us have been talking about taking a short trip of one or two days to a nearby city. We are thinking of Cuernavaca, Queretaro, or Puebla. We'll see when it happens and where we go. Jose and I finally got our credit card bill payed off (whew) after letting it get too high from furnishing two apartments in just a few months. So, starting in April that weight is off our shoulders and we are going to be golden financially. And then the traveling will begin.

Anna has already been to the Mexican beach, and I don't think it can get much better than Tulum and the Mexican Caribbean, so we are going to next look for mountains. Eventually we are going to visit Oaxaca and see the amazing mountain ranges there. But for now, the areas around Mexico City are filled with volcanoes and snowy peaks that will fulfill her mountain needs.

We are hoping that sometime before Anna leaves in June we will make it down to Central America to see Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, and wherever else we can manage. I'm surprisingly excited about Belize. I can't imagine suddenly being in an English speaking country while in Latin America. I really don't know much else about it other than they speak English. Guatemala and Costa Rica will be beautiful and culturally interesting.

I have done so much traveling in the last 7 months that I never expected to do. It has sparked the interest in traveling that I never thought I would have. I'm hoping to travel every few months while we're in Mexico in Mexico, Latin American, and Europe too. This will be the best time I ever have to travel and I want to make the most of it. You're welcome to join!


Friday, March 26, 2010

What to Do in Mexico

For a long time in Mexico, I assumed that I could find something productive to do with my time without any problem. After all, I am an American right? I speak English and Spanish and therefore I should be wanted all over Mexico. That was naive and not true.

Mexico City is such a big place that it is hard to find somewhere I can volunteer. There are few functioning websites (even the main university, UNAM, has a broken site) and I haven't been able to find a phonebook. There aren't signs on buildings, and I can't just stroll into any building and ask about volunteering. I have to talk to security for them to open the gate and let me in. I'd like to find somewhere close to avoid traveling for an hour or more to get to where I volunteer, so some of the options I have found aren't really workable.

After weeks of searching, I found an orphanage near us. When we called, we were told to talk to someone else to see if there are volunteer positions open. However, it looks like you have to be 21 to volunteer. We are still going to talk with the woman in charge of the volunteer program, and even if she won't take us, she might be able to give us some resources to find somewhere else.

I was considering going to school at UNAM for awhile. They have a social work program. It would be hard for me to get in, because the entrance exam they use in place of an application includes physics, calculus, analytical geometry, and chemistry; none of which I know. A test like that would be unbelievably hard in English, and I can't imagine in Spanish. If I were to not pass one section, I wouldn't be able to enter. I have tried hard in every math and science class I have ever taken, but only statistics and biology have ever made sense. Then I found out that UNAM assigns schedules and classes so I wouldn't be able to choose when I go or what classes I took. The schedule is like being in high school and classes take up the whole day. I would like to go to school, but considering that I would just have to start over as soon as I got back to the U.S, it doesn't seem like the best use of time or almost $1,000 USD. I could be seeing Mexico City, experiencing everything there is to do here, and volunteering somewhere that would give me experience for the future.

I would be happy to work in a cafe or restaurant part time to earn a little money, give me something to do, practice my Spanish, and meet new people. Mexico doesn't allow foreigners to work unless they have special qualifications that no Mexican has or they are teaching English. I could teach English, but I'd have to complete a program on teaching English that costs $2,000 USD. That's a lot of money, plus I am absolutely dreading the idea of teaching English. I would need a bachelors degree to get a good job in most real language schools so I'd most likely be giving private classes to adults for business.

Anna and I have both been surprised by how few opportunities there are for us here. She said she would like to stay here for awhile longer, but there isn't much she could do and no real future so she's going home in June. I know eventually I will find something, but it is so much harder than I expected.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With friends

I'm sitting on the couch now with Jose, Anna, her boyfriend Benjamin, and our friend Erick who lives in our building. Our couch is full and we've been laughing the whole time. Anna is happy and enjoying her dates with Benjamin. Jose is enjoying having guys around to talk about sports and poker. I'm just enjoying seeing them so happy and having people to hang out with.

We spent time looking through a dog trick book my aunt sent when we first got Cholula, deciding which tricks we should teach her and laughing at the ridiculous ones like "Pick Pocket Dog." We watched some of a movie, played with Cholula, and talked about what we've done and what we are going to do.

It feels so good to have a room full of people. Last night Jose, Anna, and I walked through the Coyoacan plaza and remembered how less than 2 months ago we walked through it every night looking for friends. After two weeks in Coyoacan, we were desperate and thought we would never have any friends. Now, we have enough friends that we can turn down offers we aren't interested in and actually have to schedule big outings so we are all available. Things fell into place here and we are all enjoying life.


I've Procrastinated

I am not a procrastinator. For years I have been serious about that and been proud. But, I find that I do procrastinate with writing blog posts and it has been bothering me. I finally realized that even though I have good reasons to write these posts (my version of a diary, keeping everyone updated) I have to tell myself for days to sit down and write a post before I actually do. And its because I've been having such a good time, its hard to sit down and take time away from being with Jose, Anna, Cholula, and our new friends.

There are so many things I want to do, I'm actually running out of time each day. I write a "To Do" list at night, and each night I have to transfer a few "To Do's" over to the next day. A few months ago I had nothing to do, so I slept 13 or 14 hours a night. Now, waking up past 9:00 feels like a crime because I missed out on time with my family and Coyoacan.

Somehow life has filled up with things that feel important and make me happy. I still wish I could work or find a school here that excited me, but I appreciate how full my days have become. I barely even have time to think about what we would be doing in the United States, and that's success.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

U.S. Trip

I had a great 8 day trip to the U.S., but it went by too fast. My mother spent most days with me and I got to visit a lot of my family. It was nice to be in Healdsburg, and especially in my house again. It shocked me how homey and safe it felt. I really relaxed there spending time with my family, the cats, and even my fish.

I arrived two days before my mother's birthday. It was perfect timing, especially because her birthday fell on a Friday so my dad was also home. We decided to get her baby chicks for her birthday and my dad found week old chicks. She now has six gold-laced Wyendotts, her favorite type of chicken. I spent hours holding them in the bathroom while they were living temporarily in the bathtub filled with wood shavings. They are going to be the tamest chickens around.

My mother and grandmother took me shopping and bought me everything I could need or want. I got a suitcase full of food (suitcase included), shoes, clothes, and books. It felt and looked like Christmas when I got back to Mexico and covered the living room in all the treats I brought back. I tried to bring a few bags of dog treats for Cholula, but Mexican customs confiscated them for "destruction" because they contained meat. I brought Jose burritos from Healdsburg's best taqueria, and got them through by lying and saying they only had rice and beans (but really there was pastor).

I finally met my cousins' cat, finished knitting a scarf I started before I left, spent significant time with just my mother for the first time in about six years, and visited family everyday.

My dad took me to our family ranch. It was more beautiful than I remembered and just gorgeous. It was a sunny day and everything is bright green from the new spring grass. Jose and I have hoped to live there someday for a few years now, and going up there just made me realize even more how much I would love for that to happen. It is one of the most relaxing, beautiful, and natural places I have ever been and living there would be better than anywhere else I can think of.

I went to Gratitude Cafe in Healdsburg with my aunts for raw, vegan, gluten-free food. I was skeptical at first, but it was such amazing food. I have even been bragging about it in Mexico. Such. Good. Food. It was so different than the food I eat in Mexico and it tasted so real and fresh. The food was almost as good as spending time with my aunts, and that it saying a whole lot. If you can find a Gratitude Cafe I highly recommend getting over the skepticism I'm assuming you have (because, let's be honest, it sounds weird) and try it. I can honestly say I learned something on the trip- do not judge raw, vegan, gluten-free food before tasting it. Even chocolate hazelnut pie made with seaweed can be delicious.

It was especially nice to see Jose's family. We haven't stayed in contact with his family as well as we have with mine so there was a lot to catch up on. I talked to Jose's mother about Mexico City because she lived here as a teenager. There was a lot to catch up on from both sides, and it was great to spend a few long evenings talking with them. We even started the passport application for Jose's sister so she can spend some time with us here.

The trip was really great- relaxing and busy at the same time. It was amazing to be home again and see Healdsburg. It is definitely as beautiful as I remember it. The first few days back in Mexico were hard, though. I had a feeling before I left Healdsburg that I might be hard to adjust to my life in Mexico again and I was right. I was suddenly in my apartment, which is nice by doesn't mean nearly as much to me as my childhood home, without all my family and my hometown. I am now back to normal here in Coyoacan. I'm enjoying living here and appreciating the time I had with my family, instead of just missing them like I was before. Overall, things are even better and I'm definitely happy.