Archive | August, 2011

El Espíritu Aventurero.

29 Aug

Listening to: “Action/Adventure” – Andrew Bird, Weather Systems

So it’s been a couple of days since I posted something, but I have been nonstop busy every single day. If I really talked about everything then I would end up with something resembling a term paper with footnotes and all, so I am going to do my best to summarize what I have been up to.

Tuesday, as I posted about previously, I went to the Xochicalco pyramids. We went with Abril, an archaeologist and professor for CEMAL during the Spring semester, and she knew an unbelievable amount about the Xochicalco pyramids, the indigenous people living in the surrounding area, and the Aztecs. If I lived in Mexico my entire life I could probably have never learned everything that Abril taught us, so we were very fortunate to have her as a tour guide to teach us all the secrets of the pyramids. We also had to hacemos our own “tortas,” which means that we made our own sandwiches, and I made the most delicious sandwich I have ever eaten – homemade Mexican bread, black beans, tomatoes, onions, provolone? cheese, another cheese that looks like mozzarella but I am sure isn’t, avocado, and cucumbers…and I washed it down with guava juice. Have I mentioned that the food here is awesome? Mexican food all day, every day, and it has never once not been delicious. Servo has long been forgotten…

We spent Wednesday in Amatlan, an indigenous community that is about an hour away from Cuernavaca. There we talked to a Nahuan man who has lived there his entire life. He spoke to us about the history of the Spanish conquest and the impact that it had on indigenous communities. It was a really thorough historical account, similar to the one that Antonio had given to us earlier in the week, but from a different perspective because he spoke specifically about how the Spanish invasion (and later, the American invasion) affected indigenous groups and the Nahua. After the lecture we went on a hike to a sacred spot for ancient rituals in the mountains and were able to participate in an intro to a Nahua indigenous ceremony. Pretty cool, am I right?

Thursday we went to the Palacio de Cortes, or Cortez’ Palace (although according to the Nahua people it should not be referred to in this way because the Palace was actually built on the remains of a Nahua sacred place that they destroyed for the purpose of building the Palace during the conquest). We spent the time with Anita, the director of CEMAL, looking at the mural in the building painted by Diego Rivera of the Spanish conquest and the Mexican Revolution. This provided us with a visual representation of the history that we had been learning about from the Nahua and from Antonio, and Anita also provided another perspective on the Spanish conquest and the Mexican Revolution. It is incredible…I have learned about the same Mexican history three times now (not including all the readings I have had to do for classes), and I have absolutely loved it every time. Each speaker has had their own story about the historical and political situations of Mexico, and it is so fascinating to hear about the history of a country from people who actually live in that country. The Spanish conquest and the Mexican Revolution are both very important to the people of Mexico, which is evident in the buildings and signs around Cuernavaca, as well as the names of the streets, most of which are in some relation to those events. Living in Mexico makes it seem as though history is still alive, something that I have never really experienced in the United States.

On Friday we went to Anita’s house to have a barbeque and pool party for her birthday! We did some work and interdisciplinary sessions in the morning to talk about identities, cosmovisions, etc., but we got to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and eating even more delicious food.

Now that I have completed one week of classes (although it wasn’t a full week as we haven’t yet started Latin American dance class or our  Spanish classes), I am absolutely certain that Cuernavaca and CEMAL are the place and program for me. Everything about how the program is run is geared towards full cultural immersion and understanding, and even after a week and with no Spanish classes I can already understand so much more Spanish than I could before I left. The rest of the weeks here won’t be as busy with excursions, etc. but we will still have lectures and some adventures each week, and as long as we get to keep eating all of the fantastic food, then everything is good for me! More later.



p.s. I accidentally put my toothbrush under the water from the sink rather than from the bottled, filtered water, so I already had to buy a new toothbrush. Hopefully I can break the habit soon, or else I will be buying one toothbrush a week for 15 more weeks…

Es Verdad.

24 Aug

Today I climbed the Xochicalco Pyramids.

But it’s no big deal.

just me on top of some archaeolgical ruins...


23 Aug

Listening To: “History is Falling for Science” – This Day & Age, …Always Leave the Ground

Today was the first day of classes for the CEMAL fall semester (CEMAL is the Spanish acronym for the Center for Global Education, the program I am on..translated, CGE becomes Centro para la Educación Mundial). Among about a thousand other things, we had a two hour crash course in Mexican political history from Antonio Ortega, the professor for my Women, Gender, and Social Change in Latin America class, a historian, and also the man who leaves condoms all over Cuernavaca as a way to call attention to AIDS and the need for sexual education. I was kind of dreading it, because who really wants to sit through two hours of political history after a long day of classes and an even longer day of homework ahead of them? But it ended up being one completely fascinating, and in the two hours that Antonio lectured, I took seven and a half pages of notes. Learning about Mexican political history from a Mexican, it turns out, is really cool. And nothing even a little bit like learning about Mexican history in history classes in the US. So, here is my mini-lesson on things I learned today about Mexico from a Mexican, some of which many of you might already know, but most of which you probably never learned or already forgot. Enjoy!

  • The Conquistadores, who I always imagined as fancy men with gold plates on their shins and feathers in their hats (although I’m sure I should have known better as I must have learned this sometime during my history education), were actually the convicts of Spain, sent to MesoAmerica because it didn’t matter if they died along the way. No wonder terrible things happened when they got to the Americas, its not like they had a good record beforehand.
  • The Spaniards originally called the land they conquered “New Spain” which makes me wonder if anyone was ever original when they were conquering.
  • When Mexico became free from Spain the Spaniards disapproved of the name choice and wanted them to spell it Mejico instead, which begs the question, why in the world did the Spaniards think they had any say in how Mexico spelled their new, independent-from-Spain, name?
  • In 1848, the Mexicans suffered from something they call the “American Invasion”…a little something that we here in the United States learn to be called the “Mexican-American War”. Invasion…war…same thing, right? 
  • The reason that the United States did not claim more of Mexico after the invasion (they had made it all the way down to Mexico City, placing a USA flag on top of the capitol) was because of racial discrimination — The United States government wanted more land, but not the “type” of people who were living in Mexico — namely, people of mixed race and Catholics.
  • Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of defeating the French (during the French Invasion from 1862-1867) on May the 5th. However, Mexico lost the war, and the French Emperors Maximillion and Charlotte were executed and went insane, respectively.
  • The Mexican Constitution of 1917 calls for “no reeleccion,” meaning that a president cannot hold the office more than once, although presidents in Mexico have 6-year terms.
  • In 2009, a law was passed in Mexico City that allows transgendered inviduals to change the name on their birth certificate to their chosen name of the opposite gender.
  • Also in 2009, Mexico City granted “100% Marriage” which sounds awesome, but is only kind of awesome. Same sex couples are able to get a marriage certificate in Mexico City, but they are not granted any of the rights that normally come with marriage (so no Social Security with their partner, no ability to adopt)…so basically this means nothing (well, I guess it’s better than nothing).



Al Principio.

22 Aug

Listening to: “Airport Taxi Reception”, Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down, Dan in Real Life Original Soundtrack

Yesterday I arrived in Mexico. The trip over was unbelievable. First, my luggage was too heavy. So I had to open it all up in the middle of the check-in area so that I could rearrange everything in order to not have to pay an extra 200 dollars to ship my bags. Somehow we made it work so that I didn’t have to leave anything at home…a miracle for sure. After I left my parents and went to security, I met a young man who worked for the airport who was born in Mexico. He was excited to hear that I would be studying there and told me to be careful of the food…everyone tells me to be careful of the food.

When I finally got through security and exchanged my money, I went to buy a bottle of water so that I would have something to drink until I got to the house in Cuernavaca. IT WAS $2.45! For a totally one hundred percent regular sized bottle. I’m still in shock.

The plane ride itself was fine. Lots of turbulence but I slept almost the whole way [since I had to wake up at 3:45 AM Mexico time to get to the airport]. I had a window seat, and I sat next to a man from India who was excited to see that I was reading Eat, Pray, Love [thanks for the suggestion, Mrs. Scott!] and talked to me about India. [I especially enjoyed this because Kunal had just told me that it is impossible to make friends with the person you sit next to on the plane, and I became such good friends with the man sitting next to me that we talked ABOUT Kunal…].

When I finally got to the airport, the first words anyone said to me were “Buenas Tardes” and it was the best moment of my whole trip. After I went through Immigration I went to find my bags…but my second piece of luggage was nowhere to be found. So obviously I was panicking and desperately trying to think of how to ask one of the workers in Spanish about my bag. (The sentence I created was something like this – no puedo buscar mi seconda bolsa…my fluent friends can tell me how confused that might have made them). Eventually a worker who spoke a great mix of Spanglish [perfect with my own Spanglish abilities] helped me locate the bag and I looked totally loca because it was just in the middle of the baggage claim area so I should have easily been able to spot it…probably you shouldn’t bring black suitcases when traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language…EVERYONE has black bags when they travel.

In order to get to the rest of the airport in the Mexico City airport you have to go through security where all of your bags go through the x-ray and then you have to press a button – if it turns green, you go right through! And if it turns red, then the security guards get to do a thorough search of all of your luggage…dun dun dun. Luckily I got the green!

I still had a lot of time before I was supposed to be picked up and I was trying to find a bathroom so that I could get all my money and passport situated. An incredibly nice man who worked for security in the airport helped me find the bathroom and then carried my bags around for me. And then he asked me for money. Turns out that he didn’t work for security at all, and it is impossible to tell someone that you don’t need help if you don’t speak the language. Anyway I only could access US money and it was only 2 dollars because I had had to buy that water at Newark! But he took it, and that is about 20 pesos so I guess it’s not too bad…I don’t know.

Eventually I got picked up by Ismael, the driver, and Molly, the intern, and Molly and I went to a “museum” that was in the airport. It was really more like an art gallery, it had a bunch of pictures of archaeological sites in Mexico. After 7 hours of waiting, the rest of the students showed up at the airport and I could finally head to Cuernavaca, which is about an hour and a half away from Mexico City. More on Cuernavaca later!




12 Aug

Listening To: “Song For A Friend” – Jason Mraz, Mr. A-Z

So today I totally panicked as I began to think about how I am SO not going to make any friends in Mexico [I promise, there are a lot of reasons why it is incredibly reasonable that I may end up friendless this semester]. I was getting really anxious about the idea of living in another country for four months with no friends, so I took a break from packing to watch some TV. I happened across an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that was helping a family in El Paso that helps provide food for families in Mexico [appropriate, I thought]. While at first this seemed to be a bad television decision as it just made me miss Christiana and think about how much easier this semester would be if she were to be waiting for me in Cuernavaca, I had a sudden change of heart. Why? Because I watched as numerous Mexican families who had moved to the United States cried and thanked the family receiving a new house for the aid they had given and were giving to the people in Mexico.

After the past year, and especially this summer, it hit pretty close to home.

And it helped me put some things into perspective: so what if I don’t have best friends for my four months in Mexico? This trip will be inestimable in terms of learning and experiences, and will prepare me for a future that I hope is filled with similar moments like the ones that made me cry as I watched Extreme Makeover today. My potential problems in Mexico will be gone four months from now when I return to the United States, so they aren’t really the issues about which I should be concerned. I can’t wait to immerse myself in a different culture and be in an environment where I can’t stop learning. Hopefully I’ll make some new friends along the way, but either way, it will be worth it.



No Estoy Lista.

5 Aug

Listening To: “Loose Ends” – Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself

A fourth grader at summer school wrote me a letter, and the last line of the letter reads, “I bet your going to have a great SUMMER!”

He was right. This summer was the best summer of my life.

…And it happened in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Once again, showing me that my first impressions are almost always wrong and that every person (and place) deserves a second chance.

If you asked me 6 months ago, I would have told you that all I wanted was to get away from Gettysburg. Now I can’t stop crying because I don’t want to leave. I like it, I like to get knocked down when I think I have it all figured out (I should indicate that I still feel the same way about the College, and those feelings may even have been magnified this summer. But Gettysburg as a town is ranking high these days).

Tomorrow is the last day of my Heston journey, the last day of my internship with the LIU Migrant Education Program, the last day of living at the Heston-soon-to-be-German-again House, the last day of carefree picnics with the LIU families. I don’t want to talk about it.

Tomorrow also indicates Day One of preparation for my four month stay in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

No estoy lista.

So for now, I am going to remember the words of my student, and continue to have a great SUMMER, and worry about the beginning and endings another time.