Monday, May 31, 2010

Torn Up.

It's been a few days, but I've been busy!

Friday was a laundry day. Saturday was a packing day. I packed up two suitcases this time because while in Mexico I decided I didn't have enough clothes, I also decided that the weather in New Brunswick is a whole lot more variant than in Mexico. I packed summer clothes, spring clothes, and even some stuff a little warmer. Saturday afternoon Mom and I headed to Calgary so I could do some last minute shopping and meet my brothers for dinner Saturday night. It was a busy day. That evening we ended up going for Chinese food, it was great. We stayed over at the boys' house because my flight left early the next morning and they live very close to the airport.

Sunday started around 4am. My flight was to leave at 7am. All the usual airport happenings occurred, I boarded my plane to Hamilton. We ended up leaving late, very late, almost an hour late. This was because some ice had messed with the computers and the plane had to be de-iced. The plane ride was long, I have to admit I wasn't really feeling up to coming or in the mood for more travel. As soon as I arrived in Hamilton I boarded my next plane to Moncton - it had been held for those of us switching flights.

I arrived in Moncton, found a girl who was also headed to the program and we took a cab to the University. We arrived at the university around 5:30pm local time. We were given instructions about residence and sent on our merry way. There were about 7 of us that arrived on the flight from Hamilton, most from Alberta, one from BC, and one from Hamilton.

The residences are, well, not as nice as the home I stayed in Mexico. We were told we would be in two bedroom apartments, sharing with a roommate. This was fine by me. But it appears that the females of legal age (19+) were put in residence on the edge of campus, there are two bedrooms and two beds per room. What I am most choked about is that we do not have internet access in our homes, nor do we have tvs. The tv isn't really an issue for me, but I hate being without internet. Well I don't mind being without internet in a situation where it seems appropriate, on holiday, camping, etc. But living on a university campus away from home demands internet. I guess I am also choked because the boys and the underage-ers live in what have been explained as very nice, spacious two bedroom apartments that they share with only one other person, with internet, beside the cafeteria, right on campus. I'm a personal space kinda gal and although I don't mind spending time with people all the time I cherish having a room of my own to hide in once and a while. But I'll just have to make the best of it.

I met my roommates and they all seem really nice. Last night I walked to Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some things I didn't want to lug across the country. When I got home my roommates were just going to watch a movie before they went to bed. I was exhausted but because I didn't want to go to bed too early and end up waking up in the middle of the night I waited until about 10:30.

Classes start early here. 8am every weekday morning. This means waking up around 6am, which with the Alberta time differential felt like the middle of the night. Well it didn't feel too early until I was sitting in class. We had breakfast, it was good. As far as I can tell the cafeteria food won't be too bad and there seems to be options enough to satisfy.

Today we had a placement exam to see what group we should be in. It is my understanding that there are 5 levels with 1 being the beginners. Although I think it would be easier for those who actually don't know any French to just say so and be put in the beginners I think the test weeds those who actually don't know any French (me) out from those who claim they don't know any French (there are many). It took about two hours and ended with an interview portion. There was oral comprehension, written comprehension, grammar, etc. The exam was multiple choice with about 80 questions. I am certain I failed, but that is a good thing. The interview was not hard for me. Most people went in, sat down, and had to answer a set of questions, I hear the last 6 were especially difficult. Knowing no French made this simple. I walked in, said "I don't speak any French" he asked if I would understand anything he would ask me, I said no and I was out the door. Tomorrow I start in the beginners group.

This afternoon we have a meeting, I've been told it is our last opportunity to speak English. This seems a great deal more likely for the students who are already speaking some French around here. Not that I'm not interested in the whole immersion thing I just find it impossible. I guess I won't be speaking much in class. It is also interesting because everything that I think of in non-English is coming out Spanish. Numbers, greetings, etc. is all Spanish in my head right now.

Hopefully this meeting will provide some information about what is going on, how to get around, etc. because I feel like I have no idea about anything. I'm also having a hard time giving it my all. I just want to sleep in my comfy bed with my blankets and here I have one thin, grey blanket.

Because I have no internet at home I will not be able to guarantee updates regularly, or as I like to do them on a daily basis, or at least covering a day in one post. For now I'll do the best I can and hopefully I can find a time that works best.

Today it is kind of cloudy with a cold wind.

Today I learned:
  • Many many names of new people
  • The gravity of my desire for a private room, I just like it ok.
I am grateful for:
  • Home
  • Warm socks
  • 5% gst - do you believe they have a 13% hst here!?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Once Upon a Time In Mexico

*This post and my trip to Mexico has/d nothing to do with Johnny Depp, eyeless or not.

The last few days have consisted of me sleeping and watching back episodes of shows I missed. Thus far I have caught up on Glee, Grey's Anatomy, and House. The rest will come slowly. I had intended to go to Calgary today, run some errands, and meet up with a wide variety of friends for some drinks to celebrate my birthday but I got lazy and was more tired than I expected and so I called it off. Sorry friends but sleeping on my couch trumped you. Sad but true.

Because I haven't really been up to a lot, or anything for that matter I figured I would tell you a few things I left out about my trip.

First, I haven't yet told you about the evening of the 25th. I told you we were going out early to celebrate our last night and my birthday. What actually happened was a wonderful surprise. As I've told you before there was one particular homestay Mom who took special interest in making sure I was comfortable and never lonely. This lovely lady has to have one of the biggest hearts around. Every time I saw her she insisted that I spend more time at her house with the students she was housing (this was an easy request to fulfill because the girls staying at her house were top notch). The last night came around and she (a chef) was cooking a wonderful meal for her students and two other students who were staying with her parents for the trip.

I on the other hand was packing my things and heading out for drinks. That is until she found out that the next night was my birthday. I got a phone call from one of the girls informing me that I just had to come over for dinner, the mom wouldn't have it any other way. I had heard great things about the delicious meals so I was eager to head over. I walked over, it only takes about 5 minutes to get there. Once I arrived I was informed that I wasn't allowed into the house - I had to go for a walk. ha. Very sneaky.

Once I got into the house I was greeted with hugs and happy birthdays. Dinner was amazing. Part way through the son arrived with a beautiful cake and balloons, oh and did I mention the mom had invited other friends over to celebrate my birthday. It was amazing. I wasn't expecting a full out party.

After dinner we were exhausted but we had said that we would go out for goodbye drinks so we made our way down to 1800 a lounge that we'd been to a few times. As it turns out quite a few people had bailed out of exhaustion and the looming day of traveling ahead. I stayed until about 12:30. Long enough for me to do a shot on my birthday and say goodbye. It was an adorable evening.

Today I learned:
  • Sometimes it is necessary to drink a cup of coffee to trick your body that it is necessary to stay awake
  • I don't really want to re-pack anything
I am grateful for:
  • Multiple couches
  • TV episodes on the internet

For these pictures I thought I'd include a few things that are different in Mexico:

Nails like this are all the rage in Mexico. As far as I can tell the bigger, brighter, and more bedazzled, the better!

I ordered fruit and yogurt with granola. I received this soupy bowl. It was tasty but somewhat disconcerting because in Canada if yogurt is runny it hasn't been kept cold. Here all the yogurt seems to be runny.

Look at the size of their pieces of gum! Outstanding. I think you still get the same amount as our longer pieces, they are just thicker.

Look at the size of that key! It was huge! It was for the exterior gate to my home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


Traveling on your birthday sucks.

The day started early, very early, around 5am to be exact. I'd got to bed around 1am the night before so I put in a solid 4 hours and the previous night had got me about 2hrs of sleep. (That's the thing about this trip, there was so much going on at night and so many wonderful mandatory activities in the mornings that at one point I was about 10hrs of sleep in 4days). Needless to say getting out of bed was rough.

Showered, packed, and got a ride to the bus. We boarded the bus in Colima saying goodbye to the few who were staying behind and started the 3hr bus ride, and the entire traveling day. We left a little late and we had to detour because there was an accident on the main road, this left us practically running to catch the plane. We had stopped at the wrong terminal then we had to check bags (mine was 50.0 on the dot, amazing) etc.

It was a weird experience because security in Guadalajara seemed really easy but when we boarded the plane they searched everyones carry on and told us we couldn't bring our drinks we had purchased inside security. Weird.

I was lucky and got two seats to myself, which as far as I'm concerned is practically first class. Arriving in Houston our group had been separated onto two buses. We went through customs, well the group I was in was unaware that you could skip the line and go through because we were in transit, it wasn't the worst thing ever because I was in line with some good people, but it was an additional hour of waiting.

We sat down for a drink before we got on our next flight. Houston to Calgary was pretty average, there were two of us to three seats, we watched a bad chick flick (Leap Year) that I laughed through the entire time (I'm sure I was disturbing everyone around me, but it couldn't be helped). We were also served chicken and cheese burritos, which after a month in Mexico was not the most welcome plane food I'd ever had, although it was funny. We arrived in Calgary a little early, made our way through customs, met our respective families, and said our goodbyes.

The drive home wasn't bad, I made my Mom stop so I could buy a salad! Yes, green veggies - how I'd missed them.

Arriving home was nice, until I discovered that my beautiful coveted green painted ceramic fruit bowl was in pieces. It can be repaired and glued back together but its just not the same. I packed my entire two suitcases with it in mind but it just couldn't handle the hustle and bustle of the airport. Hopefully when glued together the cracks won't be that noticeable.

I got to sleep in my favourite bed, which is the most comfortable bed ever.

To summarize, traveling on your birthday sucks. In total I spent 4 hours sleeping and 20 hours traveling. It wasn't like it was a horrible day of traveling but it was a day of traveling and I don't think anyone likes that.

Today I learned:
  • To pack better, or maybe I should just buy a hard suitcase instead
  • Birthdays in airports don't feel like birthdays at all
I am grateful for:
  • Wonderful friends, old and new
  • Rainy days in May! My fave.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And in the end, The love you take, Is equal to the love you make

I was stung by a bee today. In between my "ring" and middle toe on my right foot. Stupid bumble bee. I do take some solace in knowing that its stinger was stuck in my foot thereby ripping out its little torso and killing it. That might be a morbid thought but I wasn't doing anything wrong and now my toes hurt.

Today was our last full day here in sunny Colima. The day started in class, we had to hand in our final reports. The class that followed was a light hearted wrap up. There was an award ceremony of "most likely to..." in addition to judgement of our masks we painted (mine got 5th and I was offered a large stuffed animal that danced, I turned it down. I don't have use or room for that).

It was a short class. We went over to the cafeteria to say goodbye to the homestay mom of a couple of the girls who owns the cafeteria. While sitting I seriously considered changing my flight and I was pretty set on it, but after some discussion and my failed attempt at getting another girl to stay and fly back with me on Friday and a looming hour timeline to actually switch before the 24hr penalty fees started to emerge convinced me that going home was likely the best call. I really just wanted a few days to relax in the sun and do a few things I hadn't yet had the chance to do but had I flown back Friday I would have had Saturday to get everything ready to leave on Sunday to Moncton.

We walked over to the pool because that was the plan for the day. An entire, guilt free, day at the pool! It was great, and SO hot. The pool isn't super busy during the weekdays so for quite some time we had the entire pool to ourselves. Once we got hungry we wandered into the restaurant for a bite and to escape the sun for a while. Basically we lounged and sunned and swam and it was great.

As the day went on I started to move out of the sun - didn't want to burn on the last day. As I was lying in the shade I got stung, stupid bee. At that point I grabbed my shirt and some ice and decided to call it a day with the pool. As some of you may know it is my 23rd birthday tomorrow and seeing as tomorrow is going to be a sucky day of traveling the festivities started a little early, against my recommendation. I love birthday weeks and weekends, but I feel like they should start on your actual birthday and go from there. Anyways at one point everyone was in the pool and decided it was unacceptable that I was sitting out so with somewhat of a struggle I was thrown in the pool t-shirt and all. Realistically I should have just gone in but I was totally dry. ha.

It took some time to dry off and we parted ways. A lot of the students were having last night dinners with their homestay families, or were going to spend some of their last night with their families. I headed home to shower and pack. It didn't take long to put almost everything into my suitcase but I have no idea if weight will be an issue, I also bought some painted dishes that I hope do not break on the road home.

Because tonight is the very last night we are all here we are all going out for drinks later this evening and some of us are meeting up a little earlier. I'm updating early because although I fully intend to be in bed shortly after I do a midnight-birthday-shot I know that in Mexico things don't always go according to plan and I need to be able to go to bed as soon as I get home. The bus leaves at 7am to start the long day of travel back to Calgary. I don't get in until 9:30ish. I wish it was earlier so I could play soccer but sadly I'll have to wait until July to play with my team.

Next time I talk to you I should be back on Canadian soil.

Goodbye Alcoholic Summer Camp, it's been great.

Today's High: 37℃

Today I learned:
  • This trip went by way way too quickly. Obvs.
I am grateful for:
  • Bringing a second suitcase as a carry on that will now be checked.

Home Again, Home Again, Jigity Jig?

Sad. Face. :(

Tomorrow is my last day here. There are a couple of girls staying until the 31st and I wish beyond wish I could stay, but I leave for Moncton on the 30th. I could technically leave on the 28th but that would be ridiculous because I would literally get one day at home to do all my laundry, repack, and leave the next am to go away for another 5 weeks. The thing is, had I just been gone for 8 weeks altogether it wouldn't seem like such a stretch. I just love the weather, and this place, and I feel like I would like a day or two to relax in the warmth of a beach before heading back.

Today we had to do presentations, but unlike all previous presentations these ones had an audience. We had to arrive at the University of Colima School of Tourism campus by 10am. I met a few girls at Starbucks to catch a cab. Our presentations were done in front of our group as well as about 40 English speaking Mexican students as well as a number of staff.

It went well. We went alphabetically so I was last. By the time it got to be my presentation we had run long and I was asked to keep it quick; most of the Mexican students had already left because they had other classes to attend. Overall I would say it was a success. Nothing too shocking happened. Although, after one girl presented her findings about the patriarchy society and gender roles in Mexico our prof turned the floor over to the students and asked why men work and women stay at home. I was beyond shocked when one young man put up his hand and said that was the say it was supposed to be, the men make the money and the women take care of the home. I have to say that I have never, in my life, heard anyone legitimately say this. It was shocking that this mentality still stands. I wanted to ask him why he thought this was but time was short and I didn't want to cause any problems.

After the presentations I was the only one fully done my report. This was good news for me in some ways, except that I had no one to hang out with because everyone was editing or writing. I went over to some of the girls' house to sit quietly while they worked. After which we were headed to the mall. It took a while but we made our way to the mall eventually.

We were hungry and decided to go to Applebee's. This may seem odd because we are running out of time to eat 'real' Mexican food, but I really just wanted some vegetables (which are surprisingly difficult to come by. We all ordered the same thing, and it was amazing, a real salad, and real dressing. I couldn't have been happier.

We walked around the mall, which was nice but since I've become a poor student I've found shopping to be much more depressing than rewarding. When I was younger shopping was the best and it made me happy, now it just makes me feel guilty. The good thing about Mexico is it takes very little money to live well, however their nice clothes are very comparable in price so it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money.

Have I mentioned that Mexico is shoe heaven? I feel like I've traveled a few places and loved a lot of shoes, and maybe it is just the trends lately but their shoes are to die for and all relatively cheap. I'm talking ridiculous platform heels with inches and inches of heels. My love. I found one pair of stacked heels, platforms, black leather, with white faux snake detailing, amazing. I held back buying a pair as I had already bought one pair and my suitcase is steadily increasing in size and weight.

After that point I was pretty much done in the mall. Once I decide not to buy things it isn't much fun to shop around. In Mexico I feel like you need to do the tourist shopping that involves bartering and walking away happy with a good deal, not buying a $60CAN dress. Although the mall proved fruitful because I got a chance to try a churro. Yes we have churros in Canada. But in Canada they don't fill them with your choice of delicious sauces. I had mine filled with chocolate sauce and it was awesome.

We left the mall and went to WalMart to pick up a few things then went home to drop our stuff off (and our paper's that we had printed earlier in the day). It wasn't long before a group of us were headed downtown. It was kind of our last full night because as of right now there is still some debate over what will happen tomorrow night (our last official night). We have to be at the bus on Wednesday early in the morning, and although everyone wants to celebrate my birthday starting at midnight on Wednesday and stay up all night I feel like flying while exhausted and perhaps still buzzing will be a bad choice.

We went downtown to meet a group who was supposed to be getting tattoos and piercings. Unfortunately the tattoo artist had double booked them and sent them away. We did a little shopping and sat down for some drinks beside the town square. Not everyone was in attendance because there were still a few people finishing up their reports. We lasted there quite a long time, we drank the bar out of Corona (which we had accomplished at another bar), and Victoria so we had to switch to Indio. It is funny that Mexican bars don't seem to keep many beers around, that or Canadians drinking 70+ beers a night makes it hard for any establishment. A group of us ordered a pizza, it was great.

Later on in the night more people were hungry so we headed to a different bar to get some food. It was good but not really necessary. Now I'm home and off to bed. Tomorrow our reports are due, we have a small class goodbye and then everyone is heading over to the pool for a final party during the day. I don't know what will happen with the rest of the day but I'm sad that it is all over.

As a bug bite update; it grew to about 2.5 inches in diameter today and was nice and swollen. I took benedryl, rubbed weird green ointment on it and hoped it would go away. The swelling has gone down but the central sting area is quite substantial and hard. I also have a new sting/bite on the back of my thigh. They hurt but I think they are going away, at least I hope so.

Today's High: 37℃ and overcast "No sol"

Today I learned:
  • I might understand more Spanish than I think I do, although I can definitely not speak it yet
  • Shopping malls in Mexico look exactly the same as shopping malls in Canada
  • That I don't just kind of want to stay, I really want to stay. Looked at changing my flight, but 3 days isn't much longer
I am grateful for:
  • This wonderful experience
  • Houses where bugs aren't the norm
  • The great exchange rate of pesos to dollars

Sunday, May 23, 2010

So much to do, So little time

Good news is I finished my report today.
Bad news is I leave in two days.

Today was an average 'no plans' free day. I slept in a bit, had a late breakfast, edited my paper again, had a late lunch. Nothing too exciting.

I went to the pool this afternoon in an attempt to get a little colour before I leave Mexico. The sad thing is, although I've been here for 20+ days a great many of those days have been spent inside - both studying and avoiding the heat. These activities, although necessary, have not left me with a 'wow' tan. And I'd like to think that leaving Mexico after a month I would have something to show for it, besides some souvenirs and three courses. I shouldn't complain because I have some of a tan but I am pretty sure last time I was in Mexico (for a week) I got a better tan than I do now.

So the pool was great, but because it was the weekend it was a lot busier. I like pools empty, call me greedy, I just say that way I can do what I want, when I want, where I want and then I don't have to worry about anyone else. Regardless of my feelings towards many people in a pool it was great to have some time in the sun. It is also nice because it is part of a hotel, a hotel with a restaurant that serves you beer at the pool. Lovely.

I'd had enough sun and headed home to have a shower. After my shower I noticed that my bug bite I saw in the morning (about dime sized) had grown; at this point I would say it is larger than a toonie and smaller than an apricot. And it itches, and its red, and I hope they don't have to take my leg off. I also noticed another small bite...sting...? on my thigh, I hope it doesn't swell up too.

Being bored and done my paper isn't a whole lot of fun and because most people aren't done their papers and they are due in a few days not many people want to go have fun. We also have to give a presentation tomorrow morning in front of a group of Mexican tourism students from the University. I haven't really thought about it, and I haven't really planned much, but I think some people are worried about it. All these things compiled together equals me with not a whole lot to do.

In lieu of catching up on Grey's Anatomy I decided to go to Starbucks to see if anyone was studying, I also wanted to see if anyone else was going to sushi (a few people were going, I'd been invited, but I wasn't really feeling sushi tonight). Anyways, no one was at Starbucks so I decided I'd just walk over to the girls' house that lived nearby. It was lovely to have a relaxed evening chatting and although I'm sure I slowed their progress on their projects I had a great time. They fed me cake and gave me a hot lemon for my growing bug bite (one of the girls herself had a swelling bite and her homestay mom put hot lemon on it). I'm not sure what it does but it took the burning away, I can only hope it helps it go away entirely.

Then home again, home again. Hopefully I'll get to bed early. The last few mornings I've been waking up exhausted, I think slowing my pace down has made my lack of sleep catch up to me. My body is crying for more sleep. I'm going to try and make it wait until the 27th to sleep all day because I feel like there is a whole lot of 'goodbye' partying to be done in the next few days, in addition to some shopping, eating, pooling. You know how it goes.

Today's High: 37℃

Today I learned:
  • A couple girls are extending their stays here, and I am beyond jealous. Do you think Moncton could wait a few days?
  • Pools are great but beaches are better
I am grateful for:
  • "Regular" breakfast food - I'm ready for my breakfasts to be cereal, toast, beagles, peanut butter and jam, orange juice.
  • Food variety
  • The amount of veggies I get to eat at home

Saturday, May 22, 2010

3 days left to do it all

I do not want to go away from this place.
I do not want to go away from these people.

So as I said, last night was mighty late. I'd intended to get up early to work on some school stuff so I'd have time to take a break to the pool. Although, as these things often go I ended up sleeping a lot more than I had planned for, this was probably a good thing.

I didn't really get going until around 11am and at that time I was pretty tired so I procrastinated as much as possible before editing my paper. I should just want to get it done so badly that I do a great job at editing the first round that I don't have to go back to it anymore. However, I often find that when deadlines are really looming and there is some free time it is hard to force yourself to work. It is also difficult because all I really want to be doing is playing in the pool or going shopping, which are both things I get to do as soon as I finish editing.

So once I got down to it I edited until about 5pm. At that time my brain wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing. It has gotten to the point where I care more about if it is done then if it is good. This is a bad point to be at because when I possibly get a grade lower than I desire I'll think to myself "had I just focused a little longer." But damn, I just can't make myself care right now. I feel like there is so much of this cute city I haven't been able to see because I've been so busy. I need at least a few more days here.

Tonight we had a "thank-you/wrap up" party in Comala, a little town about 10 minutes away from Collima. I caught a cab with a couple other girls because my homestay parents were unable to come. It was for our students, our homestay families, the organizers, and some of the university staff.

It was a great dinner at an outdoor patio that sat across from the town square. A very nice setting for it. There were tons and tons of food. Appetizers just kept coming out. But the thing about food in Mexico is that it is essentially all the same thing except presented in a different way. Meat, cheese, perhaps some refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. This is then either placed in a tortilla, on a tortilla, on a smaller crispier tortilla, in a smaller crispier tortilla. Essentially all the same food.

Our dinner was covered by the program fees so I didn't even have to pay for it.

Because a lot of us were out so late last night and those that weren't were eager to work on their projects tomorrow we all called it a night pretty quickly after dinner and headed back to Colima. I was fortunate enough to catch a ride in the back of truck with a group of students. The great thing about this place is that even sitting in the back of a truck zipping down the highway in just a tank top and shorts at 10pm you don't get cold. I love that. Although I could do without the impossible heat midday.

Today's High: 36℃

Today I learned:
  • No matter how much I try to rationalize things moths will always be scary.
I am grateful for:
  • Canadian public bathrooms that include things like: toilet seats, toilet paper, soap, paper towel (especially when it is thicker than tp), and that are generally clean
  • Being tired out at the end of the day. I always fall asleep in moments and sleep the whole night.
  • The little comforts of home.

More of the same

I wish I had something more exciting to tell you.

Our morning was spent in class presenting our findings and interpretations from our research. It was a little nerve racking as it seemed like there was no clear formula to follow.

After class was lunch in the cafeteria and studying in the library. Unfortunately the library doesn't seem to have outlets so I was only there until my computer was on the verge of dying. We walked to Starbucks for some AC and homework. I realized I was done writing shortly after arriving and decided I wasn't in the mood to edit, because it is such a concentrated activity.

I came home, leaving those who were still writing, and watched an episode of Glee. I love Glee. My new favorite show. It was the first show I'd watched since being away. Clearly I will have a lot of catching up to do between the 26th when I return and the 30th when I leave again for Moncton. Good news is Canadian tv on the internet will be available in Moncton. Also, I've been hearing rumors that the season finale of Grey's was "amazing" BUT I haven't seen any episodes since I left and I'd like to keep it all a secret so if someone tells me what happened I might lose it.

After relaxing on my bed with my laptop for a few hours it was time to go out. We were meeting for sushi at the same restaurant we went to the other night and then heading to a club called "Nuit" which is french and pronounced "Newi" but the Mexican's pronounce it how it looks.

Sushi was great, again! This time we ordered it without cream cheese, which they had included in all the roles last time, and no garlic so I wouldn't suffer later. Some of the Mexican student tour guides came with us, and some met us at the club.

I feel the need to take a step back. I was meeting a few girls who live close to me so we could cab together. I walked over to their house and saw that they, well mostly one, was dressed up with some crazy new heels. The thing is Mexican women love their crazy high heels. So she grabbed us and took us to a local store to buy some shoes, afterwards she insisted I change into one of her dresses. I'm not exceptionally "girly" very often, but hey, you gotta role with the punches. It was fun, but the heels I bought were pretty ridiculous.

So back to dinner. Quite a few of our group bailed to go home because they needed to spend the next day devoted to their papers. The rest of us cabbed across town and then actually had to wait in line before getting in (this never happens). That said the line only really consisted of us as everyone else was let in the door.

We got in to the club and had a great night, a bottle of the cheapest tequila was ordered (which was a mistake because it was gross!), and we sat outside for a while. Eventually we made our way to the "dance floor." I say that because there were tables and people sitting in the middle of the dance floor and I'm pretty sure we were the only ones actually dancing. We had a great time though. By the end of the night my feet were screaming at me. We walked to Kiosko (pretty much a 7-11) to get some snacks and water. One of the Mexican students, who had driven, insisted that he drive some of us home (especially the girls in heels). This was much appreciated as I don't know how I would have made it down the hill in my heels unless I took them off.

Not long after getting home I was tucked into bed, around 4am possibly. I had initially planed to be up early working all morning on my paper so I would have time to make it to the pool in the afternoon. That doesn't seem like much of an option anymore.

Today's High: 37℃

Today I learned:
  • You probably know more than you think you do
  • High heels look great and can be danced in all night long, if one is willing to deal with the pain
I am grateful for:
  • Car rides at the end of the night
  • The wonderful night

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This and that

Long days, long nights.

So as I mentioned yesterday, today was a field trip day. We did many things, in fact I would say that we did three small field trips in one day.

We started on a bus at 8:15 this morning which, trust me, came very early. We drove to Sutchilan, a small town outside of Colima (I think), to have breakfast. It was the most wonderful place to have breakfast. The cafe opened up to what appeared to be jungle like flora, they had simply pounded down the dirt so it made a floor and set the tables amongst the trees. Breakfasts are pretty basic here in Mexico and often include their regular dinner meals, simply served at breakfast time. We were served coffee, because we were sitting amongst coffee trees, but I have to say it didn't really taste like coffee.

After breakfast we moved more "inside" the restaurant to hear about some of their traditional painted masks, what they symbolize, where they come from, etc. It was unfortunate that the translation became so lost because the nice man speaking Spanish went on forever and I'm sure we missed out on a lot of the details.

Following the information we were all given small wooden masks to paint ourselves. It was a great activity and they all turned out really great.

From there we drove on another wild windy road into a small community that had chickens running around, roosters, and cows in pens made out of tree branches. Our first task of this mini-adventure was to find some coffee trees. The walk was dusty but short and we found some rows of trees with small green fruit-like bulbs! Coffee! We then went to this little ladies house where she showed us how she cleaned and processed the coffee. It was essentially a little room attached to her house with a small roaster and a grinder. It never expected it to be so small.

Across the street from the little coffee lady was a lady making cheese. You think this would be exciting, except that it was being fermented in a large green rubbermaid garbage can and was surrounded by flies and chickens and she kept putting her hands in it to show us the pieces that would be formed into a block of cheese. I am all for trying weird crazy food but it was too much for me.

We left the coffee location and headed to a little lake located near Colima, it was very low in a valley as far as I could tell from the popping of my ears. It was a cute picturesque kind of location. All the Mexican students who had been helping us by being our guides had barbequed for us. It was a really relaxed afternoon. It was great. Then our prof handed back assignments we had handed in a few days prior. These were the basis of much of our written reports at the end of our time here. We also had a presentation due the next morning that had a great deal to do with what we were getting back.

After all the papers were handed out it was clear (almost) all of the Calgary students wanted to get back to Colima to start working on their projects for the next morning.

The thing is our final reports are due on the morning of the 25th and the only thing between that is a public presentation of our research, it is small and nothing really to worry about. So all that stands between my personal freedom to go shopping, suntanning, swimming, and drinking in Mexico is an 18 page report. I'm almost done and I'm determined to have it done by Saturday night, so I can look over it once on Sunday and hand it in Monday. This way I will have all day Monday, Tuesday, and a good portion of Sunday to do as I wish. I can hardly wait.

Today's High: 36℃

Today I learned:
  • I've been invited to go to Argentina at the end of August for about 2 weeks and I am fighting between my normally 'rational mature working' side and my 'I love to travel' side
I am grateful for:
  • Cold showers
I think I have some pictures to post, so check back later if you like.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Mexico Eating Japanese with Canadians. Perfect.

It’s the little things, ya, the little things.

I’d love to tell you about another exciting day here in Colima but unfortunately it is getting to the time in the trip where everyone is working, and working hard.

As previously mentioned today was our free day, free from planned activities that is. I slept in, which was amazing, had an easy morning, except that I was exhausted. Eating breakfast may have been the most difficult task of my day. You know when a little kid falls asleep in their spaghetti, that was practically me, except I was eating an enormous toasted ham sandwich with melted cheese, tomato, and lettuce.

After breakfast I got down to work on some of my papers. We have three small papers that culminate to make one large report. Because the internet was out this morning proved to be extra productive. Well more productive than other times I’ve tried to work because there was literally nothing to distract me, minus a few games on my iphone.

At 11:00 I decided I’d had too much, was too tired, and took a nap. I love morning naps, there is something about the fact that you were up early enough that you need a nap and you wake up early enough that you still have the whole day that I just love.

More homework, then lunch. After lunch – cheesy pasta, salad, and fried fish cakes (so delicious) – I went to Starbucks because I still need to do some research for my papers on the internet. I was there around 3pm when I found out that lots of people from the group were at a local pool. Initially I was choked that I wasn’t partaking in the sun but after doing some research I knew I’d feel better if I just hung it out.

I was in Starbucks until about 7pm, which is substantial. From there a few girls who still need to do some observations for their report were headed to a local park. It was amazing! The atmosphere was wonderful, there were huge climbing walls for kids, wonderful jungle gyms, families were out playing together. It was a really fun place to be.

A few of us had talked about doing some late sushi to take a break from the studying so we got the name of a supposedly great sushi place and headed over. There were five of us on the way and there was supposed to be a few more coming along.

It was a really great restaurant, and the sushi was delicious. It was still very Mexican though – in the little bowls for soya sauce they had included some green onions and spices, and on the table was lime.

We ordered a ton – which seems to always happen with sushi. Edamame, Sashimi, a miso soup, a bottle of wine, and 7 plates with 11 roles each. A ton of food. The bill came to just over $800 pesos. We paid 200 each totaling 1000 – or about $16 CAN each! AMAZING! And it was really delicious.

I should mention that the other students ended up not coming, and we had a table for ten in the middle of the restaurant with lots and lots of food. It was also funny because the waiters watched us all night long. We made some friends.

It was a great relaxing evening with some wonderful friends. Have I mentioned I don’t want to leave?!

Home and to bed as we have another full day field trip tomorrow and an important assignment due on Friday in addition to working on papers. Everyone is getting into homework mode and is sad about it. I’ve spent more time in the last two days in a hoodie in Starbucks because the AC is too cold than actually in the sun. Mexico + School is not optimal.

Today’s High: 36℃

Today I learned:

  • That I am officially accepted to the University of Groningen for the winter semester of 2011, hello Holland!
  • Sushi felt like home, which when you think about it, is very odd

I am grateful for:

  • Lovely ladies
  • The Internet – when you don’t have it you notice how much you rely on it

Simple Days

Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can’t?

I really love it here. Even though I spent almost the whole day freezing inside Starbucks, I really do love it here. I think that this love blooms from many different things but I think I especially love it here because the people I am here with are so wonderful. I have about one week left until I (sadly) return home and head off to another adventure but I feel like I just want to stay and hang out with these wonderful people longer.

Today we had an assignment due at noon, which meant that I was up early to finish it. Unfortunately the internet in my house was (and unfortunately is still) out. Because I was unable to finish up my work at home I headed to Starbucks.

At noon the assignment was handed in, and by 1:30pm I was sitting having lunch with some lovely ladies at a local restaurant. From there we walked straight to Starbucks. Starbucks has become our library because working in the heat is nearly impossible it is one of the only locations that has air conditioning and free wifi. Although it isn’t really free because I feel guilty and get hungry so I end up buying lots of things to eat and drink. This wouldn’t be a problem if the prices were Mexican prices (aka: ridiculously cheap) but they aren’t, the prices are comparable to home making it one of the most expensive places to hang out.

The other thing about Starbucks is the A/C, it is so cold that I have to pack a sweater, a fleecy sweater in order to survive. Today I forgot mine and I froze, I had to keep leaving to go outside and warm up before trying to continue. Finally, these expensive delicious food and drinks I inhale while there are fatty fatty to the max so when I return home with my Mexican beer gut most of it can be attributed to Starbucks sandwiches filled with melted cheese, luxurious muffins, and tea lattes.

I would like to say I got a lot done but I’m only willing to say I got a reasonable amount done. Either way I’ll be spending most of the day tomorrow with my nose in my books.

At 7pm most of our group left. We were having a birthday party for the May birthdays of the Colima trip, but mostly we were having a birthday party for one of the girl’s whose birthday is actually the 18th. It was a nice chill evening, the restaurant overlooked the main square downtown and was equipped with a juke box so we had some wonderful tunes the whole night.

Because it was a May-birthday’s birthday party I was purchased a shot, not something I really wanted but hey it’s Mexico and tequila is entertaining. Sadly this was a shot of vodka for reasons unknown to me, I did it but it was gross. Thanks team, I’ll get you back one day.

Tomorrow is a “free” day, meaning we have no planned activities and it should be used for homework and papers. There is also an amazing pool party supposed to be happening somewhere out of town that I’ve said I would attend but being the nerd I am I really would like to get a whole lot of school work done tomorrow. Hopefully I can do both and feel good about it, and hopefully my internet returns. Until then I’ll be in Starbucks, spending lots of money and getting fat.

Today’s High: 36℃

Today I learned:
  • Sleeping more than 4 hours at a time makes you feel amazing
  • Sometimes Starbucks can be too cold, and very distracting
I am grateful for:
  • Beds to sleep in

Monday, May 17, 2010

My Mini Mexican Holiday ☼

If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice

As promised my "weekend" update. This will cover Saturday May 15th through Monday May 17th, but in order to not overwhelm you with the wonderful details of my weekend I'll try to keep the details brief. I would like it to be known that I was entirely done this last night (the 17th) but my internet went out so I couldn’t post it.

Saturday was my second early morning after a late night. We were meeting to catch a bus to Manzanillo, it is about 1 hour away and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. During the bus ride I spent most of my time writing my last blog entry.

We arrived in downtown Manzanillo and were told to kill some time because we would not be able to check into our hotel yet. Manzanillo is both bigger and touristier than Colima. As I mentioned earlier Manzanillo is the sailfish capital of the world, but it also seems to be the jellyfish capital of the world. We went to look at the docks and there was hardly a spot in the water that there weren’t any jellyfish.

We spent some time shopping, then we had brunch, and headed to our hotel. It was great, right on the ocean plus there were waves were huge! We dropped our bags off in our room (yup, I got to share a room - not a loner this time) and we headed down to the water.

It was a great afternoon, sun tanning, swimming, buying things off of the vendor men who came by with their masses of stuff. Now when I say these waves are huge I mean in relation to wave I have swam in, these were the kind of waves that if you don't time things properly and dive under the crashing wave you will be thrown tumbling ass over head onto the beach and possibly even acquire some lovely sand burns on your bum (this may have happened to me, but only once I assure you).

It was a long great day in the sun before we were headed to a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner. Half of our group had been enjoying a beverage or two on the beach during the day, and about half of us had not been. When we went to dinner this distinction may have been clearly evident. Dinner was great, traditional Mexican food, well maybe I should specify that most food was good, some was okay, but the atmosphere and the wine was great. I had a crazy hot bowl dinner thing that although the meat was very tasty it was just not for me.

At the point when dinner had come to an end those who had not been enjoying beverages earlier in the day were surely caught up to those who had been. We walked down the street towards our hotel to find a establishment to go to for the evening. We stumbled upon a Senor Frogs-esque place and went inside. By this time it was around 11pm perhaps and the bar was all but empty.

I won’t get into the details but I will say that, as per proven history, some of the best nights of my life end the worst and this was no exception. It was great. I even got to lifeguard a dark ocean at 3am. I’ll leave the stories for those of us who experienced.

Clearly we had a late night all around, but I think it might go down as one of, if not the, best night of the trip.

We had to be up pretty early the next morning (Sunday 16th) so we could go to breakfast and head on to our next stop, Barra de Navidad.

Breakfast was a buffet at a mall, which was both weird and did not settle many stomachs.

The bus ride was about an hour North, and once again our hotel was on the Ocean. Barra is such a cute touristy little town – well at least what I saw of it. The streets were narrow enough that the bus stopped about 5 blocks away from our hotel and we walked in.

Because I am the odd man out of this UofC Colima party and 17 doesn’t split evenly I was initially supposed to room with the three Mexican students who were accompanying us on the trip. Not knowing this I had made plans to stay 5 in a room as opposed to 4. This didn’t prove to be a problem initially, however when we got to our second hotel they wanted to charge us for the extra room, although the prof wanted nothing to do with this I willingly paid the $34 for an extra king sized bed. Mexico is so fabulous.

Upon arriving most of the group split up. The girls I was rooming with and I headed out to do some shopping. Because Barra is a tourist location it has those great shops lined up in which every store has essentially the same thing with some slight variations and you barter to get a steal of a deal. I’ve never really liked bartering because it always made me really uncomfortable and made me feel really unsure of myself. But I had a great time, and I think it even turned out really well.

The odd thing about going from somewhere like Colima, where it is the real day to day Mexico, to somewhere touristy is how different they are. I kept expecting to use the little Spanish I knew to try and get by, but they had menus in English, and the sale people spoke English, and there were people other than our group speaking English and looking blonde. I actually felt kind of lazy speaking in English because here in Colima it is so much work to get the message across but I am always astounded how even when my homestay mom speaks only Spanish to me and I speak only English to her the message (for the most part) seems to get across.

After shopping was lunch, with vegetables! and guacamole (as always). After lunch was the ocean. There were tons of people walking up and down the beach selling goods, lots of silver and lots of beaded bracelets. I only bought a few things.

The ocean was nice but there were jellyfish this time, again I luckily did not get stung. The waves weren’t as big and the current wasn’t as strong as in Manzanillo, which was a little sad because I had lots of fun there. Most of the day’s beach going was spent lying around in the sun.

We went to dinner that night at a very adorable restaurant just down the street from our hotel, it had an open upper level that overlooked the ocean and the sunset. It was pretty awesome, and the food was even pretty delicious. I had the fillet minon.

After dinner we were all pretty tired and mostly desired a laid back night after the crazy night we had before. Across the street from our hotel was a bar that was serving two for one Margaritas so most of us decided to head over. After a few drinks we headed back to the hotel to go for a swim. Security was nice enough to keep the pool open an extra 3 hours until 1am for us.

Not many people swam but it was really nice. Again a few of the people swimming wanted to head into the ocean for a midnight dip – I was asked to watch them, which was pretty much impossible because it was so dark. I stood and watched until I got bored and tired, then I went to bed, I’m the best lifeguard ever. Don’t worry I made sure they all made it out alive.

The next morning (Monday 17th) I woke up to a rather concerned, shall I say screaming roommate. It seems that whatever alarms were set to wake us up had failed and we had to be downstairs to go to breakfast in 9 minutes. We made it.

Although we found out that breakfast ended up being optional and we could have kept sleeping I was glad we went. Breakfast was in a lovely little restaurant that overlooked a lagoon and they served us fruit with yogurt and granola, pretty much my favorite thing. After breakfast was an optional boat ride for 90 minutes that most people had intended to go on but because the return time was so close to our check out time most people didn’t go.

Instead of going I did some shopping, and actually bought some of the things I had been looking at the day before then went to the pool/beach for a quick suntan before showering and getting back on the bus to come to Colima.

We boarded the bus for the 2 hour ride home. I think I slept, or was in a half-sleep state the entire way back it went by very quickly and was very refreshing. Stepping off the bus around 4pm was staggeringly hot. I walked home, checked the internet – something I had been without for 3 days – and headed to Starbucks for some air conditioned homework time. I was there until 10:30 when I walked home. Tomorrow we have an assignment due and then it is time to do more writing. I can’t believe that in just over a week I will be leaving.

Today’s High: doesn’t matter because I was inside air-conditioned places 85% of the time :)

Today I learned:
  • Mexico with Ocean > Mexico without Ocean
  • I might be kind of alright at bartering
  • I don’t know how I feel about touristy Mexico, although it is very nice it is so very different than actual Mexico, which I think has more character and warmth (figuratively)
  • I would like to learn how to surf
  • 4 shots of tequila in 4 minutes equals first year drunk
I am grateful for:
  • Friends that think I’m funny while at my worst
  • Beaches and spf
  • Big silver rings
  • Tan lines
  • Freckles on my face
The Jellyfish in the harbor in Manzanillo, actually everywhere.

My view from my hotel room in Manzanillo.

My very traditional meal in Manzanillo.

View from my hotel room in Barra de Navidad.

Our dinner in Barra. Gorgeous.

Quality Control

This may be confusing, because I drafted this post and meant to post it Saturday morning about what I did on Friday. But our weekend trip ended up not having easy internet access, so the update below is Friday May 14th. I was in Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad Saturday through to Monday. I have to go work on an assignment that is due tomorrow but I promise another post before bed. My apologies.


My sincere apologies for my tardiness but this is Mexico and sometimes things are just out of my control. Or perhaps I just had another night on the town, was exceptionally tired and had to get up early again. Consider the delay quality control.

Yesterday started fairly early, especially considering that many of us had not arrived home at a “reasonable” hour. We boarded a bus around 8:30am and headed out with a number of UofColima students. We were headed to two local markets to collect fresh ingredients for a traditional cooking class we were going to take later in the day.

Our first stop involved breakfast at one of the markets. We sat around watching women make tortillas that they did at a staggering pace, continuously. They were all fried on a flat griddle, it was mesmorizing to watch them puff up. I don’t know what the name of the dish was that I had for breakfast but it basically involved pieces of broken up tortillas fried with eggs in a tomato-y sauce. It was quite good and surprisingly filling. It was served with refried beans and tortillas. So technically you could be eating fried tortilla in a tortilla.

Have I mentioned how much they love tortillas here? They are served with practically every meal and often are eaten similiarly as we eat dinner roles. They are also very strong tasting, our tortillas are not an accurate depiction of tortillas here, I hear they are an acquired taste.

After we finished breakfast we headed downstairs into the market where we were first allowed to do a little personal shopping. There was some great Mexican painted ceramics and clay potter. We all drooled over some of the gorgeous large casserole dishes but it is totally impractical to try and get them home without breaking. Although I might go back and get something before I leave. I ended up buying a very cute mug.

We were responsible for helping to ask for the food in Spanish and selecting the food. It wasn’t long before we were done an on our way to the second market. Here we were served fresh mango. I don’t really like mango, I like the idea of it, I like how juicy it is, but sometimes it just tastes weird. I find that in Mexico mangos don’t taste weird, they taste amazing, or maybe I’m just coming around. I’m also coming around to tequila (yes Dad, you heard right).

After the markets we went to the University to their cooking classroom to take part in some traditional cooking. We split into groups and each were assigned a different dish, there were three total, enchiladas, tostadas, and the dish I made whose name evades me. It was kind of a mish-mash of disorganization which made everything do very slowly. It was unfortunate because I feel like it could have been a lot better than it was. It was fun but there was a great deal of waiting doing nothing because we weren’t given recipes and there was only one person (a very funny chef) who actually knew what was supposed to be done, how it was supposed to be done, and it just seemed like it was a bit of a mess.

Sadly there were mass amounts of fresh garlic in all three dishes so I ended up not eating much of any of them other than a bite or two. They tasted very delicious but for the purpose of keeping my stomach happy I didn’t have much more. It was a long haul too and my back was feeling it.

It happened to be the birthday of one of the girls on the trip. The chef had bought cute little cupcakes for her, this was followed by a small piñata filled with candy, supplied by another student. All we coul find for her to hit it with was a broom stick. Ecause piñatas in Mexico are legitimate and have a clay pot in it so it actually smashes the broom stick roved to be a little too weak to do any damage and even broke off flying at the heads of a group of us watching.

We didn’t leave until after 3:30. Walking home was like trying to walk through an oven. The kind of hot that makes you want to give up and hide in the first air conditioned building you can find. Upon arriving home I realized it was necessary to do some laundry as I was wearing my last t-shirt. Their laundry machine is outside and everything is dried on a line, and it dries so very quickly. Laundry was intermingled with a very necessary nap.

After my nap it was crucial that I got some writing done on a short copy of my essay that is due on Tuesday. I worked at it and actually got a draft done. This was great because for the last few days it has seemed like I’ve been sitting for hours staring at a blank word document. It was also important that I get the draft done quickly so that I be able to go out for the girls birthday party and a potential Mexican bush party.

At 8:30 I met a few other girls to catch a cab downtown. We were all meeting at a lounge restaurant bar place called 1800, we’d been there a few times and it is a really great atmosphere, they have a really nice waitress who speaks very good English, and the owner knows who we are and will come hang out with us. We were supposed to be meeting up with one of our Mexican student guides and a couple of his friends so they could drive us out to the bush party. Around 11 he showed up and his friends ha bailed so we decided to find somewhere else to go that had a little less relaxed atmosphere. Before we left the owner sent the birthday girl a fancey crape.

Our next, and last stop, was a rock & roll bar. It was great, and kind of funny. There was live music and it was packed. The band switched between “top 40” rock hits and rock hits in Spanish. It was entertaining because when some of the clearly popular Spanish hits were played the whole bar went crazy. Nearly everyone was singing along.

I think I’ve established that having such beautifully warm nights confuses my internal clock. It is so rare in Canada to have a night when the air is warm enough that you are never cold and never need to put on at least a light jacket. Well here you never need a jacket, and at 1am it is usually still 25℃. This is so deceiving. I think I arrived home around 2:30 and tried to do a little packing but decided to just go to bed. We are headed to Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad for the weekend! Beaches and shopping will be the order of the day.

Today’s High: 36℃

Today I learned:

  • Baseball bats are optimal for piñata breaking, brooms are not

I am grateful for:

  • Being able to sleep under covers, it has cooled down enough that I get to sleep under the blankets as opposed to right on top

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mexico is a bad influence on me, in the best possible way

My alarm woke me up today. This means I am tired.

Today wasn't an exceptionally early day, although class did start earlier than normal, 9am. Today we had a quiz/test for one of our classes, followed by half an hour of class then we were off to do what we wanted for the day.

This was nice because it is getting to the point in this program when things like writing papers, and doing participant observation takes precedent over anything else. After class - 10am - I headed downtown to do another set of observations at a number of Catholic Cathedrals/Churches. This occupied about 2.5 hours of my day.

The main mode of transportation here is to take a cab as they are so cheap. Unfortunately they are often hard to come by and the language barrier is often difficult to overcome. It had not really been a problem for me as most listen to the little directions I can give, names of streets, my address, and focal points seem to help. Because Colima is an older kind of town there are may windy back ways to get where ever you are going, they all look different while looking exactly the same.

I told my homestay mom I would be home for lunch today (at 2pm). Around 1:30 I jumped in a cab, showed him my address, did the usual description, between starbucks and the universidad, on Rio drive. But he went some crazy back way. After continuously insisting that houses that I do not live in were mine he became frustrated. Understandable as I am demanding to go places in English. He stopped, turned around, asked people on the street. Eventually he simply stopped the car, insisted that I leave and pointed in the direction of my home. Luckily he wasn't that far off and I made it home in time for lunch.

I love Mexican rice, which is saying a lot because I don't like rice. I especially like that they cut up fresh avocado onto the rice. It is so delicious!

After lunch I headed to Starbucks to do some homework. It is one of the only places I have found in this town that is both air conditioned (cold enough to need a sweater), with wifi, and outlets. It doesn't hurt that there are food and beverages.

I stayed from about 3pm -6pm although I feel like I accomplished so little. We have a theory presentation due on Tuesday and this weekend we are headed to Manzanillo - which will likely involve beaches, bars, and shopping. I am hoping to write as much of this presentation as I can before we leave.

Before leaving Starbucks a Korean student and a Coliman man (who is often in Starbucks working) started talking to me, asking me questions, and more specifically wondering why I didn't speak Spanish. It was kind of odd because although they were both so nice and friendly I felt like they were judging me for not knowing Spanish.

I left, went home, dropped off my bags and went back downtown to do more observations of a church service before meeting up with some fellow students at a local bar. I stopped in a department-esque store to buy a purse because seemingly I didn't think I would need one. It was on sale (yes!) and although it was still somewhat expensive I really love it.

After leaving the Church service I found my friend at the bar with beers in hand. I ordered myself a beer and a burger and the night began. It was lots of fun sitting around and chatting. Most people were able to make it out. As the clock struck 12 we sang 'Happy Birthday' to one of the girl's on the trip and she was given a tequila shot.

A couple of the Mexican students who had showed us around came by to hang out with us. They ordered a drink, or more of a shot - whose name evades me - for a couple of the girls. In no time we had all done one. I was told it was tequila and coffee but it tasted like Kahlua to me. Anyways, the bar tender took his time warming it up with a lighter until it was on fire, at which point you sucked it up through a straw. It was good but I was pretty sure my face was catching on fire the entire time.

The bar closed and we moved to a different establishment, which also closed after we had one drink. We were out on the street early in the Mexican morning and the weather was amazing, in nothing but a dress you would never be cold. If only Canada boasted the same wonderful weather more days of the year.

I caught a cab home with another girl and now it is clearly time for bed as I not only have an early morning ahead of me, I have lots of paper writing to do in the afternoon and I'll need my strength.

Today's High: 35℃

Today I learned:
  • Tequila in Mexico is much better than tequila at home, I like it here
I am grateful for:
  • Wonderful new friends
  • Feminist conversations

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mucho Estudiar

It is funny what a good day in the shade can do for a girl.

Class started at 10am this morning. Initially I told myself that getting up to do some homework before class would be a wise decision, although because sleep is a hot commodity that I desire a great deal of I chose sleep. I think I chose wisely. I had a great sleep, it was the first night in the last four days that I slept under the covers for part of it. It has been so hot that I usually end up sleeping on top of my blanket all night long. Early this morning I was cold enough to climb under my sheets, it was a treat.

This morning, before departing for class the other daughter who had been in Vegas for the last 10 days arrived home. From the looks of it she did some serious shopping. I guess that is what they do, 'Western' brands seem to be a pretty big deal here.

Another treat before leaving for class was my homestay Mom's two adorable grandkids were over. The one year old is so adorable and smiley. He never fails to smile, wave, and say 'hola' when he sees me pass. As I was headed out the door (which is barred and metal [everyone's houses are walled off with large gates in front or barred doors, some even have barbed wire on top]) the two little boys ran up and started waving 'adios Teira!' So adorable, especially adorable because my name is nearly impossible to say in Spanish so it comes out a lot more like tay-ah-eer-ah.

Class was the same as usual I suppose. It goes a little something like this from our Prof:
"You need to take this seriously and get lots of work done;
There is a ballet tonight if anyone wants to attend;
I'm surprised you don't have more done on you paper;
How hard can this really be it is just a small test;
You need more hours in the field;
I don't know why you are all so worried."
I'm sure he means well, and I kind of feel like if you put the work in things will work out just fine and he is just pushing to make sure that we don't leave it all to the end, but I often feel very confused about my progress after class.

Straight from class (around 1pm) myself and two other girls split a cab headed downtown. My phone had stopped working and then I needed to do some observations, they were doing homework and observations as well.

I set off right away to get my phone fixed. It took me about three trips around the central area and two stops for directions to finally find the phone store. It was a long process of them speaking Spanish to me while I looked on dumbly. Eventually they figured out that my sim card was not working and I would have to get a new one. Fortunately for me it didn't cost too much.

Because that took so long I went to meet the girls for lunch, something that I was going to do after some observations. There is a hotel right downtown "Hotel Ceballos" (pronounced Sa-buy-ose for those of you non-Spanish speakers out there) that has a restaurant outside that looks onto the main square park and the main Cathedral I am doing most of my research in. We had a nice lunch, I had a club sandwich, which seems to be on every menu I see.

Because this is Mexico and everything closes at some point between 2 and 4:30 the Church was closed. To pass the time I walked around with the other girls while they did some of their observations. They left to go home around 4pm and I started to venture to another Church a little out of the main downtown area. Because Colima is not a tourist location there are no easy to use tourist maps, in fact I have no map at all outside of google maps. In addition to this most streets are not labeled so finding things can be tricky. I had done some googling and wrote out directions as best I could, 6 blocks this way, turn a little, one block that way, find this road, etc. As you can imagine this did now work out well. 4pm is the hottest time of the day and although it was much cooler today that it has been in a long time the humidity made a huge jump making walking around quite a sweaty task. Upon not finding what I was looking for and my general fear of being lost I walked back to the town square.

Luckily for me the Cathedral was now open. I spent half an hour doing my observations. Then spent some time in a local park. I need to attend Church services and I wanted to make it to the one this evening, which was at 7pm. I didn't really want to go all the way home just to turn back around. After sitting in the park for a while I decided to take a stroll down to another park where there are free wifi desks and maybe do some homework.

Upon arriving at the other park, about 4 blocks away, I spotted another Church to 'observe' at. This time it was much smaller and no one was inside. For this reason I sat on a bench outside and watched people's activities outside the Church. This was great for a number of reasons, I got to use the free wifi, sit by palm trees, get homework done, and not look like a creeper. Half an hour of that and it was time to go to the main Cathedral to watch a Church Service.

I should mention that in the main town square there is some sort of government funded information, cultural, festival, session thing going on. Life would make more sense down here if I spoke a little Spanish. Regardless there was a stage with dancers, as well as information booths, and military that looked like they were ready to go to war. I really wanted to take a picture of/with them and seriously considered asking them because they kept staring at me, but the answer to that question is usually no in a country whose military is so heavily armed in public.

I was in Chruch for an hour. When I came out there were still lots of dancing and people milling about. I stuck around for a little while to watch until returning home. As usual I took a cab home and when I showed him my address he knew where it was! This might not seem like a big deal because in Calgary there is gps, phone calls, and a lack of a language barrier (for the most part) but here trying to give directions is always a challenge.

Tomorrow we have a test. I hope it is as easy as my prof eluded it would be because I have neither the energy nor the motivation to study right now.

Today's High: 33℃ and overcast, 65% humidity

Today I learned:
  • Traveling alone might be something I really enjoy
  • Humidity + my hair = curly magic
I am grateful for:
  • Blending in with the crowd at home
  • Whole grain bread and Tropicana orange juice
  • Clouds to make things overcast
  • Water you can drink straight from the tap
Some of the greenery in the town square.

One of the parks in the downtown area, the little desks on the left are the wifi desks complete with power outlets.

Some of the dancing on stage.

Street Food. We are not allowed to eat this even though most street vendor food smells delicious. If you wanted a wagon full of cooked corn, here is where you'd find it. You can see the limes, large grain salt, and hot sauce. These are staple condiments of any Mexican meal. They were taking the lime, covering it in salt, and rubbing it on the corn.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The outdoorsy tomboy I was raised to be shows itself so easily

Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. I figure I'm not a man so this doesn't apply to me right?!

I may have failed to get to bed early but I did manage (was required to) get up early. As a matter of fact I woke up at around 4am and thought I had to get out of bed. As it was I had an hour and 15 minutes left to sleep. Unfortunately I didn't really get back to sleep at all. Today was 'Climb the Nevado de Colima' day, in which we embarked to climb the dormant of the two volcanos in the state of Colima, the other el Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of fire), is still active and considered quite dangerous.

Because I had already showered I was basically ready to head out the door to meet a ride (my adoptive homestay mom, as she shall affectionately be called from here on out). I packed my bag and headed to the door, luckily for me they decided to pick me up at my door instead of at a bank 4 blocks away. What a treat. No one likes walking in the Mexican night alone, nor does anyones supervisor's.

Before the sun was up we were on the bus and leaving (6am). The bus ride was to take about 2 hours, but ended up taking a great deal more. We had five U of Colima students accompany us, they supplied breakfast and lunch for us. As previously mentioned we could not go earlier in our trip because the bus we were supposed to take was broken. This bus had been described to us as a cattle truck with foam seats in the back and a plastic roof. As fortune might have it the roof had recently been ripped off. Because of this we were in more of a coach style bus, but much smaller.

We quickly realized why a cattle truck is taken up to the starting point of the Volcano hike and not a large bus like the one we were sitting in. The road could be described as more than precarious, often times sitting at the edge of a very steep cliff, branches and trees that scrapped along the side of the bus, and sharp turns back and forth up the volcano that at times required the bus to do a 6 point turn. I found this all to entertaining, although it was clear that there were those on the bus a little less comfortable than I.

Because our bus was so large it took extra time to reach our starting point.

Upon starting our incline our guide informed us that we needed to take this at a very slow walking pace because we would not be used to the high altitudes. We were to watch for dizziness, nausea, and other such 'altitude sickness' symptoms. Upon stepping off the busy the altitude was not as noticeable as the weather, it was cold! Although we were all underdressed I think everyone was a little happy to have a cool day to hike in.

Looking at the path it was nothing spectacular (it was a fairly modest inclining road, I've hiked harder in Waterton) but the high levels gets to you immediately. Within a matter of moments my heart was beating out of my chest! It took a few stops before I started to adjust. After a few breaks it didn't seem quite so bad.

The entire climb took about 1 hour to reach the observation station, where people are monitoring the active volcano 24hrs a day, and our final destination of just over 4000 meters or about 13,123 feet. The active volcano was in full sight. Unfortnately it was quite a hazy day so we couldn't really see the base that clearly.

After hanging out for a little while, taking some pictures we started our decent. This happened rather quickly. We all met at the starting point and took our bus a little lower to a day area where there was a rock face we would be repelling down and a bbq for lunch. Because it was so cold one of the first things we did was start a fire! Believe it, it was cold enough that we huddled by the fire. It was a thing of beauty. I should also mention that the scenery was very similar to that of Kananaskis and I'm sure the weather only made it more believable. It was easy to forget you were in Mexico.

The repelling took place on a large rock face that I won't even wager a guess at how high it was but for brevity I'll say medium high (that's for you Dad). But in all honesty I'd say less than 30 feet high. Groups went up and groups went down. By the time it was my turn I headed up with two other students. I kept thinking it was going to be this great, heat beating adrenaline rush. Don't get me wrong, it was lots of fun, but it just didn't scare me, which is maybe a good thing. It was over in about 1 minute which also took away from the mystery that was repelling. The best part, perhaps, was the beautiful scenery at the top before heading down.

From there we had lunch, sat around, and waited for the bus to leave. It was a long day and most people were cold and tired. Not long after we boarded the bus and took the 3 hour bus ride back to hot and humid Colima. We arrived in town around 7pm. First things first I jumped in the shower and scrubbed the layers of volcano dust off my body and hair, yuck. Then more homework as it is getting to be crunch time.

Today was great and adventurous but for some reason not what I expected.

In relation to my outdoorsy tomboy-ness; it always seems to come into play when I'm off doing something like this. It shows itself quietly, for example when a number of girls wondered how long until a bathroom I insisted that the whole forest was a bathroom. I don't think it went over so well. Who needs a stinky outhouse when you've got a clean tree to hide behind?

Today's High: 36℃ in Colima, couldn't find temperatures for Nevado de Colima but it was overcast, rainy, and was in the 10-15 range (if I had to guess)

Today I learned:
  • Altitude is no joke, that shit will knock you down a peg or two
  • Repelling is not scary, but it is fun
I am grateful for:
  • Cold days in Mexico
  • Forests that remind me of home and (my favorite) camping in the woods
Altitude of 4000 Metres: Just before our 'summit'

Our view of el Volcan de Fuego. Unfortunately it was so hazy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mexico: 1, Teira: 0

Today started like any other day in Mexico and ended like any other day in Mexico. But the middle part of this Mexico day took me for a ride.

Today is Mexican Mother's Day, they celebrate on the 10th of May, not the 2nd weekend in May as is conventional in Canada. We had class today but because Mother's Day is a holiday here the school was closed. We were to meet at a hotel just down the street from the University that the prof is staying at, the same hotel with the pool.

Prior to venturing out on my way I gifted a few Canadiana gifts the way of my homestay mom, just some simple maple syrup, maple chocolates, and a card by a Cochrane artist. It went over swimmingly and she was very excited to receive the gift.

Upon arriving at the hotel lobby all was well except I couldn't stop sweating, which isn't that unusual here. At least the lobby had air conditioning, a luxury that is extremely difficult to come by. We headed to our 'classroom' which turned out to be a covered area outside. It got hot quickly and my stomach and head could not handle it. I was unable to focus, chugged a bottle of water, and cursed myself for forgetting my pepto at my homestay.

Class seemed to drag on for what was only about 2 hours. Don't throw up, don't pass out, was about all I could focus on. As it was Mother's Day a number of students were headed to the cemetery because it is tradition here to visit, clean, and adorn the graves of mothers who are no longer here on Mother's Day. Although I wanted to go I needed to head home and hopefully get out of the heat and down some pepto.

I made it home alright and laid down for a nap, because it seemed like the thing to do at 12 in the afternoon. The house was heating up and there was nothing I could do about it. Around 2pm I had lunch, a meal I wasn't sure I would be able to keep in my stomach even though it was quite delicious. Figured I'd have to try. At lunch my homestay Mom mentioned how it was too hot here even for her and there was nothing to do about it but sleep. If Mexico is too hot for the Mexican how was I, a cold climate kinda gal, supposed to survive.

After talking to my prof this afternoon about my project and how I was struggling to see what I was supposed to get out of my observations he suggested I simply need to do more observation at more locations to start to see patterns. This seemed like an appropriate response.

I waited as long as I could, tried to do some reading in the oven of a house I am staying in. Just after 4 I decided to try and head out, catch a cab on the asap, and make my way to a number of churches in time to be downtown for a service at 7pm.

Unfortunately, my weak stomach/ill feelings of the day plus the extreme heat led to my demise. I was going to go to Starbucks to try and break some of my big bills in order to have money to pay for my cab rides around the city. When I arrived a few girls from our group were studying (did I mention it has AC and wireless internet). By the time I sat down I was in tears. Boo. I hate being the girl in tears but I was flushed, so hot, and ready for my body to give up on me. A bottle of water, a cookie, and a cool tea drink made things turn around. I'm sure it was a combo of the intense heat, the sun and drinks from yesterday, and generally the food is very different here.

Upon the orders of my lovely new friends I was not to leave Starbucks until the weather cooled down. Wise words indeed. Fortunately they had extra paper and text books to spare which allowed me to cool down and get work done. Within the hour I was feeling better, and by the time we left 3 hours later I was clearly on the mend, I had my colour back and had eaten a whole sandwich. Success.

The girls I was with were the same four whose family has practically adopted me. Their families were having a Mother's Day Fiesta and I was invited. As Fiesta's go they are very friendly, and very long. Supper wasn't served until around 10pm again. It was great to have a relaxing evening. At one point we each had a Coronita in our hands (which is a very adorable, very small Corona). We enjoyed some laughs, some food, and mostly the atmosphere.

Tomorrow is very early because our bus to our volcano hike leaves at 6am. Hopefully my stomach keeps calm the rest of the trip.

Today's High: 40℃

Today I learned:
  • Not to push it, your body will give up on you leaving you a mess on the floor
  • If Mexicans think it is too hot, it is too hot.
I am grateful for:
  • Air Conditioning
  • Friendly Starbucks workers who speak even a little English
  • Pepto Bismol and Imodium Advanced. Ya, I said it.