Mexico Bucket List, Part 1

Sometimes, I find myself looking forward to all the things I’ll do when I finish this year – truth be told, I do look forward to going home, back to Cardiff, having my own house again and making a start on my own future (thinking about internships at the moment!) I sometimes think of that life as my actual life, and this year is a year out from that life, and sometimes I think I could really use that year (if that makes sense!) Anyway, when I find myself thinking negatively about being away from home, I try to remind myself that I’m getting way ahead of myself, and to use the time I have here to, yes, prepare myself for life afterwards, and that the best preparation I can do is to make the most of everything Mexico has to offer.  To focus on living here – the time will pass either way, and I have my whole life to do the things I’m missing.

When I need to stay positive, I remind myself how I felt looking out of the window of the coach on the way to Morelia – just driving through wilderness and thinking about how lucky I am, thinking, ‘I can’t believe I get to live here!’ and that gets me thinking, there are so many things I want to do here and I only have a year to do them.

So, I thought I’d put together a bit of a bucket list of the places I want to visit/things I want to do before the year is up.

1) Go to Corona Capital in Mexico City and see Conor Oberst.

This is first on the list because this is the plan for my 21st birthday – I was thinking about not going but I’d regret it so much if I didn’t! Living in the moment, and all!

2) Go to Puerto Vallarta

Another concrete plan for October – my boyfriend surprised me by announcing he’s visiting for two weeks (yipee!), so we’ve arranged a few days at the beach, including horse-riding up to some waterfalls, swimming in lakes and working with a conservation project to release baby sea turtles into the ocean.

3) Temazcal at Tepoztlan

 

Tepoztlan is otherwise known as “the mystic valley” – I’d go for the name if nothing else! It’s a tiny town but very beautiful, surrounded by nature and home to many rumoured UFO sightings.  A Temazcal is a Mesoamerican sweat lodge, a bit like a sauna but with the addition of body-and-soul-cleansing, purifying herbs.  Here is my place for a spiritual break.

4) UFO-Spot at Popoctapetl

Whilst we’re on the subject of UFOs, another hotspot is Popocatepetl, the (still active) volcano.  It’s also surrounded by indigenous villages and neighboured by Itzaccihuatl.

5) Celebrate the Day of the Dead

Probably Mexico’s most internationally famous festival is El Dia de los Muertos, celebrated on the 2nd of November – it will need a post of it’s own which I can’t wait to write!

6) Go to the Hot Air Balloon Festival

7) Dive in Cozumel

8) Visit Archaeological Sites: Chichen Itza, Palenque, Teotihuacan, Uxmal…

 

9) Be a tourist in Cancun and Playa del Carmen

 

10) Lie on the beach for days in Tulum

¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!

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Guanajuato was at the top of my list of places to go in Mexico, and this weekend I got to see it!  My photos don’t even come close to doing justice to this amazing city – I’d heard it was one of the prettiest in Mexico, but I’m certain it’s one of the prettiest in the world.

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As well as Guanajuato I went to Morelia, San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro to celebrate Mexican Independence Day (September 16th).  The highlight of this day is “El Grito (de Dolores)”; again, it’s hard to put across what exactly goes on, but I’ll do my best.

Hundreds, probably thousands of people are gathered wherever they choose to gather, in San Miguel de Allende we were out in the square in the centre of town.  There are Mexican flags flying wherever you look.  Towering above the crowd are interesting sculptures; it’s not immediately obvious what they are or what they’re made of but we’ll soon find out…

Then for “el grito”.  El Grito was first uttered in the town of Dolores on September 16th, 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, marking the beginning of the war of independence.  Last weekend, in towns all over the country, El Grito was recited over a loud speaker, with the crowd responding to each line with, “Viva(n)!”

¡Mexicanos!

¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron la patria y libertad!

¡Viva Hidalgo!

¡Viva Morelos!

¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!

¡Viva Allende!

¡Viva Galeana y los Bravo!

¡Viva Aldama y Matamoros!

¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!

¡Viva México!

¡Viva México!

¡Viva México!

…Followed by fireworks.  A lot of fireworks.  That’s what the sculptures in the crowd are made of (it was quite scary when they were lit!)  It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  Just amazing.

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The Power of Persuasion

 

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I made a friend today – this is Don Juan de Dios, hard at work at 8 in the morning preparing corn in all different ways.  The street is lined with people like Juan, all doing the same thing, starting before the sun comes up – it looks like very hard work, and I would say, because of the number of them, they can’t be making much money – but perhaps they do.  They eat a lot of corn here.

 

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That is actual corn.  It’s PINK!

 

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The large, flat leaves are what they use to wrap tamales.

 

Anyway, what I really want to write about is the smell.  To my friends and family back at home, I wish you could smell the street I live on – as weird as that sounds!  You probably don’t think corn smells of much but it does – already, to me, it’s the smell of Mexico.

Sometimes a scent is more evocative than a photo or an image. It is a primer for the deflagration of sensation, emotions, desires, uncontrollable atmospheres, deja-vus that flood and wrap us like honey, until they make us drown in an unrepeatable moment of well-being… olfactory hallucinations that lead us anywhere: to the North of any South, to the East of any West…

Scents are powerful when it comes to triggering memory, but, I think, probably quite overlooked.  Everyone has certain songs, places, pictures or words that remind them of a time or event or person, but I wonder how many people can think of significant scents?  Maybe it’s something you don’t know about until you’re there, and you smell someone’s perfume as they walk past.  The only thing I can think of at the moment is my best friend’s house when I was in primary school – I can remember it even though I haven’t been there in years, and I’ll probably never come across it anywhere else.  I’m just wondering whether that house still smells the same even though the family have moved out, or if their new house bears a resemblance.

I hope, in years to come, I’ll have lots of memories attached to scents, even better if they’re ones I’m likely to come across again (unfortunately in England, sweetcorn really doesn’t smell of anything)!

What are your favourite smells?  What do they remind you of?

Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.

Patrick Süskind

I ♥ Art

Over the summer I got a little bit back into painting, but I forgot to pack pencils/paints/brushes to bring with me to Mexico and, since realising I had no materials to work with, all I’ve wanted to do is art.  I really miss 6th form, spending hours in the studio with some close friends working on sketchbooks and huge canvasses.  Although at the time, I often resented having to do so much coursework which would inevitably be criticised for reasons I didn’t understand, I seriously miss being given time to dedicate to art, having the materials all there for me, being inspired by my classmates and having a specification to build on; I even miss the input of my teachers.  A lot.

They introduced me to some great artists (at the time I hated having to do artist studies, but now I miss that, too!) There are a few who even now make me really want to paint.  My favourite of all time, working in my favourite style, is Leonid Afremov.

 

   

Since doing a project on impasto (thick paint) using only one layer feels like I may as well not be painting at all.  Afremov doesn’t use brushes, only palette knives, and although I quite like my brushes, I like the freedom that comes with not having to be too precise, the emphasis on colour and texture as well as the subject matter – to me it’s more expressive and a lot more fun.  That said, I like detail, and he produces that, too.

I just found out today whilst writing this post that Afremov is currently living in Mexico – I will definitely visit his studio and probably spend an unreasonable amount of money on his paintings!

I haven’t done one since sixth form, but I like portraits.  I don’t think I’m very good at them (I was alright when I was doing them all the time – maybe I can get up to speed again) and I’ve never done one in thick paint.  Time to experiment (:

The artist who made me want to do portraits is David Hancock.  It took me forever to remember his name when I was thinking about this post and I’m so glad I did.  I’d like to meet this guy.  He’s based in Manchester so perhaps it’s a possibility.  I learned through studying his work that he’s a Bright Eyes fan as well as an amazing artist so I feel some sort of affiliation with him (we’re few and far between!) But yes, mostly his art.  He paints people I can relate to, especially when I was younger, his style is overall one I can connect with.

Amanda Monsters of the new wave (Anne) photo

I also miss life drawing.  Being at school made it easy, but now that I’ve left I’ve got more ideas about how to draw and paint figures, but no one to draw!

Finally, photoshop.  I miss photoshop.  Not for making photos look better, but for making them look so different that they are works of art in themselves (another thing I firmly disagreed with in school and now want to dedicate entire sketchbooks to).

 

Fitness: Bringing it back this September

I’m not unhealthy, but I am unfit.  I don’t dislike my body – quite the contrary, I love my body, it serves me well and I’m thankful, which is why at the moment I’m feeling determined to start treating it a little better, feeding it better food and doing a bit more exercise.  And, it can never be a bad thing to get a bit more sleep.

I’ve got a couple of aims which have been in the back of my mind for a while, and now (finally) feels about the right time to get started.  So, here goes.

  • Do a press up.  At least one.  Maybe even four or five.
  • Do the splits.  Yep, I believe I can do it with a bit of practice.
  • Run.  Last year, I semi-took up running and surprised myself with the results, but with the hectic summer (my excuse) I let it slip and I’m back to barely being able to run for 10 minutes on the treadmill.  I so badly want to be good at running but it’s going to take some serious hard work!

This is my team! :)

This is my team!

 I say I’m not unhealthy, but I do have a lot of unhealthy habits that I’d like to kick.  I eat a lot of sugar.  I spend a lot of time sitting, staring at a screen.  I don’t eat regular, balanced meals.  Here in Mexico, with an endless supply of fruit, vegetables and other healthy, nutritious food at the market, and a gym five minutes away from my house, I’ve got no excuse.

I have noticed that, without meaning to, because of the way food is sold, I’ve changed my diet in a way I’ve been wanting to: I’ve cut down a lot on meat and dairy products.  I just don’t like butchers’ shops! So, when I do cook for myself it tends to be vegetarian, and I also eat a LOT of fruit (probably too much), so it’s not that I’m not getting my 5 a day (or is it 7-10 a day now?) The problem I have is that I need to learn moderation: one piece of chocolate is not enough for me.  Nor is one tortilla.  Or a handful of nuts.  I will eat ALL THE ALMONDS.

Anyway, back to the point about fitness.  I came to Mexico to challenge myself, and finally getting fit seems like a very worthwhile challenge.  It won’t be any easier here than at home but, here, where I don’t know anyone and no one is judging me, I can go into the weight room, pick up the lightest weight and get to work.

I don’t want to be thinner.  I want to be stronger, more flexible, and more energetic.  I want to do it to make the most out of this year and if I can, I will.

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