Hi, I’m in a Waterfall

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Another great couple of weekends here in Mexico, I escaped cold and rainy Guadalajara and headed to the beach.  The first weekend I went to Sayulita which is my new favourite place in the entire world! Unfortunately my camera has broken and won’t let me upload any photos but as soon as I buy a new cable for it I’ll be posting, because it really is beautiful.  It has this really cool, surfer/hippie vibe, so it’s pretty much my spirit home.  I can imagine I’ll be spending a lot of weekends there over the next 5 months!

Last weekend I went on another trip organised by InterCUCSH, the society for exchange students at University of Guadalajara.  We went to Puerto Vallarta, another beach town a few hours away.  I don’t like it as much as Sayulita but it was a really fun way to meet a lot of people, and we had a lovely time sunbathing, swimming in the sea, snorkeling, swimming in waterfalls (I dropped my super old brick phone in but it still works perfectly) and dancing all night.  We found a great little restaurant/shisha cafe situated in a loft with no chairs, just pillows all over the floor, with good music and pizza – heaven.  I’m stealing some photos from friends to post for the time being!

 

This weekend I’m just mooching around Guadalajara, feeling a bit sorry for myself because I can’t make it to Electric Daisy Carnaval, a music festival in Mexico City.  Instead, I’m planning to catch up on all the work I haven’t been doing whilst I was chilling at the beach, and getting back into the gym which I’ve well and truly neglected ever since I got back to Mexico after Christmas! Can you believe it’s nearly March already?! I know I say it every single month but the time really does go fast.

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Where to Begin!

Well, it’s been a while!  About a month, I think, but it’s been a busy one! In short, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1.  My lovely boyfriend came out to visit me for two weeks from mid-October.  We travelled to the coast and spent a few days at the beach at Puerto Vallarta, relaxing a bit, swimming in the sea…we also went horse riding through a forest and waded through some rivers up to a waterfall.  And, we lay in a hammock, made our own tortillas and ate the yummiest tacos!

2. From Puerto Vallarta we went to Nayarit for an evening of baby turtle rescuing! They were only a day old and so tiny!  It was a bit of a touristy thing, but really interesting and fun – the guide told us all about the rescue programme, how they search the beach every night for eggs and take them to the sanctuary to hatch, and as soon as they do they need to be helped back into the sea, which is what we did.

3. We went to the zoo and met a very friendly giraffe (:

4. Took a day trip to Tequila, enjoyed lots of free samples and bought plenty of souvenirs.

5. At the end of Josh’s two week stay was the Day of the Dead weekend.  This was one of the things I’d most looked forward to about coming to Mexico – it’s unlike anything you’d find anywhere else in the world.  I’ll write a full post about it soon (hopefully!) but in brief, we went to Tlaquepaque, the artesan district of Guadalajara, to see the altars and street stalls.

6. …And then the essays struck! Apparently, in Mexico it’s possible for the term to be cut two weeks short, meaning deadlines are brought forward and six weeks of work has to be done in a month.  It was pretty stressful when ALL my lecturers announced that we had 10 page essays to write, presentations to do and exams to revise for…but now I’ve got about half of it done, it looks like it’s going to be doable!

7. Finally, last weekend I went with some friends to Leon for the International Hot Air Balloon festival.  Despite the absolutely horrendous organisation of the company we went with, the festival itself was good and I got to take some cool photos, which was the main reason I wanted to go!

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So, that pretty much sums up why I haven’t had much time to blog (or write for the other websites I’ve got article ideas lined up for…oops) but in two weeks time I’ll be back home for Christmas, and back on track.  As well as some Mexico-themed posts that have been stored up in my head for the last few weeks, I’ll be writing a lot about my favourite time of year, Christmas!

Corona Capital 2014

I turned 21 on Monday! Even though I spent most of the 13th sleeping on an uncomfortable coach from Mexico City, I celebrated in the best way possible – in a muddy field in the pouring rain (in true festival style) listening to some of my favourite musicians.  On the surface, it might sound like my birthday was a blow-out – I went alone, got extremely wet, cold and muddy and spent a grand total of about 24 hours on a crowded coach over the course of the weekend, BUT: I’ll forever have the memory of going to a music festival in Mexico City for my 21st.  Being cramped together on a coach is a great way to meet people – I’m sure I’ve made friends for life this weekend.

I first heard about Corona Capital when I was at home in England and was thinking for a while that I might go, but probably won’t – I knew if I went I’d probably go alone and the thought of going all the way to Mexico City with no idea where abouts the festival was/how I’d get there/where I’d stay etc. all by myself scared me a bit, but as the time came closer I figured, I came to Mexico all by myself with no idea where to go/where I’d live, I could probably manage! But the main thought that pursuaded me was: there are already too many concerts that I didn’t go to and wish I had, how much would I regret it if I didn’t go? I’ll never get this chance again!  The exact same thought that convinced me to come to Mexico!

So I spent probably a bit too much money (but hey, it was my birthday present to myself) on a package including transport, a night in a hostel and the tickets to the festival.  It was a good buy! An unexpected perk was that the hostel was right in the centre of Mexico City, so we spent most of the day on Sunday there, not wanting to see any bands until the evening.  I’ll definitely be going back to the capital when I can spend a bit longer there; it’s a great city! We visited an art gallery (another of my favourite passtimes) which had an exhibition all about art that relates to/influenced the author Octavio Paz, who I happen to be studying in my literature module.  So, now that I’m back in Guadalajara I’m very inspired to read, write and do some art!

 

¡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

Knitting: Not Just for Nannas

When I was really young my Nanna taught me how to knit.  I remember loving it when I was however old I was, 9 or 10 probably, but for some reason I didn’t stick with it and now I’ve forgotten how it’s done.  Similarly, only a year or two ago, my friend Alice taught me crocheting and I did it for a few hours, having the time of my life even though my square ended up being a triangle, but again, the next day it was over and I’d forgotten all about it.

Alice is really good at crocheting.  Every time I see her, she tells be about the things she’s made and is going to make.  I love it when people my age, or any age, really, are enthusiastic about such a simple pleasure, and I think creative things like sewing and knitting or crocheting or whatever are a great link between generations.  People have been doing it for so long, it’s universal – anyone can learn it and I think most people would enjoy it.  Young people take it for granted that we know how to work all the technology that our grandparents, even our parents, didn’t have when they were growing up, but if you think about it, it would be so much harder to learn the ins and outs of a computer than it would be to learn how to knit.

That’s why I was so happy to walk into the lounge to find all five of my housemates sitting around, chatting away and knitting.  One of my housemates, Jess, is a bit like Alice when it comes to crafts, she always has something on the go.  I’m always amazed when she comes out with things like, ‘I wanted something new to wear tonight, so I made myself a skirt,’ or when I see her starting to knit a scarf one day and seeing her finish it the next.  In the meantime, the other four are struggling away with dropped stitches and in one case, a snapped knitting needle, but they’re all having fun.  I think, now, a few weeks on, they’ve all just about given up, or perhaps they are making very slow progress (speaking of slow progress, my mum made me a jumper (which I love, even though my brother claimed he wouldn’t pay more than £1 for it in a charity shop), and it kept her occupied for almost two years) but what a nice thing to have learned how to do.

Also, you can’t imagine how much I laughed when my mum talked about joining a ‘Knit and Natter’ group but thinking back, that’s essentially what my house was when I was thinking how lovely it was for everyone to sit together and talk and knit.

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