In retrospect, LA was a bad idea.

So, my time in México has nearly come to an end, and, although I’m ashamed to say it, I’m going to be honest: I can’t wait.  Well, most of the time I can’t wait – I’ve got a lot to look forward to over the next few weeks but only travelling.  The long and short of it is, I’ve had enough of Guadalajara.

All this time, I’ve been wondering about the elusive “culture shock” which I was expecting to experience at the beginning of last semester, but I’m only now learning that it does exist and this is what it feels like.  My friend sent me this definition, which explains an awful lot:

Culture Shock refers to the feelings of discomfort experienced as a person adjusts to a new culture. It is caused by having to cope with many new and unfamiliar situations and traditions. Newcomers feel helpless because they cannot understand all the new things they experience. However, understanding the stages of culture shock –and knowing that it is only temporary– can help newcomers make the transition.
There are four stages of culture shock, although the length of time each stage lasts will differ for each person. The first stage is the honeymoon stage. During this time, when you first enter a new culture, everything is interesting and exciting. You are curious about the new culture and eager to learn. Everything seems interesting, the people are friendly, the food is delicious, and you are eager to explore your new surroundings. However, after some time, the distress stage begins. The newcomer starts to feel uncomfortable and unhappy in the new culture. Everything seems very difficult: shopping, getting around, and making friends all seem confusing. You may begin to feel homesick and want to return home. Feelings of anger and sadness are common, and you may be overwhelmed by small problems. However, these feelings are only temporary. Gradually, the newcomer becomes more comfortable in the culture and enters the recovery stage. The new customs seem clearer, and everyday interactions are easier. You begin to enjoy the new culture once more. Finally, the stability stage begins. Life becomes more normal, and your sense of humor returns, you may not like everything about the new culture, but it doesn’t make you so unhappy. You begin to feel at home in the new culture.

She’s actually become my best friend here this term because we both feel exactly the same way about almost everything (I didn’t know her that well last term, but even then I said we were virtually the same person, we have soooo much in common) but anyway, what really seemed to trigger our rejection of a lot of mexican customs which we thought we were used to was the impulsive decision to spend the Easter holiday in Los Ángeles.  Suddenly, we were able to do all the things we can’t do in México!  Suddenly, we didn’t have people staring at us every time we left the house.  Suddenly, we fitted in.

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I hadn’t really felt like I didn’t fit in until we came back to Guadalajara and realised that there are actually a lot of things that I just can’t get used to, and so many people that can’t seem to get used to me – I’m now noticing that yes, everyone is staring at me, and for the record, I know I’m white, everyone can stop calling me “guerita” now!  I’m just tired of some of the realities of life in Guadalajara, things that I take for granted at home: knowing that there will be running water when I go for a shower, being able to go to a supermarket and buy whatever I want (not just mexican food!), and the number one thing that I just can not get my head around here: being able to go into the university library with my bag.

But, I don’t want this post to be too negative.  There are still a lot of things I love and will really miss about living here – if I could combine the two, I would!

Things I miss about home

University: I’m about to sound like a huge geek, but I miss Cardiff Uni.  As in, the actual buildings, the library, the surrounding.  CUCSH is ugly and I actually really hate the library: is it too much to ask that the books are in some sort of logical arrangement?

Quiet!: Everything in México is 100x louder than probably anywhere else in the world.  Cars, buses, music, people: sometimes (often) I just want everything and everyone to ssshhh, especially at 2am when someone’s beeping their horn for no apparent reason.

Water: Always having running, drinkable water is so much easier than sometimes being able to shower and wash your clothes and always having to buy 20 litre bottles to drink from.

Punctuality: Nobody has time to wait 45 minutes for the teacher to show up, and it just wouldn’t happen in the UK – I definitely miss the 15 minute rule.

International food: In Guadalajara, it is possible to find some foreign foods, but not much and it’s not easy.  Supermarkets basically sell rice, beans, meat and mexican sauces.  I know you’d expect mexican food in méxico but I didn’t think it would be quite so limited.

My hairdryer: I’ll admit, to begin with I was all, ‘it’s great being natural and not have to care how I look!” but I’ve done a 180: I want to wear nice clothes and do my hair and look how I want to look.  True, I could spend my remaining money on clothes and hair products if it was that important, but I can stick it out for another 3 months.

Proper exercise: I went to the gym quite a lot in first semester but now that the weather is so hot, it’s impossible.  There also isn’t a great gym nearby, or many swimming pools, or places to run outdoors, so I’m looking forward to getting back in shape.

And most of all, I miss beans on toast.  México has beans, but not baked beans, it has cheese, but not cheddar cheese, and it has bread, but, well, not good bread.

Things I will miss about México

Lessons: The one way in which UdeG beats Cardiff is the choice of optional modules.  I had a really hard time choosing out of the hundreds, and am always disappointed when I get the list of options from Cardiff: choose 5 out of 7? No problem, I suppose.

Friendly people: That said, it’s really nice that people talk to me and remember things I’ve told them.  It’s been really easy to make friends here and I genuinely like the people.  It’s lovely to go into a café and they remember your name and what you ordered the next time you’re there.

Travelling: México is big, and travelling is cheap.  It’s easy to go away for a weekend and wherever you go it will likely be completely different to where you came from.

Beaches: Following on from travelling, I live 4 hours away from some amazing beaches (4 hours seems like a lot, but on Mexican time it’s not much) and the weather is virtually always beach-weather.

Mexican food: It might take a while, but at some point I’m going to get a craving for tamales and gorditas but not be able to get them anywhere.  Then I’ll be sorry I got so annoyed with the loudspeakers advertising “tamales de carne a cinco cincuenta”

Fruit: Mango. Papaya. Prickly pear. Guava. Avocado. Mamey. Coconut. Pomegranate. And all the fruit you can potentially get at home but would never be able to afford.  All cost next to nothing here, and that is something I definitely take advantage of and don’t take for granted.

Learning about the culture and history of México: I’ve pretty much always said that I’m not interested in most history, but really interested in ancient history, especially pre-hispanic culture, and the more I actually learn and see for myself, the more interesting it gets.

I did buy beans in LA, though.

Basically, I’m looking forward to being able to be 100% myself again and have the facilities to do whatever I want.  Maybe I’m just tired because it’s the end of term, or maybe it’s because it’s so nearly time to go home that I can’t help but think of what I’ll do when I get there, but I’m ready for another change – even if it is going back to what I’m used to.

All that said, I don’t for a second regret coming to México, not one bit.  I’ve had a whale of a time, but I’ve also discovered that I don’t want to stay here forever.  I came here to, as cheesy as it sounds, “find myself” and I think I kind of did – I’m still in the midst of a quarter-life crisis (but what 20-something isn’t?) but I’ve definitely learnt a lot and had a lot of time to think.  I stand by that I’ve learnt and experienced more here than I ever would have done in Spain, which was my primary reason for coming here.  But now that I’ve done that, I’m ready to apply all that new knowledge to “real life”.

But first: México City, Chiapas, Cuba, and Quintana Roo!

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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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Mexican Challenges + Simple Salsa Recipe

I may have written before that whilst I’m here in México, I keep in contact with a few classes at a high school back in Wales – I’m SO glad I opted to take part in the scheme, it gives me a chance to try and get them interested in languages and in México, and maybe encourage them to take a path similar to mine – going to Uni wasn’t something I was sure about, nor was studying Spanish, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.  Needless to say, I also wouldn’t be in México – another thing I wasn’t sure about until it was nearly time to apply for places – but that also turned out to be the best thing for me by far, so if I can get others to see what great opportunities studying languages offers, mission accomplished!

Anyway, I stole an idea from a friend who is doing the same thing but with a different school, and asked the classes to make me a list of challenges to complete whilst I’m here.  Here goes:

  1. Eat a ghost chilli and film it (this probably won’t happen – ghost chillis are so hot it’s actually quite dangerous (plus they’re from India, not México – a valid excuse I think!))
  2. Go to a bull fight/meet a bull
  3. Make a hot salsa and share it with friends
  4. Wear a Mexican hat/sombrero for a whole day, and take photos
  5. Take a photo at a Mexican festival
  6. Learn a tune on a Mexican instrument
  7. Play street football with the locals and photograph
  8. Do an ice bucket challenge
  9. Take a shot of tequila with salt and lime and film

The subject of my post today is the hot salsa – when we was horse riding in Puerto Vallarta, Josh and I were given a little lesson in making tortillas and different salsas, one of which was particularly easy, so here it is.

Ingredients: tomato, onion, cucumber, chilli, coriander, lime.

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Directions: Cut everything up, squeeze the lime, and eat with tortillas.  Could it be any easier?

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All colours of the Mexican flag!

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¡Buen provecho!

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Regreso a Guadalajara

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I’m back in Guadalajara after about 2 months off from everything – including blogging, whoops!  Although I had lots of ideas for Christmassy things, when the time came to it I just coudn’t be bothered to do anything, so instead I had some down time, just chilling out with my family, making a few trips up and down to Cardiff and readjusting to life in the UK.

I’m definitely getting used to changing up! I’ve been back in Mexico for a week but it feels like I’ve been back for much longer (but it will take longer still to get back into the swing of things at Uni!) It’s actually been a pretty hectic week – I had my first trip to a Mexican doctor (ended up spending the week in and out of the clinic) which turned out to be a lot simpler than I had thought, and the system here is very efficient!  It looks like there’s nothing seriously wrong so I can get back on track, and start going to classes properly next week.  I’ve chosen my modules for this term having a better idea of what I enjoy, so I’m excited to get stuck in! I’ll be studying History of the Mexican Revolution, Indigenous Culture, Teaching Spanish as a Second Language and a more general History of Mexico, as well as continuing with German.

Along the lines of changing up, it won’t be long before my housemates take off.  Two have already moved to Queretaro to be closer to family, and two out of the three remaining were only enrolled for one term, so they’ll be off home soon! I’ll definitely be sad to see them go and will miss the nights spent in “Fuente” drinking tequila and dancing to Mariachi.  But, I’ll soon be getting new housemates and hopefully making even more new friends.

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Now, as cliché as it is, I’m going to say it – I’m determined to make 2015 my year!  January has already gone SO fast, but I’ve made a start on a few resolutions – the usual one, to eat more healthily, is going pretty well.  Last term I was a bit apathetic when it came to cooking healthy meals for myself, but so far this year I haven’t eaten ANY pizza so that’s a start! Tonight I made a pretty good chickpea and mushroom chilli and I’ve recently discovered the wonder that is courgette “noodles” – honestly, better than pasta (although I’m definitely not jumping on the ‘no-carb’ bandwagon).  Finally, on the subject of health, I’ve signed up for a free taster session for a taekwondo class at a studio that also runs a yoga course – hopefully this yoga class will be more successful than the others I’ve tried.  And, once I get confirmation from the doctor, I can start training for the Great North Run half marathon in September.

It’s strange that in 6 short months my Mexican adventure will be over.  But I intend to make the most of every minute of those 6 months, see as much as I can of this amazing country and make as many friends as I can here, but also to work hard and write lots, because in 6 months I have to start thinking about being a proper grown up! But not just yet (:

Have faith & a burning desire to just keep on going no matter what happens  via: CUBICLE REFUGEE

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!