Another 180

I never thought I could want to stay in a place so much whilst simultaneously wanting to leave…does that make sense?  Although my last post was all about wanting to go home, I’m about to write the exact opposite: I want to stay here forever.  But only if all of these people can stay, too.

Two weeks ago we took a trip to the capital and somehow returned to Guadalajara as more than just a bunch of exchange students: we’re a family.  I’m going to miss them as much as I miss my actual family!

I can’t even write about how it’s going to be when we have to say goodbye so I’ll write about the trip instead.  It would take something really, really special to make me fall in love with México again after I was so ready to leave (and not return for a while) but México City did it! I’d leap at the chance to do a semester there but unfortunately, it’s not a possibility.  You’d need a lot longer than the 4 days we had there to really get to know such an enormous city, but even in such a short time I could tell it’s one of the coolest cities in the world.  It’s so different to Guadalajara – the centre is much more modern, which I really liked, and it’s full of museums and galleries and just has all kinds of things going on.  Anyway, we spent our “free day” wandering around there but had exciting things planned for us the rest of the time.

After a rough night of coach travel we arrived on Friday morning, had a quick breakfast and went straight on to the Museum of Anthropology (probably quite boring if you’re not an ancient history geek like me.)  Saw the actual Piedra del Sol.  Pretty awesome.

Next up was the Castillo de Chapultepec.  To be honest, I was quite tired (and REALLY hungry) by this point so I don’t really know anything about it, but it was pretty and had some nice gardens.  I ate grasshoppers there (not just out of the garden – actual cooked grasshoppers someone was selling out of a cart) – weirdly, they didn’t taste bad but I wouldn’t pay 10 pesos for a bag of them!

The next day was the best! The first stop was Coyoacan and the Casa Azul.  It always surprises me when people say they haven’t heard of Frida Kahlo! Such an interesting and inspiring woman, seeing her studio made me really want to paint – hopefully the feeling will last until I’m home and I can.  Next we went to Anahuacalli, another museum but also a kind of art gallery, I suppose.  It was designed by Diego Rivera, surrealist artist and Frida Kahlo’s husband, with all the architecture based on the aztec visión of the universe.

Highlight of the weekend – Xochimilco.  Canal boats, music, dancing, food and the best company.

Finally, on the last day, we visited Teotihuacan.  A lot of steps, a lot of sun, but the view from the top made it worth it.  Raul ran the whole way (show off).

 

But, the fun didn’t stop there.  On the coach on the way home, Mariana (who organised the trip) taught us a very, VERY intense game called “los lobos” – I won’t go into the rules but it basically turned us all against each other and had us all pleading/insisting/screaming “yo no soy un lobo, soy un inocente ciudadano!”

…And the fiesta hasn’t really stopped since then.  México, somehow, has done the impossible and transformed me into a sociable person.  Even though I’m absolutely rubbish at it, I never want to stop salsa dancing.

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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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!

¡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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Next to Nothing

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In a few weeks time I’ll find out where I’m going to be living as of August/September for the next academic year – Mexico, Peru, or Spain.  My housemate Hannah will also be going off somewhere and we quite often get into deep conversations about what the year will hold for us.  This morning we discussed the possibility of reinventing ourselves.  She said to me, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you came back as a complete hippie,” and to be honest, nor would I.

If things go my way, I’ll be going to Mexico, which is where I think I’ll learn the most and probably where I’d change the most.  For many reasons, I think that life will be a lot simpler which is one of the reasons I want to go.  I will only be able to take what I really need and I doubt I will miss much that I don’t have.  Another thing that Hannah said was, “I know people who spend all their money on fancy phones and new cars, but I’d rather have that few hundred quid and go off travelling for a month.”  We talked about how when we’re old and we look back on our lives, we want to have loads of stories and experiences rather than a huge collection of stuff.

Which leads me to our first-hand experience of living with next to nothing.  Many students do some form of backpacking so I hope a lot of people can relate to our three-week trip spanning seven countries with only a rucksack each full of things to last us and a tight budget to stick to.  Even though by the half-way point we had stopped locking up our bags, saying, “it doesn’t matter if they get stolen, they can have our dirty clothes!” we had the time of our lives, and compiled a short list of what we learned in Europe.

1)      You can live on a diet of croissants and ice cream.

2)      The hostel is around somewhere, even if it takes several hours to find.

3)      All you need for a good time is a pack of cards.

4)      You can fit 100 people in one tent.

5)      Campfires are underrated.

6)      Essential: Sun cream, maps, good shoes.

7)      Non-essential: Sleep, hot water, clean underwear.