Thursday, February 26, 2009

Butterflies and Cancún!

Some of my favorite days in Mexico...

Last weekend my friend Kim came up from Cuernavaca on Sunday, and she and Anne-Marie and I rented a car (!) and drove to the next state over, Michoacán, to visit a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Strange, you might think, but incredible.

I got to drive, which was awesome and super liberating, and really made me feel like Mexico is my (temporary) home... crazy how having a car for a 24-hour period can do that to you... So about 2.5 hours after we left our house, we arrived at the butterfly sanctuary and began the climb/trek to the top of a hill where the butterflies congregate... They migrate to Mexico every year for their reproduction process, and then return to their homes in the US and Canada once it starts to warm up. As we climbed, we saw a few butterflies, but nothing like people had described to us. Once we got closer to the top, however, we were overwhelmed with how stinkin' many butterflies were fluttering (and in that quantity, buzzing) around. I'm putting a few pics up here, but it's so hard to understand without being there... I highly recommend the experience. On the walk back down, after thanking God for such an awesome sight, we got to eat some num nums, mole poblano, some nopales... deeelicious!

Theeeen... as if life couldn't get any better. I had a great week at school, the students were pretty participative, and I was looking forward to my weekend in CANCUN with my mom and sister...

I met them in Cancún on Thursday afternoon, and it was SO good to see them both... it felt like it had been a really long time since Christmas. We were picked up by our hotel's shuttle, and we made our way to the zona hotelera on a strip on the Caribbean... our hotel was nice, the people were too, a little pushy perhaps, but it was to be expected. We had a nice room, a nice view with a deck that walked out to the pool/beach... it was great. Friday it rained, lame, so we ended up at the high-end mall... our most glorious find there was the aquarium, with specimens from the local waters... I tell you, I really missed my calling to be a marine biologist. The three of us were duly fascinated. That afternoon we ended up closer to our hotel, walking along the beach, relaxing, reading, chatting, catching up, laughing... there was a lot of laughter. To be expected.

Saturday was our favorite day... after some runaround in the morning, we found a catamaran that would take us to nearby Isla Mujeres and some other places for a relatively fair fee... We hopped on the boat and promptly began soaking up the rays... the first stop was snorkeling through the reef, which really felt like a lazy river, with the current just pushing us along as we swam through schools of angel fish. Next we made it to the actual island, walked around for a bit, felt harrassed by some of the vendors... then back on the boat, over to our lunch site, a delicious buffet, then back on the boat heading back to Cancún, where we were pleasantly surprised by the next activity-what they called the Spinnaker. It was basically a huge sail with a rope attached to it that you sat on as the wind blew you around-- a huge swing. It was SO fun. All three of us ladies did it-awesome.

Sunday we got a bit of a late start, due to me not feeling 100%, but that left plenty of pool/book time... That afternoon we made it over to downtown Cancún, to the market area... we got a few good deals, thanks to my Spanish... I actually heard people saying, "Oh, she speaks Spanish, give her a better deal..." Who knows if that was another tactic, but it was relatively satisfying. Shopping really wears me out, especially that kind of shopping... some of the vendors (mostly men) don't really get how to sell to people like us... not accosting us is probably a good start. Oh well.

Monday was our last day, so we took advantage of the shuttle and water taxi our hotel has with 2 of its partner hotels... they were definitely swankier, so we enjoyed their beaches and views for a bit before heading back to the airport... and it was over! The weekend sped by, but it was a blast! SO good to see part of my fam, and to feel rejuvinated after being with them, making plans for the future, etc., reminding myself about the bigger picture. And it was also kind of them to stock me up on books and Trader Joe's items :)

Now back to the grind for a few weeks before my next big adventure... more on that later!


Friday, February 13, 2009

January and Fevrary

So much for my New Year's Resolution. Oh well...

So the rest of January was pretty eventful... it literally sped by! A quick breakdown:

-The week of Jan. 12th was the first week of class, and my first week with the 20 different classes... we did a really fun activity, the students had to come up with 3 questions for me, and then the chiste was that each student would come up and have to answer the question as if s/he were me. If they answered it the way I would have, they got a point; if not, they got an X. The students seemed to enjoy it, and I had a blast, too!

-That weekend, on Saturday night, my neighbor Francisco invited me with a few friends to the Festival del pueblo (Town Party, loosely) de Tenango, about an hour away... his friend Jorge's parents live there, and his mom cooked mole-rojo and verde- and we ate WELL. Then we went to watch the fireworks in the downtown, Jorge and Anita and I ended up on a rollercoaster, we ate more (don't ask me how) sweets and tacos and played foosball for like an hour. It was super fun. They're all older, but I really like hanging out with them. Most little towns around here have a party once a year... It's been interesting to observe the "work hard, play hard" attitude of Mexicans... some work 6-7 days a week to make ends meet, but when it's time to kick back, they really know how to party... Octavio Paz wrote an essay on the Mexicano and the fiesta, I'm in the middle of it... it's fascinating!

-That week (Jan. 19-23) was our conference in Mexico City with the other English teachers from Venezuela and Colombia... it was SO interesting to hear about people's different experiences. We Mexico ETAs learned that we have it pretty good, especially in terms of our schools' organization. It was a little weird to meet the Venezuela ETAs, because I had originally applied to Venezuela, but they were all very kind and super smart-and very invested in their side projects, something on which none of us Mexicans have focused. But. We had a few panels, went to some ruins, I saw my friend Anna (Colombia ETA) who I had met studying abroad with CIEE in Chile... it was a blast! Friday Mexico ETAs headed to Coyoacán, to visit the house of Frida Kahlo... I'm going to have to go back, I missed most of it due to a migraine, but what I saw was cool.

-Jan. 24th was my housemate Anne-Marie's birthday, so a few of us headed to Valle de Bravo (where her bf Fernando has a house) and we found a lake by which to have fondue... we got there a little late, so we cooked and ate in the dark, but it was really fun-and delicious! There’s nothing like eating fondue with Frenchies. The next Wednesday the Toluca friends took her out for a sushi dinner...

-Another activity with the students, this one a little review before exam week, so with some teachers I did some activities and with other teachers, others. I try to keep things moving, and everybody’s pretty flexible, thankfully.

-That weekend we had Monday off, so I went to visit my friend Timoteo in Guadalajara…we met at my volunteer job in Chile, and he’s Mexican and studying here in Guadalajara… G. is a beautiful city, I absolutely loved it! I am definitely going to have to go back… it is huge, and with lots of construction going on sort of confusing, but there is so much to see… I barely scratched the surface! I took a bus tour while T was at work, and it was beautiful. And warm! My favorite parts were the murals by José Clemente Orozco all over, and the 3 story market!!! It’s ginormous. I ate some delicious tacos de birria there (from a goat, a Jaliscan specialty). Saturday and Sunday we went to (random!) Puerto Vallarta, not expecting the 6 hour bus ride, necessitating an overnight stay… it’s a really cute place, nice beaches, a beautiful boardwalk… and I love the beach!

-That week was exam week, so it was pretty chill for me, just proctoring exams.

-Last weekend I spent most of my time in Toluca with Victoria and Heather and Memo, it was really nice to lay low a little and enjoy my friends. On Sunday I went with Memo and Bruno and Memo’s French friend Natalie to Valle de Bravo, we walked around, went tubing, and had a delicious lunch… it was fun to be a sort of tour guide. ☺

-This week was (obviously) the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, so with the more advanced classes (TOEFL level) we worked with “In My Life” by the Beatles, I blanked out some key words and they had to listen and then we discussed the meaning of the song… with the lower levels it was L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole… we had a good time with it. ☺

-This weekend is also going to be chill, in preparation for next weekend’s vacation to CANCúN with my mom and sister! I’m super pumped to see them… and obviously to spend time at the beach. I think we’re going to try to hit up the pyramids at Chichén Itzá, also…

WHEW! Thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!