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Mexico City: Recap 1 June 13, 2011

Posted by julesaturner in Travel Log.
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My blogging skills are severely lacking, but let’s see if I can go back to week one of this trip and recreate the experience as best as possible. First arriving in Mexico City was a little overwhelming: the traffic, the noise, and the inability to breathe! I don’t know whether it’s the altitude or the pollution or a combination, but my respiratory system has never had to work so hard before. We arrived at the school from the airport in the early evening to wait for our host families to pick us up. While my host mom did come, I was able to meet Maria Elena, Emilie Wurmser’s host mom, and walked to my house with them (because the two are literally only a few doors down on the same street). I met my host mom, Olga, who is a dress designer but has a few problems with her health which is why she couldn’t walk to the school to meet me. I ended up having dinner that night with Emilie and Maria Elena, though.

The next morning we got up early and headed to our first Mexico adventure: Teotihuacan. Definitely vale la pena, that place. The temples (not pyramids!) are impressive, especially when you walk all the way to the top: the steps are super steep, and our guide told us the only respectful way to climb them is by walking in zigzags (something to do with always keeping you head and back bowed to the gods… if I recall correctly). They were quite the workout, and the view from the top of the Templo del Sol was increíble.

On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant that made its own mezcal. We were able to get some samples of the many beverages that the maguey plant offers as well as learn about the other useful resources it provides including paper, soap, and needles. Our guide was an interesting character and very excited about telling us about all the essentials maguey can provide.

Then the week started: classes from 8:30-2:30 followed by excursions in the afternoon! Monday was not quite as exciting because we only went to the mall to get phones, but Tuesday we made our first venture into the heart of the city: el Zócalo. Our intention was to go to the Museum de Medicina to give presentations; however, due to its being closed for mother’s day, we ended up giving them in the Zócalo near the Catedral Metropolitana. Afterwards, we had lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful terrace view and excellent traditional Mexican dishes.

Wednesday found us back at the Zócalo, this time to see the ruins of Templo Mayor. The city itself is actually built on top of the ancient Mexica city of Tenochtitlán, and the ruins are the the result of excavations that began in the middle of the the 20th century. The best part of this program has definitely been the fact that we learn about the history of this country in class, and then get to go see that history in the city itself. The visit to Templo Mayor was our first real example of this, and it was really impressive.

We got this opportunity to an even more intense degree on Thursday when we went to the Archaeological Museum. It was massive. We had a guided tour for the room dedicated to the Mexicas, because that’s the main group we’ve been studying, but they had rooms for every period in pre-Columbian history. While I enjoy seeing museums and learning from them, my favorite excursion from this first week was easily the visit to the Basilica de Guadalupe on Friday. The church and hillside are beautiful. I really like the symbolism behind the Virgin of Guadalupe–the fusion of the Christian and Mexica feminine deities, Mary and Coatlicue. Plus, the older basilica is actually sinking into the ground (like many buildings in Mexico City, since it’s built over what used to be a lake). We spent so much time looking around the old and new churches, though, that we didn’t get to go up the hillside where Juan Diego was supposed to have first seen the Virgin. 

To close out the first week, we went to Frida Kahlo’s home in one of the northern districts of the city on Saturday. I’ve never really studied her work, but my favorite part of the museum they’ve made the house into were the rooms with her paintings in them. She is a woman with a very interesting point of view, I think, and she has been a really important symbol for Mexico ever since the mid-20th century. Sunday was our first día libre, and it was much-needed. With two tests coming up in the following week and barely any downtime, I finished my first week in Mexico exhausted, but 10 times as informed about Mexican history and culture than I had been before I came.


La Vida Chilanga June 7, 2010

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For having only spent two weeks in Mexico City, I’m extremely impressed with everything that I’ve seen and done through the Mexico LBAT program so far. Living la vida chilanga (Mexico City natives call themselves Chilangos) has been absolutely incredible and I can’t wait for the weeks to come!

We hit the ground running our first full day here as we headed for Teotihuacan, an ancient city with buildings dating back to 200 BC. The most prominent structures include the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon—we climbed both of course! The Pyramid of the Sun alone has more than 245 steps so reaching the top is no small feat, but definitely worth the view.

We also rode the Turibus (think London double-decker buses Mexican style) for several hours taking in some amazing sights along the way, including the beautiful cathedral in the Zócalo, or main square of Mexico City, just in time to hear a special Mother’s Day service (Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10th here instead of May 9th like in the US) and my roommate, Leah, and I made sure to stop by a flower shop on the way home for our host mom. Our host family consists of Doctora Guillén, a dentist, and her 18-year-old son, Israel, who is studying architecture. They’re such giving and friendly people and made us feel right at home.

Other adventures include a trip to the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe, touring the home of painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and going to a lucha libre show! The Basílica is where according to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous man for the first time, which marks a significant moment in history for a culture that is a unique mix of both indigenous and European traditions. Another fun fact about it is that if you look closely you can see that the Basílica is sinking, which is due to the fact that Mexico City was built on top of a drained lake. That’s because the Spanish built their city directly above the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, even using stones from the main Aztec temple, Templo Mayor, to build their cathedrals. We got to tour Templo Mayor and everyone got to serve as tour guides for the rest of the class in their assigned section of the museum— my presentation was about the practice of human sacrifice in ancient Mexico.  That being said, there is literally never a dull moment here and every excursion we’ve gone on has taught me a great deal about Mexican history, language, and culture. Can’t wait for the next 4 weeks!

Above are pictures of the pyramids, the cathedral, and some gringos singing karaoke in Spanish 🙂

Half-Way Point May 30, 2010

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So I have officially crossed the half-way point of the Mexico LBAT program and I hate to think that I only have 3 weeks left in DF (Distrito Federal aka Mexico City).

On Tuesday, we spent the day visiting lots of famous murals, which are a huge part of the culture here and can be found all over the city. The Muralist Movement started after the Mexican Revolution as a way to teach the illiterate people of the country about their history. Our art tour started with Diego Rivera’s work at Secretaria de Educación Pública and continued with one of Rivera’s first murals “La Creación” and the works of Jose Orozco at the San Ilfenso College, an old Jesuit school that Benito Juarez converted into the first high school system in Mexico. After lunch, we visited the Palacio Nacional, a beautiful palace that Hernán Cortes reconstructed from the materials and original structure of Moctezuma’s palace. Here Diego Rivera painted his enormous and very famous “México a través de los siglos,” which covers the entire stairway of the main staircase and is a huge mural depicting Mexican history from the Mexicas to the Revolution. We finished our day at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which houses an art gallery, architecture museum, a huge theatre, and (our reason for going) the murals of Los Tres Grandes: Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. (more…)

Two Weeks Later… May 24, 2010

Posted by awheble in Travel Log.
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…and I’m finally getting the chance to write again! They’ve kept us very busy here in Mexico City between visiting and exploring many of the major sites and learning A TON of information about Mexico and the Spanish language.

We spent the first week getting more accustomed to our families, neighborhood, school, and the city in general. After only 14 days, this place has really become a home that I love with all my heart. The neighborhood of Condesa is awesome! We’re very close by to a dangerously delicious Neveria (icecream shop), a gorgeous park where I can get my puppy fix petting everyone’s’ dogs, and lots of very cute shops and restaurants.

Every morning we walk about 30 minutes to the Universidad de Comunicacion en Colonia Roma. Over the past 2 weeks we’ve gotten the chance to talk to and get acquainted with some of the local students at the University. They’re so friendly and love to help us with our Spanish! For the Spanish LBAT, we take three classes: one on Mexican history, one on Mexican business culture, and one on the connection between the two. They’re definitely really tough and intense, but it’s been pretty cool to walk out of the classroom and be surrounded by what we just learned.

I’ve also become very close to my host family, and they are even more awesome than I could have imagined! Senora Plata is the warmest lady who loves to take care of us in every way, especially by feeding us. For dinner, we have had everything from traditional Mexican tacos to Chicken Parmesan and it has all been very-very delicious. Her grandson, Diego, is still as cute if not cuter as the first day I met him. He loves to run in our room and ask Katie and I what we’re doing and about our day.


¡Hola de México! May 9, 2010

Posted by awheble in Travel Log.
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Today was my second day in Mexico City, Mexico, and so far it’s been amazing! Though many people told me how big the city was, as we flew in I was blown away. The city stretches on and on and on! After arriving at the school, we met our host families for the next 6 weeks. My friend Katie (another 2nd year at Tech) and I are living with a woman named Adelina Plata in an apartment in the beautiful neighborhood of Condesa. She is a very sweet lady who loves to cook. She also has a two-year old grandson named Diego. He is absolutely precious and has ended up helping us to learn some Spanish words. We haven’t gotten a chance to walk around our neighborhood yet, but I’m told there are tons of great restaurants and a beautiful park nearby!

Today we went to Teotihuacan to visit the pyramids of the Aztecs. (more…)