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Mexico City: Recap 5 August 11, 2011

Posted by julesaturner in Travel Log.
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The last two weeks of the program seemed to fly by, most likely because our days were so busy. Getting back from Puebla, we all jumped head first into preparing for our debates. For this first debate, I was on the a contra side of CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños). The other group debated the legalization of marijuana. the debates were fun and a great way to practice Spanish, but the best part was that they were on Wednesday and Thursday. Mine fell on Thursday, and the same day we left for Sontecomapan, aka, the best part of the trip.

Sontecomapan is in Veracruz on the coast–it’s a 9+ hour drive in a bus, but beyond worth it. We stayed at Los Amigos Ranch, which is on an island in the coastal marshland. Los Amigos is a project in sustainable agriculture and living. The educational purpose of the trip was to learn about permaculture, and how Los Amigos was promoting it. We also got to experience mexica culture first hand in the form of a temascal and ritual dancing. We were guided in these ventures by a mexica shaman, Arturo. It was quite the experience. In addition to these educational bits, we went to the beach, canoing/kayaking, swimming, and had the chance to do yoga every morning (which I did). It was incredible. The yoga patio was half way up the tallest part of the mountain, and since we were on the Gulf Coast, when we did sun salutation, we really were greeting the sun. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I’m pretty sure we all wanted to stay, especially because we knew how much was between us and finishing the program.

The last week, we all were enmeshed in completing our final projects, studying for our last test, and preparing for our second debate. Looking back, I’m somewhat amazed that we were able to get it all done. By Friday, we were all exhausted, running on 4 hours of sleep or less, but we were finished. It was both a relieving and saddening realization. At our despedida dinner, we shared our projects with our families (commercials that “sold” Mexican culture), and shared with each other how much we were going to miss Mexico. Six weeks with the same 16 people will really facilitate the making of friendships. We were consoled by the knowledge that we’d be able to see each other in the fall–some of us were headed to Cusco, some to Madrid, and others back to the U.S.–and relive the best memories of our time in the D.F.


A Weekend in Sontecomapan June 16, 2010

Posted by lbuckley3 in Travel Log.
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The trip we took this past weekend was quite possibly my favorite excursion yet! We went to Sontecomapan, a town on the Gulf Coast about eight hours away from Mexico City and we stayed at an ecolodge called Rancho Los Amigos. We took a boat across the lagoon to get to our cabins, which each had a hammock out front facing the water. It was like living in a tropical paradise. And the food was incredible– we were served several different kinds of freshly caught fish and had our pick of the most delicious fruit. The mango in Mexico is absolutely heavenly and I’m definitely going to miss it.

One of the neatest things we did was experience a temezcal, which is a ancient Olmec steam bath ritual. Our guides Antonio and Valentina led us to a remote hillside where about fifteen of us entered a tarped hut made of bamboo. In the center of the hut was a hole in the ground, where they would place the hot rocks. The volcanic rocks had been heated for hours before we arrived and when they poured water over them, the hut immediately became so steamy I could barely see the faces of the people sitting next to me. Then, Antonio taught us several songs (which helped to take my mind off how incredibly hot it was) which had to do with our harmony with nature: La tierra mi cuerpo, el agua mi sangre, el aire mi aliento, el fuego mi espíritu (earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, fire my spirit).

Antonio explained that temezcal is not just a sauna, but also a ritual of freeing yourself from both literal and figurative toxins. Because of this, he had everyone in the circle mention one thing they would like to rid themselves of and after each turn, he shouted “Ometeotl!” which is the name of of the Olmec god of creation. It was a refreshing and new experience for me that I’m very thankful for.

Another experience I wouldn’t trade for anything was seeing the sunrise from a mountaintop overlooking the ocean. A group of us woke up at 5 am to make the hike up the mountain, which was totally worth it because not only did we get to take in the spectacular sunrise, but we also watched in awe as the seemingly billions of stars slowly faded from the night sky.

During our time at Rancho Los Amigos, we learned a great deal about the efforts to reforest the area, which had been cleared to provide more grazing land for cattle. However, the hilly, rough terrain is not ideal for cattle and Rancho Los Amigos is gradually transforming Sontecomapan back into its forested state by reintroducing a range of native plants. We discovered many of these beautiful trees during our kayak adventures through the mangroves.

All in all, the trip was extremely educational and also served as a relaxing weekend away from the city. As much as I love Mexico City, I have to admit it was wonderful to relax on the beach, ride horses along the shore for a mere 30 pesos, or enjoy a chilled coconut in the sunshine. I would have loved to have stayed longer and hope to come back someday!