FC: Mexico! | 2008 | Cuernavaca Playa del Carmen Oaxaca Puerto Escondido
1: Cuernavaca June | Cuernavaca is the City of Eternal Spring - Spring weather all year round. It was described as the place where the wealthy Mexicans vacation in Mexico.
2: This was my room for the month. I even got my own bathroom. Below is the house where I stayed. | Mario Saavedra He took care of me. He made me breakfast and lunch everyday.
3: My Host Family The Saavedras Mario and his daughter, Toania, and her kids, Nico (2) and Ivanna (5). Their cousin, Mario's daughter's daughter (I wish I could remember her name) would visit once a week. This family was my favorite.
4: My walk to school everyday. Every morning I would meet up with other students and walk to the school together. After breakfast, that hill was a killer!
5: The school and its classrooms by the pool. | I made 2 good friends there. Jasmine from New York and Christina (Kiki) from Sweden. | EXPERIENCIA
6: Downtown Cuernavaca & its Super Mercado | The mosquitos were eating me alive!
7: Every Saturday and Sunday the school would take the students on field trips in and out of the state of Morelos. | XOLCHICALCO | June 14 | These were the first pyramids I have ever been to. The guide was very nice and the view was amazing.
8: June 15 We went to Chalma, a beautiful church. Chalma is rushed every Sunday from people all over Mexico for church and prayer. CHALMA
9: MALINACLO It was a beautiful hike and we met a very kind man who lived in the mountains. | June 15
10: TEPOZTLAN | ...a hike from hell! I got to feed some animals though! | June 21 A town and hike. Albeit, this was a gorgeous hike, but...
11: Teotihuacan | June 22 Yet again, more pyramids | Carlos was our guide for the weekends. He was learning English & German. We stopped by a family store who dressed us up touristy & had a donkey that drank cola.
12: Lagunas de Zempoala June 28 An amazing lake & horseback riding
13: TAXCO June 29 | Taxco is famous for its silver. Its an amazing little town. | LAS GRUTAS | A cave over a mile & a half deep. The tour was entirely in Spanish - didn't understand a thing!
14: PLAYA DEL CARMEN! | JULY A stunning sunrise & a view of the beach from la Quinta Avenida (5th Ave)
15: My Host Family The mom's name is Guadalupe (left). She was so wonderful and did everything she could to take care of me. It was a 15 minute bus ride to school, and she rode with me on the bus the two times until I was comfortable doing it alone. She lived with her three kids, all in there 20s. Her son-in-law was from Texas and married to her oldest daughter (left).
16: La QUINTA | La Quinta is the main strip in Playa, and the main attraction. There are restaurants, bars, and stores everywhere, and the sales people are relentless. The beach is literally down the street from the strip.
17: U.S. transplanted! | All of these places were found on Quinta - except for the 2nd McDonalds, that was a mile away.
18: SOLEXICO | I did meet some great people though. Patty (left), Niko (up lft), and Tim & Aysem (above). Patty was living in Playa and showed me around the town. Babe's was a Thai food place owned by Swedish people. Mashed potatoes and swedish meatballs were on the menu! | The school was gorgeous! But over run with teenage students there to have sex on the beach - and I don't mean the drink!
19: DAY AT THE BEACH! July 12 Solexico didn't offer weekend trips, but there were tourist attractions and awesome beaches. My first weekend there I spent an entire day at the beach. Patty and I rented a couple lounge chairs, and had food and drinks brought to us, read books, and relaxed all day!
20: TULUM July 16 | I went to Tulum with Aysem & Tim. I would never feel comfortable enough to do this by myself, but we just hopped on a bus going to Tulum after classes and gave ourselves a tour. It was beyond gorgeous, AND HOT. There were iguanas everywhere!
21: ISLA MUJERES July 19 | Isla Mujeres was a relaxing theme park of sorts. Open bar all day and all you can eat buffet, canoeing, snorkeling, zip lining, a hammock garden, a panoramic pool, and beautiful trails. Patty went with me and we had a great breakfast on the ferry there, and tasty pina coladas on the way back!
22: I couldn't take any pictures, because I was there by myself and I couldn't afford the professional pictures. BUT, I got a dolphin hug & kiss on the cheek, they jumped over my head (above), and two dolphins pushed me by the bottoms of my feet out of the water, aka The Superman. It was amazing! | July 26 SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS!! | Picture to the left is from a pamphlet, but its what I did!
23: I got up very early my last weekend in Playa. Guadalupe got up early with me and took me to where she normally goes to watch the sunrise. It was absolutely beautiful!
24: OAXACA | August | Oaxaca was by far my favorite city. It has so much culture and old architecture. Town events were always happening.
25: My Host Family Rosa was the grandmother and her daughter Norma lived at the house with her 2 children, Hemaina (13) and Armando (12). They were very nice and wanted me to be as comfortable as possible. I can't recall the little dog's name, but he kept me company too.
26: My walk to school every day! I walked by gorgeous buildings and crossed through parks that always had people having a good time. | The walk took me about 20-25 minutes to get to the school from my host family's home. The walk was worth the time.
27: SOLEXICO This school was my favorite as well. The students were all their to learn and to have a good time. The teachers were also amazing. Anna Maria (right corner) was great and very patient. I would definetly come back to this school.
28: Los Calles
29: de Oaxaca
30: Mercados! There were about a half a dozen mercados in Oaxaca. There were some that were just for arts or food, and there were some that had it all!
31: Nights Out with the Students 1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila...floor | The picture above is the memory of my first shot of Mezcal. All the teachers, staff and students were clapping and cheering me on - bad influences!
32: This Solexico did provide weekend excursions! Arbol del Tule and Hierve el Agua | Arbol del Tule is 14 meters in diameter. What's so special about this tree is that it has figures in its trunk. For example, an elephant in the center and a person's face on the right! | Hierve el Agua are natural hot springs. They've assisted a little with some cement, but you could swim in the pools and enjoy the breath-taking views.
33: We went to a small town (I can't remember the name) where there was a family that made handmade rugs with handmade dyes. The woman above is 93 years old and been making rugs for 80 years. | Benito Juarez We went hiking and zip-lining.
34: Puerto Escondido | During my 2nd to last week in Oaxaca I was burnt out with school. I was tired and needed a break from learning Spanish. Originally I was going to volunteer at an orphanage, but, unfortunately, actually getting to the orphanage proved to be too stressful. So, I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Puerto Escondido with plans to return to class for my final week. I received a refund for a week's worth of school, researched the internet for a list of hostel/hotels, printed a map of Puerto Escondido, and hopped on a 10 hour overnight bus ride. Little did I know that the air conditioning would be blaring throughout the night and I didn't bring the right clothes ...and I caught a cold. | It wasn't tourist season, so there was some construction happening.
35: I spent 3 days and 2 nights there. I checked out a few hotels and decided on The Mayflower Hotel/Hostel. As my cold set in, I was never so happy for a room to myself and cable tv. I spent most of my time in the room, but explored the morning of arrival and the afternoon of check out, when I also decided to relax and read on the beach.
36: LETTERS | June 16 2008 Hey everyone! So, I've been in Cuernavaca for a whole week now. It's all a very intense experience, but I'm handling it all very well. I'm just tired a lot. Trying to learn, speak, and listen to while understanding Spanish 24/7 is a lot. Plus, I don't know what I was expecting, but all the grammar – wasn't expecting that. Grammar in any language sucks. Direct object, indirect object, infinitives...and then, not just past, present and future tense, future perfect, future progressive…frustrating. But I can speak more and more everyday. There is only one other person in my class. She's in her late 50s, I think. She's here with her 12 yr old daughter. The classes M-F are 5 hours with 10 and 30 minute breaks in between. The first 3 hours are all grammar and vocabulary, and the last 1 hour is all conversation in the class, practicing speaking and understanding. By the end of the day I'm exhausted from just paying attention and concentrating. Since there is only 1 other person in the class, I can't let my mind wander for a second because I know the teacher is going to start talking to me any second. My teacher this last week, I get a new one this week, was Anna Maria. She's very nice and patient. She's in the pictures. I won't know who my new teacher is until next week. Each week the teachers rotate and the students get a new teacher. I guess it's a good thing, so I can get used to different ways other people talk. I have soooo much to tell you, but I don't want this to be a 20 page email…I don't have access to the internet very often; only at the school and only when I want to haul by computer there. So, I might not be able to send out all the emails
37: FROM MEXICO! | I had expected to before. The school is really beautiful. It's called Experiencia. I took pictures of it too. I didn't pick the best week to come though. I came in the middle of a big storm. Heavy rain, thunder, lightening – loud enough to wake me up in the middle of the night. The power went out the first night I was in my host family's home. I was so happy I brought a flashlight. My host family is wonderful – really sweet! There is a grandfather, Mario, his daughter, Antonia, (she's my age), and her two kids who are 1 and 5 years old. Mario is the one who really takes care of me. He doesn't speak English, well, very, very little. He was trying to explain that I would cross a tiny bridge on my way to school, so he tells me I'll be crossing "the Golden Gate". We try to talk and he never gets frustrated with me. Apparently I communicate really well with my facial expressions and make him laugh. He feeds me twice a day, breakfast and comida (a big later lunch). He even packed me lunches for my fieldtrips this weekend. He's definitely a grandpa. I've met some really nice people, and made a couple friends. The girls in my pictures are Christina, from Sweden, and Jasmine, from New York. They go to Experiencia too. We all went to a male strip club this last Friday, you know the usual touristy stuff. Some teachers who teach English to Mexicans at the school came with us – those are some funny ladies. Yesterday, Saturday, the school had an optional fieldtrip to Xochicalco – an archeological site with pyramids. Today we went to Chalmas, known for its church, and another archeological site, Malinalco, that was originally built by the Aztecs, which we had to climb 300+ stairs to get to. Both of the places were really beautiful though!
38: Okay, so there's more about my trip from the airport, or more like, out of the airport, but I've already written so much. I'll just say that I'm lucky that there are some very nice people who work at the Mexico City Airport, and I'm smart enough to know better than to fall for tricky taxi drivers. I love you all! Heather P.s. the mosquitoes are eating me alive, literally, but they seem to only like my left elbow. ??? June 23 2008 hi everyone!!! yes, i am alive and well in mexico! :) sorry it took so long to email, but the internet access is not really all that available - or really as available as I thought it was going to be. i wrote a letter on Word last week telling you about my first week here and attached it to this email. I don't know how likely it is that i can upload photos to a website because the internet is ridiculously slow! and it would take forever! to upload all the pictures i have. i have little over 150 now of all the places i've been to, of my host family, and of my school. I'll attach a picture of my host family's house (a view from the backyard), my room has a similar view of the backyard, and a couple picks of my new friends and host family - i think i only have the picture of my host grandpa right now. he's awesome! its been two weeks and it really doesn't seem that long. this weekend i went to Tepotzlan and Teotihuacan. Pyramids and churches galore. i think i'm gonna be all churched and pyramided out when i leave mexico. but there are some beautiful sites!! and i'm totally getting my work out too! oh my god, the climb up to Tepotzlan nearly killed me. an hour hike up a large stone trail up the side of a mountain ranging from 45-70 degrees up for an hour. i have lotsa pictures i wish i could show you! i wish this internet system was a bit faster. i'm going to try and work something out.
39: i'm learning a lot! my brain is a bit overloaded, but there is stuff still staying in there! i have a teacher all to myself this week. one-on-one teaching. this teacher, Pedro, is really nice and i'm so thankful he is so patient with me. how is everyone doing!?! :) send me an email and let me know. with the internet the way ti is, it might take a while for me to get back, but i still want to hear everything. I miss you all very much! Love you much! Heather July 14 2008 Hi everyone! So yeah, the whole internet access isn't all that it is cracked up to be. I thought I'd have all sorts of access, and realistically, I barely have any. Hence, the far and few between emails. So allow me to fill you in! I'm in Playa del Carmen now! It is so beautiful here! And I'm loving the beaches and the main strip. It really does have the Santa Cruz kinda layout, but with a hell of a lot more money. But the heat and humidity is killin me. I stepped off the plane sweating. Its pretty regularly 90-100 degrees with some serious humidity. I left Cuernavaca about a week ago. It was really hard to say goodbye to the family there. They were so wonderful. The grampa, the little kids, everyone…I was so sad to say goodbye. The new family I am with is really cool though. There is a mom, who is in the middle of a separation, and the father who is in denial of the separation and drops by the house unannounced all the time (which makes for some awkward situations), and their 3 kids who are all in their 20s. They just moved in to a new house, and therefore, don't have a telephone. So I can't make any outgoing calls and I can't receive any either. I'm definetly
40: getting a little homesick and I miss all you guys! I've made 1 friend here. She's pretty cool. She lived in Playa for 6 months now and has been showing me all the cheap things to do around town. I found the gay bar, but haven't had the chance to go there yet. The excursions here are expensive!!!! In Cuernavaca I could go on an excursion every Saturday and Sunday. Here, I can maybe afford to go on 2 – for the entire month. I've decided I'm going to visit Isla Mujeres where I can snorkel, zipline, swim, get a bike tour, rope cross (whatever that is), and kayak, with a free breakfast; this coming Saturday. I spent all this Saturday at the beach on a lounge chair under an umbrella reading and swimming with a waiter bringing me sodas. That was awesome!!! Plus, I want to swim with the dolphins! I can't think of another chance I'm gonna get to do that. I so wanna swim with the dolphins! The Spanish is going great. Well, kind of. I know this may seem hard for some of you to believe, but I've been accused of being too hard on myself here. Yes, yes, I know, very hard to believe ;) I just want to understand a conversation that is happening in front of me. Now, when I can't understand someone who is talking directly to me – I get a little frustrated with myself. But! I keep telling myself that its been 5 weeks, its not like a I can be fluent in 5 weeks. I still have 7 weeks to go – I have plenty of time. Plus, all these tenses – present, present progressive, preterite, future imperfect, yada yada yada – are driving me nuts. I did my laundry by hand on a washboard in the back yard the other day. Now that was a new experience! There was no shade, and I was in the direct sunlight…woooo! That was intense. The back of my neck has a serious tan now. J New house = no washing machine. I didn't bring that much clothes and I've been told that the lavanderias sometimes have a tendency to lose your clothes. How's everything going over there!?! I wanna know! Fill me in cuz I don't wanna feel left out. ;) I miss you guys! Sending you love! Heather
41: July 30 2008 Hi everyone! So its my last day in Playa del Carmen. Its kinda sad but I'm definetly looking forward to a change up of atmosphere. The majority of the students here are all super young 17-20 and are all into partying every night...and other things. I definetly met a couple cool people though, don't get me wrong on that one. Plus, everything is sooooo expensive here, well in comparison to the prices in Cuernavaca and what its supposed to be in Oaxaca. I'm looking forward to Oaxaca and bit of slower pace of things, and maybe not sweating out a litre of water everyday...sigh, I miss sleeping under a blanket. Lets see when was the last time I sent you guys an email...? Where did I leave off? Oh! I went to Isla Mujeres and swam with the dolphins! Isla Mujeres was totally awesome!!! Snorkeled, ziplined, tour of the cliffs, kayaked, panoramic pool, all you can eat food and cocktails, all day. Couldn't ask for a better Saturday! I took some pictures and was able to post a couple on my myspace page, but its a lil difficult to upload pics, because it takes FOREVER and frustrates the &%$ outta me. I swam with the dolphins too. That was so wonderful! I got to pet them, got a kiss on the cheek, a hug, hold their fins, and this thing called a foot push. Thats when two dolphins come up behind you, each with a (I can't remember what its called.......) mouth on my foot and push you for a like 50 feet. It was with enough force that they totally lifted me out of the water. I wish I could have gotten some pictures of that, but I didn't have anyone there with me and they were charging something like $25-30 per picture - so I decided to stick with my memories. I have to share this with you. There is a restaurant on the main strip in Playa called Babe's. Its a Thai restaurant owned by Swedish people. What makes this especially interesting is that its main decor is all about 1920 pinup girls - the one on the menu is flipping a hamburger. Also, you gotta love a Thai restaurant in Mexico that has mash potatoes and swedish meatballs on their menu. but to be honest, the food was great! I'm going back for dinner again tonight!
42: I hope that the internet access in Oaxaca is something like it is here. I found a internet cafe really close to the school! But if its kinda like it was in Cuernavaca I might not be able to check my email and other things nearly as often as I would like. But don't let that stop you!!! I want to hear from everyone! How's life? I've been gone for 2 months, what's been going on? Is everyone doing okay with the dakota shutting its doors? I miss every one of you...I'm almost done and I'll be home in no time! Until then and with much love, Heather aka Mini ps hey for all my lovely spanish speakers, write me back in spanish if you want and i can attempt to respond in spanish - no doubt with a ton of errors, but i'm workin on it August 19, 2008 Hi everyone!!! I'll be home in 12 days, woohooo!!!! But in 7 hours I'll be on a bus for a semi-spontaneous solo adventure to Puerto Escondido! I say semi-spontaneous because I was originally thinking that I would be going this Friday night, stay in PE Saturday day/night and be on a bus back to Oaxaca Sunday night. By the way, the bus ride is approx. 9 hours long. I'm taking a 11 pm bus tonight, so hopefully I can sleep through most of it. And this way, I can stay for 2 days/nights and get back on Saturday morning and not worry about running off to school the same morning I get back. The spontaneous part comes in specifically because I have no idea what hotel/motel I'll be staying at when I get there. I did do a little research today about hotels, etc...I have a map now and a list of suggestions for cheap h/motels in the area. Plus, its in the middle of the week and low season for tourists. I'll be okay. It supposed to be a beautiful beach town with a main strip with shops and restaurants. I'll take lots a pictures.
43: Originally, I was supposed to be volunteering at an orphanage, but unfortunately, those plans fell through. And this trip sounds to be little less of stressful way to spend my time...at least I hoping so anyways. A little about Oaxaca! Oaxaca is awesome! It is definitely my favorite city thus far. All the people are really nice, and there is soooooo much more culture here than Cuernavaca or Playa del Carmen. The zocalo, (town center square), is always busy with people just hanging out, or events. Every wed there is a dance for all the older people to come to in the middle of the square. Imagine at least 50 couples, the majority much older, dancing to a live band, while chairs surround the dancing area, and a ton of people sitting and standing to watch. Every wed. Also, every Friday, they have an arts stage set up in the square for live performances, musical and theatrical. Oaxaca also celebrates every possible thing they can, and does it with festivals and parades. You know how we have mother's day and father's day, and those are pretty big right? But, we also have secretary's day, but that's not so big. Well here they have all those days, including kid's day, architect's day, and a bunch more. Last week it was dia de taxistas, TAXI DRIVER DAY!!! There was a parade miles long of taxi drivers driving there taxis, flowers decorating their taxis, throwing candy from their car windows, and firecrackers going off everywhere - in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. Oaxaca has all sorts of stuff goin' on! Spanish is going all right. I know a lot more than I did, a hell of a lot more, but I still have a ton of trouble understanding what other people are saying to me. I may have the "advanced libro 3", but I can get lost so easily. However, I can get my point across if need be. That's what's important right? You might wonder why I'm heading off to PE in the middle of the week when I should be in class...well, 2.5 months of grammar, 5 hours a day, has finally gotten to me. I need a break. It was effecting my mood in class, and I didn't even want to go. SO! I'm taking a week break, and returning to classes for my final week. It'll be good for my mood and head. How's everything going with everyone? How's life people? I'm sure there will be
44: internet cafes in PE, so I'll be checking my emails. So, send me some! Love you all! Miss you much! Wish me luck with my semi-spontaneous trip! Heather
45: I AM HOME! | Santa Cruz, CA September 1, 2008