Rockport

After the Turkey Trot, we headed down to Rockport, a small town on the coast of Texas. While many Texans claim that Texas beaches are unimpressive, I on the other hand, think Texas beaches are pretty great. (When you come from the Pacific NW and must bring a winter coat on every beach trip [including those in the summer], a beach where you can wear a t-shirt & possibly even get a sunburn in November seems pretty darn awesome.) Funny how pretty much everything in life is relative, yeah?

On a vaguely related topic, although I’ve been here a few years, our proximity to Mexico still blows my mind. The thing I find most interesting is that although we’re so close to Mexico, culture/society/life in Austin feels like we’re a world away. I guess you could also say the culture/society/life in Austin feels like we’re a world away from Texas!

With this all said…enjoy the following photos from my Rockport venture:

 

Sex, Drugs + Cocoa Puffs…And Weekends + Swimmings Pools + Sunshine

  • Fact: I love reading.
  • Fact: I love owning books. I am a minimalist and do not like having STUFF. I don’t get excited about decorations, furniture or accessories. I do, however, get very excited about having books. (…and clothes, I will admit that).
  • Fact: My attention span + ability to focus in at an all-time low. Probably has something to do with this multi-tasking / over-stimulated / fast-paced / techno. – fiended millennial generation I am part of (ugh!).
  • Result: I have a sizable number of books that I have started to some degree…almost all waiting to be finished…
  • Fact: I love love love sunshine and being outdoors. Maybe it’s because I spent 15 years in Oregon where most of the time the skies were gray. Oregon is an absolutely beautiful place, but for everything, there is a tradeoff. We had gray skies but beautiful scenery, huge trees, and green everywhere.
  • There were a handful of summer months when there was sun; however, in high school and college I was either working, in school, and / or interning. …or practicing / at private lessons, rehearsal / string camp / etc. Freaking loved this stuff though. String camp was by far the highlight of my summers!

Anyway, I remember one summer I was inside and someone said something about the heat wave we were having. I remember thinking to myself: WTF? We’re in the middle of a heat-wave? Then I thought: How have I been so wrapped up in my work that I didn’t even know that was happening?

  • Fact: I’m bad at relaxing. Like…really really really bad at it. However, I am working on it. It’s hard for me to clear my head and do something enjoyable when there are 5.7 million other things I have to get done. However…again with this whole work / life balance thing I’m trying to get into my head…I have been getting better at taking bits of time to not multi-task and to do something enjoyable + relaxing.
  • Result: Pool time with a book! I am extremely lucky to have a beautiful pool at my complex. I am also lucky to have a few days each week that I can enjoy it during the daylight hours.
In case you needed a visual for the previous paragraph, here are my legs and my complex’s pool:
One of the books I have to finish is ‘Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs’ by Chuck Klosterman. Spent this past beautiful Sunday at the pool with this book. Love this writer…he’s very snarky…but in an intelligent and factual way.
  • Fact: Many people do things without thinking of the process about why they chose to do what they do. Acting without thinking. I suppose you can say many people think without thinking too. I guess that can also be called being brain-washed…or ignorant? Or Naïve? Or all of the above. Actually, let’s just call them ‘sheeple‘. More all-encompassing.
(=
Anyway, the short story long is that I was thoroughly enjoying this book. At the pool. In the sun.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pages along with some notes I wrote in the book. Enjoy:

¡Viva!

So, as I have spent the past week interning at a study abroad company, I’ve been nostalgically reliving my freaking awesome study abroad experience in Queretaro…already 2 years ago in a month of so. Crazy.

I pulled out the 56 videos I took during my study abroad and watched a handful – this is one of my favorites – this is video of the famous Mexican Grito on el dia de independencia, right in the center of Queretaro.  I love the spirit and Mexican pride coming from the Queretanos. Love it love it love it.

A Reflexion After Six Months Of Travel

I have been out of the country for the past six months and now am finally back in the states – in Salem, Oregon – to a life which has been so familiar to me for the past 14 years.

I have had some remarkable experiences beginning with my orchestra tour to Canada, followed by a family vacation in Europe, and most recently my study abroad adventures in Mexico. Last year at this time, my plans all seemed so foreign and far away (no pun intended); however, I look back now, and it feels as though these past six months have occurred in about 10 minutes.

Canada was a dream trip because I was able to play under Mr. Nelson’s direction again. It’s so easy to take for granted and lose appreciation for what you have, when you have this this/person/group/etc. on a daily basis. I didn’t realize how much I valued Mr. Nelson, his orchestra, and my fellow musicians until I graduated from Sprague and no longer had all of these things and people as part of my daily life. The trip was beautiful, and it was nice to have one last experience with these people after I could truly appreciate the uniqueness and special place this group has in my heart.

Europe with my family was also an amazing trip. As we all have become busier and busier with work and school, we sadly have less time for each other. This trip brought us closer and allowed us to appreciate one another. Out of everything we did and saw in Greece, Italy, and England – hands down the best part of the trip was seeing my Greek family. I have not seen them since I was five and as I have grown older, I have continued to appreciate the importance and value of family. I really hope that someday in the near future I will be able to return to Greece to visit everyone again. Also, I know I don’t have much time, but I would love to begin Greek lessons so that I am able to communicate with my family.

Athens was absolutely beautiful, the islands were breathtaking, the historical sites were unreal, and Italian coast was more than I could have ever expected. The month flew by, but looking back – it was one of the best months of my life and I am so grateful that my parents were willing and able to take my sister and me along for this beautiful experience.

Last but not least – Mexico. Where do I even begin? I suppose I can begin with saying my time in Mexico on the Queretaro program was more than I ever could have expected or dreamed. Everything seemed so surreal going into the program – I don’t think it really hit any of us that we would be in Mexico for four months until we boarded the airplane in Los Angeles and realized that the majority of the other passengers were Mexican, and everything was in Spanish. At this point everything seemed like such a blur: the plane ride to Mexico City, finding a bus to Queretaro, calling my host family at the bus station (and not having any idea what to say or really not understanding what Maru was telling me on the phone), sitting in my room on the very first day, thinking to myself that I was in a complete strange Mexican family’s house which I would be occupying for the following 16 weeks…

However, now I am back & Queretaro seems like home. My host family was amazing – more than I could have ever hoped for, I knew my way around campus, downtown & I could easily negotiate the crazy bus system. Although I am nowhere near fluent, I felt quite comfortable with my Spanish. I was comfortable with getting on a bus and taking a weekend trip to another Mexican city. I could understand mostly everything being said around me and I was in love with the city. I made some amazing friendship with other Mexican students who I know will be lifelong friends.

Most of all, when in Mexico, the most surprising and amazing change which happened was I gained a new family and 14 new best friends. During our orientation, I never would have guessed that our group would have become so close. In fact, I thought the opposite. I was certain I would not get along with the majority of the people in my group or Christine for that matter. We were all so different!

Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I love each and every person in our group, and I feel safe to say that this feeling is mutual. We were each other’s everything for four months because unlike here, we really didn’t have another other friendships, responsibilities, jobs, etc., We had each other y ya! I saw each and every one of these people day in and day out, at school, downtown, at nights and during excursions. We cooked, danced, laughed, cried, vomited (gross, but true) traveled…you name it and we did it together. I never would have imagined in a million years how much I care for these people and what a strong bond I feel with them.

It’s hard to describe my experiences in Mexico, and although I can talk about my time abroad, I know no one will really understand the true impact Mexico has had on me or the sentiments I feel towards my experience.

Of course I am excited to see my family and friends back here, but it feels very strange to be home. It feels as though nothing has changed, even though I know so much has! Mexico just seems like a dream to me – a vivid dream – but it’s hard to believe that less than a week ago I was living in beautiful sunny Queretaro, Mexico and now here I am, back in Salem, Oregon, preparing for another term at the U of O.

All in all, I have had the most amazing and memorable six months of my life. All of my experiences have completely opened my eyes. I have learned that all too often, we get caught up in our day to day rituals and forget that there is so much more that the world has to offer.

As I am back in Salem until I move to Eugene in January, I am getting anxious to take off again, to experience another part of the world I have yet to see! I am hoping to find an internship or study program in another country for summer 2008. The travel bug as definitely bit and I cannot wait for another adventure!

Chicken Parade

So…we went to a chicken parade. Yes, you heard me correctly…and yes, it was one of the most unreal things I’ve experienced in my life.

We waited in line for what seemed like forever (but I’m sure wasn’t at all). The bus finally arrived and we all piled onto the bus with the other Mexicans going to the festival. We got off the bus and…well…all I can tell you was that the streets were PACKED. There were Mexicans and paper mache chickens EVERYWHERE.

There was live music everywhere. All the streets along the festival route were packed with restaurants and vendors giving away trinkets and food – breads, cheeses, desserts, etc. Here I am with some tacos al pastor. The best tacos en el mundo (=

Well, I guess the tacos are gone. But dios mio, were they good (=

Here are some chickens up close:

I’m still not sure how this happened, but we turned our backs for 2 seconds, the next thing we know, Jesse has a paper mache chicken in hand:

A bit of footage that cannot even begin to depict the insanity of the desfile de los pollos (=

…and on that note…one of my last, if not the last post before returning back home to the states /=

Criminal Activity & Faith

In other news…there has been some criminal activity in my neighborhood lately. It makes me a little concerned especially because the neighborhood I live in is not sketchy at all. For example, a few days ago, the house of doctor who lives down there street was robbed. What gets me is that is was in broad daylight and she has a German Shepard, but apparently that didn’t get in the way of the robber. Also, the one that scares me the most is a guy pulled a knife on a woman the other night a street or two away from my house.

I know these types of things happen everywhere, but it is a little nerve wracking to know that it has been happening close to where I am staying. I feel like a pretty big target as it is, being an American female. There really isn’t much diversity here, so when there is someone who looks different here, they really look different – exhibit A: ME.

I find it a little comical…I was talking with my host family about all of the criminal activity and I asked them if they are nervous or scared of everything happening in our neighborhood. They said no and my host dad explained to me that in the Catholic religion, every person has an angel who watches over them, so they aren’t scared because their angel in watching. In response to that, I asked them where the heck were the angels of the woman who was attacked by the man with the knife or the doctor who was robbed and their response was “Quién sabes? Es un mysteria!” This translates to: Who know!? It’s a mystery! HMMM. I don’t know what to think about that (who am I kidding, of course I know what I think of that..), BUT…está bien I suppose. I know we can’t live life in fear, but it’s hard not to when I feel like a big enough target as it is, without all this sketchy activity happening.

Aside from this little hiccup, everything here really is safe! I am hardly ever alone here…I rarely walk alone, and I am always always always aware of my surrounds. I don’t walk down dark streets, I don’t have my ipod on, I usually walk down the middle of the street, and I am conscious of any sketchy behavior (I am saying all this now in a preemptive effort to avoid an e-mail filled with safely advice (-: ).

Anyway, today we are officially ½ way between me arriving here in Mexico, and my return! Crazy how time flies!!! Nos vemos en dos meses!!!

Learning To Cumbia

It is almost October! I cannot believe September has come and almost gone…where has the time gone?! Although it seems like an eternity since I was leaving PDX, time is just flying by like none other.

So, this week! Another normal week. I had a presentation with Sam on Quinceaneras in Cross Culture which went well. AND, Lulu is finally coming back to teach next week! Yay!

In art on Thursday we got to do another art project! This time Regina brought in a massive bag of supplies and instructed us to make something in the neoclassical style. My group which included me, Ali, and Sam decided to make a replication of a painting we had seen in the art museum on Tuesday. Turned out well. I LOVE art class! We learn so much and it is so much fun. Next art class I get to talk about neoclassic composers and music styles. I am so excited because neoclassic/romantic is my absolute favorite type of music. Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, Chopin, Liszt. I love them all and the great this is I get to bring in music from these composers to share with the class! I am excited to play the Serenade for Strings by Tchaik. Because it’s the actual recording of my orchestra when we performed in Vienna!

After class we had a dance lesson – this week: Cumbia! It was so much fun and I am loving dancing. I cannot wait to go out and test out my newly acquired skills!

Mom and Dad, I am also loving that you can call my cell phone down here! Please call often, I love talking to you two!

Today after class I went to a place called the mall of the Americas with Ali. It was fun, but I must admit, I am missing Target, Trader Joes, Old Navy, and even a US Walmart if you can believe that!!

I love it here but I do miss everyone back home. Tia told me she saw Niki the other day at school and I got so jealous because Niki I miss you!! Also, Tia told me her tap teacher is Gina who I absolutely ADORE and I was jealous again!! Of course I would never give up this experience because it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, but I wish I could be in both places at once to get the best of both worlds. I wish life worked like that sometimes! (=

I got a bunch of papers and tests back this week and know that I am doing just fine in school! I am learning so much (and its so stress free!). I was really worried about my composition test especially but I ended up getting a low B on the multiple choice part and a high A on the written part which = a high b on the test. Not amazing, but not bad by any means. It’s a little funny…in that class I am currently learning about past participles, gerund phrases, nominal/possessive, etc. which is all stuff I though I would be finished with after I took grammar and the lsdt last year! Guess that stuff will follow me forever!

Other than that, all is well. I wish I was fluent in Spanish, but that is coming, little by little. The thing I am dealing with is…well…because I am a journalism student, I am especially aware of proper sentence syntax, proper grammar, and the use of words in the correct context (sidenote…don’t judge my language skills from my blog posts…not a shining example of my best work – ha!). Anyway, I know here that in every sentence and phrase I say there are mistakes along with my vocabulary of a 2nd grader which is rough on me because in English, my language ability is so different! I am struggling with not being able to express and represent myself in Spanish as I would in English. Granted, I know that I am learning and it will come in time, however; I am not good at being patient and I want it now!!! (=

Well, more later. Pachuca in the morning with my parents and Alisyn! Tonight we’re going to see a music called Monsters! Also, I am getting to be quite the pool shark down here (kinda). Dad, we will have to play when I come home!

MONSTERS: THE MUSICAL

P.S. Mom- thank you for the letter…although it was EMO (no emo!), it made my day to get mail from home!! Any little thing from the states puts a smile on my face!!!

More later!!!!!!!

P.S. Everyone needs to eat cactus…it is so good! It doesn’t compare to broccoli, but it comes close!

 

Another Day Living in Mexico

Today was so laid back and I loved it! I was running late for whatever reason and just was dreading going to 318 at 8 am this morning. God must have read my mind because ten minutes before I left for school, Christine called to tell us that Pati was sick and my 8 class was canceled!

Because my next class wasn’t until 11:45, I basically had the whole morning to do whatever I wanted to. Amazing how much stuff I can get finished if I put my mind to it. I finished and proofread my two papers due this week. I cleaned and organized my room. I too a siesta. I listened to music and read my book. Lots of stuff was accomplished in this time and I still had extra time – it’s weird to have so much free time!

At 11 am Sam and I took the bus to school…had class from 11:45 – 1:15 (Cross Cultural Seminar). I really do love this class. Our next cross cultural class we’re taking a fieldtrip to a market! I’m so excited!

Sam and I went to the computer lab, printed off our papers and took the bus back home.

For comida we had carrots with broccoli, black beans, rice, and chicken with cactus! I had never tried cactus before, but I am really enjoying it!

At 4, Sam and I walked to Gabi’s school (we left the house wearing sunglasses, and by the time we arrived, it was POURING.

Soaking wet. Dirty feet. Completely drenched. All within about 30 seconds!

We walked to the café afterwards and now here we are, at the internet café, doing homework, updating blogs, and doing whatever else. Why the heck did I get so lucky with this experience?!?!

Americans Could Benefit From Drinking More

Today I only had one class in the morning from 9 – 10 am! Sam’s host mom had gone to Mex. City for the day so we went back to her house and hung out.

After trying to work the washing machine for a ½ hour (no exaggeration) we made ourselves tortillas and watched some tv. Quick sidenote…for the most part I love the food here, but gosh do I hate corn tortillas! I guess that is ok since they are made from lard, but ugh. Flour tortillas are definitely the way to go!

At 4:30 Sam and I met the rest of our art history class at Gabi’s school. We proceeded to an art museum where our teacher took the six of us on a tour for our class today. It was quite interesting. The most interesting thing to me had to do with a doorway. In the museum there is a tiny arched doorway into another room. We learned the reason that the door is so small is so that when passing through, people were forced to bow in order to get through. This way, people had no choice but to bow to the gods.

Class ended at 6:30 where we proceeded to go to an internet café. I had a drink which honestly tasted like vanilla frosting in a glass. It was so ridiculously rich, I could hardly handle it. It was under the “skinny” menu but I have serious doubts that it was even partially healthy in any way shape or form.

After the café, we met up with Elizabeth, Sheri, Dan, and Torrin and went to a bar for a little bit. This may sound weird, but I love that drinking is such a huge part of this culture. I feel that because drinking is so – guarded I suppose – in the United States, when people do decide to drink (especially people my age), it gets out of hand. However, because drinking here is so prominent, it is no big deal to go out for a drink or two with some friends. It is so much nicer and although people will get drunk anywhere, I feel that the novelty here isn’t as prominent because people can basically drink whenever they want.

Takeaways From Mexican Culture

I took the Mexican buses today alone to and from school! It went smoothly and I got to school with a ½ hour to spare.

Here’s my school, the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ).

Class went well. My cultural seminar teacher brought us cookies today. I really love that class. Today, we learned about currency. For example, the people on the currency on US money are all people from the past…we focus more on the founding fathers and the beginning of our liberty. However, on Mexican currency, the people represent various stages of the progress of Mexico throughout many many years.

Also, my teacher is friends with the current president – Caldéron! She said they were neighbors growing up and they always played as kids. Lulu (mi profesora) said it was funny because Caldéron would always say that he was going to be president – even when he was very young. They would always say: “Yeah yeah, ok, whatever..!” but look – he’s now the president of Mexico!

After class I went to the library to type up a paper. Felt good to have that out of the way!

Today is my host Mom’s b-day. She said that her friends are giving her three different parties. None of them are at our house, but they are throughout the day. I got her a Greek cookbook. I will have to give it to her tomorrow, but I’m sure she will like it because she loves to cook! Today for lunch we had cooked bananas, rice with carrots and peas, sautéed mushrooms with green beans and chicken, salad, flan, jello, and apple pie. So much food.

Nacho is having the best time testing me on learning the names of body parts. Forehead, elbows, knees, eyelids, ribs…you name it and I am learning it. haha I never learned the names of body parts, so I guess now is the time to learn!

At 4:30 Sam came over and we took off to Gabi’s school. The weather was nice and sunny when we left. About five minutes into our walk, the skies turned grey, it began to pour, and the street began to flood (and of course we didn’t bring umbrellas). We ran to the closest covering but it was took late. We were soaked. The thunder and lightening and flooding was ridiculous…it hasn’t stopped raining! While we were taking refuge under a tree this interesting man came over with a ½ eaten cob of corn covered in some sort of red hot sauce and a rose in the other mad and kept trying to shake our hands and talk to us. It was quite irritating, but funny to look back on now. We just said, “no necesitamos, estamos bien” but he wouldn’t leave. SO, we ran across the (flooded) street and continued on to Gabi’s school.

HERE I AM COMPLETELY SOAKED. The sad thing is, this picture hardly does the rain any justice.

Here is a video of the ridiculous rain:

We had to go to Gabi’s school to speak to some professors from the education department from U of O regarding our experience thus far in Querétaro. Four of my group members and myself met them in a room where we were fed tamales (spicy and sweet!) and just talked for an hour or so. These professors were given a grant to study the Mexican school system so that they can better understand and create a more efficient curriculum in the Oregon school systems. It was neat to talk to the professors and a good chance to express our experiences and feelings regarding the subjects of education, culture, Mexicans, schooling, etc. in a more intimate setting.

Sam, Ali, Sheri, and I stopped for coffee before we left to go home. By the time I got home, Sam and I were completely drenched and dirty from the massive puddles in the streets. However, it was awesome and I will never forget this experience (even though I’m not a fan of the whole drowned rat look).

In random news:

We are organizing a mini-excursion to Wal Mart on Friday which I am quite excited for.

Nacho and Maruca invited Sam over for comida tomorrow for a mini b-day celebration

Mexicans do not have b-day cakes like we have in the states. They also do not eat ice cream with cake – they have jello!

I tried flan for the first time today.

I will try to add pictures to my blogs as soon as I can. It is difficult because the internet is pretty sketchy, but I will add more pictures as soon as I can!!!

I am still trying to figure out the Mexican transportation system. I am attempting to understand why they bother painting lines on the roads to divide the lanes, as no one follows the designated lanes. Also, why are there not more accidents? As terrible as I think Mexican drivers are – they sure are talented as I have yet to see an accident yet, even though they drive like maniacs! AND, is it a game to try and hit pedestrians? Just the American ones? Who knows…

Anyway, I’m sure there’s more, but I’m tired and have an early start tomorrow!!

Hasta luego!

Adjusting To A Slower Life

So, I am loving it here more and more each day. I don’t think I could like it better, but another day passes and it continues to improve.

Today, Sunday, was unusual for me because I had so much free time! I set my alarm for 7 am and was ready by 8, however had no where to be until noon. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself because I honestly never EVER have free time in which I don’t need to be doing ANYTHING. So, after realizing I had 4 hours, I organized my book a little, called Mom and Dad, and took my book out to the balcony where I read until Nacho and Maruca came home. I have been loving reading…I have read about six books this summer during my vacations and my trip here – before this I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book front to back and it’s because I just have not had the time!

After breakfast (cereal, fresh fruit, eggs, tortillas, HOMEMADE APPLE PIE), Sam and I took off to the centro where we were meeting everyone to work on homework.

Here’s Maru’s apple pie. One of her many ridiculously delicious recipes.

Sam, Dan, and I walked home and Sam came to my house for awhile after returning. At first, we needed to ask Nacho some questions about México for homework, but we ended up talking for about 3 hours (in Spanish mind you) about everything from various students in the past, to politics, vacations, and obesity. I have actually had some pretty interesting conversations regarding obesity with him. He showed Sam and I how to make an amazing quesilla. SO FREAKING good. Oh my gosh I am loving the food here. I have decided that I need to work on cooking when I get home…as much as I love spaghetti and broccoli, I think I need a little more variety in my diet (=

After our snack and talking with Nacho, we hung out for a bit more…watched some TV, and Maruca came up and watched with us for a bit until Sam left to go home. Now I am here, about to do a little homework, organize things for the week, and then go to bed! (I have class at 8 three times a week, which means I have to leave at 7!).

Tomorrow is Marucas b-day. I asked her if she had plans and it sounds like her friends are having lots of parties for her! It should be nice. I bought her a Greek cookbook for her b-day so I hope she likes it (and I hope she can use it as it is in English!).

It has been so interesting for me to get to know everyone on my group. I am almost positive I would not be friends with any of these people had we not been in the same Querétaro group; however, I have been having the best time getting to know each of them. Many of my friends have similar backgrounds and lives so it has been so fascinating to learn more about these people’s lives. Dan, for example, was raised in Taiwan and began living in the U.S. seven years ago when he started high school. Naturally I always am asking him questions…haha he probably feels that every time we hang out it’s another game of 20 questions, but I find other cultures – especially other cultures I have not been around – so interesting!

Also, (brace yourselves Mom and Dad) I have been LOVING not having internet at my house! I am beginning to realize how much internet consumes my life and how much it takes away from other important aspects of everyday business. Granted, I do like being able to hop on the computer to check a recipe or find a definition, but I am so distracted when it is available 24/7. I know that I am a busy person, but I also know that in the past I have wasted A LOT of time because of excess of unimportant things. I guess it’s the American way…excess of everything…internet, food, belongings, anything and everything tangible it seems. We were watching Apocalypto on the bus to Bernal yesterday. While watching the movie with the indigenous people I got to thinking that even though many years ago times were difficult and survival was an everyday challenge, it seems that life was also so much more simplistic and black and white.

Anyway, I need to get going…organize myself for the week…week 2 of 16! Geez, I can’t believe one week has already passed. These next four months are going to FLY.

Un poco en espanol…

Cada día, pienso que puedo hablar más bien. También, puedo oír y comprender muchos más cosas. Si no conozco una palabra, puedo describir la palabara y todo esta bien. Estoy aprendiendo cosas, frases y palabras cada día. Pienso que mi espanol es 100 porcentaje mejor en solo una semana! Tengo feliz y no puedo esperar para diciembre porque pienso que mi espanol es va a mejorar mucho. Mi problema principio es que casi siempre habla en ingles cuado soy con mis aimigos que es una cosa que necesito mejoror si quiero hablar espanol más bien. Haber, todo está bien y tengo