Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cultural and Social Conventions

On Friday the 14th, I went to a cultural fair for class, it was wonderful!  There were booths for nearly every country in the world.  Most had food and music, and people were dancing (especially the Cuban booth).

The only thing that was kind of bothersome was that a lot of the booths from other countries had few to no persons from said country.  The Cuban booth had about 8 people working it, and only 1 person was actually from Cuba.  Regardless it was great to go to this festival, and to speak with people from other countries.
Two of my classmates and myself in front of the Colombia booth
We were asked to talk to people from Spanish speaking countries about what their countries were like which was very interesting.  The most common issue was economic problems, with many people in poverty.  Another problem was that that most of the governments were corrupt and abusing their power.  There was definitely a lot of talk about not having more rights for the people of some of these countries.

What they shared positively about was the culture: the food, the people, the history, and the dancing.  It's amazing that people care so much about their culture.  In the US, most have assimilated so much that they don't know about their own heritage other than the names of their ethnicity/ethnicities.

While in here in Mexico, on Saturday the 15th, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to La Mole Comic Con which is like Comic Con back home.  I'm a big nerd so I enjoy conventions for pop culture.  La mole is different in that everything is in 1 room, where at home there are panels for discussions and activities.
Original Batmobile from the 1960's
On Sunday 16th, (or today) I made it to the beautiful city of Guanajato, unfortunately my host mom told me the night life is better but I did not have time to stay for 2 days because I had a large amount of homework.

Anyways, this city is in a valley and a very steep hill.  We found some stairs and just climbed some stairs that became steeper and steeper.  What was also interesting was that these small hallways with steep stairs were also neighborhoods!  Imagine having to walk steep stairs everyday just to go to work, their leg muscles must be amazing, haha!
Center of Guanajato  
I am far off in the distance!
It was a good weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Financial Aid Dilema, and reflection of time passed in Mexico

So as of tomorrow I will have been here for 2 whole months!  I can't believe how fast it is going!  It's been getting hotter and hotter throughout the days as well.  Which has me slightly concerned since my host mom said the warm weather brings out the cockroaches!  Ewww!  I'm not afraid of them, they're just disgusting, haha.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Mexico and improving my Spanish skills. I can tell I've learned a lot already and that my Spanish is getting better--very slowly but it's definitely improving.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Traveling in Mexico

While being in MexicoI have discovered that traveling here seems to be easier than at home.

For the most part that is, for example the bus system here is actually very dependable.
Local Buses: They don't have an exact schedule but usually you don't have have wait more than 10 minutes.  The bus routes are slightly difficult to figure out when trying to learn the street names.

Travel Buses: I've mentioned these before, more specifically Primera Plus, which is the nicest bus in the station (there are about 6-8 different companies), and they give student discounts.  You can buy the tickets the day of, or buy in advance (which I recommend for holidays or long weekends).

Taxis: I've never taken so many taxis in my life, they're cheap but they do add up after a while.  Also maybe 1/4 of the drivers knew where my house was, (my street isn't very common), so I learned to say I need to go to the corner of *insert 2 intersecting street names close by* and that works almost all the time.

Planes: Are also surprisingly cheap--also when in advance.  I personally have not taken any planes while here, but I've had several friends say they bought round-trip tickets for places such as Cancun for $300.

I have a large list of places I want to go while in Mexico, but unfortunately not enough money or time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Campus Life

So this particular blog, I will be talking about campus life, and the sort of things that can be done and/or seen on campus.  I took a lot of photos from my phone and unfortunately I do not know all the names of the places, so please bear with me. 
First off, the TEC is about half the size of CMU which is nice because some classes start within 5 minutes of each other.
The TEC mascot: Borrega (Ram)

The Main Plaza

I am not sure of the actual name of it, but here are a few photos!
The school has a very open set-up, with hallways that overlook the plaza(s) as you can see in the left photo. Fountains are quite common in Queretaro, not just on campus--the campus has 2 that I know of.
The right photo is still in the main plaza but a closer look at the buildings' setup.  

Sitting Areas
There are a lot of sitting areas on campus!  Benches, picnic tables, etc.  Some people sit and/or lay in the grass (like at CMU) but most tend to sit in designated spots. This particular spot is across from

The TEC Gym

The gym is smaller, but it has everything ranging from cardio to strength training.  The exercise classes are free!  They have classes ranging from dancing, weight training, boxing, yoga, and aerobics.  
One of the things that they told us at orientation was to make sure to take care of our physical health while here.  I personally have taken advantage of the gym, and I work out at least 3 times a week because I want a healthy well-being while here.   

The gym is always closed on Sundays

Some of the buildings
 In the left is photo two buildings, the left has the school of business and the right is for the school of media.
Across from these two buildings is an Oxxo--which is like a 7-11 convenience store.  There are several similar stores like a snack shack and cafe on campus, but I like this the most since it's cheaper and has a large variety.

Palm trees! I like this building the most (I have 1 class, 1 club in it) and it's all because of the palm trees.
I don't remember the name of this building and what department(s) are/is in it.
The buildings here also have a numbering system, I believe it goes to 15?
So the way classrooms work for example is 4323, the first number 4 is the building, the second number 3 is the floor, and last two numbers is the room number.

Other fun stuff!
This is the campus "T" for TEC, it is made of wood, I believe.  What is fun about it, is that he travels all over campus.  I'm not sure who is in charge of moving him (or if anyone is in charge of moving him) but he gets put in different places.  For those of you wondering why it hasn't been stolen, the TEC is a gated university with 24 hour surveillance and security.  You have to scan your ID in order to enter/leave campus--cars included.

Anyways, I want to take pictures of it in various places on campus and treat it like the traveling gnome.

Now I have not ridden on this yet, but I hope I will before I leave.  There is a mini-bus on campus that drives around and drops off/picks up student, faculty and guests.  It's free too!
Another cool part about this campus is there are bikes on campus, free for anyone to use (or you can bring your own) some have baskets as well.  Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of the free bikes, but you can see them (most are blue/yellow) in front of the mini-bus.

There are more places I need to take photos of, such as the library and the International Programs office, but I will have to update that later.  As for now, time to study!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Easy Week

After what seems like years, I finally got over being sick!

My classes so far, seem more laid back than back home with exception of some classes having a large work load.   All of my classes are in Spanish, but I am in all international student classes so the advantage is that they speak a little slower.  It's still 100% in Spanish, so at times things can still get confusing.

I have 2 extra curricular classes, the first is Photography the 2nd is Salsa.  I really like the Photography class, we're learning the basics of the technical parts and photo-taking.  This class is difficult because it is in 100% regular speed (which is fast) Spanish, but my professor is very kind and very patient.  He really tries to help each student.  Unfortunately for my Salsa class, it started a week late, then she cancelled one of our classes the first week we actually started.  I don't know if I will continue it.

This past weekend, I was invited to a party for my host mom's family.  I don't remember the name of the town we went to, but it was very small, maybe half the size of Mount Pleasant?  Her family was very kind and welcoming, and of course very generous with the food.  Once the first batch of food was gone, they either made more, or they would eat snacks.  They all were very patient with me and my poor Spanish speaking skills.

At one point, I played board games with the kids, which was quite fun.  They asked questions mostly about music, such as did I like Taylor Swift or One Direction, did I like rock or pop etc.  At one point a little girl between the ages of 6-8 was helping me with my Mexican Monopoly money because one thousand is "mil" and one million is "millon."  If they spoke too fast I would get them mixed up.

One of the little boys, maybe 8-10, seemed very confused by me.  So I explained to him that the reason I was talking strangely was because I learning Spanish.

I didn't take any pictures at the family party unfortunately.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Illness, Excursions, and College in Mexico

Center of Querétaro
Unfortunately I have been pretty sick since last week going back and forth between some sort of cold/flu-like illness that's been going around the TEC and some stomach problems since I'm not used to the environment/food here.  This caused me to feel very tired and I didn't help that I wasn't sleeping very well, so all I've been doing with my spare time is resting.

Today I'm feeling pretty good.  My host mom Lulú, has been very kind and helpful for making me feel better. She said getting sick was very normal, especially coming from an area of extreme cold, to the desert with extreme heat and cold in the same day, it's also very dry compared to home.  She said it will take time for my stomach to adjust, but that's ok because they have pepto bismol here!

Antique buildings, and antique Church
Center of Querétaro

Luckily I had a few days while being sick that I felt ok, so I was able to see some sites.

Del Centro or "The Center" is the historic downtown neighborhood and business that has a lot of the old buildings and roads (lots of cobblestone!)  It has a lot of old school charm, warmth, and lots of bright colors.

Last weekend I was able to take an excursion to a place called Peña de Bernal which is about 45 minutes away from Querétaro.  It is one of the largest monoliths (of single stone or rock) in the world.  My goal was to climb to the top, unfortunately gravity and the extreme changes in altitude were against me.  At home, Mt Pleaseant is about 750ft/228m above sea level and FLAT, and Peña de Bernal is 7,087ft/2160m--at it's base.  At it's peak, 8,235 ft/2510m.  Some of the girls and myself had every intention of making it to the top, but it was brutal and hot--and we were under a time limit due to other things on the itinerary.  We made it about half of the way, which was a lot since there was no specific path and it was very rocky.  A few of the guys and girls made it to the top (I applaud them).  One thing I've learned from my big sister,Alicia, who has worked in several national parks for about 6-8 years, has told me never to push yourself and if you need a break then take one.  When hiking it's best to take your time or you run the risk of altitude sickness and exhaustion.

View from halfway

Examples of spices and ingredients
Sugar Skulls and Deer

While in Bernal we also got to visit a "Dulce" or Sweets Shop.  They showed us how they made candy in the early 1900's and compared to the modern version of today.

School started last week and has actually been pretty good.  Text books seem to be done a little bit differently, either 1. you're required to buy one (not sure from where?), 2. your professor give you a book that you print out, or 3. your professor just doesn't use a book and gives hand out or has online readings.  I have mixed feeling about it, mostly because none of my classes have actual books which is nice because it is free and we're not paying insane amounts of money for books.  However I keep all of my textbooks for my both my majors for references and I don't get any for this semester.  One of my classes is a more "hands-on" class about Mexican culture, so next week we'll be going to the art museum in the Center which I am very excited about.

Some cultural differences I have noticed, I was completely unaware that in Mexico when greeting someone you do the "air kiss" on the cheek kind of like in Spain or France.  A friend told me before I came to Mexico (though I forgot), but she also said it doesn't mean they're hitting on you; it's a form of politness.  Even one of my professors did this with me, but I think it was more of a "welcome to Mexico" since I told him I was from the U.S. 

Personal space here is smaller.  In the US most people seem comfortable with about 1.5-2.5 feet of distance when talking to other people.  Here in Mexico it's about a foot.  It's not a problem, I'm just not used to it.

So that's about it for now, I'm going to probably go take a nap since I am still a little sick.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

After spending a few days here...

... I can already tell I'm going to love it here!
I had a rocky start mostly because my plane rides were rough, and the layovers were rough as well.

On Wednesday I met my host family, who are very very nice.
Lulu, Jose = Host parents
Jose Luis, Kiko = Host brothers
Paulina = Host sister

However, there is a woman who lives above me, Claudia, and 2 more girls who live here who are on vacation!  Also in February there will be another international student from Japan.  (I'm not sure how long he'll be here?)  Their home is large, and very pretty!  It's definitely the traditional style Mexican home with lots of color!  (no pictures as of yet)
My first meal that my host mother made me:
Cantaloupe, ham & cheese sandwich, and a carrot cream salad with raisins and nuts!

My first night my host family took me to Walmart--yes Walmart, to buy some necessities like shampoo.  We also stopped by this wonderful bakery where I got to meet one of the bakers.  He uses one the largest brick ovens I had ever seen!  I also got to take a "torta," or muffin (that's what it looked like to me)

I got stung by a bee, that was very unpleasant for me.  I had never been stung before in my 27 years of life! My host family was nice about it even I was freaking out because one of my siblings is allergic to bee stings.

Then I had my first day of orientation at the TEC on January 9th.  This was actually a lot of fun!  Some students didn't care for the silly games we played, but I enjoyed them.  I was on team "Armarillo" or yellow.  There was a little "welcome parade" in which all the departments lined up and welcomed the international students.  However there were a few Mexican students included into the orientation--I'm not sure why?  Throughout orientation most everyone spoke in both English and Spanish, but with all the other other international students there was French, Portuguese, German, Finnish, Korean, etc.  

The 2nd day of orientation was more about getting to know the rules and how classes worked, where to turn in important papers that the school needs, etc.  This was also the time to sign up for extra classes, which are more like clubs.  So I signed up for a photography class, and Salsa lessons!  One of my goals while studying abroad: I need to learn how to do some sort of dance from Mexico.  The best part--the classes are free!  They have things ranging from volunteering, gym: swimming, boxing, pilates, weight lifting, etc, art: dancing, fine arts, theater, etc.  It's great because you can pick as many as you want!

So that night a lot of us went out and were able to see some of the night life.  I really want to go to a discoteca even though I can't dance!  We were invited to another students home, and the view was amazing!  Unfortunately I did not bring my camera, all I had was my phone.
Rooftop, left side taken from camera phone

Rooftop, right side taken from camera phone
There's so much more that has happened but unfortunately I need to go to bed, classes start tomorrow!