Monday, January 26, 2009


Hi everybody! This weekend was so amazing! We visited Taxco, the silver capital of Mexico, which meant LOTS of shopping for jewelry. My FAVORITE kind of shopping :)

So we got to the bus stop on Saturday at 9:45 and we were supposed to leave at 10:10. Unfortunately, the bus only runs every hour from Cuernavaca to Taxco, and the 10:10 and 11:10 busses were sold out. So, we had to decide if we wanted to go at 12:10, or if we wanted to buy tickets for Sunday instead. We all really wanted to go that day, though, so we bought our tickets for 12:10 and walked around el centro. One of the girls had done something to her toenail the night before (she stubbed her toe and... well, it didn't look bad at all, but it's kind of gross to talk about), so we went to the pharmacy to get some gauze, tape, and iodine aand then we walked down to el centro (it was really close) and sat on some benches while another girl cleaned it and wrapped it for her. Then we walked around the black market for a while. I didn't buy anything, and they even had Twilight on DVD. But I don't like to support things like that. I'm not trying to be high-and-mighty or anything, but I really like to support the artists of music and movies and stuff, and I don't exactly feel comfortable with illegal activities, either. But it was interesting to see it. They had everything imaginable there, from Abercrombie and Fitch to portable phones. It was crazy.

It was finally time to get on the bus, so we made our way back to the bus station. Have I told you about the bathrooms yet? I think so, but I'll tell you again. They charge you to get in (3 pesos this time), and you're lucky if the toilets have seats, let alone toilet paper. It's gross. And at a bus station? That much more disgusting. *shudders* Anyway, we watched a movie called "Next" on the way to Taxco (it's Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel... that ought to tell you something about the quality of the movie... top it with Spanish dubbing, and it was quite interesting!)- the ride was an hour and a half, so we watched the whole movie. And the bus was SO COOL! It had these things on the seats in front of you that you could pull down, and they would sort of connect with your seat to form a foot rest like on a recliner! It was SO COOL. (see picture of legs)

Once we got to Taxco, we had to go up these REALLY steep hills, and I was having flashbacks to the mountain in Tepoztlan. Of course, these were streets, not hiking routes, so it wasn't as bad, but it was just as crazy steep and it definitely made it hard to breathe. Plus, Javier was walking really fast, which didn't help much. But once we got to the town square it was awesome! There's this beautiful Baroque church called La Iglesia de Santa Prisca, and the architecture was amazing! (see pictures) It was so detailed and extravagant and grandiose and... well, you get the point. But it was so tall!! It was really cool.
After we walked through the church and took a bunch of pictures, we went shopping! It was literally a town of jewelry shops. I don't think there was any other kind of store around. Well, not in the town square, where we were. The jewelry in the actual square (it was more of a circle than a square, but whatever) was kind of pricey, but the shops that lined the street leading up to the square were a LOT more inexpensive. We spent about an hour going from store to store, looking for jewelry. It was SO MUCH FUN! I love shopping, but shopping for jewelry? I could do it all day. Seriously. We went down the street and went into every shop and looked at all the jewelry. I kind of had an idea of what I wanted. I knew I wanted earrings ("aretes" in spanish), and I was thinking about getting a ring, and I knew I had to get something silver, because it was the silver capital of Mexico. Well, I went through all the shops and then decided to go back to one of the first shops I saw, because they had some earrings that I liked and they were silver. I didn't want to buy them the first time I was there, though, because I wanted to explore my options. I didn't even end up buying the ones I originally wanted, because the backs were too small and didn't look right in my ears, so I tried some others. I ended up getting these really classy hanging earrings that were just silver (well, not pure silver, obviously... I don't have that kind of money) and kind of twist in the middle... I can't really describe them. Maybe I'll take some pictures and post them :) I also ended up getting another pair of earrings from the same little shop but a different vendor (I'll explain that, don't worry) that were dangly and had blue gems (which matched my shirt!) and were kind of sparkley... they were really cute!
Okay, so the "shops" along the street were kind of different... they were like booths that you would find lining a street, but the booths were inside and there were two or three vendors (at least) through each door. It was pretty cool. So in each "shop" there were actually a few different vendors. Anyway, you get the picture.
So, after I bought my jewelry, Laura and I were hungry (we didn't bring lunch, we wanted to eat there, and everyone else had brought their lunch and ate it before we went shopping), and we still had an hour, so we went to this little restaurant/cafe/thing for lunch. We stood in the entryway for a couple minutes, unsure of what to do. People were sitting at tables, and looking at menus, so we figured we should just sit at a table. We were debating on whether we were supposed to order at the counter (because it was kind of like a cafe) or if we should wait to be seated or if we should sit down... it was kind of confusing. But we sat, and a waiter brought us menus. I got three small quesadillas and a bottle of water, and Laura got taquitos and a mango milkshake-type-thing (she asked me if she should get strawberry or mango... I said mango). After we ate, we weren't sure what to do. A busboy came by and took our plates and stuff... but the waiter wasn't bringing the check. I had seen other people with their checks at the table, so I didn't think we were supposed to go up to the counter. So we sat there for a few minutes and tried to look like we were chatting (seriously, we were discussing how we should act like we were talking... it was hilarious!) and we couldn't get the attention of the waiter, so then we decided to stand up and ask our waiter what to do, and just as we got up to ask about the check, he said he would bring it to our table... it was really awkward. And we weren't sure if we were supposed to leave a tip or not (because you aren't supposed to tip taxis), but Laura said they had left a tip when she went out once, so we left a tip. It was great food, it was just kind of awkward.
After we ate, we sat in the middle of the town square and waited until we were supposed to meet Javier. We met a little boy who was selling gum and we talked to him for a little while. He was adorable, and it was sad that he was walking the square, trying to sell gum to tourists. There were a lot of little kids doing that. I didn't have any change, otherwise I would have bought some.
The bus ride home was uneventful, and Laura and Callie (the girl in the pic above) and I called a taxi to get home, but it took FOREVER for it to show up, which was annoying. But we got home just fine, and all in all it was an excellent day :)
I'll update again soon... we're going to salsa class tomorrow!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Are you freaking kidding me?

Okay. I just have to tell you all how incredibly disappointed I am. It seems that Mexico does not get NBC (at least not that I could find). That wasn't too bad, because I forgot to look until AFTER The Office had started last night, so I wouldn't have been able to watch it anyway. But just now I got on, because they put all the new episodes online, and I got to the page with all the videos, and I waited for it to load... and it had a little error message that said, "We're sorry, but the clip you selected isn't available from your location. Please select another clip."
So. Apparently the Mexican government does not want its people to watch The Office. I can't help but wonder why. Is it because of Oscar? Maybe they were offended when Michael threw him the welcome back fiesta, and it was full of ridiculous stereotypes? Ugh. I mean, we've been talking about corruption in the government, but I thought it had to do with gasoline and drug cartels, not paper production! *sigh*
Anyway, to those of you who don't get The Office references- it's okay, I forgive you :)

So I have homework tonight! Yay! (Not.) It's actually DUE tonight, which is why I'm not out with my friends right now. But that's okay, we're all going to Taxco tomorrow (Silver Capital of Mexico!), so we'll have plenty of time to bond. I'm excited to go, because I haven't been anywhere but school since Tuesday, really. I've been doing that thing where I hole myself up in the house and read. I'm getting kind of sick of it, though, so I think that means I'm getting accustomed to life here in Mexico. Still a little nervous about going out at night, but I think next time everyone goes out, I will, too. It won't be bad if we're in a big group.

Anyway, back to my homework. I learned something cool! We're talking about the Golden Age of Mexican Film, and the director I'm writing about, Emilio "El Indio" Fernández (maybe some of you have heard of him... he's really famous, and I'm pretty sure I had heard of him before this report) is the guy they used to model for the Oscar statue! Cool, no?

Well, I don't really have much else to say tonight. Nothing too exciting happened this week. I'm sure I'll have much to report tomorrow, along with some more pictures.

Hope all is going well!


PS: If I hadn't just watched all the seasons of The West Wing, I would have been REALLY surprised at how much Obama seems to be accomplishing in these first few days in office. But, of course, I know that a president really only has 100 days to accomplish anything. Thank goodness for TV.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Okay, well I wrote this yesterday, and apparently I forgot to post it! Oops. And just so you know how dorky I really am, I went through the whole post and changed every "today" to "yesterday." I wanted it to sound right. :)

Monday. Well, Monday was my first day of classes, and it was pretty good! We had orientation in the morning, so we all missed our first class of the day, and orientation was… well, it was an orientation, so you can imagine what it was like. A group of people in a room, a guy telling us how the schedule is going to work (although all of us from NAU are on a different schedule, so it didn’t apply), and the obligatory orientation video with a man and a woman named Steve and Melissa asking each other questions and talking about things we need to know (Steve: Gee, Melissa, it sure is too bad that there aren’t any cool places to go, like a town square or a place nearby with ancient ruins. Melissa: Funny you should mention that, Steve, because there are cool places nearby, and that’s what our next segment is about!).

After Orientation, I had my first class of the day: Phonetics and Phonology! Yay, linguistics! It was me and one other guy from NAU. That was our whole class. It was cool though, the teacher seemed pretty cool, and I’m really excited for the class. After that class, we had a class with the NAU director, Javier (or Alberto… but we all know him as Javier). It’s a class with all the NAU students, and it’s a class about Mexican culture through studying film. I’m pretty excited for it, because he said film in Mexico is different than the movies in America. It’s less commercial. And it’s sad. But it sounds awesome :)

After school we came home and had Comida, which is sort of like a late lunch (about 2 or 3 in the afternoon) and it’s the big meal of the day. Osbelia told us that a lot of Mexicans only eat Almuerzo, which is a hearty breakfast, and Comida, and don’t have any Cena, which is a light dinner around 9 or 10 at night. She feeds us Almuerzo before school, Comida right after school, and Cena around 7 or 8. Anyway, we had Comida after school, and then we went to buy cell phones. We ran into a couple of girls from NAU who live right across the street from us, and they wanted to get cell phones, too. Laura and I had to go to the school first – she needed to mail a package, and I wanted to buy some international stamps – and they had to go back to the house and get their money, so we decided to meet at the corner between our houses and the school.

(Side story- When I was buying stamps at the book store, the lady said it was “ciento cinco.” I handed her a 20. See, I was thinking she had said 15.50, because she said it so fast and I didn’t really have time to process. I should have known that was wrong, because 20 pesos is like 2 dollars, and I was buying ten international stamps. She looked at me kind of funny and pointed out that I had only given her 20. I blushed, laughed, asked her how much it was again, and when I realized that it was 105 pesos I got out one of my 100s and added it to the 20. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t even understand simple numbers! And I KNOW Spanish!)

Anyway, we met up with the girls and we asked someone at the desk in school where we could buy cell phones (the cell phone carrier that we wanted is called Telcel, so we asked her where the closest one was). She told us it was just down the street, before you hit the gym. So we walked down the street, and there was no Telcel. One of the girls in the group asked a person who was passing if he knew where Telcel was, and he said he thought there was one past the pharmacy around the corner. That was what they had thought, too, so that’s where we went. We found the place he was talking about, but it wasn’t Telcel, it was Nextel, and they didn’t have any prepay cell phones, they only had phones with contracts. They told us there was a Telcel at the Centro, and that a taxi there was only like 20 pesos. So the four of us got a taxi (which made me nervous because I had NEVER taken a taxi before, and the concept scares me… but there were four of us, so I didn’t really think anything was going to happen) and went to El Centro (which was like the downtown sort of area with a huge outdoor mall thingy). We got there and we didn’t see the Telcel, but we found a Movistar, which is just another cell phone carrier. We each got phones for 250 pesos (that’s like 25 USD, probably less) and they supposedly had 300 minutes on them, but apparently that only applied to local calls, because when I used my calling card with the cell phone, it only worked for like 15 minutes and then my cell ran out of minutes. I guess there must have been some kind of exorbitant fees for using long distance calling cards. Grrr. So now I’ll only use the phone for keeping in touch with my local friends and use the house phone or public phones with my calling card. When I run out of minutes on the calling card, though, I can buy international minutes for my cell phone. It’s only 11.50 pesos for 15 minutes of talk time. That’s way cheap. But I already have a bunch of minutes on my calling card, so I’ll use those up first. There are public phones on campus, so I can use those.

Anyway, after we all got our cell phones, Laura still needed to send her package (the book store on campus only sends letters, and the lady said we needed to go to El Centro to send packages) and the other two girls wanted to shop a little, so we split up. Laura asked a magazine vendor where the post office was, and we went there. Of course, once we got there, they didn’t have envelopes with bubble wrap on the inside, so the man told us where to get one. We went outside to where he directed us, but we didn’t see the place, so Laura (brave, brave girl) asked someone where we could buy something to wrap a package. It took us a few minutes to explain what we were looking for, but between our Spanish and his little bit of English, he told us where the Papeleria was (paper store) and said that they would have what we needed. We found it, but she didn’t have envelopes with bubbles either, so she told us to go down the sidewalk a little further to another papeleria where they did have envelopes with bubbles. We found it, and lo and behold, she had envelopes with bubbles! We felt so proud of ourselves after that adventure. It was a little nerve-wracking for me, but when we did it I felt pretty accomplished :)

We got home around 6:00 and I was exhausted. I sat around in our room all evening and did stuff on the internet. That night Karla had some friends over, and one of her friends also had a visiting student living with her. This girl was from Canada, and she was there for the high school program. She was 17. And she was out there with Karla and her friends, drinking! I didn’t really interact with her much, but Laura said this girl was REALLY drunk. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I was. High school girl, 17 years old, getting drunk in a foreign country where she barely speaks the language… that does not sound like a good idea to me. But, whatever. We had ham sandwiches for Cena and Osbelia asked us about our eating customs (how much we ate at each meal, when we ate meals, etc). I stayed up on the internet until like 11:00, which normally isn’t late for me, but this semester it is quite late because I have school at 8:00 in the morning.

Tuesday. Well, yesterday morning it was pretty hard for me to get up, but I did it. Now that we have cell phones we can set the alarm on those rather than use Laura’s alarm clock (it’s an awesome alarm clock – one of those classic alarm clocks with the bells and everything – but it’s really loud and kind of an abrupt awakening). I set mine for 7:00 and didn’t get up until 7:17. We had a lighter breakfast (I think because we told Osbelia about our eating habits the night before, and I told her that I didn’t like to eat too much in the mornings) – toast with marmalade (I don’t really know what the difference is between marmalade and jam, but it was called “marmalada”) and then she put out cereal and apple yogurt. That apple yogurt sounded funny to be, but it is SO GOOD. It’s really sweet and it reminds me a bit of apple flavored candy, but it’s real apples. Anyway, I had some yogurt and one piece of toast (they were HUGE) and I packed up the other piece of toast to eat at school, because I usually start getting hungry around noon and school isn’t out until two.

I had my composition class first thing and it was really fun. The teacher is AWESOME and we talked a lot and learned new words. His big thing is getting us to learn more specific ways to say things. For example, I always knew lightning as “relampago,” but he told us that a lightning bolt is “rayo” and lightning that lights up the whole sky is “relampago.” And we learned this because, for some reason, we got into a discussion about the lightning storms in AZ. They apparently don’t have lightning storms here.

Half way through that class we had a ten minute break (all the classes go 50 minutes, then 10 minute break, then 50 minutes, then 10 minute break, depending on how long the class is) and Javier came in to get me for a meeting with the director of internships (because I had told Javier I was interested in an Education internship). I don’t know the details yet, but I’ll be teaching English to middle school aged students at a nearby school, probably twice a week. I’m a little nervous for that, but mostly excited. It’s not like I’m teaching Spanish or Math or something.

After composition I had a free period, so I went to the computer lab and checked facebook and my email. It was about 10:00 here, so the inauguration ceremony was in an hour. Unfortunately, my next class started at 11:10, so I wasn’t going to be able to watch the swearing in, and the computers in the computer lab had some kind of firewall that wouldn’t let me watch any videos, so I couldn’t even watch the coverage beforehand or the beginning of the ceremony. I left the computer lab at 11:04 (everything is REALLY close) and on my way to class I passed by a crowd of people watching a TV next to the snack stand. It was the Inagural speech! I was so excited! I watched it for a few minutes, and even though it was dubbed in Spanish, it was still awesome.

My last class of the day was called “Mexico Hoy” (Mexico Today), and it is all about current politics and culture and stuff. I am SO excited for this class. I think it will be so interesting to learn all about another country, and a country so connected to ours. Again it was a class with everybody from NAU, and the whole thing was in Spanish, which was hard for some of the students who are beginners, so some of them might decide to drop the class. I am SO excited, though.

We got home, ate Comida, and then Laura and I went back to the school for a salsa dancing class. I wasn’t really in the mood for dancing, but I walked with her to the class and watched, and it looked SO FUN! I can’t wait until we go again. I don’t care how tired I’m feeling, I’m gonna dance!

And now here I am. All caught up with my blogging. And now I have some homework to do. A three paragraph mini-essay and some reading. Fun stuff.

Drop me a line! Send an email or comment here on my blog. Anything. I want to hear from you all!


PS: I know these last two entries were REALLY long. I don’t think they’ll be so long after this one, and I don’t know if they will be posted every day, but I will update regularly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Beginning

Buenos dias a todos! Boy, do I have some stories for you.

Saturday. We had quite an adventure getting to the airport, because the 101 was closed most of the way, but we made it in good time. The airport was pretty empty. I don’t think we stood in a single line. Even the security checkpoint was ridiculously fast- we didn’t so much stand in line as walk up behind someone who was just finishing. So we had plenty of time once we got to the gate.
While we were waiting around to board, we met three other students from NAU who were on our flight. We all had seats near each other (well, one girl didn’t, but someone offered to switch seats with her, so then she was with us) and it made the whole thing a lot easier having a group of us together instead of just Laura and I. (For those of you who don’t know her, Laura was in my ward at NAU and we are roommates here in Mexico.)
The flight was fine, nothing too exciting. The wheels made a HORRIBLE sound while we were on the runway, which was kind of alarming, but they worked just fine. If you’re like me and haven’t flown in a couple years, you’ll be saddened to know that they charge for drinks now and they don’t bring you peanuts anymore. At least, that’s how US Airways does it. Maybe American Airlines will be different. I guess we’ll see in April.
When we landed in Mexico City, we all had to go to the bathroom, so we decided to do that before getting our luggage. We started walking down the corridor toward the bathroom sign (and past the signs for immigration and baggage claim) and a girl from our flight caught up to us and asked if we were the group from NAU. So now we had six Americans walking down the hallway looking for the bathroom. The nearest one was closed, so we had to keep walking for a few more gates before we found one. But find one we did, and once we were all ready to go, we went to immigration. All they did was take the paperwork we filled out on the plane (with all our info) and gave us the bottom half of the form we filled out. This bottom half is our visa and we have to have it to get out of the country. If we lose it, they’ll charge us $50. So, that is locked up and safe :)
Baggage claim was easy- we must have been the only US Airways flight or something, because there was nobody else around. (A sad side note- the handle on one of my bags broke. I couldn’t roll it, so I had to carry it. It was rather awkward. And heavy.)
We met up with the rest of our group and our program coordinator and his wife. We all hopped on a very nice bus (it was better than the airplane) and spent another two hours traveling. We watched Rush Hour 3 in Spanish en route. It was hilarious.
In Cuernavaca we all loaded into taxis and went to the school where we met our families. Laura and I were first, so we got out of there quickly. Our mama made us food when we got home and it was delicious. Ham and cheese quesadillas with a pasta salad type thing (also with ham) on the side. We met everybody, called our moms, and then went to bed. I was exhausted.

Sunday. Laura and I woke up early, got ready, ate some cereal, and went to church at 8:00. Our mama, Osbelia, helped us find the building Saturday night so we wouldn’t have to walk around looking for it Sunday morning. She ended up driving us there (she said she had some errands to run, though we’re pretty sure she was just being helpful) and we were a few minutes early, so we went in and sat down and everybody came up to us and introduced themselves and welcomed us. The brother who was leading the service asked what our names were, and then he welcomed us from the pulpit! It was really cool, and I can’t wait to go back next week. We only got to stay for the sacrament meeting (which is the general worship service), but next week we’ll get to go to Sunday School and stuff, too.
We didn’t go to everything because we had to get back and get ready for a group excursion with all the other students from NAU. We took a bus to a nearby city called Tepoztlan and hiked to the highest peak of the nearby mountain. Now, I’m not a big hiker AT ALL, but this was an exceptionally difficult hike. It was basically a gigantic staircase made from rocks, but each “step” was differently spaced and uneven. And it was steep. My legs still hurt. And the hike back down was almost worse, because instead of going down a hill, where you can kind of pick up momentum and just keep going, we were going down the crazy steep rock stairs. I didn’t even realize I HAD the muscles I was using. Our legs were basically jelly after that. But it was all worth it. Because at the top of the mountain, we got to stand on top of an ancient Aztec temple. It was amazing. I love learning about ancient civilizations like the Aztecs, and to actually sit atop one of their temple pyramids was awesome. (see pictures)
After the hike back down we were all exhausted, so we sat down at some tables on a patio right at the end of the trail and a bunch of the group ordered drinks (I was not one of them). We sat around for a while, and then we started moseying our way back to the bus station. There were tons of cool shops lining the street, but I didn’t buy anything. I was too exhausted. (Our family might take us back tomorrow night because they are having some kind of celebration with fireworks, so I’ll get something then.) Oh, and it cost 5 pesos (50 cents, more or less) to use the bathroom! And there was no toilet seat. It was weird. There was, however, a shower.
Anyway, some of the group was going to stay in Tepoztlan and the rest of us were going to go home, but when Javier (the program coordinator for NAU) tried to explain to the others how to get home, they decided it was too confusing and so we all went back to Cuernavaca. We were kind of half asleep on the bus, and we still had to walk down the street to get to our houses when the bus dropped us off, so when we finally got home, all I wanted to do was sleep. We relaxed for a while, had dinner (I can’t remember what it was called, but it was like an open face sandwich with beans and melted cheese, and she gave us tomatoes, onions, and peppers to put on it… I avoided the peppers), and then we found out that our family has wireless internet access! So now we aren’t confined to using the computer lab at school- we can use the internet from the comfort of our bedroom!

Oh! One other thing of interest- there are two other American students living in our house right now. They were here for a three-week course, and one of their weeks overlaps with ours. So Laura and I are in Karla’s room (the 19 year old daughter in the family) until the other girls leave. So on Saturday we’ll be switching rooms, and we’ll be staying in that room for the rest of our time here.

Well, I think that’s all for now. I know that was a lot :) Hope you all enjoyed hearing from me! I miss you all! If you feel like making an international phone call (or text message!), I got a cell phone today and my number is 044-777-152-3525.


PS: Also, my address...

Allison Ridley
Privada de la Pradera
Num. 9 casa 4
Cuernavaca, Morelos 62170