"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." ~Marcel Proust

06 diciembre 2011

Rock y Cerveza

A few weeks ago, we went over to our art teachers house to eat after going on a field trip to a hacienda near her house. Regina (our art teacher) and her husband (Salvador) are the two that went with us on our trip to the Sierra Gorda! They are both wonderful people and it has been so fun getting to spend time with them. That day at their house, Salvador was proudly showing us his music collection. Our time was cut short and he looks at the guys and asks....

"Do you guys want to come over another time to listen to rock music and drink beer?"

This guy knows what's up.

After Thanksgiving dinner, Sal took us back to his house. We stopped to get drinks and he said he had plenty of food. We got to his house, dragged his giant speakers into the back yard, put on the music, enjoyed food and drank beer and some tequila. Sal disappeared only for a moment to put on his skinny jeans, Pink Floyd t-shirt, his flannel from 1955, and he grabbed his football from his high school years. We threw a football around the back yard and had a great time.

Día de Gracias

Now I could have said "Thanksgiving." But that would have been boring. So here is the story...

We did not get to celebrate thanksgiving on Thursday as usual because we are in Mexico and it is not celebrated. Therefore, we had classes that day. However, we did get to celebrate it on Friday. We were planning a get together with the group to celebrate and all of our professors were invited to join in on the gringo celebration. We each were assigned a dish and the plan was to have traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Dr. Montgomery's house. fun is that?

Earlier that morning, Jack and Matt had gotten a hold of me and told me they wanted to bring a surprise to the party. Matt solicited by help in this matter and I went to work in the morning. I googled "Mariachis in Querétaro." Found a number, dialed, and had one of the greatest phone conversations in Mexico. The plans were made and I could not wait.

That afternoon, the party was underway and I looked at my phone. The time came to slip outside and greet our surprise.  I saw a van coming down the street. I knew it was them. They piled out of the van, all half drunk, but very much ready to play.
I explained the situation in Spanish to the head guy...

"Here is the deal. Inside, we have a bunch of gringos celebrating a gringo holiday. BUT we are still in Mexico, and my friends and I wanted to bring a very mexican aspect to the party. This is where you guys come in....hit them with the traditional songs!"

The tuned up in the street, began playing, and marched in through the house. Best decision by far!

 Yes there was turkey

But we also had MARIACHIS....great success and a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving mexican style!

05 diciembre 2011

Operation: Tons of Fun

This title is in English for a darn good reason. We decided it was time to start having fun, living life, enjoying the smallest of things, sometimes making other people feel awkward, etc....a little hard to explain. My friends Jack and Matt know the inside scoop.

So we went to Mexico City for our last excursion of the semester. First stop was Teotihuacan to visit the pyramids.
Pyramid on top of a pyramid next to pyramids 
Great group!

We stayed right in the heart of the Zócalo, visited churches, the Palacio Nacional, saw Diego Rivera's murals, watched a giant military parade celebrating the Revolution....too many fun things!
The fun did not stop there.....the next day, we decided to abandon the itinerary and make our own plans to go to the Zoo. THEY HAVE PANDAS! I mean why we hopped on the metro, went to Chapultepec park, and went to the zoo. Jack, Matt and I decided to get our faces painted. Our intention was to keep the face paint on for the formal dinner and folklorico ballet we would be going to later that night at the Belles Artes. It happened.
Tigre Blanco, Tigre, y OSO PANDA! FTW
Other adventures included going to the Chapultepec Castle (Maximiliano's house) the Museo de Antropologia, we went to Carlos Slim's new museum, visited Plaza de las tres culturas where the Tlateloclo massacre took place, and did a handful of other things. On our last day we visited Xochimilco to see the chinampas. These are basically floating gardens that are still used for agriculture. Let's not forget that the whole city (back in the day Tenochtitlan) was built on a lake. Therefore, it is now a lake bed....everything is sinking...slowly but surely

the church is sinking
We brought food to picnic with on the boat, putted around, and paid for mariachis to subir and tocar! So much fun. Great trip besides the 8 hours it took us to get home....terrible semi-truck accident on the freeway and we were stuck forever.

Regardless.....operation: Tons of Fun....COMPLETED

Yo puedo, yo puedo

For our communications class we went to a kindergarten to tell stories. We had to memorize the story, make it fun, and present it to the class.

I worked with Zach and we translated the story The Little Engine That Could. También conocido como La pequeña locomotora que si pude! School in Mexico is too much fun!


29 noviembre 2011


After 5 days in Oaxaca, we headed closer to home and spent two days in Puebla. We saw the churches there, found a giant festival, had cuban cigars, visited another cemetery still alive with Día de los Muertos celebrations, chilled on the roof of our hotel.....Good times in Puebla.
Check yourself
"Guero...ven aquí..." So I made friends here too!
Church in Puebla...and big party
Inside the church
On the roof of the Hotel....Wouldn't fly in America

Día de los Muertos....¡Días de las fiestas!

Death is dealt with very differently in Mexican culture. It is not such a hidden, unspoken, scary phenomenon. It has been present in almost every piece of Mexican literature I have read, it comes up easily in is just different.

Basically, Mexicans know how to celebrate dead people. Being in Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos was an incredible experience. We went to the Panteon and had the chance to talk with families at gravesites. And by talk I mean party. And by party I mean Mexican style! Food, mariachis, tequila, cerveza, jokes...Just an all around good time. We spent about an hour getting to know one lady who had lost her son. Urriel was 24 and died in a tragic car accident. The car he was riding in on a long road trip collided with a cow that ended up coming through the windshield. Such a tragic event did not put even the slightest damper on the party. We joined in, became a part of the family, and CELEBRATED...well...a life given by God even though it was short. Here are some photos from the Panteon that night.

Quesillo, Mole,Tlayudas, Chocolate....Comida Riquísima!

So we got in a bus aiming for Oaxaca. Roughly 9 hours away. What a haul that was. But lets just say it was worth it. We would be spending time there during the days that Dia de los Muertos is celebrated. (Wait for it!) Oaxaca still has very many traditional celebrations since there is such a high percentage of Indigenous people. First up we visited Monte Alban. A giant ancient city on a hill that was once occupied by the Zapotecs.
Another epic adventure was in store as we took a short trip out to Mitla. We stopped on the side of the road, unloaded our bus, and piled into a fleet of rickety pick up trucks. Riding in the back was more than an experience as we embarked on a 45 minute drive up and over a mountain on all dirt roads. 

On the other side of the mountain we found the Cascadas Petrificadas....Petrified waterfalls. Super legit and a beautiful day to hike around and explore.

 We learned a lot about how everything is made. Visited a Mezcal factory (kinda like tequila...but mas fuerte!) We went to a pottery shop where the famous barro negro was invented (black clay pottery). Saw rugs and clothing being made. Went to a chocolate factory (Oaxaca is famous for Chocolate)...not to mention ate plenty of mole and hot chocolate!

In front of an Alter

24 noviembre 2011

Lo siento is my apology. It has been far too long since I posted last....Up to bat should be our Oaxaca trip, on deck should be Puebla, and in the hole is Mexico City from this last weekend. (Maybe some other fun random ones in there...)

But "Here's the deal"....I have 12 more days left in Mexico, I am currently fighting a nasty sickness, and have a relatively good amount of work to do between various final projects and essays....all this while trying to enjoy my last bit of time here and having to come to grips with leaving this place.

I am sorry if we are "supposed to skype soon!" or something of that nature....just know I love you all and will have a whole month before next semester starts to catch up/hang out etc.

In the meantime, here is a picture of me, my host mom and sister.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! Not like we get school off or anything down here....I think I just might take a "sick day." : )

05 noviembre 2011

Guanajuato....¡Otra Vez!

Tim and I in front of my house
Sometime around 12 years ago, this guy started teaching my Sunday School class and would continue on to be my small group leader through the end of high school. About 5 years ago he told each guy in our small group that if we studied abroad in college he would come visit us wherever we were. This guy obviously takes commitment seriously....great leader, role model, and friend. So Tim showed up at my house a few weeks ago with a rental car and plans to get away for the weekend. I became a tourist just for the weekend as I went on a much needed "vacation."
After Tim met my family and dropped off some goodies sent from the fam back home, we headed out and spent our Friday around Querétaro. I got to be a tour guide and test my own knowledge of the city I have been in for the last 3 months! Saw lots of important places, visited some museums, but most importantly I took him to my favorite places and we indulged in many tasty treats!

28 octubre 2011

De la dinastia que vale oro

These shiny words glimmered under the florescent light and caught my attention as the next pair of fighters launched themselves into the ring. This phrase was written across the back of La Mascara who was fighting alongside Atlantis. Their challengers: Último Guerrero and Volador. We were about to witness "¡La rivaldad mas candente del momento!"

My friend Matt had seen this poster on the street and decided Lucha Libre was something we had to witness before leaving Mexico. I couldn't agree more. I simply would have felt like less of a man. 70 pesos secured me a ticket and yet another chance to witness a very interesting and important aspect of Mexican culture.

Last Tuesday night, we showed up at Arena Querétaro for a night of Lucha Libre not really knowing what to expect. The only thing I could come up with in my mind was stretchy pants, ridiculous and over-dramatic fighting, and slightly overweight middle-aged men. So with a cerveza in hand, I sat down in a section complete with a fence barrier topped with barbed wire. I was next to grown men, children, whole name it. An extremely interesting atmosphere.  Lots of beer, foul language, and a lot of people just extremely passionate about the event we were about to witness. The lights went down as the referee and first fighters were announced. We watched several "warm-up" fights that consisted of 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 situations. The fights (or "acts" if you will) got progressively better. All I can say is that if you have seen Nacho Libre you have gotten a pretty darn accurate picture of what Lucha Libre is. Slightly overweight (but actually pretty strong) middle-aged men wearing stretchy pants, throwing themselves dramatically around (and out of!) a ring.


In the last little break between fights I ventured over to a lady selling Lucha Libre masks. She very patiently explained to me the names of the fighters that each mask belonged to. Knowing that I couldn't leave without one, I selected a sparkly green, white, and gold mask with a giant gold cross on the forehead. I slipped it over my head and became "Rey Misterio."

The biggest and best fight was saved for last. After an intense fight full of slams, punches, slaps, kicks and aerial maneuvers, Atlantis and La Mascara emerged victorious. I was reminded that night that "Sometimes, when you are a man, you wear stretchy pants." But also...."Beneath the clothes, we find a man... and beneath the man, we find his... nucleus."

Something in that nucleus gives rise to Lucha Libre.

Lucha Libre from Jordan Bleecker on Vimeo.

27 octubre 2011

Lunes por la noche

(Monday night, October 17 at 7:46pm just outside of class)

Me: Hey Matt, are you going to do anything tonight? I mean it is Monday night and there is probably nothing going on but I don't want to go home.
Matt: Ya...Me too. Wanna just walk towards the centro?
Me: Sure. Let's do it.

So we set out walking and came to the first plaza and found about 4 people sitting down using their phones.


But then we started to hear drums in the distance. We both turned and started walking to see what we could find. We encountered a giant celebration going down at the Iglesia de San Francisco. They were celebrating the day for La Virgen del Pueblito. They had it all: Food, music, dancing, yet another castillo, and fireworks. The giant fireworks display (shot off entirely too close to us) brought the night to a close. Remember that whole part about it being "Monday night and there is probably nothing going on?" Ya. I was wrong. I forgot that Mexicans don't plan their celebrations around their schedules, they plan their schedules around their celebrations....In Mexico, Monday is the new Friday.

Papas en espiral. Add salsa, add lime...Tasty!

This is how close you could stand next to the giant fire spewing structure!

Made of pure candy!

"Conoce y Disfruta Parte de la Sierra": Check!

Because I am lagging but more importantly because words cannot do this place justice: A post with a heavy presence of photos.... Welcome to the Sierra Gorda!

So we got in a nice bus and headed out on one of the windiest roads known to man. Hours and hours of winding at rates of speed way too high for a giant coach...oh well.
We arrived first at the Archaeological ruins Las Ranas in San Joaquín. We spent about an hour exploring the hillside filled with these ancient pyramids.
Next was a stop for lunch in a small village called Pinal de Amoles and ate some BOMB gorditas from this lady's little stand on the side of the street. (Already more than 2 hours behind our "schedule"...the lady didn't pack up and go home cause she knew we would come eventually)
The bus came to a stop on the side of the road and we got out. A man with a red pick up truck was waiting for us and we divided the group in two. I went with the first group in the back of the truck and took a beautiful (and bumpy!) 10 minute ride on a dirt road out to the Cascadas del Chuveje. (First of many waterfalls!)
We spent the night in Jalpan and got to see the Mission there. (The chain of Missions in the Sierra Gorda were founded by Fray Junipero Serra, the same man who later founded the CA mission chain!) The next morning we took off for Las Pozas de Edward James. He was an Englishman and surrealist artist that decided to build his "house" a.k.a. series of completely crazy structures in the forest. There were so many butterflies and the most luscious, green vegetation. There are countless waterfalls, places to swim, jump, climb, explore. SO cool.

 Super legit tree house on the left and stairs that lead to absolutely nowhere on the right.... This man was crazy. (The structures were on top of what is already a 3 story high and no railings! ¡Viva México!
Great story behind this next picture... I set my camera on a rock with the self-timer set. I ran to go take a picture with some people and as I tried to duck my head under the water that is coming down on Megann, I actually headbutted the rock instead. Haven't had my bell rung that hard in a while. The picture still took and caught the aftermath.  Only a little blood and lucky I didn't pop it wide open....although I'm pretty sure I had at least a mild concussion. I had a headache for a week and a nice sized bump on the top of my head!
After an incredible lunch at a seafood restaurant (Camarones con crema chipotle...mmmmmm!) we went to visit the Sótano de las Golondrinas. It is "the largest known cave shaft in the world, the second deepest pit in Mexico and perhaps the 11th deepest in the world." The NY Chrysler building could fit completely inside of it! We took about a 30 minute hike up to the edge of the Sótano. Every night, the swallows circle in a giant formation above the cave and then dive at an incredibly high rate of speed down into the cave to sleep for the night. There are also pericos, or huahuas (parrots) that live nearby. This photo show the golondrinas circling above with the pericos in the foreground.
The next day we were told we were going to go row up a river for an hour and see a waterfall. Las Cascadas de Tamul. We did. It was pretty average. I mean...just look at the pictures...


(Gracias a Emily Engdahl por las fotos que tengo aquí tuve mi camara ese día!)
 Most of us jumped off that cliff...the water was moving pretty fast so once you hit the water you had to get yourself moving in order to make it back to the side! We got back in the boats for only about 300 yards. Our guide took us to a place to drink the "good" water...for some reason one of the little streams was a lot colder and more pure. With fingers crossed...mouth straight into the water. So good. We hopped in the river and floated the rest of the way down through rapids and all. Our last stop was a really sweet water cave filled with bats.

The beautiful hostal we stayed at for the last two nights is on the left and the last mission we visited, Concá, is on the right.

On the last night, we also had the opportunity to experience a Temazcal. It is basically a pre-hispanic sauna that they used for a ceremonial type of thing. Standing barely clothed outside in the rain, we were all handed a tea to drink before being crammed into the small hut made of clay. Hot rocks in the middle provided plenty of heat, and the man leading the ceremony began to toss a tea mixture over the rocks which created steam. We rubbed certain plants on our bodies and the leader explained the whole tradition. Songs are sung, prayers are said, and you break a sweat like nobody's business. Before exiting the hut we applied clay masks and relaxed for a little longer. Afterwards, a very refreshing (ok it was a little painful) dip in a river was in order to rinse our bodies. This was an incredible cultural experience to say the least.  

We made cena back at the hostal for our last night in the Sierra. We went and bought a bunch of stuff to make quesadillas, guacamole, and other tasty snacks. The picture to the right is of Salvador, "el Rey de la Sangria". Sal is the husband of our art teacher and they, along with their son, were our "tour guides" for the whole trip. They are all wonderful and Sal is especially hilarious. He makes some excellent sangria, has a countless supply of jokes, and never fails to interject some witty comment. Jesus went with us everywhere in the bus and kept us very safe. To top it all off, I treated myself to some of my favorite Mexican junk food on the way home after such a tough weekend.