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

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.

13 octubre 2011


On the road again....well this was 2 weekends ago. After being awake all night riding my adrenaline rush from the car accident,  I headed out the door early Saturday morning (Oct. 1) and met the rest of our group to get on a bus. We drove a few hours north to Dolores Hidalgo and got to see the town and the church where Hidalgo gave the first "grito" in 1810. Remember all the celebrations for Independence Day? Props to this guy...the same speech he gave over 200 years ago is given all over Mexico on the night of November 15th. We moved on after a short while and headed out to San Miguel de Allende (about an hour away). Of course we encountered some giant festival and battled thousands of people (and horses) to navigate the town. I didn't like this town very much because it actually consists of about 50% gringos.....lots of old, white, retired people. I mean come on....I came to Mexico for a reason. We saw the mercado and all the artesania they have to offer. We ate a delicious buffet style meal and afterwards got to see the Voladores!
Yet another festival. Hundreds of horses. Notice the castillo too!

Riding the funicular. FUNicular
Over two hours on the road again and we arrived in Guanajuato. Quite possibly one of the coolest cities I have been to. This is a university/miner town and the main streets of the city are all tunnels/underground! We stayed at a beautiful hotel and enjoyed our first overnight excursion. The next day consisted of a tour of the city, a museum, churches, and a ride up the funicular! The Funicular is the little cable car took us up to a great overlook of the city and we spent a bit of our afternoon just taking in the beautiful view of the brightly colored city. The movie El Estudiante was filmed here and it was cool to see the city since we had watched the movie for a school project...highly recommend it! El Callejón del Beso is also in the movie....a very tiny, famous street in Guanajuato. Best to be there with your significant other....woops.


Jake, Matt, y Yo
On our way home we stopped to visit one of the mines. We were given a bit of the history of the mines in Guanajuato and then got to go down part of the way into the San Ramon mine. Hard hats and all! Tired and sore, but somehow feeling rested, I arrived at home and quickly launched into another week.  (Of course there are more pics here!)

¡No te muevas!

Friday night (Nov. 30th) I was out with a friend from our group and one of our Mexican friends. After going along to a birthday party they wanted to go to a bar. We had a great time and I got to play drums with a band again! Rock! Jake and I decided to walk home despite the fact that it was verrrrry late. On the walk home I had a conversation with Jake about why I never want to drink very much. #1 I am not a HUGE fan of alcohol, and #2 I always feel responsible for the people around me. I would never want to be in a situation where I wouldn't be able to step up and ensure the well-being of those around me. Part of this has to do with my desire to work in the medical field/the training I already have as an EMT. I left Jake at his house and crossed my bridge to get to my house. As I stepped off the bridge I heard a horrific sound and saw something out of the corner of my eye. Two cars collided and one rolled multiple times. Before I even processed what I had just seen I found myself sprinting towards the car. I was the first one on scene and went immediately to the car that came to rest upside down. First, I came across two young men that were half ejected out of the back window on the pavement. I expected to experience my first DOA (dead on arrival) and prayed as I checked for breathing and pulse on victim number one. Relieved to find a weak thump under my finger I moved on. Number two was in slightly better shape and I moved around the other side of the car. The driver was pinned and I physically could not get to her, but she was responsive. At this point I found myself barking orders to bystanders, in Spanish, and began to assess the two men. As they became more and more responsive they were trying to move. I held c-spine as I shouted "¡No te muevas!" Usually can't remember how to say negative "tu" form commands during the day let alone at 3 in the morning...First responders arrived and we simply worked side by side. My training meshed with their protocol. After help arrived, I was mainly focused on 20 year old Julio and saw his care through on scene until we loaded him into the ambulance and sent him on his way.
I spoke briefly with the police, looked for my jacket I had tossed aside, and then headed home. I was shaken up, encouraged, sad, excited...full of all kinds of different emotions. It was just very unexpected and a very bloody scene. I was encouraged in the sense that in the moment nothing phased me, that I jumped without even thinking, that skills were second nature and happened without even having to think about what to do. Sad that I won't know the outcome of the 3 victims and the fact that alcohol was a factor in the accident...But overjoyed to see the way that God has and will continue to weave together my passions: Spanish and Medicine.