Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dance classes, train tracks, and a circus (August 26,2011)

So this week has been a little bit different from the first two because Carmen, my señora had to leave unexpectedly on Monday to go to Cuernavaca to care for her youngest sister who is currently fighting breast cancer. From what I understand, the sister usually lives in Mexico City and had to go to Cuernavaca to receive treatment. So, the other sisters are taking turns caring for her while she is there. Unfortunately, that's all I really know about the situation, so I've just been praying and hoping for the best. What that means for me is I am lacking a señora for an unknown period of time. Luckily, Hugo and other Carmen live here with their 14 month old baby girl, so I haven't been left out to dry. Things have just been happening a little bit differently than they would normally. We still have Comida every day, and they still won't let me go anywhere near the sink when I try to help out and do the dishes, it's just different because there are many times when Hugo and Carmen are upstairs, and the house is quiet, and there's no one to ask about what I did after school or tell random stories about the crazy things they have done.

Although it has been a different week, and felt a little more lonely at times, I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know Carmen and Hugo a little more in the process. Hearing about how each one of them wound up here, and the places they have seen is really interesting. Also, after hearing more about their stories, the random things they do make a little bit more sense. For example, Hugo is looking for a job because his last one ended suddenly. For the first two weeks, I couldn't figure out for the life of me how sitting on the couch and watching Mexican soap-operas counted as looking for a job...but no one seemed to mind. All the sudden, the other day he came back from an interview and seemed fairly confident that he was going to land a great job working for a company that sells typical Mexican crap to giftshops all over Mexico and America. Today, I asked him how he found out about the job, and he said that when he was at home, he would read the classifieds and call the places while I was at school. He also said that they had just moved in a few days before I arrived, so it's not like he's been freeloading for a long time. It's just funny how "actively" looking for a job can be so different here. I guess it works in the context of this culture. Also, Carmen decided to go out and look for a job, and had an interview this week. Pretty soon they will both be working individuals. In some ways, Hugo was just proving the stereotype that Mexicans don't make work a priority. However, he was doing it within the context of his culture, which is the part we frequently forget to do when we look at other cultures. Once I asked him about it and saw how relieved he was to hear that he got a job today, his approach made more sense within this context.

After class on Wednesday, four of us wanted to go out for an hour or so, so we stumbled into this restaurant on the second floor of one of the buildings on a corner in the centro. Excited to see the little balconies overlooking the plaza, we ran in the door, saw MTV on the tv at the foot of the stairs, and ran up...not realizing what we were signing up for. The linoleum floor that looked like it belonged in a rundown Walmart, the metal patio chairs (inside and out) were lacking cushions, and the 50 something year old man singing Mexican love songs into a karaoke machine with the words on the screen should have been signs that this was NOT the place for us. However, by the time we put the pieces together, it was too late. We had a table on one of the balconies (meant for two people) around which we crowded all 4 because we wanted to be as far away from the blaring music as possible. The tacky blacklights were  a flashback to glow-in-the-dark mini golf from 1998, and the singer seriously reminded me of Ramón from The Proposal. His expressions, enthusiasm, and overall lack of tallent were equal to the scene in the movie when she has her bachelorette party. Only this was real life...not even kidding...After we had ordered our drinks, I couldn't take it anymore, so I sent one of the girls to go ask the singer if he knew any American songs. Everyone here does. Actually, they probably know more American songs than Mexican love songs. Unfortunately, he said she came back and sat down. A few minutes later, he did manage to find one. So he came running up to our table and asked her if she knew it. We all thought it was a common song so she said yes. Next thing we knew, she was handed the mic, and rushed up to the front to sing for everyone! Unfortunately, she didn't know the song. Actually, I'm pretty sure no one knew that song. So she just stood there...staring at the TV, mumbling the words while we laughed uncontrollably. In America, the singer would have taken over after a verse and covered for her...but no...she stayed up front for the duration of the song. Poor Esther. But it was great. What a great story! After that...we just left. It was too painful to even order more than one drink. A poor choice of location on a Wednesday night, but at least there was Esther's steller singing skills to lighten the mood.

As told by the title of this post, one of the highlights of the week was our dance class which started on Thursday evening. The class started, and we stood up and did these ridiculous warmups...for dance class. We were pointing our toes and stretching in so many ways that the professionals tell you NOT to stretch...but the instructor seemed to think it was the best way to warm up. So we went with it. Then the real class started. We learned some variety of dance that originated in Guanajuato. The only thing I learned that class was what a terrible dancer I am. Can you say born with two left feet??? I have NEVER been so legitimately confused in my life. We would be turning one way, shuffling another and then we were supposed to march in place? What did that even mean? What's was all in Spanish. So sometimes, I didn't know what was going to happen next, and she would start counting. Literally a tenth of a second later, people would all be moving in one direction, and I would be the awkward tall kid with the blank stare on my face. It was not a rewarding experience. I don't know if I have a vindetta against learning traditional dance (aka I don't care about it), or if I was tired, or what happened...but it was not a successful hour and a half experience. Ironically, everyone else LOVED that class. They all left saying how fun it was and how they can't wait til next week...I wish I could say the same. I think it may be time to say "bye-bye" to dance and enjoy a quiet hour in a cafe while everyone else is subjected to that torture next week, and every Thursday from now on. So it looks like I may only be doing 16 units in Mexico...which I'm totally ok with. Especially because I am already dreading the "performance" at the end of the semester. And I am not afraid of the stage...just the dancing.

Moving on...

After that class from you know where we were walking home and decided to venture up to the train tracks we walk under everyday on our way to school. It was really cool because there was a spectacular view of the sunset and the city in the distance. There were some concrete barriers covered in graffiti that made perfect seats, and we just sat there and hung out for a solid hour and a half. Twilight gave way to dark, which revealed incredible lightning in the distance, lighting up the clouds. For me, it was a good chance to breathe after an incredibly frustrating experience, and be reminded that it was going to be ok, even if being in Mexico can be frustrating at times. Someone busted out a guitar, and we just hung out up there, talking about the experience thus far. That was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far.

Friday is always in interesting day because we only have class until 12:30, and then we are free to do whatever we want. We knew at some point we were all going to go out and celebrate a birthday, but people look at you funny if you show up to any bar or club before 11pm, so we had a lot of time to kill. We all went into the centro for a while, seriously lacking a purpose. Random things would happen, like we would go to a shoe store and want to try something on, but the sizes are completely different. Keeping in mind, we are speaking another language, we tried to figure out the way the rest of the world measures shoe sizes.  30 minutes later, we have a vague idea of what may work, but the store only sells a select few shoes in that size because most Mexicans are TINY. A half hour only to figure out we don't fit in...I could have told you that from the stares we get everyday on the bus, but is a whole new level of being aware of just how gringo we really are. Needless to say, wandering around the centro without a purpose sounds completely dreadful, but it is always an experience. Even figuring out what the ATM is saying is remarkably challenging. Someone accidentally donated 5 pesos to a random charity because at the end of a transaction, it asks if you would like to donate, and we just clicked through it without realizing what was going on. Several hours later, we'd had enough wandering and decided to start to find a place to eat before we went out. Along the way, we encountered several clowns and a man on stilts...

Turns out, there is a circus in town, and they were giving out flyers inviting people in the centro to come and see. At the bottom of the flyer, it says "suggested donation: 50 pesos." In America, that's code for "this is for charity and we aren't really that talented, but take pity on us." But, having nothing better to do, we figured it was worth a shot. We found where they were having the circus and stood in line to get in the door. As we approached, we saw a very small stage with a curtain pulled across the back. Through the gap in the curtain you could see some of the props...namely a large metal hoop. Across from the stage, was a section of very unstable bleachers, with about 7 rows of seating. Off to the sides were some more chairs and benches (apparently they were expecting a full crowd). In my mind, I was terrified that this was going to be the biggest joke ever, and definitely not worth a 50 peso donation. Then the show started. There were clowns, magicians, a mime, men who twirled things, women hanging from the ceiling, unicycles, and a lot of flashy lights and music. Surprisingly, we were all genuinely entertained. The people were very talented, and even the clowns were funny (and I am usually super bored when a clown takes the spotlight). It was so tiny and pathetic looking, but so genuinely fun. There were no exotic animals, and very few flashy costumes, but the slapstick humor completely carried the show. We were all very impressed by the end and more than willing to donate to whatever the cause was. I'm starting to think we are magnets for charity...running 5k's for the peace (we still don't know what that means), accidentally agreeing to support something at the ATM, and the circus fund. The funny thing is, it all happens on accident and with the exception of the ATM, it is a rewarding experience.

After the circus, we wandered into a bar where we celebrated a 21st birthday the way it is meant to be celebrated  Lots of friends, fun, and shots all around. We encountered the group studying in the same university from Oregon (some of them are in our classes), so they joined the party too. It was super low key, but a good way to end the week. There was a pool table in the back of the bar, and plenty of good music, so everyone was happy, even the few in the group who have made it very clear that they have no intention of experiencing the nightlife of Querétaro...I guess we broke down that barrier in the first month.

chinese yo-yo's at the circus...note the party pants he's rocking on the right

waiting to get in to the circus...skeptical

painting her nails on a vespa! and he was moving!

dance class = epic fail. note how i am not even kind of in step with everyone else...

view from the train tracks - the city is where the clouds are, but you can't see it well 

we look so hipster - typical westmont shot

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