Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some First Impressions and General Info (August 16, 2011)

Carmen and I on our first day together in the Centro

A typical street leading from the mercado towards the Centro

A random fountain inside the mission we took a tour of
So I finally found a place to go that has wifi! It's a really good Italian coffee shop, about a 10 or 15 minute walk from my house. There are lots of places with wifi, but you always need a password which means you have to sit down and order something, talk to the waiter for at least 10 minutes and then you can get around to getting the password. It's pretty funny because everything happens pretty slow around here. It's totally normal to just sit wherever and talk to anyone you encounter for a long time. I wrote a long letter with a play by play of the first two days to give you a sense of what it's like here, but just got a chance to post it today. I wrote that entry only 2 days ago, but since then, I have become way more familiar with the city and confident in my ability to interact with people. So I'll just catch you up on yesterday and today. :)

Yesterday, we had our orientation at the university. I totally slept through my alarm because my phone alarm DOESNT WORK IF IM NOT IN SERVICE. BOOOOO. So 10 min before we had to start walking, Carmen (my señora) was knocking on my door like where areee youuuuuu????? And we were supposed to eat breakfast together first. Needless to say, that didn't happen and I threw on some clothes and ran out the door. Then we met the other 4 students who live close to my house (in the same neighborhood more or less) and walked to the bus. About a 10 minute walk. Then, we got on the bus and took it to the UAQ (the university) (pronounced phonetically). It's about a 15 min ride on the bus to the UAQ, so not too bad. Oh, and a side note...they drive like lunatics. I had no idea a stick shift bus could even go that fast! AND almost take out so many pedestrians. The cars don't stop for anything...red lights, crosswalks, people...animals. They just swerve to avoid. It's pretty funny. Anyways...we just got a tour of the campus, which is easily as big as UCSB and they told us some of the rules and stuff like that. Nothing too exciting. Luckily, all of our classes are in one building so we don't have to get lost on campus. I totally understood what they were saying, so class in spanish may not be as tragic as I had imagined. :) 

After orientation (around 12 or 12:30) we took the bus back to our houses to see our families and have Comida (the big meal of the day). Comida is a 2 hour production sometimes, so I just sat there and talked and listened and ate for a long time. Then, the best part of the day...ciesta. We had about an hour to nap. Usually, we go back to school at 4:30 for our night classes. However, yesterday we didn't have them. We will today. The good thing about those is they are at the escuela de Gabi, which we can walk to. No bus drama or anything like that. It's about a 20 minute walk. And, it's really close to the centro, so we can go out after school no problem. Because we eat comida in the afternoon, there is no rush to be home for dinner. My señora will make me a snack whenever I get home if I want one. And we can buy delicious ice cream and dessert pretty much anywhere in the city. 

Since we didn't have school in the evening, we went to the centro to buy some toiletries and stuff like that. It is GORGEOUS. In my previous email, I couldn't find the real centro and the big cathedrals and buildings. But we found it all in a big way yesterday. Statues, fountains, colors, street vendors and churches are everywhere. It is like a real downtown, and super fun. After walking around and talking to a bunch of street vendors for no apparent reason, we sat down on the patio of a restaurant for some chips and guac. They were magical. Then we learned that it was happy hour and margaraitas were half price. So we had some of those too. Don't worry...we all walked home together and no one was even close to drunk. But we sat on the patio for hours and just watched the people and the sunset and everything like that. It was awesome. Needless to say Margarita Monday is now a tradition. No one has class Tuesday morning because our language classes are almost all on Mon, Wed, and Fri, so it's a perfect night to go out. Today, Tuesday, we only have classes that start at 4:30 and go to 7. So that's kinda different, but it's nice. Several of us went running this morning, and we'll go back for Comida around 2 or 3. 

Well, I think that is pretty much all for right now. Some general information so you can get a sense of the city: It's really nice weather right now. It gets up to like 80 during the day, and cools down to about 65 at night. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning anywhere, so especially upstairs, it is really hot at night. It has yet to rain, but everyone says rainy season is coming, so we'll see. The good thing about the rain is it clears the air because it is very polluted here. Kind of feels dirty like downtown LA on a smoggy day. It makes running interesting.

My room is a master bedroom. It's really big, with a full size bed, a closet, and a bunch of drawers. The bathroom is pretty normal...one of the sinks doesn't work, but there's another so it's not a big deal. I live upstairs and one other Mexican student lives next to me in another room. The rest of the family lives in rooms that attach to the courtyard behind the house. Some are upstairs and some are down. There is a kitchen and dining room directly below my room, and a living room across from my room upstairs (where the only tv is). We spend most of our time in the kitchen, just talking or entertaining the baby or whatever. It is totally functional, but looks like it is from 1960. There's an oven with a stove, a blender and a sink. No toaster or microwave, which is different. The furniture is all simple, and mismatched. There isn't much emphasis on decoration or anything like that. Almost everything has a purpose. The streets are cobblestone in the neighborhoods and downtown, but the major roads and highways are all paved just like in America. Everywhere you look, it's colorful. Buildings, clothing, cars...all of it. Interestingly, 65% of the cars are pretty new and nice. If someone has a car, they are probably wealthy, and that is one way they show their wealth. Social class is pretty divided here, and you can easily tell by how dark someone's skin is. Most of our señoras are upper middle class or upper class and very fair. Some would even pass for American. Because we are white, people assume we have money, even if we don't. It's really interesting because blue eyes and blonde hair are rare here, so people are fascinated by it. 

Here are some pictures of the city and stuff like that too:

One of the buildings in the centro...they're all lit up at night

cathedrals are on almost every corner in the centro

most of the buildings in the centro are formed around the plazas and parks like this one

a typical street that links the various plazas

another cathedral

this statue is one of the symbols of the city...still trying to figure out why

the PANADEREIA! - pastries galore...every day before class...and after

homework in the park by our houses

the random exercise equipment in the parks is hilarious...people actually use it all the time

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