Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Month in the Land of Maria

Our days here are generally pretty full. We have desayuno (breakfast) at our homestay at 8:15am. Classes begin at 9:00am and go until 12:00pm. Then we have a lecture or excursion in which we learn about the culture and current events in Mexico, followed by comida (the main meal of the day) at 2pm. Then there is typically another lecture in the afternoon or evening before we go home to do our tarea (homework). At my homestay we have cena (a light evening meal) around 8pm, which usually consists of brewed coffee or atole (a thick, cornmeal-based hot chocolate-y kind of drink) and an assortment of sweet breads from the panaderia.

We’ll usually finish the day by watching the Juegos Olimpicos (Mexico just won another medalla de oro! – gold medal!) or futbol (the Mexican national team just beat Honduras in a Copa Mundial – World Cup – qualifying match!) or sometimes both at the same time (today they were running almost a split screen when the Mexican football team was playing at the same time that Mexican divers were competing in the Olympics). There are also an assortment of channels playing American movies and TV shows that are either dubbed into Spanish or in English with subtitles. This evening I especially enjoyed watching a 90s music nostalgia show on VH-1 – it’s pretty awesome to see Kriss Kross lyrics translated into Spanish.

My Spanish is coming along, but I feel like my language aircraft has stalled a bit this week. I suppose that feeling is to be expected: When you first start out it’s like blasting off; all of a sudden you know twice as much as you did the day before! By the second week you don’t feel that same sense of G-force progress – at least, I don’t. And for some reason I feel like my Spanish has gotten worse in the last few days; maybe my brain is tired. On the bright side, I did manage to get my laundry done yesterday without incident, so at least I’ve improved on my ability to make a successful trip to the lavanderia.

Today we went on an excursion to nearby Tepoztlan, which was old hat for me because, as you may recall, Chris and I spent our first week in Mexico there. I started thinking about the day Chris and I first arrived in Tepoztlan. Then I realized that day was ONE MONTH AGO. That’s right folks, we’ve been in Mexico for a month.

Yesterday we had a long day of classes and lectures that were all inside the school. By the end of the day, even though it was almost sundown, I needed to get outdoors and walk around. I figured I had about 30 minutes before Chris and I had a scheduled phone conversation (an event which amazingly involves local phone cards that don’t always work, pay phones on street corners that don’t always work, and much frustration). I decided to walk out for 15 minutes and then turn around.

I started down Avenida Morelos trying hard not to look like a tourist. There are lots of cars leaving work – the Mexican workday is often, roughly from 9am-2pm, then the main meal of the day, and then people return to work from 4-8pm or later. “Dancing in the Dark” is blasting its way out of one car; traditional ranchera music out of another. Little hole-in-the-wall restaurants line the streets, and each one is enticing customers to come in and try their tacos al pastor by cooking the meat, smothered in some kind of red spice, on a vertical spit that is right next to the sidewalk. Insert-item-here-erias are everywhere: Panaderias (Bakeries), Lavanderias (Laundromats), Papelerias (Copy shops), Zapaterias (Shoe stores), Tortillerias (Tortilla shops), Famaceria (Pharmacy), Hambuergeserias (Hamburgers), and even a Veterinaria (Veterinarian’s Office). We joke that the church – an iglesia – should be called a Dioseria, or a Graceria, or a Sacramenteria.

My time is up, so I look for a place to turn around. As if on cue, I find a peaceful little square I hadn’t noticed before. There is a statue of Mary at one end of it. I walk past the half-dozen shoe-shiners and the pairs of young people making out everywhere. In the U.S. teenagers go to secluded spots to make out. In Mexico they just go to the nearest public square. The serene statue of Mary watches over all of them here, even as she holds her baby in her arms. I take a few pictures, then take a closer look at the statue’s dedication plaque. Yep – this statute was definitely donated by the Lion’s Club. Lion’s Club or not, it’s time for cena, so I turn to head back. It is the end of a full day.

And a full month.

1 comment:

From Michigan with Love said...

you don't eat between 8:15 and 2! My God how do you do it!? Stay strong sojourner!