Mexico has begun to feel more and more like home as the weeks pass by and this foreign country that was once just another place on the map to us five girls has developed a new meaning. It’s been almost seven weeks since we flew into Mexico City from our respective cities in the USA and overlooked our new home country for the semester. In that time, we’ve been lucky enough to wander through different cities within the country and travel on the weekends to places like San Miguel de Allende, Las Grutas de Tolantongo, Querétaro, Mexico City, Teotihuacan, Xochimilco, Guanajuato, and this coming weekend, Puebla.
The five of us have soaked in hot springs, rode zip lines over the beautiful Mexican desert, seen gorgeous cathedrals, explored more unfamiliar roads than we can remember, overlooked enchanting views of new cities, gotten lost in streets lined with the most colorful of buildings, ridden 7 people to a car, spent mornings downtown in cute cafes, climbed up ancient pyramids, floated along canals on colorful boats, bachata-ed and cumbia-ed our little hearts out at a dance, fed our inner adrenaline junkies at six flags, and even gotten a tattoo. With all that we’ve done, it’s hard to say that the best is yet to come but with plans to still go to places like Guadalajara, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta later in the semester and to swim with dolphins, do even more zip-lining in a different environment, adventure through nature on some ATVs and allow our skin to drink up the sunshine on the beach, we have so much to still look forward to.
All of our experiences thus far have been so sweet and memorable. Is it wrong of me to say that all the food we’ve gotten to eat since we’ve been here is probably just as memorable and exciting as the activities we’ve done and places we’ve seen? Let me start with elote. Picture this: your typical corn on the cob- the kind you get at a fair. Now, slather on some mayo (I promise it tastes 100 times better than that sounds), roll it around in a powdery cheese, and sprinkle some chili all over it (no pica, of course) and you have yourself a gift from the Mexican gods… all for 15 pesos or $0.70 USD.
Now, let me move on to the tacos. Carne asada tacos are my obvious go-to and at a cute little taco stand downtown, we can get 3 mouth-watering tacos, sprinkled with onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, lime, and salsa verde, all for $1 USD. I’m sure you can imagine how revolutionary this discovery was for us.
Another favorite includes enchiladas at a restaurant about 2 blocks away from our apartment, a carne asada quesadilla from a restaurant neighboring the school we teach at, and of course… gorditas. Gorditas have changed my life for the better, undoubtedly. It’s like the Mexican pita pocket: a tortilla shell pocket, filled with meat, lettuce, and cheese. My stomach is crying just thinking about it. As for sweet treats, we’ve mostly stuck to ice cream and nieve. Nieve is more of an icy consistency rather than it is actual ice cream (made with water rather than milk… like a sno cone!) but can be scooped into cups, cones, or made into popsicles. Yesterday as we were walking around downtown, I stopped to pick up a limon popsicle and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had two different kinds of limon popsicles and one had chamoy in the middle. It’s easily my newest favorite treat! And because temperatures are creeping up and up each day, I can only assume that I’ll just need several of these babies each week. Along with all of the Mexican delicacies our taste buds have had the pleasure of indulging in, we are lucky enough to still have many familiar American food choices at our fingertips. Unlike China, where the food was sometimes so bad and downright scary that McDonalds seemed like a five star restaurant, Mexico not only has McDonalds and Burger Kings scattered everywhere, but many pizza shops and other restaurants that we have in America in which we can easily go to get our American food fill at, should we desperately need to. In Querétaro, they even had a Buffalo Wild Wings! You better believe we waited outside of that establishment for 30 minutes for it to open. As for drinks, horchata and Mexican hot chocolate from the cute cafés we spend our time in hit the spot. I’m definitely a hot cocoa connoisseur and will always prefer that to coffee or tea for my hot drink, but there’s something special about the cocoa here. It has a faint taste of cinnamon or mint. All I know is that I can’t get enough; even when it’s in the 70’s around here.
Life has become pretty routine now and we’ve gotten into the groove of living like the locals in Mexico. During the week, we either explore in the mornings, I work on homework for my online classes, or we have culture classes where we learn Spanish while attempting not to smash our heads into the desks from frustration or we learn about the Mexican culture. Other times, we’ve been taught dances they do here such as the cumbia and bachata during our culture classes and just this past week we learned how to make authentic (and healthy… as said by Ricardo) tacos! The teachers teach at two different schools and depending on which day it is, as the head teacher, I’ll accompany one of the groups to their school for the day. Some of the kids are gems and some of them are complete lunatics that spend more time out of their chair than they do actually sitting and learning English. Nonetheless, they’re all cute.
Some afternoons we go to the mall, sometimes we go downtown, more often that not we go out to eat all the delicious Mexican food that surrounds us, and just recently we started going to the movies. There’s not a whole lot to do in our charming little town, but it’s when the weekend rolls around that more activities do also and we can travel. Once in a while, there will be something within our normal week that will spice up our regular routine or causes more excitement than elote even might.
Yesterday that happened when I finally fulfilled a major bucket list item of mine: to get a tattoo in a foreign country. Getting a tattoo in a different country has been on my mind since I lived in China. I even went as far as emailing a tattoo shop in Shanghai about a price quote but unfortunately never followed through. After the appointment was made at a shop here in Celaya, all it took was 20 minutes, 500 pesos and for Cassandra, probably a sore and sweaty hand from me holding it while I was getting tattooed, to put a big fat “X” in this bucket list item of mine. Also, can we please reiterate the fact that it only cost me $500 pesos ($24 USD!!). Tattoo shops in the states always have a minimum of at least $50 or $60 USD for even the dinkiest of little designs and I got a pretty new little piece of art permanently inked into my skin for less than half that price. (Don’t worry mom, I made sure the studio was clean, the tools they used were sterile and new, and that there would be no chance of me contracting Hep C). My sixth tattoo hurt just as bad as my first 4 years ago but as usual, the temporary pain was worth it.
I’m so content and pleased with where I’m at in life right now. Just last week, I enrolled in summer classes with Arizona State University Online and on Sunday when I get back from traveling to Puebla, I’ll be registering for my fall classes with ASU. It may seem like a long time from now but in two years, I’ll be a college educated, bachelor degree receiving, graduated woman! For taking time off of school many times, graduating only a year later than I was supposed to isn’t too bad. HOLLA.
When 2017 replaced the atrocious year that was 2016, I felt it deep within my bones that this new coming year was mine. 2017 would bring growth, happiness, adventure, travel, and all around goodness. What brings me more happiness, adventure, and growth than living in a foreign country? Mexico is taking up the first part of the amazing year that 2017 will be sure to bring… but once I leave Mexico, then what? Because when I’m gone for too long, my home of Tucson, Arizona can bring me as much happiness as traveling can, I’ll be spending my summer melting in the Arizona heat and spending time with my loving family and sweet friends. However, because when I’m home in Tucson for too long that that situation can also bring me just as much unhappiness, I’ll be spending my fall semester and the remainder of my extraordinary 2017 abroad once more. Where? Back in Asia as head teacher again with the International Language Programs in THAILAND!
I couldn’t be more excited for everything that awaits me on the other side of the world once more. I still think about China every single day, how hard it was, how rewarding it was, how life-changing it was and how foreign every aspect of living there was and I strangely can’t help but miss that inconvenience. Mexico is still a foreign country and still a complete and utter dream, but has nowhere near the amount of inconvenience that China holds. If Thailand is anything like China in terms of foreignness, struggle, beauty, and adventure, I cannot wait for all the inconvenience it has in store for me!
P.S.: After almost a year, I finally finished Gossip Girl and my heart is broken and my love for Chuck and Blair is almost unhealthy and damn me for not knowing who gossip girl was sooner.