Friday, August 29, 2008

Bernal



On Sunday we took a day trip to Bernal, which is about 45 minutes away from Queretaro. Both the town and the giant monolith with the same name were awesome. It is something like the second largest monolith in the world. We hiked up it as far as you can go with out actually rock climbing with ropes and harnesses and whatnot. There were a few people that were rock climbing it and it looked both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. The hike, although not necessarily very far, was quite hard as it is all rock and very steep—there were two dogs that once they got to the top immediately hit the ground and fell asleep panting uncontrollably. Those of us that made it all the way up had lunch up there, took pictures, climbed around some more and then went back into the town. (It was a bit eerie that I had Ben Kweller’s “Falling” stuck in my head as we gingerly made our way down the steep, slick rock… “just say hello to the ground/ do you feel like your falling down?”) The town was really cool as well; there was a church in the town square that was yellow and orange (but not hideous like) and across the street there was a “Museo de Mascaras” or “Mask Museum.” I am not sure “museum” is the right word to describe a building that used to be a prison with no one in it and one room with a bunch of frightening masks on the walls, but once you get past the initially creepiness of it, it was really sweet. Another store had a bunch of colorful ponchos hanging up around the door outside and when you go in you can walk past the counter into the back and they have a bunch of huge looms and massive amounts of yarn and thread where they make all their own stuff. There were also parrots and other birds back there, walls of colorfully woven pillows and blankets, as well as a little puppy that I visited about five times before I left. Except for the ridiculous tank top shaped sunburn I got (without a shirt I look like I’m wearing a wife-beater with nipples), the whole day was great and if anyone is ever in central Mexico I strongly suggest spending a day in Bernal.


(Before this weekend I had taken only four pictures: two of trees that grow in streets, one of a stretch slug bug and one of some goats that live in a parking lot by my school. Above are two from Bernal. You’re welcome.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Luis Pasteur Was A Genius...

(NOTE: We went to Bernal today and it was awesome, I will have more on that and other relevant topics relating to Mexico and my time here, however, this is not one of them.)

The first time I went driving around with Lolita I noticed they have a street here called “Pasteur” and I thought “Oh, like Luis Pasteur.” It turns out it’s exactly like Luis Pasteur as the whole name of the street is “Calle Luis Pasteur” and not only that but there is a clinic of sorts near my house named after him too—and it’s not even on Calle Pasteur. My ten minutes of wikipedia research found no connection between the Frenchman that pasteurized milk and Queretaro, Mexico. Regardless, I got to thinking as I was walking to the park to read today what a genius this guy was. Not only did he pasteurize milk but he also named it after himself. Now, as long as there is milk people will know who Luis Pasteur was. Conversely, inventors that don’t do this must be idiots. For whatever reason, the two products/inventions that I was thinking about were the microwave and deodorant. No one knows who invented either of those. No one even cares. It seems incomprehensible to me that someone would be smart enough to invent the microwave—the greatest kitchen appliance since the oven, and if you’re a college student the greatest kitchen appliance ever—and still be stupid enough to not name it after him or herself. If I invented the microwave I simply would have called it an Oliver; people would call it an Ollie for short. There would be an Oliver in 98% of American homes and an “Olliable Food” aisle in every grocery store in America. College students everywhere would love me and they would say stuff like, “Dude, Ollie those hot dogs for a couple more seconds” or “Hey, we should Oliver our clothes instead of paying for the dryers at the laundromat.” It would be awesome for all parties involved. The same is true for deodorant. We get it, it deodorizes, thanks for helping us out. Whoever invented deodorant could have had their name be synonymous with keeping people from perspiring and smelling like crap throughout their days worldwide. Instead no one knows who invented it because they were too stupid to put their name on it. Once again, if I invented deodorant it would be called “Oliver” and I would be loved by people with overactive sweat glands around the world. People would have their favorite kind of Oliver and there would be commercials with famous athletes endorsing a brand of Oliver. My kids would get into Harvard and someone might even write an uninteresting book about me that I could sign and pass off as birthday and Christmas presents every year. It has occurred to me that I may be wrong and somewhere there is a James Microwave or a Thomas Deodorant sitting around their mansion counting their billions, but I find that hard to believe. I was going to look up the microwave and deodorant on wikipedia as to avoid any factual errors that I might be making and to see who actually invented them (if anyone even knows) but I decided I didn’t care enough to read about some guy who didn’t realize the full potential of his invention. If microwaves were called “Smiths” I would be interested and have looked it up but instead I looked up “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and laughed my ass off. I wonder if the inventor of the microwave thinks about all this every night before he goes to bed (not “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” the other stuff I’ve been talking about) and what a mistake he made or if his wife brings it up in arguments (“You could have named the microwave after us you idiot!” …she has a valid point). I bet Luis Pasteur never regretted anything and went to bed every night with a happy wife and a smile on his face knowing that he will be forever immortalized on milk cartons and street signs worldwide. And would I also bet that the deodorant dude and the microwave guy are quite jealous.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Los Arboles


This is a picture of one of my favorite things here in Queretaro. There are trees in the streets and sidewalks that instead of cutting down to make way for said streets and sidewalks they simply just paved around. I could be wrong and these are just crazy Mexican trees that can grow in concrete, but I’m highly skeptical of that theory. This tree is just a few blocks from my house and every time I pass it I ponder the ridiculousness of its existence. All they did was paint the bottom white! This is the kind of tree preservation that would make even Tre Arrow proud—although the approximately 4.2 million cars I have seen here compared to the exactly four bikes might not make him so happy. (I actually feel really bad for the cyclists here because each time I see one I am convinced that they haven’t got more than five minutes left to live.) Anyways, I was thinking about this on my way to class yesterday and wondering if there is a Mexican version on Tre Arrow. I highly, highly doubt it. Throughout the course of my half an hour walk I concluded that Tre Arrow as an idea and a person has to be a purely American invention—I couldn’t think of another place in the world where he could possibly exist. As soon as I came to this conclusion I realized that I had spent the last 30 minutes thinking about an eco-terrorist and his possible Mexican counterpart while obliviously walking through this really cool town with all this really cool stuff to see and not really taking any of it in. I wouldn’t say this depressed me, although I certainly wasn’t proud of myself.

(My favorite part of Tre Arrow’s wikipedia article that I linked above is that he used incense as the fuse to blow stuff up. Seriously? Talk about leaving behind your calling card. He might as well have just handcuffed himself and waited for the cops to get there.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dance Class

Last night after dinner Lolita asked me if I wanted to go with her to her gym for her dance class. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do there or how long we’d be there or if I was just going to walk with her but I couldn’t say no and she has been telling me about her gym and all of her activities since I have been here. And, after all, at least this time I knew where I was going. When we got there the class had already started and there were about 15-20 people participating. Lolita, wearing workout pants with a blue washcloth tucked into the waistband, walked right up to the back and seamlessly joined the synchronization. (No one wears shorts here I have noticed. Even most of the guys lifting weights in the gym were wearing pants.) It was really quite amazing how all these people knew the dance moves and everything, I don’t know where or how they know them, but they did. I have seen aerobics in the States before and it is not really like this, this was more like Mexican dancing aerobics. Leading the class was a young, fit, attractive, short Mexican lady who yelled out instructions. Since we haven’t gotten to the dance aerobics vocabulary in any of my Spanish classes yet I wasn’t really sure what she was yelling but somehow, despite the fact that the music was blaring, this tiny little lady’s voice carried over all of it. Lolita was good at it (whatever its called) and she really got into it. I could tell she was glad that I came and she even introduced me to some of her gym friends who gave me sweaty kisses on the cheek and one told her that there was a girl from the states in the next class that I should meet. She said they can tell really easily when someone isn’t from here which just confirmed what I already knew. I thought it was really cool that everyone knew the dance steps and it did not take long here to figure out that Mexicans love to dance. I have already “danced” in one of my classes and I think we are going to in another tomorrow. It makes me jealous as an American that I never learned dances called “tango” or “salsa” but rather “grind” and “drunk.” There’s no art or beauty in either or those, especially when combined. Meanwhile, as I am thinking all of this, Lolita and her classmates dance away and I contemplate whether I should take a picture of this spectacle. I decide that I am sticking out enough as the gringo standing in the corner wearing shorts and a backpack watching a Mexican aerobics class without flashing off a picture in a mirrored room. Needless to say, I decided a mental image would have to do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

¡Hola!

Hi everyone, greetings from Queretaro. I figured I would set up this blog to give updates and pictures and what not along my way. (I haven´t taken any pictures yet so only this boring tidbit for now.) I have no idea how often I will do this but you can check or not check it whenever you want. Today is my first time on the internet (except about five minutes yesterday for an email) making the two and a half days without it the longest I have gone without internet since its existance. Didn´t think I´d make it, but I´m OK.

I got in later than I was supposed to on Sunday and met my host mother whose name is Lolita. She has a cool house with crazy stairs--it´s hard to explain. She is really nice and she immediately showed me all of her drawings; she takes art classes and at night draws the faces from a Leonardo da Vinci book she has. She is actually really good and she gets really excited when she talks about it. Being as my Spanish can at best be described as suspect, the two of us have a bit of a difficulty with communication. So far it has all been fine--she usually just laughs at me when I say something stupid--she does most of the talking and I aggree with what she says whether I understand or not and she knows I don´t really understand. Yesterday she was trying to tell me something that I wasn´t really understanding and the next thing I know we are driving somewhere in her car. I thought maybe she was taking me to an internet cafe because I had asked her earlier about one. In her car on the way to where ever it is we were going she asked me why I have my backpack and since I don´t know how to say ¨Because I have no idea where the hell we are going¨in Spanish I responded ¨uhhh, no se.¨ (¨don´t know¨). She laughed and told me she thought it was funny that I would bring my backpack to a restaurant. Apparently we were going to a restaurant. I aggreed that it was funny that I would bring my backpack, as if I knew where we were going all along. She saw right through it. Luckly, she is very patient with me and my ignorance. It turns out we were meeting the entire group and their host mothers for ¨comida.¨ Others in the group were confused as well, so that´s good. Because I don´t always understand what Lolita is saying, I am not exactly sure about certain things about her. So,

Things I know about Lolita:
°She lives alone but has three kids and seven grandkids. I have yet to meet them.
°She has a sweet black lab that stays in the carport area next to my room.
°She has yet to stop at a stop sign when driving.
°When walking she doesn´t expect drivers to stop at stop signs, intersections, etc. for her as she briskly walks or runs across most streets.
°She likes watching the Olympics and really likes Michael Phelps. (I have heard from others in the group that their host mothers were enamored with Phelps as well.)

Things I think I know about Lolita:
°She likes George Bush and she does not like Hugo Chavez. (I must say though, I am sure of very little from this conversation and I can´t say for certain what she was trying to tell me.)
°Her black lab´s name is ¨Roc¨(?)
°She is not attracted to Chinese men.
°She used to play basketball. (Still does?)
(All of these should have an asterisk by them since I am only about 25% sure that they are true.)

Things I have learned about myself:
°The next time I don´t look both ways before crossing a street is likely to be the last mistake I ever make.