Monday, October 27, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Last week our Friday classes got switched to Thursday for uninteresting reasons. This meant two things: international bar and three-day weekend! The international bar is a bar we found out about here in town that on Thursdays has free drinks for foreigners with ID. I’m not sure how this is legal, but it is, and it’s awesome. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve thought that exact sentence in the last two months…) For the three-day weekend there were a couple different groups splitting up. Some were going to spend a day in Guanajuato, others back to the Sierra Gorda at a house of one of our Mexican friends, some staying in town and one girl in our group meeting up with a friend in Morelia and then going to the coast. Still undecided on Thursday night after international bar (I neither know nor care what it’s really called) the few of us on the fence, in true procrastinators style, decided we’d talk the next day and figure it out. The next day we figured we were too late to catch a ride to Sierra Gorda, didn’t want to go to Guanajuato for only a day, and didn’t want to stick around town all weekend. Through a series of convoluted and later blatantly erroneous text messages from our friends Jessica and Emily (the beach going duo who had already left), my buddies Chris and Eric and I decided that the coast it is and we boarded the 3:30 bus to Morelia hoping to catch a connection to the coast at seven in attempt to save both time and money on the direct bus which didn’t leave until midnight. Both the text I got that said the bus from Queretaro to Morelia only took “two hours-ish” and that there was a connection at seven turned out to what later in the trip were referred to as “Emily facts.” Neither were even close to being true; the bus took four hours, (although we did get stuck behind a train that I am pretty sure had a drunk conductor, ask about that story sometime) and there was not a bus at seven (we wouldn’t have made it anyways as a result of the first lie) but rather one at midnight. (The first bus wouldn’t have been as bad if we hadn’t been forced to watch two of the worst attempts at movies in the history of cinema: the second half of “High School Musical II” and a phenomenally bad movie about a Mormon who goes on his mission in the South Pacific. Thank god it ended before I pulled off the rarely seen Oedipus-van Gogh combo of gouging out both of my eyes and cutting off my ears. That still would have been less painful. I’m sure of it.) All of this left us with a wonderful four hour layover in Morelia where we went to a shopping mall area, ate, sat around and then I went into my first ever Wall Mart—didn’t really leave much of an impression on me. We did a lot more sitting and then wandering to a new spot to sit and decide where we wanted to wander to next. Eric and Chris had about a half hour conversation about dragons from some book I had never heard of, we wandered around Home Depot in search of ratchets for a gizmo we wanted to build, and then took off. It wasn’t so bad, we all agreed, small price to pay for how much fun we were planning on having at the beach. We had no idea. Possibly through divine intervention (or the fact that it was the cheapest bus we could get) there was no movie on the five-plus hour ride to Zihuatanejo and a short taxi ride to the hotel in Ixtapa got us to our destination a little after five in the morning. (Zihuatanejo is where Andy Dufresne escapes to meet up with Red in “Shawshank Redemption.” We saw neither Tim Robbins nor Morgan Freeman; that’s not to say we weren’t looking.) We met up with the girls and walked to the beach to watch the sunrise. None of us were tired, it was way too cool. This started off our weekend of awesomeness and confusing questions about astronomy—both remained motifs throughout. Over the next two days these are a select few of the most uttered phrases or questions: “Wait, we’ve been in Mexico for how long and why haven’t we done this already?” “Everyone who didn’t come is going to have to hear about how awesome this was for a week.” “Do you think there is a study abroad program in Cabo?” “How sunburned is my back?” “Who got to decide the constellations? Best job ever.” “Is that true or is that an Emily Fact?” “Uno mas cerveza por favor.” The sand was perfect, the water was perfect, the weather was perfect, the mood was perfect; I guess you could say Saturday and Sunday were pretty much perfect. I can’t describe everything we did because neither you nor I have time, however, one anecdote that I’m sure will really deliver the punch happened on Saturday. Eric and Chris took off in search of Gatorades (preferably pink) to keep hydrated and wash the salt water out of our mouths. After well over an hour without coming back, we started wondering and getting a little worried about where they were. Finally they showed up with two bags of water (yeah, bags, as in plastic) and they could hardly speak to get the words out of where they had been. Eventually we deciphered what they trying to say: they found some tents down the beach a ways where for 50 pesos you can get a half hour massage. I don’t think they stopped smiling for the rest of the trip. Later that night, we went back and I got a massage on a beautiful Mexican beach at dawn that I am convinced took me to another dimension of both time and space. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the trip. We got back into the Queretaro bus station this morning a little after 6AM, just enough time to make 9AM classes and to explain to everyone our tans (or burns), uncontrollable grins, and our plans for the next three-day weekend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mexico City

I guess you could say this weekend didn’t quite go as planned. Actually, even before it started it wasn’t going as planned. Gabi, our fearless leader, had been telling us for a while that her mother had been sick but in the past week it got worse and she passed away here in Queretaro midweek. A couple of us went the funeral and we later got an email stating the obvious which was that Gabi would not be going with us to Mexico City over the weekend. So we went on with just Alejandro, one of our Spanish professors. I asked him when he got there if Gabi had told him anything about my bag that was stolen in the Sierra Gorda, since the original plan was to try and get it when we were there. He said he hadn’t heard anything but said he would call Gabi. Because of the whole situation, I figured it was probably a lost cause but he said he’d do it anyways. The first day we stopped at some old Aztec ruins outside of Mexico City where we got to climb ancient pyramids, take pictures, and be harassed by countless people trying to sell trinkets. It was really cool and I liked it a lot, but would have enjoyed much more if I hadn’t woken up that day with a headache, stomachache and the accompanying bowel movements. Nonetheless, I was able to make the most of it and slept on the bus as much as I could. The next day we went sightseeing around Mexico City. We started off by going to the Z√≥calo, the main plaza in Mexico City with the National Palace, which was just a few blocks from where we were staying at the Hotel Canada. When I went to Mexico a couple winters ago, we ate at the Hotel California in the town of Todos Santos where Don Henley supposedly wrote the song “Hotel California.” I liked the Hotel California better, I’ll explain later. In the National Palace there is perhaps Diego Rivera’s most famous mural depicting the history of Mexico. It is a spectacular work of art and one of the most impressive things I have seen in person. There were also a bunch of other murals of his there that we looked at before leaving for the Anthropology Museum, which is a huge museum of artifacts from the ancient civilizations of Mexico. Thanks to liberal usage of Pepto Bismol, I felt a little better and was able to spend more time in the museum than the bathroom, but once again, I could have enjoyed it a little more. I’m kind of a nerd about some of that stuff so I still really enjoyed it. Afterward we went up to a huge castle that overlooks the city and that some day when I am a gazillionare I am going to buy and my friends and I will have a “Real World: Queretaro” there. Except there won’t be any cameras and it won’t be on TV. Other than that, pretty much the same. Once we made it back to the hotel we were all ready to crash for a bit and then head out for food and a night on the town. But, like I said, things didn’t exactly go as planned. When we got back to our room I was missing all of the money (about $250) I left in my backpack and my friend Chris was missing some from his backpack and my friend Jessica in a different room on a different floor. Our rooms had been cleaned and it was clear since our rooms were locked that the maid did a little extra cleaning. I told you, I liked the Hotel California better. We got Alejandro and went to complain to the front desk, they seemed surprised and said that they haven’t had any complaints like this before. They looked to see who had cleaned the rooms and of course it was someone who usually doesn’t work for them that was just filling in. Also of course, when called, the maid didn’t answer, and also of course, the hotel said they have a contract of sorts that says they can’t be held responsible, and also of course the next day when talked to by the hotel manager the maid claimed no responsibly. There’s a possibility that we could get it back, Alejandro has the phone number of the place and although she wasn’t answering her phone over the weekend, when Gabi is back I’m sure she will at least try to help us out. In all, it’s quite depressing and I don’t even like rehashing it. When my bag was stolen it was annoying and frustrating but at least the whole thing had a “live and learn” motif to it since it was my fault I left it sitting there. This is different, this is just annoying, it’s not even a good story, at least the bag story had the silver lining of being interesting, this story sucks; you should know, you’re reading about it. We ended up not going out after all, however, those of us that weren’t tired had a great night hanging out in our room into the wee hours of the morning making sure to leave plenty of work for the maid in the morning. The next morning we had the option of going to a ballet but I passed since I wasn’t in the mood and barely had any money left. (I had some money on me that wasn’t in my backpack. I figured money was safer locked in my hotel room than in my pocket as I walked the streets of Mexico City. Clearly, I was wrong.) I got up somewhat early and since everyone that didn’t go was still asleep I lugubriously (I just learned that word today, I was excited to use it) walked around the centro. I basically just wandered around, went into gigantic churches, bought some cookies for breakfast at a Seven-Eleven, and then when others woke up, I finished up breakfast with some French fries and strawberry water. (There was an awesome juice shop next the hotel that had delicious and really cheap juice, or “water with flavor” as it is sometimes called here.) I even thought about having my spirit cleansed by a dude dressed up as an Aztec priest with a bowl of incense that he used to dance circles around paying customers. I decided I’d save my money but I’m still regretting it, it probably only cost like $0.04. Later on in the day we went to more museums and more ruins and then headed back to Queretaro. Although it didn’t go quite as some of us would have hoped, I really did enjoy Mexico City. I’m actually over the money at this point because Mexico City was so awesome; it’s not an easy city to mope around in. It’s is by far the hugest place I have ever been (it’s one of the hugest places in the world, it might even be number one in hugeness) and pretty much everything about it fascinated me. Well that’s about it from my end, sorry this was so long, slightly depressing and not all that interesting, but hey, now that you’re done you can get back to (see below).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Time Wasters

I found this link on the blog of one of my favorite columnists, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times—one of the roughly 154,392 newspapers that Sara Palin couldn’t name. (Zing! Stick with me all political season for relentless Sara Palin burns... there are just so many to chose from.) I’m not asking anyone to give money or anything, I’m not even sure what charity this is for, but I found it interesting and thought I would pass it on. Now a link to take it in a completely different direction, I found this jewel a while ago and became more than slightly addicted. Anyone who enjoys having fun, laughing, and wasting copious amounts of time is sure to enjoy this. In other news, we’re going to Mexico City this weekend which should be a good time. I will be back with news, hopefully of the recovery my bag from The Wicked Witch of the South, and other such information when I return. Adios.