Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Bad

What can I say, really? There I was, enjoying a taco and a Pepsi with Amber and our new friend Roberto. Out of curiosity, both because I've slept only 3 hours total in the last 48, and because Roberto suggested that we hang out some more, I asked the time. Turns out, it was after 5am. Ooops.
Started the night out at Argentinian Ana's again, this time for the official Foosball tournament that occurs once every six months. They had a video on Youtube to introduce the players (projected onto a blank wall), an official Foosball tournament anthem, and team uniforms! Ana said it's been going on two years now, and honestly, I can't think of a better hobby to develop when it turns out the way these tournaments have.
I'm not sure when we decided to head to Wall Street. I'd left my phone at home, so in all honestly, the night went from 10pm when we left the house to 5am at the taco stand. The in-between time was good fun - the whole group of exchange students and their welcoming friends took over the dance floor, sang passionately along with Guns 'N Roses as well as less-known (for me, not the locals) Mexican ballads, and overall proved ourselves to be young and resilient.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Futbolito". How cute!

Thursdays are fast becoming my favorite days here, for obvious reasons. It's the day of my literature class, which I stress out over and think I'll probably fail, but I love the content anyway. I'm done with the day by 11am, and then it's the weekend! Whatever I may do with the day, it's probably always going to end over at the Argentinian girl Ana's house, where they hold Foosball tournaments and prefunk before heading out to the clubs. This morning we made it home shortly after 4am.

A lot of the students here have been complaining about the disrespect shown in the classroom. Students leave to answer their cellphones, smoke a cigarette, or go buy food. The process involves saying goodbye to every one of their friends as they leave, and hello when they return. The professors usually don't say a word; they just continue on with their lecture unheard. And let's not forget the continuous conversations taking place in various corners of the classroom.
At least, this is what I've heard. My experiences in the classroom have been a lot less horrifying. Students still get up and leave regularly, but usually with a minimum amount of attention-seeking. Professors are vague about the homework, but it's not hard to ask for clarification.
But one thing I will agree on. The lectures usually contain about twenty minutes' worth of information in a two-hour lecture. I realize semesters allow for more time to cover the information, but come on! It's almost as if the students here expect the teachers to write their notes for them, holding their hands the entire time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time'sa Wastin'

I've noticed that everything here seems to move at a much slower pace. It takes an hour to get to school, classes more or less start ten minutes after the hour, dinner often lasts more than two hours, and even a simple task like getting a visa photo taken can take an entire afternoon.

Take, for example, today. My second day of classes. Upon arriving at the school, I discovered that my class had been changed to a different room. After asking around a bit, I found the room. But, of course, no one was there. So back I go to the office and find out, oh, not only was the classroom changed, but so was the day! There was little choice in the matter, so now my schedule is a lot less awesome and a lot more annoying. Anyway. I'd agreed to meet the Finnish girl (Johanna) after classes (which were supposedly in the same building at the same time), so I decided to take care of a few errands and walk around the campus some more. I ran into Paty a little later, so we spent the hour left walking around and chatting with various other exchange students. The story continues along this thread for a while, me running into other students and chatting, moving on, finding more people to talk to, until the next thing I know it's almost 2. I'd gotten to school at nine!

Of course that's not all. The second leg of the adventure took place off-campus for another 3+, which consisted of catching a bus, getting our visa photos, and walking maybe a mile from the photo place to our house. I was hurting like crazy because of various bumps and sores I've acquired in the last week, Amber was complaining about the walking the whole time, Johanna was too excited about her new Nokia phone to care about any of us, and Paty just plain didn't want to go home to her empty house.

So now it's 6, I've walked at least three miles today, and have nothing to show for myself except more blisters on my feet and a fading sunglasses tan.

I love this country!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Know Spanish Slang

For breakfast here, we usually have fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was great the first day, absolutely refreshing and invigorating, but it's more like drinking orange-flavored pulp than orange juice. So I bought myself a big box of chamomile tea and went back to drinking two cups of tea every morning.

The day before yesterday I was stung by a bee. My toe has swollen up to twice its size, and when we got back from last night's party, I took of my tennis shoes to find a blister the size of a peanut M&M. Big and puffy and ready to burst. So I poked it with a needle, and now all the skin on my toe is shriveled and white and sick-looking. I think my toe's going to fall off.

As for last night's party, it was thrown by an ITESO student named Chuy. Some of the other exchange students showed up, but mostly it was local Guadalajara kids hanging out and listening to american hiphop (yeah Akon!). Everyone was super nice and friendly, and after a beer or two I loosened up, stopped being nervous about so many people speaking Spanish, and started joining in the conversations. Amber and I got quite a few numbers, both guys and girls, as well as more information about local happenings. Today, for example, they rent bikes in the park near our house. Main streets all over Guadalajara are shut down until 8pm, and everyone takes to the streets on their bicycles. How awesome!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Damn, school is far away!

Today was the actual orientation, rather than the fake one that I convinced myself existed yesterday. It was more or less interesting - no, I take that back. It was complete bull shit. The whole chat in the auditorium was the same stuff you hear whenever you travel - safety tips, location propaganda, and warnings about feeling depressed. For two hours. Finally it ended, and we continued to sit and fill out paperwork for our student visas. That'll be fun, since I have until next Friday to pay $100 (dollars, not pesos) to get a visa that says I'm allowed to study in Mexico. Even if I had prepared for this beforehand in Seattle, it still would cost me $60. I guess it's typical, having to pay large sums of money to the government while traveling, but I'm still chafing over it.

Okay, so finally, after four hours of eating up our time, they show us to the lunch. Bowls full of chili, hand-made corn tortillas, pico de gallo, more bowls of meat and potatoes. It was like Heaven, and all of us were getting cranky from low blood sugar and dehydrated. And you know what they made us do instead of eating?

Play a game.


Getting to know you games when the food is getting cold right in front of our eyes.

It was interesting enough. The idea is to work together, lifting and pushing and pulling each other one by one through squares of rope without touching the sides. Once two people went through every square, the rest had to go over the top! With 60+ people, it was chaos. For a few moments we all just stood there and cursed in our respective languages, threatening to just walk away and go buy food somewhere else.

But we did it in the end. And then we ate, and the tortillas and meat were delicious. Then I won a free ITESO tshirt, got my school ID, and started on the longest adventure home yet.

It took Amber and I three hours to get home, from going to the wrong bus stops to taking wrong turns, asking for directions from nearly every person we passed. We finally got back to the casa at seven. TEN HOURS after we left for orientation. Gloria had had dinner sitting and waiting for probably two hours by then, but she reheated it and commiserated and pretty recognized that it was a necessary evil for us to finally figure out our way around. And just in case we haven't learned yet, her son Diego is printing us off a few maps of the city right now.

Meanwhile, I'm not getting off this couch until the battery in my laptop dies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Day One

As soon as I realized I'd be getting in to Guadalajara two hours later than expected, I figured my night would consist of getting to the hostel, throwing down my suitcase, and falling lovingly into a hard twin bed with only one pillow.

I got that last part right. The rest varied.

Turns out, even though I have very little confidence in my Spanish, I'm doing well enough to meet kind strangers at every turn. Maybe it's just the cute and slightly lost American girl aspect that's getting me by, but I don't think it is. My experiences traveling have proved again and yet again that strangers are generally kind hearted, helpful, and willing to try an adventure. One example would be the girls who drove me to the hostel from the airport. None of us had any idea where to go, and after getting off the freeway we spent a good thirty minutes going up and down one-way streets, on the phone with the hostel, trying to figure out where we were.

As for today, I spent the better part of it walking up and down the local streets, searching for various destinations. On no less than four separate trips I've walked a minimum of a mile each time, looking first for a grocery store, then a bookstore, lunch, and finally another bookstore. Later I'll be heading out with another girl from the hostel to find some form of dinner for under 20 pesos.

I'm really satisfied with the trip so far. I was afraid I'd be overwhelmed, or that I wouldn't find someone to commiserate with, or that Guadalajara in general would just be too different to get used to. And yes, there was a moment this morning around 9 am when I was walking through the freshly-doused streets, dodging spray kicked up by the speeding cars, when I wondered just what the Hell I thought I was doing, signing up to spend four months away from all my friends and family just to run around by myself while barely understanding the words being spoken over my head. But now it's 7 pm, and I'm a bit sleepy, and I have a giant cup of horchata to soothe me. Whatever happens next, I'd be terribly disappointed to have missed it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

August 11th is Here!!!

Alright guys, this is it. In two hours I'll be at the airport, getting ready to start the adventure. My parents just woke me up so I could say good-bye before they went to work, and now I'm doing the final packing for my suitcase. There are just a few last minute tasks to take care of, such as changing my voicemail message and mailing off insurance information to the university (shit! can you believe I waited this long?!)

See you in Mexico!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Sorrows

So I think I'm cursed. I've managed to abuse and destroy every digital camera I've ever owned. Last Christmas, I got my very first and favorite camera. Two weeks later I dropped it during low tide into the water and sand, permanently scarring the lens. I coughed up the money to replace it, and went along happily from there. Then this spring, during one of our better apartment parties, the camera got dropped onto the kitchen counter from, oh, maybe a foot in the air. It never recovered. Since Mexico is coming up very, VERY soon now, I finally hopped to it and replaced the second broken camera with a small, lovely new Nikon Coolpix. It even came with a carrying case, so I wouldn't destroy it when I inevitably dropped it!

Instead it's either stolen or lost. One day it was sitting happily in the bottom of my purse, the next, I go to take a picture and it's gone. I really, really don't want to buy myself a fourth camera in less than two years. Unfortunately, I can afford it (but damn I'll be sore about it) so if it hasn't shown up by Sunday evening, I'm going back to Costco.