Bus rides (when they’re not in the dead of night) give the amazing opportunity of not having cell service so I can write and not be distracted but the outside world— well maybe the baby crying next to me is a little distracting…
If I’m not mistaken we left of in my story a while back with the change of families in January. Since then life has been moving so much faster than I want it to be, although I continue enjoying all the day to day occurrences.
In the latter part of January, I got to travel with my mom and their very first exchange student Malu to the state of Jalisco and visit the city Guadalajara and a few areas around. Taking an overnight bus we arrived early in the city walked around and got ready for the next few days. We took a couple tours in the surrounding area going through the artesanal tequila manufacturers, the city named Tequila, and to a giant lake (less giant then Lake Michigan) called Lago Chalapa. It was so cool to meet Malu, see how even after many years the family has kept in contact and hear in which direction she took her life after going on exchange.
UPAEP received a new exchange student! Giulia was having some troubles with the school she had been attending the first semester and luckily she was able to transfer to UPAEP for the second. She also decided to enter in the health area of study so we are together all day (fiesta!!!). School is going as always, I am still not a fan of that 6 AM alarm. The classmates make it all worthwhile, and the days like international women's day when they bought nieves (water based ice cream) for the whole school! I had so much fun scooping out the cups from the big barrels that selling nieves on the side of the road is my new 57th backup career!
While not in school it’s been a mix of everything. I’ll go out with friends, have some activity with Rotaract, go walking, watch Netflix, eat, hang out with the siblings-Marley included, or improvise something with Isa and Giulia when we get bored. I can almost always count of one or both staying at least one night at the house on the weekends. Now that it’s (already) hot, the cleaning of the small pool in my house has been a great back up plan whenever the need be. Also my brother Juan has “challenged” me to read every Sunday and while I don’t always achieve that I did recently finish a book.
Two weeks ago-- and the same day as my graduating class’ graduation photos--Robert, Dorothy and I were scheduled to meet in México City (CDMX) in the afternoon. In the morning I had the photos at the school and they took longer than anticipated. I did appear in the whole generation photo bur had to leave before our “casual” group photos. I arrived by bus in CDMX after both Dorothy and Robert had landed so we had no trouble meeting up outside the foreign arrivals and I did indeed hold in the tears! After settling into our hostel for the next few days we headed out on foot in the historic center of CDMX. The VERY first thing Dorothy wanted to buy there was bread- and it became a very common theme of going to a panadería almost every day.
In CDMX we did all kinds of touristy stuff: we went to the Chapultepec Forest, the artisan markets in Coyoacán, checked out the Diego Rivera murals in the National Palace, used the Metro, and tried some vegan street tacos in Roma. I tried to get used to translating although often times I looked to my siblings expecting an answer but was received with a what-is-happening-face and in other cases google translate came through for an unusual word in a museum. The nights were calm as we were all rather tired from walking around all day, still, they formed some of my favorite parts of the CDMX part of the trip. On the rooftop lounges of the hostel we were able to talk into the night, play cards or simply watch the nighttime city movement.
Another new experience for me was staying in a hostel. The dynamic for me was such more enjoyable than a tradicional hotel. We were able to get recommendations from fellow travellers, were identified as from the USA by Dorothy´s and my Chacos, but above it all I met two rebound exchange students who were travelling in México several years after their own exchanges. Rotary is everywhere, if there was a group that would take over the world-- I would bet on us
We bused back to Puebla, and from Puebla, Atlixco. This was the moment I was anxious for: the combining of my two lives, and my two families. Turned out there was not a problem at all! It was really fun from the start. We went out that first night with my siblings, which was funny to see everyone trying to find a balance of the languages between English and Spanish-- both Dorothy and Robert exceeded my expectations of how much Spanish they remembered--and I stayed in the outskirts understanding everything and throwing in a couple words when there was a look of panic thrown my way.
Our days in Atlixco were calm. A few of our original plans or want-to-dos we were unable to achieve but I was happy to stay in my city and walk and explore all the places I have come to know.
At the end of the first week it came time to put Robert on the bus to the airport. This time I let a few tears slip through.
But life had to keep moving and Dorothy and I had cheddar cheese to find. Why cheddar cheese? Well, Mac and Cheese is a quintessential USA food and it had come the time for me to give my Rotary country presentation, and as a part of that I wanted to make a dish to share with the club. After walking around in Puebla for a bit, we went to Walmart thinking they would have the supplies we were looking for-- we were wrong (kinda). Our original plan was to make puppy chow and mac and cheese. We got there started in the cereal aisle and NO rice chex cereal, I had not even realized that it wasn't available here. With that option out of play I thought, well what about root beer floats for the dessert? NO root beer! So we settled on banana bread as a dessert. Next we started looking at the cheeses and NO cheddar cheese-- we did eventually find cheddar slices and a pizza-type blend of shredded cheeses that served the purpose well. As much as I think México offers a very similar range of products as good ´ol HyVee, having my siblings here and actively looking for typically American food made me realize that several item are missing from the selection.
My presentation the next day went over smoothly and the mac and cheese and banana bread were a hit.
The end of Dorothy´s time here was topped off with a trip to the beach. We were also joined by Isadora on our few days in Acapulco, Guerrero. The time on the beach was the perfect way to soak up the sun and get to know another part of México.
In Atlixco the last night, Dorothy and I stopped once again at a panadería, bought some churros and climbed up the Cerro of San Miguel for sunset. We also had a ¨surprise¨ birthday celebration for Dorothy (I put the quotations because the surprise was broken before the cake came out and I for one am a rather bad liar when it comes to it). There was family, magic candles, and the Mexican tradition of taking the bite out of one´s birthday cake
We were out early this morning, and as I dropped Dorothy off at the bus station I again couldn't help but cry-- even knowing I would see her and be home soon enough.
So now we return to the normal. Or maybe I will shake it up a bit and return to the not normal and the daily adventure here in México. Until then,
See ya later,
What was left out...
Friday the 18th I spent sitting in the backseat of Lily´s red Subaru driving to Libres-- the exact same way I spent my second day here in México. I was weird. I started to think, to pour over all that had happened in the half-year I have lived here. Why the sudden sentimentality? Because, that morning of the 18th I had spent packing all my belongings, preparing to move away from the place I learned to call home. The time had come to change families.
These past five months I have grown, suffered, passed good times and gained a new life in my dear Atlixco. Here are some notable things:
With Lily, Antonio, and Emi (and Fer), I have established, and started my life here in México. This family started supporting me from the moment I found out the city I would live in, it was Fernanda herself who sent me a 7 AM text welcoming me to Atlixco. I remember my first phone calls with bad connection and stuttering Spanish. Thanks to the five months here the Spanish has improved, although bad phone connection popped up from time-to-time. They gave me the opportunity to travel quite a bit-- and I hope they equally enjoyed playing the tourist in the different places we visited. I also absolutely loved having a cat as a pet, she has a place in my heart. We had a few rough patches as every family does, but equally as family those small slip-ups were nothing compared to the rest. Quiero decirles gracias por todo. Recuerden que son mi familia, tienen casa conmigo, y los quiero muchísimo.
I had come to love our trips to Libres as well. There we spent Christmas, New Years, and several weekend trips. From my first days in August, I was accepted into the extended family- and they have watched me grow just as much as Lily, Antonio, Emi and Fer. Thanks to them for welcoming me into their family, teaching me how to dance like a Mexican and letting me help in the kitchen! My final weekend there was whirlwind-- where we crashed a Quinceñaera with a party of 20 people, and of course went for pulque again.
Today marks a week living in my new house! I was welcomed last Monday by: Lupita, Juan Esteban, Geovana, and Juan. Their youngest daughter, Ivana, is currently in Brazil for her exchange. My parents are the owners of an ice factory in Atlixco, and both Geo and Juan went on exchange in their own times. I am still adjusting to the house and the people-- their miniature poodle, Marley, is an angel and reminds me so much of Cocoa. I am really looking forward to getting to know another perspective of México and all the opportunities that come from a new family.
School is going well! I now am understanding everything and participate in class more. Giulia, Isadora and I continue making a fun mess of our lives and I love it.
Here´s to an amazing second half,
What was left out...
While my heart will forever belong to the quesadilla....México has some pretty damn good food hiding away, down here in the volcanoes! Here are some of my favorites (so far:) Also enjoy this poem I wrote (it´s mandatory)!!!!
I started out from Puebla with my knitting needles in my hand and sitting next to Elle crocheting. The first long drive from Puebla to Oaxaca brought the usual loud Brazilian music as well as stretches of quiet. You could always tell when entering a new beautiful part of the countryside by the amount of camera phones pointing out the window and then you get to relive them later through the extensive coverage on Instagram stories.
My Poblano friends were a solid rock of sanity through the entire trip and of course I remembered many people from orientation in Veracruz. The amount of new exchange students was surprising (either they could not attend orientation or they arrived late) and I spent a lot more time talking to new faces the first days. In total we were 83 students from more than 20 countries.
Anyone who works with students (or adults for that matter) knows that 83 people is a lot of people. There are times when it is really fun, or incredibly frustrating. Restaurants, hotels, ice cream shops, and Oxxo bathrooms alike were always flooded with people when our two charter buses rolled into town.
The travel themes consisted of driving a lot, doing a city bus tour, eating at the same restaurants, staying at the hotel for two nights, taking a day trip to something nearby, going to bed late, waking up early, and driving a lot more. Our stops: Oaxaca, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Palenque, San Cristobál, Chetumal, Playa del Carmen, Cancún, Tulum, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Mérida, Campeche, and Villa Hermosa. (If you scroll down past my sign off there is more description of what we did in the specific places:)
The Mexican countryside is incredibly beautiful with mountains and jungles but that means it took a long time to get anywhere. If there’s a scheduled three hours of travel in the itinerary it almost most certainly doubles. I think the longest we spent in one day was ten to twelve hours, it was somewhat horrible. I feel like a third of the time I was standing in the aisle of the bus and trying not to fall during the sharp mountain curves. Nevertheless, time stuck on a bus together makes it easier to form a new connection with a different person. One interesting thing that happened on the way through Chiapas was that at one point the bus was stopped and some sellers came aboard. We were told not to buy anything but they wouldn’t let us pass the road if we didn’t let the seller come aboard for a time.
The first four days through Oaxaca and Chiapas were the awkward stages of the trip. When we reached our resort in Playa del Carmen, things clicked in place. For me my group of best friends for the trip started to form. Shout out to the Chickens!!! We also found ourselves with a lot more free time in order to hang out, swim and play volleyball on the beaches. They had hammocks in every room, one night I fell asleep outside but unfortunately at 4 AM the adults in charge woke me up and told me to go to bed...in an actual bed inside. The nights were filled with shenanigans and games of probability. I lost the probability to enter the Ruta Maya Royalty contest by Romina (from Belgium), only to be beat by Romina herself after she was crowd nominated to enter. Johannas from Germany won king.
I can not fail to mention Brazil. With close to twenty Brazilians on the trip there was so much Portuguese, it was so interesting to try and listen to see what I could understand. Isadora always saw me listening- laughed at me, gave me a hug and said ¨you are trying¨ which is true and I was also failing horribly. Still, times on the bus I requested lessons and some phrases we learned were constantly repeated in both suitable and unsuitable times. Brazilian reggaton and dances (mostly twerking), were learned and attempted every time there was opportunity for it.
Through the whole trip the sun was shining and it was HOT. I am happy to say I only burned one time and it was not even that bad. At times we complained and compared the temperatures of our snowy homes with the blazing heat. Ice cream was a necessity every time we got to explore the city centers.
The inevitable final morning brought foresight to the eventual end of the year. Everyone felt it. Promises to visit were made, and it is sad to think about what will happen in June. here in Mexico there is chance to visit, when everyone goes home there will be continents separating us. This trip brought me so many amazing memories, and more importantly many amazing friendships. Nothing and nobody beats exchange students. The time we spend together in this year is so incredibly special because we will never have the opportunity to repeat it. Dear District 4185 I love all of you so much and can not wait to see you in May if not before!
Christmas is coming! See ya soon
Stops: Oaxaca City, Monte Albán archaeological site
Stops: Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the Canyon of Sumidero, Cascadas de Aguas Azules, Palenque archeaological site, San Cristobal
Stops: Playa del Carmen, Xcaret, Tulum, Cancún
Stops: Mérida, Chichen Itza, Uxmal
This is the reason for exchange. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
I am excited. I am also nervous but in that opening-act type of way. This Sunday is the Peregrinación to the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, located in México City. The low down is I will be walking for a day and change (total just under 50 kilometers) from Puebla to México City with around 1400 students from the UPAEP system. I am feeling physically up to it. The only catch being I will be carrying my sleeping bag and warm clothes for the overnight camp out somewhere in the mountains. Today I walked for 21:35 minutes with a backpack carrying two 8 lb hand weights and it was slightly horrible so I will be packing less than 16 lbs (7.3 kilos). I keep hearing horror stories about how cold it is at night--I currently am aching to be in a slightly colder environment--so I hope my few warm clothes are enough to keep me sane. Overall I am really happy I am able to have this experience especially with several of my classmates.
When I woke up Sunday I had a bit of extra time and I started writing my scrambled thoughts and continued with some ¨live updates¨ (I did not make changes to what I wrote so forgive grammar errors (@Dorothy) and nonsense sentences)
It’s 2:26 AM and I find myself in a position of being awake an hour before my alarm, wonderful right. My throat hurts and I think I’m going to eat some garlic and honey before hand. Maybe an extra hour is a blessing, less of a rush. But this has like not happened to me for a while so I’m not sure what that means. The bus leaves from Atlixco at 5.
Now it it 3:21 and I get to wait for an hour whooooo!!!!! I ate some bomb avocado black bean toast, which hopefully wasn’t a bad idea. While I have experience with hiking, lugging around bags for 40+ kilometers isn’t exactly the same thing. One of the cool things about exchange is there’s almost always someone awake at every hour (s/o Eva in France and Irina in México who should really go to bed).
I feel so content and accomplished that I was able to walk 40 km. I truly feel this was an experience where I could bond so much with my classmates and I like campfires and it’s really cold. We walked from 9:20 until 7:40. Given with breaks for lunch and stops for oranges and water.
A los que fueron caminando: cuando me preguntan “estás disfrutando de aquí” , la primera razón son ustedes. Siento que tengo mucha suerte por estar en Atlixco y en UPAEP con todos ustedes. Por todo lo que han echo , estoy muy agradecida y los quiero mucho. Gracias por apoyarme en todo. No puedo esperar para los próximos meses
We woke up. It cold. Too many people in the tent. So Ruth and I went outside to the fires and I would like to stay here to sleep. The stars here are a blessing, I feel like I can’t see them at all from my house in Atlixco.
Never have I walked so much in my life. We started with an opening blessing in a little town (marked with red) and walked from 09:20 until 19:40 (our camping spot marked with blue). Along the way there was good conversation, complaining, singing, stops with oranges provided and miles of beautiful Mexican countryside. Some of the worst parts were the steep inclines and declines, as well as times we walked in single file lines. I loved it. I already would love doing it again. Fortunately I now do not miss the cold.
On Monday morning I did indeed stay at the fires sleeping on and off until our wake up call at 06:00. It was cold- around 8 degrees Celcius or 46 degrees Fahrenheit -but still a good time. I didn't really eat breakfast because I did not want to buy anything and only had a little extra food in my bag. We took down our tent, organized ourselves by school and walked a bit more along a highway to a pick up location. There we were met by several more classmates and welcomed into a comfortable charter bus. We drove into México City and we walked (yes more walking) down the Ruta de Peregrinación until we reached the Basilica.
After grabbing some chow it was time for the mass. The original Basilica is not used because it is slowly sinking into the ground. The ¨modern¨ basilica is truly beautiful. While I did not come into this as a religious experience, the exhaustion and feeling of everyone coming together after a struggle gave me such a sense of peace.
Finally came the return trip, sleeping on the bus and Cars 3.
Coming soon, Ruta Maya and more
What was left out...
After the hardest and longest leg the forest opened up to this valley with a beautiful lake (of course I did not take photos) and I was happy and almost fell like 10 times because there were a ton of holes
My cold got worst, and my left foot got three really bad blisters
During the last leg we were walking and singing and I started singing the American national anthem and the Mexicans sang theirs- I was louder
Hello, I’m Isabel Hogg, a Rotary Foreign Exchange Student for the 2018-2019 school year. Story 18 is a documentation of my year living in Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico.
Youth Exchange “Slang”
Outbound: A person departing a country, similar to emigrant
“I am an outbound from District 5970”
Inbound: A person coming to a country, similar to immigrant
“I am an inbound to District 4185”
District: Divisions of countries/states that organizes Rotary clubs across the world
Rotex: An Exchange student who has already completed their exchange term
RYE: Rotary Youth Exchange