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
Sunday we met up with all the others involved with Youth Exchange in Rotario Atlixco-- inbounds, counselors, YEO and families. We took the 1-2 hour drive into the state of Morelos and the Pueblo Mágico Tepoztlán.
The cliffs surrounding the city possess the green lushness that the Poblano countryside lacks. The mountain in particular that we-and many others- came to visit rises up from Tepoztlán. Where you can walk from the city center, down a street lined with vendors and stores only to keep going up, up, and more up until you reach the ruins that peak the cliff. In total it’s around a 2 km hike up. The path consisted of partially constructed rock steps mixed with naturally formed rock piles. The altitude or frequency of rain made it so the rocks were slippery and random drops would fall down from the green canopies above us. As with the other ruins I have visited, I try to imagine the builders and hundreds of people who have lived and walked the paths before me.
Tepoztlán is known to have a connection with the Earth chakra- and along the way up there were some meditators and other “spirit cleanses” taking place to the sides. Safe to say I found a hippie town. With that hippie spirit comes VEGETARIAN FOOD!!!!!!!! I was pretty happy when we sat down for breakfast and there was vegetarian tacos on the menu. For after the hike there was a delicious vegetarian burger that I enjoyed as Giulia, Isadora, and Emi, enjoyed their genuine hamburgers.
Updates have definitely been slow to come- this can be blamed on laziness and my family giving me their Netflix password, and other stuff that I am too lazy and tired to think of at the moment...
See you sooon :)
What was left out...
After the final test of a week of exams (their trimester exams I believe), classes ended at 11 and the rest of the school day was spent with celebrations-- September 15th is the day of independence for México. This consisted of honoring the flag, a VIVA MÉXICO yell and a fair-like set up of Mexican food for sale and made by 5th semester students (excluding myself). This was a fun time to hang out with friends- and I even got married…
After a tearing down the stands and dancing a tad- I went home to prepare for La Cabalgata.
For a word that can be translated into either ¨parade¨ or ¨ride¨ both descriptions held true last Friday night- la cabalgata was a parade and there were lots of horses. I participated in the parade with Rotary. Dressed as the typical China Poblana-- I along with Giulia, Isadora and Meg (from Ohio)- marched with our flags through the Zócalo trying to avoid the massive amounts of horse poop. I personally felt strange carrying the USA flag during a celebration of Méxican culture and independence. However it is also a tradition for the exchange students to parade with their flags, so it is what it is.
When the parade had finished I changed out of the heavy dress and went with some friends- Ruth and José Luis- back to the Zócalo. As it typically goes- they asked me if I knew what something was (even now I can´t remember the name) and I said no. It ended up being a state-fair-like ¨scam” game-- but I won bubbles! After, we walked through the crowds of people to get some chalupas and horchata. Later I practiced my cumbia skills.
I already know that dancing is going to be something I will miss about México. I am still not that good, however, the sheer act of dancing with someone to a rhythmic tune is a dream.
Saturday we took a lazy morning, then made our way to Libres for the night and Sunday. If the weekend before I suffered from heat in Veracrúz- in Libres I was reminded of the cold. I felt silly-but also kinda normal- walking around in my Chacos while wearing a borrowed parka coat. In my amazing style my family and I made our way to downtown.
We first found a group of people grouped around a cock-fighting ring- it´s not illegal here. I was definitely an interesting experience- one I had read about several times. The fight was quick and less bloody than I expected. Even if I did not get grossed out it will not be something I actively seek out in the future.
The main event of September 15th is ¨el grito¨-- literally the yell. So in the dark and cold we walked, ate tacos-potato enchiladas for me- and waited for the ceremony to commence. El grito in Libres was a little underwhelming- without much passion and the history incorrectly retold according to my Dad.
Sunday morning we got up, I borrowed a wonderfully comfortable poncho and we drove down to the ruins of Cantona.
Cantona is considered one of the most urbanized prehistoric site-- safe to say it's pretty big. I absolutely loved walking around, up and down, all the pyramids and ¨roads¨ snaked through the city. There was such a feeling of peace and calm going out- far from the currently civilized world- reaching the top of a pyramid to see the city laid out in front of me, and thinking of the lives of people thousands of years before, at least trying to imagine them.
Driving home, we stopped for pulque- and then it was time to make some food!
Chiles en nogada are one of the most typical Pueblan dishes- and Sunday I got to help my tias and abuela make some. These chiles are filled with a shredded meat, fruit and spices, fried in an egg white and flour batter, bathed in a walnut sauce (nogada), and topped with pomegranate seeds and cilantro. For me they were filled with cheese and mushroom.
In my personal opinion kitchens are the best place in any house and as much time as you can spend in them- the better. At first I just observed--which is the best way to learn-- and if I saw a simple task I could easily help with, I did it. After everyone was served- I stepped up to help with the battering and frying of the chiles which was fun.
I continue to see one of the biggest differences is the amount of time given to relaxing- usually centered around food and family. That night we sat around for hours chatting and yes, dancing!
School keeps going. I started staying for volleyball practices. Anything else? Not at the moment I suppose.
see you soooon
What was left out...
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