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...
No I haven’t missed the heat- and after spending a weekend in Veracruz, I’ve made up my mind that Atlixco has the best climate I could wish for. And the heat started on the first 5 hour bus ride…
Friday I spent the day with Giulia and Isadora before driving to Puebla and being dropped off at the MegaBus station with around 25 other Inbounds from the state of Puebla. I don’t mind traveling by car in the slightest but my excitement dimmed when after the first 40 minutes or so the fans were still blowing room temperature air- and there weren’t any windows. Nevertheless everyone was in good spirits and the Brazilians brought the party as we headed down to Veracruz, VER, México, and soon the sweaty bus ride was over.
In Veracruz we stayed with Rotary families and my exchange sister for the weekend was Sofie from Finland! Which brings me to the best part about the weekend-- having the opportunity to meet and talk with people from all over the world (and yes others from the USA). Which is something that exchange is meant to do-- bringing together people from all over the world.
Veracruz itself was a beautiful city with a palm tree lined boardwalk and all. We walked some within the downtown, had a welcoming party, got some amazing coffee and of course went to the beach for an afternoon.
A shorter post because tonight I get to parade in the Cabalgata- a celebration for the Méxican Independence Day. More photos and stories to come!
What was left out...
Watching everyone speak different languages
(although the majority knew English)
Sunburn (I forgot to reapply sunscreen)
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