Monday, December 30, 2013

Mexico City Pt. 4


Read more: Part 1 Part 2  Part 3 Part 5

Saturday, December 14, 2013 (morning): Saturday morning I went to a restaurant called Tea Connection. They had so many teas to choose from it was ridiculous. I ordered a sweet vanilla  tea, which the waitress brought over to me in a tea pot and she set it all up in front of me. It was loose leaf tea, and there was even a timer for how long it needed to steep. However, she told me in Spanish, so I didn't actually understand what she was saying to me. By this time, my voice was pretty much gone from the pollution, so it was really funny trying to talk in Spanish with my American/lost voice accent. I feel bad for everyone I had to talk to. Afterwards, I wanted to ride the Turibus, but I missed the bus TWICE! I know, I'm so lame. But there was about 40 minutes in between each bus and the first time it stopped as I was walking back from the restaurant. The second time I just wasn't paying attention. I WILL ride it next time. Mark my words.

(afternoon): I was kind of upset because I felt like I was wasting a day. I had to buy more water from the store, and afterwards I decided to go buy some gifts because I really needed to do that. Like I said, you'll need LOTS of water, and you won't pee a lot because you'll be so dehydrated from the pollution/walking/high altitude. I should have played it smart though and bought a gigantic bottle and a small bottle of water, so I could carry it around with me since I never had water on me. It was always in my hostel. I decided to go back to Bosque de Chapultepec because there were a ton of venders selling stuff and I wanted to go to the gift shop in the Anthropology museum. Plus, I was planning on meeting Luis there later that night. After I went to the Anthropology museum I stopped at one of the venders near the entrance. He started talking to me in Spanish, then realized I didn't know how to answer his question completely. He then started talking to me in English. He was such a nice guy. His name was Valentine. We talked about a lot, and he told me he lived in America. He wanted to know how to say "hand-crafted" in English. Then he told me about this school in Mexico City that would teach me Spanish, and told me if I ever needed help on finding cheap areas in the city to let him know. I bought a few things from him, and he gave me a postcard for free as a gift!

(late afternoon): I didn't want to talk back to my hostel because I was meeting Luis so I walked over to the Botanical Garden to take pictures. It was pretty, but kind of small.













I still had an hour to kill before meeting Luis so I decided to sit on a bench and write down what I did in this journal I brought. I'm pretty sentimental, and I have a TERRIBLE memory, so I like to remember everything I did on my trip. When I was sitting down this young guy came up to me and started talking to me in Spanish. Like I said, Mexican men love white women ;) He didn't know a lot of English, but he was actually pretty good with what he did know. We were talking and he invited me to coffee, but I already had plans that day and the next, but I gave him my Facebook information just in case my plans opened up.

(evening): I met Luis at 5 where he worked. At first I didn't see him and thought maybe we were supposed to meet at Starbucks, and I misunderstood what he said, which I wouldn't have been surprised about. But then I saw him, and he started talking to me, but I wasn't in the mindset to comprehend Spanish. It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. When he grabbed his stuff we started walking in the opposite direction of Starbucks. I was confused, but he told me it closed early, so he was going to take me somewhere else. We ended up riding the subway, which was a new experience for me. It was like another world down there, and it was super crowded. He bought out tickets and then he had to show me how to put the ticket through because I'm not that intelligent to figure that kind of thing out. We got off two stops later and started walking around.

I'm not really sure where we were at because I don't know the city that well, but I do know we were closer to Centro (the center where all the government buildings are). Then we walked and walked around trying to find a cafe to get coffee. Again, I have no idea where we were because we were walking so many places. Finally, we found a place and got some coffee and dessert. We sat and talked for a while. It was nice being able to talk in Spanish and not worry about if I was saying things correctly. After being in classes and learning how to teach people English, the best way to learn is to just start speaking it. There is a lot less pressure when you are forced to speak it. I'm not going to lie, I told him a number of times I didn't understand him, but I was surprised we actually held a conversation.

We talked for a while and then we decided to leave. We got to a busy street, and I think he asked if I wanted to take the bus or taxi back to my hostel, but I'm not too sure. We ended up walking more and stopped at a mall with a giant lit up deer. We then walked around the mall. He asked if I wanted ice cream, but I couldn't eat anymore. In Mexico you'll find so many McDonald's ice cream stands that sell just ice cream products, and I pointed that out to him. One thing I loved about Mexico City is that everything opens up to the outdoors. So the mall was open and didn't have any walls to close it in because the weather is always pretty consistent.

Finally, we got a taxi that took us back to Condesa. However, he didn't really know where I lived so we ended up being dropped off at the other side of the park. Since the park was closed, and the only way I knew to get back was through the park we ended up walking for a long time more. We had to stop and ask several people where the street was. We even found one woman who spoke English which was easier for me, but I kind of forgot what she said because of my terrible memory. Eventually, we found my hostel! Then I said good-bye and headed to my room.

(night): That night I was talking to two of the women I was sharing the room with. One was an older woman from London and the other was a girl, about 26, from Germany. It was interesting hearing their stories about their travels. The woman from London had been traveling all around South America with her partner, but he went to India to visit a friend. She told me that at one point her and her boyfriend were in Guyana and they made some stupid decisions, like walking around at 2 am to a cash point. They ended up being robbed and her boyfriend was beat up. So, moral of that story, don't walk around Guyana at night. Luckily, I never had an incident like that.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mexico City Pt. 3


Read more: Part 1 Part 2  Part 4 Part 5

Friday, December 13, 2013 (morning): That morning I had breakfast at a really cute cafe called El Ocho. It was a bit of a walk from my hostel, but by that time your body was so numb from walking it didn't even matter! It was near a park called Parque México, which is similar to Parque España. The restaurant had a fire place along the back wall and when you sat down you got a basket of pan dulce (sweet bread) similar to receiving dinner rolls or chips and salsa in the states. I ended up ordering an omelette, orange juice, and coffee. The omelette was Mexicanized with refried beans, which is actually really good paired with eggs. In Mexico you have to ask for your bill, which I never got used to because I hate asking for things.

(early afternoon): After lunch I headed back to Castillo de Chapultepec. I really wanted to go to the castle. Before I went in I was sitting on a stone wall and a squirrel came right up to me! I could have touched it it was so close. The squirrels there are crazy, but so cute. The castle had a long walk up a hill, but the view of the city was so worth it. You could even see Six Flags!



Because I went in December I was able to see so many Christmas decorations, which I think was a great bonus because I was able to see how a different culture celebrates the holiday. Much of it was very similar to America, but they definitely added the Mexican influence into everything. The ornaments on the trees were gorgeous.



The castle itself was pretty amazing. I have a fascination for monarchs and royal families. I've always wanted to go to Versailles, but this was definitely a good substitution. It was amazing to see how the families lived, and it was interesting to see all the Catholic influence. I grew up Catholic, but it was definitely a different feeling when you see how prominent it once was in the lives of the people here. It's not like anything that you'd see today, unless you went to the Vatican.








(mid-afternoon): After visiting the castle I decided to head to the zoo. Yes, this is all within Bosque de Chapultepec. Like I said, it's massive! I was so surprised to find that the zoo was free to get into, which was also interesting because I don't really know how they could afford to keep the place running. Although I did see a lot of parking meters where the animals were that you could put money into as a donation.  There weren't many animals, which was kind of sad, and many were hiding. The funniest part of the whole visit was all the little kids running towards the gorilla and screaming because he was moving around. I've never seen kids so excited to see a gorilla!








My body was so sore for walking the past two days that after walking in the zoo I decided to head back and relax at the hostel. I ended up walking a different way, but the path ended up taking me through more of the actual forest part of the park, which was really nice to see. Another difference in Mexico is that the people are very affectionate, so every where you go there are couples kissing or laying in the grass. This was definitely a culture shock to me.

(evening): That night my cousin's friend, Sandra, and her husband picked me up and took me down to Coyoacán. It was really interesting to see more of the city outside of Condesa. There is SO MUCH traffic. No joke. Before we got to Coyoacán they showed me the National University of Mexico. I only saw a little bit of the university, but it was very expansive. I took a picture of the library with the murals on it. We also saw the soccer field which was built for the Olympics. It was huge.

In Coyoacán we walked around the square and there were a lot of street venders and kids singing Christmas carols. There were also a lot of shops and restaurants. I thought it was pretty busy, but apparently it wasn't that night. We walked around some of the shops and I bought some souvenirs. Inside the area with all the handmade items American music was playing but they added mariachi music to the background of the songs. It was really funny. Then we ate at a restaurant called Corazon de Maguex. We all ordered tortilla soup and I also got sopes de corazon. Sandra ordered a Mango water for me which was so delicious! While we were eating we watched fake snow falling outside on the plaza. If only they knew how cold it actually got when it snowed. Afterwards they brought me back to my hostel. Sandra and her husband were so nice, and I was so glad I got to meet them. Sandra helped me out many times during my trip, and I am so thankful!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mexico City Pt. 2


Read more: Part 1 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Thursday, December 12, 2013 (afternoon): After the incident, I went back to the hostel and charged my phone before heading to Bosque de Chapultepec. In Condesa, not sure about the other areas of DF, there are random places where you can get wi-fi. It worked really well the first couple days I was there, but towards the end of my trip it didn't work as well. Also, Google Maps works well as a map, but not for directions. Even without internet it shows you where you are walking. I even kept my phone on airplane mode the entire trip and it still worked. So, with all that being said, if you have a smart phone I'd bring it with you.

I spent almost every day in Bosque de Chapultepec. It is a massive park, but it also has a zoo, museums, and places to eat. I found an entrance to the park that was only a 5 minute walk from my hostel. It was early afternoon so the park was pretty empty and I thought it would be a good chance to take some pictures. It was a beautiful park. There were so many squirrels! Seriously, they almost come right up to you.






I walked up one of the main paths which to an area near the main entrance which had a lot of monuments, an entrance to Castillo de Chapultepec, and some of the museums. Since I really didn't have any plans I saw people walking into the Modern Art Museum and decided I was going to check that out. The museums in DF are REALLY cheap and they let you take photos as long as you don't use a flash. El Museo de Arte Moderno was really nice, but it was hard to really understand what was going on because everything was in Spanish. I saw works by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo which I was really excited about. The museum also had sculptures on the grounds you could look at. I really liked the seeing works by Mexican artists because a lot of them had works about political unrest which is not something you see in America.


Diego Rivera, Mujer en Verde
After walking through the Modern Art museum I decided to walk around the park a little more. I wasn't sure if I wanted to get food or if I wanted to see more. I ate very little in Mexico because all the walking I did killed my appetite. I got hungry, but I was always so thirsty that once I drank something I was fine. I decided I was going to go to the Anthropology Museum. It was so hard finding the entrance to the place because the building is so big. Eventually, I found it but at this point I was so hungry. However, I just went in without eating. At most of the museums you have to have your bags checked before you go in. So, once I got through security I bought my ticket and went in. If you ever visit DF you HAVE to go to Museo Nacional de Antropología. It is the most amazing museum I have ever visited. I can't even describe to you the grandeur of the place. There is so much to see. They have paintings on ceilings, and monuments, statues, displays underground which imitate ancient burials. There was SO MUCH to see. Honestly, because I was so tired and hungry I rushed through it, but you could honestly last a day looking at everything. It was about $6 too! So cheap.







When I left the museum I decided that I really needed to get food because it was going to get dark soon, and I know better than to walk around a city alone at night. I remember there being food stands in the park, so I followed the food signs. I figured that since I was in Mexico I mine as well eat some authentic Mexican food. I walked to the food stalls, and I was immediately overwhelmed. A boy ran up to me and handed me a menu. Then he led me to another booth and another guy handed me another menu and started talking to me really fast in Spanish. He started describing what all the food was and where it was on the menu. I wasn't even paying attention because I was so confused. He then asked me if I wanted to sit down. I took a moment to look at the menu but I really didn't know what I wanted because I knew I wasn't going to eat a lot. I really wanted a quesadilla with jalapeños (which is what I usually get at Mexican restaurants, but I think he assumed because I was white that I wouldn't like it being spicy. That happened a lot actually. Finally, I just decided on alambre and a coke. I never had alambre before so it was a shot in the dark, plus I didn't really know what he was saying so I just ordered the first thing I thought I would like.

The food was really good, but I couldn't eat it all. I got up and asked what I should do with everything. He wrapped my food up for me and then we started talking and different things. His name was Luis, and he didn't speak any English. But like many Mexican men, he asked me if I had a Facebook and for my name. We exchanged information, said good-bye, and then I left. I was so exhausted from walking all day. But that night I had the hostel room to myself which was great!
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