Wandering Mexico City

So, this weekend I hugged a tree, literally. On Saturday we went to the Biosphere Reserve in en Tehuacan. It was thousands and thousands of different cactus plants and we had a guide that showed us around and talked about all the different types and what they are used for medicinally or as hallucinogens. There was one tree that he told us would take away all of our negative energies and replenish our positive energies if we hugged it, so we all took turns hugging it. Caitlin, Alyssa, Pam, and I circle hugged the tree (unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it and either way I was on the back side so you would not be able to see me anyways). I have to say that I do not think the tree hug worked or was strong enough for us because we next went to a place there they make salt from mineral deposits and I do not think a single person was happy to be there. On Friday, we had a tour of Cholula, which does not make sense to me because we have been here for almost two months and we have all already visited most of the places in Cholula. O well that will have to be a recommendation I will have to make at the end of the trip.  I know you have all been dying to head about my trip to Mexico City; sorry it has taken me so long to update it for you. I have been very busy doing tons of homework, presentations, and theater productions for a class I am not even getting credit for (that is a complaining session for another day). Mexico City. It is really great; I actually enjoyed a lot of the things we did there the most out of everything we have done so far. I am recommending that people try to get down here and check out this city and the country as a whole, it has a lot to offer and it is not nearly as scary as everyone tries to make it seem. Of course I am not saying that it is absolutely the safest country out there, you can’t be stupid when you are traveling, but it definitely has a lot to offer. When we were in Mexico City, Julia (my housemate here) and I had coffee with our host brother and talked with him for a while. He is now trying to figure out how to go back to school and do a Semester at Sea, ha, and I am not kidding. But anyways he asked me if Mexico was how I thought it was going to be or if it is different and at first I sort of thought it is how I pictured it being, but then I got to thinking. When I came down here I was under the impression that the school was going to take us to all these places and that they would be the places to see in Mexico, but the more time I spend here and the more research I do, the more places I want to see. So, I have to say, no, Mexico is not what I pictured it to be; there are certainly many different sides to this country.  On Thursday two weekends ago, we went to Mexico City. First we headed to Teotihuacan. This is an enormous archaeological site right outside of the city with some of the largest pyramid structures built during the pre-Classic period. We, of course, did not see every single little part because it is so big, but we did get to see the two largest pyramids: Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. It is said that during the height of this civilization there may have been more than 100,000 inhabitants. That is sort of crazy to think about. Either way we took a lot of pictures here, wandered around, learned a little about the civilization, and tried to race up the Pyramid of the Sun. Notice the word tried, we did not make it to the top by racing, we only made it one short section before I thought I might throw up my stomach. I would not recommend running up the pyramid if you are going to visit, just walk nice and normally like the rest of the normal people there. It is quite a high altitude and we were not ready for that, ha. No worries though, we walked, half dead, trying to catch our breath the rest of the way. You do need to go to the top if you visit; it is a sight to see. At the top I definitely enjoyed a few moments of solitude, I am not sure that I felt the power some people were talking about, but I did feel relaxed. From the top you can see the whole civilization and Tony and I discussed what we thought the houses looked like when they were fully constructed. Ideally, we would have had another fashion show dance party coming down, but really this pyramid was just too big.  As we walked down the long central pathway of Teotihuacan, Nick, Caitlin, and I made up stories about what we thought life was really like when people lived here. After visiting these ruins, we headed to Mexico City to the Basilica de Guadalupe. This was not the most impressive structure I have ever seen, but it was definitely different and it is supposed to be the most visited Catholic site in the world. We watched as many people crawled to the structure on all hands and knees and some people just walked on their knees while praying. It was an interesting sight. After that we just headed to the hotel to relax. I ran over to Starbucks to begin my four-day Starbucks binge. I actually had a nice conversation with the guy working at the Starbucks; for all of three minutes he spoke in English and I spoke in Spanish and it was just nice and refreshing to see that people were nice. I was prepared to feel so afraid all of the time and this made me feel so much more comfortable there and realized that even if a couple of people are bad, does not make every single person in a place bad. Thursday I just watched some television and went to bed early.  Friday morning I got up and went to the hotel gym and did some elliptical and running as well as a little bit of lifting. The hotel breakfast was not that great so I just ate some fruit and ran back over to Starbucks for some green tea and a muffin. We started our tour of Mexico City in the main zócalo. When we got off the bus and it was like déjà-vu, but then I just realized that I watched Passport to Latin America with Samantha Brown and that was why it felt so familiar. We toured around this area all morning and it wasn’t anything too exciting, just a government building, a cathedral, and the Templo Mayor (some ruins in the middle of the city). Caitlin and I had lunch with José Luis (the weekend planner for us) and his girlfriend so we got to practice some Spanish with him. Side note, we generally speak English to each other, which I know is not the best way to do it; I would probably learn twice as much if I was forced to speak all the time, but I would also be extremely overwhelmed. After this morning and lunch we headed back to the hotel for some free time. I spent the two hours working on an internship application for Condé Nast Publications in Starbucks because of the free Internet. I am pretty sure there is not chance of getting the internship because 30,000 people apply and about 80 actually get it and I also applied at the absolute last second, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to just send in the application.  Later that night we went to this crazy area of the city, I am thinking now it was probably not one of the safer areas, but either way we made in and out all right. It was mariachi central. There were thousands of men dressed up in their mariachi uniforms and they would just come right up to you and see if you wanted them to play you a song. Of course I didn’t! We went to this restaurant where there was another mariachi band playing for different tables. Our program directors ordered a huge plate of meat for the group, which was not very appetizing, so I just ate tortillas all night. There was this group of Mexicans at the table next to us and they were all extremely drunk, falling all over the place, and one girl passed out on the table and they just let her sleep. She was probably out for at least 40 minutes while we were there and no one in her group even cared. Her head was still on the table when we left and she had not moved a muscle, we were expecting to see headlines in the next day’s paper about the woman who died in the mariachi restaurant. Our whole table was extremely preoccupied with the whole situation, but then our consejero assured us that it was normal. We told him that if this took place in the United States, the girl would have been in the hospital getting her stomach pumped. After dinner we headed back out to the bus and were bombarded by swarms of mariachis again and I realized that they really did not have any concept of personal space. At the end of the night I was just glad to get back on the bus and get back to the hotel. This is probably the only thing that we did in Mexico City that I would not recommend. Another early night to bed.  The next day we went to breakfast and we asked them for pancakes instead of the eggs, so it ended up being a much better breakfast (hotcakes here, yes, that is Spanish). We started out this day by walking though a little antique market, down a long pedestrian road, through a park (similar to Central Park), up to the Castillo de Chapultepec. This is a castle that sits in the center of this park at the top of a hill, overlooking all of Mexico City. This was probably my favorite place or one of my favorite places here. It was a presidential home and observatory in the past and now acts as a museum, the Mexican National Museum of History. While we were here we discussed what we would do to each room and to the structure itself if it was ours, how we would redecorate and what we would use each room for. After this castle we were supposed to go to the anthropology museum, but we did not have time because we spent too much time at the castle. We caught the bus by the museum and went out to a barrio called Coyoacan and spent the afternoon leisurely wandering the streets and market. This area is known as an upper-middle class suburb, with a hippy and artistic flair. This was the home to Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The main square was covered with booths filled with bohemian scarves, incense, jewelry, and clothing. I wish we had more time here; we only were given about 40 minutes to check out the market. It had beautiful colonial architecture, bookstores, cafés, and different institutes and universities. When we got back we had some free time and Pam, Caitlin, Julia, Wendy and I headed out for a quick shopping trip to Zara. It was comical because we all let out a little scream of happiness when we walked in and it was huge and full of tons of clothing. Later that night Julia and I met our host brother for coffee for a couple of hours. He is 29 and ready to jump on the Semester at Sea boat as I said before. When we got back to the hotel a group of us played a game called fishbowl in the hotel. It was the funniest night of the entire trip. Everyone writes down five random phrases or funny words and puts them into a hat. We split up in the three groups and the first round one person in the group grabs a sheet and has to try to describe what is on the sheet without saying any of the words on the sheet (Taboo), the second round everyone has to act out the actions on the sheet, the third round you can only say one word, and the final round you can only act the words out with your hands from your wrist down. It was a great time.  The last day we got up early and checked out. We started out the morning at the Folkloric ballet at the Museum of Anthropology. As we were walking into the museum there were tons of photographers all set up and running along side this group of people walking down the middle. We found out later it was the princess of Belgium. It was funny because I was in line to go through the metal detector with my group but because I had my camera in hand they started yelling at me and telling me to run around the metal detector and shoving me, so in all the chaos I got to skip the line and run through with the photographers. However, I do not have any pictures of the princess. The ballet was interesting, but I really enjoyed the museum. It was gigantic; I probably would have need at least six hours to see everything. But we only had one hour, so I headed to the Mayan room to learn a little about the civilization that I am about too see and learn so much about in Chiapas. This made me want to learn more about Mayan civilization and culture. For lunch we headed a little ways out side of the center of the city for a picnic lunch on a river. We took two big gondolas and just relaxed and hung out after a very busy weekend. It was the perfect ending to the weekend.  I hope that gives you a little taste of what I experienced in Mexico City, I will reiterate that overall it was my favorite weekend trip and it is certainly a city to see. 
The past few days I have been attending classes that I am not getting credit for, well secretly not today, I just spent the day in the library working on some things I needed to get finished because I leave for 10 days. Tomorrow I will be leaving for a 10-day backpacking trip throughout Chiapas. I will not have my computer, a cell signal, or Internet, but I will attach our itinerary so you can all follow me while I am down there. It is Semana Santa here, the week before Easter and there is no classes, school, or work for anyone, so the whole country will probably be traveling. Chiapas is the southernmost part of Mexico and borders Belize and Guatemala. We are hopefully going to get to be in some rainforest and see some interesting things; however, it is sad because most of the natural vegetation of this area has been destroyed by loggers and to create space for agriculture and ranching. Anyways, feel free to read about it and I will update you when I get back. Believe it or not, I am packing in my small Northface backpack for 10 days, Ill let you know how that goes for me; according to Nick I am suit. only allowed two pairs of pants, one or two pairs of shorts, 3 tee-shirts, and a bathing suit. Well see!  4/2 Bus overnight from Puebla to Palenque
4/3 Palenque ruins
4/3 Night – El Panchán
4/4 Aqua Azul y Misol-Ha
4/4 Night – El Panchán
4/5 Yaxchilán ruins
4/5 Night -Campamento Río Lacanjá 
4/6 Las Nubes and Lagos de Montebello
4/6 Night – Comitán
4/7 Day in Comitán and surrounding area
4/7 Night either San Cristobal or if it is long day just stay in Comitán and get up early to head to San Cristobal
4/8 Explore San Cristobal
4/8 Night – San Cristobal
4/9 San Cristobal/San Juan de Chamula/Rancho Nuevo
4/9 Night – San Cristobal
4/10 Chiapa de Corzo and Cañón del Sumidero
4/10 Night-Tuxtla
4/11 Tuxtla
4/11 Night-Tuxtla
4/12 Return to Puebla
4/13 Arrive at 

Some people in the Group

6:30 a.m., shower and get to class by 8 a.m., haha I might not be there!

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