Monthly Archives: February 2013

Miriam and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (aka Miriam y el día terrible, horrible, no bueno, y muy malo)

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Again returning to my philosophy that study abroad experiences should be recounted in honest ways (and not because I am in search of a lot of pity, just a tiny bit will do), I will now tell the story of Miriam and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (more accurately titled, “Miriam and the one bad experience that sucked a lot that was mostly her own fault”).

My professor assigned a lot of reading that to me seemed very pointless, impractical, and extremely irrelevant to life in any country about realism and romanticism (this is what I get for taking a literature course… somehow every time I sign up for one of those suckers, I forget that we’re not just going to be reading fun stories, but also reading about historical context and debating about things and analyzing stuff, etc.). I decided it was not a good use of my time to expend a lot of energy reading this packet. Thus, I did not expend a lot of energy reading this packet.

The teacher gave 2 separate quizzes. With questions that were so specific, I don’t think I would have even gotten them if I had read carefully (at least I’m telling myself that to justify my laziness). I went through the class feeling very anxious and unhappy and doing that thing where every time the professor looks like he’s about to call on someone you look like you’re writing down something very important and profound so that he doesn’t call on you. He didn’t call on me. Good right? I was safe! I was walking out of the class and then he decided to take attendance. Harmless right? WRONG. We had to also tell in front of the whole class what our grades were. I got a 0 on both quizzes. Either I was the only one who really didn’t absorb a blessed thing from this reading or I was the only honest one. Coming from a the Ford, a community where I don’t even share my grades with my bestest friends, this was the equivalent of getting smacked in the face with a shovel.

I understand the pedagogical motivation of having everyone share their grades in front of the class, I really do. If you are embarrassed to share a terrible grade, you are more likely to work harder on the next reading (which I will). But do we really think that shaming your students into good grades is a good motive? I do not.

I still feel super icky about this and I’m embarrassed to show my face in class tomorrow (what’s more fun than being the worst grade getter and the foreigner!?), but I doubt I will forget this, and it will remind me to never ever ever ever ever ever do this to my students. Ever.

Because I feel that this has been extremely negative, I enclose herein a video from youtube of a commercial for a popular phone / internet company with Patrick Dempsey, in which they have maneuvered the commercial in such a way that he does not have to speak one word of Spanish (I guarantee that every single person reading this blog speaks more Spanish than Patrick Dempsey) and a nice song about Mexico by James Taylor that popped up in my iTunes today.

Back to the beach.

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Today I went back to the beach in a place called Chachalacas. We went there by bus, but when we got there we all rode in the back of a pickup truck from the bus station to the beach. If you can’t see the irony of a bunch of gringos riding in the back of a pick up truck through Mexico while everyone stares, well… It was sunny, and the water was warm and swimmable, and it’s about 1 hour from Xalapa. I never remember how much I love the beach until I am on the beach sleeping. I unfortunately ate my fresh mango carved in the shape of a spiral staircase before I could take a picture of it. When I was coming home from the beach, I heard this hooting sound, and I started to get really angry, because I thought it was a disgusting asshole hooting at me, and then I realized that it was someone’s parrot that lives outside in a cage.

Also, there is an enormous strike that has been going on here for the past 3 days. There are a lot of people camped out in front of the cathedral (I would say about 200). My understanding of the situation is that there is a giant petroleum company (likely Pemex) building a new plant where their houses used to be. It’s a super icky situation, but the most incredible thing is instead of chanting and picketing obnoxiously, these strikers spend the whole day in giant rows dancing to music (they are all men). Each time I have walked by the cathedral in the past two days, there are four 100-foot-long rows of men dancing and dancing to music blasting through speakers. Something tells me that this is a more positive way to strike.

Below are some beach pictures that do not make me regret my decision to study abroad in Mexico. Happy Oscar night, everyone.

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A gringa kind of day.

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I have a shirt from the language school in Cuernavaca that says “There’s a different way to learn Spanish.” Today I was wearing this shirt, and I think it might have cursed me. I already look like a foreigner here, but when I wear this shirt (which is in English about learning Spanish) it must make me look like a bulls-eye.

Anyways, I finished most of that terrible reading from yesterday, and the teacher thankfully did not give us a quiz, but rather a reflective essay about how the climate we grew up in affected the person we are today. I wrote lots of things about my soul and the culture of the United States, and briefly mentioned that I get sad when it gets dark at 4:30 in the winter in the States. The students and professor showed little interest in my soul-bearing truths, but were fascinated that it gets dark at 4:30.

Also, today I had to walk from one class to another (which at small liberal arts college is not a problem), but when one class is on the other side of the city than the other, this means that you arrive late and your tshirt that says you are learning Spanish is really sweaty. Also the 3 rings from the checking ledger which you accidentally bought because you thought it was an agenda digs into your arm and leaves an imprint.

On the bright side, I ate my first Chinese food in Mexico today. My fortune was in Spanish and it said something about collecting my interests. I’m pretty sure that the only one collecting my interests is Sovereign Bank on their behalf.

Lastly, I decided to buy new glasses in Mexico, because they are cheaper and cooler than the ones in the United States. After being super cautious and very clear about not wanting to be ripped off, I found out they weren’t trying to rip me off, but rather were just trying to sell me glasses with lenses in them.

Then my credit card was refused at the optometrist.

Then I accidentally went to what I think was an etiquette class or an anger management class which I thought was a reunion for new students, but I’m not even really sure. I was so hungry and tired from 7.5 hours of class that I rudely left.

Homework is also not fun in Mexico.

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In case you were wondering if homework is way more fun in Mexico than it is in the US of A, it is not. I have been fortunate enough for the past 2 months (!!!) to have escaped the feeling of reading something you really don’t understand while your mind wanders to all the other things you don’t understand to all the celebrities you wish you could be to how next time you will start this ahead of time and to how you know that is 100% false.

We are reading a book in Spanish for one of my classes, and I think it’s about a lot of people who are unhappily married in a lot of different generations. My understanding of it is that the book doesn’t make new paragraphs when it switches time periods. This is probably symbolic in some way to show how history repeats itself or how there are generational similarities, but if you don’t normally read symbolic, multigenerational Mexican fiction, this is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND. Remember that rant I had about speaking? Well speaking is a walk in the park compared to this reading. The following is mostly for my benefit, so please feel free to skip the next paragraph. In case you ever want to read A bordo (which is the title), here’s a little head start on information that I think I understand:

Hugo just got married to Esther. Gabriel is Hugo’s brother. Hugo is the badass, Gabriel is the good guy. Gabriel is married to Lorenza, who may or may not be related to Esther. Gabriel and Esther have a child named Eusebio who is named after his grandfather Eusebio who died who was an alcoholic. The late Eusebio’s sister is Joaquina who is being offered a house that Lorenza has been saving up to buy because it has sentimental value (I don’t know why it has sentimental value). The weather is always terrible, except for when it’s good. Teresa is Gabriel and Hugo’s mom. She either runs a hotel or a horse stable. Eusebio was from Spain and had blue eyes. Esther is either from Cuernavaca or Spain. Some of the story takes place in Jalapa, some of it takes place in Las Vigas (not Los Vegas). Saturnino is a realtor. I don’t know who any of these people are, but they are also in the book.

  • Cristobal
  • Rita
  • Alejandra
  • Lola
  • Francisco
  • Lucio
  • Tía Amelia
  • Ameila
  • Tía Lorenza

I have a terrible feeling I’m going to have to read all of this again. Also, my teacher gives quizzes on every reading. Barf.

Today we spent more time translating Caperucita Roja. I think that averages about 7 hours. I have a lot of appreciation for people who translate things. FINALLY, my friend recommended this video to me, and I watched it, and it is PURE GOLD. This version has English subtitles (and if you watch it, I recommend that you pause the video to read them for the full effect).

 

A puppy named…

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Today in my psycholinguistics class (yes… this is relevant to the story and not just me trying to sound pretentious… okay maybe a little), a puppy walked right into the classroom at the start. This puppy was adorable and tiny, and immediately won the love of all the students in the classroom, but no one loved him more than the professor who would stop mid-lecture to tell him “no te vayas” (don’t leave) when he started walking near the door. One of the students in the class separated off a huge chunk of her breakfast to give him. He ate it super fast; obviously he was hungry and had no owner (and no collar). The professor didn’t bat an eye when the one of the students sat on the floor in the middle of the lecture to play with the puppy or when they asked to leave early to help him find some more food. And because this was a psycholinguistics class, someone named him Chomsky. I hate to say it, but I think that’s the most anyone’s ever loved Chomsky.

Mondays are for adventures.

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The title of this post is very misleading. I had no adventures today. I have no classes on Monday, which is super exciting, but also super conducive to losing a day of the week to being on facebook and sleeping. So I have decided to institute a new policy for myself, which is that I go on an adventure every Monday. They can be small adventures (like going to a new store) or big adventures (like going to a new town) or medium adventures (like getting to know a new person’s name. I don’t know why, but in Mexico, I have been much more inclined to ask people’s names… I don’t find it weird. Also people remember my name, because it is actually a very common name here). Anyways, I guess I did have a little adventure today. I went back to my yoga class, and at the cultural center where the class takes place, there was an enormous exhibition of highly graphic erotic art. If you are not interested in reading about erotic art, skip the next paragraph:

The exhibition was filled with hipsters, I looked really out of place, because I only have 3 piercings and they’re all in my ears. Also my hair is even on both sides, which made me a misfit here. The exhibition starts with walking through a curtain, which is actually an enormous vagina. It was really awkward, because there were two people standing on either side of the labia, and I wasn’t sure if they were just hanging out or if they were gatekeepers for the exhibition or what. Needless to say, it was a little uncomfortable when I asked permission to enter with my yoga mat, yoga clothes, and gringa accent.

On a completely different topic, I have decided to start a new page on this blog called “Recipes and Food” (scroll to the top, right below where it says “mis aventuras en México” there are two categories: Home – which is the normal blog part – and Recipes and Food – which is the new part). So far I have not really learned how to cook that many interesting things (although I’m eating like a queen), but mostly for my benefit, I want to remember good stuff that I eat here that is easy to make so that when I get back to the States I can try it out. Maybe you even can try it out too! Here is the link in case you can’t find it: https://miriamenmexico.wordpress.com/recipes-and-food/.

I hope everyone’s Monday was adventurous.

Raisinets are better in Mexico.

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Hi friends! This weekend was sooooo action-packed and so much fun. On Friday afternoon I played pool and made some new friends! I even won one game, which I have to chalk up to beginner’s luck and possibly people letting me win. In the words of my friend after I tried to hit the ball the wrong direction: “No sabe las reglas, pero gana.” (she doesn’t know the rules but she wins). Also on Friday I had the worst sangria ever. I have come to understand that Sangria here is made always from a weird syrup that is never worth the price that you pay. It is cheaper and more delicious to buy a bottle of wine and eat an orange at the same time.

Saturday, I went out for coffee with a new friend and ordered a fruit and yogurt dish. I made the mistake of forgetting to ask them not to put papaya in the dish, so when an entire plate of just papaya arrived, I felt a little bit furious. But the good news is that I came to a new discovery: if you eat papaya with yogurt, the yogurt covers up the vomit taste of papaya!

Then I went to a place that the director of our program calls ‘gringolandia’ which is essentially a giant shopping mall that you could find in any suburban town in the United States (think Providence Place without carpet or King of Prussia with more furniture stores). I went to cinepolis – the movie theater and saw Los Miserables (and no that’s not a typo… that’s how you say it in Spanish, dudes). If you haven’t seen that movie, get off your tush and go see it. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. Also, I must clarify what an enriching cultural experience this was: When you go to see Los Miserables in Mexico, it is a movie that takes place in France, but everyone has a British accent, and then there are subtitles in Spanish, and then there is Hugh Jackman who can’t hide his inner Aussie when he’s singing. And then there is Anne Hathaway who is a goddess. And Amanda Seyfried, who is also a really good actress, but unfortunately will forever be Karen from Mean Girls. The most important part of this story is that I had “pasas con chocolate” which are essentially raisinets but they put a lot more chocolate on them than they do in the U.S. which makes it even easier to eat all of them before the previews are over.

Then I went to a cafe where I heard some new friends play in a band and then I went to a party with Mexican friends and other international students who are from: Spain, Argentina, Italy, France, Australia, Germany, and I think some other places, too.

Today, I plan to do nothing.