Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Over the American SW
We've safely made it all the way to Queretaro, Mexico, and it's safe to say it's awesome!
Where to start... the city is clean, narrow stone roads keep traffic speeds low, the people are friendly, the food is delicious and mostly healthy, and it's actually a rather traditional Mexican town - domestic tourists come here but foreign ones do not.  Our homestay, run by Conchita and her husband Adon, is wonderful: a nice big room that's cleaned daily, reliable warm water and electricity (though the free internet has yet to be worked out), fantastic breakfast cooked fresh at 7:30 each morning, a hilariously cute dog named Boss, and cute grandchildren that come by in the afternoon.  We've met two other guests, one is studying Spanish at another institute while the other is a professor at a nearby university.

Inside Our Room
In the Courtyard
Yesterday was our first day of Spanish lessons, four hours per day for a week, which are included in our TEFL program as a freebie.  Our instructor Monica is nice and helpful, teaching almost exclusively in Spanish, but we (well, mostly Anderson) have already learned a bunch of grammar, vocabulary, and useful verbs.  For Liz it is the excellent brush-up that she needs, and so far she's been doing a great job at getting us around and communicating when more than "hola" or "si" or "gracias" or "muy bien" is required.  There's one other student with us, a nice, older (than us) gentleman from Illinois named Bill, which is great since we didn't really want to be the ONLY ones in class!
Sunday we spent alternating between napping and wandering about the city, hitting up a main square for the final day of Queretaro's Bicentennial Celebration.  The park was packed with people, bands played traditional (horn-based) Mexican music, while boys break-danced for donations, food and balloons were for sale, and the festive mood seemed all encompassing.  For food we've been exploring the options, but cheap eats include gorditas, tortas (sandwiches), and other taco-esque products.  From small shops they cost under $1, which is currently 13 pesos.  We did treat ourselves to a lavish seafood meal when we arrived, but even that was only $6 each for either an enormous fish (Liz) or a heaping bowl of mixed seafood soup (Anderson).  Beers cost about $2 from restaurants, but are a bit cheaper at corner-shops.

Some Seafood Soup
The ambience throughout town is calm and relaxing, and even during busy times people may be rushing about but they are still friendly and full of smiles.

A Square Downtown
Just a Few of the Churches...
Our journey to Queretaro, though time-consuming, was painless and quite easy -  we left Denver Saturday morning, after a long night at Dry Dock Brewery with friends (thanks everyone who came, seriously, it meant a lot to get to see you all one final time before departing), and then had a short flight to LA.  Anderson's aunt and uncle hosted us for the afternoon and evening - thanks Dudley and Eleanor - and we also got to see some of our cousins as well.  We watched Jack's (our cousin Chad's 6 year-old son) soccer game, had a great Middle Eastern feast, and spent the remaining time in between relaxing, watching college football, and chatting, chatting, chatting.  We departed from LAX minutes before midnight, which got us to Mexico City just before 6am, perfect timing for the first bus of the day to Queretaro at 6:30.  Other than the bus ticket seller ripping us off for a few bucks - pretty normal really - the bus was great, actually first class as advertised since the seats were comfortable, the ride quiet and smooth, free waters and snacks, and in a drastic change from Asia the bus driver respectfully kept the television volume on mute instead of the usual blasting.
Our school had given us their driver's phone number, so we called him and in about 15 minutes he picked us up, drove us by the school so we knew where it was, and then delivered us to our homestay.  It's near a train station so it's very easy to find, but thankfully the trains don't come through all that often so the noise isn't a real problem.  Or maybe we're just proficient at sleeping through anything...
The rest of this week should be generally easy, since we are finished with Spanish class by 1pm, but starting next Monday our schedule will double as we'll be at school from 9am to 5pm (albeit with a 2-hour siesta).  The class will be challenging for sure, however our instructor seems very nice, as does everyone else that we've met at the school so far.
Unfortunately today our Spanish teacher is sick, so we have the day off, but we're going to meet up with our fellow classmate Bill for lunch and then proceed to do some wandering... plenty of the city still left for us to see!
More news when it happens to us, but we're already eyeing up some Mexican wrestling for next week, and then the local futbol club (in Mexico's top division) will play the Saturday after that.  We'll presumably do a bit of adventuring this weekend, since it'll be our only one without any homework, but we've thankfully got a few days to figure out what we'd like to go and do...


PS - the Moment of Zen is uploading extremely slowly, unlike the speed of the biting mosquitoes, so you'll just have to wait a bit on that....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

At the Garden of the Gods
At Korean BBQ
Hey hey!

So we're moving forward in Muth-land, as our departure from Denver this Saturday morning rapidly approaches! Today we actually just paid off the balance on our TEFL program, so in just five short days we'll be starting our free Spanish lessons, while in twelve days we will be beginning our TEFL certificate - should be a lot to learn, a good review of things we already know, plus a lot of in-class experience...
We are both done working now - Anderson finished up his job last Thursday, although Liz is still under the gun as she is wrapping up her Personal Trainer certification program before we depart.
We are still house-sitting, though we spent a decent chunk of time the past two days cleaning out Anderson's parents' storage center - good fun :-). That means we've got another two days of dog-sitting before we'll be pet-less for a good long while...

We just survived a busy-but-super-fun weekend, which started off with the Great American Beer Festival on Friday evening. Five hundred breweries, serving over 2000 beers... what more need be said? You should go next year if you can, impossible to regret it.
The GABF was actually only the first part of our evening, as we ended the night closing down a gay bar with all of our sweet dance moves :-)
Saturday was more insanity, in the form of roller derby thanks to the Denver Roller Dolls. It was also our 6th wedding anniversary, and you know how much we love fun! We'd gotten half-price tickets off of the internet beforehand, and once we'd figured out the sport we ended up having a great time cheering our favorite jammers on amidst big blocks and tough hip-checks. There's one more match in October, and our buddy Eric is for sure going since he won free tickets!
From there we checked out Denver's Oktoberfest, held in LoDo near Coors Field, which was a giant street party with over-priced beers and German polka-style music. No GABF, but still a good time...

Sunday we then went up to Mishawaka, an outdoor amphitheater near Fort Collins, to see JJ Grey & MOFRO - rocking southern funky soul music. The venue is beautiful, and might be closed for a while, so it seemed an appropriate moment to check it out - plus it was Joni's birthday so we had to celebrate in style! Style meant a mountain of Beau Jo's pizza afterward, which our bodies are still recovering from :-)
This week has been busy as well, doing chores/jobs for Anderson's parents (clearing out a storage center, gardening, etc.), packing up all of our stuff (OK, haven't really done much of that yet), plus hanging out with all of our friends while we still can. Went up to Boulder last night, fresh beer from Mountain Sun Brewery, and then this Friday we will be at our favorite/local brewery, Dry Dock in Aurora.

We're leaving for Mexico this coming Saturday, the 25th, though we'll spend most of the day enjoying a long layover in LA with Anderson's aunt and uncle - should be a fun final day in America before we fly to Mexico City around midnight... we'll spend Sunday morning riding the bus to Queretaro, meeting our host family, etc. Our free week of Spanish lessons begin on Monday, and then our TEFL course starts the next week, October 4th. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable ESL experience, but we shall see...

Here's your moment of zen, from the Great American Beer Festival:

Wondering about the GABF winners? Yeah, us too: RESULTS

More news soon, probably from south of the border,
Anderson & Liz

PS - Our cousin Reannon is writing a series of travel articles about her adventures with us in India a few years ago. She's doing a weekly column, of which there are three articles so far. Photos were all taken by Anderson, and she gives a great new perspective on our travels, so feel free to check them out - we'll post more links as she writes them:

#1 - Goodbye Big Apple, Hello Big Adventure
#2 - Overwhelmed and Overheated
#3 - Monkey Trouble

Friday, September 03, 2010

Why hello there!

Hope you've had a fantastic summer, ours has been busy but very enjoyable, but now the fall is arriving we've only got a few more weeks in the States. That's right, we've actually figured out our plans!
Liz's job at the Census ended last week, and Anderson will be working a few more weeks until the 16th. That will give us a week to wrap things up here, since September 25th is when we're flying out of Denver. We'll be landing in Mexico City, via LAX, but our end destination is actually Queretaro. That's where the Teacher Training Center is, the school through which we'll be taking our one-month TEFL certification program. Just this week we've put down our deposit, so things are finally becoming official and "real." We've had this plan for a while, but if feels great to finally get to put it into action!
So we'll be studying to become more effective (and better accredited) ESL teachers from October 4th through the 29th, but for the week beforehand we also get free Spanish lessons - which is a totally awesome freebie!
After that the plans call for a week at the beach with some friends, probably somewhere near Puerto Vallarta, and then we'll travel across Mexico and then south into Belize. Liz's aunt and uncle have a house there, so we'll stay with them for a bit, around which we'll also be meeting up with our old friend Alan (from Cornell) whom we'll be traveling with. From there the plan is to go to Peru to find ESL work, however a side-trip through Nicaragua will hopefully happen if Anderson's cousin Reannon gets a job there... we shall see :-)
So that's our semi-immediate future... as for current events, lately we've gone to a few concerts: Chromeo, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, and our buddy ScMcD. We've also caught a few more Colorado Rapids soccer games, including a sweet 3-0 victory last weekend (tickets were also free, which never hurts!).
We went for a fun couples camping trip with Scott and Joni a few weeks ago, down to Great Sand Dunes National Park, which is simply amazing. We had a lot of fun, snagged a great campsite, and even the dog we're watching - Cyrus, we're house sitting for his owners - had a great time. Check out the photos - thanks Joni - they're pretty sweet:

Speaking of photos, we've finally gotten a new camera, since our trusty Kodak v610 finally gave out after four years of rough love and global travel. We settled on the Panasonic DMC-ZS5, which we've just received in the mail but haven't gotten to try out yet. If it does as well as its predecessor then we will be happy camera owners for sure... and from the demos/reviews, and its specs, it should take better photos along with HD-video.

Here's your moment of zen - Scott and Joni sand-sledding:

More news to come soon, things will be getting a lot more regular as we get back out on the road again!

Hope all's well,
Peace and much love as always,