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....


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