The Theory of Relativity

It’s been a month. That’s the one phrase I’ve been tossing over and over and over in my head: a month a month a month a month. Einstein was right: time is most certainly relative. Because there is not a doubt in my mind that if  I had spent the first part of the summer in the United States of America that it would still just be mid-June and not early July. But instead, we spent the first part in Mexico, and we are returning to the United States tomorrow. When you’re sitting at home with your family, arguing about whose turn it is to wash the dishes or who has to sweep the floor, one minute can feel like one hour. But when you’re in Mexico, scaling mountains and climbing pyramids, cave diving and exploring museums, when you’re taking three or four interesting classes a day and doing tons of homework every night, one hour can feel like one minute. So it’s extremely hard for me to process that yes, a month has gone by and yes, I do have to return to the United States now. I feel like singing Dora’s song, “We did it. We did it. We did it. Lo hicimos. We did it. We did it. Hooray!” Because we did do it. We paid our dues, we boarded a plane, we landed in Mexico, and WE DID IT, we did everything we were supposed to (and more). We ate quesadillas, and tacos, and burritos, and sopes, and CRICKETS. We walked and climbed and crawled and jumped… and we had a blast. We had the time our our lives. We taught and we learned. We spoke (Spanish) and we listened. We understood and were understood. We did EVERYTHING you can imagine. We fell in love with Dr. Cook and Rosalina Zetina, our beautiful, thoughtful, funny, intelligent, caring and absolutely amazing program directors, who made all of this possible. Year after year, they continue to support students, and we are more than grateful. We fell in love with our families. We fell in love with our professors. We fell deeper in love with the Spanish language. In a month’s time. Only a month. Time, you know, is relative.

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Photo: Whew! Thanking God that I made it to the top of that! :)

Do I Really Have to Pack?

Tonight, I have to do the inevitable. I knew it was something I’d have to do eventually. But I had no idea it’d come so quickly, and I had no idea it’d be so hard. Tonight, I have to pack up all my things and prepare myself to say goodbye to this country and its inhabitants. This is hard for a number of reasons:

1) I have truly enjoyed myself here. The people, the excursions, the activities, and especially, the language. I thought I loved Spanish before I arrived in Mexico, but the love I thought I had before dims in comparison to the love I have for the language now. I’m not sure I can readjust myself to a life where I am not able to speak this language every day (and be understood). I don’t want to stop learning this language, even for a second, and I don’t want to leave this environment of people who truly love life and everything that comes with it.

2) I don’t want to leave these people. I can’t stretch that enough. My host family here has become something of a real family: the first people I see when I wake up, the last people I see when I go to sleep, the people that care for me, and at times, the people that frustrate me. But I don’t think that that I would have enjoyed this experience as much as I have if these people hadn’t been a part of my daily life. Never in my life have I been exposed to people so kind, so hospitable, so caring, and with such a wonderful sense of humor. I truly hit the jackpot. We all did.

3) I’m afraid that my life in the States will seem dull after this. One thing about being in Mexico was that there was always something to do. Whether it was going to school, visiting a bar, going to the mall, going to the 4D movie theatre, or just walking downtown, there there was never a moment that wasn’t completely filled with awe and excitement. (Except maybe the homework!) And I feel that when I return to the US, I will quickly grow tired of the familiarity of things… but still, it will be nice to see my family again!

4) I’m afraid I will lose my Spanish. Even though I’ve spent years studying different levels of Spanish, I know that when you’re not constantly practicing a language (or anything, for that matter), it is easy to lose it over time. I don’t have any friends or family members that are proficient in the Spanish language, and I fear that practicing the language alone will not be sufficient enough to retain all that I have learned this summer. I do, however, plan to immerse myself in Spanish novels and dictionaries, because I plan to make this experience count.

I have changed so much. And I would love to continue to stay here to grow and change more. But… I know it is time for me to go. To share my change with others. And to show the world my growth. My suitcase awaits.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

When you become a teacher, you make bonds that, although stretched to the limit and bent completely out of shape, will never be broken. We became teachers for a very short period of time, and in that period of time, we bonded ourselves to students for a lifetime. It was so hard to say goodbye to these sweet, smiling faces today. And although we had cake, soda, candy, and toys to ease the pain, it wasn’t easy to come to term with the facts that we may never see these children again. But each and everyone of them are special and will always be in our hearts. 

Happy teachers, happy students. See you next summer!

La Cascada de Las Brisas: Life Really is Good

I’m certain that this post needs no words: that these beautiful pictures speak volumes enough. However, I will take a quick moment to tell you that today we visited “The Waterfall of the Breezes”, and that we had a great time. Although we all love the school here, how much we’re learning, and just being a part of the Spanish language, it was really good to be able to just relax, swim, and take in the beautiful scene this waterfall presents. What a wonderful way to end a magnificent weekend.

Cuetzalan: Pyramiding and Cave Digging

As a part of its rich history and culture, something that you can count on finding throughout all of Mexico are the different pyramids of different indigenous groups. Whether they are from the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Toltecas or other cultures, Mexico is home to over hundreds of pyramids spread throughout the country and the Yucatan peninsula. This morning, we visited such pyramids in a small town outside of Cuetzalan.

Something interesting about these pyramids (and a few more pyramids in Mexico): when you stand directly in front of the pyramids and clap your hands, the calling sound of the quetzal, the now extinct bird which once heavily populated the town for which it is now named, can be heard. To this day, no archaeologists or historians have been able to learn the reason behind this phenomenon.

After having an amazing guide give us a tour and explanation of the importance of the pyramids, we returned to town where we ate lunch and rested at the hotel for a bit. At three o’ clock, it was time for something amazing: CAVE DIGGING! It was a voluntary activity, and ONLY the girls were brave enough to do it. Divas, indeed! Here I am with my hardhat and flashlight ready to explore underground.

After everyone had their assorted things gathered and their pants legs rolled up (it was wet in the cave), we walked across the field, descended some steps, and made our way to the world beneath ours. 

A baby carved into the cave wall.

We explored the caves for what I estimated to be more than two hours, climbing rocks and descending stairs, getting wet and getting dirty. But none of that is important because we had such a GREAT time!

The Magical Town of Cuetzalan

That’s not just a fancy term that I coined up: in 2009, Cuetzalan, Puebla was named one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos”, and oh how fitting that name is! Today, we met up at the university and boarded two small buses for the trip to the different state. It was long, to say the least, and the small and curvy roads did cause a little nausea, but the frequent rests (four to be exact) made it more than bearable, and we truly enjoyed ourselves. I personally enjoyed the trip to the small town of Cholula, where we stopped and toured a church before having lunch. I enjoyed that part so much because I was finally able to get a lot of my souvenir shopping out of the way. I bought so many beautiful things at really great prices. Unfortunately, we did not spend a lot of time in Cholula, as we still had many hours of riding ahead of us. We did, however, stop at the most breathtaking volcano I’ve ever seen (and probably ever will see) in my life: the Popocatepetl volcano. There are many different legends behind the origin of this volcano, two of which I will share with you now. As one legend goes, there was a princess named Iztaccihuatl who fell in love with the warrior Popocatepetl. Because Izta’s father did not want Popo and Izta to be together, he sent Popo to war, promising him that he would be allowed to marry Izta upon his return. However, Izta’s father secretly wished that Popo would die in the war, and he told Izta that he had. Overcome with grief by the death of her fallen lover, Izta died. When Popo returned and discovered that the love of his life was no more, he plunged a dagger into his heart. Because of the purity of their love, God covered them with snow and changed them into mountains and volcanoes. Izta’s mountain is sometimes called, “La Mujer Dormida”, which is Spanish for “The Sleeping Woman” because it looks like a woman lying on her back. Popo became a volcano because his fire demonstrates his rage at the loss of his love. Popocatepetl Volcano on the way to Cuetzalan. Another legend of the two goes a bit differently. Popo and Izta were in love, but Popo had to go off to fight a war. One of the enemy soldiers sent a letter to the emperor (Popo’s father) informing him that Popo had died in the war. When Izta learned of his death, she could not stop crying and refused to eat. A few days later, she died of heartbreak. As her father was preparing for her funeral, Popo returned victorious from the war. The emperor was taken back, to say the least, but he informed Popo that Izta had died. Popo was very sad. He took Izta’s body and carried it to a far away town, where he placed it in front of a mountain and ordered his men to build a table of flowers and he laid Izta’s body on top. He knelt over her crying all night until his heart gave out from the sadness. The Gods were touched by his sacrifice and turned their bodies into great volcanoes. Popo’s volcano is the biggest, and he sometimes throws out smoke to signify that he is still watching over his princess, who lays by his side.

Teotihuacan: The Place Where the Gods Were Made

One of the most interesting things about life is that you can spend years on years and school learning about a place that you never imagine you’ll be able to visit. For many of us, that place is Teotihuacan. Of course you heard about this ancient Aztec City in your World History class, your Ancient Civilization class, and the various classes that discuss the origin of different ethnic groups. Today we became a part of this history, if only a single stitch in the blanket of time. We visited Teotihuacan. We climbed the pyramids. And we walked the same streets as those that came many lifetimes before us. 

The Pyramid of the Moon is one of the oldest buildings of our era, the Classic Period.

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View of the Avenue of the Dead from the Pyramid of the Moon.

Side view of the Pyramid of the Sun.