Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A few weeks ago our BCA director Rob organized an optional weekend trip to Oaxaca….so of course I went because who would give up a free trip anywhere in Mexico?

We left on Thursday night at midnight and drove for 9 hours until we reached Oaxaca in the morning. None of us slept much because the bus didn’t have heat and it was just too cold. In the morning we moved our backpacks into the hotel rooms ate breakfast in the hotel and went on a tour of the city center. The city is really pretty, very colonial and not very commercialized despite the number of visitors it receives. Lots of flowers and brightly painted buildings.

We were given the tour by a friend of Rob’s, a woman from the US who was studying anthropology in Oaxaca. We went to a small market place with home made honeys and herbal medicines, and another market with hand made clothing and jewelry. We also visited the 2 large churches in town and walked through the zocalo (big square with a band stand in the center of most cities). Rob’s friend explained to us the unrest that had been present in Oaxaca in 2006, and how the government had sent in the army to deal with protesting teachers.

Later we went back to the hotel and took naps, we were all exhausted. In the night I went out with 3 other girls to the zocalo for dinner, we ate well and bought necklaces from the street children. My friend Liz is really good with little ones and had made about 5 new friends by the end of the night. Unfortunately they all wanted her to buy something and she returned to the hotel with lots of new necklaces and out of change.

On Saturday we went on a trip to the near by archeological site of Monte Alban. This site was home to the Zapotecas, a pre-Hispanic civilization that was around between 500BC and 500AD. The city was a violent one, taking over all near by settlements, there are paintings on the walls of the temples of the people who were captured and killed at Monte Alban. One of the richest tombs of Mesoamerica was also found at Monte Alban, and was believe to be the grave of an important king. Another interesting building at the site is a large building in the center of the site thought to be for astrological observations.

After visiting Monte Alban we got back onto the bus and went to back into down town Oaxaca for a few hours of shopping in the markets. It was here that I bought myself some hand made pants and a traditional white blouse with embroidered flowers. Finally we began out 9 hour journey back home to Xalapa around 6pm. We all sat together in the back of the bus and watched a movie that someone had bought at the market earlier and slept close to keep warm.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Near to Xalapa there is a small town called Xico, it’s in the quiet hills of Veracruz and a bit smaller than Bellefonte, PA. Xico is known for its beautiful views and waterfalls and fruit wines, and so a few weeks ago I went to check it out with my friends, Liz, Cody and Arturo.

We arrived, parked the car and walked about 100 meters down to footpath into the woods. After turning a few corners we came across a cliff and horse shoe ridge that encircled a small lake being filled by a huge waterfall off the edge of the ridge.

We followed the path further, across an old bridge and found more lookouts over the large waterfall…..along the path was the occasional indigenous person selling home made wines, or jewelry. And eventually we reached the river that lead to the waterfall. We also found the next waterfall of the series upstream that flowed into the river. We put on our bathing suits and went wading for awhile around the bottom of the waterfall but not really swimming since it wasn’t deep.

After about 15 minutes of enjoying the water, Cody’s camera, which had been sitting with his jeans on a rock, slid between 2 rocks into the water. L So we spent about half an hour trying to get his camera back from the stagnant water between the rocks. We poked about with sticks, even lowered Liz between the rocks….and finally made a hook out of a stick, a hair tie, and a hair clip. We hooked the camera and found that the memory stick was good! So all the photos were saved! And here they are….

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


So, about 2 weeks ago I moved into my new house in Xalapa, Veracruz. This is where I will stay until I fly home in May. I have my own bedroom at the back of the house and a little bathroom all to myself. The dog lives outside in the yard beneath my window, his name is Symba and he rules the house. My family consists of Margarita, a retired school teacher, and Pepe a painter and business man….they have 2 children but they are all grown up now. I met Jose, their son, last week and he is a studying medicine at the university in town. I haven’t met their daughter Myra yet, she lives pretty far away and is expecting a baby in June. EXCITING.

Margarita and Pepe are really great, we eat most meals together and they have taken me on a few trips around town. My friend Liz comes over a lot and the 4 of us watch TV or just talk. Last week Margarita took Liz and I to a dance class, it was crazy fun but I’m not sure if I have room in my schedule to go very often.

We live in the center of the city and really close to the school when I am taking classes. Right now I have a pretty full schedule (19 credits yikes!)….

Intensive spanish 5
Mexican cultures and civilizations
Prehispanic civilizations
Social problems and social action in Mexico
Contemporary Mexico

None of these classes are particularly difficult yet, the reading takes me a LONG time but maybe in a few weeks it will get easier. I would like to go and visit the bio dept on campus and find out what classes they have….that way other science majors at Juniata would be able to work on their major while abroad….if they want to.

Ive made some good friends from the school in town, but they are all from the US or Canada...for some reason making Mexican friends is a bit harder here than it was in Cuernavaca. I remember rachel talking about how it was hard for her a little while last semester too....maybe with time ill meet more people.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Vale la pena

Close to Cuernavaca there is a town called Tepoztlan. It’s a small town with lots of character and surrounded my mountains. One of the mountains close to the center of town has an Aztec temple that was built at the top to worship the god Tepoztecatl, a god of the alcoholic drink pulque. So of course we took a trip to Tepoztlan and climbed to the top to see the temple. The climb was incredibly steep and difficult, as we are at a high altitude anyway. It took about 45 minutes and 2 bottles of water to make it to the top.

But “vale la pena” as we say in Mexico, it was worth it. The view was amazing, with the other rocky mountains close by covered in trees and flowers. And although the temple was small it was very spiritual and peaceful. Apparently a “scientist” came a few years ago and studied the temple….he claimed that there are 3 doors in the world that lead to other dimensions….and one of them is at the temple of tepotslan. I didn’t find it.

We sat on top of the pyramid for a while and around the edges on the steps….I ate an orange (best one I’ve ever had). It’s hard to imagine how they build that temple…and why. The Aztecs didn’t live at the top of the mountain, so they would have had to make the climb to the top every time they wanted to go. And speaking of the climb, how did they get all the stones to the top? If you’d seen the mountain you’d understand how this is so baffling….

After the long climb to the temple we were all pretty hungry, so we took a trip to the market in the center of Tepoztlan. In the market we found a stand selling cricket tacos. We all tried the tacos and tried not to be too grossed out by the tiny legs sticking out of eachothers mouths. Im not really sure what crickets taste like, but they were definately salty...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


A few Saturday’s ago we took a trip to Teotihuacan, which was the Mayan capital city. It was really amazing how well preserved the temples and buildings were. There was a huge arena with two temples in the center and smaller temples around the edges. Then there was a road which had ancient apartment buildings along the sides and market squares a little further down. The apartments were interesting to see, many had patios with open roofs and the door ways were still very much intact. At the end of the road and toward the end of the market squares there are two huge pyramids. They are known as the Temple of The Sun and the Temple of The Moon. The Temple of The Sun is the highest temple in Mesoamerica…..and I climbed all the steps to the top! It was definitely worth it, the view of the Mayan city, and also the entire valley, was amazing. Its hard to believe the temples were built by hand so long ago, and also that they are still standing.

We spent the day exploring ancient homes, water tunnels and enjoying the crazy sculptures on the sides of the temples. It was a great day; I wish I could have seen it when it was fully in tact….or that I could have been one of the first to discover the city. It was an amazing city to see empty, but imagining it with crowds of Mayans (believed to have been around 100,000 people at one point) going about their daily business made it come alive.

It was incredibly hot at Teotihuacan because of the elevation, so it was the first day I wore my cowboy hat….good thing too because I would have roasted on top of the temple without it! However it was nothing compared to the sombraro I found in a store near the parking lot...

Monday, January 19, 2009

La Ciudad de Mexico

On Sunday we took a trip to Mexico City. We left Cuernavaca at 7:30…which meant I had to get up at 5:30! Good thing we had a nice hour long bus ride to sleep.

A not so cool fact about Mexico City: every year it sinks about 7 inches. You can see buildings that are slanted or even seem to make this shape (~)

We arrived in Mexico City around 8:30 and took the metro to La Casa Azul or “The Blue House”, which is where Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera lived. It is now a museum full of their art and craft projects. They are both very famous artist here in Mexico people visit their house from all over the country to visit their house, and see where they worked.

After La Casa Azul we took the metro, and a bus, into the city center. Because many people can't read in Mexico City each station has its own symbol and the metro maps are only made of symblos. Here we saw many very historical sites. Mexico City was originally Tenochtitlan, the capitol city of the Aztecs. Below is a photo of the plaque that marks the spot where Cortez supposedly met Montezuma and a link to read his account of seeing the amazing city for the first time.

We also visited the capital building in the city center. This is a huge building no longer used by the president and now open to the public. Diego Rivera painted an extensive mural around the walls of the second floor hallway. It depicts the history of Mexico as far back as the Maya and other tribes. We had a tour to explain the steps in Mexican history and it was very interesting to see the progression from indigenous life to today’s very Hispanic culture.

After our visit to the capital building we sat in the center and ate our lunch. Dancers dressed in traditional clothing and head dresses danced and sold many hand made pots and jewelry. It’s very important for those who come from a heavily indigenous background to continue with their traditions and customs…the thread of indigenous Mexico runs deep and this was clear as we watched the dancing and heard them speak with the native Nahuatl language.

After lunch we spent time walking through the ruins of Tenochtitlan. This was the capital city of the Aztecs, and much of the ruins lie beneath the city. However, we were able to see many small temples and statues and it was hard to imagine the Spanish ever choosing to destroy it, especially after reading the accounts of how amazing Tenochtitlan was when it was discovered.

Finally we finished off the day by going to a bull fight. The stadium in Mexico City is the largest in the world…I’m not sure how many it holds but it was BIG. The atmosphere was great and everyone was having fun. The crowd plays a large part in the fight, as they yell “Ole!” and whistle at the torero (matador). It becomes louder as the night goes on and the beer runs out. If the fight was especially good, and the fighter was very brave the guys in the crowd throw their hats to the torero and he receives one of the bull’s ears as a prize. It was a very unique experience, I don’t think I want to go again as it was hard to watch…but I’m glad I was able to experience it.

What a long day….all of these excursions are exhausting!

Las Estacas

On Saturday we took a trip as a group to Las Estacas. Las Estacas is a park about an hour away from Cuernavaca where there is a natural spring. There is a river that is incredibly clear and visitors can jump into the river next to the spring and then float away. There are also rope swings along the way and diving platforms. The park itself is very beautiful with palm trees and gardens, and the water isn’t cold…just refreshing. We were lucky to have a nice day, so we set up our towels by the river, talked swam, ate lunch, bought smoothies and slept all day. It was literally like a little paradise.