So, I’ve been in Mexico for a little more than 2 months now and I cannot stress how great Mexico specifically Cholula is a great choice for exchange. I’m living in Cholula in a state called Puebla, and to give you a context its a trendy little suburb that could be compared to a mix between Newtown and Surry Hills. It’s full of great restaurants, trendy bars and lots of Mexican culture. So while you are in Mexico, which may feel like quite a daunting place Cholula is a very comfortable, homey place to live. Continue reading “La Vida en Mexico”
They say that a month into exchange the excitement of the new things around you wears off a little bit and you begin to miss home. But I can say at this point, I am still delighted to be here, with new opportunities and experiences knocking at the door constantly! Of course there are moments when you question yourself but the key is not to let those thoughts have significance! Exchange will be one of the most stimulating experiences in your life! Continue reading “¡Órale! Vamos a México”
………………………………..Translation!? We each make a kite of life and fly it as we will
This is a saying here in Mexico, meaning in Mexico the people will live their lives as they like. And so far, it most definitely rings true. So, here I am. Two weeks into my global exchange program in Guadalajara Mexico (pictures above are from Guadalajara). A city I knew very little about before arriving. What was I welcomed with? Open arms. I was welcomed to a country so rich in culture, with more diversity that you could anticipate, and spice. A lot of spice! By this I don’t only particularly refer to the food, which I may add, if your not a lover of spicy food like myself it potentially could be a shock to your taste buds. What else but the food, its the people. You just can’t describe the warmth, the generosity and merely just the smiles of Mexicans. The people here are just so welcoming, friendly, inviting, you are thrown the phrase ‘mi casa es tu casa’, (translation for others – my house is your house). And yes, perhaps at home this could be construed as ‘a nice gesture’, but here they mean it! If your invited to a house, a party, a dinner – your invited! And not only are you invited, everyone you know are invited, and everyone they know!
Only in a country like Mexico have I been given the confidence and support to re-discover my artistic, creative side. The people here just believe that the movement in music, in the body, in dance, in the hand through art, through creating jewellery – to really every movement, that we all encompass this creativity. We all have this inner ability to be artistic in whatever we do. As someone who arrived with no belief that I had any creativity left, and to have anyone you meet believe you are capable of all the above, is a truly meaningful feeling. Something I just haven’t been able to find anywhere else across the world. I have traveled a lot around the world, through Europe, Asia, America, India, South and Central America, so I feel I have some argument to support my above statements! I was lucky enough, or strategic enough, to time my study abroad after traveling. To elaborate, I was fortunate to arrive in Mexico late last year (2013). Which allowed me to spend around 8 months traveling down through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. After this returning back to Mexico, exploring a little more before I begun my studies in Guadalajara. It is not the common way to do exchange, however I wouldn’t have wished for it any other way. This way I had time to learn the language, be introduced to the people, the way they think, the way they perceive time – which you wouldn’t never imagine but is so so so very important over here! It gave me time to adjust to this, the ‘slow paced life’, for example! If you are planning to meet a group of people at 8pm, this means 9pm – at the very earliest! If someone says ‘give me 5 minutes’, this means ‘give me half an hour’. Which in Australia, is such a foreign concept. I have lost all punctuality time management, solely due to the need to become super duper patient and flexible!
Now – this post is to be about Guadalajara Mexico – Which is amazing! The city is so fascinating. Its home to some amazing food, people, traditions and ways of life – PLUS it is an hour to a lake, an hour to forests, mountains, volcanos, natural hot thermals, ‘magic cities’ and the beach. You can’t beat that for location! However, due to my more current travelling experiences being spent in countries further south of mexico I will share a few experiences and photos that are possible when studying here! I mean you won’t meet anyone that is studying here in Mexico that doesn’t plan to travel in the holidays or after they finish. Everything is so close and so very affordable.
Firstly!! Guatemala. Amazing! The people are so beautiful, and the way they speak. You can actually understand it. That saying you already have a basic understanding of Spanish, but its home to the learning of Spanish. It is a very affordable place to live. I spent my time living with a Guatemalan family in a home stay and taking Spanish classes. In my free time I helped at local schools with the children. What better way to learn a language than living and speaking with a local family. Guatemala is so very beautiful! A must is Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Semuc Champey – the most magical place I have ever been to. A few quick photos!
THESE ARE FROM SEMUC CHAMPEY GUATEMALA…….SO FAR IN MY TOP FIVE PLACES IN THE WORLD
THIS IS A HIKE SAM – A FRIEND FROM NZ I MET TRAVELING – AND I COMPLETED IN LAKE ATITLAN GUATEMALA, AN AREA WHERE A VOLCANO COLLAPSED AND CREATED A LAKE – WITH SMALL TOWNS AND VOLCANOS SURROUNDING THE LAKE. YOU CAN WALK AROUND THE WHOLE LAKE.
However, where I spent most of my time was in the beautiful, undiscovered, uninterrupted Nicaragua. Where the people, I mean they aren’t quite the welcoming people of lets say Mexico! BUT they still make Nicaragua what it is. They have such a ‘work-free, care-free, laid-back’ attitude to absolutely everything in life. And if this doesn’t transfer into the welcoming of tourists then so be it! This is there culture, their way, it was not up to me to decide how they wanted to approach tourism, seeing as – me as a foreigner was so foreign to them. I really recommend visiting Nicaragua, especially before the plan to install a Canal through the middle of it commences!
1. THE CORN ISLANDS ON THE CARIBBEAN SIDE OF NICARAGUA
2. JIQUILLIO NORTHERN PACIFIC SIDE OF NICARAGUA – OF SOME OF THE CHILDREN I VOLUNTEERED WITH
3. ON THE ROOF OF A CHURCH IN LEON NICARAGUA
Now, back to Mexico. Some photos to introduce you to the country that throughout my travels I constantly missed so much, and felt so at home ht moment I landed back here!
NOW – to end. The important stuff! Guadalajara life:
To start, University at TEC. TEC is well, it’s a very beautiful campus. But a little bit out in the middle of no where. The housing is very beautiful and modern around the Campus, however the traditional cultural feel of Guadalajara is around 1 + hour on a rickety bus away. This is where I chose to live! I am living in Centro, where I am finding I am spending around 2-3 hours a day to get a bus (there and back each day). However, it is totally worth it. This means I get to experience two complete different areas. Plus it gives you a chance to get a coffee, listen to some great music and people watch each day. Plus you find so many other students on the same bus ride so there’s always someone to chat with the pass the time. The University is quite content heavy in terms of workload, and rather strict. But this is there way, and it obviously works for a reason. The teachers are fantastic, they are really passionate about what they are teaching and deliver the content in such energetic and creative ways. So it makes all this so worth it. I am taking classes I would have never before been interested in and am so excited to learn about something completely different from a perspective of a foreign country. They are quite practical and hands on in the way they teach, they really want you to get out with the community for projects which is really exciting. Additionally the university really looks after their foreign students, really settles you in and all the staff are so very friendly. There’s days, excursions, parties, beach festivals, housing options – all offered for foreign students. Also the facilities at the University are unbelievably. You have free access to the gym, all classes, pools, and everything in between. Free classes in yoga, Pilates, every type of dance possibly, learning an instrument, circus classes, drama, cooking, salsa, mixed martial arts, and art classes and more. All you need to do is find some that fit into your schedule and sign up!
Living wise, I am in a student house in Centro area, right in the thick of the hustle and bustle of Guadalajara. I am living with one other Australian girl, and a couple of other Mexican students from different universities. It is really fun; it means I get the full experience. They only speak Spanish, which is challenging, however I get to have sneaky English conversations with my Australian friend living here, which is always refreshing. But living with Mexicans is the greatest, they invite you to everything every night, they offer you whatever they have! They want to experience everything, any trip they plan, any gig they attend, any drink they make any food they make. It makes it all the more authentic!
A major plus here as well is how affordable everything is! Rent, food, transport, trips away! What you will spend in a month in Australia will stretch to 3-4 months in Mexico. The nightlife in Guadalajara is insane! Its a University City, so there are parties non stop, and lots of roof and house parties which is a nice change. A lot of salsa, a lot of shopping – antiques, artisans, second hand, painting, jewellery , the works! The food in Mexico is absolutely amazing, your taste buds will be in constant surprise! Also, if your a fan of Tequila, well where it is grown is just around the corner. Tequila here is not like home, its amazing!
THIS IS A PHOTO OF TEQUILA TOWN & THE SECOND IS GUADALAJARA’S FAMOUS TORTA AHOGADA (it may not be aesthetically pleasing, but thats not the point! Its delicious)
SO! If you after an adventure and perhaps a little bit of a challenge – this challenges comes with full support – then come to Guadalajara! Everyone here is so welcoming and happy to help you all the way – hence the stress of support through the challenge! If you want to learn something new, something creative, learn to salsa, learn to paint, speak spanish, or attempt, drink tequila, meet new people around the world, watch sunsets from rooftops, dance the night away – or the day!, eat amazing food, wake up each day with a smile on your face because you’ve been lucky enough to discover the life of Mexico. BIENVENIDOS A MEXICO! QUE CHIDO.
Having been in Mexico for only a few months, I’ve already had some amazing experiences. I suppose I could tell you about how you simply must visit Chiapas, or how tacos really are that much more delicious in Mexico. But I think we should chat about something a little more fun: the countless times I’ve made a fool of myself trying to speak this crazy language.
I suppose for any of this to make sense you need to understand where I’m coming from; most importantly, you need to understand my journey learning the Spanish language. Well, I’m a communications (social inquiry) and international studies student at UTS, and before heading on my ICS year (compulsory year abroad), I spent 3 ½ months in Buenos Aires attempting to learn some Spanish. I then did my ICS year in Bogotá, Colombia, still attempting to learn Spanish. And finally, this year I began another exchange in Mexico where I am, you guessed it, still doing my darndest to learn Spanish.
The point I really want to make, I suppose, is that no matter what your spanish teacher has told you, slang (and swearing for that matter, but we’ll save that for another blog) is about as important to your average Aussie exchange student in Latin America as perfect spanish grammar and diction. No, forget that. It’s more important. You can study the correct use of the pretérito imperfecto del subjuntivo tense till the cows come home (foreign students feel free to use that idiomatic gem) but it will never help you fit in down at the Argentine rugby club quite like a well-timed ¡che boludo! (hey mate!). Quite the opposite in fact: not even your blonde hair will have you identified as a foreigner quicker then your attempts to use that spanish grammar you studied so diligently in Australia only to find non-existent in common latino vernacular. So I wholeheartedly encourage you to dive head first into the mission of speaking like the locals. Forget the grammar. Just be careful when you take those words over national borders; that’s where it gets tricky.
Here’s an example. A few weeks ago I was enjoying a casual chat with a Mexican friend of mine. We were discussing the difference between private and public universities in Mexico. Enjoying the conversation, it struck me as a tad odd when my friend abruptly changed the topic, telling me that she didn’t like the fresas at Tec de Monteray (a very expensive private university here in Mexico). I was a little perplexed as to why the strawberries at this particular university were so disagreeable—or even why they were worth mentioning. I told her that I loved strawberries and couldn’t see why those particular strawberries would be any worse than the one’s I like back home. She told me that she had a fundamental problem with strawberries and that the university was full of them! She then looked me up and down and asked me if I was a strawberry. It was here that we realised we’d had a communication break down. Fresa, you see, is Mexican slang for a spoiled rich kid. Not a strawberry.
I had a similar miss-communication with my Mexican taxi driver when I first arrived. At the Mexican National University (la UNAM) there are taxis that operate strictly within the campus; it’s a big university. These taxis won’t take a fare that would mean they have to leave the university grounds. It’s a perfectly reasonable question, then, to ask whether or not it’s possible to coger (catch / get) the taxi all the way to Coyoacán, where I live. Having asked the driver in my very best Spanish, I was surprised when he burst out in rapturous laughter at my question. Between giggles he told me he’d prefer if I didn’t. I was about to close the door and walk away demoralized when he told me that he was just joking and that he would take me to Coyoacán. Very confused, I got in the cab and we began to chat. He decided to let me in on the joke. You see, here in Mexico coger isn’t used as it is in Colombia—to mean catch or get, as in a bus, taxi or ball. Here in Mexico, coger is a slang word with strictly sexual connotations—somewhat like the ‘F word’ in English. So essentially I had asked him if I could—how should I put this?—make love to the taxi all the way to Coyoacán. I think his preference that I didn’t was probably justified.
And don’t even get me started on the various words that mean cool! Okay, just a quick rant. My personal favorite (picked up in Colombia) is chévere. Never mind that the word has completely gone out of fashion since the 70s in most Latin American countries, meaning in Mexico I sound like a foreigner might in Australia who walked around calling everything groovy. In Mexico it’s chido or padre, in Argentina it’s bárbaro and in Spain it’s bacano. But I’m sticking with chévere. You have to draw the line somewhere.
The word for mate is similarly confusing. Here I am in Mexico, with friends from all over Latin America, but I have no idea what to call them. My Mexican mate is güey (though out of context I’d be calling him stupid); my Colombian mate is marica (though to a Mexican that’s an insult); and my Argentine mate is boludo (though it has little meaning outside his country, and can also be an insult). In their respective countries they’re endearing; outside their respective countries they’re either nonsensical or downright insulting.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although these UTS exchanges give you the change to live all over the world, they’re pretty pointless if you’re not going to make the most of it; if you’re not going to do as the locals do… say as the locals say! So forget about the grammar, tenses and diction—they’ll come. Get stuck into the local idioms, slang and sayings. Just be careful when you try to take them to another country!
But if photos are more your thing, here are a couple I’ve taken in the unexpectedly beautiful Mexico City (sorry – I don’t take a lot of photos).
“Mira, la Luna. She is dancing.”
The night settled like ink and the moon weaved through the cobweb clouds. Yaya arced her neck towards the sky and chuckled.
I had arrived in Guadalajara; a ragged backpack slung across my shoulders and a forced expectation of desert and cacti. Instead, the Mexico I found was a lush, green cityscape. Fig and lime trees lined the streets; their roots cracked and crumbled the pavement. It was the rainy season; the days stretched on and remained hot but when it rained it poured. The roads would flood under the obese clouds, becoming impassable rivers. The sky opened during those storms, rumbling and splitting the silence with luminous veins.
Yaya picked me up from the airport and we shambled along the highway in her pickup. A beaded crucifix and miniature Caballero hat swung side by side from the rear-view mirror. We chortled in broken Spanish on our way to my new home.
“How you say your name? Es Mickel, no?”
“Nah, just Mitch.”
“Si, porque no?”
“Ok. You are Canguro now. Bienvenido a Mexico Canguro!”
“Si, ok. Gracias mi hermana!”
It was a mannered meeting but I had never felt so welcome. Yaya would soon become one of my closest friends in Guadalajara, helping me find a place to rest my bones – in her house – the aptly named Casa Luna. There, we would eat when hungry, drink when dry and chill outside my rooftop room in the evenings.
Amid the steady flow of tequila and cheap cerveza I have found myself settling into the heat and beauty of Mexico. University has served as a temporary recess from tumbling sombreros and evening mariachi trumpets.
While the clichés of Mexico echo in the background, I have managed to hit the highways and explore the country between classes. The green hills roll into open grasslands; the splintering streams belch into wide lakes or spill into an ocean with shores shared by Australia, a world away.
I helped Yaya gather her things and we hightailed further inland, halted endlessly by freeway toll booths. It was a long road to Puebla – Yaya’s new home – but we were kept entertained by my fervent consumption of the sights and sounds. My eyes darted from agave plantation to thick maize fields to storm shrouded mountain. Yaya grinned at my exuberant movements.
“Mira Canguro, that mountain es for you.”
Guadalajara has continued to raise its curtain and I am attempting to keep up with the performance. It has become my ever evolving home. Itchy feet will keep me wandering the rest of Mexico, even if it’s just for the people I have met. My experience has been only a stolen glance so far and I think I will remain here for some time to come. Six weeks in and my Spanish is verging on intelligible thanks to daily exchanges with curious taxi drivers.
“Donde eres guero?”
“Soy Australiano, mi nombre es Canguro.”
– Mitch Fuller/11429091
Three weeks in the land of lucha libre, drug wars and tacos and I don’t think it’s too early to say that exchange is going to be rad as hell! I was lucky enough to be sent here to Guadalajara, Mexico with three other kids from UTS and even luckier to get a chance to write about what’s going down here so I’m going to start off with a bit of background about this place. Not many people outside of Mexico know where Guadalajara is – it’s in a state called Jalisco which is one of the more traditional provinces and also one of the richer, less dangerous parts of Mexico. We’re around 4 hours away from the beach and 5 hours from Mexico City, which I’ve been told is around the 2nd largest city in North America, after NYC – I haven’t been yet myself but rumours are it’s a little crazy there.
I’m studying at the Guadalajara campus from the Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM), a private university and we have 2 Starbucks, an Apple store, at least 4 banks, a pretty sweet gym (which is free), a 50m pool (also free) and a few tennis courts and things… all on campus. I guess that sort of gives you an idea about the sort of folk who can afford to go here.
Guadalajara is a really cool city actually. The central part of town is situated around a big street called Chapultepec and there are bars pumping and clubs raging and decent restaurants lining the street, open everyday except maybe Sunday, I’m not sure, but I live close to university and it’s about an hour’s bus ride into the centre, so the equivalent of living in the suburban Sydney all over again.
Around Guadalajara there are plenty of things to do: we went to Sayulita last weekend, a really chill little town with a great beach just 4 hours away by bus. There they have a good party right up to the water every Friday and you can rent a surfboard for the day for less than 20 bucks, which is a pretty sweet deal. Margaritas for $2.50, Coronas for less… you get the drift. A few weeks before that we hit up Ajijic, another little arty town full of galleries and cafes that’s less than an hour from Guadalajara (or Guad, as all the American expats there say) and there are little boat trips you can do at the lake down there.
Last night, we went to the Lucha Libre and I’ve still got to upload the photos I sneakily took but they’ll be in the next post for sure. That was quite the experience, with a real buzzing atmosphere and everyone yelling at each other, sipping on beers and eating pork crackle. It’s all theatrics in the ring, especially with the fun masks and ridiculous tights, and in the rest of the arena it’s chaos and it’s crazy the number of kids under 5 sitting behind you shouting at the wrestlers “eso no se vale!” (that doesn’t count!). Makes for a wild night out.
To top it off we went for tacos at a bit before midnight and I’m going to put up pictures later so you can see what a real taco is. None of that hard or soft business, they’re all soft here and I just happened to have had the most incredible fish tacos at the beach last weekend! Forget Mad Mex, come to Mexico! Here at uni, they serve chilaquiles which are like nachos that you have for breakfast. I could rave on about the food here but what’s best is I’m living with a German guy who just so happens to love making guacamole. There’ll be photos up here later to make you drool.
The spanish is coming along, little by little. They have a lot of slang here and que pedo (pronounced pair-doe) is a way of saying que pasa, or “what’s up” and wey is used like “dude” or “man”. But I have a feeling that when a gringo says these things it’s a little too gangster, but just a heads up if you’re thinking about coming here!
Nicole Ng out.
I am Nicola, 22 years old and have been living in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city for just over a year. I came here on an ICS exchange and decided to stay on for another semester doing a global exchange, an incredible opportunity, rarely heard of outside the UTS exchange community so it seems! Staying was an easy decision; I have become completely enraptured by both the city and the whole country, the people I have met and the experiences I have shared with them, have been so positive, that for me, one year was definitely not enough time – and I am still not ready to go home.
I arrived pretty confident in the fact that I was going to love Mexico – everything I had heard from previous students and Mexicans themselves back home was always positive: the food, the landscapes, the places to go, the mariachi, the tequila etc I was itching to go for the whole two year wait between enrolment in the country major and actually leaving for exchange.
I feel content now that my expectations were reached, and Guadalajara was the perfect city to have them realised; it lies in the state of Jalisco decidedly “the most Mexican state of all Mexico” according to its inhabitants – the home of tequila, mariachi singers, la charreada (Mexican rodeo) and much more. It is a dry, hot city in the summer, the winter very temperate with sun everyday and barely a drop of rain, I don;t think it should even be called winter…!
Despite culturally it boasts many accomplishments as a city, GDL is not very touristy; lying a bit to far from Mexico City and 3 hours from the closest beach probably contributes to this, but in doing so, makes it one of the perfect places for an exchange student. It is probably the most popular city in Mexico for foreign students; there are around 200 in the current school I am in, Tec de Monterrey, and probably about the same in the public university, Universidad de Guadalajara, where I studied last year. This makes for a lively exchange scene, which at times is a bit of restraining in terms of improving one’s Spanish, but on the whole it has been great to have met people from all around the world, including many other Australians who often provide a bit of support, like a temporary family because they understand where you come from and you can see them when you get back home which is a great way to get over that post exchange depression!
It was always the number one priority to learn, practice and achieve some sort of Spanish fluency whilst here. I learnt a lot in the first year but didn’t feel satisfied with my level by the end of it, which was another reason I anticipated when applying for the extension in June. This has been helped mainly by Mexican and other Spanish speaking friends, more so than any grammar class. Mexican Spanish is rich in slang, I have come to love its pronunciations, differences in grammar and subsequent accent – when travelling through Central America last year people asked me if I was Mexican because of my use of very Mexican colloquialisms and accent (which were quite proud moments for me); and it was always nice to bump into a travelling Mexican on the way, who was more often than not surprised in finding out I lived in Mexico, mainly due to the often incorrect stereotypes that have spread across the world that deem it completely unsafe.
I have learnt lots of things during some of classes I have taken at school; a teacher I have at the moment for Mexican thought and culture has become quite an inspiration for me, in terms of his knowledge of his country, his ability to convey the good and the bad, his interest in the situation of Mexico’s minorities (indigenous, women and children) has allowed me to continually grow my interest in potentially working in this kind of field, in Mexico, in the hopefully not too distant future.
I leave here (unfortunately) in June, but I hold every intention to come back at least to travel to the parts I have yet not seen, ideally find some sort of job relating to my degree and just live for an indefinite time here. I feel like exchange has been just my first taste of Mexico, hoping for
many more experiences to come. I feel very lucky to have been able to do this thanks to UTS, it has been the most worthwhile thing in my academic life so far, and I will always remember it, whatever happens in the future.
*the first photo is of the largest lake in Mexico, Chapala, pretty close by… The second some some friends and I at the beach Sayulita, the third a recent shot from Easter break on the island in the Mexican Carribean called “Holbox”, a must see!, and finally the fourth, my beloved Guadalajara!!