Sunday, February 3, 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Puebla, Tlaxcala, and...Puerto Escondido!

I traveled from Guanajuato to Puebla via bus, which took 7 hrs. It is 2 hrs south of Mexico D.F. and is famous for hand-painted ceramics. The Catedral Basilica de Puebla was so neat with the Spanish and Baroque influence. I will have to post photos later. Most of my time in the city was spent checking out churches, walking down the streets of the city, and spending the next day at Cholula. Cholula is a city about 30 minutes away by bus and has the great pyramid of the city. The interesting thing about this pyramid is, you wouldn't know it was a pyramid until you got to the top and saw the church. It just kind of looks like a hill and you walk up the hill and that is pretty much it. Compared to the pyramid at Teotihuacan, this didn't seem like anything.

We then spent a few hours in a nearby city called Tlaxcala, a colonial city. It really has a small town charm to it and is a pueblocito if you will. The zocalo or main square area is the smallest I have ever seen, but is so quaint. I spent time being in total awe of the paintings of the Spanish conquest in Mexico at the Palacio de Gobierno which was built in the 16th century. The Desiderio Hernandez Xochitiotzin murals depicted Cortez' stay, the indigenous people of Mexico in that region, and the Wars of Independence. Then I went to the Ex-Convento Franciscano de la Asuncion built in the mid-1500s. The doors and interior of the ex-convent are laden with Muslim-influenced art. It reminded me a lot of southern Spain. By 7:40PM, I had a bus to Puerto Escondido waiting in Puebla...

This is definitely one of many long bus rides I have ever had but one of the most beautiful as well. It took a total of 16 hours to get to Puerto Escondido! Yes, I needed to get to the beach THAT bad. The bus ride went overnight and over windy mountainous roads as well. But I have to say that the different shades of black under a star-filled sky was so amazing! After that long bus ride, the sun, sand, and beach was waiting. I spent 2 days basking in the sun, went on a lancha, a boat out to the ocean. We even got to see a sea turtle, or tortuga, swim around and hung out with it onboard! This beach was paradise..I stayed on Zicatela Beach, literally steps from the hostal, and saw Playa Manzanillo, Angelito, Carriazalillo, Principal, Marinero, and Bacocho. This was just a string of beaches all relatively close and a surfer's paradise by the way! Met some really awesome Dutch people from all over Holland, some Americans, and Germans. This beach is a hidden treasure and is not contaminated with tourists. The main street, Calle del Morro isn't flooded with people like Huntington Beach or Venice Beach are back in California. People here care so much about the environment, and are super easy-going. However, I did see sharks being hunted and then cleaned out on the beach which was upsetting. Apparently it is legal here in Mexico. I am just glad that they don't merely cut off it's fins and then throw it back in the ocean to die, but actually use the rest of the animal as well. Still sad nonetheless...

So today is Thursday and just took my first charter flight out of Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca this morning. Definitely have videos and photos to post so hang in there!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random Daily Happenings of Life Here in Gto

This is mostly just a slough of snapshots of my life here. Enjoy :)

My host mom, Martha.

Mi habitacion!

My host sister, Keren.

My roommate, Hazel in her native costume blanket

Matilda, Me, Amy, Marian, and Jared on Marian's birthday

On our way to school, Hazel found her dream car

Rojelio, one of my teachers

Mi perro lindo!

This is what we do during study breaks--where
was the hula-hoop when I needed it most in college?

Johnny and I!

Feria Leon!

Me, my roommate Hazel, and Marian headed to the fair in Leon after school yesterday. It was great to get a chance to hang out and observe how I realy Mexican fair is! I also noticed that we were the only foreigners there--it was fantastic!

Check out these bushes! Yep, that's right, were there.

La feria en Leon!

Entrance to the rides at the fair

There were huge strips of stands such as this one
at the fair with food, candy, fruit, etc.

...and again

This one was interesting...

Check it ou: is this not the BIGGEST burrito you've
ever seen?!?!?!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cuerpos de Conservación meeting in the Santa Rosa Mountains

Today was such an awesome day—except for the fact that I was freezing all morning! But just as I was thinking to myself, this really sucks, and I wish I were home with a hot cup of tea, I realized, holy crap, at least I can wish that! These people deal with this EVERYDAY! And not to mention, we had a 100% turn out—families, cooperatives, NGO people, grant writers, EVERYONE. You could definitely see how much people craved to make projects work. We talked about their projects last year and how effective the end-consumer (villagers) thought it was, what road-blocks they ran into, difficulties securing funding from the government in renewing contracts, and how to move forward. I learned a lot about how I would like to help facilitate discussion in my village when I get deployed. I really need to spend the remaining months I have in the states to really be a better listener and hear what people really want and try to help them get there instead of trying to make them want what I want for them. Does that make sense? Even if this means that their quality of life may still be kind of low. I keep reminding myself that this is about sustainable development and in order for anything to be sustainable, I have to be able to walk away and know that the community wants it bad enough to keep it going long after I am gone.

Apparently Cuerpos de
Conservación has to renew their contract with the landowner, but in order to do that, they have to renew their contract with the government to get the funding that would then enable them to renew the afore mentioned contract. The government reviews the project proposal and decides how much they will give Cuerpos de Conservación and money is set aside for the projects first. After doing so, whatever left gets distributed to the non-profit workers. None of these people are doing this for the money, and many have decided to take a lower pay in order to have more money for the projects they are working on. It's difficult but there is so much promise.

A little ways before getting to the EEC is a small women's cooperative that produces honey. It's pretty neat--apparently it started with 3 women and has now expanded to 15. Their product is marketed and sold in Le
ón, a pretty huge industrialized city about an hour and fifteen minutes away from here.

Here are some photos and video--provecho!

On our way up to Santa Rosa in the mtns.

This is the Environmental Education Center (EEC)
with a partially completed roof. They've put in some
piping for the showers which can be seen sort of
to the right of the window.

This is the main water tank with pipes still above
ground and flowing down to the EEC.

A little adobe-brick water heating system
and a tiny (black) water tank above it.

This is going to be a dormitory that will fit 40 beds (20 bunks)
upon completion. You can see mattresses stacked
up in the back. There will also be a bike room for retreat groups
to take out on trails.

The guys, washing cups for the meeting. See
that hose? The water comes from there and it's FREEZING
cold! That's right my friends, NO HOT WATER...yet.

Hopefully a fireplace will be put in here.

The community showed up, had the meeting outside
in the freezing cold, but everyone was there nonetheless.

Going over last year's projects and what the community
would like to see this year.

Community member talking about solutions to
financing his project.

And there goes the greenhouse! The community
loading materials onto their trucks to set up
the greenhouse for medicinal herbs.

The guys moving stuff from the current
greenhouse to set up their own in their community!

A piece of the EEC roof that is not yet finished.
Wooden support beams have been laid and
coverings will go next.

Topics of discussion for first annual meeting.

Community leader expressing his thoughts.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Beginnings...Cuerpos de Conservación

I am currently reading this book about micro-financing in India calle"Banker to the Poor," by Muhammad Yunnus. It's eye opening and continues to make me think about the terrible poverty rut that rural communities struggle with. During my break, I happened to stumble upon this motivational quote that resonates with me:

"You are never given a wish without the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however." --Richard Bach

It is definitely something that I have kept in mind. Anyway, I was supposed to head off to Queretaro this morning but it ended up not working out. No matter, as i still had a productive day of getting through my book, homework, and preparing for an all day beginning of the year meeting in the mountains with a local conservation group here called Cuerpos de Conservación They focus on community and environmental development and also educating the community about resources and how to protect it. So you're probably asking how I found out about this. I was having my usual late night of studying and ended up chatting with another American who is working in development. He's working for Cuerpos de Conservación here in Guanajuato and invited me to this meeting. I'm stoked about the opportunity to meet with the main grant writer of the organization, a community assessment officer who is working on the San Marcos Project here, and project representatives who are supported by Cuerpos de Conservación and vice versa. The only thing I'm not stoked about is having to wake up super early again for the 8th day in a row ;) It's a tough life, my friends! hahaa...

Other than that, I've been looking forward to my upcoming week of travel. Marian and I are going to travel together again and we plan to start off in Puebla, about 7 hours south of here by bus. We will be leaving right after classes next Friday and just go with the flow. I know that I'd like to see Puebla, Veracruz, Acapulco, and Oaxaca City and it's just a matter of finding the time to fit in these cities in our short time. I will have to be back in León-Guanajuato by the 2nd of February so that I can fly back to the states on the 3rd. I still can't believe how fast time has gone by already and I am savoring every last bit of time I have left here.

I'm not sure what I am going to be doing once I return to the states, but my friend Becki says that I "fly by the seat of [my] pants." Good 'ol spontaneity...that's how I roll.

Next week may be a really pivotal week--my placement officer emailed me saying that she's reviewing files for my departure group and the anticipation is killing me! This great organization is forcing me to be patient :)

That's pretty much all I have for now.

Nos vemos!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Teotihuacan y Ciudad de Mexico

It's been awhile since my last update. Hopefully this post finds you all doing well in the states or wherever you are. I have just moved into my 5th week of school here and am learning a LOT and really enjoying the experience.

This past weekend, a friend and I went to Mexico D.F. (otherwise known as Mexico Distrito Federal or Mexico City). We left right after classes to grab some street food and head off to the bus station. Five and a half hours later, we were there, found a place to stay, and crashed for the night. We slept for 5 hours and left for the bus station again to get to Teotihuacan, which is about an hour northeast by bus from Mexico D.F. Here's a little background: The area was supposedly created in the late Pre-Classic period and was split into quadrants. The main road, Calle de Los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead), is the axis of the city. The city covers about 20 square kilometers and includes one of the largest pyramids in the world, The Piramide del Sol which was built in the Pre-Classic period, and the Pyramide de la Luna from the Classic period. The city was abandoned by the Teotihuacanans and it is speculated that the city had grown so large that it could not support its inhabitants with the food needed. The Aztecs later found it, and believing that it could only be built by Gods, gave it the name "Teotihuacan"~ Where Men Become Gods."

This site is huge and could take a whole day if you wanted to climb every pyramid. So my friend Marian and I decided to climb Piramide del Sol and hang out in the area. Here is a little blurb about Calle de Los Muertos~ "This ceremonial center was built along a four-kilometer stretch now called Calle de los Muertos, so named because the Aztecs believed ancient kings had been buried alongside it. The northern limit of the street is the Piramide de la Luna, while th southern boundary remains unexplored. The main structure, the Piramide del Sol, lies to the east, aligned with the point on the horizon where the sun sets at the summer solistice. An east-west throughfare is believed to have bisected the calle at some point at the front of the Ciudadela. Along the sides of the calle are the Patio con Pisos de Mica, the Grupo Viking Complex, and the West Plaza and East Plaza Complexes. Farther north is the Puma Mural.

Marian and I along the Calle de los Muertos

The ruins

Prepping to climb Piramide del Sol.

At the top of the Piramide del Sol! You can see the Piramide de la Luna in this photo!

Museo de Sitio--includes a labyrinth, artifacts and graves from the stages of Teotihuacan.

A neat pillar from the museo.

The vista point.

I had always wanted to see the pyramids in Mexico and now I have! It was such a neat experience and I can't wait to explore more when I travel towards Oaxaca after next week. We spent Sunday exploring Mexico City, including the Museo Frida Kahlo, Catedral Metropolitana, Zócalo, and Museo Nacional de Antropología.

I didn't know anything about Frida Kahlo before visiting this museum dedicated to her. It was her former house that she had with Diego Riviera which was full of color. The poor woman had suffered physical shocks and was conformed to a wheelchair for most of her life. Her art was really bizarre in my opinion, but with reason. We also climbed the tower of Catedral Metropolitana and got to experience a bell ringing! The view of the city from the top of the cathedral was really neat and I will definitely post photos as soon as I am able. Other than that, Marian and I hung out at the anthropology museum which was HUGE! If any of you have been to the MOMA in New York, you know that a museum like that takes days to see. The anthropology museum was so neat because it included artifacts from all regions of the country and dedicated sections to minority groups.

In a nutshell, this trip included a LOT of walking until my feet and legs ached but it was all worth it! I'll be posting photos soon.