Mexico page 1
Mexico City (11/1/07 - 14/1/07)
Mexico city was, for a while, the world's most populated city. It is still among the top 5, although its precise ranking is often disputed. It was originally a large island with canals for roads with large pyramids in the centre which housed sacred temples. A Spanish fellow named Cortez came along and ruined all that, there was a bit of a fight and eventually the Spanish knocked down most of the original city, filled in the canals and built what is now Mexico City on top. Luckily now, for us, the Mexican authorities place a high priority on preserving their archaological sites and large portions of the original city are currently being excavated. We visited a museum dedicated to the old city and its temples.
In the centre of the city square there is a very very very very large mexican flag.
A model of the original city.
The archaeologist in me couldn't resist the urge to take many many photos of the pottery which was on display in the museum.
We later met up with some family friends of Nick and toured the city with some 'local knowledge'. We began with lunch at a beautiful old colonial building in which all the walls were tiled with glazed ceramic tiles. There was, incidentally, a lovely restaurant inside this building where we ate our lunch.
Mexico doesn't suffer the political apathy which Australia unfortunately does. This is probably because the stakes are much higher in a country like Mexico where people really do struggle to survive. Struggle as in "oh my god, I haven't got any money" as opposed to the common Australian ailment of "oh my god, this dole cheque is hardly enough to live off".
In the streets surrounding the Zocolo (city centre), there were many street markets. In fact, one can obtain almost anything at a street market and it is the preferred method of obtaining things in Mexico. Supermarkets are relatively scarce. The observant reader will notice a local sporting a backpack on her front. When Nick tried this, he brought more attention to himself than he already had (no mean feat) due to his height. He has already been accosted by several random strangers, including a gaggle of school girls on an excursion, to have their photo taken with them.
A view from above of another old colonial-period bulding - the theatre.
It is difficult to get a sense of the scale of Mexico City without being there. We journeyed to the top floor of a lookout tower to have a look... out.... anyway, the city stretched as far as the eye could see (which, despite the fog, was a fairly long way). Mexico city is bordered by mountains which must be pretty darn high considering that the city is already over 2000m above sea level. If it wasn't for the city, this would be a pretty darn good site for a radio telescope array (because of the altitude and because the surrounding mountains would block out interference)
This is Nick prior to boarding the 5-hour bus trip which would take us to Guanajuato, the location of our Spanish course. The trip was very pleasant with nice scenery, a nice air conditioned bus which had toilet facilities a hot water urn and even TV screens on which b-grade hollywood films would be screened. They even supplied us with a snack to eat on the way.
Guanajuato (14/1/07 - 11/2/07)
My first morning in Guanajuato, this is what the place looks like at about 7am. The photo seemed to capture more light than my eyes as it certainly seemed much darker than the photo makes it out to be. We are staying with a family whose house is situated about three quarters of the way up a mighty flight of stairs which really takes your breath away (no, literally! we're still 2000+ metres above sea-level remember).
A group of language students (we're all studying Spanish) milling around outside the language school during a break between classes.
Guanajuato is a very beautiful city. Most of the streets look like this and the atmosphere is very friendly. The hospitality of people here is also extraordinary with people quite willing to go completely out of their way to help you out (even if you don't speak Spanish and they don't speak English, not that I would know of course). The host family we're staying with are only obligated to supply us with breakfast but (and we have been told that most people here are like this) simply cannot resist giving us lots of food all the time.
Living in Guanajuato, at least for us, has been quite a test of fitness. Not only are we at altitude, but we also live up a mighty flight of stairs. I resumed 'training' today by lightly jogging up and down these stairs about three times. By the end of it, I was quite out of breath and looked like I had just run a marathon...
After our first day of class, we had a welcome dinner at a nice restaurant in the centre of Guanajuato city. Mexican food is an acquired taste and one which is most easily acquired. The soup you see here was delicious as was the "Agua de melon" - literally: water of melon. I am slowly getting used to the spicyness of the food here, but I still require a number of napkins at the ready to wipe the sweat off my brow.
This is the Mercado Hidalgo, a large market named after of the leaders of Mexican independence. One can buy all manner of things here from watches to bags to pastry.
In the good old days Guanajuato was built on top of a river (why?) so the early settlers built a network of tunnels beneath the city for the river to run through. After a few hundred years, the eventually diverted the river because the city kept flooding when there was heavy rain. Now the tunnels are used to ease the traffic that passes through the central part of the city.
There is a distictly international flavour to our little posse. Here we have an Australian, a Swede, a German, a Norwegian and a Dutch person. The rest of the group also includes Americans, of course.
Here's the group of us walking through the main pedestrian zone in the city centre.
The classes are lots of fun and very interactive. The class sizes are also very small. My class is probably the biggest one here and there are only 8 people in it.
A picture of my textbook and pen.