The trip

Record of my adventures / food diary
Covering gap year travels and my year abroad in Mexico!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Chou Blanc

Considering my epic failing at keeping this up-to-date in the last month or so, I think the title is an appropriate use of my new favourite phrase (it's french for fail).

So, what's happened since day of the dead? Well a whole lot considering that was over a month ago! Suppose top of the list would be that I'm currently sitting in Toronto airport writing this whilst waiting for my connexion home! But should probably cover up to now first!

Side Bar: I seem to have a bit of a tendency to over-use exclamations!

Finished up all exams and projects - such a relief. Was sooo much work, but came out of it with a pretty good score overall for the semester so guess it was worth it.

We had another rugby tournament. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling so well, so didn't play that much given I felt pretty sick any time I had to run for a sustained period! Bit of a bummer but excited to go back and play some more :)

We did christmas lunch (giant lasagne) and presents in the house just before I left. Was nice as we had bought  mini christmas tree with lights aswell. Got an awesome present, giant monkey, which as anyone who's met me knows is kinda perfect!

Also went away for a week to chiapas, state in south of mexico. Went with Xavier, Jakob and Angus, travelling with them was interesting especially as 2 of them are over 6ft, a ginger and a blond. Meaning we were probably the most obvious gringos around! Super cool trip, but will put it all in another post as easier to separate from the rest.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Dia de Muertos

In Mexico, rather than halloween, the day of the dead festival is the big event of the season. We went on one of the organized trips for the weekend to Michoacan, a state west of the city.

The night before the trip was a big halloween party. In pre-drinks I introduced everyone to the gecko rule (you have to 'gecko' yourself on wall / floor / flat surface and last one to do so loses), which provided a lot of amusement, especially when we started speed geckoing, so basically anyone could count 3..2...1...gecko!

Anyways, didn't have too late a night, back home by 3, so set my alarm for 5 giving me enough time to pack when I woke up (we were getting the bus at 6). Was all ready to leave, bag packed, dressed, all sorted, when I went to the toilet and upon my return, my room had shut and locked itself.

Inside my room was my packed bag with all my clothes / shoes, my money, my camera, my cards, todo! :(
I did briefly debate trying to go later and catch-up with the trip, but I would have had to pay again for the bus and on the friday the trip was visiting like 5 different towns before going to Morelia (where public bus would take me). So armed with a mini rucksack of clothes donated by my roomate Xavier, off we went!

Thankfully I had been wearing my glasses when I went to the toilet otherwise there's no way I would have gone - no fun if you can't see everything!

We were told that it would take roughly 4-5 hours to get there...... it was 8. Luckily the bus was pretty comfy and you could recline the seats pretty far so was able to catch up on some sleep. We also had the company of films, the intouchables was really good and would highly recommend it, although was somewhat ruined by lack of ending - bus' dvd player stopped working for the last 10-15 mins of every film?! HAve since watched the end though so I continue in my advice!

On Friday we stopped in one town for lunch before moving on to another. It was between 1-3 hours between each town/city. I don't remember what they called so I'm going to merge them into one. The offerings that they have for the dead are pretty cool and colourful. Although there was some confusion to begin with when someone told us that the items placed on the offering represented what the person liked most in life, so imagine our confusion when every offering was covered in bananas and bread! Turns out those are just the staples (along with the orange flowers). There were a whole range of offerings, I would include some pictures but I didn't have my camera so you'll have to wait until i've stolen some from my house.

The third place we went to was an island maybe a 20mins or so boat ride from the mainland. The whole island was basicaly a giant artesania market. The path up to the top of the island kind or zigzagged through all the various stalls on its way up. We also felt the need to sample most of the streetfood on the way aswell!
The tradition here is for families to go and 'celebrate' the lives of their loved ones in the cemetry. I thought it would be a bit more cheerful atmosphere but I found the whole thing a little odd with families trying to commemorate the lives and sitting on the graves whilst hundreds of tourists traipsed through thte cemetry and over the graves, taking photos and drinking!

We went to anotehr town after that before going to the city where our hotel was. For entertainment value I should add since the boat trip I was wearing a poncho that had been donated by angus (6ft something), so I looked like an abominable snowman as the poncho came down to my knees and the sleeves were like 10 inches too long!

Saturday was a bit of a slower start as we hadn't got to the hotel until 3/4 so got up around 11, just in time for our free breakfast :) We spent the day exploring the city which was cool. There was one street where they were running a competition for the best offering, so there were all different kinds of offerings from the traditional to the 'artistic'.

I have now left too long since writing the first bit of theis to remeber everything we did so long story short:

Saturday spent day in morelia, night went out to awesome club, pretty sure there were some kind of fireworks / at least sparkler thingys at one point
Sunday: went to volcano, also awesome however due to shoes also being locked in room, toms were not the ideal climbing shoes. Cool view from the top though and running back down was awesome cause it was just like hot sand / dirt so you could jump and it kinda felt liek you were flying for a bit before you landed again!Temporarily lost my shoes, but with some help digging them out found them again. Downside was ran rest of way down barefoot as shoes kept falling off so safer to hold, and there were the odd rocks or two that i managed to cut my feet open on!

Got the sucky seats on the way back cause me, angus and jakob had gone to find food and were late back to the bus! Meant no recline, no space and an awful smell as were next to the toilet and the door was broken! Couldn't have been happier when we got back to go to bed, even if it was only for a few hours before class started at 8.30!

Still gotta up date for rest of month but on a side note - can't believe i have less than a week left! Super glad that i'm here for a year but will be weird to come back and not know anybody (all my new friends are only here for 1 semester!)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Rugby!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can't believe haven't mentioned rugby as yet, but I suppose fact that haven't actually written anything in the past month has something to do with that!!

Anyways, a while back Cassie (american exchange student who also plays rugby) found a local club not too far from here so we went along to give it a try.

I managed to get hopelessly lost the first time I went to training as I had looked at a map before I left and noted a landmark (hospital) that I could use to get off the bus. Unfortunately it turned out there are two hospitals along the pereferico, and I of course got off at the wrong one with no idea where I was and turned out was really quite far from where I was trying to go! Anyways, several phone calls, running in circles and helpful people on the bus later, I finally made it to the training ground. Have to say at times like that really miss GPS on my phone. So easy at home when I get lost and can just pull up a map with a little flashing dot that tells me where I am / where I need to go.

Was a little disheartned when I first arrived and they announced, now we are going to do passing......
Just turns out there were a few people who hadn't really ever played before, but there are also a few who are pretty good so makes for a mixed bunch. The pitch where we were training didn't have floodlights for the first session so made for interesting times trying to catch in half-light! Luckily ever since then the lights have always been on when we're there.

Unfortunately cause I have classes on mondays until 10, I can only make training on Weds, and even then I have to go straight from class cause finish at 7!

First torneo was a few weeks back. O also forgot to mention they don't play 15's here, just  7's. Was a little worried going into it as like I said, quite a few of the girls hadn't played before / really ever tackled!
The whole thing was quite a different experience - we arrived at the place and they were still painting the pitch, which was more of a square than a rectangle. Not to mention the posts were just large sticks that had been duck-taped onto football goals, and the try zone was 1m and came before the posts!



However was a really fun day, even though we only won one out of 4 games. I got to play scrum-half and dropkick at one point, which made for interesting viewing!  Excited for the next torneo in a few weeks, there was supposed to be one this weekend just gone but it got cancelled :(

As you may know, it's somewhat of a miracle that i've gone this long wihtout mentioning what i ate....
After the game we went to this awesome restaurant where you can eat all you want for 98pesos (less than £5), the only condition being that you finish everything you ask for. It was like 10 different flavours of chicken wings, ribs and fries, that came in little baskets of like 6-8 pieces. I thought it was great, although Cassie being a vegetarian didn't enjoy it quite as much!

Everyone on the team is super friendly and we got invited to one of the girls halloween / birthday party that was really fun.

Training's going well although for some reason I can't quite fathom, the others seem to be afraid of me in tackling drills?! Maybe cause I've won me versus everyone bulldog twice now :)

Last week we went along to the 'trials' for the 'estado de mexico' team, kinda like county. But wasn't a great turnout as for girls was basically our team plus 2 other people from other teams!  Not sure how it works and I think there are two teams, under 21 and over. But everyone in our team is over 21 so not sure who's in this under 21 team! Anyways, I think it was the start of the selection process, so hopefully if I'm part of that then I'll get a few more games in!

What happened?!

So, I may have got a liiiitle bit behind in updating the blog. But solo como un mes! ;)

The last month has been a bit of a blur but mostly because I've had so much work. I know i mention it almost every post, but seriously, they are crazy here. And while i'm on the subject, in case you haven't already heard my rant on the conversion of grades from here to Exeter...
So there is some debate on the actual conversion, but we're currently looking at a rough exchange of 90% average here being worth only 60%ish at home. Bearing in mind I thought this year abroad would help my overall grade not hinder it! I will take at least 12 modules here over a year compared to my usual 4/5 at home, making the likelihood of gaining an overall average of 95%+ highly unlikely. Apparently they're basing it on the fact that the min pass rate here is 70% but like i've already mentioned, whilst it's not that hard to get 70%, I had to work for the points above it. Also, most universities in Mexico have a pass rate of 60%, the TEC is just special in it's higher rate! Anyways, i've decided i'll wait to see my overall grade for the first semester and then start arguing for a better conversion!

As I'm remebering the most recent things first, this post is probably gonna be in reverse order / all over the place! Haven't really slept much the past week due to overloads of work / exams and maybe trying to fit too much going out into that aswell! This weekend I had to finish a 10 page essay on Corporate Social Responsibility and a presentation in spanish analysing the financial situation of some company. Plus revise for 2 exams today - as you can imagine, i've had a great weekend. To top it all off today we got told that our final project for business law (about the environment?!) which we had been told was due at the end of the semester, is now to be presented on thursday, giving us 2 days to do everything!! What sucks most is all of these things are worth like 10-20% of a single module, and each module is only worth 1/12 of my year = 1/7 of my degree. Putting it in perspective seems like of a lot of work for very little!

However, good news, this weekend is another long weekend (monday is a bank holiday) so taking a week out to go travelling in chiapas (south of mexico) woop! So photos and videos will be along shortly. I say shortly but I really mean in quite a while as when I get back I have all my final exams and the last few final projects to do in one weekend.

Then I'm coming home 7th Dec for a month! :) Excited to see everybody, although slightly jealous of friends here who are making travel plans to go to Belize, Costa Rica, etc for christmas, even though I am planning to do that when I finish next semester and have already got my first tripped planned for january when i return with some friends from this semester who will still be travelling!

On second thoughts i'm gonna split the posts and write about the weekend trips separately!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Forgotten weeks

Almost forgot to mention our trip to Six Flags (biggest theme park in mexico) a few weeks back!

Not that much to say except tell you it's awesome and such good value - if you show your student card it's only $225MX = £11 for the day!!


I also almost won a giant stuffed dino toy / monkey ( I hadnt yet decided which I'd take) by making basketball shots, but the last one bounced in then out again :( It's ok though, I've been practising for when we go back so I can win it then! And no, I have not in the slightest thought about the practically of bringing back a stuffed toy the size of me on the plane!

We had perfect weather all day aswell (I say this often as in the area where we live it rains almost everyday in the afternoon) so we went on all the water rides aswell. The rapids were pretty funny cause it's really tame and then near the end there's the unavoidable waterfall which just soaks everyone!!

Also went to see the university american football game that weekend. It was really boring and I didn't understand why they had to stop all the time and people kept coming off the pitch every 5 mins cause they were 'injured'?!

Our house is still having issues with things breaking - door still not fixed....
Also we have saucepans where tha handles heat to the same temperature as the saucepan, resulting in burnt hands when you forget this :(

BONUS PHOTO ;)


Weekend of Events

So this weekend started last thursday after I finally finished my last exam (incidentally I did awesome in it - 95% just to let you know!)

One of the student houses was having an end of exam party so we went to that. All going well until about 1am where I suddenly decided that I was fluent in French and was trying it out on everyone (pretty much everyone is actually french so found it amusing!). Personally I am still of the belief that I am pretty damn good at french, the reality may not be so!

Of course the next day was pretty much lost while we all moped around eventually managing to make ourselves some pasta around 2pm. Friday was also the day of the Mexico vs Panama football game - really important for mexico because they needed a win in order to be considered for world cup qualification. The game wasn't until 8.30 but because of the traffic to get there we had to leave at 4 (good thing we did cause we only just arrived like 20mins before the game started!).

Unfortunately, on a hangover the last thing in the world you want is a 4hrs party bus with the WORST driver we have had so far, EVER. All the traffic meant it was really stop start, but he insisted on speeding as soon as there was any space and then slamming on the brakes! We also had 40L of 'agua loca' (some combination of alcohol and fruit juice) to keep us company on the bus.

The game was at the 'estadio azteca' which is pretty unimpressive from the outside but incredible once you're inside - it was massive! We decided to go all out for mexico so bought ourselves some knock-off football shirts on the way in and a couple of the guys had giant mexico flags aswell!


As you can see, we didn't have the best view!

So like I said, Mexico had to win to qualify for the world cup, so the atmosphere was pretty crazy. There were tons of police in riot gear. Then there was a small fenced off section where the panama supporters were (maybe like 200/250 people) which as well as being separated by fencing was surrounded by almost 100 police in full riot gear with shields! One of the guys with us is actually from Panama but studies here in Mexico and he said it was too dangerous to wear his panama shirt in the stadium! 

I'm not the greatest fan of football to begin with and the whole game wasn't that great quality. Plus whenever the mexican crowd was angry, happy or celebrating, basically whenever they throw beer (or occasionally pee - thankfully not during this game) but it's funny to see that everyone's first reaction if something lands on them is to smell it and make sure it's just beer!! So that wasn't so great especially as where we were sitting meant we had a lot of things thrown over us - had to use the giant flags as cover! 

Both teams had quite a lot of opportunites which they squandered but Mexico scored midway through first half. Unfortunately, with about 5-10mins to go at the end of the game Panama also scored, at which point we were a little worried cause if mexico drew the game they also wouldnt qualify. A few mins later they scored what can only be described as a wonder goal! Some guy chipped the ball to himself before doing like a over the head bicycle kick that shot into the corner! The crowd went absolutely mental (unfortantely that did mean more beer thrown) but still it was an amazing goal!

What's also cool is whenever the other goalie is going to kick the ball everyone puts out their arms and shakes them going 'oooooooooooooooo....' and then when he kicks it they shout 'puto'. It sounds really cool when the whole stadium is doing it! Have to say though was a little surprised at the beginning when they jeered all the way through the panama national anthem which I thought was kinda rude! 

Ooo almost forgot, one of the best bits, you dont have to leave your seat for anything, the beer vendors come to you as does the food! It's a much better system actually as you dont have to miss the game and you dont get massive queues at half time with everyone rushing to get food / drinks. My favourite is the personal dominos pizzas they bring round!

So after the game, took a while for everyone to get back to the bus and leave (we had been in groups in different parts of the stadium). I took a power nap on the bus as I was staying in DF with Jakob, Regis and Angus so we got dropped off on the way. On our quest to find a toilet before we got a taxi to where we were staying we found ourselves at 1am in a random little diner type place with our beers/ chips and singing along to some truly awful spanish karaoke songs that were on tv! Originally our plan had been to go out after we dropped our stuff at the hotel, but by the time we got there everyone was knackered (Angus - the bggest advocate for going out had fallen asleep as soon as we got in the taxi!)

Saturday and Sunday was Corona Capital - a big music festival on outskirts of the city. Last year's festival
Regis and Jakob weren't going, just spending the weekend in the city, so after our free(included) breakfast we split up. Me and Angus went to meet Charlene's roomates at the hostel where I was staying saturday night. 

Side Note: Really weird, so before I left home, Exeter told me that no-one else was going to Mexico, but clearly they just meant from the business school cause Charlene (Charly who I live with's girlfriend) is going to a university in Puebla (another city in Mexico) and living with 3 other girls from Exeter!! So random. Anyways, point of that is met them on the weekend cause that was part of group went to festival with.

The metro here is pretty good as covers most of city / surrounding area and super cheap to use (15p a journey!). So we were able to take that all the way to where the festival was and then was still quite a trek as you are made to walk in the most roundabout way possible past all the people trying to sell you things!

We were really lucky with the weather all weekend as was just perfect, if anything maybe a little too hot on Sunday! There were 4 different stages although was quite a trek between them, then there was a food court, mini fair, stands and a beer garden (being the corona capital festival - only corona available). Was a pretty big venue obviously! They even had a zip line you could go on, though looked pretty rubbish as people kept getting stuck!

So our line-up for the weekend (well who we saw anyways)
SAT:
- The Dandy Warhols (wasn't sure who they were except for one song I knew but pretty chilled)
- Imagine Dragons (definitely one of the best bands of the weekend, knew all the songs cause they're awesome!!)
-Travis (only caught the end of the set which was good cause it was songs I knew)
-The XX (I'm not really the biggest fan, actually started falling asleep standing up, but the others loved them)
-Phoenix (didn't know who they were before but pretty good too)
-M.I.A (actually only know the song paper planes which was awesome, but all the other songs kinda just sounded the same, plus we had no idea what she was saying!)
-Blondie (one of the hits of the weekend - didn't know they were still around / alive!, also didn't realise they sang so many of the songs I knew!)

SUN:
Actually just stayed at same stage all day cause had pretty awesome line-up
-Jake Bugg (nice and chilled)
-Portugal the Man (no idea who they are but enjoyed it nevertheless)
-Matt and Kim (surprise hit of the weekend - only knew one song but thye were awesome live, very funny too)
-Stereophonics (great music to chill in the sun to)
-Vampire Weekend (worked our way into the crowd at the front for this one - love them - though maybe not as much as some of the mexicans who were going crazy around us!)
-Arctic Monkeys (What a way to finish the weekend!)



So yeh, other than fact spent far too much on beer / food (they had the wandering vendors here too - still loving the mini dominos). Preeeety awesome weekend :) We kept running into people we knew from TEC aswell cause there was a whole bunch of people who went! Also saw some guy being crowdsurfed in a wheelchair!

O almost forgot, had really weird moment on sunday. We were watching one of the bands and some strange looking mexican lady came up to us and asked if she could take our photo. She only had her phone so we were like errrr why? And she just mumbled something and kept insisting we group together so she could take our photo. Then she was like no, no you need to shout 'whiskey'?! Anyways, we obliged in the hope she would go away..... she didn't. She then gave me what appeared to be a goldfish bag minus the goldfish. I naively assumed it was a water bomb. Turns out it was a plastic bag of vodka! Don't worry though mom, we didn't drink the crazy strangers vodka in a bag - even I have standards! Thankfully after explaining that we were all tee-total and don't drink at all she eventually left - what a weirdo!!

Only downside was arriving home at 1am on monday morning, realising I haven't yet started my 5-10 page essay on mexican toys (such fun) due in at 10am and I start lessons at 8.30am and finish at 10pm! Thankfully he extended the deadline until 4pm though so managed to make it through the day (slept until 11am rather tahn go to classes!) Actually, other downside was had to wash all my clothes today as everything smelt like smoke / weed (not mine mom) :)

More exams and work!

So last two weeks have kinda gone in a bit of a blur as it was exam time again! yay for continuous assessment

Not to mention I had a lot of projects / other works to do and at the same time have been trying to do internship applications for next summer - not much success so far. Hopefully this week / weekend will actually have the time to sit down and do it properly!

So like I said lots of work so stayed at home weekend before one just gone to catch up on everything.
Did quite a lot though on the Saturday me and matthieu went to shopping mall for a little retail therapy / procrastination. (plus wanted to cut my hair again). Anyways several hours and a lot of money later, can safely say I didn't spend anywhere near as much as him! On the other hand, that's not to say I didn't buy more things than I actually needed! Faced with the prospect of another meal of pasta at home we decided to eat out whilst we there. TGI Fridays look out! Had an awesome meal of BBQ baby back ribs and an oreo milkshake to wash it all down - super content :)

Wasn't really much else occuring that weekend as some people had gone out for the weekend and the rest of us were just working!