Lydia in Xalapa

Lydia is spending summer 2010 studying in Mexico with SMU-in-Xalapa. She is excited to put her nine years of Spanish classes to good use while immersing herself in Xalapan culture.

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Recientemente…

So much has happened in the past few days! Ay de mi, no pienso que puedo escribir todo! Seriously, I think I am going to be very disorganized, so prepare yourselves. Prepared? Ok, let’s go.

IMG_5170.jpg First of all, Paleta = popsicle. Here, real chunks of fruit are frozen in a real juice blend with a little bit of chili spice. SO GOOD. There are so many little shops in town with all kinds of goodies. And when we got popsicles, I also got some candied peanuts.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love roasted nuts, especially when they are sweet :) Later that same day we went to this mini-lake in the middle of the city that has a park all around it. Parks are almost always fun, but this one was made especially so by the bike/go-cart contraptions that we, with great difficulty and at the expense of most of our energy, giddily raced around the park. Let’s just say that my partners in crime and I got our exercise that day!IMG_5190.jpg

You know how in the States the most likely ways of hearing Mariachi are either in a nice or maybe just quirky Mexican restaurant, or on the radio when you accidentally turn to the Spanish channel? Ok, maybe you turn there on purpose, but still. I am going to venture to say that we (hmm, that is a rather ambiguous use of the word “we.” Obviously not everyone is included in the stereotype that follows this parenthesis) have this impression of Mariachi as something old and boring that consists of weird guys singing “Guantanamera” over and over again. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT. De verdad. Truly. Mariachi, so much fun, aaaaaannnd it really makes you want to dance.

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Or at least it did to me. But I usually want to dance… So basically we went to a Mariachi concert and it was awesome. The huge theater was overflowing with eager, excited, and joyful audience members, who clapped so hard at the “end” of the concert that it just had to go on for another hour. There were some really impressive singers, and obviously talented musicians, and one of the singers even proposed to his new fiance in the middle of the show! I had such a blast!!
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I really like my cultural assistant, Sara, who is a music student at La Universidad Veracruzana. She speaks a little bit slower (and is thus easier to understand!) and is incredibly gracious as I stumble and learn in this world that is “living in another language.”

We ate at an awesome restaurant last week; soup, bread, the main meal (pork chop covered in vegetables with rice and bananas) with tortillas (of course), and a small cheese danish thing for dessert all for 40 pesos each, which is about $3.19! An entire three course meal with tortillas (of course) for about seven bucks! And rather delicious, if I do say so myself. We also had agua de jamaica, which tastes kind of like a fancy, upgraded version of how awesome kool-aid tasted when we were kids… or for some of us how it still tastes…
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Working off our meal by walking around town a bit, Sara and I passed one of the oldest streets in Xalapa, Callejon Jesus te ampare, whose cobblestone path stretches all the way up to the Cathedral of San Jose, one of the oldest and best preserved colonial monuments of Xalapa. It’s simply beautiful, and the stones feel worn not only with history, but with messages and with memories.

Covering also the modern perspective in our meandering, we visited a museum of contemporary art, which was exhibiting one man’s excellent collection of paintings, sculptures, and engravings. I have been incredibly impressed by Xalapa’s appreciation of art, and by the caliber of work artists of all kinds offer to the community. I hope to go back to this museum, and others in the future, to soak in as much as I can.
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We took the camion (bus) to the Plaza Americas, which is basically a big mall with both foreign and Mexican stores, and walked around a bit. I must say, I prefer the boutiques and the callejones (flea-market alleys where people sell jewelry, purses, etc.) in the center of town :) But we enjoyed walking around for a while and chatting. We passed a super nice McDonald's (why are they always nicer in other countries?) Oh, and Hey Ladies, instead of Forever 21, they've got Forever Sexy. Now honestly, which would you rather be? :)

That night I went to a jazz concert with my friend Will that was truly incredible. Afterward, Will and I introduced ourselves to the pianist and to the bassist, and Will, who is also a pianist, is going to jam with them sometime! Maybe I can sing along, scat a bit, who knows!

Friday I went with two other SMU students, Will and Oscar, to the house of Oscar's cultural assistant, Iris, in Corrizal, which is about 40 minutes from Xalapa by Camion. Hace calor en Corrizal!! It's generally much hotter because it is lower in altitude and closer to the coast. Ay de mi, the whole day I was sweating up a storm! That's life. People sweat. At least we all do it together…

Annnnnyhoo, Iris's lovely mother and aunt cooked us some amazing camarones con arroz rojo (shrimp with red rice) and tamales made with banana leaves! I had never seen that before. Everything was muy sabroso (delicious/savory/tasty!).

We spent a few hours sitting in the shade in her backyard relaxing and chatting with her family, who were so incredibly nice and funny, and delighted to have us. Without a doubt those few hours spent in good family conversation were some of my favorites that I have spent here in Mexico.
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Iris’ uncle took us for a tour of the pueblo and showed us the Corrizal Aguas Termales, which are natural thermal waters that have been turned into a weekend getaway, with normal pools and slides to accompany them. It costs 70 pesos a day (less than 7 bucks). We are most definitely going to return with more people in the future.

The landscape in general of the Veracruz state is breathtaking. The peak of Orizaba, the tallest mountain in Mexico at 18,491 feet (and the mountain that I can see from my window! See last blog for a picture) stretches straight up out of fields of grass, shrubs, small trees, and overall beautiful country. The drive to Corrizal reminded me a little bit of Colorado, my homeland. That is, except for the fields of agave plants from which tequila is made. We just have normal yuccas.

Back in town, Oscar and Will bought nachos americanos, and I bought an esquite: corn, mayonaise, butter, and cheese in a cup. Fattening, warm, and delicious. Don’t worry, I didn’t drink the leftover butter… Anybody grossed out?

That night we went to another symphony concert at the Teatro del Estado. It was wonderful, and I so enjoyed myself. The first half included five or six songs with a lovely mezzo-soprano, and the second half was Stravinski’s Petrushka, which was so cool. I sometimes forget how much I like classical music.
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I could write more, but I think I am going to stop for now. My next entry is going to be another long one, as you will soon see. Get ready, it’s gonna be good. Oh man, how am I ever going to decide which pictures to put up???

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