Travel Journal #2 — …And All She Could Say Was "WOW!”

food marketWhen you are a child, you travel across so many different lands, all compromising the laws of reality and never restricting the unbridled possibilities of the imagination. Maybe I just never grew out of that. For as long as I can remember I have been a daydreamer, probably to the extent that it causes reality to be less magical than it, in fact, actually is. But the past week has been no figment of my imagination.Chichen Itza
I’ve been living with Momma Rocio for three full days now, have had one day of eight hours of classes, and a million opportunities that I’ve taken full advantage of to fall flat on my face in my attempts to speak Spanish. I’m becoming an actual member of the Merida community, taking the bus, walking, eating, and living as the citizens do. I’m becoming a resident of Mexico. To remind myself of this as the days pass by is the oddest realization. I’m living in Mexico — not visiting, but truly residing among people whom I can barely communicate with.
I cannot lie; after the first evening with our home-stays, I had a slight anxiety attack. “What have I gotten myself into? I barely know Spanish well enough to understand if Momma Rocio is asking me a question or trying to explain something to me. Three months. THREE MONTHS! Ay Dios mio!” I can honestly say I’ve never been overwhelmed to the point where it affects me physically. However, in that moment of trepidation, my breathing was burdened and I was suddenly very hot. In retrospect, this reaction is what makes me so excited. This is truly nothing I’ve done before, not even close! It’s the realization of one of those daydreams. I’m no longer living in the clouds.
Since we landed in Mexico we have received a two-day crash course in how to survive in Merida, including a short, yet informative open-bus tour of the city, a walk through the local Mercado, a visit to the very modern Altabrisa shopping mall, and a salsa dancing class at Casa Centre. After two nights, we were swept off for a remarkable four-day tour of the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Tulum; the beautiful city of Valladolid and smaller beach town of Puerto Morelos; and a few surreal dips in the unreal beauty of two cenotes (underwater sinkholes).students at dinner
Upon return to Merida our mamas took us home to settle in, unpack (even though as of today, four days later, almost nothing of mine is unpacked), and start hunkering down into real Yucatecan life. This is the meat of the next three months — the complete immersion into the lifestyles and livelihoods of real citizens of Merida. The true purpose we are here: to demolish the narrow understanding of our own American lifestyles, surroundings, and culture, and build not only a knowledge, but appreciation of the differences across the globe.
My house is simple, yet so perfect. The first night, I dropped off my luggage and went to dinner with Mama Rocio, Sarah Lulich and her mama, and Sarah Bugg and her mama to a little local restaurant that is supposedly known for their panuchos, an original dish of Merida. They are similar to tostados, but with a pocket of beans in the middle of the tostado. Muy delicioso! Sarah, Sarahita (Sarah Bugg), and I are all neighbors and our mamas are good friends and boy are they a kick! During that first dinner, the other two mamas were making fun of my mama’s dog’s name, Crosti. They were calling him “Prosti,” insinuating that her dog sold his body for money. Regardless of the language barrier, laughs are inevitable with these wonderful women!
spelling CENTRE with shadowsWe had our first day of classes last Friday, which for me meant a total of eight hours of classes. Two other students and I began our day with an hour and 20-minute walk to class. It was so beautiful seeing the city up close and personal, especially in the morning hours when there are not too many locals bustling around. After two classes, we all returned to our homes, this time on the bus to save time for lunch, the big meal of the day, and a little down time before returning for the final classes of the day. When classes ended at eight in the evening, Megan Radenhausen and I decided to walk the hour and 20 minutes back to our casa. Will this become routine? I sure hope so!
As for now, my expectations have been wildly met. Conversations with my host mama and papa happen mostly during meals and afterward, and I cannot express how dear they are to me. My Spanish, in only four days, has improved profoundly thanks to the amazing patience and charading of Mama Rocio and her husband.
This is not a dream. This remarkable opportunity has transcended from my imagination into reality and I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not really just bundled tight in my bed during a snowstorm in the States. The moments I stop to remember what I am actually in the middle of, I’m dumbfounded…and all I am able to mutter is WOW!
by Demi Landstedt ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-Merida study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in Merida.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): Food at the local mercado; Mexican money, a handcrafted jaguar, and a Mayan ruin in Chichen Itza; dining on the beach of Puerto Morelos with Professor Julie James (right); and spelling out “CENTRE” with our shadows at night.

By |2012-02-20T13:55:53+00:00February 20th, 2012|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - Mexico|