Travel Journal #7 — I'm Still Waiting

Volkswagen BeetleLiving in a city for three months while attending school, job sites, and such, one might believe that routine would develop and begin to usher in and hurry out each day without much excitement. This daily grind, without fail, always comes for a visit too early and overstays its welcome throughout each entire term. In Mexico, I was expecting at least a taste of the same phenomenon. Of course there would be much more to adapt to and therefore delay the inevitable mundane regimens. But still, I was waiting for the morning when I’d wake up and the only thing I’d look forward to was putting my head back on my pillow about 15 or 16 hours later. Guess what…I’m still waiting!
Here’s my weekly routine (yes, I do have one): School — Mondays and Wednesdays; Homework — Tuesdays, Thursdays, possibly Fridays; Church — Sunday.
CelestunEvery single day, however, comes with its own surprises. For example, I’m home all day long writing a paper and…SURPRISE! Papa Gonzalo stops by the panaderia and brings me a cuello (flaky pastry stick). With eight hours of school every Monday, arriving home is wonderful; a shower — even better; sharing a shower with a peeping Tom cockroach — priceless! Every conversation at the kitchen table over meals, every new Spanish word I learn through the incredible charading skills of my mama, and every obscure event I witness that seems so normal and part of everyday Mexican life leaves me with a pondering brow that never fails to catapult an ordinary day into a grand adventure all by itself.
Even one of the most routine elements of my time here — walking to and from school each morning and evening for classes — has yet to grow tiresome. As the morning sun rises, bringing with it the thick heat of the day, Megan and I start off on our 1 hour and 20 minute walk to school. The birds are chirping, loncherias are crowded, and the streets are bustling. We give our greetings to two very unique cars that we rarely fail to see — Nancy, a black & white checkered VW Bug (Volkswagen Beetle), and a Jurassic Park-ish white Jeep Wrangler. A grand panaderia always beckons us to indulge, like Sirens calling to sailors, but enticing the nose instead of the ears. The sweet yeasty breeze tickles our senses, but we keep on walking forward, past the Monumento de la Bandera and the various street cafes open on Paseo Montejo, and then taking the final turn towards Casa Centre. The only word I have to describe this twice-a-week walk is “sweet.” What a sweet privilege to experience the city in its early hours in such a personal manner.
bakeryIt’s a bus ride home for lunch (catching, riding, and exiting never lacks some sort of escapade) to spend a few hours with my mama, enjoy a meal, and more frequent than not, a delightful siesta. Well-fed, rested, and ready for the second half of my school day, I’m back on the street flagging down a bus to carry me back to Casa Centre.
Walking home at night is similar to the mornings, though now dark and usually accompanied by one or two other students. The major difference is that by this time we’re all itching for a little tidbit of some kind to give us the energy to make it home before we join our host families for a light dinner. Some of our choices — street hot dogs, a panaderia pit stop, or, my favorite, street-side tamales. I kid you not, without fail, every evening a man sets up his tamale-steaming pots right outside the door of that grand panaderia mentioned above. Mole con pollo tamales changed my life and are, surprising or not, quite simple to eat on the go.
Yes, the above is a general layout of my school days, and the basics are pretty consistent. But what fills the moments — the different smiles accompanying the “buenos dias,” the new dishes and manners of preparing foods I’ve always known (like oatmeal not cooked with heat, but rather soaked in milk or water overnight), the new street vendors guiding us home, and even the different conversations and stories amongst our own Centre group — make every step along the way a new experience.
With the final week quickly closing in on our happy Mexican lives, we all can’t help but notice and comment on how much we have changed. The first weeks in this foreign country, city, and culture seem just like yesterday. But then I’m reminded of how far gone, if not counted in days but in lessons, those days are. The things that were the most foreign to us have become a very tight-knit part of our everyday lives.
Sarah and I caught a bus headed home the other day. With heavy backpacks, water bottles, and paletas we had just bought at the nearby michoacana (ice cream shop), we stood in the aisle of a crowded bus confidently keeping ourselves balanced and enjoying our treats. Sarah looked up, assessed the situation for a few moments, and then said to me, “Look how far we have come.” To me, there was no better sign than having acquired multi-tasking skills while riding a bus in Merida to display to myself how far we have come indeed — all for the better of course. I’m proud of myself and every other member of my amazing Centre family for how every single one of us have embraced this experience, always searching for new opportunities, and welcoming the quirks and memorable moments that have always kept us more than a few steps ahead of that daily grind.
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): The checkered Volkswagen that we saw every morning, Celestun (a biosphere reserve known for its preservation of wildlife especially flamingos, and a local panaderia (bakery).

By |2012-04-29T11:11:27+00:00April 29th, 2012|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - Mexico|