Friday, May 04, 2007

day three: first day of school

Our mornings here start with a light breakfast in the hotel´s restaurant; there´s a very energetic maitre d´ named Mario who runs around frantically getting us real orange juice and fresh coffee and toast. Christiane went out to the market early in the morning to get us fresh pastries, too. I didn´t sleep well our first night in the Flamingo; the air conditioner is pointed right at my bed, and I shivered myself awake a couple of times before just turning it down. (our room - mine is the top right one, next to the air conditioner.)
(our towels, fresh and swan shaped every day)

Heather and I walked around the block early in the morning looking for an open internet cafe, but they were all closed. Fortunately, though, the computer lab is available to us at 9, so I think I´m going to try to write in the half hour before class every day.
Our classes start at 9:30, and we learn the socio-cultural basics of Mexico, specifically the area we are staying in right now, the Yucatan peninsula; it consists of three states, Yucatan (Merida), Quintana Roo (Cancun), and Campeche (we´re visiting there later). Later in the trip we will visit a couple of states just outside the Yucatan: Tobasco (Villa Hermosa) and Chiapas (San Cristobal de Casas). A lot of the class is material I´ve covered with Grant about the basic ecology and geology of the area; the Yucatan is almost entirely a large limestone escarpment, with no above ground rivers. The traditional agriculture is intercropping (planting together in the same field) squash, beans, and corn, and the soil is poor, so the milpas (fields) have to be left fallow for seven years or more between crops to regain their nutrients.
In the middle of class, we stopped for a short break to meet some students in the atrium-canteen in the middle of the school; I met a girl named Liliana who has a little sister with my name.
We went back to class and discussed projects for a while. We´re supposed to have 11-12:30 to work on projects, but because it was our first day Christiane let us pick topics, and then took us to the market for lunch. It´s crazy and loud, with food vendors and all kinds of goods for way cheaper than anywhere else (2 peso shoes, anyone?). On our way in, a very nice older Mayan lady stopped me and tried very hard to communicate to me (in very fast Spanish) that I needed to hide my wallet so as to not get pickpocketed; I took the advice and zipped it into Will´s backpack. Anne and I wandered around together and had tacos from a little stand. They´re not much like the tacos at home - soft tortillas with chopped pork, sauce, lettuce, onions, and chopped cabbage. They were delicious. On the way back to school, we stopped for a fruit juice popsicle; I had lime.
When we got back at 12:30, it was time for basic Spanish lessons. We learned the alphabet and sound system with our teacher, Ricardo Alonso, and his assistant, who I believe is named Isley. I was so sleepy that I had trouble paying attention for a little while, but got into it as the lessons went on.
After school, Heather and I went to change money into pesos at the bank, which is key; never get it changed at the street money changers, they have a horrible exchange rate. When we went back to the hotel, we meant to leave again immediately, but ended up napping for a while. Afternoon naps are going to be an institution, I think.
When we woke up, we decided to head over to this juice bar Christiane had recommended as having good food for cheap. It wasn´t just good - it was amazing. I had lime soup, which is a chicken base with lime juice in the broth, with shredded turkey and vegetables and tortillas - it is going to be a new favourite, and I´m going to try to find the recipe. I also had a chicken burrito, but it wasn´t really necessary. From now on, I´m only ordering one thing at a time unless I know the portions are small.
After supper I slept again so I could go out with everyone when it got cooler. We had been told to go to a place called Pancho´s by the Spanish assistant, and we met her there. It was very pretty, much more touristy than most places we´ve been. The drinks were around Fredericton prices, though, so we didn´t stay long. Before we left, though, I saw them make a drink called Mayan coffeé that´s more a show than a drink; they light sambuca on fire and pour it from glass to glass like a burning blue fountain until most of the alcohol is burned away and put it in coffee. It was very pretty, but kind of terrifying on a windy patio.
After that, we all went back to the Mayan Pub, which is much more local, and listened to a live band do improvisational jazz with cowbells and French horn on the patio. A good night.


Blogger mickermoodles said...

did you say shoes??? :) haha i'm a 7.5 or a 7 if i curl my toes! That drink sounds cool! i hope you are taking a lot of pictures! I made te kitten in britches from Knitty archives, he's pretty darn cute. I'll take pictures soon!

3:26 PM  

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