A Travellerspoint blog

Xochimilco

pronounced "zo-chee-meal-ko"

Our second main destination in the DF was Xochimilco. Going into it, I had no idea what this was. Hugo's cousin Isaac chose it as his birthday destination and I was happy to oblige. Not that I had too many other things going on that day...

Xochimilco is like Mexican Venice; it's a party on "trajineras" on a series of canals. The trajineras can fit about 20 people (I think...I remember hearing something about some college kids overcrowding and sinking) and have a big table (to put your beer on) and chairs. There are sellers on smaller boats floating from trajinera to trajinera selling toys, beer (available in micheladas), corn, sweets, flowers for your honey, and songs (WATER MARIACHIS!).

For not knowing what it was previously, I was super-impressed.
We took the metro about eleventy billion stops and transferred to the "tren ligera" to end up in the area surrounding the Xochimilco canals.

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Market on the way to Xochimilco.

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Happy ensalada seller.

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Typical lime green VW taxis.

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Pay toilet-tenders.

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There is always some fun stuff to buy.

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Mini representation of the boat sellers.

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And mini-trajineras.

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Making micheladas.

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From the back of our trajinera.

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Puppy boat.

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Michelada vendor. Doing business.

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Kids playing by the water.

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Traffic.

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Mariachis...leaping from boat to boat.

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My adopted Mexico City Christmas family.

We stopped near the end to look at some plants for sale, to use the toilet, and to eat some ice cream. On the way back, a couple of bored kids asked us if they could do the "Macarena" for us. They did. We applauded.

It was a great day in Xochimilco.

Posted by lrbergen 19:24 Archived in Mexico Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Mexico City

the largest city IN THE WORLD!

Last year, I spent my holiday in Singapore backpacking by myself.

This year, I went with my boyfriend to Toluca (where he's from...about 45 minutes from the City) to spend the holidays in Mexico City.

I was not disappointed...I have lived in Baja California for almost 9 months now. Living here is nice, what with the great climate and all (oceanside living with mild temperatures most of the year round), but it lacks a certain air of culture and excitement that only big cities can offer. I very rarely leave Ensenada, the few times going to San Diego excluded, so it was a nice change of pace to be seeing new things, old things, historical things.
Mexico city has all of the above; I've heard that you can spend a month there and not really see it all.

Because of this, I am going to break down the next few blogs into the days that I spent there and the things I saw. This first one will be about the trip there and the first day we really got out and saw the city (Christmas Eve, I believe).

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The coastal highway from Ensenada to Tijuana.

I arrived in Toluca on the 22nd and slept most of the 23rd because of the altitude, which is roughly twice that of Denver. (2667 M or 8,750 Ft versus that of 1609 M or 5281 Ft...to give you a reference point, the elevation of Ensenada is roughly 27 M or 88 Ft.) It was a big change and I got the typical headache and fatigue that comes with such a drastic elevation change.
We took the bus the next day (the 23rd) to Hugo's grandma's house, seeing some beautiful scenery on the way.

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We arrived and I met his abuelita, who is 90 years old and as cute as anything, his tia Leticia, tio Efrain and his wife Leticia and their sons Efrain (and his girlfriend Maria Jose), Oscar, and Isaac, and Hugo's two younger brothers, Juan Carlos and Ricardo. All in all, there were 12 of us sleeping in that house...with one shower and another bathroom. But it definitely added something to the experience, being taken in by a family like that. They were curious, and I got to use my Spanish to tell them about what I do, where I'm from, what my family's like, and my travels up to now. We played maraton (like Trivial Pursuit, but in Spanish...and guess who won?!) and ate tamales (my first time with REAL tamales...and green ones with chicken that are pretty much the most delicious thing ever).

The next day, Uncle Efrain took us around the center of the city to see some of the sites.

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Snack: grasshoppers soaked in lime and chile...

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Spices for sale in one of the markets in the Alameda (park where the elite used to go to see and be seen).

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Statue of Pegasus in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

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Facade of the Bellas Artes.

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Busy street.

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View of Mexico City from the Torre Latinoamericano. This used to be the tallest building in all of Latin America, but is now about the 2nd or 3rd tallest in Mexico.

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This is what Mexico City used to look like before they drained the surrounding Lake Texcoco, which is completely dry now. This explains why some of the buildings are sinking.

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Casa de Azulejos

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Getting shoes shined. These little shoeshine stands were all around the city.

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Punk rockers in the Zocalo.

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Fortune teller in the Zocalo.

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Inside looking out of the Cathedral.

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Headless saint on the door of the Cathedral.

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A pendulum showing how much the Cathedral has sunk in the past 70 years.

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A statue of Pope John Paul, with the Virgin Mary, with keyed detail.

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Corner taqueria.

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The hole-in-the-wall seating for this restaurant.

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Christmas bread.

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Chicken seller.

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We came upon an area that was full of mariachis. Waiting. I don't know for what.

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More mariachis.

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Still more mariachis with papel picado.

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Ever feel like part of the furniture?
Photography exhibit in one of the metro stations...showing how women are sometimes treated like inanimate objects (also showed a wedding dress as sheets, and an apron as a tablecloth).

Next: my day in Xochimilco!

Posted by lrbergen 09:24 Archived in Mexico Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Falling Down a Mountain

...i do NOT recommend this way to go down.

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View Cañon Tajo on lrbergen's travel map.

This weekend, I did something that I hardly ever do: I left Ensenada.

Shock! Surprise! Bam! Splat! (There WAS some splatting, actually...)

We were given Monday the 17th (Happy Birthday again, Dad!!!) off because of the Mexican Revolution anniversary on the 20th. Wahoo! So we headed about 3.5 hours northeast to Canon Tajo to do some camping, some hiking, some climbing, and to take a break from showering, technology, and civilized life.

I had some illusions about this trip. I thought we would be REALLY roughing it, carrying nothing but the packs on our backs. So it threw me when I saw 7 jugs of water, a huge cooler, propane stove, and collapsible chairs. "Who is carrying THAT?" I thought.

After passing the "Fat Rocks" and going off-road through Parque Nacional Sierra Juarez,
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I ran every day for 3 weeks to prepare for the hiking trip that we were not on. After the initial disappointment, I looked around at the ridiculous natural beauty around me
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and pulled it together and decided to MAKE this the hiking trip I thought it was.

The first day was a bit of a walk in the park. Not wanting to do anything too strenuous, I walked around a little bit...watched the sunset,
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The next day, I made it my personal mission to see what was on the other side of that valley, in between the two "peaks." And I was going to do it by myself.

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The only flower I saw. Anywhere.

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Greenery.

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One of the many, many caves I was to encounter on my way. Tajo is full of rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. I was to do way more climbing than I thought.

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Like this for example. How else to keep going? Climbing and scaling these rocks.

I eventually reached what I thought was a dead end. I could see no way over, under, or around. I spied a small patch of leaves and trees and a few assorted rocks and decided to try my hand at it.

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After scooching up some rocks backwards, I reached this point. Boulders just naturally like this.

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Then, all I could see was a sheer face of rock. How to get up? The ridge of doom, as I like to call it. There was no way to climb up regular-ways, so I had to once again scooch up on my behind, locking my luckily genetically big thighs in the crevice, using my planted foot as a foothold, and the little arm strength I had to hoist myself up. I got a nice nasty scratch, a red badge of courage if you will, but I made it. This is from the top.

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And this is what awaited me at the top: the other side of the valley. I was so happy and proud of myself that, I admit, I kind of teared up. Ok...I cried. And screamed. And hooted and hollered.

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Do you see? This was a big accomplishment for me.

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The rocks below.

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The way I came...our campsite is somewhere over the rocks on the right.

Unfortunately, the way down was not as smooth as the way up. I was a little too excited to really pay attention to where I was coming up so I kind of forgot the "easy" and "safe" ways to go (if that existed...). I was tired and hungry regardless (even after half a bag of granola and an orange), so I started losing my balance and slipping a little bit more.

And that's when I fell down the mountain. I was sliding down a lot of these rocks on my butt because I really don't trust my balance all that much. I miscalculated the distance down to the next rock into a cave and slid too fast and fell chest-first onto a boulder in the cave, knocking the wind out of me and scratching and bruising my entire left leg from the knee down, as well as my left palm.

It happened VERY quickly, too quickly remember how I didn't break anything. However, I DO remember thinking, "You can NOT break anything...you're alone, in a cave, far away from the campsite." I flailed around a little bit and calmed myself down by repeating over and over "You're ok, it's ok, you're ok, it's ok...it's ok, you're ok" and getting out my mini first aid kit to clean up the cuts. I had a touch of panic because I REALLY didn't trust my balance anymore and had just started my descent. Eventually, though, through a lot of coming back up and going back down and around and all over, I made it back to the campsite in one bruised, bleeding piece. The others weren't back yet so I laid down and read a book, like nothing happened at all.

I told my harrowing tale of my brush with death (I really talked this up) when the others got back, got a little bandaged up with actual bandages and sympathy (apparently these people are all stable and don't fall like I do), and ate my campfire meal of ramen and granola, and spent the rest of the night looking at the Milky Way, the millions of stars in the sky, and wishing on not one, not two, but SIX shooting stars.
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Hugo in I in a very rare picture, where we both look semi-normal.

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The next day, we had a breakfast of chorizo, beans, potatoes and onions in a corn tortilla. Who needs hot dogs?

Then, I dragged Hugo along to the scene of the accident. We climbed up so I could share my mountain goat-like climbing abilities (minus all the falling) with another person and not just a camera.

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The dragonfly who so graciously posed for my camera.

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Made it again!

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Some interesting-looking bark.

Then it was time to go. I wanted to get home to call my dad to wish him a happy birthday, and I had work in the morning, and everyone else had class. So we took one final group picture and were off.

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Woohoo! We made it out alive!

Posted by lrbergen 19:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day in the Life

Everything up until now...

-17 °C

Ah, yes. Ensenada. I'm still living here, in case you're wondering. And I'm still teaching. Still eating tacos, though now I seem to have developed a lactose intolerance, which is surprising, disappointing, and weight loss-inducing.

I have now settled into my new digs (I live with the director's mom and brother across the street from the teachers' house where I lived last year) and the whole "teaching" thing (35 1st-graders with very little English) and the whole English coordinator gig (trying to figure out just what I'm supposed to be doing) and you know what? I took some pictures (as I am wont to do). It's a very busy life here in Ensenada, but I drank some coffee a little bit too late today, so we're going to go ahead and post those pictures.

Roll 'em!

Kids
My students are INSANELY cute. Most of them are 6, but some are 5. Most of them speak English and are amazing little students. There are those with some issues, but that comes with the territory of having so many in one class (I use "so many" in a relative way...my biggest class in Korea was 13 students; my smallest, 4). Over the past few weeks they have improved by leaps and bounds and no longer look at me like I have a second head growing out of my neck. This is exciting.

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L-R: Ana Paulina, Daniela, Andrea, Nicole, Gabriela, Pamela

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Ana Valeria

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Nicole, Valeria

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Diego and Rodrigo

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Alexa, Sergio, Macarena (yes, like the song...she called me "Mama" the other day), Ana Valeria

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Pablo Andre, Luis Adrian

They are AWESOME!

Neighborhood

The neighborhood I live in is called "Moderna" and I bet you can guess what it means. All of the streets are named after European cities. I live on Avenida Paris, and there are streets such as "Londres," "Luxemburgo", and "Atenas." Many of our students live in this neighborhood, as does our director. We're about a 20 minute walk from the ocean. It's a little underdeveloped in the way of sidewalks, but it's nice.

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The little shop next door to the teachers' house. This is where I buy my daily breakfast/lunch burritos. It's run by Jose, a really nice man, and his family. They sell just about everything and it's super-convenient.

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One of the old street signs. There are very few of these left in the area.

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There are lots of flowering trees up and down the street.

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On Sundays, we walk to the hills overlooking the ocean. This Sunday was pretty foggy, but still very nice to see.

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We have all of the general desert-y shrubbery and other assorted plants.

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We can see downtown Ensenada, but the fog seems to be consuming it this time.

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La Bufadora

Seventeen miles south of Ensenada is La Bufadora (literally "The Blowhole"), a natural geyser created in an underwater canyon by the pressure of the waves. I had been before, but forgot my camera. I was better prepared this time.

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There are lots of roadside stalls that sell canned local goods such as olives. Mmmm....olives....

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The rocks near the Bufadora.

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One of the "Bufs."

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The group getting "Buf'd". Me (with such a lovely expression), Luis, Kelly, Hugo, David, Heidi, Stephanie.

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After, we had some local seafood at a restaurant. This is shrimp ceviche. Ceviche is pretty much the best food ever.

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This is called a "michelada." It's a mixture of beer, clamato juice, lime, and other spices. Hugo gives it a thumbs up.

That's it for now! One more group photo!

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We had a long weekend for Mexican Independence Day, so we went and hung out at the beach at night. It was fun!

Posted by lrbergen 00:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Portland

...has it really been 2 months?!

Indeed it has, readers. It has been a long time since I have written, updated, posted, etc. Even though my trip to Portland has been over for over a month, I had an amazing time and so I feel it must be recorded for posterity. Posterity!

I was given the royal treatment by Brittany and Isaac (who shared everything with me! It's fun to share!), Rose (who was my weekend getaway) and Barb (who has now hosted me twice in Portland). These people are amazing. I love these people. They went out of their way to show me a good time, to make me feel at home, and to feed me and give me shelter. They made my vacation everything that it was.

I arrived on the 4th of July and left on August 10th. Over a month of lounging, eating, watching movies, canoeing, hiking, walking, crocheting, BREWFEST!, and watching art happen. That's really all I have to say about Portland. It was amazing.

And now: PICTURES!

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Brittany makes cheesecakes FROM SCRATCH. THEY ARE SO DELICIOUS!!!!

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Korean dinner with Roje-uh teechurrr.

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Greek restaurant we passed a lot.

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At Forest Park.

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VOODOO DOUGHNUTS!

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Brittany's boyfriend, Isaac, is very talented!

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Barb's Jurassic yard.

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I love these people SO MUCH!

Portland was amazing. I love it, love it, love it!

Posted by lrbergen 12:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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