After one week in Puebla, I couldn’t be happier to say that this city is beginning to feel like home.
After nearly 14 hours of traveling, I made it from Philadelphia, PA to Puebla, Mexico; I met my mamá de México; I moved into the house where I would spend my next four months; and I struggled to let my family and friends that I had arrived safely. I felt more than a bit overwhelmed by the situation, wondering at times why I made the decision to study abroad. Notre Dame, after all, is my home away from home, and I felt like I had ND “figured out.” I was comfortable there, with an incredible boyfriend and my equally incredible friends, my classes, my extracurriculars, my routine…coming to Puebla meant starting over, establishing a new routine, finding new study partners, and forming new friendships (don’t get me wrong–that’s always a great thing!).
The day after we arrived, we immediately started orientation at UPAEP (la Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, http://www.upaep.mx/) to prepare us for our hospital rotations that begin in September. Tuesday through Friday, we had lectures for 5-6 hours a day, learning medical vocabulary and cultural aspects of medicine that are unique to Mexico. On Saturday, we had a final…which meant that yes, we spent our first Friday night abroad studying. However, this doesn’t mean that our first week was void of some fun! We explored the UPAEP campus (which is in the city, with buildings surrounding a few courtyards…I’ll be sure to take some pictures later!), we wandered down the street for comida (in Mexico, it’s more common to have breakfast, a snack, and then comida–the biggest meal of the day–at 1 or 2, with a lighter meal later in the day), we tested out various cafes, and we tried out the bars near our neighborhood por la noche! My host mom, Rocio, also showed us a park with a mile-long track right near our house, which is great because I think running will be more necessary than ever this semester with all the tacos and quesadillas we’ve been eating. Through these experiences, I have realized both that (A) I will end up eating way more meat here than I have since I entered college; and (B) I am going to spend all my pesos if I keep buying piña coladas and margaritas.
Despite the fun that we had during the week, I was still struggling to really love the city like I had been told I would. Yes, I know that it hadn’t even been a week, how could I expect to have fallen in love with Puebla? But when I heard the students of past years describe it, I imagined a magical city, full of colorful, colonial architecture and lively Mexicans who embraced their culture and lived so fully. During the week, I couldn’t find the Puebla that I was expecting. I felt like all I saw were crowded buses, noisy (and busy!) roads, sidewalks with trash, and American stores like Walmart and Starbucks.
Luckily, this weekend has left me without a doubt in my mind that Puebla is just as magical as I was told.
After a morning exam and a relaxing afternoon, Saturday night began when a few of us met our friend from UPAEP in Cholula, a town that I cannot wait to explore more. Durante el día, Cholula is a town that has preserved its culture much more than some of the larger cities in Mexico, with several traditional festivals and even pyramids! Durante la noche, Cholula’s main street is full of bars and clubs with inexpensive alcohol…at least by American standards!
While we were enjoying our night out, it started to rain–no, pour–to the point where we had to move to another part of the bar because water was leaking through the roof, and the road was flooded. Consequently, this made finding a cab home harder than expected, since not too many wanted to brave el río to pick us up.
On Sunday, we explored el centro de Puebla, where the beautiful, colorful, colonial buildings were only matched by the vibrant artisan market. After mass in el Catedral Bascílica de Puebla, we explored the markets, where I couldn’t help but want to touch every colorful scarf (Mom–you would be in heaven), stare at every beautiful piece of jewelry, and try every type of food that was offered to me (I did hold off on trying the food though…I don’t know if my stomach is ready for the street food yet!). I think that the pictures I took can show the beauty better than I could even tell, so here they are:
After a relaxing but fun weekend, we start orientation with the other UPAEP students this week, which includes information on clubs at UPAEP, service learning, trips that the university hosts, a tour of downtown Puebla, and a trip to Cholula! I’ll be sure to bring my camera for that one!
While last week was certainly a week of adjustment to a new culture, a new language, and a new living environment, I think that this week will be one where I get to know this magical new city and the people in it even better, and I cannot wait for that. Until I post again, Dios te bendigo, and I’m sending my love to everyone back in the States!