Getting both feet on the ground

After a somewhat overwhelming first week in Mexico, I feel like I finally have both feet on the ground.

While last week was a crash course in Mexican medicine, and this coming week we will begin classes at UPAEP, this week gave us a chance to spend more time in the city, explore el zócalo (downtown), and learn more about Mexico not through a class, but through our own experiences.  We also got to learn about all of the great opportunities at UPAEP (the university at which I am taking classes) that will help us to better connect with the students of UPAEP and the city of Puebla.

While a great deal of orientation this week dealt with paperwork, websites, and email, we also learned about trips we can take through the University (a la Ciudad de México, where we can also visit Teotihuacan and the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe!) and service opportunities that can help us learn more about the challenges that many Mexicans face.  Additionally, we found out that we get to take a free Latin dance class!  While some members of our group are naturally good dancers, others (such as me) could certainly benefit from a little instruction, and I think it will be a blast.

We got a walking tour of downtown Puebla, which was gorgeous, hot, and exhausting all at the same time.  I wasn’t prepared for how much stronger the sun is here, especially compared to the South Bend permacloud!  We found a lot of cute stores and cafes, and also a lot of churches…I’m beginning to understand why they call Puebla “the city with a church on every corner.”  We also went to La Calle de las Dulces (the street of the sweets), and I am fairly certain that I will be returning there quite regularly.

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One of my favorite churches that we visited! The whole church smelled like lillies.

La Capilla de Rosario...the entire church is covered in gold!  It was truly breathtaking.

La Capilla de Rosario…the entire church is covered in gold! It was truly breathtaking.
La Virgen is especially important in Mexico, and statues and chapels dedicated to Her are found everywhere.

La Virgen is especially important in Mexico, and statues and chapels dedicated to Her are found everywhere.

On one of our free nights, a few of us took a tour of a telavera factory.  Telavera is traditional type of pottery, unique to Puebla, and it is found everywhere in the city–vases, plates, crosses, and small figurines are found decorating homes, and tiles are sprinkled throughout sidewalks and walls inside and outside.  The factory itself was quaint and charming; a large wooden door on the street opened up to a beautiful courtyard inside, with flowers, flowing water, and, of course, telavera everywhere.  One very unique thing about Puebla (and, I would think, many other cities in Mexico), is that yards aren’t open to see from the street.  Instead, property is usually surrounded by brick walls, which rarely looks that beautiful from the outside; I am always pleasantly surprised when I enter and find a beautiful yard just a step from a noisy, crowded street.  The telavera factory was no exception, a little oasis in a city of concrete.  We were taken through every step of the process of making the pottery, watched artists shape and paint the clay, and were of course taken into a gift shop full of beautiful handmade pottery.  If it were only easier to transport, I would love to bring it all home!

Inside the telavera factory

Inside the telavera factory

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On Thursday night, UPAEP hosted una “Fiesta Mexicana” with traditional food (including Mole Poblana, the traditional sauce used on meat in Puebla—I can’t say I’m a fan of it, as it is a mixture of chocolate, chili powder, and beef), a Mariachi band, and professional dancers who then attempted to teach us some basic salsa steps.  Regardless of our skill level, we continued our attempts at salsa through the night at a nearby bar, where we got half price mojitos and free alcohol for las mujeres!  One perk of being a woman in Mexico–a lot of bars have las noches de las mujeres where they give a free bottle of rum to groups of four or more woman–all we needed to do was buy some piña juice and enjoy!

Dancers at La Fiesta Mexicana

Dancers at La Fiesta Mexicana

Officially UPAEP students!  The ND group with our UPAEP ID's.

Officially UPAEP students! The ND group with our UPAEP ID’s.

After a fun night, we are looking forward to a great weekend!  Monica’s birthday is on Saturday, and her host mom is throwing her a birthday party, and then we are planning on going to Cholula for a night of dancing and fun.  On Sunday, we are going to Africam safari, which I think is similar to the safari in Animal Kingdom at Disney.  We are also beginning to plan some our independent trips–Erica (my roommate) and I hope to coordinate a trip to Valle de Bravo in the state of Mexico (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valle_de_Bravo), and another group is planning our trip to Mexico City for a soccer game and music festival in October!Hasta luego, and have a great weekend!

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