July 7, 2016

Hi Ya

I am thankful to report that I have fully recovered from the stomach bug that I unwilling caught as a souvenir from Mexico City! Hurray for mid night doctors that still make house calls (hotel calls to be more accurate), highway-side ambulance service, and a lot of wonderful Mexican mamás who know just how to make one feel better.

Even though I was home from school Monday, it still feels like it’s been an extra-long school week. The “study” part of study abroad is really hitting. But, learning the language is what I am here to do! I just wish I could learn it by simply being out and about exploring with my host cousin, Diana, or friend, Alex. Yesterday afternoon, hanging out with Alex is exactly what I got to do and it was a super fun time!

I had been excited for Thursday afternoon all week and for good reason! The first thing Alex and I went to do was play tennis. I had never played tennis before in my life, and I was super excited to have a ton of fun being (probably) really bad at it.

Alex picked me up around 3:30 after I had finished comida with my family. Alex told me that we were headed to a sports club with a really great view of the city. Next thing I knew, we were driving a similar route that my bus takes to school every day.  Turns out, I pass this snazzy sports club almost daily and the view truly is incredible! The club sits atop a big, tall hill that overlooks a large part of Querétaro.

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When we arrived, Alex checked us in and we headed to the courts. Naturally, I chose the one with the best view. Now, I have never played tennis before in my life. Alex hasn’t played the past few years, but he has a few years of prior experience which makes him pretty good at playing and good at teaching. I absolutely needed to be taught everything from how to hold the racket, to what all the lines on the court meant, to all of the rules, how to keep score, how to serve the ball, how to hit the ball, and well, you get the idea. I made an amateur look knowledgeable.

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Once we had our rackets in hand, Alex showed me a few serves and let me try myself. Some of my serves didn’t even make it over the net while others unfortunately went soring over the fenced court area into the surrounding grass. Once I could serve a few, Alex served a few to me and I did my best to run to hit them. Sometimes my racket made contact, and a lot of the times, not. Next Alex explained, in Spanish of course, how the points, taking turns serving, and swapping ends of the court all works. I am still a little confused about some of it, but I am pretty sure I would be confused even if I had learned the rules in English.

I was already beginning to get hot from the midafternoon Mexican sun that was blazing down on the court mercilessly; but not Alex. He was running all around and didn’t even have rosy cheeks! After what felt like only ten minutes or so of warming-up for Alex and me attempting to figure out how hard to hit the ball, Alex asked if I was ready to start our first game. I figure the best way to learn is by doing! So, we double checked that the score board was 0-0 and Alex began serving.

It ended up being pretty tricky for both of us to figure out the rhythm of our serves. The hardest part for me was figuring out how hard I needed to swing. It seemed like whenever I was just passing a ball to him with a practice serve, it was great. But once I was serving for the game, not so great. None the less, when we were able to volley the tennis ball back and forth at least five times, we were really doing well.  Alex scored the first point and then I got even more determined.

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Again, after what felt like only another ten minutes, Alex asked if I wanted to up the stakes. Of course I did. I had already informed him when he picked me up that I was going to win, even though I had never played before. Now, being the under-aged in America girl that I am, I immediately said that the looser was to buy smoothies after the game. (I was so hot in the sun and had been craving a really good smoothie since class earlier in the day). He seemed a little confused/surprised that I suggested smoothies, but he also informed me that there is another word for “smoothie,” licuados, that is more commonly used then the word batido that I was taught. We shook on it and I cleared the score board back to 0-0 as we walked to our separate ends on the court. (I knew I needed all the help I could get and I was not gonna let him keep a point if I could justify clearing the score). As I got into position, it crossed my mind that Alex probably bets that looser buys the beer afterwards, which makes sense, after all 18 Is Legal In Mexico. But, in the moment, betting a glass of beer didn’t even cross my mind.

Once our game got started, the sun got more intense and I became more determined. Unfortunately, this did not necessarily mean that my playing got better. Every once in a while though, my racket would make strong contact with the ball with a satisfying “whomp” as Alex’s serve was returned to him.

In between sets, I would hustle over to get a drink of water as Alex gathered the balls for whoever was up to serve next. I still have no idea how he spent the entire afternoon playing out there without a sip of water. During one quick break, he informed me that my face was really red and I could only imagine how red it must have been based off of how red it felt.

The first few points Alex and I won pretty evenly back and forth. However, the more points that were scored, the less well I began to play. In the end, Alex won. 6-2. I scored the first the first point of the official game though, if that’s worthy anything. As we shook hands after the game, I felt like I had been beat by the Mexican sun worse than I had been beat my Alex! As I finished off my water, Alex showed by how to serve the ball by throwing it up and hitting it out of the air. I tried, several times, but made little progress with this technique. I don’t have terrible hand-(four)eye coordination, but I couldn’t help thinking that my sister Sarah who is super athletic would probably be better at tennis than I am.

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As we packed up our rackets, Alex gave me a tennis ball as a momento and we walked around the club taking photos as the sky darkened very quickly and the wind began to stir. It has been thunder storming every afternoon this week and I love it. I really miss Oregon rain. As I admired the view of Querétaro below, I saw flashes of lighting not high above in the sky, but straight ahead at eye level. We were on top of a hill pretty much in the center of the action. It was very neat.

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We freshened up in the bathrooms on our way out of the club and headed back to the Centro as the rain was unleashed from the sky. Alex had planned for us to go to a theater to watch a play, but the closer we got, the more he said that it would maybe be too strong of a topic (something about gender inequality) and possibly a little violent and graphic. I told him that I did not be offended and probably wouldn’t understand half of what was being said any way. He didn’t think it was the best idea though so we ended up instead at another art opening right as the rain let up.

This art was very different from the art we viewed last time. This art was very modern and the inspiration for it was the moment when two things collide and become something new. Alex did not care for it at all, but we stayed for an open Q&A session with the artist and Alex really enjoyed the conversation. I could tell it was vocabulary way over my head and only caught a sprinkling of words overall.

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After the art opening, we both agreed that we were pretty hungry after our intense tennis battle. We went to a super awesome restaurant called La Biznaga. I wish I had more photos of the inside. There were plants and quirky art and lanterns and flags everywhere. There was even an upper level seating area that was built similar to a big bunk-bed platform. We each ordered mixed juices and a pizza to share.

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While we waited for our pizza, Alex tried to help me with my presentation for school but my computer was on strike so I just practiced what I could remember. When our pizza came, I was really glad. It had a very thin crust with peppers, chicken, and I think onion on top. I also added the hot sauce that was sitting on the table. Not super surprising to me, I had inhaled my first piece as Alex was only half way through his first. When I grabbed my second and began eating it just as fast, Alex told me that I eat really fast. I laughed and told him I meant it when I said I was hungry! We spit the last piece and paid the bill. As we walked out, Alex asked if I was still hungry and I said yes. Apparently, when he said he was hungry, he must have meant for only a snack where as I meant I was hungry for a meal.

Thankfully, having a local best friend means they know all the trust worthy street food! Alex led the way to a hot dog cart. He said that these hot dogs are a favorite of locals from all social classes and that they are very classic-Querétaro. He ordered me one speaking Portuguese. We sat in a plaza as I tried my local fan-favorite cuisine. It was a good hotdog, wrapped in bacon like I had when I first arrived with my host family my first day here. As I finished the last bite, Alex told me I eat a lot and I laughed again. It is awesome how the Mexican culture speaks their mind so much more than Americans. It makes me laugh every time when I hear direct statements like this that usually people would keep to themselves at home. It is never in a rude or judgmental way, just in a fact stating way that I really appreciate.

 

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At this point, we headed back to the car and the rain began to sprinkle a bit. I was enjoying the cool evening and wasn’t cold at all, I think Alex felt otherwise though. He told me that I am his first friend who likes the rain. When the rain started, I couldn’t help but smile. Before we got back to the car, we walked up to the hostel where I stayed my first night here to see Los Arcos. Alex did know that I had seen them before, but I surely didn’t mind seeing them a second time. They are so impressive and magnificent.

I made it back to my house around 11pm and quickly fell fast asleep. I was exhausted from the busy afternoon, but so thankful for the time and effort that Alex put into making it a great day, totally worth of being excited for all week. The closer I get to the end of my time here, the more I feel connected to everyone and the less I want to leave. Five weeks seemed like a lot before I left the USA, but as soon as I arrived, I wished for more time.

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