July 17, 2016
I am all for remembering the moment; capturing it in a meaningful way that will fight the effects of time passing by. And my preferred means of doing so tend to be with a quality selfie or little token such as a beach shell or post card. However, in this blog post you can read all about my opportunity to capture the moment with a kiss from my volunteer Momentary Mexico Boyfriend. Needless to say, we made due with just a seflie and a few shared drinks. This memory surely won’t fade any time soon.
I cannot believe how fast my time in Mexico is going by. Today is the first day of my last week abroad! And I fully intend to let no day go by without an exciting adventure. This morning, I slept in a bit after an incredible yesterday exploring Guanajuato with mi major amigo, Alex. My host mom scrambled me an egg with pieces of corn tortilla ripped up in it for breakfast. I used hot sauce to give it some flavor, something that most of her food lacks surprisingly, and unfortunately.
After desayuno, I considered my schedule for my last week in Mexico, weighing homework to-dos with adventuring want-tos. For my last week in school, I have a final presentation to write and create a power point for about my life in Mexico, a final composition to write about the importance of being an exchange student, a term project (a dictionary of new words) to finish, and of course, a lot more studying to do for final written and speaking exams. But, just as there are a million things I would rather be doing than studying when in the states, while abroad there are a trillion things I would rather be doing. And, one of the best things about studying Spanish in Mexico is that I can justify hanging out with friends and speaking Spanish as studying. Therefore, I decided to spend my afternoon with a new amigo I met at school.
A great way for us exchange students to connect with local students is through the university we are attending here in Querétaro. It is mandatory for local students to complete a certain number of community service hours before graduating, much like it is necessary at some high schools for senior students to complete Senior Projects prior to graduation. A popular way for Mexican students to complete this requirement is through reaching out to foreign students as conversation partners. About a week and a half ago, after our morning class, my three classmates and I were greeted by Fernando, a local student. He introduced himself and basically handed us all his friendship, all we had to do was accept his friendship by sharing some of our own in return.
My three classmates had all commented to me prior to meeting Fernando how much they wanted to meet locals our age and make friends, however, as soon as Fernando introduced himself, they could not have fled to the café or pulled out their cell phones faster to avoid conversation. Honestly, I was shocked and disappointed by how they reacted. Here was someone taking a risk by making the first step toward friendship and they would not even make small talk with him as we got to know one another. They all complained about not having friends, but when someone literally handed them free friendship, they turned away.
I however thankfully accepted Fernando’s friendship and was excited to talk to him. We chatted a bit and in the beginning conversation was confusing. Fernando is just beginning to take English classes and therefore doesn’t know much conversational English yet, and the Spanish he was speaking was a bit over my head. I was not sure if he wanted to hang out formally for the purpose of being conversation partners, or just casually to build an international friendship. After a few minutes of talking, I still wasn’t totally sure which he was going for, but to me it made no difference either way. We connected on Facebook and I told him I would be in touch soon to schedule a time to hang out.
“Soon” ended up being today, about a week and a half later, because we ended up having a tricky time coordinating schedules. I have class until early afternoon and Fernando has class from late afternoon into the night. None the less, today we were able to find time.
Early this afternoon, I asked my host mom what time we would be eating comida so that I could let Fernando know when I could meet up. She told me we would eat at 3pm, so I told Fernando I could meet him by the Fuente de Neptuno at 3:45. Around 3:20 I went into the kitchen to see if perhaps my host mom was waiting for me to come into the kitchen. Turns out, comida didn’t happen to be ready yet but she said it would be ready “pronto”. Perhaps this was the cultural difference between timeliness showing through again, but I was worried about leaving the house too late. I waited 15 more minutes and checked again to see how soon “pronto” really was going to be. It turned out to not be so soon, but my mom had some sopa ready, which I gladly accepted. I was pretty hungry as by now it was after 3:30pm and the scrambled egg I had for breakfast long ago was wearing off. Sopa ended up just being a plate of rice, so I am not exactly sure why she called it soup, but I ate my plate of rice quickly and gratefully. Then, I rushed off to meet Fernando. I had asked him if it was okay if we met at 4pm instead and of course he said it was no problem. I had just enough time to make it there. I thought maybe having to meet up a few minutes late and running right on time (instead of a few minutes early as the American in me prefers) was making me more of a local, but if so, I didn’t care for it much.
In the end, of course it was no big deal. Fernando found me quickly where we had agreed to meet up near the Centro. Conveniently, it was also right next to my favorite ice cream shop so we began our afternoon with freshly made helado. I had lime and guamishi flavored ice-cream. Next, we walked through the streets some. There were many music groups performing since the International Jazz Festival is still in full swing. Fernando asked if I had visited the Museo de Arte de Querétaro and I told him I honestly wasn’t sure. So, we went anyway to find out.
At first, I did not recognize the museum, but I thought the plaza looked a little familiar. We walked through all the rooms and admired the various styles of art represented. We both ended up liking the photography the best. The last rooms we walked through I instantly recognized. The reason that the plaza looked familiar along with these two rooms is because it is where the art exposition that Alex took me to our first night together was held. The reason the other rooms were new to me is because they were closed when I came to this museum the first time. So, it was great to go a second time with Fernando and see the rest of the exhibits.
After the museum, Fernando asked if I had been to the theater. Again, I was not exactly sure, but I was pretty sure not. It turns out, the theater is one that I walk by every time I go to and from the Centro, but I had never once considered entering the theater to look around. It was a perfect place to visit with Fernando. It is also the location where Mexico’s Declaration of Independence was signed! The history in Querétaro is amazing and I am so thankful to be learning about it by seeing it firsthand. After exploring the theater, Fernando said he had a restaurant in mind to go and get a drink if I would like. So, onward we went!
At the restaurant, Fernando asked me what I would like to drink and I skimmed the lengthy drink menu looking for Tinto de Verano, the first alcoholic drink that I have enjoyed that I had yesterday in Guanajuato. I found something called Tinto Vinto and figured it sounded close, so I took a risk and ordered it. The waitress asked me which kind I wanted and I was totally lost. She said one was fruitier than the other, so of course I ordered the fruitier one. Fernando ordered a beer.
While we waited for our drinks, Fernando shared his English verb lists with me. He was hoping to study for an upcoming exam. Looking at his word lists and all of the random English irregulars made me appreciate learning English as a first language. There are so many random English conjugations that have no rhyme or reason. It was really interesting and fun helping Fernando out a little. Pronunciation is tricky for both of us. I think that I was being an English conversation partner for Fernando as much as he was being a Spanish conversation partner for me. It was awesome to be able to help someone else with their second language while I was speaking my second language.
When our drinks came, I was surprised to see that one was a beer and the other a shot served on a plate with a pile of chilies and a slice of orange, just like Mezcal. I didn’t see any drink that looked like what I ordered yesterday. I was even more surprised to learn that the shot is what I had unknowingly ordered. When I told Fernando it wasn’t what I expected, he asked why I didn’t know more about alcoholic drinks. This is when I explained that I am under aged in the USA and therefore have no experience drinking beers or taking shots. He was surprised and asked me how old I am. I replied 19 and followed by asking how old he is. I was equally surprised to learn that he is 26. We both laughed and said of course it doesn’t matter when just friends. I am actually between the ages of his two younger sisters, who are 22 and 16.
We then lifted our glasses and said “¡Salud!” to good health and friendship. Now, let me pause here and explain some context and set the scene before I continue. Here I am, sitting with a brand new local friend about to drink what is probably only the fifth alcoholic drink of my life. And this drink happens to be a shot, that looks just like Mezcal, so, naturally, I prepare to take the shot just as Alex taught me to take a shot of Mezcal, because at this point, I know no other way to take a shot and Fernando has not told me any specific directions to follow for taking this shot. So, I had my chili covered orange slice in one hand and shot glass in the other and we smiled and tip our heads back.
As my eyes met Fernando’s again, I can only imagine how they must have looked. Bursting full of shock, pain, and fear; it was all I could do to swallow the shot and not spit it out all over him. I was also convinced that it was about to come flooding out of my nose, something that would have probably also burned like crazy. Thankfully, it all made it down the right pipe much to my surprise and relief. Fernando was busting up laughing and as soon as I caught my breath I was too. I stuffed the orange into my mouth but couldn’t hold it there long. I couldn’t help the twisted contortions of my face. I had no idea what I had just done, but I knew I was never going to do it again. Once he stopped laughing, Fernando asked me what I had done that for. And I asked him what had I done and what was I supposed to do?! He explained between laughs that the shot I had just taken all at once is a shot that is supposed to be taken sip by sip. A shot that you are supposed to take sip by sip??? That’s not how people take shots in the movies! Have you ever heard of a shot like that? Well I sure as heck had not until this very moment! What kind of shot is so strong it is taken sip by sip? Apparently the answer is Tinto Vinto. And just to critique this horrid drink further, there was nothing fruity about the flavor in the slightest.
But, it made for a great laugh and broke the ice, even though there was no ice that needed breaking. It really was just a classic #RachelMoment that I can be counted on making quite frequently. The waitress walked by shortly after and asked if I wanted another. I politely replied that I was fine and also turned down her offer of getting me a beer or something else to drink. My tolerance for alcohol had been exceeded for the afternoon and I was quite fine just sharing conversation for the rest of my time with Fernando. I did end up having a few sips of his beer in attempt to clear the awful taste, but I was really just trading out one not-so-great flavor for another.
Once Fernando finished his two beers, we began walking back to my house. Since Fernando really is just beginning to study English, we mostly just spoke in Spanish. Over my time here in Mexico, I am impressed with the wide variety of conversation topics that I now have the ability to discuss. From politics to social issues to every day random topics, I am getting a lot of practice in a wide variety of subjects. However, now and then the veil of speaking a second language makes things a bit blurry when these random topics include a lot of new vocabulary. My walk home with Fernando ended up being one of the blurriest conversations that I have had while in Mexico.
He started the conversation off with, “What do you think love is?” Now, I am game to discuss pretty much anything and this question, while random, was a fine one to ask. I replied by saying that it depends on the relationship. Love between a mother and child is different than between two best friends or between spouses. He agreed, but then asked what I thought about two people who just meet and instantly have a connection. I was a little hesitant due to the fuzziness around vocabulary and not exactly following his line of questioning. I said that I totally believe that it is possible for people to meet and become very close friends or significant others very quickly. We talked a bit more about this and the next thing I knew Fernando had stopped walking and was asking if he could kiss me. I was unsure if we were speaking hypothetically or literally at first. For a millisecond, it crossed my mind that perhaps he meant on the cheek, which is how people in Mexico say hello and good bye, but I quickly snapped out of my naivety when I saw his out stretched hand. I was quite surprised, but of course said no. I reminded him that he already knew I had a boyfriend. He told me he remembered and it is at this point that if I would have been taking my shot I surely would have spit it all over him out of surprise for what he said next.
He said that he could be my Mexico boyfriend for this moment and asked me how we would remember the moment without a kiss. I confirmed that my relationship with my boyfriend is above all other relationships that I have and that being in a relationship with someone else, even for just a moment while in a foreign country, is not something that I was interested in. I also assured him that the selfie we took earlier (see below) along with the memory of my dramatic restaurant drink was plenty to memorialize the afternoon.
At this point, we were only about two blocks from my house. We chatted about how great it was to finally have been able to hang out together and how we both wished I was staying in Mexico for longer. I told him that my last days in Mexico were scheduled tight with school and seeing other friends, but hopefully we can see each other again before I leave this Saturday.
Over all, it was a fun an interesting afternoon with my new friend, Fernando. I am thankful for another afternoon of adventures and thankful for Fernando taking the first step towards friendship. Even though I didn’t take as many steps towards being more-than-friends as he may have liked, we both had a good time together.
I am both excited and not excited for the coming week. I am very excited for all of the plans I have with other friends here before I leave, but they are all tainted bitter sweet as we are too aware that my time in Mexico is passing fast. None the less, all I can do is keep saying yes to adventures and memories and pack each day full of time with my favorites. For now, I suppose I should think about working on some homework so that I have time to spend with friends later this week, but then again….. adventure awaits.