July 21, 2016
Only two more days in Mexico. I really can’t believe how fast these past five weeks have gone by. I so wish that I had more time here to keep learning Spanish, building friendships, and exploring Mexico. I have wanted to live abroad since I was a very young girl. It is very bitter sweet to me that my first time living abroad has almost come to a close. Since my first day here, I knew that five weeks was not going to be near long enough but I have sure made every moment count.
I found out today that I got a perfect score on the Final Presentation that I gave yesterday. I looked back on my grades so far from speaking exams and presentations and was surprised to see that with each evaluation, I received a higher grade. Even though the material we have studied has gotten harder and more complex each time, my pace of improvement has outpaced the increase of difficulty, which is amazing. Although it has felt like the more Spanish I learn, the less I know, seeing improvement in my grades in class and having many people who I have known since I first arrived in Mexico tell me that they notice how much my Spanish has improved in very encouraging. I am more motivated than ever to keep studying Spanish and work towards being fluent in this second language.
This afternoon, Alex picked me up at the university and we headed to lunch. I was stoked to get to spend the afternoon and evening with him, as always, but the entire time I was trying not to think about how this was either our last, or second to last, time hanging out together for this trip. We have become such close friends so fast, I couldn’t be more thankful for it.
Our first stop was an Italian restaurant called GroupoPasta. Alex said that the pizza here is really good so we ended up sharing an appetizer and a salmon pizza. It was indeed very good. I had fresh cucumber water to drink, which was a refreshing as you would expect. The restaurant had a relaxed, breezy, but also very nice and semi-fancy feel to it. After comida, we made a spontaneous stop at the school where Alex’s mom works.
The school used to be an old textile factory, Alex told me. Classes are not currently in session as it is summer time, but the gate was open and after greeting the guard, we were permitted to walk around for a few minutes. Shortly after, we were off to somewhere I have wanted to visit since I arrived in Querétaro.
Almost daily, in the afternoons, I can hear a train blow its whistle as it passes by somewhere close to my home. After asking about the trains, I was told that there is an old station nearby. The station is used no longer and has been converted into a museum. Now, if you know my family, you know how much trains are a part of our life. I have wanted to visit the station to check it out, but the days passed so quickly, I pretty much gave up on making it there this trip. That is, until Alex told me, without even knowing how much I wanted to visit there, that we were headed to the train station. Sometimes I swear he can read my mind.
We pulled up to the old train station, built in 1904, and I was more excited than the average person would probably be. What can I say? Loving trains is something I was raised to do. We took some photos of the large station outside before checking in.
When we approached the front desk, it was free to get in, but in order to take photos with his camera Alex had to fill out a long and detailed form with lots of personal information. It seemed extreme to me. I waited and caught snippits of conversation exchanged between Alex and a man working at the station. The man scrutinized us as he interrogated Alex about why we were here, why we were taking photos, and so on as he double checked the form. After what seemed like much too long just to simply take a few photos, Alex and I were permitted to go ahead and enter the station. Alex explained to me the snippits that I did not understand. He said the man made it very clear we were to not take any “model photos.” This made us both laugh. I guess that the fact I was wearing dress and that Alex had a nice camera made him think we were doing a photo shoot or something. If only he knew that I take many more photos with a silly face than a magazine cover face….
We walked through the museum real quick and Alex tested my translating skills as I tried to read some of the history of the station. It was challenging, and a big brain work out, but it was fun. I know that I would not have been successful at all had I tried to read that same thing five weeks ago.
As we took more photos and looked around near the tracks, I heard a familiar sound in the distance. I turned to Alex and told him a train was coming before it was even in sight. It’s pretty much a super power of mine. It was perfect timing really. I took photos and a little video to share with my Daddy and as Alex also took photos.
After the excitement of the train passing by, we had seen about all there was to see here at the station. It felt like we had almost spent more time filling out the photo permission slip than taking photos, but it was all worth it and a part of the adventure.
As we were headed back to the car, Alex saw it was a bit later than he thought. He had a short meeting planned with someone in the Centro, and we were a bit short on time. He made a call informing them that traffic was bad, and then we were off.
It worked out perfectly that Alex had a meeting this evening. I had finally thought of the gift that I wanted to make him and needed some time to go buy the supplies. He told me his meeting would only take about half an hour. I hoped it would run late since I wasn’t sure if that was enough time for me. My plan was to head across the Centro to the street with antique shops to buy an old book and an old key. Then, I needed to back track to the other side of the Centro and buy glue and some ribbon. I took off walking as fast as I could.
I have visited these antique shops before, and being a foreigner, the gentlemen remembered me when I returned. After again looking through their small shops that all share the same little plaza in the center, I could not find the perfect book that was within my budget. It was obvious to them that I was on a mission and when I had made a round empty handed, they asked what I was searching for. I explained my idea for a gift for mi major amigo en México, but told them I realized my dreams were bigger than my budget. One gentleman told me not so fast and invited me back into his shop. He pulled out a bin full of beautiful old books from under a table. He handed me one bound with bright colors and beautifully golden with age. Figuring it was much above my price point, I asked anyway how much he was selling it for. His reply was one that almost brought tears to my eyes for I instantly knew he was generously offering this beautiful book to me at a fraction of what it was worth. After expressing my greatest thanks for his generosity, I stopped by the shop next door and picked out the perfect old skeleton key.
Then, I scurried across the Centro to buy glue and a few inches of gold colored ribbon. It turns out that the minimum length that can be purchased is one meter. I went to the cashier to pay and was shocked that my one meter of ribbon only cost 1 peso. Right as I was finishing up, I read a message from Alex that he would meet me in the Plaza de Armas around 6:45. I had five minutes to spare. Perfect.
For a while, we sat in the plaza and listened to the music being played for the Jazz Festival. We even gazed up at the sky and found a sea turtle and elephant in the clouds. It never matters what we are doing, exploring somewhere new, sharing conversation, or comfortably strolling or sitting in silence, it’s always a great time. Eventually, we started walking around and ended up heading in the direction of my house. Since I walk this path almost daily, it doesn’t seem to be a long walk to me. We decided to go drop off my back pack so that Alex wouldn’t have to carry it around (he never allowed me to carry it myself and I often saw other young men walking around with two backpacks themselves when accompanied by a young lady). By the time we arrived, Alex was commenting on how long the walk was, but really, it was only 20 minutes from the plaza. Easy peasy.
Now, by the time we walked all the way back across the Centro, I was feeling my feet a bit and it was beginning to look like rain. By now I knew that in Querétaro, when it rains, it pours. But, we still had memories to make so onward we went. Alex informed me that next we were headed to the theater to watch a performance. I was very excited as this was something we had not yet done, but I had been hoping to do.
When we arrived, we saw that it was an outdoor walking performance. We joined the group of over 50 audience members in one area of the plaza. As we walked up, the group began to follow three performers to another spot and we joined in. As we sat to watch the next act, I did my best to focus on the Spanish being spoken. It was challenging to grasp all of the words, but it was easy to tell that this performance was a comedy. The whole audience was laughing and clapping. Even without understanding everything, it was captivating and entertaining. Alex leaned over during one song and said that the performers were substituting bad words for random words that sound similar. The laughing made sense now.
Then, at the end of the song, everyone began to walk towards an outdoor covered area. We took seats on cement steps and settled in for the main performance. I was seated next to the sound equipment, which was strapped into an old wheel barrow.
On the center of the stage was a large box-looking structure. While acting, the two main characters began to unfold the sides. It now looked like a large table. Then, it looked like a cat walk as another side was unfolded. I realized it was about to become their stage. I was shocked, because from what I saw, it looked a bit wobbly. Nonetheless, the actors were confident and the show went on.
I am still not entirely sure what the story line of the play was as a whole, but I definitely was able to understand scenes individually. It was a lot of fun to be able to attend this local event. I wish that I could see many more plays in plazas just like I did this evening. Already as my days for this trip to Mexico come near an end, I am planning my next trip back to this city I now call home.
After the play, it was after 10pm. It has begun to rain, softly at first, but it was slowly getting heavier. As Alex and I walked back across town towards his car, my heart was over flowing with emotions, both sweet and bittersweet, as I thought about the last five weeks. I tried hard not to think about how close I was to returning home. I knew the tears were coming, but I didn’t want them to arrive yet. The farther we walked, the less I wanted the night to end. And I think Alex was thinking similarly.
At the same moment that I was thinking about somewhere we could stop to get a snack on our walk back to draw out our evening just a bit, Alex asked if I wanted to get churros. Of course I said yes! It was the perfect idea. I kept walking up the street though thinking it was a few blocks ahead. After walking five more blocks in the rain, I was positive we had passed the shop. When I asked Alex, he told me that we were out front the shop when he asked me if I wanted churros, where I then said yes but proceeded to walk away. I felt so bad. With my back to the building, I didn’t even notice we were there when he first asked. We laughed about it and apologized to one another, finally agreeing that no one was at fault but that it was indeed another famous Rachel Moment. We decided to double back in hopes that the churro shop may still be open.
It was raining harder now and both Alex and I were pretty much soaked. I didn’t mind though, it wasn’t cold and rain feels really nice after spending many afternoons in the hot sun. The churro shop ended up being closed, but Alex thought of another place to try to stop by.
It ended up being a tamale shop, and we walked in dripping wet right as they were closing up. I am sure we looked justa bit pitiful. We ordered two tamales verdes and were given a third tamale, guayaba flavored if I remember correctly, for free. We walked the rest of the way through the rain as fast as we could to Alex’s car.
Alex said that he doesn’t usually eat in his car, but tonight we did. Sitting there with the windows rolled down and the rain still falling, we traded tamale halves and reflected on favorite memories. Prior to coming to Mexico, I did not know that fruit is often used as a tamale filling, but sure enough it is popular. We both ended up preferring the chicken tamale though. This was a random, spontaneous, and totally perfect ending to a wonderful day.
As Alex drove me home, we chatted to keep ourselves from thinking about having to say good bye. We hope to see each other tomorrow, but we aren’t quite sure if we will be able to meet up. When we turned onto my street, I reluctantly accepted that with the end of today, the beginning of the end of my trip here in Mexico had finally arrived. I couldn’t hold in the tears any longer either. Never saying adios, we said, “Hasta pronto” to one another not exactly knowing if pronto would be coming tomorrow or a while from now. With a final hug, we parted both feeling equally saddened to leave but thankful to have such a strong friendship. I had to collect myself for a moment before walking into my house and I saw Alex do the same before driving to his.
Although I was exhausted from a wonderful, long, and emotional day, I still had Alex’s gift to make! My plan was to cut out a space among the old pages where the key could hang. The concept of the gift is that the key represents our friendship, which seems as though it is much older than it is and the book is the stories of the memories we’ve made.
Out of all the things I have gained and experienced since coming to Mexico, I am most thankful for the people that I have met. For it is because of all of their generosity that I have experienced Mexico as a local, not as a tourist. It has always been my dream to live abroad and each person I have met over the last five weeks has helped to make this dream a reality for me.