study-abroad

By aaron.axvig, 4 January, 2007

Well, I probably should have posted this earlier, but I did make it home safely on schedule on the 28th.  Grandparents and my family were there to meet me, but my luggage wasn't.  I suspect they didn't make it on the plane out of Houston after I took them through customs, as it was a short lay-over there.  Fortunately they were delivered to my house the next morning.

It's good to be back, and while I had a great time in Mexico, of course there were things that I missed.  It's going to be nice to have more possessions than those that I could fit in two suitcases, for one.

As for the future of this blog: I don't think I'll be posting here anymore, but I'd like to keep the content around for others and especially myself to look at in a few years.  Likely http://www.axvius.com/aaron will turn into my own landing page when I move this blog, but I will be sure to have a link to all of this from that page.

And here are the visitor stats from the middle of August up until now: 836 total visits, 2,571 pages

By aaron.axvig, 4 December, 2006

The study abroad office here at Tec was supposed to be tracking the progress of my visa application for me, and they had been doing an alright job.  Supposedly everything was done, and I just needed to pick the final document up.  Well, I had been in that state for 2 months without hearing anything.  So I headed over to the study abroad office, sat around for 10 minutes, and finally talked to someone who said that they were checking every day.  Upon hearing that I had been waiting for 2 months, he advised that I go to the immigration office to look for it (they recently relocated their offices, and I've heard of a few people who had their things go missing).

So went straight to the immigration office.  As I walked in the door, a voice in the back of my head whispered, "passport." Oops, I didn't have my passport with me.  Surely I wouldn't be able to get the visa without my passport, but I figured I would see how far I could get.  First the guy working at the desk told me to go check the list on the wall (a list of visas that are ready to be picked up).  So I got over to the wall, and there was a list of numbers.  The second time through the line (another 10 minutes), I got my number, and found out my name was on the list.

There-in lies the mystery: I assume this is the same list that the study abroad office at Tec checks.  Why didn't they know it was ready?  Well anyways, I waited in a new line (with chairs though) for 45 minutes until my number was called.  I walked up to the desk, and the lady asked for my passport.  Uh-oh.  I said no, but she picked up my file anyways, and made me sign the photocopy of my passport that I had on file (as some kind of substitution for not having the passport).  Within a few minutes I was on my merry way, visa in hand.  Mission successful.

And good thing too, because I got back to my dorm room to find that I was scheduled to fly out the next day.

Alas, I'm not the only one with such troubles.  A friend just sent me an e-mail warning of the difficulties she had with processing her visa upon leaving the country.  Hopefully I can learn from her mistakes.

By aaron.axvig, 28 November, 2006

Well, I was going to write something nice about what I did yesterday, because I thought I had an hour to get ready.  But my watch was actually incorrect (again), and it was already time to go.  So this is all you get until I'm there...

By aaron.axvig, 25 November, 2006

I got a bloody nose tonight playing frisbee.  The disc hit me from the side, sharing the stinging between my cheek and nose.  Now my nose is really really really sore (the cheek is not quite so sensitive apparently), but no bruise so far.

Tomorrow my mom is going to be looking into changing my flight ticket to Mexico City to this Tuesday instead of next Tuesday (my last test is this Tuesday).  So, if that works, I'll be busy packing on Sunday and Monday.  But it should be fun to have an extra week in Mexico City (I'll still be going home December 28th).

By aaron.axvig, 18 November, 2006

Today I went to the city of Saltillo.  Our intelligence showed that Saltillo is renowned for its blankets and linens and things, and my mom had recently placed an order for some of those items.  Plus it would make a nice little day trip.

We (Christin, from Tennessee, and I) left at 7:00am in a taxi to the bus station.  It was a 1.5 hour bus ride to Saltillo, in a very nice bus.  The route was very scenic, with jagged mountains on both sides.  It was pretty cheap too--just $5.50 for each of us each way.

Outside the bus station:

Landscape

We then crossed the street and walked past a bunch of shops and stores.  One was Waldo's Mart, which we felt horribly inclined to go check out.  It was just a discount store.  We didn't stay long, primarily because of the Christmas music that was playing, composed of meowing and barking sounds.

Waldo's Mart

There were no blankets too be found.  We decided to head downtown, where there would be markets.  So a local told us to get on bus 17.  Annoyingly, a different bus 17 would drive right by us every 5 minutes (no matter how hard we tried to flag it down), and after four times we asked and found out that we had to go to a different corner to get on it.  10 minutes later we were downtown.

The first market we went into had a lot of jeans, shirts, and bootleg movies and music for sale.  After walking around for 1/2 hour, we went looking for something else.  On the way, I saw a man standing by some sticks that were angled from the sidewalk to the building.  They looked kind of like a broken picture frame (a very thin one).  So as I went by, I stepped in between them, being VERY careful to not knock them over or break them.  I guess I should have been as observant as I was careful.  The man standing there hollered something, and I looked down to see wet concrete.  Luckily it wasn't very deep, and really only the sole of my shoe went in it.  But the guy still had to re-smooth the surface.  Note that I successfully managed to not touch any of the sticks.

On we went, making note not to go back down that street lest we get mugged.  A couple of stores later, we were ready to eat, and found a quiet little place.  There were some nice old ladies working there, and when we asked what some of the items on the menu on the wall were, instead of explaining she took us back into the kitchen.  She practically gave us a tour of the place, showing what went into each item.  Very interesting.

At first I ordered 7 gorditas, which are tiny little tortillas (but thicker, like bread) that are cut to create a pocket in the middle and stuffed with meat, cheese, or beans.  But then I saw chilaquiles on the menu.  I've been a fan of the chilaquiles at the cafeteria on campus (fritos and cheese melted with lots of grease, slopped on a styrofoam tray), but my mom said the chilaquiles she had in Mexico City were entirely different.  So I went back and revised my order to chilaquiles.  This time they were like this (soft chips, frijoles, and some cheese):

Chilaquiles

They were just as good, but I'm sure more nutricious.

The ladies then tipped us off to where we could get the linens, and off we went.  There seemed to only be one store in the market that had them, but they had the variety of selection that I needed so the mission was accomplished.  We asked a policeman which bus would take us back to the bus station, arrived there 15 minutes later, and were soon on our way back home.

Large Mexican blanket

Mexican blankets

By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2006

Here's a picture I took on campus the other day.  The building on the left is where 3 of my 4 classes are.

It's getting to be that time of the semester.  I had my last class of Mexican Business Management on Tuesday, and the last class of Importing & Exporting in Mexico Wednesday night.  My other two classes will be done after tomorrow, and then I'll just have 3 tests to worry about.

I played Ultimate Frisbee again tonight, although I had a pretty bad night with lots of bad throws and missed catches.  I'll get 'em on Thursday though.

By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2006

Just thought I'd mention real quick that if you were planning on sending any sort of package to me that you might as well not.  It will take about 4 weeks (if not longer), and by then I'll be long gone.

By aaron.axvig, 13 November, 2006

Well, this was the last weend of the Mexico Rural program (until next semester when the next group starts I suppose).  I had to miss paint-ball with several of the other guys on my floor to go, and they gave me lots of heck about it, but I had a lot of fun anyway.  I've thrown in lots of pictures this time, and some of them are just randomly interspersed so don't take too long trying to relate them to something.

I think this weekend was the one in which I got the most Spanish practice.  The advisor also said that my ability had improved noticeably since my first weekend there, which I guess I hadn't really noticed because it's such a little by little change.  But now I catch myself sometimes "eves-dropping" on conversations without really thinking about it, and then realizing a few seconds later "Wow, I just understood that without thinking about it."  Don't get any false expectations though: I'm still not that good when they just rattle of sentences haphazardly.

Children playing

Saturday morning we just did some regular activities like flashcards and a game of matching pairs of cards (memory).  I think I must be getting old, because those kids sure showed me up and I was always forgetting things.  Or maybe it was just that there were four of them and only one of me.  The cards were of words that have to do with elections, democracy, and justice.  It was for the civil unit that we do every week.

Tree and front of school

Lunch was some sort of cheesy sandwich that looked suspiciously like I wasn't going to like it (yellow potato salad between two slices of bread was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it).  It ended up being pretty good.

Playing a game

In the afternoon we had a rally for them to celebrate that it was the last day.  We wrote questions covering different topics and for different age groups; I wrote questions for the kindergartners:

  • What color are grapes?  (One kid was smart enough to answer both green and purple, which I hadn't anticipated.)
  • How many fingers do you have on two hands?
  • What number comes after 6?
  • What color are avocados?

The last one actually has a nice little story.  For the first two groups when I asked them the question ("Que color son los avocados?") the kids gave me strange looks and then answered "Green."  The third group did the same and answered both red and green, but the fourth group just gave me the dumb look, like they were wondering what avocados are.

Solely by looking at the word avocado, one would think it's a Spanish word.  After all, it's rather difficult and tedious to say in English, and all the vowels are pronounced correctly for it to be Spanish.  But the real Spanish word for avocado is "aguacate."  I'm really not sure how most of them got the right answer.

After all the groups were done, those in the group with the most points were the winners and got prizes.  Everyone else got participation prizes.  Then it was time for the piñata.

We debated for a while how to properly tie the rope, and finally decided to hang it from a tree.  So I went up in the tree and tied the rope.  However, they tied the other end so that it was hanging on the ground with a lot of extra rope.  I didn't really know what was the grand plan, but I'm not an expert at the art of piñata so I let them go ahead with whatever.  Then two of them had me walk around to the other side of the school building, and before I knew it they were hoisting me onto the roof.

With me up there, the piñata could hang halfway between the roof and the tree.  I wrapped the rope around my hand at first, but then requested that someone throw a stick up to me to wrap it around.  Then I tried to hold that with one hand and take these pictures:

Pinata holding
Pinata has broken

I was in charge of making sure the piñata didn't get destroyed by the first kid, and I guess I did alright, because I held out for so long that one of the teachers ripped it open and pulled the candy out after a little while (some candy had already been spilled).  I thought they should have just told me to go a little easier, but no harm done I guess.  I tried to take some surrounding area pictures while I was up there too:

Mountains from roof

It was pretty cloudy so the mountains aren't real clear.

Mountains

Mountains

The corn fields are one of their primary sources of food, and this road is the main one through town.  There are two more towns of about the same size 2 or 3 kilometers away on either side.

Gravel road

This is the schoolyard.  I guess it's going to be redone next year, but it sure is kind of run-down currently:

Schoolyard

For supper we had hamburgers again, which were again some of the best that I've ever had.  We walked to the little shop in town and had a Coke, and then came back and played some cards.  First we played the two games that I taught them last weekend (spoons and BS), but they wanted to learn something else.  So I tried to teach them Go-Fish, but it pretty much flopped, basically because it's the most illogical game of all to determine who actually wins.  More details can be written about that if you would like.  The second "flop" of the night was when we watched part of Supertroopers.  I think there were three problems: the laptop screen was to small to really see anything, the dialogue was too fast for them to understand the jokes, and everyone was pretty tired.  I guess I should make clear that all of this was just us teachers (school hours are from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 2:30pm to 5:30pm Saturday, and 9:00am to 11:00am on Sunday).

School building

Flagpole and burning barrel in the schoolyard:

Flagpole and burning barrel

Breakfast in the morning was cereal.  Apparently I missed the memo and didn't bring my bowl, but I think only one other person did, as almost everyone was eating out of cups.  Then some of the kids showed up for class an hour early, so we played with them for a while.  I had brought my frisbee this time, so I took that out and showed them how to throw it.  I don't think they had ever seen one before, but they caught on pretty fast.  Surprisingly, it was also new for the college students I was teaching with.  I bet the kids would really have been amazed to see the Ultimate Frisbee game that I played in on Friday night (which I didn't get so sore from this time, by the way).

We did some quick lessons after that, and then cleaned up the school (sweeping, mopping, and washing the blackboards).  I took some pictures of the roadside on the way back (at the request of my dad).  They will be in the post right after this one, which you've probably already read because it's on top of this one.

By aaron.axvig, 7 November, 2006

It continued misting on Saturday morning as I walked to the bus, but stopped by the time we all arrived at San Jose.  That doesn't mean the mud stopped though.  Mud was the bane of my existence for the whole weekend.  Mud on my shoes, mud on the sidewalk, mud on the floors, mud on my pants.  It pretty much sucked.

Things were still pretty fun though.  This time I helped teach the 3rd-6th graders.  It was definitely more exciting than watching kids color.  We had a mock election, played dominoes with math figures, practiced subtraction on the board, and reviewed what our rights and privileges are.

For lunch we had tacos.  Supper consisted of two of the best hamburgers I've ever had.  Breakfast the next day was pancakes.  I think I made out like a bandit, because it ended up costing me a grand total of $3.50.  I guess this is because most of the kids that brought the food said at our meeting today (where we calculated the cost) that they just took most of it from their parents cupboards.  And somehow 2kg (4.4 lbs.) of meat were reported to only cost $4 total.  We all wondered if we had actually been fed dog meat or something similarly cheap.

I'll be going on the final trip this weekend.  We are going to have a little party for the kids, including a piñata and movie, in addition to the regular activities.

By aaron.axvig, 3 November, 2006

Yesterday was really cold.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until I was already outside, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  So, as I walked to class in misty, 50 degree weather, I ate my apple and shivered to death.  That's probably why I have a sore throat today.

I was smarter for my evening class, and wore pants and a sweatshirt.  Today is still the same misty rain, but a little bit warmer.  I guess it is supposed to continue through the weekend, so I need to pack prepared for San Jose, which makes me wish I still had my jacket.  That's right mom, I lost my jacket.  Don't worry though, I know where it is.  It's at a friend of a friend's house.  So I have about a 50% chance of getting it back, because I don't know where the house is.