travel

By aaron.axvig, 25 October, 2019

We traveled the 30 miles from Annapolis to Washington, D.C. yesterday morning via hailed ride to New Carrollton, MD and then the subway.  My priority was the National Air & Space Museum so we went straight there.  That was sort of a bust as about 1/2 of the museum was closed for renovations.  We still spent about 90 minutes looking at the rest of the displays.  For lunch we walked a few blocks to a line of about 15 food trucks that we had previously spotted.

Then we walked back to the Mall and decided to go in the National Museum of Natural History.  One of the first things we saw there was a rhinoceros gathered from Africa by Theodore Roosevelt.  When writing this post I read a little more about the specifics of that, which was part of the Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition that collected over 11,000 specimens!  We spent a good amount of the time on the animal exhibits but breezed through the mineral exhibits which I think would have been really interesting to spend more time on.  But we had more places to go!

We almost made it to the Washington Monument but then decided to go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum first, which was great.  Then we spent a few minutes with the Washington Monument, Anna walked a little on the grass with her shoes off to give her feet a break, and we checked out the WWII Memorial.  We went down the south side of the reflecting pond as the sun was sinking pretty low about an hour before sunset...very nice.  After an obligatory few photos with the Lincoln Memorial we decided that we didn't want to wait the half hour to see the sun set behind us as we watched from the steps there, so we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and then went to see the White House (from right where the National Christmas Tree will be).  Then we made the long trip back to the boat and had a late supper!

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, 23 December, 2006

I've been to several interesting things over the last couple of days:

Thursday Javier, Daniela & I went to an area of the town called Xochimilco.  We saw an old cathedral (not as nice as many that I've seen, and definitely showing it's age, but still impressive), ate at a market, and went for a ride in "trajineras."  There is a canal system in that part of the city, and the trajineras are the most common type of boat there.  They are propelled by pushing a pole against the ground, which is about 8 feet under water.  We went on a trip of about 1.5 hours.  It was very relaxing.  There are other trajineras that pull up along side you, offering a variety of services, ranging from taking your picture or selling you food to a real live mariachi performance (and even marimbas if you prefer).  Reportedly they are pretty popular for parties at night too.

Friday Aline, Angeles, Daniela, and I went shopping (Christmas shopping of course).  First we went to Suburbia, which is a lot like Herbergers, and then to Wal-Mart.  After that Angeles dropped us of at Frida Kahlo's former house, which is now a museum/art gallery dedicated to her.  She was a painter who lived a very traumatic life.  Then we went to a market and had quesadillas and sopas, which are tostadas with beans, lettuce, cream, and steak.  The museum is in a part of the city called Coyoacan (my third trip there), and we went to the market in the plaza area, where we tried some new candies.

This morning we went shopping with Aline's friend Miren at the same Suburbia as yesterday.  Well, that was after waiting "1/2 hour" (actually more like 1 1/2 hours) for Miren to dye her hair.  We had frozen yogurt at a place called Nutrissa, which was very similar to TCBY.  We dropped Miren off at her house, and then went home for a afternoon lunch of hamburgers, which were very good.

No special plans for tonight, but tomorrow will be busy with all the relatives coming.  It's a very large family.

By aaron.axvig, 18 December, 2006

Yesterday Javier, Javier, Julia, Daniela, and I went on a trip to Chapultapec.  This is an area of the city that is sort of like a giant park/historical zone.  The first place we went to was the Anthropological Museum of Mexico.  They had a temporary exposition on Persia which was pretty interesting, and then we moved on to the main part.  It is arranged around a central courtyard area which is half-covered by a roof held up entirely by one big pillar in the center.

The first building we went to was about the beginning of man--not specific to Mexico.  They didn't have any clothes on the models.

The next building showed after man learned what clothes were (good thing too, because they were hunting woolly mammoths in the snow).  And it was more Mexico-specific.

The rest of the buildings were more interesting.  They covered the Mexicas, the Aztecs, and each of the regions of Mexico (North, South, and Central).  I thought the one about the construction of Tenochtitlan was really interesting.  The tribe was told by their god to find a place where an eagle is sitting on a cactus with a snake in its beak, and to build their city there.  As luck would have it, they found that eagle in the middle of a lake.  So they drove piles of some sort of water resistant trunk into the lake and built their city on top of that.  The problem here is that Mexico City was built on top of this city after it was conquered. Downtown Mexico City (located precisely over the center of the old city) has many heavy buildings, like...a cathedral and an art museum made of marble.

Daniela says that the art museum is actually sinking 5-or-so centimeters per year.  The government is considering moving it.  When I visited the cathedral, they had a pendulum hanging in the middle of it to show how much it was leaning to the side (a foot or so, with a pendulum length around 100 feet).  It is also sinking.

After the museum the Javiers and Julia went home.  Daniella and I went to the castle that's in Chapultapec, which was built by an emperor they had from Europe.  Mexico's presidents have also lived there, up until 1939 when it was converted into a museum.  We saw lots of paintings and murals inside, along with lots of old furniture and exhibits of old stuff.  I think my mom would have really liked it.

Then we went to the zoo (also in Chapultapec) and ate at the TacoInn.  By the time we finished the zoo was closing, so we didn't get to see much, except for some birds.  There were a lot of people leaving the zoo though--apparently it's very popular.

We got some cotton candy on the way out, and rode 3 buses home.

By aaron.axvig, 11 December, 2006

Yesterday I went to the pyramids of Teotihuacan with Laura.  I woke up at 11:00 (in know, in know, that's kind of late), took a shower, and all of a sudden Laura was sitting at the dining room table.  She showed me a bunch of pictures that Tom and Jean (my grandparents) and my family had sent her over the years.  There were a bunch of me and my siblings when we were really young, which was pretty neat. 

Most interesting I thought was the one of me and Laura (sister Laura) playing in the new sandbox, which I remember my dad building.  It had a date on it of July 1990, placing me at only 3-and-a-half years old. Then she asked if I wanted to go to Teotihuacan then or Monday.  Well, I didn't really have any commitments, so off we went.  We walked a few blocks, took the subway for 40 minutes, and hopped on a nice motor coach for the rest of the way (only 28 pesos, or $2.50 USD, for the 1 hour ride).

We spotted the pyramids from a long ways off.  When we finally got there, we started walking in the wrong direction (couldn't see the pyramids from there).  But Laura talked to someone and we found the right place.  The admission fee was 45 pesos.  I think the pictures I took would explain everything pretty well, but on the slow dial-up connection I have here I could see it taking me more than an hour to get everything uploaded right, so you'll have to look at my pictures when I get back.  I'll just say it was really cold, it was really windy, the steps were really steep, and Laura actually beat me to the top (I went walking around on one of the levels while waiting for her, and she got ahead of me).  The big one is 213 feet tall if I remember right.

The bus ride back was very nice, with only about 10 people on the very quiet, peaceful, dark bus.  So yes, I promptly fell asleep. Laura and I got off the bus in the middle of a traffic jam, took a short subway ride (2 pesos no matter how far you go), and had some quesadillas.  I really liked them--deep-fried bread around either meat or cheese, with cheese, cream, and salsa on top.  I really stuffed myself by eating four.  Then we went to Laura's apartment, which is pretty small but cozy.  There had been a lot of a special kind of cactus at Teotihuacan which they make pulque out of, which is an alcoholic beverage.  I had expressed interest in trying it, so we went to the pulqueria near Laura's house and got a half-liter of it.  The place smelled really strongly (badly) of fermenting.

It turns out that the smell is much worse than the taste.  I think it would be fair to say that it almost tastes like nothing (similar to my raw egg drinking experience).  Despite the unobjectable taste, I only drank about half-a-cup.  I stayed on Laura's couch for the night, which was actually almost long enough to fit me comfortably.

Saturday I didn't really do anything exciting until the evening when Aline, Angela, and I went to Angela's cousin's house.  Her husband really resembled a short version of one of my high-school teachers, Mr. Skytland.  We had an excellent meal there of spaghetti and pizza, and I stuffed myself almost to the point of sickness.  Afterwards we played cards and dominoes until 10:00 when we headed back.

By aaron.axvig, 2 December, 2006

I got to the airport in Monterrey at about 11:40.  I had been unable to print my e-ticket the night before, probably because I didn't really know what airline I was flying.  All I knew was my flight number: MX1549.  So I guessed which line to enter, and AeroMexico was the right one.  When it was my turn, I was ushered into the Premier passenger area where I had a complimentary margarita and back rub.  Just kidding.  They gave me a different flight number--AM927.  Then I waited for 2 hours until the flight left on time.  I had a window seat, but it was over the wing.

They served a pretty good lunch on the plane, but I had to rush to finish it as the plane was already descending by the time I was half-way done.

On the way down I was treated to a spectacular view of Mexico City.  It is enormous.  As far as you can see (maybe 20 miles, which is pretty good considering the haze) it is pure city, mostly just 2-3 story buildings.  I'm sure you've seen pictures before.

At the airport I tried the usual practice of following the crowd to get to the baggage claim.  But it thinned out after a while, and I found myself trailing 5 business executives that looked like the probably didn't have luggage.  So I asked some shop workers where to go, and they pointed the wrong way (towards immigration, I think).  But I didn't know that, and went that way.  After a few minutes, I asked a janitor where to go, and he pointed me to immigration.  So I went downstairs to immigration, where I admitted to the lady that I was in the wrong place.  She finally told me the right place to go--gate 12.

So I went back upstairs, and saw signs for gate 20-26 this way, and 27-33 that way (those aren't the exact numbers, but close).  I went  in the direction of the lower numbers.  After walking about 3/4 of a mile, passing through security, and severely doubting myself, I finally found gate 12, and the baggage claim was down the stairs.  It took me a while to find the right conveyor, and by then my two bags and another one of someone else's where the only three left.  So off I went to find these people that I wouldn't even recognize.

Fortunately Laura was there and picked out the tall blonde one carrying a sombrero (me).  Unfortunately, no one else was there (I had sent Daniella an e-mail on Sunday saying I wouldn't be getting my ticket switched to this Tuesday instead of the next Tuesday, which I figured was reasonable because how could you switch a ticket with such late notice?  And then no one except Laura had read my e-mail Monday afternoon saying I would  be coming this week.  Plus, the flight number I had sent them was wrong.).  So we found a phone and she called her sister, who called Javier, who called Laura's cell phone (it could only receive calls, not make them).  Laura had taken the subway to the airport, so Javier said he would be there in 40 minutes in his car to pick me up.

Laura and I split a Subway sandwich and talked a little, and then Javier showed up with Amile (age 18), who is the daughter of Laura's sister, Angela.  We drove for about 15 minutes, stopped at a little store to get something to drink, and went to their house.  I found out that I will be staying in Angela's house, in Amile's former room (she'll be staying in her mom's room).  Amile and I talked for a little while in their sitting room, and then Daniela, Stephan (her boyfriend of two years) and Javier (her 13-year-old brother) showed up.  After talking for a while more, we went to a taco restaurant.  Before we went there, Javier (the dad) cautioned that they shouldn't let me eat the meat that is cooked out on the sidewalk (the "trompo" that I've written about before) because it's not very clean.  So of course when we got there they recommended the trompo for me.

When we got back, I went over to Javier's house.  They have at least 9 cats, which all live outside.  We talked a little bit more, but I guess I was visibly tired, and they gave me some unneeded encouragement to head to bed (at 8:20).  My room is on the 3rd floor, and has it's own bathroom and closet (although I have to shower in the room downstairs).  There is a lot of noise outside from the busy road, but I suppose I'll get use to sleeping with it.

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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, 22 August, 2006

Today I had to get up early to go to the Immigration Office.  Early for me is 8:00am.  The reason I needed to go there is to convert my tourist visa, which I got on the airplane, to a student visa.  This is actually a pretty long process.  I needed to get together about 10 different documents and copies of this and that.  Here's what I can remember off the top of my head:

  • Copies of every page of my passport, even those that didn't have anything written
  • on them.
  • Copies of my credit card and back statement.
  • Copies of my tourist visa.
  • An official letter of residence from the Residence Hall Office.
  • An official letter of enrollment from the International Office.
  • Two forms, which had to be printed both sides on legal-sized paper.  Luckily, the local Internet cafes are pretty good about helping students do that.

So, that is what I've spent some of my free time for the last 3 weeks doing. I guess it really isn't all that bad, but just seemed like a lot of unnecessary paperwork.  Now I have to call the office in a couple weeks to check on my application's status.  Then I need to get my fingerprints taken, and then finally pick up the visa.

Most people had the option of getting their student visa before they left the USA (or their respective country), and a few did with the thought that they would have to do less once they arrived here.  It turns out that they needed to do pretty much the exact same thing though.  They weren't too happy about that.

What I think is kind of funny about the whole thing is that by the time I'm done with it all, I'll be half-way done with my stay here.