Saturday, June 05, 2004

Photo--Tequila Express

Tequila, Mexico--Day 126

After breakfast this morning I caught a cab to Guadalajara’s train station to board the “Tequila Express” which was a tour down to Tequila, where all the tequila in the world is made (surprise!). I had my ticket from yesterday and found that I was in the “Verde” group (green). I was give n a badge to wear around my neck showing my group and I found Swati, Cory and William who had already checked in. While we waited to board the train we were entertained by mariachis. We boarded the train by groups (red, green, blue and orange) and soon we were off to Tequila. The trip took about 2 hours as we meandered down from Guadalajara through agave fields and hills. All throughout the trip we were offered tequila and drinks with tequila in it! Already people were enjoying themselves.

We made it to Tequila and got off (again in groups) and our group had to wait for the last bus to come and pick us up to take us to the Tequila factory that we would be touring. Our tour of the factory was in Spanish, which we chose instead of the English tour so that we could practice our Spanish. Anyways, the tour of the old and new parts of the factory was great-- the factory is over 100 years old and has all of its old agave ovens and fermenting tanks. I definitely learned a lot about tequila making!

After the tour, we were led to a big picnic area with tents all set up for a barbeque with a stage and an area for dancing. It was great- it was like we had just happened upon a huge family gathering or wedding reception or something. The food was great and as soon as we got there there was entertainment from the mariachis as well as several other singers and traditional dancers. It was so much fun! Plus the tequila was flowing like crazy. Never have I been to an event with unlimited drinks included and while I didn’t take advantage of the continuing flow of alcohol, it was clear that several people were!

Several hours of dancing and drinking later, we were all having just a blast. Everyone in the entire place was in a great mood and we had so, so much fun dancing and goofing around. And I didn’t even have that much to drink! It really was so much fun and felt like I had just walked into someone’s private family gathering.

At 6 o’clock our fun was not quite over, but our time at the tequila factory was so we all boarded the buses back to the train and got on. The ride back was defiantly more full of life than the trip down as we had the rows filled with people dancing and the mariachi band playing practically the entire way back. It was so crazy and never before could I say that I had done the Macarena with several old ladies in a moving train before, but hey, today was a start!

So crazy. So fun. We got back to the train station around 8 o’clock at night and William and I headed to our respective places in a shared taxi (his host family lives semi-near my hotel) and we all agreed to meet up in the morning to go see the Ballet Folklorico, which I am quite excited about.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Guadalajara, Mexico--Day 125

Today I went to the Guadalajara Zoo first thing in the morning. To my luck, I got there just in time as it was opening and the hippos were situation right in the front of the zoo! I go to their enclosure and found both of them still in their pen eating their breakfast. Perfect! This just meant that I had to wait for them to walk out so that I could get some pictures of them.

It didn’t take long before the male wandered out and down into their water hole that was just filling up. So I took lots of pictures of him and then waited for the female to show herself. She finally did after a while and went straight to the faucet that was filling up the pool and started to clean her teeth with the water spray. It was so funny and luckily the hoards of school children had passed at this point so I didn’t have to fend off anyone or push small children out of the way to get some good pictures.

Also to my luck there was a woman zoo worker who was situated in a booth right by the hippos so I asked her what their names were (Felipe and Maurilia) and soon thereafter I was on my way back to my hotel to get these pictures organized and sent on their way back to the United States.

However the taxi driver didn’t know where my hotel was this time so he dropped me off at a shopping mall nearby which walked around for a bit before catching another cab just down the street to my hotel.

I got back to the hotel but it took a while to get the pictures ready and then to organize FedEx from the hotel. But finally they were all done and sent on their way, and I had some free time. I decided that I wanted to change my flight from here back to Tucson for a day earlier since I will only have just barely 2 days back in Tucson before leaving for Vienna next Thursday. I originally was supposed to arrive in Tucson on Tuesday afternoon, then leave on Thursday afternoon, but I changed my flight to leave on Monday instead. So this meant that I had to track down the American Airlines building and change my ticket in person. Just as I showed up a group of three walked in right before me so it took much longer than expected and I had to wait (and my taxi driver who insisted on waiting for me had to as well, which meant that I was going to have to pay him extra for waiting). Oh well.

Finally I got my new ticket and was on my way to the Chamber of Commerce here in Guadalajara because I decided that I wanted to go on this thing called the “Tequila Express” tomorrow, which is an old train that takes you down to Tequila where you can then go on a tour of an old factory which still produces Tequila. I thought that it sounded like fun, if not very touristy, but that for all my friend’s sake, funny that I will have been at THE place in the world that is responsible for creating and contributing to so many crazy (should I say drunken?) college memories. So I got dropped off (he didn’t wait for me this time) and wandered around this huge nice building looking for the Tequila Express ticket booth. Kind of embarrassing when everyone is wearing suits and you are walking around going, um, I’m looking for tequila. Thanks.

So I finally found it and after some confusion with the ticket girl, I finally got and paid for a ticket for the Tequila Express for tomorrow. I also met three really nice people from Washington D.C. who are in Guadalajara for 2 weeks of Spanish training for their new jobs. William, Cory (that’s her last name that she goes by) and Swati were all really nice and also going on the Tequila Express tomorrow so we got to talking and I ended up sharing a cab ride with them to more or less the center of town. It was really nice to get talking with people and knowing that I would have people on the tour with tomorrow to talk with as well.

After walking back from where the cab dropped us off into town, I then got something to eat for dinner and walked around a bit more before returning back to my hotel for the night.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Morelia, Mexico--Guadalajara, Mexico--Day 124

Today I took the bus from Morelia to Guadalajara which was again really nice, except the fact that we watched Troy (one of the movies I saw at the theater this week) and it was definitely a bootlegged copy! Anyways, the first movie was Troy and then after that there was this bizarre Japanese vampire movie with Jackie Chan in it, all of which I could hardly follow along with. So I spent most of the trip looking outside! I was so impressed with the scenery--all of the amazing little towns surrounded by green mountains and blue skies. Mexico is defiantly a gorgeous place!

We arrived in Guadalajara 3½ hours later and I got a taxi to my hotel. The taxi driver did his best to speak to me and even tried a little bit of his English and before I knew it he was offering to be my “private escort” for the week and was handing me all sorts of phone numbers that I could call to reach him “any time of day.” Hmmm. He seemed like 16 years old and to top it off still had braces, but I politely took his number anyways with a smile.

I checked into my hotel here and the doorman was seriously concerned that I was by myself. Did I like traveling alone? He asked me VERY concerned. I told him that I didn’t mind and he said, but you are what, 18? 19 years old?? And I just laughed and said, um, no, 23. And he was SHOCKED. Boy, no wonder my brace-face taxi driver hit on me!!

Anyways, after assuring the doorman that yes, I was just fine on my own, I unpacked my things and got my stuff ready to go to the zoo. I went out to get a taxi and the doorman was worried that the zoo was an hours’ drive away, and that it was getting late. Good point! It was around 2 o’clock at this point and since I wasn’t sure how much time I would need at the zoo, I should probably wait until tomorrow. So I got a taxi down to the center of town and spent the afternoon walking around Guadalajara, which is really interesting and filled with different monuments to just about every significant person associated with the city as possible. I also learned that you can’t exchange money in banks after 3 o’clock here (it was like 3:10pm when I tried to) and found that I had only 70 pesos in my pocket--was that enough to get something to eat and then back to the hotel?

I chanced it and got a quick bite to eat and a taxi back to the hotel, with just enough pesos to spare.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Morelia, Mexico--Day 123

Today I got a taxi to the Morelia zoo as soon as I was ready and had eaten breakfast. The zoo was actually really quite big yet didn’t have any maps to show you around! I asked about where the hippos were and eventually found them--5 unnamed hippos all in their swimming hole. It was pretty darn cute because there were two babies in the group and they were all lying one on top of the other and giving me that suspicious look, questioning what I was doing there.

To my luck, it was just about feeding time and the keepers came with a big barrel of hay which prompted all of the hippos to get out of the water (click click click!) and then eat (more click click click!). I was happy but not too happy that the keeper told me they didn’t have names. Nonetheless, I was happy with the results of the pictures and after about an hour was off on my way back to my hotel.

Back at the hotel I organized all of the hippo photos that I have acquired from Mexico at this point and by the time I Was finished it was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. So I grabbed another taxi to the downtown area of Morelia and walked around a bit, getting some coffee and cake at a café just as it started to downpour with rain. After the rain let up for a bit I walked around some more and found yet another movie theater and as it started to pour again, decided to see another movie. Since I hadn’t been feeling well the past few days (slight tummy bug!) sitting down and realizing in a theater was a welcoming comfort.

After the movie, I went outside and found that it had stopped raining so I walked around a bit in the center some more taking pictures and then got dinner at a small restaurant. I ate while watching some telenovela in which the crisis at the moment appears to be a sister in the hospital surrounded by plastic wrap to keep either her from getting sick from other people, or other people getting sick from her. I watched it anyways and when I paid my bill, headed back to my hotel.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Mexico City, Mexico--Morelia, Mexico--Day 122

This morning I got up early and went straight to the zoo to take the hippos pictures. I found three wonderful hippos with NAMES (a first for Mexico!) and took pretty much most of the morning taking pictures of Olga, Billa and Guerro. After taking pictures at the zoo I walked around the park that the zoo was in (Chapultepec Park) and ended up at the amazing Castle in the center, which is often a summer residence for royalty or emperors. The castle was really neat although I really didn’t have too much time to really appreciate it. After about an hour, I had to go straight back to my hotel and had to check out and take a taxi to the airport to catch my flight to Morelia. I found my gate a lot easier this time (same one as the one before when I was flying to Puebla) and waited for my flight. Again it was the same deal as going to Puebla--really small 1950s turbo prop airplane. This time around had a little more turbulence than before and one girl near me spilled her entire drink on her lap!

We landed, I got a taxi to my hotel and checked in. It was just starting to rain at this point yet it was too late to actually go scout out things in town, but too early to not do anything so I actually went to a movie theater and saw a movie before taxi-ing it back to my hotel to sleep.

(c) 2204 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Photo--Some of Raul's Hippos

Photo--Raul from Hippolotofus and Me!

Photo-- Puebla Cathedral

Puebla, Mexico--Mexico City, Mexico--Day 121

Today I met with Raul from Hippolotofus, but first, let me talk about how I got to Mexico City. Orignially I was supposed to fly from Puebla onwards to Morelia, without a stop in Mexico City (Well, stopping there with a layover, but not acutally spending any time there). When Raul suggested that we meet, I changed my plans and hopped on a bus to Mexico City, which only took a few hours. I had checked out of the hotel and went to the bus station, where I had been twice already, but this was the first time I was actually needing to use a proper bus there! So I got my ticket and before I knew it was off to Mexico City.

The ride to Mexico City was fine and I got a taxi to the hotel that Raul found for me and checked in. I then called Raul to let him know that I made it, and then set off to the zoo to get the hippo pictures at the Zoologico de Chapultepec in Mexico City. However when the taxi took me there, we realized that since it was Monday, the entire park that the zoo was in was closed! I would have to come back in the morning. So I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the area that my hotel was in as I was to meet up with Raul later and had a couple of hours to spare.

At 6pm I met Raul at my hotel (who could miss him with his hippo shirt!) and we were off first to his office at the Technological University where he works and then to his apartment where I would get to see his hippo collection. Raul showed me around his office and I met his colleagues and his collection of hippos in his office. We then braved the rain outside and drove to his apartment. Raul showed me the highlights of his collection, including his first hippos that he collected as well as his prized crystal hippos and Star Wars themed hippos, which are actually a blend of his two collections, hippos and Star Wars memorabilia. After getting some great photos and seeing the lot, we headed to the Rainforest Café and took some pictures in front of supposedly the only hippos at a Rainforest Café (at lesat to Raul’s knowledge). Nevermind that we weren’t going to eat there! We just walked in, took the pictures, and left, ignoring the strange looks we got from the waiters inside.

After all of this it was getting late and we went to get dinner at a fabulous Mexican restaurant complete with mariachis and margaritas. Dinner was great and it was fun to be able to talk with Raul about his job and intersest in all things hippopotami. After dinner we set of on a mini tour of the zocalo where Raul pointed out all of the cool sights for me as I didn’t get to the zocalo earlier in the day. By this time it was well past midnight and Raul dropped me off back at my hotel!


(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pyramid and ruins at Cholula

Cholula, Mexico--Day 120

Today I braved the public buses in Puebla and took a bus over to Cholula, which is about a 30 minute bus ride away and has the coolest archeological ruins and the largest pyramid (by volume) in the world, called the Teneapa Pyramid! The man at the tourist center told me last night that I would have no problem getting a bus, I would just have to walk myself over to the bus station and hop on one. Sounded simple enough! So I walked and walked and finally made it to this Cholula bus station and paid my 4 pesos (40 cents) for my ride over to Cholula.

The buses in Mexico are great because as I found out, you don’t really have to be standing at a bus stop at all for it to pick you up. You just have to wave it down and it will come to a screeching halt or swerve over to pick you up, all of which is very frightening but also exciting to watch as people jump on and off. I was thankful that I got on the bus when it first departed and didn’t have to worry about having to jump onto the bus before it took off again.

Once in Cholula, I got off at a place where I thought would be near the center of town and luckily it was. I found myself pretty much near the zocalo and walked around it for a bit and visited some of the very cool churches around the main square.

Then I headed up to the top of this hill just outside of town to the top where there is a beautiful church (there are actually 37 different churches in Cholula!). Now this isn’t just any old hill, but its actually the Teneapa pyramid, which is underground and actually three pyramids built with one on top of the other! So cool. The hike up the pyramid (its hard to believe that it is a pyramid when just looking at it) was a little bit of a walk but it was great to get a view of Cholula from up top. I then walked down and bought a ticket into the tunnels in the pyramid and wandered around those for a bit, which was really amazing but also a tad creepy. Then I walked around the ruins surrounding the pyramid and church.

Afterwards I walked around a bit more and sat on the grass for a while watching a clown street performance, then decided it was time to catch a bus back to Puebla. I got a Popsicle and flagged down a bus and hopped on. This one was going to take me back to the Puebla bus station (the main huge one) but at least I was going to get back to Puebla! Once I got to the bus station I decided that I could manage a local bust o get me back to the center of Puebla, rather than getting a taxi. So I followed the directions in my guide book and made it to the other side of the street and flagged down a bus taking me to the Cento. This bus was old and very rickety, and every time it turned I had to hold on--tight. Hot and sweaty and forty-five minutes later I got off the bus sort of near the center (at least I knew where I was today) and I walked back to my hotel and the central plaza.

In the central plaza there was sort of a dance exhibition going on, but this time it was older couples all doing the meringue and stuff--more like a dance showcase. Apparently on the last Sunday of every month people father here to show of their skills, with anyone being allowed to join in! How cool! So I stood there and watched for a while when a girl came up to me. She looked just about my age and definitely not from around these parts, and asked me if I was here by myself.

We started talking and it was funny because she was from Switzerland and could only speak Spanish and French, and I can only speak English and Spanish, so we had to talk in Spanish. She had been here for 9 months so her Spanish was just unbelievable and I kept making mistakes simply because I was intimidated by her Spanish skills. Anyways, we decided to go to the market and get something to eat for dinner but first I had to go make a phone call to Raul, from Hippolotofus, whom I was going to meet with the next day.

Laura said that she would wait for me and watch the dancers so I went back to the hotel to call Raul. After talking with him, the minute I hung up the phone it started to POUR with rain. Like, a torrential downpour if I have ever seen one myself. I thought of Laura waiting outside for me and grabbed my umbrella to go see if she was still there and raced out. I got to the center square where the dance was and found it absolutely deserted of dancers and the stage taken up by the clowns given a performance to all of those lucky ones who were stuck in the middle of the square under a giant tarp. No sign of Laura.

I was absolutely soaked and felt really bad that she potentially waited for me for a while, and that now I had missed her. I walked all around the square trying to find her but eventually gave up because I was absolutely drenched myself. I thought the rain might let up, so I raced back to my hotel to change and warm up. No luck, it continued to rain like crazy and I never made it back out of my hotel or to meet with Laura again.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.