Yesterday, I finished up my last day of Spanish school. I learned (and re-learned) a lot, and although I’m nowhere near fluent, I’m comfortable getting around town and even engaging more with my host family. I had a delightful conversation en español with Anita the other day about how microwave popcorn is just not the same as movie theatre popcorn. After my final class, I went out for a little tequila with a fellow student, Lisa from Atlanta. She’s older than me and very well-traveled. We talked about places we’ve been and where we want to go, and I’m even more confused about my plans now than before. In a good way! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ll pretend my indecisiveness is exciting instead of frustrating until I figure out next steps.
This weekend, I’m just relaxing and enjoying the last few days in my little room in Puebla. I was glued to my laptop the better part of today watching a live broadcast of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Powerful stuff that makes me feel a little more hopeful about the state of my country right now. I tore myself away for a couple of hours to grab a giant cemita for lunch, buy a bus ticket, and pop into a cute Italian market where the nice guy working there sold me a bottle of Sangiovese. And tarallini! I have trouble finding those at home sometimes. I’ll enjoy them with some queso de cabra tonight.
Next week, I’m heading south to Mérida to meet up with the friends I made here two years ago: Ken and Martha, and Melody (her husband Cordel is working in Canada at the moment so unfortunately I won’t be able to see him). They’ve worked out a joint custody agreement so I’ll get to stay with everyone for a bit. My only serious plan for Mérida is to eat seafood–I don’t trust it here in Puebla. Other than that, I just want to chill out in the heat and enjoy some shenanigans with some of the best people I met on my last big trip.
I’ll leave you now with some Susan Tedeschi because women rock.
Today, I wrapped up my first week back in Puebla. The city is pretty much how I remembered but I had forgotten some of its idiosyncrasies. The intersections only have streetlights on two out of four sides, so you occasionally have to twist your head around to see if it’s safe to cross. The municipal gas trucks play loud music as they cruise through town. There are VWs everywhere thanks to the nearby Volkswagen plant.
My favorite restaurants are still here: Las Ranas for al pastor, El Paisa for carne asada tacos, and Los Portales for tostadas and molotes. The food remains delicious and potentially hazardous. Montezuma may not be seeking revenge on me but I feel he’s being…I don’t know. Passive aggressive? I’m not sick but without getting into too much detail, I keep running out of toilet paper at an alarming rate.
I’m back at the same Spanish school in the same classroom struggling with the same past tense verb conjugations.
I’m going to be honest and say that this trip did not have the best of starts. My first few days here in Mexico have been lonely and exhausting. The adjustment from living in my quiet wine country apartment back to hostel life was rough, though I had expected that. Although the hostel was booked to capacity, no one actually hung out there and I didn’t make any new friends. I got the creaky top bunk in a cold room. New Year’s Eve was spent watching Other People on Netflix on my laptop and trying not to cry in front of the one other person in the common area. My Spanish is not as competent in practice as I thought it would be. As I am prone to spiraling, I began asking myself what I’m doing with my life. What if this trip isn’t as fun as the last? What if I don’t meet more amazing people?
Then I remembered how daunted I felt when I first got to Mexico two years ago. I even looked up a post from then. Here is something I wrote:
Part of me wants to throw in the quick-drying travel towel and go home but I’m not ready to pack it in just yet. For one thing, I already paid the deposit on my language school in Puebla. But I also know that this may be the only time I quit my job and uproot my life to travel.
Here I am in Puebla, having once again quit a job and uprooted my life to travel. It’s not going to be the same experience. It can’t be. But after I wrote that post, I wound up moving through Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia for another five months, generally having a ball. I have no idea what will happen this time but I definitely need to relax and at least see how the next few weeks go.
The good news is, I start Spanish classes back at Livit tomorrow. I met with Scott, the proprietor of the school briefly earlier and it was nice to see a familiar face. He walked me to meet my host family and I’m in my own room in their home now already feeling a little more comfortable. Hopefully Spanish will start sinking in again. I have friends to visit in the Yucatan. It’ll be okay.
Five intensive weeks of filling my brain with rudimentary Spanish made me tired. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to do anything in Oaxaca other than unwind. My last night in Puebla was spent drinking too much tequila and beer with my friends and being talked into going to a Luche Libre fight night.
It might have been the alcohol, but Lucha Libre was SO FUN: the costumes, the audience members with musical instruments creating their own soundtrack, and the obviously choreographed “fighting” made for surprisingly great time. The next morning, not so much. I had gone to the fight with fellow students from Livit as well as a new friend from my Puebla hostel, Riana from Canada. She happened to be heading to Oaxaca the next day too so we forced our hungover selves to chug some Gatorade and make the 4.5 hour bus ride south. It was not super pleasant, but we arrived.
On Friday, I wrapped up five weeks of Spanish classes. Including the week I spent in Puebla before school started, I’ve spent six weeks in total here. Thanks to the homestay aspect of the school program, I had my own bedroom and bathroom for five whole weeks. Privacy and the ability to unpack were such luxuries. The bathroom was especially appreciated last weekend when some jerk named Montezuma came seeking revenge on me. What did I do to you, Monty? Now that I think of it, the only other time I’ve been sick on this trip was in Chiang Mai when I treated myself to my own space. Maybe when I have my room, I get punished with stomach issues. No fair, travel gods.
This morning after breakfast, I said goodbye to my hosts, Margo and Fernando, put my 40 liter backpack back on, and trekked back to the hostel I stayed at when I first arrived in Puebla. The guy at the front desk remembered me. He speaks perfect English and we communicated in English during my initial stay. This time, we spoke in Spanish. I didn’t understand every single word he said but I got the gist of everything. The gist is useful.