Falling in Love with Mexico

Guest buddy, Vanessa, describes her adventure as she gets to know Mexico better before deciding whether to move to Mexico City and set up a new life there, teaching English…

“I looked at the piñatas on the ceiling while the lady stamped my passport. Recently, airplanes make me nervous instead of excited. I was thrilled the 12- hour flight from Madrid to Mexico City was the smoothest I’ve ever had. There was not a single moment of turbulence the entire time. We only wore seatbelts for take-off and landing. I kid you not.

I was eager to see him already, but when the doors opened, he was not there. It was pandemonium. We got confused with the gate, but after 45 min. searching for each other in circles, I spotted him in the crowd. You could not miss him in Mexico City. Tall, light-skinned, and blonde, he towered among the much shorter, tanned, brunette crowd – where I blend in. He was dressed up, and with sunflowers in hand. Our long-awaited adventure began! We had not seen each other for three months.

I was not just visiting Bradley in Mexico City, though. This was not only our Christmas holiday, but a chance to determine whether I will move with him this summer, or choose a different country we both can enjoy. In the weeks to follow, I would be exposed to Mexico City’s many charms. Beginning with food…

I had mixed feelings about moving to Latin America before it was even up for discussion with Bradley. My family moved from Venezuela to the United States 15 years ago in pursuit of a much safer, better life. It was scary for me to look at the possibility of us moving to Mexico. But everyone that had been there spoke wonders of it, so I became very curious. After 14 days checking out the city for myself, this is what I was pleased to find…

Mexico City is big, Big, Big, BIG! The expat-friendly neighborhoods have so much to offer. The first thing I noticed was how green it was; I was excited to see the sidewalks lined up with tall, lush trees. There are trees everywhere in La Condesa neighborhood, where we took many walks around the colorful buildings and ate fancy cupcakes. We had lactose-free ice cream in Polanco, the impressive business area where we sat on the terrace of the fanciest Starbucks I have ever seen. But the winning neighborhood was La Roma, where Bradley currently lives. It has all the things I am looking for to live happily in Mexico City: colorful buildings, sidewalks full of trees, hipster coffee-shops galore, delicious taco stands, a fabulous Japanese market, a small theater (where we enjoyed a rom-com play), and plenty of elementary schools (where I hope to get a job as an English teacher).

On my last day, we visited Coyoacan, which is a more colonial neighborhood. It is the kind of pretty, lively, cultural place where people might retire. This is where Frida Kahlo’s house is, which you can visit, and I was so disappointed when we could not get in on my last day in Mexico. Buy your tickets in advance or go early in the morning; in other words, be better prepared than I was.

After reading a book, watching a movie, and listening to a radio program about her life, I was ready to dive into her home turned museum and soak it all in, but I guess it is something to look forward to later this year. Instead, we went to the house of the Ukranian communist, Leon Trotsky. It was not necessarily something that was on my original to-see list, but it is quite historical, and much more accessible than the sold out Frida museum.

On the bright side, we did make it to my top sight for this particular trip: The Teotihuacan Pyramids. About an hour outside the city, we took a bus from the bus station linked to the metro stop Autobuses del Norte on the yellow line #5. The cost of the ticket to Teotihuacan was 46 pesos, which is the equivalent of €2.04 (Mexico City is incredibly affordable if you come from the outside).

I had heard the Teotihuacan pyramids had something to do with the Aztecs, but was not aware of their history and significance until we got home that night and watched a documentary about them. I recommend finding out some information prior to your visit, so your appreciation for them increases. We did not have a tour guide, and the signs don’t explain much. We climbed the big Pyramid of the Sun, impressive on its own. But the view was best from the Pyramid of the Moon, which we learned is actually 7 pyramids built inside each other, just like a Russian doll.

Teotihuacan was bigger than the Roman Empire, founded by the Aztecs when they were presumably escaping a massive fire. Who built Teotihuacan, why they built it, why they abandoned it, or what language its builders even spoke is unknown. Like the documentary explains, The Aztecs believed it to be the most sacred place in the Universe, so “they named it Teotihuacan: The Place of the Gods.”

We waited about one hour in line to be able to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. The whole experience of waiting, climbing up, soaking the view, and coming down took us nearly 3 hours. But we were hardly done.

There was also the Pyramid of the Moon, said to be used for ceremonies opened to the public. There was a smaller pyramid in the distance, which we did not make it to. When you visit the pyramids, expect a lot of dusty wind and bring a hat (or buy one!  The place is filled with vendors, just like any good tourist site). At the end of our visit, we enjoyed a cup of fresh papaya and a cup topped up with delicious coconut. They sell so much fresh fruit, and I advise you to save it for the end, when you will need to regain your strength from all those walking. We had a beautiful day under the sun – an adventure to remember.

But there were a few bumps on the road during my visit. Some of them made it to the cons column of my mental list to decide if I could live here. The first thing I disliked was that toilet paper must be tossed in the trash-can, not the toilet. This creates a general unpleasant smell. But I can deal with that by taking the trash out daily and lighting incense and candles.

A true downer was the public transport.  The metro is not the miraculous, clean convenience I am used to in Madrid. When having drinks with one of Bradley’s friends, who was born and raised in Mexico City, he highly recommended walking or biking instead of frequenting the buses and metro.

Mexico City is filled with contrasts, and my mind continuously noted things on the pros and cons list. When we went to the city center (Zócalo metro stop on the blue line), I was impressed by the big Cathedral and square. Had I not known I was in Mexico City, this could have been any city center in Europe.

I was not so aware of its many charms before my visit. I also admit finding the bright side to any place is not difficult when in love. Love makes all the cons on my list less troublesome. And the pros are overpowering…about Mexico…about everything.

Our goodbye was tragic. Bradley and I were looking at spending the next 4-6 months apart, but we looked forward to our future in Latin America with joy! I will continue to teach English in Madrid until June while applying to schools in Mexico City for this fall. “Make the most of it,” Bradley told me at the airport. He knows I have a love affair with Europe, and the next six months will be like one big goodbye party for me. Unexpectedly so, my friend Kristen found amazing flight deals while I was whining about leaving Bradley in Mexico. By the time I landed in Spain, my friends and I had tickets to go to Palma de Mallorca at the end of the month. Let the bachelorette festivities continue!

Planning to relocate? I found these great top 5 tips for a smooth cultural move.”

ABOUT MEXICO:

Language: Spanish
Currency: Mexican Peso
Local Dishes:
Tlayuda – Originating from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, “tlayuda” is a large, fried tortilla topped with an assortment of ingredients including; refried beans, meat, cheese (also native to Oaxaca) and salsa.

Tacos al Pastor – Much like the Lebanese, “shawarma” Tacos al pastor contains marinated meat that is cut off a vertical rotisserie topped with pineapple juice to make the meat tenderer. Once the meat is cut, common ingredients seen in the taco include; finely chopped onions, hot salsa, and lime Juice.

Climate:
The climate of Mexico varies as the topography changes. Coastal fronts experience extremely hot temperatures in both summer and also in winter with only a 5 degree difference between the two seasons. More central cities and communities experience a comfortable and temperate climate throughout the year with varying temperatures between seasons. Cities with much higher elevation including the capital, “Mexico City” can reach sub-zero temperatures in the winter.

Fun Fact!

Mexican children do not receive presents on Christmas day but rather on the 6th of January, the day the Mexicans celebrate the arrival of the “Three Wise Men”.

Getting ready for your Mexico trip? Learn Spanish with online buddies before you go – join the Speaking Cultures Spanish Group.

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