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En casa

Time January 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m homeeeee!! What a great feeling! I got back a week ago, and have been loving every minute since.

Total travel time last Thursday from my grandparents’ house in Jalisco to my parents’ house in New York was 26 hours. First the walk with my grandpa from our house to the bus station. Then an 8-hour bus ride to Guadalajara. Next a taxi ride to the airport. Followed by a three-hour flight to Phoenix. And another four hour flight to Newark. Next a train ride with two transfers. And finally a thirty-minute car ride home! It sounds like a lot, but I’ve gotten so used to traveling in the past few months that I’ve come to enjoy it. Also, it felt appropriate that it was a big process to get home from this crazy semester. ☺

My dad was supposed to get to my grandparents’ house the day before I left, but because of flight delays, we just missed each other, and I still haven’t seen him! He gets home on Sunday, so I’m excited for that. Also, he has my cellphone with him, which is in some sense a blessing in disguise (the day I got home I was getting e-mails and facebook messages from what felt like the whole world, and felt too exhausted to respond to them for a few days – you can’t ignore your cellphone in the same way!).

It has been so nice being home! Although it’s obviously a big change being back, it doesn’t feel at all unnatural; I thought it’d be much weirder to be back, but maybe the weirdness is yet to come haha. The day after I got here it snowed about four inches of good snow (not icy, not slushy), and I felt as if it was just for me. ☺ Everything I’ve eaten has tasted like the best food ever, and my mom even saved me a jug of apple cider from the fall! I’ve baked chocolate cookies and started knitting a scarf and snuggled with my dog and visited my grandma and begun watching Season 5 of Mad Men with my mom (which we had been saving since I left in August so that we could watch it together). I’ve started planning out next semester and have caught up with friends and am even getting excited to go back to school in less than three weeks!

Now that I’m home (and even since I got to my grandparents’ in Jalisco), I feel very far away from Mérida, but I think that’s okay. I had to fill out a study abroad evaluation for Amherst the other day, and I couldn’t really answer any of the questions yet. How do you respond to “How did you grow personally from study abroad?” I’ll be needing some time to process and figure out what I “learned” etc., not to mention that I don’t think it can be summed up in one box in a survey, and most of that processing probably won’t happen until winter break is over. For now I’m just really thankful that I got to spend four and a half months in Mexico and meet so many new people and see so many new places!

Thanks for reading and happy new year all!



End of the World

Time January 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written December 21st, 2012, the first day of the new Mayan era, a.k.a. the day the world was supposed to end

It’s down to my last 6 days in Mexico! Four months have gone by so quickly! 128 days down, only 6 to go.
Since I last wrote:

(1) Trip to Isla Mujeres After the IFSA program ended, I spent a couple of days at a hostel in the center of Mérida with a few friends from the program, relaxing, eating cajeta-filled crepes, and planning our trip to Isla Mujeres. After some minor mishaps (we went to the wrong bus station, meaning we had to lug our suitcases across the city not once, but twice; also we forgot to ask for the student discount when we bought our bus tickets, agh!), we were finally on our way to Cancun the morning of December 3rd. Once in Cancun we took a short boat ride out to Isla Mujeres, which is a very small but very touristy island in the Caribbean. The next week we pretty much did nothing but lay on the beach, eat avocado and cheese tacos and ice cream, and sleep. It was very strange but pleasant. I love beaches, and this one was beautiful, but I don’t think I would go again, because of how uncomfortable I am with the contradiction that places like those are. It was a cool one-time experience though. When it was time to leave, I was sad to say bye to the last of my program friends, but ready to leave the island. I also was getting a little nervous about going back to the “real world” for the first time in four months, where family members exist and expect things from you, like being home on time and helping out around the house.

(2) Finally back in the real world and in real Mexico: Jalisco I flew to Guadalajara on Sunday, December 9th, and stayed with my aunt who lives there for a couple of days. (SIDENOTE: That night when we turned on the TV, we saw that Jenni Rivera had died in a plane crash earlier the same day! She was this singer from L.A. who sang banda, norteña, etc., and was currently a coach on La Voz México (which is like being a judge on American Idol), which made her death particularly impactful right now.) Staying with my aunt was a nice transition to being with family and washing dishes again. On Tuesday I got on the 6 a.m. bus to Huejuquilla, where my paternal grandparents and a lot of my family live. I arrived at 3:30 p.m. and was not surprised to see that even though I hadn’t been back in two and a half years, things are still pretty much the same as I had left them, except some new roads have been paved and my little cousins aren’t so little anymore. It’s nice to be in the midst of people and things that seemed so far away when I was in Yucatán, like banda music blasting outdoors in the daytime and going to buy a kilo of tortillas at the tortilleria in the morning with Lety and being yelled at by my grandma about everything constantly… But really it’s great to be in a familiar place with familiar faces again. It’s making me even more excited to be back in New York and see my parents in just a few days!!

*Some Jenni Rivera for you:


Not the end (but kind of the end)

Time December 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written December 1st:

Once again I’m in a coffee shop, this time Café Punta del Cielo in the center of Mérida. Today is a special day for a few reasons. It’s Saturday, which means Se Vale, a show that lasts like six hours and transcends description, is on TV. It’s on all afternoon, and right now as I am watching there are puppies on it modeling raincoats, tutus, etc.

Today is also significant because it is the day the newly elected president Enrique Peña Nieto takes office here in Mexico. A lot of my friends have been posting statuses like, “Don’t forget to set your clocks back 70 years today!” There were riots and protests in Mexico City this morning as Peña Nieto was being sworn in. People are generally very unhappy about the PRI coming back into power, and for good reason.

Today is also the official end date of our IFSA-Butler program. I have a few more days in Mérida though, and almost a month left in Mexico, so I don’t feel quite yet like my time here is over. My time as a study-abroad student has ended, I guess, but that hasn’t really hit me yet – or maybe it has and I’m just in denial haha. The last week and a half have been busy with final projects and papers and going to all our favorite places one last time, and when Thursday came around and I had to begin saying my actual goodbyes to people here in Mérida and to my program-mates, I got pretty sad, but I still haven’t really grasped that I won’t be seeing them again soon. I moved out of my host family’s house today and said goodbye to them, and even that felt somewhat surreal.

I’ve tried to start reflecting on this whole semester a little bit, but I still feel like it’s too close for me to get any perspective on it/I feel like I’m having sensory overload with all these goodbyes and changes and can’t focus on anything. One thing I did get to reflect on this week: At the beginning of the semester in our program Spanish class we had to record ourselves reading a short passage in Spanish. This week we re-recorded ourselves reading the same passage, then listened to the recordings we did in August. My classmates obviously improved a lot, but I didn’t think that there would be much of a difference in my readings, but there was! My reading has gotten so much better in these few months. I now read smoothly without hesitating or stumbling on difficult words. I was really happy to see that I’ve improved.

Another nice thing: I had my last day of volunteering at my fourth grade classroom at the elementary school, and all the kids made me goodbye cards! I was so surprised and so touched that their teacher Karla had them all do that for me. Then they attacked me with hugs when I tried to leave. :)

Next I’ll be headed to Isla Mujeres with a few friends from the program for about a week. My first Caribbean vacation! After that I’m flying up to Jalisco to visit my family for a few weeks, and then at the end of December I’ll be going back to the U.S. Lots of things to look forward to!!


Distrito Federal

Time November 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written November 19th, 2011, at a Starbucks on Calle 16 de septiembre in the historic center of Mexico City.

It’s the day after my 21st birthday and I’m in Mexico City!! Three other girls from the IFSA program and I flew up for the long weekend (got here on Thursday morning and will be here through tomorrow morning), and it has been amazing! It’s my first time in Mexico City, other than layovers at the airport, and the combination of that and my 21st birthday means that this trip has actually been the best ever.

I feel like a theme of my semester here in Mexico has been transforming my idea of what Mexico is and what it means to be Mexican and of course how this relates to me and to my experiences previous to studying abroad. Mexico City has blown me away. One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot here: my favorite professor back at Amherst (who happens to be from the DF) taught a class last spring on the argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. I disliked almost everything we read in the course, and got into many discussions in class and at office hours about what subjects a Latin-American writer should write about – is it okay if he writes about Europe? About philosophy? About rich people? Avoids the subject of love? Borges does all these things and I was uncomfortable with that, felt that he was not focusing on the “real” Latin America’s everyday troubles and cares and people. This trip hasn’t made me like Borges suddenly, but in the past few days, spending time at the Palacio Bellas Artes, a million other museums, hanging out with people who are all Mexican in such different ways, I think I finally know/understand that there are many realities in Latin America, and it’s unjust to have this box in my mind that everyone should be from Jalisco and love salsa Valentina and dancing just because I do. Because thinking that THAT is what makes me Mexican marginalizes everyone who doesn’t fit into that. This is something that talking to and learning about my IFSA program spanish teacher has also brought me to realize. Like I pride myself on being so complex and having such an interesting background, but I wasn’t allowing other people to do the same, or I wasn’t open to understanding them fully.

So many not-fully-formed thoughts! I don’t know, I’ve just been loving Mexico City. Like if I lived here I could just be all of myself, completely unrestricted. I realize this is a fantasy; obviously DF is more than the Basílica and the Zócalo and the hipster parties in Roma neighborhood, but I do think there’s a little bit of truth in what I’m feeling.

Oh right, what did we do in DF? Walked up Paseo de la Reforma for hours, spent a day in Chapultepec, a forest in the city with lakes, museums, tortas, etc., saw a concert at Palacio Bellas Artes, explores tons of neighborhoods, went to so many museums that my feet are blistered and I couldn’t even read captions anymore. Saw Frida Kahlo’s house, a ceramic piece of art called Bebopera II, hung out with friends of our friend’s sister’s who were super interesting, biked, visited many bookstores and a library, went to UNAM’s campus (stupidly on a Saturday so everything was closed), ate tortas and tacos and huaraches and starbucks and bad italian food and good italian food and heard all kinds of music on the street and in stores and at bars (cumbia electronica??) and had great conversations and felt so lucky to be living this right now and so ready to share it with everyone and learn from it etc. etc. etc. :)

Basically it’s been sick and I want to come back and live here forever or something!



Time November 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past two weeks were our two big trips with our IFSA-Butler program.


First we spent three days in Yaxunah, a Mayan village near Chichén Itzá here in Yucatán. We went with a professor from the Tourism department at la UADY who teaches my Environmental Education class. He is pretty involved with leading projects within the community, although he isn’t from there, which was interesting to observe. My peers and I stayed in rented rooms that were in the houses of various families in the village, and spent the three days helping with gardening projects at those houses. We also visited the site of Mayan ruins just outside of Yaxunah, swam in the gorgeous cenote in the center of town, and shared food and conversation with a local community service group for kids called the Jaguares.

Next we went to Chiapas, which I was SO SO SO excited for. Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, is famous not only for being beautiful, but also for being the site of the Zapatista uprising of the 1990s. We visited the Mayan ruins of Palenque, the waterfalls at Agua Azul, and the city of San Cristobal and its surrounding villages. I loved all of it and took a million pictures in Chiapas, but then my camera broke! This means that for my trip to Mexico City next week I’m going to have to buy a disposable camera or two. For now though, enjoy the last pictures my little Casio camera produced!


Mid-way through

Time October 25th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been weeks since I’ve written, and much of that probably has to do with the fact that I’ve finally settled into a routine here in Mérida, and it’s increasingly difficult to get myself to sit down and reflect. I don’t want to get too far behind though! Tomorrow I leave for Yaxunah, a Mayan village nearby, where we will be staying for three days. Then I’ll be back in Mérida for a couple of days, next we’ll head to Chiapas for almost a week, then back to Mérida for a little over a week, then a few friends and I will be going to Mexico City for a few days, and then there will only be ten days left in the program!! Time is FLYING.

In the almost 4 weeks since my last blog post, I’ve spent little time outside of Mérida, and it’s been great. I’ve gotten to know my neighborhood and the city much better. The cashiers at the 7-eleven know me, I discovered a delicious bakery next to the park that is just block away from my house, and Sara and Maryclaire and I have been going to salsa classes at a dance studio near our houses. (We’ve even made friends with a couple of the dogs whose houses we pass on the way to class) Salsa class is a lot of fun. Our teacher is a great dancer and all the ladies are very sweet. It takes almost half an hour to walk to class and another half hour to walk back home, and the class itself is one hour, so this makes for a lot of exercise, which I think is a good thing considering how much pork is in my diet here. Haha but seriously, they eat so much pork. My other attempts at fitness have included four early morning walk/runs. I don’t have class until 10 a.m. and I have very little homework, so there’s really no reason I shouldn’t be able to wake up at 7:15 every morning to get some exercise in. Except it’s just really hard, so I usually don’t. Although every time I’ve gotten home from a morning run, my host parents have greeted me with applause and congratulations! This should be motivation enough. :)

Another part of my routine has been my volunteer work Friday mornings at a private elementary school in the city center. I help out in a fourth grade english class for an hour and a half. It’s me and the teacher and about 40 students (the kids like to refer to us as “Teacher number one” and “Teacher number two” – or occasionally I’m called “Teacher New York”), all of them clearly ready for the weekend, but we have a great time playing and reading and learning vocab together. This week I taught the kids how to draw turkeys. The teacher that I work with is fantastic, super hard-working and so fun. For the second hour and a half, I get to hang out with the teacher I work with (Carla) and her co-workers, the other english teachers at the elementary school. Another IFSA girl who I am close with and I just get to talk with them, practice our spanish and their english, share Pringles and relax. They’re all so interesting! They make me want to be a teacher too.

At this point you all must think that all my friends are either children, adults, or one of the ten IFSA students, but that’s not (completely) true. :) Since I last blogged, I’ve been somewhat more successful in making Mexican friends my own age! I’ll confess that overall that’s been one of the biggest challenges though. I came here expecting to make tons of of local close friends very quickly, and that wasn’t the case. It’s been a slow process and I’ve had to adjust my expectations. School isn’t necessarily an easy place to get to know people – many students already have their tight-knit groups and aren’t looking to go out of their way to get to know someone new. Some students are excited to meet new people though, and coming to terms with the fact that not everyone is as interested in becoming my best friend as I am in becoming theirs has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve learned a lot about how I relate to people though, and have actually met some great Mexican friends here that we hang out with regularly on the weekends.

I literally cannot believe how quickly this semester is going by! I promise that I’ll post again soon!

For now, here is a song that my friends and I have been listening to a ton lately:



Week 7

Time October 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Can’t spend much time blogging right now because I have my first actual paper and presentation of the semester due tomorrow (haha is this real life?), one and a half months into the start of classes. It’s on internal colonialism – for my anthropology of latin america class, the only course I’m taking here that will count towards my major (which means it kind of actually matters)!

For now, please enjoy these pictures of the past few days of my life here in Mérida!


That Music

Time September 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

All the Mexico travel books say that Mérida is the city of concerts, concerts, concerts, all of them free, all of them outdoor, all of them great! My friend Sara has reminded us on numerous occasions that her travel guide says under Mérida, “Bring your dancing shoes!” This is what many of my program-mates and I came determined to find. So it’s no surprise that much of our time thus far has been spent searching out the music scene.


I wouldn’t say that finding good music has been difficult, exactly, but I will say that it’s been a process, and an adventure-filled one at that. J


Attempt #1: It was our first full weekend in Mérida, and a group of us IFSA students were determined to find a club with live music. A quirky but likeable classmate was kind enough to suggest we go to the Mambo Café in el centro (downtown), and when my 60-something year-old host parents seconded the recommendation, my friends and I were convinced that it would be great. I collapsed in my bed from exhaustion at around 9 p.m. and didn’t ever make it to the club (haha shwoops), but the next day when I asked my friend what they had thought of it, they weren’t overly enthusiastic. The club featured a decent live salsa band but the crowd was mostly very dressed-up couples in their mid-thirties and older. Not quite what we were looking for. The night was deemed mediocre.


Attempt #2: Just a few days later we saw an ad for a contemporary dance troupe’s (free!) performance at the beautiful Teatro Armando Manzanero in el centro and jumped at the chance to go. On our way to the theater we passed a band performing in the main plaza, covering the popular Brazilian song “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”, and we were tempted to stay and listen, but no! We wanted to see some contemporary dance! So we continued to the teatro, and this is when my nostalgic Chicana ideas about Mexico were smashed. I expected to find some variation of folkloric dancers and mariachi music; in fact I was confronted by drearily-dressed dancers walking slowly around the stage to stereotypically Asian-sounding background music, occasionally interrupted by a pair of more quick-moving dancers dressed all in white and Celine Dion-sounding English songs.

I left confused, amused.


Attempt #3: I was woken up at 2:30 a.m. on a weeknight by unidentified neighbors singing loudly (but very well!) with guitar accompaniment. Got up to go to the bathroom, went back to sleep.


Attempt #4: It was the second weekend and we decided to try the clubs again. This time Maryclaire scoured the Internet for reviews until she found a club called “Noosfera” that was in an area of the city approved by her host mother. We ended up having a great time because we had great company, but the DJ mostly played music from the U.S. (Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” etc.) and there was very little dancing.

By far the best part of this night was learning the term “fresa” from Maryclaire’s host sister. Wikipedia explains it this way: “A slang term often used in Mexico to describe a cultural stereotype of superficial youngsters who many come from a high class and educated family. Fresas are mostly stereotyped as frivolous, self-centered and pretty much unintelligent; mostly as zombies who swirl through life solely thinking about “frivolous matters”. This club was definitely the fresa-iest place I’ve ever been.


Attempt #5: The following weekend we decided to go see the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra perform. It was a Friday night, and we got into el centro, bought our tickets (45 pesos! Less than 4 USD), and walked around the corner from the theater to a small outdoor café to drinks lemonades and cokes before the concert started. We were seated right near the singer performing at the café, and he was FANTASTIC. The weather was perfect, I finally was listening to good music, I was with good friends – I was having a moment.

We went into the orchestra concert, which was in the Teatro Peón Contreras (gorgeous), and I was reminded how much I love orchestra music. My enjoyment was doubled by the fact that the concert was a tribute to a composer from Jalisco (my family’s state!). I decided that the Yucatan Symphony is what all the travel books are talking about when they rave about the music scene in Mérida. It should be noted that my friends and I were the youngest people in the audience, haha, but that was fine by us.

After this we went to a house party with other students from UADY, which was probably one of da funnest house parties I’ve ever been to, and at which we heard everything from techno to banda to pop from someone’s iPod.

This night gets a 10 out of 10!!


Attempt #6: On Sunday afternoons, old people dance to live salsa music at the Plaza Santa Lucía. It is lovely to watch. Can’t wait until I’m an old person so I can join in on the fun!


Attempt #7: “Café Peña K’aay T’aan – Jóvenes Nuevos Valores (GRATIS)” the advertisement said. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night to the outdoor patio of the Casa de la Cultura Mayab, a local cultural center, expecting to find some really hip young kids playing some hip young music. I’m still not sure whether the ad intentionally misled us or if we just misinterpreted it, but regardless, what we found instead was a middle-aged woman singing salsa-sounding songs, accompanied by men ranging in age from 15 to 75 playing drums, guitar, piano, and bass. They were very good! The audience was mostly older people, and at this point my friends and I finally came to terms with the fact that we like old people and we like the things that old people like. I enjoyed it!


That’s what I’ve heard so far! Oh, and two hugely famous banda groups, K Paz de la Sierra and Banda Limón, are performing at the Grito (Independence day festivities) this weekend in Mérida, and my norteña self is way excited! Mérida really is filled with music, although I think that the travel guides should qualify that statement by adding that it is in a bit of an offbeat way. I think this suits me perfectly though!



Time August 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When my host mother first drove me back to our house in Mérida, I was surprised to see that there’s a 7–Eleven on the corner of the street where we live, and it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In my head I’ve been stretching this into a metaphor for my first week or so here. It’s been a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar, constantly catching me off-guard, but in a good way!

Starting from the beginning:

Wednesday, August 15th I said goodbye to my family and flew to Cancun, where I met our program director Diana (she made me feel so comfortable right away! she’s the best), her husband Francisco who is a UADY anthropology professor (equally incredible), and my program-mates (I was a little nervous about them at first haha, but I quickly grew to love them!), and eventually we drove about an hour to Tulum, the coastal city where we spent the next 3 days, aka orientation. Orientation consisted of getting to know the other girls (and 1 boy! Poor Patrick.) on my program, while climbing every Mayan ruin and swimming in every body of water in sight.

On the evening of Saturday, August 18th we got to Mérida and said our anxious goodbyes to our program-mates as our host families picked us up at the IFSA program office. My host parents are actually great! What a relief. J My host dad was born and raised in Mérida, and my host mom is from Mexico City. They’re very warm and great conversationalists, and have been hosting international students for 15 years, so they’re very comfortable and easy to live with. Together we enjoy watching a telenovela called “Amor Bravío” and walking around in the air-conditioned mall, among other things.

Ah, the mall reminds me – Mérida is much more Americanized/city-fied than I thought it would be. The longer I’ve been here the more I’ve realized that much of my knowledge of Mexico isn’t applicable in Mérida. Mérida is definitely not the same as small-town Jalisco, which has been a little shocking, but very interesting. To begin with, the whole city is segregated between the wealthy in the North (where I live) and the poor in the south, and from what I hear the two populations live very differently. I know little to nothing about the south thus far so I’ll save that for a future post. In the north, however, there are none of the old-lady-owned corner stores that I ignorantly thought existed all over Mexico. Instead practically every block has an Oxxo (chain) convenient store advertising 3 water bottles for $18.90 pesos. And here is a list of the American stores that are in the mall, off the top of my head: Subway, Nine West, Chili’s, Haagen Daas, Starbucks, Adidas… yet this is Mexico! And the people seem to love it. I don’t know how I feel about it all yet, but suffice to say I’ve been to the mall three times already, and to the Oxxo and 7-Eleven… I’ve lost count.


Oh and the whole reason I’m here – school! It’s so different. Here are some thoughts that run through my head simultaneously while I’m any of my 4 university classes:

This is so well organized!

This is so disorganized.

Ah, this course is discussion-based, I can do this.

This is so chaotic – why do the students keep yelling out of turn?!

I completely understand what is going on right now.

I have no idea what readings I’m supposed to do, no matter how many times I asked the person next to me.

So that’s school. And everyone wears pants to class even though it’s 90 degrees outside. It’s only been a week of school thus far so I have a lot of sorting through things to do before I can say much other than that it has been a lot of fun and I know I’ll have learned a lot by the time the semester is over!





24 hours whaaaat

Time August 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s 3:28 a.m. and my iTunes is helping me avoid the 22-item to-do list sitting next to me. In just under 24 hours I’ll be leaving my house in Warwick, NY for México! Surreal. I’m feeling: nervous, stoked, nauseous, giddy, tired, nervous nervous nervous, distracted – my thoughts are everywhere and trying to pin them down enough to write this post seems impossible, but here we go.

I’ll be spending this semester in Mérida, Yucatán living with a host family (Don Gonzalo y Doña María – I hope they like me!) and going to classes at UADY. I’m so excited to meet my program-mates (is that a word?) and be in a beautiful new place, but I’m sadder than I thought I would be about leaving the U.S. I really like being here! The past couple of weeks have consisted of goodbyes with family and college friends, repeated trips to CVS as I remember yet another thing that I need for Mérida, and relaxing with my parents and our dog Fifa in our small town. It’s been very quiet, and although that isn’t the usual style of my summers, I’ve enjoyed it. Exactly a year ago we moved out to Warwick from Chicago, so this is the first summer that my high-school friends don’t live within walking distance and that down-town isn’t a short train ride away. It’s taken some adjusting but I finally feel comfortable here, which makes leaving unwelcome.

Despite my anxieties about leaving home, I am thrilled about what is to come! My dad is from Jalisco and I’ve been there many times to visit my grandparents and extended family. I’m sure living and studying in Merida will be a very different experience from visiting my grandparents, but I am so looking forward to being on Mexican soil! Being Mexican-American and studying abroad in Mexico means that my expectations for myself in Merida are much higher than they should be, but even as the sensible part of me tries to reign my expectations in, my imagination is running wild with the possibilities (the Mexicans love me so much that they get rid of Peña Nieto and elect me as their first female president! Just kidding, not really though). All the pre-departure guides that I’ve had to read have warned me that I’m going to experience many ups and downs while abroad, so I’m trying to maintain a positive yet realistic attitude.

It’s so late right now that I’m embarrassed to write what time it is, which I think means that it’s time for me to cross “Write first blog post” off my list and get some rest.

How I stayed awake this long: