Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mexico City Day 2

Today we took the bus out to Teotihuacan, home of the Teotihucanos. Teotihuacan was the biggest Mesoamerican site, and had a population of about 150,000-200,000 and the 2nd largest pyramid in the western hemisphere called the Pyramid of the Sun, which we climbed. The site is spectacular and huge. Only parts of it have been saved as the actually site, and there are many houses built over the rest of the city, but for the most part you could see it. It was amazing how big these pyramids were. I'll put up pictures soon that show them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mexico City Day 1

Today we left Oaxaca at 9 on our own bus to come to Mexico City. It is only about 180 miles away but the bus ride takes about 6-7 hours. I'll put up pictures later of the bus ride, but it goes through mountains and windy roads, then once you get into Mexico City it took about an hour and a half pushing through traffic to get to our hotel.

The honking is ridiculous here. Its sort of like a chain reaction, one person starts and everyone else goes. Its not just for a friendly reminder to go, or to warn someone they're going to get hit, Mexicans honk at everything, for example construction sites like they're going to magically get up and move out of the way so they can get through.

Mexico City is huge, as we drove in you can see the urban sprawl, its like nothing I've ever seen before--I saw it when I landed in Mexico City a couple weeks ago. All of this sprawl is covered in smog, and as we got closer and closer you could smell the city on the bus. Today once we got here we walked around a little bit and then went out to dinner as a group. Dinner was at an awesome restaurant, and we all had a lot of fun.

Tomorrow we go to Teotihuacan, one of the biggest urban centers back in the day. Its supposed to be in the low 90s so it should be a nice day to walk around.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


We were able to convince our professors to have class on Tuesday so we could watch the inauguration. We went to a restaurant that had CNN in English to watch. It was pretty fun to watch with a mixed group of Americans and Mexicans (they also had CNN in spanish). Besides Obama being inaugurated, the loudest clapping and cheering was when Bush took off in the helicopter.

Here are some pictures http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/Inauguration#

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Weekend

Besides studying for the quiz that we were supposed to have on Monday, my host family and I went up to a mountain over looking the city of Oaxaca where we could see the city at night. While we were there, there was a car accident, so we got to see the ambulance and tow trucks come (there are pictures posted).
Here are the pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/OaxacaAtNight#

Also, I went to a grocery store called Soriana which is like there version of WalMart - without all the issues of WalMart. They sold everything from tires, to clothes, to food. It was interesting to see the different selections. My host mom had asked me if I would cook "American" food for them one night, so I did. They had almost everything in the store, the one thing that was hard to find was spagetti sauce. There was maybe a foot of shelf space designated for it, and all of it had mushrooms in it. One thing that was interesting about the supermarket was the fact that the isles were basically laid out in the same way as Stop & Shop at home--there's definitely some science behind it.
The pictures are here of me with my host mom and family cooking: http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/Cooking#

Monday, January 19, 2009

More height issues...

Today when I was working on our take home essays, yes, I studied all day on Sunday for the exam today and when we got to class the professor decided we were going to have a take home exam instead of an exam in class, we were in the Italian Coffee Company which is like the Oaxacan Starbucks. I went to go use the bathroom, and on my way out I looked at the mirror and you could see from my chest down--it was a pretty big mirror, you could see down to my knees. I then when back out into the main area of the coffee shop where there are computers for people to use. They are up on higher tables with normal size chairs, so they are meant for someone with a Michael Phelps torso...go figure.

Excursion 2

We went on a 2nd excursion last week on Tuesday, but I just had a chance to upload the pictures. We went to 4 different archaeological sites in Oaxaca Valley, Dainzú, Lambityeco, Mitla, and Yagul. All of these were occupied betwen about 200 CE to 1200 CE and even to the conquest in 1521. They all have different examples of post classic and classic Mesoamerica things, like temples, patios, alters, palaces, ritualistic areas. Some highlights include going into the Tombs at Yagul and Mitla (there was one in Mitla I couldn't fit into), rock climbing at Yagul and ending up way higher than the rest of the class, and my lunch (which is in the pictures) at Mitla which was an awesome Tostada that cost about 80 cents...the exchange rate here is awesome!

The pictures are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/Excursion2#

There are 2 things that at all the sites/in Oaxaca that are important to note:
1. The stairs--they are either really steep with skinny places to put your feet, so they are very far apart. If you look at the pictures from Monte Albán you can see the stairs up to the platforms, some times they are cracked. Most of the times they are very hard to walk up, so the Zapotecs who lived here must have had long legs and small feet.
2. Height--Most of the tombs and tunnels that are found are probably about 3-4 feet tall, not meant for a 6' 1" male. Many of them are hard to fit into, and I can't in some of them, or I have to crawl. In general, throughout the city of Oaxaca I have noticed that everything is built for smaller people. I have to watch my head all the time, as door enterances are 6' and there are sometimes sloped roofs out over the sidewalks that are low enough so I can smack my head. When we go out at night, I'm usually the tallest person at any of the places we go, unless there are other Americans there. Its a city built for short people.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Real Guacamole

It was all lies, TGIFridays, Chiles, even that real mexican place in Hartford!

The guacamole here is totally different, it is like avocado water with limes. It has the consistnacy of pudding. It is actually really good, but just not what I was expecting. They use it for tacos, and for eating shrimp, and just about everything. My host mom makes it in the blender and puts in water, limes, and avocados and blends it up. No tostidos here to dip in the guac. Its amazing how many different things we call "Mexican" are not really Mexican at all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wild Dogs

I wish I had my camera when I was walking home the other day, there were maybe 10 wild dogs walking around together. Oaxaca is full of wild dogs, they don't have collars and they're not spayed and neutered. They just run around and follow people wherever they go. Its a little scary because you don't know if they have rabies or not, and my host family says that a lot of them do. They are almost as dumb as my dog Ben, they walk out into the middle of the road when cars are coming, and with the way people drive here, I'm surprised they don't get hit. I've been followed home a couple times by them, but most of the time they are pretty friendly and are more scared of you then you are of them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hierve de Agua

On Saturday we took a trip in a van we rented up to Hierve de Agua. Translated literally into English it means boiling of the water. It got its name not from the water being warm, but the water coming up from an underground spring (see the pictures) and it looked as if it was boiling. The water was probably about 65/70 degrees, but it was only about 75 out when we were there (cold to the Oaxqueños). We did go swimming though. The water has iron and salt in it which makes these pools and gives the edges a reddish tint. In the time of Mesoamerica, people tried to plant and use the water, but it was unuseful due to the minerals within it. It does however, create a great tourist location. We had my mini ipod speakers and just hung out, since no one else was there because it is "winter" here.

Since I've heard a lot about how bad the winter in Chicago has been so far, I've been trying to explain to my family how the weather here is not cold. It gets down into the 50s at night which is great sleeping weather, but during the day it gets up into the 80s and 90s. I walked downstairs the other morning, and according to the thermometer on my travel alarm clock, the temperature in the house was about 64, and she was cooking breakfast with a down jacket, scarf and mittens on. They are definitely accustomed to a different climate.

The pictures from the trip are posted here: http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/HierveDeAgua#

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Classic Picture

Mark and I had Lauren take this picture of us leaning on Building J at Monte Albán, and it actually worked...we figured since we couldn't do it with the Eiffel Tower, we should do it here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monte Albán

Yesterday we took an excursion to visit Monte Albán, an archeological site that was around from about 500 BCE to 1521 when the Hispanic invaded Mexico. The main portions that you see, however, were built during the Classic Period which was from about 250 CE to 700 CE. Monte Albán is up on a high hill in the Oaxaca Valley, and was the most powerful city during its time there. It took a lot of man hours to level everything off and to build the huge pyramids.

I put up photos of the different it here: http://picasaweb.google.com/peterbrown4/MonteAlbN#

Monday, January 5, 2009

I made it!

So I made it to Oaxaca after a day of flying having flight attendants talk to me in Spanish even though I didn't understand them. My family picked me up from the airport in their Jeep, where we put all my luggage on top of their car. It was heavy but I got it up there.

Some first thoughts:
1. People here drive like maniacs, crossing the street is like a game and a death sentence all in one
2. The women are very subordinate and the men never enter the kitchen. The women clean, cook, and take care of the kids all day. Clearing your plate here is offensive to the mom. If only my house was like that...
3. The air is very polluted, and it gets pretty hazy
4. Their temperature scale is on a completely different level. The first morning here my host father told me he had to go warm up the car (it was probably 75 degrees out)
5. The food is nothing like taco bell...or even the authentic mexican restaurants we eat at at home