Day One in Merida

A few days ago over some cheese, birthday cake, and white wine my slightly tipsy Grandma asked why I couldn’t just live a normal, average life like everyone else.  I sometimes ask that of myself as well.  Why do I put myself in strange and foreign lands, enroll in various classes, live out of a small suitcase, having to be alert and fend for myself constantly in new situations?  I can say that it’s my inherent constitution (according to several Indian Ayurvedic doctors I am Vatha, air and space, dominant) or that I am at my happiest when learning something (per the blind fortune teller I met with in Korea).  I’m really not sure why I turned out to be such an incurable wanderer.  But with a year filled with incredible sights, food, lessons, and adventures that had me circle the globe, I’m once again ready to see more.  This time I’m heading south to Mexico.

5 years ago I spent two months in San Jose, Costa Rica and a month in Puebla, Mexico to study Spanish.  Since then I’ve taken about a dozen or so more classes in New York but I’ve neglected my studies in the last few years, certainly in the last 15 months (with the exception of a few weeks I spent in Spain last fall).  So with memories of a fantastic summer with family and friends firmly imprinted in my brain, I took off yesterday for Cancun, Mexico. It was going to be a long travel day that started at 6AM in PA.  A 4 hour flight to Cancun, 1.5 hours to get through customs, just to wait another hour for the shuttle bus in front of the airport.  4 hours on the road in relative comfort (AC, one rest stop along the way) had me arrive in Merida safely where I was met by my host family.  I’ll be spending the next two months living with the Cantos (Jose Luis and Doña Gloria), attending a Spanish school, and hopefully speaking Spanish all the time.  I’m fully expecting hot and humid conditions in Merida, with temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees and I understand that it’s still their rainy season which means daily showers are in my immediate future.

Since I’m enrolled in school and don’t plan to move around extensively while in Mexico, I opted to travel with an actual suitcase and packed more than I did for my trip around the world last year when I had just a backpack.  I even bought a few new things!  I am now easily identifiable as the American overseas who is sporting a pair of Crocs…  It’s sad but true.  In my defense, I needed comfortable walking shoes that can be worn in hot and rainy climate- they’ll be my everyday shoes in Mexico, will be taken on my trip to the Galapagos Islands in November, maybe to India next year, and they were 50% off.  I’m still in my “less is more, reuse, recycle” mode and hate to add anything to my worldly possessions, but this purchase seemed to make sense.  In fact, I’m wearing them right now on the plane and have no regrets.  They are truly ugly and I would never be caught wearing them in New York, but I’m sure my feet have never felt this kind of comfort.

My packing list for this trip isn’t very different than what I had for India (see that list here)- instead of my fleece I’m taking a lightweight rain jacket, a sunhat instead of a knit cap, a few extra T-shirts/tank tops, shorts (I didn’t take any shorts or tank tops with me to India for obvious cultural reasons), and an extra pair of shoes.  Joining me on this trip is my new MacBook Air, which lightened my load significantly but I’m feeling a bit sad that my trusty MacBook Pro is staying behind.  I got my hair cut as short as I could to make things easier on myself and well, that was basically the extent of my trip planning and packing.

My host family is actually a retired couple whose three daughters are married and left the house long ago.  My room sits separately from the main house, with a private entrance and an attached bathroom.  Their large house is situated in a quiet residential neighborhood and in the courtyard of their house there is a lovely pool.  I couldn’t have asked for more… well, except for the fact that I have to take a bus to and from school (I would have preferred walking) it’s pretty perfect.

I turned in early last night (after a nice dinner of warm tortillas with melted cheese and ham, and a bowl of soup) in anticipation of my first full day in Merida.  Doña Gloria took me to school this morning and kindly came back in the afternoon to pick me up.  The school is near the center of town but so far what I’ve seen of Merida leads me to believe that it’s a really laid back and safe place to be.  Even on a Monday like today the streets were almost empty and no one seemed to be in a rush to get anywhere.  I saw people casually flagging down buses, cars slowing down to yield for others, and most people nodded and smiled when greeted on the street.  Very tranquilo…

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are just four students enrolled in my Spanish school this month- that’s including me- and because of that I have just one other student in class with me.  Yay!  The school itself is very pretty (will take photos tomorrow) and is equipped with internet/wi-fi for me to use.  Oh, and my Mexican family also has wi-fi so it’ll be business as usual here.  They had over forty students just last month so I definitely picked the right time to come to study here.  Speaking of studying, I have a ton of homework (and I’m getting eaten alive by Mexican mosquitos by the pool) so this is all for now.  I’ll write more on the yummy and spicy Mexican food I’m happily eating, and what my house and school looks like tomorrow.

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4 Responses to Day One in Merida

  1. Kate says:

    So glad you are cozy and ready to study and explore! Have a wonderful trip!
    xok

  2. So, you left us again !! Glad we could catch you on the few days you were in NY. I am happy to read that you enjoy Merida. As I remember, it is a lovely little town. Have a great time there !

  3. I really enjoy reading your blog and have great interest in your stories about Merida. I myself am going there for 2 weeks Dec. 18 (my first Christmas away from home!). I have very limited Spanish, do they teach beginner Spanish at the Institute? I am enrolled there for my stay. Also is there anyway to find out who your homestay family is before you go? Yours sounds awesome.

    Hope to hear back,
    Yvonne
    yvl@rogers.com

    • dreamgolive says:

      Hola Yvonne, I’m excited for your trip to Merida! It’s a great little city and the people are really nice. I hope that my blog has been helpful and you’ll try out some of the places I’ve written about. Yes, the institute offers classes in various levels, starting with beginners. I think there are 4 basic levels, 3 intermediate levels, and 1 superior level. I studied at their Puebla location in 2005 and of course now in Merida. Their course material is very professional (from UNAM) and the institute itself in Merida is beautiful. The weather should be really nice in December… I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You can ask about your host family before you go- you simply need to ask Paulette, the program coordinator. I asked before I left the States and I got my host family a little present. I think you might want to consider doing something like that, especially since it’ll be around Xmas. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. Pls. leave me a note here and let me know if I should use the e-mail address you noted. Thanks for reading my blog!

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