Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"La Barbie" the words on everyones lips in Mexico today.

No! This is not about a trip to "Toys for Us". Violence and corruption has dominated the news in Mexico over the last couple of weeks. Two mayors have been assinated, 72 immigrants were found murdered near the Mexican/US border and yesterday 8 people were killed in a Cancun nightclub when Molotov cocktails were thrown into the bar.

Yesterday, Mexican officials arrested Edgar Valdez Villarreal – known as 'La Barbie'.The TV, radio and papers are constantly updating reports on his arrest. Today, when I was at spanish school, the arrest of "La Barbie" was the hot topic of discussion amongst teachers and students. It seems the goverment is really uping the anti on their war against the drug trade and the drug lords. However there is a lot of skepticism on how successful they will be.

The question of police corruption is common theme in many conversations with locals. There are three different police forces, federal, state and local, none of which work together. Many feel that there is a need to restructure the police force, with less police on better wages. Only on Saturday, I was at a birthday party and one women there told us that she had been away the week before visiting her daughter in another part of Mexico. While she was away, her house was broken into and robbed. Her neighbours rang the police to report the robbery. However, when the police arrived to check the situation the neighbours observed that they also helped themselves to items from the house!!!

I think it will be interesting to follow the news over the coming weeks. Many fear reprisals following the arrest of "La Barbie".

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday Night at the Movies - a Multicultural Experience

Of course when you are in another country you expect to have many different cultural experiences! And of course, these experiences are even more profound if they combine the cultures of more than one country.

Last night was an example of this. My landlady (Let's call her Sophie), invited me to go with her and a friend to a film at the German Film Festival that evening. The film festival was being held in the cinema in the main building of the University of Guadalajara. As I had spent most of the weekend, studying and reading for classes, I jumped at the chance of a diversion.

Around 5.00pm we headed off in Sophie's car. (This is an experience in itself). She often misses turns, or turns at the last minute!! And here they never use blinkers!! And sometimes I don’t think she is watching what the other cars are doing!!! We picked up her friend and headed to the main building of the University of Guadalajara (UdeG), not far from the centre of town. The main administration building of UdeG is in a beautiful Street called Vallarte (lots of lovely old colonial house from bygone days). The campus, that I attend is quite a way from here and the surroundings not so inviting.

We bought our tickets (40.00 pesos (around 4 dollars)) and took our seats in the theatre. The movie was called “Solino”. It was made in 2002 by a director from Turkey (Fatih Akins). A great film. It was about an Italian Family who moved to a mining town in Germany and opened up a Restaurant and tells the story of the family over a period of about 25 years. Some bits that make you laugh and others that make you want to cry. It reminded me a little of “Cinema Parasido” (loved that movie!).

Besides really enjoying the ups and downs of the film, the amazing thing for me was, that there I was, sitting in a theatre in Mexico, watching a German film, directed by a Turk, with German and Italian dialogue and Spanish subtitles!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

San Francisco

The second half of my time in the US was a road trip to San Francisco, to visit my friends daughter. She is studying there and lives the Castro District!! Such a quaint village atmosphere. We were booked into a B&B just up from her flat.

I loved San Francisco, and only wished I could have had more time there. On the day we arrived, after unpacking all our gear, we headed off to see the Golden Gate Bridge. So exciting.

After dinner my friends daughter (the best tourist guide ever) decided we should try to catch one of the trams!! We were standing in the middle of a deserted street at about 9.00pm looking for the next tram when suddenly one came over the hill, and down the steep desent, all the passengers screaming in delight!! before we knew it another came in the direction that we wanted to go and the driver yelled, "there are four standing places on the other side!!" we climbed onto the sides, gripping on to the rails. We hung off the side of the tram for dear life!!, (I wouldn't have wanted it any other way) as we thundered down the hill around a corner and down again.

So exciting, What a way to finish a delightful day!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Now the Fun Begins

I think I need to start blogging a little about life in Guadalajara, before I forget some of what has happened. Will finish off the stories from California as I go.

To day was my first day of Lectures at the University of Guadalajara!! Last week I sat through two introduction sessions, all in spanish, and I have to admit it was all a little confusing. What am I doing here??? To cut a long story short, I armed myself with pen and paper and walked around all the departments looking for subjects that I thought I might like. There is a list of all the subjects on the web, but no information on times or content. I finally came up with a list of subjects that would fit in with my spanish classes.

My alarm went off at 6.15am!! I hadn't slept at all well! It is very dark here until around 8.00 am. I bundled all my stuff together, snuck downstairs for a quick breaky, unlocked the three locks on the front door, then locked them all again once outside (very hard to do when it is dark). Out the gate and down to the main street to catch the bus! It was a little spooky, but I was relieved to see that there were a couple of other people waiting for the 33A camione (bus in Mexico). These buses are an adventure in themselves. I will save that story for another blog. It is about 15-20 minute drive to the street that the Uni Campus is in. Once I am off the bus I have a 10-15 minute walk up to the Campus along a street that is ok by day, but wouldn't like to do it at night. However, by this time the sun was up, and there were a lot more people out and about.

The dread is starting to set in, how am I going to manage to concentrate and understand two lectures (both 3 hours long) in spanish!!! I found the first lecture room and was relieved to find that there were a lot of International Students in the class, some with worse spanish than me!!! Relief, the lecturer is very vivacious, and today's session is only for an hour and a half. Just an introduction!! Whew!!

The second lecture turned out even better. I had already met the lecturer, at a birthday party on Friday night. He was very nice and offered to send english copies as well as spanish copies of our reading materials to the three international students in the class. Bonus!!!

I headed home a little early, feeling pleased that I had survived the first day of lectures. Hopefully I didn't miss anything too important!! Ingnorance is bliss as they say.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Night out with "Tina Turner"

Our first evening in Palm Springs was spent by the pool with wine, cheese and biscuits. However, on the second night it was time to venture downtown for dinner and to check out the local night life. After wandering the streets we were attracted to a restaurant that had a lot of music, and sounded as though everyone was having a lot of fun. At the front of the restaurant/bar there were a number of what looked like outdoor settings,(table with bench either side) that were actually swings, and of course there was lots of Misting!!! The menu looked ok!!Sold!!

We settled ourselves into one of the swinging seats, and then a very attractive young man, in a blonde wig, slinky black dress and runners wandered over serve us. He looked very unconfortable in his outfit. He informed us that tonight there was a concert to raise money for a local charity, and that all the staff had to do a number.

The meal was great and we could hear a lot of music, and clapping in the next room. After dinner I went to toilet, and to my surprise when I walked into the next room "Tina Turner" was there belting out a rendition of "Nutbush City Limits".

Glasses of wine in hand, we moved to joing the crowd (mainly gay couples, all dressed in drag) in the next room. What a concert, great costumes, lots of attitude and a couple of very good singers. To finish the concert off, they had a guest singer, who really could sing. She belted out a great rendition of "I don't want to go to rehab" (I think that is what it is called). A great nights entertainment!!

It was time to wander home. After a midnight swim to cool off, we headed to bed, to prepare for another hectic day in Palm Springs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

111 Degrees in Palm Springs

The first adventure of my stay in California was a three day "R and R" trip to Palm Springs. We bundled up swimmers, sandles, hats and suncream and headed off. My first cultural shock of course was the Freeways around LA!!! OMG!!! Of course being on the "wrong side of the road" added to the confusion.

On the way through we stopped in at Riverside. This is a town that was famous in the last century as a place where lots of the Western Movies were made. (As we were driving along, you could easily imagine a group of cowboys riding from behind the rocks). We stopped off at the Mission Inn Hotel, a famous old spanish style hotel. Really was beautifully restored!!

Our next stop over, was outlet city!!! Yes a huge outlet centre, all by itself in the middle of the desert (accommpanied by the inevitable group of takeaway chains and a huge gas station). My friend wanted to check out one of the kitchen places for some equipment for her restaurant.

Before too long, we arrived in downtown Palm Springs. The old centre has a lot of character. I just loved the restaurants with the misting(fine sprinklers spraying all over you to keep you cool). When we got out of the car, the reason for the misting was obvious!!! Boy was it hot. You certainly could have fried eggs on the pavement.

We were staying at the Chase Hotel, very close to the main street of downtown Palm Springs(you can check out the pool on this web page). We quickly unloaded the car, and sought the comfort of an airconditioned room, donned swimmers, sunglasses, cream, grabbed a good book and headed to the pool for 3 days of doing nothing!! (The wine and nibbles came later in the afternoon). Of course we ventured out for dinner each night, but that is another story!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Ferry Building

This blog is especially for a special friend. As The Ferry Building is one of her favourite places in San Francisco. The Ferry Building is beautifully restored old building that now features every gourmet treat you can think of, and more. We were lucky enough to visit the building on Farmers Market day. The area outside the building was a buzz with colourful stalls selling local produce,flowers, fruit,vegetables, coffee, spices etc. There was that wonderful hum of activity that goes with all good markets. I couldn't resist wandering through the stalls snapping pictures. Once I had finished snapping pics of fruit and flowers, I ventured inside. Every nook and crannie is filled with places for you to buy delicious cakes, coffee, tasty food from all over the world or that special kitchen nick nack that you just have to have. Each shop has its own personality, some slick and modern others more traditional and homely. A must stop place for any foodie who is visiting San Francisco


Well it was time to go!!

So many people asked me if I was excited. Well actually, I think it was all a little unreal. After an interesting plane trip, sitting with a group of american teenagers returning for a three week to Australia, I arrived in LA. To my amazement I was through customs in less than half an hour (after declaring that I didn't have any vegemite or TimTams). Yep! thats what they ask me.

The reason for my stop over was that I had been in touch with an old school friend (by good old facebook)and she had always said if you are near LA you must stop over. So here I was. I had only seen this friend once in over 30 years.
I must admit the thoughts ran through my head, "What if we don't like each other anymore??". Well, it was like we had only seen each other the day before. I had a wonderful 10 days with her and her family. In this time we managed to visit Palm Springs, San Francisco and of course the sights of downtown LA.

A month has gone already

Before I left Australia I promised everyone that I would record my thoughts and experiences in a blog. Guess what!! It is a month today since I left Australia and I am finally starting. What a month it has been. Perhaps I should change the title to "Cinco meses in Mexico". No, lets go with Seis and that will give me an excuse to tell you a little about the last month.

The old saying goes "I don't know where the times has gone", however for me there has been so many things to see, do and LEARN, that I have just been taking it day by day. I am finding this is the best way, otherwise you could become overwhelmed. Well enough words of wisdom (or as some members of my family would say (.rapp!). Lets get on with the story.