Category Archives: Nature

Ginger Blood

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I finally got a juicer! My dad bequeathed to me both a machine, and the “recipe” for his signature breakfast concoction. I use the term recipe lightly– this is my dad we’re talking about. I gathered my intel by following him around the produce section, and listening. “You want a bit of that, but not more than that much, or maybe that’s fine, no, wait–” and “you can use this, but you don’t have to, but if you do, remember to–” and other equally ambiguous instructions. While the proportions may be tricky, the ingredients are simple enough:

  • Greens (kale, spinach, etc)
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Apples
  • Lemon
  • Ginger root

The beauty of a drink like this is that proportions don’t really matter. Make it to your tastes. Two things I’ve slightly altered from the way my dad does it, are using baby salad greens instead of mature kale (way juicier) and to DEFINITELY peel the ginger, lest it wind up gritty.

IMG_20140607_195843I love this drink. It’s fruity, earthy, sweet, and HOT. I love the hotness of the ginger, and the redness of the beets. I’m tired of referring to it as “Larry’s juice thingie”, and a beverage this good deserves a name. I cant think of anything more fitting than Ginger Blood.

On a side note, one awesome thing about juicing is all the vegetable and fruit pulp waste you can collect. I hate letting things go to waste, so luckily my chickens absolutely LOVE it when I throw this stuff out back for them. Happiness all around!

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Also, I went into Houston this weekend and gave my dad the afghan I made. Happy father’s day Dad!

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Last days in Mexico

After six weeks, it was time to say goodbye. I was so sad to leave. I realized how much I’d miss my host family, and the city I’d come to know and love. But all good things come to an end, and the end of this adventure couldn’t have been better.

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My last Friday in Mexico was the beginning of the end, and it couldn’t have been a better (or longer) day. It was the first official day of spring– the equinox– and by 4 am I had already eaten breakfast and was waiting for a van that would take some of the students and volunteers to a nearby Mayan ruin to watch the sunrise. The Mayans situated so many of their structures to coincide with celestial events. In the pyramid we saw, the sun shines through a small window for just a few brief moments at dawn, only on the equinox. We weren’t the only ones who drove out to see it, either; the place was crowded with locals and tourists, but it was a very calm and peaceful gathering nonetheless.

After a few morning hours at the ruins, I came back to the house to finally pack. Packing is never fun, and nothing seems to fit back in my suitcase the way it came. In between gathering all my stuff I visited with Tere, Maria Jose and Milo, telling them how much I’d miss them as we ate our last (delicious, homemade) lunch together.

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My dad showed up around 3 that afternoon. He had originally said he wanted to rent a car and drive into Merida to get me, but I pleaded with him to take the bus instead. After he’d finally made it into the city he was glad he’d taken my advice (Merida is huge, crazy and impossible to navigate). He visited for a while with my family, which was such an amazing and surreal experience for me. It was like two worlds finally colliding. Between my Spanish and Milo’s English, we managed to introduce ourselves and chat for a while. Dad and I expressed our gratitude to them again, we said our final farewells and were off.

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The next few days in Merida were fun– we managed to see and do a lot. We visited El Museo del Mundo Maya, and saw the zoo downtown that I hadn’t been to yet. We walked around the city a lot, ate some awesome food, and I showed him the old Cathedral in the main square. On Sunday we went back to the same cenotes at Cuzama that I’d visited a few weeks earlier. Larry, for all the time he’s spent in Mexico, had never seen a cenote. We took the horse-drawn train carts through the jungle, saw a super poisonous snake in a restaurant, and Larry swam lap after lap in the huge underground pool. All very fun.

Now that all is said and done, I can look back and say with certainty that this trip was the experience of a lifetime. Coming home to America was surreal, even though I was only gone a little over two months. I went straight to my parents house. It was great to give my mom a hug, and the most amazing thing of all was being greeted by my precious baby wiener dog, Duchess. All the exhaustion that had built up over the past seven weeks finally caught up to me– I went to bed and slept for a long, long time. After a few days catching up to my parents I hit the road for Austin, to make my return complete:

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Those two! I love them both so much. It was such a wonderful trip, but I must say it is great to be home. 🙂

Savoring My Last Weeks in Merida

Hand foot mouth disease hit me pretty fast and was terrible for a few days, but it left as quickly as it came. I feel 100% better, aside from the tough patches where the blisters were now peeling off my foot calluses. (Lovely, I know.)

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I’m the only person than came here without finite plans to return, and people don’t really understand when I explain that my family isn’t really big on making plans. People have been asking me since I got here when I’ll be leaving, and I kept saying “I don’t know!” and receiving some quizzical looks. I’m having a wonderful time, but I do miss my family, my boyfriend, and my adorable baby Duchess. But I’ve now made some plans, and I can say with certainty that I’ll be home in about two weeks.

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School is still going great, and I get a small thrill every time I have a conversation in Spanish. The other day in class we went over how to talk about cooking and write recipes. I chose to write the recipe for my mom’s lentil bean soup, partly because it is one of the few “recipes” I use, and partly because I planned on making it for my family that week! Maria Jose is a fan of lentils and spinach, and since these are the key ingredients I decided it’d be the perfect thing to cook. We all sat down to eat, and they loved it, and we talked a lot in Spanish. I felt so much pride!

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This past Saturday, I went to my first ever Catholic mass- in Spanish! My friend Liz (from England) is Catholic and attends mass at least twice a week; she said she wanted to try all the various churches in town, and I told her there was one right across the street from me, so we went together! The service was really cool to see, and I was able to follow along with most of it because they handed out leaflets with the words printed. Three ladies lead the hymns with guitars and singing, and it was very, very beautiful.

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After church, we went to “Mexico Night” in El Centro, which is a big fair-type thing with tons of great street food and traditional Yucatecan dance on stage. We went with one of Liz’s local friends, Elizabeth, a cuban who now lives in Merida and teaches Salsa, and her other friend who is a lawyer. Both are bilingual, but not fluent in English, so I got to practice my Spanish and help them communicate with each other. We wandered down the street to find a drink, and happened upon an Irish bar called Hennesey. I had no clue that it was St. Patrick’s day weekend, until I walked into a crowd of green-clad foreigners. It’s definitely the expat hangout in town, and although we had quite some fun, I’ve decided I definitely like the local scene better.

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I’ve taken to walking the family’s dog, Jacko, at night. My neighborhood seems very safe, and I have walked alone, but I feel I look way less like a tourist when I’m with a giant labrador. And plus, Jacko is amazing and I love him (sorry Duchess…) The neighborhood is beautiful. There’s a husky on a roof a few blocks away who always barks at me! And bougainvillea everywhere- so gorgeous.

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Today after school Liz came by and Elizabeth picked us up for lunch. Afterward we went to her house which is just a few blocks from mine, and is AMAZINGLY beautiful. She has a flock of tropical birds, and about FORTY turtles in her back yard. Some have even laid eggs!! I’d never seen a turtle egg. Then she taught us some salsa and we danced in her backyard for a couple hours. So much fun.

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Every day here leaves me completely exhausted and happy. I have one more chapter before I’ve finished the first Harry Potter book in Spanish, and have already bought a second to read. I’m really looking forward to my dad getting here on Friday. I’ve planned a trip to the cenotes for us on Sunday, and he’s going to absolutely love it. Then we have a “no plans” week of travel before we head to the airport to fly back in to Houston. I already know I’m going to miss Tere, Milo, Maria Jose, Jacko, and Merida SO much. Not to mention all the amazing people I’ve met and friends that I’ve made here. That’s all for now!

Playa Playa Playa

IMG_20140303_093513Annabelle lived in Playa del Carmen for a few months last year; she and I were the only ones who had been there before so we were SO excited in the week leading up to our trip. She kept singing “playa playa playa”, and by the time we got there we all were too.

Playa is indescribable. It is SO much fun, and so beautiful. It makes Progreso seem like Galveston (yuck). The water is super blue, the beaches clean, and the main drag of fifth avenue is a blast. We stayed at Hotel Colibri, right on the beach and  a block away from all the night clubs on 12th street. I’d never seen Playa so busy, both with foreign tourists as well as Mexican families on vacation for Carnival weekend. Things are definitely more expensive here (unless you head into the town a bit) and lots of prices are listed in American dollars instead of pesos, causing a few problems for the Australians here and there. Everybody speaks English, but I still used my Spanish wherever possible.

I got back to Merida yesterday and came down with a virus! Tere took me to the doctor this morning, and I was absolutely stunned: it only costs 35 pesos to see a doctor! That’s about THREE DOLLARS. And afterward I got all the medicines I needed for under $15. I have a headache and sore throat, but I’m resting up today and am going back to class tomorrow no matter what. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday- I wonder if I’ll see a lot of catholics with the crosses on their foreheads? If I saw that in America I should definitely see it here. I can’t wait.

Celestun – The Land of Flamingos!

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Every time I go on an excursion with my friends here I think “Life can’t get any better than this”. But then we go on another trip, and it does. Last night we went out dancing. I forget the name of the club– but I don’t remember the last time I went out dancing and it was a blast! We definitely stood out in the crowd (both as foreigners, and the only ones dancing) but we didn’t care.

I got home around 2 am and set my alarm for 7, to go to Celestun. We had a van drive us there, about 2 hours away. We took a boat trip around the fresh water lake and into the mangroves. There were– no joke– 25 THOUSAND flamingos there.

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When the boat motor stopped, you could hear them quacking from every direction. There were also baby crocodiles (and one big one!), cranes, pelicans and ducks. And the mangroves! I’d never seen anything like it before. We thought our trip was ending when the boat veered into the forest, down a water way under the trees. It was absolutely stunning. We needed David Attenborough there to narrate for us! I’m exhausted, but today was incredible. It’s so cool to hang out with girls from all over the world. Learning what they think about Americans (MY accent is cool?! Pssh) is especially interesting. Hearing about their cultures (especially Estonia- shout out to Helen!) is equally fascinating too. I am really on top of the world right now.

Cenote Love

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Yesterday we took another awesome excursion, this time to the cenotes in Cuzama. For as many times as I’ve been to Mexico, I’ve managed to never see a cenote. Until now.

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They are absolutely breathtaking! Two of the ones we went to were small; one I didn’t climb down into because it had slippery wooden ladders, and there was a snake at the bottom. The third one was so big, you could have swam laps in it. And the water is the bluest blue I have ever seen. It looks illuminated, even though there’s no light down there. It was also the purest, cleanest water I had ever dipped myself into.

Girl Time at Progreso

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Yesterday, me and a group of girls took the 30-minute bus ride to Progreso. It’s a small port town, where cruise ships usually dock on Mondays. Luckily we were there on a Saturday so we got to skip the inevitable hoard of tourists and enjoy it in a bit of peace. There’s something so wonderful, so therapeutic, about hanging out with a great group of girls. We come from England, Australia, Portland, New York, Columbia, and of course Austin– but made instant friendships and had a blast. I definitely don’t think Progreso is anywhere near as beautiful as Playa Del Carmen– but in this company, who can complain?

Izamal

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Today* was nothing short of amazing. I met a handful of bright, beautiful girls from all over the world. They are here volunteering at animal shelters, day cares, and schools; some speak Spanish and some don’t. They all found their way here by way of Miguel, who runs the school I attend. He took us today on a trip to Izamal, about an hour outside of Merida. I’ve seen many Mayan ruins in my lifetime, and though I always enjoy it they’ve expectedly lost their novelty. But this one was different than any I’ve ever visited, and far more fascinating. Most ruins are either isolated in the jungle or have become tourist traps: Izamal is a living, breathing town, “The Yellow City”, where people live and pyramids are just part of their back yards.

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Miguel served as our tour guide and he knows so much about this city. It’s history is absolutely fascinating. When the Spanish arrived in 1500, they realized the city functioned as a sort of “mecca” for the local people: Mayans would travel from hundreds of miles away to pray at the site. Not ones to miss an opportunity, the Spanish played this to their advantage. The Bishop was even wily enough to arrange sit-down talks with the Mayan religious leaders, but the olive branch quickly soured and he decided to burn all of their holy books. We might have so much more information about the Maya today had it not been for him. What a dirty shame.

The bases of the pyramids are huge– not the tallest I’ve seen, but definitely the grandest and most austere. Instead of destroying all of them, as they were wont to do, the Spanish only tore down the main pyramid. It was supposedly so tall that from it’s summit you could see the ocean, miles and miles away. They used the bricks to lay the foundation for their cathedral plaza and monastery, which is second in size only to the Vatican. Instead of conquering the Maya, they wanted to absorb them: they wove their religious symbols into the Catholic tradition, just as the church has done all over the world for a millennia. Just as poseidon’s trident became the devil’s pitchfork, the Mayan’s fertility symbol (a corn flower) was woven into the image of the Virgin de Izamal.

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The results of all this history and conquest are stunning. The juxtaposition of the Cathedrals right next to the Temples is mind-bending and gorgeous. The place still functions today as a holy site for the locals, but perhaps the most strange and fascinating fact of all is that it ALSO functions as a place of holy pilgrimage for Mormons. Yeah, Mormons. They think Jesus appeared in America, and this is the site he walked and preached on. Amazing history, so many different groups of people woven into one magical place.

Check out my pictures, read more about Izamal on Wikipedia, and go visit the place for yourself! It’s definitely worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.

*This post was written yesterday, I just got around to uploading the pictures and posting it now.