Sunday – July 8, 2012 – 10:24pm – Casa de Misiones – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico
Well, it’s “only” been three weeks since my last journal, so I guess I’m gettin’ a little better with being more frequent. 🙂 As you can see from my trademark time/date/place stamp, I’m back at the mission house. And boy did my time in language school go by fast. There are way too many small things that happened and that were good, and I can’t get to all of them. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed language school. Enduring the difficulty of being in a place where almost nobody speaks your language, and having to learn a new one is not easy. There were times during language school when I was humbled by how much I was struggling, in spite of being self-proclaimed “good at languages”. But on my journey home from language school and here at the mission house I’m already starting to notice the difference. I’ve still got alot practicing to do, but at least now I’m somewhat functional in the language.
Even more than the places I saw and things I did, it was the people I met during my time in language school that really made the experience as wonderful as it was. Jeannie, the founder/director of ENCUENTROS language school, was the main reason I think I decided on that school. As an American ex-pat she was very easy to communicate with, prompt in her responses, and easy to work with too. All of my teachers/guides were super nice and helpful, and made learning a new language a pleasant experience. My host family, Mario and Marusa, displayed amazing amount of hospitality and patience. So many other friends that I made during my time there, especially my fellow students, made it something I’ll never forget.
Mike, Me, & his wife Ashley
Me and some of the students and maestras
The second most memorable event of the past three weeks was my visit to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. I tried to go visit them this past Wednesday, but ended up losing my wallet and didn’t have enough money to get in. I was sad not only for losing my wallet, but also because I had some so close yet so far. I could see the pyramid, I just wasn’t able to climb it. Only had enough money to get back home, and so I left with a sad, dejected feeling and thinking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had just passed me by. Well, once I got back home and got all my cards blocked and got some money wired to me, I started scheming. I told myself that Saturday on my way back, I was going to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Cathedral downtown. But then I got word from another student that Saturday there was gonna be a big protest of the results from the presidential elections from the previous week. Where? At the Zocalo (plaza) in downtown Mexico City right next to where the Cathedral is. Even if it was a peaceful protest, I didn’t wanna get anywhere NEAR that place. Then the next thought that came to my mind was “I’m not gonna let a lost wallet and failed attempt be the end of the story. I’m gonna go see those pyramids!
After I had calculated that I’d have enough time to do that and still be able to visit the Basilica before my bus left on Saturday night, it was settled. Just the sheer satisfaction of arriving at Teotihuacan Saturday morning, knowing that I had enough money to get in and see the pyramids was worth it. I really felt like I had conquered a setback and not let it get the best of me. And lemme tell you, my satisfaction and enjoyment level was much higher than it would have been on Wednesday. Another blessing of seeing the pyramids Saturday was that I made what Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club would call a “single-serving friend”. You know, those really interesting people you meet on a flight or a bus ride. Have a great conversation and then you never see them again. This particular single-serving friend was Adam. Slightly taller, and lanky like me. Long hair and scruffy beard. That alone gave away his identity as a gringo, But as soon as I saw him reading a guidebook in English, I zeroed in. I needed to speak some English so I could unwind a little. Enjoyed our conversation and ended up hangin out and exploring the pyramids and the ruins together. Came quite in handy too when needing to take pics.
Just taking in the beauty of the place was amazing. Seeing those two massive pyramids. Exploring the many other ruins surrounding them. The beautiful weather. Loads of people. Dirt cheap and really cools souvenirs (en Espanol, “recuerdos”). It was good stuff. I count myself as truly blessed for having experienced it. Here’s a few pics for ya.
La Piramide del Sol (The Pyramid of the Sun). It’s the 2nd largest pyramid in the world, only the pyramids in Egypt are bigger.
La Piramide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon)
me and Adam, standing on the Piramide de la Luna, with Piramide del Sol in the background
The other amazing part of my day was spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. To me, this was equally if not more important than the pyramids. I’ve two amazing experiences at Lourdes and so I knew this was kinda like the Mexican version. The complex on which the basilica is situated is not quite as big as the overall size of the complex at Lourdes. It’s much more compact, considering that it sits in the middle of a city of 20 million people instead of in the quaint french countryside. It seemed like there were less vendors there than at Lourdes, but for some reason there was more noise, action, tourists, and just hustle & bustle generally speaking. Didn’t have quite the same feel as Lourdes. And maybe it’s not supposed to. It’s its own different place. Nevertheless, I still felt quite blessed to be there and knew it was a unique opportunity. Walked around the complex scoping things out. Saw the inside of the old Basilica and it was gorgeous. Typical old-school classic church design.The only problem is that because Mexico City was built on a lake, old buildings such as the original Basilica are in danger of sinking. In this pic it’s quite pronounced, as you can see, on the front left side.
The new basilica is amazing too. It’s GINORMOUS! I think the seating capacity is in the tens of thousands. And even though it’s done in what I call the “post Vatican II” style of architecture, I still really like it. (usually tend to favor the more traditional old-school style churches). Flags of many different countries are hanging from flagpoles to the left of the altar. Massive organ to the right side of the altar. San Juan Diego’s cloak is smack dab in the middle, right behind the altar. It’s framed in a beautiful gold setting and is purty big. The story is that when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, her image was emblazoned onto his cloak as you see it today in the Basilica. Purty cool, huh? Got to go to Mass too, and it just so happened that it was a wedding Mass. Seems like weddings are pretty popular there. Got to see Juan Diego’s tilma up close from an observation below/behind the main altar. At the end of Mass I had some articles blessed for family members that I’m gonna give them to. Got to spend some time praying a rosary in the adoration chapel. All in all, it was a super blessed mini-pilgrimage and a great way to wind down my time at language school and a great way to pump me up for going back to the mission house. Here’s a few more pics for you to enjoy. Have a blessed and wonderful week! God Bless!