Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recorrido de UAQ y bailando por la noche

Yesterday (Thursday) started off as another wonderful morning of sleeping in until 9am since we didn't have to be anywhere until noon. I took my time waking up and getting ready for the day and eating breakfast. Around 11:45am Mary and I headed to UAQ to meet the rest of the group for a tour of the university. We met Nanci, the UAQ nursing student who has been helping us since we arrived on Tuesday. She started with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history and facts about UAQ. After the presentation, she showed us around the school of nursing, which included its own library and computer lab, classrooms, offices, and various types of labs. We were able to go into the lab where they create traditional medicines, soaps, and other products using various plants. In a couple of weeks we will actually learn about the process and get the chance to make some of these things ourselves. We were also able to go in their skills labs, which had mannequins only slightly different than what we use in our nursing skills lab at school. It was interesting to see how what they have to practice with was very similar to what we have, too, only simpler and without so much technology. They also have a surgical nursing skills lab that included both a simulation OR and recovery area. We don't have these types of labs back home so that was pretty cool to see. After we finished in the nursing school, Nanci walked us through the rest of the campus, through other schools (law, fine arts, psychology, etc.) and the center of campus where the university president's office is located. It's a beautiful and spacious school with lots of greenery and activity going on. 

After the tour, we received our Mexican cell phones that we'll have for the remainder of the month in order to keep in touch with one another. Nanci and I had a laugh over how archaic the phones are, since there isn't even a keyboard for texting (anyone remember the T9 function?) and they are just about the furthest thing from a smart phone. It turns out that even in Mexico the majority of the people have some sort of a smart phone! 

Once we got the phones registered and activated, the group bid farewell to Nanci and headed downtown to exchange dollars for pesos and get some lunch. We found a restaurant with lots of traditional Mexican dishes and I was able to order my favorite apple pop, Manzana Lift. It's sort of like sparkling apple juice but a little lighter and not as sweet. I haven't been able to find any in Michigan so I plan on taking full advantage of its widespread availability here for the next three weeks. After eating our fill of food (chicken flautas covered in crema and oaxaca cheese for me), we walked around the downtown streets and plazas for a bit before heading home to rest. 

We had made plans earlier in the day to meet up with Nanci and some other students from UAQ to go out to some bars and dancing clubs at night. We decided to meet in La Plaza de Armas downtown at 9pm. Even Mary decided to come along for the adventure! She and I arrived in (what we thought was) the plaza just about five minutes before 9pm. I texted Nanci to let her know we were sitting by the fountain, but figured we'd be waiting for a while since we're on Mexican time (read: late). She texted back saying she would be late (ha!) but was on her way. After about 15 minutes, she called asking where we were. When I said we were by the fountain, she said she couldn't find us. I walked around for a few minutes trying to locate her and she said she'd call me back. Long story short - Mary and I were definitely NOT in the correct plaza. We walked around the whole thing for another 20 minutes or so trying to find Nanci , but to no avail. After finding out from some other tourists that we were actually in La Plaza de Zenea (a two-minute walk from La Plaza de Armas), we made our way over to the right plaza, a fashionably 40 minutes late - oops. During this time I was also in communication with two female students from our group who had gotten off at a bus stop way over by the university, had taken a wrong turn, had walked too far on two streets, and felt very uncomfortable since they were in shady parts of the city the whole time. When they finally made it to the plaza, Sarah threw her arms around me and said, "I have never been so happy to see you in my life!" Needless to say, this plus Mary's and my mix-up with the plaza made for the night being off to an interesting start.  

At first Nanci and the students wanted to take us someplace way out of the downtown area to which we would have to ride in cars. Since some of the students had to be back to their host homes in only an hour and a half, we opted to stick around downtown. We walked up a long street lined with bars and turned into an Irish one that Nanci deemed to be "tranquilo" (calm). All 14 of us crammed into a seating area and were handed menus, which the UAQ students helped the American students navigate. It took us probably 20 minutes to figure out what each person wanted and then Nanci ordered for everyone. The bar itself was actually very clean and quiet, so we were able to practice our Spanish with the UAQ students and they were able to practice their English with us. I spoke mostly with Nanci the entire time and learned about their culture and how they often go out to bars and clubs with big groups, often with other people who they don't know (which happened to us - Nanci had no idea who two of the students who were with us were, except that they were from UAQ). After figuring out the bill and getting two of our American students in taxis to get home to make "curfew" with their families, we headed out to dance. 

This is when it gets kind of funny. 

When we originally told Nanci that we wanted to go out dancing, her eyes lit up and said she'd make some plans. She mentioned a club called Las Mulatas but I had no idea what type of dancing that had. Since I had mentioned that we'd like to go salsa dancing, I assumed this club had that type of dancing. 

Boy was I wrong.

First, we almost weren't let in since our single male student in the group, Ryan, was wearing shorts. Nanci mentioned that this is a very selective club and had me speak in English to sound super American and touristy since it was more likely that would get us in than being a bunch of locals. Despite my American-ness, the bouncer really didn't want us going in there with Ryan's half-bare legs. Over his headset microphone thing, I heard him say something along the lines of "hay un extranjero aquí que está llevando pantalones cortos...qué debo hacer?" = "there's a [male] foreigner here that's wearing shorts...what do you want me to do?" After some sweet talking, I convinced him to let all 12 of us in the club and promised him that next time Ryan would wear long pants. Since it was ladies' night, all the girls got in free and were able to go right into the club, where we were also offered free drinks for the occasion. The guys were sectioned off to some sort of a holding area and delayed entrance inside for about a half hour or so.  

The club was LOUD.
The club was CROWDED (squeeeeeezing between people). 
The club was HOT (and no, I do not mean attractive - the temperature was scorching). 
The club was also definitely NOT meant for salsa dancing. 

BUT we embraced it - including Mary who joined us in the middle of the dance floor to cut a rug a little bit. The guys were released from their "holding pen" and said they were also given free drinks while they waited to be let in the main area. We stayed for about an hour and a half, jumping around among other sweaty people shaking their stuff on the dance floor and not spending a single peso the entire time. The club had both Mexican and American music so both the UAQ group and our students were able to sing along as we danced until about 12am - an early end to the night, by Mexico's standards. Nonetheless, since we had to be up and ready for a walking tour by 9am the next day (and because some people had an hour commute home), we headed back home. Because the next day was also Día de Las Madres (Mother's Day), some students' families had an early start to the celebrating, as documented here and here

Speaking of other places to read people's experiences, you can also check out other students' blogs:

Hasta la próxima vez! 
(Until next time!)

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