Friday, May 19, 2006

And so it goes...

My time in Mexico has come to an end. Despite my pleas with God to slow down time, despite the many innovative ways I concoted to ignore the fact and continue as though May 19th would never come, the inevitable has occurred.

As I write, I am in the airport in Atlanta, awaiting my flight back to home, back to English, back to family, back to what was once normal but now I can barely recall.

The sadness I feel now, and have felt over the recent days, is unlike anything I've felt before. I'm more depressed than I ever thought possible, too depressed to cry even. I'm leaving the best experience of my life, and while I know that I need to be grateful that I had the fortune to experience it, I'm also reluctant to finally let go.

I entered the Atlanta airport today at 2:15 and immediately I understood everything being said around me. It was so weird. I currently have a headache. I'm not used to that anymore.

I'm going to be depressed for awhile. I'm going to be skimming my Mexico pictures for months, watching my videos over and over again until I have every detail memorized. I wasn't ready to leave. One semester wasn't enough, but then again I'm not sure that a year or even two would have been enough for me.

Mexico taught me so many things. It made me more independent, it made me stronger, it showed me a face of the world that had only existed in the disconnected reality of television. It pushed me to my limits, it destroyed my comfort zone and then slowly reconstructed a new one- a stronger, smarter, long-lasting comfort zone that will allow me to continue to throw myself into strange and foreign situations without worry. Most of all, Mexico set ablaze the desire to travel, to explore more, to learn more, to see more, as frequently as bank accounts will allow. Going back to the State is so depressing for me right now because I'm going back to things I know. I won't have to push myself, I won't have to speak a different language, I won't be able to expect strange and crazy things each and every day. The U.S. is my home, but I've come to see it differently than before. It's a good home base, but for now, for the next 10 or 20 years, I want to see how many new homes I can create in this world.

My heart aches because I feel I can't express properly the poignancy of this experience. The long-lasting impact that it has made upon my character, the ways that it changed me and made me more appreciative of life and people and culture. It made me grow up in a cultural sense, in a worldy-awareness sense, and along the way I found out a lot more about myself. This 20 year old is a couple steps closer to finally defining who she is, something she has been struggling with like most other girls her age.

Mexico was fun, laughter, freedom, Spanish, travelling, good times, scary times, new friends, amazing places, cultural expansion, a slap in the face, a breath of fresh air, 5000 pictures, and enough souvenirs to open a tiny store.

Like my friend Annemiek said, Once you step onto that plane, everything will just be a memory.

Mexico is only a memory.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tengo miedo, y no quiero salir....

Well, well, well.


ONE WEEK to find some kind of conclusion or solace in the country where I have undoubtedly spent the best four months of my life. ONE WEEK to take my final pictures, to say my final goodbyes, and give one last heavy look at the place that helped me grow and find out a little bit more about who I really am.


I'm terrified and I don't actually think it's possible for me to come back to the States. I'm sorry, but the stakes are too high. I'll have reverse culture shock, and I definitely won't be able to fit all of my souvenirs into my baggage. I'll miss Spanish too much, my Mexican family, my friends here. It's better that I stay in Mexico and avoid all the trauma.

And besides, I need to get a better tan. Sheesh.

On a lighter note, I organized my photo page. I didn't even know you could do that! Now it's all quaintly divided into sub-categories and browsing should be much less of a modem-hassle. View and enjoy, and I remind everyone that comments are still appreciated!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recapitulación 4

Four months down.
Two weeks to go.

Where on earth did the time go? I knew from the moment I set foot in Mexico it would only be a matter of blinks before I reached this point. The point where I start scrambling desperately to slow time in any way possible. To prolong this adventure just a little bit longer. Did I really live this? The thousands of pictures in my computers, the millions of memories seems like time went too fast for it to even be possible. Where, really, did time go?

Today was the last day of school. I mean, the REAL last day. Last exam, last glimpse of my gorgeous Grammar teacher, last time to be flitting around the UDLA campus. Here's a good thing: I DEFINITELY passed my Grammar class. Well, of course I did, I got amazing grades. We're still waiting for my grades for other classes though. They should be similarly mind-boggling.

So now, here I am, in Mexico on May 2nd, waiting eagerly yet still dreading May 19th when I will be in the States. Believe me, loved ones: I miss you terribly and love you even more. But this adventure is something I'm hesitant to end, something that has been so profound and, dare I type it, life-changing that I really, really, really want to kind of spend the rest of my life here. But I know thats not possible, because its this semester thats amazing, and while future trips or semesters abroad can be similarly amazing, this semester itself will never be recreated. It's so saddening. I really can't even think about it.

I believe I said near the beginning of this adventure that everyone told me this would be the time of my life. The best semester, the best experiences, the best everything. And it has been. It's almost pointless to say that, because it's so obvious through my words and pictures. This...has been...amazing. I encourage everyone I know to go abroad- maybe not to study, maybe just to explore, to poke around, to learn a new language or find some new culture. But do it. Please. Please do it. This adventure has started a fire within me that I suspect will not go out for a long, long time. I'm in love with this place, everything I've learned, everything I've seen, and the fact that there are still so many opportunities in life.

I'm starting to get really mushy, so I think I'll save that for my last post when I probably go crazy and start weeping over the keyboard.

In summation: Four months down and I dont want to leave. My Spanish has improved 100%, but I still have a long way to go. I live a Mexican lifestyle, and I dont even know what will happen to me when I enter my first American airport and I hear English surrounding me, spoken by everyone on all sides. (What is that even like anymore??) And the food- wow. I might get sick again, just like I did when I first got to Mexico. (I haven't consumed preservatives in a LONG while.)

It's crazy how much your life can change yet at the same time still feel so comfortable and normal.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The official sign that things are coming to an end...

Exams, presentations, and papers. I'm wading through it all, however I've noticed that my Overwhelmed Meter is showing a significantly higher number than it should. The thing is, college in Mexico is EASY. I can do almost nothing, because almost nothing is required of me, and still pass with blazing, flying colors. And now I have actual assignments for almost the first time all semester and I'm stressed out. The workload I have at the moment is something I would have welcomed during exam times at Miami. I've been so spoiled here.

However, this week is almost done which means that classes are almost officially over. May 2nd is my last exam. And then what? Well, I'll be catching up on all those last minute obligations: picture-taking, sunbathing, city exploring. I've been here so long yet have still managed to neglect to do some of the most basic, easiest things. Like exploring that pyramid that sits four blocks away from my house. How do you manage to avoid doing something like that?

I'm going to soak up these last few weeks in Mexico. It still hasn't sunk in that I'm leaving soon. And when it does, I think I might have something of a breakdown.

Yesterday, Wednesday, was my last day at the orphanage. I asked the majority of the kids if they wanted to come back to the States with me. All said yes, except for my daughter Dulce. Of course, she didn't understand my question, being 2 years old and all. However, I feel like I can sense what she really wants and I've determined that she does want to come back to the States with me. It was very sad leaving the and the 2 other volunteers cried for awhile, knowing that we will never see these precious children ever again. They have been officially relegated to memory.

However, more pictures were taken recently of the lovely orphans, which will be shared in my presentation to the family when I return home.

Have I mentioned this presentation yet? I don't believe so. When I return to the States, I will be holding two massive unsheathing processes of my Adventures in Mexico. What is consists of is a Powerpoint presentation of 600+ slides rife with pictures, details and videos. I plan on holding these extravaganzas at two different times: The first being the annual Bradford Summer Party (okay, I'll admit, it's hardly annual) held at my house, and the second at the Annual 4th of July Bonanza at the Zoz Household. Prepare to be awed and thoroughly mystified.

Next subject: I realize I did not properly cover my Guatemala adventures, however there comes a point where one has experienced and seen so much that it's almost pointless to try to convey it to others. I almost reached that point. My Semana Santa was full of so many tales and adventures and experiences that I can't relate them through this journal. Well- I'm sure I COULD, however what I lack then is sufficient time to properly document the happenings. I want to leave you with this: It was amazing, and its story will be told over time.

I think that's all for now. Today is my Mamás birthday, and I'm off to the restaurant to celebrate her wonderful existence with the rest of the family. She's 57 today. ¡Ay carumba!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lookie lookie!

I've posted some of my Spring Break pictures in an effort to share at least a small part of what I was up to, since I haven't been able to write a full post yet.

There are a lot up, but still a lot more to come.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A whole different world....

Guatemala was nothing I had expected it to be.

Granted, I didn't go with many expectations. But if I had, I'm sure they would have all been shattered.

The imaginary line drawn between Mexico and Guatemala is more real than I'd thought possible. Guatemala is a world apart from Mexico. As it is, Mexico already provides severe and lasting culture-shock to some travellers. Guatemala very nearly gave me a culture shock. The first change was the land; the more or less flat, populated land suddenly gave rise to towering, jagged mountains, stacked upon each other for miles into the distance. There seemed to be only one road through Guatemala- the winding two-lane road prone to sudden hairpin curves. The indigenous population of Guatemala seems to be triple that of Mexico- as a result, knowing Spanish was never a guarantee that you could speak with somebody. Any number of indigenous tongues, some stemming from the Mayas, were spoken as a first language. Spanish as a second.

Guatemala was amazing. Yet another eye-opener. When I got back to Mexico I felt like I was returning to Luxurious Western Civilization. Imagine that.

More coming later. Projects and papers beckon to me at the moment.

Monday, April 10, 2006

On the road...

Shannon Bradford, live from San Cristóbal de las Casas!!

I'm in Southern Mexico now, in a beautiful little city with cobblestone streets and a interesting mix of people. We had some extra time so I wanted to give a small update about what I've been doing...

So far we've been to Tuxtla, Palenque, and now San Cristóbal. In Tuxtla we visited the city and a place called the Cañon del Sumidero, a huge fissure in the face of the Earth that provided me with some stunning photos. A 2.5 hour boat tour left me sunburnt and thoroughly awed by the capabilities of nature, with a few chance sightings of crocdiles, strange cacti, and monkies.

After Tuxtla, we went to Palenque town, and from the town we took a ten dollar day tour and visited four sites (aka A Huge Deal). We visited the Palenque ruins, the sprawling complex of temples and tombs constructed around 3oo-600 A.D. From the ruins we went to Misol Ha, a huge waterfull and also the site of the movie Predator. Agua Clara was next, a large, peaceful lake with clear blue water. Next we went to Agua Azul, whose name literally means Blue Water, however the water was more clear and cold than blue. We frolicked in the tiny waterfalls for awhile and then made our way back to Palenque to catch our bus to San Cristóbal.

Now in San Cristóbal, we're enjoying the sites and finalizing the plans for the rest of our trip. Tomorrow, we're taking a 5 hour horseback ride to tiny indigenous pueblitos, where we can see the real Mayan descendents and their lifestyles....something I've been looking forward to for a long time: the chance to see the real natives of Mexico, the ancestors of this land. To hear their language (they don't speak Spanish, but their own indigenous languages) and see their ways of life and get a glimpse of this precious piece of history before it disappears forever.

Wednesday morning at 7am, we're heading to Guatemala. I don't even know what to expect in Guatemala.

The days are blazing by and I've already taken 600 photos. Good thing I have 400 left. I'm going to need them.