Throwback pt 2: 13 Hours in Mexico City

Part 2 of my 2017 spring break throwback. We had an overnight layover in Mexico City while coming back from Cancun. It was a little stressful because it was one of those instances where everything went wrong.

“We were excited to get a taste of Mexico City, to see what real Mexico was like. Cancun was felt a bit like one big tourist scam; picture Las Vegas and Miami teaming up and conquering a Mexican coastline and putting a few signs in Spanish to make it seem like Mexico still. Cancun is nothing like Mexico City.

Our adventures in Mexico City only lasted 13 hours and every waking moment was a bit of a fiasco, like how most traveling goes anyways. We show up to the airport and order an Uber, they are cheap and we were told by a friend to use it. Our uber driver knew absolutely no English, spoke so fast I couldn’t even catch a single word, and he didn’t even seem to understand the fact that we did not know what he was saying. I had imputed the hostel address from google, but his app took him somewhere a few blocks away. These 10 or so blocks made a world of difference. As we were driving to this supposed destination we saw piles of trash in the street, stray dogs everywhere, giant pots of food being cooking on the sidewalks, and even an open fire of burning trash on a curb. He stopped on this one street and looked at us and pointed at the phone and we were like “no….” We used our phones to map out to the correct destination and handed it to him to use. He still continued to go the wrong way and due to the one-ways and blocked off roads, we were going in circles for a while. Finally we just asked him to go back around and let us off at this intersection that was two blocks away. I knew some Spanish and tried to communicate with him and direct him, but I started to go “Italy mode” which really means I get a little more aggressive and forceful with my words and directions. He thought he wanted to talk to the police at the intersection so he rolled down the window and said “hola,” but we were like nooo and Connor made a motion of walking. We got out and raced to the hostel because we were a little sketched out and stressed by what we had just gone through.

I have been practicing my Spanish for the past few weeks and being in Cancun I practiced a little bit and started to get better at listening and hearing the words (something I’ve always had trouble with when learning a language). Mexico City was very different. Our uber driver spoke so fast, it just sounded like gibberish. I went into a bit of shock and could not remember much of my Spanish. I prayed that the Italian word for things was similar enough that it would make sense. Compared to Cancun, this was a place where you needed to know spanish. I’m sure if I spent a week there I would build my confidence and practice enough to where I could get the hang of it.

Our hostel was fine and felt safe enough. We had to go around the corner to buy some water though. I’ve come to appreciate clean water so much more. In America, and in Europe, the tap water is for the most part, safe to drink. I would get through security at the airport and just fill up. I’d fill up several times a day at the hostel, etc etc. I love my water. Having to buy another plastic bottle everyone and constantly having to buy it, going to the store to buy it…. it was so inconvenient. We went to the store and it was locked, so we had to knock and wait for this guy to come to this window in the door and essentially take our order. I’m so nervous about speaking Spanish and I timidly squeak “dos aguas.” He closes the window and comes with a couple of big bottles, we give him some pesos, we get the change and we walk back to the hostel.

We are staying on the 5th floor, and right above us is the hostel bar, which sounds more like an intense techno club. If we weren’t so tired and stressed out, we probably would have stayed and enjoyed it. We had a tiny single room which fit our double bed, with about 1-2ft of clearance on each side. The next morning we learned that the plugs didn’t work and our phones had not charged at all. The wifi was even worse than at the Oasis, but at least somewhat-ish worked. Breakfast was pretty good at least.

We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, but it was a Sunday morning so not much was open. We weren’t as nervous or scared and so we could just enjoy Mexico City for a bit. Our hostel was right in the historic district so we got to see the cathedral. It was actually really nice during the day.

So we got a uber for only $84 pesos back to the airport. So when we got to the airport we were about 1 hour and 45 minutes early. We were greeted with long lines for baggage check and only spanish speaking employees.

Learning a language… In another Language

 

My italian has been coming along quite nice, so naturally I decided to learn Russian. Sarcastic thoughts aside, the other girl could only speak italian and a few words of english. Guess I was going to learn the basics in another language I had only been learning for 4 months.

I visited the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and in my hostel I finally met someone from Belarus! This is a country that has fascinated me due to it’s sheer mystery. No one really talks about it, visa and permits are really strict, and it’s no one’s first travel destination. The mystery is intriguing to me, and it only intensified when I learned that the pronunciation of the country does not rhyme with Polaris, the pool cleaning vacuum. Meeting someone from Belarus was exciting, but like I previously stated, she barely knew any english. Lucky for us, I have been studying italian for the past 4 months and I knew enough to be able to carry some sort of conversation, with the help of google translate of course.

We talked for a few hours, speaking slowly, being extra expressive, and laughing a lot. I showed her a photo of a hedgehog, and tried to explain that is used to belong to my boyfriend. Instead she thought I had said the hedgehog was my boyfriend! Funny how communication between humans work. I learned a lot about italian, and I did my best to help her with her english.

The next night I went downstairs to talk with her, Anastasia, again. She was accompanied by two italians from Sardegna (Sardinia). They knew a little more english, which made having conversation a little easier. With that, Anastasia decided to teach us the Cyrillic alphabet, aka the “weird things Russians use as letters (many other slavic languages use it too).” Examples such as:

А
A
Б
Be
В
Ve
Г
Ge
Ґ
Ge upturn
Д
De
Ђ
Dje
Ѓ
Gje
Е
Ye
Ё
Yo
Є
Yest
Ж
Zhe

Instead of using the english pronunciations listed above, they were sounded out using the italian alphabet. Noticeable changes being “ghe” instead of ge, and “je” (like in german “ja”), and “jo” for ye and yo since there is no technically j in italian. Looking at the english pronunciation now… I’m actually confused.

The pronunciations weren’t the hardest part to figure out. She would write an example word, but then translate it to italian, a very strange experience indeed.

Here is the paper she wrote all the notes on.

The Russian alphabet with italian pronunciations.

The 5th letter down is the “de,” same in italian and english. On the back of the page were a few examples, our name, and our doodles. I thought the de looked like a rocket ship, though they thought I drew a grave at first!

Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over
Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over

 

.

My name in russian would be: Мэри 

Our russian lesson ended with Anastasia reciting a russian poem. Like any unfamiliar language, it sounded like straight up gibberish to me. Maybe one day I’ll understand, you never know. Russian may come in handy one day in the future.

A Night at San Siro Stadium

I finally made it to my first european football game, or in american terms, my first european soccer game at the legendary San Siro stadium in Milan. The National Team of Italy vs. the National Team of Germany. Two very well known teams, but I’m not here to pretend like I know anything about who is better or who even the players. I’m here for the experience.

I don’t often go to sporting events. Maybe the thanksgiving UT football game, maybe a major league baseball game if I’m in town, the olympics when it’s on TV, etc. What’s fun about a live event is the energy and the crowd, similar to the experience I would get at a concert or festival. I knew that europeans can get rowdy at matches, so I was excited to embrace the energy with open arms.

Outside of San Siro Stadium
Outside of San Siro Stadium

I wasn’t able to sit with my friends because I had bought a ticket way later and they block the different sections off, and frankly I did not want to mess with any security guards here. I was sitting next to a couple of italian guys, who occasionally would give me a few pointers on what was happening. I played soccer as a kid, so I knew the rules, but there were a few things that confused me. For instance there was no clock counting down the time left in the game. All I could find was a screen displaying the score, which remained 0-0 the entire game. There was a 3 minute warning, and halftime seemed pretty short.

The colors in the crowd seemed pretty strange as well. There were many italia flags, but only a few hats and shirts supporting the team. The rest of the crowd was a sea of black and navy jackets, typical milanese. I saw “the wave” being done for a good 5 seconds, but only on the upper tier. Sometimes they would chant “I-TAL-IA” over and over in support. A couple times people started jumping up and down and doing some other chant in italian. I guess it’s a good way to keep warm. There was lots of cheering and noise. Whenever kickoff happened or a goalie would kick the ball the crowd would go “ahhhhhhhhh-AH” with the last part going off as the ball flies through the air.

Cheering on Italia for the win (well the draw)
Cheering on Italia for the win (well the draw)

The strangest thing of all to me was at the end of the game, the ref blew the whistle and everyone stood up. I was expecting the national anthem to play or some sort of post-game rally. Even more so I was expecting there to be overtime, since no one had scored yet. Nope everyone was just leaving.

Getting home was a little rough, I found my way to the metro station, which was packed to the brim. Whoever designed this station was very smart and had a lot of foresight. To get in they had the full size revolving turnstile doors.  They limit the # of people who can go through at a time to 450 and then it stops and you have to wait a while, until the next train comes and goes. Once you go through you are able to switch your metro card quickly and easily, allowing the transport to get paid, and preventing potential damages from a riot to get through the gates. This also relieves congestion to get on a train. M5 is the only metro in Milan (that I have at least seen) that has the glass casings preventing anyone from getting pushed down into the tracks. After this experiences, I see where that design idea came from.

I think I’ll have to come back for another game, maybe on a day where the student section and seats are for sale. I had a great time at this one, and I’m excited for more. Go Italia!

Vodafone frustrates me – A LOT

In honor of yet another unfair charge I received from Vodafone Italia, I wrote a little song to the tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

This is a story all about how, Vodafone charged me all up and around. Now I’d like to take a minute to ventilate, about how Vodafone cost me much more than they say.
In south Milano, on exchange, I needed phone service, that’s simple to say. 10 a month, 10 for sim, it seemed real good, until I learned how I was a fool.
When of couple of charges came over my way, started draining all the credit I had paid. I tried calling them up, but I got scared. They said, “questo è Vodafone, posso auitarti oggi.”
I tried and I asked “Parli inglese,” but all I got back was a “sono milanese.”
They gave me a “ciao” and I wanted to hit him. I put my phone down and said “I wish I gotten Tim.”
I gave them some more when the zero grew near, my new cycle was closer and was already here.
If anything I can say that this service sucks, but I thought “one more month, just a few more bucks.”
I left Italy in late December, and yell to Voda “I don’t need your number.”
I looked at my phone
It said “AT&T”
To finally surf the web, hidden charge free.