Well...... get your coffee ready, and perhaps order a pizza, because this entry is going to be a long one!
This weekend saw us be witness to the real Mexico. Mayus has gone overboard with her planning of authentic events so that we make come home with the wonderful warm feelings of this amazing country.
When you finish reading this email, you will wonder how we accomplished all of this in such a short period of time... (we've been gone for 36 hours!)
What an absolutely fantastic weekend. Again, the ambassadors did not disappoint. You would be so proud of them, as I am..... what an accomplishment they have achieved!
Here we go!
Saturday morning saw us all meet together at the school for a jaunt south to Taxco. The entire community turned out to see us off.. actually, I would say that the community joined us on this trip - we had to rent two buses.....Yes, two! 69 people came to Taxco - families, children, homestays (even other kids who were part of exchanges in the past)..... It was unreal! This was the first real indicator to our children how important family is to the people of Mexico. Even int he busy times of this city, quality time with children is made a distinct and top priority. All of the kids went on one bus, and the adultos (adults) went on another.... Nice touch....... it gave the group of students a chance to bond with one another. Mayus had hired a professional group of guides to work with the kids (it reminded me a bit of YMCA group leaders for grade six camp). Let me tell you that they were absolutely fantastic with the group - they had planned activities, they were UBER-organized and had an unbelievable rapport with the kids.
The bus ride to Taxco included a stop at the pyramids of Xochicalco (pronounced Cho-cicalco).... An example of an excavated ancient pyramidal community for aristocrats -flourishing after the fall of Teotihuacan. It was incredibly hot, and lots of water was the order of the day. We learned all about the ancient ball game and how the community flourished in separate classes. Xochicalco is definitely the home of the gods as it is located on the top of a mountain range - built specifically for the recognition of the fact that the closer you were to the clouds, the closer you were to the gods...... We learned that the ancient people of this area were aware of the astronomical formations and built their communities to acknowledge the summer and winter solstices.....
After we left Xochicalco, we headed towards Taxco. You think the windy roads of the old Sea to Sky Highway were curvy? It has NOTHING on this highway. Unbelievable. We stopped just outside Taxco because the tour buses are too big to travel through this city of 80 000 people. A word about the town - it is built right into the side of the cliffside. It has many levels and the only way to navigate through the town is to either walk (which we did, more about that later!) or hop into the town transportation - 1970s VW Bugs (they were all white - every single one of them!).... We hoofed our way into town and then migrated toward (okay - we followed Mayus) our location for lunch. However, the walk was more than just a walk - picture VERRRRY steep roadways - us going UP them, made entirely of cobblestone).... for an extended period of time.... (like at least 45 minutes in I would say no less than 32 degree weather)..... Thank goodness the guides had arranged a way for our luggage to get to the hotel. You're probably thinking, how extreme could it have been? Wait until you see the pictures - coming soon!
Anyway, we arrived at the Real de Minas Restaurant for lunch, but not before walking through the town palazza - complete with the Church - I must say that the Santa Prista is probably the most beautiful church I have ever seen..... We also had to walk past many silver shops - great for the group to scope out what and where they would be spending their pesos.... (okay, Ms Briske too!!)
Back to the restaurant - again we were divided - adults upstairs and the kids downstairs - complete with guides. What a fantastic lunch - oh my...... soup, salad, beef, tortillas, fresh bread - it couldn't have gotten any better! Complete with the view of a lifetime - This truly is a beautiful part of the world. The ambassadors ate well. We all ate well... It was a good thing, because we needed to hit the stores after lunch. And that we did. I still think that Taxco didn't know what hit them. Canadian kids EVERYWHERE. If the silver jewellery that was being sported today (Sunday) was any indication of the amount of pesos that were spent, I would say that Taxco did well by us. The kids look great..... shiny, and it isn't because of the perspiration. They had a great deal of fun, I would say. I have it on good authority that the smiles that were being shared as the first purchases were made was worth the price of the trip alone.
Anyway, after shopping, we headed off to the hotel. You remember the walk UP the streets to get into Taxco? Well, we had to walk DOWN the same streets to make our way to The MonteTaxco......our hotel. Lugging purchases in high heat, proved to challenging for some, but with some gentle prodding, we were able to make our way to the funiculaire (a tram) that literally crossed a valley to get to the hotel that was located on the opposite cliffside. VERY cool - I won't spend much time talking about it - the pictures speak for themselves. Coming soon.
The hotel itself was amazing. Again Mayus outdid herself. She arranged to have us in a separate area of the hotel - actually in the villas! We were arranged in groups of 6 - 5 kids and an adult to each room. Outstanding - complete with the modern conveniences of life - kitchens, two bedrooms, and pullout couches (two bathrooms!!!)..... The kids loved it and were so excited! It was like being grown-ups!
Saturday evening was complete with a campfire, an outstanding dinner of bbqd chicken in the hotel restaurant and plenty of other good things. A sit down meal at 8 oclock (as is the custom in Mexico) certainly was a wonderful experience... Sitting in a restaurant overlooking the city of Taxco with the lights flickering on the cliffside made this experience one I (and the kids) will never forget. IF anything, this culture is proud of who they are, and will do anything to share it with others. Our ambassadors are very fortunate.
As with any hotel, there was a pool at this one. Actually there were two. Our schedule was so packed that Saturday didn't allow us to play in the pool, but Sunday would bring a dip in the pool prior to our visit to the underground caves.
Because the day had been sooooo packed with activities (and heat!), getting the kids to settle down on Saturday night did not prove to be difficult at all. Lights were out, snoring was abundant and everything was quiet by 1030 at the latest. Did you know that snoring is the same in both languages?
Sunday morning saw the kids get up early for breakfast (715) and then move to the pool for activities and a swim. Doesn't matter where you go in life, - kids are kids! Give them water, and a pool - and there are no divisions in culture!!!
After the pool, we headed out to the caves. A bus ride on a very windy road in significant heat produced some interesting results...... More on that later......
The underground caves were certainly something to see! 85 million year old dripping water droplets produced amazing results. A 2.4 km walk underground into massive caverns produced breathtaking visuals of beautiful things - highlited and spotlighted. Still in shock as to the power of Mother Nature. Pictures to come.......
I have had to remind the students to remember to drink twice the amount of water they would normally drink at home, to eat well, and also to get lots of sleep. I know that they are excited, and that things are definitely new to them, but taking care of themselves is top priority. We are into day four now, and the heat, coupled with lack of sleep, and new food, may begin to take a toll. Instructions were quite specific tonite - go to bed early, eat a good meal tonite, and drink lots of water. They are all doing tremendously well, but signs of being overtired are starting to show.......! to be honest, I think the windy road on the way from Taxco today helped to accelerate the feelings of overtiredness, and maybe a little bit of motion sickness too.... Enough said.
Have you finished your pizza yet? Well, quickly chew the last piece, because I am finished editorializing about this weekend. In a word, it was Precioso! Unbelievable... Oooops, that's two. You know what I mean.
If I can leave you with one sentence that was uttered on the bus on Saturday morning as we were leaving Mexico City for Taxco - it would be the following uttered by a young Mexican boy of 7 years after being asked if he liked having Canadians here........
"Nick and Kyle are my new most best, best, best friends."
If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.
We're all having a great time here and everyone is doing well...... Hard to believe that we will be home in four days.
I am off to upload my 276 pictures from the last 36 hours. It may be awhile before I get them off the camera and to you, but I will choose a few to post later tonite.