Diego Rivera Day

IMG_20140716_123459973Wednesday I saw a considerable amount of the murals of Diego Rivera, maybe a little too much of a good thing. The murals, at the time they were painted, represented a democratization of art, putting the art on public walls where everyone could enjoy it. Two government buildings with many of their walls covered in Rivera murals are the Secretaria Education Publica (SED) – which is the Department of Public Education – and the Palacio Nacional.

We had a wonderful tour of the SED Building. The current building has been a customs house, aIMG_20140716_140130044_HDR convent and a school for teachers. In the 1920’s the building was remodeled and the then secretary of education hired many artists, including Diego Rivera, to enhance the building. Of the three levels of a building that covers three city blocks, very little of any hallway is without a mural. After several hours exploring the SED, we walked to the Palacio Nacional for more Rivera.

Originally home of Hernán Cortes, the Palacio Nacional has also housed several Spanish viceroys, and other leaders of Mexico. Now it houses government offices. Some of Rivera’s most famous murals are here. Filled with tiny details and symbolism our guide spent over two hours explaining what we were seeing. My brain began to hurt as much as my feet. He spent almost an hour just on the one in the stairway. It was all very impressive and overwhelming. It’s not really my thing but I’m very glad to have seen it all.

Meet the Team

There are eight in our group of adventuring educators. We are similar in many ways but also incredibly diverse in our areas of specialization. This makes for a fascinating mix. One way that we are all similar is that each member of the team is a well-seasoned traveler, this isn’t the first international rodeo for anyone here. For example: Lovinder has been to base camp in Napal, Elizabeth has been almost everywhere, Cap does medical missions frequently to Central and South America. We get to share our crazy travel stories with an appreciative audience. We also get to swap travel tips and techniques.

So let me formally introduce everyone so that you can use this post as a reference guide for future posts and pictures. Here is a “before picture” of us all at the Phoenix airport. From Left to Right:

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  • Elizabeth Ursic – the most traveled – (MCC) Religious Studies. Fun Fact: once held the Guinness Book of World Records title for long distance tap dancing.
  • Jaime Herrera – our intrepid guide and interpreter – (MCC) English. Fun Fact: loves to shop and has a collection of handmade Mexican toys.
  • Lovinder Gill – the gentle giant – (GCC) Video Production. Fun Fact: played competitive college level tennis for three years.
  • Grace Paul – fearless in practicing Spanish – (GCC) Nursing. Fun Fact: speaks four languages fluently (and is working on learning Spanish).
  • Azul Gómez – the most laid back – (MCC) Library Sciences. Fun Facts: a recent newlywed and a 15-year vegetarian.
  • Kelly Sindel – delightful blogger – (GCC) Communication. Fun Fact: can easily balance a cup of water on her head.
  • Cap Tiwald – easily the most prepared for any emergency – (GCC) Nursing. Fun Fact: lives much of the year at her home in Mexico but speaks very little Spanish.
  • Gera King – most likely to take pictures of walls and floors – (SCC) Interior Design – Fun Fact: enjoys urban farming.

We are not exactly traveling light. Organizing and transporting our luggage is quite a feat.

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Tale of Two Museums

IMG_20140715_105246693After a dreamless sleep in my cozy little hotel room I met the team for our first full day in this amazing city. We took a crowded subway ride to Chapultepec Park. Cahpultepec is an ancient word for “place with a lot of grasshoppers” – we didn’t see any IMG_20140715_092645758grasshoppers but did see many fearless squirrels. We walked through the lush green park, along paths lined with vender carts and a pretty little lake. Eventually we climbed the hill to the Castillo Chapultepec. Formally the home to presidents and rules of Mexico it is now the National History Museum. Several local legends and myths exist about the castle. Not the least is about the niñosIMG_20140715_122015194_HDR héroes, six teen cadets who died defending the castle against the invading U.S. Marines in 1847. Now it houses beautiful exhibits of various aspects of the history of Mexico. My favorites were the display of 17th and 18th century jewelry and a malachite door.

IMG_20140715_165759214_HDRAfter a late lunch (late for us from the U.S. – we finished by 3 p.m. and there were still people on their lunch breaks) we were off to the National Museum of Anthropology. Considered by many one of the best anthropological museums in the world, this place was amazing. The different salas (rooms) were divided to showcase the history and accomplishments of some of the major ancient civilizations of Mexico. We were there several hours and only scratched the surface of the exhibits, figuratively of course since you can’t touch the pieces. Some of the highlights include the giant Toltec Atlantean warrior figure, the colossal stone heads of the Olmecs, and of course the Aztec Sun Calendar. I love this kind of stuff so I could spend weeks wandering the exhibits.

The Journey Begins

IMG_20140714_214828729Hola Amigos, due to wifi connectivity issues and then a fight with WordPress I had some trouble getting these posts posted (is that redundant?). But I’ve figured a way around the issues and now I’m up and running. Sorry for the delay but let me tell you about Mexico…

We are underway, the ship has set sail (figuratively speaking of course) and I’m so excited. I knew that thIMG_20140714_091533986is trip would unfold under a lucky star when I heard beautiful music at the airline gate desk while we were waiting to depart. As I was waiting to have my passport verified I heard drifting notes of guitar music. Not a radio or media device, this music was being played by one of the flight attendants as he waited for the plane to arrive. Now I don’t know about you all, but I have traveled on my fair share of planes and never – no, not even once – have I ever had the cabin crew preform a pre-flight concert. So I knew then and there that this Mexico trip would be unforgettable.

After a nice flight we arrived at the Bendito Juarez airport and traversed the challenges of customsIMG_20140715_114831501_HDR without any problems. Then I was introduced to Mexico City.  This city is huge. It has the teeming, bustling, energy of a massive metropolis. There is a similar vibe to New York City or better yet comparable toRome. The history and modern blending in a roiling mix of noise and sights. 17th century churches share walls with modern office buildings. Breakdancing buskers compete with organ grinders. Cars, motos, bicycles, buses and pedestrians crowd the streets. All the sights and noise are a bit overwhelming to me.

IMG_20140714_182608188_HDRThis city is very powerful in the Mexican psyche. The Lonely Plante guide book, by faithful friend, puts it beautifully “…Mexico City is, and has ever been, the sun in the Mexican soar system.” When Mexicans talk about the city they often refer to it as el D.F. (pronounced day effeh) which stands for Distrito Federal (or Federal District). More significantly locals will refer to the city as “Mexico”, as “I’m going to Mexico for a while but will be back later.” The population is around 25 million and has the pollution to show for it. It feels like western European city with a lot of French influence on the older architecture. I can’t wait to get to know this place better.

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Living the Dream

Okay everyone, here is the quick and dirty introduction to this adventure. T-minus 7 days to lift off so let me get you up to speed. I love Mexico (food, language, history, culture etc.) and it has always been a dream of mine to spend time in central Mexico. So when I found out that my district was accepting applications for a Faculty Development Mexico Program to Mexico City and Guanajuato I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately my application was denied but I didn’t let that deter me. The next time the  trip was offered I applied again and this time I made the cut. There are 7 of us going from MCCCD. A fascinating collection of personalities and areas of expertise. More on the team in a future blog. So for three weeks we get to explore, learn, experience and dive into all things Mexico. This goes way beyond being a tourist.

This program offers a chance to explore the culture and education systems of Mexico. I see this program as an amazing opportunity to develop both professionally and to create a unique module to enhance my students’ learning. I believe that internationalization is key to our evolving educational environment.

I am really excited but also apprehensive. Will my Spanish be good enough? Will I get a travel bug and get really sick? Will I get along with my travel companions? Will I be too distracted by having fun that I don’t get my project done? All relevant points of concern. Stay tuned to see how things turn out for this adventurer. Mexico, here I come!