Our first day in Mexico City we checked into the hotel. This was a very welcome change from the past few weeks of sharing rooms in hostel dorms with communal bathrooms. An actual shower with hot water is like something you only hear of in movies. Our hotel is located in the suburb of Condesa which gives off a fantastic vibe through the mix of different cultures present in the city. The constant hub of traffic, people and animals never leave the city quiet. You can smell a different type of food on every street corner with vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to backpacks and wallets to tacos.
Meeting up with everyone for the first time, we all attempted to hunt down some tacos. Soon realising our lack of Spanish skills and large number might make this difficult. We had to settle for a bar prepared to cater to 15 Australians for our first Mexican meal together.
The next day we visited the Plaza of 3 Cultures, the Teotihuacan Pyramids and the Basilica of Guadalupe. Climbing to the top of the pyramids after being given 5 different shots of agave and tequila to sample in the markets prior, made for a very interesting climb. We all made it up to the top eventually, even if we had to stop 10 times on the way to catch our breath. The view was incredible and our tour guide Victor was fantastic, he knew so much about all of the sites along with little anecdotes about the way people lived back then. The buffet Mexican style lunch was just what we needed after our trek providing not only delicious food but also a fabulous display of traditional Mexican music and dancing. After lunch was a visit to the bustling Basilica De Guadalupe which is the 2nd most visited catholic church in the world behind the Vatican! They hold mass every hour and have 7 churches in the area. The churches keep sinking into the ground due to the immense weight of all the stones, so obviously the best way to deal with this is by keep building more churches in the same spot. It makes for a wonderful sight where enormous amounts of people can worship and visit.
On day 2 of sight-seeing everyone was feeling a little rusty due to a few too many tequila shots the night before. But that didn't stop us! First stop was the National Palace which was enamored with amazing murals depicting different moments in Mexican history. Painted by Diego Rivera who was Frida Kahlo's husband the murals perfectly encompassed Mexico’s vibrant culture and history through the bright colours and vivid paintings.
Our next stop was the Templo Mayor, an ancient temple of the Aztec's dedicated to two of their gods, Huitzilopochtli the god of war and Tlaloc the god of rain and agriculture. In Aztec times, sacrifices would occur here to please the gods, sometimes so many the stone steps would be soaked red. The ancient ruins and the museum adjacent were bustling with tourists and locals alike. Many parents would take their children to the museums on the weekend in order to complete school projects and assignments.
Our very first day of University was a big one. Beginning at 9am Marguerite (the program coordinator) showed us to our classroom, 9 floors later upwards. Our room has two wall sized windows on each side meaning we essentially can see all of Mexico City. Maybe the stairs will be worth it. After the obligatory academic introductions, we met with our academic coordinator Luis Moreno who gave us an overview of the history of migration within Mexico. This was followed by a delicious buffet lunch provided by the University, Mexican food of course! In the afternoon we were given a tour of the beautiful campus and a history lecture. The very same students who showed us around the University gave us a tour and run down of the best places to go eat, drink and hang out in our area Condesa. After a very full on day we all decided dinner was needed and got some (more) Mexican food at a bar called Guadalupe Reyes.
Tuesday morning, we had a late start allowing everybody to get their first sleep in for a few days which was very much needed. We had our very first Spanish class, finally learning how to properly greet the locals and order food without sounding like the biggest foreigners or worse… gringos. After lunch we had a very interesting lecture on the current state of Mexican society by A. C Peterson. Enabling us to understand much of the inequality, governance, economic factors and social issues affecting Mexican society.
Wednesday was a big day in general. Class in the morning and shopping for donations for our many visits to refugee houses in the afternoon. We successfully collaborated to obtain enough supplies for all 5 of our scheduled visits. Wednesday night of course was Australia Day! Our organisers Fernando and Oscar hunted down a bar in Condesa willing to house 40 Australians for the night while we listened to the Hottest 100 and painted flags on our faces. We teamed up with the other Aim Overseas group (studying Public Health) also in Mexico City and celebrated in true Australian style, while probably being laughed at by a few confused locals. Oh well, viva la vida!
Thursday morning, we were all up bright and early for class, feeling in tip top shape! After some homemade Mexican Burritos for lunch we headed into Coyoacan to visit La Casa De Azul, aka the house of the very inspirational Frida Kahlo. Everyone loved the beautiful house and many of Frida's artworks. After that it was off to visit her lover Leon Trotsky, and see his museum. Featuring a house which looked more like a fortress. The bedroom was riddled with bullet holes from numerous assignation attempts. Also featuring the chair Trotsky himself was sitting in before he got an ice pick to the head, courtesy of the Stalin government.
The first week we spent in Mexico City has flown by. We have already learnt so much about the culture, history, society and tasted so much fabulous Mexican food. Can't wait to see what the next two weeks will hold!