February 17

Yesterday there was a big earthquake off the coast of Mexico and both Mexico City and Puebla were on the edge of the shake zone. As far as I know there hasn't been any serious damage or deaths due to the quake itself.

I flew into Mexico City and went immediately to the comfortable, reasonable, and direct bus to Puebla City. It takes about 2 1/2-3 hours.

It was getting to evening when I made it to Puebla so I haven't seen this yet...

...or this either, but soon!

The place where I'm staying is really something to talk about, wow, so many Things, and it's just one woman about my age in a house that has seen generations.

This is the best part so far, I'm on the bed and I have windows and the air is cool and fresh.
February 18

Behind where I'm standing is a big skylight and the windows are doing their job nicely.
It's Sunday, my first actual day and I wanted to walk into the Plaza Central. You can see some power lines in this picture but a block or two further on they've got them all underground.

But first I wanted to go into that building because I could. A woman was opening the gate, I got a peek through, and she let me in...
...to look around.

And then she told me about it In Spanish and I think I understood it all. It was once a hospital and fairly recently turned into apartments. I told her how much I admired the windows and she said yes they looked good but when it was very windy it was not good at all.
When there's a line for food it's good to get in that line.
The cathedral picture is not mine but I love it. That is my hand though.

Turns out it's the first Sunday of Lent and all the churches were full, the organs playing, the singers singing, but best of all was the Cathedral where I happened to arrive just in time for the end of the service.

It was packed in there and the music was splendid. At the end the head priest, dressed in extravagant purple raiment and headdress, was walking through the crowds shaking water on heads or hands. I held out my hands and bam, holy water and a sweet smile.

I behaved myself and didn't take pictures inside as requested, but I'll go back when there isn't a service.

The Plaza was full of fun too. The whole crowd could not have been having more fun.

This guy swings the ball and everyone runs in trying not to get smacked. Kids, teenagers, parents...
...all having the best time.
Another activity...
...and More fun.
What a lovely Old Town. I have to write an essay now for the school placement test. A Test, what's with that?!
February 19

My group starting today for a three week program. There are other students who started three or six weeks ago making 21 total students.

This is orientation where the program director passed out these notebooks and we all chose one.

The orientation went on for a couple of hours and then we dispersed to our various classes. I'll take a picture of my class tomorrow, made up of me, the sweet teacher, and a very lovely young woman named Jordan.

Mabel, Linda, Jeff, Alina, Lauren, Ian, Miriam, Artur, Mimi, JoAnn, Michael
After the four hours of class, 9-1, we have a lunch break and then at 2:15 we walk to the Plaza Central and meet with our one-on-one guide for conversation and any activity we want to do together until 4:30.

My guide suggested we go to the Museo Amparo because it's free on Monday. They have a large and respected permanent collection of pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern art.

They also had a large exhibition of the work of Sheila Hicks that was awesome.
The pieces are made of mostly fabric and yarn...
...and I really loved looking at it. This one whispered to me from all the way down the hall...look at me look at meee.
Here she is - hola Sheila Hicks.
What a view from the terrace of the museum.
...and even more. It was a very good day and now I have to do homework. Homework!
February 20

Puebla Old Town is chock-o-block with faaabulous street food.
This line was 15-20 persons long and even cars pulled up for a plate of deliciousness.

The guy in the foreground is taking the money while the ladies sitting by the wall scoop up the orders. Too bad for me I was on my way to some place else and couldn't wait.

There is fruit on most corners, carts with chips, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables, and shops where the big kitchens are in the open door so people line up on the street for tacos and all the other walking-around dishes.
I and my guide (the conversation coach provided by the school) walked across town twice to visit these two very interesting museums. It seems we are hitting all the museums on their free day - I'm leaving the schedule to her which is very cool.

This is the Ex-Convento Santa Rosa Museo and its splendid and rightfully famous kitchen.
The kitchen is covered in Telavera tiles. "Authentic Talavera pottery only comes from the town of San Pablo del Monte (in Tlaxcala) and the cities of Puebla, Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali (all these four latter in the state of Puebla), because of the quality of the natural clay found there and the tradition of production which goes back to the 16th century."
They make tiles of course, and bowls, plates, flowerpots, anything you can think of you can find.

There are rules for calling your work Talavera, lots of them, and the pieces are significantly more expensive than similar looking pieces from other places, but the areas famous for Talavera are investing to bring back the business and reopen some of the closed workshops.
Puebla's UNESCO World Heritage designation is well earned.
We visited another museum, Aquiles Serdan Brothers House and the Mexican Revolution Regional Museum.

The house remains as it was when this family of revolutionaries was killed by the Mexican government in 1918. It was interesting but the most interesting part was this Talavera kitchen. I need one of those tiled walls.
February 21

I enter the house through the garage and then take a door into the kitchen. This is the view.

My Food: I eat some breakfast at 7:30 made by my homestay host. She makes one egg every morning scrambled or boiled, and some type of bread, and a huge serving of fruit. It's so early for me to eat though, so we have a routine where I eat the hot food and take the cold food to school for the 11:00 break which works well for me.

At lunch the school provides a large buffet meal at 1pm and since I've only eaten there three times I still like it. Old timers are tired of the repeating menu so I might pop out from time to time for a meal somewhere else.

Dinner is a light serving at 7pm. My homestay host makes either soup or salad, and bread and fruit.

There's also the street and I simply must have one thing each day and twice it's been the best churros EVER. I took a picture but it didn't turn out...I'll have a chance to do it again For Sure.
Me and my guide from the school - Sandra!
We visited the Colección de Arte, Universidad de las Américas Puebla. There wasn't much inside that made my heart beat fast but oh Wow on the building.
A view out the window of the above building.

We had to move fast to get all the chores done that I was hoping to accomplish. We went to print photos, make some copies, and visit the office of the people running the Monarch Butterfly tour that I want to enjoy on Sunday.
February 22

Hola Sandra! We came here for the view and to enjoy a beverage. It was lovely.
El Edificio Carolino was not easy to get into and we had to hurry a bit. This is one of the four large patios in the 17th century building that has served many purposes, and is currently home to the administrative offices of Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla.
Edificio Arronet, as an example of what most of the big buildings hide behind their giant doors.

Puebla is a large city, the fourth largest metropolitan area in Mexico with a population well over 3,000,000. I haven't been out of the old town though...
...and the old town is magnificent. I know these pictures are just snaps from the street of interesting facades but I haven't thought of a better idea yet. So many charming buildings in so many styles.

I should tell you how my school days go when there are no evening activities, and when there are evening activities as happens often, I don't get back until 10-11-12pm!

7:30 clean up and get downstairs for a little breakfast
8:30 leave for school
9:00 class begins
1:00 class ends for lunch
2:15 walk to the Zócolo to meet with my guide, see sights, walk walk walk, and talk about what we see
4:30 finish with the guild and head home
5:00 collapse on my bed, look at email, download pictures, start homework
7:00 a very light supper with my homestay host
8:00 back to finish homework, try to put the days pictures online, and watch something distracting on my computer
11:00 shut down and go to sleep!

February 23

After school, on the way to meet Sandra I had to pop into this church because here she was all a-glow-glow.
The gate and fence surrounding the Cathedral.
Our first stop was for a tour of a Talavera workshop.

It was an excellent tour in that one guy walked around with us from station to station to see the entire process in motion. Here they're getting the clay to the right consistency and mixing the colors.
We passed by the potters wheels and came to this guy who was finishing off the raw clay getting ready for drying.
Next came the painters, and then the glazing, and then The Store where I bought a tile that reminded me of the tiles in the kitchen of the convent.
Gosh, my whole diary is turning into handsome building after handsome building.
This is the Teatro Central that fronts the...
...Artist's Square with a few rows of galleries.
Our last stop, Talavera Cabaret, and my last outing with Delightful Sandra, a club she especially likes that I may be visiting again when they're doing a show!

The school changes the guides each week so we can get used to hearing different speaking styles. It's a good idea I think but also I'll miss Sandra.
February 24

I spent a lot of the weekend with my classmate Artur from Poland, now living in London. On Saturday we took the HoHo tour called the Turibus here which was a great way to see more of the city than just the Old Town, and then we ate local food, dish after dish, cerveza after cerveza because, as has become our watchword, ?Porque no? meaning Why Not...

..........Click Here To See
..........Pictures from the excursions
..........including the HoHo but you might need to scroll down.
February 25

In the spirit of ?Porque No? we had to get up at 2AM to catch the bus at 3AM for a magnificent tour of a couple of remarkable places including plenty of ?Porque No?.

..........Click Here To See
..........Pictures from the excursions
..........including the Butterfly Migration but you might need to scroll down.

February 26

It's Monday and I arrived to school on time despite having got up at 2 Sunday morning and getting back past 11:30 At Night.

We get a new guía every Monday (guide and conversation coach) and here's Angeles, mine for the week! We went to a Picasso exhibit that was small and pretty delightful. It was local interpretations of Picasso's work. This was a collage series of brains thinking about Guernica that I especially enjoyed.

We did something else that I can't remember and here it is a week later which will be an ongoing problem of having waited so long to write.
After school a group of the students met to experience the fabulous Lucha Libre. I don't necessarily need to go again, but I would join in if someone else really wanted to go.

I liked it! It made me smile and laugh out loud. The characters are so full of story and they are funny as can be.

And it's a family affair!
This shows only the tip of a very deep iceberg. There were so many vendors carrying around food most of them extremely unexpected such has plates piled high with shrimps, head to tail and covered in sticky sauce which the fans ate off paper plates spitting the shells onto the floor. Fried fish; plates of carne asada; sweets in a rainbow of colors; masks; toys...I'm sure I'm not remembering them all.
Here is the entrance of the Luchadores...
...and I was wandering around and found myself behind the television announcers. I could see the monitor of the actual broadcast. Every time the girls came out to form a welcoming party for the Luchadores, the camera never left their cleavage.
Here they are roiling up the crowd.
Awww. Check out the little girl on the right in her Frozen t-shirt and Luchadora mask. And the dad's big thumbs up. There are plenty of professional Luchadoras (the men are Luchadores) but I didn't happen to see any.

Then in the picture on the left she is admiring herself in the phone. She did look at herself for a very long time.
Here's us, a little fuzzy and yellow but cute!
February 27

At lunch today someone somewhere along the line called for an earthquake evacuation but we never felt the least bump, which is the best outcome possible from an earthquake evacuation.
My guía and I tried to get into that church but it was closed so instead we went to the roof of a nearby building to look at it.

I was hoping to see La capilla de la Virgen del Rosario, a chapel located inside the Templo de Santo Domingo.
The rooftop terrace was lovely and there was even a mountain visible. Puebla is actually surrounded by mountains as is Mexico City and in both places one rarely gets the pleasure of seeing them.
Then we walked over to a lovely city garden with sculpture and archeological sites mixed in. It is set in an area surrounded by light manufacturing and it's right in the Old Town, so that's rare.

Then churros!
February 28

It's Field Trip Day. The school includes two field trips in the price and this is the first, an afternoon outing to Cholula and surrounds.

First we visited the Templo de San Francisco Acatepec, a total gasper followed by, and I couldn't imagine how this would be possible, an even bigger gasper, the Iglesia de Tonantzintla. The Great Pyramid of Cholula was interesting and well preserved. No gasping however emitted from the crowd at the pyramid.

..........Click Here To See
..........Pictures from the excursions
..........including the trip to Cholula but you might need to scroll down.
My OMG spot, the best churros EVER and it always looks like this.
After the trip to Cholula a group gathered for dinner at a seafood place and the food was especially delicious.
And since it was already dark for going home I thought to pop back to the Zocolo and have a look at the cathedral in lights.
March 1

This is insane, I have zero recollection of what I did on Thursday and the pictures are no help! I know we went to get this sweet treat called Tortitas de Santa Clara and my word are they sweet.

There's my guía and her sister on their way home. Vroom Vroom!
I think it must be the day we went here because no pictures were allowed inside and I already had this from another day.

It is part of Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla University in Puebla, Mexico and this building is called Casa de los Muñecos. The Talavera work is exceptional. Inside is an exhibit of scientific instrument from many disciplines, and a mummy or two, all very well displayed.

And there must have been something else...oh yes! We went to the roof-top deck of a shopping block but the air was too thick to take a picture.
March 2

It's my last day with Angeles. Muchas Gracias Angeles!
Our first stop was a quick buzz into this church because there was a line and we needed to get in that line.

It was quite the scene. I think it was a special Friday for the Templo de Santa Monica, Señor de Las Maravillas.

We squirmed our way in to see the image from the front and then squirreled our way to the side where...
...this was happening. Everyone who left touched the glass here praying for a miracle.
At the Convento Secreto de Santa Monica we saw a lot of paintings collected from the various closed convents. It was so quiet and peaceful inside the plaza just like they said it would be.

Another guide told me how all the ex-convents are haunted.
Finally! We were both so excited because we had passed by this church every day hoping it would be open and today, Voila!

The main attraction is La capilla de la Virgen del Rosario, a chapel located inside the Templo de Santo Domingo.
And here she is thanks to wiki - I couldn't get this shot!

Some detail...
...and some more.

And then Party Hearty! One of the students invited everyone over for a happy hour.

I didn't make it through the whole festivity and then everyone went out for a lively dinner. I think they didn't get home until midnight. This is a party hearty crowd.
March 3

A couple of pictures from inside the house because I did not go outside the house today.

I am about at the end of my strength and tomorrow is another Great Big Day where we have to be at the school at 7:30am for the drive to Mexico City and a visit to Teotihuacan, home to the Pyramid of the Sun and The Pyramid of the Moon.
So I studied a little, watched tv a lot on my computer, did pictures, napped off and on and tried to not get sick.

The two hours with the guía are two hours of walking and talking and walking and talking. Good and good for you! And something every day and night.
March 4

Field Trip! An all-day outing to Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, and then into Mexico City.

..........Click Here To See
..........Pictures from the excursions
..........including the trip to Teotihuacan/Mexico City but you might need to scroll down.
March 5

I skipped school today and slept for 18 hours in honor of which here is a picture of me, Jordon, and our FABulous teacher Gabriela.

Gabriela is one of those gifted-in-her-profession people of whom I was in constant awe. Not because I'll remember though, she shouldn't be judged by that, but what a joy it was to learn from her.
March 6

It's Tuesday and I went back to school. I also got to meet my third guide/conversation coach, a fine young man named Javier who suggested we visit two places and remarkably I hadn't seen either yet.

This is the San Pedro Museum of Art...
...that is now undergoing another renovation.

From Lonely Planet: "Opened in 1999 as Museo Poblano de Arte Virreinal, this top-notch museum is now named after the 16th-century Hospital de San Pedro in which it is housed. Galleries display excellent contemporary art and a fascinating permanent exhibit on the hospital’s history."
One of my favorite parts was the bathroom - wow, gorgeous Talavera basins.
Then we went to the Casa Del Mendrugo Museum. I can't remember the nature of the exhibit. Bummer.
But this was in the entry.
March 7

We went back to Museo Amaro for a new show that had just opened, works by Yoshua Okón called Collateral.
It was room after room of all terrible things, Nazis, Pinochet, McDonalds, corporate dogs of war, and the images were all so disturbing I don't want to put them here.

The thing is the artist wanted to say something and he surely did make you look.
One piece I can show. It's about a town in Maine called Skowhegan, originally inhabited by the indigenous Abenaki people all massacred or driven from the area during the 4th Anglo-Abenaki War.

Now though, the white people in the town like to have festivals and celebrations pretending they are the indigenous people. It was creepy.

This was the day the skies opened with a completely unseasonable rainstorm. I did manage to get back between downpours so that was great.
March 8

I went out for lunch now and then for some quiet time between activities and to enjoy more of the local offerings.

Puebla specialties:
Mole poblano.
Chiles en nogada.
Rajas poblanas.
Tacos arabes.
Tortitas de Santa Clara.

I've had all of them except chiles en nogada which they said was out of season and memelas which I never ran across.
Me and guía Javier who would be defending his college thesis on the following Monday on a topic related to long form poetry in Mexico during the Vice-Regency era. You go Javier!
We ubered over to our destination passing the Templo de San Francisco which I never managed to get to for a visit.
We were headed to the tunnels: "Experts determined that the tunnels were built in 1531. .. Members of the Catholic Church mainly used the tunnels to transport their treasures and acquisitions in and out of Puebla without the public knowing about it."

Another story is that they were used extensively during the May 5, 1862 invasion by the French.
The same article said the tunnels had been lost and rediscovered in 2014.

It was a cool attraction but I went there on the guides advice because it lead to what I really wanted to see...
..."Zona Xanenetla: from the neighborhood of the brick makers to the area of murals"

Around 2011 a large art group call Colectivo Tomate decided to "“generate social projects that benefit the city of Puebla using art as their flag” and began working to revitalize Xanenetla by painting murals that vividly depicted the neighborhood’s identity."

They finished a couple of years later.
One interesting thing is that I saw only one occurance of tagging and no fresh murals added after the original effort. It feels like history rather than something that is alive.
Some of the work is not holding up as well as others because, we thought, probably the base surfaces were so different.
Corn. Cool.
From the internet article where I've got all this info:

"The artist gets to know the neighborhood and the family who lives or works in that particular building and then creates a design that speaks about both, a process that engages everyone in the project.

"The larger goals are to unite the community and to instill a renewed sense of pride in the neighborhood, a desire to beautify the area, and a new appreciation for its history."
So Javier and I were walking around, me snapping away (owww I have so many more...) and a woman came out of one of the doors and told Javier we should turn around because the neighborhood is not safe.

I did not feel at all that we were not safe! Javier was getting really twitchy though, feeling responsible for me probably, and he'd never been to this place before even though the neighborhood is part of the historic downtown and part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation.

I wanted to go down this street to see what was what with that foot. So the woman said ok, go ahead, I'll watch you. Yikes.
Here's the foot! We then made our way back.
In the evening those of us who were leaving had a graduation party hosted by the school in a Brazilian restaurant. It was a lot of fun, we got certificates and gifts and sweet goodbyes from one and all.

Several of those who started with me were staying for another 3-6-21 weeks, and several who were leaving had come earlier. I think the 3 week 'semester' with books that the class can begin and finish in 3 weeks is an excellent idea, and with the afternoon guides it is a very impressive program here at the Spanish Institute of Puebla.
March 9

I decided to find an exceptionally expensive restaurant in the historic center to treat myself to a farewell lunch. It was nice, no doubt...
...and lovely to sit here. But no more delicious than food from the street!
And speaking of the street, I don't remember what I did this last day!
But I did find a balcony and take these two pictures.
And then a contingent of the gang met for a final farewell. Such a happy, welcoming crowd. Thanks to one and all for a memorable three weeks full of delights and good fun.
March 10

My homestay host, Maria Carmen ready for her daily trip to the church. Adios Mari, Gracias!

And in 12 hours or so - Home Sweet Home!
HomeMexico and the Caribbean • Mexico • '18 Feb: Puebla City, Mexico

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