Mexico Day 10: Hasta Luego Our Cabaña!

This is our final blog as we start our trek back home to Canada. We’re a tad behind with our blogging so we’d like to tell you about yesterday as we travel to the airport.

In the morning we went to Cuernavaca. We started off visiting the oldest Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere (1500s) before buying our final souvenirs in a local craft market.

The group split in 2 with some visiting a very underwhelming mall (although it had a Krispy Kreme, a McDonalds with a chocoroles (sort of like a Swiss roll) McFlurries a Subway) and others staying at the market. Lizzie bought a hammock chair and is hoping it will make it into the flight. The mall group also got 10 minutes of culture at a free museum of prehistoric carvings.

We made it back in time for a late lunch and some free time before our evening Fiesta! The few of us who were working to complete the Scorpion Challenge finished that up just in time. Examples of things we had to do were: taking a selfie with Nieve (Our Cabaña’s cat), finding out the meaning/history of things like the piñata (did you know it was originally from China?) and the Mexican flag, completing a Mexican art project, taking a picture of a volcano at sunrise and helping to ring the morning bell.

Our evening festivities began with some games like pin the tail on the burro, a ring toss, and other silly games.

Then, after dinner (with churros!!!), we’re treated to a show by a Mariachi band, girls got to hit a piñata (Stephanie specifically because she was the you hear Canadian), we enjoyed a slide show of the week including blooper photos and we received our special Our Cabaña pins that you can Orly get if you visit. There were some (lots and lots of?) tears, many goodbyes and photos.

We also traded the secret friends bags we had been filling all week and received fun things like crests, magnets, socks, snacks, tea, oats, water guns, a hand-painted journal, etc.

The girls didn’t get a whole lot of sleep with a couple groups leaving in the middle of the night, but there will be time for that on the airplane.

Hasta Luego!

Monklands District Travellers

Ps. Made it home safe. First class was great! The hammock made it too!

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Mexico Day 9: Practicing our Spanish

The Guiders were out partying like it was 1999 last night so blogging was delayed to various moments throughout today. Today’s will come tomorrow.

Yesterday we started out with a short program called Free Being Me which tackled the image myth. The focus was on social media and ads. We discussed how images are manipulated to present one standard of perfect which doesn’t truly exist. The final activity in the program was for each of us to write on a sticky note what physical feature of ours we liked the best. We then stuck them up on a wall so we could see all of our love for ourselves!

Visitors to Our Cabana create a page for a scrapbook so we spent some of our free time in the craft house working on our page. We have a Quebec flag as our background with pictures of us glued on and cute Canada stickers stuck on a bit willy-nilly.

After lunch learned about Mexican traditions. There were a bunch of stations set up with different activities. Each time a person completed an activity they received a gold coin (chocolate). If you collected 3 you could trade them in for a small prize and if you collected 5, you could claim a bigger prize.

Three stations helped us practice our Spanish; loteria (Mexican bingo),  a market game where we learned how to haggle and a word search. The haggling was one of the most fun, as June, the staff member running the station, was really playing the part. When we we were asking her to lower the price she rocked her imaginary baby and said it needed tacos.

For those more artistically inclined, there was a Day of the Dead makeup station and for trivia nerds, there was a challenging game of Jeopardy.

Us Guiders went out for dinner to an absolutely gorgeous restaurant with fountains, gardens, a koi pond and an art gallery! The food was delicious and plentiful. The girls had an evening of friendship themed activities and ended the night with some Just Dance.

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Mexico Day 8: SDGs and STDs

Most of our girls led the opening activity at colours today. Their theme was gender equality so they led a game where they read our jobs and character types and invited us to move between “male,” “female” and “unisex” depending on who we thought held these roles in our cultures.

The entire event group was divided in two and the other half went waterfall jumping today so our numbers were smaller (around 40) for our morning program centering on gender violence. We talked about different types of violence, their causes and what we can do to take action. We weren’t running around as much as most of our programs but that was nice given how much we ran around yesterday and we had some really good conversations as we all sat together. Many girls said they wished they had more of that kind of conversations in school and at a younger age.

After lunch we had a nice pool party with music and fancy drinks. There was an epic game of monkey in the middle and lots of sitting on floaty toys.

After dinner we gathered at the craft house and worked on various projets like pottery painting and straw art. Then, we participated in an evening program about kindness. We played a buzzer type game with questions about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and when one of the questions came up asking us to name at least 8 SDGs, one of the groups started naming off STDs – accents can be confusing! We were all laughing so so hard!

We got a little extra warmth in our day when we passed around papers with our names on them to write compliments about each other. It’s nice to see how other people see us and read kind things.

We discovered that there are awesome pictures of us on the Our Cabaña Facebook page. You should check them out!

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Mexico Day 7: Over the Falls Without A Barrell

Today’s blog post brought to you by Stephanie (in the pool), Rebekka, Kathryn and Beverly.

Today we all got sunburnt – by no fault of our own but to protect the environment. We went waterfall jumping in a protected park where they didn’t allow sunscreen or bug spray. They told us there would be no bugs and lots of shade but it was a LIE! Well there was some shade but not enough for us not to burn.

But I guess we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We should start at the beginning…after an early breakfast, we boarded a coach bus that drove us an hour and a half away into a different province (Guerrero) where we then took a half hour ride in the back of pick-up trucks. Amazingly the excitement didn’t ware off as the pain of the bumps began and continued. There was great joy through the “owwww”s. According to Rebekka’s Fitbit, we did 10,700 steps during the just a few hours today because it kept counting the bumps as steps.

The company providing the experience gave us PFDs and helmets and we started out 1 mile hike out through twisting paths, rocks, mud, and trees that led to jumps that grew in height. We started with a 1m one to see what our technique was like and they eventually increased all the way to 6 and then 10 meters. A couple stray dogs followed us all the way through (minus the jumping) and we saw a number of cows and donkeys on our journey too.

One of the volunteers found a plant and had us guess what it was – anis! (Yes, Ter, we’re including something about food just for you).

All of our group members were brave enough to do the 10m jump and some of them even did it twice – they say they would have done it a third time too! There will be lots of pictures of the actual jumping to come but they were taken by the company Guiding us so we don’t have them yet.

The hike back in our waterlogged shoes and clothes was interesting…we are glad we brought shoes that we didn’t care about because some of us are now throwing them out. We crowded an extra 2 people in the back of our truck on the way back so almost all of our group was together with our legs tied in a human knot. The excitement from the morning hadn’t dwindled a bit.

There were lots of sleepers in the bus ride and showers felt great on our return. You might think that that was enough water for the day but 4 girls are back in the pool this evening!

PS. When Kathryn told her mom about the jumping she said: “Good thing you did your swim test. I’m sure that swimming 50m and treading water for 1m prepared you to jump 10m!”

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Mexico Day 6: Tiny Humans, Lizards and Snacks

We are all currently in sugar overload (Clara, Rebekka, Stéphanie, Fred, Kathryn, Beverly and Lizzie). The others are too but they went to bed.

Today we drew on mini children during a community service project where we welcomed tiny humans (orphans) to Our Cabaña. They were very cute and sticky. They were the best behaved children we have ever met and made us emotional. They also drew on us. Stephanie and one of the girls from the Bahamas got hit a lot by balls while playing with them after our round-robin station.

There was an awesome huge lizard that we kept scaring back into its hole. Did we mention it was huge??

After lunch we headed out walking around the neighbourhood. We found a Starbucks and, by chance, happened on some pyramids. We couldn’t get past a fence but it was still kind of neat! We wanted to go to a 7/11 but ended up at an OXXO that was closer for new snacks. We should mention that they do feed us well here, we just like to try new things.

Beverley and Stephanie found a leaf larger than their faces. There were pictures.

Tonight was an international festival where each group presented something about their hometown/country and we all set up tables with food, badges, etc. (Hence the sugar overload). The Bahamians handed out as much candy as people could carry, one of the US groups let us taste test all their cookies. We had maple cookie. During our presentation, we sang Oh Canada in both official languages and taught Cathedral Bells.

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Mexico Day 5: Old and New

Blog post by Guiders Lizzie, Beverly and Kathryn. The other girls have made too many new friends to hang out with us. Alex joined in partway. Disclaimer: this post is full of sarcasm.

The 3 of us Guiders contributed to colours this morning with the theme of Leading for Innovation: Creative and Critical Thinking. We began with some inspiring quotes, then had groups of ten do the human knot and finally, raised the WAGGGS flag.

Stephanie discovered the joys of odd bread covered in a solid custard like substance dipped in yogourt.

After breakfast we boarded mini busses for our first of two excursions – heading to the village of Tepotzlan. We started our time there at an ex-convent where Dominican friars converted the locals to Catholicism. There were multiple layers of paint that we couldn’t touch for fear of damaging it with the oil in our hands and a staircase leading to nowhere. Then, we continued on to the local church that has been under repair since an earthquake a few years ago. The locals have been innovative and now have an outdoor church under a tent.

Since it’s been a while since we talked about food, we will permit ourselves to discuss this morning’s highlight: a local ice cream shop with 138 flavours (but only 125 were available). 2 of us wanted apricot and were disappointed. Flavours we tried included vanilla, blackberry, cream, mango, chocolate, tequila con limon, kiwi and litchi. Some were made with milk and others were more icy but all were flavourful. The group decided that was a worthwhile purchase.

Then we went on to visit many, many stalls at a local market. It was very nice because people were not harassing us to buy their items which made Kathryn less irritated. Our group purchased items like earrings, shoes, clothes, a pencil case, cocoa, chocolate and crickets. We made it back half an hour later than planned for our already very late lunch: 2:30 pm. Luckily we were prepared and had brought snacks. You might think we were Girl Guides!

This afternoon, we were split up by room (which meant leaders had our own teams) to play a game about WAGGGS. The girls were far more competitive than we were – especially Beverly who hates competitive games when they get violent. There are only of battle scars to show – none of them belonging to our girls because we are mean and make them were shoes rather than flip flops or bare feet.

The game ended with everyone in the pool where they stayed until dinner. We leaders chatted with adults from other countries and compared our safety rules relating to pools. We appear to be the only country where a swim test is necessary.

We ended the evening with a fabulous campfire where everyone led songs from their country. There much hilarity, silliness and dancing. Then we had s’mores! Including some with pink marshmallows that tasted like fake strawberry flavour. They were…interesting…

Lizzie was very disconcerted when the buckets next to the fire that she expected to be water buckets were lit on fire! Where was the safety?!?!? It turned out later that there was a water bucket way off to the side.

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Mexico Day 4: Our Favourite Things

Blog post by Stephanie, Alex, Fred, Clara, Lizzie, Kathryn and Beverly.

Rather than a chronological post today, we’re posting everyone’s favourite event/activity/moment. We are writing to you after a Just Dance marathon and we’re very sweaty but happy!

Kathryn: THE GIANT BUG: A giant bug!!!!!

Stephanie: THE PANCAKES: they were delicious for breakfast. They were light and fluffy and covered in fake maple syrup, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk.

Fred: SITTING BY THE POOL, BEING ALL TOGETHER AND BLOGGING: I like it because it makes us think about our day and share our favourite moments. I also like having my feet in the warm pool water.

Alex: HENNA: as part of a World Centre tour we did different activities relating to the countries the world centre are in. My favourite was doing henna designs as part of discovering Sangam, a World Centre in Pune, India.

Clara: DECORATING BAGS: it was fun because we got to see everyone’s creativity and because everyone made different things. There are many crafts in the craft house we can do and I’d like to go back and try them. These bags will be used for secret friend gifts. My second favourite thing was being forced to eat at a different table from Fred for dinner (sarcasm? It was fun).

Beverly: DEAD SCORPION SOCIETY CHALLENGE: Lizzie roped me into attempting to become a member of the Dead Scorpion Society by completing the Our Cabana challenge. We have been working on doing things like learning 10 Spanish phrases, taking a selfie with the centre’s cat (Nieve), learning about the history of piñatas, complementing people in Spanish and doing a Mexican craft.

Lizzie: THE NOT LIME: we were told we could pick fruit from the trees so we found a lime we were excited to squeeze into our water. We cut it in half and discovered it was orange – not a lime but a very unripe mandarine! It was sad but also funny!

Other notable activities: a round robin of activities about leadership, a hilarious video and ultra competitive scavenger hunt about the history of Our Cabaña that Stephanie and Lizzie won, a group photo where Lizzie was in the tallest 15 people here and Alex and Clara were in the shortest 15, swinging and Magnum popsicles.

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Mexico day 3: Eagles and Eternal Spring

Blog post by Kathryn, Beverley, Alex, Stephanie and Lizzie.

Today was a travel day: van, boat and feet. We left Ticalli right after breakfast and headed by van towards Xochimilco, the city of eternal spring. We briefly stopped at the Olympic Stadium, part of a university and used for the 1968 Olympics. There was a neat mosaic of people and eagles and lots of sun.

We got back in the van as our tour Guide, Luis, continued to give us descriptions of everything we saw outside the window. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about history and culture.

Upon arriving in Xochimilco, we headed onto a boat called Fernanda. A dog followed us on and we were all sad when he had to be shooed off. We traveled around in the boat surrounded by 2499 other boats for about an hour. It felt more like 5000 boats because they were all we could see. There were carnivorous plants for sale for 30 pesos ($2), water hens, dead fish, people selling food and flower crowns and Mariachi bands. We decided to pay for a song.

We had lunch at a small place recommended by Luis (tacos for many of us) and saw a performance of circus performers dangling and spinning down a large pole. One of the played the flute while spinning upside down. Wow!

We then got an hour to wander around the stalls and buy things like bags, magnets, plates and coconuts.

Lizzie slept through the ride up and down the 3100 m mountain (in her defense she was in a moving vehicle = sleeping) when we got back in the van and lots of other girls fell asleep later on the journey too.

When we arrived at Our Cabana there fancy gates and we were greeted with chocolate and lemonade. Alex knew one of the volunteers from a previous GGC trip she went on BC. What are the chances?

We were showed to our rooms. All of the girls but Alex are together, so are the Leaders. Alex, being 18, gets to mingle with other girls her age. We had some free time so lots of us headed to the pool with floaters, water guns and balls. The water was nice and warm!

We all joined up again for a tour of Our Cabana, and then dinner (quesadillas). During a short break after dinner, Alex, Stephanie, Chloe and Rebekka played tennis (poorly according to them). We then played some icebreaker games (Stephanie won one of them) and then got an intro presentation.

Fred didn’t help with blogging tonight because she had to wash her stinky walking boot (she sprained her ankle before starting the trip – we didn’t injure her – no paperwork!)

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Mexico Day 2: Over 20,000 steps!

Today’s blog brought to you by everyone (as we wait for our dinner):

After the feedback we received from yesterday’s blog (too much talk about food), today we saw lots of CULTURE.

Breakfast was a nice mix of pastries, juice, quesadillas, cereal, yogurt and fruit served at Ticalli. We got to interact with a few of the girls from British and American groups and Stephanie, Alex and Chloe traded some SWAPS (something whatchamacallit affectionately pinned somewhere, also known as tiny crafts).

We then visited the Mexican Guide shop before heading out towards Chapultepec park. There were a few “discussions” about how to get there since the girls have been taking turns leading us but we found some handy signs. We had to walk through a somewhat sketchy underground pedestrian walkway but made it out into various stalls and eventually the gigantic park. It’s amazing to have so much green space in the middle of the city!

Bathrooms were harder to come across (and cost 4 pesos, about 25 cents), but searching for one led us to the entrance of the castle we’d planned to visit. We felt very lucky as they told us we didn’t need tickets – being students and “teachers” – and started the long walk up a hill to the entrance. They checked our bags at the bottom of the hill and told us we were ok to bring our water bottles up as long as we didn’t drink from them, but apparently communication between them and the security guards at the top was iffy because they insisted we empty our water bottles and also head back down for tickets since we didn’t have student ID. Everyone but Kathryn and Lizzie took a seat at the top and enjoyed the shade while the two of them took all the water bottles to stick in a locker (potable water isn’t easy to come by) and buy the tickets.

The castle was much bigger than we expected and also more museum-y, but we enjoyed it all the same. We found a globe from 1816 that included Montreal but not Canada. After all the running around, it was noon by the time we went in so there were some sections (apparently more castle-y) that we didn’t make it to as we were starving by 2 when we headed back down the hill. Kathryn challenged girls to apply their sunscreen while walking and Chloe and Stephanie were quite successful.

We’d been told that the Museum of Modern Art had packed picnic lunches you could buy and eat in the park so we headed over there to see what that included. We each got to choose a sandwich with chips, a cupcake and drink. Many of us tried a fancy kind of fruity/flowery water called jamaica (sp?). Some found it tasted like watered down juice and others enjoyed it.

Apparently siestas are a Mexican thing so we lay down on our picnic blanket and enjoyed a nice nap (some more intentionally than others) before heading in to the Modern Art Museum. We only had about an hour and a half before it closed but they were very kind and let us in for free! Beverly was extremely excited to see Frida Kahlo artwork and there was a neat interactive exhibition about art and games. A few pieces of art we’d like to mention: a neat painting of a Ferris wheel and people walking by, a boy peeling a creepy mask off his face, a shadow wall that you could stand behind with props, a weird movie with detached hands and legs reassembling their body, and a wall of stencil signs about Trump.

Heading out we found a memorial for 43 lost and murdered people (some of them children). We headed back to Ticalli taking a slightly different route and decided that it was too early for dinner given our late lunch so we took a bit of a break in our rooms. It lasted longer than we expected as we ended up waiting out a thunderstorm.

While in their own room, the girls decided that we’d be having Mexican food all week so they desperately wanted Italian. It took some hunting and we almost gave up but we did find some amazing food and couldn’t even manage churros once done. We did, however, head to a corner store to stock up on Mexican snacks.

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Mexico day 1: Welcome to Mexico!

We have arrived in Mexico and the girls have agreed to take turns blogging. Today you’re hearing from Chloe, Alex, Rebekka, Stefanie, Lizzie and Kathryn.

The day started off well, with everyone arriving on time! We’d learned a few weeks ago that we got an amazing deal on our tickets and half the group was getting to travel first class each way. Nobody was too bothered about whose turn it was first as we all knew we’d get a chance. It turns out the perks were great – better food, extra snacks, fancy napkins, actual cutlery and even footrests! In economy, breakfast (or disappointment) involved a perfect semi-sphere of powdered scrambled eggs with ham, a questionable red sauce, some fruit and yogourt. The plastic cutlery was sturdy enough to be acceptable.

Once we arrived at the airport, we went through customs, including being fingerprinted at a machine (it turns out only some of us have recognizable fingers). We made it through looking for our driver with a sign with our name. Unfortunately, we finally managed to contact him 45 minutes later and found out that he was another 45 minutes out, having gotten the day wrong. This gave us the chance to explore some local snacks from a 7/11. The Cheetos were extremely orange and came with a package of hot sauce and the cheese chips actually tasted like real cheese. Crazy!

The drive to Ticalli was uneventful and the Mexican Guide Centre is welcoming and functional. We didn’t take too much of a break for fear of not getting up again so we dropped off our gear and headed out. Lizzie had forgotten her toothbrush so we went to a grocery/corner store and checked out some more foreign snacks. We were very excited to find “churritos.” We opened the bag, dug in to enjoy our mini churros until we discovered that they were hot pepper flavored. Someone more observant might have noticed the chili on the bag.

Next on our list was dinner. Thanks to a recommendation from Pam (Lizzie’s mom), we tried the restaurant right next to Ticalli. We enjoyed some authentic Mexican food and delicious fruit juice. A wasp decided to burrow itself into Stephanie’s lentil burger, much to her disappointment. Chloe shared some new discovery that we think might have been pickled cactus. Reactions were varied. Chloe started a new religion, the rest of us are still unsure. A few locals stopped by our table to welcome us to Mexico/attempt to sell us various items. The most memorable was a man who came by a few times to tell us how shy Mexicans are and who asked Kathryn to do him an important favour. We expected him to ask for money until he revealed what he really wanted: “Can you do me a favour and stop being so beautiful?” It’s now an ongoing joke.

Last on our day’s bucket list was actual churros. They were as good as we hoped, dipped in sweetened condensed milk, caramel and chocolate. They were much longer than we expected so we could break them into pieces and dip multiple times. Stephanie would like everyone to know that the chocolate sauce tasted just as good when she drank it…

We’re all exhausted so we’re heading off to bed.

More tomorrow!

Ps. I apologize for typos as I’m typing on a phone…

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