Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dispatches from Mexico: Janitzio

Here's the lastest from Sergeant Tamara Pronske in Morelia, Mexico. She took the above photos, which depict Janitzio - an island in a lake on top of a mountain; the six officers now in Mexico learning Spanish; and the way the swine flu scare has impacted everything - even statues!:

Buenos Dias de Morelia!!! We had a great day on Saturday on another excursion. We loaded up and (professor) Lucia and (bus-driver) Pepe took us to the island of Janitzio, which is about 30 minutes away by bus. The island of Janitzio means “where it rains” and is at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, making it one of the highest lakes in the world. The island can only be reached by boats, which regularly ferry people back and forth from the Patzcuaro pier. On the island, there are approximately 700 residences, with about 2,000 residents, and only indigenous people can live on the island. The island is known for the famous butterfly fisherman, who are skilled at lowering their butterfly-shaped nets in the water to catch the local famous cuisine, “pescado blanco.” These fish look like tiny little sardines. On the top of the island is a monumental statue of Father Jose Maria Morelos, for whom the city of Morelia was named. The statue is approximately 135 feet tall, and you can climb all the way to the top. What I have failed to mention, is that you have to climb approximately another 150 steps just to get to the top of the island before you can even begin the climb to the top of the statue. Once you get to the top, you are actually in the fist of the statue, and the view is amazing. You can see the entire island and the surrounding mountains. Once we got to the top, it was a tight squeeze, but we all managed to make it.

Before I arrived in Morelia, I was under the impression that it was going to be all flat and desert-like. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Morelia is actually in the valley of a lot of mountains, and once you get a little ways out, the views are amazing. You really begin to notice how high up you are in elevation when you try to walk up a few hundred steps and you have to stop many times to catch your breath. At times, we are at the same elevation as Denver.

We had a great time, and after we left the island, we ate in the van. On days that we have excursions, our host families pack us a sack lunch. We have determined that ham and cheese must be the “official lunch” of the American, since everyone one of us had a ham and cheese sandwich. Although they were all the same, there were a few variations. One person had carrots added to their sandwich and another had avocados. Both said they tasted good.

Saturday night we went to one of the host family’s houses to watch the soccer game. This week, the government urged people to stay home and not go to public places, in an effort to allow the flu to run its course and go away. So far, there have been NO cases of Swine Flu in Morelia. The soccer game was still played in Morelia, but to an empty stadium, since they do not want people out in public places. So my first and only Mexican soccer was seen on TV and not in the stadium, as originally planned. Although the Morelia Monarchs won, it wasn’t the same :(. Sunday was the big day at Wal-Mart, and then to another host family's house for pizza. We tried to tell the taxi driver we wanted to go to Wal-Mart, but to no avail. He just did not understand where we wanted to go. We quickly found that they do not call Wal-Mart by its name. They call it "Tienda Mart" which translates to "Store Mart." Nothing is easy here!

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