What do these things have in common? I made them all this week.
Mexican Folk Art
The past couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a class on alejibres. Alejibres (ah-lay-HEE-brays) are a certain type of Mexican folk art that are basically super colorful animal hybrids. They are made with wire, cardboard and paper mache and you see them everywhere around Mexico. We went to the class to learn how to make them. My little sister and I took this class with some of our friends, and it was a really cool experience. It was at the planetarium in Playa del Carmen, so we had to drive an hour every Friday to get there. But it wasn’t too bad because it was in the evening, and it was really worth it because the class was one of the best classes I’ve had here so far.
The first class had us drawing and making blueprints of what we wanted to make and starting to form the wire base for it. We missed the first class because we were in the USA, but we knew what we wanted already and drew it at home. I was intent on making some kind of lizard with wings, but all of my sketches of the lizards looked like dragons, so I went with a neon green gecko with little pink fairy wings. It was anything but a dragon. The second class was continuing to form the wire and build on the wire to prepare it for paper mache, but Zoe and I missed the first class, so we built the wire on that day and caught up pretty easily. The third and fourth classes were both paper mache days, and they were also the hardest days. Paper mache is very, very hard to apply to small things like my little gecko. I really should have made him bigger, but at least he’s cute. The fifth class was the painting and glazing day. The paper mache was all done and we had the animals we wanted, so we started adding color. When the paint had dried we put on glaze to make them glossy and nice. Once we were done glazing the alejibres, we were all very proud of what we had accomplished. Nothing could ruin this mood, right? Well, nothing except not having any soap to wash the glue off our hands.
The glaze was unbelievably sticky, and when we went to the bathroom there was no soap. If you don’t know me, then I’ll tell you why this was such a big deal. I was raised with the mindset that anything sticky is automatically evil. It doesn’t even have to touch you, it’s just evil in itself. Sticky things do not belong on people. This was such a prominent lesson in my childhood, my dad would get me cotton candy at fairs just so he could teach me how to eat it without getting it anywhere. If you want to get on my dad’s bad side, give him pancakes with syrup and a peanut butter jelly sandwich with no water in the next five miles. He’ll hate you. Anyway, I was almost on the verge of tears about the stickiness on my hands.
Despite the lack of soap in the bathrooms during the last class, I had a great time. Our friends definitely made the experience much better, too. Overall, I’m really glad I went, because now whenever I see an alejibre here, I’ll know how much work was put into it to make it.
Video Game Currency
A couple weeks ago, my mom found a 3D printing class (in Spanish) that looked really interesting. When she asked me if I wanted to go, I said yes without even knowing when or where it was. Then on Friday night, I learned that it was the next morning, and I had to get up at 8, which is NOT my style. Saturdays are my sacred days, and they always go undisturbed, so you may already be able to tell, I was not happy about this. There was only one thing that was keeping me from getting too angry; I was going to 3D print something!
Again, this was in Playa Del Carmen so we had to drive an hour to get there. I don’t know why we don’t live in Playa. We have so much going on there. I’ve gone to Playa so many times, I know all the billboards on that road and I’ve memorized landmarks that tell me how many minutes away we are from our destination. The drive gets tiring.
We arrived at the building, and I immediately noticed it looks like something you’d find in Playa. Stained but colorful, logo painted on the front wall, concrete building. When we walk in, I’m thankful to hear and feel air conditioning because that’s something that you can’t really rely on when you go to Playa. We tell the guy at the front desk we’re here for the class, and he leads me into a little room (the size of a large closet) in the back of the building where two 20-somethings that look like the stereotypical tech nerds greet me. They were very friendly, like most people in Mexico. They begin the Common Questions. Do you speak Spanish? Where did you learn Spanish? Where do you live? And I rattled off my now-memorized speech about how I learned Spanish and where I’m from. I should just get cards that I can hand out to people.
We sat there for a couple of minutes waiting for the other students, and about 10 minutes later a boy around my age, slightly younger, walks in. I don’t think I ever spoke a single word to that boy throughout the entire 3.5 hour class because he was so shy. They began showing us videos on YouTube about 3D printed stuff and how it works and they began to tell us the process that a 3D printer goes through in order to 3D print something. It was all very interesting but not stuff that I hadn’t really known before. There were some new things, but it wasn’t a completely new topic, but it was OK because I enjoyed it. After about an hour of watching YouTube videos and discussing the process, they began explaining how to use the program to be able to 3D print something of our own. The program was simple enough. It was just click and drag 3D shapes into the shape you want to print, and it was much simpler than I expected, but I think that’s because they’d set us up with one of the simplest programs.
There were times when they spoke too fast and I couldn’t understand them. That was pretty uncomfortable because if there’s anything I don’t like doing, it’s messing up in Spanish. But I just asked them to repeat it slower this time and I eventually understood.
I think that kind of thing is starting to happen a lot more often, where I say something fast and possibly local-sounding, so whoever I’m speaking to replies even faster and harder to understand. I’m not sure whether to be proud of that or frustrated with it.
The two twenty-somethings that were teaching us booted up the 3D print construction program so we could start making our own stuff to print. While I was waiting for it to start up, I thought of what I wanted to make. After a while, I decided on making a rupee. Rupees are the system of currency in Hyrule, the kingdom that the series of Legend Of Zelda takes place. Yes, they also happen to be the form of currency in India too, but the ones I’m making are completely different. I’ve recently been playing some of those games, so I figured why not make something from them? Rupees are very simple in shape, so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to make one. When I started trying to make the rupee, it took me awhile to learn how the 3D program worked, because the program wasn’t something I had ever used before. When I was done, they brought over a flash drive and transferred my project to a different computer, and started preparing it for the 3D printer. A couple minutes later, the printer starts humming and it begins making the first layers of my rupee! I kinda wish it was in color, because I spent a lot of time tweaking the color to make it just right. Maybe I should’ve known it would be white anyway. Well, now I know. Overall, I was very happy with the experience and despite it being at 9 in the morning on a Saturday, an hour away from the house, I’m really, really glad I did it. (plus I got to play Pokemon Go in the best area in Playa del Carmen afterwards).
A couple months ago me and Mom went to a baking class called Valery Sugart. The class was very professional and we loved everything about it (well, we didn’t much care for the lack of air conditioning). So we looked at her class schedule and decided to go again to make carrot cake. We still had our aprons that she gave us from the class before, so we grabbed them and off we went on our baking adventure. When we got there she greeted us very nicely and welcomed us back. She is very nice, just like a lot of people here. Like last time, we were the only students in that class which made us very happy because honestly, who wants to share? We walked in and she immediately turned the oven on and told us that’s the very first thing you should ever do when baking. Then we jumped right in and started measuring, pouring and mixing until we had an amazing smelling carrot cake batter.
So we greased the pans, poured the batter in, and put them in the oven. While we waited, we sat and talked for awhile. We didn’t talk the whole time it was baking, though, because we still had to make the icing! So there we were again, mixing and kneading fondant, preparing the icing and getting ready to frost the cakes. And here’s my favorite part: making the fondant carrots.
The fondant was a lot like polymer clay, which was great because I have a lot of experience with polymer clay. In the end my carrots looked great as opposed to someone else’s that did not look that lovely. Perfectionism pays off, huh Mom? When all the carrots and icing was ready we sat and talked awhile more. But then the cakes were done, so we took them out of the oven and put them in the freezer to cool off so we could put the icing on later. When we took them out of the freezer, they hadn’t cooled off enough because mom’s broke in half. Mine came out perfectly. Wow Mom, you’re not having a good time are you? Then came my least favorite part: the frosting of the cake. It was my least favorite part because I am very much a perfectionist and I get quite frustrated when I can’t done something perfect the first time. So icing cakes, something that takes years to perfect, is inherently not a perfectionist’s favorite thing. I ended up having Valery (the lady hosting the classes) do my icing because I got too frustrated with it. When we were done icing it we put the carrots on top and took some pictures with our baking certificates and cakes, said goodbye, and rode off into the sunset.
I really enjoyed it, not only because I got cake out of it but also because baking is something that I really love to do and I like learning how to improve my skills.
Overall, I’m very happy with my last little spout of classes before we leave next month. They were probably some of the most fun I’ve had here, and I’m truly glad I got to do them.
Haley, signing out.