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Tales of a teen traveler

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By Owen Bradbury Aranda

Teen Pulse’s Owen Bradbury Aranda is on vacation in Mexico, and wrote a letter to the teen staff detailing his trip.

Dear Teen Pulse staffers,
Greetings from Mexico! While you may be imagining that I am here enjoying the sun and the sea, I must tell you that assumption could not be further from the truth.
I have been spending my days in Toluca, Mexico, which is in fact 8,750 feet above sea level. This is about 1,430 feet above all of you in Los Alamos.
Nevertheless, I am certainly enjoying myself. I have been spending my days hiking in the mountains; visiting chapels, churches and beautiful ancient ruins; and enjoying the delicious and amazing food, which I have sorely missed since my last visit five years ago.
When I touched down in Mexico City late at night on Dec. 19, the first thing I noticed was a repugnant smell. It was foul, to say the least, and the stench continued as I came out of the plane and entered the terminal. I started to worry. Although it had been five years since the last time I visited Mexico City, there was absolutely no way that the city could have worsened to a point at which the air smelled like an open sewer.
Later, as we traveled through customs, I asked one of the men working there why the smell was so awful. I was relieved to hear from him that the stench that my nostrils were subject to was uncommon. As the smell revealed, one of the sewers was broken and was releasing the horrid reek, I unfortunately had been acquainted with.
Once I left the airport, we began the 45-minute drive to my uncle’s house in Toluca. We arrived at 4 a.m., curled up into our prepared sleeping quarters and called it a night.
The next week, on Thursday, we went to the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. I saw one of the most exquisite collections of the wonders of ancient Mexico and the ruins of Tenochtitlán.
I spent the day admiring the seemingly endless number of ancient artifacts from South America. It was incredible to lay eyes on such wonders as the original Aztec Calendar — with a diameter easily twice my height — as well as the massive statue of the Aztec goddess Coatlicue. She towered above me with her giant snakehead, bared fangs and skirt of coiled serpents. I also saw the colossal Olmec head, which appears on many postcards.
The museum itself is an architectural wonder. Designed by Pedro Ramiz Vasquez in 1964, the main square is partially shaded by a massive concrete canopy. This canopy is supported by a single, beautifully engraved and embossed pillar that seems to defy gravity.
The museum was truly a wonder and was easily the best museum out of all the ones I have ever visited.
I also went to Malinalco, an ancient Aztec temple carved into a mountainside. The temple was established as a ceremonial ground to perform an ancient Aztec ceremony for the bravest warriors of the Aztec army.
Malinalco’s house of the eagle warriors was magnificent and astonishingly well carved and preserved. The three eagles and single jaguar carved into the rock where said to be used as seats for the high priests involved in the induction ceremony.
Another astounding aspect of the temple was its high vantage point, from which I could see the deep valley and the new city of Malinalco below.
Among my many excursions through the magnificent state of Mexico, one of the most wondrous and memorable was my visit to the ancient city of Teotenango. Situated on the top of a great mesa overlooking the valley of Toluca, the city is made up of magnificent ruins. The majestic pyramids and stepped landscape of the city are home to courtyards, plazas and countless staircases. Surrounded by the lush volcanic countryside near the Nevado de Toluca, the scene gave me an idea of what the city must have been like in its former days of glory.
Another astonishing aspect of the ruin was the sheer scale of the place. The city spread almost as far as the eye could see. Although a great portion of it had been uncovered and reconstructed, in the distance I could see the remnants of other temples and pyramids still blanketed by forest undergrowth.
My travels over the years in Mexico have been filled with truly remarkable experiences. The ancient culture, beautiful handicrafts and delicious food are utterly unique and make me proud to be Mexican.
I sincerely hope that you are all having as great a time as I am, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Best Wishes,
Owen