Summer 2004 In Northeastern Mexico
[To go straight to the links of the individual day-by-day blog articles from the 2004 Mexico experience, scroll past the third picture.]
For about two months in 2004, I lived in northeastern Mexico while attending classes at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, a well-known educational institution in the city Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo León, I lived with a local host family, I learned plenty about the Spanish language, Mexico, and myself, I met local railroad enthusiasts and took plenty of pictures, and I had an overall life-changing experience.
This experience in Mexico took place a year before my move from home in Cajun country to New Orleans, and I was already planning on moving to New Orleans, but I couldn’t do it until I had both completed and paid some of the debts for this Mexico experience.
In my long “New Orleans Introduces To The World – 17 April 2004” piece, I write the following that explains the mindset that I took into my 2004 Mexico experience:
In early 2004, shortly before this pivotal day in New Orleans and my Mexico experience a few months later, I was influenced by the book Confucius Lives Next Door by T. R. Reid. I recommend that all of you read that book, and I would provide details for any of you who are interested, but I will say a few things here about why that piece was so great. The subtitle of the book is “What Living In The East Teaches Us About Living In The West,” which means that, just like learning another language makes you a better student of your own language, living in another area, another country, another culture, makes you better understand your own culture; studying distant peoples and languages is ultimately a means of self-discovery. I was, too, discontented by the reality that although I had gone to and graduated from college, I had never gone “off to college,” having gone to Nicholls State University very close to home; so, my 2004 ITESM experience in Mexico, even if lasting only two months, was my first time actually going “off to college,” and that was kind of the point.
There are many aspects of both culture and language – and, remember, culture influences language, as language influences culture – that are so ingrained in our minds that we do not even notice them; we therefore lack self-awareness. We don’t know why we do the things that we do, or even why the rest of our lives are like they are; this makes self-betterment and progress difficult. In Confucius Lives Next Door, T. R. Reid describes, among many other things, that upon returning to live in the United States after many years living in Japan (where he was the Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post), he suddenly noticed and questioned many aspects of American culture that he had never noticed – again, because they are so ingrained – before he moved out of the country. He notices this, though, while he is living in Tokyo, and he sets out to understand Confucian values as reasons for the differences; the book is full of wonderful examples of the cultural differences and what we can learn from them.
This was the frame of mind that I took to my Mexico experience, and, in addition to learning plenty about Mexico, I indeed learn plenty about the United States of America by living for two months in Mexico. I look at the United States of America – and the rest of the world – differently now.
Yes, and the photo essays linked farther below give you some idea of what that means.
Yes, there is a good, healthy mix of railroad photographs and photographs not at all related to railroads.
These Individual Photo Essays
As the 10-year anniversary of the experience approached, I had many 35mm slides scanned, I processed them, and I created the blog articles linked below, each published on the 10-year anniversary of the date on which the pictures were taken.
Compiled here are links to each day’s set of pictures, posted here in chronological order.
The first day of the big adventure was a long drive from Bayou Lafourche to the Rio Grande, ending with plenty of pictures of trains and other things at the international border at Laredo, Texas, USA, including many scenes on the international bridge.
I get a few railroad pictures in Texas before entering Mexico and putting the United States behind me for nearly two months.
The mother of the host family with whom I lived graduated from the university that I was attending!
Parque Chipinque is a large mountainside park in Monterrey with good views of the city below.
This small set is merely four scenes of some of us gathered outside the contemporary arts museum, with no scenes from inside the museum.
This set shows scenes from the plaza in the middle old part of Monterrey, including the state capitol building and the large cathedral.
After visiting the caves at García, I got my first real action railroad pictures!
These are just a few scenes of the house where I lived and the street.
As organized by the international program at ITESM, several of us took a weekend trip to the old mining city of Zacatecas.
The second day of the Zacatecas trip had us visiting the pre-Columbian site of La Quemada.
Here is a picture of my roommate and a couple of pictures of the building where the local railroad enthusiast club met.
This is just a set of two insipid pictures.
Finally, we once again get some railroad action, this time north of Monterrey on the line toward Neuvo Laredo.
The host family with whom I lived owns a glass business, and these pictures are pictures from my visit there.
On this day, I got some good train pictures north of town, including that of a train led by an old C30-7A still in FNM two-tone blue, and I also had an interesting run-in with local security officers!
This is one of the better sets of pictures from my time in Mexico; on this day, I visited El Obispado, a historic site in the middle of Monterrey, and I later got some good train pictures north of the city.
One of the great natural wonders in the area is Cañón Huasteca, and some of us visited there and got several pictures on this day.
I have four pictures to share from my last full-day in Monterrey.
One of the better sets of pictures from my time in Mexico is this one, of my last day there and my drive northward through the desert along the railroad mainline.
Here are a few pictures, mostly of trains, from my day back in the United States of America in southern Texas, as I made my way back to Louisiana, and some thoughts about the entire experience.
It was a life-changing experience that affected my view of the world, and I recommend international study for anyone who can afford to do so.
I have twice returned to Mexico since then, both in very early winter and both including the change from one year to the next. I returned in December 2006 for 10 days that ended on 7 January 2007, and I returned in late 2009 for a trip that ended on New Year’s Day of 2010.