Sunday, August 1, 2010

Being Foreign

There is something really special about being a foreign. Sometimes, I wonder if the natives know how much I am watching them and learning from them. Luis called the waiter Senor and someone else called him Joven (young). Is he old or is he young? Funny, I’d never call a waiter Young...

Being foreign is cool when it opens up interesting conversations and when people forgive me for dipping my bread in my soup. It’s fun to enjoy “commonplace” things like Mexico City’s public transit. It’s wherever, whenever- 30 cents for the metro, 3 bucks for a taxi. I love being foreign when I salsa with my 50 year old neighbor and when I speak in Spanish and get a reply in English from a Mexican. Even better, I love when I forget which language he was speaking in... How great to be foreign but accepted enough to be invited back to Mexico with open arms and houses- “Mi casa es tu casa”.

This is my last blog for this trip. The more that I travel the more I realize how awful goodbyes are. I already miss Mexico soo much, mostly my friends from there. I learned so much about Mexicans and I also learned so much about myself. How sad I can’t be in Mexico without missing my family and my friends. Yet, I can’t come home without missing my Mexican world; Six weeks is enough time to find a love for a people. And six hours is enough time to begin to miss them...

Te quiero México. No me olvides porque no voy a olvidarte.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now I Understand (Remix)

Now I understand why people should love traveling. Because of the unbelievable amount that you can learn. You learn of the superficial things like a Mexican’s meal isn’t complete without a tortilla, even if just salted and rolled into a log. You also learn the important cultural values like the value of family time- Ale: “Sentate, y vamos a placticar.” And we would. Sometimes we would sit talking, simply talking for hours.

Now I understand what my teacher called the honeymoon period of traveling. Initially, you think it’s funny that Mexicans are usually late. Before long, the things that you once thought were interestingly different can become annoyingly different. Consciously, intellectually, we know that different shouldn’t mean “wrong” (right, Luis?). Unconsciously, we don’t always act as we know and someone has to point it out for us. Sometimes though, it takes getting it wrong to get it right.

Now I understand what is dangerous about writing a blog. Because it shows your weakness to the whole world. Yet, how wonderful that this demonstration of weakness allows people to show you exactly where you went wrong. It’s humiliating, yet beneficial if you let it be. Yeah, I’ve gotten some flack...But, sometimes it takes getting it wrong to get it right.

Now I understand that I’ll never really understand. I hate it when I say things that make people say ¿¿Qué pasó, Graciela??. That’s when I tell myself it’d be easier to stop talking and avoid all that embarrassment. However, the all-or-nothing type person that I am isn’t the best thing or even a good thing at all. The middle road is hard to find but there is the goodness in making mistakes. I’ll take getting it wrong to maybe, maybe one day get it right.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Updates on Casa Cuna

Updates on Casa Cuna:

---They’re still stinkin’ cute
---They still call me moquito (little booger)
---I love watching and listening to the kids in Mass, screaming the Hail Mary. I love seeing them in their “Wednesday” best and watching them scourge the room for every adult to shake hands with.
---I witnessed a real Mexican birthday party, piñata and all. The kids sing a song for each new batter and when the song finishes it is the next persons turn. Afterwards, we ate chili flavored suckers, jello, and Barnie cake!
---Los ninos apparently think I have an unending supply of energy. After I collapse after playing eres (you’re it) for ages, they frown at me and say "porque no me atrapas?" (why are you not catching me?)
---The nuns definitely think I’m crazy. That’s legit, I sprint around like a maniac... Yet whether I’m faster than them or not, they always catch me. It’s impossible to evade 15 kids chasing me screaming ERES! ERES!.

Perhaps I should explain Casa Cuna more thoroughly. It is an "orphanage" that receives financial support from individual beneficiaries. Most of the kids have one parent who needs to work and cannot take care of them. Because of this, they stay here all week and go home on the weekends. Jorge is one of the few that is an orphan. But he is getting adopted!!!!! Maybe, I shouldn’t have favorites... but he’s mine. So good for him and good for his new parents. Una buena onda.

Some more tidbits:
How do you spell Mexico? At a canteen during the Mexico vs. Argentina world cup game, a man in the crowded chanted:
Man: “Give me an M!” crowd: “M!”
Man: “Give me an E!” crowd: “E!”
Man: “Give me an X!” crowd: “X!”
Man: “Give me an I” crowd: “I!”
Man: “Give me a S!” crowd: ...silence, followed by an uproar of laughter

Later someone else started chanting “Mexiso! Mexiso! Mexiso!” It was soo funny when everyone joined in. The first guy grinned and turned bright red.

---I’ve been having a reoccurring nightmare that I can’t pay for my taxi because I’ve been scammed. For your information, it hasn’t happened to me. But, poor Kayla...
---The lights went out the other day, including the stoplights. Skeeeetch....
---How weird is it to remember a things name in your second language and not in your first? Yeah, it happens!

I’m still in love with Mexico.

Now I understand...

•Now I understand why some people don’t like traveling. Because you never know what to expect and when you aren’t local, some people will take advantage of you.

•Now I understand why being naïve is wonderful just up to the point when you realize your naivety. That’s when you wish you had known that people still take advantage of the nice person.

•Now I understand why people can get bitterer as they age. Because they have realized the world isn’t a dream and it has beaten them and their friends.

•Now I understand why corruption is contagious. Because of entitlement: “I got used, so I’ll use you- such is life.” The ones that get it worst are the ones not willing to take an eye for an eye.

•Now I understand that being a traveling American makes it seem like I have money. But just because I'm American doesn’t mean I have $ coming out of my ears. Listen here World, I'd like my 500 pesos back now...

Then again, every lesson has a price tag and sometimes it’s ok to pay it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mexican Cuisine

The food here is out of this world. I’m surprised that I haven’t turned into umpa dumpa by now; Dear God, what would I do if I didn’t love running... Everywhere I turn there is delicious food. Everyday Aunt Carmen is cooking traditional Mexican dishes from all parts of Mexico. Christina (from Chicago) and I had a mild heart attack over them over a dish called sopes. Carmen’s sister made the bottom part which was a homemade thick tortilla (similar to an English muffin). On top of that were beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, cheese and then salsa. Your mouth watering, yet? Yeah, you have no idea... Another fav that I already mentioned are tamales. How great to wake up to those hot, sweet, corn lumps! Also quesadillas and tacos filled with spaghetti topped with my favorite cheese from Oaxaca FOR BREAKFAST. And all the mangoes, watermelon, papaya, avocadoes that I can possibly squeeze in.

Walking onto the street, I’m bombarded with a little taqueria on every corner. How can I resist tacos for 40 cents each? No wonder my Mexican boys order 12 of them at a time. You can’t always find tacos for 4 pesos each but for 12 or 15 is very common. Then you can order so many different types of meat including longaniza, pastor, champechanas, bistek, chorizo. My favorite place to eat is at Paco’s- Yeah, we know: Paco’s tacos... Ha, ha. It’s a one room restaurant that opens up onto the street where Paco cooks facing the street. I like to sit on the stool (in the middle of the sidewalk) and watch him cook on the comal. It’s part of the show! He is so skillful at cooking 20 tacos at once and it makes me want to try every single one. Volcanes are one of my favorites which is a tostada (hard taco) with a ball of melted cheese and meat on top. Also, the Gringa rocks. Its pastor meat, cheese and salsa de chile sandwiched in between two flour tortillas.

The salsa. All of it is unbelievable and almost always homemade. Surprisingly, I haven’t eaten anything that I thought was too spicy because apparently, I really, really, really like spicy. One of my favorites is homemade by Dona Rapha who helps cook and clean the house. This salsa is made with peanuts and chile and I could eat it for both of the meal I eat at home. Oh wait! I already do! The two most common types are salsa verde and salsa rojo (red and green salsa). Yum, yum. ¡¡Puedo comer todo!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random Stuff

Random Stuff

• I ate a cricket.
• I got hailed on while I was running. Ouch.
• There is dog poop all over the streets. Yuck.
• I have been wearing the same pair of jeans for 3.5 weeks. Unhappy.
• Our tour guide Arnold, is the bomb. Speaking of the Aztecs he said, “Dey mek wahyd toonals. Id’z very drahmatical.”
• The Mexican equivalent to “umm/like/er” is “esss de”. I caught myself using it which is sooo weird.
• There aren’t matching weights at the gym I’m lifting at. So I have to switch arms to even ‘er out.
• I climbed the world’s largest pyramid, Tlachihualtepetl
• I have been consistently dreaming in Spanish :)
• Kayla referencing my time at the orphanage- “I wouldn’t mind putting Band-Aids on... or kissing boo-boos”
• Miguel (Mexican): “Take a picture of me and my wolf”. Kayla (Gringa): “Uhh, wife?”. Miguel: “Yeah, that.”
• “It’s raining on our bus” –Kayla
• In one city that we visited there were trees growing in almost the middle of the street, I kid you not.
• A lady (age: 50?) was fire breathing in the street. Excuse me, you put gas in your mouth for a few pesos? :(
• Words that I have mixed up:
--zanahoria for zapatos (“Pass me the shoes”- instead of “carrots”),
--pesas for pesos (“I’m going to go lift money”- instead of “weights”),
-- cagada for callada (I thought Luis Felipe told me, “You are very @!%1*”- instead of “very quiet”)
• The piropos from the guys on the street can be a little flattering or really creepy. I’m ok with you calling me pretty, but hanging your head at the window and staring at me? Not aight. However, there are less in Mexico than there were in Costa Rica. I have noticed that I get substantially more cat-calls when I run in shorts (Ale, you were so right. I know you reading this... and shaking your head at me. I’m sorry! ). I just can’t bring myself to run with sweatpants because I’m always, always dying of heat here. I’ve been cold, what, twice since I’ve been here?
• In my Spanish class (3 hr/d, 5 days/wk), there was me and one other girl. It was awesome, practically private tutoring. Since we always spoke in Spanish together, the first time I heard her speak in English I just about fell out of my chair. She has a beautiful, Australian accent :)
• On Thursday, we went to the floating gardens in Xochimilco which consists of water cannels and boats, boats, crazily colored boats. So many boats that they often collide together. At one point, we got serenaded by a mariachi band while in one of these boats (trajineras) . Could have been the most romantic thing ever- until another boat pulled alongside of ours and a drunk 20 year old jumped into our boat. Then, it became a zoo- our boat sandwiched between the mariachi boat and the boat full with 15 drunk Mexicans/Americans/Germans...

Life is still good in Mexico.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The story of Four Girls and Four Wheels

This was for my Spanish class. Sorry that 80% of you can't read it...

Era una vez una princesa que se llamaba Tessa. ésta chica era diferente que las otras princesas. Por una parte, no le gustaban los vestidos y prefería llevar pantalones y jugar en el suciedad. Su mejor amiga Graciela era igual, una princesa despreocupada, loca, y con mucha energia. Graciela vivía en el castillo de Tessa y siempre les divertían montando caballos, andando en bicicleta y monociclos, y nadando en los lagos. Que padre que fueran amigas porque si no éste cuento no hubiera pasado.

Un día, las princesas querían algo hacer. Les llamaron a Carly y Mattie y les invitaron al castillo. Después al llegar, las chicas decidieron disfrazarse. Fue ridículo que Tessa llevara un mono y corona de faraón. Graciela usó un disfraz de perro. Carly y Mattie andaban una bicicleta doble y Graciela y Tessa andaban dos monociclos; había cuatro chicas, cuatro ruedas. Fue un espectáculo que las chicas fueran a un lado de la carretera y a ellas les encantó que los carros tocaran claxon.

Aunque fue divertido, estaban felices cuando llegaron a su destino, Dairy Queen. Tenían mucha hambre porque no creían que hubieran llegado tan tarde y por eso comieron mucho helado. Cuando empezaron el viaje a la casa se dieron cuenta que fue más difícil por la oscuridad. Tenían miedo y no pararían aunque estuvieran cansadas. Un carro les pasó y de repente disminuyó su velocidad y encendió las luces. Que aterrador que fuera la policía. Pero simplemente, les dijo que debía regresar a casa.

Sintieron alivio cuando finalmente regresaron a la casa. Después fue más cómico que estuvieran tan ridiculas, pero así era la vida de Graciela y Tessa, loca y divertida.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Casa Cuna

I started my social work at the orphanage last week and so far it has been really good. All the kids are under 6 and I love playing with them. When I walk in they yell ¡¡di pollito!! or “say little chicken!!” I don’t know how this started but I think it was because I didn’t understand at first. Now it’s a big joke to them that I can’t understand everything that they say. One niño asked me (in Spanish, of course) why I don’t speak Spanish. Ha, ha. The main problem that comes with my inefficiencies is that it has led to some disrespect. Even if I tell them No lo hagas! Estoy seriosa (don’t do it. I’m serious), they don’t always take me seriously. But really, I’m serious... éstas son mis pompas. No me toques. I just have to walk away.

For the most part, I loooove to be with them. Yesterday, I was with the boys pretending that I was a dragon. I chased them around saying voy a comerte! (I’m going to eat you!). Of course, they were screaming, running around, and trying to tag me in the back when I was after another. After awhile, they decided that I wasn’t going to eat them and began ducking in and out of my legs. Soon one grabbed one of my legs, another grabbed the other leg. With two attached to my legs and two pulling on my arm, I’m shocked I didn’t fall on top of one of them. It’s pretty clear that they want to abuse me as much as possible, haha. Another game they started was calling me moquito (little booger). But I took that name and ran with it asking them if they wanted a kiss from a booger. ***besos!!!****besos!!!*** They all ran away from me. HAHAHAHA!!!!

I’ve also spent a lot of time with babies under 2. I’ve learned how to feed one baby with one hand and another with the other hand. Also, I’m learning how to factory-style wash 7 babies, dress them, put them in their cradle, and give them bottles. That’s been hard for me because I don’t even have much experience with this age in English; Trying to explain something in Spanish can be really hard don’t hit. When they don’t listen to me, I wonder did I say it wrong or are they just being naughty? Just being naughty, you say? Well, would YOU be confident enough to discipline them? Also, another thing that has been hard for me is that I can’t hold one child for very long. It’s unbelievable how fast they can get attached to you and cry if you let them go. :( So sad, I want to take one home...

It has been a really good experience because I LOVE KIDS! I’m glad that I’m feeling more comfortable there and will have more time in the next few weeks. I’m done with classes tomorrow so I can dedicate larger blocks of time there. Woooo!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mexicans are Proud to be Mexican

The World Cup. I’ve never had more fun watching it than now that I’m in Mexico. My mom said that during the Mexican games: México se paraliza ... (Mexico freezes). She is soo right. On the day of the game, I saw tons of people with green jerseys on. Some closed their stores and others called for a national holiday. Listening to the radio, people honked their horns during exciting parts. People skipped classes... My teacher even told us we could skip which, of course, I did. It was sooo worth it. For both of the games, I went to two Mexican parties that had 40 to 45 people. Perhaps shamefully, I have been more excited about the Mexican games than the U.S. games. But, come on, how can I help it? 40 people screaming “GOOOOOOOOOL” is pretty exciting and intense... Besides, I prolly learned more Spanish being surrounded by Mexicans for 10 hours than in one class period... I can’t even explain how different Mexico City is from my experience in the U.S,; Mexicans party hard when they lose- imagine how happy they are when they win! Chicharito! Chicharito! Chicharito!

I’ve been thinking about what this means. Mexicans are proud to be Mexican. Are people from the U.S. proud? I think we are. But, it’s a more delicate issue. For one, I have experienced resentment against the United States and so sometimes I catch myself whispering “American”. Besides this, people like to describe themselves as a piece of pie: I’m a quarter Italian, a quarter Polish, 1/32 Cherokee Indian and then a lot of mutt. Do Americans have to define themselves as something, anything besides American? This brings up another interesting topic. Can we actually even call ourselves Americans? Because aren’t Mexican, Costa Ricans, Canadians also Americans? We can’t really even say Northern Americans because there are three countries in North America.... The United States of America coule refer to United States of Mexico.... Let me state, I actually don’t really care. I’m going to call myself an American, or una Gringa, or an Italian. But, a person can see how it would annoy the other Americans, that we claim a continent as our own...

Guess what? It rains in my house. Half of the house doesn’t have a roof. How bomb is that?! I’m guessing that the part without a roof used to be an alley between two houses. I’m so jealous. We have to insulate our houses in the U.S. And, trees don’t grow in houses in podunk Bemidji, MN... :( This house is awesome and I can’t believe how comfortable I feel in it. My family is absolutely wonderful. They often ask me if I am happy and if I like the food: ¡¡Si, si, si!! Estoy muy feliz y ¡¡a mí me encanta la comida!! ¡Gracias, Carmen! They feel comfortable enough to make fun of me which I love because I’m all about teasing... Ali: “Aqui comió un pollo” (Here a chicken ate) Me: “¿Qué?” Ali: “Look at your placemat.” Me: “Ha, ha, ha. I guess I did make a mess...” Another example that “Gracie” might not fit my level of refinement.

I love Mexico. Sorry, ‘rents- I’m not sure that I will be ready to come home in 3.5 weeks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


WOOT, WOOT! Have you ever been to a ballet? Have you ever been to a MEXICAN ballet? I had been debating about going because would cost $600 pesos (≈ $50 USD). I decided to go and there is no doubt in my mind that it was worth EVERY penny! The traditional costumes and dances were fantastic. A few of my favorites were la Danza del Venado, Fiesta en Tlacotalpan, and Danza de la Reata. The Deer Dance, La Danza del Venado, is done by the Yaqui people who still hunt with bows and arrows. This dance is in preparation for a hunt and a man dresses up with a deer head on his own head dances as a deer. It’s incredible how he can move his body- so, so skillful. Danza de la Reata is a dance with a cowboy and a lasso. It’s so cool what a person can do with a lasso! I’m talking about every sort of trick you can imagine. The lasso above him. The lasso around him. Jumping in, jumping out. Lassoing and at the same time as kissing a girl who’s in the circle with him... oooo so sexy. Ha, ha. The other dance Fiesta en Tlacotalpan is insane. There are huge figures with people inside of them moving the arms and legs. It’s kinda scary and it makes a person wonder what sort of plants grow in their forest...

Another cool cultural thing is salsa. There are tons of styles and it’s different than what I learned in Costa Rica. I feel like such sack of potatoes, but a Mexicano gave me a 7 out of 10 for Gringas he has danced with that. I don’t know how I feel about that.... especially since he had prefaced this with “Gringas don’t know how to move”. HAHAHA!!! Poco a poco, (little by little) because I could dance aaaaaall night. Something else funny, my brother Luis Felipe told me “You look like a Mexican until you open your mouth”. He said this to me when we were at a formal, formal graduation. High graduations are a HUGE deal here. I’m talking about black tie events- four course meal with servers with white gloves on, 6 or 7 pieces of silverware, a glass for water, a glass for white wine, a glass for red wine. And the best part? A MARIACHI BAND!!!! What was I doing there?? Foreign, awkward, and clumsy. I dropped ice all over the table, dipped my bread in my soup (oops! :) ), knocked a chair over almost falling over myself, and to top it off I stabbed a girl with my elbow. I’m awkward... Pero no me importa. Estoy loca. Da iqual. HAHAHA!! Luis told me I can do whatever I want and get away with it because I’m foreign. What a nice brother. He did a great job introducing me to everyone and explaining the cultural significance of the different things.

I did have a wonderful time there. Most of the time, I felt comfortable. I was sooo pleased when people complimented me on my Spanish and I felt accepted. It was such a different experience being the only foreigner, speaking strictly Spanish, and trying to fit in with a normal social event. It was the first time I ripped the ¡¡GRINGA!! label off my forehead and put it in my pocket. There’s a lot of work left to do but how amazing is it to feel wanted, awkward or not?


So many times in my life I “learn” something only to realize I didn’t get it quite right. I guess that’s where the saying “take with a grain of salt” comes in handy. But, I will keep everything up that I have said because it’s showing what I am learning. Corruption- I should have opened my eyes before my mouth. At our cultural orientation, a nonnative told us that Mexico is not that corrupt. But, every Mexican that I have talked to about it says the opposite. Let me share a sad story. Last year in Hermosillo (northern Mexico), there was a daycare that was next to a gas station. On top of the daycare were piles of used tires and in the heat of the sun the tires got hotter and hotter until they burst into flames. The ceiling collapse and 41 children died. What does this tell you about building regulations? ; No one follows them. Another example, the how-to for getting a license in Mexico. Dear Mr. Someone (a.k.a. Anyone), arrive at government building. Pay $30. Get picture taken. Violà. Example number three, something that I have already mentioned- paying off the police. Maybe most of the time it’s just 10 silly kids illegally squeezed into one car. But this whatever system paves the road for abuse by the drug cartels.

I still like Mexico and I want to think the best of everyone and everything. But unfortunately, this world IS broken. More than corruption, I can’t stop thinking about the kids here. Siento pena por los ninos. At dinner, they come to us asking for money. If we won’t give our money, they ask for some of our dinner. How sad that we can’t just “solve world hunger”. Seeing people begging everyday is eye-opening and I can’t express how grateful I am for what I’ve been given. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for this experience to gain more compassion and more passion to do something about it. This isn’t supposed to be a Ms. America speech and I don’t want to sound cheesy. It’s just these last 2 weeks has been cementing my attitude that I’ve been developing for the last 2 years: I want to do something about hunger and maybe Mexico is the right place to come back to.

Sorry for sadness. I promise my next blog will be happy. Read on...

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Week In

I can’t believe it’s been a week. All’s well. Only sad thing, that nasty 14 week cough I had has come back with fury. I lost my voice yesterday. Perhaps it’s the contamination and the screaming VIVA MEXICO. Ha, ha. Alejandra has been treating me well with home remedies, honey with lime juice, chamomile tea with honey and cinnamon. Oh and I started taking some antibiotics. How sketch is this? You can get almost every medicine over-the-counter in Mexico. This unfortunately means Mexicans do a lot of self-medications. They have built-up a lot of tolerance to antibiotics. The government is about to change this. I, however, consulted a Mexican doctor who wrote down his “prescription” in my notebook. This is NOT to say that he didn’t know what he is doing. He was a very competent doctor, doubly accessible because he spoke English although not perfectly. One funny thing he said when he was examining me was “do you make poop”? HA, HA. I told him that he needed to find a more doctor appropriate phrase. He laughed.

My girlfriends from the states and I have spent a lot of time with a group of Mexican boys. My brother is our age and takes las Gringas with him and his friends. There are only 6 students and usually only 4 of us go out. That means that the ratio of Mexicanos to Gringas is almost always higher. This is totally different from Costa Rica, where the most of the time I was with the 21 other students from St. Olaf. Anyway, I always tease them that Costa Rica is better than Mexico. However, I’m beginning to think that I’m going to have a better experience here. This is hard to say because I will never forget my first abroad experience which was unbelievable rewarding for me. CR is far more beautiful and the people treated me so well. On MY part, I can understand way more than I did in CR. Also, I speak muchisimo better. I’ve started speaking without translating in my head, surprising myself that I sometimes speak correctly without thinking. And so, I can participate much more and had my first serious conversation in Spanish and felt satisfied with my ability to communicate. Also, I’ve started to accidently throw in Spanish words when i speak in English and have dreamed in Spanish twice.

Some little tidbits:
1. My girlfriends call me “Nature Woman”. Apparently, it’s weird that I love to be barefoot. And jump on things.
2. Mom and Dad, close your eyes. ******are they closed?******

To everyone else, we squeezed 10 people in a car.... –the girls: “What if the police pull us over??” –the boys: “We’ll give them 100 pesos.” HAHAHA. FYI, Mexico is not very corrupt- it is good country.
3. Ya’ll know America doesn’t mean the United States of America, right? Both Costa Ricans and Mexicans have told me how annoying it is that we call the US “America”.
4. Drinking is not out of control here like it is in the U.S. We have yet to see binge drinking. We have yet to see someone puking. The most we’ve seen is a guy lying down with his hand on his head.
5. Mexicans are affectionate drunks. As far as we’ve seen, they are NEVER aggressive.
6. There are few guns here. In fact, you need special permission by the military to carry one. The drug cartels are the ones with the big guns and the military complains that they can’t fight against the guns snuck in from the U.S.
7. The people here don’t complain about their jobs like people in the U.S. They’re happy to have one since there are 10 other people in line to snatch it up should they quit.
8. The richest man in the world lives in Mexico while poverty and hunger is still everywhere.
9. On the other hand, the middle class has enough money that Mexico has become the 2nd fattest country in the world. Number one for fattest kids. 2nd largest soft drink consumer.
10. The people here are friendlier than the people in the United States. Someone said to me today *heavy accent* “Welcome to Mexico!” Apparently, I look foreign. Surprise, surprise.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Seeing Differences

What was I saying? What similarities does Mexico have with the U.S.? Mexico city has 21 million people (Minnesota has 5 million...). The driving is insane here. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. It surprises me a lot that a culture that is so friendly and loving can have such aggressive and rude drivers. Because the traffic is so terrible at times, they have to regulate traffic. For one, the government has started a public bicycle system- use your card, pick up a bike, and drop it off any station that you want. Second, every Sunday a bunch of major highways are closed to cars and so thousands of people hop on their bikes to get anywhere. Finally, the cars in Mexico city have very specific licenses plates which regulate which days that you can drive, MWF or TTHS.

Something else that I have found interesting: Mexicans dislike the way that the world has portrayed Mexico City. First of all, the crime here is like any other big city of the U.S. like Chicago- Not less, but not more. I feel safe and siento como en casa. Second, the streets of Mexico City are very clean. Of course, I have only seen a small portion of Mexico City, but it was not as I had expected. It is cleaner than the cleanest parts of Costa Rica that I saw. Yes, the air is contaminated. Very. Irritatingly but unsurprisingly, my cough has come back; I’ve been hacking up my lungs >:( And I'm sure the altitude doesn't help...

Speaking of altitude, it's killer. I'm so surprised at how much it affects me. I have been constantly tired since I got here even though I have slept 12, 10, 9 hour nights... Alejandra told me that all of her students have complained of being tired at the beginning until their bodies got used to the altitude. I noticed the difference even more dramatically when I went for a run. The first thing I said when I came back home was he muerto (I have died).

Fun facts:
1.Did you know, Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big of deal here? You’re so wrong America.
2.Guess what? I saw a a magnet of Texas with a Mexican flag in the background.
3. The largest university here, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, has 85,000 students.
4. Today, my 60 year old professor said “See how Mexicans hug and kiss all the time? That’s why we have so many babies!” HA, HA, HA!!
5. The area that Mexico City is on used to be a lake. It was drained in 17th C. But the City is still sitting on saturated clay and so it’s sinking. Some building are obviously leaning...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Primer Dia

Today, I woke up and thought "Where am I??" Oh yeah, MÉXICO, BEBÉ. Que emocionado. I can see from this first day that this experience is going to be very different than my experience in Costa Rica. The family that I live with has 4 family members living with them, the mother, Alejandra, the father, Gilberto, the son, Luis Felipe, and the aunt, Carmen. However, they are also renting 7 rooms. So that makes for a bit of craziness when 4 people are talking at the same time- especially if it's in Spanish...

Alejandra knows what she is doing. She has had 320 students before and speaks English pretty well. It's weird because my Costa Rican parents didn't speak English. For the most part I understood them. However, sometimes I wasn't sure if I knew what they meant. It's helpful that Alejandra knows English and she often corrects me. Which I love! How else will I learn? Alejandra told me that some students don't like to be corrected... But I know it's con amor that she corrects me. Also, Alejandra has lived in Canada and understands cultural differences better than my family in Costa Rica. For one, she laughed at me when I was surprised that I'm allowed to open the refrigerator. Also, there isn't the same pressure to eat more, eat more, EAT MORE. I feel much more independent, which I think is pretty American to want.

It's hard not to compare this experience with Costa Rica. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think it's ok. When I was in Costa Rica learning about their culture, I learned about my own which I found fascinating. Now, I can compare the three. All have aspects that I love. I often think of the wonderful time I spent with my Costa Rican family, how they included me in their family gatherings and sat around talking together for hours. Here in Mexico the desire to sit and chat is similar. The difference in this house at least, is that there are 11 people. People get up and walk around with little more than "con permiso" or "buen provecho". I'm surprised by how close the "family" is considering how much liberty everyone seems to have. Then again, I guess that's how my family is the U.S. My experience so far makes me think Mexicans have more similarities with the U.S. than Costa Ricans.

But what am I saying? The similaries only go so far. For one, I have to wear shoes in the house. :( Que lastima. At home, I've been wearing shoes less and less, running barefoot etc. I can handle that sad, sad restriction of comfort, but what do you think about this- I have to wear pants all the time. What I mean is ALL. THE. TIME. Am I seriously going to wear sweatpants when I run? IT'S 80 DEGREES!!! Today, my mom called me "un fuente" (fountain) because I was sweating so much as we walked around. Great. 6 weeks with jeans. Ya'll know I hate jeans...

Pero todo bien y vale la pena (But it's allll good and worth the pain). I'm going to love it here. My family is great. They have good fruit here like Costa Rica. Mmm, papaya. I'm going to improve so much in Spanish.

México. Yeaaaah, bebé...
Mas luego...