Thursday, July 28, 2011

Maltrata, Veracruz

Just an update that I am alive and well and enjoying Maltrata, Veracruz! More updates when I am back in the DF!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reconsidering the rainy season

With the news (and many facebook posts) about the heat back home, I don't feel quite so bad about coming back to the rainy season in Mexico....

Stay cool, friends!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A clear view of the mountains

Yesterday the view of the mountains in the distance, surrounding Mexico City, was so beautiful and clear.
It made me realize though what it should look like and just how cloudy/ smoggy/ etc it usually is that partially obscures or even completely hides the view.

Back in the DF

I've been back in the DF for a couple days now and soon I'll be heading out to the state of Veracruz to start some preliminary thesis research. Mexico has been kind to me and, although it is the rainy season, it hasn't rained on me yet.

In my usual style, I jumped right back into things. From the airport, I briefly stopped by my apartment to drop off my luggage before heading out to a choir rehearsal and get-together at the director's house. I was glad I had someone to follow on my way back home, since we took 2 buses, the light rail and metro to get back (welcome back to public transportation!!).

Though I was here in Mexico around this time last year, it still surprised me leaving the heat in the US to the rainy season climate in Mexico City. It gets pretty warm during the day, but the morning and evening are chilly. When I left in June it was HOT but now everyone carries an umbrella and sweater/jacket with them all day.

My first full day back I went to the Institute of Migration to renew my FM3 (student visa). Not surprisingly, even after looking up the requirements online, calling and talking to someone, and talking to someone else who has gone through the process, there were still surprises the day of. Fortunately I was able to work everything out and will only have to go back to pick it up.

Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club

While I was in the US, I visited the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club (http://www.columbiarotary.com/) in Columbia, Maryland. This club is close to where I grew up (the 2011-2012 President is my neighbor!) and was almost my sponsoring club (instead of being sponsored in my hometown, I am sponsored in North Carolina where I went to college). I had spoken at their club back in 2009 when I was a candidate for the scholarship and it was great to go back again, this time to share my experiences after a year in Mexico as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.







After my presentation, I received various questions, such as:

-Is it true about the water?
Yes, don't drink the water. Locals don't either -- at least not in Mexico City. It's all bottled water.

-What is the health care system like?
IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) is the Social Security and provides health/medical assistance to "workers and their families"-- so I'm not sure who exactly is covered v. ignored. ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) is available for government employees. There are private hospitals and clinics. There are also clinics attached to the generic medicine pharmacies, where visits cost 25-35 pesos (or what my family likes to call the two-dollar doctor.

-Does the government provide services/support for the poor?
In all honesty, I don't know. I've heard someone mention a soup kitchen, but it was privately operated. IMSS might have other services, but I don't have the impression it includes the general population -- especially those that might need it most.

-What is Mexico's biggest concern with the US?
From what I've seen and hear, it really depends on what group or individual we're talking about. There are people that love the US. There are also people that hate the US and therefore everything associated with the US must be bad/evil/hurtful/ etc. And lots more people in between. Some of the biggest concerns I've seen/heard are: arms trafficking from the US to Mexico; the US' role in the drug trade; capitalistic practices that hurt local economies; racism and discrimination against migrants and using undocumented migrants as a form of "modern day slavery."

Posing with Columbia Patuxent Club President,
Pete Kunz, and his new Mexico/US Rotary pin

Summer break in the US

I very much enjoyed a month "at home" -- though I use the term loosely since my time in the US included Maryland (+ Ocean City), Virginia, DC, Pennsylvania, New York and California.

Whenever I go back, I see things with new eyes, from a slightly different perspective after having been away and living in another culture. One of my biggest "culture shocks" this time had to do with clothing. I'd become so accustomed to the drastic temperature changes during the day in Mexico, that for the first few days I kept bringing a sweater with me because "it was going to be cold later." After carrying and never wearing the sweater for a few days I remembered that summer at home is hot and, while the evening is slightly cooler, it's a relief and not chilly/cold. It took me a while to feel comfortable/normal wearing shorts again as well.

Also, when I go out in the evenings in Mexico (to a bar, dancing, etc), I usually wear jeans with a nice top or if I'm going with a group, maybe a dress/skirt that goes to about the knee. I do this to fit in with the norm (granted, in certain neighborhoods known for being more trendy/expensive you'll find other styles) and to avoid drawing any more attention to myself than I already do as an American in Mexico. When I went out the first time in Maryland, I wore something I would've worn in Mexico-- and was surprised to see all the girls in short dresses or miniskirts!

Being in Mexico, I've pretty much gotten used to being the American among Mexicans (or other Latin Americans in my program). Going home, it felt strange to be surrounded by so many people that looked like me. One aspect I enjoyed about my visit to NYC this time was that I didn't feel like a minority or a majority. There's so much diversity, I was just one of many colors/ races / ethnic backgrounds.

I did see the US as being very consumer- driven. Granted, I partook in some shopping myself and it's not   to say that certain parts/ classes of Mexico's society aren't consumer-driven as well. However, it stood out to me in comparison to my day-to-day life in Mexico (and mostly as an UNAM student).

As usual on visits though, I did enjoy being more familiar with where to go or who to call when I needed things, a more organized and generally more efficient society, being able to drink tap water, etc.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some salsa, bachata and reggaeton...

True story.  I've been listening to the Spanish radio station whenever I'm in the car for the past week or so. And sometimes online on my laptop.

It's hard sometimes going from one culture to another. There are aspects I like and dislike, miss or don't miss about both -- and I seem to see both with a new/outsider's perspective.

(Listen for yourself at http://elzolradio.radio.com/ )

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Home for a visit

On this trip back to the US, I flew through New York. It was a cool sight (and feeling) to watch the sun setting behind the NYC skyline as we came in for landing. Welcome to the USA. (The welcome to New York was not quite as friendly as arriving in North Carolina however, though I guess I shouldn't have been surprised).

There is a large population of Mexicans--specifically from the state of Puebla-- in New York, which led to the nickname "Puebla York." The man I sat next to on the plane works for a paquetería (parcels service?) which brings items between Puebla and New York every week. While waiting at baggage claim, I stood next to a family (from somewhere in Mexico though I don't know where) and it was interesting watching the dynamic. There was a grandmother, mother and father, and two daughters-- one around 14 and one around 5 or 6. The adults only spoke in Spanish, though it was clear the parents at least understood English because the youngest daughter only responded in English. The older daughter was sulking off to the side because, according to the youngest, the mom "always asks her to do too much." While probably mostly attributed to being a teenager, I couldn't help thinking about clashes in cultures between Mexico and the US.

I also had to keep reminding myself to switch into English mode -- though I did speak in Spanish a couple times to my (non-Spanish speaking) seat-mate on my second flight.