Monday, May 24, 2010

I bet you think this post is about you

The birds here are amazing. I didn't know it was possible for a large, dense city to have so many songbirds. My first week here I took a walk near where I was staying and I heard some whistling. Being an experienced traveler of Latin American environs, I figured it was some local men tirandome piropos (catcalling). But I soon found out that there were no whistling men around, it was the birds. Little vain old me, always thinking that I must be what all the fuss is about.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I have to post now before I break my posting streak of once every 4 days. I'm learning lots of Mexican slang, especially this weekend. By the way, this has been the loooongest weekend of my life. But not in a bad way. It's just that I feel like I haven't been able to rest since the weekend began. It's because I have a grad school friend in town, who absolutely loves this city, so he showed me and another gringa a good time in the city. Both nights I got home at 6am. I had never done that before in my life. It was fun, but I'm ready to have some alone time to recharge my batteries. My batteries are very easily used up. That last sentence would sound a lot better to me in Spanish, but I try not to make a habit out of blogging in Spanish. I want my brain to stick to one language at a time, and not combine them. Sometimes it's hard to do, especially when I'm in a Spanish-speaking country.

Mexican slang:
Que padre! or Padrisimo! - Cool. The more common definition is father. So when you're saying "how cool" in slang you're literally saying "how father!"
Guey - comes from the word "buey" meaning "ox." Guey is a term of endearment like "dude."
Pedo - literally means fart. But here they use it to say "drunk." As in, "estoy pedo/a." In other words when someone is drunk they are literally saying "I am fart." My nephew would love that! Fart is his favorite word. But hopefully he won't know what it means to get drunk for at least another 10 years, because he's only 3.
Cruda - Means hangover. But literally it means "raw." Ay, guey, que amanecí cruda" or "Man, dude, I woke up raw."

Slang is so weird.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feminine Intuition

Last night I had dinner with two people I had just met through some colleagues: a young woman and an older man. We talked about our industries, our careers, and our frustrations. The woman talked about how her two bosses made life hard for her, how they held her pending promotion over her head, and how there was a lot of competition and other workplace challenges in general. I asked her if she mostly worked with women (and her field is not a traditional field for women). She said yes.

Her male boss was impressed with my "insight" but I was just sad. I explained that I didn't want to assume that women were making her work-life a living hell, but that was simply the only scenario I could picture when she described her situation to me, even though she used gender-neutral terms like "boss" and "nazi" and "hell."

My intuition told me that this young female professional was having problems in a workplace that was dominated by women. And I was right. I'm not sure what causes these female troubles in general but I really think certain women might bring it upon themselves. I've heard female friends make negative assumptions about their female counterparts at work based on the woman's looks and on how they perceive the woman interacts with their male counterparts. More often than not, an attractive female who gets along better with the male coworkers is written off as spoiled, under-qualified, overly sensitive, and attention-mongering.

We bring this female vs. female attitude on ourselves, and on each other, although it's horrific and unnecessary, because of tradition/unenlightened values/personal competition/jealousy/our own personal baggage. It makes me feel awful because women should be the ones supporting other women and making each others' lives a little bit easier.

Women face enough challenges in life as it is. We could do everyone a favor and treat each other with some honesty and respect, at the very least. Or, we women could surprise the world and maybe treat other women just a little better than we would treat men because we women know what it's like to have menstrual cramps and need a little extra fiber in our diets. It's not fun.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Worth the wait

I realized that if I write today, that would mean I will have continued to post to this blog exactly every 4 days since I arrived in Mexico...

Last night, my opinion of this city totally changed. I met my friend's friend, a local, for the first time, based on my friend's introduction via Facebook. We agreed to meet at 6pm, but at 6:30pm, as I was debating whether or not to just head back to my hotel since she hadn't yet arrived, she showed up. I have been told that Mexican time is half an hour past Anglo time, which isn't too bad I suppose.

We spent the next several hours drinking Mexican beer, walking along a street, chatting in Spanish, but with me mostly listening in Spanish because my new companion was quite chatty. I had traveled down that same street before, in my car, in a taxi, in a double decker tour bus. I traveled down that same street during the day, at dusk, at night. But, this time, I found that street absolutely agreeable, beautiful, enticing.

I vowed then that I would take many more trips down that street, but this time, by foot. I would make my husband and my mom walk that street when they came to visit. I would walk that street when I was by myself. That street made me finally understand what I have heard different people say about this city. This city is not only livable, but probably a little slice of paradise on earth. How appropriate, then, that it is also called the place of eternal Spring, in the most Mexican state of Mexico, and an area that is home to the largest community of expats in the world.

I get it now, and all it took was being willing to hang tight for half an hour in order to meet a friend of a friend.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's harder for the one left behind

I love planning trips. When I don't have a trip in the pipeline, I feel extremely restless and distressed. I also love hosting people and creating itineraries especially for them based on what I think they would like to see/do/eat/drink. For my current trip, I didn't do much planning. I'm going with the flow for now. But when some of my family visits, I will create fun itineraries for them.

This is the first time I travel for work. When I lived abroad before, it was mainly for study. Now I'm realizing that when travelling for work, some things change.

For instance, language. I'm speaking a lot of English here. But I'm learning not to feel guilty for speaking English, because at work the main language is English. But at least when I'm far away from work and from coworkers, I only speak Spanish.

Transportation. I can afford to take a taxi, or I can drive, so I don't need to climb onto a bus or hop onto a subway. But public transportation is such a wonderful way to learn about a city and its people. If I never use it, I could be missing out. I think I should make the effort.

Food. Because I'm not living with a host family that feeds me, and am not piss-poor, I can actually afford to get food at restaurants here, but I feel like I need to try really hard to eat the comida tipica of the area. And it would be nice to share some food with some families here, instead of just eating by myself or with coworkers.

Work vs. Study. Finally, I have to tell people that I'm in their country for work, and not just merely to learn and to soak in their culture, their atmosphere, their language, their way of life. I'm here because it's my job. But I also chose to be here due to my interest in all the other stuff that comes with living in a foreign country. I hope I can still soak in as much as I can, and be a good ambassador for my country. I hope I leave a good impression on the people I meet here, and that my overall impact is not only positive for me, but overall positive for them.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Carlos and friends

My very first dinner in Mexico, on my own, I can go anywhere I want, and I go get a burger at Carl’s Jr. I need to explain – I really wanted to have Mexican food. I had heard of the infamous tortas ahogadas, or traditional sandwiches “drowned” in a special hot sauce, but when I went to the place nearby that serves them, they were closed.

Then again, it’s not like I have Carl’s Jr. all the time when I’m home. It’s been years since I had Carl’s. They don’t exist where I’ve lived for the past 5 years, and when I go back home to California where those restaurants do exist, paradoxically, I don’t have time for fast food. But let me tell you, my Mexican American fast food experience was not what you’d expect. The restaurant was beautiful. It was chic, trendy fast food atmosphere at its finest. The service was by the book, from the cashier’s sincere words of welcome, to his counting out my exact change. Then there was the pickle, jalapeño, and salsa bar. And when my order was ready, another employee brought my food to me as I lounged on one of their couches and basked in the restaurant’s awesomeness, and asked if I needed anything else besides ketchup. When I got back to my hotel room and opened the bag, I noticed that not only was my food piping hot and fresh-looking, but that not a thing was out of place. Masterfully, the good folks at Carl’s made sure that every single fry of my order stayed obediently in its paper container.

The apple soda alone would have been enough to justify the trip. I need to invent apple soda in the US. I don’t understand why it isn’t prolific in the States. Carl’s Jr. may have originated in the States, but judging by my experience here, Mexico has made it its own.

By the way, the portions are huge. Although the patty isn’t as thick and char-broiled as what I remember from my previous experiences at Carl’s in the US, I ordered the smallest combo and I’m pretty sure it would equate to a normal combo in the US. I’d hate to see what the large combo looks like in Mexico.

The greedy traveler

It’s funny what becomes obsolete the second you touch down in a foreign land. What was once familiar and necessary becomes, as soon as you pass through customs, a mere annoyance and burden. In my case, I don’t feel quite right in my new surroundings until I get a chance to purge my wallet. I remove the student id card I carry around for movie discounts back home, the grocery store bonus card, redundant credit cards, old receipts, and finally, my own domestic currency, which isn’t exactly rendered worthless but (most likely) isn’t common currency in the new place I’m in.

I relish the moment when I find myself alone in my hotel room, carefully arranging my new currency in monopoly-money piles, learning the shapes, colors, and textures of the bills so when I make my purchases I can tell if I’m getting the correct change without being so slow and obvious about it. I calculate the small change in proportion to the large bills, greedily wishing that my small change pile will only continue to grow and thrive, therefore hesitating to come to the aid of a fellow traveler for fear of squandering my small change due to someone else’s lack of proper planning.

I cannot stress the importance of small bills and coins. Small bills are indispensable for tipping, buying popsicles and other street foods, and purchasing incidentals. If you only have larger bills, you are stuck with a) not tipping a helpful person; b) giving that helpful person a sum incommensurate with the services so kindly rendered; or c) buying a cartful of rapidly melting popsicles.

Once you start collecting the change, it’s hard to stop. You’re making five trips a day to the pharmacy or the convenience store to purchase nominal toiletries and drinks because you know those establishments are the ones that are more likely to have change. Your wallet grows thicker and your pockets heavier and bulkier from the change you accumulate. And then, just when you thought you could never have too many small bills/coins, you find yourself with a severely bloated wallet and bag that digs into your shoulder due to the excessive weight of the ungodly amount of legal tender you have succeeded in hoarding.

While travelling abroad, collecting just the right amount of change and small bills becomes my obsession and my art.