Pozos (“Wells”)

I’ll follow the theme of naming my entry after where I’ve been recently. This week I joined the students in Pozos, a little community South of Juventino. My dad flew in on Sunday and I went to pick him up from the airport with the host fam. We were a little late, but everything went well. We immediately went to the home of our host mom’s parents to eat dinner, then had a meeting with the gringos (americans), then went to a mexican/gringo dinner at the house of Berna, one of the delegates, people in the parish here. So it was pretty hectic. I think dad was quite overwhelmed.

Monday morning bright and early we went to Pozos. I was promised I would get to drive, since I know Juventino the best of those of us who were to stay in Juventino (the students planned on staying in Pozos), and I was quite excited about that. To practice, I took dad home early so he could descansar (rest) back in Juventino. There had been a HUGE storm Sunday night though, and the entire center of town was one big mud puddle, which evidently made the plumbing not work (as well as the construction on one of the “main” roads), so the students ended up coming home, though I did get to drive the van and they got a ride from one of the church-members in Pozos.

Anyway, Tuesday we had a visit from last year’s students, which was pretty fun and incredibly helpful–we were really busy but were able to stay on top of things because we had their help.

Today, however, we did not have the rising third years, and Jose went home too. So we lost several people. We were incredibly busy–it was crazy from 8am until 1pm, and people were not so happy to be waiting in ayunas (fasting). But we did survive. I’m about to call and check on my computer, so I am hopeful…at least I’ll get some sort of update.

Irapuato/Guanajuato (just say it…you’ll laugh)

I love mexico. Just in case I haven’t already said that enough. The last few days were pretty eventful–I will try and keep it…shortish.

I went to Guanajuato with the students, minus Kristoff (in Leon vising friends) plus Anita, a rising senior at Duke who wants to go to med school. So it was me, Lorene, Charles, Joe and Anita. First, the very nice students humored me in an adventure to Irapuato to take my computer to get fixed. It turned out to be quite the adventure.

We arrived in Irapuato on Friday afternoon in our camioneta (huge-ass white van) and stopped at a gasolinera (gas station) and Lorene and I took a cab to the “address,” except that we did not have EXACTLY the address. When I talked to the Apple technician on the phone, he told me Street Lopez. Turns out, there are about 4 different streets called Lopez in Irapuato. Sweet. So the cabbie took us to one…it didn’t even have numbers up to the 800s (which is where the address was). So I decided to call the other store in this state, in Leon. The woman on the phone there told me the address and the colonia (neighborhood, loosely translated) where the street was. Unfortunately we had already arrived at the second Lopez street (which was also wrong), but we told the cabbie and he took us right there. When we got to the address, which was thankfully much more…nice…than the other two, I asked a woman about the office, she told me that the guy who worked there was gone for the next hour…So we asked when they were open the next day and agreed to come back the next day on our way home from Guanajuato. The whole ride costed a litle under $10. Not bad for being driven around for nearly an hour.

We loaded back up into the van, at least with the correct address and colonia now, and headed to Guanajuato. Arriving in the city also proved somewhat difficult. We got lost, missed the second turn and had to turn around. Except we were on the side of a mountain that only went one way. So we had to drive for a while to find a place to turn around. Either way, we did eventually get to Guanajuato. We parked the van, checked into our hostel and ate at a very very nice restraunt for about 10 bucks. I had salmon–delicious! We headed back to the hostel, saw two guys get in a fight (basically one just punched and kicked the other, then they walked away) and chilled at the hostel for a little bit, just sitting around talking. Then we decided to go out to the Guanajuatan bars. Everything is very walkable, which is nice. First we went to a hole-in-the wall bar with a pool table. We played some pool, had some drinks…I was fairly unimpressed. Joe decided to go to sleep, so he headed back to the hostel, but we wanted to go DANCE! We thought we’d check out this one bar where they have live Salsa music, but it cost 50pesos (about $5, a little less) to get in, and it didn’t look all that fun. Well as we were deciding whether we should go upstairs to the salsa club, a guy about our age asks us in English if we want free shots, and if so, to follow him. So, feeling adventurous, we follow him down some stone steps, a little wary of why we were going down into a dark basement-like area, but we all thought we had four people and one of our people was a guy. So whatever. We get downstairs and see this small dungeon-like area with a plasma screen television, a few seats and balloons everywhere. We were the only people down there. Raul, our “host” told us that it was early (11:30pm) and there would be more people later. We all laughed and talked about how sketchy we thought it was, but it also had good music and Raul was a pretty amiable guy. So we got our free shots and sat and chatted with Raul for a bit. After a while we decided to venture out and go to a different, more dance-acceptable, club. We thanked Raul and headed down the street, Lorene and Anita still with drinks in their hands. We arrived at the other dance hall and the girls had to finish their drinks, so we took pictures and Charles bought us all roses from a guy who was selling flowers on the street (awe!). Lorene and Anita finally finished their drinks and we went into the club, which was playing…techno in Spanish? We walked around for a little bit, found some guanajuatenses (people from Guanajuato) to dance with…danced for a while, then decided to go check out the OTHER dance club. It was pretty lame, so we went back to Raul’s bar, where there were some more people. There, we dance some more with OTHER guanajuatenses until we decided it was time to go to sleep (3:30am?). It was a fun night, and us girls ended up talking for a while when we got back to the hostel about how well we all get along.

Saturday, after getting lost AGAIN trying to leave Guanajuato, we went back to Irapuato and ended up dropping my computer off. It might take 2 weeks to fix and I might loose all my information. But asi es (that’s how it is). Then we drove back to Juventino. We went to the birthday party of the 4 year old grandson of one of the delegation (friends here), though he went to go pick up one of our doctors and his 15 year old son at the airport, so he wasn’t there. It was car-themed and really long, probably felt longer since we were all so tired. We then drove to Celaya to have dinner with the Padre (father, in the Church) at a really nice restraunt and I got to practice my Spanish with a 20-year-old law student here from Juventino who was really nice and interesting. While I look forward to going back to a diet of mostly lettuce, fruit, nuts and dark chocolate, I quite enjoyed my steak. It was delicious. I ended up back in my quaint little bed here in Juventino, in the doctor’s house and woke up this morning, went for a run, showered and now am about to go with the doctor and his wife to get my daddy from the airport. Unfortunately, posting pictures has been postponed (hah!)…So until later–Take care all!

Saddest Day of My Life

So yesterday started out just fine. We went to Xoconoxtle again and this time played soccer with the kids of the town. It was awesome. I took lots of pictures, which hopefully some day you will be able to see. I got home and was going to call my dad with Joe, one of the students, to work on a data entry issue…when I realized my computer was frozen. I tried to restart it. It now will not even recognize that there is a hard drive. Period. I am so sad…I almost cried. So I am calling Apple Tech support in Mexico. Wish me luck.

More than anything, I am sad that I have to admit to my mac having problems. My host fathet thinks it’s a virus from using my flashdrive at the internet kiosks here…oops. Anyway. I’m sad. It’s a tragedy. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to put up at least some of the pics, b/c they are awesome.

Xoconoxtle Día Uno

So…that’s how “ho-co-no-tlay” is spelled. Yeah. Who would have thought? Let’s be serious–today was an awesome day. Even if I can’t exactly pronounce where I was. It is beautiful (in my opinion). So serene, though the ride there is not. It’s the bumpiest ride…ever? Probably not. But at least 15 minutes driving on a dirt/stone road to basically the middle of nowhere. There are also lots of potholes. It’s also partially on the side of a mountain. There is one part in the road where you are going down a hill, on really rocky road, and can basically only see…that in front of you, if you don’t turn right, you will go straight down into a valley. Awesome. And we were in this HUGE van that belongs to the municipal president. I’m not really sure why that’s the vehicle of choice…I guess at least it can hold 5 students and a doctor, which was our crew for the day.

We whizzed through interviews and tests. Let me explain a little bit about what I was doing. It is essentially the same project as I helped with last year when I was here. It is a study about cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, as well as lifestyle and depression this year. We do 3 different surveys/questionnaires, then take vitals–blood pressure, weight, height, hip and waist measurements, then glucose. I can’t do the cholesterol tests, but I can do everything else. I had forgotten how interesting it can be…how much I really loved doing this work last summer. It was really my first taste of research, and the reason that I wanted to do what I’m doing this year. You get to learn so much about a person in so little time, to make a connection with them, even though you will never see them again. It’s a very bizarre kind of interaction. Anyway, it was awesome. We also were busy for the first 3 hours, and then there was no one, which was nice. So some of use (me, Charles, Kristoff and Dan, the doctor) went back to Juventino to find lunch and go to the bathroom (there is only an outhouse there, which wasn’t even at the church, it is in a woman’s hosue). It took us quite a while. We went to the same restaurant Kiko & Juanita took us to last week, since we knew the food was decent. It was somewhat difficult to find. So we got back to the church in Xoconoxtle around…2pm? I think we left around 11:30. We brought back food for Lorene and Joe, who stayed while we adventured. When we got back, they were sitting outside…doing basically nothing. They’d entered some of the data, but there’d been no more people. So we all sat around for a while…Kristoff, who is obsessed with having music playing at ALL TIMES turned on his iPod with portable speakers and we just kind of chilled…some people read, whatever. A few more people came in for tests. I entered some data–we got all of the data we’ve collected so far entered–and still had…hours to go until we were to do our platica–a work that means chat in Spanish. It’s basically an informative session for the people of the community.

Lorene, Charles, Kristoff and I decided to play a game. This game was called “Throw your rocks into the bucked from 10 feet away.” Though it sounds kind of…lame?…it’s certainly better than “catch with a rock,” which was the previously suggested game. The premise was pretty simple–take your two rocks (which we all were pretty attached to by the end of the game) and attempt to throw them into the bucket from a rock placed about 10 feet away. You get one point if your rock goes in the bucket but comes out and two if it stays in the bucket. We decided teams were the way to go–Kristoff & I were a team and Lorene and Charles. Let’s just say I had no idea how much rocks can bounce out of buckets. By the end, KS (me & Kristoff) had 5 points, LC (Lorene & Charles) had 8. This score is to be updated tomorrow. It ended up actually being challenging and fairly fun. And certainly better than catch with rocks. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in the desert–anything can become part of a game. I’d like to call it creativity.

Our game of throw-the-rocks-into-a-bucket was somewhat rudely interrupted by people who were 45 minutes early for our platica. We felt bad playing our silly little game in the middle of their church yard…so we started cleaning up. The platica went well, though they were a little too in depth with the information I thought, and then I ended up being able to do an interview with one of the women there. We came home and hung out at their house for a little while, then I came home and ate la cena (“dinner,” but really a 10 o’clock snack) with my familia. A thoroughly wonderful and productive day. Tomorrow I have plans to make more use of the time for my project and conduct maybe two more short interviews. For now, I must go to sleep. Pictures tomorrow of Xoconoxtle? And definitely of my pretty rocks.


So. It’s almost 7am here in Mexico and I am about to go out to the communities for the first time. We’re going to one that I can’t write very well, though it’s prononce “Ho-con-oaze-clay.” Joconozcle? Maybe? Anyway, I was gonna walk over to the students’ house, but then it was raining, so I called them to come pick me up and now it isn’t. But I don’t have time to walk over there. Funny how things work, huh? I’ll let you know how it goes…

It’s been a while

Hey loyal readers! I appologize for not writing recently. Life here has been pretty uneventful. I was sick, as I said, the end of last week and am *finally* feeling not as snuffly. The enferma (sickness) persists stil a bitl, just not through pain in my throat, so that’s nice. I did want to share about the fun of going to Carlos’ adorable little dance at his school to celebrate Father’s Day, though it was last Friday.

I had been hearing about this little dance recital (and little is not quite a strong enough word, as Carlos’ part in it lasted MAYBE a minute) for quite some time, so when I understood that it was coming up, I asked if I could come. My host parents (of course) said sure, so I tagged along. It was really hilarious, and continued my whole feeling of things being really similar more than different. Though it was held in what to me seemed a warehouse (though it was not–it was a building that you can rent to hold events such as this) that left something asthetic to be desired and was incredibly hot, it was the same teachers-making-children-look-silly-for-their-parents as in the US. The younger kids’ dances were simple and quick with fun upbeat music. The older kids (third grade, fourth and fifth) had more intricate dances, though some of the girls were so obviously much more comfortable in their bodies while the others awkwardly tried to immitate the moves. I posted some of the pictures on my album that’s on facebook, but available to be viewed by all, even if you don’t have an account (I’ll put a link to your right at the top of this page). After the dancing, we all ate. Good times. Then the kids ran outside and had a foam fight. That was pretty exciting to witness. Whoever decided to give kids cans of sprayable foam…I don’t know why they thought that was a good idea. But the kids were having fun, so I guess it’s all good. No real permanant damage.

Yesterday I went to breakfast at the doctor’s parents and then dinner at Amparo’s parents. Since it was Father’s Day, AND I had Skype in my room, I called my dad. Breakfast and dinner were really nice. I really especially love Amparo’s family. For some reason, I can understand them better. I mean that in a literal way–I understand more of what they’re saying, whereas the doctor’s family is still difficult to understand.

While both families are really nice and welcoming, I do feel a little bit…out of place. I’m never really sure if I should spend time with the adults or the “kids” (some of them are my age). I usually end up with the adults. Is that anything new? No, not really. But I talked pretty extensivly with one of Amparo’s sister-in-laws and it was really interesting–we talked about family, and especially what it means to me and what I want from my life in relation to family…how important it is to me. We discussed the differences between the United States’ familial culture and the historical family culture here. As I’ve said, here, family is everything. People depend on each other because they have to. In the US, we try not to rely on each other, we try to be independent. But we fail, because no man is an island. There is a freedom in recognizing that we DO need each other, because there is something relieving about it. We talked about the materialism of American culture and how money becomes more important than family, or really, support. It was interesting and powerful.

When I got home, there was a lovely thunderstorm that I happily watched and listened to along with some music.

Today was quite a lot less interesting. I discovered one wall of my bathroom is infested with tiny little ants. And I mean INFESTED. I attempted (and somewhat succeded) to take a shower, though the extremely low water pressure nearly stopped me. It is usually pretty low, basically no more than a dribble, but this morning seemed even more extreme. Whatever. I managed, so I guess I can’t complain too much. This summer and last, I really realized that I am pretty resourceful, a skill I was not all that convinced I had. I watched the New Hampshire Presidential debates–the Democratic one and then as much of the Republican one as I could stand, which wasn’t much. I read some of my book, “Bait and Switch,” which is by Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote “Nickel and Dimed.” It’s my third book of the adventures and I am thoroughly enjoying being able to read freely. In the room I’m in, there are also a bunch of classic books (like Moby Dick, the Divine Comedy, The Thousand and One Nights, Count of Monte Cristo) in Spanish. So I need to get on that…maybe.

A new era

I am writing you from my bed, my new workspace. This is going to be pretty short since, as you may be able to tell, it’s quite late and I’m up for a very intense day tomorrow–I get to do at least one interview (finally!). But I did want to take the time to share my pictures, since that’s the reason I’m up so late. Hopefully there will be more with more frequency, now that I have more internet access. I’m pretty psyched, b/c it means I get to keep myself updated on the Daily Show and Colbert Report world, which will just generally make life better. But if you want to see the few pictures I have so far, click here. Enjoy!

Similares mas que diferentes

Here I am in beautiful Mexico, with awesome people, and I’m sick. I was invited to join Lulu, my host mom’s sister, and her children to San Miguel de Allende, a nearby city of Gringos (Americans) but couldn’t go because I need to descansar (rest). I’m also trying to upload pictures, which is ending up being much more time-consuming and difficult than I’d thought. I guess mexican cable lines aren’t as fast, though I did learn that the second richest person in the world is Mexican and is the owner of Telmex and TelCel, the biggest phone/cable internet/cell phone companies in the country. He’s evidently quickly approaching Bill Gates’ level of dinero (money) domination. Anyway, the last few days have been pretty uninteresting. I have hung out with the students, who are pretty chill…I went to Celaya with Lulu to get hair dye. I got sick, and got to go see the Doctor, who said I just needed to rest and gave me an “anti-flu” medication (which from what I can tell is simply a decongestant).

I saw a commercial for a gel that you put on your body and it makes you lose weight. I also saw a sign that said divorce is not the answer, but Jesus Christ. That was on the way home from the Symphony last night in Celaya at one of the universities there. This leads me to my point–Mexicans are like Americans with bad infrastructure. Let me explain. I am consistently amazed at how the people here who DO have money, live in essentially the same exact way as Americans. Of course, no one can deny that the water can make you sick and that the sewage system furthermore can’t accept toilet paper because it’s too narrow. However, there is a substantial group of people here who have enough money to live similarly to Americans. They have the same television shows–in Spanish. They have symphonies and universities and nice houses and cars. They send their children to private schools. This can somewhat be summed up in what my host father said I could bring back to the United States–that there are Mexicans who live in Mexico who wish to stay here. People who love their country, as so many Americans love ours. They feel similarly about politics–that it’s corrupt but part of how things are. But I am consistently amazed at just how similarly these people (who admitedly are in the upper echelons of the society) live to how I am accustomed to living. They have a much stronger focus on their families and they live more communally with nature, but so many things are the same, and so different than how we think about “mexicans.”

On the other hand, I have heard several times now that many of the young people here don’t pay attention in school saying that they can just go to the United States. This has ever so much importance in how we, as citizens of the United States, think about our political future. We all know that we already have many many undocumened foreigners “among” us and that it has created a stress politically, sometimes economically. We have lots of problems to solve due to the sudden influx of more people; at that, more people who have more children than we are used to. Anyway, I just think it’s something interesting to think about–the two ideas are interesting when put up against one another–that while there is a faction of people who certainly want to stay here and love their country, there are also many young (I assume men) people who have all but given up on staying here and see our country as…the right way, instead of education in their country. I perhaps find this the most interesting thing visiting here, and what I hope to shed some light on in my reseach–that our countries have interlinked fates at this point. To me, it is much more pertinent to us to help Mexico better her economy than Iraq. Obviously at this point, the idea of going to the United States is something that is inscribed on the minds of the young–how do you go about re-working the way they think so that they prefer to better their life in Mexico? I also think it’s interesting that of all the people I’ve talked to, no one wants to go to the United States in the sense that we think of–that they like it more than Mexico. They go only because of money. They don’t like our country. They like that they can earn 10 times the amount of money and build things here to make life better for their families. My question is that in doing that, does it change the culture here innately–does it make the wonderful things about this culture sort of a moot point because it gets so inundated by the “culture” of the United States? I’ve also been thinking a lot, really in the past year, but it comes up here and in the questions I’m asking, about what feminism has really done for women and men, for our society, for our children. Though I don’t think it’s a horrible thing (I feel quite lucky to have grown up in a culture that at least touts equality to some degree), I am also unconvinced that it’s consequences aren’t equally as detrimental to our society as the benefits.

Anyway, thanks for humoring the cultural ramblings. It’s at least fascinting getting to live in a culture that is not my own. It helps me think in an even more out-of-the-box way about our culure, or lack of it, and I think I will be able to decide better what I like and don’t like about American culture. Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that this culture is saturated in our culture. They have Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and all the same kids television programs. They listen to popular American songs and use them as ring tones. Bizarre.

Hope everyone is doing well. I’m tring to post some pictures, so when that works, you’ll be able to see some of what I see :-). Until then–


So…this was originally posted previously. 6/11/07. I have no idea what time. Funny story–you shouldn’t click things in Spanish when you don’t know what they mean. I decided to look up “suprimir” after clicking it. Turns out, it means “to surpress” or “to abolish”. Yeah. Not exactly what I wanted to do. luckily, there’s a back button. Sorry about that.

I don’t have much time since I’m testing out an internet cafe and it costs me dinero (money), but I wanted to share a little about my whirlwind last 24 hours. I ended up going to dinner with my host mom’s family as well, which was nice. It was one of my favorite memories from last year and I especially enjoyed chatting with her brother, who’d been to the US, and his wife, who are both very funny. We got back in time for me to go to what I THOUGHT (for some tonto reason) was a party…yeah. It was a meeting. A very boring meeting. About exactly what the other students are doing while they’re here. I was also really tired, but whatever. I got to meet the new students. Then Juanita and Kiko, a couple I’ll later live with (I think I already said that, but for clarity’s sake), invited me to go view the brand new hospital with them and the students the next morning. What I didn’t know was that also locked me into a meeting with the municiple president.

So today I got to meet the president, see a brand new hospital, return to Naranjillo (my favorite community, for those of you who don’t know my stories from last year–the children of Naranjillo took me straight up a mountain to “see a view” for my camera and it was just sort of magical to be led by children up a mountain with a video camera), discover a track and park to run in that’s near enough to walk so I don’t have to feel like such a gringa running through the streets, eat in a resraunt in Juventino, talk more with the students, visit Doctor Narváez who has an infected heel (?), was essentially force-fed tequila a few times and finally get online now. That’s a lot, especially considering that yesterday I met two huge families, the students and delegation, and the day before I went to Celaya to eat. It’s been a lot of Spanish from a lot of different people in a very short amount of time. And I haven’t been getting my naps, which I had been the first few days I was here. But I’ve learned a lot, and that’s what this is all about. The hostpital is beautiful, though small, and we had an interesting talk with Juanita at lunch about what the guy at the hospital said (that this new health plan that allowed for the hospital meant 90% of Mexicans were insured) and what was really going on (many people still do not have access, and not nearly 90% have health care, let alone insurance). The other thing of interest happened at my host mom’s parent’s–there were a few flies and maybe 2 bees when we started eating. Amparo, my host mom, quite counter-intuitively to what I would do, began feeding them Sprite, which they very much liked, and more came. They kept feeding them. I think it’s really interesting that we have this idea in America that bees and other animals are obnoxious and scary, when here they were saying, “they’re hungry. Whatever. We can eat and they can be here and it’s all okay. They won’t hurt us unless we provoke them, so we might as well live in harmony.” Very interesting.

This is Naranjillo

Anyway, That’s all for now. There will be a lot of water-drinking and sleeping when I get back to my casa…I am exhausted. But I’m feeling really good about the summer, my study and just the people here in general. As we say, es buena gente (they’re good people).