5 11 2010

It’s been a long time, and there’s lots to report on. First of all, I’m writing this in Mexico City!  After hearing so much about el DF (short for Distrito Federal) for the last three months, we finally made it back for a proper visit – the bus trip from the airport didn’t really count. We’re here for some meetings and sightseeing. And today was, in a sense, our final day of training – we met with a few people at the agency we’ll be working for – CONACYT – and gave brief introductions of ourselves, our backgrounds and our projects here, in spanish. Not super hard, but our trainers wanted to make sure we made a good impression. It’s amazing how far we’ve all come since our first presentations 3 months ago.

We also met with some Americans at the US trade mission today, and learned about what the US govt is doing (beyond PC of course) to help both Mexican and US companies. It was very eye-opening and I look forward to being in touch with some of the impressive folks we met.  They are really up to some important work, like trying to improve the transparency and general governance approach to business here, and for the first time, I could imagine potentially working in some capacity like that down the road. Fittingly I thought, it was at the US trade center which also houses the Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin!

Also, this weekend was Halloween and then Dia de Muertos, a really important holiday down here. DDM is actually quite amazing – a major tradition is to build altars for family members who have died. But it is far from a somber occasion – in addition to photos, candles, crosses and other symbols, the altars traditionally also have bottles of beer and tequila, cigarettes and even skulls. It is really an amazingly endearing combination of the heartfelt and the kitsch. These altars are built over a series of days and then shown off in homes, offices and public squares. Then on the day itself, many (if not most) families go to the cemetery where they clean the graves of their loved ones, and spend the day eating meals, enjoying mariachi bands, and generally remembering their loved ones. I have never ever seen so much going on in a cemetery, with children, older people, musicians and vendors everywhere. It seemed like an amazingly appropriate way to put cemeteries to good use and to really reminisce about one’s loved ones, and I wonder why more cultures (like ours) don’t do something like it!

Other big news is that I had my first show with this new band I’m in! I met Eugenio and the other guys through Ana, my tia anfitriona – my host aunt really, since she’s the sister of my host mom, Julieta. It all started with an invitation to go to a quince anos fiesta out in a pueblito called Tlacote. I told Ana that I played trombone and had been in a ska band in NYC. She told me about her friend Eugenio, who plays trumpet in a couple ska bands here! This was all in spanish of course. Later that week Eugenio and I got together, played a little bit, and he invited me to practice with his new band, called Raskason. They’ve only been at it a couple months, but already had a show scheduled for the Fri before Halloween. The show itself was hilarious- we all dressed up as clowns (the scary kind) and drove about an hour to this little farm town called La Griega. The show was in a barn and there were at least a couple hundred kids there. Except for the cows which were outside next to the banos, it was pretty much just like a ska show in the city- a bunch of bands, beer and of course skanking. And of course, other than a couple words here and there, everyone spoke entirely in spanish.  Good practice, and quite a cultural immersion!

And the other weekend, a few of us (trainees and PCVs) met in a city nearby called Guanajuato, which I had heard a lot about. We went for a big international arts and music festival in memory of Cervantes, called the Cervantino festival. It was absolutely amazing. The town itself is incredible – an old city that feels almost medieval, it has narrow winding streets, houses that climb the surrounding hills, and tunnels underneath where a series of rivers used to flow when the city was a hub of silver mining. It almost feels like a real-life Disneyland, and fittingly was extremely touristy! We saw shows, hung out in plazas among the thousands of other visitors, ate street meat, played some pool and generally had a terrific time.

Of course the last month hasn’t been all fun and travel- we have had lots of training – mostly Spanish – and some interesting trips and info regarding our future work and sites. But there has also been time to have fun with fellow trainees during Monday Night Football and on weekends. It’s hard to believe training is coming to end: we swear-in as volunteers this coming Wednesday, and then we will be actually be in the Peace Corps! Training has been a lot of long days, homework, and some frustrations, but I am quite delighted to be doing this – after all we have seen and learned about the challenges and opportunities here in Mexico, I am quite convinced that it’s really where I should be and what I should be doing now.



One response

13 11 2010

We are loving the updates here on Third Avenue! Can you guys play Elodie’s birthday?

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