Un viaje ocupado

2 09 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post but here are some of the highlights. I:

– had a full week of classes in espanol and other subjects of varying degrees of importance in Qro (Queretaro)

– had numerous vaccines (with many more to come)

– discovered a great place to buy pinatas (spider-man, iron man and semi-naked women seem to be popular choices)

– saw snow in Mexico! and a volcano!

– went to 2 Starbucks and discovered that their offerings (drinks, snacks and prices) are almost identical to the US!

– got one of the best shoe shines of my life!

– did a Skype video chat as part of our training (not very exciting I know, but who knew the Peace Corps was so high tech)

– ran into what seemed to be Mexican Critical / Criminal Mass!

– saw probably the first 2 dozen or so of the hundreds if not 1000s of churches I’ll see down here!

I also found some interesting bars and met some American estudiantes who are here on study abroad from college- Qro seems to be a popular place!

So its been busy. I am now on a week-long road trip with the grupo de transferencia de tecnologia- the group of PC aspirantes that will be doing tech transfer (in case you didn’t guess) for our service. We are visiting several centers that are run by CONACYT, the agency that manages Mexican gov’t research in science and technology. We are now in Puebla (where I’ll be back next week as part of a PC volunteer visit) and we’re heading to San Luis Potosi tomorrow.

We have gotten a lot of presentations from different scientists here at the Puebla center, called INOAE- many of which have been extremely interesting and impressive- the ones I could understand at least. The projects included:

– a high altitude gamma ray detector/telescope that is being built here with major sponsorship by the US NSF and many US universities.

– a materials/computer science project that is developing cheaper ways to produce ICs

– a new naval communications guidance system

– a new type of UV sensor system

Walking around and listening to the presentations, I sort of had to keep reminding myself that I really am in the Peace Corps and not doing a consulting project back home. What is being done here is really impressive- and what we’re doing doesn’t much match up with the idea that Peace Corps is all about building houses and teaching English in Africa…

Anyway, I hope the pics can do these latest adventures justice!

Estoy aprendiendo

24 08 2010

What am I learning? My way away around town I hope. I managed to get pretty lost trying to get home from el centro both Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. The sad part is I wasn’t even downtown when I got lost- I was within a few blocks of home! My only excuse is that many of the streets and houses where I’m living look the same, at least they still do to me…¬† but in addition to helping me learn the town a bit, the other good thing about getting lost was it gave me plenty of time to practice the talk that I had to memorize for Spanish class Monday, which went pretty well!

Anyway, I did have a very good couple of days: Sunday night my host abuela took me back to el centro and showed me around some more- see pics below- and Monday we had our first official day of training in Qro (how they seem to abbreviate Queretero.) We had mostly Spanish class, but did spend some time in sector training, in which the 9 of us in the technology transfer group meet together with our trainer Gabriel. We got some homework for the next couple days, which will involve putting together some presentations and also preparing for our first field trip! Next week we’re going to visit several CONACYT sites around central Mexico. In addition to visiting the Qro site, we’ll also be going to Puebla and San Luis Potosi. We’ll be on the road for most of the week and I’m really looking forward to it. I think for my project especially, it will be useful to learn as much as possible about CONACYT as a whole, in addition to the CIATEQ center where I will be based.

As for the pics below, they are of el centro, the historic center of Qro. It was really amazing how busy the plazas were on Sunday night, but it is clearly the place to be after church- somewhat touristy, but the folks are largely local and my host abuela said it is a very popular place for Mexicans from around the region. Literally hundreds of people listened to a performance of a wind orchestra that performed in a gazebo, and there was a lot of dancing too. They played a mix of classical and what seemed to be orchestrations of traditional Mexican music- they already had 4 trombones but I’m going to check back in the next couple weeks to talk to the director about whether they might need another!

Voy a trabajar en Queretero!

22 08 2010

Big couple of days! We left the hacienda yesterday and came to Queretero, where the PC office is located and where we will be in training for the next 3 months. But before leaving, we found out our assignments for our 2 years of service! I have to say I am pretty pleased: I will be working at a CONACYT research center (part of the science and technology agency of the Mexican gov’t) here in Queretero and my assignment sounds pretty familiar: I’ll be designing and implementing a competitive intelligence function for the center! I’m very interested to learn more about the center and what it does but I think I’m pretty well qualified;)

After our bus trip into Queretero and a little tour of the PC office, we all met and went home with our host families. It was a little stressful but I think it will all be good. I am living about 20 minutes from the Universidad Marista, where our classes will be held, with a nice woman and her adult sons. I just need to make sure I get enough Spanish practice there but I doubt it will be a problem.

Right now I am hanging out in one of the plazas in el centro, which is the historic downtown area. Several of the plazas and gardens in this area have free Wi-Fi- more American cities should be so advanced! I came over with a few other volunteers who live close by and we just bumped into a PC staffer and his family here in the plaza- its a small world!

Estoy aqui

21 08 2010

After a serious trek from the US, I arrived in Mexico! We had an intense but interesting 36 hours or so in DC for filling out forms, initial training, etc. I think we were all pretty anxious to get the show on the road and after a few unexpected early morning hours spent at DCA, we headed out! We were met at the airport in Mexico City by Peace Corps staff members. We were also met by camera flashes and a lot of reporters just outside customs- but alas, they were there for the Mexico national football team which also was arriving, not us:(

Our 3 hour bus ride to Queretaro took us around Mexico City and through some interesting countryside and we eventually made it to our hotel destination- a really charming hacienda which is a Spanish colonial  castle that is several hundred years old. (Its also part of an organic dairy farm- a few pics are below.) All our training, meals etc have been here and it has really been a great place to start getting into Peace Corps, getting to know the other volunteers etc. It is really an impressive group by the way- we have 4 PhDs, many folks with masters and generally a bunch of people with a lot of experience in their fields.

We have mostly spent our time in training- about how the next 3 months of Pre-Service Training will go, about how PC Mexico works, and of course language. I think its going to be good. They’re taking good care of us so far and the food is surprisingly good! And believe it or not, we all have private bathrooms and there’s been plenty of hot water! (at least for a few hours a day…)

Unexpectedly I should find out tomorrow where I’ll be posted for my 2 years of service- I didn’t think I’d find out for several months. I’ll post it when I know more.¬† We leave the hacienda tomorrow afternoon and will be with our host families tomorrow night!

Add Txakolina wines to the list

13 08 2010

The Pour – Txakolina Wines From Basque Country – NYTimes.com.

The week that was

7 08 2010

I’m down in Atlanta now for about 10 days before I head to DC, then Mexico. But I had a terrific final week in NYC and made it to the Met and the park with Kirsten, out for BBQ with Stuart, Cajun with Robert, a last Milestones board meeting, the National show at Prospect Park with the PHB, a final TSC show and a great party at Crocodile Lounge. Even some fishing upstate!

Thanks to everyone who made time to hang out!

Thanks to everyone who made time to get together with me!

REM had it right

3 08 2010

I officially left NYC today. As REM said in a pretty catchy tune on probably their worst record, leaving New York sure isn’t easy. (I’d never seen it, but the video has some good scenes of NY, the subway, JFK and of course Mike Stipe’s bald head. Unfortunately you have to click thru to watch- Warners must have some clever reason why watching on youtube is better than on a blog..)

I had a terrific last week though and lots of pics from the various events to come – thanks to everyone for making time to hang out and see me off!

Beerevolution! Tastings With Craft Beers

27 05 2010

Heads Up – Tastings With Craft Beers – NYTimes.com.

Strategies for Winning Consumer Disputes

26 05 2010

The Haggler – Strategies for Winning Consumer Disputes – NYTimes.com.

MMMMMaking Soft Pretzels the Old-Fashioned Way

26 05 2010

Making Soft Pretzels the Old-Fashioned Way – NYTimes.com.