The X Factor of Economics –

25 10 2010

Not about Mexico (another update coming soon) but my kind of thinking about econ:

The X Factor of Economics – People –

La fin de semana pasada

6 10 2010

Aqui son los fotos que describi. Some interesting ones of the desfile in San Miguel. Unfortunately since my camera isn’t waterproof, I didn’t risk taking any at the hot springs but maybe I can steal some from others…

Situation at home is still working out well. Big day tomorrow when I visit CIATEQ, the research center here in Qro that I will be working at for the next 2 years. I’ve heard lots of good things about it and hoping they’re true!

Un dia grande

4 10 2010

Had a big day Friday- moved houses and finally got my phone working! My new familia anfitriona is really cool and I can already tell I’m going to learn a lot more Spanish practicing with them. It was sad, because my old host family was really nice, but I just wasn’t getting much practice talking with them. I’ve already spoken more Spanish with Julieta and Mariano in my first weekend here than I think I ever did with Esther, Alejandro and Roberto. It was a bit sad but for the best.
Also had a terrific day today visiting San Miguel de Allende- not because its such a great town (the rumors are true: its extremely touristy and filled with gringos) but because there was a fun festejo going on, and because we visited some aguas termales nearby! Super relaxing hanging out in the hot springs… I’ll get some pics of it all up soon!

Un cumpleano divertido

26 09 2010

Another fun week down here- first of all, last weekend, a few of us went to a town nearby called Bernal, which seems to be notable for 2 things: it is a cute, sort of touristy town with interesting shops etc. It is also dominated by an enormous monolith, not unlike Devils Tower! It is really dramatic. We did the relatively easy hike to the base of the rock, although since it was a bit rainy, the clay/sandstone was pretty slippery. To go any further, you need to be ready for some serious technical climbing – ropes, carabiners etc. There were some climbers there and the practically vertical face looked like a pretty serious project to me.  Some people we saw on the trail took it all quite a bit less seriously, and were literally just wearing slippers or heels!

Afterwards, we went to a place I was really excited to check out – a Freixenet vineyard! Before getting down here, I hadn’t known Freixenet did anything outside of Spain, and I was shocked to find they’re actually really close to Qro! Given that Freixenet is pretty much my go-to cava in the states, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) they don’t do cordon negro here- only a few other lower brands that I hadn’t heard of. But it was still a really cool place to visit. We took a tour of the cave (in spanish) and then bought a few bottles, some cheese and chilled out and listened to the mariachi band. Would have been even better if it hadn’t been raining, but it was still a lot of fun! Will definitely have to go back.
And Monday was my birthday! Since we all get together first thing Mon mornings for general weekly announcements, our training manager Regina led a rendition of Happy Birthday in spanish and english. I was very touched by the card that Brian and Kelly gave me, signed by a lot of fellow trainees and staff. Then that night, a bunch of us went to College Bar for some post class drinks and of course Mon Night Football. I had been discussing my love of pudding w/fellow southerner Blake not long ago and she actually created a banana/chocolate pudding/vanilla wafer concoction for everyone to share for the occasion, in true southern style. Surprisingly, given the popularity of jello down here, pudding is hard to find, and I think the waitstaff was a little confused, but we all enjoyed it. She and Caitlin also baked some cookies which were delish. Later that night, Christian, Anne, Becca and I went to a nearby bar (one of 2 unrelated Selva Taurinas in Qro) and hung out with the owner and ‘enjoyed’ the house specialty: mezcal, not soaking with the traditional worm, but with a 4 foot rattlesnake! Quite a birthday and I even felt fine the next day!

Viva Mexico!

19 09 2010

Another busy couple weeks down here… lots of stuff going on in Qro for the bicentenario. Its really pretty incredible that we happened to be here for it! We saw some incredible traditional dancers – los concheros, I think – by the Templo de la Cruz. And the first of a couple days of pretty insane fireworks. Mexicans seem to love their juegos pirotechnicos- even more than Americans!Attached are a couple pics but I don’t think they do them justice. At the templo, there was this big tower that was loaded with fireworks on all sides, and a dude climbed up it to light the different bits off. Lots of spinning contraptions- which would spin flaming bits into the crowd. But all in good fun. The climax was when the top thing spun around and finally launched itself about 100 feet up! And then of course it fell into the crowd too.  We have way too many liability lawyers in the states to allow such fun to occur there. And on the bicentenario itself, there were of course much bigger fireworks. A bunch of us were at the Plaza des Armas which is where the traditional ‘grito’ takes place. El Grito is an annual tradition in every big town in Mexico- where the alcalde, or mayor, repeats the historic shout that Father Hidalgo made during the fight for independence. Its something like ‘Viva independencia! Vive libertad! Vive Mexico!’ Now they also mention a few historic people: Viva Allende! Vive Hidalgo etc. And then the crazy fireworks go off- like right over the crowd!

Overall the festivities were really, really cool, muy chido. Also, got to meet a bunch of PCVs who were in town for Country Director Byron’s ‘retirement’ party and passing thru on their way to Mexico DF. One thing that a couple of you have asked about is security. I guess its not surprising but it seems the US media is only interested in the border area. Down here in Qro (and in most of the country I’m told) security is just not a big issue. The border is very far away… there are cops around, fewer than NYC but to me it feels at least as safe.

I also managed to get to lucho libre. Not that I’m an expert, but it seemed like the farm team for the WWF. And just as cheesy. It was at the Qro Arena, which looked like high school gym built in the 70s. Except between the cheap seats (~US$6) and the VIP seats (~US$12) there was barbed wire! We sat in the cheap seats.

Also went with a bunch of fellow PCTs and watched the Chiefs spank the Chargers last Monday night- American football is somewhat popular down here. Finally, we finished up our trip to Puebla last weekend, which was a lot of fun. I’ll try to get some more pics from there up, but here’s a batch from the last week or so…

Una fiesta muy ruida

12 09 2010

I’m writing this at about 1:30 am because there’s salsa music blaring from the church next door. Supposedly its some festival. Probably has something to do with the bicentenario too, which people are really excited about here- its next Thursday!
Its been a busy couple weeks since the last post so I’m going to break this into 2 posts.
I’ll let the pics do most of the talking but here are some highlights from the rest of the viaje last week:
– we finished our sector trip with a visit to San Luis Potosi, a good sized city about 4 hours from Qro where we visited a polytechnic university that’s only 10 years old but is very impressive and is already becoming a big draw for science students around the country.

– I visited some touristic highlights in Qro last weekend, both for our ‘rallye’- sort of a scavenger hunt around Qro- and cruising around on Sun trying to check off items for our ‘passaporte cultural’, a collection of about 30 things we’re encouraged to experience- its all kinds of things, like going to a soccer match, a bullfight (yes they have them in Qro), a lucho libre wrestling match (I think I’m going to one tomorrow!), seeing a local play, attending a quincineria party etc. We’re supposed to check off about 2/3 of the list and I think its a good way to make sure we’re getting out and experiencing things.

– celebrated fellow PCT Jason’s birthday at a sports bar that is pretty much a dead ringer for an American Applebees or something. Its imaginatively named ‘College Bar.’ I was planning on having my own cumpleanos in a couple weeks somewhere a bit cooler, so I hate to say I think I’ll do it there after all: they have some serious birthday specials, which is nice for poor PC trainees like us.

Captions coming soon…

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!