Week Twenty-One

Would it be weird if I said I’ve only just realised I live in Mexico? I mean like really LIVE here?? I’ve got my job, my work permit, my bank account, my medical insurance, a wee house that I come home to with a squashy sofa and pictures on the wall. I’ve got a routine which involves Spanish lessons and trips away and future plans. Would it be at all weird to say that it’s only just sunk in, that here is where I am?

Yeah, I guess it would be but that’s kinda what’s happened. It didn’t just hit like a bolt of lightening, more just like a slow realisation. I haven’t suddenly become amazing at the Spanish language or started making tacos for dinner but life here has become normal now. I have accepted the weirdness of things here. I have accepted fireworks at 5am, and turkeys that never stop huckaling. I’ve accepted taxi drivers who know where I live and yet at the same time pretend they don’t know what I mean when I say I want dropped off at the Bodega (supermarket.) I know now what bank machines will charge a fee for withdrawals. I know how to post things home and how long they’ll take to get there. I’ve just about figured out getting a bus to another town.

I appreciate the small things here too, like the woman in the laundrette who kept one of my tickets and stuck it on her till so that every time I come in she can spell my name correctly. She practices her English with me, I practice my Spanish with her. I enjoyed meeting the parents for the second parent teacher meeting and to have such warm welcomes from them. One parent said, “I love coming to talk to you. You always have the biggest smile for us”. I appreciate feeling part of this community.

I am sure of all these small things and yet still unsure of so much. But it feels like a life here. Not a complete one obviously but one none the less.

Maybe this realisation has happened because my friend from home is coming to visit and I’ll get to play tourist guide. I’ll get to share in a tiny portion of my life with someone who knows me so well from my ‘before’ life. Maybe that’s where it’s come from. Or maybe this is just the length of time it takes me to settle into a place. This is the calm before the storm of me getting itchy feet and wanting to move again. This is the part where the adventure is manageable. It’s not hugely overwhelming but has just the right balance of fear and success.

 

Start The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Week Twenty

I’ve just spent the weekend in Mexico City and man what a weekend it was. We had three days at the Vive Latino festival (www.vivelatino.com.mx) and I saw some amazing stuff – Underworld on Friday night, Blur on Saturday night, Silversun Pickups on Sunday and some really cool Mexican bands too like Los Fabulosos Cadilacs, Ska P and La Banderville.

I was hoping that my first Mexican festival experience would be vastly different (weather wise) to those that I’ve been to in the UK but for the first two days sadly not. It was bloody cold! Anyway despite the weather I had a fab time. Blur was utterly amazing. Damon Albarn leapt round that stage like he was still a 20 year old. He looked completely off his tatas but still managed to control everything on stage and also spent a fair bit of time down in front of the crowd, running about and high fiving everyone. Legend.

 

One of the weirdest things about the festival was the heavy police presence. When we were coming into the arena there were hundreds of them, all in riot gear and they formed a really intimidating obstacle course to walk through. I’m from Northern Ireland and even I’ve never seen so many cops in all my days.

 

 

To say that Mexico City and Tequis are different is a huge understatement. I mean they are like chalk in cheese. It’s like trying to compare a chicken and a car. For a start 20 million people live in Mexico City. The place is huge. Where Tequis is laid back and casual, Mexico City is a big, sprawling, rumbling mess of people. Tequis is mañana mañana, Mexico City is right now and with attitude.

I think I’ve mentioned before how in Tequis people stare at you ‘cos you’re white. Well, in Mexico City they go one further. I’ve heard more calls this weekend of gringo/guera/puta than I have in my entire time in Mexico. It is hard to get used to and even harder to understand. On the one hand, yes, it is very observant of you, I am white. Well done for noticing. On the other hand why would you call me a puta? I’m not dressed like one, I’m certainly not acting like one, so why do it? Some of these calls have come from men my Dads age, who probably have daughters of their own, who probably would be enraged if some stranger called them a whore, so why do it themselves? Is it a purely racist thing? I’m white therefore I must be a whore? I must find someone to ask….although it’s hardly the type of thing you can bring up with any of the male Mexican staff at school. I’m sure most of them would be mortified!

 

So just to put things into perspective I went to the Museo Memoria Y Tolerancia (Museum of Memory &Tolerance) (www.myt.org.mx)

This is a harsh and brutal look at intolerance and genocide. If you ever get the chance it is worth going to see. It takes you through the holocaust and then on to exhibitions about Rwanda, Darfur, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and Guatemala.

It is a powerful exhibition and I think it’s sometimes so easy to forget that these horrific things happened…and are still happening.

In the Holocaust section they have one of the wagons that was used to transport people to concentration camps. They had a set of glass steps leading up to and through it and you could choose to take this route towards the next section of the exhibition. I did. I stood there for ages and thank god no one else was in the wagon too ‘cos I couldn’t help but cry. I remembered a trip to Berlin, where we went to the spot where the Nazi’s had burned books, I remembered the Paper Clips film (www.paperclipsmovie.com) that I took a group of students to and I remembered the feeling of panic I had getting the metro the night before.

That sounds stupid and trivial I know but I don’t mean it that way. When we were getting the metro home after the festival they were 8 deep at the platform. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. There wasn’t room to breathe. When the train came there was a rugby scrum to get on. People were just pushing from the back despite the fact that there was no more room on the train. It was crazy scary. We didn’t get on that train and had to wait for the next. Again there was a huge swell with people trying to get on. When we finally got onboard it was frightening. I’m only small and was wedged between people, without room to see and certainly no room to move. The smell of strangers was overwhelming and the noise was deafening. Further up the carriage, a few intoxicated people were impatient for the train to move and basically started banging on the roof. I was thinking to myself that if anything kicked off, it would be game over for me. There would be absolutely no way of getting out of there and given my wedged in position it would be fairly likely that I’d get hurt. I was also thinking how ironic it would be to live all my life in Northern Ireland and never be caught up in a riot only to move to Mexico and be part of one. Thankfully nothing awful happened.

Standing in the Holocaust wagon in the Musuem I thought back to the journey from the night before. It just made me feel so much for the people who were treated that way and were sent off to die. I wonder how many of them were like me, just hanging on to their friends believing that nothing bad would happen. I wondered when the realisation struck that things were not going to be ok. I wondered what lies they told their children to save them from panic. I wondered what lies they told themselves.

Start and finish One Day, Someday by Lynne Barrett-Lee

Start Skipping Christmas by John Grisham