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Easter 2010,

Oaxaca is 450 kms and normally 5 hours away, but traffic was expectedly congested so I figured it’d likely take twice as long. I decided against hitchhiking right outside of Mexico City. It’s never a good idea to thumb up at by a busy toll. Everyone’s pissed after sitting too long in the crawling traffic. And as people speed by, they tell themselves there’s a good chance the car right behind may stop. Plus, Mexico City is really not the nicest city on earth to just be hanging out on the road.

I spent an hour on the bus to Puebla, and took my chance there. Within 10 minutes of getting off the bus, I got picked up by a sales rep of a national milk company. He was going all the way to Oaxaca. Great, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting more rides. But I was a little nervous, not so much thanks to the forbidding threat from my supervisors when they found out I wanted to hitchhike, but because it was my first time riding for such a long distance. I have the good habit of falling asleep if I’m in the passenger seat for more than an hour. The steady speed at which the scenery passes is a soporific lullaby to my eyes. This spells trouble when hitchhiking long distance because a/it’s rude to the stranger driver – I should keep the person company even if no conversation is required, and b/it’s not wise to be unconscious on the road. The driver was nice, but we didn’t really click so conversation was mostly cordial. Sleepiness crept up; a couple of times I did find my head jerking ahead from almost nodding off, and immediately fought back by pinching myself and biting my tongue.

We left Puebla at 9 a.m and finally crossed into Oaxaca 8 hours later. Before dropping me off at the center, the rep drove me up a hill that offered a stunning panoramic view of the city and the valley below. The city is quite compact, and typical of colonial urban planning, you can see a prominent cathedral dominating the center.

Oaxaca, the land of the native. My favorite Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs was born here to her Mixtec mother. It was through her heart-wrenching soul-tearing songs that I was introduced to the region’s indigenous musical heritage. I knew that the culture was living strong here, but was still surprised at the number of native speakers that I encountered.

Oaxaca valley, MexicoOaxaca valley

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Haven’t been writing here, and for a good reason. I’ve got better at entrying my journal, and it’s just too much work to keep up with both.

Things have been going smoothly, and at the same time overwhelming, and that’s not an oxymoron. I’m pleased with everything that I have going on here, but it’s just a little too much on my plate right now.

We have a Bharatanatyam performance in 2 days. I’m only dancing a short piece, but it’s still a ton of work. We have at least 3 practices each week, and last weekend, we were away in Tepotzlan at Paty’s (my teacher) house to rehearse.

In the office, I’ve pretty much been by myself. Laura, the other intern (now a former intern), already left at the beginning of this month for a job at a law firm. Every day, I have to answer all the emails, all the phone calls, talk with everyone who walks into our center, and at the same time, put together on several presentations (state promotions for Illinois, test preps), draft the newsletter and continue working on two big projects: study group and pre-departure orientation. The way I usually work is concentrate and be productive for a couple of hours, then slow down for about half an hour, and then restart my engine. With all these deadlines coming down on me bam bam bam, I hardly even have time to breath, let alone slow down.

Also work-related, met with Megan for a mid-term evaluation, and learned more crucial lessons on professionalism. I love walking barefoot, and have a problem keeping my shoes on. Especially when i sit at one place (a.k.a. in front of the computer in the office) for a long time, I have the habit of kicking my shoes out, and then I’d get up and walk around barefoot. I also need to change my postures from time to time, and that may mean sitting cross-legged on my chair. All of this looks casual and unprofessional. Another thing that Megan brought up was my style of communication. She said I was too blunt and a little too casual with higher-up like Alan, which is totally true. While I understand that Alan is the top boss, it’s hard to avoid chitchatting with him. We speak in English (i tend to be very casual in English) and he makes you feel like you’re one of his best pals. And when I don’t feel distant from someone, I can also be very direct. Also, (unfortunately), it’s hard for me to “praise” or complement to people of higher ranks. It feels both inappropriate (they’re the boss after all – they don’t need my evaluation) and too ass-kissing. Maybe I just need to learn how. Or maybe someone can teach me another way to look at it that is not: making your boss feel good about him/herself so that you can become a favorite –> puke

Yesterday, I gave half of a presentation on “how to choose a college major” … in Spanish! I thought it went pretty well and I did a decent job in explaining – especially to the parents – the confusing system of a liberal arts education: how a major is just a part of your whole undergraduate degree, what it means to major or minor, how it is possible to have a major and a minor, two majors at the same time, etc. I was proud that I managed to stick to most of the public speaking principles that I’ve learned: energy level, interactiveness, eye contact, etc. and that I wasn’t fumbling on my Spanish. Still, I need to get the feedback from Megan.

On a less positive note, I just received a rejection email from Mundus M.A.P.P, the Master program in Public Policy in Europe. It’s a downright rejection and strangely, I don’t feel that rejected — maybe i’ll start tormenting myself once i’ve had time to chew on it more, but right now it’s just a bummer.

which was also Valentine’s this year, was spent in Veracruz carnavaling.

The parade itself was ok. The seats were charged 60 pesos each. I didn’t pay – we were among the illegals – but still thought it should have been free for all. There were raised platforms everywhere along the seafront where the parade took place. Before and after the parade, each of these platforms had their own programs to entertain the public. Some had bands playing, but most were just doing stupid games where half-naked or almost naked people humped each other on stage: guys-girls, guys-guys, girls-girls. I was really glad that I was with a couple of (Mexican) guys. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable at all had i been with just the girls.

The beer and the dancing were the best part – it’s a party after all. On Saturday, after the parade had ended around midnight, we headed to a free salsa concert by a supposedly very well-known singer from Puerto Rico. I was pretty bad in the beginning – could barely follow the beats, but I did manage to learn a few steps by the end. Latino guys are just so gracious when they dance *sigh*. There was an American girl in our group, Chelsea, who studied abroad in Colombia, and she danced super. I have to be honest and say that I was a little jealous to see her move. On Sunday, we started drinking around 4:30 p.m. and I didn’t sleep that night – was out until 5 in the morning. We walked from street to street, and stopped to dance whenever we came across a mariachi band or even if it was just a cervezaria blasting out music.

None so far. I’ve been here in D.F. for a week, and everything is going fine. Have not had any intense experience or frustrating moment. It’s probably because I spend half of my day at the office, and when I come home, I was either looking for an apartment, or after I’ve moved, I just spend a lot of time in my room. The other reason is that my Spanish is actually functional, not like when I first came to France, India, or Peru and was totally overwhelmed. Knowing the language helps tremendously. But seriously, just walking around on the street, it hasn’t been as bad as some people have warned me. I get some looks, but people don’t call me names or give me catcalls that often.

I got a great room in a super nice – though a lil too bourgeois – neighborhood called Condesa. It’s supposed to be one of the safest parts in towns, lots of foreigners, lots of restaurants and bars. I was walking back home yesterday (Friday) around 10 and it was happening. I’ve been tempted to go around and look for a job working at one of these bars. But I have curfew at 11, so that wouldn’t work. The hour’s the only drawback of the room I’m renting. I’m paying 2500 pesos ($200) for an all-furnished room, all services included. It’s a sweet deal; most people pay 3500-4000 or more, and I’ve not met anyone who’s paying less than 3000 pesos, so I’m pretty happy. My landlady doesn’t usually rent out this room, which was her daughter’s. I’m actually her first tenant. She has a friend who has an account on compartodepa who saw my profile and told her to rent it out to me. It’s a little strange, but it works for me. She’s very grandmotherly. I has been sick, and just now she knocked on the door, asking if she could bring me some tea. I went down to the kitchen with her, and she made hot water for me, and then pulling out honey and lemon for my tea. She’s also very “miedosa” (fearful) and whenever I go out, she would ask me where I am going, how I am going, saying how dangerous it is and tell me to be careful at least 5 times and then end with “Que Dios te cuide, hija” (May God protect you).

The only thing that is not so well is that I’m still sick. I got a cold right before I left San Franciso, and usually I would cover within 2 days, but it’s been a week. I’m not coughing as much, but my nose’s really bothering me. For the first few days, I slept little, waking up during the night because my nose got so stuffy that I couldn’t breath. Now, I sleep extremely well (on an orthopedic bed), but for the whole day, my nose is so runny that I have to blow it every 10 minutes or so. And lately, there has been blood. I googled and found that it was nothing serious. Either I’ve blown my nose so much that I broke some nose vessels or because the weather’s too dry. I’m not worried, but it’s annoying. I know so many ways to cure a sore throat, like gurgling with salt water, drinking tea with honey and lemon, eating ginger, but none for curing a stuffy or runny nose. Arghh….

Second day in Mexico City, first day at work.

I’m totally exhausted. I had a full day from 9 to 5 (starting from tomorrow, it’s 8:30 to 5:30), I just spent 3 hours walking around to look for a room, and I’m still sick.

The first day was full of normal orientation stuff like who’s who, where’s where, until my boss, M. mentioned my blog and how it was not professional of me to portray the organization in a negative light. I was like: wait, what, my blog? what are you talking about? (*thinking: how the f*** did you come across about my blog?*) Imagine how incredulous I was. I suddenly remember that about a week ago, according to GoogleAnalytics, my blog had 4 visitors from Mexico City. Having no friends here, I was surprised but assumed that someone just stumbled upon my page through some random google link. I was dead wrong. They were my boss and her supervisors, reading one of the posts about my Mexican visa saga when I happened to mention E/USA. The exact quote is: “What’s more, E/USA, the organization I’m interning for in Mexico, might not even be authorized to pay foreigners.” At that time, I wrote the full name of the organization and apparently, the link was sent to the really high-up boss in Washington DC from Google Alerts. (For those of you out of the know, like myself, the program tracks down every single mention of a word of your choice – in this case, E/USA – posted in the net.) I myself think that all of my frustration was directed towards the Mexican consulate and definitely not E/USA, but I can see why they still thought that it constituted a “poor professional judgment.” It was an important lesson to learn, from now on, I just need to be extra careful when I mention these proper names. I was also a little uncomfortable that some people at work have seen my blog, though I’m sure that they have tons of other things to take care of and won’t go back to read it.