Saturday, September 16, 2006

¡Viva Mexico!

How fitting that Mexican Independence Day is also the two-month mark of the end of our monumental Fulbright experience.

It took me a while to adjust to being home. Waking up the first few days, I kept looking for Ricardo and the bus, and I could still hear the voices of my friends. I immediately bought new clothes because after living out of a suitcase, I was tired of repeatedly wearing the same outfits! I slept a lot, and tried not to forget the taste of the things I ate in Mexico as my body adjusted to American over-processed, chemically adjusted food.

Upon returning home, my friends in "real life" have constantly remarked on my difference--apparently I look different, act differently, move differently and even sound different. I think that the México experience was one of those Moses-on-the-mountain experiences--an experience that changes you so much that it cannot help but be manifested physically as well. Of course, these "changes" are a result of many things ocurring in my life, the Fulbright trip being the latest in a series of dramatic events. Still, it has changed me fundamentally and it's exciting to see how it is being played out in my life. I have an even more pro-diversity outlook on life (which is slightly political in nature and deserves its own, separate post), I've been cooking, trying valiantly to recreate the dishes I loved in México (with varying degrees of success) and, of course, my Spanish has improved dramatically--although I find that it's not really as if I know a whole lot more words; I'm just less afraid to try and use them.

In fact, being less afraid is probably the most important thing I've taken with me from this trip. I remember an instance of this, when I was standing on the beach in Mazatlán and found myself suddenly terrified of the ocean.

I'd been dreaming of the beach since the beginning of the trip, and there I was, facing the ocean and a magnificent puesta del sol, and I wouldn't move. The waves were so loud and all I could think about was that there was water as far as I could see, and I was afraid. Agustín remarked on the absurdity: already in the water, almost too far away for me to hear him, he called to me to join him ("It's not scary!"), but I couldn't.

How vast is the ocean! What an incredible opportunity, what wonderful possibilities there are! It could take me someplace amazing! Or, I could drown. Isn't this how life is, though? Aren't we often at some juncture in our lives, when we have a choice to stand and watch everything or to jump in, even if we don't know what "jumping in" will mean for us?

Yet some would argue that even the experience of drowning is better than no experience at all. After a few minutes, I joined Agustín in the water. I had a great time even though I got washed away a few times.

For much of my life, I lived with that "fear of drowning--" the idea that it's better to play it safe than to risk failure or embarrassment. Somehow, in México, most of the time that fear eluded me. My desire to experience everything was stronger than my fear, and even when things seemed scary I tried them anyway. It was probably because each day I woke up hyper-vigilant, reveling in every moment, aware that every second was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I wonder how much better my life would be if I lived every day like that--if I remembered that each day is its own and that it's to be lived as fully as possible? Of course, the mundanity of my daily American life pales in comparison to the vibrance that was Mexico, but maybe my life would be more vibrant if I had less fear!

I was heartbroken at the end of our trip. I'm still embarrassed about being the person who cried the most at the airport. I remember getting out of the cab, and walking through the door of my little apartment and bursting into tears (again). Suddenly being alone was so shocking to me. I was sad at having to leave my new best friends and my newly adopted pais.

Of course, I didn't have to be sad for long--two months on, my memories are still vivid, and I am thrilled that all of us continue to communicate & cultivate friendships. I've even been blessed enough to be reunited with a few of my new Fulbright friends which has made me feel so much better! Clearly, we all share something unique and incredible, and our experience has not ended. In fact, the spirit of Fulbright didn't die when we left México--it lives on, through our pictures and our words; through our lives and our new friendships. Fulbright lives--¡Viva México!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thanks, Atlantic Review!

I'm very excited to be included in Atlantic Review's list of Fulbright blogs. Even though I'm no longer in México, I hope my experiences can be helpful to someone considering or currently experiencing a Fulbright award.

Thanks Atlantic Review!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thanks everyone...

I wanted to thank everyone for being so amazing. I don't know about other Fulbright groups, but I really think we were a very special and dynamic group of teachers. Everyone on this trip has impacted me in some way, so I wanted to say thanks to...

Ricardo, para la seguridad y las sonrisas
Natalie, for the innovation
Bob, for the music
Judith, for the energy
Leigh-Ann, for the creativity
Yolanda, for the help with my Spanish
Ashley, for the glamour
Rebecca, for the giggling
Amber, for the heart-to-hearts
Beverly, for the understanding
Denise, for the songs & encouragement
Jennifer, for the sweetness and superfriendship
John, for the laughter and the sam'ich
Tamara, for the "worldwide solidarity!"
Jorge, for the dances
Sarah, for the wonderful friendship ("pío-pío")
Agustín, para las puestas del sol ("ay... ¡que hermosa!") y la felicidad

There is no way I could sum up everything each of you means to me in just one sentence; there is no way it would fit on this page. But I just wanted you all to know that I have taken a little piece of you with me.

See you all again soon!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mi corazón Mexicano

I can't believe it's the last day in México. I'm so happy and so tired and so sad. People keep asking me, "How will this trip affect you?" I can't think of a less answerable question. I was trying to describe to someone how, several years ago, I got so interested in Mexican music & culture, how it was so spontaneous and sudden, why I sought it out when it was not presented to me. But there's no justifying or explaining things when you fall in love, is there?

I found that my love for this country is overwhelming and completely inexplicable. The music, culture, everything; I tried quantifying it or pinning it down, but I couldn't; after all, I have a wonderful culture of my own, in my own family. It almost doesn't make sense. "It's okay," said a friend, after seeing my frustration. "I understand. It's just that your heart is Mexican." And so it is.

I know this trip is mostly academic in nature, but the implications of it stretch far beyond what I will teach my students in the next few months or years. I have had so many experiences here that have already and will continue to change my whole life; alter my perspectives, create new interests. It will affect the rest of my life and I think everyone in our group can say the same thing. I don't want this to end. I don't want to say goodbye to everyone, I don't want to leave here but I will, tearfully, and I will take all my experiences with me and some of me will be left here, in México.

This essay also appears here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who is it for?

Today we listened to a presentation on the proposed museum to be built here in Guadalajara. It seems to be an extremely ambitious project, but our presentation today was full of hope and optimism about what this project would do for the city of Guadalajara and for México.

I am also hopeful and optimistic, but during the presentation today I couldn't help wondering who all this is really supposed to benefit. The presentation featured beautiful slide shows, computer-renderings of people visiting the museum, and a giant skyscraper to be built on the edge of la barranca. Maybe I am cynical or too much of a humanitarian, but there was just something about this that bothered me.

I think it started when the presenter was asked, "Is this a project that will benefit local people?" The presenter answered, "Well, the museum is not really built to attract local people, we are hoping to bring in international tourists and visitors." Apparently, the museum will help people indirectly by providing jobs and labor work, but are the people of Guadalajara not expected to be interested in a contemporary art museum?

Not only that, but the computer-renderings of people inside the museum showed very pale, white-looking people... these are not the people of México at all. What about the children begging on the street? The people who can't go to school or the ones who don't even know what contemporary art is? Who will help them? How does this fit? I can't make sense of it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Devout Among Us

Click here to read my newest posting to our Fulbright page!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dancing Queen

Today, we went for a boat ride to end our time in Mazatlán and we had a lovely time hanging out and watching the sunset. We had a wonderful time. We even danced, which was a little difficult while the boat was moving. Here is a picture of Jorge helping me learn to Salsa.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So beautiful

Today I went swimming twice, both in the pool which is on the roof of our hotel and also at the beach. I walked along the beach with friends, who taught me to jump over the waves. I enjoyed it so much! I had never swam in the ocean before. Our hotel here in Mazatlán is on the beach and I can see it from my window (I took this picture from inside my hotel room).

Every morning I wake up to the sunlight and to the sound of the waves, and tonight my friend and I were on the beach to see the sunset. It is beautiful in the moment, but also on a spiritual level; it reminds me on a larger scale how beautiful our world is. What a great place!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Don't Give Up

Sometimes I feel like giving up. I get exhausted trying to come up with words I can't remember. I am tired of making laughable mistakes. Besides, I could always just rely on my Spanish-speaking friends or the many English-speaking employees here in Mazatlán.

But every day I think of everyone who comes to the US without knowing English, the ones who work hard and learn it and they do not give up. They sacrifice, leave their families and come to a place where they are frequently not accepted. Some of those people are on this trip with us and they give me inspiration.

So, mistakes, fatigue and all, I'll shake it off and keep trying. I'm already tired but I won't give up.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Feminist by Default

I can't spend time in Mexico without being affected by all my life experiences. I'm a woman in a foreign country, and I'm aware of the different treatment of women in various countries, some worse than others. I have never been a serious woman's rights activist, but I am wondering if being American makes me a feminist by default.

I have noticed an enormous difference when I am walking alone, walking with other women, and being out with a man. Usually, when I am out by myself or with friends, there are stares, rude comments and just people being mean. Men make ridiculous comments about "Negrita" this, "negrita" that, and women stare and people are just different.

Yesterday, I walked through the mercado here in Morelia with a male friend, and it was so different, and so quiet. Sure, there were stares, but they were more subtle. It seemed to me that no one would dare openly question my honor in the presence of a man.

I should be offended that I have to have a man with me to have a good experience, and the difference in treatment bothers me a little. But I am also a woman and I like feeling protected. All I had to do was reach for his arm and the comments and stares vanished. Maybe there is something comforting (or extremely backwards) about the idea that having a man near me gives me status. I am not sure yet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Me muero de emoción

Tonight we went to our big formal event--a dinner at the Four Seasons hotel and a private concert with world-renowned cellist Carlos Prieto. He performed two Bach pieces for us and a newly-composed piece. He also told us the amazing story of his cello, and really personified the instrument for us. In studying his work, I have discovered a wealth of classical pieces by Mexican composers, like Ponce or Revueltas. This will be great for my students, many of whom have a single-minded view of Mexican music (mariachi). Mr. Prieto is an amazing individual and it was so exciting for me.

Being a musician myself made me feel a personal connection to tonight's events. Also, being an "artsy" person makes me a little more likely to have strong emotional reactions when music is involved. Tonight was no exception. As I listened to the cello music, I was struck by an intense awareness of where I was and that this experience was very unique--once in a lifetime. I was asked to give a speech this evening (I was so nervous!) and it was requested that I speak on my feelings about being included on the Fulbright trip.

Today is the midway point of our journey, and I realized that even if I come back to México, the magic that is happening on this trip cannot be repeated. My first sense of that was during the Fulbright application process, when I got the feeling that this would definitely happen for me--not because of an inflated ego, but because I believe that when something amazing is about to happen in your life, you just know that it's time. That time is now and I am humbled and awed by everything we have seen and by the enormity of the changes taking place.

Essay also appears here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Climb Every Mountain, pt. 2

Today, we climbed THE BIG MOUNTAIN--the pyramids at Teotihuacán (they are the remnants of one of Mexico's ancient societies. (I didn't take this picture, I found it here.) They are enormous and when I woke up I thought, "No, I can't do it." But once I arrived there, something changed, and I wanted to climb them, and I said, "I will do it!" It was such an amazing accomplishment!!

There were a million people there, and there were mothers with children on

their backs, families, little kids, and an older woman who appeared to be very frail, all of us making the climb of a lifetime. I am so proud of myself :)

This picture is of me on the way up, and one of me at the very top of the Piramid del Sol. Don't worry Mom, there is no more climbing for us in Mexico.

Friday, June 23, 2006


So that everyone knows I am well taken care of, here are pictures of me with some of the friends I have made. It's amazing how close everyone has gotten and how we are looking out for one another. Most of these were taken in Oaxaca.
Teotitlán del Valle (rug & natural dye factory), Mitla, Oaxaca
Me & Beverly, climbing the ruins at Mitla, Oaxaca
Me & Ashley being super-cute outside Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico, D.F.
Me & Augustín (he helped me climb the mountain) outside el Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico, D.F.
Amber, me, Keith, Sarah, Mitla, Oaxaca
Me & Sarah, just after arriving from the airport at our hotel in Oaxaca, Mexico

Everyone outside our hotel, Oaxaca

Black Girl

Right now, our group is in Mexico City, and we are having a wonderful time. This is the closest I have been to being in a city like New York (a place I also want to visit) and I think it is so cool here! There is such a big-city energy and the people seem very hip. It's interesting to be here and see all these super-old buildings and then right next to them are these very old, old buildings.

There aren't many blacks in Mexico (except en la Costa Chica) and I am extremely conspicuous here. Of course, I'm traveling with a super-group of Americans, but I'm also a large woman with braids. It's strange and very jarring to people here. I've heard that Mexico isn't all that welcoming to blacks, and I can understand that. But since I prefer to judge people on their individual treatment of me I feel okay. And I kind of welcome the stares. If I walk into an all-white establishment in the South, the stares are kind of ominous. Here, they are curious. There is a big difference and it's fine with me; all part of my experience here in Mexico.

As our group was walking down the street I saw another African American woman. It was funny to see the relief on both our faces, we smiled and said, "hi!" It was nice.

The picture is of me in front of one of Diego's murals, at the National Palace. Funny, those "indigenous people" are almost as dark as me!

Click here for my newest posting to our group page.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hey, it's not the water

I got sick. I haven't been feeling too good for several days now, but I think it really started last night, when I was a little feverish and delirious and running around the hotel looking for cold water. Today, I could not join the group and I stayed home.

The tourist guidebooks would have you believe that all food and liquids in México are nearly poisonous. Whenever someone gets sick, it's easy to start theorizing about what went wrong. Sometimes, this is helpful ("Are you sure that was an edible flower?") but usually it is not. I have not had any of "the water" while here in México, I have not had any alcohol or any "strange" foods. I am just sick. I don't think it matters now.

I realized how nice everyone in our group was when I got repeated visits and phone calls from my new friends. If I needed anything, there was always someone there to help me. It is great! I am so happy to be here in México D.F. I can't wait to get better and rejoin everyone! But even though I am stuck in a hotel room all day I can still feel the energy of this city. There is no other place I'd rather be sick.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I Will Borrow it Yesterday

Click here to see my latest essay for the group Fulbright page!

Climb Every Mountain...

Do you hear that Sound of Music song in your head when you read the title? Yesterday and today I climbed mountains for the first time. I climbed the ruins of Monte Albán, it is a giant mountain with impossibly weird stairs. I´ll be honest, it scared me. But I have made a new friend, Agustín, who encouraged me. A torrential rainstorm started as we climbed but I kept going. He held the umbrella for me and I climbed up, very, very slowly. It continued to rain. He kept the umbrella and I looked down; it was raining and I was completely soaked.

But the view was quite beautiful and of course, there was a nice sense of accomplishment. Eventually I climbed back down (again, super-slow) and it was raining and raining and raining. Agustín, who by now had made it down, went to hide under a rock; he does not like water but we were already drenched and everyone was celebrating and watching the storm. I told him, "The rocks have cried out for you!" (Is that a Bible verse?) And, laughing, I pulled him out of there to suffer in the rain with everyone else.

The picture there is of me climbing my second mountain in two days. Well... this was a small mountain, and there was no rain, and it was easier. I didn't need as much encouragement but I did have help. It was a lot of fun. Don't worry, Mom. No more climbing for a little while.

Oaxaca linda

Oaxaca is astonishingly beautiful. The climate is tropical, and the flowers are very vibrant and the colors are amazing. We wake up every day to hear birds singing... it is like paradise.

We have seen and done more in the past few days than I have done in a long time. I am in awe of everything, it is so beautiful here!

Something striking to me is the resourcefulness of the people; yesterday we went to a Oaxacan cuisine demonstration and learned about the way people have used the land for all their needs. Everything that can be wrong with you, there is a plant to cure it. When a couple wants to get married, there is no stress about finances because their community and their village puts on the wedding for them; it is seen as a community event. It is relevant especially for me in light of all the "natural cuisine" I have been learning about in my own life.

Today we visited a beautiful house where garments and rugs are made using natural dyes. Our host spoke to us in the indigenous language and showed us how bright red colors are made from the cochinil, which is a bug. It turns red when you smash it.

I do miss my family and friends a lot and it feels like I am very, very far away. I am trying to buy a phone card so I can hear a familiar voice. But I feel like everyone has been praying for my continued health & safety and I can feel that they are all with me. There are so many adventures every day; I cannot imagine remembering them all. Hopefully I´ll get many chances to record them here!

Friday, June 16, 2006

We are grateful

Click here to read the essay I posted on our group Fulbright page.


I can't believe that in about 48 hours, we'll be in Mexico! Today was our first day of introductions with everyone and it was very exciting. We have all met each other and we are very excited. None of us can sleep for the anticipation, we are ready to go!

There have been some protests in Oaxaca, but the "team" as I call them has changed our hotel and is making sure that we are all protected, comfortable, and safe. We are confident that we will be able to experience the beautiful aspects of Mexico without compromising our safety.

Our accomodations are wonderful, there are a million wonderful things planned for us and none of us can wait to get started!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's Here!

I am so excited! Today I leave for Austin and will meet the other Fulbright participants! I am exhausted from all the preparation, nervous, a little apprehensive, and mostly excited! This is such a big deal for me.

I want to make sure to express how thankful and blessed I am to attend this seminar, and it wouldn't have been possible without everyone who has helped me to get ready. It sounds sappy, but I feel like I am taking lots of people with me on this trip--there has been so much support and encouragement from so many people. Special thanks to:
  • my mom for being my best friend & being helpful and being my "emergency contact"
  • R. for being a great friend, for taking me to the airport and making sure I do not have a panic attack
  • my supervisor and R., who wrote my recommendations--this would not have been possible without you
  • my friend A. who is checking on my house and making sure my cat doesn't starve to death :) It gives me so much peace of mind!
I have been thinking about and preparing for this seminar for months and months... and now it's finally here, I can't believe it!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Right now, I am preparing for my upcoming trip to Mexico. The excitement is unbelievable! This will be my blog which will serve as my diary during the trip and a place for family & friends to check on me while I am away.