“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Last Thursday marked one month from my arrival in Mexico City; it wasn’t different than any other day. I went to work and got assigned a big project I’m very excited about, I had some awesome food (a cupcake, a 4- course meal for lunch from a van called “combi” for 50 pesos with Karen, and some awesome street tacos), and I spent time with some wonderful company. Some of us Fulbrighters celebrated surviving one month here at Julie and mine’s apartment with a few friends over wine and watching Beyoncé music videos. I’m finally feeling more settled at work (remembering names, getting used to the 2:30pm lunchtime, speaking more freely in Spanish without thinking in English first) and I’ll start my MBA courses next week Monday and Tuesday.
Now for the…
Bad News. On Friday night, my phone and wallet were stolen from my purse. My roommate Julie also got her phone stolen.
Better News. 5 minutes before leaving my apartment for the night, I remembered to take out my passport, immigration card, important credit cards, ID badge for work, and other documents I had needed that afternoon while I was opening a Mexican bank account. I would be in much, MUCH worse shape had I forgotten to remove everything except my iPhone and 200 pesos. I have insurance for my iPhone and will have a new one sent to me when I return to the US in October.
Best News. I have the best support system, and I am feeling especially grateful for them after this whole debacle. I Facetimed James right away and he was able to call my parents for me, aside from listening to my bickering. My mom was gracious enough to stay on Facetime with me for a few hours the next morning as she made calls to the phone insurance company to send me a replacement. My Fulbright BB family, whom I was with on Friday night, took me out for tacos immediately after we found out what had been stolen. Aside from lending supportive hugs and words of reassurance, they also paid for my tacos con nopal y queso. For those of you who know my love for cheese, it makes any bad day better. The situation is crummy, but I’m so grateful for everyone who has been there for me the past few days.
Aside from me having a mini pity party, Friday night was also a learning experience for me. Having my wallet and phone taken from right underneath my nose left me feeling exposed. I thought I had been taking all of the precautionary steps – only taking what I needed in my purse for the night, always keeping a hand on my cross-body, keeping my iPhone in my purse, traveling with a group of people, etc. And yet, when I looked down and noticed my un-zipped purse with nothing in it, I felt like I had been careless and exposed.
Many of us Fulbrighters have been asking each other, “What do you want out of this experience?”, and I have yet to produce the right words to describe my goals and intentions. Lately I have prided myself on not knowing A) what I want to do with my life, and B) what I want out of this experience, hoping that I’ll begin to find the answers here in Mexico. But how can I truly find these answers if I’m not growing, changing, and exposing myself to new opportunities and ideas? “Growing, changing and exposing” sounds easy and enlightening, but the truth is it´s not. Instances like Friday night have left me feeling awfully crappy, but at the same time it gave me an opportunity to learn about myself: how I reacted, how I coped, how I might be a support to someone else who might face a similar situation in the future. Instead of throwing myself out there, my things got thrown by someone else.
After reflecting about my first month here in D.F., C. JoyBell C’s quote is a great summary. If I want to really live and throw myself I have to continue to move forward experiencing times of discomfort, times of exposure, and times of transition. These times of removing myself from my comfort zone certainly aren’t what I would call fun or easy, but I think they are absolutely essential and inevitable during my stay in Mexico.
Here are a few other observations I’ve noticed during my first month here in D.F both personally and culturally….
1) My Spanish is improving…slowly. I’m finally getting to the point where I can have a conversation with someone and not have to think in English first. My next goal is to improve this darn midwestern accent!
2) A 40-minute commute now seems short. My daily commute is about a 10-minute walk to the metrobus and then I take the metrobus 16 stops down to MásNegocio, which is considered a piece of cake here! Quite different then the 10-15 minute car rides in good ol’ SD.
3) Mexicans are extremely friendly and patient people who value family, relationships, and sitting down together over wonderfully-cooked food (my kind of people). The only main thing I’m still getting used to is that I stick out like a sore thumb, which leaves me victim of being charged a higher price for street food, market items, taxis, etc. However, as my Spanish improves and I get a better feel for the costs of things, I hope I will be able to combat over-priced items.
4) Many of the Mexicans and other Fulbrighters I’ve met have never met someone from South Dakota, and I always get a weird sense of pride as I attempt to explain little details about my home. Apparently chislic, cheeseballs, and pickles in beer are only things us South Dakotans consume, but I have also talked about ice fishing, cruise control on the interstate, and my limited knowledge of agricultural products and yields (thanks, Dad), with anyone who cares to listen.
5) Tacky as it sounds, distance makes the heart grow fonder. I miss being able to run in the open spaces back home, peace and quiet, bonfires, and sunsets unobstructed by buildings. This probably goes without saying, but I miss my family, boyfriend, friends, but I am so thankful that they are only an email away for now. On the flip side, I am growing to LOVE Mexico and the large metropolis that is D.F; it is certainly beginning to feel like home. The juxtaposition of where I´m from and where I am now has helped me appreciate both locations equally, and I´m ooking forward to seeing what the next month brings.