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Mexico

¡Viva México!

September 17, 2014

Hola Amigos!

These past few days have been particularily exciting here in D.F. as yesterday (September 16) was Mexico’s Independence Day!  I have noticed the excitement in the air throughout the month as Mexico has prepared for the holiday.  Aside from my co-workers offering the best advice on how to properly celebrate actual Independence Day in true fashion, I have been patiently awaiting to experience this marvelous holiday in Mexico’s capital.

Mexico also celebrates this holiday with many temporary dishes made available throughout September to honor their Day of Independence, my favorite being Chiles en Nogada.

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Chiles en Nogada. This incredible dish is a poblano chile that is stuffed with cooked candied meat and then covered in almond sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds. It is usually served cold and was created to represent the three colors of the Mexican flag: red, white and green. Very unique taste and very festive!

Here’s a run-down of Mexico’s Día de la Independencia.  On September 16, 1810, Mexico declared it’s independence from Spain through “El Grito” from Dolores, which signified the beginning of a war that lasted until 1821.  El Grito is a custom that continues today.  Every year the president of every state, municipality, pueblo, etc., says El Grito in the town/city square on the eve of September 15.  For Mexico City, the President of Mexico says El Grito in the Zocalo every year around 11pm.  Not knowing the next time I will be in Mexico for their Independence Day, I wanted to do whatever would give me the most “authentic” experience.  El Zocalo it is!

A few days before the actual El Grito, one of my co-workers, Karen, gave me a tour of El Zocalo and the surrounding areas so I would know where to go during the actual celebration.  Karen is an undergraduate student at UNAM and works in the same office as me at MásNegocio, and I know she will be a great friend and confidant during my stay here.  She has been so helpful, kind and patient with me as I tackle this whole Spanish thing again.  Anyway, we met on Friday night to see the lights turn on the first time in the square.  We also bought some festive wear, took a ton of pictures and had some great tacos al pastor with some of her relatives that were kind enough to pick us up in their car.  Karen, si estás leyendo, estoy muy agradecida para ti y tenía un tiempo excelente contigo 🙂 Estoy emocionada para nuestras aventuras próximas!

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Karen and I in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. I had the best tour guide ever!

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Us decked out in red white and green! We bought some souvenirs to feel more festive.

After working half a day on the following Monday, a few BBs and myself set out for the Zocalo.  When we got to the Zocalo (around 7pm) there was a large concert in the center of the square, but we opted to stand closer to the Palacio where Enrique Peña Nieto would give El Grito at 11pm.  Here’s a few photos of the Zocalo while we were waiting…

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We were able to make it to the Zocalo in time for sunset! The large flag and stage was placed in the center of the Zocalo – a massive square where we celebrated.

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My wonderful company for the night!

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By now, everyone knows how much I love taking pictures.

After several hours of listening to the fun concerts, it was finally time for “El Grito”.  Here’s a typical “El Grito” that we heard Peña Nieto say just a few feet from us!

¡Mexicanos!

¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!

¡Víva Hidalgo!  ¡Viva Morelos!  ¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!  ¡Viva Allende!  ¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!

¡Viva la independencia nacional!

¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!

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We were so close to the President while he said El Grito!

After El Grito, there was a beautiful fireworks display around the Cathedral.  Once again, pictures won’t do the experience justice, but I’m always up for a challenge 🙂

 

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My attempt at taking pictures of the gorgeous fireworks with the Cathedral in the background! A wonderful ending to a festive night.

Mexico

Sunday Funday at Xochimilco

September 15, 2014

Hola Amigos!

This past Sunday we went to Xochimilco, one of the boroughs of Mexico City about an hour south from the historic center of the city.  Xochimilco is labeled as a World Heritage Site because it has an extensive 110 mile canal and lake system where tourists and locals are able to ride trajineras (large, gondola-like boats) among the canals.  We had a large group of about 20 people that all fit onto one colorful trajinera for a few hours of fun!  The description nor the pictures can do this place justice, but I’ll certainly try.

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Trjineras. Non-motorized boats that can fit up to 20 people on each of these boats.

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Me taking a cheesy photo driving the trajinera. The actual man that drove/controlled the boat for us all afternoon is to the left.

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A view of the rest of the canal. Usually the canal was completely filled with trajineras all afternoon, but I caught this at slow moment while it was raining.

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Some Fulbrighters aboard the boat! We were joined by nine other co-workers of a fellow BBer who is working for a law firm. They had been to Xochimilco before so they knew all of the tricks of the trade!  All in all we had a wonderful day.

 

Mexico

Work: Week 1

September 7, 2014

Hola amigos!

I’ve completed another milestone this past week: my first week of work at work!  I’ll be interning for MásNegocio for the next 10 months completing projects within their marketing and customer service departments.  MásNegocio is an IT services firm that sells Software as a Service, platform management, and other fun technological programs that require copious amounts of explaining by my patient co-workers.  For more information about the amazing company I’m working for, http://masnegocio.com/ is the link.  My co-workers have been incredibly welcoming, friendly and supportive as I have taken the past week to learn the ropes of the business.  My human resource officer is very committed to the Binational Business Program’s mission to cultivate a mutual education and understanding between the US and Mexico business culture, which means I’ll be speaking strictly Spanish in the workplace.  Everyone in the office is very enthusiastic about me learning as much as possible the next ten months, and I am so grateful I have many opportunities to learn through actual application, mistakes that will inevitably occur, and shadowing if I choose.

My first week has been anything but boring.  The co-workers, leadership style, mission, values, and fun activities have affirmed I’ve been placed into a wonderful company – I think we’ll make a good match!

I was able to attend Kio Network`s Kloud Kamp with several new co-workers on my second day on the job.  Together we volunteered during this event with approximately 50 others from KIO Networks, MásNegocio, and a few other cloud computing companies.  Several important speakers were coming to speak at the conference, some of which only spoke English.  Because I was one of a few native English speakers volunteering, I offered to communicate with the other English speakers presenting at Kloud Kamp and assist them during their speech preparation.  I was “assigned” to Billy Cox, Intel’s General Director of Software Defined Infrastructure Development.  I knew very little about him at first, but once he arrived and was swarmed with many technology enthusiasts, I quickly became aware of his status within the industry.  Mr. Cox had just flown in from Poland and was completing a tour through many Intel sights worldwide.  Mr. Cox was very nice, down-to-earth, and was very receptive to everyone’s questions and discussions, and I was so happy to have spent a few hours with him and my new co-workers at the Kloud Kamp conference.  Definitely a huge highlight of my first few days on the job!

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Billy Cox and I!

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Photo of the Kloud Kamp venue. We were in the Bancomer Expo center in Santa Fe. Such a large room and it was filled with people all day!

My first week wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Toluca, Mexico to participate in reforestation efforts with my company.  One of MásNegocio´s values is social responsibility, so they have been partnering with Reforestamos México (http://www.reforestamosmexico.org/) for the past three years to partipcate in these efforts.  I convinced five other BBs to join me on an early Saturday morning to plant some trees, and we had a wonderful time getting to know my co-workers and enjoying the beautiful landscape.  It was so refreshing to get out of D.F. if even for a few hours.  If this week is anything like what the next several months of work will consist of for me, I think I am in for a wonderful time.

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I conned five other BBs into joining me for the day! We had so much fun, but I’m pretty sure we annoyed quite a few people trying to get a good photo (my bad, guys).

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My partner for the day, David, and I planting our first tree! We were told that we should name each of the trees we planted and say a prayer for a spirit animal to watch over it; we opted to just name ours. Esperanza was our first!

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The MásNegocio crew that came along to help. We had around 90 volunteers and together we planted over 500 trees. I was so excited that my friends and I could be apart of this day!

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The as we were leaving Toluca. It felt so refreshing to get out of the city for a few hours.

Mexico

Orientation Week: The shortest distance between two people is a story.

August 31, 2014

Hello everyone!

This past week was my first down here in D.F.!

Day 1 (August 25) was particularly rough for my family and myself.  Like typical fashion, I hardly got any sleep the night before as I packed and re-packed my suitcase and asked myself odd questions…When’s the next time I would sleep in my own bed?… How much will have changed the next time I’m home, and what will have changed more?… How many days into Mexico will I miss the wide open spaces, the sunset off the back porch, my car, or Colby Jack cheese (seriously)?  I am never a fan of “the night before” embarking on something new.  It always takes the day before for me to comprehend the magnitude of change that I am choosing to pursue by casting away what is comfortable in my life and exchanging it for something entirely new.  For some, the days following departure are some of the most exciting.  For me, I always have to find the strength to pack my suitcases, hop in the car, say teary goodbyes to my family, and head to the gate with as much optimism I can muster.

As you can about imagine, I was a bit of a mess throughout security and my first flight.  By extreme luck as I was boarding to Mexico City I happened to be sitting next to a girl on the plane named Brittney.  Like the extreme creep I am, I noticed that she was on her phone looking at a Fulbright Facebook page that we are all apart of. I asked her about it and as we were talking about the program, another girl, Emily, from across the row chimed in.  Three Fulbrighters ended up sitting together the whole ride to Mexico City!  It was such a relieve to meet two wonderful women in my same situation, and we greatly enjoyed chatting during the flight and sharing the same excitement as we landed in Mexico City for the first time.

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Fulbright friends on the plane! Such a relief. Photo credit: Brittney.

We arrived in the Mexico City Airport and took a taxi with a few other Fulbrighters to the hotel for a week-long orientation.  The rest of the week was spent attending preparatory meetings, trying great food, and meeting all 90+ of the Mexico Fulbright Fellows.  Here’s a few highlights of my week…

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A few Binational Business interns with Earl Anthony Wayne, the US Ambassador to Mexico. Mr. Wayne was able to join us for lunch during one of the orientation days. We were also able to visit the U.S. Embassy for an informational panel.

 

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First time viewing the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City!

 

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A few of the 2014-2015 Fulbright-Mexico cohort in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Photo credit: COMEXUS – García Robles Facebook Page.

 

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Interior of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where we were able to watch a Folklore Ballet of Mexico’s cultural heritage.

A little bit of info about the Fulbright Program.  Funded by the U.S. Department of State, this program allows thousands of students, scholars, etc., participate in an educational exchange with over 155 participating countries over the world.  Usually the U.S. Student Program offers two routes to pursue.  An English Teaching Assistantship is given to students who teach English at a given location in their host country; a Research Grantee is affiliated with a host institution to complete a carefully crafted research project that is unique to the country they have selected.  For Mexico, there is a “hybrid” program called the Binational Business Internship Program (that’s me!), where grantees are to work for a multinational corporation full-time and also take MBA courses at one of two prestigious universities in Mexico City.  This year the 2014-2015 Fulbright cohort in Mexico exceeds 90 grantees in total and there are 12 Binational Business Interns (BB’s).  For more information about the U.S. Student Program, http://us.fulbrightonline.org/ is the link.

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2014-2015 Binational Business Interns. The 12 of us will be working for different multinational corporations and also taking MBA courses at ITAM. Photo credit: COMEXUS – García Robles Facebook Page.

Overall, this week has been quite the whirlwind of emotions and shared camaraderie with all of the fellow grantees.  My favorite college professor uses this quote to describe the connection people make with each other when meeting for the first time:

“The shortest distance between two people is a story”

– Patti Digh

This quote has been the perfect explanation during orientation week.  Hearing everyone’s stories such as why they chose to apply for the Fulbright in Mexico was especially humbling because all of the grantees are exceptionally talented and we will learn so much from each other`s knowledge!  We have all greatly benefited from the deeper conversations (our current fears, concerns, plans, etc.) because it reminds us that we aren’t alone.  We are all facing the stark reality of finding our own housing, purchasing Mexican cell phones, and navigating our own way throughout the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.  For the most part, our Spanish is rusty, our tasks are unclear, and we feel like we’ve been blown with the wind a little bit through this process because none of us know what to expect; but that is what makes the Fulbright experience so unique.   If we had been given set instructions for phones, lodging, etc., we wouldn’t have had the independence we do this week to forge our own path and make our own decisions for the next 10 months.  Never have I felt so fortunate to be associated with such a wonderful cohort of people whose main desire is to live and learn from this new culture.  Cheers to the next ten months in this beautiful country.  More posts to come soon!

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Beautiful view of Mexico City from the top floor of our hotel for orientation week! So excited to see what these next ten months will bring.