Mexico, Reflections

Throw Yourself

September 25, 2014

Throw Yourself

“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.


Nevado de Toluca

September 23, 2014

Boy are you guys in for a story!

On Saturday a few of us went to Nevado de Toluca, which is an old volcano located outside of Toluca, Mexico.  On top of the summit there are two lakes that used to be craters and also several other hiking trails around the area ranging from 2 – 3.5 hours in length.  The elevation of the craters reach 15,350 feet (the highest I’ve ever climbed) and we were told that the top of the summit would be very cold due to the elevation.  According to many locals within D.F. and other articles, we were told these trails were the most accessible and that the craters (aka the starting point for the other trails) were just a 20-minute walk from the entrance of the park.  We met at a metro early Saturday morning, feeling prepared with plenty of food and the heaviest clothes we had (for me it was a thin rain jacket with a measly scarf, but I’m from South Dakota so I thought I was tough).  From there we took two 1-hour buses to the entrance of Nevado de Toluca park, which cost us no more than 75 pesos a person (around $6.00 US dollars).  We scoffed at the taxi driver that offered us 800 pesos to drive us to the entrance of the park, wait for 2 hours, and then drive us back.  We thought this offer was way too expensive and were confident that the public transportation would be the cheapest and best option.

Once we got off the bus and saw the Nevado de Toluca sign, we thought “Great!  Just a 20-minute walk on this road and we will be at the craters”.  An hour later we arrived at another entrance of Nevado de Toluca, thinking we must have mistaken the first entrance with this one.  We asked a man at the entrance where the trail was that would lead us to the craters, thinking THIS time that it was just a 20-minute hike as we had been told.  We were told to follow the trail that was led by sets of wire electric cables until we reached the top, and then follow the road until we get to the craters.


Photo of us thinking we only had 20 minutes left to go at the entrance of the park.

After hiking about another hour later and not seeing any crater in sight, we were getting awfully confused.  We kept hiking towards what looked like an open valley, thinking that might be where the craters were.  Nope.  Turns out the open valley was just the tree-line mark where the trees stop growing, meaning that we had just reached 11,000 feet.  The craters were at 15,350 feet.

At this point we wanted to keep going because we had already been hiking for about 3 hours.  We walked the entire length of the cables until they stopped and we came upon a road.  From there we were able to find reception and Google mapped where the heck we were.  From the road we were still a 5K to the REAL entrance of the crater, followed by another 40-minute hike to the actual craters.  At this point it was 3pm.  We were tired, confused, and just wanted to see these darn craters!  All in all, we decided to keep going because we had already gotten this far and we kept thinking that the hike down would be so easy compared to the way up.


We climbed that!. At the time this picture was taken we had already been hiking for a few hours.


Right at the tree-line, 11,000 feet.


We should’ve known the clouds weren’t a very good sign, but still a gorgeous view.

About an hour later, we FINALLY arrived at the top of the crater, and what a beautiful view it was!  Everyone knows that I’m an avid picture-taker, so I was adamant about getting the perfect “insta” photo to showcase how beautiful the view was, and we’d climbed all day to see this thing for crying out loud.  They weren’t lying about the temperature.  As thin as the air was and as little cover as there was around the crater, it was very cold and we wished we had mittens and thick coats that the other tourists had been wearing.  We had also noticed how difficult it was to breath throughout the hike as the air became thinner, and we had to stop frequently to let our breath catch up, but the view was so worth it!


The 5 of us who braved the trek! We’re on top of the crater eating peanut butter out of the jar in the rain. It has never tasted so good! We were a sight for sore eyes; the rest of the people around the crater were in winter wear.


Gorgeous view!











About 10 minutes after we had all sat down and were eating, it started raining.  We had come prepared with umbrellas and such because it was rainy season.  The rain passed and we thought we were in the clear for awhile.  Not true.  About 10 minutes after the rain had passed, it started HAILING.  When we were located without cover on top of a CRATER.



We tried sprinting down the summit in the painful hail, not being able to see in front of us.  At this point we were all soaking wet and cold, not knowing whether we could make it down the trail we had ascended do to the mud that had inevitably accumulated.  A group of locals had noticed how miserable we looked in rain jackets and sweatshirts, and offered to drive us down the mountain back to the bus station in Toluca.  They were truly a God-send.  They safely drove us to the bus station in Toluca, and we were able to arrive back in D.F. around 8pm.  What a day!!  I would love to return to actually hike the trails around the craters, but next time we will probably take the taxi driver’s offer of driving us to the ACTUAL entrance of the crater instead of hiking the 5+ hours it took to get there instead 🙂 All in all it was one of the most challenging days I’ve had in awhile, but I couldn’t have asked for a more positive and determined group of friends to hike with.  This day could have been much worse if we had poor attitudes, but we all persevered together and we now have a great story and a few great “instas” to prove it.



One last photo before it started hailing.


¡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.


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!


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


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…


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.


My wonderful company for the night!


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!


¡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!


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 🙂



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


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.

photo 1

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

photo 2

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


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.


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.



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, 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!


Billy Cox and I!


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 ( 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.


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).


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!


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!


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


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.


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…


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.



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


Fulbright Cohort

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



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, is the link.


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!


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.


Food For Thought

August 18, 2014

One week from today I will be departing for Mexico City!  This summer has flown by and now I feel I’m scrambling to make final preparations to leave.  This week has produced feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, and freshness as I anticipate to begin an entirely new experience.  Although anxiety and fear are the most dominant feelings in the mix right now, I look to this quote for solace…

It is the attitude we have at the start

That conditions the whole journey.

When we decide to go somewhere,

Regardless of the length of the trip and what it entails,

We go, we face it, because we decided to go with all our heart.

It is the attitude we have in this present moment

That determines our life to come.

 – Dharma

This has me thinking about a few specific instances in my life where I have been on a brand new journey outside the US.  The first was a 3-week service trip to Ecuador, and I approached this trip with so much excitement and enthusiasm about visiting another country.  During the trip I had my first taste of homesickness, culture shock, language barriers, and lack of communication with family and friends.  Experiences abroad are unforgettable, but they are also challenging.  I approached my next trip, 4 months in Granada, Spain, with a little more apprehension, preparation and equal amounts of enthusiasm.  My study abroad opportunity in Spain was incredible, but I had still underestimated the glorious discomfort of adjusting to a completely new culture and way of life.  I loved being pushed out of my comfort zone and seeing the personal growth and independence associated with living in another country, but it took some struggles and challenges to get there.  Now that I have had those two experiences, I was feeling rather gun-shy about the upcoming trip to Mexico.  Instead of excitement and adrenaline, I felt anxious and worried about adjusting to the language, finding a place to live, and worrying about future schoolwork; all of which I have very little control of right now.  “Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy”.  Worrying doesn’t give me any more control over these situations, but what I do have control over is my attitude right now and forever more.    I realize now that all I can do is to go and to face this experience with all of my heart.

Whether it be a new country, city, job, relationship, season, semester at school, or entree at a restaurant, I hope we can go and face each opportunity with an attitude as Dharma suggests.