Browsing Tag

Fulbright

Food, Mexico, Reflections

A few of my favorite things…

March 21, 2015

Given the fact that Mexico City has been my home for several months now, I’ve been meaning to make a list of my favorite things.  Whether it be amazing street tacos from a lady by my work, Sunday bike strolls on Reforma or fun events with my co-workers, here’s a list of things (in no particular order) that always seem to put a smile on my face.

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1. Churros rellenos. These lovely things are churros that are fried and made right in front of you and are filled with nutella, chocolate sauce, cajeta, caramel, strawberry sauce, the list goes on! These are most popular in the Coyoacan neighborhood.

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2. Jardin del Centenario in Coyoacan neighborhood. The fountain with the two coyotes is symbolic of the Coyoacan neighborhood, as it used to be called the land of the coyotes. Go Yotes! Around this fountain is a gorgeous square with great restaurants, artesanal markets and a beautiful church.

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3. The said beautiful church in Jardin Centenario Coyoacan called the Temple and ex convent of San Juan Bautista. It’s my favorite church in all of Mexico City.

 

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4. Mercado Medellin. This is a huge building and inside is a giant public marketplace. I try to go once a week to local food vendors who have the best and freshest avocados, bananas, mangos, eggs, peppers, etc. All of the vendors are so nice, the prices are reasonable, and it’s way more enjoyable shopping for groceries in this environment where you can build real relationships with your food providers.

 

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5. The view from MásNegocio, my workplace! This is from the top floor of the building and is such a gorgeous view when the pollution doesn’t cloud the view of the mountains in the distance.

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6. Berry cheesecake ice cream for 15 pesos (1 dollar), sold from a guy who makes homemade ice cream and posts up at a corner by my work everyday. Probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

 

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7. One of the fountains 1 block away from my apartment in Condesa. There are usually food vendors selling coconuts and other fresh fruit.

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8. My running route on Paseo de Reforma. The reason I signed up for my half-marathon is because I discovered this lovely path at the beginning of January and I look forward to my runs due to this view!

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9. Nutrista frozen yogurt. It’s 2 for 1 on the weekdays and usually a wonderful snack my co-workers and I take advantage of every once in awhile.

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10. Friday lunches with co-workers, the best! Most of my favorite restaurants have been fund when dining with my co-workers. We have a few beers, really good food, and take about 3 hours mid-day to chat about weekend plans. Mexicans know how to do Fridays.

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11. Riding bikes on Reforma on Sundays! Sundays are my favorite day of the week in Mexico City for this reason. From 9-2pm ish, this whole street shuts down for runners, bikers, roller bladers, etc. to enjoy the day off and the beautiful weather. There is always something fun going on along this street whether it be free bike rentals, Zumba classes, kick-boxing or food.

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12. Amazing street tacos 20 steps from my work, sold by a woman who carries many taco flavors and transports them in white tub containers. We call her the tubito lady for this reason. My two personal favorites are shown here: chicken breast with her homemade guacamole and pork with green mole sauce.  30 pesos (2 ish dollars).

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13. CUPCAKES BY TOM. This gem of a place is located two blocks from my apartment so I’ve had to exhibit some pretty solid self control to only buy something here once a week. Usually I stop by for a muffin and a coffee for breakfast, but their cupcakes are so good as well.

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14. Comida Combi. This man drives his VW van to the same spot everyday and supplies a 3-course meal for 50 pesos (3 dollars).

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14. Comida Combi continued. Soup, rice, bean, tortillas, main dish, and a drink for 50 PESOS. Puts a smile on my face every time I buy his food.

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15. My fellow Binational Business Fulbrights! I don’t know where I would be today without them. Living in Mexico City has had its ups and downs, and the amount of support and kindness this group has shown me has gotten me through it all. I’m so thankful for them!

Mexico, Reflections

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2014

Hola chicos!

Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours!  Being away from home during Thanksgiving is always a surreal feeling.  Two years ago when I was studying abroad in Spain I had to celebrate the holiday away from the homeland, and I find myself in the same situation this year.  I may not be in the US, but I’ve still been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with lots of food, friends, and technology and get in touch with loved ones back home.

A big group of Fulbrighters and friends in D.F. celebrated Friendsgiving last weekend.  It felt so great to connect with everyone and enjoy awesome food that we all pitched in to bring.  We even went around saying things we were thankful for, which is a typical tradition my family honors.

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Today for Thanksgiving I arrived to work with cupcakes from my favorite cupcake place conveniently located 2 blocks from my apartment (dangerous, I know) and shared them with my co-workers and explained how I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with family back home.  It was a great opportunity for me to share a part of my family traditions back home with my co-workers who have been so attentative and supportive to all of my random questions about Mexican culture.  It felt really good to return the favor for once!  I went home and skyped with my parents and extended family for awhile.  It was almost like I was there!

Tomorrow, COMEXUS (the Fulbright commission here in D.F.) will be putting on a thanksgiving celebration at their office.  Who knew that being away from home could still mean having a busy holiday schedule?

Being away from home for the holidays is always hard, but in a way it has made me feel even more appreciative of the wonderful things happening in my life.  I’m so thankful for my family being patient with me and taking the time to navigate FaceTime, Skype, and other video chatting services to that I can be in touch with them when I need them the most.  I’m thankful for friends, both here in D.F. and everywhere else, for allowing me to celebrate Thanksgiving with them and for tolerating the questionable food dishes I had brought to Friendsgiving last weekend.  I’m thankful for technology that allows me to communicate for free to all of my loved ones.  Finally, I’m thankful for this opportunity to be in Mexico City on a Fulbright for 10 months.  Yes, it’s had ups and downs, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here and I’m excited to see where I’m headed next thanks to Fulbright.

Mexico

Oaxacan Wonders

November 6, 2014

During our trips to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos (view that post HERE), we were also able to take an excursion to five surrounding villages for a day to relish in the beauty that is Oaxaca!  Our five stops (aside from Oaxaca) consisted of the following sights:  Arbol de Tule, a visit to a traditional carpentry shop, Mixtla, Hieve el Agua, and a visit to a traditional mezcal farm.

Oaxaca – Our humble abode for the weekend!  Oaxaca was filled with so much life during the Día de los Muertos celebration.  We had a mezcal tasting to learn about the creation of mezcal (a type of alcohol made from plants similar to tequila, usually made in small batches by local farmers).  We were also able to view the main cathedral with attached monastery, shop among the bustling markets, and enjoy the incredible food that is signature to Oaxaca:  Tlayudas, queso Oaxaca (quesillo) Oaxaca chocolate, and MOLE.

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Friends in front of Templo de Santo Domingo.

 

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Templo de Santo Domingo.

 

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Templo de Santo Domingo

 

Árbol de Tule – A giant tree.  We didn’t stay for longer than 20 minutes to admire the massivity of this beauty.  It has the stoutest tree trunk in the world and was planted around 1,600 years ago.  According to the most recent measurements in 2005, it’s circumfrence is 137.8 feet wide and 116 feet tall.

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Árbol de Tule next to the church to show how massive this thing is!

 

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We had to take verticial panoramic photos in order to get the entire tree.

 

Carpentry shop – I’ve learned this for quite awhile, but usually I’m targeted by salesmen.  I guess you could say I don’t have a poker face at all.  Therefore, when the owner of the carpet store needed a volunteer, he eyed at me and coyly asked if I would help him for a demonstration of how they create dyes from natural resources.  These carpets are incredible, and each piece of work usually takes 2-3 months to make them by hand using a loom.

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Mixtla:  Ancient ruins – incredible!  We had an incredible tour guide that was able to give us the scoop about the ruins that were built between 900 BCE and 100 CE.  These ruins were once the main religious center for the Zapotecs, and indigenous group in Mexico.

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Mitla.

 

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Our group of Fulbrighters on the steps of Mitla.

 

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Hierve el Agua:  Favorite stop off all.  Petrified waterfall.  Words can’t explain this place.  Hierve el Agua is a set of two petrified waterfalls that have been formed over thousands of years.  We were able to hike the trails around both waterfalls and some of the group also brought their swimsuits to swim in the nearby pools.  The views were incredible.

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Hierve el Agua

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Roomies Christmas picture!

 

 

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The longer we stayed the more gorgeous the views had gotten. We were able to watch the sunset from this beautiful place.

Mezcal Tasting:  Learned the ins and outs of artesanal mezcal.

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Mezcal tasting

 

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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

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.