Sunday, October 23, 2011

23 Octubre 2011

A week in el Districto Federal (Mexico City). My eyes are red and ultra sensitive to light as I recover from a week in the worst smog I've ever experienced in my life. The poor, unaccustomed foreigner even needed eyedrops. That being said, what an amazing experience I had. Every day this past week the lady I worked with and I ate at the same cocina (restaurant/kitchen) for comida, and I was the memorable “guerrita” all the cooks grew to know and greet whenever I passed. It was some of the best food I've ever had – tortilla soup, different vegetables stuffed with cheese and covered with eggs and salsa, homemade tortillas, water flavored with different fresh fruits. My boss and I also had some amazing street breakfasts – we either walked to a street vendor who sold atole (a warm drink made of corn and rice or corn and oatmeal or corn and chocolate) and tamales (corn dough with different sauces) or we would go to a market and eat sopes and gorditas with beans or cheeses. Delicious. Mexico City is, of course, huge and prides itself on all the variety in restaurants. Personally, for a big city I still did not see much international food, but I'm sure it has the best Mexican food selection in the world.
I worked at the Diego Rivera museum as my main reason for being in the city, preparing for an art exhibit for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) highlighting the beautiful culture of Morelos (the state in which I live). The woman who invited me to help her and observe her work this week is a journalist and has traveled all over Mexico, especially Morelos, studying culture preservation and expression. She told me a lot about her work, her philosophy of life, the relationship between Mexicans and US citizens, and the pride she has in the lifestyle of Mexicans. It was also fascinating to meet her son, who works in the corporate world, in many ways promoting ideas of globalization, but at the same time with a very realistic consciousness of the importance of his mother's work. We had some really interesting conversations about the different perspectives of globalization and what that means especially in Mexico. Priceless, especially from his viewpoint.
It was kind of embarrassing many times when I would comment on something I observed in Mexico City and attributed it to what I know from the lifestyles of people in small town Mexico. For example, when I asked one of the young guys if he goes to church on all his days off (always Sundays) he laughed and said no. When I commented on PDAs in some restaurants and chuckling that everyone lives at home with families and needs to show affection somewhere, my companions looked at me like I was psycho. These things are NOT true in la Ciudad, they said.
I really miss the young people I got to work with this week. By the end of one week, some of us went to a restaurant and had a great time together. They were all so patient with me and eager to listen and answer any questions I had about working in a museum, living as youth in Mexico City, learning other languages, and other topics. We listened to pop music all day while we worked on endless little projects including making and gluing thousands of paper tissue flowers to candle holders, archways, and boxes; putting countless painted skulls and bakery bread in creative arrangements around alters of Marys and Jesuses; and putting up ginormous pictures of different houses, highways, and churches in Morelos.
From this experience, I hope you ALL appreciate the work that goes into museum exhibits, because it is NOT easy and quick work. We were often working from 9:30am to 7:30pm, and as many of you can appreciate because this really says something - I was almost always too tired to even use the FREE INTERNET when I got home. Additionally, I hope that everyone in the world goes to as many culturally-informative events as possible because you can learn so much about the values of people. It struck me as odd that even one state over, cultural knowledge had to be obtained through a museum, not through firsthand knowledge about neighbors or people living within the same country. I admit there are many differences between small town Coatetelco and Mexico City, but they both exist right now, they both share a common country history, they both speak the same language, and they are interrelated in ways they don't even realize. Strange that a museum exhibit has to connect that for some people. Really makes me think about what I am not seeing right next to me all the time. One person told me something that was very interesting to think about – she said she was worried about my experience in Mexico because I am working and living in places that do not have access to a lot of resources, and it is not an accurate portrayal of all of Mexico. Of course she is right that even my experience in Mexico City was much more comfortable and similar to my lifestyle in the US, but does that mean that my placement in an area outside of this is any less of a representation of Mexico? At the same time, I know I get frustrated when people who know only the big cities of the US think they know how life is in Iowa. Does that mean I'm worried about their opinions? I don't know.
I was told by multiple people that I look more European (German when they found out I am German and Norwegian) than US American because of my height, the shape of my face, my clothes, and my serious manner. I was also told I am an intellect needing to find my life's goal so I can pass on all my brilliant observations to others, because right now I just have tons of insight and no way of expressing it.Never stop learning, do we?

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