Here I am eight weeks later, packing my bags, but it still hasn’t hit me that I am leaving in a couple more hours to go back to my family, which I haven’t seen in two months. I can’t make up my mind if this trip lasted forever, or if it went by fast. However one thing is for certain, I am gonna miss this place. I feel that through out my stay I have adjusted to many of the cultural norms, and not gonna lie, it might feel a little weird not having tortillas at the dinner table back home. It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in my room, the night before my flight, trying to figure out what I still needed to pack. That night, thoughts were running through my head wondering what my experience would be like, or how I would adjust to Mexico during my eight weeks there. I never thought I would have gotten so use to this country. I have become fond of the small things, and I know I am going to miss them come time to leave. The metro ride home, and the walk back to the house in Mexico, is just one of the small things that has become almost second nature to me during my eight weeks, and one of the many things I am going to miss. I would never have been able to get so adjusted to Mexico if it weren’t for the amazing people who welcomed me with arms wide open. From the amazing host family who quickly loved me as one of their own, or the awesome Universidad Panamericana students who were always willing to give us their time and show us around Mexico City. I know that when I take my last ride in Mexico City to the airport, it’s going to hit me how much I am going to miss all the people I’ve met, and the city that I have become so familiar with. However, until that car ride, I’m gonna go ahead and look through my room like ten times to make sure I haven’t left any socks behind.
I’m not ready for the goodbyes, not ready to leave behind the place I’ve called home for these past seven weeks. I will definitely miss that 2 X 1 churros deal at Liverpool on Wednesdays, those 10 peso tacos from Hermanos Luna, and the chilaquiles from Doña Cuca. The worst part will be not knowing when I will see my new friends again, but thank god for all these social media sites. More importantly I’m not ready to stop ridding the metro. (hint the sarcasm) All those mornings being shoved into the metro, it was during these rides that me and my roommate became the closest, both literally and metaphorically. In all seriousness, Mexico has been amazing. I’ve enjoyed my research project with Dr. Enrique Rendón at Hospital Siglo XXI and learned a lot about Mexico’s history and culture.
As part of the tradition of our host family, the girls in the program prepared dinner. What better day to do so than on the night of the opening ceremony for the Olympics? It wasn’t easy figuring out what to cook, especially since our host family cooks such delicious meals for us and we wanted to impress them. If I’m being completely honest though, it was hard deciding what to cook because we aren’t the
best. It was fun fitting eight girls into one tiny kitchen. We were all scrambling around one another as some checked the oven, others chopped up ingredients, and some cooked the chicken. At the end we made it work. The pesto pasta we didn’t think would be enough to feed 20 people was just enough. The Challah stuffed with Nutella was cooked in record time but was still delicious. The hot fudge sauce we made to top the ice cream was heaven. It also made our host daughters a little rowdier than usual, but the night was a success.
It’s amazing to think how in such short period of time you can become so close to complete strangers. Looking back to our first meal together, we all sat awkwardly devouring the food as we practice our Spanish. This night however, was the complete opposite as it was filled with chatter and laughter. We truly became a family.
Asta luego México!
My time in Mexico City is coming to an end, so naturally, I’ve been reminiscing on all the incredible experiences I’ve had. It would be impossible to recount all of them, so I’m going to focus on one of the many things I’ll miss. I remember one of the first things that made me fall in love with Mexico were the colors on the buildings and houses throughout the city.
I remember it was around midnight when I arrived at my host mom’s house for the first time and I was struck by the way her house’s vibrant pink façade stood out in the darkness. I had only ever seen such a color on one house back in Chicago, and every time my mom and I would drive past it, we’d wonder how someone could possibly live in such a brightly colored home. But I think after spending time in Mexico, I will appreciate the few brightly colored homes I see around Chicago. I’ve realized this aesthetic has the potential to bring joy to any drab day. I notice this when we walk to school in the morning or when it’s raining. These vibrant structures really do seem to liven up any sluggish morning or sad rainy day. And even though I’m really going to miss this small detail about Mexico, it’s definitely not the only thing I’ll keep in my heart. I had so many educational and cultural lessons that I can’t process yet, so for now, I’ll stick to thinking about the immediate spaces around me that I’ll miss the most.
One thing that never fails to amaze me about Mexico is how hardworking the people in this country are. There is never a day when I don’t see someone doing the unthinkable to earn a living for themselves or their family. For example, there was the man in Puebla selling balloons, and then the man on the street corner on our way to research selling flowers from a bucket. I can clearly witness these people’s desire to move forward on our Metro rides into different parts of the city. Here, we see countless amounts people selling a variety of products to passengers aboard the train. I’ve been keeping a small list of the things people sell, and these are some of the items I’ve encountered:
-Nestle’s newest chocolate bar
-Human anatomy workbooks
-A CD featuring the greatest Rock hits
-Permanent marker sets
-A bouncy Play-Doh ball
-Travel size mirrors
Besides the gum, I honestly can’t picture myself or other passengers
buying any of these items. I’m sure the vendors recognize this too since, unfortunately, no one ever seems to buy their merchandise. But despite this lack of business, the salespeople show persistence and dedication. It’s clear in the way they pace up and down the aisles relentlessly pitching their product and in the way they rush to the next car so they can pitch to a new audience. This hard-working spirit is what me the most about these encounters. Even though they probably understand that people on their way to work don’t want to buy a workbook on human anatomy, these men and women still wake up every morning and make their way to the Metro station because they need to find a source of income for themselves or their family. I’ve learned throughout my time here that unfortunately, there are social and economic constraints that have forced the people of Mexico to develop this hardworking nature, but the will to do so is something admirable that I deeply respect.
The last several weeks in Mexico City have been incredibly busy! I’ve spent time getting to know different areas of the city, indulging in the delicious food, and most importantly, learning about Mexico’s public health system. Most of this knowledge has come from our Public Health in Mexico seminar where we learn about the health issues in Mexico. But in addition to this seminar, our supervised research has been a way for us to closely study a public health problem. My team’s project focuses on diabetes, so I’ve learned a lot about the burden of diabetes in Mexico and effective treatment methods.
Diabetes is a disease that affects a significant portion of the Mexican population and places a huge burden on Mexico. It is the disease that causes the second largest YLLs (Years of Life Lost) and is the leading cause of DALYs. Since there are so many sociocultural and economic factors contributing to its high prevalence, addressing the issue has proved difficult. So as a response to this problem, the hospital Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubiran (INCMNSZ) developed a diabetes treatment center called CAIPaDi. It is one of the most sought out diabetes treatment centers in all of Mexico (and possibly even the world) since it provides quality, educational, and integrated care for its patients.
The care at CAIPaDi is educational because patients are taught how to manage their diabetes. Judging from the satisfaction and health improvements I’ve witnessed in patients at CAIPaDi, I believe this education is more effective than simply giving patients medicine. Teaching patients about their diabetes provides them with the tools and power to take control over their own health without developing a dependence on a doctor. Besides being educational, the care at CAIPaDi is integrative. Patients who enroll in the program visit 9 different specialists in one appointment. The specialists are in the following areas: Endocrinology, optometry, fitness, dentistry, foot care, diabetes education, nutrition, psychology, psychiatry, and nursing. I think this comprehensive attention plan is what impressed me the most about CAIPaDi. The center acknowledges that diabetes is a risk factor for other health complications, so it made prevention and treatment for these potential health issues a focus of the program.
I think the United States could learn a lot from this model. Usually, care for a diabetic patient ends after several visits to the endocrinologist. This means the patient’s risk for glaucoma, for example, could go completely unnoticed since they aren’t receiving regular attention from an ophthalmologist. With integrated care like CAIPaDi’s, diabetics in the U.S. could avoid developing diseases caused by diabetes, and the overall health of diabetics in the U.S. would improve. I understand that the U.S.’s fragmented healthcare system makes it difficult to implement a model like CAIPaDi’s, but it is something we should strive towards.
This weekend I experienced the most strange, amazing adventure at the Zocalo. The Zocalo is the origin of modern day Mexico, the center of the Aztec Empire where its great city of Tenochtitlan lay. We visited it earlier with the whole program as a field trip for our history class. The Zocalo was overcrowded with people and traffic all trying to see the beauty of its landmarks like the Catedral, the Palacio Nacional, and the ruins of the Templo Mayor. It was definitely a sight to behold!
However, this was not the day of my adventure. A few weeks later, a few of us wanted to visit the Zocalo right after a night of exploring Garibaldi, a mariachi plaza full of traditional Mexican tunes. Considering Mexico City is the largest city in the Americas with a population of 8.9 million, I was expecting the center of the city to be filled with people. I was wrong. The Zocalo was a ghost town. Except for the few policemen working the night shift, there was not a soul to be seen. Being the adventurous person I am, I pressured the group to walk a lap around the Zocalo and to take in the views empty of the crowds that are there every morning to late evening. Much of the group was scared out of their mind due to the eeriness of the situation, but we were all glad we did it because of the great views we got to witness.
“There’s only two weeks left?”-Basically how everyone in the program feels at this point. Everyone always tells you that your time abroad will go by fast, but it really feels like I just moved in to my home stay just a week ago. However, looking back at the past six weeks, I have no doubt that I have used my time to the best of my ability. Reflecting on all the things I have done so far, I believe my favorite part of my study abroad experience here in Mexico so far was the weekend trip to Puebla. As part of the program, we spent two nights in Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico, but was a great change of pace from the chaos of Mexico City. As much as I have enjoyed my time in Mexico City, it’s unreal at times how crowded the city is. Going to Puebla allowed me to see another side of Mexico. Puebla is a city rich in history, from the archeological sites, to the magnificent cathedrals, which mirrored Spain’s colonial dominance at the time. Cathedrals here in Mexico have a significant place in the history and architecture of the country. For example, just in Puebla alone we visited three different cathedrals, from cathedrals in the downtown area, to even a cathedral in the mountains. Each Cathedral was unique in its own way, however each one was grand and flaunted vast amounts of gold and silver. The archeological sites however provided a historically insight from a time before colonialism. In the end, the trip to Puebla was a great experience, and I hope to come back and visit again one day.
Es increíble pensar que ya tenemos un mes en la bella ciudad de México. One whole month that has flown by. During this month I’ve learned a few more Spanish slang words, as well as eaten authentic and traditional meals, and even learned a few salsa moves. The most exciting part was climbing the pyramids of Teotihuacan. The sun pyramid is the tallest one in Teotihuacan, followed by the moon pyramid which is located in the the Avenue of the Dead (named after the mounds on its sides which look like tombs). Being almost 7,900 ft. above sea level was in fact thrilling. The climb up was a different story. Let’s just say there was more than one break in between, and lots of huffing and puffing towards the end. It wasn’t easy, but as cliché as it sounds, it was totally worth it. The view from the top is simply breathtaking. A picture does speak a thousand words.
After our journey to Teotihuacan, we traveled to Puebla, a Spanish colonial city in Mexico. Puebla is known for its dishes, in particular its mole, chalupas, and chile en nogada. The mole Poblano is a type of sauce made with different chiles and with chocolate, both things that I love. Chalupas are a type of crunchy tortilla topped with shredded chicken potato and green salsa. Just thinking about them makes me hungry all over again. Chile en nogada was originally made by nuns after the Mexican Independence. It contains all the three colors present in the Mexican flag: green, white, and red. The chile is stuffed with meat amongst other things, topped whit a nutty white sauce and pomegranates. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to eat in Puebla but we did find a local restaurant here in Mexico City that served them. Overall, I probably gained a few pounds after that weekend trip, I even got el “mal del puerco” (food coma).
This month has been full of laughter and joy, making me dread the day I have to leave. I never thought I’d be trying many of the things I have, like grasshoppers. Let me just say they weren’t as bad as I thought. I also had authentic Korean bbq for the first time at a Korean town here in Mexico City. I’ve been packed like sardines in the metro, the one experience I do not want to repeat. I’ve even eaten corn fungus, and other things I would have never tried back home. If I’ve learned anything it’s that being away from home, surrounded by great people and food, did not make me home sick but actually more open to new experiences. Don’t get me wrong I miss my friends and family back home but I also do not want this to come to an end.
“It’s been four weeks already?” has been a question that has gone through my head multiple times today. To be exact, tomorrow will mark exactly four weeks since I arrived in Mexico City, Mexico, and the half waypoint of the program. The program has felt like it has been going by fast, but at the same time I feel as if I have been here forever. Whether it is being familiar with the Metro system, which has to be the most ridiculously crowded form of transportation I’ve ever seen in my life (seriously though these people pack up like sardines to get to their destination), or walking to the local grocery store for pan dulce. Mexico City is really becoming to feel like home. For example, when I first got here I was feeling out of place, rightfully so seeing that I’m 6’3” and slightly racially ambiguous, which drew many stares, and at the same time, a little shy. When I first arrived in Mexico City, staying at a house with people I never met before seemed like a strange idea to me, and that was even reflective in little things like dinners. At dinner, I was reserved and barely spoke, maybe due to being shy at first or maybe I’m just a lot more socially awkward than I thought. However, I’ve became a lot more comfortable and able to carry out conversations about things like politics in Mexico and food with the host family, where as at first I just wanted to eat my food and get out of there. My host mother even said at dinner today “I’m happy that you’re laughing and talking now, at first you did not talk much.” There are still four weeks left in the program, and I hope to take full advantage of those four weeks left. The classes and trips to historic and cultural sites such as Teotihuacan have been nothing but great and I look forward to the next four weeks. Whether it is getting to know the culture better, or doing something wild like eating street food (lame, I know), I plan to make the most of it.
“Hijole!!” The term is Mexican slang for describing something surprising. This is an expression I quickly picked up from our cuates here at Universidad Panamericana and it perfectly describes the transportation in Mexico City. This city is wild! I would like to first mention that I am from Los Angeles, the city in the United States with the most notorious traffic. And even LA has to bow down to the craziness that is driving/ riding public transportation in Mexico City.
I have had the opportunity to travel with all three of the main means of transportation in the city: car, bus, and train. Right off the bat coming in the city, our taxi/van ran many red lights and narrowly squeezed through a tight alley with centimeters of air space. The very next day, my host mom drove me to class and we had two near accidents in which we almost ran over a pedestrian and had to swerve out of incoming opposite traffic due to construction. The next days I had to figure out how to use the public transportation system (bus and train) and found it to be more absurd to travel than car. The buses and trains, which in Mexico City run approximately every 2 minutes, are constantly spilling over with people at all times of the day and are wildly operated. I vividly remember a man surfing outside of the bus door because it was so crowded. There was a time where a man ran to catch the train and jumped through the closing doors only to have his backpack get caught outside; the doors did not reopen and the train rode on.
Throughout my first 2 weeks, I have yet to see an accident on the street. Better yet, I have yet to see a dented car or bus! I have no idea how this can be, but there is something magical of the controlled chaos the city has. This city waits for no one. And with every packed street, bus, or train I experience, all I could do is shake my head, push my way in, and mutter “Hijole!”