Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No es lo que piensas! (It's not what you think)!

Hola mis amigos! Como estas? Yo soy bien!

It has been a little over a week since I have been in Mexico City for work and what an experience it has been so far. Upon the many challenges of being here, there are just as many incredible triumphs. I had so many reservations about making such a long trip and being away from the confines of my comfortable every day life; that I didn't look at the bigger picture and  realize what an amazing experience this truly is.

One of the biggest challenges of being in a foreign country is the language barrier; I do have to give a big "thank you" to my sixth grade Spanish teacher as the basics have helped more than I realized they ever would! I am mistaken a lot down here for knowing the language - must be the dark hair and eyes; the agents in my office that I am just meeting for the first time as well as everyone else I try to communicate with automatically start speaking Spanish to me. It's quite amusing :) So, even though knowing the basics have helped, it is very difficult trying to read and speak the native tongue - although I am able to order an Espresso Americano from Starbucks, haha. This morning I ordered juevos con jamon sin queso y jugo de naranja all on my own; eggs with ham, no cheese and orange juice (which was not on the menu; I had to piece it together from what I am learning and compensate the words I don't know with hand gestures; I am still laughing because I was imitating whisking eggs in the air to the waitress for her to understand "scrambled eggs." At least she laughed too). For me, it has been important to really embrace the culture because it is makes it easier to navigate and feel more comfortable being so far away from home.

My second challenge? That would be eating what I think is "normal." The first day we got here, we went to this cute, little authentic Mexican restaurant. I ordered what my co-worker ordered as he has been down here before and knows what is good and what isn't. The food seemed pretty ordinary for what Americans typically classify as authentic Mexican food, so I wasn't hesitant to eat it. We got back to the hotel and I felt fine. The next morning on our way into work, we stopped and I grabbed a coffee. I have cut my coffee habit dramatically in the states, but being in Mexico, and not knowing what is safe to explore, I chose to stick with what I thought I knew. No es lo que piensas! I drank about three sips until I realized that it tasted like they reused the coffee grinds about nine times before they brewed this coffee, AND it was non-filtered water. First mistake. Later that morning, a few co-workers and I stepped out and went to this amazing little fruit stand that makes fresh fruit juice cocktails and cut up mixed fruit. This time I decided on cut up strawberries and mangoes. Muy delicioso!! It's fruit...a common food among many cultures, so I convinced myself it was fine. And it was...that day. Because I am a creature of habit, the next day, I coerced my colleagues into getting fruit for lunch as I was in no hurry to dive right into the unknown culinary world of Mexico City. We strolled our way up the city street to the fruit stand and I got the same thing, only later in the day. In this culture, refrigeration is more of a commodity than a necessity - and my body is not used to such. Mayonnaise is not even refrigerated! So, it was mid afternoon by the time we went and it didn't even dawn on me that this cut up fruit had been sitting out since 7am in the morning. As the day progressed, my stomach grew increasingly upset and it felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing my intestinal tract with knives. (Sorry for the graphics). I was completely under the weather for 2 days. I felt like I had the flu and only drank water and ate saltines! My stomach has not been right since. You have to be mindful of the way things are prepared no matter where you are. You cannot assume that because you eat or drink a particular food at home, means that you can where ever you go. Things are prepared and grown differently in other cultures from your own. The positive thing about this, is that I was thinking proactively and brought some probiotics down here with me :) - I will definitely be more prepared for the next trip I take out of the country. Here's a tip: if a co-worker advises you to go see the doctor downstairs because you are not feeling well....don't do it. They will offer you a shot for any ailment you see them for. Be prepared.

My third, but not last challenge thus far? Greeting people. Every day you walk in the office here, they all hug and kiss you, some kiss on the cheek, some kiss on the lips. I was mortified. Plain and simply mortified. WHY ARE YOU KISSING MY LIPS?! I do not know you!!! It is their way of saying hello and goodbye every day. This is completely uncomfortable for me and have not gotten used to it. However, I have identified the people who like to kiss on the lips and I politely turn my cheek when saying hello. It may make me feel bad, but I would rather feel bad than be kissed on the lips! Talk about culture shock!

I have another nine days here, and going to make the best of it. Although these challenges have presented themselves, I have found ways to cope with them and turn them into a learning experience. It is just another way to help me grow. Mexico City is a beautiful place. And although I was sent here for work, I am privileged to have been given this opportunity to come and work here for a few weeks.

Aside from the challenges of eating, speaking and saying hello, I must say that this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The architecture here is unlike anything I have seen. The buildings are so large, and original stuctures have been here since the 1700's. I mean, c' HAVE to be able to appreciate such architecture. The cathedral has been my favorite place to visit, and across the "street" there is what is left of the pyramid that they built the Cathedral from. This Cathedral is the largest in Mexico and the third largest in the entire world. When I walked inside, I literally stopped and gasped. I was in such awe. I also visted the House of Tiles...which survived the earthquake of 1985 - when you walk inside, everything leans slightly to the left - the entire place is made of tiles. Explaining this in writing does not do it any justice; but I just am so lucky to see this. If I were to write about everything, this blog would be too long! So I will write again before I leave this place :)

OH! One more thing I want to share with you amazing co-workers took us to this market called Coyacon, where they sell everything from flowers to whole dead chickens. And when I say everything, I am talking everything...right down to grass hoppers! We have this running joke between us down here that I speak the culture, but Jeremy lives the culture. Well, let me tell you how much I lived the culture at this market. I ate a dried grasshopper! It was lime and chili flavored. The best way to describe it? It was like eating the earth - which, in some way, makes it more enjoyable. Will I do it again? Absolutely not. But the people around me really appreciated the fact that I didn't shun their every day culture.

If there is one thing that I have learned, while I am here is: No es lo que piensas!!! Everything is not what it seems. While being careful and making mindful choices, also live up the experience that has been given to you.


El amor y el bienestar a todos los,

Patti xox