Thursday, July 26, 2012

Esto no es un adios; sino hasta luego! Translated to English: This is not goodbye, but see you later...

While I am excited to get back to my comfortable bed, little old car and the normal life I live at home; I am also muy triste about leaving such a wonderful place. I have experienced so much in the last six weeks that I feel as if I am a part of this beautiful culture. The people treat me as if I am as well - and they are such beautiful people inside and out. I just cannot get over the things I see every day, and what is even more mind boggling is that this is the "normal" day for them! 

This morning I woke up and just laid in bed for twenty minutes looking out of the window at the city that was eye level with the bottom pane. The sun was shining through the sheer curtains and it made the room glow like a soft touched photo. I struggle to get out of bed; the warm beams of sun laying across my body is so comforting I feel like I could stay in bed all day. I finally get up and shuffle to the coffee pot and make some coffee. I get ready and meet my team outside of the hotel to head to work. While we are walking, there are construction workers on our left that are re-doing the sidewalks to expand them; which will accommodate a city this large with so much foot traffic. - You would think that seeing construction workers is a normal every day expectation; but it's not how it is in the USA. What I am seeing are men very hard at work, so dedicated and such quality going into what they are doing. There is almost an assembly line happening. They have the area blocked off with fluorescent orange netting held up by steel poles, and the only way for the workers to get in is by walking all the way around to the other side. There are two men inside the area with flat metal tools that I can only describe as looking like a pie serving knife. There are three other men on the outside of this net that are mixing the cement by hand. Yes, by hand...they have a mini cement mixer, which has a wheel on the other side that looks like a steering wheel and they crank it by hand. There are two other men that use wheel barrels to wheel back and forth the cement mixture to the men inside the netting using the pie servers. Each man will dump the mixture and the other ones will work quickly to smooth out the area that was just dumped. This repeats and repeats, and all I do is stare in awe. True hard labor.

We arrive at the office and I go through my normal routine of saying hello to all the agents that are already there and setting up my mobile office for the day. As I am sipping on my coffee and reviewing the cases from the night before, an agent comes to me and asks if I enjoyed my time in Mexico. I literally grinned from ear to ear and tears started to well in my eyes. I answered and told her that yes, I have enjoyed my time, and reason being because of people like her. She vows that the next time I come - because there just has to be a next time, she is going to take me to get the most amazing hot chocolate and churro I've ever had. I am definitely looking forward to that :) Lunch time arrives and generally the Hartford team and I go out together, but let me tell you that if I had to look at the inside of another McDonald's someone was going to get a french fry to the nostril! So three of the agents invited myself and whom I will call Uncle Sam out to a local place to eat. We ended up at this small taco stand about a block from the office. The last trip I was on in Mexico City, I walked by this little quaint stand every day. It smelled divine every time, but said I would NEVER eat there. Well, well, well...look where I ended up! So as we approach you can smell the meat cooking; the aroma that spills over the glass counter fills your entire nose. It's mixed with the sweet stinging smell of chopped raw onions, ripened tomatoes and fresh cut parsley. The cook is standing behind this glass counter patting down what look like mini pitas; but it's made from corn. The little puffed taco shells are then cut in half and the mix of skillet fried pork and the onion, tomato, parsley mixture is stuffed in. They are served on this pink plastic plate. The agents advise Uncle Sam and I that we need to put on the verde sauce that was sitting in front of me. Although very wary, I put it on. I take a bite: SO DELICIOUS. It has to be at the top of the best foods I have ever eaten. This is the culture, this is what they wanted us to experience all along. This is them. We all huddle in the little taco stand, some of us standing at the mini metal bar, some sitting on the large red, plastic stool all enjoying the gordita carnitas.  I couldn't get over how much flavor these had to them; the best part of it all? It was about twelve pesos for two of these...that is about $1.20. Quality food for less than you could imagine...why? Because they believe in preserving their culture. I had only wished that I was brave enough to try these before.

We head back to the office, ride out the rest of day - and then it's time to say goodbye. I received many many many hugs and kisses and "Can you just stay another week," "We are going to kidnap you," and other little things that wear just so endearing. Two agents drew me pictures to hang at my desk at home and another gave me an apple covered with chili and tamarind. I felt like a teacher on the last day of school. So appreciated. It was very difficult for me to say see you later, to these agents. They are incredibly receptive, and so willing to learn. They want to learn, and it makes me want to teach. As I am going around, saying bye, I can't help but start to get teary eyed. I have grown to love some of these people and I don't know if or when I will see them again. I start to get really sad and my body feels so heavy. I find it hard to walk. Uncle Sam - who has been such a savior on this trip understands exactly how I feel and tries to cheer me up. We start to walk out of the call center, and one of the agents calls out my name. I turn and they are all standing giving me the peace sign and hand hearts. I almost lost it!

Intent on making the most out of my last night in Mexico, I really absorb what is going on around me. We walk out of the large building that houses our office, and standing at the door is a man with a machine gun, cocked and ready to use. I make it a point to walk out of the other door, just to look directly in front of me and see another armed security guard. This is not something you see everyday; at least not in the USA. Whenever it comes to money in this country, you know you will see at least three men staring you down with machine guns in hand, old in style, but very much efficient. You can tell just by looking at them that they have been used. I literally shudder at the thought. We turn the corner near the magazine stand and I get that sad empty feeling again, like I am leaving something precious behind. I am. Such mixed emotions as we continue forward. We head to Cafe Tecuba for our last dinner in Mexico before heading home. I ordered de caldo de pollo con arroz - which is chicken broth with rice and I added some freshly squeezed lime juice and a teaspoon of chipotle sauce.

We set out taking a different path to the hotel. We have driven this path in the tour bus, but on foot it is a completely different experience. We walk by the IngenierĂ­a de Edificio. This is one of the first Engineering schools built in Mexico. The building is gigantic and the architecture is absolutely breathtaking. There is a steel structure on the opposite side of the road of a man riding a horse. It's beautiful! There is a building that is just off slightly to the right. This building is so unique. There is a noticeable crack right in the middle of it and you can see that the side of the building is detaching from the other building it is connected to. What a lot of people don't know is that Mexico City was built in a valley on top of a lake. It is literally sinking. And you can see it in these old buildings - which give this city so much character.  Instead of walking forward, we decide to cut through traffic and walk down an alley that I would never give a second glance if it were two hours later. Walking through you see tables and tables of books. There are new books and old books and very very old books. If any of it were in English, the group would have been hard pressed to pull me out of there. It was just so amazing. The smell of the leather bindings and old paper reminded me of my Nana. I could have stayed there.  We end up on the infamous Madero pedestrian road and Uncle Sam and I wonder into one of the Cathedrals. There aren't any words that I can say to describe the beauty. We walk inside and I shiver. Every single hair on my body stands up. There is silence except for the faint ceremonious mass going on in the room in front of us. We take a step up into the room and it's just awe inspiring. The alter where the priest is sitting is made up of all brass; every detail. The stained glass on the windows is so incredibly beautiful, and the carved statues look so realistic. The feeling I have standing inside in indescribable.

We head back down the road toward the hotel. The light turns red for the pedestrians and is still red for the automobile traffic. We decide to make a run for it! We cross the main road and Uncle Sam and I talk and walk. We get closer to the hotel and those construction men are still so hard at work. They have accomplished so much in the short time that we were gone. I can only imagine how this sidewalk is going to look once it's finished. Uncle Sam stops to get his shoes shined on the side of the street and the rest of us continue on for one sweet indulgent goody before we close in for the night. Again, we walk and can smell the fried dough of the decadent churro. I order one for me and one for my buddy. I take a bite; the outside is sweet from the sugar and crispy from being fried, while the inside is so chewy and warm from the leche. The combination makes your taste buds dance and it just makes you happy.

Getting off each floor at the hotel, we all say our goodbyes. It's a bittersweet time - Uncle Sam has a special place in my heart just like the agents here. I will miss them both so dearly. Esto no es un adios; sino hasta luego.


Love and Wellness to all

Patti xox

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Market

In a city with a population of twenty-two million people, you think that you would feel very small, very insignificant; but walking around Mexico City, you feel just the opposite. There are people pulling at you from all directions trying to get YOUR attention. From street performers and vendors to little children holding out empty pink plastic cups begging for pesos - they are all looking to you to pay attention to them. There is something new around every corner you turn, and it captivates every being in your body. I want to take you on another little journey, and my hope is that you can experience through my words what I see and physically feel.

There are five of us down here from my office that are  helping out our partners here in Mexico.We went into the office today for a few hours to make sure operations are running smoothly for a hot summer Saturday. The five of us gather in a small circle and discuss what has been our plan from the beginning of the week, and that was to go to Coyoacon. Coyoacon is a market within Mexico City that is equivalent to any large Flea market in the United States, except this one runs all year. Then someone breaks the news to us that the scheduled transportation is no longer available due to mechanical issues. I have to admit that I was briefly disappointed because I had been so excited to go and experience this all over again. However, this was not going to stop us from enjoying such a gorgeous day. So we set back out to the hotel and once we arrive, agree to meet in the lobby in one half hour. 

We decide to walk across the street to the park which is directly in front of our hotel. Every day families come in and set up shop for a few hours to sell what they've made or bought themselves. As we approach, the park looks like it just unfolds before our eyes, almost like a magic scarf a magician uses to pull out of his bottomless hat. It's filled with so many people and street vendors and I am reveling in the culture. I walk along the tables and there is just so much to take in that I find my eyes bouncing back and forth between the shiny beaded necklaces and knitted bags. I walk on marveling in the beauty that each family has to offer. Then we stop at this one table. It's laden in leather wallets and coin purses. The air is filled with the smell of genuine leather and it takes me down memory lane. I pick up this adorable little coin purse that is made of three different color leathers; brown, dark brown and black and it has a band around it so colorful it looks mosaic. I ask how much it is, and the gentleman tells me it's "diez pesos." Which is equivalent to about eighty-five cents.You know that I now own that little beauty! We walk on an fall upon this table just dazzled with shiny jewelry. There are silver bracelets with colorful rocks set on top, beaded necklaces that have details so intricate, you wonder how long it must have taken to make. My eyes are then drawn to these uniquely colored stone bracelets; the stone is shiny, but has a deep color - almost black, but not Onyx. They are so beautiful that one of the guys I am with purchases three of them for his daughter. 

We walk and walk "window" shopping at every table there is to offer. There isn't enough time in a day to stop and really appreciate all the merchandise and things happening around; but we try as hard as we can to soak it all up. We walk our way around the perimeter of the park and then tackle the middle. As we are walking, we can hear salsa music blaring not so distant from us. When we approach the area, there are couples dancing to the rhythm. Everyone moves in fluid motion with one another. It's as if they've practiced these moves day in and out. Hundreds of people are gathered around watching in complete happiness and basking in the serenity that the dance radiates towards them. I stop and admire these brave individuals. 

Walking on, all three of us cannot help but stare at this one booth. It's covered in different sized bags, headbands and jewelry all covered with cultural print. We step closer and sitting behind all of this are two young girls - seemingly quite accomplished entrepreneurs for their age ;) The older girl, who couldn't be older than twelve or thirteen was able to communicate with us; her English being very little and our Spanish vocabulary even more lacking. She helped one of my co-workers pick out four beautifully crafted bags for his granddaughters. So impressed by their dedication (and admittedly cuteness), we all purchased merchandise from these lovely little ladies. I am excited to sport my new purple, black and white back-pack! While we are making our final purchases, stomach somersaults are at their peak - we are all starving. Diagonal from this booth, there is a stand that is cooking hot dogs and hamburgers, across from them, there is guy frying bananas and freshly cut potatoes. We don't give in....just yet. 

We decide to walk the back area of the market and discover more dancing. There is a different flow of music sounding in the air and more people are lined along the wall sitting and enjoying the glow of the afternoon sun and the joy of the people around them. I am completely enthralled with what is going on about five feet up; there are gentlemen playing chess and drinking coke on the side of the street. The seemingly silent camaraderie that these individuals share with one another is so precious it makes me feel proud that I get to witness this. It's beautiful.

I want to stand there and watch them play, but the hollow feeling inside of my stomach is enough to keep me moving. We stumble through a very crowded area in the back with merchandise much different from that of what we have been rummaging through all day. Lined in almost perfect order on blankets spread out on the ground are original Nintendo and it's games, individual action figures, not wrapped and other items that looked as if they could be collectors items. It was action figure, super-hero glory! Making sure we didn't leave any path uncovered, we started to make our way back. We stopped at the most American restaurant there is: Chili's and finally fed our hungry stomachs - where the other two joined us. 

The five of us headed down Avendio Juarez toward the Zocalo (where the President's Palace resides). There are literally thousands of people walking to and from their own destinations. We are hoping to visit more market places; which, to no surprise were already packed up for the evening. However, that did not damper the mood in the least. On our way we saw some pretty exciting characters. There was Woody and Buzz Lightyear hanging out on the corner of Modero and another adjacent street; children huddled around hoping to get a picture with them. On another street there was a life size dancing Elmo with Cat in the Hat. I couldn't help but laugh! Up on the stairs to the right of me was Predator (shamefully, I took a picture for my boyfriend), and with him some other character that was so elaborately put together. I am just so impressed with the effort put into these costumes, and the excitement these people have to perform.

The day is turning to night and I happen to look up and witness one of the most beautiful skies I have seen in a long time. The mix of the uniquely shaped storm clouds and the sun setting created this picturesque scene. I stopped to take a picture. The sun reflection off of the tall building is so perfect.

Last stop before we rest our heads for the night is this little quaint churro stand a block down from our hotel. I have never had a churro before; something everyone tells me I need to try. As we get closer, the smell is so intoxicating it makes me take another breath. There is a line for this little churro stand, and I can't understand why. Until I get my churro. It's called "Churro Rellanos" meaning a filled churro. Mine was filled with this decadent melted chocolate and covered in cinnamon and sugar. (So not healthy, but completely worth it). This was honestly the perfect ending for such an incredible day. You don't have to go somewhere special to experience something special. 

Thank you for reading :)


Love and wellness to all!

Patti xox

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Post :)

Flying over Mexico City in the middle of the night is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. With its vast array of illuminated lights radiating into the night sky, it reminds me of a childhood fascination with Lite-Brite. There is something so mysterious about the incredible depth of the black sky at night and the twinkling fire balls so seemingly put in perfect places. It swallows me whole, and for a moment I forget that I am flying. The thud of the tires hitting the pavement as we land on the runway is enough to jolt me back to reality. I walk in to the airport groggy from the six hour plane ride, with other passengers zooming by me and I feel like I am in a whirlwind; it's a race to get through customs, and I finally make it through. 

Greeted at the airport by a familiar face; I screech. "Hola, Nacho!!! Buenos noches!!"  and he gives me a quick, strong hug. The expression on his face makes me believe he is as equally surprised to see me again as I am that he remembers me.  The ride to the hotel is full of welcomed silence. I sit in the back of the van and once again, am fascinated by the world my eyes see around me. Mexico City is like a tiny world in itself. When you are here, everything about it captivates you; the sights, the smell, the sounds. We arrive at the hotel and I go up to my room on the 18th floor at the Hilton Reforma. I settle in and the first thing I notice is the size of the window. I get a panoramic view of the city from the large window that spreads from wall to wall. The view is just spectacular. I feel like I am on one hundred foot stilts, just more stable! I lay on the bed, in the cool air and stare out the window through the sheer curtains letting the city lights twinkle and dance among themselves as I drift off to sleep. 

I wake the next morning, open the curtains to let the sunlight fill my room with a beautiful glow and get ready for work. I meet up with a few of my co-workers and we set out on foot towards the office. What an experience this is. The scent of fresh coffee and warm baked Mexican pastries fill the air along the sidewalks we are walking. There is much hustle and bustle of the people around us also on their way to make a peso. Cars and buses are honking, people are walking fast going past one another, but all the while smiling and saying hello. We cross the large intersection and start on Madero. Madero is a long road only built for pedestrian traffic. As we walk on, all the businesses lined up next to one another are just opening for business. You see them with the gate rolled half way, soapy water spilling out onto the side walk as they clean their stores and again, that incredible aroma of freshly made food. I could possibly consider trying the meat on a stick that even the locals advise to steer clear of. Street vendors are firing up their make-shift stoves and start cooking away. Breakfast is one of the largest meals here in Mexico. so it's no surprise when I see tamales being made at eight o' clock in the morning. They smell divine - I inhale deeply and take in the smells that are so unfamiliar to me. What a strange sensation this gives me. There is so much contained excitement, nervousness, and awe that surge through my body all at once. 

On our way back to the hotel from work, it feels like I am experiencing the city all over again in a new light. New characters come out from all walks of life and it's hard not to appreciate whatever it is they are doing. People gather around street performers and encourage them, clapping and chanting. On one side of me there is a man dressed as robo-cop moving his limbs like he is an actual robot. To the right of me, there is another man standing on a stool covered in silver paint an wearing a mask that looks like a skeleton; which is also painted silver. I witness him take a boy's hat off in a playful manner and hand it back to him by holding it against the boy's chest. He then grabs the boy's hair and they pose for a picture. He looks like a statue, and I just have to giggle. In the background there is a steady techno beat seeping from the bar three stories up and I fall into the moment and do a small wiggle to the beat as I walk.

As we continue walking and the music fades, you can't help but notice the large divide in the socioeconomic status of the people around you. On the stairs just a few feet ahead, there is a homeless woman cradling her child, holding an empty cup hoping someone will be kind enough to spare some money. I walk over and drop in some pesos. I walk on holding back tears and I feel for her. I look back and stare at the woman as more people just walk past her like she doesn't exist and it makes my heart ache. I want to run back and give her and her child what they need. It truly makes me appreciate every single thing that I have. We take for granted the every day luxuries that we so casually enjoy and complain about when we don't have them.

Closer to the hotel, the sidewalk widens and off to the side roller skaters have set up mini obstacles. They glide in and out of the made up course like they are Olympian ice skaters. They can move with such precision and it makes me wonder how they make this look so easy. Immediately I am distracted by the giant half Colosseum across the street. I turn my attention to it and just gawk. The architecture of this place is breath taking! I stop and take a picture and vow to myself that this time, I really am going to make that scrap book. Up in the distance is the faint drum of a jackhammer gutting up the damaged concrete sidewalk. We walk past them, so hard at work, all the while we are heading back to the hotel. I ponder for a brief moment if they have a warm bed to sleep in. 

I come back up to my hotel room, kick off my shoes, change into comfortable clothes and lie down on the bed. Once again, I am basking in the cool air and staring out the window watching the lights beam back at me. Off in the distance you can see the mountains that surround this beautiful city. Tonight is different. My view on the city is unchanged from the last visit, but my heart is forever changed. 


Love and Wellness to all!

Patti xox


Sunday, July 8, 2012

When you're feeling blue...

"When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do, is take a look at you....then I'm not so blue."

And I love this little excerpt from Phil Collins' song; because it is so true for many people. There doesn't always have to be someone you have known your entire life - it could be someone that you just met; that can  literally take you out of "blue" place. This was so true for me today; so I wanted to write about it. 

I don't have much self confidence in terms of how pretty I think I am, or how fat, too short,  but I know that I am a hard and dedicated worker. Whatever it is I am doing, I try to do my absolute best at it. So lately I have been feeling as though I am failing at that and it's making me feel extremely inferior to those around me. There was a particular incident that happened today that I will not completely disclose here, but this is a brief synopsis of what happened. One of the gentlemen I work with has the idea that he knows best and whatever solution he chooses is the right one because he is in the position he is in and I am below him - which seems to be an unforgiving pattern I fall in. There was this problem that was called into me today and I spoke with the person who called it in multiple times ensuring that the problem was being handled and protocol was followed. About an hour after the first phone call; I received another call from my "boss." (He is not really my boss, but being in the hierarchy of the corporate world, he feels he can tell me what to do). The reason for his call was to have me call someone else to find out who was working in the office today as the supervisor because he needed to discuss a few things. One of those things was regarding the issue that I was already handling with the other person. Because he did not feel the choices I made were sufficient, instead of asking me why and telling me directly how he felt this should have been handled, he went around me to "fix" the issue the way he felt it should have been done. Talk about making me feel like I am an idiot and don't know how to solve problems. I felt like I was a 10-year-old all over again. It's like saying; "I think you screwed up, but you are too dumb for me to explain to you that you screwed up, so I am going to tell an adult." In reality, he screwed up! Because he decided to go through hoops and not follow the proper process, duplicate issues were created, more money was spent than necessary and the route that he chose caused a delay in service. And this is just one of the many things he does that gets me feeling blue. It is everyday; asking me to do things that he should be able to do, but feels above having to do it; so it adds to my daily workload. 

Today it made me feel terrible and I think it dug deeper in my gut because I know that he was saying how terrible he thinks the team is, and that I "suck" and he can't depend on anyone but himself. It's so hurtful to feel like you let someone down or that someone who you think respects you does not; you are just beneath them: an ant that can be squashed with the slightest pressure. 

And then...there is that person that really knows how to brighten your day. Like I said in the beginning, it could be a life long friend, or it could be someone that you just met. This just happens to be a person I met about six weeks ago and I confided in this person today after the incident happened - as I wanted another point of view on how the situation could have been handled. And this person gave me some sage advice. I cannot recall every detail, but I do remember them saying that the one thing that they admired about me was the respect that I had for everyone around me and the care that I put into the work and helping the individuals understand what they are doing instead of reprimanding them for making a mistake. This was HUGE to me. Huge. It really helped me feel a bit less blue about disappointing someone who doesn't respect me. 

This blog isn't about losing weight or giving you a healthy recipe; I wanted to share with you  another point of view that has an affect on living a healthy and productive lifestyle and that is balancing your feelings of self worth - there are people in the world that do respect you. Feeling respected is essential to having a positive self image. When you feel like there is someone who doesn't respect who you are or what you do, especially in an environment that you are in every day, it chips away at that self worth you have built up over the years. So it's important to let those types of people dwell on themselves and seek out and surround yourself with the positive values of those who do appreciate you and what you do. And although this is not the obvious permanent solution, having someone there who tells you that they care, you are intelligent and a hard worker can help you feel a little bit more pink and less blue. And there's always a blog :)

Thanks for listening! You all help me feel more validated.


Love and Wellness to all,

Patti xox