Iced Tea

Since I started working from home, and especially since some somewhat extensive recent travel to the U.S., my diet has come full-circle to American traditional foods. For the first time since I can remember, possibly for the first time ever in my life, I bought deli meats, for the purpose of making sandwiches, not European cold-cuts for a smorgasboard, and I have been making all kinds of salads– garden salads, caesar salads, kale salads, egg salads, potato salads, pasta salads, even chicken salads.

A lot of this is practicality. It’s stuff I can prepare in advance and have sitting in the fridge that doesn’t need to be heated up, and it’s fresh and healthy. But today, I realized I’ve also gotten into the habit of boiling water for tea in the morning, and then letting it sit and cool, so that I have a pitcher of iced tea with me all day. That there is not just about convenience.

I tie it to something I blurted out when I was in a stupid spat with my little sister, on a recent family vacation in Monterey, California. She was asking me if I know about some Mexican folklorical figure or another (she lived in Guadalajara briefly, studying medical Spanish at UDG, and also visited Morelos on a college trip about ten years ago). I don’t, but my response then and there crystalized some kind of nebulous thought that had been floating around my head since I moved to Mexico nearly five years ago: “Look, I immigrated as an adult. I’m as assimilated as I’ll get. I have more important things to do, like work.”

I was kind of surprised to hear myself say it, but I think it’s pretty much true. Aside from the old thing about people never losing their home country, I’m also of the mind that the US and Mexico are already really similar culturally, and we share so much history. As a gringa here I already feel like I have a place in Mexican society, without becoming more Mexican.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate that folklore is interesting, and probably one day I will run across some knowledge of it, but I’m not about to make a discipline out of taking in stuff like that. Not when there are so many other Mexican things in my alrededores like señoras and baptisms and tamales and high-interest rate credit cards that already have a practical effect on my life.


switching up from politics

Today was a really good day for me. I got a raise, FEMSA’s twitter account gave a Follow Friday gave the twitter account that I manage for work (@GAESresearch), and, here’s the biggun, I accepted that I am alcoholic!

I know that sounds grim, but it’s actually really terrific. Some people, namely my mother, have suspected it since I was in college. I don’t drink to escape my problems, more like there have simply been too many times when I haven’t controlled my drinking. I had admitted it (that I am an alcoholic, not just that “sometimes I drink too much”) to a few people, mostly because my boyfriend made me, but I didn’t really feel good about it. That is the difference now: I actually feel good about myself as an alcoholic. I was beaming as I walked home from work, singing a little song… la la la, I’m an alcoholic, and I’m okay…la la la, it’s okay! Two aspects make me particularly happy, other than the pleasant surprise that yes, even after acknowledging this weakness, I actually love myself for it, is the feeling of peace, relief, strength and power that this acknowledgement has given me. It is who I am. The ser form.

I have, since college, wanted to control my drinking better, and so of course deep down I always knew that it wasn’t only that I party too hard. However, for a combination of reasons related to my social environment and a misconception about alcoholism, I hadn’t really leveled with myself. I had tried to, but it turned into me being too hard on myself and then later recognizing that the negative things I had told myself weren’t actually true and sort of setting the situation aside. I hang out with people who drink a lot. I lived in the UK in my early 20s, where binge drinking is normal. And I didn’t understand alcoholism that well, either. I looked at from the classic AA perspective, that if you are an alcoholic that means it is impossible for you to control yourself, that abstinence is the only solution. I used to joke that I needed to cut back because if I became an alcoholic then I would have to quit and that would be annoying for boring social functions. I thought admitting that I am an alcoholic meant admitting that I couldn’t defeat it and had had to give up. I was really uncomfortable with that prospect. It didn’t feel right, because I really do believe that I can learn how to manage it. I have just haven’t yet.

So today, troubled by my boyfriend’s reaction to seeing me trashed last night, I was doing some reading online (summaries of Johns Hopkins-published research, even) that said that “all or nothing” is indeed a misconception, that roughly half of recovered alcoholics quit drinking, but the other half actually learns how to manage drinking responsibly. I realize that a skeptic could say I am just listening to the advice I want to be true– Alcoholics Anonymous, though widely criticized, is also widely respected, has helped millions of people, and definitely adheres to abstinence as the only measure.

However, reading this factoid today really, really inspired me. I can acknowledge an important feature of my physiology without feeling that I don’t really have any choice in how to handle it. Recognizing that I have a medical problem with alcohol abuse doesn’t preclude my being able to manage the problem. In fact it is very possible for me to control my drinking itself, not just controlling (trying to) the situations in which I drink. And what’s more, I feel like, after ten years of wanting to learn how to handle my alcohol, I have finally taken a definitive step forward in doing so. Now instead of being this storm cloud hovering over me, threatening to burst if I let it, every time I go to a party, it just sort of seems like some routines I have to learn and make sure I stick to. Since I am an alcoholic, I have to alternate my drinks with soft drinks. Since I have medical problem, I have to make sure I eat before I go out. Rather than just “try not to get plastered tonight.”

So let’s see if this paradigm shift works. It’s Friday night and I have a despidida to get to.

mexican elections

Last night at the trendy cocktail bar Limantour this chick who works for L’Oreal’s hair dye division told me I have “cara de política” meaning I look like I am into politics. She was cool. I am going to post on the Mexican elections in honor of her, and in honor of the fact that my FM2 immigration document was approved; also, in acknowledgement of the fact that I don’t have that much to say about the US elections.

Background on the Mexican elections–  Presidential elections are in July. Four candidates are running. Here is my somewhat simplistic take on each of them:

Josefina Vázquez Mota, of the PAN. PAN is the incumbant president’s party. Widely viewed (by me) as a weak candidate strategically offered up by the party because she is a woman and because due to widespread violence in the country the PAN does not expect to be reelected. Her campaign also seemed really amateurish at first, which supports the theory that PAN doesn’t take her seriously.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the PRD. Former mayor of Mexico City who ran in the last elections, and according to many won the count. In protest of the “official result” against his favor, he shut down one of the main thoroughfares of the city for three months. He is a badass which normally I respect, but I also think he is kind of crazy and might pull some kind of Hugo Chavez steez if elected.

Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI. Former governor of Estado de México, a PRI stronghold and the largest economy in the country after Mexico City. PRI governed the country for 70 years in the 20th century and were corrupt. There isn’t really any reason to believe that they aren’t still corrupt, but they still govern most of the states in Mexico. They have the most support, I guess in “las provincias,” but everyone I know says they don’t know anyone who will vote for him. He is also a pretty boy and seems to have a low IQ.

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, of the Nueva Alianza. “Academic” candidate from unestablished party, whom no one was talking about until he won the debates. Probably most people who were listening to him agreed with the things he said, but increasingly I hear, and believe, that he is a hologram candidate put up to distract votes from Vázquez Mota and López Obrador. Also, it is hard to trust a guy whose party was founded by the teacher’s union boss. Although to a foreigner the teacher’s union might sound harmless enough, from what I understand they actually allow some quite appalling practices to go on. I won’t go into it here.

And here is my official analysis:

I am disgusted to realize that based on PRI support which seems to visible “in the interior of the republic” (outside major cities), it is likely that Peña Nieto will win. Aside from the fact that he is an idiotic prettyboy who just does what he is told, corrupt government is socially demoralizing.

Upon further reflection, I am also disgusted by the PRD and PAN’s failure to put forward competitive candidates. PRD could have run Marcel Ebrard, the current, very popular mayor of Mexico City. My roommate suggested that they didn’t because of López Obrador’s ego. I think it could also be related to Ebrard and/or Mexico’s unreadiness that he come out of the closet. At any rate, I would vote for Ebrard. A lot of people would. He would have had a great shot at winning.

Meanwhile Vázquez Mota, while probably not crazy like López Obrador, kind of just seems not ready yet. She did alright in the debates, and she seems to have some strong opinions. But she just doesn’t seem very leaderly or commanding. And I find it hard to believe that she is the best the PAN could do.

So this leaves me trying to decide whether I feel dejected at the apparent defeatism of Mexico’s educated class (I also feel this way about Mexican soccer, by the way) or conspiracy-theoristy about maybe the PRI has something up its sleeve in terms of stemming the narcoviolence, which the PAN at least in its desparation is willing to accept. Or something. That would be kind of nice, but I generally discount conspiracy theories because of skepticism that governments are capable of organizing well enough to pull them off.

YouTube clip of Peña Nieto getting jeered off campus yesterday at one of Mexico City’s large public universities.

I really don’t know whom I would vote for in Mexico. The best I can do to influence policy here is vote for people in the U.S. who want to pursue a good relationship with Mexico and Chicanos.

u.s elections

My boring opinion on the U.S. elections is that I think Romney and Obama are both pragmatic enough and the problem of the economy is overarching enough that it doesn’t empassion me to consider who will win or lose. I will vote for Obama mainly because things like his interest in cutting federal agriculture subsidies indicates to me that his ideas on leadership for the country are better-rooted in a clear, non-partisan list of national problems to solve. Both seem to be pretty intellectually honest dudes, but I think Obama’s priorities are more constructive.


The Mexican Federal Government’s media presence is really noticeable in its ad campaigns. A lot of them are actually really good!

I thought of this one not only because it’s my favorite, but also because it is sort of related to what I wrote about earlier this evening: How big do our individual changes and contributions have to be in order for real change to happen?

Contagio – I think Real Player needs to launch to show the video. It is from the organization IFE, the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute. This particular ad is announcing the children’s mock elections that will take place in April, where kids can vote. (Yes, the Mexican federal government actually sponsors that!)

The tagline of the whole IFE 2012 election season campaign is really good, too: Lo que hace grande un país es la participación de su gente. What a country does great is the participation of its people.

internet activism

I watched that Kony 2012 video and was mildly annoyed by the guy who made it. It’s hard to be outraged by some douche in California  in comparison to the guy who has been leading bands of child warriors in Uganda for the last 20 years, which “the douche” is making me aware of for the first time.

And, as he himself doesn’t hesitate to point out, the douchey guy in California is doing something kinda interesting (cough, I mean BESIDES exposing the horrible child war lord), which is experimenting with the extent of the internet’s power to mobilize masses.

It’s not really news that even the internet has been a revolution in terms of making us more aware of what’s going on the world. And then with Egypt and stuff, people started talking about whether the internet could be a tool for helping to bring around real revolution. And then people started realizing, nah, not really: most of the people who say on the internet they care about stuff still don’t really care enough to do anything about it. And now a friend has just pointed out on facebook that we are all sharing our outrage about Trayvon Martin, but how many are actually going to reflect on what we will do about it.

But still, information and idea sharing are powerful in their own right, even if their outcomes are minute in comparison to what we hope for. But what is a minute outcome even mean, and is it significant? Continue reading

katy perry (well, russell brand, actually)

I found out how cool Russell Brand, aka Mr Katy Perry, was when in 2006 he hosted a show called Big Brother’s Big Mouth on the UK’s Channel 4, doing post-show analysis on that year’s Big Brother. Aside from its being an unusually good Big Brother season (I guess… I haven’t seen any others actually, but the guy with Tourrette’s won), it hooked me because of Brand’s “coverage.”

I was living in Edinburgh at the time, and during that summer’s Fringe Festilal, the three nights of his comedy tour, called Shame, sold out right away. I hovered over the internet until they announced a 4th show, and immediately got myself a ticket. His show, in which he basically made fun of himself for all the terrible things he did when he was addicted to heroin, was as my boyfriend at the time liked to say, life-affirming.

Anyway fastforward to May of 2010 and I am living in Mexico City, teaching two elementary school girls English in their Lomas Verdes high-rise apartment in the afternoons, and I have been working with their mom in the mornings. Their mom is only a few years older than me, and I think in different circumstances I would like to be her friend. I have been told that she and the girls are taking English because they are going to Miami to live with the dad, in time for the start of the Dade County school year, late August. But with that the subtext has gradually come out that the mom doesn’t necessarily want to go, because she is thinking of getting a divorce.  She has begun taking classes to complete her master’s in psychology. As the classes go on into June, July, every time I refer to my own experiences travelling or exploring or experimenting in my life, which are generally received neutrally or with interest by other students, I feel I have put something weighty out on the table between us. Eventually she tells me that about 12 years ago, when she was 24, she wanted to move to Australia to study, but that her mother didn’t want her to and eventually convinced her not to, and that, among other things, she would find herself too old to get married once she returned to Mexico. Her daughters are 11 and 8 now. She is a really smart and very open-minded woman, and a good mother, with a husband who must be quite driven and intelligent, and their daughters are equally bright and worldly.

Another thing is, all three of them love Katy Perry. I ascertained this pretty quickly from the girls, probably within the first class we had together. I eventually mentioned, as part of my contemplated teacher-student discourse with them, that Katy Perry’s husband is really cool. This guy Russell Brand, a British comedian.


The girls didn’t really react with anything other than polite interest, but the mom, who was in the kitchen cutting vegetables, stopped what she was doing. “Katy Perry is married?” She had to raise her voice in order to interject that. She half walked over to us, still musing. “I had no idea! Wow…”

In July, when the girls finished up school for the summer, the mom told me she wanted the girls to have a break, and that she might as well, too. In my last class with them I gave them a somewhat ceremonious goodbye, explaining that I couldn’t guarantee that I would be available in September when they were ready to resume. Of course I didn’t know what I would be doing in September, that was true, but I was actually pretty certain that I would not see them again. Either they would move to Miami before then, or their mom would decide to divorce their dad, and his company would no longer be able to justify their private English lessons. Hopefully they are in Miami now, but who knows.

The Brand-Perry union was announced as officially not long for this world not too long ago, and I wondered if that family thinks of me as much as I think of them.