Friday, May 11, 2012

Moving past the reality..

I don't know whether it is me growing tired of the monotony or if I am really going to miss this place, but I have been planning a lot of things lately. Not sure if it is some latent urge to "get it all in" or whether it is some strategic plan that inner Justin has concocted to leave the best impression, as far as I am concerned things are looking interesting.

The reality is this, I leave in a month and some change and like I mentioned in my last post, I have sort of grown used to this place. The location, my apt., food, and even the ease I find in speaking and writing Spanish. (something I certainly did not think I would be able to do). In order to get past it, I suppose I have to keep myself busy so I am not thinking about it so much. It will be good to go home and do jack shit for a month, and then go to DC and do nothing for another month, and then pack up all of my shit, and move to the other side of the world. What the hell am I doing?

Whoa! I will be living in India in just a few months. Had you asked me a few years ago where I would live, my best guess would have been ATL. Home, comfort, easy. But why approach life that way right? Wrong, I am lazy.

I am so lazy, I have driven to the McDonald's which is one block away. You would think that if I am to indulge in my guilty pleasures I would do it with a counter, like walking to get fast food as opposed to driving. I will begin my intense workout next month. Side eye

Speaking of side eye, here is a side eye to people who constantly tell your business to others. I hate that. It makes me not trust you, or care for you at all. When I tell people what I plan to do, I don't mean for you to go around talking about it. It's sort of childish I think. If I wanted the world to know, I would put it on facebook, not tell my friends. In any case, (closing mouth gesture)

I am throwing an all white party next weekend. Still have to get white pants. Although, any man that owns white pants gets a side eye too.

My reality, or just a stream of conscious nothingness?


Monday, May 7, 2012

Approaching the border

Initially what I thought would be a great blogging experience turned into me just enjoying Mexico and not really thinking about writing any of it down. I suppose in hindsight it seemed like a good idea at first. It seemed to me that the days just itched by. Now I am 2 months away from leaving Mexico, headed to India. To sum up my experience in one word, I would probably say "blessed". Before I am called a Bible thumper allow me a moment to explain.

 You see, Monterrey, since I got here has been given a face lift. 5 years ago this city was a paradise for anyone wanting to enjoy the luxuries of any American city, and still engage in local Mexican culture. It was a prize to live here. Now, as I have mentioned before in my blog, this place is ridden with cartel violence, killings, shootings, and corruption at many levels police and government. I have successfully learned how not to depend on society for much of anything anymore. Rely on yourself, what good graces you have been given, and hope you find some local friends to make the experience worthwhile. I have luckily, or blessfully (if I can use that as a word) been given all of those things.

 I have advanced in my career, engaged in local culture and sports, made some cool contacts, been able to visit just about all of Mexico's wonders, and improved my spanish ten fold. All of this, no matter how bad this place is, has helped me to grow tremendously. I wondered where I was being led when I got this assignment. Now I can confidently say I know. Funny how things work out in the end. I am actually beginning to get used to this place. Even the narco news I am privy too, now does not feel so heavy of a mind fuck. With two months out, I am trying to get all the Mexican I can get. I know once I leave, it may be awhile before I get back down this way; although I did convince many of my friends and frat brothers to come down and visit. Some of which to Monterrey, others to Mexico city. Still, they must love me dearly to have decided against all conventional wisdom to get on a plane and come down to one of the most dangerous cities in all of mexico. The other good thing about this place has been proximity. I have been able to jump on a plane and head back when desired. All of the luxuries in one place.

 I have certainly become more of a drinker. Before coming here I did not have a wine bar, nor did I have a whiskey bar. Now I have both. I normally enjoy a beer and/or glass of win every couple of days. I hated beer before I got here, now I can tolerate it. Progress I guess. This foreign service fast life seems to push you to drink. I suppose when you are all grown up, you have a beer or glass of wine at dinner, and not lemonade. Also, I have learned that the adult fun is going out to dinner. Shucks, I thought I could still get away with arcade games, and mini golf.

 I have also grown to be a bit more honest with myself and others. It has helped me to make some tough decisions about people and things in my life. Before, I will admit, I was timid, shy, scared. Now I just take a fuck-it-all pill and keep pushing forward. It has helped me to not dwell on one thing or person. This new honesty thing for me is tough. At times when I want to tell a white lie, I remind myself "Justin just be honest, it will be better for everyone". I do it. And it feels better. I feel better. One thing I am really proud of is that I have turned my house from a dorm room to an actual bachelor pad. Before, I had posters on the wall, held up with thumb tacks. Now I have them framed. I have a nice couch, some cool decor, and books lying around. Almost as if I am reading all of them at one. I know, I know honesty. When I walk into my place, it feels less like a holding cell and more like a home. I am proud of it. I actually have hosted several events since getting my place together. It only took 1.5 years. It's ok, I am still in my 20s.

 Unfortunately, I think my hairline is receding. I did not think this would happend so fast. But here it is. I find myself researching methods to help maintain my hairline in the front. I don't think it to be quite attractive. At this point, I am open to suggestions. Word of advice, enjoy your hairline.

 All in all, I have grown tremendously. Professional and personal. As I sit here with my books on India, and my hindi rosetta stone application open. I can't help but wonder, as I approach the border, headed home from Mexico, will things get better or worse in India. We shall see. More to come....


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

la chica de humo.....

Once upon a time in Mexico, cigarettes were king, now it seems like they are Gods, in their own right. Mexico, one of many Latin American countries, still allows smoking in most establishments. While I won’t knock the nasty habit, :) I will say that it certainly serves as a disincentive to go out and enjoy the Mexican night life. Thousands of people a year die from smoke related issues. It just so happens that most of the cases come from countries that have actively banned smoking in public places, sad to say that perhaps the policy behind smoking is not as "cure-all" as people make it out to be. Even still, walking into a club in Mexico with smoke as thick as fog is disconcerting to say the very least.

The most bothering thing about going out in Mexico, I think is seeing all of the beautiful women with the cancer stick in their mouths. I think Mexico has some of the most beautiful women in Latin America… the big turn off, and it’s big, is the fact that they smoke. I have even seen some girls smoke a pack a night while sitting at a table drinking whiskey and soda water. They devour a pack of cigs. Smh, it seems as though for them it’s the cool things to do.

I am not interested. Women who smoke are as far down on my list of non negotiables as women who chew with their mouths open. Who wants a big wet kiss from a smoke filled mouth? Attractiveness declines exponentially.

Just the other weekend, we went to a friends club. I could only stand to stay for about an hour until my lungs screamed at me for the abuse. It almost seems like I have become an avid smoker since I been here. Every time someone lights up, if I am near I light up too. Not to mention so do my clothing, hair (what little I have) and my skin. Yuck! Say no to smoke.

Mexico's consumption of cigarettes goes unparallel with many places around the world. Why aren’t there as many incidents of cancer and smoke related illnesses? Perhaps the diet, culture, etc make it such.

There is an old Mexican pop song by Emmanuel, called la chica de humo. The song mainly talks about how some women are here today and gone tomorrow. At first I figured it was his fascination with women who smoked. Before I judged I asked and got the aforementioned explanation. I take that song and use it now to emphasize how women who smoke are not as appealing. Don't mean to demonize your song E-man, well....

I am slowly beginning to find alternatives to going out in Mexico. One to avoid the smoke, and two perhaps to meet some of Mexico’s most beautiful women...ones who do not smoke. Hopefully, la chica de humo will find her loving caring man who also smokes. As for me, I like nice teeth, good breath, and not to die young due to 2nd hand smoke.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's been a while

Once upon a time in Mexico, or Trinidad or Bermuda or maybe even Lima in the future. Yea, I have been all over the place. I find myself actually sometimes wanting to just sit down and do nothing. I suppose many people would love the idea of traveling, but what people don't understand is that flying, running to catch your flight because you have been hoodwinked into drinking late, and sitting next to a baby that won't shut up aren't the most appealing ways to travel. Nonetheless the past couple of months have been down right amazing.

The month of February, as some of you may know was black history month planning for me. Since I am one of few black people who rep mission Mexico, guess who ran most of the programming? yea, yours truly. I don't say this to complain but to show that perhaps the rainbow is not as bright as one thinks. I had a blast though. Movie nights with food, discussions, presentations etc. and a poetry slam is all how we brought in black history month 2011. The denouement of my programming was the poetry slam where I got back on stage with some monologues I wrote and did some personal spoken word pieces. Unbroken Voices is what I called it. I will explain more in a later post.

After that I took a 1 week vacation to travel to Trinidad and Tobago for carnival then straight to Bermuda for a fraternity conference. The traveling was pretty heavy but so was the fun. Check out my pictures on facebook for some further information on what we did. Things just get better from here.

I returned back to Mexico drained and ready to rest. God knows I did not get that. I literally fell on the bed, and slept until noon the next day. I took an extra day off work to ensure that I would not come into work brain and body dead. The next weekend, I literally sat on my ass and did nothing. Watching movies, eating all kinds of foods and scouring facebook for the latest updates. (something I think we all are guilty of)

I must say, the more time I spend traveling around Mexico and getting to "conocer it" I really have come to appreciate the excitement it brings me. I love late night tacos, mariachi music, and surprisingly tequila does not do what it used to. LOL. I have been working hard and making myself known throughout the dept in Mexico. I organized and hosted a chili cook off which went well. I followed the chili cook off up with spending the rest of the night dancing away in a bull ring with hundreds of other tequila twisted Mexicans. What a blast that was. It took me back to my old cowboy ways. I realized how even more country I was.

Since then, I have just been hanging out maxing relaxing all cool and shootin some b-ball outside of the school....well, maybe not the basketball part. But I have been working out.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Hold it, hold it

Once upon a time in Mexico, a man once told me that Mexicans are the only thing stopping Mexico from becoming one of the most developed, safe places to live and work. In fact, it was said that many more Americans would learn Spanish, move to Mexico and live their lives on the Peso. Personally, I think the blame is not just pointed at the Mexicans, I think we all have some hand in Mexico's issues right now. Perhaps in several years when the veil is removed we will have a better understanding of this issue and all its complexities.

Mexico is still a challenge. Everyday is a spontaneous reaction to something or someone. Sometimes it ends in death and violence, while others just a scare. Yet and still people are jumping on those boats headed to Mexico to vacation. I mean, why not though, Mexico is close, cheaper, and some people speak english. I see why people still come, but honestly I don't think people take heed to the Mexico warden messages. If they did, less not more gringos would be visting the land of the many salsas.

So since my trip to Leon blah blah blah, I have been pretty active here in Monterrey. I am in charge of planning and executing the black history Month programming for the US Consulate in Mexico, among other things. I have been working on a series of movies, foods, and discussions entitled expressions. In addition, I am organizing a poetry slam in the community, to try and pull out some of the Mexican talent. I am planning a bi lingual poetry slam, sponsored in part by the US government to showcase this very notion of expressions through art. Yours truly will be doing some monologues, poetry etc. I think its going to be fascinating. Especially with this video I created to go with the event, its all about promo videos now:

Check it out and let me know what you think. So as you can imagine, alongside the presentations, events, and movie nights people are beginning to understand what Black History Month really entails. I am also beginning to lightly engage in some information about the Black Mexican experience. With the intent after it is all over to plan a trip down to Veracruz, a place where most Black Mexicans are located and learn a bit more about the culture.

Overall, Mexico is getting better. It os not as bad, in terms of really feeling the culture, as people make it out to be. There are some lovely people here who enjoy Americans. There are great places to hang out, eat and experience. I look forward to a bit more cultural diving as time goes on.



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guanajuato, León, San Miguel de Allende y Delores Hidalgo

Once upon a time in Mexico, there were central mountain towns, with so much culture, life, and age. It really gives you such a different better impression of Mexico. Yikes, I never knew traveling throughout Mexico would be so much fun, and so culturally rewarding. I felt like I was in another country altogether. About a week ago, 3 friends and I took a 4 day trip down through four cities in Central Mexico. 4 cities in roughly four days. Crazy right? but doable. I encourage any one thinking of traveling to Mexico, that they consider traveling throughout some of the old, cultural central towns. Beaches are overrated when you have historic mountain towns, filled with so much life and so much energy. Every morning I woke up, I asked myself how much more could I see and learn about this place.

We began our trip delayed. We paid about $65 round trip for a flight from here to León. We got to the airport on a rainy cold foggy night in Monterrey and waited for our flight on viva aerobus. Supposedly the cheapest airline in all of Mexico. This is true, but what they do not tell you is that their service and professionalism suck ass. We waited for our 8pm flight until about 10pm when they told us it was cancelled until the next morning. No one said anything until they finally announced that the flight was cancelled due to the fog and rain. Upset and saddened by the news we contemplated whether we wanted to go home, or stay in a nearby hotel since the airport was about 45 min away from our houses, and our flight was so early the next morning. We ended up staying in a hotel called city express just down the street from the airport.

They only allowed 2 per room, so we wooed our way in to allow a total of 4 people to stay in the hotel. Needless to say this hotel was no where near 5 star, but it was cheap and it worked for the night. We ordered apple bees for delivery, (who does that?) and we watched episodes of red shoe diaries, while chomping on ribs, chicken and fries. At first we were all weirded out by red shoe diaries on tv, but then it became apparent that there was no working remote and no one wanted to get up and change the channel. So there we all sat and judged and watched red shoe diaries, in a flea bag hotel in Mexico. What a night! It was quite the bonding experience when we began talking about racial classifications, and culture at 2am. We finally drifted off to sleep.

We awoke to numerous alarms going off. We all got dressed, enjoyed our continental breakfast downstairs and headed to the airport for our flight. The weather was worse than it was yesterday. Some how, some way the flight went out and we arrived an hour later in Leon. The weather was fantastic. Hot but not too hot and enough to make you take off clothing. We rented a car for 3 days, unlimited miles and full insurance for less than 100 usd, and we headed off to buy leather. Leon, is known for its cheap good leather. It is where they make a lot of it in Mexico. We went for tacos and then off to shop for leather. To our chagrin, we arrived at an outlet mall with a bunch of leather stores. We first thought they would be market type leather stores and not dept ones. But still everything was cheap and good quality. Some of us shopped for shoes while others jackets. I bought a leather jacket for 60usd. After failing at all the other jackets I put on, I finally found one that worked. At first I was getting a little upset because everyone else found something that worked and I had such a hard time. Well, sea lo que sea I suppose. In any case I found something jumped on it, and it turned out to be my "bad ass" jacket for the weekend. I wore it with pride and was convinced that things worked out well for me the entire weekend when I wore that jacket. lol

Just after leather shopping we drove an hour or so to Guanajuato. By far the best Mexican city I have been to. I have not been to a lot of them, but this one takes the cake so far. This city is vibrant. With old cobble stone roads, underground tunnels, mountains, museums, culture, food you name it they got it. We started of going to a mummy museum. It was cool but not what people hyped it up to be. You could smell the formaldehyde they used to help continue to preserve the mummified bodies. The museum was lackluster but cool to have seen in Mexico. The did not really do a good job at talking about how this came to be. They just played a short video in the beginning and then sent you off to see the bodies. It was cool though how they laid the bodies out and gave them all stories, which was not apparent if they were real or made up.

After the mummy museum we checked into a fabulous hotel right in the main square. It was gorgeous. We could hear mariachi bands playing, people walking and enjoying the evening and lights all throughout the city. We had an amazing dinner and then walked on a night tour of the city. It was a mariachi band leading the way playing music and telling stories of love in the city. The last stop was a small street where you are suppose to kiss the one you love. Lucky for me the one I loved was not in this group. No one was getting kisses from me. Although we took a cool pic of two of us guys kissing the only chic on the trip. It was cool and apart of tradition and who am I to say no to tradition. We left there and went to this reggae bar near the hotel that was fantastic. The music was great. It was called FLY. Anyone going to Guanajuato should go there.

The next morning I awoke early to hire a singer to go into the room of the other two people with us, and play mariachi to wake them up. They were both embarrassed and still in bed. The singer sang with vigor and pride, singing a song about love. The best wake up call ever, and it only costed me 1.50usd. Priceless and cheap I know.

We walked around the city for the day and took some amazing photos. We enjoyed a nice lunch and then headed out for San Miguel de Allende. Which was not as fun as Guanajuato, but still old and has its own feel. We noticed immediately upon entering the city that there were a lot of white americans. In fact, it is a retirement town. The town had catered to American interests, which could be a reason why it was not as exciting. We stopped for Jamaican food in Mexico. How odd was that? In fact we were their last customers and bought some signage right off their wall. I have a "Jamaican food" sign hanging up just outside my kitchen door. It was ok food, nothing spectacular. But they did think that we were Jamaican.

After we found the hotel, spent the evening goofing around and drinking coffee and eating churros, we then settled in for a relaxing evening on the roof top of a bar overlooking the city. Beautiful.

The next day we took more pics and then headed back across the countryside to Leon to catch our flight back out. What a fantastic trip with friends. I even had one of my fraternity brothers, come down and spend the week with me. That was the icing on the cake, seeing someone you know. It does not matter the place, what matters most are the people. You could go anywhere and enjoy it with the right folks.

Another trip ahead, next stop Trinidad.