Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Farewell, Querétaro!

Here are some things I will miss about Querétaro 

Sada y el Bombon: Only my favorite revista independiente de cultura urbana that I have ever read. Countless examples of simpatico...this magazine is witty, clever, informative, creative, artistically minded, socially conscious, and completely and totally on my wavelength. I miss it already. I have missed it since the first day I ever read it, by merely thinking about not reading it.

The plazas by day: Careful readers of this blog (if there are any left) will know that the plazas of Querétaro are one of its chief attractions. I should have spent more time wandering the plazas of the Centro during the afternoons in between the commitments of my (horrible, exhausting, I'm-so-glad-it's-over) split shift schedule. I am glad for the time I did spend strolling in them. There is something magical about sunlight on the multi-colored, colonial architecture buildings, the spray of the fountains, and the dark gray cobblestones. By the time of my farewell plaza walk, on my last full day in Querétaro, the city Christmas decorations were up and I stood and stared at the sun-sparkled tinsel that spelled out "Querétaro les desea un feliz Navidad" and I felt full of joy. 

The plazas by night: Then again, there is much to be said for nighttime on the plazas. I am just glad we lived across the street from the Centro so we could spend a lot of time there. I loved the music, the arts, the random creativeness, the restaurants and the coffee shops that I found on the plazas, and I loved strolling through them at night to partake of these things.

Volcanes: I am not sure how this secret of Mexican food has remained so well kept, but this was my favorite discovery in the cuisine of Querétaro. Essentially, a volcan is two small, round, crispy tortillas with a whole bunch of melted cheese in between, and some meat usually, which is why I feel guilty about loving them, but holy schmoly are they delicious!!! It's basically a little sandwich with what look like tortilla chips instead of bread. And don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not at all sure why Taco Bell has not jumped all over this. They have totally done their part to co-opt (and slightly alter) gorditas, chalupas, and so on. Volcanes are absolutely meant for Taco Bell's menu, and without even much alteration, although the cheese would never be as good. My mouth is watering just thinking about all the volcanes I am not going to eat anymore. 

The aqueduct: This is Querétaro's pride and joy, and I made sure to take a walk up the little hill to take one last look at it on my final full day, too. I will miss driving past the arches every day...and I won't even be there to see the fancy new expanded lanes of the thoroughfare that goes through the arches when they are completed, although I did get to witness the majority of their construction (didn't I just love my evening rush hour commute!) 

Learning about Mexican history, especially indigenous history but also the interesting Indpendencia and the Revolucion: Sometimes I did this by visiting museums. Sometimes I did this by reading. Sometimes it was by talking to people or by just being there to soak up cultural awareness. To paraphrase Suzanne Sugarbaker, there was quite a bit of Mexico that I did, indeed, want to soak up.

Nevertheless, it is time to move on and actually try to earn some money and make a living in the world again (what a concept). That's OK. I like to think Benito will continue to keep watch over Querétaro in my absence.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mi día de acción de gracias

Allow me to set the scene: in the home stretch of my stint in Querétaro , I have been afflicted with a severe case of senioritis. I have low motivation to do anything, whether work or social or shopping or whatever, and the dumb little things are bugging me, like my local Oxxo on the corner being completely out of coffee at 7:30 this morning (what?!)  Let alone the more annoying stuff, like buses not stopping to pick up passengers at the bus stop, which is just a thing they (fail to) do sometimes, or even the bus stopping at the bus stop because it is at a red light, but still refusing to open the door for passengers, as happened today. Because that, my friends, is the horrible logic of the Querétaro city bus system sometimes. Add to this my so-close-I-can-taste-it flight, and I am just a recipe for grumpiness and "get-me-the-heck-out-of-here!" MAJOR senioritis.

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S.A., but here in Mexico it was another Thursday and I headed off to my morning ritual. In the late morning, I had a conversation with a lovely friend in which we both lamented a few frustrations and I mentioned that in my senioritis/low motivation/high irritation state of mind it is probably better if I just don't say anything at all, as Thumper's mother would advise. From there, I headed to the bus stop, with Songs--->Play All on my MP3 player, listening to whatever was next in alphabetical order. I was in the Ds. As I approached the bus stop on the sunny sidewalk, I listened to Indigo Girls' "Deconstruction." Although the song reflects on a relationship, it has some nicely constructed lyrics that make a person think about ALL the things that make up her life, lyrics such as:

As we sat stuck, I could hear the trash truck
Making its way through the neighborhood,

Picking up the thrown out, different from house to house -- 
We get to decide what we think is no good.
We're sculpted from youth; the chipping away makes me weary
And as for the truth, it seems like we just pick a theory
And it's the one that justifies our daily lives...
                 --lyrics by the one and only Emily Saliers

So, that was the slightly self-indulgent, highly contemplative mood I was in when the bus came. I relaxed to the next song, letting the music of Enya's "Deora Ar Mo Chroi" wash over me (not really knowing what her lyrics were saying because it's one of her Irish language songs), and so the wistful mental stage was set for Concrete Blonde's cover of Woody Guthrie's protest song "Deportee." 

Written by Guthrie, popularized by Pete Seeger, and covered by many, "Deportee" talks about a small plane crash in 1948 in Los Gatos canyon, near Fresno, in which 28 migrant workers who were being flown to Mexico died. The news reports apparently named the U.S. flight crew but did not mention the workers' names, dismissively noting that those passengers were just deportees. (Read more here if you like Wikipedia.)

I rode the bus down Constituyentes, thinking about being in Mexico, and thinking about how all of my peeps back in the U.S. of A. were already gathering with family and friends, munching on appetizers, preparing turkey and potatoes and vegetables, a bountiful spread, a cornucopia. Everyone would be ready to eat the plentiful harvest, food likely gathered from the earth by the hands of migrant workers who probably won't be thanked on this Thanksgiving day. Concrete Blonde sang Guthrie's words:

Well, some are illegal and some are not wanted
Our contract is out and we've got to move on
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves
Adios a mi Juan, adios Rosalita, 
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria

You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
And all they will call you will be deportees...

I knew that when I got back to my apartment I would log on to Facebook and see thankful status updates, and pictures of beautifully set tables, and the occasional plea to not spoil this day by shopping or, as we call it now, "door-busting." I would think about everyone enjoying a day of warmth and tradition and gratitude. I would grapple with thoughts about the celebration of an idea -- a mythical but inspiring feast, a feast of sharing, a feast in which the immigrants were welcomed and helped to survive in their new land.

I felt small. I felt alone. I also felt suddenly grateful in yet another new way to be able to look around and see and know Mexico -- even when I'm sick of being here and the bus driver infuriates me and the Oxxo runs out of coffee (seriously). I offered my thanks to the universe that I could know that Mexico is history and mountains, highways and industrial parks, museums and cathedrals, poetry and folklore, Nezahualcóyotl and Fuentes and Kahlo, fashion and magazines and film, guitar strumming at parties, jukeboxes, comida corrida, the weird bird that squawks outside my apartment window, and so much more. Even at the end of senior year, one still has lessons to learn and things to think about, but the more important question is how to share one's knowledge with the big, wide world.

Normally, my Guthrie Thanksgiving song is Arlo's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," but this year, I'm all about his father's song instead. I don't have a video of that Concrete Blonde version to share, but here are the Highwaymen:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A short list of things I am REALLY not into*

*list is not all-inclusive

1. Being cold in my apartment.
2. Being cold when I wake up in the morning.
3. Being cold while getting dressed in the morning.
4. Being cold in the shower.
5. Being cold after a shower.
6. Being cold indoors, ever, really.
7. Being cold in an apartment/climate where there isn't even any heat source/system (apart from the sun) because it's not really supposed to be that cold.
8. Being cold on a boat on the Yangtze River.
9. Being trapped in a meat locker, with or without Bobby Brady.

Most of the above have happened to me. There is one exception. I bet even the least among ye can pick it out. But did you also know that the first seven are happening to me right now?

I heard that Tropical Storm Rosa in the Pacific was to blame for our rain-filled weekend, but this whole cold front thing? So not OK. What am I supposed to do, light a fire on our tile floor? And the way our apartment is built, apparently the warm afternoon sun has no way of reaching inside to eradicate the damage of the overnight cold. So I'm sitting here wearing a sweater and hat inside whereas if I walked outside I could be in a tank top and shorts. What the huh...?! This tells me I need to either: a)buy a new laptop battery so I can go work outside  b)leave Mexico before it gets any colder.  Oh, guess what? One of those things is in the works....

Just to end on a positive note, I would like to point out that I have been generally grateful for our overall temperature-consistent apartment (everyone knows that the temperature is SO not the real flaw of this apartment building) and I would also like to point out that I am very appreciative of cold things, often, including but not limited to: snow, skiing, wintry Christmases and iced coffee. But when one is inside one's shelter, one should be warm. Period.