Another day off in Acapulco...

I am very sad to informar everyone that my distinguished and ilustre colleague, Mac Book, has died. Therefore, I am left to either subir upstairs to the cibercafe donde me cobran 8 pesos por hora (around 50 cents) to use Internet or try the laboratorio de computadoras en mi universidad which frequently don't funcionan. Actualmente I'm at my boss's house using her home computer. I suppose not having access to the net or cable is actually a "blessing in disguise" (I use quotes to distance myself from any possible value in said refrain apart from the figurative) because it forces me to read and... read some more. Sin embargo, se dificulta taking photos since I have nowhere to upload them and also making music on Garageband.

Currently I'm juggling two novels, one a collection of essays and interviews about the student movement of 1968 here in Mexico and another about the "anexation" of Mexican territories in the 19th century by the U.S, "Mexico mutilado". I bought a third at the Feria de Libros in Mexico City but know I can't start it just yet until I at least semi-finish the first two.

It's another hot humid day and I wish I would have gone to the beach. I went yesterday and got a bit quemado. On the way to the casa de mi tutora I saw another crucero in the bay presumably dumping a load of turistas to spend money in restaurants, the malls or the various puestecitos that line the streets anxiously awaiting customers. (On my street there are various clearings between houses and businesses through which you can see out on the entire bay) If only I had binoculars and a clear view from my apartment... Reminds me of my grandparents house whose home in Baldwin Hills of the Los Angeles metropolitan area had a clear view of the city with the Hollywood sign in the background. My brother and I would use their telescope to follow police sirens and spy on people.

I walked to the school to use their Internet only to learn that there in fact are no classes today because of the holiday; the day Guerrero became a Mexican state. Gives me another day to catch up on lesson planning, translating and painting. Watching America is the news website that translates foreign news articles into English to provide a different perspective on U.S. current events and politics. As for the painting, I'm taking an art class down on the Costera and have just started working with oils. My first work will be of a photo I took of a tiny street in Evora, Portugal last year. Hopefully it turns out).

Some of the things that I've failed to blog about include the recent elections that took place a principios of October. I went to two sponsored fiestas by two of the candidates for presidente municipal of Acapulco, Añorve and Walton, almost getting ejected from the latter because I showed my Az driver's license and it was closed to the public. The candidates all had parties in different clubs for the younger constituency to "Rock the Vote."

The most interesting thing I suppose that I'd like to touch upon is my experience as a "mixed" person living here in Acapulco where there is quite a diversity in regards to racial phenotype of the inhabitants. In the U.S. of course I am always questioned about my background; if I'm latino, Brazilian, Saudia Arabian, half-Black/half-White, Puerto Rican, Dominican... Because a simple "I'm Black" won't do, I am forced into details every single time. Of course I like sharing my Cape Verdean heritage but not necessarily when I can expect a "Huh?" or "Where?" almost every single time. Here in Mexico it's at least more direct and to the point. "You're not Black" is the usual response that I receive here revealing the difference in racial categorization that exists between the U.S. and México. It's that they're ignorant but that for them Blackness is more related to the color of one's skin. One student, who is perhaps a few shades darker than I, says to me, "I´m black, you're not." Another is surprised to learn that Beyonce identifies as Black because of her light complexion. I plan on providing some lessons about Blackness to challenge their perspective giving my own experience to exemplify that race in America is a lot more complicated than some of them think. (I do self-identify as Black but also in other situations or contexts identify as Cape Verdean, or gay, a type of schizophrenia identitaria that we all realmente possess).

In relation to race in America, a few students, and I presume there are more, have curiously learned the N-word and used it in my presence. Not directed at me but to refer to black people in general. I would like to include on of my conversations to demonstrate its usage:

Me: "I´m not sure you want to use that term" (bracing myself for a discussion on black identity in the US and gathering my thoughts)
Ismael: "Why there's no niggers here. Do you see any niggers?" (again it hits me over the head like a bag of bricks leaving me dumbfounded)
Me: "Um... (again blindsided by his matter-of-fact use of the word) de hecho yo me identifico como afroamericano, osea, "black"..."
Ismael: "No eres negro...eres moreno" (in other words because my skin color isn´t dark enough, literally negro, I don´t classify as black)
Me: "Pero es que en los eeuu ser black no se refiere al color de la piel sino a un grupo social... Y es MUY importante que entiendas que no se puede usar ese término, osea, en serio es RE-importante que entiendas su fuerza..."
Ismael: (saying something like:) "Okay, okay tranquilo, tranquilo" (obviously paying more attention to the fact that I was visibly upset than to what I was trying to say)

The other two friends who used the word did so unknowlingly of its context but this person specifically seemed to be fully aware of its value. Although none of them have experience of visiting or living in the U.S. Needless to say, hopefully my presence as an African-American can help the students to better understand the black experience(s) in America.

To end this entry I would also like to note that I am moving to a different place yet to be found with hopefully roommates, less humidity and bugs and a little bit more space... and probably for less dinero.

Happy early Halloween and Día de los Muertos para todos.


Important Going Ons

I'd first of all like to direct everybody's attention to the top-right of this webpage to the "Fulblogs" section, which includes the blogs of other Fulbrighters if you want to check them out.  They're probably a lot more interesting than my entries...

So I'm starting to gather more hours as I organize my schedule with some of the other teachers to see how best I can help with their classes, which will help keep me busy.  I've also become more comfortable traveling around recognizing the correct amount that taxis should charge me to get around, which buses to take to get to the beach, passing the centro, and back up, and even how to take the micros further up the mountain to get my haircut in the estética where my "personal trainer" from my gym's girlfriend works.

My apartment is a little bit lonely but I at least have some interesting neighbors upstairs, studying to be dentists, who entertain/teach me with their vulgarisms in Spanish.  The landlady is very nice and always eager to help me when I have to go tocarle la puerta because the water is out (She then has to go up to the roof to pump the bomba).  The electricity has been out a few times but these are things that I really could, and do, whine about.  Who really needs warm water when it's humid as $%&! outside anyways.  I do have two beds so technically I could be enjoying the experience with someone.  However, as I experienced from living in Guadalajara sharing a room with Deyanira in the "guest house", as long as there is another space to go for private time it's doable; with this set-up not so much.

And now I arrive to the most important part of this blog entry, which is why I decided to start writing instead of watching Frontline, or cleaning up the fruit flies around the trash can I just massacred with Raid (which is also dangerously close to my sink, dish rack, electric stove and trash can), or reading Ciudad de las Bestias by Isabel Allende.  On Tuesday the sun was shining bright for a change so I thought I would take advantage and take the bus down to the water.  I got off at the zócalo (centro) to purchase a towel for about 6 dollars then was on my way. Arriving at the Costera, the avenue that lines the coast along the bahía, I crossed the street and began my search for a nice spot to lay down and soak up some rays.  Let me mention that along the way I picked up mango con chile on a stick, no sé cómo se le llama, reaffirming that it's quite possibly the best food combination ever created.  But getting back to the story I happened upon a crowd of people surrounding one of the drainage pools that empty out to the ocean (y la neta no sé lo que es exactamente que se vacía por estos drains o ditches aparte de basura tirada).  I asked one of the bystanders, "¿Qué pasó?"  somewhat guessing what her response would be.  To satisfy my curiosity I peeked through the lines and noticed what seemed to be a body floating in the water (Warning: link contains graphic imagery).  Yep, she was right había un muerto, with blue basketball shoes.  Although the water was clear as day, his face was turned towards the sand as was his body.  There was an ambulance parked up on the street overhead and, as I walked away, two police officers were approaching the scene.  And there goes my first experience with a corpse.  I suppose the calm nature of all those standing around gazing on at the joven in the pool of water led me to also take on a similar tranquil reflection of the visual.  Continuing on down the beach I found a spot to lay my towel and watch the waves.  

Put things into perspective?

One of my students from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG) reminded me that even this death is overshadowed by the news from Michoacán (news clip here en español and Yahoo news article here in inglés) where an explosion apparently killed 7 and wounded a hundred others in Morelia during the Mexican Independence Day celebrations on September 15th.

Now that I've contributed to the fear and paranoia about violence this side of the border some uplifting news-- my friend George is coming to visit me this weekend so I'll try to be a good host demonstrating everything I've learned thus far about the city.  He'll be my first official visit, although he is another Fulbright grantee living in Mexico City (and my roommate at the Geneve hotel during end of August orientation).  Further good news: the ETA (English Teaching Assistants) coordinator Jessica Quiroz tells us that not only will the Educational and Cultural Affairs Office in the State Department be giving all of us a set of books including an Oxford picture dictionary but also there are plans to possibly arrange some type of enrichment workshops in Mexico City with all Fulbright ETA's from around Latin America.

This brings today's entry to a close and I will try to increase my blog production a pesar de que nadie lo lee.  Oh well, perhaps it's more personal than anything.  For those of you who successfully got this far, te lo agradezco...pero no.  You know I had to reference Alejandro and Shakira.

Just in case anyone wants to call me, here is my information:

Mexican cell phone number:  744 123 9926
Skype Tucson number: 520 762 7164

(Through the wonders of modern-day technology, Skype allows me to assign myself a Tucson number that then calls my computer when I'm connected to the program)


Jueves Poselero

Writing blogs is so tiring as in me cuesta mucho empezar y convertir mis ideas en palabras, and think about what I should or shouldn't write about. I'm still staying with my tutora (the teacher I'll be assisting), a middle-aged lady who did her doctorate in Manchester, England but who's from a small town in the north I believe of Guerrero state. Today she was telling me how the planes used to fly over the pueblo incomunicado every week and the kids would try and chase them. They spoke a "different" Spanish in that town she tells me. Just one story she's told me since I arrived. Yesterday, I met the students and teachers at the school in which I'll be teaching, la Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero (Acapulco Campus). 
A couple students asked me if I was single, which of course started the others in the class off hooterin' and hollerin'. Another asked if my parents were Mexican. Most of those who spoke spoke very well English. I was rather surprised. One of the students, Cristian, actually had lived in Phoenix for some time and I swear he spoke almost perfectly.

So twice I've happened to get a ride with a taxista that has lived in the US for some time.  Miguel Ángel (¿miguelángel?) told me about how the police stopped him 3 times except the third time he "lost" them.  The subject came up because I asked if there was a seatbelt, which a lot of cars and taxis don't even have here.  So I told him basically to be careful with my life and we got on the subject of Acapulco drivers.  Turns out he got in a car accident in the states that he swears wasn't his fault.  From the collision he was hospitalized and after a few months had to come back to México.

Another taxi driver, whose name escapes me, showed me some photos that he keeps in his glove compartment of him and his son living in Oklahoma.  They were pictures of them fishing because apparently they lived near a lake.  He also had a random photo of a local news anchor taken off the television who was so "buenota" he had to take a recuerdo of her home.  In Oklahoma it was just him and his son as they had left his wife and daughter hence they decided to come back.

Current Mosquito Bite Count:  10...oh wait 11
Number of times lost: 2
Number of times assalted: 0 (just kidding, but knock on wood)

Just a little bit about Acapulco... It's all constructed from the coast up into the mountain, or cerro, so walking down to the beach, about 30 minutes, is pretty easy.  However, going back uphill is a different story, which is why there are varios camionetas that charge about 3 pesos to drive you back up, as well as the old public buses.  The metropolitan area is divided into Old Acapulco, where a lot of the older hotels are and also the famous cliff divers, while New Acapulco is around the mountain near the airport and further down the coast.  I havn't seen too much of the more modern section of the city but I do remember passing a Costco and a really nice shopping plaza.

Acapulco is definitely not as big and spread out as Guadalajara, which has a population of somewhere around 6 million depending on the source you consult, so hopefully I'll be able to memorize and get to know a lot of the neighborhoods and colonias.


Orientación Fulbright

Currently, I'm on the second floor of my hostel in one of the lobbies, Mexico City Hostel to be specific. There's this couple on the sofa to my right reading a novel in Spanish. She's foreign I believe but her special friend is reading to her out loud in a very poetic seductive voice. I'm hungry and I may walk to the 7-11 down the street before going to bed. The others Pete, Victoria and Mari are already asleep. Today we did a lot of walking around Chapultepec Park, then to the zoológico to see all the depressed encaged animals, taking their portraits of course, and later to meet up with the marcha ¨Iluminemos México¨ contra la inseguridad y violencia. (Y Aquí tienen un video clip de la manifestación en YouTube) Apparently they feel Calderón isn't doing enough to squelch the "desorden." Everyone sported white attire to show solidarity and so we couldn't help but join in. Naturally it seemed like a good cause (who isn't against violence?). However, it did seem odd to us that a good percentage of those silently protesting seemed to be of middle to upper-class. At one point we passed a spectator standing off to the side holding a sign made of cardboard that said, ¨The worst form of violence is economic violence.¨

A lot of images exported to the states through movies, the news or heresy a lot of times get it completely wrong because this city is a pretty amazing place (and I don't mean to discredit all the positive perspectives). Of course one cannot deny the violence or crime rates, hence the aforementioned manifestación, but I say don't let that be the motivating factor to erase Mexico City off your list of places to visit. I even wish that I would have been placed here instead of Acapulco so I could really get to know D.F. The good thing is that it only lies about 3 hours away via Carretera México-Acapulco.

Usually, I'm not one to obsess over food and how such and such spice mixed with such and such random vegetable put together with whatever meat was so amazing and emblazoned my taste buds BUT... the tacos here are, and Judson you would appreciate the usage of this word, delicious. Down the street here by the hostel is a nice little place, frecuented by many, which is a very good way to tell if Moctezuma will have his revenge or not, sells tacos de adobo, papas, frijoles y no sé qué más. Then on each table was a mix of guacamole y salsa, no me acuerdo del nombre, but although hot very good. They cost about 3 pesos each. Needless to say I don't have to worry too much about the relationship between my hunger and my bank account, I can be a bit less frugal (cheap).

I know that I started this blog talking about "Tonight..." or "This night..." but that was a few days ago seeing as I've been a little lazy about writing. So currently I'm sitting next to Mari, Pete and Victoria and we all have our laptops out in the dining area. Several other fellow hostel-ers have commented that we look like Starbucks, oh well. We're just passing around photos, updating blogs, sending e-mails before our last day tomorrow in México (that's how they call Mexico City for short in México) when we have our official orientation.

In future blogs I'll try my hardest to match as much as possible words with pictures thanks to the wonders of blogging or photo-blogging. Or maybe I should just concentrate on writing at least once a week on here tanto en inglés como en español, aunque no entienden todos wups.

This photo was taken on the last day of the optional orientation, Friday el 29 de agosto 2008, of just the English Teaching Assistants, a whopping 4 (sorry Areen!).


New Journeys

My time in Bowling Green, Ohio came to an end this week on Monday, the 11th and admittedly I was a little sad to say goodbye ...not so much to the town but maybe to the memories of the house on 518 Leroy Avenue, my roommates with whom I spent my year abroad in Guadalajara, friends that I made while studying in Alcalá de Henares, Spain during the summer of 2007 and those I met back on the campus of BGSU.  It feels as though many things have came full circle in my life, such as returning back to Alcalá last summer and living with the host-family that hosted me 4 years ago, being back here in D.C. to pick up Mike for our road trip back to Tucson and, lastly, my Fulbright grant which will take me back to México, albeit a different region.  Moreover, today I ate lunch with Alma Luisa, an old friend from Tucson and former CatCrew partner, who currently is employed with a women's hispanic magazine.  On my way back I ran into my friend Genesis' ex-boyfriend Chris who looked completely different from what I remember (I met them while I was attending American University Fall Semester of 2005).  It just seems that a lot of things are taking on a theme of repetition, and not in a bad way.  Definitely, I could picture myself living in D.C. and I'll keep it in mind after finishing my grant in Acapulco. 
So our road trip officially begins tomorrow morning, the 16th of August, 2008, as we head off to Atlanta, Georgia to stay with my friend Tre for two nights.  This is a city to which I have never had the luxury of visiting.  I look forward to experiencing it, especially since Tre has talked it up so much.  Hopefully, I can provide photos to post to perhaps convince others of what I conclude about the city.