The sun slowly disappeared over the hills surrounding the bay of Acapulco and the water was now freezing. My friend Carlos agreed it was time to get out. In the elevator on the way down to let me out of his apartment building (the pool's on the roof) I noticed in the mirror that my eyes were excruciatingly bloodshot, as if they had just been rubbed with a handful of sand. Carlos saw me off and my tummy began to rumble urging me to stop in a restaurant for a bite to eat. I slipped into a nearby Subway on the Costera and quickly noticed I was the only one without cubrebocas (face masks), including the employees. Not only did I look like the walking dead, but I could feel the "tickly sensation" of an oncoming sneeze. Immediately I released two mists of saliva into the palms of my hands. "Do you need a cubrebocas?" the employee asked. Behind his "face condom" I couldn't tell if he was joking or legitimately concerned.  

Unlike the clientele and workers in the restaurant may have believed, I didn't have the dreaded swine flu; a combination of bad allergies and my eye contacts had caused the inflammation. But who could blame them for their suspicions fed by the exaggerated climate of an incessant media and quick-acting government. Here in Acapulco, within days of the outbreak and at the hest of the Health Department, cinemas and malls were closed, restaurants were ordered to serve only take-out, all classes were canceled for two weeks in some places, up to three in others, and all of it giving the idea that this was an extremely contagious deadly disease.   

I admittedly fell into the trap constantly checking the news online for anything swine-flu related and readily sent it to the other Mexico Fulbright assistants. The WHO raised their "warning" level to the very scary-sounding phase 5-6, Widespread Human Infection, while the media relentlessly counted and reported both confirmed and unconfirmed cases. Then there were the constant images of cubrebocas in newspapers, TV and on the internet, although I could just take a glance out my window to see people walking down the street in them. Family members understandingly fearing for my safety also helped fan the flame. One of my aunts wrote me an email pleading that I return home. Even my dad, who's usually the rational one, sent me an email urging me to consider ending the Fulbright program early to go back to tha U.S. I started to think, "Ruh-roh! This must be serious!"  

But I began to wonder, "If it really were that dangerous the State Department would have evacuated us already...right?" That is unless Obama really was plotting to take over PEMEX and distract the Mexican public by infecting them with pork influenza like one of the conspiracy theories I had heard.  

I had been planning a 14-hour bus trip to Guadalajara but then I chickened out since I had to pass through-- gulp -- "ground zero," Mexico City! However, I started to think about it; Acapulco is the number one tourist destination for Chilangos (those who live in the capital). It could indeed be safer to travel at this time than to stay put in this popular vacation spot. As I headed out of my house with my duffle bag, the landlady was picking mangos from the branches above the carport. I explained to her where I was going, which was met with a dramatic pause. "Cuídate mucho (Take care of yourself)," she said almost as if it were a final goodbye.   

Of course I made it to my friend's house in Guadalajara alive and ended up spending a week there because the Health Secretary in the state where I live, Guerrero, decided to push back classes. I was happy for the extended vacation, although with bars and clubs closed there wasn't that much to do at night, except grab my friend's wig and make a low-end remake of Beyonce's "I'm a Diva" video.  

At the beginning, it kind of sounded like the plot from Outbreak, but now seems just blown out of proportion, and I'm still left a bit confused as to how serious the threat is. Mexico's Minister of Health claims to have avoided 8,000 potential deaths with their measures; a total of 66 deaths have been reported. This is hardly the killer Flu of the early 1900's and more than a hundred times more people have been killed by the drug war, but the swine-flu fiasco unfortunately has probably done an equal amount of damage to Mexico's image abroad. Cubrebocas may filter out the virus but it can't filter out the hype.

Confessions of a Taxista

I had to take a taxi to meet with Gabrielle, another Fulbrighter who has been doing performance work in Mexico City, since we probably won't see each other before I leave. She is staying a couple of days at Pie de la Cuesta, where Rambo III was partly filmed. It's a beach about media hora north of Acapulco. I first took a blue taxi to the parada where I could agarrar a yellow one, a taxi colectivo. 

The first driver, who had lived in N.Y. for 3 years with his brother, immediately began to express his disdain for Acapulcan English teachers, especially one of his daughter's in particular who would say "very well" to respond to "How are you doing?"

I told him that people usually don't say "very well" but that se entiende. (Perhaps a literal translation from muy bien)

He tells me that if you go to the states and gesture itching your rear accompanied with a moan of uncomfort también se entiende.


Lost in Translation

Just imagine for a moment that you enter a McDonald's with antojo for a Mcflurry and you're not sure which to get so you review the flavors. Let's see, Oreo, M&M, strawberry... Milch? 

I don't know about you but the word "milch" in my mind sounds like everything I wouldn't want mixed into a McFlurry.

Just thinking about it makes me wanna milch.

(According to this website, Milch is a famous chocolate bar here in Mexico with pieces of hazelnut and rice.)


Confessions of a Taxista

I've always thought that I wish I could secretly record the conversations that I have with the taxistas of Acapulco, or rather, their monologues about life in Acapulco, where they've been, what they've seen. Perhaps I did not mention it before, but even my maestro de arte used to taxistear (my own palabra inventada).

Today I've come down to the Costera to, según, be productive working on my resume and finding a news article for WatchingAmerica.com to translate. It is walk-able or even bus-able, but I opted to agarrar un taxi. 30 pesitos, but we would have to stop in a gasolinera to change my billete de 200. For the umpteenth time a taxista revealed that he had lived in the U.S., Los Angeles, for three years only to return to Mexico because his mother had become ill. He arrived through the Sonoran desert and would maybe go back once the economy turns around. I did not have the chance to ask what he worked in. 

Thinking I was an arquitect at first because I had la pinta de arquitecto he soon realized I was not from Acapulco, which is when he began to speculate that las acapulqueñas were "after me" because I don't look like a local. I look "Hawaiian" or "Caribbean" or "Jamaican" he tells me, while the local people are more morenillo.

He then proceeds to ask me the obligatory "Which is more difficult to learn Spanish or English?" to which I respond with something akin to "No lo sé, o sea, realmente no tuve que 'aprender' inglés entonces no te puedo decir."

Before changing the 200 bill we stopped on the side of the road so he could fill up the tank with gas he keeps in a Coca-Cola water bottle as he explained to me that the vochos-- almost all taxis in Acapulco are old VW beetles-- have the gas tank up front and the engine in the back. Interesante.


Influenza Porcina

As I chill in la casa de Misa en Guadalajara, hace casi 3 años que estudié en la Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, and the news anounces that the influenza está en decenso, me pregunto si debería de regresarme el miércoles o hasta el domingo. Le marqué a mi tutora y básicamente she told me that I could come back Sunday if I wanted ya que no esperaba un gran turnout de estudiantes esta semana.

Mientras tanto Novedades Acapulco reporta hoy que: