As for an update on life in general, Ray is still “saving the world” selling solar with SolarCity. I think he and his team are finding that getting into the hearts and minds of the Mexican people is a little bit more difficult than originally expected. It seems as though, most mexicanos prefer a house visit rather than a phone call, where they can spend a few hours shootin’ the breeze talking about work and family before getting down to business. A different culture for sure and the team is adapting. As for me, I’ve had a few bad experiences taking courses at the local Spanish language schools [note: if you ever come to CDMX to learn Spanish, never go to Frida Language School, it’s a total scam]. My next plan of attack is to try the 6 week Spanish program at CEPE (Centro de Enseñanza de Extranjeros) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). I’m also trying out a few different career avenues in English teaching – I’ve started a very part-time job teaching Business English and have had a few interviews with various private elementary schools. Lots of options and opportunities and none of them really care too much about me obtaining a work VISA – a definite PLUS over the European Union where it’s almost impossible to find a job.
Aside from that, below are a few more random observations, revelations, emotions, experiences I’ve had over the last 4 weeks:
Los piropos callejeros
The English translation would technically be “street pick-up lines” however, the men here in Mexico City have taken it to another level. I have been in everything from jeans and sweatshirt with glasses and no makeup, to a dress with my hair down and heals and it makes no difference – if you’re on a public street, sidewalk, anywhere, men take this as their entitled masculine right to yell at you, whistle, honk, anything to get your attention. I have heard mixed comments about this “cultural norm.” This article, “Piropos callejeros, otra forma de violencia,” seems to express an overwhelming sense of anger and offense towards these piropos callejeros and yet, walking down Paseo de La Reforma, one of the busiest streets in Mexico, I am rather shocked by how many short skirts, cleavage, 4-inch heels, tight dresses etc. I see walking down the street. I guess it is all up for interpretation and there are varying opinions and well, I have definitely had to grow some thick skin and brush them off in order to go about my day to day life.
Along the same lines of male aggressiveness here in the city, the buses and metros have been segregated. The first car is reserved for women only to avoid any unwanted stares, groping and piropos. There is even a female security officer at each station that patrols the car to yell at any of those men trying to make their way into the female car. I love that lady! Aside from that, public transportation in the city, is incredibly cheap (6 pesos a ride = 35 cents) and relatively safe.
Another thing that is incredibly cheap and safe is using UBER. I spend on average $1-$3 USD per ride. The cars are clean and the drivers are polite, respectful and interesting to talk to. They offer you water, speak to you in “usted” (the formal way of speaking to someone in Spanish) and open doors. It is normally my mode of transportation of choice.
Cheap and Delectable Eats
Ray and I have tried a variety of restaurants here and all have been not only incredibly inexpensive but amazingly delicious. We have tried everything from Italian, to sushi, to traditional Mexican, to Thai and have yet to be disappointed.
Building a cycle culture in CDMX
Ray and I bought brand new bikes for under $100 and we have both been utilizing them for transportation. ECOBICI, Mexico’s public bike sharing system, has added 444 bike stations in 42 neighborhoods since its opening in 2010. (We tried the service once, and Ray being the bike snob he is, didn’t like the feel of the bikes or the 45 minute maximum before you had change your bike for a new one, hence the personal bikes). However, you see thousands of people riding ECOBICIs all over the city and the roads that do have bike lanes make it fairly comfortable to ride up and down Mexico’s busiest streets. What still needs a lot of time to develop is a general respect from car drivers towards cyclists and pedestrians for that matter. In this city cars rule the roads and always have the right away, even if you have the green to cross. Normally, when I need to cross a street, I have a deep stare down with the car driver and inch forward and I give him the glare, “you better not run me over!” If you’re crossing the street on foot, a good tactic is to always stick with a large group…or just run for your life. It feels great to be out in the *fresh* air (well, Mexico City air that is) and ride your bike but most days I come home with my heart pumping out of chest because I almost died three times on the way home.
Yes, it’s absolutely terrible, especially when you are on the busiest roads where you are basically chewing the exhaust from the passing cars. However, Mexico has some of the most beautiful public parks I have ever seen. Our street, Ave. Amsterdam used to be an old race horse track so it is one big circle and is lined with trees. Not to mention we have two lovely parks within 5 minutes of us. With trees all around us, you really feel the difference in the air. In order to combat alarming pollution rates, the city has revamped the 20 year old “Hoy No Circula” law (or the “No Drive Day” law). When implemented in the late 80s, it was meant to take old cars, that didn’t pass certain emission tests, off the road by mandating them not to drive one day a week. Last month the city revamped this law to say that all cars (no matter emission levels) would have to “dejar de circular” (or “not drive”) one day out of the week based on their license plate number. This new law has been taking over 1 million cars off the road every day. It is supposed to be a temporary 3-month emergency measure to improve the air quality but many say the government will extend it or make it permanent.
Mexico City is rough around the edges and you definitely have to grow some thick skin to get anything done in this city. There have been those days where everything seems impossible (like figuring out the washing machine, calling the internet company, figuring out where to put more minutes on your phone) and I want to break down and cry, and there are other days where I am just amazed by something (buying fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice for 75 cents every day, watching elderly couples dancing danzón and cha cha cha in the park on Sundays, getting a free apple each week from the lady you buy your fruits and vegis from at the local market). I have had a whole roller coaster of emotions but that is all part of the adventure of throwing yourself into the unknown – seeing how you learn from your experiences and adapt to your surroundings.
In the words of the famed Mexican author and poet, Octavio Paz: La libertad no necesita alas, lo que necesita es echar raíces