Sunday, 20 April 2014

One Month Later…

I’ve been meaning to send an update on my last few weeks in Mexico since…well…the last time I wrote. Hey ho, that’s life. So instead I’ll compile it all here for you. It has been an incredible whirlwind of highs, mediums, and (luckily!) very few lows.

The day after my birthday, my friends Ammal, Renée and I flew to Playa del Carmen for four days of sun and fun. We rented a condo right near the beach and the main street, and spent a lot of time wandering about to different stores, bars, restaurants, and some clubs at night. I found all the clubs to be just a bit too ‘American Spring-Break’ like, and didn’t really enjoy them. There were tourists everywhere, both from other parts of Mexico and from the USA and Europe. It was strange to have people speak to me in English first, not Spanish. I found it discombobulating and I tried to maintain answering them in Spanish as much as possible, throwing them off sometimes when I was able to perfectly express myself in Spanish!

Playa del Carmen
We also rented a car and drove to the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza. This is one of the most famous ruins in the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site. The site is beautifully well presented and the buildings are well maintained, and the ‘pyramid’ is perfect! Every year at the spring equinox, the sun shines on one side of it just right, creating the form of a snake, slithering down the side. This is called the Kukulcan, and people come from all over at this time of year to see the phenomenon. We planned our day to arrive to see this, and it was really cool! It didn’t appear until late afternoon, so we had a detour at a cenote (cee-no-tay) on our way there. These are sunken holes of fresh water that are found all over the Yucatan peninsula. They are connected to each other under the ground through a vast collection of underground caves, and you can actually SCUBA dive through from one to the other. They are really beautiful, with pure, clean water, fish, turtles, and bats calling the water and caves home. There are white sand floors, rocky outcroppings surrounding the water holes, and stalagtites and stalagmites rising out of the caves like wrinkled fingers. We swam around the Grand Cenote for a while, venturing a wee ways into one of the caves (we didn’t have SCUBA equipment or snorkel equipment, just my swimming goggles), and soaking it all in before heading to Chichen Itza.

Both were definitely worth the total drive time of 6 hours. That night we took it easy, being tired from the trip and sun.

The next day, we switched gears and lay on the beach all day at one of the beach clubs. A dedicated waiter brought us drinks and snacks all day, and we lounged in the sun, getting a bit of colour and relaxing. Later we ate tacos (surprise!) and went out for drinks. The next morning, Renée left to meet her family at another beach, and Ammal and I lay at another beach club for a few hours before heading to the airport. It went by too fast, and I wish we had stayed longer, but it was a really fun trip! 
Grand Cenote
pre-cenote swim

Chichen Itza! 
Ammal, Renée, Me
Pelican and the Playa
Upon returning to D.F., it hit me just how little time I had left. I had so much to do and felt like I had so little time. Seeing friends, visiting clinics, getting last-minute useful information from my informants, soaking up as much of Mexico City as I could, while not getting too overwhelmed or completely giving up sleep. Turns out, the one thing that lost out was my writing. I took raw notes, yes, but I didn’t ever get around to writing many of them up in full-length. But I was able to spend some good quality time with my friends, enjoying getting to know a few newer friends, and eating as much good Mexican food as I could. The notes will wait, they’ll be there once I start back to work this coming week!

I was able to also spend a lot more time with two of the Doctors I had met, we really enjoyed hanging out together and they loved taking me to new places that I hadn’t seen in the City, like the Desierto de los Leones, a national park in the south of the city where monks had built a beautiful monastery in the 17th century. I also made sure and spent some quality time with all my other major informants/doctors, and to get some good pictures of them working for my thesis. Hopefully once I start analysis and writing, I’ll be able to see some good patterns in the notes I have taken and build a good argument about natural medicine in Mexico.

For my last weekend, I actually moved to a hotel in order to really enjoy my last few days in Mexico. I stayed in a beautiful old hotel in the Zona Rosa, and had all my friends come over on Friday for a night out to say goodbye. It was a lot of fun, getting some drinks and ending up at a taco place at 2 am, as most nights out in Mexico do. The next day, I wandered around, doing some shopping and then meeting Ammal and Alé for dinner. It was a relaxed evening, perfect for a pre-flight good-bye. The next morning I got a taxi to the airport, feeling like I really wasn’t ready to leave. I got so much out of my time in Mexico, met such amazing people and learned so much about myself. It was hard to leave that behind. I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to going back to visit, and I really would not mind getting a job there in the future to spend more time getting to know the country.

Before Renée left for Japan :-(
Library/Bar at my hotel
out with the group

Me, Alé, Marce and Steve
Ammal, Alé and I on my last night
When I got back to California, I found myself speaking Spanish to the waitress at dinner by habit. So at least I know that my Spanish really did sink in! As the week went on this impulse grew fainter, but it still crops up every time I order a Mexican beer, and I’m still structuring my sentences like I’m speaking Spanish. So I have faith that at least I shouldn’t forget it all before my next trip back!

After a few days of visiting friends and family and re-packing all of my clothes, I headed back to LAX for the long flight back to Edinburgh. It actually went by quickly, although I wasn’t able to sleep at all on the long 10.5 hour leg to London. Upon arrival to Edinburgh I was met by the smiling faces of Lucy, Siobhan and Lucy’s son Yasin. It was so good to see them, and seeing them straight away really made me happy to be back. I have been staying at my old flat with Kate and her boyfriend, who were nice enough to take me in. I have also been busy catching up with all of my friends, finding a new flat, having my first shift at Wedgwood, and overall enjoying the sunny Edinburgh weather. It’s nice to be back, but I am feeling a bit nervous about starting my thesis. I plan to go back to work on Tuesday. Wish me luck in the next phase of my life!

Airport send-off <3 td="">
Lauretta, Grandma, Grandpa, and I 
Picnic in the Meadows with Siobhan and Jenny
Happy in the sunshine
A swan in the ocean at Portobello beach, Edinburgh
Yasin and I. He loves a selfie!  
oh, hey there Edinburgh! 

Kim x

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Reflections on 30

Well, I did it! I made it to 30! And when I say I made it, I mean I made it to thirty years of life, and thirty days of writing! Not gonna lie, it was a hard month for writing. I have been so super busy with work, it wasn’t great timing to take on another project, but it was fun and I’m glad I did it. It went very fast, and I hope you enjoyed reading some of my daily ponderings.

Now, reflections on 30 years. It feels weird to say I’m 30. I was comfortable in the 20’s, really settling into that decade. Now I feel like I’m the newbie at the party that all the 30-somethings are going to. I don’t feel 30 (besides being tired, but these days I’m always tired), nor do I think there can be a real ‘feeling’ or ‘mindset’ that is equated with entering into the fourth decade of life. I look back and I have had a very full life up to this point. So much travelling, trials, tribulations, fun, friendship, love, insanity, hardship and lucky breaks. Many missed opportunities, but also opportunities taken, Risks averted, risks taken. Words left unsaid and others stated loudly. That’s all life is, right? Little things, both good and bad, that pile up behind us, helping mould us into who we are as we grow.

It’s weird to think how if I had done just one thing differently my whole life could have been different. Sometimes I think to myself ‘Urgh! Why did I ever start this effing degree?! I am so tired of academia and I feel like an idiot and I’m never going to pass!’ But then, in a flash, I see all the wonderful things I never would have experienced and wonderful people I never would have met if I hadn’t taken this on. I have met two of my closest friends in the past two years, one in my programme in Edinburgh and one in Mexico, and I am so GLAD to have them in my life, and I would have never met them if I had done something else with this part of my life. I probably would not be living in Mexico, learning Spanish and doing research and experiencing such amazing things. I might have not been able to return to the UK and spend more time there. There are so many ‘what ifs’ and ‘why did I do this’ thoughts we have in life, and many times these cloud our thoughts, focusing on what could have been instead of appreciating what IS and what HAS been.

So now, here I am, trying to put into words how I feel and I really can’t. I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with love when I see all the lovely birthday greetings and think about all the amazing support I have from friends and family. Overwhelmed at the thought that I only have two weeks left to feel like I have a good enough amount of research to leave Mexico, and overwhelmed at what this year will bring next. A return to Edinburgh, writing a 60,000 word thesis, new friends, new experiences, new hardships and joys. It leaves me breathless with fear over the unknown future and thankfulness for all that I have.

So there you have it. The last 30 days have been one wee journey in my 30 years. Thank you for being a part of it. And thank you for being a part of my life.

Love, Kim

p.s. here are a few pics from my birthday celebration last night with friends. I'm going to miss them all so much!
Ammal and I

Me, Gonzalo, Ammal and Alé

Alé, Ammal, Renée, Me, and Charmaine

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Where you would like to be in 10 Years

Based on things I have already written in the past month, I doubt any of the following will come as a big shock, but here we go:

In 10 years, when I’m about to turn 40 (*gasp* 40! Weird!) I would like to be settled into a career, hopefully one with the World Health Organisation, Pan American Health Organisation, or something akin. I hope to be living in a random country, in a nice home, with space for a wee garden and a massive, high-tech kitchen for cooking all sorts of delicious food. It would be nice to be married, he’ll need to be as ‘international’ as I am, and to have a couple of cats running around the house. Haha!

I hope that I’ll have a job that allows me time for projects like growing some herbs and vegetables, making some homemade items (my Pinterest boards will finally be in use!), reading all the books I never seem to get around to, practicing yoga, and of course for working on a book. By then, I hope to already be published, and working on another book or maybe moving on to learn something else new and interesting.

It would be nice to live close to the beach, in a temperate climate, but I might have to settle for a beach house somewhere. Plus, I would love to still have ties to Europe, in Scotland preferably. Mr. International better have a good job! ;-) I still plan to travel, and hopefully I’ll have friends and family all over the world that necessitate travel to new and interesting places!

It’s going to take a lot of work to get there, and I just hope I can make smart decisions and find some good opportunities to help me on my way!

Sorry the last few days have been so short but work is intense right now.

Until tomorrow, for day 30!

Kim x

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What is your biggest dream in life?

To dance an Irish reel in front of an Irish bar in Mexico City on St. Patrick’s Day. Oh wait, I’ve already done that! There was a Scottish bagpipe band playing in front of the bar my friends and I went to last night as we were leaving. Obviously, I couldn’t help but pull out my Irish dance moves that I learned in High School for the crowd. Yes, crowd. Including what I think was a cameraman for the local news. I don’t have any photographic evidence, but someone somewhere does, or the local news does, and as soon as I find it I’ll promptly destroy it. Unless I look amazing. Which I doubt, as I was wearing heels and standing on the steps leading down to the street. Haha! The random things we do in life…I’m sure my High School dance teacher would be proud! 

But seriously, my biggest dream in life right now is to publish a novel. I really, really want to be able to apply myself to developing and writing a full-length story, based on original characters and situations from my own imagination.  I would love to be able to devote a huge part of my time to this, but right now it just isn’t possible. I know the secret to good writing is to just WRITE, even a little bit, every day. But as I get closer to beginning my thesis, writing for pleasure or to create a new story seems to be slipping farther into the future. So while I REALLY want to just say ‘screw the thesis’, write a novel, and become a published author, I know that the time isn’t now. So I’ll have to let it sit on the back burner and just jot down ideas and possible useful scenarios. Who knows, maybe the idea that will become the first step in writing my book will come out of my notes and experiences on fieldwork?

So in order to reach my dream, my biggest goal in life right now is to just. Finish. My. Degree. And move on with my life. Gotta stay focused and full steam ahead. Wish me luck!

Kim x

Monday, 17 March 2014

What was your biggest dream in life when you were a kid?

First off, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Whether you’re Irish, of Irish descent, or just love all things Irish, green beer, and corned beef n’ cabbage, I hope you enjoy the day! Sláinte!

Moving on, when I was a kid my biggest dream was to be an actress. As some of you may know, I was a bit dramatic as a child. *cough, cough* Or maybe a lot dramatic. I loved acting things out, talking in different accents, and loved being the centre of attention. Eventually, this turned into the idea that I should be an actress, and the thought of being famous and winning an Academy Award propelled me forward. I was in the drama club in my church and in my Junior High and took an acting class in my high school, also participating in dance shows and things, but never really got to that tipping point of the acting becoming my one big, true THING. I often got typecast as a ditz (blonde maybe?), and did many Valley-Girl type roles. I loved the comedy skits and enjoyed learning lines and acting on stage in front of people, but by the time I got into high school and had the performing arts right at my fingertips, I lost the heart for acting.

I think something like this needs to be an obsession to make it come true. It takes hard work and endurance, a thick skin and a lot of practice to develop your form. You have to know who you are and what you can do, and I don’t think I did at that point. I knew I was relatively smart, and I pick things up quickly, but I was daunted by the idea of really joining the world of acting with other people who loved this more than anything else. And to be honest, I didn’t have the necessary character traits. I didn’t love acting more than everything else, I was a bit lazy and somewhat shy, and I did not deal with criticism well, which makes for a bad combination and pretty much kills any hope of becoming successful in show business.

Now, I am still dramatic, I still love being the centre of attention and making people laugh, but I really cannot see myself ever becoming an actress. I’ll keep my stage as the dinner table or in a group at the bar. And for me, that’s just fine! J

Kim x

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Band or Musical Artist Who Impacted Your Life

Ok how can anyone pick just one musician or band that has impacted their life? I know I have friends who would say right of the bat ‘The Beatles’, but I can’t choose so easily. Do I have a favourite band? No. Or a favourite Singer? No. What I love most about music is the variation, the ability to always engender different emotions or feelings based on variations in style, tune, lyrics, and point in history. There is literally a song for every mood you might be feeling, a song to help pick you up when you’re sad or tired, or to help you work through a hard time, or to empathise with you when you feel like no one understands what you’re going through. That is the magic of music, and there is no one entity that impacted my life: there are many.

I have longer-lived favourites though, that I come back to when I need a familiar friend through music, or when I am feeling sad, or feeling happy and want to dance. Here are a few examples:

Death Cab for Cutie: Led by Ben Gibbard, who is a musical and lyrical genius in my opinion, I never cease to be amazed at the way Ben uses wordplay in his songs. Many songs are quite ‘emo’ (this is a Seattle band, after all! Haha! Kidding!) But some are also upbeat. All are a bit quirky. And I think Death Cab is the closest thing I have to a favourite band. Check out: Death Cab-Crooked Teeth

Beyonce: Who doesn’t love Queen Bey? Her songs are fun, empowering, emotional, dance-able, sweet, and above all personal. You really feel like she believes what she’s saying, because it is true to her and who she is. When I need a pick-up, I blast the Beyonce playlist! I'll always love this one: Beyonce-Single Ladies Not sure what I love more-the dance moves or the song! 

The Foo Fighters: also an amazing band. Long-lived for good reason. Great true rock, energising, fun, and also really, really smart. Dave Grohl is fantastic! And I really feel like the Foo can be appreciated by both the younger generation (younger than me) and by people my parent’s age who just like good, old-fashioned Rock n’ Roll. Oh, I freaked out when I heard this song live: The Foo Fighters-Everlong

Kate Rusby: An English folk-singer. Her songs are amazingly emotive, comfortable, and cute. She has a perfect voice for Irish, Scottish and English folk music and a charm that transcends the British Isles. She is not overly well-known, but I love to listen to her on a day where I need to relax, or when I fly. She is gooood plane music! This is one of my faves: Kate Rusby-Underneath the Stars

Ok I could go on and on. I, too love the Beatles and Mozart and so many other amazing artists from the past and present. But these are a few that come to my mind immediately because I do have history with them, and I come back to their music again and again over the years. Sometime this week, go back to an old favourite song or album and listen to it. Remember all the amazing memories and feelings that you have with it. That is the power of music, and it is really a magical thing.

Kim x

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Lucha Libre!

So last night my friend and I went to see the Lucha Libre for the first time. She, although being Mexican and living in Mexico her whole life, had never been, and was therefore up for the adventure when I mentioned it. Lucha Libre literally means ‘free fight’, and it is defined as: ‘a form of professional wrestling that has developed within Mexico and other Latin American countries. Although the term nowadays refers exclusively to professional wrestling, it was originally used in the same style as the English term "freestyle wrestling", referring to an amateur wrestling style without the restrictions of Greco-Roman wrestling. Mexican wrestling is characterized by colourful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, as well as "high-flying" maneuvers, some of which have been adopted in the United States. The wearing of masks has developed special significance, and matches are sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a wager with a high degree of weight attached. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in lucha libre, particularly matches with three-member teams, called trios. Lucha libre wrestlers are known as luchadores (singular luchador) ("wrestler(s)"). They usually come from extended wrestling families who form their own stables.’ (Wikipedia)

Lucha libre is one of the most culturally significant events in Mexico. Everyone knows what it is, almost everyone goes, and the fighters themselves are famous for the characters they bring to life in the ring. I was surprised that not all of them wear masks, and I’m not sure if it is because of past failures (see above) or if this is a different type of fighter. When we arrived at the arena, there were already adults milling around wearing the mask of their favourite fighter, and little boys were running all over the place, also masked, unable to contain their excitement. I tried not to get too wrapped up in the cultural conditioning of promoting fighting in little kids, or the fact that the Lucha Libre is a prime example of Mexican ‘machismo’. Time for the anthropologist part of my brain to rest.
ready for the fights!
Me and the ring
We bought some snacks, headed to our seats, got some beers, and settled in to wait. In typical Mexican fashion, most people didn’t arrive until after the first match ended. The seats filled and the crowd got louder. Each fight starts with a bevy of bikini-clad ladies dancing along the aisle as the luchadores are announced. They come out one by one and enter the ring, waving to fans and trying to look menacing at each other. Almost all the fights we saw were teams-three or four men on each side. The fights are hilarious-some parts so staged it’s comical to watch, but the effect of the crowds and beer is intoxicating, and eventually we found ourselves yelling along with everyone else, cringing for particularly strong looking hits, and cheering for one person or another. There was even a fight of all female luchadoras! These girls looked straight out of a roller derby rink, and they weren’t messing around. There were 8 different fights in all, and the costumes were different for each one. Some wore speedos, some wore pants, some wore leotards. There were masks of every colour, and even some mascots in the form of two little people, one dressed as an eagle and another dressed as Yoda. Yes, Yoda.
Dancing 'cheerleaders'? 
The teams prepare to fight
Sweet move there man! 
Screen for close-up action footage
Down for the count
Luchador getting checked for weapons while Yoda and the other little person watch on
Throughout the evening, people walk through the aisles selling drinks, food, and souvenirs. It was definitely an event, and after three and a half hours, we left it giggling, tipsy, and glad we had come to experience this piece of Mexican culture. Then we went for tacos, which is the proper thing to do at the end of an evening in Mexico City. Night complete. I definitely enjoyed it, and can understand why it is such an attraction, although I doubt I’ll become a die hard fan. But if I was to have any more visitors here, I would definitely suggest we go to experience a real slice of Mexican life.

A bit sad I didn't buy a stuffed luchador for my bed! 

Kim x