Wednesday, 19 February 2014

30 Days 'til 30!

Thirty days from now is my thirtieth birthday. I know, weird. I think it might be weirder for my parents, having a 30 year old child, but still. It’s a milestone, for sure, and to mark the occasion and try to update many of you on what has been happening in my life for the past year, as well as share some things many of you won’t know, I’ve decided to challenge myself with this ’30 Days to 30’ writing plan. Each day will have a theme or question that I answer in writing, and I’ll also plan to post some pictures along the way. Some days will probably be shorter, based on time available, and some will be longer. I love getting feedback from everyone, so please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, commiserations, or anything else. J

I’ll start with what I’ve been up to in Mexico. Seeing as I have now been living in Mexico for over 7 months, I am positive that it won’t all fit in one post, so I’ll give an overview and add more information as the month goes on. I had a lovely time in Guadalajara for my first month. My Great-Uncle Pat and Great-Aunt Queta are wonderful, welcoming people and really made me feel at home, and I made some lovely friends while I was there. I got to visit a few places nearby, like the city of Tequila, and really ease my way into living in Mexico. After completing my language class in Guadalajara last July, I went on a scouting mission to Mexico City for a week to see how I liked the place, and whether I wanted to/could work and live there. 

Visiting the Puebla of Tequila with a friend from Language school, Dawnelle

Technically, I was supposed to move to Mexico City right away, as was part of my thesis plan, but I really liked Guadalajara and I had heard very mixed things about Mexico City. So I bought a cheap flight (seriously, the USA could REALLY learn about discount domestic airfare from both Europe and Mexico-so many more people would travel!) and headed west. I was offered a place to stay for the week with a friend of my Aunt Peggy, and they welcomed me in and gave me free reign of their home when they left for Cancún halfway through my trip. I spent my days travelling around the city as a tourist, meeting a few contacts I had from other friends, looking into getting a flat, having a meeting with the Professor who had offered me an affiliation with an Anthropology department, and *drumroll please* meeting my First. Official. Natural. Healer.*

His name is Ernesto, and I have been lucky enough to be able to work with him the entire time I’ve been here. A friend of a friend uses his services, and offered to take me to meet him while I was in Mexico City. He was very welcoming, answering some questions I had during his clinic hours, and his wife, who runs the school part of the clinic where they offer courses in different forms of natural healing, asked me if I wanted to join the herbolaria class that has just started. Herbolaria is the study of plants and their medicinal uses. I immediately jumped on board, having already decided that I definitely wanted to move to Mexico City, and went back to Guadalajara the next day with a focus, a new flat waiting for me, and excitement for the next step of my research.
Checking our the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City
Eating elote (Mexican street corn) at the mercado
August flew by as I started feeling my way around my neighbourhood and tried to do some research, attending my Herbolaria classes, and made some friends. I live with a middle-aged Colombian woman who is, frankly, difficult. But the flat is clean, in a good location, and an ok price, so I’ve stuck it out. But I am REALLY looking forward to living alone or with someone less insane when I return to Edinburgh. At the end of August I flew to Veracruz for the wedding of a good friend from Edinburgh, who happens to be Mexican. Panagia and Nicholas threw a great wedding at a grand old hotel in Veracruz, and a few of the friends who travelled from afar met up a few days before the wedding and we all got to be tourists and get to know each other before the wedding. It was a lot of fun!
Downtown Veracruz

Me with the Bride and Groom after the civil ceremony (which was after the Catholic ceremony)
Visiting Palacio bellas Artes, one of my fave places in D.F.

September brought news that I needed to do an insane amount of work for a mandatory university proposal that I had been told to ‘not worry about’ in June. Needless to say, much of my time in September and October were taken up with reading, writing, editing, repeating, and overall hating life. But I was able to get a few more interviews done with other natural doctors, and I was able to fly back to California for the wedding of one of my very best friends, Aleem to his lady love Ashley. It was and Indian/Catholic wedding, and therefore went on for three days of festivities and included a LOT of food, family and fun, plus some dancing and henna tattoos just for kicks.
Ashely and myself before the Indian ceremony
Aleem, me, and Ashley

October flew by as well with a two day music festival, the celebration of a good friend's birthday and a visit to the Mexican version of Oktoberfest (so wrong, yet so right), then bled into November which started with the celebration in Mexico of the Day of the dead (Dia de los Muertos). One of the most participated in religious holidays, it is actually two days: November 2 and 3. November 2 is the day to remember the dead who passed in adulthood, and November 3 is for remembering children who were taken too young. For weeks in advance, stores sell the special pan del muerto, a bread shaped to look like it has a spider on top, calavera de azucar y chocolate (sugar skulls and chocolate skulls) as well as decorations, candles, marigolds (only used for remembering the dead) and other items for the family altars. Each family sets up an alter to their dead relatives, and I decided to join in, to remember my family who have passed on.
A the Corona Capital music festival

Happy Birthday Ammal! (Back, centre)

My family altar for Dia de los Muertos

On the second, a few friends and I went to a town known for its Dia de los Muertos celebrations, which has a huge graveyard where families decorate the graves of loved ones and stand sentinel over the graves for an entire day, paying homage to the dead. Children also run around on these days asking for money and candy to put into carved gourds or watermelons, a Mexican version of trick-or-treating. It’s a beautiful and interesting celebration, and we really enjoyed seeing it and being a part of it.

graves covered in flowers by families for Dia de los Muertos

I also maintained my tradition of throwing a Thanksgiving dinner outside the USA this year, bringing my new Mexican girlfriends into the mix, and teaching them about one of my favourite American holidays. We cooked and ate at my good friend Ammal’s house, and had a wonderful time. I forgot to account for the super high elevation here and how that affects cooking time, so we ended up eating really late, but they were good sports and absolutely loved the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pie I made. And they all pitched in with veggie dishes, breads, snacks, and drinks as well. It was a great Thanksgiving!

Mmmm Thanksgiving! 

Ammal, me, Gloria, Renée and Marcé

December was full of me trying to get as much work done as possible before leaving for the US for three weeks in California and Seattle, seeing friends and family and celebrating Christmas and New Year. It was a lovely trip, although I felt a bit guilty being gone from Mexico so long and not practicing my Spanish…whoops! My Spanish IS much better, but far from perfect. I think I would need to live here for years to get there, so hopefully in the future I can return to a Spanish speaking country for more time!
Barnes Family Cousins Day of Fun in Newport Beach! 

New Years in Seattle With Auntie Marla and Auntie Hallie

January included the visit of my family from California. I showed them all around Mexico City, and then we went to Guadalajara to visit the family there and tour around a bit. It was a really fun trip, and I definitely got a lot of Spanish practice in being the translator for everyone! I am also working closely now with both Ernesto, the ‘Médico Naturista’ I met in August and another Naturista called Alfredo. They allow me to work with them in their consultations with patients, giving me access to some really good information for my thesis. This is great, and has really helped me focus my ideas into a rough thesis plan that I am using to plan out the rest of my time here because in January I also bought my plane tickets to leave! Eek! I leave Mexico in early April for California, spend a few days there, then I head to Edinburgh! Having a leaving date is both a blessing and a curse. It forces me to focus and really get as much work done as I can, and I am trying to soak up as much of Mexico and time with my friends as possible. But it also makes me think a LOT more about how soon I’ll be in Edinburgh, and there are some things here *cough crazy flatmate cough* that I can’t wait to leave behind!
Sigmund Family at the top of the Temple of the Sun in Teotihuacan

Uncle Pat, Derek, Me, Cindy, Jazmin, Aunt Queta, Dad, Mom and Jaclene in Guadalajara

So that kind of sums things up in a very general way. I’ll add more detail to a few interesting events as I go along, and more detail about life in Mexico in particular. I am so very sorry for being rubbish at writing in the last few years, but when you write for your ‘job’ everyday, it’s hard to then write anything else at the end of the day.

I hope you are all well and happy!

Until tomorrow!

Kim x
Angel of Avenida Reforma! 

*Just an FYI, I am studying a group of alternative healers in Mexico City called 'Médico Naturistas' who use natural medicine, trying to define what natural medicine means to them, and how they use it to treat patients. 

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