How I got here, or “You couldn’t have it all” (part 1)

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Along the way, I realized that more specifically, I wanted to be a historian. The logical step was for me to study History, right? Somehow I decided that while I was very firm on the history thing, first I wanted to gain a little more perspective on the other stuff that interested me very much: mainly philosophy, literature, and Latin America.

So the best choice for me was enrolling in Latin American Studies: on the first couple of years of the program I’d gain further insight on philosophy and literature, while all through the four years of it I’d develop a sense of what Latin America is, and I’d still be able to focus most of my subjects in history. It really sounded like a win-win! And…well, it is, except for a couple of details that nobody mentions when you sign on for this particular major.

First off, you have to deal with constant input from all kinds of different subjects that are always very fascinating. You’ll not only have philosophy, literature and history, you’ll also have economics and geography and composition and even a sprinkle of psychology, not to mention ethnology, anthropology, and aesthetic appreciation. This is all very good, what humanist in their right mind wouldn’t enjoy this kind of education? The problem is that you can’t possibly become a specialist in all of these areas. Usually if you want to succeed in your profession, you have to stand out in some area. In my experience, most teachers try to resolve this issue among anxiety-stricken students by throwing-in the word interdisciplinarity out in the open like it was nothing, as if it came as a natural consequence of taking a bit from here and a tad from there. Instead, I see it as some kind of philosopher’s stone: it’s practically unachievable and it means something different to every latinoamericanist, yet it is the quest for it that matters.

Going back to all the different options you have when you enter this particular major in this particular school:  imagine going to the best restaurant in town, and the waitress brings you everything that looks good on the menu. You can’t possibly eat 8 or 9 dishes but they bring them anyways. From then on, your dinner can go in many different ways: you can devour your first dish ’cause it’s so delicious, only to find out you can’t take more than a tablespoon of the rest. You could decide to stick with 3 or 4 plates and moderately enjoy them, each one has a specific seasoning and yet they all seem to work together. You could try out all of them but save your stomach for dessert or whatever dish you think is best. Or, you can be naive and try to eat them all out, you’ll probably not only end up with indigestion but you won’t remember each plate individually, their particular tone and spark will probably be lost.

The biggest problem is that at UNAM, where I went to school, you don’t have a counselor. At all. There is no one to warn, help or guide you about the different paths you might take. And so, you start dinner with nothing but hunger, only to discover midway through it that you need a plan if you don’t want to end up passed out, drinking Pepto-Bismol out of the bottle, or acknowledging you simply didn’t enjoy it as much as you could have done.

Some of us are lucky enough to know what we want to do with our time at the faculty, and this helps us whenever we get so overwhelmed we don’t know what to do. However, the profile of a lad who enters this major is that of a confused person who doesn’t really know what to do with their life, or more exactly, can’t decide what plate to order, so s/he thinks is a good option to go where they serve you everything at once.

This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. As far as I know, there are 14 majors in my faculty. Wanna take a wild guess at which has the lowest graduation percentages? Not surprisingly, that would be Latin American Studies. Half the people drop out, another part changes majors, and the ones who remain simply don’t graduate…ever.

Now, even when the graduation thing is a related topic, I think it deserves an explanation of its own since it’s a whole other level of crazy (which in my case ended up with the creation of the Frankenthesis). So, I’ll leave that for another post, stay tuned!

Where do you sleep at night?

We don’t really have a word for homeless in Spanish. We’ve got bum, vagabond, beggar and a bunch of other words, but none that specifically refers to the fact that a person is without-a-home. And it’s not that we don’t have people living in the streets, we do, it’s a huge problem in Mexico City; in fact I would even dare say most of the beggars, which I believe are one of the strongest epidemics in the city, are living on the streets.

And when I say it’s an epidemic, I mean it (not talking about the individuals though, I’m only referring to the phenomenon).  We’ve got people wanting to clean your windshields in every goddamned stoplight, we’ve got children asking for money while their “caretakers” are selling candies and gum, we’ve got people with not a sprinkle of musical talent in their bones playing trumpets for spare change, there are people coming out from under every rock “helping” you to park (we jokingly call them “viene vienes” because they always scream at you “it’s going, it’s going” so that you know when your car has enough space to move). You name it, we’ve got it. And people just learn to look away, others keep coins in their car specifically so they’ve got something to give to all the people that’s going to ask them for money throughout the day, most will admit to having bought candy or cigarettes from children… it’s an ugly problem and people deal with it as  a natural part of this nasty city.

But where do these people sleep at night? No doubt a percentage of them has some place to stay, but what about the others? At night, they’re usually hiding away from prude eyes (and on the other hand truth is people don’t want to look at them anymore than they want to be seen)  in sewers, under bridges, or abandoned constructions.

Whenever I see a homeless person in their home-ish space, I’m absolutely captivated, can’t look away, and it’s just a matter of a second before I start to wonder what their life must’ve been for them to end up like that, what was the point of no return for them. There’s this guy in particular. I see him everyday on my way home. What surprised me first was how out-in-the-open he lives. Because with homeless people, at least in the parts of the city where I roam about, you usually get to see them out on the streets making a living, but you don’t really get to see them in intimate situations.

This guy has lost that sense of what’s private. His “home” is right there next to a stoplight in Periferico, one of the most important avenues in the city. And I can see him right there while he sleeps covered in an undescriptible blanket, while he eats, while he gets high on paint thinner, and while he does other equally respectable activities such as garbage scavenging. I’ve seeing him counting pennies, drinking soda out of a discarded bottle, making a pillow out of cardboard… I think it’s only a matter of time before I see him “going to the bathroom”. And yet I can’t look away. I can’t ignore him like the rest of the drivers probably do.

I should add that one of the reasons of my odd interest (may I say curiosity? or does that sound too shallow?), is that a person in my family ended up on the streets. It was a distant relative whom I never met, the grandson of one of my mother’s aunts, but still. He grew up with his parents and sister, (though I’ve no idea what kind of family dynamics they lived in), went to school, majored in biology and later became an oceanographer or something of the sort. He went to live to Merida, a city close to Cancun and the ocean, and then his family lost track of him. Like, entirely. They didn’t hear a thing from him in years, not where he lived or worked, not a whisper. And then, someone found him living on the streets, drunk out of his ass. I want to imagine they tried to help him, though I don’t know that part of the story. All I know is that he died not long after that,  causing a huge impact on his sister, who later went on to kill herself.

What happened in that family? What is it that pushes someone who was not born on the streets, who has a profession, to end up like that? Could be alcohol you may say, but why is it that not every rampant alcoholic or addict ends up on the street? And I can’t help but wonder, could it be me? I’m not being paranoid, I know that it probably won’t be me, but it does create a bit of a heartache to think that this person’s life could’ve been different.

What is going on in a city where you can find beggars in literally every part of it? Are there no opportunities, no place for them to live a life with dignity? It’s just fucked up…

image credit: Wikipedia

image credit: Wikipedia

(Not) Employee of the month

Today I was late for work. Again. It was just 5 minutes but it still counts as a mark on my payroll. Last week there was a day when I was half an hour late. I’ve yet to celebrate the day when I’m not running around and driving like all hell broke loose just to be on time and of course, just like today, there are days when even that’s not good enough because in a place like Mexico’s City there’s just no way of predicting when traffic’s going to be demential, and that’s why one should always leave with a lot of time on their pocket.

I always set my alarm with plenty of time, but when I turn it off I just go back to sleep. I’ve even recruited BF to call me and convince me to get the fuck off bed, sometimes it works… most times it doesn’t. He says I always agree to get up, and make small affirmations like “Ok, I’m getting up, I’ve turned the light on, I’m gonna go get my clothes..” and so on, but the moment we hang up I get my lazy ass back in the sheets, there doesn’t seem to anything that motivates me enough to do otherwise.  I’ve given him lines that might work well, I’ve told him to remind me that I have to be professional, that I have responsibilities, that if I get up I’ll have enough time to actually enjoy my morning coffee, nothing works! In those precious moments I can’t think straight and just can’t find any good reason to get up and live.

I know this is a symptom related to my depression, but it hurts just the same to know I’m far, far away from being employee of the month. I’m used to being the best, or at least one of the best, and now I’m experiencing a period where I’m scratching not even being good enough, it’s hard to be a constant disappointment to myself. I know this job isn’t what I want for my life, but it’s a job, and I’m adult, or at least I claim to be, so it should be easy!

I’ve tried going to bed early, setting tons of alarms, promising myself expensive on-the-go-coffee or yummy homemade one, none of it works! What do you do when you have to get up early? Is it too hard? Do you have any good methods for getting out of bed? They’d be much appreciated!

My weekly Sundays-suck post

Sunday

Here we are again!

I’m happy to report that today wasn’t all that bad, mainly because I got to be home alone, yay! I didn’t get any work done though, boo 😦 I’m not even in the writing mood anymore so I’m gonna keep this post real short like yesterday’s. Besides being left alone, I think my not-so-dark mood today has to do with the fact that vacations are starting to look closer, and then it’s beach time!

If there’s a place in the world I love, it’s the beach, and the ocean. It may be cold, hot, gray, clear blue, I’ll take it in any flavor any time any day. One of my biggest wishes is living by the ocean, and I’m sure I’ll get to it someday. It’ll preferbly be somewhere outside of Mexico.

Can’t wait to get outside of Mexico: “Today I address mexicans for the first time as their president” F*ck! (And by that, I mean FUCK!) Our elected president took office yesterday, together with his mostly pre-cenozoic cabinet secretaries that guarantees us the return of one of Mexico’s darkest ages (and that’s saying something). His party ruled over more than 70 years with corruption and nepotism as its strongest weapons, and it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be any different now, because, well, nothing’s changed. Nothing, except at least 60,000 deaths in the past six years alone. Are those good reasons to want to leave Mexico? Well, there’s that and the language. I know I said on December 1st I wouldn’t be angry, just sad at the way my country’s choice, but I was mad, I am very mad. Is it never gonna be time here in Mexico for a head of State that actually deserves being called that? Why does it seem like the other big names in Latin America are moving beyond their limitations and growing into strong, truly independent nations, and Mexico is as always stuck in the same ol’ same ol’?

In other news, I just got a new book, another yay! It’s When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom. Partner gave it to me yesterday, looking forward to my new reading, and let’s hope it keeps me entertained enough to stop my Sunday-afternoon-presidential depression from growing.

Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be sane enough to be able to write a post that’s actually about something, until then!

The nightmare before, during and after Halloween

The-thesis-that-must-not-be-named keeps haunting me like the worst kind of Halloween spook. I simply don’t know why I can’t get on with it, and what’s worse is that I’m actually starting to imagine a life without graduation…after all I already have a job I moderately enjoy and that keeps me from begging for money on the street. What I don’t think I could live with is

The past few months have been a rough ride, and if I were a little sympathetic with me I’d accept I’m still healing from the mayor crisis I went trough, the real problem here is that the rest of the world is not going to be as nice, and it’s  more likely to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until I break or bend. I like to write, and tough I don’t have time to sit around doing nothing I could certainly manage an hour or two a day to work on my it, so why the hell I run away from it like it was the plague is beyond me. And it’s not even like I forget about it, because I get absolutely no moment of peace, my mind is never really free from it and I can never say, like I used to when I was in college, “well, I’ve worked x amount of time so I’m gonna relax for x amount of time”, come to think about it, I never truly relax because I have this huge weight on my back that I could but won’t lift from myself, it’s freaking masoquism!

On a totally related note, perhaps becuase of the cramps it’s causing me, here in Mexico we’re a month away from Enrique Peña Nieto’s ceremony to officially take office. I say officially, because the current president has basically stopped pretending to have any authority left. I remember six years ago I was hysterical because I had no doubt Calderón’s election was a fraud; this time around I’m quietly watching the political changes go by, not because I’m happy with them, but because I cannot honestly claim without the election was a fraud.

Peña Nieto’s party bought the election, that’s definetely truth, but is was the mexicans who decided to sell their votes for groceries, and since everybody knew beforehand that our electoral institutions are a sad joke, it’s no surprise there was no punishment for these actions.

On December 1st, when EPN becomes Mexico’s president, I will not be angry, I’m just gonna be terribly sad because my country got the president it deserves…

Avoidance mode: off

Gosh, some dark stuff I wrote about last time! The good thing is I can always fall back on the bigger picture to have some sense of calm and feel a little better… oh, wait… except for the ongoing drug-war, the devastating economic crisis, and why not? Mexico’s demoralizing political reality. And while it’s easy for me to get my system jammed in the pessimistic mode, I also find it relatively common to find reasons to have a good laugh about things, though apparently that ability decided to take a hike for the past few days and it’s just timidly starting to return.

For the past couple of months I’ve been avoiding the fact that my country’s reality pretty much sucks, and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna get any better any time soon. Well, apparently my avoidance is over,  just in time for my conscience to fully appreciate the pathetic show us mexicans will receive on December 1st, when the legally, though not legitimately, elected president takes office. Just in time to watch the government announce they have killed the second most important drug lord…only to have to add that they “lost” the body, and the list can go on. That’s why it’s pretty darn important for that acid humor to come back soon if I’m to bear stuff like the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize!

Just to show you what I mean, on the left there’s the avoidance face I’ve been carrying around for the last months, and on the right there’s the face I intend to put on from now on.

Chaotic Organization

I can’t seem to balance what I want to do with what I have to do and what others want me to do, such as having to work, having to finish my thesis, while hoping to one day (that seems to be further away each day) being able to do the things I actually want. All of this, having people pushing and pushing on one side for me to finish this antiquated rite of passage while on the other I have more (if not the same) people expecting me to be able to meet economic responsibilities that started long ago before I could manage them and continue even when I never really had the proper  time to mentally and pragmatically prepare for them. I feel like I am being forced to bake a cake without the proper ingredients (not that I will ever do such a thing).

Still, I also don’t feel like I have plausible reasons to bitch about it ’cause the way I see it, the situation here in Mexico is getting darker and darker by the moment, and I’ll hopefully be writing about it soon enough, since right now I’m stealing hours from my most needed sleep to catch up on my other writing, the one I keep talking about but stays offline.

And about that, I’ve been thinking about creating an anonymous blog, maybe that could be more helpful to me and definitely more entertaining. I of course will not be linking it to this one but I thought I’d share the news anyways. It may sound like I have all the time in the world to spam my two readers with my babbling, but I guess it’s just a matter of getting my sh*t together.

I will however promise myself to work on my organizational skills all through the month the remaining week and see if it sticks, since this Monday was my first day at a new job doing something I had kinda thought I wouldn’t do again: teach English to elementary kids. This will require me to force my usual chaotic self to take a hike at least in the mornings, I’ll report on the results.

In the meantime, here’s the first image I have of one of my students:

Image

Overwhelmed

Tired of my ocasional but not uncommon complaints about all the different ways I feel sick, my mother said one thing I sure didn’t want to hear: “You should go get a general check-out”, to which of course I acted as if I hadn’t heard a thing. Not that unexpectedly, I now get to be nagged about this topic every now and then, even when I’ve been forced to keep all my ailments to myself.

Though I would indeed love the headaches and cramps and all of my weirder achaques to go away, I think I’m just not willing to do what it takes for them to do so. And no, I haven’t just tapped the center of my self-knowledge to realize this, but I got to be laughed at (one of the possible reactions I usually get when I forget to translate my thoughts into outer-world language) when after another unwanted motherly exhortation I simply added I would at the very least wait until election day is over AND I’ve come to terms with the result, whatever this may be (btw, that took about four years with last election).

So, after being momentarily puzzled about the laughter I provoked, I thought maybe I should take political matters out of my head for a day or two, and what do I get? Bam! Working on the-thesis-that-must-not-be-named like I hadn’t for weeks. Surely, that lasted until right about now, but still, it oughtta mean good news right?

Aaanyhow, today I woke up and realized that election day is only a week away, and we’re only four days away (thank you sweet lord!!) of stop being hammered with spots and adds and campaign lies promises, and that is supposed to be good news. Except it isn’t.

Of course I want some candidates to stop telling me why I should vote for them when I know I won’t. Of course I want other candidates to stop telling me to vote for them because I know I will! My decision was taken months ago and nobody scared me into it, which is what most of these people try to do and that’s the kind of votes most of this campaigns prey on.

However, the only thing I can predict for sure is that on July 2 there will be chaos. It can be happy chaos, or it can be angry, violent chaos. And the odds don’t look too good for different reasons. First of all, very few can honestly say they trust those odds, no matter what candidate or party they support, and that’s the same story for the institutions that are supposed to protect us mexicans from yet another fraud, nobody can honestly say they’re not vulnerable.

Secondly, and this is the reason that provokes my biggest concern, there could actually be a clean election and that could also mean we’re screwed. It’s been proven that the most the most educated people in Mexico, have supported AMLO; universities, colleges, academic institutes, and almost every intellectual leader have claimed their support the left party candidate (not his party though, but that’s another bedtime story I’ll save for later), and that should mean something very big for society. Not that they’re votes are more important than the ones coming from popular sections of the population, not at all. In fact it’s  just the other way around. However, when such a chunk of a society is backing one same candidate, and this chunk happens to be the most informed in the country, no matter its size, it should mean something, because these people should be leaders in their communities.

Quite sadly this is not the case… the real leaders are soap actors and their TV stations, journalists who act like soap opera characters, and millions of plastic box cases in which these people say and show what they were bought and paid to. These are the real opinion leaders, and the other section of society who is strongly persuaded of the dangers of EPN winning the election may write and talk and march all they want, and it will still be a miracle if they’re able to reach the millions who can’t open a newspaper, the ones who do but do’t go beyond the headlines, and specially the ones who trust Televisa and TV Azteca to tell them what’s happening, what’s good and what’s bad…and what they should be afraid of. The mystery is how many of those people really exist, how many will we be able to reach before it’s too late.

Sure, there are polls and surveys and all kinds of democratic measuring instruments, but it’s not likely that anybody would ask or respond honestly to questions like “Are you unable of forming a political opinion by yourself?”, “Do you believe everything you hear if the TV says so?”, and so on. So we can’t really know how many of these guys are really out there, and it looks that that number could make the difference on this election.

I’ll further my thoughts later on today, ’cause right now there’s a cat plot to keep me from working, and one gets eventually tired of pushing kitties away from the keyboard and erasing their mindful contributions off the screen.

Why #132 now?

The #132 movement has burst into mexican political scene for a little more than a month now. On June 9th, two weeks ago, I was an active part of it. Me and other tens of thousands of mostly young people marched against many things, because we are very angry…and very scared of what may happen on our election day, July 1st. The presidential candidate and known repressor Enrique Peña Nieto and the tight hold that Mexico’s main TV stations keep in the destiny of Mexico could be called the main two banners of the movement. However, the underlying reasons for a bunch of angry college students to turn into tens of thousands flooding the main avenues of Mexico City are many, quite many. I will try to explain mine here.

Our generation has watched our parents’ money disappear before their eyes, has seen killings that become bloodier and bloodier, and has watched the distance between classes become one of the widest in the world; all of our lives we’ve been told that we are in crisis, that our currency is devaluating; we grew up listening to after-dinner conversations about false elections, politicians who ripped us off and ended any possibility of development. Then, after 72 years of this ongoing situation lead by a State-party, we got a chance of hoping for change in 2000. Yes, it was a right-wing opposition, but still nobody cared, we had gotten the thieves out of our pockets, right?

What actually happened is that this clown-president practically shouted “haha, gotcha!” in our faces. Now, for me, and I guess that for most of the people involved in the #YoSoy132 movement, this wasn’t our first election, we just sat in the background and watched the show of the campaigns unfold in front of us. And what we saw was our families, neighbors and fellow mexicans get ripped off, because no matter if they had supported president Fox or not, they had all believed something was about to change.

For the next election it was quite different, me and a lot of other participants in the movement got to vote for the first time. And hell no, we weren’t about to vote por the same Party again, or the one before it, so we supported the next best option, the leftish Party PRD, but specially, very specifically, we voted for its candidate, Andrés Manuel López O. It was an election that literally divided not only the country but entire families, and up to this date it is a very risky thing to talk about whether there was a fraud or not (since we obtained absolutely no proof against it by our institutions). Against all our hopes, AMLO lost to Fox’s Party.

And that’s when the fun really began. The new president decided to declare a war against drug trafficking in our territory. Not that it was a particularly bad idea, except for the fact that he did it just days after becoming head of State without having ever mentioned it during his campaign, spending who knows how much money in this task, and… oh yes, I almost forgot, turning Mexico into a living horror for millions of mexicans. And that is without even mentioning  things such as the blatant corruption or the never ending constraint of the State industries by Televisa and TV Azteca, the above-mentioned TV stations.

All of these while our people, our very families and friends, together with most of the population, were being deeply misinformed, if not viciously mislead. How? Well, for example, by selling the idea of a “new” PRI, the old State-party, as if a handsome-not-so-old face could make us forget that behind it are the exact same people whose very own hands drove Mexico back to its ruins, all while filling their pockets with the Nation’s treasury. There is quite a lot to say about this deceitful pretty face, but I’ll leave that for another time.

I’m no expert in politics, but hopefully I learnt something at my dearest UNAM other than to grab a table at a packed cafeteria; I learned to think, to observe, and to analyze my surroundings. And what I see is devastating, and it doesn’t seem to have a happy ending anytime soon, if you’re not on the right side of the scale that is… I feel like am carrying not just my anger and my humiliation, but the one suffered by many generations before me, with the difference that I have tools that they didn’t have, and an access to information that they couldn’t get… that’s quite a responsibility not to do something. And I’m sure tens of thousands, if not millions, of young mexicans feel the same way I do.