Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"A joyous hurricane of nonsense"

I have been searching for a common unifying theme in my life right now and was having an impossible time…until my friend who has been like a sister to me since elementary school and who is always my go-to wordsmith unintentionally handed me the perfect phrase in a Facebook chat:

“Life is a joyous hurricane of nonsense.”

Thanks Em, that´s it exactly.

So I will do my best to describe this joyous nonsensical hurricane that I am living right now, but if these snapshots don´t do it justice, then at least you already have the perfect sentence to summarize my life right now.
"Hola, me llamo Busito!"
Leaving Mexico City was something I was looking forward to for a while, but I didn´t quite realize just how necessary it was until I was on the bus. My bus left at 5am on Saturday so naturally I slept for the first few hours of the bus ride. Suddenly I was awaked by the glow of the sun on my face, the gentle rocking of the bus, and a view of endless forested hills all around me. I cannot properly describe how rejuvenating and perfect that moment felt. Without realizing it, I had been slowly suffocating, surrounded by concrete and other man-made structures for so long. I felt like I could breathe deeply for the first time in months. I must have looked like a child: my nose pressed again the window, smiling like a maniac. This was probably the only time in my life where I felt the urge to jump out of a moving vehicle and just frolic in the tall grass or sit under a tree on a hill. But what was more amazing to me was not how profoundly I had missed natural habitats, but how just a glimpse of them through a bus window was enough to leave me feeling refreshed and inspired. That´s just the power of nature.

My cousins and me in Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara
Pronounced “tlack-eh-pack-ay” Don´t worry, I had to take a picture of a sign with the name on it and memorize the spelling in order to pronounce it correctly. This neighborhood of Guadalajara is known for its unique art, delicious restaurants, and one-of-a-kind artisanal products. My aunt, uncle and cousins took me there on Saturday afternoon and it was incredible. The glassware and hand-painted crafts were so unique and beautiful it was all I could do to not spend all of the money I had brought with me. We also got to see the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) performed in the town center by a group of indigenous performers that was quite the spectacle. It was wonderful to be welcomed into the home of my aunt and uncle in Guadalajara and I had a blast spending time with my younger cousins, playing card games and sharing delicious food. That night when I went to bed, I cherished the complete and peaceful silence that embraced me as I closed my eyes. No car horns. No tamale vendor or “used mattress-buying” cart announcements. No neighbors´ television programs or opera singing drifting through my window (yes, my neighbor is a legitimate opera singer, or at least thinks he is and practices every other afternoon, even giving concerts in the middle of the night to a round a soft applause on some nights). No stray cat mewing from the staircase. Just silence. Blissful, beautiful silence.

Endeavor National Selection Panel
While visiting family and taking a break from big city life were amazing, the main reason I was in Guadalajara was for work. In a whirlwind of preparation and hours of interviews and deliberations, the national selection panel came and went. While neither of the entrepreneurs with whom I had worked were selected in the end, it was still an inspiring and eye-opening experience. The three other companies that did pass the panel truly showcased their innovation and preparedness to move onto the international panel and we are all routing for them. After the national panel came to an end, the Endeavor staff and panelists shared a casual lunch at a local burger joint. Friendly conversation flowed between business people and entrepreneurs from all walks of life. These panelists voluntarily gave up their weekend to travel to Guadalajara and evaluate the newest Endeavor candidates, and it is their commitment and dedication that truly makes the Endeavor network unique and valuable.

Rainbow before the rain

Sunset before the rain

The Hurricane
Well, it wasn´t a hurricane exactly, but it was certainly one hell of a thunderstorm. The return trip from Guadalajara was spent with my co-workers in a small van that was not designed to carry passengers based on its poor suspension and lack of functional seatbelts. But once again I felt completely relaxed and at home for two reasons: 1. I was once again surrounded by beautiful natural scenery and 2. I have traveled in a cramped sketchy van many, many times on various Villanova events and service break trips that being sandwiched between people and bounced up and down in a van for 7 hours was perhaps the most familiar thing I have done since arriving in Mexico. As we approached Mexico City, we could see the storm ahead. Just before the pounding rain hit the windshield and the van started hydroplaning on turns, we got a glimpse of this beautiful rainbow. A fragment of beauty before the chaos.

Social life
So guess what? After three months of living in Mexico – I have friends! Finally, I have broken my curse of only meeting guys older than me who are about to leave the city! It started very subtly and slowly, like all friendships do. A common interest. Seeing them a few times in a row at different group events. And then… it´s been two hours already and we´re still laughing and sharing life stories over dinner or coffee. I´ve finally had those moments where I just clicked with another person and shared my real self. Not the international traveler who has a prestigious fellowship and speaks Spanish and is doing just fine living on her own, thanks. But the idealistic, endlessly curious, nerdy, honest, self-critical, elaborate story-telling, loud-laughing, sometimes awkward, recent college graduate who is still just trying to figure it all out. When you know that the other person is willing to listen to that side of you and share their real selves with you as well, you know that this is someone worth getting to know more. So even though my co-workers still joke around affectionately calling me “abuela” because I don´t like partying much, I enjoy baking, I get excited about doing laundry, and I am a member of a monthly book club, I am finally finding my own group of friends from all different backgrounds and countries to share this amazing city with.

The most peaceful yoga room ever
While the rainy season should be ending soon, it is not (insert angry climate change comment here). But while the rain is unyielding, at least it is predictable. It comes nearly every night around 6pm or 7pm. And this is great if you are prepared. Which I thought I was. I had gone to yoga all decked out in my raincoat. No purse, just waterproof pockets and workout clothes that would dry easily. So I went to yoga and had an incredible class (as always). I left feeling refreshed and alive and strong. And then I stepped out onto the street and, as if on cue, lightning cracked and thunder shook the sidewalk. Then the raindrops started careening earthward, falling as if meeting the ground was of the utmost necessity. I still had a 20 minute walk ahead of me. No big deal, I thought. I have a raincoat, I thought. Hah. The raindrops also had an insatiable desire to find every single opening in my raincoat. Before I had walked two blocks I was soaked from head to toe. And then, I just stopped caring. I was completely alone on a wide pedestrian sidewalk in the island of the street (common walkways in La Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods) and the rain was so thick I could barely see in front of me. So I jumped in puddles. I skipped. I sang. I spun. And as the storm grew in strength, so did I, careening from puddle to puddle, foot to foot, note to note. By the time I reached my apartment I had a river of water running down my forehead and pouring off my nose like a faucet into my smiling mouth. The puddles in my shoes alone could have quenched my thirst for a week. But as I opened my door, giggling like a child, debating whether it was worthwhile to take another shower, I noticed that the inside of what was supposed to be a waterproof pocket was soaked. And, smile fading, I took out my phone (the inanimate object in my life that I depend on for a scary amount of things that I don´t like to think about often) to find that it too had taken a nice long bath. In a panic, I turned it off, disassembled all of the parts that I could, and rushed to find some dry rice to put them in. (Readers note: when people say to put your phone in rice if it gets wet to absorb the moisture, they mean normal white rice, not organic brown rice. Organic brown rice breaks apart and sticks to all of the little important delicate electronic inner parts of your phone and gives you a heart attack.) But my phone is a champ and despite all sorts of rice and rain related mistreatment, somehow it still works.

Tía Cecilia's birthday meal at Tía Charín's house

Gathering Round the Table
One of my aunts called me a few weekends ago inviting me to celebrate another aunt´s birthday. She had prepared a meal so that the birthday girl (who has always done so much to take care of other family members) wouldn´t have to lift a finger, and had invited a few family members to share it with. We all met at Tía Charín´s house, since it is difficult to leave home when you are 101 years old. Tía Charín welcomed us, birthday girl and all, into her small home, and was very accepting of various furniture re-arranging to accommodate everyone at one table. Sharing this meal with relatives from four different generations, everyone crowded around that one table, I realized that I was a part of something incredibly special. I treasured every last note of conversation and laughter. I cannot even begin to express in words how lucky I am to be able to call all of these incredible people family.

 My cousin Lau and I at Corona Capital

 Belle and Sebastian playing in a field of mud

Mud and Music
Last Sunday my cousin and I went to the Corona Capital music festival, or as some call it the “hipster capital.” The lineup was a dream come true: all of my favorite alternative electronic/rock bands in one day. And then before the first band I knew even came on, the sky opened up. And it poured. It poured that kind of rain that leaves you feeling soaked to the bone. The kind that pelts you sideways, mocking ponchos and raincoats. But then as quickly as it came, it stopped. It was one of those events that could have been a disaster in the perspective of some, but when shared with such an easy-going and upbeat person like Lau, it ended up being an incredible concert with some high-quality mud-dancing and cousin-bonding. Everyone I have told about the concert so far has asked me incredulously, “You stayed til the end?” Of course we did. We were young and mud-soaked and carefree. There is nothing more simultaneously invigorating and exhausting as spending all day on your feet at a concert, soaking in the music of your generation. And just so you don´t worry, our shoes did survive in the end (after a thorough washing).

So in this joyous, nonsensical, tempestuous new life of mine it is easy to miss the little things. Which I am trying hard not to do. And this Monday one of those things found me. I was walking to buy my weekly unavoidably necessary gigantic jug of bottled water (which always makes me cringe because plastic and the environment and ugh), which meant that needless to say I wasn’t in the greatest mood. And then suddenly I turn around and just look at my building and stop. The late afternoon light cast a warm glow on the whole building, and I felt a rush of affection. This was home. This crazy, bustling, welcoming, stressful, eye-opening, heartwarming, beautiful place.