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Post #2 Lakshmi

Post #2 Merida Downtown Post #2 queso relleno Post #2 Christmas Merida Post #2 sillas

Featured images this time:

rainbow on a sign!

words of inspiration about chasing dreams!

queso relleno!

wintertime in Mérida featuring Santa and bicicleta!

sillas de enamorados!

Hola de Mérida en el estado Yucatán, México, 11 de enero 2015!

Me conviene muy difícil sólo hablar en inglés aquí porque lo más natural aquí, obviamente, es comunicar en español. Y en gestas. Pero claro que quiero que entiendan entonces ahora me voy a cambiar…o sea…

It will be difficult for me to switch to English here on my blog because, obviously in Mexico, Spanish is the more natural choice for communicating. That, and gestures. But of course, since I want all of you to understand, I will now switch over in my brain and in my writing.

It’s been one week and one day since my arrival in Mexico, (& since my 21st birthday with delicious sangria and pizza mixta from my familia’s pizzeria Bernardi). A few things to observe: broken glass used cleverly and scarily as wall toppers for security; gente requete amable—extremely friendly people always happy to give advice about which camion (bus) to take to downtown or to a different colonia (neighborhood); ~14.98 pesos to a U.S. dollar right now; posters all over our facultad de ciencias antropológicas (social sciences and anthropology, one of many specialized branches of UADY, la Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán) and in other more public places protesting the very recent disappearance of the 43 students de Ayotzinapa in southern Mexico; sillas de enamorados—white stucco chairs that face each other a little off kilter, so that, as fellow Ifsa-er Leah Bakely put, couples can kiss, but do nothing more PDA-y than that (in those chairs, anyway J). Platos típicos that I’ve eaten: queso relleno (layered casserole of queso en bola, chicken or turkey with raisins, almonds, and olives, and white salsa; carne adobada with potatoes; frijol con puerco / beans and pork soup; sopa de lenteja / lentil soup; tostadas with onion, green salsa, and black beans; refresco drink with chia seeds; today downtown en La Plaza Grande, marquesitas (crunchy crepes with shredded sharp cheese and Nutella if you’d like) and mazorcas de elotes (corn on the cob) with mayonesa, chile, and parmesan cheese; salbutes (like tostados piled with avocado, turkey, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, etc.), and a variety of empanadas, horchata, and other goodies from the school cafetería.

Speaking of school, I am completely unsure about my classes so far…I know I’ll be taking three at UADY (which is pronounced wa-dee by EVERYONE, B T dubs/by the way), the Ifsa seminar History of Mayan Culture & Civilization, and Español con Astrid with Ifsa as well. I’ve got it narrowed down (for some reasons including my Latin American Studies major, how easy it is to get the readings for class—which is in the hands of one responsible student and requires a lot of tracking down Facebook groups, Dropbox links, and email chains to get readings—how understandable the professor is, plus what seems pertinent for living here for four months) to: Historia de Yucatán Moderno, Antropología mexicana, Narrativa Mexicana de Hoy, or Literatura de Yucatán, and possibly Antropología de las cavernas. We do have for certain our IDs for UADY and our credenciales for discounted bus fare. Woohoo to 3 versus 7 pesos! Sidenotes: I’ve noticed a few gender-bending students in a student body of about 500 in our facultad; it’s probably just because of the first week, but I’m feeling bashful and finding it un poco difícil to make friends in classes, only because the students in each facultad have been in their chosen track since the beginning, per the highly selective public university application process, and so the groups are well formed. However, I have encountered great welcomes from professors and students; there are many students from China and from SUNY Buffalo Masters program; and I visited a class in the licenciatura (which are like majors) of tourism, specifically of serving drinks and food, where there took place a fascinating discussion on how to decide on what is THE recipe for each typical Yucatecan dish when each family cooks it so differently! This is a universal issue I think, especially for places that rely so much on tourism.

I knew that my family was something special upon arrival, from the quantity and quality of food cooked by Ana Rosa, the amount of independence they give me, the free-for-all nature of breakfast and dinner, but also when I saw in our house that Claudina, the older daughter of Ana Rosa, was featured in an entertainment magazine of Mexico for her marriage to an estadounidense (U.S. citizen), and that her younger sister Estefanía is known as the YouTube starlet Tefa (look her up!!!), and has just married a major Mexican music producer and was featured on the cover of Ebodas, the Mexican wedding magazine. Además, as if that weren’t enough, Ana Rosa and her now husband Roberto are a pair of incredible singers; Roberto has made his career as a musician starting from panhandling on the streets of Paris with his guitar, then singing with the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and staying in Bridgette Bardot’s apartment, as she was acquainted with his close French musician friend. The other day, my ache padres sang the most moving, funny, innovative duets; each sang one that was composed for the other; Roberto’s serenade to Ana Rosa refers to her as Bojo (her nickname from last name Bojorquez), and Ana Rosa sang of Roberto’s ruggedness and her willingness to defend his honor and name at all costs. I melted. He is in the midst of recording a 12-song CD (and Estefanía is herself recording more music videos right now). Tienen voces bellísimas. Beautiful voices, and Roberto’s compositions have lyrics unlike any combinations of words I’ve heard before, with love songs that defy norms; y las estrellas lloraron (and the stars cried), was one line I loved. His first song was tenderly dedicated to his siblings.

What I will say is that some hours I feel my stomach clench, like my world is closing in on me, even though it should feel expanded; I am counted as another hija in the house but how do I find my “true” place here for such a short time? My shoddy Internet due to my computer’s failings is a blessing as much as it is an irritant; I am in every moment of every place as it is. Yet on a crowded bus with as of yet no local university friends to ride with; knowing how much I stick out on the outside regardless of how comfortable Spanish and food and surroundings feel inside; an omnipresent worry that has been foisted on me/from within me that there’s so much I can’t miss or that I’ll regret immensely if I do miss, such as all the free events for Mérida Fest to celebrate the city’s 473rd anniversary, or the countless number of sites to visit nearby. I feel my head swimming with names, which I dutifully note down, but it’s important for me right now to necessarily let go of worrying and selectively listen to suggestions, to cut myself some slack, to know I’ve been here one week, that I need to live here as an antidote for an immensely difficult and emotionally taxing last semester. Just know that everyone will tell you everything you have to do. And you (I) must decide which to pursue. I think I understand, in my emotional dips during each day, the sensation of feeling my very being breaking and stretching apart, the feeling of growing, that my grand and wise friend Riel described from her semester in Thailand. Despite the familiarity of Miguel, of the language, and now of the university and my home/neighborhood, so much within me and within my reach is hazy and jumbled, and I feel will be for a while. I have a lot more splitting and patching of my soul and self to go; I may be in a different country but I remain within the middle class experience. I do appreciate how university is seen differently especially because all students live at home but are still considered adults.

While Ana Rosa, my host mom (or as Miguel says, ache ma, the Spanish version of h-mom), and I were talking tonight about her possible visit to the D.F. (Ciudad de México) to visit her daughters as I prepared my cena (small dinner, because lunch, almuerzo, is the biggest and grandest of meals here) of her leftover vegetable and meat enchiladas with salsa verde (made with tomatillos, riquísimo!!!!), I mentioned this blog I have “en el cual mi amigos Miguel y Leah del programa van a escribir también, porque somos no-heterosexuales y traemos una vista diferente—in which my friends Miguel and Leah from the program are going to write as well, because the three of us are not heterosexual (seemed like the best and most inclusive way to describe ourselves in Spanish) and we bring a different perspective,” and she responded without batting an eye, “Ah, okay mi amor, qué bien.” A reaction I like and I suppose I would expect from a woman who’s had ten years of experience, I believe, with host daughters of all ages from mostly liberal places in the U.S.; Diana, IFSA Mérida’s directora here, also tipped Miguel and me off to the fact that our ache mas were open-minded in the sexuality department from their experiences with host children.

The power of the Internet, whose power I really only possess at home, en Colonia San Miguel, and much less so at UADY, has led me to some incredible and exciting discoveries about the LGBTTTI scene here—that’s the acronym used by Mexican officials (I’m not sure about colloquially) to denote Lésbico, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Transgénero, Travesti, and Intersexual. In fact, Mérida was the first municipality in México to establish a Consejo Municipal against the Discrimination of Sexual Diversity of Mérida, in 2011; by 2012, the Comisión Nacional de la Diversidad Sexual (CNDS) garnered increasing numbers of candidates in the Yucatecan and national elections, on the foundations of then-mayor Angelica Aruajo Lara’s consejo. By increasing trainings for public office holders and in schools, the goal is to reduce and better understand the roots of homophobia in México. Furthermore, the Comisión de Derechos Humanos en Yucatán (Human Rights Commission of Yucatán, CODHEY http://www.codhey.org/Diversidad_Sexual) includes protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in its stipulations. The Ifsa program here also mentions in the handbook the existence of an organization called Buenas Intenciones—Miguel and I are soon going to seek out its headquarters because the email listed on their blog bounced back to me L. They are responsible for marches, events, workshops, and informal weekly meetings for all types and presentations of LGBTTTI Yucatecans.

In terms of day-to-day life in the apparently vibrant but somewhat necessarily hidden LGBTTTI scene, according to GayMerida.com http://www.gaymerida.com/around-town, “The highlight of the drag scene in Mérida is surely Nani Namu, or ‘The Queen of the Gays’ as one local flippantly referred to her. Commanding the stage with her impressive height, Ms. Namu holds court regularly at her very own disco and Merida’s best gay club: Blue Namu.This cabaret along with the bar Pride Disco are on my list to visit for drag shows, gay karaoke, and a variety of other queer-themed night life. The other night, our group went out to El Centro, downtown, with students from the facultad of accounting and economics who run the group Mexplorando, which connects exchange students with locals to go on outings regularly. Friday night was filled with live salsa music, very self-proclaimed hipster décor and a broad range of cool / hip clientele, and colorful mescal drinks at La Fundación Mezcalería, then a dancing binge at the club Casa Pompidou / Pompi informally (https://twitter.com/casapompidou). Chunab, our ringleader, explained to me that the cities of Telchac and Tixcocob, plus Cancún, in the peninsula are also hubs for gays, oftentimes tourists but also locals as well. I’ll also keep you posted as I see more beaches and towns outside Mérida (I’ve been only downtown a few times and to the beach at Puerto Progreso, about 40 minutes away via two buses).

So, to leave you with an educational and comical treat, a local man whose female Yucatecan personality Tila María Sesto is a YouTube and comedic sensation in Yucatán and beyond: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5HDgjrHZ5Q. Here you will find a few of the Mayan-flavored words that Yucatecos use on the reg: ¡Pelaná! ¡Miarda! and other fun ones; Ana Rosa explained to me that for those outside Mérida, these endearing terms seem pretty vulgar, while it’s really just the way people communicate colloquially. Happens everywhere, to be honest! Try listening closely to the way you communicate with your compatriots and how funny/crude/weird it would sound to an outsider. A little food for thought.

 

Over and out,

Emily/Emilia (whatever is easier to pronounce, as I say here when I introduce myself)

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