Terminando y Diciendo Hasta Luego

(Finishing up and saying “see you later”!)

Today was my last day as a CR Fellow working with BlueMessaging, and I can’t believe it went so fast. I’m frankly ready to work another month or two in Mexico City with this company! But I’m thankful for the time I had to work in this program and am so appreciative of my business unit in NY and E&Y leadership for making this program possible.

I had an amazing experience these last 7 weeks, growing both professionally and personally. The BlueMessaging team was incredible to work with – they have clear goals and a strong vision to meet them. They are open and clear with information and are strongly engaged in improving their operations, making it possible to develop a whole new process and supporting tools in less than 2 months. They also welcomed me immediately into their culture and made sure I experienced all the great things Mexico City can offer.

Professionally, I’ve learned that I can apply my varied skills to address unfamiliar subject areas and industries and to help my clients address a wide range of challenges. Personally, I’ve made several lasting friendships and have become enchanted by this city and all it has to offer (Me encanto Mexico City).

This last week went by extremely quickly with final meetings, events and closing out severable deliverables. Here are some highlights:

  • Lunch at Porfirio’s in Polanco with Juan, Silvanna, Ingrid, and Jaime (EY Mexico) after our wrap-up meeting with Anabell as well from Endeavor. The restaurant combined traditional mexican dishes and treats with fancier dishes and amazing service. The biggest surprise – they offered a box of reading glasses to the table in case anyone had trouble reading the menu!

Wrap-up lunch at Porfirio’s (sharing a dessert with Jaime – cheesecake on a stick!)

  • Having my last Fellows dinner with Rich and Joe on Wednesday in Polanco. They were truly my family here in Mexico and I can’t imagine this experience without them. Joe needs to transfer up to NY so that we all see each other more often!!!
  • Last dinner with entrepreneurs, Endeavor and EY and having drinks in Antara after with Juan, Rich and Jaime (First row – me, Silvanna from BM, Carla from Enova, Anabell and Daniella from Endeavor, Rich, Jaime / Back – Juan from BM, Oswaldo from Tuyo)

Entrepreneurs, Fellows and Endeavor final dinner

View of EY Mexico office from bars in the Antara mall

  • Good-bye lunch today with BlueMessaging – my last social Friday!

Last social Friday – lunch at Bajia

  • Receiving an unexpected, wonderful Thank You from BlueMessaging

Thank you from BlueMessaging (Ingrid and Silvanna – the financial planning dream team and great friends)

Luckily today I only had to say “hasta luego!” to my friends at BlueMessaging (and not Adios) since I have 2 more days this weekend and will be back in Mexico City for 2 days next week after my vacation to Peru.

Last full weekend – San Angel and Taxco

I’m currently in denial that I’m leaving Mexico in a few days, so I’m going to hold off until the end of the week before posting about project wrap-up and goodbyes. Instead, I’ll focus on two new big things I checked out with friends last weekend, the Saturday market in San Angel and Taxco. I couldn’t have asked for a better final full weekend here in Mexico …

Saturday Market in San Angel:

Joe and I joined Silvanna and her family at El Bazaar Sabado in San Angel, where we bought some local handicrafts and artwork, saw a pretty church, and had a nice lunch on the patio at Saks. An entire park is filled with artwork from local artists each Saturday for this market. As always, it was wonderful to spend time with Silvanna and her family!

Saturday Bazaar in San Angel

San Jacinto church in San Angel

Taxco (one of Mexico’s “magical” towns):

About 2-3 hours south of Mexico city, an incredible little town called Taxco is built into the mountainside. It’s known for silver and jewelry since it originated as a silver mining town, but I liked best all the views in the area and the opportunity for a really relaxing day. Gibran and Ingrid planned our trip out there and we saw a lot in just one day. I would definitely recommend a short trip to Taxco! Here are some pictures from our trip:

  • Checking out the view of Santa Prisca and the Cristo statue from a terrace restaurant in the main square

With Ingrid in front of Santa Prisca

Gibran and I with a view of the town up the mountain

  • Taking the Teleferico (a gondala) up to the Monte Taxco hotel on a hilltop facing Taxco. Had a relaxing beer and enjoyed the warm sun (wish I’d brought a bathing suit for the hotel pool).

View of Taxco from the hilltop hotel

Houses built into the hill (from the Teleferico)

  • Visiting El Cristo statue at the top of Taxco (after taking another interesting ride up STEEP streets in an old VW beetle cab)

El Cristo

Standing above Taxco by El Cristo

Ingrid and Erick by the Cristo

  • Having a relaxing lunch at Del Angel Inn in the main square (with another nice view of course) with local food and drinks

A “Bertha” (local specialty with tequila, club soda, honey and lime)

View of El Cristo from lunch

  • Visiting the Santa Prisca church for a closer look. It had very impressive architecture and decorations.

Santa Prisca church in Taxco

  • Seeing the town by sunset on our way back to Mexico City

Adios Taxco! Gracias para un buen dia!

Music Video Fascination

I think I would be leaving out a big part of my experience here if I didn’t mention EXE TV. My hotel only has about 15 TV channels but 2 of them are EXE TV, non-stop music video channels (aka MTV years ago). Since I’m still a beginner at Spanish and none of the other channels are in English or have sub-titles, I find myself turning on EXE anytime I’m at my hotel. They play videos from all over but mostly from the US and Mexico. Sometimes they even play a string of videos in a row from one artist (e.g., Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars).

For the most part, the local popular music on EXE is great. However, there are several Spanish music videos that continue to mesmerize and confuse me, even when I figure out what the lyrics mean. Aire Soy with Miguel Bose (a famous Spanish singer) and Ximena Sarinana (a Mexican singer) is my all time favorite. If you haven’t seen this video, watch it immediately. It’s incredible while at the same time being extremely creepy.

The dance moves are pure genius. I’ve named a few of my favorites so look out for them:

  • “Synchronized Backward Spin”
  • The “Snaking Reach Across”
  • The “Stare Down”
  • “Peekaboo” – performed by Miguel close to the end, this one is amazing

Mexico City Week 6 (activities, food, etc)

It’s been a busy week on our project so I’m a little behind on posts! So I’ll use this post to get you up to speed on several new things I experienced in Mexico City since last Saturday…

  • Visited the Museo Soumaya in Polanco (private collection with many types of art – the Rodin and Dali sculptures and paintings of the Izta-Popo volcanoes were my favorites)
  • Tried out some new bars and clubs in Polanco with Ingrid and her friend
  • Went bike riding with Joe on Reforma – the main avenue is closed until 2 pm on Sundays to allow people to bike, roller-blade, run, etc. That gave me another chance to see the alebrijes from the Museo de Arte Popular, which lined Reforma for a month and are now in Roma. An alebrije is a fantastical creature, which usually include various parts of real-life or fantastic creatures (wikipedia)
  • Went to dinner and wine tasting at “99” in the cultural center in Roma with Silvanna, Juan, Joe and leaders from Enova. I learned there are some fantastic mexican red wines!
  • Met our new friend Pepe and his business partners for dinner and drinks in Roma, where we tried new kinds of mezcal and I finally found a bar with beer I like!
  • Went to a traditional mexican cantina with Juan, Silvanna, Joe and Carla from Enova for lunch on Friday. Ate WAY too much food but it was delicious and we had a great group!

Hiking Iztaccihuatl

Who needs the beach when you can hike a volcano? I had last Friday off because of the recent holiday and was fortunate enough to get to spend it hiking on the 3rd highest mountain in Mexico, Iztaccihautl.

The name translates to “the White Woman” but most people refer to the mountain as “the Sleeping Woman” since it resembles a woman lying down. The legend of the mountains is that an Aztec warrior, Popocetepetl, was in love with the emperor’s daughter and was promised her hand in marriage if he killed the emperor’s enemy. While the warrior was away, the emperor lied and told his daughter that Popo had died in battle, so she killed herself. The warrior returned and was so upset that he laid her body down and lit an eternal flame to watch over her. Popo is the larger, active volcano next to the Sleeping Woman.

This painting from El Museo de Soumaya re-enacts the scene (sorry for the glare):

Painting of the Izta-Popo legend

Gibran took me to the volcanoes with his friend Adrian, who grew up in nearby Amecameca and used to guide on Iztaccihautl, and with Adrian’s girlfriend, Giulia.  After breakfast in Amecameca and a long drive up to the Parque Nacional Izta-Popa, we first checked out the view of Popocatepetl, the larger volcano at 17,887 feet high. We had good visibility early in the day and could see that Popo is CLEARLY still active.

Popocatepetl

Gibran and Adrian with Popo

We started the hike at the end of the Sleeping Woman, first coming up on some of her toes or “dedos”.  I initially had trouble catching my breath at the high elevation but was able to keep going after a short rest with some snacks and warm tea made from a local flower.

View of Popo from the first resting point on the hike

Rounding the corner of her toes, we had less visibility through the fog (and later snow) but the rock-faces looked awesome, like something out of a movie.

Rocks jutting out from Iztaccihuatl

Giulia and Adrian leading the way

We kept going through a snow covered pass to reach her feet or “pies” and decided to turn around at that point since the snow was getting worse and it was tough to see. Despite being cold (and a little slippery), it was a great 4 hour hike – buena caminita!

With Giulia and Gibran at the top of the “feet”

Trying to keep up on the way down – I can hardly see Giulia 20 ft in front of me!

The hike earned me a huge lunch afterwards in the central market of Amecameca, where I ordered 3 meals since Gibran suggested all of them and I couldn’t choose. El tercer plato era mole y pollo enchiladas con queso y crema, muy delicioso (the 3rd plate was mole and chicken enchiladas with cheese and cream, very delicious).

Muy rico!

Luckily we hung out in Amecameca for a while longer in the central market and at Adrian’s parent’s place so that I could recover from the food coma before heading back. It was a great escape from the city for a day – gracias Gibran!

Dia de los Muertos

Last week was El Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico, and it was very interesting to witness the different traditions and celebrations. While we Americans often avoid the subject of death, death is often talked about in Mexico and celebrated through rituals that can be traced back to indigenous cultures. In most parts of the country, November 1 (Día de los Inocentes or “Day of the Innocents”) is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2 (Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead”)

I first experienced the holiday through our altar at work (described in an earlier post), but Joe, Rich and I saw a much bigger display of altars in Roma on Nov 1. Traditions vary from town to town – these are some of the main ones that we experienced:

  • Altars – shrines to the dead that vary a lot in terms of size or how religious they are, but usually include candles, flowers and offerings like pan de muerta (special bread for the holiday) or other items the deceased enjoyed (for example, several had cigarettes)

Altar in Roma

Altar in Roma (image made with flower petals)

Altar made by a local restaurant

  • La Catrina – a popular figure for the holiday that is a female skeleton dressed in costume or formal attire (originally a parody of a Mexican upper-class female in a famous print)

Large Catrina figure in Roma

Catrina made with flower petals, incredible

  • Skulls (“Calavera”) – used to celebrate the holiday through masks, offerings of sugar or chocolate skulls, or as part of full re-made skeletons

Huge display of various painted skulls

Skeletons in an altar by the Université de Londres

  • Asking for Calaveritas (small gifts) – similar to trick-or-treating, this tradition is more recent and involves children in costume asking stores and passing people for treats and money. This started as early as Oct 31 but was in full force on Nov 1 and 2, especially in the small town of Amecameca that I visited on Nov 2 (after hiking the volcano nearby – will tell you about that in my next post!). I never had small change or candy on me so felt like a big let down to the kids!

Tepotzlan

Mexico continues to amaze me – the culture, the sights, the food, and how generous and thoughtful all the people here have been. In the past 2 days I’ve had so many people ask how my friends and family are doing in NY (everyone seems to be safe and well but very inconvenienced by power outages or water issues, with some friends even having lasting damage to houses, cars. It’s quite a mess in NY and NJ but people in the tri-state area are tough and will pull through!)

New friends here in Mexico City have also continued to introduce Rich, Joe and I to new places and experiences. Last Saturday, Oswaldo from Tuyo and his wife Lucilla took us to Tepotzlan, a quaint town in a valley south of Mexico City (close to Cuernavaca). After we braved a hike to the top of a small mountain to see a pyramid and the view of the town, we walked through the town center and the markets, had an incredible lunch at Los Ciruelos, tasted the famous local ice cream, and ended the day with professional massages for really cheap. Definitely a great experience!

Here’s a recap of our day trip through pictures…

We were definitely beat by the end of the day and my legs felt like jello from the hike, but it was worth it. The short hike was also good practice before a longer trek this Friday up part of the volcano near the city. If I can make Friday’s hike OK, I should be in good shape for Machu Picchu in less than a month! So soon!