What is the reality of our life? Your life?

In discussing with a former student that has graduated from the school here in Mexico, I discovered comments that I have to say, surprised me out of my skin.  See below:

“I’ve discovered… I don’t know. Like I see the differences between the little bubble that ASF is and the actual city.

One of the man things is how at ASF we are taught to basically hate Mexico and we never actually see its wonders

Ever since I started going to school and moving throughout and actually getting to places by myself has been amazing, I see the little things in life all the time

If you stay in Mexico, you’re a loser

and it’s like omg Mexico is so wonderful, and you have to make the best of it. If you have that idea from the beginning, well yeah, then you’re going to be miserable

And we’re also taught to “follow a path that will take us to success. Just do it. It will happen” but in reality we’re so focused on the result rather than the process of learning, that we’ve lost perspective of what surrounds us at a specific moment. We’re never present, we’re always living in the past or in the future.

(Many reflections from my years at ASF, it may not be true for everyone)”

In previous weeks, I had similar conversations with another top seated student that graduated and comes from a crazy talented family, and heard the same concern, she didn’t know Mexico, she never had time to discover what the real Mexico really was, she felt stranded and confused by not truly knwing what being Mexican was, and what is ironic is that I just finished the text, Labyrinth of Solitude, and feel in love with some choice quotations…

“The American lives on the very edge of the now, always ready to leap toward the future.  The country’s foundations are in the future, not in the past.  Or, rather, its past, the act of its founding, was a promise of the future, and each time the United States returns to its source, to its past, it rediscovers the future” (370).

“To avoid new disasters, we Mexicans must reconcile ourselves with our past: only in this way shall we succeed in finding a route to modernity” (373).

“Not only do we “others” make up the majority of the human race, but also each marginal society, poor though it may be, represents a unique and precious version of mankind. If the United States is to recover fortitude and lucidity, it must recover itself, and to recover itself it must recover the “others” – the outcasts of the Western World” (376).

Then, after finishing Octavio Paz’s text, I bicycled home on the EcoBici and thought these thoughts:

Similar to the trolley car and the Ecobici – both can share a part of the road designated separate from the motor vehicles yet, when you see the trolley bus in the lane coming down the street you are traveling up, you want to give way.  J   At first, this uneasy feeling of being on an Ecobici, competing with the other forms of public transportation give you a lack of confidence.  You stick to sidewalks, you avoid being a part of the flow of traffic.  Then, voila.  You just try it one day, you are more confident, and there you are!  Riding with traffic, going with the flow, you are part of it like it always was! 

I feel like a lot of that way, the way of the Ecobici (confident and now I can be a part of the street!) with the way I approached the Spanish language when I arrived in Mexico.  Nada.  I had no prior experience except Un memento por favor from a telecommunications job (low paying but I thought not so at the time).  However I often stalled, froze, was scared.  I realize now, I throw myself into it, like I do forcing myself to be accepted as part of the traffic, I get it, I get confident, and I feel I begin to earn a right to learn, and make mistakes, and freely look on it afterwards and learn more.  Hence. The confidence is gained with being a little more confident in oneself, and looking fear into the eye and knowing you are bigger than any fear you might have. That in itself is scary.

Back to the trolleycar, Ecobici, and vehicle lane analogy.  Somehow I see this as Mexico.  It is considered by many, by the auto lane, to be antiquated like the trolley car, as seen fro the car. Yet, have you ever been to Pittsburgh?  I love the trolley cars.  They represent a truer identity of the past. And still tie to an indentity of many, of the present. Kind of like Mexico, I see the trolleycar not being of the past and ridiculous, but I love it, it is an option and convenient.  For the longest time, I thought the best way to get to Home Depot through Doctoros was my truck. Then I laughed as I discovered, by trying the trolleycar with a friend who had JUST arrived, (I had been here three years) and realized, I could be there in  less time, energy, and hassle with the trolleycar!  The trolleycar had been right close to my delagacion too!  Things can be learned by the newe, old and the obvious every day, and the stereotypes of wealth – symbolized in the difference between a car, a trolley car, Ecobici, and metro are created in our minds.  There are no lesser forms of existence or wealth, they all serve a purpose if we let it.

 Further, I see the coexistence of these forms of transportation all important to identifying an amazing country I have been realizing as Mexico.  If the U.S. represents the vehicle again, looking across t the trolley car lane, I wonder what the thoughts are of the passengers?  Dangerous? Confusing?  Not worth it?  I see these ideals in the newspapers and articles when I was in the United States, yet, now, being in Mexico, in that trolley car, experiencing the freedom of the Ecobici and the air in my hair, the freedom to decide what street, when to turn, etc, is exhilarating  I realize the idea of what Mexico was and is from afar was wrong, and I am so much better for it.  I feel more excited about what other countries are in compared to the United States, and now see that I am more critical of the United States, my home country, and how other countries have been painted and tainted according to that history book, and am grateful for realizing there is a different reality to the identity of countries, and not that one painted by the United States.

 And here I am, on the cusp of the 2013 year and a new 2014 year, and I am amazed.  I am constantly amazed at what I think I knew, or know, and do not.  Back when I had Dr. DiMarco in Slippery Rock University,, who opened by eyes to multicultural authors I never knew existed, at the end of my Master’s and I wondered, “How had I missed all these?!”, I realized, multicultural literature is showing me something I never knew existed…I found that amazingly exciting.  I have been fortunate to see a different side of Mexico thanks to the opportunity to escape one view only and see from both eyes.  It is shocking to see how other countries are painted by the United States when you are in that country itself.  I think it would be a crime to also convince individuals that are brilliant, from a host country that they need to escape their country to get a better take on life.    I love this link by Matt Damon that addresses the need to speak out, and step up.

Mexico is so breath taking in so many ways, and few will ever realize it unless they look through a different set of lenses.  I have had that chance, and as an educator, I think it is my, and many others’ duty to show the importance one one’s country for sure, but to also recognize the strengths of others countries, that allow a home country to be strong in the first place.  I have had so many opportunities for success being from the United States and being educated in the United States, and now I have that chance in Mexico as well.  It is so vital, VITAL, as Octavio Paz says, to allow the criticism to occur on a home front as well towards others, to improve and change.  To me, that is what I need the United States to be about, to allow the world to cooperate and recognize what others bring to the table as well.  2013 has much to be thankful for, and much to move towards in 2014.  

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About Harry Brake

Employee of ASF in Mexico City, Librarian, Media crazy! :)
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