Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mexico – a reflection on 3.33 years

Well, this is a tough one. We're moving to Guangzhou, China, 3⅓ years after moving here from Toronto. I've done yearly reflections, so I would simply need have a look at those years-end posts to get a glimpse of what life was like while we were here, right? Oh, by the way, like my previous post, this is a very personal reflection. You could skip it, and you won't miss much. But this blog does work as a sort of life-diary, so this is something I need to do. And that you can most definitely choose not to read.

Now, for the handful (LOL) still reading...

Re-reading past posts and reflections, I end up with a quite complex picture. Language-wise I'll admit I didn't have the time to learn much, but I did learn to sort of read and pronounce Korean, I improved my Chinese (especially my comprehension of traditional characters), I improved my Yiddish and Hebrew, and I even got started with Cantonese...

As for Jewishness... Well, this was the first time I celebrated any of the Jewish feasts! Hanukkah, Yom Kippur (not a celebration, I know), Pesach, Shabbat... I joined my first Jewish group ever (Moishe House), had my first mezuzah, wore my first kippah, lit my first Hanukkah menorah, my first Shabbat candles, wore my first star of David... I shared these important moments with friends for the first time as well... I discovered way more about my family's hidden Jewish past with a visit to national archives... So many firsts, so much change.

Queerness... well, I became a bit more of an activist, being actively out at work to ease the coming out of the closet of other colleagues, as well as pushing my organization's first ever participation (if on an unofficial capacity) in Mexico City's gay pride march! Love-wise, well, beyond the habibi (who gets his own paragraph further down), it was a wonderful-horrendous experience (that even included a short trip to San Miguel de Allende). But hey, experience is experience, innit?

Work-wise? Wow, I mean, my assignment here had me travelling more than ever! Both within Mexico (Oaxaca and Guadalajara) as well as abroad to Seoul (THREE times), Malawi, New York, Panama, Beijing, Nairobi, Cartagena, Lima, Dhaka, Cologne, Busan, Bonn... But my assignment also meant gaining lots of knowledge, growing in my profession, adding multilateralism to my skills... It's thanks to this experience that I felt confident enough to accept the offer that's taking me now to Guangzhou.

And all that was work travel, but then I had all the personal travelling! With the habibi I got to know more of my country: Yucatán, Oaxaca, Cuernavaca, Campeche, Guanajuato, Puebla... And we also explored south of the border! Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador... And on top of that? I had fantastic layovers I totally took advantage of in San Francisco (where I was welcomed by the sweetest of people), Amsterdam, Guangzhou (what a coincidence, right?), Tokyo...

We made new friends, rekindled old friendships, got closer to family, and welcomed dear friends visiting all the way from Calgary, Toronto, Houston, Dallas, Carmona... We had so much fun showing our friends the things we loved about our city!

And then, Mexico City itself... what a rediscovery of this, my home city! The food, the queer scene celebrating diversity and even voguing! The awakening of a conscience regarding class, language and gender relations. Traditions like the Burning of Judas and the Day of the Dead. Our Sunday rides on the public bike system. Museums galore. Too much. Too much.

And then, these years here gave me the privilege of not only sharing with the habibi the historic and natural wonders of this continent, but of seeing him grow as an artist and become an even richer, more fascinating, more mature version of his artistic self. Wow. And on top of that, he just keeps becoming a better partner (of almost 17 years now), probably doing a better job at understanding me than I've done at understanding him!

I leave Mexico satisfied by all I've seen and done, and at the same time amazed at all the wonders, richness and diversity of Mexico City, Mexico, and the rest of the continent south of here. I leave satisfied by my professional growth, and by the evolution of my relationship with the habibi. And I leave with excitement about all the things I'll be able to explore and discover once we come back after our tour abroad.

I leave here 11 photos from these 3.33 years. It's impossible to represent in images what this stay has meant. It's nothing but a feeble, almost random, impressionistic attempt. With no further comment.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 – thanks!

Since we're leaving Mexico soon, I have two reflections pending – the usual end-of-year one, and one on the three years that we've spent in Mexico City. A tall order! But gotta get to it, so why not start with 2017?

2017 was intense. Like all the other years. First, I saw plenty of art and performers! I saw ancient gods painted in bright colours, I saw the habibi perform and grow and even reinvent himself, I saw mythical beach wind-beasts and heard klezmer and Persian and crazy South African music. I saw past stars, and present little-known ones.

I kept experiencing my city, through wrestling, futuristic libraries, participating for the first time ever in a Pride march, vogueing, the burning of Judas, gorgeous convents, and my favourite festivity – the day of the dead. The city also terrified me with the strongest earthquake in decades, as well as with resilience and preparedness. And we had visits from Canada too, and we shared with them our personal take on this, our home city.

It was a year of strengthening my Jewish roots, thanks in big part to Moishe House and the very warm, welcoming, open people that form part of it. Of course, the quake happening so close to Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe lent a very special significance to rituals and reflections...

It was a year of – of course! – eating at our favourite places and discovering new ones. But my three faves? My local mezcal-drinking hole, the best waffles I've ever had, and the best ramen in this city!

I refused to stop partying, 'cause what's life without play?

Work brought me plenty of satisfactions as well. Getting better at my job gave me more confidence, and I can say that this was the year I felt the most comfortable and happy doing it. Plus, unsurprisingly, it allowed me to keep experiencing the world! I visited Washington DC, Cartagena, Cologne, Busan, Dhaka (with a stopover in Guangzhou!)...

But it wasn't just work travel. I travelled with the habibi as well! We visited the gorgeous city of Puebla where we had a way better time than we could have dreamed, and we explored the cultural and natural riches of one of the most beautiful countries on this continent – Ecuador! In fact, it was in Ecuador that we celebrated our 16th anniversary, and it will certainly be one of our most memorable trips ever – a trip full of adventure, of discovery, and of looking at the habibi through new and admiring eyes. And as farewell to Mexico, we finally saw the world famous Monarch butterflies and spent peaceful, romantic days in colourful Campeche...

What, no bad things at all? Like, none? Well, of course there were complicated and trying things! But I'm not in the mood of commemorating them. Whatever bad there was, it became a lesson learned. Whatever good there was, there was plenty, and this is but a tiny sample. A good 2017, I'd say. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Guillermo Gómez-Peña at MAM

Guillermo Gómez-Peña. One of the most representative and important Chicano performance-artists. We were visiting Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art (Museo de Arte Moderno) to see an exhibition on his decades long career and, lo and behold, he was there filming a documentary! 

So, besides looking at a very well made documentation of his past performances, photo-performances and installations, we got to see and hear him! Oh, and there were also two installations in the museum's garden, recreations of two performances of his, with an invitation to hang yourself from a cross to protest a cause (for a piece called cruci-ficción) or lock yourself in a cage as a freak-show (for a piece called La Jaula). I am not going to share pics of my doing either, just so you know.

Loved this exhibition.

the Campeche series – the city of peace and colours

Last, and most definitely not least, Campeche City, one of the few remaining fortified cities in the continent! The days we spent there were peaceful, quiet, full of warmth, beautiful light and
row upon row of colourful houses.

Sunsets by the main square were simply delicious. Hell, sunsets anywhere in the city were so pleasant!

We entered a few old houses, immense spaces hiding behind narrow facades, with inner patios and arches with a touch of Moorish influence popular at the time, and the remains of old objects from back then, including lottery cards unique to Campeche City!   

Then, walks along the malecón (the seafront). Oh, by the way, drivers are so respectful of pedestrians! I mean, crossing the avenue to reach the malecón was a breeze! All cars would slow down and stop the second they saw you intending to cross! So unlike Mexico City! LOL. 

And remember I said this was one of the few remaining fortified cities? Its walls and bastions provided for such romantic walks, you know? Plus, you can enter the bastions for views of the city from above, for a walk on top of the walls, or for exhibits (one of the bastions is a museum on Maya architecture): 

Need a drink? Then there's Calle 59, a street closed to traffic so you can sit outside and enjoy a margarita or a beer!

And we even happened to visit during the Festival Internacional de Campeche (the Campeche International Festival), and we saw folkloric dance performances, a sound and light show at the main square, a concert by Los Ángeles Azules, and a concert by Los Van Van from Cuba! We enjoyed them all, but Los Van Van was by far the best! Such energy! They had us all dancing out there and clapping and singing along! So much fun!

Simply a most wonderful farewell trip. So glad we decided to visit this part. It so pays to travel to the less famous spots, eh?