Monday, October 26, 2009


Before we talk about the word's prominence in everyday Mexican speech, we should talk about what it means.

LA ONDA is a noun, meaning 'the wave.' ONDAR, then, is the infinitive verb, meaning to wave, or to make waves. When someone says -¿QuĂ© onda?- they're literally asking you "What's waving?" Then they'll tell me I'm "buena onda" myself, which is kinda like good vibes. They'll say a place has the buena onda, or say that they're looking for the buena onda.

Well damnit. I too am looking for the buena onda.

Thought we'd found it Friday night. Well, maybe we did, but I lost it since then. Got invited by a VERY handsome boy, in fact the same futbol player I've been checking out for some time, to a bar. I brought a huge gaggle of exchange girls, mostly Korean, then American, and a Canadian. We danced and had a great time, but he didn't talk to me much. I was a little disappointed, since it's obvious I have a big honkin crush on him, but was more pleased by everyone in the bar. We all agreed that it was the first place we'd been that the other girls there weren't stabbing eye-daggers at us the whole time. In fact, while dancing, we'd frequently look up and catch some looking at us, but they'd be smiling! Friendly and shit! One girl even had a whole conversation with us, she was so so kind. The guys there seemed more interested in talking to us and getting to know us and having fun than being creepy. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Woke up Saturday and laid around lazy for a few hours. Kiki talked Cory and I into wanting to go see a movie, so we walked to the plaza nearby and caught Funny People, or as they call it here, Siempre Hay Tiempo Para Reir. It sucked so hard! Unanimously agreed. Went back home and I got ready to go over to Melissa's for another sleepover weekend.

That's the thing about waves, you know? They're always rising and falling, coming in and making their way back out to sea. So had a pretty good time overall Friday night, but then the movie sucked, and I went to Melissa's only to find out that her roommate, instead of going with us to the gay bar, would be going out with some other friends. What should we do? we asked each other, and sat there trying to brainstorm for some time. Just as we were about to give up, that silly new song, 'I gotta feeling... that tonight's gonna be a good night...' came on the radio and her phone rang. It was a boy who, along with his friend, wanted to know did we want to go to a house party. Well yes! So we got ready and were out the door in fifteen minutes.

They picked us up. They were handsome. They bought drinks to take to the party. We got there ... and really didn't see them much for the rest of the night. If I took two hot foreign chicks to a party, I'm sorry, I'd keep an eye on them girls. Not just because we're fabulous, but because they brought us and we didn't know ANYONE. But then the ONDAS shifted, and a super nice girl named Nadia came up and introduced herself. We chatted and just fell in love with her and the friends she introduced us to. Things started winding down early by Mexican standards - the music stopped at midnight, I reckon because of neighbors. As we were out front, Melissa and I, talking with a few boys we'd befriended there, bemoaning the way the boys who brought us had treated us and wondering what we should do since they were our ride...

...the boys said, well we have a car! We piled in. They were super sweet respectful guys, so we just went with it. They took us back to Melissa's, even stopping for tacos on the way, and we all hung out in her place for a while, talking and smoking and laughing. It was super fun.

Melissa's bed is neither comfortable nor large and is right next to a super busy street that makes noise all night. Since we shared it, we woke up every time anyone had to shift, which was frequently, or some silly car made too much noise, which was even more frequently. Didn't matter; we still had fun and I still love her to pieces. Woke up the next day and headed back home to do some quick laundry and showering because Melissa and the boy she's been seeing kinda steady had a fella they wanted to see if I liked at a get-together to watch a big futbol game on the tele.

On the bus home, the Friday-night-futbol-boy called and asked did I want to go watch the show with him and some friends and bring some of my friends. Well... sure. I'm a sucker. I thought maybe he'd just been shy on Friday and wanted to try hanging out again. I went home and got ready with Kiki and we headed out to meet the boys where they wanted to pick us up.

He wasn't in the car that got us and when I got there he was cuddling on the couch with some girl. Total coward. All you have to say is you're not interested, or you have someone else... what kinda punk invites a girl over just so she can see him cuddling someone else? The kind, I reckon, who invites a girl just so she'll bring her cute friends for his friends to flirt with. Anyway. I'm not the kind of girl to allow myself to be treated like that, so I acted like I got a phone call and ran outside to take it. Kept walking to the street. I'd checked with Kiki first to make sure she'd be okay - another girl was on her way to hang out too, so she'd have backup. I called Melissa and asked if she and her steady would come pick me up and they were there by the time I made it to the street. Angels, both.

Got to their house and the boy they were supposed to be setting me up with said all of maybe ten words to me the whole night.

But the party was fun; they were cooking up chicken wings the whole time and had conjured up half a dozen different sauces to put on them, all so delicious that when they kept pressing us to pick favorites we ended up having to narrow it down to two and refusing to go further. At the end of the game, a boy had lost a bet, so his head got shaved; THAT was fun.

These ondas... they're coming and going and rising and falling, going great and going shitty. It's appropriate that the word features so prominently in Mexican speech because I reckon it's a metaphor for my whole experience here.

I woke up last night at 3AM wide awake, troubled by the strangeness of my interactions with the locals, and completely unable to fall back asleep. I puttered around on my computer for an hour or more, then tried to go back to sleep. It must have happened after another hour. I had the most vivid dream in which I was sick, and I saw, I heard, I felt my father come into the room, reach down and pick me up while I was still asleep just like when I was a little girl, scoop me into his arms and carry me out of the room with my head on his shoulder. In the dream, I thought... this is really happening. Is this really happening? I should concentrate very hard. Do I feel his shoulder more strongly than I do the pillow, or is it the other way around? The more I concentrated, he began to fade away until I was certainly in my bed, listening to the fan, feeling the scratchy blanket. It broke my heart.

I'ma just keep riding these ONDAS and see what they do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Language, Laughter and Music.

I was in the cafeteria this week with Cory and a Mexican girl we were helping with her English homework. We'd all been talking off and on, bouncing between English and Spanish but staying in one or the other depending. If it had to do with the homework, it was English, if not, then Spanish. We were in line waiting for our lunch orders when Cory asked me something and I answered him. The girl started laughing. What, I asked her. She said, he just asked you in English and you responded in Spanish.

I hadn't even thought about it. It just happened, just came out of my mouth like that. That afternoon at home, the television was on during lunch and I realized I was hearing it and understanding without actively listening and thinking. I call that A SUCCESSFUL STUDY ABROAD EXPERIENCE.

I remembered the other thing that had to do with change. It was one thing I refuse to change. I noticed, one day after I hadn't been here too long, myself laughing out loud. It was surprising to notice because I never really took note of that before, and I realized the only reason I noticed it was because I didn't much hear loud laughter here. I thought that must surely be a mistake, so I started paying attention, hoping to hear loud laughter. In the weeks that have followed, I'm really one of the very few people I've heard laughing loudly, and most of the other few people I've heard are also foreigners. So I wonder, is it bad form for women to laugh loudly here? Do I look like a floozy when I'm having a good time and enjoying myself? I have decided that I do not care. I will assimilate in all sorts of ways, I mean to say I do respect your culture but I will not contain my joy.

I've been wanting to write about playing piano for a while and have never gotten around to it. It has been one of my sources of joy while here. The rooftop and the piano have helped me more than anything else. I did finally get everything in order to be able to swim in the school pool, but when I did it was just disappointing. I felt like it was just wrong, somehow, all that beautiful free water being cooped up and contained like that. I swam a while, but not for long, and I haven't been back.

I play piano every single school day. My fingers are so strong now. There's a muscle on the underside of my forearm that wasn't there before and it's hefty. I started with a piece called Solfigietto by one of Bach's kids and it's a very busy piece, maybe you saw the video I put up when I was still learning it. From there I tried a couple simple pieces, one my sister mailed me and Fur Elise. Now I'm working on Bach's Partita no 1, but only the last part, the two Minuets and the Gigue. UGH it's tough, and I love it.

I love the walk over to the round building, I love the quiet that surrounds it. I love being greeted by my maestro as soon as he sees me - he always seems so genuinely glad I'm there. I love it when we talk for a while, I love his stories, when he starts to give me full life histories of past composers, or when he starts to go on about the pieces he loves, how if he plays this piece nothing in the world exists but the music, if he listens to that one it lifts him up to heaven, how one composers said that he who prays with music prays two times. I love the small rooms, the old pianos so badly mistreated with the wonky tunes. I love the natural light that comes in from the tall windows and the way the notes echo in there. How when I play this exercise it sounds as though someone's knocking on the door, and that one sounds like whispers, and this one makes echoes like someone's singing in the next room. I love when my fingers start to burn from the exercises; I love the progress I'm making on the Partita. I love feeling like I'm doing something good for myself; I love witnessing each piece develop. I love getting frustrated and feeling like I'm doing poorly that day and I should just pack it all up and go and then coming back the next day and being able to see that I'm still better.

Lots of plans to go out many places this weekend; should have some great tales for you next week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paradoxes and Changes

So I know I said I lost my little notebook already. I'm still sad. Also in there were some ideas I was hoping to write to you about, so I'ma see if I can't brainstorm them a bit before they disappear altogether.

First of all, I was writing about some paradoxes I've witnessed here in Mexico. Looking at the list, they're pretty much all related to religion somehow or another.

First there's the whole issue of what exactly a woman in Mexico is supposed to be like. Seems like there are two extremes, and I'm sure those of you who know a thing or two about feminism know where this is headed. First of all, there's the impotance of the image of the Virgin in Mexican culure. Estimates I've heard range between 80 and 93% of the population as Catholic. So why, then, does this culture that reveres the image of the Virgin as well as the Mother so highly... allow its sons to hang out of cars whistling at the women they pass, yelling, barking, wagging their tongues? When I go out dancing, the Mexican girls advise me not to dance with more than one boy per night, never to kiss a boy until we've been out several times. If I do, they tell me, I'll be a slut, a whore, no kind of respectful woman at all. But then the same men who would judge me to be a slut seem to demand it.

And while we're talking about the image of the virgin, what of that? October 12 was a big local holiday here in Guadalajara, the Day of the Virgin of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. Now if you know anything about the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, you know she appeared to a man there and spoke to him in his own native tongue. He went and told his priest who advised him to bring proof. When the man returned from visiting the virgin again, his apron was completely full of roses that never bloom there, and when he dumped them out the image of the virgin had appeared on his apron. But the Virgin of Zapopan? No story. She's just a little statue. She has a silly dress and a ridiculous hat and lives inside a glass case. People pray to her for miracles and claim that she gives them what they ask for. Every year they parade the statue all around the city, blowing off fireworks and noisemakers in her path no matter what time it is nor how many people with heart conditions may be nearby. She's just a statue someone made. She is... an idol. And yet this is the same religion that has God himself demanding in the only ten commandments important enough to engrave in stone that they should not be idolatrous. I'm pretty sure Jesus brought it up in the New Testament, too. How do they get around that?

There was another paradox in there but it's gone forever now. On to changes.

The first change is a bit of a paradox also. So I'm in an exchange program with all sorts of other students, I'm sure I've mentioned but I'll do it again. German, French, Australian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Candian, Holland-ish, Austrian... there are surely more but that's all I've got. Nobody from Italy or the UK I don't think. But Spanish only has five vowel sounds and not many compound consonants, so frequently our foreign names are hard to say. More than any other nationality, the Koreans adopt Spanish names when they come here. When one of them introduces themself to me with a Spanish name, I make a point to ask, but is that your own name or a Spanish name? 100% of the time they'll say, no, my real name is this, and when I repeat it, it's like... the surprise on their faces while they exclaim VERY GOOD PRONUNCIATION... It makes me a little sad for them.

But then I realize, I've changed too. It hurts me so badly to hear people call me GEEEEENA that I've just told them to call me Susan. Now, to be fair, that is my birth name, but it's not what I usually go by. I've changed. There are some people here that call me Ginna, but not many, and many of them screw it up when they try it.

Another change. When I first got here, I was surprised to see the kids in the house throwing the peace sign up any time they came home or entered a room or left... it's like Aloha or something, serves all sorts of purposes. And I laughed like uh what's up 1993 didn't expect to see you here. But it's not just them, it's all over the place. And now... I'm doing it. Throwing deuces all over the place. Whether it's the peace sign or the victory sign, I'm not sure, but I'm doing it. It's actually kind of handy.

Something else handy: the phrase "Vale la pena." It means, literally, to value the pain, or be worth the trouble. When I worked in Scotland, I came back with the phrase "canna be arsed" or "canna be bothered" as my phrase of choice. Here, for me, although I've picked up all sorts of phrases, my favorite is "vale la pena." So many things do and don't "vale" their "penas"... it becomes a way of thinking as well as a phrase.

On my list of changes, I had something that hadn't changed, wasn't changing, would not be changing as well. It was an important observation for me... and now it, and my beautiful beloved notebook are gone forever.

Staying in town and planning to pall around with Melissa and Sergio again. Here's to another ROCKSTAR WEEKEND.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I was a rockstar this weekend.

Well that was a hell of a weekend.

I reckon it started Friday. Cory flew back to the States for his sister´s wedding. I stayed after class to practice piano and when I got home everyone was gone, I assume, to the airport with him. I rustled around in the fridge, found some taquitos, some delicious white rice, some garbanzo soup, and heated them all up. Pigged out, laid down for a nap.

Must´ve woken up a solid six hours later. It was dinnertime when I woke up, and we eat late here. Kiki said she had plans to go out with a German girl in the program, that they were planning to go out around eleven and if I wanted to come I was welcome to. I really wanted to go out, still didn´t feel like I had properly partied in this foreign country.

We went to a salsa bar, a Cuban joint and it was fun and classy... but not the kind of night out I was looking for. It cost sixty pesos to get in and they handed us a mojito right away. We made our way to the table the girls had reserved and sat with them to watch the SHOW – several dancers dancing their respective ASSES off... in the States, it might have come across as cheesy, but for some reason here it was really awesome and impressive.

After the show we danced some too, then couldn’t decide on what the next move should be. Some wanted to go to another bar, some wanted to go home... we hadn’t left until midnight anyway so it was getting close to 3 and Lore was afraid her parents, our host parents, would want us back soon. At Meli’s urging, we went to the next bar with her and found that they wanted an entry fee as well. It just didn’t seem worth it so we found food and headed back, checking in around 4.

I woke up the next morning READY. No idea why. It was ten or so and I was up and at ‘em. Had plans to hang out with Melissa so I went to her place to meet her and we went to the tianguis cultural – this hippy market that springs up every Saturday. While there we found some really cool stuff, but sadly someone saw Melissa’s open bag hanging behind her and reached in and helped themself to what they could grab. It turns out they got her skirt and scarf, her super sweet new camera and her wallet.

We headed back toward her place, right near school, and she had a cuddle date on his way to hug her to feel better after the robbery, so I headed on to campus because I heard there was a student game and wanted to catch it. It was totally worth it! I headed back to her place afterward and we figured we wanted to go out so I ran home to get ready.

After the night before and the whole issue with people feeling like we should be back at a certain time... I just didn’t want to mess with that. Melissa had said I could sleep overnight at her place so I packed a bag, took a shower, and headed out, looking classy. Got to her place and she wasn’t there. Turns out she’d gone out with her neighbor, a cute boy who likes her. I wasn’t surprised but I wasn’t bothered either. I knew another one of our ideas for going out had involved the gay bar with her roommate, so I just waited around hoping he would show before too long. I figured the worst that could happen was it got late and I went back home.

He showed up with a friend and let me in and we started having beverages and conversations. It was super deep stuff, and I held my own in Spanish, so that was fun. Mostly related to gay issues, because I wanted to know what life as a gay person is like in Mexico. After a while, he got ready and we headed out. It was after midnight before we even left.

Let me just talk about Sergio for a minute, the roommate. First of all, just beautiful. Super intelligent, ridiculously kind... just an angel. We made it to the club, made it in, got our free first drink and went to scope the place out. First thing he did was point out a spot and say, if we get separated, we meet here. He was a great wingman too – he’d start introducing himself to groups with cute girls, then introduce the cute girls to me god bless him. We danced all over the place, I got flirted with more by guys than by girls, super weird, and stayed partying and dancing and drinking and dancing until they threw us out at five or six in the morning.

Took a cab back, and passed the FUCK out. Melissa still wasn’t back. I woke up and Lord knows when shivering, found a blanket on the floor, covered up, passed back out. Woke up again later with a burning desire to get to Tonala, a suburb on the outskirts of the city that has a great market on Sundays. Melissa stopped in just as I was getting ready to head out so we all swapped crazy stories from our nights before. She came with me but I ended up losing her in the market, and due to searching for her didn’t make it to one of the stands I really wanted to get a present for my <3BFF at until they’d already packed up. Guess I’m going back before I come home.

I was tired of not being able to get ahold of people. Because I didn’t have a phone the night before, I missed Melissa on her way out. Because I didn’t have a phone, I couldn’t find her after I lost her. So when I got back to town, I got a phone. Discovered I’d lost my wallet. The only real important thing that was in there was my driver’s license, so that’s not too bad. I lost between a hundred and two hundred pesos, but it could have been worse. Then between the phone shop and my house I lost my precious beloved tiny gray notebook I’ve been jotting notes in for so long. That hurts way worse than the wallet, and not just because there was a number in there of a boy who wanted to make out. There were poem ideas in there, feelings, important info, all sorts of stuff. I’m hoping someone decides to call one of the numbers in there and it makes its way back to me somehow. Manifesting that reality now...

Overall it was a great weekend. Listen, sometimes I get down and all, but what really matters is that even when I feel like I’ve got it kinda bad, I’ve got it really fucking great. Had an amazing weekend with some great friends. Have a house and food. Have wonderful family and supportive friends back home. Have a ridiculous scholarship and a precious dog. Have myself, have my health, have my faith in life and love. Have you. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's been over two weeks since I updated. Guess what. That's right, I've been bummed.

Currently, right this very moment, what has me most bummed is the fact that there are no sufficient words in Spanish for "awkward" nor "cuddling."

I know the first one because it came up today while I was talking with some friends and a girl brought it up. I know the second one because it's what I really miss most right now. On "Free Hug Day," they told us the average person needs eight instances of personal touch per day to keep from getting high strung. Until I lamented it today, the last really real good hug I'd had was my father in the airport before I left. A girl named Hannah gave me a pretty good one, but it's always better with someone you already love, right?

To that end, I'm holding in my head the hope for the slumber party I'll host upon my return, a repeat of so many cuddle parties past only on a much larger scale of course because I want everyone I love to be there at once. Carrot on a string and all.

I almost got really close to somebody before I left. I mean I was getting out the silver platter to serve my heart on and polishing it and all... but then it was time to go, and who wants to serve it up just to watch it break? So I tucked it back in its little hidey-hole in my chest, but now it's restless. It got a breath of fresh air, the first real feelings like that it's had in years, and it wants more.

So I have a crush on a futbol player, who finally approached me the other day and added me to his facebook friends. Big deal. Then in the market this weekend, this tall handsome fellow started talking to me and took me on a grand tour of the whole market. I hung out with him for a while, ran between his stand and the other manned by his friends while we talked about our personal opinions on all sorts of issues, philosophies of others, future plans. It was nice. He was easily the kindest, most respectful and smartest gentleman I've had the pleasure of meeting since I came here. But he has no computer and I have no phone... so they're all just little ideas I keep in my head to pretend like I'm close to someone, anyone.

One girl who has become a good friend is my travel buddy from Puerto Vallarta. She's more than a little boy crazy, god bless her, but I have to admire her, as she knows what she likes and goes after it. She's being courted by a gentleman currently I do approve of (not that I disapprove of any of the others, just I don't think they're up to snuff) who's a little older (that is to say, closer to my age than hers) and classier, more respectful, less... babyish. Age is a lot different here, those of us in the exchange program frequently agree. You can be in your twenties but still be a completely helpless child. Not that you can't do that in the States, just that it's more widespread here.

So anyway, this guy. His name is Ismael, which is just fun to say. He heard we wanted to go see a lucha libre and took us, bless him. That is to say, really really took us. Picked us up and drove us there, gave us a whole inroduction on the way as far as what we could expect and what we shouldn't expect and how to behave and how not to behave... we were pretty excited. He was wearing a shirt with a luchador mask on the front and it said in big letters PUTOS LOS DE ABAJO - Folks downstairs are bitches! There's a class war going on apart from the luchas, upstairs are the poor folks and downstairs are the rich folks - at least, that's how it's supposed. Ismael's got his cash, probably as much as the average person downstairs, so it's more of a mindset I reckon. Nobody upstairs looked really poor.

We got there and drove past and he told us his friend was holding a spot for him. Sure enough, apparently he's a regular and *knows people*, you know. Sure enough, homeboy had a great parking spot marked off and talked him into it, then sold him discount tickets to get in, and Ismael paid for everything, even if it was only fifty pesos each it felt like a classy gesture. Nevermind he got to roll in with two gringa babes.

He'd warned us that people were going to be yelling things at each other all night, and not to worry, it's all in fun. No sooner had we topped the stairs when the entire crowd spun around, pointed at Melissa, and started hollering - "La guera no es normal! La guera no es normal! Tiene solo un huevo y es homosexual!" that is to say, the blondie is not normal, the blondie is not normal, she has just one ball and is gay. It was fun and games though, she was a great sport as was the guy they designated to be the one they made fun of for being dark skinned, the one with the big nose, the one with the eyebrows, every single person with glasses who got called blind... this was all going on while we were having shouting matches with the people downstairs, and as Ismael said, "AND BY THE WAY, there's also a Lucha."

The lucha was great too, when we actually paid attention to it. It was never fewer than two on two and sometimes three on three. Of course it was just as rehearsed as wrestling back home, but this was much more acrobatic than slammy. What's more, we were frequently yelling things to make fun of the luchadors, and they played along which was a blast.

It's October here. The temperature hovers on either side of eighty all the time. It's sunny. I'm really greatful for this amazing weather, as I don't know if I could cope with all my heavy-head and winter at the same time.

I'm working on a video project. Going to leave it at that for now, but there might be some developments coming up.