Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas in the Zocalo

Here are some photo of the Zocalo, Mexico City's town square that features the National Cathedral and the Presidential Palace, decorated for Christmas. The city constructed an ice skating rink, tents for snowball fights, and a sledding hill. The lines for all of those are extremely long.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back Home

Back home at my parents' house, in a retirement village in Naperville. It is obviously freezing here. Hoping to find some job / volunteering to keep me busy as I'll be here until returning to Mexico City January 9th.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Going to Acapulco

In a couple hours, I'm going to Acapulco. I'll be staying at the new Hotel One Acapulco. From what I've read, Hotel One is a fairly new semi-luxury hotel chain in Latin America. Acapulco, located about 4 hours south of Mexico City on the Pacific Ocean, was the first resort city in Mexico. In the 50s and 60s it catered to the Hollywood jet-set crowd (Elvis made an Acapulco movie that, not surprisingly given the low quality of many of his films, was not actually filmed in Acapulco), but since then, it's gone downhill as other new resort cities (Puerto Vallarta, several hours north of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula south of California, Ixtapa, a quiet resort town a a few hours north of Acapulco that my family and I enjoyed, Cancun, the over-the-top city on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean and the more serene Riviera Maya a few hours south of that) have sprung up.

Prices for certain thing can be outrageous in Mexico, including telephone and internet service, imported electronics, and the lady who has a monopoly on laundromats in my neighborhood (to wash and dry 3 loads of my own laundry costs me $17 US). The bus lines (which I'll be taking today) and wealthy drivers take instead a very nice highway to Acapulco that rarely has traffic. The problem: a one way trip on it costs $50 US in tolls. That being said, if you have 3 or more people in your car, even counting gas and tolls, it's cheaper to drive a car than take a bus. Here's an interesting article on that highway. There are back roads that one can take to Acapulco for free, but they take about 9 hours instead of the 3.5 to 4.5 hours on the expensive super-highway. This highway is owned by a private company. Though the price is annoying, it is good that taxpayers don't have to subsidize a road used primarily by wealthy people.

One really interesting thing to me is from all the hotel reviews I've read, it seems nearly all the hotels in Acapulco, even the ones associated with good brand names, are in desperate need of renovations. I think the hotel chains have sort of ignored Acapulco since more foreign travelers are now going to the other Mexican resort cities. Nowadays it is a very popular college spring break destinations for the Gabachos from up north. Certainly what keeps Acapulco popular is that it is the closest resort city to Mexico City. Wealthy Mexicans still go there a lot, but many of them stay in their own vacation houses there. Given the recession and the fact that it's not a busy season for the hotels, prices are really cheap right now for hotels (though flights to Acapulco and Mexico City are almost twice as much as what they were in better economic times, when I'd imagine more flights were being scheduled).

Anyways, I'm very excited, I haven't been to the beach since I got here over 4 months ago.

Heading home for a month in Naperville starting December 8th!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mexico in a Nutshell

This article I found today gives a great summary about everything about this country: geography, history, politics, economics, present challenges. It's a very good explanation of why Mexico is like it is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Wrapup

I would call this the weekend wrap-up, but tomorrow is a holiday (Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910) so we still have one more day of the weekend. This is a big year of celebration for Mexico, as it gets ready to celebrate its 200th birthday.

I was very happy to see Michelle Wie win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara. She has worked very hard and I feel good for her that she no longer has to hear the "When will she win?" question. I can't imagine how stressful it must have been to have constantly put up with that.

Finally, a funny article about this country from an issue of the Wall Street Journal this weekend. Three years ago, Felipe Calderon (a conservative) defeated Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo, the liberal/populist former mayor of Mexico City) for the Presidency, which came with a six-year term (presidents here cannot run for reelection). The contest was extremely close, and it's very likely that there was fraud. Amlo refused to accept the result, and has been running a government ever since then. He and all his ministers take their government very seriously and act as if they are in a real government. Not surprisingly, they public support is very low. Still, it makes for great comedy whenever the "Legitimate President" feels the need to make a proclamation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

12 Hours in Guadalajara

Thursday night, I took the 7-hour overnight bus to Guadalajara (the country's second largest city, a couple hundred miles west of the Distrito Federal), to see the penultimate tournament of the 2009 LPGA season. The Lorena Ochoa Invitational was first played last year, it is a 36-player invite that despite only being in its second presentation already draws all of the top players in the world. The event is played at Guadalajara Country Club, the course where Lorena Ochoa, currently the top-ranked player in the world, grew up playing golf. The course was really cool, with lots of hills, some solid foliage, very close to downtown and lots of cool modern condo buildings surrounding it.

I walked 18 holes with a group of three Americans (a rarity in the increasingly Asian-centric LPGA). The group was Cristie Kerr (a former US Open champion with over $10 million in career earnings), Brittany Lang (a 24-year old former Dukie) and Brittany Lincicome (also 24, the winner of this year's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship). The group all started the day at 3 under after shooting 69s the first day, and they all shot 70s yesterday. I spent most of the round talking with the player's families and agents/reps (there was a group of about 8 following the group), and they were all nice.

Every time Lorena's back home, everyone wants her attention constantly. Combined with launching some new ventures and being engaged to a divorced airline CEO with three kids, Lorena has had a relatively tough year by her standards. That being said, she still has a chance to win the player of the year race (the season concludes next week). Her main rival is Jiyai Shin, a 21-year old South Korean rookie who has already won seven times on Tour (including one major, the 2008 British Open). Jiyai enters today's third round with a three-stroke lead over Michelle Wie, the 19-year old Stanford Cardinal who has still yet to win professionally. Ochoa is a few more back. The tournament is on the Golf Channel today and Sunday at 3pm central (tomorrow is the 4th and final round).

Some random thoughts:
-Overnight bus rides aren't so bad

-Watched 'marley and me' on the bus ride home last night (dubbed in Spanish, obviously), first time I had seen it, I definitely liked it

-Guadalajara Country Club is amazing, it has an equestrian park, tons of tennis courts (including two with roofs/lights), a great course, and a beautiful clubhouse (snuck in for a tour / free food in the press center). Listing price to join: $185,000 US! (the average country club in the US costs between $30,000-$40,000 to join). That fee doesn't include annual dues, etc.

-These players just play mistake free golf. Jiyai Shin usually only drives it 240, hits tons of fairway woods when other plays are hitting mid-irons, but just doesn't make mistakes (bogey-free 66 for her yesterday)

-Laura Davies seems to follow my philosophy on the driving range: take approximately 2 seconds until hitting the next shot

-They all take forever on the putting greens

-Jiyai Shin was really personable when I snuck into the press conference. She has a good command of English and made me laugh a few times. That being said, language barriers aside, I do think the LPGA faces a marketing challenge when it comes to the fact that so many of their top players are Asian. One thing that really surprised me as that for many of the Asians, when their name was called on the first tee, they barely looked up. It's one thing to not be able to speak with the fans, etc., but you don't need to speak English to look up and wave and smile at the crowd.

-Will Wie win? (I'm an alliteration aficionado)

-Mexicans still aren't the most sophisticated golf fans (soccer fans, lucha fans, etc.) in the world. Several fans would routinely applaud Ochoa's playing partners for missing putts. Very weak sauce move right there.

-Good food and drink selection, but I was disappointed with the lack of desserts in the press center

-Natalie Gulbis withdrew due to back injuries. Tough start to my day.

-One marshall allowed us to enter a crossing, and thinking she actually knew what she was doing, we did so without looking. Turns out Juli Inkster was addressing her ball on the tee box. Woops!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Protests in Mexico City

Ken Ellingwood of the Los Angeles Times really is the best American reporter in Mexico City that I know of. He consistently does a great job of reporting on not just big government/political issues, but also on how life is for daily residents here in DF.

Here's his article today on a huge protest yesterday that attempted to shut down traffic. Protests here commonly shut down traffic.

Anyways, I'm glad these workers were forced to protest. President Felipe Calderon, with the support of the majority of citizens, recently shut down a government-run electricity company that was losing billions of dollars a year. This country has lots of huge government companies that lose lots of money (especially the oil company Pemex), so I hope the president has the ability to streamline more of those, and to privatize if necessary. This country sorely needs new laws that promote greater competition and weaken the hold of monopolostic companies (both private and state-run).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Being on time

Very good article (in English) about how no one in Mexico City is on time for anything ever.

The article quotes a writer, who, in typical Mexican fashion, says there's "nothing we can do" about being late for everything. There's times when I wonder if that phrase should be Mexico's national slogan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Checking In

Currently live blogging the World Series game,

Very slow blogging the month of October, sorry about that. I could pretend I was busy but we all know that's not true ... at all. So, anyways, how's it going? Being so high here in the mountains, weather is definitely starting to show it here in mexico (my capital 'm' isn't working). Apparently, just being so high up in the mountains, most of the next few months will be fairly cloudy during the day, mid-60s and a lil windy, and mid-40s and windy at night. Sadly not beach weather, but certainly better than the midwest where I've lived my whole life.

I'm definitely happy with the group of people I've met here. I really like the other students at Tec and I'm enjoying the classes. I translated a paper for my advisor that's getting published here in January.

Still the most frustrating thing is not having anything to do during the day. I've been doing a lot of job searching, but that obviously takes a long time. I've been trying to go to a lot of business events around the city (mergers and acquisition reception, breakfast for the Dominican Republic's Treasury Secretary, mexpat parties, etc.) and am meeting some good people, but nothing yet. I'm pretty flexible about things, so hopefully something will happen soon. The average job search in the US now lasts 7 months, so I realize it just takes time. For comedy sake I went to an Accenture recruiting event on campus last week, seemed like a very exciting company to work for! The other major problem still is living as far south as I do. most of my friends live more in the center (areas like Condesa, Roma, and Polanco), and more businesses are there (and also wayyyy west in Santa Fe). So, if I find a job, I would likely move. Until then, it's not worth it, considering the traffic to get to school

Day of the Dead, a huge holiday here in mexico, is being celebrated today and tomorrow. Families gather in cemeteries to remember their loved ones. It's more celebratory than melancholy. Been eating a lot of Pan de muerto lately.

my friend Kendall (his never-updated blog is linked on the right) has had swine flu the last flu days. Fortunately none of the other students in my house have had it.

I went to a costume party Friday, mainly gabachos, it was very fun. Went as Forrest Gump, here's the photo. Definitely glad I got the haircut, even though my dance partner in salsa class thought it was so bad that she basically was laughing the entire way through our class a few days again (though, my still-improving moves could be a significant factor). Halloween is getting bigger and bigger here, I saw lots of kids Trick or Treating yesterday.

This article is a very good summary of the biggest news story in mexico here during the past month. President Felipe Calderon decided to shut down a state-run electricity company that was losing $3 billion US a year, and the populace strongly supported the move. Power goes out a lot here (I've had to throw out a lot of spoiled food), so hopefully it'll get better now that a new company has taken over. The article implies the president, for the short term, has a window to make mexico more economically competitive (break up more monopolies and unions, better tax collections, etc). The other big news is the president trying to get a sales tax increase in order to keep the country's finances in order. That definitely doesn't seem likely. my favorite newspaper here is milenio. If you're on Twitter, I recommend following the mexico city news, a feed (in english) that offers a sarcastic take on news in mexico.

I really miss playing golf. Hopefully over winter break there'll still be enough days in the 40s that I can play a couple rounds of golf, I haven't played since I've been here and really miss it. Golf is extremely expensive here in mexico (and most of the developing world), and despite golf's addition as an official sport in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, I don't see that changing much at all, at least not anytime soon. Nonetheless, I greatly respect guys like this Tony Ciabattoni, an American living in Colombia and attempting to make golf accessible to people of all classes.

This semester will be entirely complete December 7th, and assuming I don't have any obligations to keep me here, I'll probably be back in Naperville by December 10th. I'll be home for an entire month and hope to find some 'holiday job' (retail/restaurant). maybe I'll work as a viene viene. Possible quick trip to Vegas w/ my sister and her boyfriend's family during the month, but otherwise nothing else planned. Definitely looking forward to being home, and hopefully I can stay busy while I'm there. I'm planning on coming back for the spring semester, hopefully I'll find some sort of job for this spring. If done full-time, the program runs 3 semesters (not sure what I would do in the summer).

Well, I hope everyone's doing well. It'll be a weird Thanksgiving for the Stiling family; I'll be here, and my parents will be with my sister in Boston as she's recovering from hip replacement surgery. I'm hoping to organize a Thanksgiving meal here.

Enjoy November!
skype: drewby222

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Book on the Mexico City Olympics

I just found out about this book and thought you might be interested. SI Writer Richard Hoff has recently written a book about the 1968 Mexico City Olympics called Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. It tells the story of many athletes, including George Foreman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Bob Beamon (who broke the long jump record by an amazing 22 inches), and Dick Fosbury (who established the modern form for high jumpers).

I hope the book talks about why the IOC decided to award the Olympics to Mexico. As I mentioned before, this was the first time the Olympics was hosted in a developing country.

My parents and sister visited last week, and we all had a good time (despite some awful traffic at times). Personally, I'm still hoping to get to the beach soon.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Olympics - 2016 and 1968

Anyone following my Twitter yesterday knew that I was a little obsessed with the vote for the 2016 Olympic host city, which culminated in Rio de Janeiro being chosen as the winner. Friday was a pretty exciting day in that sense. I was bummed about Chicago losing, but it was an interesting day nonetheless. I woke up at 1:30 AM to watch Chicago give its final presentation in Copenhagen, Denmark, site of the vote. First Lady Michelle Obama gave an amazing speech telling of her childhood growing up on the Southside and how her father, even after being diagnosed with MS, still went to great length to keep playing with his kids, and how he would have loved seeing the Olympics in Chicago, a city that has never hosted the Olympics (aided by St. Louis's stealing of the Olympics in 1904 after Chicago had been selected to host). Chicago's videos were pretty good, but the speeches of Mayor Daley, President Obama, and Chicago 2016 CEO/Chairman Patrick Ryan were rather bland. And, I can't imagine the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was too thrilled with the president being in Copenhagen for only 5 hours, instead of the multi-day visit of Brazil's tubby president Lula (a president and a country that certainly wanted the Olympics more than my own). Despite having what many neutral observers thought was the best bid, Chicago lost in the first round of voting, finishing in 4th (Tokyo was 3rd and eliminated after the 2nd round of voting, and Madrid finished 2nd in the 3rd and final round of voting).

I really wish Chicago would have won. I understand the arguments about budget overruns, etc., but more than anything, I think it would've been a blast to have the Olympics in Chicago. I do think the IOC made the right decision in choosing Rio. It's a very fun city and the Olympics, have never been in South America (or Africa ... ha, or for that matter, Antartica ... ask my mom about the continents, she's an expert!). The Olympic games really did need to go to South America, and specifically to Brazil, an emerging economic powerhouse. But I definitely was frustrated by the disrespect the Euro-centric IOC gave to Chicago (and the United States in general).

Philip Hersh, the Chicago Tribune's excellent Olympic sports writer, gives a great explanation of the significant disconnect between the IOC and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The IOC feels the USOC hasn't been active enough in the international sports movement (not especially surprising from a country with globally successful leagues). There was also some behind the scenes deal-making to make sure Chicago got knocked at first, and some foreign IOC members were outspoken about the poor treatment Chicago got despite its very solid bid. When you combine the dislike of the US by the IOC with the strong desire to give the Games to Rio, Chicago, in hindsight, was logically dead from the start.

Given the small likelihood of the IOC giving less voting power to the Europeans, it is necessary to have their support going forward in order to win a bid, and we had none 0f their support this time. The IOC basically wants a greater level of deference from the USOC and additional US Olympic television revenue (ignoring the fact that half of the 12 premier Olympic sponsors are American companies). In the twenty-two years between 1980 and 2002, the US hosted the Summer or Winter Olympics 4 times. It is now guaranteed to go 16 years (2002-2018) without having the Games at all, and given the animosity between the USOC and the IOC (along with the fact the 2016 Olympics are in the Americas), it seems unlikely now that the US would host the 2020 Summer Games. If the USOC really wants to host the Games more often, they'll need to significantly strengthen their relationship with the IOC (however unpleasant that might be).

This week will also importantly decide whether golf is included in the 2016 Olympics. An IOC committee approved golf to be an official medal sport starting in the 2016 Olympics, and the general IOC body is expected to approve golf this week. Golf, despite not being in the inaugral 1896 Olympics, was an official medal sport in 1900 and 1904. Since then, it has not been an Olympic sport. I strongly feel golf should be in the Olympics, and nearly all the top professionals have put forward their support. Golf is an increasingly global game (the world's top ranked female is Mexican Lorena Ochoa), and I believe if golf became an official Olympic event, national Olympic committees around the world would give more funds to golf, allow greater access to people of all income brackets. However, the selection of Rio possibly hurts this. Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid all have high quality tournament-caliber golf courses. Rio ... not so much ... at all. The only currently viable course is two hours away, and even that course would require significant upgrade. If golf is approved, it'll be interesting to see if a tournament-caliber course will be constructed in Rio, or if they'll have to go far outside the city to use one. I really hope golf will be approved this Friday.


Now, as I'm sure you're not wondering, why is so much written about the 2016 Olympic bid on a blog about life in Mexico? Well, in 1968, Mexico City became the first city in Mexico, the first city in Latin America, and the first city in the developing world to host the Olympic games, hosting the Summer Olympics that October. That summer saw significant protests worldwide about a variety of things. Those protests were not foreign to Mexico. Unfortunately, as the result of the horrific actions by the government of Mexico at the time, approximately 200-300 protesters were killed in Mexico City shortly before the Games. The scene took place the Plaza of Tres Culturas on October 2nd of that year. The President at the time sent troops dressed as civilians and ordered them to fire on the military patrolling the protest. This was ordered with the purpose of the military now having a reason to start firing into the crowd of protesters (with the goal of killing the protesters and returning order to the city for the Olympic games). Sadly, despite Mexico's more open democracy, no one has yet been charged for that crime.

The Opening Ceremony took place on October 12th, and outside protesters did not affect the Games at all. Certainly the most remembered part of the Games took place after the men's 200 meter final. Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos took gold and bronze, respectively. Australian Peter Norman finished with silver. During the playing of the U.S. national anthem, the Americans both gave the infamous black power salute (Michael Jordan, really an all-around jack-ass who clearly doesn't care about using his influence to better society, would have his own Olympic protest in 1992 when he almost refused to take the medal stand due to the requirement to wear the official team warm-ups during the medal ceremony. Naturally, this was about money: Jordan was protesting Reebok's logo (and not his personal sponsor Nike) being on the threads. Classlessly Jordan used the American flag as a prop to appease his sponsors. This was the biggest moral stand Jordan has ever taken in his life). Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Games and the subject of much criticism around the world. Peter Norman's stand against racism cannot be overlooked either, as he wore a patch in opposition to racist policy in Australian. He was ostracized as well, and was not allowed to participate in the 1972 Olympics.

Probably the most impressive athletic accomplishment of the games was the long jump performance of American Bob Beamon. He obliterated the long-jump record. Not to take away from him, but the extreme altitude of Mexico City (the first Olympics competed significantly above sea level) likely played a role in this performance, but it was still very impressive nonetheless.

The Olympic stadium was built in the south of the city, in Coyoacan, just off of Insurgentes (a north-side street that is the longest in Mexico City). The stadium is part of the campus of the country's biggest college, UNAM. Since the Olympics, el Estadio Olimpico has been used as the stadium of Pumas, one of the most popular teams in Mexico's soccer league. South of the stadium is Villa Olimpica, the former Olympic village that is now used as housing for residents.


Thankfully, the rainy season is now over. It's sunny, 70s, and clear, all day, every day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Mexico City

Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel is one of my favorite TV shows. Here's an episode from last year of him coming to Mexico City. He had David Lida, a great American journalist living here, as a behind the scenes consultant during the episodes.

During the episode, he visits the nearby state of Puebla and tries mole negro, a chocolate-chili sauce extremely famous here. Chicken with mole negro might be my favorite dish here.

My biggest criticism with the episode is that he doesn't visit any high-end restaurants in Mexico, even though he often visits several high-end restaurants in other cities. I think it's too simplistic when talking about food in Mexico to just focus on the street food or the simple family eateries, especially when earlier this year a Wall Street Journal reporter went to great lengths to highlight the amazing fine dining options here. I remember watching some idiot on 'Top Chef' once claiming that Mexican found cannot be haute cuisine. Fortunately, he didn't win, and fortunately for Chicagoans, there's some amazing high-end Mexican food in the city, most notably the restaurants of Rick Bayless. Unfortunately, even some Mexicans don't realize their food can be like this (I remember a student a month ago commenting to me that Mexican food can't possibly be gourmet).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Parque Lincoln

Abe Lincoln, above.
MLK, below.

I spent a decent amount of time in Polanco this weekend. I went to the apartment of an American there Saturday night who recently moved to D.F.; he's working for a bank here and lives just off Avenida Presidente Mazayrk, the most upscale shopping street in the city. What I love about Polanco is that it is one of the few walkable parts of Mexico City. You're within walking distance of many restaurants, shops, bars, and parks, and there's always a lot to do. Where I live, I always have to take a bus or taxi to get to anywhere interesting, so it's very nice to be in a neighborhood where you can walk to most places.

My church is fairly close to Polanco, and after church today I went with a few people to have coffee in Polanco. Beforehand, we stopped by Parque Lincoln (Lincoln Park ... hmm, that name sounds familiar). This park has two amazing statues, on separate sides of the street, facing each other. A statue of Abraham Lincoln on one side of a street directly faces a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. Both statues were donated by the United States government. One of the guys in my group said that when he was learning English, he watched the "I Have a Dream" speech, and was moved to tears.

It was really interesting to see these statues, especially considering that I'm currently reading "To the Mountaintop," a biography of MLK, but more specifically, a biography also about his faith. It's fascinating to read about how certain he was of the rightness of his mission, as well as his acceptance and understanding that he would eventually be assassinated. It's also interesting to read that he reluctantly came to his position as a civil rights icon; he initially was much more interested in being a theology-oriented, middle-class pastor. MLK's biography also has a fascinating interlude about Lincoln's visit to Gettysburg. Last year, I read "Team of Rivals" , a fascinating biography of Lincoln's ability to bring his rivals together in his administration, and ever since then I've really come to see him as our greatest President. In a society such as Mexico, where racism isn't literally as "black and white," but nonetheless is a significant problem, it's nice to see the recognition of two seminal figures who fought for human equality.

Monday, September 14, 2009

U.S. Ambassador's Visit

Article on the visit to Tec by the U.S. Ambassador (in Spanish)

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So, I am definitely happy the football season is upon us. I enjoyed watching the Michigan-ND game yesterday, as well as the OSU-USC game at night. Hopefully I'll be able to watch Northwestern games at times. I'm going to an authentic local eatery tonight (Hooters) to watch the Bears game. And I'm playing fantasy football for the first time in several years. I got Tom Brady and Randy Moss on my team. Some expert claimed that any team with the two of them on it would be (barring injury) guaranteed to win your league. We'll see. I'm able to watch nearly all the American sports I want through either or, and am now watching Tiger close up his victory in Chicago.

Things are going well here in Mexico City. Last weekend my friend Adam visited me, we stayed in the city the whole time and spent the weekend taxi-ing around saw most of the neighborhoods. We also both lost a tacos-al-pastor eating contest to a girl (I had 12, Adam stopped at 13 when he saw Dolores eat her 14th and knew she could keep going). We went to the top of Torre Latinoamerica, a major DF landmark.

Monday night, the newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, came and spoke at my school. He gave a very interesting speech about the lessons learned in fighting organized crime in America. In the past few years, the government of President Felipe Calderon (who was elected in 2006 to a six-year term (re-election to President is prohibited in Mexico)) has began a major military assault on organized crime. Thousands of Mexicans have died by the hands of these newly desperate gangs since then, but I believe the severe weakening of these gangs (which has begun to happen) is necessary for Mexico's long term success. So many businesses, especially in the northern states where the battles are the worst, cannot do anything without having to pay an extortion fee to these gangs. Selling a house? The gangs demand 10% of the sale price. I was and am very impressed by the determination of my Ambassador, and the Mexican government, to destroy these gangs and bring greater peace and prosperity to the Mexican people.

Mexico had a bit of a scare with an airplane hijacking this past Wednesday, but it was quickly and peacefully resolved. That same night, the Mexicans beat Honduras 1-0 at home at Azteca (thanks to the Chicago Fire's Cuatehemoc Blanco's penalty kick). The U.S. won at Trinidad that night to take sole possession of first place in the group standings, and with two games remaining in North and Central American World Cup qualifying, the U.S. and Mexico both seem good picks to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. There have been heavy rains this week, but the severe drought affecting Mexico and Central America, the worst drought in 60 years, still continues.

School is going well, and I like the people there. Independence day is coming up, it is celebrated on the the 16th of September. Next year is Mexico's 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. Today I had the traditional Independence Dish, Chiles en Nogada, and definitely enjoyed it. I also just checked out a cookbook by Diana Kennedy, the resident expert (and snob) of Mexican gastronomy.

I hope to get to the beach soon. Very, very soon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ask A Mexican!

For all those questions you've had about Mexicans and Mexican culture ...

This column has been going on for a couple years. Every week, a Mexican American answers, usually sarcastically but always in a hilarious manner, readers' questions about Mexican and Mexican culture. Very good stuff.

Great Michigan game today ... Go Blue!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Other Mexico City Blogs / Magazines

Here's some good links on other similar blogs about foreigners living in Mexico City: - Journalists living in Mexico City - American couple living here - A Brit living herer

And one English magazine about living in Mexico:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Welcome Back

Hey, I know it's been a few weeks, but had I updated a week ago, it probably would've been really lame, so here we go. Things have been getting slowly better here, I'm meeting more people and getting busier, so that's definitely a good thing. This Friday my friend Adam Glassberg is coming to visit, we'll be celebrating Labor Day weekend here in Mexico City. I'm definitely hoping he's up for going to Six Flags ... we shall see.

This past weekend was pretty nice. Thursday I went again to my favorite restaurant here in DF, Oro y Azul. It's on the insanely huge UNAM campus and serves authentic Mexican dishes gourmet style for very low prices. After class on Thursday nights, many students in my program go to a bar near campus, Toros y Burros. I busted out some sick moves on the dance floor. Of course, me and my mexican amiga Ale got into a fight with the Viene Vienes. These have to be some of the worst people on Earth. They stand in the street and try to act as valets for street parking. They are all over Mexico, and if you don't pay them their extortion, it's very common for them to scratch your car, etc. Of course the lazy and corrupt police do nothing to stop their illegal jobs. Such is Mexico. Ale is in all my classes and we only speak in English together, in class she's my translator when I need it (in a way, I guess I'm a special needs student here).

I'm becoming better friends with the 5 other people in my house, and there's other exchange students that live in a house right by mine, so a bunch of us went to a party around here Friday night (after my customary Friday night in Mexico / Saturday afternoon in Korea Skype chat with my NPU golfing buddy Jon Holt in Korea).

I spent most of Saturday translating a paper from Spanish to English for my advisor. Extremely easy, but also extremely boring (he is a nice guy though). Saturday night I went to a BBQ to welcome the new Fulbright Scholars to Mexico City. The party was in the Roma colonia, north in the city, fairly close to the previously mentioned Condesa, the best area in town for nightlife. I saw my fellow North Parker Riley Clark there, he just moved here and is living in that neighborhood. For the next year, as part of the Fulbright program, he'll be working at a conservation agency in DF. I also met a cool guy named Kendall, he's part of the program, from Duke and is very proud of Duke being named the no. 2 douchiest college in America (they would be number one but GQ didn't feel it's right to name Duke number one in anything). I'm planning on spending the next year trying to convince him to not go back to America to work for a consulting firm where he has a job waiting (I don't miss Accenture one bit).

Sunday was relaxing as normal. I went to Union Church, the English speaking church I've been going to for a few weeks. It's a mix of Americans, Jamaicans, workers from the African embassies, and many Mexicans. It's in a beautiful (and rich) neighborhood, in the central-west part of town, Lomas de Chapultepec, and the church has been an English church there since the 1870s. There's about 100 people there evey week and they've been very nice. Sunday night I went and saw Bandslam a movie I'm guessing many people haven't heard of. It's a high school comedy, a group of kids form a band to enter a competition; very similar to a 1980s John Cusack and definitely good. When I got into the theatre, I was the only one there, but another American soon entered. Frank was his name. Frank is from Michigan. Frank works at the Embassy. Frank has worked for the State Department in many parts of Latin America. Frank enjoyed the movie like I did. Frank gave me his card in case I ever need anything from the embassy. Frank is a very nice guy.

This is lining up to be another normal week, classes at night. I'm still looking for some type of job to do during the day, I've been talking with a few people and been applying some places, so I'm sure something good will come soon.

If you want a good idea of Mexico City life, I definitely recommend reading David Lida's blog. He is an American journalist that has been here for about 20 years, and his blog does a really good job capturing some funny and interesting parts of living here in DF.

A good local paper (in Spanish) to read is El Universal. The town also has an English-language daily I recommend, The News. Check me out at

I miss everyone back in the US and I hope you're doing well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Raining Again ...

The evening rainstorms have just stomped again. Pretty amazing in the summer here, sunny and 72 all day til around 6-8, rain for about 30-45 minutes, and then clear at night.

I'm sure most of you read my article in the Naperville Sun, but the link is below in case you haven't.,6_2_NA14_SOCCER_S1-090814.article

The Mexico-U.S. game was amazing to be at, though the Mexican fans did act like ass-clowns at times (i.e. the entire pre-game, during the game, and after the game). For all the recent criticism about the Cubs fan throwing the beer from the bleachers, not a peep was raised aqui about all the times that American players got hordes of debris thrown at them when they were doing corner kicks. Nor was the complete lack of class of Mexicans mentioned when referring to how they blew horns during our entire national anthem. SI writer Grant Wahl felt the same when wondering why some dipshit felt the need to pour a beer on his laptop. Our section of Americans had beer (more likely cups of piss) thrown at us the entire game, and the security surrounding us didn't attempt to throw out any fans for acting like pendejos.

All the Mexicans I've talked to say the people that go to the game are crazy. But none of the national media here that I've seen was critical of the fans' behavior. It's rather hard at times to respect a people when you see so many of them act like I did at Azteca.

That being said, the Mexican team thoroughly played better on Wednesday. They controlled the ball much better than we did. Americans, as usual, need to improve their footwork and first touches. I think our defenders played especially well considering how much Mexico controlled the ball. That being said, the US almost came away with a tie. The altitude and noise of Azteca make it extremely difficult to play in (El Tri has only lost one World Cup qualifier there ever), so let's hope the US gets back to form in early September for their next WC qualifier in Utah.

Otherwise, things are going fairly well here, still not many close friends, but I realize those friendships take time to develop. I am meeting a lot of really nice people, especially at my program. The classes are all at night but the people are really social and really cool; there's a solid mix of fellow extranjeros as well. I still don't have a ton to do, especially on the weekends, so hopefully that changes soon. Given how little I have to do during the day, I'm still full into the search for some sort of job to do during the day, most likely some teaching related position.

Here's to hoping I've finally beaten down Moctezuma in our 5-day battle.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

School's Out For Summer! ... til tomorrow

Hello, world. My first day of classes is tomorrow at Tec de Monterrey, starting on my Master's in Economics and Public Policy. I'll be in 4 classes this semester and they're all from Monday-Thursday night from 7-10pm. During the mornings I'll be helping out the professors w/ research.

So far, I guess I'm neutral on being here. I've met some cool people and had some fun nights out. The people here have been really friendly (drivers not withstanding, who are all major-league assholes). And I really think I'll like my classes and doing the research. Like I've mentioned before, I think my biggest problem so far is living in the part of the city that I live in, Xochimilco (one of Mexico City's 16 boroughs). I live here because it's within walking distance of the university, but I definitely might move somewhere north once I have my car after Christmas. It's really far south, and all the fun places to hang out are really far north (it's a 30 minute taxi ride even without traffic). There's nothing especially historic / interesting in my neighborhood, just kinda random suburban sprawl; it doesn't really feel like I'm even in Mexico City. If I had to live anywhere, it'd be in Condesa or Polanco, two cool neighborhoods up north. I had to go to the U.S. Embassy Friday and it was nice to be in a part of town that actually felt like historic Mexico City. The embassy is near the city's biggest park, Bosque de Chapultepec and its most famous statute, El Angel, southwest of the city's historic zone.

Overall, I can't say I'm a huge fan of Mexico City yet, hopefully it'll come. The weather is pretty amazing year-round (low 70s), but the extreme sprawl of the city makes it feel kind of lame, especially considering that I'm at the far outskirts of the sprawl. Interesting how my opinion of the city is definitely based on where I live .... though I think many Lincoln Parkers would feel the same way about Chicago if they were forced to live in Morgan Park without a car. In terms of high-rises, there really is no clear downtown at all the way there is in Chicago for example. The newest area of building is Santa Fe, an upscale business district west of the city where it seems like every building is less than 10 years old. The public transportation in the city is good, but due to the huge size of the city (I've read it's between 30-40 miles north to south and approximately 20 miles east-west) it can take nearly 2 hours on public transport to get from one part of the city to another. Traffic can be terrible, taking a couple hours to drive north south during rush hour, and traffic can stay bad until 9 at night. I haven't noticed the pollution, nor have I really noticed being 7,000 feet above sea level.

Wednesday afternoon, I'm going to a World Cup qualifying game between Mexico and the U.S at the 105,000 person Estadio Azteca. The World Cup is in South Africa next summer, and while the United States is in good position to qualify, it is far from certain that Mexico will qualify. I'm very excited about going to this game. The U.S. has never won in Mexico, so a victory would be a great way to cement a solid summer for the Yankees. The game is at 3pm Chicago time, check your local Spanish channels (and probably Fox Soccer Channel), it'll be there somewhere.

I can't say I'm totally happy now, but I'm certainly glad I moved here since this was something I had on my mind for a couple years. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Settled In

So, I'm all settled in, living in a decent studio near my university, Tec de Monterrey - Campus Ciudad de Mexico. Mexico City has 14 boroughs (take that New York) and I live in Tlalpan, one of 20 million 'chilangos' for the moment. The campus is really nice but unfortunately it's superrrr far south in the city. Most of the fun places in town (the Polanco and Condesa neighborhoods) are in the northwest and take a lil over an hour to get to by the train (and I don't have a car!!!). Taxis home are probably $15-$20 US from that area, at least quite a bit cheaper than Chicago for how long of a drive it is. It's illegal to have someone drive my car down for me, but maybe I'll drive it down myself after this semester. Ha, or find a BFF that lives near me and has a car! (Think MTV would give me a reality show for that?)

I've met a few cool people here, but unfortunately some live really far away. Hopefully I'll meet some cool people in my classes. They start in a little over 2 weeks. My classes are Mon-Thur night from 6:30-10, and I'll be helping professors most mornings doing research, so I def will be busy Mondays through Thursdays.

I've done a couple interviews to get a test-prep job teaching SAT or GRE courses, so hopefully that can fit in my schedule somewhere.

Welp, I wanted to move to Mexico for a couple years, so I'm glad I did it. It is kind of strange being here, and I'm not certain if I'll stay here for the entire 2-year Master's degree, but at least I went through with something I wanted to do.

Saludos. BTW I'm on twitter at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

First post

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