Beginning of the (Latin) American Dream
3 January 2018
Emanuela Conti studies ESPS and was at the Universidad Nacional
Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) during Term 1. Read on to hear her experiences
The soundtrack to my arrival in Mexico City was A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay. The title track is just about perfect to match the transition from London to Mexico and describe the feeling you get when arriving in this Latin American metropolis. If you can, listen to it after reading this. The cherry on the cake: the video is set in Mexico City.
So this is the story of how my Latin American dream began. I landed in Mexico City on July 23rd at 7:30 pm after an 11-hour flight, carrying heavy baggage of not only clothes but also can'ts and don’ts people had been repeating me ever since I told them I was going to spend half of my year abroad in Mexico. “Don’t take the tube”, “don’t walk alone”, “you can’t trust the police” was part of the mantra, because “Mexico is a dangerous place”.
It was my first time traveling overseas. After going through border control, getting the first stamp on my passport and taking my luggage, I tried to call an Uber. It didn’t work. “Do not take taxis, it’s not safe” was another “commandment” I had been given. I knew no one in the city and back at home it was late at night - time zone problems - so what could I do? I sat in the corridor next to a plug to charge my phone, then a woman came to charge hers as well. I tried my luck and asked her for help. She told me not to worry, that her sons were coming to pick her up and they could call an Uber for me. In the meanwhile, we talked a lot. She said she was coming back to Mexico after spending 6 months in LA visiting her sister who had just had a baby. Going from Mexico to the US and vice versa is not that easy for a Mexican, she said. Then her sons arrived and they ended up driving me to my Airbnb. We exchanged numbers. Two days after I drove to Acapulco with them. In the 400 km road trip and the 3 days we spent together I got my first and most authentic lesson about Mexican culture. I made tortillas and tried exotic fruit, swam in the ocean at sunset, walked through colorful and flavourful markets and so much more.
Back in the capital, some settling in problems came up. First, the altitude: Mexico City is 7350 feet high and that implies getting tired and hungry faster. Second, the weather: it was full rainy season and in the same day the weather would change from cool to burning hot, to cold and heavily rainy. Third, the time difference: being 7 hours behind means waking up to a billion messages from your friends in Europe and having no news from them after about 5 pm. Fourth, the tube: although it is safe to take it, it is usually packed to levels that make the London peak-hour seem like a joke. The good part is that the first carriages are for women and children only, and that helps making the journey a little more pleasant. Finally, water is also an issue: forget about drinking tap water here.
Anyway, the richness of Mexican culture and the kindness of the people entirely make up for this. In the aftermath of the earthquake of September 19th, emotionally wrecking, this side of Mexico showed a lot. It’s the side that tends to go unnoticed, wiped out by tales of narcos and corruption. In my travels in Mexico and in my daily life in Mexico City I’m trying to take full notice of the whole picture. Besides Acapulco, I have already been to a number of places such as Teotihuacan, Guanajuato, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende and Guadalajara. The UNAM itself is a place to explore: they call it University City for a reason.
Trying to sum up all that I did and felt so far is just impossible, but day by day I’m seeing that Mexico is indeed a place “where there are miracles at work”.