Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting Mexico

My 10 day trip back to Mexico has already ended. It was great to see Jose and the dogs, but the trip was almost over by the time I got fully rested. Most days we spent sleeping in late, going to the park, shopping in the mercado, eating, taking the dogs on walks, and reading. Some days were a little different, especially when our dog Kahlo, who just had surgery, needed something special. We spent one day tracking down a bucket big enough to use as a pool for him, and then trying to get him to swim. That just ended up being a waste of time, money, and water. Our dog is way too relaxed to swim when dunked in water--he just hung out peacefully until we gave up.
Our most eventful day was a trip to Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s version of Golden Gate park. We have been there before a few times, mostly for the museums. This time we visited the zoo and the castle. The zoo had some interesting animals, especially the capybara, the largest rodent on earth that apparently makes a rather good pet. I’d always wanted to see one of those. It was exciting to see some animals, like the black jaguar, that we would never see in the wild, but overall the animals were too depressed and caged for us to enjoy the zoo. I don’t think I’ll be going back to a zoo until I’m doing it for children.

Castillo de Chapultepec
After the zoo, we went to the Castillo (Castle) de Chapultepec. We’d never been before, and almost didn’t go, but we decided that after walking up the hill to get to it, we needed to pay and go inside. Thank goodness we did, because it was such a cool place. Construction started in the 1700’s, and it was converted to house Maximilian and Carlota, who started the tradition of using it as the president’s quarters. Part of the Castillo is still set up the way Maximilian and Carlota had it with luxurious European decoration. Since the castillo on top of a hill, it offers great views of the city and Chapultepec park.

Leaving Mexico again was sad, but just like in the summer, it wasn’t hard. Going to college is the right thing for me to do, even though it means being away from Jose for awhile. There are few things that I have ever been so certain about, and the peace of mind that comes from that certainty gives me strength that I wouldn’t otherwise have.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer School

My first semester at UC Berkeley is over, only a short six weeks after it started. It was one of the very best experiences of my life and more amazing than I expected it to be. It was surprisingly easy to be away from Jose and the dogs, I think because I knew that what I was doing will help us. The exhaustion and stress that I felt at some points of the semester was really put into perspective when I remembered how bored I was with nothing to do in Mexico, and how much having my degree will help Jose and me. The two classes took a lot of work--including 9 textbooks, 13 essays, and loooong days of lecture. But again, it was one of the best experiences I have had. I love and appreciate education, and it is unbelievably satisfying and exciting to be back in it.

The six weeks in California were made even better by spending four days a week at my parents' house in Healdsburg. I had to do a lot of homework, but I was still able to talk to them while I took breaks, read in the garden, and eat dinner with them. We even went off to the river together one weekend with my godfather, uncle, and cousins. Healdsburg and the house finally stopped being hard to be in without Jose, so it was relaxing and nice to be there.

Life is good now. I am finally involved in something again and loving it. I miss Jose and the dogs, but I know that we are all doing well. I still haven't gotten over how happy being in school has made me, and I'm really looking forward to the start of the Fall semester.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mexico City Police

About two months ago I had the opportunity to personally experience the great law enforcement of Mexico City. I was hanging out with our neighbor Erick during the week. After getting back home from his apartment he got a call from a police officer insisting that he needed to go to get his mom because she was intoxicated and had an accident. We were told that it wasn’t anything serious but that this problem could only be resolved with money.

Erick didn’t have any money at the time, so I ran into my bedroom and got about 1000 pesos and we headed out. While on our way we got two calls from the cops insisting that we get there immediately and that it was going to cost us a lot of money to keep her out of jail. When we got there his mom was in her car talking to an officer. She told us the cop was telling her to give him 500 pesos and he would let her leave and wouldn’t chase after her. She didn’t have any money, so as soon as the cops saw us arrive, they approached us immediately demanding money.

The cops told us it was going to take 5,000 pesos to keep her out of jail because she didn’t have care insurance. After talking to her for a few minutes, we found out that her car was insured. She was so drunk that she hadn’t told the officers she had insurance. We waited for about an hour for her insurance representative to arrive and deal with all of the paper work. I guess in Mexico you don’t just exchange insurance policies, but actually have to wait for a representative to take care of the paper work on site. Once the cops found out that the insurance representative was on her way, they took Erick and me off to the side and demanded we pay them or she would to jail because she was drunk. If the cops had followed protocol, she would have been taken to the police station and had a sobriety test. The cops didn’t want to deal with that because apparently it takes about 10-15 hours for the testing and paper work and they have to be present through the whole thing.

The original officers left, and the next one who arrived wanted 2,000 pesos to keep Erick’s mom from going to the police station. We told him we didn’t have that much money and didn’t have a way to get more. The cop’s solution was to take us, in his police car, to a 7-11 so Erick could add money to his cell phone to start calling his friends and asking them for money. After 20 minutes on the phone, the cop got impatient and took us back to Erick’s mom. The officer said that we needed to give him all the money we had or she was going to jail. We had 1,400 pesos, and even though it was obvious that he was annoyed with the amount, he took the money and left.

It was really weird to deal with crooked cops, but we got to go home and didn’t have to spend 15 hours longer with the police. 1,400 pesos was definitely worth avoiding 15 hours in a Mexican police station. It was also a great lesson to show how important it is to stay away from the police in Mexico.