Some things I have thought about while here in México…
In my cross cultural class, one of the first pieces of information I was given was that the United States is the fattest country in the world only to be followed by México. Lately I have been thinking about it, and have realized just how fat the people of the United States are. Looking around at the Mexican people, of course there are some who are overweight; however, a good portion of the Mexicans here are quite slender. In comparison to the United States, the number of “in shape” people is far greater than we would ever see in the United States. I remember when working back at Old Navy, I hardly ever sold a pair of women’s jeans smaller than a size 10 or 12, and when this happened, it was almost shocking. However, here there are pleanty of women around a size six or smaller and I don’t even think twice about it whereas in the states if I were to see a middle age women walking down the street size six or smaller, I would honestly take a second glance because it is something I’m not used to seeing frequently. Also, it’s been a little funny to hear the people here talking about what a huge obesity problem they are experiencing, especially with the kids. To me, these kids look fine. I am always hearing about how kids are not exercising enough or watching too much TV; however, it seems to me that they are always out running around, playing soccer, etc. I guess it’s all relative, but being immersed in this culture has definitely put U.S. culture into perspective.
Another interesting topic here. It’s hard to say now, because I’ve become accustomed to it; however, religion, specifically Catholicism is a ginormous part of the culture down here. The churches here are absolutely beautiful – the baroque and neoclassic architecture is absolutely stunning and such a change from the post modern churches we have back in the states.
Another aspect of religion I have concluded is priorities within religion. Of course when I say this, I put everyone in both Mexican and United States culture into one large category which I know I shouldn’t do; HOWEVER, as a whole, my feelings are as follows. In the United States, of course religion is important to many as it is here; however the priorities within religion are completely different. In the states, it seems me that although religion and faith is important to those who go to church, the social aspect of church is just as if not more important at times to those “religious” people. The times I have been to church in the states, it seemed as though there was an equal if not greater emphasis in the social aspects of church as in the religious aspect. Here the priorities seem quite different. Here, religion comes first, social aspects come second. Even when there are social activities here, it seems that these events are based around religious events.
Religion is here everywhere. Churches at every corner. There is a joke in the town of QRO which more or less says that you can’t be a sinner for all too long because there are churches every block, so if you do something which mandates repentance, walk about 10 feet, say a prayer, and you’re good to go! On a lot of the houses, people have stickers which state “somos catolicos.” On the majority of the public busses, there is some religious connotation, usually a giant crucifix mounted on the front of the bus. The houses too are usually adorned with religious parafanelia. Although my parents here seem to not be “hardcore” religious, we definitely have religious adornments all throughout the house, we say a prayer before every meal, and they go to church every Sunday.
In general this town is very conservative. I have noticed especially in the way people dress! I am by no means…whatever the opposite of conservative is…trashy?…however, I feel like it sometimes because of the way I dress!! People here are walking around wearing button up shirts, sweaters, jackets, etc., while I am here dying from heat in my tank top!!
Gosh how important appearance is here! The students are my university are always dressed in nice clothing: sweaters, nice shoes, slacks, etc. I usually wear a a shirt, jeans, and flip flops to school and I am so completely underdressed if I were to want to fit in. It’s so funny because back in Eugene people wore pajamas or sweats to school ALL of the time; however, no way jose, not here. I think if I were to see that here, I might fall over onto the floor because it would never ever happen.
On the topic of appearance, cars are very important too. People drive really nice cars here! Of course there are a few older cars here and there, but it seems like the majority of the cars here are nice and people take care of them.
Dating here is also another interesting topic. I see a lot of young couples with lots of children. It seems here that people date here backwards from how we date in the states. It seems that here, one meets someone else, you become a couple, and then you start dating. Whereas in the states, you date first, decide if you are interested in pursuing a relationship, and then the two become official!
Where do I start with this one. As I walk around campus, it’s so ususual for me to see people taking the time to spend with one another. I know for me, last year I barely had time for my family and my best friends who I lived with, much less my other “regular” friends. However, everyday the students here I see sitting at the cafes, drinking, eating, talking, playing foosball, etc. For me, last year, I never ever did this because I never had the time. Come to think of it, sadly, in the entire year I lived with Nicole and Tia, I think we ate two meals together because we were just always running from one activities to the other. I have become more used to it here, but it’s still usual for me to go spend time with my friends, do something fun, or even do something not school related such as write this blog! Tonight for example, since I finished a final project, I am going to the centro with Sheri and probably a few others to get a brownie and just hang out – something I would never ever dream of doing in the states because of the lack of time. I would either be starting on the next assignment or running of to work.
This leads me to the discussion of what provides more happiness? Having more time to spend with friends and family, or constantly being busy with various activities? It’s been so funny to me to be here, because whenever I tell people all that I do back in the states they are shocked and so impressed when in reality, it’s nothing special. It’s almost comical – the other day on the bus to Guanajuato these guys began talking to us, and when one of the guy found out I play the violin and piano, he thought it was the most impressive thing ever and called me a muse! A muse! Can you believe it? Here, many people don’t play instruments, so of course when one meets a foreigner who does, of course it is something new and exciting, but for me, it’s just business as usual and in all honesty, I should probably be a lot better than I am for the amount of years I have put into music.
My Mexican friends here on more than one occasion have listed for me what’s so great about being in Mexico and living here, which of course I think this is a wonderful place. However, because of where I was raised and with the mentality I have, I don’t think I could be happy here forever. Of course I love it here and would love love love to have more time, and of course I am enjoying my downtown; however, the way of life is so different. My Mexican friends are always making fun of my for having my calendar out or for being so busy at home, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I am always planning, down to every last minute of the day and my days are full from 6 am – 10 or 11 pm, but I don’t know what life would be without that. Going back to middle school when I had jazz choir every morning at 7 am, school through 3 pm, and practices, rehearsals, lessons, work, etc., until 10 at night…this just seems normal. Life any other way would be so foreign to me.
For me, it’s so interesting to see what brings happiness to different people and different cultures. While here, family, friends, and religion might bring complete happiness, to another culture, this would leave a person feeling empty. The Chinese and Japanese culture for example. I have two friends here in Mexico in my group, one from China and one from Japan and they say that people in Asia are always always always studying. Dennis told me that there are people in China who will sit and literally memorize the dictionary and for them, that’s normal! However, if I were to do that, I think I would have gone crazy! It’s all relative I suppose.
Querétaro in general:
I love it. This city is amazing. It’s big enough to always have activities, but small enough to not feel engulfed in a ginormous city. The city is so clear; I hardly ever see trash on the ground. The downtown area is so beautiful with the old buildings and cobblestone roads. There are always events taking place, museums everywhere, and ridiculous amounts of theatrical and musical performances all throughout the city. The people here are kind for the most part…very conservative. I knew I enjoyed this city; however, after traveling to numerous cities around México, each time I return I appreciate QRO more and more each time. Not that the other cities are bad by any means, but QRO is simply a special place and I hope more than anything that I will have the opportunity to return for an extended period of time.
The Spanish major:
Of course I love being a Spanish major; however, the further along I get and the more classes I take, the more silly the requirements seem to me. In my opinion, once a Spanish major is completed, one should be fluent in Spanish. However, the way to Spanish major is set up, that is far from happening. I am luck enough that I have had the opportunity to study abroad; however, even after my four months here, I am no where near to being close to fluent. The problem is with the classes I am required to take. For example, I am in my 2nd Spanish literature class and I still have one left. Of course Spanish literature is important, but 3 classes in not necessary. I don’t need to be reading and analyzing ancient Nahuatl poems because I am not interested and that will not help me in any way shape or form in what I plan on doing with my Spanish major after graduating. Sure, if someone is interested in Spanish lit, let them take the class; however, for a good portion of us who are Spanish majors have absolutely no interest in this topic. In fact, I have known more than one student who has decided against the Spanish major not being he/she does not enjoy Spanish, but because of the seemingly pointless requirements. In addition, something the international studies program has established which I think all the languages should follow is each student in a language major should be required to study abroad in a country associated with their language for a minimum period of time. It seems to be pretty obvious why this should be required, so I wonder why it’s not. I could read 100 books regarding Spanish and study for years on end, however, until one is immersed in the culture and is surrounded by speakers of the language, there is no way the student is able to master the language.