Monday, January 09, 2006

Back to Life, Back to Reality

After being on vacation for the past two weeks, and spending much of the time away from the city, today brought me right back to reality. In the hot and humid weather in Colima I couldn’t sleep without the fan on all night. Back in D.F. I can’t sleep in the cold without my electric blanket on all night. I had a nice break from the students for a couple of weeks, but today we picked up right where we left off. I was in Colima for four days and could probably use just one hand to count the number of beggars I saw. And now back in D.F., I would probably need two hands to count the number of beggars I see in an hour.

Today I woke up just after 6:00 a.m. to get ready for school, our first day back after winter vacation. It was 36º F outside and I could see my breath in the bathroom when I got out of the shower. I quickly blew my hair dry and downed two cups of hot tea. I left for school wearing two pairs of socks, a long underwear shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece, a fall coat, earwarmers and gloves. When the metro arrived I was happy to see so many empty seats, but after sitting on the metal bench for a second, I shot right back up as it felt like I was sitting on ice. In the photo you can see two of my students all bundled up – not the image most people have of a Mexican winter.

School was pretty much as it was two and a half weeks ago – rough with Group 1A and, accordingly, Richi and Carlos have “citatorio” tomorrow - just as they had right before break.

This afternoon I went to El Ocho, the café with free wireless Internet in Condesa, as I was craving a final taste of their pizza. It’s enormous and baked in the shape of the number eight so I had half of it wrapped to go, knowing that I would easily be able to find a beggar to give it to. About 20% of the city population lives in poverty (according to, a reality of Mexico City with which one is confronted almost constantly. Sure enough, in less than five minutes from when I left the restaurant, a woman with one child strapped on her back and another by her side, approached me for money and was very happy to accept the food.

Just in case I hadn’t received enough “D.F. reality” for one day, my metro ride home provided an adventure. First, it was a tight squeeze to even get in a metro car when I got on at the Chapultepec stop. A young guy and I looked at each other as if we were both thinking, “This is crazy.” He might have been thinking something else, because all of a sudden I felt his hand on my butt! Immediately, I made my way through the crowd and stood at the next door in the car. When it was time to transfer at the Pino Suarez stop, it was tough to get out of the train as those waiting wouldn’t allow all of us to disembark before pushing their way in. I tried to ride the wave out, but before I could reach land, the current was dragging me back in. The guy exiting in front of me looked back and saw my plight. He stretched his arm back to me and when I took his hand he pulled me to safety before the high-pitched beep signaled the closing of the doors.