An old new life

Moving may make you think of boxes, clothing, cooking ware, bicycles, old tires, old stuff and lots of work to do. Besides that, all the paperwork that has to be taken care of. It also implies cancelling services and changing your address in all possible businesses and Internet sites you have ever registered to. This is what I have been doing for the past few months… without exaggerating. There are events that will leave a deep mark in your life and moving is one of them, incluiding the bruises I’ve got while moving boxes and putting things back in place.

Boxes

Boxes and more boxes

 

It’s been a major challenge, but everything has turned out fine. My daughter and I moved into a new appartment in a very nice neighborhood. Coming from Europe, nice would mean that it is very green, with lots of flowers, almost no cars and of course no noise, at least this would be the definition of nice in Germany. But in Mexico City, nice can mean very elegant and a neighborhood where you only see big walls and sometimes have a glance of a very big house. However, my new neighborhood is nice in a sense that you can find everything in a radious of 1 km, in walking distance. We also have a traditional park with old trees that refresh the area. Next to the park there is a real Mexican market where you find all kinds of fruits and vegetables at a very reasonable price and of excellent quality. The market is being renovated and it will be very nice once it’s finished. In the same street we live there are two or more convenience stores with all kinds of refreshments, cans, soap, bread and dairies, among other things. They are open everyday, including Sunday. Around the block there is a bakery with gluten free or sugar free products, ideal for my brother and my dad.

 

A bakery

A traditional bakery, not the one gluten free

There is a pharmacy with a small doctor’s office where you can get medical advice without having to sell your car. Mmmm, and I have to mention the place where they sell roasted chicken two blocks away. It’s the best chicken ever, and you get corn tortillas, hot salsa and Mexican rice for free! If you don’t feel like cooking there are lots and lots of small restaurants around. We have been a couple of times to one called ‘La Jarochita’ where you can eat a complete menu including  soup, rice or spaghetti, a main course and a jar of lemonade or Jamaica water. The serving aren’t big, but you can order more for $10,00 or 50 cents. It is very affordable and cheaper than cooking at home,  depending of course of the menu. ‘Jarochita’ is a diminutive for Jarocha that refers to a person coming from the State of Veracruz in the Southeast of Mexico. This restaurant has the flavours of the kitchen in Veracruz and reminds me of my childhood when we used to travel to Coatzacoalcos to visit my mothers relatives.
People in our neighborhood are very friendly, they are always working in their small businesses, and as I mentioned before, they work almost evey day in the week. Many of them open after 9 a.m. and close after 8 p.m.

The streets are not very wide and they have trees, maybe for some of you this is a new idea of Mexico City. It’s a megalopolis, but every neighborhood has its own characteristics and many of them have trees and parks 🙂

The park

Afternoon in the park

Oh, and we also have Internet connection, 20 MB. I put this info here because when we told some people in Germany that we were moving to Mexico, that was one of tne first questions we got: Are you going to have Internet? Well… I leave my next comment to your imagination.
As for the noise, yes! It is very noisy city and where live starts getting noisy early in the morning because Mexicans think that if you honk very loud and for a long time the traffic will move faster. Well, that’s what we have observed up to now! It could also be that everyone wants to show off their cars and the sound of their horns. In the afternoon you will listen to children playing in the yard behind our building and that reminded me to of the afternoons I used to spend playing and running around with my cousins. In my time that was what children used to do, run around and play outside. However, I have noticed that children nowadays spend a lot of time sitting in front of TVs, PC, PSP, Wii and other devices. The children that I hear in the afternoon laughing and playing cannot afford such things. The others live in a parallel virtual world and over here I’ve seen three or four year old children lost in iPads and tablets!
Another funny noise that we have around here is a truck that has a tape with a very loud and piercing woman’s voice shouting the word: ‘ refrigeradores, colchones, microondas, lavadoras o fierro viejo que vendaaaaaaaan’ They are people who buy old stuff such as matresses, washing machines, junk, etc. either resell it in or ‘repair’ stuff. At first I thought it was just one pickup and I wondered when I visited my aunt in another part of the city and heard exactly the same voice how they came around in all parts of the city. Then I realized that it is only a recording and many different pickups! To finish with the noise, I have to mention the Gas truck. They pass every street in the neighborhood, all week, yes, including Sunday, shouting ‘Gaaaaaaaaas’ so that people can exchange their empty gas tank for a full one. As I live on a fourth floor, when I look down to other houses I can always see the gas tanks on the roofs in the sun and getting very hot… It’s always been like that in Mexico and I hope it continues that way, that is with no gas explosions! Ah, and last but not least, if you’re at home and suddenly listen to a bell, like the ones in Jingle-Bells, it’s not Santa or not ‘La Cloche’ that brings chocolate in Easter in France, it’s the truck that picks up the trash in every street and corner of the city.

This is then every day life in a nice neighborhood in one of the biggest cities in the world. I leave you then till next time and I will drink a cup of coffe while listening to the birds, real birds 🙂

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Ulysses and coming home

I feel like the female Ulysses, may be Odyssey would sound more feminine. Yes, after a very long trip that lasted 27 years I am now heading home… Is it really home? To a certain extent yes, but I’m really also leaving home behind…

Do I have someone like Penelope who has been waiting for me all that time and who has been faithful all those years? I’m pretty sure that no, nobody has been waiting for me all that long spending time and weaving. However, many old friends, acquaintances and my family are vey happy, or so they say…, of having me around. It’s been a very long time and I’ve lost many names on the way, names of friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, but I’m sure that new names are waiting for me in the new old shore in the New World… Leaving Old Europe is difficult, all the culture and cultural differences so close and easy to reach… provided time and money are there to enjoy it.

Going back to Ulysses. On his travel he encountered giants, cyclops, witches, sirens, females who tried to spellbound him… Have I encountered those creatures? making some analogies and if you imagine me of a very small size trying to compete with German men for the only free space in the subway, I would say yes! I’ve encountered giants, cyclops and strong amazons, too. Those women who reach to the sky and look healthier and stronger than an olympic athlete. They have been part of my reality for a long time.

Sometimes when I have to fill in official forms asking me about my country of birth, believe me, I’ve been very tempted to write: Lilliput… Some other times I’ve had to control myself to avoid writing the name of some capital in one of the countries of the Mediterranean or in the Middle East… So, imagine me living in this side of the world where the ‘natives’ are almost always fairer and much taller than myself… I’ve got mostly used to it. However, I have been very scared once or twice with the aggressive behavior of the cyclops trying to crush me… Don’t worry, I survived and the experience made me even stronger ;-).

A giant

Help! A giant!

(Image from: http://pdp-meghanhill.blogspot.de/2012/12/research-for-guess-who-giants.html)

The very first time that I lived in Munich was in the ’80s and the physical appearance of the city hasn’t changed that much. Although one the first things that caught my eye was the colors used in this part of Germany to paint the exterior of houses and buildings. They were what we could call ‘autumn or fall’ colors. They had all shades of brown, ochre, and especially that green that reminded me of the trees in the fall changing from green to brown. Many of the official buildings were decorated in ‘Moosgrün’ or mossy green and dark brown and lots of wood, preferably oak, not shiny but in an honey shade. Everything looked very sober and sad, at least to my eyes used to the extremely colorful Mexico… Sometimes too colorful. This has changed and you can now find warm yellow and the traditional white with red or brown tiles on the roof as being the most used colors for buildings and houses.

I remember that the most exotic place you could eat was the Chinese restaurant in one of the main streets close to the university. I don’t remember any other Asian food, no Indian, no Thai, no Vietnamese, no Sushi and of course no take away food. If you didn’t want to eat Bavarian food you’d have to choose the Italian or the Greek restaurant nearby. However, Italian restaurants were not the fancy and expensive restaurants that you can find now on every corner in downtown Munich. They compete against each other in exclusivity and price, swearing to be the most authentic one. Germans have always admired the Italian culture, we all have, but with such a fervor, only the Germans in Munich and surroundings. They even call Munich the most Italian city north of the Alps. As for the German love for Italy you may be interested in Goethe’s Italian journey. You can find a précis here: (http://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/21/travel/goethe-s-italian-journey.html)

I think you now understand better what I mean. I also love the Italian culture, the food, the art, the cities, everything, but… in Italy! I love my Italians friends, not because they are Italians, but because I like them and we understand each other. The best thing of all is when I go to ‘eat Italian’ (This is the expression you use in German) in Munich with an Italian friend. She usually speaks German to the waiters, who always greet you warmly with a “Buona sera, signora”. One day I asked her why, and she explained that most of them are not Italians and don’t speak Italian. I laughed and said that I knew what she was talking about because it also happened to me in some so called ‘Mexican’ and ‘Spanish’ restaurants. So we both stick to German. That to authenticity. As for that, yes, some of those places have a very good selection of dishes and very good wines, but the prices have reached such heights that I don’t find it affordable anymore… Let’s better save some money and enjoy some authentic Italian meals in Italy.

Munich… ‘Weltstadt mit Herz’ or City of the World with a heart… (Image from: http://www.amazon.de/Magnet-mit-Motiv-MÜNCHEN-Weltstadt/dp/B00H19QP0M)

münchen weltstadt mit herz

Weltstadt mit Herz

Going back to the eighties, Munich was not really an international city, as I was mentioning. There were, and still are, only two or so cinemas where you could watch movies in English or in the original language. On TV there were only the ARD, the ZDF and the BR … what are those? The official channels, the first, second and third German television programs and, if you were lucky and lived close to one of the borders you could maybe receive one of the foreign channels. Living in Munich we could also watch the Austrian official channels. What does that mean? First of all, we had to pay a TV tax that was calculated according to the number of TVs and the number of adults living in your place. Ah, and also the number of radios you had… and the radio in your car was counted extra… Yes, quite an amount to be able to watch 3 TV programs that promised you a very high quality and no advertisments! … Well, only some allowed commercials from 19:59 to 20:00 when it was time for the news.

By the end of the Eighties I moved to Munich from my “Third World” country and was shocked to not being able to watch my well known TV series and the end of some of the very popular shows at that time, such as Dallas! People here were very proud of having no commercials, we know, almost none, on TV… I always thought: Guys, you don’t have TV!  Change got here, too. We finally got some ‘private’ TV chains, the bad guys, with lots of commercials and American series… very bad for children… Nowadays, the official channels are struggling to keep their audiences and they are really worried because the average age of their viewers is about 65 years old… Imagine!

(http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/183279/umfrage/durchschnittsalter-der-fernsehzuschauer-nach-sender/)

Durchschnittsalter der Zuschauer 2011

Age average of TV viewers 2011

We now have a lot of channels, which doesn’t mean that the quality has increased and we still pay TV taxes. You have to pay even if you don’t have a TV… The first cable TV was “Kabeldeutschland” and if I remember right, it was also “official”, which means they were monopolized, no alternatives. Currently we have also “Sky” and the Internet provider “Netflix” has just arrived.

I was mentioning the cinemas. There was a very big cinema called that way, Cinema, that showed films in English. It still exist and has enjoyed a popular comeback after and extensive face lifting. One or two art cinemas showed films in French or sometimes even Spanish or Italian. I was used to watching films in English with subtitles and got a little bit frustrated having to wait longer to watch brilliant films till ‘the actors learned German’, that is till they were doubled into German. It was also a shock listening to the German voices of my favorite actors… it still is and I still prefer to watch films in English… sigh… Going to the cinema was very expensive and that hasn’t changed. Although Germany is one of the countries that develops the best technology in cameras and other devices, they don’t like to change their old ways. If you go to the cinemas that show films in original versions you will feel like transported to the early eighties. The screens are better, but the rest is really retro, not pretending to be retro, they really are…

I don’t want you to think that I didn’t like living in Munich. No, I did enjoy it. Munich has a lot of good sides and attractions. I was only mentioning the difficulties, the difficult tasks to compare it a little bit to the Odyssey of Ulysses… And I am still looking for the female form of the name, I hope I find it before I leave Munich 😉

p.s. I found it in English, it’s Ulyssa!

 

 

 

Do you wanna network?

The word network has been developing at a very fast pace. If we look at the beginnings, a network was a compound of threads used to catch fish…

fisher net

Fisher net

Some decades ago the term started shifting to a technical meaning. At that time we started to get connected by cables, literally. We were part of a LAN or a W-LAN at work and we used the existing telephone cables to reach our service providers and access the Internet. With our modern technology we are now able to access the Internet wireless. In many cities we find free wi-fi access in many public places. We are able to be connected to the world every time and the “world” can reach us every day, every time.

Networking is not only physical. A network is formed by people that are in some kind related to us. Belonging to our network we consider our family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, ex-peers, ex… whatever. The network exists by itself, but if we want, we can dedicate time and care and we can tend it as if it were a garden.

Is this a phenomenon of our modern way of life? Of course not, but the weight we give to the different relationships has shifted. Our main network used to be the family, in some countries it still is and all close or not so close relatives are included. Friends are the next in row and depending of where you live, a big anonymous city or a small town, the community and neighbors are part of the network. We usually ask family members, friends or neighbors, if the know of someone who could fix our tap or paint the walls. Some of us prefer to rely on the knowledge of others and ask more often for “help”. Others tend do exaggerate their independence and almost never ask. Good and bad networkers? What does it require to be a good networker?  A network is interconnected, the information or impulses flow from one knot to the next, if there is a hole or a lot of knots are obstructing the flow, then its not stable. How is it then with a human network?

As I was mentioning before, there are good and not so effective networkers… Do you have to be outgoing to be a good networker? No, not really.  Does it have to do with openness and communication? To be able to get the most out of your network you need to open and share. That doesn’t mean going to the next party and telling the funniest jokes aloud. However, being a good networker means to share knowledge and help to connect two or more members who would profit from this connection. Some of you may feel that they are using people, if they ask for a favor or help, while others may be feeling used, if they are always being asked for favors and get no retribution. This is also one of the main points, the networking relation has to be reciprocal, not exactly always returning or almost dying in the intent of returning a favor someone did. Reciprocal means that you sometimes give while other times you take.

Can we simply trust everyone we know? Can I trust everyone I will encounter on my way and? No, of course not.  You will have to learn to use your antenna and trust your inner voice while trying to get to know the person.  How about people I meet online? Are they to be trusted? Same as in the real world, start to communicate and you will be able to decide… (Hopefully…)

I personally think that networking has never been easier. We can reactivate our old schoolmates via Facebook or even find international contacts for our businesses via LinkedIn. And remember, the point is to network, not to make friends 😉 like those 1000 or more “friends” that some people have in Facebook.

There are other ways of networking… Other ideas to enlarge your network would be to join groups with similar interests as your own, for example for those library rats among us, you could join a book club or even organize one, online or in real, as you prefer.  If you prefer sports, then you could join the Saturday Bike Club or the Alpine Club (ironically there are only real Alps in some countries of this wide world…)

Do I start networking everywhere and with everyone? If you feel alone, this may be the way, but usually it is easier, if you have a defined goal while addressing your contacts. If you don’t have a defined goal you can just keep in touch saying ‘hi’ or wishing Merry Christmas once in a while.

If we remember the way people in smaller towns used to live. It wasn’t that easy to communicate without seeing the person physically. However, towns or neighborhood were some kind of network. You went to the hairdresser and you heard the latest savory gossip of the village (sorry, hairdresser friends, for using this classical example making you think that all hairdressers like to gossip 😉 )

sims small talking

Small talk, Sims 3

You went to the market place in your neighborhood and you would also be informed of what was going on. Walmart or the supermarket saves us time because we don’t have to go to several different shops, but we cannot have a small chat with the grocer’s. And our haircut maybe done in one of those fast impersonal chains once here once there. We can spend hours and hours online watching videos or playing games, but without really communicating with others.

Are there cultural differences in the way we network? Are there gender differences? Are men better networkers because there are many men who are more self-confident?

I’ve noticed that it is easier to start a small talk in some cultures than in others.  This doesn’t mean that all Americans are this way and all Germans are the other… However, it is very helpful to know what topics may be more accepted or easier to small talk with a Korean. Would you be afraid to start the talking? I think this is a big issue for many people… How can I start talking to a stranger? What will he or she think about me? I think that is the main point. Some of us are very aware and afraid of what others think of us or may think of us. We don’t want to be criticized, if we ask something dumb or if we make a mistake while speaking another language. However, this impediments are almost only in our heads… in our view… There may be a lot of judgy people, but they’ll judge anyway, and maybe they are just that way because they are also afraid of ‘losing their face’. This point has also very deep roots in some cultures. Others take it more lightly.

If you need inspiration fro networking, take a look at a practical and funny article on http://www.wikihow.com/Network.

So, let’s network and make some comments!