Tag Archives: living in mexico

Living Like a Local: Staying Cool

It’s pretty much summertime year-round in Agua Caliente Nueva, with the exception of December, apparently, when the locals feel a temporary relief from the scorching sun and the countless insects that buzz around the home. I’ve managed to survive without an air conditioner for a month now, with average temperatures in the high 80s, often reaching 90s!

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I can’t say that I’m enjoying feeling a thin layer of sweat and dust on my body pretty much all the time, including minutes after I take a shower…but I’m pretty used to the heat now. As I type, I’m sitting one foot away from my standing fan while my ceiling fan is running at top speed, and my skin is feeling sticky with the insect repellent I use so liberally day by day. Update guys: the repellent bracelets do NOT work for me!

So how do I stay cool in Agua Caliente? The answer is, I don’t, really. 😦 This town is in a dry tropical region, which experiences very few rains throughout the year (pretty much only during late July through September) unless there’s a hurricane that hits the southwest coast of Mexico.

  • Sitting on the roof of my house–so much more of a breeze!
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Watching the sunset from the roof of my house

  • I’m using two fans whenever I’m in my room and have my windows propped open (thankfully with a mosquitero to keep insects out–but there’s a darn mosquito that’s lurking in the shadows and always taking a meal when I’m not paying attention 😦 )
  • I’m lucky to have running water to be able to shower multiple times a day (who likes cold showers?!) to rinse off the mix of sweat, dirt, dust, sunscreen, and insect repellent on my skin.
  • I cut my hair just below shoulder length prior to Mexico, but even keeping it down is unbearable so I have it tied up all the time.
  • Some parts of Mexico are more conservative, but here I’m able to wear shorts above my knees and tank tops to let my skin breaaaathe in this humid air. I did pack three loose-fitting slacks but although they’re breathable while standing, it sticks to your skin when you’re sitting down (what kind of bogus is that?). I also packed a pair of jeans which has been a lifesaver when I know I’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time, because those pesky mosquitoes can’t suck my blood through the denim, yay!
  • Drink LOOOOTS of water! I bought a 36oz stainless steel insulated bottle for only $10 at Marshalls (did I mention I love Marshalls and they have great deals?! 
    IMG_9112The average recommended water intake for someone of average height (aka not me) is 8 8oz glasses of water per day, and I’m drinking about 72oz or more. It’s totally necessary to drink this much so you don’t faint from the heat or suffer a heat stroke. I’m pretty sensitive to heat as of last year and so I want to avoid headaches caused by excessive heat as much as possible. I even downloaded an app to send reminders throughout the day to drink water, and I can input my water intake as well to see how close I am to reaching my daily goal 🙂

Living Like a Local: A Series of Unfortunate Events

This week marks the 5th week I’m living in Agua Caliente; the longest time I’ve ever been out of the country was 3 weeks. I thought I was doing so well with handling my time here, but as luck would have it, I was wrong and faced a series of unfortunate events.

As some of y’all know, I’m here working on my first practicum through school where I’m making Moringa fresh tea leaf samples for my professors, and also doing my own side project where I’m interviewing locals about their dietary practices at home and whether it’s acceptable and feasible to incorporate Moringa leaves into their diets. After successfully integrating myself into the community, I recruited an adequate number of female participants whom I would interview. This past Saturday, I scheduled a Moringa cooking demonstration, expecting at least 6 people to show, but I only had 3 (one of whom I literally had to walk over to the demo site myself). So that’s one. My host family tried to explain to me that flojera is a thing, where people are essentially lazy and will commit to something but end up not following through -big pet peeve-…

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Quesadillas with Moringa leaves and flowers

Religion was never something I was forced to embrace in my family, but it’s a huge part of the Mexican culture. It seems that the longer you hang out with someone, the more likely the topic of religion comes up, and it’s kind of a huge deal when you say you don’t practice one. I have been asked at least 4-5 times if I believed in God or practiced a religion. I would get responses like “Oh, that’s bad. You need to believe in God” or the best one from a Jehovah’s witness was a whole hour-long lecture about how I need to study the bible in order to be saved. To each their own, you know? It made for very uncomfortable table talk when I’d get preached…

And then there’s the issue of food poisoning. I posted about food safety on my public health blog after my first bout of food poisoning when I arrived, and was doing SO SO well being more careful with my food, until this weekend. We went to Colimilla and ate seafood at a waterfront restaurant (we were taken by boat!). Silly me, thinking that since we’re right by the water, that the seafood would be nice and fresh. When we ordered oysters, not only were they at room temperature, but they tasted fishy… I tried to convince myself it was because they were taken straight from salty seawater, but I think my gut instinct was correct. I suffered my second bout of food poisoning this week and was out of commission for two days and literally felt like the bacteria/viruses were having a party in my stomach. Note to self: don’t eat room-temp oysters –> when in doubt, throw it out 😡

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We took a boat to go to the seafood restaurant in Colimilla

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I think these were what caused my food poisoning 😥

And to put the cherry on top, I am very very averse to bugs and all things creepy and crawly, and I’ve had to endure lots of them while living here. Mosquitoes seem to seek me out wherever I am in the world… BUT, there’s one thing worse than a mosquito when it comes to staying safe: scorpions. I discovered my first one in my room, so now I’m pretty paranoid about shaking out my sheets and my clothes before I wear them ><

If you want a real experience living like a local, this is it. Find a home stay with a host family, and not a luxurious hotel, so that you can experience all the ups and downs of living in a foreign land! Moral of the story: expect plans to fall through and set low expectations, try to avoid talking about religion as much as possible, don’t eat suspicious foods, be careful of bugs 😐

Living Like a Local: Dealing with Pests!

I’m just about to hit my two-week mark living in Agua Caliente Nueva, and I don’t know if I’ve become desensitized to all of the creepy crawlies I’ve encountered, but it’s starting to not faze me as much when I see them crawling around. On night 1, I was attempting to go to sleep and I felt something on my neck, and I thought it was just a strand of hair and brushed my neck…and then I felt something more substantial on my leg and turned on my phone’s flashlight to find some beetle nearly the size of a dime just chilling on my bed! Trust, I was pretty skeeved and spent a good 10-15 minutes trying to calm myself down before trying to sleep again.

Luckily, that hasn’t occurred every night I’ve been here, but I’ve been disturbed by these bugs’ constant presence in the kitchen and around my bathroom sink! Just last night, I saw a macarena line of tiny black beetles marching in my bathroom sink, this strange-looking insect with funky, feathery antennae, and another beetle with these bright orange markings on its back. I literally can not for the life of me figure out where they are coming from when there are nets lining the windows! -.-

And then there are the mosquitoes… I’ve gotten so up close and personal to these abominations that I’m pretty confident I can identify the Anopheles from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Bringing some public health into this post, there’s a health clinic in the town that has a poster outside to bring awareness and educate the community on the different vector-borne illnesses different genus mosquitoes can transmit to humans:

  • Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can transmit yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika depending on what they’re infected with
  • Infected Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria to humans

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I love how they included some methods to prevent mosquitoes from encroaching on people’s territories, such as emptying stagnant water and changing out uncovered reservoirs of water every few days. It would be even more effective to provide options for how one can protect themselves from mosquitoes, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, or wearing insect repellent, using mosquito nets or staying indoors in the early morning and after dusk.

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I saw this really awesome sign on one of the houses that asks passersby: “What did you do today to combat mosquitoes?”

And then we have the lizards who like to stay out of plain sight, hiding behind my bathroom mirror and other picture frames. It’s a wonder how there are so many pests still lurking around the home when there are at least maybe five lizards/geckos I’ve spotted throughout the house. I’m just thinking, what the heck are you doing all day if you’re not eating these bugs for us?! They just slither along the walls like Spiderman and leave droppings wherever they go. What a useless bunch of reptiles!! What are they good for if they won’t help eat the bad insects?! 😡

Just thought I’d share the reality of living like a local where bugs run rampant both inside and outside of the house! Just this morning, I was negotiating with this bee that was holding my laptop hostage! It was hovering around my laptop when I had it outside on the terrace, and I had to have JUST the right timing to swoop in and collect my items before it came after me. Life’s rough living like a local when you’re used to  mainly black ants and mosquitoes in NYC! I miss my clean home free of any pests, but I’m finding living here to be a true taste of reality and cultural immersion.

Until the next post, hasta luego!

 

Living Like a Local: Aftermath of Huracán Patricia

Saludos de Agua Caliente Nueva! It’s been about five days since I arrived in Mexico and I’m still getting adjusted to the suuuuper hot weather that is present even in the early AM. I am currently staying with a host family in Agua Caliente Nueva, an ejido in La Huerta in the state Jalisco. This pueblo was victim to huracán “Patricia” in October 2015, ripping away the roofs of many houses, including the one I’m staying in. My host mother showed me some of the photos after the hurricane and explained to me that it only took a matter of hours on one afternoon for this Category 5 hurricane with 150 mph wind speed to cause so much destruction within their town. Families stood within their living rooms or bedrooms in the photos with nothing covering the tops of their houses because their roofs had blown away from the strong winds and rain.

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This is a photo I took from the outside terrace/patio they have. Through the window, you can see the techo covering the carpentry shed. This was recently built after the hurricane!

My host family explained to me that their shed that housed my host father’s carpentry business had been destroyed and whisked away swiftly during the hurricane, and all of his materials and machines had been exposed to the elements and needed to be replaced. Other families’ roofs covered essential items, such as beds and other appliances, all of which had to be tossed and replaced. I can observe that this town’s residents are not affluent and this must have been detrimental to their livelihoods to have to replace all of their necessary furniture 😦 It’s been almost two years since the hurricane, and from my morning walks, I can see that all of the roofs have been replaced, but there is still much that needs to recover. Many fruit trees that were abundant in the region were uprooted and died in the process, and there are many empty pieces of land (but this could be an erroneous assumption since this could have been empty to begin with).

When I volunteered in Ecuador with UBELONG back in 2012, I had stayed with a host family for the first time and experienced a fraction of the hardships that people in developing countries face. In many parts of Latin America, there is no potable water to drink, and it must either be purchased by the barrel, or be boiled for consumption. My host mother in Ecuador typically spent every morning boiling large vats of water for us to drink for the day, which was in and of itself an inconvenient routine that she had become accustomed to. In contrast, my host family here in Mexico has the means to purchase about four barrels of potable water at a time for the family to drink, a luxury that other families in Mexico may not be able to afford.

Luckily for my host family’s business in carpentry, they’re finally able to start working on the roof of the house! They had reinforced the roof for the carpentry shed, but still needed to reinforce the roof that covers my room and other parts of the second floor. Right now, it’s only made of madera (wood) and some metal material, possibly aluminum that was nailed down. As a safety precaution and to prepare for any future hurricanes, my host father decided to make it his project to fix the roof this week while the weather is supposed to be good, since he has to pour cement on the roof to make it more durable. Unfortunately and fortunately for me, I get to experience what it’s like living as a local and going through the motions of what it takes to recover from the effects of a hurricane.

If I didn’t have allergies before coming here, I sure do have them now for dust! There is no amount of getting used to the ever-present thin film of dust that lingers on my desk space even after wiping it down five times, or needing to wash my covers three times a day because I can’t time the laundry with when they decide to work on my portion of the roof haha. At one point, someone’s foot went through the roof, leaving a gaping hole for any flying creatures to enter my humble abode (not fun, considering I really detest bugs and would not be pleased if a bird happened to fly in!!)

Being the clean, hygienic fanatic that I am (despite my mishap with eating contaminated food, hah!) it’s been quite an adjustment to the little creepy crawlies that visit me every now and then… imagine waking up to a tiny little beetle dropping onto your leg and starting to crawl, and then imagine me leaping with great agility to brush it off me and then immediately crush it so it doesn’t return 😐 I do miss my clean kitchen and bathroom, for we apparently have lizards that hide behind the picture frames and mirrors in the house, but they are utterly useless in eating the insects and mosquitoes and only leave little droppings as regalos by my bathroom sink -sigh-

Hope you enjoyed reading and stay tuned for my next post!