North America

The Final Full Week

Friday, September 5th, 2008

guadalajara-1099.jpgToday is my final full week of work. Next week I have only three days, and then I leave for Cancun for four days (with my dad). It’s so weird that my trip is coming to an end. I feel like I have been here for so long, but at the same time, it all went by so fast. Yesterday we held an event at the President Intercontinental Hotel. An executive from PEMEX (Petróleo Méxicano) presented the effects of the reform that the company will be going through—moving from a fully governmentally owned company to opening for private investments. I can’t help but cringe every time we have a speaker give a presentation. I feel as if the chamber needs to hold a seminar on ‘Successful PowerPoint Presentations.” I am not exaggerating when I say they type every word on each slide and then the graphs they use are super complicated. On top of that, their speech lacks audience engagement. Luckily, it was a lunch conference so my head was in my plate the whole time.

On Wednesday night I went with my boss and a friend to ‘La Casa Mariachi.’ It was a nicely decorated restaurant and had live mariachi music and dance performance. People started pouring in around midnight. It made me wonder if anyone had to work the next morning.

It’s beginning to look like Christmas here. The truth is, the Mexican Independence day is coming up on the 16th of September (no, it’s not Cinco de Mayo). Cinco de Mayo is actually only celebrated by a small town called La Batalla de Puebla when the Mexicans won the battle against the French. The rest of the country celebrates the 15th through 16th of September. I say that it looks like Christmas because they have decorated the town with the colors red, green, and white (the colors of the flag).

Baby Shower

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Last weekend I visited my friend in Morelia. It’s a beautiful city in the state of Michoacan; colonial and tiny. In fact, some residents call it ‘Little Spain,’ since much of the architecture resembles that of Spain’s. In general, I noticed that the people look more native in Morelia than they do here in Guadalajara, and they are much friendlier. I stayed with my friend and her host family. We spent much of Saturday evening talking American politics and Iranian culture. I am now accustomed to hearing, ‘Don’t you guys have to cover your faces and if you don’t, you get beaten?” right after I tell them that I am Middle Eastern. The discussion is fun, actually because I have the opportunity to help them see that not all Muslims are fanatics as shown in the media. I guess the street runs both ways because I now have the chance to return to the U.S. and explain to my friends and family that Mexicans are not as we see them in the states and the country is not all dirt and sun. Mexicans have so much pride in their culture and their country, and unfortunately their image has been tainted by the few who have crossed the border to create a better life.

In about twenty minutes we will be celebrating a co-worker’s baby shower here at the office. Tomorrow night I am going to a wedding. So far, we have fifteen companies who have confirmed to attend our trade mission in Seattle and Portland.

Trade Mission

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

The Trade Mission in Seattle-Portland is only a month away and we are super busy at the Chamber preparing for it. So far, I have been following up with companies in the state of Jalisco as to whether or not they have received the invitation. Our goal is to have ten companies confirmed to attend next week. The exciting part is that we get to work closely with other sister chambers in Jalisco and in the U.S. in addition to gaining membership interest on the part of corporations. Aside from the lecture and individual meetings that we have planned for the event, we have also arranged a visit to Nike, Microsoft, and the Port of Portland. The goal of the trade mission is to expand business opportunities within Mexico and the U.S. (specifically the Northwest and the state of Jalisco).

Aside from work, I am slowly winding down and preparing myself mentally for my return back to the states. Although I am still here for another month, I feel that it will fly by super fast, considering that I can now visualize how many weekends I have left here and what I will be doing each weekend. It’s interesting that now that I have finally developed strong friendships and I feel as if I am a part of the community in Guadalajara, I have to let it go and return to ‘normal’ life.

This afternoon I will be heading off to Morelia, a city in the neighboring state of Michoacán to visit my friend. She came last weekend and we traveled to Tequila, which is a beautiful town nearby where I live and is also where Jose Cuervo’s hacienda is located; tequila runs like water there. Of course I also showed her downtown Guadalajara and the Sunday markets nearby.

I am excited to see Morelia. I hear it’s very colonial and is often compared to Spain, architecturally. Tonight, we will be going to a Karaoke bar. I have never been to a karaoke bar, let alone one with Spanish songs.

Trade Committee

Friday, August 15th, 2008

guadalajara-872.jpgThis morning the American Chamber held their monthly trade committee meeting in Hotel Hilton. Since I work in the trade department, I helped put the event on. This month’s topic was JALTRADE and external commerce. Basically, since we are preparing for the trade mission in late September, the meeting served more as a manner to gain interest for companies who would like to be a part of the trade mission in Portland and Seattle. We had a speaker from JALTRADE (a company here) present while other executives sat around tables and were served breakfast.

guadalajara-824.jpgThis weekend, my friend from Morelia will be visiting me. We have some plans to go see a nearby town called Tequila. Yes, it also happens to be the same town famous for all the tequila companies and agave plants. I hear it’s very pretty. On Wednesday, I went with my boss and her roommate to see the movie Batman. It was in English with Spanish subtitles. Even though the screen was a bit smaller than what we are accustomed to in the U.S (and tickets much cheaper), the movie was nevertheless amazing.

For the time being, I am convincing my dad to come visit me while I am still here. otH

San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

This past weekend, I traveled to San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Only a five hour bus ride, I met up with my friend who is staying in Morelia. San Miguel is beautiful. It is a very small town, filled with tourists and flowers. We spent one day and night in San Miguel, enjoying the intricate churches and delicious food. If you have ever seen the movie ‘The Tenth Kingdom,’ this town resembles much of the romantic town that the main characters visited. At night, we listened to a live mariachi band play in the garden until well past midnight. At 8am the next morning, we rode the bus to Guanajuato, which is famous for its colorful houses and the street called Callejon de Beso. I finally felt that I had visited the heart of Mexico. Many residents dressed in traditional Mexican clothing and the streets were filled with tiny shops.

This weekend, my boss returned from her trip to Seattle. I am back to being a normal intern again, no longer in charge of the international trade department. What is different, however, is that I established some relationships with clients while she was gone. Now, sometimes when they call, they ask to speak with me. Next Monday, I will be hosting the meeting with the company in Texas and helping them open their office here in Guadalajara. The most exciting part is that I have been the point person through this entire project and I hope to see it through to success.

Yesterday I played soccer with the Amcham team. Funny story is that nobody believed that I would play with all guys. And I did, and scored a goal. My team ended up winning the game.

Soccer Games, Shopping, and Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

guadalajara-718.jpgAfter several weeks of traveling and moving, I finally spent this past weekend in Guadalajara. It felt nice to feel like I could finally discover a bit of my own city. I spent the Saturday walking through San Juan de Dios, located downtown Guadalajara. Although this was my third visit there, I was impressed by the volume of shoppers and families strolling along the streets, shopping, chatting, and eating. I walked through the market and enjoyed every scene. That Saturday was the first time that I made it through the entire market. The third floor amazed me the most. There were computer shops, video game stops, brand name shoes and clothing…..all imitation. Unfortunately, I can’t purchase any software products due to the fact that I will have problems at customs when I return. The following day, I went to Tiangis del Sol, an outdoor market that only happens every Sunday, with my friend.

This week, my boss left for Seattle for vacation. How small is this world? On Friday, she will be having dinner with my family.

I’m excited for what this weekend will bring. I am going to the Chivas soccer game (Chivas is the team here in Guadalajara) at the stadium. On Saturday, I will meet up with my friend for Morelia in San Miguel de Allende where we will spend the night and then take a bus to Guanajuato the next morning. I hear both cities are beautiful.

Thunder and Lightening…Don’t Forget Dolly

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

guadalajara313.jpgI am finally getting adjusted to living on my own. It took me about a week and a half to get situated, and I think I succeeded. The hard part was not that I had to cook on my own and buy my own groceries, rather it was thinking of things to do after work. Because I no longer have to wait for the bus every day, I have guadalajara203.jpg time to explore the city. My problem is the lack of friends to explore the city with. But, as I realize that I am only here for another two months, I will make the most of it. This weekend will be the first guadalajara276.jpg weekend in a while that I will be staying in Guadalajara, so I will take advantage of it and go to the markets downtown, the zoo, malls, etc.

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One of my good friends flew to Mexico this weekend to see me, and we met up in Puerto Vallarta. I am starting to believe that Puerto Vallarta is magical. Both times that I have visited, I have encountered amazing adventures and met some incredible people. I do think it’s time to visit other places in Mexico.

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Yesterday, I got permission to leave work early and go to my friend’s soccer game. Him and his friends play soccer every Wednesday, as he calls ‘professional’ (the field they play on has imitation turf and because of it the soccer ball bounces everywhere. Of course as a measure of precaution, the field is caged like an ice rink with a net that covers the top to prevent the soccer ball from flying into the streets). He invited the other guys from the American Chamber to play and they showed up. It was quite an eventful game, and our team played very well.

As for the weather, it was fairly warm this past week, with temperatures at about 26° C. Unfortunately, the undying gray clouds and thunderstorms will not leave us alone. Every couple days or so they return only to flood cities and destroy homes; perhaps Hurricane Dolly made the news this weekend.

Another weekend in Puerto Vallarta?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

n10738878_38625111_23041.jpegI feel more situated at my new house. Thank goodness I don’t see any gigantic insects in my bedroom or bathroom, and there are less mosquitoes here. My roommates are friendly, yet rarely home. The best part is that I leave my house at 8:58am and get to work by 9:02am, walking. I also have time to go out after work. For example, yesterday, I went to La Gran Plaza, which is a gigantic shopping center. I felt like I was in California. The stores were very similar to what we have in the states including Hugo Boss, Armani, Mango, etc.

n10738878_38937141_631.jpegI have a friend who works as a flight attendant and has this weekend off. She’s planning to come to Mexico for the weekend, however, the only easy access flight that she could possibly hop on is one that flies to Puerto Vallarta. SO…. guess where I will be heading again this weekend? PUERTO VALLARTA! I’m excited to see my friend, as well as the lovely beaches as we reunite in Mexico. This time, I will bring more sunscreen!

Another week…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Another week has passed by ever so quickly. I went to Puerto Vallarta with a friend from Morelia last weekend. It was amazing. We explored the beaches, snorkeled, hiked up a mountain to see the waterfall. The interesting thing about this fish1.jpgwaterfall is that many Puerto Vallartans take pride in it and promote it to tourists. As Washingtonians, we are surrounded by gigantic waterfalls and tall mountains, so to hike all the way up a mountain wearing flip flops under the scorching sun was not as exciting for me and my friend as it perhaps was for others. Especially since the waterfall was only about 40 feet tall. Either way, the experience was wonderful.

What fascinated me so much was the nightlife. Both locals and tourists spend evenings out dancing until three or four in the morning. The great thing about it was the environment. In Seattle, spending an evening out requires constant attention to surroundings to ensure safety, whether it be from other cars, thieves, or those who had too much to drink. In Puerto Vallarta, families went out together. They walked along the streets with children late at night and there were much fewer police officers roaming the premises.

The mornings at Puerto Vallarta were gorgeous. We could see to the ends of the sky and through the depths of the ocean. The afternoons were another story. Since this is the rainy season, both afternoons it rained. I don’t mean droplets of rain over a spring meadow. I am talking about the kind of rain that resembles that of our shower water pressure in the states. In a matter of thirty minutes, the streets flooded with water and cars were swimming instead of driving. By morning, all the rain had washed into the ocean (leaving long streaks of contamination, bad for tourism).

It’s interesting to visit a town thats main revenue comes from tourism. The people will work three or four different jobs in the town to make money. I met someone who sold horse rides and boat tours during the day, and worked the bars at night. What we may consider a ‘temp’ job in the states is what many Vallartans do for a living.

This weekend, I’m going to be moving into my new place. Can’t wait!

Life as a Mexican, from an American Perspective

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

I have almost completed my third week in Mexico. I love it here! Let me begin with a little bit about the environment and activities outside the workplace.

Bus:
I live a bit far from the American Chamber of Commerce, so I struggle with the bus rides every day. It’s not that the distance bothers me, rather the inconsistency of the buses. Believe me, we will all be grateful for the King County Metro if we experienced the transportation system here. Despite its tardiness, it’s rather a fun ride. In the evening, clowns, guitarists, singers, and whatever other talent imaginable hop on the bus and perform circus acts, sing songs, and play their instruments. It’s just another form of asking for donations as we often see on the streets of Downtown Seattle. In terms of speed limit: There is none. And I would caution you when crossing the streets because the vehicles have the right of way.

Housing:
I live with a very nice family near downtown Guadalajara. My host mom cooks so I have been eating all kinds of Mexican food, which is delicious. Breakfast is a bit different, however. Generally, in the states, our breakfast consists of milk, cereal, coffee, etc. Something sweet. I eat quesadillas, omelettes, beans, etc. Dinner is usually very light and we eat around 9:30pm. I think host families are incredibly useful for exposure to the language, culture, and are a great support system. I did not once feel alone or lost because I always have a family to come home to who also helps me with finding bus routes, shopping centers, etc. However, because of the difficulty of going to and from work, I have found a house to rent a room only four blocks away from work. I will be moving in one week.

Culture:
It’s super different. I see less difinition in terms of structure here. Allow me to explain: For one, I did not bring a
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