Thanksgiving-ness

Thank you to everyone who voted for my gorgeous nephew! He finished up in fourth place in the competition which was pretty awesome. Of course, he is number one for all of us, but your votes definitely helped bump him up a place as he had been fixed in fifth for a few days. It meant a lot to us so thank you!

My nephew, a bona fide gringo baby, is about to celebrate his first thanksgiving! Happy thanksgiving to all y’all Americans and to my stateside family. Although it was my brother and sister in law’s dream to move across the pond, I know that packing up their life to start a new one with a brand new baby on the way hasn’t always been easy. I never really gave much thought to the cultural differences between the US and the UK, I mean, we speak the same language, how different can it be? Very. The day likely won’t have the same impact or meaning as it does to Americans, but I’m so proud of them for following their dreams and I hope that first thanksgiving with gringo baby is just perfect.

To all of you celebrating today, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope it’s a wonderful day spent with loved ones and lots of yummy food and whatever it is that makes your Thanksgiving special.

I have, yet again, let life get on top of me. Perhaps it should be one of my new year’s resolutions (starting now) to STOP that from happening. Sometimes I am guilty of taking things for granted and grumbling when really, I shouldn’t be complaining about anything. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK, and nor do they celebrate it in Mexico, but I like it. So, in honour of Thanksgiving and my American family, I figured today was as good a day as any to take some time out to think about some of the things that I am really, truly thankful for. In no particular order:

1, Family. My family mean the world to me and I miss them all the time. They are supportive, loving, understanding, crazy, and my best best friends in the world. I’m counting down the days ‘til I get on a jet plane home.

2. Friends. I don’t have many, but boy do I have some crackers.      

3. Boyfriend. We met in my first month here in Mexico over five years ago. It hasn’t always been an easy ride, but I am more in love than ever. I have learnt so much from our relationship and am grateful for every day that we are together.

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4. Health. I am acutely aware that this is something that should never be taken for granted. Sure I have niggles and creaks but nothing serious. Wherever I can, I try to look after myself. I don’t smoke or take drugs, I rarely drink and though my vice is chocolate (and bakery products and… well, anything sweet) I do try to moderate my intake and exercise when I can.

5. Furry friends. I’m too unsettled right now to have my own furry friends, but I am so grateful for the ones I do have in my life. There is nothing like a furry fix to put a smile on my face and my furry friends have a magical way of making me feel better no matter how stressed or anxious or fed up I’m feeling.

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6. Running. My new love. Running is amazing. I actually never thought I could feel this way about any sort of exercise but running has turned that up on its head. I love running for a lot of different reasons, and I’m super glad I’m able to do it, and that it’s become a fixture in my life.

7. Blogging. Blogging is a new(ish) but extremely important addition to my life. Whilst I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a useless blogger myself, communicating with bloggers and reading different blogs and posts has been an incredible experience and surprisingly to me, a bit of a learning curve. I might not be as interactive as I’d like all the time, but since I’ve discovered blogging, it has been a massive part of my life.

8. Job. Sure, I have gripes but I know I am lucky to be working. Sometimes I see people around the city and I wonder how they got into such a situation that they do what they do just to make a bit of money. Of course, the ladies of the night (and day) around where I live are one example, another is the young men on the metro who smash their bare backs onto filthy t-shirts filled with broken glass on the carriage floors. They are covered in a mixture of dried up, crusty blood and fresh wounds and every single time I see them it shocks me. They literally slice themselves open on the metro in exchange for a few pesos.  

9. Roof over my head. I have talked about the couple who live in a car before. Since then, I have seen them live in no less than five different vehicles. They are still always there on the street when I leave my flat, and they are still always there when I get back. They are currently residing in some sort of van thing, which as far as vehicles to reside in go, is a pretty big improvement on the vocho. I know there are millions of homeless people, but every day I see the car couple makes me remember that not everyone is lucky enough to count on a roof over their head.           

10. Whatsapp, skype, facebook, e-mail. All of these things mean one thing to me, communication. They are my connection with my loved ones far away and in many cases my main means of communication. I don’t think I would be able to live so far away from home if it weren’t for the wonderful technology keeping me connected.

11. Visa. I finally have my visa. Yes, it was a pain in the bottom to get. Yes it took I don’t know how many three hour round trips to immigration, countless hours waiting in queues, a lot of frustration, and even some tears, but I finally have it. :)

12. Aunty Gina. Being an aunt, albeit a faraway one, is just the most amazing thing. My nephew is one of the brightest lights of my life. I only have to hear his name and I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat. I find myself talking about him all the time. He brings so much joy to me and just makes me smile so much. Thank you beautiful baby! :)

I’ll leave my list here for now, though i’m sure I could go on and on. Thank you Thanksgiving for giving me the excuse to do this. Sometimes a little bit of perspective goes a long way.

x

Thank you

Back when I did the glow in the dark 5k race, I remember telling my friend that if she looked over at me at any point during the race, she would likely get the impression that not only was I not enjoying it, but that I would rather be anywhere but there, running. I assured her that it wasn’t the case, no matter what I looked like, or what goddawful faces I would likely be pulling. Running is a newly found release for me and something that, despite appearances (and I am not a pretty sight when I run), I really, truly love doing.

I sort of feel the same thing can apply to my blog. My blog is a bit of a mess. I still haven’t managed to organize my posts in any sort of coherent fashion. My posting itself is erratic at best. I have no schedule and though I have many ideas and half finished posts, for whatever reason I don’t get around to posting them. To put that into context, I still have awards to accept which have been months in waiting, and I have recently missed my six month blogging anniversary (what?! How did that happen?!), my post about Day of the Dead here in Mexico, and a Remember Remember the Fifth of November post. I just can’t keep up and my blog has no structure. It’s all a bit of a higgledy piggledy mess, which does happen to be reflective of my current state of mind, but is far from what I envisaged when I started out.

Despite all of this, I really love blogging, and that’s pretty much all down to you guys. You lovely people of the blogosphere have completely taken me aback with your support, comments, and interaction. I didn’t expect to find this and you have been the single best thing about my blogging experience. Even though it’s not secret, I feel like I’m part of a secret, unique community and I’m really grateful for it all. Although I may not show it all the time or it might not seem this way, I want to thank you for making that happen and for continuing to read despite the mishmash nature of A 4star Life.  

I can’t tell you how many times my conversations include blogging references, “I read on a blog…” “One of my favourite blogs…” “I’ve been reading a blog about…” As much as running has become a welcome and refreshing part of my life, so too has blogging. I’ve (cyberly) met some amazing people through this, and mishmash or not I’m excited to carry on (I can but try can’t I). Not only that but to carry on reading all your wonderful blogs that have in turn made me smile, literally laugh out loud, feel inspired, helped me escape daily monotony for a moment or two, taught me things, made me realize things, brought lumps to my throat, stayed with me, made me think, touched me, helped me put things into perspective, and affected me in one way or another. Thank you!  

When I do get around to writing (my goodness, my hat goes off to all of you in the throes of NaNoWriMo right now!) it is a sort of release for me. I might be slow and unreliable (hehe, much like I am with running) but I do love it. And I figure I can only get better. I won’t be writing for a few days now as tomorrow I’m going on a three day conference for work. I’m really looking forward to it. I work in publishing so my worklife is one big deadline. Jaunts like this are few and far between and I always feel like a change of scenery and routine helps keep me fresh(er). I’m also really looking forward to staying in the hotel (haha, I know, I don’t get out much) which I hope and pray has a bath. I miss baths! Baths seem to be a bit of a novelty in Mexico, I can probably count on one hand the households I know that have a tub, none of which are appropriate for me to rock up asking to bathe. Lately I haven’t been able to stop daydreaming about a steaming hot soak, so I do sooo hope the hotel will satisfy my craving. I haven’t had a bath since last Christmas when I was home, and that is just too long! Funny how you can crave something so much when it’s not readily available.

Anyway, talking of baths (sort of!) I’m also going to take this opportunity to ask for your help. My gorgeous little gringo nephew (the sole reason for my becoming as broody as a hen lately) is currently melting hearts in a photo competition in the US. Here he is, in the bath (lucky little devil) masquerading as a bubbly cross between a high court judge and an 18th century monarch.

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Today is the last day to vote, and he’s currently in fifth position! Woo! I think he can go higher though! So if you fancy helping us out, it’s really easy and quick to vote. You just need an e-mail! You won’t get any spam and though it’s a wee competition, it means a lot to us. Over the last week I have been nicknamed “crazy Aunt Gina” in my office for pestering my colleagues to vote. Whoops! Oh well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get… gorgeous baby boy # 17 !  

Hope you are all having a great week, I’m away to dream of baths and babies now… :) 

xxx

Humpdate

Not a happy hump day update from me. I’ve been summoned back to immigration regarding my visa renewal… 

There’s not a chance it will be ready already, and I’ve enough experience to know that when you are summoned back before time, it’s because there’s a problem.

Yippeeeeeee! Another problem. 

I wonder what it will be. Perhaps I forgot to dot the i in my name…

 

Street Snaps, Mexico City #1

I have been loving loving LOVING the lovely Lady of the Cakes’ Street Snaps theme of late: “shots taken at the spur of the moment, when an unexpected situation or sight presents itself in a public space.” You can check out her latest incredible round here. There are some seriously WOW street snappy moments going on in Toledo that’s for sure!

I’ve been bursting to get involved for a few weeks now, but am pretty useless, as I think many of you know by now, with my camera. I think I’ve finally managed to wrangle together a few shots worthy of posting though. A couple I took on the metro, so not quite the street, so I hope Lady won’t disqualify me! :)

This is probably a bit random, but I have talked a little bit before about the area of Mexico City where I live. I mentioned the ladies of the night (and day), and I managed to get a couple of snaps to show you what I mean. These women are a little intimidating, and I tried to be as discreet as I could with this, as they don’t like you looking at them let alone taking pictures. I walk home past these street ladies every single day…

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Street Lady 1

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Street Lady 2

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Street Lady 3

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Street Lady 4

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Roller in the Fringe

I could have gone on, but I think four is enough for now. :) From street ladies to this lady on the metro, who clearly didn’t have enough time to get ready in the morning…

And talking of seeing unusual things on the metro, I think this guy and his pet win hands down…

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Intimate Moments

From lizards (iguanas?) I have no idea… scaly creatures on the metro, to porky friends in the park… There might be some parts of the world where this is a common sight, but Mexico City is no such part of the world. This next one made me smile soooooooo much…

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Piggy in the Park

And finally… um, I did a double take when I saw this lovely, bright lady…

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Do you think she likes the colour yellow?

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Even her umbrella is yellow!

 So, that’s my first Street Snaps effort! I hope I did OK for my first effort Lady! I know the quality of my photos is atrocious, but hopefully you can get the jist. And I promise I’ll try to take a better photo for the next round! Thanks for such a fun theme! :)

You Snooze, You Lose!

Who knew a morning run could make you feel so good?!

I have never been in the morning activity makes me feel good camp. Although I would hardly describe myself as a night person either, but exercise in the mornings has always been a phenomenon of freaky people. Now and only now do I get it! Wow!

It’s really tricky for me to run on a weekday morning. It’s just not practical. Time is the main issue plus the fact that when I leave just after seven to go to work, it is still dark. I just would not feel comfortable being out running in the dark on my own that early in the morning. Weekends however, is another ball game, and has become one of the things I most look forward to. I am a freaky girl!

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La Encantada, Zacatecas

When I’m in Zacatecas, me and my boyfriend (he is also down to do the 10k with me and Will) run around a gorgeous lake called La Encantada.

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Mind the Duck

Each lap is about a kilometre so it’s also pretty easy to measure the distance. There, instead of dodging dogs, couples, and children, which is what I’m up against in my evening runs in Mexico City, I’m more likely to be dodging ducks! The last time I was there, I managed to run 5k. This was a fab achievement for me, not only because I had just arrived and stepped off the nine hour night bus, but also because of the altitude. When I first got to Zacatecas, it took me a while to figure out why I was always so short of breath, and when I say always, I mean stepping up the kerb would knock me for six. I’ve always been a sea level girl! So to find myself suddenly just under 2500 metres above sea level, I struggled a lot (not anywhere near the same height or as much as Danny B = another level of altitude suffering!) As beautiful as Zacatecas is, I cursed the hills, steep cobbled streets and seemingly endless steps. My housemate used to laugh at me as I would tackle the former bent over and virtually on all fours because, and I quote myself “There’s more air down here.” So being able to run five metres, let alone five k (the third time ever and the first time I’ve ever run that far not in a race situation) in Zacatecas was bit of a high-five moment.

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Welcome to Viveros

But my A-game hasn’t stopped there and I’ve found THE PERFECT place to run on a weekend in Mexico City. Viveros de Coyoacán is a runner’s paradise. It’s not thaat far from my flat (I mean, I still need to take the metro and a bus to get there) but this is where running goes down. I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to exercise on my own. And I don’t necessarily mean that I have to be with someone, I mean that I like to exercise around other people exercising. People exercising motivate me, especially when I run. And apparently Viveros is where all the runners have been hiding out. Viveros is a national park and is primarily a tree nursey that grows seedlings for reforestation projects around the city. But it also boasts a two kilometre running track which is an incredibly popular place to train. Viveros is another of Mexico City’s so-called lungs and it is a great feeling to be able to run through so much pure, green goodness. There are a lot of runners at Viveros. The first morning I ran there, I managed to complete three laps (6k), and this weekend I surpassed myself and made it to four whole laps, (8k)! I wasn’t actually going to run that far, but for some reason I had a bit of a second wind at kilometre six. I also noticed that there was a guy running with me and I secretly named him my silent running buddy. We were running at the same pace for about a kilometre and half. At that point, I started to fall back but at just 500 metres from 8k, I just couldn’t stop until I had finished it! So eight k is now the furthest I have run. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pretty slow, it took me almost 55 minutes to run those eight kilometres, but a few tiny months ago I couldn’t even run a kilometre so everything is an achievement to me. It’s really handy because the track has little wooden signs every 100 metres so you always know exactly how far you’ve run.

And how is running in the morning better than running in the evening? I don’t know. But it makes me feel like WOW! I get such a rush from it. I think it’s partly because I still have the whole day ahead of me, and I know that while the majority of people are still snoozing, me and the other freaks have just pounded the k’s. It makes me feel like I can face anything, (even immigration…!). It makes me feel so alive, and fresh, and clean, and vibrant. I’m not sure if air pollution changes throughout the day, I feel like it must (and does) make a difference so early in the morning though. As a weekend there is no rush hour, and being in the park I feel like I can really, actually breathe. There’s something special about exercising in the morning, and whilst I won’t lie and say it’s easy for me to get up early on a Saturday and Sunday morning, my motto of late is “You Snooze, You Lose.” I know once I get over the uuuu(uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu)gh of getting up, the run will make me feel incredible. It’s a feeling I’d never felt before. I had literally never done exercise in the morning, but now I know it, I don’t want to miss out that amazing feeling.

“Why does it feel so good but hurt so bad?

My mind keeps saying run as fast as you can.”

This week I was mostly running to Olly Murs ft. Flo Rida—Troublemaker

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0 metres…

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Running!

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100 metres

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2000 metres

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Seedlings

Visa Renewal Time

A few years ago I was detained, fresh off a flight from London, in Mexico City’s Benito Juarez airport. I had actually already been through immigration—seemingly without incident—and I was making my way to the conveyor belt. Two immigration officers came after me… I won’t say they were running, but they weren’t strolling either, and detained me. My suitcase had to wait as I was unceremoniously led to the detaining cell, and I will call it a cell because it was heavily guarded and I was not free to leave. I wasn’t told anything at the time, but later one of the officers said that I had a “code orange alert” against me, and there was an order to stop me at any air or land entrance or exit in Mexico that I tried to gain access through. I had no choice but to wait, and I won’t lie, it wasn’t a very nice experience. After about an hour and a half, I was told I could leave but with a summons to present myself before immigration in Zacatecas within three days. They still didn’t tell me what any of it was about. I was absolutely terrified. More because I had no idea what was going on, what they thought I had done/was going to do, who they thought I was…

I presented myself in Zacatecas two days later, prepped for the meeting by my boyfriend and his dad who assured me I had nothing to worry about. I was interrogated about my comings and goings. The year before when I was living in Zacatecas, I had done a fair amount of travelling in and out of Mexico. They had my passport and were asking me about dates in and dates out, along with all sorts of other random questions. At the end of it all I was told I was free to leave, and that there had been a misunderstanding with my visa. Y ya.

So this week I went back to immigration to hand in my documents to renew my visa. You might remember that I wasn’t looking forward to it.

My dread of immigration isn’t for nothing. Unless you’re rich / lucky enough to have a lawyer to sort all the visa stuff out for you, then there is no choice but to make the trip. After five years of making the trip, one detention, and countless visa problems, I’ve come to realise that there is no point trying to figure immigration out. It is what it is. And for me, it is one giant headache.

Welcome to immigration, Mexico City.

Immigration Mexico City (The queue goes all the way around the block)

Immigration Mexico City
(The queue goes all the way around the block)

My last visit was more than three weeks ago when I went to change my address and was told that the system said I had only been in Mexico for three years rather than five. In the end, I decided not to try and do anything about that. I can’t argue with the system. I was also talking to a friend who said that perhaps it was because the first two years I was here, I was on a scholarship from the British Council, and that implies a different type of visa. A different type of visa yes, not that I arrived here two years after I actually did though. But whatever, I have to choose my battles.

Even though I was only there to hand in documents, I was dreading the procedure. I joined the queue. A rather jolly and friendly immigration guy came through the queue and asked me what I was doing. “Renewing my visa,” I replied firmly. He asked me to go with him, and escorted me to the express queue. Oooh, an express queue, that’s new! Although as it turns out, the immigration express queue had obviously taken its inspiration from Walmart, where the “Express” queue averages a twenty-five minute wait.

Walmart's Express Queue (Just to clarify, we're in the loo roll here. You can't see the front of the queue which is literally on the other side of the shop. Oh and it snakes as well.)

Walmart’s Express Queue
(Just to clarify, we’re in the loo roll here. You can’t see the front of the queue which is literally on the other side of the shop. Oh and it snakes as well.)

 

Twenty-five minutes later, I got to the front and I handed my documents over. I think I was actually holding my breath as she took them, tap tap tapped into the computer and…

“I’m sorry. There’s a problem. It says you submitted a change of address and this hasn’t been updated yet, so I can’t proceed with your renewal. Speak to someone over there. Next.”

Oh crap.

So my address still hasn’t been updated more than three weeks after I went to do it, and I had to go and join the original queue I was in. By the time I got to the front, I had calmed down. I always cry at immigration but this time I was determined not to. Hell, I’m a veteran by now. So I handed my documents over to the new lady, and as she tap, tap, tapped into her computer, I tentatively told her that there was a problem with my address, and I didn’t know what to do…

She honestly looked at me as if I were crazy. “There’s no problem.”

Oh. Good. She expertly flicked through my papers and handed me my photographs back, “I don’t need these.”

“Oh really? It says on the list of requisites that I need them, and the lady I spoke to over there told me I needed them?”

“Yes. It does but you don’t. Not until you come and do your fingerprinting.”

The thing about immigration is that it doesn’t matter what the other lady said, or what is listed in the requisites. The only thing that matters is the NOW and what the person you are talking to NOW is saying.

Another prime example of this: Last year there was a discrepancy with my job title, which was slightly different on two different official documents. I was told that I needed to correct it so that they were the same, along with an official letter from my company explaining what had happened. But without it, they absolutely, definitely could NOT proceed with my visa. Fair enough. I asked HR for the new documents, and a few days later when I went again to immigration I invariably ended up with somebody else. “Here’s the letter you requested,” I said as I handed it over. She took a brief look at it, and said “It’s OK, I don’t need it,” and waved it away as if it were nothing. And that was that. all of a sudden I no longer needed it. It’s all about the NOW.

So, the rest of my documentation hand-in went smoothly. The lady even complimented me on my perfume; she could smell the Chanel. Ordinarily I don’t wear my posh perfume (Chanel Chance mmmm) on an everyday day, I’m a bit of a perfume stinge, but (and here’s something embarrassing I’m about to admit) I honestly dread immigration so much, I will resort to all my secret tricks to make me feel better.

Anyway, I won’t be at ease until I have the visa in my hand, it should take 30 days so we’ll see. Hopefully there will be no more problemas and I can save my fancy perfume for some other time :)

Football Guest Post, Coach Daddy

When the lovely Eli aka Coach Daddy asked me to guest post I was really flattered. And then I was terrified! What on earth would I write about? And how would I fit into his fabulous page?

When I asked my brother what he thought about the idea of me guest posting about football, I believe his reaction was to literally laugh in my face. But that’s exactly what I did!

You can read my post here, it’s all about footbally differences between girls and guys!

And while you’re over there be sure to check out Coach Daddy’s wonderful blog filled with funny, touching, and very interesting posts about his life as a football coach and daddy to three adorable (football loving!) daughters!

Thanks Coach Daddy for having me, and for your patience! :)

Look up… at the World Trade Center, Mexico City

World Trade Centre, Mexico City

World Trade Center, Mexico City

Every week, Travel With Intent invites bloggers to post photos with an up or down perspective. I decided to participate this week with this effort of the World Trade Center in Mexico City.

The main building is over 600ft tall, and houses offices, a convention centre, cinema, department stores, restaurants, etc. In fact, the protuding circle bit you can just make out on the top (something like 45 floors up), is home to Mexico City’s fanciest, Guinness World Record holding restaurant. Its claim: the world’s largest revolving restaurant. I’ve never been up there, I don’t often do fancy, but apparently the views are stunning. I work in a teeny by comparison office opposite the WTC and this is what I see from the window. I often lunch there, or mooch about the shops, grab a coffee, walk around it to get some fresh air… Also, one of the scariest and most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced was seeing this giant building swaying like a slow dance in an earthquake. Although I don’t work inside it, the WTC is part of my day, every single day. :)