Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Posts By: mn460

Argentine Activism

📥  Uncategorized

No matter how far away from your homeland you may be there is a sense of cultural memory and belonging, one that has the power to transcend borders. Scores of expats call Buenos Aires home, but the yanquis in particular are present in droves. In times of uncertainty we always have a choice although it may not seem clear. We can give in and be paralysed by the prospect of the unknown, or we can unite. Nearly 200 people united outside the U.S. embassy on the 21st January as part of the Women’s March on Washington, which was a march taking place across the world.

Despite the name being ‘Women’s March on Washington’ and the majority being women or Americans or both, there was still an inspiring mix of people; men, women, transgenders, people of all ethnicities, and all backgrounds united against a hateful figure who incites divisions. It was a very powerful event to be present at as people spoke so earnestly to complete strangers about their personal experiences with sexism and harassment, and with such a strong belief in change. It really made me believe that together, united, at that march and across the world there was a latent hope, and there would be a time that change could be enacted if such a drive for it exists.

 

 

This march invoked the activist warrior in me so it seems and in March I attended another march, though on a much bigger scale. In a previous post I’d written about gender relations in Mexico and the phenomenon of femicidio and how patriarchy or the machista society is very prominent in day to day life. This is perhaps a problem that I found was amplified in Buenos Aires, which given the European cultural traits which have otherwise permeated the city, ostensibly seems surprising. Cat-calls are far too common place, from dawn till dusk, or even a ‘linda’ and maintained eye contact. It bothered me so much I started to reply, or question them, and eventually I began to cat call men back. Those who I probed on their actions told me that it was a ‘cultural thing’ and that Argentine women ‘liked it’. But the women I spoke to certainly didn’t, and I even asked women passing by who agreed with me; still this wasn’t convincing. For the most part they stubbornly clung to their belief that it was their right to tell a woman how beautiful they thought they were.

The President of Argentina Mauricio Macri once commented that all women secretly love a good cat-call; if that is the leader of the country is it any wonder that men really don't see a problem with it? (N.B. see any parallels with Trump...?)

Taking this all into account it is then no surprise that International Women’s Day on March 8th drew thousands and quite literally stopped traffic. Every branch of feminist organisation in existence was out on the streets, with all their friends and family in tow. Police adorned every corner, and colour and banners filled the streets. 'que no me digas guapa'; 'don't call me pretty', 'mujer bonita es la que lucha'; 'a pretty woman is the one who fights', and of course the classic which I had heard in Mexico 'ni una menos, viva nos queremos'; 'not one (woman) less, we want us alive'. It was amazing, encouraging, and yet so disheartening. The fact that this was a visible demonstration of the angst and upset that women feel every day and yet some men, aware that these events and problems exist, still don't see the link or problem with everyday sexism such as cat-calling is problematic. But there remains hope.

 

Bubbly Baires

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

After a short and welcome return home for Christmas (much of which was spent facing shock therapy to the cold), I found myself back at Newcastle Airport on January 1st. Destination: Buenos Aires. I’m here to do a three month placement at an English language online paper. Following university I’m not sure what the future will hold, but journalism or something similar is something that I would be very interested in pursuing.

I was determined to find as friendly a house as I had in my first semester, and I particularly wanted to live with more Spanish speakers as opposed to French. Although I had enjoyed my stint in Mexico I do think perhaps I learnt more French than Spanish. However, apparently there are French people all over Latin America, and after nearly a week of looking I settled on another exchange style house in a good location with friendly people; 7 French, an Ecuadorean, Venezualan and Uruguayan. C'est bon. They were all really welcoming and on my first night there we had an asado (a barbecue) a typical Argentine tradition.

A typical Argentine asado

I was both nervous and excited to start working as I’d never had a job apart from tutoring or bartending before, so the process was very new to me. Luckily it was a very close knit team who instantly made me feel at ease, and fast became my closest friends there. The paper runs on volunteer interns ,which meant that every day you were allocated articles to write. Although we were writing in English it proved useful translation practice as we were reading multiple Spanish articles, as well as keeping ourselves informed of current Argentine events. In particular having Argentines in the office meant that they were able to give context to otherwise very complicated situations.

Pretty Palermo: my walk home from work

Palermo, the area I live in has an abundance of things to do, see and eat. I myself have taken a particular interest in the last of these. Buenos Aires is a very image conscious city, and everyone here seems to be bursting with health and well-dressed. I’m not sure if it’s the sweltering heat affecting my brain or the naivety of actually following up  New Years resolutions, but I have joined a gym; a written and signed contract to improve my health as it were. After a slightly awkward exchange outside a zumba class ,I befriended   an Argentine man called Gustavo, the only man in a class of 20 women, and Jacqueline, an Argentine dental student who have taken it upon themselves to become my personal trainers. We form an odd little trio but as I struggle to keep up with the instructor they nod and smile encouragingly at me across the room; we have drinks planned for this weekend! A friendly aspect of Argentine culture is that everyone always greets you and says goodbye with a kiss on the cheek; this extends to all social situations including the beginning and end of an intense gym class. I do quite like this as at least there's an established form of greeting unlike the awkwardness of England where you end up ignoring people you actually know. I feel like if I did this at home though it would probably come across as either pretentious or forward. I’ll enjoy it now whilst it’s socially acceptable.

Chao for now x

 

 

 

Trick Or Techno

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, the Mexican approach to life is very laidback and chilled, an ethos I have easily adapted to. I think it’s the constant heat, which is much appreciated, but this combined with my solid diet of tacos has made even the 10 minute walk to university slightly taxing.  The second half of my year abroad is starting to take shape, and I’ve managed to get a 3 month internship starting in January in Buenos Aires, despite every possible thing that could have gone wrong with the interview happening. The only place I could get functioning wifi was on the patio, which led to my topless male housemates featuring in the Skype interview, with one even coming into the camera asking who it was. Luckily my interviewer saw the funny side, and all went smoothly. That just leaves me to find another placement for the remainder of the year. Life after Mexico was very much becoming a reality.

This brings me to the second part of this post. So far in the blog I have written about the ‘glamorous’ aspects per se of living abroad; travelling, new experiences, meeting new people. That’s not to say that these aren’t pivotal parts of a year abroad, but I feel it’s the slightly more harrowing moments that really test your character and strength. Perhaps I’d adapted a bit too much to the laidback lifestyle, and in doing so, momentarily forgot that I was in a very different environment, and until now I hadn’t really seen a negative side to that. My concerns prior to arrival had so far proved unfounded, but naturally such highs are tempered by inevitable lows, and sadly that’s how my last month kind of panned out.

I’ve been pondering for a while how to put this particular experience into words, as it wasn’t one single event of stupidity, but more like a recurring nightmare. I fully accept my culpability in the chain of events, but I do feel like it was one honest mistake that quickly spiralled beyond my control. I had gone to a halloween party with a friend outside my normal circle,  and hand on heart I have zero recollection of the party at all apart from seeing a girl. The next thing I remember is being in an uber and then waking up with my housemates telling me that we had been robbed. I was so confused. I then went to my room and my phone was gone, and two of my housemate’s laptops had been taken, a camera, and the house speakers. ‘Who came in the house?’, ‘what happened?’. Understandably angry voices confronted me, and I wish I could have given them some information. But as I wrote earlier I really couldn’t tell you what happened.

Strangely the thief had taken my phone, money, but not my laptop or passport– perhaps because it was in a case. I received an email with an uber receipt from my house to an address on the other side of Guadalajara, a very dodgy area according to Miguel which we would be wise not to go to. We called the police who arrived in a car, and upon explaining what had happened and asking if they could accompany us to the address, they informed us that it would be in breach of the code of human rights. The only course of action we could take was to report it, they kindly accompanied all 9 of us in their SUV to the nearest bus stop to take a bus to the station. We waited for 9 hours in the heat to make a report, and when it came to our place in the queue only one of us could go in. Miguel, being Mexican and probably in a better state than I was to talk, went in and made the report. The police would come round tomorrow to take statements they told us. It was then for the first time I felt homesick, not that I missed home, but for the first time Mexico wasn’t this amazing magical place; it felt hollow, lonely, and unkind. And for that I yearned for the comfort of comfort, England, my home where I could truly escape. Knowing that leaving wasn’t an option made me grow in a way, as even in Bath the notion of home isn’t a distant one; but 30 hours of travelling to run away from anxiety seemed extreme in this case and slightly impossible given I was in the middle of term.

The following days I seldom left my room, only at times when I knew that no one would be around. The police never did come to interview us, and unfortunately my housemates didn’t have insurance, and laptops were integral to their work as architecture students. This made me feel more guilty than I did before. I didn’t know what else to do but apologise, but even hearing my own voice apologise sounded hollow and ineffective; it had no bearing on what had happened. The fact I still had my laptop was almost more annoying, as it was my fault and I just wanted to make things better. There was no quick fix solution, and there really was nothing I could do. I’m not sure that there have been other experiences in my life that have been as formative as this. There were moments where I could have, and initially did, just sit and cry. But Ama told me that things would get better. I really didn’t believe her, there are few times that I’ve felt that low and helpless. But with her and Claire and time, things started to  gel together again. I lent my laptop to the boys whenever they needed it, and just kept apologising whenever I could. They were really nice people and I understand fully why they were annoyed. It taught me to not be so reckless and be more aware of the consequences my actions can have.

My own kind of chosen disassociation from my house meant I made slightly more of an effort with other people. One night I had gone out with some friends and when I got home I had a message from my housemate just saying my name. When I asked him about it in the morning he said that it was a very strange story; he and another friend had been up late working on a project when they heard someone try and open the front door with old keys. They opened the door and it was a very tall man who had an old set of house keys (we had changed them after the break-in as the thief had stolen my pair). He told them that he’d seen me that night and I had been assaulted, I’d asked him to come and check on me. He then barged past my housemates and made a beeline for my room. I was still out at the time and his keys didn’t work. He then had a cigarette with my housemates and told them that he had a date with me and so would see me the next day.

This is when I started to get slightly creeped out, I genuinely couldn’t tell you who this guy was if he was standing straight in front of me. Yet, he knew what I looked like, where I lived, and had no qualms making up fictional stories about me. I tried to shake it off, and aligned it to a bizarre experience. Life in other aspects had mostly returned to normality, and we were all enjoying our last month together before we parted ways. It was a Thursday night, and I was going to meet some English friends; when I returned from the night my door was wide open, my wardrobe had been tipped on its head, and my drawers were all opened. It was a sight that was all too familiar. I actually hid my money and valuables meticulously within other items, but they were all gone. Even the police report I’d made the first time had mysteriously disappeared from my drawer, but most importantly my passport had been taken. It was strange as everyone was in the house, but I suppose the thief had figured out the logistics of how to break locks the last time he was in the house; he had permanently damaged the front door by using force to open it.

In order to get a new passport I would have to go to the embassy in Mexico City, this was obviously a priority and to be honest I wanted to get out of Guadalajara. My room felt really unsafe and I couldn’t sleep anymore, Claire was away and said I could stay in hers but despite it being locked every noise incited waves of panic throughout my body. I decided to leave as soon as possible and booked my flight for the day after. It felt very abrupt but luckily the courses I had chosen were coursework based so I didn’t have exams to stay around for. It just meant saying goodbye to the life and people I had met over the last four months.

It’s in times of fear and uncertainty that you see who your real friends are, and I really couldn’t have asked for kinder and sweeter people to have spent my semester in Mexico with (apart from the thief). They organised a despidida, a farewell party, and my final night wasn’t a sad sleepless one, but a really great time with the people I had grown to know and love. It was the perfect note on which to leave Guadalajara, and a memory that I will always look back on.

My despidida

The next morning I said an emotional goodbye to my housemates, and went to the airport with a fond affection for Guadalajara.

I know this feels like it should be the end of the post, and I truly wish it was. The following morning I had an appointment with the embassy and I woke up to message requests on Facebook. Someone had messaged me saying that he had found my passport and that we should meet in Guadalajara so I could get it back. At first I was so happy, then of course the reality dawned on me; he hadn't 'found' my passport which was locked safely in my room, it was the thief. And he'd found me through my passport. After verifying with my housemates who had met him, I knew for sure it was him. The embassy advised me to block him and forget the situation, there was nothing they could do and all that was important was that I get a new passport and get home. What really frustrated me was just that he could get away with it. I now had his name, address, and the place he worked - he was a chef as it turned out, yet the police still did nothing.

My return flight to the U.K. wasn't until December the 22nd, and so I had three weeks left in which I had planned to travel with Claire. My friends and family told me I was stupid and that I should come home instantly, but I was determined not to let my memories of Mexico be marred by this one stupid decision. In hindsight I think that the last month was maybe my favourite in Mexico, and it reaffirmed my love for it. Despite all that happened in that semester, and all the thoughtless mistakes that I made, I would do it all over again. Viva México.

A cenote

One of the many beautiful beaches in Mexico

 

The Tequila Diaries

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Guadalajara is best known for two things; mariachi music and tequila, not really abating the stereotype very well. But the latter association is because it is forty minutes away from the town of Tequila, where the university took us on a day trip which involved some tasting and sight-seeing. I learnt a lot that day, mainly that I had been doing tequila shots wrong my whole life. As we were told, you’re meant to suck the lemon or lime (which they kindly infused with cinnamon, tamarind or salt), inhale, and then take the shot. It is, believe it or not, quite a pleasant experience.

Tequila tasting

House trip to Tequila

Cultural immersion

Mexico is a beautiful country, and with my university schedule permitting for long weekends, combined with the cheap and high quality service of the buses, I was able to see quite a bit of it. Puerto Vallarta is a beach town in the state of Jalisco, and we embarked on a house road trip there. It was consistently hot through the day, and unrelentingly beautiful. From its blue skies and seas to the the bunting and street art that adorned every street, it was such an idyllic place to visit. We also had a local guide in Miguel, our Mexican housemate who had grown up there and showed us some hidden gems, from the lesser known beaches to the best taco stands.

The house in Vallarta in front of street art Miguel did when he was younger!

Beautiful Vallarta

Dia de los muertos is a tradition in Mexico, and the most traditional place to spend it is on the island of Patzcuaro in Michoacan. Claire and I were eager to go and spend the weekend in the most authentic way we could, of course we weren't the only ones with that idea. Every exchange student in Guadalajara was on the same wavelength and all the accommodation had been booked up months in advance. That didn't deter us though, so caught up in the festive hype, we jumped on the bus, toothbrush in tow, determined to arrive in time for the night time celebrations. After two bus journeys we arrived at Michoacan and tried to find the boat to ferry us across to the elusive Patzcuaro island.

The boat to Patzcuaro

The above photo really can't do justice to how beautiful a journey it was, and some things can only be seen by the human eye. The sky was a medley of different shades of pink and grey and it was a strange, magical sort of atmosphere. The only comparison I can make is to Harry Potter, and the scene where Harry and Dumbledore are searching for horcruxes on an island, it had that same mystical feel to it. Patzcuaro appeared from the distance to look like a lighthouse, but upon arrival we found a buzzing island, a strange setting to celebrate the day of the dead. Set up in spirals, each floor of the island had multiple restaurants, bars and stands offering typical Micheladas - beer with tamarind and hot sauce, these juxtaposed with the opulent colourful graveyards, provided a strange but beautiful contradiction.

Celebrando dia de los muertos

 

The graveyards of Patzcuaro

Of course as the night went on we began to lag slightly, and at about 3am we felt it was time to call it a night. Of course, we had that slight issue of finding somewhere to sleep. Another slightly naive presumption on our end was that Mexico was always hot, we were about to learn that different states have different climates; Michoacan in November was not dissimilar to an English October. We were definitely underdressed in light day jackets and blankets wrapped around us clinging to warmth. We looked like sleepwalkers haunting the island. With the alcohol wearing off, the thought of a cold ferry ride to sleep in a bus station appealed to neither of us. We decided to seek refugee in one of the restaurants and eat some warm hearty soup; after ordering two sopes, Claire conveniently remembered as they arrived that sope in Mexican Spanish is not in fact soup, but a thick fried corn tortilla. We were both nodding off in the restaurant, and mused how we could literally just sleep there. I'm not sure which one of us suggested it, but collectively we decided to enquire into whether we could stay there. This was slightly compounded by the fact that our server was 10 years old, I asked her and she had to ask her Mum who had no qualms. We had found our lodging for the night, free of charge. We hunkered down on the floor of the restaurant with our jackets on and a blanket shared between us, a firm vice-grip on one another. It was a very strange scenario given the restaurant was still open, and we could hear the hustle of the festivities going on. We were woken by the tap of a broom at 8am; it was the mother who explained she needed to clean the floor and obviously we were impeding that process.  Overall though, we got to experience one of Mexico's most famous festivals, and at a bargain price.

Maybe it wasn't the most comfortable night's sleep I've ever had, but it's a funny experience I'll look back on and treasure.

 

Bienvenidos a la Casa Mágica

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico with over 1.5 million people, and so makes a marked change from Bath, shy of 84 000 residents and where you can get from A to B in thirty minutes max. The neatly aligned Georgian townhouses and the flat-roofed bright purple house fronts couldn’t be further apart, and nor could the experiences.

Six weeks in and time has passed unsurprisingly rapidly. In our hostel we met a French girl called Claire also doing an exchange, we decided to house-hunt together and after a few days found our dream house. Or as our eccentric landlady called it, La Casa Mágica. 

The rooftop of the Casa Mágica

New roomies

Safety was probably my biggest concern prior to coming out here, and due to the hyped media focus on cartels and corruption, it is easy to forget that there are real people who live perfectly normal lives. That’s not to say it’s the place where I've felt safest, but I think little adjustments such as not walking alone at night, and (over) using über, made a big difference. The patriarchal structure of society is still something I’m adjusting to, and I can’t say it’s one I particularly enjoy. A module I've chosen to study at the university is Gender and History, and I honestly think it’s one of the most interesting modules I’ve ever taken. Generally the classes in Mexico are, as non-native speakers, fairly difficult to take in. I often find it difficult to listen to Spanish lectures for over two hours and sift through the relevant information. This class is the exception as it is a subject I really do find fascinating, and I think that it will form the basis of my special study.

Perhaps the reason I find it so interesting is the fact that I’ve never encountered (on a long-term basis) such defined gender role distinctions, and naïvely I never fully appreciated the rights and liberties that we have as women in the U.K. A femicidio is the Spanish word used to describe the killings of women purely because they are women, often in a gruesome way. Such occurrences are far from uncommon in Mexico and across Latin America.  'Ni una mujer menos, ni una muerta más' is a slogan employed by Mexican women following the spate of female killings en masse in Ciudad Juarez  over twenty years ago. Quite literally it translates as ‘not one less woman, not one more female death’;it is an outcry against the harsh patriarchal system that encapsulates women’s lives. As much a testament to the continued gender violence that women face, the slogan has made a recent resurgence as Argentine feminists have coined it in their defiant campaign 'ni una menos' against the unjust society that tolerates the victims of femicide in a movement that has gained momentum across Latin America and worldwide.

An altar in memory of the victims of femicide

On the 19th October 'Miercoles Negro' (Black Wednesday) took place and women across Latin America protested in solidarity; it so happened that my Gender and History class coincided with this day so naturally our class joined the protest. However, as we gathered outside our classroom donned in all-black with banners in hand, we were approached by a male professor at the university who told us that we were making a fuss and that what we were protesting for was ‘a broma’. A joke. The Mexican students we were with quickly began citing death tolls and statistics that clarified it was far from a laughing matter. Despite the fact that he was clearly outnumbered on the topic he continued to fight his corner, and retreated telling us that we were too ‘linda’ (pretty) to be protesting. Sadly this kind of set the mood for the protest, as generally the looks from men we encountered weren’t those of support or even of sympathy, but of a weird kind of mocking, or over reaction. Of course you can’t generalise an entire gender, but that was my experience at least from this protest.

Miercoles Negro

Having spoken to many Mexican people here it’s evident that there’s a sad acceptance of the state of affairs for women and in general. The disappearance of the 43 students in the South of the country without a trace was one event that was exemplar of the government and its blatant widespread corruption; this is a commonly accepted fact and it’s more a hope that it doesn’t one day tragically affect them as attempts at change seem futile in such a established form of governance. I feel this post thus far has concentrated on the negatives of Guadalajara, but for every negative there are a heavily disproportionate number of positives. I mentioned before the lively coloured houses, but that vibrancy resonates in the people too. Those whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far all have a warmth to them; they go that extra mile to help welcome you, and make you feel at home. It’s a sad comparison to the xenophobic rhetoric currently employed so forcefully by Western countries to migrants, but an ethos the West ought to emulate.

Colourful and vibrant México

Having said that I only actually live with one Mexican, six French and one German, all students at different branches of the university across the city, and we all get on well. The French boys we live with are architecture students and so through group projects have befriended lots of Mexicans who form our extended friendship group, so we have a nice mix. As a house our one common nemesis was our initially ‘eccentric’ to now slightly crazy landlady who doesn’t actually live there but basically does. She is quite like a dorm mother and has been known to fine people for displaced socks. My rent is incredibly low and at £100 a month I have an en-suite room with bills included, though my friend did remind me that I live on the roof. My room, as with all the others in the house, has just been made this year in response to demand and so the infrastructure still has some way to go. I share the roof with Maxi, a very feisty young dog who cannot be tamed, and barks all night long. Laura (my landlady) recently tried to build a bathroom next to my room which resulted in a gaping hole in my wall. Ah, planning permission, Health and safety and Mexican architecture- a potent intoxicating combination.

Hasta pronto.

 

A México

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

The night before I left to Mexico was inevitably plagued with sleeplessness, and as I reluctantly awoke after two hours sleep I was greeted with a notification from Air France to alert me that my Paris to Mexico City flight was delayed. The first hurdle of my Year Abroad had already presented itself, as I had a flight afterwards from Mexico City to Guadalajara.  I reluctantly rose to at least try and make my first flight to Paris where I was due to meet Ama, my friend on my course who was also going to study in Guadalajara; we managed to find each other in the depressing airport that is Charles de Gaulle – despite Ama not having a phone – and resolved that when we landed we would have to be hasty if we wanted to make our connection as we had to collect our suitcases and check in again.

In hindsight, this was a tad optimistic, as we had massively underestimated the ease and speed with which we would be able to navigate Mexico City airport. Going through immigration, collecting our bags, checking in, took at least an hour and a half. The route was a fairly frequent one, but being so last minute, the only available two seats we could find were in first class; we really did arrive in Guadalajara in style. It’s a shame that we were both so exhausted from the previous flight that we slept the entire way.

We arrived in Guadalajara just after midnight, and the heat hit us as soon as we left the airport. En route to the hostel our taxista serenaded us with some typically Mexican tunes as we sleepily took in our surroundings. We arrived at Hostel Tequila, quickly checked in, and headed straight to our dorm. Our Mexican adventure was just beginning.

New arrival at Hostel Tequila

 

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" - Henry Miller

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

I'm Maighna, a third year Politics and Spanish student, and for the first semester of my Year Abroad I will be going to study abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico. Telling people that I’m moving there has elicited a variety of responses, from those of genuine envy ‘I’m so jealous, that’ll be great’ to more pragmatic approaches regarding firearm usage. My personal favourite is my friend who has foreseen my debut on the U.S.-Mexico frontier if we are indeed lucky enough to see the election of Trump in November; “We’ll turn on the TV and see Megs scaling the wall”. An over-generous estimation of my hand-eye coordination, if anything. Amazingly, despite all the cautionary advice given, and countless emails forwarded by my mother and her medical colleagues on the dangers of Zika virus, I am going to Mexico.

Typing it out and seeing it in print reinforces its reality, not that I am by any definition of the word prepared. But, apart from generic means of preparation, i.e. packing sufficient amounts of hand sanitiser, how can you prepare yourself for the completely unknown? Okay, a tad melodramatic, but at least going to university in England, there’s that whole cliché of English as a common language, which comes in quite handy at times. And even then, it was no walk in the park. There are so many scenarios spinning around my mind and yet I still find myself looking into somewhat of an abyss. In this day and age, where everything is seemingly tracked, dated, and backed up to iCloud, it is refreshing that there remain experiences that cannot be computerised or prophesised, and that the digital age cannot replace.

Sure, I can speak to Hector, my prospective landlord on FB chat, and whilst his dog ‘Fidel’ does look adorable and trustworthy, I feel no more ready than I’m sure he does to meet me. I feel I’m obsessing over this preparedness though (as you can probably tell), and as Kierkegaard once observed: "life remains a reality to be experienced and proves illogical to rules and bounds". Granted, his reservations were probably a bit more profound than ‘how many shoes should I pack?’ but the sentiment holds true all the same.

At present, all I have booked is a one-way ticket to Guadalajara and a place at Hostel Tequila. No, those are not the misquoted lyrics of an Eagles song, but in fact my awaiting, un-fulfilled reality. Stay tuned for more updates.