I know now that he who hopes to be universal in his art must plant in his own soil. Great art is like a tree, which grows in a particular place and has a trunk, leaves, blossoms, boughs, fruit, and roots of its own. The more native art is, the more it belongs to the entire world, because taste is rooted in nature. When art is true, it is one with nature. This is the secret of primitive art and also of the art of the masters Michelangelo, Cézanne, Seurat, and Renoir. The secret of my best work is that it is Mexican.Diego Rivera
Hi friends! I am writing to you from glorious CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico or Mexico City for some of you…). It feels kind of cool to be so close to home, yet still feel worlds away. I keep thinking about the fact that in a few short weeks, I will literally be on the other side of the globe, and it really trips me out.
Anyhoo, the end of Medellin was really amazing. My friend Mel was visiting from DC and it was a fun experience having someone from my old life meet all my new friends. In our last week, a group of us visited a home for young girls who came from vulnerable backgrounds (mothers were unable to take care of them or they were working the streets) and they are taken in and get clothed, fed, and sent to school in a stable environment. These girls were so well-adjusted and so sweet, they greeted us all with hugs and cuddles in their adorable onesie pajamas. It was nice to step outside the Remote Year bubble and see the work that is being done in the countryside to help these girls become strong, empowered women. The organization is called Fundacion Cultivando Sonrisas, you can donate to them here: https://www.globalgiving.org/donate/30552/fundacion-cultivando-sonrisas/. You can donate to help them achieve their goal of building their own house (they are renting right now and are housing almost 20 girls in two bedrooms).
Then, the next day, we had our farewell event at a finca (which means farm but is really like a country home) outside the city. It was a gorgeous property with animals running around and stunning views of the mountains. We got to hang out by the pool together, soak in our last few moments of Colombia, and eat an amazing meal by the same chef who cooked our food in Guatapé. It was a beautiful end to an incredible month in Medellin. Our final night, Alex cooked a family dinner for us and we all hung out together just relaxing and getting ready to leave bright and early.
I really loved Colombia and I can’t wait to return one day. The people there are truly remarkable. The entrepreneurship, friendly spirit, and general zest for life there is incredible considering what went on in their recent past. It’s something to be admired and I can’t wait to see how the country grows and changes as the years go on. I will be back.
As a sidenote, I also bought FIVE new dresses in Medellin. While this may seem to some like a silly thing to mention, it’s really hard for someone like me (aka a petite but curvy woman) to buy dresses that fit. Lo and behold, I was in a country where many women are my body type and therefore cute boutiques sell dresses for people like me! It was truly a revelatory experience to not have to shop in the tiny petite corner of a store and barely be able to fit one leg into a dress, but rather just enjoy a selection of clothes in a regular store made in my size. I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress that wasn’t for a special event. I’m really embracing them and they make me feel fun and feminine, yippee! Enjoy some pics from our final week below!
Then, it was on to Mexico City! We had a quick layover in Bogota and then hopped over to Mexico. I had my first real hiccup on this trip so far on the plane to Mexico. I started to feel really, really motion-sick on our first plane ride and actually vomited in the Bogota airport. I haven’t had bad motion sickness for a while, but for some reason the last week or two, it’s really gotten to me. I think it’s a combination of heat/dehydration and my body not being able to cool down. Anyway, the flight into Mexico was not fun for me, but thankfully, I had the support of my Polarians who took my bags for me and generally helped me through. This is the beauty of this trip. If I was traveling solo, I would have been SOL in that moment, and towards the end of that flight, I really felt like I could not move. My friends lifted me up and helped me and did not judge me when I had a minor panic attack in the airport afterwards. I know I sound like a broken record, but I have so much love for them!
In Mexico, I’m living in a house with four others. Dan, Nicky, Lindsey, and Alex. It’s a beautiful, traditional house and we are living in a gorgeous neighborhood called La Condesa. (For those of you who watched the movie Roma, we are the next neighborhood over). There are so many cute restaurants and cafes and incredible parks and everything in our neighborhood. I even got a sweet haircut since being here! I’m not sure if it’s the physical proximity, or the fact that CDMX is such a massive metropolis, but this is definitely the city where I have felt most comfortable and “closest to home” so far.
Our first days in Mexico included having my first real churros (OMG!), my first real tacos (!!!), doing a city bus tour to get a lay of the land, and doing some sightseeing. I had an interesting moment one day on a walk through the park, where I noticed a swastika painted on the park’s plaque. It was jarring and definitely stopped me in my tracks. I had to take a few deep breaths to keep moving. Sad and frustrating that such bigotry is present here as well. I have felt blissfully ignorant and have been able to have a general respite from these kinds of things while being on Remote Year. And then strangely, beautifully, the universe sent me exactly what I needed. I turned the corner and there was the most amazing Israeli restaurant staring me right in the face with a mezuzah proudly located on the door, called Merkava. It was incredible food. They had traditional Eastern European food as well, so I ordered pelmeni, which is my favorite Russian food. Mom, they were almost as good as yours! But, it made me feel really proud of the thriving and incredibly strong Jewish community that is present in Mexico City. I’ve known about this community for a long time and it’s exciting to finally be able to get a taste of it. Anyway, it was a nice silver lining to that day.
This past weekend, I did my “scary thing” of the month and went hot air ballooning over the pyramids of Teotihuacán. To say I was scared is an understatement. But it ended up being one of the coolest things I’ve done so far. It’s actually incredibly peaceful and zen once you are up in the balloon (minus the loud blasts of fire constantly being released next to your head, which you weirdly get used to). We then climbed the pyramids themselves, which was actually pretty difficult, but the view at the top was worth it. Yet again, incredibly impressed by these man-made structures that have stood the test of time and the fact that people built them without the advents of electricity or modern technology. I often wonder what structures from our civilization will still be standing thousands of years from now…. considering we don’t really use naturally-made materials anymore. Enjoy some pics of the first week below!
Sunday, we explored the historic city center called the Zocalo, which is the central square. We went inside the Palacio Nacional, which is where the famous Diego Rivera murals are located. They are really impressive in person. I’m not normally super affected by art in this type of setting, but this left me pretty speechless. There is so much color, so much life, so many intricate details going on; it’s a marvel he was able to paint all of these murals. We also checked out the Gran Hotel de Ciudad de Mexico. It’s a former department store that was converted into a hotel, but the ceiling and the elevators are all made of Tiffany stained glass. It was breathtaking. Seriously one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.
I’m so excited because my bestie, Sonia, arrives here tomorrow for the weekend! I can’t wait to spend some QT with her and introduce her to my Polaris family!
Additionally, I am beginning to plan my adventures in Asia. I will be traveling to Seoul and Hong Kong for a week, and then we will be living Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Kyoto each for a month. I will be opting out of Malaysia to do my own exploring for five weeks in that area of the world. If any of you all have any recommendations, or must-sees while I’m there, please send them my way! All tips welcome.