These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: JULY 2017

What a freakin whirlwind! I spent most of July in Mexico City for my program with AIM Overseas (if you’ve missed what’s been going on, you can check it out here). Retuning to Australia, starting back at uni and being able to drink the tap water has been a bit of a change (an extremely grateful change). But July has been a truly incredible month. I not only had my eyes ripped open to the reality that refugees and migrants live through in Mexico, but I discovered what really set my heart on fire, plus I turned 23, the dreaded age of being somewhat an adult. But before we jump too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look back on the month of July!

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🇲🇽  Mexico City

What a crazy city? Over 22million people, an altitude of 2500m and a city of extremes. The rich, glamorous, hipster and the poor, dirty and poverty somehow live together in this city. Mexico City is A LOT. You can catch up here for specifics of what we got up to on our program here. My program in Mexico was honestly one of the craziest, most educational, inspiring, challenging, overwhelming and incredible experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll truly cherish the time I spent there and the people I met. I don’t think I can ever forget the feeling of doing something I’m truly passionate about. It helped me realise my passions, my goals and how I really want to make a change and help share the stories of some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

🎶 Catfish and The Bottlemen

When I found out that one of my absolute favourite bands were playing in Wollongong the day before I was due to land back in Australia, I looked into changing my flights. After serious consideration, I realised ‘wtf I’m 23, my fave band is playing at home, that’s it I’m changing my flight!’ And I can honestly say that it’s one of the most spontaneous, crazy and freakin awesome things that I’ve done. I went with my friend and we had such a good night! Considering I managed to sleep for about 9 hours on the flight, the beers went down an absolute treat and my ears were treated to the sweet sounds of Catfish!

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Catfish and the Bottlemen at UOW

📷 THIS PHOTO

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❤️ Home

One of the best things about spending time away from home, is returning back. I was so excited to see my friends and family again. And lucky for me, semester 2 was just starting back so everyone was down for a beer or three!

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My sister and I at home in Port Stephens
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My brother, sister and I out in Newcastle

🎶 Tunes

HAIM. These lovely ladies just released their new album and GOD DAMN IT’S AMAZEBALLS! I’ve honestly had it on repeat and I’ve been singing along like there’s no tomorrow.

The XX. Another great band, another great album. Holy shit am I thankful to have new music from these guys grace my ears.

Bob Marley. OK maybe a bit random but after being in Belize and embracing those Caribbean vibes, Bob Marley just makes me feel freakin good. If you’re feeling stressed of anxious, simply play some of his music and I promise you’ll instantly feel happier.

🎥 Flicks

Frida.  I was lucky enough to visit the house of Frida Kahlo whilst in Mexico City. And before going I watched this film to get some background info on her life. And damn I would honestly recommend this to anyone. She had such an interesting, painful and flamboyant life and it was even more incredible getting to visit the house she grew up in and went through so much in.

Gangs of El Salvador – VICE. If anyone knows me, they know that working for VICE would be the ultimate kick ass job. And after spending time in Mexico and learning about the extremely violent gangs that govern Honduras and El Salvador, watching this documentary was incredibly educational and informative. An absolute must if, like me, you had no idea about gangs in El Salvador, or even where El Salvador is!

📷 Bloggers and Vloggers

Flying the Nest. I’ve only just stumbled across this cute Aussie couple and I’m slowing falling for their chemistry and excitement. They just got married in Greece so if you’re into that you’ll be obsessed. Me – I’m just really into all of the coffee they drink!

📗Book

T2 Trainspotting. This is definitely not for the faint hearted. It’s difficult to read (mostly because it’s written in a Scottish accent) and it’s all about porn, sex and drugs. Now I just can’t wait to watch the movie!

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📝 Quote

I have to admit, going to Mexico was definitely one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Not because I thought something bad would happen to me or go wrong, but because I’d never travelled anywhere like it before. Everything was new, scary, overwhelming and exciting. It was both terrifying and amazing and one of the most defining experiences I think I’ve ever had. And I think in life, when you’re faced with experiences that are both terrifying, scaring, exciting and amazing, then what do you have to lose by pursuing it? Sometimes you just have to take risks, and I’d hate to live a life thinking ‘what if?’ So dive in, be brave and embrace it.

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What a freakin amazing month! I learnt and discovered more about our beautifully complicated world, I turned 23 and apparently people still like me, and I’m back into semester 2 ready to smash out my last semester at uni! Things are looking up!!

 

Turning 23 in MEXCIO: Week 3 in MEXICO CITY

Well apparently the time has finally come! How has 3 weeks passed so damn quickly? Despite it sadly being our last week in Mexico City, it was such an epic week that flashed by way too quickly!

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Free Day

We were lucky that again on Monday we were granted a free day! It was perfectly timed because man did we need a breather (especially after our hectic weekend – click here to check out what we got up to). I decided to go on a solo mission to Soumaya, an incredible art gallery owned by Carlos Slim (one of the richest people in the world). I would absolutely recommend this gallery. Not only are the artworks in their world class – think Dalí, Renoir, Degas and Riviera, but the building itself is exquisite!

For the rest of the day we spent our time chilling and working on our presentations due at the end of the week.

We also went to a cute little cafe a block away from the hotel. It’s called A43 and has THE BEST mushroom burger I’ve ever had! Plus if you’re a fan of hot chocolates, this is your place!

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Cultural Visits

This week we didn’t have as many organised cultural visits, which meant we had more free time to pick and choose exactly what we wanted to do.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of us went to the Museum of Anthropology and were taken back thousands of years to the age of the Aztecs. It’s an enormous collection of recovered artefacts and is absolutely incredible!

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Wednesday was a really special day for me because…… I turned 23!!! WOO! Because of the time difference, I felt like my birthday actually lasted 2 days so there was a lot of celebrating to be done. In the afternoon a group of us went to Castillo Chapultepec. This beautiful old castle on a hill that overlooks this enormous city. So needless to say, I felt like a total princess!

That evening we went downtown to a cute Italian restaurant where we ate pizza and pasta and drank tequila. It was such a special way to spend my birthday and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend it with such incredible people.

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Professional Site Visits

This week we went to two houses/shelters that support refugees in the local community. The first was Cafe Min – a shelter mainly aimed at women and families. We were given a tour of the facility (which used to be an old school). There were several families with children there. Because of the language barrier, we just played with the children and had a pretty intense game of football (note – if you’re looking for donations to take to the refugees, a soccer ball is an instant hit). It was here that I met a young 14 year old girl, Maria. Her Mum had taken her and her two younger brothers (aged 9 and 4) across the border to escape the gang violence in their town in the North of Mexico. They were captured by US Border Force and put into detention. Their mother was deported back to Mexico. The children were put into foster care in the United States. The children were reunited with their mother a year later. Despite this, these children were so happy, enthusiastic and energetic about life. It was incredibly inspiring to meet such a beautiful young lady who was showing off her English skills by reading me Dr. Seuss.

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On Wednesday we were scheduled to go to a detention centre, yet recent riots and violence in the centre resulted in our visit being cancelled. It was disappointing that we didn’t get the chance to visit the centre, yet it’s a very strong reminder of why we’re here studying. To seek asylum is a human right, yet across the world – particularly in Australia, we are punishing these vulnerable people for doing so. I hope to see a future without detention centres.

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Class

This week we had our final presentations! My group presented on ‘Media, Othering and Human Rights.’ It’s definitely a topic that I’m very passionate about and it was great presenting to a group who all study different degrees and approached similar topics differently. I felt I really learnt a lot.

Graduation! 

Some people were flying out on Friday so naturally we decided to celebrate our graduation with everyone on Thursday night. We did some cute little awards, had a big family dinner and just enjoyed each others company. It was so lovely! My Mexican friend Victor and his friend Ricardo plus a few others from the group ended up going out to La Condesa to party! It was such a great night!

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After we finished our presentations on Friday afternoon – we were done! We had a great celebratory lunch with our coordinators and enjoyed our time together! We were presented with our certificates of completion and that was it! That night it was another girls birthday so we all went out for our last supper together!

And with that week that’s a wrap of this incredible program! We’ve got a final essay due in 3 weeks about our topic of choice, but with all of the inspiration and motivation from this program, I’m on an absolute roll with it.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go back into study in Australia. This study abroad experience gave me a real insight into this harsh world. It allowed me to experience and witness the real life repercussions of policy, action (or inaction) and things that we learn in textbooks. It was challenging, confronting, overwhelming, emotional, but most of all incredibly enriching. I’ve learnt more than I ever thought I would and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to study one of my main passions in Mexico City.

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Tacos & Tequila: Week 1 In MEXICO CITY

Mexico, that country that speaks Spanish, is renowned for its tacos and tequila and apparently Trump doesn’t like people from there. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of Mexico before arriving and commencing my studies in its capital, Mexico City. So how did I end up here? Well you may recall that around this time last year, I was completing a short course in La Rochelle, France, with a company called AIM Overseas (you can read about my experiences in France here). And after having such a life changing and incredible experience in France, I looked into their programs to see how I can escape another Australian Winter.

That’s when I came across their program taught at the University of La Salle in Mexico City titled ‘Immigrants, Human Rights & Mexican Society.’ Damn what a mouthful hey! Since I’m studying International Studies with Communications & Media Studies, I’ve always been fascinated, concerned and frustrated with current social and political perspectives towards migration, especially of refugees desperately trying to reach Australia. After finding out that I could receive a second OS Help Loan, I found myself being accepted into the program and on my way to Mexico City to study something that I’m deeply passionate about.

So here’s a look into what happened in our first week in Mexico City!

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Taking in the view of a city of 22million

Arriving

Arriving in a new destination, particularly one you’ve never been to before and don’t speak the language, can be extremely daunting. Luckily, La Salle organises an airport pick up. So there was someone at the airport to greet me with a friendly ‘Hola!’ From there, I joined a crew of other students in my program and in the Public Health Program (another AIM Overseas program offered at La Salle), and we filed onto the bus to take us to our new homes. Our ‘Immigrants’ group is staying at a lovely hotel in the funky, safe and colourful neighbourhood called La Condesa. I met my roomie, Rosie from the University of Melbourne. She’s a red head too, so we came to the understanding that they matched us based on our hair colour – but we get along really well so AIM definitely did a great job.

Across our arrival weekend, I met the other students in the program from all different degrees and from universities all across Australia. This diversity, I could tell, would be extremely valuable when it comes to discussing such a complex topic of migration. And to top it off, everyone is like minded and passionate about the same thing as you, so it’s safe to say that everyone is pretty damn cool.

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The colours of La Condesa, our funky neighbourhood

Classes

On Monday morning we were escorted to the university so we could take notes on directions. Luckily La Salle is a quick 10-15minute walk away from the hotel. Monday was our Orientation day where we were given a tour of the university and neighbourhood, we discussed our schedule for the three weeks, took our photos for our student ID’s and had an awesome welcome lunch.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were quite intense days of classes. We covered everything from Contemporary Mexican Society, Mexico-US Migration Management and Human Rights and Legal Issues surrounding Migration. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon we had our crucial ‘Survival Spanish’ classes where we covered important topics like how to order a beer and make sure you don’t order the super spicy tacos! All of our classes have been taught by extremely passionate and inspiring professor’s making the long days of class very engaging, interesting and informative.

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Some of the sites and colours you can expect to find downtown

Professional Site Visits

As much as this course is academic, it is equally practical where we get to immerse ourselves in the realities for many migrants and refugees arriving to Mexico. On Friday, we visited ‘Casa de los Amigos’ and ‘Casa Tochan’, both are houses providing support and accommodation for newly arrived migrants and refugees. At Casa de los Amigos, we were given a tour of their facilities and a presentation going through some of the services they provide these people. They receive migrants and refugees mostly from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, however when we visited they had several refugees from Somalia and Cameroon. It just goes to show that as long as there is conflict and danger, people will go to all lengths to find somewhere safe for themselves and their families.

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Outside Casa de Los Amigos
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Kindness is a universal language
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After our presentation from Casa de los Amigos

After Casa de los Amigos, we headed to Casa Tochan, a much smaller house, yet doing some pretty incredible things and making a real difference to those looking for support, shelter, food, services and kindness. At Casa Tochan, I met three Honduran refugees, aged 17, 19 and 22. They told us their stories (with the help from a translator) and it was an incredibly powerful, emotional and confronting experience. One of the young boys entire family had been murdered in Honduras and therefore, he was escaping out of fear of being next. It was all very raw and emotional, yet the part that I’ll never forget was when another girl on the program asked how they felt with us coming to visit Casa Tochan. They responded that they were so grateful because it makes them feel like there’s people out there that actually care about them and the situation they’re in. I must admit, I spent a lot of the afternoon wiping away tears from my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with their kindness, hope and strength. The reality of looking someone directly in the eye and creating a bond that transcends language, culture or class is an experience that can never be taken away and to those young boys that I had the absolute honour of meeting, I will never forget their bravery.

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The mural painted in the common area at Casa Tochan
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Our group and awesome tour guides
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A mural on the street near Casa Touchan painted by migrants. This bird is the national bird of Honduras and it represents the freedom they’ve gained from spreading their wings.

Other Events

Friday afternoon we were treated to a salsa class, a fun way to lift spirits and get in a good work out. For anyone thinking that salsa is all about the skirts, you’re wrong. Be prepared to sweat!

This weekend was a hectic weekend of soaking up a lot of culture and history. On Saturday we headed to the famous Pyramids! Walking among thousands of years of history sure was memorable. On the way back to the city, we stopped at the Basilica de Guadalupe, the second most important Catholic religious site, the first being the Vatican.

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Rosie and I conquering the Sun Pyramid
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The Immigration group & Public Health group after galavanting all around the Pyramids.
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The 1st and 2nd Basilica de Guadalupe. Because of the ground it’s built on, the buildings are actually sinking, meaning that not many buildings are straight. But it sure adds character.

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On Sunday we were completely immersed in the hustle and bustle of Mexico City and given a tour of downtown. We visited the Cathedral, the old palace with murals by Diego Rivera (OMG fan girl!) and Templo Mayor. To add to the craziness of downtown, there was also a really popular football match on where they had big screens everywhere!

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One of my very good friends actually lives in Mexico City. His name is Victor and we met when he came to Wollongong on exchange in my first year. 3.5years later, he was showing me around his home town, complete with tacos, tequila and pulques. Being reunited with old friends is definitely one of the best things about travel and I’m so grateful that he’s been able to show me around such an incredible city.

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Victor and I

Well I honestly don’t know where times gone. 1 week down, 2 more to go. One thing I’m really realising is just how fortunate I am to be given such a unique opportunity of studying one of our century’s most complex and urgent movement of people, in a country that is so heavily involved in the process, whether it be sending, receiving or simply a transit for people, Mexico and immigration go hand in hand. In the 1 week I’ve been here, I’ve learnt more about Mexico City and Mexican Society than I have in my whole life and I’m quickly learning that there’s much more to this incredible place than tacos and tequila (yet still very important).

[You can follow my adventures on Instagram @aworldlyaddiction]