Maybe I should blog about it?

- Mia Armstrong, September 2019

Disclaimer: This is not an official Department of State website or blog, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State.

Sept. 4, 2019 - I don't know what compelled you to visit my blog page, but I'm glad you're here. This is where I will (try to) collect my highs and my lows, my wishes and fears, and all the beautiful and embarrassing things that happen to me over the next (at least) nine months in Mexico. I'm here in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche on a Fulbright García Robles grant to teach English at the Universidad Autónoma del Carmen, and I'll also be working on various journalism projects. Perhaps I'll even ask a few deep questions about who I am and who I want to be. 

You can click the links below for my reflections on/in specific places, and below that you'll find my *starting thoughts*, which is the best name I could come up with for my word vomit of feelings about coming here in the first place. 

Ciudad del Carmen

Sep. 5, 2019 - Starting thoughtsThe day before I came to Mexico, where I’ll be for the next nine months thanks to a Fulbright grant, I went to the Arizona-Sonora border at Ambos Nogales. I was there on a reporting trip to speak to recently deported people in a migrant aid shelter, a place where they could get food, a phone call, medical care and a meal. The oppositeness of our experiences could not be more glaring. They had just been forcibly removed from the U.S. to Mexico, and I was about to voluntarily move in the same direction — only my journey would be in a comfortable airplane with two checked bags. When I finished speaking with them, I made my way toward the tall, rusted fence that separates two realities, two countries that I love. I passed easily back into the U.S.

Choosing to move between two countries is a privilege. It is one I’m not sure I deserve. Or rather, it is one I’m not sure I in particular deserve — it feels so arbitrary that I should have it while so many others do not. It is a privilege I’m grateful for, but I’m not quite sure what to do with that gratefulness. I’m not sure how to honor it.

I knew I wanted to come back to Mexico since the day I left it, in December 2017. I had spent a semester studying in Mexico City at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, which is where I was when the deadly earthquake hit on Sep. 19. It was one of the worst days of my life. I remember feeling like everything was okay immediately after the earthquake ended, and then looking up to the sky only to find the bridges that were once suspended there had fallen to the ground. I remember when they told us five students had died on campus, and when we realized hundreds had died in the city and its outskirts.

But I also remember the calls and texts I got from classmates and professors I barely knew who wanted to make sure I was okay. I remember going from hospital to hospital trying to donate blood—but being turned away each time because the blood banks were full, so many others had already donated. I remember walking through the streets of a pueblo we went to deliver supplies to in Morelos. Though many of the houses had been nearly diminished to rubble, we walked through the streets together with mariachis and townspeople singing “Cielito Lindo.” I remember hope, optimism, unity. I remember feeling as though I was a part of something. I remember feeling at home.

A memorial at the Tec de Monterrey campus a few days after the earthquake.

I am not Mexican, nor have I lived in Mexico for more than a few months. Still, I feel that Mexico is a place that is deeply and tragically misunderstood by most people in the U.S. I hope to begin to understand it better, because I think Mexico and the U.S. are two countries whose futures deeply intertwined.

Mexico has a lot to teach me. I am ready to learn.