Monday, July 26, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 24

Stop trying to find the hidden meaning and real intention of other people’s answers or remarks... let’s face it: must likely they are not that smart.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The perks of a business traveler

Mexico City, Mexico, July 16, 2010

Here I am, back from Brazil at Mexico City’s international airport, after nine hours of flying and dealing with annoying travel partners ; what can be worse when traveling for business than a vacation-mood family of 4, sitting in row 14, seats B, D, E, F with yours truly in seat C, aisle included in between, yet having a full volume conversation in Portuguese and passing pens, magazines, IPods, back goes the pen, then the pillow, then the swapping of seats and mandatory kicking or stepping on the non-related one (me), then the “shhh… she is trying to sleep” remark in an even louder tone…for the love of God!!!

It was quite early in the morning when I checked immigration before continuing with my connecting flight; all checked bags had to be removed for customs control and finally re-checked to continue with my journey.

Up to the first check point, nothing out of the ordinary from a travel routine that I know so well. We all gathered around carrousel no. 5 waiting for our bags. Baggage control in the new and improved Terminal 2 has a huge crystal wall so all passengers can witness the efficient background work and science of delivering the luggage on those train-looking carts. And then, the solely purpose of the see-thru wall was accomplished… we were witnesses of a state of the art baggage control methodology implemented between airport workers and federal police, but I have a feeling it had to be based on a thorough analysis performed by a guru in industrial engineering and chain-production plans:

1) Around 15 employees were waiting for the carts to arrive; 2 carts with 4 wagons each arrived (add one additional employee driving each cart) and along came two federal police trucks, with 3 officers plus a K-9 Labrador retriever.

2) It took them good 10-15 minutes to remove the tarp from each individual wagon while chit-chatting among them and then started to unload the bags one by one to form a line of back to back suitcases placed flat, all along the outside part of the belt – approximately 20 suitcases.

3) Then the dog – walked on top of the luggage, smelling and doing its job – back and forth, three times. Mr. Federal policeman standing proud, while his furry partner is looking eagerly for his next fix.

4) Next step was to turn, every single bag, from FLAT to SIDEWAYS …whatever.

5) Next, the guy in charge of pushing the red button started the revolving belt – inside, 200 travelers distributed along all along the carrousel were waiting… and then, the bags started to smash together when trying to pass thru the small door!!! No panic, there was another guy in charge of “traffic control” and he took over to release the bag jam.

6) Once the first load of bags passed by, the belt was intentionally stopped right after bag no. 20 barely made it thru the door! No, nobody thought it was better to keep it running until it reached all the way to the end of the belt… no, it was more logical to stop it right there and force 200 bag-looking people to gather around the first part of the belt.

7) Following right after, the lather and repeat effect: the next 20 bags were placed flat, doggie smelled and shed on them all, red-button pusher did his part, traffic jam expert helped them pass thru the door (because yes, the bags were turned sideways again and of course, they didn’t fit AGAIN!) and why not? The belt stopped right after bag number 40’s appearance… after every round, more people gathered in the same already crowded place.

At first, I was disappointed, then, embarrassed. But at the end, I had a blast!! Since I had a more than comfortable layover before my connecting flight, the stress of missing it was not present. I started making conversation with fellow travelers and we all came up with funny and sarcastic remarks (what if the dog smells other dogs in the bags? Would he pee a little to mark territory or he was too professional for that kind of behavior?) We even wondered about the procedure if the dog had found “something” – would they stop the whole operation or, hmm, I don’t know, from the top of my head, crazy idea, maybe just remove the one and continue?

How come nobody thought that the dog could walk all along the belt WHILE MOVING? Or maybe have the Federal Police control a few steps from the baggage claim- in the customs control area- where they do a X-RAY SCAN of every single piece of luggage (carry-on included!!). It is a mystery what the clever logic behind this state-of –the-art way of checking for drugs may be (if there is some), but one thing is for sure: they are so proud of it that want all of us to see it….and in my case, to share it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 23

In order to find the true meaning of your life, pay attention to the little moments that make you feel complete and grand. Don’t waste time trying to enjoy the rest...just accept it as the means to achieve a greater good.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

America for the Americans

July 4th, 2010

Independence Day is a colorful holiday, summer time and fireworks, barbeques and lemonade (or beer). A day to remember we live in the land of the free home of the brave. To feel proud of being part of a great machinery of citizens that make this place the land of opportunities, a place where the dreams are possible and where hard work, honesty and spirit counts.

The 13 American colonies declared its independence from the British Empire back in 1776, in a document written mainly by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and with the main objective, besides stating the obvious separation from England, to ensure "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights," and "that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Equal. That is one strong word.

The United States of America is a country built mainly by immigrants. People from all around the world were welcomed to settle in a country in need for inexpensive labor force and offering hope for those getting away from hunger, religious persecution and political instability. European immigrants mainly from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Poland along with millions of Afro-Americans already in the country during colonial times started it all. Diversity in all senses: creed, ethnicity, culture, language. Asia made its great contribution of people along with Mexican agriculture workers. Scandinavians were lure to the other side of the Atlantic by the promise of free land in America. Nobody arrived uninvited. They all wanted a piece of the dream. A dream described mainly by the letters from their own relatives already living in, by exaggerated descriptions of the so called opportunities.

Historically and cyclically immigrants had been discriminated by the native-born –and most likely garnished by surnames such as Fitzpatrick, Bauer, Rossi, Roosevelt, Murphy and Garcia – with unfair acts ranging from verbal and physical abuse to burning their homes and deporting them for taking the American’s jobs. Immigrants have been taking turns in the path of discrimination: African-Americans suffered the most by slavery and denial of human rights; Irish treated as second class citizens, carriers of diseases and filth. Mexicans treated as criminals, ignorant and second-class human beings. Stereotypes applied without further reasoning or logical foundation.

I am an immigrant. I was born in Mexico. I was naturalized American therefore became Mexican-American. My family lives in Arizona. I pay my taxes; we contribute to the great American economy. I am as proud of my background as I am loyal and grateful for the opportunity to be in the United States. My two beautiful nieces are half-Mexican, they will always be. I was told, more than once, I don’t look Mexican… neither do my nieces. I don’t take that as a compliment…it insults me and my heritage to the bone. Nobody should have the right to decide who is good or bad, who has the right to live or should leave by the way it looks, the ability to speak more than one language, an accent or the amount of spices you can tolerate in the food. Arizona’s government is enforcing a state of fear and encouraging the ignorant idea of supremacy based on racial profiles.

One of my best friends, who is also one of the smartest human beings I know – which happens to be Mexican – once told me “Illegal immigration is a social phenomenon not a crime”; by treating illegal immigrants crossing the southern border of the USA as such, and granting the authorities the right to apply subjective criteria to determine who is not an American, a greater evil is encouraged: racism and superiority. A few clarifications for the record: not all the darker-skin, short height, dark-hair, Spanish-spoken aliens trying to cross the border are illegal; neither are all Mexican – Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras and the rest of the central and south American places are, in fact, different countries (it might come as a shocker to some, but America is not just the United States). Not all “Latinos” look alike.

The United States of America, as well as any other nation in the world, has all the right to regulate immigration; nobody should live illegally in a country, without paying taxes and without basic living conditions. But one would think that a first-class country should have the capability to find better means of control; criminalizing an act of desperation and self-preservation goes against human nature, against the nation’s ideals and foundation. Yes, it is against the law and should be treated like that; but no, it is not a crime. Yes, it is something that should be regulated; but no, it does not give the right to become human-hunters.

Some of the greatest contributions to the American culture came from immigrants: from literature to food, from financial institutions to music. Immigrants willing to work hard and become part of a new generation of people open for change and respectful of each other’s right for freedom, to equal rights, equal obligations, and equal opportunities . Call me naïve and romantic, but I still want to believe in America for the Americans – whatever the background, whatever the country – but willing to be free.

To Mia and Amy - always feel proud of who you are.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 22

When you feel like nothing worse can happen, never underestimate your own capacity to get in an even bigger trouble... always remember: it is not the last one to come and not the hardest one yet and at the end, it won’t feel as bad.

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