February 15, 2008

Men In Suits, Dancing

One of the most enjoyable things about traveling is observing cultural norms and their similarities and differences to our own. Not to over generalize as I’m sure there are examples out there somewhere, but from my own personal experience the white shirt and tie crowd in the US aren’t huge on the dance scene. The one exception in my recollection would be from my first year teaching in the South Bronx when my colleagues seemed to talk about going out dancing fairly regularly. I initially found this odd, as to me dancing had always been for the late night prowling crew, not the middle school teaching crew. I eventually realized this was just a cultural norm for many of them (most of Latin American heritage) and that it’s actually ok (and fabulously normal) for people like my dad to go out dancing in the middle of the week and enjoy! I was reminded of this last night in Mexico City when my husband and I topped off the evening at a cantina near our hotel where a salsa band was playing loudly. I smiled when we sat down and watched the couples on the dance floor. Men in white shirts, black pants, suit coats and ties dancing without hesitation, exchanging partners frequently, it honestly looked like the 5PM Wall Street crowd in the US but they were having fun! Forty, fifty, sixty something men and women in full business attire absolutely letting go and enjoying themselves on the dance floor – and this is the norm here. I loved it.

Other cultural norms we enjoy observing while traveling are those of baggage. Not baggage in the luggage sense but baggage as in “what you must be carrying with you at all times to be a local” sense. Obviously there are times when locals aren't carrying their country's "baggage norm" but there always seems to be an overwhelming presence of one item in each country we visit, and it always has a positive connotation, something happy or culturally significant that provides a visual of the streets in a country or region. When we were in Bolivia the baggage norm was the chicken. No matter where we went the locals seemed to have a chicken in tow. In Morocco it was a watermelon. Not in Marrakesh, but in most of the surrounding areas. If you didn’t have a watermelon you just could not possibly be a local. In Italy…wine. Don’t ever go to a restaurant in Italy and attempt a meal without wine – not possible. (we did OK with that one) So now we’re in Mexico and the baggage norm appears to be the lime. HUGE sacs of limes. I think we’ve squeezed a trees worth of limes onto our drinks and dinners since we got here. I can’t help but wonder what the baggage norm will be when we’re in Ethiopia. Based on conversations with our Amharic tutor we should expect to enjoy large quantities of coffee - so perhaps it will be sacs of coffee beans? I can't wait to find out!

Yesterday we went for a walk around the neighborhood (we're staying in the Zona Rosa) and enjoyed a ridiculously huge and delicious lunch and then participated in the Noche Romantica (Valentines Day) festivities. Today we walked from one side of the city to the other landing in Chapultepec Park where we visited the Modern Art Museum and Archeology Museum. We then headed to the Historic Center of town to visit the National Cathedral, National Palace, and finally found ourselves at the Gregory Colbert “Ash and Snow” exhibit. Our cab driver told us it was in town and our jaws absolutely dropped. This is a traveling exhibit that spent a few months in NYC last year, but the 4 hour queue (and $20 entry) kept us from going. Not the case in Mexico City – Gratis and Rapido! (free and quick – walked right in!) It’s by far the largest photo exhibit I’ve ever seen, and is absolutely magical. Tomorrow we’re going to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan (the main pyramid is the 3rd largest in the world) and then plan to visit various other galleries including those host to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This city is so beautiful, colors blasting everywhere, and fantastically rich in history. Loving it.

A monument in Chapultepec Park

Entrance to and insde the National Anthropology Museum

Us outside the Gregory Colbert "Ash and Snow" Exhibit

1 comment:

Gamma! said...

Good morning! Can you tell I've been waiting to hear all about your adventures?! Sounds like you're having a genuinely fabulous time - not that I had any doubt for a moment that you would. I'm back here in Minneosta putting the villages all away - yea! Time for Spring! Enjoy your vacation.