Remote Year Ohana Month 12 - Mexico City
Mexico City marks the last month on Remote Year. It's amazing how a year has flown by. During the year it felt like it was so long because of how much happened, but once it was coming to an end it felt like it was so short. Joining the group in Mexico City from Lima and having just hosted my first transformation retreat I felt lots of emotions - relief of a big job well done, excitement to spend the last month with the Ohana group, and some nervousness planning and anticipating how life would be after Remote Year.
Here are my highlights of the month:
This month I worked mostly from my favorite cafe, Blend Station, which is less than a block from my apartment. It's truly a hub for digital nomads. Everyday by about 9am all the seats would be completely taken and there are laptop after laptop. If I wanted to get a seat by the individual tables by the wall I'd have to get there by 8am.
Not only was it a great environment to work but also they have good coffee, tea, 100% cocoa, and nice cookies and pastries for $1-2.
There is also very good and healthy food for about $5-6.
These are the prices I've gotten used to this year. Coming back to LA and having to pay $4.5 for a coffee or tea has been a tough transition.
This month I picked back up my Spanish lessons again, this time from an awesome teacher Diego and I learned a lot. Even though my Spanish is still nowhere near conversational level, I feel like I made considerable progress and have gotten a much better handle on sentence structure and grammar. Now it's a matter of practice and accumulating vocabulary.
We lived in La Condesa neighborhood which is very trendy, full of restaurants and cafes, and with lots of expats. The apartment I shared with good friends Susanna and Themi was two levels with lots of space, big bedrooms, and huge windows. It was really beautiful and we all really enjoyed living there.
Before coming I imagined Mexico City to be a huge, chaotic, and polluted city, similar to what I imagined about Lima and Bogota. To my surprise however and similar to Lima and Bogota, it is much calmer and felt smaller than I expected and actually has a lot of parks and greenery. I enjoyed running around the city parks and working out in areas with public workout machines. So many cities in Latin America have surprised me with how nice and green they are and how many public health facilities they have. I feel very grateful to have been able to keep up the routine of taking care of my health this year, and I especially love it when I can do it outside in nature.
I can write a whole blog about the food in Mexico City. I've always loved Mexican food but Mexican food in Mexico City took it to another level. Previously I usually only have quesadilla, enchilada, and fajita in Mexican restaurant, but in Mexico it's all about tacos, and I certainly had my fair share and they were phenomenal.
My first day there, Susanna took us to a street market and I had the best Chile Relleno taco for $1!
We also took some seafood tostados to go, I had a mix of crab and fish, and it was absolutely to die for!
I also sampled many amazing guacamole. The one at Senor Taco across the street from our apartment was the best.
Tacos on the street or at small hole-in-the-wall places is the way to go in Mexico City. Here is one from a tiny place a block from where I lived and their Chile Relleno is delicious. Different from the one I had at the market on day 1 (they use a different type of cheese), but also really good. Notice how it's double tortilla shells here. I have noticed that's how tacos come in Mexico, for these thin corn tortillas it's always double shells, and for the thicker and softer tortilla like in the first picture it's single. Never in life did I think I'd learn so much about tacos :)
One of our track events was a taco making lesson in a restaurant where we got to make four types of tacos. We got divided into 3 teams - one team for the tortilla shells, one for the meat, and one for the sauces. I was in the team of shells and was interesting to learn the technique and all the tools used to make tortilla.
Here is the final product with all the sauces. Everything was really tasty.
And here are all the taco chefs.
The second track event was called Made in Mexico where we started by going to a local food market and had some amazing seafood.
Here is ceviche Mexican style
And here is the crew
We also sampled some beautiful desserts which were cheese topped with fig or strawberry jam.
We had some fantastic food at the all-day track event too. We went to a town Tepoztlan and for breakfast we were told they have this special triangle quesadilla-like dish that's made of fermented shell. We could choose the filling. In fact, most taco places in Mexico are like this with a selection of pre-made fillings, so you can pick based on the look of it, I really like that.
I had the quesadilla with vegetables, mushrooms and cheese and OMG it was the best thing I've had this whole month.
After we finished the hike up to the top of the mountain, Mary and I shared a frozen pineapple margarita and it was one of the best I've ever had, so icy, full of flavor but not too sweet, just the way I like it. I think the key was that they used real frozen pineapples and good tequila.
For lunch we had some more delicious Mexican food.
I had Chilaquiles for the first time. I had been wanting to try it for a long time. It was good but not quite as mind-blowing as some of the other dishes I've had so far, probably because I had such high expectations for it :)
Then there was the Remote Year Taco Challenge, where all the groups that go through Mexico City compete for how many tacos the group can eat. When I heard there were multiple people in the previous group that were in the "50+ club" I was shocked. Normally I would eat 2 tacos, so I didn't know how I would help the group at all. But once I found out these were small tacos and you can break the double shells and count them as two, I thought maybe I did have a chance. It also helped to be in the environment where there was so much team spirit with lots of Remote Year citizens and friends coming to help, so I was super pumped and ready to eat. In the end I polished off 27 of these guacamole tacos! (This plate counts as 10.) I was pretty proud of myself.
There were more than four people in the group that managed to eat over 50 of this version with Al Pastor. I don't eat pork so didn't try it but they looked so good!
In the end our Ohana group, even though the smallest in the Remote Year nation, managed to eat the most number of tacos in the unofficial count (which means the count with citizens and friends). We continued to live up to our reputation of being "Small but Mighty".
One night when my house mates and I went out for dinner around our apartment we had some the best mussels with cheese.
Here is one of the best individual pizzas I've had at a small pizza and beer place around the corner from our apartment.
One beautiful day in the neighborhood, I had a solo lunch at a crepe place, Creperie de la Paix, in between working at Blend Station. It was one of the best crepes I've ever had with three cheeses and vegetables.
There is a churros place, El Moro Churreria, on the way to our work space this month that was always packed. I finally managed to go there and try their famous churros with hot chocolate one day with a new friend and I understood why the long lines!
On our last night in the city, we went back there again after dinner for the churros with ice cream and it was even better than the churros by itself. The cheese flavored ice cream was the best!
The track events this month were all fantastic. Besides the events involving food that I already wrote about above, we also visited a folk art museum, went hiking, and had an amazing farewell weekend in Las Estacas.
I loved the Museo de Arte Popular (folk art museum). I really enjoyed learning about all the interesting history and culture of Mexico from our lovely city manager Sofia.
For the full-day track event, we went to a beautiful town, Tepoztlan, two hours south of Mexico City.
We hiked up the Tepozteco and it was a beautiful view.
This month I hosted another blind wine tasting event organized for the birthday of a group mate Annie. I partnered again with Joanna who prepared the delicious food. I love everything about hosting wine tastings, from the preparation
to the presentation. This time was a big turn out, almost everyone from the group came and I focused on Mexican wine. It gave me an awesome opportunity to learn about Mexican wine which I really didn't know very much about. I discovered there are some very good Mexican wine mostly produced in the Baja California region in the north.
The birthday girl really loved the event, which is the most important.
For the Remote Year farewell party we went away for a weekend to a park, Las Estacas, three hours south of Mexico City. It was so nice to be in an oasis with so much nature just a short drive outside the big and busy Mexico City.
We had fun times by the pool
Floating down the river
Watching videos that our parents sent, sharing gratitude, reflection, and vulnerability by the bonfire, and enjoying each other's company for one last weekend altogether as a group.
This is the final Ohana group consisting of 18 of us plus two program leaders that completed the one-year journey around the world.
What an incredible year. I started the journey when I landed in Cape Town, South Africa on March 2nd, 2018 and ended it exactly a year later on March 2, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. I even started and ended with the same group mate Themi. Of course we had to document the moment that was exactly a year apart both on a Saturday - the first one being our welcome in Cape Town airport by our program leaders and the second one saying goodbye in our Mexico City apartment a year later.
In a survey that we all took for creating our Ohana group year book, we were asked to give some statistics which had me reflect on the year. Here are some of the numbers I came up with:
I lived in 12 cities in 10 countries on 3 continents
Including all the side trips, I went to 47 cities in 20 countries, 9 of them for the first time
I slept on 59 beds throughout the year
More important than the amazing places I visited and lived in, it was a year of the most profound personal growth I've ever had. Not only did I meet people and get exposed to opportunities and experiences I otherwise never would have, but also did I learn and grow so much myself. My psychology studies is focused on group process, and I couldn't have asked for a better experiential learning of groups than traveling, living, and working with a group for a whole year. In fact, I'm writing my Doctor of Psychology dissertation on the phenomenological reflection of my one-year experience on Remote Year, analyzing what an adult learns from long-term travel in a group.
I started my intensive personal development journey four years ago when I started my Doctor of Psychology studies. It was preceded and followed by lots of reading of spiritual and personal development books, going to 10-day vipassana meditation retreat, getting trained as a coach, doing solo traveling, and going to leadership development programs and Tony Robbins' seminars. It all culminated into this final and biggest personal development experience - this one-year journey where I got deeper in touch with my true self, which I now know is made of love, courage, and playfulness. While my self-development and self-actualization journey is never-ending, I do feel that after this year my focused self-work can come to a reduced intensity because I have learned to have true self-love and self-acceptance. From this point I feel I can focus my energy on giving to others and positively impacting clients and everyone around me.
I want to thank you all for reading my blog throughout the year and for all your support and encouragement. It meant so much to me. This was my first experience writing a blog. I was really apprehensive at first but am so grateful that I had the push from many of you to do it, and I'm so glad that I had the courage to do it and discipline to follow through for the whole year. I will continue to write blogs about specific topics and reflections as I live my post Remote Year life. Although I probably won't be traveling as much I did this year, I have all the intention to making it as meaningful and fulfilling. Please stay tuned for my full reflection of this year in my dissertation which I'm hoping to turn into a book. Thank you all again and ciao for now!