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This little world of ours

YIIP Assignment #3 - Describing environmental issues in Mexico City

rain 25 °C

So I took a look around me, and I saw a lot of garbage, traffic, and smog. Yes, Mexico City is not a very environmentally conscious place even though it appears very green in some areas. All environmental issues here result from the insatiable demands of the massive population (over 20 million) and the poor infrastructure that is struggling to keep up with the demands. The geographical make up and location of Mexico City make things even worst and due to the surrounding mountains and slow circulation of air most of the smog and pollution constantly hover over the city.

On the street, people aren't ashamed to leave garbage anywhere and garbage bins are generally only found in parks. At home, the most recycling people do is by separating "organicos" from "inorganicos" but in most scenarios these two end up in the same pile.

As for environmental consciousness and action, just like anywhere else in the world, people seem to care and become more aware only when the environmental issues interfere with their personal comfort. So, because respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses have been claiming thousands of lives every year the government has tried to implement different programs to reduce the pollution. The most famous of those programs is the "Hoy no circula" (“Today don't drive”) that was implemented in 1989 and restrains cars, according to their license plate number, from driving on a certain day of the week. I guess it was a great idea at the time but the reality today is that if you’re rich enough to have a car then you’re probably rich enough to have two cars (or at least rich enough to have $10 bucks in your pocket to pay off the officer…).

So, Mexico City’s environmental future doesn’t look very bright (pun intended) and there is definitely lots a room for more programs. Some of my personal ideas include promoting a greener lifestyle through ad campaigns in the media and educating the young about the ill fate our planet is heading towards.

And that’s all folks. Now go hug a tree for me!

Posted by landed 15:32 Archived in Mexico Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

A whole new world

YIIP assignment #2 - Spotting differences and similarities

semi-overcast 26 °C

I think the first thing that indicates to someone that he has arrived to a new country is the faces that welcome him in the airport. Landing in Mexico City was no different and the minute I stepped out to the street I became aware of how different looking I am from everyone else. Later on, while riding a cab to my new residence, the things that caught my eye the most were the crazy driving (red lights are optional), the large amounts of people and cars everywhere, and (in some areas) the pretty colorful houses. I’ve also noticed some people wearing jackets and sweaters when it’s 25° and sunny outside but I guess they’re used to different temperatures here.

In terms of differences and similarities, it seems like everything here is different. I’ve already visited a lot of places, in and out of the city, but the only times I thought of Toronto were when I entered a big mall or walked by McDonalds or Starbucks.

Interestingly, because I’m answering this question after already being here for 6 weeks I had to think really hard about these things. With every day that passes here I feel less of a foreigner and more of a local. Rapidly enough I’m blending in and feeling more comfortable at the places I go to and more confidant when I speak my lame Spanish. :)

Posted by landed 10:02 Archived in Mexico Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

My culture

YIIP assignment #1 - Defining my culture

sunny 25 °C

Introduction
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After many weeks of planning, procrastination, and mental preparation I am finally sitting down in front of the computer and thoroughly thinking about what is my culture and how I could define it. I'm not really sure how to tackle this question and I don't really want to philosophize over pages about the complexity of the term and what it entails.... Instead, I will just tell you my personal story and leave all the thinking to you! :)

Summary
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My story has begun in cold Russia, where I was born in 1985 to Jewish parents. The fact that we were Jewish already distinguished us from the majority of Russian society and it wasn't uncommon to get reminded of our differences through various forms of anti-Semitism. After the fall of communism, in 1990, my family immigrated to Israel and the first place we settled in was a small kibbutz in the south of the country. From the kibbutz we moved to nearby Ofakim (which at the time had the highest unemployment rate in the country), then moved up north to Qiryat Tivon (a small, green town near Haifa with a lot of snobs), and then to Afula (a mix of Russians, Ethiopians, and Moroccans). In 2002, at the age of 17, the family moved once again to Toronto and I've been residing there since.
Each place had its own characteristics and its own dynamic and each had its own impact on my personality, my identity, and my culture.

The four D's
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Dialect - I speak Russian with my parents and other Russians, Hebrew with my friends and other Israelis, and English with everyone else.

Design - I'm not really sure what this refers to... I don't do any designs myself but I could probably tell with good accuracy the difference between a Russian design, an Israeli design, and a Canadian design, whether it's fashion, art, or architecture...

Dance - I don't do any folk dancing anymore (I resigned at the peak of my career). I'd dance to psytrance though... which is a pretty Israeli thing to do. By the way, is there a Canadian folk dance I don't know about or is it just grinding in clubs?

Diet - My diet consists mainly of my mom's Russian and Jewish cooking. The Israeli influence is also noticeable with the occasional Hummus, Showarma, and stuff on the grill. We don't do much Canadian cooking in the house but we have embraced the Caesar salad and veggies with a dipping sauce.

Some quick facts
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  • I have a different name in every language
  • I don't look Russian so Russians and Israelis generally can't tell (imagine the benefits... I could be a spy for all they know...). Canadians and others usually guess that I'm French.
  • I speak with a strange accent in Russian and English. My Hebrew is fluent but on recent visits to Israel some people apparently could hear some Canadian accent.
  • In Russia I am called a Jew, in Israel I am considered (by some) as a Russian and in Canada I'm an Israeli or a Jew.

Conclusion
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To truly understand someone else's culture you either have to live it yourself or do a lot of reading on the topic.
I hope this rough outline of my culture gave you an idea of where I come from and I how I turned out to be so amazing. If you'd like to know more you can invite me for a cup of tea ;)

Posted by landed 12:43 Archived in Mexico Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

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