Monday, July 13, 2009

Calamities With Stripes

Though it didn't seem like it until I looked back on the past few weeks that I had been living in Mexico, really I had been through a series of calamities that were trying, but nonetheless must have made me stronger. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason to suffer through them.
Calamity number one: Montezuma’s revenge hit me upside the head with a double-edged ax. Well, actually, it was in the stomach, and for those that don’t know what Montezuma’s revenge is, you've had the luck of never having it. Basically, there are all sorts of very enthusiastic stomach bugs that the Mexicans put in the food here to slowly but surely kill off the gringos that have infiltrated their country. Symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite, the urge to vomit, and doubling over in pain and whining for mommy, all in the middle of watching the dubbed version of Bad Boys in a movie theater. Treatment is finding a Mexican doctor that does not have his own office but will meet you at the nearest hospital, where he'll examine you in an extra examination room, give you a shot of antibiotics in the ass, charge you $40, give you a prescription and a list of foods you can't eat, including chocolate even though it's your birthday, and send you on your way.
Calamity number two: the rain. It does not rain. It waterfalls on top of you. It does. Constantly. It never stops. Actually, it does. The rain stops long enough for you to go outside, look carefully around as if trying to spot a waiting predator, get through the front gate and make it a couple of blocks. BAM! Thunder, lightning and dark clouds scoot in at ¨lightning speed¨ and you're drenched and stepping in puddles up to your neck.
Calamity number three: I am being sucked bloodless by the mosquitoes. The house I live in has a back garden with a fountain that is never on but has plenty of standing water where the little bloodsuckers breed. They somehow make it from there upstairs into my room and are slowly killing me while I sleep, which is the only time I wear shorts. My legs look like a minefield. It doesn't help that Mexican mosquitoes don't have the whining approach like their U.S. relatives, so they can sneak up on you undetected. It also doesn't help that when I am asleep, I don't notice that I am scratching my legs until I awake in a bloody frenzy. I showed my landlord my wounds, and she looked genuinely confused. How strange, she said, standing in front of the open sliding glass door that leads out to the garden and waving away some bug that flew too close to her. Because the mosquitoes rarely come in the house, and we never leave the doors open. I stood there in front of her, my legs trickling blood, and thought of all the days I had come home and found the sliding doors open. Actually, I didn't even have to think of all the days, because it was every day! Then she gave me a real zinger: maybe it's just your exotic blood. Ha! She just called a white, redheaded freckled girl from Washington exotic! THAT is a calamity! What an insult the really exotic people of the world!
Calamity number four: my job. I knew this was going to happen, but that didn't stop it from happening. As part of my job as an intern for an English language newspaper, I wrote a story about all the nasty things you can find in the tap water here and why you shouldn't drink it. I gave it to the editor on a Tuesday (the paper is finished on Thursdays) and asked him to look it over to see what else it needed. He lost it and didn't ask for it again until Thursday morning. I gave it back, he told me to change the lead, then I had it proofed by the copy editor and turned it in. It didn't come out in the paper that week. He called me in on the next Tuesday and gave me something that I am sure was once my article, but it was really impossible to tell because it was covered in teal and black ink. He went through it with me, telling me things I needed to change, some of which made a lot of sense, and others that I think changed the whole meaning of the damn thing. This, I have discovered, is because when I talk to the editor about an article, he has already decided what's going to be in it before he sees it. I could tell him I'm writing a story about the zoo, and if he decides he wants to hear about the monkeys and I write about the zebras, he'll tell me I am all wrong in saying the monkeys have stripes.
Anyway, I make the corrections, and hand it over to the copy editor, who gives me back a paper that, as he fondly put it, was a bloodbath (he uses a red pen). By this point I am fed up. He too thinks I am trying to paint stripes on the monkeys and refuses to listen when I try to explain that they are ZEBRAS. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried angry bitter tears and was afraid to wash my face afterward for fear that I would inhale something dangerous from the tap water. I finished all the corrections and turned the thing in yet again. Once again, it doesn't come out in the paper. Moreover, I find another article that I had originally written where the editor took all the information I gave him and wrote his own article. So I decided to talk to him about this. As I sat there trying my best to keep from acting like a leaky faucet, he told me in no uncertain terms that he was usually being nice to me just because I was an intern, that I obviously didn't know enough about water quality or how the water gets through the pipes to write a story about it, that he has the right to change my articles without telling me, especially when I turn them in 20 minutes before deadline (which, by the way, I have NEVER done unless it's given to me right before deadline. I turn most of them in a day early.) He also said that I am not good enough at translating to get the full context of a conversation and write it again in perfect English, and oh, by the way, don't get discouraged, because you're by far the best intern we've ever had. Apparently the others were trying to paint stripes on buildings or something.
In response, I went home, waved away the buzzing mosquitoes, and consoled myself by eating my way through the rest of a chocolate pudding pie.
The lesson? They are monkeys, regardless of the stripes, and chocolate really is a cure-all.