Sep 24, 2013 MX Mexico
FIRST DAY

The first day can mark a unique moment, good or bad, in people's lives.  The first day of school.  The first day as a parent or newly wed couple.  The first day of opening a new business.  Although it does not dictate the rest of the experience, the first day commands a space in the brain that will remain permanent.  Heck, I'm still having night sweats of my first day at a new school when I was younger.  They are the beginning to an experience that knows no bounds and constructs a path unbeknownst to the agent of change.  They can be exciting, nerve-racking, enlightening, deceitful, or even uneventful.  My first day at VisionFund Mexico was a combination of a myriad of emotions and events.  All in all, I ended the day on a high note and enthused to be in such beautiful and culturally enriched country such as Mexico!
 
The morning began early.  I hadn't slept too well due to the first day jitters. The cold air that breezed through my hostel window awaked me.  The cold air violently tickled my body as I jumped out of bed and bumped my head against the wooden frame of my bunk bed.  The pain temporarily hindered my ability to speak as the profanities I wanted to scream disappeared before they left my mouth.  I took a shower, dressed myself, ate a quick breakfast and walked out of the hostel.   I slowly breathed in, eyes closed, morning dew that blended with the excess car exhaust.  It only takes a visitor a short amount of time to realize that the traffic in Mexico City is no joke.  Waiting at a stop light as a pedestrian can be time consuming.  Patience is certainly tested while waiting for what seems like an endless herd of metal animals rushing along the highway.  
 
After crossing a couple of major highways I descend into a tunnel to take the metro.  It's eerily quiet.  I buy a train ticket for two pesos and wait for the train.  As I wait I quickly scan the spider-web map of underground train stops.  It appears to be quite simple.  Head towards Tacubaya on the Green Line, transfer to the Pink Line heading towards Ciudad Azteca, get off at Sevilla and walk "north" towards Paseo de la Reforma where I'll turn left and then turn right onto Rio Elba.  No big deal.  
 
The train arrives.  It's packed.  The tired faces gaze at me through the window.  For once in my life, I am grateful for not having a 6-foot-frame-muscle-toned body.  Maybe someday (fingers crossed), but not until I fit myself into the train.  The train is impressive.  Fast and efficient, it appears to be a productive way for people to access the entire city.  I get off at the next stop to transfer.  This stop is not nearly as quiet as the other one.  Small tunnels are packed with people racing to their next transfer.  I desperately look for any sort of indication that will direct me to where I need to get onto the next train.  People behind me are pushing me to get out of the way.  No time to wait for stragglers like me.  As I walk I pass by people selling watches, foods, fruits, books, and jewelry.  It's interesting to see a marketplace below ground.  The arrows are pointing in all sorts of directions.  I go one way only to have the same colored arrow tell me to go another.  Already late, I ask a police officer where to go.  He points me in the right direction and the waves of people pull me onto the correct train.  I reach my destination and fly out of the spider's web.

 
 
I navigate the streets successfully to the VisionFund office and sign in.  I take the elevator to the 14th floor where Rosa (my Kiva Coordinator) immediately greets me.  Right off the bat she introduces me to everyone.  With my tie and suit, as well as a heavy laptop bag, I'm exhausted and sweating profusely.  Perhaps not the most opportune moment to meet people I'm going to be working closely with but I adjust quickly.  Everyone greets me with a warm and welcoming smile.  Everyone's names and their positions quickly flee from my memory after each introduction.  So many people and so little time!
 
Rosa then shows me to my desk.  I set up my things and get started with reviewing my work plan.  The work plan is a set of tasks that Kiva expects me to complete by the end of my four months.  They vary and present their own unique challenge but I am excited to get started as soon as possible.  My morning is spent reviewing notes and speaking with my Kiva Coordinator.  Later in the day I share souvenirs with staff that I brought from Boston.  I speak with various employees about life in Mexico City, their work, and places to see or visit while I am here.  We talk about the city of Boston, political strife throughout the world, the Boston Red Sox, neighborhoods in Mexico City, and the work that VisionFund does.  Everyone makes me feel comfortable, even though I was so nervous and sweaty when I first spoke to people.


 
At the end of the day I'm exhausted.  Whether having to speak in another language, the lengthy travel time, or the anxiety of working in a different country, the minor stresses wore me down.  Nonetheless, I had an appointment with a landlord to visit an apartment that is available.  Fortunately, it's close to my hostel.
 
I finished the night a little sick from some tacos that I had.  They didn’t sit very well with me.  Plus, the spices here in Mexico, like the traffic, are no joke.  I have trouble with barbecue sauce, so imagine how hot it was for me to try spicy tacos.  My stomach was not happy with me.   Yet, no complaints.  Just part of the experience.
 
As I lay my head down on my pillow to sleep, still cursing and giving the evil eye to the wooden frame that decided to so selflessly help me wake up, I reflected upon the fact that I was in Mexico.  I still couldn’t believe it.  In one day, I accomplished so much and experienced a plethora of emotions.  It's amazing how emotions can change when someone flashes you a smile, or when the unfamiliar embraces you despite your unwillingness to succumb to your vulnerabilities.  

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Comments

So impressive. Thanks for writing this all down. This is amazing.

Ben, I can relate to the "hey let's introduce the Kiva fellow to every single employee on Day 1 the minute he walks in the door" problem. I still don't know people's names. But they all know mine! Buena suerte! Zach

Day two--20? No respite from saving the world, I suppose. I hope the tacos have started to treat you as respectfully as you're treating your co-workers, and not vice versa.

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Ben Brennan Born in Bogotá, Colombia and adopted from an orphanage at a young age, Benjamin considers himself to be very fortunate for the opportunities and blessings that life has presented to him. While pursuing his Masters in Public Administration & Policy, he worked on a research project that analyzed the stark disparities of interest rates amongst different microfinance institutions worldwide. Intrigued by microfinance as a poverty reduction strategy, Benjamin then traveled to the Dominican Republic for three months where he observed microlending and the entrepreneurial trajectories that clients engaged in within their communities. Benjamin interned with the United Nations Development Programme where he worked on the Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative and gained valuable insight into how to integrate gender equality and economic analysis. He also served as a Fellow for SUNY Center for International Development where he conducted research regarding Constituency Development Funds in Latin America and analyzed their methods of implementation and the governmental regulations utilized to enforce accountability. His travels throughout Central and South America have solidified his passion for Latin America and its emerging social entrepreneurship market. He is thus thrilled to be given the opportunity to travel to Mexico to strengthen Kiva’s mission.
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