Archive for July, 2012

27
Jul
12

back to el D.F…

I travelled from Puebla to Mexico City (a two-hour bus ride) Wednesday to give a lecture Thursday at the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría (INP). Coming down the mountain pass into the Valle de México, the highway makes its way through increasing urbanization until all you are surrounded with is concrete, asphalt, and city. Despite the smog and the traffic, I felt very nostalgic about being en el D.F. again – I lived there for more than a year, twelve years ago. The city doesn’t seem to have changed much — still filled with activity, movement, large boulevards, the metro, graffiti, high-rise hotels, el estadio Azteca, crowded neighborhoods and commercial districts, green hills peering up somewhere beyond the cars, buses, and green-and-white “Rutas” below. [The taxis have changed (from the green and white VW bugs that circulated the city streets twelve years ago to maroon and tan sedans…).] I gave a talk at the INP on research methods for the students in the Mental Health Research Training Program I am working with — they are working and living in México City – taking classes at the UNAM and doing independent research projects on issues as diverse as health care system restructuring and male sexual identity. I had a feeling that, somehow, my past work with a residential treatment program (a ‘comunidad terapeútica’ – run by Fundación Ama La Vida – that was 1999-2000, the program is no longer in existence, unfortunately) would mean my path would cross with someone I would meet at the INP; and indeed it did, as the woman directing the INP research site for our MHIRT students took the same Diplomado Course on Addictions at UAM-Xochimilco as I did back in 2000. I remember that year in my life as one of intense work and engagement with issues of substance abuse – on personal, community, and intellectual levels. I think now about how life journeys are like trails we make with our steps, our work, our energy, and our commitments. And, eventually, following our passions may lead us to loop back and reconnect with the past in our present endeavors, even as we’re unsure where our paths lead us in the future…

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23
Jul
12

 

 

This is my morning run path. Financed, built, and maintained by the municipal government of Puebla, it’s a 10Km trail made of track-like surface that winds along a muddy, rapidly-flowing (given this is the rainy season) river and is bordered by a several park-like areas, look-out structures, an area with exercise equipment, small stations staffed by policemen during peak hours, and even an orchid/bromeliad garden! The trail is used by everyone: housewives out for their am exercise, marathon runners-in-training, workers out for morning exercise before heading to the office, people walking their dogs (german shepherds, pit bulls, scotties, beagles and chihuahuas seem like especially popular breeds), joggers, families on bikes… On weekends, there are large groups that gather for runs and walks, and even a yoga class that takes place trail-side. Big up for publicly-funded recreation space!

13
Jul
12

Trabajo de Campo

Today was one of several days I’ve spent doing fieldwork in rural communities in the interior of Puebla state. This picture was taken in Xochitepec, about a 4 hour drive from Puebla City, and a community of about 1,000 residents whose livelihoods depend on local agricultural production and many of whom speak their indigenous Nahuatl language. Men and women work long, hard days in the fields– planting, tending, and harvesting corn, rice, beans, squash, and other crops mainly used for local consumption and some of which are sold on the market. The women pictured in this photo are medical students and a psychiatry resident at the BUAP who are engaged in a study of diabetes – knowledge, treatment, and associated risk factors – in these communities. While the questionnaire we used to conduct interviews was frustrating for me – given that it had merely translated concepts such as “lifestyle” into Spanish with no real thought for local context or culture – I still found the fieldwork fascinating. I used my interviews with people to go off topic, and asked a good deal of questions about people’s locally-held explanatory models of diabetes. I found several themes emerge, among others: that many view diabetes onset as a result of “un espanto” or “un susto” – such as a spouse’s death or a child’s accident – and that many also treat diabetes with “remedios caseros” (home remedies), such as sávila (aloe), té de  hierba amarga (bitter herb tea), or mezcal. Even though I’m aware of the biomedical view of diabetes — as associated with a failure in insulin production/utilization likely due to a combination of diet, heredity, and other individual-level risk factors — talking with people in these communities about their experiences with diabetes leaves me thinking that their local explanations for the disease need to be taken much more seriously. From my perspective, even after a few days in these communities, I can’t help but think about how limited the concept of “lifestyle” (“estilo de vida”) is when taken as an individual-level construct. For men and women in their 50s and 60s who develop diabetes after decades of working long, arduous days in the fields; who labor under the hot sun without adequate rest or drinking water; whose poverty limits their dietary choices to the staple corn tortilla, rice, and beans; and who walk over fields and mountains to and from “la milpa” (the fields); “lifestyle” must be thought of in broader social/cultural/historical/economic terms than merely as a variable assessing whether an individual maintains the “right diet” and engages in “adequate exercise”. Indeed, I found the questionnaire’s items asking about exercise so far from people’s reality that they were both unintelligible for respondents and almost insulting for me to pose. If you walk an hour to your job in “el campo” and work 8 hours laboring in the fields, then walk home – is this not “exercise”?! There was no response choice in the questionnaire for this type of physical activity, since the question items were designed based on studies conducted with U.S. and other populations where “exercise” means going to the gym and standing on a machine for 30 minutes 5 times a week. I have many more thoughts about this, but for now I’ll sign off with a word a Nahuatl-speaking woman taught me today in Xochitepec: “Yanilla” (“ya me voy” / “I’m going now”).

10
Jul
12

2012 ISP Newsletter

Definitely looking forward to joining the Faculty of International Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Oregon this Fall!

10
Jul
12

Popocatépetl

The view from the top of my apt. building in Puebla.

09
Jul
12

Sport City 10k, Puebla

Today I ran a 10k carerra through the city streets of Puebla along with about 2,000 other runners. Fun to see the running scene here – for anyone who thinks triathlon hasn’t gone global, the amount of TRI gear I saw on runners today will prove you wrong (zooz shirts, 2XU compression tights, Newton shoes, oh my!). The altitude (2.6KM above sea level) made the run tough – on the hills my chest compressed like nobody’s business – but I suppose it’s good training. Hadn’t run a straight 10k (meaning, without swimming and biking beforehand) in a while – so given the altitude, I was happy with my 49:30 finish time. peace, love, and happy running!

09
Jul
12

in Puebla, México

After a tough academic year teaching at UCSD as a Lecturer, I needed a change of pace. So I accepted an offer to come to Puebla and collaborate with a mental health training program (see program link: http://dornsife.usc.edu/latino-mental-health/home/index.cfm) directed by Dr. Steve Lopez (from USC). I’m teaching a mini-course on research methods and assisting the graduate and undergraduate students involved in the training (mainly they are students in clinical psychology) with their research projects. I’ll only be here a month, so I’m also trying to use this as writing time, time to work on several projects that I have had “pendiente” since a year ago. I just couldn’t find time during my first year teaching – with all that went into prepping classes and working with students – to write. Puebla is a large city of 5+ million, bustling boulevards, big shopping malls, lots of commerce, traffic, and activity. The influence of the U.S. and consumerism is everywhere (from Krispy Kreme donuts and Starbucks outlets to “mega” supermarkets/big box stores). And yet, Puebla has aspects of Mexicanidad all its own (the historic Avenida Juarez, monuments to the Battle of Puebla – where the Mexican army defeated the French on May 5, 1862 (this is the real cinco de mayo), street vendors selling fresh fruit juice, tacos, paletas, and other delicacies). Without a car, my “rumba” consists of walks around the neighborhood where the small room I’m renting is located (in Colonia Concepción Guadelupe), the nearby commercial zone of Angelópolis, and the bus route to the BUAP – Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, where I’m working. I won’t have time to explore much of the city, but soon I will post a photo of the legendary volcano Popocatépetl (aka “Popo”), whose snow-covered peak lying due west of Puebla is currently spouting smoke every morning (quite a sight).