Editor: Allison Chan
I decided to go to Mexico City for my birthday. Having spent my last birthday in utter inebriation and blackout, I made up my mind to not repeat such farce. Life is supposed to be spent in a meaningful way especially on such a memorable day of my short living. Said no to hangover, I squeezed a weekend into a flight ticket, and voila I left New York.
Prior to landing, I was not aware the severity of the earthquake. Away from the negativity of headlines, I had only a bleak idea that there was a national emergency in Mexico. Many people had lost their lives struck by both an earthquake and a storm. However, I was too naive to believe that Mexico City, as the metropolitan capital of a big economy, would stay intact. When I arrived at my Condesa flat, I witnessed the fallen bricks around my anti-seismic building. There were plenty of yellow ribbons with danger signs everywhere. Shops shut down. Railways cracked.
I tried to grab lunch somewhere. Most restaurants stayed close as their roofs were still dangling. During my stay, more shops opened. Yet there were mornings when I woke up, I saw women and children in pyjamas on the street waiting for further clearance – might not be the best time for a tour.
In a period of uncertainty and change, I was fortunate enough to be in Mexico City and beyond fortunate to stay alive. On my birthday, I hopped on a motorbiking trip to national park Nevada de Toluca. My grand venture in New York was going through a muffed period, but I needed to milk my daredevil spirit. I found my motorbike instructor Moses online and fell to his minimal advertising.
“Do you know how to drive?” Moses asked.
“Hmmm…” I tried to manipulate my motor. The engine mumbled and the motor went wild.
“All right. It is safer if you stay with me on my motor – at the backseat.” Moses said.
He was right. My driving skill, which was zero, would have put us in problems. Coincident with the rainy days and motor incident, I was also coping with this inner thigh pain on my right leg. I had the muscle strain for more than one year from my last adventure, a 22km hike to Trolltunga in Norway. Due to negligence of proper treatment and the continuation of my intensive boxing routine, my inner thigh pain worsened. A little kissed blue devil on my leg; in reality, it meant the impossibility to open up my hip or pivot my pelvis. For a gymaholic, losing the functional one leg is similar to draining the oxygen of her inner Voldemort, both on body and in mind.
Within these contexts, our motor trip began.
Moses was kind enough to drive in the craziest zigzag yet kept me safe. I wondered was he an F1 driver, although he would belittle their unprofessional skills. He swooped our motorbike marching side by side with cars on the highway. One moment I was alive, the next moment I felts my eyebrow gluing to the rear window of cars. I wanted to shout, “OhmyfuckingGodddddd…!!!”, and the next second, our motor swooshed quicker than the cars. Highway paved with cumbersome cars, who moved like turtles. Our motor played the cheeky lightning in between lanes. We hopped on the gap because we made the rule called freedom.
Mexico City is the big metropole with the same group of gentrified people living in the same sophisticated world. In the suburb, colourful houses lined up layer by layer in between the hills. Electricity lines, flying birds, blue sky, soaring excitements, modern cities, yellow flags, and Mexican symbols were parts of the poor regions where people hang their tinted clothes on the drying ropes outside.
Aided by the wings of the winds, our motor ducked into the mountain. Temperature dropped instantly. Toluca was surrounded with unpredictable roars from the sky. I tried to look down to the inactive volcano lagoon. There was nothing. I only saw a teeny line of traveller trekking through the rocks.
Back to Mexico City, I quickly took a hot shower and proceeded to my birthday dinner with some local friends from Sciences Po.; I met them a few mad summers ago. Because Sci. Po. is at core a politic science amusement park, most friends I met partied in the sphere of politics. Like Andres, who decided to come back to Mexico and change the world.
We laughed and talked about many things. Urbanite Maria said non-Mexico-City Mexicans hate Mexico City, like the rest of the world? I figured elites were not loved at all. The group centred around the fake news issue, rampant in the earthquake period, and sealed our friendship in the mutual hatred towards earthquake.
“We are in a national emergency!” Maria continued to remind me.
“I am so afraid.” Irma added.
My friend Andres, then serving as the head of millennial office head of his region, declared that the earthquake was changing Mexico. Prior to the sad event, politics were refined to the establishment. Now young people waived their flags. They cheered, “Now it is our world!” And of course Andres, who has devoted his 24 years of living to his country, had to work on a Sunday night.
The dinner finished with 8 oysters and the lovely churro plate from my friends while I took a break, intentionally or unintentionally I forgot, to the bathroom. Our millennial minds spoke loudly. Issues in each country worried our hearts. During the sorry time, we savoured our friendship and praised on each other’s’ growth after years.
We finished the night with a round of tequila, as the welcoming custom of Mexico.
“Long last friendship – and Mexico!”
Andres sent me home in the end. He looked at my building from the window and Googled something on his phone. His eyes squeezed into a line, and he claimed out of both excitements and fears, “Oh, you live in zone zero!”
Yes it is zone zero. And I am alive. I thanked him for the great night and went upstairs with my lightly crippled leg.
Every one went through a zone zero. May tomorrow be another bright new day. Salut to youth and my lovely time spent in Mexico.
*the article was written for my birthday in 2017.