Mexico, November 2016
Video interviews with young people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLuXZ4u_cxM
My impressions of Mexicans I meet in Guaymus, San Carlos and Hermosillo in November 2016 was they’re more present emotionally than people in the US, less shut down in their interactions with strangers. For example, one of my group of three had passport problems in Hermosillo and wasn’t allowed to board the plane. We went to rent a car to the border and the supervisor, around age 30, volunteered to drive us. When we couldn’t find a rental care agency open in Nogales, Lupe volunteered to drive us to the Tucson airport where we could rent a car to drive to Phoenix for our flight home. She only asked for gas money, but of course I thanked her appropriately. With Jed translating her answers to my questions about youth issues, she said the main problem is the bad education system. Corrupt officials syphon off money to schools, teachers can buy a position and not teach, and some teachers accept bribes to change student grades, etc. I heard from many that parents who can afford it send their children to private schools, but Lupe said there’s no large scale movement for education reform other than President Enrique Pena Nieto’s move to require teachers to take competency tests. Rosa told me that the tests were so difficult and not relevant that another version will be used in January 2017. Most people I talked with judged Pena Nieto to be corrupt and tied in with the narco gangs.
Lupe said another problem is young people want to grow up too fast and lack respect for authority, unlike when she was a teen and it just took a look from a parent to correct undesirable behavior. Parents would spank if the child persisted. She blames the youth attitude problem on less cohesive families as more women work outside the home, leading to less time with grandmothers and mothers. Abraham, 26, said in our video interview that his generation is different from older ones in that they don’t want to get married and settle down in their early 20s. Unmarried, he thinks 30 is a more reasonable age after traveling and enjoying his freedom.
About gender roles, Lupe said that machismo is still prevalent, even among men her husband’s age. Her husband helps with family work but reserves some decisions for the head of the household. A US expat told me it’s common for men to have mistresses and have children with them– his finance is one of those women. Lupe said the reputation of feminists is that they are promiscuous and wear sexy clothes. However, Ana Karina, age 16, said in our video interview that she became a feminist as a young girl when her mother wouldn’t let her play with her male cousins. Her mother doesn’t want her to date boys until she’s 18, so she spends time with friends cooking and eating. She’s also an avid reader and book collector who wants to teach literature. A 14-year-old said in our interview that she would like to be a teacher of young children. When asked about differences in her generation, she repeated the global answer of their technological knowledge.
I flew out of Ataturk Airport a week before the recent bombing, after doing research for my book on global youth activism. Zakaria said that Erdogan is secular. One bit of evidence he gave was women aren’t allowed to wear headscarves in universities and public buildings. That’s no longer true, they can wear what they want. He didn’t mention Erdogan’s campaign to turn public schools into Islamic schools, which is a profound shift away from secularism. I watched CNN for hours yesterday and didn’t hear anyone mention the president’s extreme sexism. Women I talked with in Turkey are very angry that he said a woman who doesn’t give birth is half a woman, women should give birth to at least three children, women’s place is in the home because their main role is motherhood, they shouldn’t wear red lipstick, etc. His government is mainly male. Turks refer to him as the Sultan or Dictator.
To search multiple airlines at once, there’s Google Flights, which has simple calendars that allow users to easily see if they can save by flying a day or two earlier or later. The tool offers tips to that end. During a recent flight search for New York to Cancún, a message appeared saying that if I adjusted the travel dates by a few days, I could save $246. While the site has international and domestic flight information for nearly every airline, you won’t find Southwest there, so be sure to look at the airline’s own fare calendar on its website.
To keep abreast of private sales and low fares (as well as hotel deals), you can search or sign up for alerts on Airfarewatchdog.com. Email alerts include low fares for a particular route that interests you, or all of the affordable round-trip flights departing from your local airport.
Because prices are constantly fluctuating, keep checking airline websites and Google Flights to see the latest fares. The ticket price you see before lunch may be different a couple of hours later.
Even after you buy a ticket, you still have a chance to save. If you go to My.yapta.com/airline-refunds, you can sign up to receive free notifications if your ticket price drops.
I can’t believe that I’m really in Finland!! sorry I still don’t have
internet connection in my room because it is really expensive. 20 euros a
month , so 240 euros a year–that’s 10 years’ internet service fee back
in my home town apartment. So of course I think it’s unbelievably
expensive, especially when I’m in a really advanced country renowned for
I’m in the library. I just got my library card. So I can get on-line
here. But I will try to find more options to get internet connection.
I guess there are so much I want to tell you that I’m not sure where to
start. But of course I’d like you to visit here and check everything
The first thing I noticed when I got off the train was that there were
no taxis. The bus passed by every 30 minutes. That’s quite different
Actually one thing can explain everything here—everything is too
expensive here! Not many people would even consider getting a taxi
because they are too expensive. Before I came here, I thought it is that
only travelers and foreigners who are concerned about how expensive the
living expenses are, but only when I met people here I knew even local
people think everything is too expensive.
bus is also expensive, about 4 euro if it’s not further than one hour’s
drive, that is the fee of me taking a bus 100 times in Beijing.
Literally you will see only a few people on the bus. So how do people
commute or if they want to go somewhere—they bike. You will find
parking lots for bikes EVERYWHERE! I was pretty amazed when I saw many
elderly who are more than 50 and 60 years old biking to get their
groceries. The elderly here are quite independent. I saw many of them
traveling by their own. Everyone has a bike. A bike is like a car in the
U.S.. But Bike is not cheap either. I don’t see many cars even in the
Because everything is so expensive , there are second hand stores
everywhere. I’m quite impressed when I saw many beautiful Finnish girls
picking up second hand clothes there. People here are so nice and so
fugal. they live a frugal life, that is what I didn’t expect. My
Finnish tutor’s friend is using a Nokia phone that she bought 10 years
ago. And such a beautiful girl using a worn bag is not something I can
see in China. Let me give you a example of how thrifty they’re.( We
international students as well as local students all have a Finnish
tutor who will meet us in the train station or airport and show us
around in the town.and they will help us find the apartment and show us
where we can buy second hand staff, show us the university, help us
adjusting to the Finnish culture. They are volunteer peer students. How
considerate the Finns are!!! ) On my first day to school, I happened to
meet a Finnish tutor showing his tutoree around the campus. I offered to
help them because they are carrying two HUGE luggage cases and two
bags. We walked 1 hour and a half to her apartment carrying those heavy
luggages. When we got there, I saw a bus stop just in front of the
apartment. I asked the tutor why didn’t we take a bus. He said ” the bus
is expensive so I thought we could walk here. ” in china, speaking of
4 huge luggage bags and one hour and a half’s road would first linked
to taking a taxi.
I am doing fine. All the weekdays were filled with lectures and seminars, and all the weekends were just crazy.. Gosh. International students are crazy. And suddenly I realize I am one of them. But different… Last week I just got drunk for the first time of my life and had my first hangover. Most of my neighbors happen to be Eastern Europeans (this city is close to Russian border, so I guess it’s natural.) They were celebrating one Latvian’s birthday so I was invited to the party. Russians and Latvians drink like crazy. They drink vodka like beer, and drink beer like water. Inevitably, I had to drink for the celebration. I had my first cup of vodka and whiskey. By their words, a celebration without vodka is not a celebration.
I live in the apartment regulated by government housing. It is provided by the student housing company owned by the city. ( universities here don’t have dormitories unlike US and CHN.)
After about two weeks’ orientation we are having class now. The entire orientation week is whole new experience for me when it comes to higher education. There is no such concept as orientation week for new students in China. Although the Chinese higher education system has substantially adopted the European counterpart’s entire framework, but many details are not well attended like the European higher education system. The orientation week is a missing link for the Chinese education system. As there is no such concept of orientation week in Chinese universities, in the beginning of their college lives, many students are confused about what to do. Much of the information comes from their peer students, and the delivery of the messages much relies on the head teacher of the class. I found the whole orientation week is very usefully. It’s crucial for its introductory and informative role for new international students, and for Finnish students as well, according to my peer Finnish students’ comment. I read somewhere in the US all the schools have orientation for new students, right?
Yes. I registered for Finnish 1. It’s a really different language from the major language families.
I found a job. because everything is so expensive here. i had a small accident when delivering papers. i fell from bike because the ice on the ground after the snow. it snows too much here.for people who don’t speak finnish, there are few jobs, actually just cleaning and paper distribution. and the salary is 80 euros a month, that’s actually less than Chinese labor workers. the university has positions for teaching assistant, but they are given to people who can speak and write Finnish report. i guess I’m a little down. haven’t talked to anyone for a while.
November 16, 2014. Notes on our Skype conversation from Finland:
Equality is the key characteristic, like don’t hold out a chair for women. You see women on the side of the road fixing their bikes and men don’t stop to help. Fins have poker faces, they don’t show expression. The always talk about being shy. In a college class, no one raises their hand unless the teacher asks a question. They don’t want attention. My Czech friend I told me nobody is trying to impress somebody. I don’t see any same sex couples holding hands People are so modest so there’s much under the tip of the iceberg that you can’t see. Everybody should be the same. Teachers don’t think one student is smart or dumb. In the high school I asked if they had any questions in a Mandarin class, not one. So you don’t show you know more or show off their talents, or show you’re rich. Should be on the same level. They don’t buy a fancy car or big house. All the houses are almost the same, not rich neighborhoods. City government owns housing company to provide student housing. It’s astonishing that so many listen to rock and calm, and they’re calm when they listen not moving their feet. Kind of creepy. A student showed us a movie called A Man Without a Past. He lost his memory when he got robbed on a train. He was calm. Soldiers listen to radio playing rock and roll. Speed ticket based on income. TV cable too. Positive discrimination. If two people complete for job, give it to the less capable because the other one can find a job elsewhere.
Finland is very Americanized. So many TV shows they know like Grey’s anatomy, America’s Next Top Model, CSI, south Park, Once Upon a Time. A Finnish girl told me she was very concerned about the US elections; a factor is they’re anti-Russian. Another thing that surprised me most was they almost all speak American English, especially the German students almost without accent. i thought in Europe they would have a British accent but even the senior generation has an American accent, probably because they always have American TV shows
For the few weeks I was here, I didn’t feel like I was in another country because most speak English. This town is so beautiful, feel like home. At 4 it’s dark. It snows all the time. People feel tired in the winter. Lapland is the best place to see the Northern Lights.. It’s a dream come true, but it’s so expensive to live here. The students are very poor. So second hand stores are common. They have goods from America like makeup. Have affinity for American culture because they grew up with it.
You can go into a master’s program without applying. You can test again till get a good score. The student union plays an important role for students. Free education is a result of student activism. Volunteer mentor. Free health care with student card. Discounts at school restaurants. 8 euros for lunch, 2. 20 with discount. No inspection or evaluation for teachers on all levels except student teachers. Highly respected profession, like doctors and lawyers in the US. Younger people proud to be a teacher, not like China where it’s a last resort. We trust them. Get teacher training when they start, senior teachers observe student or probation teacher suggestions. They believe in education and the teachers. A teacher told me there are more and more naughty students, more rebellious. I talked with a teacher who taught for 16 years, now they’re more difficult to manage. There’s no ranking of students, they don’t show the ranking list in high school. Matriculation examination, college entrance exam, but don’t worry about it. They’re more motivated than Chinese students because they’re responsible for their own studies. Have electives, minors, as long as have enough credits to 180 credits. Required to learn 2 foreign languages, learn Finish and Swedish and decide the level of the exam. The government is cutting funding for universities. Before government pay their salaries, now they get less money. High school students earn more than college universities. The economy was hurt when Nokia was bought by Microsoft.
These photos were taken by my brother Greg.
Three Russians in Moscow react to my description of my travels in Russia years ago.
I can write a lot about the country I live in. I almost agree with the facts in this mail, but not about unsmiling people. It doesn’t depend on time. I wrote you about the Russian smile. We never smile without a reason. I paid attention today in the subway – nobody smiles, and, yes it looks unpleasant. But if you try to speak with someone, the situation changes at once. I think you can see that Russians are very smiley. Like me.
My family never had problems with the government, we lived a very simple life and were very happy even in those years – smiled, walked in the parks, my parents worked, my brother went to school, engaged in swimming, I went to kindergarten, then to school. My grandparents had a high status at work, therefore had a lot of benefits – the best clinics, sanatoriums, they even bought food without queues in special shops. It is important to note that they were not in the party (which sounds strange even for Russians, but they just worked hard).
I don’t remember the queues in shops, I was too little, but I remember these shops – you had to go to the meat department to choose and weigh a piece of meat, then to the fish department, then to milk, then to bread… Then to the cash register. And you had to remember all these prices! It was very important to say the correct price – 20 for meat, 18,5 for fish and so on. To have all these numbers in your head! It was wild!!! But I don’t agree that using an abacus makes us stuck in the past– it was very comfortable, even now some sellers use it instead of calculators. You will never believe it if don’t try!
I can say some words about 3 generations of education – my parents, me and my nieces and nephews. The education in the Soviet Union was very important; it was the only way to become a successful person. The discipline was strict but the knowledge you got at school was great. For example, my mum speaks German well even now after 50 years later (she never practices it). There were a lot of different workshops at school (art, science and sport).
My generation is the most unlucky. I was at school just after the Soviet Union fell. Those were the worst years for my family and for thousands of families in Russia. Money instantly depreciated. My dad (with 2 higher education degrees) worked in a furniture factory in the nights after his day job, my mom worked as a cleaner after working all day in the publishing house. In winter she fell and broke 10 eggs – it was almost a tragedy. A lot of people got rich those years but not my honest and principled parents. We got humanitarian aid from other countries and we were offended by this. So you see – maybe the fall of the Soviet Union was a long-awaited holiday for some people but not for ordinary families such as mine.
In the 90-s at school all the workshops were closed. And we saw that education is not the way to become somebody. In those years, the most popular profession was to be a bandit. They were the heroes! But the level of education was still rather high (because of inertia).
And now times have changed. My nieces and nephews study in a different cities (Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhniy Novgorod) and I see how different it is. They have a lot of very interesting programs, different workshops, they go to sport and art academies.
In general, the situation has changed. Moscow is the same as other European capitals, i.e Paris or Berlin. But in the provinces the life is still difficult. My mother-in-law still lives in a house with wood heating (in the country, 1000 km from Moscow). But after living 20 years in the North she can get a flat in any city she wants so we are waiting!
I know that one of the ugliest Russian features is to scold all Russians. But I don’t like doing that. Therefore by cursing all Russian, we abuse ourselves
She is 28.
My childhood was during the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet. I remember the empty shelves at the shops and huge lines to buy things. Those lines were like a “social network” where people discussed their troubles, shared their experiences and even quarreled. If somebody tried to be tricky and cut in line a huge scandal would break out and people would go outside brought outside to argue with each other. That time is over, but nowadays I often encounter women with a “soviet” mindset at the shops who would like to be the first even in a line for fitting rooms or getting into subway cars. They always control the situation and never yield to anybody; they tell you where the end of the line is and where you should be.
It sounds funny but the word “Soviet” (inside the abbreviation USSR) comes from the Russian word “soviet” that means “advice”, so in that time it was very popular to give advice and teach each other how to live, how to behave, how to bring up children, what to wear and what to eat. Frankly speaking, this soviet attitude is still alive today. And we even say often: Russia is “a country of advice givers”. For example, when I am abroad, adult people around don’t care how I look but in Russia you can hear “are you not cold/warm in such clothes, or even –you shouldn’t wear sunglasses when you are taking photos, or you should not buy this milk at the store due to the fact that they don’t like that particular brand, etc. It annoys me that people who have a strong soviet background intervene to your private space constantly.
However those, of course, are small effects of that time. In general, life has changed significantly. The modern generation of youth has everything that the Soviet youth could only dream of. I remember that in my childhood imported gum was fantastic and a great gift. Once a dad of one of my friends brought a lot of American gum, and we were so happy just to try such cool gum. “Tom and Jerry” was the only animation movie that we could watch; “Burda Moden” was the only western magazine that we could read. Now you may have all that you wish for – traveling abroad, buying brand name clothes; there are no boundaries nor control and what’s more important, the younger generation doesn´t have that fear to be of being controlled and then be being punished.
But one thing that definitely hasn’t changed that is the Russian smile. It´s really hard to see people smiling in the street. That is why foreigners think of us as a little bit rude and an unfriendly nation. But there is a nice explanation why Russian people are reluctant to to smile to strangers. In general, we are not used to smiling just to be polite. A smile is a sign of personal sympathy. So, if a foreigner gives you a smile, this might mean nothing, he was taught to smile to everyone, but if a Russian smiles, this means that he or she truly wish you well.
He is 40 years old
Thank you very much for showing curiosity about how Russia has changed. Actually I do not think that I am a person who can tell you a lot about how Russia has changed. I was only 18 years old when the USSR fell and now I am living in the capital of Russia (Moscow). But I lived in Siberia (Kemerovo) until I celebrated my 18th birthday. Are you ready to listen to my point of view?
First of all, I can assert that Russia has changed a lot since the fall of the USSR. But, in my opinion, there are not only positive changes but negative ones also.
For example I can’t agree that people on streets didn’t smile. Actually I think that people in that time were happier. The majority of them were really hospitable and empathetic. I remember that if you visited someone you were always were offered a meal. We could play football the whole day and then go for a meal all together to someone´s house. The majority of people were always ready to share a meal with you. Now people have become more individualistic. In general, they are looking after their relatives and think only about themselves. Now people are more divided. Maybe it is because of the difference in their status (wealth) or due to changing ideals. They are competing for their place under the sun now. I can’t help thinking the same, that Americans smile more than Russians. But believe me Russians can be really welcoming, kind and empathic.
I agree that hearing English on the street during the Soviet Union was very unusual. I never heard anyone speaking English. But your story about the secret police seems a bit strange to me. Yes, the USSR was a closed-off country. At that time you did not have any possibility to travel. Now we see it was a disadvantage. Now a lot of Russians study English and you can see on the streets that the vast majority of people speak English. That is the reality nowadays not only for Moscow but also for other big cities.
You wrote that apartments were small and crowded. I lived with my family in a 70m2 flat (three rooms plus kitchen) and we were four people. I do not think that it was very small. Nevertheless, you have to consider that recovering to normalcy after the Second World War wasn’t so easy. A lot of buildings had been completely destroyed. Now you can purchase any kind of apartment. It depends only on your income. But if you do not have enough money, you will have to live on the streets, you can be left without education and your children might not get enough to eat. In the Soviet time, the government guaranteed a minimum standard of living and it was impossible to bump into a homeless person on the street. I can add at that time all children had the same rights (independent from the prosperity of their family) to education, sports etc.
I agree that now there are a lot of possibilities. Russia is becoming a consumer society. On the one hand, you can easily receive all kinds of desired service, but on the other hand, a lot of people are now lost. They are bumping into pseudo-values. For example, we see a lot of advertisements on TV. They try to convince us that we are the best if we are wearing these particular sneakers or that you can attract the attention of the opposite sex only if you buy this particular car. In the USSR we were thinking more about honor, intelligence, justice, friendship, betrayal, meaning of life, love etc.
You write that women spent a lot of time waiting in line to buy food. Yes, it was true. Now there are a lot of big stores and hypermarkets. You do not have to spend time <http://www.multitran.ru/c/m.exe?t=3358593_1_2&s1=%EF%F0%EE%E2%EE%E4%E8%F2%FC%20%E2%F0%E5%EC%FF> in queues anymore.
It couldn’t be truer that the level of sex education was very low. It is a shame that abortion was the main form of family planning, but I hope that it wasn’t true for all people (PS: it was quite difficult to find good literature on sexual education). On the other hand, a lot of Soviet people were brought up on the ideals of eternal love. We were inspired by the love of Natasha Rostova to Andrey Bolkonsky (“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy). Now everybody is quite educated about family planning and there are a lot of possibilities to plan your family successfully.
The most important advantage to modern Russia is that now Russians can travel abroad, communicate with other people and try to understand their culture, as well as receive good services and products.