Tag Archives: life

Hoy No Circula.

Mexico City is living a serious environmental crisis. It has been living a serious environmental crisis for years, but some wrong political decisions and “unfavorable” climatic conditions have turned it into a crisis that no one can pretend anymore is not happening.

In mid-March, this city of 8 million inhabitants and supposedly 5 million cars driving on its streets each day, had its first environmental alert in 14 years. Ozone levels went up to 200 parts on the local Imeca scale – a situation when people are recommended to abstain from any physical exercise outside, to stay inside, and close all windows, etc. Kids did not have sports lessons in school during that week (hardly any school here has a gymnasium), and football or baseball games were cancelled.

Because of that experience and of air quality predictions for the upcoming weeks and months of typical Mexico City spring weather – intense sunshine, high temperatures and no rain at all – the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis, short CAMe, decided last week that from today onwards, 20 percent of the whole car park of this huge metropolitan area should stay off the streets. Each weekday, a different kind of license plate end number cannot circulate; or a different color of license plate sticker (they have five colors here: yellow, pink, red, green and blue). It is a new-old variant of the “Hoy No Circula”-program that goes back to the late 1980s when air pollution in Mexico City was even much worse.

Today again, authorities had to declare environmental alert; again, ozone levels rose to a bit above 150 parts, the threshold that triggers the alert, phase I. So what does CAMe decide? They double the number of cars that cannot circulate tomorrow, grounding then altogether 40 percent of registered private vehicles.

40 percent of cars not circulating – that means, that the people who usually use these 2 million cars to drive to work, to bring their kids to school, or buy food at the supermarket have to use alternative means. There is public transport in Mexico City – which already positively distinguishes it from some other North American cities – but at rush hour, people squeeze like sardines in a can in metro trains and metro busses, and the tens of thousands of mini-busses, the “peseros”, are jam-packed. The system has not held up with the crazy growth of this huge metropolitan area that houses 28 million people. And being able to afford one’s own car, to drive a car, is still something of status thing here; lots of upper-middle class people would not use the metro, as they consider it for “poor people”.

There have been a lot of wrong political decisions in the past; mainly the decisions that have not been taken. Such as the severely delayed approval of a heavy-transport regulation: Norm44 would cut particle pollution responsible for black carbon by 98 percent. One sees these trucks all the time – huge engines, the length of three or four cars, and thick, black exhaust coming out when they start and accelerate. The same applies to city garbage trucks, and thousands of mini-busses. Residents here argue, rightly so, that those vehicles should be as strictly regulated as private cars. Politicians shy away from it as they fear the economic repercussions.

What is most striking to me, personally, is that I am experiencing here what a lot of developing country cities are experiencing today or will experience tomorrow. Air quality in Mexico City is actually not as bad, if you compare it to Delhi, Karachi or Dakar. But it is bad enough for my kids not being able to play sports outside, or me going for a run in the park. I live in this mega-urban place – lots of concrete, lots of asphalt, hardly any green areas left – with more and more cars each year, and the air I am breathing in and out is actually damaging to my health. This is what development looks like – first there are the cars, the streets, the factories, supermarkets and shopping centers, and then we think about the environment. It was like this in Europe 200 years ago, and it is like this in Mexico, South Africa and China now. The problem is just that, at least in Mexico City, we are far too many people. And this density of people relates in a whole range of environmental problems.

Hopefully, this current crisis makes people here to change their life styles to a more sustainable manner, and politicians to take better decisions.

A personal note

It has been six weeks since I wrote and published the last blog on thedailyimperfections.com. What happened? Life happened. I got the keys to our new apartment and a couple of days later two trucks pulled up outside the building with nearly all our belongings, i.e. 38 cubic meters.

By that time we had stayed for twelve weeks with my husband’s mother, i.e. my mum-in-law. We had basically lived out of five suitcases – one for each of our clothes, and one for shoes. That was what we had taken with us on the plane when we moved from Vienna to Mexico City at the end of July. And actually, during those twelve weeks, we had hardly been missing those 38 cubic meters. It is both impressive and embarrassing how much stuff one has.

Impressive, because after twelve weeks, I had forgotten about a lot of things that had surrounded me before. All these books – a lot read, a lot bought with the intention to one day read them; all those clothes and shoes that did not make it as “essential” into our five suitcases and that could dress another two or three families of four easily; all those souvenirs, photographs and handicrafts made by my two boys that document life and growth. The fact that one is struck with a certain element of surprise getting a lot of those things out of the movers’ boxes is partly owed to life just being intense. One usually does not have time to “miss” one’s old life when one is busy trying to establish the most practical elements of one’s new – such as getting one’s kids accepted in a new school, finding an apartment, asking around about car insurance, or making an appointment with the internet service provider.

Embarrassing, because, seriously, one has so many things one does not need – the salad spinner I bought just half a year ago, but after 25 years without a salad spinner, I cannot get used to using one; the old video camera that was overtaken by technological advancement at least twice by now, but is still the format my wedding video was shot on; the Nordic walking poles I never quite had the patience to really learn how to use them.

After four moves with a family during the last twelve years, I have learned that it is usually best if you clear out your things before the movers come. But I have also experienced that usually your time at the place you are going to leave soon is too valuable to spend it with “properly” clearing out your things. So, that task at least has to be continued when unpacking at the new place. That is why I spent the last six weeks opening boxes and putting books, clothes and dinner plates into their new spaces; arranging photographs, mothers’ day postcards and fathers’ day paintings; and throwing out some odd souvenirs that we bought some where, but that never really meant anything to me. Proof for my daily imperfections – the salad spinner is still in a box and the Nordic walking poles are stored, as I could not bring myself to just tossing them or giving them to charity.

What I also did during the last six weeks was sticking the little Jip and Janneke-magnets to our new fridge and putting the Julius Meinl-coffee jar in our kitchen – as the former is a fond memory of our time in The Netherlands, and the later of our years in Austria. Those little things make me feel at home, and looking at them again after a long while, they manage to put a smile on my face. With this achieved, I hope that “life” in the upcoming weeks and months will offer more time for contributions to thedailyimperfections.com.

So, this is it…

This is the very first post on http://www.thedailyimperfection.com. I have just asked WordPress to change the domain name to thedailyimperfections as each of us, for sure, “commits” more than one imperfection a day. I have chosen the title – whichever it will be in the end, the singular or plural – because I come from a culture where perfection and trying to do everything the right way, the correct way is given a very high value. In general, I consider it a virtue to try one’s best. But if you focus too much on perfection, you might loose the easiness and playfulness you need for trying. Some of the greatest inventions and achievements of humankind had their origins in ideas a lot of people considered crazy, impossible or outright stupid.

20 years ago, when I was having a job interview with McKinsey management consultants in the UK, I was asked what my strengths and weaknesses were. I mentioned that I was quite a perfectionist and that I considered that a weakness, but that it also had its positive side, i.e. that I would work my ass off to get things done and done the right way. Today, especially having experienced how my kids reacted to two different school systems so far – the very open and “learn from your mistakes”-based Dutch one and the so much more rigorous Austrian one – I have become a near enemy of perfection. First of all, what is perfect? And who defines it? Okay, I get that there is one single answer to the question of 2 plus 2. That there is only one capital of France and that there is a right and wrong when it comes to declinations in the German language. But for a whole range of other things that we learn and do in life, what is right or wrong is a question of perspective. Even more so, when we talk perfection.

So, this blog will be about the imperfections of life, about the importance of trying, the lessons of failing, the power of believing and of keeping on trying. The immense satisfaction that comes with achieving something, particularly when you came short before, but continued trying. And the joy we all feel when we create something. My personal creation in this blog will cover a range of subjects. It will for sure touch on the subjects of gender and equality, of parenthood, of living abroad (as an adult and a child, as my two boys are third-culture kids), and of society, culture, politics and economics. If you are looking for a sports blog – this is not the one to follow…

The main message this blog would like to convey is: Be yourself, be authentic. We all have our own personality. Enjoy your uniqueness and see it as a strength. Try to enjoy each day. Live imperfectly, and with delight!