June 14, 2017

Adjusting to Mexico

Waking up at 6:00 AM to the of sweeping of brooms across pavement, judging the day’s pollution based on how blurry the mountains are (today I can’t see them), hearing “blonde boy” in Spanish as often as my name – it’s clear that I’m not in Nebraska. My name is Stephen Enke and my internship has led me to Mexico City. Mexico City is a vast metropolitan jungle inhabited by over 21 million people. Traffic is a nightmare, and it’s common to commute long hours for better work opportunities. Living in Polanco, one of the wealthiest districts, it’s easy to see the stark difference in Mexican life.

While trying out a local coffee shop (Mexico has really good coffee), I met an employee named Ariel. He’s 23 years old, a university student, and contagiously optimistic. When not in class, Ariel works in Polanco, hopping from buses to subways for over two hours from his poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. He serves people with very different lives than his own (like myself), and he does so with constant enthusiasm and happiness.

For a couple of weeks now, I struggled to understand how someone in Ariel’s circumstances can be so happy. I’ve seen wealth and opportunity in Mexico City that rivals any U.S. city I’ve visited. I’ve also witnessed poverty and living conditions that are difficult to comprehend until you’ve seen them firsthand (and even still, I’d be na├»ve to believe I truly understand it).

In the wake of NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Board of Directors held their meeting in Mexico City. During their visit, I met Alan Tiemann, a former chairman of the USGC and current board member of the Nebraska Corn Board. One evening after discussing his travels to over 25 countries and his specific love for Mexico, he summed up his experiences. Mr. Tiemann said, “No matter what country I’ve been in and how different we may appear, I’ve never found anyone who hasn’t lit up when I show them a picture of my kids or grandkids, and they show me pictures of their own family.” Alan went on to provide this little kernel of knowledge “… and that’s what this life is about. We’re all here trying to provide for our family. We’re trying to give a better life to our children.”

It struck me that this may be the secret to Ariel’s constant supply of enthusiasm; he’s trying to create a better life for himself while providing for his family. Perhaps there is no greater purpose or unifying bond to humanity than the love for family and the desire provide for those around us. It describes a lone barista in the sea of over 21 million faces. It describes the farmer back home, growing seemingly endless waves of corn to provide food security for the world, but also (and maybe more importantly), for their family. And in the wise words of Mr. Tiemann, “that’s what life is about.”

Stephen Enke
U.S Grains Council
Jaime Balmes No. 8-602 "C"
Col. Los Morales Polanco
Mexico, D.F., Mexico 11510

Office: 011-52-55-5282-0244

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