The aftermath of 2019

After a couple of very successful new year’s eve parties that ended with me biking home at 8:00 A.M. in a freezing winter day, I woke up to the first day of 2020. I started to notice a feeling that I’ve had the whole day. I feel … like I am waking up, hungover, after a one-year-long party. 2019 was a crazy rollercoaster ride and I experienced it all in a small city in the middle of nowhere, Western Europe. My dearest Enschede!   

While stubbornly chasing my dream of researching the history and philosophy of global networks of climate activism, I stumbled upon a fortunate series of events (also known as a grant) that allowed me to both write a proposal for a PhD project and become a regular crew member in Tankstation (a volunteer-based venue for art exhibitions, music shows, dinners, and general hanging-out).

I would spend my evenings drinking pilsner while tending Tankstation’s bar, taking pictures of the food on the plates and the bands on the stage. Frequenting that place introduced me to a community where money has almost no value. I flourished among friends who loved to invest their time cooking, serving, planning, building-up, not as a business but just for the sake of doing something cool together. I got a glimpse of how a world that is not obsessed with economic growth but works in harmony with the environment would look like. 

Tankstation’s crew ♡

Being a part of Tankstation’s crew opened the door for me to a fascinating underground scene of artists and musicians in Enschede. I met an insane number of audiovisual artists, DJs, photographers, festival organizers, yoga instructors, rebels, and ravers. I spent a lot of evenings getting into profound conversations about art, technology, and culture. I also spent a good amount of time dancing like nobody was watching. I would enjoy for hours the sets of talented local and international DJs, modular synthesizer musicians, live coders, and whatnot. Perhaps I had one too many drinks, but I also experienced a different kind of partying:

I gladly completed a research honours’ program at the university, received an honours diploma and submitted my research proposal to various institutions that could fund my PhD. I was euphoric to learn that my proposal got awarded by the university. The graduate school committee concluded that my idea of looking at how Internet platforms are mediating the evolution of contemporary political conflicts had a lot of potential, it was a highly relevant project, and could mean a serious breakthrough in my field. We made a cool video about it, but I still had to wait longer to find out whether I was going to get funding for actually carrying out my research. 

The waiting time came along an invitation to organize an art festival. I had never done anything remotely similar in my entire life, but I figured I would never know what that was like if I never tried it. This project gave me experiences of a lifetime. I found myself reaching out to all these amazing colorful people in the art scene and actually collaborating with them! Hard work turned into a two-day vibrant, beautiful party in a dream-like environment. On the day of the festival I was overflowing with joy, running around with timetables and phone numbers in my hand. I wore a royal guard hat. I felt incredible. 

A promotional video made by the amazing Annebel

But the funding for my PhD research was still on hold while climate activism was at its peak. I started to get really impatient. I figured if I couldn’t research climate activism yet, then at least I could experience it in-the-flesh. This time, I went beyond walking in environmentalist marches. I joined the peaceful blockade of an Amsterdam’s bridge and nearly got arrested by the Dutch police (my mom doesn’t know that). I then joined the local Extinction Rebellion group in Enschede and helped organize a campaign for joining one of the Global Climate Strikes. 

A peaceful blockade by Extinction Rebellion Nederland
during Rebels Without Borders

When I wasn’t volunteering at Tankstation, or organizing festivals, or advocating for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, I was getting back in touch with my musical side. I was finally able to buy an ukulele and devoted myself to master the E-chord on it, relishing in any noticeable progress. I also saw Bad Bunny and John Mayer live!

To me, the year reads like an absolute dream. But in all honesty, living it left me completely worn out. 

The rejections to all my scholarship applications eventually wasted my passion for community work and activism. It also wasted my wallet. The truth is I’ve had to live quite cheap since I moved to Europe. While the wonderful privilege of chasing my dream job makes the sacrifices all worth it, it doesn’t pay rent and it doesn’t give me a European passport.

So I finished the year by accepting a job as an engineering consultant in Eindhoven. I am moving to a different, bigger city in a few weeks. I will likely spend most of 2020 exploring new places and trying to remember how to be a Mechatronics engineer. 

I have such mixed feelings about it! On one hand, I am excited to take the challenge: an office job in The Netherlands. That’s wild! On the other hand, I feel so comfortable and happy with my current lifestyle and inside the Enschede community: the people at the university, the artists, the activists, the crush, and some of my oldest friends from this side of the world. I will have to change my wardrobe, my habits, my attitude. Although new jobs are usually a reason to celebrate, my heart finds the bittersweet taste of failure in this outcome.

But the show must go on and the one-year party is over. I know I have to work even harder to be able to do my research in the future. I want all of us to understand better how Internet platforms are influencing our way of tackling decisive political challenges for our civilization. Who knows how and when I will get back on my philantropic track, but this detour does not mean I am giving up on reaching my goal. I found my way of helping the world become a better place and I’m sticking with it.

Now, while helping the world become a better place may sound like a silly, even disingenuous, enterprise, it is exactly what has kept me moving forward during this intense experience of existing as a human being on Planet Earth. I am married to that enterprise, that is my truth. With all its perks and with all its nightmares, I embrace and wear my truth with pride and that is the scariest thing I have ever done in my adult life. 

I’ll leave you with a writing assignment I did when I was 8-years-old. I found it a few months ago during my summer back in Mexico. Do take into account that I was in catholic school so try to overlook the references to Jesus. It’s also in Spanish, but I made an English translation. This writing made me realize that apart from all the wild experiences I’ve lived these last 20 years, not a lot has changed inside of me. 

“What do I expect in this year 2000?” dated January 1st, 2000. 

I have always felt desperation about the suffering of my brothers and sisters, the wars, floods, shortage of food and injustices. Knowing their suffering makes me feel it too. This is why I hope for peace and justice. I pray to God for his help to get these people out of their misery. I also hope my family is united, to have more friends, and that we don’t fight one another. I also hope this year is a year of celebration, that governors, mayors, and presidents realize that power is useful to help the people; that thieves stop stealing; that gangsters stop writing on walls; that people will stop cutting down trees and hunting animals; that kids follow Jesus Christ. Because I hope for a world full of peace, love, coexistence, understanding and friendship among everyone. THE END.

PATYT WINS THE TGS AWARD OF 2019

For the first half of 2019, I was polishing an idea for a PhD research in History and Philosophy of Technology. Thanks to a grant given to me by the University of Twente (which covered 6 months of salary), I could develop a full research proposal in which I explain the questions and methods I would use to expand our understanding of how Internet platforms are having a crucial impact on the political response to climate change.

On September, this proposal was awarded the ‘Twente Graduate School’ (TGS) Award of 2019. The award came with a bit of cash, a huge bouquet of flowers, but most importantly, it put me in a great position to actually carry out the research I dream of doing!

Instead of explaining what the research proposal is all about, I will let you check out the video and hopefully provide some more details soon! Enjoy 🙂

Here are some other links covering the news that might interest you:
TGS Award for Philosophy Student Patricia Reyes, coverage from U-Today
Patricia Reyes Benavides wins TGS Award 2019, Press release from the University of Twente

UT students plan to rebel for life

This article was first published in U-Today. You can check the original publication following this link

As a response to the latest scientific reports that warn of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, UT students are joining the global movement of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ by forming an activist group in Enschede. Two members of this recently formed group are explaining how to bring awareness about these issues.

Extinction Rebellion is a global movement doing nonviolent protests to push for policies that prevent environmental breakdown. The movement started last year in the United Kingdom and has quickly spread to different countries around the world, including The Netherlands.

‘Extinction Rebellion Enschede’ started assembling last April, after the association Sustain organized a talk about Extinction Rebellion at the DesignLab. ‘The talk brought everyone together, at least from the UT, and that catalyzed the whole process,’ says Channah Hilhorst, a 20-year-old ATLAS student. During this talk, Hilhorst met Linda Brumme, a 22-year-old psychology student, who recalls: ‘It took some time to get started but two weeks after the talk we had our first meeting.’

The group is holding weekly meetings to plan what actions to take in the near future. ‘The first step is to have information talks, to see who’s interested and give people a network to communicate,’ explains Brumme. 

ACTING DEAD

The students are also considering doing nonviolent protests in the city, like ‘die-ins,’ where people lay down on the floor and act dead, or ‘swarmings,’ blocking the traffic for a few minutes. ‘This is to express the urgency of the situation. But what you don’t want is people thinking that you’re an irrational fanatic protester because that’s not the philosophy behind Extinction Rebellion. It’s all based on science so you have to be careful of how you come across,’ says Hilhorst. 

When asked whether the group has specific demands for the UT, Hilhorst tells that ‘part of what Extinction Rebellion wants is for universities to educate students on what’s going on in the world.’ To what Brumme adds that ‘this is aligned with Extinction Rebellion’s first demand of telling the truth about the climate crisis.’

Hilhorst mentions that although sustainability is part of the University’s vision for 2030, it’s still unclear how they’ll reach an adequate goal. ‘I think they’re trying. As a student, I feel you can learn what sustainability is, but it’s still not connected to a feeling of societal responsibility.’

‘You could choose courses that go in that direction, but it’s up to the students whether they want to learn about it and it’s easy to miss it. I think this should be taught always and from the beginning,’ reflects Brumme. 

BUILDING A STABLE NETWORK

Right now, the activist group is only constituted by UT students. However, they’re aiming to engage more citizens in the initiative. ‘It’s nice that students organize these things but students can be quite fluid. They are in the city for some five years and then leave. We want to build a stable network of people that work here and live here,’ explains Brumme.

To achieve this goal, they’re organizing a talk next Tuesday at Tankstation, which will be given by Paul Hendriksen, a member from Extinction Rebellion Deventer. ‘What Paul will do is bring together the latest insights on climate science. He gives numbers and facts, which are really important to base our decisions on. He explains in which state the world is because many people don’t know yet that there’s a climate crisis. After that, he will talk about Extinction Rebellion’s demands and what they’re doing because there’s so much going on already,’ says Brummer.

The students will organize more open talks where they will discuss where and when to take action. All their events will be published on their new Facebook page.


EPHEMERAL

The text below is one of the columns I wrote for the U-Today journal. You can check the original publication following this link

 

IMG_4736

Ana in de Trein

 

I’ve been trying to decipher why the bondings between students who meet on Campus feel so unique. Beyond that vibe of easygoingness, there is something else. It feels as if everybody is in a hurry to know each other better, to become closer friends. And then it hits me: sooner, rather than later, everything will disappear. Our study programs will be over. Our time in Enschede is limited.

Promises of going to visit each other at our hometowns and keeping constant contact through social media are genuine, yet ideal. This setting in which we have built our friendships is temporary. What we have right here, right now, is golden.

How could we conceive gold in such a short period of time?

It might result from a combination of the novel spaces on Campus we inhabit. Concrete, wood and glass buildings amongst forest trees, lakes, and bushes. The mostly rainy days when we gather in warm, dimly lit, wood-scented pubs at the Oude Market to click glasses full of Grolsch beer. The weird accents, habits, and stories of people which countries of origin we could hardly locate on a map before meeting them. And finding out, after all, that we have many things in common. We understand each other’s concerns. We laugh at each other’s jokes.

All of it, together, like a mysterious process of alchemy we cannot entirely comprehend, culminates in the creation of the most precious element. Good times, crazy laughs. Running together along the platform to catch a train, getting that last round of drinks before the bar closes, venting out over a cup of coffee how hard it is to adapt to this fleeting yet demanding environment. Coined, far from home, in the heart of a random small city in the middle of nowhere: friendship and companionship in its purest form.

Next thing you know, people are accepting jobs overseas. They’re flying back home, settling down in remote places. Everyone’s spread out across the world once again to live their own adventures. And what felt like an ongoing rollercoaster of intense experiences is now imprinted on our memories like a projection of photographs switching a hundred frames per second. So fast, that we are unable to appreciate a given one in that much detail anymore.

Will we be left feeling like we have missed that alchemy formula, incapable of recreating those good times, bounded to reminisce about them? Perhaps that’s why we relish our gold while we can hold it.

We stick together. We overcome our hesitations to give out free hugs, compliment our fellows, express what is in our hearts. All because we know that, after all, that precious gold is ephemeral.