How I Know It’s Time to Leave Mexico

July 29th, 2006

1. It’s my fourth day on the antibiotic for stomach bacteria
2. My hair hasn’t been truly clean in four weeks
3. Kimo ate one of my bras

With that, we are off to the Mexico City airport via the Estrella Roja bus. I’ll post final photos when I get home. Meanwhile, it’s been a wonderful month here, and I look forward to returning next summer.

Nivel Tres

July 28th, 2006

Today was a big day for those of us in Level 3. We had our presentation, a prepared game of Jeopardy. My roles were (1) technical … I made the sound when someone got a wrong answer … and (2) to be the mom with the bottle of scorpion spray for our commercial.

We were able to prove to the world our familiarity with asking and answering questions in Spanish. I congratulate us. May we all someday be in Nivel Diez.

Los Ninos

July 27th, 2006

Kimo and Iago

Why I Love Email

July 25th, 2006

My mom sent pics of my nieces at the beach. And now you must all view them and remark about the cuteness …

Get ready

Other Random Stuff That’s Different about Mexico

July 25th, 2006

There are commercials on TV for scorpion spray.

When you get Domino’s pizza, it comes with a little packet of something called Salsa Picante and several packets of something called Salsa Catsup.

Cigarettes are cheap, and everyone smokes, everywhere. The guy next to me in line at McDonalds placing his order was smoking. The taxi drivers smoke. The woman doing my nails was smoking.

There are shrines to the Virgin Mary everwhere, including outside many gas stations.


July 24th, 2006

This weekend’s trip was to Taxco, a city built up along steep hillsides, where you can buy silver jewelry real cheap. We’ve been touring around a lot, so we took it kind of easy this weekend. Lots of free time. Lots of shopping, and some tasty sangria.

This coming week is our last in Mexico. I can hardly believe it. I’m having a truly great time. I’m posting more photos right now, including some of Xochimilco from last weekend, and some of Taxco, so check it out, amigos.


July 18th, 2006

Mexico City was amazing, and we did it all …

# Floated on gondolas in Xochimilco at ten a.m. and had cervezas while musicians played for us.

# Checked out the gigantic pyramids to the sun and moon at Teotihuacan. GI. GAN. TIC.

# Ate lunch at a restaurant in a cave.

# Saw the shrine to the Virgin de Guadalupe … the second most important Catholic shrine in the world. It was a spectacle. Highlights included the plaza outside the church, where people who had made the pilgrimmage from afar slept and threw their garbage around (I tripped over a bag of bread that was still intact but soaking wet, for example), and the moving walkway under the altar, which conveyed us beneath a cut away section of the floor, so that we could look up and see (and photograph) the cape from the miracle of Juan Diego.

# Attended the professional Ballet Folklorico, and I am not exaggerating when I say, it was the most entertained I have ever been for two hours. (We got to get a bit dressed up, too, which was exciting after two weeks of tourist clothes and fanny packs.)

# Learned the many uses for the maguey cactus, from making lacey cloth out of cactus fiber, to mixing up pulque for increased performance with tu amor.

# Checked out the zocalo, or city center, where we toured the palacio and saw many Diego Rivera murals … cruised through the musuem in which the ruins of the original Aztec temple, over which the conquistadors built their city, may be seen.

# Went to the Frida Kahlo Museum, which is in the house she was born in, grew up in, moved to later in life, and died in (the one from the movie if you have seen it). Im not sure why it was so inspiring to be there and see some of her work but it really was.

# We also happened to be there on the day of a demonstration for Obrador, the candidate who lost the recent presidential election by a slim margin … he is calling for a recount. Our hotel was two blocks from here.

Mexico City photos are up as well (I recommend clicking on View Slideshow).

The Halfway Point

July 15th, 2006

I am writing this from Berthas (remember to pronounce her name BEAR ta) family room, which is on the second floor of her house. From here, I can see Kimo and Iago without Kimo trying to swallow my arm.

Today is the halfway point. In our class, we watched a movie called Nicotina, which was pretty good, and I recommend it. Then we joined the other classes and had a fiesta. The Level 5 class (all Spanish teachers, I am in Level 2) entertained us with a mock broadcast of a morning news program, complete with banter between host and hostess. Lots of fun. Tomorrow we leave for Mexico City to spend the weekend touring around and riding the infamously cheap and pickpockety subways. Monday, half the groups heads back to the U.S., as the program includes options for two or four weeks. Theyll be missed!


Say it With Me: Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala

July 14th, 2006

Yesterday we took a field trip in the afternoon to the archaeological site of Cacaxtla (Ka-KAKS-la) in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala (Tl-ux-KA-la). The site is a mini-city under the second-largest roof in the world. What I mean is, there’s a roof built over the whole thing to preserve it. You can walk all around the ruins, and there are ORIGINAL murals dating back thousands of years. The view from the top of the hill where the ruins are is of a vast agricultural valley with amazing acoustics; from the ruins, I heard a mass being chanted in a town to the east, and, later, another mass being chanted in ANOTHER town to the west. Photos soon.

Ths brings me to the subject of sounds in Mexico. Here are some of my favorites:

Horns honking … People honk the horn often, sometimes just to let everyone know “I’m coming.” In a traffic jam, everyone involved honks the horn. A very passionate, expressive people.

The beeping of cars backing up … I don’t know if this is a law or what, but everything from a big delivery truck to a compact Nissan sedan beeps when backing up.

The gas trucks … These are trucks that carry the containers of gas people use to heat their homes. They play recorded songs over a microphone, a lot like the ice cream man, except with gas. My favorite one is like a polka-ish song with a recorded voice that shouts out the name of the company—HiDRO!—every thirty seconds or so.

TVs. People here like ‘em LOUD.

The cheers from the windows every time someone made a goal during the futbol games.


‘Si, Chiquitita, Soy Gringa’ (or, The Time I Learned the Hard Way Not to Eat Seafood in Inland Mexico)

July 11th, 2006

This weekend’s trip was to Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-HA-ka). It was beautiful. Authentic Mexico. While Puebla is a city not too-too far behind the United States cities I’ve known, Oaxaca is folkloric and historic. Highlights were a trip out to Monte Alban—awesome—and some lone wandering and shopping in the streets of the city. Oaxaca is a very political city, due to the number of indiginous-traditional groups living in the state, and tensions are especially high right now, because of some recent sad events related to a teachers’ strike. A lot of demonstrators and graffiti and such.  

We also visited a shop where barro negro is made. Barro negro is a black, shiny—almost metallic—pottery that is delicately shaped by hand and carved, and it’s gorgeous but oh-so fragile.

I’ll post more photos tomorrow, but meanwhile, here are a few.

While in Oaxaca, I ate a pasta dish with shrimp. Never. Again. I certainly got to practice my Spanish, asking for medicinas and servicios. I can report that today, all is on the way to being well.

I enjoyed a special moment with two little Oaxacan girls, who were carrying a baby-doll around and playing mommy with it. I asked in Spanish whose baby it was, and they told me, and then I said to the other one in Spanish ‘You’re the Godmother,’ and they thought that was so funny, we became momentary friends. Then, the littlest one worked up the courage to ask what had been on her mind: ‘Eres gringa?’ Loosley translated, I believe this means, ‘Are you a whitey?’ Hee hee. I confessed and told them I lived in California, which they had never heard of, then in Los Angeles, which they had never heard of, then near Disneyland … THIS they had heard of.

Mexico has a reputation for being unsafe for travelers, and in some ways, it’s true. It’s seriously inadvisable to drive the highways, as the police and federales are notoriously corrupt and known to pull over tourists and demand bribes and such, and the sanitation issues are real. But here in Puebla, things are really no more criminally troublesome; I simply stand out. A lot. You know the few gringos because (1) they’re the ones walking at a pace that actually moves them forward, and (2) all the little children are staring at them. At us. At me.

Buenas noches. :)

The Thing about Having a Laundress

July 6th, 2006

Yesterday the laundress came to the house. She was there all day and into the night, washing all of our clothes in Bertha’s washing machine and then hanging them out to dry and ironing EVERYthing. The thing about cotton underpants that have not been fabric-softened and that have then been ironed is that they’re a little stiff. I feel like I’m sitting on a corn husk, basically. But how nice it is to have someone take all of your dirty clothes and return them clean and pressed. I’m getting spoiled.

Oh, Perros

July 4th, 2006

Before I say anything else, I have to update you on the dogs: Saturday evening, as we were walking into the house in the front, Kimo burst THROUGH the glass door from the backyard. In his excitement to get to us, he completely ignored the fact that the door was CLOSED. Glass absolutely everywhere, and a cut paw. Kimo, NO. This is all I say when I play with these dogs, over and over.

It’s Steve’s and my second anniversary today. Missing.

We toured the city of Puebla yesterday. Like no place else I’ve ever seen, but is that really saying much? We saw a bunch of boring historical stuff—churches, a fort, etc.—and the old downtown, where vendors are selling everything from Spongebob balloons to pickled onions.

So far, some of my impressions of the differences in Mexico versus in Los Estados Unidos (U.S.) are these:

Here, families are enormous, and everyone is as proud of one family member as of another—as in the know about a cousin’s child as about one’s own. Spanish words for family members demonstrate this, too.

Public services are, of course, poor. You can’t flush toilet paper or so much as rinse your toothbrush in the water from the tap, and the roads are a little scrappy.

There are a lot of people working at jobs we would perhaps consider unnecessary. For example, in every public parking lot and on a lot of the streets, men with whistles motion and tweet to help drivers back out of spaces, and then you tip them, and in the grocery store, women walk around trying to convince you to buy specific products that the store sells.

Things are painted in bright colors.

In other news, Spanish classes began today for us. Truly FUN and I like the dynamic between the other three classmates in my level and me, and our teachers are great. All together, there are 22 of us on the trip, and we have a great group. We have become fast friends.

Saturday we went to the local Wal-Mart. I’m told Wal-Mart owns half of Mexico. They were playing Diana Ross in the store. Right now I’m in an Internet cafe, where we’re being treated to a CD of Madonna live.

See photos here.



July 1st, 2006

Hello, Americanos. Greetings from Puebla, where some of the keys on the keyboard in the Internet place are in weird spots, so pardon me if I neglect the apostrophe. I flew in yesterday to Mexico City, where the group of us—about 22—met up in the airport. We’re a diverse group, a lot of Spanish teachers, but some math teachers, some English teachers, some non-teachers. Mostly Oregonians, but some Koreans, a guy who lives in Bolton Hill in Baltimore (he’s wearing his Orioles hat today—yay!), some others, too. We took a bus to Puebla, about two hours eastish of DF (Distrito Federal, or Mexico City—like our DC), passing scenes of garbage-strewn tenement slums and then lush hillsides.

After a dinner together at the school, we headed to our homestays. I’m bunking with Anne, my mother-in-law, who is all-around a pretty good roommate so far. No late-night parties, no cigar butts on the dresser-top. We’re staying with her very good friend, Bertha (pronounced Bear-ta), in a beautiful house. I’m excited, because Bertha and her husband, Manolo, have dos perros—two dogs. There’s a giant, black, fluffy Standard Poodle named Kimo. Kimo is not that great. A little too enthusiatic (“HI! Here’s some PEE!”), and he likes to jump on me as high up on my person as possible while putting as many of my body parts in his mouth as he can fit. Iago, though, is a love. Somekind of large Schnauzer, I think—also black and fluffy. Hair in his face at all times, so he can’t see and bumps into doors. Huge underbite. So sweet. Both dogs are a year old.

So that’s my report from Mexico so far. Lots of Mexicans and two dogs. Until later, adios.