Archive for July, 2007

Guadalajara, moving at the speed of light…

July 28, 2007

I really thought things were supposed to move slower here. I planned for that.

After being here for a week and a half, I had my first interview for a job. That same day I received a call offering me the job, which I took. I start on Monday.

I thought I was going to be unemployed for a couple months. I was lining up projects in my head. I packed extra books to read, I was going to drink tea in the afternoon.

Now, I’m starting a scary/thrilling new job, which will use all my brainpower. I will need to really buckle-down with the Spanish. I’m really excited and stunned that it happened so fast.

So, I’m making more of an effort to speak Spanish with Adolfo and I need to find the radio news on the local stations instead of plugging the computer into the stereo to listen to NPR. We purchased two Spanish/English dictionaries today at the bookstore.

On the food front, I’m gaining independence and am able to get to the markets by myself. I also found the tofu or ‘queso de soya’, which I think doesn’t sound as good. Today we had a Japanese curry for lunch! We also went to buy more tortillas this morning.

We found an excellent tortilleria, thanks to Adolfo’s father, and we bought 2 kilos of fresh hot tortillas very soon after we arrived in town. My household of two has already eaten 2 KILOS of tortillas, and we had to return for more, today.

I have to get enrolled in a gym soon!

By the way: When I returned to the vegetable stand by myself a couple days ago, the vegetable guy remembered who I was and asked after my friend (Adolfo). We discussed many things over the vegetable stand, including how difficult it is to speak another language, what San Diego is like, what a good guy Abraham Lincoln was (the veggie guy is a fan). It was a fantastically bizarre conversation and I will be returning for more (conversation and vegetables).

Vegetables, among other things

July 24, 2007

The market was a great success. I am pretty sure I can find the first one on my own. It was like a permanent structure farmers market; very good vegetables and cheese. I was also able to find the baking soda. Had I needed rice and sugar, those were also available in bulk.

The vendors were very nice and Adolfo taught me how to manage the system: you take a basket and pick your own vegetables (This is much preferred to the market in Paris where the vendor picked all the half-rotten peaches out for me. My stupid French was not good enough to say, “hey, put back those rotten peaches and give me the good ones!”), then you must step up on the little ledge between you, the veggies and the vendor, to signify that you are done and ready to pay.

I think the vendor knew everyone around the stand except for us. He took a look at us and said, in a very friendly way, “Are you guys from here?” Adolfo said he was from Guadalajara and I said that I was not. Then, not assuming anything, the vendor asked me where I was from. I replied that I was from the US.

We got lettuce and other salad ingredients, a few mangos and a papaya. Saddly, Adolfo said that he prefers cantalope (boring) to papaya (exciting and exotic!). Actually, I thought both were good (with a squeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of course sugar).

I’m planning to return to this stand for more vegetables.

After this, we went to a more industrial market. This is the place were the restaurants buy their veggies and they may only sell onions (or whatever produce) by the bushel. There were many photo ops that were missed. There are a couple stores there that sell bulk grains, dried fruits and nuts. Exactly what I needed for granola.

Unfortunately, the parking around this area is very exciting, a bit more exciting than I may be comfortable with right now. There are lots of large trucks loading and unloading, bicycles piled high with boxes of green onions and motorcycles weaving in and out of the traffic. Not to mention, the ever-present potholes and pedestrians.

Driving around this market seemed to be a two-person job. One person drives and looks out for pedestrians, potholes and produce-laden vehicles and the other looks for parking.

Last night, I tried the oven for the first time and produced a grand failure. There were too many variables. I was trying a recipe from a web site that had some errors in it, I had never made this recipe before and I didn’t pre-heat the oven long enough. On top of that, I could not determine what exactly was the right place to point the knob for the oven temperature. So, at the end of the baking time, I looked at my “date bars” and they looked exactly the same as when I put them in the oven, except that 40 minutes later, they were a little bit warm. I upped the temperature and put them back in for another 40 minutes. Adolfo said they made the house smell great. But, that was about it.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Adolfo posted the photos of the trip.

Hurrah for the Joy of Cooking!

July 20, 2007

I am constructing a very large grocery list so that tomorrow we can try to get enough food in the house that I can actually make something other than quesadillas. (The soup actually turned out to be very good and I put a pint away in the freezer.)

I purchased yeast and something called Royal at the grocery store the first time we went. But I wasn’t quite sure if Royal was baking soda or baking powder. With the help of my handy Joy of Cooking, I found that my Royal (subtitle: powder for baking) was in fact Double-Acting baking powder.

I need to get some baking soda, which I think I can find as the Spanish translation of sodium bicarbonate. Then, we will be able to make pancakes.

I’m also hoping to find the ingredients to make some granola. Adolfo says that he knows where I can find these things.

Poco a poco

July 19, 2007

I have to get used to the fact that things take double the time and effort here. Yesterday, we stood in line for about 45 minutes at the cell phone company before we could get the different plans explained to us. We couldn’t decide on the phone right away, so we had to take the information and walk away with no phone. We were hoping to get a cell phone today, but after we returned to the store and picked out a phone, we tried to pay. After trying a few times with Adolfo’s credit card, the woman asked us if the card was international. Of course, all of our cards are international right now. She said, well our system cannot accept international cards. We could pay with cash, but with cash they also need proof of employment – which we don’t have yet. So…,no cell phone for us.

We also went to the telephone company to reinstate our landline – which was cut off last night due to lack of payment. This, we were actually able to accomplish in less than an hour. Working through bureaucracies (domestic or foreign) has never been my favorite pastime. But, we are getting things accomplished, if only at a slower pace than either of us would like.

I’m beginning to get my bearings here and I think I can find the grocery store on my own now, but I don’t have a lot of confidence about that statement. We did buy a very good map and when I got lost on Tuesday I was able to find myself and get home on my own.

I also downloaded Skype yesterday, but haven’t really done anything with it. I have a Skype name, if you don’t have a Mac and want to call me. We are discussing getting a US phone number (which we will have to pay for) and how much we might use this service. If you want my Skype address, e-mail me.

This is only our 4th day here.

Arrived

July 17, 2007

We arrived safely in Guadalajara on Sunday afternoon. However, we didn’t have a good internet connection until last night. We’ve been working like crazy since we arrived. Adolfo is having meeting after meeting and I am trying to put the kitchen together so we can at least feed ourselves. Tonight I’m going to try to cook a soup for dinner. This will be the first really cooking I’ve done in more than a month! We’ll see how it goes – I only have one pot.

I’m almost getting used to answering the phone. The calls are either for Adolfo from people I know, or know of, or they are for the friends who used to live here. I’m still getting thrown off though. People here tend to not check their messages, so I just picked up the phone and the person on the other end said, “Whom am I speaking with?”

And I said, “What?” (not being accustomed to being challenged in this way when I answer the phone)

“I received a call from this number.”

So I said, “Ok, who am I speaking with?” He gave me his name and I recognized that it was a friend of Adolfo’s, but it was a strange (for me) and stressful way to begin a conversation.

The driving has also been challenging. I have gotten used to the fact that Adolfo likes to drive. I also realized, that I don’t like to drive. And so, for the most part, when we are in the car together, he drives.

However, now because the car is mine and in my name and cannot be sold to a Mexican citizen under Mexican law, I have to be in the car when Adolfo is driving. Which means that I need to get accustomed to driving here as fast as possible because I need to drop him off at all his meetings and drive myself home. We are working on getting some other arrangement in order so that I don’t have to continue playing chauffer.

The apartment is fantastic and the weather here is great. We are a little bit far from the center, so there are not so many busses, but otherwise it is great. The apartment is actually bigger than we thought and Adolfo will have a very nice office here. I plan to have a garden on our balcony (south facing).

tacos ricos

July 12, 2007

We made it all the way to Gómez Palacio today, after a very long day of driving. We had tacos of carne asada for dinner at a very excellent taqueria (El Caminero). Adolfo and I have been eating so much meat lately that we decided (with carne asada juice dripping down our arms) that we should become vegetarians for a few weeks after we arrive in Guadalajara.

On another amusing note, Blogger (administers this web site) has switched all my instructions into Spanish. I don’t know if they caught on that the title is in Spanish or what, but they’re on to me.

Tomorrow we are on to Zacatecas and will spend the weekend there. I hope to see some interesting silver jewlery.

La Frontera

July 10, 2007

Today we bought two new tires for the trailer, because they were both dangerously bald. We are both really tired and crossing through customs was tedious. We decided to spend an extra day at Adolfo’s mother’s house in Ciudad Juárez. We have been taking a lot of pictures, but have been unable to post them for the time being. There should be a flood of new photos soon.

We tried to eat some traditional New Mexican food for lunch yesterday, but when we arrived in the tiny town where the restaurant was, it said closed on Sundays and Mondays. So we drove down the road to Texas and ate some flautas and gorditas. The gorditas had red chiles mixed in with the masa dough. They were really good. I felt like I had missed out on an opportunity to have some sopapillas, though.

Somehow the stress of moving has supplanted the stress of anticipating living in a foreign country. I have had several moments, usually when a friend or family member called, when I thought that I might not be able to just pick up the phone and call someone once we are in Guadalajara. I have not, however, been worried about my Spanish lately. I should be worried about my Spanish. Although Adolfo has been speaking Spanish to me a lot, I have been speaking to him in English, a lot.

We had lunch today with a few of the Aunts and an Uncle and they complimented me on my Spanish, but I’m still conjugating the verbs after I say them. (Cuando llegé, no cuando llego, cuando llegaré…. just to say, “When I arrive…”)

Tomorrow is a free day in Juárez – México vs. Argentina in the Copa America. So, we have plans to sit in front of the TV for a few hours.

Not Driving

July 7, 2007

It is very nice to not be driving. Or, to be more exact, Freja is a fantastic friend who not only is letting us stay at her house while they are out of town (although they are supposed to return tonight, if they can get out of the Dallas airport), she is also letting me drive her car around town. So, we have been able to cruise around town and leave my car in their carport to rest for a few days.

We have also been resting for a few days and Adolfo says that he now feels like he is on vacation. With the help of friends, I have been able to show him the Tucson that I really love.

For the last two days, we have been waking up late and heading out to different cafes around town with the laptop. We split a fruit and yoghurt plate and a scone or other sweet breakfast bread and have some coffee. We trade off checking e-mail and reading whatever newspaper is around. We plan our day while finishing our coffee.

We went to Tork’s as soon as possible and, of course, it was an excellent experience and Khalifa wouldn’t let us pay for our lunch. We had lunch at Tork’s with Steve and he invited us over for mojitos at his house after he got off work. After several very good mojitos (made by a friend of Steve), we were convinced that Adolfo needed to experience the Sonoran Dogs of el Güero Canelo. After more discussion, and finishing the pitcher of mojitos, we decided that a taste test was in order to determine if the Northern or newer location was better or worse than the original South Tucson location. The original was deemed the unanimous winner. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of knowing the Sonoran Dog, it is – a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, grilled and placed in a white hot dog bun along with, pinto beans, onion, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard and topped with salsa and guacamole.

And, today, I’ve had a stomach ache all day long – I am not accustomed to eating Sonoran Dogs.

Tonight, I think we will finally make it to Yoshimatsu!

Tucson

July 6, 2007

We made it to Tucson last night, after a VERY long day of driving. It looks like we are leaving for El Paso on Monday. So we have a few days to not be driving and hang out at Freja & Randall’s house.

Las Vegas was weird and expensive. Adolfo was impressed by how much everything cost. We couldn’t see more than the Strip and they didn’t even have a fireworks show.

We were unable to go over the Hoover Dam on our way out because cars with trailers are prohibited. So we went farther south and crossed through Bullhead City. We didn’t have to go through the switchbacks at the Hoover Dam, but we did have to cross some mountains and we almost didn’t make it through the pass. The car started to over heat on one of the climbs and we had to pull over and sit for about 45 minutes while the car cooled. It was a good thing we bought a couple large bottles of water on our way out of Las Vegas.

Tonopah

July 3, 2007

We crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains today and are now in the middle of the desert in Nevada. It’s 8pm and we are exhausted!

The car did very well and Adolfo was a fantastic driver. There were several tense moments and we decided that going down hill at a 7% incline was much more scary than going up hill at 20 mph with RV’s coming up fast behind us.

Yosemite was beautiful and we stopped and took pictures along the way. Hopefully, you will be able to see them soon on Adolfo’s site.

We’re 200 miles from Las Vegas, so we should be able to get there in good time tomorrow.

I’m a little concerned that Adolfo is going to have “US Culture” overload – Las Vegas on the 4th of July. The Yard Sale was the first of the (most recent) US Culture lessons. (You can see his reaction on his site.) He was pretty much blown away that you could take all your junk and lay it out in front of your house and people of all races and economic levels would come by and pay you to hall away your junk! (He contends that in Mexico if you lay your junk out in front of your house, people will drive by and point and laugh at you.)

Las Vegas on the 4th may just put him over the edge. It will definitely be an architectural event!