Archive for August, 2007

Impatient

August 30, 2007

This afternoon, I raced around the city collecting and filing paperwork and standing in bank lines. I was finally able to submit my documents and payment in order to get my visa changed. This is good. I haven’t been sleeping well because of all the waiting for paperwork business and I hope this will help lower the stress level.

The lawyers tell me that they hope it will take less than 10 days for my visa to be changed and then we have to submit more paperwork and pay another fee to get the work permit. That may take an additional 10 days. The slow pace is killing me!

I’ve been finding myself getting angry, again, at the stupid US passport agency. Had I been able to apply for the visa in the states, I would only have to apply for the work permit now. RAR! And yet, I appear to be unable to change the past. (“Let it go,” says the chorus in my head.)

So, realistically, I may not be back at work until October.

I think I’m going to buy a Yoga book at the books store. That will solve all my problems, right? (“Buying more books always helps,” says the chorus.)

Ha!

Less like recipes, more like descriptions

August 28, 2007

Part 2 of 2
(Unless you are along the northern border (Sonora, Chihuahua, etc.), all tortillas are corn.)

Agua de Jamaica and Salsa de Tomate Verde (or more commonly called Salsa Verde) from “The Essential Cuisines of Mexico” by Diana Kennedy are in our regular rotation. My mother has this cookbook and it’s pretty fantastic. In fact, they sell her cookbooks in the bookstores here.

My father has been making the Carnitas. And, before we left the states, we made the Chilorio a couple times. I would really like to make the Chilorio again, but we don’t have a blender right now and it is essential for this recipe. Adolfo also made the Ceviche for a day at the beach; it was fantastic. All these come from the Kennedy book.

As soon as we got here, I made a pot of black beans (with a quartered onion and a sprig of epazote). I froze the beans in freezer boxes and we’ve been getting them out and ‘re-frying’ them as needed.

This past weekend, we had a heavy breakfast with ¾ of 1 link of chorizo sausage fried to a crumble. And, then I scrambled in 4 eggs. We ate this with some re-fried beans and warmed tortillas. Salsa Verde over everything and served along side some very excellent coffee. It was very tasty. (We had salad for lunch that day.)

We have quesadillas for dinner quite often.

Take two tortillas and place a little slice of cheese, perhaps a piece of ham or a thin spread of refried beans between them. Toast, don’t fry, on a hot, dry comal (skillet or griddle, preferably cast iron or something that’s not Teflon). When they are nice and toasty on one side, flip and toast on the other side. Remove from the heat and carefully open the quesadilla. Fill with thin slices of tomato, salsa, hot sauce, avocado slices, chopped cilantro or something else that strikes your fancy. Close the quesadilla and carefully eat while leaning over your plate, they can get quite messy.

I would advise that the quality of your quesadilla will vary according to the quality of your tortillas – so get the best ones you can find!

This is what I can remember making in the way of Mexican food. Of course, we have eaten some really excellent food out of the house, but I can’t really tell you how to make it.

Adolfo says that maybe this weekend we will go get some Tortas Ahogadas. (That’s the teaser, I’ll tell you all about it after we eat them!)

Recipes for down-home Mexican cookin’

August 27, 2007

Part 1 of 2

Not really, those recipes are way to involved for us right now. Here are some things that we’ve made in the recent past (parts 1 and 2). By way of disclaimer: they may include ingredients that are either difficult to find, or expensive for those of you in colder climates or locations with a very small Mexican population (perhaps, France or Japan).

Side of the road salad

(not really a title, but it’s what I think of when I want this salad)

I’ve never seen this salad on a menu. In fact, I’ve only ever seen this salad being sold out of little carts on the side of the road or in a small parking lot, think hot-dog vendor-style. Adolfo thinks it’s too dangerous (illness-wise) to buy this from the guys at the corner. Who, by the way, are always busy and seem to have a following. (I’m a bit more of a risk-taker in this department, but I still haven’t tried their wares.)

1 mango, peeled and cut in large dice
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into medium sized matchsticks
1 smallish jícama, peeled and cut into medium sized matchsticks

Combine with the juice of 1 large (or 2 small) lime(s), about 1/2 t. salt (good salt, if it makes a difference), and 1 t. of your best chile powder (or to taste). I used some Chile de Árbol powder when I made this yesterday.

(chile as opposed to chili, which is a mixture of spices, chile powder is a ground up dried chile pepper, if you have no choice go with the chili powder)

I didn’t measure the salt or the chile powder when I made it, and the guys at the corner don’t measure anything either.

More recipes and descriptions coming soon….

In the land of Chocolate

August 26, 2007

I’m living in a country famous for its chocolate. The Aztecs introduced the Spanish conquistadors to chocolate. The word is Nahuatl in origin: xocolatl. There are factories in town that make chocolate tablets for hot chocolate. There are wooden instruments made just for stirring, or frothing, your hot chocolate.

So, where do they hide the baking chocolate?

I cannot find it. I can only find coco from Hershey’s and chocolate chips from Hershey’s (mmm, waxy). I have yet to find the dutched coco, which is my preferred kind of coco. In fact, I haven’t found any coco that is not Hershey’s.

I live in the second largest city in Mexico; I know it’s out there somewhere. I haven’t given up yet.

However, desperate for brownies, I used the hot chocolate tablets. First, I consulted my mother and my Joy of Cooking and figured out that I should not add very much extra sugar to my brownies, because the tablet was going to have quite a lot of sugar in it already.

They turned out pretty good. I think, if I make them again by this method, I might just leave out any extra sugar. But, I’m still on the lookout for the real baking chocolate.

I think I found a hunk of chocolate that I can chip up for cookies. The woman who sold it to me thought I could bake with it, but it has quite a lot of sugar and it not the “unsweetened baking chocolate” I seek. She gave me a taste, and it was good and she said it was made in Mexico. This is a good start.

I’m still on the lookout for several things: baking chocolate, almond extract, and turmeric are high on my list.

Surprisingly, I’ve been able to find: tofu (fresh!), hoisin sauce, and fresh ginger.

And, of course, there are many things wish are both plentiful and fantastically good: cheeses (panela, cotija, something I like to call ‘ricotta’ – the woman that sells it to me calls it something else), chiles (I’m starting a collection! Fresh, dried, powdered, they’re all good.), and tortillas (mmmm…).

Hurricane Weather

August 23, 2007

I’ve been telling everyone that Dean wasn’t anywhere near us and that we were not affected at all, but apparently we are having some hurricane weather.

It is very cloudy.

That’s it, clouds.

Loros

August 23, 2007

I’ve been trying to get a picture of the wild parrots that frequent our neighborhood, but I just can’t get to the camera fast enough.

They come in flocks, usually, and are incredibly loud. We can hear them coming like an invasion, and yet they are also very fast and disappear into our trees. They are also green, like the trees. They taunt us with their squawking, but we cannot see them.

Someday soon, there will be photos of parrots. (New, non-parrot, photos went up in the last week if you haven’t checked it out.)

Update on the Job Front

August 20, 2007

I’m out of work until my visa gets straightened out. I am very much wanted at my office and they are helping me with everything they can in order to expedite the request.

However, the university lawyers (who are going to help me submit my paperwork) advised us all that I am better off waiting at home until the visa comes.

This afternoon, I turned in all the paperwork for the lawyers to revise before submitting the visa application. My office tells me that they are hopeful I will be back to work by the 15th of September.

Who? Oh, yeah, that’s me.

August 19, 2007

I’ve become a wife. Not in the legal sense of the word, but in the cultural sense.

Couples just don’t live together if they are not married. And, it appears to be easier for people to just go ahead and call us married. Even if said people know us very, very well. It is a very simple solution to a possibly tricky moral dilemma.

I wasn’t too taken aback about by our new monikers when people we didn’t know, or barely knew, called us maridos. Occasionally, in the States, people I didn’t know very well would ask about my husband, especially if I spoke about Adolfo without naming our relationship.

However, in April, when we came for Adolfo’s interview, a friend of ours gave us a ride to the interview. At the gated entrance, the guard asked who was in the car. Our friend responded that it was el architecto Adolfo PI y su esposa. I was quite surprised, because this friend knows us very well, and is quite aware that we are not married.

Now, it is a common occurrence. I am often referred to as a wife and he, as my husband. We don’t correct people. For one, they actually know that we are not married (family members, close friends, etc.). And, two, we might then enter into a complicated discussion of WHY we are not married. I have a feeling that, “We’re not that interested right now, maybe later,” or “We’re too busy with other things,” are not going to be acceptable reasons.

I also wonder if this is a language issue. It’s much easier for someone to ask me about my suegro (father-in-law) than about el padre de tu novio. And, since my suegro lives very close to us, it’s a common question.

I used to tell people that Adolfo and I were fiancés, in order to try to bridge the gap. But, then I would slip up and call him my boyfriend. I guess I just wasn’t very committed to the fiancé status.

So, now we just give each other a sly smile when people refer to us as married, it’s as if we are being sneaky. But, is it really being sneaky if everyone knows the secret?

Explaination of the lunch-time accident

August 15, 2007

Juli wants to know more about the fender-bender, but my response and explanation are took long for the comments section, so I’m making it a new entry:

When we got to the corner where the accident occurred, a policeman was there. The people involved in the accident were moving the cars to a side street. The police took the registration and identification papers from both parties. Then, everyone starts calling their insurance companies and anyone else they know who might be helpful (the guy’s brother worked for the Transportation Department, so he was trying to get a hold of him). The police, call for more police, and everyone discusses the situation.

After about 45 minutes, one of the insurance companies shows up. They fill out paperwork and take photos. Everyone discusses the situation.

Later, the other insurance company arrives. They fill out paperwork and take photos. Everyone discusses the situation.

The police say they want to impound the car of the friend because he doesn’t have his license. The guy finally gets a hold of his brother. The brother can’t come to the scene, but will send a co-worker. The police discuss the situation.

I proceed to get a nasty sunburn (pasty white girl). We discuss the situation.

The insurance company guys discuss the situation and try to come up with an agreement between them (the car owners are not involved in this conversation).

Finally, the insurance company guys stamp all the paperwork and decide that each will pay for their own client’s car repairs – both parties are at fault. And, they leave.

The police still have the IDs and are threatening to impound the car.

Finally, they decide that the brother’s co-worker doesn’t need to show up and they will give back the IDs and papers. They decide not to impound the car.

We are starving. We all go eat a very nice lunch.

This is how you hope the situation will go. There was no fighting, no injury and no blood. If someone is injured, you will go to jail until your insurance company bails you out, automatically.

Stinking government

August 14, 2007

Yesterday was not a very good day.

I have been trying to get my paperwork in order so that I can apply to change my visa status. I am not able to work or get paid until this change happens. Luckily for me the university is on vacation for 2 weeks. So, I have until the 20th when everyone comes back from vacation to get my papers together for my office to submit them to the lawyers. And, try to get myself back to work as soon as possible. They told me at the office they would wait for me, but I need to get this stuff worked out fast, fast, fast.

The first step in this process is for me to send my diplomas to their respective states in order to get them stamped, notarized and apostillized (if that’s a word). My mother helped with my undergraduate degree and it went very smoothly. My master’s degree has been a whole different matter.

It took me longer to get the process worked out and once I finally sent off the paperwork, I started calling (thank goodness for Skype!) the office where it was sent to check on the status. They seemed to not be able to tell me anything and so I waited a day and called again. Still, no information. I was told to call back once the “5 business days” for processing had passed. I called again on the 4th day and was finally able to speak with the person who processed these requests and she informed me that she didn’t have my documents and they had never crossed her desk!

So, I gave her the information from the UPS site about when, where and by whom the packet was received. She then told me that she was in a different city from the one where my documents were received! Although I had been calling the phone number listed for the smaller office (where I send my documents), the call was transfered (without anyone telling me) to the bigger office.

She told me she would ask them about my papers and I took down her e-mail address. Fifteen minutes later, I receive an e-mail from her saying that they did receive my papers and they did not receive my payment, so they returned the documents to me by regular mail to Mexico. (I proceeded to have a minor heart attack.)

I was quite shocked by this (and I did include a check with the mailing, I don’t know what they did with it), and fired off an e-mail to her asking why they would return my documents to Mexico, when I paid (addressed, stamped envelope) to have them returned to a friend in the same city where the office was located.

I also proceeded to investigate the possibility of re-ordering my diploma and how long that takes (about 2 weeks if all goes well), since it has been taking almost a month for regular mail to arrive from foreign locations.

She responded saying that the other office told her they returned the documents where ever I had wanted them sent, whatever it said on the envelope.

So, now my friend is on ‘high alert’ for my documents and promised to race them back over to the state office with the measly $3 fee (!@*#&@*#$) and try to get them processed as soon as possible. (update: I called and finally talked to the small office this morning and they did indeed return my documents to Mexico. They were sent Thursday, so I’ll look for them to arrive in September. My wonderful friend now has a copy of my diploma and is working on getting it notarized so that the notarized copy can be apostillized.)

Adolfo is stunned that I continue to have so many problems with the US government (this time at the state level). He had been promising me that the Mexican bureaucracy was much more difficult. He hasn’t been making that claim so loudly in recent days.

So, this all happened in the afternoon. In the morning, I went to see my vegetable guy and get some provisions. While I was parked in front of the market, someone hit my side mirror on the driver’s side and almost took it off the car. So now, my mirror is broken (not the glass, just the plastic).

One of our friends also called in the morning to say that he wasn’t going to be able to meet up with Adolfo, because as he was driving to work, he was hit by a bus! He was fine and miraculously, so was his car.

RAR! What a stressful day!