Archive for September, 2007

Learning more about the bus

September 28, 2007

I ride the bus during rush hour. This usually means that the bus is packed to the rafters. It can also mean that the first bus or two that pass me do not stop, as they are too full for another person to board. And, sometimes the bus stops and only opens the back doors and not the front door.

There are some differences, I am now recalling, between how the bus operates here and how the bus operated in Quito. (Note: mass generalizations follow, be careful about mass generalizations because there are always exceptions)

1. The buses here all operate with the doors closed; in Quito, sometimes the front door would stay open.

2. The bus driver takes the money and makes the change; in Quito, the bus driver usually had a helper in the form of a small boy (for the working class bus) or a woman in a business suit sitting behind a small desk (for the ‘fancy’ bus) who took the money and made the change.

AND 3. in Quito if I was boarding the working class bus and it was packed, the driver would open both front and back doors and we would pile in through both. I didn’t have to worry about where I ended up on the bus, because the small boy would come by and take my money before I got off the bus.

So, what were the people doing who boarded on the back of the bus when the driver wouldn’t open the front door? This would happen sometimes in the morning when I was trying to get to work and I would not board these buses because I didn’t know if the people who boarded on the back door were paying their bus fare. I wasn’t really concerned that they weren’t paying, but I want to pay my bus fare and was concerned that I would not be physically able to pay.

I was on a very crowded bus yesterday and the bus driver opened the back door at one stop and people got on at the back door. Several moments later the guy next to me turned and handed me 10 pesos, which he had taken from the guy behind him. I passed it to the guy in front of me who asked, “for 2 or for 1?” meaning, “is this to pay the fare for 2 people or for 1 person?” (the fare is $4.50). I had no idea and looked to the guy behind me, who said for two. He passed the money forward toward the bus driver. Moments later, 1 peso and a bus fare receipt were passed back. This happened again with another rider at the next stop.

Ah ha! So, now I feel confident that I can wedge myself into the bus on the back door if I need to, pay my bus fare, and get to work on time!

Sneaking out the trash

September 25, 2007

We have a concierge in our building. There are 4 apartments for tenants and one more apartment for a guy, and his family, who helps care for us and the building. We pay him every other month for all the work he does: sweeping, scrubbing the stairs, maintaining the plants and trees, keeping the building in gas and water service, general vigilance.

He is a really good guy and also does some things that we consider extra. If he’s around when I come home from grocery shopping, he will help me bring up all my bags. If we need help with something and he’s around, he’ll offer to help, sometimes we accept if we really need the help.

The people who live below us, apparently, do not think these things are extra and we have seen him washing their car and we saw them ask him to change their flat tire, while they stood around and watched! This makes us uncomfortable. The people below us make us uncomfortable in general, but that’s another story.

This weekend when we were coming home from somewhere, he stopped us at the door and told us that the owner of the building has asked him to take out everyone’s trash. We are to leave our trash in the stairwell, and he will deposit it in the bin.

Hmm… The trash bin (functions like a dumpster) sits in front of the apartment and is basically on the way out the door. All our trash is in small grocery bags, we have no large kitchen trash, so the trash goes out often. We think this is crossing the line. There is no reason why we cannot take out our own trash.

So, on Monday morning I sneaked out the trash and deposited it in the bin myself on my way to the bus. Carefully avoiding our concierge, I thought, now this is a strange new experience!


September 25, 2007


I am now the proud possessor of a shiny new FM-3 visa. It’s good for one year (renewable up to 5) and I am free to work at my current job, open a bank account, put the electric bill in my name and get a cell phone with a plan (instead of the pay as you go kind), among other (not very) exciting things that happen when you are not a tourist.

(If you are wondering, I am very much aware of my privilege and that this process is not possible in reverse – Mexico to US instead of US to Mexico.)

We are going to celebrate this weekend, as we are both too exhausted from our working schedules to celebrate in the moment.

Breakfast again

September 23, 2007

Update: I found the guavas!

We had fruit salad this morning of papayas, guavas and the kind of bananas I call “medium sized” (smaller than “regular sized” and bigger than the tiny ones). I squeezed a lime over the whole thing and chopped up a piloncillo (extra-brown sugar, tastes like molasses). It was very tasty!

(If you follow the link, note that my piloncillos are about half to 1/3 the size of those in the picture.)

Royal breakfast

September 22, 2007

MMMMM,… tortas ahogadas for breakfast this morning….

(check the photos) My hands still smell like chiles. This was an especially good breakfast because after one full week of work, I started to feel a little bit ill and developed a runny/stuffy nose. So, what was needed for breakfast was spicy pork sandwiches!

This is one of the foods that exiled tapatios miss when they are away. A friend of ours in Mexico City will come to town every once in a while and he tries to eat tortas ahogadas when he’s here.

Other notes from the week:

It makes me smile to see a very respectable-looking little old lady in front of me in line at the supermarket on Friday buying a very nice bottle of tequila and a bag of chicharones (pork rinds). I made up all kinds of stories in my head about what she was up to on a Friday evening. And, don’t write in the comments that she was taking them home to her husband, that’s not very interesting!

I’m getting a bit adventurous about the kinds of chiles I use. Last night, I made a spaghetti sauce with some ground meat, mushrooms and spinach with a chopped pasilla chile and a chipotle chile in adobo sauce. It was really lovely, not overly spicy, but with a nice little kick at the end.

There appear to only be guavas on trees here, I cannot find them at the grocery store or with the vegetable guy. There is plenty of guava juice in boxes, not the same.


September 17, 2007

Check it out – Adolfo posted the tree photos.

Also, you should take a look at the Flag-Mobile. That’s my personal favorite. Leading up to Independence Day there were all kinds of people selling flags. And, sometimes you would see these guys biking down the street with all the flags flying. It was a very moving sight!


¡Que Viva!

September 16, 2007

Last night was the celebration of Mexican Independence day. Today is actually the declared holiday, but most of the festivities were last night.

We didn’t stay up for all the celebrations (which could possibly last into the early morning).

A friend of Adolfo’s is leaving soon to begin his PhD at the Complutense in Madrid, so we had dinner in Zapopan (one of those “it use to be a small town and now it’s a suburb” kind of places). Before dinner we went to the Museo de Arte de Zapopan to see a photo exhibit of migration. It was pretty good and Adolfo and I realized that we had actually seen parts of this exhibit in Zacatecas, while on the grand journey. I’ve been to this museum before, and I always want it to be more than it is. It’s a decent small museum, but I want it to be better.

After dinner, we walked around the plaza and took in the sights. We wanted to stay for the Grito, but we were told that the Mayor of Zapopan wouldn’t begin speaking until about 11:30pm. (If you happen to be in Mexico City, the President gives the Grito.)

The Grito is basically part of the speech given by Hidalgo calling for the independence of Mexico. He ended the speech with, “¡Mexicanos, viva México!” Which was extra exciting, because the country was called New Spain at the time.

We decided to head out. There is a sort of New Year’s Eve/Forth of July danger about driving home after the Grito (people get very drunk). Also, there are castillos de cuetes, or castles of fireworks. Which are wooden structures that spin and light up (they can be about 20 ft. tall) while fireworks shoot out of them. They seem very exciting and unreliable. (Hmm, wooden structure, shooting fire, crowds of people… I can see some of my cousins really enjoying this.) I have not actually seen one in action, but I think I’m ok with that.

So, instead of staying for the real action, we saw the drum and bugle corp play a few songs and we walked around the plaza looking at people and checking out the vendors. I really want a Virgin of Zapopan candle, but none of the vendors were hawking virgin candles. It was a nice calm evening, and we went home and laid in bed, listening to the fireworks and music until the wee hours.

Now, I think Dan should be able to build Aunt Mary a Castillo by next 4th of July.

A very good day

September 11, 2007

Here are the good things that have happened so far today:

1. I received a call from the lawyers at the U and I now have a letter from immigration stating that I am authorized to work. This is not the same as a work visa, but we are on our way and the work visa should arrive in the middle of next week. This call came about 3 days BEFORE I was expecting it, which means, in the bureaucracy games it’s US – 0, Mexico – 1.

So, I may be able to go to work as early as tomorrow and will be in the office on Monday at the latest (pending HR difficulties).

2. I went to the grocery store this morning, before I got the call from the U, and I found the turmeric! I saw these little knobby things next to the ginger and I thought – that looks like fresh turmeric. I asked the guy stocking the veggies if he could tell me what it was (just to confirm) and he said, confidently, “That’s saffron.” Umm… It was most definitely not saffron, but I recalled that my dictionary had listed the translation for turmeric as both cúrcuma AND azafrán. I said, “Are you sure it’s not turmeric (cúrcuma)? And he said, “Here we call it saffron,” end of discussion.

I thought, well as long as they don’t charge me for saffron, I’ll be happy. When I got to the check out, the check-out-girl asked me what was in my little bag. I said, “I believe it’s turmeric (cúrcuma) but the guy told me it’s saffron.” She asked the girl at the next checkout what the number was for ginger! I could have cared less. In fact, surely it is cheaper to buy fresh ginger than to buy fresh turmeric, right?

3. And, while we were eating lunch the buzzer rang and there was a deliveryman with a bunch of my books from California (I had accidentally left), a computer program for Adolfo and my new Cook’s Illustrated! Yea to Adolfo’s brother and mother for coordinating the shipment!


September 10, 2007

I ate my first fresh guava today! Not only that, but I also picked my first guava today.

There is a guava tree between my house and the tortilla man. We have noticed this tree before, but the guavas are generally either broken on the ground or very high up in the tree. However, today when I left the house to go by my 3 kilos of tortillas, I noticed some very ominous and brooding clouds, so I grabbed Adolfo’s umbrella.

Adolfo’s umbrella is of the large variety with the crooked handle (as opposed to mine which are compactable so they fit discreetly in my backpack). Do you see where I’m going with this? So, in the end I get my tortillas and on the way back I peered up at the guava tree. I found one acceptable guava (the other one had bug holes visible from where I stood) and I hooked it with my umbrella handle!

I shared it with Adolfo when he got home and we each had half of a very excellent guava. Mmmm…. And, it didn’t even rain.

Apartment Hunting?

September 9, 2007

Hmm, we just finished moving. We haven’t hung any pictures on the walls. We went and looked at an apartment this weekend.

Why? Well, we are in a bit of a strange situation. We are living in a friend’s apartment. We are not yet paying rent, because he told us not to worry about it, he’s a super-fantastic friend, and we can’t afford to pay rent right now anyway. We need to start paying rent somewhere, and we are afraid that we cannot afford the apartment where we are currently staying. We especially need to pay rent as soon as I start getting a paycheck. Which, as we all know, hasn’t happened yet.

Adolfo found out that the sister of a friend of his brother’s (are you following) is leaving the country for 10 months and wants to sublet her apartment. So, we went to see it.

The pros are: good location, quiet neighbors, decent inside/outside space (2 very small balconies and two patios), two good-sized bedrooms, marble tile floors, lots of closet space, washing machine, all appliances and major furniture will stay in the apartment and it’s CHEAP!

The cons are: ACK! Moving again! And then 10 months later – ACK! Moving again!, no parking spaces, it’s a little dark compared to where we are now, and the kitchen is awful (It would be the smallest and most inconvenient kitchen I have ever had. I don’t even know where I could chop an onion in this kitchen.), oh my goodness, the kitchen is awful.

So, we decided we are not going to take it. But, the good thing about all this is that we are seeing what else is out there for when we really do need to move. We know that finding a place with a good kitchen is going to be a challenge. And, we have a pretty good kitchen right now (despite the oven).