Archive for October, 2007


October 29, 2007

Fall weather arrived last week, as did Daylight Savings Time. I’m completely disoriented. It doesn’t help that I’ve been having a hard time since we got here with my Buenos días, Buenos tardes and Buenos noches.

Adolfo says that I was sleeping in Spanish class the day they taught us how to use the previous three greetings. I maintain that I was taught that you could say “Buenos días” to someone at any time of the day. That is not the case here in Mexico.

Buenos días
is strictly a morning greeting, not so much “Good day” as “Good morning.” Buenos tardes is implemented just after the clock passes noon and sometime around dusk, you can begin greeting people with Buenos noches. This is another struggle in my head. It is difficult to walk up to someone and say “Good night!” It just seems more like a closing rather than an opening line.

Then, last week the weather changed dramatically. One day, warm and sunny, over night windstorm, next day blustery, windy Fall day. I think the temperature dropped 30 degrees. Fall weather here is very different from Fall weather in most of the US. Neither the houses, nor the offices, have heating or air conditioning. So the temperature outside is nearly the temperature inside. We’ve broken out the sweaters.

Then we “Fell back.” Changing the hour back is usually good for people and it gives everyone and hour of more sleep. I woke up this morning in a funk. Disoriented and cold. Monday, hrmph.

The embodiment of a stereotype

October 28, 2007

The party was a great success and lots of very good people came to our house. For the occasion, Adolfo hung the art on the walls and we bought wine and martini glasses. I made Calico Crumb Cake. Now it actually looks like we live here.

I also learned about a new stereotype – Gringas are known for their excellent baked goods.

I had no idea.

I do like to make cookies and I’ve made a few Calico Crumb Cakes since we arrived. I’m also constantly making the Protein Bars (Granola Bars). And, I am happy to share with whomever is passing through. I think the reaction I have been getting is hilarious; our friends went NUTS about the cake. I sent home two of them with a plate of cake each after watching them hovering over the cake pan and telling me that I should really consider selling cake as a business, between mouthfuls. (I didn’t tell them that Calico Crumb Cake is really the only cake I consider myself any good at making.)

Another friend confessed that when I send a little bag of the Choc-oat-chip cookies home with her husband, she told her children that these were the kind of cookie that they didn’t like. And, she didn’t give them any! Apparently, her children are still at the age that they believe their parents when they say, “you won’t like it.”

We also began working out a plan for Thanksgiving. I had actually not thought about Thanksgiving at all, but our friend from France asked me what plans I had and he said he wanted to have Thanksgiving and we could do it at his apartment. Yea for the French! Now, the trick is – how do we find a turkey for sale when it is not Christmastime?


October 24, 2007

I’m feeling a little bit far from home right now. I’m also feeling like throwing a party on Saturday.

Perhaps, additionally, I’m feeling a little bit confused.

The dangers of Mexican food

October 18, 2007

Every day on my way to work I walk past an elementary school. Since I’m walking by at 8:15am, class has already started and everyone is inside. However, lurking just outside the gates of the school lies – The Tamale Man.

By the time I get to him, the Tamale Man is almost out of tamales and is doing some drive by business, but is mostly chatting with the guards in front of the school. He is very friendly.

What am I supposed to do? I pass him every day and can buy a tamale for breakfast or two for lunch and it will cost me 7 or 14 pesos (yep, thats a filling lunch for less than $2 USD) (in Spanish it’s actually one tamal and two tamales)

He has red (meaty), green (meaty and a little bit spicy), queso con rajas (cheese and strips of poblano peppers) and a really scary looking strawberry flavored tamale (they are BRIGHT PINK).

I’ve only tried the red and green so far and they are really tasty.

I can’t eat tamales for breakfast and lunch every day, no matter how much yoga I say I will do. What a conundrum.

Weekend re-cap

October 14, 2007

There were many new food experiences this weekend. There were also non-food experiences, but the food-related experiences are always more interesting to me.

Saturday morning, Adolfo and a friend/co-worker and I went to the Abastos market. Abastos means supplies, and it is where the granola supplies are found. My dictionary defines Abastos as “basic provisions…. especially food-stuffs,” that seems appropriate. I wrote about this market before, when we had first arrived.

I am still unable to drive around the Abastos by myself, and my friend and I managed to coerce Adolfo into coming with us (she is very pregnant, so she had a good excuse for needing another set of hands). She knew of several excellent finds including some specific veggie stands that she liked and a creamery, which sold me a gallon of yoghurt and some really good queso cotija. We bought squash blossoms and eyed the cuitlacoche, but didn’t get any. (check the photos) We finished up by going to the Mamá Gallina (mother hen) for the granola supplies and FINALLY the powdered turmeric.

I was very interested in buying some pumpkin seeds, but they were all out. So, I will have to wait to try a recipe for Mole Verde. I also wanted to put some pumpkin seeds in the granola and the protein bars. Oh, well.

After the shopping we needed a big breakfast, so we invited our friend over and made eggs with chorizo, refried beans, queso cotija, and tortillas, coffee and juice. Mmmmm….. My favorite kind of breakfast. (This morning I had yoghurt and fruit salad, Adolfo had cereal and fruit salad.)

After breakfast, our friend left and we headed out of town to Chapala. Chapala is a weekend get-away for many tapatillos, but also has a thriving retired US and Canadian citizen population. The town is on a lake of the same name. Lake Chapala is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico.

A friend’s parents have a house there and we were invited to his sister’s going away party (it seems that everyone is leaving for Spain these days). There were various appetizers, but the main food was brought out in two large tamale steamers. They contained tacos al vapor (steamed tacos), but Adolfo told me that in Guadalajara these are also called tacos sudados (sweaty tacos!). The tacos are made up ahead of time and stacked in the steamer. Then they are steamed so everyone can have tacos which are all hot at the same time. And, you just pick up your taco and put a little salsa on top and away you go.

It was a good party and I tried a couple new tequilas and one that was really nice called 7 Leguas (leagues). The bottle has a picture of a horse on the front and I cannot figure out what the Leguas have to do with a horse. I’m going to look for it in the store and see if it’s in my price range.

We finished off the night (pretty early) by going down to the waterfront and getting an ice cream. Chapala is, for some reason, known for its ice creams. I was advised to go with the Guayaba and I was very excited about trying some guava ice cream, but when we arrived at the ice cream stand, they were sold out of guava. So, I had to go with my second choice – Elote. Sweet corn ice cream is just about the closest thing to having real, farm corn. I’m not sure I can properly explain it, but I think it has to do with how starchy, uninteresting other corn tastes and how sugary-sweet farm corn tastes – just like this ice cream. I was pretty impressed.

Today, I made the Calico Crumb Cake. I’m pretty sure I’ve found where 350˚ F is on my oven. The cake turned out just fine and I’m going to send some to DF with Adolfo when he leaves on Wednesday. I think our friend there will appreciate it. When we visited him in April, he hardly had anything in his refrigerator.

The News

October 12, 2007

I’m in the same boat with Karen about the news. I try to read the NY Times and BBC online as much as I can (during the week it seems to be more like a quick skim of the headlines) and we buy El Publico every Friday because it contains a supplement magazine called El Ocio, which is kind of like Time Out and lets you know what’s happening in the city that week.

Sadly, I find that I’m not yet really able to understand the political section of the newspaper here and I usually can understand almost all of the celebrity gossip section. So, I’ve been keeping up with the latest Britney Spears scandals as a way of improving my Spanish comprehension for only 7 pesos a week and the knowledge that I’m poisoning my brain with this useless information.

But, in the last couple weeks, the big news in town has been the unholy traffic mess that the city has planned and implemented on the major road about 4 blocks from my house. Not construction so much as trying to create an “expressway” on the weekends by turning all the lights green for most of the day in front of a major shopping mall. Hmm…

No one can enter or leave the mall parking in a safe or legal manor, and the pedestrians (like me) who want to cross the street to get to the mall – well basically tough luck. The options are walk an additional 2-3 city blocks in either direction to get to a pedestrian overpass or the one functioning crosswalk (while passing about 3 formerly functional crosswalks). Or, what many people do instead, cross halfway into the four-lane road and wait at the yellow middle line for the other side of the traffic to clear and then cross the other half of the road (very dangerous).

If you look at the headlines for today (October 12th) you will notice that there is a big procession taking place. Today is the saint day of the Virgin of Zapopan and she’s being moved from the Cathedral in Guadalajara to the Basilica of Zapopan, and all the followers go with her on the road.

(I’m off work today for the Founding Day of the U, so three day weekend for me!)

Holy bread in the streets (batman)!

October 10, 2007

I had a jaw dropping experience earlier this week.

Adolfo and I were driving to the hotel of a friend (my first visitor!) and at an intersection there were guys selling things, lots of things. This is normal.

One guy was selling things that looked to me like something for the kitchen, rectangular with holes in them. The holes were all the same size, about 1-2 inch diameter. And, the guy was yelling “oblea” so I asked Adolfo what these things were, thinking they were for the kitchen and I might need one.

Adolfo said they are “obleas” (like I knew what that was), I said, tell me more…

He said, you know when the priest gives the communion and they give you the little bread, this is the left over part.

I said “WHAT!”

He said the priest does not bless this part of the bread and people buy it for snacks.

I was stunned. I’m learning so much about Catholicism in Mexico. I also thought, I wonder what they do with the left over parts in the US? They certainly don’t sell them in the streets. But, I’m thinking an after-church snack wouldn’t be a bad idea!

Bus update

October 10, 2007

Not much exciting has happened lately.

Several bus rides were non-eventful and the iconography was small to medium sized and limited to one or two items.

I did have a non-eventful bus ride with a couple virgin decals and a Jesus decal, but there were also a couple pictures of Micky Mouse, and a cartoon dog superhero (super dog?) taking the place usually occupied by Jesus.

I told my co-worker, when I arrived at work (she knows about my hypothesis) and she said, “oh, they canceled each other out.” So there’s another possibility.

To be continued…

Random thoughts on Language

October 7, 2007

I realized when looking through the archives that I haven’t written much about language. Since then, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on the subject and have had a difficult time trying to stay coherent, so bear with me.

While we have friends who speak English, almost all of our social activities take place in Spanish. I am really grateful for this, as it provides me with a relaxed place where I can try to explain myself to friendly people and practice, practice, practice.

I still have moments when trying to tell complicated stories when I see people’s faces go blank and I realize that I’m not making sense and I’ve lost them.

I try really hard to speak Spanish with Adolfo when we are out in public, because I want people to hear me speaking Spanish and I want them to speak to me in Spanish. In fact, it makes me feel a confusing combination of uncomfortable and at ease to be out in public speaking English. At ease, because I’m speaking in my native language and uncomfortable, because I want the people around me to know that I speak Spanish.

Last week, we went to a panel discussion about the U.S. government’s point of view about migration from Mexico (the Consul General spoke). I felt proud and terrified that I was able to stand up during the question and answer period and tell the guy, in Spanish, that I thought he had no idea what he was talking about (in the nicest possible way).

A woman approached me after the discussion to ask if I would be willing to be interviewed about migration on her radio show on the university’s radio station. We exchanged e-mail addresses. (Now that will be terrifying, if it happens.)

I am still petrified of the phone and am going to have to start answering the phone at work next week.

I’m learning more Mexicanisms, and I really like the phrase “sacada de onda” which has a literal translation of “taken out of, or removed from, the wave.” It means: shocked or stunned. Mexicans are really fond of the wave, using such phrases as, “que onda?” as a greeting, like “how’s the wave?” which really means something more like “what’s up?” The onda can be loosely translated as the happenings or the theme.

I’m still not comfortable enough in my Spanish to say “Órale” or “Mande” which are both very Mexican words.

Órale is an affirmative word used to agree with someone or to signify that something is impressive. Órale is also a stereotype-inducing word and me using the word Órale is probably something akin to a foreigner in Texas saying y’all. People would notice and not for the best reason.

Mande is a response like “What?” except that it comes from a root word, which is related to the English word Mandate. Mande, literally is a request for the other person to mandate something, or to order them to do something. In other Spanish-speaking countries, mande is a word used by servants asking to be ordered to do something. In Mexico, mande has lost that boss-servant connotation, but for those of us who learned Spanish outside of Mexico, it is very difficult to un-learn these lessons.


October 2, 2007

I’m working on a hypothesis right now. So far, I’ve only had 3 bus rides to test my hypothesis, which is not a large enough sample size to draw any sort of conclusions.

Here it is:

There is a correlation between the craziness of the bus driver’s driving and the size of his Jesus.

Since the sample size only consists of 3 rides, I’ll describe the driving and the Jesuses (Jesi?)

1. Crazy, crazy driving
– we were weaving pretty fast and stopping pretty hard in the first place, and then we clipped another bus while passing it at a stop sign! The other bus passed us back and then blocked my bus and stopped. The driver of the other bus got out (he was blocking both lanes of traffic when he did this) and came onto my bus where he proceeded to berate my bus driver, who in turn handed him some money to repair his side mirror. My triceps are sore today from holding on.

Jesus – extra large (foot and a half or two foot) Jesus on a HOT PINK CROSS! Also, there was a bloody crown of thorns Jesus decal on an interior window.

2. Calm driving – this morning my bus driver was rather average and nothing exciting happened.

Jesus – modest-sized, gold colored Jesus on a cross with some rosary beads.

3. Calm driving
– there was some extra horn honking, but nothing too excessive. No excitement.

Jesus – 6 inch Jesus bust (from the shoulders up), nothing too elaborate.

Well, this is all I have for now, I can’t draw conclusions at this early date, so I’ll keep looking out for more samples.