Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

a quick trip to Missouri

January 20, 2009

Well, the new year has started as a hectic, whirl-wind of events.  We hosted some friends from San Francisco for a few days, attended a very nice wedding in Mexico City and I then received word that my grandfather was very sick.

I left  Mexico City for Missouri, and landed in a shocking cold front.  My grandfather passed away on January 13th and all of his grandchildren were able to attend the visitation and funeral.  I am sad, but it felt good to be with family.  I was also reminded by a friend today to be thankful for my current job (which I am) and had I been still with my previous job I would have had to fight to leave for a week (I would have quit on the spot).

I was able to spend a good amount of time with my grandma and we worked on a particularly frustrating jigsaw puzzle.  I wanted to have more time to look through the recipe box she showed me, but this visit wasn’t particularly conducive to reading recipes.

There was a lot of good food, stories and photos.  And, I am thankful for all of them.

back from the big city

November 18, 2008

We got back from Mexico City last night and everything went well with the whirl-wind tour.  It is a little bit difficult to show students a city of more than 20 million people in two and a half days.

My students and Adolfo’s students came on the trip and by strange coincidence Adolfo’s brother was in town on business.

We were able to eat some good tacos and by accident we had some surprisingly good hamburgers, but I wasn’t very impressed by the rest of our food choices.  Part of the problems was that we had to go to restaurants where we could walk in a say “party of 14” and they wouldn’t pass out.

While we were walking toward the center of Coyoacan in the south of the city we passed a truck selling products from Oaxaca.  Adolfo’s brother bought some really good Oaxacan cheese and one of Adolfo’s students bought a small bag of fried crickets.  One of my students had the courage to try them and I was impressed.  I passed on the crickets.

How to become wide awake at 4am

November 11, 2008

A couple weeks ago I was in Xalapa again for work.  It was lovely as always and every time I go, I try to do or see at least one new thing.  This time I was in town for Day of the Dead and there were lots of alters and invitations to tamales and hot chocolate. (and I didn’t get one single tamal!)

I was able to go see the Symphony.  The Orquestra Sinfonica de Xalapa is one of the best symphony orchestras in the country.  About 90% of the performers are of foreign origin, which is amazing for such a small town (Pop. 500,000 is a small town when compared to Mexico City).  We heard a Bassoon solo played by a guy from Illinois!  The concert hall was packed with a wide variety of concert goers.  The price for tickets is $70 pesos and I believe there must be a student discount based on the number of student-aged audience members.  The audience was also musically educated and there was no clapping between movements and people were very enthusiastic and polite at the same time. 

That night I prepared to return to Guadalajara and laid all my clothes out for my 4am alarm, in order to catch my 5am bus.  When I woke up I started brushing my teeth and getting dressed.  I went to put on my pants and sort-of shook them out in front of me and as I started to put my leg in my pants…. a scorpion crawled out of my pant leg and went directly under the bed!!!  I had never seen a scorpion live and in person and this one was about 4 inches long and black.  I was immediately wide awake.

As, I had packed all my clothes and had no other clean pants, I had no choice but to put on the pants that had housed a scorpion all night and head out to the front desk for my taxi.  It was quite a send off.

What a night

November 4, 2008

We gathered with some friends and family to watch the returns on CNN tonight and eat some chicken wings.  My friend told me that we had to eat “gringo food” for the election night, so I made some nachos and we ordered wings.

But mid way through the evening, Adolfo’s mother arrived and told us that a plane had crashed in Mexico City and they thought the Interior Minister was on the flight.  (The Interior Minister is sort of like our Vice-President.)

So, we spent the evening watching the celebrations in the states and feeling hopeful, and the confirmation of the death of the Interior Minister in Mexico City and feeling stunned (he was 36 years old and a rising star in the PAN party).

What a night.

Virgin de Zapopan

October 12, 2008

This morning Adolfo and I got up at 4:30 in the morning to go to mass.

I know this is not the sentence you were expecting to read when you opened this site, but there you have it. We may have gone to mass with one and a half million people, but it is kind of hard to count when it’s 5 am.

Adolfo’s students are doing a project on the Romeria for the Virgin of Zapopan. So, I went with them and we caught the last half of mass, in the plaza across from the entrance to the cathedral. The square was packed, and silent – because we were in mass – and the venders were quiet, it was really dark, and it was really fascinating.

The cardinal was giving mass on a microphone that was loud enough for us to hear in the plaza and follow along, and we could also hear some of the drummers in an adjacent square for the estimated 600 aztec dancers.

Once mass ended, the Virgin-mobile started up (on what sounded like a lawnmower engine), the bells of the cathedral started to ring (we could see the guys ringing them!), the church-goers were singing, the drummers upped the volume and the party began. This pilgrimage is a celebration because the Virgin is returning to her home at the Basilica in Zapopan.

We saw the VIPs leaving mass (including the Governor of Jalisco who was mobbed by photographers as he left). The Virgin’s body-guards assembled and the Cardinal came out under heavy security to check out the Virgin before they started the pilgrimage. The heavy security was probably due to two things, during the independence day celebrations last month there was an attack in a public square in Morelia (which is in a neighboring state), and Adolfo told me that the previous Cardinal was assassinated. So, there were lots of serious-looking guys in suits who appeared to not be paying any attention to the Virgin.

Once the pilgrimage starts, the Virgin takes off pretty fast and the Cardinal and his companions start walking at a pretty good clip. Then everyone in the plaza starts moving toward the street and the media says about 3 million people walk with the Virgin to Zapopan (about 8 km). We, however, went looking for breakfast.

Which sadly we did not find – apparently 7 am on a Sunday is not a good time to look for a snack. Also, many businesses close today for observing the Virgin’s day. So instead, as the sun was coming up this morning, we went back to bed. At 11am when we got up for the second time this morning, we made eggs with chorizo and potatoes.

Corn smut is a disease

September 30, 2008

Things are really busy around here right now.  My boss is coming to town next week, so I’m spending all my time coordinating his schedule and harassing my students (don’t forget this thing, and that other thing, and please respond if you want to do this, or that, and one more thing…..). 

Meanwhile, Adolfo took down the clothes line and hung up a hammock!  Now I have to figure out the correct posture for writing emails while laying in a hammock.  (my life is sooooo difficult!)

Also, we’ve run out of cookies, which constitutes a household disaster.  But I don’t have time to make any right now, so frozen banana nut muffins will have to do.

I bought some huitlacoche at the Abastos market this weekend, so I need to read up on my Diana Kennedy to see what I’m supposed to do with it – and just how do I clean it – and how do I know when it’s clean since it is black like dirt.

By the way, I’m not sure I would want to eat this stuff if I were first learning about it on the Wikipedia page.  “Corn smut is a disease…”

Without referencing my Diana Kennedy, I also bought a couple handfuls of squash blossoms, two poblano chiles and some cream.  I think we should be able to mix this all together somehow and eat it in tacos.

And speaking of which, the other day a friend was telling me how she cooked up some interesting looking mushrooms with some onions and a little chopped tomato.  When I asked her if she ate it with pasta, she looked at me, with her head cocked to one side and said, “No Della, I’m Mexican, we eat tacos.”  Ever since then, the phrase has popped into my head with regularity.  No Della, you’re in Mexico, eat tacos.

vote, vote, vote

September 22, 2008

We received our ballots on Friday and I’m going to mail them today!

Diego & Monique

September 19, 2008

Last night we went to see a free movie.  The Historical Archive at the UdeG was showing a movie called “Un Retrato de Diego Rivera” or a Portrait of Diego Rivera directed by Diego Lopez Rivera and Gabriel Figueroa. 

The story behind the movie is really the big deal about this documentary.  Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002) was a well known photographer in the 1940s and he was also friends with Rivera and Gabriel Figueroa (father), he shot about 40 minutes of film of Diego Rivera but never completed the project.  Cans of film of Rivera were found during the process of cataloging the photographic archives of Gabriel Figueroa (1907-1997) after his death.

Rivera’s grandson, Lopez Rivera, was involved in the project and together with Figueroa (son) they finished the film.  This documentary was released last year. 

There are amazing shots of Rivera sketching in marketplaces, watching people haul calla lilies, paiting while Dolores del Rio poses, and other famous Rivera paintings come to life.  All the film shot of Rivera is in color, but without sound.  I loved the scenes of Rivera sketching women in the marketplace while groups of men silently stand behind him, watching.

It was fascinating to watch Rivera.  It is rather shocking to see someone move who has always been a still photo or a painting.

After the movie we walked over to a cafe recommended by Adolfo’s mother.  Monique is what would happen if you had a Jewish great-aunt, who turned her living room into a restaurant.  Although Monique’s is known for the coffee (which was very good) and the cake (which was also good), I was SHOCKED to see corned beef and pastrami sandwiches on the menu.  I haven’t had corned beef since we left the states.

To complement the atmosphere, there was a little old man playing piano behind us for most of our meal.  He even fulfilled the request of one diner to play “Noche y Dia”.  As I hummed along to “Night and Day, you are the one….” while munching on my corned beef sandwich, I was transported somewhere far, far away from Guadalajara.  (Although, I’m not exactly sure where! Perhaps it was a Fred & Ginger movie.)

I really liked the place, but Adolfo had the sensation of being a small child in the living room of a great-aunt who wanted to have long visits with his parents, and all he wanted to do was escape.

Monique is on Av. Union #410 in the Colonia Americana.

goings on at the U

August 31, 2008

School has started and my students are getting settled in, and just when I thought it was going to be smooth sailing – the university is having a bit of an internal power struggle and we just might have 2 Rectors.

I’ve been buying the newspaper almost everyday and on Friday, Adolfo and I listened to the radio almost all day long as they broadcast the meeting of the Consejo General Universitario (like a University Board of Trustees).  The two sides of this struggle have been trading insults for a while now and we knew exciting things were going to happen on Friday.

So on Friday, the Consejo and the Rector of the University argued for about 3 hours about the agenda for the meeting.  Finally, the Rector decided to put the agenda to a vote, when his agenda was soundly defeated, he announced the end of the meeting, got up, and left.

The Consejo decided that this was a grave error and in his absence, dismissed him and elected a new Rector of the University.  The other Rector held a press conference and declared himself to still be Rector because once the meeting is declared to be over, no binding decisions can be made.

Meanwhile, the new Rector happens to be the Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, where all my students take their classes.  So a so-called student group, which is famously not composed of many students, took over the campus of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, kicked everyone out and blocked the doors.

Luckily, my students are new to town and had no idea what was going on.  The only one that was on campus on Friday afternoon was studying in the library.  She was told to leave, but she just thought that the library closed very early on Fridays!

Today, I bought the paper again and the first Rector was giving a press conference when he broke down in tears.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow and if the students are able to go to class.

Las olimpiadas

August 9, 2008

So, we are watching the Olympics and a couple things are striking to me.

I’m seeing sports on TV here that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.  Last night, Adolfo asked me what they were showing, he was in the kitchen, and I didn’t know the name of the sport!  I said, it looks kind of like basketball mixed with hockey and soccer.  He responded, “???” and then took a look at the TV and said, “oh, that’s handball.”  Who knew.

I’m not seeing as much of the US as I am of Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

The commentators are the same the world over.  Inane comments and bizzare “facts” are interspersed throughout the commentary.  The parade of nations at the opening ceremonies was particularly strange.  But, I did love the interview with the Mexican tourists who had shirts made which said in Chinese characters, “We’re from Mexico!” They said the Chinese were stopping in their tracks to read their shirts – hysterical.

Also, so far, there are no athlete sob stories.  No specials, no hallmark hour, just sports.

But, the best part of the Olympics, so far, is that there are hardly any commercials!  It seems like there are maybe 3 ads every half hour or so.  It’s excellent!