Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Many things

February 24, 2009

Well, many things have been happening and not much writing has been done.

I have been stalking the dried fava beans at the abastos market and I finally got up the nerve and bought about two cups.  Tonight, I made soup from my Diana Kennedy book and I think it turned out really good.  Sadly, I also found out that Adolfo detests dried fava bean soup and would not even try a bite.

My job has been kind of nuts lately, but mostly in a good way.  Hopefully, I will soon be planning a trip to Xalapa.

I went for the first round of wedding dress shopping, which was kind of horrible.  The first shop was comically horrible.  First, when the shop ladies found out I was shopping for a wedding dress, there were yelps and squeals of fake congratulations.  Then, I tried to explain that it would be a casual affair and I was not interested in dresses with sequins, rinestones, or other plastic crap.  She responded excitedly that it was “my day” and as the bride, no matter how casual, I was supposed to “shine” (with rinestones, apparently).

Also, a friend is beginning to study for the GRE and this morning we met to work on vocabulary.  We are thinking good thoughts about a Fulbright grant to the New School in NYC.

While all this is going on, I’ve managed to kill off a tomato plant and encouraged an aphid invasion.  So, the garden is not in tip top shape.

There are many more plans in the works.

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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.

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.

back on track

July 20, 2008

OK, I’ve gotten some things taken care of an am feeling a little bit less freaked out now. Work is taking up a lot of my time and the preparations for fall are going more or less smoothly. I need to make more cookies and some bread for breakfast, but those things will have to wait until the work is a little more stable and nailed down.

We are planning to go camping for a long weekend, hopefully next weekend, and I’m thinking of the things we might be able to eat while camping. I think that is going to count for our One-Year-in-Mexico anniversary celebration.

I keep thinking about making enfrijoladas and I want to see if I can replicate the success I had the first time I made them.

Happiness is…

May 30, 2008

…working from home.  Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize what I had been missing.

I can eat lunch with Adolfo almost every day.  And, this week, on the day I didn’t eat lunch with Adolfo, I was near my old office and ate lunch with my friends.

Fabulous.

It’s just that life got in the way…

May 27, 2008

There are too many things going on here. I left the old job, started the new job and was promptly whisked away to Xalapa, Veracruz. I’m back in Guadalajara now and still working on getting settled into the new job, which is fabulous (in case you were wondering). Things are good and the blogging fell by the wayside.

The review of Xalapa is that is was great. Adolfo came with me and we really liked the town.

Xalapa is also spelled Jalapa, but pronounced the same – an H sound like in HOT. The people there are called Jalapeños. Guess what kind of chile they are known for producing….. Xalapa is not on the coast, but up a bit in the mountain side, but not far enough to get cold. It is pretty warm this time of year and humid like a Missouri summer. Nearby there are coffee farms and a lot of the business moves through town. It is also the capital of the state of Veracruz and the site of the main campus of the Universidad Veracruzana. It is known as a university town and it seemed to live up to that reputation. Veracruz is a long thin state on the Gulf Coast and is know for its port, fish dish (pescado a la veracruzana), humidity and transvestites. There is an oft repeated saying that the best looking women in Veracruz are men.

We stayed in a very nice (but not expensive) hotel called the Posada del Cafeto and they had coffee trees growing on the grounds. (that sounds like a pun, but wasn’t meant to be) In short time, we found two places to eat which we became very fond of over the 5 days we were there.

One was a local institution called La Sopa, which is located in Callejón del Diamante. We ate dinner there one night and had enfrijoladas, which play on the same concept as enchiladas, that is – they are tortillas pulled through a refried black bean sauce and rolled or folded over some shredded chicken and sprinkled with a hard salty cheese. They are obviously more filling than enchiladas, which are tortillas pulled through a chile sauce. So, Adolfo and I split one order and felt very good about that decision. I later ate there again and had a Pollo Manchamantel which was excellent. It was a chicken thigh covered in a chile sauce, like a type of mole. Manchamantel means “tablecloth stainer” so I had to drop my fork down the front of my shirt for the proper chile stained effect.

The other favorite place to eat in Xalapa is a relatively new café called La Galaria Barragán, which seems to occasionally have art exhibits. While we were there they were changing the exhibit. We spent a lot of time in this café and the second time we stopped in the cook recognized us. We had a chat with him about the menu and his experience working and cooking in Puerto Vallarta and he told me to send him a message the next time I am in town and he will reply with the menu for the day. Excellent! The only thing the Galaria Barragán is missing is a properly functioning internet connection.  Hopefully, when I return in August, it will be up and running.

We also went to the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, or MAX, which is pretty impressive.  It is known as one of the best museums in Mexico.  The museum houses 7 giant Olmec carved stone heads and they are really stunning.

I will probably be traveling to Xalapa 3 times a semester, which means I should get to know town pretty well.
I still haven’t seen the market or the other museums in town.  I’m looking forward to going back.

Chayote Soup

May 3, 2008

Well, a lot has happened in the last week or so. Adolfo got the worst cold I have witnessed (including a nasty fever) and I had a really rough week at work, resulting in me quitting my job. The same day I quit my job, I got an email letting me know that a job in my field was being created in Guadalajara. I have my second interview on Wednesday and if all goes well, the day after my last day of work at my current job (I gave them two weeks) I’ll start at my new job. Fingers crossed, of course.

I’m having a four-day weekend, due to Labor Day (May 1st) falling on a Thursday. And, now I’m feeling sick. It’s just a runny nose and general exhaustion, but it still stinks. Adolfo is mostly recovered. We’ve been taking a lot of naps.

I made a really great Chayote Soup from epicurious.com to try and cure my nose through spicy food. It didn’t work, but the soup was better than I expected.

I changed it a little, based on what I had and how much effort I was willing to put into it. So, I’m giving you the revised recipe below:

Chayote Soup

½ onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small chile Serrano chopped
½ tablespoon butter
2 chayotes, peeled, quartered and pitted, cut into large dice (2 ½ cups)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I had leftovers of both and tossed them in.)

Cook onion, garlic and chile in butter over medium low heat for several minutes until onion is clear. Add chayotes, cilantro and cook for another 2 minutes. Add broth and simmer, covered until chayotes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Purée soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (be careful blending the piping hot soup) maybe for 1 full minute for each batch. Taste for salt.

This soup is spicy and a lovely green color. I think it would probably be good with a little dollop of sour cream, but I didn’t have any on hand for testing.

Life plans

March 11, 2008

I have had quite a few of those “what am I doing with my life” moments since arriving here. Most of them are answered with certainty and a smile; however, the job front seems to get more and more uncertain.

A few weekends ago, Adolfo, a friend and I had a long discussion about this. What my friend called a therapy session with a few bottles of wine. I confessed that I’m a little bit lost.

I originally got into this line of work because I wanted to help create better citizens of the United States; citizens who were worldlier and culturally competent. Young people who would return from their experience and be inspired to continue learning languages, or learn more about migrants, the incarcerated, or poor in their own country and do something to make the situation better.

I knew exactly why I was doing my job.

I am less sure of what I am currently doing.

They had several suggestions but they boiled down to one – they think I should teach. I was always sure I didn’t want to teach. Now I’m less sure of that.

In fact, I’m a lot less sure about most everything related to jobs. One of the things I told my friend was that in the States, I knew what the options were and where. I knew what the paths were to reach the goals I had. Now, I don’t know what all the options are, or where they are, or even how to get to them and I seem to have lost track of my professional goals.

Some people think I should teach, other people mention writing a book. I am viewing both these options with a romanticism that I just don’t think is very realistic.

My current job is ok and I am fine for the moment, but I can’t see my future there and it doesn’t help that everyone has a Plan B in case of getting fired. I feel like I should be getting my Plan B together.

That time of year again…

December 20, 2007

Ack, it’s time for the Christmas panic!

Today is my first day off from work and wow; it has been a rough couple of weeks. Last week, I was working 12-hour days almost every day and I was not in the office, which means that this week I had horrible email backlog. Combined with the craziness that was the last two days when many people in the office (including me) thought we were going to lose our jobs. Not because of my boss, but because of an edict issued from the Rector. All became right with the world about 5pm yesterday when my boss came back from battle (at the Rectoria) and told us that no one was getting fired.

So, needless to say, I haven’t written any Christmas cards, many people sent me very nice birthday wishes and I did not respond, and Adolfo has been asking if I forgot about him. Basically, I just fell out of communication with the world. (By the way, I will respond to your emails and thank you for the birthday wishes!)

Adolfo finished his semester teaching and has a few projects in his other job, but all the jobs were winding down for him during the last two weeks. Which was great, because he was able to do all the things at home that needed to be done, like the grocery shopping and mailing a box to my family, feeding me dinner when I returned home zombie-like.

There is no Christmas tree, there are no cookies and you’ll be getting your Christmas card for Groundhog Day.

(Let the vacations begin?!?!)

Work Related

November 14, 2007

This one is for Amanda because I finally decided to write about something that happens at work.

There are many things that are different from my jobs in the same field in the states and there are also many differences, as you would suspect. However, in the last couple weeks, one of the differences has caught me off guard and made me think about how human relations are difference between countries like the US (Canada, UK, etc.) and countries like Mexico (Spain, France, other Latin American countries, etc.).

A couple weeks ago, my students started kissing me.

You see, all girls kiss other girls they know or meet, on the cheek (once, lean left). Girls also kiss other boys they know or meet, on the cheek. Boys do not kiss other boys, but may give a very masculine one or two-pat hug if they know each other well.

So being a girl, and getting to know some of my students better than others, some of them have started to kiss me.

For some reason, it is shocking to me, and while I rarely get faked out in social settings, I have misread some of the students leaning in for the kiss.

I was ready for the handshake; I had handshake-relationships with students in the states. But, under no circumstances did the handshake lead to a kiss on the cheek.

On one hand, it’s very nice and I know that they feel they know me better, now that I have been working with them for a month or so. On the other hand, I can’t seem to mentally prepare and I just keep feeling awkward, then I hesitate and they think I don’t want to kiss them, and then they hesitate once I recover and it just ends up being weird.

Also, they are the youngest people I am kissing these days. Everyone else (our friends) are long out of school and are much more confident people.

The students seem young and insecure, except for one, who is very exuberant and practically grabs me by the shoulders and kisses me. SHE is also more mature than some of my other students (her parents don’t live in Guadalajara and she lives alone, she has a very different style of dress, she is doing different types of studies), she has a LOT of confidence.

I like that my students are feeling more close to me, I just have to prepare myself for the lean.