Monday, September 24, 2007

Just kicking it.

A patriot at the Medical Supply Store.

So the rainy season is winding down here, and we're enjoying some really superb weather. It seems that a lot of folks think that we're boiling up down here, but the weather is actually great. It has yet to be above 85, or lower than 60. And there's not a lick of humidity.

As for a rundown of our week's adventures, we've been keeping pretty low-key lately. I've been going a little bananas on ebay which I will blame on the lack of estate sales and thrift shops here in town. Shopping here is pretty much split between piles of weird dimestore stuff in the street markets on one end and like Carolina Herrera and Roberto Cavalli on the other. None of it is exactly my cup of tea. The only thing in between is Zara. Lots and lots of Zaras. Anyway, my ebaying skills are still pretty amateur. For example, I just received a western style corduroy vest with matching high waisted pants that I don't quite remember bidding on. Yikes.

So besides virtual shopping, we've been up to the usual stuff: more nesting at the apartment (all the art is hung up!), more exploring the neighborhood (great new bakery just opened up with the crankiest ex-New Yorker, Syrian-Lebanese English-speaking foodie owner and we finally found a decent bookstore.) A few highlights: Saturday we went to a dinner party with some work folks. (My coworkers, too. I started a job this month. Hooray! ) The evening's dinner was hosted by a fellow Michigander with a smashing apartment closer to the "heart" of Polanco. The occasion for the party was the breaking of the fast after Yom Kippur. It was just a small group of us yet one guest had an Uncle who is a professor at Wesleyan, and another hails from my dad's family's stomping grounds in South Carolina, and another grew up in East Texas just down the way from Sergio. Needless to say, making small talk with this crew could not have been easier. It is a small world here in this big city.

Sergio and I spent Sunday checking out the San Juan market. It was fantastic! Finally, we have found a source for soy sauce not to mention wild mushrooms and some even wilder varieties of fish and fowl. This kind of threw me when I saw it outside the market doors:

Yep, those are baby goats. Cabrito. AKA barbecue. There was also a big bin of worms when we walked in too. Don't get me started on the little piggies.

We wandered around soaking up the sunshine all afternoon before hopping in a cab home. We tend to take a lot of pictures of this kind of thing:

Next weekend we're off to Oaxaca so some true travel reporting up next...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Give a grito if you don't hate freedom

This past weekend (September 16th) was Mexico's Independence Day and on Saturday night we went to the Zocalo to hear El Grito de La Independencia. Mexico's freedom as a nation began in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo rang the bell of his church in Guanajuato and implored his compatriots to rise up against the Spanish. Ever since 1910, his call to arms is reenacted by the current president from the balcony of the Presidential palace on the eve of Independence day (Why not on the 16th itself? Good question).

Since it's hard to imagine the U.S. President standing on the balcony of the White House every 4th of July and shouting "Long Live America!" we had to see this for ourselves. Getting there was a bit of a chore, as the streets surrounding the Zocalo were too clogged for taxis, and walking there subjected our group to the night's other venerable tradition: dousing people with spray foam as they walked by...

It's like snow, except gross.

It was all in good fun though, and we took it in stride.

Note: not a real moustache.

The kid on the left here had actually blasted me in the face with the very can in his hand just seconds before I took this picture. Charming little bastard, isn't he?

Finally, we got throught the gauntlet to the Zocalo for the thing itself. As you can see from my Zapruder-like videowork, it's pretty much exactly as advertised: the President shouts off a list of heroes before ending in multiple refrains of "Viva Mexico!" as the crowd goes wild.

Extra points to those of you who pick up the woman's voice at the end shouting "Viva tu madre..." Let's just say she was not a fan of the current administration.

Immediately afterwards, there was an amazing fireworks show. Since this is Mexico, it had to be very loud and much less safe. The explosions went off pretty much directly above our heads -- we literally could feel debris falling on our faces. It was awesome.
As for the day itself, we decided to run around town a bit but a lot of places were closed, naturally, since it's such a big holiday. Still, it was a gorgeous day to be out and the most memorable thing was this photo which was literally the view from our table in a coffee shop on the roof of a Sear's department store downtown:
Man this town is weird.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank goodness for futbol and familia!

This past week was a long one in Mexico City. I caught a cold, LouLou the Dog swallowed a nectarine pit and has been sick for days, it rained a lot, our last shipment from DC arrived in pieces inside a crushed wooden crate and we ordered the worst pizza in the world while watching the not-so-cheery movie "Half-Nelson" on our TV. Not to mention the MTV VMA awards fiasco. I know this hardly qualifies as one of history's toughest, but it was all still kind of a bummer. Did I mention that it has been really rainy? And that on the car ride home from our four hour long veterinary appointment (what's the deal with sick dogs lately?) we got a flat tire after driving through a huge crater in the middle of a main street in one of the fanciest parts of town?

But things are looking up: my cold went away, LouLou's vet is excellent, we're working on our insurance claims, Sergio is an awesome tire-changer and we have permanently lost the takeout menu for PizzaPoll. It is still raining a lot, but I hear the Smog Season is right around the corner, and it is supposed to be much drier!

Oh, and rumor has it that my job might begin as early as next week. And I've been able to add an additional Spanish class to my weekly schedule and am already seeing the results---I'm learning some verbs! I should soon be able to hold a conversation that goes beyond, " Yo soy abogada. You soy rubia. Yo soy de los Estados Unidos." Though I suppose that is quite a sum-up. So definitely, things appear to be on the upswing.

Besides, this past week did have some real highlights.

First, I attended my first Mexican soccer game. Saturday we went to see Cruz Azul, a DF team, play Pachuca, the reigning champ team from just up the road, north of Mexico City.

Sergio's gang from work organized the outing, and we took the Metro just five stops from Polanco to see the game.

The Embassy crowd...

The metro, by the way, is 2 pesos which is about 20 cents. And it goes everywhere.

We had pretty good seats, just to the left of the fan club section, made up almost entirely of 12-30 year old men. They kept up cheering, flag-waving, and taunting for the entire game. It looked pretty fun.

Apparently Cruz Azul and Pachuca have a long-standing rivalry, but it pales in comparison to the cross-city rivalries with Club America and the Pumas. We saw no real "hooliganism" though this sign posted in front of the rowdy fans did seem to indicate some cause for concern:

One of my favorite parts of the game was seeing all the weird treats on offer by the stadium's vendors. No cracker jack or hot dogs, but loads of personal pizzas, cup o'noodles, popsicles, popcorn, donuts, tortas and my favorite, meringue cookies and cannoli! The little boys in front of us ordered nearly every one of these delights.

The hometown team, Cruz Azul, lost the game 2-1, but it was fun to watch and we were delighted to have stayed dry even though we saw some pretty ominous clouds for the entire second half:

We walked home through the crowds feeling under the protection of Mexico's Finest...

Sunday we headed over to Coyoacan to visit Sergio's cousin who very kindly invited us over for a meal. It is great to discover we have family just a short drive away. Hugo Jose and his wife, Katya, live in this south suburban area near the University with their three kids Joaquin, Canela and Anahi and Katya's mother, Loyra. No photos of the baby girls---they got tired of the adult conversation and were enjoying a siesta, and rightfully so!

The Suarez family couldn't have been more hospitable, and we enjoyed a great chicken dinner. Hugo Jose described his research in Mexico City --- he's a sociologist--- which sounded really interesting. They've lived in this city about as long as we have, having just moved from Guanajuato this summer. Hugo Jose is working on a project here involving studying people's religious experiences outside of the Catholic church. (His subjects still self-identify as Catholics even though their primary relationship with God is not mediated by the Church.) It sounds fascinating, and we also learned a little about a religious practice in Mexico called Santa Muerte , Saint Death, which seems especially interesting. Katya is a television journalist, and had the unique pleasure of interviewing Vicente Fox on-air for her news show. We were very interested in hearing all about this, and from what I gathered Mexican presidents are no more candid than our own.

The UNAM library, designed by Juan O'Gorman, 1953.

After dinner, Hugo Jose took us on a driving tour to see the University and some of the town. It was raining so we didn't get to walk around much, but we got enough of a look to realize that this area has a lot to see. Coyoacan has excellent bookstores, a lively street scene and the University has an amazing collection of architecture and some interesting places to see music---we will be back soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


The Houston crew rolled in for Labor Day weekend, bringing major heat from the Third Coast. Anson and Derek, aka the PJ's, are serious world travelers and two of my oldest friends. They (along with the lovely Ms. Rhia Pascua) set the agenda for their 4-day trek and we happily obliged.

First, it was Lucha Libre time. I had been meaning to do this myself basically from the moment I arrived here but had yet to find the right companions. I think you can count Lucha Libre as one of the few Mexican stereotypes that is actually firmly rooted in reality. They really do wear those masks, and it really is maybe the most popular form of entertainment in the country -- even rivaling soccer. Luchadores are not only entertainers but often become cultural icons in their own right: starring in films, serving as role models, and even advocating for social justice. The featured match on our bill was between El Hijo del Perro Aguayo and Universo 2000 but honestly I can't tell you for sure if we even saw that match because the whole thing was so chaotic. Most matches were 4-on-4 affairs featuring a variety of acrobatic and painful-looking leaps in and out of the ring and hapless referees seemingly unable to stop the blatant disregard of whatever rules happen to govern this "sport." After about 90 minutes we were entertained but pretty exhausted and ready to split. Believe it or not, there are only so many times you can see a 6'5" man in tights and a colored wrestling mask use a bullwhip on a midget in a turquoise gorilla suit before the whole thing starts to seem a little ridiculous.

One overpriced cab ride later, we were back at the crib.
The next day, we were off to the Pyramids. Now the old joke amongst ex-pats down here is to say "I had some friends in town this weekend so we went to the Pyramids. Again." And although we wouldn't go again on our own, it is fun to see other people's take on Teotihuacan, and they are always an awe-inspiring sight. So we were happy to go again, and the crew seemed to enjoy it greatly. And really, where else could you get potential album-cover images like this?
And for perspective:

And just for the hell of it, this woman there had a sweet JJ Evans-style Mexico hat that I had to respect.

For lunch we hit this Yucatecan place. Derek was the first to try the shark-meat empanadas.
"Mmm, that's good shark! "

A quick stop by the Zocalo, where there was an ongoing Communist Party rally, and preparations for the upcoming Independence Day celebration (note the flag doesn't even fit in the frame).

On a rooftop Condesa bar. Anson's feeling the absinthe. Derek and I, we always look like that.

A couple of hotties who went home with us.

The next day we did another DF institution that we had been meaning to try -- the floating gardens of Xochimilco. It's a neighborhood on the far southern part of the city that was the agricultural hub of the original Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. It's actually designated as a UNESCO World heritage site, and it is quite pretty in parts, but people mainly come to rent out pole-barges called trajineras and cruise around the lake drinking and watching other people do the same. We had a few kinks getting started -- such as when a large wooden piece of the boat fell on Rhia's head -- but overall with the flowers, the music, and the cold beer, we had a tranquil good time.

When you're hungry, food rolls up to your boat.

Or if you'd prefer, mariachis.

Rhia was a good sport about the whole head-trauma thing.

Also, there was this guy.

One final train ride home before sending the crew off the next morning.
Anson Lang, ladies. Get to know him.

Anyway, it was great to see the folks from back home and hopefully we'll see them back here soon. Hasta luego.