Tuesday, November 27, 2007


We took a trip to the woods near Amecameca on Saturday. This area southeast of the city and at the foot of the "Popo" volcano (among other explosive mountains just 4o miles outside of the city limits) is gorgeous and felt worlds away from DF. Of course for some this is just another "exurb" --- one of our coworkers lives out this way and the dude commutes 2 hours on a bus to work one way. Every day. I guess it might be worth it just for the views? But the reason for our drive this past weekend wasn't simply the pretty scenery. It was time to get a Christmas tree!

As many of my friends and family know, Thanksgiving is simply a holiday celebrating the day before the Christmas season. So as soon as we finished up our neighborhood potluck on Thursday, I was itching to get a tree and string up the lights. I was thrilled to find out about Bosque de los Arboles de Navidad in Amecameca --- basically a Christmas tree farm. With a petting zoo featuring deer. And a lot of barbecue rabbit shops. We skipped the deer-petting and the barbecue, and headed straight for the "vikingos." On entry to the woods, we were given a saw and some instructions on finding a perfect tree. There are acres and acres of them. The air was fresh and even a little bit brisk, and the tips of the volcanoes on the horizons were snow-covered. LouLou and I were thrilled to be outside in Christmasland, and started on our hunt immediately. I was looking for a Douglas fir, LouLou was looking for lizards.

LouLou doesn't quite get the point of the outing

Along with the supplied saw, a crew of 10-15 year old boys were milling around ready to help us bag the tree. They reminded me of caddies at a golf course. Brandon approached us and helped us scout out a great tree, then promptly dragged it off and tied it to the top of our car. This was his second year working the trees so he was a real pro. Sergio tried to bluff his way through, but I think Brandon could tell this was his first time cutting down a tree...

"Did you bring Babe the Blue Ox with you today, sir?"

"Should I be helping him?"

"Nice yuppiemobile, gringos."

On the way back home with our 8-foot Douglas fir, we encountered some of the worst traffic so far. Our trip took us the expected 2 hours on the way there but a truly incomprehensible 3+ hours on the way home. Maybe because of things like this:

Jackass drivers.

Not to mention distractions like this open truckload of sides of beef---with a sleepy guy sitting in the back guarding it.

Kind of like "Rocky" except not inspirational.

After three grueling hours driving the 6o miles or so home, we put up our tree. It is a work in progress, but I'm delighted to report that it is looking pretty darn Christmas-y around our joint.

The other fun thing we did this past weekend: Doggy Beauty Shop!

Eventually LouLou realized she wasn't actually in a beauty shop but in fact in our home bathtub. She wasn't pleased.

But we are pleased to have our big, beautiful, hand-cut Tannenbaum right in our cozy apartment. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Dance with the Devil Dogs/Seeing Silver City

The United States Marine Corps just celebrated its 232nd Birthday and, news to us, that's celebrated wherever there are Marines. There's a bunch of them here in Mexico City guarding the US Embassy and so this past Saturday night Sergio and I got all dolled up and attended our first (and likely not our last) Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

We wear Black on the outside because...

It was a blast. The Ball began with the birthday ceremony. The Marines recited a prayer, sang a hymn, set a table for those MIA, paraded with flags , and then wheeled out a giant cake. The oldest Marine in attendance received a slice of birthday cake and then passed it to the youngest Marine. We kinda hoped they were going to feed each other the cake like a couple of strapping soldier newlyweds but no such luck. In fact, the whole event was very dignified and quite moving.

The ceremony was followed by dinner, mingling with coworkers and foreign officials and plenty of music. There was a whole mess of mariachis, and a bilingual pop/jazz ensemble. It's not often in life that you get to see a Japanese military dignitary and his wife line-dancing to a live version of "Achy-Breaky Heart" -- in Spanish.

Can you see her awesome dress?

But the best part may have been when the lights went down and the dj started with dozen or so Marines crashing onto the dance floor in full dress uniform to dance to that "Crank That" Soulja Boy song . It gave me chills!

It looked a lot like this, except with uniforms.

On Sunday, we headed out to Taxco, a silver mining town of about 100,000 people south of Cuernavaca. It was a pretty 2-hour drive. Taxco was bustling on Sunday, and it took us nearly another hour to find somewhere to leave the car so we could get out and see the city.

On the road into town, we passed a convent featuring this startling scene:

Traffic was a bear in Taxco; the city itself is nestled snugly among half a dozen hills with narrow cobblestone streets twisting up and down the hillside. The streets are so narrow that there's no room for sidewalks, and pedestrians crowd the roads blocking traffic as they poke around shopping and enjoying the scenery.

This bus driver had little patience for us.

Silver mining began here in the 1500s right after the Spanish came upon the town and figured out what was underneath. They stripped pretty much all of the silver out of the ground, yet it continues to be the chief silversmithing city in Mexico, and tons of wholesale jewelry is sold here in addition to the storefront work available to amateur shoppers like us.

As it turns out, Sergio and I aren't particularly interested in silver handiwork (whoops). After two or three stores, we had had our fill (there are over 3oo shops here!) and decided to check out the rest of town and call it a day.

This was the view from the roof where we ate lunch.

Santa Prisca was one of the grandest churches we've seen so far -- pink and elaborate and just stunning on a beautiful day (the photo doesn't give nearly all the details carved into the spires). The architecture was interesting here, lots dated from the 1700s and we saw more tile roofs here than we have seen in other parts of Central Mexico.

The climate here is year-round perfect as the abundant flowers reminded us. We strolled through the zocalo and soaked up some of the wonderful sunshine ourselves before heading back to the big, bad city.

Nope, that's not a parking lot -- it's the town's main thoroughfare. Traffic is just unavoidable in Mexico no matter where you go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Well there's nothing quite like Texas on a Saturday night

Central Texas wedding weekend, part deux. Our dear friends Brad and Abby tied the knot in the historic (and haunted?) Driskill Hotel in Austin. Sergio flew solo on this one so the trip was short and sweet.

The wedding was a charmingly traditional affair, with a folksy Texas pastor, a bride wearing a gorgeous veil and train, old folks dancing to "Sexyback" and of course, a Willie Nelson impersonator. My favorite part was that the guests were bid farewell with Shipley Do-nuts and Dan's Cheeseburgers...
If you're not from TX, forget it.

It was also good to see Jonathan P. Lee, a Norman, OK boy/diehard OU fan/noted college DJ, educated at UT as an accountant and now living in NYC.

Just call him Scrunch.

We don't have a ton of photos because Sergio was too busy having a fantastic time but it's always nice to see the Austin crew cleaned up and pretty.
Derek's hair will never be tamed.

It was a blast, and yet always a little sad to have to leave home again. One last trip to Central Market for apples and tortilla chips (courtesy of our other soon-to-be-married friend Aaron) and Sergio was back on a plane. Incidentally, DF looks nuts as you approach from the air in the daytime:

It starts looking like this a good twenty minutes before you reach the airport. I think that image is like, one neighborhood.

Anyhow, all of our love and best wishes to the happy couple. May every night of your life together be like the first...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dia Despues del Dia de los Muertos

So we had last Friday off and we were looking for a day trip destination and some folks had told us about Tepotzlan, a little town about an hour south of the city with the requisite plaza, church, and market but also its very own pyramid. The Lonely Planet guide said that the climb was a bit strenuous and was not recommended for anyone with "physical ailments" but we know from experience that the LP tends to be a bit alarmist about any physical activity so we weren't terribly concerned. We pulled into town around noon and had a typical Mexican lunch off the main plaza. The whole town was still decorated for last week's Day of the Dead festivities, so this guy greeted us in the main square:
Relax, he's not real.

And the restaurant where we had lunch was in the spirit too:

Apparently Tepotzlan has become a preferred destination amongst the New Age crowd (as one of our work colleagues described it, "Some say it's magic...") and as we strolled through town we noticed all sorts of incense, dream catchers, and other hippie crap. Someone passed us a flier for getting photographs taken of you aura. I guess having a pyramid in your town encourages such behavior.

So after we finished having our auras photographed, we made our way to the trailhead to climb up to the pyramid.

It took 90 minutes to get up there.

This climb was no Sunday stroll: it was more or less straight up along a very rocky trail, cut to the standard Mexican government level of safety and walkability, and it was really crowded. After the first 20 minutes or so we were pretty much sucking wind.

The trail just kept going. At one point we reached a crevasse, after which we were certain had to be the summit. Instead it opened into another level of steady ascent.

Right before the summit, just for good measure, they throw in a staircase
And a small memorial showing that someone actually died while taking this lovely little trip up the mountain

But after several more labored steps we did reach the top and the view was pretty impressive:
Note the swooping condor. That's a real effect, people.

As for the pyramid itself, well apparently it serves the function of the not-yet-built Tepotzlan mall:
Dang teenagers.

One thing we've noticed as well about the Mexican people is that even a daunting physical task like this climb will not prevent any of them from coming out, no matter what their condition. While we were huffing an puffing our way up, we passed old grandmas, people carrying little kids on their shoulders, teenage girls in high heels, and of course a dude wearing leather pants. You've got to admire their tenacity for leisure.

After the climb down (which was much shorter wouldn't you know it?), we hit one last site in town, an old convent which features a mural over the main gate made entirely out of local seeds. It's remade by the townspeople every year.

Anyhow, we did actually enjoy the town, and the chance to get out of the craziness of DF even for just a few hours. After the hike, we found the best ice cream joint in town and rested our tired legs. Nothing like fresh strawberries and ice after a long afternoon trek.

Jeez, Sergio should probably shave more often.