Thursday, January 31, 2008

January ends. Nothing to report.

It's been a slow, work-heavy week. Last weekend was real low-key for us after our beach trip the weekend before and in anticipation of our trip to Chiapas this weekend. As such, this post will just be a bunch of pictures of LouLou.

Lamest. Post. Ever.

We did go to a colleague's Mardi Gras party, hence LouLou's new accessory. You don't want to know what she did to get those.

LouLou is especially excited about the coming Baby Moreno, since it gives her the first opportunity in her life to be not the dumbest member of our household. That should last at least a few weeks. In the meantime LouLou keeps herself occupied with her easy life at our house. Her favorite hobby is to play with her Kong, a gift from Derek and Rhia after they visited us last September.

This thing is awesome.

And that's about it. We'll end with a bunch of pics of LouLou chasing the Kong around the house because frankly, that's all she does for a lot of time during the day. And Sasha's mom Kathe will enjoy seeing it.

I feel strangely unsatisfied.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coco Loco in Acapulco

Last Saturday, we drove out of the D.F. and headed to the beach. Just 4 hours south of us lies Acapulco--the road is new and fast, without much traffic, but lots of toll fees. Before we knew it, we were pulling into the biggest baddest city on the beach.

Acapulco has a million people, glamorous beach resorts, a thriving night life and a very busy system of criminal syndicates. Basically, it's a Mexican Miami.

We had planned to stay out of the center of the city because our trip's purpose was centered around relaxing, not dodging beach vendors and hanging out at "the world famous" Carlos 'n Charlie's. We drove about 15 minutes past downtown to a small bay called Diamante where our hotel was hidden in a gated community of vacation villas.

Sergio managed the incredibly slow check-in at the hotel while Sasha gaped at the open-air lobby.

Perfect! It got even better as we strolled outside to find our room and saw how quiet our corner of the bay was. Soon enough we realized, hey, its hot outside. Awesome!

We heard something about it being cold in the U.S.?

Our room was big and sunny and simply furnished.

With a great view from the balcony:

After eating some lunch, we hopped to it and headed down to the little slice of private beach that would be our home for the weekend.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading our books in the shade, poking our heads out from under the canopy to get some sun and take a dip every once in a while. Our biggest effort of the day turned out to be taking a ridiculously overpriced taxi up the mountain to a "Mex-Thai" restaurant -- Sergio made the mistake of calling it "Thai-Mex" and was quickly admonished. The place featured over-the-top decor and over-the-top Eastern European call girls at the table next to us. See, this town is totally Miami!

On Sunday we drove to Pie de la Cuesta, a beach town that had come highly recommended by our neighbors Joe and Lisa. He's Australian so we suspect he liked the place for its gnarly waves and expansive sandy beach. We liked it because there were dudes like this waiting to greet us:

"My horse's mane is too beautiful for you. Or is it just beautiful enough?"

Other than the beach cowboys, there weren't many people at all and we enjoyed ourselves in relative solitude.

It was crazy hot outside, and we attempted to cool off with one of the local beverages:

Lukewarm coconut milk = not refreshing.

Sergio ventured into the water while Sasha watched nervously, mumbling about riptides.

He managed the water okay, but Sasha was somewhat vindicated when we returned to work on Tuesday to find our colleague with a giant black eye he sustained from bodysurfing in this exact location. Yep, the Pacific Ocean will totally punch you in the eye. Sergio was lucky.

Lucky? I punch back.

We spent the rest of Sunday looking fruitlessly for a place to buy what we have termed "acapulco chairs," these patio chairs that we covet but which are apparently not found in say, Acapulco. Sigh. (Note: one of Sasha's favorite pastimes is to shop for things that might not actually exist in reality. She's passed this on to Sergio.) Mission aborted, we lounged around in defeat by the swimming pool back at the hotel.

Monday morning we raced down to the beach at the hotel to squeeze in some more relaxing before check-out. We were the first folks down there other than some fishermen.

Well, fishermen who also offer water skiing (repeatedly). We passed.

Who needs watersports?

We were too busy frolicking in the surf and reading our enormous books about LBJ's early career in Washington and turn of the century Chicago labor radicals.


All in all, we left Acapulco on Monday rested and rejuvenated, just like they say you're supposed to feel after a beach vacation.

We enjoyed a very pleasant drive back home and even enjoyed a stop at McDonald's for something called a McFlurry. (Do you know they don't sell those hot fudge sundaes anymore? Or at least not in Mexico? Major bummer.) We could have parked in this spot:

That's because Sasha's pregnant. To sum up, it has been a blessedly uneventful 5 months or so of "expecting" and we're either having the baby on May 30th or June 3rd (or more likely neither one since the range of dates we've heard for the due dates suggests the fruitlessness of predicting this kind of thing). We know the sex but we can't tell you on here cos Sergio's mom wants to be surprised.

Sasha trying really hard to look like a pregnant lady.

So keep the soon-to-be-three Morenos in your thoughts and prayers. And if you can, send Sasha some new pants.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Still no vay-cay

Puerto Marques! But that's next weekend's news...

There was no fun in the sun this past weekend, but it was still pretty fun-- to sum it up: party, party, surprise visitors!

First, our colleague Perla celebrated her 25th birthday (remember that one?) this past Friday with a group dinner at a neighborhood restaurant followed by karaoke with a crowd. Sasha bailed early after the restaurant (which included an item on the menu called "Strawberries in Chocolate Pajamas!") but Sergio made it to the karaoke where he claims he was dragged on stage by strangers who insisted that he perform back-up vocals for a faded Mexican pop star (Perla was apparently very jealous). Sergio doesn't have any photos to prove it, but he did snap a few of the karaoke set-up with the birthday girl. Apparently karaoke here includes a full live band!

On Saturday, we went to an afternoon party hosted by Sasha's cubicle neighbor, Elizabeth, who is living it up while her husband is here on leave (at last) from his 1-year post in Baghdad. They have a great house in the suburbs and they had put on quite a spread. We were delighted to see that the Hanukkah sombrero we had purchased for the Festival of Lights Gift Swap had made its way into her home decor!

She looks as surprised as we were.

Even better was the afternoon entertainment: a Brownie troop's live dance concert on the back patio!
Very confusing. We think one of the girls was playing Death.

On Sunday we walked to the always impressive Auditorio Nacional to take care of some ticket business:
Sasha had been reading over someone's shoulder on the bus earlier in the week that Bob Dylan was making his first appearance in Mexico in decades. We had just watched a lot of Bob Dylan documentaries on the Netflix and decided we would like to be in attendance for his "Never Ending Tour," especially in as groovy a setting as this 195o-something auditorium. We're predicting it will be way more civilized than Sasha's only previous Dylan show experience at a converted train depot in Dublin, Ireland. At any rate, Bob's not getting any younger.

It's a wonder that he still knows how to breathe.

But first, we got to spend an evening with another singing sensation, Cousin Leila:

Remember her from our wedding?

Professor Leila was in town for a conference sponsored by the Organization of American States on education policy. Leila brought along a Canadian colleague (and Michigander!) for dinner at El Bajio (mmm, carnitas...) where we had a great time catching up on Duenas family gossip and the Mexican public school system. The Michigander exchanged yooper stories with Sasha.

And now, we're just crossing the days off until Saturday when we drive out of town to enjoy a nice long holiday doing very little at Puerto Marques bay. So stay tuned for a full account of our first shared experience at a bonafide beach resort. Will we love it? Time will tell...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A very piggy Christmas

Wow, it's been a long time since we updated but seriously the holidays were nuts. We assumed it would be pretty quiet since we weren't going anywhere ourselves and many of our neighbor-colleagues would be gone. Instead we could barely keep up. It was pretty great.

First, Sergio's parents came for Christmas. This was a pretty big deal since Sergio is pretty sure that they have never spent Christmas outside of Texas at least in his lifetime. Mexico City and its 20 million habitantes would normally be pretty daunting for even the most seasoned travelers but the elder Morenos felt pretty confident that they knew the place because after all, how much could it have possibly changed since they were last here? (That was 1974).


In honor of their visit, and to do something special for the Christmas day feast, Sergio decided to prepare a dish he had always wanted to tackle: whole roasted suckling pig, or lechon as it's called in this part of the world. "Suckling" is the operative word because the key is that the piglet is so young that it has not yet been weaned from its mother (note: highly un-vegetarian pictures coming up).

The goal was to turn this:

Into this:

And to not poison any of our immediate family members in the process. We are happy to report that this goal was more or less achieved, with a lot of help from Sergio's folks and not much help from Sasha. She pretty much checked out of the process from the beginning, preferring not to engage in the senseless manipulation of an innocent mammal in celebration of the birth of our savior. Can't think of any reason why...

Oh, right, that's why.

The critter was roasted regardless, and presented on the table with the cartoon-style apple in its mouth (we expected Tom and Jerry to come chasing each other across the table and ruin everything at any second). To prove the supreme tenderness of the final result, Sergio attempted the old trick where you cut it with a dinner plate instead of a knife. When that didn't work, his mother had to step in.

Point is, pig was made, pig was eaten. God bless us, everyone. Later that night, Sergio and his mother had a special bonding moment where they were carving the remains and found the little pig brain. Real hallmark moment, you had to be there.

Full of slow-roasted pork, it was time to open gifts. We had quite a bounty, as Sergio's mother had accumulated gifts from his family, and Sasha's family had sent their gifts ahead of time by mail. We were especially pleased with a carving-knife set from Aunt Margaret, and an authentic indigenous woman's hat from Bolivia, which actually looks like it belongs to one of the Fat Albert's gang.

He-ba-lobah ebry-body.

We were also happy to receive tons of fantastic American products. Once again to anyone who plans to visit us (and all of you should): bring American food. If you don't know what to bring, we will let you know. Because you all want Sasha to look like this:

Completely authentic reaction shot.

The best gift by far though, was the gift we gave to LouLou: a monogrammed reflecting jacket. Because nothing says "dangerous pitbull" like a fleece-lined jacket from Land's End with the word "LouLou" in cursive on the backside.

Beware of dog

For the next few days, we took it easy and saw our local Bolivian relatives again, down near UNAM.

Unbelievably nice people.

Hugo Jose took us around UNAM, where he works. For those of you who don't know it, UNAM is the largest university in Latin America. How big? Think of the University of Texas...times five. They take great pride in the place, understandably, and it is noted for having not only the stadium of the 1968 Olympics on its campus, but several amazing mural-covered buildings such as this one.

And on such a gorgeous day as it was, we were bound to run into a couple of co-eds canoodling on the quad:

Their major: love.

As soon as the Morenos split, we had the pleasure of hosting Sasha's college friends Leigh and Andrew, fresh off their family Christmas trip to Merida. They came in town to ring in the New Year with us.

That place sucks.

We had heard that DF was "dead" during the Christmas/New Year holidays but we had no idea how serious people were about that. On New Year's Eve, NOTHING was open -- not even the food court in the mall -- such that we actually went home and made spaghetti. It was a lovely evening, actually, and we capped it off by lighting these 3-foot sparklers that you can buy from any number of street vendors here for like a dollar. They make for awesome freaky photos:

Auld lang syne, dude, AULD LANG SYNE...

So that's it for our extended long-overdue catch-up post. We have lots to look forward to in '08, including our first trip to Acapulco! If mid-sixties American cinema is to be believed (and of course it totally is), either Sergio will become a cliffdiver/troubadour with Sasha as his smitten American sweetheart, or we will end up embroiled in a weekend-long, booze-filled, semi-physical fight a la Liz Taylor and Dick Burton. Either way, great photos to come.