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May, 2009:

Important world news from Mexico City’s finest, Publimetro

A new interruption from my wedding-reminiscing… I came across this pressing news article from Mexico City’s esteemed (??) free daily newspaper, Publimetro, on Friday. It was excellent fodder for a wee chat with my taxi driver as we sat in standstill traffic due to the stupid route he chose. He simply could not believe that they were making bras just for men in Japan, because there are so many bras already out there and so many pretty women to wear them.

Hey people, a free 32-page daily newspaper is not going to fill ITSELF with relevant articles...

Hey people, a free 32-page daily newspaper is not going to fill ITSELF with relevant articles...

For any non-Spanish-readers, my loose translation summary is basically: “Bras for men, a success”. Some Japanese company called WishRoom is selling 1,000 man-bras (bro? manssiere, fellow Seinfeld fans?) a month. To be clear, these aren’t bras for, ahem, larger men. Rather, these bras are apparently most popular with the 30-40-year-old executives subset, who like to wear them under their suits because the bras help them feel secure & relaxed. The man-bras cost about $30 USD and all come in cup size A. Apparently they have been flying off the shelves.  Check out the website for brilliant advertising that includes a hot shirtless man who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be caught dead in a manssiere, simply photoshopped behind various images of manssieres.

The other best part about this screen shot from Publimetro’s online version of the paper is the article in the upper left-hand corner entitled “Girl with Three Legs Born in Peru”. This is followed by the lower left-hand corner scoop of “Cambodian bids with fake money in protest” about a man who tried to buy Pol Pot’s sandals with $790k in counterfeit bills in protest against the Khmer Rouge regime.

Never a slow news day for the Publimetro, folks.

Our Wedding Mascots: Furry Coos

Packing for exciting trip to Huatulco tomorrow has taken precendence over a lengthy, super-riveting post about the day before our wedding last year in Glasgow. So as an interim step, please see below some pics of my favorite animal in Scotland, the furry coo. (perhaps more officially known as “Highland Cattle“) FYI, it is only the cutest cow ever. All these pics were taken at Pollock County Park, an amazing park south of the river that holds the esteemed Burrell Collection (one man’s collection of 9000+ pieces of art from all over the world), Pollock House (a gorgeous 18th century mansion), and some of the most amazing gardens I’ve seen in a while. But they can’t hold a candle to wet, matted cattle!

The majestic furry coo surveys his surroundings...

The majestic furry coo surveys his surroundings...

 

My brother Tim took a pic of the sign describing their names & pedigrees.

My brother Tim took a pic of the sign describing their names & pedigrees.

Here's one of the black puffballs + a few babies...

Here's one of the black puffballs + a few babies...

...and an overhead closeup of one taking a nap. :)

...and an overhead closeup of one taking a nap. :)

I tried to bond with one of the furry coos, in hopes that he would send his furry luck our way for the wedding.

I tried to bond with one of the furry coos, in hopes that he would send his furry luck our way for the wedding.

Flashback to Wedding Week in Scotland, Part 2

We tried to reenact the scene from Titanic as the boat pulled out of the harbor on Loch Lomond...
We tried to reenact the scene from Titanic as the boat pulled out of the harbor on Loch Lomond…

Let us continue on our Mexico detour begun yesterday with our ambitious bus trip into the Scottish countryside! As part of of dragging our family & friends over to Glasgow for our wedding, we wanted to make sure they saw a sufficient smattering of the things that make Scotland so amazing. Obviously that list could get pretty long, but we pared it down to lochs, whiskey, and castles. In a truly fingers-crossed moment that Tuesday morning one year ago, John & I both heaved a sigh of relief as the bus we’d hired blindly from the US rolled up in front of our hotel right on time. We had a tight agenda planned & no time to waste!!

The Carmann crew pre-boat cruise and pre-Herickhoff addition. ;)

The Carmann crew pre-boat cruise and pre-Herickhoff addition. ;)

First it was off to lovely Loch Lomond for an hour-long boat cruise on the Astina. We were there early enough to secure basically the whole front of the boat’s open upper deck for ourselves, and we proceeded to bask in the sunlight while circling around the loch. (Check out the song immortalizing this Bonnie Loch here on YouTube.)

All our schoolkids eating their cold lunches on the grounds of Glengoyne distillery!

All our schoolkids eating their cold lunches on the grounds of Glengoyne distillery!

Next stop: Glengoyne, Scotland’s “Most Beautiful Distillery”! Clearly no trip to Scotland would be complete without a whisky tour!! We took advantage of the beautiful scenery and ate our bagged lunch on the grounds around the distillery buildings. Cheers to Seb’s Cafe in Glasgow for packing us AMAZING mediterranean lunches to go, with freshly-baked bread & tasty spinach/feta pastries. Sooo tasty.

 

Several happy whisky-tasters assessing Glengoyne's finest!

Several happy whisky-tasters assessing Glengoyne's finest!

After our lunch break, we headed in to meet the Glengoyne folks & kick things off with a whisky tasting! (Well, at least everyone who had fully recovered from the night before…) This was followed by a brief tour of the whisky-making process, where we were amused several times at the lack of overly-anal safety precautions that one might expect in the US (i.e. go ahead & touch the 500-degree copper cauldron if you’re stupid; be our guest!). Eventually we dragged everyone out of the overly-alluring gift shop…

Tanya tried to hang back to sneak a taste straight from the copper stills...

Tanya tried to hang back to sneak a taste straight from the copper stills...

Posing with a few sacrificial barrels outside the distillery

Posing with a few sacrificial barrels outside the distillery.

Our first view of Stirling Castle towering over the countryside!

Our first view of Stirling Castle towering over the countryside!

And the final stop on our bus tour: the imposing Stirling Castle, located about an hour north of Glasgow in Stirling. As per the website, “It towers over some of the most important battlefields of Scotland’s past including Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace’s victory over the English in 1297, and Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated the same foe in the summer of 1314.” Quite a storied past!! I think good times were had by all wandering around the amazing stone buildings & taking photos of each other looking quite majestic. :)

The happy couple inside the Castle

The happy couple inside the Castle

One of the many amazing views from atop the Castle

One of the many amazing views from atop the Castle

We even briefly got to be King & Queen inside the Great Hall...

We even briefly got to be King & Queen inside the Great Hall...

The Scottish appeared to have chosen a sufficiently-rugged spot to build a castle on...

The Scottish appeared to have chosen a sufficiently-rugged spot to build a castle on...

EVERYTHING in Scotland is sooo green, with purple heather scattered about.

EVERYTHING in Scotland is sooo green, with purple heather scattered about.

Here's me trying not to fall down as bus driver Andy whipped around the curvy roads of Scotland, while sharing riveting comments with the first 4 rows that could hear me

Here's me trying not to fall down as bus driver Andy whipped around the curvy roads of Scotland, while sharing riveting comments with the first 4 rows that could hear me

The bus tour turned out to be a wild success, with all our visits running smoothly & offering much more relaxation than driving a rented car on the wrong side of the road! We returned to Glasgow for dinner in Merchant Square, a fun pseudo-courtyard that once held Glasgow’s Fruit Market and now is home to a number of bars & restaurants. A few ambitious folks finished up the night at Blackfriars, an excellent pub offering numerous beers on tap + cask ales as well as live music. More to follow soon! (And thanks to Marcia/Larry/Heidi/Scott for some of the above pics!)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

…to bring you a flashback to one year ago today in Scotland! I realized that I never really shared many of the pics from our wedding in Glasgow or the pre-wedding-week activities, so I thought we’d take a quick departure from Mexico across the pond over to Scotland!

Note to self: if you ever want to get a big group of guys into a dance club, have them wear the coolest Scottish hats ever.

Note to self: if you ever want to get a big group of guys into a dance club, have them wear the coolest Scottish hats ever.

First, the precursors: John’s Bachelor Party in Washington DC, where the boys all donned the famous “See You Jimmy” Scottish hats.

 

 

 

Yay for candy necklaces and tiaras!!!

Yay for candy necklaces and tiaras!!!

And Julie’s Bachelorette Party in Boston where we dined like queens and drank with all the tacky bachelorette accoutrements a girl could ask for. :)

80% of the bridal party has arrived! And yes-- my cousin is even taller than me!!

80% of the bridal party has arrived! And yes-- my cousin is even taller than me!!

 

 

But the official festivities began on May 18 with a welcome dinner at The Firebird gastropub in Glasgow’s West End. We had a fantastic welcome dinner of pizza, pasta, salad and hearty Scottish beers. I had the opportunity to wear the girl-kilt that John’s grandmother passed on to me, made of the family’s Farquharson tartan! Very exciting.

Here's the crew trotting through Kelvingrove Park to the university.

Here's the crew trotting through Kelvingrove Park to the university.

Monday morning we were up bright and early (most of us at the bargain-priced Sandyford Hotel) for a tour of the University of Glasgow, kindly arranged by our lovely friend Emily. GU is where I studied abroad my sophomore year of college, after which I was hard pressed to return to life in possibly-less-exciting Ames, Iowa. The university itself dates back to 1451, and the campus is a stunning mix of green spaces and gothic architecture.

The entrance to the university tower staircase gives you a feel that this was not meant for Carmann/Herickhoff-sized people...

The entrance to the university tower staircase gives you a feel that this was not meant for Carmann/Herickhoff-sized people...

We were lucky enough to score tours of both the University Tower/Main Building and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh House, one of my personal favorites. The Tower offers great views of the whole West End of Glasgow– if you are able to survive the 236 steps of the winding stone staircase to get to the top! Check out some of the city views from the Tower below & other shots of the university. (You will note the amazingly clear skies we were blessed with the entire week–not a drop of rain until the day AFTER our wedding. Needless to say, do not count on this if you take a trip to Scotland!!)

A view of the Kelvingrove Musem & park in Glasgow

A view of the Kelvingrove Musem & park in Glasgow

The Carmann & Herickhoff crew enjoying the breeze after a sweaty climb up...

The Carmann & Herickhoff crew enjoying the breeze after a sweaty climb up...

Birdseye view of the cloister courtyard of the university's main building

Birdseye view of the cloister courtyard of the university's main building

More of the lush green parklands around the University...with the convention center in the background, affectionately known as the Armadillo

More of the lush green parklands around the University...with the convention center in the background, affectionately known as the Armadillo

What is a trip to the UK without a photo with the red phone booths?? :)

What is a trip to the UK without a photo with the red phone booths?? :)

Here's the stunning University Chapel, where we briefly considered tying the knot

Here's the stunning University Chapel, where we briefly considered tying the knot

Off to squeeze ourselves onto the miniature subway of Glasgow at the Hillhead stop!

Off to squeeze ourselves onto the miniature subway of Glasgow at the Hillhead stop!

The remainder of our Monday afternoon in Glasgow was at our guests discretion. Some did the open-top bus tour, some visited the Glasgow Cathedral, some experienced the Glasgow Underground system (better known as “Clockwork Orange” for its bright hue & its circular layout).

John took advantage of the night out to get a few final kisses in before the big day.

John took advantage of the night out to get a few final kisses in before the big day.

After a brief rest, many of us ventured off to Ashton Lane, a fantastic wee strip of bars & restaurants just west of the University. We started off at favorite Irish pub Jinty McGinty’s, and then moved on to Bar Brel for tasty Belgian beer offerings.

Stone-cold sober, this crowd, folks. Stone cold.

Stone-cold sober, this crowd, folks. Stone cold.

Here is the Scooby Snack, hiding in its lair.

Here is The Maggie's finest: a Scoobie Snack, hiding in its lair.

Although there was initial talk of moving onto a club due the early closing time of pubs in Scotland, John & I wisely managed to steer interest away from more drinking and instead towards the best drunk food you may ever find. We slowly herded cats towards a vending truck known as “The Maggie” parked at a nearby busy intersection (Byres Road & Great Western Road).

Warning: Eating a Scooby Snack may cause tears of joy or horror, depending on how cognizant you are of what you are ingesting.

Warning: Eating a Scoobie Snack may cause tears of joy or horror, depending on how cognizant you are of what you are ingesting.

The Maggie is famous for its Scoobie Snacks, a creation that consists of 6 items: a hambuger pattie, a sausage pattie, bacon, a fried egg, cheese, and a potato scone, all stuffed into a bap (aka bun). Needless to say, this is the epitome of the “Seemed like a good idea at the time” food genre. :) But regardless, all diners were pleased and clearly agreed with us that this is a “must do” on any visit to Glasgow.

Nothing says "classy wedding trip" like gathering around the back end of a food truck for a photo of you & several wedding party members eating your weight in grease.

Nothing says "classy wedding trip" like gathering around the back end of a food truck for a photo of you & several wedding party members eating your weight in grease.

Tune back in tomorrow for further reenactments of John & Julie’s Wedding Trip to Scotland, one year ago this very week!

El Chopo: Mexico City’s goth/metal/ska/punk mercado!

Last week my boss tipped me off to TWO new Mexico City markets with which I was previously unfamiliar:

  1. Tianguis Cultural del Chopo, a Saturday-only market dedicated towards all things rock/alternative/punk/ska/goth/weed/hippie
  2. Centro Artesanal Buenavista, “La Tienda Mas Grande del Pais con 100,000 articulos finos en 24,000 mts2″ (The largest store in the country with 100,000 fine items in 258,000 square feet)

These two mercados are located right next to each other, both fascinating in their own way & definitely worth a couple hours spent on a Saturday afternoon. Also, they are easily accessible via public transit– take the Metro to the Buenavista stop on the gray line B, or the Metrobus up Insurgentes to the Buenavista stop (just a bit north of Reforma).

The “cool” prize definitely goes to El Chopo. Their website (may I interject– well done you, tianguis [street market] with a trendy, informative website!) has a great history in Spanish. In a nutshell, the market’s been around for nearly 29 years and you can find “CDs, DVDs, records, goth clothes, sweatshirts, punk fashion, stickers, artsy stuff, live bands ploaying, emo, metal gear, urban, jamaican style, fotographic exhibitions, band members wandering around, and all that you’ve imagined in only one place!”  Additionally, the people watching (which is good in Mexico City to begin with) may rank on the “excellent” scale here. (On that front, my photos pale in comparison to one depicted above from their website, contributed by user “massiel”.) We did not have the priviledge of observing any dachsund-licking during our visit, not even dachsund-licking by flat-haired people. [Editor’s note: the Chopo website seems to have taken a dirt nap. Sorry…]

I discovered reading the website tonite that you are *supposed* to get badge to take photos in El Chopo, but we somehow managed to snap a few pictures without incident. Of course, their website also requests that drugs and alcohol not be consumed in the market, and a few sniffs of the air indicated those rules weren’t being followed tooo closely…so perhaps these are all just *suggestions*…. 😉

El Chopo pics below followed by Centro Buenavista.

Ahh ska... how you remind me of my college days, when I tried to learn how to skank (ska dancing) to impress my freshman year boyfriend, until finally I realized that everyone looks like an idiot doing it.

Ahh ska... how you remind me of my college days, when I tried to learn how to skank (ska dancing) to impress my freshman year boyfriend, until finally I realized that everyone looks like an idiot doing it.

John does his best, government-employee "tsk tsk tsk" glare towards the marijuana-decorated backpacks.

John does his best, government-employee "tsk tsk tsk" glare towards the marijuana-decorated backpacks.

It is basically only a matter of time before I break down and buy one (or more) of these lucha libre mascara keychains...

It is basically only a matter of time before I break down and buy one (or more) of these lucha libre mascara keychains...

On the end of the mascara spectrum, we have these slightly more severe masks... I will leave up to your imagination what is happening there on the left...

On the other end of the mascara spectrum, we have these slightly more severe masks... I will leave up to your imagination what is happening there on the left...

Third time's the charm: these were my favorite masks-- some enterprising merchant capitalizing on the conflicting need for healthy precautions + style with wittily-decorated flu facemasks (the sign read tapabocas de moda-- fashionable facemasks).

Third time's the charm: these were my favorite masks-- some enterprising merchant capitalizing on the conflicting need for healthy precautions + style with wittily-decorated flu facemasks (the sign read tapabocas de moda-- fashionable facemasks).

You can even find heavy metal vintage Playboy mags...

You can even find heavy metal vintage Playboy mags...

I was entertained by the "McMuerte" logo (McDeath) until I remembered that I don't have any clothes/bags/coats to iron decals onto...

I was entertained by the "McMuerte" logo (McDeath) until I remembered that I don't have any clothes/bags/coats to iron decals onto...

All the clothing you could possibly need for your next rave, seduction, or re-enactment of The Matrix.

All the clothing you could possibly need for your next rave, seduction, or re-enactment of The Matrix.

As well as all the studded bracelets and animal print belts you were hoping for...

As well as all the studded bracelets and animal print belts you were hoping for...

And as per usual, we blended in seamlessly.

And as per usual, we blended in seamlessly.

After buying some random purses made out of old records at El Chopo, we moved on to Centro Artesanal Buenavista. I was expecting another massive outdoor market, but this one surprised us by subtly lurking in the goddamn biggest low-ceilinged warehouse I have ever seen. The “What the Hell is Going On Here” prize definitely goes to Buenavista. 

First to clarify, this is not a traditional artisan market; rather a freaking-massive store. I still expected it to be bustling with people, the way every other artisan market tends to be around here on a sunny Saturday afternoon. NO. Not even close.

I think we were one of three other couples in the 250,000+ square foot store for almost the whole time we were in there. At least 50% of the overhead flourescent lights were off. If it hadn’t been for the occasional lurking store employee, I would have been convinced that we either had gotten locked in a 70’s department store afterhours, or we had walked into the movie Mannequin. Only the mannequins didn’t look like Kim Cattrall. They looked like this: 

Did someone install this mannequin's eyes upside down? And if this is a boy, should he really be wearing that much eyeliner?

Did someone install this mannequin's eyes upside down? And if this is a boy, should he really be wearing that much eyeliner?

and this:

I anticipate this mannequin being featured on the Mexican spinoff of "What Not to Wear: Your Kids"

I anticipate this mannequin being featured on the Mexican spinoff of "What Not to Wear: For Kids"

 and these two terrifying gems: a surprisingly tall hand-less male mannequin wearing what can only be described as a “doo-rag”, and a bald, handless female mannequin who appears to be in ecstacy despite that fact that her wig is lying behind her in a pile that best resembles a long-haired guinea pig.

As you can see, the well-lit clothing section was simply mobbed with people wanting to take advantage of this great assortment of ponchos

As you can see, the well-lit clothing section was simply mobbed with people wanting to take advantage of this great assortment of ponchos

I was also struck by the liberal use of space in a country where most stores fill every available inch with saleable merchandise. It felt both wasteful and luxurious (?) to see individual plates displayed on massive, astroturfed, Teotihuacan replicas:

It almost felt like I was at Aztec ruins...if the Aztecs had degrees in Turf Grass Management...

It almost felt like I was at Aztec ruins...if the Aztecs had degrees in Turf Grass Management...

and a whole wall allotted for merely this small a number of nightmare-inducing owls:

This Owl Wall scared the crap out of me. Though it appears that no actual owls died in the making of these Owl Replicas... Maybe this is where all that hair went that we damaged with hot crimping irons back in the 80's?

This Owl Wall scared the crap out of me. Though it appears that no actual owls died in the making of these Owl Replicas... Maybe this is where all that hair went that we damaged with hot crimping irons back in the 80's?

One thing I was impressed with was how the store tried to teach its customers about Mexican handicrafts, in case they are not familiar with Mexican culture. For instance, maybe there are some people who don’t know about hammocks. I know for me, this carefully, artfully-arranged display really helped to show me what a hammock might be used for:

This display certainly helped to alleviate my concerns of "Is this hammock strong enough to hold me". If it is good enough for a nude, limbless, plastic mannequin and a doll COMBINED, it should easily hold my bulk.

This display certainly helped to alleviate my concerns of "Is this hammock strong enough to hold me". If it is good enough for a nude, limbless, plastic mannequin and a doll COMBINED, it should easily hold my bulk.

Also, the store used fun characters like friendly frogs to help visitors understand proper drinking habits in Mexico:

Dear God: If these frogs actually died of alcohol poisoning, please forgive me for mocking them on my website. Amen.

Dear God: If these frogs actually died of alcohol poisoning, please forgive me for mocking them on my website. Amen.

The last thing we learned about was who we would have to talk to if we were caught shoplifting any of these little treasures:

So, uh, is this thing really for sale? Can I rent it for a Halloween party?

So, uh, is this thing really for sale? Can I rent it for a Halloween party?

And finally, we perused the housewares section, also full of surprises…

I loved this "Tequila Rack"... because who among us doesn't have 18 bottles of tequila to display in our home?

I loved this "Tequila Rack"... because who among us doesn't have 18 bottles of tequila to display in our home?

For those of you considering a bathroom remodel, perhaps you have not given fair consideration to a conch shell spout + 2 rock nubbins for handles??

For those of you considering a bathroom remodel, perhaps you have not given fair consideration to a conch shell spout + 2 rock nubbins for handles??

This decorative rooster helps to lighten the mood of any room...or at least when someone tries to emulate his mannerisms.

This decorative rooster helps to lighten the mood of any room...or at least when someone tries to emulate his mannerisms.

I don’t know that I would include Centro Artesanal Buenavista (open daily from 9 to 6) on your wedding registry per se, but I would definitely add it onto a trip to El Chopo….particularly as the store has free bathrooms that John indicated were “adequate”.  As for me, another trip to El Chopo is definitely in my future… After all, you can never have too many fashionista facemasks in a place like Mexico City. :)

Is “Mickey Burger” the correct Spanish translation?

In my continued fascination with the wares of Mexican grocery stores, we came across this gem yesterday at Superama:
In case you can't force your kids to eat normal burgers, these should do the trick.

In case you can't force your kids to eat normal burgers, these should do the trick.

How quickly Mickey has apparently forgotten his long-time friend, Clarabelle Cow. I was also struck by the elegant array of seafood on display, namely the purply octopuses. I like most seafood, but I will admit I’m not sure I’d know what to do if you plopped one of those puppies in front of me on a kitchen counter…

I wonder if training is required to serve in the position of "Shrimp Display Arranger". Also, I enjoy how the all the uncooked shrimp are lying above the cooked shrimp to allow their uncooked-shrimp-juices to slowly melt & drip onto the cooked shrimp. Maybe there should be training for Shrimp Display Arranging...

I wonder if training is required to serve in the position of "Shrimp Display Arranger". Also, I enjoy how the all the uncooked shrimp are lying above the cooked shrimp to allow their uncooked-shrimp-juices to slowly melt & drip onto the cooked shrimp. Maybe there should be training for Shrimp Display Arranging...

I may have descended from statues

Since I am too lazy tonight to summarize our full San Miguel de Allende & Guanajuato trip AND because I feel we have moved beyond the need for regular swine flu updates, I will instead share with you one of the more horrifying pictures we took during our weekend away.

Please find below a photo taken in the courtyard of the hotel we stayed at in San Miguel de Allende, Hotel Mansion Virreyes. (For those interested in hotel recommendations, this one fell into the “it’s ok” category, with reasonably clean rooms, better-than-average beds, decent brekkie, great location, parking included but slightly stuffy rooms and below-average bathrooms. At the risk of sharing too many details with my readers, let’s just suffice it to say that when you are eating & traveling in Mexico, it’s worth paying a few extra pesos to get a bathroom that has a vent fan.)

Anyway, I am hoping that perhaps it is just the color settings on my computer screen (???), but I am pretty sure that I actually have LESS skin color than any of my three statue friends. I mean, God knows I’ve never been mistaken for “tan” or even “not resembling a sheet of printer paper”, but I think this picture strikes a new low in my personal history of “Documented Incidences Where Julie Resembles Casper the Friendly Ghost”.

Seriously, is this a lighting issue, or is my arm seriously that white? I am leaning towards the latter. Needless to say, I have learned never to take photos again with stone statues that try to show me up.

Seriously, is this a lighting issue, or is my arm seriously that white? I am leaning towards the latter. Needless to say, I have learned never to take photos again with stone statues that try to show me up.

Possibly a long-lost sibling of mine?

Possibly a long-lost sibling of mine?

Chinese Government: Not a fan of Mexicans nor swine flu

I hypothesized that these pigs (spotted on a highway in central Mexico) were perhaps being whisked away to a safehouse, to avoid harm at the hands of any area hypochondriacs...

I hypothesized that these pigs (spotted on a highway in central Mexico) were perhaps being whisked away to a safehouse, to avoid harm at the hands of any area hypochondriacs...

Day 12 of Swine Flu not-quite-as-much Frenzy. John & I returned this afternoon from a fantastic get-away from the hub of the furor, with 2 nights in San Miguel de Allende and 2 more in Guanajuato. (Check out the article I wrote for Inside Mexico regarding our escape here!)  Expect a run-down on our trip later this week, though I am including a quick preview to the right…

First, I wanted to give a quick update on one of the more shocking aspects of all the swine flu fallout. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was scheduled to depart this Friday for Beijing, China for an interim trip that is part of my MBA program with Thunderbird/ITESM (basically a combination of company visits + sightseeing). My fellow students and I were all getting a bit suspicious as flights to/from Mexico began getting the axe…  Aeromexico’s direct Mexico City-to-Shanghai route was one of the first to go. Nearby Japan implemented a new requirement of visas + medical certificates for all Mexicans entering the country (where previously no visa was required).

On Saturday morning, the MBA program finally announced that the trips for Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo were all “postponed” (indefinitely at this point). Although I was obviously disappointed with this turn of events, I think it was definitely for the best, particularly given the news coming out of China over the last few days.

Most of you probably already heard about Friday’s quarantine imposed on the hotel in Hong Kong where a Mexican national was diagnosed with swine flu. While this seems a bit harsh for the ~200 guests & 100 staff members at the hotel, one can perhaps understand their reaction given the none-too-distant bird flu drama. However, China continued to ramp up its response into “bat-shit crazy” mode over the subsequent days.

Saturday morning, my hopeful Beijing trip-mates & I received an email from two of our classmates who had arrived in Beijing (via Los Angeles) early to do an organized tour before the MBA activities. Solely because they showed their Mexican passports, they were set apart to have their temperatures taken (mind you, after a 12 hour flight with no sleep) for a second time. (They had already passed through the infrared camera temperature detectors with no problem.) Despite having no symptoms, they were taken to a Chinese hospital waiting room filled with camera-toting reporters, then to an isolated, filthy hospital room, and then to an old, crappy hotel that had been closed down for their arrival (and not in a good, “we’re expecting royalty” kind of way). They were told that the Chinese authorities wanted them isolated for 7 days.

I had not heard an update on Yamil and Claudia’s status until today, when I saw this article in Reforma. The article elaborates on some additional details (for non-Spanish speakers, I recommend www.freetranslation.com if you want to translate the whole thing) including:

  • they were told they had to either return to Mexico or spend 7 days in the hospital
  • the Chinese authorities at the airport refused their requests for a doctor to examine them at the airport, for a translator, and for a call to the Mexican Embassy
  • they did not want to leave the airport, but were given the “option” of either going to the hospital, or being put in a room full of sick people with all kinds of illnesses
  • the Chinese authorities promised a “quick test” at the hospital, but instead Yamil & Claudia were transferred to the infectious disease unit for 12 hours
  • as of TODAY (Tuesday), they + 8 other Mexicans are still unable to leave the crappy hotel, which is being guarded by police.

If the “Gou Men Hotel” mentioned in the article is the same as the “Guomen Hotel” I found listed in Beijing on Trip Advisor, the one scathing review listed seems to confirm Yamil’s initial comments of “less than desirable” conditions…

Anyway, the thought of “What would happen if I got sick during the trip? Would I be able to get out of China?” certainly had crossed my mind as a concern as the swine flu frenzy built up… but certainly not the thought of “Maybe I could be quarantined for no reason at all.”  The other commentary I have heard was that the Chinese authorities were giving “special treatment” to all Mexican nationals, including Mexican nationals who had not been in Mexico for months. No special screenings however for other-country passport holders who had just come from Mexico, nor citizens of other countries with swine flu cases. Which all makes total sense. 😛 To that end check out this Reuters article regarding the rapidly deteriorating China/Mexico relationship. Of course China has denied any discrimination towards Mexicans saying its decisions are solely medically based (here it is straight from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)… you be the judge.

China also made the bold move of sending an airplane today to retrieve nearly 100 Chinese citizens from Mexico City & Tijuana. (Since clearly making them fly on a Mexican airline would be tantamount to a death sentence???)  To be fair, Mexico also sent a plane to Shanghai today to retrieve Mexicans, but that was largely driven by them being quarantined for no reason!!!

Well, more to come on the Mexico/China flu battle. Please send Yamil & Claudia your positive, H1N1 flu-free thoughts & hopes that they manage to escape this horrible quarantine and actually enjoy some of their trip to China, though I’m not sure that will be possible at this point…

 In other news, Mexico City is making progress with movie theatres opening tomorrow as well as restaurants (this article in English), despite some confusion over places that serve alcohol possibly not being allowed to open. Additionally, high schools & universities will open on Thursday, and elementary school on May 11th. Let’s hope things keep moving in the right direction!! Now off to bed to dream about my next michelada on the patio of a bar in Polanco…

UPDATE: Yamil & Claudia made it back alive & well yesterday (Wednesday May 6) on the special flight sent over by the Mexican government. They informed me they are recuperating rapidly! Welcome back!!!

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