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July, 2009:

Modern poultry refrigeration techniques continue to sweep Mexico by storm

In a follow-on to last year’s photo of [dead] chickens on the move, my brother Tim snapped this gem while we were wandering around the Centro during his visit the other week.

I shudder to think what this truckbed might smell like sans-ice on a warm summer day.

I shudder to think what this truckbed might smell like sans-ice on a warm summer day.

We observed that the ladies (may they rest in peace) were being watched over by a singular guard wandering through the gutter nearby…

Señor Gallo was majestically putting out the vibe, in a manner as if to say "I am far too regal to end up in a dirty truckbed with other common foul".

Señor Gallo was majestically putting out the vibe, in a manner as if to say "I am far too regal to end up in a dirty truckbed with other common foul fowl". (updated to reflect proper spelling of fowl) :)

Play Money in Mexico

I have learned a lot about the world of finance here in Mexico between working & living here for the past year. One of my favorites, as my friend Alice explained, is the fact that having exact change to give a customer is a foreign concept in most transactions here. In the US, you should be able to break a $20 everywhere & $50 almost everywhere; $100 may get you a hairy eyeball but you almost never receive $100 bills from banks/ATMs.

In Mexico, on the other hand, ATMs spit out $500 peso notes (currently ~$38 USD) like candy, but these bills seem to be almost universally worthless outside of spendy restaurants or gas stations. $200 peso notes are more socially acceptable, but you will still encounter plenty of scenarios where a vendor will look at you like you are trying to pay with a hamster.

This is all background to help you understand my bemusement when I received this bill from the bank this week:

My first (and hopefully last) $1000 peso bill, which seems almost as funcional here in DF as the turn signal has been on our car.

My first (and hopefully last) $1000 peso bill, which seems almost as funcional here in DF as the turn signal has been on our car.

I received this gem when I went to Bancomer this week to cash one of the checks I received as part of my finiquito (a.k.a. final settlement) from my job. In keeping with the “no one has change” theme, I was not even slightly surprised when the first bank teller I went to told me to go to the next teller because she didn’t have enough cash to cover my check. (P.S. You’re a BANK!!! Not a tamale vendor!! Is it surprising that someone may visit you desiring more than $50 pesos of cash?)

This was one of my first bank visits, since almost all of my previous paychecks were directly deposited into something that is NOT an actual bank account at Scotiabank. I don’t know what it is, because I am only able to access my salary via an ATM card (given to me by my employer). No debit card, no checks, just ATM… I once tried going to Scotiabank to do something else, and showed them my ATM card, assuming that it would correlate to an account. Nope, no such luck… my only means of interaction is via ATM machines & cold hard cash. Very odd.

The other notable financial experience I have had in Mexico is receiving food stamps for the first time! Yes, that’s right; food stamps. To be fair, they aren’t exactly the same down here… They are called vales de despensa, are given out to most employees by almost all companies who pay taxes (because they are tax-deductible for the company), and are intended to be used for your ‘basic needs’ (but in truth can be used for anything at the grocery stores where they are accepted, i.e. wine, electronics, etc.). As my classmate Alonso informed me, rather than using the vales for food as intended, he saved them up for a year and bought a big-screen TV with them… I suppose some guys could argue for that falling into the “basic need” category…? 😉

This is the most valuable food stamp I've received, $50 pesos, but mine came in stapled packs with about ~30 notes of varying values.

This is the most valuable food stamp I've received, $50 pesos, but mine came in stapled packs with about ~30 notes of varying values.

This gives you a feel for how many notes are in each pack that I received. FYI, these are the bane of the existence of counting-impaired grocery store cashiers everywhere...

This gives you a feel for how many notes are in each pack that I received. FYI, these are the bane of the existence of counting-impaired grocery store cashiers everywhere...

It is a fascinating dynamic when we break these out at our local Chedraui, because I always feel like the cashiers are thinking “Where did the gringos get these vales de despensa?” and all the people in line behind us are thinking “CRAP! We chose the line with people paying in food stamps! This is going to take forever to get these counted. Abandon ship… Find another checkout line….”  And sure enough, it usually adds 5-7 minutes onto our checkout time, as the young cashier counts/lays them in piles by value, then stares at the piles, shuffles them around, counts them again, moves some $20 peso notes into the $50 peso note pile, shuffles them again, and counts them 3 more times.

That’s it for my hot financial commentary today, but for those who have been uninterested thus far, I will end with an example of an outfit I saw in Puebla that I most certainly do not intend to buy with any of my hard-earned pesos.

As spotted in one of the fabric stores in Puebla. Like my friend Liliana alluded, you know the economic crisis is hitting Mexico hard when women can't afford to knit the rest of this outfit.

As spotted in one of the fabric stores in Puebla. Like my friend Liliana pointed out, you know the economic crisis is hitting Mexico hard when women can't afford to knit the rest of this outfit.

Best summer soup ever: Mangospacho

I have been inspired lately by Lesley’s multiple mouthwatering food pics & recipes that she has posted on her blog, so I thought it was time to finally share one of my own. I first tried this recipe for Mangospacho (from the “Stop and Smell the Rosemary” cookbook by the Junior League of Houston) while we were living back in Arlington, VA, but I have to say it was inferior to the two times I’ve made it here in Mexico, land of magical mangoes.

I foolishly neglected to take any pre-soup pics of the mountains of mangoes, strawberries, cucumbers, cilantro, and red onion, so you'll just have to trust me that they looked gorgeous.

I foolishly neglected to take any pre-soup pics of the mountains of mangoes, strawberries, cucumbers, cilantro, and red onion, so you'll just have to trust me that they looked gorgeous.

This Mangospacho is a fantastic cold soup, jam-packed with healthy fruit and veg. In fact, the only deviant from our festival of nutritious produce is a mere half-cup of olive oil, and one can argue that that is “good fats” which makes it ok. :) The recipe is very easy to make; it just takes some time as there is a fair amount of chopping involved. (Maybe allow 45 min for prep?) Also, you’ll need a food processor or blender for pureeing the mango-licious base. While you could sample it as soon as you’ve assembled everything, it tastes better after it’s had a sit in the fridge for several hours to let all the flavors blend together. In interest of full disclosure, I rarely last more than ~45 minutes before I am compelled to have a bowl, but the flavor is definitely superior the next day. :)  You can find the recipe below along with a few notes from my experience.

A screenshot from my "Entertaining with Dairy & Carbs" cookbook, a title well in keeping with the hallmarks of Carmann cooking.

A screenshot from my "Entertaining with Dairy & Carbs" cookbook, a title well in keeping with the hallmarks of Carmann cooking.

I will also use this opp to plug one of my favorite cooking-related finds from a couple years back–Tastebook. Tastebook is a site where you can type in your own recipes (or steal them from popular cooking websites), and then assemble them into a printed cookbook with a customized title, cover, and your own photos on each recipe page. It’s great for sharing favorite family recipes & formalizing gramma’s specialties that currently only exist in scribbled notecard form.

I made one appropriately entitled “Entertaining with Dairy & Carbs…and the Occassional Fruit & Veg” for my mom & mother-in-law a couple Christmas’s ago. It was a wild success, and my mom even got into the spirit, typing up another 50+ recipes of her own. (caveat: the actual typing-in-of-the-recipes & finding witty photos to complement each one takes flipping forever, but it is worth it in the end…I think…) If you’re interested in seeing the 60 recipes I typed up for that cookbook, send me message on Tastebook via my “Tastepage” & I would be happy to share. (hopefully that link works)  Said Tastebook does include the fan-favorite recipe for Bacon on a Stick, which I think could possibly be marketed to single women as a love potion. 😉

Mangospacho (serves 8 as an app)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large mangoes, peeled, pitted & diced (keep 2 mangoes separate from other 2)
    **Julie note: I throw in a 5th mango to use in the soup base. Just loosely cut up the 2-3 you will use for the base, because you’ll be pureeing those. Carefully dice the other 2, as those will be stirred into the soup.
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
    **Julie note: this seemed like a little much; adjust to taste, maybe closer to 1 T.
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
    **Julie note: this flavor is very strong, so consider just a tick less than this
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled & diced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded & diced
    **Julie note: I usually drain the diced cukes on a few paper towels to take out some of their liquid & crisp them up.
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped fresh chives
    **Julie note: I’ve left these out when I couldn’t find them at the grocery store, and all was still well
  • Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro & crème fraiche
    **Julie note: don’t kill yourself on the crème fraiche; the white color offsets the orangey soup nicely, but the soup certainly doesn’t need it for flavor. I usually get lazy and skip it

Directions:

Blend 2 (or 3) diced mangoes, ginger, vinegar, olive oil, water brown sugar, salt & pepper in a blender (or food processor) until smooth. (Julie note: depending on relative size of mangoes/food processor, this may need to be done in 2 stages) Transfer mixture to large bowl & add remaining 2 diced mangoes, red onion, strawberries, cucumber, cilantro & chives. Adjust seasonings. Chill several hours to let flavors blend. Let rest at room temperature 15-20 min before serving. Ladle into bowls & garnish with cilantro and crème fraiche.

Crème fraiche recipe if you’re so inspired:

2 cups heaving whipping cream @ room temperature
½ cup sour cream @ room temperature

Directions: Whisk heavy cream & sour cream in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap & let stand in a warm draft-free place 12 hours or overnight. Store, covered, up to 2 weeks in refrigerator. Serve chilled.

Navigating the Mexico City Airport

I recently received a reader request (yay!) for an overview on what happens when you get off the plane in the Mexico City Airport, so I thought I would share a few tips I’ve gathered thus far from my trips.

Airport Code: MEX
Possible Aliases: Benito Juarez International Airport, or AICM (Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México)
Website: http://www.aicm.com.mx/ or for English click http://www.aicm.com.mx/home_en.php
Location: Here’s a map from Streets and Trips showing where the Airport is located (blue circle) in comparison to some of the more popular neighborhoods (red circles). Also highlighted in purple squares are a couple of the main roads taxis use to get to/from the airport from the west side of the city (i.e. going to/from Polanco).

Location of Mexico City Airport

Location of Mexico City Airport (click image to enlarge)

Metro Stop: Terminal Aerea on the yellow line #5.

Map of Terminals: Check out this wild-though-slightly-confusing interactive map.

Terminals: There are two Terminals, 1 and 2.  Unfortunately it is not as simple as one is the domestic, one is the international terminal. International flights arrive into both terminals. You can see the full list by airline here on the AICM website, or here is a quick list of the big names:

  • Aeromexico: #2
  • American: #1
  • British Airways/Air Canada/Air France: #1
  • Continental: #2
  • Delta: #2
  • Mexicana/Mexicana Click: #1
  • Northwest: #2
  • United: #1
  • US Airways: #1

What happens when I arrive on an international flight into Mexico City? (I will answer this from the perspective of Terminal 1, since that is where I have flown into from the States. The process should be the same for Terminal 2, but I imagine the layout is slightly different.)

After you get off the plane, you’ll walk through the main area of the terminal & follow the signs downstairs towards customs/immigration. First you’ll go through Immigration, where you’ll turn in the immigration form that you likely received on the plane. Note: US citizens need a passport to travel to Mexico as of June 2009. Only note-to-self here is don’t be talking on your cell phone in the immigration area.

Next you’ll pick up any checked luggage you had at the baggage claim. IMPORTANT LUGGAGE NOTE FOR BOTH TERMINALS: MEX is the only airport I’ve been to that actually checks to see if your luggage claim ticket matches the luggage tags on your bag before you leave the baggage area. This is true for both domestic & international flights. So make it easy on yourself & be sure you save that little claim ticket that you received when checking-in your bag before your flight!!

To leave the baggage claim area, you’ll pass through Customs, where you’ll hand over your import declaration form & you’ll put all of your bags on a belt through another scanner. Then you press a button & either get a green light or red light, signifying whether you can continue on your way (green) or customs is going to search your bags (red).

Yay, now you’ve made it past all the checkpoints. Next step: getting a taxi. When you exit the secured area of Terminal 1 after customs, turn and walk to your right. Below is another map showing the path you’ll take.

The red line shows the path through Terminal 1 in the Mexico City airport from Immigration to Baggage Claim to Customs to taxis

The red line shows the path through Terminal 1 in the Mexico City airport from Immigration to Baggage Claim to Customs to taxis

Getting a taxi at the Mexico City airport:

Your next task is to find a taxi. You will be fine if you go to one of the stands inside the airport terminal. There are several authorized taxi companies (see list here) and the prices are set based on a system of which “zone” you are going to. Approach one of the stands and tell them the address to which you’re headed, including the colonia (or the name of the neighborhood). IMPORTANT NOTE FOR NOT WASTING MONEY ON A AIRPORT TAXI: Ask for a sedan taxi. Otherwise, they will charge you for an SUV (or ejecutivo) taxi, which is $300 pesos instead of <$200 pesos to go to most colonias. That said, if you are with a group of more than 2 people with large luggage, you may want to consider the SUV/ejecutivo taxis simply from a space/comfort perspective… The sedan taxis generally don’t have a ton of space in their trunk for crazy-big American-sized suitcases, and leg room can be limited if you are stuffing 4 passengers into one car.

I have never had a taxi stand try to screw with me on the price to get to my address once we got past the sedan vs. SUV topic. However, if you want to check what the price should be, this taxi company website lets you type in your colonia destination & tells you what the price should be for that zone. (Note: some colonias span 2 zones & that website won’t tell you which specific zone your address is in.)

For any future visitors of ours, our apartment building is in Zona 6 of Polanco, so I just ask the taxi stand for “un sedan a Polanco, zona seis”, which is $190 pesos.

If you have pesos, you can pay in cash; if not, most of the taxi stands take credit cards & I consider it safe to use one there. (Just make sure your credit card operator is aware of your trip to Mexico & is expecting to see purchases from Mexico, so your card doesn’t get denied.) The taxi stand will give you a receipt with two parts, and then you walk outside where the taxis lurk. At this point, a random dude will usually try to grab your luggage out of your hand to drag it the 100 feet to the taxi area. Feel free to resist this effort if you don’t want to give him a tip (and believe me, he WILL pressure you into giving him a tip of maybe $5-10 pesos).

There should be another gentleman standing outside who will look at your taxi receipt & point you in the direction of the taxis from the company you chose (again, multiple taxi companies operate here). You can usually figure this out as well by matching the colors/logo on your receipt with the colors/logo on the taxi.  When you get in the taxi, the driver will keep half of the receipt & you’ll get the other half. Now is when I tell the driver the specific address I am going to (the people at the stand indoors don’t really care, other than to make sure you’re paying the right price for the right zone). Once you arrive at your destination, you don’t need to tip the taxi driver since you’re in the spendier, safe sitio-type taxis (I never do). However, you can give him a few pesos if you feel like he was über-helpful with your luggage or tolerated you trying to chat with him in Spanglish for 30 minutes.

And that’s it! You’ve made it from airplane to the taxi without issue!

Other random Q&A:

I have family/friends flying into the Mexico City airport; should I pick them up or is it safe to have them use the airport taxis? As my parents and brother can now attest, I am a big advocate of visitors just getting one of the taxis at the airport. There is no negotiating required, they are safe, and they are fast. We initially tried sending a taxista to meet our visitors at the airport, but finding an obvious place to meet/ensuring said taxista arrived on time was not as easy as we hoped. As friend Emily can attest (who we decided to pick up because we thought Saturday afternoon would be “easy” to grab her from the airport & head directly to a neighborhood down south), our trip to the airport took at least an hour due to traffic/accident blocking a key lane of traffic, and then it took us about 2 hours to get to our destination because we didn’t realize the eastern half of the city is under construction. Alternatively, I estimate it would have taken her <30 minutes to get to our house via airport taxi.

What if I want to go on a fool’s mission to pick someone up at the airport? There is fairly cheap parking available outside of both terminals, and finding the parking garage entrance is even pretty well marked! Check out aforementioned map to suss out where the parking is.

How long does it take to check in for a flight at the Mexico City airport/what is security like? In our experience, the larger Mexican airlines are extremely efficient/quick getting people checked-in (i.e. Aeromexico & Mexicana). It should take you <30 minutes to get checked in & go through the loosest security checkpoint ever. When we have flown US airlines back to the US, however, it has taken about an hour to get checked in (due to minimal # of staff trying to check in 3 int’l flights at once), so plan accordingly.

The main security checkpoint at the airport is almost a non-issue and typically quite fast. I’ve had no issues with liquids, only with the nail file portion of a nail clippers I had, which the security woman simply broke off from the nail clippers (which had been through about a zillion other flights without issue, than you very much). On international flights to the US, you will have the “US-style” security check at your gate right before you board. That is where they will check to make sure you comply with the US liquids rules of <3oz. Also FYI, you can’t even bring unopened bottles of water onto the plane for flights to the US, even if you just bought it at the store right next to your gate.

Should I take the metro to get to the airport? I can’t really speak to this since I’ve never tried it. However, I can offer the commentary that I would probably not feel very comfortable taking the metro to the Mexico City airport if I was dragging any measurable amount of luggage. The metro can be pretty busy/packed depending upon the time/day you are on it, so it may make me a bit nervous to try & monitor a combination of backpack/purse/carry-on/big suitcase while surrounded by a crush of people. I would also factor in how many subway-line changes you have to make from your starting point to get to the airport. From our house, 3 different lines are required & I imagine it would take easily an hour+ door-to-door, plus getting fairly sweaty before you board a multi-hour international flight. That said, if you’ve tried it & it was super-easy, please advise!!

How do I transfer between terminals?

Conveniently, the airport has an AirTrain (aka AeroTren) that will zip you between the terminals. Rumor has it that it runs between 5AM and 10PM & the ride takes about 5 minutes. Just look for signs with a train-looking icon & follow those. Also, this website has a great summary of going from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 via the AirTrain.

UPDATE–> looks like the above link is dead (thanks for the alert, Kire!), but there is some commentary on this page regarding the Aerotren. The salient points are basically:

  • “To take the Aerotrén from T-1: take the moving staircase by Sala D (1st floor), turn left and walk to the middle of the bridge, from there you can take the trip to T-2.”
  • The Aerotrén leaves from T-2 on the first floor: access is to the left of the check-in desks, at the entrance to the ‘dedo sur – southern finger’ – of T-2.”   (info courtesy www.aeropuertosmexico.com)

Readers, please holler if you have any additional guidance that I’ve missed or further questions that I’ve overlooked!

UPDATE #2–>> Check out my new post to discover a good meeting point if you are meeting friends or family inside Terminal 1 at the Mexico City airport.  (There are two doors from which people arriving on international flights can leave the secured area, so it’s nice to have a meeting point just in case you aren’t clear which door they will be exiting.)

The multi-purpose trucks of Mexico…

A glimpse of the varied trucks encountered last week on our drive to Oaxaca City…

#1) Crazy-piled green onion transporter. This truck was traveling at 60+ mph on the toll road between Mexico City & Puebla. I have no idea how you stack green onions 6-feet high in a way that prevents them from being blown off on the highway, but I was totally impressed. As we drove up to pass this truck, the scent of green onion slowly wafted into our car. It felt like we were driving though the veggie aisle in the supermarket… only these green onions were about 2x the size of any green onion I’ve seen in the US.

Some far-away mercado is going to have a lot of lucky green onion clients in a few hours...

Some far-away mercado is going to have a lot of lucky green onion clients in a few hours...

 #2) Father down the toll road, between Puebla and Oaxaca, we observed these three folks traveling via this improvised seating method. I particularly liked the cushy-looking seat backs, turning this from a common truck bed into perhaps a “Pimp My Ride” contender…?

I am unclear how effective the gentleman on the right's hoodie was in protecting him against the multiple rainstorms we drove through that afternoon...

I am unclear how effective the gentleman on the right's hoodie was in protecting him against the multiple rainstorms we drove through that afternoon...

#3) And finally, we passed this semi truck, whose rear-end signage echoed the thoughts I have on a daily basis when I have managed to drive somewhere in Mexico without incident.

Gracias a Dios (aka Thanks to God) is a phrase that often runs through our mind after narrowly avoiding landslides/erratic drivers/sheep-sized potholes on the roads of Mexico.

Gracias a Dios (aka Thanks to God) is a phrase that often runs through our mind after narrowly avoiding landslides/erratic drivers/sheep-sized potholes on the roads of Mexico.

What really constitutes a “car accident” in Mexico City anyway?

Yesterday marked my first car accident (if you can even call it that) in Mexico City. Frankly, I am somewhat amazed that it took this long for my car to come in contact with another car. Before anyone gets concerned (Mom), know that my car was moving at roughly 0.5 mph, as was the other party’s, through one of the crappiest intersections in Polanco. Rather than attempt to describe said intersection, I will set the stage through this truly-lifelike, high-res drawing done in Powerpoint, graphic design tool of the world’s finest illustrators… (click to make it semi-legible).
Intersection of Ejercito Nacional & Cuernavaca in Polanco. Left-turn lanes do not exist here (it's more of a pile-on approach), and the thought "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't go because the light will definitely turn red & I will be blocking 4 lanes of traffic" has never crossed anyone's mind.

Intersection of Ejercito Nacional & Cuernavaca in Polanco. Left-turn lanes do not exist here (it's more of a pile-on approach), and the thought "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't go because the light will definitely turn red & I will be blocking 4 lanes of traffic" has never crossed anyone's mind.

Here’s a quick loosely-recalled run-down of the incident for those of you perched on the edges of your seats with suspense:
(For realism, translate all statements said aloud into Spanish. Garbled letters/numbers/symbols signifies where I did not understand actual Spanish; does not signify obscenities.)

***********************************
Julie, to self: I am never going to get through this goddamn light. ADELANTE, you rat bastards! Please, feel free to continue streaming in front of me despite ME having the green light.

[Inches forward more into intersection. Slight scrape-y sounds causes her to realize she has underestimated length of husband’s car]

Julie, to self: Crap. Great, he seems to have noticed & is waving at me. What does he want me to do, get out in the middle of the intersection? This surely is not an uncommon occurence. Do people even stop in Mexico when someone touches your rear bumper at 0.5 mph?

Dude with bushy hair: 3C(js93!. Do you have your license? Let’s go over to that street to look at the damage.

Julie: Yes, of course

Dude: Give your license to me so I know you will follow me over there. Otherwise how do I know you will follow me [repeat 3 times]

Julie: I WILL FOLLOW YOU. Trust me.   [we drive to street on other side of intersection]

Dude: See, there is a scratch. This is not my car, it’s my bosses. j2(S*@@ DK#$kaei@ 8i2 12MVNnw0. This will cost money to repair. Do you have insurance? Do you want to wait?

Julie: Of course I have insurance. Note that you were cutting in front of me when I had a green light. That intersection is crap. It looks like a minor scratch. I am FINE waiting for insurance. Do you want to wait for it over this scratch?

Dude: That is how things work at that intersection. 290DJK@0!)!  ehw%20s  &* 239Sbm 30S*@.

Julie: Hey, whatever, I am happy to call my insurance.

[Policeman arrives onto the scene]

Copper: What happened?

Julie: I barely touched his car while he was cutting in front of me when I had a green light. [essentially true, only detail left out was 0.5mph speed]

Copper: [looks at scratch on his car, looks at me as if to say “WTF? Is this really worth dealing with?”, asks Dude:] Is this really worth the trouble? The scratch is blue, her car is gray.

Julie: [wrings hands & rolls eyes supportively in agreement of cop’s assessment of frivolity]

Dude: sd##) sklQPO!)!! @*K  @()@*KJDA!#>.  This will cost money to fix, it’s not my car etc. etc. etc. You are just taking the side of the pretty lady instead of me. She’s going to call insurance. See, look how this rear portion of my car frame moves [when I vigorously pull it back & forth with my hands].

Julie: I imagine the other side moves the same way if you tried it on that side. Also, the scratch is blue. [ignores blue lettering on her license plate]

[Dude is not convinced, continues whining about how it is his boss’s car]

Copper: [sigh] Fine, call insurance.  [exits stage left]

Julie: [Calls insurance, who is surprisingly easy to interact with in Spanish. Apparently they will call back shortly to advise who is coming to assess & when assessor will arrive. Perfect! Informs Dude of status of waiting for impending call. Asks him if he has called his insurance; apparently not, just hers is enough. Julie is uncertain of validity of this statement, but whatever; it’s his problem if her insurance is mean to him.]  Sidenote: according to John’s similar experience, you in fact need BOTH parties’ insurance adjustors there to resolve the issue at the scene.

[Fill in waiting time with awkward chatter that I barely understand. Eventually resort to pretending something super-important is happening on my cell phone screen.]

[Insurance calls back! Yipee, someone will be here in 5 minutes! Que suerte!!  Julie informs Dude of impending arrival. 2 minutes later, Dude makes call to someone. 30 seconds after hanging up, Dude slowly ambles over to where Julie has retreated to sitting in passenger seat of car, to avoid angry honks of traffic who is hating us for blocking 1 of 3 lanes of traffic.]

Dude: Did you already call your insurance?

Julie: Um, did I stutter during the 10 updates I gave you about me calling them & them calling me back & someone being 5 minutes away?

Dude: Well, the thing is, I called my boss & told him the situation, and he doesn’t really care. So, I don’t know if you want to wait for the insurance, or if you can cancel it or what…

Julie: WAIT, you’re saying this DOESN’T have to be an official accident anymore? Um, YEAH I can cancel the insurance guy. Don’t give it a second thought. I can DEFINITELY cancel it. [tries hard to be polite and friendly during window of hope, despite wanting to yell “See I TOLD YOU it was just a stupid little scratch; we live in MEXICO CITY, pal! If part of your car isn’t dragging along the ground, it’s not worth even stopping for! And why did you wait for 30 minutes to call your boss??”]

Dude: Ok then, I will go.

Julie: [awkwardly offers handshake while seated in car. Dude shakes hand & drives off. Calls insurance to share the good news.]
***********************************

After this interaction, I was able to see one of the many internal cultural shifts I have experienced after a year in Mexico. If my car had touched someone else’s car in any way in the US, I probably would have been slightly panicked & had my phone poised to call insurance ASAP. Unless the other party immediately waved it off, I definitely would have called insurance just to avoid any unknown drama. I would have been 100% up-front with any cops that had arrived on the scene. I never would have blocked 1/3 of a very busy street for 45 minutes.

In Mexico City, my first reaction was literally surprise that he wanted to get out and look at the scratch. Once we saw the scratch, I was just annoyed that we would have to do the insurance-calling dance. While getting death-glares for blocking a key lane of traffic, my primary thought was “I will be pissed if someone hits my car while I am sitting here.” I barely went around to look at my front left bumper, knowing that any damage retained from a 0.5 mph collision would likely be overshadowed by the next large-sheep-sized pothole that we hit.

The cultural evolution continues… 😉

This 4th of July announcement sponsored by Mexico’s Communist Party

Happy 4th of July to all those Americans who, like us, are beyond the borders this year & therefore forced to celebrate US independence in a fireworks-free zone. We *narrowly* escaped having to celebrate in an alcohol-free zone as well, due to the tomorrow’s mid-term elections here in Mexico. As explained on Burro Hall, Mexico institutes a period of reflection in the final days prior to the election, wherein the frenzied campaigning/parades/shouting madness ceases, in concept. The apex of this strategy is the cessation of all liquor sales 24 hours before elections here in Oaxaca City. (This law technically applies throughout Mexico & apparently dates back to the Mexican Revolution…)

Needless to say, this put a bit of a damper on our glam Saturday-night-out plans for our last night in Oaxaca. Thank goodness we never make a roadtrip in Mexico without an emergency bottle of wine on board, so we are currently having a vino tinto-fueled blogging session in our hotel room & trying to find something on TV besides Paris Hilton’s “My New BFF” reality show.

In keeping with today’s Independence Day/elections/political theme, I wanted to make John’s career with the State Department more challenging with a pic hot off the presses. Oaxaca’s Zocalo has been a madhouse of tents/political signage/revolutionary-types, which I am unclear is just standard operating procedure for Oaxaca or unique to the election timeframe… Regardless, Mexico’s über-left-leaning Frente Popular Revolucionario was having a tough time getting much foot-traffic at its stand today, so John tried to chip in & get out the vote. Please see him below campaigning vigorously below the FPR’s subtle banner, while being shunned by all who passed by…

I always say, nothing like some good hammer-and-sickle imagery to get me geared up for an election!!

I always say, nothing like some good hammer-and-sickle imagery to get me geared up for an election!!

Delicate Oaxacan bathrooms…

To celebrate my end-of-job + John’s 3-day weekend, we decided to make the 6-hour drive down to Oaxaca City in the state of Oaxaca for the weekend. We will definitely have more insightful comments to add, but for the moment wanted to share this gem of a poster found in the baño of the seemingly oft-gringo-frequented Café Brújula coffee shop.

Among the questions this poster raised for me were:

  • Have you considered purchasing a new toilet?
  • Is this an image readily available on the internet or in restaurant supply stores, or did someone design this Pooh-themed poo-restriction sign specifically for your establishment?
  • Given that the poster is only in English, is this evidently a non-issue with local Mexican patrons?
Taking the term "polite analogy" to a whole to level... If only E.E. Milne knew what Pooh's likeness was being used for these days...

Taking the term "polite analogy" to a whole to level... If only A.A. Milne knew what Pooh's likeness was being used for these days... (updated to reflect author's actual initials!)

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