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April, 2010:

Motorcycle Helmet FAIL

I feel someone needs to have a chat with the man on this motorcycle regarding “how helmets work.”

Superama deliveryman safety FAIL

True, the fact that he even has one with him puts him above many motorcycle drivers here in Mexico City… but now if he would just read the user’s manual…

No Weekend Plans? How about the BURRO FESTIVAL??!?

Trying to keep up with the young hipsters of today, I created a Twitter account several months back & vaguely monitor my fellow “Twitteros” (as they are called here in Mexico). While parsing through Twitter’s mountain of 140-character data bursts is truly a “diamond in the rough” kind of situation, every now and then I come across a piece of information that makes it all worthwhile. This happened to me yesterday courtesy http://twitter.com/mexdesconocido.

While one might not instinctively click on a tweet reading “Feria Nacional del Burro 2010, en Otumba, Estado de México. http://bit.ly/dCv4U8“, two things about it appealed to me:

  1. Estado de Mexico (the state that surrounds much of DF) is within driving distance, so I could actually drive to a festival there, in the thriving metropolis of Otumba.
  2. The Festival is celebrating BURROS (a.k.a. donkeys), and it’s a NATIONAL event, meaning these burros must really be important.

Mexico Desconicido (translation: Unknown Mexico) is a magazine + website in Spanish that offers a general guide to Mexico travel & tourism, and as the name would imply, does a good job covering things slightly off the beaten track. (FYI, the print magazine is much easier to read & has better visuals than the text-heavy articles on the website.) Even if your Spanish isn’t great, it has pretty useful data & lots of pics in the mag version.

What about this image doesn't promise that you are going to have some fun times??

Its online article regarding the Burro Fair was pretty good, but it left me wanting more. Especially after I saw this fantastic logo (right). So, I was off! To the innerwebs!

The innerwebs led me here: http://feriadelburro-2010.ololiuqui.net, and this brings me to the reasons I am blogging about this today. One reason is to make you aware of this fascinating burro event that we are SOOOO going to on Saturday. But the OTHER reason is to show you possibly the most sarcasm-filled website that appears to be (possibly) sanctioned by Mexican government I’ve seen in Mexico. (I haven’t encountered nearly as many ironic/sarcastic publications as I would like here in DF.)

First, let me highlight the bests parts of Saturday’s agenda (as I understand it):

  • 9AM: Presentation of the Queen of the 45th Burro Festival
  • 10AM: Burro Polo.  Location? the burrodromo. ha! of course!
  • 11AM: Grand Carnival of Decorated Burros
  • 12PM: Exciting Burro Races: Formula 1 and Formula 2.
  • and more!!

That was enough to get me excited. But the good stuff really comes in the “Convocatoria” section (announcement or call) where they outline the rules, prizes, etc. (If you want to see some of them translated into English, use Google Translate & check the “Historia” page here.) If I may list a few:

  • Ningun burro participante podrá hacer campagña politica a favor de sus candidatos a Presidentes de la Republica ni Gobernadores.
    • No burro participant will be able to do political campaigning in favor of its Presidential or Governor candidates.
  • Ningún burro con problemas de alcoholismo y drogadicción podrán participar, porque existirá el alcoholímetro.
    • No burro with problems of alcoholism or drug addiction will be able to participate, this is why there will be a Breathalyzer.
  • Se prohibe competir a burros con motores arreglados con propulsión a chorro y pezuñas anchas.
    • It is prohibited for burros to compete with souped-up motors with jet engines and wide hooves.
  • Ningún burro deberá ser analfabeta.
    • No burro should be illiterate.
  • Para evitar contagio de influenza deberá todo burro porta cubre-hocico
    • In order to avoid contagion of influenza, all burros should wear a muzzle-cover. [ala the face masks of swine flu days gone by…]
  • Los burros que atenten contra los derechos humanos no podrán entrar a Burrolandia
    • Burros that threaten against human rights will not be able to enter Burrolandia.

Previous years’ rules included:

  • Aquel burro que desee competir con patines de hielo, no podrá hacerlo en esta carrera, pero podrá competir en nuestros juegos de invierno en burrolake el próximo mes de diciembre (inscripciones abiertas).
    • Any burro that desires to compete with ice skates won’t be able to do it in this race, but will be able to compete in our winter games in Burrolake next December (open enrollment).
  • Los burros que den asilo al ex Sha de Irán, no podrán participar en estos eventos especiales.
    • Burros that give asylum to the ex-Shah of Iran will not be able to participate in these special events.
  • Los burros Ayatolenses serán aceptados en igual número de rehenes que sean liberados.
    • Ayatolan burros will be accepted in equal number as # of hostages released.
  • Los burros braceros de otros países no se admitirán ni en el desfile, ni en la carrera.
    • Burro laborers from other countries will not be admitted to either the parade or the race.

In section outlining rules for participation, the slogan appears to be: “Tienes burro, que esperas?” (which I believe could translate as either “You have a burro, what are you waiting for?”, or “Do you have a burro, then what are you waiting for?”)  :)  The prizes for the Burro Polo and Decorated Burros competitions are actually quite respectable– $5,000 pesos for 1st place in the race and $8,000 pesos for the best-dressed!!

Anyway, this is all so droll that I can hardly believe it is a real event (in which case both the town of Otumba and Mexico Desconocido will receive a sternly worded letter from me on Sunday). I am going to keep my hopes up for the moment.  And local readers, please advise if I should keep an eye out for you Saturday morning at the one, the only, the 2010 NATIONAL BURRO FESTIVAL!!! Yeah!!!!

Moments when I question my choice of Mexico City spa service providers

It hit me last month that our time in Mexico is quickly coming to a close, causing me to spring into action on a topic that I’d been mulling over for the last year and a half: laser hair removal. (It’s ok, boys, you can stop reading now & I won’t be offended.)

With an eye towards taking advantage of Mexico/US pricing differentials, I figured hitting a spa around here was at least worth a shot. The cost for a package of ten laser treatments here appeared to be in the same ballpark as one laser treatment on the East Coast, which appealed to my midwestern value-oriented mindset. I also assessed the situation based on what is now my most commonly-used phrase in Mexico: What Could Go Wrong? (*see footnote)

The “What Could Go Wrong” analysis led me to select only two areas for laser treatment: underarms (axilas) and bikini line (bikini). You will note that both of these areas (on me at least) are rarely exposed to the public (but when they are, they shouldn’t be furry). This ensured I would not be subject to daily awkward stares at some horrible blotchy laser explosion scar on my calf. I don’t even know if that can happen with lasers, but this scenario was nonetheless factored into my What Could Go Wrong vision. (I get enough daily awkward staring that I don’t need to offer up any more ammo.)

I opted for a spa in Polanco based on the recommendation of an Embassy associate + the fact that it was within walking distance– key for maintaining my motivation to go. My first visit, near the end of March, was fairly uneventful, mainly because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I did discover that my 4th-grader-Spanish left something to be desired when it came to chatting about a high-wattage laser zapping my body. But I suppose that’s to be expected, given the number of 4th graders who have the need to discuss hair removal, period, much less using a laser. :)

After my two visits, I’ve identified the following questions/observations that are confusing to me as a photoepilation novice. Perhaps there are savvier ladies in my reading audience who can shed some light/comment on any of the following:

  1. The doors to the spa rooms where the laser treatments are done have big signs indicating “WEAR EYE PROTECTION!”  I, the client, was given eye protection in the form of some hippie-colored plastic glasses. However, my practitioner DID NOT WEAR ANY EYE PROTECTION. She instead opted to just CLOSE HER EYES each time she clicked the laser gun.  WTF???  I mean, I didn’t take a *lot* of laser-related classes in engineering school, but I am pretty sure that our micro-thin eyelids are not sufficient for blocking out intense bursts of laser light….right?
  2. When I called, they asked for my name. When I got in the treatment room, they asked for my name. When I was ready to leave, they again asked for my name. Finally it became evident that they had no record of me in their magical computer system, despite my prior lump-sum payment. Tricky data entry! (Though to their credit, they actually let me leave after just writing my name down, promising they would search later for my account details. Recognition: one of the benefits of being a 6’2 guera in DF.)
  3. When I left my first appointment, the lady informed me that I should shave my underarms a few hours after I got home. Looking at multiple websites, I gathered that one should not shave for a few *days* after the treatment. Which is it, and why does it matter?
  4. Today I tried to explain to her that it didn’t seem like much of the lasered hair had fallen out, as she had told me it would. We had an awkward discussion in Spanish which follows:
  • Me: Uh, so it didn’t seem like any of these underarm hairs fell out like you said.
  • Her: Let me look.
  • starts lasering away–
  • Me: Uh, so do you know why it didn’t work?
  • Her:  Leriwhelh Hdlisehr weroj joiehQ ELHIoppz. It will take 10 sessions for it to work.
  • Me: Huh, you told me 3-4 sessions last time because of my magic skin/hair color combo.
  • Her: Well you will see progress in 3-4 sessions.
  • Me: okaaayyyy… totally not what you said last time.
  • Her: How many times did you shave under your arms since last time?
  • Me: How many? Well several, I don’t know exactly…
  • Her: Ohhh… see, what you are doing is stimulating the hair to grow. Each time you shave the hair grows more. You won’t see any results if you do that. You cannot shave more than 2 times during the month between appointments.
    • Note: I perceive this line of reasoning to be faulty, according to much-respected myth-busting website snopes.com. Review their comments here.
  • Me: Uhhh… but isn’t the laser killing the hairs? Why would it matter how many times I shave? If new hairs grow, won’t they just get killed by the laser?
  • Her: [indecipherable] You can’t shave more than twice or it won’t work.
  • Me: I don’t understand. Isn’t this killing the hairs? After 10 sessions won’t most of the hairs be dead? Why am I here?
  • Her: [sighs with frustration]
  • Me: [decides to stop asking questions & ask the innerwebs later, and instead lie there wondering how many years it will take for the practioner’s retinas to burn to a crisp]

In summary, I am increasingly unclear whether either this woman has no actual training in laser hair removal, or she knows facts about laser hair removal unknown by any other website. Any laser aficionados out there who would like to shed any light on do’s/don’ts of this process, your wisdom is welcomed. :) In the interim, I will continue slogging through as many of my remaining 8 visits as I can before we depart, each time bringing a new set of sciencey questions to further frustrate her.

* Copyright 2010, Julie’s Measures for Assessing Activities in Mexico. All Rights Reserved.

World Cup Stickers: the latest trend where I’m out of the loop

There has been a frenzy of activity in my MBA class this morning (my LAST MBA CLASS WEEKEND ever, FYI! All that remains is final exams + a week in Phoenix. Praise be.).  You might assume the activity is focused on final exam prep, but you’d be wrong. Instead, there has been a burst of World Cup sticker trading.

Walter & Karina review their current sticker inventories to see if they can broker a deal.

What does that mean, you might ask if you are on the fringe of the futbol (a.k.a. soccer for you Americans not living in Mexico) loop as I am. Well apparently each World Cup year, a company called Panini distributes envelopes (each costing 5.50 pesos) with 5 stickers each. There are normal stickers (the player stickers), dual-part stickers (which depict the stadiums in two halves) and the *special* stickers that have holograms of the World Cup logo or trophy on them. FYI, the hologram stickers are the cool ones & hence are more valuable (i.e. you can trade them for more than one player sticker).

A summary of all the tools you need for a successful World Cup sticker orgy: cold hard cash, your list of missing sticker numbers, a pencil to check them off, the cool-ass hologram stickers, the hottie player photos, and the photos of a player caught eating something.

We spotted an album in action-- being filled with stickers as we speak!

The goal is that in the months leading up to the World Cup, you buy & trade these stickers, all the while adding them to your Official Licensed Sticker Album. I was initially confused because unlike baseball cards in the US, there are no stats/info on these stickers– just a shiny photo of the player’s face. BUT it all works out in the end, since the album has the players’ info already in the book, just waiting for his picture to be slapped nearby. Then during the World Cup, you take out your album filled with all your stickers and flip vigorously from page to page when something happens to the relevant player on TV.

My friend Alonso informed me that the trading is perhaps a bit more intense among youngsters who can’t afford to buy envelopes of stickers en masse, the way our MBA classmates are able to with full-time jobs. He says it is more common in the 20-to-30-year-old crowd to buy full BOXES of stickers, which I might argue is cheating.

As you can imagine, few 8-year-olds will have already acquired this many stickers this early in the sticker-collecting season (we're about a month into it), much less be equipped with a PDA to track inventory.

You might think this would be an activity that skews toward the male population, but you’d be wrong. In fact, I was most impressed today by friend Karina, who returned from our lunch break today with an UPDATED MISSING INVENTORY LIST that she created at home. She is NOT screwing around, people.

Karina keeps her yet-to-be-acquired World Cup sticker list with her at all times, making updates whenever she has access to a printer. (FYI, handwritten sticker inventory lists are for losers. I saw a number of Excel spreadsheets in use today.)

I don’t know if the flurry of stickers & cash changing hands today has convinced me to rush out and start collecting pics of hottie football players, but it has provided a good supplemental lesson in economics.

Finally, on a slightly unrelated note, while browsing the Panini website, I came across the mascot from the World Cup in 1986, the year Mexico was the host. In case anyone was unclear about popular Mexican stereotypes, Mexico did a great job reinforcing them with this horrific mascot named Pique:

In case it is confusing for you, you are looking at a POT-BELLIED jalapeno wearing a SOMBRERO and a MUSTACHE. Apparently the shoes are called "tacos", I am told. All we are missing is a half-empty tequila bottle and a sarape.

Special thanks go out to Alonso, Karina, and Liliana for their support in explaining & photographing this new concept for me. One cultural lesson at a time, folks.

Visit to Boston: 1st day highlights

I scheduled a trip many moons ago to finally get back to Boston  (where I lived from 2002-2006) to visit friends & hang around for Patriots’ Day, better known as the day of the Boston Marathon! I flew out of Mexico City on Wednesday at 9AM & got in last nite. Here are a few highlights from the first 24-ish hours (as if to imply that my life is so fast-paced & riveting that you need daily updates):

  • having an Auntie Anne’s pretzel at the Houston airport– touch me salty, buttery, doughy goodness
  • listening to a sales pitch from this Sony VAIO sales rep on the plane:

OK, just kidding; he wasn't actually giving a sales pitch but I have no idea why he was using his airplane seat as a desk

  • randomly ending up sitting next to a guy from Mexico City on my flight from Houston to Boston who turned out to be really nice & friendly, and not only having my first FOUR-HOUR-LONG conversation on a plane, but having my first FOUR-HOUR-LONG conversation on a plane IN SPANISH! Was both very proud of self & pleased to meet total stranger who was amusing to chat with & not crazy (since the risk of a crazy seatmate increases exponentially corresponding to the length of your flight)
  • going to a Wednesday nite show at ImprovBoston, where I used to take improv comedy classes when I lived in Boston. One of the best things I did during my time in Boston, FYI. For any of you out there who haven’t yet heard my “Everyone should take improv classes! Seriously! Even you! No, I promise you will like it & learn amazing new skills! Just do it!” rant, please let me know & I will happily spend 30 minutes extolling the virtues of improvisational comedy.

The stage at ImprovBoston's new home on Prospect Street near Central Square in Cambridge, MA. The props were for the "Magic & Misdemeanors" show put on my one of my former improv troupe cohorts-- see more details at http://magicandmisdemeanors.com/!

  • going to my fav clothes store, Nordstrom, and having the chance to buy a few pairs of shoes from a man with a faux-hawk AND a Boston accent!  (ahhh the memories…)
  • reminding myself that sometimes Macy’s has great deals on really nice clothes, but sometimes, it doesn’t:

This is not the formal dress I will be wearing for my graduation dinner at Thunderbird, in part because I would have had to stitch two of them together.

  • introducing New Englanders to the glory of lucha libre & its ability to strengthen father-son bonds:

You know what they say-- the family that wrestles together, stays together. Here, Matthew & Mike do a valiant impression of a tender moment between Blue Demon and Nacho Libre.

  • and finally, teaching my friend Tanya that the young, cool, hip moms no longer want to be known as the tacky/offensive term “MILF“… Instead, they would like to be known as “MILW”– Mom I’d Like to Wrestle:

You will note that Tanya followed the first rule of Lucha Libre (make sure your mask matches the rest of your outfit). Here, she is shown just after having unmasked her competitor (her 3-year-old son).

It is unknown whether Tanya & her son Matthew were engaged in a mascara contra mascara competition, or the more intense caballera contra caballera battle (review the difference here). I will be checking in the morning to see whether Matthew’s head was shaved as a result of his heartbreaking loss.

Now included on Mexicana flights: free Scandinavian escort!

My recent blogging delinquency has stemmed from our recent vacation to Baja California Sur over Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in Mexico. As you can look forward to hearing about in painful detail in a subsequent blog post, we had a VERY BAD experience with AeroMexico trying to get from Mexico City to La Paz.  AeroMexico had been enjoying a honeymoon period as “my new favorite airline”.  Unfortunately, its rotten lying employees & willingness to let teen girls board an aircraft even after throwing up on the carpet 5 feet outside the airplane ramp entry point has sent Aeromexico plummeting to the bottom of my list. (well, let’s be honest: at least until it has the cheapest price for somewhere I need to go)

Long story short, I have begun to pay closer attention to AeroMexico’s top rival, Mexicana, including the 20 emails Mexicana sends me each week touting their hot deals. For whatever reason, the promotional email I received today seemed particularly noteworthy.  Maybe it’s because of the Marketing class I am currently taking in my MBA program, where we recently discussed how certain advertisements use different tactics to sell a product. Let’s just say, airline tickets seem to be the last thing on one’s mind when you look at this ad:

Sex sells, anyone?

A few follow up questions:

  • Does that guy live in Mexico? Because I haven’t seen him.
  • Or is the point supposed to be that you will meet that guy if you fly to Canada? Because seriously… (Am resisting making a snide Canada-joke here, in the event that I have unknown Canadian readers.)
  • Am I just having trouble with depth perception, or is that a 3rd person’s arm grabbing the edge of the tub on the right?
  • These people haven’t even OPENED their bottle of wine. How realistic is that?
  • That “from $218 USD” price clearly only reflects flights between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo. Because I have never seen a flight that cheap from Mexico to the US.
  • Not to be redundant, but again, are they implying that guy will fly with you from Mexico to some international destination? Because either he doesn’t live here, or someone needs to tell me which colonia he resides in within Mexico City so I can alert my single friends.

Soon to come!! Tales of the good part of our Semana Santa trip– Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and La Paz. Note to self: the beaches of La Paz are a must do. Book your flights now! (on Mexicana)

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