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October, 2010:

Happy Halloween!

A very Happy Halloween to all those here in the US this evening! Today marks our official re-entry into Normal Life 2.0, as we arrived this evening back to Arlington, Virginia after 2 years and 3 months living in Mexico City. We’ve been on a 2700+ mile road trip starting in Denver, Colorado on October 14, had the chance to see lots of lovely friends & family along the way, met lots of precious new babies/toddlers, and suffered only one car accident– luckily no injuries to anyone except my pretty blue Nissan Altima that my suegra had kept in fantastic shape while we were away. I think the Altima may be regretting his change in ownership… :)

Some dude turning left in front of me at the last minute in an intersection was a most unpleasant turn of events as we arrived into Chicago.

But you may really be wondering, “Julie, how did you know that you were no longer in Mexico?” I know, I know… it can be tricky to differentiate, but here are a few of the signs:

1) We had to pump our own gas AND wash our own windshield.

This was novel... for like 30 seconds. How can it be that having someone else pump your gas went out of vogue in the US??

2. We got to stand next to someone taller than we are, who also has blonde hair.

Cousin Kami & her darling 4-month-old twins, Lucy & Sam.

3. We were pressured by family members to wear Uncle Sam & Betsy Ross hairpieces/hats.

This was part of our re-indoctrination process, courtesy Uncle Ken & Aunt Kathy

4. We began seeing a lot of mashed potatoes & gravy and fried chicken. Not to mention corn off the cob that lacked a layer of mayo/cheese/lime juice/chile powder slathered atop it.

Obesity problem in America?? What could you possibly be referring to?

5. Cheladas are no longer made by thoughtful bartenders; they are sold in cans in the supermarket.

I was skeptical of this incarnation of the chelada.

6. The frequency of deer-based cured meat products for sale was markedly increased. Frankly, as was the sale of non-spicy sausage products in general.

John demos how the deer in question might have looked prior to death. Additional bonus of cheese curds in the lower right. Thank you, Wisconsin.

7. Speaking of deer, we saw a dead one riding home to dinner strapped atop someone’s SUV.

This is how middle America does "para llevar". ("to go")

In summary, we’re pretty sure we are back in the States, and now begins a couple weeks of intense home improvements to our townhouse here in Arlington. After two years of renting, there is plenty of work to be done– but we received a positive sign regarding our impending home repairs at the Chinese restaurant we stopped by tonight:

My fortune cookie promised us that "You will have no problems in your home." We're also counting on the "tasty fruit" promised in John's fortune cookie after we kill ourselves painting every wall in the place.

Lest you think that I’ve already forgotten the name of this blog, today’s touch of Mexico comes courtesy of my parents back in Nebraska. My Mom passed along the below photo of my Dad, who pulled a full coordinated outfit together for handing out Halloween candy this evening. I can’t wait to hear how it went. :)

El Matematico de Nebraska could easily compete with any professional luchador with this costume, accompanied by the giant rat that is actually a basket for candy. Well done, Larry!!!

Although my favorite part is how his eyes look slightly crazed, I would like to point out that that is due to the unevenly-sized eye holes of the lucha mask, and not because my Dad actually has uneven eyes. Honest. Larry’s eyes could serve as a level for hanging picture frames; that is just how even his eyes are.

Thanks to all for your well-wishes, and more Mexico anecdotes to continue after we get settled in!

Subtle Messages…

We fly out of Mexico City bright and early tomorrow. As sad as we are to leave, I do feel we’ve been getting small, subtle signals from Mexico that our time here is meant to come to an end.

1) We got rear-ended last Thursday, 3 days after having $6000 pesos of car work done to fix up the Maxima from all the ills and suffering of driving in Mexico. We were stopped trying to merge off one major road onto another, as was the car behind us, and someone flew up & slammed into that car which then hit us. The best part was, John didn’t even stop. We just kept on going; it just wasn’t worth talking about it. :)

John mockingly offers the Mexican "thanks" gesture in the area of our bumper where we now have an imprint of a stranger's license plate. Luckily that was the only very minor damage we had. :)

2) The closest I got to seeing the much-heralded Michael Phelps at the Festival Olímpico Bicentenario was in these photos for sale on the street.  (But I did read a great quote from another Mexican athlete that it would have been much cheaper for the Mexican government to have hired some strippers to take their shirts off & entertain the crowd instead of Phelps doing the same for roughly 2 hours @ a price of $100,000.)

This was unsatisfying.

3) I unintentionally viewed several middle-age men prancing around wearing what seemed to be baggy leather boy-shorts. To be clear, men who shouldn’t have been wearing leather boy-shorts.

This image is seared into my mind forever. What sport was this anyway?

4) While on our hotel’s 16th-floor lounge/roof deck, we discovered we could still hear an organ grinder on the street level of Zona Rosa. For those who haven’t heard this sound, remove all preconceptions of “precious, old-timey music makers” from your mind. These sound like dying cats.

Stop. Please. Just stop. Learn a real instrument. Or consider having that one tuned. But in the interim, just stop.

5) A bird with serious gastric distress unloaded on our car while it was parked on the street near our hotel. Really, I’m no vet, but this bird *probably* needs some sort of medical care. ASAP.

You know it's bad when you drive around Mexico City for a day & no one volunteers to wash your windshield at a traffic light.

6) I saw an advertisement for food in the subway that almost made me want to throw up a little bit in my mouth. Just because your product has a new image doesn’t make me want to eat your Sphinx-shaped potato substitute.

What is happening here, exactly?

7) And last but not least, I was nearly attacked by a massive owl. I think he felt threatened by me.

This was a narrow miss.

It brought back terrifying memories of that time John was almost eaten by a lizard. I believe this owl attack may have been brought on by me mocking his family earlier this week.

I dropped & broke my camera that could actually take decent night photos, so you will just have to live with this vague image of me using my sweater to simulate owl-wings in front of this horrific movie poster.

All these signs combined make me think it is probably time to go, for now at least.

I’ve been considering continuing with this blog for a few more months, at least while I get through the backload of hundreds of photos I’ve snapped, trips we’ve taken, tasty restaurants we’ve discovered, hot Mexico tips we’ve learned, etc. There are still a variety of posts I’ve been meaning to get around to (Yucatan/Quinanta Roo trip, Huatulco trip, Baja California Sur trip, how to become a luchador, my friends’ witty anecdotes of dating in Mexico, where the mother lode of guayaberas can be found in the Centro, Bicentenario photos, etc.).

So, if y’all still have any interest, I may try to keep doing the occasional post until I run out of Mexico experiences to discuss. :)  And I promise to largely avoid the topic of our impending dull, American lives back in Washington D.C. unless something happens that is super-hilarious or Mexico-relevant. What do you think?  (And don’t worry; I won’t be offended if you tell me, “Julie, you just posted a photo of bird-doo on your car windshield… maybe it’s time to close-up shop.”) 😉

What do you think about public transit in Mexico City??

I received a random email yesterday from the Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (a.k.a. the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness). Take a look at the text below:

***************************

Dear Julie,

I work for the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), a local think-tank focused on issues of competitiveness. I’m currently involved in a project about urban mobility in DF and its suburbs. One of the channels through which mass transit and mobility affect the local economy is tourism. I ran a quick search of “mass transit DF tourism” and found your blog. Although you are not/ were not a tourist, I think you might have a few ideas as to how the local mass transit system can better serve the needs of foreign visitors. Obviously our initial premise is that more people would come to DF, and stay longer, if mass transit was more “foreigner-friendly”. If you could share some thoughts on this topic, we would be very grateful indeed. I have not been able to find any surveys or field studies about what foreign tourists think of Mexico City’s transit and how that affects their sight-seeing patterns.

Best regards,

(name withheld to protect the innocent)

*************************

Needless to say, I was flattered to be viewed as a possible resource for any organization who falls into the category of think-tanks! And while I certainly have some ideas of how to improve public transit in Mexico City, I figured– why not also solicit feedback from my loyal readers??  (That’s you, Mom & Dad.)

Anyway, if you’re part of the majority of my readers who either live in or have visited Mexico City, please take a minute & leave a comment below. Mexico City is trying to polish itself up for you folks!  Help it help you, people. :) If you have any hot suggestions of how mass transit here might be improved to make life easier for tourists, please let me know & I shall pass it along to the investigator at the Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad. Perhaps on your next trip to DF, you will see your brilliance implemented & will be able to tell all your kids about the time you consulted for a think-tank. (pro bono) 😉  Thanks much!

Mexico Driving Hazards

We’re staying in the Marriott Reforma for our last week here in DF, so please forgive the lack of communication– internet in our hotel room costs $250 pesos/day (gag). I’d been having luck standing against the window of our spot on the 14th floor & connecting to “Mexico Ciudad Digital”, the only unsecured network in the area. But after 20 minutes of holding my computer on one hand at shoulder-height and mashing the touchpad with the other hand, I gave in to Marriott’s “much worse of a deal”– $50 pesos for 1 hour– to see if anyone  had written back dying to purchase our couch. (No such luck.)

As I stay online at 12:41AM getting my money’s worth of the full hour, here’s my fav pic from today’s drive to Xochimilco (we went to visit the Museo Dolores Olmedo upon recommendation of our good friend Cynthia— totally worth the visit!). I question whether this taxi driver’s peripheral vision is up to recommended standards….

We passed this taxi quickly, trying to avoid conflict...

In other news today, the Festival Olímpico Bicentenario was as random as you might have expected. Favorite sights included:

Hot guys playing sand volleyball

Loads of little kiddos ready for a swim...

....all rapidly diving into the pool at once, which seemed to be functioning quite well after being set up in 24 hours!

There were an impressive number of handicap-accessible events, like this adaptation of soccer for the blind.

Similarly, they had an incredibly impressive dance troupe of young boys/girls, half of whom were in wheelchairs, dancing to traditional Mexican songs. They were precious.

The group festivities were followed by samba dancing in pairs, again equally impressive & not held back by their wheelchairs in the least!

Tomorrow AM we are off to a “Despedida con Arepas” courtesy our good friends from Venezuela, so off to bed to prepare for more cross-cultural farewells!! :)

Olympic Festival this weekend in Mexico City

If you’re hanging around Mexico City this weekend, consider checking out the Festival Olímpico Bicentenario. This Bicentennial thing just keeps on coming!! It wouldn’t be a festival in Mexico if a major thoroughfare wasn’t closed off, so of course several blocks of Reforma are shutdown as of last night through Monday. Unaware of this excitement, we chose the Marriott Reforma for our “last few nights in Mexico” hotel, which turns out to be right in the thick of the action. Luckily I can sleep like the dead, but John awoke this morning to the soothing sound of hundreds of angry drivers honking up a storm at the ensuing traffic cluster. :)

I’ve not had much luck finding a detailed itinerary of what’s happening on Reforma (this programa offers the helpful guidance of “start of activities & exhibitions” for 2 full days). But I do know they are setting up multiple olympic-sized pools, basketball courts, gymnastic areas, tennis courts, rugby fields, and more. This is basically the equivalent of setting up a mini-Olympics along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago & completely blocking the most heavily traversed part. It just makes sense, people. You can see the general area below, but you have to go to the website to see the map showing exactly how many fields/courts/pools are getting set up. Hilarious.

Come to Mexico City's pseudo-Olympics & see money being well-spent!!

Additionally, word on the street is that Michael Phelps is supposed to be town for the excitement. This begs the question: how do I get to see Michael Phelps, one of the few people in the world who probably has even longer monkey arms than me? Anyone with a Michael Phelps connection, please advise. Maybe I can get access as a member of the press??

Photo of someone who may or may not be Michael Phelps stolen from the Festival Olímpico website. We are totally going to be hanging out this weekend, I'm sure of it.

After 2.5 full days of packing/loading, the movers seem to be almost done packing our apartment here in Polanco, so I am excited to return to our hotel on Reforma to see if the pools are ready for me to take a dip!

P.S. I think there might be synchronized swimming. This is going to be awesome.

German names don’t go well in Spanish

John & I are rather sad to be leaving Mexico City after an amazing 2 years and 3 months. I have been trying to look on the bright side & think of things that we will not miss about Mexico. It isn’t going very well, because the best thing I’ve thought of so far is:

  • People in the US are more familiar with German names. Therefore, it is less likely that when we order pizza over the phone in the US with the last name Herickhoff, we will receive a pizza accompanied by either an easy mistake or a thinly-veiled insult (depending on your perspective).

What are you trying to tell us, Papa Johns?

The preferred moving company of Mexico

This Wednesday, the movers arrive to start packing up all of our worldly possessions. The move is all taken care of by the Embassy, which is fantastic & something of which I am incredibly appreciative. HOWEVER, if the Embassy wasn’t arranging movers for us, I know exactly which company I would be hiring.

Transporte de Cristo Jesus: preferred by believers worldwide

The term you see in Mexico is “fletes y mudanzas“, which loosely translates as freight and moving. In addition to household moves, you’ll see guys with fletes y mudanzas signs outside of stores (especially those selling furniture & other large items) who will be happy to help you get that new treadmill home to serve as a clothes drying rack.

While I feel this particular company is making a rather bold claim (to be the “Transport of Jesus Christ”), I nonetheless appreciate their ambition. And since marketing helps me decide, clearly I would pick Jesus’s movers over someone whose claim to fame is, say, moving flowers.

Come on, guys. ANYONE can transport a bunch of flowers...Time to hire a new brand manager.

He’s all mime, ladies

Once upon a time, John had a great idea. We could tell by the light above his head.

The Idea Man

You might be wondering, was his idea to buy a pug?

Prop Pug courtesy Burro Hall Enterprises, Ltd.

Well, that is a constant idea in his mind… But this time, his idea was to infiltrate a clown/mime convention happening in Coyoacan this weekend.

You can imagine his displeasure when right as he discovered the entrance, he got trapped in a box.

Sign reads: "Clowns - Mimes --> Entrance"

It was pretty ironic.

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