Learning Spanish, eating Mexican

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Breakfast started with a gordita. No, this isn't Taco Bell. This is two corn tortillas filled with one of a dozen choices. This one is nopales, a type of cactus,
Breakfast started with a gordita. No, this isn’t Taco Bell, folks! This is two corn tortillas stuffed with one of a dozen choices of fillings. This one is stuffed with nopales, a type of cactus,

8/10/2016

Two great things that happened today:

1). Even with the light pollution of the city, I saw a falling star! It’s the Perseids meteor shower and this is supposed to be the best one for a decade. Tomorrow night is the height of the shower.

2). I realized I could understand most of the Spanish lyrics of a song playing on the radio of a car that was stopped at the light as I walked past. Progress!

This is one of the restaurants I'm trying this week. It's sort of upscale for a breakfast place--not the "comida económica" of my neighborhood. Here, a breakfast comes with coffee, usually for about 50 pesos ($2.75US). The name is a tad unfortunate, but they serve fresh fruit drinks.
This is one of the restaurants I’m trying this week. It’s sort of upscale for a breakfast place–not the “comida económica” of my neighborhood. Here, a breakfast comes with coffee, usually for about 50 pesos ($2.75US). The name is a tad unfortunate, but they serve fresh fruit drinks.
And here are the specials at Fruty Fiesta! Desayunos--breakfasts Huevos al Gusto (eggs the way you want them) Jamon--ham; Chorizo--a typical Mexican sausage; a la mexicana--Mexican omelet; Salcicha--a sausage I've not tried yet; Rancheros--Ranch style. Chilaquiles--fried tortilla strips typically topped with a spicy tomato sauce and cheese. Cafe--coffee Comida Corrida--fast food Sopa del Dia--soup of the day Arroz--rice Milanesa de Res--a beef cutlet, Milanese style Milaneza de pollo--same as above, with chicken Guisando del Dia--stew of the day Vaso de agua fresca--a glass of one of the various fresh fruit smoothies/juices.
And here are the specials at Fruty Fiesta!
Desayunos–breakfasts
Huevos al Gusto (eggs the way you like them)
Jamon–ham; Chorizo–a typical Mexican sausage; a la mexicana–Mexican omelet; Salcicha–a sausage I’ve not tried yet; Rancheros–Ranch style.
Chilaquiles–fried tortilla strips typically topped with a spicy tomato sauce and cheese.
Cafe–coffee
Comida Corrida–fast food
Sopa del Dia–soup of the day
Arroz–rice
Milanesa de Res–a beef cutlet, Milanese style
Milaneza de pollo–same as above, with chicken
Guisando del Dia–stew of the day
Vaso de agua fresca–a glass of one of the various fresh fruit smoothies/juices.
Breakfast! (Desayuno!). Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), salsa verde (green sauce), frijoles con queso (refried beans with cheese), and huevos a la mexicana (eggs in the Mexican style--notice the red tomatoes, green chiles and white cheese. It's the colors of the Mexican flag). On the right side of my plate is the remains of the gordita. The meal is served with a cloth covered container of hot corn tortillas, which you can just see on the right edge of the photo.
Breakfast! (Desayuno!). Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), salsa verde (green sauce), frijoles con queso (refried beans with cheese), and huevos a la mexicana (eggs in the Mexican style–notice the red tomatoes, green chiles and white cheese, the colors of the Mexican flag). On the right side of my plate is the remains of the gordita. The meal is served with a cloth covered container of hot corn tortillas, which you can just see on the right edge of the photo.
Notice the bowls of different items? Most restaurants have a kitchen in the back, but bowls of different tortilla or torta (sandwich) fillings in the front.
This is at the front of the restaurant. Notice the bowls of different items? Most restaurants have a kitchen in the back, but bowls of different tortilla or torta (sandwich) fillings in the front.
This is how the gorditas are made, right in the front of the restaurant. Earlier, she was heating baskets of fresh corn tortillas for each table.
This is how the gorditas are made, right in the front of the restaurant. Earlier, she was heating baskets of fresh corn tortillas for each table.

8/11/2016

I’ve gotten into a routine here in Mexico. I wake up about 8am, check and answer emails and social media while drinking my first cup of coffee. I’ve got a hot pot in my room, which I bought here, and a filtering water pitcher that I brought from Russia. Maybe I have a second cup of coffee while doing 2 quizzes on DuoLingo. Then I stretch and do some abdominal exercises—nothing fancy. It’s a 15 minute routine. I grab breakfast in the kitchen—usually something simple that requires little or no cooking, but I try to include protein.

Then I study from my Spanish notebook and text and prepare for my first two classes—trying not to spend too much time at it. I stick to the school’s materials and only add something if I really need to.

After that, I’m free to do my daily chores, explore the city, work on my blog, stream Netflix or go for a walk. At 3pm I got to Spanish class. My Spanish classes are now only 2 days a week (not happy about the change since it was originally 5 days a week), on Mondays and Wednesdays. However, I sit in on Orlando’s classes on Tuesday and Thursday. He’s a full level ahead of me. I don’t get everything, of course, but I try to get the broad strokes of the grammar, and focus on new vocabulary and listening.

At 4p I teach my first two classes—Levels 23 and 8. I prepare for the second set of classes—Levels 16 and 11–during my one hour evening break. If I have time, I review Spanish vocabulary again. Classes are over at 9pm, and I take the bus just over half of the 2 mile walk home.

My schedule may be completely different in the next 4-week session.

I walked by this several times before I went in. To me, gaspachos is a cold Spanish soup. Not in Mexico! Here it's a mixed fruit and vegetable cup, with candy or dried fruit toppings, a spicy sauce.
I walked by this place several times before I went in. To me, gaspachos is a cold Spanish soup. Not in Mexico! Here it’s a mixed fruit and vegetable cup, with candy or dried fruit toppings, and a spicy sauce.
I had the small (vaso chico--child's glass). 30 pesos is about $1.65US. It was actually a huge amount. I've seriously never seen anyone pack down fruit and vegetables like this woman did--well worth the price.
I had the small (vaso chico–child’s glass). 30 pesos is about $1.65US. It was actually a huge amount. I’ve seriously never seen anyone pack down fruit and vegetables like this woman did–well worth the price.
This is the gaspachos--apple, green melon, watermelon, cucumber, shredded carrot, mango, jicama, pineapple and probably more that I forgot. I topped it with a few gunny bears (my guilty pleasure), a ball of tamarind, and some dried cherries. Then they pour a sweet pepper sauce on top and sprinkle a few chili flakes. It was a whole meal. Tasty.
This is the gaspachos–apple, green melon, watermelon, cucumber, shredded carrot, mango, jicama, pineapple and probably more that I forgot. I topped it with a few gummy bears (my guilty pleasure), a ball of tamarind, and some dried cherries. Then they pour a sweet pepper sauce on top and sprinkle with a few chili flakes. It was a whole meal. Tasty, but a mess to eat.

I’ve mostly figured out the routine here at the flat so that I can get a shower when there’s hot water. I’m simply not cooking much in the kitchen and if I can find paper plates (not Styrofoam) I’ll use those instead of pre-washing my dishes before use. I don’t cook much—mostly warm up ready-made enchiladas or cook an omelet. The couple in room #2, next to mine, moved out, so I “borrowed” a set of sheets (they had at least four), a chair (I left one chair and a desk) and a wastebasket from their room to use in mine. That will save me some money, since I didn’t want to invest in a temporary room.  No luck finding another place to live, though. I’ve asked around and heard a few promises, but nothing has come of it. I’m making myself comfortable here for as long as needed, but without spending much money on the situation. Payday is Monday for the first half of the month. I’ll need all of it to make the rent.

Among my chores today was sending my mother’s birthday present. Mexican mail service leaves something to be desired, so I tried to send it FedEx through Office Depot. Their sign indicates they have this service. Except they don’t. They will have a different international shipping service in 2 or 3 weeks (Translation: probably before the end of the year.) A nice man at the store gave me directions to another shipper. First he said to walk two blocks (which turned out to be 5 blocks. This happens so often that I always as for the street name, “Cual calle?”) and make a right. I had to open the package to prove to the woman behind the counter that I wasn’t shipping something illegal. The whole thing, with walking and going to two places, took 2 hours. But the good news is that I was able to do the transaction mostly in Spanish and only had to resort to Google Translate a couple times.

Every day I get an opportunity to practice my Spanish. Tonight, I took the bus coming home from class. An older man sat down beside me. He looked to be a farmer who had spent many hours in the sun. One arm wasn’t working and he had a crutch. He began talking to me and I told him, in Spanish, that I only spoke a little Spanish, that I spoke English. He was undeterred. I had an awful time understanding him—partly because of my poor skills with the language and partly because he had only two or three teeth, so his pronunciation was poor. I had to say several times, “Lo siento. No entiendo.” (I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”) Eventually, I understood he was asking if I lived in the center of the city. “No, vivo antes del Centro” (“No, I live before the center” meaning I would get off the bus before we got to the center city neighborhood). Then I heard the question, “Casada?” (Married?) Oh dear! I just learned that word this week and here it is! Well, I figured I could out run him if there was a problem, so I answered honestly. “No estoy casada.” I was so glad when my bus stop arrived.

Also, I found this YouTube video about Gapachos in Mexico. Enjoy

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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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