My new neighborhood

Some of the great Mexican landscaping, along Calle Reforma near Caranza, on the edge of El Centro (downtown).

I’ve just started to investigate my new neighborhood, Insurgentes. This is just the first glimpse. Also, a few photos of a party at Meliza’s amazing weekend house in Orquídea.

Still learning my new neighborhood, but this is near my bus stop.
This is the neighborhood market–jam packed with stalls that sell fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing, toys, household items and meat.
This is the one side of the food hall, serving antojitos. If you google it, it just translates as “snacks” but these are really heavy snacks, like gorditas, tacos and sopes. The other side serves cocina economico meals–full dinners at very reasonable prices.
There’s even a place to pray if you feel so inclined.
Everyone was very kind about my lack of language skills, but still attempted to speak with me. The food was great.
They are SERIOUS about their salsa here and there’s always lots of it. This particular one would have blown this gringa‘s head off with the heat, however.
Surprisingly, you often see dogs on the roof. They serve as part of the home security system.
I love the colorful buildings.

One Saturday, the family had a small party for teachers and the level 18 class, which Meliza is in. (The school has 24 level, each 4 weeks in length, so you can get through the classes in 2 years.

Meliza’s mama, in the kitchen at the weekend house. She’s heating up the tamales. Don’t you love the tile?
The tamales are so good here, but filling! Eat three and it’s like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner.
There’s some lovely landscaping at the weekend house, scene of a few relaxing parties. I particularly like this tree, in full bloom, and covered in tiny bees.
Eric, Josue, Alex and Marc, relaxing at the weekend house. Josue (pronounced Ho SWAY) is one of my level 18 students (now level 19!) and the others are teachers.
Marc, working on his banda (flag)–a shot each of lime (green), Sangrita (red) and tequila (white-ish).
One of the things I love about SLP–the landscaping. The trees and bushes are often sculpted into fantastic shapes.

I’ve moved. Again.

This is Ivan and Meliza, my new family! They let me teach their sons in exchange for room and board. They are here pictured in El Centro, Plaza de Armas.

I really didn’t have a concept of how many times I’d move during this adventure. It’s not always that I’m in a bad situation, but sometimes I just find something better. In this case, MUCH better.

The shabby rooming house I was living in was going downhill. There was always a plumbing issue. Usually at least one bathroom was always unusable. But lately the owners had simply stopped responding to requests–like the day we had no water, with no explanation or estimate as to when we’d have water again. It was over 12 hours and I never knew what the problem was.  Others had already left–half the rooms were empty–and I was looking for something better. One of my dear, dear students, Meliza, offered to let me live with her family in exchange for teaching her two sons English. It’s turned out to be a godsend–lovely people, a very nice home and a comfortable, safe situation for me. The boys even act as though they don’t mind my English lessons.

Sign on the boys’ bedroom.

The only downside is that it’s an hour’s bus ride to the main school branch. At least the buses run pretty regularly and are mostly clean and not too over crowded, but there’s lots of cobblestone streets and barely a shock-absorber in sight. I was working 26 teaching hours a week, commuting into the school twice a day (4 hours total commute time), all the usual (unpaid) prep time/paperwork/grading) and teaching the two boys daily. It made for long hours, less opportunity to blog and and a very tired girl.

This 4 week session I’ve landed a better schedule with half the commute time, so I feel much better and hope to come back to blogging more. I also hope to explore the new neighborhood more and—some please hold me to this–join a gym.

One event I didn’t post about from February: The Chocolate Festival! It was a small event, but it’s the first annual, so I expect it to grow.

Costanzo is the local chocolate maker in the area and a very popular choice.
Fortunately the festival had some nice samples. I particularly liked the mole bar–a dark chocolate with mole spices. It was mostly spicy with a hint of salt and sweetness. That’s a popular combination in Mexico.
Hugo and his mom, Meliza, pose with one of the chocolate sculptures.
all chocolate!

Looking down on the Chocolate Festival.
The building is right off Plaza de Armas, a perfect location for rotating exhibits. Last month they had King Tut.

A perfect birthday


I’ve always liked the idea of celebrating my birthday for a full week. This year, my dream came true. It included more hugs than I can count and four birthday cakes!

My birthday was Monday, but it started the Saturday before. A hastily made plan for a party fell through, but Nancy and John, new teachers, offered to take me out. First I met some former acquaintances, who gave me birthday hugs before moving on. At the restaurant, we ran into Eric and one of his students and so we all celebrated together with food, beer and some excellent tequila.

What more could at girl ask for–surrounded by intelligent, handsome men and tequila!
Nopal salad–made from cactus pads, it’s pretty tasty, but some find it a tad slimy. Hey, it’s better than okra and lots of people eat that.
Did I mention this was the land of guacamole?
Instead of a cake, I got campechanas–crispy and sweet!
I don’t think Eric really liked this photo, but I think he looks great. Eric is one of the new US teachers who arrived here in January. He and his student just happened to be at the restaurant, so we joined them at their table.
Sundown from the roof of the restaurant. It got really chilly after this, so we went downstairs.

We met at a restaurant in El Centro, near the San Francisco church, which was busy with weddings.

Wedding photos.
A Saturday evening, just outside the San Francisco church–lots of weddings.

Sunday was dinner with the family at a traditional restaurant.

Lunch with the family! Top–Ivan (Junior), Meliza’s father, Hugo. Seated: me, Meliza, Ivan (Senior).
And look at that spread of food–so delicious.
Meliza’s father is 70yo, but in great shape. He’s just started English lessons. It’s never to late to learn.

Then to downtown for more fun, music and even a little dancing.

After lunch, we went to a plaza downtown and listened to a very good local band.

The dancers were good!
Enjoying some traditional music.
A most unusual tree–it has “cotton balls” but no leaves this time of years. And all the branches and trunk are studded with thorns.
Not a tree want to climb!
A new kind of tamale, wrapped in banana leaves. They add a nice flavor. Meliza bought me some to eat the next day. This is an item that really warms up well.
This is just what remains of a HUGE tamal. Wish we’d come earlier.

Monday morning, the party continued.

Birthday cake #2–from my students on Monday morning’s class. Trick candles meant I couldn’t blow them out!

The fourth cake came this morning–a complete surprise!

Some of the staff and students at the El Centro branch of English Unlimited who helped me celebrate–Poncho, Eric, Frank, Josue, Victoria.
This is birthday cake #4! It was so moist, I don’t even know how it held together. No wonder Mexican’s have an obesity problem–too many good bakers!
I don’t know what these trees are, but they are in bloom everywhere and so lovely.

We interrupt this blog….


…for an existential crisis.

You may have noticed that I’ve barely posted anything since early November. The truth is that I’m too depressed, too despondent, too overwhelmed with grief for the state of my country to do much more than teach my classes each day.

In the wake of the election and inauguration, I’m re-thinking everything I used to believe about America. I’ve come to the conclusion that I no longer know my country. Sure, Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin. And, yes, there’s proof that Russia interfered with the election. BUT we still have a president who has shown himself to be so very “un-American” that I have to conclude that my country has changed. Drastically.

I question whether I’m even welcome there.

I look into the future and see nothing positive for the USA. I can’t understand choosing a man who is an admitted sexual offender, bigot, racist, non-tax payer who is proud to “game-the-system” and has no political experience–unless you count his ties to Russia. I have never been so discouraged about the future or the character of my country.

While I strongly dis-like Trump and am completely appalled by his cabinet picks, I am not saying that I wish them all ill. You don’t hope the captain of the ship will crash and burn when you and your loved ones are in the same boat. But it’s not going to be smooth sailing for anyone who is female, Muslim, homosexual, transgendered, a person of color, Hispanic, disabled, poor, lower middle class, a single parent, elderly or ill. This version of America will only work for white, rich men in positions of power.

At best, it’s gonna be a long four years. At worst……well…..that’s what keeps me up nights.

The bottom line: Posting pretty pictures and funny anecdotes about my travels sounds petty to me at the moment.