Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What the heck is "Una rama de apio" ???

So the more I listen and and the more they talk....the more I realized I absolutely stink at spanish......Crap!! Apprehension just doesn't come as quickly as I would like.

So I leave this morning with 3 folded bolsas (plaid plastic woven bags), 200 pesos in my pocket (22 bucks) and a list from Irma -housekeeper and daughter of Juana the cook- as to what I need to buy for Enchilada Verde and Sopa de Pollo -our next two comidas (Afternoon main meal). All in spanish of course and as I understand many of the things on the list, there are about four or five that I didn't. My first stop is to the amazingly cramped yet has everything...."Verduras y Frutas Tienda" (Vegetable and Fruit shop)which is no bigger than a garden shed. It's about a 15 minute walk through narrow cobble stone streets through our beautiful colonial town.(I love saying OUR!!!)

Irma showed me the ropes last week and today I was ready to venture out on my own to pick up all the necessary ingredients. So I arrive to this bustling little tienda on Calle Insurgentes, know the drill of dropping my bags on top of what ever box of veggies is unoccupied and start reaching over all the other mamas who are doing their daily comida shopping too.
  1. 10 chiles serranos- easy
  2. 1/2 kilo of tomatillos- easy
  3. 2 cebollas (onion) guessed right.....
  4. UNA RAMA DE APIO.....what the heck was that? Such a long name? I just stood there as a few senoras reached over me, gently prodding me out of the way while I contemplated this phrase.....hmmmmmmm. 
  5. Cilantro- I know that is the same word in english. 
The next veggies were: Calabaza, Zanahoria and Ejotes... hmmm not sure what those are either. As I lean over to an unsuspecting customer who couldn't have been more than 5' with gray-black hair pulled in a bun, brown, wrinkled face, carefully yet quickly hand inspecting her choice of guavas and dropping them into her plastic bag....I asked, "Perdon Senora, Por Favor. Que es Una Rama de Apio?" as I point to the phrase on my crumpled, torn shopping list. She nods and points to the back corner middle bin which is full of celery. "Gracias!" And as I try to squeeze my way behind bottoms and between the center counter, I politely reach the celery yet cannot grasp it.  The joven (youth) who works there grabs the celery and then he did something odd....He broke off just one stalk and handed it to me, smiled then put the rest of it back in the bin and continued with his work.

It finally occurred to me that UNA RAMA must mean "one stalk" or something like that. ("One branch" is the literal translation). I was delighted at the fact that I didn't have to buy the whole stinking thing!! How practical!! How clever and smart!!  This is SO FUN!!! That is the kind of stuff that just tickles me and why I love being in a foreign place.... Come to find out, you can buy as little or as much of anything you need. A sprig of cilantro, a dash of cinnamon, one fork- I left the tienda with a full bag of veggies and fruit...Content with my purchase of veggies and ripe fruits for 38 pesos ( $3 US dollars) I continued onto the pollo (chicken) tienda, the queso (cheese) store and stopped to buy 10 rustic forged hooks for the bedrooms.  Finally, I took a taxi home for my bags were heavy, laden with goodies and I was hungry! And by the way...the Enchiladas Verdes Juana cooked were out of this WORLD!!!!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They arrived!

Todd and Tommy arrived the other night, finally!! Tons of baggage (we ended up shipping very little as it was more cost effective to pay the airlines for extra duffles) and two taxis to bring them home. We have everything we need, plus more...But we are especially thrilled to have our mountain bikes, speakers for the ipod and the tennis rackets. (We cranked John Denver while doing dishes tonight. Nod to Mom and Dad and the good ole 70's)
The reunion was an energetic one. Will and Marky could hardly wait to see Daddy and Tommy and were bouncing off the walls all day. Once they walked through the big double doors, it was sheer joy! We went to bed incredibly late AND no one slept in, of course.  The the next day was rainy and overcast, within a few hours of boisterous play, the boys were tired and quickly back into the routine habits of insulting each other and one-up-man-ship! Yet, still thrilled to be together ? I guess so....As a girl, I don't always get that.
Anyway it has been overcast and rainy since they arrived and much of our clothes are wet and getting stinky. We have no dryer here and the sun is a great source keeping the house fresh and dry. I hope it comes out again soon.
Unpacking will be a slow process as we pull what is needed when venturing into town to explore. Yesterday we rented two quadimotos (4 wheel ATVs) and went for a ripping 4 hour ride into the countryside. What a blast!! Perfect weather is rain which provides tons of puddles, mud, excitement and skidding! Here in Mexico there is no age limit and before long, Will, Tommy and Marky were driving these powerful rigs (Todd and I passengers)kicking up mud and having the time of their lives, squealing with enthusiasm. On our way back from a ancient tiny town and back along the presa (resevoir) it started to rain buckets, we could hardly see. Emerging from the country side and back towards town, we cruised up the cobblestone streets, navigating through traffic, and rivers that minutes ago were streets.  Drainage Pipes that hang off roofs and over the streets drenched us even more. It was like we were the dudes in a video game, dodging and careening to avoid traps and tags. We arrived back at the shop, squeezed the water out of our clothes and quickly hailed a warm steamy cab to bring us home. At the house, the boys jumped into a hot, full tub and we all got our core temperatures back up to normal. I curled up in my favorite white fuzzy robe and jumped under the down comforter...felt like a cold rainy day in December in Orinda.....and fell asleep.

I had a dream. I had a dream that I was crouched by a river so vast, it looked like the sea. Naked with my clothes draped over my back, I was contemplating jumping in. "Todd, see that buoy out there? Let's swim to it" We looked out quietly. Then on the bank behind me I felt people walking by, only able to catch glimpses of colored pant legs shuffling pass and no longer were we alone. I suddenly felt ashamed and embarrassed to be so exposed, not wanting to be seen.
I jumped in, the water was cool, enveloping and safe. No longer did I feel self conscious in the proximity of strangers. Perfect were the next moments as we swam toward the red bulbous can, Todd near by. Calm was the surface of the water, the atmosphere was tranquil and the light of the sky soft. Yet when we were far from shore, the current quickly became intense, so forceful, I could barely keep my head above water. Panicked and scared, I struggled for each breath frightened how quickly everything changed. Completely alone, flailing I fought to swim ashore. Finally, down stream I reached the river's edge again, face in the sand, body completely limp I lay there, relieved and corpse like. I watched myself dreaming.
Focusing my eyes within the small radius around me, I realized the sand was littered with skins, discarded, shed snake and lizard skins. Translucent, delicate and dry. Gorgeous and strange I wished to show this to the boys. And there in the middle beneath the skins, lay a earthen clay Buddha like vessel half buried in the sand. I reached for it, and with my finger scooped away the sand, amazed that this small treasure would hold a single tealight candle, one that wouldn't go out in the wind for the concave shape would cradle and protect the tiny flame.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

After saying goodbye to friends in Mexico city; Anabel, Emilio, Fernanda y the curly headed angel, Diego, we got into our van overstuffed with bags, dog crate and headed towards San Miguel de Allende, our final destination- 3 hours north of "la cuidad".
We had just spent a whirlwind two days in Mexico city with the Heredia's. Anabels extended family included her mom, step dad, cousin, sister and brother in law and numerous others we learned about through conversation. We arrived to there modern home and experienced amazing Mexican Hospitality. Mom had a full table of traditional foods to eat and immediately welcomed us as we stashed our bags,  relieved to have leg room and get our large, over zealous dog out of her crate. Our kids were thrilled to see each other and spent the next  waking moments within the 36 hours romping around and laughing where ever we were! They took us around Mexico city in at times, pouring rain where we:
1. Attempted to board an overcrowded double decker tour bus (Completely got Soak #1) The rain was impressive!!! Gatos y perros!! (Not actually sure if that idiom translates in spanish!)
2. Visited the amazing Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology museum) where the kids bounced through mesoamerican exhibits and aztec artifacts....most impressed with the grand tombs(there were skeletons!) of these amazing and ancient cultures.
3. Ate another tasty meal at a traditional restaurant off the Zocalo (Main square in DF). I just love how this culture allows children to be so free, even in white tablecloth establishments! Yes, that means the boys were laughing out loud, crawling under the table, at times fighting (just my boys) and even fast walking (like they do at pools- that barely restrained yet energetic style boys 7-12 possess) around some of the other customers. I was tensely mortified at moments, but solo in that feeling apparently. Kids are kids-sleeping in elders arms, laughing, quarreling...all in the open. Vivir la vida! I hope I can chill like the Mexicans before too long...
4.  Walked around The Plaza de la Constitución, or Zocalo. This is the second largest public square in the world, second to Red Square. It is the historic center of Mexico and has significant buildings of church, state, culture and Aztec ruins flanking each side. Pretty amazing in scale with a gigantic Mexican Flag waving in the middle. There were people from all walks of life: artisans selling indigenous crafts, Aztec dancers in exotic feathered costumes, tatooed hip younsters, old grimy beggars, families hanging out, protesters (their tents have been set up in the square for over three months apparently.)It also was the main party zone and headquarters for FIFA Cuppa del Mundo complete with performing rock bands and gigantic screen tv. Needless to say we held the children close as this enourmous square was pumping with stimulation and variety.
5. Escaping the noise we ducked into the gorgeous Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) where we saw a grand altar made of oro (gold) that Marky found quite impressive and Will couldn't believe how crooked the expansive floor was. The church has sunk incredibly over the past 430 years - Not only is it a massive amount of weight and the soil below is quite soft but the brazen Spaniards built their entire city on top of the sacred center of the great Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. So hence the crazy sinking of much of centro. Restoration Specialist's main concern is to just ensure that the sinking is uniform and balanced so the buildings actually remain upright.
6. The Great Temple (Templo Mayor) was pretty cool, as it is recently discovered evidence of more Aztec culture, which Marky had studied for his 3rd grade house building project. He decided to do Montezuma's palace and here it was, remains of his great city. Yeah, Marky thought it was kinda neat but the stand adjacent selling pseudo raybans with Mexican flag imprints on the lenses was more alluring and only 80 pesos...I bet if you asked him about the ruins, he may just give you a blank stare....but you wouldn't know it because he's sporting his ultra cool shades...
7. Finally we got drenched again!!! (Soak to bone #2) We and the crowds huddled under the massive rotunda of the Bellas Artes as the moist dusk air turned to another torrential downpour. After jovially waiting several minutes for it to abate, we decided to make a run for the parking garage and splashed through the pond that previously had been the Zocalo.
Our brief time in Mexico city was great and a memorable way to enter such an exhuberant country.

Our first days in San Miguel have been amazing and the weather perfect. We had arrived Saturday afternoon and were warmly greeted by Juana, Irma and Carlos, the cook, her daughter the housekeeper and the gardener. I'm pretty sure I've died and gone to heaven. Juana has cooked for this household for 19 years and is an amazing little wisp of a woman who I instantly fell in love with.  Her guacamole, pollo con championes y hotcakes are divine...(And it's not only because I didn't have to prepare it!!) Not to mention they are also our spanish teachers by default! The boys are a bit shy, but I think they will become fine friends within a few weeks.
The following day we walked forever seeking a shop that sold "pelota de futbol" as the boys have futbol fever and hung out in the Jardin to watch the "cuppa del mundo" with all the other fans. It was lively and the kids played ball in the Jardin under the pink glow of the colonial gothic church, La Parroquia.
We have spent the following hours of the day unpacking and settling into this old hacienda we now call home. It is so so so cool- 70 yrs old and traditional mexican style with colorful tile bathrooms, kitchen and brick floors and white stucco walls. The weather is perfect during the day and  balmy at night.  Couple nights ago we finished the day by bringing sleeping bags to the rooftop terrace and as we snuggled in looking over the twinkling city and watched the heat lightning. I read to them by candlelight of old cracked lanterns I found in one of the closets. Later that night, it down poured a warm rain which quieted the barking dogs and gave the earth a fresh, organic smell. The boys didn't even wake...they were tired, sleeping like rocks and I am happy to be in such a beautiful place. We look forward to 10 days from now when Tommy and Todd arrive. We miss them a lot and can't wait to share this amazing adventure.