Thursday, December 23, 2010

Politically incorrect pageant

video

Every school holds a posada for Christmas, which typically involves a pageant. Some schools are more traditional (read religious) in their themes. Our school is a Montessori, which makes it a bit of an outlier in terms of the Mexican educational system and in keeping with their place among the Catholic schools, they chose a secular theme, "it's a small world." You can easily imagine the third-graders doing a samba for Brazil and the fifth-graders singing a classic cowboy tune and some Russian dancers by another grade and so on and so forth. Ruby's class was China. I wasn't too concerned when the kids came out in red shirts (without any irony there either--it was just holiday spirit) and conical hats a la your typical Chinese peasant. The song, written in the 1930s (but perhaps recorded a couple of decades later) was popularized by Cri-Cri, a famous Mexican crooner of children's tunes. The lyrics, at least the ones in Spanish, tell the story of a Chinaman, (well--let's be honest, a little Chinaman) who is trapped on the side of a pot or vase. It would appear (as I cannot figure out the Chinese parts of the original lyrics) that he mouthed off to authority and therefore remained trapped in or on the jar for all of eternity. The song does not appear to be too problematic per se. Imagine my mortification when what had begun as an effort to teach tolerance and diversity turned into an exercise in racism. When the kids got to the Chinese lyrics, they squinted up their eyes, stuck out their top front teeth, and did their best imitation of a kung fu movie. Upon closer inspection, I realized that some of the parents had even painted slant eyes on their kids. I suspect I was perhaps the only parent there to be alarmed at the message too. And sadly, it's a nice school, so the fact that they did something so lacking in taste makes it all the more painful when otherwise, they at least try to do a decent job of teaching the children values along with their letters, etc. When Mike watched the video later that day, he noted how easy it is to teach racism. Ay, Mexico lindo--you've come so far but you've got a long ways to go, baby.

El chinito estampado
en un gran jarrón
fue acusado de decir:
¡Yan -tse - amo - oua - ting - i
pong - chong - kí.
El chinito fue llevado
ante un mandarín
y al llegar le dijo así:
¡Yan -tse - amo - oua - ting - i
pong - chong - kí.

El chinito no quería
ya vivir en el jarrón
pues estaba dibujado
en las garras de un dragón.

El chinito fué obligado
a volver allí
pero antes dijo así:
¡Yan -tse - amo - oua - ting - i
pong - chong - kí!
¡mow- sang - li...¡¡kóu kao!!
Cierto día que pasaba
el emperador
el chinito le gritó:
¡Yan -tse - amo - oua - ting - i
yan - CHONG - CHONG!

Cien puñales apuntaron
a su corazón
pero el pidió perdón:
Yan tse amo oua ting i pong
chang chung fong.

El monarca con clemencia
a sus guardias ordenó
-¡Le concedo la existencia
más no sale del jarrón!

Por mil años el chinito
se quedo allí
y jamás volvio a decir así:
¡Yan - tse - amo - oua - ting - i
pong - chong - kí!.
Hai - lák - ¡Ni sei lok sei lok!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ruby getting into the holiday spirit

video
Ruby's been getting a lot of practice with the pinatas at the numerous birthday parties so far this year. At the consulate posada, you could tell she'd been improving her techniques as she worked out some pre-holiday frustrations with the stick.

Ticklefest

video
Another one for the baby lovers. That laughter must be one of the best sounds in the whole world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Treasure from Tonala


A friend and I have made a couple of runs out to Tonala in the last week for holiday shopping and general hooky-playing before the kids go on vacation (and I go temporarily insane). Today's mission was a metal tree that she had been obsessing about, having seen one at someone's house here in GDL. It took two trips to find them, but one look and I understood. Had to get one myself and both the girls and even Daddy-o oohed and ahhed appreciatively. No one came home with the metal Elvis, but I couldn't resist the picture.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Guess who came to the posada?



We attended the consulate posada on Saturday at a lovely little retreat with horse rides for the kids and a real playground not built over cement, which is key in these parts. After lots of great food and drink, we were in the midst of pinata-smashing when Santa appeared. He was patient and sweet, albeit a little over-dressed in this clime. Ruby was smitten and could not for the life of her tell him what she wanted, while Iris immediately screeched upon approach. We couldn't even get her near the poor guy, let alone on his lap for a pic with her sibling. She recovered quickly once the treat bags were doled out, however.

Anxiously awaiting heirlooms

One of the foundations of Mexican cuisine is the tomato. And Mexico grows a large share of the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. as well. The state of Sinaloa's license plate sports a tomato as testimony to the fruit's commercial significance, but perhaps that's just because a meth lab would be in poor taste. Sadly, as Mexican agriculture has gone the way of agro-industry, the varieties of tomatoes available here have gone the way of those mealy, flavorless hybrids that we complain about in our grocery stores up north.


Add a gardenless summer in DC, where the farmers' markets, while nice, made us homesick for our own messy but productive garden back in eburg and the glorious and mostly organic produce available at such markets all year round in the PNW and I couldn't resist the year-round growing season here. My first attempts at some urban container gardening were fraught with mishaps. It was too hot to start lettuce and bok choy and other fall crops, so it all bolted. Whatever was left was absolutely devoured by all sorts of bugs in our tiny backyard as it was till the rainy season and they were out in force. Slugs and some kind of caterpillar were the worst offenders. So I relocated everything up and away from the bichos once the weather had cooled a bit and aside from a nasty round of whiteflies which are hopefully under control now with a homemade oil soap remedy, we look like we are in business. The tomatoes are setting, we're sowing a second round of greens, and I also found some lemongrass plants here through our local vivero, which are nearly ready to harvest for the occasional Thai or Vietnamese dish. The new year should bring some tasty insalata caprese!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

GDLicious: Cocina 88

We lingered at Cocina 88 last night with friends, first over mojitos, then over seafood and steak and lovely desserts. As usual for us gringos, we were a tad on the early side, so the place, which is set in a beautifully restored mansion downtown, was on the empty side when we first arrived. Hours later, the place had filled up with families and couples and more than a few refugees from the FIL, Guadalajara's annual book fair, which brings thousands of writers, book buyers, and book lovers to town. We were spoiled by our early arrival, as the owners, Gustavo and Enrique, were able to dote on us before the rush. We toured the day's catch with Gustavo, and later, Enrique talked us through the menu, suggesting the ceviche and several fish dishes. The ceviche, made by their Peruvian chef, was a citric sensation and we would return for that alone. Add the lovely company of our friends and the attentive service and it was an evening worth repeating some time soon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things to love about Mexico: Affordable medical care

I'll get to the crazy photo in a minute, which is the downside of the medical scene here. We're suffering through our first round of sinus and not so first round of ear infections for the littlest of us, which is not surprising, given that it's cold and flu season here. Of course, the germs are aided by Guadalajara's abysmal ranking in terms of air pollution these days, and locals would also blame the cold and dry climate. I'll concede it's dry this time of year, but as for the cold, I'm still waiting for it, even as the thermometer dips to a bracing low 80s during the day. Anyway, I've spent a fair amount of time in various doctors' offices lately and it's been a pleasure to experience a very different kind of medical economy after years of living in a town that suffered from a severe shortage of medical practitioners, on top of all the usual problems of American health care, like inflated costs and gatekeeper insurers, etc., etc. We very much appreciated our doctors, but they were overburdened and facing tremendous pressures from the client load, the malpractice insurance, and again, all the usual woes of the American health system. So wow, what a breath of fresh air to spend a leisurely half an hour or more with the pediatrician for the whopping sum of about $40 (and he's on the pricey end of things), or to waltz into the office of an ENT specialist after calling for an appointment that very morning. The latter visit, which included some very interesting procedures on my nose that I shall not detail here, set me back a whopping $45, and would have easily run upwards of $200 after waiting weeks for an appointment in the U.S. These docs are all U.S. trained, keep up on the latest research and practices through their connections in the U.S., speak lovely English, which is very nice when you are sick or dealing with screaming sick children, and are apparently able to actually take the time to speak with their patients.
So what's the downside? Well, it's no small irony, given that so many Americans seek to buy cheaper prescription medications here, that the real problem is with those very same prescription drugs. There is a huge contraband market here in pharmaceuticals, some of which are poorly manufactured, some of which is expired, and some of which should not be sold without a prescription but is nonetheless available if you know where to look. Mike was invited to witness the public burning of a huge cache of confiscated pharmaceuticals, seen in the photo above. Here's to hoping that our current round of antibiotics are the real thing (and more later on the porqueria surrounding the recent implementation of a law requiring a prescription for antibiotics).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feria del Maestros del Arte


As part of the hunt for xmas ornaments, Ruby and I took a drive to Lake Chapala, where they hold an annual art fair on the yacht club grounds. There were weavings from Oaxaca, paper art, loads of just astonishingly gorgeous ceramics, which Jalisco is renowned for, Huichol beadwork, paper mache, and many other forms of artesania. We dined at a lakeshore seafood joint (but not on fish from the lake, which would surely kill you, now if not later) and generally enjoyed the gorgeous weather and views.

Just call me Martha

Once it sunk in that our Christmas ornaments would not emerge out of the chaos of our HHE (household effects for those of you not living the vida loca of the foreign service), I entered a period of denial for a while. And then it was November, and then it was Thanksgiving, and then it was time to panic. So Ruby and I have been combing the art fairs and markets for ornaments (and scored quite a few) but I also felt compelled to try my hand a remedying the situation at home too. I found these little sequin appliques in the downtown merceria district (all things related to sewing, knitting, etc.) and then just did a little felt backing for them to augment our growing ornament collection. A word to the wise--glue guns are very dangerous, especially in the hands of a crafting amateur!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catrinas

On the Day of the Dead, after a tasty breakfast at Cafeto (salsa poblana to die for, no pun intended on such a day), we took Ruby downtown to see the catrinas. The Day of the Dead appears to be a more private affair here than in Mexico City, where public altars abound, but we did find a beautiful one dedicated to journalists at the Museo del Periodismo. Mexico has recently earned the ignominious honor of being perhaps the most dangerous country in the world for journalists to practice their craft, so there was more than the usual poignancy here due to Mexico's current paroxysm of violence.





Saturday, November 6, 2010

When in need of a little extra oxygen...


...take a walk in Parque Colomos. This is our neighborhood park, just a few blocks away. There is an entrance fee, a whopping four pesos, that goes to maintain this beautiful green space (to pay the gardeners who are responsible for its half-wild, half-manicured look, along with the bike cops who make it very safe). And given Guadalajara's pollution levels, which have worsened dramatically in recent years, I'm not entirely kidding about the oxygen. You must stay on the trails, as it's an ecological reserve as well. On the weekends, families mingle with joggers with most of the former headed for the horse rides and Japanese garden with its overfed turtle and koi population, while the latter hit the trails. The hills, plus the altitude here of about 3000 meters, make the running tougher than one at first imagines but the refreshing scent of the pines and eucalyptus put a little pep in your step too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Domingos de via recreativa

On Sunday mornings, Guadalajara shuts down traffic on two major avenues downtown so that its citizens can stretch their legs on foot or on wheels. Iris and I cruised with the stroller, while Ruby tested her treads and Mike worked his. It's not a bad workout, if you figure it's more like interval training than a sustained run. This past Sunday's ride was punctuated by catrinas positioned along Avenida Vallarta in honor of the Day of the Dead.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arachnaphobia!

We found and remorselessly killed our first black widows on Halloween, of all days. A mama and her little man had made a home behind a pot on our patio, all too near to Chucho's bed. I confess the size of the mama, with a jelly-bean-sized abdomen, took me aback, until I heard just how huge they can get later that night at a trick-or-treating gig. Ours was apparently quite puny, I now understand. Much to my chagrin, keeping them and all the other bichos at bay seems to necessitate dousing at least the entryways with a bit of poison now and again. Ugh.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Una hada muy bonita!

video

Mexicans have taken to celebrating Halloween in recent years and Ruby's school was no exception. As for candy, well, the take was impressive, as Mexicans are also very indulgent with their kids in the arena of sweets. Ruby did indeed make for a very pretty fairy and came home exhausted by the excitement and sugar high, and that was just the first day of four of Halloween-related festivities.

In the zone

That glazed look in their eyes is the result of cable after a two month hiatus. Even little Iris, who at her age, should have better things to do, followed her sister's example and plugged right in to the 'toons. And given that we were still drowning in boxes, one of which had also contained the TV, I didn't feel guilty in the least since it bought me a little time to unpack.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Things to love about Mexico: Cheap valet parking

After dealing with the financially painful parking scene in Seattle on our various trips for cultural and culinary refueling from the other side of the mountains for many years, it's just fabulous to pull up to a busy restaurant in GDL on a Friday or Saturday night, or for that matter, breakfast on the weekend, hand over the keys, and sail right in to eat, all for the whopping sum of anywhere between two and three bucks a pop. That's living large south of the border (and they actually bring your car back too!).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

GDLicious: latina i and Anita li

Last night we took a drive down by the railroad tracks on Inglaterra, where a couple of restaurants with just the right dose of west coast kitsch and fusion sabor have taken the food scene by storm here in Guadalajara. We took a table upstairs at Latina i with a view of the piggies (scroll through the photos to find them) behind the bar and sipped a "negrony" and some delightful kiwi vodka concoction, accompanied by spring rolls with a kicking chile verde peanut sauce and some really fabulous cachos, or scallops, also with a divine sauce, before moving on to the sister restaurant down the block. Anita li is a little more upscale, a little flashier, with lots of crystal chandeliers and decor by lolo!. There, while Mike inhaled an espresso and a creme de vainilla, I headed straight for one of their very popular entrees, the flauta del mar, which was delicately doused with simply one of the best green salsas I've ever had the pleasure of trying, made on this occasion with chile guero and avocado. Aside from the refreshingly unstuffy ambiance, what I really loved was the vodka maracuya. Passionfruit is one of those flavors that always transports me back to my first encounter with Latin America, some (gulp) nearly twenty years ago, where the juice was served at nearly every little family restaurant and cafe in Ecuador. We'll go back (to both the restaurants and South America) as soon as appetite and opportunity combine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trash and treasure at El Trocadero

video
I took a break from unpacking our junk to look at what kind of trash and treasure the local tianguis, or market, known as El Trocadero, had to offer this fine Sunday afternoon. Costume jewelry, antique metalwork, Hot Wheels and Barbies, angels and skeletons, old movie posters and the occasional box of puppies lined the sidewalks of a park nestled inside Av. Mexico. After the last two weeks' confrontation with our material existence, I was, needless to say, just looking.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What a week!

Our HHE came Monday, Iris suffered her first bout of Moctezuma's revenge which required the full ped/lab/pharmacy routine in the midst of the movers coming, I made lunch for 25 kids at Ruby's school today, and they decided to paint our entire house, after our stuff came of course, starting next week. Add in a couple of cable guys, a nervous dog (who did calm down once his favorite bed emerged from a box), and some wrecked antiques, and you can tell it's been a load of fun. The girls are thrilled, however, as the stash of toys that we've had with us for the last six months had grown rather stale and every box reveals new/old wonders. Iris is now sleeping well in a real crib for the first time in several months and Ruby, who has spent the last few days riding her purple bike dressed in a matching fairy costume, wings and all, collapses with relief into her fortress bed at night. I can almost see the floor in the living room, our kitchen is nearly unpacked, and I'm awfully happy to have more than two or three pairs of shoes to choose from each day. If only I could find the Christmas ornaments, but there are still boxes to be unpacked, and therefore, still hope on that front.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hilarious posting: Signs you might be in the foreign service

Check out this very funny posting "Signs you might be in the foreign service" on Beyond the cornfields, another foreign service spouse blog. We were fortunate to not have nearly as much to contend with vaccination wise here, although this did remind me the girls are probably due for some more shots soon.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things to love about Mexico: Going out for breakfast

And preferably with a crew of colleagues or friends. Guadalajara runs on a more traditional schedule than Mexico City or northern cities like Monterrey. Here, much of the day's business begins at breakfast meetings around 10:00, when the city's restaurants fill up and it can be hard to get a table without a reservation. On Fridays, "las damas que desayunan," the equivalent of "ladies who lunch" make the competition for a table even tougher. I passed by one of the popular restaurants in our neighborhood, Cafe Barra, on a Friday morning and had to laugh at the sea of senoras y mamas escaping domestic tedium. Tomorrow, I plan to join them with a few gal pals of my own to caffeinate, chow down on chilaquiles and discuss the insanity of three year olds.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heard on the radio this morning

"Be sure to bring a hat, wear sunscreen, eat a nutritious breakfast, and do not carry sticks, pointed objects, or stones." The Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest public university, is organizing a protest tomorrow morning of its students to demonstrate against the governor's refusal to release certain funds that the U's administration insists they were promised. The conflict has subsumed the media in recent weeks, in part because the students can, and probably will, bring the city to a standstill tomorrow. Here's hoping for a huge and peaceful march.

An ode to Mexico City


CD. DE MÉXICO, video documental from EARRANGOIZ on Vimeo.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things to love about Mexico: Bookstores

The old-fashioned, snotty, substantive ones that stock more than just the pop garbage filling up the big "B" chains en el norte. Not that there's anything wrong with a good pulp novel now and again, but the overall quality of the selection in those places has really gone downhill, and it's virtually impossible, outside of the occasional university bookstore and a few institutions like Powell's, to be able to browse through academic books. I spent the morning at Libreria Gandhi and the Fondo de Cultura Economica, remembering why I used to love bookstores. These stores are found all over Mexico, and while their organization, often by editorial (publisher) rather than by subject, can be a bit frustrating, they are marvels of the cultured world found here in Mexico. I'm off to read my first Mario Bellatin novelita (he's apparently all the rage in literary circles here).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hairdo!


When we moved to DC, Ruby went through a couple of tough weeks not long after we arrived. True to form, the temper tantrums and three going on thirteenish behavior kicked in two weeks into the move to GDL. She's coming out of it, and has been justly rewarded with things like the bungee jumping seen previously, and this past weekend, a trip to the locals kids' hair salon, where they specialize in fancy peinados for birthday parties and the like. The stylist balked a little at the hipster bangs, but once her hair is down again, she will not look remotely like a boy. The trick will be convincing her that she cannot live a la Bo Derek without her hair falling out or turning to dreads, but that's a conversation we will save for another day with her.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ruby's faves so far

Ruby has taken to life in Guadalajara with her usual aplomb. Here she is in the midst of two of her favorite activities so far, the bungee jumping at our fancy mall, and then on a carriage ride through downtown. Today Mexico, tomorrow the world!

Date night downtown

We had more or less given up on date night in Ellensburg, as how many times can one really go to the Valley Cafe (as much as we loved it and miss the spicy shrimp!), but first DC and now GDL have given us some inspiration. Last night's venture included a visit to the ex-convento de Carmen, downtown GDL, for an exhibit featuring artists from the state of Jalisco and their works in honor of Mexico's bicentennial. It's hard to say what was better, the art or the gorgeous architecture. Then we noshed at il Diavolo, a very popular pizza and salad joint, at the almost respectable dinner hour of 8:30 or 9 (GDLers don't eat until after 9 usually, and sometimes don't even order until 11 or midnight when they go out) before turning in to face Ruby at 5 this morning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Toro, toro!

video
GDL is more a charro town (rodeo to us nortenos) but apparently the locals enjoy other forms of animal abuse like bull-fighting. As you can gather, I'm not a fan of either, although I do admire the skills and bravado of those who do choose to participate in such sports. I came across these young men while out for a run in our neighborhood park the other day and I confess that at first glance I thought they were perhaps theater geeks or day trippers or who knows what. It turns out that Alfonso Hernandez (aka el pali) and Misael Ortiz (you can Google images of them for kicks of you have loads of time on your hands) were the real deal and todo caballero about my request to film them for a minute. Stay safe, guys!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Plants are indeed cool

Our neighborhood plant store boasts the sign above, "Plants are cool." We find this sign to be hilarious and very true, as this vivero does indeed stock a lot of very cool plants. The guy who helped me pick out some greenery for the house this morning told me a story that made this sign all the funnier. Apparently about a year ago, signs with a bearded guy giving the ol' thumbs up appeared all over GDL with the declaration "Jesus is cool." The owner of this plant place thought it would be humorous to do something similar with an old photo of himself, and hence, "Las plantas estan chidas."

Su Perro Limpio

This is definitely going to be one of my favorite local businesses. These guys roll up in a truck and give your dog the most exacting haircut ever. I actually had to tell the poor "estilista" yesterday that Chucho looked terrific but had suffered enough. Today, Chucho was chauffeured to his new vet to get a nasty case of dermatitis checked out--nothing to do with the shower and shave of yesterday but rather the consequence of either his brief but traumatic incarceration upon our arrival and/or the cheapo food he had to make do with until we found something akin to his usual cuisine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The gated life

Everyone, Mexicans and gringos alike, is obsessed with security here. In some ways, that's nothing new, as the most likely crimes to fall victim to are property-related, so the middle and upper classes here have long resorted to shards of glass on top of the thick walls surrounding their homes, gates locking their cars into the carports at night, barbed wire, etc. We have slightly fancier versions of such methods, like an electric fence at the top of our backyard's easily two meter high wall. But what's the best part of living the gated life? Miss R and Miss I running around on our little street with (almost) no fear of getting plowed over by a car. That's pretty fabulous.

Mariachis at the mall

Guadalajara is big on mariachis and we just witnessed our first annual mariachi festival, which meant they were everywhere, even at the mall. I wouldn't go so far as to call mariachi music the Mexican equivalent of country, as it's a bit more sophisticated and some of the songs are deeply rooted in Mexican history but it is still an acquired taste in large doses. Maybe the tequila makes it easier to take for hours on end?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More on driving etiquette

I realized the other day, mid-hand gesture toward a driver who was attempting to blow his stop sign in order to cut me off, that doing such things to men driving huge and hugely expensive American trucks may not be the best idea in the world, as those kinds of vehicles are favored by fellas in certain lines of business, if you know what I mean. Thankfully, I was later informed that the hand gesture that I had employed is typically interpreted as a gesture of thanks rather than something more along the lines of "what on earth do you think you are doing?" Phew!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Illegal turns

I am feeling more at home now with GDL, especially since the car arrived and I've had a chance to explore a bit, both with and sans the girls. After a week of driving here, I felt comfortable enough to turn right from the far left lane on a three lane one way road in front of the other cars while the light was still red. No one even honked, although apparently the Transito, the traffic cops here, are pretty tough, so it's not likely to be a regular event from this mostly law-abiding gringa.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tlaquepaque

We spent an afternoon in Tlaquepaque this past weekend, strolling the main street, peeking at antique shops, and patronizing the street vendors for tchotchkes with which to entertain Miss R. It is not the DF's San Angel on a Saturday morning but we ate a great family-style meal (one enormous platter involving many forms of masa, meat, and cheese), admired some rather gorgeous pieces of furniture, and drank a lot of horchata once the heat kicked in late afternoon.
Notice mother's little helper, a la Mexicana, crucial for getting me through a meal out with two little ones.
Our very festive restaurant, which, like many in the area, was set up al fresco on a gorgeous patio inside of colonial or perhaps pseudo-colonial building.
La diablita herself, looking oh so angelic at this moment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To the men of Mexico, I am not the time lady

Somehow, it has become universal custom for men in this country to use the excuse of asking what time it is as a means of engaging me (and countless other gringas y otras extranjeras, no doubt). The question may be put in Spanish, English, some strange mix of both, or on occasion, with even a smattering of French or German thrown in if I am sporting some Euro-ish outfit. I never, ever wear a watch and rarely have a phone out, so why asking me such a question appears to be an acceptable form of engagement is beyond me, especially when the conversation occurs beneath a large public clock or they themselves are sporting a functioning timepiece. Ay, the joys of being la gringa again!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An open letter to dear friends in DC (and FS wannabees, gonnabees, etc.)

Dear, dear amigas: With two weeks under our belt in Guadalajara, I wanted to sit down and write a note, both sentimental and practical, to all of you back in DC awaiting the first transfer. We miss you all very much, but we are also finding an easy comraderie here with neighbors and colleagues. We are all well so far, and with filtered water in the sink and coming out of our rather nice fridge, we hope to stay that way, although baby I's penchant for eating things off the ground and sucking on shoes will no doubt lead to some problems eventually. The house is terrific, better than I expected, and we are very much enjoying the protected street of our community for scootering and running around with the neighbor kids. The neighborhood, well, honestly, it makes Rosslyn look almost provincial. There are restaurants and bars and more Starbucks than one can imagine. We found a school for Miss R (and Miss I when she can walk, which is the informal entrance requirement here for preschools), a Montessori with a nice green space and a relatively rigorous academic program, with a few consulate families in attendance already, but not too gringified so that she can learn her Spanish and we can meet some folks outside of the usual circles. The cost up front was a bit of shock (it's common in most of Latin America and perhaps other parts of the world too to ask for a large sum for something akin to a registration fee and then smaller monthly payments, and for those of us with preschoolers, that's out of pocket). Mike is loving his work and making lots of contacts and generally living the vida loca lunching at the country club and going out for breakfast meetings (you can imagine that all this went over like a lead balloon when I was stuck with the chicas for two weeks straight with no break, trying to clean the house and unpack the UAB and find groceries and so on, but I survived and will have my day in the sun soon too). On that note, a number of things have come to mind since we arrived that may be of use to you all as you prepare for the first voyage abroad, albeit to very different parts of the world.
First, my mistakes:
1. Letting M do the packout.
2. Letting M do the packout (yes, that's number 2 too, because that meant that things like sippy cups and stools for little ones to reach the faucets and my spices and the contents of our medicine/bathroom cupboard did not make it into the UAB as planned. Fortunately, we are spoiled by access to Costco and Walmart and really, really fast parcel delivery, so between the first two and then Amazon, we have since saved the day.
3.Not packing crucial things like cleaning supplies and sheets and a tool kit and all those things that everyone says you should have in your UAB or maybe even in your suitcase. They threatened to take away our welcome kit after a couple of days, but fortunately, they seem to have now forgotten about it, so we are surviving just fine for now.
4. Not planning ahead for the hard, hard floors in most of these houses. I had shin splints after the first couple of days! One, it would be worth thinking about how you will get them clean if you don't care for the broom and then mop routine used in most of the world, so stick a vac in your UAB or take Swiffers or some more environmentally sound means of getting them clean. The cleaning supplies available here are stinky and toxic but wow, do they ever kill germs! The other issue is for those of you with little, little ones who are on the floor all day long--perhaps some Flor tiles sent ahead or small rugs stashed again in your things to ease the transition? Miss I has black and blue knees and is working on walking but we are still on this hard floor all the time.
5. Letting M do the packout. Well, poor guy, but really, most of the above would have been resolved if I had left a really, really anal list rather than just talking him through it.
So, one last thought for all of you on language, language, language. Mi espanol is a tad rusty but still quite passable and it's nonetheless been very stressful figuring out how to find things and get the girls into school and so on and so forth. I hope you will all find a way to study beforehand as much as you can and then you'll really need to lean on your CLO for support once you land. Otherwise, it's a hundred times worse than the A-100 routine when they all just disappeared for nine hours a day and you had to deal with kids and everything else on your own, having just moved to DC where at least we all could communicate and get around without too much trouble.
FYI, our UAB was here two days after we flew in, and the car will hopefully show up tomorrow relatively intact. Must be the proximity of Mexico but here's to hoping for similar timing for all of you, even at other ends of the earth!
Anyway, that's all for now. Miss you much. Abrazos. M