Monday, August 30, 2010


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