Thursday, December 23, 2010

Politically incorrect pageant

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

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.


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).