Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ándale pues...

For some reason, when I imagined life in Mexico this year, visions of free time danced in my head. Why? I do not know. Between travel, book-writing, online teaching, research, school, play dates, hosting family/friends/students, making friends, celebrating, head colds/sinus infections/ear infections/GI distress/skinned knees/flayed feet feet, shopping, eating, figuring out how to take the garbage out, and really a thousand other things, we seem to pretty much constantly be going. Going. Going. Lots and lots of fun, sure. But busy.

So, I need to push the rewind button and post about what happened shortly after my last post in March. Which I'll do just as soon as I pick up A. from school...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nescafé, clásico.

Truism: Every time I am in Mexico, I will eventually find myself drinking Nescafé. Usually, this is because I have procrastinated buying or brewing more barely-drinkable beans. Pobrecito México, so many lovely coffee beans, so few people who know how to roast them... The last few days I haven't been able to make it to the Zapatista store to buy the only moderately-drinkable coffee I have found in Zac. So, Nescafé it is. Even though this would seem like a strange hell for the discerning coffee addict, I actually don't mind. The label improbably claims that it is "100% café puro," but Nescafé doesn't taste like coffee. It tastes like México.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Travels within travels within travels...

Well, I've been meaning to post on our recent trip to Mexico City. But I haven't gotten around to it because we're so busy doing a million things. Like taking a trip. Or planning our next trip. Soooo, anyhow, we had a wonderful time down in el D.F. It truly is one of the world's great cities. We left Zac. early and managed to arrive at the bus station an hour early, which was great because it was below freezing in the station. On the taxi ride there, the driver kept wiping the condensation from the windshield, until he realized he was just wiping ice. Inside the cab. It was as cold as I've been in Mexico. And that includes schlepping up Picacho del Diablo in the rain...
The bus ride was actually nice. We rode the super-lujo ETN, which has wifi, lunch, and big chairs which recline. A. was freaking out about the prospect of riding the bus. Seriously. D. didn't quite enjoy it as much as we did. We stayed in a fancy hotel on Reforma, the D.F.'s Champs Elysées. The first night, we attended a reception for the Fulbright scholars. We weren't there for two minutes before A. had run off with a gaggle of kids to play escondas and Simon dice. I spent the night alternately chasing after her and after the buffet and open bar. That's why I know virtually nothing about the other Fulbrighters. Ava did make a fast friend, M., whose folks are Fulbrighting in Oaxaca. They were basically inseparable for the rest of our stay, touring, building forts, and comparing Polly Pockets.

The next day, we tagged along with M. and her dad on a tour to Teotihuacán. I think I can count the number of organized tours I've taken on one hand (finger?), but it was great and caused me to rethink my opinions of touristing. We went to the Plaza de Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco (which I've never seen. Site of some great massacres through history), La Villa (where the image of La Guadalupana, Reina de Mexico, Emperatriz del las Americas, etc. resides), and on to the incomparable Teotihuacán.

Some my earliest memories are of climbing the pyramids here, when I was five, or so. Remarkably, they seem unchanged. They are still huge, steep, and breath-taking. The scale of the constructions is difficult to get your head around. The Pyramid of the Moon was constructed over 300 years. They built a new layer each century (52 years, according to the progress of the Fourth World). M. helped A. figure out the basics of pyramid climbing. I was by far the most nervous one, trying to keep A.'s hand on the cable and to keep her from running.
The views from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun are just unbelievable. Words aren't going to help much. When you're up there, you realize that the city is right in the middle of a valley. The pyramids mimic the contours of the surrounding hills.

We saw some spectacular murals in a partially restored palace. They include a panel depicting a vision of Tlaloc in heaven. Apparently, butterflies played an important role in the cosmology of the locals, representing the maturation of a person. The warriors were associated with butterflies, as are high priests, etc. The murals really are exquisite. Even Fennec thought so...
That evening, D. attended a reception with the US ambassador, but apparently, he didn't want kids messin' with his crib, so A. was personae non grata. It's possible that I was not welcome, too. God knows, the US has to keep up appearances...
The next two days were spent exploring Bosque de Chapultepec. Us dads went to el Museo Papilote with the kids, which is a great kids museum, except that it was completely overrun with kids. Unbelievably crowded. But, I suppose that's a good thing. Big hits included riding on the Autobus Magico, an IMAX 3D of underwater life (This blew A.'s mind--she would periodically jump from her chair and try to grab various critters as they swan by.), and the recycling exhibit, where we made paper dolls out of recycled paper pulp. Very cool. We ended up spending the whole day there and we still need to go back.
On Saturday we spent a beautiful day in Chapultepec Park. Once we could find our way in. It is an immense and amazing place. Around every corner is something new. Monuments, castles, museums, lakes, etc. We spent an incredibly brief time at the Museo de Anthropologia. This place trumps any other antiquities museum I've seen (take that British Museum!). I only got to spend mere seconds in the Sala de Culturas del Norte, Sala Maya, and, of course, the Salas Mexica and Teotihuacano. Spending two hours here is like stopping off in the Land of the Lotus Eaters for a quick bite. Alas, we had to leave and see off our new friends on their return to Oaxaca (I want to visit!). 
We then headed off for a quick tour of the Mexico City Zoo. The zoo is free. It is basically sponsored by McDonald's. You can get a Big Mac with your giraffes, fries with your poisonous snakes, etc. I give Ronald my regards on his chocolate sundae, which must have some narcotic in it. We quickly purchased a map and did reconnaissance for foxes. In a moment that will go down alongside the discovery of the New World, D. found where the fennec foxes were located. Real fennec foxes. Big ears and everything. Even though the little guy was comatose (hey, they're nocturnal...), he sure was cute. We walked back to Reforma, stopping to shop for super-cool Adidas-knock-off vinyl bags, hit the Zona Rosa for dinner, then went back to our palatial suite.
Sunday was time to catch the super-luxe landplane back to Zac-Zac. I love D.F., I really do. Every time I go, I feel like I need another two weeks or so. It is un gran ciudad, Biggest Big-City in the World. Maybe I haven't gotten out enough, but LA, New York, Paris, London, Rome, Athens got nothin' on the cradle of Meso-American civilization. Next time, I'll see all those things I missed...
It's off to the Yucatan in just a little bit. I can tell you, that trip just sounds brutal. We're looking forward to seeing NM friends, Baba and Uncies, playallday, Merida, the beach, and our old friends the Classic and Post-Classic Maya. Time to catch a breath and, well, travel locally. A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando....

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A carnival, of sorts

A. and I spent the evening down at the little plazuela below our house, where they have set up a mini-carnival in honor of the festival de Jesus. It's a big week for our neighborhood church. Every morning at 6:45, they are banging the bells, Quasimodo-style, every afternoon the danzantes are in the churchyard dancing the Matachinas. A. was beside herself with excitement. It was state-of-the-art fun (well, if you're a six-year-old...) and weird in only the way only a small Mexican carnival can be. Apparently.

I'll post soon on our trip to Mexico City, which was a regular pachanga. I've been too busy with work and fretting about the demise of higher ed. in NV. Anyhow, the world goes on, the show goes on....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feliz Dia del Amor y la Amistad

The immortal Pedro Infante and I are wishing you all a happy Valentine's Day, al estilo mexicano...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

bien empapado

We have had a very crazy week down here in humanity's cultural patrimony or the cultural patrimony of humanity, or something. We moved into our apartment at the beginning of last week. It is the second floor of a newly renovated house in a very nice neighborhood in the centro. There's a beautiful church out the front door, a view of La Bufa, and a little plazuela a block away that hosts vendors of elotes (steamed ears of corn, slathered in crema with chile) and classic Mexican hamburguesas.

So, we were feeling like we could finally unpack and relax after a month of living out of boxes/suitcases. The thing is, the day after we moved in, it started to rain. Not a nice friendly light rain, but as they say in New Mexico, a serious male rain. Then, it got cold again. Life in Zacatecas, like most of Mexico, is pretty much open-air. Few houses have heat or insulation, and most feature various gaping holes to the outside. When it get cold, you've got to get your hands on space heaters and blankets. Lots of blankets. Being a self-respecting gringo from the frigid North country, I did not really think 40 degree weather and rain was much of a threat. But, after sitting in it for about 24 hours, I was forced to reconsider.

It was at about this time that the roof started to leak. Over the bed. Thus began a couple of days moving furniture and buckets around to avoid/catch the multiplying incursions of water. Basically, water stains appeared all over the ceiling, and it was difficult to tell when one would begin to drip. Our solitary space heater was working so hard we eventually converted it into an arc-welder, melting an outlet and causing much excitement for A. and D.

Then the hot water went out. This was basically the last bit of consolation we had left. Much cursing and gnashing of teeth ensued, but this is a family blog, so I'll skip that. I suppose the low point was when I was up on the roof around midnight trying to clear the standing water when I realized that wet snow was accumulating. On second thought, it wasn't really a low point. It was actually quite beautiful watch snow fall on La Bufa and the city below. It seemed so absurd that I had to laugh. But, still. It was cold.

I really shouldn't be complaining, in light of what they've been going through in the Valley of Mexico. Eventually, the clouds cleared, the drips slowed. The sun came out. Our landlady (La Licenciada) swung into action, delivering heaters and sealing the roof, which was for some reason left unsealed after construction (I found inventive ways to curse those responsible). As D. said, we were basically living in a terrarium with sweating walls and ceiling. But, we began to get settled. Spirits lifted. Internet arrived. Order was restored.

Now, the sun is out and the sky is blue. All is squared away here at Casa Boehm Jackson, or rather, Jackson Boehm. Yesterday, Baba arrived on a red-eye and is probably already exhausted. Dress-up, princesses, witches, and what-not are the order of the day. Right now A. and her Baba are having ballet lessons in the living room (A. is the teacher). Poor Baba. It is very nice to have our first official visitor (I think Daddy was more of a fellow traveler). You should all plan on paying a visit. No rain clouds or drip buckets, guaranteed.

Friday, January 22, 2010


After three days of involvement in the Mexican educational system, a few things are apparent:
  1. It's hard work being a parent. I mean like, hard homework. So far, we've had to build a diorama of the tundra, think up a story exploring a value like "liberty," "truth," "virtue," etc. (A. has decided on "The Fox Who Cried 'Boy'"), cut out and laminate parts of a game exploring the life cycle of six animals, and attend a meeting on the organization of a parade for the kids. On top of this D. has been running around to every papeleria (stationery shop) in the city tracking down the many and varied implements of learning required by school. There are many, many papelerias in Zacatecas.
  2. It's really important to be on time picking up and dropping off your children. It's mainly important because so few people are.
  3. You should really keep yer kid clean. With a real bath, hot water and all.  Scrub them down. If you don't, they'll probably smell and other kids won't want to have anything to do with them. I mean, come on.
  4. If you're good, there is a chance you will get a star.

In other news, Skype is very cool (as is google chat). It's even cooler if you have a webcam on your computer. It is pretty much like what you were promised by science fiction. So, if you know us and want to talk, by all means set up Skype on your computer. It is easy and free. If you are a gmailer, there is video chat which works quite well, too. Just fire up a chat and install it. I discovered this today buggin' one of my fav nieces. This info is particularly important for certain Grandmamas, who shall remain anonymous.

Also, today I got my first welcome-to-Mexico-gringo-you're-too-tall greeting, in the form of a low-slung canopy support smack in the middle of my brow/sunglasses. It didn't put me on the mat, but it was a near thing. I usually average 1 to 3 of these a month. Since I can still see, I'm looking forward to the next occasion...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

El Patromonio Cultural de la Humanidad

Yesterday, we spent the day as tourists, showing Daddy some of the must sees in the city before his departure. We had a wonderful day wandering the city. The weather has warmed considerably and it was a glorious mid-winter day. We visited the Mina El Eden, a silver mine founded in the 1580s. They have a great tour, where you ride a mine car in and then walk through various levels before taking an elevator to the top. A. is a veteran mine-tourer, and she loved it.

From there we rode the teleferico (aerial tram) up to the top of La Bufa, the peak which sits above the city. The views from the teleferico and La Bufa are incredible. Pearched on the top is a chapel which houses Nuestra Senora de Zacatecas, an observatory, and the Museo de La Toma de Zacatecas. The museum details an important battle during the revolution, wherein Pancho Villa and his rebel associates defeated 15,000 federales on the slopes of the peak and secured access to Mexico City. Of course, Zacatecanos feel special pride in hosting Villa in this capacity. But then Zacatecanos feel pride in just about everything...
We ended the walking (at times almost crawling) tour with a stop at the Museo Rafael Coronel, which houses Mexico's most extensive collection of masks, as well as a bunch of other stuff. I think the most incredible part of the Museum is the setting. The Ex-Convento de San Francisco served as a staging ground for all of the missionary expeditions into the great northern unknown. De Anza, Coronado, Kino, Escalante, all them passed through here. The convent has been restored to a state of arrested ruin. It is an amazing piece of architecture--you can see the inside of walls, layers of paint, roofless cathedrals. The interior is a garden with agave, bougainvillea, palms, and flowers growing over, through, and around walls, doors, and ceilings...

The entire Centro of Zacatecas is a dense maze of colonial buildings and winding streets and walk-ways all pitched across steep hillsides. Every time I come back, I'm surprised at its beauty...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We left the coast on Friday (I think it was Friday?) and set out with hopes of making it to Zacatecas before dark. Alas, wind-ey roads, missed turns, oxxo stops resulted in a layover in Aguascalientes. It was not easy leaving Sayulita and its charms. I think the weather helped us along because on the day of departure we awoke to clouds and rain. We had a strange drive in the cold and rain. I was ok with the night in Aguascalientes, because the next morning we walked up to the Museo de la Muerte, which is a new museum documenting this country's fascination with death. Growing up in a fairly death-phobic culture, I have always been intrigued by the way that death is placed in unexpected, familiar, playful settings in Mexican popular culture. You wouldn't think that a museum about death would be existentially refreshing, but it was for me. YMMV. A. really seemed to enjoy it. So much amazing art:

We did finally make it back to Zacatecas. The city kinda feels like a home away from home. Coming back this time was a little bit different than before. There are now quite a few memories accumulated here--people, places, etc. Traffic is the same, as is the guerra de estacionamiento. I nearly blacked out from the stress of driving narrow cobble street gridlock for an hour. As Daddy observed, "Henry Ford didn't do these folks any favors."

It is cold up here on the altiplano. Well, it isn't really all that cold for Nevada gringos, but Mexicans are fairly freaked by the sub-freezing temps. It is the big news down here. Everyone is decked out in heavy coats, hats, scarves, gloves, blankets, etc. A., of course, doesn't want to wear any warm clothes at all. So, when we go out walking, and she's in shirt sleeves, people look at us like we are child abusers. I find myself wanting her to please put a coat on, not because I care if she freezes, just because I don't want to look like a monster. No matter. There are huge, beautiful blue skies overhead and tomorrow, we will continue our reconnoiter--settling on housing, finding a good Catholic school for A., and visiting the university.