Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Slow Boat to Mexico?

Almost four months ago, on March 26th to be exact, I wrote here on this blog that I had sent this postcard to Alejandro's nephew Ezra in Mexico City.

On Monday, 109 days later, Ezra received his postcard.  (The Pony Express was able to deliver mail across the continental United States in ten days, and I could have walked from Ohio to Mexico City in less than 109 days!)

I really don't understand what has happened to the Mexican postal service.  Nearly fifty years ago, when I attended school in Mexico, the system was not speedy, but it was relatively efficient.  My parents would send me letters and bank money orders so that I would have spending money, and they arrived in a little more than a week.  Almost forty years later, after I first met Alejandro, I sent him a Christmas card in late November.  He received the card in time for Easter.

I sent Ezra another postcard in May.  Where is that card right now?  On a rowboat headed across the Gulf of Mexico?  On a donkey crossing the Sierra Madre Mountains?  Most likely it is sitting in a Mexico City post office, and one day someone will decide to deliver it.

Ezra enjoys receiving mail, so in spite of the snail's pace in delivery, today I am sending him another card.  This one has a picture of Ohio's state bird, the cardinal.

He should receive it sometime in November!

I have been traveling to Mexico for nearly a half century, and in those years I have seen much progress there.  Sadly, the postal system has regressed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Rajas con Crema"

The word "rajas" in Spanish means "slices", but when a Mexican talks about "rajas" they are probably referring to slices of "poblano" peppers.  The "rajas" are usually served with "crema" which is similar to our sour cream.

Last week I had to fill a prescription at the pharmacy at a supermarket where I usually do not shop.  While I was there I picked up a few items that my usual supermarket doesn't carry.  One of those items was a bag of "poblano" peppers.

"Poblanos", which are named after the Mexican state of Puebla, are often stuffed... with cheese to make "chiles rellenos",.. or with a meat and fruit filling and topped with a walnut cream sauce to make the exquisite "chiles en nogada".  I wasn't going to do anything that elaborate.  I sliced them up to make "rajas".  I have to admit that I was lazy.  The peppers should first be roasted to bring out their mild, rich flavor.  However, it was a hot day, and I was not about to turn on the oven broiler, so I simply sautéed them in olive oil.

I added sliced onion and a can of whole kernel corn.  Another ingredient that is sometimes added to the "rajas" is "huiltcoche", the corn fungus that I wrote about in an earlier post.  Obviously you are not going to find "huitlacoche" in the stores up here, so I threw in some chopped mushrooms.  After taking it off the burner, I mixed in some sour cream.  Mexican "crema" is a bit different, but I wasn't going to drive all the way to the Mexican grocery store in Cleveland to buy a container.  Sour cream is fine as a substitute.

Alejandro had suggested that I use the "rajas" as the filling for tacos.

Honestly, the tacos were rather disappointing, mainly because the tortillas I bought at the supermarket, "Misson Yellow Corn Tortillas", were dreadful.  They had all the flavor of cardboard.  However, the next day I ate the leftovers straight from the refrigerator, and they were very tasty.  I would make "rajas con crema" again, but either as a hot side dish or as a cold salad.

Monday, July 13, 2020

July Flowers

July is the month when my garden looks its best.  Here are some of the flowers that are currently blooming...

Purple coneflower

Bee balm

Balloon flower

The gooseneck loosestrife has begun to bloom.

I have two jasmines which I take out to the patio in the summer.  They have started to bloom and give off their beautiful fragrance.


Throughout the garden I have a wide variety of day lilies.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Rescheduling Again

It has been nearly five months since I have been on a plane... the longest stretch of time that I have not traveled in quite a few years.  

I still had flight reservations to go to Mexico in August.  Obviously with the virus still going strong in both the U.S. and in Mexico, I have no intention of traveling.  The airline is allowing passengers to reschedule their flights without penalty, so yesterday I went to the website and changed the departure date to January when I generally take a winter trip.  

I also have reservations for the trip that I always take in October / November around the Day of the Dead.  But I suspect that I will have to reschedule that trip also.  I really will not feel safe traveling until this virus abates (unlikely) or there is a vaccine.  I fear for my own safety, and even more I fear that I might carry the bug to Alejandro's home.  So, I will continue to reschedule my flights, until at some point I feel comfortable and safe to travel once again.  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lessons Continue

At the beginning of the month I wrote that I was going to give English lessons twice a week to Alejandro's nephew Ezra via Skype.  Since then we have had three more lessons, and I seems to be going well.  I keep the lessons short... about a half hour... and he doesn't seem to view them as an onerous task.  Since he has had English classes in school since the first grade (he just finished fourth grade), much of the material is simply review, but there always seem to be some vocabulary and phrases that are new to him.

As I previously wrote, our first lesson was centered around basic personal information...  What's your name?  How old are you?  Where do you live? etc.  Our second lesson was about school.  We went over the names of all his class subjects, and I made flash cards with drawings representing the different classes.  I could tell that he had definitely never heard of our common term for gym class... phys. ed.!  That was a bit difficult for him to pronounce.

The next session dealt with weather.  We went over common weather expressions, and I threw in one which made him laugh... "It's raining cats and dogs."  I had a flash card with cats and dogs falling from the clouds.  I also made up pictures showing weather forecasts for cities around the world.

He had to tell me what the weather was like in each city, and tell me what the temperature was.  (At the same time he was also getting a little geography lesson, and a bit of science, seeing how degrees Fahrenheit and degrees Celsius compare!)

Our most recent lesson was about the family.  We went over family vocabulary, and I asked him questions about his family.  We then looked at a family tree diagram that I had made up, and he had to tell me relationships between the people.

At the end of each lesson I teach him a short, simple song, which he seems to enjoy very much.  In addition to "Are You Sleeping" which I taught him in our first lesson, he now knows "The Wheels on the Bus", "It's Raining, It's Pouring" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".

After every four lessons I will do a review lesson, so the next time we go on Skype we will simply go over the previous material, and he can sing a song of his choice.

I hope Ezra is enjoying these lessons, as much I enjoy teaching him.  It's a teacher's dream... one sweet, intelligent student... no discipline problems... and no papers to grade!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Another Volcano Photo

A couple days ago Alejandro took a photo from the roof of his house.  The summer rains and some windy weather had cleared out much of the air pollution.  The clouds in the sky were high enough to allow a fine view of the two volcanoes, Iztaccíhuatl (left) and Popocatépetl (right).  At their elevation (over 17,000 feet above sea level) the precipitation has fallen as snow, and the two peaks are covered in white.

It may seem that I am somewhat obsessed with those two volcanoes... I've posted several entries with pictures of the mountains in the last couple months... and I suppose I am.  I can remember my very first trip to Mexico back in 1973 when I went to school at the University of the Americas.  A bus took arriving students from Mexico City airport to the university campus two hours away in Cholula on the other side of the mountains.  It was one of those rare Mexico City days without much pollution, and Popocatépetl rose dramatically ahead of us as the bus headed east out of the city.  As a native of Ohio, where the highest elevation in the entire state is only 1550 feet, I was very impressed, no, awestruck, by that looming peak.  When we arrived at the campus it was after dark.  The next morning I woke up and looked out my dorm window.  There they were, the two snow-covered volcanoes.  Wow!  The campus also afforded a view of the nearby peak of La Malinche, Mexico's sixth highest mountain.  And sometimes, appearing almost like a ghostly mirage on the horizon, I could make out the white summit of Mexico's hightest mountain, Pico de Orizaba, more than 125 miles away.  This flatlander was constantly admiring the mountains all around him.

Have I already written about this recollection here on the blog?  If so, forgive me, but I am obsessed with those volcanoes.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The "P" Word

If you have read my blog for any length of time you know that I will not dignify that person in the White House by calling him by his name.  I have been calling him a "pendejo" for most of his term in office.  However, I am not by any means the only one nor the first one to give him that sobriquet.  A couple days ago on a whim I googled the word to see what images would appear.  It's no surprise at all whose image appeared the most often.  Here are just a few...

Apparently way back during the last Presidential election, T-shirts and signs with "Eres un pendejo" were to be seen all over New York City.

This barb is based on the label of Tapatío Hot Sauce.

I suppose that most of my readers, even those who do not know Spanish, have guessed the meaning of this moderately vulgar word from context.  One of my Swiss cousins delicately asked me, "Does it begin with an A and end with an E?"   Literally, according to the "Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy", the word means "pubic hair".  However in much of the Spanish-speaking world, especially in Mexico, the word is a mild cuss word used to refer to a STUPID, INCOMPETENT or CONTEMPTIBLE person.   In this case all three adjectives suit him to a T.