Friday, June 30, 2023

Smokey Ohio

 It is rather ironic.  A month ago, before my last trip to Mexico, I was worried about the eruption of the volcano Popocatépetl.  I feared that the air would be filled with volcanic ash.  Now I have returned to Ohio, and the air quality here has been at unhealthy levels due to the wildfires in Canada.

Yesterday morning, my first day back in Ohio, I looked out the window and could see that the air was hazy.  This was not morning mist, but smoke from the fires.  Later in the afternoon, when I went grocery shopping, it was still noticeable.  In fact, it seemed smoggier than most days in Mexico City, which is infamous for its air pollution.  A couple of friends told me that it had been much worse the day before.

This morning the air looks clearer, although, according to the weather forecast, there is still an air quality alert.  This weekend we are supposed to have thunderstorms, so that should temporarily clean the air. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Journey Started Well Enough...

Yesterday, I made the journey from Mexico City to Ohio.

On this trip I had booked economy seats using my frequent flyer miles.  When I checked in online the day before, I was going to see how expensive it would be to upgrade to "Economy Plus" for more legroom.  When I clicked on an "Economy Plus" window seat for the Mexico City - Houston flight, I was immediately assigned that seat at no extra charge!  Perhaps it is because I have "Silver Premier" status that they did not charge me for the upgrade?  Anyway, I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.  When I checked the Houston - Cleveland flight, however, the only "Economy Plus" seats available were middle seats.  So, I just kept my economy aisle seat.

My flight from Mexico City was supposed to depart at 11:30 AM.  Alejandro drove me to the airport.  We had to wait in a long line to check my suitcase, so we really didn't have time to eat breakfast before going through security and heading to my gate. I arrived at the gate shortly before boarding was supposed to start.  However, the plane was not yet at the gate.  It finally arrived, boarding began, and we pulled out about a half hour behind schedule.  I was not worried, since I had a three-hour layover in Houston.

We did not have the usual long wait on the runway for our turn to take off.  We were soon in the air.  My window seat was on the right side of the plane (I have normally been on the left side), so I had a different view during takeoff.  However, the sky was partially overcast, and I had no opportunity to see the volcanoes to the east of the city.

A remnant of the of the lake system which once covered a large portion of the valley where Mexico City stands today.

The flight to Houston takes only about two hours.  Before long we were flying over the Gulf coast of Texas.

I could see downtown Houston as we made our descent.

We had made up time, and, when we pulled up to the gate, we were only eleven minutes behind schedule.  In the past, going through immigration and customs and returning through security at Houston airport has been a breeze.  I don't know if I simply arrived at a bad time, but there was a long line at immigration, and security was chaotic.  But I was not concerned since I still had plenty of time to make my connection to Cleveland.

It was not until I had passed through security and checked the board to find the gate for my next flight that the smooth journey suddenly went awry.  My flight for Cleveland was supposed to leave at 6:00 PM, but it was delayed and not scheduled to depart until 9:00 PM.  I had heard that there were severe thunderstorms on the east coast, and apparently those had thrown many flights off schedule. 

I had a pass to use the United Club, so I decided this would be a good time to take advantage of the comfort (and free food!) of the lounge.  However, the lady at the entrance said they were not accepting day passes because the club was too crowded.  She said to try later.  I went back a couple of times, but there was a line out the door.  

It would now be after midnight before my flight would arrive in Cleveland.  I got out my laptop and sent an email to my friend who housesits for me.  I told him not to bother meeting me at the airport.  I would take a taxi when I got to Cleveland.

Each time I checked the board, the estimated departure time was later and later, until it was pushed back to 10:30 PM.  The plane arrived, but then they were waiting for a flight attendant to complete the crew.  To the cheers of the waiting passengers, she arrived, and we were able to board, and leave at 10:15.  

The plane arrived at Cleveland airport at 1:45 AM, and by the time I got home it was 2:30.  It was a very long and tiring day!

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Nothing Accomplished

When I left for Mexico one month ago, I had three goals.  Tomorrow, I return to Ohio, and none of those goals have been accomplished.

I hoped to purchase the apartment that I rent, but I was not allowed to make the electronic transfer from my bank to the account of the owner.  The payment will have to wait until I am back in Ohio.  I planned to obtain my residency visa, but the lawyer / realtor who is handling the sale said he would take care of that.  That process won't be complete for another week.  I wanted to get a private mail service, but since I am going to have to return to Mexico in about a month, I decided to hold off on that.  Nothing has been accomplished... and the heat wave that we have experienced down here certainly did not help my mood.  It is not just here in Mexico that things are not going according to plan.  The contractor that was going to do some repairs to my house in Ohio before I put it up for sale, has said that he is too busy.

The entire time frame for my permanent move to Mexico has been thrown off.  I had hoped that this would be my last trip to Mexico before making the final move.  But in about a month the owner of the apartment and I are going to have to coordinate and make another trip to Mexico to sign the papers.  Then, I will have to return to Ohio to put my house up for sale... and hope that it will sell in a reasonable amount of time.  I had hoped that I would be living in Mexico before the summer was over... now I am not so sure.


Monday, June 26, 2023

Sure Fire Way to Speak a Foreign Language

 As a retired language teacher, this picture which I found on the internet gave me a chuckle...

Sunday, June 25, 2023

"Lucha Libre"

One very popular attraction in Mexico City which, I had never seen, even after my countless trips here, was a "lucha libre" match.  "Lucha libre" is the Mexican version of free-style wrestling.  Even though I have no interest at all in the phoniness of WWE in the U.S., I did want to see what "lucha libre" was all about.  Alejandro and I had talked about going to a match many times.

When my former student Megan told me that she wanted to go to "lucha libre", I told her that we would like to join them.  She bought tickets ahead of time for Friday's match at Arena México and insisted on treating us.  After our lovely dinner at "Fonda Fina" which I described in my previous post, we walked about twenty minutes to the arena.  We went from the trendy and touristy neighborhood of Roma Norte to the notorious district known as "Doctores" (so named because all of the streets are named after famous Mexican doctors).  The arena is only a block into "Doctores" and the street was well-lit and full of people heading to "lucha libre", so we felt perfectly safe.  It was not as if we were walking down a dark, deserted street by ourselves.

The scene in front of the arena was bedlam with crowds of people and ticket scalpers and vendors selling "lucha libre" souvenirs.

Alejandro was going to drive from his house, park at the arena and meet us there.  I was fearful that he was going to be stuck in Mexico City traffic (which is even worse on a Friday night), but he allowed plenty of time and arrived even before us.  We managed to find each other in the crowd.  Megan and John's friends were also going to meet us there.  Alejandro volunteered to look for them (something of a fool's errand, since he had never met them before), but, somehow, he actually found them.  We were all together, and ready to enter the arena.  We were all patted down by security before entering.  I knew beforehand that cameras were not allowed... hence the poor quality of these few pictures that I took with my cell phone.  Megan had purchased excellent seats for us... close but not TOO close.  Alejandro told me the story (perhaps apocryphal) of a wrestler who had landed on top of a woman seated in a front row seat.  She was left a paraplegic for the rest of her life.

Although I had really wanted to see a "lucha libre" match, I have to say that it was really not my cup of tea.  I knew that it was going to be fake and highly choreographed, just like professional wrestling in the U.S., but I thought it was going to be somehow different.  Other than the fact that most of the wrestlers wear masks, "lucha libre" seemed the same as what I would have expected of a WWE match. There was some impressive acrobatics in the choreography, but much of it was play-acting of dirty fighting.  Megan had been to a match on a trip to Mexico City some years ago, and even she said that she did not remember so much kicking, stomping and shots to the groin.  

In my naivete I had thought that it was going to be, shall we say, more "folkloric", perhaps with mariachis or "norteño" singers performing between rounds.  Alejandro chuckled when I told him that afterwards, but I know that "cockfights" (something which I have absolutely no desire to see) often have musical entertainment by well-known performers.  Frankly I found bullfights, in spite of the animal cruelty, to be much more interesting than "lucha libre".  I can now at least say that I have seen it and cross it off my list of things to do in Mexico City.

We left the match a little early, so that Alejandro and I could make a quick exit from the parking garage.  We said our farewells to Megan and John.  Except for the "lucha libre", I thoroughly enjoyed every minute that we spent together.  As her former Spanish teacher, I felt pride in how well Megan communicated after all these year (even if it is probably more because of her continued efforts than my teaching).  And John, although he never studied Spanish, did an admirable job of using a bit of the language.

They have said that after I am permanently settled in Mexico City, they will return so that I can show them more of the sights here.  I look forward to that! 

¡Muchas gracias, Megan y John!  ¡Nos veremos pronto!

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Dinner at "Fonda Fina"

My former student Megan and her husband John wanted to get together with me for dinner on their last night in Mexico City.  They asked for my suggestions as to where we could go.  I studied Google Maps to look at possible places in their neighborhood.  Since their accommodations were in the neighborhood of Roma Norte, considered a hot spot for dining, there was no shortage of restaurant choices.  I noticed that only a few minutes' walk from their Airbnb was a place called "Fonda Fina" (which literally translates as "Fine Inn").  Alejandro and I had eaten there once quite a few years ago, and I remember that the food was quite good.  It is a fine dining spot without being inordinately expensive or snooty.  So, it was agreed that we would meet at 5:30 at "Fonda Fina".

I took the Metrobus from my apartment, and Megan and John made the short walk from their accommodations.  I figured that at that hour... in between the mid-afternoon main mealtime and the later evening suppertime, we would have no problem getting a table, even though it was a Friday.  There were a few tables inside that were occupied, but we snagged a table outside on the sidewalk.  The heat wave of the last week has begun to abate, and the temperature was perfect for "al fresco" dining.

We all ordered a starter.  Megan had a salad, John had tortilla soup, and I had bean soup with noodles.  My soup, I thought, was exceptionally tasty.

For our main course, Megan had, if I remember correctly, a chicken dish.

John ordered "albóndigas al chipotle" (meatballs in chipotle sauce) which were described on the menu as being "just like mom's".  That made me chuckle since Alejandro's mom used to make meatballs.

I ordered the "chile relleno" (stuffed pepper), and it was delicious and quite unique.  

It was garnished with squash blossoms which I do not care for.  Megan happily took those when I offered them to her.  But otherwise, this dish was scrumptious.  It was not at all like the typical stuffed pepper that is filled with white cheese and covered in a tomato sauce.  This was closer to "chile en nogada"... my favorite Mexican dish.  It was stuffed with a mixture of meat, dried fruit and nuts, and it was covered with white "mole".  I had never heard of white "mole" before, but I did a bit of research on the internet later.  It is a rare form of "mole" from Oaxaca that is prepared for holidays, and it is made with almonds, pine nuts and peanuts.  It was superb.

The service at the restaurant was as excellent as the food.  I think the place was a good choice for Megan and John's farewell dinner, and I am happy that after all these years, "Fonda Fina" lives up to its name.  Although it is not within walking distance of the apartment, Alejandro and I will have to make a trip to eat there again in the future.  That wonderful stuffed pepper is calling to me!

Friday, June 23, 2023

A New Breakfast Place

 On a previous trip down here I noticed a new business called "Té Cuento" which is practically around the corner from my apartment.  It's a teahouse, but they also serve meals.


Yesterday I had such a big breakfast that I didn't want to eat anything for the rest of the day.  Today, I figured that this teahouse would be a good place for a lighter meal, so I went there for breakfast.

I ordered chai latte and avocado toast served with goat cheese and fried egg.

Strangely enough, although this place specializes in tea, I found my chai latte quite bland, lacking in spice.  My avocado toast, however, was very tasty.  I will probably return, but the next time I will order some other kind of tea.

Above the Pyramids

I have not been with my former student Megan and her husband John since Monday.  Friends of theirs arrived on Tuesday to join them, and they have been doing their own thing.  Yesterday they did something that I, even after my countless trips to Mexico City, have never done.  They took a hot air balloon ride over the archaeological site of Teotihuacan.  The ruins of this ancient city, which was at one time the largest city in the Americas, are located about 30 miles to the north of Mexico City. 

They had to get up at 4:00 in the morning and were transported to a site near the ruins, where they got into the balloon.  They ascended at dawn for a ride over Teotihuacan.  Afterwards, they were given a tour (on the ground) of the archaeological site.  Megan said that it was an amazing experience.  Here are a couple of photos that she took...

Floating over the Pyramid of the Sun
Look at all the other balloons.  I didn't realize that there were that many tour operators doing the hot air balloon excursion.

Hovering over the Pyramid of the Moon

Megan and John return home tomorrow, but this evening Alejandro and I are getting together with them to do something else that I have never done in Mexico City before.  It should be fun!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A Trip to Jamaica

Jamaica... not the Caribbean island, but the Mexico City market... is one of my favorite places in the city.  As I said at the end of the last post, the museums in Mexico City are closed on Mondays, but the Jamaica Market is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week.  So, that is where I took Megan and John on Monday.  We took the subway, and fortunately it was not too crowded.  The neighborhood is not the greatest, but the Metro station is right at the entrance to the market.

At first Jamaica looks like any other Mexican market with stalls of colorful and sometimes exotic fruits and vegetables, butcher shops, fishmongers, and vendors selling most anything from shoes to pottery.  There was even a podiatrist's office in the middle of it all. But what makes Jamaica so unique and worthy of a visit is the enormous number of flower vendors.  There are over 1000 stalls devoted to the sale of flowers, flower arrangements, house plants and flowerpots.

Supposedly there are more than 5000 different types of flowers and plants to be found here.  Some are familiar to us, but others are very unusual.  For example, the bizarre flowers in the lower right corner are called "maracas" because of their resemblance to the percussion instrument.


(photo taken by John)

Six dozen roses for 60 pesos (3.50 US dollars)!

Whimsical flower arrangements
The owl with the mortarboard is obviously for a graduate.

Megan amid the sunflowers

While wandering around this enormous market we came upon something I had never seen on my numerous visits to Jamaica.  Hidden away in the heart of the market building is a space where we saw this fellow carving a wooden statue of an Aztec goddess.

He invited us in and explained that this space is a cultural center that offers free art lessons to the public.  He let us wander around and look at the artwork that had been done by the students.

(photo taken by Megan)

In addition to the incredible display of flowers for sale, Megan was also impressed by the wide variety of piñatas.  In fact, she bought a miniature piñata of a lion.

Megan asked permission from the vendor before giving this giant teddy bear a hug.

After our exploration of the market, we stopped at one of the many food stands.  "Carnitas Pati" is a stand which has received very good reviews.  I have eaten there a few times, and I have never had any tummy problems afterwards.  So I always take my visitors here for a snack at the end of our market tour.  The only thing they sell are "carnitas" tacos (chopped braised pork).  To drink we had "tepache" which is made from slightly fermented pineapple.

Megan's little lion piñata sipping the "tepache"

(photo taken by Megan)

Jamaica Market has become "discovered" by visitors coming to Mexico City, but it is still largely off the typical tourist track.  (I don't recall seeing any other "gringos" there.)  Everyone that I have taken to Jamaica has enjoyed their excursion, and I think that Megan and John are no exception.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Breakfast at "El Cardenal"

On Monday I spent the day with my former student Megan and her husband John.  That morning I took the Metrobus from Alejandro's house to the Airbnb where they are staying, a journey of more than an hour.  From there we went to the neighborhood where my apartment is located to have breakfast at another one of my favorite restaurants, El Cardenal.  The place is exceptionally popular for their breakfasts, and on weekends there is long wait for seating.  However, on a Monday morning we were seated immediately at an outdoor table.

John ordered an omelet with strips of poblano peppers, and Megan and I both had an omelet with "huazontle".

"Huazontle" is sometimes nicknamed Aztec broccoli.  Although it does somewhat resemble broccoli, the two vegetables are not related. 

(photo taken by Megan)

"Huazontle" has been cultivated in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times.  It is resistant to cold and drought and grows well even in poor soils.  It is rich in minerals and vitamins, and in Aztec times it was one of the most important crops.  Today, however, "huazontle" and other pre-Hispanic vegetables are in danger of disappearing due to the fact that they are no longer used as much in modern cooking.  So, I guess Megan and I were doing our small part to ensure the continued cultivation of "huazontle".  Along with our omelet, there was something whose name I have forgotten.  It was a small cake make of tender corn.

Our breakfast was very good, and we were well fueled for the day's explorations.  We headed down Insurgentes Avenue.  The temperature was still relatively comfortable, so we walked about twenty minutes to the subway station.  

I have mentioned before that almost all of the streets in that neighborhood are named after states and cities in the United States.  When we came to Ohio Street, Megan and I, native-born Ohioans, had to pose for photos under the street sign.

(photo taken by John)

On Mondays, most of the museums in Mexico City are closed.  However, I was going to take them to one of my favorite places in the city, a place that is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Dog Days

This first photo was taken by Alejandro's sister of one of their family dogs, Pepe.  Is he praying to the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe to bring an end to the heat wave?

And here is a picture of their other dog, Iztac, trying to beat the heat by taking an afternoon siesta.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Father's Day

Just as in the United States, yesterday was Father's Day.

Before breakfast, Alejandro and I drove some distance to a bakery that we really like in order to buy a cake for his father.  We were looking for a very unique cake that we have purchased there before for birthdays... baklava cake.  The bakery was very busy (apparently it is normal to buy a cake for Father's Day).  Fortunately, there was one baklava cake left.

It's actually a cheesecake covered with slices of baklava.  Of course, baklava is not Mexican, and the bakery where we bought it is the only place where we have seen anything resembling the Middle Eastern pastry.  Alejandro is familiar with baklava because on one of his trips to Ohio he tasted it at Cleveland's West Side Market.

Here, Pedro, Alejandro's father, poses with his cake, although it was not necessary to cut.  The cake was already divided into individual slices.

Since Pedro is now officially my father-in-law, I wanted to give him a small present for Father's Day.  Before I left Ohio, I bought him an official tee-shirt of the Cleveland Guardians (the new name of Cleveland's baseball team).

I hope that all my readers had a good Father's Day!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Welcome to Mexico City

If you have been reading my blog over the years, you may remember my former student, Meredith.  A few years ago, she and her husband Chuck traveled to Mérida, Yucatán, and I had the pleasure of showing them the sights.

Meredith's sister Megan was also one my students, and yesterday she and her husband John arrived in Mexico City for a week's stay.  When Megan realized that I am currently down here, she wrote saying that she hoped that we could get together. Of course, I was thrilled by the prospect.  I had not seen Megan since she graduated from high school.  Alejandro and I went to the airport to pick them up and to take them to the Airbnb where they are staying.

After they had a chance to get settled into their accommodations, we went back for them and drove to our favorite restaurant, Angelopolitano.  Again, it you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Angelopolitano serves top-notch traditional cuisine, mostly dishes from the state of Puebla. Megan and John are both eager to try the wonderful food that this city has to offer, and I thought that Angelopolitano would be a great place for a "welcome to Mexico City" dinner.

I had told Megan about one of the restaurant's specialties... "chile en nogada", a poblano pepper stuffed with meat, fruit and nuts, covered in a walnut cream sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  They were eager to try it.  But I also told them that the restaurant serves excellent "mole poblano", another iconic Mexican dish.  So, the waitress split an order of "mole" and served it on two plates, and also brought a "chile en nogada" for them to share.

 I think that they were duly impressed by both of these classic Mexican dishes.

Then they saw the extensive dessert menu and couldn't make up their minds.  So. we each ordered a different dessert, and we had a taste of each of them.

It was a wonderful meal with great company!

I won't be playing "tour guide" for Megan and John for their entire trip since they have some friends that will be joining them later in the week, and they already have some activities planned.  Today, Alejandro and I have to stay at home since it is Father's Day.  However, on Monday, I will be taking them to one of my favorite places in Mexico City.

I hope that Megan and John someday make another trip here so that I can give them the full tour.  And Meredith (I'm sure you're reading this), Alejandro and I are looking forward to seeing you and Chuck in Mexico City in the future!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Art in Progress

I have posted many photos of street art in Mexico City, but I have never before seen a mural that was a work in progress.  This past week, driving in Alejandro's car past the parish church in San Juan de Aragón, I noticed a painting that was in the middle of completion.  A couple days ago, I braved the heat and blazing sun, and took a walk to get some photos of the unfinished art.

There were some paintings on this wall previously, but, as I remember, they were not especially impressive, nor were they in very good condition.

Most of the figures on the mural are still rough outlines, but it is clear that the painting will depict the famous "Cinco de Mayo" Battle of Puebla in which the Mexican forces held back the far superior army of the invading French.  It is an appropriate theme, since, as I have written a number of times before, this neighborhood is well-known for its yearly reenactment of the battle.

I will be watching the progress on this mural.  However, I have not seen anyone working on it, probably a wise decision during this heat wave.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Heatstroke Rally?

I noticed several of these posters in Alejandro's neighborhood advertising a massive rally at the Monument to the Revolution yesterday afternoon.

 The rally was a farewell to Claudia Sheinbaum, the chief of the Mexico City government. (Since Mexico City is now a state of the Mexican Republic, mayor is not exactly the correct term for her position.)  Sheinbaum is stepping down from the post to run as a candidate in the 2024 Presidential election.

I thought that perhaps the rally would be cancelled due to the extreme heat.  It didn't seem very wise to hold an outdoor rally with thousands of people in 90-degree weather.  The government health ministry had issued a heat advisory and warned people against prolonged exposure to the sun.  But the show must go on.  I checked the webcam of the plaza by the monument yesterday afternoon, and indeed it was filled with people.  City workers were expected to attend.  Alejandro talked with the garbage man yesterday morning, and he said they were required to be there.  Bus transportation had been arranged to take groups of senior citizens to the rally.

I just hope that nobody collapsed from heat stroke.