Friday, May 31, 2024

Another New Piece of Furniture

You may remember that several months ago I had a piece of furniture custom-made at a workshop.  I liked the finished product, so I went back and had them make a long, low table on which I could put houseplants in front of the living room window.

It only took them a little over a week to build the table, and last Sunday they delivered it.  Once again, I was pleased with their work.  

My three houseplants are now sitting on the table.  From left to right they are:  my repotted poinsettia from last Christmas, my newly purchased aphelandra or zebra plant, and my orchid which is surviving.  They are all potted in a very Mexican style of pottery known as Talavera ware.

On the bottom shelf I put some pieces of glassware that the former owners had left in the apartment.

Earlier this spring I showed you a photo of my poinsettia which I had cut down to just some bare branches.  The plant has sprouted lots of new foliage.  We will see if I can get it to blossom next Christmas.


Buying a Houseplant

You may remember that back in March I visited a plant market in the borough of Coyoacán.  I was checking it out to see if it would be a good place to purchase some houseplants for the apartment.  They had an excellent variety of interior and exterior plants.  However, since I had traveled there by public transportation, I didn't buy anything.

Last weekend Alejandro and I went back there in his car, and I intended to make some purchases.

Alejandro and I posing by the cactus garden


Before looking at houseplants, I wanted to buy something for my poinsettia plant.  Earlier I had purchased some soil at the neighborhood street market in order to transplant it.  However, when I watered the poinsettia after transplanting, the soil was dense and muddy and did not drain at all.  I was afraid that my plant would develop root rot. I wanted to get something to amend the soil.  I bought a bag of small, light, poruous volcanic rocks known as "tezontle".  (When I returned to the apartment, I repotted the poinsettia again, this time mixing in some "tezontle", and now the water is able to flow well from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.)

I then started looking at houseplants.  There were so many different kinds of plants to choose from, but I finally decided upon the plant which Alejandro is shown holding in this photo.

The plant, with its attractive striped leaves, is sometimes called a zebra plant in English. Its correct name, however, is aphelandra.  It is grown for its foliage, but also gets a spike of brightly colored bracts.  (Like the poinsettia, what we call a "flower" is actually made up of modified leaves.)  In the center of the plant there is the beginning of a spike.

After purchasing the plant, we then went to look for a pot for it.  I wanted a Talavera-ware pot (a style of pottery typical of Puebla) to go along with the other two houseplants I have.  I found one that I liked and that was the right size.  When I bought it, the young fellow who waited on me asked if I wanted him to repot my plant.  I said "Sure", so we went to a potting area in the back.  I asked him how much, and he said, "Whatever you want."  I gave him 50 pesos (about 3 U.S. dollars).  I hope that was enough.

We then put our purchases in the car and went back to the apartment.   Sometime in the future, we will make another trip to buy houseplants, but we will go to a plant market in the southern district of Xochimilco.  It is a much bigger market and would take an entire day to see.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Lingering in Polanco

After my short visit to the "Instituto Nacional de Migración" in Polanco last week, I decided to check out the large shopping mall right across the street.  Plaza Antara was opened in 2006 on the site of a demolished General Motors Factory.  It has over 100 stores on three levels.  The architecture is interesting.  An open-air walkway forms a curve with stores on either side.

The mall has many of the stores that you see at most shopping plazas in Mexico City, but there are also some exclusive shops that you usually don't see.  This is after all, Polanco, the Beverly Hills of Mexico City.  Among the shops were Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani, Birkenstock, Brooks Brothers, and Coach.  Needless to say, I did not go into any of the stores, except for one which caught my eye.

Hamley's, a company based in London, promotes itself as the world's finest toy store.

I went inside, looked around, and was sorely disappointed.  I guess I was expecting something like the legendary FAO Schwartz toy store in New York City.  There was nothing really extraordinary about the toys (except, perhaps, the prices), and three quarters of the merchandise was made in China.

I left the mall, walked to the subway, and went back to my very nice, but less hoity-toity neighborhood. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

No Comment

 As I was walking along Nuevo León, a major avenue in the Condesa neighborhood, I saw this man holding a sign.

The sign, roughly translated to English, says, "Politicians and the clergy are damned liars."  (Some would say that the translation of "pinche" is stronger than just "damned".)

A Run to Polanco

I have written about the Mexico City neighborhood of Polanco... a very affluent district that I frankly find too ritzy for my middle-class tastes.  Last week, however, I found it necessary to make a run to Polanco to go to the National Institute of Immigration.

You may remember that last year I made repeated visits to this building, dealing with Mexican bureaucracy and hours-long waits for appointments, in order to obtain my residency visa.

The reason for my return visit was spurred by a discussion on the Mexico City forum on TripAdvisor.  Someone, who had a Mexican residency visa, wanted to know where she could register with immigration at the airport before leaving the country.  I responded that I did not understand her question.  I had traveled back to the United States twice since receiving my residency card, and I simply showed that card at immigration upon returning to Mexico City airport.  Someone else entered the discussion, and told me that as a temporary resident, I had to register with immigration at the airport before leaving the country.  Failure to do so could result in my residency visa being invalidated.  I checked some websites and found confirmation that my visa could be revoked.

I thought it odd.  Both times when I returned to Mexico, I handed the immigration official my residency card and my U.S. passport.  He did not ask me how long I was staying in the country as they always did when I would arrive as a tourist.  He stamped my U.S. passport and instead of writing the number of days that I was allowed in the country, he wrote "RT", which I assume means "residente temporal" (temporary resident).  If my visa had been invalidated, how was it that I passed through immigration, not once, but twice, without any problem?

Nevertheless, I was worried, and I decided that I needed to go to the immigration headquarters in Polanco again.  Polanco does not have the greatest public transportation access.  There is only one subway stop in the neighborhood (Polanco residents would never dream of taking the Metro!), and from there I had to walk a half hour to the office.  I dreaded that I might have to wait in line to make an appointment to simply ask a question.  However, I showed the policeman at the entrance my residency card and said that I had a question about my visa.  He waved me in.  Once inside, I was met by a gentleman whom I remembered from when Alejandro and I first went there to inquire about the procedure for obtaining a visa.  I explained the situation to him, and he said that I can travel anywhere without having to register. 

I was in and out in five minutes, and I felt very relieved.  Apparently, the rules have been changed.  However, the next time that I travel outside of the country, I will show my residency card when I check in at the airline desk and ask whether I need to register with immigration.  Just to be sure!  


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Egypt in Mexico City

Along the Paseo de la Reforma is a large tent-like structure which has stood there since shortly before the pandemic.  It has been the locale for various "immersive experience" exhibitions.  The first one was about Vincent Van Gogh.  The current exhibit, which is sponsored by National Geographic, is called "Beyond Tutankhamun".  It opened in January and will close at the end of this month.  Last week Alejandro and I finally got around to seeing it.  We went on a weekday since the crowds are less, advanced tickets are not required, and the price is lower.

A photo-op at the entrance to the show

You pass through a series of passages and rooms with photos and replicas of artefacts telling the story of King Tut, the discovery of his tomb in 1922, and the treasures found within the tomb.

A replica of the king's sarcophagus 

A replica of the throne found in the tomb

The back of the throne shows Tutankhamun and his wife and half-sister Ankhesenamun

 One of the alabaster canopic jars in which the organs of the king were placed after his death

The famous funerary mask of King Tut

The sandals with images of Egypt's African and Asian enemies

A scarab necklace

The boat which would carry the king's soul to the afterlife

Finally, there is a large room in which images are projected on the walls.  The narration tells of the burial of the young king, who died at the age of eighteen, and the arduous journey and tests which, according to the Egyptian religion, his soul would have to take in order to achieve immortality.

His heart is weighed on a scale, and it must be lighter than a feather.

Having passed all the tests, he achieves immortality.

The exhibit was good, but the best of the "immersive experiences" that we have seen is still the original Vincent Van Gogh show.  I thought that the admission price of 600 pesos (around 35 U.S. dollars) was excessive.  Unfortunately, the exhibit was not prepared for the current heat wave.  There was no air conditioning or even fans inside.  We can imagine how stifling it would have been on a weekend when there are more people.


Monday, May 27, 2024

Freakish Weather

North of the border it seems that every day there is news of more tornados leaving a path of death and destruction in the central portion of the U.S.  Here in Mexico, much of the country continues to be in the grip of a heat wave.  In the tropical forests of the state of Tabasco howler monkeys are dropping dead from the trees.

It does seem that the rainy season has finally begun and will hopefully relieve the drought here.  On Wednesday evening, in the neighborhood of my apartment, there was a nice, steady rain which lasted for at least two hours.  In some parts of the metropolitan area, however, the rain was accompanied with hail and high winds which downed trees.  On Friday there was no rain at the apartment, but Alejandro's family's neighborhood had rain.  Then early yesterday evening, while Alejandro and I were in a restaurant having supper, there was a downpour.  It conveniently eased to a light sprinkle when we were ready to return to the apartment.  As I expected, when I took a look at the webcam photos this morning, the precipitation had left the volcano "Popo" covered in a mantle of snow.

Last Friday the city of Puebla, just two hours away on the other side of the volcanoes, was hit with a freak hailstorm.  Some parts of the city were covered by as much as a couple feet of hail.  There were downed trees, vehicles buried in ice, and flooding when the hail melted.  These pictures that I found on the internet look more like winter scenes from the north than of a country in the midst of a heatwave.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Organ Grinders' Festival

One of the typical sounds of Mexico City is the music of the organ grinders.  The organ grinders are found throughout the city on busy streets where the passersby might throw a coin in their hat.  I will give them a coin when are really concentrating on their music rather constantly halting to call out for money.

Last weekend, when we were downtown, we were passing through the Alameda Park when we heard the music of the barrel organ.  (I always called their instrument a hurdy gurdy, but I found out that is incorrect.  A hurdy gurdy is a smaller hand-held instrument.)  The music was coming from a tent set up in the park, and we had stumbled upon the 2nd Annual Organ Grinders' Festival.

A number of organ grinders were lined up outside the tent. 

There were a number of musicians who had Chilean flags on their barrel organs.  I later found out that seven organ grinders from Chile had traveled to Mexico for the festival.  

In fact, when we arrived a lady from Chile was about to play.  She was interviewed first, and talked about the difference between Mexican organ grinders ("organilleros") and those in Chile ("chinchineros").  The "chinchineros" do not ask for coin from those passing by.  They use their music to attract customers to buy candy from them.

Next there was a group of Mexican organ grinders who in their spare time had formed a folkloric dance group.  They did a couple of numbers (accompanied by barrel organ, of course) to bring the day's activities to a conclusion.

You never know what you will discover as you walk the streets of Mexico City.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Unique Store

In the Historic Center of Mexico is a very unique store called "La Torre de Papel" (The Tower of Paper).

The store is located in a corner of the building which houses the Journalists Club of Mexico.  It is a bookstore, but this is not the type of bookstore where you would go to buy a paperback of the latest bestseller.  The merchandise is very eclectic and unique.  One of the specialties of the shop is miniature books.  Since my cousin Gail collects miniature books, I have been here a number of times to buy books for her collection.  I have had pleasant conversations with the lady that owns the store, but on my last visit she told me that she will be closing down the business in the near future.

Last Saturday when we were downtown, we passed by the store, and I saw that it was still open.  Alejandro had never been there before, so we went inside.  The owner remembered me, and once again we had a nice conversation.  She is still talking about closing the store.

I was looking at the miniature books, and I saw one that I HAD to buy for my cousin... a collection of the works of the Cuban poet, José Martí.  Marti (without the accent on the "i") is the last name of our Swiss ancestors.  I bought the book, but now I am trying to recall, "Did I already buy her a book of Marti's works?"  

Friday, May 24, 2024

Upstairs at the Palace

There were two more exhibits upstairs at the Palace of Iturbide.

The first was an exhibit of pictures by noted Mexican photographer Armando Salas Portugal (1916-1995).  He traveled throughout Mexico and in 1946 he made his first trip to Yucatán where he photographed the landscapes, towns and archaeological sites.  The exhibit contains around 50 images from that journey.  It was interesting for me because I have been to some of the places that he photographed.

Chapel in the coastal town of Telchac

A Yucatán village

Fishermen on the beach at Celestún

The Pyramid of Kukulkán at the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá

The Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá
Notice the columns in the form of serpents.

The House of the Doves at the Mayan ruins of Uxmal

The second exhibit was of textiles from the state of Oaxaca.  The name of the show was "Día y Noche" (Day and Night), and it juxtaposed garments done in black and white.  These items were all woven by hand on backstrap looms by indigenous women.  I have included some close-up pictures to show the wonderful detail of these weavings.

This piece was our favorite.