It's been 17 days since I had a corn tortilla, and finally, today, I gave in. I bought these Mi Rancho tortillas because they were the best I could find. (I'm in San Diego visiting my Dad this week.) They did not contain wheat or a long list of weird chemicals. (By the way, what's up with corn tortillas containing wheat? That's so strange, especially with so many people who are gluten-free.) I thought it'd be fun to start a series of American corn tortilla taste tests, so here are my thoughts on this one. Pros: Loved the phrase "real tortillas are made from real corn" on the package. I also liked that the color was a nice, normal yellow, and not paper-white and gummy, like the other packaged corn tortillas I've seen. The smell wasn't too off-putting either -- it was mineral and slightly bitter, like leftover cal-water. Cons: Very chewy, even after a thorough heating on the comal. The taste doesn't much resemble corn (it's got that bland, floury taste that comes from tortillas made from masa harina), and I would not enjoy eating a plain one sprinkled in salt. OVERALL: Not corn tortilla perfection -- does it exist among the packaged thousands? -- but not bad. I would buy these again if homemade was not an option. If you have a favorite corn tortilla brand, let me know. My Nixtamatic doesn't arrive until early March.
I've forgotten how easy it is to live in the United States. In the past 11 days, I have: -- Thrown the toilet paper in the camode, not the trash can -- Received emailed instead of paper receipts -- Ordered takeout Indian and Thai takeout online with my credit card -- Turned on the hot water and received actual (scalding) hot water in two seconds, instead of waiting and letting the tap run for two, three or four minutes. -- Purchased a cell phone plan in 30 minutes, from the man who greeted us when we entered the store (instead of a surly employee at a window) -- Ridden in climate-controlled subway cars with passengers who follow rules, such as not blaring music, not eating, and not smoking -- Experienced the glory of buying multiple things in one store, including paring knives, coffee filters and earphones. On the second day we were in town, Crayton and I pretty much got our new lives together. We bought new winter coats, went grocery shopping, got flu shots, bought new gloves, investigated two cell phone plans and purchased one. At the end of the day, we realized all of this would've taken at least two days -- at least -- in Mexico City. So far my only mishaps have been not walking fast enough (New York pedestrians are like chilangos behind the wheel of a car), and taking the wrong subway train, or walking west when I should've been walking east. And not to jinx it, but... I think we may have found an apartment. In Queens. Signing the lease tomorrow. I did a Google maps search for "restaurants" (another New York luxury) near our new place, and was shocked at all the excellent Thai and Chinese options that popped up. We're going to have a fabulous time.
I don't have a car, so I take cabs in Mexico City at least once every two days. I've been pretty happy with the cabs here, but a small number of drivers have tried to cheat me, usually by giving me an inflated fare. Yesterday for the first time, a driver gave me the wrong change and then laughed when I told him he owed me 10 pesos. "I can't give you 10 pesos because I don't have it," he said. "Sorry." This galled me. Sorry, I don't have it? What was I supposed to do with that? This morning I woke up before the sun came up and started thinking about all the things I've learned about taking cabs here over the past 2 1/2 years: always ask whether there's a meter, pay attention to the route, carry small bills. I thought this might be interesting to other people, too, particularly people who live here or visit frequently. I'm not complaining about Mexico City cab fares being too high, by the way. Taxis in Mexico City are much cheaper than what you'd pay in the States, and in fact I think rates in Mexico City are too low for the amount of time the drivers spend on the road. But in the interest of ensuring that consumers get a fair rate -- and in making sure they're conscientious riders -- here's my advice on taking taxis in Mexico City. ...
Whenever I’m on the phone with a Mexican person and we’re about to hang up, they linger, as if they really don't want to say goodbye. Me: "Bueno, te dejo." Well, I'll let you go. Them: "Sale pues." Me: "Este... sí." Them: "Nos vemos." See you soon. Me: Silence. Them: "Un beso." A kiss. My problem is that I don't have enough of these goodbye-filler words in my arsenal. (I don't know what "sale pues" entirely means, for example.) In the U.S., we generally say "Ok, I'll talk to you later, bye" and hang up. Most Mexicans I've talked on the phone with don't do this, and I end up hanging up too quickly, which seems rude. I use cuídate and nos vemos. Part of me wants to throw in ándale, too, as a type of "Okay then, sounds good." But I'm still unsure whether "un beso" works for male and female friends, and how to say goodbye when I'm talking to someone in a professional context. Cuídate seems too personal then, no? Maybe just a simple gracias, hasta luego. Any Spanish-speakers out there have any guidance?
an article published last year in Milenio. A 2008 article from Inside Mexico indicated that there could be thousands more, but the overwhelming majority aren't officially registered. As a woman I'd love to see more female cab drivers, especially in crowded areas where there are no taxi sitios. It's still not safe in Mexico City for single women to hail cabs off the street. Female customers traveling alone can be robbed, beaten or raped. I was really interested in how this female cabbie got her job, so we struck up a conversation. To my surprise, she seemed eager to share her story. The driver's name was Clara Dominguez, and she said she ended up as a cabbie four years ago after being laid off from her job in sales. “I did very well in sales -- very well,” she said, as we zoomed down Thiers, a busy avenue that connects Polanco to Reforma. "My boss wanted younger women." ...I've lived in Mexico City for two-plus years without a car. In that time, I've only had female cab drivers twice -- once coming back from the bus station in 2009, and once a few weeks ago, when I was returning from a doctor’s appointment in Polanco. Apparently more than 800 female drivers work in the city, according to
A weird thing kept happening to me in New York. Whenever I’d meet someone new, if we talked for more than five minutes, I took this to mean the person deserved a hug goodbye. In 90 percent of the cases, I was wrong. My new friend would stick out a hand for a goodbye handshake, while I charged ahead with my arms open, like Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers. A fleeting “what are you doing?” look often crossed their eyes. I tried to ignore it, but after like the third time this happened, I started wondering -- am I missing something here? Did I forget the proper way to say goodbye? I talked to Crayton about this last night, and he says I’ve always been a hugger. “You’re from California,” he said. I don't know. To me, I was misinterpreting these goodbyes, which meant that I'd lost a teensy bit of my American-ness. Before I moved to Mexico I could easily discern who got a hug and who didn't. But now, as an expat who's been gone for 1 1/2 years, it never even crossed my mind to shake someone's hand goodbye. Handshakes were so sterile! A hug conveyed warmth, and was still impersonal. It's funny because before I noticed the hug thing, I was actually proud of myself for ignoring my urge to kiss folks on the cheek. Kissing is a common Mexican greeting. It's way too intimate for the States. And I guess hugging is, too. What about you? Are you a hugger? Do you ever feel like you have to adjust how you greet people when you travel?
Crayton and I have both talked about the unique system of banking in Mexico. Probably the biggest issue I've had to accept is that joint checking accounts don't exist within our Mexican bank. There is one "titular," or main name on the account, and a "co-titular," or another person who has access but not complete control. In our case, Crayton is the titular and I'm the co. This means I need his signature a lot. It didn't really bother me much until I came back from India. While I was gone, Crayton had canceled our old bank account and opened up a new one without me. (This was due to various only-in-Mexico reasons that I won't go into here.) The point was: The bank now had no record of my existence. I had to get myself added to the account, and then solicit a new debit card. So I signed a bunch of forms, and Crayton signed a bunch of forms saying, "Yes, I allow my wife to have access to my account, and to receive a debit card." We waited. Three weeks passed. While we were on vacation in March in Arizona, the bank called and said oops, you need to sign just one more form. We came back from Arizona and I signed the form, and Crayton signed the form that allowed me to sign it. We waited some more. About 2 1/2 weeks later, already a month after I'd requested the original card, I came home and the doorman stopped me. "This is for you," he said. He handed me a tiny sticky note. A phone number for a man named Jorge was scribbled on it, along with the words "Ixe." Ixe is the name of our bank. (If you're unsure about why random sticky notes make sense in Mexico, please read my short treatise on scratch paper.) I wasn't sure what to do with the number. Should I call this Jorge person? While I mulled it over, the phone rang. "I have your debit card," a male voice said. Presumably this was Jorge. ...
On Thursday, I called the moving company to arrange a pick-up for our moving boxes. It's a useful service -- we pay a deposit for the boxes, and get our money back if we return them within 30 days. The man on the phone said a truck could pick up the boxes the next day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. I was so excited at the thought of our boxes disappearing (they're currently stacked up behind the couch) that I said yes immediately. Only later on Thursday night did I realize: Wait. Friday morning is the World Cup. Mexico is playing South Africa. Oh, crap. What could I do? I could've called the moving company early Friday morning and said forget it, cancel the appointment. But part of me thought they really might show up. They're a highly recommended moving service, a professional company that helped move our stuff from the States into Mexico. And I wanted those boxes gone. So I waited, and waited. I watched the Mexico-South Africa game on TV and g-chatted with Jesica, who said, "You really didn't think they were going to show up at 10, did you?" Noon came and went, and then 1. Then it was 1:45. I called the moving company and got voicemail. Left a polite message, but inside I was angry. Not at them, but at me. How did I get sucked into believing that my time is more valuable than the first World Cup game? Lesley, you live in Mexico. It's just the way things work here. I'm going to consult my Panini album for the game schedule, and call back again on Monday. Hopefully I can arrange a pick up when the World Game isn't on -- or at the very least, when Mexico isn't playing.
Crayton and I have been searching for apartments for the past three months. There's nothing wrong with our current place, but after more than a year here, I've thought it'd be great to have more space and more light. A few days ago, we finally found a place we loved. It's huge. Floor-to-ceiling windows. Hardwood floors, a master bedroom with enough space for a library/reading area, and a rooftop area where we could put our grill. The dining area has enough space to fit a table for eight people, which is a sueño of mine, because my current table only seats four. (I could have more dinner parties!) The apartment is close to Crayton's job, our gym and my yoga studio. When we were leaving, we told the broker that we were very interested. "I'm glad to hear it," he said. "There's another couple who's interested too, a couple with a baby, but I think the apartment owner will prefer you over them." "Why?" we asked. "They're Koreans," he said. I waited for him to go on. Like -- they're Koreans and they happen to be drug dealers. Or they're Korean and they happen to have 12 children, and the family won't fit in the apartment. But the man didn't say anything else. "What's wrong with Koreans?" Crayton asked. "Oh you know," the broker said. "They're very informal." The word he used was "informales." "They don't pay their rent on time. Sometimes they vacate before the contract's up." ...
Lesley's husband Crayton is filling in this week with a few posts. Allow me to introduce you to Angie González. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROLCR9LzHDg&hl=es_ES&fs=1&] González is the afternoon weather presenter (I am going to try to avoid using the term "weathergirl" or "chica de la clima," as they're known around here) on Milenio, one of Mexico's 24-hour news channels. Google doesn't turn up much about her, except that she's from Monterrey, like many of her female colleagues. Regias, as women from Monterrey are known, have a reputation in Mexico for exquisite beauty. At my place of work, we have Milenio on all day long on mute, and González caps off an all-day parade of heavily made-up, scantily clad young women telling us whether to expect rain. Other networks also employ attractive women, but Milenio clearly pushes the boundaries farthest in terms of attire and invitation to ogle. I'm accustomed to the U.S. version of the weather presenter, a guy in a suit with very white teeth and a hokey sense of humor, Willard Scott-style. But that's not to say that the U.S. is immune or above this sort of thing. Bobbie Keith kept morale up during the Vietnam War. Jill Nicolini is a traffic reporter, but appears to serve the same purpose at New York's WPIX (and with excellent screen presence and a good sense of humor, I must say). Weather presenters have been around almost as long as TV. (Chicago's Clint Youle was the first national weather presenter in the U.S. in 1949.) And people are supposed to be relatively attractive on TV. As long as that's the case, broadcasters are going to push boundaries, especially with something like weather forecasting that doesn't require a particularly serious or grave presence. (I think well-researched post about this weather-presenting cheesecake being more common in warm-weather climates, but I think it's probably because those places have fewer weather disasters, like snowstorms, that might require a weather presenter with more gravitas.) I'm not going to act like I don't enjoy seeing González and Milenio's other presenters appear on the screen. It would be disingenuous of me to say that. But the lengths to which Milenio has gone in its objectification are disconcerting. González is a pretty lady, but she's also an animated person on TV and would do just fine in more professional attire. Milenio ought to cut this out. I leave you with Chicago's "weather bunny," Kelly Bundy: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32YKaPxAxwA&hl=es_ES&fs=1&]