Saturday, February 26, 2005

DF scenes

Well, I thought I'd catch you up on some of the aspects of life here. I go to school on the bus every day and while these pictures don't illustrate well, it can be an adventure. Frequently busses are very crowded during rush periods and people just keep squishing in. The other day I ended up hanging on in the stairwell with one hand on my pack and the other gripping the post. The door was open and the street was rushing by while the driver weaved in and out of traffic and made sudden stops.

This is about as swank as a city bus in DF can get. I ride these on Insurhentes to school which is one of the main arteries in town. Busses of this quality are rare though and many are much older and beat up. You'll notice this one even has TV screens which I guess are functioning at night.

The other busses are private peseros which are smaller, green and travel on smaller streets and follow routes that baffle the mind, but afford some efficiency at times because they circumvent the main roads, but no one is safe from the rush hour crawl.

Tlacoyos in the Market

While we're on the subject of food, these are called Tlacoyos and are delicious too. Unlike much of the Mexican fare they can be made without meat. They are patties of blue corn usually with cheese, beans, or chicharron inside. Chicharron is basically pork fat or gristle beaten into a pulp. They are common throughout Mexico city and you can buy them prepared in markets to take home and heat or right off the comal where they sprinkle them with toppings and salsa. We there are two markets near our apartment that appear weekly and they've always got these on the go. Usually the toppings are a dry, fresh cheese or nopales or a veggie I suspect is Kale, but I'm not totally sure. Many markets here are mobile and go to different neighborhoods on different days. They set up in the morning with tarps in case it rains and always have some food up for offer. You can get anything from a hot cob of corn to a full meal at a sitting area. The markets are quite a bit cheaper than the supermarkets and the quality is pretty good. At around 5 the whole thing starts to pack up and by 7 you'd never know anyone was there. Sometimes there are some mariachis or other musicians wandering. The markets are one of the cooler things about Mexico City and because it's so big, there's always a few nearby.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bwains! Bwains!!!

Well. It's been a long time since my last post, but I'm going to tell you about the brain quesadillas I ate. Uh, I ate brain quesadillas. There you have it. At first I was going to be all "ooh ahhh! guess what?! I ate brains." and then I realized that lots of people eat brains (head cheese, and other things) and don't go around trying to freak people out and stuff. Ale didn't tell me what was in the quesadillas until I'd finished and was wiping the grease off my lips with a napkin. The long and short of it is- brains taste good. Now I know why zombies are always trying to get their hands on the things. There are fondas (a small place with cheap street-like food with limited seating and all over the place in Mexico City) that sell meat-filled tacos and quesadillas in the late morning and lunchtime. Usually, the meat is what on Commerical Drive and the deep south they call "pulled pork" or something like that and it's pretty good.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


I had a b-day in January and I'm now proud to say that I'm 34 years old. Which means I'm almost 35! Woah. As Keanu Reevs would say and probably will when he does... or is he already? Who cares? I'm sure he'll look better than most even when he's 50. Just another year in the long process of "drying out". I can feel the moisture evaporating as I write this. Anyway, it was fun and Ale threw me a little partay here in the casa. Some people came over and we drank some and talked some and Ale bought me this great, heavy chocolate cake. Sadly I didn't manage to get a pinata for myself, but maybe next year. Oh, we also went out to a night club which escalated into a more debauched affair and ended with me crawling around next to the toilet in one of the more heinous bathrooms DF has to offer- and that's pretty heinous. But I had fun more or less.

And we went to a sushi place called Harumi where you can see the cake which my face was later pushed into; a custom, I'm told. Thanks to all who sent me b-day wishes and here's to another feliz compleanos. Enjoy the drying-

Yo estudio Espanol.

I've now started taking Spanish classes at the UNAM which stands for Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and here are some pictures of the campus and it's famous mural covered buildings. It's a huge campus and all us foreigners study in the CEPE which is like the, well exactly like, the foreign students centre. Anyway, the classes are good and my Spanish has been improving at a faster rate although not quite as fast as I'd hoped, but I've come quite a way for someone who didn't speak a lick before coming here. The campus of the UNAM is quite amazing. I don't think I've ever seen such a large University. It was built on an ancient lava field and is so large you need to take busses from place to place on the campus as there are large faculties nested everywhere. Luckily the centre for foreign students is near the main entrance and bus and metro access is relatively good. The University is unique in some ways for instance it's free for citizens, which surprised me considering that most of the lofty education here isn't by a long shot. There isn't much money for public education here so most of the youngsters who want to receive a Canada - like education usually attend a private school, or not, as is often the case. Also, I was surprised to see the absence of fast food outlets and many other signs of crass marketing which seem to adorn many of the schools in Vancouver. Apparently the University tries to maintain a relative amount of anonymity from the city state and has it's own security etc.

Just some general stuff to keep you here-

Ahh the sun. I awoke the other morn to glimpse this great sunrise outside the apt window. In DF the sun is strong because of the altitude I guess. It's a kind of bleaching, white light that you can feel piercing your organs. It's nice at this time of year though because the breezes are cool in the shade and you can stand in the sun and warm up immediately. Often the mornings are hazy and grey here, but when it's clear you get one of these.

I've been doing a little driving now that I know more about how it works here and a few landmarks. Can you see the look of stressed out concentration on my face? The rules of the road here few and the infractions many. The upside is that DF drivers, while totally crazy, are usually pretty aware of what's going on and ready for any sudden stops and swerves. Last minute decisions are necessary and the norm. I usually try to avoid getting behind the wheel as it's impossible for me to be relaxed in the car when I'm driving along, sandwiched between two minibuses, there's a woman selling peanuts in my window, salsa blearing on the stereo, someone two inches away from my bumpers in front and in back and a kid juggling fire at the stoplight ahead. It can be an adventure though. If you buy a new car here don't expect it to look pristine for long. Many cars, even new, expensive ones have a few crunches and scrapes. It's safe to assume that most people don't rush to the insurance agency to replace a door when it's scraped or dented a little. These are the casualties of the biz.

Ese esta nuestro gordo gato. He's the house mascot because that's where he spends just about every winking second of his sheltered life. Of course I want all my friends to come and visit as I've said before in emails etc, but if you're allergic to these things, give pause. PS: check out those haunches! We're fattening him up for taco season.

The mail in Mexico isn't the most reliable and many people don't have checking accounts so paying bills is often done in person. The phone bill is always important and there is no way to carry a balance. If you don't pay in time they call you a day later and tell you to pay and a day or two after that you get cut off- just like that. Consequently, there are these drive thru phone bill pay stations that allow people to keep up to date with their phone bills regardless of how their paying.