Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting Mexico

My 10 day trip back to Mexico has already ended. It was great to see Jose and the dogs, but the trip was almost over by the time I got fully rested. Most days we spent sleeping in late, going to the park, shopping in the mercado, eating, taking the dogs on walks, and reading. Some days were a little different, especially when our dog Kahlo, who just had surgery, needed something special. We spent one day tracking down a bucket big enough to use as a pool for him, and then trying to get him to swim. That just ended up being a waste of time, money, and water. Our dog is way too relaxed to swim when dunked in water--he just hung out peacefully until we gave up.
Our most eventful day was a trip to Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s version of Golden Gate park. We have been there before a few times, mostly for the museums. This time we visited the zoo and the castle. The zoo had some interesting animals, especially the capybara, the largest rodent on earth that apparently makes a rather good pet. I’d always wanted to see one of those. It was exciting to see some animals, like the black jaguar, that we would never see in the wild, but overall the animals were too depressed and caged for us to enjoy the zoo. I don’t think I’ll be going back to a zoo until I’m doing it for children.

Castillo de Chapultepec
After the zoo, we went to the Castillo (Castle) de Chapultepec. We’d never been before, and almost didn’t go, but we decided that after walking up the hill to get to it, we needed to pay and go inside. Thank goodness we did, because it was such a cool place. Construction started in the 1700’s, and it was converted to house Maximilian and Carlota, who started the tradition of using it as the president’s quarters. Part of the Castillo is still set up the way Maximilian and Carlota had it with luxurious European decoration. Since the castillo on top of a hill, it offers great views of the city and Chapultepec park.

Leaving Mexico again was sad, but just like in the summer, it wasn’t hard. Going to college is the right thing for me to do, even though it means being away from Jose for awhile. There are few things that I have ever been so certain about, and the peace of mind that comes from that certainty gives me strength that I wouldn’t otherwise have.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer School

My first semester at UC Berkeley is over, only a short six weeks after it started. It was one of the very best experiences of my life and more amazing than I expected it to be. It was surprisingly easy to be away from Jose and the dogs, I think because I knew that what I was doing will help us. The exhaustion and stress that I felt at some points of the semester was really put into perspective when I remembered how bored I was with nothing to do in Mexico, and how much having my degree will help Jose and me. The two classes took a lot of work--including 9 textbooks, 13 essays, and loooong days of lecture. But again, it was one of the best experiences I have had. I love and appreciate education, and it is unbelievably satisfying and exciting to be back in it.

The six weeks in California were made even better by spending four days a week at my parents' house in Healdsburg. I had to do a lot of homework, but I was still able to talk to them while I took breaks, read in the garden, and eat dinner with them. We even went off to the river together one weekend with my godfather, uncle, and cousins. Healdsburg and the house finally stopped being hard to be in without Jose, so it was relaxing and nice to be there.

Life is good now. I am finally involved in something again and loving it. I miss Jose and the dogs, but I know that we are all doing well. I still haven't gotten over how happy being in school has made me, and I'm really looking forward to the start of the Fall semester.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mexico City Police

About two months ago I had the opportunity to personally experience the great law enforcement of Mexico City. I was hanging out with our neighbor Erick during the week. After getting back home from his apartment he got a call from a police officer insisting that he needed to go to get his mom because she was intoxicated and had an accident. We were told that it wasn’t anything serious but that this problem could only be resolved with money.

Erick didn’t have any money at the time, so I ran into my bedroom and got about 1000 pesos and we headed out. While on our way we got two calls from the cops insisting that we get there immediately and that it was going to cost us a lot of money to keep her out of jail. When we got there his mom was in her car talking to an officer. She told us the cop was telling her to give him 500 pesos and he would let her leave and wouldn’t chase after her. She didn’t have any money, so as soon as the cops saw us arrive, they approached us immediately demanding money.

The cops told us it was going to take 5,000 pesos to keep her out of jail because she didn’t have care insurance. After talking to her for a few minutes, we found out that her car was insured. She was so drunk that she hadn’t told the officers she had insurance. We waited for about an hour for her insurance representative to arrive and deal with all of the paper work. I guess in Mexico you don’t just exchange insurance policies, but actually have to wait for a representative to take care of the paper work on site. Once the cops found out that the insurance representative was on her way, they took Erick and me off to the side and demanded we pay them or she would to jail because she was drunk. If the cops had followed protocol, she would have been taken to the police station and had a sobriety test. The cops didn’t want to deal with that because apparently it takes about 10-15 hours for the testing and paper work and they have to be present through the whole thing.

The original officers left, and the next one who arrived wanted 2,000 pesos to keep Erick’s mom from going to the police station. We told him we didn’t have that much money and didn’t have a way to get more. The cop’s solution was to take us, in his police car, to a 7-11 so Erick could add money to his cell phone to start calling his friends and asking them for money. After 20 minutes on the phone, the cop got impatient and took us back to Erick’s mom. The officer said that we needed to give him all the money we had or she was going to jail. We had 1,400 pesos, and even though it was obvious that he was annoyed with the amount, he took the money and left.

It was really weird to deal with crooked cops, but we got to go home and didn’t have to spend 15 hours longer with the police. 1,400 pesos was definitely worth avoiding 15 hours in a Mexican police station. It was also a great lesson to show how important it is to stay away from the police in Mexico.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


If you'd like to see our pictures, follow these links. No Facebook account required.

Michoacan (Jose's hometown and family): http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8025459&id=1205137632&l=5a287084bc

Teotihuacan: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8023599&id=1205137632&l=3cccc29c6d

Coyoacan: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8016269&id=1205137632&l=680ddf67d8

Tulum with the family: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8011367&id=1205137632&l=daabdeadad

Mexico City with the family: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8010106&id=1205137632&l=34f60a8b6c

Thanksgiving in Mexico: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8004588&id=1205137632&l=8f69b12de5

Puebla: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2039927&id=1205137632&l=b13467bad8

Jose and Emma in Tulum: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8000122&id=1205137632&l=23cefc4725

Jose and Emma in Cancun: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8000106&id=1205137632&l=db1ddb2829

Palenque (really pretty): http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8000118&id=1205137632&l=c1dc621df6

Oaxaca: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8000110&id=1205137632&l=2e258ab85e

Saturday, July 3, 2010

And It Starts....Now

Those big changes that I've been wanting, dreading, fearing, and dreaming of have finally come. I'm going back to California tomorrow to start school and leaving Jose, the dogs, Coyoacan, and our Mexican life behind (but only physically). I'm nervous and excited and have no idea what to expect. I'll just have to see how it goes, work hard, and stay determined. I'll take some study breaks to keep you posted. Maybe Jose will even write a post of his own, maybe?


Morelia, Michoacan

On our way back from Huetamo, Jose and I spent a night in Michoacan's historic capitol, Morelia. It is known as one of the most Spanish cities in Mexico. It is a nice city, but it seems that Mexico City has spoiled us and raised our standards too high. We stayed in a hotel right in the center filled with Colonial buildings, but as we walked down the streets and tried to admire the buildings, we kept coming back to "this is like a not-as-nice version of Mexico City's center". Even my well-traveled little sister loves Mexico City's center because apparently it is exactly like walking down a street in Europe. The Colonial section of Mexico City is only a small part of the city, and in Morelia it is almost the whole city, but the quality in Mexico City surpasses the quantity in Morelia.

We didn't see much of Morelia in one night, but it was great to have a mini vacation in a new city. We ate at a nice restaurant, feasted on way to much gelato, and enjoyed the chilly weather after four days of Huetamo's heat. As always, though, it was just as nice to get home.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Visit to Jose's Hometown

We went to Jose's hometown of Huetamo, Michoacan last week for the first time, although unfortunately it was after we learned of his 20 year old cousins death. Rufino, his cousin, had lived in Healdsburg for a few years and was the only cousin Jose really knew from his father's side. Rufino's father has lived with Jose's family for years and is probably the closest relative Jose has outside of his immediate family. His uncle had sadly lost another son 8 years ago and is still dealing with his death. It was important to Jose that he supported his uncle, who left the United States to take care of his son's funeral, so we took a bus to Huetamo the day after I got back from my trip to the U.S.

The 6 hour bus trip took us through the city, farmland, pine forests, and finally Jose's hometown in the dry desert. Huetamo is surrounded by high peaks of rock, and the flat land outside of town is used for farming and cattle grazing. The landscape is surprisingly gray because there is little more than short gray trees, rocky soil, and dry grass.

While the three years Jose lived in Mexico were actually spent in Los Cuachalalates, a rancho 15 minutes from town, all but his most distant relatives have moved to Huetamo. We visited Los Cuachalalates and the abandoned house he lived in. As with most houses, there are only three full walls to the house, with one side being only a three foot partial wall. The area is so hot that houses would be unbearable without an open wall to allow air to circulate. Los Cuachalalates is a small village with few people, dirt roads, and mostly abandoned houses owned by the people who have left for town or the United States. It looks and feels like a town on its way to becoming a ghost town.

Huetamo is a thriving town of about 20,000 people. Some neighborhoods have paved roads, many houses are modern (some even have air conditioning), and the downtown is bustling. It strangely also has cows, horses, and chickens roaming the streets. Jose and I stayed with his uncle Israel, his wife, and their three children in a nice part of town. We met family from the Arzates (the family of Jose's paternal grandmother, who died when his father was young), Mederos, and Baltazar (Jose's mother's side). Most exciting for Jose was meeting his paternal grandfather for the first time. After growing up hearing negative things about his grandfather, and never speaking to him, Jose was surprised to find a grandfather who was interested in him, affectionate, and very kind. We spent hours each day with his grandfather, and Jose left Huetamo feeling like he had suddenly gained a new grandparent.

Jose had only met a few of his father's relatives before we went to Huetamo. He now knows his cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandfather, as well as his father's cousins, uncles, and aunts. He thought he didn't have any family left in Mexico, but it turns out there are a lot of people in Huetamo who consider him family. I can't even remember how many people told us to not return to Mexico City, and I think Jose would have agreed to stay for quiet awhile if we didn't have our dogs waiting for us. He is already talking about going down for a few weeks after I leave if he can find someone to watch the dogs. While we went down to Huetamo for a sad reason, it ended up being an amazing trip that Jose will never forget.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

In California

As soon as I started to get bored and restless, life speed up so fast that I can’t believe it is already so late in June. The first few days of this month were filled with packing, spending time with Anna, and getting ready to go back to California. Anna and I flew back on the 7th, and I spent a few days in Healdsburg with my parents. The beauty of my parents’ house and garden amazed me. Many times each day I walked through the house and all around the yard marveling at what they have created in the 10 years they’ve owned the property. It is truly a magnificent place to live.

I stayed at my aunt’s house in Oakland the night before my UC Berkeley orientation on the 10th. I spent days planning how I would get to her house, before I finally realized that I know how to drive and could do it alone. We went out to eat gluten-free pizza the night before orientation, walked the dog, and watched the season finale of Glee. I was so comfortable at her house and know that spending the summer there will be great.

Orientation was almost 12 hours long, and most of it was spent in an auditorium listening to presentations by students and campus staff. It got pretty boring, but I got to meet with my Social Welfare advisor, officially declare my major as Social Welfare, and register for my first 10 units. I lucked out and snatched suddenly open seats in two education classes and got first on the wait list for a Chicano Studies class. I had wanted to enroll in all three classes, but thought I didn’t have a chance because they were already full before orientation. While I was registering, I happened to look at them again and got into the education classes. I was really lucky, because when I checked again at the end of my registration period, there was already long wait lists for all the classes. In late July I get to register for the rest of my classes and finalize my schedule, but so far it’s looking really good!

No surprise, it was great to be back in California. Just like when I visited in February, I was struck by how suddenly comfortable and relaxed I am in my parents’ house. That house is definitely my true home. Jose was always on my mind, and I felt his absence every moment, which made being home a little bittersweet. The day he is in Healdsburg, in that house again, will be one of the best days of my life and the start of a really great time.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

In Between

More than a month ago I found out I got into UC Berkeley.  For two weeks it filled me with more excitement than I could handle, and it was enough to satisfy me completely. Now, however, its been long enough that just knowing I got in isn't enough to keep me from getting bored.  I've looked up everything I possibly could on the Berkeley website, sent tons of paperwork, submitted a housing application, and made a class schedule. There is little to do now but start classes, and that's still a month away.

I'm flying back to California with Anna on June 7th for my school orientation on June 10th.  There I will register for my fall classes, be officially accepted into the Social Welfare major, and get a ton of other information.  I'm flying back to Mexico City after orientation to spend a few weeks with Jose before summer classes start, but I will be here during the World Cup, so I'm not sure how much of him I'll actually see.  At least I'll see my dogs and have plenty of time to get started on the reading for my classes.

 I have been so ready to start school that the last weeks have just seemed like an in-between time.  I'm relieved that I don't feel hopeless like before, but I am so eager to start that I am impatient.  I don't want to wish this time away, because soon I will wish that I could be with Jose, but I can't help wishing for it to speed up a little. I know that I will be busy; involved; and excited when school starts, and that sounds like an amazing way to be.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quiet Time

We´ve had a busy two weeks with my mom and aunt visiting.  My mom got awful headaches from the first day because of the dust and pollen in the air.  She wasn´t able to go out much, but we did make it to Frida Kahlo´s house one day.  It was my first time going to the ¨Blue House.¨ It was beautiful, but most of the house is set up to display Frida´s artwork and I was hoping to get a better sense of how she lived in it.  Beautiful houses not used as houses always make me sad.

My mom left after just a week because her headaches kept getting worse.  It was definitely a good choice though. When I called her on her first day back in California she sounded like herself again, and here she was absolutely miserable. My dad has put off visiting so that he can stay with my mom.

Spending time with my aunt was amazing.  We spent mornings knitting under her expert guidance, visited knitting shops, ate at an amazing restaurant in Coyoacan, visited the Zocalo, Templo Mayor, the Ex-Convent, and Xochimilco.  Each day was relaxing but we managed to see and do a lot.  We had great meals at home and enjoyed Jose`s popcorn in the evenings.  It was a really great visit, and I started missing her the second we left the airport this morning.

Since I`ll be leaving in just over a month for school, having the apartment to ourselves again is nice.  I`m looking forward to spending a lot of good quality time with Jose. My excitement hasn`t faded at all, but the reality of how hard and lonely it will be is starting to hit me.  Waves of panic are making me freeze when I imagine just how difficult that part of going back to school will be.  In order to have one last month of happiness, I plan on lots of movies, ice cream dates, and Mexico City adventures.  We are even planning on taking a little trip to nearby Cuernavaca or Queretaro for a couple nights. Being apart from Jose and my dogs is worth everything that will come from me having my degree, and I`m hoping that a happy and romantic last month will make the separation a little easier.


Monday, May 10, 2010


People often ask what language we speak at home, and then don't understand when I tell them its English.  They give me a look like I'm the most foolish person in the world.  For awhile I didn't really know why we speak English.  We tried in the beginning to always speak Spanish, but it would never stick. One day I really thought about why we speak English at home, and for me the reason is perfectly understandable.

Since last October we have been facing the fact that our life has changed drastically.  It wasn't something that we were prepared for, chose, or wanted.  The hardest part was living in a foreign country that we had never been to without the option of coming home when we wanted.  We had so many goals and dreams in the U.S., and some, like graduating from college, were just about to happen.  Then, we were told we had to wait three years and our dreams had to wait three years too.

The life we had and wanted was in the U.S., and options in Mexico didn't allow us to recreate that life here.  Our family, friends, work, school, and culture were all left behind, and in Mexico we found ourselves with very little. We became lonely, depressed, angry, and sad.

In December we were happy to get our own apartment, although it was in a bad area and very basic (you may remember the no-hot-water-ever issue or the hassle of no indoor sink). We worked hard to fix it up and set it up nicely, but it didn't feel like home at all.  We spent most of our time inside because the neighborhood was so bad and it always felt like we were just waiting.  Waiting for things to get better, waiting for the three years to pass so we could go back to the U.S.  Time passed so slowly.

What we longed for more than anything was to be home with our families.  We dreamed of our blue bedroom, the cozy livingroom, and family dinners.  While stuck in the apartment, we remembered strolling through beautiful and safe Healdsburg and seeing all the familiar sights.  We wanted a sense of home but coudn't get it.

Speaking English was the only thing that was like home.  In the United States we spoke English with each other and most of our family. When we spoke English in our apartment in Mexico, it was like a little piece of home. Inside our walls we were protected by everything that was outside and English helped us forget we where we were.  We listened to English music, watched English TV, read English books, and always spoke in English. With so much English surrounding us it was easier to feel at home and take a break from all the sadness and shock that filled us.  I'm sure the comfort of hearing one's native language can never be truly understood until the sense of home is taken and longed for.

I know living in Mexico is a great way to learn Spanish and people think we are giving up a great opportunity.  If we had chosen to live here and were excited about it, I'm sure that we would try to speak Spanish at home and learn everything we could.  We aren't that situation, though, and we have had more important things to learn than Spanish, such as moving on from our losses, building a life, and finding happiness. I'm sure that as things get better, Spanish will be spoken more, but until then I am perfectly happy speaking English in Mexico.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lots of Visitors

We are going to have a full month of visitors.  My mother is arriving tonight, my aunt on Saturday, and then my father at the end of the month.  Since my mom hasn't been able to work lately, she is going to be able to stay down here for awhile.  My aunt will be here for 11 days, and my dad for over a week.  We will have lots to do with everyone here and I'm sure the month will fly by.

My mother just decided yesterday to come down. Its very last minute, but there was a cheap plane ticket and she really wanted to come. It is perfect timing because Jose is in Acapulco for the week so Anna, my mom, and I will have a few days alone. It will be nice to have mother-daughter time and be able to really catch up before Jose comes back.

In Coyoacan, we are going to visit many parks, Hernan Cortes' palace, the ex-convent where Mexico fought Americans and French, Leon Trotsky's house, Frida Kahlo's house, and the plazas.  Everything is a short walk from our apartment, so we will spend many relaxing strolling through Coyoacan.  I think that everyone will enjoy the park where we take the dogs.  It really is one of the most beautiful parks I have ever been too.  In other parts of Mexico City, we are going to visit the Zocalo, pyramids, the Latinamerican Tower that has a great view of the city, and Xochimilco.

I'm leaving for UC Berkeley's summer semester at the end of June, so Jose and I will have just a month together after all the visits.  With this month flying by with my family and sightseeing in Mexico City, and then one last month with Jose, I'll be back in California and in school before I know it.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Big Changes!

I didn't want to say anything before, because I doubted it would happen, but it has - I got into UC Berkeley (my dream school) for Fall 2010!

I'm going to major in Social Welfare and focus on immigration, education, and Latinos.  I hope to someday work for providing better educational opportunities for immigrations.  The education I will get from Berkeley will prepare me extremely well for what I want to do.

Its really exciting, but of course Jose can't come back with me.  Its going to be hard for both of us, and I'll really miss Mexico City, but I am going to go back and he is going to stay here.  Luckily we have Skype so we'll be able to talk and see each other.  I'll come back for all vacation breaks and some long weekends when breaks are far apart. 

I got a whole bunch of financial aid so it will cost very little.  Luckily, I have amazingly supportive parents who are going to take care of whatever isn't covered so I can just focus on school and graduate as soon as possible to get back to Jose.

I had been going crazy for months because I thought I had nothing to do.  The options in Mexico were lousy, so I was considering going back to the U.S. for 6 months to work and save up some money for Jose and I.  But of course, leaving him just to work a low paying job wasn't exciting.  I applied to UC Berkeley in October, but never thought I had any chance of getting in so I didn't even really consider going to school an option. 

I am so happy now.  I'm excited about going to such a great school to learn about something I am really passionate about.  I will have my degree before Jose can even start the immigration process again, so by the time he returns to the U.S. I will be able to work and support us comfortably while he finishes school.  This is good for me now, because I really need to do something to make me feel more worthy and fulfilled, and it will be good for our future.  One of us having a degree will make things so much easier.

I am going to start during the summer semester.  I'm flying back to California at the end of June for orientation and then classes start on July 6th. When classes are over on August 13th, I'm going to fly back to Mexico City for 10 days before the Fall Semester starts.

Life is good!  Hard, but good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jose's Plans

After a confusing few weeks of trying to decide if Jose could still register to take the entrance exam at the Polytechnic we finally figured out that its too late for this year.  Our friend Toño, the civil engineering student at the Polytechnic, asked at the admissions office and learned that it is not only too late, but Jose will be considered an international student and is going to have a hard time registering.  It looks like he might even have to get his transcripts notarized with some kind of international seal in California.  That could obviously cause some issues if he has to appear in person but can't enter the U.S.  Toño is going to take Jose to the admissions office to figure out everything that Jose needs to register next year.  It will be really helpful to have Toño's support, because Jose and I don't know how to deal with Mexican bureaucracies and know nothing about the forms and agencies we are told about.  Hopefully Jose and Toño can get everything sorted out so that next year Jose's registration for the entrance exam will go smoothly. 

Jose is mostly looking forward to working now.  I'm not sure how it will go because working in Mexico is so different than working in the U.S.  At Yellow Cafe, where Toño and Lalo work and Jose might start, the pay is $150 USD a month.  The employees work long shifts up to 10 hours at a time, many days each week, and often don't get off until midnight.  Jose was always a good worker at his jobs in the U.S., but he is used to getting a lot more money for so many hours of work.  It might be hard for him to handle getting (in our opinion) that ripped off.

We had a little party at our apartment last night with our neighbors Erick and Miguel and their friends.  I know that hanging out with friends is really important to Jose, and he was happier last night than I have seen him in awhile.  I even enjoyed the party because there was only 10 of us altogether so it didn't get loud or crazy.  Plus, I really like all the people we are getting to know.  I've made a few girlfriends, which shocking to me and everyone who knows me.

Jose and I make plans, and then they fall apart, so we have to replan. For the most part we are in the replanning stage now and its going well, although it often feels like we don't have many options.  We just have to keep going, and eventually things work out bit by bit.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kahlo the Dog

We brought the new dog home on Friday evening. His name is Kahlo, after Frida Kahlo. We wanted a name that was related to Coyoacan, because we named Cholula after the town where we got her. Living just a few blocks from Frida Kahlo's house has been really significant for us, because it shows just how far we have come from Chimalhuacan. From a poverty and crime riddled neighborhood we moved to one where one of the proudest and most creative Mexicans spent her life. Frida fought through a difficult life, but was still filled with energy and love. Our Kahlo seems to have many of her traits, having come from the streets but still being excited about squirrels and always wanting to cuddle with us.

Kahlo and Cholula have been doing very well with the adjustments. We've had some growling matches, but they spend most of the day playing roughly and energetically until they fall asleep next to each other for the next few hours. I can already tell that they will have a very good relationship soon and that bringing Kahlo home for Cholula was the right choice.

I'm worried that I'm allergic to him. He has been with us for two full days now, and both days I've had an itchy nose and itchy and burning eyes. I've never had this issue before and its a lot worse when I touch him. He is shedding all over the place now because he is getting rid of his unhealthy street fur. It should all be gone in two months and replaced with a healthy coat that won't shed so much. Hopefully I just need to have a little patience and my discomfort will go away. Luckily its not bad enough for me to consider giving him back, I just need to keep my distance a little more.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Ball Is Rolling

Maybe things are starting to come together. Our friends at Yellow Cafe have been pushing Jose to their boss, and he might start working there in a few weeks. Its a cafe we love to visit, where two of our friends work, and its just a few blocks from our house. It would be a great opportunity for Jose to have something to do, meet new people, and hang out with the friends he already has. He is also going to sign up for the entrance exam at the polytechnic university where one of our friends goes for civil engineering. If Jose gets in, he would have to start at the first semester of the program, which will probably be annoying in some ways because he already finished 3 years of civil engineering at Cal Poly, but the course order is somewhat different. The polytechnic university here gets more in depth with computer programs like AutoCad in the beginning, so he would be learning some new things.

I'm waiting to see how things shape up before really deciding what I am going to do, but I have some ideas. I go a little crazy here so I need to figure something out. I'll know more at the end of the month and will really start working on a plan then.

Jose joined a gym and has been spending 3 hours a day working out with our neighbors, Erick and Miguel. He feels better after exercising, and I have a little more patience after a relaxing morning alone. It is about time we split up a little bit, because except for my trip back to the U.S., we haven't been apart for more than a few hours at a time for the last 8 months. We get along really well and have always been attached at the hip, but even for us that is too much.

Because Jose and I are going to be busy in a few months, we have decided to adopt another dog. Cholula has spent almost all her time with us living with other dogs in Chimalhuacan and having us around constantly. She is used to having another dog in her life and always being with us, but she will have to get used to spending most of the day without us when we start whatever it is we are going to start. So that she can have a friend who is always with her and she can really trust, we are adopting an 8 month old dog on Friday. Cholula is 9 months (we've already had her for 6!) so they should have very similar desires and play habits. He was a street dog before being picked up by a rescuer recently but he is very loving and interested in people and dogs. I can barely wait until Friday because I am so excited to see Cholula playing with her new life-long friend!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Back in Coyoacan

We got back from Puebla late last night. It feels great to be back in Coyoacan in my apartment and with Cholula. I am looking forward to relaxing for the first time in days and getting to make my own schedule.

The grandfather never got any better. He controlled everything we did all three days, made his grandkids pay for everything for him, and mocked us all nonstop. It was more stressful and way less relaxing to be around him than to be at home.

I'm excited about being in Coyoacan again, going to Swedish after missing last Tuesday's class, and going to the park with Cholula. Homemade food also sounds great after days of eating out.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Semana Santa

This week is Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter day. Those with religion take this week seriously as an important religious time. For others it is a vacation week. Huge numbers of people leave the city this week, and apparently it is empty and boring in Mexico City. We thought we’d be there doing nothing, but then our neighbors, Erick and Miguel, invited us to Puebla.

We are staying at their grandfathers house, who has plans for four full days of sightseeing. We arrived exhausted last night, and found it really awkward here. We were in the city’s downtown for 7 hours today, and it isn’t much more comfortable to be around the grandfather. He is very controlling and kind of snotty. We weren’t allowed to choose when or where to eat today. The grandfather thought Jose should sleep in his bedroom in the spare twin bed. We left before nine in the morning and didn’t stop until 5 pm, the hour the grandfather had planned to return to his house.

Today we visited the fort where the 5 de Mayo battle took place, a few churches, and some plazas. We walked for 7 hours, and looking back, I’m a little confused about how we spent that much time for how little I feel like I saw. I was tired, hungry, and just about at my wits end with the grandfather who seems unable to be nice.

Tomorrow we are going back to the town of Cholula. I love that place enough that I doubt he will be able to interfere with my joy much. It will be Anna’s first time visiting and I know she’s been excited to go.

I think we are going to leave on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Erick and Miguel’s mom told us she would pick us up and drive us home, but as I suspected would happen, she is flaking out. I don’t really mind because that will give us more flexibility for going home. Plus, the grandfather says dogs aren’t welcome in his house, and she is taking care of Cholula for us and I’d like to know that Cholula isn’t being left alone in an apartment.

Anna is happy to be traveling, but Jose and I are counting down until we go home. I just have to keep telling myself I’m having an “experience.”

Happy Semana Santa!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ready to Travel

We have been in Mexico City since the end of January, and I'm itching to get out of here. The three of us have been talking about taking a short trip of one or two days to a nearby city. We are thinking of Cuernavaca, Queretaro, or Puebla. We'll see when it happens and where we go. Jose and I finally got our credit card bill payed off (whew) after letting it get too high from furnishing two apartments in just a few months. So, starting in April that weight is off our shoulders and we are going to be golden financially. And then the traveling will begin.

Anna has already been to the Mexican beach, and I don't think it can get much better than Tulum and the Mexican Caribbean, so we are going to next look for mountains. Eventually we are going to visit Oaxaca and see the amazing mountain ranges there. But for now, the areas around Mexico City are filled with volcanoes and snowy peaks that will fulfill her mountain needs.

We are hoping that sometime before Anna leaves in June we will make it down to Central America to see Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, and wherever else we can manage. I'm surprisingly excited about Belize. I can't imagine suddenly being in an English speaking country while in Latin America. I really don't know much else about it other than they speak English. Guatemala and Costa Rica will be beautiful and culturally interesting.

I have done so much traveling in the last 7 months that I never expected to do. It has sparked the interest in traveling that I never thought I would have. I'm hoping to travel every few months while we're in Mexico in Mexico, Latin American, and Europe too. This will be the best time I ever have to travel and I want to make the most of it. You're welcome to join!


Friday, March 26, 2010

What to Do in Mexico

For a long time in Mexico, I assumed that I could find something productive to do with my time without any problem. After all, I am an American right? I speak English and Spanish and therefore I should be wanted all over Mexico. That was naive and not true.

Mexico City is such a big place that it is hard to find somewhere I can volunteer. There are few functioning websites (even the main university, UNAM, has a broken site) and I haven't been able to find a phonebook. There aren't signs on buildings, and I can't just stroll into any building and ask about volunteering. I have to talk to security for them to open the gate and let me in. I'd like to find somewhere close to avoid traveling for an hour or more to get to where I volunteer, so some of the options I have found aren't really workable.

After weeks of searching, I found an orphanage near us. When we called, we were told to talk to someone else to see if there are volunteer positions open. However, it looks like you have to be 21 to volunteer. We are still going to talk with the woman in charge of the volunteer program, and even if she won't take us, she might be able to give us some resources to find somewhere else.

I was considering going to school at UNAM for awhile. They have a social work program. It would be hard for me to get in, because the entrance exam they use in place of an application includes physics, calculus, analytical geometry, and chemistry; none of which I know. A test like that would be unbelievably hard in English, and I can't imagine in Spanish. If I were to not pass one section, I wouldn't be able to enter. I have tried hard in every math and science class I have ever taken, but only statistics and biology have ever made sense. Then I found out that UNAM assigns schedules and classes so I wouldn't be able to choose when I go or what classes I took. The schedule is like being in high school and classes take up the whole day. I would like to go to school, but considering that I would just have to start over as soon as I got back to the U.S, it doesn't seem like the best use of time or almost $1,000 USD. I could be seeing Mexico City, experiencing everything there is to do here, and volunteering somewhere that would give me experience for the future.

I would be happy to work in a cafe or restaurant part time to earn a little money, give me something to do, practice my Spanish, and meet new people. Mexico doesn't allow foreigners to work unless they have special qualifications that no Mexican has or they are teaching English. I could teach English, but I'd have to complete a program on teaching English that costs $2,000 USD. That's a lot of money, plus I am absolutely dreading the idea of teaching English. I would need a bachelors degree to get a good job in most real language schools so I'd most likely be giving private classes to adults for business.

Anna and I have both been surprised by how few opportunities there are for us here. She said she would like to stay here for awhile longer, but there isn't much she could do and no real future so she's going home in June. I know eventually I will find something, but it is so much harder than I expected.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With friends

I'm sitting on the couch now with Jose, Anna, her boyfriend Benjamin, and our friend Erick who lives in our building. Our couch is full and we've been laughing the whole time. Anna is happy and enjoying her dates with Benjamin. Jose is enjoying having guys around to talk about sports and poker. I'm just enjoying seeing them so happy and having people to hang out with.

We spent time looking through a dog trick book my aunt sent when we first got Cholula, deciding which tricks we should teach her and laughing at the ridiculous ones like "Pick Pocket Dog." We watched some of a movie, played with Cholula, and talked about what we've done and what we are going to do.

It feels so good to have a room full of people. Last night Jose, Anna, and I walked through the Coyoacan plaza and remembered how less than 2 months ago we walked through it every night looking for friends. After two weeks in Coyoacan, we were desperate and thought we would never have any friends. Now, we have enough friends that we can turn down offers we aren't interested in and actually have to schedule big outings so we are all available. Things fell into place here and we are all enjoying life.


I've Procrastinated

I am not a procrastinator. For years I have been serious about that and been proud. But, I find that I do procrastinate with writing blog posts and it has been bothering me. I finally realized that even though I have good reasons to write these posts (my version of a diary, keeping everyone updated) I have to tell myself for days to sit down and write a post before I actually do. And its because I've been having such a good time, its hard to sit down and take time away from being with Jose, Anna, Cholula, and our new friends.

There are so many things I want to do, I'm actually running out of time each day. I write a "To Do" list at night, and each night I have to transfer a few "To Do's" over to the next day. A few months ago I had nothing to do, so I slept 13 or 14 hours a night. Now, waking up past 9:00 feels like a crime because I missed out on time with my family and Coyoacan.

Somehow life has filled up with things that feel important and make me happy. I still wish I could work or find a school here that excited me, but I appreciate how full my days have become. I barely even have time to think about what we would be doing in the United States, and that's success.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

U.S. Trip

I had a great 8 day trip to the U.S., but it went by too fast. My mother spent most days with me and I got to visit a lot of my family. It was nice to be in Healdsburg, and especially in my house again. It shocked me how homey and safe it felt. I really relaxed there spending time with my family, the cats, and even my fish.

I arrived two days before my mother's birthday. It was perfect timing, especially because her birthday fell on a Friday so my dad was also home. We decided to get her baby chicks for her birthday and my dad found week old chicks. She now has six gold-laced Wyendotts, her favorite type of chicken. I spent hours holding them in the bathroom while they were living temporarily in the bathtub filled with wood shavings. They are going to be the tamest chickens around.

My mother and grandmother took me shopping and bought me everything I could need or want. I got a suitcase full of food (suitcase included), shoes, clothes, and books. It felt and looked like Christmas when I got back to Mexico and covered the living room in all the treats I brought back. I tried to bring a few bags of dog treats for Cholula, but Mexican customs confiscated them for "destruction" because they contained meat. I brought Jose burritos from Healdsburg's best taqueria, and got them through by lying and saying they only had rice and beans (but really there was pastor).

I finally met my cousins' cat, finished knitting a scarf I started before I left, spent significant time with just my mother for the first time in about six years, and visited family everyday.

My dad took me to our family ranch. It was more beautiful than I remembered and just gorgeous. It was a sunny day and everything is bright green from the new spring grass. Jose and I have hoped to live there someday for a few years now, and going up there just made me realize even more how much I would love for that to happen. It is one of the most relaxing, beautiful, and natural places I have ever been and living there would be better than anywhere else I can think of.

I went to Gratitude Cafe in Healdsburg with my aunts for raw, vegan, gluten-free food. I was skeptical at first, but it was such amazing food. I have even been bragging about it in Mexico. Such. Good. Food. It was so different than the food I eat in Mexico and it tasted so real and fresh. The food was almost as good as spending time with my aunts, and that it saying a whole lot. If you can find a Gratitude Cafe I highly recommend getting over the skepticism I'm assuming you have (because, let's be honest, it sounds weird) and try it. I can honestly say I learned something on the trip- do not judge raw, vegan, gluten-free food before tasting it. Even chocolate hazelnut pie made with seaweed can be delicious.

It was especially nice to see Jose's family. We haven't stayed in contact with his family as well as we have with mine so there was a lot to catch up on. I talked to Jose's mother about Mexico City because she lived here as a teenager. There was a lot to catch up on from both sides, and it was great to spend a few long evenings talking with them. We even started the passport application for Jose's sister so she can spend some time with us here.

The trip was really great- relaxing and busy at the same time. It was amazing to be home again and see Healdsburg. It is definitely as beautiful as I remember it. The first few days back in Mexico were hard, though. I had a feeling before I left Healdsburg that I might be hard to adjust to my life in Mexico again and I was right. I was suddenly in my apartment, which is nice by doesn't mean nearly as much to me as my childhood home, without all my family and my hometown. I am now back to normal here in Coyoacan. I'm enjoying living here and appreciating the time I had with my family, instead of just missing them like I was before. Overall, things are even better and I'm definitely happy.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A visit home

On Monday I found out my Mexican visa had expired on Sunday. Jose and I had a meeting with an attorney who told us about the different visa options for me. They were all expensive, took a lot of work, and didn't have any benefits. We have decided that I will leave Mexico every six months when my visa expires and come back in and get another tourist visa, so for the next three years I will just be a tourist. I can get a 6 month tourist visa when I come back from the U.S., or we can take a trip to Guatemala or Belize. Keeping a tourist visa instead of the long-term visas will save enough money to pay for 2 trips to the United States per year for 2 years. Plus, it will be better for our case when we start Jose's U.S. immigration again, because we will be able to show that I was never interested or able to start a permanent life in Mexico, causing me hardship.

So, today I am flying back to San Francisco in a last minute trip. We found out on Monday that my visa had expired, bought tickets yesterday, and I'm leaving this afternoon. I'll be in California for 7 full days. I'll be in Shasta with my family for two days and then be home in Healdsburg for the rest of the time, finally seeing my family again after 6 months.

I am excited to visit, but it is also hard because when we left the United States I thought the next time I went back it would be triumphantly with Jose entering legally. Now it is me going and leaving him, and it reminds us again how wrong everything went in Ciudad Juarez.

I'm sure I'll have a great trip. I think it is also going to be weird to speak to everyone in English in public again. I'm really interested to see what differences I notice after being gone and getting used to Mexico. There are some things that I like better about Mexico, and I'm excited to compare them to the United States while I'm there.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Couch Shopping

Our first major purchase for the apartment was a couch. I was set on an L-shaped couch because, honestly, I think the comfort that comes from the L puts all regular couches to shame.

We found a couch while my parents were still here, and went back to buy it. I had read a bad review online saying that the store says they will deliver purchases within 2 weeks but often don’t for more than a month. I didn’t believe it since people tend to use the internet to rant, but sure enough we got to the store and a customer was angry because after a month they still hadn’t seen their furniture. We were already at the register, but we ran out of that store as fast as possible.

We had spent time before checking out all the major department stores, but everything was either way to expensive or way to ugly. We had no idea where to find a couch, so Jose asked a man selling magazines on the street where we could find couches and he sent us to the perfect place.

A great thing about Mexico is that there are streets dedicated to selling just one thing. The shoe street, the camera street, the paper street. The magazine seller told us to walk until the end of the wedding dress street (oh how I wished I wasn’t yet married then) and we would find the couch street. Sure enough, suddenly every store was jam packed with couches.

The first stores were total rip offs. We realized that the farther we walked down the street, the cheaper the couches got and the shadier the area got. Before we knew it, salesmen were taking us across streets and around corners from one store to another. We went up homemade stairs, walked through second stories made of plywood that bowed and creaked, and ducked our heads under extremely low ceilings.

We spent a few hours looking at different stores and couches. Many couches were close to what we wanted, but not enough to buy. Many were the dark brown couch I was looking for, but they were all too expensive. Finally, we found an L-shaped green couch with lots of pillows. It is nothing like what I had in mind, but I love it. It looks great in our floral wallpaper living room and it gives us a comfortable place to watch movies. It is bigger and cheaper than the first couch we backed out of buying. It was even delivered just a few hours later.

Our shopping experience left us exhausted and hoping we’d never have to shop like that again. Being escorted from one store to the next, looking at hundreds of couches in such a short time, and talking with relentless salesmen was more than we could handle at once. It was overwhelming and kind of miserable, but it was a very Mexican way to shop, and at least we got a good couch out of it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swedish lessons

Our life here really is taking off. Jose, Anna, and I had our very first Swedish lesson! Its been a dream for us to learn Swedish and try to reclaim some of our lost family heritage. The closest Swedish lessons I have found to Healdsburg are in San Francisco and ridiculously expensive, so we thought it might be a dream we couldn't fullfill. Then, suddenly, in the most surprising of places, we found Swedish lessons in Mexico City!

Our teacher is a blonde Swedish woman who has lived in Mexico since 2004. She speaks Spanish, English, and Swedish. We are learning Swedish in Spanish, which is a really interesting experience because we are all working on our Spanish simultaneously. For now it works, but we might need to switch to English when we get to more complex Swedish.

We have class 2 hours a week in a Starbucks in Polanco, a nice area of Mexico City. It takes about an hour each way to get there, but we only use one metro line and then board a bus that drops us off in front of the Starbucks. It takes awhile to get there, but it is exceptionally direct and fast considering how big Mexico City is.

The first class was really fun and laid back. We learned numbers, family relationships, and the basic I speak.../I am from.. sort of thing. We have been practicing throughout the day with flashcards and quizzing each other. Jose already has the numbers down perfectly. Jose and I have taken our Swedish to the park and studied while Cholula ran around. We went to a cafe this morning and made family trees with our relationship to each person in Swedish. By the second class we are determined to know everything from the first class like the back of our hand.

We are going to study hard, and learn everything we can from the teacher and with our own materials and research. Hopefully we can visit Sweden sometime in the next few years and return to our great-grandparents' homeland speaking the language. It will be our own "Return to Sweden!"

We are really excited about starting a new language and having something to focus on and improve. In addition to Swedish, Anna and I are taking an Economics class online from a California community college. If Swedish is considered a college class too, that's like having 7 units and that is pretty decent. Already I feel more productive and fulfilled. I'm not losing out on opportunities now, I'm actually learning things I couldn't have in the United States and I'm making improvements to my life that will always help me.


Sunday, February 7, 2010


Coyoacan is filled with beautiful parks. We have three just a few blocks from us, plus the plaza in the center about 10 minutes away. For the last two days Jose and I have taken Cholula to a park for an hour or two. It is a lot of fun for us and her.

Dogs aren't required to keep their leashes on in the parks. Cholula is surprisingly good without her leash. She runs ahead of us a few feet while we are walking and turns around every 30 seconds or so to make sure we are still behind her. She is so happy to be in the dirt and without her leash that she prances the whole time. There are many other dogs in the parks who she gets to meet and play with also.

Our favorite park is one that we visited with my parents (pictures on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=8010106&id=1205137632&l=34f60a8b6c). It has bench-lined paths running through gardens filled with a huge variety of trees, plants, and grass. Each area is a little bit different, either with shade or sun, and open grassy areas or plant filled forest. Jose and I like to sit on a bench and read and talk while Cholula explores the gardens and other dogs.

Visiting the parks is quickly turning into my favorite part of the day. I'm sure that we are going to continue with it, which will be good for Cholula and us. The parks are relaxing, beautiful, and filled with people to meet.

I love Coyoacan!


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Living in Coyoacan

We are officialy residents of Coyoacan after spending our first night in the apartment. Anna and Jose and I have our bedrooms set up and our clothes put away in our closets (how we missed closets). The entire apartment has floral and stripped cream colored wall paper that we have quickly become attached to. Big windows in each room provide natural light all day long. The kitchen is much smaller than the kitchen in Chimalhuacan, but it has cabinets so there is a lot more storage. I am happy to trade the old kitchen for the new.

The apartment has two baclonies, one off the kitchen and one off of the two main bedrooms. Although its small, we have spent a lot of time on the bedroom balcony already, and Cholula hangs out there checking out the other dogs in the complex.

Our living room and the guest room are still totally empty. This apartment is so much bigger than the last that what felt like a lot of stuff in Chimalhuacan looks like nothing now. We are going to try to find a couch and dining table for the living room soon, and we would like to set up the guest room for anyone who wants to visit.

We have met Edna, the building manager, and Alicia, our downstairs neighbor, who are both shocked by how young we are and treat us like grandmothers. Alicia has a poodle (one of the five poodles I have already seen at the complex) who Cholula met yesterday. We also met the maintence man, Alfredo, who cleans our building and takes our trash for us. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming.

We walked around the center last night, and it was really busy because it was a Saturday night. It was almost all couples and groups of friends strolling with coffee and churros. Anna hadn`t seen Coyoacan on a weekend night before, and she was surprised by how much it changed. I think it will be nice for us to have the center to go to on weekends and have a little more excitment.

I am shocked by how different I feel after just one night in Coyoacan. I feel more like myself than I have since October and I am already enjoying life more. I can walk comfortably down our street and admire how beautiful everything is. I can get the food I want and I have hot water for the shower and a sink in my kitchen. It was a really good choice to move, and I am incedibly excited to learn what this life is really going to turn into. I haven`t been excited about the future for awhile, but I am truly excited now.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Apartment

Note: This post was written at the beginning of my parent's visit and should have been posted last week.

After a month in our Chimalhuacan apartment, we decided to move. It had just gotten too hard to live in Chimalhuacan and in our apartment in particular. It was obvious that life in Chimalhuacan wasn’t going to be what we had expected.

When my parents and Anna arrived in Chimalhuacan, it was obvious that it wasn’t what they had expected either. They all looked shocked, and a little disgusted, by the area. Jose and I weren’t surprised that they weren’t thrilled by it, because we too had been slightly disgusted when we first arrived. We had gotten used to the area, though, and I, although definitely not Jose, had started to enjoy it. My parents described it as a slum, and no one thought we should continue to live there.

I like that I feel safe in Chimalhuacan, and after just a month, I already feel like part of the community. I wave and say “hi” to the woman who sells juice up the street, we are surrounded by Jose’s family members, and I know vendors at the market, pharmacy, computer store, vet’s office, and the corner store. While it is anything but pretty or luxurious, I liked the feeling of being a part of the area.

After talking with my parents, we decided to start looking for an apartment. Instantly I knew I wanted to live in Coyoacan, my favorite place in Mexico City so far, and I’m pretty positive it always will be. The center of Coyoacan, where I want to live, is a 10 minute bus ride from the metro station. Since it is out of the way, there is no traffic and very few people during the day and weekdays. On weekend nights, it’s a popular place to go for coffee and filled churros. Coffee and churros attracts couples and people looking for a relaxing evening chatting with their friends, so I’ll be able to avoid the late-night partiers and noise. Coyoacan (which means “place of the coyote” in the Aztec language Nahuatl) was a town outside of Mexico City until the 1940’s. It was swallowed by the city, but it was able to keep much of its small town charm. The streets are cobblestone, lined with trees, quiet, and surrounded by old buildings. There are multiple gorgeous parks where we can take Cholula to throw a ball and have picnics. In Coyoacan, we will avoid the noise, fast pace, dirtiness, and danger of living in many other parts of Mexico City. It really will be like living in a town, but we will be just a few short minutes away from the heart of busy Mexico City.

We walked through Coyoacan for hours one day, trying to find an apartment. We called apartment after apartment, and they were either too expensive, didn’t allow pets, or were on a street we didn’t like. At the end of the day, we viewed a 2 bedroom apartment with a balcony that allowed dogs. We liked it, and decided that we wanted it. When Jose called the next day, we found out we needed a cosigner who owned property in the Federal District to get it. Jose tried to explain that we have money sent to us each month from the United States, and that we would have enough to pay the rent. The property manager said she would think about it, and call us if she wanted to give us an interview. No surprise, we never heard from her. It was extremely disappointing. It sounded like we were never going to be able to get a nice apartment in the Federal District.

The next morning, everyone promised me an apartment, pulled me out of my gloom, and we got to Coyoacan early. We started walking again, looking for “For Rent” signs. A sign in a café said we could get information about an apartment for rent there, and Jose went in to ask. That one didn’t allow dogs, but Jose talked to the café owner who owned the apartment. He told Jose about the cosigner policies in Mexico City, and recommended that we offer to pay the entire year of rent upfront. The next apartment we found, we called about and got to view it five minutes later. We offered to pay all the rent upfront, and were promised that the apartment was ours if we paid.

A few hours after seeing the apartment, we decided it was the one. Jose called the manager, and we have an appointment to sign the contract and pay the rent on January 28th. We will soon be the renters of a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 balcony apartment in Coyoacan. There is also an extra room we are going to use as a guest room/office, so we will have room for whoever wants to visit!

We are really excited about the apartment, living in Coyoacan, and being closer to all the great things Mexico City offers. With Anna living with us, a new apartment in a great place, and lots of things to do, I’m sure we’ll be feeling lucky to live here before we know it.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Visit: Day 5

After the first apartment in Coyoacan fell through, we decided to spend the fifth day of the trip in Coyoacan again. We arrived early with low hopes, expecting to have to look all day and worried we wouldn’t find a way to get around the Federal District cosigner requirement. But less than two hours after arriving, we were standing in a huge apartment that cost less than the first apartment with the property manager assuring us that if we paid upfront, the cosigner wouldn’t be an issue.

By the time we had gotten back to the sidewalk from the apartment, we had decided that was the apartment for us. A few hours later, Jose was on the phone with the property manager with an appointment to sign the lease the following week.

We were finally able to relax, and we spent the rest of the day in Coyoacan in and out of our hotel. My mom spent the afternoon reading, while Anna, Jose, my dad, and I went to a health food store that sells gluten free baked goods. We bought conchas, the sweet Mexican bread with sugar on top, cookies, crackers, and bisquits. We found a gourmet store that sells goat cheese, which I have been looking for for a long time. There is an Asian market filled with gluten free noodles, soy sauce, and tapoica flour, as well as markets with goat cheese, gluten free bread, and fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish in Coyoacan. Just from the food selection, I know without a doubt that it is where I am supposed to live.

My parents feel much better knowing that Anna, Jose, and I will be living in a safe and beautiful place. My mom says that Coyoacan is probably as close to Healdsburg as we could find in Mexico, and I think she is right. It is still Mexico City, but its quiet, peaceful, and easy to forget about the city. We will have everything that Mexico City offers close to us, but we be secluded enough that we don’t have to live in the craziness of the city.


Visit: Day 4

On the fourth day of the trip, thinking that we had already found an apartment, we went to Xochimilco. Xochimilco is a series of canals with floating islands, called chinampas. Xochimilco is really famous, and appears in a lot of movies and soap operas from Mexico when characters get on the colorful boats to float down the canals. mom wanted to visit it more than anything else in Mexico, and it turned out to be a great experience.

When we arrived in the area of Xochimilco, we walked for about 10 minutes until we got to the water. There we got on a boat and took the traditional tour that took about two hours. There were very few tourists because it was a weekday morning. It was quiet and peaceful, but apparently our 2 hour tour would have taken 4 hours on a weekend and we would have been crashing into other boats because it gets so crowded.

Our captain told us it would take three days to go through all the canals in Xochimilco. Just the main area we saw was huge. The islands had houses, nurseries, stores, and restaurants. We saw people who live in the islands arriving home with bicycles on their boats, and people paddling their boat across the canal to visit a neighbor. It looked like a nice lifestyle for someone who doesn’t leave home often, but a pain for someone who has to leave daily. The nicest setup, I think, is for the people on the edge who have one side of canal and one side of road, so they can use their boat or their car.

Boats with different kinds of music floated by us offering to play for us. We did not paid for music, but other boats near us did so we got to hear music. Near the end, we ordered food from a boat and ended up with a table full of food that ended up being the best we have had in Mexico. Quesadillas, chicken mole, chicken tacos, corn fungus (a delicacy) quesadillas, rice, and chicken baked in the ground was served to us. Everything was good, nothing made us sick, and it was quite the experience to eat while floating down the canal.

I loved seeing the islands and canals and imagining what it was like for the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan. Xochimilco is more similar to Tenochtitlan than I had expected, and visiting it made Tenochtitlan seem more real to me.

It was a lot of fun, and such a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. My parents’ guidebook of Mexico City and Mexico City set novel called The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver they read before they came has definitely paid off. They have known of better places to visit than Jose and I, who have been in Mexico City for months now.

It feels so good to be with my family again. I have never gone so long without seeing my parents, and it was especially hard to be apart when we were going through such a difficult time. Luckily, it has been long enough since the initial shock of not being able to go home that we are now able to just enjoy being together and be happy, instead of needing to comfort each other and deal with our sadness. This visit has been happy and cheerful, and I’m not sure it would have been that way if they visited a month ago, which means we are making improvements. We have finally gotten to the point where life is getting better quickly.


Visit: Day 2 and 3

Day two was short. We tried to go to Xochimilco, the floating gardens, but didn’t manage the 1 ½ hour subway ride. Anna was still feeling sick from the night before, and almost fainted on the train, so we went back to the hotel. The rest of the day we stayed in the hotel resting or taking short walks around the Zocalo area.

The next day we went to Coyoacan for our first day of apartment searching. We got there early in the morning, ate breakfast, and started walking. Jose and I had noticed before that there weren’t any real estate offices in Coyoacan, so we didn’t know how to find an apartment without walking down all the streets in search of “For Rent” signs. We ended the day feeling good about the one apartment we had viewed, although that one didn’t end up working out.

I had told my family before they came that Mexican food in Mexico was disappointing. They didn’t believe me then, but by the third day they were starting to admit that I was right. We tried food from vendors on the street, diners, and fancy restaurants, but no meal was outstanding. Jose and I have preferred to make our own food in Mexico because we don’t enjoy the food in restaurants. I don’t know if it isn’t as good because of lower quality ingredients or different flavors, but the food has not been very satisfying in any place we have visited. I much prefer the Mexican food in California to the Mexican food in Mexico, and because I was expecting even better food here its been a big disappointment.

The trip had a slow start because we were all tired and slightly sick in the beginning, but we still had a lot of fun and appreciated finally being together again.


Visit: Day 1

The day my family arrived in Mexico City, we went directly to Chimalhuacan for a few hours. As soon as we had rested, played with Cholula, and repacked for the next few days, we headed off the Zocalo in downtown Mexico City. Jose and I had gone down there a week before and scouted out hotels, so we had an inexpensive, pretty, and centrally located hotel. We got two rooms, each with balconies that provided us hours of entertaining people watching.

When we arrived at the hotel, we all slept for a few hours. My family had flown throughout the night and had barely slept, and Jose and I had gotten up early to meet them at the airport. We were all very tired, and it was obvious we weren’t going to do much that day.

We did manage to take a few short strolls through the area and enjoy the city. Anna said it looked just like Barcelona, and that we can basically say we have seen Spain because it was so similar. That makes sense, as almost all the buildings were built by Spain in the 18th and 19th centuries.

My dad, Anna, Jose, and I went out to dinner that night while my mother rested. The food was good, but Anna woke up sick in the middle of the night. Jose and I had been lucky by not getting sick from food until Jose did very recently, so we probably weren’t as careful as we should have been on their first night.

The whole day was nice, but by far my favorite part was walking through the airport early in the morning and seeing Anna walking down the hall. Before I knew it, I had screamed her name and we were running towards each other. My memory is a little blurry from all the excitement, but I think we might have even let out a few embarrassing girl screams.

All is well now that my family is here.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Tulum

We are flying to Cancun today, and then taking a bus to Tulum for a few days of beach relaxation. We got up early this morning, got back to the apartment by 9 am to pack and catch a flight out of Mexico City.

For the first time ever, we will be staying on the beach in cabanas. Our resort is the cheaper version of a big resort a few minutes down the beach. We will still have access to the fancier resort that has a sports center with snokeling, boogie boarding, and a gym. It should be a lot of fun, and really relaxing.

Jose and I love the water in Tulum, and no one else has ever seen it before. My mom, the water lover, is of course excited about seeing such crystal clear blue water. I'm sure it will be hard for us to get out of the water at the end of the day.

We didn't get to see the pyramids in Mexico City, although we tried twice, so we are going to try hard to see the ruins in Tulum. They are right on the coast, and the old white buildings, white sand, green trees, and blue water are all visible.

After four full days on the beach, we are going to fly back to Mexico City for two more days before my parents leave. It has been a great trip so far, and I'm sure it will only get better on the beach.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Family Visit!

My parents and sister have arrived for a visit. Anna is going to stay for six months, and my parents are staying until the end of January. My mom has wanted to visit since November, but it hasn’t worked out time after time. She even postponed the January trip, because she had a work meeting that she thought she couldn’t miss. She ended up managing to postpone the meeting and visit us with my dad and Anna for two weeks.

They arrived on Saturday the 16th at 5:00 am. Jose and I got up at 5 and took the bus and metro to the airport, where we met them at 6:30 am. We took a taxi from the airport to our apartment. We stayed there for a few hours to unpack, play with Cholula, see the apartment, and nap. Anna took a nap with Cholula cuddling her for about an hour, and it was definitely a great way for her to be welcomed to Mexico. I think Cholula will always have a special place in her heart after that.

After everyone napped, we walked to the post office to pick up the flour my mom had ordered a few weeks before. My family was shocked by the poverty in Chimalhuacan. I had told them about the dirt roads and stray dogs, but it was still a shock to really see. Anna said she pictured country dirt roads and stray dogs in the country , where both are normal, but she got here and saw dirt roads in a city, and packs of stray dogs running through the city dirt roads. While we were walking, I kept thinking "please don't let us walk by any dead dogs on the street." Luckily we didn't, and it was only the poverty that shocked them.

They brought down two big suitcases filled with things for Jose and I. We only thought we were going to be here for about three months, and that we were going to be in hot beach weather. Instead, we have been here for almost six months and the last three months have been cold. Our clothing selection was extremely limited, and it was like Christmas finally came when we opened the suitcases and saw all our clothes.

My grandmother bought us a camera to replace the one we lost, and my parents brought it down so we can now take pictures during the trip. My mom brought our favorite BBQ sauce, milk chocolate, CDs, and lots of other treats and things we had been missing.

Our plan is to stay in Mexico City for a few days, fly to Cancun to visit the Mayan Riviera, fly to Puebla and visit the town of Cholula, and then go back to Mexico City for a day or two before my parents leave.


December-Early January

I haven’t felt like writing in a long time, although almost every day I have said that I wanted to. We definitely had the Holiday Blues, but they lasted longer than expected because we thought the holidays were longer in Mexico. On Christmas, there was no tree, lights, or angels. There were also no presents. I didn’t really miss getting presents, but it was a huge blow to not give any. The spirit of giving has always really gotten into me. Thanksgiving was the best I’ve ever had, but Christmas never even came.

Jose’s family told us that Mexicans wait to open presents until January 6th for Three Kings Day, but they didn’t tell us that they didn’t celebrate it. Jose and I waited through Christmas until early January, thinking we would be able to have some of Christmas in January. We never heard mention of Three Kings Day, and it came and went without any merriment. It seems to mostly be a holiday for children around here, because there were stands lining the streets selling presents, but only plastic toys for kids.

Our apartment also quickly turned into a disappointment. It is pretty, but filled with problems. We have lived there for over a month now, yet haven’t taken a single hot shower, because the water heater doesn’t work and Jose’s family doesn’t appear to find it important to fix. There is no sink in our kitchen, so we have to wash our dishes outside in a small, cement sink that doesn’t fit our pots and plates and is always threatening to scratch or break them. Our front door is too short and has a five inch gap that allows all the dust and cold air to blow into our apartment. We have to dust every few days, and each time we sweep we have piles a few centimeters high. The power goes out at least a three times a week, but it flickers off and on at least once a day. Everything we want to do is in the Districto Federal, which takes almost two hours to get to by bus and metro. We have visited the stall market in Coyoacan, and realized what poor quality food is sold at our market.

We haven’t spent much time with Jose’s family since we moved out. It is partly because we wanted to finally have some privacy and space when we moved in, but also because we weren’t kept up-to-date with what the family was doing. I think Sergio and Maribel knew we weren’t so into hours of department store shopping, and haven’t invited us on any of their shopping excursions since. The night before my family arrived, we spent a few hours in Aunt Irene’s living room with the family, and it felt really nice to do again.

I couldn’t get myself to write a new post, because there was nothing going on that felt worthy of writing about. Life was pretty boring and difficult. Chimalhuacan is more a place to survive than really a place to live and enjoy life. Since Jose and I don’t have school and work to escape to during the day, we had to live in and enjoy Chimalhuacan.

We have been looking for things to do to start a life and be busy. We want to have responsibilities, and schedules, things to look forward to, and maybe even some things that we dread a little bit but need to do. Jose is thinking about going to school, we are going to take language classes, travel with Anna, and find a place to volunteer.