Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I have all this stuff running around my brain that I want to talk about but for the past 3 days I've been working on this project that is about the slowest, most tedious thing you could imagine. I have to research, then print out reports for information that is missing, then sit and enter the missing information piece by piece. This morning I woke up at 4:30 with all of this on my mind and it was less painful to just get up and do it then to lie there and toss and turn so already, even though it's only 6:30 pm I am ready for bed! Must .. .stay . . .up!

Had two vet visits already this week and I am now an amateur vet with supplies in the laundry room but will give specifics on the next post.

For now I just wanted to say hey.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Free Rice Word Game

I found this site a couple of weeks ago. Sent it out to my folks and Dad at least loves it. Increase your word power while donating rice to people who need it. A game and a charity all rolled into one. Play it daily and help the world. (Actually I have not looked into the specifics but it is a great word game. Bookmark it NOW!)

A New Water Dish and More Mexico Observations

Last weekend when I was home for about 40 hours before heading back to Cuidad Mexico I ran out to PetSmart for cat food and litter supplies. The cats have a food dispenser and a water dispenser but the water dispenser has bothered me for a long time because it can get pretty nasty and there is no way to clean the reservoir. Also it's stagnant water which is why they routinely drink from the toilets - after all it's the freshest water in the house! In PetSmart I discovered the Drinkwell recirculating water dispenser. It has a large reservoir that is removable and easy to fill and clean. You plug it in and it delivers a constant stream of water freshly charcoal filtered. When I came in Friday night I was thrilled to see how clean it still was, and the cats love to drink directly from the stream!

I'm sure it would work well for small dogs too so if you're a pet owner consider purchasing this item - I highly recommend. It's available on the Doctors Foster and Smith site but I found it on sale at Petsmart. As a bonus since it's moving water it will improve the Feng Shui of your home!

So anyway, my assignment to Santiago is going to be slightly delayed (I know, it already has been delayed - that's the nature of working for this company). Because few people in South America are bilingual in English, and because I am not nearly to the point of being able to communicate in Spanish, they have decided to send one of the guys from the Mexico office to Santiago to do the first part of the training. I will go back to Mexico to cover his job while he is gone and then once it's time to train in the part of the system I know best they are hiring a woman who speaks excellent English and I will go to train her.

I got this news Wednesday and initially was tremendously disappointed but over the past few days I think it's a good thing. For one thing I will be a short 3 hour flight from home and so hopefully I can work it out so I am only gone for a couple of weeks at a time and then able to be back here for a few days before turning back around. Since I'm a total sucker for the holidays I like this idea. Secondly, Carlos (the guy who will be going to Santiago) works in an area that I am not terribly familiar with and taking over his work will give me excellent training in this area which I think is crucial to me for future projects as well as my ongoing understanding of this business and our system.

Also I like the Mexico office. The people are great. Typical for me I tend to get along well with everyone but especially the guys. Don't get me wrong - the women are great too but they are very young, petite, pretty, fashionable, quiet and they just do their jobs and don't offer opinions. So I can't really identify with them at all. The guys are outgoing and voice their opinions and they're funny and smart. They're really aggressive about teaching me Spanish and making me use what they teach me. They say "fuck" like me.

Part of the reason why I work from home mostly is the Atlanta office is miserable. Very quiet - no one likes each other, everyone gossips, people are miserable - this attitude permeates and I tend to not get much done when I'm there because the environment is so awful. In Mexico everyone gets along, or at least they act like they do. Everyone eats lunch together. In Mexico (and this is not just in our office but everywhere) it is customary when arriving in the morning and departing at night to personally greet all your coworkers with a kiss on the cheek. Men shake hands but women/women and men/women do the cheek kiss thing. It freaked me out my first week but I've gotten used to it now and it's kind of nice.

So I'm looking forward to going back in maybe a couple of weeks to do whatever work needs to be done. The nice thing is that I will have different accommodations, although at this point I'm not sure what they'll be. This means I will not be a prisoner in the hotel at the airport and will have more of a Mexico experience that I can share with y'all.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Pile of Loot!

Another week in Mexico is finished and I arrived back home tonight about 11 pm in a cab from the airport which feels terribly excessive and non-frugal to me. I try to hit hitch rides to the airport whenever possible because I like to leave my truck in the driveway because I don't have a security system and it makes it look like I'm home what with the lights on timers and all. But it seems not at all easy to find free rides back from the airport. I have the option of taking MARTA (the Atlanta "subway" system) but I would have to go all the way into the center of Atlanta and then change lines and come all the way back to my side of town and THEN take a cab from the station to my house (about 10 miles). All the while dragging luggage and my own tired ass. Sam kind of laid it on the line and told me to just take the cab and stop mooching rides from my friends because I can expense it. I'll still take rides where I can find them because even if I walked around with $1000 in 20's it is gut-wrenching to watch a cab meter ticking off the 1/8 miles. I'm hopeless.

So anyway I'll spare you the details but it was a fairly brutal week. Brutal in a weird kind of exhilarating way. Problems like I dealt with this week make my stomach burn and yet it really pumps me up to deal with them and make progress, and progress was made although it could have been better. Still I find myself sitting here in front of the computer at 11:42 pm on a Friday night (10:42 pm Mexico time - oh sure that justifies it) and I just kind of have to write a bit before I can wind down.

I've spent 16 of the past 26 days in Mexico and I'm fairly certain I'll be back, maybe soon. I changed most of my leftover pesos back to US dollars after the first trip but now I don't bother - I simply empty my wallet in flight and change back over to whatever I have of the currency of the country I'm flying to. I have a little change purse from Japan that I use for the purpose of storing whatever currency I won't be using for a while. Tonight I emptied my wallet of pesos and put the US money back in and I was shocked at how much Mexican coinage I had accumulated:

I know a lot of people who throw all their extra change in a jar and then once a year take it to the machine at the grocery store and buy a new BMW or whatever but I always try to keep my change to a minimum which I suppose is why I drive a 6 year old truck. But at least it's paid off! I found myself wondering how on earth I had managed to accumulate so many coins and realized with some embarrassment that Mexican coins are confusing to me! I far prefer to pay with paper money because I have to look so carefully to figure out which coins to hand over to round out a purchase. What a doob I am. Some of these are 10 peso coins which is roughly (very roughly) about $1 US and are highly useful for tipping bellboys and the guy who opens the car door in the morning. But the rest turn me into a babbling fool. So I have this pile of loot because of my own pride. I would rather walk around with 2 or 3 pounds of metal than embarrass myself with a cashier. Today in the Mexico City airport I went to the bathroom 3 times hoping there would be an attendant so I could put down a fistful of coins as a tip (fistful = roughly 30 cents) but no such luck which is unheard of in my brief experience there.

So anyway as I mentioned it was a rough week and long hours and no time to flit about Mexico but in the interest of sharing I have to tell you that I was there alone this week for the first time. The first week was me, Sam and Michael and during off hours we did that kind of business/social thing and it was great. The second short trip it was me and Michael and we did the same. This time me. The office have come to know me as a bit of a culture-glutton and this week instead of going in a car to a restaurant for lunch the whole office walked to a nearby "place" for take out. I can only describe this place because I don't know what to call it. It was kind of like a garage - with a roll up door onto the street. The whole place was maybe 400 square feet and most of it was a sit down dining area with about 5 plastic patio tables. The kitchen was not much bigger than my tiny bathroom and the cooks were a mother/daughter team. Every day there are two main selections that come with rice and plantains or rice and an egg, soup and a large drink (Monday it was a lime juice drink and Tuesday it was a guava drink). It is a full, hearty, home cooked "real" Mexican lunch and for everything it is $35 pesos (roughly $3.30). Unfortunately they don't do receipts so I can't really expense it but I'll try. It's just that down home. It was fun. You kind of walk into the tiny kitchen and tell momma your order then wait outside on the street and they bring it out to you and take your money. Then you walk back to the office, dodging stray dogs and vehicles. This is not what you should imagine Mexico City to be - this is just the area where the office is. Mexico City really is a very slick cosmopolitan city with a rich history but I think it is very cool that one can have an experience like this without ever leaving the city limits!

So anyway I took a couple of photos from my hotel window. I was looking out across at the airport and they are working on some landscaping. They are tending it carefully. I looked out the window at the exact right moment and saw a Mexican sprinkler system:

Can you see it? A big water truck and a guy on top hosing down the landscaping! WAIT!!! Here's a better shot!
Time to go now. Time to sleep in my own bed with my cats hogging up all the space. I have some other things to share about this week but will do it later when I've had time to vacuum and recover!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hasta Manana y'all!

My flight back to Mexico today is a night flight which means I will be landing after dark which I have heard is a sight not to be missed. I know from my vast 3 weeks and 2 round trip flights so far that Mexico City is enormous - it stretches as far as you can see. Michael (our developer and IT genius) flew in at night and tells me it is Christmas with Santa Claus. As much as I am sad to be leaving home once again I am really looking forward to seeing this. I've requested a window seat and hope I can get it and I'll try to take pictures. In the meantime, here are some daytime views from the airplane: Mexico City lies at the bottom of a "bowl" created by mountains. The air pollution is kind of rough on me - the second I step off the plane my eyes get red and watery and kind of stay that way until I get back. Evidently the winter months are the worst so I am really hoping we get this project finished before December! Nevertheless it is a breathtaking view from the airplane.The above shot is about 15 minutes out of Mexico City. I always ask for a window seat. This really isn't smart because if you have to get up it's a true pain unless you end up with empty seats next to you. But I love looking out at the ground. When I was flying to and from Japan we flew over the southern coast of Alaska and it was just the most amazing thing - so rugged.

I used to be terrified of flying. In my previous life (the early 80s) I remember one flight from Houston to Ontario, CA that was so frightening I wanted to hit the pilot when we finally landed. Also I've had a couple of commuter flights that made me understand what it's like to be a falling leaf in autumn. But when I started this job and was ordering truckloads of orange juice and toilet paper into warehouses it finally hit me that there are tens of thousands of flights per day and maybe once in a blue moon there is a problem. Now I'm more terrified of driving 285 than flying. The sky is full of highly trained professionals with other highly trained professionals watching their every move. The ground is full of idiots who use their vehicles as weapons. I just watch the flight attendants. If the day ever comes when they freak out I will freak out but until then I'll just white-knuckle my armrest if there is turbulence!

How could you not love a sight like that?

Sam (da boss man and cool dude with tattoos) called this morning. He's been bouncing back and forth between Mexico, Santiago, and his home in Reston, VA for the past few weeks. I never know exactly where he is but he went home to Reston this weekend. Turns out we will both be in the international terminal at Hartsfield this afternoon and so I'm leaving a couple of hours earlier than planned so we can catch a late lunch and get caught up in one of the fine terminal dining establishments.

It's really difficult to blog from the hotel. For one thing the hours in Mexico are all crazy - in the office at 9 (I like to start working at 7) - lunch for 2 hours at 2 or 3 -- back to the hotel by 7:30 or so unless there is a business dinner in which case back to the hotel around 10 or 11. The hotel charges $5 per hour or $22 for 24 hours for internet in the room. I hate getting only one hour because I feel like I then have to be tied to the laptop for that whole hour but also hate getting 24 hours when I know I will maybe be online for a little while. It's not my money - this is all expensed - but I think I'm too frugal for my own good. Anyway, since I will be there this time without Sam or Michael to dine with I might be online more and will try to check in a bit.

Adios for now!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sydlantajap Mexiago

Follow me here y'all - I promise there is a logical train of thought.

I hate commercials. They are an unwelcome interruption in the few TV shows I like to watch and since I don't have tivo I have to mostly put up with them. Usually I spend commercial breaks getting little things done - put a load of laundry in, take the trash out, dust, shred the day's junk mail . . . but there is one series of commercials I love and I drop everything to sit and watch them with delight. Hoping you have them where you are. The AT & T series of commercials running now just delight me no matter how many times I see them because they are brilliantly creative and funny.

I was back in Mexico this past week - left Wednesday morning and drove back into my driveway at 10 last night. I discovered that some of my very favorite shows are available on the internet once they have run and so I figured I could watch them in the hotel at night but that connection is so slow that the steam runs about 30 seconds and then there's a wait while it buffers and then 30 more seconds run so I gave up and now that I'm back I'm spending the day cleaning the house of cat hair and cat gak and watching the past week's episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Actually watching on the internet is kind of great. Your average one hour show is about 42 minutes of show and 18 minutes of stupid commercials. When you watch on the internet you might be behind the times but if you can ignore people talking about it the next day and watch your one hour show on the internet you are saving about 7 hours a year. I have about 4 hours of not to miss TV per week so I am spending about 28 hours extra per year living my life. But this is Barbie math and if you challenge me on it I will simply go get a pedicure to avoid your logic. When you watch on the internet there are fewer commercials - a one hour show has maybe 3 or 4 15 second interruptions.

Anyway, today I pulled up ABC on the internet so I could watch the Thursday episode of Grey's Anatomy and there are four 15 second commercials that you have to live through and today's commercials were the AT & T commercials that I love and while I was listening to them and mopping the kitchen floor I made up my own:

I'm a Project Administrator. I live in Atlanta but my boss bounces between Sydney and Santiago. I've lived in Japan but recently began commuting to Mexico. I need a network that lives where I do: Sydlantajap Mexiago.
I have been cracking myself up all morning.

I fly back to Mexico tomorrow night for another week trying to get this project solid. The cats hate me but luckily it's a hate/love relationship. They are getting lots of wet food right now. Between bites they give me the cold shoulder and I mop around them.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


As promised . . .

Jardin Botanico at the AeroMexico Complex

The AeroMexico Complex could not be described as even remotely attractive. It's a huge complex about a mile from the airport, surrounded by high chain link and razor wire. They have tried to make it a bit better though and one of those improvements is a small botanical garden. It begins just outside of where our office is located with all sorts of wonderful plants and a few umbrella tables.

Mexico City weather is not terribly different from Atlanta weather and I was surprised to see ficus trees growing in the garden but even more surprised to see that they are treated as topiaries! I think this one is supposed to be a chicken.The garden is in 3 sections connected by a meandering walkway. The first section is flowering plants and trees. The second section is medicinal plants. The third was my favorite - native cactus! I have no idea why it was my favorite because I'm not a huge fan of cactus but these were enormous and there were so many varieties that it was truly eye candy.
Well done AeroMexico!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Postupus Interruptus

Y'all I just have to interrupt the fun Mexico postings with a bit of local stuff and I hope you will bear with me and follow and hopefully you will comment.

I live in this tiny little village which is essentially a suburb of Atlanta but it is tiny and the local city council is essentially a group of neighbors who vote for each other so they can all have a "title" and make bad decisions while they all pat each other on the back.

For instance, our Main Street used to be a small 3 block area with sweet quaint awnings covering the walkways of the shoppers but it was decided that the awnings should come down and now Main Street is a ghost town with the sun glaring in the shops and no one willing to walk down sweet Main Street. Stone Mountain is now a ghost town.

Our "mayor-pro-tem" is "NN", a drunkard. Over the past 8 years I have voiced my concerns to her and the mayor and the chief of police specifically about the traffic on my street. On Fourth Street there is a posted speed limit of 25 MPH. In February of last year I finally got the county to do a traffic study and 50% of the traffic on our street travels in excess of 75MPH. No one cares. I think this must mean that if I care to murder someone it is OK. A law is a law, right? In my last email to her Nan responded to my concern of the traffic by telling me that E. Mountain (where her house is located) had the same problem! FYI NOT and what kind of response is this? If we had drug dealing on Fourth would she say the same? We all have drug dealing so just deal with it! A very bad city council person.

I received an email notification of a "meet and greet" for the new candidates for City Council. It will happen tomorrow and I am so disgusted with my past experience that I really don't care to go. I took a nap today and didn't sleep trying to figure out a way to record them - I needed something. And then I realized I have a video recorder!

Tomorrow I will show up with my video camera and will let them all know that the resulting video will be posted on you tube and distributed to my neighbors. My feeling is that all the bums should be thrown out.

We wiill let the video speak for itself.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday in Mexico - Less Food, More Fun!

When the alarm(s) went off Friday morning I really really did not want to get up. Gaga was tired y'all. My usual bedtime is between 9 and 10 and I spend maybe 30 to 90 minutes reading before I turn off the light and sleep in the glorious company of CATS. I eat lunch at noon and dinner at 6 or 7. I am entirely predictable. My work schedule is basically 7 - 4 or 5. To be in Mexico where I was up at 6:30, absorbing all sorts of new things, eating lunch between 2 and 4, absorbing more new things until 7 or 8 and then thinking about dinner about the time I usually go to bed - this messed me up all week but it was fun because it was different. Nonetheless, by Friday at 6:30 am I was tiredand into total cat withdrawals!

Sam and Michael were booked out on a Friday afternoon flight but I was not leaving until Saturday so my Friday night plans involved going back to the hotel, taking a very hot shower, crawling in bed and ordering room service. NOT. TO. HAPPEN. GRINGO ES MUY STUPIDO.

After Sam and Michael left for the airport Jorge R fulfilled my greatest desire - to grab a real taco at a sidewalk stand. Earlier in the week a few staff members had asked me to join them doing this but Jorge B nixed that and told them it would make me sick because American stomachs are not accustomed to that kind of assault (I was so underestimated) so he took us out for Mexican sushi which includes roasted jalapenos and salsa which is just plain weird to me but a lot of fun. Jorge R made up for Jorge B's decision.
The taco stand was located only a short walk from the office and we didn't even have to leave the AeroMexico property. Aeromexico has a miniature botanical garden set up and we walked through this and Jorge pointed out several interesting native plants (I will post photos of this over the weekend - it was quite wonderful). Then we walked up to the 10 foot iron fence that surrounds the property and through the fence ordered our tacos. I got 2 pork (!!! It's all about the pork and I wonder how Sam and Michael didn't starve to death - thank you JC for the loose dietary restrictions - almost makes putting up with Republicans worth it) and one chorizo (Mexican sausage - of course made from PORK) taco and we walked back and met Oscar, Sol, Max, Jessica and Carlos at an umbrella table outside to enjoy our lunches. Once again they all watched me as I added the cilantro, chilis and fresh lime juice to my tacos and when I poured on the red sauce they all started speaking very fast in Spanish and then watched in amazement as I tolerated it adn thoroughly enjoyed it. Very funny. The conversation was both in Spanish and English and I was surprised that I could follow a little of the Spanish conversation. Maybe there is hope.

After lunch we went back into the office and there was a definite Friday feel. Someone turned on some wonderful Mexican music and an impromptu dance party ensued for about 5 minutes before we got back to work.

After we got the dancing out of the way Jorge informed me that he would be taking me on a tour of Mexico City after work. Oh great. I wanted to sleep and relax but it would have been quite rude for me to decline and anyway, I wanted to see the city and he promised that it would take maybe 2 hours so I thanked him and prepared myself.

At 7:15 Jorge dropped me by the hotel for 15 minutes to put my laptop in my room while he went and filled his gas tank. Then we started out. He took me by the Revolution Memorial first. Here I am inside the open air memorial looking up at the domed ceiling:
This thing was first built as the grand entrance to what was planned as the President's residence but once this memorial was built they ran out of money so it sits alone on a plaza in the city.

While we were at the Memorial Jorge's phone rang and it was his wife. I felt really bad that once again I was taking him away from his family but when he got off the phone he told me his wife and daughters really wanted to meet me and we were going to his house to pick them up and then we would all continue the tour of the city together and end with dinner. And y'all this was at 8 PM!!!!!! I couldn't exactly say "No, please take me back to the hotel" so on we drove.

Jorge has a small apartment in the city, surrounded by a high iron fence manned 24 hours by a security guard. We walked up a few flights to his apartment and were almost at the door when Jorge admitted that his family does not speak English!!! OK. Now this was getting interesting.

His wife greeted us at the door with his 9 and 12 year old daughters behind her. I was completely welcomed, with his family telling me in very broken English "Nice to meet you" and me saying in very broken Spanish "Mucho gusto!" We sat down and did that wonderful universal communication thing involving hand gestures and high vocal volumes. I met their new 3 month old poodle mix puppy Peluche (pay-loo-chay). Peluche means "plush."

After about 40 minutes we all piled into the family mini van. All of us, even Peluche!!! On our way out Jorge told me how much he appreciated me coming to his home and that always his home would be my home. He gave me a CD of Mexican music and an airline-sized bottle of tequila as souvenirs. We set back out and visited fountains and monuments and the government square and drove through really cool areas. I had no idea. I think it's so funny that now in my memory Mexico City will always live at night! All of the photos posted here were taken in the dark, most from the window of the mini-van because it was not safe to get out. I had to mess with them to make them viewable. I actually considered going out and getting Photoshop until I found out it costs $400 - $600!!! Oddly this makes me covet it more! If you are reading this and can get me Photoshop for under $200 I promise to only use it for white magic.
A few photos from my night-time tour of the city:
This is a huge fountain located in the center of a round-about in the middle of the city. It was a gift from Spain and the original, which is much larger, is there.

This is the facade of the soccer stadium at the huge university which I don't EVEN remember the name of. It is a world class university and it costs each student 250 pesos per year to attend. That is $25 US. This university is where world class doctors and engineers are educated. $25 per year. I think we need to figure a few things out in the US. Also they have these great buildings which are decorated with art by famous Mexican artists. Here is another building on campus - it was a 12 inch nipple kind of experience to see it in person. So beautiful and I guarantee thsi photo doesn't even begin to do it justice.
After the university we drove to the bullfighting stadium. It's across the street from the soccer stadium. I would love to see a bullfight. I despise the idea of the death of a bull for the sake of human glory but again it is a cultural thing that I want to see someday with my own eyes. I know I will cry if I ever do. Anyway, the bullfighting ring was another piece of art which is impossible to convey in a photo taken at night and microsoft-adjusted but anyway here it is: You totally can't see it in the photo but there was this great sculpture on top of the marble gate. At this point Jorge and his wife did indeed get out of the mini-van to smoke a cigarette and the girls got Peluche out and he almost ran into the street so I totally threw myself on him and saved the day! I looked like an idiot but I did not want my memories to include a puppy run over by one of those insane Mexican drivers. I think Jorge bitched everyone out about letting the puppy out of the van but of course it was in Spanish so he might have been bitching about how he was missing his favorite TV show!

I guess most of y'all might remember about the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. When things like earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes are so far away we kind of register them as a disaster and then file them away. I asked Jorge about it. His recollection was so familiar to me after my Japan experience. For those who have never felt one most mild earthquakes rumble horizontally. The movement can be intense but it is only sideways and not so devastating. The bad ones begin horizontally but then quickly become an up and down shaking and this is what brings buildings down. When I asked Jorge about the 85 quake he showed me with his hands and I knew immediately what he was talking about. In Mexico City there was another earlier devastating earthquake in 1962. It caused a lot of damage and destroyed the angel monument:
It was rebuilt quickly but the original gold angel was not restored until a couple of years ago. It is beautiful. I started to take a phot but Jorge's wife pulled me to another vantage point. I think she must hold stock in HSBC!
By now I am so tired and amusing myself in traffic that is unbelieveable for that time of night by playing with Peluche and allowing him to teethe on my fingers. Such a sweet puppy! Our next stop was what I must describe as the Opera House although I am certain this must be a language thing. I could so see kd lang performing here: Finally we went to the main square (I guess though I am not sure as much as I am not sure about any other information I have posted here). On one side is a Catholic Cathedral, on another the City buildings, and on another the Federal buildings where the President of Mexico receives foreign dignitaries. It took my breath away and I can't imagine seeing this in the daylight as the lighting at night was romantic and just totally amazing:
On the other side of this plaza was the Cathedral and I totally know you can't see it but it was so beautiful at night so I'm posting the photo anyway. You need to go to Mexico City and see it with your own eyes!
At MIDNIGHT - yes MIDNIGHT - Jorge pulled over at a real down home cafe and we sat and had tacos and watched very funny drunk people wander out to go home. I had eaten so much all week that I wasn't hungry at all so I ordered only a taco to be polite and Mrs. R spent the rest of the time pushing her food on me, worried that I wasn't eating enough. Because god only knows I could only live off my own fat for about 3 months. I swear this eating thing really is a matter of universal acceptance! I can tell you for certain that Mexican food in the US has not a whole lot to do with what real Mexican food is like. First and foremost one can't even acquire escamoles in the US. I know. I've researched it in depth. Evidently the f**king FDA thinks anything ingestible should be pasteurized and processed and then labeled with statistics and warnings and they just aren't capable of comprehending things that have been eaten by ancient cultures since the beginning of time.
The R family dropped me back at the hotel at 1:15 am after they went out of their way to spend 5 hours driving a strange foreign person around their city. I hugged his wife (God - can you believe I didn't even get her name? This is because Jorge introduced her as "my wife." I will have to find out. I do know his daughters are Brenda and Ericka. Good Mexican names.) It was a glorious night and will always be one of my favorite memories.

Tomorrow I will post photos of the botanical gardens at the AeroMexico complex, along with a photo of a very funny sign so check back!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Escamoles and a Terrifying Drive

OK. I'm back. Dropped Jorge back at the airport at about 5 pm and I've been home long enough to change into my comfies and wash my face so I'm ready to continue with the story of Mexico.

Wednesday Jorge B, who also happens to be the project manager for the Santiago start up, and who I worked with in Tokyo, told us he was taking us out to a great dinner at a great restaurant.

We ended up at a place called la Valentina in a section of town that for the life of me I can't remember the name of but it starts with a "P" and is where the Maserati dealership is and where you can shop all day in places like Dolce and Gabanna, Chanel, Gucci, etc. Before this dinner we had been going from the airport hotel to the office about a mile away and back and honestly I thought that was what Mexico City was - narrow crowded pot-hole-lined streets with street vendors. There was even one median island by the office with actual cow skulls piled up on it. I kid you not. The Mexico City we saw Wednesday night was an entirely different world, even though we went from the office to the restaurant and back.

When we were seated at the restaurant Jorge was telling us about two Mexican delicacies - one is worms which are fried until they are crispy and hollow and they are supposedly quite delicious. Unfortunately the restaurant did not have them. The other dish they did have. Escamoles. Escamoles are considered the caviar of Mexico. Do you want to google it or shall I tell you? THEY ARE ANT EGGS!!!!

Now before you get thoroughly grossed out let me remind you that Jorge told us they were wonderful and a real treat. Then he asked me point blank if I wanted him to order some. Well, DUH!! Of course I did. In the spirit of trying something totally different that I would never have a chance to try anywhere else I told him I absolutely wanted him to order them. I thought Sam and Michael looked a little green at that point.

Escamoles are the eggs from the big black ants that live at the base of the agave plant. They are harvested in the spring and that's pretty much the only time of year it is possible to get them fresh but thanks to modern miracles it is possible to enjoy them year round in frozen form. They are white, and roughly the size and shape of rice crispies, although far more delicious. They are cooked (I suppose sauteed) in butter and/or olive oil and spices. One eats them on a small tortilla spread with guacamole and green chili sauce. The guacamole serves as both a condiment and a "glue" to hold the escamoles so they don't slip out because my gosh but they are slippery little suckers.

I don't think I can begin to describe the flavor. Kind of like the best steak you have ever eaten but also a bit like shrimp. Buttery, and cooked with the savory and understated spices the sensory pleasure was amazing. I was so proud of both Sam and Michael. They both tried it, which just amazed me since Michael especially is hands down the pickiest eater I have ever known. I don't lie. He has to inspect and sniff his food before he attempts to taste it and this is with boiled chicken breast. If it looks or smells off to him he will pass it around the table so everyone can inspect and sniff and provide an opinion. No lie. Maybe an exaggeration but not a lie essentially. But they did try it and I totally have a new found respect for them both because of this. I actually hated to eat my entree because I wanted that flavor to stay in my mouth forever. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

After dinner it was a bit late and so Jorge drove us back to the hotel. We were on the loop expressway around the City. I preface this by saying two things. First, I have never seen driving as crazy as in Mexico City. Lines marking lanes are an informal suggestion. Traffic lights are to be obeyed or not. Whatever. People cut in front of you and even directly on top of you. Horns honk constantly. Second, Jorge's driving quite frankly sucks. It sucked in Tokyo and scared us all about half to death but that was nothing compared with his driving on his own turf! Michael and I made Sam sit in the front seat with him. The death seat. Love you Sam!!! Kisses!!!

On the way TO the restaurant Jorge was speeding, weaving in and out of various lanes, having an intensive conversation on his cell phone and fiddling with interior lights all at the same time. He was only missing a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a burger. On the way FROM the restaurant he was driving 120 km/hour in the lane directly beside a concrete median wall. He would go over bumps in the road that made us airborne. I know I gasped audibly several times and spent the ride working the invisible brake pedal in the backseat while gripping the backseat handle. I gripped it so hard that by the time he let us out at the hotel my hand was sore and temporarily paralysed into a gripping position.

Please promise me that if you ever make it to Mexico you will try the escamoles and stay the hell out of Jorge's car.

Tomorrow: Mexican sushi experience and Friday with photos and video.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oy - another delay!

Seriously. I have the posts outlined for the next few nights but all need editing and photos and Friday especially needs video but on very short notice Jorge R is flying into Atlanta tonight so he, Michael and I can do some intensive training tomorrow and return to Mexico next week for at least a couple of days so AeroMexico continues to be extremely impressed by our progress. They should be. We are pretty amazing. We've actually pulled this project out of our hineys in the past 6 months when it is something that had been promised by our predecessors for 6 years with no action. That's why we have to keep the momentum, despite the Santiago thing. Yeah, we rock. Also we are tired. I'm thinking a team building trip to Anguilla for a week is in order and we could expense it. Right Sam?

I will leave here in about 30 minutes to gather Jorge at the airport, swing him by the hotel so he can drop his bag, and then we will go to the Feed Store in College Park for dinner. Would rather take him for authentic soul food but The Feed Store has some typical southern dishes, even if they are done up in a fairly pretentious way. Probably won't get home until 11 or so.

I will get back to the posts tomorrow night. Wednesday night in Mexico was kind of great. Think insects and then work on getting over it. Of course looking ahead Friday night was just the best ever, and very amusing so you will need to mark your calendars to check in for that one too.

I really am sorry. I had kind of planned to get a post out today but ended up working. SHEESH! I can't believe they actually expect me to do that! I should have been born filthy rich. I would have been a great rich lady!

OK - later all!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mexico: Tuesday night dinner, October 2

This will be a short post. We got back to the hotel after our orgy of a lunch and honestly I didn't even feel like eating dinner but Sam and Michael did since they avoided the pork-fest that was lunch. About 10 pm we headed to one of the hotel restaurants - Bice. I knew I wasn't really hungry so when I looked at the menu I immediately focused in on the half dozen raw oysters. This was the sum total of my dinner and it was perfect. And nothing like in the US. No cocktail sauce - the waiter spent about 10 minutes putting various liquids and spices and onions and chilis on the oysters and then put them in front of me and they were incredible!!!

It seems that everywhere we went there was a TV playing soccer or rugby and Tuesday night was no different. In the restaurant the kitchen had a huge picture window into the dining room and in the dining room was a huge TV playing the soccer game (between someone and someone else). I was seated facing the window into the kitchen and at one point I looked up and all the kitchen staff and one waiter were fixated on the TV in the dining room. It was hilarious. I took a photo. When the flash went off they all looked at me and I smiled and waved and they laughed and waved back!

On Food and Culture

I interrupt my day by day account of the Mexico trip to share a bit of information that I first learned in Japan. My Mexico trip confirmed my theory.

I don't consider myself a "foodie" but I am always thrilled to sample new and different tastes. In Japan the ultimate test (although I didn't know it at the time) was natto. Natto is fermented soybeans. Natto is slimy and stinky. One day when I had been in Tokyo about a month or 6 weeks there appeared in our lunchtime bento boxes a small container of something called natto. I had to ask what it was and what to do with it. I was told to eat it with my rice. As I prepared the natto (you add a mustardy sauce and stir well before putting it on the rice) most of the Japanese office staff gathered around to watch me. I tried it. It was a strong, pungent taste that was pleasing to me in a very strange way. Kind of like smelling your own dirty socks can be fulfilling. I thought it was quite delicious and gladly consumed it. The Japanese staff were amazed and told me this was a sign that I was Japanese, since most gaijin and many Japanese find this food disgusting. I liked it enough that I continued to keep it stocked in my apartment fridge. The grocery store cashiers always looked surprised that this blonde gaijin was purchasing natto. From the day of my first natto experience I got the feeling that the staff went out of their way to put very strange food items in front of me to see my reaction. I tried them all and honestly there was only one thing I didn't particularly enjoy. One night we all went to a sushi-go-round place and one of the things I tried was a baby squid sushi - a small round of rice topped with 3 tiny baby squid. I thought it tasted like ink but I was happy for the experience of trying it. Also I'm not particularly fond of anemone but would try it again.

I found the same thing to be true in Mexico. Once I ate and thoroughly enjoyed the pork brain quesadilla it seemed the challenge was on. The staff in Mexico began to seek out culinary challenges to set in front of me ("Hey! Make her eat this chili!"). Specifics to come later (tonight actually) but I truly ate some things that are unbelievable to the American palate. I was more than willing to try and it all ended up being delicious and it turns out this was a really important thing for me to do, culturally speaking.

So the lesson for today kids is if you visit another culture be willing to try the food. I think food is a huge part of any culture and trying it shows that you embrace and respect the culture. Life is too incredibly short not to step outside your comfort zone and try something totally foreign to what you are used to.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mexico: Tuesday, October 2

Tuesday in Mexico. Sam, Michael and I met for breakfast in the hotel cafe and from there the day was off and running.

The two Jorges decided we would go to a "real" Mexican restaurant for lunch. I know it sounds as if all I'm writing about is the meals but honestly we went from the hotel to the office and back to the hotel so the times we went out to eat were the times we had our Mexican experience.
Anyway, this restaurant was just a hoot. A little hole-in-the-wall, it was decorated with animal heads on the walls and very basic tables and chairs.
There was even a Mariachi band. It seems there are Mariachi bands just about everywhere. More about Mariachi bands later in the week.

Jorge did the ordering. We started out with a sweet drink made from rice water and cinnamon. A little sweet for me but it was good. Then the orders came. We started with quesadillas. They were unlike any quesadilla I have ever seen - a small corn tortilla stuffed, closed with 3 toothpicks and (I think) fried. We had both chicken and pork brain quesidillas. Yes, I said pork brain. Since neither Michael nor Sam eat pork (for religious reasons) I left the chicken for them and ate the pork brains. And I'm here to tell you IT WAS YUMMY! Here I am cracking up that I ate a pork brain quesadilla while dead animal heads watched me:
Following this was pork tacos - pork meat served with soft tortillas and guacamole and both green and red sauce. Oh yeah! And fried pig skin. Not like the pork skins that come in cellophane bags - these were fresh and fried on site - very thick and substantial. It was a pork fiesta and thankfully there was also chicken and beef on the menu for my cohorts! After the meal the dessert cart was brought around and Jorge ordered flan for everyone and I can't believe how wonderful it was.

Left front to back: Jorge B. and Oscar Right front to back: Michael , Sam and Jorge R.

We headed back to the office where we stayed until about 8 pm.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Home Now

I got back about 7:25 last night, having taken a taxi from the airport to my front door (luxury). Of course the first few hours were spent loving on the cats who seemed to have a whole lot to tell me about their week. They were extremely vocal and I feel like I walked in and ran my mouth all night talking back to them. Camille especially seemed to have a report broken down into hours because she ran her mouth all night and now all day since I woke up. Evidently there is a lot I need to attend to. Camille is the boss. Phoebe woke me up at least 4 times during the night (with the nose pat thing that I love so much) to catch up on loving. Sonny insisted on going out into the backyard after dark but evidently just did a reconnaissance mission to make sure all was well and then asked to come in again. How wonderful to walk into a house where I was missed!

I slept until 9:30 which is really unheard of for me but god almighty it felt so good especially after Friday night which you will just have to wait for! I swear it will be worth it!

I am now doing laundry and need to get out to the grocery store and am trying to do my expense report for the trip so I can get it to Sam tonight for approval before he leaves again for Santiago Tuesday. The hotel bill was all-inclusive and I have to break it down line by line and use my electronic translator to know exactly what charges were for what cost center (OY!) but I have to get it in so I can get the reimbursement and get it to the credit card company before I get charged interest.

Blah blah blah. Stuff you don't really care about. So I will tell you about something easy while I get my next few posts outlined.

Currency. This is art. Here in the US we get so accustomed to looking at pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and all the paper stuff that it is mundane. We don't see it as art. But I think currency really is art. I go to another country and the paper and coins that make up the currency are a treat for my eyes. Here is a bit of Mexican currency:

I don't know if it reads but in the middle left of the 20 peso paper bill and lower left of the 50 peso paper bill there is a small transparent window. I think this is really cool. Also the coins have different metals ringing the edge. And they are HEAVY - really substantial. FYI in the picture above you are looking at about $4.00 US. I think. Math is hard Barbie! I had a difficult time with the exchange rate which is pretty much 100 pesos to one US dollar but for some reason made me tend to overtip (sorry Sam). Tipping is very big in Mexico. You can't go to the bathroom without tipping. I am so serious. The simple math made my brain scramble. In Japan tipping is not welcome and considered an insult (???WTF???) but in Mexico if you pee in an airport bathroom there is a person stationed there who brings paper towels so you can dry your hands even though you could get them yourself by reaching 6" to your right and tipping is expected and in fact they are quite aggressive about it. Seriously agressive. For instance in a restaurant bathroom the attendant will put out a piece of paper towel with two coins on it and it is expected that you will tip. And no receipt. Mexico seems to be the exact opposite of Japan. I was never sure what was expected for a pee trip so I just left whatever coins I had. I am sure I was a stupid gringo but I did try. If you know you are going to travel please google tipping customs as it is different in every country and very rude not to know what to do. I will admit that I didn't leave a customary tip for the housekeeping staff at the hotel. I should have but I didn't and so I am fully prepared to go to hell.

Anyway, the currency is fascinating to me. As are the tipping customs. Here in the US the only person I overtip is my hair guy (yeah - I only go about 3 - 4 times a year but he only charges $25 for a cut and it's incredibly cheap for a great cut and good conversation so he always gets $10 so almost 50%). Also I know he has to pay for all of those tatoos and piercings somehow and I live vicariously through him since I am a weenie unlike Sam who has 2 tattoos although he has yet to show me. And they are ON HIS FEET PEOPLE! Not like I have to look at his ass!

But I digress. From currency to tipping to my boss's alleged tattoos. I need a nap evidently.

Hopefully tonight I will get some posts drafted to catch you all up on the week while it is fresh in my memory. The pictures and videos are downloaded so all I have to do is try to describe Mexico which I think might be impossible as it was so wonderful. Keep up with my posts as I will do them by day and Friday night was the most wonderful of all so you need to read in order. I know I can't do it justice but I'll try. Sam and Michael you totally missed out.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I know, I know, I know

I have been a really bad blogger this week but honestly I think I have an excuse. I have been getting up at 6:30 and meeting Sam and Michael for a quick breakfast before heading out to the office where we have been staying until 7:30 or 8 pm. Then if we aren't taken out to dinner we go back to the hotel and have dinner and I've not been getting back to my room until 10 or 11 pm at which time this wussy has to get in bed. Also internet access at the hotel isn't exactly convenient. It's $5.00 for 1 hour or $22 for 24 hours but you have to call from your room down to the front desk and request service then wait for a bellman to come to your room (up to 1 hour wait) at which time you have to sign a chit and tip him before the user ID and password is handed over. It isn't the cost that concerns me since I will expense it and be reimbursed but considering the hours and the fact that I have spent a total of about 5 hours awake in my room this week I didn't feel like going through the hassle.

But rest assured, I have a lot to tell you - weird things I have eaten, sights I have seen . . . I have photos and even some video to post. It has been a long hard week but very exciting to be in a new country.

It's about 5:45 Friday evening. In maybe another hour Jorge, the General Manager here, is taking me on a 2 hour tour of a few sights in the city since I haven't really been able to do it this week. He's really a nice thoughtful person and as tired as I am, and as much as I would love to go back to the hotel and get in bed I am grateful for his time and looking forward to it.

I fly home tomorrow, landing in Atlanta about 6 pm so by 8 I will be happily covered with neglected cats!! I promise to spend time this weekend creating posts to catch you up on my adventures.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mexico Day 2

Yes, I am writing this on Day 3 but that's because Day 2 was a whirlwind. Got to the office at 8:30. Sam and Michael got to the office about 4:30. We left the office about 8 pm, went back to the hotel, and had dinner. I was just exhausted - far too exhausted to try to post a blog entry.

Impressions so far:

The hotel is NOT a Mexico experience. Even the Mexican restaurant in the hotel is "Americaned-up" because most of the people who stay in the hotel are American.

Almost everyone speaks English to a degree. I've hardly been able to practice the little Spanish I have learned. Maybe this is for the best. What I've realized as I've done the Spanish lessons is that I really do know a whole bunch of Spanish words but I have no idea how to put them together into a sentence.

Jorge picked me up at the hotel Monday morning and drove me to the office. As the crow flies it is only about a mile but the roads are such that we had to take the long way around through some very pot-hole covered streets. The buildings are so colorful, painted in blues, greens, oranges, pinks, purples. It's a feast for the eyes. Stray dogs wander the streets and on every corner it seems there is a food cart or fruit vendor. I managed to take a couple of photos out the car window.

Driving here is enough to take your breath away. Everyone pretty much does exactly what they want and there don't seem to be any rules of the road. Hmm. On second thought it isn't too much different from Atlanta driving. But seriously, it scares the life out of me and I try not to show it so I don't offend Jorge or Jorge (there are two).

I learned something very important yesterday. Jorge was to pick me up at 8:15 so at 7:30 I went to the cafe and had coffee for breakfast. At about 12 noon I started looking around wondering what the lunch plans were. I was very hungry. At 1 pm I wondered what the deal was. Not a single person had made a move to go to lunch. I am now ravenous. I got on the internet and did a search for Mexico meal times and learned that lunch is the biggest meal of the day and takes place sometime between 2 and 4 pm and it lasts a couple of hours. True to my research the 2 Jorges came to me at about 2:20 and said "Let's go have lunch." We went out and had a nice 90 minute feast and then dropped by the hotel to pick up Sam and Michael. Needless to say this morning I had a hearty breakfast. Right now it's almost 3 pm and no one has made a move so I'm glad I did that!

Other than that I can report that I have been suffering from burning, red eyes and a runny nose since I arrived. I think it's the pollution, which is far more severe than Tokyo.

More to report either later tonight or tomorrow . . .