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!

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