Deck the Halls with Guacamole!

December 27, 2011 - Mexico City, Mexico

1. Where the devil have I been?

Pilgrims at the Basilica de GuadeloupeNot very far actually. The bus from Oaxaca arrived in Mexico City on the 8th December and from the bus terminal we headed straight to the delightful Jade Guesthouse, my home for the next few days. After painfully, but successfully putting in a visa The Angel of Independenceapplication at the Indian Embassy (see no. 10) we absorbed the local culture with visits to an assortment of museums and galleries, not to mention the bullring, the wrestling ring and a quick pilgrimage to a world famous Basilica! With Christmas only a matter of days away, we then moved in with Talia (a friend of Soph’s from uni) and her amazing family for the festive period. We were welcomed into their home with incredible kindness and were quickly accepted as part of the (very large) extended family. After a few more tourist Our adoptive familyattractions, a fantastic Mexican christening and a huge amount of food…Christmas finally arrived and I didn’t waste any time in donning my newly purchased (from the market) festive jumper! Christmas came and went in a blur of tequila, tacos and family friendly dvds, and before I could say “Keep the change you filthy animal” it was time to head to the airport and set off eastwards to India (via Heathrow).

2. Most memorable meal

Being “adopted” by a Mexican family was certainly great for my social life and for practicing my Christmas dinner 2011...like no other!Spanish…however not so great for my waistline! Every time somebody left the house, they would inevitably return with armfuls of a new food for us to try. Tacos with every filling imaginable, greasy fried gorditas, deep filled tortas, spicy sopes, quesadillas, weird cups of sweetcorn, cactus leaves and eggs cooked in all manner of ways (including divorced!). After all that, lamb and coriander established itself as my favourite filling on the menu at the taco stand, and therefore became the obvious choice for Christmas dinner. Washed down with a large glass of orangeade of course. Easy? Yes. Tasty? Definitely. Festive? Not so much.

3. Favourite photo

Plaza Mexico bullfightI have two favourite photos this fortnight. Firstly there is this image of one of the many matadors tormenting a bull at the Plaza Mexico bullring. The ring is the biggest in the Americas, and although it Shoe shineris rarely full to capacity these days, bullfighting is still a popular form of entertainment in Mexico (thanks to those pesky Spanish invaders). My second photo of the fortnight captures a typical street scene in cosmopolitan yet traditional Mexico City. A policeman assists the perfectly capable traffic lights whilst an old fashioned shoe shiner plies his trade whilst advertising McDonalds.

4. Best bargain of the fortnight

Mexico City is a very cheap place to visit. Entry to most galleries and museums costs less than a pound, first class entertainment is available at the Lucha Libre wrestling ring for about 2 quid and a typical meal for two (with beer) gives change from a fiver. But the best bargain of all is the safe, clean and very efficient underground Metro system. A single ticket costs 3 pesos (15p) and can take you anywhere within the very wide city boundaries. And if that wasn’t enough, every train is always bustling with loud voiced locals selling anything and everything from marker pens to Christmas recipe magazines to children’s toys. My personal favourites though were the vendors selling copied CDs who push and squeeze their way up and down the carriages carrying rucksacks containing stereo speakers which blast out a handy montage of the best songs on that particular compilation. At 10 pesos (50p) a CD, it was impossible to resist!Poly put the kettle on!

5. Immature moment of the fortnight

I am NormalAs well as being cheap and throbbing with the sounds of ‘salsa romantica’ or the Beatles, the Mexico City Metro also earns big bonus points for its interestingly named stations. Two in particular caught my attention and warranted a special visit purely for immature photographic purposes. So here is me making my best attempt at fitting in at ‘Normal’ and just for all my fellow red brick university attendees, here I am letting my feelings be known at ‘Polytecnico’!The rainbow dentists

 

6. Favourite sign

Who could possibly feel nervous about paying the dentist or the optician a visit when the sign outside the door is as happy and rainbowtastic as this one!

Matador fashion at its best7. Fashion crime of the fortnight

Matadors are extremely brave people. Forget all that stuff about dodging out of the way of an angry bull at the last possible second though…the real bravery comes when they step out in front of a couple of thousand people wearing the tightest trousers known to man! One can only assume that the sequins, ruffles, long socks and Michael Jackson slip-on shoes are added in an attempt to distract the audience from the inevitable bulges!

8. Crappest tourist attraction

It never snows in Mexico City. So this December, to help locals and tourists alike to truly get into the Christmas spirit, a range of wintery activities were offered in the city’s main square, the Zocalo. As Safety first at the fake snowball fightwell as more predictable attractions such as an ice skating rink and a giant Christmas tree, there were a couple of interesting surprises…

Snowman making station- For the kids there was a snowball fighting area complete with fake snow (also known as ice), wintery shaped obstacles to hide behind and helmets (obligatory).

- The big kids had to make do with a snowman construction tent in which a snowman was created by filling a mould with fake snow, adding eyes and a carrot nose, and finally dressing it with a hat and tiny scarf. Then someone takes a photo of you and the snowman so you can treasure the memory forevermore.

9. Best view of the fortnightPyramid view

I had to wait until Boxing Day to see the best view of my time in Mexico City, when we visited the Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan. Due to the ridiculous number of uncoordinated tourists climbing at a rate of 2 steps per minute, the ascent to the top of the pyramid of the sun was frustrating…but the view from the top made it worthwhile.

10. Div of the fortnight

On our first morning in Mexico City we set off towards the Indian Embassy, armed with everything we thought we would need to apply for an Indian visa - for me this meant money, passport and photographs. Our accommodation at the time was located around a 20 minute walk from the nearest Metro station, which at the time didn't matter at all as we had to pass a very good bakery on the way and my pastry kept me amused until we made it onto the train. A 15 minute or so ride later and we were back above ground ready to walk the 5 minute route to the embassy. Pleased with ourselves for being so goddam organised, we casually strolled into the office, completed the necessary forms and handed over our money and passports. "Departure cards" demanded the embassy worker (meaning that little slip of paper they give you when you arrive in a foreign country, which you must keep safe and dry until you leave, they take it off you and probably throw it straight in the bin). So Soph handed hers over. However I, who had foolishly assumed that it wouldn't matter too much to the Indian Embassy on which date I arrived in Mexico, had left mine back at the guesthouse. "I cannot process your application without a copy of your departure card" snarled the smug pencil pusher at the desk. So it quickly emerged that I had two options in order to successfully complete my application. Either I waited until the following week (because it was Friday at the time) and potentially risked not getting my documents back in time...or I somehow delivered my departure card to the embassy before 12 noon (when visa applications close) that same day. I took option two. As we left the embassy the time was 10:45, which gave me precisely 75 minutes to complete the following journey:

- walk back to Metro (5 minutes)

- take Metro back to station nearest to guesthouse (15 minutes)

- walk to guesthouse and back (40 minutes)

- ride Metro back towards embassy (15 minutes)

- walk to embassy, victorious (5 minutes)

Now anyone who achieved a U grade or above in GCSE (or O Level!) Maths will be able to work out that the total time of the above journey amounts to 80 minutes, and my estimations didn't account for the time it would take to find somewhere with a photocopier and get the card copied. So, whilst working all this out during the train ride back towards the guesthouse, I accepted the fact that I was going to have to run. But that shouldn't be such a horrible idea for a PE teacher right? Wrong. Firstly, I was wearing flip flops and quite snug denim shorts. Secondly, it was hot outside. And thirdly, I was still digesting the giant pecan pastry from breakfast...not ideal conditions for a sprint. Great. So I leapt off the train at San Cosme station, bounded the stairs and burst out onto the street. With the wind in my hair and sweat oozing from every pore, I ran with the elegance and grace of a turd, back to the guesthouse and grabbed my departure card. On the run back to the Metro I passed all the same people who had just stared disbelievingly as I flip flopped by them in the opposite direction minutes earlier. Then my pain turned to joy as I spotted a shop offering a photocopying service. "How much for 1 copy?" I gasped as I burst through the door waving my sweaty fingerprinted document. "One peso" replied the bemused shop owner. Fantastic, I thought, untl I realised I had left my bag, including my purse, with Soph who was waiting at the Metro station. "Right, okay, thanks." I replied as I ran back out of the shop, empty handed, feeling like a bit of an idiot. Back on te Metro at 11:40 it was going to be a close run thing whether I could make it to the embassy on time or not. Luckily for me, the kind sweet seller outside the station pointed me straight towards a copy shop...and the even kinder lady in the queue let me go in front of her. So after one final flip flop sprint, I made it through the embassy doors at 11:59 to the utter disbelief of the now not-so-smug office worker.

11. Dodgy moment of the fortnight

As I discovered during my stay in Mexico City, the best way to avoid the feeling of panic during a natural disaster is to be drunk when it is happening. Whilst in a bar, innocently enjying some beers, chilli sauce smothered snacks and traditional music, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit the city centre. Everything shook...apparently. But I was too tipsy to realise until the bar emptied and we followed the crowds out into the street to find out what was going on. Luckily for everyone involved, very little damage was reported in the city...and as a special bonus, all the commotion meant that we never had to pay for our drinks!

12. Motto of the fortnightBedtime.

"1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 teauila, more!"

Tequila and Squirt!The Mexican love affair with tequila, that inexplicably popular, vomit inducing spirit3 is no secret. They have whole bars dedicated to the stuff, they provide it on the tables instead of wine at weddings and christenings, and they drink bottles and bottles over Christmas dinner. Despite not being the biggest tequila fan in the world (any more than 1 shot is never usually a wise move) I still gave it my best effort and even managed to enjoy it a little bit when mixd with large amounts of grapefruit 'squirt'. Well, when in Rome...

13. Magic 8 ball adventure of the fortnight

Delighted to have been invited to baby Yasne's christening by our adoptive Mexican family, our The dress fitting sessionthoughts soon turned to the most important issue of what the hell we were ging to wear! With a rucksack full of shorts, t-shirts, walking shoes and a grotty fleece, I wasn't exactly spoilt for choice in the 'appropriate attire for a christening' category. So in true 'Shane' style (for anyone who gets the reference) we were handed a rail full of dresses and instructed to try them on and pick one. After instantly discarding a few of the larger, more colourful items, we son narrowed our choices down to two dresses each. And with family opinion split, it eventually came down to the 8 ball to make the ultimate decisions. In hindsight I'm pretty glad the wise 8 ball said "don't bother" when I asked if I should wear the short one with the purple ruffles!

14. Average Bristol Stool Chart score

I have absolutely no abnormal faecal matter to report this time...and there isn't even a poo related anecdote to share either. Sorry poo fan, but India is coming soon...!

15. Soundtrack to the fortnight

- Give me Everything Tonight / WTF / Barbara Streisand and any other song blasted out at ridiculous volume on the Metro trains.

- Jingle Bells - because it was Christmas! And this is the only festive song they seem to know in Mexico.

- Tigres del Norte - Probably the most famous mariachi band in Mexico...and the latest addition to my CD collection (another 10 peso Metro bargain!)

- Tequila (Terrorvision) - Because its so wrong but its right!

Chokocrak...a horrible snack!16. Favourite snack

Chokocrak...terrible chocolate, funny name. I discovered this delightfully named chocolate bar in the local supermarket whilst searching (in vain) for another fabulously titled treat, the elusive "Mini Winky".

 

 

17. Favourite personYasne, the legend

Although I would love to give this title to everyone in my Mexican host family, there is one person who just about stands out as my favourite, and that is baby Yasne. Never before in the history of mankind has a 1 year old demonstrated such a wide range of complex facial expressions orutilised the humble eyebrow with such finesse! Eternally happy and permanently mischievous, Yasne is the kindof kid that could keep me entertained all day just by watching her explore the world in her own special and hilarious way. Not so hilarious however, is her tendency to find potentially dangerous household objects and carry them around like toys. Luckily Soph was on hand to intercept on one such occasion when Yasne waddled through the living room with a knife in one hand and a lighter in the other!

Lucha Libre wrestling18. Best game invention

No game inventions this fortnight, but my favourite new sport has to be Lucha Libre wrestling. Think American wrestling, but with better costumes and an endless supply of Corona and snacks delivered right to your seat! Now I just need to find a club to join so I can start practising my moves when I get back home.

 

19. High point of the fortnight

Although I was gutted to miss out on Christmas Day at home with my family, my high point of the fortnight was still a festive one. It doesn't get much better than getting comfy under the world's snuggliest fleece blanket, arming yourself with mulled wine and plenty of snacks to top up an already full stomach, and watching the best Christmas film of all time...Home Alone.

20. Low point of the fortnight

Never before have I felt closer to vomiting without actually vomiting than I did the day after our beer, earthquake and bottle of rum adventure/ This was a hangover so severe that I couldn't even finish my breakfast banana! After spending the first few hours of my day struggling to remain in a vertical position for longer than 20 minutes at a time, I was forced to dig deep and woman up when 3 o'clock arrived and it was time to set off for the evening bullfight on the opposite side of the city. I didn't quite feel myself on the walk to the station, but it wasn't until the carriage doors closed and I realised I was trapped that the true extent of my self-inflicted pain revealed itself. Using every part of my brain to focus on simply staying alive, and every muscle in my body to hold on for dear life, I somehow managed to last until the third stop of our ten stop journey before I had to leg it off the train to have a quiet little sit on the platform, head in hands. By the time the next train pulled in to the station I believed I was ready to give it another go. But two stops later the same nauseous feelings returned. Noticing me turning an interesting shade of green, Soph rummaged in her rucksack until she found a plastic bag and thrust it into my shaking, sweaty hand.Desperate not to spew my guts up on public transport, I tried my best to fill my head with lovely thoughts until we eventually made it to our final destination. Once off the train, I swallowed my pride, opened the plastic bag and wretched...but nothing came out. I wretched and I wretched all the way to the bullring, and nothing but burps passed my lips. Confident that the worst of the hangover had finally passed, I settled down in my seat ready for some good old fashioned bull slaughtering. An unorthadox, yet apparently effective hangover cure.


Pictures

La cerveza es...Corona
Matador fashion at its best
Plaza Mexico bullfight
Pilgrims at the Basilica de Guadeloupe
 
 
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