The PRD is organizing a march in The City on Wednesday to protest the price hike of corn. Of course, I'm going to be there with my handy-dandy camera and video camera to interview people.
So I went to the dentist and got an acrylic resin drilled out. The dentist said that my tooth had a huge hole in it which was causing the pain. Since he drilled out the old thing and put in a new one, I'm no longer in pain. Let me assure you, however that I was incredible afraid of going to a Mexican dentist. There are so many horror stories, in California especially, that having to experience a medical visit was stressful. This dentist happens to be Tonio's uncle, and a military doctor and everything turned out fine.
A quote from "Opening Mexico": The PRI was a patronage pyramid that doled out favors in return for allegiance and it discouraged community people from organizing to help themselves.
Things have changed a bit in Mexico. Now, community members are encouraged to organize, through the cunning use of bribes in an unforgiving exploitation of the country's poverty. If you go to a protest, generally you are given a lunch or a dole for the day. You are told to take your family with you. If you don't, you run the risk of being fired from your job.
I have so many pictures to upload but no cables to upload them with.
29 January 2007
The PRD is organizing a march in The City on Wednesday to protest the price hike of corn. Of course, I'm going to be there with my handy-dandy camera and video camera to interview people.
24 January 2007
I've been pretty out-of-it lately. My diet hasn't been as nutritive (is that a word) as it should be and I'm afraid that anemia has returned. My poor blood isn't absorbing/transporting enough Oxygen for my body to function well. I'm tired, I'm crabby, walking is becoming more and more of a task and all I want to do is sleep. But never fear, the internet is here; I did research and found out what I can eat and what I should eat. I've been eating a little healthier; more fruits and veggies instead of Tacos de papa or frijoles. We've found out that we can make a hearty meal at home for 50 pesos total. A lacking refrigerator is making saving food near impossible, but we have a cooler that we've been using to store things on ice.
Tomorrow I'm going to the dentist to see how many cavities I have. My teeth have been hurting me the past several days and I can't pretend that my body will heal them anymore.
Today has been the first "cool" day since we got here. When I say cool, however I don't mean cold, I mean when you don't wear a sweater you feel as though you need one and when you do wear a sweater you are a bit warm. Now, the sky looks as though it'll rain any minute.
El Mercado de San Cosme
There is something strangely attractive about the market that's situated just a block from our apartment. It's constantly crowded with working class and poor people. The walls and center aisles are controlled by vendors of all sorts: clothing, school uniforms, fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, whole chickens hanging from their feet, shoes, random nic-nacks, pet food, copies, hair cuts, pirated movies and CDs, fruits chopped and chilied.....anything and EVERYTHING you ever thought you needed....or didn't need but wanted.
There's an in-door market and an outdoor one. In doors works a Japonese couple, los famosos Japoneses. Every one (I mean EVERYONE) knows about these Japonese people because they have everything you could ever need for anything. They sell electrical gadgets, kitchenware, oil cloth, plastic, pet food, pet beds, pets....everything and they never cheat you.
Outdoors is mostly only clothing and movies and randomness and it opporates usually at night, closing around 11. There you can find any pirated movie you dreamed of. And if the movie isn't there then, in two days it will be, as long as you ask....20 pesos for one DVD or 50 for 3.
There is one family that has been selling these battery opperated birds in mini cages. These birds scare the bejesus out of me and I have to look away when we pass. Their movement is so real and their cages are open. The vendor shoves them in your face, assuring you that they are fake but nonetheless it's hard to believe.
Admittingly, it seems like it could be a pretty dangerous place. With so much going on, it's impossible to keep an eye on everything. Shopping around is completely necessary, and finding the vendors you like is essential. It's so bustling, it's amazing.....I love it there.
We've been listening to the radio a lot lately since we don't have many CDs. 106.5. In the mornings they play "80s, 90's and more". What's interesting about this station, however is that I've never heard a song in Spanish. Over and over they play Madonna, Modern English, Michael Jackson, Cranberries.....anything 80's, 90's and more from the US/UK.
There is another station we listen to that claims that "All of Mexico is on Air". It's actually kind of interesting. Yesterday an ex-CIA analyst called in to talk about the looming death of Fidel Castro. There have been plenty of callers about the tortilla crisis (which seems to be pretty well averted now, we saw in the market today that a kilo costs 8.5 pesos and we learned with this station that Walmart and another big grocery store is selling them, without profit, for 6 pesos....just to stick-it-to-the-man, it seems)
It seems that one faction of the police force is planning on striking soon due to low wages and no health benefits but I don't know enough about that now.
Written By Ashley Smith at 4:45 PM
20 January 2007
18 January 2007
find whatever you want here: http://www.nationmaster.com/cat/eco-economy
Of course the US is doing well....in comparison to other countries, but in comparison to itself, which really is the only way to compare the US, we are spending way more than we have, we're not paying anyone back, we have the second highest child poverty rate and we are spending millions upon millions upon millions of dollars on war. Yes, YOU are doing fine.....yes our houses are nice, we can afford to eat and our streets aren't littered with beggars like many other countries, but that certainly doesn't mean that our economy is as "boooming" as it could/should be.
how dare anyone call me unthinking.
Written By Ashley Smith at 7:18 PM
let me first say that someone is leaving me semi-rude anonymous comments...to be honest, i don't appreciate anonymous comments. If you have something to say to me, please please please say it nombrado, for the sake of character and discussion.
Yesterday we went to check out the APPO camp. I was expecting that everyone there would be (I have no idea why I had this assumption) Chilangos (Chilango is the word used to describe a person from Mexico City) in support of the APPO, what I found was a line of Oaxacans, selling their products directly made by Oaxacan hands. I want so badly to interview these people. Over the statue that they camp in front of, they've hung a home-made flag that I'm sure says something profound/protesty but the wind has rapped around the statue, rendering it illegible. The products sold are typical; bracelets, hats, scarves, inscense and information. The camp is falling apart. There are a couple of co-ops where people bring fod, clothes and the like to support the protesters and the rest are housing. It's definately interesting, nothing I've ever seen in my life.
The news has announced that not only has the price of corn (and consequently tortillas) gone up, but also the price of chickens, due to their increasingly costly diet and thus the cost of eggs. Presidente Calderón promised the people that when he became president he would reduce the salary of his officers -- that he's done....by 200 pesos. 200 pesos....the equivalent of rougly 20 USD. I have more than twice that in my purse right now. The country is mad, but nothing really is being done. These officials earn 151 thousand pesos per month while there are people on every street begging for food, money...anything. Sure, officials in the US gain plenty too, but let's face it, the poverty rates in the US are not close to those of Mexico.
Sorry, I think this is going to be a short blog today, I'm a bit put off by the rude comment made on my last blog....
Written By Ashley Smith at 5:32 PM
15 January 2007
It's been incredibly hot here both during the day and at night. I´ve been woken up every night, dying of heat exhaustion and craving water. Curiously, as hot as it is, you don´t wake up sweating...no, the air is dry and thirsty and before your body can even think about curing the heat with sweat, the air drinks it out of your body, leaving your hands, mouth and throat all arrid. It´s an aweful way to wake up.
Yesterday we took the subway from DF to Estado de Mexico. It´s not very far, but it took a subway ride to the end of the line and a bus ride to our destination. I love the subway. Somehow the people become completely zombie-fied the second a foot touches the train. Many sleep, others stair into space while some walk around the entire circuit selling silly things: coloring books, music CDs, toys, their own voice, their disability....anything. The buses are old and breaking down. Riding in one feels much like a roller coaster at a county fair. Randomly at bus stops or in the subway stations, people jump on the buses (of course asking permission) and sell their product, usually ice cream or chips. Once they've hit everyone, they jump off to wait for the next bus to jump on.
The economy seems to be slipping a bit. Surely due to the US's failing economy. The daily the other day announced that 1 kilogram of tortillas (which according to Toño cost 2.5 pesos when he was younger) just reached 10 pesos. A huge deal. Tortillas are eaten with every meal here. I wouldn't doubt it if we eat about a kilo worth of tortillas everyday, each. Three nights ago (give or take), while making dinner I sent Toño out for some tortillas, he came home with 15 pesos worth and we finished them easily that same meal. Soda prices are going up, even eating on the street isn't as cheap as it used to be (although, it still is dirt cheap). When we arrived we went to have tacos de canasta (tacos from a basket) with someone Toño's been buying tacos from for years, that day they were 3 pesos each. The other day when we went back, they were four each.
The Mexicans have an amazing plan for having everyone recycle. When you buy a bottle of soda, you have to leave the bottle with the person you bought it from. If you buy bottles on the street, you either drink it all and leave it, or ask for a can. In restaurants you can't leave with the bottle. The business owners then take the bottles back to the warehouse and are then charged only for the soda, not the bottle it comes in. It's incredible. If the bottle is tainted with trash inside, however, it is deem non-retornable and the business owner gets nothing for it.
I've been having a good time with the names of products here. Twinkies, for example are spelled Tuinky, Ding Dongs are Penüinos (penguins), marshmellows are called Bombones, Dannon yogurt is Danone and yogurt is spelled yogurth. Instead of pronouncing French words ending in T like Ballet, Valet, Chevorlet, Depot without the T, they pronounce them with it...which makes plenty of sense to me, say what you read...And finally, the funniest of all, yesterday in the mall I came across a shoe store called Athlete's Foot!
I'll post pictures soon.
Written By Ashley Smith at 2:32 PM
12 January 2007
We've finished the house to our financial budget (for now) and we're finally starting to get comfortable. We lack curtains and we keep catching one of the neighbor's with her face to our living room window, peering in. It's disconcerting.
Yesterday we went to the center, finally. Although we didn't quite make it to the Zocalo (my favortite place in all of DF). The Palace of Fine Arts is so beautiful and the people walking by it so colorful. It's made completely of granite inside and outside of soft stone. It reminds me a lot of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Speaking of, we went to the Barrio Chino yesterday also. This half a block of Chinese shops and restaurants is non-existant in comparison to SF, but it's also very cheap. The people there don't look chinese, but if you talk to some of them, you diffinately hear a slight accent. They replace r's with l's....something like "si te gusta esta lampala, te la doy pol cinquenta pesos" instead of "si te gusta esta lampara, te la doy por cinquenta pesos". Tonio's (you'll notice I'm spelling his name differently now that I'm back on my computer and I don't have easy access to the symbols) brother bought us a lamp and a wind chime, both of which we hung in the kitchen; making it an official oriental kitchen.
On the way back to the subway, we crossed a camp that was located just outside the Zocalo and in front of Mining Palace and another very turistic musuem....right in front of the very famous statue of the caballito (little horse). The camp was a protset on the part of the APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca -- Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca), these are the people who have been protesting for the rights of teachers in Oaxaca. I walked right through the camp as if I owed the place (no one was around) and Tonio told me that these people are very protective and that if I want to interview them (which is completely my intention) that I need to bring them gifts and very humbly explain what I'm doing. I'm sure they'd want to talk to me....tell their story at least.
There hasn't been much talk about those protests around here, other than they have died down plenty in the last month. There isn't much talk either about Calderon or Lopez Obrador. As far as the Mexican people are concerned, after AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) declared himself president, he lost all respect and the majority of his following. No one wants another revolution, although it didn't seem that way during the election process.
We're running low on funds now and we're trying to live off of 20 pesos (roughly 2 USD) each daily. It's been working out well although we aren't eating much unless Tonio's parents "invite". Consequently and welcomly, we are losing weight, contrary to what I expected.
All in all, things are going well. We don't have TV so I've been reading A LOT...right now, as part of my research, I'm reading about the "making" of Mexico and the political, cultural and conquered past. There are so many things that make sense, and so many things that the Mexican culture has lost but could have definately prospered from. I'm excited to finally start working on figuring out their style of protest, where it came from, why it is the way it is, how it's changed etc.
side note: we've been having fun when we buy stuff for the house because we've come to learn that the people in the Markets are willing to lower the price to newly weds. So, we've been telling everyone that we just got married and that we just got a new place together and we're buying new things and that we just can't afford to spend too much....it's silly but really, we got the man selling the furniture to drop the price from $3000 pesos to $2300, the TV we were looking at was $1000 pesos and the guy told us that it's cheaper for "recien casados" (recently wedded). Although, it's strang to hear myself referred to as a wife, it's sooooo nice to get cheap stuff!
Written By Ashley Smith at 5:56 PM
08 January 2007
Today we finished fixing the toilet and we got new furniture (a sofa...i guess I should call it a love seat...and chair ended up costing us $250 USD), which is nice and cheap considering that my mom sent our sheets and blankets (which cost $200 in the first place) and shipping ending up costing her $200 more dollars UPS...AND when it got here today, Toño and I had to pay 1000 pesos more just so that the UPS men would release it to us).
Anyway, not too much writing today, just pictures....
this is what the shower floor looked like before I cleaned the paint (the left column is already stripped of paint)...
and this is after...and getting mopped with the jerga let me tell you that the brick you see there is because there are "cat-sized" rats living in the sewer beneath us, so until we can get a new drain cover or something, we have to keep a brick there and covering the drain in the laundry room...I haven't seen any yet but Toño's mom and brother swear up and down that there was a dead one the size of their cats in the laundry room)
building the closet...
the new furniture and lamps that we bought...
and the finished closet/bedroom...
and finally, my favorite thing so far...it should say "prohibido subir con diablos" TR: prohibited to come up with dollies (like the ones you use to move heavy things) but someone scratched off the s on diablos and so now it says prohibited to come up with the devil...
Written By Ashley Smith at 9:11 PM
07 January 2007
The toilet broke and we had to buy a new one. Painful for our ever lighter wallet, but better for the apartment. The only problem is that they couldn't finish putting it in today so we have to stay at Toño's parents house for the next two nights.
While walking and driving around, I've notcied more this time than any other time I've been to Mexico that there is a huge American influence here. Everything that we've bought so far is in Spanish and English, Shops in English, restaurants with English names and American stores (Wings, 7/11, AM/PM, KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, Carl's Junior etc). Obviously I'm aware of the imperialism that we Americans impose on all countries and cultures....I'm quite aware that there is a McDonalds in just about every country but still it makes me sad and a little angry. At the same time, I wish there were certain stores here like Cold Stone (oh how I miss that ice cream....although nothing compares to a mango with chile ice cream) and Urban Outfitters, even though they would never survive here.
I'm even infected with the imperialistic disease. I told Toño the other day that I wanted to teach the kids English, he pointed out to me that it was a bit of a colonialistic idea....it certainly was.
I love going to the crowded markets. Everytime we needed something for the toilet today, I volunteered to go with who ever was going to the market to buy....It's a huge out-door market called San Cosme that we literally live across the street from. They sell everything from $2 pirated movies to clothes to make-up and puppies. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. They make Esquites there (corn off the cob) with mayonaise, chile, lemon and salt (of course you can choose what you don't want....I don't like mayonaise)....they are my life! I love them! The fruit is very fresh in the markets, along with the vegetables....you can find anything in the world there. We bought our toilet in a market today for $45 USD. Incredible.
I was told today that our apartment is old, old, old. The toilet alone has been there for over 50 years....and as Eddie Izzard says "50 years! NO! No one was alive back then!" Of course there are cathedrals and monuments 4 times older than that in the country. The entry I wanted to put here explains our apartment almost exactly....
"The house is of brick with high ceilings and tall arched windows, barred, heavily shuttered, seeming to suggest possible attack....The brick walls of our casa are fifteen inches thick, and plastered in and out. The last occupant had papered the rooms with hideous results, and I, curses be have been laboriously removing it, while the landlord stands by aghast." --Edward Weston.
The streets here are strange. You can't make a left turn (well, to be fair, there are places to turn left but it's a tricky maneuver), in order to turn left, you have to make a U-turn. All the buildings are painted bright, contrasting, happy, happy, happy colors. The outside of our apartment is just yellow, but the inside is teal and the bedroom is dark maroon. The Super wanted to paint the bottom half of the walls (in the maroon bedroom) teal with lighter green spots....thankfully Toño's mom said no but that's the moda (style) here. Our neighbor's front door and the inside of her apartment is an orange base with yellow spots. Restuarants are painted similarly. It's an extremely folkloric place. The streets definately lift my spirits.
School starts tomorrow for the chavos....We'll see what that means for the city.
Written By Ashley Smith at 10:18 PM
06 January 2007
Well, we bought a vacuum....well, I guess to be fair, I should call it by its name.....shop vac. Everytime I use it I have to laugh. I cleaned all the paint off the tiles in the bathroom and I think the Thinner made me a little high (although I've never been high, so I can't be certain), I was standing in the doorway thinking to myself, woah I'm dizzy, the world is moving as if I'm on a ship....I realized that it wasn't the world that was moving, but ME! I was swaying like a drunkard.
Yesterday I was talking to one of the boys who lives in our complex and he asked me where we lived before, I told him and he responded "Ah, es que estaba hablando con mi mamá y me dijo wue tienes cara de.....(I can only assume that he was going to say gringa but repented....although that's an assumption) Estados Unidos" TR: Oh, because I was talking to my mom and she said that you have the face of an American. I could only laugh. I wanted to ask if I had the face of an American or the hair of someone not Mexican.
Today is the day of the three wise men. A huge deal here. Like Santa Claus in the US, the malls are FULL, there are three men dressed as wise men with whom you can take your picture....for a price, of course. On the fifth, the children attach a letter to a helium-filled balloon asking the wise men for 3 gifts and release them into the air (a beautiful tradition, I believe). We just cut the Rosca de Reyes, a circular cake that has brown sugar and candied fruit on top. Inside the cake is a baby. In the US, as far as I was taught, upon finding the baby, the eater gets a surprise; in Mexico, however for some reason, finding the baby obligate the eater to make the Tamales on February 2, el dia de la candelaria....no one wants to find the baby. I've asked 2 questions....why the second and why is it so bad to find the baby, who is supposed to represent the baby Jesus. No one knows the answers to my questions.
Damn, I'm being run from the house, I wanted to post a part of a story, but our ride is leaving now.....Until next time....
Written By Ashley Smith at 9:12 PM
04 January 2007
Wow, living in Mexico City is so completely frustrating. Everything is different here. No one uses a vacuum, so finding one at any store (even Walmart) is impossible. We went to 4 stores today and came up fruitless. Everyone is curious about the weda pelirroja and they all assume that I don't speak a word of Spanish. Today in Vips (the Mexican Denny's), after ordering my own food...in Spanish...the waitress came back over and asked "no hablas ni una palabra de español, verdad?"...surprised I responded "Yo? Si....Claro que si!!"
We bought cleaning supplies for the house today, gross. In place of vacuums, people use brooms and a towel that they wrap around the end of a stick in order to use as a mop....I can't stand this way of cleaning. Mops make me feel sick to the stomach; they stink and they just redistribute the dirt from the bucket of water you soak them in....it's like taking a bath, you're just marinading yourself in your own filth! When we were checking out at Walmart (hell for us UCSC kids...but honestly, I don't know where to buy anything here yet, so it's going to have to suffice until I get better oriented), I paid with my Washington Mutual card. The cashier stared at it, showed it to the bagger and said "Mira, es una tarjeta de Washington" -- Look, it's a card from Washington...that cashier's ignorance of the US made my day.
Our firt major purchase....a stove/oven. It's really small and really cute. There are four burners and a tiny oven. Sadly, we don't have gas yet, so it's useless. We built a closet and stained it a dark mapley type color. It's turning out nicely. For some reason, the people here get paint on everything....there's paint on the windows, in the sinks, on the tiled floors, on the toilet seats....I tried removing it with Thinner and it doesn't work. The walls aren't straight, the doors are made of metal, and you have to use a key to unlock AND lock it. (sorry for this next comment, boys)....The tampon section in the stores is SMALL and a pack of 8 costs as much as a pack of 18 in the US...women here don't use them.
We don't have internet or cable or phone and so getting online is going to be a challenge for the next couple of months (unless Toño gets a job) but luckily the internet cafes are CHEAP...around 15 pesos (about $1.20) per hour!!! As soon as we aren't running around like chickens with our heads chopped off to fix up the house, I'll be able to update more often.
I'm reading an anthology now that Steph gave me. It's a compilation of short stories inspired by Mexico. It starts in the 1800s and ends in the present....There were so many parts that made me laugh because it's exactly the same....I'll publish an excerpt next time.
Thank you all for the amazing comments. It's so good to hear from you all. I miss you.
Written By Ashley Smith at 11:26 PM
01 January 2007
We´re officially moving in tomorrow and we just discovered that we are more broke than we thought so we probably won´t have internet for a while...in the mean time, I wanted to post some pictures....
This is how much luggage we felt it took to move to Mexico....6 suitcases with us, and one with a friend who left a day earlier!
fireworks on New Years
And now the pictures of our apartment....it´s not incredible but it´s definately cute and cozy. by the time i´m done with it, i´m sure we won´t want to leave!
(walk way leading to apartment)
and finally.....the apartment. It´s small and still needs work to be completely to my liking, but it´s nice (for being in the center of Mexico City) and the perfect size for us....
(front door/living room)
(living room leading to bedroom)
(bedroom and new bed)
(the horrible, horrible bathroom where someone painted the toilet seat green....we bought a new one today)
(leading to the laundry room)
(the ceiling of the laundry room....it's going to be cool when it rains...that is, if it doesn't leak)
(the kitchen that also needs a lot of work....aka a stove, oven etc)
and last but not least "La Loquita". This lady lives above us...everyday she fills bucket after bucket after bucket with water and throws it on the floor inside her apartment. She literally lives in a pool. The other tenants call her La Loquita. Toño's dad calls her La Señora del Agua, The Water Lady
Written By Ashley Smith at 11:28 PM
There is something about the Latin American Catholic religion that I've never understood or much appreciated.... the worshipping of idols. Latin Americans seem (this is my observation and it's not meant to offend anyone) to forget that their Bible states that the worshiping of Idols is prohibited. Yet, the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe is everywhere. The image of the Pope is everywhere. People crawl on their knees for miles to reach the Basilica to see the Imagen that Juan Diego presented to the Church on his tunic. It's a beautiful image, don't get me wrong, and they say that the paint has been scientifically tested and it's supposedly nothing like what we have on Earth, but according to the religion I was born into, it is blasphemy to worship her the way they do.
Example: We were told yesterday that on our street people used to throw trash and furniture and leave it there, never cleaning it up. One day, someone put an alter to the Virgen of Guadalupe and now there is no more trash....ever.
Example: There are people who stand at the Basilica and take pictures of people in front of the Cathedral and in front of images of the Virgen and sell them. Blasphemy as far as I'm concerned.
The people who worship her are the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, very few are much taller then me (the majority is as tall if not shorter) and most have babies....there are babies EVERYWHERE. I was told yesterday that people who concider themselves athiest or agnostic even believe in the Virgen of Guadalupe. She has a cult following, she has her own religion. Blashpemy.
Now, let's talk about the pope. In front of the Basilica there is a massive statue of Pope John Paul the II. A huge thing made of bronze and expensive, I'm sure. Meanwhile, looking around, the people are dressed in rags (the finest clothes they have, I'm sure in order to visit the Imagen -- put on your Sunday best kids, we're going to the Basilica) and the children are dirty. Looking over the never-ending city, your eye moves from Industry to Shopping, to Tourist, to Shanty. The pope's "papa móvil" is behind the statue, a bullet-proof bus-like vehicle with a gigantic chair and a place for him to safely stand, like a monkey on parade. I'm sorry if this ofends anyone, but as far as I'm concerned, if the Pope gets shot in a place as religious and idol-worshiping as Latin America, God probably was the one who had him shot.
Disclaimer: these entries aren't meant to offend anyone, they are just my radical, liberal university kid thoughts. These type of opinions stem from my own personal experiences and points-of-view. That said, if there is ANYTHING anyone disagrees with, please by all means, discuss them here. If you have respect for my opinions, I will have respect for yours.
Well, with that happy note (HA!) I want to wish everyone a wonderful year. This is going to be a great one, I'm sure. Heck....maybe we'll finally get a flying car!
Written By Ashley Smith at 10:51 AM