You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Pretty much the very best thing about this year in Mexico so far is being reminded, yet again, of what incredible friends I have. Friends that in my opinion give a lot more than they get at times and accept me for who I am in all my absent-minded whirlwind craziness over the years. There hasn’t been too many opportunities to wallow in loneliness (wallowing does happen to be one of my favorite activities) because we’ve been blessed with a near constant stream of good friends coming down to explore with me and spend some quality time (not to mention all those who’ve kept in touch by skyping, facebook and emails).  It’s been one of the first times in my life that I’ve been able to give undivided attention for more than 3 hours at a time, so having entire days and weeks has been incredible!

This last weeklong hiatus from blog writing can be attributed to a fabulous visit from one of the best friends anybody would be lucky to have, and she just so happens to be mine, the talented nose-spoon hanger, Rona P. She was the first person to cast me in a play in college, and even after I forgot the only piece of blocking I had up until the final dress rehearsal (perhaps a foreshadowing of my personality) she has continued to be an unflinching support to me well beyond the realm of the stage and in every aspect of my life. She continues to be the glue holding together our close-knit but communicationally-challenged group of friends, and certainly the glue that helped turn a bunch of random details into a wedding a few months ago. In short, she’s the best.

We had fun! Lots of it! From the sparkly spandex of the Lucha Libre ring, the towering pyramids of Teotihuacán, the moving walkways of the Basilica, learning the origins of life in the Zocalo and sophisticated musings (and a few “tee-hees, we don’t get all this art business”) at the Frida Kahlo house, we were able to pack a lot in. But my favorite part about hanging with this lady is the downtime. We can spend hours doing whatever strikes our fancy, from game playing to having serious discussions on how to save the world (or our health care system) or just being ridiculous- entire days spent speaking with a Happy Texas-inspired underbite, endless living room dancing,  late-night drives from Canada thinking of the world’s most inappropriate wedding songs, the list goes on.

So thanks Rona for being who you are, one of the world’s greatest friends. I miss you already and look forward to our next adventure, wherever it may be!

At Teotihuacán (gotta love the self-portraits)

At Teotihuacán (gotta love the self-portraits)

The lovely lady herself at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house

The lovely lady herself at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house

Two lovely and distinguished ladies at the Basilica

Two lovely and distinguished ladies at the Basilica

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I think this one picture sums up the situation for dogs in La Condesa, my neighborhood. Consider it your moment of zen.

I was informed that this dog was on his way to a birthday partyI was informed that this dog was on his way to a birthday party

Enjoy, and have a pleasant weekend.

A bit of honesty here. It’s been a strange thing to get used to, this doing nothing. This doing….nothing. Especially coming from utter chaos which was: two years of nursing school, taking the NCLEX to get my RN, straight on to graduate school for a year and a half, volunteering at a clinic, working at WIC, working weekends at the hospice, planning a wedding, maintaining a cross-border relationship, and enjoying an amazingly full social life in between, *GASP FOR AIR*….I needed a break, that’s for sure.

A break was welcome. In fact, who wouldn’t be thrilled at such a prospect after such a recently-packed schedule? However, there are breaks and there are BREAKS. This has been a break with a capital B. This is like going from living in a studio apartment with 10 people for three years to having an entire mansion to myself.  The waaaaambulance part is that I’m alone most of the day and night; my wonderful huz works about 14-hour days and I didn’t know a soul coming here.  Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for me, I’m a pretty outgoing type and haven’t had problems making friends in the past, especially after moving to 2 new cities in the last 5 years where I didn’t know anybody. But there has been no community, a language barrier, and until recently, nowhere for me to plug in and meet people. It’s been hard, and very, very lonely.

I know it sounds sickeningly whiny to those out there working their butts off who would die to be in my position. It’s also the complainings of a privileged life. I get that. I also get that a vast majority of my friends and classmates would have already started an NGO here saving indigenous babies from malnutrition and whatnot (You know who you are).  I’m just being honest here, people. My normal strategy would be to get out there as fast as I could and volunteer, or get a job if I wasn’t satisfied with having all this “time off.” That’s what I would tell me if I were on the outside reading this blog. But I hit so many roadblocks in the beginning, and everything about my situation was so new and foreign, that I guess I just paralyzed myself.

There was a good chunk of months that I was really down on myself. The more time I spent alone, the less I wanted to go out and interact with society, even though it would be the obvious cure for my loneliness.  It got to the point where I wanted to punch out anyone that said things like, “oh, you’re a nurse? there must be MILLIONS of opportunities for you there!” or, “newlyweds? awwww….you must be in utter bliss! This is the happiest time of your life!” Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband to death and I regret not for a second bringing our lives together, but this has not been the happiest time in my life. It’s been very challenging, and for a while there, having “nothing” to do was bringing me down to a point of bringing him down too. Not good.

But, it gets better. Things have started to turn around. And it hasn’t been in the filling up on friends and activities (my normal strategy), that has made the difference. (Although slowly but surely that is changing too- my friend count is now up to….3! Yes!!!)  It has been in learning to accept the art of doing nothing. “Nothing” is of course “something”- what I mean to say is, I have no real responsibilities- no job, no kids, no social life, etc. (except keeping one eye constantly on my puppy so she doesn’t turn my shoe collection into a lunch buffet).  So, I made the decision to either:  a) embrace this time for what it is, or b) get the heck of my keister and get to work.

Of course faith and an attitude adjustment were in order, too. Once I put more energy into both of those means,  what do you know! Things started to turn around. I have finally accepted this time for what it is and stopped focusing on how lonely I am or frustrated not to be working. That alone took effort, and energy. Every day was a choice- on what to see positively about my life, how to appreciate the situation I was in, how to choose something over nothing. And positive efforts were contagious- once I started trying harder, so did Alex- and we’ve been having a much happier time, in fact a grand old time, being married and sharing the day to day.

Knowing that it will only be for a short while longer (uh, the situation, not the marriage), I’m almost giddy at the prospect of waking up and spending entire mornings drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. Taking the pup for long walks in the park. Sitting on the balcony watching the world go by. Starting a blog. Reading friend’s blogs. Watching internet TV (although this has to be rationed- I once watched 2 seasons of gossip girl in 2 weeks and felt as bad about myself as if I had started a heroine habit). Cooking to my heart’s content (despite aforementioned hazards). Taking pictures. Exploring the city now that I know how to get around it alone without getting killed.   Or reading any gosh-darned thing I want (check out what on goodreads) all day long because I spent 3 1/2 years reading about body parts and evidence-based practice.

I guess the point, if there is one, is that I had to learn how to just be. Maybe some of you might think this is ridiculous, but others know what I’m talking about. These activities have been solitary, for the most part. I would much rather be gallivanting around Mexico City in my free time sharing it with people I love. But I had to learn how to find joy in being alone for long periods of time. God helped me out too, let’s not minimize that. I’m not of the opinion that I alone changed things, but I had to make the effort see what I was being offered.  Every day is a choice. And every day is getting better.

Forget drug lords, decapitations, kidnappings, taxicab robberies, shootouts, body parts found in acid. Perhaps the greatest danger I face in Mexico is right here in our very own kitchen. It’s flammable. This is due to a single culprit: the world’s worst oven in the history of fuel-burning mechanisms. I would be safer cooking from a charcoal pit in the middle of our bedroom. Forget that it only has two working burners out of four, naked screws to grab onto instead of a handle, falls open an average of 27 times during a single cooking episode and takes an average of 4 hours to every 10 minutes required to cook in a normal stove. Oh, sure, it cranks out a ton of heat- unfortunately it finds a way to defy me and concentrate that heat in the external environment, toasting up our apartment to a comfortable 85 degrees while doing nothing for the raw carnage inside. (I once broiled a pork roast- broiled, mind you, at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, for 2 hours and it still came out pink and bloody.)

These things I can handle. What I cannot, is the massive quantity of natural gas it leaks on a daily basis. We’re talking an untapped energy source here, people. Forget drilling in Alaskan reserves! What you’re looking for is right here, in my apartment. We have to apologize to visitors who may mistake this gas leak for one of a more corporal kind. Forget dinner parties- the few oven-baked items I’ve braved with company over have left everyone searching for gas masks. The thing leaks whether on or off. The off-leakage I try to manage by constantly keeping the kitchen window and screen door open to the “fresh air” of Mexico City. Even with this constant ventilation, which has helped quite a bit, I fear leaving my dog in the kitchen lest she end up starting to look like Blinky from the Simpsons. The worst leakage, though, happens once the oven is already on. Baking or broiling becomes a battle of willpower. I feel I should be recruited for Special Ops training after this. You know, when cadets are sent into gas chambers to see if they can rescue people or objects despite hazardous chemical warfare? Opening the oven to check on a roast or potatoes is like trying to recover a precious comrade from the gas chambers. Once, I lit the oven after I had turned it to the on position and nearly blew myself up- a raging fireball that thankfully receded within seconds and only succeeded in singeing my eyebrows and causing a minor myocardial infarction.

Don't let her innocent appearance fool you!

Don't let her innocent appearance fool you!

Sadly, Donna Reed homecoming and dinner time as newlyweds is quite impossible with such a stove. Instead of my husband arriving home in a suit and tie to the wafting aromas of potatoes and meat, shouting,

“Honey, I’m home! Mmmmm…. what is that smell?”

It looks more something like this:

“Honey, I’m….ack!….”* cough*, *asthma attack*, “what IS that…” *crash,* *now lays unconscious on the floor*…

Even our amazing housekeeper (yes, another story for another day) Imelda, who has a life history of coming from utter poverty, having nothing (including an oven), struggling up through the lower class of Mexican society, learning Spanish in exchange for cleaning as a child to build a life for herself and her family, can’t help but declare the injustice of such a stove.

“It’s not right!” she cries to me, “You must demand a new one! No one should have to live in such conditions!”

I fully recognize that this is a gross overstatement of my hardship.  But I can’t help but chuckle that even she knows how crappy this stove is.

But, despite all the drama in the kitchen, I’ve become pretty proficient at making some masterpieces in there. (I should note, baking of any kind would be a foolhardy errand and I will never, I repeat, NEVER attempt to set myself up for such utter failure). With so much free time, cooking has become a real outlet for me to express my creativity. Ok, lets not get too carried away here, I am a recipe girl- nothing is entirely my own creation. But since I didn’t bring any of my cookbooks down here with me, I’ve had a fun time picking out recipes from websites and magazines, giving them a try, and then if they really do it for me, I cut and paste them into a homemade cookbook I’m making myself. It’s been fun. So, I thought it would also be fun to share from time to time a few of these recipes that rocked my world.  It will be part of an “adventures in our flammable kitchen” series, and I’ll be sure to give credit where credit is due. So, first up in my latest of culinary adventures, is this masterpiece:

Greek-style Burgers with Feta Aioli.

This is a super flavorful, healthy burger that I made with baked homemade cottage fries. The Aioli is delicious. I don’t have a barbeque, but it worked great on our stove-top grill. I got this recipe off the Cooking Light website originally, but found a more printable/useable copy on http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=printerFriendly&recipe_id=222815

Enjoy, and let me know if you try it.

Aioli:
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Burgers:
5 (1/2-inch-thick) slices red onion
Cooking spray
1 pound lean ground round
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 (1 1/2-ounce) sourdough sandwich buns

To prepare aioli, combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor; pulse 1 minute or until smooth. Cover and chill.

Prepare grill or broiler.

To prepare the burgers, place onion slices on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray, and cook 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.

Combine the beef and the next 9 ingredients (beef through crushed garlic) in a large bowl. Divide the beef mixture into 5 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place patties on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray, and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until burgers are done. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons aioli over top half of each bun. Place patties on bottom halves of buns, and top each with 1 onion slice and top half of bun.

Yield: 5 sandwiches

CALORIES 385 (28% from fat); FAT 12.1g (sat 4.4g,mono 4.4g,poly 1.8g); IRON 5.7mg; CHOLESTEROL 110mg; CALCIUM 225mg; CARBOHYDRATE 38g; SODIUM 712mg; PROTEIN 30.5g; FIBER 4.3g

I know good help is hard to find these days, folks. With the housing market in crisis and soaring unemployment rates, I know some of you are having a hard time buying and/or selling a house. Therefore, when good help comes along, I think we should help each other out in terms of referrals. I just so happen to know one very thorough house inspector that will offer her services for free.

Rather than explain it to you, I’ve provided pictoral documentation of her latest house inspections…

Kitchen inspector

Kitchen inspection

Bathroom inspection

Bathroom inspection

Balcony inspection

Balcony inspection

Hallway inspection

Hallway inspection

Carpet inspection

 

Carpet inspection
...more carpet inspection (very thorough)

...more carpet inspection (very thorough)

Floor inspection

Floor inspection

In addition to home inspecting, she is exploring expanding her services into other areas. Some examples include:

Luggage inspection (TSA certified)

Luggage inspection (TSA certified)

Car inspection

Car inspection

Street festival inspection

Street festival inspection

Vacation rental inspection

Vacation rental inspection

Post-surgical accomodation inspection

Post-surgical accomodation inspection

Food quality and safety inspection (FDA certified)

Food quality and safety inspection (FDA certified)

Service I would not recommed her for:

Slipper inspection

Slipper inspection

100_1175

Please let me know if you would like her contact information.  She is willing to travel internationally. No fee for services, but will accept donations in the form of turkey hotdogs.

Apparently, anybody who’s anybody in Mexico, or a large part of Latin America, lives, writes, acts, and plays in our neighborhood. Everyone is hip. Everyone, except for those living in Departmento 702. (Alex and Ella, I love you but…me neither). This is the apartment which Monday-Friday is occupied by a person and a canine who don’t find it necessary to shower daily when they have no obligations to do so, nor put on clothing other than a sweatshirt and jeans (or go buck, in the case of the canine). And by sweatshirt, not some witty hipster trying-to-look-like-I-got-it-in-a-vintage-store-but-really-paid-$150-for-it, but an actual, I-got-this-in-the-puyallup-value village-in-1998-and-still-wear-it-and-saw-the-exact-same-sweatshirt-on-the-poor Hmong boy-in-Clint Eastwood’s-Grand Torino-sweatshirt.

uh, the kid in the headlock is wearing my sweatshirt

uh, the kid in the headlock is wearing my sweatshirt

My neighbor across the hall from us is a Telenovela star for goodness sake- living the highlife and having people coming and going at all hours, including to play guitar hero starting at 8 am on a Monday morning and finishing around 3 am wednesday morning. But so goes the life of the rich and famous.

You would think that this is one of the fanciest neighborhoods in DF (DF=distrito federal=mexico city). No, it’s quite nice aesthetically, with actual living things known as trees which hide the brown tint of the sky, and parks that are actually beautiful spots with plants and not just plots of dirt scattered with garbage, a bench or two and the occasional bush.  There are no bodyguards, gated accesses, walled fortresses that are single family homes, escalade SUVs, german-speaking communities,  or any other aspect of the typically highest-echelon Mexican neighborhoods. Apparently, it’s hip to be in the middle class. So here we are. In hipster land. And we all know famous people love to be hip.

This is the land where the writers, poets, playwrights, journalists and screenwriters crank out their masterpieces chainsmoking in the sidewalk cafes. This is where they film any variety of soap operas, tv shows and movies on the street (more than one I think my dog has accidentally been an extra in, performing her bodily functions). This is where I have to skirt around supermodels having their portfolio pics taken in the park, where I almost ran into Diego Luna getting out of an SUV to hit up the pharmacy on our corner early one Sunday morning, where Malkovich stayed while directing the Buen Canario starring aforementioned Diego Luna, where the mayor lives a few blocks from our house, and Gael Garcia, and the list goes on.

The problem:  for the most part, I don’t know who these famous people are. And they’re EVERYWHERE. Why is this a problem? Well, the majority of human encounters I have around here is in Parque México, 1/2 block from our apartment. (more on this park in another post, it deserves its own). And these human encounters usually happen when our dogs are sniffing each other’s butts. This is how I “met” the director of Amores Perros, although of course I didn’t know it was the director of this famous Mexican movie, until some guy on a bench pointed it out to me afterwards with overwhelmed reverence for this stranger who I had been talking to with a bag of dog poop in my hand.  Ok, that’s not so bad…it’s kind of nice not knowing people are famous when you encounter them, kind of empowering actually, to be able to interact with them as the regular humans they are, without stoking their self-esteem more than it needs to be stoked.

But then, when you’re me,  you’re bound to do something stupid, and if you’re also me, it’s probably going to be in front of somebody famous. Like the time I wanted to bodyslam Bill Murray at the Daily Grind coffee shop in Baltimore for standing in the doorway and not moving when I came in, giving his party all the dirty glares I could muster,  having to be told not-so-subtly by my frantic roomate that the person I was complaining about audibly was in fact Mr. Murray.

Sorry, Bill.

Sorry, Bill.

So, I was surprised, but not all too surprised when browsing the New York Times online this morning and came across an article featuring a famous Mexican author to whom I made an idiot out of myself one day in the park. Thanks world, not only did I make a fool of myself,  I now know that I did it in front of an extra intelligent person. Yes. It’s not the worst of my tales, a simple math mistake if you will, but this was merely weeks after graduating with dual masters degrees. It went something like this:

He has a basset hound, I have a basset hound. This makes us talk to each other in the park. It is morning. I am not a morning person. Those of you who know me, know this is not merely a statement, but a very real truth.  I ask, in Spanish,

“how many months old is your dog?” (I think it’s a puppy.)

He responds, with a smile, “48”

I say, “Oh! So he’s 2 years old!” (it was morning)

“it’s a girl”

(awkward pause)

“she’s four years old”

(Megan smiles. Not computing…not computing…morninnnnng….)

(he shifts uncomfortably. dogs finish mutual butt sniffing)

“um, I guess I’ll see you later”

(Megan still blank look on face) “Uh? ok…bye….”

(about 45 seconds pass after he leaves)

“oh, sh#($*%t.!”

(Megan has realized she appeared to have IQ of a sea slug. Megan now avoids this man in the park, even though she sees him at least every other day. Megan now realizes he is a critically acclaimed author).

Oh the injustice...this man is better at writing...and math

Oh the injustice...this man is better at writing...and math

Ah well, it could have been worse, right? But if you know of any more famous Mexican people I should be on the lookout for, please send me a photograph, ASAP. I have a lot of free time and a lot of opportunities for these types of activities. I’m curious though…would you rather remain in the dark, or be on the lookout for potential famous people? I remain undecided, but would rather continue glaring at them when they run into me with their grocery carts in the supermarket…

This is me. This is Mexico.

This is me. This is Mexico.

Welcome to reading about me. I’m guessing you have some interest in said me if you took the trouble to open this link, and for that, I thank you. Perhaps you just want to hear my latest tale of embarrassing myself, for which I can’t blame you, for there are many.  For those who are stalking me or trying to find out how I turned out after high school (a huge disappointment for both motivations) I suppose I should thank you too, but yikes.

A few words al principio. I am not one for rules, mainstream URL knowledge or typespeak. LOL, TTYL, ROFLMAO, and any number of acronyms I try to avoid at all costs, especially coming straight out of a mega-university that begins every guest lecture with a litany of acronyms/titles following Dr. ______,  supposedly meant to make you pay respectful attention to the speaker, because they are obviously better than you. I am not better than you, so I will avoid using a string of letters to express myself, or present myself thusly:

Megan blankety blank, BA, RN, BSN, MSN/MPH.

Ooh, but you do kind of feel bad, don’t you, not having so many letters you can put behind your name? Nothing that a few more years of esclavitud and hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt can’t give you. Think about it.

Here’s a thing that confuses me about writing blogs. Am I allowed to say my name? My age? The name of my husband? My dog? I’ll just ask for an excuse up front for not following all the rules, because I don’t want to spend hours online reading about URLs, Hyperlinks and the miniscule details of blogging. I’m trusting my knowledgeable and blog-seasoned friends to help me out with this one and steer me right when I go wrong.

This is how I got here.

This is how I got here.

My purpose for doing this is to share stories, impressions, occurrences, embarrassments, events, and weird Mexicanisms which come and go at whim in my mind yet never quite make it beyond the realm of facebook status- the one addiction I can’t seem able to break as of late. (note-this comes from having WAY too much free time). I have been blessed with a much-varied, colorful and adventurous life, and it’s the little things that really stick in my mind. Sometimes I want an outlet to share the pieces of my daily life, past and present, which emerge and impress upon my consciousness. But really it’s about connection, isn’t it? I’m not trying to make any money or win any awards here. You are reading this with a desire to be connected to me, and I write to be known by you- so this blog will simply be a piece of me given to you. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

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