Monday, July 28, 2008

Shared space

I'm realizing that I really enjoy public space. Maybe it's because I'm such an introvert and in shared space I can just watch everyone else and feel like I'm a part of something even when I'm not. Maybe it's because it feels more friendly. Maybe it's because it's just plain fascinating to watch other people. Maybe it's because it just feels real. In Latin America and in Hispanic parts of the US, public space gets used (Big-D residents, have you ever been to Bauchman Lake on a Sunday afternoon?) and I really enjoy it.

Here there is a divided street we cross on the way to school that has a wide tree lined walkway down the middle. It's beautiful and there is always something interesting going on, couples kissing, dogs being walked.

On Saturday morning I went running in Parque Chapoltepec. There is a little running track/route that was just fascinating. There were un monton de people running, walking, & exercising on the way old school exercises equipment in the middle. On the way there I passed a pickup futbol game or two, what looked like a boxing class/group, a lake with paddle boats, and lots of people selling stuff. I could do with less vending in the public space, but hey, that's part of the real feeling.

This is what was going on in the public space in front of the Anthropology Museum on Saturday: (Yes, I finally made it to the first museum on my list, and it was amazing! Thank you very much)

Los Voladores de Papantla

Saturday, July 26, 2008

S throws up... again.

S threw up at the little crepe cafe we tried on Friday night. Phil had been out of town all week. S had been quite sick early in the week. I was ready to get out of the house and there's this little crepe cafe nearby that I'd been wanting to try.

I'm not sure what decided it, but before he even tasted the food, he was announcing that he didn't like it. So then when we made him taste bits he was pulling all the common child tricks: not touching it with his lips as he pulled it from the fork, taking minuscule bites, picking all the ingredients apart and spreading them around his plate. And then, after Phil had managed to feed him a few bites, it happened.

Once home, and he was in the bath, I got my revenge. I threw his clothes in the ingenious washing machine (really I just forgot, I promise).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Free Trade

I'm a committed free trader, but I do have some questions about the particulars.

Yesterday I bought some green grapes at the supermarket. They came in the customary little bag with holes (what is that all about anyway? air flow keeps them fresh?) and clearly marked on the side was "Product of the USA." If I remember correctly it seems that when I buy grapes in Dallas, they usually say "Product of Mexico" or Chile (that must be in the winter). Why are my grapes crisscrossing all over the western hemisphere? Well okay, North America? Seasonal differences I can understand. And maybe that's all it is... but how am I supposed to assuage my green guilt?

And what about washing them? Here I dutifully soak all my fruits and vegetables in an antibacterial solution. But not when I'm in the US. Do I need to soak grapes that came from the US? And what is it about crossing the US border that makes produce safe to eat? Maybe it's just the water. Maybe I'm using the water to wash off the dirt (like in the US) and the antibacterial drops to "wash off" the unsafe water?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We're not in Highland Park Anymore

not that we ever were... anyway...

I looked out my window a few days ago and watched as a man urinated in the bushes that line the road. When he was done, he brought his fingers to his mouth and whistled to get the attention of a friend. Nice.

Everyone keeps telling me we're just getting warmed up for India, in so many ways.

Saturday evening was the first time since we've gotten here that the poverty really got me down. I headed out with the boys to pick up a pizza. It was early evening, most of the businesses were shut down, just restaurants open really. Across the street there was a fairly large group of women with small children, probably 12 people total. All were sitting or laying on the sidewalk with boxes of gum and candy. I'm not sure why they were all together like that (maybe all waiting for the same bus?). Maybe it just seemed like more than usual since there weren't a lot of other people about? The pizza place faces a park, sidewalk cafes line the rest of the street. The beautiful people were out in force. And the disparity between the two scenes was depressing.

The covered entrance to our building has a few stairs that lead up to the door. During the day there is frequently a woman and her two children that sit on the steps, selling gum. On almost every corner there is a little table set up, usually with a woman and child, but frequently a man too, selling nuts. I don't think I've ever seen anyone buying any nuts. Early last week as we walked home from the park we passed two boys carrying their gum boxes. One of the boys was probably 10 and the other quite young, maybe 5. S said, "I guess that boy's old enough to be out by himself? Selling things..." No, S. He's not.

Highlights of Mexico

It seems that S has been dominating my blog and I've gotten some emails filled with questions about N. He is doing well, seems to be enjoying life here quite a bit. So, here's Mexico from his perspective:

Just when I was figuring out where everything was in my house in Dallas, my family up and moved. Some of my favorite things about Mexico are
Wires everywhere! Que suerte! There were some little nails holding this in place, ha! And look at that paint! Sure to be filled with lead, I'll check back later.
Does your house have one of these? Absolutely perfect for pulling myself up.
Quick! Look innocent, they've got that camera out again. While I pose, check out the electrical sockets and telephone wires behind me. Patience. I'll get my chance.

And the not so good...

This is my view from the diaper changing station. You'd think that blue color would be soothing, huh? I've spent far too much time here, traveling does strange things to my tummy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


So, traveling with children... is it worth it? I think this is the first of our travels that I would consider "traveling with children." Up until now it's really been traveling with baby. But somewhere between last years Alaska trip and now, S has gone and gotten all opinionated. He has figured out how to make museum trips and the walking around tourism (the stuff that I enjoy) quite painful for all involved. Am I giving up? No. Am I slowing down? Making some allowances? Yes.

We have yet to hit one of the museums in DF on my extensive list but yesterday we went to the Zoo. Have I ever gone to a zoo while outside of the US? No. I mean animals in captivity are animals in captivity. Plus having grown up with the San Diego Zoo as my "home" zoo, I guess I've figured why bother. But there is a zoo within walking distance of our place and it's free. That combination is pretty much irresistible to this Blackburn household.

Free for us, though there was a charge for using the bathroom, a map, some of the indoor exhibits. I would have forked it out for a map, highly useful item those maps, but the place that sold the maps was closed. Chalk that one up to cultural differences, zoo open, McDonald's open, guys selling little plastic toys open, face painting booth open, map vendor closed.

We had a great time, and I only occasionally felt like we were one of the exhibits. I noticed that we got more attention when we were between exhibits, for the most part the animals seemed to hold the zoo attending publics attention. And quite the public it was. It was packed (duh, free, summertime, easily accessible, city of 19 million people, a winning combination for more than just me it seems). You should have seen S snake his way through the crowds to front row viewing sites. He came home especially enamored with the prairie dog. Yes, that's right, not the Panda Bear, two humped camel, or even the anaconda, the humble prairie dog. Okay.

Oh, and he's doing much better with school this week. Thanks for the suggestions and concern.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The End of an Era

Some friends, knowing the Latin America chocolate situation, gave us a bag of Dove candy bars as our going away gift. This is the last one. At this point I'm rethinking our consumption strategy. Supply does not equal demand.
Thanks for a great gift. We... er... really ate it up!

"But I hate it!"

S's glasses that he made at school

S is having some trouble acclimating to school here. We enrolled him in a local Montessori school's summer program, hoping to encourage Spanish and also to facilitate interaction with kids. The first day was all right but it's gotten progressively worse. By Wednesday, when we got to the school he announced, "I'm not going," and started walking back towards our apartment. By Friday he was making the same announcement while still at home and heading for his bedroom (furthest from the front door). He has cried A LOT. He has whined A LOT.

When I pick him up he seems quite content and will tell me about all the activities. He genuinely seems to enjoy it, but by the evening he's upset again. This morning when he woke up you could feel the relief when I answered that yes, today is Saturday.

We've talked through what he doesn't like, the top of his list is that the music player they use at the school is shaped like Cinderella's carriage. Another reason is that his legs don't fit under the table they eat lunch at.

I feel awful making him go if he truly hates it (as he has said... repeatedly). I feel awful letting him quit just because it is hard. I really don't know what to do. Any great ideas? Anything that's worked for your kids?

See? Doesn't he look like he loves it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


We pulled into this little town (San Gabriel Chilac) because we were in need of a bathroom. We didn't find anything very promising, the streets were narrow, the houses very gray and close together. We finally made it to the plaza in front of this church. It was beautiful. School had just ended for the year and apparently each class brings flowers to the church. There were flowers everywhere, huge arrangements.

Pulling into and out of town was memorable though because the overpass that we went on (both ways) was obviously intended for one car. We couldn't see any way to signal that there was a car on it and you could not see the whole thing from one side. We didn't realize it on the way there, on the way back we just drove slowly and hoped for the best. And we did find a bathroom, quite a nice one actually.

N loved his Oaxacan black mole.

Monte Alban

Overlooking the botanical garden from the Oaxaca Regional Museum.

I love this picture of us. The slightly artistic nature was unintentional, the cute little woman that Phil asked to take the picture just didn't know how to hold the camera.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Road to Oaxaca

View Larger Map

It doesn't look too hard, with all those clear labels, straight roads, easy intersections.

We rented a car this weekend and drove the six hours or so to Oaxaca. By far the most daunting part of it all was just finding our way out of DF. After loading into the rental car we looked at each other and said now what? We sat there studying the map for about five minutes before turning on the key. S was asking if we were almost there yet before we'd even found the freeway.

It was not my most stellar moment as navigator. We went north instead of south on our first main street, we got on the freeway going the wrong way and watched the cars heading the way we wanted to sit in traffic as we searched for an off ramp that we could use to turn around and join them sitting in traffic.

It included getting our windshield washed and the ensuing explanation to S about world poverty. "Why are they touching our car?" "But our windows don't need to be washed!" It included a tour of a residential neighborhood or two that illustrated our explanations.

But there were no accidents, no damage, and pretty soon the boys were laughing in the back. The video isn't very good, I couldn't actually let them see that I had the camera or they would stop, and our $10/day rental car allowed for some interfering road noise.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Life takes... ingenuity

There is just something that I really enjoy about being able to see the ingenuity that life takes sometimes. So, I know that I said my apartment is nice, and it is, but it's also quite old and in Mexico city. So here are a couple of illustrations of the ingenuity that I find charming, but I know many people would not.
The top photo is of my bathroom, the white pipe on the side? That's where the water from the washing machine drains. The first night we were here we were startled by the sound of gushing water and rushed to find this. I've only forgotten once and had a load going during shower time.
The second is my towel rack. It's great because it is exactly as long as fits on the wall. No wasted space.
Another moment of ingenuity I've noticed (but don't have a picture of) is the taxi drivers pushing their cars forward one spot after the first one in line gets a job and speeds off.

El Barrio

Finally a few pictures of our neighborhood. We went to the playground in the park a few times last week. S started "school" today so we'll see if it happens as much in the next few weeks. It's a huge playground, lots of kids, lots of different languages. N loves the slide, unfortunately it doesn't have swings that he can use.

Nearby street scenes.