Hidden Gem: Parque Mexico in Mexico City

Parque Mexico

(Flickr photo by Uncle Toss)

Parque Mexico is not a big park, like Chapultepec, but it is a park full of little details — and terrific landscaping. While I am sometimes tempted to rush out, walk Charlie, and rush back to editing whatever I’m editing, I’m greatly rewarded when I linger a little.

At the center of the park is an outdoor ampitheater that has seen grander days. The paint on the art-deco sculptures have long faded, and the columns look only one earthquake away from collapse, but it has retained a eerie beauty.

Parque Mexico 2

(Flickr photo by Uncle Toss)

If you look up, you’re rewarded with some of the world’s tallest palm trees.

Trees in Condesa park

(Flickr photo by beco)

park at night

(Flickr photo by monterd)

If you look low, you’ll see a tiny altar to Virgin Mary nailed to a tree. Or a big altar full of fake and real flowers.

mary in the parque

(Flickr photo by zeebahtronic)

During the week, while never empty, the park is tranquil. I can walk Charlie without worry. I can always find an empty bench if we want to sit. On the weekends, though, it’s quite crowded, full of families, vendors and energy.

tree in park

(Flickr photo by Ekz)

Only in Mexico: A Hard-News Clown Journalist

Yep, you read that right:

Last night I learned about Brozo the Clown during dinner with friends. “He’s good,” my friends said. “He breaks big stories.” I haven’t actually seen this program on TV yet (and I don’t know enough Spanish to understand him anyway), but well, why am I only somewhat surprised that there’s a serious-news clown journalist on Mexican TV?

According to Wikipedia, one of his more notable achievements was when he invited a top Mexico City politician onto his show, then aired secret video of that official taking a bribe. Apparently, Brozo (real name Victor Trujillo) finds it easier to grill politicians and poke fun at them behind the mask of a clown. Whatever it takes, I say, for good journalism.

Politics…Primaries…Blah, Blah, Blah

Lately, when I’m in a social situation, someone brings up the current political news in the U.S….and (usually) who they want to win the Democratic side of things, and I zone out…way out…oh, what’s that? It’s a pretty bird!

I live in Mexico for a reason: I don’t care about current U.S. politics. Seriously, the two most interesting things I’ve read about this year involving politics were about animal abuse: Romney’s tendency to tie his dog up on the roof of his car, and Huckabee’s tendency to cook squirrels in popcorn poppers.

I don’t have ANY idea who I would vote for, because I can’t convince myself that any of them are worth my vote, nor that they will do anything they promise. However, I have to vote, if at least to give one less vote to Romney/Huckabee, or whichever animal abuser wins the Republican seat.

Photo Tour: Mexico City Flower Market

Mercado Jamaica

The Mercado Jamaica is now my favorite mercado in Mexico City. For four reasons: It’s spacious, the vendors are friendly, it smells great, and the flowers are simply incredible. I’ll probably never go back to the Mercado Sonora — the witchcraft market — but I’ll be back to Jamaica, hopefully fairly often. I bought just one big bunch of flowers for 20 pesos (2 bucks) and I still used up every vase in the house and a water pitcher.

Here we go:

Continue reading

Several Months Later: Joy Interviews Self Again on Life in Mexico

Joy Victory is the author of the blog The Blog of Joy as well as Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels. We sat down with her (again) recently to hear how she is enjoying her new life in Mexico City.

Q: So, it’s been a few months since we last chatted. Que tal?

A: We’re no longer in corporate housing! While I miss the free breakfast every morning, I don’t miss living out of my suitcase or using the low wattage hair dryer. I know, it’s rough being me. But, truthfully, while moving abroad is something I think all people should do, it’s thoroughly exhausting, which is probably why not everyone does it.

Q: What’s your new place like?

A: Thanks for asking — it’s great. The last time I lived in a place this big I was still living with my parents. I hesitate to say that was 12 frigging years ago. We’ve got a terrific view of the park and our neighborbood, La Condesa. While it’s not perfect — the hot water heater only supplies about 10 minutes of a really hot shower — it’s very comfortable and pretty. We’re still in the process of furnishing the place, but we’re getting there.

Q: Traveled anywhere new?

A: Yes. Wal-Mart.

Q: Oh, I meant, you know, somewhere exciting.

A: Oh, sorry. Yes, here.

Q: (Opens link and is indeed impressed). OK, well, then. Nice waterfall…. Last time we sat down with you said your favorite things in Mexico were the weather and that it’s not the U.S. And that your least favorite things were earthquakes and crime and smog. Anything changed since you said that?

A: Well, the fresh fruit is now at the top of my list. Everyday is a delicious new food experience, and that never gets old. I HEART MANGOS, in other words. Crime-earthquakes-smog — these guys I still don’t like, although it’s still in theory, since I haven’t been bothered by them (yet — *heartily knocking on wood*). What I’d add to the dislike list is the rude drivers. Thankfully, in this neighborhood, they’re not that bad — meaning, they don’t seem to accelerate when you try to cross the street, as if they desperately want to run you over and make Joy Pudding out of you. But in some neighborhoods, I feel very much like I’m in trapped in the most difficult level of Frogger.

Q: Ouch. Look both ways, OK? How’s the dog — Carlito? — handling things?

A: Good. We bought him a new type of dog food and he’s gained at least a pound. For a 14-pound dog, it’s dramatic. He seems about the same, really. I love all the affection he gets from Mexicans — “oy, que guapo,” “que bonito” and “que lindo” are just a few of the compliments he gets. I need to learn how to say “yeah, but he’s not so lindo when he’s vomiting on your floor” en espanol. We also had our first trip to the veterinarian, where we learned that fleas means “pulgas. ” We’ve also been to the groomers twice, and somehow, even with my mangled espanol, Charlie still gets a terrific haircut. (I half expect them to hand him over with his hair dyed blue, because that’s what I unknowingly asked for. Trust me, stranger things have happened to us here.) Walking him home after his grooming appointment is a bit like walking him down the fashion runway, people ooh and ahh.

Q: Since you mention it, how’s the espanol coming along?

A: Estoy aprendiendo espanol poco a poco. And I really mean poco a poco. Most days I learn at least one new vocabulary word, but sometimes I forget a few, too. So it often feels like one step forward, one step back. I often think that if I wasn’t working all day in English, and instead totally immersed in the espanol, I’d finally progress to Chapter Two of my textbook. I also worry that any visitors who come see us will be shocked at how little I actually know. I almost have the past tense down, but then there’s all those god-awful irregular verbs.

Q: One of your most popular blog posts recently was about “weird Mexico City moments.” Got any new ones?

A: Yes. Yesterday I saw a man peddling a 10-speed bike on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant – but he wasn’t going anywhere. I noticed his wheels were actually elevated off the ground a bit, like an exercise bike. Then I noticed he was using the bike to power a knife sharpener on the handlebars. So, he’s apparently the neighborhood knife sharpener. Claro!

Also, I’ve taken many, many photos of my dog, but I never thought I’d get the chance to photograph him on top of a zebra:

Charlie on a Zebra

(Charlie enjoying a dog treat in full luxury in Taxco, Mexico. Before the pulgas got him!)

News You Can Use

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The victims of human sacrifice by Mexico’s ancient Mayans, who threw children into water-filled caverns, were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, archeologists said on Tuesday.

(While this news story does little to inform me of important world events, I have to admit I am a bit envious of the professor’s job description: He “scuba dives to uncover Mayan jewels and bones.”)

Mexico City and the Oh-So-Predictable Travel Journalist’s Perspective

I’ve read a lot of travel articles on Mexico City, and I’ve had enough. Travel journalists, please, I dare you: Write an article about this city without using the words smog or crime. I somehow manage to survive here without noticing either (most days.) Tourists will notice the crime/smog even less, especially if they don’t have a window seat on the plane, and avoid going to Tepito, the thieves’ market.

Here we go, with the hive mind of the travel journalist:

Why Do Rich People Love Leather So Much?

One of the best reasons to move from New York City to Mexico City — besides the constant and resplendent sunshine — is the vast improvement in cost of living. We can afford a much bigger apartment (or a house, had we preferred to rent one) in a much better neighborhood (La Condesa). Lord knows I loved you, Astoria, but 31st Drive and Broadway was not exactly a hub of culture/activity/hipness, unless you’re really into car repair shops and White Castle. La Condesa, meanwhile, is.

Where activities are ample, so are the people. Meaning, this is a place where people come to see and be seen. In droves. On the weekends, the parks fill up with families, vendors and music. During the weekdays, tourists and working stiffs dominate the scene. OK, fine, I can handle all that, in fact, I embrace it. It’s fun. But when you add in the other layer of people — mysterious, well-dressed people who don’t appear to be working nor visiting the city for the first time, but instead seem to have countless hours to spend in cafes, or driving their SUVs up and down the streets, or chatting on their cellphones while walking in slow, meandering zigzags on the sidewalks — it can get a tad annoying. Especially all their leather, shiny jewelry and bad perfume. Ah, the super rich. You’re like the Borg, but in Gucci.

Yes, NYC was stuffed to the gills with these types, too, but because I lived far, far away from them, I didn’t have to roll my eyes constantly. Only sometimes, like when I saw the really ancient Upper East Side ladies wearing their giant fur coats and huge sunglasses. Or the girls in Chelsea with stringy hair, jutting clavicles, enormous purses and tank tops that cost $250. *eyes rolling*

Here, well, I can’t so easily escape the super-rich. We hang out and live in the same places. Hence this email I just fired off to my husband:

i went to the organic cafe and got a chicken sandwich to go. it was really crowded — and full of obnoxious rich types. who wears leather all day like that? weirdos. my favorite was the anorexic pregnant woman dressed in head-to-toe skintight black clothing, super high heels (leather, of course) and slicked back hair in a ponytail.

But, looking back, well, I have to admit: I was paying too much for a chicken sandwich. I also desperately wanted to splurge on some organic soaps and lotions. And I had just dropped off my shih-tzu at the groomer’s. Am I only one leather jacket and a pair of high heel boots away from becoming El Borg? ¿Como se dice “Resistance is futile?”

Back by Popular Demand: More Photos of the Mexican Home Office

“Blog experts” like to tell you to never focus on the mundane details of your life, but whenever I do, I somehow get demands for more details. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my new home office — how I moved it out of a dark, spare bedroom and into our spectacularly sunny, happy dining room.

When I let it be known that we did a little house painting, I got requests for more photos of said “renovation.” I have always wanted a red room — always — and I finally got my wish granted:


Home Office 2

(The chair behind my desk is holding a space heater — it’s frigging cold in Mexico City in January!)

Have I mentioned the nice view of Parque Mexico?

The view

And because I haven’t posted a photo of my favorite perrito in a while (yes, he now prefers to wear Mexican blankets, and no, how dare you accuse me of staging this photo to make it look more Mexican!):


What the Spanish Textbooks Don’t Tell You: Casi Todo

My huzzband and I own at least seven Spanish textbooks and CDs and subscribe to one Spanish podcast. Two were written and published in the U.S. for American college students, the rest were written and published in Mexico for visiting college students. Not surprisingly, the latter are better because they are entirely in Spanish from page one — no instructions in English, ever.

However, when you move to Mexico City with only the most remedial of Spanish speaking skills, like we did, you learn quite quickly that neither type of textbook (U.S. or Mexican made) addresses the needs of expats. They are useful, of course, but only to a point — I didn’t really need to learn all the vocabulary for classrooms and schools, but I know it anyway, thanks to my dumb books, which all focus on that in the first chapter. (I will admit that all our Spanish textbooks are still way superior to my high school German textbook, which wasted an entire chapter on gummy bears. Or, das Gummibärchen!)

Por ejemplo. After living in our apartment for more than two months, I finally got around to hanging our pictures on the walls. I waited this long partly out of sheer laziness and exhaustion — moving to a foreign country, while still working almost full-time, is thoroughly exhausting (I am so tired right now I can’t even think of another word for exhaustion.) Anyhoodles, I hung a few pictures yesterday but soon used up our supply of nails we brought with us.

So, that meant, damn: Time for another self-taught lesson you’ll never find in the textbooks — Going to the Hardware Store.

Lesson One: Own a really big dictionary that has all the oh-so-useful words that “pocket-size” English-Spanish dictionaries don’t have.

Lesson Two: Then create the expected conversation in your head before you leave the apartment (“Hola, buenos tardes, necessito …nails?!”)

Lesson Three: Yep, here’s where you use the dictionary. Nails is clavos en espanol. And, for the record, unlike in English, clavos does not mean both nails for hammering and nails on your fingers. The latter are unas.

Lesson Four: Head into the unknown, in this case, the ferreteria.

Joy: “Hola, buenos tardes, necessito clavos….Como este” (I hold my thumb and forefinger apart about 20 centimeters to indicate needed size.)

Vendedor: “Por concreto o paredes?”

Joy: “Si, paredes.” (I only know paredes means walls because we recently embarked on another adventure the textbooks never cover: house painting. Whew — a potential awkward situation thwarted, and a sign I’m actually learning espanol!).

Vendedor shuffled around, found nails. Handed me one that’s the right size, but pretty stout. Uh-oh….Time to think on my feet.

Joy: “Hmmm…tiene clavos….mas delgado?”

Vendedor: “No.” (And an unsympathetic no at that.)

Joy. “Oh. Esta bien. Cinco, por favor. Cuantos?”

Vendedor: “Cinco pesos.”

Joy: “Gracias, y hasta luego.”

If you’re still awake after reading that, you see what I mean by mundane. Yet important. And nowhere in my 7 Spanish textbooks.