A Taste of Home (Kinda…)

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I woke up feeling so great this morning! I had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and take my medicine. I lay there relishing in slight pain (which is so much better than the severe pain I have felt for days…), and I knew what I wanted to do. It is after all, what every good southern woman does on Saturday morning…

BISCUITS AND GRAVY!

It is interesting, for three years I have ranted about the woes of flour. I need my White Lily. Nothing works like White Lily. And for three years my biscuits turn out like hockey pucks. Turns out a little All Purpose Flour and baking powder makes a pretty good biscuit. I certainly have NOTHING on my Mama. She makes the world’s BEST biscuits. If you want to make some delcious biscuits like her, you can study her method via this Youtube video I made last Thanksgiving. (Mama’s Biscuit Video)

I used my mexican flour, the baking powder, salt, butter, and my homemade buttermilk (apple cider vinegar in regular milk). I am able to buy bacon here, but I can’t find breakfast sausage. So, today’s gravy was bacon gravy. Add some delicious tomatoes and scrambled eggs–you’ve got yourself a southern breakfast.

I was channeling my Mamaw again, so a little later I sent Victor to the store for lemons. Is there anything more delicious than lemonade on a hot day? yum!

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Oh, There You Are!

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Victor eating Planter’s Honey Roasted Peanuts.

Remember when I said I needed cocoa powder? I have asked every baker in a twenty mile radius. Okay, that is a lie. I have asked a ton of people though. I always get the same answers. They tell me all about cocoa that you make hot chocolate with. I tell them, “No, cocoa sin azucar (without sugar).” They look at me like I am crazy. Why, after all, would you want something without a ton of sugar? They suggest the market.

Today, I had to head to the pharmacy. My stupid kidney is really not wanting to be my friend. I am waiting for the pain to go away, but that hasn’t happened yet. Luckily, securing another week’s worth of antibiotics wasn’t too difficult. I am also taking this pain medicine. It hasn’t been the miracle I was hoping for. So, now hugs have to be gentle, AND I walk like an old lady! Wow! How lucky you are, dear.

Since paying the water bill was also on the list of must-dos I decided to shop at the nice grocery store. Why didn’t I think of looking in an international section before? You know what they have? So many great things (that really don’t say American Food to me). I didn’t buy the Briann’s Strawberry Vinegrette that I really wanted. I have salad dressing I need to use up already. I didn’t buy the ginger paste from the Thai section. I didn’t buy the sriracha sauce either. I have some delicious habanero sauce I need to use.

I did, however, buy the following items:

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I’ve been having a fit trying to figure out something about the flour. Is it self rising? Do I need leaven? I about cried out with joy when I found baking powder I recognize. One lady told me that is what you use when you’re sick–not for bread. It helps heartburn. Okay, lady. Thanks. I’ll be making some biscuits and gravy Saturday in case you’d like to join… Tonight’s menu includes cornbread and pinto beans. Yum!

My List

These days I find myself making this list in my head or to my friends–Things I want to bring back to Mexico from the United States
1). White Lily Flour

No exista en Mexico. Actually a far as I can tell, there are somewhere around two choices for flour. Self-rising isn’t one of them.

2). Peanut Butter

It is super expensive, and so-so. I want to check Sam’s Club first, but peanut butter is my guilty pleasure, and go-to for a quick snack!

3). Cocoa Powder

I need this if I will ever make cookies! I don’t understand why I can’t find it–especially because this area produces a lot of cocoa!

4). Texas Pete

This is for my friend. I do love some Texas Pete though–it has such a different flavor!

I realize so far, these are all food items… That is changing now!

5). Tampons

Because my choices I don’t like the one option I have…

6). Rainboots

Tiempo de Agua is coming! I’ve been warned by Mexicans AND non-Mexicans. Apparently, the rainy season is nothing to mess around with. Because I walk to work, the last thing i want is smelly blistered feet… I really, REALLY want to find some ladybug boots like the kind I bought in Minnesota. Yes, the same boots little kids wear…

7). Contacts/Solution

I am glad I had the experience, but now I would like some good contacts and solution…

8). Books

Childrens’ books are needed for my classroom! I don’t want a lot–mainly Skippyjon Jones and Clifford. Do you know that they have no idea who Skippyjon is? It is hard to believe, cause that guy LOVES Mexico.

9). Chow-Chow

And the recipe… I’m going to attempt to make it myself this year. I think my Mexican friends will love it! The eat something similar, but fresh. I am going to spice it up, and eat it with all my food. Yum!! Part of me feels like I should use my Great-Grandmother’s recipe. The other part reminds me that Mom and Mamaw have played with it some too… The good news? There is no way I can make it too hot! The bad news? Who is going to help me chop?

10). The Clothes I’ve Been Saving For When I Lose Weight

I’m not skinny (Thank you, delicious tamales and pan). I walk everywhere though–and I need clothes that fit! P.S. Fat and Happy is a real thing here…

11). Shoes

Good shoes! I walk everywhere. I brought all kinds of shoes, but they are worn out and falling apart. The cheaper they are, the quicker they fall apart. I am on the hunt for appropriate footwear when I come home.

12). Skin-So-Soft

I don’t want to use bug spray–it smells gross! I also don’t want my students to say, “Pica, pica, pica” and point to my bug bites. It also points me out as a tourist–because these mosquitos don’t seem to like Mexican blood. The garlic pills may work yet–I can’t tell a huge difference right now.

13). A computer!

I have to buy a computer when I’m at home. Turns out it is impossible to work stress-free here without it… My report cards were late, and the new people use it all the time. I think it will be nice to work in my room for a change…

14). My English Bible and Hymnbook

I miss reading my comfortable bible. You know, the one you always read that has scribbled notes and highlighted passages? I miss singing the hymns too–and with all this Spanish in my brain, I need the English to be easy to find/use.

15). Space in My Bags

For all the things I will decide I want when I see them…

After all, once you start saying “I’ll get that when I go to The United States,” it is never ending.

My Mexico Diet

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I have a problem. Seriously. It’s called My-Jeans-Don’t-Fit. Of course I am happy to be on my Mexico diet, but this really is a problem! I want to have a pair of jeans–they are perfect to bum around in. But the women here have these tiny bird legs. It doesn’t seem to matter how chubby their stomachs are (I’m blaming all the meat they eat for that…), their legs are small.

I, on the other hand, do not have bird legs. Or bird anything–despite the fact that my jeans don’t fit.

It’s pretty great actually. I mean, I walk all over the place. I am sure that is what has done it. I really enjoy it too (most of the time). There are occasionally days like today. I’ve been trying to get a migraine all day. Note to self (and Jenny): get some migraine meds when I come home… I have walked on the loud streets cursing the existence of trucks and buses. I glare into the sun, cursing the fact that I forgot my sun glasses, all the while creating more wrinkles.

Then there are walks like this morning, where I stop and look at the glorious sky. How can anyone doubt a God with something that beautiful? Or tonight, when I saw the moon shining so bright–even while it was still day. I love these kinds of walks.

I’m even getting pretty good at texting and walking. The sidewalks here are treacherous. They seem to be built in pieces-perhaps by whatever business is there. So, you have constant ups and downs. I step up on curbs and over rocks telling myself that it is good for my legs. It’s my version step aerobics.

I’ve also found my new favorite snack: mangos. The smell of them makes my mouth water! This is how I like to eat them though: with hot sauce, chili pepper, lime and salt. They serve them like that on the street. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask the lady for half an order–as one whole order is too much. Today, I just decided to make my own. It seemed easier.

Oh, Mexico! (You have to analyze the different ways I say “Oh Mexico.” Sometimes it is in exasperation–other times in adoration.)

Breakfast In Mexico

I’ve been eyeing this lady who sells food and drinks in the morning. She has a couple coolers, and a basket of yummies.

Unfortunately, she’s almost always surrounded by lots of people. I have drawn my temporary line at being gawked at while I struggle to make sense of the Spanish that attempts to escape my mouth. That is no more.

Today, armed with a Mexican I braved the sweet ladies. I stood by as he asked what they sold. I let him pick out my pan for me. I even sweetly held his coffee so that he could pay. Then, I drank with gusto delicious Arroz con Leche! (It tastes like someone poured milk in our sweet breakfast rice at home…)

YUmm… It was great. And cheap. I got a pan (the bread is different–a little dry, but it had sugar sprinkled on top) and my delicious drink. They also sell cafe, but when you buy cafe on the street it ALWAYS has sugar in it. Always. The Mexicans love their sugar…

My favorite breakfast I’ve prepared is black beans with eggs, cheese, and habanero hot sauce. That requires waking up and fixing breakfast… My other option is stopping at the gas station on the way to work. I’ll tell you this–breakfast on the street beats the 20 pesos I pay for coffee and a dry granola bar any day. I might even swallow my pride and try again tomorrow.

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Speak Like Me

Spanish is confusing. But sometimes I make Spanish more confusing than it has to be. For example:

When I bought my first hotdog, I went through the motions of trying to understand how to ask for a hotdog. “Como se dice?” I asked. “Hotdog.” I was told. “Si, pero como se dice en espanol?” I asked again. “Hotdog.” the woman said.

Today? This was repeated as I wanted to but tissue paper for my runny nose. “I need paper for my nose,” I said in Spanish. Then I pretended to blow my nose. “Kleenex?” the lady asked…

Later, after meeting I was asked if I wanted these pancake-like breads. “Que?! Como se dice?” I asked. “Hotcakes!” She replied. I was also told to stick my finger into the sweet cream to taste it–after I refused to have a bite because of my cold. Hmmmm…

So, this is my lesson of the day. Simple is better! Chances are, if something is super difficult, it is probably because I’m complicating matters! This has me analyzing things that seem soooo complicated in my life. Calm down, Jania, and it will all work out!

Stretching Four Pesos

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My last day in Tennessee before I left for Mexico. I hope to live up to the name that was given to me–what a woman!

You know how I rave about fresh tortillas? I love getting them piping hot from the guy at the counter (who now knows I want media…). If you get a whole order there are a billion tortillas in there. Today I saw a lady with four packages. There are 25 in my 1/2 order–so she was literally buying 200 tortillas… A half order of tortillas costs around four pesos–which would be around 30 cents or so.

Tortillas don’t taste so good as they get older, and the Mamaw in me has been cringing as I throw them out every other day. I keep hearing, “Do not throw upon the floor the crust you cannot eat, for there’s a mighty hungry little one who’d think it quite a treat. Willful waste makes woeful want, and oh! how you might find the day you you only wish you had that bread that you just threw away…”

So, today after eating feeding the cat, I went to the bodega. I bought fresh tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion and cilantro. Do you see where I am going with this? I whipped up some salsa–I even puréed it with the immersion blender.

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The old tortillas were recycled (and fried) into chips. Yummo! I even had a piece of chicken on a fresh tortilla with salsa for lunch! Now, to sooth my manos from the pepper juice…

Happy Birthday to Me!

Mexico heard that it’s a special day: last night there were fireworks! This is not a surprise, they have fireworks all the time. “Todos las noches,” I tell my students, “In the United States, we have them twice a year!

Twenty-eight. Wow.

Last year, for my birthday we went to Los Tios in Del Rey for Mexican/Salvadoran food. I wore a sombrero and ate yummy food with my amazing friends. This year, I am in MEXICO! Craziness!

I’ve been pretty excited about turning 28. It’s going to be a great year, I am sure! I’m starting it off right: new country, new job, new goals, etc. I’m even in a place at work where I am one of the youngest. Most of the young teachers are in their thirties.

Work was cancelled today, so I slept late (7:00), took the longest shower, and have just laid around! It’s great! I think I will go to town soon, and maybe go see a movie. Maybe I’ll buy a new dress or some shoes… Tonight I’m going out with the Spanish girls for dinner, dancing, and maybe karaoke!

Twenty-Eight Things I Want To Do This Year
1). Go to the Mayan Ruins.
2). See the Canyon.
3). Learn to speak Spanish.
4). Swim in the Gulf.
5). Visit Central America.
6). Visit the Zapatista communities.
7). See the old people dance in Marimba Park.
8). Learn to make tamales.
9). Learn to salsa.
10). See some monkeys (apparently this can be accomplished with 1 or 2).
11). Understand the songs I listen to.
12). Figure out how to make more money teaching English.
13). Raise my GRE scores.
14). Learn to make more than black beans and rice in Mexico.
15). Figure out how to get water (you’d think I would know this by now…)
16). Give a testimony in meeting that doesn’t require me asking how to say something.
17). See an active volcano.
18). Learn to knit on a knitting machine the indigenous women use.
19). Run again!
20). See the coffee farms.
21). Ride in the front seat of a Collectivo.
22). Start English classes for the neighborhood kids.
23). Read a Spanish book.
24). Talk to my Mexican niece and nephew in Spanish only.
25). Find the source of music and fireworks.
26). Have a conversation without apologizing or saying, “Hablo poco!”
27). Visit a waterfall that you can swim in.
28). Scuba dive (or snorkel) in Belize.

Here’s to a year of growth and happiness!

A Shortage of Many Things

Can I confess something? I’ve peed in my backyard twice in the last eight hours. See, we found out the hard way our water isn’t working. It wasn’t a major concern at first, because it goes out at least every other day. When the water goes out, we just flick this switch and get the pump turned on. Unfortunately, it really went out today. More unfortunate is that we found this out after I used the bathroom. Fortunately, we had mop water to pour into the commode tank…

So, when I returned from meeting yesterday afternoon, I headed upstairs to ask the neighbors if they had the same problem. In the course of this event, I discovered the rooftop. Why I didn’t suspect we had one is beside me. I was sooo happy when I found it! I want to buy a hammock to go up there! Sigh. Life is good on top of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Last night I met a cute delivery boy too, who, of course, is in love with me. I say that jokingly because they all confess their love. He is extra cute though because he speaks English, and drives a motorcycle. (Worried yet, parents?) The good news is I am a hot commodity in Tuxtla Gutierrez. The bad news is I am uninterested in 99.9% of the men due to what I want that they ain’t got. If you’re thinking money, shame on you!

Anyhow, plans are in the works to celebrate the greatest year of my life (so far) on Friday. I’m determined that nothing could happen to make 28 any worse then 27 ended up turning out. Twenty-eight. Wow. Seeing it written out is funny. I remember when I moved to DC Jenny was 28. I thought she was too old to have so many factors left to straighten out. (Sorry, Jenny–still think this blog is “funny?”) Let this be a lesson, all you judgers out there: this too could happen to you.

So, here’s to the kick-off of my birthday week! In honor of this blessed occasion, I will share something I want everyday. Today: More piña in this leche and piña drink I just bought. Oh, and a Mexican boyfriend to teach me Spanish. Until I speak the Spanish, I’ll settle for the “language of love.” (That was for you, Daddy.)

P.S. The water is magically working again.

The Most Delicious Hotdog

Yum.

I couldn’t wait to write about the most delicious hotdog ever created. Plus, I want to write about it before I get sick from eating street food–and it loses it’s luster.

Sigh.

So, I was walking home last night, and I decided to buy supper on the street. This was mainly because the Bodega has funky chicken and veggies right now. My first time there, a man asked me if the spots on the meat were normal. Plus, I was feeling pretty lazy.

I stopped at this stand on a side street. These people are there everyday, and sometimes they even have music. I thought it was a taco stand until I got close. I almost walked on when I saw it was a hotdog stand (these people eat a lot of hotdogs). In any case, I was curious and hungry. That’s usually a pretty good combination for trying something new… The street vendors seem to have a hard time understanding me though–as most people can [kinda] figure out what I’m saying.

Part of the problem is that I am thirsty for words (The teacher in me just sighed. What a beautiful phrase!), and so I ask “Que es?” and “Como se dice?” for everything. This tends to confuse people, as they wonder why I act like a child (Especially when the word for hotdog is…hotdog). Often they just laugh and say they have no idea what I’m saying. This is probably because I speak like an alien too: “Me come in peace. Want hotdog.”

I should have thrown all my doubts out the window when the first thing the cook did was throw butter on the griddle. Ummm, what doesn’t taste good with a 1/4 cup of butter? She is grilling these thin slices of meat, while I am thinking, “Hmmm. Weird hotdog. The picture doesn’t look like that.”

Finally she grabs a bun, and actually gets a hotdog out of the inside of the cart. Again, I’m thinking, “Weird. Wonder who that meat is for?” She quickly asks if I want it picante, to which I nod. On goes the hotdog, then grilled (fried, I guess in the same butter) onions, habanero sauce, some kind of pepper/cabbage relish, mustard, ketchup, mayo, and finally, the meat. Turns out, the meat was a kind of bacon. Soooo good, fried crispy on top of my hotdog.

I sure wish I had taken a picture of this thing. I ate it before I got a chance. I would like to get another, but I don’t know if that is a good idea. I find it is better to completely resist delicious Mexican food. I already walk by the bakery with my hands up shielding my eyes. The next person I’m going to avoid is the cheese lady (there is this amazing cheese that is salty and similar to mozzarella–it is like string cheese though). I suppose the hotdog stand lady will join her. Sigh.