Saturday, December 13, 2008


One Wednesday night, back in December, I decided to go to Tequisquiapan early Thursday morning. Spontaneity adds excitement to life. Caley and I had previously researched the popular vacation spot finding out that it was famous for its wine and cheese and spas with thermal waters. I imagined that we would arrive around noon, eat a nice lunch, relax in the thermal waters and finish off the night taste-testing regional wines and cheeses. Does not sound too bad, eh?

Three of my four expectations were met. We pulled into Tequisquiapan just before 12, dropped our stuff off at the hotel and went on to hunt for a place to eat. On a side street, near the plaza, we found a simple spot where we ate sopes, gorditas and quesadillas in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We left feeling satisfied and ready for a dip in the thermal waters.

Since Tequis is known for its thermal baths, we figured that any taxi driver would know where to take us. Just to make sure that he was not going to rip us off, we asked the owner of the hotel that my friends were staying in, where would be the best place to go. He gave us two recommendations. We mentioned them to the taxi driver and he knew right where they were.

On our way to the thermal baths, I pictured us sitting in hot springs in a valley somewhere passing away the afternoon under the hot, bright Mexican sun. My expectation could not have been more wrong. The taxi driver had taken us to an empty water park filled with Disney character- decorated trashcans. Only three of the pools were open: one being the kiddy pool. Only one water slide was functioning: the blue slide that the manager turned on for us. In shock, I asked the manager if there were any hot springs, or natural thermal waters in which we could swim. With a defensive look on his face, he reassured me that the water in the pools came from the mountains and was naturally warm. I did not argue.

As the sun went down, we headed back to the center of town to look for a restaurant that served wine and cheese. We found a quiet one overlooking the town square. First, we ordered the regional sparking wine that was accompanied by complementary baked provolone cheese in a rich tomato sauce. To follow, we tried a bottle of the local red wine to accent a sample cheese plate with three different types of fresh panela: plain, chipotle and epazote with jalopeño. As I am a huge fan of spicy foods, my favorite cheese was the queso panela with epazote and jalopeño. For the little that I know about judging wines, I truly enjoyed them both. Who would have known that Mexico produced good wine?

From the restaurant, I took a cab back to the bus station where a three and a half- hour ride back to the city was awaiting me. The last leg, the taxi ride to my apartment, was the highlight of the ride as I watched hundreds of people walking to the Basilica of Guadalupe with their statues or portraits of the Virgin of Guadalupe in hand (the following day was the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe). It was a cultural phenomenon that I had never seen before.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What am I doing here again?

Almost three months have passed, and I have yet to post a blog about my research. You are all probably wondering what I am doing here.

Original idea
I thought I would start by stating why I chose to research women with gestational diabetes. First, it is well known that pregnant women with gestational diabetes are instructed to follow a healthy diet with a primary focus on the reduction of the consumption of carbohydrates. They are also advised to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week with doctor’s permission. Thus, I hypothesized that if women could look at the disease like a red flag or a teaching point and make those proper lifestyle changes, then they could prevent themselves and their unborn-child from developing type 2 diabetes.

Coincidentally, the word on the street at the hospital’s annual meeting resonated with my objective: the prevention of type 2 diabetes starts in the womb. I guess the idea was not that original after all. However, there are still no studies that have researched gestational diabetes in a Mexican population from a qualitative approach.

Since 2000, diabetes mellitus (DM) has been controversially declared as the number one cause of death for women in Mexico. Nationally, 7.3% of women in Mexico are suffering from DM. The high rates of DM can be attributed to well-known risk factors such as obesity, as well as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), or diabetes during pregnancy. More sobering statistics show that for women of child-bearing age, between 20-29 years old, almost 50% are overweight or obese, while the percentage is as high as 70% for women 30-39 years old. Other risk factors include: family members with diabetes, Hispanic ethnicity, history of GDM or glucose intolerance, women 25 years and older, and women with children that weighed more than 4kg at birth. With all of that being said, the prevalence of GDM at the Instituto Nacional de Perinatología was 5.3% in 2007.

Definition of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
GDM is defined as "carbohydrate intolerance of variable severity with onset or first recognition during pregnancy.” (1) GDM is characterized by insulin resistance and the failure to produce adequate amounts of insulin; the hormone responsible for the up-take of glucose from the blood. While insulin resistance is a normal symptom in pregnancy, the pancreas should be able to compensate and produce more. Those women who can not produce the extra insulin are considered to have GDM.

1. Gabbe S. The gestational diabetes mellitus conference. Diabetes Care 1998; 21 Suppl 2: B1-2.

Objective and Methods
The purpose of my research is two-fold: 1) to evaluate the treatment program provided for women with gestational diabetes (Medical Nutrition Therapy Program) and 2) to help explain the phenomenon of gestational diabetes in a small group of women from a socio-cultural perspective where I will compare participants with good blood glucose control to women with poor control. I have chosen to take a sociological, qualitative approach to study diabetes because the disease is not just a biological manifestation, but psychological and sociological.

I will collect the information with a combination of in-depth interviews, questionnaires and by making observations. Since I cannot follow the patients to their homes to study how and why they do/do not follow their treatment plan, I will capture the data by asking them questions about their perceptions, knowledge and self-care practices surrounding dietary habits, glucose monitoring and physical activity. In addition, I will explore their level of diabetes-related knowledge and their perception of the care that they receive from INPer. Secondly, I will use the questionnaires to describe the demographics of the patients and to take a relatively larger sample (30 women) of how women adhere to their treatment plan. Lastly, I will observe dietitian consultations, patient visits with the endocrinologists and talks on diabetes for women recently diagnosed with the disease.

Evaluation of the Medical Nutrition Therapy Program
The dietitians and rotating-nutrition students base their diet consultations on the Medical Nutrition Therapy program designed for women with gestational diabetes. Due to a lack of resources, it is not the exact same MNT program that is applied in the US. However, all patients are given an individualized diet, as well as educational materials with a diet plan and recommendations for exercise. At the first visit, a nutritional history is taken of the patient. A diet is then constructed using the number of calories assigned by the endocrinologist, based on weeks of gestation and her pregestational weight. The patients are restricted to eating a diet with 42% carbohydrates (people without diabetes are allotted 50-60% of carbohydrates daily). The quantity of carbohydrates is broken up into fourths, where the patients are usually told to eat ¼ of their daily rations with breakfast, 2/4 with lunch (the biggest meal of the day) and ¼ with dinner. Also, they are told to follow a schedule for their meals and snacks. Lastly, women are taught the different food groups, how they should be combined and what portion sizes are.

The latest and greatest
Currently, I am applying the questionnaires with the help of one of the nurses. The process is slow but steady. I plan to have the 30 questionnaires finished before I go home in December. I continue to make observations on a weekly basis; jotting down anything from what I see and hear in the consultation rooms to the waiting areas. With respect to the interviews, we had our first patient this past Thursday. She was a great informant, as she only had to be asked one question and she would provide us with a 20 minute answer. Moreover, the information that she gave us supported the observations that I have been making over the past three months; I was quite excited.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day of the Dead, Nov. 1, 2

"Calaverita, calaverita!" demanded a young boy, dressed in plain clothes. I replied, "No te entiendo, mi amor." Two seconds later, he blurted out the word in English, "Candy!" Irma turned to me and reaffirmed what he had said, "The boy wants candy." She later explained that since calavera (skull) plays such a prominent role in Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) that it is the word for candy during the festivities.

Irma and I bundled up and went to the Zocalo, the historical center of Mexico City, on Saturday night to celebrate the first day of Día de los Muertos. They say that November 1st is designated to the young ones who have passed away, as their spirits come running back faster than the adults. We ploughed our way through the crowds, sipping on scalding, hot, fruity punch with sugar cane stirrers while admiring the ofrendas (offerings) displayed on the altars (altares). The offerings were filled with the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, marigolds, candles, photographs, skulls and other ornaments. I was told that the candles are used to guide the souls by light, where as the purpose of the marigolds is to guide them by its strong, distinct scent.

On the second night, we layered up again and went down to Coyocan to see more ofrendas. There was one main offering that was put together to make a statement against the government's proposition to take down the tianguis, or independent street vendors. Coyocan is known for its bohemian ambience and its free-spirited artists who sell all sorts of arts and crafts. As there was only one offering, we walked around admiring the children’s' costumes instead. The tin man was by far my favorite. In the plaza, parents accompanied their children as they went around asking for calaveritas. In Mexico -I imagine for safety reasons-little ones go to public places to ask for candy, rather than door-to-door.

It was interesting to see how an old tradition of paying respect to the dead has survived over the years and has integrated into today's Americanized Mexican culture. For example, Pizza Hut had ofrendas. The food of choice at an ofrenda in the Zocalo was a hamburger and juice box. I would argue that the holiday has not lost its original meaning, rather it has adapted to the times, for good or for worse.

Lastly, I found Día de los Muertos to be very powerful, as people took the weekend to celebrate and reminisce about their loved ones who have moved on. It is not necessarily a time for mourning, but rather a weekend set aside to share memories, eat good food, bring families together and appreciate the temporary life here on earth and the eternal lives of our deceased loved ones.

Friday, November 7, 2008


President Obama at Concord High School.

I have spent the last week sick, thus I was not able to go out with the Fulbrighters to celebrate Obama's win. It is Friday and Tuesday's historical victory is just now sinking in. The sensation is incredible.

Now, I can feel proud when I tell people that I come from the United States. I will be honored when they affiliate me with our new President, as the image of my country is finally changing for the good.

Just ten months ago, I was running around New Hampshire with volunteers from all over the US knocking on doors in the middle of winter to encourage people to vote in the primaries. We drove on the snowy, icy backstreets of Meredith and Center Harbor. We got our car stuck. We got lost. We were chased by dogs. We went from trailer parks to water-front homes. The experience was rewarding in itself, but to know that our candidate has made it all the way, is phenomenal.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Protests against privitization of Pemex

I am here legally

On October 2nd, my visa was supposed to be ready. I just got it back from migration services today. So, I decided to celebrate and go to the Franz Meyer Museum. I went to see an exhibit of the 2008 Best Press Photos. Many of the pictures stopped me in my tracks: the female, Kurdish guerrilla fighters, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the US soldiers in Afghanistan coming face to face with the villagers. In the end, I wandered out of the exhibit slightly shell-shocked to recuperate in the courtyard where they had an exhibition of posters, as you will see in the photo above.

While I was walking to the museum, I saw a sea of policeman standing in the streets close to Reforma. I wondered what the hullabaloo was all about and curiously made my way into the crowd. Once again, it was protesters gathering to denounce the privatization of the Mexican oil comp

any, Pemex.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bringing my kitchen to Mexico

After my third attempt of making oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies from Veganomicon, I had success. Finding the ingredients was the first challenge. Soy milk is not sold in most grocery stores and maple syrup is only found in an organic foods store, Green Corner, where it runs at 20 USD a bottle for 16 oz. Baking soda does not exist: only baking powder. Then comes the whole wheat pastry flour. Forget it. On accident, I bought whole wheat flour (which I used for the first two tries) and since it was not pastry flour, the cookies turned out like hard balls of oatmeal, cinnamon and chocolate. Finally I switched to white all-purpose flour, and the cookies turned out just about right. We will not get into baking at high altitudes with ovens that do not have temperatures written on the knobs.

My other success story took place on Sunday, when I offered to make dinner. Pasta was my challenge. I went to Dreena's blog,, and found a sun-dried tomato pesto. Dreena never lets me down, as the pasta was scrumptious. On Monday night, I recycled the pesto and made open faced baguettes with spinach, garlic and basil.

Tomorrow night we are having a Fulbright dinner at Nina's apartment and I will be cooking Mexican pumpkin soup and roasted tomato bruschetta.

Inequality at its best

Mexico city is one of contrasts. There is no separation of rich from poor, or excess from scarcity. And you wonder why there is such a high crime rate.

On any given street, you will see people selling gum, potato chips, fruit juices or anything that they can get their hands that can be turned around and sold.

You see families arranged where the father plays a trumpet or the guitar while the wife and the kids follow behind asking for a money. Every morning, while I wait for the bus, a man walks by playing the violin while his wife holds out a cup asking for monetary support (the couple has a weak spot in my heart as the violin is my favorite instrument).

At the stoplight you will see people selling junk food, newspapers and cellphone cards, washing windows, juggling, lying on glass, etc. The bottom line is that anything goes when someone is trying to make a buck.

Twice now I have been exposed to these drastic differences at work where I left the public hospital, filled with women who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, to find myself writing field notes in cafes where an espresso costs 28 pesos or a double espresso for 50 pesos. It is difficult for me to reason drinking a coffee that costs as much as some construction workers make in a day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More photos from Tepoztlan

Leaving Tepoztlan. Back to the city.

A boy watching soccer from behind the fence.


Last Friday I finally escaped from the loud, fast-paced, polluted city and went to Tepoztlan. Tepoztlan is a town in the state of Morelos, about an hour outside of Mexico City, which makes it a popular weekend getaway for city folk. It sits at the base of the Tepoztlan valley so all that you see are breath-taking views of mountains that have eroded over the years in a very unique way; "...[they] look like the work of some abstract expressionist giant" (Frommer's Guide). The town is filled with artsy people who line the streets, selling their artisanal goods. I was eye-balling some typical Mexican blouses with embroidered flowers around the neck, but I held back. In due time, I will start making purchases. The problem is: where do I begin? There are too many neat things and too many talented people producing them.

Tepoztlan had a fabulous open-air market in the center of town. I am quite the fan of markets as they are part of the identity of a country. So, on Saturday morning, Carlos, his mom, Sylvia and I went there to get food for the rest of the family. We were given a list of 24 quesadillas or so, to bring back to the house. The three of us decided that we were entitled to eat right then and there, as we were the food runners, so we did. Gabi, Carlos' cousin, told us to go the heavy-set quesadilla lady, stationed next to the man selling fresh juices. We sat down in front of the grill and ordered. I ate my favorite blue tortillas again with flor de calabaza (the flowers from gourds) and one with mushrooms. To top off breakfast, Carlos and I split an "agua fresca" made with lemons.

A couple of hours later, we arrived back at the house with the food to be recieved by his starving family. After everyone was well-fed, we lounged by the pool, read, soaked up the sun and listened to Pati's Spanish boyfriend play guitar flamenco style. I was quite pleased to be in a bathing suit, laying outdoors and letting the sun beat down on my bare skin. Back in Mexico City, it has been overcast, slightly cold and rainy. It is not the Mexican climate that I imagined. But, the weather in Tepoztlan was.

The other beautiful characteristic of Tepoztlan is that it gave me the opportunity to reflect. During the week, I go to work, follow around doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, etc. and then return home immediately to write field notes on the days' observations. In other words, I get in the grind and do not take time to reflect on my life outside of work. Being in the valley, surrounded by gigantic, weirdly shaped mountains brought me peace. As Picasso said, "I don't look, I find." This weekend I did not have to look for peace, as I normally do in the city, rather I found peace in nature and my surroundings.

Irma and I are on the move.

For those of you who do not know, my beautiful, vegetarian roommate, Irma and I will be moving from out apartment as soon as possible. When I have the new address, I will be sure to put it into circulation so that you can send me care packages.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Independence Day Sept. 15th-16th

Independence Day
It was Monday, September 15th. Finally, Independence Day had come, as Mexico had been preparing for weeks. From Friday on, people in the streets showed their pride by wearing red, white, and green paint on their faces. On Monday, they took it to a whole other level. Mexican nationalism was represented by tri-colored wigs (red, white and green), fake mustaches, fake eyelashes, big sombreros, flags, ribbons and more. I too was nominated to show my pride and wear a sombrero. I received a few remarks while we were out, such as, "You are not Mexican," while others were in support and said, "Viva Mexico!"

Below is a picture of a sign that the owner of Casa Bertha made for me. Earlier in the evening I had said that people were making comments about me not being Mexican. Here are my documents folks.

Caley, Nina and I stayed in Guanajuato City to watch "El Grito", while Katie and Colleen insisted on going to Dolores, where the original "Grito" was yelled by Miguel Hidalgo in1810. It went,"Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe and death to the gachupines (Spaniards)." Hidalgo was a Mexican born Spaniard and priest, who was fed up with the injustices brought on by the ruling class in New Spain. Therefore, at dawn on September 16th, Hidalgo declared independence and the war began.

In Guanajuato city, the "Grito" was scheduled for 11:00. Since it was raining, we waited inside until 10:30 before we made a run for it. The "Grito" had already happened by the time we arrived at the plaza, where music was blasting, people were dancing, making congo lines and foam was being sprayed everywhere. Cheers were still being yelled, "Viva Mexico!"

Even though we missed "El Grito," that did not stop us from enjoying the rest of the evening. We came to a consensus that dancing would be the best way to finish the celebration. We found ourselves near our hostel jamming out to salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, ranchero and norteño until four in the morning. We could not have had a more Mexican experience as we were the only three gringos in the bar.

At one point during the night, I took a small break from dancing and made a comment to a young Mexican man on the dance floor saying that I have never seen such nationalist pride. I was utterly impressed. He looked at me with a serious, straight face and replied, "What do we have to celebrate when we are still living in a country plagued by insecurity, kidnappings and crime?" He left me speechless. And with that, I will sign off.

Bits and pieces of Guanajuato (Sept. 13-16)

First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this blog to Colleen for being such a wonderful hostess.

The hillsides of Guanajuato
Dogs were barking. A man was singing to the radio with his deep, baritone voice. Water was running through the pipes. Church bells rang. Those were the sounds that accompanied my solitary state on the roof of the hostel, Casa Bertha, in Guanajuato. From my rocking chair, I saw houses upon houses set against the hillside. All together, the haciendas looked like the top of a Crayola crayon box as they were painted brilliant purple, violet, deep orange, periwinkle, hunter and moss green and burnt red. Hidden among them, I could see Teatro Juarez, a beautiful colonial theater located in the center of town.

Mummy Museum
During the day a group of us went to the Mummy Museum. Seeing mummified people was one of the most unique experiences that I have had yet. A long time ago, unclaimed bodies were found in Guanajuato in a type of soil that had naturally mummified the dead. Tradition says that the families of the bodies were forced to pay taxes and if they could not afford it, the deceased would become an addition to the museum.

The mummies still have their skin, hair and teeth. Some of their clothes were preserved too. Captions hung on the walls next to them, giving them an identity. For example, the first mummy was supposedly a French doctor from the 19th century who had no family. Another woman had died during a cesarean section; she and her child were propped up next to each other.

As I left the museum, the sign read, "Aquí acaba la vida y la eternidad empieza" (Here life ends and eternity begins). Woah.

Diego Rivera's house
The famous, Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato in 1886. His actual house was nothing to write home about, but it was interesting to see the progression of his art work over the years. He went through stages of realism, impressionism, neoclassicism, and cubism before developing his signature style as a muralist. Thus, seeing his earlier work provided me with a new perspective for viewing his more recent pieces.

On Sunday night, we were determined to go see a callejoneada, or a group of students dressed up in medieval costumes who sang and played musical instruments. Their wardrobe consisted of a burgundy velvet jacket, puffy balloon shorts with black tights and a matching crown.

Within a block of our hostel, we heard the music and followed the sounds until we reached the rest of the crowd. We arrived just in time to hear a serenade sung by a teenage boy. All of the women were invited onto the steps so that the group could sing to us. Unfortunately, I was not the lucky lady chosen for the serenade.

Each callejoneada belongs to a different department at the University of Guanajuato. The students play in the band to help them finance their schooling. This tradition was brought over from Spain ages ago and was reborn in the 1970's.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Good energy and bad energy.

Last night, I was talking to my friend Carlos about religion. He does not believe in god, nor does he deny there is one because he cannot prove it. What he does believe in is energy: good and bad energy. Carlos elaborated by saying that individuals send out these vibes, they are absorbed by others and then returned. We both agreed that it is a bit like karma.

That talk was put into practice tonight when Brigitte the Beast, or the woman from whom I am renting my apartment, came home and started lecturing Irma and I about how we need to put the dishes away, sweep the floor, close the drawers tightly, etc. She started on her rant just after I offered her some of the quinoa pilaf and steamed broccoli that I had prepared for dinner.

Now that our fabulous, vegetarian dinner had been interrupted by You-Know-Who (yes, she's almost as bad as Voldemort), Irma and I went to our rooms. Minutes later I heard something break in the kitchen. Brigitte had accidentally shattered a wine glass. Unfortunately, she got what she deserved for sending out bad vibes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday night errands

I had to get two pairs of shoes fixed and one pair cleaned so I bagged them up and took a walk through the neighborhood. En route, I stopped at the "papeleria", or the mom and pop stationary store, to buy some folders and asked where I could find a shoe repair shop. The woman pointed and told me to walk up the street two blocks.

There I was at a shoe repair shop within five minutes from my door step. The man in charge was a good two-hundred and fifty pounds, dark skinned and wearing an unbuttoned, sleeveless, plaid shirt. He looked at the first pair that needed new soles and gave me a look of concern, but reassured me that they were fixable. Next, I showed him the shoes that I wanted cleaned and asked if he could do it while I ran back to the house to get some more cash. "No problem," he said.

I came back within 15 minutes and a young boy, around 12 years old, was spraying my boots with black stuff. His hands were the color of my boots: charcoal black. It did not seem to phase him as he proceeded to wipe his nose with his working hands. I asked him from whom he was learning the trade, "My uncle," he replied with a smile. It was refreshing to see a family business as that tradition has disappeared over the years in the States. I paid the uncle's little helper and was on my way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Comfort Food

I have now been able to locate and buy soy milk (original, as most of the brands are loaded with sugar and are either sold as chocolate or strawberry), hummus that is made daily and quinoa. What more could a wanna-be vegan living in Mexico city want?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Public transportation

In the morning, I have a ten minute walk to the metro. At 7, before the sun has come up, shoe shiners roll their stands to the outskirts of the station. The juicer man prepares his fresh fruit:oranges, papaya, mango, pineapple and guava.

The trains are very efficient, as they run every two minutes. When the train arrives I force my way on and guard my belongings. While the space around me is minimal, the cars are not suffocating because the windows are half cracked. Men and women, who are often blind, walk up and down the aisles with speakers on their backs selling hit CD's or children's videos for ten pesos.

Five minutes has gone by and I have already arrived at the bus terminal. The trick is finding the bus that will take me to my destination. First, I pass the gauntlet of vendors selling coffee, pastries, sweet bread, yogurt parfaits, churros, soda, candy, stationary, shoes and DVDs. There are six rows of buses in a parallel formation with lines of people beside them filling the sidewalk. Even though the destination of the bus is posted on the windshield, I had to ask the first couple of weeks if it made my stop.

Then comes the bus ride: the most thrilling part of the excursion. If I am lucky, I get to sit down. My knees rub up against the back of seat in front of me. Other days, I stand in the one-person-wide aisle trying not to knock people out with my bulging backpack. Within 15 minutes to a half of an hour (depending on the traffic), I have arrived.

The challenge now is getting off the bus. For the first couple of rides, I would look out for the landmark closest to the hospital and wait for the bust to stop before I got off. Too late. With the stick shift in gear, the bus was already going again and I was pulled back into my seat. My new learned technique requires getting up in plenty of time and making my way to the back of the bus with a few minutes to spare. As soon as the vehicle comes to a halt, the doors open and I jump off.

Riding home is similar. It requires flagging the bus down near the hospital and hopping on: sometimes while the bus is still moving.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Being a vegetarian and a wanna-be vegan

Boy is it difficult to be a vegan in Mexico City, let alone a vegetarian. Below are a few tales that better explain my dilemma.

At work, I asked what type of soup was for lunch and they replied, "vegetable." Great! I got back to my seat, stuck my spoon in it, swirled it around and tiny pieces of meat floated to the surface. To avoid wasting it, I closed my eyes and pretended that there were not flakes of dead, rotten animal carcass in my soup and gobbled it up.

The other day I was told that I had to try "chapatas." It is like a panini with ciabatta bread. There was only one vegetarian option on the menu, and of course it had cheese. After having to explain my gastronomic preferences, the woman at the grill was kind enough to make me a chapata with roasted vegetables instead. Ahhh, a vegan sandwich at last. My hopes were set high, until I bit into a sandwich coated in mayonnaise.

My latest non-vegan adventure took place the same night that I found the blue corn tortilla lady. After dinner, Will and I went to a café. The chocolate croissant looked too good to pass up. I purposely forgot that butter was used to make the croissant. No later was I unpleasantly reminded that it was not vegan when I bit into the crispy, flaky treat that tasted of manteca (lard). After eating the lard-tasting dessert, I will not forget next time that I should stay away from certain baked goods.

Mandy, will you please send me some vegan treats?

Mi casa (que es tu casa tambien)

I have never heard the frase, "My house is your house," used more than I have in Mexico. On that note, here is my house, which is also your house.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blue corn tortillas off the street

Last night, I had my first experience eating food off of the street. I have been repeatedly told not to, but I will only live in Mexico once. Moreover, I resist the savory smells that come from stands on the street on a daily basis. On my way to work in the morning, I am woken up by the aura of tacos, quesadillas, flautas and more as I enter the metro station. At the institute, almost two entire blocks are taken up by food vendors where people chow down on fried tortillas layered with re-fried beans and cotija cheese.

Returning to last night's adventure; it was the sight of blue corn tortillas that made me stop in the first place. Blue corn chips from the states are my favorite, so I had to try fresh, hand-made blue corn tortillas. I hoped that she would have vegetarian fillings, as there was a two-foot long slab of sausage sizzling on the grill. Luckily, she had something I would eat: flor de calabaza (flowers of gourds) and hongos (black fungi). Not only did I enjoy every last bite of my street food, but I managed to not get sick the next day.

While my friend Will and I were eating, we learned the origin of the maseca and a little background information on the chef herself. The maseca is brought to her from Puebla daily. She has been at the stand for eight years now and is open from 8-12, Monday through Saturday. She used to be open from 8-2, but crime in the area has caused her to cut her hours short. If you are interested, I will take you there. As you can see, I am looking for an excuse to go back.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One rainy Sunday in DF

I woke up this morning at 10 to a phone call from my mother. She wanted to know how she could reach my Mexican cell phone. Within the city you need to dial 044 to call a cell phone from a land line, but apparently it is not necessary when calling from abroad. Sorry about that, Mom.

Noon came around and I decided to take a stroll through my neighborhood, Roma. Right out my front door there was an art sale. Every Saturday and Sunday, artists display their work along one of the main streets in the area. The "Corredor de Arte Roma", as it is called, is only one of the reasons why Roma is known as Mexico City's art district. Many of the paintings were brightly colored works of modern art. Among the artwork, people were selling used books, original black and white photographs, housewares and a number of collector's items.

From the "Corredor de Arte Roma", I walked through the plaza called Rio de Janiero. Couples sat and chatted away on the benches. People played catch with their dogs. A homeless man slept on the bench.

My second to last stop was Casa LAMM, which is a cultural center a block away from my house. I was utterly pleased to finally see the newly inaugurated exhibitions on photographs of India. Aside from admiring the artwork, I realized that Sunday is not dress-down day. I was arguably the worst dressed person in the gallery in my over-sized, thrift shop blouse, jeans and moccasins. Everyone else had put on their Sunday best: suits, elegant sweaters, slacks and fine scarves.

Finally, I went to the super, also known as the grocery store. I made it out of there with a basketfull of fruit, vegetables, garbanzos, frijoles negros, tomatillo sauce and a kilo of tortillas, all for 10 dollars. Not too shabby.

Censorship: a threat to libertad (freedom) September 4, 2008

If taking part in the march, Iluminemos Mexico (Light up Mexico), was not enough to delve into the politics of Mexico, going to the screening of "Voces Silenciadas, Libertad Amenezada" (Silenced Voices, Threatened Liberty) fulfilled that need. The focus of the documentary was on the right to information and means of communication. One of the most poignant messages was that in order for Mexico to consider itself a democracy, journalists must be granted the right to report freely and the people must have the access to credible news sources.

Brigitte, my Canadian roommate, who is a news correspondent for Radio and TV Canada gave me the invitation. She insisted that I go see one of her favorite Mexican news correspondents who was going to be in attendance: Carmen Aristegui. Aristegui was one of the most widely listened to voices in Mexico. Bloggers said that she, "gave the voice to those who do not have a voice." I use the past tense here because seven months ago her contract with W Radio was not renewed. W Radio happens to be owned by two powerful companies that have a lot of pull in the media: Grupo Televisa and Spain's, Grupo Prisa. In other words, they took her off the air and silenced the critical voice of Mexico.

Within a week, Mexico City, has shown me the meaning of solidarity and consciousness-raising. The people here are aware of what is going on around them in terms of the political scene. And, when the general public is not satisfied with the current state of the government, people come together and make a stand.

Is asking for peace and freedom of the press too much?

The march for paz (peace) September 1, 2008

It was Saturday: our first day on our own in Mexico City, the second largest in the world. From the get-go, fellow Fulbrighters and I had already made plans to attend the march, Illuminemos Mexico (Light up Mexico). There is no better way to get to know Mexico than immersing oneself in it. In the end, we are responsible for understanding this country, as we will be future ambassadors.

Around 5 o'clock, we put on our white t-shirts and boots, grabbed our umbrellas and headed off to the march. Soon we became four silent voices out of tens of thousands. White flags were flying high. Signs read, "Basta, ya" (Enough). We marched in unity to denounce the long history of crime, corruption, and delinquency in Mexico. Some people walked with candles, others held up pictures of people who had been kidnapped. One of the ponchos read: Hugo Wallace, in memoriam of one of the many victims. Another name recognized that day was the 9-year old boy of the Marti family, who was kidnapped and later killed. For me, the march was a successful way to speak out against violence because violence only breeds more of the same.

To be a part of that crowd and to later see the march broad casted on TV was probably the closest that I will ever get to comprehending the magnitude of people with whom I share this city.

While the video is in Spanish, I do not think it requires a translator to get a sense for what an incredible event it was. See if you can find us on one of the streets!