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Friday, 9 April 2010
Until the next time,
Monday, 11 January 2010
You see the tradition is, to leave your shoe by the door. Inside your shoe, the following day you find your present, from the Three Wise Men. Despite having grown up with a lovely Mexican father, I had never received a gift from these fella’s. It was a wonderful surprise! Especially as my Uncle and Aunt, (most generously) left me some money. Much much needed!
What has this gal been doing these days? You may wonder. Well. A whirlwind of events have occurred. First, there was Christmas. In which the main events included drinking, eating, laughing, and opening presents. In that very order. I was not accustomed to starting the meal at 11pm. I admit, at first I was a bit hesitant about this idea. A meal at 11! Heavens! The nightmares that will ensue! The cure? Drinking ridiculous amounts of champagne, eating like a pig (eating pig…quite bizarre, so lets say like a rhinocerous. Although I doubt they eat pig. You get the jist..) and staying up until 6 in the morning. By then, all the food has been digested, aided by the laughs that were had at the dinner table. Before the delicious meal commenced, there were presents. Oh glorious presents! I was very moved to receive presents from absolutely all of my Uncle and Aunts friends, and lovely presents at that! Beautiful scarves, books, painting (from my Uncle, who is a truly wonderful artist!) and much much more. Everyone was merry as can be, and despite their not being a Christmas tree, the presents seemed very much at home tucked under a beautiful painting my uncle made of the Virgin Mary, a horse, cow, and Joseph. It is such a beautiful painting that I cried when I saw it. I am, I admit a sentimental person, but it truly is lovely. Here is a picture of it, which of course does not do it justice.
The meal on the 24th consisted of a scrumptious salmon, sort of peppered, with warm baguettes, then pork, wild rice, vegetables combined with jamon Serrano (win win situation there), and a tasty gravy. Desert? Pie, cake, cookies, chocolates, coffee. Ligero, as we say here, light. Combine all of this with gallons of champagne? Happy people. All, night, long!
The next day, we all went to my Aunts, Aunts house. As in the Aunt of my Aunt (in case you didn’t get that). There we had sopa de habas (broad bean soup, delish!!) and then we ate bacalao, a traditional dish here, which consists of shredded dried cod in a wonderful tomato based sauce. This is accompanied by romeritos, which is a Mexican dish consisting of patties of dried shrimp, sprigs of a wild plant called Romerito, that resembles rosemary, and potatoes served in a mole sauce. In short, it’s pretty damn good. Then there is rice, not any rice mind you, this rice has been sort of spiced with tomatoes, onion, and all sorts of good things. Then there was a bowl of frijoles (hot refried beans), that you stuff into a bolio, an incredibly delicious Mexican bun, and then you stuff that, into your mouth. The whole concept of a moment on your lips, an eternity on your hips, goes...down...the drain. But wait! Dessert! Traditional Mexican cookies, ice cream, and cake. Then coffee. Then chocolates. Luckily the meal lasted about six hours. Gives you time to eat like mad, have a snooze, then eat some more.
Hold on to your trousers friends, more eating and joviality ensues….The next day, that is the 27th, we, my Uncle, Aunt and cousin, ( only one as my other darling cousin was off to a teeny Island off the coast of Colombia, well Nicaragua actually called Providencia. How idyllic is that? ‘I am off to Providence, aka, Utopia’), woke up at a reasonable hour and journeyed to the lovely Tepoztlán for a delicious meal with another glorious branch of our family. Freshly made pasta and pesto, was eaten sitting under a beautiful arch composed of flowers and green lush branches, with a view of the Tepozteco, with its Temple resting peacefully on top. Surrounded by orange trees, chayote plants (an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash), Hens, Rodigan Ridgebacks, flowers blushing with pride, and a sun that saluted us holding up her blazing hand as if to say “Enjoy! Enjoy the fruits of my doing, and be content in all that life bears!” I know, a tad dramatic, but the scene must be set, and believe me my description does no justice to how exhilarated I felt, how ecstatic I was and how happy I was to be there, eating with my family.
Nevertheless, I miss my parents terribly. They are, however, always present, in my thoughts, in my prayers, and everything I see, I share with them. My eyes record what is before me, my senses, acute as can be attempt to memorize all I feel, taste, and smell, so that I may pass on these new discoveries to them, and to you, through this blog. I miss my brothers, my sister in Law’s, my nephews and nieces. I also miss my friends. You know who you are, and I miss you. Very much. I have decided, however, to stay in Mexico. It seems, (and fingers crossed now!) I may have an opportunity to dive into the world of production. Cinema production. This is a dream come true, and I am holding my breath. Let’s see what comes of this. It feels right. I don’t know where I am going, but as a wise man said, “No importa donde vas, sino de donde vienes”. It doesn’t matter where you are going, as long as you know where you are coming from. This rings so true right now. I stand ready, armed with all I have learnt from everybody in my life, and the beautiful beast life itself, with arms wide open to receive all the good and bad things that life deals you. However, unlike a game of poker, I don’t hold my cards too close to my heart, and feel no need to bluff. I am who I am, and I am so excited to live. To live the life I have imagined. Thoreau said: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined”. I know this because my mother gave me a card once, with this quote, in bold letters.
I think of these words often, and am doing just so. “Onwards Excelsior!”, “Agarrense los pantalones!” …..
Hasta pronto amigos! I will keep you posted on adventures, and news.
All my love,
Monday, 14 December 2009
It's all very well going to bar, a pub, a restaurant, but have you ever frequented a Mexican cantina? You know with the swingy doors, with the stench of urine emanating from the toilet doors that swivel shut as characters emerge from the latrine?
A few days ago, I visited several cantinas, and can assure you that it is an experience I will never forget, and enjoyed thoroughly. The centre of México City, close to the zócalo (which is where the Cathedral and el Palacio Nacional, and ofcourse a giant Mexican flag, and now during Christmas an ice skating rink!) , is home to several of said cantinas. In the past, visiting the centre at night was ill advised, however, after a recent project to encourage tourists and Mexicans alike to visit the centre which included installing cctv, and street lamps, the centre is a far safer area to visit. I am a scaredy cat, and can assure you that the centre is not only relatively safe (just don't flaunt your Rolex, and use some common sense), but absolutely beautiful.
The cantinas, the old ones, still have ficheras. They are women who sit at a table, and the men, can buy a ficha, a sort of poker chip, which they can then give to the lady and request a dance. Just a dance. This is not some form of prostitute, just someone to accompany you on the dance floor. It is truly charming to watch. After several tequilas, and beers, I danced the night away, merry as a mouse. It was glorious. The waitresses, with their tight jeans, slightly too tight for my taste, and pasty makeup, added to the charm. I believe that such tight jeans create what is called a camel toe...forming the outline of the women's "private parts", leaving nothing to the imagination. It was all out of a Cantinflas movie, and made me feel as if I had taken a big ole' step back in time.
I was invited to dance by some older men, who were slightly inebriated, and due to my shyness I said no thank you. When they kept asking, I was told to simply say that my boyfriend would get jealous. It worked like a charm! Great tip for Latin American countries!
The cantinas serve chicharrones (fried pig skin/fat) and complimentary peanuts on plates. Add some chile to the pig and peanuts, and you have a tasty snack to energize you for some serious dancing. Salsa, rancheras, cumbias....and don't be shy! I hope you may experience this one day. I sure am in love with cantinas, and am returning as soon as I can.
Viva México! Y viva la cantina Mexicana...Donde se llora, ríe, grita, baila, con una combinación de amargura y dulzura. En donde los amigos se reencuentran, en donde los enemigos se perdonan, y donde el tequila y la cerveza brindan por lo bueno y lo malo, por la vida que a veces no vale nada y por los que extrañamos con todo nuestro corazón.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Anyways that is my latest observation on life, that I am a fool, and e-mailing can be lethal.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
I arrived with my father’s best friend, and his nephew (who was the wine maker and whose family owns a winery in Ensenada). I was not expecting the event to be as formal as it was, and upon entering a private room and seeing that we were to sit at a conference table, each placemat surrounded by glasses, I couldn’t help but giggle. (As did my father’s friend). At first the conversation revolved around wines, and of course champagne. Everyone was putting their two cents forward. Gestures were made, hands poised to underline the high level of exquisite wine they had just tasted God knows where, murmurs of agreement bounding about the room. The scene reminded me of something one would see in a Woody Allen. One of the gentleman present may or may not have had Botox injected into, his entire face, one lady had a fur coat so big she seemed to be drowning in it, another man was reminiscent of the slithering Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. There you go, the evening was complete with a hodge podge of characters, each one encompassing some form of social stereotype, each one seemingly snobby.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find that the wise saying of "don't judge a book by its cover" was indeed very true (in this case) and as we imbibed our champagne, everyone at the table, loosened up, and eventually truly let go. The descriptions of the champagnes from their colour, amount of bubbles, smell, finally to its glorious taste were a plenty, and although hesitant to voice my opinion at first, I soon acquired what they call "Dutch courage" and voiced my views as I slurped away eagerly.
What on earth did you drink? You may wonder. Here is the list:
1) Ruinary Blanc de Blancs
2) Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru Brut
3) Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2000, Cuvee de Prestige
4) Louis Roederer Cristal 2002, Civee de Prestige
5) Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, Cuvee de Prestige
6) Laurent-Perrier Rose Brut
My favourite? Number five, unfortunately it costs 3,680 pesos, about $286 big bucks. At the end of the tasting, we all had to say which we preferred, and most importantly why. As each person eloquently described their most and least favourites, my heart started to beat rapidly. I admit, I was nervous. What on earth was I to say? At a loss, I said what I felt, and avoided any attempt to pontificate upon the liquids before me. I stood up, smiled, and cheerfully admitted that the most expensive champagne was my favourite. Why? Because it incorporated everything I wished for in champagne, it was fresh, a beautiful shimmering gold colour, and its bubbles raced to the top of the glass, the champagne swilled in my mouth and tantalized every taste bud, and it made me smile! I also added that due to the price, I probably could never afford it on a regular basis, so I also liked number one, (a more realistic choice price wise). I got a giggle from the others present, and felt an incredible sense of happiness when I sat down. Probably from the champagne but also from the thrill of having just spoken my mind ( I wasn't as detailed as I was here) and from seeing how unpretentious everyone really was. All these people were doing was sharing an appreciation for a beverage, and their respect for all the work that went into creating such a drink. I love that they found it ridiculous that some were so expensive, and we all agreed that of course what you like is personal, and as each palate is so distinct, putting a price on what is the "best" is very difficult.
[Nevertheless, I must add a note here. In a country with such a high level of poverty, there is something incredibly wrong about ssipping champagne whilst people are starving outside. Undoubtedly this happens all over the world. This argument could be applied to how wrong it is that we are privileged to eat three meals a day (some more!) whilst other in the same country, or in other countries starve to death. Awareness of what you have, and appreciation of ones situation in life is pivotal, we all know that, hopefully it can encourage us to be more generous towards those who aren't quite as lucky...I have always found that being in a country in which their are fierce contrasts between rich and poor, makes me more aware, exposed to how unfair the world is, and challenges me continuosly. You can't turn the little children begging for money off whilst you wait for the green light, as you can the television. You can't turn the page on the slums you pass everyday. It is there, very present, a reminder of how much work has to be done, and how important it is to participate in bringing about change....Nuff said.]
We all agreed that number three, the Belle Epoque was off; however, the sommelier was a tad bit proud and didn't concede this obvious fact until the end. Oh well. I suppose some sommelier's take it very personally. The fact is, that it is not the sommelier's fault if a bottle is bad. It is the process that makes a bottle off, the bottling, the care, the winery's "fault". As with all nature and organic products, some go bad. C'est la vie. The sommelier on our champagne night, sadly, became defensive, and unnecessarily insistent on how the champagne was fine. To each their own...To each their own...
After this glorious tasting we ate at a very fancy restaurant called Le pied du Couchon. Wowza! We had our own room, and glass doors that opened by pressing a green button (it was reminiscent of doors in a star trek or wars film). The delicacy of this place was a fried pigs hoof. At one in the morning I just could not stomach this (nor at any other time of day really..) so I had a soup. A delicious soup.
After many hours of talking, finally, at four in the morning I was driven home through an empty Mexico. Mexico City is never empty, except for in the early hours, and a journey that would normally take half an hour, took only fifteen minutes.
Home at last....into bed. Time to dream of champagne and pigs...Botox...and just how bizarre an evening I just had.
Friday, 20 November 2009
After now flying for what seems like a millions hours, and in reality is a whopping fourteen, I am finally in beautiful Mexico City! Leaving Oslo at seven in the morning, however, meant awaking at the early hours, beyond early really, at four am. But as I sit here, on my grandmother’s sofa, listening to her play the piano, I cannot help but feel that I am seven inches away from heaven. You see, my grandmother, aged ninety four, is in incredibly good health (knock on wood). Yes, her memory has started to go, but she does her exercises every morning, eats very VERY healthily, and most importantly, has tequila. Every day.
On the plane ride over, I sat in the luxury seats that I was graced with by BA, and felt every inch of my being tickle with excitement. I had intended to write about people at airports, but whilst at Heathrow I was so tired I couldn’t really focus on what was going on around me, (although, there was a very rude man who saw me through the security check. Poor fella’ I actually felt bad for him, because he bossed people around as if he was some sort of God, when he obviously had an inferiority complex. I smiled at him politely, and cursed him viciously under my breath (of course!) Flying with BA has always been so lovely. Especially when crossing the ‘pond’. Everyone is so polite. I was lucky enough to change my seat for one where I was the only one in the row. Heavenly. I do find it very amusing that the meal they served was a curry. I mean, how impractical?! The whole plane stank of curry! Now, I am not a great curry eater, due to my very sensitive disposition, but alas, I ate it. Every last piece of curry powdered chicken and dry rice. And then, oh yes, I ate desert too! I slept like a baby, and then watched some Julie Julia, a wonderful film, which made me hungry for something other than a curry. The sandwich that was served later on (coronation chicken….a theme?) was not satisfactory, but it was eaten. I felt that since money was spent on the ticket, I MUST eat the meal! Ridiculous, I know, nevertheless, how I felt.
When I finally arrived in Mexico, after flying for twelve hours from London, I was, as you can imagine, ‘pooped’. I had managed, however, to sleep on the plane so I wasn’t that tired. There is something soothing about sleeping in a plane, don’t you think? Especially if you have space to stretch your legs! I love waking up, and peeping out of my sleepy eyes, and seeing the clouds below, all white and poufy. I used to believe that planes flew above heaven when I was little, and would try and spot my grandparents. I have never told anybody this, so there you go. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the case? That planes flew over heaven, and those you knew (lucky enough to be in heaven), would wave at you from afar, munching on bagels smeared in Philadelphia cheese, and eating ice cream. What I do not find soothing in a plane is going to the bathroom. Yes, you heard me, number two. The plane shakes and you feel that your last moment on earth (well in the air) is going to be sitting on an airplane toilet seat taking a shit (pardon my French). If the plane were to drop, would all the ‘matter’ in the toilet bowl fly up into your face? What if you lose your balance and have to steady yourself by accidentally placing your hands in the bowl?! Oh the horror! These are the distressing thoughts that I ponder as I sit there, wishing I could go, and so of course I don’t. When I was little I used to fear flushing the airplane toilet, because, let’s be honest, it sounds like a violent cookie monster is singing out of tune! Whilst eating what you have just gotten rid of! Horrific! For a child this can be traumatizing! In fact, it still scares me, and I never fail to jump a little when the horrendous flush bellows out of the jaws of the toilet throne.
I stepped off the plane, and for the first time in my life, I did not feel the altitude. Usually I feel it, I feel like I am about to faint! But not yesterday, I literally skipped off the plane, ready to commence what I know will be an important part of my life. I got my suitcases relatively quickly, despite being approached by a guy who was very nice to talk to. Very nice, until he asked for my email, or number. You know what? Why. Why did he have to go there! I was very clear that I was not interested, and he had to destroy our brief encounter by asking for my contact details! I am too emabressed to say no, so I gave him my email, knowing that I can always delete and block him. But, what does one do in those situatins I ask you? Just say no? But why? He was not a creepy man, he was just nice, and to be honest I am flattered that he was interested in me. Despite not being hansom, or especially interesting, it is flattering that someone finds you appealing isn’t it? One day I won’t be approached anymore, and people may even run away from me, weeping and screaming. So, I suppose I enjoy it whilst I can, no?
Anyways, I got through customs easily, and there was my uncle waiting for me with arms wide open! Off we drove home, and had a lovely ‘cena’ (evening meal) with my grandmother and cousins, simply divine! I awoke today with a broad smile on my face, and I feel at home.
I haven’t been out and about yet in the city, although I did walk with my grandma to the supermarket today to buy papaya. The weather is warm, everyone told me it would be cold, but as I am used to coming in the summer, the rainy season, I am used to the awful humid cold, now it is dry, and I love it! On the way to the supermarket we passed the fruit markets, and I waved at the ladies selling fruit. I love how gentle they are. How they know my grandma, how their plump little bodies fit carefully under the hand woven aprons, how they are missing a few teeth, and how they smile with their eyes.
I am off to eat tacos tonight.
All my love,
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
I have not spent Christmas and New Years abroad in many years, so this should be an unusual and splendid experience. What do people eat for Christmas in Mexico? Do they have trees? What are the traditions? Mince pies? Nope. Ginger bread houses, nope again. Piñatas, posadas, yes yes yes! These Posadas consist of a re-enactment of when St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary were seeking somewhere to rest their weary heads. Families arrange neighbourhood Posada's to be held at their home, starting on the 16th of December and finishing on the 24th on Christmas eve, or Noche Buena. I remember participating in these in Oslo, where I grew up, organized by the Mexican community. Of course, my favourite part was the piñata after the marching around and singing. I also remember being dressed as an angel, in a white night gown. Not only did it itch, but it hindered me in grabbing several sweets when the piñata finally broke open. I did, however, feel very pretty and delicate (when I look at the pictures, however, I wince as I looked rather chubby, an angelic chubby cherub really).
And so I leave London, and prepare for a new chapter in my travels. Please keep reading the blog. It shall commence on the 19th of November. Until then, enjoy London's Christmas festivities that have already started! Such as the beautiful ice skating rink outside of the Natural History Museum. Harrod's and Fortnum and Mason's Christmas lights, the tree coming from Oslo for Trafalgar Square, the amusement park and skating rink being set up in Hyde Park (I saw them setting it up, it will be fun!) The mince pies that are on offer at Marks and Spencer's (two boxes of six, for two pounds!! TWELVE for two pounds!) Make yummy treats, and enjoy some hot toddy, mulled wine, some cava amongst friends to celebrate the fast approaching New Year. Keep looking on www.vouchercodes.co.uk, they are promising amazing new deals. Indulge in work parties, and the general merriment that is brewing. Oh, and check timeout London to see when the lord Mayor's fireworks will be on! They are amazing!!
In pure English manner, I say "ta ta for now", until I greet you all again with a "Hola compadritos!" from a land far far away..
Warm kisses and hugs,