Yet again it has been a ridiculously long time since my last post, so be prepared for a long and very much food orientated read! I’ve done lots of fun and exciting things since last writing and I’m feeling at lot more at home here in Mexico. I’m going to try and work through it all in some kind of chronological order…
A few weekends ago Helen and I met up with some friends from the uni here in Toluca to eat pozole, which is one of the nicest things I’ve tried yet. It’s a kind of chicken soup but with sweetcorn and other things and it’s delicious! As per usual the afternoon drinking commenced shortly afterwards; rum at 3pm is just wrong. Then later in the evening, in a strange drunken/hungover/tired state we went to Metepec for the Noche de Estrellas and spent a good three hours sitting on the floor constructing Chinese lanterns out of tissue paper. The only downside was that we were right next to the biggest speaker in the world, so soon became very well acquainted with pre-Hispanic music, aka. bleeding ears.
Two weeks ago we met up with some of the other soton people to spend the long weekend (we had Monday off ahhhh) in Cuernavaca with Charissa’s host brother and friends. Despite only being an hour or so away from DF it was like being in another country temperature-wise. The house we stayed in had a swimming pool, so we spent most of the day (bearing in mind this is November) lounging around by the pool. It was a really lovely relaxing weekend where rather too much tequila was consumed, especially by myself. But when in Mexico… That weekend I also made the exciting discovery that cheese string cheese exists in Mexico (but it’s actually a lot nicer and called ‘Queso Qaxaca’) and so proceeded to eat ridiculous quantities of it.
So last weekend I went to stay in Zitácuaro, Michoacán with a friend from the languages faculty and her family. The general theme of this weekend was everyone’s surprise at how young I am – hence the title – a reaction with which I was greeted upon being introduced to most people. In Mexico people tend to live with their parents until they get married, so my being here on my own at 20 doesn’t really make sense to them, which is fair enough I suppose!
We did lots sightseeing and other fun things over the weekend, including climbing a huge hill to get a view of the whole city, which is actually considerably smaller than Toluca (see picture). While we were there it was the Feria Estadal de la Guayaba, which is all about the guayaba fruit (in case you didn’t get that) so there were lots of stalls selling sweets, icecreams and other things made out of guayabas. As this is an important cultural celebration there was lots going on and I was able to see many traditional dances such as the Danza de los Viejitos, in which a group of several men in traditional costumes wear masks and wigs and dance with walking sticks to represent the elderly. Sounds kind of weird but it was actually pretty funny (don’t worry, it’s supposed to be funny). We also went to a fair, which was pretty lols considering I’m terrified of fairground rides and so haven’t been to one since I was about 12, in spite of this it was surprisingly good fun! I managed to join the ranks of minion obsessed Mexicans by winning my very own minion on one of the stalls. I also saw several stalls where, instead of winning a goldfish as you would in England, it was possible to win a rabbit. Literally a RABBIT. For the equivalent of 9p!! I refrained from having a go, but it was most definitely the highlight of my night. Continuing with the rabbit theme, yesterday at the university I saw someone walking their rabbit ON A LEAD. Brilliant.
I tried A LOT of new food in Zitácuaro, some of which was pretty ‘interesting.’ Here is a little summary of some of the weirder things… On the first night we ate sopes, which are (like most things) something to do with a tortilla. After trying a rather strange soup/chickpea thing with unidentified parts of pig in El Puerto de Santa Maria I was rather distraught at discovering this same ‘meat’ on top of my sope. Turns out it’s pig skin, which sounds a whole lot more apetising that it actually is. I also tried something called ‘atole’ which is a kind of warm drink, but made (somehow) of sweetcorn. I’ve realised that here in Mexico they like to put sweetcorn in EVERYTHING – even cake!
More food… Tamales are another typical Mexican dish, also normally made of sweetcorn (I wasn’t lying…) they’re essentially a dough made of mushed up sweetcorn which is cooked in the sweetcorn leaf or skin with other things, like chilli and cheese – also really nice! Zitácuaro is known for it’s tamales de leche, which as well as sweetcorn, contain milk and cinnamon. One of the weirder things I tried that weekend were ‘chemos’ or ‘gazpacho Michoacán’ which unfortunately has absolutely nothing to do with Spanish gazpacho. It is essentially a drink with lots of fruit (mine was watermelon) and orange juice, but then they also add chopped onions, vinegar, grated cheese and chilli (obvs).
Another interesting thing about Zitácuaro was the buses. In Toluca the buses are pretty much the same as in the UK, apart from a little more rustic, however Zitácuaro only has tiny minibuses called ‘combis’ into which you can happily squeeze about 10 people!
I’ve decided that I’m going to be more Mexican and buy things at the market close to where Helen and I live instead of Walmart. This has consequently turned buying fruit and veg into quite a mission, although a considerably cheaper one! Basically, if you want to be called ‘guerrita’ (‘whitey’ although not racistly) and constantly hassled to buy things you don’t want, then go to the market. Going alone is usually terrifying, although on the bright side the other day I bought 4 avocados (my new favourite thing ever) for the bargain price of 30p!! Mental.
Here are some things I just don’t understand: scales in Mexico go BACKWARDS, the other day I bought what I thought was a simple and unassuming chicken sandwich (how wrong was I…) which turned out to be filled with chilli, the bus drivers here lie to me (well one of them, and not actually the driver but the randomer that sits next to them to collect your money) meaning that instead of going down my road (as I was told it would) the bus stopped about 15 mins before so I had to walk the rest in the dark. Great. There are also lots of random jobs (like the bus money collector) that just don’t exist in the UK, for example there are always people to bag your shopping and fill your car at fuel stations. I’m still don’t fully understand the tú/usted division and have no idea who I should be tú-ing and who I should be usted-ing, as most people here seem to just use tú. Similarly, despite having had it explained various times I’m still baffled by the distinction between ‘estuvo’ and ‘fue.’ Also advent calenders don’t exist here and the Mexican postal service is the most inefficient thing in the world. Rant over.
On a brighter note, as the students finish uni at the end of November Ellie (the other English assistant) and I decided to do our presentation this week about Christmas . So to give them a taste of a proper British Christmas we made mince pies, which actually turned out a lot better than I was expecting considering it was the first time I’d made pastry and that I rolled it out using a bottle of balsamic vinegar… The students actually seemed to really enjoy them, although I have now rather tragically exhausted my supply of mincemeat!
Hasta la próxima! 🙂