Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Husband Accepts Me

We went to Tequila (finally!) weekend before last with our awesome A-100/GDL friends K and D, plus another A-100 classmate who was visiting from Monterrey.   Tequila is only like a 45 minute drive from Guadalajara, so it was the perfect day trip.

Tequila is a nice little town that obviously has some wealth (aka. tourism money), and some really delicious and refreshing cantoritos.  Let's just say I think I found my new favorite alcoholic drink. 

I hope to post more about our trip - plus pictures, but I started this post in the first place because of a funny thing I just remembered, and I want to make sure to at least get that down. 

Music is a big part of life in our family.  And of course we usually all want to be listening to different stuff.  This makes road trips that much more interesting and fun!  Because we are often just too tired to fight, N and I end up deferring to the girls and what they want to hear.  Well, on the way to Tequila, Birdie had ruled the iPod for the first half of the trip.  She's got her own playlist on both of our iPods, and loves to be in charge.  Although some of her songs are songs that we all like, the majority tend to be dance-beat heavy and very up-to-the-moment songs that make us realize we are PARENTS from a different generation.  (This side of her music taste is influenced by Chema's "party bus" school car pool where teenager Stephen rules the music, and from kids her age in general.  Going along with music, our Birdie just LOVES to dance.)

Anyway, half an hour into the boom boom boom of Birdie's playlist, N had had enough. 

Birdie: "You mean "Dad.""

N fiddled with the iPod looking for a song.  I was prepared to hear some Dire Straights, or Nickel Creek, or maybe even some Paul Simon.  I like those too (at least NC and PS - N would laugh if he heard me saying I was a DS fan), but would honestly prefer some stuff that is more me.  But I don't really care.  See, in the whole music hiarchy of our family, it tends to be a battle between Birdie and N for top dog, with Deevie and Cubby vying for second place.  (Yes, Cubby has definite song wants as well.)  I usually just accept.  What a martyr, huh?

So N chose a song and adjusted the volume.  I just gazed out the window as Jalisco sped past, the distinct blue-green agave fields zipping by.  Suddenly the song that N chose came on.  It was Robert Pattinson singing "Never Think" from the Twilight soundtrack.  I snapped to attention and whirled around to look at N.  We both burst out laughing.  As if he'd really choose that! 

I know, I know.  Long, over-dramatized story for so little pay-off.  But man was it funny. To me.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mexican Root Canal

I had a root canal a few days ago.  As one friend on Facebook said, now I can honestly say "I'd rather be having a root canal" and really know what I'm comparing things to!

You too could have this much fun!

All in all, it wasn't really that bad.  Here are the highlights:

- My appointment was at 7pm.  Pretty typical for Mexico, where the doctors cater a lot more to patient schedules.  Plus there's the whole "siesta" thing they do for a few hours in the afternoon, where they go home for "comida" with the family.  But still.  Having to work until 9 or 10 pm just to make up for an afternoon break at home?  I think I'd prefer to get my work day done and over with in one fell swoop! But I certainly appreciate the doctor catering to my needs (i.e., the need to have N home from work to be with the kids).

- Speaking of N, when I pulled away from the house, looking back at him holding a screaming-for-Mommy Cubby, with the unbathed/unfed girls still running around in the dusty evening, he shouted that popular saying to me: "I'd rather be having a root canal!"  It was a funny thing to be left with as I drove away.

- I wasn't sure what was going to happen at said appointment, having discussed everything in Spanish with my regular dentist.  I just knew that a "specialist" was going to be at his office at 7pm.  Maybe we'd discuss the procedure?  Maybe he'd take measurements?  But no.  As soon as I arrived, the endodontist had me lie down in the chair while he began prepping the anisthesia.  Ack!  I had made tentative plans to meet up with some friends for a birthday restaurant celebration, and immediately texted my regrets as the drugs in my gums strated to take effect, wooziness taking over.  This was really going to happen!

- The first question I asked the endodontist, which is what I ask most people in Mexico, was: "Hablas ingles?"  He happily switched to English.  I probably would've been fine listening in Spanish (since it wasn't like I could say anything myself), but it was comforting to hear English while having such intrusive things done in my mouth. 

- The most painful parts of the root canal were the blast of air the endodontist shot on my tooth (to test sensitivity) before it all started, and then the three shots of anesthesia.  Man, those hurt!  It felt like they were being shot into my skull!

- I loved the endodontist.  Such a nice guy.  Now that you know I have no ill feelings towards him, here are some of the more amusing things he said, and the more amusing thoughts that went through my head.  Keep in mind that I could only respond with grunts!:

"I am sure before you came to Mexico you thought this was going to be a dusty village with mustached men drinking tequila on the side of wood buildings.  With sombreros.  Most Americans think that is Mexico.  Most Americans don't know anything about the world outside the United States."
(Me out loud: "Ungh-eh!" Me in my head: "Not at all!  I am not an idiot!  And most of the Americans I know are not idiots either!")

"I go to endodontist meetings all over the world, and everyone tells me that in Mexico we don't charge enough money, and that we work too hard.  You are very lucky to have this procedure in Guadalajara.  Dental care is excellent, and much cheaper than in the US.  And I see about 11 patients a day, and stop working at 10pm."
(Me out loud: "Uh!"  The cost for the root canal alone was 2,500 pesos - the exchange rate is about 13 pesos to US$1 right now.  That doesn't include the crown or the post or cleaning or other stuff that must accompany the root canal.  But from research I did, it is a good price even for this one procedure.)

Me out loud: "Aaah-UHH-AAAH!"  Me in my head: "I have so much saliva pooled in my mouth that I need to spit out NOW!!!"
Endodontist: "What?  Are you in pain?"
Me out loud: "AAAH-UHH-AAAH!" (Then I made a motion with my hand from my mouth down my neck.)
Endodontist: "You're thirsty?"
Me out loud: "UH-uh!"
Endodontist: "Your neck hurts?:
Me out loud: "UH-uh!  Ah-Uh-AAAH!" (again with the motion)
Endodontist: "Ah!  Saliva!!!"  (He got the suction thing that brought sweet relief.  Not being able to swallow must be a very effective form of torture.)

Endodontist: "So you are from the Philippines.  That Marcos and his wife Belinda were really something, huh?"
Me out loud: "Uh."  Me in my head: "You mean Imelda."
Endodontist: "I really would have loved to have seen all of Belinda's shoes."
Me out loud: "Uh."  Me in my head: "Imelda.  But yeah, I saw them when I was 12 when they were forced out of Manila."
Endodontist:  "Belinda doesn't sound right..."
Me out loud: "Uh-uh! Eee-aahh-ah!"
Endodontist: "What?"
Me out loud: "Eee-AAH-AH!"  (Finally I used my right finger to write on my left palm.  He spelled it out and got it.  Ah, little victories.)

Imelda Marcos with her shoes
Belinda is Mad About SHOOOOEEEE!
- I made the mistake of looking at one of the tools that was being used.  It must've been 3 inches long.  Three inches of pointy, shiney metal -- stuff you see in your nightmares.  Just thinking about it makes me shiver.

- In those late hours, it was only me and the endodontist in that office.  No assistant.  It felt weird, and my inner monologue asked myself what I'd do if he tried anything...weird.  At the point when this train of thought crossed my mind, I was pretty uncomfortable having had my mouth stretched open for 2 hours, my neck in the same tensed position, etc, that I probably would've been happy for a good reason to change things up. 

As I said, overall it was a positive experience.  I still have to get the crown on, but I don't feel any pain in my tooth.  It's still sort of senstitive, but in that good, scratching-an-itch sort of sensitive way. 

In summary: Dental work in Guadlajara, Mexico - I highly recommend it!
Mss Universe 2010: Jimena Navarrete, from Guadalajara.  Check out her choppers!


I don't like being alone on a beach.  There is a huge difference between "not too crowded" and "deserted."  Maybe it's cause I have immense respect for the ocean.  It sort of terrifies me to look out at the waves, coming, coming, coming, coming.  Once I took a personality quiz and I had to say the first color that came to my mind after I heard a word.  They said "ocean" and I said "black."  This fear....er, I mean, RESPECT, has only grown with age.  I used to love frolicking around in the surf as a young un in the Philippines.  Last week in Manzanillo, I was body surfing in the last 4 inches of waves as they finally gave up on the beach.  I thought Birdie and Deevie were telling me how awesome I was from the shore, but when I gave them a big thumbs up, N said, "You totally didn't hear them, did you?  They're saying you have to go a lot further out to catch better waves."  Thanks, guys, but I'm doin' just fine!

I'm terrible at showing people how much they mean to me.  I don't give birthday gifts.  Or cards.  And don't often call anyone.  My little sister is pregnant, for the love, and I've only talked to her once.  I have big ambitions on sending things from Mexico to family, or sending cards for no reason at all (since I miss all big events anyway), but...nothing.  Do I lack motivation?  NO!  I have tons of motivation!  I have about 54 started projects.  I am just awful at follow-through.  I've always been this way of course, but now that I'm at home - with help - you'd think I'd be better.  It's even so frustrating to write this and have it in writing.  But it's the truth, and it makes me sick.

Living abroad is still just living.  As Gus McCrae said to Lorie Wood (who believed everything would be better in California):
"Lorie darlin', life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life.  If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment.  The only healthy way to live is to learn to like all the little everyday things..." (Lonesome Dove)
Friends and family back home have told us how brave and cool it is to be doing what we're doing, but I honestly think what they're doing is just as cool.   And aren't we all brave for getting through every day?  I don't mean to disparage travel or living outside your home country in the slightest, because yes, it is amazing to experience new things that help you understand yourself and your home on a deeper level by giving you a means of comparison.  But anyone can do that wherever they are, just by stretching their routine and traveling to another city or town, near or far.  I remember when N and I went to New York City for a weekend once, and trying to buy train tickets in the big, bad station was nerve-wracking and strange.  Certainly stranger than our routine existence in Northern Virginia!  We jumped whenever someone spoke to us because we were that out of our element.  We swore then and there that we needed to keep challenging ourselves because we were obviously sort of stuck in our ways to a degree we hadn't even been aware of.  But even with all that, I agree with ol' Gus.  The only healthy way to live is to learn to like all the little everyday things.  And if that means enjoying the everyday things while you're on a traveling adventure, so be it.

Another one of my favorite quotes by Paul Theroux:
"Travel is only glamorous in retrospect." 
While you're "in it", you're just trying to get through it (i.e., changing a big, messy poopie diaper without wipes at a 2,000 year old Mexican dirt pyramid) and appreciate the little things (the kids chasing bubbles and birds in the shadow of the Zapopan Basilica).  But maybe this is just me!

I sometimes worry that I am a worse parent to Cubby than I was to Birdie and Deevie at this age.  I mean, I'm at HOME with him - which is more than I can say for the Narra of yore and our daughters of yore.  So that just means there's more time in each day to screw up!  I honestly feel that way a lot of the time.  Cubby watches a ton more TV (soothing kid programs like Max & Ruby, or Little Bear...but still) than B+D.  He eats all sorts of things that they didn't - like candy!  Good gracious.  Birdie didn't even know what a gummy bear was until she was at least three.  I've even given Cubby gum - that he quickly swallows.  How can I avoid it when his sisters are asking for G-U-M all day long (yes, they spell it out, but Cubby ain't no dummy.  We're going to see how long calling it "chicle" fools him).   He is such a sweet little demanding boy, and I hope I'm not leaving any permanent scars on him.

I can feel a thousand different emotions about anything in one given day.  And that goes for life in Guadalajara.  Or the beach even.  (Aaaah, those palm trees swaying in the breeze were heavenly, weren't they?)  I think I've always been all over the board with my emotions, but being here in Mexico (or maybe "away from home" is more like it), I'm so much more aware of the fluctuation.

N and I watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and have thoroughly enjoyed being transported to that time and that world.  I'm sure we would've felt the same had we been watching this in our basement in Annandale.  Again going back to good quotes, something Lord Grantham said in season two stuck with me.  A maid asks him if he will be happy.  His reply:
"I have no right to be unhappy, which is almost the same."
That is totally, on the nose, how I feel a lot of the time.   The maid's response of "Almost.  Not quite." is so on point as well.  I am so damn (swearing for emphasis) appreciative of what we are doing - for the FS, for Nick's ability to pass all the crazy hurdles to get us here, for Mexico, for our housekeepers, for our happy, healthy children.  I have absolutely NO right to be unhappy!!!  I am acutely aware of this!!!  And yet I still have moments of nagging sadness, loneliness, what have you.  (Not right now though!  I am loving everything about everything!  I think Cubby has a poopie diaper, in fact, and I LOVE it!  Check back with me in 10 minutes though...)  This is all normal though, and that too, I know.  It's just fun to write about honest and obvious stuff sometimes. :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Cubby and I tagged along with our favorite group of exploring Americans (so far we've hit the Abastos produce market - which was fantastic) to check out the Guadalajara Flower Market.

It too was fantastic.

We came home with 6 long-stem calla lilies and 6 gorgeous sunflowers.
All 12 flowers cost...around US$5.

I may become a fresh flower fanatic yet!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Good Things

There are so many good things about our life in Guadalajara. I could never capture it all. And what I consider a "good thing" often depends on the day, the hour, the moment.

So, for this moment...

A pretty awesome zoológico and parks in general. Seriously. And with great weather year-round, we need to go more often.

The sweetest, cutest, most delicious little bananas. I'm not sure what they're actually called (Apple Bananas?), but man they are good. (Esme just told me they are called "Dominicos." So there you go.)

Perfect and very abundant avocados (aguacates - there is nothing like a fresh, Mexican aguacate!), homemade multi-grano yogurt (filled with flax seeds, sunflower seeds and other grains), and fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice. All of these were bought from a little store that is a 5 minute walk from our house.

GUAVAS!! I seriously am in love with guavas and how they are always available. (Above is a picture of some getting ready for their 15 minute bath in filtered water and iodine sanitizer.) Any time I want to eat something sweet, like candy or ice cream, when I see these it's like my brain switches course and only wants guavas. Cubby and Deevie love them too, but not as much as me. I love to eat them like the Mexicans do - with lime, salt and chile.

Making bagged-lunches for the girls every day. (This is a total "moment" thing, because often I find this to be a big pain in the butt since it's all tied up in the morning stress to get out of the house. As I sit here blogging while Cubby naps and the warm Guadalajara breeze blows through the window? Making lunch is AWESOME.) Overall, I know it's such a blessing to be able to do this. Or I should say to be forced to do this - because sure, I certainly could have made lunches for the girls every day in the States if I didn't have the easy option of school lunch. In Virginia the girls bought school lunch, and celebrated pizza Friday, potato-faces Tuesday, and chocolate milk. All good ol' American treats :). Here, I take the time to make sandwiches, cut up vegetables (like red pepper hearts for Valentines Day - believe me, that was a one-time event), and always include fresh fruit. I am in a total bagged lunch rut though. New ideas are always welcome - as long as they take 7.5 minutes of prep.
Being with Cub all day (and his constant need to draw "tick tocks"), and yet also having the option to go out if I want to (thanks to housekeepers/nannies we can still afford to hire even on one salary), is still something I pinch myself about. No, it's not all bon-bons (just ask N how passive-agressive I am when he gets home from work!!), but the FS has certainly been a quality of life improvement for our family. And Cubby, my day-time partner, is amazing. He is such a funny and fun little boy, who is so full of personality and Cubbiness. Today, while I was at my Spanish class, nanny Esme taught him to say "Bien" when asked "¿Cómo estas?" It is the cutest little "Bien" you can imagine. So the whole Spanish thing is a blessing too. The kids may not remember any Spanish if we don't use it after GDL, but the exposure still expands their language world, and that is pretty cool. Just the other day Birdie had an excited realization. "Hey!" she said, "the word "library" probably has something to do with "libro"!" I myself realized this at the age of 37, when my 7 year-old daughter pointed it out...just the other day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Spanish

K and I had a fun Spanish class this morning. ¡Que chistoso! Is that even right? Anyway, we are both thoroughly confused by reflexive verbs. Bañarse. Arreglarse. Whatever-se. K thought "Dumbo" in a practice sentence was a Spanish word she didn't know (instead of the Disney elephant). Pronounced "Doom-boh", it kept making us laugh. At one point K said this: "Dumbo es un verbo reflexivo." It was kinda a you-had-to-be-there moment, but man how it made me laugh.

Cubby, now 17 months old, says two Spanish words consistently: "Agua" (water) and "listo" (ready). Even when you ask him if he wants his water in English, he'll nod and say "Agua." Or when you ask him if he's ready to eat, he'll say "Listo." (It comes out more like "deeh-doh," so it pretty much breaks your heart from cuteness.) The other day he picked up the lid to Chutes and Ladders and put it on his head, then began calling out "Paaan! Paaaan!" with a very self-satisfied, smiling face. I was very confused. Our housekeeper/nanny Evah laughed and explained that she had taught him that because there is a man who sells bread ("pan") in her neighborhood, balancing his whole lot on a board on his head. Cubby is our own little Mexican pan salesman.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I just got back from Spanish. I love my Spanish tutor! Her name is Gaby, and she is the greatest. Today we (I do the twice-weekly sessions with K, wife of N's A-100 classmate) reviewed imperfect and preterite verb tenses. I really enjoy the challenge of learning language, and especially like trying to talk like I do in English in a new language. Today K said a woman had "verduras" eyes, instead of "verde" (green). Gaby stopped her and said that "verduras" means "vegetables" - oh how we laughed. K was like, "Well that's what I was trying to say - her eyes are vegetables to me." I told them about how I tried to order "buses" on my salad a few weeks ago. I kept asking for "camiones" for my salad and the waitress just looked at me very confused. Finally I said the word "seafood" (mariscos) and she said, "Aaaah! Camarones!"

Camarones = Shrimp
Camiones = Buses
(Camiones = Buses in Mexico at least. It means "trucks" in the rest of Latin America, just to keep me guessing. I figured this out when Esme (our MWF housekeeper) told me she rode the "camion" to our house. I imagined her riding in the back of a packed pick-up truck and told her I didn't think that was safe. Joke's on Señora Gringa!).

This is a picture of the room moms from Birdie's class. This was actually at her class "posada" in December. When I tried to order transportation on my entré, I was at the January "convivencia" with this same crowd of lovely, patient women. (A "convivencia" is another get-together of some sort, the exact definition of which continues to elude me. We've got desayunos (breakfasts), almuerzos (lunches), posadas, fiestas, siestas, and now convivencias.
So far they all seem pretty similar, mas o menos a piñata.)

Speaking of Spanish, we just had SKY satellite installed day before yesterday. So now after 6 months of watching DVDs and streaming Netflix, we can watch Mexican TV! We're not sure if the expense is worth it, but it'll be nice to have options -- and to be able to watch TV in Spanish. Just yesterday for the girls' TV time I turned on Nick Jr and "Ni Hao Kailan" was on...in Spanish. I stupidly fiddled with the remote trying to change it to English, but the girls yelled at me to stop interrupting the show with pop-up boxes. So I left it like it was, and the girls just watched in their normal vegetative state. TV is TV, even in a different language :). But soon Birdie was asking Deevie if she understood and totally began translating. Holy Cow. It's amazing to me to see them soak this stuff up without even trying. For example, Birdie was telling our housekeeper Evah that she had made a card that Evah was looking at. "Yo hice esto," Birdie said. I almost died. That's the preterite tense! I JUST LEARNED THAT!


Yes, we're still alive and well. Just not documenting very well. Christmas! N's parents' and brother's visit! Goodness.

For now, here is a picture I took yesterday of Birdie and Deevie waiting for their ride to school. They say one of the biggest advantages of FS life is sibling closeness -- since no other person in the world understands better what you're going through. I like to think about that.

I especially like to think about it when they're fighting like gatos y perros. :)