San Miguel de Allende

Ahh, the beautiful San Miguel de Allende: classic cobblestone streets (that, admittedly, start to lose their charm after jostling us around in a taxi for 20 minutes), bright colors, great views, a well-preserved downtown, and the famous wedding-cake church.

With absolutely zero ulterior motive, I wholly unselfishly planned a two-day trip for D’s birthday to this lovely colonial town. I chose Case Naré as our base, and we ended up with the Pasión room. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it minimalist, the room was sparsely decorated, in a very good way.

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I cannot begin to convey how cool the vaulted brick ceilings were. Unfortunately, neither could my camera. And it wasn’t just the ceilings; the choice of furnishings, especially light fixtures, was on point.

After settling in, we headed to what is colloquially known as Bellas Artes but is technically the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante.” It’s been an important workshop and learning space for creative types for many years. Apparently it enjoyed a surge in popularity when a number of American World War II veterans decided to use their GI bill to study art. Famous Mexican painter Siquieros had a large presence here as a teacher.

Before I get ahead of myself, I mustn’t forget to talk about our barbacoa stop outside of Querétaro en route to our destination. The place was already chock-full of people by 9:00 am, which was explained by its convenient location and delicious food.

On many occasions, I’ve used the word “animal-ish” to describe certain foods that taste gamey or smell like a petting zoo (looking at you, menudo). Barbacoa doesn’t quite cross that line, but it certainly toes it.

Returning to our afternoon in San Miguel: We were so full from breakfast that I had to scratch churros con chocolate and ceviche off the agenda, with a heavy heart. We did, however, explore the (very busy) downtown. The main highlight was the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. In person, it looks much more pink!

We then had drinks at La Azotea, a rooftop bar recommended by my sister-in-law and the innkeeper at Casa Naré.

At that point, we found out that one of D’s friends and his family were in town and met up with them at the most perfect little stoneware/ceramics shop, Trinitate. I bought two little planters with the intention of expanding my collection of succulents.

The family then generously invited us to dinner at their home outside of the city, where we feasted like kings and queens: red wine, San Miguel de Allende beer, ribs, steak, ceviche, aguachile, the most perfect flour tortillas, two types of desserts, plus coffee.

After a fun evening, day two rolled around but got cut short due to the onset of food poisoning that likely came from the salad I’d had two days prior in Mexico City. Maybe it’s a sign that I should stop eating healthy and continue to stuff my face with more sopeshuaraches and tortas?

Wonder Woman at MUMEDI

The fabulous Museo Mexicano del Diseño (MUMEDI) surpassed my expectations today. It is currently dedicated 100% to Wonder Woman!

Here’s what I mean: through August, they’re hosting an exhibit called “Mujer Maravilla y el Poder de la Creatividad” or “Wonder Woman and the Power of Creativity.” Dozens of Mexican artists created brazaletes inspired by Wonder Woman’s cuffs to represent the strength of women. The proceeds of the sales from the bracelets, some of which are actually wearable, go toward an organization called Epic Queen that is dedicated to empowering Mexican women and girls. Their focus is empowerment through technology education, particularly coding.

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The entrance. Faux-liage is very chic here.

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They even give out temporary tattoos along with your ticket purchase!

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Which one is your favorite?

And now for the brazaletes:

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The ones on the right represents both strength (metal) and fragility (glass).

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Two of the coolest concepts. Right: inspired by corsets, which the artist points out were used as a means of oppression. The silvery one is looser to represent liberation. And the set on the left are meant to resemble the aesthetic of Madonna, the fabulous pop icon who changed the world.

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Way more impressive in person

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The second set from the right are made of zippers!

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Art Nouveau WW!

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Christmas gift for me?

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A little love for Antiope

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According to our tour guide, Adrián, the building was constructed on the foundation of one of Hernán Cortés’s palaces, partially with stones from an Aztec pyramid. Obviously an atrocious decision on the part of the conquistador but cool to see, nonetheless.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon. Thank you, Wonder Woman and MUMEDI!

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❤ ❤ ❤

“Up north” and other Michigan delights

I swear, the following post is not sponsored by the Pure Michigan folks, but it might as well be. Over the 4th of July, D and I enjoyed a quintessential summer vacation in Michigan.

This was my first trip back to the Mitten since the big move in November and D’s first trip back since wedding #1 in September. I’d forgotten how wonderful (and humid) my home state is this time of year. There’s something magical about kicking back and relaxing “up north”– the boundary of which is typically understood to be Mt. Pleasant– with family and friends.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Michigan is a fascinating place in terms of language. Years ago, a sociolinguistic study was done on the Midwestern pronunciation of the vowel in words like top and shop, with the goal of figuring out how outsiders (in this case, Canadian speakers of English) perceived it. The researchers found that these Canadians perceived the vowel to be the same as the vowel in words like tap…  even though it’s written with an A. That’s how nasal-y our accent is. In fact, the very Midwestern word pop, when spoken by someone from the region, is often transcribed phonetically using the exact same symbol (ɑ) as the “ah” sound in the stereotypical Boston accent (you know, like, pahk the cah in the Hahvahd yahd). If you’d like to learn more, search Northern Cities Vowel Shift– one of my favorite topics in sociolinguistics.

During our visit, we squeezed in as much as we could, including a trip to the very dreamy Mackinac Island, which feels like it’s frozen in time. (You may have seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, which takes place on the island.)

Without further ado, here are a handful (okay, 16) photos of our adventures!

First, we have pictures from Canada Creek Ranch, where our family cabin is located:

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Peaceful Lake Geneva at sunset

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Successful fishermen!

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Some more successful fishermen, back in 1997 (?)

I should mention that this was D’s first time fishing, ever! From what I hear, he was superb.

Next up, we’ve got two snapshots from our trip to the Upper Peninsula:

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The ONLY pasties you should ever eat. A pasty (pronounced pas-tee, not pay-stee) is essentially a bigger, more rectangular, and way more delicious empanada.

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Cross in the Woods, a famous shrine in northern Michigan

Finally, I present photographic evidence of our trip to Mackinac Island! For reference, Mackinac (with a C, unlike the Mackinaw City with a W) comes from a very long Ojibwe word meaning “big turtle.” Naturally, the British shortened it for ease of communication, and the French chose to spell it with a C on the end.

Some fun facts about Mackinac:

  • No cars are allowed. Bikes and horse-drawn carriages are popular forms of transportation, though the latter come with some foul-smelling side effects.
  • It was an important fur-trading site for the French.
  • The British built a fort on the island in an attempt to control the Great Lakes region during the Revolutionary War. The stubborn Redcoats held onto the fort for over a decade after we gained our independence.
  • Its Grand Hotel supposedly has the longest front porch in the world (which now costs $10 just to step foot on for a picture).
  • Each year, the island hosts the Lilac Festival.
  • The year-round population is very small– about 500 residents– compared to the summertime population.
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VERY excited to be on the ferry

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Te amooo

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Arch Rock, a natural limestone formation

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My fave

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Better than the Caribbean any day

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Little did Greg know, he would end up with an atrocious sunburn that evening

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The fancy Grand Hotel

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Sunset along the docks

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Classic L & D shoe pictures

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Representing Michigan State AND ‘Merica

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Looking back from the ferry

It seemed weird to include pictures of us at the shooting range, but we did that too! D is apparently an excellent marksman, and I’m not as bad as expected. Uncle Seth was a very patient and wise teacher.

Other highlights of our vacation include hanging out with our very cool cousins from California (and MI, of course!), visiting and swimming in Ocqueoc Falls, Beach Bash activities, and general shenanigans.

 

It’s official…

… I am now a (temporary) resident of Mexico! After months of silly paperwork, I finally got my resident card and a CURP, which is an important ID number here, similar to the SSN in the States. I can now open a bank account and apply for work permission. A huge shout-out and thank-you to D is in order for all of his help, patience, and willingness to bring me my passport despite terrible traffic ❤

More news: I am partially employed! For about a week, I’ve been doing transcription part-time for a company based out of Boston. It involves watching or listening to files (video or audio, respectively) and making sure the transcript matches up with the spoken words. It’s the perfect word-nerd job! Challenging, but do-able. I put my punctuation know-how to the test every day, and I get to choose the projects I work on, which means a) it’s flexible, and b) I’m not stuck with boring topics. So far, I’ve done jobs with a range of topics like finance, education, medical stuff, and news.

And in other news: D and I booked a gorgeous Airbnb in Boston for our New England trip in May! It’s two blocks from a TJ Maxx, and I don’t have to explain that that is VERY exciting. More importantly, though, we’ll also head up to Maine for my graduation and for a long-awaited reunion with my friends (and family– my parents are coming too!). Plus, Tandem Coffee. And Becky’s Diner (nothin’ finah!). And Target. And… I should probably be more realistic with this list, as we only have 4 days in Portland.

Oh! And I cut my hair. It was a typical exchange with the stylist: I’d like this much (miming about 3 inches) cut off. She says okay. Then 6 inches fall to the floor. That being said, I’m very happy with the new ‘do. Prior to the chop, my hair was so long that pieces sometimes got stuck in the waistband of my (high-waisted) jeans… but the ends were crispy. Change is good.

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And finally, D is kicking butt at Cisco. I love listening to him talk on the phone with clients– he explains things so well and is quite the businessman. He also joined a soccer team! This week he bought some pretty swanky cleats.

Okay, this is the last thing, I swear. Happy 23rd birthday to my brother! Feliz cumple, wey.

Mexicanismos + linguistic peculiarities

Though every country/culture/language has its own slang, I am inclined to believe that Mexico is home to the best. I’m obviously not biased.

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As many others have written similar lists, I’ll try to use only unique phrases I hadn’t seen or heard before meeting D or moving here, as well as ones that have become particularly interesting to me.

The list*:

¡Qué padre! / ¡Qué chido!

Cool! Wow! That’s great! In Maine, I once said qué chido to a student from Mexico and he reacted very oddly, saying that it’s not something girls say. I’ve asked around and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Sociolinguistics research topic?

[Update from a friend: chido isn’t rude, but it’s not a word that “good girls” would use. Mystery partially solved!]

¡Ándale! (usually pronounced aaaaandale)

To indicate agreement or understanding. Another way of saying “ahh, okay, yes, I know what you mean.” Not only reserved for Speedy Gonzales.

¿Eu?

Huh? What? Sorry? My new favorite. I picked it up from D’s sister. Haven’t had the courage to try it yet, though. I imagine that if Emma Watson spoke Spanish, she would use this interjection. It just sounds like her.

Unusual usage of gustar

Everyone knows me gusta, right? We learn it in terms of something else being pleasing to us, like: a ella le gusta bailar (interpreted as “she likes to dance,” but literally, “to dance pleases her”). Here, especially when it comes to restaurants or people offering you food or a sample of something, you may hear the server ask “¿Gustan?” as in, want some? The verb is conjugated to match the person/people (-an ending) instead of the thing/activity (-a ending), as is custom.

An important distinction

Un chupón is a baby’s pacifier, whereas un chupetón is a hickey. Yet another word I avoid for fear of messing up by mistake (Freudian slip?). Mierda (shit) vs. miedo (fear) is another accident waiting to happen.

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On a related note: how to make baby talk

It’s a simple formula (hah!): Rs – and sometimes Ds – become Ls, S/soft C becomes CH. So cerebro (brain) becomes cheleblo. Highly effective when teasing.

La miel

To be la miel literally, “honey” – means to be great or excellent or super nice: la nueva cafeteria de Brody es la miel (the new Brody cafeteria is great).

[Update: may be a misinterpretation on my part. Stay tuned. May potentially mean “sweet” in the way US Americans use it. NEW UPDATE: I’ve determined that this bit of slang was probably invented by D’s friends. We’re doing our best to help it catch on here in CDMX!]

Michelada

Basically the equivalent of a Mexican Bloody Mary, except with beer instead of vodka. The glass is usually rimmed with salt, powdered chile, and/or tamarind. The best part? They often give you the beer bottle (sometimes a 40!) to finish.

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Text-speak and a play-on-words for cuéntame, which means both “tell me” and “count.”

Business terminology

Spaniards will create a new word for one that doesn’t already exist; Mexicans, on the other hand, might simply use the English word. It’s common to hear godínez (stereotypical office dudes, slightly derogatory, all in good fun) inject a term like “venture capital” or “needs assessment” into a Spanish sentence. Never ceases to make me laugh! [A godínez, which was originally a surname, might also say “ombligo de la semana” (navel/belly button of the week) to describe Wednesday, or Hump Day.]

Speaking of godínez… la quincena

The quincena is sacred here. It’s your twice-monthly payday, hence the prefix quince- (15), that gives you license to spend a ton of money… or perhaps allows you to pay your bills. Lines at banks and ATMs seem to stretch for miles.

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Cue N*SYNC’s “Just Got Paid”

Gracias

A way to turn something down politely and allow the requester to save face. Most US English speakers would say “no, thanks/thank you,” while a speaker of Mexican Spanish might simply say “gracias” (sans “no”) with a sympathetic tone. Very useful when a cute little girl tries to sell you candy or trinkets. Related to pa(ra) la otra, or “maybe next time.”

Güera: my daily reality

A softer term than gringo, it depicts someone who is fair-skinned and light-ish haired (and not necessarily from the US). The diminutive, güerita, is a favorite among catcallers.

On a related note, lots of nicknames and descriptors in Latin American culture are based on physical or racial descriptions that might seem mean or rude to an outsider. Calling someone gordit@ (the equivalent might be “fatty”) happens often, as does the opposite, flaquit@. Morenito (roughly, brownie?), describing someone’s skin color, is not (perceived to be) as racially loaded as you might think.

¿A poco?

No way! Really? Seriously? A fresa (preppy or, occasionally, snobbish/stuck-up person) would probably pronounce this “¿a pooocoooo?” to express incredulity. It’s fun to mix it up from the usual en serio (seriously) or de veras (truthfully).

Bluff

Just for show. My mother-in-law, who reads and understands English almost flawlessly but is sometimes hesitant to speak it, threw this one at me last week. Clearly borrowed from English, she used it in the context of a friend who has a piano at her house but doesn’t actually know how to play.

Pirata

Fake/cheap/imitation/not genuine. Usually said with disdain. I LOVE this word. You could use pirata to describe something that’s ripped off or faked, like a logo – anything that’s not the real McCoy.

Nice

Used the same way you would in English to describe something fancy or lovely (but not necessarily someone who is kind).

¿Cómo ves? [added 3/25/17]

How about it? What do you think? Used to solicit feedback after you’ve proposed an idea or opinion. Yo pasaré por ti a las 8, ¿cómo ves? (I’ll pick you up at 8, what do you think/sound good?)

*Disclaimer: this list is based on my experience and understanding, plus some input from Spanish speakers. My translations may not be perfect. Yet.

An Ash Wednesday stroll

It occurred to me to bring along a proper camera during my walk to the gorgeous Santísimo Redentor (Holy Redeemer) church to receive ashes for Ash Wednesday, the opening of Lent.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

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Front of the church (that TILE) + altar + little stand for ashes

 

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Back of the church

 

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Stained glass kills me

 

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Perfectly purple jacaranda trees line many of Mexico City’s streets

 

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Can I live here?

 

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The building kitty-corner from us, with the best paint job!

 

Recent Netflix binges

My current (un)employment status affords me more free time than I know what to do with. In an attempt to fill my time, I have turned to Netflix.

Mexican Netflix is the holy grail. Seriously. I tell anyone and everyone.

Besides The Wonder Years, I’ve been able to find just about any TV show or movie my heart desires. (Sometimes only the first season is available, but that’s not the point!)

The following are my 10-out-of-10-would-recommend shows:

  • Outlander: Sing me a song of a lass that is gone… so. obsessed. Thank you to Laura T. for introducing me; my life will never be the same. Jamie + Claire 4ever.
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Dreaming of the Scottish Highlands (photo credit: Flickr)

  • Stranger Things: finished it in four days. Fantastic cast of young actors. Not as scary as anticipated. Super badass, especially Steve’s batting skills and Hopper at all times.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been around for awhile but the lack of Andy Samberg in my life led me to this gem. So, so funny, to the point where I actually laugh out loud. Basically The Office but at a police station. Amy Santiago is my spirit animal.
  • The Crown: historical dramas are my thing. Well-acted, suspenseful (despite being based on true events), beautiful costuming.
  • Call the Midwife: I love Chummy! A great show to pop on whilst doing other things.

Tried getting into but couldn’t:

  • The Tudors: something must be wrong with me, I know, everyone loves it… Henry Cavill is the only reason I would continue watching.
  • Black Sails (even though the guy who did the music also did Outlander’s… and Battlestar Galactica’s… and The Walking Dead’s… and Agents of SHIELD’s.)

A visit to Frida Kahlo’s house: Casa Azul

A few weeks back, David’s cousins and I visited the Museo Frida Kahlo, known as the Casa Azul, in Coyoacán, one of my favorite parts of the city. I was impressed by how much of the house visitors are allowed to explore and get right up close to, like Frida’s studio. (Sadly, as I was too cheap to pay for a photo pass, I only have pictures of the courtyard and exterior.) We also got to check out a fabulous exhibit on her clothing– the long, colorful dresses she’s famous for, which she started wearing because she had uneven legs, having contracted polio as a child.

Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera, the famous muralist, shared this home– more of a compound, really– from the late ’20s through the mid-’50s, until Frida’s death. Their saga is interesting and tempestuous and weird and full of interesting characters like Leon Trotsky and Georgia O’Keeffe.

An ode to Sonora

After Christmas, David’s family and I visited the state of Sonora, in the northwest part of the country. The capital is Hermosillo, which is 3-ish hours from the Arizona border near Tucson. All but one of the photos below were taken in San Carlos, a gorgeous beach town on the Sea of Cortez (where I ate that amazing ceviche, mentioned in this post).

And don’t worry, the wall you see is just a mural in a food-truck park!