24 September 2015

I hate it when daily life keeps me from doing anything I want to blog about.

I at least am having fun cooking.  There may not be any decent Latino groceries around, but the local apples and peaches are lovely along with a good Asian grocery.  And the library and I are getting along just fine. Also, fall.  Thank you, fall.

It's also nice to be in a place with reasonable for the US public transportation, even if I did spend all day yesterday going to and from the orthodontist.  But I was irritated that I was spending the day that the Pope was in DC sitting at the orthodontist.

At least I can schedule a tour of the White House and the Capitol when I feel like it (except, the White House tour scheduling rules are stupid because you can only pick the day, not the time- I have just about any day, but I can't make it at 7:30 AM any day because we are living here, not touristing here).  And I if my son is sick on the day we have a tour scheduled, we can do it the next week because we'll still be here.

14 September 2015

Georgetown and Alexandria

We did our first DC history trip today and went to Georgetown and Alexandria because they were the only two parts that had anyone living in them before DC happened.  I'm sure we'll go back to these two places because there is plenty of later history in them, but we were focusing on 18th-century buildings and the boundary markers today.

We walked into Georgetown from the Foggy Bottom Metro and went by the Old Stone House first, 3001 M Street, and 1204 30th Street.  I was counting on reading historical markers along the way and that worked nicely.  The Old Stone House is only open Wednesday-Saturday after 11 so I hadn't planned on actually going inside since that isn't a good time for us to be there, but walking by worked for us.

We saw the Matthew Hyde house at 1319 30th Street, the Thomas Beall house at 3017 N Street, the Laird-Dunlop at 3014 N Street, and the George Beall house at 3033 N Street.  We also went by the Yellow House on 1430 33rd Street, the Yellow Tavern on 1524 33rd Street, Quality Hill on 3425 Prospect, and Prospect House on 3508 Prospect.  We saw City Tavern on the corner of Wisconsin and M Street and the old Dodge Warehouse at the end of Wisconsin.  And last of all was the Forrest-Marbury House where the Ukraine Embassy is today.  We walked over Key Bridge to the Rosslyn Metro to go to Alexandria.

We walked into Old Town Alexandria from the metro and stopped at Gadsby's Tavern on 134 North Royal Street, the Bank of Alexandria on 133 North Fairfax, the Carlyle House on 121 North Fairfax, and the Ramsey House on 221 King Street.  And we got lunch before trekking out to Jones Point Park to see the south boundary marker.

We were going to stop at the marker in the Benjamin Banneker park on the way home but had run out of steam.  We can easily go there another time.

I'd never had much chance to wander around Georgetown and Alexandria so I loved it and we saw a lot of interesting places.  The whole thing took about 6 hours.

11 September 2015

Refugee Crisis and the Math

I haven't been online much the last week or two while the Syrian refugee crisis has finally been getting the media it attention it deserves. It makes me happy that it is getting that attention, but angry that it took this long.

People have been dying in Syria, fleeing into neighboring countries, drowning in the Mediterranean, suffocating in trucks in Europe, and we finally found one little boy's death that is galvanizing people to do something about this.  It is appalling that it took this long for the world to pay attention to this catastrophe.  That little boy wouldn't have died if we had done something sooner, and we should have paid attention years ago.

I also hate the fact that the only reason why this has become news is because it's affecting Europe and that people keep saying that Muslim countries should do more.*  So let's talk about what Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have been doing to help.

Turkey's population is around 75 million and it has taken in 2 million refugees over the last several years.  2,000,000.  If the US took in a similar number of refugees in relation to its population, the number would be 8.5 million.  Can you imagine the US taking in 8.5 million people from Central America who were in desperate condition?  The US has just announced it will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.  Pathetic.

The EU would need to take in 13.5 million refugees to match Turkey's rate.  There have been about half a million refugees going to Europe.

Now Jordan.  Jordan already had a lot of Iraqi refugees and now it has a lot of Syrian refugees- 1 million are expected to be there by the end of the year** and there have been hundreds of thousands there for years.  Jordan has a tiny population- only 6.5 million people.  The US would have to take in 40 million refugees and Europe 63.5 million refugees to match what Jordan has done.  Those numbers are mind-boggling.  Again, the US has agreed to accept 10,000 Syrians.

Lebanon doesn't have camps but its ratios are similar to Jordan's.

I completely understand that it's hard for Europe to deal with so many people arriving who desperately need help, but we have ignored the problem for too long and it must spill over into other parts of the world because Jordan and Turkey cannot do this on their own. Yes, Europe is having its own financial problems, but it's certainly not worse off than Jordan and Turkey, even Greece and Italy.  People won't sit in desperate conditions forever waiting for conflict to end and they have the right to find a better place to live.  We must do better at helping them find that place.

*The Gulf states could and should be doing more.  But countries like Saudi Arabia have very specific reasons why they don't allow many Arabs in and those reasons aren't targeted at Syrians specifically.  It is extremely unlikely that Saudi will change its policy (and honestly, most Syrians would choose to go to almost any other country than have to live in Saudi Arabia).  It would be more useful to pressure the Gulf states to work out a political solution because that would do more to help end the crisis than anything else.

**Some estimates have this number as high as 2.5 million in Jordan.  The US would need to take in over 100,000,000 refugees and Europe over 150,000,000.

10 September 2015

Homeschooling 2015

Last year was not our best homeschooling year ever, but we got through all the things and are ready for this year.

The youngest is in public school.  It's the first time I've ever sent a child to public school in the US and so far, if you can tell anything from a couple of days of school, he's delighted with it, as expected.  He hasn't gotten through any evenings without tears yet and we're working hard to help him get enough sleep and get used to being gone for 8 hours a day, but I think he'll be okay.

The oldest is doing his online high school and starting college classes this year.  He's also working as a referee for kids' sports and waiting to be allowed to get his driver license.  And he's enjoying being around his extended family.

So my middle son is again my only real homeschooler.  He's continuing with the Well-Trained Mind Academy by taking writing, literature, biology, and creative writing, along with doing Singapore Math and Life of Fred Geometry, Spanish at the local high school, hockey with the high school, and our Washington DC history class.  I think it'll be a good year.

As for me, I decided not to take Arabic with my husband this year.  It was just doable, but it would have sucked up my life and I just couldn't give up everything else to work full-time on a language I can easily get back to a decent level on my own.  It will be a challenge to find opportunities to use Arabic in Saudi, but I think it can be done.  It is SO WONDERFUL to return to Arabic.  I'm going to spend 2-3 hours a day studying on my own.

07 September 2015

So, we're in the US.  I obviously don't like that fact, but the move back this time hasn't been quite as bad for me because it's not even for a full year and I get to be in Washington DC.  Also, we're living in the same apartment building we lived in before so I know how to deal with everyday life here. It was nice to go to a football party with people we knew before and to be invited to a barbecue today.   And we are not living on the financial edge like our previous moves to the US so we could do things like rent a car for the first few days, eat out a few times, and get the groceries and clothes everyone needs.  We're lucky we had nice families to help us with the transition when we came back from Kyrgyzstan both times.

The best part about this move is getting my middle son back.  He's been in the US for the summer.  He is happy to be home with us and happy to be in this part of the country and back with kids he knows.  It is so good to have him home.

The worst part about this move is that my youngest son is having a hard time with it.  If you know him, send him a hug.  He needs it.  I think he'll be fine very soon, but he was so amazingly happy in Guadalajara and he has had a lot of big changes in the last few days so he's feeling sad and is going a bit loopy.

It is nice to return to the US after being in Mexico because there are so many more reminders here of Mexico than there are of Kyrgyzstan.  Mexican products in the grocery store, Spanish on all the signs, Latinos everywhere, Mexico just has a much bigger influence here and that's wonderful.  It's like Kyrgyzstan is just an illusion when I'm not there.

There is a new Asian store near us.  I love it.  I barely got out of there because I broke my number one rule of going shopping on foot which is to never get a cart (because you will buy too much stuff and then have to get it home without a car) and I bought too much stuff and had to get it home without a car.  But I got it home somehow, including the case of coconut milk.  We had boy choy for dinner last night and there are long beans and jusay in the fridge.  I didn't even have fish sauce in Guadalajara for the last few months so I've been feeling seriously deprived of some of my favorite things to eat.

Also, I have been eating extra sharp cheddar cheese.  I missed that in Mexico.

School starts tomorrow and I think we are actually ready for it.  I think I should get an award or something for starting school less than a week after an international move.

03 September 2015

Dear Mexico

Almost two years ago I wrote you a letter apologizing for not wanting to move here.  I was so wrong for hesitating to come.  I have had the most amazing two years here and now it's ending.

I'm getting on an airplane today that takes me away from you and even though I hope I'll get to come back someday, at least for a visit, I don't know if I'll actually be able to.  It wasn't all perfect here, but the things I didn't love weren't your fault (the only exception would be the mosquito and jejene bites). And, just like I predicted in that letter, I am going to miss you forever.

I am going to miss everything about you.  I will miss the thunderstorms in the summer that light up the sky and turn the roads outside to rivers and pounded on the skylights.  I will miss buying tamales on the street corner.  I will miss climbing pyramids. I will miss people who are endlessly patient with my Spanish and who are always willing stop to help complete strangers get out of really big messes.  I will miss your street art and fine art.  I will miss your mariachis and Zeta gas jingles.  I will miss your fiestas and danzas, your pilgrimages and pinatas.  I will miss Mexico DF and Morelia, Guanajuato and San Blas, Campeche and Santa Elena.  I will miss exploring everywhere we could.  I will miss meeting members of the church in five different states and hearing their stories.  I will miss your food forever.

There is so much here that I ran out time for.  Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, El Tajin, Oaxaca, so many interviews, hot air balloon festivals, bird watching, whale sighting and more.  I could live here forever and never get bored. But I also saw and did so much while we were here and I know that when another plane takes me to Riyadh in a few months, I'll dig in deeply there too.  Even though I always have to keep leaving, I'm always arriving and discovering a new place.

Thank you for letting me visit, dear Mexico, and hasta luego.

01 September 2015

La Luz del Mundo

My husband had been wanting to see this church the entire time we've been here since it's a big building and he likes big buildings so we finally stopped on the way out to Tepa.  It was a big day there since it was the Sunday after the biggest holy day of the year for the church.

31 August 2015


This was another quick visit for an interview to a town about an hour outside Guadalajara.  I liked and I think it would make a pleasant day trip.  There's a lot of history here surrounding the Cristero War.

There was a little market in the plaza where they were selling stuff that was more like what you see on Chapultepec than in a tianguis and the church was doing a fundraiser so we got tamales and enchiladas and there.

30 August 2015


We did a quick trip to Autlan a few weeks ago.  It's not a place that you must visit, but I liked the town and we had a nice stay.  We didn't get a lot photos.

The brakes started to sound awful on the way home so we stopped in Cocula to get them fixed.  It's supposed to be the birthplace of mariachi.  We ate lunch while we were waiting and it was awful.  I have now eaten exactly three awful meals in Mexico- this one in Cocula and two at Chichen Itza.

29 August 2015


We had no car, but we had the time and inclination to go to Tonala once more, so we took a taxi there today and had a suprisingly successful time shopping.  We forgot the camera, unfortunately, but at least no one had to carry it around.  I finally got some dishes and some more papal picado.  And we went to two more mask makers and got two more masks.  I'll have to post photos later.

And we stopped for birria and I had my last coconut ice cream cone in Mexico.

26 August 2015

The Language of the Heart

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

I really love this quote by Nelson Mandela, and I think it goes in two different directions.  First, if you want to communicate most effectively with others, learn their language of the heart.  I'm not saying you can do to this all the time (I fizzled out with Spanish after doing Arabic and Russian), but it makes a difference.  Learn the language if you can but be realistic.

Second, second languages can never replace native languages.  I think this is especially important in teaching the gospel and even though we can hope people learn new languages and are able communicate in non-native languages, people need to be able to pray, read the scriptures, and teach in the language of their heart.

Sometimes people's language of the heart changes.  But not very often.  We need to respect that language more.

24 August 2015

Finishing with the House

So we've packed up our stuff and I'm cleaning the house now and we're wrapping things up here.  I'm behind on blogging since I haven't done some trips we took or any books for a long time but I don't know if I'll fix that anytime soon.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about the awfulness of leaving Mexico, but there is exactly one good thing about leaving Mexico.  I will never, ever live in this house again.  Every single room I finish cleaning forever feels wonderful.  I hated this house with every fiber of my being at worst and we had an uneasy truce at best.

For the record, I did like all the windows and I liked the kitchen. Also, I came to terms with the tile.  There's still way too much of it, but it doesn't bother me now like it did at first.  That's probably because I decided that dust mopping was the best it was going to get most of the time.  Just like my mother always says, it takes as long to vacuum (or mop) if it's been one day since you did it last or 1 month.  I don't let it get sticky or dusty, but I can live with most everything else.

Anyway.  It really was three things that came together to drive me nuts.  First, six bathrooms all with glass showers.  Second, I can't stand to have someone in the house with me for 20 hours a week and this house was much too big to keep clean without someone spending an inordinate amount of time cleaning it (and I was in no way willing to be that person).  Third, it honestly feels immoral for me to live in a house this large, especially in Mexico.  And I had no say in where we lived.

It was hard to live in the house in Tokmok and some days in that house were really hard.  But there were things I liked about the house and I felt lucky to have gas heat and a water heater in the bathroom and that wonderful washing machine. Also, I chose to live there and we could leave if we couldn't deal with it.  This house, for utterly opposite reasons, ground me down.  Both houses demanded far too much of my time to keep them going and that's not sustainable for me.

Sometimes I almost cry tears of joy when I think about moving into an apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  I don't need the second bathroom, but it is so much better than 6.

17 August 2015

Churros Gordos from Los Altos de Jalisco

I think I have finally solved the mystery of the delicious churros we've found in the eastern side of Guadalajara.  They're usually filled and rolled in canela which is way too sweet for me, but they're perfect when they're hot and rolled in canela.  I know they're name, where they come from, and how to make them.

Video from an Atotonilco stand with really different churros
Video from Ocotlan, which is on the north side of Chapala near the Michoacan border
Tlaquepaque article

As usual, the information I needed was online but I didn't know what to search for.  But once we'd asked enough questions in enough different places, I got what I needed.

16 August 2015

Tastoan Mask Maker

We were lucky enough to find Jesus Delgado in Tonala.  He has been making masks for decades and was happy to tell us about them.  We talked to him for more than an hour and he told us about the dance and the masks.  He showed us some older masks (one is in the second photo) too.  We also bought a mask from him that I love.  And my son loved playing with his grandson and the last photo is of the two of them.

15 August 2015

Women's Dance of the Tastoanes in Tonala

When I saw that Tonala does a women's Dance of the Tastoanes, I was intrigued.  We saw little girls participating in San Jan de Ocotan but certainly no women doing it anywhere.  We didn't stay to watch all of it, mostly because we couldn't see very well, but it was definitely worth going.

A Boring Post that Can't Get Lost in a Move

Silverware holder
Laundry baskets
Broom and dust pan
Garbage cans

Laundry racks
Shoe rack
Better steam mop
Ironing board

14 August 2015

Museo Regional Tonallan

My husband was really determined to find this mask display so we returned to the second place we'd tried and asked again, and there they were.  I don't know if we didn't ask the right questions the first time, but it all worked out.  These weren't really on display and might have been stored there while the awards ceremony was going on.  Either way, they let us into the rooms they were in.  There were a lot more than this!

In the last photo, you can see the sign for the museum has Santiago fighting a Tastoan.

13 August 2015

Tianguis Choices

Another reason to go to the Monday and Friday tianguis is for the salsa and masa people. You can sit down and eat tacos with different salsas, get sopes, or buy gorditas (except that they're not called that here and I can't remember the right name) filled with lots of different options- mushorooms, rajas, cheese, chorizo, potato, and so much more. They have at least eight different salsas. Three are green- really spicy serrano, mild tomatillo, and my favorite one which is between the two with tomatillos and serranos and plenty of cilantro and onion. There are several ancho or other dried chile-based salsas, and several tomato ones. My favorite is salsa roja with arbol chiles. In my opinion this is the best place to get salsa ever. The small containers are 15 pesos and the 1/2 liter containers are 25.

Museo Nacional de la CerĂ¡mica

When we arrived at the museum that we'd been directed to on our mask hunt, they told us that they didn't have masks and sent us on to the Museo Nacional de la CerĂ¡mica.  That one does have masks, but it's a permanent display which we'd seen before and not the display we were looking for.  But now that we know more about the masks and their significance, we got more photos.  I don't think I posted any when we went before.

You can see in this and all the other Tonala photos that the Tonala masks are again quite different from anywhere else.

The people at this museum told us to go back to the one we'd been at before.  I was skeptical.

On the way back, we ran into a couple of girls getting ready for the dance.