28 May 2015

American Ghost

This was an interesting read about the author's great-great-(great?)-grandmother who's supposed to haunt a building in Santa Fe.  I rolled my eyes at the psychic parts but liked the rest.

27 May 2015

The Geography of You and Me

I loved this.  I'm always putting books on hold and then they appear on my reader weeks or months later and I can't remember who recommended them or what they're about and that's what happened with this one.  It's a teen romance, technically, but it's not that at all.  It's really simple but ever so good.

26 May 2015

Nethermost

This is an LDS book that has a lot of short, different stories about people all over the planet.  I liked it.

25 May 2015

The Brothers

I don't know if it's quite fair for me to put this one here at all because I only read the first bit.  It's about the Tsarnaev brothers and I had to read the Tokmok parts.  Since that obviously wasn't the focus of the book it was quick to get through that and then it wasn't something I wanted to read. But I couldn't miss the beginning.

24 May 2015

The Good and the Bad of Guadalajara

So, we only have a little more than 3 months left here in Guadalajara.  I'm used to moving all the time so the blog posts people are sharing right now about expat friends leaving in the summer don't really get me (because good real-life friends can stay good online friends and no one would ever accuse me of being all that friendly anyway).  But the blog posts about leaving a place you love?  Those get me because even though you can stay in touch with people online, you usually don't get to go back to a place you love.

Some online friends have been posting 5 good things and 5 bad things about the place they live and while I can think of many good things about Guadalajara, it's really hard to come up with five bad things.  So those are kind of wishy-washy.

The Good

1. Food.  That has to be first.  From amazing produce (even in January) to fresh tortillas everywhere to salsa and sopes and tacos and tamales and molcajete and tortas and lonches and chilaquiles and nieves de garrafa and frijoles and rajas and so much more, I would be happy eating here for the rest of my life. And anyplace with decent and affordable street markets is my friend.

2. The climate. The weather is nearly always lovely here.  I had feared it would be too hot for me all year, but the elevation keeps the temperature lower in the evening and morning and it's rare that I'm unhappy with the weather.  This hot season has been worse than the last and I haven't loved it, but it hot a late start and you can count on the rain coming.  I can't complain about 2 bad months out of 24.  And sometimes I was even chilly in my house.

3. Medical care.  I wasn't expecting to need this, but I did and had two major events that would have been difficult to deal with in many countries.  But in Mexico?  No problem.  There's great medical care that cost a lot less than the US, even in the fancy hospital, and good food too.  I'm seriously considering doing LASIK before we go.

4. Things to do.  You really should never, ever be bored here.  That's mostly what this blog has been about for the last 20 months.

5. People and culture.  Yes, I know all the stereotypes of Mexicans in the US.  I know that the name itself is often used negatively.  But I didn't believe it before and it's completely ludicrous now.  I've lived in places with hospitable and generous people, certainly, but for people who are just plain old nice, Mexicans win.  And I've loved learning the culture and history of Mexico, both ancient and modern.  It never sucked me in as thoroughly the Middle East or Central Asia did, but I'll always love Mexico.

The Bad

1. Traffic.  Rush hour traffic isn't fun here.  But is it in any metro area with over 5 million people?  It's hard to put this one here because rush hour has almost never affected me anyway because it doesn't follow US hours and my husband's work schedule does.

2. Driving.  This is another wishy-washy one.  Certainly a lot of people here think the driving is shockingly bad, but I've never felt that.  I read once in a book that Mexicans move through crowds easily and with little trouble, and I generally feel that way about the driving.  Sure, there are people who do crazy things, but overall I feel like the drivers are polite and flexible here.  I'd rather be stuck in traffic here than in DC any day.

3. No English at church.  This was hard for my teenagers.

4. Relatively few expat teens.  Another hard one for my boys.

5. Cartel violence.  This has had almost no effect on us while we've been here, but there is potential that it could get worse.  If it did, it could become a huge negative for living in Guadalajara.  But for now, it's not a problem.

Red Rising

This is the first in a dystopian series with the lowest people on the totem pole trying to overthrow the government.  I liked it, although I read it a few weeks ago and haven't felt a huge need to get the next book.

22 May 2015

Mexico Elections

I always get behind on blogging when we have company and we've had lots recently which has been lovely.  My niece was here last and I had the best time with her.

Anyway, we're in the middle of an election campaign here in Mexico.  The legislative election will be on June 7th and there are also other local elections like for mayor of Guadalajara.

The main parties in Mexico are PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional- the current president of Mexico is PRI after 12 years of a PAN president with 71 years of PRI before that), and PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática).  There are other smaller parties, but the two main ones I see are Movimiento Ciudadano and Verde.  Verde is aligned with PRI (which means you see signs saying a vote for Verde is a vote for PRI).

The first signs I noticed- which doesn't necessary mean anything- were Verde billboards and window stickers for Enrique Alfaro Ramirez.  Alfaro seemed to be on the back window of every car. He's from Movimiento Ciudadano and is currently leading in the polls for mayor of Guadalajara. The other two major candidates are Alfonzo Petersen (really) from PAN and Ricardo Villanueva from PRI.

There are more and more people handing out campaign stuff on street corners (you can find intersection workers willing to do just about anything, from waving signs for politicians to burning buses for drug cartels- but that's obviously rare) and people stand at intersections with music and microphones to campaign to their captive audiences stuck in cars.

I really wish I could get window stickers for everyone and plaster them all over the car, but my husband seems to think that's a bad idea.

17 May 2015

Tortas Toño

Tortas Toño has lots of branches around the city and it's a great place to get a torta ahogada.  You walk in, pay for your food (number of sandwiches and number of drinks), then you go on to choose the type of torta you want (pierna is traditional) and they'll fill your sandwich for you, then you sauce it up the way you want it and can add onions, lime, and beans.  Then you go on to choose the drinks you paid for.  Like all torta ahogada places, there's a spot where you can wash your hands.  The tortas are a little more expensive here than some places but it's a quick place to get a torta especially if you like to sauce it yourself. They close for all of Semana Santa and like most torta places, they close in the late afternoon. You can get them to go and we've done that, but tortas ahogadas aren't the easiest thing to eat on the road.

15 May 2015

Aid and Global Poverty

I listened to this on NPR a few minutes ago about a study on whether aid helps reduce poverty. The researchers took a group of the poorest families in 6 developing countries and gave half of them a bunch of stuff- livestock, food, training, health care, and a saving account, and the other half NOTHING.  Then they compared the two groups to see if the aid made a difference.

The families who got the aid did do better in 5 of the 6 countries, and continued to do better a year after the aid was stopped, although the difference wasn't significant- just 5% on average.

I think this is a fascinating study, but I'm not sure I can get behind randomly giving some desperately poor families nothing when you give other families a lot of help- especially the health care and food.  The researchers feel that it's okay because this type of research can help improve aid efforts in the long run (something that is so very desperately needed), but these are people, not statistics.  And there's so much more to measure than just whether the families were doing better financially, like children whose lives are saved because of better medical care.

13 May 2015

The New Parrots

So the obnoxious (except for that one time) parrot hasn't been around for months.  I don't know if it died, or if it was moved to the neighbor's backyard, or if it lives in their house now (I vote that no one should get a parrot that they're not willing to keep in the house most of the time), but all is quiet there and it has been lovely.

But.  Some other neighbors won their battle with the owners of some different parrots, and now those two parrots, instead of living in the backyard, live in the front yard which means I can hear them. These parrots are a lot less annoying though,  Sure, they're still noisy, but they mostly say hola when you walk by and whistle cheery tunes.  No whining.  Not much squawking.  They do manage an odd sound that's makes me wonder if one is dying a painful death, but I'll take these new parrots over the old one any day.  Unless the old one is teasing little children in the neighborhood.

12 May 2015

Hand-stretched Churros in Tlaquepaque

These are very unique churros in the main square in Tlaquepaque. I'm almost certain they're on the east side of the square, south of the tortas (and they're called tortas here, no lonches) stand near La Michoacana.

I've been asking around and no one else has heard of another place in Guadalajara where you can get hand-stretched churros.


11 May 2015

Overland Travel

So, in my perpetual and so far unsuccessful quest to find a way to move to the eastern hemisphere without flying the whole way, I'm plotting for next year's move from the US to the Middle East.  We'd have to fly for the beginning and the end because I've driven across the US enough times and there's really not a rational way to get from Istanbul to Riyadh except by plane, but that leaves a lot of the planet waiting for adventure.  And we have 3 weeks in which to do it.

My current brilliant idea is to fly to New York City, sail to the UK, then get Eurail passes and trek across Europe to Istanbul.

My ideas have never actually worked, but maybe this one will.  I have my husband a lot more on board this time than ever before, and the children.

There would be no jet lag this way (because, people losing/gaining one or two hours is not jet lag).  On the ship, you lose an hour each day at noon.  That's a great hour to lose, although the hour from 2-3 or 3-4 would be even better.  Istanbul and Riyadh are in the same time zone.  And you can go fast enough on a train to get jet lagged, can you?

I would LOVE to rent a car in London and drop it off in Istanbul but that looks impossible.  Would that not be the best thing ever? We could, of course, rent lots of cars and work our way across Europe, but that's not really a great idea.

10 May 2015

Boca de Cielo

This place has the best tuna (carnitas de atun) tacos EVER.  If you don't think that sounds appealing, come here to change your mind.  Also passionfruit limonada. Or berry.  My husband always gets the ballena.

It can be crowded and like most places of its type in Guadalajara, it doesn't stay open late (maybe 5? if you're lucky?) but if you can come at US lunchtime instead of Mexican comida, you should be good.

This is on the corner of Morelos and Progresso, near Chapultepec and Hidalgo.

08 May 2015

Empanada Place Downtown

This is a good place to get pastries and empanadas when you're downtown.  I'm almost certain it's on the SE corner of Liceo and Independencia.  This isn't the place to get ham and cheese pastries, but I can highly recommend the spinach and cheese.

07 May 2015

El Rincon del Diablo

This is a little street between the two pededstinan roads running from the Cathedral to  Hospicio Cabanas.  There are signs like this at each corner.  There are a bunch of sad and creepy stories about the alley since it's connected with the Inquisition.




06 May 2015

Taco Stand on Vidrio and Argentina

This is an amazing taco stand.  They have potato, birria, and asadas (and more), but this is the place to get chicharron tacos.  Usually they're not quite my thing, but they are delicious and not soggy.  Also, they have lots of salsas.  When the place is busy, you go to the caja and pay first then they take your ticket at the stand in numerical order.

The tacos here cost 12 pesos right now which isn't the cheapest tacos out there, but they are big and you get a hunk of panela to go with them.

This is on Vidrio and Argentina near Ninos Heroes and Enrique Diaz de Leon- not too far from the Ninos Heroes monument.


30 April 2015

This made me smile today.  It's a list (in Spanish, but you can Google translate it) of 25 things foreigners should know about Guadalajara.

27 April 2015

Central Eurasian Mission

It's been interesting to see the reactions to the LDS Church's announcement of a new Central Eurasian Mission.*  Some people seem to think anyone who is sent here will die (to which I'd say that I'd far rather my child were sent to Tashkent, which isn't even possible, than to the Mexican border, which is entirely possible).  Some people are all excited about the Lost Tribes which is just weird.  But I have a whole lot of other thoughts about this.

This isn't the first time a mission has been created in a Muslim-majority country- there's been a mission in Indonesia for 40 years, for example.  It's also certainly not the first time a country with no branches or missionaries has been included in a mission.  But it's definitely unusual to create a mission in a place where there are currently only a handful of missionaries, 5 or 6 branches total which have a lot of temporary expats in them, and absolutely no prospect of missionaries going into 3 of the seven countries** and almost no chance of their going into two more any time soon.

The boundaries are also interesting but logical. Some people have been surprised that it's geographically divided, but putting Georgia and Armenia in this mission isn't at all logical for so many reasons. I'm delighted to see what is basically a Turkic mission (plus Tajikistan which can't join up with its Iranic neighbors since those two countries are Afghanistan and Iran and people would really flip out then).  Turkey allowed missionaries to enter the country in 2012 and was attached to Bulgaria which was fine geographically but not linguistically.  Kazakhstan has had missionaries since the early 2000s and a branch in Almaty since before that (depending on how you're counting) and a branch was opened in 2012 in Astana after rumors of its starting since at least 2006.  Russian still dominates in much of Kazakhstan but Kazakh is making a comeback and the missionaries there have been learning some Kazak and not just Russian.  Kazkhstan has always been tacked on to a mission in Russia which is logical politically in many ways, but that also meant its unique history was easily overlooked.

Turkish and Kazakh are reasonably closely related.  The standard divisions have Kazakh and Kyrgyz being quite similar; Uzbek and Uyghur; and Turkish, Azeri, and Turkmen, especially as you get farther east in Turkey.  My husband speaks Uzbek and Uyghur and is able to communicate with Turkish speakers reasonably well.  It's certainly much easier to switch between Kazakh and Turkish than Russian and Turkish, although I suspect missionaries will serve in one country or the other and that Russian will still dominate in Kazakhstan.

Because, and this another important point, there are almost no church materials of any type in any of the native languages of this region.  The Book of Mormon is in Turkish, there are some odds and ends of things in Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz, but that's all.  Russian, however, is one of the major languages of the Church and most everything is in Russian.  It's a very strong second language (and sometimes a first language) in much of Central Asia, but if we're looking for the language of the heart, it isn't it.

I am a million times delighted about this mission, not really because of the missionary work because I think that will be very slow there, but because I hope that this means that the very isolated local members (I'm not talking about expats here) will be able to get more support from the church now.  Mission presidents have a lot of things they're dealing with but one of their major responsibilities is to help members who aren't in a regular unit.  There aren't that many Mormons in Central Asia, but they've been so alone for a long time, some for well over a decade and some close to two.

I sincerely hope the mission president will speak a Turkic language.  If his wife did too, all the better.  Or she could speak Russian and be a contact for the isolated members.  Wishful thinking. Honestly, though, I hope for a mission president who understands the very unique challenges this mission will face.

Also, I want the leaders there to know that Islam is much more a cultural and ethnic identity in Central Asia than a religious one.  A person can be a Muslim and a Mormon there, just like someone can be a Jew and a Mormon.

*I don't love the name so I'm going to call it the Central Asia and Turkey mission in my head. :)

**The DesNews article about the mission made a mistake, although I don't know which mistake it made.  The graphic showing the mission boundary included Turkmenistan but the wirtten list of included countries didn't.  I'm including Turkmenistan in my head but if it's not part of the mission, then there's no prospect of missionaries going into 2 of the 6 countries.

24 April 2015

Coco Pozole

This is the Yucatecan corn drink, not the Central Mexican hominy soup. The amounts are flexible but here's the basic idea.  I used fresh coconut blended with water, but you can use fresh shredded coconut.  The coconut I buy is way too soft for shredding, thankfully.

1 cup coconut pureed with some water so it will puree
1/2 c masa
sugar to taste- it's traditionally not very sweet, but this is something I add more sugar to
a good sprinkle of cinnamon
a splash of vanilla
2 cups or so of water- it really depends on how much water you used at first, but it's flexible

You can add more masa, less water, more coconut, whatever.  This is really easy and it's good served over ice.


23 April 2015

Follow-ups

I asked my Spanish teacher about the mystery churros and she'd never heard of such a thing.  So I had a good reason to be surprised.  I finally hit on a useful search term for them- hand-stretched churros.  Here's a very short video. And another.  I didn't totally make this up even though this video is from Arizona.  I'll have to come up with a recipe and post it here.

There's an ice cream place near Parque Metropolitano called Gary Choc.  That's pretty much the worst name ever, but they have really good mint chocolate chip ice cream.  It's on Sebastian Bach and it's in someone's house but they have a good sign up.  I still like Chapalita better, but they don't have mint chocolate chip.