One of the tricky things about learning to cook in another country is figuring out what all the unlabeled things are. In the US, everything is labeled, always, everywhere, and you always know what you're getting. But in places like Mexico and Kyrgyzstan, there are all kinds of containers and pots and vats filled with all sorts of unidentified things.
It was especially tricky in Tokmok because I did almost all my shopping at the bazaar which is obviously unlabeled paradise. But by the time I'd lived there for a few weeks and remembered some Russian, I was able to ask what things were. It also helped that I read everything I could about Central Asian food, even though there never has been much to read about it. And we ate some really good food in Tokmok with just what we could find in that bazaar.
It's easier here since there are so many books about Mexican food and it's a lot more likely that you're going to find unique Mexican ingredients in some stores in the US. So the Mexican cookbooks are actually useful here too because they're not filled with substitutions. But there still has been a lot of experimenting going on, so now I can come home from most shopping trips with little plastic bags filled with eggs, or alpiste, or requeson, or containers with lots of different salsas because we're learning which ones we like best. Or so many other things. Cooking in Kyrgyzstan was always a challenge and an adventure, and often fun, but here, there are so many more choices, even in December, and I'm loving it.