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

(See updates below)

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 its Iranic neighbors since those two countries are Afghanistan and Iran).  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, a branch in Almaty since before that, 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 Kazakh and not just Russian.  Kazakhstan 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.  Kazakhs are culturally, religiously, linguistically, and ethnically not closely related to Russians.

The Turkish and Kazakh languages are reasonably closely related though.  The standard divisions have Kazakh and Kyrgyz being quite similar to each other; Uzbek and Uyghur to each other; and Turkish, Azeri, and Turkmen to each other, 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 almost 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 hope that this mission leads to more church materials in Kazakh at least, but even that may be too much to hope for.

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.

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.

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.  Central Asia is a very unique part of the Muslim world with its recent Soviet history and its long nomadic history and it's not just an extension of the Arab Middle East or Persia (except for Tajikistan).

I hope for leaders who understand the very unique challenges this mission will face and missionaries who are willing to immerse themselves in one of the most isolated, misunderstood, and amazing parts of the world.

*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 written 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.

**ETA that it appears that missionaries are either being assigned to the Kazakhstan or Turkey region and I assume they will learn the appropriate language and spend their entire mission in one country.  That will make it easy to deal with visas and also the necessary permits in Kazakhstan.

***ETA that even though it seems that it still hasn't been officially announced even though the mission is now supposed to be functioning, the mission president is apparently Jim Toronto.  He speaks Arabic but I don't believe he speaks Russian or any Turkic language.  ETA again that Bro. and Sis. Toronto are reported to have been delayed in getting to Turkey and establishing the mission and that the mission may not have been established as of nearly the end of July.

ETA that if you or someone you know has been called to go to Kazakhstan, there are lots of resources here about living in Central Asia.  Here are posts about everyday life in Central Asia, all kinds of interesting things about life there, photos of daily life in Central Asiafood in Central Asia, and some of the reasons why I loved living there with my family and hope to return soon.

Update 5/5/16:

It's been about a year since the mission was announced an a little less than that since it opened.  There aren't a lot of missionaries in the mission and it's difficult to learn much about the mission since the people serving there are so careful about what they blog about.

One issue that the Turkey area of the mission is having is the restricted movement of refugees.  Since Turkey has such a large number of refugees, some have been taught in the last year.  The new agreement between Turkey and the EU severely restricts refugees' ability to move or even travel within Turkey so that can make it difficult to arrange for baptisms or for people to attend sacrament meeting.

While US refugee policies don't really affect this situation, the overall attitude in the world toward refugees is hampering missionary work in Turkey and other parts of the world.  While that is certainly not the point of the church's new refugee relief effort, this is one more reason it would be helpful for members of the church to do all they can do ease the refugee crisis.

Please keep in mind the many isolated members living in this mission.  Some joined the church many years ago and still have very limited contact with the church because of geography.

Also, keep in mind the language needs in this mission. Officially the missionaries learn Turkish and Russian, but there are also Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Arabic, Farsi and more speakers in this mission.

Update 1/13/17

Stephen R. Davis has been announced as the new mission president, probably replacing Jim Toronto in July of this year.  Even though mission presidents generally serve for three years, some serve for two in certain parts of the world.  I don't know anything about the new president's background or if he  or his wife have any experience in the Middle East or Central Asia.

Update 3/23/17

Stephen R. Davis' bio has been published.

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


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.

22 April 2015


In our quest to see as many archaeological sites as possible, we finally went to Ixtepete this weekend.  It's just off the periferico on Mariano Otero so it's not very far away and it has a decent little pyramid base.  It was worth going to since we're going to everything we can.

However.  I can't recommend that it needs to be visited by anyone unless you really like pyramids or if you're looking for some kind of real life RPG (I have no idea what they're called, but I hope you get the idea).  There were all kinds of people there in various outfits with great homemade weapons running around.  It's a great place for that.

21 April 2015


When we were in Tlaquepaque, we found a stand that was selling churros, but they weren't like any churros we've seen here.  Instead of using a softer dough or paste and a churrera, they were using a firmer dough and stretching it by hand.  They were still coiled into the hot oil and she sliced the dough to make a space for a filling if you wanted it. I cannot find out anything about whether this is common or not, but I think I definitely need to find out more about this.  And test more churros too.

20 April 2015


We went to Tlaquepaque for the evening a couple of days ago to watch a friend's ballet folklorico group perform.  And then we got tacos and chilaquiles, ice cream, and went to the centro.

17 April 2015

Daylight Savings

We switched to daylight savings time a couple of weeks ago.  So I'll say again how much I like changing back and forth between daylight and standard times.  It's so nice to have the sun rise an hour later so I could sleep longer than 6:30, but even more, it's nice to get an extra hour of cooler air in the morning.  This is our hot, dry season and even though it's not terribly hot, it was too warm for me when I was walking home from the tianguis at 10:30.  Now I have an extra hour to get the cleaning and errands done before it warms up too much.  But I'll never vote for having daylight savings all year round.

16 April 2015

Prices in Mexico and Kyrgyzstan

In Bishkek I did a couple of posts in 2006 and 2011 about the prices of food and I'm finally getting around to doing it here.  I'll keep the prices in pesos and kilos because I did the same in Bishkek with som and kilos. I also did it in June of 2011 in Tokmok.

This was a lot harder to do this time because prices vary significantly more in Guadalajara than they do in Bishkek.  

Five som is worth about 12.5 cents. In Kyrgyzstan, five som buys a loaf of flatbread, about 9 inches around. It takes you one way on a minibus anywhere in Bishkek. It buys one head of garlic, or a small Kit Kat, a package of Ramen noodles, or a pound of potatoes or onions.

Five som is currently worth about 10.5 cents.  A small loaf of flatbread (smaller than the comparison in 2006) costs 10 som and a standard loaf is 20 som.  A marshrutka ride is 8 som, a head of garlic is 15 som, a small Kit Kat is 10 som, and a pound of potatoes or onions is at least 20 som.

Five pesos is worth about 33 cents right now.  It was worth about 40 cents when we got here.  That may sound like a small difference but it's made a noticeable difference for us, especially since prices haven't risen much here in general.  When we got here a peso was worth about 3.5 times as much as a som (in dollars); now it's four times because the som has dropped more than the peso.

For 5 pesos you can get a small stack of tortillas, a small head of garlic, or a bus ride (5.5 pesos, actually).  A small candy bar would be about 5 pesos.  A pound of potatoes or onions would be probably 8-9 pesos.

20 som buys a bag of milk, one banana, a pack of four rolls of toilet paper, or a kilo of cracked wheat.

A bag of milk is 35 som, a banana is still about 20 som, 4 rolls of nice toilet paper are about 40 som, and a kilo of cracked wheat is 40 som.

A bag of milk is 10.5 pesos, I have no idea how much one banana costs since they're grown here and there not sold one at a time like they can be in Bishkek, 4 rolls of toilet paper could cost 25 pesos, and a kilo of wheat is 7 pesos at Abastos.

30 or 40 som is for a kilo of apples, a bottle of dish soap, 5 liters of water, or a half liter of kefir. 

Apples range from 30-80 som with 50 being average, although they're still in season here.  A bottle of dish soap is probably 50-70 som, I have no idea how much the water is now.

Apples can be 10 pesos/kilo at Abastos for 20 kilos but are usually at least 25 pesos/kilo and can easily be 40-50 pesos.  Mangoes are 10-20 pesos in the tianguis right now.  A bottle of dish soap is around 50 pesos and 20 liters of water is 27 pesos delivered to your door.  Kefir is not done here, but I can get a half liter of jocoque for 20 pesos.

40 som is for a kilo of Batken rice, a jar of tomatoes, a kilo of white rice, or a liter of apple juice.

A kilo of Batken rice is 70-80 som, I think (I don't buy that now; Chinese Elita is 60-70 som and Pakistani rice is 60-70).  A jar of tomatoes is 80-90 som.
20 pounds of jasmine rice is 300 pesos at Costco, I don't buy tomatoes in jars here because they're always cheap, and a liter of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is 20 pesos.

50 som is for a short taxi ride around town.
You have to pay 50 som in Tokmok now.  Bishkek isn't less than 80 for a short ride. 

A short taxi ride is around 60-70 pesos.

 80 is for a kilo of tomatoes in the winter, a jar of jam, a bottle of shampoo, a package of the least expensive diapers, a longer taxi ride in Bishkek, or a bottle of honey. 

I can still get a kilo of tomatoes right now for 80 som, but I expect that will increase in the next few weeks.  A jar of jam is probably 150 som, but I make my own, so I'm not sure.  A bottle of jam is at least 150 som for the same price.  A longer taxi ride is 100 som.  No idea on the diapers, but there's no way they're 80 som.  A bottle of shampoo might be 120?

Tomatoes are usually less than 10 pesos/kilo and aren't even close to the Bishkek winter price when they're out of season.  A small jar of American-brand jam with reduced sugar is about 35 pesos.  A longer taxi ride is around 100 pesos.  A bottle of shampoo is probably 60-80 pesos and I can't think of the price of honey.

The price of cheese is usually around 100 pesos a kilo versus Bishkek's 400 som/kilo which means we eat way more cheese here than we did there.  Eggs in Tokmok were $1.20/dozen in the summer; here they're 42 pesos/kilo which makes them over $2/dozen.  Raspberries are 20 pesos/liter in the Wednesday tianguis, 35 in the Monday, and they cost as much at Costco as they do in the US. You can buy prickly pear, guava, mangoes, cucumber, watermelon, papaya, jicama, and more for 20 pesos/liter for cut-up fruit.

It's generally easier shopping in Mexico because there is a much greater variety of produce available, there's only a very short off-season for it and the prices don't increase as dramatically then as they do in Kyrgyzstan which means you can keep eating tomatoes in January in Guadalajarawhen you wouldn't touch them then in Bishkek.  But the in-season produce is really cheap in Bishkek and you can stock up when the raspberries and strawberries and tomatoes and cucumbers are in season.  Because you're really going to want them in the winter.

A Day in the Life of an Expat

Or maybe being expected to live a developed world life in a developing country. It's easier for me to be an expat when I can leave most of the developed world expectations behind, but at least the difference between the US and Mexico is much smaller than the difference between the US and Kyrgyzstan.

Got up; sent the youngest off to school; cleaned; started the laundry; found a neighbor willing to let me use her stove so I could bake the bread sitting from yesterday because my stove wouldn't heat up; hung the laundry; walked to the tianguis to buy chicken, mangoes, raspberries, coconut, garlic, and tostadas from six different vendors, all of whom know me; put away the groceries and got some things done on the computer; ate lunch; went to my Spanish class; came home and waited for the piano teacher who was an hour late which was fine, although I would have exercised if I'd known she was going to be late; held the piano teacher's baby during the lesson; called a taxi to take me and my youngest to a birthday party; survived the party which actually turned out to be the least uncomfortable school/birthday party I've been to in Mexico; came home with my husband; tucked the little one in bed; and I still need to exercise and clean up the kitchen.

I am now going to sit quietly and watch Call the Midwife and no one will talk to me.

14 April 2015

Book Catch-up: The Bishop's Wife, The Long White Cloud, Outlander, Underground in Arabia, and Lots of Rereads

I'm probably going to miss something here, but at least I'll get some in that I know I missed.

I liked a lot of things about The Bishop's Wife, but I didn't really love the plot which might have ruined the book, but like I said, there were a lot of other good things.

Outlander fulfilled its purpose in getting me through orthodontist appointments.

The Long White Cloud is an expat book.  It's really random with lots of short chapters.  I would have preferred something a little better organized but it was still pleasant to read.

Underground in Arabia was fun, especially since the author now lives here in Guadalajara and writes great books about hiking and stuff in western Mexico. I sincerely hope we can go to some of these places in Saudi.

11 April 2015


We've had lots of visitors recently and we took some of them to Tlaquepaque one day.  It's always such a lovely place to wander around.

10 April 2015

Holy Friday and a Via Crucis

We went to the Basilica of Zapopan for their Via Crucis again this year. We also had a funeral that day that didn't have a set time and we needed to pick people up at the airport, so we went ahead of the group quickly and walked the route on our own.  We saw everyone setting up and we could hear the procession the entire time because there were speakers everywhere.  I've loved doing this while we've been here in Mexico.

09 April 2015

Holy Thursday

I looked forward to this day all year long so we could go back to the churches we saw last year (and get better photos), and because I love seeing how this day is done in Mexico.  I wasn't able to do as much for Holy Week as I wanted to, but I made sure this day had nothing else going on so I could focus on this.

We also tried ice cream and ate birria in Las 9 Esquinas.  It's a lovely spot and I wish we'd gone earlier.  We walked through last year but didn't spend any time there.

And we went to the Expiatorio last of all.  We even got to see the Apostle clock at 1 PM.

Santa Filomena

Iglesia Cristiana Congregaci├│nal

Templo del Perpetuo Socorro

Parroquia de San Juan Bautista de Mexicaltzingo

Nine Corners

Templo de San Sebastián de Analco

Guadalajara garbage truck.  I love these and have been meaning to get a photo for a long time.  From the right you have the statue of Minerva at one of the main glorietas in the city (and this is also on the new Jalisco licence plates), the Cathedral, the Arches on Vallarta, and Hospicio Cabanas.

The last two images are the Governor's Palace and the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres

Holy Week empanadas