31 May 2015

Into the Wild and Out of the Wild

These are two fun, lighthearted children's fantasies.  Definitely worth a pleasant afternoon.

30 May 2015

A Little Pyramid Ruin

We kept hearing and reading that there are other guachimonton ruins around the official site and I really, really wanted to see one of the sites.  So when my niece was here we trooped out to the real Guachimontones and then went off in search of a ruin we'd read about.  And we found it!

This a is little pyramid and there's a fence going along the side of it so you can't circle it, but it's clearly a guachimonton with the surrounding platforms.  It's possible there's a ball court on the north side, but it's a really long ball court if it is.  There's a stone wall going through whatever it is. There's also lots and lots of obsidian in the area.

Search for 20.741450, -103.882885 on Google Earth and you'll see the traditional circular mound in the middle surrounded with platforms.  To get there, go past Teuchitlan and then turn right a few kilometers after town at a sign pointing toward La Pena just before a small hill (there is also the remnant of another old sign there and the coordinates are 20.689592, -103.917717).  Drive down that road, go through the tiny pueblita of La Pena, and continue going mostly north until you get to a gate that may well be closed.  But you can open it and drive on through.  Take the next right (20.742571, -103.887319).  The road was bad enough here than we walked up the hill, but when you get to top, go a little further and then you'll turn left at a path (20.740030, -103.884129) that goes right to the ruins.

Drink, Slay, Love

For vampire romance, this is about as good as you're going to get.  I don't know if that's encouraging or not. It pokes at a lot of other vampire books and isn't too silly, and is barely a romance.  And the main character was likable.

29 May 2015

She Shall Be an Ensign

Ardis Parshall, an LDS historian, is trying to raise money so she can write a new church history book "told through the lives of its women."  The funding is 2/3 completed only a few days into the project.

I've read Ardis's blog for years and met her through a mutual friend several years ago.  Ardis has access to the necessary resources, but more importantly, she knows how to find the right information and tell the stories with clarity and interest.  She cares about the people so many other historians ignore (especially the isolated people) and she doesn't just focus on the standard things we've all heard before.  This is the woman we want to write this book and we so very much need a book like this.

I've never, ever contributed to a gofundme or kickstarter or any of the other things before and certainly never asked anyone else to, but if you haven't already, please consider donating.  We can make this happen.  
I always feel so conflicted when we're coming to the end of living in a place.  No matter how much there is to do before we leave, there's always a deadline when you get on that airplane and all the things you're going to get done are done.  If there are frustrating things about the place, you're done with them.  The first is more true here and the second in Kyrgyzstan, but they're both still there.  

I am also so looking forward to the end of the dry season and the end of school in a few weeks.  I cannot wait till both of those are over, and till we get to do a quick trip to the US where I think I'm actually going to see everyone in my family for the first time in a long time.  I always love the end of the school year and having someone in real school makes that even more true.  And I am so done with the hot season.

But sometimes it feels like my heart is being squeezed when I think about leaving Mexico.  This has been such a good place to live in so many ways.  My youngest in particular has been so happy here.  Not only does he speak a lot more Spanish than I expected him to learn, he's learned a lot about Mexico and being a TCK.  It's been so fun to watch him. 

And we're going to have to big family changes this summer and I am not at all looking forward to those. I hope it's for the best, and I think it probably is, although if plans change, I'd be delighted.  

So I'm really happy I'll have July and August here to try to wring out the last bit of Mexico I can fit in.

Life from Scratch

This was another one that I couldn't remember anything about, but it turned out to be good too.  The author did one of those cook a meal from everything country and blog about it things, but it's mostly about her childhood.  There's a lot going on here and it was worth reading.  Even if I think her Kyrgyzstan menu was weird.

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


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 got 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.

14 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.

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.