A Church on Top of an Ancient Pyramid

From a distance it looks like yet another catholic church, among hundreds of others in this small town. Except, it’s not in town. It sits high above it, on top of a small hill. Build in the sixteenth century, the church is cute – in a sense church can be considered cute, but not outstanding. And yet, it draws tourists from all over the World in thousands every year. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why…

The town of Cholula is just a few miles west from the city of Puebla, one could probably consider it it’s suburb. Therefore, despite the usual morning traffic in the center, it only took us few minutes to get there from the hotel we stayed at the night before. Traveling on the highway, we’ve noticed a large mountain on the left. Despite it’s peak being covered in clouds, we’ve noticed something familiar. The top of the mountain was covered with…snow! What so surprising about it…? Well, nothing in particular. After all in was the beginning of January, and for most of our friends in Poland and upstate New York, that’s a very common view that time of year. Except, we were not in Poland, nor in the US. We were in central Mexico, where temperatures, even at night rarely fell below few degrees Celsius (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). This was definitely a tall mountain. And the clouds also looked a bit funny. Instead of passing through the peak, they seemed to linger around way too long. Turns out, they have a good reason to do so. They are no ordinary clouds, but.. smoke, and the mountain is an active volcano! It’s name is Popocatépetl and it rises to 5426 m (17802 ft) above sea level.

Cholula is said to be a town of 365 churches – one for every day of the year. On our way in, we passed at least a dozen of them. Even if the legendary number is exaggerated (in reality here are only 37 churches), the number of  catholic temples in a town of roughly 120 thousand people is overwhelming (159 including chapels). Which makes the allure of the hill top sanctuary even more mysterious. We parked the car on a nearby private lot, and started to climb the hill. It’s neither very high, nor steep and it apparently serves as a great exercise spot for local athletes. I counted two of them, vomiting in public, exhausted by their workout. Must be a Mexican thing…

The sanctuary at the top of the hill is a sixteenth century church. All yellow, with white accents on the outside and the usual tons of gold and paintings on the inside. Build in 1575, the basilica of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios has great 360 degree views over the valley of Puebla. But what’s significant about this building is not it’s history, or the views. It is its localization. The hill on the base of the basilica is a man made structure. The church sits on top of… the largest pyramid of the ancient world! Turns out, the conquistadors, in the typical christian, loving and forgiving way build their temple on top of a “pogan” one, to reinforce their superiority over the indigenous people…

Pyramid of Cholula, Tlachihualtepetl
Model of Tlachihualtepetl

Only when we climbed down several flights of stairs, to the base of the “hill” on it’s opposite side, we realized the size and magnificence of that structure. The Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as the Tlachihualtepetl is 450 by 450 meters (1480 by 1480 ft) on it’s base. With the height of 66 meters (217 ft), this structure is almost double the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza (even though the Egyptian one is much taller, at over twice the height). The structure dates back to the 3rd century BCE and it’s architecture resemblances the buildings found in Teotihuacan, the most famous ancient city of Mexico. Apparently, in the ceramics found on the site during excavation, there are also traces of the Golf Coast civilizations. Especially El Tajin, which we visited just a few days earlier. To be honest, I couldn’t tell one from the other. Their art, all looks like hieroglyphs to me…

The main part of the pyramid is covered with dirt and therefore keeps the main chambers off limits for the tourists.  The structure, considering it’s size, localization and significance to Mexican history, is fairly unknown. The excavation works started only in the the 1930’s, so fairly recently and could never been completed. That’s because of the small christian church sitting on top of the pyramid…

04-Jan-2012 11:32, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 45.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 11:32, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 11:43, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
04-Jan-2012 11:48, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 85.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 11:51, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 
04-Jan-2012 12:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:19, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
04-Jan-2012 12:24, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:24, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 70.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:44, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 
04-Jan-2012 12:46, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 55.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:49, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
04-Jan-2012 12:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 55.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 

We have spent only few hours in Cholula and I wish we could have stayed longer. The pyramid itself deserves at least a full day, and then there are so many other attractions in town, we didn’t have time to see.  Before lunch we waved the mysterious Tlachihualtepetl goodbye and headed towards it’s more acclaimed cousin, the Teotihuacan. Leaving town, I watched the smoke over Popocatépetl in my rear view mirror and I wondered how would this place have looked like today, if it wasn’t for the christian conquistadors, who destroyed so much of Mesoamerica’s culture.

The Atrocities of Mexican Cuisine

With this article I am probably going to gross everyone out and I will have to forget all the kisses and hugs that I used to get from people.

Many times, I’ve said that I will try everything once. This also pertains to food. Mexico, with its varied cuisine has really a lot to offer. There are still parts of the country, where nothing is wasted: skin, brains, organs… they eat it all with salsa and a great big smile on their faces… 🙂

I have eaten organ meats before, I am used to it… not a big deal. Livers, harts, lungs, kidneys, tongues were on my menu since I was a kid. I will not lie, if I say that I actually love it! Every time I go back to Poland, my main dish request to my mom is turkey heart goulash. What can I say, my mom is the best cook in the world and I am going to take her heart goulash over a 5 star restaurant meal any time. Delicious!!!

So here they are, the most unusuall foods that I have never eaten before I came here…to Mexico:

Chicharon

I love saying that word, It makes me smile every time. It simply is pigs skin fried to perfection, so that it becomes a very krisp chip. They eat it with salsa or guacamole and it is delicious. We had it the first week in Mexico, everyone loved it but when the kids found out what it was, they stoped eating it 🙂 Especially Nadia…

Medula Soup

One of the best things I ate in my entire life. This soup is a tradition in some parts of this country. Medula means bone marrow, so it simply is a bone marrow soup. They use the leg bones to make it because it has a lot of marrow. You can buy them at every butcher, add some veggies, tomatoes and simmer on a low flame. It is haven in your mouth.

Tacos de Sesos

Tacos de Sesos
Tacos de Sesos

That is not my favourite but I tried it only once so maybe it was just poory prepared. These tacos are filled with pigs brain and fried afterwards. None of my family mambers was brave enough to try…I wonder why? Anyway, I will have to give it another try.

Mole de Pollo

Mole in Mexico is like a burger in the USA, pizza in Italy and croissant in France. I can not even begin to tell you how great it tastes. There are so many types because the ingredients list is long, that it would probably take me a lifetime to try them all. It is a meticoulous mix of dried chili (poblanos, ancho, passija), spices (corriander, anise, sesame seeds, cinamon etc), dried fruits (raisins) and of course the queen Chocolate. The perfect combination. Then you put in shreded chicken and voila… Fiesta is ready!!! It is also very versatile, because you can eat it with tortillas, rice, potatoes or just by itself. 🙂

Tacos de Tripitas

This dish has taken us by a complete surprise. One sunny afternoon me and the kids went to a pool party where these delicious tacos were served. We ate everything with great appetite to later find out that the tacos were filled with tripe. I guess the guts of a pig, cow, sheep, or goats taste pretty good when fried and served with salsa. 🙂

Paletas de Frutas con Chile

Ice Cream with Chili Powder
Alex working on his ice cream with chili powder

Let me tell you that it was quite overwhelming at first to find out that the Mexicans eat everything with chili and lime juice… even deserts. Yes, and as crazy as it sounds, it tastes awesome! There are many palleterias around town, where you can buy frozen bars on a stick made entirely of pure fruit and natural juice sprinkled generously with chili. My favorite is mango and apples. It never even crossed my mind to spice up my fruit before but it is genius! Robert and Nadia are on the fence but me and Alex are sold. My son even asked me to buy him chili powder, so that he can put it on all his food. Now I am just waiting to see if he puts it on cakes too… 🙂 Our Mexican friends call his “Niño Mexicano con pelos blancos” (i.e. Mexican boy with blond hair).

The Mexican cuisine continues to surprise me every day. It is so rich and delicious, that I recently told someone curious, that I do not miss Polish food at all. It spoils me with its flavors, versatility, ingredients that are fresh and unusual. If you still did not get it reading between the lines, I am in love with Mexican cuisine!!! But the best thing above all is that in this country, the poor men’s diet still consists of fresh, unprocessed, hand made from scratch, traditional foods.

Buen provecho everyone, I hope I did not spoil your apetite!!!

Communism is Good… for Your Eyes

Recently, a friend of mine asked to share my opinion on the subject of LASIK surgery. He was the one who convinced me to do it, now he’s persuading yet another friend to follow path. Instead of responding directly, I though I would share my experiences in this blog, hoping that it might be of help and interest also to other people. I had my surgery done couple of years ago. That’s recent enough to remember most of it’s details and far enough to be able to judge it’s outcome. Since everyone’s situation is different, I think it’s worth explaining my particular case.

I wasn’t Always Blind as a Bat.

In fact, for the first twenty years of my life I enjoyed a very good eyesight. Actually so excellent,  I frequently hit the bulls eye at our school’s shooting range. Yes, you read it right. Our high school, just as about any other in Poland under the communist regime, had a shooting range and all students were trained to handle a sports rifle. For no particular reason, of course…

Growing up in the 80’s, I didn’t have many opportunities to screw up my vision. Neither had my friends. With just one or two public TV channels,  transmitting mostly yet another communist party congress or some agricultural training materials, we didn’t have many incentives to stay in front of the tube. Reading was a decent alternative, but since the books available in bookstores and libraries were carefully selected by the almighty censors, there were only so many exciting titles worth reading by flashlight under bed covers. Therefore, for lack of better alternatives…

We Played Outside.

There weren’t that many cars around, so we turned almost every parking lot into football (soccer) fields. At the time, most residential areas had carpet beaters (not sure if that’s the right word for “trzepak”), which made excellent goals. Since playgrounds were rare, they also doubled as jungle gyms and regular hang-out spots for the youth in our neighborhood. Since all the media were equally not trustworthy, our parents weren’t that scared of the world and let us play outside all days long. Completely unsupervised. Or at least so we thought… Playing ball, riding bikes and running around, the streets were full of kids and always busy. Even though the steel plants in our city were polluting at intense rate, we still got plenty of vitamin “D”, growing up reasonably healthy and ignorantly happy.

Then Came the Changes.

In the mid 80’s, the first TV gaming systems started popping-up. Remember the two lines on each side of the screen and a dot traveling across? The “tennis” games didn’t really take off, but some of our more fortunate friends, with relatives in West Germany got their first ZX Spectrum and Atari 800XL computers. Bootleggers stared making fortunes, the streets deserted, Russian “color” (predominantly red) TVs found their purpose and we were all staring at their bleak displays for hours.

My first computer was a Commodore C16, with a whooping 16kb RAM and a very limited supply of games. It’s ROM based operating system had a build in interpreter of of the powerful programming language called… Basic.

This is When I Became a Geek.

Since I heaven’t had too many games, I spent hours developing simple code to draw circles or other figures on the tiny screen of a  Russian black and white TV set. Within a year or so, the C16 got replaced with a C64 and the small black&white TV got replaced with a small color TV. Then came another upgrade, then another. By the end of the 80’s I was the happiest owner of an Amiga computer attached to… a small color TV set.

It wasn’t until mid 90’s that I got my first proper monitor. And even that was a small, 14 inch CRT. At that time, I also started noticing that my eyesight is becoming weaker and weaker. At some point I had to admit that…

I Became a Road Hazard.

Not seeing clearly, I started to have difficulties. It didn’t matter in most daily life situations, but being young and reckless I liked to drive rather dynamically. Not seeing clearly the road in front of me started to be scary. Especially for my passengers. In 1998 it was time to finally admit that my “geekiness” ruined my vision. It was time to…

Put on the Eye Glasses

My shortsightedness has been confirmed with a -1.5 dioptres prescription. Suddenly, with a pair of thin rim glasses my emanated IQ increased by some 20%, but my life quality decreased by significantly more.

It took a lot of time, until I learned how to handle such delicate instruments. The glasses were always scratched and dirty, the rims crooked, the case misplaced, etc… Frankly, I’m not sure, I ever got used to them. The aesthetics weren’t really the biggest problem. Not being a sports freak, but averagely active young person nonetheless, I mostly suffered from…

Significantly Limited Range of Activities

Wearing corrective eye glasses, it’s difficult to play sports, swim or even run. In the winters, I remember walking into bars or on a hot summer day leaving air conditioned building  and completely loosing vision for few minutes, waiting for the glasses to de-fog. Many times I felt asleep with my glasses on, only to wake up to a knocked out eyepiece and mangled up rims. I could only ride my motorcycle in a full face helmet or using special, prescription goggles. Not to mention that…

Eyeglasses Costed a Fortune

Until I found the websites that sell decent quality Designer Eyeware for Less!, I used to spend several hundred dollars every year. My eyesight was worsening, so I needed upgrades. I mishandled my glasses, so I needed repairs. I kept loosing those damn things and I needed replacements. As much as the eye glasses were uncomfortable…

I Never Got to Use Corrective Lenses

Somehow, the idea of putting foreign objects into my eyes, didn’t feel very appealing. Plus, the cost of prescription lenses also seemed prohibitive. Yes, I’m cheap- just ask my wife…

Finally, few years ago, I heard about LASIK, commonly known as laser eye surgery. It is a procedure that aims to reshape corneas to sharpen vision. I won’t go over the details of the surgery, for I’m really not qualified to do so. Let me just say that it took me few years before I decided to get my eyes resharpened. As most people, I was mostly concerned with the…

Risks of LASIK eye surgery

Not that I heard about many problems, but the sole idea of aiming a laser beam at one of  your most precious organs and burning a hole in it, wasn’t that attractive. Only after I spoke to a few friends of mine, who had the procedure done, I started contemplating it for real. It was November 2009 and instead of eating fat turkey celebrating Thanksgiving, we took off for couple of weeks in Jamaica. I spent the time educating myself about the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery and upon return to the US, I finally contacted the suggested eye clinic in Rochester. I won’t mention it’s name, as I believe there is already enough ads on this blog. If you’re interested, please contact me, and I’ll send the contact info.

Laser Eye Surgery Financing

The initial examination took place early in December 2009. If it wasn’t for the doctor’s  busy schedule, I think, I would have been done within 4 or 6 weeks. It’s the time needed to prepare eyes using all kinds of eye drops for the LASIK surgery. Instead, I had to wait until later part of January of 2010. That gave me bit of time to work out the finances.

Even though the prices of LASIK eye surgeries dropped significantly in the last 10 years, I think they are still quite expensive. Especially when you see what’s involved. I decided to do the surgery in the US, but some of my colleagues at work took trips to Canada where the same procedure was just half the price. I know, you can also do it in south of the border, but many people won’t even consider to travel to Mexico. Even if that exact same LASIK procedure is considerably cheaper there.

In the US, the insurance won’t cover the eye surgery. Most doctor’s offices will however offer some kind of financing. Couple that with your medical FSA and you can work a pretty sweet deal for you. If you schedule the LASIK procedure at the beginning of the year, your FSA give you a de-facto 12 month, interest free financing.

Oh, an one more thing. If you plan on parting your ways with your current employer, do it in January and you will get a free LASIK surgery! How to do it? Declare appropriate FSA contributions the previous year, use FSA to pay for the surgery and quit your job right after the laser eye procedure. Most employers will have to cover the difference… Obviously that’s one of the things they don’t wont you to know. Not to mention, that it’s only suitable for people with more relaxed moral values…

The LASIK procedure

The laser eye surgery is actually a very short one. In my case it only took 45 minutes, of which 30 were waiting and preparation (i.e. tons of eye drops and Valium to keep you steady). Each eye takes about 5 minutes of gluing, adjusting and reinforcing and only about 10 seconds of actual eye surgery. It may sound a bit scary, and it feels a bit weird, but in fact there is nothing to worry about. If the tests are positive and you’re a suitable candidate for LASIK surgery, a very detailed computer model of your eyes will be developed through a series of examinations. That program will guide the laser beam to open the flap in your outer cornea and reshape it’s inner surface according to the model, then to close it back. I’m over simplifying and not being very exact here, but if you’re interested in the details, you can always investigate the subject for yourself.

In my case, it took longer to drive to and back from the clinic, then the LASIK laser eye procedure itself. Obviously I couldn’t drive back myself, so be sure to have a drive at hand to take you home. I got a pair of nice goggles to wear for the next 24 hours and a nice t-shirt with a teasing “Guess what I’m not wearing?” in front and the clinics logo on the back. Pretty damn steep for the $2,600 I paid…

I spent the next few hours in bed, stuffed with yet another dose of Valium. Obviously I didn’t complain – good night (or even afternoon) sleep is always welcome. The next morning I was back to work, except… no glasses!

Feedback After the Laser Eye Surgery

My vision improved almost immediately. Already leaving the clinic, I knew the procedure was successful. Even though blurry and foggy at first, I could already see objects that were off limits before. Within the first 12 hours after surgery, my vision was completely restored. The only side effect, which continued for several weeks was an extreme dryness of my eyes, forcing me to apply eye drops every couple of hours during the day. After few weeks even that went away and I could enjoy a perfect 20/15 vision ever since.

The Official Patient's Sourcebook on LASIK SurgeryIn fact, I wish, I educated myself and decided on the procedure much earlier. The results are amazing. My eye sight has not deteriorated after the surgery. What’s most important though, I can now enjoy all the activities that were previously either off limits or too complicated to perform with eye glasses.

I hope this personal account of a healed patient will be of value to anyone who considers a LASIK surgery. The results are definitely worth the effort. Obviously this post does not cover even a small fraction of the information required by anyone who’s serious about taking this step. Recently, I stumbled upon a book titled The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on LASIK Surgery, which promises the following:

This book has been created for patients who have decided to make education and research an integral part of the treatment process. Although it also gives information useful to doctors, caregivers and other health professionals, it tells patients where and how to look for information covering virtually all topics related to lasik surgery (also Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis; LASIK eye surgery), from the essentials to the most advanced areas of research. The title of this book includes the word official. This reflects the fact that the sourcebook draws from public, academic, government, and peer-reviewed research. Selected readings from various agencies are reproduced to give you some of the latest official information available to date on lasik surgery. Given patients’ increasing sophistication in using the Internet, abundant references to reliable Internet-based resources are provided throughout this sourcebook. Where possible, guidance is provided on how to obtain free-of-charge, primary research results as well as more detailed information via the Internet. E-book and electronic versions of this sourcebook are fully interactive with each of the Internet sites mentioned (clicking on a hyperlink automatically opens your browser to the site indicated). Hard-copy users of this sourcebook can type cited Web addresses directly into their browsers to obtain access to the corresponding sites. In addition to extensive references accessible via the Internet, chapters include glossaries of technical or uncommon terms.

Even though it might seem a little off topic, without my eyes being fixed, the whole Sabbatical road trip would be much less enjoyable and life more complicated. By the way, here’s a link to a blog post about the LASIK eye surgery I wrote the day after the procedure. It’s a fresh, first hand relation,  but it’s only in Polish… Sorry!

Coffee Grounds Body Scrub

What can you do with used coffee grounds besides using them in your garden as a fertilizer? You can also use it as a scrub for your body. Here is what you need:

  • used coffee grounds
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil or coconut oil
  • a bowl

Combine all the ingredients and massage your body under the shower after you washed yourself with soap. Finish your shower with cold water. This will additionally tighten your skin leaving it smooth and plump. Then dry your skin with a towel and moisturize. Repeat every week and you will notice the results very quickly. It is a bit messy but well worth it. It is also very cheap, in fact it is free. Caffeine is widely used in cosmetology due to its positive effects on skin. Coffee grounds scrub has been used for ages in Indonesia then introduced in western countries where you have to pay big bucks for it at SPA’s.

I have been doing it for years back at home but now on the road it came in even more handy since the space in our van is very limited:-)

The Benefits of Oregano Oil

I have already mentioned oregano oil in previous post but my recent experience prompted me to dedicate it a separate one.

I recently advised my friend to take some oregano oil for her cold. She was really upset because her and her husband were coming down with a cold, while in the process of scheduling a surgary for their son. Difficult situation since if they got him sick, the surgery would have to be called off …again. She took my advice and bought probably a year worth of supply:-) They took it religiously and got better pretty quickly.

Oregano oil is very powerful natural antibiotic that can be used internally and externally. The best thing about is that it is natural and you can not develop immunity to it. It has to be diluted because it is very strong!!!!! I use a teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of oregano oil for me and only one drop for my kids. Make sure you have a piece of fruit ready to eat right after you drink the oils because the taste is nasty and very strong.

So try it! It might be worth it!

Playground Fitness Routine

If you have kids most probably you spend 3 or even more times a week at a playground. I simply have to, or my children would destroy the house. It is good, I do not complain at all. When they were little, I had to be there with them every step of the way to help, show and hold, but now they are pretty much independent. I still have to be there of course just in case, keep an eye and make sure everyone is fine. Sometimes I had a book to read or a magazine but most of the time I just sat there for hours …until my butt hurt.

I came up with this routine because as a mom I hardly get any time for myself and I am no exception. I am used to doing fifteen things at the same time, why not fit in a workout while my kids play at the playground, right?!? It is a free gym afterall, no memberhip required!!!

Here is what I do:

  1. Jogg around the playground 15 times, you can do fast walk if you prefer. The goal is to raise your heart rate up.
  2. Chair dips on a bench. Start with 2 sets of 5 and when you build your strengh up add more. Soon you will be amazed with your tricepts, I promise:-)
  3. Pushups on a bench. I know they are hard at first but worth every second of your time. Remember, quality over quantity so do less but good ones. I started with 2 sets of 5 and then increased later on. This excercise is very powerfull because it makes your boobs bigger working all the muscles underneah, your tummy gets tighter and toned, your arms get beautiful and strong and your overall posture improves. This is a POWER excercise that everyone should do.
  4. Pullups on the monkeybars. This is the most challenging excercise for me. I mean it is hard, it is a killer. I remember my first attempts where I kept thinking I was never going to be able to pull myself up!?!?!?! I kept trying for months. Sometimes I managed to do 3 sometimes it was just one but I did not give up. Now I can do 3 sets of five. Start with just hanging on the bar and gradually try to pull yourself up. Try doing reverse grip first since you get to use your bicepts and they are going to help a lot. It might take a while but you will get there, trust me, I know. Pullups are crucial in maintaining our healh and getting our upper body strength. This POWER excercise works your whole body, your back, arms, tummy, legs, your butt…all. It is THE great multitasker!!!!
14-Feb-2012 17:35, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:35, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:35, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
 
14-Feb-2012 17:36, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:36, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:42, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
 
14-Feb-2012 17:37, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:37, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:36, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
 
14-Feb-2012 17:42, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:43, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 64
14-Feb-2012 17:54, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
 

This whole routine should take you no more then 20 minutes, that is all. Not much considering the outcome that you are going to see very soon doing it 3 times a week. I love this routine because you get the most in very little time. It has been a lifesaver for me on the road since playgrounds are everywhere! The last but not least is the example that I set for my kids showing that fitness is important at every stage of you life.

San Miguel de Allende stinks

As my wife points out frequently, I’m not a very social person. A geek of sorts, who loves to tinker with software, but is just not talented enough to make a fortune. A  personification of the worst of both worlds – challenging personality and lack of abilities. With a bit of imagination, these may also be the best qualities of a perfect husband, who’s got a quiet, inexpensive hobby, spends much time with his family and doesn’t cause too much trouble. Well, at least most of the time…

Yesterday, despite my contention, I found myself dragged into a social meeting. Supposedly a party, but the lack of alcohol should have given me the clue, that something was off. Clumsily trying to mingle, I got into a discussion. As usual around here, stories of people being sucked in by the San Miguel de Allende magnet were exchanged and praise of the towns beauty and it’s rich cultural life was flowing. Being socially (and otherwise too) insensitive, I dared to say, that even though I found this town very interesting and for the most part pleasant to live in, I can’t imagine  myself and my Family spending the rest of our life here. The floodgates closed immediately. The consternation that followed was visible and audible. I had to offer an explication to end the minute of silence that followed my unfortunate assertion.

The views of San Miguel de Allende seem to be binary – people either love it, or hate it – without much room for other feelings in between those two extremes. In reality, there is much to love, but also much to dislike about the town. Maybe I’m just very cynical, but despite all it’s beauty and cultural appeal, San Miguel de Allende is also trash filled, dirty, smelly and noisy city. You may not notice that at first if you only stay in El Centro, but beyond the theme park, there is real life with all it’s eyesore ugliness – bare brick favellas, dog poo covered sidewalks, sewer filled river, etc… There are no fancy restaurants, no flavored lattes, no art galleries, not even these colorful beggars. On the other hand, there are no herds of blood thirsty bandits either, no drug cartels running meth labs and illegal casinos. Just regular folks, trying to make a living, like anyone else in the World. Some will find those neighborhoods inspiring, others won’t set foot anywhere close…

We live in one of them. We love the view from the rooftop, the fact that everything we need is so close by and we adore the guy who brings our cacahuates and garbanzos every evening. At the same time, we abominate the youngsters talking loud under our windows,  roof dogs barking, roosters crawing and cars honking all night long. But that’s all part of the same experience. The beauty comes with the monstrosity, the good with the bad, yin with the yang.

The discussion about Mexico in popular media is similarly polarized. Travel and real estate magazines want you to believe Mexico is the next best thing to paradise, sensation thirsty newspapers will only mention it in relation to another wave of war on drugs fueled violence. It’s true that most Mexican cities statistically speaking are safer than majority of US metropolises, and the probability of tourist beheading in either countries is equally remote. But at the same time, majority of travelers are more concerned with kidnappings, theft, police corruption and robbery, then accidentally loosing their head (in literal, not figurative sense). Unfortunately, these statistics are less easily available and often unreliable. Therefore, beyond a handful common sense travelers, there is very few factual relations from the country. Truth is, it’s not all rosy, but it’s also not as diabolic as they want you to believe. Statements like these may not be very popular, but I believe this is exactly what this country tourism industry needs – a bit of reality check. Intelligent people can draw their own conclusions when fed facts and not over colorized propaganda.

Coming back to the embarrassment I caused, without going much into details, I explained to my interlocutors, that even though some places seem real nice, spending a lifetime in just one of them doesn’t seem very attractive to us. At least not at this time of our life… That didn’t ease up the tension, but mercifully, someone said that the meeting will start in 15 minutes.

A meeting? I thought this was supposed to be a party? Suddenly I picked up on the lack of alcohol and all the alarms went up in my head.  Is it a fundraiser? Maybe a religious sect? Both? Turned out, it’s an organization promoting healthy diet and active lifestyle and the party was a founding meeting for a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Obviously, my wonderful wife forgot to explain that to me beforehand. Or maybe she did it on purpose, knowing my aversion to any form of structured movements. Somehow, I also missed all the signs with the “party agenda” displayed all over the small house on the outskirts of El Centro.  The foundation provides nutritional education and encourage people to eat like their ancestors used to. Better yet, adopt a diet of the “primitive” (in a positive sense) cultures. I breathed a sigh of relief – it’s nothing new, pretty much compatible with our own system of values.

Even though we have no intention of joining the foundation, I’m sure we will be remembered by the local San Miguel de Allende chapter members long after our departure. My wife for her expertise in indigenous foods (she brought in samples of “smalec”) and her inept husband for socially awkward behavior and inappropriate views of the sacred city of San Miguel de Allende.

Awesome, Nutritious Pancakes

If you’re looking for a more nutritious pancake recipe, try this one!!!! It is delicious, easy and literally takes minutes to prepare. It has every nutrient that you need to start your day, not just insulin spiking, processed carbohydrates and sugar that regular pancakes are famous for.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1 ½ cup of kefir, natural flavor
  • teaspoon of coconut oil
  • 2 mushed bananas
  • ½ cup of shredded coconut unsweetend

Put top four ingredients into the blender and blend well.Pour mixture over bananas /coconut and mix well. If you would like them sweeter add a tablespoon of honey and mix it in. Fry on a frying pan in coconut oil. I make them the size of hash brown or latke. This recipe will make 6 or 7 pancakes.

I made different variations. I used milk or buttermilk instead of kefir. I also used shreded apples instead of bananas and coconut flower instead of regular. They all taste great. We eat them with honey, marmolade or nut butters. Whatever we have on hand. They also freeze well so make sure you make double batch for all those busy mornings! Very healthy and nutritious.

Stay Healthy on the Road

Since we’ve made the decision to wander around the world for a while, my biggest concern has been our health and well being. How were we going to deal with sickness on the road? Where were we going to find a good doctor in a new place? What if we had an emergency… Where are we to go? All these questions were spinning through my head until I got dizzy.

There was not much left to do, but to get ready. I got on my favorite websites, visited my naturopath, doctor Evelyn Asher and realized that prevention is the best way to go. I knew that most common diseases start in your gut, so healthy intestines are key in fighting off all kinds of bacteria and viruses. Evelyn assured me that maintaining a healthy, whole, real, made from scratch foods diet was crucial.

At home, it was easy to get all the unprocessed, raw, locally grown, mostly organic foods. But on the road, it was a whole new ball game. Many times we walked out of a store with empty hands, because everything was processed, chemically altered, genetically modified and out of a box. However, thanks to Robert’s love of back roads, we were able to find products at small food stands in the country. It was mostly produce, but also locally grown meats, honey, and raw dairy products.

Along the way, we have been on a constant lookout for “edible” foods, feeling like modern day hunters in the overly processed and plastic world. When we found a good store, I would buy more to keep us going for the next day or so, but not more, since all we had was a portable cooler.

In addition, all of us went on probiotics and fish oil supplements. Not just any. There are a lot of expensive and worthless products, but there are a few good and inexpensive ones too (we use Primal Defense and Nordic Naturals). I put it in smoothies for my children and they never know the difference.

We also packed some essential oils, like oregano and eucalyptus. The first one is a natural antibiotic that you can not develop resistance to, and the second is a great natural and DEET free bug repellent.

You may say, that it is expensive, too much hustle, time consuming… Yes, it is all of those things, but the rewards are tangible. If it was not for the ticks that bit Nadia or a recent 2 day fever for Alex, my kids would have made a year without any kind of health issue. How is that for a saving on copay’s at the doctors offices! Yes a year… That is a great result for a travelling child, sleeping in different places, eating new foods, being exposed to all kinds of germs and regularly going to school in Mexico.

Writing this post, I have probably jinks-ted myself and now we are all going to get sick, 😉 but here it is, I’ve said it. To me it is worth every penny and every minute, it is my long term commitment to let food be my medicine so cheers and let’s raise our glasses… Mine is filled with jugo verde! 🙂

Mexico for Dummies, The Missing Guide

Against your governments’ issued travel warnings, better judgment and your friends advice, you decided to visit Mexico. You ended up in a small, colonial town in central Mexico. Now what? What do you do? How do you proceed? After all, they don’t give you a guide at the entrance to this theme park. To fill the void, here’s one you can use in San Miguel de Allende. Or any other place in the World for that matter. It’s universally useless…

When abroad, don’t try to speak the language of the locals. They’ll laugh at you! Instead, speak English, but do it loudly and slowly, just like you would when talking to your Grandma, or a retarded person. Repeat every word several times. Use your hands often. Eventually they’ll get it! Roll your eyes and throw your hands in the air with a loud sigh if they don’t. Don’t forget, you’re doing them a big favor – how else would they ever be able to communicate?

When at a restaurant, make sure to complain about the food. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Wipe the table with a disinfectant tissue and ask the people who serve you to wash their hands. Twice. Lecture them on the service you expect and leave just a minimal tip, you don’t want to spoil them.

When sight seeing, express loudly your disapproval. Compare everything to your home town and make sure the locals know, what’s wrong with their place. Obviously their funny, little town will never be as great as your neck of the woods, but at least they’ll understand what they need to improve. Sure, they have those old buildings and cathedrals, but they don’t even have a decent mall or a McDonalds for crying out loud!

Always offer your advice to those who are visibly in need. Lecture the beggars about the importance of having a regular job, or attending a school, so that they can lift their status and maybe, one day become a contributing member of society. Tell the store and restaurant owners how to run their business. Explain to the street vendors the importance of hygiene. Just for heavens sake, don’t buy anything!

Take a lot of pictures. After all you’re on a mission to document the poverty. Take close up shots of every beggar on the streets. Obviously, you don’t need to ask their permission. Make them pose showing their sad faces full of wrinkles. Even if you’re generous, never give them more then a few pesos, you don’t want to spoil them. If, on the other hand, you want to convince your friends and family at home that Mexico is great place to visit, shoot a lot of doors, cobblestone streets, colorful, adobe houses and windows with garlands of flowers. Frame or Photoshop the beggars out.

And the most important of all – never leave El Centro! The theme park is large, but it has it’s borders. Unless you’re extremely brave and adventurous, you should never enter the parts of town that haven’t been build for tourists. The locals living in the less picturesque parts of town all all believed to be zombies waiting for a lost tourist to be robbed, raped, killed or eaten for breakfast. Or so the legend says. So far, no one’s been brave enough to verify it. Those, who crossed the line, never came back. They turned… locals!