Traveling by car in Mexico

Some of our readers were wondering about the practical aspects of traveling by car in Mexico. And obviously about safety of such extravaganza. Some of them even consider coming over and needed a few tips. Instead of responding all of their concerns individually and writing hundreds of emails, here are some of the things I would recommend:

  • First and foremost, here are the formal requirements for crossing the US-Mexican border. Yep, everything in that article is accurate, and even though it sounds complicated, you can get everything done at the border within an hour or so.
  • When you shop around for Mexican car insurance, check online and compare at the border. The agents in Laredo wanted between 30% and 100% more then an online quote.
  • If driving through Laredo (like we did), use the Columbia bridge crossing. It’s few miles West from Laredo, and it may seem like burning a lot of gas, but the crossing is almost always empty, so it’s easier to get the paperwork done and you get onto the highway right away and don’t need to drive through Nuevo Laredo.
  • Hit the border early (Columbia opens 8.00 AM) in the morning to have much daylight for driving through the border region.
  • After crossing the border, “unlearn” everything you’re been taught about traffic rules and safety on the roads. There don’t seem to be any… your imagination (and vehicles capabilities) are the limits!
  • Avoid driving after dusk. It’s for your own safety – the roads are badly lit and their surface is unpredictable (rocks, potholes, drunks, animals, etc…).
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good shape before crossing the border – finding good mechanics and/or authorized dealerships is much more difficult than in the States.
  • Make sure your vehicle has got some decent clearance between the undercar and the pavement. Some of the speed bumps (called “topes”) here are 4 to 5 inches tall. And they’re the most frequent and popular feature on the roads in Mexico. Some of them are marked, most take you by surprise…
  • The longer and wider the rig, the more difficult it will be to maneuver some of the narrow streets. Most of the towns in Mexico were build, before Mayflower anchored Plymouth. The streets only allow for bidirectional traffic of unloaded donkeys. There is a street in San Miguel de Allende, where we have to fold the side mirrors of our minivan to get through…
  • The paid highways (called “cuotas”) may seem expensive, but are well worth the 100 pesos or so, per 20km… or so – I didn’t quite figure it out yet – there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to their prices. They are no German “autobahn”, but as good as any US interstate. Unless…
  • … unless the “cuotas” are only one lane roads. It is common that you pay for a highway and drive on an equivalent of a well maintained US county road. In such case, the two lanes and the shoulders (if any) are spontaneously upgraded into a four lane highways.
  • The  non-paid highways (called “libramentes”), or lets just call them the paved roads, are… paved (at least for the most part). They remind me of the long forgotten and never attended roads in some underfunded US counties. Except…
  • …the “libramentes” are always busy. Usually it’s motorized traffic, but not necessary: cars, wagons, bicycles, wheel barrows, tequila fueled pedestrians and animals (wild and domesticated) are a norm.

And most of all, don’t be alarmed by everything you read in the US media. 99.9% of people here are very friendly. At the worst, some of the poor fellows may try to fool you for a few pesos you at the gas pump (make sure the pump is reset and shows zeros before start pumping). But at the same time, they will go out of their way to help you, should you be in trouble.

Oh, and remember, plastic is very much useless in most of Mexico (except for larger and tourist cities) – cash is king! So be sure to exchange your hard earned dollars for pesos before crossing the border. Or get it from an ATM – the rates are usually better then the border region crooks. Just remember that the ATM’s are not as frequent as in the US.

More questions? Let me know!

Sierra Madre Oriental

Christmas Holidays in Mexican schools started this year on December 17th and will last untli January 9th, 2012. That Friday was a last day with backpacks and books. What followed, was a Christmas show the next week and now we’re enjoying a time off school. Trying to make the best out of such long break, we’ve packed our van again and hit the road.

The plan is to make a loop around central Mexico. The first leg of this short trip took us from San Miguel de Allende, through Celaya, Queretaro, Jalpan, all the way to a small town in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains called Xilitla. The place is mostly famous thanks to Edward James, an excentric millionaire, who build… well, let me disclose that only after we visit the place.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from the winding road through the mountains. It was curvy indeed. To a point, when Agnieszka finally throw up and said: “There’s no way we’re going back this road!”. Later on she read in our Mexico guide, that highway 120 is the least frequent way to get to Xilitla. Well, now we know why…

28-Dec-2011 16:23, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 18:07, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 16:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
28-Dec-2011 16:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 16:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 18:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
28-Dec-2011 16:04, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 14:57, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 14:54, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 

Feliz Navidad!

Couple of weeks short of six months. That’s how long we’ve been on this Sabbatical. So far, everything has worked out exactly as planned. Or better… Sounds like a cliche, but it’s true – time flies when you’re having fun!

Recently, I’ve been having really hard time coming up with new updates for this blog. Fortunately, my talented wife stepped in and (as usual) saved the day. While I was tinkering with yet another programming pet project, she took things in her capable hands and made sure our loyal readers are kept frequently updated on the developments of our Sabbatical…

Today, we’d like to thank all of you for being with us for so long and for keeping us company through your encouraging posts and emails. Gracias a Todos! Feliz Navidad and …we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Our Mexican Christmas

It is the first time we spend Christmas in warm climate. Very strange feeling but not for Mexicans who are in Christmas spirit for a month or so. The whole town is beautifully decorated and the Christmas carols are playing everywhere. The celebrations of „posada” which means „inn” or „shelter” also started few days ago. This tradition recreates Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. They are held on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from Dec 16 to 24 th.

All the markets are full of beautiful decorations, lights, candles, sweets and trees of course. We, instead of getting a classic tree decided to do something different. On our way from Guanajuato we picked up a dead tree branch. On our roof top terrace we shaped it and spray painted it white. An upside down plastic red bucket serves as a stand and ……tada!!!!!! Tree was ready for decorations and these were very special this year. All were either knitted by me or made by my children. The only thing we bought were lights. It was sooooo much fun even though, I have to be honest – it is not the most beautiful thing I have ever seen:-) The kids were extremely happy and proud cutting out all the dinosaurs from color paper. We also have Spiderman, who on a daily basis is just a finger puppet but now during Christmas guards order on our funky tree.

Now all we have to do is make sauerkrout and muschroom pierogies for Christmas Eve dinner…..Feliz Navidad Everyone!!!!

17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 16.0, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 11.0, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:19, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:59, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 14:59, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
 
17-Dec-2011 15:00, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 15:01, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 15:01, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
 

How to make lemonade in Mexico

After a few sets with his older sister, Alex finally got promoted from an assistant to an anchor. On his mother’s birthday, he not only helped with the breakfast to bed in the morning, but also offered to prepare fresh lemonade. Taking advantage of his generosity, we turned that rather uncommon event into an instructional video for all the scamps in the World!

Fernando de la Mora

As part of the Festival San Miguel Cantador, last Sunday, one of the contemporary greatest tenors gave a free concert in front of the Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende. As you can imagine, this drove crowds from all over Guanajuato and other parts of Mexico. The concert was televised live.

In one of the few short breaks, Fernando gave a great speech calling for a national action to show that Mexico, despite it’s recent problems, is not only a land of drugs, corruption and violence, but it’s also a great place for connoisseurs of fine art. With it’s long and rich history and talented, friendly people San Miguel de Allende is a true cultural mecca for people from all over the World.

Even though, I’m really not much into opera music, I have to admit, I really did enjoy the event. The orchestra played many classical pieces, as well as some season relevant songs by modern composers from all over the World. Rather then sitting or standing in one place, I was able to walk around, see kids break dancing in the park, grab a coffee and take a few pictures.

Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 21:38, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 70.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
 
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 85.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:26, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 200.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:25, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 200.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
 
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Parroquia (parisch church) at night.
Parroquia (parisch church) at night.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Break dance in the park.
Break dance in the park.04-Dec-2011 21:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
 
Break dance in the park.
Break dance in the park.04-Dec-2011 21:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
People gathered in Jardin Allende to watch performance of Fernando de la Mora.
People gathered in Jardin Allende to watch performance of Fernando de la Mora.04-Dec-2011 21:26, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Kids dancing in a gazebo, in the back Fernando de la Mora performing on the stage.
Kids dancing in a gazebo, in the back Fernando de la Mora performing on the stage.04-Dec-2011 21:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 800
 
Parroquia at night with moon in the background.
Parroquia at night with moon in the background.04-Dec-2011 21:43, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 45.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Agnieszka and Estefania in  Jardin Allende after Fernando de la Mora's concert.
Agnieszka and Estefania in Jardin Allende after Fernando de la Mora's concert.04-Dec-2011 21:44, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Agnieszka and Estefania in front of Parroquia after Fernando de la Mora's concert in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Agnieszka and Estefania in front of Parroquia after Fernando de la Mora's concert in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 21:45, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
 

Fireworks against a backdrop of a Parroquia.The concert concluded with a display of fireworks against the backdrop of the Parroquia. In the series, there more concerts coming, and since now we have a babysitter (or even three of them), I’m  sure we’ll take the opportunity to spend a few nights on town this winter season.

Charreria, a rodeo Mexican style

Last Sunday, we woke up with a strange feel, that something was off, different than usual. We couldn’t quite place that feeling, but eventually Nadia stumbled upon first clue: it was colder then normal. When that fact finally sunk in, we had to admit that it was really quite uncomfortably chilly. Then we looked outside. Even though it was a late morning already, something was missing… We couldn’t see the sun! The clouds covered the sky tightly – quite uncommon sight, we thought… And then we noticed the real game changer. Something unthinkable happened overnight. The streets were… wet! Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There was some  moist covering the cold cobble stones. It must have rained while we were sleeping. I think, that winter finally caught up with us. Time to get that long trousers and socks out of the suitcase. At least we know, we haven’t carried them half way around the continent for nothing.

After a long and definitely late breakfast, we were ready for the main attraction of the day. A friend of ours, invited us to an event, which was taking place just outside of town. I wasn’t quite sure what was it suppose to be, but welcomed the idea of going out. Expecting for the sun to come out shortly, we didn’t put too much cloths and headed out the doors.

While trying to open the garage door, a steel latch on the gate broke off, leaving our car immobilized and forcing us to take a cab. All taxis in San Miguel de Allende are green and for the most part Nissan Tsuru, a very reliable, but small and not very comfortable cars. All rides have also a flat rate. Within town it’s $30 pesos (USD $2.5), outside town it could be up to $40 pesos (USD $3). Our 15 minutes drive turned out to be $35 pesos.

We got to the Lienzo Charro (events ring) few minutes before our host, so we had to wait in the parking lot. Fortunately, Estefania and her lovely children showed up on time and we all headed to the gate. She was also much more considerate about the weather than us, and brought with her several thick rugs.  We got to the seats and bundled tightly waiting for the show to start.

The arena, build in the shape of an “U” had all the seats on one end and an open corral on the other. There were people already in the audience, and also horsemen in the ring, but it was clear the show didn’t start yet. Curious as what to expect, we learned that we were about to witness a charrería (also known as a cherreada). In a nutshel, it’s a sports event similar to rodeo, but with some rich history.

Evolving from the traditions brought from Spain in the 16th century, the first charreadas were ranch work competitions between haciendas. The modern Charreada developed after the Mexican Revolution when charro traditions were disappearing. The competing charros often came from families with a tradition of Charreria, and teams today are often made up from extended families who have been performing for up to five generations. The charreada consists of nine events for men plus one for women, all of which involve horses, cattle or both.

As we were getting comfortable in our concrete seats, I’ve noticed that despite fairly harsh (as for San Miguel de Allende) weather, the event draw quite a number of people. Some of them were obviously family, friends and relatives of the equestrians, but there was also a fair number of tourists. They’re always easy to recognize by their large lens digital SLR’s. In San Miguel de Allende, people discover their creative sides and everyone turns painter, writer or at least a photographer…

When the show started, a group of men, women and boys, riding their horses entered the arena. After presenting themselves to the audience, they retreated to the corral and the games began. I have to admit, I didn’t find the events extremely exciting, which might be because of the cold weather. I noticed however, that despite the shivering cold, the beer vendor drew more interest than the events in the Lienzo Charro.

A boy turns a cow over in full speed pursuit

The situation changed when the boys started to chase cows in the arena, trying to turn them over in a high speed pursuit (not sure what’s PETA’s take on this one). People on the tribunes started to cheer loudly every time a cow tumbled in a cloud of dust. Again, the gradual change in audience mood might also be attributed to the much welcomed appearance of  tequila vendors. The beer vendor didn’t seem happy. Outside the main arena, vendors setup their food stands selling tacos, gorditas, enchiladas and tortas. On the audience teenage girls and boys were selling snacks. Back at the top of the tribune, a DJ has setup his gear – a loud, apparently very popular song pouring out of his large loudspeakers. Some people in the audience started to sing and dance, without paying any attention to the events in the arena. Or their neighbors for that matter…

How to spot a tourist in San Miguel de Allende?
How to spot a tourist in San Miguel de Allende?27-Nov-2011 14:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 400
Peopel on the tribunes before the show began.
Peopel on the tribunes before the show began.27-Nov-2011 14:01, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Estefania's boys watching the horsemen.
Estefania's boys watching the horsemen.27-Nov-2011 14:02, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
 
Horse women (?) in the corral before entering the arena.
Horse women (?) in the corral before entering the arena.27-Nov-2011 14:37, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
Lienzo Carro, the events ring in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Lienzo Carro, the events ring in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.27-Nov-2011 13:58, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
DJ singing karaoke style, folk songs. Very popular among the audience!
DJ singing karaoke style, folk songs. Very popular among the audience!27-Nov-2011 15:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 800
 
Young horsemen saluting the audience.
Young horsemen saluting the audience.27-Nov-2011 15:23, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 85.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
I was wondering all the time what were they drinking. Half the audience was drunk, they must have had some tequila too...
I was wondering all the time what were they drinking. Half the audience was drunk, they must have had some tequila too...27-Nov-2011 15:46, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
A boy riding a young bull.
A boy riding a young bull.27-Nov-2011 15:55, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Tequila vendors were very popular in the audience.
Tequila vendors were very popular in the audience.27-Nov-2011 15:56, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
A boy riding (trying to) a young bull.
A boy riding (trying to) a young bull.27-Nov-2011 16:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
A boy under a young bull. Few bruises, nothing serious.
A boy under a young bull. Few bruises, nothing serious.27-Nov-2011 16:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
 
Young boy showing off his lasso skills.
Young boy showing off his lasso skills.27-Nov-2011 16:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 800
The head honcho.
The head honcho.27-Nov-2011 15:53, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
Lots of sombreros...
Lots of sombreros...27-Nov-2011 14:45, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 

There were some questionable moments during the show. Apparently, the cows purpose was to be turned over – either in high speed pursuits, or being pulled by their tails, legs or horns. Younger boys were also riding them – which happened to be exciting only when one of them fell under a cow. Cows payback…

Despite that and the cold weather, I think we all enjoyed the event. But we also welcomed the proposal to move to our hosts house even more. After few hours of this frigid cold we needed a hot drink – apparently something  that’s difficult to get during sports events in Mexico…

Jugo Verde – Mexican Green Juice

Nadia and Alex on our roof top terrace in San Miguel de Allende explain what is Jugo Verde, the Green Juice and how to prepare it at home. There are no exotic ingredients to it, and one doesn’t have to go all the way to Mexico to taste it. Try it at home and let us know what you think!

Tamales, gorditas and jugo verde

I have finally decided to write about the topic that is very close to my heart (or I should rather say – stomach), the Mexican cuisine.

All my friends know how incredibly important food is for me. Not only it has to be tasty, but most importantly, it has to be healthy. I adore, love, crave, am fascinated with whole foods. I am a firm believer, that most diseases start with a poor diet so food is definitely my medicine. That does not mean, that I am one of those health nuts, that will only eat certain foods. I believe in eating everything in moderation and there are only a few things I will stay away from most of the time.

Let me assure you that it is pretty easy to eat healthy in Mexico. They know definitely how to make sure everyone eats a well balanced diet including lots of vegetables, fruits, protein and carb combo.

On pretty much every corner you can buy freshly made juices (jugos) including jugo verde (green juice) blend of fresh squeezed orange juice, spinach, swiss chard and celery. Yes, that is what their children drink on their way to school. They also drink a lot of coconut water, which is so rich in nutrients and minerals that beats 100% all the sports drinks made in the lab.

Their snacks consist of freshly cut fruits and vegetables that you also can buy everywhere, conveniently packed in a small plastic baggies. All you need is a pair of clean hands…:-)

If you like something on the spicy side, boiled peanuts and garbanzos with a little bit of paprika and freshly squeezed lime juice would be your choice. How cool is that, it is all vegetable protein that all of us desperately need!

Delicious, boiled peanuts (Cacahuates) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.
Delicious, boiled peanuts (Cacahuates) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.18-Nov-2011 19:59, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 13.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Delicious, boiled Garbanzo beans (Garbanzos) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.
Delicious, boiled Garbanzo beans (Garbanzos) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.18-Nov-2011 20:00, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 13.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Delicious, boiled Garbanzo beans (Garbanzos) and peanuts (Cacahuates) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.
Delicious, boiled Garbanzo beans (Garbanzos) and peanuts (Cacahuates) served hot with freshly squized lime juice over.18-Nov-2011 19:58, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.022 sec, ISO 200
 

As far as main meals are concerned, the day starts with eggs. I have known it for a long time but recently I read a lot of press about how important it is to start you day with protein. It just speeds up you metabolism so you burn more fat. Sounds good to me! Eggs are so versatile, so it is hard to get bored with them.

Lunches and dinners are usually meat or fish based plus lots of veggies and avocado. That is sooooo good for you! The Mexicans mainly eat pork and chicken, since beef here is not very tender.

The only thing I would change, is the corn flour that they use tons of. I am not a big fan of it because almost all corn in the world is GMO (genetically modified). Not that we do not eat all those delicious tacos, gorditas (a small, thick tortilla filled with just about anything) or tamales (corn flour dough mixed with minced meat or cheese which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper) made with corn flour…..we just limit our consumption.

To my greatest surprise, I found out that there is an Organic Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende. That is where I go every Saturday to buy the freshest, tastiest, sun ripened produce, artisan breads, jams made from nopales (cactus) and fruits, that I never knew existed. Then I pack it all on my bicycle and ride home enjoying the smell coming out of my front basket. I have to make it just in time to prepare lunch for my kids coming from the library and trust me they are very, very hungry…:-)

Nadia’s Birthday

Looks like we’re running this blog with a two weeks delay. Nadia’s birthday was on the 12th, but I didn’t get to write about it until tonight. This might be one of the hard to kill habits, I got from my former life – you know the one involving shirts, ties and jackets. The currently lacking parts of my wardrobe.

We arrived in San Miguel de Allende at the end of October. That means we had couple of weeks to prepare for Nadia’s birthday. The most challenging was to find her new friends and invite them to the party. We enrolled our children to a local kids club, run by two American expats. Nadia and Alex quickly conquered hearts of Roombo regulars, unfortunately none of them were available to attend the party. Fortunately there is no shortage of kids on our street, even if most of them are boys…

On the day of the party, Agnieszka stayed home, while I took the kids to the library. That gave her a chance to prepare the festivities properly and without being constantly bugged by the two pumpkins.

At the library, lured by a promise of an English language story time, at first we wandered around aimlessly, only to discover new attractions.

You need to know, that in San Miguel de Allende, but I guess in other parts of Mexico as well, agendas do not seem mandatory. Things have a tendency to happen when and where it’s suitable, not when it’s been scheduled for. We learned that lesson before, with our maid, who decided she prefers to clean the house on Saturdays, rather then Thursdays as previously agreed. Therefore we weren’t extremely surprised to find out, that for whatever reason there is no story time that day. Even though it was heart breaking for some of us, we didn’t suffer for long. Instead, we stumbled upon children’s jewelry class. Open for the public and completely unannounced…

When we got back home everything was ready for the party. Well, maybe except for pizza and balloons, so I welcomed the opportunity for a quiet walk on my own, while Agnieszka and the kids awaited the guests. Turns out, Agnieszka almost had to drag some of the guests by their ears to the party. Boys at certain age tend to be real shy… Fortunately, when I got back, the house was already full of kids. Two large pizzas weren’t enough for all of them!

The main attraction of the day was obviously the pink, Hello Kitty piniata which Nadia carried back home from the local market few days before. The problem was, that the damn thing was empty and standing in the doorways with two hot, large pizzas on my hands, I realized I only have a few moments to change that. The kids all around me were screaming “piniata”, leaving very little room for interpretation. With a pocket knife, adhesive tape and a bag of candy I disappeared in the bedroom, while Agnieszka fed the little monsters.

I was done in no time, but then there was another challenge. Or even two. First, we didn’t have a baseball bat, so we had to improvise with a broom stick (turns out in Mexico, this actually is quite the norm). Secondly,  there was no backyard and I didn’t like the idea of a bunch of kids swinging broom sticks around our nice rental house. If we ever wanted to see that deposit check back, we had to take it to the streets. All we needed was a piece of rope and a willing neighbor. We found both without problems. Our cloths line fitted nicely with the spiderweb of electric wires suspended between the buildings. And remember the party garage opposite our bedroom…? I mentioned them before in my rant about San Miguel de Allende. Obviously there was a party going on and there were multiple volunteers to swing a piniata on a line. And they were professionals too…

Nadia and their friends playing on the floor.
Nadia and their friends playing on the floor.12-Nov-2011 15:40, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 4.8, 18.28mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 800
Nadia, Carla, William and Alex's legs...
Nadia, Carla, William and Alex's legs...12-Nov-2011 15:40, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 4.8, 18.28mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 400
Piniata hunging over a cobblestone street in Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Underneath Alex dancing...
Piniata hunging over a cobblestone street in Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Underneath Alex dancing...12-Nov-2011 16:09, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:09, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
Nadia with a broom stick ready to hit her Piniata. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with a broom stick ready to hit her Piniata. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:09, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 85.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with a broom stick getting ready to hit her Piniata, while other kids are watching the preparations. The scene on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
Nadia blindfolded trying to hit a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia blindfolded trying to hit a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia successful at hitting a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia successful at hitting a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Nadia with her Hello Kitty Piniata hunging suspended between building on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia with her Hello Kitty Piniata hunging suspended between building on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Piniata with a broken arm after being hit by a broom stick on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Piniata with a broken arm after being hit by a broom stick on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia hitting a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia hitting a Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Nadia swinging a broom stick on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia swinging a broom stick on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
Neighbors kids helping operate te Piniata and watching the scene on the street below them on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Neighbors kids helping operate te Piniata and watching the scene on the street below them on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 
Our American neighbor operating the other end of the line suspending the Piniata hunging over a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Our American neighbor operating the other end of the line suspending the Piniata hunging over a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
A Piniata with a broken arm in front of a spider web of electric cables on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
A Piniata with a broken arm in front of a spider web of electric cables on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
Nadia still trying to hit the Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia still trying to hit the Piniata on a cobblestone street of Colonia San Rafael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.12-Nov-2011 16:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 

Overall, despite being the new kids on the block, Nadia and Alex didn’t have any problems fitting in. For being just a few days in a complete new environment, I think we did quite well. I don’t know much Spanish, but by the look on the guest faces, I’m sure they liked it too. And I don’t mean only the pizza…