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Zapatistas and monkeys

21 Jul

Absolutely sick of the rain, with no dry clothes, a blister the size of a house on my toe and no sign of the wet weather waining,  last night Anna and I decided that we had to just get on with things, give or take the rain!

There are a couple of cinemas in San Cristobal, so we decided to go and watch the Zapatistas documentary – after all, we are in the midst of Zapatista country. I remembered writing essays in final year comparing Mexican and Guatemalan social movements, so was really looking forward to it. The film didnt disappoint. It explained how the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, Mexico´s most resource rich but poorest state, decided to rise up against the goverment in 1994. Their demands were simple enough – democracy, land rights, healthcare, education, and peace, amongst others. The documentary took us through the Mexican government´s reaction to the indigenous people´s actions, all of the broken promises and the denial of their existence… I could go on forever, but needless to say the situation has not yet been resolved and someone will undoubtably make another documentary in a few years time.

Today we broke the budget and took a trip to the Canon del Sumidero, which is a huge canyon with a river running through it. We took an amazing boat trip through the canyon, to parts where the walls were up to 1000m high, and the water was 200m deep. Best bit – seeing waterfalls which only appear in times of HEAVY RAIN and spider monkeys, and crocodiles!

Tomorrow we´re off to Guatemala, early buses, border crossings and chicken buses await 🙂

Tostadas de Tinga al Chipotle

20 Jul

This is one of the nicest meals I´ve had in Mexico. Apologies that the recipe is in Spanish!

– 4 tazas de lomo de cerdo cocinado y desmenuzado
– 1 cucharadita de sal
– 1 cucharadita de pimienta blanca
– 1 cucharada de orégano de hoja grande
– 4 cucharadas de chile chipotle en adobo
– Jugo de un limón verde
– 4 tazas de lechuga rallada
– 4 cucharadas de cilantro picado finamente
– 1/2 taza de rábanos en rodajas
– 6-8 tostadas horneadas
– 2 tazas de frijoles pintos, sazonados, hervidos y machacados
– 3 cucharadas de queso fresco rallado
– 1/2 taza  de cebolla blanca en rodajas finas
– 1 aguacate en lascas

Preparación

Mezcla la carne cocida con la sal, pimienta, orégano, chipotle y el jugo del limón; revuelve hasta que estén bien incorporados.

En un envase aparte mezcla la lechuga, el cilantro y los rábanos.

Pon las tostadas en una superficie plana y distribuye 1/4 de taza de frijoles, 1/2 taza de carne y 1 taza de la mezcla de lechuga.

Decora con una cucharadita de queso, tres ruedas de cebolla y una lasca de aguacate.

The rain. Need I say more?

20 Jul

When I decided to travel Central America in July I knew that it would be slightly wet. The rainy season runs from around May to December, so you could say that I was prepared for a bit of a downpour, however, maybe not prepared enough.

So far, since we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas 48 hours ago, it has rained for around 24 hours. Now, this is not your average drizzle, it is like someone forgot to turn off an enormous tap, and the bath is overflowing out of the sky.

So, total purchases between Anna and I since the rain began:

– 2 umbrellas

– 1 poncho

– 1 pair of jelly shoes

– 1 pair of wellies

We look like a pair of fisherman heading out to the north sea. This would be fine if we were not hoping for bikini weather.

We´ve seen loads of cool things, like San Juan Chamula, which is a little Maya town where the people pray using tiny candles stuck to the floor of the church, and make offerings of pepsi and chickens, so I can´t complain!

The green vochos continued…

19 Jul

Okay, I wrote the title then forgot to mention why I had chosen this title! Basically when I was living in Mexico 3 years ago all of the taxis were green VW beetles (vochos) – they were a symbol of the city, but now they are no more!

I was looking for one and had to ask my friend where they had gone. Apparently health and safety has reached Mexico. The government realised that 2 door taxis weren´t the safest thing in the world and so started a trade in scheme for the drivers. Now there are no more green vochos, and I am in mourning!

The death of the green vochos

19 Jul

On Sunday I finally got a move on and left the comfort of Anna´s lovely house in Queretaro. I had to set my alarm clock for the first time since finishing work last week! After saying my goodbyes to Ivan, and hasta luegos to Anna I took to the bus to Mexico City to meet up with a Mexican friend who used to live in London. Ever since we met he has been talking up his pueblo, Tlalpan,  and I have been promising that I would visit it the next time I was in Mexico.

With only a days notice he picked me up from the bus station and took me on a tour of the city, well, of the south of the city. Apparently there is a north/south divide here as well. We went for breakfast in La Condesa, probably the nicest neighbourhood in the city, then to the cultural centre and parks around the UNAM. The Universidad Autonoma de Mexico was the first university in the americas, and takes over acres and acres of parkland south of the city centre. There were hundreds of people there walking dogs, and playing with their kids, as well as a couple of students and a rock band taking pictures for their album cover.  Despite being super close to the city centre it is really peaceful.

In the afternoon we finally made it to his pueblo, which like many of the surrounding villages, is actually now part of the city. I would write something about the history of the city but you can google it if you really want to! Tlalpan is just south of Coayacan, which is the artists/musicians quarter. It has a really nice square in the centre, and murals explaining its history from the indigienous peoples to the present day. After a michelada (another new one for you, beer mixed with chile, lime and worcester sauce, in a glass with salt around the rim – I promise it tastes amazing!) we had a walk around market, and then it was time to head to the bus station.

Something happened which I swear only happens in Mexico – we had parked in a public carpark, but the guys running it had filled it so full that there was just no way out! We were stuck between three other cars. The owners tried to jump of the bonnet of a beetle in front to move it, then urged us to literally hit the car behind to try and get some more space. After about half an hour one of the other drivers came back and we could finally get out. Solo en Mexico!

Got to the bus station in the end and met Anna. I won´t write about the fascinating 15 hour bus journey – needless to say once we got to San Cristobal de las Casas we were exhausted, and ready to collapse in our hostel.

But as you can imagine these things aren´t always that easy…

Sushi and Chilangolandia

17 Jul

Yesterday, on our way back from an evening stroll around San Miguel de Allende, we went to Superama to get something for dinner. I´m told its Mexico´s version of Waitrose and that a visit here was a very special occasion… My friends were
not wrong. Instead of your usual tortillas and tacos we splashed out on some brie, red wine and sushi. And seriously Yorkie, if you are reading, the sushi here is to die for, and super cheap! Who´d have thought it?!

Good news – Anna got the job and will be coming travelling with me to Guatemala!
As a result I´m still at her house where we have been watching Twilight (in Spanish!) and planning our journey. Posts will get more interesting as of tomorrow I promise. In the morning I´m heading to el Distrito Federal (Mexico City) to visit a friend, and then catching the night bus to San Cristobal de las
Casas, and I cannot wait 🙂

An interview, a blast from the past and some sincronicity…

16 Jul

It seems that my attempt of one post per day has failed already. The internet at Anna´s house is of the dodgy, unsecured stolen connection kind and doesn´t always cooperate. Friends who have received seven copies of the same email, apologies!

Anna had an interview for a fantastic international school today. It is slightly outside Querataro in a really nice neighbourhood. While she spent an hour talking to the director of the school about the international baccalaureat I read and sunbathed –  what can I say, I´m enjoying my extended holiday!

We had been invited to lunch by an old colleague, Alan, and his wife Marie-Carmen in San Juan del Rio. Only 35 miles from Queretaro, it feels like a world away. As we sped down the motorway, commenting on the terrible driving of the other cars I wondered whether anything would have changed since I was last here in 2007.

We arrived early, parked with the help of a ´viene-viene´ (literally ´come-come´ – a guy whose job involves helping people to parallel park then washing the car), and went for a wander. As soon as I got out of the car a very familiar smell hit me. There is a maize processing plant in the town, so every few minutes your nose is assaulted by the smell of tortillas. In a weird way simply smelling that brought back so many memories connected with the time I spent here.

In the main square we bought a bonice each (kind of like a Mexican ice pop), then walked to Alan´s. Originally from Manchester, Alan retired to Mexico eight years ago and became an English teacher. I used to work with his now wife who is not exactly known for her tact. The first thing she said to me was, ´wow, you´ve improved´, swiftly followed by, ´you used to be so chunky….yes, yes…really really chunky. I remember you as a nice girl, but chunky.´ Hmmm…. at this point everyone in the room had gone silent. Just. a. little. awkward. Luckily someone changed the subject pretty quickly and then we sat down to eat.

Over lunch I was hit by how small the world is; I had seen an old friend the day before, and he had mentioned how much he was enjoying his English classes now that there was a new teacher called Alex. Amongst other things he had apparently taught his students the word ´wasted´ – essential if they ever visit the UK!  Just a day later I was now eating lunch sitting next to said teacher and chatting about how much he had enjoyed his year in San Juan del Rio. Then, Alan started to talk about his last holiday to a lovely place in the Cotswolds called Cirencester… Now this is a man who lives in Mexico, but takes his holidays where I grew up!

After lunch we went to see Carlos, the director of another English school where Anna, Alex and I had all taught. He didn´t even seem surprised to see us, almost as if he knew that we would come back and visit at some point.

Now its almost time to say goodbye to Queretaro and move on to my next destination…