Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mexico City-- Part 1

We are wrapping up our visit to Mexico City today, returning to Guadalajara tonight.  It’s been an eventful trip, but a good one.  My impressions were somewhat different than I had imagined.  I thought the city would be overwhelming because there, are after all, over 20 million people who make this their home.  Of course it is a monstrous city, but there are  so many lovely neighborhoods within the city, that when you are in San Angel, Roma, Condesa, Coyoacán, Capultepec Park, for example, it does not feel like a huge city.  Bob and Kathy Koches, who did a splendid job of planning the trip, made it possible for us to see the major attractions in one week. The photo at the top shows the city sprawl taken from the top of the Latin American Tower, but I felt safe walking around, and always met very interesting people. 

Our vegan diet was, of course, a challenge.  Bob Koches made it a point, however, to find and let us know about vegan fare available.  The fact is, however, if you go into a restaurant in Mexico and ask for vegetarian fare, it almost always contains cheese.  So, we’ve been getting creative asking for bean tacos, salads, and veggie enchiladas.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  One funny problem I had was with oatmeal, a good vegan breakfast.  Here in Mexico City, they make oatmeal by putting a very small amount of oatmeal in a bowl swimming with milk or hot water.  No matter how hard I tried to ask for solo avena, they could not seem to grasp it.  In one nice restaurant, they strained their oatmeal through a colander to try to please me, but it was still mostly a bowl of hot water.  Oh well.

We saw many of the big attractions while we‘ve been here: the National Anthropology Museum, Maximillion’s Castillo in Chapultepec Park, Frida Kahlo’s house and museum in Coyoacán, The National Palace with Diego Rivera’s fmous murals, the main Cathedral in the Zocalo , Temple Mejor (the newly discovered excavation next to the Zocala), Teotihuacan’s pyramids outside Mexico City, the Basillica of Guadalupe, and, yesterday, the Convent of St. Jerome where Sor
Juana Inez de la Cruz (the 17th century nun, early feminist, and one of the most important Hispanic poets) lived, died, and is buried. 

Our first visit was to the National Museum of Anthropology, a beautiful modern museum that contains the greatest collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts anywhere in the world.  Most of us are familiar with the Aztecs and Mayans, but this museum traces the evolution of the Mexican people from the early migrants from Asia, the many different people who lived in Mesoamerica, to the people who were here to greet Cortez.  The art and artifacts of these people, over the last 2000 years or so, is remarkable.  Here are some wonderful images from the museum. I could not use a flash, but the artifacts were so well lit, it was relatively easy to take beautiful photos.

Chaupultepec Park is a huge intra-city park where we find the Castillo, which housed the short-lived Emperor Maximillian and several federal presidents.  Most of the exhibits in the Castillo focus on the life of Maximillion and Carlota during their brief three year reign, before he was executed.  It’s a beautiful building with interesting exhibits.  Here are some photos:

Many of us were looking forward to visiting Frido Kahlo’s house and museum in Coyoacán.  The house, called Casa Azul, is quite lovely and had many artificats, including the bed with a mirror above so she could paint here self-portraits while lying in bed recovering.  The body cast which she painted, highlighted int eh film, Frida, is also on display.  It’s a beautiful example of a lovely family home, which contains many artifacts of Diego and Frida’s life there.  Here are some photos:


On Sunday, we visited several sites on or near the huge public square.  TheNational Palace, which houses the President and the principal national government officials, is a huge, beautiful building which houses some of
Diego Rivera’s most important murals.  The gothic cathedral is absolutely huge and took over 250 years to build.  Since the Spanish built Mexico City on a lake bed, the Cathedral and many other large colonial buildings, are slowly sinking.  We also saw the recent excavation of an Aztec temple that workers discovered by accident a number of years ago, called Temple Mejor.  We could actually see the excavation as it is being conducted and looked at some artifacts displayed in the nearby museum.  Here are some photos of the sights around the Zocalo:

Many thanks to Bob and Kathy who have worked hard to make this a special trip for us all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Losing a Good Friend

I am sad to have to note, this week, the passing of one of our dearest friends here at Lake Chapala, Don Edwards.  We first met Don and his wife, Valerie, when we joined the Great Books discussion group when we first arrived here.  Don had an interesting background.  He was enrolled as a seminarian to become a priest but ultimately he had too many questions for which there were no good answers.  He went to study at St. John's College (coincidentally where the Great Books Program originated) where he met the love of his life Val. He eventually went to work for IBM and spent part of his career living in Rome and Paris, among other places. Don was a scholar.  He teamed up with a local rabbi to construct  hypothetical dialogues between religious figures from throughout history; all the dialogues were based on actual writings of these figures. These dialogues, performed at regular intervals here, were fascinating.  But to those of us who knew and loved Don, we was an insufferable punster and humorist who never let an opportunity go by without a good play on words.  Even during the two difficult years of his final illness, he always maintained his good humor and was usually ready with a good pun or two.  We will miss you, Don!   

The rains are starting to come in less frequent intervals, and often they do not seem to last very long.   By mid-September, we will have only occasional rains which will end completely by late October or November.  The above photo shows the clouds over the very green mountains on the north side of the lake. The other day I took a walk on Rio Zula, where we used to live when we first arrived. Below are two photos, one of Chayote vines.  Chayotes are squash-like vegetables with edible seeds popular here.  The vines resemble grape vines, I think.  

I have been continuing to work with my student, Francisco, pictured below, at his loom.  He is progressing very well on his English.  He participates actively in our Unitarian Fellowship where he sings in the choir.  I brought back a copy of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and we are spending part of each lesson reading it.  Since the story takes place in Cuba, there are a number of Spanish words in the story.  
Chuy has enjoyed having Rudy here for the last thirteen days.  At first, they had to learn to share and get along, but as you can see, they grew pretty friendly.  Rudy has now returned home, but Chuy will go bunk with Rudy when we go to Mexico city this week.  
So, we're leaving for Mexico City on Wednesday.  We are traveling with Bob and Kathy Koches and two other couples, Paul Bennett and Jeanne Haley and Bill and Bonnie Phillips. Bob has done a super job of planning our itinerary and planning transportation.  We will be staying in the historical center of the city, but Bob has planned the use of a van and driver on two of the days to take us to the pyramids on the outskirts of the city, as well as Frida Kahlo's house and the Basilica of Guadalupe.  Pixie and I will find out how easy it will be to maintain our vegan diet, although I think in a big metropolitan area like Mexico City, it will be easier.  We'll see.   In any event, I'll be reporting on the trip in my next post in early September, after we return.  

Here's a friendly horse I saw on my walk:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back in Green Mexico

Well, here we are.  We've been back in Mexico for over a week.  The most noticeable difference since we've left, after six weeks of rain, is the green.  The mountains are no longer brown but bright green.  The streets are no longer dusty.  The air is a bit more humid, but so much more cool and comfortable than it was in April, May and early June.  

Now that we're back, there is not much going on.  Many of our usual activities are in recess.  So we are enjoying lots of down time and relaxing days.  After our whirlwind visit to Maine and Philadelphia, we are enjoying it! I have been spending some time working on my new poetry volume which should be published this fall. 

We have a guest here for about ten days, Rudy.  Chuy is enjoying having a canine friend in the house.  Fred and Mardele have returned to Canada for a family wedding, and we have Rudy for another week or so.  He's a shelter dog, what our friend Eduardo has dubbed a PLD (a white poodle-like-dog, very common here).  He's a sweet guy and we are enjoying his visit.  Here is his photo:

Our biggest news, perhaps, is that we are, once again, changing our diet to take our vegetarian diet up a notch.  Upon rereading The China Study, we reexamined our diet and decided to try to eat a completely plant-based diet.  The book, which we had read last year, prompted us to give up meat.  Rereading the book, which argues that it is animal-based protein which causes high rates of heart disease, breast, colon, and prostate cancers, and diabetes, what he calls "diseases of affluence," we have decided to try a completely plant-based diet.  The author, Colin Campbell cites the results of a comprehensive study of the various diets throughout China, started by Chou en Lai in the 1970's, which determined that those people who ate very little animal protein simply did not suffer from these diseases.  Although the book is a bit controversial because it criticizes the typical American diet, it presents good evidence for a plant-based diet.   

Here's a link you might find interesting:

Of course, following this diet is not easy.  We have been trying lots of interesting recipes at home, but eating out has been more challenging.  We do have a couple of good Asian restaurants, an Argentine restaurant, and a wonderful Italian restaurant which all have good vegan options.  And of course, we also have a wonderful vegetarian place, The Secret Garden, which has many great dishes for us.  Here is a photo of the restaurant, and a photo of Pixie sitting in the garden.  

So, aside from our dietary adventures, we haven't much news.  We are enjoying our lovely house, cooking in, and watching the dogs.  We are definitely looking forward to our Mexico City trip on August 24th.  So, stay tuned...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wendy and Troy's Engagement!

Well, we are back in Mexico now, but I just realized that I inadvertently omitted perhaps the most important photo from the last Maine post: this photo which Troy took of Wendy on the evening he formally proposed to her.  He took her to a beautiful secluded beach and presented her with a Maine amethyst ring.  He sent me this photo from his cell phone so I could include it on the blog.  It was on my desktop and not on my camera so I forgot to include it. 

They have set the date for on year from today, August 4, 2012!  We are looking forward to the big day and wish Wendy and Troy the best.  Here's another photo of them I took at the beach on this trip: 

We are looking forward to their visit to Ajijic, along with Cassie and Alana, for Christmas!