Due to unusual circumstances, we did not get our weekly post up last week. What unusual circumstances, you ask? Food poisoning (boo!) and conference travel (yay!). Read on!
Our third week in Mexico City started out beautifully. On Monday, we headed to Teotihuacan, to see the pyramids. This is a city that rose and fell before the Aztec empire, and houses two large pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. In fact, the Pyramid of the Sun is the 7th largest and the 12th tallest pyramid in the world, depending on whether your preferred unit is length or volume.
Teotihuacan is about an hour bus ride from the city, and you can get tickets same day at the North bus station, which cost $100MX round trip, and entry fee is $70MX. Food and water are pricier there due to its relative seclusion, so come prepared accordingly. We brought hard boiled eggs and cookies, but ended up needing to re-up on water.
On Tuesday we went to tour the Museo de Antropologia. This museum is of truly epic proportions, and many people choose to get a mutli-day pass for it. While Dan and I have a fondness for museums, we aren’t what you would call “museum people” so we strategized, and knocked it out in an afternoon (I know, I know, we’re philistines, but you’re not the boss of me! Mua ha ha).
It is two floors, with ancient artifacts below and more modern crafts and textiles below, with the floor above corresponding to the same geographical region as the floor below. I spent the majority of my time in the lower floors, giving the upper only a quick walk through. Dan went relatively quickly through the full museum in order to determine the places he wanted to spend more time, and then returned to give more in depth attention to those areas. Overall, our favorites were the Mexica, Toletemec and Aztec exhibits.
Sadly, the only space available in Massiosare was a more expensive room, so we moved that night to another hostel (St. Llorenc which gets a solid “meh” rating from me). And then I got sick (for the record, I already was unimpressed with Llorenc before I got sick). Given my cavalier consumption of street food, it really could have been anything.
I’ve had food poisoning a total of four times in my life, and this was pretty mild in my experience (Nicaragua was the worst, hoo boy). I developed a fever during the night, and was sick during the night and in the morning. The next day I was confined to bed, drinking ginger ale and eating crackers (and reading Kushiel’s Dart, thanks Kali!), but my fever kept rising. Advil broke the fever and after another night’s sleep I was out of bed and on the sofa in the common room. Friday I was actually on my feet again! And while I don’t understand the voodoo of activated charcoal, it definitely settled the rumblings of my tummy. I didn’t attempt to take it while I was sick, only afterwards on the down swing, but it was very helpful. Others recommend taking it prophylactically and/or at the signs of first onset. At any rate, my course of Cipro lives to see another day!
So once again hobbling about, we paid a visit to the Frida Kahlo museum. Definitely, definitely buy tickets online in advance. It’s wildly popular at the moment, and you will be waiting in line for ages without the advance purchase. You will still wait in a line with the advance purchase, but a much shorter one, and if you show up late for your entrance time, you will get ushered more or less when you arrive (we were only 20 min late and the slots are every 30 min). The current temporary exhibit of Frida’s clothing is beautiful, and the permanent exhibition consists of living spaces maintained more or less as they were when the house was occupied, but not very much of Frida’s actual work, which surprised me.
That night we stayed with another couchsurfing host, Marco, who works as a translator and has two adorable dogs. We cooked a noodle soup for my tender tummy, and hung out at the house that evening. Saturday was travel prep day, as I was headed off for a conference in San Diego. A conference, you ask, aren’t you fun-employed Christina? Well, yes, yes I am. But. I volunteer a lot with my professional society, and in order to maintain my duties and involvement, I will still be attending three meeting a year.
In addition to writing and travel prep, the three of us, plus the pups, made it out to the park for a workout. I showed Marco my body weight and ring exercises, and we really wore ourselves out. That evening we went out for tacos and one of Marco’s favorite places, La Parrilla de Don Juan, and got ice cream on the way home. This is how I learned about the fruit called “mamey” which is pink with a sweet a creamy consistency, common in Mexico and Central America. I also discovered that the ice cream shop had given up on finding someone responsible, who wanted to work at an ice cream shop, they just had be under 35 years of age. Ha!
Sunday is where our story divides temporarily, as everyone hauled their butts out of bed to see me out the door at 3:30 am for my flight. I bid farewell to Marco (thanks Marco!) and kissed Dan good-bye, then I was off. In San Diego I went to find Mandy, who had very kindly stored my conference attire for about two months.
I will spare you the details of the conference, needless to say I was very busy all week with committee meetings, talks, networking events, and visiting the exhibition. It one of those events when it feels like someone stomped the accelerator on the passage of time, and it all passes in a blur. It was also strange to be back so suddenly in a professional setting, wearing a tie and loafers, feeling bereft without business cards.
I got to see a lot good friends, some of whom I don’t ever see outside of conferences. Several of my friends from work before I left DC were there, Slava, Floyd and Doruk (great to see you guys!). This conference more so than others I felt like I got to introduce people across friend groups, connecting people from different eras of my life and career which was very gratifying, though sure to generate confusion. In one such cross-pollination, Perla, Guillermo, Slava and I managed to eat the Earth Quake Sundae at Ghirardelli (8 scoops of ice cream, bananas, whip cream, the works!).
Meanwhile, Dan stayed with Marco for the rest of the week, which was very kind of Marco.
My main mission was to explore more pulquerias, go to more Lucha Libre, and ride a bike in the Olympic velodrome. I was able hit all of those goals with varying levels of success. The only thing that I missed out on was the Museum of Antique Toys. Next time, I’ll go there, and to Bamboo bicycles make a one for myself! I also feel like I got a lot better at speaking in Spanish. Not that my comprehension or vocabulary improved really at all, but I became more confident in using the words that I do know. I was able to get around and ask questions with a lot more confidence.
As to food, one day Marco and I went for Chiapas style tamales from across the street. I really like the ones filled with chipilin, a native plant that’s a bit spicy. I also had the opportunity to eat at his mother’s Yucatan style restaurant. That was amazing. We had cochinitas, tacos, and horchata. Cochinitas is a pulled pork with a spicy and slightly sweet red sauce, so similar to pulled pork in the US but of an entirely different genre.
For my part, in order to share my cultural food legacy with Marco, I constructed a nearly authentic Casey’s General Store taco pizza, in the grand tradition of Iowa gas stations. It was not so easy. I couldn’t make fresh dough, so my solution was just to buy a cheap frozen cheese pizza (which is about the same price as in the US btw, pricey by Mexican standards) and then top it with all the necessary parts of a genuine Casey’s taco pizza. I think Marco was amused by this process. I sure was. The only thing that I didn’t know how to make was Taco Sauce®.
I visited several mercados over the course of the week. Mercado Merced is freaking glorious. There is a sweets market and when you enter this maze of vendors it’s just candy as far as you can see. Most of it is bulk candy so there wasn’t much opportunity to buy anything for just myself. There are also shoes, stereos, restaurant equipment, watches, movies, track suits… I really wanted to buy a track suit. It was a magical experience. I also made my way to Mercado Sonora, the local witch craft market. I had read about this and even had been warned to maybe stay away. I was super excited after wandering into witch craft stores in New Orleans, but it was actually pretty boring. Just a lot of dried herbs for sale alongside statues of Santa Muerte, which are really metal looking (I’m just borrowing this photo from someone, but it’s representative). But overall I was a bit underwhelmed.
As for the other accomplishments, I plan to make much more detailed posts regarding pulque and biking in the Velodrome, stay tuned! Other than that, Luche Libre is the best. I went to Arena Mexico and got nose bleed seats for $45MX ($5MX more than Coliseo). I got to see Soberano Jr. team up with Valiente and Caristico again. They lost their match but it was definitely the most exciting of the night. One of their opponents (Sam Adonis) came out waving an American Flag with Trump’s face on it (scary). After that match everyone got upset at this Sam’s behavior and teamed up on him. The crowd went absolutely wild. The group of five who attacked him all declared themselves the victors of the match. Overall I liked Arena Coliseo a little better than Arena Mexico because it was smaller and I was closer to the action. But Arena Mexico certainly has higher production value and better interaction between the crowd and the wrestlers. But note that they are owned and run by the same company.
back to Christina…
After a long and gratifying week, I hopped back on a plane to Mexico City, where Dan awaited me in a proper hotel in belated celebration of our 6 year anniversary. Why belated? Well, maybe because I abandoned him in Mexico on our anniversary while I ran off to California. But don’t worry, he forgave me! Hotel MX Roma was hip and modern with a great terrace and breakfast offerings, though it was a little noisy due to limited sound insulation, and seemed like maybe it was trying to hard (see the koan of a neon sign).
We got one last very Mexican meal in CDMX on Sunday before hopping on the bus south: chile en nogada. This is a dish that is only served during a certain part of the year, and is tied closely with Mexican Independence. It is a sweet dish, with a chile pepper stuffed with a chili, topped with a while sauce and pomegranate seeds, the colors of the ingredients representing the Mexican flag. It was very good, though the sweetness is a surprising thing for what otherwise seems like a savory dish. You can find it most anywhere during the season (August through mid-September), and it tends to run about $180MX.
Then, packed and ready, we headed to the bus station to head south to Palenque, our last stop in Mexico before we head to Guatemala.