Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saying Farewell To Mexico

My trip to Mexico came to an end a couple of days ago and I am already back in the US. Looking back at this trip I must say it exceeded my expectations in every way possible, I really did enjoy the trip and the people I met especially my host family. They were very open and welcoming and made me feel totally at home, honestly I felt like we had known each other for such a long time. I guess sometimes you just meet people that you click with and at times you don't get so lucky. In this case I got lucky. Although my stay wasn't that long, there are certain things I will miss or think back to fondly. Without further ado I will share some of them here.

I will miss Ana's mum's attitude, she is hilarious! she could care less about saying things that would make others uncomfortable and she doesn't do it intentionally, I think it's just in her nature. I was telling Ana how her mum makes me laugh with her attitude and she just shook her head laughing before proceeding to share with me some of her mum's antics.

When Ana was at work or school I would hang out with her mum and she would show me around the neighborhood, take me to the local mercado to buy what I needed or accompany me wharever I was going. She was really good company.

I will miss Ana and her daughter Valentina (Vale) they have such a beautiful relationship and Valentina is one of the happiest and most energetic kid I have ever met. The three of us hang out together and went on many outings which were always fun. Ana actually travelled through South America with her daughter and she had some very interesting stories about their adventures.

Every time we picked up Valentina from school to go somewhere she would get so excited and start singing "que no pare la fiesta" (don't stop the party) it was the cutest thing ever! she has this little purse that she loved carrying around and in it was her little lipstick, a toy phone, monopoly money and a mirror. You should have seen her acting all grown up putting on her lipstick and counting her monopoly money, this kid is just too adorable. One day when I grow up I want my own little Valentina!

I will miss walking around the lively colorful neighborhood where I stayed with Ana's family, its a very pretty and family friendly neighborhood. The local park was always full of kids playing after school, senior citizens taking Tai Chi classes in the morning, adults taking zumba classes in the evening or playing soccer at an adjacent court. Over the weekend a small artisan market is set up and of course food stands are present all over. I would not mind living in that neighborhood at all.

The ever present colorful buildings and houses, so pretty!

Speaking of color, Ana's family house had these really cute paintings that she had done on some of the walls, this was one of my favorites.

Ana's mum really wanted to show me the church she goes to so I accompanied her to church one morning. It is a small and very pretty church both inside and outside, the picture below doesn't do it justice.

 I will miss the local mercado full of all the goodies imaginable. Every time I saw food that wasn't familiar to me I would ask Ana's mum what it was and she would explain then walk over to the vendor and tell them, "this is my friend visiting Mexico and she is from Kenya, she has never eaten this type of food before. Can you let her taste it?" I swear I would get so embarrassed but everyone was always friendly and would gladly give me little samples to taste. I told you Ana's mum is quite the character.

That's it folks! I am glad I picked Mexico to celebrate my 36th birthday, I had a good time and will definitely be back to explore more of the country as it has so much to offer and I barely scratched the surface but I am glad I got a taste of it.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Ana was telling me that when she was traveling through Peru with Valentina, she got stopped a lot by cops while boarding buses and she had to provide paperwork indicating that Valentina was indeed her daughter. Apparently kids are abducted a lot in Peru and used as drug mules, very scary to think about.

The day of the dead is a big celebration in Mexico and skulls are featured everywhere so it's common to see porcelain skulls being sold at markets. You would think they would look morbid but these skulls are painted so brightly and beautifully that you don't even associate them with death. I actually ended up buying one, a tiny cute one that so happens to be a fridge magnet.

I finally had a dream in Spanish!!!!!! I was so excited when this happened because I remember talking to a couple of people who told me that the day they dreamt in English is the day they realized that the language was fully ingrained in their brain (both were Spanish and French native speakers). I kept waiting to dream in Spanish (silly as it may sound) but it never happened........until that one glorious morning when I woke up and I remembered that I had just had a dream where I was having a full blown conversation in Spanish. You should have seen me all excited and waking up my poor husband only to tell him, "I finally dreamt in Spanish!" poor guy thought it was an urgent matter.

What can I say? I always wanted to learn Spanish and I am very glad to say that I sure did. Now when I converse in Spanish I don't even stop to think and translate words in my mind, they just come out without effort. I have come a long way! all thanks to the classes I took while in South America and of course my husband who continues to play a big role.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Visiting Coyoacán

Coyoacán is another one of the boroughs in Mexico city that I wanted to visit so I could check out the house now turned museum of Mexico's famous artist, Frida Kahlo. I can't tell you that I know a lot about art nor the works of famous past or present artists because that would be a lie. Honestly I had never even heard of Frida Kahlo until I watched the autobiographical movie based on her life.

The movie came out in 2002 and Salma Hayek played Frida's character.  I really enjoyed the movie which piqued my curiosity about the artist so I ended up reading more about her life, it was fascinating but at the same time really sad. Anyway, look her up if you can.

Ana told me that she knew where the house is plus she added that Coyoacán is a really cool area to check out with it's artsy vibe, good food and a good artisan market where you could find some really good items. I was very excited to check this borough out so that's exactly what we did. Turned out we had picked out the best day to visit Coyoacán because there was a jazz festival taking place so we were able to enjoy some good music as well. There were lots of people around and the atmosphere was very festive. We walked around as Ana pointed out the various local delicacies, I swear every block had vendors selling all kinds of food which all looked delicious that it was hard not getting a taste of some of poor waistline.

We had arrived in Coyoacán in the evening so unfortunately we did not have enough time to really enjoy the borough and spend more time there. I took very few pictures because I was busy enjoying my surroundings. When we finally remembered the reason why we had come to the borough in the first place, it was a bit late and Frida Kahlo's house/museum had been closed. We figured we could return the following day anyway so it was no big deal.

You see the little carts alongside the building in the picture below? they were all over the place and I got to sample some really tasty treats.

The following day we headed back to Coyoacán and this time we decided we would just focus on our goal of visiting Frida's house, Ana's mum even accompanied us.

There were several signs indicating where the house is so you could not miss it.

Getting closer........

Totally unrelated but I just love brightly colored houses which are plentiful here in Mexico city. Below is an example of such houses.

We finally got to Frida's house and the first thing we spotted were these huge tourist buses that had brought in several tour groups. Then we spotted the very long line of people waiting for their turn to get in the house. The estimated wait time as we found out was about 3 hours! we had other plans so we couldn't afford the wait and just like that, I never got to get inside the house which I have heard is well worth checking out and you can see some of Frida's work on display.

PS: The house is very large and covers a whole block, you can not miss the big blue house for sure. I really would have loved to see the inside.

I took one last picture before I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to be getting inside..........

That's it folks, we left shortly after and Ana felt so bad that I had missed the opportunity to see what I had come to see but I assured her that it was fine, the house/museum is not going anywhere so there will always be a another chance to check it out. 

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I was chatting with this taxi driver who told me that Mexico city is so huge that no one can really know their way around it all no matter how many years they have been driving. He has been driving a taxi for 10 years and he said that there are still parts of the city that he doesn't know and sometimes relies on a GPS to help him out.

Remember I mentioned in a previous post that I had an upset stomach? yeah, it actually didn't go away on it's own as I thought it would. I had to go to the doctor and I was prescribed antibiotics, I am still recovering, thank goodness the painful stomach cramps I was experiencing have ceased.

I love the artisan markets here, they are so colorful and full of really amazing things that I often get overwhelmed by the choices and end up not buying anything........good for my pockets though.

I have had the best yogurt here and have been indulging without restraint. I think this holiday has largely been all about food.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Floating Gardens of Xochimilco

Xochimilco pronounced (so-chee-milko) is one of the boroughs within Mexico city and is best known for it's canals and very colorful boats that navigate through the canals. Xochimilco was a vast wetland that proved challenging to the early settlers, these settlers were there pre the Spanish and since they practiced farming you can only imagine how difficult it must have been growing their crops. They however were able to work around this by inventing a system of agriculture whereby they grew crops on cane structures or rafts anchored on trees along the shores, they filled these structures with mud and soil and kept doing it until some areas of the lake were reduced. Basically they grew floating gardens that swallowed up parts of the wetlands making the area viable for agriculture. Hope my explanation makes sense.

On Saturday we (Ana, her mum, her daughter and I) decided to make a day trip to Xochimilco and I was excited to check it out. The area is a bit far from the city but we took a taxi which cut the trip in half, thankfully! When we got there I was taken aback by the bright colorful boats that were floating all over. I had seen photos online and I thought they looked so pretty but seeing them live was even better, what can I say? I love color! we rented a boat for an hour and one of the canal navigators accompanied us as he was the one manning the boat.

The boat ride was very calm and and some areas of the lake made for a very romantic background. Ana was telling me that people usually rent the boats and throw parties on them, there were plenty of mariachi bands floating around in their boats and if you wanted them to sing for you then their boats would be navigated to float alongside yours and they would sing to your hearts content.........of course at a price. There were also vendors selling food and souveniors and just as like with the mariachis, you would summon them and they would float their boats alongside yours to sell you whatever you wanted. Really, there were so many activities taking place on those canals and it was interesting people watching and listening to all the mariachi bands belting out their tunes. Here are some of the pictures I took, unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast but in those rare moments when the sun peaked through the cloud I was able to get decent shots.

The boats may look small but they actually seat quite a good number of people.

With Ana and her very sweet daughter

With Ana's mum and daughter

Each boat had a name and Ana was telling me for a fee I could also get my name painted on one of the boats.

After the boat ride we went to get some lunch at one of the many food stands around. There was a celebration going on so there were lots of fireworks, music and people. Did I mention I love Mexican food? love it! below is a green taco with beef.

Loved the taco so much that I got a second one............le sigh! and to think I was once a vegetation, how the tables have turned.

Food all around

Lot's of sweet goodies after the delicious lunch

The festivities......Ana was telling me that there is always some festival in Xochimilco. A lot of the surrounding areas are named after saints so there is always some saint being celebrated hence the many festivals.

I spotted several shrines around, they were so colorful. Too bad the overcast weather didn't bring out the colors to their brightest but at least you get the idea of how colorful everything was.

That's it folks, after lunch we walked around for a bit before heading back to the city. We took a taxi which was once again very convenient and didn't even take long to get us back to the house. I really enjoyed my trip to Xochimilco and would recommend it to anyone visiting Mexico city.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Parts of the canals in Xochimil are pretty but then there are other parts which have been littered with garbage spoiling the appeal of the canals.

I have been eating everything under the sun and I think I may have gone too far because right now I am suffering from an upset stomach that's really painful. I am taking something to help with the pain and discomfort so slowly by slowly I am feeling better.

I have been approached several times by people wanting to take photos with me. Most of the time I have said yes because they have approached me in a very polite manner.

There are these sweet dried mangos and pineapples dipped in chilli that I have come across being sold on the streets, I feel sorry for my stomach for how much I have indulged in them. They are so good!

I am so used to seeing yellow taxis but here in Mexico city the taxis are pink and white, they stand out more.........or maybe I think so because I am used to seeing only yellow taxis.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

El Castillo de Chapultepec

The castle of Chapultepec is the only castle within North America and was built in 1725 (different sources site different dates) but completed in 1864 after Mexico gained independence, it later housed some of the past presidents of Mexico. The castle sits on top of a hill and you can get really great views of the city below and the Chapultepec park that surrounds it. It is such a beautiful castle and the surrounding area is very pretty and tranquil, ideal place to walk around or just hang out.

The castle is one of the top sites to see in Mexico city so of course I had to pay a visit and check it out. I went with Ana's mum (Ana is my hostess here in Mexico and I am living with her family) and we both had such a great time. She hadn't been to the castle in more than 20 years so she was eager to see how much things had changed since then, she was not disappointed and neither was I.

To get to the castle we had to walk uphill which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, from far the castle looks like it sits really high and the climb up appears intimidating but it turned out to be easier than expected. Since Ana's mum is retired she did not have to pay entrance but I paid 65 pesos to get in which is roughly $4 dollars.

The palace was really impressive inside and I could only imagine how it must have felt living in it. When I grow up I want to live in a palace, damn it! I took a few pictures of the surrounding areas and the interior of the castle, check them out.

These 6 pillars commemorate six young cadets that died fighting American soldiers when there was war between the US and Mexico. At one point the castle was a military school and the battle occurred at the palace grounds.

View from inside the palace.

Part of the palace grounds, I managed to capture part of it but believe me. The place is huge!

Can we take a minute to acknowledge how much weight I have lost? I knew I had lost weight through healthy eating and hitting the gym but I didn't know it was so significant. Looking at my photos I can't believe how tiny I look, yay! to me, I am feeling good and healthy.

Check out that ride...

Check out the bedroom, not too shabby considering how long ago it was designed.

The bathroom

 I think this was the tea room.

Dining room.

We walked around the castle and Ana's mum acted as my private tour guide telling me the history of the castle. That's it folks! we both enjoyed ourselves and I was glad she accompanied me because I learnt more than I would have if I had gone alone.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Did I mention how much I love Mexico city? Ana's mum keeps telling me I should stay longer so I can have the opportunity to see more but unfortunately I can't, have to get back to work although I would definitely not mind extending my stay here.

Yesterday I had a very interesting encounter that turned out to be such a huge coincidence. I met a Kenyan girl who lives in Mexico city with her Mexican husband and her name is also Judy. She approached me while I was at a traffic stop and asked me where I was from so I told her Kenya, she was pleasantly surprised and quickly switched to Swahili asking me what my name is and where I live. I was so shocked and even more shocked when she said we shared the same first name. You should have seen us acting like long lost friends. She told me that her husband had spotted me first and jokingly told her that we could be sisters and she should approach me to find out where I was from. She has been living here for 10 years and loves it. We could not chat for long because they were rushing somewhere but we exchanged contact information.

Seriously the food here is DELICIOUS!!!! My love of Mexican food has increased tenfold since I got here, I think if I lived here longterm my waistline would be nonexistent.

There are several options for public transport here and the network is pretty extensive. You have the metro train, metro bus and regular buses. They are all dirt cheap which makes it so convenient for a lot of people.