Back on track

It’s been quite a long time since I had last exercised in a gym. I’m not the sportiest person but I enjoy taking long walks alone or with my daughter and our dog in our pretty neighborhood.  When I was living in Germany, in Munich to be more precise, I used to drive my bike quite often and in Summer I used to go swimming in a small lake close to our home. It is called the Olchinger See, Olching is the town and see means lake. This was also a nice walk in the Fall and during quiet snowfall in Winter.

The lake of Olching, Germany

I’m currently living in Mexico city, with only the Chapultepec lake close to our home. However, you could’t swim in there and the walk takes longer. After initially starting a new life, settling in a very different surrounding and feeling well in my job, I have finally  decided to start moving again.

In Germany I went for about a year to a gym that had training machines and offered some courses, like yoga, Pilates on the floor, spinning and some stretching. I got a trainer, who by the way was the father of some schoolmates of my daughter, and who skyrocketed to almost two meters of height. On my side, you have to substract half a meter to that measurement to know my height above the floor. So, well, this trainer, Peter, told me what exercises I should do and what courses I shloud visit. The training program started with bike riding, in a gym, not in the fresh air, which I accomplished bravely. The next machine was the so called ellyptcal trainer and as soon as I managed to get on the steps I realized that I was too small. With my strenght and lenght the machine didn’t move, so my trainer just told me! ‘leave it, there are other machines ‘. However, I had the feeling that everything was too big and I didn’t feel quite well on the torturing machines.

After more or less a year, I left the gym and my fitness plans.

Almost 10 years later, I have decided to give it another  try.  This time I went to visit the gym very close to work with my daughter, now 21 and a friend who works at the same place as I do.  She is  more or less my age and just a couple of centimeters taller… well, I think almost everyone is taller…    This gym or better this sports club, has everything from trainig machines to a small swimming pool, a tennis court, squash and paddle courts. Oh, and the very best thing, I can look at almost all of the trainers into the eyes, that is, they are not 2 meters.

On our first visit, we met our trainer, a young, short and very muscular guy with an American name. He asked us some questions and after having confesed that we hadn’t exercised for years, we got a simple cardio training program, walking, ellyptical and cycling all at almost level zero or 1.  He told us that after two or three weeks we should look for him.

The Gym 

Three weeks later and feeling very athletic, my friend and I looked for our trainer.  He had already warned us that we would have to train with weights. He looked at us and said: We’ll start making muscles… He gave us a printed training plan where we wrote our names and height (I still don’t know why the height). Our program consists in 15 repetitions of about ten machines and that in two rounds. Some of the machines have menacing names, like the Leg Press and other look quite menacing.  We started with the first one, continued to the second and so on, till my friend asked the trainer:’ Sorry, this is still the first round, but we are very respectable ladies, could we maybe continue next time?’  He looked at us with an amused smile and said, ok look for me next time.

A week later we got ot the gym and I looked for a dressing cabinet, where I proudly took out of my bag my new and shiny training bra. I put my arms through the bra and started sliding it down. At a certain point I couldn’t move because the bra wasn’t elastic enough and it got stuck on my neck. I started panicking, but thought of how embarrasing it would be if I started shouting: “Help me out of my bra!”  So with a yoga movement I finally got out of it and into my everyday bra, hoping it would really be a wonder bra and would help me through the training session. Thank god for modern lycra!

The day hadn’t finish yet because when I returned to my locker I couldn’t open it. Just some minutes before I had thought, what if I forget my locker number or the combination… and it had happened!  After some tries and even trying other lockers I finally told my friend that I had forgotten where my locker was. She looked at me thinking I was joking, but noticing that I was sweating more than in the previous training session. She and other ladies tried to help me to find the right cabinet, but none seemed to open.  I fianlly asked the person in charge who told me that I only had three chances to gues my combination or my locker. I was quite sure which one it was, so I pointed to the first one I had tried, and, yes, I was right from the beginning. The lock was stuck and therefore I couldn’t open it with the combination I had entered. When we got home we went directly to bed and could’t move till next morning… and you won’t believe it, yes, we indeed could move.


Grasshopper’s Hill, the Carmelites and Santa Fé 

What a funny title is that. What do these words have in common? Some of you will already know what I’m referring to while others will know what it is. Last weekend, one of the quietest ones in Mexico City we decided to do some sightseeing in the city.

We started on the 25th of December to the South of the city and drove through an almost empty Avenida Revolución to San Ángel, which is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in town. This neighborhood is well known for its beautiful colonial buildings, its buganvillea leaning on the walls and its baroque churches. We left the car in an almost empty plaza and started our walking tour. On such a day Mexicans have a very late breakfast and usually visit their relatives to have the rest of the Christmas dinner warmed up, that we called Recalentado. The Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of dried cod fish in a tomato, caper, potatoes and chilies sauce called Vizcaina style or Basque style, remembering our heritage. There is a very traditional dish made of shrimp dumplings in a mole sauce with a vegetable called “romerito” because it resembles the Rosemary bush used in the Mediterranean kitchen. However, it has no aroma. These are usually very hot. There may be a real big turkey or maybe something else, besides the “Christmas salad” that has to contain apples and nuts. My grandmother had another version which contained red beets, oranges, peanuts and some sweets called colación… a strange and sweet mixture.

You can imagine that after these delicacies and a lot of noise present in every Mexican celebration, on the morning of the 25th everything is very calm… Silent morning, instead of silent night

We walked and passed at least two small squares full of Poinsettias and then got to a side entrance that didn´t really show where it was leading to. We entered the porch and reached the atrium with very big figures made of pottery representing the Nativity. We then heard people praying and a priest officiating Christmas mass. We got closer and went inside the church, a beautiful colonial church with a golden altar called San Jacinto. This church was built in the 17th century by Carmelites monks. This Catholic church has beautiful gardens in the front part and is very popular for weddings and baptisms. We stayed for a while enjoying the ceremony and the warm voice of the priest.


Inner yard, San Jacinto in San Àngel


The Nacimiento or Belén

We left San Jacinto and walked through the irregular streets of San Angel imagining the insides of the mansions we walked by. Some have enormous gardens where you could get lost in and many of them have huge libraries with all kinds of books…

We got into a small shop, the only one opened, and admire some handicrafts. However, we were not in the mood for shopping. We crossed the avenue and got into the yard of the El Carmen complex. This areal includes the church with its beautiful 3 domes covered in yellow tiles, the former monastery and religious school building. This monastery is now a museum and is very famous for its mummies in the basement. We didn´t visit it because it was closed for the holiday. But we will come back.

Leaving this beautiful neighborhood we drove southwards on one of the longest avenues in the city, Insurgentes. We reached a huge entrance that let us to a newer shopping center with restaurants, cinemas an amusement area for children, a Catholic chapel and a small park. This place used to be a paper factory, Peña Pobre, that merged with another paper industry called Loreto, so that they were known under the name Loreto y Peña Pobre. Nowadays it’s this new outside mall called Plaza Inbursa, a big Insurance company. Times change and investors, too.

We were amazed because besides the very big parking lot and park area there is this beautiful old central building with a light ceiling that lets in the light. There are the usual shops and well known restaurants, but they are well integrated in the area and we had a very good meal in one of those.

Next morning we had breakfast in a ‘Vintage Green’ coffee shop in La Condesa. The place is nicely decorated with wood, plants and wine bottles. There are vegetarian and even vegan dishes and we thought of coming back with one of my brothers for a gluten free meal. After a delicious coffee, hot chocolate, bread and eggs… for two, we continued our walk to Chapultepec park or the park with the grasshoppers’ hill. It was close enough for a walk, but the difficult part was to cross the three or four lane streets surrounding the park. Finally, we made it and got to the park. This is the biggest “lung” in the city and it has always existed. I mean, the area, the hill and the water were there in prehispanic times. The name is nahuatl or the language that the last civilization in the Mexican valley before the Spanish conquerors arrived in the 15 hundreds spoke. At that time the valley contained a huge lake where the Mexicas or Aztects built there first city in the 13 hundreds. The park the way we see it was made a park at the beginnings of the 20th century and the zoo was created. There is also the famous Castle of Chapultepec on the hill of the grasshoppers, that was the royal residence of Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife Carlota in the 2nd half of the 18th century. As we may remember, his reign was very brief and he was executed by the Mexican forces in 1867 in Queretaro. Carlota went crazy or had a monster depression and left for Europe where she was kept in a closed castle. There is a very good book telling this part of Mexican and European history called “Noticias del Imperio”, Fernando del Paso, who presents an accurate and interesting view of that time. More information on the Castle, click here.

To get to the top of the hill you can take a small train up and down. From the top you can get a beautiful view of the city and of the park with its small lake.

We went down and started walking through one of the main streets inside the park. However, we hot the feeling of walking in a marketplace of Asia or the Orient. There are hundreds of people selling their merchandise shouting to praise their goods: Globoooos, refrescos pa’ la sed, paleeeeeetaaas, algodones, quesadillas,,tacos and, and, and… My daughter just shouted: ‘ You made my day!’, when she saw the cotton candy machine and the cotton candy in all rainbow colors almost the size of a tree 😉 We had to buy a purple one that matched the color of her boots!


Cotton candy and more in Chapultepec park

We then tried to reach the zoo entrance, but the many booths selling all kind of stuff to the people who were arriving at the park made our goal almost impossible and we decided to take a side way close to the zoo and left Chapultepec.

The third free day we had for the Christmas holidays we decided to drive to the Mecca of modern Shopping in the city: the famous and very popular Santa Fé neighborhood. It’s in the west part of the city that has become a very important business district. Many of the skyscrapers contribute to the attractive landscape with its original architecture. The Santa Fe shopping center is one of the biggest in Latin America. This part of the city is like being in the United States and it represents a big contrast to the Colonial Mexico and a bigger one to the pre-Columbian ruins scattered in the city.

Plaza Santa Fe

Santa Fe Shopping Mall

Good or bad, but visiting this mall you are not really shopping in the ‘Third World’. However, it also shows that the world is globalized and is getting very homogeneous… or maybe boring?

Tlaloc, Moctezuma and Dr. Simi

I thought I would have time to write again more often. However, I was wrong… I have been fighting a lot of different battles.I never thought that coming back to my homeland was going to be easy, but life has always a lot of surprises. If it wouldn’t, it would get quite boring.
I’ve always been very interested in history. I loved to visit ancient ruins close and far from Mexico City. When I travelled to other countries I preferred the ones who offered an interesting historic panorama. I enjoyed treading about the Aztec mythology and learned the names of the Gods. One of my favorites was Tlaloc, the God of Water and Rains. I’ve always loved water. In these days I have started to have doubts about him…


Tlaloc, God of Rain

In Mexico the rain season has started with its complications for people and nature. I like to watch the stormy skies and think: well done, Tlaloc. Nevertheless, I think Tlaloc is putting me on trial. You may know that we have just moved to a new apartment full of sunshine and… water! Imagine the first week in your brand new home when you start hanging your matching towels in the bathrooms and putting those nice presents your family and friends have given you in the adequate places. While doing this, I noticed that the paint in the bathroom was peeling off the wall. I asked one of the workers and he simply told me that it’s because of the steam when you use the shower. Having lived in an older house when I was young, I immediately recognized the problem: a water leak. I was right and fortunately they attended my complaint and opened a big hole in the wall to look for the problem. After a day of hammering, dust and not being able to leave my place, they found a nail dug across one of the PVC pipes. Long live plastic! Two days later the hole was closed again and a week later the bathroom was as good as new…
The weeks passed and I had to think of my roots. This time I remembered Mexican history. You may know the name of the Mexican emperor, the one who lost the empire: Moctezuma. So you may also know what happens when tourists, especially, Europeans or Americans visit our country… Well, they suffer quite a lot of inconveniences because they aren’t used to Mexican food… I’m lying in bed for the second time in a row with his revenge. It would be even funny, but I have had high fever and have not been able to leave our home. So, dear Moctezuma, are you punishing me for the many years I preferred the ‘blond folkes’ (or in Mexico the so called güeritos)? I hope not 😉
I thought I had made peace with Tlaloc, but last week, on the same day as Moctezuma stroke for the second time, I was arranging some stuff and reached, with the help of a stair, the highest shelf of the cupboard close to the bathroom… Yes, that one. I suddenly saw a big dark spot on the wall. I couldn’t trust my eyes… No, no more water! But yes, it was another big, rather huge water spot on the ceiling and wall. I immediately wrote a message to the construction company (do you want to know the name?) and they came some days later with a hammer and a chisel. And you know what it meant… This time I almost felt guilty. The night before I had used the jacuzzi to relax after opening the moving boxes. It hadn’t been very relaxing, because after the relaxing time I had another stretching hour of floor gymnastics because the water splashed out of the tube and I didn’t notice. I cleaned everything and nothing happened… only two days later when I noticed the big spot I was telling you about. Dear Tlaloc, don’t you want to go on vacation? It’s Summer!
This last time hammer and chisel were not that fast. I should have called Thor, he would have been faster than the poor guy they sent me to open the hole in the wall. After the wall was broken a real flow of water came out, like a small waterfall!! You can imagine my distress: dirt, broken bricks and water and the guy asking if I had a rag to clean the mess… The waterfall was finally contained or maybe it stopped by itself. A second guy came to help the first one. They discovered another hole in another pipe… Can you guess the material? Of course, plastic, too. They sealed the hole and up to now we’re still hoping that no more water will come out and that they can soon close the passage to another dimension, regarding the size of the hole.


Hole with the repaired pipes

Hopefully, I can please the Gods and Aztec spirits. I won’t ever make fun of my Aztec name, Tonantzin, that stands for the Mother of All Gods, just the Aztec ones 😉 I would like to know precisely what they are expecting from me. Future will tell, but please, no more Aztec challenges.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you where I got the so needed medicine I am now taking. I went to the pharmacy, where they also have a physician for common illnesses. The first week I got sick, I didn’t consider necessary to go because in Germany we learned to cope with illness all alone. Be strong, don’t complain and don’t take medicine. Oh, and don’t look for a doctor between Friday noon till Monday or during school holidays because you won’t find one. Most of them are enjoying their free time, very treasured in those latitudes. In this case, I’m thankful to Mexico and their doctors who are always there for you. So this doctor gave me a prescription and I bought the necessary medicine in the pharmacy. I have to tell that he wasn’t very friendly, but asked just one or two questions and the most important one, if I had any allergies. Afterwards he charged me with an incredible fee o more or less 5 EUR, and I could start taking the parasite killing bomb 😉 I bought them next door in a so called ‘Simi’ pharmacy where you get similar no name medicines. Good or bad, but I had to laugh when I saw ‘ Dr Simi’ out of the store waving his hand. Next time I’ll accept his hand shake!


I wish you a nice week with no water disasters and in good health!

An old new life

Moving may make you think of boxes, clothing, cooking ware, bicycles, old tires, old stuff and lots of work to do. Besides that, all the paperwork that has to be taken care of. It also implies cancelling services and changing your address in all possible businesses and Internet sites you have ever registered to. This is what I have been doing for the past few months… without exaggerating. There are events that will leave a deep mark in your life and moving is one of them, incluiding the bruises I’ve got while moving boxes and putting things back in place.


Boxes and more boxes


It’s been a major challenge, but everything has turned out fine. My daughter and I moved into a new appartment in a very nice neighborhood. Coming from Europe, nice would mean that it is very green, with lots of flowers, almost no cars and of course no noise, at least this would be the definition of nice in Germany. But in Mexico City, nice can mean very elegant and a neighborhood where you only see big walls and sometimes have a glance of a very big house. However, my new neighborhood is nice in a sense that you can find everything in a radious of 1 km, in walking distance. We also have a traditional park with old trees that refresh the area. Next to the park there is a real Mexican market where you find all kinds of fruits and vegetables at a very reasonable price and of excellent quality. The market is being renovated and it will be very nice once it’s finished. In the same street we live there are two or more convenience stores with all kinds of refreshments, cans, soap, bread and dairies, among other things. They are open everyday, including Sunday. Around the block there is a bakery with gluten free or sugar free products, ideal for my brother and my dad.


A bakery

A traditional bakery, not the one gluten free

There is a pharmacy with a small doctor’s office where you can get medical advice without having to sell your car. Mmmm, and I have to mention the place where they sell roasted chicken two blocks away. It’s the best chicken ever, and you get corn tortillas, hot salsa and Mexican rice for free! If you don’t feel like cooking there are lots and lots of small restaurants around. We have been a couple of times to one called ‘La Jarochita’ where you can eat a complete menu including  soup, rice or spaghetti, a main course and a jar of lemonade or Jamaica water. The serving aren’t big, but you can order more for $10,00 or 50 cents. It is very affordable and cheaper than cooking at home,  depending of course of the menu. ‘Jarochita’ is a diminutive for Jarocha that refers to a person coming from the State of Veracruz in the Southeast of Mexico. This restaurant has the flavours of the kitchen in Veracruz and reminds me of my childhood when we used to travel to Coatzacoalcos to visit my mothers relatives.
People in our neighborhood are very friendly, they are always working in their small businesses, and as I mentioned before, they work almost evey day in the week. Many of them open after 9 a.m. and close after 8 p.m.

The streets are not very wide and they have trees, maybe for some of you this is a new idea of Mexico City. It’s a megalopolis, but every neighborhood has its own characteristics and many of them have trees and parks 🙂

The park

Afternoon in the park

Oh, and we also have Internet connection, 20 MB. I put this info here because when we told some people in Germany that we were moving to Mexico, that was one of tne first questions we got: Are you going to have Internet? Well… I leave my next comment to your imagination.
As for the noise, yes! It is very noisy city and where live starts getting noisy early in the morning because Mexicans think that if you honk very loud and for a long time the traffic will move faster. Well, that’s what we have observed up to now! It could also be that everyone wants to show off their cars and the sound of their horns. In the afternoon you will listen to children playing in the yard behind our building and that reminded me to of the afternoons I used to spend playing and running around with my cousins. In my time that was what children used to do, run around and play outside. However, I have noticed that children nowadays spend a lot of time sitting in front of TVs, PC, PSP, Wii and other devices. The children that I hear in the afternoon laughing and playing cannot afford such things. The others live in a parallel virtual world and over here I’ve seen three or four year old children lost in iPads and tablets!
Another funny noise that we have around here is a truck that has a tape with a very loud and piercing woman’s voice shouting the word: ‘ refrigeradores, colchones, microondas, lavadoras o fierro viejo que vendaaaaaaaan’ They are people who buy old stuff such as matresses, washing machines, junk, etc. either resell it in or ‘repair’ stuff. At first I thought it was just one pickup and I wondered when I visited my aunt in another part of the city and heard exactly the same voice how they came around in all parts of the city. Then I realized that it is only a recording and many different pickups! To finish with the noise, I have to mention the Gas truck. They pass every street in the neighborhood, all week, yes, including Sunday, shouting ‘Gaaaaaaaaas’ so that people can exchange their empty gas tank for a full one. As I live on a fourth floor, when I look down to other houses I can always see the gas tanks on the roofs in the sun and getting very hot… It’s always been like that in Mexico and I hope it continues that way, that is with no gas explosions! Ah, and last but not least, if you’re at home and suddenly listen to a bell, like the ones in Jingle-Bells, it’s not Santa or not ‘La Cloche’ that brings chocolate in Easter in France, it’s the truck that picks up the trash in every street and corner of the city.

This is then every day life in a nice neighborhood in one of the biggest cities in the world. I leave you then till next time and I will drink a cup of coffe while listening to the birds, real birds 🙂

The fly in the butter

If this were a show and tell in school, I’d start with the sentence “a butterfly is an insect with two pairs of colored wings… ” However, when I listen to the word butterfly I usually imagine a simple and common fly landing softly in the butter of my breakfast table… Who was the one who ever thought of calling such an insect a ‘butterfly’? Let’s take a look at other languages, a butterfly is a ‘Schmetterling’ in German, and the verb ‘schmettern’ means to dash, to batter, that is, to violently smash something…. Such a name for such a light and insecure insect? Please, come on, who called it that way? I imagine it was maybe someone with a magnifying glass looking at the huge eyes and the hairy body of a butterfly… Let’s move to the Latin based languages, butterfly in French: papillon… It sounds like a very big paper something, ‘papier’ is paper… so… Do you get the image? A little bit better than German, but still hard. And Italian? The word sounds at least friendlier and playful, ‘farfalla’ … Better, and in Portuguese, it’s ‘borboleta’ a word that I associate with ‘bubbles’ and something light and also playful. My favorite though is the Spanish word: Mariposa. It’s like a tiny Mary posing or landing somewhere… A nicer and softer image in our heads, isn’t it?




This time I started philosophing on this special insect because during the last cold days I carried in some wood for the chimeney and among the logs I found a delicate blue and brown butterfly. What surprised me was the fragility between the coarse wood and that it was still alive. So I took it delicately from a wing and, although it didn’t flatter (schmetter 😉 ) widely, it started moving softly. But, what could I do with it in a cold and grey day? I opened the door and left it posing on the balcony. This left me a little bit sad because I knew that in spite of having resisted all along hidden somewhere the butterfly wouldn’t make it long. So what was all that struggling and resisting for?
The next thought I had, was about the cocoon… Where had it been all winter long? Where had it been hiding, sleeping, charging energy? At that point I saw the awakening as a very cruel thing, you are warm and safe in a cocoon and wake up only to encounter difficulties. But maybe having the opportunity to see the world, especially in spring, may have been worth it.

Enjoy the sunny days that are to come!

Where to, señorita?

One of the most challenging events in a huge city is to go from A to B. In the Mexico City Metropolitan Area you can take the bus, the subway, the tram, take a so called microbus, a minivan, called ‘pesera’ because they used to charge one peso for the ride, you can take a taxi or if you like strong emotions and are very brave you may even drive.

Mexico City

Mexico City from the plane


During my last stay in Mexico City, I noticed many changes in the streets. The main changes started in the eighties with the re-planning of streets and avenues. The so called ‘Ejes viales’ (something like traffic axis or road) were created by renaming, numbering and modifying the direction. The Ejes include the names of the old avenues and streets and for the not so young they are still called that way. In the modern DF, how the city is also called, there are also elevated roads which can be used by paying a fee. These elevated roads connect the south with the north and offer a faster way to move. The common people take the road below, at street level, and end up in a big traffic jam during the rush hour.

An easy way to get around is to use the subway system that was first built in 1969 and has been continuously expanded.

Although the ‘Metro’ is the cheapest and fastest way to move, it is also extremely crowded. If we remember that there are about 20 million people living in the Metropolitan Mexico City area, you can imagine how crowded the Metro will be between 7 and 9 in the morning, or even earlier.

In my last visit I decided to avoid the metro and to use the always available taxis. There are different types of taxis. The most common ones and the cheapest ones are painted in gold and dark red (bordeaux, not masala ;-)) They are all over the place and can be stopped everywhere just by raising your hand. A trip in one of these taxis is recommendable, if you more or less know where you are going, you speak at least a little Spanish and you are not dressed in light colors or elegant garments. I assure you that this can be a very colorful experience and you shouldn’t miss it, if you visit the city.




I took several of these rides, being the shortest one of only 100 m long… I raised my hand, a taxi stopped, I got in and the driver asked me where I was going… I couldn’t even finish telling the driver the address because he suddenly stopped and told me: ‘Lo siento, seño, no es mi rumbo. Ya estoy terminando, mejor bájese.’ Something like, ‘Sorry, mam, it’s not my way. I’m finishing, so you better get down’ He was not unfriendly, but very clear. I took my handbag, got off the car and waited on the street side for the next one. This time I was lucky and the driver took me to my destination, in about 15 minutes.

Taxi drivers in the city are mostly men, if I dare say, I have never seen a woman. They are from a very young age… I didn’t ask the youngest one I got how old he was because I was afraid he might have said sixteen… Ooops! The oldest one was sixty five and was planning on retiring soon and enjoying family life, with his wife, children and grandchildren. However, he was not very sure, if he could afford leaving the job. I didn’t ask him, what kind of retirement plan he had because not everyone has one.

In one of my other trips I was asked very kindly where I was going: ‘Damita, ¿para dónde va?’ Or something like ‘Little lady, where are you going?’ As I have been living many years in other countries I was surprised by the word choice of my driver and on first thought I imagined that he was referring to my being short… ‘Little lady’ I thought, very funny. However, I noticed that some of the taxi drivers use that term to refer to us, women. I simply didn’t like it and didn’t get used to it.

I had to take a plane to travel to Cancún and called one of the other popular taxi services, the so called ‘taxi de sitio’ or official taxi stands. These are usually safer because they register your name and pick up address and give you the number of the taxi and sometimes the car brand of the car that is going to pick you up. These taxis should be in better conditions and the drivers are also a little bit better… But this is a rule with exceptions. I once got a car that was almost losing parts during the trip…

On my way back home from the airport, I took a taxi from the official services in the airport. They are more expensive, but better. This time I had a newer car and a friendly driver who asked me ‘¿a dónde la llevo, señorita? More or less, ‘where shall I take you, miss?’ I noticed that he wasn’t the only one calling me miss or señorita… I got suspicious and thought that it was maybe the same way we used to call our older, unmarried teachers in school… I’m now single again or for Mexican taxi drivers, maybe simply unmarried, and of course I am a teacher… I have to give this more thoughts 😉 The courteous driver showed me his new tablet attached to the front part of the car and started playing some Mexican music videos from the seventies, asking me if I remembered this and that. I was returning from a very relaxing short trip in the beach, but started doubting of the relaxing effect. I must look really old because he then asked me about my grandchildren! And I’m not a grandma yet. Time doesn’t make us younger 😉

Another one of my trips took me about an hour because it was Friday and a longer trip. Fridays in the city are usually chaotic, and the worst ones are every 2 weeks, when people get paid. Most people get their salary or money twice a month, on the first and on the fifteen with the previously mentioned consequences in the streets.

mexico streets

From A to B in Mexico City

This driver was also friendly and chatty. He started talking about his teenage daughter who wanted to get a piercing asking me my opinion, and if I had children. He then changed the subject to his problems at home, his wife had left him and asked me if I was married. I was too slow or maybe too honest and answered that I wasn’t married anymore. He then wanted to have all kind of advice on how to cope with loneliness and asked me if I thought he should ask his wife to go back for the third time… It was like a telenovela! The nice thing about this trip was that I almost forgot the traffic jam.

Two other trips were unforgettable, the one with the almost completely broken and dirty taxi with a dirty driver who reminded me of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and their friend who walks with a dust cloud on top… Yuk! To my disgrace I was in a hurry and had to get on time to an appointment and this was the only taxi available. The two other ‘exciting’ trips were one from the airport with a driver who thought he had a Formula 1 car and had me jumping form one side of the back seat to the other with every curve he took. Of course, the belts in the back almost never worked! The other one was with a driver who was really mad about everything: other drivers, other cars, people, buses, the country and especially the politicians! I remembered some of the bad words and curses that I hadn’t heard in a loooong time.

In the many trips I took I also noticed that Mexican taxi drivers love either tropical and lively cumbias or dramatic rancheras where everyone has lost the love of his or her life and has decided to get drunk with mezcal to forget the pain…

After some of those trips I also thought of getting some tequila or mezcal to recover from the shock. However, I managed and can recommend taking a taxi to get to know some of the real Mexico.

Bye, have a nice ride home!

Food sins in the city

I’m sure everybody knows the rhetorical question ‘What are we eating today?’or ‘What should I cook?’ Very often we can’t find a practical answer. An easy way out is the ‘Let’s go get Indian or Chinese food’ But where can you get it? The restaurant on the corner, the fast food one with the Call Nr. or the supermarket?

Inspired by an Italian blog presenting instant food inspired in the Italian cooking ( I want to show you and comment some of the International delicacies we can find in supermarkets.

First of all an introduction of one of the most famous chefs in German supermarkets must be done: He is Dr. Oetker, and he is a star in every cooking discipline, from a simple soup with noodles to a chocolate chip cake. Difficult? No way. I was referring to Dr. Oetker as a he, but maybe I’m wrong and it’s a she! Dr. Oetker, a mysterious character we may encounter in German kitchens… One thing I have to recognize that his or her recipes are almost infallible, provided you can read and follow steps accurately.


From the German Doctor 😉


There are other brands in our German supermarkets, for example, Knorr and of course the no name products of best buy supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl. These shops are famous for their super retail prices and their simple arrangements of products. In those places you find a simple rack with the open cardboard boxes showing the products and that’s it. They are also proud of having the fastest cashiers where you have to almost catch your products and put them in your caddy at an astonishing speed, almost like the Flash 😉 Nevertheless, you usually have to stand in line for a long time to be able to pay because of the 5 cashiers only one or two will be working.

Talking about international products in our supermarkets, what is one of the most popular Mexican products that you can find in every supermarket over here? Can you guess? Of course the vegetable mix, with kidney beans, red paprika and golden corn… Does it sound familiar to my Mexican readers? No? Of course not, we don’t eat that combination in Mexico. How about combining it with tuna? A Mexican tuna salad! Very simple.

However, we are more fortunate than our Italian friends, they find from the pizza burger, the newest Dr. Oetker’s creation to the spaghetti carbonara in the cup…  The French have not been forgotten. Dr. Oetker created a special line on the French cuisine, called le Bistro. All types of frozen ‘baguettes’ with several fillings, such as cheese and … Jalapeños!! Very French!


The authentic pizza burger or burger pizza?


If you don’t know how to cook or let’s say read, or you don’t have time and love International dishes, you may then run to a mini supermarket at the gas station close to your place and grab a ‘Ristorante Pizza’ with salami, mozzarella and pesto. Lots of the so called Mexican dishes have to have red kidney beans and corn and the Italian ones, pesto of course.

Has Dr. Oetker ever been to Asia? I don’t really know, but another well known Mister, Mr. Knorr, surely has 😉  The choice of Asian specialties is huge. From Bami Goreng noodles to Asia Curry Noodles sweet ‘n sour. Very Asian!

As for people who worry about ecology and ecological products, Mr. Knorr offers the new Spaghetti Bolognese. The most “tomatoly” ( a word only invented for this sauce) Bolognese of all time with sustainable green tomatoes, especially enriched with many herbs. This is the new Knorr’s Bolognese with a fruity taste… Mmmm, I don’t quite understand the effect of the herbs in the fruitiness of the sauce, or are the sustainable tomatoes responsible? As everything is dried, made to powder packed in a small bag I still don’t get where the freshness comes from… Ah, it’s part of my imagination! The mind is very powerful indeed…

Our American friends have also a special selection of products, for example, the All American pizza! With chicken or barbecue and a thick dough, very American, of course.

To be fair, I have to mention the products we can find in mostly every kitchen, the different types of broth or soups where you only add water. This makes me think of another brand, Maggi! Do they also have international products? Italian friends, please, close your eyes and don’t read… Yes, they even have the ‘fix’ for spaghetti all’amatriciana!

How about instant typical German dishes? You can find almost everything starting from the famous “Jägersauce” or “Hunter’s sauce” a little bit similar to a gravy to add to your “Schnitzel or pork steak that you’ll still have to buy. To accompany your meat, you can choose among many side dishes to serve on a Bavarian meal such as “Kartoffelknödel”, or potato dumplings, the ready fix mixture for the salad with “real” herbs and the “Bayrische Creme” or Bavarian creme for dessert. Do vegetarians have a choice? Yes, they may buy the instant “Käsespätzle”, similar to gnocchi, but smaller and served with melting cheese… a little bit like maccaroni and cheese, no problem.


Fresh and tasty…


So, cooking international meals at home isn’t that difficult! Long live the chemists! 😉

Tying the knot

For many the wedding day is the most expected day in their lives, it’s the day a dream comes true. It is the day when you officially commit to your best half. Every culture has its own traditions and rites. Rites are more often observed on such a day than in normal life. We all want to show our best face and share joy and happiness with the guests.

I remember the weddings of my older cousins, lots of planning, deciding and excitement. Who will be invited to the religious ceremony and who will attend the party afterwards? Where is it going to take place? Coming from a country where the extended family plays a very important role, weddings are usually very big events. However, the longest weddings I have attended to have been German weddings. I know that Indian weddings may last for days and that brings to my mind the funny film ‘Monsoon Wedding‘ where bride and groom hadn’t met before. Their marriage had been arranged by their parents. Although this doesn’t sound very nice to our “Western” ears, I sometimes wonder if this method is not better that our ‘marrying the love of our lives’.

Monsoon Wedding

Film “Monsoon Wedding”

Thinking of the weddings I have attended in Mexico City, I remember every one of them as being quite formal, except mine. Everything designed and well combined. They usually started with a religious ceremony in church and then a big meal in a luxurious restaurant. After the meal, mostly a dinner, live music was played and everybody would dance. Sometime later, the just married couple would cut the Wedding cake and shorty afterwards the party was over. Weddings in small towns or villages in Mexico are very different, depending on the geographical location. In general, they last longer and may even include the whole village to celebrate the marriage.

In the city there is always a dress code that should be followed unless you would like to stand out… I remember that for the wedding of one of my brothers, one of the younger ones who had been working in Europe, came into the restaurant, that was a colonial hacienda with a big garden, in a kilt. It was quite a surprise! When the dancing started the nicest couple was my brother in his kilt dancing with my daughter, at that time 5 years old, in her Bavarian dress, a dirndl. They were very sweet!

In Sao Paulo, women like to dress feminine and elegant, I would say, very sexy, with deep décolletés and very high heels. However, many of them are catholics and want to get the blessings in church. Therefore, the witty Brazilians always have a box with all kind of shawls in different colors to lend to the ladies while attending the mass. Clever, isn’t is? Another great idea for ladies wearing really high heels is that the couple orders many pairs of flip-flops in all sizes to be given out when the dance is starting. The flip flops or thong sandals may be designed in the colors used for the flower bouquets and the table decoration and they can even have the name of both printed, for example Pedro e Leopoldina 😉

I have also attended a couple of traditional weddings in Bavaria. Lots of food and tons of cake! Weddings over here are either Bavarian or simply different. I like to see the families in their traditional costumes, called Trachten in German. For younger men shorter Lederhose and knee high Lederhose for older men. In these occasions women are the ones wearing the longer dresses! There are also long ‘Dirndl‘, that’s the name of the traditional dress for ladies, middle ones and the very short ones, very popular among young girls, and men… All men, at least all Bavarian men, will agree that a Dirndl is the best way to underline a woman’s treasures… for the dirndl women usually wear a special brassiere called “balconette” that offers a very good support and forms a perfect décolleté… a little bit like a balcony…  Traditional clothing has become so popular that during the world’s famous Oktoberfest it is now normal to see Asians, South European, African Americans wearing a dirndl, an imagine, even Mexicans!   I’m mentioning those origins, because it is difficult to distinguish a blond Swedish or Austrian from a blond German girl, that’s why, me, a small dark haired Mexican looks very different indeed…(Me 😉 )

That to the dress code. Other German weddings are not that strict regarding the dress code. You can wear what you want, a little bit more elegant than everyday… and I think that sometimes that is the problem… Some guests keep their blue jeans and if lucky, wear a shirt instead of a t-shirt keeping their comfortable walking shoes.

A Bavarian wedding is not only Bavarian fashion, there are also lots of food, music and anecdotes.  Some traditional weddings start early, at about 10 or 11 o’clock and while waiting for the guests and family to gather,  “ Weißwürstchen und Brezen” are served. For those who are very thirsty, they can start the day with a Weizen or Weißbier, a wheat based beer.  After this “light” second breakfast, there is usually a ceremony in church, catholic or protestant.


Brezen, Weißwurst und Bier

(Image from:

After mass, guests and the just married couple go to the restaurant where the party takes place.  Drinks will be served, yes, you’ve guessed right, more beer: a Pils or a Helles or a Radler or… and of course, other beverages. If it’s noon or half past noon, lunch will be served. A typical starter is a broth with some “Spätzle” or thick noodles made of eggs and flour and others with liver. There is a special “Wedding soup” also made of broth, usually no chicken broth, served with two or three dumplings, one only made of eggs and flour, and the other one with liver, too.

Afterwards they serve a traditional salad, not very big, with raw red and white cabbage, rasped carrots, rasped turnips and maybe lettuce and tomatoes. Ah, and of course finely sliced paprika, red or yellow. The dressing is usually thin and a little milky and it shouldn’t be sour.  Sometimes in between the courses there are stories on the life of bride and groom, usually funny, sometimes indiscreet… depending on the person telling the story. The now married couple expects their friends and family to perform some sketches with funny and nice episodes in their lives for example, how the couple met, or the first visit to the in-laws, among others.There may be some games and word games, but not for everyone to take part in, but only as clapping and laughing spectators. That would be too spontaneous… Continuing with the menu, usually some dish with pork meat, may be some filet medallions with champignons or pepper sauce, and to be fair, there may also be a “meatless” option for the many vegetarians here.

Afterwards the dancing music starts and the couple and guests start to dance usually in pairs and strictly following the steps they have learned in dancing school. It is very common for teenagers in Germany to go to dancing school to officially learn the most popular dances, especially the Waltz. The ladies are the ones who enjoy this part of the party while many of the gentlemen discreetly engage in deep conversations about football or they simply “disappear” out of the room to stretch their legs 😉

Everybody brings the presents and congratulates the freshly baked couple. Hopefully, everything turns out fine and the couple may start their honeymoon…

I also hope not many of the delighted couples organize dress, wedding car and honey moon on a boat with these items I found close to my place.  They remind me of Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride”…

Bride's paradise

Brautparadies… (= Bride’s paradise…)

Have a nice week!

Ulysses and coming home

I feel like the female Ulysses, may be Odyssey would sound more feminine. Yes, after a very long trip that lasted 27 years I am now heading home… Is it really home? To a certain extent yes, but I’m really also leaving home behind…

Do I have someone like Penelope who has been waiting for me all that time and who has been faithful all those years? I’m pretty sure that no, nobody has been waiting for me all that long spending time and weaving. However, many old friends, acquaintances and my family are vey happy, or so they say…, of having me around. It’s been a very long time and I’ve lost many names on the way, names of friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, but I’m sure that new names are waiting for me in the new old shore in the New World… Leaving Old Europe is difficult, all the culture and cultural differences so close and easy to reach… provided time and money are there to enjoy it.

Going back to Ulysses. On his travel he encountered giants, cyclops, witches, sirens, females who tried to spellbound him… Have I encountered those creatures? making some analogies and if you imagine me of a very small size trying to compete with German men for the only free space in the subway, I would say yes! I’ve encountered giants, cyclops and strong amazons, too. Those women who reach to the sky and look healthier and stronger than an olympic athlete. They have been part of my reality for a long time.

Sometimes when I have to fill in official forms asking me about my country of birth, believe me, I’ve been very tempted to write: Lilliput… Some other times I’ve had to control myself to avoid writing the name of some capital in one of the countries of the Mediterranean or in the Middle East… So, imagine me living in this side of the world where the ‘natives’ are almost always fairer and much taller than myself… I’ve got mostly used to it. However, I have been very scared once or twice with the aggressive behavior of the cyclops trying to crush me… Don’t worry, I survived and the experience made me even stronger ;-).

A giant

Help! A giant!

(Image from:

The very first time that I lived in Munich was in the ’80s and the physical appearance of the city hasn’t changed that much. Although one the first things that caught my eye was the colors used in this part of Germany to paint the exterior of houses and buildings. They were what we could call ‘autumn or fall’ colors. They had all shades of brown, ochre, and especially that green that reminded me of the trees in the fall changing from green to brown. Many of the official buildings were decorated in ‘Moosgrün’ or mossy green and dark brown and lots of wood, preferably oak, not shiny but in an honey shade. Everything looked very sober and sad, at least to my eyes used to the extremely colorful Mexico… Sometimes too colorful. This has changed and you can now find warm yellow and the traditional white with red or brown tiles on the roof as being the most used colors for buildings and houses.

I remember that the most exotic place you could eat was the Chinese restaurant in one of the main streets close to the university. I don’t remember any other Asian food, no Indian, no Thai, no Vietnamese, no Sushi and of course no take away food. If you didn’t want to eat Bavarian food you’d have to choose the Italian or the Greek restaurant nearby. However, Italian restaurants were not the fancy and expensive restaurants that you can find now on every corner in downtown Munich. They compete against each other in exclusivity and price, swearing to be the most authentic one. Germans have always admired the Italian culture, we all have, but with such a fervor, only the Germans in Munich and surroundings. They even call Munich the most Italian city north of the Alps. As for the German love for Italy you may be interested in Goethe’s Italian journey. You can find a précis here: (

I think you now understand better what I mean. I also love the Italian culture, the food, the art, the cities, everything, but… in Italy! I love my Italians friends, not because they are Italians, but because I like them and we understand each other. The best thing of all is when I go to ‘eat Italian’ (This is the expression you use in German) in Munich with an Italian friend. She usually speaks German to the waiters, who always greet you warmly with a “Buona sera, signora”. One day I asked her why, and she explained that most of them are not Italians and don’t speak Italian. I laughed and said that I knew what she was talking about because it also happened to me in some so called ‘Mexican’ and ‘Spanish’ restaurants. So we both stick to German. That to authenticity. As for that, yes, some of those places have a very good selection of dishes and very good wines, but the prices have reached such heights that I don’t find it affordable anymore… Let’s better save some money and enjoy some authentic Italian meals in Italy.

Munich… ‘Weltstadt mit Herz’ or City of the World with a heart… (Image from:ÜNCHEN-Weltstadt/dp/B00H19QP0M)

münchen weltstadt mit herz

Weltstadt mit Herz

Going back to the eighties, Munich was not really an international city, as I was mentioning. There were, and still are, only two or so cinemas where you could watch movies in English or in the original language. On TV there were only the ARD, the ZDF and the BR … what are those? The official channels, the first, second and third German television programs and, if you were lucky and lived close to one of the borders you could maybe receive one of the foreign channels. Living in Munich we could also watch the Austrian official channels. What does that mean? First of all, we had to pay a TV tax that was calculated according to the number of TVs and the number of adults living in your place. Ah, and also the number of radios you had… and the radio in your car was counted extra… Yes, quite an amount to be able to watch 3 TV programs that promised you a very high quality and no advertisments! … Well, only some allowed commercials from 19:59 to 20:00 when it was time for the news.

By the end of the Eighties I moved to Munich from my “Third World” country and was shocked to not being able to watch my well known TV series and the end of some of the very popular shows at that time, such as Dallas! People here were very proud of having no commercials, we know, almost none, on TV… I always thought: Guys, you don’t have TV!  Change got here, too. We finally got some ‘private’ TV chains, the bad guys, with lots of commercials and American series… very bad for children… Nowadays, the official channels are struggling to keep their audiences and they are really worried because the average age of their viewers is about 65 years old… Imagine!


Durchschnittsalter der Zuschauer 2011

Age average of TV viewers 2011

We now have a lot of channels, which doesn’t mean that the quality has increased and we still pay TV taxes. You have to pay even if you don’t have a TV… The first cable TV was “Kabeldeutschland” and if I remember right, it was also “official”, which means they were monopolized, no alternatives. Currently we have also “Sky” and the Internet provider “Netflix” has just arrived.

I was mentioning the cinemas. There was a very big cinema called that way, Cinema, that showed films in English. It still exist and has enjoyed a popular comeback after and extensive face lifting. One or two art cinemas showed films in French or sometimes even Spanish or Italian. I was used to watching films in English with subtitles and got a little bit frustrated having to wait longer to watch brilliant films till ‘the actors learned German’, that is till they were doubled into German. It was also a shock listening to the German voices of my favorite actors… it still is and I still prefer to watch films in English… sigh… Going to the cinema was very expensive and that hasn’t changed. Although Germany is one of the countries that develops the best technology in cameras and other devices, they don’t like to change their old ways. If you go to the cinemas that show films in original versions you will feel like transported to the early eighties. The screens are better, but the rest is really retro, not pretending to be retro, they really are…

I don’t want you to think that I didn’t like living in Munich. No, I did enjoy it. Munich has a lot of good sides and attractions. I was only mentioning the difficulties, the difficult tasks to compare it a little bit to the Odyssey of Ulysses… And I am still looking for the female form of the name, I hope I find it before I leave Munich 😉

p.s. I found it in English, it’s Ulyssa!




Madame Mallory and bureaucracy

Imagine a nice village in the South of France. The smell of herbs, lavender, thyme, rosemary… The quietness of a house out of the village with a marvelous sight and a restaurant with the best French cuisine ever. Does this sound attractive enough? To vary your meals you may want to eat at the other restaurant in town, an Indian specialty restaurant. In the middle of nowhere?

Sometimes we have dreams that seem risky or impossible to achieve. Other times destiny or life, as you may want to call it, puts us on a difficult path and we have to throw away our initial plans or way of life. This happened to a numerous Indian family living in Mumbai who have to leave their country and get to Europe to try to rebuild their lives. However, their first choice turns out to be cold, wet and with vegetables and fruits that have no soul. Therefore, they move again searching for a nicer place. “Destiny’ takes them to France where after some initial difficulties they can finally open an Indian restaurant.

The film “The Hundred-Foot Journey” with Helen Mirren is being shown in German cinemas as “Madame Mallory and the smell of Curry’.

Mme Mallory and Hasan

Madame Mallory cooking

(Image from–87671108.html)

The difficulties in the film are sometimes funny and sometimes rough or cruel and they involve love, hate, jealousy, talent, friendship and family… Would it be so easy in real life to move to a foreign country, let’s say in Western Europe, and simply open a restaurant? I sincerely doubt it…

In the case of the film, this part was obviously skipped because if not it would have turned into a paper war against the ministries and the immigration offices 😉

At the beginning of the film while entering the Continent the family members are asked some questions about their profession, time they plan to stay in the country, etc. This shows a little bit of it…

Some countries are more willing to receive foreigners and to let them live in their territory, others not really. All around Europe radical groups have been spreading and attacking in word and some times even in actions ‘foreign’ looking people. Who is foreign in a country? Is a person who got there as a youngster, has lived there for years, worked and paid taxes still a foreigner? France adopts immigrants more easily than other countries and helps them to settle. Some nationals believe that immigrants get too much and that they are entitled to too many social benefits while French aren’t. This leads to outbreaks of radical groups and foreigner hate.

Germany would love to receive more and more immigrants… Really? Only those young, highly educated, with lots of experience in their professions and willing to work under conditions that not many Germans would accept. In this case even bureaucracy would work smoothly and they would get the necessary help for their paperwork.

Back to our example in the film, what kind of bureaucracy, that is government administration, would the family have to deal with? I imagine at the very first, they would have had to get the visas and then the residence permits. Afterwards, the working permits, then the license to open a business and especially a business in the food area would require lots and lots of permits and fees… I don’t know, if they could have open their place in the first year. It is of course not impossible…

Now, the children… I never saw them going to school, writing their homework and learning French! This last task would take longer. I don’t really know how it works in France with children and schooling. In Germany all children have to go to school and there are only the official schools in the neighborhood. So, imagine the children who have to go to Elementary school and who don’t speak German =:-o

Bureaucracy… What does it really mean? The word bureau or office is hidden in there and office has to do with paper… Paperwork! Some countries love paperwork more than others, I suppose. In Brazil, for example, everything has to be officially recognized or you cannot even buy a cell phone. You need to have a residence permit with the necessary ID card and number and you have to have a Tax number to show that you ARE paying taxes. I still remember the very crowded offices where you have to get your documents and where you have to get your signature registered and approved. Without these steps, as I told you before, you can’t live as a person… After accomplishing all this and while living there, if you pay in the supermarket with your bank card you always have to say your tax number and sometimes your ID number, too. To get into any building because for example you have an appointment at the doctor’s or are going to a business meeting you also have to register at the entrance and give all your numbers. By the way you should know them by heart. If you don’t do so, you become immediately a suspect… of what? Of anything.

Another item that points out to my mind when dealing with anything official and bureaucracy. I don’t know why, but you’re always looked as a suspect… You don’t really feel comfortable, as if we all had something wrong to hide. Is this part of the bureaucrats school? I imagine the teachers in the bureaucrats academy: “make them feel guilty, because for sure they are. Make them suffer and don’t let them leave here fast. They have to remember us and talk about us”

In Germany bureaucracy consists of many different special forms, strict and spare opening hours, lots of rules and dont’s, but at least it works. Once you’ve read all the papers and have understood the complicated bureaucrat’s German language, then it will work. Another good thing is that they usually give you an approximate time when you will be able to get your paperwork done, and things will be ready usually on time or even before the mentioned date. That I love!

I believe that the German government loves bureaucracy and I was amazed when I found out (well, taken from Wikipedia) that “The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism. But even Weber saw unfettered bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which an increase in the bureaucratization of human life can trap individuals in an “iron cage” of rule-based, rational control.” I also now know why a place and an Underground Station in Munich is called Max Weber. And believe it or not I always lose my way or take the wrong train in precisely that station!


Max-Weber-Platz with Underground station in Munich

(Image from

In other countries it doesn’t work this way and I know that I am going to miss German bureaucracy (to a certain extent ;-))

And last but not least, after watching the nice movie we enjoyed an Indian dinner and I didn’t think, not even for a tiny moment, about paperwork. Enjoy the film and your food and till next time.