Monday, August 27, 2007

Living La Vida Ordinary

I must confess that when Sonny and I began the discussion of moving overseas, my head filled with images of a glamorous and exciting life, akin to that of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Of course they were rich, still, I pictured living in Europe and spending our weekends traveling to various cities throughout the continent, sitting in cafes along the banks of the Seine or the Rhine, visiting museums and churches and monuments.

Well, it has been three months since we have been living in Mexico and this is how we spend our weekends: Sonny takes Asha for a walk to the bakery for fresh croissants and bread early in the morning, then we walk to the market to buy fresh produce and DVDs, take Asha to the park for a bit, go out for breakfast or lunch. Sometimes we go to the mall, or furniture shopping, and once in a while we will drive around Mexico City trying to explore some sights (usually getting lost in the car), but mostly we just spend our time walking around the city and buying flowers or some trinket from a local shop, hanging out at the park watching the remote controlled boats and children riding ATVs, or taking Asha to the zoo or children’s museum.

Clearly, we are not living La Vida Loca. I think this has to do with a combination of the fact that travel within Mexico is not nearly as easy as it is in Europe (there is very limited rail travel within the country), and the fact that Sonny and I are not the most adventurous people in the world, who love to constantly try new things. For a while I have been beating myself up about this fact, thinking that I am not the kind of person who should be an expat, who deserves this type of opportunity, because I do not want to jump in the car every weekend and discover every little and big sight in and around Mexico City.

What I have come to realize is that our current experience of just hanging out on the weekends without any agenda is a very new experience for us. In New Jersey we were fortunate enough to have all of our family and friends, and every weekend there was something to do with someone – a party, a puja, a scheduled event with friends. While it was wonderful and we enjoyed spending so much time with everyone we cared about, we missed out on a lot of family time, just the three of us. Our town offered so many family activities on the weekends – from a Halloween parade to caroling in the town square on Christmas Eve to ordinary fairs throughout the year – that we had to skip because we had extended family events going on at those times.

Well here we are with no family and very few friends so far. We have nothing stopping us from just spending time together as a family, without having to worry about hopping in a car, getting to a particular destination and trying to learn everything “notable” about that sight. Instead, for the first time we are able to just “be” and enjoy the everyday little things about life in a city. And I have to say that while we have plans to travel and visit a number of sights throughout Mexico over the next few months, right now we are just enjoying our every day, ordinary life – which in itself is a new experience for us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Baby's Day Out

Since Pearl is here from NJ along with Dada, Mommy figured it was the perfect time to check out all the fun things for children to do in Mexico City – basically all of the things she keeps saying she is going to do with me, but has never gotten around to. So this past Saturday Mommy, Daddy, Pearl, Dada and I piled into the car and went to the Papalote Children’s Museum, which has been described by the NY Times as one of the most technologically sophisticated “touch and do” museums in the world. Both Pearl and I got to try our hands at lots of different exhibits, though to be honest, we couldn’t figure out some of them because none of us are fluent enough in Spanish yet. Still, it was fun to climb, color and put together giant puzzles. Plus, I had my very first movie theater experience at the Imax theater, and I have to say that I am now officially a movie buff. It was so much fun to sit in those huge chairs and watch the room grow dark, and then to see meteors and comets hurtling towards us from the ceiling.

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one weekend, on Sunday Mommy took us to La Ciudad de los Ninos (City of Children). The entire event was adventurous because for starters, Mommy drove us all the way to Santa Fe all by herself, since Arturo had the day off and Daddy was sick. Then of course we went into the “city”, which is basically a miniature version of a real city, with all of the inhabitants of a real city, such as banks, supermarkets, newspaper offices, cooking schools, hospitals and more. Children can participate in the regular workings of all the business by performing such activities as sewing and altering clothes on child-sized sewing machines at the mini-tailor, or taking a culinary class in child-sized kitchens at the cooking school. Pearl decided to make chocolate bars at the Nestle factory, and while I was too young for most of the activities, I did ride on a train – all by myself for the first time. Below you can see a picture of me holding on for dear life. I can’t wait until I am just a little bit older and really able to enjoy this place!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


A few days ago I had the best surprise of my life – Dada and my friend Pearl Didi came to visit me in Mexico! I had no idea that they were going to come because everyone kept it a big secret from me - and while they succeeded at surprising me, I didn’t quite have the excited and frenzied reaction everyone had hoped for. In fact, you could say that I freaked out a bit at seeing them standing in my foyer, and started crying for Mommy and Aurora. So much so that Mommy had to stop videotaping so she could pick me up. I don’t quite know what came over me, but after a few minutes, I was okay and really started having a blast with them. Of course it didn’t hurt that Pearl brought me lots of presents.

After all the excitement of the morning, Thursday afternoon we went to Granja de los Americas (Farm of the Americas) where they had lots of baby animals we could touch and pet – calfs, kids, ponies, and even bunnies. I think Pearl liked the bunnies the best because we could pick them up, feed them and uddle with them. I even went on my first-ever (pseudo) pony ride. Mommy was quite surprised that I enthusiastically climbed up on the pony all ready to ride – it was only when the pony started walking away from Mommy, Dada and Pearl that I started to scream “Downie! Want Downie!” Still, it was a great photo op, and otherwise I had a blast with the animals.

To add to the surprises, on Friday Daddy came home from work early bringing with him our brand new car! We got a VW Bora, which is a model we don’t see in the US, but can best be described as in between a Jetta and a Passat. Mommy and Daddy decided on this car because we can’t have anything too big – if you saw our garage and parking spots you would understand why. They had placed the order for the car a few weeks ago, but being on Mexican Standard Time, we figured we wouldn’t get it until at least September. Instead, here it is!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


The amount of time I waste here in Mexico is astounding. Countless hours sitting in Starbucks surfing the Web notwithstanding (as those squandered hours are of my own choice and making), in the past two weeks I must have spent an average of six hours making wasted trips to the bank, the cell phone store, Office Max, and even the doctor’s office. Ultimately I leave these places feeling frustrated at having spent so much time sitting in traffic to get to there and waiting for help once I am there, and then defeated at not having accomplished the necessary task.

Here is some insight into some of my recent frustrations with life in Mexico:

  • I arrive at 5:25 for a 5:30 doctor’s appointment for Asha; I wait thirty minutes, then ask the receptionist how much longer she thinks it will be until we are seen; she replies that she has no idea, but that there are still two patients ahead of Asha, and that the doctor has been in with the same patient since I arrived half an hour ago . . . .
  • I go to Office Max to purchase a cheap desk; I attempt to pay for the desk but am told that all desks of that model are out of stock in this store; I am informed that if I wish to buy it today (Tuesday), it can be ordered and delivered to my house on Thursday and assembled for free; not trusting that delivery on Thursday means two days from now versus some random Thursday in 2008, I decide to check at Office Depot instead. Finding nothing but overpriced and unsightly looking desks, I return to Office Max, deciding to take a risk on the delivery. I am then told, by the exact same employee who assured me of delivery Thursday that the desk was not in stock, in any Office Max in all of Mexico City, and that I could not purchase it. He did, however, have a lovely floor model with scratches that I could buy for the same price as a new one, and then hire someone to take it apart from the store and deliver it to my house, for an additional cost.
  • I try to obtain a credit card from HSBC, where it took us three months and four trips to simply get a joint checking account; I am told to return several times with additional pieces of information, each time only to be told that I forgot something that I was never before told to bring. To add insult to injury, I am finally informed that I cannot obtain a credit card without my husband’s signature on the application form because, even though I am a joint owner of the account, I do not earn my own money.

So at this point I have no money of my own (according to the Mexicans), no credit card (and accordingly no cell phone because after three trips to the cell phone store, I was finally told that I would not be able to purchase a phone or a plan without a Mexican credit card), and no desk at which I could sit to do any work, if hypothetically I had a job.

What I do have, however, is a slightly battered spirit still determined to face more frustrating but hopefully fruitful trips to the bank, doctor, cell phone and office supply stores this upcoming week.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Split Personality

Since I have been back in Mexico, I have resorted to what I like to dub my “adjustment period behavior” which in layman’s terms is basic Terrible Two’s toddler-hood. I just like to call it that because it gives me more leeway with Mommy and Daddy, as they think my behavior is due to missing everyone back in NJ. To give you an idea of what’s been going on around here (and to help you thank your lucky stars that you are in the US and not here), here is the rundown: I was waking up about 2-3 times per night (I just recently started sleeping through the night again), and I spend about 50% of my waking time either: (a) whining incessantly for milk, water, candy, books, my blankie, or anything else that comes to mind; (b) getting frustrated and throwing pens, block, books and puzzles when they don’t perform exactly how I want them to, at the exact moment I want them to; and (c) crying hysterically when something gets wet or dirty, whether it is on me, or someone else.
But all is forgiven because I spend the remainder of my time giving lots of hugs and kisses to Mommy and Daddy without even being asked, just because I love them; running away and squealing in delight when I think someone is looking for me; hiding behind doors; counting to ten in Spanish (and sometimes English); and asking very nicely to watch “Put Down the Duckie."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's a Hard Knock Life . . . For Us

Living in Latin America has a lot of perks – one of the best being that labor (unlike goods) is cheap. That means that for about double what I used to pay a cleaning lady to come to my house twice a month for a total of six hours, I can have a full-time live-in housekeeper, who cleans, cooks, washes all the day’s dishes, does laundry and irons. And to top it off, she is a de facto babysitter for Asha pretty much whenever we need. Cheap labor also means that we can hire a driver who works 40 hours per week, for about the same amount we pay the housekeeper. Our driver, however, happens to be paid for through Sonny’s company for six months, and costs nearly triple a regular driver because of his security and defensive driving training.

Needless to say, we are not planning on using his services once our six months are up – not because we don’t love his help around the house with hanging pictures and assembling Asha’s toys, his running to various stores and banks to pay our utility bills (Mexicans haven’t quite got the hang of online bill pay just yet), and his help pushing my grocery cart and handing me plastic bags in the produce section at the grocery store. Rather it is because, quite simply, we are cheap. Plus, I need to buy my own car because I am not supposed to drive the company car, and since I plan to drive here, there is really little point in having a driver long-term. Of course, we’ll see in November whether we were actually able to give up the comfort that Arturo provides with never having to worry about directions to get somewhere or parking once we arrive.

While all this help around the house has been really nice – I mean really nice – there are some real adjustments that come with having people in the house all day, every day. Even a spacious apartment can start to feel cramped because there are always people around, seeing me in my pajamas if I am having a late morning, observing all my interactions with Asha, and probably even wondering if I am actually going to go to the gym that day. It is also odd not being the one who decides what we eat for dinner (or if we order take in yet again), what brand of cheese to buy or what color eggs are better.

And then there is the matter of driving. While I am learning the roads and have been driving, I constantly have Arturo with me to help me with directions. Somehow he also sees as his job to remind me that my hands should be at the ten and two o’clock position on the steering wheel, notify me of red lights up ahead that I can see as well as he, and inform me that truck drivers cannot see me through their right side mirrors (all of this in case I never took a driver’s ed course, and have no common sense).

I would never have thought having such great help – and for such a reasonable price – could have it’s downside as well. Still, unless I am prepared to cook dinner every day, pick up a toilet brush and clean, and lug my own groceries up from the car, I should probably just keep my mouth shut and enjoy the perks.