Thursday, March 13, 2008


When we decided to move to Mexico last year, most people had at least one of the following misconceptions: that (1) we would get kidnapped; (2) we would be “rich” here, able to afford anything and everything we wanted because; (3) everything in Mexico was cheap. I could easily look down from my high horse and lament about how ignorant people are, but the truth is that when Sonny mentioned Mexico City as a possible assignment, the first image that came to my mind was the kidnapping scene from the movie Proof of Life. I was also shocked to learn - a few weeks after arriving - that our company paid apartment and car would be mere trinkets for many of the wealthy Mexicans and foreigners who went on weekend retreats to their haciendas, regularly shopped at Louis Vuitton, and vacationed in the Galapagos Islands on their family yachts. I also found out the hard way that nothing in Mexico is cheap, except for labor and maybe produce, and learned to bring back from the U.S. a lot of children’s toys and generic gifts for birthday parties, as the exact same items in Walmart and Costco here cost 40% more than in the U.S.

So I think it is time to clear up any remaining perceptions. Yes, like any other city in the world, there are seedy areas and petty criminals abound, waiting for people who are careless and imprudent about basic safety. Yes, the aiport happens to be in one of those areas (although I'm sure all Jerseyites can relate to the bad rep airport neighborhoods provide; afterall, is Newark airport an accurate depcition of our lovely home state?)
However, there are also fancy areas of Mexico City where people walk around wearing Channel shoes and Seven Jeans, carrying Gucci bags and pushing Bugaboo strollers. We are fortunate enough to live in the wonderfully safe and lively area of Polanco, which, according to Lonely Planet Mexico, is an “affluent residential quarter . . . where the streets are named after writers and scientists, contain[ing] lots of restaurants, art galleries and embassies [as well as] some luxury hotels . . . .” The main avenue and reference point that runs through Polanco is Avenida Presidente Masaryk, which has been called the Rodeo Drive/5th Avenue/Champs Elysees of Mexico City, and is home to nearly every upscale store that I have ever heard of, such as Cartier, Valentino, Bvlgari, Hermes, Ferragamo, Tiffany and more, and many that I haven’t heard of but which I could never afford. I can safely say that since these stores do so much business here, and since no matter how nicely I am (sometimes) dressed when going out, there are always people more affluent and better dressed walking around. In other words, any potential kidnapper would have bigger fish to fry than me!

For us Polanco is a great place to live because we get that city atmosphere plus great parks and lots of restaurants in walking distance, and always feel safe, even when walking around at night. In fact, the only downside to Polanco is that I am constantly confronted with the gaps in my education because, while I am familiar with the names after which streets like Tennyson, Galileo and Lord Byron are named, for the life of me I cannot figure out who Eugenio Sue or Francisco Petrarca were. Still, there are neighborhoods of this city that are far more affluent, charming and trendy than Polanco. I suppose my point is that, while Mexico City has its negatives, it is a vibrant city with various interesting neighborhoods offering world renowned shopping, museums, art galleries, parks, markets, and ancient cultural sites, as well as a number of cultural and social events, from Italian Operas to Cuban Jazz to big name rock concerts like Lenny Kravitz (appearing in April). All this, plus being surrounded by mountains and having great weather year round.

So for those friends and family who are considering visiting, I promise you this: you will not find bargains here, you will not feel rich. But on the flip side, you will not get kidnapped.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bunnies & Crafts & Eggs, Oh My!

Last Saturday we went to the Newcomers Annual Easter Party, which had promised to be a fun-filled family event. Now that Mommy is the president of Newcomers, Daddy and I are obligated to participate in many more of the activities than we did before. In fact, Mommy’s new position has meant more involvement and work even for our driver, Arturo – who, along with other board members’ drivers, helped fill hundreds of plastic Easter eggs with chocolate, and scoured the city to locate helium balloons at the last minute – and our housekeeper, Aurora, who came to the party to help the other maids ensure a steady supply of drinks and to help chaperone the children’s craft tables.

It turned out to be a beautiful – if slightly hot – day and Miss Virginia’s garden, where the event took place, was the perfect setting, overlooking the mountains and valleys of Mexico City. I loved hunting for chocolate filled eggs with my pals (and made lots of new friends), got my picture taken for two different newspapers (which Mommy will upload when we get a copy) and made lots of crafts using cool things like googley-eyes, pipe cleaners and puff balls, not to mention glitter, stickers and crayons.

However, the thing to which I had most looked forward was meeting the Easter Bunny, because Mommy had been talking to me about it for weeks (not wanting a repeat of last year’s Santa picture wherein I was crying and reaching out to Mommy to remove me from the jolly old fellow’s lap). So when the Easter Bunny finally came out, I was really excited, only to find myself taken aback when meeting him. It wasn’t that I was scared of him – quite the contrary – because this guy looked strangely familiar. After a minute or two, I figured out that this guy wasn’t the Easter Bunny at all – it was Arturo dressed up in the Easter Bunny’s clothes! I figure this must have been because, like Santa, the Easter Bunny has so many rounds to make this time of year, so his helpers must dress up like him to visit all the kids. As a good sport, I didn’t spoil the fun and break the news to all my pals – but really, who knew that our driver was one of the Easter Bunny’s personal helpers!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rhapsodic Rhetoric: A Post on Politics

I typically don’t write about politics on this blog. Maybe it is because I am not nearly as informed as I ought to be (yes, I was a political science major and a lawyer). Or perhaps it is because I hate offending people, and talking about political views is a surefire way to rub readers the wrong way. I suspect it is a combination of the two. However, I can no longer contain my exhilaration. This is the year for which I have longingly awaited eight years – the year in which Americans can begin to emerge from the cloud of shame and disgust that George Bush has brought upon America, as he leaves office and we select another and surely better – regardless of party affiliation – president. I won’t get into why I find Bush to be a disgrace of a president (although eroding the Constitution to a skeletal version of itself while the Framers likely roll over in their graves, does come to mind), but let’s just say that I have been looking forward to a new administration.

The thing is, though, I have been torn about my allegiance to either of the remaining Democratic candidates. You see, I have never been a fan of Hillary Clinton because something about her always struck me as . . . un-kosher. I can’t pinpoint it and I don’t know why Bill Clinton didn’t strike me the same way, but I just always thought that there is more to her than she lets on, and I wonder how it will come back to haunt her in the general election or even in the White House. Or perhaps it is as simple as – even though her gender has never consciously influenced me – that on a subconscious level I want to be able to relate to her as a woman yet I find her to be a bit distant.
So it would reason that I would immediately favor Barack Obama, the charismatic hope-inspirer, advocate of change in Washington, with a seemingly open-book past. And I have to admit that I am impressed by his discourse, and I do find myself inspired by his speeches. So then why is it that over the past several weeks and months I find myself rooting for Hillary? Why was I so disappointed in her performance on Super Tuesday and ever so grateful that she pulled out ahead in Texas and Ohio this week? In part I think it is because I always favor the “underdog;” in part it is because lately I find her vulnerable – if only politically – and somehow I relate to that.

Most of all, though, I think it has to do with the Obama bandwagon. If I actually look beyond the inspirational speeches, I am not sure whether I am convinced of his abilities or even his alleged liberal views (his health reform plan does not include universal health care; he has little foreign policy experience; and relies on right-leaning economic advisers). And I find myself exasperated that many of those who have jumped on his bandwagon have done so, I suspect, without really assessing his views on the issues and his plans for the future, because they have been taken in by his rhetoric. In fact, Obama’s grandiloquence is strangely reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, who fooled Americans by speaking eloquently while slyly eroding government and social policies.

So maybe the thing I like about Hillary is that I trust her even though I don’t trust her. I like that she is not likeable off the bat, and doesn’t necessarily inspire through words. I like that my guard is already up with her a bit, because she is distant and doesn’t pretend to be otherwise, but that I know her liberal views – they are clear after years of public service. She has the desire to actually help middle-class Americans, and the experience to actually make changes.

And in deciding between the two candidates, I suppose it comes down to this: I like Hillary because of what she stands for, not how eloquently she speaks. And it would be a damn shame for her to lose the presidency, and for the American people to lose her, simply because we were again taken in by empty dissertations and great oratory.