manzanillo weekend

We had a long weekend a few weeks back, so we headed to the beach. We have some truly phenomenal beaches within driving distance — the sort of places where celebrities splash around. The famed Puerto Vallarta. The surf bum haven of Sayulita. The popular cruise ship stop of Mazatlan. We plan to visit those and more (short flights open up our options substantially) in good time, but this time around we opted for somewhere a bit closer: Manzanillo. It’s a port city without much of interest, which is why we chose the nicest all-inclusive in town and didn’t once leave.

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Before the Foreign Service, an all-inclusive resort would have sounded like a nightmare to me. “Why even bother traveling overseas if you’re just going to sit around in a resort that you could find back home?” I can imagine my former self saying. Funny how your perspective changes when your entire life is navigating another culture.

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I ate exclusively seafood, which I don’t get much of home because Andy won’t touch it. The food was great. Although the one meal I scheduled for all of us at a fancy sit-down restaurant — a sushi joint — was a bust. It was kind of all downhill from the moment when Flynn realized chopsticks fit perfectly in his nostrils. And… back to the family friendly buffets we went.

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The boys were  both sick, so much so that one day at 10 a.m., while swimming, Flynn actually asked if he could go back to the room to rest. But they managed to have some fun anyway.

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Flynn made good use of the rule that boys with sore throats can eat as many ice cream cones as they want.

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Our next weekend getaway is coming up next week. Where to? Stay tuned.

Posted in FSI, Mexico, Travel | 1 Comment

worldly belongings

Thirteen weeks after we arrived in Guadalajara, our stuff finally showed up too! To put things in perspective, let me remind you that our shipment arrived in Benin in only 7 weeks. Why’d it take almost double that amount of time to travel south of the border? Lord only knows, but the important thing is that the wait is over.

In addition to being excited to get our place set up, we were growing increasingly curious about what we even shipped. Last time we didn’t own many things, and our house in Benin was huge, so we just sent everything. This time we sent some stuff to storage, but it was hard to remember what.

We were a little worried when a tiny truck rolled up to our house. Um, what? Had we put waaaaaaay more stuff in storage than we’d anticipated? Luckily a normal sized one pulled up shortly thereafter.

The State Department gives you two days off work to deal with the arrival of your things. That’s great, but unfortunately, two days isn’t usually enough. I worked dawn to dusk and am still not done. And I have to do this all over again just two short years for now? A three- or even four-year posting is looking better and better. So is finding our way back to our pre-children, minimalist ways.

The good news is that the end is near. Hopefully the place will be presentable enough for us to post some photos soon.

Posted in FS Life, Life in DC | Leave a comment

pottery in tonala

Last weekend I participated in a group tour of two pottery studios in the town of Tonala, about 30 minutes from where I live.

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Tonala is known for handicrafts, but not overpriced tchotchkes that are peddled off to naive tourists. There’s good quality stuff, things that get sold in bulk to Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, but available in Tonala for cheap.

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We watched some of it be made and learned a bit about the history of the traditional styles.

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We didn’t end up having much time for shopping, however. I’ll need to venture back on my own for that. Make your Christmas requests now!

Posted in Mexico, Personal | Leave a comment

queremos halloween

“Queremos Halloween!” Bat-Flynn chanted enthusiastically as he ran through our neighborhood on October 31.

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I grew up in St. Louis, where in exchange for your candy on Halloween you had to tell a joke. Picking out your joke–or your joke rotation if you were especially ambitious–was one of the best parts of Halloween, and I remember being shocked and saddened when I moved elsewhere after sixth grade and realized the joke tradition was a local oddity.

Admittedly, Halloween festivities move along a little more quickly when all kids have to do is yell “trick or treat” before feeling another plop in their pumpkin-shaped bucket and taking off for the next house. There’s something to be said for not having to worry about finding yourself stuck behind an enthusiastic three-year-old who’s old enough to insist on having a joke of his own but young enough to not be able to execute it successfully (or quickly).

Mexicans, however, are even more efficient than trick or treating Americans. There’s no allusion of jokes or tricks. ”We want Halloween!” they yell in Spanish. Flynn quickly caught on. (It turns out he’s quite good at picking up new phrases when there’s candy at stake.)

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It wasn’t just the terminology that was to the point. In our neighborhood, at least, kids gathered in a pack at the community center, waited for a bell horn, and when it sounded, bolted off running in a pre-determined path around the neighborhood, cleaning out a house’s entire candy stash in a few minutes before moving en masse to the next. I can’t say I liked that aspect of Halloween in Mexico, especially with a tiny elephant in tow who insisted on walking despite the near-constant threat of being trampled by a pack of wild trick or treaters.

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But I definitely did like that one of my neighbors rented a churro cart to hand out treats more delicious than candy. And I liked that everyone gathered for a dance party at the clubhouse at the end.

1920423_10100662548189914_8940962992010858385_nLater, back at home, we were all amazed by Flynn’s haul. Silly me to have thought that we’d be the cool kids on the block with our full-sized candy bars. No, here it seemed custom to hand out cellophane bags packed full with goodies. Some were even professionally put together.

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photo 1We quickly ate up all the few Snickers and Laffy Taffys, and over the next few days taste tested the craziest of the Mexican candies, tricking one another into licking  something that we swore was really, really good. In truth, the verdict about Mexican candy: uniformly awful. Who dreamed up tamarind as an ideal candy flavor? And it just got worse from there. We’re nine days out from Halloween now, and the big bowl of candy is still full. I guess in some ways that’s a win.

 

Posted in FS Life, Holiday, Mexico | Leave a comment

something wrong, something right

I screwed up. I was going to take Flynn to a movie. We picked the only movie for kids that was in English, because I’d shown Flynn some trailers in Spanish and he’d seemed a little overwhelmed. But we got to the theatre late. And I was in a hurry buying our tickets. And I accidentally bought ones for the Spanish screening of the same movie.

“I thought this movie was going to be in English,” Flynn said a few sentences in.

“I’m sorry buddy, I messed up,” I explained, expecting a major tantrum to follow.

“That’s okay,” Flynn assured me. “I’m learning more and more Spanish every day, you know. I think I can practice during the movie. I think my teachers will be very proud of me.”

Now that Flynn's open to seeing Spanish language movies too, we'll have many more options. I don't imagine we'll have to take him to a regular theatre ever again. Hello VIP movies!
Now that Flynn’s open to seeing Spanish language movies too, we’ll have many more options. I don’t imagine we’ll have to take him to a regular theatre ever again. Hello VIP movies!
Posted in Spanish, Toddler | 1 Comment

american chains overseas

Big bear.
What NOT to get Jonah for Christmas.

You might have heard the buzz about Costco’s big bears. They’ve arrived in Mexico too. Jonah’s not exactly a fan.

Yes, we have Costco here, and yes, we’re members. We never joined stateside, but here they carry some products you can’t find elsewhere, so we caved.

It’s hard to feel sorry for our “hardship” of living overseas given the existence of a Costco in our post of assignment, isn’t it? We would have killed for one when we were in Benin. And this Costco happens to be right across the street from a swanky mall with an Outback, a PF Chang’s, a Cheesecake Factory, and any American clothing store you might want, too. And it’s just one of many swanky malls in town.

We’re trying to steer clear of American chains as much as possible, because we didn’t move overseas to live  like we would have back home, but I’m not going to lie — it’s nice to have the option to visit familiar places from time to time.

Although I maintain that living without a Trader Joe’s still constitutes some level of hardship.

What American store do you miss most?

Posted in FS Life, Mexico | 3 Comments