Trompo Magico is as nice as any children’s museum I’ve ever been to, and $30 later we’re members with unlimited visiting privileges for the next year. We were too busy to take many pictures, but here are a few we snapped.
We even ran into a few Mexican friends Flynn made last week at a park playdate. And earlier in the day, at a music class, we ran into friends from a different visit to a playground as well as someone who’s from the same town in Illinois where my sister lives. Though it has a population of 1.5 million and all the culture and activities one could want (like, say, an excellent children’s museum), Guadalajara’s shaping up to feel like a small town — in the best possible way.
Every year on October 12, millions of Catholics participate in what is said to be Latin America’s largest religious procession. It’s sort of a big deal. The sale of alcohol is forbidden for the day. People travel from long and far, sometimes on horseback, and then camp out overnight in parks and public squares in order to participate. This year, we were part of the crowd.
Known as the Romeria, this event involves transporting the revered Virgin of Zapopan from her the cathedral in downtown Guadalajara to her ancestral home in suburban Zapopan. (History and religious buffs, read more here.) Of course, there is much fanfare surrounding this pilgrimage, and frankly that’s what interests us a bit more. There are elaborate traditional costumes.
There’s loads of delicious street food.
Flynn had a nice view of the action.
But Jonah and I managed to get up close and personal too.
Since we were out with two little ones, we didn’t stay at long as we might have otherwise liked. We didn’t try as many foods as we could have. We didn’t interact with the locals as much as would have been ideal. And I’m not going to even mention the parking situation beyond saying that it was not good. But still, we were there, and in fact we were the only gringos we saw.
A zoo is a zoo is a zoo is a zoo, right? That’s mostly true, although do you remember this sad excuse for a “zoo” that we stumbled upon in Benin? That was most certainly not a zoo. I’m not sure whether Guadalajara’s zoo is any better or worse than most, but that’s exactly the point. It’s a real zoo. We’re so excited to be in the sort of city that has a real zoo!
But the great thing about living somewhere like Guadalajara as an expat is that not only does it have pretty much anything one might want, like a real zoo, but a different economy is at work here. So you can buy the fancy package with all the extras — like a safari ride where you get to actually feed giraffes (see above) — for less than the cost of admission to a regular zoo in the U.S. Pretty cool.
A co-worker happened to mention that her family has a Friday night tradition: they gather together for pizza and a movie. Hey, we like pizza and movies, and we’re always in on Friday nights anyway. We decided this was a tradition our family should take on too. So we explained to Flynn what a tradition was. He was a little fuzzy on the concept, but he did understand that ours would include pizza and movies, so he was on board. We decided to start the following Friday.
Every day that followed this conversation, Flynn asked, “It is traditional day yet?”
“You mean, pizza and movies? Our Friday tradition?” we tried to correct him.
“Yes, that’s what I said. You’re not listening to me. I said ‘traditional day.’”
He’s not exactly wrong. What’s more traditional in our native culture than takeout pizza and a good picture show? Frozen. Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Wizard of Oz. Sometimes we even get our pizza from Dominos or Little Caesar’s.
Friday is upon us again. Happy traditional day to one and all!
Flynn’s been at his new Mexican preschool for about a month now, and according to him, he still has no friends. Every few days he’ll come home and tell us he learned a new boy or girl’s name.
“Oh, is that your new friend?” we’ll ask.
“No,” he’ll say.
“But how did you learn his name?” we’ll ask. “Did he play with you?”
“No,” he’ll tell us again. “I need to learn Spanish first. Then he’ll be my friend and play with me.”
“Did he tell you that?” we’ll ask.
“No,” he’ll reply. “I just know it myself.”
It’s kind of heartbreaking, right? We ended up sending him to a bilingual preschool in the hopes of easing this transition, but it seems that only the teacher knows English. The kids are all there because their parents want them to learn it, but they don’t speak any yet. I don’t think anyone’s being mean to Flynn. And I don’t think he’s unhappy. Every day we ask him if he likes school and whether he wants to go back, and to those questions we always get an emphatic yes.
But still, I hope he makes some friends soon. Or picks up more Spanish. Actually, both.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about these prehistoric circular pyramids, because I stepped out in the hall with a whiney one-year-old during the introductory museum video. And I spent the rest of the museum visit arguing with a whiney three-year-old about my decision to deny him a granola bar until we got outside.
Side note: Flynn was wearing a much cuter outfit earlier in the day. Don’t even ask what happened in the car.
Anyway, we were talking about the circle pyramids. Guachimontones, they’re called. They were only discovered like 10 years ago. I guess they used to be part of some city like this.
Or so the story goes. Word on the street is that the whole thing is a giant scam orchestrated by the state of Jalisco, which was jealous of other parts of Mexico and their impressive (and tourist attracting) archeological sites.
Not pictured: the dozens of middle school girls on some sort of organized trip who were much less interested in the pyramids than in getting a photo with the blonde gringo baby. I let them. Why not?
Afterwards we visited a lovely lakeside seafood restaurant where Flynn insisted on ordering a hot dog, and then proceeded to eat not more than one small bite of said hot dog. Jonah insisted on eating everything he was not allowed to eat, and on banging a spoon on the table much of the meal. Meanwhile, I think our child-free travel companions made the important life decision to hold off on the whole kid thing for a while. Can’t blame ‘em.
Obviously, our kids are awesome. But traveling with little kids just isn’t awesome. Still, we’re trying to force ourselves to do as much of it as possible anyway, because let’s be honest: being at home with little ones isn’t easy either. And we only have two years here to see and do the seemingly endless list of things we want to.
We hope to go on a day trip most weekends, and we’re in the midst of planning our first long weekend away too. But for that one, I’m making sure to find a hotel with babysitting service. Obviously.
We decided to take a day trip on our first weekend with wheels. Our criteria: somewhere interesting, but also easy to get to. Many people recommended the quaint towns on the shores of Lake Chapala, an area about an hour’s drive from Guadalajara which is home to thousands of American retirees. We ended up in the town of Ajijic. Despite period foul moods by certain three and one year olds (see above), it was a lovely little day. We’d definitely trek back (though we might get a babysitter before doing so).
Ajijic looks like you how you imagine Mexico to. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with colorful buildings and eclectic shops. They were just starting to open for the day when we were packing up to go around 1 p.m.
Of course we picked up some snacks for the road.
Andy read somewhere online that a couple can retire comfortably but not extravagantly in the Lake Chapala area for about $1,300/mo. I wonder how much it would cost to retire extravagantly. In 30 years or so I might just be interested.
The worst time in every Foreign Service tour is that stretch before your cars arrive. Luckily, those days are over for us. Exactly a month after we got to post, our cars finally got here too. No more taxis! No more bumming rides from people! No more takeout every night because grocery store runs are too tough! No more moping at home unable to do the things we want to! One of our cars arrived with a dead battery, but no matter. We’ll deal with that later, and for now, one functional car is plenty.
Andy: “We’re going on a day trip tomorrow. Do you know what a day trip is?”
Flynn: “Yes, it’s when you drive like a race car and go somewhere new.”
Andy: “Well, we’re going somewhere new, but actually we’re going to be driving with an abundance of caution.”
Sorry I don’t have time to write more, but we have places to go.
During one of our London medevacs a few years back, Andy and I dragged an over-tired 1.5 year old Flynn all over town searching for some kid-friendly restaurant, any kid-friendly restaurant, which we never were able to find. (If memory serves we wound up in a Pizza Hut or somewhere similarly disappointing.) At the time we wondered: Why aren’t there restaurants with built-in childcare? Not fast food joints, but real restaurants with a room you can send children off to while you enjoy your meal in peace. We’d pay a hefty premium for that sort of thing. We certainly can’t be the only ones.
Since then, every time we watched Shark Tank, we envisioned pitching them our genius idea. But we also have jobs and kids and stuff, and hence no time or energy to educate ourselves about business start-ups.
As it turns out, our brilliant idea already exists. It’s alive and well here in Mexico! It seems like every new restaurant we try has a play area for children, some as impressive as what you’d find in a preschool, and many monitored by professional nannies (rooms without childcare are visible from the dining room). One night we went to get take-out from a hole in the wall sort of place, and even they had a patch of grass and full-sized sunken trampoline to keep kids busy.
Real restaurants with play areas and childcare — I’m telling you, folks, it’s the wave of the future. Expect these to be everywhere in the United States in the coming years. You heard it from me here first. And expect me to bemoan the millions I could have made if only I’d jumped the diplomatic ship and been the one to develop them. We have no plan for that in the immediate future, but hmm, if we get a really crummy next post, you just never know what may happen…