Archive for June 2009

not so Bazar Sábado

June 23, 2009

Today (Saturday) I stayed in the city and explored some new areas. The week wasn’t all that exciting with work, so I’m very glad to have the freedom to explore for a couple days. First I went to check out this Saturday Bazaar called the Bazar Sábado (why can’t spanish always be this easy??). It’s this market in San Angel ever Saturday where a bunch of painters and artisans come to show off their work. Lots of people, art, and activity. Here are a few pics.

Bazar Sábado

Bazar Sábado

police are pretty ubiquitous in the city, and they have some pretty impressive vehicles. on thursdays when i go out with the couchsurfing group, i walk past an embassy or something on my way home and i see police with machine guns and it really freaks me out, especially since i dont think people really respect the cops here. hmm...

police are pretty ubiquitous in the city, and they have some pretty impressive vehicles. on thursdays when i go out with the couchsurfing group, i walk past an embassy or something on my way home and i see police with machine guns and it really freaks me out, especially since i don't think people really respect the cops here. hmm...

what a delicious hotel! turns out its just a fast food taqueria...too bad. good idea tho for you entrepreneurs (or not..)

what a delicious hotel! turns out it's just a fast food taqueria...too bad. good idea tho for you entrepreneurs (or not..)

Next it was off to a neighborhood called Condesa, which is a pretty upscale, hip part of town. I really liked this area because there was a ton of green areas with beautiful parks. This would be a fantastic area to live–accessible to all the parts of the city but still lots of open space and great restaurants.

the jardineros do a nice job here

the jardineros do a nice job here

not sure if einstein had any connection to mexico, but apparently he does now

not sure if einstein had any connection to mexico, but apparently he does now

oh and i got a receipt for the 3 pesos i spent to use the bathroom at one of the parks...really?

oh and i got a receipt for the 3 pesos i spent to use the bathroom at one of the parks...really?

so this guy on a souped up segway was handing out something like packets of peanut butter to the kids. naturally i wanted some (most of you know i kinda like peanut buter...) i hung around him for a couple minutes but no success..ugh

so this guy on a souped up segway was handing out something like packets of peanut butter to the kids. naturally i wanted some (most of you know i kinda like peanut buter...) i hung around him for a couple minutes but no success..ugh

One of the parks had dogs everywhere running around and swimming. When my parents comes to MC to visit me, I guarantee this is gonna be the only thing my mom cares to see.

dog park!

dog park!

some kid was running laps in this 15x15 wading pool for some reason, and then 4 dogs jump in and break his rhythm

some kid was running laps in this 15x15 wading pool for some reason, and then 4 dogs jump in and break his rhythm

Then it was off to Roma, which is another hip area to live. I prefer Condesa, but it was pretty nice. However, I did have one of the best meals that I can remember for quite some time. I went to this Mexican restaurant called the Tecla (no idea what that means), and it was phenomenal. Pear and goat cheese salad, shrimp and brie enchiladas in a chile poblano sauce, unbelievable flan…i was in heaven. It was kinda weird being waited on by 3 people since it was just me, but I’ll take some royal treatment ever once in a while (most of you probably find it rather unusual for me to spend over 20 bucks on a meal when i could spend 2 bucks on some solid street food…i was pretty surprised too, but it was sooo worth it!) Wish I could’ve taken pictures of my meal but thought it would be weird to do so in a fancy restaurant. Society…

we need traffic lights like this one :-) (its got a smiley face on the green light if you cant see it :-)

we need traffic lights like this one 🙂 (it's got a smiley face on the green light if you can't see it 🙂

taquería out of the back of a pickup truck...cant think of anything that captures the essence of Mexico better than this hehe

taquería out of the back of a pickup truck...can't think of anything that captures the essence of Mexico better than this hehe

Next it was the Museo Nacional de Antropología, which is this massive museum that is known to be one of the best in the world of its kind. I actually am not a big fan of museums, which some people find strange cuz they think I’m somewhat intellectual for some reason (nope). This one, however, was pretty cool. When I left the restaurant I saw this and knew I needed to get to the museum quick to beat the rain (darn you rainy season!)

storms coming

storm's coming

I thought I was gonna make it, but nope. Walking up to the museum entrance it began not just to pour like crazy but also to hail. Fortunately I had my POS umbrella and only the lower half of my body got drenched. Sound bitter? Yes, but something good did come of it.

hail yes

hail yes

So I get into the museum, and in the center there’s this thing called the paraguas, which normally looks like this.

Paraguas

But, lucky as I am to have gotten poured on, this is what the paraguas looked like when I arrived. Note the word paraguas in Spanish means umbrella…makes sense.

but...turns out the rain has a really cool effect. this thing here is called the paraguas, which is umbrella in spanish. its in the center of the museum, and when I saw it I just assumed it always had water falling all the time...nope, just when it rains...makes me happy to be soaked

but...turns out the rain has a really cool effect. this thing here is called the paraguas, which is umbrella in spanish. it's in the center of the museum, and when I saw it I just assumed it always had water falling all the time...nope, just when it rains...makes me happy to be soaked

The museum itself was pretty cool, although the first section on the intro to anthropology was the only thing i could really spend much time on before I got museum ADD. Here’s a couple things I saw. There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff here. It would take days to tour this museum and do it justice.

Lucy

Lucy

the museum said to be one of the best in the world, and it really is spectacular...i mean just look at the intricacy of this piece

the museum said to be one of the best in the world, and it really is spectacular...i mean just look at the intricacy of this piece

yep...you guessed it...very sophisticated

yep...you guessed it...very sophisticated

this exhibit was pretty cool...from one viewing angle you see a face, view it from a different angle and you see the underlying skeleton..orbital surface of the greater wing of the sphenoid bone and all (ah netter)

this exhibit was pretty cool...from one viewing angle you see a face, view it from a different angle and you see the underlying skeleton..orbital surface of the greater wing of the sphenoid bone and all (ah netter)

Another benefit of the rain, you get some pretty sweet views of the mountains surrounding the city after the rain clears the smog haze (but it’s not that bad, really!)

After the museum I went to watch a movie, which was ironically going to be Night at the Museum 2. But the next showing was gonna be in Spanish, so I ended up going for X-Men Wolverine, which was entertaining (and in English yay). All right that’s it. It was a busy day with a ton of walking, and I was pretty tired. Now I’m tired again cuz it takes forever to write this blog posts jeez. Leave me a comment so I know somebody’s actually reading!

Nate

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update (i.e. can’t think of a title)

June 22, 2009

All right it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life’s good. Last Sunday was interesting in that it had some pretty big highs and a pretty crappy low (you can take that as literally as you like). After a nice sleep following the long but exciting day at Teotihuacan, I decided to get some exercise by going to the Tlalpan bosque (forest) to do some running and exercises. It takes like 20 minutes to get out there, but it’s well worth it since all the trees and fresher air are a nice respite from the madness that is Mexico City. To get out there I first take a “microbus” and then walk a bit. The public transportation system here in the city really is fantastic. You have a number of options. The fastest is definitely the Metro, which is super cheap and goes all over the city. Then there is the MetroBus, which is a bus system that runs solely in the north-south direction along Avenida Insurgentes basically the entire length of the city. Insurgentes is the longest avenue in the world! There are a lot of longest and biggest things here in Mexico City…yea that’s what she said.

Then you have these buses called “microbuses,” which I haven’t figured out yet. They’re smaller green buses that just run smaller routes in the city, but I really have no idea how to figure out where they go aside from the sign on the front indicating one location where they go. I guess you just figure it out over time. Then there’s the whole taxi system, which I try not to mess around with. The taxis in Mexico City are notorious for crime–probably mainly for foreigners (like me). Basically the guideline for extranjeros (gringos) is not to take street taxis and only to use taxis called sitio taxis that are apparently more secure. I prefer to walk as much as I can, especially alone late at night. I feel a heightened sense of awareness.

Enough with public transportation. It’s just such a better system than where I live in Orlando and Nashville. Very nice not to have to rely on a car (although unfortunately my preferred mode of transportation of bike would essentially be equivalent to suicide in this city heh). After the run (and sadly I don’t think I’m forming RBCs very quickly), the walk back took me through some really cool markets. There was a great farmer’s market with tons of fresh fruit, vegetables, and stands cooking all sorts of Mexican food. One thing that I have really enjoyed in my travels is just walking around and observing the different peoples and cultures. Like Southeast Asia, here in Mexico there are always markets with people buying/selling food, crafts, etc. I often end up buying a lot of stuff just cuz I have no idea what it is and want to experience it, and it’s fun to see how the local people interact in these environments. Food has such a different role in these countries than in the United States. One thing I ended up grabbing was this dessert called the “Pastel Imposible,” which just looked too delicious to pass up. It’s pretty good, but I’m not sure why it’s called impossible (maybe just because there’s absolutely no way I can finish it!).

aromatherapy?

aromatherapy?

the sign says auriculotherapy, and Im very interested to learn what kinds of diseases can be cured through the orifice that is the ear

the sign says "auriculotherapy," and I'm very interested to learn what kinds of diseases can be cured through the orifice that is the ear

After the farmer’s market, I headed over to the downtown (centro) of Tlalpan, which is always buzzing with activity over the weekends. There were tons of stands as usual, but this week there seemed to be an abundance of stands offering alternative medicine type stuff. All sorts of weird herbal remedies and such, even this weird type of massage machine. Not sure what to think about all this stuff–the ridiculously high rates of late HIV testing that I observe with my research project make me think that there’s not a whole lot of faith in the traditional medical system here, but I can’t really back that statement up so take with that what you will. After walking around asking for all sorts of food samples (puedo probar?), I settled on this Oaxacan restaurant set up under a very large tent. Being adventurous, I just asked the server to recommend something, and this is what I got.

No idea what it is, but yum

No idea what it is, but it was almost the size of the table and yummy

Did some serious damage to this dish, but it got the better of me later heh...ugh

Did some serious damage to this dish, but it got the better of me later...heh...ugh

It was amazingly delicious. Definitely not something I would normally order, but it was great (tho it may or may not have contributed to something that I experienced during the next 24 hrs ugh…) The cool thing about Mexico City is you get people from all the different regions of Mexico, and they bring all their different styles of food as well. Endless culinary adventure!

Lucha Libre...think about that weird Jack Black movie nobody saw but fo real

Lucha Libre...think about that weird Jack Black movie nobody saw but fo real

Later that night I got to experience Lucha Libre with one of the ID fellows. Lucha Libre is the equivalent of American wrestling, and it was, well, interesting. I coulnd’t take my camera in, but it’s basically what you would imagine with wrestling–except a lot of the luchadores wear masks. Basically they have luchas with 3 “rudos” versus 3 “técnicos”. The rudos are the bigger, more muscular fighters that fight dirty, and the técnicos are the smaller but extremely agile guys who really do some amazingly athletic maneuvers. I wasn’t a big fan of the rudos, so it ticked me off when they won (yea it’s fixed, but there’s some improvisation too). Lucha Libre is a phenomenon in Mexico. Entire familes come to watch the luchas, and these guys are the idols of the little kids. You’ll even see all these old grandmas who probably go to mass every day standing up and heckling/cursing at the luchadores. It’s bizarre. Definitely a unique experience that I probably won’t be frequenting too often haha. Here’s a quick clip of this guy Mistico who I saw–he’s pretty ridiculous.

All right before I sign off, I want to emphasize one thing about the food here–partake at your own risk haha. The night after the luchas and the next day of work were pretty rough haha. I have some suspicions of the culprits. First thing, if you ever have the opportunity to drink pulque, be careful. The two locals from Mexico I was with didn’t even touch the stuff , so that should have been a pretty clear sign heh (I remember them alluding to GI issues that can result and some really sketchy rumors about how they facilitate the fermentation process that I don’t want to repeat). That or the barbacoa with flies, or today’s gut-bomb. I don’t know what it was, but yea it wasn’t much fun ugh. However, I do believe that it is an obligatory part of this Mexican adventure haha.

Fútbol, pharma, (couch)surfing, pyramids…

June 14, 2009

Pretty fun past few days here in Mexico City. On Wednesday after a truly exhilarating morning spent in the clinical archives pulling data from old patient charts, I joined the ID fellows and a few med students for lunch. Initially I thought we were just going somewhere near the hospital, but we ended up taking a taxi to a restaurant not terribly far away (actually probably could have walked faster than the taxi–traffic here is pretty slow). It ended up being a really nice restaurant, and everyone had appetizers, soup, main course, dessert, coffee, etc. It was pretty fantastic. However, there was one nice woman there that I did not recognize. I felt like we weren’t going to have to pay for this meal, and the only reason I could think of was that she was a patient or something expressing appreciation and taking the department out to lunch. Of course, that made no sense since basically all the HIV patients that come to the clinic are of very low socioeconomic status. Then before everybody left the woman pulled out some pamphlets with scientific research articles, and then it all made perfect sense. Good old pharma–wining and dining for antiretroviral drugs. Whoops…sorry Vanderbilt, Dean Rodgers, and my PPS small group haha. Well the food was pretty amazing. For those not from Vanderbilt, the medical center is very explicit in not allowing any type of gift from pharmaceutical companies. Fortunately after talking to some of the fellows, it doesn’t seem like this is a very common occurrence.

Later that day I had another very fortunate opportunity to be able to go to the World Cup qualifying game between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago. I was unlucky to come during the summer since the soccer league in Mexico just finished, but at least I was able to catch one of the national team games in the Estadio Azteca really close to my house here. It was spectacular! Granted, the players looked like ants from where Luis and I were sitting, but you could still follow the game really well. The main reason I went was to experience the crowd–the Mexican people have so much passion for their country’s fútbol team. There’s basically a constant din in the stadium with the non-stop cheering and/or heckling. Mexico ended up winning 2-1, which was good. Here are some pics inside and outside of the stadium. It’s a really cool place with great views of the mountains surrounding city and, just like the rest of the city, people everywhere.

Estadio Azteca

Estadio Azteca

Just before the game starts

Just before the game starts

From the inside

From the inside

Thursday night was pretty cool as well. I met up with a bunch of people from the CouchSurfing community here in Mexico City. CouchSurfing is a website that connects travelers around the world to people who are willing to offer them a place to stay whether it be a room or, you guessed it, a couch. It’s a great idea, and I’ve been a site member for a long time but actually never surfed on anyone’s couch before (though I intend to). It was a good opportunity to meet people here in the city, both locals and travelers, and a good way to improve my Spanish (and practice my English too for a change haha). It was a good time. Kind of a hike though since Tlalpan, where I live, is pretty far from the central part of the city where most of the activity is. So I ended up not getting off the MetroBus until nearly midnight, waiting for the microbuses that apparently quit running, and ended up walking the rest of the way home. Kinda sketchy walking alone at midnight in Mexico City, but I made it home safe and sound with no issues. Probably will take a taxi next time tho haha (but ya gotta be careful about which taxi you choose here…tho really it’s not as bad as the rumors are).

Not much to speak of about Friday. Went running in the park in the afternoon, which was pretty difficult actually–probably a combination of the altitude and not getting enough sleep. Also went to a great taqueria that night with Luis, although the street the restaurant was on basically had no power–apparently there are electricity issues in this city when it rains. The traffic lights were also out on one of the biggest roads in the city, but to be honest I don’t think that really has any impact on the way people drive here heh.

Saturday  was spent going to check out the pyramids of Teotihuacan, which are pretty amazing. Teotihuacan is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas (thank you wikipedia). Teotihuacan was at its zenith during the first half of the first millenium, so it’s kinda old. It was a really fun day checking out the pyramids with three people I met from the CouchSurfing get-together the other night–Miguel, Brenda, and Daniel. Took a while to get out there since we had to keep asking random people for directions (and they usually weren’t very good ha), but it was well worth it. Check out some pics.

The crew at the entrance. Pyramid of the Sun in the background.

The crew at the entrance. Pyramid of the Sun in the background.

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun

Steep! I need some EPO stat!

Steep! I need some EPO stat!

View from the top

View from the top

Yo with the Pyramid of the Moon in the background

Yo with the Pyramid of the Moon in the background

For some reason we started taking pictures of ourselves jumping off stuff at the top. No idea why but it was fun. Heres Daniel getting some mad air.

For some reason we started taking pictures of ourselves jumping off stuff at the top. No idea why but it was fun. Here's Daniel getting some mad air.

My turn

My turn

Pyramid of the Moon

Pyramid of the Moon

Avenue of the Dead

Avenue of the Dead

Smaller pyramids

Smaller pyramids

More pics with captions here. Fun day. Plus at the end of the day we were swarmed by people begging for us to come to their restaurants–I have a video and it was pretty wild. Basically couldn’t move the car haha. We ended up going to one of the places, and I got to try some pulque, which is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of the maguey, which is a type of agave. A traditional native beverage of Mesoamerica. Pretty disgusting stuff! Though it got a lot better when they mixed in some type of fruit and a little sugar. The agave is a pretty alcoholically prolific fruit! Tequila, mezcal, pulque–what’s next? In addition, for lunch we went to a little barbacoa stand in a local market nearby. It’s always very reassuring to see flies flying around the food as you’re ordering it haha. Well I haven’t gotten sick yet. When in Rome…(except if you go to this proverbial Rome place and don’t have the normal flora endemic to the gut of a Roman, well there can be some problems). Oh and on that note, the food here is generally pretty darn good, but occasionally you’ll get something that’s pretty much, well, disgusting. There are a lot of torta stands here in the city, and a torta is basically a sandwich filled with all sorts of stuff. Here is a picture of a torta that for some reason I ordered the other day. New rule, if there are like 8 ingredients in a sandwich and you only know what 2 of the words mean, may or may not be a good idea to order it (this was the latter haha). It’s hard to gauge the size of this sandwich from the picture, but it was a monster–stuffed with all sorts of stuff like eggs, pork, ham, like 3 hot dogs cut up, 4 types of cheeses, more stuff I have no idea. Pretty sure it belongs on this classic website.

Yum?

Yum?

Hope you all are doing well! Oh and remind me to tell you some stories about Mexican drivers some time. It’s interesting. More soon,

Nate

Made it

June 9, 2009

Whoever actually reads this, welcome to my Mexico blog! I got into Mexico City last Tuesday, and you know what, I haven’t gotten kidnapped or mugged, haven’t gotten swine flu, and haven’t gotten lung cancer from the city’s pollution. What? Rumors actually aren’t always true?

On the contrary, things have gone very well here in the D.F. I’ve got a really nice place to live–house with 2 stories, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, living room, kitchen…garden in the backyard! Not too bad for Emphasis housing, eh? In the house it’s just me and Luis, who is a young guy from Mexico whose parents own the house. Luis has been extremely friendly and helpful, and he is very patient with my Spanish. The whole Spanish thing is pretty interesting for me. As I expected, I was drastically underprepared for being in an almost exclusively Spanish environment since I haven’t experienced enough of the ridiculous speed at which native speakers talk (at least from a non-fluent person’s perspective). It’s a pretty big slap in the face, especially since I really don’t see any English speakers throughout my day with the exception of my mentor (and probably some others who just choose to watch me fumble through my español). But in reality that’s what I want since that is the best way for me to improve with the language, so hopefully I’ll start to absorb the language a bit faster (though honestly I’m pretty skeptical–it seems the language plasticity of the youthful brain is long gone for me…)

Mi Casa

Mi Casa

El Jardín

Work is going pretty well so far. I’m at a hospital called El Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán (whew…it’s taken me months to remember that..INNSV for short). From what I can gather, it’s one of the best medical centers in the country, and it’s a teaching institution with tons of residents and fellows. I’m in the department of infectología studying the prevalence and risk factors of late HIV testing. As usual with a research project, it takes a while to get started. I think I’m rolling now; however, it seems like most of the data has already been acquired. I’m obtaining some more data from the clinical charts (some the size of some of our SFD binders!), but that’s not gonna take the entire summer so I’m kinda wondering exactly what I’m going to be doing after that…well I’ll worry about that later. The people in the department are very friendly and helpful, and I get to go to all the department lectures and tag along when they go see patients. Of course, all of those things are in Spanish on speed, but I’m doing my best to comprehend as much as I can. Here’s a pic of the hospital.

INNSV

INNSV

The hospital is about a 20 minute walk from where I live, and it’s actually a really nice walk since there are all sorts of foods stands with tons of stuff that I’m looking forward to trying (or building up courage to try for some things). This morning for breakfast I grabbed a delicious tamale and a chocolate atole. Atole is a thick, corn-based drink, and it is delicious!

Street food!

Street food!

As most of you probably know, Mexico City is like one of the biggest cities in the world–over 20 million people–so there’s a lot to do and see. I live in Tlalpan, which is 1 of 16 bureaus of the city. It’s in the southern part of the city and kind of a hike from the more touristy stuff. To be honest, I’m the only non-Mexican person that I see during my day, which is pretty interesting. Very authentic experience (maybe more authentic if I could understand everything that could be said around me, but I’m getting by). Fortunately the public transportation system is very good, and I’ve been able to check out some of the different parts of this massive city. There is so much to see–tons of museums, wonderful neighborhoods, great parks (actually not completely a concrete jungle!), etc. This city has been around for a long time, and there’s a ton of amazing architecture dating back to the Aztecs and the Conquistadors. I’ve taken a good amount of pics so far, so take a look at those since I really don’t want to write forever. Here’s a couple though.

Palacio de Bellas Artes (lots of amazing murals)

Palacio de Bellas Artes (lots of amazing murals)

Zócalo!

Zócalo!

Yo

Yo

La Catedral

La Catedral

Crazy big city

Crazy big city

So yeah that’s what’s going on so far. It’s a pretty cool city at an altitude of 7000ish feet surrounded by mountains. The air isn’t perfect, but it’s really much better than I expected. I don’t really notice it during my day. In fact, there’s actually a really great park 15-20 minutes away from where I live where tons of people go to exercise, and I’ve joined them a couple times for some nice runs–and I actually didn’t even notice the air at all (other than the fact that it’s lacking a little bit of O2…)

All right that’s it for now (if you made it this far, that is). Hopefully I’ll have more posts soon. There’s a big fútbol game tomorrow night between Mexico and Trinidad and Tobaggo, and I’m really, really hoping to go. Then it’s lucha libre this weekend. Check out my pictures website for more regular updates. Thanks for reading, and hasta luego!

Leave a comment, por favor!

Nate