Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Male, 8 weeks
My daughter, now 15, is involved with an animal rescue group (GHAPAD) here in Morelia  and thinks she might want to be a vet, which in Mexico means she could try to get into vet school right after high school. Although we already had a cat and a rescue dog, last year we answered the group's call for someone to care for four, three week old kittens. Little kittens w/o mothers are very prone to illness and they die incredibly quickly and its pretty heartbreaking. We lost two even with loads of coaching from knowledgeable friends and veterinarians. The two surviving kittens went on to good homes and have been spayed, so we are proud of that.

The black one is a female
Recently we were contacted about two more abandoned kittens. (There had been three and one had already died.) We took them in and things went quite a bit more easily. For one thing we switched from syringe feeding to using food coloring bottles.

Now these kittens are ready for adoption -- they eat solid food, are litter trained, and have been deparasited by a vet. I hope they find good homes like the other two did and are spayed and neutered so they don't continue the over-population of unwanted animals.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Price of gaspacho up two pesos and so worth it

Key to great gaspacho is the Valentino sauce,
chili powder, salt,  cheese, and orange juice.

After a summer in New England, Geoff, Alice and I are back in Morelia for another school year.

Geoff is happier teaching now that he has a semester under his belt.  Alice, who basically kicked and screamed about coming back, went to school on day one a crab and came home that afternoon a happy, polite young lady.  I don't know what they do over there at Collegio Salesiano, but they have my gratitude.

I, after not painting all summer, am wrapping up a small child's portrait and have a large painting of cantaloupes going on the easel.   But my real job this week is buying Alice's school books and signing her up for swim lessons.  Some job, you scoff, but that's because you don't understand. It might be a full time occupation for a week.

Yesterday I walked five miles, stood in two endless lines and not only didn't get Alice signed up for swimming,  only came away with 2 out of the 10 books required.  Key to not getting irritated about this was my stop for a gaspacho -- a fruit salad made with chili powder, salsa, salt, and cheese -- a treat that is famous in Morelia and only here, as far as I know.  There must be hundreds of gaspacho stands throughout the city and making a particularly good one can earn you your own endless line.
Here's a painting I did a few years back of one of the many
gaspacho stands in the bosque.  (Acrylic on paper.)
  Mango, pineapple, watermelon, jicama:  these are the common fruits in a gaspacho.  Cucumber and onion are optional.  The fruit is layered with cheese, salsa, chili powder, and salt.  Once it's piled high, half an orange is juiced over it.  A stiff paper collar is put around the top and the whole thing is handed over in an open plastic bag.  When the fruit is gone, the spicey fruit juice that's left is unbelievable.
  Cost:  22 pesos ($1.69),  up from 20 pesos in June.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Butterflies on the March

March 21st, the first day of Spring, coincides with Benito Juarez's birthday.  Juarez was president of Mexico in the 1850-60's, the first native Indian president, and a Mexican hero. His birthday is a national holiday.  Like in the US, the big national holidays are now all celebrated on Mondays to give students and workers the benefit of three day weekends. But the real first day of Spring is always the day of the Spring parade here in Morelia.  

This year the parade fell on a Friday and I MISSED IT because I was sick and slept in and wasn't  thinking  about the calendar!  So I was depressed the whole rest of the day because the Spring parade is one of my all time favorite events.  All the nursery school kids and kindergarteners dress like butterflies, bees, and furry animals and march the mile from our end of town to the front of the main cathedral.  In a city of a million, that's a lot of cute costumes.  When I finally got up to go to the pharmacy I met one post-parade straggler who happily posed for a photo.  Fortunately I have an archive of photos to share from other years.

If I was the governor of Morelia, I would make it a crime for mothers and teachers to get in the way once the parade has begun.  It's so hard to take good photos with all the adult intervention.  I like my bumble bees and butterflies unobstructed!  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mexico City for Semana Santa

Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter, is a national holiday in Mexico and many businesses and all schools are closed the entire week.  This means the air in Mexico City is cleaner than usual and traffic is way down.  Wealthy residents head for the beaches and the city provides a lot of free entrances and activities for the residents who stay.  It's a great time to visit!

I knew right away it was going to be a great time because we traveled there on one of the new two decker buses and got the front seats on the upper level.  What a view!  The scenery between Morelia and MC is mostly farmland, rolling hills and with a wide array of crops and little plowed fields.  There were even some snow covered mountains in the distance!  

The first day we went to the Delores Olmedo museum which is a large estate in the southern section of the city.  Delores O has one of the hugest Diego Rivera collections and as a painter I was very interested to see some of the large sketches he used to work out some of his  murals.  He was a master at breaking his subjects down into simple shapes.  I was just sorry that the Frieda Kahlo collection had been sent to Europe for the year.   But there was plenty of other interesting displays not to mention the grounds and the huge family of Mexican hairless (Xolo) dogs (a species popular with the Aztecs) in one of the gardens.

Also in the southern part of the city we visited Xochimilco and rented one of the zillion shallow boats and spent a couple of hours enjoying the garden centers along the canals.  Other boats had mariachi bands aboard, and some had little grills.  From one boat, Alice bought a roasted corn on the cob slathered with thick cream and sprinkled with cheese and chili powder.

The next day we went to Ciudad de Los NiƱos an indoor amusement park set up like a city in child scale.  Kids spend their five hours working at whatever industries interest them.  Each "work" session lasts around 20 minutes.  Most of the exhibits have corporate sponsors.  Kids can be firemen, dentists, brick layers, DJ's, newspaper employees, DHL delivery men, electrical repairmen, archeologists, hair dressers, McDonald's employees, perfume makers, Walmart clerks, veterinarians, performers, house painters, etc. etc. etc.  Five hours isn't nearly enough time.  Unless you're the parents.

There were several more art museums (Museo San Carlos, the MoMA in Chapultapec being my two favorites), the economics museum (more interesting than it may sound, even Alice will tell you), free bicycle rental for 3 hours in Chapultapec park AND next to the free bike rental they were giving away samples of Oreo cookies with little glasses of milk!  Does life get any better?

We rode the subway everywhere.  It was still pretty crowded even with most of the population on vacation.  But it's a cheap and easy way to get around (about 25 cents a ticket).   And at the end of every day we were exhausted.  Since we don't have a TV in Morelia we spent evenings watching Law and Order and House reruns in ENGLISH!  And we'd never seen any of them before!    

Monday, March 29, 2010

I filled my purse with drugs in Mexico

I've been sick for a couple of weeks.  ...  coughing all day long, and all night too.  My head never unstuffed, lying down frequently.  At 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon I decided I needed to see a doctor and so I got on a bus and rode for 15 minutes to the big 2 story modern IMSS  clinic.  I'd never been there before, but since I'm now enrolled in the public healthcare system by virtue of my husband teaching part-time at a Mexican university, I thought it was time to check it out.  All  I knew before showing up was we'd been assigned  to consultory #10.

The IMMS (Institututo Mexicano de Seguro Social) building on Camelinas in Morelia is a hospital sized,  two story modern building.  Inside, both floors have one huge central hallway.  Examining rooms run along either wall.  In front of each room is a counter manned by a receptionist.  The rooms are numbered and there are chairs in 3 rows in front of each room with seating for about 20.  At  #10 consultorio all the seats were full and the receptionist told me that to get an appt. that afternoon I should have shown up between 1 and 1:30.  I'm sorry, I said, can I get an appointment for tomorrow?  That wasn't necessary, I just needed to  go to a different receptionist upstairs and get a special exception appointment and wait to see one of the two overflow doctors.   I found the proper desk on the second floor, made my pitch, was added to a roster  and reported back to receptionist  #10.  She showed  me  the area where I'd be waiting with about 30 other people who were also special exceptions (many of the 30 were together... a parent and kid, an adult with an elder, etc.)  Then she took me to a room and left me with  a nurse sitting behind a metal desk.  I sat down in front of her while she examined my credential which is really a little booklet with my photo and address.  She flipped through the pages.  Have you had a tetanus shot lately?  I'm up to date on that.  Pap-smear, breast exam?  It's been a couple of years.  Would you like to have them today while you wait for your other appointment?  Okay....  Let's also check your blood sugar -- here's a little jab in your finger.  Oh, good result.

After I had been examined and had redressed, she handed me a complimentary toothbrush and some condoms and wrote my vital statistics in my booklet and also the date to come back for my pap smear results.

I went to sit in the overflow waiting area and read my book.  I had no delusions that I'd be seen soon.  Some people seemed to have very long consults!  But  after an hour and a half during which time I read and conversed with the young man next to me in English about his low sperm count,  the receptionist from consultory #10 came to find me.  All #10 patients had been seen for the day so I could see that doctor.  I explained my symptoms and showed the doctor the medications I'd been taking that hadn't been working to stop the cough or clear my head.  He examined me and concured with my own opinion that I had a nasty allergy, probably spring related.  He prescribed a cough syrup, an antibiotic because my passages were inflamed and were becoming infected,  loratadine, plus one other thing I've never heard of.  He told me not to go barefoot, not to drink cold beverages, and to avoid chills and sent me on my way.

The IMSS pharmacy is in the same building and I gave my presciptions to the pharmacist.  In about a minute he piled 10 little boxes and bottles (2 containers for each of the meds plus 3 bottles of loratadine tablets) on the counter and disappeared.  I stood there waiting for him to come back until Mr. Low Sperm Count noticed me and came to explain that the medications were mine and I should take them from the counter.   I couldn't really believe that.  But he showed me some of the boxes of pills in his pants pockets. So I slid all the medications into my purse on top of the toothbrush and the condoms and walked out feeling a little like a kid on Halloween.

It's been four days now since my IMSS visit and I'm feeling less congested and sleeping better.  But I'm still not over the shock of the public healthcare experience.  I'm never going to see a bill.  As one of those Americans who, with my husband who has a chronic health condition, has written monthly checks of $800 for health insurance that had a co-payment so high that in recent years my check-ups were out-of-pocket expenses as were any prescriptions, who has been denied reimbursement for a major medical emergency, whose every thought of illness was a thought of financial crisis.... to suddenly find myself  having my preventative care needs ascertained and served and to be given free medications ... and to think it's because my husband is teaching Part-Time -- it's pretty hard to fathom.

Not that things were bad here before we joined the public health system.  It's always been reasonable and easy to see a doctor.   Even to see a specialist, you don't usually need an appointment.  Over the last ten winters we've seen a gynecologist, a urologist, internist, sports doctor, ear nose and throat doctors... we've never paid more than $50 for a consultation, and to see our neighborhood GP it costs $15.  Dental care is a fraction of what is paid in the US.  In fact many middle class and upper class Mexicans who belong to IMSS don't bother to use it.  They don't like the wait and the crowd, they'd rather pay on the open market and many buy private health insurance so they can use the non-IMSS hospitals like Star Medica .  But for me IMSS was like a visit to an exciting new world.  I can't imagine not going back.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Would ya look at that clown?

I have often referred to bad drivers as clowns.  And taxi drivers are among the biggest clowns of all.  So imagine my delight when I actually saw a real clown driving a taxi!  That's a cop standing next to her.

Also in this photo notice the street lights.  That's the lighting throughout the historic center of the city including on our street.  It always makes me feel like I've stepped back in time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goodbye Friend

Left  Morelia Saturday on a 7 a.m bus to visit Troncones, a small beach town on the Pacific, for the three day weekend.   All I could really think about was the email I'd gotten the night before saying one of my friends from college (age 53) had had a stroke while skiing in Colorado and was in a coma.  Because even the remotest locations in Mexico now have internet, I knew on Sunday that it was actually a burst cranial aneurysm, unrepairable, and that my friend's organs were being harvested.  This last part turned out to be a bigger comfort to me than I expected.   With the help of a phone in a little grocery store I was able to grieve and cry with another friend in the states.

At sunset my husband and daughter and I went to a sea turtle release on the beach.  We were asked to select a turtle from a plastic tub,  then set it down and watch it make it's way to the water.  This turned out to be fitting somehow on the day my friend was dying.  Something about the fragility of life, being assigned that one life randomly to identify with, feeling the amazing strength even the smallest creature is born with, watching it push itself toward the water's edge with such innate determination, the beauty of the sunset....   It came home that there are an awesome number of unknown things that can happen in a life, a lot of them not-good, but helping others and touching others and all the beauty around us make the awful and scarey parts worth it.

There are families today grateful for what Tody gave them in the way of her kidneys and liver.  She gave me friendship, good food, and shared her family and friends with me.  She widened my world in a nice way.  She is my first inner-circle friend to die and thinking about her life as a whole, I'm impressed and inspired.  Way to go, Tody.  I'll be thinking about you plenty.