Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lucha Libre

I'll admit it...I used to get a kick out of watching American wrestling when I was 18 or so. I thought it was fun. That was until the WCW came to town during freshman year of college. We all know it's fake. But seeing it in person? Woof. It was so ridiculous that I decided then and there to stop rotting my brain with such nonsense.

That was, of course, many years ago, and while I have kept my promise of no longer watching American wrestling, a sick curiosity has pervaded my consciousness since the day we arrived in Mexico. I have been dying to see Lucha Libre. And last Tuesday, I finally did.

Lucha Libre (translation: free fighting/wrestling) is a form of professional wrestling in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries that utilizes various mock combat theatrics to entertain the audience while simulating an authentic wrestling match.

Basically, it's like the WWF, WCW and ECW in the US...but with colorful masks and even more grandiose costumes. Oh, and the occasional curse word thrown from one audience member to another, for good measure. Poor TJ made the mistake of wearing a pink sweater to the event, and was branded "puta en la rosa" for the duration. Audience members siting ringside will sporadically turn to face those sitting in the cheap seats and berate them with chants of "Pobres, Pobres," followed by a colorful suggestion of what they can do with their mothers.

The great thing about Luchadores is that they don't weigh the action down with nonsensical telenovela-style drama like the wrestlers in the US. They hop in the ring, get introduced, and then lay the smack down. Nobody cares who holds the title belt, who has formed an alliance with who, or whether or not the mysterious disguised stranger is actually a well-known wrestler out for a comeback or revenge or whatever.

Or maybe they do. I'm still working on my Spanish comprehension.

What I do know is that there isn't a lot of talking and bellyaching. When you go see a fight, you definitely see a fight, choreographed though it may be. But you know what? The outfits, the environment, the's all so charmingly absurd that it doesn't matter if it's real or not.

Perhaps there are a few wrestling organizations in the US that could take a page from this book.

For those of you in the USA interested in Lucha Libre, I suggest checking out this site for local listings, merchandise, and tour information.

As for me...I'll definitely be going again soon. This, I can rot my brain with.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guadalajara's Top 20, Number 4: Tlaquepaque

As much fun as Tonalá was last week, our excursion to Tlaquepaque yesterday was even better.

Whereas Tonalá features streets and streets and more streets full of arts, crafts, and furniture tucked into every nook, cranny, and pop-up tent available, the majority of business conducted in Tlaquepaque is done through artisan shops and galleries.

(Because of this, you can't really take photos in the stores. So, for your enjoyment, I present a random sampling of photos that have nothing to do with this blog save for having been taken on the streets of the city in question.)

Tonalá is where a large percentage of the goods sold in Tlaquepaque are made, and because of this, Tonalá has more of an industrial, salt of the earth feel to it, while Tlaquepaque is afforded all the glitz and glamour of a tourist town.

Tonalá is where you go if you want to bargain shop. Tlaquepaque is where you go to show your family and friends just how beautiful and cultured your new Mexican home actually is. It must be said, however, that although the prices in Tlaquepaque may be higher than those in Tonalá, you'll still find better deals than you would stateside. And the quality is amazing.

Shopping in Tonalá is like shopping at Wal-Mart. Because of the lower prices, you have to elbow your way past throngs of bargain hunters at all hours of the day. You want to get in and get out as fast as possible. But shopping in Tlaquepaque is like shopping at Target. The aisles are wider, there are less people, and the price-to-quality ratio is pretty awesome. You could spend all day there. And because of this, Tlaquepaque is dangerous.

We purposefully went the week before payday so that we would be able to window shop instead of impulse buy. That said, we still managed to walk away with visions of four-poster beds, Chihuly-style chandeliers, and various knick-knacks that we probably don't need but will eventually buy anyway.

Shopping in Mexico is like being trapped in the
Phantom Zone. You don't know how to make it stop.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our First Tu B'Shevat (And Recipes!)

Happy Tu B'Shevat, Everyone!'


Wait. What?

Tu B'Shevat is the day that marks the beginning of the Jewish "New Year for Trees," and occurs every year on the 15th day of Shevat. It is during this time of year that the earliest-blooming trees in Israel awaken from their winter hibernation and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

The day is celebrated by eating fruits (especially the kinds identified in the Torah: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) and planting trees.

Celebrating any holiday in the Foreign Service always turns out a little differently than it would if you were back home, and this one was no exception.

In order to make any change to your home, you must first obtain permission from the GSO (General Service Officer), who must in turn obtain permission from the landlord. The US Government doesn't own these properties, and neither do the officers, after all. Permission was easily obtained, however, as you are quite unlikely to find a landlord that would not think it's a good idea to let the tenant improve the property. With the tree taken care of, it was time to move on to the yum-yums.

Going to the grocery store in a foreign country isn't as easy as it is in the United States. Well, perhaps that's a misconception. I suppose it's quite easy for the locals to go to the grocery store. The trouble is that things that are popular at home might not be popular in a foreign country, and product locations/availability will vary as a result.

And so it was that I found a delicious sounding recipe for a 15-fruit salad (to commemorate this 15th day of Shevat) and another for apricot chicken (which I must really love, because I just realized that I made a variation of it on Rosh Hashanah). And then I went to the store and couldn't find 15% of what I needed for the fruit salad. And so I improvised. And then I came home, and realized that I couldn't find the apricot chicken recipe. And so I improvised some more. Did a pretty darned good job, if I do say so myself.

It's funny, as I thought the first time I shared a recipe on this blog, it would be Mexican cuisine. I actually have that recipe all picked out and everything. But that's just not the way it was meant to be, I suppose.

15-Fruit Salad
The great thing about a fruit salad is that you can put whatever you want, in whatever quantity you desire, in it. Here's what sounded good to me:

10 Figs
2 Anjou Pears
2 Bananas
2 Kiwis
1 Gala Apple
1 Granny Smith Apple
1 Grapefruit
1 Orange
1/2 Cantaloupe
2 cups, Strawberries
2 handfuls, Green Grapes
2 handfuls, Red Grapes
1 can, Pineapple
1 cup, Blueberries
1/2 jar, Maraschino Cherries

Directions: Cut/Dice fruits into chunks, then hand-toss fruit in the following mixture:

1/2 cup, Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
2 tbs, Pineapple Juice (from can)
1 tbs, Maraschino Cherry juice (from jar)

Let salad marinate in refrigerator for one hour before serving.

Baked Apricot Chicken

1-2 lbs Chicken Breast
1 jar, Apricot Marmalade
1/2 cup, Sour Cream
Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

Combine sour cream and marmalade in a small bowl, mix until consistent. Add salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste.

Place chicken breasts in a baking dish, cover with sauce. Cover in foil, bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, bake for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired.

Dinner is served!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guadalajara's Top 20, Number 3: Tonalá

Life in a foreign land becomes infinitely more fun once your car arrives. Not just because it means you no longer have to walk to Wal-Mart, but also because you are now able to visit all of those local haunts you've been hearing so much about. We visited one such place this past weekend:


Tonalá, one of Guadalajara's eight municipalities, plays host to a giant street market every Thursday and Sunday. If you visit the bustling town on one such day, you will find yourself drowning in a sea of ceramics, pottery, glassware, and more handcrafted works of art than you can shake a stick at. There are lots of permanent shops that you can patronize throughout the week, but market days are where all the action is.

The glass shop was one of our first stops. Although we were
just browsing this time around, I see a purchase or 12 in the
near future (Click here for more glass blowing photos from the
Texas Renaissance Festival).

Outdoor vs. Indoor shopping...

Gorgeous, no?

Candy, pastries, and authentic Mexican food aplenty. Didn't get any shots
of the real food, as people were eating. It would have been rude. I promise
that I will eat next time, so I can share better visuals. Yes, it's true, no
sacrifice is too big for my readers.

Statue of Queen Cihualpilli in Plaza Cihualpilli. Not only did she lead her people in a successful campaign against Spanish conquistador Nuño de Guzmán, but her majesty also encouraged her people to create various arts and crafts, including exquisite gold jewelry. She's the perfect fixture in this market town.

Templo del Santuario del Sagrado Corazón - "The Sacred Heart Church"
-Located in Plaza Cihualpilli

Doesn't Tonalá sound (and look) like an amazing place to visit?

Good. Because it is. But what you have seen so far is nothing more than what any tourist could stumble across. One of the most important things a Foreign Service family (or any American traveller, really) can do is to refrain from taking the easy route and only befriending similar folks - i.e. other Americans. Interact with the locals. They can show you things that a tourist wouldn't even think to think about.

Take this door for instance. It's pretty, yes. But as I worked my way through the crowds, gawking at all of the homemade crafts, I doubt I would have noticed it at all, let alone wondered what was behind it.

But because we have taken the time to befriend locals, we now know that, behind the chaos of the marketplace, you might find beautiful courtyards like this one:

Where people are serving birthday cakes like these:

...and wearing fancy!?

Don't freak out people, it was a party. People do weird stuff during parties. The point is, get out there and meet people. Learn about another culture. Find out what the locals do, not just what the tourists like to see. Remember: If you're living abroad, you're not just a tourist anymore. You need to find out what's behind that giant door.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Guadalajara's Top 20, Number 2: Zoológico Guadalajara

Although I said we would do it last week, we didn't manage to get ourselves over to the zoo until today. So worth the wait.

Premium admission to Zoológico Guadalajara is only 132 pesos (approximately $10 USD) and includes all-day access to the zoo, unlimited usage of the "train," and one amazing romp through the safari.

I wish I had some sort of witty story to share, but hey, it was just a trip to the zoo. Short of an animal stampede, which there wasn't, I don't think anything too newsworthy could come from such a day.

But it was a wonderful day. I took almost 300 photos. Here are some of my favorites.

Fountain at zoo entrance;
TJ, me, and Vicente in front of the monkey statues
(randomly selected photographer was not good at framing...)

Better shot of monkey statue;
Um. Singing fish?

Um. Poindexter fish?;
Turtle trio

Cutest baby monkey in the world;
Closest I've ever been to a kangaroo

Posing on a hippo. Tres chic.

Obligatory squirrel shot;
Ginormous turtle

Animal gentrification?

Feeding time!

This is NOT zoomed;
But those last two ARE plastic

Mom (dad?) and baby;
Ostrich mating ritual

Panda! One of 35 living outside of China;
Great view of Guadalajara's landscape

Joe Camel and Iggy Iguana