30 September 2010

Heaven only knows...

Yesterday I went to IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) for my monthly checkup. I really enjoy going to IMSS because they take good care of me and I enjoy chatting with all the people with whom I come in contact. It is a true slice of life in Mexico. Something gave me a little jolt though as I was about to leave. They made my next appointment for Tuesday, November 2nd, El Día de los Muertos. It is a good thing that I am not superstitious! Even so, last night I dreamed that I had died and gone to Heaven. I must have died very early in the morning because I was one of the first ones to arrive at the Pearly Gates, even before St. Peter got there. We could see him coming down the drive from the "Big House" in his Chrysler PT Cruiser. Hey, that is the same kind of car that I drive except that his is a lot newer and of course his is snow white.

When St. Peter stopped his car and got out I noticed that in one hand he had a ring of keys and in the other a cup of Starbuck's coffee. I did not know that Starbuck's is now available in Heaven. I had heard that there is a Starbuck's in San Miguel de Allende and that there are Starbuck's all over Hell but that is quite another matter altogether. Just as soon as St. Peter swung open the gates the crowd surged forward. St. Peter urged everyone to stay calm and said that the sooner they fell neatly into line the sooner they would be admitted to Heaven, provided of course, that all their papers were in order. I could see one lady jumping up and down waving her hand in the air like a schoolgirl and St. Peter said, "Yes, lady from Modesto, California. Don't worry, your little doggies are here. They are waiting for you in the arrivals area". All in all, St. Peter was pretty good about everything and most people had no problem getting in. He did shake his head and frown at some of them though and that had me worried. When it was finally my turn I was relieved when he shook my hand and said, "Hi Mexico Bob, I read your blog. Welcome to Heaven".

In my dream Heaven is a really cool place. After I received a big hug from Jesus I had to go check in with God the Father and that had me very scared but Jesus had already put in a good word for me and God the Father was pretty genial. I really like Him (AHEM!), I mean I really love Him. Then I had a chance to see my Mom & Dad and all my relatives and ancestors all the way back to Adam & Eve, who by the way, are a very nice couple. There is just so much to see and do in Heaven. I came to this one auditorium that was like a big screening room and I saw Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Everett Dirksen, Tip O'Neil and just about every well known deceased politician you can think of except for the ones that went astray. The front wall was covered with big screen televisions and all were tuned to different news programs. There was ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, etcetera. I asked Thomas Jefferson why FOX News Channel wasn't represented and he told me that FOX News is a creation of the Devil and that it had no place in Heaven. Anyway, I was happy to see that all of the old timers were rooting for Barack Obama and the Democrats. That's a good sign. If Heaven is for you who can be against you?

Well, needless to say, this morning when I woke up I was back in my own bed here on Earth but Heaven was so real that I am sure that I had a glimpse of it. When my time comes I won't mind going there one bit. After all...I already know the routine.

28 September 2010

Raindrops falling from my eyes...

Chapter 5, verse 45 of book of Matthew in the Bible contains the Sermon on the Mount during which Jesus mentions that the Father in Heaven makes the sun rise on both good and evil and he makes it rain on both the just and the unjust alike. I suppose that is okay by me for after all, who am I to argue with God? The thing that concerns me is that He also makes it rain on the rich and the poor alike and in that case I am sure that the rich have an easier time of it. However, looking at it from God's point of view (I only wish) it seems like the most logical thing to do is to stay out of the weather business altogether except for reminding us of His covenant with Noah by showing us an occasional rainbow. This past week we are also reminded of how devastating too much rain can be as we watched the situation unfold in the states of Veracruz, Tabasco, and Oaxaca.

Here in Irapuato in the Bajío Region of the central highlands we have been blessed with a fairly normal summer rainy season. It isn't always like that. When I arrived in Irapuato about ten years ago it was at the tail end of a serious drought and the land was bone dry. On the flip side, the last serious flood occurred back on August 23rd, 1973 and it was devastating. People here still talk about it, especially on the anniversary every year. As bad as that flood was though, it pales in comparison with what has happened to other places in Mexico, not to mention China, Pakistan, and even Europe. For that matter, the people of New Orleans deserve a shout out as well, particularly the people of Plaquemine Parish and those of the 9th Ward.

In any given place on any given day there are no doubt some people praying for rain and others praying for sunshine. On one block a woman may be praying fervently for sunshine on her daughter's wedding and one block over a man might be praying for rain to keep his prize winning tomatoes from wilting in the heat. When I was a kid and the weatherman forecast snow we prayed for lots of it so the school would close and we could all go sledding while my poor old Dad the mail carrier was praying for mercy. As far as the weather is concerned I think that God just lets that part of His creation run itself.

I heard a story here about a couple who had two sons. One son was a farmer and the other was a rancher. The father went to see his son the farmer and he asked him how things were going. His son told him that things were great and that it looked like he was going to have a huge crop of wheat unless it rained. If it rained withing the next fifteen days the wheat would be ruined. Then he went to visit the son who was a rancher and asked him how things were going. His son told him that they weren't going very well at all. He said that it had been too dry and that the water holes were drying up and if it didn't rain within the next fifteen days he would probably loose all his cattle. The man went home feeling very sad and when he got home he hung his hat upon the usual peg and his wife said to him "So, how are the boys?" and he looked at her and what do you think he said? Well I really don't know what he said but if he loved his wife he probably just said "Fine dear, just fine..."

26 September 2010

I made a bear!

In México when someone makes a stupid or an embarrassing mistake they often say:

Hice un oso.
I made a bear.

If it was a really embarrassing mistake they might say:

Trágame tierra.
Swallow me earth. (Cover me with dirt as in "bury me")

Well, the other day "hice un oso" but I am not quite ready for the dirt. It happened when was leaving the shop in my wonderful 2004 slate gray Chrysler PT Cruiser. The shop where I work is located on a gravel street in an industrial park and we share the street with some companies that use huge trucks. One of these establishments is a cement plant so you can just imagine. Anyway, during the summer rains the street gets all beat to heck and sometimes there are pot holes that I swear could swallow a Volkswagen. In order to navigate successfully we have to memorize the location of the pot holes like the old Mississippi River paddle wheel captains had to memorize the river bed to avoid running aground. Whenever it rains heavily the pot holes (baches in Spanish) fill up with water so you can't tell which are the deep ones and which are the shallow ones unless you can remember which is which. Well, my memory must be failing me because I drove through a deep one thinking it was shallow and my oil pan bottomed out on a rock at the bottom. I felt a big thud but kept on going hoping and praying that it was just a bump to the underframe.

When I got home I had to stop and get out of the car to open the carport gate and after I moved the car into the carport I noticed some drops of oil on the pavement where the car had been temporarily standing. "Oh-oh", I thought, "That ain't good". It turned out that I was right. I called my friend Enrique, whom we call Quique (pronounced KEE-kay) for short, and he sent a tilt-bed truck to fetch my poor car. In a half hour we had it up on the rack and it was pretty clear by then that I had rendered the oil pan irreparable. Would you believe that it is made out of cast aluminum and that a replacement is very expensive? I am sure that you would. Well, this will teach me to be more careful but it was an expensive lesson. Like they say in St. Louis, "It may have made Bud wiser" but it made Bob several thousand pesos poorer.

The Ying and the Yang of it is that whenever something bad happens there is also something good in there somewhere and vice-versa. This case was no exception. I may have lost an oil pan but I gained some good vocabulary. I will start with the word for "oil pan" and keep going:

cárter inferior del cigüeñal (KAHR-tehr een-fehr-ee-YOHR dehl see-gwehn-YAHL)
oil pan

cárter superior del cigüeñal
(KAHR-tehr soo-pehr-ee-YOHR dehl see-gwehn-YAHL)

cigüeñal (see-gwehn-YAHL)

cojinetes del cigüeñal (koh-hee-NEH-tes dehl see-gwehn-YAHL)
crankshaft main bearings

muñón del cigüeñal (moon-YOHN dehl see-gwehn-YAHL)
crankshaft bearing journal

polea de cigüeñal (poh-LEY-ah del see-gwehn-YAHL)
crankshaft pulley

volante del cigüeñal (voh-LAHN-teh del see-gwehn-YAHL)
(alternate) volante de embrague (voh-LAHN-teh del ehm-BRAH-gey)

árbol de levas (AHR-bohl deh LAY-vahs)

válvula de admisión (VAHL-voo-la deh ahd-mee-SEOHN)
intake valve

válvula de escape (VAHL-voo-la deh ess-CAH-peh)
exhaust valve

levanta válvulas (ley-VAHN-tah VAHL-voo-las)
valve lifter

resorte de válvulas (rey-SOHR-teh de VAHL-voo-las)
valve spring

cilindro (see-LIHN-droh)

piston (pees-TOHN)

faldón del pistón (fahl-DOHN del pees-TOHN)
piston skirt

bulón (boo-LOHN)
(alternate) perno de pistón (PEHR-noh del pees-TOHN)
wrist pin (piston pin)

anillos de compresión (ah-NEE-yohs de kohm-preh-SEEOHN)
(alternate) aros de compresión (AH-rohs de kohm-preh-SEEOHN)
compression rings (piston rings)

biela (bee-EH-lah)
connecting rod

muñón de biela ( moon-YOHN de bee-EH-lah)
connecting rod journal

cojinetes de las bielas (koh-hee-NEH-tes de las bee-EH-lah)
connecting rod bearings

bomba de aceite (BOHM-bah deh ah-SAY-tay)
oil pump

cadena de distribución (kah-dey-nah deh dees-tree-boo-SEEOHN)
(alternate) correa de distribución (kohr-REY-ah deh dees-tree-boo-SEEOHN)
timing chain (or belt)

culata de cilindro (koo-LAH-tah deh see-LIHN-droh)
cylinder head

empaque de culata (em-PAH-keh deh koo-LAH-tah )
head gasket

cámara de combustión (KAH-mah-rah deh kohm-boo-STEEOHN)
combustion chamber

colector de admisión (koh-lek-TOR deh ahd-mee-SEEOHN)
intake manifold

colector de escape (koh-lek-TOR deh ess-KAH-peh)
exhaust manifold

mofle (MOH-flay)

varilla de medición de aceite (vah-REE-yah deh meh-dee-SEEOHN de ah-SAY-tay)
oil dipstick

bobina de encendido (boh-BEE-nah de ehn-sehn-DEE-doh)
ignition coil

bujía (boo-HEE-ah)
spark plug

distribuidor (dees-treeb-bwee-DOHR)

tapa de distribuidor (TAH-pah deh dees-treeb-bwee-DOHR)
distributor cap

bomba de combustible (BOHM-bas deh kom-boos-TEEB-leh)
fuel pump

inyector de combustible (een-YEHK-tor deh kom-boos-TEEB-leh)
fuel injector

carburador (cahr-boo-rah-DOHR)

motor de arranque (moh-TOHR de ahr-REYN-kay)
starting motor

I am thinking that perhaps some of you may have fallen into a deep trance before you got this far. I'll bet that I know who you are. When I count to three and snap my fingers you will awaken feeling very refreshed. One, two, three...SNAP! Hey! Bliss in San Carlos...don't forget to add these words to your flash cards. There will be an exam next week.

23 September 2010

From the land of Robin Hood...periodically!

In my job, and especially over the course of the last few years, I find myself dealing increasingly with matters related to chemicals. I don't actually handle chemicals myself but I work in the Transportation Industry in a position that requires me to stay up-to-date on rules and regulations for things like safe confined space entry, material safety data related to product residues, and the proper marking of containers that carry products considered to be potentially hazardous. On the shelf above my desk you will find a well thumbed Emergency Response Guide and a copy of Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary.

Recently I thought it might be both interesting and helpful if I learned the Periodic Table of Elements by heart to the point that I could draw a good portion of it from memory on a sheet of paper. I saw no need to include the f-block Lanthanoids (rare earth elements) or Actinoids (radioactive elements) and certainly not the so-called "synthetic" elements from atomic number 104 on up. Mainly I would like to concentrate on the elements that are relative to what I may encounter in my job at some point. I just happened to be browsing the Internet for a nice copy of the Periodic Table when I came across a website of the University of Nottingham in England that is dedicated to the Periodic Table and uses little video vignettes to tell stories about each element. Once you hear a story it helps to locate the element in its proper place on the chart. It is an amazing undertaking. They have produced a very interesting video for each of the elements. You can find the site by clicking on this link: The Periodic Table of Videos

They have another interesting site related to chemistry at: Test Tube

There is also a neat site related to Mathematical Symbols called: Sixty Symbols

I am delighted by another site of theirs that is dedicated to words and I suggest that you visit it and start with the French wine term "terroir". You can find it at: Words of the World

Who knew that Nottingham is more than Sherwood Forest and the old stomping grounds for Robin Hood and his Merry Men? It just so happens that Nottingham is the seventh-largest urban area in the United Kingdom and the home of a university that ranks in the top 1% of universities worldwide. If I were a young man or woman in high school who is thinking about going to a great university I would definitely consider the University of Nottingham. However, for me, the second best thing is to take advantage of what they have to offer on line. It is not only educational. It is FUN!

20 September 2010

Come and get it!

The other day my friend Javi Nava sent me some photos of a country chicken roast that was done by stacking chickens over vegetables and then roasting them under metal cans. The photos below will explain the process better than I can. It sure looks like a good idea. All you need are some metal pans with a rod attached to the center and some five gallon (19 liter) cans that will fit over them. For a fire you can use any old wood or even tree or brush trimmings. I was thinking about trying this myself but I ran into a slight problem. Since I only have a small back yard I am afraid that the aroma of roasting chickens would draw all of my neighbors and there wouldn't be enough chicken to go around. I could always add more chickens but then the additional smoke and flames might draw the "bomberos" (firemen) and I still wouldn't have enough chicken to feed everyone. Civilization is not an ideal place for this method of cooking. Nooooo, to really make this work what you need is a place out in the middle of nowhere like perhaps the hills around Pátzcuaro. The only other thing I can say is:

A mi me gusta pollo rostizado. Las fotos se me hacen agua la boca.
I really like roast chicken. The pictures make my mouth water!

Note to my fellow Spanish students: Why do I say "Las fotos" and not "Los fotos"? Because the word "fotos" is short for "fotografías" and fotografías is feminine.

17 September 2010

Where the rubber meets the road.

The other day I was just leaving the house and going out to my car when suddenly I got that sinking feeling. You know the one. It's that feeling you get when you discover that you have a flat tire. It is a feeling halfway between frustration and anger...frustration because you didn't see it coming and anger because...well just because! Oooooo it makes me so mad! Then, what do you do about it? You don't have many options. You can squat down and change the flat to a spare but if you only have one of those skinny emergency spares then what good does that do? You can try to fill the tire with one of those aerosol cans of sealant but unless the leak is very tiny all that they do is make a mess. I have found that the best thing to do is try and fill the tire with enough air to get you to a "vulcanizadora" or "tire repair shop" and let a "talachero" or "tire repair guy" repair it for you. For this reason I always carry one of those little "buzz box" air compressors in my trunk, the kind that plugs into your dashboard. I just hook it up and let it buzz away for about twenty minutes and if the leak isn't too bad I will have enough air in the tire to drive it a mile or two.

I thought it would be good to pass on some tire repair terminology to my fellow students of Mexican Spanish. The word for tire is "llanta" (YAHN-tah) although you may also hear a tire referred to as a "neumático " (new-MAHT-ee-koh). A flat tire on the car is most often called a "ponchadura" (POHN-chah-doo-rah) but sometimes you may also hear "pinchazo" (peen-CHAH-zou). Once off the car the flat may be called "una llanta ponchada". There are several ways to say "I had a flat tire":

Se ponchó la llanta.

Se me ponchó la llanta.

Se me ponchó mi llanta.

I like to use the first one because it sounds more like it was the tire's fault. In English we say "I had a flat" and it sounds like we are the guilty party but not in Mexico. Here you say "the tire got flat" as if the tire was the guilty party.

I already mentioned that a tire repair shop is called a "vulcanizadora" and technically the tire repair person is a "vulcanizador" but most often they will be called a "talachero" (tah-lah-CHER-oh). The word "talachero" means handy man or repairman having something to do with automobiles but below the level of a full fledged mechanic. Generally it is tires. The "jack" to raise the car is called a "gato" (GAH-toh) which is the same word used for a cat as in "kitty-cat". There are three types of jack. A bumper jack is called a "gato de patín" (pah-TEEN), a scissors jack is called a "gato de tijeras" (tee-HERR-ahs), and a hydraulic jack is called a "gato hidráulico" (ee-DRAU-lee-koh). The wheel rim is called a "rin" (reen) and the plural of "rin" is "rines" (REE-ness). A wheel complete with tire and rim is called a "rueda" (roo-whey-dah). The part of the wheel that fits over the axle or "eje" (EH-hey) that we call a "hub" in English is a "maza" (MAH-zah) in Spanish. The studs that hold the wheel in place are called "birlos" (BEER-lohs) and the nuts are called "tuercas" (TWEHR-kahz). The holes in the wheel that fit over the "birlos" are called "barrenos" (bahr-REY-nos). A hub cap is called a "POHL-vehr-ah" meaning "dust cover".

Are you still with me? We have a ways to go yet. A lug wrench in the form of a cross is called a "llave de cruz" (YAH-vey dey krooz) or also a "cruzeta" (kroo-zeh-tah). A regular lug wrench in the form of an "L" is called a "llave con cola" which means "wrench with a tail". Note that the word "llave" can mean a key, a wrench, or a faucet. You have to get the meaning out of the context. An air operated impact wrench is called a "pistola neumática". The nuts are tightened to a sufficient torque or "torsión" (tohr-SEEOHN) that can be measured with a "torquimétro" (tohr-kee-MEHT-roh) or in English, a "torqometer".

Now…what if your tire has an inner tube? An inner tube is called a "cámara" (CAH-mah-rah) which is short for "cámara de aire" (KAH-mah-ah dey EYE-rey) which means "air chamber". An air hose is called a "manguera de aire" (mahn-GEHR-ah dey EYE-rey) and the fitting on the end of the air hose that lets you put "aire" into a tire is called a "sargento" (sahr-HEHN-toh) which is the same word used for army sergeant. You attach the "manguera" with the "sargento" to the "válvula" (VAHL-voo-lah) or "valve". Technically the gauge that you use to measure the air pressure is called a "manómetro de aire" (mahn-OH-meh-tro dey EYE-rey) but most people refer to it as a "pesador de aire" (pess-ah-DOOR dey EYE-rey) or "weigher of air" since the air pressure is in "libras" (LEE-brahs) meaning "pounds". Sometimes you will also hear people refer to it as a "calibrador de aire" (kah-lee-brah-DOOR dey EYE-rey). An air leak is called a "fuga de aire" (FOO-gah dey EYE-rey) or just plain "fuga". An air compressor is called a "compresor de aire" (cohm-preh-SOHR de EYE-rey). A spare tire is a "llanta de refacción" (YAHN-tah dey ree-fahk-SEEOHN).

Wow! All that nonsense and we still haven't got to the patch yet! Well, here we go. You will basically hear two different names for a "parche de llanta" (PAHR-chey de YAHN-tah) or "tire patch". One is "parche vulcanizado" (PAHR-chey vuhl-kahn-ee-ZAH-doh) which is a hot patch and the other is a "parche tip top" (PAHR-chey teep tohp) which is a cold patch. The name "Tip Top" is a brand name for tire patching equipment and materials made by the REMA Tip Top company of Germany and it is a world-wide product that is the standard for chemically bonded tire patches. For this reason the Term "tip top" in Mexico is synonymous with chemically bonded patches no matter who makes them. Actually, the REMA TipTop system is the best way to patch a tire in my opinion as long as it is done right. The thing is to find a talachero who really knows his stuff. Many of the vulcanizadora shops that you see are rather dirty, grungy places with a bunch of oddball looking characters hanging around. Finding a good place to take your tire is like looking for a good barber or a good dentist. In the U.S. you would probably take your flat tire to a tire dealer but here in Mexico the tire dealer will more often than not send you to a vulcanizadora or a talachero.

The REMA TipTop system for modern passenger and light truck cross-ply, belted, and radial tires comes in two versions. Both are a combination tire plug and tire patch. One version comes in two pieces and the other version is one piece. Both versions require that you remove the tire from the rim. If you watch the two videos below you will see how the job is supposed to be done. This will give you a basis for comparison. If your talachero isn't repairing your tire in a similar fashion to the videos then you may have a reason to worry. If you have followed me all the way down to this point and still think that the whole subject is just too boring to deal with I suggest that you print this out and tuck it in your glove box. Some one of these days you just may be glad that you did.

Happy Motoring!

Two Piece Repair

Minicombi Repair

15 September 2010

¡Viva México!

Today as we left work today an hour early (thanks Boss) some of the workers shouted:

¡Viva México cabrones, hijos de la chingada!

This roughly translates to "Long live Mexico you bastards, sons of he great rape!". They didn't use the exact same words two hundred years ago when Miguel Hidalgo gave the shout that began the struggle for Mexican Independence, but the same sentiment was there. As rude as it may seem it is this little kernel of defiance that lives on in the hearts and minds of the Mexican people. No American or Canadian can truly understand exactly what it represents but in general it signifies that no matter what may happen and how unfair life can be, the Mexican people are survivors and they are very proud of their country and their heritage.

For the last eleven years Mexico and her people have been very kind to me and tonight, together with my wife Gina and her family, I will participate in the 200 year celebration of the spark that put the people of this country on the path to freedom and self determination. I believe that in a few short years Mexico will take its place among the great and powerful countries of the world and it is the children of this generation who will be the leaders. For this reason at 11:pm this evening I will add my voice to the shout of "Viva México" by Mexican people everywhere.

It is interesting to note that at the time of the “El Grito de Dolores” by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, the people of Dolores referred to themselves as Americans to differentiate themselves from the Spaniards because at that time the the name of the country was “Nueva España” or “New Spain”. The name “Mexico” had not yet come into vogue and wouldn't until 1821. The exact details of the actual shout have long been debated by historians but a popular consensus is that it went something like this:

¡Viva la Independencia!
Long live Independence!

¡Viva America!
Long live America!

¡Muera el mal gobierno!
Death to bad government!

Of course nowadays they shout “¡Viva México!” Instead of “¡Viva America!” but how ironic it is that the third line of the shout is “Death to bad government!”. It seems like this cry is just as apropos today all over the world the same as it was in Mexico two hundred years ago.

¡Viva México!

12 September 2010

Rooting out all that evil.

The other day I was reading a wonderful blog written by my blogger friend Leslie Harris de Limón called "Motherhood in Mexico" and she was talking about an unpleasant experience that she had with a Mexican home remedy. I just had a rather pleasant experience with a home remedy and so I thought I should blog about it too. This home remedy is more for the older crowd so if you don't remember Ted Mack and "The Original Amatuer Hour" then this remedy may not be what you need. Those who do remember Ted Mack will probably remember that the program was sponsored by "Serutan" which was a laxative. The manufacturer, J. B. Williams Co., capriciously decided to name the product Serutan which is "Natures" spelled backwards, and the product's advertising slogan was "Read it backwards". You may also remember that the program started with Ted Mack spinning the Wheel of Fortune and chanting "Round and round she goes and where she stops nobody knows".

Okay, I confess. Every now and then I get constipated. There! I said it. To say "I am constipated" in Spanish you can say "Estoy estreñido" (ess-trehn-YEE-doh). You can ask the pharmacist "¿Qué puedes darme para el estrenimiento?" (What can you give me for constipation?). For some reason or other I usually get "estreñido" after eating "milanesa de res" which is a breaded cut of round steak or something similar. The cheaper the cut of meat the worse the constipation is. I always end up eating it out of politeness and then it takes me a week to get over it. Up until now I have tried various laxatives with varying degrees of success but no miracle cure. Then one day my suegra (mother-in-law) Carmelita overheard me talking to my wife Gina about needing to get some more laxative the next time we go shopping. She said that she had a better idea and took us to her friend the medicinal herb lady at the market. We bought a little bag of dried leaves called "Senna" for a few pesos and what a treasure it turned out to be. The Latin name for Senna is "Senna alexandrina" and it has been used to relieve constipation for thousands of years. You put about a tablespoon of dried leaves in a pot of boiling water and let it steep for a little while and then you strain it and drink a cup of it like tea. The taste is not unpleasant either. Then in about eight hours you go the bathroom and dump your load and come out smiling.

Now for the disclaimer. Note that you shouldn't make the tea too strong or drink more than one cup at a time or you may get the cramps. You shouldn't take this stuff more than a few days in a row either and you shouldn't have to. If you need more laxative than that then there must be something else wrong with you. If you are over 60 and Senna makes you squint to see fine print or makes you forget where you put things or makes little hairs grow out of your ears then that's okay because that stuff is preconditional and a little bit more won't hurt you. By the way, Senna is already becoming a popular ingredient in many over the counter laxatives so all you will be doing is cutting out the middle man. So, there you have it folks. When it comes to things scatalogical or coprological just ask an expert.

09 September 2010

My wife the artist.

My wife Gina is an artist but she does not work with pencils, or watercolors, or clay or any of the traditional art mediums. All of her artwork is done in a material that I call "Zest for Life". She puts a little artwork in everything that she does. I especially realized that this morning as I was leaving the house. I collected the lunch that she prepared for me from the refrigerator and as I turned around I noticed the little basket that she keeps on the kitchen counter. It is where she keeps the odds and ends that she uses in her daily cooking and it changes from day to day. It usually contains an onion or two and perhaps a ripe tomato, a head of garlic, and some chilies of different varieties. This morning it looked particularly nice so I grabbed my camera and took the picture that you see below. It is one of the things that endears her to me. It seems like whatever she does is worthy of a picture.

Click on picture to enlarge.

07 September 2010

Tying the Knot

My wife Gina and I have been married for only two and a half years but the courtship or "noviazgo" took more than five years. It was stretched out a bit by some major thoracic surgery on my part and a mastectomy due to breast cancer on her part but nevertheless the process of getting married took quite awhile. As a matter of fact and since I don't want to go to Hell for lying, I must tell you that there is still one little item that we need to take care of but I will surprise you with that at some future date. When we began the process I was still pretty compulsive about planning and making lists for which, gracias a Dios, I have since been cured or at least the major symptoms have abated. Today I just happened to come across one of my old notebooks in which I actually wrote a checklist for my courtship and marriage in Mexico. I thought you might be either amused, interested, enlightened, or perhaps even horrified of at all the steps involved. Here we go:

Los Pasos Noviazgo al Matrimonio
de Bob y Gina
The Steps from Courtship to Marriage of Bob and Gina



Citas Casuales
Casual dates

Getting to know one another

Relación Especial
Forming a special relation

Going Steady

Relación Firme
A Strong Relation

Talking about marriage

Declaración de Compromiso
Popping the Question

Anillo de Compromiso
Engagement Ring

Presentacón de Mano (Petición)
Asking for the Brides Hand in Marriage


Wedding Banns

Curso Prematrimonial para Novios
Religious Instruction for the Engaged Couple

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

Padrinos de Velación

Choosing the Witnesses

Casamiento Civil
Civil Ceremony

Casamiento Religioso
Wedding Mass

Banquete Nupcial
Wedding Feast

Luna de Miel

Below is a picture from our civil wedding which took place in the living and dining room of Gina's parents' house. I am in the background holding Gina's little grand
son Ian and she is in the foreground in the black and white dress. Very pretty, eh? The rest of the people are nieces and cousins of Gina. This is my favorite picture. I am surrounded by angels!

05 September 2010

I'll see you in a little bit!

Time, here in Irapuato, is not something that we worry much about. I used to, but I don't anymore. There always seems to be plenty of time to get things done and if they don't get done "on time"...so what? Things almost always seem to get done eventually. I have learned the hard way that enjoying life is much more important than "saving time". Save time for what, so you can do more work? Forget about it! The often touted "Puritan Work Ethic" found north of the border is really nothing more than the "Rat Race" under another name. As the late Jimmy Reid, the well known Scottish labor leader and journalist once said, "A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are Human Beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you...". Old habits die hard, however, and I still sometimes feel that the hands of the clock are messing with my conscience as if they were mussing up my hair.

There is a word in Mexican Spanish that you will probably hear a lot. The word is "ahorita" and it is the diminutive form of "ahora" (ah-OR-ah) which means "now" in English You could say that "ahorita" is the diminutive form of "now" or in other words "ahorita" means "in a little bit". Ahorita is pronounced more or less as ow-REE-tah. The phrase "Ahorita vengo" translates as "I'll be right back" but in Mexico it doesn't mean "I'll be right back for sure". Many times it is just used as a place holder and the actual time that elapses between going and coming back can vary quite a bit. In fact, in some cases it means that the person probably won't return. For example, if you are sitting next to someone at a party or a wedding and the conversation gets dull they may say, "Con permiso, ahorita vengo". They are asking your pardon to absent themselves for a moment as if they need to go to the restroom or they saw a friend that they want to say hello to. In reality, they just want to leave you and don't want to say something awkward. Both parties understand what is happening and it is no big deal. It is just being polite. If someone really means that they will be right back for sure they will often say, "Ahoritita vengo". That means that they positively will return in a little bit. Ahoritita is pronounced like ow-ree-TEE-tah.

My wife Gina is always saying to me "Ahorita vengo" or "Ahorita nos vemos" (We'll see each other in a little bit). That could mean anything from ten minutes to two or three hours unless she bumps into one of her friends or relatives and then it might take an hour longer. This doesn't bother me anymore because now I do it too. If I want to pin her down to a specific time the best that I can do is to get her to say "Cinco pasaditas" or "Pasaditas de las cinco". The word "pasaditas" (pah-sah-DEE-tah) is a diminutive form of "pasadas" as in "Son las cinco pasadas" meaning "It is after five o'clock". However, just like "ahorita" stretches out "ahora", pasaditas stretches out pasadas. That means that "cinco pasaditas" could actually mean anytime between five and six.

I write about words like "ahorita" and "pasaditas" for my friends who are climbing the "Learning Mexican Spanish" mountain with me. Pasaditas is a word that you probably won't find in the dictionary and if you plug it into Google you will get thousands of returns for a popular restaurant in Chicago called "Las Pasaditas". There are so many undocumented words and phrases that are used as idiomatic expressions in every day speech that it is difficult if not impossible to remember them when you want to speak but on the other hand it is very comforting to be able to recognize them when they are spoken by others so that you can understand exactly what is being said. My suggestion is to pick a handful of idiomatic expressions that you like and practice them with your Spanish speaking friends so that you get them right and then pick another bunch and start over. Like old Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker always says, "I'll see you at the top!"...

¡ Ahorita !

03 September 2010

No charge?

The other day I bought some batteries because I wanted to change the batteries in all of our clocks and flashlights since we always forget to do that and sooner or later they cease to function like an over-the-hill energizer bunny. I took down a clock and removed the battery and chucked it into the kitchen garbage can. Suddenly I felt a tug on my trousers and I looked down and discovered the source of my interruption was Gina's little five year old grandson. His name is Ian, whom we call Chiqui (CHEE-key) which is short for "Chiquito" (little one). He said, "Grampa, you shouldn't throw the battery in the trash because it will hurt the animals and the plants. You must take the old batteries to a place where they destroy them properly". I asked him where he had learned about that and he told me in kindergarten. Hmmm, that's strange, I never learned that in kindergarten.

I began to wonder why they didn't teach him something more practical like how to wash my car. Just then Gina chimes in and says, "Why don't you change the rest of the batteries and then we can all take them down to the IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social)? They have a collection point there". I said "Duhh, okay" and proceeded with the battery change-out. I had barely resumed my task when there was another annoying tug at my pants leg. It was Chiqui again. He said "Grampa, what about the battery that you threw in the trash? We must take that one too. So, there I was half upside down in a trash bin and searching through the egg shells and coffee grounds for an AA battery. Lucky for me I was able to grasp the battery and stand up before I passed out.

We went down to the IMSS and walked through the entrance and down the hall to the battery collection point with Chiqui clutching his little treasure bag full of old batteries and skipping along like Winnie the Pooh. The collection point looked like an environmental altar with various bags and bundles of used batteries piled on it and a bunch of slogans stuck to the base. There was one large banner in particular that said:

Ponte las pilas a limpiar Irapuato!

This is a very cute sign with a double meaning. On one hand it suggests "Put your batteries here to clean-up Irapuato" and on the other hand it means "Get busy (or get to work) and clean up Irapuato".

The word "ponte" (POHN-teh) is a very handy word. It is the second person singular imperative form of the reflexive verb "ponerse" which means "to put on" as in clothing or "to become" as in "get busy".


¡Ponte las pilas!
¡Get enthused!

¡Ponte a trabajar!
Get to work!

¡Ponte a jalar!
Start pulling!

¡Ponte de pie!
Stand up!

¡Ponte en forma!
Get in shape!

¡Ponte listo!
Get ready! or Be sharp!

¡Ponte el sombrero!
Put on your hat!

¡Ponte a escribir!
Start writing!

¡Ponte a estudiar!
Start studying!

The word "pila" of course means "battery" as in dry cell battery but it can also mean a "font" such as a "pila de agua bendita" (Holy water font) or a "pila de bautismo" (Baptismal font). There is a verse in the Spanish birthday song "Las Mañanitas" that goes:

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores

The day you were born all the flowers were born
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores
On the baptismal font the nightingales sang

So, how did our little excursion to IMSS to save the Earth turn out? Fantastic! We left there in great spirits after having done our civic duty with heads held high and chests puffed out. Ian held each of our hands and skipped along between us, happy in the realization that every now and then he can teach old grampa a thing or two. I don't know how many birds and bees and trees we saved this time but the next time I see someone throw a battery in the trash I will stand up straight and put my hands on my hips (if I can find them) and say "Hey! What the heck are you doing?" knowing that I have already earned the right. Why don't you join us, the Irapuato Battery Police. Hmm, I think I'll start working on our theme song. Oooo! Oooo! We will need uniforms too!

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.