Posts Tagged 'travel'

All dried up

Ahh, the problems with living in a dry climate… All my life I have been lucky to have lived in places with plenty of water. Michigan with the great lakes, and Germany with it’s seemingly year-round rain. I know that many places are not so lucky.

Yesterday we ran out of water. Or better said, the city cut off our area from water. Apparently it is very common, and they rotate so that different parts of the city have water on different days. We still have some left in our cistern, but we have to be very careful not to waste it so that we still have enough to do the dishes and flush the toilets. The water department is saying will won’t have water again until Friday.

In the meantime, we are washing our clothes and taking showers at an aunt’s house who lives in another part of the city. It certainly makes me appreciate how important and precious water is!

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Our Cistern (on the roof).

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On the road from Morelia to Puebla

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This post is pretty old, but back in early January (I believe January 3rd…?) we drove from Oscar’s mother’s house in Morelia, to his brother’s house in Puebla. This drive used to be at least 6 hours or more, since you had to drive through Mexico City, which, with a population of more than 33 million is no fun task. And by through, I don’t mean on a highway going around the city as we normally would say in the US; that would be bad enough with lots of traffic. No, I mean THROUGH, as in through the middle. Down chaotic, 2-lane city streets full of traffic lights and speed bumps, people with carts and salesmen. People trying to park and blocking an entire lane, or just flat out parking right on the lane. With a general disregard for any rules, the traffic in Mexico city is more like one of those sliding-tile-puzzles than actual traffic. It used to be a nightmare of epic proportions.

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But fortunately in 2010, the government built a new highway which completely circumvents Mexico city! It cut the journey from six to only four hours. It’s like a dream come true! On top of that, the route is full of great scenery since this is the mountainous interior of Mexico we are going through.

Olivia slept almost the entire way, except for one pit stop. I may have slept as well…

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Laundry in Mexico

Doing the laundry has been a bit different since we have been traveling in Mexico. And since we are still using cloth diapers we end up with tons of laundry and I basically have to wash every two days.

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One of the things I like the most about doing laundry here is that you get to hang it up on the roof to dry! I really enjoy going on the roof, and since it’s sunny and warm in the afternoons, everything dries really quickly. It is a HUGE difference from Germany, where it’s usually cold and rainy, and where even indoors it takes days for laundry to dry.

I like hanging out the laundry so much that I’m even willing to brave the stairs of death to get up to the roof to do it.

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The laundry basket doesn’t really fit while you’re walking up the stairs, making it even more difficult. But hey, I admit that that’s part of what I like about it.

We have a washing machine, but we also have something else which makes my life a million times easier:

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This is not just your ordinary wash basin, as you might think. It is tilted at a slight angle so that water runs down over the ridges, similar to the old fashioned washboards people used before washing machines. You are supposed to rub the clothes over the ridges, and since some of the water stays in the ridges, it makes washing by hand super easy. I use this every day to get out the dirt stains on Olivia’s pants, since she loves to crawl all day and by the end of the day the knees of her pants are almost black. It’s also great for diaper stains, which are a huge pain in the butt even if they are pretty rare for us (since we practice EC). This simple washbasin may not seem like much, but believe me it is a million times better than the bathroom sink, which is what I have to use at home. Every Mexican home has one, even if they have a washing machine.

A few days ago it actually rained (during the dry season, heaven forbid!) and we ran around grabbing all the laundry down from the roof so it wouldn’t get wet. Since the volcanic ash always “drops” more after a rain, it would have not only gotten wet but also covered in a fine layer of black dust, which would have meant washing it again. Obviously, we’d rather not have to do that, so we took it all in the house.

The only problem is, since this is Mexico, there is no where to hang laundry inside the house. (They normally don’t have to worry about the rain.). So instead we took the laundry to a laundromat to be dried. They charged 9 pesos per Kilo, (so about 2 Euros for the whole load) and when we picked it up, it wasn’t just dried, but FOLDED as well! It’s crazy what you can get for your money here.

Nevertheless, I will stick to hanging my laundry on the roof just because it’s more fun.

Atlixco

We have been “traveling” for more than a month already, and yet I am sad to say that we have hardly done anything touristy at all! Mostly we have been visiting family and taking care of various “work” that has to be done every time we visit our home countries. (Renewing driver’s licenses, paperwork, etc). I have to admit that I have been getting pretty bored being at the house with Olivia all day and hardly going out. But finally last week we got the chance to take an afternoon off and we went to the neighboring city of Atlixco.

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Atlixco Zocalo

Atlixco is on the other side of some mountains and has a nicer climate than Puebla, so it is famous for it’s farms and plants. Most of the flowers sold in Puebla are grown in Atlixco. It also has a beautiful Zocalo (town square) filled with palm trees and small vendors selling balloons and plants. But we wanted to get a little more exercise and see some nice views, so we decided to climb the mountain to the chapel of San Miguel.

There were no signs, so we asked several people for the best route to get to the top, since there were a lot of stairs going through winding neighborhoods. As always, everyone had a different opinion. This way will be longer but has better views, that way is easier to climb but “uglier”, the other way is difficult to climb (aka steps falling apart and lots of holes) but is shorter. We asked one person weather there were bathrooms at the top, and he said yes, but they are probably bad, so he actually offered to let me use the bathroom in his house! “Just close your eyes” he said. (Since he had dirty laundry everywhere) Even after marrying a Mexican and spending tons of time in Mexico, the hospitality of this country continues to amaze me.

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Outside of the Ex-Convent

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Inside the Ex-Convent

Halfway up the mountain there is an ex-convent, which we took the time to explore. Even though it is falling apart it has a certain mystical beauty about it, at least on the outside. The inside was beautiful too, but it had a lot of very graphic and gruesome statues and relics. The first thing to greet you when you walk in is this statue of Jesus carrying the cross.

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. There was also a life size statue of a saint lying in a coffin complete with very realistic looking hair. But if you can get past those things without feeling sick, the church is really very beautiful, especially the ceiling.

20130120-131641.jpgFrom here we continued up the winding pathways until we reached what appears to be government owned land, complete with signs telling us about the native plants on animals. The views from the mountain side are fantastic, and from here you can really see the volcano Popocatépetl. We made a pit stop near the top of the mountain to give Olivia some food (potato-vegitable patties and cereal). 20130120-131518.jpg

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The Volcano Popocatepatel

The chapel at the top is very cute and well kept.

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I also really liked the tree full of prayer flags.
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We decided to take a different route down the mountain, which we thought would be shorter. Everything went fine until we turned a corner and were suddenly met with this “staircase” of crumbling rocks and 50% incline:

20130120-132247.jpgBeing the adventurous people we are, we decided to pick our way down in, baby and all! On the way down we also had a nice view of the city as the sun was beginning to set.

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We had a great dinner at a restaurant in town – I had a Pueblan specialty called Pollo Huitlacoche which is chicken breast filled with the fungus which grows on ears of corn. It sounds strange but was soooo good, I highly recommend it. Even Olivia ate some!

Three Kings Day

In Mexico, Three Kings Day (January 5th) is the day when kids get presents, rather than Christmas. We spent Three Kings Day in Puebla, with Oscar’s brother and his family. For Oscar, this was something extra special since it reminded him of his childhood, and seeing the joy on his niece and nephew’s faces on the morning of the 6th was something he was really looking forward to. For me, this was somthing totally new, since even though I had heard of Three Kings Day, I had never experienced it and really didn’t know any of the traditions that go along with it. So it was very interesting for me!

20130109-192056.jpg On the night of the 5th, each of the kids wrote a letter to the three kings (telling them that they had been good and which presents they wanted). Then we tied the letters to balloons and sent them off in the sky. Olivia’s letter was pretty difficult to read, but I guess the three kings must have understood, since along with a few other gifts, they also brought her three bendy straws!

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Us getting ready to let the balloons go (I am taking the picture)

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Olivia”s cousin letting his balloon go from on top of a jungle gym

Afterwards, we each put out a shoe in the living room, and went to bed. The next morning the shoes had been moved up on top of the couch, and by each shoe was a small pile of gifts. Appearantly the three kings don’t like wrapping paper, but that’s ok since it cuts down on the waiting time!

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Aside from her bendy straws, Olivia also recieved a shape sorter, some clothes and two books of Mexican stories complete with original Mexican art. I am especially excited about those books, since I have had a really difficult time finding any children’s books in Spanish which aren’t just translated versions of American books.

Olivia also enjoyed playing X-box which her cousin Emiliano received! I was pretty impressed that Emiliano not only tolerated her grabbing the controller, but actually even has been trying to incorporate her into his play. They have been playing X-box together peacefully for several days now without any problems even when the race-car gets run off the road by Olivia.

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Later in the day Olivia’s Abuelita (grandmother) came over and we had a “Rosca de Reyes” together, which is a special sweet bread made specifically for Three King’s Day.

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Rosca de Reyes (Wreath of the Kings)

Hidden inside the bread are 4 or 5 small plastic dolls, and if you get one in your piece, you are responsible for making Tamales for breakfast for everyone else on another day. Since we have quite a but of family and friends around here, we have already been part of three different “Roscas”, but so far I haven’t gotten a single doll, which is probably a good thing since I have no idea how to make Tamales…

Michigan

At the end of August, I took Olivia on her first trip to the US to see my family. This was her very first plane ride, and I managed to do it by myself, since Oscar had to work. (We are going to take another trip for Christmas, so he didn’t have enough vacation time to go twice.) I was a bit worried since the flight was nine-and-a-half hours, but Olivia did fantastic! She only cried once, and that was for less than a minute after waking up from a nap and not knowing where she was.

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Olivia on my lap in the airplane

I didn’t take a stroller – instead I had Olivia in the front pack carrier, so I had both hands free to pull luggage. That worked out really well, and also it made it easier for me to carry her around the plane for naps. Of course most of the time I had her on my lap, though, since she is pretty heavy. On the ride over, a nice woman helped me out by holding Olivia while I ate my meal. On the way back I somehow managed by myself, but I’m honestly not sure how. Even though I brought lots of toys, she occupied herself almost the entire flight with the crinkly bag of pretzels. Talk about easy to please!

I wasn’t too sure about taking Olivia potty on the plane, but actually it wasn’t that hard. They have a changing table over the toilet which folds down from the wall, so I just changed her on that, then flipped it back up (with the changing pad and her clothes still clamped inside it!) let her pee in the toilet, and then flipped the table back down to get her dressed again. The whole thing was really quick, and actually even easier than many public bathrooms which don’t have changing tables, or when the changing table is in a room without a toilet. The only problem was that there was often a line for the bathroom. But of course, since we use a diaper back-up, it wasn’t a big deal anyways.

We had a really nice time visiting my parents. We mostly just hung out at home, but we did do a few things, like go to the cider mill.

The cider mill in Dexter, MI

The cider mill in Dexter, MI

I also got to see one of my close friends from college, R, and her daughter, who is a few months older than Olivia.

But for me, the highlight of the trip was that we got to see my grandma, who was 92. We went out for breakfast the first Saturday after we arrived. Olivia played with the empty coffee creamers while my mom and Grandma and I talked. Four generations…. it was so wonderful!

Our four-generations photo, unfortunately we didn't think to take it while she was still healthy.

Our four-generations photo, unfortunately we didn’t think to take it while she was still healthy.

Unfortunately just a week later, my Grandmother suddenly came down with Pneumonia, and ended up in the hospital. From there everything went downhill, and just a few days before we were supposed to return to Germany, she passed away. In the week or so before she died, she was in a hospice, where they took really wonderful care of her, and we came to visit her there every day.

Even though my Grandma was mostly sleeping during the last few days of her life, she did wake up to see Olivia. It was so touching to watch the two of them – one just entering this world, and the other saying her goodbyes. It brings me to tears thinking about it 😦 but the good thing is, at least my Grandma got to see her.

I wrote about my grandma’s life yesterday – you can read it here if you missed it. She had such an interesting life!

Olivia playing on the floor of my Grandma's room at the Hospice (My Grandma made the pillow and blanket!)

Olivia playing on the floor of my Grandma’s room at the Hospice (My Grandma made the pillow and blanket!)

My Sister with Olivia

My Sister with Olivia

I delayed my return flight by a week, and all of my brothers and my sister flew in from all over the US for the funeral. So, if there can be a good side to all the sadness, at least it was that I got to be with all of my siblings for a few days. It was also the first time for them to meet Olivia!

All in all, the trip was really nice. I’m so glad I had the time to spend with my family, and most of all with my Grandma.


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