Feliz, Indeed

January 2nd


Back from my quick trip across the border to bring in the New Year with a spicy Mexican kick. Alma, one of my grad-school friends grew up in Yuma, Arizona. She has family living on both sides of the border who were having a fiesta to ring in 2008. I’ve traveled to Guadalajara to visit her family and was excited to be included in the invitation. Being surrounded by a Mexican family is one of my favorite cultural experiences. I lived in Mexico many years ago and quickly learned to appreciate the living, breathing, crazy entity that is a Mexican holiday celebration with a giant family. Enough food to feed an army? Check. Enough people to man an army? Double check. Mariachis? Occasionally. Margaritas? Definitely.
{In contrast, I have six cousins total. I’m pretty sure Alma has 40-plus living in the immediate area. Her mom is one of 9; her dad is one of 7. Yeow. One of the many plus sides to this adventure? I wasn’t expected to know anyone’s name because with a family this large, no one gets them all right.}

A few cultural observations:
~ On New Year’s eve, you wear red underwear for love, yellow for money. You eat 12 grapes — one each second before the clock strikes midnight, and make a wish with each gulp. And yes, one of my wishes was that I didn’t choke to death. You throw your arms around each other and kiss everyone in your group on the cheek when the ball drops. {I wore red, naturally. Money is overrated.}

~While cigarette smoking in public is a thing of the past in Arizona, not so in Mexico. If there is one distinct smell that immediately brings be back to this country, it is Marlboro Reds. They seem to be the cigarette of choice; my eyes, skin, hair, coat reeked of their poison. I’m simply not used to being around smoke.

~New Year’s in Mexico means lots of guns being shot into the air. And dynamite and fireworks. I fell asleep listening to this caucophony after exhausted prayer.

~I am still abnormally tall in this country, the leaning tower of gringa. I am also abnormally hungry when salsa is served with everything.

~Food in Mexico = heaven. Homemade tamales, barbecue tacos, fresh guacamole, salsa galore. The fresh corn tortillas were so good with a bit of white cheese, guacamole and beans. And God bless this family for letting me eat like this at every meal. {Who wants cereal when you can have tacos. For breakfast.}

Meds in Mexico

Meds at a discount: never mind you may or may not have a prescription.
~The border towns are clogged with dentists, pharmacies and ridiculous other out-patient clinics. Long lines of very White, seemingly Midwestern folk, stood outside of these waiting to be seen. Dental and optometry seem to be the most common reason people travel thousands of miles to be seen. Never mind they are leaving the US to be treated at an incredibly discounted rate. For example, a root canal in Mexico costs $400 after all the visits and the medicine. The same procedure without dental insurance in the US would likely cost more than $1500. Tell me something hasn’t gone totally awry with our health care system?

Cameras at the border

Hi big brother! Cameras watch the border.
~Mexicans continue to amaze me with their warm, loving hospitality. Even though they sit through ridiculous queues at the border (while holding their American passports) and put up with the discriminatory glare of border agents, border dogs, border cameras — they continue to smile and be the sweet, fabulous people I adore.

I hope your New Year’s was wonderful. If nothing else, we know 2008 will be great: we get a new president! Hopefully this one will know what to do about the dental diaspora.


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Journal, Travel
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17 Responses

  1. Ahhh, I almost feel like I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in Mexico too- apart from the fact that it’s b****y feezing here!

  2. Heehee! Viva la Mexico! Or something like that. I love Mexico too, and Mexican people. A lot of the english as a second language children I teach are Mexican and they are the funniest, sweetest, smartest, maturest little things. Even the naughty ones. Anyway. My grandmother (not biological, but helped raise me) is Mexican, and my aunt is part mexican, and they are my favorite relatives. A little Mexican in you gives you a great sense of humor in adversity, and a lot of perspective. Or so it seems to me, hehe. =)

  3. I love your Mexico report. My husband and I go there a lot–so many times, in fact, that we actually know the names of some of the vendors down there and are able to greet them personally. The Mexican people have always been very gracious to us–even though about the only Spanish we know is asking the location of the bathroom. One night we were the only gringos at this dance and a bunch of really nice Mexicans came over and sat with us, encouraging us to dance and join in their festivities. It happened to be on our wedding anniversary and we had the best time ever–even if we didn’t understand one single word. Although they had no idea it was our anniversary, they made that night so special for us.

  4. Happy New Year Kelli! Sounds like you had a ton of fun! I live in an area highly populated with Mexican (and other latino) immigrants. Let me tell you, those firecrackers were going off like crazy here too on New Years. I’v never experienced anything like that! Actually, at first, it scared the crap out of me!

    Anyway, hope the red underwear works! I love that funny tradition!

  5. Happy New Year, lucky you getting to eat all that yummy food. Regarding meds, I bough 10 days worth of antibiotics in Greece over the counter for 5 Euros, just bought the same here with prescription for 28 bucks. Root canals also run around $1,500 without a crown and there is little control over bad dentists. My sweetie has to have a $2,300 root canal with crown extracted on Friday because the dentist did a bad job. Now he’s looking another 3 grand for an implant, life sucks sometimes…ciao

  6. Red panties huh?! My dad had a live-in girlfriend who happened to be mexican. She was muy loco! LOL

  7. I loved reading about your trip. You are, by far, one of the most interesting people I’ve ‘met’.

    There isn’t much I love more than Mexican food. I would weigh 500 pounds if I lived there, though.

    Glad you had a fun mini-vacay.

  8. Happy New Year, Kelli! My mouth will be watering for hours now after reading about your holiday.

  9. LOVE the food.

    Glad you had a great time and had lots of salsa. It is a food group, right???

  10. Sounds like a lovely way to ring in the new year. I can only imagine how yummy authentic salsa would be… drool! πŸ™‚

    Here’s to a wonderful 2008 for you!

  11. Hi Kelli,

    Any chance that I can get in touch with you to ask a few questions about volunteering? I think you might be able to answer a few questions I have and point me in the right direction.


  12. I like so much mexican food! Unfortunately here there are few mexican restaurants, and only one deserves really good notes….Anyway the red underwear is a must here, too. We never obliged to the tradition, except one year, and that very night going to a dinner in the mountains, we fell in a ravine coz of the heavy snowing. Once at home we threw away the underwear and never tried again!
    Due to the strict political liason between my country and yours, I too hope in a brand new presidential behavior!
    Have a good 2008!

  13. A Mexican New Year sounds fantastic (I am seriously going to consider that for next year!). Happy New Year to you!

  14. Sounds like a good time. They do the grapes thing in Spain too and I didn’t get past 5 grapes in my mouth. It was just too hard. πŸ˜‰

  15. Alert: delurking here. Hi, I’m Sherah. I’m an ex-pat American living in Israel and I have been enjoying your blog for a few months now. Thanks for your adventures.

    I can’t believe the mess that is in the States now concerning health care. It has really gotten bad since I left 7 years ago. I wish more people would speak up about it. I live in Israel where there is socialized health care and I love it. I wrote a post about it recently if you want to read:
    I don’t blame people for crossing the border.

    Happy New Year!

  16. One of my dearest friend, a Colombian I worked with in India, introduced me to the red underwear thing years ago. According to her pink works too. And they have a tradition to run around at midnight with money in one hand and a suitcase in the other to ensure you get to travel in the new year and have the money to do so. Not running with my suitcase the past few years may have something to do with the fact that my passport is now expired. Drat.
    Here’s to new adventures in the new year, great food, good friends and a new govermnemt that can not in any way be worse than the status quo.

  17. Happy New Year Kelli! Sounds like you have a great time!

    Here’s to fabulous and wonderful things in 2008!