Damn those sexy Brazilians

29
Feb
2008

Tomorrow I catch a flight to Cancún to meet up with my buddy Arnaud who is flying in from London. We will spend the following two weeks exploring the Yucatan. I realized that I should probably have a swimsuit for the occasion and passed by a shop today that had many attractive models of swimsuit from Brazil. Unfortunately, they are made for those body perfect  bitches from Brazil. As I tried on what should have been my size, I was horrified by how small it was. Realizing that I would not have much time before my flight tomorrow morning to search anew, I settled on a larger (but still tiny-seeming) model.

Be forwarned: As heavy on the photo documentation as this blog is, I will be enforcing a total news blackout on any and all images of me in said swimsuit.

Don’t believe everything you read

28
Feb
2008

I love Wikipedia. I very often use it as a personal reference source or in links from this blog. These links are especially useful for going into the history and culture of a place I have been, but couldn’t possibly do justice to in a short blog post.  But Wikipedia is not perfect.  It is compiled by end users and touts itself as the encyclopedia “anyone” can edit.  There is a review process, and I believe it probably works quite well for the majority of topics that have a high amount of interest.  It is obviously in (most) people’s interest that the content be accurate, and that is why Wikipedia is so dedicated to the form and format of their articles (asking authors to cite sources for example).  Because Wikipedia is user generated, we the users must be extra vigilant when examining information from sources such as these.  We have a responsibility to critically evaluate the information in front of us to the best of our ability, rather than just accepting it wholesale. This is even more important outside of a structure such as Wikipedia (who at least have standards in place). Blogs are a perfect example of where one must be especially critical of the information.

Still, every so often I come across a Wikipedia article for a term that is obviously the work of a mischief maker (or buffoon).  While there is no doubt an art to such fakery and possibly a vehicle for great satire, it is a perfect illustration of the need to be vigilant and critical of the information we receive.  Take the entry for “gadfly” as an example.  The author begins with an acceptable dictionary definition of the term, but then pretends to cite a work of Plato and a biblical reference as well.

Somewhat familiar as I am with language antecedents, this seemed preposterous to me.  A quick jump to  Merriam-Wesbster’s dictionary as well as other sources date this word to the late 16th or early 17th century, making it quite ineligible (apart from inherent language trouble, obviously) from ever having been in usage in the Bible or Plato’s Apology.

So, is the author a mischief maker or buffoon? Further searching of sources leads me to believe the latter.  For instance, in the Wikipedia entry for Plato’s Apology (vast portions of which seem to have been copied wholesale from the MIT resource linked above) there is a use of the term “gadfly”, but this is in a discussion, translation and interpretation of the work, not the work itself.  Likewise searching the Bible resource above, one can find the term in one of the newer translations dating from after 1965.

The web being the marvelous changing beast that it is, perhaps by the time you read this the article will have been updated and corrected. Perhaps I will be the one to do it.

Triste à mourir

27
Feb
2008

Jesus, pass the razor blades.

I just went to see La Vida en Rosa (known in the US as La Vie en Rose and in France as La Môme).  It was an absolutely incredible performance, one which won Marion Cotillard  a well deserved Oscar.  It was interesting watching a French film with Spanish subtitles, my brain switching between the two and strangely making me more engrossed in the movie.  It seemed appropriate that as I left the theater the sky should be overcast (one of the only times since my arrival).

Catch you later, I have to go put my head in the oven now.

Lost in a crowd

27
Feb
2008

I was invited to a fancy restaurant dinner last night to celebrate my neighbor Israel’s 40th birthday. It was lovely, but also quite tiring trying to follow the fast flying remarks of the seven other guests at the table. At my level of Spanish, I just don’t yet understand enough of the language to be much more than a grasping observer.  This got me thinking about the level of difficulty in various situations when trying to communicate in a non-native language.

Groups – These are always problematic. Trying to follow the volley of conversation, and jokes built upon jokes is extremely difficult. If you miss one link in the chain, it can be almost impossible to pick it up again until a new subject is broached.

Telephone – The advantage in talking one on one, in person with someone is that you have the advantage of hand movements and facial expressions as a surprisingly good guide to what they are saying apart from mere words. On the phone, you have no such luxury and it can be a struggle to understand.

Movies – These are somewhat like group settings, but the dialog is usually more nuanced and can be even more fast paced.

Speech patterns – People have an amazing variety of education levels, slang usage, vocal tics and other speech patterns that result in some people being very easy to understand and others being next to impossible.

Camotes

26
Feb
2008

As always, I can’t resist the lure of a new food, especially if it is a sweet.  Yesterday in Puebla I bought a box of local treats called camotes.  They are basically yam paste flavored with fruits, and while a bit on the sweet side, are not bad at all.  Plus they have that handmade charm to them, just look at the picture below.

One thing to note about the word camote, though. It is apparently slang for penis, although I am sure that neither I (nor my gentle readers) can begin to imagine why.

Puebla

25
Feb
2008

On the way back to DF, we stopped in Puebla for a couple of hours.  I was instantly fascinated by the local style of facade tile-work, for which Puebla is famous. Puebla is also famous for their cuisine and rightly so.  After a lot of wonderful food in Oaxaca, we stopped in a restaurant in Puebla called Sacristía (attached to the hotel of the same name), for one of the best damn meals I have had in a long, long time.  Everything was incredible from the horchata to the starter to the chipotle chicken mole to the amazing flan de queso for dessert.  YUM!


From Puebla

Notes on Oaxaca

24
Feb
2008

Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca – This place is a must in Oaxaca. The architecture of the restored convent is beautiful and the collection is fascinating.

Big damn breakfast – They seem to eat a lot for breakfast here. Yesterday’s in particular was big and meaty and heavy.

Chocolate – Oaxaca is known for their chocolate and Rocco and I bought some vanilla, cinnamon and almond flavored varietes by the market today.

Atole – This drink is found all over Mexico, but I had the most amazing pecan flavored one at breakfast this morning by the Zocalo.

Mitla -There is still left some pretty amazing carving in the ruins of Zapotec temples that the Spanish prompty destroyed and used the pieces to built a church on the site.

Hierve el Agua – It took about an hour on a rocky road to get to this place of  sulfur springs falling over the rocks. Eh. I could live without it.

Los Danzantes – This restaurant was beautifully designed and had fantastic food. The only thing that made it less than perfect was that there seemed to be no actual Mexican people dining there.

Muchas Gringas

24
Feb
2008

On a separate, brief note: There are a LOT of female American tourists here in Oaxaca. There are a lot of American tourists in general here, but the women seem to far outnumber the men. I wonder why?

Monte Albán

23
Feb
2008

Although not as impressive as Teotihuacan (to which it had cultural ties), Monte Albán is amazingly rich in history, and begs all kinds of questions when one visits the place. What did the original site and structures look like?  What were the daily lives of these people like?  What caused the rise and decline?  How are they related to other peoples in the area?

And then again, there are many moments when one is left without questions, just speechless and admiring and in awe of the place and its scope and layout.  It is especially interesting coming from the US, where the indigenous built record seems so sparse compared to Mexico.  What caused such a complex rise of civilizations and architecture in this part of the Americas, but not as much further north?

Wah-HAH-Kah

22
Feb
2008

Rocco and I, after a few minor delays getting the car this morning, finally made it to Oaxaca (see pronunciation in title) around three this afternoon. It took us all of thirty minutes to find a hotel and get settled before hitting the streets.  We were starving and went to the closest place we could find, which happened to be the most excellent Casa Oaxaca.  After sampling some local favorites (Mezcal and Molé, ‘natch) we headed out to wander the town with what was left of daylight.  I can totally understand why this is a UNESCO World Heritage city, it is stunningly beautiful, and has a unique atmosphere and scale.  See the initial pics below, more to follow tomorrow.


From to Oaxaca