Monthly Archives: July 2017

Living Like a Local: “Mexican Time”

When you hear people talk about “Mexican time”, you don’t really know what that means until you’ve actually lived in Mexico. In the past, I went on vacations to Cancun with my family, so I didn’t really count that as understanding the concept of “Mexican time” since we never had schedules to follow. Even when I volunteered abroad in Mérida, I had a schedule to stick to since I worked at a food bank, and whenever I took excursions out of the city, the bus schedules were somewhat on time. Living in Agua Caliente, however, is a whole other story!

Some of my classmates are doing their practicums with organizations with set work hours and co-workers and supervisors, but here in Agua Caliente, I’m a solo gal communicating with my professor via Skype weekly, while my other supervisor is currently exploring the hills of India looking for more exotic plants to investigate. My schedule is relatively “set-it-yourself” and while I’d like to sleep in in the mornings, the carpenters working in the shed like to work at the crack of dawn (what I mean is 8am, but still, SUPER early and who wants to wake up to sawing sounds?!)

Moringa site

My supervisor who lives in Mexico has this Moringa germplasm site where he plants all the Moringas he’s been able to collect from around the world, along with other trees that grow in dry tropical areas.

On the times when I don’t work on my coding part-time job or on my Moringa projects, I get invited to travel to other parts of Mexico such as Colima (the city), Manzanillo, La Manzanilla, Melaque, Cihuatlan, etc. It’s funny because I’m so used to being on time for everything, that when the family says we’re heading out at a certain time, I’m ready to go about 10 minutes before said time. However, this has been my error on more than one occasion!

The first occasion: We were going to La Manzanilla to the beach and to grab some yummy fresh seafood for lunch, and I was told “Vamos a La Manzanilla a las dos” so as you all know, I’m extremely punctual, and I’m ready to go. Two hours later, my host father texts me “Vamos!” Yes. TWO WHOLE hours later! But I didn’t quite learn my lesson…

La Manzanilla

We always manage to go to the beach at La Manzanilla when it’s cloudy :c

Second occasion: We were going to Manzanillo to Walmart and I was super excited since *civilization and cityyyyyy* and I was in the middle of eating my lunch, and I’m like “¿A que hora nos vamos?” and my host mother goes “Ahorita”, roughly meaning, “[like] right now”. So here I am trying to scarf down what’s left of my soup and rice, and then I see my host mother and sis just grabbing their plates and sloooooowly sitting down and taking their time eating.

Lesson learned that “ahorita” never really means “right now” and that I need to learn to take the times they mention REALLY lightly or risk choking on my food the next time lol.

Recipe: Sope (Savory Mexican “Pancakes”)

I promised to introduce more Mexican recipes, so here’s another one! Here is a recipe to make sope, which I can best define it as a small savory Mexican pancake made with masa (dough). You can put toppings on each sope, and from my understanding, these are always savory! I visited one of my participants who demonstrated how to make sope and incorporated Moringa in the dish! It was deeeelish 🙂

Sopes with Chicken and Moringa (con Pollo y Moringa)

Ingredients // Ingredientes :

  • to make chicken broth infused with Moringa // caldo de pollo con Moringa
    • a handful of Moringa leaves // hojas de Moringa
    • 2-3 chicken breasts // pechuga de pollo
    • 2 tbsp dried oregano
    • 1 onion // cebolla
    • salt // sal
  • to make masa
    • blended poblano peppers (optional) // chile poblano liquado
    • chicken broth // caldo de pollo
    • flour // masa de harina
  • to season the chicken
    • black pepper // pimiento negro
    • 3 cloves of garlic // ajo
    • a pinch of saffron // azafrán
    • cumin // comino

Steps // Proceso :

  1. Boil water and add the chicken breast, Moringa leaves and let it cook until the chicken is fully cooked. // Hierve agua y pone pechuga y hojas de Moringa.
  2. Add oregano, onion, and salt to taste. // Pone oregano, cebolla, y la sal hasta que le gusta el sabor.

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    Caldo de pollo con Moringa

  3. Take out the chicken breast and shred them. //Saca el pollo y hace trizas.
  4. To make the dough, add the flour and the chicken broth and knead until it’s like dough. // Para hacer masa, añade harina y caldo y mezcla.
  5. Heat a pan and add enough oil to submerge the dough in order to fry it. // Calenta una sartén y pone aceite para sumergir la masa para freír.
  6. Roll the dough into small balls, flatten them and place them into the pan. // Hace bolitas con la masa, aplana las bolitas, y pone en la sartén.

    Sope

    Sopes con Moringa!

  7. Use a blender and blend chicken broth, black pepper, garlic, saffron, and cumin to make a sauce for the chicken. // Mezcla pimiento negro, ajo, azafrán, comino,y el caldo para hacer salsa.
  8. Heat another pan and add the chicken and the sauce. // Calenta una otra sartén y pone pollo y la salsa.

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    Adding the sauce onto the chicken breast

  9. When the sopes are golden brown, take them out and let them drain of extra oil. // Cuando los sopes estan dorados, sacan y secan.
  10. Put the chicken on top of the sope and enjoy! // Pone pollo encima de los sopes.¡Buen provecho!

Living Like a Local: Women vs. Men

men-vs-women-leadersLiving in Mexico has opened my eyes to how different their culture is compared to in America. Our generation has considerably changed the norms surrounding the roles of women and men in the home. In the 20th century, it was commonly accepted that wife played the role of housemaker/housewife to tend to things at home such as cleaning, or cooking, or taking care of the children, while the husband was responsible for working and bringing home the “bread” to the family. Today, more and more women have higher aspirations to succeed and advance in their careers before they settle down. More women are embracing the fact that the era when women “belonged” in the house has passed, and we can aim for CEO and executive positions, The gender pay gap is slowly decreasing, and women are always wanted in the STEM field, often getting paid more than their male counterparts.

As I’m getting to know the community here in Mexico, I realize that they are still very traditional about the male and female roles in the household. My host father explicitly stated that in Mexico, the women take care of the cooking and the cleaning. I’ve witnessed it at home when the males who eat meals would leave their plates on the tables or at the sink for someone else to clean. I can’t tell you how much that makes my eye twitch when I’m very pro gender-equal responsibilities in the house loll. I always try to wash my own dishes while I’m here to lessen the load on whoever is responsible for washing the massive mountain of dishes D: It seems to be the norm at every household I’ve visited, where the daughter or the wife is responsible for preparing the meals, bringing food over to the males first to eat, and then cleaning up afterward. I’m doing my best to keep that open mind since not every culture is what I’ve grown up to know. It’d be interesting to see what changes in let’s say 10-20 years’ time!

Living Like a Local: Staying Cool

It’s pretty much summertime year-round in Agua Caliente Nueva, with the exception of December, apparently, when the locals feel a temporary relief from the scorching sun and the countless insects that buzz around the home. I’ve managed to survive without an air conditioner for a month now, with average temperatures in the high 80s, often reaching 90s!

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I can’t say that I’m enjoying feeling a thin layer of sweat and dust on my body pretty much all the time, including minutes after I take a shower…but I’m pretty used to the heat now. As I type, I’m sitting one foot away from my standing fan while my ceiling fan is running at top speed, and my skin is feeling sticky with the insect repellent I use so liberally day by day. Update guys: the repellent bracelets do NOT work for me!

So how do I stay cool in Agua Caliente? The answer is, I don’t, really. 😦 This town is in a dry tropical region, which experiences very few rains throughout the year (pretty much only during late July through September) unless there’s a hurricane that hits the southwest coast of Mexico.

  • Sitting on the roof of my house–so much more of a breeze!
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Watching the sunset from the roof of my house

  • I’m using two fans whenever I’m in my room and have my windows propped open (thankfully with a mosquitero to keep insects out–but there’s a darn mosquito that’s lurking in the shadows and always taking a meal when I’m not paying attention 😦 )
  • I’m lucky to have running water to be able to shower multiple times a day (who likes cold showers?!) to rinse off the mix of sweat, dirt, dust, sunscreen, and insect repellent on my skin.
  • I cut my hair just below shoulder length prior to Mexico, but even keeping it down is unbearable so I have it tied up all the time.
  • Some parts of Mexico are more conservative, but here I’m able to wear shorts above my knees and tank tops to let my skin breaaaathe in this humid air. I did pack three loose-fitting slacks but although they’re breathable while standing, it sticks to your skin when you’re sitting down (what kind of bogus is that?). I also packed a pair of jeans which has been a lifesaver when I know I’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time, because those pesky mosquitoes can’t suck my blood through the denim, yay!
  • Drink LOOOOTS of water! I bought a 36oz stainless steel insulated bottle for only $10 at Marshalls (did I mention I love Marshalls and they have great deals?! 
    IMG_9112The average recommended water intake for someone of average height (aka not me) is 8 8oz glasses of water per day, and I’m drinking about 72oz or more. It’s totally necessary to drink this much so you don’t faint from the heat or suffer a heat stroke. I’m pretty sensitive to heat as of last year and so I want to avoid headaches caused by excessive heat as much as possible. I even downloaded an app to send reminders throughout the day to drink water, and I can input my water intake as well to see how close I am to reaching my daily goal 🙂

Living Like a Local: A Series of Unfortunate Events

This week marks the 5th week I’m living in Agua Caliente; the longest time I’ve ever been out of the country was 3 weeks. I thought I was doing so well with handling my time here, but as luck would have it, I was wrong and faced a series of unfortunate events.

As some of y’all know, I’m here working on my first practicum through school where I’m making Moringa fresh tea leaf samples for my professors, and also doing my own side project where I’m interviewing locals about their dietary practices at home and whether it’s acceptable and feasible to incorporate Moringa leaves into their diets. After successfully integrating myself into the community, I recruited an adequate number of female participants whom I would interview. This past Saturday, I scheduled a Moringa cooking demonstration, expecting at least 6 people to show, but I only had 3 (one of whom I literally had to walk over to the demo site myself). So that’s one. My host family tried to explain to me that flojera is a thing, where people are essentially lazy and will commit to something but end up not following through -big pet peeve-…

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Quesadillas with Moringa leaves and flowers

Religion was never something I was forced to embrace in my family, but it’s a huge part of the Mexican culture. It seems that the longer you hang out with someone, the more likely the topic of religion comes up, and it’s kind of a huge deal when you say you don’t practice one. I have been asked at least 4-5 times if I believed in God or practiced a religion. I would get responses like “Oh, that’s bad. You need to believe in God” or the best one from a Jehovah’s witness was a whole hour-long lecture about how I need to study the bible in order to be saved. To each their own, you know? It made for very uncomfortable table talk when I’d get preached…

And then there’s the issue of food poisoning. I posted about food safety on my public health blog after my first bout of food poisoning when I arrived, and was doing SO SO well being more careful with my food, until this weekend. We went to Colimilla and ate seafood at a waterfront restaurant (we were taken by boat!). Silly me, thinking that since we’re right by the water, that the seafood would be nice and fresh. When we ordered oysters, not only were they at room temperature, but they tasted fishy… I tried to convince myself it was because they were taken straight from salty seawater, but I think my gut instinct was correct. I suffered my second bout of food poisoning this week and was out of commission for two days and literally felt like the bacteria/viruses were having a party in my stomach. Note to self: don’t eat room-temp oysters –> when in doubt, throw it out 😡

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We took a boat to go to the seafood restaurant in Colimilla

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I think these were what caused my food poisoning 😥

And to put the cherry on top, I am very very averse to bugs and all things creepy and crawly, and I’ve had to endure lots of them while living here. Mosquitoes seem to seek me out wherever I am in the world… BUT, there’s one thing worse than a mosquito when it comes to staying safe: scorpions. I discovered my first one in my room, so now I’m pretty paranoid about shaking out my sheets and my clothes before I wear them ><

If you want a real experience living like a local, this is it. Find a home stay with a host family, and not a luxurious hotel, so that you can experience all the ups and downs of living in a foreign land! Moral of the story: expect plans to fall through and set low expectations, try to avoid talking about religion as much as possible, don’t eat suspicious foods, be careful of bugs 😐

Recipe: Vegetarian Ceviche

Hey everyone 🙂 I learned another recipe from my host family this past week: ceviche de coliflor, otherwise known as vegetarian ceviche. This recipe replaces seafood with cauliflower florets shredded into fine pieces and is great as a meal when the weather is suuuper hot! My host family likes to prepare this because it’s really quick to prepare and because my host brothers are even willing to eat this despite the lack of carne (meat) in the dish haha.

Making ceviche de coliflor3

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • (optional) 2 cucumbers
  • 1-2 limes

Steps:

  1. Chop off the leaves from the cauliflower head and break it apart into smaller than fist-sized florets.
  2. Soak them in salt water to disinfect for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Shave the skin off of the carrots and use a grater to get fine carrot strips.
  4. Repeat Step 3 for cucumbers if you have them.Making ceviche de coliflor2.JPG
  5. Peel the outer layer of the onion and dice into fine pieces.
  6. Dice the tomatoes into fine pieces.
  7. After the cauliflower has been soaked thoroughly, drain the water and grate the florets. You can also grate the stalks or save them for cooking something else (avoid food waste)!
  8. Mix all of the vegetables together and squeeze the lime juice into the mix and add pinches of salt to taste.

Ceviche de coliflor

 

Health Education in Agua Caliente Nueva

My love for public health doesn’t stop just because I’m not in a classroom in Baltimore! I attended a health education workshop this month that talked about the importance of breastfeeding for babies and infants, and also about the importance of hand-washing with soap and water! If you’re expecting or have a newborn or infant, this is the post for you 🙂

Source: Health Education in Agua Caliente Nueva

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