Halfway Done!

 

On Monday of this past week, we hit our nine-month mark, which means our mission is halfway done! My sister asked how we celebrated. Well, we spent the day in the office and then went to get groceries—just a normal day. That evening the Teca Once missionaries got together for crepes, but that was in honor of the Cluffs who go home in a couple of weeks. In some ways it seems like nine months have flown by. In other ways, nine more months seems like a long time.

Tuesday afternoon we walked to City Market, which is probably the nicest grocery store chain in Mexico City. (The mere fact that its name is in English shows who they are targeting.) It’s a bit pricey, so we don’t go there regularly, but it does carry some brands that are hard to find other places. The walk there took us through a park we’ve been to before, but during the winter. Now with the rain we get almost every evening, it has greened up. The interesting thing I saw there, and which I saw last week in Chapuletpec Park, is that all the areas I expected to be grassy when it started raining are pretty much just patches of weeds. Some spots do have grass mixed in with the weeds, and I thought if they’d spray them with some 2, 4-D the grass might have a fighting chance to become a lawn. However, we hardly ever see lawns here. We’ve occasionally seen patches of grass as we’ve peeked inside the gates of residences, but in general, they don’t have large lawns. In their parks, they have lots of wide paths, but between the paths they have planting beds rather than lawns like we’d have in the U.S. In the areas where they haven’t got the planting beds established, they have weeds. Also on the way to City Market we walked through a very nice neighborhood where there are big old Spanish mansions and several embassies. There are a lot of restaurants around City Market, and as we got close, cars were parked along both sides of the streets. Many of them had men standing by them, and we figured out they were bodyguards. I didn’t take a picture of them because I thought if they required high enough security to have bodyguards, they might be a little sensitive about having photos taken.

Saturday, we went with the Davises and Pat Wright to the Museo de Arte Popular, which is a museum of the artisan crafts from all over Mexico. Crafts made from seed beads are popular here, and right in the entry to the museum was a VW Beetle completely covered in designs made from those tiny beads. The museum also contained a lot of Alebrijes, which are fantastical creatures, usually with parts from more than one animal or dragons. The tradition of Alebrijes comes from a Mexican artist in the 1930s, who had a dream in which he was in a forest surrounded by mystical animals who said “Alebrije.” He began creating brightly colored and intricately painted Alebrijes in his art, and they caught on. They’ve now taken on kind of a “spirit animal” mystique. Originally they were made of paper mâché, and many still are, but the nicer ones are now carved from wood and painted. The museum also included many renditions of “The Tree of Life.” These usually have religious themes, especially of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, but sometimes they depict the culture of an area. They are made from all kinds of materials. Some are brightly colored, and some are monotone. The one thing they all have in common is that they are so intricate and detailed that they are like looking at the sculptural version of “Where’s Waldo.” Of course, the museum also included a lot of skeletons in the artwork. There are skeletons everywhere in Mexico, but they aren’t meant to be scary. I liked how a plaque in the museum explained it, so I took a photo of it so I could explain it exactly the same way. It said, “Mexican popular art addresses the topic of death as complementary to life. The origin of this theme lies with pre-Hispanic cultures, for which death meant evolution toward the eternal. For this reason, scenes of life and death are strangely mixed in the sculpture, architecture, and pottery of ancient Mexico, insinuating that it is necessary to die in order to be reborn stronger.” Some of the photos I took in the museum were through glass, so there is a little glare.

         
A detail off one of the car doors. This is all done in seed beads.
     
One gallery in the museum was dedicated to "miniatures." This tea set was made from little bird eggs, which were less than an inch l ong. In the background you can see a walnut shell which has a scene carved inside it.
     
This made me laugh because even though it was less than a foot tall, it was so detailed and accurate. Look at the trash in the garbabe can, the pieces of trash scattered around on the ground, and the white buckets and bowls on the shelf at the side.
     
This alebrije is so large it had to be on a trailer
       
Look at the intricate pattern on this alebrije. It is carved from wood and handpainted.

     
To get a perspective of how massive this headdress is, notice the hawk head right in the center.

     
This is a Tree of Life display and some of the individual ones are following.

     

     

     
This tree portrays the volvadores I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. There is the red pole up the center, and if you look closely, you can see a man standing on top of it playing a flute and two of the volvdores hanging upside down from it.

     

I loved this display of traditional dress from all around Mexico
      
After looking at this display, David Davis said he felt cheated because he just bought a belt and it didn't have any place on it to put bullets.
     
Ron didn't take as long to go through each gallery as I did, so I kept finding him like this.
    
I thought this was beautiful...
         

...and this was funny!
    
Many of the displays contained intricately embroidered pieces like the circular one shown here. 
     

   


After we were done at the museum, Ron saw on his phone that there was an El Moro churro shop a few blocks away, and we decided to go there. As we walked, we came upon Mexico City’s Chinatown. It’s only about a block or two long. In fact, the Uber driver who took us home at the end of the day, laughingly told us that they say it is the smallest Chinatown in the world. Even though it was small, it was brightly decorated and had a Chinatown feeling—well, a Chinatown feeling mixed with a Mexican vibe. We stopped at a stand to try some of the steamed dumplings, and then decided we were hungry and needed real food rather than just churros. So we ate at a Chinese restaurant. We sat at a table out in front of the restaurant and were right in the middle of the hustle and noise of the crowd. A man with a guitar started playing and singing in front of the restaurant, competing with the music that was blasting from a nearby store. He sang Beatles songs, some of them in English, but it sounded like he had learned the lyrics phonetically rather than actually understanding them. He came over and spoke with us briefly as he was collecting tips, and he did speak a little English, but I don’t think he spoke enough to really know what he was singing. After dinner we were so full we decided churros would have to wait for another time. Still, it was a really fun day.

     

Steamed dumplings in a variety of flavors
     
Pat and Pauline sitting at our table
     
I thought this was an interesting juxtaposition of the Mexican architecture and the Chinese decor.
     
The man in the green shirt was the singer who entertained us.
     


Hitting our halfway mark, I thought maybe we’ve already seen all the stuff there is to see in Mexico City, but Saturday showed me I was wrong. We didn’t even know there was a Chinatown in Mexico City, and we literally just stumbled upon it. It will be fun to see what else we stumble upon in the second half of our time here.

 

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