While in Mexico I have learned many things, some of them nice and some of them not so nice. Most of what I have “learned” just makes me chuckle, like the time my mother-in-law told me I would get anemia if I didn’t eat an egg for breakfast. My contribution this month is a stream-of-consciousness list of what I have learned while here in Mexico. I would love to hear from you about some of your own “learning” experiences.
1) Eating watermelon before you go to bed will give you a serious case of indigestion. This fruit contains a ton of water, and water is hard to digest. So make sure you only eat watermelon in the morning and never before swimming.
2) Your face will freeze if it is warm inside and you go outside to a freezing 45 degree F. Monterrey winter’s day without bundling up every part of your body from head to toe. Why is it that my face never froze when I was in Boston? I wonder, can my face freeze if I stick it too far into the fridge?
3) Having a dog in your house is unclean, unhygienic, disgusting, and it might kill you. Dogs should never be within a 20 mile radius of babies because they might infect the baby with some extremely dangerous disease. You should wear gloves when you bathe a dog because, again, you could die.
4) Dogs do not need to eat dog food. Any old table scraps will do. After all, it’s only a dog.
5) Dogs do not need to be walked, petted, talked to, soothed, or even acknowledged. They exist only to guard the mysterious treasures in people´s garages.
6) Do not give money to the men in the derelict horse-drawn carriages who pass through your neighborhood looking to collect garbage. They simply collect the trash and then burn it nearby. In my case, for example, I often have to close my windows in the middle of the night because there are clandestine garbage-burners outside my window! I wonder what kind of health and environmental effects that has.
7) Why save money when you can spend everything you have? You can always depend on friends and family to bail you out of any situation.
8) If someone makes you angry, you can always get your buddies together and beat the !#$% out of the offender.
9) Why move out after you graduate from college or become responsible for yourself when your parents can take care of you until you are 40?
10) School is for socializing and class is for putting on your makeup.
11) Books are great for decorating a shelf in the living room. They look really elegant. Just don’t ask me any questions about them because I don’t know what they are about.
12) Having bars on your windows are a great way to keep burglars out. It’s also a really effective way of trapping you inside.
13) Appearances of normality must be kept at all costs. No one must know if your family is scandalous. No one must know if you made a mistake. Pregnancies outside of marriage must be covered up by an immediate wedding. Divorces are unheard of because all Mexican families are as happy as can be.
14) Americans are obnoxious, rich, immoral people who give no importance whatsoever to family. Oh, and everyone there gets divorced because of infidelity. EVERYONE.
15) If you want to earn a decent wage in Mexico you have manifold options: become the CEO of Televisa; turn yourself into the next Luis Miguel; sell drugs; become a member of the congress and rob the country blind; or start a small business that is lucky enough to take off. Do not become a teacher. And definitely do not become a clandestine garbage burner.
16) If you want to keep your car in good shape, take it in for weekly tune-ups and oil changes. Or better yet, keep it off the road all together.
17) Potholes the size of small cities are only minor obstacles. Besides, slaloming down the street to avoid potholes keeps you on your toes.
18) If your car has foreign license plates and a Transito (traffic cop) signals for you to pull over, pretend you didn´t see him and keep driving. Just get the hell out of there.
19) Tip the garbage man. Tip the bagger at the grocery store.
20) When it rains in Monterrey, roads turn into slip´n´slides, and flash flooding is not unheard of. If inside the hood of your car gets wet and you are stuck in a river of sludge, find someone with a truck to push your car out of the water. Then wait 2 hours for your car to dry out. It will probably turn on now. However, be warned that the water might have washed rocks into where the windows go up and down. Your horn might have gotten wet and might not work anymore. The interior of your car could smell like swamp from having had to sit in it while you were drenched to the bone with that sludge water. And, you may never want to drive in the rain again.
21) You don´t need an invitation to drop in on a good friend or family member.
22) Garages can be used for something good other than storing junk: parties!
23) Carne asada (steak on the grill) is one of life’s finest pleasures, especially when you are accompanied by family and friends.
24) Chile can be combined with just about everything on earth, except maybe diary products. Spicy tamarind candies look like “poo on a stick” according to my 23 year old brother…
25) Sugary chili powder can be sprinkled on fruits like melon, papaya, mango, oranges, or pineapple (to name just a few possibilities). A saltier, more powdery chili powder can be added to corn on the cob along with mayonnaise, cream, and cheese to form a disgusting sounding, but delicious tasting snack.
26) Hair dyes and chemicals are stronger here. My hair was fried for more than a month after putting some highlights in my dirty-blonde hair.
27) Mexicans are fiercely loyal to their country, and while there are many people who emigrate, most would never even consider leaving Mexico for more than a short vacation.
28) Norteño music puts the tuba to use like no one else but the Germans can.
29) The music of Vicente Fernandez, Pedro Infante, and Juan Gabriel bridges generations of Mexicans. Their popularity in Mexico is akin to finding Frank Sinatra music on the stereo at a high school party.
30) You can find Mariachi bands on call at just about any hour of the night on weekends in the center of Monterrey. You never know when you might have use for one.
31) You do not eat the leaf, corn husk, or any other wrapping found holding your tamales together.
32) Mexican toll highways are a dream. The volume of traffic is fairly low there are an astoundingly low number of potholes, or tunnels to China in the roads.
33) The best way to drink a beer is as a michelada, which is beer mixed with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, chile, and salt.
34) It´s not impolite in Mexico to call someone and then demand to know who answered the phone on the other side when they pick up. I mean, after all, maybe you don´t want to say hello to just anyone.
35) Mexicans are ants-in-your-pants dancers – they are full of action and never seem to tire!
36) Beans, Beans truly are the magical fruit…
37) You mustn’t eat something cold when you are sick or your throat hurts. A cold Coke or an ice cream can make you even sicker.
38) You shouldn’t open your bedroom window-even a crack-if you are sick. The fresh air could kill you.
39) Thank God for air conditioners.
40) El amor entra por la panza… Love enters through a person’s stomach. I don’t really think it’s the whole Latin lover thing that attracts gringas to Mexican men – I think it’s the food that they know how to prepare!!