Today was my first day of Spanish classes. The school is right in the center of town, within walking distance of the historic section. I'm living with a woman named Titi, her daughter Ani and her brother Luis, in a two-story house outside the city center.
I have my own set of keys. I take the bus 20 minutes to school. My "mother" as I've been calling my Mexican host (as opposed to "the woman I'm staying with") is a lovely woman who cooks me all my meals.
I told her today I wasn't likely to come home for lunch, because there is a language lab here and things to see in the city. So she packed me a sandwich with an apple and cookies!
She also told me to call her when I arrived at school. She had taken me on the bus on Sunday to show me the way to school and back but she wasn't sure I'd remember where to get off.
And because it's still dark here at 7 am, and I had to go to school an hour earlier the first day, she drove me the three blocks to the bus stop. A little more than 24 hours ago, I didn't know this woman.
Now she's treating me like she treats her own daughter. She worries about me. She cooks for me. Cleans my room. It's very sweet.
Well, I got caught up in the registration process at school and forgot to call Titi right away. So she called the school to make sure I was safe!
We spoke by phone, in Spanish, which is much harder than in person when I can get clues from body language and facial expressions. But she knew I was fine because she reached me.
Before coming to Mexico, friends warned me not to drink the water (everyone knows that about Mexico!) or eat street food (sad, but probably wise). So what's the first dinner I eat? Street food. It was what was on offer from Titi.
It was clear she preferred to take out than cook dinner. She had cooked a big lunch, which is the main meal here. So she bought me lonche de piernas. A chicken sandwich with tomato slices (washed in the sink??) a cream spread (was it refrigerated??) and salsa (which is on everything - but it's more liquid than we're used to in the U.S) from a street vendor.
I ate half. Then I ate the other half for breakfast. (She seemed to think that was the thing to do so I did it, rather than ask her to cook me something else.) It's a funny thing when you have a host. You don't want to insult her.
I also realize that I completely trust Titi's judgment. First of all, even SHE doesn't drink from the sink. She has bottled water (which enabled me to drink the watermelon juice she made with dinner. Yum).
And she doesn't eat street food either - except if she knows the vendor. And this vendor is a regular outside her church (six masses on Sundays!) who she knows is "clean."
So far, I feel fine and it's been long enough that the food would have struck home by now. IF you know what I mean.
Titi and I went food shopping on Sunday. One of my favorite things to do in foreign countries, as I said before.
We bought tamarind sauce for me to try on apples, and panela - a kind of soft, mild white cheese she wanted me to taste. I ate it with tortillas. I like it.
It was funny, while shopping, to see a box of Philadelphia cream cheese with chipotles! We didn't buy that. But it sounds good to me.
While we were driving around, Titi offered me her opinion about a massive sculpture of yellow arches in the middle of the city that was expensive, is enormous and isn't even finished. She and most "tapatios," as people from Guadalajara are called, hate it. And think it's a waste of money.
An insider's view. I love it! And when we were in the city center on Sunday, we walked all around while she pointed out the various sites. Then we listened to an orchestra playing, of all things, a medley of Beatles tunes.
This afternoon, I went to conversation class where Mexicans and English speakers mix and switch off speaking for 10 minutes in English and 10 minutes in Spanish. Optional. Regular classes end at 1 pm. Conversation is from 3 pm to 4 pm.
I spent the hour talking to two guys - Jose and Axel. Again, I am not the least bit alone. Now it's time to stop dawdling and get back to my homework and my language lab. I only have four days of lessons.
But now I'm wondering what Titi is making us all for dinner...
Addendum to this post, Monday October 6. Recipe for this morning's breakfast of chilaquiles, a "poor man's" breakfast with tortillas, salsa and cheese. ¡Delicioso!
Photos: Ellen Perlman
1. My Mexican family. Titi, Ani and Ani's boyfriend Juan Pablo