Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Preparations

Everything’s almost ready for Christmas Eve, the time most Mexican families celebrate Christmas. I’ve prepared a Red Pepper Soup, which tastes fantastic, and we’ve almost wrapped all the presents. I’m also completely exhausted, since we went for a few Christmas drinks with some friends last night and didn’t get home until the wee hours.

Still, it only happens once a year, so I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a speedy recovery. May your celebrations be happy ones!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How (not) to Organise a Party in Mexico

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were chatting with some friends after a particularly good concert, and I suggested throwing a Christmas party for all our friends. ‘Oh no!’ she said. ‘You're going to lumber me with all the organising!’ I told her not to worry, and that it would be easy.

Well, I didn't do anything for the first couple of weeks, but eventually got around to sending an invitation to a load of people in my e-mail contacts. Nothing happened. Then I got a reply from someone cancelling. Meanwhile, my girlfriend, accustomed to my inefficiency, had already begun talking it up with her friends at work.

As I was leaving for work one morning, I noticed that someone had put up a notice about our building’s Christmas party, along with a list of things to bring. It was the same evening as ours; so much for us being neighbourly this year. A couple of days later, I called the office and found out that the school Christmas breakfast was going to be the day after the party; another year without seeing my colleagues.

Yesterday, I asked a friend who was coming to the party what music he’d like to hear at the party. ‘Don't worry,’ he said. ‘Just make sure there’s a hook-up for my iPod.’ I had to tell him that the idea of a party is talk to people, not end up hunched over the stereo. Maybe I’ll give them half an hour for an iPod contest, but I invite my friends to talk to them, not peer at their music collections over their shoulders.

So, we’re nearly there, and it seems that plenty of people (invited mainly by my girlfriend) are going to show up. I just have to figure out how to make the punch and burn a CD of MP3s. I was right; it wasn’t that hard at all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mobile Madness

Seeing as it’s coming up to Christmas, I’ve decided to buy myself a new phone. I shop around at the Plaza de la Tecnología and think I’ve found myself a real bargain at about five hundred pesos less than in Sanborn’s. If only it were true. I go back to the shop to ask if they give invoices, only to discover that the bargain price I was offered was for another phone, and that it costs the same here as everywhere else. I tell the shopkeeper I’ll take it anyway.

‘Excellent,’ he says. ‘Follow me.’ He pops out from under the counter and leads me to the shop opposite. ‘They'll attend to you here.’ With that, he goes back to his shop and leaves me in the care of a gawky kid who’s probably his son. I have a bad feeling about this, but am now committed to buying the thing. Slowly, laboriously, the kid begins to write out a sales receipt. ‘You are going to give me an invoice, aren't you?’ I say. He looks up with panic on his face and mumbles something which could be a yes.

The slow, handwritten pace of the youth continues, and I try not to think about how much quicker this could have been at Sanborn’s. At one point, he asks me how much they’re charging me for the phone, but sees my incredulous stare and shouts across the aisle to ask his dad instead. I can’t even hear the answer, but the kid mumbles to himself and writes down something that sounds like the right price.

When it finally comes to signing the purchase slip, I start checking the details. The kid taps the dotted line with an impatient finger. ‘You sign here,’ he says, as if I’m some kind of moron. ‘Thanks,’ I say, as sarcastically as possible, but he’s already pulling the phone out of its box to instruct this idiot customer on how to switch it on.

As his uncoordinated thumbs unsuccessfully mash down on the buttons, I observe that maybe the phone hasn’t been charged up yet. He ignores the remark, muttering that different phones sometimes use different buttons. Suddenly, as if the idea has just fallen on him from a great height, he pulls the charger out and plugs the phone in. ‘It might not have been charged up yet,’ he explains.

He charges the phone for about ten seconds, dials a number to check the credit on the phone and hands it to me. I hear: ‘...will expire on February the fifth, two thousand...’ before the phone dies. ‘Perfect,’ I say. By now, I just want to leave. The kid pulls out the forms for the invoice and painstakingly starts to fill them in. If nothing else, I will have given this teenager a chance to practise his penmanship. I’m sure he hasn’t considered this.

At last, the phone is mine and I’ve only lost half an hour of my life. I thank the kid and he shrugs off into the corner of the shop; I expect he’s got blisters. Now I just have to wait until Christmas before I can use the thing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A New President

So now we have a new president. This is the second presidential ceremony I’ve seen here, as their terms last six years in Mexico. There was a show of resistance by the opposition, but Calderón took the presidency by sneaking in through the back door. His face was unreadable as he sang the national anthem, and he appears to be the greyest of politicians.

As I type these words, I hear there is the possibility of a confrontation between a march lead by López Obrador (the self-styled legitimate president of Mexico) and the Federal Preventive Police who are guarding a celebration ceremony at the National Auditorium. I didn’t see much to celebrate in the way Calderón came into the presidency, but I suppose he’s still trying to convince himself that he’s earned it.

Now it begins. Mexican society has been highly polarized since the elections, with a negative campaign on the part of Calderón and interference on the part of ex-president Fox in the electoral process. The results of the election were so close that Calderón’s legitimacy is highly compromised and many people suspect him of fraud. What happens from now on is up to him. Who knows if he’s up to the challenge?