Services and Help with Oneil’s Dogs

14914789_10157585739390548_694594932_n.jpgAs we all try to grapple with the loss of our dear friend Oneil McGean, his family has asked for our help again.

You may know that Oneil had two gorgeous small dogs—Guinness, a dachshund, and Brandy, a small mixed breed—that he doted on. They are currently in Mazatlán with a family that is taking good care of them. However, Oneil’s brother, Chris, who lives in Phoenix, would like the dogs with him.

Are any of you driving north anytime soon and would be willing to take the dogs up with you? Chris is offering to cover your expenses and he can drive pretty much anywhere on the US side of the border to pick them up. This is a great way to help a friend, a fellow expat, or even just get your gas and tolls paid for! If you are willing to help, please contact me or Oneil’s brother Donnie. The dogs’ paperwork will be taken care of so all you need to do is transport the dogs, Donnie assures me.

I’d also like to share that the family will hold a Celebration of Life Memorial Mass on December 3, 2016 at 11am at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church, 3630 Quesada St., NW, Washington DC. There will be a wake immediately after the mass at The Barking Dog, 4723 Elm St., Bethesda, Md.

Here in Mazatlán, Tracey Grantham and Nan Rob are planning a memorial for Oneil on the same day as the one in DC, Saturday December 3rd. They don’t yet have details, but will soon. Stay tuned.

Rest in peace, Descansa en paz, mi amigo querido. We miss you terribly.

Our Beloved Malecón de Mazatlán

We all love the malecón, Mazatlán’s oceanside promenade. While Tourism sometimes says our malecón is 21 km long, that length would have to include the Zona Dorada as well, which is clearly not malecón. But from Valentino’s to Pedro Infante is 8-1/2 km. If we add in Paseo del Centenario and the real, original malecón in Olas Altas, our annual Carnavál party zone, it’s a few kilometers longer yet. The world’s longest uninterrupted oceanside path is said to be the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver.

Here in Mazatlán you can ride a bike, rollerblade, jog or walk amidst incredible views. When the tide is high you can even get refreshingly splashed. In the fall months you can often witness sea turtles coming into the beach to lay their eggs. You can watch parades, marathons, protests, and incredible fireworks along the malecón of Mazatlán.

Most of us realize how much our malecón has changed over the years: lengthening it, widening it, various concrete designs and paint jobs, different types and colors of benches, planters, lighting, and, most recently, the palmeras. Remember when we had to avoid dog excrement all the time? Fortunately that custom has mostly died out, and by and large pet owners are fairly responsible when using the malecón to walk their pets.

I’ve written previously about how the culture of the malecón has changed. Most significantly to me is how in the past ten years it’s become the world’s largest gymnasium, at the same time that Mazatlán has become a pulsating center of athleticism. Ocean-fed pools are a rarity worldwide, and our own malecón is home to the beautiful Carpa Olivera that’s both historic and refurbished, as well as the Swimming Club. In addition to the athletes, the mesmerizing views, and sunsets unlike no other, our malecón also houses a grand collection of statues and monuments.

malecon-usersOne of the newest efforts on the malecón are the signs to have walkers and runners use the side of the malecón closest to the ocean, and bicyclists, skateboarders and roller blades use the side closest to the traffic. With 14,000 people using the malecón on a daily basis, according to city figures, this can’t always happen, but already I’ve noticed it’s made a significant difference.

All you snowbirds, welcome back! Those who have survived the heat and humidity, rain and wind of this summer, we’re almost ready for cooler weather! I look forward to seeing you on the malecón! Sunrise, sunset, daytime and night views there are gorgeous. What better place to enjoy people watching and the beauty of our city, and get some exercise?

News That Made My Day!

IMG_2472It’s been such a busy summer for us, with over twenty different beds in the past two months. We have absolutely loved seeing great friends and family, and working hard amidst the fun, but we are sooooo ready to be home, and so very tired! Loads and loads of work to do, and miles between us and home…

Then, the mail comes today and, hey, it totally makes my whole week!

You remember a year ago, when O’Neil McGean at Café Playa Sur hosted that wonderful USA Independence Day party where we got to bash not just one but TWO Donald Trump piñatas? Well, I posted a clip of the festivities to the VidaMaz YouTube channel.

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Back at the end of April I received a message from a guy named Mike Cram, who asked my permission to use part of that YouTube clip on the Trump Bashing. Evidently he is involved in a project called “Trump Growing Nose Watch.” Having no idea what that meant, I said, “Sure, you are welcome to use the clip. Just preserve our © and a link back to our site.” I didn’t think much more about it.

Low and behold, on my birthday, August 6, Mike emailed me the promotional clip that incorporated my video footage. It highlighted our son. And oh what a hoot it gave Greg and me! Wonderful birthday gift!

Today I received an even better gift: one of the watches! On the left, normal Trump. On the right, Pinocchio Trump!

Thank you, Mike! It is truly funny. Thank you, Oneil, for hosting this event. I’ll let you borrow my watch anytime, buddy. 😉

 

Goin’ for the Gold!

IMG_1305©On a cloudy Thursday this past week our son was blessed to be standing on “America’s front porch” at the nation’s Capitol, facing the Washington Monument, looking over the Mall and the reflecting pool, shaking hands and talking economics and city layout with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan’s sharp intellect was immediately apparent, as was his down-to-earth sincerity and interest in people.

Ours was not a political visit, but a meeting to celebrate Daniel receiving the bipartisan Congressional Award Gold Medal, the highest youth award bestowed by our government. Danny had logged nearly 700 hours of community service, over 500 hours of personal development, 250 hours of physical fitness, and participated in or led eight expeditions, to earn the award. He had previously received the Bronze and Silver medals; the Gold are awarded in a full day of ceremonies in DC.

The immigrant comes home. My young TCK: Third Culture Kid, our global nomad. We moved our little white boy to Mexico after he graduated from primary school, so that he would know what it feels like to be an immigrant, a minority. It was important to us as parents that he gain a second language and culture, a way of looking at the world that saw beyond state lines. It has not been an easy journey; being an immigrant and a minority rarely is. It’s hard to have your voice not heard; it’s discouraging to be seen as weird, to be misunderstood. It’s frustrating to be labeled, to be grouped, rather than to be seen as an individual. Yet such experiences can cultivate an empathy and recognition of perspective that staying home rarely can. All life paths have their advantages; this was ours. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The Speaker had just finished a meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy when he met with us, and left us to record an interview with 60 Minutes. How cool is that? We were privileged to visit his private office—with that view I’m not sure I could get any work done at all, and the office’s gorgeous private conference room with its hand painted gold filigree ceiling and paintings of national parks and Wisconsin territorial maps, on loan from the National Gallery.

Sadly in such private spaces we weren’t allowed to take photos, but I assure you that amidst the history, the ornately carved furniture, antique tiled floors, wood paneling and plush carpets, there was plenty of Packer and cheesehead memorabilia. My personal fave was the wooden mallard decoy painted in Packer green and yellow signed by Brett Favre. Wisconsin has made its presence known on the Hill!

First thing that morning before we met the Speaker, we were honored to spend an hour or so with Senator Tammy Baldwin, also from Wisconsin. Her office also proudly repped this fair state: baskets full of dried cranberries, beef jerky, Cheetos, potato chips, kringle next to the coffee pot… Some day I’m going back to the House and Senate offices on a snack food tour! Guess I’d better lose some weight first.

Senator Baldwin had had a late night, because she had actively participated in the 18-hour filibuster on the Senate floor to help ensure that those on the terrorist watch list are banned from buying guns. I am proud to be a cheese head represented by this obviously committed, talented and passionate public servant, who has done so much to help our country realize its dream of inclusivity, first in the House and now in the Senate. She kindly accepted a copy of Cultural Detective LGBT, and assured me she’d give it a read and some feedback.

After these two very fortunate meetings, in the Senate and the Capitol, we went over to the House, to the Cannon Caucus Room, for an afternoon awards ceremony. We were so grateful to our friend Ross, who joined us at the ceremony, and hosted us with his wife, Meredith, at their home this weekend, too. It makes all the difference to have a cheering section, right? This was yet another gorgeous room, with ornately decorated walls and ceilings. The master of ceremonies was a reporter from ABC, and we heard from the President of the Congressional Award Foundation, Paxton Baker, one of the owners of the Washington Nationals. The foundation is privately funded. Although it’s a governmental award, issued according to a law passed in 1979, we were told that no government money goes to support this youth award.

As both the House and the Senate were in session, members of Congress had to come and go to present the awards to their constituents. It was quite a delight to feel the energy of being part of the important voting going on this week on the Hill.

This year 325 young Americans received the Gold Medal—the most ever. I was so happy to witness the diversity of the recipients. The sociologist in me wants to calculate the ethnic/racial demographics of the recipients, but I’d have only their names to go on—not exactly accurate or helpful data. Judging by the skin colors on stage, and the MC’s difficulty pronouncing the names, our diversity is definitely a strength for our future!

Fortunately at this point we got a bit of a break, and were able to head over to the National Arboretum to put our feet up in the shade and listen to some music. We had a major recognition dinner ahead of us in the Reagan Building and International Trade Center, yet another very impressive piece of architecture, this one modern. Over 1000 people attended the banquet so, honestly, we expected rubber chicken. We also feared there would be no alcohol, it being a youth recognition event. We were gratefully wrong on both counts.

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The meal was unbelievably good! I guess in DC the chefs know how to feed large crowds and still impress! We were received with passed appetizers and an open bar. We began dinner with a delicious baby spinach salad, followed by perfectly cooked short ribs and prawns over mashed potatoes with green beans, and finished with fresh raspberry topped chocolate torte. All this accompanied by free flowing red and white wine and beer. We sat with the families of two other awardees, one from California and one from Ohio; it made for great dinner conversation.

On the program for the evening were Cal Ripken, Jr., Wonder Woman herself, Linda Carter, and the hit of the evening, América Ferrera. Here enters our embarrassing moment. They introduce our beloved América, and the three of us stand, giving her a standing ovation. However, no one else does. There are over a thousand other people in that room, and no one stands? Do they not know how awesome this woman is? What a terrific activist she is, for very important causes? Are we this out of sync, living in Mexico? We stayed standing and clapping, feeling the eyes piercing our backs and sides. Today, the day Danny receives the Gold Medal, is the day eight years ago we became immigrants. This is an important day for us, in more ways than one.

América gave an incredible speech. I pray the Congressional Award people will make a recording available. It was so moving that a few minutes later, nearly everyone in that ballroom stood to give her a standing ovation. There was hooting, hollering and whistling. Who’s vindicated now, huh? I really, really wanted a photo with her, but the handlers hustled all the VIPs away immediately after the ceremony. Bless you for being you, América!

Man oh man oh man! We all went to bed that night feeling like we’d each just had the best day of our lives. What an incredible, unbelievable day. Yes, that’s repetitive, but it was a superlative kind of day. And then we woke up on Friday to go back up to the Speaker’s office for a private tour of the Capitol! The two-hour tour for just the three of us took us into the ceremonial office, where there’s an original Senate desk, where the President waits before he gives the State of the Union, and where heads of State wait before they address Congress. We were told that about 15,000 people tour the Capitol on an average June day, and maybe 5 enter that room. We were three of them. 😉 I’ll take that luck. Again, no photos.

We got to walk on the floor of the House, sit in the chairs, push the vote buttons, and even stand at the speaker’s podium. “My fellow Americans,” I proclaimed. OMG, it was so very awesome! Again, no photos. But we have memories!! We toured all the rooms, the rotunda is still being restored, and thanks to Greg’s curiosity we even got a tour of some of the over 30 miles of tunnels connecting the buildings, many of which date back to the Revolutionary period. Trivia? Did you know the Capitol still has furniture makers on staff?

Today is Saturday. We’re sleeping in. Recovering from the hyper-energy of this fairy tale. We had originally hoped to meet with President Obama during our trip. He, of course, was in Orlando on Thursday, honoring the victims and consoling those affected by the horrific mass shooting.

Danny, thank you for working so hard so that your Mom and Dad could enjoy such an incredible experience on your coattails. I know that’s not why you did it, but it was a nice side benefit. It sure was fun. We are very proud of your discipline, perseverance, and hard work. Keep it up, remember who you are, values and ethics first. Be proud of you, in all your uniqueness and weirdness, for there is no one else on this earth with your set of talents and perspective—take them confidently and joyfully into the world.

Speaker Ryan and office staff, Senator Baldwin and staff, thank you for hosting us; we are so grateful for the opportunity. Congressional Award Board and staff, thank you. I cannot imagine the hours of work that go into managing a program of this magnitude, and pulling off an event of this size and caliber. Job extremely well done! It was amazing!

Family and friends, this award is for YOU, too. You helped raise and form Daniel. As the Africans say, “It takes a village,” and Danny is blessed to have grown up with you, in an incredibly love- and talent-filled global village. I have tears in my eyes thinking of the myriad ways you have either gone out of your way to help him, or unknowingly influenced him through your day-to-day modeling of how to be in this world. There are way too many people to mention, but directly leading to this Congressional Award I would like to mention a few.

  • Glen Jonson and Gary Kaufman of Troop 381 in Leawood, KS, who helped guide Danny through his first years of Scouting. You guys taught Danny the value of hard work and honesty, of not just signing off on something when you haven’t earned it. Thank you.
  • Patricia Tirado, who tutored Danny in Spanish and his academic subjects when we first arrived in Mexico. He, and we, couldn’t have done it without you or Gemma Tornero, who tutored him before we arrived!
  • Brian Samore, a close family friend and high school principal, who acted as Danny’s official advisor, helping guide and motivate Danny throughout the path to gold.
  • Jefe Carlos, Jefa Jessica, Jefa Graciela, all the wonderful leaders and fellow Scouts of Grupo 4 Conforti in Mazatlán. You helped Danny rekindle his love of Scouting, and to cultivate that love of the outdoors and camping. Bless you for your friendship!
  • Terry Meyers of the Lone Scouting organization, and all of those who helped Danny on the road to Eagle. Eagle is a significant achievement with a troop, but as a Lone Scout, in a land where no one understands what you’re trying to do, it was unbelievably challenging. There were so many times we all wanted to give up. Luis Ramirez, thank you for celebrating that milestone as US consular officer, to help show our local friends that it was, indeed, something to commemorate.
  • People to People International, thank you for the double scholarships to the Global Youth Forum, without which there is no way Danny could have attended from overseas. You provided him invaluable experiences and friendships.
  • Teachers, students and staff of Instituto Cultural del Occidente. Thank you so much for the guidance, the friendship, and the going above and beyond to help with college applications and recommendations in a foreign system. We so appreciate your loving on our son.
  • The Congressional Award staff. You rejected his Gold Expedition application not just once, but twice. You most definitely helped Danny learn perseverance and hard work. The first time, he led a Scout expedition across Mexico, renting a bus, planning the itinerary, coordinating young to old. The staff ruled that it didn’t show enough independent leadership, and yet, he led the whole trip. It’s a cultural difference between US and Mexican scouting, we get it. In the end, Daniel sold his car and took a much-anticipated solo trip to Argentina, living on US$700 for three weeks. Don’t ask me how, but he came home with money in his pocket. That application proved the ticket. Thank you for your guidance on the record keeping, and your help with the Congressional office visits. You are doing much good with our young people.
  • Speaker Ryan’s staff, for making the meeting happen, for all the behind-the-scenes stories and trivia, and for that most excellent tour! You rock and it is so appreciated! Also thank you to Senator Baldwin’s office!
  • All of you who love him, and us—family, friends, colleagues. You bring joy and meaning to our lives.

God bless you and keep you, most sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. As I read yesterday in the bagel shop recommended by Maureen, from Speaker Ryan’s office, “May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past” (Irish blessing).

Addendum on Sunday, June 26: The awardees are entered into the Congressional Record! So cool. Danny’s name is on the bottom of the first page—and, amazingly, it is spelled correctly!

 

 

Bridging Cultures—Those Within Me

P1030588Readers of this blog may know that I spent quite a few formative years in Japan, living there most of the time from seventeen to 32 years of age. It is one of three countries I consider “home:” USA, Japan, and Mexico. Wherever I am, I miss the other two dearly.

So what’s a global nomad to do? Share, of course. With those I love.

I am blessed here, after eight years full-time, with a couple of groups of incredibly talented, intelligent, loving and fun-loving girlfriends. I thank God for them every day; they are truly amazing. It took me a long while to find them, these soul sisters. They are artists, cooks, business women, housewives, teachers.

I wanted to cook them some authentic Japanese food, share with them a taste of my other self. It’s really hard to find some of the ingredients here in Mazatlán, so when Greg and I went to Tucson over MotoWeek I bought some of the ingredients I’d need—dried seaweed, dried bonito flakes, renkon or lotus root, dried shiitake.

I invited my beloved girlfriends to come on Monday, the day between US Mother’s Day and Mexican Mother’s Day. I would celebrate them. We were all excited. I cooked most of the day on Sunday, enjoying myself immensely. I also cooked all afternoon Monday. I made:

  • Ebi-shinjo, or shrimp balls.
  • Two kinds of stock: shrimp and tuna, the latter flavored with shiitake as well.
  • Nimono, stewed veggies, using the tuna stock. I cut the carrots into flower shapes, I soaked and peeled the celery, I soaked and trimmed the shiitake, I got creative and used palmitos as I didn’t have take-no-ko or baby bamboo. Japanese food is nothing if not putzy.
  • Chawan-mushi, steamed egg custard, using the shrimp stock, and adding root veggies (goboh, renkon), fish, shrimp and shiitake. It’s one of my favorite dishes. Making and steaming 13 little cups took a lot of time on my little stove!
  • Ohitashi, boiled spinach, squeezed and trimmed, then covered with sesame seeds.
  • Nasubi-yaki, grilling the cutest little baby eggplants that I’d bought at the Farmers’ Market, then covering them with bonito flakes or katsuo-bushi.
  • Sake no miso-yaki, or salmon grilled in miso sauce. This was the easiest to cook, and is something I make often, though usually not using salmon. It’s a family favorite.
  • Kani, kyuuri to wakame no sunomono, or pickled crab, cucumber and seaweed salad. This is what my Japanese mother always makes for me when I come home. Just the thought of it warms my heart, say nothing of the taste!

Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

My, did I have fun! However, on Sunday evening, towards the tail-end of my first round of cooking, I suddenly realized, “My friends are going to hate this food!” I love it; it’s near and dear to my heart. It’s part of me. But they like food that pops in your mouth, full of flavor. Japanese traditional home cooking is subtle, the flavors are comforting, perhaps indistinguishable to a Mazatlecan palate. And this sort of Japanese cooking is not so colorful: it has lots of dark browns (shiitake) and greys (root veggies), with a splash of orange carrot or bright green spinach here and there. Oh dear.

Cooking Japanese is a lot of work. I didn’t cook gourmet; I made home cooking. But, with the difficulty getting the ingredients here in Mazatlán, and the hours it takes to make the stocks, trim the veggies, fish and seafood just so, and put together six small dishes for each of 13 guests… Well, I realized I was cooking this for ME, not for THEM! This was my Mother’s Day gift to myself: showing my girlfriends a very important part of who I am, how I came to be. Of course they wouldn’t have the decades of emotion behind the food I was offering them; they’d just be tasting what I put in front of them. But they love me, and they know I love it, so, they’ll enjoy it even if it’s not their favorite.

When the big night came, my girlfriends arrived bearing gifts of all sorts: two kinds of incredible pies, a pot of delicious cocido, wine, rolls, cookies, ice cream… Normally when we get together, everyone brings something to share; that makes it easier for everyone and we can just focus on enjoying ourselves, catching up, laughing, and not fussing. Normally, I love it. But tonight would be different.

Greg poured the wine as they came in, and I had set out some dried pickled plums—umeboshi. I figured they wouldn’t like them. Oh was I wrong! They were a hit! We ate sour plums and drank our wine as we watched the sun set.

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Photo by Patty Pazos

Afterwards, we were ready to eat. I recruited several girlfriends to help me serve, as we would have to load all those different dishes in individual plates and bowls, one for each of us. The girls seemed to enjoy this part.

Once everything was served, I explained to them how Japanese put their chopsticks horizontally, and Chinese put them vertically. I shared with them a bit about Japanese cooking: that you tend to have something raw, something boiled/stewed, something grilled, something sour or pickled, something steamed. Two of my girlfriends have been to Japan; they know all about this. I explained that they could pick up the dishes, hold them up to their mouths—that such was polite, the custom in Japan. They listened carefully, and thanked me profusely for all the effort I’d put in.

And that was that. The Japanese meal and customs were interesting, but the main course was our enjoying one another’s company. Love trumps knowledge. We ate, laughed, told stories, moaned, commiserated, learned and taught. And, we drank. We discussed our kids, who we want to be, and our summer plans. The night was warm and fresh, the stars were plentiful, the moon was a deep orange. We watched the various fishermen in the bay, bobbing up and down with their lights. We were happy.

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Didn’t turn out so bad for a handheld shot…

So, did they like the meal? First off, most everyone asked for forks. No need for those chopsticks. They absolutely loved the salmon, asking me for the recipe. Most of them tasted the chawan-mushi, and left it sitting there. It was a huge bust. 😦 They ate the pickled cucumbers, but not the seaweed. Pieces of the nimono were eaten, but most was left untouched. I’m sure the problem was the color. And the texture. I very much enjoyed eating the rest of it over the next few days, so it didn’t go to waste.

Everyone said it was just too much food. And it was. But, also, it wasn’t to their liking. Oh well. I had fun making it. And the night was great. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, and the ocean breeze kept us cool while we laughed, talked, and later ate our dessert.

I’m glad I did it. Probably won’t do it again. The experience reminded me that the purpose of getting together is to enjoy one another’s company. One or two Japanese dishes would have been plenty.

Girlfriends, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for smiling and giving it your best shot. I love you. And for you, dear readers, here’s the miso fish recipe:

Baked Miso Fish