Can I have your face?

Can I have your face?

I heard this question several times this past weekend, and I was not taken aback. To be honest, it was not the first time that someone has requested for my face in Mexico.

The first time I heard it, I assumed that I misunderstood. Especially because the word face was said in English.  Um, can you repeat that? was my response.  Can I have your face? You know, facebook?

Right.

To have friends in Mexico, I have learned that facebook is necessary. It surpasses email as a main mode of communication, even up here in the mountains where time on the internet is few and far between.  My theory is that people  appreciate a social network over email because their culture is highly social.

Even though I have lived here for almost half of a year, the highly social nature of even the most basic, everyday interactions still surprises me. Routine tasks regularly take hours to complete. To drop off rent money with my landlord or to pick up milk from my neighbor, I will inevitably be invited for something to eat or drink while sharing a casual conversation. I have learned that it is impolite to mention the purpose of the visit until there are dirty dishes in the sink and you know all about their son’s latest accomplishments. Even  in my office, employees don’t typically head for their desks until after they have made breakfast together and exchanged gossip by the water cooler. In my Mexico, no one jumps directly into business; it is important to first establish relationships in this social culture, even on a daily basis.

But back to this weekend, and back to people asking for my face, or as an American would say, requesting to be my facebook friend. This weekend was my best friend’s birthday party. I was expecting to be served excessive amounts of food and tea, to sit at tables full of aunts and uncles and cousins, and to watch as her face was shoved into the cake. I was right about all of that because it is par for the course at birthday parties here.

A few of the aunts and a cousin

A few of the aunts and a cousin

The busy hostess, running from grill to stovetop to tables and back again, for three days

The busy hostess, running from grill to stovetop to tables and back again, for three days

I was not expecting the party events to stretch across three days and involve two dinners, two lunches, and breakfast in addition to the endless supply of tea and coffee and sweets. Most of the guests were at all of the events. Some had to retreat to their car for occasional power-naps to recharge for more socializing time. Most of the younger guests asked me for my face. I stifled my laugh while I wrote out my name on numerous sheets of paper.

Another funny thing about the party: I was expecting a few uninvited guests; this is a common occurrence in Mexico and is not considered rude as long as the party crasher brings something to eat or drink*. The party’s host was working almost non-stop: warming tortillas, wiping off tables, searing onions, and peer-pressuring each guest – invited or uninvited – to eat more. When I stopped by the stove to ask her about some newly arrived uninvitees, she repeated that phrase that I hear almost every day here: “Así es en México;” That is the way that it is in Mexico. And then she got back to work, flipping the grilling onions.

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If you remember from one of my prior blog posts, this weekend was also my big tamale debut. I had to make a giant pot full of steaming hot, soft, slightly spicy, banana-leaf covered treats for the party**. One of my work friends came to my house to teach me to make tamales oaxacaños on the afternoon of the party.

The little plastic baby that I found in a piece of cake sealed my fate. And now it is resting on one of the tamales that I had to make for the party.

The little plastic baby that I found in a piece of cake sealed my fate. And now it is resting on one of the tamales that I had to make for the party.

After an extensive hunt in the market for all of the ingredients, and after four hours in the kitchen, the tamales were ready and smelled great. Still, I was a little nervous to serve the traditional Mexican dish to a room full of tamale aficionados.

My tamale aficionados

My tamale aficionados

I watched nervously as each person peeled back the banana leaf, revealing what looked like some pretty legit tamales.

My anticipation built in the silence, which was finally broken by Jesus. He started to clap. Everyone joined in to create a round of applause! I had to check to see if they were just being polite, so I took a bite. They weren’t; the tamales had turned out amazing!

Marcelina, my tamale instructor

Marcelina, my tamale instructor

Excited, I had to text my tamale instructor, before I could even take a second bite:  They are super tasty! I even got applause!

Almost immediately, I got her response: Nothing more than applause? Haha! How great. You get half of the applause and I accept the other half.

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After three long, tiring, fun days, we were all hugging and kissing cheeks and saying goodbye.

Remember, I have your face now! and;

So, when is your birthday? We have to throw you a party just like this one! and;

You should bring tamales again!

If this weekend taught me anything, it is that Mexico knows how to party, and that I had better rest well before the next one.

* There is a bad word for an uninvited party-goer who fails to bring something along!
** Tamale recipe included in my recipes section. All ingredients and supplies are available in typical American grocery stores and kitchens, so get cooking along with me!

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 Making me smile

  • At the yarn store, I forgot the word for wool, so I described to the sales assistant that I was looking for a “yarn that is natural and not synthetic, the one that comes from an animal. You know, the drunk one?” And then we both immediately burst into laughter. Borracho= drunk, Borrego = sheep. Slight difference
  • Hearing about someone in a rock bar who was enjoying a song so much that he started playing air-accordion along with the beat
  • I just learned that I have been telling people that they look funny when I have meant to say that they were a funny person. Que chistoso means “how funny,” but following the normal grammatical pattern, eres chistoso means “you look funny.” Oops! Now I will never forget the correct word, gracioso
  • I found an archive of photos from my National Park from the 1920s. I have included a few here. Check ‘em out!

1-741

1-1250

1-1264

1-Carretera 1920

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