Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That man had no legs

That was a weekend.

Friday night found Alex and me at Coco's school auction/casino night fundraiser. Alex and I have attended perhaps five billion auctions in our parental careers but it seemed many of the parents at Coco's school did not have the same level of experience. We guessed this by how many were overheard saying things like, "Well someone's already bid on that so I hate to take it away from them."

Silent auctions are cutthroat, people. No prisoners. Maybe it was rude of us but Alex and I used our hefty auction expertise to flatten our competition. I outbid when many were reluctant to outbid, I made shady deals with PTA members in dark corners. I walked out with stuff under my arm before the auction was even officially ended.

I apologize for nothing. It's all for the children, man. Plus I really wanted that hand-carved jewelry box from Oaxaca.

Alex lost all of his fake money at the blackjack table. 
You can't win them all.

Unless you're me. And shady as hell. 

Alex and I made a handful of new friends at the auction despite our aggressive ways, including one funny British couple who got a little tipsy at the open bar and bid on, quite literally, everything. They began at one end of the auction table and walked its entirety signing their names to every scrap of paper they encountered, assuming they would be outbid on most. But this being the most polite auction in the history of auctions with no one willing to "offend" them, they were in a precarious spot indeed as the evening wore on.

At the time of our departure, they were winning well over a dozen items, including a half dozen individual lots of wine totaling 72 bottles. We left them laughing hysterically in the corner after they'd begged anyone and everyone to outbid them on anything at all. I wonder how they got all that wine home.

Mr. W., a British man and the founder of Coco's school, is a character I enjoy very much but I rarely know what's going on when I'm with him. He's intensely cerebral with the most impressive breadth of life experience. He has a personal connection to everything, everywhere, for all of time and can connect all of it in a single thought. He starts a story but shares many details about other stories in the middle of that story. The person who can follow him all the way through a thought is a rare one indeed.

At the auction, he was talking about -- something, I honestly don't remember where we started -- but then interjected himself with something along the lines of, "Well, my eldest son -- oh, my son, well, you know my son grew up with Julian Lennon, very good friends really, and he's even seen the drawing that inspired "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" well isn't that something and so yes they were pals but the man's aunt is also distantly related to the Queen of Belgium of centuries ago so gave me the most handsome wood carvings of the king and queen but then his parents moved to Amsterdam and the brother there -- well goodness now I believe he's figuring the cure for cancer in Norway and is damn near to it, too -- and anyway, what was I saying...."

And I look at him with my hands outstretched like, "Sooo....I'm still back at 'Julian Lennon.' Can you slow down?" And then he laughs this hearty laugh and nope, he doesn't slow down. He keeps on going and now you're really super lost. It's fascinating to see how someone's mind works and makes connections in real time but I'll be damned if I can follow.

(I outbid all of the world to win the auction item "Mr. W writes a personalized story about your student." Mr. W is an accomplished writer in addition to being an educator and with his mind working the way it does, I cannot wait to see what he comes up with for the Coco girl. Those poor inexperienced auction-goers didn't stand a chance against me ha ha ha.)

Saturday morning found us bound for Las Estacas, a natural water park two hours outside Mexico City. We were meeting two other ex-pat families there and had all rented a big house nearby for the night to maximize our fun. The house we rented came with a pool and a cook. I hear this is fairly common. This may be why the two ex-pat families we were with claim they never want to leave Mexico.

Mario, our driver, drove us to Las Estacas. On the way there, he mentioned we might like to stop for lunch at a long stretch of food stands right off the highway at an area called Las Tres Marias. We take the recommendations of locals very seriously, especially his, so absolutely, Mario, lead the way to the food.

Mario was not wrong
Thank you, Mario's arm

We pulled off the highway and selected one of the myriad of food options. We ordered chilaquiles and enchiladas and quesadillas then shamelessly gorged ourselves sitting amongst local families whose kids were mesmerized by our English speaking. I love seeing little dark eyes peeking over a parent's shoulder. As soon as I look back, they duck behind mothers or fathers or grandparents but soon again peek out with a shy smile. It's pretty much the best, especially if I have a bunch of enchiladas in my mouth at the same time.

Alex and I ordered micheladas at Las Tres Marias. Micheladas are usually just beers with lime juice and salt but these arrived looking like someone had to die for them to be made. I have no idea what the stuff dripped around the outside was. It was sweet and chili peppery at the same time.

Anyone? Anyone?

Alex drinks the blood of children for breakfast  
(with a side of churros, of course)

Driving away from Las Tres Marias back onto the highway.
If you didn't know it was something, 
you would probably think it was nothing.

Las Estacas, our destination that day, is great if you like chaos and water. We were thankfully in the perfect mood for both so settled in for a long day of screaming and sunburns. We spent much of our time at the river where two of the dads rented a boat and loaded it up with most of our kids. Better them than me.

Alex was supposed to be in the boat with the other dads but he had, only mere moments before, backed up suddenly at an inopportune moment along a walking path and fallen about six feet into a narrow channel of water. It could have been bad but thankfully he was fished out by the other dads with only a few scratches.

So while the other two dads were brave/crazy enough to do this --


Alex was laying in the shade a bit shaken, bleeding, and drinking a beer.  As he should have been.

Don't worry, he recovered fully

The dads had a difficult time between the screeching children inside the boat and the many swimmers outside the boat.  It didn't look promising as they tried to get the hang of the paddling and the river current. At one point, Seattle Mom said, "They are seriously just turning in circles." And that they were. Wheeee.

They finally got the boat going in one constant direction -- yay -- and promptly ran over an elderly man swimming in the river who had no legs. We had all seen the man earlier in his wheelchair and were impressed when he dove into the water and began swimming against the current with powerful strokes. That man is tough.

Which is good, because as I mentioned, our crew ran right over him. He was OK, came out the other side of the boat fine and accepted the dads' profuse apologies graciously but yep, that was horrifying. We adults continued to re-live the moment and cringe the rest of the day; we couldn't shake the image of that poor man disappearing under our dudes' boat.

Later that day, one son revisited the story with the other kids like, "You guys, we ran over that old man like BAM!!" Seattle Mom, believing the kids were being too callous and taking the situation too lightly, pointed right in all of their faces and yelled, "THAT MAN HAD NO LEGS!"

It should have been a profound teaching moment and the rest of us should have nodded solemnly in solidarity with the message but no, it struck us all suddenly as very funny. We lost our collective sh*t, rolled around on our beach towels and laughed so hard we were just silent, shaky, and snorty. You can't be good parents forever, I guess. Or at least we can't.

We got lost trying to find our rental house after the water park because you tend to get lost anytime you leave a main road in Mexico. Nothing's labeled, GPS is imperfect and directions are vague. It was worth the up-and-down, back-and-forth, forward-and-backward shimmy our caravan experienced, though, because the house was big with a cold pool and a cook in the kitchen already preparing our dinner.

Our house
and our children being thrown mighty distances

Sure, there were some kid injuries and some blood and some tears but that's all par for the course when families get together. What isn't par for the course, and what will spoil us forevermore thanks to Mexico, is a cook made us delicious chiles rellenos for dinner while we sat around on the back patio talking about stupid things.

It's like we were making armpit fart sounds while she was in there creating a masterpiece.

He's still throwing them

The next morning for breakfast the cook made the kids pancakes and the adults chilaquiles and huevos with whatever the words for "red peppers" and "spicy stuff" are. I'm just bragging now, if not exactly showing off my Spanish skills.

Why did we leave?

Two of our families decided to stop at Xochicalco, an Aztec ruins site, on the way home, which was both a fantastic idea and a terrible idea. It was a fantastic idea because the site is gorgeous and I enjoyed every minute we spent poking around the area despite the fact it was very hot up there.

Hard to regret walking along the upper edge of an Aztec pyramid with your crew

Their new album drops next month.
Their band name is "Blood and Churros." 

It was a terrible idea to visit Xochicalco, however, because while we were up there, a semi truck overturned on the highway, which backed up traffic for bazillions of kilometers. The trip home should have taken an hour and a half but wound up taking over five hours.

Our food supply had run out and we all had to go to the bathroom quite badly by the time we finally passed the overturned semi truck and the neighboring upright watermelon truck that must have also been involved based on the number of watermelons still in the street. The watermelons had been mostly cleaned up (there were still people dodging between cars to grab some here and there to throw them back into the truck) when we drove past but that semi on its side was going nowhere fast.

We heard from Seattle Dad he knew a couple people who were stuck in that mess
 for nine hours. 
I guess we should consider ourselves lucky. 

Mario was regretting agreeing to work on the weekend right now,
trust it.

I thought I was going to live the rest of my life in that car.  Alex and I are the geniuses who decided the weekend was going to be "screen-free" so had permitted neither iPad nor Kindle to join us. That was a stupid idea. If anyone ever asks me to play "I spy" again, I'm going to punch them in the face. I don't give a sh*t what you're spying that's blue -- plus nothing has changed in this car for hours so I know you're still talking about Mario's jeans.

I just asked Paulina to make chicken enchiladas with salsa roja and broccoli for dinner. I said several complete sentences in Spanish without even consulting my notes.
Fluency here I come.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

count on me to bring the awkward

The photo to the left is Lucien making butter. It's a long story and I'm trying to avoid long stories today because they are making my blog posts go on and on for days. I'll discuss the butter when I learn how to truncate.

There were lessons learned this week in Mexico. One lesson I've learned is you're supposed to tip the people who bag your groceries. My grocery load is always sizable so the baggers, who are generally elderly and adorable, probably aren't too happy when I walk away with a single "gracias" and a smile. Smiles don't pay the bills, gringa. 

I noticed the guy behind me tipping the bagger (as in giving him money, not pushing him over) on my last shopping trip even though he was only buying a couple bottles of water. If that guy tipped for only two things, I should probably tip for my lots of things. I froze and observed those around me, which is always good operating procedure for an ex-pat. True enough, everyone was handing the baggers money on their way out the door. I nearly dumped my entire purse out in my haste to find pesos.

I won't make that mistake again. Look at all this learning I'm doing. 

I embarrassed myself pretty thoroughly this week. Julio, my friend Seattle Mom's driver, whom we met last time we were in Mexico City, came to our building to pick up something for Seattle Mom. I met him down in the lobby of our building. 

It's like I knew before it happened our interaction was going to be awkward because I went into it a little sweaty-palmed and bumbling. I could see he was coming in for a handshake as he approached me but I, for reasons I don't know, instead dove in for a cheek kiss. 

I'm not sure who kisses who and who shakes whose hands around here. What's the social protocol on that? Whatever the rules are, I'm pretty sure I broke them with Julio because he was not expecting the cheek kiss and it threw him way off. I could sense that, could sense his confusion and tension, but I still kept right on leaning in because you can count on me to bring the awkward.

I couldn't stop myself even though I knew I was doing the wrong thing -- and worse, I was doing it in front of witnesses, since Senor Scowly and his friend were standing a handful of feet away. Instead of backing off, I doubled down. I decided to show them all I stood firmly behind my decision to kiss Julio with conviction. So as I landed on Julio's face, and as Julio still desperately tried to shake my hand, I did a very loud "Mwah! kiss sound. Twice. The sound echoed in our modern sleek building entry. Such a weird f*cking thing to do. 

Did you know it is possible to cringe so hard that you can actually crumple and fold into yourself at the middle? It's like human origami. I hobbled back to the elevator after Julio escaped (that guy moves fast when he wants to) contorted with embarrassment. My old popular refrain from Paris days returned in that moment: "I am SUCH an ASSHOLE." Nice to have the ole mantra back again.

This week has been pretty awful because Lucien is sick and home from school for the third day in a row. Last night, Lucien was so sick I texted Seattle Mom, my soul sister friend back home, for advice. She's a nurse and is always a voice of calm and reason. I was having a stressful night; Lucien's fever was so high, and I didn't know how to call for medical help in Mexico if we needed it, and Alex is in Seattle for work this week. Seattle Mom said to push those fluids and take comfort he's lucid and talking to me normally.  

At that very moment, Lucien chose to sit straight up in his bed and start speaking absolute nonsense. The first thing he said, eyes staring at me in a creepy unfocused way, was "we have to get out of here now." GAH!

The non-comforting, non-lucid thoughts continued with things like, "you expect me to have two elements" and "I think wrong about this color." I snapped my fingers in front of his face, clapped my hands, tried to get him to snap out of it. The look on his face and the bizarre words coming out of his mouth did not stop. I told him to get up, I'd walk him to the bathroom. He said, "OK, good plan for sliding rats." 

He got up from his bed, pulled his pants down to his ankles, and hopped down the hall to the bathroom while saying something about people not being able to trick him for water. What the hell kind of eff'd up Mexican flu is this??

He doesn't remember any of that this morning and he's on the mend now. Hopefully he'll be back in school tomorrow and I can leave the apartment again.

Paulina babysat last Friday night so Alex and I could go out to dinner with two other ex-pat couples, both from Seattle. The company was hilarious good. Our dinner was delicious. Most noteworthy is Alex and I tried chapulines, which are fried grasshoppers. Eating grasshoppers is an ex-pat initiation rite in Mexico City so now we're in for real.

tastes like crispy

I asked Lucien how Paulina got them to bed that night given the language barrier and he said, "She just kind of kept poking us until we moved in the right direction." I'm going to try that, I like its simplicity.

I've learned many things this week and will not make the same mistakes.
I will make new mistakes,

Friday, February 10, 2017

It begins again

Two days ago Lucien came home from school and said, "Mom, I got in trouble today!" Perhaps it was the shade of enthusiasm in his voice that gave me Paris flashbacks but my heart immediately sank a little.

It happened in Spanish class, a class that is making Lucien's head explode on the daily. The teacher calls on him often in an attempt to give him as much practice as possible, which he claims is "kinda mean" since he can't answer any of her questions. He studies lists of Spanish words in his bed at night; we know he's doing it when we hear a lot of "aghh!" and "this is impossible!" coming from his room.

Two days ago, the teacher was giving him a particularly grueling time, quizzing him on vocabulary and verb conjugation. Another student raised his hand and asked to go to the bathroom. As that student walked across the room and placed his hand on the classroom's doorknob, Lucien yelled, "SAVE YOURSELF!!"

The class cracked up. The teacher did not. She warned him that if he was going to be Mr. Funny Guy in class, he was going to find himself in the office more often than not. Well that's just great and here we are again. Those still reading from the Paris years probably remember Lucien did not fit in very well at his French school. He stood out from the much more subdued French children. He was in trouble all the time, had teachers tearing their hair out on the regular. La betise! La betise! The Loosh was an...ahem...spirited child in a non-spirited environment.

Thankfully it's been smooth sailing the past handful of years.  He's matured so much, is a good student and is finally able to control the more severe of his spaz-tastic impulses. He's the class clown for sure but good natured, rarely in trouble, and his teachers usually get a kick out of him. Maybe Americans are more flexible with those kinds of things, I don't know, but it seems apparent the teachers at the British School, at least the Spanish ones, are not as amused.

I gave him a talking-to about picking his moments. The classroom is not an appropriate place to crack jokes. Save it for the playground, save it for the bus, save it for anywhere besides the Spanish teacher's classroom because IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE for principals in foreign countries to be part of our daily lives again, comprendes, little dude?

Lucien replied, "But Mom, I'm funny and I think my classmates have a right to know that." Great. This should go fine.

Coco's head is also exploding in Spanish because not only does she not speak Spanish, but everyone in her class is already writing cursive. Her First Grade classmates are writing Spanish in cursive, two things that could not be further from Coco's wheelhouse, goddammit, and I have to help her with her homework every afternoon.

Her homework, twice the amount of what other kids have because she's so far behind, is the most godawful painful hour... or two....or three.... of the day.  She whines and throws pencils, I cry and scour the kitchen cabinets for wine. It's pretty awful. Paulina has swooped in to save the day on a couple Spanish lessons and that may become the norm because when it comes to Spanish, surprise, I'm not much help. I wish Paulina could teach cursive, too.

Speaking of Spanish, the building's cleaning lady tried to chat me up in the elevator today. She sees me around the building daily and probably couldn't tell from my simple "buenos dias" and "hasta luego"s that I didn't know many more words than those. She stepped into the elevator with me this morning and immediately launched into some incomprehensible thing. There were definitely questions involved based on her inflection and her looking at me with her head tilted slightly to the side.

The realization struck her immediately that she was talking to a wall, probably because my eyes had gone wide and I was just staring at her frozen-like. I finally managed a "no comprendo" and she nodded, seemed embarrassed for the both of us. She hustled off the elevator a couple floors later.

Poor lady tried to be friendly and get to know me but ha! She won't try that again.

PS. Spanish in small elevators is much more uncomfortable than Spanish in larger open spaces. I need the breathing room, and the option to run away if/when I need to.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mario, Paulina, and Leon Trotsky

The people of Mexico City are very cold today but I'm not even wearing a jacket. I went downstairs this morning to wait for Lucien's school bus wearing only a long sleeved t-shirt and a pair of jeans, True, I was also clutching a cup of very hot coffee, which may have had some impact on my temperature tolerance.

But you'd think we'd walked out into Siberia. The people on the street wore heavy winter coats with their chins tucked down inside. They looked miserable. I re-entered our building after Lucien's bus had carted him off to school and Carlos, the smiley doorman, asked, "Oh no, aren't you cold?" He blew on his hands to warm them and hopped a little from foot to foot to make sure I understood he was worried for my health. It's 58 degrees out there, Carlos, I think I'm gonna survive it.

We've hired a housekeeper. I was reluctant to hire help because I like my solo time when the kids are in school. I admit I'm a very strange person when I'm alone at home. There is a lot of talking to myself and some very odd outfits indeed when I don't need to go outside. My favorite pairing is my rainbow sundress with a bathrobe and Ugg boots. Cozy yet colorful. I also eat weird things when no one's watching, such as "sugar bread," which is exactly as it sounds -- butter and sugar on bread. I know, I'm an animal.

If someone were to be in the apartment with me all day, my concern was I would be more self conscious and could no longer be my strange self. I would have to get dressed for real, maybe even shower god forbid, and sit around looking proper and drinking tea or whatever when I really just wanted to crank some Metallica, sing into a cucumber and practice my rad spins.

I was quickly told by the Mexico City ex-pat ladies I was dumb for not taking advantage of what is very much the norm here. There's little downside to the housekeeping win-win. It's giving someone a well-paying job and freeing yourself up to focus on your interests. It would mean I could write pretty much all day, sitting in the sun with my laptop until my fingers fell off.  Heavenly.

I thought hard about it. Why was I fighting to do my own laundry instead of learning how to get dressed like a normal person every day? Why was I more willing to do sinkfuls of dishes than surrender a small bit of Metallica? Was I really that attached to pouring sugar on bread or would it be worth it to shelve that recipe for a bit in order to have someone else cook dinner?  And bottom line, which was preferable: doing all the work around here by myself as usual or finally devoting all of my waking hours to finishing the Paris book?

The answer was clear, the ladies were right, I was dumb. After a few recommendations and a very awkward interview (Alex didn't know the questions to ask and I didn't know how to ask anything at all so just sat there and smiled to show her I'm friendly), we hired Paulina. Paulina does not live in the apartment with us, as many housekeepers do, because she has a teenage daughter at home. She puts dinner on our table, says hasta luego, and returns at 10:00 the next morning. It's a perfect situation for her and for me -- she gets to be home with her daughter evenings and mornings and sometimes when Alex takes the kids swimming after he comes home from work, I still get a little lampshade-wearing, robot walking solo freak time.

When Paulina is here, you would not believe what all she does. Our laundry basket is always empty now, anything tossed in there is dealt with immediately. She takes Alex's shirts to the dry cleaners. She goes to the grocery store daily and cooks us dinner. She goes into our closets and organizes our drawers, refolds all our t-shirts and sweaters. I have not seen any dust bunnies since she arrived and I do not miss them; they used to blow like tumbleweed through Banister Abbey, stopping only briefly to mingle with large clumps of dog hair.

Paulina cleans out the refrigerator and packs the kids' lunches for the next morning. She washes our duvet covers at least once a week which makes me wonder, have I ever cleaned our duvet covers at home? Because it's not ringing any bells. Paulina irons everything, including our socks. She's also agreed to babysit once a week, something we'll be trying for the first time this weekend when we go out for dinner with two other couples.

This all sounds like bragging but I don't mean it as bragging, I'm more processing all she does for us in an incredulous manner and wondering why I chose to live here a full two and a half weeks without her. I don't miss sugar bread at all so far.

Paulina and Mario, our driver, who also does many things for us including buying all of Coco's school supplies (Mario is now her favorite person because he bought her the notebooks with the sparkles and sheets of stickers inside) are hugely helpful but truthfully, it's very awkward as we get to know each other and understand how to work together. Paulina does not speak one word of English and my Spanish, well, estoy aprendiendo but it still sucks. This has made for some painful "conversations" and some inevitable miscommunications. For instance, I seem to have given Paulina the impression we require lactose free milk. I have no idea how I did that, must have strung together some words I didn't even know I knew. I can barely say, "I like milk" but somehow managed "lactose intolerance?"

Now our fridge is full of the stuff and I can't bring myself to tell her we don't need lactose free milk. She was so happy to find it, even sent Mario to a larger grocery store farther away to find a larger container. I can't let her know her efforts were for naught, as well as being very confusing.

Lactose free milk tastes terrible but I still hiss at the kids "just drink it" and they dutifully glug glug glug with grimaces. Alex keeps sighing at me and telling me we have to tell her, that she'll understand it was a miscommunication, but I'm biding my time and instead constructing a needlessly complicated plan. We'll keep drinking the gross milk then I'll tell her in a month or so our lactose intolerance has been miraculously cured, perhaps due to Mexico City's fresh air (that's a joke, we live in pollution city).

We took the weekend away from the gross milk

We spent the weekend in Coyoacan, a former village outside Mexico City now considered a suburb. Coyoacan is where Frida Kahlo's house/museum is, still one of my favorite places in the city.

This is Mario navigating the insanity of Friday late afternoon traffic 
on a three-day holiday weekend.
The 30 minute trip to Coyoacan took two hours.

Alex planned the weekend. He was excited to do so because he had accumulated points via his credit card and could get us a hotel room for free. The only hotel that qualified for the points in the Coyoacan area was the Holiday Inn.  Alex told me Holiday Inns are nice in Mexico and anyway, the hotel didn't matter because we planned on spending most of our time in the historic center of the town. As long as we could walk into town, we'd be happy anywhere.

The Holiday Inn looked nice enough but things turned odd when the bellhop used the key given to us to enter our room and we walked in to find somebody else's belongings all over the place. Lucien was like,"this room comes with a lot of stuff" and then the realization dawned we were standing in the middle of someone else's room. We all turned and hightailed it out of there fast as we could. Thankfully the person whose room it was was not there -- or perhaps he'd heard us entering his room and was hiding behind the curtains with a sharp stick prepared to defend himself.

The bellhop stammered an apology and ran downstairs to straighten out the room situation. He returned and took us to a different floor. We entered that room and thought, "whoa, this is a really big room!" but soon realized it was because it was the handicapped accessible room and was meant to fit many wheelchairs. There was a large handicapped-friendly potty chair thing installed over the toilet, which I never did figure out, and the sinks were so low you ended up with a backache just for attempting a freshly scrubbed face.

Fine, the room was a little oddly sized for us and sure, we almost walked in on some other dude in the comfort of his own room but who cares as long as we could get into town.  Alex asked the person at the desk for the nicest walk route to the main square and the guy looked at him like he was crazy. You can't walk into Coyoacan from the Holiday Inn. You have to take a taxi and it's at least a fifteen minute ride.

Alex didn't make eye contact with me after that, just kind of repeated "but it was free but it was free but it was free" like a little mantra then said with a forced cheer, "OK, kids, let's go grab a taxi and get some food before your mother kills me."

Mariachi dinner
they were so loud we could not hear ourselves think.

Coyoacan, as always, is insanely charming. The best way to spend your time is to wander the Calle Francisco Sosa, a street full of historic old colonial homes. The sidewalk is so uneven it sometimes feels like climbing small rocky loose-tiled hills but it's worth the effort if you can survive the terrain. Aside -- I feel sad for those who need handicapped accessible hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn near Coyoacan because nobody in a wheelchair can come close to navigating most of those streets.

Calle Francisco Sosa

Alex has a co-worker, Eduardo, who lives in Coyoacan and after meeting for lunch, he and his wife invited us back to their house for tequila and coffee. Their house is one of the more unique homes we've visited and we were immediately informed by our children that our own house is "really boring."

there's a tree in their interior living space

and a hammock indoors
The Loosh is sneaking up the back stairs to the "playground..."

...said "playground" is the glass roof of the living room.

This is the slide they have on their roof.
We can't win.
Our house is indeed boring.

Our kids and Eduardo's kids acted just like kids, chasing each other around the house and laughing maniacally even though they speak zero languages in common. I wish I could run around and play tag with all the people I've met here with whom I cannot even remotely converse.  It would take so much pressure off the situation. "You're it, Senor Scowly!" *takes off running and laughing down the street*

I wish I could play with Senor Scowly, carefree,
on a set of aerial silks in the living room.

The next day our family visited the Leon Trotsky Museum, which is located in the home where Trotsky lived after being granted political asylum in Mexico. I wasn't very interested in the museum before we went but by the time we left I was on fire with the Bolsheviks and Stalin and Marxism and KGB assassinations. My favorite museums are the ones located directly where the history happened, or directly where historical figures lived.  I loved Frida's house for that very reason; you get to know people better when you're walking through their living spaces.

The same went for Trotsky. I got to know him better when walking through the heavily fortified iron doors of his bedroom and seeing where he was sitting in his study when he got an ice pick to the head. I understood how very afraid he was for his life, and also learned that when Stalin wanted you dead, didn't matter where you were, you got dead.

Trotsky's house, all windows and doors bricked up and a guard tower for his security.
It didn't work for long.

The study where Trotsky was sitting when he was assassinated.

Coco being very unnerved by the heavy iron doors to Trotsky's bedroom.
You don't come to Trotsky's house to have fun, little girl.

Pretty house, though, guard tower and all.

Lucien and Coco sit in the garden outside the guards' house and contemplate Marxism.

Paulina just placed a stack of our underwear on the ironing board.
The woman is out of control,