Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Wholly Helpful, and Horribly Hindering, C.

Psst. Wanna see something super cool?

That's a new (to us) Ford Explorer (SUV in Spanish? "Camoineta") sitting in our garage. Holler! (I really did just say 'Holler' out loud like a total dweeb while I sat in the middle of the house alone.)

I'm getting ahead of myself.

Fiance's company provides him a car to get around in while we're in Mexico. Which is super helpful, but driving in Mexico is pretty emotionally taxing (I'm being polite), and from the beginning we agreed that it would be nice if he wasn't responsible for ALL the driving. Also that it would be good if I could, you know, leave the house during the day. So we saved up. And this past weekend, the ever-awesome C offered to take us to look at used cars.

I know I don't talk about our friends here very often, but we see C on a pretty regular basis, and usually Y is along for that ride. (She opted out this weekend, as she wasn't feeling well, and let's be real: Car shopping isn't exactly exciting if it's for someone else). He's a really awesome friend to have, for a lot of reasons. But to sum up: he is just plain a good guy, he understands some English and is patient with us bumbling through Spanish, and he is SUPER proud of his heritage, leading him to spend pretty much every second of his time with us imparting his knowledge of Mexican culture and cuisine.

Maybe it's a little weird to spend this much time gushing about a guy that I am not about to marry, but C is truly the bee's knees.

So Saturday morning (see last post: how we managed to befriend the ONE guy in all of Mexico that's all about getting up early and hanging out on a weekend is totally beyond me), we headed out to C's house and before embarking upon our car extravaganza, we hit up the local mercado.

The mercado from above, C sitting at a taco booth listening to the Fara-fara*, and an ACTION! shot of Fiance. Just because I can.

Quick PSA: if you are ever in Mexico, and you have time to do only one thing, GO TO A MERCADO. Fiance and I love the mercado: It's an ever-changing set up of booths selling just about anything you can imagine. Whenever we get the chance, we check it out. This weekend we walked through all the available wares pretty quickly, and still managed to come out with:
  • 6 DVDs
  • 3 CDs
  • embroidery floss
  • yarn
  • 3 new mouse toys for Bubba
  • a bottle of Fiance's cologne
  • tacos for breakfast
  • flash cards to practice vocabulary of the body
  • a lazer pointer
  • a squeezer for limes
  • and a giant cup of orange juice that they fresh-squeezed right in front of me.
After all that, rough estimates put our spending at around fifty bucks. I also almost bought a cardinal (yes, like the bird, they're kept as pets here), but figured Fiance might kill me, and Bubba might kill the bird, so pretty much no one would win there.

On to car shopping. We've been looking online and in the streets (it's really common to see a car with a phone number painted on the back while driving around. Those are the cars for sale), and I had narrowed my list down to a few specifics:
  • I wanted an SUV-type car. Something that had the power to get up and down the mountain with little to no trouble, and something that was a bit on the large side. If I get in a car crash here (totally common occurrence), I want to be in the car that is going to, for lack of a better term, "win." Plus it would be more comfortable for Mac to ride around in with me. So... that would be a bonus.
  • It should probably have pretty good air conditioning. You know, 'cause, we're in Mexico.
  • I didn't want it to be black. The drug cartels here commonly drive black vehicles, particularly black SUVs. Not an association I'm looking to make.
  • I didn't really want leather seats. Because again, Mexico, and my least favorite feeling in the world is when your skin sticks to a leather seat from sweat. EW.
  • A CD player would be pretty boss.
You may have just noticed me laying down my girl card. You know, that one topic that no matter how well-rounded you pretend to be, sets you squarely in girly-girl stereotypes. I'm pretty sure every gal has a girl card for something, and cars are definitely my area. I know... pretty much nothing about cars. So most of my criteria were based solely upon whether or not I thought the car is pretty.

Are you of the female persuasion? What's your girl card(s)?

From my observations, this lack of any respectable amount of car knowledge was fairly taxing on Fiance. Because he is an engineer. For a company that makes car parts. The last few months saw a lot of conversations like these:

Fiance: What do you think about that Honda Pilot?
Kp: What's a Honda Pilot?

Fiance: I'm going to call on that one. We should ask them about the condition of the radiator though.
Kp: Why? Is that important?

Kp: Ooo. Lookit that one. That's nice.
Fiance: Which one? The Jeep or the Ford?
Kp: Huh? Y- I don't know, the reddish-orange one with the sticker shaped like a deer in the back.

I did have one really proud moment while we were shopping this weekend, when I sat in the driver's seat of a car we were really heavily considering. We were just about to ask about taking it for a "test drive," when I, Kp, this girl right here, was the one to notice the "check engine" light was on. So that was a no thank you car. Go me.

C schooled us on Mexican car shopping. He took us to a place called the Tianguis (pronounced "Tangys") which is pretty appropriately described as a mercado with just cars. And there were a lot of cars.

Here's what I picked up from the experience:
  • Try to find a car that hasn't been imported from the States. The import tax drives the cost of the car way up. Also, if you plan to use the car solely in Mexico, sometimes it is harder to find parts for imported cars if you need to fix it. (We failed there, our car is... ready for this? Imported from MICHIGAN.)
  • You don't really have to ask permissions, or be too terribly polite for that matter. If you see a car you like, it should be open. Walk up, open it up, sit on down. If you like it from there, demand the keys for the car to start it up and test out any features you want to.
  • Never smile. Your show of interest will make negotiating the price just that much harder.
  • Just because the check engine light isn't on, or just because the odometer is below a number that you like, doesn't mean that the engine shouldn't be checked, or that the actual mileage of the car isn't astronomically high.
  • Seriously, kick the tires.
  • Cash only. No checks. Wanna get laughed at? Ask about checks.
  • Using the bathroom at the Tianguis costs 3 pesos.
After walking around the place for two days (we visited Saturday and Sunday), and spending some time contemplating a 95 jeep, we stumbled upon this beaut:

We checked the A/C, the mileage, the engine, took it for a "test drive" (they let you go in a circle around the Tianguis), checked the papers against the VIN number, and made an offer. C negotiated prices for us, and we walked away with the promise that the next day after a trip to the bank, we could take this '03 Ford Explorer home.

That's about where my involvement ends in the car purchase process. But if I could give some MAD PROPS (caps for emphasis) to C and Fiance for a second; yesterday, from about sun-up until well past sun-down, they accomplished the following:
  • Go to bank, take out enough money to pay for the car and car-related items (fun fact: if you are taking out more than a certain amount, you have to make an appointment because banks here don't just HAVE that much cash in them).
  • Argue with the bank that YES, that is really our zipcode. Fiance may be American, but he's not stupid.
  • Take money, meet with car seller to pick up car and trade cash for papers.
  • Go to the Mexican equivalent of the DMV. Register and get plates.
  • Go to the insurance agency. Insure car so I can drive it.
  • Buy guards to prevent thieves from stealing the mirrors or the tires.
  • Go to C's house and install said guards on the car.
  • Check the rest of the car for any issues not apparent upon sale. (discover that the tires were painted to hide cracks, and that the A/C is occasionally non-functional. Also the radiator hose has a leak? I don't know, I'm typing this from memory, and again, no car-smarts between these ears. Also stop worrying, fiance plans to fix all of this pretty post-haste.)
  • Wash the car, take off the stickers on the windows (I didn't actually notice that until I took the picture of it this morning. Thank you, love!)
  • Purchase jumper cables (so we don't repeat the incident at the end of this post)
  • Bring car home to doting Fiancee. C drives the SUV, Fiance drives the company car.
  • Bring C back home in company car.
  • Return to house (I should note it's about an hour's drive between our house and C's.)
And there you have it. I now have a car, and Freedom!
I also have a really flipping awesome future husband. Thank goodness for him.

Okay, I hear you saying. But the title of this post says that C is both super helpful and "horribly hindering." Where's the hindering part?

I'm getting there, don't get your panties in a bind.

As I described above, C is super proud to be a Mexican, and he loves sharing this with us. In particular, he loves sharing the food. And C knows exactly where to find the absolutely most delicious food in all of Monterrey. (that's not a link, I just bolded it because of how incredibly true it is as a stand-alone statement.)

If I fail at losing the dreaded 29, well obviously I would be the most to blame because ultimately I'm the one stuffing my face, but second in line to the Blame-a-tron would definitely be C.

I'd translate, but I'm pretty sure you can guess what he's
saying even if you don't know a lick of Spanish.
Also, everyone here calls me Kristi, because Kristin is
kinda hard to pronounce with a Mexican accent.
Okay maybe I don't attack a plate of churros quite so enthusiastically/ maniacally, but he is superb at getting me to overeat.

There's more to it than it just being delicious food, though. If you want to talk rude in Mexican culture, well, refuse a plate of food. It's just not done. And once that plate is in front of you the yummy factor takes over and it's really hard to keep yourself from polishing off the whole thing.

For the record though, I'm doing REALLY well so far today on avoiding the plate of tamales C's mom made for us that's sitting in the fridge. Which is a feeling that can be roughly likened to being strung up in a tree by my fingernails.

real-life chicken tostada, and a taco extravaganza on the floor of the living room.
(the scale of the tostada is thrown off by how close my thumb is to the camera.
that was easily the size of my head. And yes that is just a giant pile of tortilla, chicken, guacamole, and sour cream.)

Mexican food continues to amaze me, because pretty much all of Monterrey's finest cuisine consists of differing combos of tortillas, meat, and some kind of fat or grease component, followed by a squirt of lime juice. And yet all of it tastes different, and all of it is so good it should be illegal. Be strong Kp, be strong.

When you're trying to watch your diet, what's your weak point?

Random Section Time!

1. Do you know Fiance in real life? Actually, you know what, even if you don't, you need to CONGRATULATE HIM! We just got word that he's gotten a patent internationally approved.
Last night he asked me how to share this news without sounding like he was bragging. I very quickly informed him that this is something you flipping brag about until the cows come home. I'm super proud of him.

2. Speaking of Fiance, Saturday night we went out to dinner with C (there were too many tacos. It was grand and very defeating all at the same time), and a two person trio* (see below) showed up. Fiance asked them to play me a romantic song, and C suggested that they play "Contigo Yo Aprendi". It is apparently a very well-known love song here. And it was wonderfully awesome and swoonworthy. The video isn't much to look at, because I was trying to be covert about recording them, but listen to it, because it is really a very pretty song, and it was played just for me. (I'll stop gushing)

Click to read the lyrics in Spanish. Since most of you reading this are English-only, here's my best attempt at translating:

With you I learned,
there are new and better emotions.
you I learned,
know a new world of illusions
that the week has more than seven days,
to make the best my joys,
and to be happy that I am with you.
I learned.

you I learned,
see the light of the other side of the moon.
With you I learned,
that your presence will not change at all.
your can kiss is so sweet and so profound,
I can go tomorrow from this world,
with the good
things I already lived with you,
and with you I learned that.

Que Romantico.

3. We've got our treadmill! Some assembly required. I am pumped to get much more active in the coming weeks (and maybe burn enough calories to make eating a tamale not a horrible idea).

Bubba's going to be really bummed when he realizes that it's not just a platform for his daily bath time.

4. We're having a poker night here this weekend.
One of the great things I got out of our trip home to the states over Christmas was Fiance's family patiently teaching me how to play poker. (Thank you again for the lesson Cousin S!) And then I won second place. So that was kinda cool (admittedly there were plenty of opportunities for Fiance's family to take me out of the game, but they played nice for me). I think though, that I'll be sitting out this tourney. Fiance could use a good old fashioned Guy's Night. He's earned it, certainly. In any case, I wanted to share the invites I drew up. Because I think they're pretty sweet, even with all of the identifying information blacked out.

5. I love dogs that never learned how to bark.

*Fara-fara- I got schooled by C this weekend on Mexican street musicians after I incorrectly called the gents from the mercado 'Mariachis.' Here's the run-down:
1 dude with guitar: Musico
2 dudes, one with guitar and one with accordion: Fara-fara (more popular in northern Mexico)
2-3 dudes with guitars: Trio (Yes trio. even if there's only 2. I had a hard time with that one. He explained that the third guy was probably either dead or sick that day. I think that was a joke.)
5 or more guys including 2 guitars, a larger guitar, a trumpet, possibly more brass instruments and/or percussion (but no accordion): Mariachi
Because knowledge is power.

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