Spice boys

My in-laws are very nice. They have welcomed me into their home for as long as we need until Cesia and I can move into our flat. There is a cultural misunderstanding, that has shown me what Mexicans think of Brits.

My in-laws are terrified that I will eat something spicy and die.

Yesterday I reheated some leftover chicken in a pan. I threw in some chopped up chili and tomatoes and sprinkled the whole thing with salt. I ate it with a couple of tortillas and it was good. I don’t know the names of the different chilis but this was green about twice as big as a jalapeño. It had a mild kick to it and was a bit sweet. In short, it was fine.

Later that evening Cesia told me that her dad had seen the pan I had used and saw that there were a few seeds in it. The seeds (or the membrane connecting the seeds to the rest of the chili – thanks, QI) are the hottest part of the chili. Cesia’s dad worried that I had eaten these, which I had, and suffered from the heat, which I hadn’t.

I’m not saying this as any kind of macho bravado. I know people that order the hottest thing in an Indian restaurant to prove that they can…provide for their family, I guess? Defend their home from intruders? I don’t know. I enjoy a korma if that’s what I’m in the mood for. I order the medium heat at Nando’s, but I’m not going to panic if they bring me a hotter half-chicken by mistake.

On one of my first days here we barbecued together. My in-laws showed me how to make salsa by grilling tomatoes and onions and chilis and grinding them together in a pestle and mortar. They made a regular salsa, and another one for me, devoid of spice. Cesia’s mum, and then her dad, both showed me which salsa was the none spicy one. Her dad said the regular one is very spicy, too hot, as though forbidding me from trying it.

It was spicy. Spicy enough to make me eat slower, but still barely more than a strong tingle – FYI, Strong Tingle is my signature wrestling move. On my next tortilla, I spooned a smaller serving of spicy salsa and enjoyed it very much. I tried a bit of the none spicy salsa and decided to stick with the regular stuff. This surprised Cesia’s dad. I imagine that he, and many other Mexicans, have this image of British people eating bread and milk, and cowering at anything with so much as a sprinkle of pepper.

I can’t tell whether Cesia’s dad thinks I’m trying to prove something. I made eggs earlier and had them with some of the same green chili I mentioned before. I had a cup of coffee with my food and he warned me against combining the hot flavour of the chili with the hot temperature of the coffee.

Along the same lines they bought a lot of 500ml bottles of water for me. Cesia’s mum was concerned that the water here would be bad for my system which is a valid concern. I made sure to Google it before I came. The last time I was here I drank that water and nothing happened. Nothing. Cesia’s mum has forgotten that, and rather than asking me or Cesia, sent her husband out to buy water bottles. This is after I had been here for two days so I don’t know what she thought I had been drinking that whole time.

Their concerns are kind-hearted but unnecessary. I expect that – in time – whether by experience, or by me learning how to better communicate with them, these weird trivial things will occur less and less. It’s hard to know how to react because if I say thank you I might imply that what they have done is needed, and that they should do it again. If I say nothing then I’ll feel rude. The best way I can think to handle it is to show off some macho bravado and start to eat the hottest things I can find in front of them. And wash it down with a tall glass of tap water.

Cesia’s dad and I can compete, like gorilla’s thumping our chests and bearing our teeth; teeth that will bite into green and red and yellow chilis, to see who is manliest. I could cook for them and claim that the meal is a traditional English recipe, but then load it with chilis and spices to see if they flinch. I won’t do that, but I could. And soon I’ll be out of their house and into my own, with as many chilis and as much tap water as I can handle. And if we invite them round for dinner, I’ll make them a traditional, British, vindaloo.


Diez cervesas, por favor.

Since I’ve been here I’ve watched the first season of How to Get Away with Murder, and now I’m several episodes into Season Two. It’s often too hot to be outside for any length of time so we binge on TV shows until it gets cool and we can go out to eat.
Yesterday we went to a fish restaurant for lunch. I don’t know what I ordered but it was good. One was a tostada, the other wasn’t. A tostada it a tortilla with something on it. The other thing was also on a tortilla, but wasn’t a tostada. I have no idea what the rules are for what is an isn’t a tostada, but I enjoyed both dishes.
The restaurant offers a bucket of ten beers, and we figured that the 190ml bottles, split between two of us, would be around two pints each; a fun, but not crazy amount for a weekday lunchtime. We ordered ten small bottles of Indigo. They came in a big bucket of ice that the waiter set on a little stand by our table. Cesia and I were talking about something and we kept talking as the waiter opened two bottles and left. We were thirsty and drank half a bottle each before we realised that our order was wrong. We had been given ten 325ml bottles.
We looked at the menu to see if it was our mistake or our waiter’s. We weren’t sure. We considered saying something, but decided against it. So, we sat on the terrace enjoying our food and lots and lots of beer. I practised my Spanish, saying Desculpe to the waiter when we needed him to open our next bottle, and when he didn’t hear me, Cesia shouted Hey.
We went across the street to look at furniture for the apartment we were hoping to get, and we decided all their rugs are ugly. We looked at coffee makers and chairs and mirrors. And when we were done we took a taxi home to continue watching How to Get Away With Murder. While we were binge watching, Cesia got an email saying the apartment we wanted was ours.
Soon we will have a place, and a chair, and a mirror. Maybe a coffee maker. Hopefully a rug that isn’t ugly. And we’ll have a bucket of beer to celebrate.

I hate Aeromexico

I hate Aeromexico. I’ve flown with them three times and three times it has been horrible. The first time they attempted to reassign me to a flight that would have made me miss my connections. In the end, I missed my connection anyway because, after boarding, the plane sat on the runway for two hours. I was stuck in Dallas for 24 hours. The second time, they lost my bag.

This time they didn’t put my gate number on any screens in the airport. They didn’t say whether it was delayed either, so about 40 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave I found an employee and asked what’s going on. He told me the flight had already boarded and I was too late. I asked someone else and they confirmed it; I was too late. I was forty minutes early and I was too late.

Except that I wasn’t, and the Aeromexico employees were talking crap. If I had listened to them I would have missed my flight and had to pay for another one. And the company I would have had to pay is Aeromexico.

What had happened was the flight was delayed. No info on the screens, I had to search for someone to tell me. I found the gate and saw the flight was going to leave an hour late. They hadn’t even begun boarding yet.

When they did start boarding I waited in line and watched the numbers on the screen change from 20:00 to 20:30 to 20:42. The plane had been delayed again as I and a hundred other travellers stood in the 30-degree heat for over an hour. When we eventually got onto the plane we were given a half-cup of water to drink and an-hour-and-a-half later we landed. By this point I had been travelling for 28 hours and I slept through the landing.

I grabbed my stuff and walked off the plane. I walked up to the baggage carousel and grabbed my suitcase. I wheeled it to the sliding doors where Cesia was smiling at me from the other side. And as tired I was, and as annoyed at Aeromexico, and as sweaty and dehydrated I had become, I didn’t care anymore. I wanted a hug, and my hug was only ten feet away, and I couldn’t help but smile.

Last weekend my best friend, Alex, stayed with me for a couple of drunken days. He’s going to be the best man at my wedding and, as the wedding will be in Mexico, it will be hard for him to organise a stag do, so this was kind of my stag do.

I had a long day, including a three hour train journey and a thirty minute walk, and I arrived hom to find Alex in his underwear, dancing to a Craig David song. I was a few drinks behind. I opened a beer and drank it down.

We went to a pub and played pool until we decided to go back home, do the power hour, and then go out. The power hour is a drinking game in which participants drink a shot glass of beer every minute for an hour. It’s like the centurion which lasts for 100 minutes. While drinking games have never appealed to me, this is one that sounded easy. It’s a shot of beer. That’s nothing. I set a repeating alarm on my phone and settled in for a refreshing and envigorating sixty minutes.

By minute nine we were swearing at my my phone. A couple of shots later we got a glass of water each and drank it between beers. At about twenty-five shots Alex resigned and went for brief but energising vomit. I soldiered on. At each shrill beep I manfully raised the glass to my lips. With the smooth motion of an expert gunman drawing his weapon I poured the liquid down my throat and reloaded. The beer fizzed like and acid bath. I considered quitting; Alex already had so there would be no shame in it. But no. I have given up on too much in my life; karate, juggling, genetic engineering. Not this tme. I would finish this.

My phone beeped for the fiftieth time and, after a deep breath, I drank the shot. Almost before I had poured my fifty-first, it beeped again. This was requiring a lot of effort. My hands struggled to coordinate the next pour but they did. My phone beeped. I called it a bastard. I drank. I drank, and I drank, and I drank until I hit sixty, at which point I walked around my flat with my hands in the air, cheering. I was drunk.

We went to Missing, a gay bar we had been to several times in the past. On a recent visit we considered trying to pimp one of us out and to run off with the money and spend it on chinese food. We didn’t do it because Alex can’t dance seductively enough.

We had some drinks, and mindless conversations that had to be yelled over the music, and then were given a shot each of absinthe. Neither of us wanted them, but here they were. We drank them, looked around, realised we weren’t having a good time, so we went home to watch Fifty Shades of Grey.

This film, as you may very well know, is trash. I saw it in the cinema with a friend who had read the books and we laughed all the way through. It is stunning that there are two beautiful people on screen, naked, and yet it has the erotic charge of putting out the bins. After an hour of mocking the film I went to bed and Alex put a blanket in the bath and slept there (no reason).

I’ve moved before, and moved countries before, and every time, I have lost all my friends. I am terrible at keeping in touch, responding to messages, or letting people know when something happens. This blog post is a week late and I’m surprised I haven’t already given up on the whole blogging thing already. I have before, three times. But they say fourth time’s the charm, and I did finish the power hour so I know I can do some things. Alex has a real job in London and a girfriend in Germany. I’m going to be in Mexico. It would be very easy for our friendship to fizzle out.

The day after the power hour we worked on a script that we have been kicking around for a while. A year ago he wrote the first half of a mockumentary. We started on the second half and talked about how, through timing, discipline, and hard work, we could keep this project going until we finish it. Timing, discipline, and hard work are how I completed the power hour so I know this technique works.


This morning Cesia and I woke up at 3 o’clock. She showered and I dressed, and then we called for an Uber to take us to the airport.
The last time this happened was in December and the plan was that she would go home to Mexico for a month before flying back to England. Unfortunately her job needed her in Michigan for a project, and it extended her time away for bout three weeks. That was hard.
It was frustrating having our plans messed up, and it meant I was bored. I am easily bored and when I’m bored I do one of two things: get lazy to the point of self destructivness, or I get productive and healthy. Back in December I had finished my assignments for that semeseter, and was working on first and second drafts for the assignments for my next semester. I was bored and alone. I spent my time watching too much netflix and opening a bottle of wine at four most afternoons. This time I’ll go the other way and be healthy and productive.
At the airport we checked her bag and then found somewhere to sit until it was time for her to go through security. We’ve done this a few times and it’s pretty easy now.
There was one time when she left and neither of us new when we would see each other again. It turned out it would be five months, after which I flew to Mexico for Valentine’s day and we decided that five months is too long.
This time it will be a little over two weeks. There were no tears as we said goodbye and I watched her disappear through the barriers. I took a bus home and slept for a couple of hours and woke up when she messaged me to say that she had landed in Frankfurt and that she was all set for her next flight to Houston.
We bought her some new luggage tags yesterday, and instead of writing her parents address on them she wrote her email. In a little over two weeks I’ll be flying out there too and I’m hoping that she’ll have been able to find us a flat in that time. I like the idea of writing my own Mexican address on my tags.
When she went through security and I could no longer see her there was a moment when I felt a little emotional. It reminded me of the times we’ve said goodbye for months, and the sadness and fear that comes with a long time apart. But then I realised that this would be the shortest period of separation we have ever gone through. We could do this. I bought a Tropicana and cheered up.
As I’m writing this Cesia is still in the air. I’ve done some laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and listened to some Spanish lessons. Our flat feels a lot emptier without her so I’m playing netflix and podcasts and audiobooks to stop the silence driving me crazy. I pressed pause to write this post but now I’m going to watch another episode of Archer, decide what to have for dinner, and wait for Cesia to message me and let me know she’s safe on her way home.

Finishing University

Yesterday I handed in my final two assignments. This means I am finished with university forever, or until I do a Masters, which I’d like to. To celebrate, Cesia bought me a bottle of Cruxland Gin that I’ve been wanting to try, and we drank it while eating bread and olives and sundried tomatoes.

I’m not going to reminisce and wax lyrical about the university experience – in the next few weeks there will be a million student bloggers that will do that for me – I just want to talk about my last semester because It was a little weird, but I’m proud of it.

I did two modules: Writing the Novel, and the Independent Study Module. Writing the Novel is similar to other classes in that we had weekly seminars and regular tasks to complete. We had frequent contact with our teacher who gave feedback on the work we were doing for our final submission. The Independent Study Module (ISM) was very different. No classes, you design your own assignment, and contact with a teacher only happens if and when you arrange it. For the ISM I wrote a 30 minute film and an essay on genre, and for Writing the Novel, I wrote the first 5,000 words of a novel, a synopsis of the entire plot, and an essay on why people should think my novel is good.

These are two quite big assignments. And they have the same deadline so it’s a lot of work all leading to one day. And they are both creative rather than traditionally academic. It is for these reasons that the university didn’t allow me to do these subjects simultaneously until I had an argument with a faculty member.

This was about a year ago and I had decided which modules I wanted to do and simply needed the university to sign off on them. They had a couple of students ask to do Writing the Novel and the ISM concurrently and had turned them down, recommending other modules that might suit their interests. This is what happened to me but when they turned me down, I turned them down harder.

They explained that the amount of work involved in the two modules is too much, and the independence of the ISM can be a stumbling block for many students. I said I can handle it. Their worst argument though, and I still find it incredible that I was offered this as a legitimate reason for why I couldn’t do the subjects I wanted to, was that, “historically, they have never taught Writing the Novel and the ISM concurrently.” That is a terrible reason not to do something. Historically, I’ve never ran a marathon. Historically, minorities have been oppressed. Historically, people died of polio.

I reminded them that the year I would be taking these modules would only be the second year the university had taught Writing the Novel so, historically, it was impossible to do both. Historically, the university didn’t teach them, which means that the historical argument is at best nonsensical, and at worst hypocritical.

I explained my point of view, and then offered to be an experiment; let me do this, and if I fail, you can point to me as a reason that you don’t allow future students to do the subjects concurrently. I was allowed to do both modules.

I then decided to neglect one of my other modules. Literature and Psychology, an interesting subject but sadly, it was far too academic. I knew that, of the four grades that are averaged to decide my degree, this would not be one of them. So instead of struggling over an essay I found tedious that wouldn’t count towards anything, I did the absolute least needed to pass, and instead focused on a script I would later submit as the ISM, and a novel extract that would become my Writing the Novel assignment.

It’s a risky technique. I got a bad grade for a smaller assignment involved in the ISM. In fact, I had messed up enough that it was only a few marks over my Literature and Psychology grade that I had ignored. It meant I couldn’t make any more mistakes.

I worked hard. I made notes in my phone as soon as they cam to me. I scribbled things on the back of receipts and napkins. I took notebooks to my job so I could work when it was quiet, and I edited and edited and edited until I knew it was the best I could do. Then I sent it to my friend Alex who graduated from the same course last year. I worked his feedback into my project and sent it to him again. I sent it to my teacher and repeated the process over and over. Regardless of what grade I get (I have to wait about five weeks to find out) I’m sure I did everything I could.

When I saw the low grade I got on that small ISM assignment, I was surprised. I read the feedback and understood where I had gone wrong, but, like I say, I was surprised. I won’t get any more feedback until I know what my degree grade will be, so, if I have made another mistake, I have to wait about five weeks to find out. It’s already too late to do anything.

Legge Day

There’s a countdown on my phone that tells me how many days until our wedding. I know that the pictures from that day will be on display in our home for a long time, so I want to look my best, which right now, means I need to lose weight. I’m a member of a gym that offers a free personal training session so after speaking to Adam, a six-foot tall bicep, we arranged a time and decided to work out my legs.

Without going into detail (you can find a billion other places online for that), if you lift weights you tear your muscles microscopically. Your body uses recources (calories, etc.) to repair the tears, which means those resources can’t be stored as fat. So lift weights to lose weights. And, because legs have more muscle than arms, I can give them more micro-tears, I wanted to learn how to train my legs.

We squatted. We added weight. We squatted. Then we exercised our hamstrings. Adam, would count my reps and saay things like “Only four more,” when there was only four more. Sometimes he’d say “Strong,” like it was a subliminal message. This sounds like I’m making fun of him, or of people that use personal trainers, but actually I thought he was good.

We were doing leg presses when something in my neck popped and my head started pounding like I had a hangover. I tried to leg press one more time but my eyes nearly burst out my skull so I stopped. Adam told me to rest and he set up another exercise.

The pain didn’t go away. I drank water, I stretched, but there was this intense pressure from the bottom of my neck to about half way up the back of my head.

We worked out my calves for a couple of minutes before I had to quit. I was going to pass out, or throw up, or bleed from the ears, or all three. I come here regularly and didn’t want to embarrass myself.

Today my legs hurt, which means Adam did his job. The squats have made it ache when I sit, and the hamstring excersises have made it hard to stand, so whether I sit or stand, I’m in pain. I am choosing to think that is a good thing.

I don’t know what the situation will be like in Mexico, whether I’ll have access to a gym, or have time to workout, or be able to afford a membership. I think I will, but it’s one of many many things that are too far away, through the fog of plans, hopes, ideas, and reality for me to see it clearly.

I came home and had a bath and held an ice pack to my neck. I lay in bed with the ice pack until I was dry and then got up and had some healthy food Cesia had made fo us. It was lentils and onion and tomato all cooked up together. It was good.

If I can’t go to the gym in Mexico then I’m hoping the sun will encourage me to spend more time outside, and jog.

This whole thing is shallow. I could just be more comfortable with myself, and not worry about what I look like, or what others will think. I also realise that Cesia hasn’t said I need to lose weight. But I guess I am shallow, or self critical. I’m not self loathing, but I know I have some work to do, a few miles to go, a few pounds to lift and shed.

My legs hurt.

Wish me luck.