Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a quick post on Mexico City before 2010 ends!


Remember my last post? About us getting married?  You may have noted that we got married in Mexico City.  Ergo, we must have travelled to Mexico City.  So, why was there no post about that trip?   Well, first of all, it was a quick, hurried, busy work trip; not great blog material.  Second of all, I usually tend to see trips home as, well, not real travel, and so I kind of forget to write about them.  

But, with all the horrible news all the time about the war on drugs, about violence and deaths as a result of it and the like, I think I definitely shouldn't let pass this one quick trip to a place I love and hate, home: Mexico City.

What was there to love?

- Being able to stay at a historical building smack in the middle of the old historic centre.
- Exploring the historic centre at night.  It's changed so much!  And now one of the main streets has been pedestrianised, giving the place new life.   It really is a beautiful area to explore, and explore we did.  If you're into architecture, you shouldn't miss it, and I'm sure you'll keep coming back to the Casa de los Azulejos.
- Basic, simple, popular Mexican food.  Before I flew back to Toronto, I had breakfast at the Mercado de Coyoacán, with family.  Wow, I had the best maize quesadillas (vegan ones, without cheese, of course) with flor de calabaza (squash blossom; yes, it's edible, and delicious!), huitlacoche (corn smut; another difficult to appreciate delicacy) and button mushrooms.  All accompanied by a sweet and warm café de olla.   
- Obviously, that my city is the most progressive city in the country, with civil marriage open to all. (and no witnesses required!)  No easy feat, given the opposition of the church in Mexico to equality! 

What I disliked:

- Traffic.  Man, getting anywhere by car is such a chore!  Plain disgusting.
- That Mexican food beyond basic, popular stuff is pretty vegan-unfriendly.  It seems we need to put cheese, bacon, ham, chicken or whichever animal products in every single dish!  
- Oh, and what on earth is a ginormous scientology temple doing downtown?  I guess Xenu must love Mexico City!  Shame on us.

Did you note how I didn't list dodging bullets, avoiding drug cartels and trying to remain unbeheaded as things I disliked?   Sure, as in many big cities, you have to pay attention not to wander into certain neighbourhoods, nor flash obviously valuable items around, but I could hardly cite those as reasons for not visiting.   So, like I would any other place I visited, here's the advice:  do not miss a trip to Mexico City, even a very short one; arm yourself with patience, and with a small Spanish vocabulary if possible, take a bit of common sense, and enjoy my home, a metropolitan area of 20 million people, apparently more museums than any other, countless theatres, street markets, and simply delicious food. 
   

Friday, December 10, 2010

Real good Chinese dumplings

At Mama's Kitchen (妈妈饺子馆). With a total of 7 years in China, I can assure you this place's dumplings (饺子) rock! (albeit I can only talk about their vegetarian ones, of course)



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Market @ Distillery District

carols, treats and drinks, if you don't mind a bit of a crowd and a "feels like" of -9.










- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 02, 2010

a long, unillustrated post on marriage

We've got married.  Finally.  And as soon as people found out we were doing it, and later on when we acknowledged the deed, loving friends and family quickly rushed to congratulate us.   And it felt very strange, a combination of happiness for seeing all that honest, open pouring of love and good-will and, at the same time, uneasiness at the knowledge that it was, beyond any doubt, a marriage of convenience.

"CONVENIENCE!?" you'll probably ask (scream, gasp, sneer?),  "isn't marriage supposed to be about love? about something transcendent?"  Not to forget that there is, in quite a number of countries, the question (for many a scandalous, embarrassing and uncomfortable question) of same-sex marriage (which, fortunately, became a reality in my home city, Mexico City,  on March this year).  Of course, I'm talking only about civil marriage here.  If I were to talk about religious marriage... well, I'd never end!  with dozens of religions, each with their own view on marriage, it would be impossible (and horribly tedious) to cover everything in one post, as well as rather unfair not to cover all of them either.  Plus, religious marriages are usually  exclusive affairs zealously closed off to everyone but those within the faith, whereas civil marriage is open to everyone regardless of religion.   And the civil kind is the one we signed into, anyhow, so I'll stick to that one.

So, back to the question, why a marriage of convenience? Isn't that a travesty of a time honoured institution?  And even worse, isn't a same-sex marriage an even bigger travesty?  Well, by looking at what the state does not do, I dare infer some uncomfortable conclusions on what marriage is not:

- It doesn't look like it's for procreating.  If it were, you'd be asked for a fertility test and a formal commitment to procreate and, if you weren't fertile enough or committed enough, you'd be denied marriage or, if for some reason you failed to procreate after marrying, the state would forcibly divorce you.

- It doesn't quite look like it's for the purpose of joining loving people, either.  Otherwise you'd have to pass some sort of "love test".  You'd be denied marriage if it were deemed you didn't love each other or didn't do so enough, and the state would probably ask you to take regular "love tests", divorcing those couples that failed them.

- It's certainly not for the purpose of strengthening society.  Otherwise you'd have to pass some sort of civic and psychological exam to make sure you would indeed contribute to a stronger society through your marriage, and once again the state would most probably divorce you if they deemed you a dysfunctional couple.

It does make sense, right?  If you were to support the view that marriage is for loving individuals to procreate and form the basis of society, you'd have to be in favour of love tests, fertility tests, procreation contracts, civic exams and the like as prerequisites for marriage, as well as measures to ensure that marriages that fail to comply with a certain standard are terminated by the state.  Yet from what I can tell, all you're required in most of the western world for a civil marriage is for two people to agree to sign a marriage contract, willingly.   And pay a fee.   No questions asked.  Period. 

And you know the best part?  Not only that but, for a long time and at least since premodern Europe (here I base myself mostly on the late John Boswell's work) marriage was usually a property arrangement, a way of securing your assets (or somebody else's!), at least in the beginning.  Children and love could indeed follow, but were by far not the main reason for marrying (love much less than anything).  Even more interesting: for a good millennium even the Christian church had an ambiguous attitude towards marriage, either not caring much for it, sometimes even discouraging it (as it could busy your mind with earthly concerns instead of freeing it for more spiritual pursuits) and, in an important number of well-documented cases, even establishing ceremonies for the union of same-sex couples.     

Despite that, I can't deny that personal, religious and social beliefs, coupled with the fact that it is a life-changing step for many couples, make marriage a milestone for very many.   And I don't disrespect good marriages people have worked hard for.  But that's what people make of it because, like I said, all you need for a civil marriage are two willing individuals who can afford a modest fee.  

Now, back to us.  Do we love each other? Absolutely.  Are we committed to each other? No doubt about it.  Are we happy with each other and intend to nurture our relationship so it will last long?  Definitely.  Did we marry because of that?  Not at all.  We married because marriage is a magic word that opens countless doors:  marriage is the king of positive discrimination; marriage offers so many benefits denied to many happy couples who haven't signed a paper; insurance, travel, work, invites... they all become so much simpler for couples that have entered a civil marriage.  Ask around, you'll be surprised at how many couples marry to make their life easier.  Why?  Because IT DOES.

Now, that's why we (we as a couple) married.  But, like the individual I am, I also had personal reasons to do it.  After being a second class citizen until March 2010, and being aware of the vast masses  that have being denied for generations the privileges so lightly granted to heterosexual couples,  I do celebrate that I can now fully enjoy all rights, as responsibly (or irresponsibly) as anybody else.   I  do celebrate that, as much as I'd like to see marriage-like benefits extended to all sorts of families regardless of structure or paper signing, at least this is one (small) step towards the recognition of the diversity of society.  I definitely celebrate all the beautiful support from friends, family, colleagues, my loving sister.  And last, but not least, I do celebrate having the satisfaction of seeing the faces of all those opposed to same-sex marriage when I introduce my habib as "my husband".   ;-)