Sunday, February 26, 2012

Travel Log: Campeche

I am visiting my dad in Campeche, Mexico. I arrived two days ago and have already been shown quite the "bienvenidos". My dad has lived here for 6 years and has been adopted by a couple of families who have extended their arms to welcome me into their family as well. 

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with a family who has strong Mayan roots. We had botanas (appetizers), cerveza, and then an incredible regional dish called pibi pollo. This meal is traditionally made for dia de los muertos in November and takes two days to prepare! It is cooked underground and is made of corn, chicken and sausage. They had some frozen so I got to have this treat in February. I was also given a wonderful juice made from Chinese bitter orange (naranja agria). 

My host also made some nance with honey and alcohol. This is a very aromatic fruit the size of a cherry with a pit. I'd never had such a thing before but it was really delicious. After dinner they showed me their stash of chocolate. My dad's "brother" buys the raw cacao and then roasts it himself. He takes it to someone who grinds it up with some cinnamon, honey, peanuts and almonds. He and his wife then pound it into a metal circle and it is then used to make hot cocoa.

Cacao with peanuts, almonds, cinnamon, and honey. This circle makes three cups of hot chocolate.
My dad teaches english down here and my first day one of his past students stopped by to meet me. He is learning Reiki and talked a lot about Eckhart Tolle. Very rare! He gave me a reiki session and I felt wonderful afterwards. 

Today we spent the afternoon with the Chilangos. (Chilangos means they come from the capital, D.F.). They made a special meal (as requested by my dad) from huitlacoche. Otherwise known as corn smut, this is a type of fungus that infects corn. It is considered a pest by some and a delicacy by others. It was wrapped in a chicken breast and covered with a creamy sauce made from squash flowers. We started off with tequila (muy suave!) and a really tasty bean dip and then finished with a cappuccino and then various herbal teas. 

This family had a small herb garden where they grew epazote, oregano, tomatoes, lemon verbena, basil, parsley and some fruit trees. Whenever they go back to D.F. they visit an herbalist who gives them kilos and kilos of different herbal teas for common ailments. They are beautiful with barks, flowers and leaves. They showed me dosages by demonstrating if you pick it out of the bag with your fingers pointing towards the ground (fingertips only) or with the entire hand with the fingers facing the ceiling (handful).

One of the herbal teas given to me from the chilangos.
I studied Spanish in college and lived in the Dominican Republic at one time, but although I used to speak bastante bien, I have definitely forgotten a lot! Also because I speak French at home (and I learned these two languages at the same time) I easily get the two languages confused. However I am quickly remembering a lot of vocabulary and everyone has a lot of patience with me! Luckily I can understand almost everything even if I can't speak correctly all the time. 

I've learned a few phrases Campechano. One, which as come in handy a few times already is  "perro milpero". This means dog of the cornfield and refers to the dogs which come home from the cornfields with a few more inches around the waste, after weeks of gluttony.  

I am overwhelmed with how kind everyone has been so far! Right now my dad and I are resting a little bit before heading out to an ice cream store that serves rose petal ice cream. We'll spend a couple more nights here at my dad's house before heading out to travel around the Peninsula.