I Moved To Oaxaca

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Okay, I figured out why I'm finding even The Economist necessary reading these days: media deprivation. No English-language newspapers (except those online), no magazines other than the occasional Economist and People, no TV, no radio, no movies. Apparently, the trick is to wander past the theatre, stick your head in and see what's playing that evening, and at what time. Last time I looked it was "A Man Apart" and I'm not yet that desperate. They have posters up for Pirates; when are they going to show that?

This afternoon is was muggy as all get out; not really hot, but awfully muggy. Then around 4:30 or 5 it rained; we even got a few good peals of thunder. It usually rains every other day or so, sometimes lightly, sometimes one of those tropical-intensity deluges that lasts for about 10, 15 minutes then quits. We often hear thunder, and sometimes see lightning. Nothing too dramatic, but after growing up in California, it sure is nice.

Two news leaves on my little coffee plant. Sure looks nice in its tortoise planter. Thanks, Atzompa potters!

Class today went fine, despite my doom and gloom attitude yesterday. But really, it's pretty easy to entertain grammar-school kids between bouts of English learnin' -- today was phone numbers and street addresses. Monday I have my first adult class, using the less-than-good book (Getting Around In English versus Berlitz English, which is a breeze). I also get to teach Patricia, the director, one hour a day starting Monday. I was supposed to do it last week, but because I was ill Greg took over my week. So I'll teach her this week and next, then it's Greg again for a week, and so on.

The walk to school takes about 15, 20 minutes, and part way there, as we leave the centro and enter Colonia Reforma, we have to cross what we refer to as The Intersection of Death. It's where Benito Juarez street, with all its buses and traffic coming into the centro from Colonia Reforma, San Felipe, etc, crosses Mex. 190, which in the city is called Heroes de Chapultepec. Now, being a big-city kid I should have no problem with a busy intersection. But. Drivers in Oaxaca (and, I think, all of Mexico) drive like people do in Boston, eg, lane markings are only a suggestion, but really, drive where you will! And they do. Plus, even though the dedicated turn lanes are clearly marked, being in one doesn't mean you're going to turn. That only happens about half the time. Signal use is sporadic as well. Heck, people in the middle or right lanes will turn left, too. There's just no telling. So pedestrians gather at the curb, eyeing the signals and the traffic, and when it looks safe, dart into the road like quail, heads swivelling in every direction, piping up when a wayward vehicle is spotted to alert the others, and bunching up on the safety of the median. Repeat to get across the second half of the road. And we always cross on one side of the intersection, because after a couple of tries on the other side, where we have to watch for people turning right, we decided it was too fraught with danger. Somebody was going to get squished. And as an added thrill, one day Patti Topper told us about a bus driver who one day hit a Japanese tourist pedestrian, then backed up over her while she lay in the road to finish the job. Why? Patti said it's because in Mexico you get in more trouble if you injure somebody than if you kill them. I don't know, but I'll tell you, we run like hell when we see a bus coming.


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