I Moved To Oaxaca

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I last updated this on Monday?! Yowza. As you can see, it's Thursday evening now. And it was awfully darn hot today. I was hoping it would rain, but nope. Now, compared to the Bay Area, it's hot every day. All my office clothes are appropriate for San Francisco's cool, foggy weather, AND for stuffing into a backpack for my commute, so they're mostly synthetics. Synthetics aren't so good in a hot, humid climate. I've noticed that after I walk the mile to Berlitz, I'm downright stinky, even with Tom's of Maine in my corner. So today on the way to school I went ahead and bought a stick of Secret, 'cause it's strong enough for a man ... but not as smelly as Right Guard. The day before yesterday, it rained a lot, almost all afternoon and most of the evening. It was raining lightly when the time came for Greg and I to walk home, which was good, but the streets and sidewalks were running with water. Not so good. But, I was wearing my trusty ol' Doc Marten's, San Francisco style, so my toes stayed dry. If it had rained like that in the Bay Area it would've been on the evening news. As I was making faces at the streams where sidewalks had been, Manuel said, oh, I'd give this a 4 or 5. Really? Well, maybe Oaxaca gets more rain than Berkeley. But I checked, and it doesn't! Almost the same amount, about 29 inches a year. They just get it in big-ass monsoonal storms is all.

You know what else happened the day before yesterday? We got our first Berlitz paychecks. Greg even made more than me, a first. Way to go, G-man! Second, Greg's new gamebook, HeroQuest, arrived at the school. It looks hot, and has been getting tons of positive buzz on the gamer sites. Check it out. And lastly, we moved. But where? More than a week ago I said we still had time to dither about where we'd move, and after trying to get ahold of the landlady at the place we'd previously agreed to rent (the super-nice one with the private patio that was more than we could afford), Greg went past a place we'd previously considered but rejected because we weren't able to actually see the unit before. But the owner recognized Greg and said he had a vacant unit, did we want to rent it. It's in an old brick building -- not my favorite place to be when on the Ring of Fire -- but the unit is huge. Well, parts of it are huge. Everyone keeps reminding us, It's a Mexican apartment. I suppose that means in part that while the living room/dining area are large, with 20-foot terracotta ceilings, the kitchen is dinky. But it does have a stove -- which I have to light by hand. And it has two bedrooms, both large and again with 20-foot tile ceilings. And the bathroom is miniscule. It's so small that when I sit on the john my knees knock the toilet paper dispenser. But the showerhead is higher than Greg's head, a definite bonus in this land of the small, and it smells a lot better in there now that we threw away the toilet bowl deodorizer hanging over the trash can. Oh, and somebody put it there because, since this is a Mexican apartment, we can't put paper in the toilet, so ALL paper goes into the trashcan. Okay. But the deodorizer ain't coming back. All utilities are included, and the building usually only runs out of water during the latter part of the dry season, but if it does, we just let the landlord/landlady know and they'll turn on the pump to refill the reservoir. I forget it's Spanish name. And we have to buy our own drinking water -- just like everywhere else we've been in Oaxaca, it comes in big 5-gal. jugs that we buy from the aguadores that pedal up and down the streets on their three-wheeled bike-carts. Or, we can put the empty outside our door with 12 pesos underneath, and Carlos the handyman will buy a new one when the aguadore pedals by. And they're okay with us having cats, though we had to laboriously explain Advantage to them in pidgin English. The building has a central patio with a lot of plants and a fountain (haven't seen it turned on), and looks quite pretty in that decrepitly charming way. And, since it's around the corner from our old place, I don't have to give up my Donut Lady habit. The one downside, and it's a biggie, is that the building is on Av. Benito Juarez, one of the main bus drags through town. If we had a unit in the back, we'd only have to walk through the copious bus smog to get to school and back, but our unit is in the front, and I now know from personal experience that the buses start up about 5:30 in the morning. But tough titties. We can afford it. It's good enough for now.

Oh, one more drawback: no fan. And since we don't want to fill the apartment with bus fumes, we can't open enough windows to get a cross-breeze. So this weekend we're driving to Gringolandia and buying a fan at WalMart.

Oh, and the Donut Lady. Wait, back up a moment. Early this week a supercocina opened up two doors down from our old apartment. We tried it; they make pretty good tacos, 5 pesos per. Only scary moment came when I thought I was asking for a carrot-and-chile filling but, on closer examination, the carrots turned out to be slices of hot dog. But I pretty much get lunch from the Donut Lady, Senora de los donas (or is "donut" feminine? hard to say), and if I miss her, I grab a couple of tacos from the supercocina. Which fortunately I can keep doing in our new digs. Today for lunch I asked for the comida instead of the hand foods, much to her suprise. Got a styrofoam tray of refried black beans, a chicken leg, fried and dusted with chile powder, a big heap of macaroni salad, and some too-wilted cucumber-and-lettuce salad, and a bag with six hot tortillas. It was enough food for two. That, and a tart for Greg, was 23 pesos. She's got some damn good chicken in her lunches; I wonder if she keeps a bunch of chickens, because the meat is always very fresh.

Even though we didn't have a lot to move or very far to move it, I was exhausted by the end of the day. I think it was the stress of moving once again. Part of me is awfully tired of it, and when that half speaks up another part of me says to shut up and enjoy it while I can. So who the hell knows. I will be glad to not feel like I'm living out of a box, I'll tell you that.

Now that we have an honest-to-goodness address you can send stuff there ... we can see what makes it through. I have no idea how the Mexican postal system behaves. Could be fun to try. But I don't think we'll be there for long. But if you want the address, e-mail me and I'll send it to you. Otherwise, keep writing to us via my mom's house or our PO in San Francisco.

Alright, what else? Oh, Spanish class is going very well. I didn't bring my notebook or I would tell you some of the phrases we learned today. It was slang-heavy, especially words and phrases -- and hand gestures! -- used to say variations of "fuck." We had to be circumspect so HAL wouldn't hear us. We got to pass along some American variations to Gilberto, too, fair trade. Look for 'em later this week!

Avocados down here are called aguacates.

JLo is the new Liz Taylor, I think. Just like, as Janina says, buttcrack is the new cleavage.


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