I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, September 28, 2003

One of the things Berlitz wants teachers to do in the class, especially for children, is play music. Makes sense; who doesn’t remember tunes from their childhood? Who can’t sing at least two Schoolhouse Rock compositions? So the school has a variety of tapes to play as background music during class … only it’s a very small pool of tapes. There’s a tape of classic children’s songs like “The Itsy-bitsy Spider” and “ABC,” plus classic tunes with new lyrics: “Mary Had a Little Lamb” except the words say, “Brush Your Teeth and Comb Your Hair,” or some such. And the former director made two mix tapes (pop, alt/rock, and rap lite) and one Britney Spears tape. And I have my TMBG’s “No!” cd of children’s songs. That's it! And I can't always get one of the two cd players at work, so for my kid’s classes I’m often stuck with the classics tape.

So after not quite two months I find that when, in my sleep, I think ahead to the next day’s classes, I often have “The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round” playing in my head. Sure, sometimes it’s “Robot Parade,” but usually not. It’s gotten to the point that I make up new lyrics on the spot as I sing along to the kid’s songs on the tape, Hal9000 be damned.

(Some of you have heard me sing, and may be thinking to yourself, why would Suzanne be so mean to her little kids? But I figure that for kids that are three and four years old, singing will get more English words to stick in their heads than all the flashcards in the world, so I sing along to all the songs, and the kids join in for the songs they already know. But on the songs they don’t know, I make up words.)

Now, you might be thinking, Suzanne, just make some more tapes! And I suppose if I wanted to spend some more time at work I could bring a load of cds to the school and make some new tapes, and maybe I will. I tried to download some kid’s tunes from the Apple Store, but Apple won’t let people using an overseas IP address download music! What’s up with that? Nor can I buy tickets online for a flight originating in an airport outside the US. Trying to do both things really showed me just how used to using the Internet I’ve gotten. Remember my rude awakening in Texas regarding Internet access?

I can see the airline’s point about flights online; it would be chaotic trying to coordinate flights with foreign carriers. But the music thing? What a load of crap. Now maybe I’m ascribing too much intelligence to recording industry execs, but you’d think they’d want to let anyone worldwide legally download music – and if they didn’t, a stroll through one of the markets down here should convince them otherwise. Have you seen all the CD-R booths that have popped up at Ashby flea market in the past year? It’s like that down here, in every market, except almost all the pirates down here make facsimile covers for their cds and dvds. Some are better than others, to where I have to take a close second look to see that it’s a reproduction; some people just use a black-and-white Xerox of the original and leave it at that. And everybody buys them.

Last week, the kids in one of Greg's classes taught him the phrase, "Gordita amiga jonadita." We think it means, Pinch your friend's fat.

Not too long ago, Greg and I realized that we had a lot of Mexican artwork even before crossing the border. Of course, it’s all stored away in San Francisco. We took very little of our art with us: I tucked away a panoramic photo magnet of the Pinto Wells area in our box of kitchen stuff, and of course the fridge magnet of the naked mole rats from the San Diego Zoo. Okay, so that’s not artwork, so really the only piece of art we took with us is our High-Class Quartz Clock. Most would argue that our beloved clock is as far from art as you can get. Have you seen it? It’s gold-colored plastic, about a foot by a foot square, with gold plastic numerals and hands and a cardboard face printed with the Last Supper superimposed with red and green lights. We don’t keep the battery in to make the lights run, because the same circuit that controls the lights also controls the hourly chime. There is no volume control for the awfully loud chime, which is a collection of half a dozen (or more! We don’t know because we’ve never run through them all) tunes of a mostly un-Biblical nature. But what makes it really High-Class is that the mechanism that plays the tunes is of poor quality, so that the notes are warped and distorted. It’s truly beautiful in its hideousness.

It was a wedding present!

Our landlady came by one day to make sure we had all the paperwork we needed from her and her husband for our FM3s, and she saw the clock. She came in to take a closer look, and asked me (in Spanish) about it. I told her that Greg is a Catholic, and that satisfied her. I didn’t show her the spoon I bought shortly after arriving.

Greg and I went down to the zocalo last night for a couple of beers and chat and people-watching. About 85 percent of Oaxaca’s income is tourist-based. Fortunately, Mexican nationals make up a substational proportion of those tourists. I say fortunately because for me it would get old real fast if everybody down at the zocalo was from the States. I also hear a fair number of Europeans, too, and occasionally see a group of Japanese tourists. But if Oaxaca’s centro district is “cosmopolitan,” as Oscar says, then damn, I’m glad we settled here, because after California it’s pretty homogenous to me.

In any case, Greg's having a glass of wine and I’m having a suero (beer with lime and salt) and talking about “The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light” -- which if you have any interest in culture, religion, history, science, or myth you should read -- and somehow we got to talking about e-mail and how for me e-mail is looking a lot like a cargo cult, a clever insight from my sweet that makes me smile now whether I have e-mail from home or not.


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