I Moved To Oaxaca

Friday, October 31, 2003

Happy Friday!
Greg had to get up at 6am for a class today, and he's got another one this afternoon at 4:30pm. Me, I got up and went to the Friday market with Timothy to buy flowers, cleaned the house, set up our Day of the Dead altar, had some lunch (reheated spagetti -- thanks, Timothy!) and chat with Marlys, then wandered over to the Internet cafe.

It's been sprinkling off and on for most of the afternoon. The sky's full of clouds, but I can't tell if it's really going to rain or not. Other than today's sprinkles and one early evening shower earlier in the week, it hasn't rained for about a month -- a pretty abrupt end to the rainy season. Saw online that the Bay Area got some hail!

Usually for Halloween/Day of the Dead I set up an altar with what pictures of deceased relatives I have, some incense and candles, some flowers, and some food from the garden, especially pumpkins. No garden this year, though, and a real need to do something a little extra for all the misfortunate kitties this year, so I set up a three-table altar in a corner of the middle room. One table's for cats, one table's for people, and the middle table's for food. I bought a pumpkin this morning, too; that's there, along with some oranges, limes, avocados, candy, booze, and cat food (sabores de aves). And a shitload of candles and flowers, mostly marigolds, but some dark purple and magenta flowers, too. Plus some little painted tin hearts and flowers, and a little butterfly for that kitten that was killed. (In Huichol-land, the spirits of children are turned into butterflies.) With three tables it's the biggest Halloween/Day of the Dead altar I've done, and with all those flowers it's hard to ignore! Can't wait to light all the candles tonight.

We're planning to meet one of my students tonight around 9pm and drive over to Xoxo, a colonia just outside Oaxaca, to see their supposedly grand celebrations in the old graveyard. Should be good. Timothy will be with us tonight instead of back in San Sebastian, as he got pickpocketed while getting on the Miahuatlan bus today!

I'm a little sad that while thousands upon thousands of graves across the country will be resplendently decorated for this most gravely fun weekend, Fuzzy's grave will go unadorned. She's got a prominent place on the kitty altar in my apartment, but I would like to celebrate the holiday at her graveside, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

My state is on fire. Again.

I don't want to downplay the tragedy of people losing everything they own to a wildfire, or dying in one. It's an awful thing to see and smell. But it happens every year in California, which is made to burn. I remember going outside one summer morning and yelling to my mom that it was snowing. I don't think I'd seen snow at that time in my life. She stood with me on the landing and said it was ash coming down from the mountains. It's quite a sight at night when the mountains are on fire. It's pretty in a way that watching bits of burnt books wafting across your lawn in the daytime is not.

When the Santa Ana winds get going, the state sometimes has to shut the freeways east of LA down to trucks because the winds blow the trucks over. And even though it made an already hot summer almost unbearable, I used to look forward to the Santa Anas because once it'd blown the smog out to sea I could see the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains. They're only a couple of miles from where I grew up, and run between 8,000' and 10,000', but you'd never know it in the summer, when smog completely obsures them. So, yeah, bring on the triple-digit heat and lemme see my mountains, best in the state!

Timothy's going out to Teotitlan Del Valle with Marcos tonight for another temescal ceremony, lucky guy. And in class today, my students volunteered to take Greg and I out to Xoxo, a village outside Oaxaca that has a really good Day of the Dead celebration. A little field trip. We're going to make our plans after class Thursday.

And, I updated the links on the left, adding pictures of our San Sebastian trip as well as some parade photos. And some Graceland photos -- nothing to do with Oaxaca, I know, but they're too good not to share.

Monday, October 27, 2003

I never did manage to log in with WS_Pro LE, so I wasn't able to get photos from this weekend up -- I'll try again Wednesday.

But, I did get some mail today, real live mail from my friend Steve. A mix cd, "Suzanne's Songs for the Square." It's even got a fancy, computer-printed jacket, with a shot of the zocalo and inside, a snippet by Hampton Sides, "The Best Place to Do Absolutely Nothing:"

We needed time to reflect, to get ourselves some mole and some mescal and put some perspective on the long swirl of epochs. So we headed to the zocalo. No place beats the zocalo of Oaxaca for its sheer staying power -- that is, its capacity to entice a person to sat in one place, amused and mesmerized and oblivious to time. It's the most magnificantly sittable place I've ever sat my turista ass in.

And postcards. And a restaurant peppermint. He mailed it October 11 so, what, it only took 15 days regular mail. I can't wait to give a listen.

Let me go back in time ... last Friday we had another one of those teacher development sessions, so I had to put off a walk up San Felipe another week. After the TDS I stayed to work on my lesson plans, and while I was sitting there Manuel came in and said "I have good news ... for Greg." Now, when Manuel says he has good news, it's best to run in the other direction, but unfortunately he was standing between me and the doorway. He asked me to tell Greg that Greg has a new class from 7:30 to 8:30 MWF. Oh, 7:30am. Well, so much for coming back Monday morning!

I didn't get a chance to tell Greg about his swell new schedule Friday -- it just didn't come up during our tiff -- and Saturday morning Greg said he wasn't so sure we could make it up to Marcos's before dark, and I said (after I told him about his new class) that I wasn't so sure we could get back in time if Little Jumbo failed to start. So we altered our plan to drive up there, collect Timothy, and come back Sunday morning. What the hell -- six hours of driving, but at least it'd be a new road. So Saturday after class we scurried home, threw together an overnight bag, grabbed the sleeping bags, and took off.

I described Hwy 175 a little during last Saturday's excursion; it's not quite so curvy heading south, but for a main highway to the coast ... It's a lot like driving on Grizzly Peak Rd, minus the guardrails, lights, and reflectors, and with the addition of random goats, cattle, sheep, horses, burros, dogs, people walking, and people bicycling (!) on the road. We made good time on the highway, and reached our turnoff (a wide spot in the road called La Venta) in about 2 1/2 hours. We weren't sure the turnoff was OUR turnoff, so we asked a guy waiting for I suppose a bus if that was the road to San Sebastian Rio Hondo, the village where Marcos has his spread. He said yes, then said something else we couldn't understand, but having been public transit people ourselves for so long, we understood the look, so we offered him a ride. And his two buddies, also waiting.

I'm glad I spent what time I did driving farm roads at Cosumnes and over back-country roads with Desert Survivors, because that was some road: steep and rutted. I would not drive it in the rainy season unless I had a high-clearance 4WD, that's for sure. As it was, I had to keep Little Jumbo up on top of the ruts to keep from scraping off parts from the undercarriage. That in itself isn't so bad, but some of those drop-offs were a long way down, and sometimes trucks would come barrelling down the road in the other direction. Plus the potholes. It was about a 45-minute drive on the dirt road, but we got to San Sebastian, dropped off the guys, then continued on "into town" to Marcos's place. Greg had a little hand-drawn map courtesy of Marcos, so we got as close to his house as we could with the car, parked and got out to walk the last bit. As we were grabbing our stuff Greg said, "Look around." In front of all the houses within sight of our car crowds of people were staring. Not in an unfriendly or hostile manner, just a wow-a-car-of-gringos look. Yeah, I guess we were out in the sticks.

Marcos and Timothy were all on the patio kicking back, waiting for a friend of Marcos's from Oaxaca, an Italian guy named Pepino who owns the restaurant we sometimes go to, to get back from his stroll around the village. To the left of the main gate is the kitchen building, and behind it the composting toilet/shower building. To the right is the first of several cabanas, all adobe with thatched roofs, and a temescal. Timothy said the temescal (a Mexican version of the American sweat lodge) was ready to go, and we could all go in as soon as Pepino got back. Hot rats! We've been wanting to try a temescal, and now we could. It was awfully nice, too, and not in a Deer Tribe way, either: the floor was covered with those long, local pine needles, nice and soft, with solid adobe walls to lean against. The structure was pretty informal, too, with people going in and out if they got too hot, and people singing if they desired. We had songs in English, Italian, Spanish, and Zapotec, because in addition to Marcos, Timothy, Greg and I, and Pepino, Guadalupe, a local guy that does stuff with Marcos, came in, too.

Marcos is still putting together the place, so most of the cabanas don't have mattresses, but he had plenty of thick wool blankets and comforters, so we made a nest out of those and our sleeping bags. So very, very nice to be up in the clean mountain air -- not quite as high up as Benito Juarez, maybe between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. And a lovely mix of trees and tons of flowers! No overgrazing or clear-cutting up here.

We took our time leaving Sunday, heading out about noon, after a yummy breakfast courtesy of Pepino, who made short ribs with carrots and onions in olive oil, with slices of bread to soak up all the oily juicy goodness. Plus some sliced pineapple. Mmm.

Greg took his turn at the wheel and drove us back. We stopped and got lunch in Miahuatlan, then stopped again in a village a little outside Oaxaca city so Timothy could look for alebrijas (those carved Oaxacan wood animals) for gifts. We got back about 6:30p -- too late to get a beer at Pitico or a miscellanea, as pretty much everything is closed by 5pm (if it is open at all on Sunday). We went to bed early since Greg had to get up at 6am this morning for his class. And, guess what? Sunday night was the end of daylight savings time. Did you know they have daylight savings time in Mexico? Neither did we! So my poor, sweet guy not only had to get up at 6am, he ended up getting up an hour earlier than he needed to.

Friday, October 24, 2003

One more for the road. Timothy and Marcos headed back up to Marcos's property in the mountains on Thursday, and Saturday after class Greg and I are going to drive up there in Little Jumbo and hang out for the weekend. We'll head back Monday morning as we don't have classes until Monday afternoon. Whee, another road trip, this time south on Hwy 175!

I realize it's Friday afternoon, and that the last time I updated this was last Saturday; sorry. I just really don't like blogging at work, and now that I have a 8pm - 9pm class I don't go to the Internet cafe after work. But in any case ... what have I been up to?

First of all, Greg and I signed our contracts today -- our part-time contracts. Guess we'll stick with this for awhile!

Wednesday, I hung out with Timothy and Marcos while Marcos ran around downtown doing errands. Among the sights was an aisle off the Benito Juarez market where the vendors specialize in grilled lunches: you walk up, pick out your meat (chorizo, beef, pork, or colorado), they grill it and give you tortillas, then you garnish it with guacamole, salsas, pickled vegetables, and the like. Think I'll try that next week for lunch. We also visited a store that sells candles -- good to know what with Day of the Dead coming up and all -- and another that sells leather goods, including saddles if I were so inclined, boots, and Western wear. We went into a two-story candy store, too. I was hoping for some items to add to our evil-candy collection, but nah. Although I did see strawberry-flavored elote-shaped lollipops with a chili coating. And these cute-as-hell little party favors: clay pots decorated with paper to look like little piñatas. They had Bob Esponja and Patrick the starfish, bats, clowns, and jack o'lanterns. Lastly, we went into a chocolate factory, which was right next door to another chocolate factory. The store, La Soledad, sold mezcal and tequila, moles, and chocolate. The chocolate, which is mixed with cinnamon, sugar, and almonds, you can buy pre-packaged in bars, or freshly ground and sold loose in plastic bags, or powdered -- you can even buy whole roasted cacao beans like Timothy did. I bought a box of the dark chocolate, and Marcos bought a bag of the loose stuff. But before we left he had Timothy and I sample some of the fresh-ground chocolate, pre-additives, as it was coming out of the molido. We each took a little plastic spoonful, like the spoons you taste ice cream with. Whoa! It felt like the top of my skull was floating about three inches above the rest of my head! And before the Europeans, that's how they used to eat the stuff. Intense. I don't think I'll do it again!

Oh, and I've updated the links on the left, too. "Los Gigantes" is the name of the rock band Greg and I decided to form in Oaxaca. Not that we play any instruments or sing, mind you. But still, everyone should have a rock band. And ours is Los Gigantes, the gigantics. And those are the songs we have so far. "This Is A Fucking Pen" is a cover of a Ikky Biskit song (that's Adam, one of our fellow teachers) and comes from teaching an older version of The Berlitz Method, where an early lesson consisted of holding up a pen (or other common object) and repeating ad naseum, "This is a pen. Is this a toaster? Is this a car? No. This is a pen," until the students were practically screaming, "Teacher, we know! It's a pen!"

Okay, so, what did we do last weekend? Surely we did something, right? Indeed we did. Nothing much on Saturday other than hang out and people-watch in the zocalo. But Sunday I was finally feeling up to doing something involving traveling further away from the apartment than a ten-minute walk. On Saturday, Manuel told us that the Tule tree town would host a leather-crafts festival Sunday, and not that we're big leather fans or anything, but it was a destination, so we drove out to Tule Town, about half an hour away. Lots of cars parked along the roads, so we found ourselves a spot and strolled around. I humbly apologize for my maligning words about the runtiness of the Tule tree in previous posts; when we were there before we saw the wrong tree! This time we saw The Real Deal, sitting in front of the very pretty little church dedicated to Santa Maria. It's not a particularly tall tree, but it is awfully big around. It is indeed A Big Tree and, I can believe, the biggest in Latin America.

The crafts fair was pretty much a bust for us, filled with styles and sizes of shoes, belts, and jackets neither to our taste or dimensions, so we wandered around town for a bit, then stopped to get lunch. The lunch spot we chose was a big warehouse filled with individual antojitos (finger foods) stalls: Antojitos 'Pati', Antojitos 'Carmen', Antijitos 'Anibel', etc. We picked one that had people at it and got a couple of flor de calabaza and queso quesadillas -- not quite as white as you might think! Quesadillas are very popular antojitos down here, though there's not a burrito place in sight. Very yummy quesadillas, too, with which we split a Fresca refresca (soda). I must say, Greg has gotten a lot more comfortable trying these random food places. He hardly ever winces or bats an eye now when I say, oh, let's try THAT! And after the quesadillas I said, oh, let's try THAT and headed over to the nieves stand. Nieves is sort of like gelato. They make 'em in all sort of fruit and vegetable flavors, though this stand was pretty firmly in the fruit camp. So I got one to split, half mamey and half tuna. Mamey is some mystery Mexican fruit we haven't seen yet, but often shows up as a nieve or refresca flavor. It's used as a color word, and whatever the fruit may look like, at least part of it is salmon-colored. It was an interesting flavor; not bad, though we both like tuna much better.

It was still pretty early, about 2pm, and we weren't ready to head back home. Without another destination we decided to do the Angeleno thing and just drive around. We went up Hwy 175, which we hadn't been on yet. For a major highway, 175 is awfully small: it's one lane each way, very twisty and curvy, with no lights, no shoulder, no cats-eyes, and plenty of potholes and ruts. Good thing we weren't in a hurry. The road was pretty empty, and quickly climbed up into the mountains. I was driving so Greg took in the vistas. At almost the crest of the mountains we passed a hand-lettered sign hanging from a tree: Hoy! Barbacoa Conejo! Ooh, rabbit barbeque. Well, not exactly barbeque. As Gilberto, our Spanish teacher explained it, barbacoa sounds a lot like luau, or meat cooked underground. Mmm. We went on though, up to the crest, through some little villages, tooled along for awhile, then turned around and headed for barbacoa. Poor Greg: gelato made from hopefully clean water and fruit, and roadside barbacoa, all in one day. Yeah, let's try THAT!

So we pulled off the road onto a pullout in front of the plank-and-blue-tarp shack and wandered over. There was one other customer just finishing her meal, and a woman buying some of the produce also sold at the shack. One of the two women running the place motioned us to sit down and tried talking to us. We were all game, so we carried on a conversation even though our Spanish stinks and she spoke no English.

It's pretty cold up in the mountains, so when she asked us if we wanted some atole we were only too happy to say yes. She served it (it's a boiled corn drink) in painted gourd bowls, traditional-style. Oh, and it was good. She had sugar on the table so we could sweeten it to our taste, and while we sipped the atole (not the atole colorado served in Benito Juarez, fortunately), she asked us a question that we just could not understand. At all. Finally, she fished a piece of meat out of this big metal pot and said, "Piernas" or something like that. Ah, leg, shoulder, or back? We both chose legs. So it wasn't as tender as I would expect luau-style meat to be, but it had a -- guess what? -- chili rub, and was good if a little tough. And she served it with white bread and these crispy tortillas, hot red salsa, and a bowl of Oaxaca-style refried black beans: soupy and cooked with bits of epazote, a local herb. Yummy.

So we ate our barbacoa and beans, had a second bowl of atole, chatted with the proprietors, and wondered if it was really rabbit or came from one of the several stuffed foxes and squirrels decorating the shack. Too big for squirrel and too small for fox. Then we asked if we could give the bones to this dog that was hanging around. I'm not sure if it was a stray or a pet. But she said sure, even seemed a little amused that we'd think of the dog, and called it over. The dog took the bones in what I want to say was a sullen or hang-dog manner (sorry), then walked away. Guess he wasn't used to it, either.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Okay, Greg's got his blog updated, with pictures of the unexpected parade. I tried but was unable to upload photos today

I felt it yesterday: a definite change in the weather.

It hasn’t rained in five days but instead of being muggy and unbearable, the weather is cool and pleasant. If I weren’t living in southern Mexico I’d say a weak cold front is moving through. Feels like the temperature is in the 70s somewhere, and every night now we use the light bedspread along with the sheet. So today when my kids showed up for their Saturday class, they were wearing long pants, turtlenecks, and scarves! Greg said he had one kid show up sporting a down jacket.

It’s not that cold!

But I did ask Manuel yesterday, just how cold does it get in Oaxaca in the winter? He asked me if I knew Celsius, then said, Oh, 1 or 2 degrees. No way! It was so hot when Greg and I left Texas it was all we could do to pack long pants and socks, so if I don’t bring some warm stuff back down we might … die of exposure? Is it possible?

I was at school yesterday because I got assigned a Friday class Thursday afternoon. Boy, I was pissed. I trudged off to school yesterday, feeling really bummed: no Friday off, no tacos in the market for lunch, no love! But when I got back home, Greg had a surprise. I was not to look in the fridge. I changed out of my monkey suit and sat down at the table. Greg whipped out a big ol’ plate of salad. Yes, salad! I think we’ve only had salad once or twice since we’ve gotten here because it’s so risky. (Gotta wash the lettuce, but you can’t use tap water, so…) But there it was, fresh clean lettuce with sliced tomatoes and sweet carrots, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and red-wine vinegar. Yes! We haven’t seen salad dressing down here at all, but he managed to find a bottle of red-wine vinegar in the fancy foods section of Pitico – a shelf area about the size of a doorway. So we drizzled the salad with olive oil and the vinegar and added a touch of lime juice just to be Oaxacan, then inhaled the salad. It was mythic in its goodness. Better than the salad I ate after hiking across Death Valley. Better than a beer and ice cream after hiking on the AT. Like I said, mythic.

And that wasn’t all. Next, he brought out a dish of steamed new potatoes and carrots, and a half-kilo of sliced ham. Oh, my god! He’d eyed a ham at the Friday market, but didn’t have the courage to get any, so when he saw more ham at Pitico, he bought some. And it was only 32 pesos for half a kilo! And it was legendary in its goodness. We ate the rest today for lunch.

We realized this morning, still basking in the glow of that damn fine meal, that we haven’t been eating too well. Oh, sure, we’ve had the occasional tasty bowl of soup and Donut Lady lunches, but while I was sick last week home cookin’ consisted of sticking some cheese or butter in a roll, or maybe some pasta without sauce. I think we’ll do better this week.

Friday, October 17, 2003

As promised, more on this month's sucky work schedule. Greg and I got our contracts this week. It's for three months at a time, and they want me to work full-time and G-man part-time. Full-time to Berlitz means a minimum of 22 lessons a week. Sounds worse than it is: each class is made up of 2, 45-minute lessons (Saturday classes are 4 lessons long). So that basically works out to one 3-hour class on Saturday and teaching three groups three classes each during the week. But that's the minimum, and it's up to the school to determine your maximum. We read through the contract and asked some of the other teachers, as well as Manuel; there is no pre-defined maximum. They can keep giving you groups until your head explodes. And since part of the contract stipulates that the teacher agrees to be available to the school from 7am to 9pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 2pm on Saturday, they can really stick it to you if they want. And even without the contract they already have:

M, W - 12pm - 3pm; 4:30 - 6:00p; 8:00p - 9:00 (gives me an hour for lunch after the first block, and an hour and a half for dinner -- we have to be at school at least 15 minutes before class starts, and it takes me 15-20 minutes to walk home and another 15-20 to walk back)
T, Th - 9am - 10:30; 12pm - 3pm; 6:00pm - 7:30; 8:00p - 9:00 (usually do e-mail during the first gap, and eat lunch between 3pm and 6pm)
F - 4:30p - 6:00
Sa - 11am - 2pm

So that will be changing, as I am not about to sign a full-time contract. No fucking way! Having sold a Bay Area home I am quite content (as is Greg) to work part-time for three months, no problem. (Part-time work is at least 14 lessons a week, up to I suppose a max of 22.)

I was going to go back to the doctor today, as my throat is still sore and inflamed -- it feels like I got punched, or hit by a paintball pellet at close range. And I'm still coughing a lot. But that'll now have to wait until Saturday (if the doctor's in) or sometime next week. Hopefully Friday, as I'm hoping that when I drop the part-time bomb I won't have to teach the Friday class again this month.

Finally ... our good friend Timothy White is visiting Oaxaca until the first week in November. He took off to the mountains today to study some Zapotec medicine and healing ways; he should be back in a week to stay with us some more. It is such a pleasure to have him here! Not only because he's a cool and very nice guy, as well as being an old friend, but because it's so good to see an old friend. He went out to Teotitlan yesterday and brought back some good stories and a big bottle of cedar-flavored mezcal (better than you'd think), definitely home-brewed, with a jury-rigged, plastic-wrapped cork and a Star Trek prop green tint. Good for the digestion, the cuandera told him. Not that the chicken mole tamale I had for dinner needed any help, but it sure didn't hurt. I slept like a rock.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I'm happy to say I had a very good Sunday; I'm only just getting around to posting it because of my incredibly sucky work schedule this month. More on that later.

So Sunday I woke up, had a leisurely mocha for breakfast and read some more of "The Three Musketeers" -- and yeah, it's good! Greg convinced me to buy it while I was sick, since I whipped through all the magazines we had and could get in no time. Guess he got tired of me watching the same four DVDs over and over again. Greg got up, did a little writing, then around 11:30 we went over to do some Internet, then go back to the extensive museum attached to Santo Domingo. All we had to do was cross the street to go from one to the other, but in route we heard a brass band playing somewhere nearby. And we have learned by now that 1) take an umbrella; 2) when the taco man asks you "Con todo?" you say yes; and 3) always head toward the sound of a brass band.

So we turned around and headed uphill. On Garcia Vigil street we saw the band in the midst of a parade: the federation of zapotec something or others were having a parade for ... their group? their pueblo? their patron saint? Not sure. But in addition to the brass band they had 2 giant paper-mache puppet people, banners, men and women in costume, candy to toss to the crowd -- the works. So we followed the parade, took some pictures which I will link to as soon as Greg puts them up on his site, all the way down to the zocalo. As we walked down with the parade one of the women with a painted gourd bowl of candy walked up to me and handed me several lollipops -- touching, as they usually just toss it to people. One of the lollipops has a small bag of chili powder rubber-banded to it! Muy Oaxacan.

We then walked back up the hill to Santo Domingo and spent some time in there. We had intended to see the wing we missed last time, but got sucked into a temporary exhibit while searching for the bathrooms: a combination of video-taped interviews with and pictures of people who live in and around Huatalco on the coast, along with physical objects -- hammocks, fishing nets and shrimp traps, furniture, etc -- from their lives. Pretty interesting stuff, but one village's focus pushed it right over the edge for us into fantastic. The place is Huamalula (wa-ma-lu-la), but which we insist on pronouncing Hu-a-ma-lu-la. For the week of their big fiesta, the people in the town wear masks and hats to represent pirates, blacks, Spaniards, and Christians, who then chase each other around town and throw each other in a mock jail. But then the people of the village marry their old earth goddess -- oh, yeah, they're Catholic all right, but they still marry their earth mother, in pre-Hispanic times a terrible, monstrous-looking deity, now represented by a 3- to 4-foot crocodile. They dress the crocodile up in a little white wedding dress (!) and take turns dancing with the bride. We just about died -- we want to go there!

(We told our Spanish teacher about it, and he said he once saw a festival where the villagers married a turkey, which they dressed up in a little tux; they even gave it a cigarette to smoke.)

After that, we left the museum. The sky looked ready to unload, with huge dark clouds and lots of thunder and lightning, but we decided to head for the zocalo even in our unbrella-less state and have a beer. Which we did, along with another mighty fine bowl of sopa azteca. And while we were there we just happened to catch the waiter races around the zocalo -- several heats of 8 to 9 waiters with serving trays and a variety of drinks, walking as fast as they could without spilling the booze, all the way around the zocalo.

We even made it back home without getting rained on. How perfect is that?

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Saturday afternoon, a beautiful, warm, dry, breezy day with a bright blue sky and puffy white clouds. It helps.

Last night I kept hearing a cat crying; not the "let's rumble!" or "let's get it on, baby" kind of noise but the "I'm lost!" sound. On and on and on. I finally went outside, and when I did I saw the guards across the street at the governor's house doing the same thing. It sounded like the cat was on the roof of his house, but even though a guy went up there with a flashlight to check, he didn't see it.

It would stop for a couple of hours, then start crying again, off and on through the night. When it started again this morning I again went outside to look, but this time the cat was just outside our building's entryway! A little tabby, maybe four months or so. When it saw me it darted under the front door and into the foyer of our bldg. It hid in the corner behind the door for awhile as I talked to it, but it didn't want me to touch it or get too close. And in addition to crying I could see it shaking with fear. I didn't want to leave it there, so I went to grab it and it darted under the gate and into the patio. Then Carlos, our building's handyman, heard the ruckus and came down. Well, we cornered it, and Carlos grabbed the kitten. And then quickly strangled it and took it away.

It was harsh to see, but I'm not at all upset with Carlos. What else are you going to do with a lost feral kitten? But I cried and cried, and I guess Carlos felt bad because next thing our landlady came down to talk with us, and we managed to get some words across, but not much. And then we had to hightail it to school to teach.

I was still crying walking to school but got it under control for class -- thankfully it went well -- and for a short talk afterwards with Manuel. I basically told him that I was having a confidence crisis in the wake of Kaiser Sosje's visit, and that I felt my being sick was interfering with work, that kind of thing. But he was fine with it all (and said everyone had a tough time with that woman's visit), so it went well. I went to collect Greg and saw he was in Patricia's office practicing his Spanish on her. When I came in Patricia asked me how I was, then said, "I have a little present for you," and handed me a card and a small bag. When I looked inside I started to bawl! I quickly shut the door to her office but her office walls are mostly glass, so it didn't really afford me much privacy as I tried to explain what happened. On the way to school I told Greg it felt like I had bad cat luck (failing Tyson, Berdoo, and not having Izzy here), and the incident with the kitten this morning just reinforced that feeling. So when I opened the bag and saw three little painted wood cats ... Patricia at first was aghast at her timing, but I told her that it felt like a sign of good cat luck, and that that was a good thing on a day like today.

So there you go. Greg did a little prayer smoke in the Llano for the kitten, we had a good talk and a good sit, and then I read the card Patricia gave me: it was a get well soon card signed by everyone at work, so of course I started to cry again, even with the usual park crowd all around us.

I'm still sick, but I feel better about work. It's a hard habit to break, that not confiding in people in the workplace. But I just heard from our travel agent in El Cerrito that Aero Mexico will not allow animals in the cabin, even if in an under-the-seat crate. Now what?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Hello again. It's Thursday, and I'm at school. I got here early thinking I had a class at 4:30, but it's not until 6pm. Bummer. But better than the other way around.

To recap my week: on Saturday after class Greg and I show up at Claire and Oscars, but they haven't picked a place, and don't show much inclination to start. Greg is tired, too, so when they suggest a movie and a day trip on Sunday, Greg agrees. Bummer. Sunday rolls around, and we go over at the agreed time, a dismally late in the day noon, and Oscar is sick. Oh, no! Bummer. We end up driving to Gringolandia instead and buying an iron.

By that time I am in a terrible funk. I wanted to get out and into the mountains bad, and it wasn't happening. And I had nothing to read, having missed all the good magazines at the English-language bookstore. So I took a nap, and when I woke up, my eyes were all gummy. Bummer -- pink eye. And as the afternoon progressed I began to feel worse and worse. Monday morning wasn't so good. I stumbled into work, but felt completely awful. Bummer. So Greg got the name of an English-speaking doctor near our house, and after arranging for someone to take my Monday afternoon class, I walked down in the rain to the doctors. Only the address hadn't been transcribed correctly, so I had to walk back the other way. Then I discovered the doctor's name hadn't made it down right, either. But I wandered through the clinic, which was closed for siesta, until I found someone sitting at a desk and could croak out "¿Donde esta?" and wave my little scrap of paper at her. She told me the right door to go to, but it was closed. Ah, payphone out front. No phone card on me. Bummer.

Now, I was supposed to be there, according to the directions I got, before 4pm or the doctor would be gone, and it was fast approaching 4pm. After dithering for about 5 minutes, trying not to cry, I decided to walk home, get a phone card, walk back, and call. Which I did. But the English-speaking doctor's receptionist does not speak English, and I couldn't understand what she was saying. So I trooped back through the clinic, found another random person, and managed to understand that the clinic reopened at 6pm. So I walked back home to wait.

Back at 6pm, waited about 45 minutes, went in to see the doctor who it turns out is a surgeon. But he takes me downstairs to see another doctor (a geriatric doctor, but closer than a surgeon) who takes a look and says, yep, pink eye and laryngitis, hands me a prescription for a bunch of stuff, and sends me off to get it. Oh, the office visit was only 200 pesos! Try wandering in off the street and seeing a doctor for $20 back home.

So I wander off to find the farmacias he'd suggested, but couldn't find them. Bummer. So I went back up to the Llano to the farmacia across the street. They had half the stuff, which I got and took home. And there I stayed until this morning, when I got up and stumbled off to teach this morning. After my class, Greg and I went over to Immigration to pick up our FM3s, but ... and you knew this was coming, we need two small things first. So we left empty-handed. Bummer.

And I realize that this is a bummer of a post, and I hope it gets better soon. But I think I'm hitting an adjustment wall.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Hola! Some quick good-news bits:

1) Kaiser Sosje is back in DF. Yay! Work returns to normalcy.

2) We are not moving apartments this weekend. We took a couple of looks at #2 on Thursday and again Friday and decided we didn't like it. Crappier furniture, a funky-ass bathroom (even for Mexico) and a kitchen sink with only one tap -- cold. And an old, lumpy mattress. So we told our landlord we'd wait a month until the nicer upstairs apartments are available.

3) Because we're not moving this weekend, we are going on another road trip! Right after class is over today, we'll go home, pack a daypack, and head around the corner to Oscar and Claire's apartment where they will feed us lunch. Then the four of us will pile into Little Jumbo and take off. Oscar and Claire will be choosing a destination while Greg and I are in class, so we don't know where we're going, which suits me fine. So the next time I update the blog should be Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Quite the interesting day at work yesterday; more about that tonight when I have a chance to hit the Internet cafe. (I'm at work now.) I'm at the Internet cafe now. So yesterday is my four-classes-in-one-day day, which starts at 8:00a. Ouch. Being the grasshopper that I am, I got to school at 7:15a to do my lesson plan for the 8am class. After that, I had about an hour and a half to prepare for my noon class, which is right after my Spanish lesson. So about 2pm I am finally on my way home via the Donut Lady's car with just enough time to eat my tacos and donut and drink the coke I bought at the miscelania in order to get change to pay for lunch. Then brainstorm some ideas for my two afternoon classes, and back I go. My 4:30p class is made up of what I call diaper-babies: 3-4 year olds. They don't talk much; some of them not at all. I've been fretting about what seems to me to be a blatant lack of progress convincing these kids to parrot back some English, but yesterday I said, fuck it, and loaded up the classroom with toys (hula hoops for colors, some foam numbers, stuffed animals, and crayons), and just played with them for an hour and a half. I'd hand them a foam number, say "3!", and have them pound it in place. Or bounce them around while I sang to that stupid kid's tape. Or whatever. It went really well until they all started to eat the foam numbers, so I started ripping them out of their teeth and putting them back in their box. While I was doing that they decided on their own to sit down and start coloring quietly. ! Fine with me. 20 minutes of that and it was time to go.

I felt pretty good at the start of my next class, a bunch of middle-school-age kids, instead of tired from corraling the diaper babies, and class got off to a great start. They were into the games I picked, and we're all laughing and talking IN ENGLISH (not very usual with this group) when one kid decides to cut the friendship bracelet off the wrist of another kid. No blood, but a ton of tears; apparently this bracelet was a lot more than just a fashion statement. Well, that took the wind out of our sails, and it was a bummer to end on such a bad note.

But mostly, it was a darn good day. As I was bouncing along home I wondered why I had so much pep, then I remembered the coke I had with my lunch, and it all became clear. So I think I'm adding half a bottle of coke to my Tu/Th routine from now on!

And more on our moving this weekend, too. Ready? Oscar moved out of #2 to a place around the corner, so now the guy in #3 is going to move into Oscar's old place for a few days while the couple in #2 move into #3 so that Greg and I can move into #2. After our place is empty the guy in #1 will move into our old unit, #4. Then, next month when the choicer, upstairs units are available, Greg and I will likely move upstairs. Then I think we'll stay put for awhile. So our address won't change, just the apartment number, but it won't really matter for mail as Manuel just takes it around to all the units anyway.

For all of you who have asked me why I would sell my Bay Area house and move to Mexico, check it out. And how 'bout this one from The Atlantic Monthly? Which, by the way, was awfully right-wing this month.