I Moved To Oaxaca

Monday, October 27, 2003

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.


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