I Moved To Oaxaca

Monday, November 03, 2003

It's a new month, coming up on the four-month mark since I moved to Oaxaca. My teaching schedule changed today, as it does every month; this time, I've got two private classes, and both of them cancelled tonight, so I got off early. And no more 8pm - 9pm class -- whoo-ya!

So where did I leave off in my Day of the Dead adventures? Yesterday Greg and I had a few errands to run before heading out to Teotitlan to pick up Timothy and eating lunch with Zachirias and his family. One of them being going to the ATM to collect our rent money (our ATM cards will be ready next pay period). Another was to do some Internet. On the way to the Internet cafe we saw Osbelia struggling with too many shopping bags, so we took them all from her and carried them to her cafe. We asked her what we should bring out to Zachirias's place, and she said, well for Day of the Dead they'll have all the food they need already .... We said, we know, we're stuck. How about coffee? She allowed that coffee was good, so we got some, and we asked, what about candy for the kids, and she agreed that would be welcome, too, so after chatting with her and Marcos for a bit, and doing some e-mail and blogging, we got Little Jumbo and drove over to Gigante -- most of the stores and businesses in Oaxaca were closed for the holiday, but Osbelia knew Gigante was open, as that's where she was coming from when we intercepted her and her packages.

Now, I don't like Gigante: it's too noisy. But in we went and bought a couple of bags of ... basically a Mexican version of Blow-Pops, except they were mango-flavored, with New! four layers of chili flavor! And off we went to Teotitlan, running a bit late, but we figured they were probably running on Mexican time, too. And we were right. We pulled up to see Timothy and Zachirias chatting out front, munching peanuts. We came over and said our hellos, and Zachirias said it would be a little bit before lunch, so why not go see the museum? We walked the km into town. It's easy to see that weaving is doing well by little Teotitlan. The streets leading past the bulk of the weavers shops and to the museum (the only two tourist draws) were fancily paved, and the sidewalks with hardly any holes or abrupt changes.

The museum was small, and didn't allow photography or I'd have a photo to show you of the funny paper-mache mannekins in the weaving and marriage displays. Not too much interesting inside, but the church outside was pretty, and incorporated carved stones from the old Zapotec city that preceeded Teotitlan. I've got pictures up at left: the Zapotec name of the town (which I wrote down, but Greg's not here so I can't tell you) means, Under The Rocks, and those are the rocks behind the church. The jaguar teeth motif runs all around the walls on which the church is built. The church is the oldest in Oaxaca valley, mid-16th century, and while it's pretty ... dig this! Some of you may remember the High-Class Quartz Clock -- a gold plastic clock hung in our dining room, with a picture of the last supper and red and green lights above the diner's heads -- and the hideous tunes it played on the hour. Or would play, if we allowed it to. Now, that clock is one of the few decorative items we brought with us to Mexico. We love it dearly. But if we put the battery in to let it play tunes we'd go crazy. It plays only secular tunes, and really loudly, then chimes out the hour. Only the mechanism is broken so the chimes sound like the dying song of some unknown sea creature. Well, Timothy, Greg and I are sitting in a pew in this church admiring the ceiling when Greg and I hear one of the tunes from our clock. We looked into a niche on the left, and saw another High-Class Quartz Clock! Jesus Fucking Christ! Only its chiming mechanism wasn't broken, and it had a faux wood finish instead of the lusterous gold tones of our beloved timepiece. A woman I used to work with bought it for us as a wedding present, somewhere in the Sunset, and neither she nor I nor anyone I know has ever seen another one, until yesterday in the oldest church in Oaxaca valley. Truly a miracle.

Nothing else in town could really compare to that* so we headed back, and while Zachirias made sure everybody (but the driver) had plenty of beer and mescal, his wife Amelia Beatriz (yes!) brought in big bowls of mole negro with chicken and rice and tortillas. Oh, so tasty, but somebody please remind me next time not to wear a white shirt to a mole lunch!

We then whisked Timothy back to Oaxaca. Greg had class early the next morning (today), so Timothy and I went out to another nearby graveyard to see another display of fine sand rugs and decorated tombs. Only when we got there about 9:15p, it was already shutting down. Too bad, though the tombs didn't look all that decorated. But there had been a raging street fair out front, with the usual kiddie rides and games of chance and food booths and plastic stuff made in China (including Offering Packets, $10). So we went back home and went to bed.

Today, after Greg got back from his early class, the three of us drove out to Mitla to see the Frissell Museum. Only we got to Mitla and couldn't find it, so Timothy asked a guy on an ATV where it was. Turns out the guy's from Georgia. He told us the museum closed a few years back, and that the collection's dispersed. Too bad! He asked what we were doing in Oaxaca, and we explained teaching English blah blah blah. He said he was with, ah, some group that sounded like a language institute, so he and Greg exchanged e-mail information. As we were driving away, though, Timothy said the "language institute" is really a fundamentalist Christian group that translates the bible into local languages -- your first foot in the door. Guess we won't be hearing much from him when he sees Greg's website!

Instead we took Timothy up to see the ruins at Mitla, then headed back to Teotitlan to drop him off and hustle back into town to get ready for afternoon classes. And I think that pretty much brings us up to date, except that I need to upload some Day of the Dead pictures.

*What could possibly be just as good as a High-Class Quartz Clock sighting? Happy street dogs! Yes, indeedy: as we rounded the church, we saw a black puppy lying on the stones. And the puppy came up to us wagging his tail. Usually street dogs either ignore people or move sullenly out of the way. They never come up smiling and wagging. This dog was being downright silly, too, and tried to play with us! Then its friend, a slightly older, tan dog, came over grinning and trying to engage us. So, Teotitlan must be a prosperous village if even the street dogs have a decent time of it.


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