I Moved To Oaxaca

Saturday, January 31, 2004

One of the items I bought when I was in the States over the holidays was a discounted, 4-CD set of children's music from Time-Life. Now I know why it was on sale. This morning, when I saw the elder sign logo on the back of the cd cases, I should have realized the danger, but I was in a hurry trying to figure out how to keep dried beans inside an empty toilet paper tube for the day's art project, so I went ahead and popped one of the cds into the player. I never had to make a SAN roll, but three hours later I was down about 7 Sanity points.

Might be a beer-n-botanas night.

In other classroom news, Greg reports that in one of today's classes, he had his students use their grammar point (conditionals) in a setting of, you're stranded on a desert island with only one item, convince your fellow students that your item is the best to have along. The class, all teenage girls but for one lone dude, chose Orlando Bloom as their item, even though Cesar said, All these girls and only one Orlando, it will be big trouble. Sample dialog: Eef I marry Orlando Bloom, I will be happiest!

Saturday, January 24, 2004

So one day in class last week the subject of Mexican food came up (again). Amazement that I enjoy regularly eating not just Mexican food, but Mexican street food also came up (again). One of these days I'll have a class whose English is good enough to explain why that is so startling, but in the meantime ... I mentioned I'd eaten the best tlayudas in town. Oh, they said, did you go to the place on Libres? Yeah, near there, on Constitution. Everybody got confused: was that the best place? Where exactly on Libres is the best place? Where is Constitution? (!) And so on until they'd ascertained to their satisfaction that not only had I not had the best tlayudas in Oaxaca, the place where I had gone "was crap." Ivonne drew a map and gave me directions to the real deal. Driving directions, and directions lacking any names other than the street the best tlayudas in Oaxaca is on (Libres) and that it's "near Noticias." And since it's a stand and not a permanent building, no restaurant name. "But," Ivonne volunteered, "Sra. Marta runs it." Oh, and it turns out that the best tlayudas in Oaxaca are served between 10pm and 5am. Why? "Borrachos! they eat the tlayudas!"

Greg took a pass so I went off to get me some best-in-town dinner. I figured, how difficult can it be? I have a street name and approximate walking directions, but as I turned onto Libres (a street I've only been on during the day) I saw fonda after fonda stretching down the street, some doing almost no business, others with big crowds of people and double-parked cars. So I looked for Noticias. I never saw it, so by the time I'd reached La Merced church I just stopped at a likely looking booth and got a couple of memelas to go.

The next day in class, my students were aghast that I still had not eaten the best tlayudas in Oaxaca, so after class one of my students drove me there. Great! Now I knew which fonda it was, but as it was only 9:30p, it wasn't open, and I had an 8am class so we couldn't hang around. Strike two.

But my students couldn't let it go, so Alejandra gave me her phone number and asked me to call her after class Saturday so we could make arrangements to go back to the best tlayudas in Oaxaca stand Saturday night. Greg and I had both had two classes Saturday, and six solid hours of English language instruction is a bit much, so after class, we rolled up the hill to a bar a fellow teacher showed us, and had some beers-n-botanas. Then we rolled back down the hill, I called Alejandra, and we dinked around until about 10:30, when Alejandra, her daughter, and her god-daughter picked me up in Alejandra's green (new) Beetle. Once more to the best tlayudas in Oaxaca fonda. And they were open! And it was packed! And I'm so glad Alejandra was there because the procedure obviously went a lot more smoothly with someone who'd not only been there before but spoke fluent Spanish, because the procedure as far as I could tell was to push up through the crowd to a woman I took to be Sra. Marta or one of her capable assistants, tell her what you wanted, get a ticket, then either mill around or find a seat in the estacionamiento behind the fonda, where someone had set up some white plastic tables and chairs, and a man came by with your food. Although when I go back without my native guide I'll be interested to see how it all proceeds. But in any case, we had a table, chairs, and food. Lots of food. Alejandra, who was born and raised in Oaxaca and doesn't want to live anywhere else, had some pride on the line, so not only was I going to eat the best tlayudas in Oaxaca, I was also going to eat the regional take on the tostada (which I sort of assumed the tlayuda was, but what do I know?). The tostada had what tasted like pickled mixed vegetables on top, along with the black refried beans and queso fresco and cabbage. It was good. So was the atole sampler Alejandra ordered; we had both atole leche and atole chocolate. Then the tlayudas came out. Those mothers are big! I usually see them cooked on a comal, but Sra. Marta cooked hers right on charcoal, and she had the big, platter-sized tortillas really stuffed full of cheese and vegetables when she folded them in half and wetted the edges closed. Like a Mexican wrestler calzone. With a big strip of cecina enchilada (red-chili pork) laid across the top. Since it was about 11:15p by this time, and I'd already had a beer-n-botanas earlier, I'm afraid I made a poor showing. And I was so stuffed by the end I really couldn't tell you whether or not it was the best tlayuda in Oaxaca, but sometimes the adventure, not the food, is the payoff, don't you think?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I remember ten years ago in Hollywood
We did some good
And we did some real bad stuff.
But the Butthole Surfers said
It was better to regret something you did than something you didn't do.
--"Deep Kick," RHCP

I'm feeling pretty optimistic today.

I called Jason yesterday to chat, see how he's doing -- he twisted his left knee (his bowling knee!) pretty bad playing basketball -- and, you know, just call him. He's fine, we're fine, so there wasn't much to say but that wasn't the point of calling anyway.

People sometimes tell me, moved to Mexico huh? Good thing your kids are grown. The longer I'm down here the less I believe that. Yeah, it would've been a much harder decidsion with school-age kids in the house, but they would've had to come with us in the end. Now, though, Jason is a young adult on his own and after all of us suffering through his teenage years together we were really enjoying the sweet fruits of his re-emergence into humanity. But now, we're not just up the street from his dumpy bachelor pad. Now, we have to substitute phone calls and e-mails for sitting on the sofa watching the Cowboys pound the Niners while Greg types away or putters with his aquarium. I miss that guy a lot.

(That's him on the right, with his brother Noah and his nephew Elliot.)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Going to make this short, as I'm off to Multimax in a few to see Rio Mistico.

Since returning from SF, I've caught myself thinking that living in Oaxaca is becoming routine. Fortunately, the city throws a bone my way so I can see how ridiculous a thought that is. When Friday rolled around I went out to do a few errands before hitting the tianguis near my house (Conzatti and the organic market at El Pochote). I didn't have the leisurely stroll about town I'd usually enjoy on a Friday because penny-pinching Berlitz has been loading up the end of the week with make-up classes -- if you can call classes rescheduled because of Christmas break make-up classes. Christ, can't they factor in the holidays to their fee schedule so as not to cram our schedules with classes at which only half the students show anyway? And I had a busy Friday afternoon ahead of me. So after dropping off some laundry and buying stamps and looking fruitlessly for a pet store that sells cat paraphenalia, I went to the organic market for cheese and whatever else looked good. And as I walked up I imagined that I'd get a haircut there. I don't know why, 'cause it's not like a haircutter regularly (or ever) shows up at El Pochote, but as I ducked under the arches, there he was: a tall, skinny guy with a beard and a Parvati-print t-shirt cutting a woman's hair. I walked over and asked in English if he was selling haircuts. He replied in Spanish what I took for a yes and if you'd like you're next, so I bought my queso fresco and some way-tasty amaranth-and-honey bars, and some (thank you god!) happy yogurt with pineapple and guayaba, walked back over and sat down to wait.

His hair-cutting setup consisted of a pair of scissors, a comb, and one of those plastic drapes that snap around the neck. Both he and the lady whose hair he was cutting were standing. He gave her hair one last fluff, whipped off the plastic drape, and motioned to me to come on over. He rattled off a long set of instructions in very quick Spanish, not a word of which I caught, but he pointed to a doorway, said baño and a bunch of other stuff, so I grabbed my hair and asked agua?, and he said yes. I walked over to the doorway and took a look inside: two dingy-looking storerooms and one dingy-looking bathroom with a toilet and a sink. So I wetted my hair down in the sink, rang it out with my hands, and walked back. On went the drape, then he rattled off another long, unintelligible string of Spanish which I took to be, what do you want me to do? I said (in English, since I didn't have the Spanish anyway), trim the ends and layer the top, please. A bit of pantomiming and he got it: "Volume?" "Si!"

Ten minutes later, much to the amusement of the small crowd watching, my hair was cut and just about dry. The plastic drape came off, and I handed over my 25 pesos (and a fatty tip -- he really looked like he needs to eat more). And I have a cool new 'do! I haven't gotten my hair cut since May, up in Connecticut, so it felt good, too. Enough so that I didn't even mind that the roast chickens at Conzatti weren't ready for lunch when I went by. But mmm that yogurt was just fine instead.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I know it's hard to tell from looking at it, but Tuesday's post was even longer before I cut it down. One of the parts I cut was my musings on how living in a city of mud bricks and I suspect not the strictest adherence to stringent building codes increases my earthquake paranoia. And then we have one.

If you want to be happy about where your tax-dollars go, have a look at the US Geological Survey site. That's the first place I surfed when I got to the computers at school yesterday afternoon. I was mightily relieved to see that the temblor was down in Miahuatlan and not in Oaxaca Valley. (Miahuatlan is a mid-size town on Hwy 175 south, where Timothy, Greg, and I had our comida on our way back from San Sebastian Rio Hondo.) Close, but not too close.

I've always lived in earthquake country, but I'm not sure if that's any advantage during the event of an actual earth-shaking emergency. We had a little foreshock yesterday around 2pm; by the time I'd decided that yes, indeed, it was a "Quake!" I sprang up and headed for the nearest doorway: in this case, the door separating the study/office/spare bedroom from our bedroom. It's a four-inch-wide plaster wall - no protection from anything stronger than morning light. So Greg and I laughed at our dash to the doorway and discussed which furniture and doorways would offer some real protection. I went back to watching The Tick dvds and Greg headed off to school. When the bigger quake hit an hour and a half later I made a beeline back to that flimsy doorway. And I stayed there as the shaking got stronger, even though I knew moving three feet and getting under the bed was better. Couldn't do it. I felt like I was six years old again.

But when it stopped I placed a couple of bottles of water and my leatherman/flashlight combo (thanks, Tom & Janina!) under the bed. For next time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Fun in the land of adobe

People joke about "Mexican time" all the time, same as they do about "Indian time" back in the US. It's not a punctual time.

Before we left for SF, Marcos said he'd gotten a better location for his store, El Viejo Shaman, and that he would be closing the cafe and moving around the 9th of January. We said we'd help, and my enthusiasm convinced him that we were sincere. Since we were off Thursday we cruised by his new place, but we only saw workmen and big piles of debris, and the old store was locked. Same deal on Friday, except Greg saw Marcos at one point, who mentioned that they were still packing up the old store, and that he wanted to paint the interior of the new one.

After classes on Saturday, and after the Internet beast was fed its 10 pesos, we went by again. It still wasn't ready so we just pitched in. Got the old cement bricks off the tiles, swept up, then grabbed some sacrificial clothes and got ready to paint.

[Any contractors among my readers may want to grab a comforting beverage and take a seat before reading on.]

I have only done a smidgen of painting and remodeling, just enough not to be a girly-girl. And even though I can't paint for shit and never made it out of the painter's closet the disorder disturbed me. Yeah, disturbed! I was already edgy after watching people stack and restack the crumbly cement bricks on the lovely floor tiles, and track the abrasive crumbs back and forth on their shoes. Our prep consisted of brushing the dust and cobwebs off the walls. Oh, and I used my knife to scrape off a couple of pieces of that tacky foam someone had used to stick paper to the wall. And from the look of things that was more than previous renovators had done.

When I came back in my shorts, henna-stained t-shirt, and bandanna, I found Paco already cutting in around the windows. Marcos had found two dropclothes, and both a tall and short ladder, which Paco had set up. The paintcan didn't have a wire bail - not that Marcos had any hooks - so Paco was dipping his brush, walking up the ladder, painting, climbing down the ladder ... rinse and repeat as necessary.

We also had two rollers, one rolling pan (or whatever they're called), and a long pole so we could roll from the ground. That was nice, but the short roller handle would not lock onto the pole, so if you as the roller weren't careful the paint-laden roller would swivel around and wipe out the floor, the fixtures, and your fellow painters.

Painting had commenced without the benefit of stir sticks, so even though I scrounged up a couple it seemed pointless. I just told myself, this is Marcos's place, he's happy with how it's going, that's fine. Even when we dipped our brushes and rollers into purple, black, and/or red streaks of pigment waiting at the bottom of the paintcans and had to swirl the color back together on the wall as best we could.

One of my very few construction exposures was to plaster work. I love plastering, and how the finished work looks, and Mexico - or at least, Oaxaca - is filled with it. The fancier buildings in town are stone, less fancy are the cinderblock. At the bottom of the construction hierarchy are the houses and tiendas made out of carrizo, a bamboo-like plant, planks or logs, corrugated metal, and tarps. The bulk, however, is adobe brick covered in plaster and painted. Like the building Marcos's new shop is in. I wouldn't know it looking at it from the outside, but inside I could see a patch of adobe where the workmen removed part of a wall.

So looking around at the plastered walls in this room, I could see places where someone had once stuck in and later removed a nail (which took a chunk of the plaster with it), places where the plaster was crumbly because of moisture, places where the old paint was pulling away from the plaster. There're ways to fix all those things, though they take some time, but here the solution was easy. Lots of paint! There's nothing can't be cured with an extra-heavy coat of streaky paint. Good thing it was thick.

Even so, with unmixed paint, minimal prep, little lighting, and lousy tools, we managed to turn Marcos's walls from apartment white (or is that Andy White?) to champaign with only a couple missed spots. Believe me, a triumph.

As thanks Marcos took us in our paint-spattered, bummy attire to "the best tlayuda place in town." They say it's the best, some of Greg's students say it's the best. I don't know, but they were pretty damn good tlayudas. And now we know where it is, which is even better. And a tlayuda, for those wondering, is a big ol' flour tortilla filled with stuff, folded in half and crisped on a comal. The trick is to constantly flip it so that it gets good and crunchy and the cheese inside melted without burning.

Sunday morning we went back for more, this time using el Diablo - a dolly to you and me, but it's so much more fun to use when it's called the devil - to move boxes and baskets of artwork and crafts from the old place around the corner to the new. The old location is in this beautifully-restored building, with a lovely courtyard and a patio that begs you to relax in its sunny, breezy embrace. And, it had a space for Marcos and Osvelia to run a little cafŽ, where they made some tasty Oaxacan food and West Coast-quality coffee drinks. But, it's in the back of this building, and on the second floor, so foot traffic was pretty low.

The new place is on a block sandwiched between the main pedestrian walkway on Alcala and the shop-heavy Cinco de Mayo, and across from Santo Domingo church. And right on the street. No cafe space, but we all think it's a much better location for walk-ins.

So back and forth we went all day, carting framed pictures of buddhas, shamans, and jesuses, masks and incense burners and tapetas, until we'd cleared out the old place. That night, Marcos bought us a roast chicken and tortilla dinner from a handful of shops a couple of blocks uphill from our place. Oh, that chicken was good! And it came with rice and tortillas, but we went next door and bought a package of fresh-made flour tortillas, too. Mmm, hot off the machine. Then across the street to a mercado where we picked up some avocados, tomatoes, and jalapenos. We then trooped back to Marcos's house and had lunch on the patio with his family, while his daughter Venisa quizzed Greg and me on the famous Americans in her history book. A very satisfying (and well-fed) weekend.

In Mexico, Christmas is the religious holiday, and Three Kings Day is the day for presents. I think it's Jan. 6. There's a brown one, a black one, and a white one, and everybody knows their names and what they came to town on. I don't know who's who or who rode what, but it's Kaspar, Melchor, and Balthazar on their horse, camel, and elephant. We went from working at the store right to the market, so we still had on our workclothes, Marcos with an East Indian-style headwrap (He lived in India for several years.) When we were in the market picking up the vegetables for dinner, small children started following us around. They thought we were the Three Kings, or at least One King and his gringo companions, because they kept coming up, introducing themselves, and politely notifying Marcos of what they'd like for Three Kings Day next year. So Marcos would listen carefully, nod, then remind them to be good and listen to their mother for the year.

We had a train of kids following us around the market, out the door and to the street before they waved goodbye to His Highness and went back inside.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

More bits and pieces as I digest the last few weeks:

For most of my life I've lived in cities with international airports, if not hubs, so my biggest hassle is deciding which of several options to use in getting to and from the airport and my home. So the difficulty in getting into and out of Mexia, TX, population about 6,000, continues to astonish me. It's hard enough getting to Waco, the nearest city of any size. When Greg and I left San Francisco, our friend Tom drove us to the airport for a few extra minutes together, but we could have taken Super Shuttle or a bus/BART combo. In DFW, I said goodbye to Greg who was continuing on to Mexico City, and I headed to the American baggage claim carousel.

Let me back up a bit. The day before we left I poked around on the Web for a hotel very close to the Mexico City airport so that Greg, who was due to arrive at 1am, would not have to negotiate with a taxi to get to a hotel for the night. The airport has three attached hotels, so I called up the Marriott and made a reservation for him. (And after almost getting into a very bad situation involving a stranger offering to help him carry his bags and trying to lead him into the darkness outside the airport, the concierge helped Greg make his bus reservation the next day. And he got to see the drive in daylight this time. And he said he saw "Riding In Cars With Boys" on the bus and that it sucked, and when the driver went to put in a new movie a little kid ran to the front of the bus and handed the driver "The Lion King" which the driver kindly played for the kid. That is so Mexican.) For myself, I looked on the Web for a shuttle service between DFW and Waco. I was due in at DFW at 8pm, but it's two hours one-way between the airport and my mom's house, plus you have to pay $5 to use the toll-road between the freeway and the airport terminal!

One shuttle company services Waco out of DFW, the Waco Streak. But their last run that evening was 6:30pm, so I had to make a hotel reservation for myself as well. I went back to the Holiday Inn Express Greg and I had used in June (the one in Grapevine, and a swell choice). After I picked up my bag I called the hotel on the airport courtesy phone, and the next morning my shuttle driver called to say he could pick me up at 9:20 instead of 10:30, so I got in to Waco earlier than I expected, but Mom was waiting - along with my brother Mike! He extended his trip to my mom's by a couple of days so our trips would overlap. Whoo-hoo, I-m glad he did that. And 45 minutes later we pulled into the parking lot for Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia.

(Trivia time: Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken is where Anna Nicole Smith was working when she hit the big time. I'm just not sure if that was the big time of landing a modeling gig, or the big time of an ancient, frail, and filthy-rich husband. I don't remember who I was talking to or where the conversation took place, but this woman I was talking to said she was from Waco, so I said, oh, my mom's in Mexia, and she said, Anna Nicole Smith's home town! And I wanted to say, Branch Davidians, but I didn't think of it until much later.)

Mom found out all about my happy-meat diet when I came out in April, but like Alisha, who had to repeatedly remind Greg that, yes, she was still a vegetarian, my not wanting to eat slave meat takes a bit of gentle reminding. Fortunately, Jim's Krispy has a full range of sides, and fried catfish. Which was awfully darn good, I gotta say, and if you're a fan of Cheap Eats I got two pieces of cornmeal-breaded fried catfish with a pile of French fries, two hush puppies, and cole slaw (plus I ordered a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, not knowing what was in store), for $4. Whoa. And it was good. I don't think she was purposefully trying to fatten me up (we had fried shrimp with more fries and peas the next night), like Tom and Janina were. ("Oh, look! This place has great rice krispy squares! Let's get some." How can I say no to that?) I'll go down to the farmacia and weigh myself tomorrow before we help Marcos and Osvelia move their store and see how much I put on during my SF food fest. But since I'm wearing a size 6 these days I think I'm still running low.

When Greg got back to Oaxaca Monday, our landlady cornered him for the rent and to drop off a new rental contract (ours is up soon). So they know we're back. However, they didn't bother turning up the pilot on our water heater until I went up there Thursday morning to tell them we had no hot water. Cheap bastards. Later, our landlords elderly mother tottered over to ask if we had the cat, and to see her, so I woke Iz up and held her while the old lady gave her a few pats and said how pretty she was. Then, and this surprised me, she wished me a happy new year and gave me a hug.

They love to hug and kiss in this state, so the surprise wasn't in the hug, it's that I got one from her. So far our landlords have been cordial but cool. Maybe it was a vestige of holiday good cheer.

And we ended up with a few more days off that we'd anticipated. Turns out Manuel didn't want to switch teachers on a class mid-week so we're free until Saturday. Rock on! Are we going to do anything with our precious consecutive days off? No. Just hang with the cat and our friends and read like crazy. (Postscript: Berlitz Oaxaca may aspire to corporate no-mind, but the journey to perfection is a long one. After telling us that we had Thursday and Friday off, they then scheduled us for Friday classes. Fortunately we went in Thursday and found out about it. Christ, people, get it together!)

Tonight we're going out with Jonathan for a beer and chat. He's one of the other American teachers at the school. Jonathan - and Adam, the other American on staff - were teachers back in the US; we think of them as the pros. They're also quite liberal, especially Jonathan, who used to teach immigrants English (and their rights) and whose Oaxacan wife works for a NGO. (Postscript: lotsa fun, drinking beer and dissing work and chatting about politics. Plus, the very yummy botanas were free with purchase of a beer.)

We bought a cast-iron skillet and a "potato mesher." And I couldn't take the disorder any more and grabbed a 5-pack of plastic storage containers while we were in Soriana's. Now our rice, beans, and weird-ass Rainbow Grocery grains are neatly lined up on the shelf.

We saw El Retorno Del Rey a second time out at Cinepolis.

It's cold enough (for here) that I am wearing one of my newly-purchased-in-San-Francisco sweaters over my t-shirt and shorts. The Weather Channel says it's currently 68.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Some good news: Greg went in this morning for his 9am class, only to find out that they changed the schedule so as to not have to switch teachers mid-week. So we're off until Saturday! So let me start filling you all in on the past two weeks. I didn't take my laptop with me to San Francisco, so I'm afraid it's going to come out jumbled. Just bear with me, and I promise it'll all make sense at the end.

My first meal on arriving in San Francisco: seafood udon at a Korean place on Haight Street. My last meal: sashimi on rice at the Japanese place in SFO's international terminal.

My first meal after arriving back home: tuna-fish salad on a roll, and black olives. God! I can't tell you how good that tasted. Alisha and Brian, my stepdaughter and her husband, brought us a bag of Arcata-area goodies:

Lindah's hot-n-sweet mustard, McKinleyville
Beverly B hand-caught Pacific tuna, Crescent City
Zimmerman's Humboldt Medley jam, Fortuna
Sjaak's chocolates, Eureka
Roi’s Basil Vinegrette, Eureka

It was such a treat to eat it along with the olives, sweet pickle relish and horseradish we picked up in SF. I'm finding it hard not to eat it all right away.

But the tuna-fish was not my first meal back in Mexico. That honor goes to a plate of Mexican-style spagetti (noodles, cream sauce, ham, and cheese) and a cup of rice pudding we grabbed at a gas-station restaurant on the drive back from Mexico City. You know you're in Mexico when you can take a cat into a restaurant and nobody makes a fuss. Yeah, the cat! Izzy is finally in Oaxaca. Greg and I dropped Izzy off with my mom in Mexia back in April while we did our summer travelling and got settled in Mexico. But as we didn't have a place that allowed pets when we were ready to drive down in July, she again had to stay behind. So when she saw me packing up this time, she seemed sad -- until I placed her in her carrier and into my mom's minivan for the drive to Waco. She complained a bit during the drive, but when we got to the Holiday Inn in Waco early, I let her out of her carrier while we waited for my shuttle van from Waco to DFW. She started purring. I realized then that she was happy to be going with me, even if it meant riding in the car. She was a little champ! I sat her on my lap in the shuttle van and, as the driver didn't say anything, kept her there for that two-hour drive. I had to put her back in the carrier in the airport, but she didn't complain. She got a little impatient on the plane when she saw me reading the inflight magazine, but when I put it down and took a nap, she settled down, too. And when I loaded her into Little Jumbo and Greg started us off toward Oaxaca, I again put her on my lap, where she was as happy as a clam.

Hey, travel hint: I bought a package of size 5 disposable diapers in Mexia, cut away the gathering at the leg openings, and taped two of the diapers to the bottom of her carrier. It's inevitable that the cat's going to have to pee before the end of the 15 hours (I knew to go to the bathroom before we got in the car, but I couldn't tell her that), and when she did, the diaper caught most of it, and the rest I mopped up with paper towels I'd stashed in my backpack. Toss the used one, put down a fresh one, and voila! Clean and dry carrier, cat, and human.

When we stopped at the restaurant the waiter brought Izzy a cup of water to drink while we had lunch. We were both pretty thirsty -- I didn't drink anything during the trip either as a show of solidarity. We took a half hour or so for lunch then hit the road again. By the time I cleared Customs, loaded up the car, and gotten onto the cuota south, it was 1:50p, so we knew we wouldn't get to Oaxaca before dark. Yeah, we drove at night. And you know what? It's as bad as people say. We didn't see any animals on the road, and because we were on the cuota the pavement was good, but people were still passing on hills and curves, cars were parked on the shoulder (which in Mexico is used as a spare slow lane to let others pass you), and there are no reflectors or lights. I'd rather not do it again.

It was better when we got into town and light spilling out from roadside shops helped illuminate the highway. Greg dropped us off and went to park Little Jumbo, and I took Izzy in and showed her around. I made a quick run up to Pitico for cat food and something to use as a litter pan -- an item I have not yet seen in Oaxaca. The one I brought from my mom's house made it to DFW, but not beyond -- I'll tell all the airport stories in a bit -- so I went looking for a dishpan or something that would work. I found an oval, heavy-duty foil turkey-roasting pan on clearance from the holidays, and a bag of Whiskas fish-flavored crunchies with rellenos empanados, or stuffed pillows. Kibble with soft goop inside. I did manage to bring back about ten pounds of Feline Pine cat litter, and Izzy doesn't seem to mind that she's using a roasting pan instead of a cat pan. We use a couple of refrigerator shelves as a kiddie-gate to keep her inside while the front door is open, and other than that, the only wrinkle is that she got used to getting up early while she was at my mom's house.

It's very, very good to have a cat in the house again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Buenos tardes, everyone. Greg, Izzy and I are back in Oaxaca.

Before I go into stories about our visit to San Francisco, Mexia, and 15 hours travelling with a cat, I want to add a postscript to my Wed Dec 31 post:

Basically, Monday night I worked out with my karate dojo for what feels like the last time and I put myself into a real funk which was still going on Wednesday night. But shortly after that post my friends took me out for a Niman Ranch cheeseburger, fries, and a shake and who wouldn't feel better with a belly full of grease? So here's what I think now. That not knowing what the hell I'm doing and experiencing the occasional angsty moment because of that is a small price to pay for leading an unconventional life, because I surely would be unhappy all the time if I lead a conventional one. So I'm not going to worry about it, and just wait for those fabulous random encounters to help guide me on my way.

Feliz Año Nuevo!