I Moved To Oaxaca

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Miscellaneous bits and pieces:

Remember pogs? A children’s craze for about 30 seconds? It came to California from Hawaii, where kids played them for years before someone got big dollar signs in their head and tried exporting them to the mainland. I was in Hawaii in ’93 or '94 (as Wendy reminds me) and kept seeing hand-lettered signs for pogs, or ads for pogs in the paper, or pog giveaways advertised in the supermarket. My friend Wendy and I couldn’t figure it out and finally asked John, the manager of the most excellent Dolphin Bay Motel where we were staying. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a pair of round paper disks, about an inch and a half across, printed with the Dophin Bay logo, address, and phone number. He then explained that pogs, also known as milk caps, comes from pine-orange-guava juice, bottled by a local company and sealed with a paper-and-tin foil milk cap. Kids collected the milk caps and made a game with them, then local Hawaiian company started having milk caps printed as giveaway ads. So now I have a little stash of mostly Hawaiian pogs, though I do have a few milk caps from Strauss Family Dairy milk before they switched to plastic caps. And just this week at Berlitz, guess what the kids have been playing with on the patio? I haven’t seen a Yu-gi-oh card all week.

Early in January Greg bought a 2004 calendar from a kid in the street. Cute kid; we needed a calendar. It’s all in Spanish, big surprise, and the pictures are of notable Oaxaca-state churches. January featured the church in Tepospolula, which we happened to drive through on our Pueblo Viejo adventure. Saturday night I jokingly said we should visit each month’s featured church, then we decided, well, why not? So Sunday we drove off to Yanhuitlan to see their church. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but our guidebook said the church, built in 1541, not only has a Santo Domingo with a thika-looking medallion on his forehead, but a painting of Jesus made up like a 16th century dandy. That's worth a 2-hour drive. Besides, the weather was nice, and Greg drove so I could hang my head out the window and gawk at the countryside (damn fine-looking hiking country). Well, the church is undergoing renovations -- its roof had been replaced with corrugated tin -- but it was pretty impressive, and pretty from the outside. I'd definitely go back to see the inside when the work's done. On the way back we drove through Yucuita looking for the archeological zone, but didn't see it and just drove back to Oaxaca.

On my way to the Internet café last week I saw a fluorescent-yellow safety tie in the gutter. A safety tie! I was too embarrassed at the thought of scooping up such an incredible bit of street score on the crowded corner, so I left it there. If it had been there later, when people weren't standing around, I would've gone for it, but somebody else beat me to it.

Last time I was in the Bay Area I got to experience the future of supermarkets: the self-check-out counter. Kludgy and sadly personnel-free, but still I suppose a marvel of modern hunting-gathering. Meanwhile, at the local Pitico grocery store where double-bagging groceries (or even having a choice between paper or plastic) is as far out as time-shares on the moon, the signs say they will accept checks, but I have never seen anyone actually try to use a check. Or a credit card (though they take them at Sorianas). And not only do the smaller stores not take credit cards, none of them have registers with any sort of mechanism for accepting ATM cards. Good thing 50 pesos goes a long way, ‘cause I hate carrying a lot of money in my wallet; always have. But the kicker, the Because It’s Mexico moment is when I (or Greg, usually they bag Greg on this) try to pay for, say $47 pesos worth of groceries with a $200 bill … and Pitico doesn’t have change. I’m not talking first thing in the morning; I know they don’t have that kind of change early in the day. I mean, in the afternoon when they’ve been open since 7am, the cashiers will not have $153 in change in their drawers.

Greg is still pining for sweet pickle relish, and kicking himself for only importing one jar, which didn't even last a month.

We used to think that dinner for two, with wine, for US$20 was cheap. Not now. Now, if dinner runs over 100 pesos I think, whoa, that was expensive. Because I can buy a bag of tamales for half that, or get two huge tlayudas with pork, and a couple of beers at the corner store for 100 pesos. And Saturday night I was thinking I might make a run for some of the best tlayudas in Oaxaca, but by 8pm I gave up and went looking for Tamale Lady. We like her mole and verde tamales the best, though she also sells frijol (bean), rajas (chili), and dulce (sweet), and occasionally amarilla (yellow mole) and tamales oaxaqueno – chicken in mole wrapped in banana leaves. A couple of weeks ago Greg got a couple of the amarilla ones and liked them so much he kept asking her when she’d have them again. Well, what do you know, Saturday she had both oaxaqueno and amarilla! And she made sure I knew that mi esposo particularly enjoyed tamales amarillas. So I bought two of them and four of the larger oaxaqueno. Six tamales, 50 pesos. 5 bucks. Fuckin’ good.

It's 86 degrees today.


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