I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, March 14, 2004

It's been an odd weekend so far:

1) We moved;
2) We had three days off in a row;
3) It was our anniversary Saturday;
4) Little Jumbo's starter crapped out.

What those four little factoids add up to all together is, now we really get to test our Spanish as we look for a mechanic that can work on, and has access to parts for, a Subaru. The only Subarus we've seen in Oaxaca have had US plates. There's a mechanic down the street from us, so we'll ask Juan Carlos, our landlord, what he knows about them because down here it's all about who you know. So Jumbo being out of commission made it a little harder to move the three blocks (not too much -- Greg has a kick-ass luggage cart that is just about indestructible). Mostly, though, it pushed us over the edge of, Too Much Going On. So instead of driving like we'd planned, we talked about taking a bus somewhere for a little overnight trip, but in the end we just stayed home. We did go out and have a nice dinner at Los Pacos, but for the second year in a row we forwent our anniversary roadtrip, which is a shame. But I just couldn't muster the gumption to organize it; guess we'll see what happens next year.

We did take the bus out to Gringolandia, as Moderate Shangri-la is not fully stocked like the last apartment was. And Moderate Shangri-la is a bit more Mexican than the last apartment, too. Which we knew before we moved, but now we get to experience first-hand all the fun and adventure of a casita not built for tourists. Trash pickup MWF, but Osvelia says that if we do not want to get up to meet the garbage truck at 6:30am we can put it out late the night before. And technically we have running water. In reality, we have running water out of one tap every other day, but not in the kitchen or bathroom. Osvelia kindly left us one of her two 32-gallon trash cans. The procedure is, on the days the water is running, turn on the tap and let it fill up the cistern outside the bathroom, then use our newly-purchased plastic buckets to fill up the big trashcan of water and wheel it into the bathroom so the toilet can be flushed and "showers" can be taken. Juan Carlos is in the process of adding cisterns and a pump so that we can get water up onto the roof of the bathroom, where the marvels of a water heater and gravity will give us a shower every day. In the meantime, we have a couple more buckets for bathing. And we have our 5-gallon jug of drinking water in the kitchen, but Osvelia said she just did her dishes by the cistern and used the graywater on the plants, so we probably will, too. We're still trying to figure out cat gates so Izzy can enjoy some of the patio without supervision, but so far no luck. So when the people next door are gone (and their dog locked up) I let her out to explore. We are back to using the turkey roasting pan for a cat pan as the official cat box purchased two weeks ago is on the small side.

Now, Gringolandia. Because we were on foot we saw it from a new perspective. So in a semi-random order ...

We took a shortcut through McDonalds and were transfixed by the drive-thru menu. Pictures coming! In the meantime, picture in your mind the McBurrito (in Oaxaca! Where half my classes haven't even heard of a burrito). Or a splop of refried beans Straight Outta Canpton, scrambled eggs, and tortillas on a styrofoam tray called Desayuno Mexicano (Mexican Breakfast). McPapas, or fries. Any hey, no Supersize option. We went through Sears, Gigante, a couple of local dept. stores, and Sorianas looking for cotton bedsheets. Not 50/50 cotton-poly (or 20/80!), and not for $80 american, either. No luck. Now I remember, when it looked like we might get down to Belize to visit our friend Dale, he asked us to please, please, please bring cotton sheets with us. The first local chain store we went into reminded me of ... those of you in Berkeley, you know the Goodwill on University just west of Shattuck Ave? The nice one? It was a lot like that, except the appliances were new. And if you don't want to buy a whole stove you can buy just the stove top -- that's right, just four burners. And if four are too many, you can buy little solo or dual electric plug-in burners. Which if you think about it is a pretty good idea, because how many people really use their oven a lot? But, the unrelenting wall of noise that is Gigante just about finished us off. Despite the noise and clutter, we are reevaluating Gigante's place in our hearts, because not only do they sell the only decent butter we've found in Oaxaca so far (imported from New Zealand), but yesterday we also found a jar of sweet pickles -- hello, home-made relish! -- but Crystal's Louisiana Hot Sauce. Rockin'! I know it sounds funny to buy hot sauce in Oaxaca, but I haven't found a Mexican brand yet that doesn't not use water and really, for proper hot sauce, it can be only three ingredients: peppers, vinegar, salt. Mmm, Inyo Firecrackers. So we took our culinary treasures and a soda out to the street and reenergized before hopping on a bus for home.

Oh, the buses. The buses aren't numbered like in the States. I suppose they have a route they follow, but since streets are often blocked for parades and whatnot, detours are pretty common. No, the buses have writing in the front window explaining where the bus goes: San Felipe Gigante ADO VW Llano B.Juarez Plaza del Valle CRIT. Which means that the bus starts in San Felipe, goes past the big Gigante in Reforma, then to the ADO first-class bus station then past the big VW dealership on Chapultepic then past the Llano park on Benito Juarez to Plaza del Valle (aka Gringolandia) and on to CRIT, a hospital south of town. There are not route maps. So going out we just waited for a bus with "Plaza del Valle" somewhere on the windshield, and on the way back "Llano." Piece of cake.

Oh, and I did find last week's People, and an Entertainment Weekly, at another newsstand a couple of blocks from Amate. Whee!


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