I Moved To Oaxaca

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I mentioned that I brought back a package of Newman-Os and The Da Vinci Code; they were both presents for G-man. I thought that The Da Vinci Code was some religious book along the lines of The Purpose-driven Life -- thoughtfully left at Appalachian Trail shelters throughout at least Virginia, and which I was never bored enough to even skim through -- but people on the trail said no, it's this cool murder mystery with all this neat historical stuff, including a bunch of Holy Grail stuff. Well, that sounds interesting. And next week Greg, Mister Mythology, Mister Arthurian Shit, will be at a mythology conference in Atlanta, so if everybody is talking about this book, which evidently they are, it would be a good idea for him to read it before he goes. So I bought a copy and gave it to him with the cookies, which he finally opened after I broke down and asked if he was ever planning to, even though I gave him the package for him to eat and only hoping he might share, which he did, mmm so good. But back to the book, though damn, those cookies hit the spot. Last year on the trail everyone was talking about Cold Mountain -- the trail goes right over it -- so I bought that, too, and read it and didn't think it was very good. Then the movie came out and I saw that and didn't think it was very good, then I hiked over the damn thing this year and well, just another Virginia mountain. Nothing fun like Albert Mountain or Unaka or Mt. Rogers. So I guess you could say I didn't think the actual mountain was very good, either.

G is finishing The Da Vinci Code as I type, and the report is ... not encouraging. I'll read it myself, but I'm beginning to think that if a book makes it on to the NYTimes Best Seller list it may be an indication to stay away. I mean, jesus, have you looked at it lately?

Friday, May 28, 2004

So while I was out wrangling snakes and perspiring like nobody's business, Greg signed up for Spanish lessons at a place down the street from Moderate Shangri-la. We'd visited it about a month or two ago and liked it (and their prices), and now that he's got three weeks of Spanish under his belt he still likes the school, so in June when he's in the States I'll be taking classes in the mornings.

Well, as part of their curriculum they do little excursions around the city and valley, so today Greg, Dale, and I (never hurts to chum for potential customers by allowing tag-alongs) went with his class out to one of the colonias I haven't been to before to watch a very small, very old señora show us crazy gringos how to make tortillas and then memelas and quesadillas. Like any Californian wouldn't know how to make a quesadilla! But still. So Dale and I walked down to the school, then down to the bus stop on Independencia. The place is somebody's house -- a nice house -- and we plunked our stuff down in the courtyard under a very nice palapa (it's roasting today, so any and all shade is greatly appreciated) then grabbed the bucket of hominy, which they insist on calling nixtamal, and went off to the molinos to grind it up. We came back with a plastic pan of ground-up corn, aka masa, and while half the group shredded quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), I and some of the others watched La Señora stoke up the charcoal under her comal, then make little patties of masa to squish into tortillas using her wooden masa-squisher, which she insisted on calling a tortillaria. So it was pretty fun making masa balls, squishing them, then flapping them onto the comal to cook, turning them so they wouldn't burn, etc. And very funny to watch the guys sorta fling their tortillas onto the comal, almost as if they were afraid of it. Except G-man, of course, who is firmly in touch with his feminine side and gently placed his tortillas in the center of the comal. La Señora got a huge kick out of that. Then she showed us how to crimp the cooked (and burning hot) tortillas so that the stuff you put on top stays in place (neat trick!), then we made memelas:

crimped tortilla
slather on some aciento (liquid pig fat with little crunchy bits of cracklins)
spoon on some Oaxaca-style refried beans (black and watery)
queso fresco (or if you rebel like I did, quesillo)
epazote, also for the rebel (an herb they add to refried beans, rajas, and some other dishes)
back on the comal to melt the cheese and toast the whole thing up real nice

I think I ate four memelas, so I'm still stuffed, plus we had jamaica to drink and gelatina for dessert since one of the students has a birthday coming up real soon. And the jello was lime, strawberry, and nuez (which means "nut" but is mostly used to refer to pecans). Then we took the bus back home, took a quick nap, then went to Berlitz to do lesson plans (me) and teach a class (g-man). Then I came here. If I'd seen my favorite raspados duo I would've gotten one of those, but no such luck.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Parts of me are still in transit. But in brief, here's what's going on:

Dale's here! Pansy, provocateur, Belizean, but never a businessman, Dale stopped in on his way back home with his new (for him) eBay Toyota Landmark. We all piled into his van last night and went out to Cinepolis to see Troy, but the protesters had decamped and set up picket lines across most of Gringolandia's businesses, so we went home. Tried a rotisseria near the periferico, but it wasn't nearly as good as the vanished Chicken Place.

We have running water! I'm guessing that because the early start to the rainy season has filled up the reservoirs, we have enough pressure on water days that the tank on the roof of the bathroom fills up, so we have cold showers, the toilet flushes now, and the water runs from the bathroom and kitchen faucets. Whoa.

Izzy has a giant litterbox! Greg finally got tired of the mess and bought a large plastic sweaterbox and filled it with cat dirt. Everybody's happy.

So, what other than smelly hiker clothes and dirty camping dishes did I bring back from the States this trip? Some rocks, a t-shirt from Glasgow, VA, a package of Newman-Os sandwich cookies, a large jar of sweet pickle relish, my preferred brand of tampons, The Da Vinci Code, four Tasty Bites, a pooper scooper, a skirt, two jars of Patek's Indian Spice sauces, a 12-pack of Fancy Feast crack for cats, a tin of Virginia peanuts ... that might be it. Oh, and either a pretty good allergy attack or a cold, I'm not sure which, but I can barely squeak out any words and I kept everybody up last night hacking a lovely dry cough. Maybe that's why my head feels fuzzy.

I'm happy to be back home, but man oh man do I miss being in the US, even a backwoods US. If it weren't for Greg I would've been severly tempted to keep on hiking towards Maine. Can I capture that feeling here?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Hey, everybody! I'm back in Oaxaca. I'll get my shit together and regurgitate some big blog chunks this week.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I'm leaving Monday morning to backpack in Virginia, and I won't be updating this blog until I get back at the end of May. I will, however, be updating my hiking blog, walkaboutside, as often as I can from the trail. One more shameless plug for mail and I'm outta here. Have a swell Cinco de Mayo, folks!

(and send your mail via USPS to Suzanne Courteau, US Post Office, Waynesboro, VA 22980 along with a note to Please Hold for AT Hiker)

We ran into Jorge and family yesterday at Cinepolis. They were also there to see Zapata, so we all sat together after going over our Mexican history really quick. Because we knew the dialog would be challenging for us to understand -- we went into it thinking of it as a Spanish test. And, we failed! I think I would have liked the movie better if I'd gotten more of the dialog, but as it was it was pretty cool, especially the way they built up Zapata's connection with Quetzelcoatl. If by some quirk of fate it plays in the US, check it out.

Later that evening we went to Jorge and Barbara's house for dinner and to go over the CEVIAREM website prototype. Nice, although I'm beginning to think every Mexican family has spagetti for dinner.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Yesterday I decided to get a jump on my movie-viewing, as I don't expect to do any from the trail. So I took the bus out to Cinepolis to see Hidalgo -- or, as it's called here, Oceano de Fuego. I'm a little surprised they changed the name of the movie; maybe Hidalgo is just too important a name to associate with a horse. (Fray Hidalgo gave the shout -- "Death to the Spaniards!" -- that started the Revolution, and El Grito (the shout) is celebrated every September.) Anyway. I got in line and saw that O de F was playing on two screens; one had the dreaded "(Español)" after it, which means it's dubbed instead of subtitled. So I asked for a ticket to see O de F "en Ingles" but the cajera said, no, they were both doblado en Español. Rats! Okay, what else ... Peter Pan? Doblado. Hmm. No way I'm going to see Scooby Doo 2 or The Girl Next Door ... okay, how 'bout Underworld? Subtitulo? Great, one ticket please.

Underworld, aka Inframundo, was ... well. I created a new review category for it, how about that? Vampires, werewolves, a totally RPG plot (and a totally Dungeons & Dragons, mixed-up setting) -- it should be easy to make a cheesy yet entertaining for $3 movie. Go figure. I see in the Internet Movie Database there's an untitled Underworld sequel slated for '05. Bring back Blade, I say!