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Archive for December, 2009

Here in Oaxaca

Here in Oaxaca, it’s about 25-30 degrees Celsius by day and a cooler 15 degrees by night.

Here in Oaxaca, the yellow light bulbs cast colorful shadows on the deteriorating building walls. There is no building taller than two stories, except the many churches of course. Houses come in all sorts of marvelous colors, some boast an elite facade and you just know there is an amazing garden beyond their gates. And others boast a more modest appearance, usually the gate is open and amazing eyes smile at you as you try not to spy.

Here in Oaxaca, they have pulled up all the flowers in the plazas and replaced them with endless amounts of “Noche Buena” – the red plant that has universally taken over the Christmas celebrating world. There are multitudes of native women and children selling beautifully handcrafted materials, shirts and blankets. The men sell neon lit trinkets that blind you and think you’ve been resurrected into the future. Everywhere you look there are heaps of shaped balloons, with a little vendor peering at you through the mass with an eager face.

Here in Oaxaca, on Wednesday nights the old couples gather in front of the church and dance “Danzon” – a traditional Cuban dance. And everyone else stands around and watches them with large smiles. The audience hugs and kisses each other as they watch and learn from their elders.

Here in Oaxaca, there are tacos for every occasion.

Here in Oaxaca, the cars have the right of way.

Here in Oaxaca, there is an old district not so far from the center of town called Xochimilco (pronounced “Sochimilco”) where I am now living. There are old cobble streets and all my neighbors seem to make traditional fabrics (and I think they are all related). Down the block is yet another church, where every weekend they have an organic market – tostadas, fried bananas, breads of all shapes and flavors, honey, tamales, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee. Perfect for a Saturday almuerzo with my new roommates.

Here in Oaxaca, the water comes three times a week to my house. It travels through the old aqueduct and up through a tube to a large black container sitting on top of my roof. Water is scarce here and people are resourceful. We recycle water and use various blue buckets of used water from the shower and washing machine to make the water in the toilet go down. We do have a flusher, which works, but we only use in the case of need. They are tearing up the street just in front of my house and the tube which brings us our water just broke today. We have a small reserve on the roof, but we can’t do laundry until it’s fixed.

Here in Oaxaca, there are no trash containers. Three times a week a truck will pass by your house to pick up your trash, but if you don’t make it on time then you can pay someone to take it away for you. All the trash and recycling goes in one container. Yet, strangely, in my house we separate trash from compost and plastic (but only plastic bottles…other types of plastic go with “trash”). I’m still trying to figure out why we do that.

Here in Oaxaca, there lives a large dog that is kept in a small patio below my window. His owners never take him for walks and for the most part he sits there daily on a metal leash. I try not to blame him when he barks insistently, but his 15 minute long intervals of loud barking (while simultaneously growling deeply) while I am trying to sleep is becoming a real nuisance.

Here is Oaxaca, we are surrounded by mountains. They branch up long and wide along the horizons of scattered rooftops and phone lines.

Here in Oaxaca, there are a large variety of ants. And they seem to prefer walking along my walls and floor rather than outside on the pavement.

Here in Oaxaca, a nice house with a garden costs about $400 USD / month. A rented room near the center is about $100 USD. Yet groceries and everything else seems to be quite expensive, and not all that accessible by foot.

Here in Oaxaca, Mezcal is more popular than Tequila. They come from the same plant but are very different in taste. I’m still on the fence about which is my favorite…

Here in Oaxaca, the lemons are actually limes.

Here in Oaxaca, there is graffiti tastefully painted all over the walls. Many of which involve skeletons and skulls.

Here in Oaxaca, they speak a different Spanish than they do in Spain. For the most part their accent and pronunciation is simpler and more comprehensive than Castilian Spanish. However, they confuse me with their slang and the formal usage of Ustedes. The words of choice are: all versions of chingar, chido, no mames, que padre, que madre, guey. Apartments are called departamentos and buses are called camiones. Cervezas are called something like chevas and manzanas are called cuadras. It is forbidden to use the word coger, which unfortunately in Spain we use for just about everything from “to take” to “pick up”, but here means “to fuck”. I unfortunately asked a new mother, “puedo coger a tu bebe?” – I wanted to pick up her baby and hold him in my arms – but what she understood was something along the lines of pedophilia.

Here in Oaxaca, there is a happy Gringa soaking in her new surroundings. She feels lost, but in the good type of way. She feels exhausted, but from actually working hard and feeling like sleep and weekends are well deserved. She feels full most of the time, as she can’t get enough of the good cuisine. She feels inspired, and wants to write and cook and dance. She feels overwhelmed by her new job and the expectations of her performance, but is for the first time in a long while that she feels motivated and challenged. She feels adventurous, and has some trip planning to work on. Most of all, she feels like coming here was a good decision.

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