Escuela in Mexico

We hit the ground running every morning and don’t stop until it is dark.  We have visited many markets in Oaxaca and the surrounding area, as well as a few villages, my favorite which was Teotitlan.  They have amazing textiles there of great weavings.  We got to see the whole process beginning to end.  The work is really awe-inspiring.

We have had somewhat of an ongoing discussion about the transportation system here.  First off, we all agree, (even the Mexicans) that the driving here is crazy.  They zip in and out of traffic as if they are all little smart cars, and that includes city buses!  Our discussion has been about the efficiency of their system within the inefficiency of the system.  On one hand, you can never really be sure what time the bus will show up to pick you up or deliver you, while at the same time that is a result of being extremely efficient and carrying a full load wherever you go.

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I am feeling a little under the weather today so writing is not exactly flowing.  I think I will post some pictures for you to enjoy.

xo D

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I LOVE this fabric!

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Just a little church in the center of town!

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The Ruins: Monte Alban

Today was the big sightseeing tour day.  Not usually my first choice and I have to say WOW.  It is pretty awesome and amazing to see.  Ninety percent of the tour was in spanish so I my recall is limited. Monte Alban the ancient, and oldest, state government in North America, perhaps in all of the Americas, I’m not certain. It was discovered by Alfonso Caso, and as of 1978 has been a UNESCO heritage site. The building of this city, the center of the ancient state, began around 300 BC.

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This is the ball field of the ancient Zapotecs.  In the corner of the top right of this picture is a little nook built into the wall, they believe it was the goal for each team.  The opposing nook is below where I am standing taking the picture.

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These are the headstones in the cemetary. (These pics are for you Nana!)Image

Lots more pictures to share if anyone wants to see when I get home.  Tomorrow evening begins a new chapter in this Mexico adventure, the vacation part is over and school begins.  I am told we have very long days, lots of activities and I don’t know what to expect beyond that.  I am sure it will be full of stories and adventures to share.

xoxo D

The gringa who came to dinner in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico

After a long 17 hours on a bus from Cancun I now had a 10 lay over in Coatzacoalcos.  Luckily I found a place to check my luggage and go explore.  Hunger was first on the agenda though.  I got directions to the local grocery store, 2 blocks away and stopped for lunch at a taco stand on my way.  I noticed a very well endowed girl leading a man, to the back of the building, clearly for more than tacos.  I immediately got bad vibes and left to Sorianna’s (the grocery). I found the deli and tables by the exit, you know like the ones at Costco and decided to sit, eat lunch and plan my next 9 hours.

A local woman asked if she and her daughter could sit with me, I said of course.  We exchanged niceties the best we could while they ate their lunch.  As they stood up to leave they asked if I would like to see El Mar, the sea.  I said sure and we were off.  Vivi, the 21 year old daughter drove and took me to see where the river and sea come together and we walked along the edge of the water.  There, they introduced me to aqua de coco…Oh my Gosh!  A fresh coconut cracked right then with a straw.  You drink the cold, slightly sweet water and then turn in your coconut while the young boy chops the fresh coconut meat into pieces and returns it to you in a cup with a fork.  I was feeling quite adventuresome and tried every Chile topping available oh marvelioso!  I am totally hooked.

Myrna asked if I would like to see their home and I eagerly said yes!  On the way we stopped at her sobrina’s casa where initially she indicated she would be right back.  Instead I was invited to come in and meet the family.  I realized she wanted her family to meet me.  This would be round one of the story.  She explained that she found me, la gringa, in Sorianna’s and now they were going to keep me until dinner.  I met two of her adult nieces, their husbands and children.  Doris immediately made orchata and  we stayed well over an hour.  As we left Myrna and Vivi said I would stay with them until 8pm and they would return me to the bus depot, not the market where we had met.

Sobrina's casaLOVE the colors

The sobrinas

On the left is Vivi, Mirna’s 21 year old daughter.

Doris and her family

Everyone wanted in the pictures!

The front door
I love, love, love this door.

I was so excited when we arrived at her home because she owns a corner family store from what use to be her front porch.  I have always been intrigued with these places in Mexico.

Mirna's Tienda

This is the front of Mirna’s home.

Dinner

She insisted I stay for dinner and made a fabulous chicken dish with home made tortillas!

Mirna dancing
She was very excited to have me at her home. The music was cranked and the room was happy.

La tienda
This is inside the store from Mirna’s livingroom.

The front perch!
This is where we sat after dinner to greet all the neighbors who came to the store or just passed by. She told the story of the gringa she found at Sorianna’s and with each telling she was happier and happier that the gringa stayed for dinner!

Neighbors
She called this woman her co-madre, clearly good friends and neighbors.

Faux pas 6, 7 & 8

6.  I found it is best to not get into a taxi without the name and address of where you want to go.  It is also best to have first hand knowledge whether your hotel is REALLY near El Centro or just written that way to sound good.  Thankfully I had a taxi driver willing to help me out and not just kick me out at the first wrong location!

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7.   I wanted something simple and familiar the other night and plain yogurt was my target.  I got directions to a store that sells yogurt, took a little “oops I’m lost” detour and found it about 30 minutes later, and a great park!  I was excited to see the familiar brand I’d purchase in Isla Mujeres I decided to buy 2 and have one for breakfast too.  I returned to my room, got out the oatmeal, currants and was ready for my ceremonial treat!  I opened the yogurt, stirred it well and took a big spoonful before adding my goodies.  Wow, it sure tastes tart and kind of buttery, I took another bite to confirm the flavor, definitely too tart for my liking.  I stared at the container…crema de vaca or better known as sour cream!

8.   I decided to try using the ATM machine before I am totally out of cash, just in case there is a glitch with the ATM.  Friday I spotted a machine without a huge line, made my request in English and American dollars because it was prompting me in English….well it spit out $200 PESOS not $200 dollars.  Well that’s like less than $20 US. I immediately tried again and it would not accept my card.  I decided to try again today and the first machine was closed because it was empty and the second machine said insufficient funds; does that mean mine or theirs?

While I am on the subject of money, what is the deal with vendors not having change in Mexico?  I mean EVERYONE of them!  Twice now I thought I would be so smart and when getting money changed ask for all small bills and coins.  Well, even they don’t have change!  Nothing smaller that $200 pesos, well try to buy something that costs 10 pesos with a 200 bill and you’d think they had to print it themselves to give me change!  Do they want to seem poor? Or want me to spend more?  Even when they ask fellow vendors it is like an act of Congress getting change.  It is a mystery to me!

The markets are amazing.  I went out Thursday to get a sense of where everything is and choose my focus for Friday.  I never made it past Zocalo, the Main Square, Friday and got totally lost in the markets today.  There seem to be several that flow together not really having a clear end or beginning to any of them.  I am mesmerized by the colors, sometimes to the point I’m sure I look like a lost gringa just wandering the streets.   I try not to look like an easy theft target and keep myself aware of all my surroundings, not just focused on the shiny and colorful things!  It is hard to not photograph each step I take.  I try to be thoughtful and respectful though by asking permission and usually buying something.  I am a bit afraid of ending up with a few too many “somethings” though!  Actually, this blog has really helped me with picture-taking this trip.  I usually have grand plans and end up carrying an empty camera around everywhere, and then snap random, un-memorable things in the end.

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When it comes to traveling I am usually not one to go on the sightseeing tours of the area.  However, I have been told by several sources that Monte Alban is one NOT to miss.  So I am going to venture into the land of sightseeing tourists Monday and take the tour to Monte Alban.  A couple of young British girls went today on their own via a city tour bus and said it was great!  I figure I handled my two-day bus trip from Cancun to Oaxaca; I can certainly handle 4 hours to sightseeing.

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I saw this lovely candy stand in the park, the night I bought sour cream!

Quilting? I might need to stick with knitting!

My  friend Valeria, the day before my departure for Mexico and her departure for a writing hiatus, made me a quilting kit.  She bought, stamped and cut millions of pieces of fabric.  They were color co-coordinated and packaged neatly in stacks of 8 in Ziploc Baggies.  She took the time to give me a lesson on how to assemble the pieces of fabric to make a beautiful quilt, which she has done numerous times!  I watched her match the edges and delicately do a backstitch across the outline she had stamped on each piece of fabric. Inside, I reassured myself I could do this; it would be a great thing on the plane, on the beach or on a long bus ride.  Besides, she made it look SO easy.

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This is Valeria’s square.

It took me until day 12 before I broke into the package Valeria so lovingly made for me.  I decide to work on my first two pieces of a star, poolside.  I choose colors randomly and began with red gingham and lavender with tiny flowers.  First off, my arms are not long enough WITH reading glasses to see the eye of the needle and get thread through it.  I have to go across the deck to direct sunlight and thread the needle.  While I am threading the needle there is a continuous gust of wind and when I return to my seat the 8 pieces of fabric I have laid out have blown away.

I frantically find all the pieces and begin, now I know she talked about a knot in the thread, but did she say make one first or loop it after the first stitch?  I try the latter 4 times, each time pulling the thread all the way through the material and then I switch, I tied a knot!  Without thinking about it, I begin at the outer tip of the star, where I might add; there is no fabric to hold onto as you sew.  Embarrassingly I did not figure out the solution of starting on the middle edge until I was writing this story about it after having sewn 4 more sections together!

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Now I must review her packaging a bit.  Valeria very lovingly packaged all the fabric and the little piles of 8 are staggered and then any piles of less than 8 are turned a different direction.  I am sure there is a good reason for this, some symmetry thing that will be very beneficial down the road of making this quilt.  However, I cannot remember from one piece to the next which pile I am taking from, was it right side up, no the stamped side, no the one that is flipped…..I have no idea.

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I decided I would sew again tonight while listening to David Sedaris.  Valeria had asked me to send her pictures of my progress so I snapped a couple of great pictures and realize, there is order to which sides you sew together, the red and red are NOT suppose to be next to each other. (see photo)  All in all, it is getting easier with each piece I sew and I now have 1 star!  Xo D

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Cancun Mercado 23

Wow, a few days pass and I can hardly remember what I’ve done this week.  I do know I went to Cancun Thursday with a couple of local women, 1 Canadian, Joann who speaks no Spanish and her friend Rosie who speaks no English.  We had a great time.  Rosie took us to Mercado 23 where the locals shop.  I could have spent an entire day there watching, photographing everything.  There were lots of vibrant colors, people and activity.  I loved it. 

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Then we taxied to ADO the bus terminal so I could get details on my trip from Cancun to Oaxaca.  My trek from Cancun to Oaxaca is a bit longer and more involved than I expected due to the fact there is not a direct route from Cancun to Oaxaca, about 36-40 hours depending on which bus I can transfer to for the last leg.  I am told that bus travel here is quite luxurious!  I will let you know later on that one.  Rosie was a life saver with that, I am very grateful for her help.  I feel good to know where I am going now as well from the Ferry to the bus in Cancun.  She even taught me how to get the cheaper taxis in Cancun!

From there we headed to the mall and it was amazingly just like home!  Same stores, same prices, same food court.  This was Rosie’s stop for the day.  I mostly people watched!  The finale of our day was a trip to the casino!  Slots only, and Joann imposed a $5 limit for everyone. 8)  It was very tight security, they searched my backpack and made me check in my ipod and camera.  The casino gladly took mine and Joann’s $5 and happily Rosie won $16!

 I spent most of yesterday walking the north end of the island and snorkeling on Playa Norte.  It is the most pristine and beautiful beach and water that is accessible to swim.  It is also the most “touristy” of all the island.  There are a few hotels with their chairs, palapas and umbrellas lined up to rent for the day.Image  I snorkeled a while and took myself to the local farmer’s market and my mango lady.