Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hola! Hasta Luego! Adios! Hola!

I guess we have to say "good-by" in order to say "hello" once again.....I have only three days left in Oaxaca.  I can hardly believe it...and I will be sad(triste) to leave and happy to see my family and friends again....while already planning how I can say "Hello" to Oaxaca in the future....

So much has happened that I feel overwhelmed with where to start.  Much of my time last week was spent visiting families of children I have sponsored through an organization called:  Oaxaca Street Children.  I also visited the home of a past administrator of this organization.  These experiences were multi-layered and rewarding.  I rode buses; taxis; walked and walked; rode in a car; and walked down a dirt road(not all in the same trip)!   Each visit was completely different.  One was in the city; one in the country; and one in a suburb.   When someone spoke English besides me, the visit was easier on me!  Of course, Alejandro(administrator) spoke English as did one of his daughters.  The rest of the family understood English but did not speak as well.  They all encourage me to speak Spanish.

 In another visit to the countryside(to the families I know best from past visits) one of the high school age sons did a remarkable job of translating.  The schools do not do a good job of teaching English so if you want to learn, you are on your own.  In one of these households, the daughter had a computer and we could type in sentences and the computer translated...I actually think this was GOOGLE.  But really ....single words, waving of hands, pointing, nodding of heads, tears.....were the forms of communication.  Kind of stressful because we want to say so much more....then again..some times words get in the way.

In the city household, OSC provide a translator(volunteer from Alaska) and that was a godsend.  She is a delightful young woman and we ate and sang while the uncle and Erik played the guitar.   There are ten in this household but it didn't seem crowded except for the turkey that I thought was fake when we walked in.   Mr. Turkey was tethered and later I saw it move and was so surprised that I said,  "That is a real turkey!" which was news only to me!  They all thought that was funny.  And even tho I pleaded for its life, it was going to be fresh food for a big celebration coming up soon.  As we left with many gifts and among many tears, the uncle showed us his barber shop in a small room next door.  The enthusiastic and lively uncle and Erik(14) drove us each right to our doorsteps!   (no walking, walking, walking)

Most of the children in these households ride from 45 minutes to and hour and a half by city bus to get to school.....!!

I think it is impossible to understand how much we ALL have until we have the opportunity to visit a place where having things  - even opportunities are just not an expectation that they have.  There are no guarantees in their insurance, not necessarily school, no retirement income, no toaster, microwave, never mind a blender and all of those other appliances accumulating under the kitchen counter....maybe no kitchen separate bedrooms wardrobe of clothes only what is necessary.  I just didn't understand until my first visit here and had the opportunity to visit families who graciously invited me and shared their hearts, their food, their busfare and taxifare.  They will not let me pay for anything when I am with them. 
Ok...enough....but the LOVE and JOY, LAUGHTER, GRATITUDE and SHARING are also rewarding and overwhelming!  These visits feed my soul! Soul Food.....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Veggies gone. Brain resting.

Hola!  and thanks for the encouragement to keep on blogging!

Yesterday I sort of crashed and slept the entire day....Spanish and English was swirling in my head; I was tired of walking, walking, I took my body's hint and
headed back to my room; cloosed two layers of blinds; turnd the fan on to block out any outside noise and literally flopped on the bed!  Unfortunately, my stomach called and I got up once and walked, walked, walked to La Olla, one of my favorite eating spots.  I ordered this amazing salad that came with mixed greens and beautifully cut up and arranged baked beets, carrots, celery, avocado and squash.  A salad with beautiful and abundant vegetables.  Keep your eye on the vegetables!  I first had some beautiful and delicious mashed avocadoes(for lack of the actual word) and freshly made corn chips.  Then I had a brilliant idea.  "I think I will eat only the lettuce( because it doesn't save well) and take home the veggies for later." 

When it was time for the bill, I wanted to communicate "take out" - and it quickly became clear that I spoke fine English and she spoke excellent Spanish.  With much
pointing and nodding of heads, we thought we had agreement.     After sitting for a few minutes, I got up and tried to say, "Where are my beautiful, if leftover, vegetables?"
I heard my waitress say to another waiter, in Spanish(now I am hearing spanish and understanding), "She didn't tell me."   I knew all was least the vegetables were lost.  I told YOU to keep an eye on the vegetables.  I was tired and disappointed and really just wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and cry....well...I didn't do it.  I just walked and walked and walked back home and re-flopped on the bed!!!

So today....I decide for the second time that I will go to the Santo Domingo Church and incredible cultural museum.  The Church is mostly made of gold and is stunning if not annoying when you think of all the poor people here and everywhere.  I have been looking forward to some quiet time in this museum which is housed in what used to be a convent and an army barracks.   This is a stunning building architecturally and the views from the arched windows make for great photography.  This is my second try because when I went last time, I forgot that I had to have cash,  not just a credit card.
I first went to my bakery and bought some lunch to take home and then off..walking, walking, walking to the museum.  I get there; give her my lunch and a package to keep at the front and reach into my purse for my $5.00.  No cash....just spent it at the bakery..and mind you I did not sit down in the museum entrance and have a tantrum.

Sometimes when you must completely rely on your own brain, it just gets tired and prefers to rest....and so i am "home" now....ate my salad at the kitchen table with a woman who is staying here; talked to some of the guys who cook for us ( breakfast for me) and they had completely peeled and separated a grapefruit for me.  They DID IT FOR ME.    I ate it and I did not sit on the floor and cry.

Es Todo para hoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday September 15, 2012
Independencia Day for Mexico!

As it turns out Cinco de Mayo is more popular in the US than Mexico.  Today is their
true Independence Day.  It is 9 pm. here and mass fireworks will happen at 11 pm and much celebrating in the Zocolo.  I just returned from the zocolo, my first time being out past about 7 pm.  I went with another new friend, a woman who is staying here and is from San Francisco, owns a home here, but is renting it out now.  She is here for an art opening that she helped make happen for a photographer friend who died about 10 years ago.  We walked down to the zocolo and found a sidewalk cafe, bought tea for her and watermelon juice for me. Iit actually was watermelon juice and it was huge!  Welistened to the band that was up on a stage, and we people watched.  The park was lit with many strings of colored lights and there were people of all ages walking, talking, eating, and milling about.  We stopped in a few shops on the way back. 

Earlier today I made a planned trip to the same area in order to find a health food store and cafe that I was sure I knew where it was.  I had the cross streets, etc.  Pero,,,,no such turns out there is another Hidalgo and Cinco de Mayo streets in a completely different direction.  So I took my little? feet around the plaza, had a cup of coffee which came with a packet of brown sugar.  That was really good.  We should try that at home!  I was proud of myself because I thought I was trying Oaxaca coffee.  As I got up to pay the bill, I turned around and discovered that I was at the Italian coffee shop, one of many here, that I have been purposely avoiding.  They are everywhere and puts me in mind of Starbuck's.  There are no Starbuck's here and please SB, stay away!!!

I walked up the hill to my favorite coffee shop, Brujulo's, and ordered my pepe limonada frapee!   also had the salad that I think I described before...ate half of it
and ate the rest back at mi casa later...served as lunch and dinner.  Then I walked up the hill a bit more to the bakery and bought 2 yummy muffins and a little loaf of cinnamon
bread.  I have been eating whole loaves of bread even if small.  This place has become a favorite, also, and it is across the street from Brujulo's.   Well, now I had to walk across and down a few blocks and 7 blocks a la izquierda and home again!  With all the bread I have been eating, good thing I am walking, walking, walking!!

I am going to insert here that I have been proofing my entries but can't get the proofed copy to stick...just the un proofed lack of skills at the ins and outs of blogging.

Yesterday, I took a Collectivo(minibus)  26 miles to Ocotlan which has its big market on Friday.  I went with my friend from the airplane(he went home today).  He knew how to get the bus and which terminal- really confusing and, I swear, must include just a little sprinkle of luck.  I love these village market days.  Not many tourists,  and mostly many, many indigenous folks from surrounding villages and farms.  I am sooooo tall compared to most.   The market is huge and has everything to meet all these folks needs from food, to shoes, bridles, ox yoke, candy, clothing, little eating stalls....and just think!  all of this food is completely fresh.  I saw people leading 4 goats through the narrow, crowded lanes of the market, a man carrying his chickens on a rolling cart and last time I was here, I saw a woman carrying one sheep around her neck and one in her arms...easily.  Much is transported on women's heads but they will not let you take a picture and so I didn't try.   I sat for about 15 min. on the veranda of some local building and an old indigenous woman asked if she could sit next to me...con su permiso...and we tried to talk...she was so dear...but I am not so great at spanish...but we managed.  When I left, I was able to say,"Tengo ir" ( I have to go)  and she nodded her head.  I took her hand and said, "Mi amiga" and she kissed my cheek. 

Later from a second story vantage point, looking out over the market and down on the street, I added to my many animal visuals.  I never can get my camera out fast enough.
Down below me, was a double decker flatbed truck with sheep on the top and pigs on the bottom.  The an open truck went by below us and it had the biggest bull I have ever seen...made me wonder how they got that bull up on that truck!  Obviously, it was a successful day at the market.

We caught the first bus we saw when we wanted to leave and it turned out to be an almost completely full second class bus....quite a different return trip.  It was hot and dusty and bumpy.  People had traveled from Oaxaca city,  26 miles, to buy  food.  But the small man next to me got off at one of our stops....I think he bought a new hat.  He
kept taking it off and looking at it, and putting it back on.  I think he was happy with it!!
But those who bought fresh food items, I couldn't figure out why the 26 mile trip...there are so many markets in the city. 

Oh by the way, this bus was following a truck with 3 huge bulls in it  all the way back to the city....How DID they get 3 bulls to stand nicely next to each other.  They seemed content with their hot, dusty, bumpy ride and they were standing all the way!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 we are at the end of  Day 5 in Oaxaca.  I was just talking on Skype with My daughter and Granddaughter.   Honestly, I am so amazed at the ability to communicate across the world these days.  And I am doing it!!!

My main goal upon awaking to the sounds of geckos ( a really loud sound for such a little creature) was to walk a few feet for my breakfast and the take my laundry around the corner to have it washed and dried and folded and completed by 6 pm tonight.

I spent some time answering e mails and then took a siesta.  So far...not too stressful.
The young man who cooks here and goes to university told me about a market nearby that happens on this day.  So I walked about 3 blocks to the Merced Market...where vendors were selling fresh produce, flowers, food, etc.  This market is popular with the locals but is much smaller than the huge ones I have visited in the outlying villages and the Abastos market which is a longer walk from here and HUGE...beyond your imagination unless you have been to such a place in your travels.
I enjoyed that walk and bought 2 avocadoes and a sweet potatoe.  I have some access to the kitchen here.  There are really generous and kind.  I have to tell you that I have more trouble with using the money here than learning the language.  The dollars are easy but I get mixed up on the change.  So at the market, I just hand them my change and they take what the right amount is.  All are so kind and helpful.  I am always afraid that I am not giving them enough.

Later in the day, I walked my 10 blocks or so toward the area with shops and restaurants and cafes and bakeries.  No shortage of wonderful food.  Also, no shortage of cafes which I don't remember in previous trips.  I went to my favorite cafe called Brujula....and had a drink I discovered yesterday which has cucumber, lime juice and some sugar(not much).  OHHH  I love this drink called Pepe Limonada Frappe. 
Lots of crushed ice and specks of green cucumber throughout.  According to the menu, this drink was mentioned in Food and Wine Magazine.

And, in addition, I had a spectacular salad...huge and brought over half of it "home"!
Top layer of thinly sliced cucumbers, sliced RED tomatoes, sliced apple, grated cheddar, sliced avocado and tons of mixed greens under it all.  WOW....I have had the best frest veggies and greens since I have been here!!

Before going to the BRUJULA, I picked up a small loaf of bread, a muffin, and a slice of kiesh.  Lord, I can't remember how to spell that!  I was loaded with food as Ii walked the 14 or so blocks "home."  I did not get rained on as I did yesterday...twice.  I don't really mind until it starts in sheets.  At night, many loud boom, boom, booms can be heard...and I haven't heard yet if that is thunder or electricity problems.  It happens often in the evening on rainy, cloudy days.   The rain has kept it comfortably cool(cold to locals who don coats, long sleeves, and sweaters).  I like this temperature!!

After retiring to my little room with the double french doors that let in air and view of garden plus the chatter of the students, I started to hear a band playing, drums and trumpets.....I ran barefoot outside to see a parade of dancers and musicians.  Those here said there was no fiesta or occasion...and I think that is great!!!  I'd like to sing and dance with trumpets and drums  when I felt lke it!!!!   Just for fun...Just for no reason....That's JOY.....and just one of those little Oaxaca surprise gifts there for the taking!!!  

You really should come here on your next vacation!

The young man who cleans my room wanted to clean so, of course, I let him!  I went to the living area and read a book. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Well!  I am here after preparing for so long, it seems.  I am at the end of Day 2 and couldn't do much of anything yesterday.  Last night was the first I had sleep in 2 nights..and those of you who know me know that I NEED my sleep!!!  I also do not adapt quickly to what I call "hot"( no one here thinks it is hot) and moving in to a
completely different setting than I lived in before!  I will talk more about that later.

I ventured out yesterday 2 times and my need for food was the only thing that got me out the door!   I found 2 places that I had eaten before and got some really great food and just the veggies and eggs and salads and guacamole that I needed!  I had one wonderful surprise in that I received coffee instead of tea(my Spanish issues) and the coffee was wonderful.  Oaxaca has its own coffee...made in the mountains here and it is fabulous!  I don't even like coffee...usually....I found 2 great coffee shops today each in sharp contrast to the other.  One was tiny with old brick walls and tiny little rooms...this place was recommended by a local book that I bought at my residence!  The really nice young man served me my coffee and I discovered that I had no pesos and no American dollars....and, as I guessed, they did not take MC or Visa.  I opologized and got up and walked out....ah..touristas!  In many places, they cannot deal with the American dollar either and I know that but I just had not had time to go to a bank and use my debit card...instructions in meager Spanish comes in really handy and I am learning many words every day already....well..maybe not "learning" but starting the process.  People are so patient and try to teach you in the shops and restaurants.
Oh..and by the way, I did later find my dollars in my purse but they wouldn't have been useful either.  I am rambling but that is what I will be doing for awhile...
I made my way to the zocolo where I remembered a restaurant that I knew  my would take MC/Visa.  I also sat on a long veranda and the breeze calmed and cooled!   Many people enjoying Sat.  at the Zocolo...enjoying the day...literally colorful...balloons and stalls selling food and many other items....I found my way up the Alcala and was lured further up the hill by music....of a wedding happening at Santo Domingo, a huge beautiful church.   Happy People everywhere!

This, I have learned, is a rainy month and I don't mind at all.  It is warm rain and cooling but it does come down hard.  As this started to happen, I made my way to the one English book store called Amate Books, and spent over an hour and treated myself to books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the area.   After awhile I paid and went into the corridor where teens were taking shelter and generally having a great time pushing and shoving each other into the rain.  Oh I forgot...when I was paying for my books, I looked out into the hallway and saw a young dad and his little 18 month old waiting out the rain...I looked at her and smiled and waved...daddy said something to here and she blew me a kiss...which I readily returned!  Such joy.....these are the little things that bring me back here.  Next, 2 men convinced me that is was time to go out because the clouds were clearing...all this in a mixture of broken Spanish and English.
And it turns out, they were right!!

Now, if you think that is enough adventure for the day, I didcovered an indoor shopping area with an amazing coffee place(with air conditioning, I think) and I won't forget that one when I need respite from heat and comfortable surroundings....and then as I take a new street to get the 7 blocks back to my place, I run into Mike who shared the short plane ride from Houston to Oaxaca.  He is staying in a place that I am familiar with because they have a restaurant connected to his b&b Las Bugambillias(SP)   He is traveling without his wife...she went to Iowa to see family and isn't so fond of Oaxaca....they have been here before.  He is going outside the city tomorrow to a market called Tlacalula.  I am not looking up the spelling, sorry.)  I have been there and hope to go back.  We are going to meet Monday morning at a coffee shop across
from his place.   He had spent 2 days walking and walking and said he needed to calm down and be more "Mexico-ish".   I understand that because Oaxaca is like hundreds of surprise gifts just waiting to be unwrapped.

Gary, the owner of my place and director of the tutoring facility...invited me to go to the Chocolate hotel tomorrow.  I know Oaxaca is known for its chocolate but I am not a big chocolate person, I have not looked into that area.  I will tell you all about it tomorrow.!
Hasta La Vista!!!      I send love from a really loving culture and location!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Countdown, as suggested by Mike Rock

Well, phooey....I wrote a pretty lengthy "countdown" entry but, alas! once again I wrote something in the wrong place and it just disappeared!  I think my e mail, blog entries, internet pages, etc...all go to same place as lost socks!

So to make this short....I will be arriving in Oaxaca 3 days from now, about this time
of night.  I have a friend who is picking me up...and taking me to my b&b.  This is a
huge item off my reasons to be stressed list!

Oaxaca is on Chicago time....central standard....
I will write more later.....just spent half hour on the phone with Kristin, my granddaughter, who gave me another, much needed, half hour tutorial on how to blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whoo Hoo..I'm in and I figured out how to get in without asking my granddaughter, Kristin!  She will be proud of me!!

Well, in preparation for the trip, I have made several appeals for clothes for the teens at the school where I hope to volunteer.  The school is called Oaxaca Learning Center and you can find it online.  This school tutors high school students in all subjects.  These are students who need high school skill enhancement because they might not have had access to schools which would have prepared them for High School.   I am sure I will write more about these students later.

Back to the clothes appeal...I have had a great response and have a good nightmare of
stacks and stacks of more clothes than I can possibly take in my one huge suitcase that I am taking for that purpose.

I have been looking at my photos from 2 previous trips and I cannot wait to get to this beautiful area.  I have no rational explanation for the pull I have toward this area of Mexico.  In fact, if you need "rational", you are reading the wrong person's blog!

Hope that you all can find your way to this blog and figure out how to comment or let me know you are reading!