Friday, December 23, 2005

My New Best Friend

I call him Bag. I think he's from This Land. Oh, and by the way, I'm back in the country!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wishlist, But Not Really

Sorry about the lack of posts the past few days. I just haven't felt much like blogging. I'm still alive, though. :) I packed my bags last night, so I'm just about ready for my 7 a.m. flight tomorrow.

Speaking of Christmas and/or birthday gifts... (Well, I was surfing about such things, so that's kinda like speaking of them...) My "official" wishlist is actually just donations to my travelling fund. I've really enjoyed my visit here to Mexico, and I'd like to travel more if I can. Money for such trips is a major limiting factor, up there with time to do it.

But I've stumbled across some cool stuff on that thar intarweb, too. Like the plant-in-a-can that I bought over the summer, now there is plant-in-an-egg. Looks pretty cute. The Squirt would probably also like one — she really likes plants, and apparently even keeps them alive — but I don't have time between now and Christmas anymore to get one for her.

The other cool thing I found was mug-stain mugs that leave a pretty design instead of an annoying circle. They look cool. I'd actually like to try making something like that myself, too. Maybe a ceramics class will fit into my schedule this quarter.

Basically, though, this post only exists because I'm surfing the 'net to kill time while uploading pictures to my mom. See y'all soon! :)


Monday, December 19, 2005

Waking Up Early

Yummy Mocha

Aha! It does get chilly in Oaxaca! You just have to be up at 6:30 in the morning to tell. :( I woke up from dreaming about what I was going to do this summer and then started thinking about it. Mistake. A half hour later, I still couldn't fall back asleep.

I heard voiced out in the courtyard, which meant Ann must be up and getting ready to go pick up her visitors from the airport. So I put on my sweatshirt and wandered over to the dining room. Silvia was surprised to see me — "me too" was the gist of my response.

I tried Ann's té de manzanilla. It's a very weak tea, but it's okay with one sugar bag. We talked a little about how Ann had run her software company back when she was a manager. Company policy was to never work more than 40-hour weeks, with the exception of just one week before deliverables. Their deliverables were "due" to QA already debugged and well ahead of the hard deadline, so QA would have enough time to do their job. We also thought it'd be pretty cool to allow for siestas — we both remembered reading about productivity increasing when you're well-rested (including naps, not just a good night's sleep).

No Parking, They Say

Then Ann's taxi-van was here, and she was off. It's currently 7:05 here, and I don't know what to do with myself. I doubt I can easily find an open bakery or café. Although, I just asked Silvia, and she thinks La Luna bakery could be open, or cafés around the zócalo. So maybe I'll wander down there and finish mi tarea, which consists of reading a short story , writing a summary, and commenting on what I liked and disliked. It's a good story: Una Semana de Siete Días de la puertorriqueña Magali García Ramis.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

La Soledad

After our intercambio, Mary went home and I went on to la iglesia de la Soledad, where I was supposed to meet up with Ann, Therese, and Jerry (Therese's husband) for the religious fiesta going on tonight. A market had taken over Avenida de la Independencia leading up to the church, so the going was slow. I finally arrived half an hour later than we had planned to meet.

The entire plaza in front of the church was packed with people. I thought I would never find Ann and them in the crowd, but lo and behold, they were standing around in the back of the plaza, beside the church. Un milagro de la Virgen de la Soledad. I ate cotton candy (algodón in Spanish, too) while the religious procession started up. Ann and I tried to take pictures of the event, but it was pretty dark and flash lighting often just doesn't go far enough to be useful. So I doubt our pictures will turn out, unfortunately.

We took a taxi home, 'cause all them "old people" (hehe!) didn't want to walk the eight blocks home. What wimps. Seriously. As if they weren't in their 50's or 60's or something. ;)

Ann's friends and family are flying down tomorrow to stay for a week or two. Ann'll be staying with them at a hotel she reserved next to the zócalo. We're going to try to meet up to do things tomorrow or Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday she has all-day tours plannes for her guests, although maybe I can have dinner with them those nights. (Ann said that would probably be fine.) But I fly out Friday morning, so that'll be my last chance to hang out with Ann here in Oaxaca. Of course, she's from Palo Alto, so it's not like it would be entirely unreasonable to see her again back in California. That'd be cool, actually.


Intercambio: Earrings for English

Alejandro, Artista

I got to the Santo Domingo five minutes before I was supposed to meet Mary (formerly María Elena), so I decided to kill the time by sketching one of the plants outside the church. An old man came up to me and asked me, in a mixture of Spanish and English, if I liked drawing and where was I from and all the other standard questions they have for me.

Then this little boy came up and asked me what I was drawing. I pointed out the plant I was sketching. He said, "Draw me!" I said I couldn't, that people were hard to draw. So he compromised, "Then just the face." Still I said no. He borrowed my pen and notebook, to show me how easy it really was. Results are in my notebook. :) He got all self-conscious when I asked him to sign it. He said no at first, like he was embarassed, but a por favor was enough convincing.

Alejandro's Self-Portrait

"It's me," he said of the person he drew. Also a soccer ball and net. Mary showed up just after Alejandro's self-portrait. I told the kid I was going to go, but he said he still needed to draw his house. Funny stuff. :) I don't know why his house has floppy dog ears, though.

So after all that artistry, Mary and I went to a café around the corner to do earrings. We didn't go back to her place because her two young nephews (1.5 and 2 years old) were there, and we'd never get anything done with them running around. We ordered mochas (but got cappuccinos, dunno why) at the café and sat at one of the streetside first floor "balcony" seats. Mary brought out her box of supplies and example shapes and cheap wire for me to practice with. She showed me how to do a four-leaf clover loopy thing and a spirally thing. They were pretty bad. :)

We decided to make it an intercambio, 'cause Mary wanted to practice English. Her English is a bit better than my Spanish. She was definitely understandable although accented, and she said she understood almost all of what I said. We traded some new words for the craft vocabulary: alambre "wire," plano "flat," pinzas "pliers." I also tried to help her with her pronunciation.

Then she said "pottery" ['potɛɹi] and we got into a whole discussion about the alveolar flap in English. I tried to have her say "ladder" as ['læɾəɹ] (or ['læɾɹ̩], I'm never sure which transription is more accurate — John, care to comment?), but she ended with one of ['lædɛɹ], ['lɑɾɛɹ] (which sounds sorta like a non-rhotic "larder"), or ['læðɛɹ] (which sounds just about like "lather"). If she's still interested in getting that allophone down, maybe we can go over a list*:

  • ladder ['læɾəɹ]
  • latter ['læɾəɹ]
  • lather ['læðəɹ]
  • larder ['lɑɹdəɹ]
  • leather ['lɛðəɹ]
  • letter ['lɛɾəɹ]
  • litter ['lɪɾəɹ]
  • lighter ['lɑiɾəɹ]
  • liar ['lɑiəɹ]

When we got our drinks, I wasn't sure if we needed to pay. Mary said not yet. Later the employee came by to ask if we wanted anything else. She ran away before I could pay. It became a running joke that I really wanted to pay. Finally, after Mary asked for la cuenta, I could pay. :)

The font on this computer doesn't do most of the IPA, so I'm relying to the IPA Unicode Keyboard's entities for them to show up for our listeners at home. If something is off, let's blame it instead of me. ;)

Update, 4:25 PM: I've installed Firefox. Woohoo! It correctly configured itself to use fonts that do contain the IPA characters I need, so transcriptions have been error-checked to the best of my abilities.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Guests and Teotitlán

A new couple has moved into Jill's old room. They're retirees from Michigan, but they "winter in Puerta Vallarta, south of the río, in the 'romantic' district." Oh boy.

The wife's name is Therese [θə'ɹis], and she was dressed fairly nicely, with a number of pieces of jewelry. She has had enough, she says, of roads with cliffs-as-shoulders, and she wanted to know, honestly, just how bad the road to Monte Albán is. Ann and I tried to assure her that the trip up to Monte Albán is fine.

I didn't mention that, true, it's not the same as an American city street, but it's up a mountain for crying out loud. It really is no worse than, say, the road up to the top of Mount Diablo (and much shorter, besides). The "road" up to the campground at the Russian River campground or "Highway" 4 to Markleeville are far more scary.

Therese and her husband, Jerry, like to just walk around Puerta Vallarta for four months out of the year. By the end of their stay, says Jerry, his Spanish has "warmed up." But he's always wanted to take a class beforehand, as a prep course for their "wintering." So "this is your Christmas present, dear," says Therese.

After Ann and I said goodnight to them, we agreed in a powwow that, as Ann said, "they aren't very nice people." We both worried that they would treat Sofí meanly. And we both hoped that our first impressions were wrong.

But in this case, I'm pessimistic.


I'm glad I didn't count on Jamie getting back to me about going to Teotitlán. She never emailed me back, and she doesn't go to school anymore. I had way more fun with Ann than I would have had with Jamie et al anyway. Ann's back was, in fact, feeling fine today, so we headed for Abastos and the colectivos there around 10:30. (A colectivo, for those not in the know, is a taxi-sized car that six or seven people cram into, so they can divide up the cost of the trip to the same location. I haven't taken one yet, although the idea of sharing the front bucket seat with two strangers is not as appealing as you might think.)

We were keeping our eyes open for a taxi to take up to Abastos. Ann was concerned about her back acting up early. Almost to the zócalo, we found a taxi. The taxi driver said he'd take up to Abastos, but when we mentioned that we would be looking for the colectivos to Teotitlán, he offered to take us there himself at the rate of US$10 an hour. Faster, more convenient, and more comfortable than a colectivo, at a non-astronomical rate: we agreed.

The driver, Antony ("Tony") turned out to be a surprisingly nice guy. He pointed out notable sights as we passed them on the way to Teotitlán. I told Ann that I hadn't been out in this direction at all yet, so she got out her map and started describing the various places along the highway. Just as we passed el Tule the driver pointed it out. We decided to turn around and go see it, since I never had.

El Tule is this massive tree in front of a village church. The plaque in front of the tree says its common anme (in Spanish, mind you) is ahuehuete or sabino. Its scientific name is T. Mucronatum, family Taxodiaceae, genus Taxodium. It is more than 2,000 years old, 126' tall, 166' around, 42' in diameter, and 636.107 tons. For not being a giant sequoia, it's pretty darn big. ;)

Right when we pulled up to park next to the tree, a procession went past us into the church. It was a local girl's quinceañera! Poofy, glittery pink dress more elaborate than a prom dress, and a band (with tubas!) leading the way and another of her godparents following behind. They set off a bunch of "fireworks" that were really more just gunpowder explosions. Then they all went inside the church, after the bells were done ringing, and began singing. After that we stopped spying on the party, but it really was a big shindig hootenanny. :)

Soon thereafter (because looking at a big tree is only interesting for so long), we got back in the taxi and continued on to Teotitlán del Valle, home of los tapetes. We visited their church first so Ann could show me the intricate wax flowers they make as decorations. A local woman started tagging along after us, telling us where her house was, where we could buy her rugs or her neighbor's wax flowers. Ann eventually claimed that we had some "friends" to visit first. The woman gave us directions, both verbal and written, and finally left us alone.

Dying Yarn Yellow

We did actually go to a specific weaver's house, whose address Ann had written down in her notes from a previous trip. The woman there was very nice and not too pressuring. Unfortunately, I didn't buy anything from her because she was charging more than I was willing to spend. She didn't have immediate competition in her neighborhood to force her to haggle.

She did give us a very cool tour of her workshop upstairs, however. She showed us the nopal leaves where they were cultivating cochineal insects for red, orange, and purple dyes (depending on whether they use the popped cochineal straight, with lemon juice, or a [basic?] water solution). She had many huge skeins of plain shema-colored ;) wool yarn, dyed yarn hanging in various stages of drying, and a vat of dye (today, yellow). Blue dye she gets from a chalk-like paste made from fermented indigo leaves. Nothing local gives a green color by itself, so they have to dye the yarn yellow first, and then blue. It's the same technique they use to get any gradient of colors they want.

Growing Cochineal and Drying Yarn

She also had three big looms, each set to a different fineness of weave. The coarsest was set to 6 por pulgada, or 3 columns of stitches per centimeter. Next finest was 10 por pulgada, and it went up from there. The finer, tighter weaves also produce thinner, more delicate "rugs" — really more wall hangings at this point. The finest loom she had only produced a centimeter's worth of woven rug per day's worth of work, and something 2' by 4' would take three months to finish! I took pictures of her nicest ones.

We went back to the stalls in the middle of to look for cheaper rugs. I didn't like many of the designs — too busy for my tastes. I eventually bought one with two lizards on it. The couple at the stall initially wanted US$70 for it, but I told tem I was more looking to spend between $30 and $40. I explained that I understood how much work went into the rugs, and I thought they were very pretty, but I just couldn't do more than $40.

Tapete de Lagartijas

I was going to go to the next stall to keep looking, but he asked me to wait. He lowered the price to $60, then $50, but I kept insisting that I didn't have the money for more than $40. (In actuality, I brought a lot more than that with me, but that was all a rug — no matter how pretty or intricate — was worth to me.) He dropped to $45, and I was tempted, but I had told myself I wouldn't pay more than $40 so again I insisted I couldn't.

The wife of the couple kept suggesting I just borrow the extra money from Ann. So helpful. The husband, who did most of the haggling, said that he'd really like to be able to do business with me and sell me the rug ("the last of that design," they said, although I'm not sure why that mattered). Finally, he offered it for $40, I thanked him very very much (might as well make him think I think he's doing me a favor rather than not ripping me off for quite so much, eh?), and accepted that price. I gave him the $40, he gave me the rug, and Ann congratulated me and took my picture with the rug. Like a safari kill or something. :) I feel somewhat bad for the actual weaver, whose per-hour pay can't be much at all, but the rug remains worth to me no more than around $40. I suppose their other option is to hold out for some buyer that does think it's worth more to them.

Mitla Ruins

After I finally had my rug, we got back in the taxi and continued on to Mitla, a town and also an archaeological site. There are really cool Mixtec geometric designs all over the upper halves of the ruins' walls, which would make a great basis for a quilt. There were two tombs under the ruins that I went down into. Really neat, although the one without ventilation to the outside was muggy.

I bought some earrings and matching necklace and bracelet, and a painted ocarina. We got back into the cab and made it back to Oaxaca by 3:15. Tony dropped us off at the seafood restaurant Marco Polo, across from the park Paseo Juarez "El Llano," that Ann had recommended to me earlier. The total cost of the taxi was US$55, split in half for each of us. Marco Polo was quite good; I had red snapper al veracruzana and half a pitche of lemonade.

And, in random internet linkage, have some wine.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Cooking Class

Ensalada: Nopalitos

The all-day event — from 2:30 until 8 — was the mole verde cooking class at school. A teacher I haven't had, Sandra, was in charge. Ann was one of the students, and a couple from Moab, Utah made up our class of four.

Sarah and David are interesting people. They were accountants and biologists, respectively, in a former Boulder, Colorado life. Now they're organic farmers in the desert. They're about to adopt a kid from Nepal. (They've been to Nepal several times, so they "have a connection to the cultre," and the country is apparently one of the easier and cheaper to adopt from.) Ann's daughter worked in Moab for ten years as a tour guide. Small world.

Christmas Tree of Amigos del Sol

I have printed copies of the recipes we supposedly followed, but I took notes and pictures to document the actual process. The nopal salad, nopalitos, was surprisingly tasty. (Some website claims it's the same thing as prickly pear cactus. Which means I could grow it at home. Cool.) I liked the mole verde too, but I think I prefer thicker to soupier when it comes to mole consistency. And the aqua de mandarinas was excellent, although pulpy.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Birthday

Nopal, ¿Quizás?

Woohoo, I'm one year older today. It's weird spending most of my birthday alone, in a foreign country, but whatever. Silvia gave me a bag of chocolate (I really like the Mexican chocolate) and a pair of dangly earrings. Yesterday I had no danglies, and now I have two. ;)

I had signed myself up for a tour of el jardín etnobotánico, next to the Santo Domingo church. Free tour, yay. It's an ethnobotancial garden because the guides also talk about the uses people have for the plants. Rather interesting. I took 50 pictures and, afterward, jotted down notes about each as well as I could remember.

If you're ever in Oaxaca and looking for Italian food, stay away from Pizza Nostrana, across from the Santo Domingo. Slow service, even for a Mexican restaurant. Also, their open front door is right next to a smelly sewer grate, so that lovely odor wafts in while you're trying to enjoy your food. And the food itself is very... matter-of-fact: I got a small plate with just my piece of lasagna and nothing else. No bread, no salad, no sprig of parsley in any attempt at restaurantiness.

Fence Post Cactus

After I returned to the house, I knocked on Colinne's door. I was feeling a bit lonely, what with being by myself for my birthday. But she had her big debate tomorrow to prepare for, so I left her alone.

I went over to el patio mexicano to chat with Ann. Apparently she had friends who live in Oaxaca, and she's been visiting them off and on for the past ten years. She says it's been interesting watching the pueblos grow, mostly from tourism.

After the chatting (Colinne did come out of her room for a short smoke break), I went to the internet café. But even though it was only 8:30 and they should have been open for another half hour, they'd closed. So I was a little bummed walking back, figuring I'd just read by myself for the rest of my birthday in Mexico.

But then I ran into (almost literally) María Elena at a corner. I asked her, "¿Cómo estás? Adónde vas?" She was off to her salsa class, she said, and she invited me to join her. Woohoo! Dancing and company.

We chatted on the walk to the class. Turns out she's 25, to be 26 on the 20th. (Eek, five days. I'd like to get her something...)

The salsa "classroom" was fairly small — maybe 15 or 20 feet square — but it was big enough for the number of people. Two other women there had never done salsa before, but after they talked to the teacher, they left. Dunno what was up with that.

One of the two teachers showed me el paso básico, el cubano, el <algo>, y el Susy Q. Hehe. But I don't have down the skill of spotting, so all the spinning made me pretty dizzy after enough of them. I sat out the second half of the class on the steps outside (much cooler there) and watched everyone else. Salsa looks pretty fun.

I told María thatI knew Swing, but she didn't know the style and I couldn't think of how to describe it. It actually seems rather similar to salsa in general style. Like, salsa : Latin music :: Swing : jazz. María says I have to show her how to do Swing dancing. We'll see.

After the class, we went to this one bar for shots of mezcal, to celebrate mi cumpleaños. She says she'd actually like to practice her English, especially her pronunciation. She figures I'll be able to help because of my phonetics knowledge. Hopefully! And maybe this Sunday she'll show me how she makes her earrings. Should be fun. :)

So my birthday ended up being enjoyable after all.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Uneventful Evening

I ended up making hot chocolate and sitting with Sofí in the kitchen, drinking and not really paying attention to the TV. Luís came into the kitchen to make himself and a guest some drinks. I mentioned that my dad also drinks whiskey and ice in the evenings sometimes. He offered me some, too, so I had a small glass.

Since I really wasn't watching the TV, I gave up and grabbed my book, which I haven't read for several days. I sat in one of the chairs around the courtyard and read for a bit, then went back to my room.

I looked over the photos I've taken — I added three of myself just today. After counting my photos this morning and discovering that only 12/199 contained me, I've started trying harder to be in my own photos. I took two on auto-timer, and María Elena also took one of me on the school roof, with Monte Albán just barely visible in the background.

It's weird that, since about the third day that I've been here, I've woken up just before my alarm. Doesn't matter that I've set it for different times, or that during the days it's just an hour or two's siesta. Once it was only two minutes ahead of the alarm. The alarm itself has only gone off the times I decided to just stay cozy until the appointed time. I wonder why I'm waking up like this, so consistently? It never happens at home. Then again, I never go to sleep before midnight at home.


Chinese Food and School

A "Chinese" Mexican Restaurant

Shop owners here clean their patch of sidewalk every morning with a bucket of bleach and a mop. By the scent in my room sometimes after I come home and my bed's been made, I think Sofí does the same thing when we're off at school. So "clean" smells like a laundry room or a pool here.

Today I went to the Chinese restaurant that Josefina mentioned the other day. It's quite a few blocks from el centro. It's a "normal" courtyard builing like all the rest, with pointsettas and a Christmas tree to go along with the paper lanterns and poorly stencilled dragons. Very weird mix of Mexican and Chinese decorations. I ordered Kum Pa Chi Tin, kung pao chicken, which was very heavy on the onions and a soupy sauce. At least it was still recognizably "Chinese food." The restaurant (La Muralla) makes me wonder what "American" elements we have in our Chinese restaurants that we don't even notice.

One of María Elena's hobbies is making earrings. She showed me a boxful of them and convinced me to try some "small" danglies. I told her how when I was young my mom wouldn't let me wear anything but studs, so now I'm not used to danglies. ("¿No? Por qué?" "No sé. Tampoco me permitió llegar negro." "¿?" Heh.)

María Elena and I talked about the little words and phrases that you use to help the conversation flow. I also explained to her about "cooties," but apparently the dictionary translation piojos only refer to literal bugs, not what little boys have. (She was lending me her spoon to stir my coffee, is how "cooties" came up. ;)) Tomorrow, at my request, we're going to talk about how to improve pronunciation and sound less American.

My school, Amigos del Sol, offers English classes to Oaxaqueños, in addition to the Spanish classes I'm taking. Not-Marco, the other guy from school (who wears really weird contacts), says that he'll ask if I can sit in on the classes to see how it's taught. Could be cool.

Colinne's school sounds much more rigorous and school-like than mine. She's had to research Mexican politics, write up summaries of newspaper articles, and tonight she's preparing for a debate. But really, I think I'm happier with the structure of my school. I've had my fill of traditional schoolwork and classmates and worrying about doing things correctly on the spot. My one-on-one chats with my teachers about whatever specific concernsI have are really cool. It's nice to just be able to chat — they still correct me when I need it, but it feels much less formal.

Of course, the downside to all my one-on-one classes is that I haven't really met anyone outside of the house. Colinne and Nina were just leaving the house when I woke up from my siesta today, heading off to see some Mexican wrestling with their class. They didn't invite me along, despite my hinting that I had nothing to do and would like to go. Blah. I'm going to be taking a Salsa dancing class and a cooking class on Friday through the school, so maybe I'll meet people there. Or I could try the intercambio again, or ask María Elena what she's up to after school... *mutter*


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Café Del Jardín

La Chica de Ipanema Band

OI this band at el Café Del Jardín is LOUD. I moved to the far side of the café just so my ears wouldn't hurt. I still have to talk loudly for the mesera to hear me.

One guidebook recommended the resturant on the balcony about Del Jardín, que se llama Asador Vasco. But it's pretty pricey — nothing less than US$12 — so I don't think I'll be eating there.

Just saw Colinne (formerly known as Colín) and Nina walk by, but too quickly to call out without chasing after them. Wonder what they're up to. Ojalá que Colinne olvide mi cumpleaños el jueves. She said last Wednesday when we were at La Casa de Mezcal that she was going to get me trashed for my birthday. I told her "heh" and explained that I don't do drunk, but she didn't feel like believing me. But I'm more than willing to refuse extra drinks, even to the point of being rude, so bring it. ;)

Mmm, café americano con Bailey's y una cucharada de azucar. Small coffee mug, but only US$1.40, so it's all good. Mmm, I say.

Dude! The band is playing The Girl from Ipanema! Only, they call it La Chica de Ipanema aquí. Go figure. ;) Sweet. I tried to take a video from my table for the sound, but I have no idea if it'll turn out at all. But seriously, this is awesome. Picture sitting at an outdoor café table, it's a beautiful clear night, sipping coffee and Bailey's, while listening to The Girl from Ipanema as played by a bamboo xylophone and bongo drums. Sweet, I tells ya.


Pillow-Stealing (not Shadow-Stabbing)

I don't know what it is about lunch — whether I eat at an odd time (2 or 3 ni the afternoon), or pick unpopular places, or what — but just about everywhere I've eaten for lunch has been deserted. I had raviolis at La Rústica, un restaurante italiano, and I was the only one there. Yummy oil-and-green-stuff for the bread, though, and very finely grated Parmesan.

Over the weekend I told Silvia about my pillow-induced headachs. She totally understood, and we commiserated un ratito about how we travel with our propias almohadas, and she with her sábana, también. We went into another bedroom del patio mexicano (donde vive Ann, no sé porque, pero quizás porque está en Oaxaca algunos meses), and we stole one of the pillows from there that I liked better.

Silvia said that the room belonged to another student who'd been there a while, but he was currently out travelling. Thus not around to defend his pillowage. Muahaha. And his pillow really is much better.

Anyhow, Sunday night I was by myself at the dinning dining room table (*grin Squirt*), cosiendo. I heard the front door/gate open, which meant someone with a key had just gotten home. But everyone I knew was already in their own bedrooms, so I wondered who it was.

This guy, about my age, wearing a backpacker's backpack came over to the dining room. We exchanged holas, then he asked, "¿Hablas inglés?" followed by an "Oh good." Hehe. We talked a tiny bit, then he went off to find Silvia. I think today was his last day here, and he's off to do more travelling.

However, the point of this long-winded introduction was just to mention that backpacker-dude also has a Moleskine notebook that he carries with him. :)


Axaíl y Más Ir de Compras

Courtyard of Amigos del Sol

I forgot that I'd asked for an intercambio yesterday. Today when Marco (one of the guys in charge of the school) opened the door to let me in, he mock-glared at me and I remembered. Oops! I ended up cancelling my request for an intercambio, 'cause I don't think I'm going to get better at remembering I have to be back at 6.

La otra estudiante de mis clases, Jamie (chica americana, no chico mexicano), muchas veces no viene a la escuela. She's a flake, in other words. Por eso, otra vez tenía un discounted one-on-one. María Elena y yo ignoramos su lección de los usos de la palabra "que," y hablamos de la lingüística en vez de ésto. Le expliqué de mi pasatiempo, el crear de idiomas. A ella le interesaba más que yo había anticipado. :) Le dije un poco sobre la axaíl* (jeje).

Compré un tazo por mi Tío Mike, y encontré algunos álbumes de fotos. Pero me dé cuenta de que no sabía cuántos fotos voy a imprimir para mi abuelo). Mom, do you think Papa wants 24 photos or 120? ;)

This post isn't meant to be semi-secret, I just felt like writing in Spanish. If your hispanohablante-ness isn't up to the challenge, have some Googly help. Not to be confused with googly eyes.

Hay mucha influencia de los idiomas indígenos aquí en el estado de Oaxaca. Algunas de los nombres de lugares todavía tienen nombres náhuatles. En éstes, la letra "x" significa el sonido de la inglés "sh" y no la de "j" española. Por eso, transcribí el nombre de "Asha'ille" como "axaíl."


Monday, December 12, 2005

Tour and More Xmas Shopping


Ugh, I really don't feel like blogging about the tour or about today. So I don't think I'll go into as much detail as I normally would.

Tour was good. I was the only native English-speaker on the tour. There were 3 older Mexican couples, vacationing from Mexico City, the driver, and the guide. During our introducions to each other, I told them about how I was a student. Since I was understanding almost everything they were saying, we decided not to do the tour bilingually, as the tour company had advertised, so I could practice more.

We went to Monte Albán, a Zapotec site. I took 85 pictures of the place for my architecture prof. We went to Arrazola, where they make really... festively painted wooden critters. Went to un convento estilo gótico, que se llama Cuilapan de Guerrero. Went to a restautant in Zaachila, La Capilla. Then we drove down a windy road to Coyotepec, home of barra negra. That's black pottery, for those not in the know. It turns black when they fire it; it's not painted. But between the food and the road, I started feeling really sick. I bought some aspirin-like drug, which helped only a little.

Oaxaca Valleys

Luckily, that was our last stop for the tour. They dropped me off half a block from Silvia's house, so I didn't have to walk very far. I tried to throw up, but I guess my stomach wasn't feeling that bad. I slept it off instead.

And today I mostly tried to finish up my Xmas shopping. I only have four more people to shop for, although I only know what I'm getting one of those people. And then I'll be done with my gift-buying; woohoo!

So yeah, that's my quick update for today. Hasta mañana.


Saturday, December 10, 2005


Pointsettas grow into trees! I had no idea. Maybe I'll plant one when I have a real place. Silvia says they flower for most of the year, not just in the winter.

And spider plants? They're called mala madre, "bad mother," here, because the plant throws her hijos out. :)


El Mercado Abastos

Cosera de una Nochebuena

Silvia suggested I go check out el mercado Abastos today. Jill and Ann (the older woman from Palo Alto who's also going to the same school) agreed with Silvia that I should go on a Saturday. I found it out on the map, but it seemed a bit inaccurate. The gray rectangle marked as the mercado took up three or four square blocks' worth of space. But Ann said no, it was bigger than the map said. Impossible, I thought. Hyperbole.

So off I went to the mercado. Along the way I stopped at a clothing store that had prom-style dresses for US$50 and $60, but the ones I liked didn't fit right. (Mom, how much did you pay for the Squirt's cheap dresses?) And then I got to the mercado.

Oh. My. God. When Ann said that another computer science kid she knew had commented, "I'd never understood the idea of infinity until now," well, damn. I thought — foolish, foolish me — that I'd go up and down each little "street" like at a convention or like how I did at el mercado 20 de noviembre. Heh. Heh.

So here I am, walking down the first row. Tons of little stalls all along it. When I get to the first intersection, I see the vastness that is el mercado Abastos. No, actually I don't: I see as far as I can of el mercado Abastos. I can't see any exit out into the street, not even back the way I came in. Thankfully it's shaded, so the hot day isn't as horrible as it could be.

I keep walking down the street, thinking that the end of the mercado must be just one more intersection down. Finally, finally, I see what looks like a dead end. I figure there must be a side exit near there. Heh. No. It's just a bend in the street, and the stalls continue onward.

The covering overhead changes from real roof to canvas, which is warmer underneath. When I did eventually make it out into the heat of the day outside, I was nearly ready to just go home right then. And that was just the first street of the mercado. Imagine that, squared.

They sell every sort of thing in the mercado Abastos. Clothing (traditional and modern), shoes, cellphones, jewelry, baskets, bags, makeup, prepared food, raw food (fruit, veggies, mariscos, chapulines (a Oaxaqueña delicacy: fried grasshoppers), herbs, spices, beans, chiles), shoes, pottery, rugs, crafts, craft supplies... I only made it around the perimeter before my brain went on strike and demanded I escape from the sensory overload.

I ended up with a couple mugs, some craft supplies, and a pretty Peacock rug. For US$21. If only it had been mostly Christmas shopping. I think I have to return to get stuff for everyone else. *whimper* Either the stairs will kill me, or the mercados will cause a nervous breakdown.


Waking Up Early

View of Church from My Room Sketch

Woke up "in the middle of the night," 6 AM, which actually turns out to be the tail end of the night. I could not, for the life of me, fall back asleep. I had a headache from the pillow and my stomach hurt. I hoped it wasn't the cucumber slices from dinner.

I eventually decided to go take a shower. The shower here, at least for the renting students, is pretty weird. The shower is right between the sink and the toilet. The hot water spigot turns opposite of how it's supposed to. The water pressure is ridiculous, although if it were normal it'd probably hit the bathroom door. And the hot water temperature is only nominally hot. Between the tepid water and the chilly dawn air, I was so cold that when I got back into my jammies (I wasn't yet willing to admit that I was actually getting up at six in the morning), my jammies still felt warm!

View of Church from My Room

I don't know what I want to do with today. I've checkeh out all the shops are the zócalo, and I'm scheduled for a tour tomorrow, so that leaves today without a plan. might go pick up some of that weird painting-on-leather stuff that people sell, now that I know where to get them. (The street vendors sell for less than the mercado ones.) Or maybe a little water color dealie. (You got a problem with "dealie"? Well, do ya, punk?)

Hmm, what the heck to 32 church bell ringings followed by 2 more signify? Maybe someone just got overeager at the bell tower.

I killed an hour before breakfast drawing the view from the chair next to my room. The upstairs window in the picture turned out to be Sofí's room. I didn't even know there were stairs in the house!


Friday, December 9, 2005

Mexican Hot Chocolate

When I walked home tonight, a wind had picked up and I got pretty cold without my sweatshirt. (It had been pretty warm during the day.) I wanted to make hot chocolate with the chocolate I bought at the mercado, but I thought that perhaps there was more to making it "correctly," Mexican style.

Sofí was in the kitchen, like always. I asked her how to make the hot chocolate. Just heat some milk, throw in some chunks of chocolate, and stir, she said. She got out a pitcher-shaped aluminum (not "aluminium," like my housemate Jill says) pot and a very strange stirring stick. It had a cogged, spinning wheel at the end, perpendicular to the handle. I had no idea why it was shaped that way, but I didn't ask.

Sofí poured out one mug's worth of milk into the pot. I offered her some too, but she declined. She told me to just toss in the chocolate in the disk-shaped pieces it was already in; I didn't need to chop them up more, like Forrest's crazy abuela chocolate. I stirred the mixture with the funny kitchen implement and realized what the cogged wheel was for: it scrapes along the bottom edges of the pan. Surprisingly useful. Might have to pick one up before I leave.

Per Sofí's instructions, I added five disks to the pot (she was going by the liquid's color). I sat and watched the end of a soap and the beginning of the news with her. Some kidnapped people — including a family — had just been found, and their accused kidnappers (a Mexican and his French girlfriend) were arrested. They were doing the kidnappings for ransom money, not for political reasons like in the book I'm reading.

Anyhow. It's funny how the languages are mixing in my head now. Sometimes when I'm just thinking to myself, words will come up in Spanish instead of English. Or when I'm writing, it will try to switch into Spanish mid-sentence. Or when I'm writing down an English word, its Spanish traslation will superimpose itself in my "mind's ear," the way Qwerty keyboards are schizophrenically Dvorak too, for me. I'm taking it as a good sign. ;)


El Mercado 20 de Noviembre and Chatino

Church Courtyard and Nochebuena

I've taken to asking strangers what the words are for things. Generally it works out pretty well. So I went into the courtyard of this church, and inside they had a pointsetta tree. I didn't even know they grew into trees. They always die too young, I guess. ;) Anyhow, I asked a guy there what the flower was called, and he said what sounded like nochehuena. As I was writing this down in my notebook a moment later, I realized that it must actually be nochebuena, which rang a bell. He looked more Indian-blooded than most; I wonder if he has some sort of local dialect?

Then I wandered around el mercado for an hour or so. The market takes up half a block's worth of space, inside a large building. All the venders are crammed in there with their tightly spaced stalls. (A lot like that market we went to in Barcelona, Mom.) This wasn't the same sort of place as the tourist shops on the "tourists' street," or at least not predominantly. This was like a mall, but of tiny stall vendors instead of fashionable expensive stores. Several places were selling cowboy hats, so I asked what they were called. One lady said sombreros forma americana, which amused me to no end. But then later, another guy disagreed, saying that meant straw hats. Cowboy hats were forma norteamericana, he said. Either way, funny.

Beans and Other Dried Things

Remember how I said this mercada is like mall, but with stalls instead of real stores? (Think county fair, but much narrower "streets" between the booths.) Well, let me tell you, it's exceptionally weird to try on a dress in such a place. The vendor was a guy, and since I didn't know my Mexican dress size, he had to guess. I tried on a 38, which sorta fit, but gapped funny around the arm holes. It was really strange talking to this guy about how the dress didn't fit, but he was cool about it. :P

I drew some sketches of a couple different varieties of chiles. I was very careful not to touch any, lest I then rub my eye and blind myself. They had so many types of chiles! And of beans, and herbs, and all sorts of other things. I snuck a picture of one stand after the woman at the neighboring stand had told me I could only take a picture if I bought something from her. Nyah, I say. Showed her, I'm sure.

Chiles de Oaxaca

And if I don't return to the States, it's because I've managed to kill myself on all the steps that are everywhere here. Steps into shops from the street, steps with the shops, steps in restaurants, steps in the zócalo, steps in the house — everywhere. I'm always looking up, or around, and never down when a step jumps out at me. Hrmph.

On the cellphone SIM front, the daughter at the store said they couldn't accept it back, since I'd used it. Very sad.

After all the wandering, I stopped in to a restaurant to eat, drawn by the advertisement of enchiladas on the menu outside. What I ended up with was a very thin slab of pork, cooked and covered in something vaguely spicy. But it was tasty, so I didn't complain.

The interesting part of the dinner, though, was not the food. This guy Federico, who was sitting at the table next to me, started chatting with me. Asking me where I was from, how I liked Oaxaca, the usual. He asked if he could join me at my table; he didn't seem too creepy, so I let him. We talked a bit about language, actually. He speaks Spanish and an indigenous language, Chatino.

After he asked me why I chose to study Spanish, he asked why not Chatino? I agreed — why not? He seemed surprised to have a taker. :P So I asked him about word order (SVO), verbal conjugations (none for person), whether it is dying language (has about 28k speakers according to Wikipedia and Ethnologue, and he says the kids are still learning it). He added that Chatino was tonal (three tones: level, rising, and falling) and that vowel length was phonemic. Eep! We exchanged email addresses, so maybe I can learn more about Chatino. Hehe. (Yeah yeah, Jerry, "language weeny," I know.)

And Aaron: I now have 41 pictures. Means I almost doubled it just today. (Aaron and I had chatted over AIM earlier today, and he implicitly accused me of not taking enough photos.) I even got Federico to take a picture of me, so I'm in two of my photos now! I should have gotten him in the picture too, but he took the picture before we'd really started chatting. Picture a Mexican Professor Choi with a more narrow chin and you'd have a rough idea.

Anyhow, Forrest, you're a bum for not answering your IM at work. I'm off. Talk to y'all tomorrow.


"Usted" and Frijoles

Amigos del Sol, My School

I've been tring hard to use Usted with everyone but my class- and roommates, but I often slip into tuteándoles. So today at school, when my teache Josefina said hi and asked how I was, I was pleased when I caught myself in time to say, "¿Y Usted?" But she shook a finger at me and correct me: "Y tú."

After class I askedh her more about it. I said that it seemed like in stores the interaction was always with Usted on both sides of the conversation. At the school, she said, things are less formal. With kids it is always okay to use , and you should probably use Usted with someone viejo.

I figured that then was not a good time to ask, "¿Cuántos años tienes tú?" Hehe. She looks likes she's maybe in her late 20's or early 30's. María Elena's age is harder to guess — she seems in her early 20's, but I'd give it a margin of error of 3 years.

So I'm having food problems here, like in Spain. I'm eating even less than usual, because I don't know what anything is. (Thus the crepes and lasagna: known food.) I talked about not liking beans with my classmate and teacher today at school. María Elena said she couldn't believe I didn't like beans. Hehe. She and Josefina both said that I really should say something to the family, though, since beans are so common in Mexican dishes.

So when I got home for lunch, le dije a Sofí, la ayudante de la casa, "Tengo una confesión. No me gustan mucho los frijoles. Y yo sé que son comida típica mexicana, y quizás es que— sólo he comido frijoles de los Estados Unidos, y no de México. Quizás puedo probarlos un poco..?" Luckily she understood (in both senses of the word). She showed me some leftover pasta de frijol (bean paste). I explained that I'd try a little bit, next time. So maybe the food thing will work out after all. Sofí's off to buy tortillas for lunch right now. At least I like tortillas. :)

Sofí's back, with tortillas. I like Sofí, even if I feel weird about her status. (I don't know exactly how locals feel about their ayudantes.) I wondered what she was doing with the tortillas, so I went into the kitchen to see. I asked, "¿Cómo prepara las tortillas?" (I use Usted with her until someone tells me otherwise.) She was just heating them in a pan, until the edges looked crispish and the body was warped. She was also cooking verde. After me being confused, she explain it was chicken in a green sause — maybe mole verde? I told her how "unos días antes, tenía una enfermedad. Ahora la nariz no..." "¿Respirar?" "No no, puedo respirar. Es que no puedo..." I gestured to the pot of chicken cooking, wafted the scent toward me, and sniffle-sniffed to demonstrate. "Ah, no puedes <smell> el olor." "Sí, el olor. Pues, puedo un poco, y creo que es bueno." We laughed (and then I ate her the chicken). ;)

The chicken was quite yummy, and very tender too. The bean paste actually seemed a little sweet. It was edible on its own, but much better on a tortilla with the chicken and sauce.

A cool thing about courtyards is every room has an outside door and a view. The way we open the front door of the apartment to let air in, but we have to be careful about drunks coming in or the cat running out. Or how, in houses, people open up the back door. Here, every room has a "back door" that opens into the controlled outdoor space of the "backyard" courtyard. Very sneaky, like Victor. Victorous, even. Ne vitor shall be "the sneak" in Asha'ille, methinks.

Oo, Squirt! Silvia reminds me of Señora Dominguez, from Las Lomas! Similar way of talking. A little less overweight, and Mexican instead of pale, but similar.

Welp, off to do things besides blog in Mexico. ;)


Thursday, December 8, 2005

Phone Troubles

The mysterious booms might be explained. A fiesta just happened for some important religious figure, and Monday is another for la Virgen de Guadalupe. The noise is frequent fireworks. Maybe now that I know what the sound is, I can ignore it when I'm trying to sleep.

Jesús is a bank customer who started chatting with me after I asked him if he knew whether the bank did exchanges from dollars to pesos. He's from Mexico City, and he is learning English. He switched to that for a little while, but he was less comfortable in English than I was in Spanish. Everybody wants to chat! I suppose that's good, even though I feel uneasy talking to strangers; my mommy told me not to (and I always do what my mommy says ;)) but I am here to practice speaking, ne?

Ah, but about my incident with the bank. I wanted to withdraw some money so I could pay the school and los García. US$600 would ne plenty. So I put in my ATM card, typed $600.00, and pressed enter. Now, I really wasn't thinking: I didn't notice that the money wasn't all monochromatic green, like dollars should be. So I went and asked Jesús de Mexico City if the bank could do the exchange. A bank teller told me I'd need my passport, which turned out to be a good thing. If I'd had it with me, I would have looked pretty dumb, standing there and realizing that I had $600 in pesos, not dollars. That's about US$60. Not quite enough to pay for tuition and housing. Oops. I'll try again later.

I've signed myself up for a tour of Monte Albán and some surrounding villages. US$25 for the bus and guides, but food and entrance fees aren't included. That's how all the tour companies are set up. Perhaps there's a substantial number of customers who only want to go to, say, 3 out of 5 of the places, so the company doesn't include the fees? No sé.

Forrest emailed me an unlock code for my phone, which I tried tonight. It worked the first try. I went to one cellphone store and asked about SIM cards for Telcel, the carrier that my phone picks up in the area. I was confused as to why the guy at the store couldn't help me — something about move estar — until I looked at their phones and their name brand: Movistar. Oops.

He was kind enough to point me in the general directoin of a Telcel store. Much confusion there with how everything was supposed to work. I don't know why in particular this guy was hard to understand, but even his daughter (maybe 12 years old?) was easier to understand than he was. Dunno. Anyhow, the SIM card cost US$30, with a US$10 credit for airtime.

I was led to believe that calling the States would cost 50 cents a minute, which would have been cheaper than the caseta de teléfonos. But either he lied to me or I misunderstood — I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and the latter is more likely anyway — because I'm getting something less than a minute for each dollar, which is about what Cingular was going to charge me in the first place. :( I doubt he'll let me return thr SIM. On the other hand, another customer there thought that it was cheaper to call Mexico from the States than vice versa. Maybe so, but I'd need to buy more mintues to try it and I'm sorta disillusioned of the whole thing right now.

It was an expensive day: ended up spending US$93, on food, a tour, internet (of course), the SIM, cellphone minutes, and gifts. Stupid phone thing, being so disappointing. :(


Weather and Height

Was just passing by the internet café...

I ate lunch at an "expensive" restaurant today. Cost $9 for focaccia bread, lasagna, a side salad, and bottled water. Lasagna in Oaxaca doesn't use the big flat noodles. But it was very tasty — I even finished everything on my plate! Today turned cloudy, and a few scattered raindrops got me. The waitress said that there was no "typical" weather for un diciembre oaxaqueño, that instead it was sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy. Still, this isn't like any December I've ever seen.

Random observation: here, I'm tall. All the older women are shorter than me, and many of the people my age, too. Gang, you'd be giants here. Being tall is a weird feeling. ;)


El Primer Día de Escuela

So I'm done with classes for the day! It's a pretty small school, like the website said. There were two other girls in my 10:35-12:00 class, taught by María Elena, but tomorrow is the last day for one of them (Heather, I think her name it). In the 12:10-1:30 class, taught by Josefina, there was only the other girl, the one who isn't leaving. I can't remember her name. :P

I liked María Elena better; she's about my age, very friendly and informal. She doesn't feel like she's dumbing down her Spanish, just being clear, which is nice. Josefina is así así: we used flashcards and made up sentences for the pictures on them for the entire class. But still, it was good practice and good feedback. Just not as pal-y.

Yeesh, the older blog entries take a while to transcribe! I'm off now to try to find a replacement ink cartridge for my cool telescoping Zebra pen. Adios!


Can't Sleep

I woke up at 3:30 this morning, thirsty and too uncomfortable to fall back asleep. (My mattress is pretty firm, and the pillow is too high.) After half an hour of tring to get comfortable, I got up and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. It's weird having to go outside into the "hallway" around the courtyard to move between most rooms.

In the kitchen, there were these little black bugs on the countertop. Disconcerting. They weren't cockroaches, and I don't think they were fleas, either. I killed two of whatever they are.

I came back to bed and read for another twenty minutes. My eyes are tired, but I can't fall asleep. Not only is the uncomfortableness getting to me, but also I'm not used to the city's noises yet. They wake me up and keep me from falling back asleep. There's some bug outside that makes a high-pitched trill noise, but it's not the same as a cricket's. And then there's the BOOM noises and drum noises that happen every few minutes. The booms sound more like something heavy falling than the sharp sound of gunfire, but I don't know what the sound could be. It doesn't really sound like a garbage truck, and it happens too frequently for it to be that, anyway.

Hopefully I'll get used to the noises sson; if I can get used to the train going by in the middle of the night at the Foothill apartment, I can get used to this.


Wednesday, December 7, 2005

La Casa de Mezcal

After my crepe, I wandered down the next street, el 5 de Mayo, and eventually went back home. I read my book, Noticia de un Secuestro for a bit, but I was starting to get hungry. I saw the Canadian girl, Colín (I don't know if her name is actually Colleen or what) rummaging around, wearing a nice shirt and pearls. I asked her if she'd already eaten. She had, but she and a German friend, Nina, from their language school were going out drinking and perhaps I could eat something on the way.

I changed into my green button-up shirt and we left. We met Nina at the zócalo. The three of us walked through a market past the zócalo and ended up at Mina Street, the one with the chocolate shops. We tried some samples (chunks of chocolate and chocolate milk stuff — yummy). Across the street and down about half a block was La Casa de Mezcal. I had previously admitted to nevering having tried mezcal, so we had to go. ;)

Turns out Colín is quite the drinker, if her stories are true. A rival of Aaron, even, except that she likes being drunk and stupid. I ordered a shot of mezcal (the bar called it a copeo, los García a copa). Colín and Nina got a 2-for-1 cocktail special: mandarin and mezcal. Their glasses were these huge glasses.

The jukebox was playing loud Spanish music (surprise, surprise). A groud of other young adults in the corner was getting roudy, singing and dancing to the music. One guy even broke out his lighter for one song. :P Then, from out of nowhere, some guy comes up behind me and kisses me on the cheek. He goes back to his table, where his buddy is laughing.

We all thought it was drunk-funny — no real harm done. The guy came back and explained that his friend had said he couldn't just walk over and kiss a stranger, and he'd said he could. But then they kept coming back to talk to us; they asked us to come join them at their table, or dance with them, or have a drink on them. Nina and I let Colín (whose Spanish is a bit better and more confident than mine) politely decline their offers with excuses of class tomorrow.

We eventually left, looking for this place called el Freebar. We eventually found it, two blocks from Santo Domingo (big church), but it had closed for the night. We said goodnight to Nina and walked back to our place (with a stop for fries and el baño along the way).

Colín went to bed, but I stayed up chatting with los García for maybe another hour. They say my S's are quite Spanish — too laminal, I think is the problem, and maybe too fricativey.

Anyhow, first day of class tomorrow!


Tourist Street

More back-dating. My access to internet is not really on a set schedule.

Met a girl from Holland, named Honica, who arrived Saturday. She's going to a different language school, Oaxaca International, and has only studied Spanish for the past two days! She speaks accented English (studied it six years in school). That seems much more avdenturous than my situation!

I met her at a tour company. The woman at the info desk there told me about the tours in Spanish, and there were only two things that I needed her to repeat. :) I took some pictures of the building's courtyard (I love this sneaky-courtyard architecture!), then went back to the woman to ask how to say "courtyard." She didn't know! She knew what I meant, but when she asked her coworker, "¿Cómo se dice la parte del edificio que no está cubierta?" he wasn't quick with an answer, either. Patio is what he came up with, and she thought maybe terraza. Weird.

I've since checked with WordReference, and it agrees with the guy: patio it is. Terraza is "terrace" or "balcony," so I don't know what the woman was on.

Entretejado might be "woven;" also cruzado, says the woman at the traditional Mexican clothing store.

Okay, seriously, me encanta la arquitectura mexicana. Yes, the streetfronts look pretty bad, but inside! So... strawbale courtyard? :P And the word for rug is el tapete.

Vincente runs the store Cuchillos Alcalá. Talkative guy, nice and willing to repeat or simplify or explain until I understood. He has sword canes for US$55, and curved swords, flamigeros, named after flames. Apparently some angel in the Bible fought with a sword of flame, and the curves represent that. He also sells throwing stars, keychain "swords," penknifes, and a belt with a zippered compartment and a knife-buckle. And I am Señorita Catarín [rojɛɹs]

Seems that I like at least a few songs by Belinda, who was playing over the radio at La Crepa, a crepe restaurant! Their ham and cheese crepes were excellent. I know I'm in Mexico, not France, but still... Mmm, crepes. I'll almost certainly be returning for their strawberry crepes. Also, they have Oaxaca hot chocolate; will have to try that sometime. Cute mesero, too. ;)

I need to practice my restaurant-chilling skills. I feel anti-rushed here, like I think I should have been given the check already so I can hurry up and pay and leave, but they expect me to relax a bit. But it's nice here in the shade, sitting at a little café table on a balcony, listening to Spanish pop and people-watching those walking below on the "tourists' street." What's so wrong with just chilling and enjoying myself? I am on vacation, and there really isn't any great pressing need to be elsewhere right now...


Tuesday, December 6, 2005

At the Zócalo

Santo Domingo from La Crepa

From my journal (back-dated to when I wrote it):

What SLO needs is a zócalo. Central plaza, sidewalk restaurant seating, live music, strolling around — very nice. A mariachi band is going between the tables now, dressed in the traditional (or is it stereotypical? I don't know) black suits and such. A performance by who I pressume are some sort of professional mariachis just ended and they are packing up all their instruments from the gazebo. Large tule trees are throughout the plaza, and they have just added thick borders of red pointsettas around the trees.

It's December, but the night air makes me think of those perfectly barely-warm summer nights in Walnut Creek growing up. I didn't need to bring my sweatshirt at all.

Like in Spain, poor people stop by the restaurant tables to beg for money or ask if I'll buy some trinket they're peddling. I'm eating at Amarantes, and the waiter seems to enjoy telling me that he lived in San Francisco for 14 years. (I tell people who are that I'm from California, and "cerca de San Francisco" if they ask more specifically.) I've noticed that in Mexico and Spain that people we wouldn't normally talk to outside of a prescribed script — cashiers, waiters, shop employees — ask about where I'm from, why I'm here, and for how long. I don't know whether it's because people are just more friendly and open here, or because they're proud of their region and want to tell foreigners about it. Or maybe I look naïve and they're just distracting me before they pickpocket me. ,)

I spent a total of $137 MXN on Tuesday, which covered Burger King, an hour of internet, a phone call to the States, dinner, a 25% tip, some bread and a cookie. Sweet.


¡He Llegado!

View from My Room

Wow, first off: this keyboard is crazy. There's an Ñ key were the Qwerty semicolon should be! Anyhow, I bet you don't care much about this Mexican keyboard right now. ;)

Forrest drove me down to LAX, so I got to spend a bit more time with him before I was off to Mexico for the bulk of December. Thank you, Forrest! Especially for the shortcut route, even if it was really cold. :) It's sad saying goodbye at airports, especially now that no one but the travelers themselves can get past the front door...

(Arg, the < and > keys are on the same key, to the left of Z! But anyway.) At LAX, I met an older woman from Chicago who had just come out of a coma and brain surgery. She was... interesting... to talk to. A little weird, and not because of any brain damage. Just one of those weird old talkative people. On the plane, a woman with a baby sat in the row behind me. Her kid cried the entire time, so bad that the attendants asked her multiple times if everything was alright or if the baby was sick. Made it so I couldn't get any real rest on that flight. (Which was a major bummer, seeing as how I've only had 4 hours of sleep in the last 48. :( )

So that was a 3-hour flight. I changed planes at Mexico City. Big international airport. All the little airport stores there were strange, though — narrow, like 5 feet wide, and every inch of wall space totally covered with whatever it was they were selling (candy, books, stamps, scarves, cellphones...). I exchanged some dollars for pesos (rate of 1 to 10.35) and settled for Burger King chicken strips and bottled water for sustenance. Bleh. The connecting flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca only took 40 minutes, and there I did manage to nap. Actually, I got to stretch out across my row of three seats, 'cause the flight was only maybe 10-20% full.

Oaxaca's airport is quite small, like SLO's. There are mountains all around the city (surprise surprise, what with it being in the Oaxaca Valley); I should have taken a picture, but my camera was still packed away at the time. Silvia's grown son picked me up at the airport. He drives an old 19-something-1 :P VW Bug that kept stalling while we were driving to his parents' home.

Door of Silvia's House

The street-front stores and all the buildings look pretty run-down, maintenance-wise, but I don't get scary vibes like I do in, say, Bezerkly. Silvia says that it's actually safe to walk around the city late (like 11 or 12, she said), even alone, and that she lets her younger daughter do so without incident. That makes me feel better — I walked the half a block from her house to this internet cafe by myself — but I think I'd still much prefer to make friends with the 30-something Australian student and pal around with her after dark. (Yes, Mom, I'm thinking of you and your concerns. ;) )

Supposedly there's a casa de teléfonos half a block around the corner where I can call to the States. May try that until I figure out how to dial from my cellphone — 'course, I may continue using the "phone-house" after that, since Cingular wants to charge me like $1 or $2 a minute to call the States. (Could someone up there find out if those rates apply to calling other Cingular customers?)

This internet cafe's computers have USB... I really need to try to get my camera photos uploaded. Would be much better than having to do it in bulk when I get home.

Anyhow, I'm really really tired. Gonna call people, then have myself a real Mexican siesta. :)


Monday, December 5, 2005

La Noche Anterior

Me voy esta noche al aeropuerto LAX, y por la mañana próxima volaré a Oaxaca de Juárez. ¡Gahhh! Nunca había viajado sola. Estoy nerviosa, pero también emocionada (si se puede confiar en la traducción de WordReference).

Desafortunadamente, tengo un "runny nose" (un "moqueo"? no sé). Ojalá — oo, acabo de aprender que esta palabra es, etimologicamente, del árabe, que significó algo de Allah — ojalá que la enfermedad me dejará dentro de poco...

Cuando estoy en México, no sé si tendré internet reliable. No me llames por teléfono; cuesta mucho. Trataré de responder a sus emails y escribir sobre mi viaje aquí, pero no prometeré nada cierta. Pero ¡sí trataré de tomar muchas fotos!

Eep! (Funkily translated) English please!

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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Simpsons-esque Name

The girl at the front desk of Mustang brought out this package for the apartment and said, I kid you not, "I have a package for... Heywood Djablome." Poor girl; we could have died laughing.

See, a while back The Gang was filling water balloons and condoms up with butane and exploding them outside. So they ordered some free samples from Trojan and had them mailed to them. Naturally, they felt the need to sign up as, uh... humorous names. The samples have just now arrived, complete with unaltered bogus names.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Historic Purchase

Amazing! I've finally used my Gap gift certificate from 1997. Bought myself a black knit scarf.

My aunt and uncle gave me this $27 gift certificate for my birthday in '97. But I never shop at the Gap — everything's so expensive, and I don't like most of it anyway. This winter, though, I've noticed the increasing popularity of scarves. What with the Gap being expensive, $27 will only buy something like a scarf. So I picked up a simple black scarf, with knitted cables.

I'd never owned a scarf before, and was pleasantly surprised to find how much of a difference it makes in how cold I feel. No more chilly wind running down my neck!

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Se Falta un Roof Rack

Some cars just weren't meant to transport Xmas trees.



No NaNo, Yes Mexico

So NaNo isn't happening this year, sadly. That paper just killed any chance. Oh well. There's always next year. Thanks to everyone else who got roped into participating! And my sister is aeeeeevil (no one likes the person who has 48k words).

In more exciting news, I'm going to Mexico next month! I'm going for two and a half weeks, to a language school in Oaxaca City, in southern Mexico. It's a homestay with a Mexican family there. I'm really looking forward to it — I'm also open to travelling companions, if any of my friends have $1k and most of December to spare. ;)

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Return to the NaNo Trenches

With my ethics paper turned in and behind me now, I can return to my writing. I'm fairly pessimistic about actually winning this year, alas, but I'm still gonna try up until the finish line. If I write 3700 words each day from here on out, I can still win. Less than that, I could still have a more respectable word count...

Wish me luck. And hate the Squirt (whose word count is currently at over 35k).



Thursday, November 17, 2005

Steel Drum James Bond

Steel drum band playing the theme to James Bond.

While this is really just more fun with moblogging, the band was pretty cool too. They're a group from Cuesta College, and they preformed performed at Farmers' tonight. Their last song was the theme from James Bond. Very cool alternate rendition.

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MoBlogging: Fridge Chart

Refrigerator chart

Blogger lets you post via email, which includes sending images from cameraphones. So this is me trying it out. The picture is a diagram of the new fridge layout, developed by Forrest and recorded by me.



Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Is it me? ;)

Olya was evil and sent me a link to the avatar she'd made for herself, along with theh link to the avatar creator website. I'm supposed to be doing a paper, not playing with avatars! What kind of a friend is she?? Sheesh.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Don't Buy From Sony

If you've been following the Sony escapade over the past month, then you know all about the crazy crap they've pulled. If not, I've copy-pasted from Boing Boing the headings of their detailed list of Sony's recent transgressions against their customers. I highly recommend you go read their list, but here's the condensed version:

I don't buy music CDs much anymore, but occasionally I do. Let me tell you, I will be watching labels closely and avoiding like the plague any of Sony's: Columbia Records, Epic Records, Legacy Recordings, Sony Classical, Sony Nashville, and Sony Wonder. Tell your friends. If you're feeling particular pissed off and boycott-y, there's a lot of other consumer stuff from Sony that you can avoid, too. I'm a fan of voting with one's pocketbook; here's my chance.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

NaNo Status Update: Floundering

My NaNo work has been floundering, because of a major paper that's due this Wednesday. After the 16th, I should be able to get back to my writing. My word count (currenty at a very sad 4166 words) will really need a big boost in the second half of the month.



Friday, November 11, 2005

Drunks, Cat Crazies, and Bloody Feet

Tonight's been somewhat eventful. Interesting times and all that.

Drunken Assholes Next Door

Excuse the swearing, but these guys really make me angry, all the more because we don't have any actual eyewitnesses among our group who can, with 100% certainty, pin it on any particular guy. Last weekend, two guys pissed on our front door and in our jack-o-lantern. Forrest pounded on the inside of the door and yelled at them through it to make them go away. We didn't get a good look at them because you can't see anything of value through those door peepholes.

Then, later that night (around 3:30 in the morning, after we had all gone to sleep), we heard the doorbell ringing repeatedly. Concerned, Forrest and I got up to investigate. No one was around outside, but the jerks had left behind vomit on the door. They took particular care to hit the doorknob and the deadbolt lock. We could hear that people were awake and talking next door, but we had no evidence really linking it to them. Forrest ended up cleaning up the vomit with gloves and bleach. The next day he talked to the office to get them to hose down the front porch area, but there wasn't really much else anyone could do.

So tonight, some more drunks were pissing on the front door. We were very angry at this happening again — we had hoped it was a one-time prank, or a one-time revenge for some imagined slight. Just then, Dan (the other roommate) came home, having walked past the neighbors. He told us that he had just overheard them talking about pissing on our door. Apparently there was internal argument over there, with the main group of partyers yelling at the few drunks who had done it. Moreover, the drunks were guests, not the neighbors themselves.

Aaron and the rest of Them went out to confront the group. We got a fairly chaotic response, but eventually there was some sort of an apology and they came over with cleaner to clean off the door. One guy in a knit cap and no shirt (who "lives way the fuck over there," rather than next door, in his own words) came into the apartment to apologize for his buddies. He said he agreed that what they'd done wasn't cool at all, that they would all go home and let things cool down, and that they wouldn't do anything like that again. Like the word of one drunk guy speaking for another bunch of drunk guys means anything.

Then the neighbors themselves came over, after yelling at this shirtless guest to stop messing around. One of the neighbors talked to us. At first he was apologetic too, but then he started evading questions and shifting blame, and eventually flat-out denied that anyone from his party had anything to do with the night's problems. I called him on evading blame so if we called the cops he wouldn't have confessed to anything, but he just weaseled past that accusation, too. He kept repeating his arguments that it wasn't any of his people. We eventually told him flat out that we didn't believe him but we weren't going to get anywhere arguing with each other. Forrest told him to get out of the apartment — calmly but firmly, though he had to restate the request twice — and the guy left.

We talked amongst ourselves and agreed that we'd call the cops next time it happened, now that we had given internal handling of matters a shot. Personally, I didn't want to be so lenient, but it's probably for the best. I'm not really expecting the problem to stay away indefinitely, but what else can we do at this point?

Cat Crazies

Whoooosh. Anyway. Onto less blood-pressure–raising incidents. 'Lex has finally exhibited cat crazies. The carpet attacked her in the hallway tonight and chased her up and down it. While she was busy fighting of the edges of the carpet, a doubled-folded (and thus non-sticky) piece of electrical tape pounced on her. And she leapt at the wall for good measure. But later, she wouldn't chase a trail of toilet paper. So she's still somewhat defective. :)

Forrest's Bloody Foot

This section title isn't swearing, it's the literal truth. Forrest came back from a late night Food 4 Less run and started reorganizing the pantry. (We now have a shelf each dedicated to cans, spices, pasta & rice, sauces, and "miscellaneous.") While in the kitchen doing that, he stepped on a shard of glass. He hobbled into the bathroom, managed to lift his foot into the sink, and rinsed off his wound. It was bleeding pretty good for a little glass shard.

When we noticed that he'd bled on the carpet, he apologized for doing so. (This is funny because when I was young — maybe junior high, maybe late elementary school — I smashed my nose on the narrow part of a door and gave myself a painful bloody nose. I went upstairs to my parents' bedroom, crying, and the first thing I did when my dad opened the door was say, "I'm sorry for bleeding on the stairs." Priorities.)

So anyhow, I gave Forrest some Neosporin and a bandaid out of the first aid kit (thanks, Dad!). He put on his boots to protect his foot, which was now starting to actually hurt. (Pain delays are weird like that.) Aaron and Forrest went along the hallway to each of the fresh bloodstains and poured hydrogen peroxide onto them. It all fizzed up bloody and gross, but it got rid of the stains. Still, it's probably a good thing that this apartment has that nasty blue-and-gray industrial carpet and not some fancy, fluffy white stuff.

Enough Excitement for One Night

So that's what went on tonight. I'm tired and am going to bed, lest more interesting things happen.

(PS — Hehe, look at that odd-ball collection of category tags below!)

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Shadow Pox Dies

The cat that I found in fourth grade (that's more than a decade ago, yeesh!) has finally died. Here's the IM I receive from my mom this morning:

(10:21:39) Mom: Scabby died yesterday. We found her body in the garage, thankfully before it got bad. ....

(10:21:55) Mom: Funeral this afternoon, when I return home from visiting my Dad. ...

(10:22:32) Mom: *Yo' Daddy* picked up the stiff, corpus delecti and CHASED ME around the yard with it. Is he still a boy or what?

(10:23:35) Mom: He also had me take pictures of poor, ol' Scabby .... *after* he had "posed" the stiff body for photos. Remind me to have you girls take care of my body when I die. :-)

Mish sshalnírivnilishe vel'esa. Let me remember her for you.

My friend Sara and I found her in my garage one day after school. We kept her hidden until my dad came home from work, then we asked him if we could keep her. (I was worried that my mom would say no if I asked her first. I knew which parent to ask for which type of crazy request. ;)) Sara thought we should name the cat Shadow, for the black of her tortoiseshell fur, but I wanted to call her Pox, for the brown spots. We comprised, and named her Shadow Pox.

She had a litter of four kittens that spring (after which, we had her spayed). We kept all the kittens. My sisters and I named the two tortoiseshell females Little Paw (the runt of the litter, now just as fat as the rest of them) and Speckles, the tuxedo cat Boots, and the orange mackerel tabby Goldie. All of them are only about a year younger than Shadow Pox, but they are all in apparent good health. (Boots ran off to new territory in a nearby neighborhood, so my sister got a replacement tuxedo cat, Sneaker, from the pound. He still lives at my family's house.)

Shadow Pox was a good cat until she got old. I remember one time, in fifth grade or so, I had gone out on a bike ride by myself. I told my dad where I was going, but he went off on an errand without mentioning it to my mom. Then she went off on an errand of her own, thinking I had gone with my dad. When I came home, it was starting to get dark. The doors were all locked (unusual for my house) and no one was home to let me in. I sat out on the front lawn, cold and worried, waiting for someone to come home as it grew increasingly dark. I remember Shadow Pox happened to be outside, and sat in my lap the whole time I waited for my parents. She was really comforting, and I was grateful she was there with me, even if it didn't mean anything special to her.

But then Shadow Pox did get old. She started scratching out her fur, possibly because of a flea allergy. She would leave clumps of her fur all over the house, and her skin became scabby from her constant scratching. We started calling her Scabby, rather than Shadow Pox; that has been her de facto name for the past several years.

Then she developed what my mom called "cat dementia" — Scabby began fixating on particular spots in the house, sitting in one place for days. Her scabby tufts of fur would accumulate all over the area, until we would forcibly move her. Oftentimes, she'd return to the spot, and we'd remove her again. Eventually she'd go off and fixate on some new location, and the cycle would begin again.

I had often compared Shadow Pox to my great aunt, Aunty C. They were/are both old and weird eccentric. Unfortunately, Aunty C hates cats — thinks they're dirty animals, though she loves dogs — so she and Shadow Pox never got to bond.

Tonight my family is holding a wake of sorts for Scabby, and tomorrow they'll have a funeral and bury her in the backyard. I've asked that they call me when they do that, so I can be part of the event. I assume my dad will sing "Gather at the River," as he has done at most other pet-funerals we have held (for dead lizards and chickens, mostly).

Update, 11:40 PM: My sister has blogged about Scabby's death too, if you want to hear about it from her perspective.

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