Friday, December 9, 2005

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.

3 comments:

Forrest said...

I'm a bum? I was having dinner with a possible new hire, and wasn't at my desk. Technically, I'm not supposed to get non-work IMs at work...

John Cowan said...

The difference between nochebuena and nochehuena is between [B] and [w], which is not huge. Particularly if you're short on teeth or something.

Arthaey said...

Forrest: Yup, bumacious. You really need to work on your psycho^Hic abilities.

John: He very well may have needed a stop at the dentist. Also, Silvia's thought on the matter was that perhaps he also spoke an indigenous language, and was having interference. Causes them to speak "bad Spanish," she said. I think your explanation is more likely, but unless I see the guy again, we'll never know for sure. Ah, the uncertainties of life. ;)