Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Photos

Luis with the eggs he found

I haven't missed out on dyeing easter eggs any easter in my memory. Certainly we've done it every year since Rowan was born nineteen years ago. I wasn't about to miss it this year, either, even though there is no tradition of dyeing eggs here. Nobody really even knew what I was talking about, my sister-in-law thought I meant painting eggs with acrylic paints. We almost had to; I couldn't find any egg dye anywhere. Digging around in all the drawers, I found blue and green food coloring. The internet provided recipes for red (beets) and yellow (turmeric).

Paloma and the neighbors dyeing eggs

Hope and her love-egg

The girls invited their cousins and the neighbor kids over to dye eggs too, and they all enjoyed it thoroughly. After all the eggs were dyed and dried, we had a quick egg-hunt. The kids liked hunting eggs so much that we hid them again. The eggs themselves served as the prize - try THAT on your American kids next year!

Tonight we are having an Easter dinner - also not a tradition here, but I wanted to cook one. I had no luck finding a ham, or a roast of lamb, which would have been my first choices. Mama wanted a turkey, but I couldn't find one of those either. I settled for a fresh ham - basically an enormous pork roast. I marinated it in chipotle chile, garlic, cumin, and orange juice and then seared it all over and put it in a slow oven for three hours. It was delicious.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Daytripping- Hierve el Agua

"Hierve el agua" means "the water boils." These natural mineral springs, about 2 hours from Oaxaca, are not hot, however. They are cool and lovely, a perfect temperature for bathing on a hot Mexican afternoon.

High on a mountaintop in the Sierra, for the past several million years, a sulfurous spring has been bubbling over, running down the limestone cliffs below, and creating an amazing stone waterfall some 1,000 feet high. As far as I know, this formation is unique in the world. It is stunningly beautiful. 

I do not think the bathing pool is natural; I think it was carved out of the rock. Either way, it is the most gorgeous infinity-pool you ever saw. In this mineral rich water, one almost floats, as in seawater. Lounging in the water by the lip of the pool and staring off into an infinity of blue mountains is an experience I will personally never forget. 

It is a nice bonus that the sulfur in the water is curative. Every time I go, all my pimples and blemishes disappear for weeks afterwards. I've been to Hierve el agua three times now, in different seasons, and I have yet to find it too crowded. It helps that the road to get there is pretty scary - four by four recommended. In the off season, you might find you have the place to yourself. 

Last time we went, we took a folding grill and a cooler full of food and had a cookout. It was lovely. Every time we got too hot, we simply plunged back in for another swim. Be aware - the pool is filled with the water just as it comes out of the earth - it is not supplemented or treated in any way. The pool does grow some algae, and in the dry season it can get pretty murky. That doesn't bother me, however. There are showers to wash off after you are done bathing. 

Hope and Paloma enjoying the sunshine. 

Me, loving the water. I can't wait to bring my mom and my sister here when they come to visit next week. Oaxaca is a wonderful place to visit - there is something for everybody, from ancient ruins to world class modern museums. from colonial architecture to crazy nightlife. But Hierve el Agua is really something special. If you ever get to Oaxaca, don't miss it for the world. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Heat is On!

I have never been able to tolerate heat well. Even when I was young and thin, I would much rather have been too cold than too hot. Now that I am fat, it's like walking around with a snowsuit that I can't take off. 

Normally, I live in a part of the world that seldom exceeds 75 degrees. The days warmer than 80 in any given year can be counted on the fingers of both hands, and I like it that way. Here in Oaxaca, the days UNDER 80 degrees can be counted - well, ok, on fingers and toes. The last two weeks, daytime highs have hovered in the high nineties. 

Our room is on the southwest corner of the house. The concrete walls absorb heat all the livelong day and radiate it to the interior. It's an absolute oven up here. Homero put in a small air conditioning unit that we brought with us from home, but even if I leave it running from sunup to sundown, it can only bring the temperature in the room down to the low eighties. And of course I don't leave it running all the time, because I live in dread that it will break down. 

Yesterday we went to the waterpark. There is a wonderful waterslide park about 40 minutes away, and entrance is very affordable at 70 pesos apiece. On a day like yesterday, I would have paid five times that amount and been glad. The water in the pools is cool, even cold in the deepest pool. The slides are fun, and they sell beer. What's not to like?

This picture was taken back in October, when it was really too cold for swimming for long. See the thunderclouds? We were the only ones there. Yesterday the park was packed. They recently opened a new slide - it's five stories high and you go down on a kind of styrofoam blanket. Homero and Hopie did it, but Paloma and I decided we'd be just fine watching from the pool, thanks. 

Between our house and the waterpark is the town of Tlacolula. Normally a rather sleepy burg (worth a visit for it's amazing 17th century church), the town comes alive in a big way on sundays,. which is market day. Booths line the streets of the entire downtown, and farmers come in from all over the countryside to offer their wares. You can get anything you need there - if it's available in Oaxaca at all, it will be available in Tlacolula on market day. We went in search of a big wicker basket to serve as a clothes hamper (found - 80 pesos) and a present for my niece, who's birthday is tomorrow. 

We bought her one of these gorgeous colorful aprons, which is the traditional dress of women in Tlacolula, along with an equally colorful headscarf. I want one of these for myself, I'll get one before I go home. 

It being nearly Easter, the market was also offering brightly dyed baby chicks. The girls pestered us and pestered us but we said no. The chicks only cost 10 pesos apiece, which would be a smoking deal if they had a snowball's chance of hell of living to adulthood. Not likely, the poor little things. The girls had to settle for a photo.

It wasn't until evening that I realized I had myself a raging sunburn. That's the way of sunburns, they never show themselves until the sun goes down and it's too late. I've learned, too that the sun at 17 degrees of latitude is not the same as the sun at 49 degrees, even when the temperatures are equal. So at 85 degrees, for example, I am still going to burn faster down here than I would at 85 degrees back home, because the rays are more direct. With my skin, I can stay outside for about 5 minutes before I start to burn. Yesterday we were swimming and playing for several hours. I used sunscreen, but like the air conditioner, it just can't keep up.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back and Forth

Homero is back in Oaxaca, and so is our silver Jetta. Last thursday, I flew to Ciudad Juarez to meet Homero at the border. He had gone to Seattle, after a week and a half with his brother in Atlanta, to pick up our car and bring it back to Oaxaca.

This served two purposes - most importantly, time is rolling by and we still hadn't solved the problem of how we were going to get us and our stuff back home in July. The van we drove down in is staying here, a present to Homero's sister. The Jetta isn't big enough for four people, a dog, and all our shit (the van was barely big enough) but it is big enough for Homero and all our shit. The kids, Ivory, and I will fly home. 

The second reason for bringing the Jetta down here was to reduce tensions surrounding the use of Mama's car. Mama doesn't actually drive (and has no interest in learning), but Estalin - Homero's youngest brother - does. After six months, it was beginning to become clear that all four adults sharing a single car was just not going to work. 

Homero has driven from Seattle to Oaxaca alone before, and he can do it in six or seven days, even in these latter days when it is inadvisable to travel at night. He could have done it again. I could have waited a few more days to see him. Except that I couldn't. 

We left Juarez at about 11:00 am on friday, after a frustrating hour at customs trying to explain that the tools Homero was bringing were NOT for import, and we had every intention of bringing them back with us in just a few months. The customs people didn't care, and we paid a forty dollar fee. Not unlikely, we will have to do the same thing again when we haul that generator back into the states. 

That night we stayed in Saltillo - the same city we spent a couple of days in on our trip down, when both cars broke down at the same time (Have Mechanic, Will Travel). I remembered my way to the same hotel, the one with the spreading pecan tree under which the children played and gathered pecans as we watched Homero work on the cars. The neon sign was lit and there was a man in the office, but when we asked about a room, he said "sorry, we have no rooms."

I looked around the nearly empty parking lot. Two cars snuggled up at the far end and the rest of the lot was empty. One room had a light on behind the drawn curtains. 

"doesn't look full to me," I said, before I felt Homero's elbow press gently into my ribcage and a light dawned in my slow, travel-addled brain. 

"Is there another hotel nearby?" Homero asked, and the man pointed us up the road. We spent the night a very serviceable econo-motel with a nice continental breakfast. 

By eight a.m. we were on the road again and pulled into Oaxaca at just about 11:30 p.m. Two days alone with Homero was a treat, even if it was spent behind the wheel. We ate road food and drank lots of coffee and had long conversations about stuff we heard on talk radio. We caught up on all our gossip and generally enjoyed each other's company. 

I can't wait to be old and have nowhere to go, and to go there with Homero.