Saturday, July 23, 2016

A few weeks ago we went to Teotitlan de Valle, a village known for weaving.  We were there to see two things: Indigo's second grade teacher (a wonderful woman and teacher who has, sadly and like so many others, left San Francisco because of the cost of living) who was visiting her family there, and the opening celebration of Teotitlan's Guelaguetza festival.  I shot this video (there's a guest appearance by Indigo towards the end):

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We went with our friend J. to the Museo de la Filatelia (i.e., the Stamp Museum). It was surprisingly interesting.

It was mostly impossible to take pictures, since most of the exhibits were behind glass, but I got a nice shot of these corn husk dolls. (Don't ask me what corn husk dolls have to do with stamps.)

The best part of the museum were these giant stamps, just the right size to pose in.

Monday, July 18, 2016

One of the things I love most about Mexico is the way the walls and doors are so unintentionally beautiful. They are full of color, pattern, and texture. Here's a few I've collected in the last month:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Just a few more things I have to tell you about Mitla.  There are ruins there, of a Zapotec city which was built sometime between 950 and 1500.

The Spanish built a church right on top of the center of the city, as they did everywhere they conquered, but the ruins were subsequently dug up and reconstructed. You can see the beautiful patterns carved into the stone.

We came across a Guelaguetza parade. This one, like the one we saw in Teotilan de Valle (more about that village later) was much more religious and much less professional than the parade in Oaxaca. Some of the people were carrying religious icons, but most seemed to be carrying large letters of the alphabet made of flowers. The letters did not seem to spell out any possible words I could think of -- not Mitla, not Guelaguetza, not even Jesus.

The parade also included a slice of watermelon, and a truck where a woman representing the Virgin Mary, and 2 girls dressed as angels, were sitting. You can see them on the left in this photo, with the ominous-looking black cloths above them.

A couple of days letter we saw a religious procession, of which there are many in Mexico, which I don't think had anything to do with the Guelaguetza.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

We are back in Oaxaca, but I have to do a quick advertisement for the hotel we stayed at in Mitla.  It's called Hotel Don Cenobio.

Like most fancy hotels in Mexico, it has a beautiful courtyard with lots of flowers, a swimming pool, and a fountain. That's our balcony on the lower right.

What's interesting about this hotel is that each room has a name, and the furniture is carved and painted according to the name of the room. Our room was called girasoles (sunflowers).

Other rooms included colibri (hummingbird)...


alcatraces (calla lilies)...

and acuaria (aquarium). There were lots more, but you'll just have to go to Mitla and see for yourself. While you're there, buy some beautiful embroidered tablecloths, curtains, shirts and bedspreads.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Our apartment is being painted, so we figured it was a good time for a trip. We are spending two nights in the city of Mitla, where the dominant craft (every town in Oaxaca, as far as I can tell, has a dominant craft) is embroidery. We are in the market for tablecloths, napkins and possibly curtains for the apartment, so it seemed like a good time to visit Mitla. There are also ruins here, and it's not far from Hierve el Agua, which we've been wanting to visit.

This is what the cliffs look like.  That's not water -- it's some sort of mineral deposit.

Getting to Hierve el Agua is pretty hellish.  You can take a taxi from Mitla, which goes on a road which is a series of hairpin turns which your taxi driver, if he's anything like ours (and he almost certainly will be) takes at about 60 mph.  On the way back we took a collectivo instead, which is a collective taxi, so instead of a car it's a pickup truck with a metal frame and a few benches in the back.  We refused to ride in the back (we had visions of hitting a bump and flying right off the bench and straight out the back of the truck) so we had to wait awhile for one that had the front seats available.  The collectivo takes a much shorter route than the taxi, since trucks can handle the dirt road that goes straight up and down the hill between Mitla and Hierve el Agua.  It takes almost as long, though, because the road is so rough and steep that they can't go more than about 20 or 30 mph.  It's still pretty harrowing, since the road is steep and narrow and also full of hairpin turns.  Just to make the experience even more exciting, the collectivo driver had a tablet next to his seat running a movie which he occasionally glanced at, and twice he took out his cell phone and dialed a number.  When we told him that we were getting very nervous because he was watching television, he said, "Don't worry, I've been doing this for 10 years."  Ah, Mexico.

Once you get there, after pausing a minute to thank your favorite deity for arriving in one piece, you have to hike for about 10 minutes down a rocky trail to get your view of the above rock formation, and to the place where water bubbles up from a spring and you can go swimming.

Here's Indigo in one of the pools. Notice the sheer drop-off at the edge. It's not as dangerous as it looks -- there's a wall at the edge, and even if you fell off it you'd land just a few feet down, although you'd land on a slippery wet rock, and then probably slide to your doom.

It kind of exemplifies the difference between Mexico and the U.S. In the U.S., this pool would be fenced off and there would be "Danger Keep Out" signs everywhere, but every year or two someone would sneak in and go for a swim at night while drunk and fall off and die. In Mexico, they just put up a couple of "Be Careful" signs, let people do what they want, and every year or two someone probably does something careless and falls off and dies.

The water has created some beautiful patterns in the rock, and the whole area near the pools looks like this...

...and like this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Oaxaca's annual dance festival, called the Guelaguetza, doesn't officially start until towards the end of the month, but there seem to be all sort of events leading up to it, starting in early July. The first event that we came across was a parade one evening in the center of town.

These huge balloon-like things seem to be made of cloth, and people dance and spin them around at the same time. They look heavy, and I heard that these parades can go on for miles, so it's definitely a feat of endurance. In fact, everything about this style of dancing seems to involve carrying heavy things, mostly on your head, while you dance.

There were also lots of these huge papier-mache (I think) puppets, whose faces undoubtedly represent specific people -- possibly historic figures, or maybe fictional ones. The people inside them spin around and around.

Here's a puppet dancer and a balloon dancer together.

There are also rows and rows of dancers in all sorts of different traditional costumes. The women wear these huge, beautifully embroidered skirts, and spend a lot of time twirling them around while they also balance those baskets on their heads.

There were also a few of these puppet-on-a-stick things. This one is a chapuline -- a type of grasshopper -- which is a local delicacy. You see a lot of women in traditional dress selling baskets full of fried chapulines. They always give free tastes, which I took advantage of the other day, much to the disgust of the rest of my family. They were very salty, and quite crunchy. I didn't buy any.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I managed to get sick a few days after we got here, a combination of altitude sickness (we're at about 4500 feet, so it takes a while to adjust) and Montezuma's revenge. I spent a few days in bed, but a steady diet of Pepto Bismol and yogurt seems to have cured me. The only good part of being sick was inspiring this work of art:

Monday, July 11, 2016

I've been procrastinating for weeks about creating this blog because

1. I'm lazy.
2. The world doesn't need another blog.
3. One of the things I want to be on vacation from is my computer, not that that's stopped me from playing video games or checking Facebook.

But the world is eagerly awaiting news of my adventures (yeh right) or at least everyone I know could use a break from reading about Donald Trump, so here goes.

We arrived in Oaxaca about 3 weeks ago, and until last week we were spending most of our time looking for a place to live. We finally moved into a 2 bedroom furnished apartment last week, and since then we've been buying dishes and rugs and extra furniture and fans and stuff. For those of you who live in San Francisco, I hope I'm not causing you too much pain by mentioning that the rent is about $450/month.

Mexico is just like it always is -- colorful, green, random; full of texture and life and flowers. The apartment is kind of falling apart, but the landlord has been fixing it up. (Unfortunately, that couldn't happen before we moved in.) So, this morning we were visited by the painter (who is returning Thursday to paint the whole house), the exterminator (who is dealing with the cucarachas), the plumber (this is at least his fourth trip here), the locksmith (replacing the locks whose keys were missing), and the house cleaner. (Finally! The place was a mess.) And sometime this evening (supposedly) some furniture will be delivered. It's fun, playing house.

Oaxaca has been in the news lately because the teachers here and in the state of Chiapas are on strike. They are blockading the highways, so most of
the first class buses between here and Mexico City are not running. The second class buses are running, but I'm guessing they don't go by the highway but rather through every little town. On the day we arrived, the Oaxaca state police decided to break up a blockade in Nochixtlan, just outside the city, and opened fire on the protesters, killing 8 people.
The reaction from people we talk to is mixed. Everyone we've talked to is horrifed by the killings, but also surprised. I don't know how common it is for the Mexican police to kill people, as compared to the police in the U.S., but Oaxaca is not generally a violent place. (All the drug-related violence is much further north.)

As a result, tourism is way, way down in Oaxaca, although it might have more to do with the blockades than the violence. People are generally at least as pissed off at the teachers as they are at the government. While no one here likes the government, they also don't like the fact that the protest is having a huge, negative economic impact on the area, which depends on tourism.

Aside from the fact that the protesters are occupying the Zocalo, the whole mess has really had very little impact (other than economic) on the city. I imagine that at some point the government will move in and throw the protesters out of the Zocalo and off the highways. I just hope they can do it without hurting anyone else. Sadly, that rarely seems to happen.