Why are we still in Boston in January, you may wonder since we have gone to warmer climes the last four years in January. Well, Peter DiMuro made me an offer I could%\'t refuse, although at my ripe age I almost did refuse it. He invited me to be one of four CATALYSTS, women choreographers of diverse genres and ages, who get lots of free rehearsal time/space and perform six times at the Dance Complex in the month of January. I accepted his kind invitation based on the fact that I had so much fun performing again in “From the Horse's Mouth,” May, 2017. Determined to create a piece based in structured improvisation, I invited Olivier Besson whom I consider to be a master improviser, to dance with me, and the legendary Stan Strickland, with whom I have collaborated intermittently for forty-six years, to make music. For the middle weekend, we get to play with a different, wonderful musician, Akili Jamal Haynes. Of course, Stephen is using Isadora software again to make some magic with the video projections. Each performance is a new adventure!
The six January performances we did at the Dance Complex were both challenging and rewarding. Stephen and I-and Olivier- were sick with chest colds and coughs for much of the run. However, we pulled it together and the performances mostly improved as the run went on. It was wonderful to work with talented, mature collaborators...Stephen, Olivier, Stan and Akili.The piece, Secret Laughs, was complex, layered and episodic. I know that not all audience members connected with it. Those who did gave us beautiful feedback, not only on our performances, but also on what they felt or thought while experiencing the piece. Thanks to Peter, Caitlin, Rachel, Jayne and everyone else at the Complex who helped make this CATALYSTS residency possible.
Photo by Bill Parsons / Maximal Image. This piece was developed through The Dance Complex's CATALYSTS Residency Program
Sunday after the last show, I never got out of my pajamas! The following Wednesday morning, our alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. to get an early flight to San Francisco. What a treat to see my ten year old granddaughter Lily perform in Building Broadway! This was a high-powered, professional level show produced by the San Francisco Players. The performers were aged ten fo fourteen, forty of them selected by audition city-wide. The directors, choreographers, designers, musical arrangers and three live musicians were all professionals. The show looked at the history of the Broadway musical, with great musical selections, really clever choreography and staging, and was packed with emotion and humor. No wonder this group is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of working with San Francisco youth. Lily did a great job. We are so proud of her.
It was also great to hang out with almost nine-year-old Cole who is now into Cub Scouts, horseback riding, and guitar lessons. Amber and Patrick have such packed, busy lives that we like to help out as much as possible when we visit. Hence carpooling to rehearsals and performances, picking up kids at school, dishes, dog duty, etc. We love being part of the family and don't see them often enough. Labradoodle puppy Scout took about a day to get used to us. From then on, we were great snuggle buddies. Amber and I took two challenging yoga classes together (well, challenging for me, but she looks amazing and strong.)
Back to our trip: Originally we were going to head to Southeast Asia this winter, specifically Cambodia. We have heard wonderful things about the people and the culture, and I really want to see Angkor Wat and all the Buddhist temple complexes. However, once we decided to do the Dance Complex gig, I decided I wanted a less complicated winter adventure, without having to get lots of shots and take malaria meds, etc. Plus I felt I couldn't devote the time to trying to learn a little Cambodian and wanted a place where I had at least some familiarity with the language. We love Guadeloupe, but felt like after three winters there, we wanted to try something different. So, back to Mexico, although to a part of the country we have not yet visited, namely Oaxaca. Everyone who has ever been there raves about the indigenous culture and arts, the food, the architecture, historical sites, and of course, la gente, the people.
We are now in Oaxaca, but I have to work backwards through San Francisco to tell you how we got here. I loved flying into Oaxaca. One baggage carousel, one ATM machine, one place to pay for a cab. It was 100 yards from the plane to the taxi, then thirty minutes to the hotel, a few minutes to pay for our eight day stay, and we were in our room, simple but really clean with two comfortable beds that we pushed together. We decompressed with Neil and Diana with whom we shared a little courtyard. They offered us a glass of wine and we didn’t refuse. With the exception of the two planes that flew over, one at 6 AM and one at 8 AM it was the quietest night I have ever spent in Mexico. A far distant rooster could barely be heard and no dogs.
The United Express flight from Houston was adventuresome, being that it was a small jet with just three seats across and fifteen rows deep. Too small for a jetway, we boarded by walking up a handicap ramp. Our steward opined at the beginning of the flight that the more we were sleeping the less he would be working, but in fact he carefully shepherded us through filling out our immigration forms. Actually, I had filled out and filed mine online and printed it in San Francisco, but when I tried to do Dawn's it was rejected because she didn't have 180 days left on her passport. You can imagine the panic that put us into. It went contrary to all the information from both the Mexican and United States governments that we had gleaned from the Internet. After calling the Mexican Consulate and United Airlines, we decided she would just fill out the form on the plane. It worked fine, in fact we were the first people on our flight through passport and immigration control and customs with no lines at all.
After flying from San Francisco, we had a long layover in Houston because last summer when I made the reservations, I was afraid to cut it too short, being that the trip was in the middle of the winter and who could know what the weather with its associated problems would be. At that point, I wasn't sure whether we would be checking a bag or not. (Turns out we are not, carrying less than fifty pounds between us.)
We met a couple of old hippies at the bar who were headed for Oaxaca also to take some weaving classes. She had waist length beautifully braided gray hair and his was nearly as long. They had raised alpacas and weaved their own wool, now they were off to learn a new technique.
Before Houston, it was just slipping out of the in law apartment at Amber's and Patrick's at five in the morning and grabbing a Lyft to the Airport.
Dawn and Stephen in Llano Park (Third day)
Here we are, sitting in Llano Park in Oaxaca, with a cool breeze in the shade. Somehow I forgot how my system reacts to higher altitudes. We are between 5,000 & 6,000 feet. On the day after arrival, we took a long walk to explore the city and wandered over to the Mercado Abastos. It was huge, reminiscent of the souks in Marrakesh. We were the only Gringos there, amidst much buying and selling and delivering of goods. Since I was fading, we stopped at a one of the scores of vendors and basically had our first street food in Mexico, with a bit of a prayer!
Luckily we did not get sick. Walking back, the unrefrigerated raw meat and chickens, the gas fumes from the busses, the animal smells in the street had me wondering if we had made the best choice for this trip. It was very noisy and hot and triggered a memory of our day visiting Léon when we stayed in Guanajuato in 2014-15. That was the day I could barely get off the bus, barely walk and ended up the following day at a clinic that gave me antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for a mysterious ailment. I did have a complete recovery and made sure to stay hydrated.
Stephen offered to get us a taxi, but I was determined not to let the trigger of that earlier experience put me in a fearful state. We did get back to our hotel, and I kept hydrated throughout the episode. I am still often tired here, but am enjoying exploring other parts of town. Last night, I read an article in my online Buddhist Lion's Roar magazine that talked about four useful words when one is stressed: “Real but not true.” It is real that I was hot and exhausted in a funky part of a Mexican town, but it was not true that I was going to get terribly ill again. I hope this could be a useful mantra for anyone with some from of PTSD. The experience made me more sensitive to people who deal with trigger experiences of all kinds.
Well, nothing like starting the travelogue with a cheerful story like that! My apologies to all of you readers.
On the second day we went off to the textile museum. We are now in a world of textile growers, makers and wearers and we thought we might get some insight into the whole thing in this museum.
In this room, the large costumes below were displayed. In contrast to the Wedding Parade puppets these were worn by performers on stilts. Nearby we watched a video of a parade of these stilt walkers in New York City. We could find no explanation, but there were policemen in almost every shot.
An Evening Stroll
For some reason, since coming to Oaxaca, my emotions seem very close to the surface. For instance, Saturday we experienced three beautiful events in one evening, two of them totally unexpected. We had planned to attend a chamber music concert of piano and violin. We decided to leave early and stroll through town to get to the venue early as people do here. On the way, we were sidetracked by the sound of a loud brass band and drums.
Suddenly there appeared around the corner two huge dancing puppets, ten or twelve feet high, on the scale of Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont. They led a parade of colorfully costumed women swinging shawls in unison, the brass band, dancers, friends and family in various attire surrounding the centerpiece...a young bride and groom, she in a frothy light pink dress, he in formal wear. They danced and kissed and paraded with arms around each other.
The crowd of Oaxacanos and Gringos smiled, cheered, and shot photos. I don't know if they were going to or coming from the church, but the whole spectacle was filled with color, joy and fun. So I got teary!
A few minutes later, we walked around another corner and spotted a small group of people moving in an organized way. Stephen said, “It almost looks like they're doing contact improv.”
Sure enough, they turned out to be a contemporary dance company, currently supported by the federal government. They do street and theatrical performances. The work was focussed, disciplined, site-inspired and lovely to watch. It reminded me of Dance Collective doing Martha's “Pedestrian Dance Path” back in the 80's in Germany and Holland! We chatted with a representative from the company, gave her our card and took some PR materials. The group is directed by Rolando Beattie.
Luckily we will be back here in Oaxaca at the end of March when they will be performing in a theater. I was really happy to see high quality, contemporary dance being supported in a small Mexican city.
Centro Culturale de San Pablo
Now I must backtrack to earlier that day when we visited the Centro Culturale de San Pablo. There was an art installation by a woman honoring her deceased mother by creating various sculptural pieces from objects that had inhabited her mother's life. The artist arranged them in ways that reminded her of good family times at home. Below is a photo of the last paragraph describing the work. I was deeply touched by that writing, thinking of my own mother and daughter, and got teary again
We stopped here because I had been to a concert here the night before and I wanted Dawn to see the beautiful space.
A beautiful room. When she came out to sing, she was the worst singer I have heard on stage. The kids in Lily's show were much better. In the first piece she sang an odd sound and may have hurt herself. I wish her the best in the future. Another oddity was that in the middle of the room was an installation consisting of a 6' by 6' pan of water with small boat models. We the audience sat around it. In the picture, you can just see one.
Above is the plaza at the center.
Meals and Drinks
The center of Oaxaca is a paradise of eating and drinking. Here are some pictures of places we found, were recommended to us by our hotel, fellow travelers or Google maps. We will add a picture of Don Juanito when we return tonight for a second light dinner.
Xiguela, an organic lunch place where we ate a large salad and some great coffee.
Breakfast across the street from our hotel. Dani was a wonderful, sociable waiter, the cafe lattes almost strong enough, the view and sun wonderful.
Mescalerita had hundreds of Mexican beers from all over the country. This IPA was a beauty. When we return to Oaxaca, perhaps a place to taste some mescals.
A geometric study at Sho which I filled in (see below) on another visit.
A geometric study at Sho (filled in)
Orson Wells has made us think that Mexico was in black and white. Of course it is the opposite. Here's Dawn with the NYT crossword puzzle. It will be too far from our apartment when we return, but we can stop by for an afternoon coffee. Our last day, he got then idea that I didn't like the coffee so he brought a coffee with the foamed milk on the side and poured until I said “Stop!”. My perfect coffee, and he didn't charge me for it.
Tastavin - A tapas like place as big as our living room. I drank Mexican wine from Baja and a ham bruschetta. We sat at the bar that had four chairs, we will return.
Estambul, although we went twice, we will not return. The food, drink and lighting were satisfactory, but it was cold and the art was too aggressive and strangely, the tables were too far apart.
End of First Travelogue
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Museo Rufino Tomayo
Michael, a retired art teacher and pottery expert, said we must visit the Rufino Tomayo Museum, only a few blocks from the Hotel Golindrinas. He was right! It was another deeply moving experience for me. All pre-Columbian pottery, it was the personal collection of the painter Rufino Tomayo. Because he was an artist, rather than an anthropologist or historian, he collected and organized the pieces based on their aesthetic and spiritual value. Each room featured a different color that was central to his own painting as a backdrop for the display cases. The pieces had such individuality, yet there were common features in many of the faces in particular indigenous groups. After a couple of hours of looking at these faces in clay, I realized that we see those faces today in the streets of Oaxaca, recent generations of Zapotec, Maya, Mixtec and other indigenous peoples. I got teary again as the faces are so beautiful and dignified, and indigenous people world-wide have generally gotten such a raw deal. In my best, very mediocre, Spanish, I mentioned to the staff how I saw generations of these faces in the streets today and how moving that is for me, even though I am obviously a “Gringa.” Some pictures from the Museum that are beyond stunning.
We think a warrior.
Smiling, laughing, dancing women.
A couple. They were specified as an old man holding onto a woman.
Man with rattle stick
Almost life size warrior
What is he thinking?
I can't help thinking of Martha Graham
Man sitting like a cat
Last Sunday we got up early, took a couple of quick showers, had a small breakfast, and headed by taxi to Tule. While waiting to meet Luciana, David, and their son Alex,
we paid our twenty pesos to get into the beautifully maintained garden that surrounds the BIGGEST, OLDEST, WIDEST TREE IN THE WORLD!
It is a magnificent, almost magical experience to be in the presence of a living being that has existed for over 2,000 years. This Montezuma Cypress tree was there when the indigenous people thrived, long before Columbus arrived. It has witnessed religious crusades, revolutions, wealth, poverty, many languages spoken, and natural disasters. According to the sign in Spanish, this type of tree is usually a slow grower with the trunk in cylindrical form. However, as you can see in the photos, time and circumstance have made the tree expand its roots and create a series of more unusually shaped trunks.
We sat on a bench in the shade to meditate under this gracious arbol. Soon I heard a friendly voice over my shoulder saying, “Dawn?” It was Luciana, one of my lovely friends from the gym. A former travel agent, she helped us with lots of suggestions for this trip. Her son Alex lives in Tule and helps the local mezcal growers get a fair deal on their exported products.
We all took off in Alex's car for a huge, weekly mercado, about a fifteen minute drive from Tule. Fluent in Spanish and knowledgeable about local products, Alex was an excellent guide. We have decided not to buy anything until our return to Oaxaca since traveling light is a requirement of flying the small plane to and from the coast.
Here we learned about Jamaica, not the place, but the dried hibiscus flowers that are boiled and drunk around here. (Pronounced: Ha MAY ka) They make a beautiful red drink, a bit bitter. I like it with a squeeze of lime and a teaspoon of sugar! It is supposed to be high in vitamin C, a diuretic, and hearsay has it that it might be good for blood pressure.
Stephen buying a couple of sweet rolls after lunch.
We hiked up to the amphitheater on the hill above our hotel. We think it was built in 1999 to house the annual folk dance festival that goes on every July. It is quite spectacular, built on a hillside, with a tent covering, with about 11,000 seats. See below.
View over Oaxaca from the stage level.
View from the top of the seats. A guard opened the gate so we could take a picture. I think these are the free seats.
The concert was a short walk away from the center of town. The venue turned out to be just what chamber music was designed for: a room that seats maybe fifty people and has great acoustics for instruments played without amplification. They played Mozart, Kreisler and a long, dense piece by Fauré. The Kreisler was a showcase for violin virtuosity. The musician handled it well, although occasionally we wished for a slightly better, or maybe bigger instrument. The pianist played with lovely sensitivity. To their great credit, they both played without a lot of flamboyant posturing. They just let the music come out. I know I have made this comment before, but I am always so moved by musical performances that rely on only the body in contact with the instrument: hands on keys, keys connecting to hammers, hammers hitting strings or arm moving bow, bow connecting to strings, and both coming through sounding boards of wood and/or metal. No electronics needed. Of course I also enjoy and appreciate contemporary electronic music. It is just the timeless quality of acoustic music that moves me in a particular way
Review of Los Golondrinas for Tripadvisor
We are now in our early seventies. Gosh, when we started writing online about our travels we could say early fifties and we thought we were old! Well, we have slowly learned that the readers need information, not opinion, so I will do my best. We stayed for a week in February. It was recommended by a retired travel agent whose son lives in the area. She thought it would be a good budget hotel and she was right.
(We liked it)
As noted here somewhere on this review, it was quiet.
The service was excellent. They spoke English to me but allowed my wife to practice her Spanish with them. They got us cabs when we needed them. All with no airs.
We didn't eat breakfast at the hotel. We were told by other guests that the coffee was weak. Now this is an example of an opinion that is worthless to you. I recommend trying breakfast at the hotel once and deciding yourself. If you go out, Raice, across the street has a terrace with a view over the rooftops to Santo Domingo. Cafe Cafe and Sho are within two blocks. We went back and forth among the three of them until we found the one we liked.
Location was good. We could walk straight west to Santo Domingo in five minutes and then straight down the pedestrian-only street to the zocalo without living in the tourist part itself. From the hotel we could choose different routes to places and chose how many street vendors we would encounter. When we are in Paris we stay in the outlying arrondissements because we feel it is more Paris, more children than tourists. In Oaxaca you can tell when you are in the Centro, because the street lights are brighter. The hotel is right on the edge. We felt totally safe.
(Again, another nearly worthless opinion.)
The room is simple with two beds that we pushed together. They provided two plastic water bottles. They encouraged us to refill them at the desk which we did through the week. The shower was hot. Solar heated with a propane backup for the room.
We met a lot of Canadians when we were here. Some have been coming for twenty years. We got a sense that the hotel is its own neighhood.
Restaurants you might try: In the neighborhood, Don Juanito, recommenced by the front desk when Dawn wanted a bowl of chicken soup. Also Quinqué, we had a plate of the day for 60 pesos that I think everyone would like. If you are east of Santo Domingo, Xiguela is an organic place with good coffee. Brujula is now a coffee chainette. The one on the side of the hill where the tent theater is a ten minute walk through an ordinary neighborhood, and it was a surprise. Dawn had said “I want an iced mocha” and google maps pointed to this place. My iced cappuchno hit the spot in the middle of the day.
I agree that the hotel is more charming during the day than at night. The economics of low cost housing demand the use of CFLs to keep costs down. We carry a flash light that doubles as a low light fixture.
So come to Oaxaca, I think it will astound you if you haven't been here before. Stay at Las Golondrinas, all the surprises will delight you.
Playa San Agustinillo
We made our plane reservations to the city of Oaxaca pretty early on, before I realized how far away it is from the beach! Therefore we are taking an extra trip to the beach because, as wonderful as the city of Oaxaca may be, Dawn decided we needed beach time! Especially after this cold January! We picked this small beach town and a place to stay with Luciana's help and I found a way to get here and back to Oaxaca. See below.
Above you can see our little plane and also the pilot flying the plane. He has folded the aluminum reflector that is used to keep the sun out of the plane when it is parked and jammed it behind the visor to create a hole for him to see through.
Your happy travelers and a schematic of the plane from the seat back pocket if we had trouble finding the exits.
How to Fly on Aerotucan from Oaxaca to Hualtuco for First Timers
Get to the airport about an hour before the flight. Bring passports, and a printed copy of your email confirmation. When you get there, you will see the Aerotucan counter. Maybe there will be someone there, maybe not, don't worry. There maybe people in line, or not, don't worry. On the flat screens in the airport, we did not see any mention of Aerotucan, don't worry. At some point, get in line. There are only 12 seats for passengers, so it won't be a long line. Talk to your neighbors, there will be plenty to talk about. At the counter, show your passport and confirmation. They will weigh your largest bags and then your carry on. We were travelling light, so I have no information about extra charges for weight. In order not to disturb the travelers, the airport does not make announcements about departing flights. Go to security and show them your passports and hand written boarding passes. Take off your metal things, my belt buckle set off the alarm, but we left our ipads in our bags and our shoes on our feet.
Wait at your gate, there will be plenty of seats. Our morning, stores were just opening up. We didn't see a coffee place, bur may have missed it. When a person gets behind the counter, show them your boarding pass, they will take a stub. Walk to your plane, it will be small, just follow everyone else. Important: At the plane, if your carry on is too big they will take it and put it under. If you like to have your money and passport and other things next to you, have a smaller bag for this purpose. Get on the plane, go toward the front of the plane and take the first available seat. The double seats have shoulder belts. Do the lap belt first and try to figure out how to make the other part work. Someone who I think was the fly along baggage handler helped us. There are no anoouncements, they close the door, go to the end of the runway and take off, using about the same amount of time as a jet but, of course, a lot less runway at its slower speed, don't worry. Look out the window, take pictures, don't worry. I think we flew over 10,000 feet. When we got to the mountains, there was a small amount of turbulence, don't worry.
When we got to the airport, we took a left, then a U-turn and came in for a landing. When we stopped at the terminal, we got out after they opened the door, wait for steps, then hung around, thanking the pilot and grabbing our “carry-on” and bags as they came out of the airplane. They will take them inside if you want. The pilot and baggage guy just hang out, because they are about to take twelve passengers back to Oaxaca. The place we were staying at had arranged a car and the driver found us and walked us out to the highway to get into his taxi. He is not allowed to come into the airport. In fact, the walking distance to his cab from the plane is probably the same as in most large international airports.
You can tap or something on the maps so they will open larger in another tab.
We are between Mazunte and Zipolite, at the Southernmost place. We are pleased that San Agustinillo is not on the map.
Our Place - Casa Azul
View from our deck
I loved it the first time I laid eyes on it. It is hard to capture the grace and charm of the place in pictures. It felt like a haven the first time we walked in and does so every time since. The windows have no glass and sometimes we sleep with the doors open
A pool is a great thing when it is windy at the beach or for a moonlight swim before bed. Great at the full moon. It is about a foot deep at the shallow end and just reaches the chest at the other end. No matter, it is still a welcome fresh water cooler-off-er.
Although the closet doesn't hide our stuff, everything stays fresh with none of the moldiness that can be found at the beach house. This window is over our kitchen sink.
After I suggested adding the blue paint on the lowest riser, it happened so fast I couldn't get a before and after, just a top and bottom.
Arturo, the very nice gardener and caretaker, gives us dozens of fresh limes from the trees here. He was always a cheerful presence at the casa.
Tres mujeres y una nina. L to R: Yolanda, Benny, aka Senorita Benita, Mattie, Dawn
Bennie, the wonderdog, greets us and everyone else that reaches our house on its dead end road with some yaps, but is soon extracting affectionate scratches from us as the price of quieting down. We are waiting for a papaya to ripen, (a small one fell but was not ripe), but I think we are not close enough to the top of the pecking order.
Casa Azul is a short walk up the hill. We can do it any number of times a day. After dinner it is dark and our headlamps come in handy, (thanks again, Laird). The House across the street poses as “The Night Laundry”.
Though the Neighborhood to Casa Azul
Beginning of our walk
Construction behind a tree. One guy has been digging a foundation trench for a few days now
The steepest part is going around this corner.
Not all the way up that hill. We turn at the first electric pole on the left.
Turning the corner. Construction abounds.
The dark blue wall is our deck. Dawn is going through the gate behind the motorcyclist.
My Toe and the Wind
We have moved the travelogue along quite a bit, aided immensely by me falling off the bottom step on my way to one of our moonlight swims in the pool. Landing in a pushup position I prevented too much damage except scraping some skin off the front of my right big toe. Recuperating the next day allowed me time to write and deal with the photos. The day after that was windy enough to turn the beach into a sandblasting machine. One short swim and we returned to our casita, leaving us time to write and relax. The next day dawned windless and we were back in the beach business. Toward the end of our stay, while swimming in the pool, I managed to communicate in Spanish to Yolanda that the bottom riser should be painted blue. Arturo did it within the hour.
Hey, when you say you are going to the beach you'd better go to the beach. We do, every day. It is organized a lot like Grande Anse near Deshais, Guadaloupe. Walking left (East) takes you to the non-developed part and going right takes you to more restaurants and bungalows. Once you get to the east end, if the tide is low you can walk around the point and extend your walk. We found the good place to snorkel. We found the quiet places during higher waves, though they will surprise you if you don't pay attention.
The beach itself is fairly flat so you can walk with your hips level. If you are under those distant cliffs, you are in the next town, Mazunte, gotten to by swimming around another point or walking on the road.
Taken from the top of the cliffs, we are looking back at the beach and towns of Mazunte and San Agustinillo from Punta Cometa.
This cave is at the east end of our beach. When the 3 foot tide is low, one can walk around the point and continue onto the next beach. The cave is about fifty feet deep and fifteen feet high.
Mazunte - The Town up the Coast
Mazunte is the adjacent town on the coast. We have not rented a car here, and we are not big on taking taxis except when obviously necessary like getting from airport to rented lodging, so we walk. Mazunte is less than a mile from our casita but does involve a big hill, so the time of day makes a difference as to how much one sweats doing the walk. Yesterday we left here at about 4:45 p.m. There was a pretty nice breeze so it wasn't too sweaty. To clarify, I know that sweating is a healthy form of cooling the body, but when walking to a drink and dinner instead of the beach, it is pleasant not to get super sticky.
How to describe Mazunte? Like a southern California beach bum town in the 60's? Bigger than San Augustinillo with a much younger, international population. Lots of long hair, dreadlocks, pot-smoking, body odor, bare feet and tatoos. Sound familiar, mis amigos who came of age in the sixties? Yoga and various spiritual centers, massages, lots of cafés, shops and restaurants. Our young Mexican server at dinner last night asked where we were staying. When Stephen said San Augustinillo, she said, “Oh we call it San Aburridonillo. Aburrido means boring! I told her that we like it, but after all, we are “old” now and prefer a certain tranquillity over the young, exciting singles scene.
On the way to dinner, I had decided to call Mazunte “Mazunte World” in reference to the Disney Corporation's creation of villages from around the world that are actually shopping malls. So I guess we deserve the “Boringville” moniker that we got in return. Mazunte comes in three parts, the main street which was the original town taken over by shops and restaurants, a sub-division behind the beach where the government built some tiled roads, created some plots and sold them to entrepreneurs who filled them with their dream businesses. I think it is mostly foreign investment. I shouldn't complain, this is how La Cuisine and La Pizzeria came to exist. Underneath the young crowd I sense trust funds. Hard to say. All of this will be really different in ten years. Above on the hiils are the places with the infinity pools. we haven't seen them but I have aeen the photos on the internet.
Hike to Punta de Cometa
I am walking along a trail anywhere in the world, any season of the year, wearing no shoes, or hiking boots, snow shows or cross-country skis and I pull out my camera and I say “Dawn”. She turns her upper body and gives me her great smile and I snap it. Life is good. Here we are a dry track where people come to watch the sunset.
Someone claims this to be the Southernmost point on the Pacific coast of North America. We've decided it is true because our beach faces straight south, therefore the point juts out straight south, more than any of the land around it. From here the coast of Mexico curves gently northward for a while before turning south again just before it meets Guatemala. They mean point, not place.
Said sunset beach mid afternoon. You can just make out the people on the farthest ridge.
Miguel and the Dolphins
Stephen and I rarely take any kind of tours. Yesterday, Miguel approached us on the beach, seeing our snorkel gear, and tried to sell us on a boat ride to see turtles, dolphins, whales and have a snorkel adventure off the boat. An American or Canadian couple of women happened by and said the trip was fabulous, well worth the 300 pesos apiece. They saw everything, including whales. So on the way back from our snorkel and walk, we told Miguel we would like to sign up for tomorrow morning which meant being there at 7:20 a.m. We had no money with us for a deposit, but he trusted that we would show up.
Wanting to reassure Miguel, we were the first people at the boat in the morning. On the water, watching scores of dolphins swim, dive and jump, I was thrilled by the grace and surprise of their choreography. I started to speculate on why humans seem to love dolphins so much. Well, we are also mammals for starters. I think we are attracted to the beauty and speed of their movement but also to their apparent sense of fun and freedom. Moreover, they exist in community, something we humans keep trying to do with varying degrees of success. Our little community on Miguel's boat was American, Spanish, Dutch, and French, all united by our joy in being close to these wonderful animals.
After we all got into our PFD's and our gear arranged we got out on the water and Miguel explained the situation about turtles in San Agustinillo. In the seventies, he said, they killed 1,200 turtles a day
. Was that every day or just in season? The bay was red with blood and the product of this slaughter ended up in Mexico City and from there was shipped all over the word. In the eighties, the Mexican government put an end to it and now the turtles are back and the sharks that had been attracked by the blood are gone. The dolphins that we watched cavorting help keep them away.
Toward the end the our trip, he took us near to the cliffs in Mazunte and we snorkeled off the boat. A lot of fish and it was pleasant not to have to wade out through the surf.
I shot the video below lying in the front of the boat. The music is from a Boston Arts Academy CD. Support the arts in public education.
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This was a lot of fun watching the dolphins ride the pressure wave of the bow. My aim is not so good because I was watching the dolphins and just pointing the phone hoping for the best.
Beaching the Boat
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We are missing some details here. They place 10' long 1” diameter poles that are inside rubber tubes in the sand to act as rollers. Also, you have to miss the beach strollers, kids in the water and the occasional snorkeler.
Restaurants and Bars (in Order)
We don't go out for every meal. Mostly we eat two meals a day. Dawn feels that she is at the right weight but I know that I need to lose some.
On our first beach walk, when we got to the end we stopped in here for two beers. While we were there, we bought some dried jamaica blossoms from a woman to make the drink and some ground coffee from a guy to make coffee the next morning. A few days later we went back for pre-dinner cocktails, but I'll let Dawn tell the story.
I do enjoy Margaritas in Mexico. The drink is basically one third tequila (although it can be made with mescal), one third fresh lime juice, and one third orange liquor, often called Controy. I always specify“sin sal”, without salt, and“no demasiado hielo, por favor”, not too much ice, please. People have been very accommodating about getting this recipe just right. At Alejandra's, it took awhile for the drink to show up as they were very busy. We are never on a hurry here. When it did appear, it looked just right, no salt, just a few ice cubes. The first taste was very, very acidic. Clearly they hadn't used one of those mixes with lots of sugar in them. That's good. Second taste also very acidic. I began to think they must have forgotten to include the orange liquor which adds a bit of sweet balance. Stephen tasted it and had the same response, later saying that he thought there wasn't much alcohol in it either.
I am not the kind of person who complains or sends things back. It took me about fifteen minutes to decide to walk my drink up to the bar and tell them what I thought. A very amiable young man and woman offered some fresh orange to squeeze in. It didn't do the trick. So they dumped the drink and said they would make me another and I should sit down. So I did. Meanwhile Stephen ordered a second beer to keep me company when I would be drinking my Margarita. I was pleased that I actually managed to communicate what I wanted and that they were so accommodating. So we waited, and waited. Meanwhile I noticed a young blonde woman approach the bar, then ed and that they were so accommodating. So we waited, and waited. Meanwhile I noticed a young blonde woman approach the bar, then return to her seat. About five minutes later, the server brought her a Margarita. We waited some more. We are never in a hurry here, remember? The blonde finished her drink and left. By the time Stephen had finished his second beer, I said, “I'm done. Let's pay for the two beers and get out of here.”
At the bar, our server showed us the check with “Margarita” written on it along with the beers. He had not been involved in what happened, and I had a hard time explaining. Finally the woman behind the bar who had been so nice realized that my re-made Margarita had gone to someone else...most likely the blonde! Lots of apologies followed, and the waiter refused our tip. I couldn't come up with the Spanish but said in English, “It was not your fault.” Stephen made sure he took the tip, and I said “Qué es importante en la vida? Una Margarita? No!”
My apologies for writing such a long description of this incident, but it was a useful Buddhist moment for me, a perfect example of craving, expectation, and disappointment, only to realize that in the grand scheme of things, not getting the drink was a pretty small problem. It became clear that their openness about the mistake and our tiny expression of generosity was way more important. All the Mexicans we have encountered have been hard-working, kind, and welcoming, even to us Americans whose government is acting so atrociously towards the Mexican people.
A day or two later we overheard some people talking about this restaurant and their drinks. They weren't complaining rather talking in tones of quiet acceptance.
First Night Dinner
We went down around 8 PM and couldn't find a single restaurant to eat in. One had a free table, but it was already full of people with drinks on their tables, but no food. It would be a long night for us at this place. We met a pretty woman with her little daughter who wanted a pizza, but we all found out it was closed that night. They went back to their caravan to make dinner instead. We ended up going to a fruit and veggie place, bought some stuff including beer and went home and cooked.
After having camp coffee and going for a walk and a swim on the beach, we returned to the pizza place which was now opened for breakfast.
Some night we came back for a pizza. We sat in chairs set up for beach gazing cocktails. You can just see one in the picture. We talked to an Australian woman who had just attended a three day destination wedding in Peutro Escondido and was recovering. She remembers San Agustinillo when it had only one restaurant and sometimes dinner was some guy catching a fish and cooking it for you over a fire on the beach. Ah, the good old days and I got the impression that they very much the good old days.
This was our second night and I grabbd a reservation here when we walkd by in the afternoon. I did not want a repeat of he first night. We asked for a table in the sand. When we returned at the appointed time, 7 PM. There was our table for two, in the sand, with the candle lit. We saw for the first a clever trick for the candle. They used a bowl of sand, stuck the candle in, then the glass part from a kerosene lamp is pushed in around the candle. We had two main fish courses, both cooked by a guy over a fire, but this time on a Weber grill. Ah, the devil is in the details. Dawn's was really good, mine was good.
We came back and had another good meal.
La Pizzeria (Mazunte)
A voice on the internet cried out that this was beyond the best pizza in Mexico. It sang the praise of everything about the place. I think that he was a little bit in love with the owner, but in the main he was right.
First, the confusion. Trying to order on glass of Montepulciano we ended up with one bottle with two poured glasses in front of us. Dawn headed for the ladies room and told me to deal with it. Speaking English to the waitress, I explained our problem and she took care of it by recorking the bottle and carrying it away. Moments later, the bottle came back in the hands of the waiter who poured our two glasses to their correct height.
Dawn returned and I said, “No problem”.
The chef was away but the young woman making the pizzas was using a large Corona bottle to roll out the pizzas just like her boss. After she rolled it out, she made a few magical, mysterious moves with her hands that swirled the dough around in the air that prepared the dough for the oven. Nohing flying overhead, more like a soft tai chi move. Next the sauce. As she spread it around the dough and put the rest of the ingredients on I realized that good pizza is all about flavor. It is flavor. Nothing is being flavored, no chicken or pork is being rescued. Only flavor. Might explain why pizza is so popular. Then she slid the pie into the wood burning oven.
We moaned when we took a bite. Good stuff. We shared a pizza and Dawn ate all of her half. Half was enough. Good food should be eaten in small quantities. The reward deminishes.
We shared a shrimp with pasta in red sauce. Dawn had a beer and I had a glass of red wine. We went in about 6 PM as the sun was setting and got a table on beach side deck. Another Italian chef.
We had a wonderful breakfast another day so large that it served as our lunch also.
This became our main breakfast place. We always managed to get a seat on their deck. Dawn became addicted to their Frappuchinos.
La Cuisine (Mazunte)
The menu for the night. It makes it easy to order at your table if you take a picture on your phone. Then the gorgeous gazpacho.
Okay, let's talk about dinner at La Cuisine. I do enjoy Mexican food, but after a couple of weeks of burritos, salsa, guacamole, etc., a French meal is a welcome change. Several friends and acquaintances had raved about this place and told us to get there early because it is popular, and sometimes they run out of some choices. We were waiting at their gate ten minutes before their 6:30 opening time. Menu choices are posted on a blackboard. Seating varies from big, communal tables, to cushioned benches in the garden (where we sat.) What a meal! The Gazpacho was the most subtle and delectable I have ever tasted. The tuna tartare was perfectly seasoned and mounded into a cone with tiny, tasty lentils. The pork Dijon was the right combination of Dijon mustard heat and something sweet, accompanied by simple broccoli florets and tasty roasted tomatoes. Everything was beautifully plated without being pretentious. Stephen had two house mescals, and I had a glass of nicely chilled white house wine which certainly could have been French. Let us not forget the chocolate fondant! It was perfectly creamy and chocolaty, topped with a mint sauce, just the right accompaniment. Including a 100 peso tip, the whole thing cost about $35 American dollars. As one Internet reviewer said, “I may have had better French food somewhere, but it cost me ten times as much!”
Dawn being Dawn, I had to say something to the chef. The French was so easy, so relaxing to speak after struggling with Spanish here. I told him that from the soup to the dessert, everything was impeccable. Apparently he is from Bordeaux. I would have loved to chat more, but I didn't see any sous-chef, and he was pretty busy.
We came back for our last night. It was a good but not as knock your socks off as the first time. About eight, guys started arriving with musical instruments. I asked one of them what kind of music it would be. He said, depends who shows up. I told him maybe Dawn might sing. He said great. (Dawn, you were in the ladies room, maybe a bunch more margaritas.)
It is popular and small and they don't put prices on the menu. Supposed to be the best place in town. We have come and gone now and we followed it by a walk on the beach under a full moon.
Dawn had the Rooster fish. These things are big and not cute. They get big enough that two people are needed to hold them up for the picture.
I had the filet mignon in a wine reduction sauce. We shared a goat cheese salad to start. It was all good but not wondrous. The place itself was beautifully designed. Someone on the internet called it a hole in the wall. If he had looked carefully he would have seen that it was a cinderblock room that had carefully been made into what it looked like, the lighting from the wicker backets playing no small part. The shadows on the ceiling and the walls were great. The room is across the road from the beach up eight feet or so and the ocean is not visible. The floor is sand. What a great idea. The staff is young and energetic. Before we left we used my phone to translate into Catalan, “The food was great”, so we could thank the chef in his native language. I don't think we will go back. We've had meals like that before.
Yoga at Cerro Largo
This is the view back in the direction of our house from Cerro Largo where I meditated while Dawn did yoga. I also started the Vulture piece that may or not appear later.
Even though we are traveling carry-on only this trip, I always bring my light weight travel yoga mat. Mostly I enjoy doing my own practice with a view of the ocean here, or some other view depending on locale. I did try two local classes the last two Sundays. The first was right across the street and taught by a Dutch woman who was completing her training. It was very careful and thoughtful. Still, I like a little more flow in a class.
Last Sunday we left here by 8:00 a.m. and walked, mostly uphill, for half an hour, to Cerro Largo, an eco-vegetarian place in a beautiful locale. The class was so packed, almost all the poses had to stay within the width of a mat. Mario is a more experienced teacher and taught con mucho corazon - lots of heart. He talked quite a bit, and we chanted many chants I did not know, but by the end of the practice, I felt like I had really worked. I also felt that important basic concepts were re-affirmed.
Night of the Gecko
So I want to tell you about my dream. It starts out with a young filmmaker who, during the movie premiere of his new film, is re-writing the ending and searching for a better title. The movie is loosely based on Look Homeward, Angel. Somehow the end of the movie takes place in the very theater that it is being shown in. He arranges for the projectionist to stop the film before the beginning of the final monologue so he can step in to deliver the new lines. Meanwhile the projectionist is fast forwarding the film so when the filmmaker is done and says, “Roll Credits,” the projectionist can do so and in a few minutes the showing is over.
The audience is shocked, but before they can respond he tells them that the new title is “Angel,” and the five young actresses from Sarah Lawrence College who are down there in some kind of workshop situation, each learning the part, are each going to write their own ending monologue and the movie is going to be released in five different versions, each with its different final monologue.
I have to break in here to say that I had been sick to my stomach earlier in the evening and now was running a pretty good fever. So in this state, my mind was pounding at the dream over and over. Worse still, I decided that I wanted to remember the dream for the morning, so while I was awake I was remembering it and then I fell asleep my mind would continue to pound away at it.
The situation outside the dream was just a crazy. I was now sleeping on Dawn's side to be closer to the toilet and had turned on the light in the bathroom so I could see where I might need to be going. The light was a small spotlight that shined in our faces in bed, so I felt I was undergoing a prison torture every time I opened my eyes. Actually, I remember just opening one eye.
Back to the dream. The filmmaker gets into an argument with his public relations person who is telling him that every film has to have an exact running time and this film won't. The filmmaker says he will make the five monologues exactly the same time. This dream is difficult to remember because it make no sense. I know that.There is no Angel in Wolfe's story. It's a biblical quote. Oops, it is not a Biblical quote but a carved marble angel gravesite market. It was on the porch of Gant's father's monument store. If this is the character called Angel, it's going to be a strange part.
Now the real world, I notice that Dawn is awake and I ask her to get an eye covering and I tell her where it is because I feel badly that the light in her eyes. She finds it but when I tell her that it is for her, she refuses it. Later, maybe midnight, the roosters start making their racket but with a vengeance. I think about the biblical reference to St. Peter who denies knowing Christ three times before the cock crows. Now, besides remembering the dream, I am also trying to figure out if the roosters mean anything. All I know is St. Peter would have to say it fast three times if he wanted to get it in around here tonight.
This is before the dogs start in. There must be a new one in the neighborhood because what used to be just a hubbub is now a full scale riot. Shakespeare has got a lot of dogs in his plays (Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war) and certainly Sherlock Holmes had the one famous quote which certainly can't mean anything here because it was about a dog that didn't
bark in the night.) The gecko made a late appearance, coming down the wall on Dawn's side. What is the relationship between geckos and iguanas? And for that matter what do defrocked priests and Richard Burton have to do with all this, My night of the gecko? All I know is that I was not planning to fatten it.
I guess the rest of the night was about keeping myself cool with a wet bandana and wondering whether morning would ever come. It did. I seemed to be recovered, although tired and now that I have written it, done.
Some Mexican Idiosyncrasies
In all of Mexico, and perhaps in Central and South America, toilet paper is never flushed. This was true in Costa Rica also. A trash receptacle is always provided near the toilet for used paper. Personally, i think it is a great idea. The soiled paper will eventually disintegrate in landfills rather than clogging sewage systems and ultimately ending up in some form in our precious oceans.
Tap water is not potable. Huge trucks with the sign, “Agua para uso humano” with a 10,000 liter capacity pump water into our swimming pool and home reservoirs and pickup trucks deliver five-gallon jugs of drinking water.
If you are going to wash fresh veggies and fruits in tap water, the water needs to be disinfected before use, There is a product called Microdyn that comes in a small squeeze bottle. Add seven drops to a liter of water and soak the fruits and veggies for ten minutes before use. If you are going to boil them to cook them you don't need to disinfect.
Here at Casa Azul, there is no hot water. The weather is so hot and humid that it is rarely missed, although it would help when trying to shampoo salt and sand out of my hair.
Gallos y perros: The roosters get going at about 5:00 a.m. Then the dogs join in. We are usually in bed by 9:00!
I think Dawn has been sleeping through the 1 AM rooster party.
The People of Casa Azul
The owner, Yolanda, is a lovely 83-year-old who walks her dog early every morning, and does yoga, including hanging upside down in a suspended sling on her terrace. For those of you lucky enough to have known Ruth Wheeler, Yolanda reminds me of her, the same wiry, strong body and elegance. During our stay, she went to an “Afro-Mexican” community to volunteer by talking to people who had various ailments and escorting them to a healer. It was a bit hard for me to know if the therapy was massage, Reiki, osteopathy, or some other kind of hands-on technique. She said the results were amazing. Because she did this work, I decided to share the promo video of the Reach program with her. She was very moved and impressed by the program.
Mattie maintains and cleans all three casitas as well as Yolanda's house every day except Sunday. We did not expect daily maid service here! When I asked if we could get a photo of us “tres mujeres,” Benny, the puppy showed up. I said, “No, Benny, tu no eres una mujer.” (You are not a woman.) Well, Mattie corrected me, so after two weeks of hanging out with this sweet puppy, I looked! Sure enough, she's a girl! When I said that I thought Benny was a male name, she clarified that it was a nickname for Benita. So now I call the dog “Senorita Benita!”
Arturo has been noted in a photo caption. He is a sweet young man and very knowledgeable about plants. The garden is really quite large at Casa Azul, and he maintains it beautifully. He also maintains the little pool and unclogged our sink when needed.
Stephen and I believe that giving generous tips is our job in Mexico. Everything is so inexpensive, and we are so lucky, that we tend to tip higher than what most folks are apparently accustomed to.
Sara is a lovely, young Mexican woman with a toddler and married to a former French pastry chef. She manages several properties through Airbnb, although we booked Yolanda's place directly as it was recommended by our friend, Luciana. We had a fascinating chat with Sara one day. She worked for some time in Boston for a company that had something to do with surveillance cameras.
Our review of Casa Azul
Casa Azul has been a five star experience for us. My review will try to help you decide if it would be for you.
We like being a little away from the water and the main street. After a swim or a meal, we could walk back to our casita in a couple of minutes. There is a moment of steepness, but it is not difficult. We are both over seventy and we feel we need the exercise. After getting back, we could wash the sand off our feet and bodies at the outside shower, take a dip in the pool or not and then relax on our deck.
We loved the casita. Its openess with many windows with no glass, double wooden doors that opened wide. Sometimes a window shutter needed to be closed to keep out the full moon which otherwise poured onto our bed. The moonlight provided enough light for a couple of moonlight dips. In the morning, there were some moments when the rising sun needed to be kept out also.
We loved the possibility of community. We shared the pool with a Chilean couple and their young son, everyone getting a chance to try a foreign language. Yolanda lives full time in the little compound and is there to make some suggestions about yoga, massages and restaurants. There is a lot of talk about restaurants, everyone has an opinion. Our two week stay allowed us to find the ones we liked and return to them.
We loved the garden and the limes we got from it. Flowers and greenery abound. The garden is a major contributor to the sense of well-being and contentment that we felt here.
None of the places at Casa Azul are handicap accessible.
There is no heated water. In February this was not a problem except for hair shampooing.
Drinking water is supplied in the large five gallon jars with a hand pump. It was great to have drinking water without contributing to the great plastic water bottle mess.
There is no AC. The fan over the bed works great and there always seemed to be a breeze.
If you are going to cook, make plans to stop in Pochutla in your car or taxi to pick up supplies at the supermarket there. Talk with Sara about the details. There are small stores for fruits and vegetables and other sundries in town.
A Few Days in Hualtuco at Mision de los Arcos
I am skipping ahead here to mention how excited we are to be coming to our hotel. Again, it was recommended by Luciana and after our wonderful stay at Casa Azul we think it is going to be great. Self described as “Budget Luxury”, it entices me with its photos and its nearly a thousand rave reviews.
I have plans to visit the national park here with its seven bays and no developement and also go shopping. I need another pair of pants. The guys here stuccoing the wall on our way up to Casa Azul are better dressed.
Well we are here. It is amazing what changes can be wrought by a one-hour cab ride along the coast of Southern Mexico. When we turned off the two lane highway, to go into Hualtulco, the road turned into a four lane one with median strip green with lush grass curtesy of an automatic sprinkler system. After almost four weeks in Mexico this is our first sight of green grass. We’d seen brown grass but not overlush green stuff. I thought we were going to try to get in eighteen. It reminded me of my teenage golf days. I played at a club on Saucon creek in a valley of the same name. Also there was the New Jersey Zinc Company. They had a mine that was flooding so they pumped seven million gallons of water out of the mine and dumped it into Saucon Creek and then the club just dumped it back onto their golf courses. The mine lost the battle and closed, but man was that course green. Looking back, we played in a sea of toxicity of mine droppings and pesticides and herbicides. Five brothers, hey, we all still here.
Back to Mexico, we turned off this green highway to head down to the center of town and our hotel. The cab driver carried Dawn’s bag to the front desk. After Dawn signed on two the the Desk Guy carried her bag to our room, turned on the TV and air conditioner, explained the wifi code and left us the key and we were there.
I am not going to describe the room except for the shower with its glass door and pepple floor with beautiful hot water and shampoo and soap that I could work into a lather. I felt really clean for the first time in a while. The TV was unusually framed with tile. We took a 10 minute lay down to get centered and then went downstairs to make a reservation at the hotel restaurant, Terra Cotta. The prices looked high to me although I was looking at a pizza for two. When we walked by, we saw cloth table clothes and napkins standing up on the tables. Was this place too fancy?
Taxi to Chahue Beach
An amazingly clean beach, with no restaurants except a guy selling freshly shucked oysters with lime. There was a sign with a diagram of the profile of the beach with its abrupt dropoff and a couple of cops hanging out around the rest room. We went over the the rocks on one side of the beach and shared the shade with a guy writing with a pen on paper furn out of a spiral notebook. He wrote fast and we didn’t engage with him. He was fully dressed, even wearing black dress socks.
Another Boat Trip
We made the deal with Daniel who had a desk in an alcove across the street from our hotel. He was offering different kinds of boat trips into the National Park.
We ended up on a beach with good snorkeling, with a ton of mexicans with their families and a ton of restaurants.
Here we are after having some beer. We got here because we were cooling our feet in the shade of the tree when he came out and offered us chairs and beers. I said yes and we found ourselves encounced at the head of the line. You can see that I am very pleased with myself.
I got into calling Huatulco “Wa Wa Watulco” to the tune of the Wachusett ski area advertising jingle. Who knows why; the mind is definitely a wild monkey. Anyway, Terra Cotta turned out to be delightful. White tablecloths and cloth napkins (a first since we have been in Mexico), interesting, well-cooked international cuisine, really nice staff...and cheap! We had read a review by someone who had stayed at the hotel 28 days and never ate anywhere else. Being Dawn and Stephen, we thought that was absurd when we read it...until we also didn’t eat anywhere else for the four days we were there! I should mention that we didn’t eat lunch, maybe an occasional ice cream, frappucino or beer somewhere else, but breakfast and dinner were enough.
I was looking for a place to put my yoga mat, maybe in the little court yard with fountain, and I asked Ignacio, the desk clerk if that was okay. He called the owner of the hotel whose wife said he should open her private yoga studio for me. It was a lovely room, with inspirational art and texts on the walls, an altar with statues and images of gurus from many traditions. I had a wonderful practice. I didn’t take a photo, but this other photo shows how yoga appears all over Mexico in varied forms and places.
Getting Out of Town
Huatulco is an odd town. It is not on the beach, but it likely would not be much of a town at all if it weren’t for the beach. It is really a too long, hot, and unattractive walk to get to the beaches, so we take taxis that cost only 30 pesos each way. When we went to Chahué, which we later learned is an eco reserve so no restaurants are allowed on the beach, there was a huge, empty parking lot. The hotels did not appear to be full. The Mision de los Arcos was a wonderful spot, for less than $40 American per night! They even lent us huge beach towels daily. However, Wa Wa Huatulco isn’t calling me back somehow.
Hualtulco was a filler. The 28th was our last day in San Agustinillo and we couldn’t get into Xochimilco until the fourth, so we were kind of hanging out here. I still recommend it the hotel if you are flying in or out of the airport at an awkward hour. The triple paned glass made for the quietest nights we have ever spent in Mexico.
Return to Oaxaca from the Beach
We are back. We flew back in the same plane we used to fly over to Hualtulco. After arriving at our apartment, we shopped at a bunch of neighborhood stores for food, took a break and after dinner watched Rasshan Roland Kirk on the TV. He was amazing, performing with maybe four saxes around his neck. Look him up on youtube and elsewhere.
The morning was slow, yoga, meditation, laundry and showering before we got out and went to the Oaxaca Lending Library to sign up for a month. It is probably the main English speaking social and cultural center of the city. We will see how it works out for us. We returned to Xiguela for lunch and went to their store for yogurt and other organic foods, The pace of the day increased as we walked down to the Centro San Pablo to hear a violin concert at the same place where a couple of weeks ago I heard the worst singer I have ever heard. What a turn around! They played a totally inventive, captivating and some times wacko version of “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi. More details below. We walked home and relearned that Oaxaca is a mountain town and it cools off quickly and deeply in the evening.
Since we were headed downtown the next morning to go on a free ($10 US) walking tour we took the bus to get there. We got the right bus, there and back and took the two hour tour. More info later. Tonight, we are going to the zocalo (main square) for some Danzón, an old Cuban dance form that has died there but is alive and well in many parts of Mexico. We will fake the dance. Dawn has a fan and I have a kerchief and panama hat, so we will look the part (maybe). Dinner will be at a rustic restaurant in our neighborhood idd “Ancestral”. Someone said it was village cooking not gourmet.
This time we are in an Airbnb apartment in Xochimilco, the oldest part of the city. Madai, our Airbnb host, kindly met us at the airport, and her dad drove us to our place in his modern air-conditioned SUV. very pleasant! Although it is unseasonably hot here, hitting the 90's on some days, we are in the mountains so the air is dry and it drops to the 60's or high 50's at night. We have not yet needed the A/C in the apartment. The fans work fine.
People say that Xochimilco is more like a village than the center of town. This is true. We are at the bottom of a hill that keeps going up. My only problem with being in this neighborhood is that we have to cross a six lane, very busy, noisy, commercial road to get into the center. It is the Pan American Highway that runs from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego with smelly busses, trucks, gas stations, car washes, commerce of all kinds. It makes our own Cummins Highway feel like a country lane! Well, not quite, I exaggerate on the Cummins part. We have learned how to take these busses when our feet are just too tired to walk. The ride costs eight pesos apiece, about forty cents, and it seems like there is always a bus available when we need it. As beautiful and colorful as Oaxaca is, we have to watch our steps pretty constantly as there are ups and downs, holes, sandy patches, occasional trash and cracked cement in the sidewalks, pretty much everywhere.
We have not yet thoroughly explored our neighborhood. It seems to be known as an upscale residential area, although I haven't quite seen evidence of that yet. There is a fabulous modern café called A.M. Siempre, where we went to an art opening and jazz concert. The place was packed with locals and gringos alike. We may go back for their great coffee and hang out and write. At the moment we are writing on our roof deck with a nice breeze that makes it comfortable. I do yoga up here every other morning. We just met the folks from the apartment below who came up to the roof to hang more of their laundry. They are a group of young Koreans whose jaws literally dropped when I greeted them with one of the only two words I know in Korean!
We went down to the zocalo (main square) to go dancing on Wednesday evening. Above is a video to give you a quick peek and listen. The couple of the left is pretty good, otherwise it is a slow foxtrot with unison freezes for the whole crowd between sections. It took a little time to figure out where to dance. We finally figured out that it would be best to dance from where the above video was shot, away from the people who know the dance style. At first, we danced very sedately, Dawn teaching me a nice rhythmic box step, then later we did pretty much what we felt like, although on the quiet side. Dawn doesn't like to draw attention to herself on the dance floor, so we let the music begin and the regulars get started before we went out onto the dancing area. On the way off the floor for the last time, I stopped to retie my shoes and a young gentlemen stopped and told us that he liked our dancing. That was nice. I love to dance with Dawn and hope she will agree to come down next Wednesday and do it again. I know she wants to talk to the women in black and white in the video who was the emcee and was going around greeting and kissing lots of regulars. Afterward, instead going to the Ancestral restaurant we returned to Tastavin, where we ate various appetisers, pasta, and I took the picture below.
Danzón Part II
We went back the next Wednesday, right at 6:30 becaust we wanted to get into a choral concert that began at 8 PM. This time there was no live music and there was too much daylight being that was earlier in the evening, so we didn't feel like dancing. We headed over to the Centro San Pablo, but they hadn't even started setting up the chairs so we went for a drink at a fancy restaurant that is part of the center. There was another couple there, and one of them walked over to see whether it was time to save seats. She came back with the information that the choral concert was cancelled. They had been coming to Oaxaca for years, and they said this was the first time a concert was cancelled. We paid for our drinks, went back to the zócalo, danced a little, walked home, at some point realizing that I left my hat at the restaurant.
The next day, besides stopping by a hair place to set up an appointment, taking a new bus, buying two woven grasshoppers as souvenirs from a guy who had been pestering us for a week, buying two wine glasses to replace one that cracked while Dawn was drying it, finding the place to buy shuttle tickets to Monte Alban, we stopped by the restaurant and claimed my hat.
The A.M. Siempre Cafe. The Museo del Arte Contemporaneo (MACO)
There seems to be a reverence for trees here. Instead of cutting them all down when they build, Oaxaceños often build around them so the trees are included in walled courtyards or buildings.
The Museo del Arte Contemporaneo (MACO)
Downstairs was a rather bleak exhibit responding to climate change and the end of the world for the human species. Most of the videos seemed like studies.
Upstairs was a wonderful exhibit of collaborations between fine artists” and indigenous craftspeople from pueblos around Oaxaca, Under the Cobalt Sky
. Happily, all the artists, mostly American, felt the distinction between art and craft was irrelevant, that art made by indigenous people did not separate art from life in the self-conscious way that the “fine” art of the art world often does.
Carving and painting calabash shells is a huge art form here. This artist collaborator asked the artisans to portray scenes of the various kinds of work that Mexicans do, especially in the States. Hence, one with farming and construction tools, one of a waiter in a restaurant, one of a family, perhaps trying to get through the border, symbolized by a net/fence?
I bought these bowls made of calabash (or jicara) in a market. It wasn't until I set them up to take their picture did I notice that they have the same design, although each has a different interpretation.
The family in front of the red, white, and blue is self explanatory.
The most powerful piece we experienced was directed by Rebecca Mendez who collaborted with la familia Hernandez-Quero, a Zapotec family from Mitla. Called The Ascent of Weavers, it was a tri-partite video projection of slow-motion site-inspired movement. Four women, one “soloist” in red, one in white, one in black, one in blue evoked cycles of the sun, the heavens, the underworld and “the directions of human life in pre-Hispanic Zapotec civilization.” I did not see anywhere that the performers were trained, but their focus, presence and performances were stunning, a great credit to the director. Although there was no choreography credit, the piece was highly choreographed and very moving.
Clown on a Bus
There have been a lot of clowns around town as the circus is practicing here this weekend. This one was at the bus stop next to us, boarded our bus and entertained everyone during the ride. Although his Spanish was way too fast for us, everyone else was chuckling. We gave him a little donation.
About Vivaldi's Four Seasons
The first thing, and perhaps the only thing, you need to know is that the violinist, Omar Guevara Sánchez, changed his shirt between Summer and Autumn. He went from a white Mexican shirt with colorful trim to a blue one. I leaned over to Dawn and said, “Just like Cher.” Then, during the second movement of autumn when he doesn't play, he walked around behind the ensemble, leaned against the wall and listened. The rest of the time, he was all over the stage, making eye contact with the first violinist, handing off a theme to the second violinist, moving over to bring the cellists in with an expressive pull of his torso. It made for amazing music. There was an aliveness that is this kind of music. It was never polite and I am not even sure it was always right. It had the energy of playoff basketball. I never knew what was going to happen next. His encore was some ferocious thing accompanied by piano, perhaps Russian. I thought he should rip his shirt off.
In addition to the soloist changing shirts and moving around the ensemble, this Oaxacan native son played brilliantly. If the one or two of you who read all our stuff can remember, I complimented the musicians in an earlier performance for their lack of histrionics...“just letting the music come theough.” However, in this case, the violinist's movement was absolutely necessary to the music. There were some idiosyncratic moments in the playing, but it all worked. Having choreographed my box dance (Handle with Care/Trate con Cuidado), to the Winter section, I am very familiar with a particular recorded version of the piece. Whenever I hear it, it is hard not to see those summer outreach kids performing the dance at the Strand, or the Cambridge School kids, or the Lowell High School kids, or Dance Collective's professionals. Although The Four Seasons is a cliched staple of Baroque music, this performance rminded me of why it still remains so popular. I could barely sit still.
We had been trying to get some aloe vera lotion for a sun rash that Stephen developed when we were at the beach. We couldn't find any. A woman selling coffee at an organic marketplace here in Oaxaca indicated that the lady in the next booth could help us. Sure enough, she pulled out a foot-long section of an aloe plant, carefully washed and rinsed it, and presented it to us. I guess I looked a bit mystified as ahe asked, “Sabe como lo usar?” Well no, I had no idea how to use it so she kindly demonstrated. You take a large, sharp knife and cut about a one-inch cross-section of the plant, then slice one edge of that so you can open it. The aloe sap oozes out of the plant, and you can rub it directly on the skin. Oddly enough, once applied, it doesn't seem sticky. The skin seems to absorb it. Ten pesos for a generous supply. Nice.
Teatro Macedonia Alcalá.
Another free concert. This time, a full symphony orchestra, full chorus, operatic soloists, and a cello soloist in the beautiful, 800 seat Teatro Macedonia Alcalá. Wow!
Ryszard Rodys' Oratorio de los Salmos, (World premiere), A huge piece, honoring
Alfredo Harp Helü,
a benefactor of the Arts in Oaxaca and Mexico,
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exposition, (Excerpts)
Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme
Mozart's famous Magic Flute Queen of the Night aria
Two more pieces “from” Dawn Kramer choreography (!),
Saint Saëns's Mon Coeur s'Ouvre à ta Voix
Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro
Water and Sounds
In our apartment, this is how we get our drinking and coffee water. When we get low, we message Madai and someone brings us another. The tap water is not drinkable for both tourists and locals. Part of our soundscape here in Oaxaca is the guy yelling out, “Agua,” as he drives through neighborhood in his pickup truck full of bottles. Other sounds we will hear during the day is a recorded cow moo followed by information about the propane gass being sold. Three days a week at 6:30 in the morning, a guy rattles a cowbell to tell us that it is time for us to bring out our garbage and throw it in his truck. We don't actually do this. It is taken care of by Madai or Griselda, the woman who cleans our apartment once a week.
On our way to the Lending Library on a Saturday morning for Dawn's two-hour conversion practice in Spanish and English, we passed this wonderful fountain. Most of the fountains in the city have been dry as this one has been on other days. This day it was really going, maybe because this weekend leads to the national holiday on Monday celebrating the birthday of Benito Juarez, the first indegenous president of Mexico. We don't understand most of what goes on here. When I was growing up and then into a large portion of my adulthood, I was a know-it-all. Now being a know-it-all doesn't mean you know much, it just means your life is built on being able to explain things. Most of the time, I was making it up from half remembered facts and educated guesses. All this is made easy because anyone asking you a question about sometime doesn't know, so any well orgaized and interesting answer is acceptable.
The point of this is that the Buddhist way of life that I am trying to follow is much more interested in the seeing and the experiencing, let's say of the fountain, rather than explaining it. The sound of it, the glint of the sun off of it and especially that it will never repeat itself are things that I am noticing first, or trying to. I will never stop trying to explain things, I am just trying to get to the pointl of not having that be the first thing that I do.
The first one was a Friday night. It was billed as a jazz concert and an opening at a coffee shop in our neighborhood, A. M. Siempre. When we got there, it was packed. But what was it packed with? People eating dinner, people listening to jazz, a singer and guitar player, people drinking their free glasses of wine and free appetizers and the people maybe wanting to look at here paintings. It was a mishmash. We ended up standing on the stairs going up up to a supply room. The wine wasn't that great, the singing was odd and after a couple of songs we left. We didn't give up on the place. On Sunday, we returned to the café in the afternoon to drink coffee, work on the travelogue, eat food in the nice, cool back patio. We had a good time, and watched a painting being taken down. I guess it was sold.
Galeria Arte de Oaxaca
We decided to try another art opening the next night. This one worked out much better. The paintings, by Rubén Osio, were based in scenes from the circus and titled, Rock Art Trapeze Artists Posing for Their Photos
. My favorites were mostly in a red hue, with small touches of color here and there. I did finally engage the artist in a conversation, although his English was probably even worse than my Spanish so communication was a bit limited. I found many of the paintings sad. There were huge elephants in the background of many, dogs, monkeys, trapeze artists, clowns, etc. To me, the animals especially looked sad, but the artist did not think of them that way. Another onlooker agreed with me, saying that he thought all circus animals were sad because they were in captivity, which is basically my view. The artist also pointed out many details in the compositions which I appreciated.
The gallery space is beautiful, as you can see in Stephen's photo. They passed around beers and snacks. As we were leaving, we struck up a conversation with Sheila and Jim from Minnesota. It was one of those special interactions that seemed to skip the superficial and felt immediately real. She was a health worker for 44 years and used movement in her therapy and life. We gave her our card. It is quite rare that when we give someone our card, she not only goes to the website and looks at some of the work, but also communicates with us about the work! We got an appreciative email from Sheila the very next day, saying:
“It was so satisfying and astounding to see the language of your work. I recognize it in myself.”
We saw this picture of Rubén on the internet. It was one of the things that drew us to this opening. He is a little older now and uses a cane.
A Garden Tour
We took an English language tour of the botanical gardens with Carol, a full-time transplant from Montreal to Oaxaca. It turns out that the garden is only a bit over twenty years old. The land was originally a work area for the monks who lived in the adjacent monastery. After the revolution, it was taken over by the military. It wasn't until the 1990's that it became a botanical garden. It required a huge amount of labor to rid the land of military debris, build a deep cistern and irrigation system, and get things planted. A good half of the garden is devoted to local Oaxacan native plants, herbs and trees that grow naturally here and need no irrigation. The section that does need irrigation is for the more tropical plants that thrive closer to the coast of the Oaxacan state. I took the four small photos. The big one is from the Internet. It is a new greenhouse that won a sustainable architecture award for its Mexican designer (who is actually based in Chicago!) The garden used to be open for the public to wander around on their own, but because they started stealing plants, you can only enter the garden with a tour. The two-hour English language tour costs 100 pesos, twice as much as the tours in the other languages. It turns out that the others are only an hour long. Carol said that she needs two hours to explain the garden.
The Museo de los Pintores Oaxacaño
This was one of the few self-portraits by a woman. I thought it was intense.
Many self-portraits were of the genre, “The artist in his studio.” This one amused me because I saw the artist pointing his brush at a small, seated version of himself. I thought he was telling his inner critic to keep quiet. You may have to zoom in to see that detail.
We sent this to Nancy who publishes the Lunar Calendar. There two women are sharing one heart. Zoom in to see the detail. The title is “Heart Beat”.
Sam, who owned with his wife “Mision de los Arcos”, our hotel in Hueltulco, couldn't see why we wanted to be in Oaxaca for a month. He thought that a couple of days would be enough. (Dawn felt the same about his town which he was totally in love with). Sam is Mexican, although his first laguage was Korean because his father worked all around the world as a water reclamation plant designer and consultant. We are not Mexican and practically everything is new here even when we know something like classical music, it comes in a new way and everything has surprises. What is so different here is there seems to be a steady stream of culture is many forms and because we are travelers, we have the time to see and hear and participate.
We did not expect to be at this opening. We were planning to hear and see some Fandango dance and music by some musicians who had just finished up a workshop. We didn't know what the thirteen was for, we didn't know how professional the group would be, we didn't know what kind of drinks or food would be available but it turns out that it didn't matter because we couldn't find the right bus to get us there, so we went to see the opening below or above.
Many of the galleries that we visit are in old colonial buildings, inside of which they create clean modern galleries like this one. The work here was all of women with their backs to the camera, with one or two exceptions. Hair was always an important element. They all wore the same blanket. The deep black background was always there. We were invited to have some agua fresca and a mescal before we left.
Getting One's Hair Dried and Cut
by Karla Arzat
I came back from the Irish pub to watch the blow drying part of Dawn's hair cutting session. I was amazed. Karla's attention to Dawn and the fluidity of her movement made me think of the woman in Mazunte making her pizzas. This was different. This was personal. On the bottom row of phots, you can see Karla watching Dawn try to put in her earring and finally Karla stepping in to help out. I made a video for Dawn perhaps to help her when she has to dry her own hair. We are both very pleased with the result, so if you are ever in Oaxaca and need your hair cut, check out her facebook page -.
Karla Arzat on Facebook
Click here if the video doesn't appear above
I put the applause in for Karla and slowed it down so we all could see the finished product. Thanks again, Karla.
Karla Arzat review (for Google)
If you are staying in Oaxaca for awhile and need your hair cut and/or colored, go to Karla in Reforma. She is very professional and works carefully. Unless your Spanish is good, I recommend bringing a photo of the cut you want. I showed her a picture of a cut I had a couple of years ago by a “Best of Boston” award recipient. Karla recreated that cut amazingly well. She was also sensitive to my color preference, and did not use “tinta” with ammonia, per my request. Because she and her colleague are so thorough, be prepared to stay there for two and a half hours for shampoo, cut, dry, color, shampoo again, blow dry and touch-up cut. Her prices are very reasonable. Hence, I think good tips are advised.
Happy Birthday Cole
We were tryng to sing Happy Birthday to Cole on Facetime, but we could not make it work on our roof terrace, so we sent him this picture instead.
Another String Quartet
La Familia Cruz
We returned to the same small venue where we heard the violin and piano concert during our February week here. This one was a family affair. My Spanish was good enough to hear that the first piece was written by Mozart when he was in Venice at age fourteen, and that the first violinist in this group, his son, was also fourteen. Papa played the viola, and an older daughter handled the cello quite beautifully. The second violin was played also by a teenager,but apparently not a Cruz family member. They also played a challenging piece by a Mexican composer, Miguel Bernal Jiménez. After intermission, they played the famous Borodin quartet which boasts some very lyrical melodies that were used in the Broadway show Kismet
for the songs Stranger in Paradise
and This Is My Beloved
. Being the age I am, all those lyrics kept singing in my head.
The concert was very moving, hardly perfect as the young man had some pitch issues, but so moving to see these young folks take on the challenge and play as a family. Apparently there will be another concert later this month adding Mom at the piano.
I sat next to a woman from Cambridgeport, MA who was a cellist. I could tell because she was making sure she would be able to see the cellist as she was selecting her seat. I payed close attention to the cellist and this helped me really enjoy the concert as she played beautifully especially when she played with her father on the viola. She seemed to be holding the group on pitch as well as she could.
Return to Works by Rubén Osio -
Rock Art Trapeze Artists Posing for Their Photos
We talked about going to this opening on the previous page. I took these pictures when we returned to the gallery to see the rest the work. Now that we have properly translated the name of the exhibition, the work makes more sense. Good stuff.
Monte Albán is yet another amazing relic of Mesoamerican civilisations. I will let the photos mostly speak for themselves. If you are interested in lots of historical details, you can research it on the Internet.
We decided to get there early and on a cloudy day to beat the heat and hte crowds. Up at 6:30, we took a city bus to the other side of town, then walked to the Hotel Rivera from where the prepaid shuttle van would depart. It was a short, but slightly harrowing, curvy drive up the mountain. We skipped the museum because it was packed with groups of school kids and headed out to the ruins. Although smaller than Teotihuacan or Chichén Itzá (visited in 2015), it was mighty impressive.
It was great to be there with almost no one else around and the weather cool. Certain areas were affected by a 2017 earthquake and are currently inaccessible.
Still, standing amidst these mighty relics of temples, tombs, the pelota ballgame courts, and homes, I get why people are fascinated by archaology. There are areas still unexplored here. They have dated the structures from five hundred years BCE to seven hundred and fifty years CE. So it seems that many groups and civilisations have come and gone here. No one has made a convincing speculation as to why the site was abandoned.
As you see in the photos below, some of the engravings are outstanding and still in good shape.
The above figure, call a “Danzante” was originally thought to be a dancer, but now it is believed to represent a tortured and perhaps mutilated figure.
Mescal and Other Drinks
The Twenty-five Cent Tour
Mescal has reached out and captured the hearts and souls of a number of Norte Americanos. You can see why. It is a simple affair consisting of gathering the agave plant, pruning off the leaves, cooking it underground for some days, grinding it up, fermenting it, distilling it, collecting it and drinking it with your family, your village, for festivals, for good times and bad times. It tasted of the place where it was made. Different men rented the same palanque to make mescal and course they created different tastes. People believe that you could drink it without getting hangovers.
Men who came from afar, maybe five hours on a bumpy dirt road, drank in these villages, felt accepted, felt initiated and wanted to share their experience of this spirit with the rest of the world. Is this possible? Maybe, but I think not. Telling the story always becomes marketing, although I admit it is a lovely story and it is a lovely drink. It can’t save us from the emptiness that can creep into our lives. It can’t take us back to some good old days. I have gone to seders and been stunned by particpating in five thousand years of history. That is a reasonable percentage of the whole life span of Homo Sapiens, our species, but it doesn’t make me Jewish. I think we have to find our own drink, our own festivals and our own family and friends.
Below, you can find parts of our attempts to understand all this.
Stuff Moved or Copied from Restaurants and other places
Ancestral Restaurant - Aged Mescal
I am going settle down behind a glass of mescal reposado which my phone translates as restful which actually means aged. The mescal below it on the menu the phone translated as with worm and I was happy to pass on it. When the bartender brought my mescal, he brought the bottle and an empty glass. He poured a little in and asked me to taste it. I did, nodded and he filled the glass.
Don Amado Reposado is aged for six months in barrels that formerly held Pedro Domecq Mexican Brandy. This mezcal has notes of fresh lime, green olives, peppercorn, green tea, and minerals. The barrel aging gives it strong flavors of sweet oak and caramel
This is a comparatively inexpensive and simple mescal. The barrel aging takes away some of the taste of the agave that some people feel is very important. But I enjoyed sipping it while I wrote.
Archivo Maguey - High End Stuff
As many of you likely know, mezcal is a big deal here. Stephen wanted to find an “authentic” place to try some. Apparently, for some tourist tasting tours, the drinks get watered down. Not here! The menu sports several symbols that indicate smokey, earthy, citrus, mineral, bitter, fruity, etc. I tried one that was marked mineral and citrus and was made from wild, rather than farmed agave. All mezcals have some smokiness because of the way they are made. This one was less smokey, and I enjoyed it, although I have to say that mezcal in general is not my favorite beverage. The alcohol content is pretty high (can reach 55%), as was the price compared to other things in Mexico, so one drink was definitely enough!
What really worked were the mescals. I had a Barril and Dawn had the Mexicano. They were both very nice and very different from each other. The names refer to the type of agave (or maguey) that the mescal is made from. If I were to go some place to seriously drink some mescal, I would need to find a place where they speak English. But as the trip goes on, I have less interest in an serious investigation into this simple but now complicated spirit.
Pitiona - the Lost Mojito
We are here for Dawn’s birthday and I order a margarito, a cocktail with mescal and lime and Dawn orders a mojito. When they arrive, mine has a line of red salt around the rim which adds a nice bite to the drink, but Dawn’s doesn’t seem to have any alcohol. She has been through this before at the beach near the beginning of this trip and doesn’t want to go through it again so it is up to me. Our waiter doesn’t speak much English so I go out to the front to speak to the woman who seated us to see if I could speak to the bartender. Her English was minimal but she said “Follow me” and we went back to the table. A young man was delivering to us a small appetizer of pea soup in a mescal glass. He seemed to speaks a little more English so I enlisted him into my cause and the three of us processed back to the young bartender. Once we got there, I released the woman so she could return to her post. What I wanted was have the bartender taste the drink to see if it was properly made , but he quietly began to make another. A dark brown liquid in a small bottle came out onto the bar,. My translator got a spoon and poured me a small taste. It was molasses, the sweetener of this version of a mojito. He muddled the mint leaves in the molasses, all very quietly, and as we watched he added the rum and then the ice, and a little soda water from a fresh can. He took off an excess ice cube, stirred it, and pushed it in my direction.
The moment of truth had arrived. I tasted both drinks and they were totally different. I indicated that they should too. My translater took a sample of the first drink using a long spoon, pouring it into his palm and tasting it. He then did the same with the newly made drink and by his face indicated that he agreed with me. Now it was the bartender’s turn. He did the same thing with the spoon and he was quite shocked by the difference. My campaign was over and victorious. I took the drink back to the table where Dawn was guarding our smoked salad and you will have to find the rest of the story under “Restaurants” further on in this travelogue.
Beer - Cervesa
Minerva IPA, the purple label somehow foreshadowing the flavor, flowery but earthy at the same time. Later with the marinated duck taco, the flavor really gathered itself together and even Dawn liked it.
Living in another culture is a wonderful, mind and heart-opening experience. At the same time, it is not without challenges. The “tourist” part of being here can get exhausting. We were both wiped out after all the walking at Monte Albán and then more walking back in town. From the hotel where we were dropped off we walked to Boulenc for lunch and then to the gallery to revisit the works of Rubén Osio and finally back to our apartment.l
Stephen has noted some of the sounds of Mexico. It is a noisy place! The bottled gas truck is the most obnoxious with its loud recorded “moo” and loud announcements. It passes our place several times a day. There is a whistle from a guy selling sweet potatoes. The others are mostly real human voices which are a lot gentler to my ear, and they have a certain charm: agua, tamales, elotes, nieves. That loud cowbell that rings for trash at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday sounds like it is in our bedroom! Also, the dogs get going several times a day and night! We have a lovely apartment here, but being on the ground floor sometimes feels like we are camping in the middle of the street, especially if the windows are open.
Then there are the stray dogs. There is a brown one that visits our neighborhood that is so skinny it is heartbreaking. I have started feeding him, but I don’t think the neighbors like that. First I put out plastic containers, one with water and one with dry dog food. The containers disappeared pretty quickly. So now whenever I see the dog, I grab the dog food bag and spread some directly on the sidewalk where he gobbles it up. Clearly, he now recognizes me and perks up when he sees me. But what happens when I leave? What happens to all the other street dogs? It’s not that Mexicans don’t like dogs. There are plenty of well-kept canine pets in this area which seems to be a mixed income neighborhood with some very classy, modern houses and some shacks. Estamos en México.
Then there are the street kids. I had been giving coins to children begging in the street, and then asked Madai, our Airbnb host, about it. I know that in Paris, there are (allegedly) gypsies who somehow capture kids into service. The children are not treated well and don’t get any of the money. Madai said there is a similar racket here, and that it would be better to give the kids something to eat. We have an appointment tomorrow with an organization called Oaxaca Street Children. They raise funds and provide education for many of these kids. Maybe I can volunteer there a bit and get some advice on best practices for the street scene.
Well, unfortunately I had to cancel our appointment with Oaxaca Street Children because I had a serious case of “Montezuma’s Revenge.” It actually started two days ago, but I felt enough better yesterday to enjoy a birthday dinner at Pitiona, a more upscale place than usual for us. Well, it turns out that I am not better, and was up most of the night (will spare you the details). Stephen just went out to get me some anti-diarrhea medicine. Let’s hope things go on the upswing from now on!
Another Night Out
Dinner at Cabuche
Dawn was on the upswing and we decided we would go early to Cabuche for a chicken pozole (soup) for Dawn and a fish tostada and tongue taco for me. My margarita was not as perfect as the first time we were there, but still good. Our table was in the front this time and this exposed us to street musicians. The woman seated next to us took care of the first, a boy playing a harmonica, and we took care of the second, a man playing a guitar pretty well but singing not so well. While he was playing, I got some change and the waiter knew what to give me so I could give the musician the right amount.
This is the performing space that was pretty full a half hour before the concerts have been starting. Tonight we were really early, an hour, so after saving two seats in the front row, we took a look around. Where the muslim prayer hats had been hanging, some paintings were just about finished being hung. In the back gallery were photographs of the people in the surrounding villages. They were very soft focussed as if they had been taken with a Kodak. This tim we got a chance to see the room with the arches. It is a function room as one can see by the coffee urn and was occupied the last time we were there. It was a reminder of how much design we see here in Oaxaca. Everywhere we go, we walk into or see from the street, beautiful spaces.
He played very quietly. It was raining and we could just hear him. At intermission, a woman asked me whether I was hearing anything from the speaker that was near me. I told her no, but the mics might be for the video recording, not for the public. In one corner, there was a large flat screen set up, perhaps for a coming event. But he was quiet.
I remember the hand against the back. I could feel it curved around the spinous erectus muscle below the shoulder blades. There was curley gey hair. There was a push. I remember returning to my plastic chair without making a sound with my shoes or the chair. I was awash in adrenaline. My heart was pumping.
His cell phone had gone on behind me and there was those seconds while the owner thinks it is someone else’s. Finally he found his phone and answered it and began to speak as he got to the end of the row. Once he was free of the row and a few feet away, he slowed down and talked as if he weren’t going to leave the room. The next thing I remembered was feeling my hand on his back and slowily pushing him from the room. The half uttered English word, “Leave” was stuck in my throat as I realized he might not understand. It was like a dream. All I could really remember was my hand on his back. I have no recollection of thinking about anything or getting up from my seat. I had felt so protective of the quiet music. His cellphone had been louder than the guitar. I was awash in adrenaline. My heart was pumping
Another Guitarist in the Same Space
I will try to make this quick. He started with a Villa-Lobos where the other guy finished with him. Naiem played crispyly with more volume but wasn’t as deeply personal as the Mexico musician. Naiem, from Iran, started his musical training at the age of twenty-two in the United States. This night we had to deal with the permanent installed fountain (the previously mentioned flat black pane of water on the floor in the middle of the audience) which occasionaly gurlged away with too much enthusiasm.
A Social Saturday
I went back to the OLL (Oaxaca Lending Library) for my second Saturday morning of Spanish/English conversation groups. This is a very popular program. The first time I went, I got there half an hour before it started, and met two lovely Mexican ladies of my generation. They decided that we would form a conversation group that day. The idea is that every small group of three or four spends an hour “speaking” (in my case, bumbling) in Spanish, then an hour speaking English. Ofilia and Lilia were patient and helpful to me. The topics of conversation can be anything the group wants. We spent most of our time in both languages talking about travel. They were both born in Mexico City and love to travel. They asked what countries I had been in, where else in Mexico, etc. Ofilia, who looks about a decade younger than Lilia and myself, will soon go on a tour to London, Istanbul, and Greece! It seems like an odd itinerary but must have something to do with competitive airfares. They could not attend the conversation group this past Saturday because both of them went together on a five-day trip nearby.
So this second Saturday I was truly the abuela, grandma, of the group. Caroline was 26 and wanted to improve her English to become a nanny in the States. Lisbeth was in her twenties and wants a career as a tour guide. Hence her desire to learn English. At fourteen, Diego is an only child and wants to master English so he can attend a “prestigious” college in the US or Canada, become a “professional” (no idea what kind of professional yet) and “make a lot of money!” The first question he asked me in English was, “How old are you?” I laughed and taught him the English expression, “Never ask a woman her age.” However, I did tell him my age, then asked the others theirs. Caroline had to leave after an hour so we did a half hour in Spanish and a half hour in English. After Caroline left, another young man joined us. He was born in LA of Mexican parents, but soon came to Mexico to live with one of them after their divorce. The conversation was wide-ranging, and I do think their English was better than my Spanish. Still, when there was a lull, I felt like a teacher again, coming up with questions to stimulate conversation: What you do for fun? Answers were video games, American rock and pop music. Since there is so much free classical, chamber and jazz music here, I asked if they went to those events. Pretty much, the answer was no, although Caroline went to a piano/saxophone concert a couple of weeks ago. They seemed to think that mostly Gringos went to those concerts, but my observation has been that it is about half visitors and half Mexicans.
I told them how expensive most concerts were in the States and that this was really a regalo, a gift, for them, and they should try going sometime to see how they like it. Then I remembered that I regret not getting my own children to many classical music events. Three of my grandchildren have studied piano, but they don’t get to many classical concerts either. I do remember, however, that when my son Adam and I went to Spain/Portugal together when he turned 25 and I turned 50, we enjoyed going to The Messiah in Barcelona and the symphony in Lisbon. I wonder how much the proliferation of electronic media has detracted from young people’s attendance at live events.
After the library, Stephen and I went to the organic market not far from our place. Stephen spotted a man of our generation sitting at a small table and wearing the unmistakable garb of a Buddhist monk. So we ambled over there and asked if we might chat with him. He was American and started his Buddhist studies at age nineteen in San Francisco with the late, renowned Suzuki Roshi. He is now part of a sect that we are not familiar with, Kadampa. We mostly talked about the nature of mind, a core Buddhist topic that is challenging to wrap one’s mind around, that is if one had a mind! Anyway, he leads a meditation on Friday evenings so we may go.
I have this idea that learning to follow the Buddhist path is a little like learning to run a marathon. Everyone would learn it differently and do it differently. Some would want to win, some would like to improve on their best time, some would just like to finish. And then there would be all these different bodies types and different levels of fitness. Then there is a world of different courses. Could the same coach teach all these aspirants? No, coaches are problably locked into one or two systems and it would be the runner’s job, with no understanding marathons, to find the right coach. Difficult, so don’t be afraid to bumble around when you are looking for a way.
Sacha and Karen
Later the same day, we were sharing a beer on our rooftop garden when the new second-floor tenants came up and joined us. I think they are our children’s generation. Sasha is a handsome, bearded Australian currently living in London with Karen, a lovely woman whom we believe is British. They have taken a year off from work to travel extensively. Their adventures make us look pretty timid! India, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Japan, New Zealand, now Mexico. I am not sure what is next for them, maybe the US and Canada. They are studying Spanish here in Oaxaca, reminding me of our time at Escuela Mexicana in Guanajuato five years ago. We had a great conversation and seem to keep running into them in town!
They now have the link to this travelogue and I hope that I don’t embarrass them when I say that they are the definition of lovely people. We have invited them to stay with us if they hit Boston. Look for us at the Grotto in June.
Centro Esperanza Infantil/Oaxaca Street Children
My health improved dramatically so we met with Peppo on Monday instead of last Friday at Oaxaca Street Children’s volunteer center. As mentioned, we found this organization because of my distress around the number of children begging or selling trinkets or apparently working for adults in the street. This is a fabulous organization, founded by an American couple but run by Mexicans and Americans. I urge you to check out their website:
In a nutshell, the same concern for street children lead a woman to start with one child/one family and help that child go to school. Now the organization sponsors about 650 children, from kindergarten through the university level, recently boasting their first “kid” with a PhD. For $250 American dollars, a student can have tuition, supplies, two uniforms, two pairs of shoes, a backpack and hot lunches for a full year of school attendance. The center also provides extra classes and tutoring as well as arts, music, and computer programs through volunteers. Many of the children come from surrounding poor villages. There is an ethos of community service in most of the indigenous pueblos. Hence, the older children and their mothers help in many ways at the center, either with cooking, maintenance or tutoring younger children. The organization is a non-profit 501(c)3 in the USA and has equivalent standing in Mexico. We will surely send a donation, likely a sponsorship, when we get home.
Meanwhile, Peppo is a very interesting guy, Italian by birth. He has lived and worked all over the world, including a pizza business in Mazunte, on the coast near where we were. He got tired of the surfer culture, came to Oaxaca and started volunteering at the children’s center. Now he is the primary administrator, volunteer coordinator, computer skills teacher, etc. We chatted with him for a fascinating two hours.
A little more explanation of community service in the outlying communities of Oaxaca: All the positions of the town are done by volunteers. This means the mayor, police officers, festival dancers are all volunteers with terms around three years. So there are no elections. I guess people are just asked. This is our understanding up to now. This is not an easy thing to check out on the internet.
Museo Belber Jiménez
It is a little like someone’s dusty attic. There is lots of stuff, jewelry, sculptures, clothing with not a single label and a store unlike any store at a museum you have ever seen. It could be an antique store, but not quite. You could grab almost anything in the store and take it on to “Antique Roadshow” on PBS on US television and create an uproar. Everthing is unusual and expensive. In the cases, some of the small pieces seemed to have moved because they were lying next to “shadows” of themselves, created by dustless areas where the piece had been. I surmised perhaps the eathquake of 2017 had moved them. But nobody moved them back. A little like “Twilight Zone”, another US television show.
The back story is that the collection is from a couple, the husband a designer, the wife an anthropologist, now 95 and 85 years of age, who for fifty-one years lived for a month in a different country and bought stuff. He also designed much that was in the collection but did not make any of it.
Riding the buses
As far as we can tell, different companies own the busses and rent them out to the drivers who are now independent contractors and who compete with each other for passengers. No insurance, maybe some hit and run. We guess at what business strategy they might be employing on any particular trip. Maybe, if you are empty, drive slowly, if full, go like a bat to get your next run started sooner. Charge the clowns to work the bus. Who knows?
At eight pesos a trip, it is a pretty good deal. There is usually a guy working for the driver who hangs out the front door or window and shouts to get people to board his bus. The vehicles themselves are mostly old and rickety, but the individual drivers often retrofit them with music and strings of colored lights that pulse with the beat. As mentioned, the clowns do their bit sometimes. When you want to get off, you jiggle your way to the back, holding on to something at every moment. The guys drive fast, try to pass other busses, and slam on the brakes. When you push the button at the backdoor to exit, the door opens while the bus is still moving pretty fast. When the bus does stop, it’s three steep steps down and a leap to the sidewalk. Phew!
The Trip to Teotitlán
This tale takes place over two days. The first, a Tuesday, was a gigantic fail. We were told to go down to the baseball park and take a colectivo. It would say Teotitlan on the windshield. For twenty minutes or so a flood of taxi-colectivos poured by us, each with some other destination proclaimed on their front glass, each driver waving his fingers, telling us how many seats were available. Finally, we saw a couple go by with our destination but they were full. We gave up and walked back to our place, buying some yoghurt to get change for a city bus. We also talked to a taxi dispatcher who sat next to her taxis in front of the hospital. She said 300 pesos ($15.50) for the trip one way. We had a breakfast date with Richard the next morning so we decided that on Thursday we would grab a taxi out there.
Thursday arrived and the trip out there went as planned. But, we didn’t have any plans for how we would get back. We asked around and heard about a bus stop. It left on the hour and it arrived right at 2 PM but he said he would leave at 3 and drove off. At 3, then 3:15, no bus. So we started some kind of negotiation to get a colectivo to take us to the highway (the Crucero, cross, intersection) where we could get something to take us back to Oaxaca. A guy in a “tuk tuk” overheard our conversation and said he could take us for 20 pesos. A tuk-tuk famillar to travelers in Southeast Asia is that white, three-wheeled, two stroke engine powered cart on the right. Below are Dawn and Stephen looking like they are riding in another cessna.
We jumped in and headed out to the highway. When we arrived we asked“ Now what?” and he pointed to the bus just pulling in with a big OAXACA sign on the window. We got in line, paid another 20 pesos, got two seats and rode back to the baseball park in Oaxaca. Another twenty minute walk took us home. That walk in the heat of 4 PM is what took it out of us.
What we did in Teotitlán
We got there by 9:00 a.m. The mercado was buzzing, but it was too early for us to buy food or anything we would not want to carry all day. The new, modern Centro Cultural looked great, but the library did not open until 10:00, and it wasn’t clear what else was there. The community, historical museum was in an older building and opened around 1:00, although the sign said it would open at 10:00 a.m. For ten pesos each, it was an interesting look at Zapotec history and prehistory, and had a great video of the traditional dance, la Pluma. Earlier, we had seen young men practicing this dance in the church courtyard. It is a challenging combination of hops and turns on one foot, mchoreographed spatially in geometrical formations. The headdresses weigh five kilos each.
We love the Zapotec rug that we bought in San Miguel four years ago and were curious to visit the weaving town where our rug-weaver came from, Teotitlan. However, we were not about to buy another rug. That made our visit a bit weird because most gringos come to this town specifically to buy directly from the weavers. Their work is really beautiful. We visited several artisans and spent quite some time with two adjacent weaver/vendors. He demonstrated working the loom, and she carding and spinning the wool. We ended up buying a woven, striped bag in “my” colors. How practical it will prove to be, I am not sure, but I guess we felt we had to buy something. We also put something in señor’s tip box.
I think if it doesn’t work as a purse, we can hang it on the wall.
The rug from four years ago with Hilario.
We got a message from Madai, our AirBNB host.
Horchata (pronounced or-CHAH-tah) is a Mexican drink made with rice and is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with sugar. The rice, sometimes along with some nuts or seeds, is ground and mixed with water to make a milky looking drink.
Hello! Tomorrow is a traditional day in Oaxaca. We celebrate "Samaritana Day" which is special because it Is just here in Oaxaca....so, tomorrow take a glass with you AND enjoy the Centro, start at midday and the restaurants, hotels, stores will be giving free flavored water of different flavors, you must try the "horchata". I am sure that you will enjoy it.
Dawn and I had the same feeling simultaneously. She said it and I nodded in agreement.
“I feel really good about Oaxaca today”
Oaxaca is a friendly town, but today was over the top. It was as Madai said, but more. A woman passed by us on the street and stopped to explain the day and that Oaxaca was the only place that it happened. It seemed that much of the town was in promenade mode. An aside: Today, we are the ones who were asking for something and then being given it. I thought the the drink sellers might take the day off, but at the juice seller in the market Sanchez Pascua there was a long line of customers waiting to buy.
El Otro, a contemporary dance concert, Rolando Beattie Ensamble
Last night we went to see a performance by the dance group we had encountered in the street when we were in Oaxaca in February. It was quite beautifully produced. Two projectors created a video environment on the stage floor and on a scrim halfway upstage. Red chairs were aligned on either side of the stage, facing in. Eight dancers in white interacted in an abstract geometric, mostly black and white video space. The sound began and ended with metallic, clinking sounds. However, most of the dance was performed to a recorded, orchestral version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring
. Much to my surprise, there was no program credit at all for the music or sound or light design. Performing to a piece as well known and oft-choreographed as Rite
was a bold move, but to give no credit is, well, shocking to me!
The dancers moved beautifully, very much influenced by contact improvisation as well as classical technical training. Their movement was as curvilinear and sinuous as the projections were angular and rigid. That contrast was fine. At the same time, for me, it felt like too much ice cream. The choreography could have benefited from more punctuation, moments of stillness and even an occasional unison effect. The constant flow of lifts, falls, and lyrical limb and torso movement was physically luscious and satisfying, but after awhile, the piece cried out for a greater overarching shape. There was an intensity, appropriate to the music and the idea of sacrifice inherent in Rite that was amplified by the addition of red into the black and white videos and the red chairs and carpet at either side of the performing space.
Ancestral - 3 Times
We stopped in to the restaurant and decided instead of coming back for dinner that evening, we would return the next day for lunch. It seemed like a place that might be better in the daylight. It was very nice, but somewhat expensive because we ordered two moles. Dawn’s was green over fish and it came with beef marrow that was scraped out of a bone sawn in half at our table while we watched. It was kind of gelatinous and after a bite each we left the rest. My black mole over chicken was okay but if we go back, I will get something else.
Well, I am out on my own at the Ancestral restaurant. Dawn has decided to take a break to rest her stomach. Tomorrow, we are going out for her birthday and she wants to be operating at full steam. I got myself a nice cucumber mescal cocktail and three memelas for my supper. Later, I wrote Dawn a birthday email. Other details above at Mescal and Other Drinks.
To the left is my meal. We came back a third time and I had some things I didn’t really know what they were and Dawn had the same.
Click here if the video doesn’t appear above
Obviously, she didn’t have the same, but we were both surprised when he brought out the broth in a calabash bowl and then placed two very hot rocks in, added the fish and shrimp and told Dawn to wait four or five minutes. All was accompanied by the singer in the background. He was in the background, sitting across the room with his boomerang and other electronic devices at his feet and not standing next to our table.
The view from Dawn’s seat. Now, This place did knock our socks off. We came for breakfast, maybe a three minute walk from our place, in business for maybe three months. My breakfast (really a 1 pm brunch) was two poaches eggs, over refried beans wrapped in hierba santa, a green that I have read about, but never tasted. All in a tomato sauce, with fried plantains with a dollop of cream on top surrounding my eggs. Every mouthful had a new and wonderful flavor. My cappuccino was spectacular. I will be back.
We came back on the holiday and the place was full. She said thirty minutes so we took a walk in the neighhood. We came back in twenty minutes and were being seated as my twenty-five minute timer went off. My breakfast/brunch was two eggs over nopali cactus pads with bean sauce and a salad on the side.
I had blue corn/blueberry pancakes with a raspberry compote on top with maple syrup on the side. The lavendar blooms are Jacaranda. These trees have been blooming all over town for weeks now. Spectacular!
McCarthys Irish Pub
Writing away in an Irish pub, the day before St. Patrick’s Day, waiting for Dawn to finish getting her hair cut.
Things are different here. Ther’re a bunch of guys running around in green kilts and big leprechaun hats with fake beards on their faces serving green beer, but being Mexico they are coloring the beer with fresh lime juice. I had a Guiness and am now working on my two-for-one Bohemia Oscuras. It is a big place. I am at the bar, inside, in the dark. At 3 in the afternoon it is quiet. I imagine tonight or tomorrow for sure the place could be packed. I showed the guy how to pour that Guiness, and later when I found out that this place was a large chain all over Mexico I wrote the home office and told them they should send out the instructional video from the Guiness Company to all their locations. They form said they would contact me. They haven’t so far.
With first bite of my sandwich here, I remembered how much I love bread. I love the crunch, the smell the flavor, how important it is to a sandwich. We bought a baguette at its breadstore next door and a chocolate croissant for the next morning and returned to the store a few days later for another round.
OMG, the sourdough baguette was amazing, a rival for our favorite home bakery, Fornax in Roslindale. The pain au chocolat is hands down the best I have tasted outside of France!
Another great recommendation from Luciana. We made a reservation walking by on the way to the concert hall and rushed out of there before the encore to be on time. Pozole (chicken soup), fish tostados, smoked pork tacos, two great margaritas and a “Boy Stout”, which the guy next to me was drinking so I got it, a Mexican stout. A couple of nights later we tried to get in without a reservation. No luck.
We got this off the internet. It was good. We shared a very tasty tlayuda. Dawn had a coffee drink and I learned never, ever to order a suero again, which is beer, lime and a ton of salt.
The place itself seemed to be only half opened, the way your eyes are when you are drowsy. The tlayuda had lots of vegan greenery but was not that interesting. Probably we will not go back. Details above at Mescal and Other Drinks.
Return to Don Juanito
After leaving the Archivo, We stopped in at this restaurant. It seemed friendly by comparison to the Archivo, we had been here a couple of times during our first week. In the room beyond Dawn there were two guitar players performing. They improved as our meal progressed.
We were here for Dawn’s birthday. Above in the stories about alcohol section I have written about getting Dawn’s drink fixed. Now I will continue with the rest of the evening. Our salad was covered with a glass cover because it was smoked. After I dished it out to both of us, we discovered everyhing included the greens was embued with a smokey flavor. I was unusual and and very good. The salad also had the smallest carrots I have ever seen. I spent an afternoon volunteering at an organic farm once thinning carrots and that’s what we were eating, thinned carrots. Just a tiny taste, but there it was.
Other tastes were scattered around the table. Pickled potatos and carrots (larger). Sauces of various piquancy. The pea soup that I finally got to taste. All was good.
Our main courses arrived. Dawn’s fish with pumpkin seeds and a yellow mole sauce came on a thick wooden block and my duck with a peanut sauce was on a more normal plate. We oohed and aahed over the flavors as we traded forkfuls of our dishes. The portion were small but the food was rich so by then end we were satisfied and had some room for dessert. Near the beginning of our meal we were told that the drink menus were in Spanish and the food menu in English and this was true, sort of. The title of the dish was in English , but most of the ingredients were in Spanish. And when a word like “pore” is used, my dictionaries are helpless to translate it.
All this to explain that we can’t tell you what was in the desserts.
Maybe because March 21 is not only my birthday, but also Benito Juarez’s birthday, they gave us an extra dessert with a candle in it. Thank heavens they had the discretion not to sing. Maybe they do this for all clients’ birthdays. I don’t know. Benito Juarez was the first indigenous person to be elected president in Mexico, and he is much loved and celebrated.
The waiter turned off the wall sconces to darken the room before he brought the desserts. We shared the them and the port that I ordered. When I asked for the wine list, he brought me an Ipad that lead me to exactly the wine I wanted through a series of menus. When I got to ports, there was only one, but it was made by Graham, a reputable mark, and it worked fine. The birthday cake was on the bill, but at zero cost.
After we paid our bill, very reasonable by Roslindale standards, expensive by Oaxacan ones, we walked back to the bar to thank our bartender. Then we walked up through the restaurant to the terrace with its view of Santo Domingo, thus revealing the weakness of the restaurant. It was too big. There might have been two kitchens, upstairs and downstairs. Inventiveness doesn’t care how big the restaurant is, but the fine details of temperature and timing do. This is where the restaurant fell down a little. Still, we stopped by the kitchen to cheer them on.
All in all, we had a good time. Of course we try to have a good time whatever is going on. I think Dawn felt celebrated (and very happy they didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” and I felt like a hero, rescuing her drink by pantomime.
We walked home, one of the few customers who arrived by bus and went home by foot. As we walked down our street, we got to see a 99% full moon peeking out through the clouds.
Yolis at the Comedor
A food court at the market. If we return to Oaxaca, we need to eat in places like this. Cheaper than the restaurants. The owner had a teenage son “helping” her, but really he was messing with his cell phone. She gave him the universal hand gesture to put down his phone and get to work. When I paid the bill, I said, again in my mediocre Spanish, that it is the same all over the world with young people. Her eyerolling expression said it all.
Biznaga - Snack and Dinner
This is a good beer. I drank two waiting for my duck taco. We came back for dinner. Very nice. Just kind of a calm space except when the fireworks were shot off overhead, but only for forty-five seconds.|
Urgencias y Funerales
Every day, leaving and returning to our apartment, we pass a large crowd overflowing the sidewalk at the gated entry to the emergency room at the hospital. Backpacks are hung on the gate. Food vendors provide sustenance for folks either waiting to be seen, to visit, or to bring food to patients inside. According to Madai, security has been tightened since someone wearing white and masquerading as a nurse or doctor stole a baby from the hospital. Every day we also pass a conveniently located “funerales” business with its fancy, expensive coffins on display through the open door. They open at odd times, presumably because they receive information from the ER, or families, when someone has died. Death seems to be a more accepted part of life in Mexico, with Day of the Dead , November 1, an important occasion.
If We Return...
Study way more Spanish before coming.
Find a way to be more social.
Invite some people to join us.
Find a volunteer job.
Prepare a project
Buy more flowers
Take more taxis, especially at the end of the day.
Visit more galleries.
Find one local coffee shop.
Odds and Ends
We got to a couple more live music events this past week, including the full symphony orchestra’s excellent rendition of three crowd pleasers: Rossini’s overture to The Thieving Magpie, a Rachmaninov piano concerto, and Smetana’s Moldau Symphony. Phew, again free entry. We also returned to the small venue and paid for tickets for another chamber performance by the Cruz family. This time the fourteen year old son was managing box office and not performing. Sad to say, the adults didn’t seem up to par. Pitch problems from young, up and coming students are certainly forgivable. The same issues coming from the teachers are a little harder to accept.
Today we decided we had to buy a few alebrijes. These are fantastical carved and painted wooden creatures that have become an artesan tradition in Oaxaca. Pictured are two that lived in our apartment. What we bought are much smaller. Curious readers can research their history on the net!
And here’s a nice picture that Stphen took wandering around while Dawn was speaking Spanish at the Lending Library. We will make this picture our farewell, and shortly after we headed home. That meant flying to Mexico City and after a long wait flying Jet Blue straight back to Boston. Customs was easy and we were soon home.