Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oaxaca Appreciation Day

Well, we passed our first year in beautiful Oaxaca and I realized that I was spending all day on writing and editing assignments and weekends doing chores, errands, homework, and less and less time appreciating the place I chose to live.

So, I want to reflect on recent Oaxaca adventures, to remind myself not to take it all for granted. We took some friends into Octolan to visit the market and it was sublime. An old lady had her honey in old coffee jars, and we bought a jar that had a couple bees floating in it. The most delicious honey ever, which could be maybe not the best discovery, actually.

We took the guests over to Calle Mina and hit the chocolate factories. I know everyone loves Mayordomo, as do I, and that the Chowhound foodies go on about booth...83? the Juarez Market, but I'm all about La Soledad. Sentimental, maybe, as it was the first spot I hit in Oaxaca when I arrived 11 years ago (well, the first spot after the second class bus station which, really, is not worth getting sentimental about). But I like that it's named for Oaxaca's patron saint, the Virgen of Soledad, or Solitude, which was an art piece I did years ago that Jenny's put on her CD release of her one-woman show. I also enjoy their free samples and it seems to me that, whenever I go, the men in the party appreciate that there is a little mezcal-tasting area.

We went to the Mercado de Artesanias recently, which always involves the requisite 20 minutes of getting lost and the asking of directions to at least three people. On the way, I found bootleg Hello Kitty pjs, sorta ugly cute, for two bucks. Genevieve was delighted, immediately pulling the shirt on over her legs.

I was out in the campo today, chaperoning a field trip, and the hills were startlingly green, even the rocky outcroppings by Yagul that always look like faces carved into a lunar landscape. But there I was, on a field trip, with naughty Yeni to reign in, junk food to buy for Max, and the inevitable dishes, sweeping, and all when I got home. Somewhere in the daily life drudgery hides those freaky rocky cliffs or, at least, the taste of chocolate, the kind with chilis or cinammon ground in, no milk--it's an edgy kind of sweet, which suits me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Flutter Away

The worries fluttered away when Yeni woke up healthy and cheerful and went to school without wailing. The moment we entered her classroom, I knew things would be cool because Yeni ran over and started rearranging chairs. She always moves furniture when she's happy.

It makes me think about what I do when I'm happy, here in Oaxaca. I sometimes find myself singing in public. I may buy a shirt, or an agua fresca. But I think what I tend to do most is joyfully stare out the windows. Maybe create a little windowsill scenario integrating toys, art, and good luck charms, like a mini-art installation or altar.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Counting out worries

I like to think I'm carefree, but I think it's time to sort out my worries.

Today: The first day of school worries about friends, teachers, homework. It's over. We made it through the first day! Max made new friends. Geni shrieked as though the world was ending.

Tonight: Yeni took a tumble off the couch. Not even a cookie could stop the tears. Now we check on her every hour to make sure she's breathing while she sleeps. Weird flames and smoke are rising down the block. Steve researched it: two little old ladies delighted with themselves for doing a controlled burn on their yard.

Soon: Can I get this wretched cast off? Will my latest writing gig pan out? Am I just blindly stumbling through this life?

September: I'm supposed to get my mammogram. Damn.

One worry I had last year was based on what other expat families told me: nobody visits you after the first year abroad. I'm happy to say the second year started with visitors in July. We get Leslie and Garth this weekend. Then we have two rounds in October, one late Nov-Dec., Mikey and Marcia in Jan., and two more rounds Feb-March. This is great news for us, and particularly for the kids who always want fresh victims.

Maybe I can send my worries up to the sky, adrift with those sparks those ladies are cackling over. Maybe I can decide that, left to their own devices, many of those worries resolve themselves.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Butterflies for Lunch

I was trying to insert sparkly clips in my hair, using my left hand, and a wave of nervousness washed over me. For what? School starts tomorrow! I can't believe it could affect me so, but here it is, Max going to 2nd grade and Yeni on her first year of preescolar. The Kung Fu Panda and Sponge Bob backpacks are straining under the weight of too many notebooks. The Taz and Flintstones lunch boxes hold yogurt and pasta and carrots.

Yesterday we had the good fortune to meet Nina and Miguel, Inoa and Caio, and Max was thrilled to hear Inoa would be in his class. A friend! He says he's ready for school, hardly nervous.

And me, a little bit of a wreck. Because what I can't prepare for is that moment when they see their new teachers. Please let the teachers be kind!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Good times

A couple of great days amid a rather sleep-deprived summer. Yesterday, I got the stitches out of my head. It took two seconds and cost two bucks. Max and I walked to the children's library where he stacked up 20 books in Spanish and read through them all. I felt a little useless, my favorite feeling to have around children. Autonomy!

Max got a chemistry set and Steve was very funny, getting very controlling about it. So I took over and everyone was happier. Max loves holding test tubes over candle flames, watching the substances bubble. Then we played a round of the Mad Magazine game. We'd lost the dice, so we had to hold out fingers on the count of three, add it up, and make our moves. Yeni decided to use her potty, singing "yayayayay" after each visit.

We hit Dr. Manuelita's office for a little pendulum-swinging to determine Yeni's bedtime rebellion. The diagnosis was that something frightened her. We got some natural remedy and Yeni went to bed in 5 minutes. Coincidence?

Today was more experiments, more potty, and a visit to pay the water bill. Mexico's largely a cash economy, so you don't send checks to pay bills. You go to the office and pay. So we braved downtown traffic and double-parked in front of the water bill office to pay our $2.60 bill. And it was right next to a great sock store, so Max y Yeni loaded up on cartoony sox, 12 for $6 on sale.

Still typing with one hand, but getting around better. August is slow for writing jobs so I've decided it's a good month for a writer to break her arm.

Friday: Ocotlan with Leslie, my old Worldview partner-in-crime!