Friday, May 12, 2017

A Visit to the Livestock Market

oxen for sale
Today, I visited the Zachila livestock market with my Spanish teacher, Luis. We took an early bus to the zocalo and travelled about 30 minutes to a more rural town. Chickens, goats, pigs and oxen were for sale.
a Pair of Oaxacan tractors
The farmers of the Oaxaca valleys do not have modern equipment. The land is dry and poor for feeding animals. It costs thousands of pesos to buy a pair of oxen.


wooden farm equipment

It was interesting for me to visit the mercado. I had not realized that to own an animal was a source of relative prosperity to a Oaxacan family. A few years ago, a teacher with whom I was working introduced me to Heifer International. A lucky niece received a card for Christmas saying that she had given a goat to some lucky girl.

Heifer International supplies chickens, pigs and oxen to Oaxaqueño recipients. Until I did a bit of research, I did not know that Heifer International has a office just a couple of blocks from where I am living. It's too late now for me to visit them but maybe next year.
a few pigs
I'm almost ready to leave Oaxaca. It's been a different sort of a vacation. A doctor visit with Janet,
cucarachas, meeting many fascinating people, wearing fewer than 33 items of clothing in almost 3 months, Spanish lessons and library work....I have learned about life challenges, politics and education from Luis and I have taught him a little about Canada and Shetland. More than Spanish lessons, I have had an opportunity to discuss in Spanish. I still may have a problem with the imperfect and past perfect subjunctive but I've learned a lot. Luis had me watch some short films on Youtube. Guan Jondred Dolars tells the story well.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Week Nine

el estudio rosa

For eight weeks, I have been living in the pink studio in Oaxaca. My living quarters are slightly smaller than my bedroom at home. My kitchen, at the other end of the courtyard, consists of a hotplate, a microwave and a refrigerator. We are at the end of four months of dry weather and water is scarce. In just over a week, I will be back to the West Coast of Canada where hopefully the May sun will be shining.
This work is done by men with mallets and shovels.
There is no significant rainfall in Oaxaca from October until May. There are two ways to obtain household water: by truck delivery or by the city water system which is very old. There used to an aqueduct system but it has fallen into disrepair. The water sources have been contaminated long ago due to lack of environmental protection and climate change has meant longer dry periods with occasional flash floods. I buy bottled drinking water but there is no recycling program for the plastic.
In Oaxaca, drinking water, sewage and garbage services have been neglected while the city's population continues to grow.

my last resort
Eight weeks ago, when I arrived with my long-departed friend, Janet, the plan was for Janet to sleep on a cot or inflatable mattress because I had booked solo accommodation a year earlier. Not to be! The first night, Janet discovered cucarachas under the desk and in the bathroom. Janet moved up into the bed for the rest of her visit.

I have not been bothered too much by my insect room-mates except for one night last week when I was sure that someone had broken into my studio and was rustling through my papers. What to do? A friend had told me of a home invasion where one of the library volunteers was tied up in a closet...Okay, don't let your mind....I turned on my bedside light to see that a cucaracha  fiesta was going on under the desk. I grabbed the  spray bottle of soapy water that Janet concocted and started to spray. You have to be careful because the soap makes the tile floor slippery. They scurried.

In my travels, I visited a store of natural Oaxacan products. Featured near the entrance of the store, was a display of natural cockroach killer. I really don't even like the name in English. I talked to the ladies in the store about my needs and I purchased the product. Home I went and sprayed behind the toilet, around the shower drain and under the desk. The concoction smells of rancid chicken fat. I've tried to locate the ingredients online but the webpage just says that it is made of all biological ingredients.  Fortunately, I have seen no cockroaches either dead or alive.

Sometimes, I feel lonely in Oaxaca. I have a schedule of library (Monday-Wednesday-Friday ) volunteer days and Tuesday-Thursday Spanish classes. I always find books to read, Netlix or iTunes
movies and friendly restaurant servers. There are two other American women living full-time in my compound. They work online but we share a glass of wine or a hello from time to time. I don't know them well but I wonder what it would be like living here year-round.

I have lived 9 weeks with a very small wardrobe. I launder t-shirts and underwear and take my linen
pants and tunics to the lavandería. The laundress is very friendly and my clothes are clean and pressed.

Am I glad to go home? I miss family and friends but What's App makes communication easy. The weather in Vancouver has been relentlessly grey since I left home (a bit brighter this week) and in Oaxaca, almost all of my time is spent outside. I am eager to cook a meal, plant a spring garden and to go to book club and to church.




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Looking Around

the palm sellers
On Sundays, in Oaxaca, there's lots of activity. It's not a window-shopping city like Paris but it  is interesting to visit the Zocalo. This Sunday was Palm Sunday (Ramos) so the people were creating all sorts of palm decorations to be sold for Semana Santa (Holy Week).

busy fingers
There will be many processions and decorations this week. Tonight, the reliquaries from seven
churches will be paraded through the streets. There are a lot of free organ concerts as well.
I'm not accustomed to this kind of pageantry but it does make the city colourful.
Big Boy
If religious parades are not your thing, the art scene in Oaxaca is vibrant and free. There used to be flying tortillas in this  open space gallery and now there is a giant sculpture. Each day, I see something new.

This cactus blooms for only one day.
One morning, I came out to my patio to see a giant blossom on a very small nondescript cactus
The next day, it was gone.
Disappeared!
Life in Oaxaca is rich in art, music and food! The shortage of water is troubling and the smell of the tap water (sulphurous) is sometimes off putting in my little studio. I love the blue skies and pleasant temperatures but I am not crazy about Carlos the Cockroach or the spiderwebs full of mosquitoes that hang from the ceiling.

Garbage is a real problem here because I am personally responsible for getting rid of any garbage that I create. Toilet paper can't be flushed and must be bagged. All garbage is picked up ( if you put a sign out ) by men with push carts and brooms. You give the men a few pesos and they take the garbage somewhere!!!
Our garbage man's name is Pepe and we hang a sign over the gate. He rings the bell to come in and takes away the garbage.
If you can't wait in for the passing-by of Pepe, you are obliged to carry your bag of garbage with you and to approach another garbage man on the street. I would not like to carry a double-bagged bag of
personal garbage too far.

I'm getting a bit tired of my blue/beige wardrobe but it is practical and I might try to  keep up the routine when I get home I have two pair of sand-coloured linen pants with linen tops, two pair of khaki capris, a beige tencel skirt and blue and white t-shirts. I have a blue cardigan and a blue pullover. Even without a washer or ironing board, I manage by taking clothing to the lavandería
(laundry) infrequently. It's not humid here and I change out of my street clothes as early as possible.
The streets are treacherous with high curbs and uneven sidewalks so I have been wearing my blue
SAS mary-jane shoes almost every day. I'll probably need to replace them when I get home. I brought another pair of blue/silver loafers but they just are not as comfortable as the SAS shoes.

Today, as my Spanish class was cancelled, I am planning to read, write, sketch (perhaps) and go out a
bit later for comida.  I only eat two meals a day and I alternate salad with chicken or seafood with a Mexican style meal.


grilled white fish with spinach and pureed yam

As I enter my seventh week, I get a  little homesick. The bulbs that I planted in the fall are blooming at home. My husband sends me pictures of our little dog. But as I look at the blue sky above me as I sit outside writing, I really don't miss the Vancouver weather.