Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Musings

a very different Christmas tree

I am not really a Christmas sort of person. Not Ebenezer Scrooge but an easily overwhelmed introvert. I enjoy friendships and spending quiet time alone. I don't enjoy large dinner tables of noisy people and generally prefer to visit with individual friends or family members.  I do not enjoy a superfluity of activity or of  social obligations.

This is the first year in the last five that I have not visited Paris! A touch of austerity was called for but, as I did visit Oaxaca and New York City, I really must not complain. However, Monsieur, who does not frequently buy me gifts, came home with an unexpected treat. At Canadian Tire (a giant hardware and automotive retailer), he discovered an illuminated Eiffel Tour. As we live on the third floor of an apartment, I usually limit myself to an arrangement of fir boughs, pussywillows and holly.
This year our gifts are arranged around La Tour Eiffel. It is the unexpected touch of thoughtfulness (merci Monsieur) that brings me pleasure.
the monks
Every year, my parents used to visit the monasteries in California. They purchased these monks at different places and I chose to take them when Maman downsized. They remind me of an early family driving trip along El Camino Real in California. My Dad stopped at every historical marker on every road between Vancouver and San Diego. We followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clarke, Captain James Cooke and  Father Junipero Serra. It is three years this January that my Dad died and when I look at the monks or at his Captain Cooke book, I am grateful for a wonderful gift that he gave me:the love of history. (Thanks, Dad).
my vintage Christmas stocking
My great-great aunt bought this stocking for my very first Christmas. She was a very important influence in my first 20 years. My great-great aunt was raised in a convent after her mother died giving birth to her 9th and 10th children (twins!) She became a governess to a diplomatic family and lived throughout Europe before coming to Canada. Unmarried, she taught school and lead a quiet life
accumulating a few thin leather volumes of Dickens, Eliot and Trollope (which now sit on a shelf in my den) and some small watercolours. I love the small framed picture of Lisieux that sits on my bookshelf. She brought me clippings from French books and was always ready to share a quiet moment's discussion with a nerdy, introverted teen-ager.  My love of Europe, especially France, and the experience of a wise elder are greater gifts than the chocolates, oranges or knickknacks than I have received in my stocking over the years. Thank you, Auntie Francie and may I learn to be a wise elder in my family.
nativity scene from my childhood
I did not grow up in a religious household. I attended  Sunday School for a few years but it made little impact on my daily life. Christmas was about gifts, decorations, food and family. About 5 years ago, I began to attend my local church. I like the proximity of it (a block away), I like the music and I have met so many interesting and inspiring people. Sunday, I listened to a beautiful Christmas cantata and I felt a peace and a balance that help me to deal with the more overwhelming aspects of the season. I feel more generous and connected with others through the Church. I like the minister and the freedom that we are given "to treat the Scriptures seriously but not literally." Christmas is an excellent time to consider the gifts that we have been given and to contemplate how we can share them with others in the New Year.

I wish you all a peaceful and happy time whatever you do!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dona Nobis Pacem

a fallen angel in the Marais

Last night, a song that we have sung for the last few weeks at church, kept playing in my head. Do you know Dona Nobis Pacem? It means "give us peace." Right now, it seems to me that peace is the most important thing that we can pray/wish/ work for. Personal peace or world all has to start somewhere. I feel a "better and more peaceful me" when I go to church to sing, pray and think about how I can make a difference in the world.

My favourite children's book is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. As a young girl, Alice is advised by her grandfather to travel the world and meet its people, to come home to live by the sea, and to find a way to make the world more beautiful. Good advice for those of us in our older years.

on the road to Compostella
I usually feel peaceful when I travel. It is more difficult to find peace at home and like Alice, I'm not sure how I can make the world a more beautiful place. I have been looking for volunteer opportunities to help with the refugees who will be coming and I may become a community mentor.
I really enjoy exposure to different cultures and I miss teaching so, hopefully, it will be a win/win.

My grandfather grew up near the church on Whalsay.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Muralist, a Meeting, and Some Observations

So timely!
I  recently purchased  The Muralist,  a novel by B.A. Shapiro. Murals interest me. The global community murals in Brooklyn, the historical or political art in Oaxaca or the street art in Paris...I always stop to admire the skill and to ponder the significance.

The opening quotation in The Muralist is
Eleanor's failure to force her husband to admit more refugees remained her deepest regret at the end of her life.
-Doris Kearns Goodwin

The historical novel deals with the unwillingness of the world to accept Jewish refugees from Europe.
"Not enough jobs", "might be spies or communists", "it's not our problem" were commonly voiced
sentiments at the time.  As we face another era of mass human displacement, these same words are being repeated.
Rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish quarter of Paris, displays another piece of "wall art."  French Jews were deported from this neighbourhood during WW2 and the street was the site of a terrorist bombing in 1982.
Refugees and their resettlement seem to be an almost insurmountable problem. Canada has promised to accept 25,000 and already some provincial and municipal leaders are shaking their heads. We live in one of the most prosperous and underpopulated countries in the world. We gladly open our doors to wealthy immigrants and then complain about their relative affluence. On Sunday, I listened to a speaker from the United Church of Canada explain the selection and sponsorship process for refugees. Members of our community will be helping a Syrian family to live in our neighbourhood.

Last night, my small reading/discussion group talked about "little acts of welcome and assistance."
None of us has the power to end a civil war on the other side of the world nor to eliminate terrorism but we each have some small skill that might be of use in the resettlement process.
The Mexican artists are some of the most skilled muralists.
I am still reading The Muralist but I suspect that the ending will be a sad one as there was no country willing to accept the Jewish refugees. Hopefully, seventy years later, we have learned to look beyond our own interests, suspicions and fears and to open our country to those who need a safe place to live.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Autumn Days

scarecrows in the streets
This is the longest stretch that I have spent at home since I retired four years ago. As cooler, shorter days draw near, I find myself spending a lot more time reading and sorting through cupboards and drawers. I have resisted buying much this year and there is another blue bag in the trunk of the car. The charity shop will benefit from my clearouts.

I love literary festivals!
This is my second year as a volunteer at the Writers' Festival. I really enjoy learning about books and authors. This year, I volunteered at some French-Canadian writers' presentations to school groups and  at a panel discussion about the Italian author, Elena Ferrante. I just started MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, the first book in the Neapolitan series.

So far the description of the childhood relationship of two girls growing up in 1950's Naples is fascinating. Ferrante captures the rivalries, ambivalence and love of the two girls as they grow from preschoolers to young adults. I'm looking forward to the next book.

We've had a lot of lovely autumn days.
I attended another book discussion group in my neighbourhood. It was my first time so I had not read the book ahead of time. THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature last year and is now on my "to-read" list. It sounds a little "gritty" but I will borrow it from the library and make the effort to read it.

autumn colours 
A few weeks ago, La Duchesse wrote about her friends' methods of weight maintenance. I have not been very careful since returning from Mexico and have found myself rather curvier than I wish to be. I tracked using My Fitness Pal for a week and found that I was eating about 500 calories too many a day. It is not magic but once I am aware weight management becomes easier. But the very wise Duchesse also wrote a blog about "Dressing a Weight Gain." It is so important to dress well and to love ourselves as we are at this moment rather than to wait until we reach the "magical size."

at home with us
Our summer/autumn project has been our puppy. I have never chosen a puppy and raised it. Monsieur does not really want to travel much but my daughter has assured me that she will be a willing foster parent should M. and I travel together sometime. We live on the third floor of an apartment building so housetraining is crucial. Our puppy is now 5 months old and is learning to live with us. She is fearful and barks when she meets strangers outside of the apartment but she is starting classes this month and I am sure that she will become more sociable. 

Daylight Savings ends next weekend and  Los Muertos and Hallowe'en mark the steady progress towards the long days of winter. The leaves are almost gone and the skies are grey but my pile of books is growing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why Travel and Why Write about It?

I find that travel blogs are the easiest for me to write. Perhaps that is because, since my retirement, I have spent many months away from home. Whether studying in Paris, visiting relatives in the Shetland Islands or volunteering in Oaxaca, travel has been my teacher. I find that the world can be my personal school room and that there is so much that I do not know.

a schoolyard surrounded by art

This week, I am in New York City, celebrating my daughter's 40th birthday.  The best laid plans went out the window when a series of unfortunate (???) events took us from the stylish apartment that I had booked to a clean but cozy (we eat sitting on the bed) hotel room in Brooklyn.

I have discovered that 20% of the inhabitants of Brooklyn are Hispanic (mostly Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian). PS 24 in Sunset Park,  my nearest elementary school, has 91% Spanish-speaking students and has developed a dual-track English/Spanish programme where about half of the student population is taught in both languages each day. English classes are held in the school for parents and Pre-Kindergarten is available. The teacher/pupil ratio is 1:12. Ninety-six percent of the students are eligible for free or subsidized lunch.


I was attracted to this school by the series of murals that decorate the wall surrounding it. The murals were created by The Groundswell Community Art Project. They depict the ethnic origins of the students (Black, Muslim and Chinese as well as Hispanic), the arts, music, sports and learning activities, community connections and some commentary on migration. I drive my daughter a little crazy each time we pass the school on the way to the subway. I have to look and photograph.

I live in a district where more than 60% of the population speaks a language other than English at home. Contrary to the Sunset Park, Brooklyn model, our immigrants are better-off financially than their Canadian-born neighbours. Large newly-built homes, which are often vacant, block the sunlight of the modest bungalows of long-time residents. Canada, by choosing immigrants based on a strictly financial basis, has created a situation that is problematic and seems to be without a solution.

Who should be the gatekeepers?
We are all the descendants of immigrants who chose to look for a better life. We are the children of younger sons who had no land to inherit, those who saw little opportunity in the homeland and those who needed a "fresh start".  With this in mind, we should willingly extend our hospitality to others, especially those in need.

Travel helps me to think about home in a different way. It is much more for me than what I wore (not very interesting this trip) or what I ate (really tasty choices but probably not great for the blood pressure).

Today, we will take a ferry from Battery Park to visit Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration.
But first, we get to walk to the subway yet another time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All's Well that Ends Well!

For more than a year, my daughter and I have been planning a week's getaway to New York to celebrate her fortieth birthday. As I am wont to do, I have looked at rentals and  neighbourhoods to find the best possible situation. Our Canadian dollar has dropped in value considerably so a Manhattan hotel was not in the cards this year.

the lights

During previous trips to New York, I have stayed in older hotels near Times Square. The hustle-bustle, proximity to theatres, sights and lights hold an allure for us but we had decided to stay in Jersey City where we could rent an apartment with a kitchen, a gym, and a swimming pool for less money! It seemed ideal...Until 12 hours before we were boarding the plane, I received an e-mail from that the apartment for which I had already paid more than $2000 Canadian was unavailable!!! How could that be? offered me another hotel (no kitchen, no gym, no pool) in Brooklyn for the same price but I still needed to get back my money from the first rental or non rental! It was 10:00 pm Sunday night in New York so I really was in no position to quibble. The 24 hour Canadian phone number for is out of service anyway.

A really sleepless night! Note my overuse of exclamation marks. I had to cancel my Airport Shuttle and find a way to get from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn in rush hour. We required a town car as there really is no simple way. Our driver was not familiar with the route so at one point, he left us in the car, stopped in the road and enquired somewhere (I don't understand).

After 24 hours of extreme uncertainty, my daughter and I arrived in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn.
Life does not always turn out as we plan. On Sunday, our minister talked about the futility of worrying..It was the lilies of the field sermon. As it happens, Sunset Park is more than 50% hispanic

Sunset Park brownstone

I love to be where another language is spoken, where there are mama y papa vegetable stores, Mexican delis and bodegas. Last night, I convinced Daughter to try an Ecuadorean restaurant, El Tesoro Ecuadoriano. I love to try different foods but my daughter is a little more wary. I had a cazuela de mariscos, (fish stew with a tomato broth thickened with plantains)which was delicious. My daughter has decided that we need to go back another night.

Sunset park was Brooklyn's first park

Today we wandered down our own (Brooklyn's) Fifth Avenue with its food smells, its dark-eyed mothers and babies, its windows filled with religious ornaments, hula hoops, phone cards for Central America and $3.00 hoodies. So different from its counterpart on the other side of the river!

Tomorrow is Mexican Independence Day
We will be buying our transit pass and heading to Manhattan most days but without this unforeseen
adventure, we would have missed a really interesting and affordable neighbourhood.

Monday, August 31, 2015

September:A Time for New Starts

September in the vineyard
This is the fifth September that I have been retired. Each year, our Retired Teachers' Association has
a "Start School without Me" luncheon at a local golf club. I attended the first year after my retirement but in subsequent years, I have chosen to go out with my ever-increasing group of retired friends. Since I started school in 1959, September has always seemed to be a time for making plans.

Didn't we look different 56 years ago?
This September, I will be visiting New York City with my daughter in celebration of her fortieth birthday. Our Canadian dollar has taken a nosedive since we planned this trip a year ago. We will be renting an apartment in Jersey City and commuting to Manhattan. I enjoy fruit and yogurt in the morning with my coffee so we will definitely be eating our morning meal in Jersey.

The new "Peopling of America" exhibit opened on Ellis Island in May of this year. I have always been fascinated by the history of migrations so I am especially looking forwards to visiting.

On the same theme is the The Tenement Museum on Orchard Street in the Lower East Village. Guided tours, some with actors depicting immigrants to New York, are available at the museum.

M. and I will not be heading south this year so I finally joined the Seniors' Centre (except my card says "Active Adult.") It is worth noting that yoga classes are less than half price at the Centre. I have also volunteered to do "front of house" or "walk an author" this year at the Vancouver Writers' Festival. This year, I would like to see John Vaillant, who wrote The Jaguar's Children, a novel about a migration from Oaxaca to the United States. Volunteers are eligible for some free tickets so it is very much a win/win opportunity.

Every year, I buy a subscription to our local theatre productions and I always miss half of the shows.
This year, I plan to be in town for all of them. I belong to a small group of people who meet for discussion twice a month and I will be attending an Elder Scholar series on World Affairs.

I took this photo from the Staten Island ferry.
I am not a very athletic woman. In the past, I done a lot of walking but my natural inclination is to read a lot. I will make an effort to go to our indoor pool  and to do weights at the community centre across the street twice a week. My pool is free and as an "AA" (Active Adult), the centre is inexpensive. Tilde needs to get more shots and to feel comfortable with the leash before we can do much walking.

I still have too many clothes. It takes all my willpower not to succumb to autumn purchases. Josephine at Chic at Any Age wrote a blog earlier this week on Planning your Wardrobe for the New Season. There is a lot of work yet to be done in my closet.

"The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many."
-   Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Home Time

It is impossible for me to travel all of the time. During the last four years, I have been away for almost half the year. In British Columbia, where I live, our provincial medical insurance is based on being in the province for a least 6 months of the year. It is possible to extend this but most retirees stick to the 6 months rule.
Who wouldn't like to live in Paris?
I have found that the most expensive aspect of long-stay travel in Europe has been housing. In Paris, I have chosen apartments in proximity to the Sorbonne, Seine and major museums and art galleries. If I had been prepared for a longer commute, I could have chosen apartments further out but I may have sacrificed ease of movement or security.

This year, was my first "frugal" vacation. Volunteer vacations or overseas teaching are rewarding adventures. My brother, who visited me in Oaxaca, is currently employed as the superintendent of a British Columbia offshore school in Cairo. Retirement can provide the time for paid or unpaid adventures.

Monsieur and I attended Ageless Pursuits at the University of British Columbia this summer. It was an interesting experience and our professor had taught Monsieur back in the 1960's. We attended lectures on Migrants of the 20th and 21st centuries and on the culture of Ancient Athens. I plan to enroll in a weekly lecture/discussion series this fall. As a repeat student (no, I did not fail!), I received a voucher for $75 off my next course. Monsieur, who has passed the age of 65, can audit any class for free. We are both interested in a variety of topics and we now have the freedom to study what we wish.
our new family member
Our strata has finally changed a "no-pets policy".  Since I plan to be around this winter and Monsieur is certainly not a traveller, we have adopted a puppy. Tilde is 13 weeks old and has been with us for 5 weeks. I spend time with Tilde every day teaching her to live with us in the apartment. 

I have been "curating" my wardrobe and books. Four years into retirement, my clothing needs are fewer. I enjoy the freedom of suitcase living and hope to eventually live with a minimalist wardrobe.
I started with weeding 5 items a week but after 10 weeks, decisions are becoming more difficult.

Our community library in "The Core" where I live is the recipient of a lot of books as I weed my library. I like to shelve and organize books and I occasionally meet another resident who particularly enjoys mystery novels.

This week, the weather changed. I have enjoyed warm sunshine for the last 6 months. This morning, I had to close the storm windows on the balcony, rain is falling and the trees are blowing. Perhaps the forest fires will be controlled. 

Leaves are changing early from lack of rain and children get ready for school. A couple of teacher friends face their first retirement year. A change is definitely in the air!

painting by unknown local artist from the Steveston Grand Prix of Art

In Steveston, every September, there is a one-day open air painting event.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

All Things Considered

a glyph at Monte Albán

It is two weeks since I returned home from Oaxaca. It always takes me a bit of time to readjust and Monsieur has lived 10 weeks without me. Our ways of being are quite different and the return home is always a challenge for both of us.

French literature is my passion!
Both Oaxaca and Paris offer opportunities to experience the language, history and culture of another country. I have always been interested in learning about different cultures. As an undergraduate,  I was fascinated by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Montparnasse, the Latin Quarter…. More than anything, I wanted to be a European! The West Coast of Canada was not a very cosmopolitan place at that time.

I am a Canadian with a soupçon of Québecoise blood flowing through my veins. In school, every Canadian student studies French. Lots of my contemporaries will tell you that they did not learn any French although it was compulsory for a few years. Language learning does not occur without interest and effort.  Spanish was offered in my high school when I was in Grade 10 so I was able to study a third language. I never really thought of Mexico except as a tourist destination.  Mexico is rich in history but until I studied the art of MesoAmerica at university, I really had no idea.
We really don't know much about pre-hispanic Mexico because the conquistadores tore down buildings and destroyed the records.

I love to wander the streets of a city, pausing to read historic markers. Interestingly, both Oaxaca and Paris provide information about the origin of street names on the street signs. In Oaxaca, you have to watch the pavement as well because it is very uneven. Apparently, every year there are visitors on crutches. The windows of Paris provide a never-ending display of beautiful merchandise. I can wander on Sundays and I am never tired of window displays.
Paris windows are works of art.
There are no display windows in Oaxaca. Sometimes when a door is open, I glimpsed a lovely courtyard. When I was consciously looking for a shop or service, I found the address and located the business. I don't know if it is concerns over privacy and security or the limited use of glass for fear of earthquake but there is definitely no window shopping in Oaxaca. On the other hand, there might be a simple sign indicating a free art gallery which is often in a restored colonial building.
During the time I was in Oaxaca, I volunteered about 15 hours a week. Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people. My cousin goes to dances wherever she travels. When I was in Paris, I studied French. In both cities, I have taken cooking classes or food tours. I have attended church services in Oaxaca and in Paris.
A Oaxaqueña cooking on a comal stove.
I was careful about my food choices in Oaxaca and I had no "tummy troubles." Ironically, Janet and I had food poisoning in Paris two years ago. 

No comparison would be complete without a considering the cost. I usually pay about 1800-2300 euros a month for a Paris rental. My rationale is that anything less than $100 a night for a major city is a bargain. I paid $800 for a month in Oaxaca and most ex-pats pay about $400. Food is very inexpensive and a whole day tour to one of the archeological sites is less than $20. As I advance in my retirement years, money becomes more of a consideration. There is no doubt that retired Americans and Canadians choose Mexico as a second home because it offers a gracious lifestyle for a limited budget. For those facing expensive medical, dental and drug costs at home, Mexico provides US-trained doctors and dentists along with greatly reduced pharmaceutical costs. Older ex-pats hire Mexicans as live-in companions. 

I will always be a francophile! It's not an affectation, it's who I have been all of my life. Paris will always be my "spiritual home." My husband claims that he doesn't like either city… Brother Beto, his Oaxacan name, he's really Bob has become a global educator since his retirement. He signs all of his correspondence: "It's all part of the adventure. Walk another path."

Oaxaca has been my "other path" this year and I know that I will go back to the Lending Library and the Learning Centre. I already miss the conversations that I had about politics, social reform and books.
I miss the grocer at the Miscellanea where I bought a single cold "cerveza" to drink on my patio. 

It will take me a while  to "settle" but this week I met with my French student, attended Bible study 
and met a friend for lunch. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have to pursue my interests in retirement.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

May Musings

May is usually time for me to return home to Vancouver.  Since I have retired, I have spent the early spring months away from home. Summer is a lovely time at home and we are lucky to have an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool at my apartment complex.
lithography workshop on my street
One of the aspects of life at home that I do not enjoy is the reliance on the automobile. When I walk out  on the street here, I pass miscellanea (corner grocery stores) on almost every corner. The taco stands feed the people and pedlars walk along selling fruit and vegetables. La Merced Market is a block away and there are many small (almost invisible) restaurants and shops.
a taco stand on a nearby corner
The squares and plazas are colourful with pedlars and blossoms.
outside Santo Domingo
I walk past the grocery store every day and the security guard waves at me. I have found favourite restaurants and because I eat at off-hours for Oaxaca, I often have conversations with the waiters.

There is always music in Oaxaca.

There is always music in Oaxaca. At San Pablo, a cultural complex, you can sit with a coffee and listen to music. I think that I may go for breakfast today. It's Saturday so I don't have my library volunteer job.
There are lots of activities each week
In Oaxaca, there is no need to have a large entertainment budget. Most galleries are free or charge less than $5 Canadian. Galleries are usually located in restored colonial buildings and offer a respite from the heat. The Spanish knew what they were doing when they built the cool interior courtyards.
a beautiful gallery on my street
As a solo woman traveller, I have met a lot of people during my visit. Waiters and shopkeepers are friendly if you smile and greet them when you pass. Through my volunteer work, I have met lots of ex-pats who have invited me to join them for meals or activities. Once the "snowbirds" leave at the end of March, there are fewer organized ex-pat activities.  The Lending Library has a website that lists "Things to Do" and  I check it every week.

I have spent 9 weeks in Mexico (8 alone and 1 with my brother). It is definitely easier to convince people to visit me in Paris. It's a long time alone and I have felt lonely sometimes. Skype and FaceTime do provide a connection with home. 

If you are a solo woman traveller, I would recommend Oaxaca as a destination. I have felt safe every moment of my visit. There is no need to carry a lot of cash around. I spend less than $30 Canadian a day and I eat in middle class restaurants. If I were more daring with my food, I could get along on half of that. 

I don't go out alone at night but I am sure that if I wished to, I could find another woman to share a taxi with. 

Mother's Day is on Sunday. I am feeling a bit sad and eager to go home as I heard about the death of an old family friend yesterday. I have known her since I was born and she played a significant role during my girlhood. 

I was wondering where I spent last Mother's Day. iPhoto's last 12 month feature supplied me with the info. It seems a long time ago.
Last Mother's Day I was a Moorlands in Devon.
I was walking the coastal path in England last May. How far away is that! The flowers were in bloom and there were lambs.

I have not done very much writing since I have been here. I seem to be "on the go" too much but I am reminded by my photos of Moorlands' most famous visitor.
Agatha wrote her first mystery at Moorlands
It is coming up four years since my retirement. I have indeed travelled the world since then!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Perfect Red

a  cochineal painting of Oaxaca de Juaréz

When the Spaniards first came to Mexico, they were amazed by the brilliant red colour of the blankets of the Aztec nobles. They learned that the dye for these blankets was paid as tribute by some people who lived to the south. The source of the colour was a type of cactus  beetle that produces carminic acid as a means of protection. A few weeks ago, I was able to visit a site where the cochineal is produced.
Today there are very few cochineal plantations.

The beetle lives on nopal cactus that grow in the desert areas of Oaxaca state.
The cacti are cultivated on the plantation.
Nests are placed on healthy cacti.
The eggs begin to hatch and leave the nest.
Clean, fertile females are placed in "Zapotec nests" to be fertilized by the males. They are kept at a temperature of about 27degreesC. As the eggs hatch, the mites leave the nest and infest the nopal.
The nopales are infested.
Only the females survive to feed on the nopales. They are harvested after about 90 days.
The cochineal must be cleaned and sorted.
It takes 80,000 to 100,000 insects to make one kilogram of dye. Once, second only to silver as an export of Mexico, today the cochineal dye in Oaxaca is used mostly by the native weavers to produce textiles. The colour can be changed by adding an acid or a base to it. Even when different people squeeze the beetle, the colour is slightly different.
The pink and scarlet wool is from cochineal.
Weaving in an important industry in Oaxaca. Most of the inexpensive weaving sold in the zocalo is from commercial dyes. The cost and time involved in production make cochineal  relatively expensive in Oaxaca. Children learn to weave at about age 6 in the pueblos.
This wool has been dyed with natural dyes.

There has been renewed interest in natural dyes in the last few years. Most Oaxacan dye is used locally but Peru exports cochineal that is used in printing, art and cosmetics.

As for me, although I have resolved to buy little during this visit, there is a beautiful scarf in the Museo de Textil store. Perhaps, I will go and take a picture of it!