Thursday, March 31, 2011

3rd Day and my birthday

My Birthday

Yesterday was the third day of the trip, and my 58th Birthday. I still cannot believe I am zooming up on 60. I don’t feel a day over 45.  But my knees disagree. And the calves are screaming NO MORE STAIRS!

The days have been so pleasant. The nights, not so much. I’ve been sleeping in my Mexican Hoodie, sweat pants with jammies underneath and two pairs of socks. There's a doubled cotton Mayan blanket on the bed plus the comforter. It’s just darned cold at night.

Wednesday morning, the computer revealed many birthday salutations from my friends on Face Book and via email. My mother and Jim called and so it didn’t feel in the least like a lonely birthday.

Beautiful peppers in the market.
Alexandra had mentioned that a water truck comes around each morning with a loud speaker booming AGUA PURIFICADA. If you need a refill on the huge water jug, you just run down and they’ll fill it up for 15 pesos. Problem is I was completely out of water after I’d made coffee, and the truck wouldn’t be around for some time. She said I could also go to the little store down the street and they’d exchange the bottle for me. It’s one of those giant water cooler bottles that hold 5 gallons and weighs a ton, when it’s full. I found the tiendita in a brown wooden shack with a window that’s open all the time. Anything one might steal is just far enough inside so the thief would have to crawl through. There’s a buzzer that is used to summon the owner. That lady exchanged my giant bottle for a full one which she passed through the window with some difficulty. Fortunately it was already at window level and I could easily get it onto my shoulder for the hike back up the hill. By the time I got the gate open again I could no longer see myself lugging that thing two more flights of stairs to the apartment. Alexandra had also left a smaller 2 liter bottle with a handle. So my plan from now on is to keep the huge water jug in the carport inside the fence and just go fetch water in the little jug.  I think that’s going to be a daily chore along with washing dishes and cooking.

Everyday views of the neighborhood.
Natalia, the upstairs neighbor was outside at her picnic table with a friend studying. She’s a teacher in Argentina, but is here getting a master’s degree. She showed me how to turn on the hot water so I could take a shower. The kitchen sink has only a single cold spigot. I guess all the camping I’ve done in life has finally paid off. I put a bucket of water out in the sun to warm up and in a couple of hours it was fine for washing the dishes. However, I still had no dish soap, so resorted to shampoo which doesn’t quite cut the mustard…..

Beautiful and Crap together....
With new shopping bag in hand, I headed down to the Merposure market around lunch time. It was still early for the Mexicans who tend to eat around 2:00. The food vendors were set up and ready for the crowds. Cooked meat with peppers and spices sat waiting in the open air under warming lamps, cutup fruit and sweet pastries were crawling with bees. I bought a nice sharp Japanese butcher knife from a little Mayan woman who had lived in the states for years and spoke English, a revelation she made long after I’d spoken plenty of broken Spanish to her. I guess when you sit in a booth all day, it’s great entertainment to make the gringas work for their purchases.

Because of the difficulty in transferring water, I wanted to buy a funnel, but nobody seemed to recognize the old Spanish word I knew for it, embudo. Instead it’s called a mercalto. There is a large store that sells really cheap plastic stuff, utensils, dishes, buckets, brooms, shopping bags, anything in the world made from plastic. A large blue bucket, a funnel, and a spatula later, I was ready to go home. But still, I needed dish soap. After a bit of exploring I found an actual American style grocery store with everything else I needed. The ride back was packed. School had let out and many people were on their way home for lunch and siesta. I got on with my big full shopping bag and blue bucket full of stuff. A lady finally got tired of watching me struggle and offered her seat next to an exceptionally wide man who took up most of the room. Then people continued to get on until we were literally pressed body to body. Sometimes it’s probably worth it to just take a taxi.
The callejon, almost outside of town.
I decided to go on a little photo expedition and wandered the callejon to an area that is still town, but mostly farmland. Up on the hill, making weird snuffling noises was a strange brown furry animal with a huge butt. Its head was in a hole and when it looked up, I could see it was a pig. It was so cute I popped out my camera but then a woman nearby shouted at me, saying something about “working” and “no pictures”. So I put the camera away. I know many of the locals don’t like to have their photos taken, but I didn’t know they’d object when it came to their animals. Maybe she thought I was going to photograph her as well, but the truth is I never saw her until she started yelling at me.

Back home, in the cool house, I took a much-needed hot shower and a nap.

My apartment is the bottom set of windows
The steep staircase.

Natalia was ready to go to dinner at 6:30. Robin didn’t come with us because he was too tired, and knew we’d be out late. His first class starts at 8:00am.  We bussed to Centro and she took me to an art exhibition. She knew all the artists and one man gave me one of his posters, a beautiful painting of transformation from ucky real life to becoming a butterfly. I’m still studying it for the symbolism it contains. I think my friend Karen who teaches dream interpretation would love it.

Natalia speaks English better than I speak Spanish, but I could understand her quite well, and she was happy to answer questions when I didn’t.

We ate at a bar where they were also holding a poetry recitation. It was quite a crowd. More than I expected. The meal was wonderful. We split a dish of tostadas with guacamole and salsa, and shared a lovely salad with fruit and pecans. Among many other conversations, she revealed that she thought the word “nuts” was only for peanuts, and I said I thought “nueces” were only pecans, and didn’t encompass all other nuts too. She enjoyed the poetry, and since I couldn’t really follow it I watched the people enjoying the antics of the poetess who reminded me of my mother with her gestures and facial expressions.

We walked down the car-free streets and she told me about the town, the issues with the Zapatistas, the government and it’s medical system, her life over the last few years which involved a very serious battle with breast cancer (she’s only 26!) and how much we both enjoyed being alive in a foreign country.   

A subsiding mountain or a mine? I'm not sure.

The entrance to Callejon Don Bosco.

Looking up my street to the little orange gate.