Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hangover Friday

Sleeping in and sleeping off…..the order of the day for Friday. Got up around 9:00 and hung out lazily for a few hours, enjoying the deep foggy scenery, like living inside a wad of cotton candy.

Clothes get awfully dirty here, so I attempted to wash a white shirt (futile) and some underwear. When the sun came out I hung it on the line I’d seen Natalia using. Big mistake. The ‘line’ is a wire and it left a rust line across the back where I’d thrown the shirt over. I do have an indoor clothesline that I assume Alexandra had rigged, that stretches from one curtain rod to the other across the span of the ‘great room’. It’s made of plastic cord. Clothes hanging from it are of course in the way, when traversing the room.  It wasn’t possible to get the rust out of the white shirt, so I suppose that’ll just have to be my lounging-shirt that I dare not wear out in public. I’ll toss it when I go home.

Around lunch time I headed to the center of town to see the big markets. Chiapas is famous for it’s amber (ambar in Spanish) and has more variations in color than anywhere else in the world, ranging from almost clear light yellow thru amber to rich molasses. Many pieces have bits of vegetation inside and a few have insects. One of the traffic free streets (andador) is lined on both sides with Amber shops and there’s also an Amber museum. One shop had other stones set in silver, like a glorious piece of Labrodorite, which I instantly coveted but didn’t have enough money with me to purchase. I told her I’d come back with a credit card.

The streets are also lined with tiny restaurants with a few tables inside and out. They make the most money by selling and delivering lunches to the other shopkeepers. I stopped into a little lime green cafe to have some tostadas and a kid in a white apron dashed in and out several times with trays of food and drink. I scraped the good stuff off the tostadas and set the hard crisp shells aside. A crowd of four little boys, not older than six or seven came into the café with their shoeshine kits wanting to pick up some customers. A Mexican couple told them no and I was the only other person. They could see my Teva sandals didn’t need a shine, but one boy eyed the tostadas and asked if he could have them. I gave one to each boy and they gobbled them up. None of them looked particularly malnourished, but it was obvious they eat what and when they can, much like the street dogs.

I knew from previous forays into Centro that there was a large Artesania market near the cathedral. It is amazing. The modern day Mayans are accomplished weavers and do exquisite embroidery. They make everything from wide tie-around belts (which the women wear to hold up their skirts) to table runners, clothing, pillow covers, purses, stuffed toys, and blankets.  The day was breezy and cool, overcast and muggy. I was shown all kinds of handiwork but resisted buying anything. I have no way to get it all home.

Entrance to the deep and dark Mercado.

The huge Mercado Viejo was a few blocks away. It was like walking down the gullet of a monster. Close, dark streets, packed with stalls, vendors, and people, it resembled a deep throat. It didn’t help that the clouds were dark and threatening rain. The wind came up, the vendors rushed around securing their merchandise with ropes and plastic tarps. Then the thunder opened up the clouds and it poured. I sheltered under a steel roof that was hammered by hail. Tiny icy balls flew around, getting into everything, sandals, hair, the back of my jacket…. In five minutes, the tarps between the steel corrugated roofs over the stalls had filled with water and vendors poked at the sagging tarps with broom handles to lift them up and spill the water out. The street became a torrent with water rushing over the cobblestones. People were pressed up against walls and deep inside stalls. The whole drama lasted about twenty minutes, a long time when you’re just standing there waiting. Afterwards the vendors were out with brooms sweeping trash and water to the middle of the walkway where it continued to flow like a river.  Collected buckets of rain water were used to wash the sidewalks under the roofs. I guess a nice rainstorm like that is a good excuse to do some thorough cleaning.
Hiding out from the rain.

That market is just huge. On the outskirts, live poultry and even a pig were for sale.  Wandering around, I saw a building and went inside. It was the meat market. Instantly transported by the smell, I am four years old, riding on my father’s shoulders, seven feet up in the air, at eye level with hanging dead chickens and pig carcasses. These days, nothing is hanging but the smell is the same. I had forgotten, but it still resided somewhere deep in my brain until that moment. Stiffling a gag response I ventured inside. One quarter of the place has stalls where they sell red meats, another quarter sells fish and shellfish, a different and equally nasty smell, and half appeared to be devoted to dried fish and open air restaurants. Most of them were closed, permanently it seemed. No wonder, even if you were used to that odor, who would have an appetite while inside that place?

Resting birds.
A girl ropes the feet together. 

Stacks of dried fish in the meat market.