Friday, December 26, 2008

Feliz Navidad

Where to start!?... I have finished my month on the farm out in Etla, which was an amazing experience, and am now staying in a hostel in Oaxaca city. Christmas in the city was amazing: The 23rd was Noche de los Rabanos, a night in which unnaturally large radished are carved into various scenes of Dìa de los Muertos, the Nativity, Jesus, the Cathedral, Virgins, and much More. The 24th I took a bus up to the outskirts of the city and had a vegan dinner with some other American I had met the night before, in a defunct mini-mansion where one of them lives. Then I came to the zocalo (equivalent of old-town square) and watched all of the calendas. Calendas are like mini parades-each church has one with it´s own band, float on a truck with the litte kids dressed up as angels or as the nativity scene, and people marching behind with candles. There are tons of fireworks, way too close to your face and way to loud, but it´s absolutely beautiful. It´s been so much fun to people watch.
One of the best things that´s happened to me in the city is that as I was walking down the street one day by Santo Domingo, I looked in a window and saw a print press. I asked to look around, met the "maestro," and have been there working on my prints everyday since! I love everything about being in a print studio and have been learning a lot (I have a degree in printmaking for those of you who don´t already know; but the different set-up and language difference has made a big difference)! We all ate Christmas lunch together on the big work table, and they told me folk stories.
I decided to skip my few days at the beach and am going to keep working on printmaking, visiting art museums & galleries, hopefully see a weaving studio, and eat more amazing Oaxacan Mole! The it´s off to another farm in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oaxaca (Wa-Ha-Ca)

I made it from Yelapa to Oaxaca, and took a little day and a half stop in Mexico City. I went to two amazing museums, one where Frida Kahlo grew up and another where she and Diego Rivera lived together (the house from the movie Frida, if you´ve seen it).
Now, I´m working at Divertigranja in Oaxaca. It´s serious physical labor, but well worth it. We spend the morning feeding the animals. Ready for the list?: mare, burro, turkeys, ducks, chickens, peacocks, dogs, cats, squirrle, guinnea pics, doves, monkeys, falcon, crocodiles, emu, ostrich, goats, rats, and I´m sure there are others I´m not thinking of. The other project I´ve been working on is a huge raised-bed garden. We have most of it double-dug and have haulled over tuns of vaca caca (cow poop) from the dairy-farmer neighbor. I´ve never shoveled so much or actually used a pitch fork before in my life, and my pussing, blistered hands are very attractive, I assure you. Now we just need to get some seeds going, and the garden will be well on it´s way.
I spent my day off with another volunteer from the farm walking around the zocalo and the markets. We had mole, tuna flavored ice cream (don´t worry, it´s a cactus fruit not a fish), queso oaxaqueño, a really good corn drink "tejate" (the kind we all had together out of the huge bowls, m&d), and sampeled lots of chocolate. I also bought a beautiful naturally died & hand woven scarf-thank goodness, because it gets Really cold here!
December it party central, so we´ve been to a couple already and have tons more on the way. Last night we went to a party, that was really a catholic mass with a meal following at the family´s huge home. Some of the other parties will probably be more party-party, with some mezcal involved (the local liquor).
Monte Alban next weekend with my friends, and I´m sure that amazing food will be involved!
Anyway, Oaxaca is just as wonderful as I remember it, it not more, and I´m livin´the dream.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

¡Yelapa, me encanta!

In case you were wondering, I basically live in a tree house 15 feet above the beach, with the sound of waves when I fall asleep and wake up. I check for scorpions every night, sleep in a hanging bed, and pee in a bucket. My traffic on the way to work is 4 donkeys with bags of sand strapped to their sides, and the job I´m doing to is playing with children and doing recycled art projects all day. Saturday we all painted faces on coconuts I had collected from around my house. I go to my ¨family´s¨house to eat ( often timew whatever fish my ¨brothers¨caught that day) and hang out at the beach for Siesta, and hike to the waterfall or up the ¨hill¨ behind my house (from sea level to 2180 feet) on my days off.
Yelapa is absolutely beautiful! I´m getting to the end of my time here, which is really unfortunate, because I´m starting to really ge the hang of the place and the people. But I know that it´s time to move on, and have some new adventures.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds

Día de los Muertos was more than I every could have possibly imagined!

I took the tour I had talked about, and 4 people from around London (who are also staying at the hostel) came as well. We had a really nice time together, and I had my first job as translator. The whole night was absolutely beautiful, and I was so lucky to visit 4 very traditional towns\cementarios. The people were so welcoming and proud to share their traditions with us. It was very mellow, with families eating, drinking, and talking around the graves. It´s amazing to see how they respond to death, as something to be accepted and respected as part of life. There doesn´t seem to be any fear involved. By 3am when we left, children were falling asleep, and they would just cuddle up between the graves or in open plots.

We went to (in order)
-Tzurumutaro-the most densely decorated, with marigolds and candles. The mounds on each grave are turned over that morning, and with all of the flowers on top, they bulge out from the earth by at least a foot and a half.
-Ihuatzio-We ate dinner here before walking out to the cementario. We ad traditional pozole, which we later heard an interesting story about... The villages in this area used to go to war and the winners would take their fallen enemies and cook them in pozole. But first, they would skin their bodies and dance around in the skins the display their defeat.
-Cucuchucho-Beautiful as well, there was a priest with a bull horn leading some sort of ceremony. I was watching until interupted by 4 drunk men who wanted to join my tour (we all know what they actually wanted. And MOM-My ´engagement ring´ served its purpose quite nicely, haha)
-Ucazanaztacua-just the pier where we left for Pacanda
-& Isla Pacanda-a small island where the people we´re still working on decorating when we got there, which was amazing to watch, and see how much happened in the hour we were there. I heard an older woman telling people that the grave she had decorated and was sitting at was for here 10 year ols son who had died. She seemed so happy to be there, and share her story. That ofrenda had several decorated sugar sculptures (like the calaveras, but in the shape of toys and engels). The graves here we´re smaller and each was lined by stones.

So, I´ve only slept for 4 hours, and will be going out the the large cementario in Morelia with Stacey tonight, and then to Yelapa tomorrow (if I make the water taxi on time). I´m not sure what my internet situation will be there, so if not sooner, you´ll hear from mw in a month.

I couldn´t be happier to be here; and look for postcards, hopefully they get there!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Well, here I am...

Okay, so getting here was a little uuugh, but I guess it makes arriving even better. The 2 plane flights with a 13 hour layover, and a 5 and a 3 hour bus ride finally got me to Morelia at 2 this morning (I did sit by a sweet middle-aged man rockin´a mississippi mudflap mullet, prison tattoos, and a white denim shirt with the sleeves ripped off on the bus, and watched The Golden Compass, Alvin and the Chipmunks, a movie about soccer, and one about a famous acting dog). I´m staying at Hostel Allende, where everything is great, but the mold on the walls. Hey, what can you do?...
Anyway, this morning I talked to a couple women from Ohio, and made a reservation for a tour on the first day of Dia de los Muertos (which leaves at 6pm and returns at 4am). I have no idea what I´ll be doing for the second day. Then I walked around and looked at sugar skulls at the markets, and saw some ofrendas the school kids have done in front of the churches for school projects. I bought a chicken on the way home (my first real food since leaving Colorado), that came with a couple buns. Then I bought a jug of water, bananas and... pear flavored drinkable activia yoghurt!!! I´ve tried to order it in the states and can never get it.
Morelia is beautiful and people have been nice, but I really miss talking to people. Having actual conversations, not just asking for directions, etc, hopefully this will come soon. I´m going to read through someone´s guide book tonight, so I have an idea of what to do tomorrow.

Mom-their "Walking Men" at cross-walks actually move, the little lights flash all around!
Boys-In the bus station in Guadalajara I watched dubbed History Chanel shows about absinthe, big foot "Pie Grande," and fish noodling. Interesting...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

23 days

Well, as most of you know, I leave for Mexico in 23 days!  I can hardly believe it myself.  Anyway, I will fly into Puerto Vallarta, and hopefully find a bus headed for Patzcuaro where I plan to stay for Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.  Then I'll go back to PV where I take a 45 minute boat ride to the tiny town on Yelapa.  In Yelapa I will be volunteering at La Casa de Imaginacion.  Not exactly sure what I'll be doing there, but I'll let you know when I find out.  And then... who knows!?!?

This summer I read an entertaining book about travel called "Smile When You're Lying," and found the perfect quote for traveling in Latin America:
"Life isn't perfect below the border; I'd known that going in.  But sometimes you just have to have faith that you've brought enough nerve to deal with the unexpected, enough cash to make more friends than enemies, and enough perspective to judge a place for what it is rather than for what you've heard it's supposed to be."