Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I wonder what I was thinking...maybe if I just ignore it, it would have gone away?
But, when I glanced up at my Bookmark bar, there it was, the link to my blog.
I promise to put something up here sooner than later. We've been busy here in Zacatecas, and far afield. Our stay is coming to a rapid close too, and it's been a bit hard to think about.

See you soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oaxaca! part 3

One of the things that we were really looking forward to was a place called Monte Alban. About 15 mins from Oaxaca, it's an archeological site that has been excavated and is open for people to go see. About 2500 years ago, the locals (Zapotecs, I believe) sheared off the top of a mountain and built a massive temple/living complex on the resulting flat space. It served as a ceremony and living space for the upper class and priests. The working class people lived down in the surrounding valleys, going up the mountain for market days, religious ceremonies and protection in wartime. Up until sometime in the last 20-30 years, Monte Alban was overgrown, buried and barely preserved, though it had been excavated at various times throughout the 1900s. As our guide put it, "heepees" used to come camp out there all the time. These days, Monte Alban is a very well maintained site that is just overwhelming to see in person. Here's a photo that barely does it any justice:

The complex has a ball court, observatorium, sacrificial altar, carvings that are in amazing shape, statues and is on a scale that you just can't believe.

There's some more photos over there on the right of our Oaxaca trip, by the way.

Just a quick, positive thought...

A nice thing about being one of the few relatively long-term gringos here in Zacatecas is that once I've told my name to someone in the places I frequent, they always remember it: Starbucks, the laundry place, corner store, etc.
It feels good, like I belong.

Oaxaca, part 2

Like I said, we were staying in a great house, really close to the center of town. There's a good amount of stuff to see; the standard stuff, mostly - museums, plazas, churches, etc. The cathedral in Oaxaca is massive. Part of the complex houses an awesome museum that has lots and lots of neat stuff. There's a whole exhibit that comes from Monte Alban (huge archeological site about 15 mins from Oaxaca, more on it later), from one of the tombs that was excavated. There's a bunch of intricate gold artwork, beaded jewelry, and so on. Just really cool stuff.

The zocalo in Oaxaca, or the main square, is a beautiful tree and flower filled space with people sitting on benches, strolling around, or eating in one of the many cafes lining it's edges. Having a leafy plaza is truly one of the biggest things missing from Zacatecas. It was great to sit, drink hot chocolate (a Oaxacan specialty) and people-watch. It was a big shock, as it is every time we leave Zacatecas, to see how many foreigners there are around. Of course, it shouldn't have been that big a surprise considering it was over x-mas and New Years, but still. We also checked out the Ruffino Tamayo museum, which is a small, but impressive collection of pre-hispanic statues. It's interesting to me that Mr. Tamayo was very specific about how the stuff would be displayed down to every last detail. Worth a visit, at least because you get a really good overview of the stuff in a small space.

A cool surprise was when our host, R., told us about a classical music concert he was going to see with some friends. We headed down there to see if we could pick up some tix, and managed to get some - only 20 pesos! Seating was general admission and we got some great seats, towards the center-back of the pretty small theater. The orchestra was made up of musicians from the area who are now playing in symphonies all over the world, brought back to play a series of concerts in their homestate. Led by an Israeli conductor, of all people, it was a good evening of entertainment. We ended up skipping out a bit early to make it a restaurant that was closing on the early side. La Olla is a great place to eat, vegetarian friendly, and they use all kinds of good local ingrediants, cooked to perfection. Chile rellenos different from any other I've ever had, delicious salads, and so on.

There were lots and lots of awesome crafts, rugs, handmade everything to look at (and buy, to the great detriment of our bank account). A number of different outdoor markets were happening, and it felt we knew way too many of the people running them by the end, due to how much we bought. Oy. It's hard not to buy beautiful wool rugs, colored with natural dyes, soft as anything wool scarfs just being finished by the old Zapoteca, and shirts bursting with color and design like you just don't see elsewhere for so little. So buy them we did. One particular rug guy ended up being our go-to for such things. The two we bought, then the five others that our friends picked up the next week when we swung back through town. He gave us his contact info, and we had hoped to stop in at the workshop where his mother and aunt make the rugs in Teotitlan del Valle, but due to our rental car fiasco (more later), we didn't have the chance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oaxaca! part 1

It's been almost a month since I put anything up here, but for relatively good reason: we were away on an amazing trip down to the south of Mexico - down in Oaxaca.
You might be familiar with Oaxaca as one of the places that every would-be revolutionary/artistic type wants to visit when they come to Mexico (along with Chiapas). The people of the southern regions have always been all about not putting up with crap from the government (see E.Zapata, Commandante Marcos, 2006 demonstrations, others). It's also a center of rug-weaving, embroidery, pottery, and other textile-based art forms. The stuff they make is gorgeous, not to mention cheap.

We took the overnight bus to Mexico DF, killed a few hours in the city and then took another 6 hour bus to Oaxaca de Juarez (the city). I'm sure the scenery was nice, but I slept through pretty much the whole thing, so can't really speak to it.

We were super lucky to have a friend back in NY who's father lives in Oaxaca. R. had let us know that we could stay there anytime, and we took advantage. The small, but perfect house, is in a nice neighbourhood about a 15 minute walk from the zocalo. We had a bedroom with a bathroom that is right off the patio. It was great, because we weren't in his way (we hope) and we had some privacy too. The hospitality was just fantastic - breakfasts of fresh fruit, fresh yogurt, granola, locally-grown coffee (fresh-ground beans, of course), fresh eggs, and other fresh freshness. R. has a crew of friends who were all really nice also. The second night we were there, he had a holiday party and we met lots of good people both living and visiting Oaxaca. The next night, we were invited to a lovely dinner at another friend of his' beautiful house. Good times.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

shades of last year

Well, here I am in Zacatecas (news alert!), trying to kill time while I wait for a backup to complete. One of the great, great things here has been that I've been learning spanish, as you know. Incredibly, I've been able to work out a deal with the spanish school so that I do computer work for them, and they give me a deal on classes. I don't think I'd have been able to stay in classes this long without such a deal, so it's been key.

And so, here I find myself, back aching, head dizzy from gas heating, occasionally frustrated from failed backups along the way, hating Windows with all my heart for it's virus-vulnerable self, and thinking about how a year ago, I was probably in a pretty similar situation. Arturo Jr's laptop has been limping along for some time with a nasty trojan living in his system, and no amount of utilities have been able to root it out. Finally, we decided to backup, format and reinstall the operating system. Boy, do I wish we could just install Mac OS. Does it have problems, sure. But, and I say this based only on my experience, not nearly as many.

I'll tell you though, I'm happy having something to do this afternoon that involves some slight skill that I have.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Stare or Not to Stare...

Why the hell isn't that the question?? With the answer being NOT to stare!
Ok, I admit, I had been living in New York City for the past number of years before coming here to Zacatecas (google alert!), and NYC is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, if not the most. You can walk down the street in New York and see anything and everything, so after a while you get numb. Granted.

Still! What is it that makes people here stare sooo much? I really feel like I'm developing some sort of complex. It is literally impossible for me to walk more than 10 feet from my door without being stared at in an intense way.

Now - I understand that I'm a tall-ish gringo, and that there aren't that many around here, but it's not like I look particularly strange, do I?!?
(Please see 'complex, development of' above)
I mean, I don't have piercings, tattoos of any kind - much less something stareworthy on my forehead, a wacky haircut, or an extra limb. Yes, I have grey(ing) hair, but I just don't think that's it.

I walk along and folks just stop in their tracks - not in the 'hey, check out that stud' way, more like 'holy crap, you're not going to believe what I saw today - the craziest thing in the entire world' kind of way. It's not even like people try to be subtle about it either; No side-glance out of the corner of the eye, no quick turn-around right after passing me by, no effort made whatsoever to mask their open-mouthed and wide-eyed look.

A favourite of mine has got to be when they're walking towards me. They glance up slightly, as always, just to make it's not the money-giving-away guy, and then let their eyes fall back down. But wait - this guy is the most far-out freakishly insane person - nay, thing - that I've ever seen! I know what I'll do...stop in my tracks and stand very, very still. Then, when it can no longer see me, because I'm standing so still, I'll focus my gaze on it in an incredibly intense fashion.

That's right - it's common theory here that if a person, A, is standing very very still with their eyes, E, focused on an approaching object, B, then they bend the accepted laws of physics and become invisible, I. So, in mathematical terms terms, that's A+E \bot \!\, B=I
I wish I had the heart to stop and say, "hey there, I can see you, you know". Or maybe not...I'm not sure I want to be responsible for BLOWING THEIR FREAKING MINDS.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this particular's definitely something I think about constantly...ARRRRGGHHHH