Saturday, October 27, 2007


Let's just begin with this picture of the sun breaking on the hills behind the Cordero's house in Colonia Reforma. Let's just start there. Take a breath. Enjoy the view.

Now let's make a list of all of the mistakes I've made since departing the United States of America. My friend Lu assures me these will be hilarious stories later. I am marking my calendar to check back and read them when later arrives.

1. Left my cell phone at my mom's house PURPOSELY, thinking I wouldn't be using it once I was down in Mexico. I was right, in that I can't use it as a phone. Though, it would have come in handy as, say, the place where I have stored all of the phone numbers for everyone I know.

2. Left my microphone in the bathroom in the Mexico City airport. Yes. I actually did this. Somewhere between moving from the smoke-filled waiting area and sitting at an empty gate I realized my large error. I mutter "fuck fuck fuck," in a surprisingly calm voice and walk back to the bathroom, to find it tucked away in the closet. The bathroom attendant gives me a five-minute lecture on being careless with expensive things.

3. Didn't pack the powercord for my computer. Here were the options: a) buy a new one from the ONLY mac store in town for $200, b) have my sister break into my dad's house while he is out of town and fedex me the powercord, c) take a bus to Puebla (2 hours away) and try to find another Mac store there that could sell me one for a little less money. I selected option A.

4. Got on the wrong bus to head back to the Cordero's for comida. Decided to get off when I saw signs indicating this was the direction for Mexico City.

5. Put down a deposit for an apartment that has no furniture, no stove and no fridge because I think it's just the perfect little home. Yellow paint with red trim and a porch go a long way to convince this girl! So now I find myself borrowing furniture from my ex-boyfriend (fun!) and scheming to get my friend's, cousin's husband to help me move the stuff into the house sometime in the next few days (double fun!). What was I thinking? You can't move furniture if you don't have friends, people. You just can't. Well, I guess you can if you have money. Which brings me to #6.

6. Left my ATM card inside the ATM machine at the bank on day 5 of my arrival in Oaxaca. It was one of those machines that sucks your card in until you transaction is complete. I am so accustomed to the Swipe machines that out of habit I just walked off without the card. So guess what? I can't access any of my money. They have HSBC here. Unfortunately, though, my account in the U.S. is not linked to the Mexican HSBC branch, so they can't issue me a new card here.

7. DHL sent my new ATM card to Nebraska. This is technically not my mistake. But I'm going to list it anyways. Apparently Oaxaca, Mexico shares a zip code with Prague, Nebraska. I guess nobody reads the ENTIRE address listing on a package, you know, like the part that says under country "MEXICO." So I paid my bank to charge my credit card and hand me some cash.

Clearly now that I am entering week 5 of living out of a suitcase, moving from New York to Chicago to Denver to Chicago to Oaxaca, things are getting a little foggy up top. It's a sad thing to grow dim at such a young age. But there it is. It's not so bad to make so many mistakes; this I know. Though some days, like today, the mistakes at last pushed me to cry.

One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Beckett. "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Well folks, I am on my way to failing better, to be sure!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Giant Puppet Attack

Today I left my footprint in a piece of wet cement on Porfirio Diaz street. It was an accident, really. I wasn't looking at what lay before me, and suddenly the sidewalk fell away and revealed a large square of untouched wet cement with no barrier, no fence. I sent signals to my brain to stop the forward motion of my body. For a moment I hovered on the edge; I had myself almost steady. Gravity won out, however, and the top half of my right foot touched down.

A workman nearby yelled to chide me for my inattention. But what can I do? The cement marks my presence. "Aquí estoy," it says. My footprint speaks Spanish.

After a long comida with another Fulbrighter, I meandered past Santo Domingo. The blue sky and the slant of the sun against the ancient yellow bricks called me to grab a photo. But I have stolen so many pictures of this great church in the past that I felt I might injure it to snap another. I stumbled into a parade (calenda) for a local church, complete with giant puppets.

I headed east down the stone street towards Pino Suarez to catch my bus. Just as I arrived on the corner one pulled up with "San Felipe CU" scrawled on the windshield in white marker. I paid my 3 pesos and headed to the back for a seat. We passed Parque Llano, filled today with booths for a naturalista fair. "Voy a bajar" I yell as my stop approaches. I take a last quick shot of the sky. This isn't just any sky; it's the sky of Colonia Reforma, my neighborhood. So enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Real Mexican Day

I'm sure some may wonder what exactly I do over here each day. Some may not--but I'm unclear as to why they would read this blog. But for those who do--I am going to lay out my schedule for today. It was a truly AUTHENTIC day in the city of Oaxaca for me. So I'm happy to not only share with each of you what I was personally doing, but also offer you an idea of what Mexican culture is about.

5:45 AM - Wake up to my alarm. The house is silent. Good. Rafael is not awake yet, and thus will not compel me to walk the dogs with him at this early and very dark hour. Fall back asleep.

8:00 AM - Wake up again. Walk downstairs and pop in my iPod to do an hour of supervised yoga.

9:00 AM - Against the chiding of my friend and the woman who washes the dishes at this house, I stand and eat my fruit and granola at the kitchen counter while I chat with the woman's little girl. Comida Corrida, they tell me.

9:45 AM - Check my email.

10:30 AM - Finally take a hot shower. The air is abnormally crisp today. The first thing on everyone's lips is the weather. I think, "That is SO Mexican. We never talk about the weather in America."

11:00 AM - Do some errands with my friend to two quintessentially Oaxacan stores, Sam's Club and Office Depot (Cutely called Office "DEE-pot"). I'm not sure how many people have visited Mexico before, or know of her bountiful cultural panorama, so I'll just explain what Sam's Club is: It's a huge grocery store, that also chooses to sell furniture and plasma television screens, but everything comes in bulk and for a great deal (una ganga!). You can buy like 20 plasma television screens for under $100,000. It's crazy! Office Depot is very similar, but with, you know, office supplies.

12:00 PM - After reeling from this cultural infusion, we drove over to a pastry shop to hunt down some unsweetened chocolate. I am determined to make brownies here--even though no one seems to like their chocolate without sugar.

12:20 PM - Visited the Natural Food/Product Fair in Parque Llano. Bumped into a friend there who had just returned from a trip to Cuba. She remarked, "I need to recognize that some of us in Mexico are fucked. But EVERYONE in Cuba is fucked."

1:30 PM - Finally returned home. Started to make the brownies. Discover that the chocolate the woman sold me that is bitter (amarga) and without sugar (sin azúcar), actually has sugar in it. Shit! Abort Project Brownie.

2:30 PM - Comida, folks. Time to eat for 2 hours.

Man, isn't this day exciting? Okay. I'm going to stop there. Yesterday was a day filled with work and struggle. Just trying to get a meeting with the director of the Commission for indigenous peoples or his cultural director took half the day. And they STILL didn't let me in to see either of them. "Just one more moment, just one more moment," turned into three hours. Finally I acquired an appointment for Friday at 10. Fortunately, the time allowed me to have a good long talk with my advisor about the town of Tlaxiaco and the support indigenous communities receive from the government there.

After that was more apartment hunting and details. I laid down a deposit for a place I will call "The Lil Yellow House" (Casita Amarilla). I should move in by the first of next month. Pictures to come.

Thus, today I abandoned myself to do very little as a gift for yesterday's miniature battles. Mission accomplished. And as you can see from the above schedule, even though I didn't work at all, I DID manage to do some very typical Mexican things. That's what we call experiential education, kids. If you don't believe me, then check out my pictures.

¡Buenas Noches!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Apartment Hunting-Oaxacan Style

Today was filled with menial errands that are small in nature, yet somehow seem to occupy the entire day. The morning found me waiting in line at the cell phone company for 45 minutes to fix a problem with my brand new phone. I paid in karma today for skipping through the line yesterday when a family friend was working in the office and allowed me to budge to the front.

The day seems to wrap itself around the hours we eat. Desayuno. Comida. Siesta. Cena. What can get done before lunch, sliced from what can get done between lunch and supper. It's a sort of odd way to live, for me. Reminds me of time spent with my grandparents in Arizona. Each meal is such an occassion that the rest of the day falls away around those moments. I feel like I should list what I'm eating. For lunch there was a creamy pasta salad with shrimp from the Istmo of Oaxaca, cilantro and some kind of kick at the end, relleno of tuna, almonds, tomatoes, chard and chilies, steamed squash and broccoli with melted quesillo and agua de jamaica--a juice really, without the sweetness, but with a brilliant hue of magenta.

After lunch the clouds threatened to let loose a storm. Regardless, my friend and I piled into her truck to go hunting for apartments while the storm murmured. Looking for an apartment in Oaxaca is a hilarious undertaking. You can read the classifieds. You can call an agency. OR you can hop in your car and drive to a house where your friend saw foreigners entering a few times (and thus figured they rent places). There were no apartments available at that door, unfortunately. And I say "unfortnately" because the garden inside this place was out of a story book of exotic beautiful locales with all its bugambilia. The owner did have a place for rent in another area. He also pointed us up the block where a sign was hanging about apartment openings. When no one answered the next door, a neighbor standing by asked what we were up to. On learning of my housing needs, he called to his mother-in-law who showed us to a place on her property, and then later on to her neighbor's house. We could have canvassed the whole city that way, from one neighbor to the next.

Nothing's sung out just yet. The secretary at the school where I will be working had a nice little house with three bedrooms, a roof porch and a cute little kitchen for only $400/month (that's Oaxaca for you!). But it stretched so far out from the city center--I'm afraid I might never venture away from home for the time it takes.

I'm attaching two photos from Oaxaca. The one on the top is to demonstrate how homes here are all enclosed by walls. No one shows off the wonder of their yards, or the beautiful architecture of their abodes. Everything is locked up between four walls. The second is a shot of Oaxaca from the roof of the house where I am staying. The clouds rolled off the hills today just like that and finally unfurled their rain, catching my friend and I uncovered on the street.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Well, I made it. I am safely ensconced at the Cordero´s house in Oaxaca. I arrived at the airport without incident. When the cab driver discovered that I was traveling not on vacation, but for a year, he proclaimed "Good. This country (the U.S.) is good for making money. But go somewhere else to live and enjoy!" Sounds like an endorsement, of some kind.

The flight to Mexico City was smooth. Though a doctor tried to talk me out of my window seat, "Do you really prefer the window to the middle seat? Does it really matter to you?" Me: "Yes. Get out of my seat."

There were a few hours spent in the Mexico City airport waiting for my connecting flight to Oaxaca. My connecting gate seemed to be in the Siberia of the D.F. airport. So once I finally got to go to the bathroom, buy a bottle of water and sit down, I (of course) discovered I´d left my microphone in the bathroom. yea! Good going, Megan. Luckily the bathroom attendant was very nice and honest and put it aside in her closet of Lost Things. She chided me for irresponsible behavior as I picked up my mic and scuttled out of the bathroom quickly. Mexico is full of "second mothers."

The ride to Oaxaca was smooth. We came in over the valley in a direction I´ve never seen from above before. The mountains were a soft green, as if painted, not actually standing there outside the window. The twilight hour set the neat rows of corn ablaze in amber and gold. I couldn´t recognize a single familiar sign post from this approach to the airport. I briefly toyed with the thought that perhaps I had landed in another city. I told myself that if I did, in fact, happen to board the wrong plane, I might just stay here anyways.

The biggest hurdle was, of course, hefting all of my bags onto the scanner at customs. Mexico has this process where they randomly search the luggage of those entering the country; no racial profiling for these guys! So you push this button that either comes up with a green light (meaning you can proceed without your bags being checked), or a red light (meaning you have to have a customs officer comb through all of your luggage secrets). I got the green, someone awkwardly searching through my undies averted--woohoo!

Azucena met me at the airport. After getting home, unloading the luggage and helping her with a couple light errands, we found ourselves around the dinner table a bit early (7:30). A little sandwich with some quesillo (yum!) and bodillo bread (double yum!) hit the spot. Everyone has turned in early. I´m off to bed after I hit "send".

Buenas Noches...

A tiny little piece of luggage

The journey begins, folks. I am en route to the good old Estados Unidos de Mexico this morning. Things are going well, thank you.

This post will be a quick one. It involves a question. Are their professional packers out there? I mean to say, can you hire someone to come over and pack your bags for a trip? This is America (well, at least it is for the the next hour--then "this" will become Mexico). So I'm guessing if you have a job you need done, there's someone out there who is taking money to do it. Where are these people? And how much are they charging? Tell me internet, tell me.

This is exactly what I needed yesterday, or frankly, for the last month. I needed someone to come over and stop me from following every one of my packing impulses.

Me: I know I already brought two vegetarian cookbooks down to Oaxaca already...but THIS one, this 10 lb. vegetarian cookbook is really my favorite. I guess I'll just pack it and...

Packer: NO! STOP! Are you insane?

This is what I needed. Instead I had just myself to consult. That means that I have a giant bag. G.I.A.N.T. It is a small nation. It has its own zip code, and embassy. Luckily Mexicana Airlines allows you to bring small nations aboard their planes. They hardly blinked at my tiny country. Frankly, though, I'm already thinking ahead to the stairs I am going to have to climb with that thing once I arrive in Oaxaca.

Oh, Professional Packer, where are you...? Where are you...?