Friday, December 11, 2009

Legal, Baby!

It's real, it's real! The Hub Oaxaca is now, officially, an Asociación Civil. We're on the books. We're a non-profit. And that's us, the team, holding the Hub's statutes in our hands. Now the real work begins...Come and check out what we're up to, friends.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's this...?
Let's get closer...
Uh oh.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Day of the Dead

I was trying to think where I was last year around this time--as I can't recall distinctly the flurry of events that has overtaken Oaxaca in the past several days. It is Day of the Dead--a big celebration here in Oaxaca. The part of the city that finds itself inside offices or schools starts to shut down on Wednesday. And the the city that exists in the cobblestone streets, in restaurants, out in small municipalities with dirt roads, just outside the city center, in cemeteries and in the foyers of many a family home starts to come alive. It's high tourist season here. Normally, that drives me inside, away from the crowds of strangers marching around with their cameras and fanny packs. But this year, I want to explore a bit. And so...

After a much-needed early evening nap (it's been that kind of day), I take off with Rafael to explore the Panteón General (the main cemetery inside city limits). All the niches are filled with candlelight. But we're a day early for the main festivities--so the sand sculptures are not yet up. We snake around ancient grave sites teetering above ground level, the earth seeming to push some coffins right up to join us. And then we stumble upon a concert; right there, wedged between some niches and graves. It's Mozart's Requiem--appropriate. People are lounging on top of tombs, leaning against stone Virgin Mary's, or giant crucifixes. Rafael and I nudge our way right next to the choir, squatting in the dust on the edge of a giant tomb. This is unreal.

Next we make our way for San Martín Mexicampam. I've been tantalizing Rafael with stories of the "best Tlayuda in town." He wants to try it out for himself. I'm wondering if the tiny hole-in-the-wall place that Juliette and Felipe introduced me to will be open at midnight on a Thursday. Of course it is! Midnight is prime Tlayuda time, of course! We wrangle ourselves a four top and order up. The service is syrupy slow tonight. We yawn. Rafael puts his head down. But the food comes, steaming hot. I open my Tlayuda like a book, fanning some cold air into it just like Felipe.

Once stuffed, we chug in the Volkswagen up hill toward neighboring Atzompa, where I've heard rumor of amazing decorations and food. Laura and her visiting gang are there. They've already done a lap and are huddled around in a circle drinking hot chocolate when we arrive. Rafael and I share a cup for ourselves, and some pan de muertos. We stroll through the tiny cemetery. It is so adorned with flowers in the bright yellows and pinks so common at this time of year, towering candles and photos that there's hardly room to walk. Someone is filming, a camera posed atop a makeshift crane is parked in the far corner of this place. A band has been hired and is playing, rather loudly, a serenade for our dead friends.

Once chocolate and bread has been downed, it's time to go. It's only 1:30 or so (an early night for many a Día de los Muertos reveler), but our group is ready to depart. We pile (all seven of us) into Rafael's little sedan. It doesn't help that Laura and 3 of her friends are all gringo height (towering at 6' or over). But suffering makes for some very funny jokes. So it's a pretty jolly ride back to town.

I step onto my front stoop at 2 AM. A lovely day, a lovely day with the dead!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I am currently chewing on one of these...



Cucumber and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

I absolutely recommend that you chew on one, too. Super simple, and super tasty. Thanks for the suggestion from Real Simple's recipe archives.

Provecho!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why reinvent the wheel? Just resell the old square.

I have been a lazy blogger. But in some respects, I have not... Eh...? eh...?

I have been blogging over at HarmonyWishes.com for the last few months. And thus, have entered a personal blogging slump on my own site. It's sad. I know. Why do burnt out at 31? I don't know.

Photo Credit HarmonyWishes, inc

So, hey! Why not check out what I've been writing over at HarmonyWishes?

Here's their blog site. And here's one of the latest two blogs I just posted recently. If you're so inclined, wander around on the HW's site. They've got some amazing images to share. And as a further scoop: another blog will go up on Thursday. So check back!

Photo Credit HarmonyWishes, inc

I haven't forgotten you, lovely reader. I have just run out of steam over the last couple months. It might be because I was battling the flu (not the pig-inclined variety--but just as brutal) More to come! I promise.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mirror, mirror

I have an extremely vain moth camped out in my bathroom...



"Mmm, is this my good side? No? Every side is good. Oh, does anyone else have eyes as pretty? No. No they don't."



What do you think she's saying to herself?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

That Adorable Pandemic

This is the cutest photo I have yet to see concerning the swine flu. Wouldn't you agree? It almost makes you want to hug a pig.

The World Health Organization has made it official: the swine flu is a pandemic. They've raised the alert level from 5 to 6. They're reporting rising numbers of those affected by the H1N1 strain.

Honestly, I don't know what to think. The last flu epidemic killed about 1,000,000 people back in the late 60s. That's a pretty scary number. And yet, the New York Times reports that every year between 250,000 and 500,000 people die from the flu. So pandemic or not--there are a lot of people affected by even the simple strain virus.

A good friend of mine here in Oaxaca has a co-worker who's child is infected with swine flu. He's still going to work, donning a face mask, of course. My first reaction was, "What is he doing?! Tell him he MUST go home!" And a day later I'd almost utterly forgotten about it. Is our collective memory as a society too short to heed the warnings of a pandemic? Or are we merely reacting appropriately to something we can't really avoid.

Wash your hands. Eat well. Rest well. Get to the doctor if you're feeling ill. What more can we do...? I say, more pictures of cute children wearing face masks, for sure!

*photo taken from the NY Times online.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cloistered Days of May

I've been lax in posting since the swine flu descended and my computer died simultaneously. Even now that I've been back and up and running electronically for a few weeks, I've been remiss in sharing news. So here's a quick round up via pictures. Let's consider this a kind of storybook.News came rolling in about the discovery of more and more swine flu cases in México and beyond. But being without a computer made the consumption of that news tricky. For good or bad, I had to acquire my information from a range of sources, friends, neighbors, Oaxaca papers and brief interludes on the internet using friends' computers. First things first, wear a mask, they say. But not two hours later, a follow-up article warns, "masks don't work after 2 hours of continuous wear." And then a day later, "Masks work up until the point you take them off; then they are contaminated." And finally, "Masks don't work." What's a girl to do?
How about stay at home and play ping pong with her neighbors wearing a mask? Seems safe.

Although, it depends on your opponents... (they look devious)When I'd venture out into the street (which was very seldom that first week), it didn't seem like anything was different. Most people were walking around, just as usual. Many of them without masks. But then you happen by the a store window with an odd sale on offer. Or perhaps you'd cross by the Seven Regions Fountain on a main thorough fare and see this:



Even the statues and graffiti art were taking precautions.

The main trouble with a health epidemic in Mexico is that the sources for information are flawed. The print media is largely sensational, slow and not very reliable. The internet, while more up-t0-date, can be filled with alarmists trying to fill the 24-hour news cycle with something, anything. My neighbor suggests this is precisely why we should be generating news on the ground level, amongst neighbors and citizens. Now, I'm all for citizen journalism. I think it's an important and vital tool for sharing information at the local, national and global level. In fact, I'm dedicating a large part of my work here to training those very citizen journalists. And yet, I have to say I had my misgivings about talking to people around Oaxaca during the initial couple of weeks of swine flu fury. My dear Mexican host family called it a hoax. They thought it was the government's way of distracting attention away from other issues. And they weren't alone. The teachers' union--who had planned a strike during the first week of pandemic panic--speculated that it was a ruse to obscure their agenda. But then there was my neighbor's Spanish instructor who had a friend, a nurse, who said there were many more dying in the hospitals than was being reported I have to say I am skeptical of both sides. I have a hard time believing information shared from a friend of a friend of a neighbor. People love to gossip here--and have a different sense of the line between chronicalling and storytelling. They also have a deep (often merited) mistrust of the powers that be. So how do you listen to all that static and pull out the truth from it? I don't know. For me it was weighing what I was reading, with what I was hearing, with what my gutt told me.

And after a week holed up in my house, my gutt told me to get some air. So I made a field trip tp the grocery store for some supplies.I made plans for dinner and chocolate brownie sundaes with friends. Veggie stew and homemade cornbread...Mmm...worth possible infection!
Chocolate makes everything better...even H1N1!

And eventually, I ventured out with Laura and Caitlin to a café. I know! Enclosed, indoor space. Daring!
Here is my first out-of-the-house smoothie. Isn't it pretty. You'll note that I'm writing a long letter to Aubrey at the same time. (Recognize the letter, Aubrey? I hope I didn't rub any pork flu on it...)Mostly, I spent a lot of time reading and writing, and staring at my own feet...


**Note to those following this blog--I backlogged a few entries for April and May. So if you're interested there are some new "old" entries here and here, or you can just scroll down a bit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Influenza Porcina

I'm without a computer over the last two and a half weeks. It's in the shop in Puebla. Hopefully, I'll have my lovely Mac back in a few days--and will get to posting on what's been happening on this side of the border. In the meantime, I saw this video on my neighbor Mark's blog--and thought it a more profound and sensitive coverage of the swine flu issue. I encourage you all to take a look. The news has been over saturated by panic-inducing information. So it's worth a gander at something more balanced. You only need watch up to the 9:30 mark.

More soon...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Indoor sky


The view from the courtyard at Café Nuevo Mundo

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sushi Reward

Picking up my computer in Puebla was a hassle. A 9-hour round-trip bus ride in order to pick up a laptop is no fun, let's be honest. So, I rewarded myself with a comida of white wine and sushi. It was on the fancy side for my current tight purse strings; I just couldn't resist being somewhere where there's a few more options for food diversity. (And you'll note a letter to Sara as my comida companion!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Waterpark in the middle of the desert...? Sure!

It was crucial to make it home from Puebla in time to head out the following day with some pals to a Balneario (which literally translates as spa according to my Spanish-English dictionary; but here means, water park. Yeow!)

Kacki, Laura, Caitlin and I meet up outside the baseball field to hitch a bus towards Yagul. We're anxious for a hike under the morning sun, followed by some water slides. Aren't you?

The hike is a bust, as the guard at the Yagul archaeological site won't cut us a break and let us hike in the surrounding hillside paths without paying the 35 peso entrance fee. "Mi jefe está en el sitio hoy, entonces..." (My boss is here today, so...). No one feels much like paying to hike--so we head back down the 2-kilometer road towards the highway and start trekking to the balneario.

We're some kind of anomaly at this water park--as all heads turn to watch the four gringas walk in. I suppose they don't get many foreigners out this way; the water park seems to be mainly frequented by nearby villagers. Being watched closely because you're a foreigner isn't something new for any of us in Oaxaca. And yet, it's not what you hope will transpire when you're about to stretch your swimsuit over pale, unshaven legs. We feel flumuxed, then agitated, then downright pissed when a local woman approaches us in our swimsuits (she is fully dressed) and asks if we'll pose for a picture. Whatta huh? We uncomfortably giggle and beg off. But she insists, "No, we're all friends here. It's just a picture. Nothing strange or bad." (Someone saying "nothing strange or bad" only makes them sound more sinister, no?) We have to insist, "No. We're sitting here in our swimsuits. That's weird. We don't know you."

The thing that makes water parks in Mexico so fun (much like roller coaster rides) is you can't be totally sure that they are safe. (thrill seekers apply here) Mexico's not the litigious community the States can be. Thus , you can't really trust that a water park will have the customer's safety in mind at all times. This makes their water slides WAY MORE FUN, in my opinion. We squeal without too much embarrassment as the giant slide whips us around, snaking down towards the dangerously shallow water. I'm the only one who will try for a second time the slide that seems to straight drop to a "break pool." It's a thrilling drop--but requires a small loss of skin on the elbows, and you end with you suit wedged inside your butt. Fun!

We snack on Tlayudas and naranjadas, cookies and plums. We lounge poolside, each with a book or magazine. But when the music level soars and hoards more arrive from the surrounding towns--we decide to take off. All eyes follow us out the door. Oh my.

Little did we know that the following day, pig flu would descend...


Caitlin, Laura and Kacki - hitchin' a bus ride home

Friday, April 24, 2009

City of Angels, nope, not LA

I woke up at 3:40 this morning. Mau and Judith are headed to Taxco by way of Mexico City. I take the chance trip as an opportunity for a free ride to Puebla--where my poor, ailing computer will find a "doctor."

We leave in darkness, the roads and hills peeling away from us as we wind our way north. Small clusters of lights appear off in the distance (a sleeper community) only to disappear the next time I open my eyes. By 6:45 the streaks of purple reach across the sky in the distance. And though everything around us seems dark still, it is a sign that dawn is approaching. When Puebla pulls up around us, cement tenements and ads abound. Traffic becomes.

I'm prepared to just get off on the side of the road--as Mau has explained to me he doesn't navigate Puebla very well, and can't spend an hour getting un-lost. But as the moment approaches for my disembarkation he decides he'll take me into the city a bit, just enough off the highway so that it's easy for me to find a cab. I'm betting the presence of his girlfriend has made him less inclined to leaving roadside. It turns out I'm not that far from the computer shop; seven minutes in a taxi, and only 35 pesos.

Puebla is square and clean. There' graffiti and trash, like any city--but somehow Puebla doesn't seem to be losing the war like Oaxaca. It's more urban; more traffic; more pavement, sure; but, also more organization, it seems. The buses have numbered routes (gasp!). The streets are labeled. And the Centro Histórico is laid out in a grid of ascending numbered streets spreading out from the Zócalo. It's a marvel for tourists. You can actually orient yourself using signs. Miracle!

Monuments and churches are marked with informative plaques. And though both the Ahorros Pharmacy and tourism office people of whom I asked directions were pretty cold--the rest of the folks seem nice. Puebla's not quite as overwhelming or grimey as Mexico City (for which I am very grateful at this early hour, being a stranger in a strange land). Yet, it's not as walkable, nor as cluttered as Oaxaca.

Brightly-painted tiles bric-a-brac the city in small and large places. They border marble floors, they climb walls, they adorn dishes in artisan stalls and restaurants. It this Baroque style? I don't know. I haven't done any reading. I'm a tourist in blunt observation alone today. It reminds of pictures I've seen of Sevilla.
They say Puebla was reluctant to secede from Spain--taking on all of Spain's culture and prejudices into its folds quickly. Perhaps that's why it looks so different.

After dropping my computer off for her diagnostic (computer spa!)--I spend a large part of the morning and afternoon walking the streets of Puebla. After a quick online search using the computers at the tourism office, I find some suggestions for Puebla's specialty foods (thanks, Chowhounders!). So amidst aimless strolling, craning my neck to stare at the superficies of buildings, or ducking my head into sweets shops and artist niches, I eventually land myself at Antojitos de los Portales, across the way from the Teatro Principal, at the suggestion of a very wise Chowhound. There I order a street food specialty in Puebla, the pelona.

"Pelona comes from "pan pelon" ("fraudulent bread"; historically, a bread that incorporated a lower grade of flour), is cut in half, fried and stuffed with beans (scented with avocado leaves), guacamole, and one's choice from a very specific range of possible fillings (pollo deshebrado-often hand-pulled on order, sesos, tinga, hongos etc)." --Chowhound

Mine is filled with beans and tinga de pollo. A heart attack in sandwich form--but tasty! As school has most likely just let out, I watch as group after group of adolescents and teenagers come to play a game of "hey come and check out this fountain; no, closer--SPLASH! Hahahaha."

Eventually, I make my way back to the computer spa. It's the logic board. Shit. They say it will be at least 10 days to order the replacement part from the States--and then install it. Bummer. I can barely imagine what life will be like without my computer.

It's off to CAPU, Puebla's giant bus station to hop a ride home. I brave the strange bus system. (How hard can it be? They've got actually numbered routes here, afterall.) I make it just in time for the 7 o'clock bus back to Oaxaca. The unfortunate part is that the bus is full. The doubly unfortunate part is that I can already tell by the looks of my seat mate that this will be an uncomfortable 4 1/2 hours. He's spread out in a way that makes me opt out of telling him that he's in my window seat--opened soda cans tucked into the backseat pocket, armrest up, bags tucked between his legs, appendages spreading into the aisle seat. He's not asleep. But I can tell he's a snorer. A person knows. I look at my ticket, up at the seat numbers, down at him, back to my ticket and just plop down in the aisle seat. He's burping and gurgling at my right. I sigh, and turn to him, reaching for the armrest tucked between the seatbacks, pulling it down between us, forcing him to readjust his gutt and move over, saying with a charming smile, "I'm going to need this, friend." The in-route movie comes on--oh boy, it's a dubbed version of Rush Hour 3. I have to turn my iPod up to a painful level in order to drown it out. It's a long ride home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A quick round up of days gone by...

It's been a time--can you blame me, faithful readers, that I've been remiss in posting? Here's a quick round up of the days gone by...

March 22
Woke up, felt like I needed a change in my life to produce some much-needed momentum. And thus, I painted the ceiling in my office tangerine.
My face, post life-changing-paint-job


March 29
Feeling like we needed a short trip to a place outside our normal haunts, Alejandro and I headed out to CaSa, an old textile factory-turned organic paper workshop and library. Alejandro took the reins of the camera. So here are some rare shots of me doing nothing-remarkable-at-all (Alejandro said my parents would be happy to finally see some pictures of me--instead of just the places I go--on my blog):


Me walking up a stairway of cheese blocks.

Me laughing while overlooking the textile factory.

Me making a tiny "boat" out of a flower and setting it "out to sea" in the reflecting pool.

April 9
Laura, Caitlin, Alejandro and I head to a baseball game. The Oaxaca Guerrero's vs. the Campeche Piratas. The game: so-so. The stadium food and mildly-coordinated cheerleaders: FANTASTIC!

April 11
It was Semana Santa, the week proceeding Easter. Basically, the whole of Mexico shuts down to enjoy a little assassination and ascension of their main man. Since most offices are closed, there's nothing to do but join the fun. Thursday night, a small group of people in my neighbor hood observed the stations of the cross--marching from home to home, each marked by purple flowers and a tiny shrine to Jesus. When I left to go to the gym they were down near the cheese vendor's shop. And an hour later, on my return from spinning class, they had only reached a home four doors down.

Friday's the big day. From what I've observed the death of Christ seems to resonate a lot more with Mexicans than the ascension. Thus, Friday sees a giant parade down the main streets in town. See my pictures and commentary from last year for a detailed account. I even saw this article about an even more elaborate parade in Mexico City.

April 11
On Saturday, Laura, Caitlin and I headed up to a small town called Cuajimaloyas. Some of you might recall Cuajimaloyas from my hiking trip with Vicki last year. When Laura, Caitlin and I decided to abandon our attempts at making it the beach this weekend, we opted for a day trip to the mountains two hours outside of Oaxaca. It seemed a good idea to get a break from the heat, and push our muscles around a bit.

We hopped the early bus (8 AM) out of town, landing in Cuajimaloyas around 10.

Here's our late breakfast of enfrijoladas.


And here's what I did to it. Megan- 1, Enfrijoladas-0

It occurred to me as I was gripping my handle bars with immense fear, letting out small squeaks every time my back tire fish tailed, that this was my first time truly mountain biking. Down is scary! And while I firmly believe that scary is fun--I was happy when we hit some uphill. "Happy," you question. Yes, happy for uphill chugging. That's how scary the downhill was for me. (Case in point, when going to sleep that night, I drifted off in bed and found myself instantly on a bike in my dreams, where I hit a divot, vered off road, and woke myself by falling out of my bed. I am a powerful dreamer.)

We stopped for water breaks, and lung breaks. I fell twice (biking scars!). We took a spell in the shade of some trees beside a creek to eat apples and cookies. And when we finally made the long loop back to town, we hunkered down in a tiny comedor for some local river trout. Did I mention we found time to watch a basketball tournament between neighboring villages? There was a pretty stark difference between teams; the difference being, some could play well, and others had clearly just learned to dribble the ball. The day was capped by consuming four packages of cookies--there's nothing like eating junk food after exercise--and a dizzying and packed bus ride back into the city.

That seems like a fair summary of all things extracurricular. And what have you been up to?