Friday, February 29, 2008

Buen provecho


Today, Clay, Anna, and I took a cooking class at the bed&breakfast Casa Crespo near Santo Domingo. It was amazing. The class lasted four hours and included a trip to a nearby market to buy fresh ingredients. It was just the three of us, and we got to try an amazing number of dishes. I'm mostly going to let my photos speak for themselves, but here's our menu:

aqua de horchata (sweetened rice water) with cantaloupe and pecans
corn tortillas
guacamole
salsa with chili de arbol (tree chili) - this was my favorite dish!
salsa with some local oaxacan chili
flores de calabaza (squash blossoms) stuffed with quesillo (oaxacan cheese) and yerba de conejos
quesadillas with flor de calabaza and chapulines (roasted grasshoppers)
soup of some kind of lima-looking bean, dried shrimp, and nopalitos (pieces of cactus)
poblano peppers with cream and queso fresco (fresh cheese)
chicken with almond mole
- see the picture of me at the top
chocolate ice cream
marmalade of jamaica (hibiscus)

Yes, we ate all of this afterwards. Please click on photos to enlarge them!

Toast with blackberry marmalade; we made a version with dried hibiscus petals--it's remarkably simple!

Poblanos and tomatoes roasting on a comal--a dish made of pottery.

Making the salsa with chili de arbol--three roasted tomatoes, one roasted chili, seeds removed, a little garlic, and a little salt.

Simple--but extraordinary--guacamole with just avocados, fresh cilantro, and a little garlic.

Anna with our salsa. In the glass by her hand you can see the agua de horchata.

Flores de calabaza stuff with cheese and herbs, pre-frying.

A flor de calabaza rolled in whipped egg (meringue-like) and fried in oil. Amazing and probably the coolest thing we made.

Quesadilla, pre-grilling, with quesillo and crushed chapulines. Also, I made that tortilla!

Cooking the poblanos with onion.

The finished poblano dish, after adding cream and fresh cheese.

That shrimp was looking at me! The soup was delicious, but the dried shrimp were incredibly fishy; I'm not a fan.



The ingredients in the almond mole, after sauteeing: almonds, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bread. Not shown: thyme, peppercorn, clove.

Chocolate ice cream made from Oaxacan chocolate medallions, with just a pinch of chili.



Just for fun, juices at the market.

Hopefully there will be some more pictures of me cooking after Anna puts her photos up.

In the meantime, I have a sort of request: as should not be much of a surprise, I plan to enter the UChicago study abroad photo contest. I get to submit 4 photos. And while I'm certainly not done taking pictures yet, if any of you (and I know this blog has quite a few readers at this point) have favorites or suggestions, I would love for you to let know! You could comment on the post with the photo in it, if you feel like. Thanks so much!

And Buen provecho.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fortunate Andrew

You could prosper in the field of entertainment.

You are a traveler at heart. There will be many journeys.

Do not hesitate to look for help, an extra hand should always be welcome.

You may fall into a spell of shininess--Don't buy it.

ANY DOUBTS YOU HAVE WILL DISAPPEAR EARLY THIS MONTH.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Puerto Escondido

...in a nutshell:

Friday
We arrived around 10am after a harrowing overnight bus ride. Bought a new swim suit. Visited the beach. We stayed at a hotel on Playa Zicatela, which is renowned by surfers for being particularly challenging--needless to say, I didn't do any swimming there. I did spend a good portion of the day, and the whole weekend, really, reading Dan Savage's Skipping Toward Gomorrah by the hotel's pool, taking a dip when it got too hot, then getting out to warm up again. Had some unimpressive meals. Went out with a few people that night to have drinks at a bar next door; I tried one that was horchata (sweetened rice water), rum, and pineapple juice.

Saturday
Woke up pretty early, because I couldn't sleep and had no concept of time. Had a peace breakfast by myself (and Mr. Savage) at a little place down the road, apparently owned by an Italian. Met up with other people afterwards, but really spent the majority of the day at the pool. Had lunch with two friends and their SCUBA instructors, who I saw around later that weekend as well; nice guys. At a bar on the beach I ran into the student from Portland who sat next to me on the bus. We chatted (he's an anarchist, hippie type) for awhile, and he hung out with out group for most of the evening. He, Elizabeth, Allison, and I ate at an Italian restaurant...I had pizza with ricotta, tomatoes, pesto, olives, and anchovies...but there was too much of it and I started feeling really tired. Actually, everyone fell asleep early that night, even the partiers.

Sunday
Got up early to go on a lagoon tour with Allison. We saw tons of birds, ate sopes on a sand bar separating the sea from the lagoon, and ended up at a secluded cove beach with beautiful, calm, deep wate--perfect for swimming. We enjoyed ourselves there for a few hours before going back to the hotel for more pool lounging. Later, I checked out The Big Lebowski, playing at a little cafe/bookstore/movie theatre called Cinemar that shows two movies a day in a tiny makeshift theatre. Only stayed for part of it. Got back to the hotel and played a drinking game (briefly) with my already-drunk friends. Got pizza. Went to sleep.

Monday
Ten and half hours on a bus back to Oaxaca. The ride from Chicago to St. Louis will be a breeze from now on. I hate cross-country buses.


So, I saw sunsets, watched surfers, ate overpriced resort food, got a tan. It was a nice, relaxing weekend, which is exactly what I wanted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vamos a la playa!

I'm off to the beach again; I'll report back Monday or Tuesday.

Over 2/3 of the way through my quarter abroad.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This is a good dog:

This is Kayser (so says his dog house), and he is a good dog. He lives at a house up the street from us. Sometimes we see him inside his gate; other times he is sunning himself across the street. Either way, he's totally awesome.


This is a crazy dog:In case you don't recognize her with her new hairdo, this is Martina, the dog that belongs to Viky's daughter. Martina is nutso/hyper. Perhaps it's because she's only six months old, and when she's as old as Kayser she'll be cool, too. But for now she's just insane.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Taco-time

Since I am currently hungry, I thought now might be a good time to do a write-up of the various taco establishments I frequent (i.e. have visited two or more times).


By the way, unless otherwise specified, the tacos I refer to are more aptly called "taquitos," a flat tortilla being about 4 or 5 inches in diameter (I estimate). OH, and also eat your tacos with fresh lime--I do!

Sierritas III

I had the pleasure of dining at the nearby Tacos Sierra (a Oaxacan icon) location just this evening, and it was as delicious as always. Sierritas specializes in carnitas al pastor - meat slow roasted on a spit similar to that you see in Greek restaurants (but the meat is pork, I believe, definitely not lamb). Meat is sliced off the split and tossed onto tortillas, tortas (this is the word for a sandwich on french-style bread with black beans, tomato, avocado, and sometimes other ingredients), or tostadas. An order of 5 tacos at Sierritas cost $30 pesos. The thing I love best is their salsa--it's greenish and deliciously flavorful. Perhaps a tiny bit too spicy for me, but the fact that I keep going back and requesting picante is just a testament to how tasty it is. If pressed, I would call this my favorite taco place.

Las Arracheras

Just down the street from our neighborhood, Las Arracheras specializes in (unsurprisingly) arrachera, which is a cut of beef similar to skirt steak (or so I've been told). It's actually the only meat I've tried at Las Arracheras. One taco costs $7 pesos and if you like comes with onions and cilantro (a topping simply called "verduras," which literally means "vegetables" and so was sort of confusing initially). Condiments provided include salsa (too smoky/sweet for my tastes), thin guacamole (perfect for tacos), and pico de gallo (they make it with chunks of jalepeno here, which is a little much for me). Las Arracheras also serves tlayudas, which are large tortillas folded in half, filled with beans, quesillo, meat, tomato, and avacado, then grilled. I've always split one with someone else, and I've always been stuffed afterwards. Las Arracheras also has beers for $15 pesos.

El Pastorcito

El Pastorcito is a relatively new find for Jasmine and myself, but we're already pretty confident that they've got the best deal in the vicinity. Tacos are a mere $5 pesos apiece, and on Friday, you can get two orders of five for the price of one--last Friday, we ordered 20 tacos for the equivalent price of $5 USD. You can also get a glass of agua de horchata (sweetend rice water) for $6 pesos, which means that even on a normal night, you can get five tacos and some horchata for less than $3 USD, which is pretty frickin' awesome. El Pastorcito is named for its pastor style meat (see the Sierritas entry); they serve their tacos with onion and cilantro like Las Arracheras and also include a couple pieces of grilled pineapple (I'm fan; others not so much). Their condiments are also similar to Las Arracheras', but they have both salsa rojo and salsa verde, and both are delicious. The first time I went I got a torta, and it was immense (and tasty).

El Balcon de la Lechuza (The Owl's Perch) and La Antequera (an old name for Oaxaca)

Both of these restaurants are open super late (a fact I have yet to take advantage of, despite remarking upon it frequently) and serve "arabic" and "oriental" style tacos. Tacos arabe are served on flat bread rather similar to pita bread, in that it is a little puffy; they are also made of flour instead of corn. Tacos oriental are served on corn tortillas, and I have yet to figure out how their different from normal tortillas. Both of these restaurant serve carne al pastor, and there are a couple other restaurants with similar fare also nearby. In a knockdown, drag-out contest, I'd have to go El Balcon over La Antequera because the former uses quesillo (the locally made "string cheese") and the latter manchego (a greasy, heavier cheese), and I prefer quesillo (if you couldn't tell). Try the tacos arabe de lechuza (no, they don't have owl meat--they just come with cheese). El Balcon is also closer to my house and right across the street from Popeye's; despite this fact I've only been twice...we hardly ever see anyone in the restaurant...it's just open all the time and the owner and her son sit and watch soap operas. I will admit that La Antequera serves larger portions.

Finally, in case you were wondering, the photo at the top of the page is from a taco stand that appears weekly at the Friday Market in Parque Llano. It is alway enormously crowded, and for good reason--Jasmine and I agree that these are the most delicious tacos we've tried. They're only around once a week, but you can bet that I'm going to be at Parque Llano every remaining Friday I'm in town to get my fix. Last week I had two tacos de castillo...I'm not exactly sure what kind of meat that is, but they offer a few varieties.


Oh man, I'm really hungry now (and hopefully you are, too!). I started this post last night and I'm finishing it this morning...time to go eat breakfast.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More birthday

...because who celebrates for just one evening?

Today, on my actual birthday, Viky had a cake for me after lunch. It had chocolate frosting, delicate sprinkles, and was really moist (prompting a discussion of how you say "moist" in Spanish--"humidecido," apparently). Viky gave me a box that she painted, and Denise, the Canadian who lives with us, knitted me face clothes out of cotton yarn:

And now, back to homework. But, there's leftover cake to look forward to.


P.S. I bought a balloon on Valentine's Day that is still enthusiastically filled with helium, and since my door is open it making its way casually around my ceiling.

Happy birthday to me!

Or, Cumpleaños Felíz in Spanish!

I had a good day! I've had a pretty good weekend actually (I'll post late about Friday). Today we had plans that didn't work out--we wanted to go San Martin Tilcajete, which is famous for its alebrijes (fantastical painted wooden animals), but after walking all the way down to the bus station at the Mercado de Abastos, we found out that the next bus wasn't leaving until 3pm (it was 1pm), so we decided not to go. We walked back up to the Zocalo, wandred around, and got some ice cream (nieve) before heading home. Soooo much walking...and it was oppressively hot today.

We chilled at home for awhile before heading back out for Noche de Luces (an annual festival of some kind in the Zocalo); we listened to a band play Pomp and Cirumstance and some Frank Sinatra tunes before heading to the restaurant for my birthday dinner. Pretty everybody was able to make it (and fit into!) the tiny Italian restaurant I picked, Pizza Nostrana. It was delicious: I had sangria and two kinds of pizza, one with tuna and jalepeños, and one with tomato, mushroom, eggplant, and chorizo. I would definitely go back. Additionally, my friends bought me roses and paid a guitar dude to play/sing me a Mexican birthday song, and everybody paid for my dinner, which was sweet.

Afterwards we went back to the Zocalo and watched some traditional dances; I bought a shaw for an embarrassingly low price and we also bought some tubular balloons that were terrific fun until they popped.

I rounded out the evening at a club called Cafe Central that had been recommended and sounded fun. The music was good/danceable, the drinks were tasty and not too expensive, and everyone who came had a good time.






Top row: These lovely ladies bought me flowers; fallen petals; tuna (cactus fruit), beso de angel, and zarzamora and fresa (blackberry and strawberry) nieves
Botton row: moon over Santo Domingo; alebrijes at Santo Domingo; my giant balloon (I look ridiculously happy)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stake and potatoes

Spotted this on the ground outside my house...

Makes me wonder if someone was fighting a vampire...AND LOST.

Taking Wednesday off

Well, sort of. I woke up exhausted and decided to skip the field trip to sleep in until noon, so that I can realistically get some work done now. Since then, I've dropped off my laundry, recharged my phone, and eaten a donut that was totally not worth it. Time to get to work.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Surrealismo

I went back to El Pochote tonight, for a special screening of a bunch of older experimental films. An eccentric band of dudes in top hats played along with two of the films, which was pretty cool. I especially liked a German film called "Vermittasspuk," which means "Ghosts before breakfast."

Here's what the El Pochote Cinema looks like (the photo was taken from the middle of the auditorium). It's located through some aqueducts, at the end of a courtyard that has a pond with some koi that hosts an organic market every Friday and Saturday.


I also found a tasty pizza place tonight that is about a block away from El Pochote that sells slices for 10 pesos, and Clay and I tried out a nearby coffee shop as well (he had some sort of apple-tea infusion and I had chocolate de agua (hot chocolate made with water). I'd definitely go back. Experiences like these make me want to get out more, with or without company. Maybe I'll actually do that.

Field trips and homework tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who expressed concern about the earthquake.

Parque Conzatti, the smaller of the nearby parks (the large one being Parque Llano), which is especially near El Pochote.

Recent life and times

In a nutshell...

The pictures I posted a few days ago were from the field trip we took last Thursday to the northern pueblos of Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula. In Teposcolula, they were having a festival for Lent (I believe) and the town was fairly littered with the colored flags you see in the first photo. We walked around the marketplace and ate tasty things like elotes (corn on a stick covered with mayo and cheese) and helado (ice cream!).

Friday, I went to the mercado in Parque Llano and bought some earrings made from beer bottle caps and had some delicious tacos. This was followed up by a trip to the giant grocery store (appropriately named Gigante) to buy the rest of the ingredients I needed to make risotto, which I did that night. It turned out well, but it was sort of an awkward experience as there was really no one around to eat and I didn't know where anything was in the kitchen(also didn't know the words for many kitchen items). Later I went out with Jasmine and Tyler went out to a little cafe-bar (all the coffee shops have full bars), and the drinks and music were enjoyable.

Saturday, several of us traveled out to Hierva el Agua ("the water boils") which is a mineral spring up in the mountains kinda south east of Oaxaca. It's not a hot springs, though the name may be misleading. The water was apparently very cold (I didn't swim), but the views were nice and the air was fresh.


In the distance, you can see a large calcium formation that looks kind of like a waterfall.

Later that night we went out the the Zocalo, and I had some tasty passion fruit-mezcal ice cream, but after that we spent hours wandering around trying to figure out what we wanted to do, and it wasn't much fun at all.

Sunday = homework, and in the evening I went to see Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro at El Pochote, which was pretty goofy. Learned that three of our friends had been in a car accident Saturday night--thankfully, they are all fine (they were in the hospital for a day or so but they're back now) though they've stayed home from class so far this week.

And that pretty much brings you up to date. You can find more information about the earthquake on CNN; it was a 6.4!

Earth-shake

I was woken at 6:51 am this morning to what I thought was a passing truck, but I soon realized otherwise.


The floor rocked the bed and rattled my doors and windows for what seemed like forever, though I'm sure it lasted no longer than 30 seconds, and I sat in the middle of bed, half wondering if I should be trying to find a doorway to stand in.


Earthquakes aren't unusual here; every public building here has a sign that has directions for what to do both "In case of fire" and "In case of earthquake" (sismo is the Spanish, by the way). There was an earthquake sometime last month, while we were eating lunch, but I didn't even notice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A peculiar sight

Yes, it's raining in Oaxaca.

We got some drizzle yesterday, but only briefly, and the sun dried it up mere seconds after it landed. But right now, the sky is letting loose. Only three hours ago it was sunny and hot, and I imagine it will go back to being sunny and hot tomorrow. But, it's looked like rain (off and on) since Friday, so I can't say I'm terribly surprised (except for the fact that it hasn't rained the entire time I've been here).

Are update posts forthcoming? Depends on whether or not I actually do my reading after posting this.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Ethics and Horror

Eventually I'm going to leave Mexico and return to Chicago, where I will being to focus more exclusively on the topic of my BA project: horror literature/film and whether the genre does anything unique for ethical philosophy. Inspired by an interview with George A. Romero on NYTimes.com, I've decided to hash out a few more of my general thoughts on the topic, in anticipation of more in-depth inquiry.

Now, just as it is difficult to imagine literature as separate from examinations of ethics (as I have mentioned before), it is equally difficult to think of horror as separate from ethics: since the crux of ethical discussion is determining the difference between right and wrong, and horror situations inevitably deal with something that just terribly
wrong.

This is not to say that I think any horror story (for my purpose"story" will refer to both literature and cinema) is a good specimen for examination, just as any novel in general isn't a perfect choice for look at ethics. All contain ethics because pretty much every novel is about people and (in my view) ethics is a fundamental aspect of humanity. In the same way, just because horror always deals with things that are (for one reason or another) wrong, does not mean any example provides adequate fodder for the conversation.

For me, what makes the difference is an element of choice. What drives the study of ethics in the first place is that we still aren't sure 100% of the time when we're doing the right thing, and the truth is that dilemmas seldom divide cleanly into right and wrong options, anyway. Ethics is stil a topic of discussion because humans are still failing to uncover a formula to tell us exactly how to behave in any given situation. The really fascinating part of Kant's Categorical Imperative

A story about someone who is unequivocally evil is much less interesting (for my purposes) than a story about someone who is forced to make--or accidentally makes, or justifies making--a choice that most of humanity would find repulsive, unacceptable, unforgivable, but that we may possible be able to imagine ourselves choosing as well (and this relation to the protagonist is just as, if not more, revolting than our initial reaction). Horror is much more intriguing when it is directed at oneself (either on the part of the protagonist or the audience) than when the perpetrator is someone that no one in their right mind would identify with (Freddy Krueger; Indian Jones' Nazis).

A possible exception to this may be gore: brutal acts of torture etc can be just as repulsive when carried out by a familiar and unequivocally evil villain as by someone you don't expect it from (though I'd argue the acts are made worse when they come from someone we identify with), but here we find new qualifications. Excessive gore and violence needs to serve a purpose in these stories beyond the cringe/gross out factor for them to be valid specimens for ethical examination/. Of course it isn't right to [insert horrific physical act here] to anyone...so a grander, more macro purpose is desired. To quote the Romero article,
(which some people see as just such a formula) is not that there is a definitive answer to every dilemma but in determining the maxim by which the answer can be known--which is much harder.
“I don’t get the torture porn films,” Mr. Romero said. “They’re lacking metaphor. For me the gore is always a slap in the face saying: ‘Wait a minute. Look at this other thing.’ ”
For Romero, that other thing is often commentary on society (social norms, race relations, necessary revolutions or their notable absence), and I believe gore can serve to highlight other concepts as well.


I'm trailing off here as this is as far as I've thought this through today and I have countless other things to get to. Hopefully pictures and maybe some Mexico updates later on.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Picture placeholders

From today's (Thursday's) trips to Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula:


That cornsicle I'm holding is called an elote: it's corn on the cob, smeared with mayo, cheese, and chili powder.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Reading list

I brought three for-fun books with me to Oaxaca. I lent one to a friend and shortly thereafter I finished the one I had been reading, and I started to panic about not having anything to read!

Which is silly, of course, given the fact that I have regular internet access. In addition to the couple of author blogs and entertainment news sites I regularly keep up with, there are other blogs I check occasionally and several issues of online fiction magazines that are taking up space in my inbox. And, as a sort of belated New Year's resolution, I've registered on NYTimes.com and made the website my home page, in an effort to encourage myself to get my news from someplace other than the AV Club and random links from BoingBoing and John Scalzi's blog.

I first took seriously the idea of reading the New York Times when I (briefly) considered applying for a Truman Scholarship last year; one of the applicant qualifications is reading at least one thoughtful periodical regularly. Now, I do have a magazine subscription, but I don't think a subscription to Paste has the same kind of clout as one for Science or The New Yorker.

I don't think I'd ever take out a subscription to the actual hard copy Times; percentage-wise I probably wouldn't read enough of the paper to justify the waste of paper. (I actually have a hope that one day all daily newspapers will be entirely digital; while there is certainly something to be said for having something to hold in your hands, it seems incredibly wasteful to print something that most people will through away after reading half of. Just download it onto a Kindle- or iPhone-like device and take that with you on the train. Or something.) But, the website makes it convenient for me to find the things that interest me, and to catch headlines I might otherwise have missed, as wel as to refer back to things later without having to save piles of newsprint.

Anyway, I guess what I'm really saying is that I'm attempting self-improvement through the reading of "real" news.

To jump back to the hard copy issue, I do have to admit that the reason I haven't gotten around to reading those ezines is partly because they're only online. I usually do my pleasure reading right before going to sleep, and I like being able to shut everything off except enough light to read by. Ah well.

The beginning of this post was full of links! Dang.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Here we go again

Another three-week-long class starts tomorrow (Colonial Latin America), and it looks like I didn't manage to get any real fiction writing done in the brief amount of time during which I had no homework. Oh well.

Clay and I went to see the movie at El Pochote tonight. El Pochote is a place/organization that shows free movies every night of the week (except Mondays) for free. The movies are from all over the world, though there is an understandly significant presence of Mexican and Spanish-language film, and there is usually a theme or a few (December was cult films; this month is surrealism), and the events seem to draw a lot of Americans and Europeans, but also locals. The movie tonight was The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales and was about a good-natured taxidermist and his hypochondriac, falsely pious shrew of a wife. It was highly entertaining, and I recommend it.

What I'm getting to, however, is that while walking to the aqueducts where the cinema is located, I felt very much like I was at home. I had this feeling when I returned from Mexico City as well, that I was returning to a familiar place where I feel pretty comfortable and know pretty well, and it's a nice feeling. I'm looking forward to enjoying this portion of my time here with perhaps a slightly different attitude than I had the past four week--still have new things to try and places to explore, but everything isn't new anymore, and hopefully that will add a bit of familiarity to everything else.

That said, I do wish there was a way I could meet some new people or make some new friends. As I've mentioned before, I do like everyone in my program, but hanging out with the exact same people every day gets a little old, and it would be nice to widen the pool. But I don't know how to go about meeting new people, and I think I would have a really hard time befriending a Oaxacan...the only local I really know at all is Viky. Maybe if I went more places by myself (but which places?)...perhaps I should hang out at the English lending library. This is probably a case of me wanting something that I am not brave enough to attempt.

The fact that we have to go directly home after classes for lunch everyday is rather frustrating. The meal is delicious, but having to go home means that after lunch is over I'm suddenly at least a 20-minute walk from anywhere I'd want to go in the center of town, and this disinclines me sometimes to go places because I either have to do all my work first and then go out later when things might be closed, or go directly after lunch when I'm not hungry and hope that I'm not too tired to do my work when I get back. Eating lunch at home every day also means that we never really have the opportunity to try the numerous eateries that are only open during lunchtime hours...but it's seldom worth skipping lunch because it's already paid for and always tasty. Ah well.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hives!

Today was the relaxing, quiet, uneventful day I was hoping for. The weather was gorgeous; I got up late, did some reading and interneting, even got a little work done on a story I've been meaning to write, got ice cream with friends, and had them over later for pizza, beer, and a movie. And I ate some of these:

Yes, relaxing, quiet, uneventful--except for the fact that at one point I broke out in hives from head to knee.

Man, it's one of the worst possible sensations I've ever had: to suddenly, inexplicably have your entirely body begin to itch. And I was in public, eating ice cream with friends at the time, so I tried to just grin and bear it when really what I wanted to do was tear off my skin. When I started scratching off my eyebrows I decided it was probably time to go home until things settled down.

Which they did, eventually, and as I said, otherwise I couldn't have really have asked for a better Saturday.

I did start writing a story...I was hoping that coming to live in a completely different place would give me lots of inspiration for new stories, and in a way it did, but most of the ideas I have are little "what ifs" based on some small aspect of life, bit of information, or amusing tradition I've come across. Find something weird, and make it just a bit weirder. Only, they aren't actually plots; in fact, most of these ideas take the form of first person encounters. Which is not so unusual for me, I guess, only I feel like they're not very interesting for other people to read. Maybe if I accumulate enough of them and collected them together it would be more meaningful/entertaining.

Beach Thoughts, part 2

Saturday, January 26 2008

This morning had its ups and downs: I got ill on a boat for the first time ever, but I also got to hold a sea turtle in the ocean and see manta rays leap out of the water.
A couple of my companions were rather ill on the boat--worse than I was, and I'm afraid that sea sickness took something away from the experience.

As did arriving back and finding that my roommates had locked me out of our room and would not return for a few more hours. The rest of us ended up having delicious pizza at a tiny place owned by a couple Italian ex-pats from Bologna who have lived here for the past five years. I wish we were staying another day just so I could eat lunch there again.

Well, and also to go swimming again, even though I ended my ocean time today because a particularly brutal and poorly-timed series of waves pounded me face-first into the sand. I have been coughing and spitting up sand ever since; not an orifice was spared a sandy doom, in fact. But, I got to float on my back, drifting over waves, and that was one of the most relaxing experiences I have had in ages.

We watched the movie
Frida while eating dinner--"Cena con Cine" is of the best inventions ever--before heading out for drinks on the beach. The sky was amazing again tonight--the moon is huge, and the motion of its rising was discernible.

I did not sleep well last night--the combination of light, noise, and uncomfortable mattress did the trick, as it were, but tonight we've turned off the light in the adjoining room, and the drum beats seem more distant.

Some general thoughts: there are dogs (and cats, but mostly dogs) all over the place, animals everywhere. And while some of them are mangy, and all fairly scrawny, life as a beach pet does not seem too bad!

I'm not sure and of my photos were able to capture the beauty of the water here. I did my best. It is possible that I'll return here in February.

I am not looking forward to the ride home tomorrow, though I don't think I'll mind going back to Oaxaca. But our time here overall has bee very nice, and I am quite glad I came.

I obviously didn't mention this in either entry, but we saw this awesome spider (its back is about the same width across as a dime)

Friday, February 1, 2008

The much-anticipated Beach Thoughts, part 1

This is where the Chicagoans can really start to hate me.

(I wrote these entries right before going to sleep both nights, and I am typing them up with as few edits as possible, for authenticity.)

Friday, January 25 2008

I am about to go to sleep on a rather thin mattress covered with strange stains on an upper bunk under mosquito netting at a hostel owned by Carlos "Einstein" on Playa (beach) Mazunte, less than a mile away from the southernmost point of Mexico. And perhaps it is just my buzz talking, but he ink is flowing very freely from my pen and I have never been so glad to be writing with a pen rather than on a computer.

From beyond our dormitory float strains of (I must admit) rather reggae music that are a perfect and cliche accompaniment to the undeniable odor of marijuana that permeates the hostel. It's a hostel--and a beachfront hostel at that--what do you expect?

To begin at the beginning, we started our day off at 5am with a nicer van than we expected but also with one less person than we expected. Never minding that slight change in plans, before too long we were on our way--a way that consisted mainly of mountain switchbacks taken at optimistic speeds. Situated as Oaxaca is, in a valley, turns out the ENTIRE route to the beach is through mountains. This led to a couple of intense cases of nausea (not on my part, thankfully) but the trip was otherwise uneventful. (By the way, for those concerned, I started the day in a great mood, much improved from the day before. Despite our slight change in plans, I had a handle on things and we were on our way!)

We arrived at Mazunte a little after 11am. Six of our party found rooms at a place called Hotel Ziga while the other four of us, myself included, ended up with a two-bunk "dormitory-style" room (with private bath) at the aforementioned "Einstein" hostel next door.
At 70 pesos a night (including breakfast), who can complain?

The rest of the day ws basically spent defining the word "relaxation." We ate a leisurely lunch at a nearby comedor, then explored the main street a bit, read for awhile, and then headed down to the beach.
I spent a good two hours at least in the water. Despite being the Pacific, the water here is delightful, and I really enjoyed myself riding he waves into the shore and just generally floating around. I wandered down the beach with a couple of people before heading back to our room for a quick rinse (I will NEVER get all this sand out of my hair) and change of clothes before meeting up with everyone, hanging about in hammocks, before heading to dinner. We ate at a place on the beach; a few of us shared three kinds of shrimp (garlic, beer battered, and ala diabla) and milkshakes. We finished the evening with beer, mixed drinks, a fire poi open mic night (watching not participating), and plenty of conversations that it is for the best will probably not be recalled tomorrow (not for scandalous reasons but simply because they were pointless).

Tomorrow morning I am going snorkling with sea turtles. And I intend to meet Carlos "Einstein." Otherwise, the entire day is free free free, and I cannot say that I mind.

The music is still playing out on the deck, and I hope that I can get to sleep, but I think I will take a page from the book of the chill young french dude (who was almost certainly high) who cleaned our room earlier, and not worry about it.

On, and the stars were amazing. There aren't even more than I've seen before, but we were out on the beach long enough tonight to watch the constellations progress across the sky, and that is pretty amazing.

Good night.


(I'll try to put on part 2 sometime tomorrow.)