Thursday, December 25, 2008

Celebrating Christmas Where the 1960's Never End

After the all night bus ride from Oaxaca City to the Oaxacan Coast at Puerto Angel, we went in search of beach camping and found a spot at Shambala. A groovy enclave on the clothing optional end of the beach, the sign pledging to "always welcome flower children" also proclaims it is a place "where the 60's never end." And yes, there are folks doing early morning nude yoga on the beach.

We started camping under a palapa (palm-thatched roof) at beach level, but after a few nights moved up, literally, to about forty feet above the beach for a fantastic view, more shade, and a quieter spot. Now we alternate days boogie boarding at Zipolite with days snorkeling at Playa Panteon, the next beach south.  I think the fish with electric blue mascara was saying hello to me yesterday. There are also bright yellow sunfish the size of dinner plates schooling around, tiger striped fish, pipefish, and lots of types with glowing shades of blue. I think there's another family poem in our snorkeling experience (see last blog) but we haven't captured it yet.
We got to spend a day with a Canadian family who had similar aged kids which was fun for all, and plan to head north a little ways to visit a turtle sanctuary before we return to Oaxaca City in the last days of December. Meanwhile, we're trying a different restaurant every day, getting fruit and snacks at the local market, wandering the area on foot, and trying to stay out of the sun during the burning rays hours of 10-2.

On Christmas eve, Shambala's owner hosted a unity dinner for all, and even gave out gifts. Dana received earrings and a beaded necklace and Noah got a shark's tooth necklace.  With his blond longish hair and boogie boarding prowess, he very much looks like a surfer guy here. Christmas was small things in the tent's gear loft, a stroll down the beach, and a plan to go skinny dipping tonight. 
Wishing you health, peace, and new adventures this holiday season.  Take care.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Feathery Flutters and Volcano Breath

Our week of travel in the state of Michoacan gave us the experiences of meeting wonderful people, feeling thousands of monarch butterflies in the air around us, and climbing the steaming volcano Paricutin.  We alternated camping and hoteling, as it was a bit chilly.  Camping the first night involved setting up our tent in an unfinished house and a meal of fresh steamed trout in a family home, in a beautiful little mountain town.  Near Patzcuaro we awoke to ice coating the tent, so the next night in Angahuan we rented a little trojecito, a tiny cabin with just enough space for four horizontal humans.  Here we'll share our first tries at family poetry, with each person contributing lines, to describe our time with the butterflies and the volcano.

Sanctuario de Monarcas

A rocky worn scrabbly trail
A bushwacking traverse
Finding wings on the ground
Hours of up
then clouds of butterflies windtunneling towards us
like gems
Feathery flutters of fire orange explosion
The swishing of small wings
Or clinging quietly in clusters to individual pine needles
and decorating Dana


Butt-bumbling wood saddles on fuzzy horses
or shoe-filling ash walking
past peach and avocado fields
and troje pointed roof wood houses
then hot and open lava fields
Sounds of Purepecha language
between the guide and his son
Smooth cone suddenly steep
volcano breath steam on our hands
ear to earth engine sounds
ancient smell of creation
Circling the crater
singed buns while innocently eating sandwiches
Knee high ash clouds steep dune
running sliding down
Lava hugging the church steeple of the town no more

Saturday, December 6, 2008

School Daze

Tom and I concluded 12 weeks of Spanish language school. That's us pictured below with three of our teachers, and Rolando has the pumpkin pie we brought to share. We've had three hours a day of grammar, practice, and conversation, five days a week for twelve weeks, plus two classes of cooking or dance each week. While I definitely need time for what I've been taught to sink in, I will surely miss my teachers and classmates at Escuela Mexicana. I feel accomplished to have finished the trimester and humbled by how much more exposure and study it will take know this new language.
Meanwhile, Tom and I have been volunteering in local schools, for another view of education in Mexico. I have been working in English classes with teachers Miriam and Celeste at Instituto Ignacio Montes de Oca. The students call it "Emo" due to the acronym being IIMO.  With over 40 fifteen-year-olds of mixed previous English experience per class period and a whiteboard in a battered classroom, these women have a tough job. I found the kids to be friendly and enthusiastic, the teachers dedicated, the classroom structure rather loose, and looming state exams to stress teachers and students just like they do in my
 school back in Washington State, USA.

Tom has been teaching 5th and 6th graders English at Juan B. Diosdado school in a very technology-based curriculum, involving videos and a smartboard. There are similarly forty students per class, and his students wear uniforms, which is very common here.  Now we're running into our students all over town. Tom's are usually with their parents, which necessitates introductions.  Mine are usually hanging out with their friends being cool teenagers.
Dana and Noah are managing school changes as well, concluding at Colegio Yeccan Waldorf (did you spy it in the photo where they are walking to school?) as we ready for our month of travel before returning to the USA. Just as for Tom and I, it is bittersweet. They have made friends and like school and our adventures here, and that's makes it hard to leave, even though we look forward to seeing friends and family at home.

We expected to be a little dazed by the school transitions, it's the price for getting to live here for the fall semester, but saying good-bye at the kids' school was hard.  Both Dana and I shed tears.  I'm consoling myself by thinking we'll come back. I want to learn more Spanish, I want the kids to learn more Spanish and stay connected to friends here, and I want to visit again the wonderful people we have met. Plus I love Guanajuato!  Next though, we're heading into our month of travel, starting with the monarch butterfly sanctuary and the 10,400 foot volcano Paricutin. Then it will be off to Oaxaca City and the Oaxacan Coast. Feeling dazed, but oh so thankful to be here.