Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unbraiding and Squish Factors

Do we look any different, more conversant in Spanish perhaps? Can you tell which photo was taken the night we left for Mexico and which one was taken the morning of our return 4 months later? Since we arrived in San Diego as the finale of our summer 2008 bicycle trip down the Pacific coast of the USA, and re-staged there for our semester in Mexico, it seemed fitting we were back again to transition from travel to life in this country just to the north of Mexico. This time we arrived at my sister's much less hot and sweaty. (She lives among some tremendous hills that challenged us a little on our last day of bicycling in August.) And this time we made our entrance in sombreros rather than bicycle helmets.

Transition week in San Diego included reworking our wardrobes (the kids got taller so none of their pants fit and we needed clothes for colder weather), and Dana getting her ears pierced and her hair unbraided - it took her mom, aunt and grandma working together quite awhile to get out the 49 braids. Noah and Dana were also pedal-boating with the grandparents, pool swimming, bowling, doing art projects and playing Playmobil with cousin Alexi, and choosing books from the library book sale. Tom went out on a few mountain bike rides, we mailed our camping gear back to Bellingham, and we got used to dollars not pesos. Winner of the nightly word game Quiddler got to eat a grasshopper spiced with chile, since we brought back a few from Oaxaca as a present for my brother-in-law. Word is they're crunchy like a sunflower seed.  Only with a little squish in the middle.

Arriving in 3-degree Michigan, the snow is not squishing. It is making that squeaking sound underfoot that signals it is darn cold. Snow is good news here, as Tom's parents' 50th wedding anniversary event is at a cross-country ski resort, and there are big plans for nordic races, sledding and skating. Happily, there's also a hot tub and a place I could order the anniversary cake from. 

We'll be "deep in family" as Noah once said of this group when he was little, with his uncles arriving from North Carolina, cousins from Portland and New York and Michigan, his Michigan aunt and uncle, and his Maryland great-aunt and uncle. Group meals for 20, options in outdoor fun, and family. Another kind of adventure. Maybe we'll even propose word games and chile grasshopper prizes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Continuation of the Original Situation

This blog's title, just like my last, are taken from one of Shambala's signs. I figure "a continuation of the original situation" applies to our move from the beach back inland. As in, we continue to camp in Mexico, enjoying 80-degree days and 50-odd degree nights with a beautiful view from our tent. We've just traded seeing the water to being in the hills looking down on Oaxaca City. Our tent was an awesome place to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks.

We concluded our beach fun with a trip to the turtle sanctuary at Mazunte, where we met five of the seven types of turtles that live in Mexico. We liked the striped land turtles lumbering along, but were even more captivated by the swimming sea turtles. There were baby ones the size of Dana's hand and huge ones with shells several feet across, all swooping gracefully in the tanks.

After that, we visited our favorite restaurants once last time, boogie boarded and snorkeled again so Laural could finally see a spotted pufferfish, and taxied to Pochutla to get van transport back to Oaxaca City. Laural took extra Mexican Dramamine equivalent and managed the 5-hour endless serpentine road feeling weirdly drugged but not at all nauseous.

Our new digs are a combination campground and agave, or maguey in Spanish, farm. We now know that tequila, which is made from the same plant, can only be called tequila if it is made near the town of Tequila, so everything else is mescal. The proprietor here makes mescal from his agave, and his trademark is a scorpion in the bottom of the bottle, instead of the usual worm. There are only four groups camped here, and the other three are retired Canadians or Germans with campervans. So it's pretty quiet except for the neighborhood roosters and donkey, and Dana and Noah have lots of space to run around and play with the three dogs that live here. Dana likes little Pita best and is petting her in the photo.

During the day we catch a local bus down into the city and wander the markets, or head out to other locales. We spent time at the ruins of Monte Alban yesterday.  Reminded us of Teotihuacan, but so much older and more preserved stone carvings. I felt proud when I asked Noah if he wanted a Monte Alban t-shirt with the circular Aztec calendar on it and he looked askance, "because this site is Zapotec, not Aztec, mom."
Nice to know he's absorbing info here, and it helps that he just read a fiction book called the Maya Gateway. He also called excitedly to Dana when he recognized a stela, a column of pictographs telling the place's history, which he knows because one was discovered by the archeologist in the book.

So we continue to live and learn, have a few more adventures planned for our last days in Mexico, and head to the USA on January 6, celebrated here as the Three Kings Day, when the wise men arrived to visit baby Jesus. We'll fly from Oaxaca City to Tijuana, bus across the border, and then spend a week in San Diego with my parents, and my sister and her family, who have even kept up their Christmas tree for us. While many in Mexico are exchanging gifts in remembrance of El Dia de los Reyes, we'll be doing the same with family in San Diego. Maybe it is appropriate that we'll arrive on the Three Kings Day, like them wiser and more humble than when we left.