Archive for August, 2008

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Zócalo

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today, we returned to Macuil to see if we can finally get settled in there.  Before catching the bus, we headed to the 20 de Noviembre market in downtown Oaxaca to pick up some things for Margarita’s aunt and uncle and to the Zócalo to withdraw some money.

Unfortunately, we were racing against the clock and didn’t really get to enjoy either place, but it was nice to see that the Zócalo seems to have returned to normal after all the protests and construction and whatever else that had been going on in the previous years.  I personally don’t really understand everything that was happening to know how well-founded the protests were, how legitimate the construction was, etc., but I am happy to see the Zócalo back like it used to be; it is such a pretty spot.  And it was completely packed with people when we were there.  I look forward to going back during our next trip to Oaxaca City and enjoying it at a more leisurely pace.

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Phone Line

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well, no good news for getting our own phone line in Macuil.  It is possible, but we will have to wait 45-90 days, or maybe longer.  So, that option is out, at least in the short-term.  If I am going to be using dial-up then, I will have to find someone who doesn’t mind sharing their phone line.

Satellite remains another option, but we need a meter-by-meter flat space to install it, a strong surface (not the tin roofs we have here), and a clear line of sight to the south.  So, it’s not like the Sky dishes which I have seen attached to sides of houses and basically wherever.  Still, the satellite people will come out in 3-4 days if that’s what we want.  It sounds good (if we can find a spot) and I’m tempted, but I would still like to know what is up with the library (do they have satellite access?) and why it is out and why the secundaria‘s runs slow.

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Breakfast

Monday, August 25, 2008

One of things I miss while I am in Oaxaca is breakfast.  It’s not that Oaxacans don’t eat a morning meal, it’s the differences in what is likely to be served.

In the US, we have many dedicated breakfast foods which are predominantly served in the morning:  bacon, eggs, sausage patties, pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, toast, English muffins, breakfast pastries, etc.  Sure these items can appear at other times of day and IHOP serves breakfast all day, but they are prototypically foods for the first meal of the day.  And not only are these foods associated with breakfast, but personally at least, I have come to expect my first meal to usually be taken from this menu.

Here, this isn’t the case.  There seems to be much less of an association between particular foods and certain meals of the day.  (I would say that eggs skew toward being a morning food here, but that is at best a trend, rather than something more categorical.)  As a result, today at Margarita’s sister house, for our first meal we had chicken in a green sauce.  It was quite good and I’m not going to refuse food that required no effort on my part to prepare, but still, it struck my American sensibilities as an odd thing to be having at 10 in the morning.

Part of this clash with my preferences may be my own doing, however.  Here, meals are spaced out a bit differently than they are in the US.  People often start their day around 6 or earlier with possibly coffee (or some other hot drink) and a little bread, a meal that can be referred to as [cafeto’].  This is followed by a big meal around 10am [xtììlà], another big meal in the afternoon around 3pm [yhuugwe], and then the day is finished off with something light, again usually coffee and bread [cafeto’].  (Actually, there is a dinner meal [xiella], too, around 6 or 7 when men return from the fields, but it’s not something we’ve been typically eating; a late yhuugwe carries us over until the nighttime coffee, usually.)

So, if I would get up early enough, I could convert the 6am nosh into a breakfast more familiar to me, like cereal and milk, or even just stick with the local coffee and bread.  Then when the 10am meal comes, I might be psychologically prepared to have something that seems more lunch-like to me.  As it’s been going though, I’ve been getting up later and am offered the 6am food and 10am food back to back, which is too much food for me first thing in the day, and again, odd food to start the day with.

After xtììlà today, however, I did score one of my favorite Oaxacan food items:  sugar cane [ettia].  It’s something I was really looking forward to and I can’t believe we have been here over two and a half weeks without any.  But luckily, as our meal was winding down, Benjamin was starting to get antsy, so I took him out for a walk.  We went by a place I had seen before that was offering bags of sugar cane pieces (and other fruits) and I was able to buy a bag for 10 pesos—I wasn’t even charged a gringo tax.  The sugar cane was really good and juicy; I wish I had some more.

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Back to Oaxaca

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today we returned to Oaxaca City to check out the possibility of our own phone line, investigate other Internet options, collect some things we had left there, and get caught up online, which, once we get settled in, is what I spend most of the day doing.

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Dial-Up Access

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Internet is still out at the library and I haven’t heard about any improvements at the secundaria.  So, if we are going to stay here for long, I’ll need to get my own Internet setup.

Macuil is too remote and small for DSL, which is too bad.  I’ve been impressed with Telmex’s DSL service in larger metropolitan areas.  I particularly like that their modems seem to come automatically with wireless service, although I wish it wasn’t automatically password protected.

So with no satellite in my back pocket, I am left to try out dial-up.  One problem will be finding a phone line that I can use.  It’s nice the town has been hooked up with phone service, but the house we are staying in hasn’t been.  I’ll have to find someone who doesn’t mind me tying up their phone.

And of course I haven’t been on dial-up in years.  I try to remember just how slow it is and brace myself for the worst.  After finding a temporary location to check it out, I find that dial-up turns out not to be so horrible; it is certainly workable.

And actually, there might be certain advantages to working at sublight speeds.  It would help me not overload the web-dictionary with too many bells-and-whistles which might render it impossible to use in Macuil, with slow and inconsistent Internet access.  It would also force me to find the most efficient way of packaging those bells-and-whistles that are necessary.  Finally, there is the added benefit that it might limit the amount of web-related goofing off that I can be tempted to do.  Maybe.

So, I feel cautiously optimistic, but am still not convinced how it will all work out.

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Hard Hat Required

Friday, August 22, 2008

An unexpected occupational hazard for me doing research in Oaxaca has been low ceilings, doorways, beams, overhangs, gutter supports, etc.  Historically, Zapotecs are a shorter people (although this is changing with improved nutrition—Margarita’s generation is noticeably taller than her parents’ generation and her generation’s children are taller still, with many of the guys coming close to my height, which at 5′ 10″ isn’t all that tall by US standards).  Most of the houses here, however, have been built to those shorter heights, and as a result I am forever putting lumps and gashes on the top of my head.

So, something I like about the new place we are staying is that there are only about three places I can hit my head:  the doorway going into the bedroom, the doorway going into the hallway leading to the kitchen, and the doorway into the kitchen.  All things considered, that’s not too bad.  Doorways are a natural place to duck and once I’m into the rooms or out on the porch, I’m in the clear.

In contrast, at Margarita’s uncle’s house, in addition to low doors there are numerous low beams.  And some doorways are really low:  if I wanted to get through the doorway standing up to where we sleep, I would have to remove my head.  So at his house, I often duck to avoid one obstacle and hit the next, or I sometimes I don’t duck down quite enough.  Her uncle has joked that I need a helmet for his house.  I wonder if I can put that down as a necessary equipment purchase on a grant application?

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Support Your Local Government

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Besides the day being filled with cleaning and getting the house ready, we also met with the cabildo, a group of five men who are selected for 18 month terms to administer the workings of the town, acting as mayor, treasurer, etc.  An additional nine men are chosen to take care of other duties around the town, such as serving as police.  These 14 men make up the autoridad municipal.

So, today we met with the cabildo to let them know about my current project and that I would be around.  It was the earliest they could meet with me since they had been occupied with festivities for La Asunción.

I was a little nervous before meeting with them, but the meeting went really well.  Thankfully, I had already met the man who is currently serving as the presidente municipal (mayor), and he was familiar with what I do.  Overall, they seemed very supportive and welcoming, so I feel hopeful about the current project.