Tuesday, March 30, 2010

more from Mexico

Sunday March 28, 2010

“Eat a little more, have another beer, then more food. . .”

I’m so full of food I don’t even know how I’m functioning. I can’t stop eating, you wouldn’t either if you were here. (As I wrote that I was blissful. Everyone was taking a nap or otherwise occupied. I was sitting on the front patio with my laptop, listening to a little Elliott and writing. As soon as I finished that second sentence a car drove up, honked and a half dozen relatives showed up and piled out of the car. *sigh ... two hours later. . .) I was full.

This morning we were in Mazatlan. One of my dad’s half-brothers called the hotel and took us all out for breakfast. We ate at a little outdoor place in the center of town, we ate bowls of borrego, big-horned sheep. After the soup they served sizzling piles of sheep meat with fresh tortillas and salsa. Pretty effen delicious; I completely ignored the doctor’s orders to eat fruit. I can eat fruit every day. I’m sure my stomach doesn’t like my choices but it will get over it. Maybe. As we ate all this traditional handmade food the owner of the restaurant put on a Miley Cyrus CD. I shit you not. Old world on a crash course with the new and awful.

After breakfast we drove around Mazatlan. I was annoyed because my half-uncle insisted taking us to a beach he said we would love. He took us to a resort. Wow. A resort. A tiled pool, a sterilized version of Mexico with bottled mineral water everywhere and employees in matching uniforms. I had a flashback of my hell weekend at Sandal’s in Jamaica. I do not like resorts. I do not like cruise ships. I don’t like my experiences pre-packaged for easy digestion, there is no real living in that. We were almost sucked into a time-share presentation. My cranky came out. I wanted to get back to the ranch since we had plans to eat lunch with my grandparents.

We finally got back to the ranch and after much wasted time (so American of me to keep thinking of that; time isn’t wasted here; it is passed, rolled around, digested. . ) We went to the beach about 20 miles away. I got to ride in the back of the pick-up, thrilled. I love driving through rural Mexico, passing fields and orchards. Huerta means orchard. I am Miss Orchard. Minus the fertility and fruit flies. We passed through a couple of small villages on our way to the beach, everyone waved when we rolled past. How freaking cool.

At the beach we (all 12 of us) sat at long tables under a palm-thatched roof and ate. And ate. And ate. We started with shredded crab served with tostadas. I had to convince myself not to eat too many. Then platters of boiled shrimp we peeled and ate with lime and chile. The the fish arrived. Whole fish cut in half, covered in salt and garlic then cooked over at open flame. I overate but didn’t care and kept eating. I had to get up and go for a couple of walks to try to relax my stomach. Then I are some more. Finally I was so full I started aching.

The beach we ate at is my idea of an ideal beach. No buildings, only little thatched-roof huts selling food. The beach is very locals only, people swim in shorts and t-shirts. Most people bring their own food and make a day of it, sitting under thatched huts that would never pass building inspection at home, four poles and a few palm fronds for shade. This is the Mexico I love. Not that touristy hell, no souvenir shops, no one trying to sell me time-shares or any of that commercial crap. The sand isn’t raked, iguanas sun themselves, the smell of wood-smoke. Musicians wander from group to group playing requested love and drinking songs; two guitars, an accordion and slightly off-key harmonizing.

On our way back home I rode with my uncle Piyín, I met him the day I arrived and he is the one giving me the most shit for not being married. I saw a for sale sign on a lot of land by the mountain we’re climbing later in the week. He said the lot is about $7000 but the land was bad for farming. I told him I don’t want to be a farmer but it would be nice to have a few acres somewhere. I pointed out another mountain with a sheer rock face and asked him if anyone around rock-climbed. He said no and asked me I did, I told him I’ve tried it. A man on a beautiful horse rode by and I mentioned I love horseback riding. Piyín asked me how I had time to know how to do so many things, and work, and travel. I told him I have all the time in the world because I’m not married. Score!! Points!!! He finally shut up about it! At least for today,

Going to sit outside with my glass of wine and look at the moon There are stars out. Holy week has started and all the kids are home from school, the streets are filled with children running back and forth playing soccer and other games. Pretty damn beautiful.

March 29 2010
7am

Morning, with mosquitos and fog.

I woke up early this morning and went for a walk with my aunt. The morning was still a little chilly, we walked about a mile and a half south down the road to a bridge. Empty trucks passed us, later this afternoon they’ll return full to overflowing with chiles and jicama. The sun rose and the dew began to turn into the steam. The mango groves near the side around the world took on a ghost-like quality; clouds of mosquitos rose out of the standing water at the side of the road. (Many of their brethren made a feast of my body last night, going to get another B vitamin injection today, they don’t like the smell of vitamins.) The mountain I’ll climb Wednesday had a crown of fog around the top. I saw a few dead frogs on the side of the road. Every few minutes cars would pass, the drivers always honked and passengers waved.

Last night I was somehow hungry again and my grandmother and I walked down the street to a little roadside stand. I met even more relatives, cousins from my grandmother’s grandmother and their offspring. A man had a steel drum grill and was cooking. I ordered more food than I needed, 3 quesadillas and 3 choreados, thick corn tortillas with melted cheese, meat and vegetables. They also gave me a plate pull of cucumbers, salsa and guacamole, the whole thing cost less than $4. I met a distant cousin who lives in Tijuana. I brought the food back and ate only a little, I’ll share the leftovers for breakfast when my grandmother wakes up.

I love the serenity of the mornings here, once the uncles have gone to the milking and the trucks have all passed. Birds call back and forth to each other, church bells ring. Little lizards that live on the ceiling make sharp clicking noises. There is a man who lives across the street who has unfortunate habit of playing his jukebox (no shit) at full volume when he wakes up, thankfully he isn’t awake yet and I only have to listen to birds and bells instead of Los Bukis.

A calf was born yesterday. I’ll go visit this afternoon. In a couple of hours my uncle Piyín is taking me to town to see the Museum. For less than 80 cents I can look at archeological artifacts, dresses from a famous dead singer and ancient mining equipment. I’m going to buy some oilcloth to take home. There is a man in town who sells fresh oysters and I’ve been dying to have some. I’ve only seen men eating at his stand and wonder if there is another cultural things I don’t know about. I remember once talking to a Mexican uncle and mentioning I love oysters and he said “I can’t believe your father lets his daughter eat oysters.” Hm.

Monday March 29, 2010 afternoon

“Where have you saved your shining paper?”

I am so tired. So, so tired. It has been a great day so far. This morning we went into town and hung out at the town museum for a little while. Rosario was a mining town in the 1600’s and the museum showcases the town’s history, from the indians, to the colonialists to the revolution to now. They had a display of pre-Columbian artifacts. (I may know someone who may have a better collection and that person may feel guilty knowing she has a better collection than the museum sitting on her dresser at home . .) I sat in the hacienda style courtyard and chatted with a historian. He told me no one is town really cares about the preservation of history and many very old houses are knocked down to build more modern houses. Bummer.

We went to the ruins of one church where bees have built hives in the bell towers. The stones were removed from the old church to build the new church. There are poems waiting for me in all these experiences. We went to where the old mines were; when the mines were abandoned they flooded with later and now a large lagoon is in the middle of town, surrounded by trees. Turtles and fish swim in the lagoons and a rope bridge is suspended between the town and a little island that remains in the center of the lagoon. There are tables and chairs and a little plaza on one side of the lagoon. I could see myself hanging out there with a book and basket of food.

We went to the market where my uncles made fun of me for buying a large hemp bag. The bags are used for packing corn and chiles but I thought the bag would make a nice wall-hanging. I also bought a couple of hemp slings. Tomorrow we’re going to the river and uncle is going to show me how to sling stones. I may take an eye out. On Wednesday when we climb the mountain we’re taking a rifle and my uncle is going to teach me to shoot.

We stopped at a little roadside stand to eat campechanas, seafood cocktails. Holy Triton goodness. The cocktails come in tall glasses; hot broth with cucumbers, cooked shrimp, octopus, oysters and raw scallops (I love raw scallops, they make me want to do naked backflips into the sea, singing.) I added chile and lime and devoured mine. It tastes like emotional home. I remember coming to Mexico as a child and my father convincing me to eat seafood when I was skeptical. He told me I could taste the ocean in the seafood. I can and I still do.

I rode around in the back of the truck again and am many shades darker. I may have to limit my truck riding to the early or late hours.

When we got back to the ranch I made cheese. Yeah, I made cheese! Pretty easy except for ingredients, I don’t have fresh, raw milk around and I definitely don’t have any salted cow udders to help the milk coagulate. My aunt Conchi told me that I have cheese making hands, that some people’s hands are too hot and they cook the cheese. Yay for poor circulation! After making cheese I made dulce de leche, a milk custard. I’m becoming domesticated.

My aunt Lily is going home in a few. I’ve enjoyed having her with me. Her Spanish isn’t as good as mine, which is weird, since it was her first language. But as one of my uncles says “Everyone knows Lily isn’t white except Lily.” Her mistakes in Spanish are cracking me up. Her most common mistake is the word “Dad.” Accents are very important in Spanish. “Dad” is PaPAH. Papá. She keeps saying PAHpa. Potato. “My potato was very good to me. I love my potato. Oh my poor potato may have gout, I have to take my potato to the clinic. My potato lost a finger in world war two.” People are polite but I laugh at her. She also doesn’t remember anyone’s name so she calls everyone primo, cousin. My uncle turned to me and said “Doesn’t she know I’m her brother?” My favorite mistake she made today at the market. She was looking for aluminum foil. She asked “Where do you save your shining paper?” The clerk looked at her like she was crazy and my other aunt and I cracked up. Good times.

March 29, 2010
nighttime

“You’re body is reacting to the moon, just like the mosquitos.”

Oh life in a small village. I don’t know if I could get used to it. Too small really. It seems the entire village knows I had stomach problems since everyone keeps asking me how my stomach is doing. Fine, I keep telling them. They keep asking. I can’t get used to the constant social interaction, people come over constantly. I tried to do some reading this evening and every time I went in to another room, someone followed me. I sat outside in the dark and people saw my silhouette and came to talk to me. I walked down the street to look at the full moon in peace and cousins came out of their houses to join me.

Not having any solitude is my idea of hell. But, there is a beauty in it. Someone is always looking out, watching, making sure everyone is accounted for. No one here is isolated. I have a great-uncle with dementia and he wanders from house to house, everyone feeds him and takes care of him. There is a distant cousin they call Pulgas or “Fleas” (I don’t ask why) who is mentally challenged. He doesn’t know his age or his real name and he is as simple as they come but he is included in everything. I enjoy his company, maybe because he doesn’t talk, he just grins.

We’re going to climb the mountain tomorrow instead of Wednesday. My grandmother isn’t happy about it. She thinks I’m going to fall off the mountain. I’m worried most about ticks. We’re leaving right after the cows are milked. I’m going with 3 uncles. From what I hear the mountain isn’t that hard to climb, the whole town climbs it every May 4th. I asked my uncles if we could climb the mountain on Thursday, since my plane doesn’t leave until evening but they said no one can do anything on Holy Thursday. Except talk, of course, and drink. It makes the Jesus happy.

I’m a little lonely. As much as I like my solitude I miss being around people who know me as I am. I’m with family here, they’ve known me my entire life and who I was growing up. . .but who I am now, not so much. I miss my parents, sisters and B, especially B and our rituals and companionship. There are only so many conversations I can have here that pique my interest wholly. I love hearing family legends and such but there is a lot of meaningless gossip. I don’t care that grandma’s sister is yelling at that little boy not because he is misbehaved but because his grandfather broke her heart more than fifty years ago. I care a little because that kind of dynamic is interesting but the going on and on about it. Yeesh.

I do enjoy the folklore and reasons behind things. Tonight the moon is full, my Uncle Jaime, (who I am endlessly fascinated by, I wish I could draw so I could draw his face, he has more character than almost anyone I’ve ever met) told me the mosquitos will be crazy and I will be a little crazy. And not to go walking alone. As if that were even possible, a solitary walk.

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