You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Oaxaca’ category.

Another pastel. One day I opened the door from our kitchen here in Oaxaca, saw this light, and knew I had to try to draw it.

Pastels are tailor-made for one of my challenges, which is to refrain from too much detail and trust that broader strokes, well placed, will convey what is there. I went looking for oil pastels in pencil form (not for this piece, but for another one) and discovered that they do exist but that I’d have to have them shipped to me, which is slow and expensive. Just as well, as they’d be my attempt to do an end run around this limitation of the medium, and thus miss out on its promise as well. (I will buy them when I get home, though. They’re right for some projects.)

I keep thinking this piece isn’t quite done, but I’ve put it on our art wall, a declaration of “done enough.” Call it “patio with orange bucket.”

img_7323

Today we went to a huge buffet with accompanying children’s activities: jungle gym, swings, slides, air hockey, and–the highlight for the Munchkin–a real, working, child-powered four-horse merry-go-round. The buffet features over 100 dishes, and three different musical groups take turns entertaining the crowd or serenading a table:  a guitar duo, a mariachi band, and a pop band up on stage.

The decor reflected the imminence of September 16, Mexico’s Día de la Independencia. So did the food: note the green, white and red spaghettis.

img_7251

Even the dessert got in on the act. Gelatina is a favorite snack in Oaxaca. I wasn’t tempted, but it went fast.

img_7252

There were plenty of desserts to tempt us, though. All three of us had delicious chocolate cake. I was curious what was in this dessert to make the bees love it so much, but didn’t try a slice to find out. Honey, presumably.

img_7259

Naturally, people can celebrate their own culture in ways that would be frankly racist if an outsider did it. This leads to some jarring moments, such as seeing this decoration:

img_7249

People were also having their pictures taken inside an enormous frame that put a Pancho Villa mustache on them and a black sombrero on their heads. And there was this . . .

img_7254
“Cabrones” shows up in my dictionary as “not a nice thing to call someone,” but it’s true that one meaning is “guys.”

So, we tried this and that dish and seconds on the best ones, until I felt like this little guy.

img_7253

When it was time to stretch, we walked out on the grounds. Munchkin, of course, had been doing plenty of running and climbing in the indoor playground; now we all needed a break. The grounds are enormous, clearly designed to host weddings and other such events, and also have another playground and a boat for kids to climb on, which Munchkin promptly did. They also had a fountain that reminded me of our trip to Teotihuacan in 2010. The munchkin, then three, had wanted to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. I told her we’d come back when she was older for another chance. Maybe today was it.

img_7255

She identified this plant immediately, having learned about it in her summer camp last month. Its name is as lovely as its flowers: Lluvia de estrellas, rain of stars.

img_7256

And we went back inside for hours more of sitting (the adults), climbing (Munchkin), and feasting (all of us). We decided to skip dinner tonight.

A couple of weeks ago, Joy went to explore the big Chadraui, one of a supermarket chain around here. A smaller (though by no means small) one is a few blocks from us; the big one is on the other side of town. She came back with marvelous treats, such as real maple syrup and plain Cheerios–we’d only been able to find sweetened ones. The plain ones contain plenty of sugar, too, but something in my parenting sensibilities draws the line at the Honey-Nut variety, and faints dead away at Chocolate Cheerios. Munchkin has been missing her favorite cereal.

Joy described the store to us: “It’s the size of a small moon.” watermelondeathstar3

“That’s no moon,” I quipped nerdily, and so we have called the store the Death Star Chadraui ever since. Today, all three of us went there for the first time. Munchkin was excited. “Are we going to see the Death Star?” she said. At that point I thought we might have gone too far. At this rate, we were going to be in for some serious disappointment when we got there. I was hoping TIE fighters would come spinning out to meet us. “Yeah,” Munchkin said. “All the checkout people ought to be stormtroopers . . . ”

As it turned out, we didn’t see any TIE fighters or stormtroopers, nor was Darth Vader stalking through the dairy section, but we did enjoy ourselves, especially on the moving ramp, a kind of cross between a moving sidewalk and an escalator. The Empire ought to consider installing one of its own. And the store is the size of a small moon. Later, not really thinking about my choice of words, I told Joy that the store was “impressive.” She said, “Most impressive.”

 

(Death Star watermelon by SilverisDead, (c) 2009)

Yesterday, after considerately waiting until 9 or 10 a.m., people in our neighborhood began setting off firecrackers. “Cracker” is not the right word. FireBOOMS. All morning, we had this series of sounds:

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee BOOM AAAAAAH!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee BOOM AAAAAAH!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee BOOM AAAAAAH!

Eeeeee as a bomb rose, BOOM as it went off, and then the Munchkin’s scream.

I said, “Is August 28 some kind of holiday we don’t know about?” and Joy said, realistically, “Probably.” There are a lot of holidays here. I’ve speculated many times that I could learn comprehensive Mexican history just by looking up the dates after which streets are named. What did happen on February 6, January 20, etc., that they should be honored in this way?

I haven’t seen a Calle 28 de agosto, so maybe it was a saint’s day? It’s always someone’s saint’s day, in fact many someones’. And sure enough, on the walk home from dinner out with a friend, we saw a parade coming our way. It was clearly religious, so at first we thought, “Funeral,” but at night? It seemed unlikely. The people were singing and carrying cross-topped banners, and one bier of flowers. The holy person portrayed in the banner on the bier looked like any old white European man with a beard, so we wouldn’t have been any wiser, except that another banner read “San Augustin vive para siempre (Saint Augustine lives forever). It turns out that August 28 is the saint day of Augustine of Hippo, a very important person in the history of the church. It’s interesting to note that he was neither white nor European, but a Berber, which means he probably looked a lot like the people who were marching and singing in the parade.

Moving along finishing some pieces. These two little critters have been almost-done for several weeks. The cat is 5″ long, the armadillo 4″, not counting their tails.IMG_7236IMG_7237

Heaven knows we aren’t going to have room in our suitcases even for the things we’ve made and bought, but I think we need to buy more unpainted alebrijes to bring home. We’re already thinking, “Alebrijes-painting party!”–for the munchkin’s next birthday if she wants, sure, but also for grownup friends.

I’ve finished the building phase of two ceramics pieces, both coil built. Eventually they’ll be fired and ready for the next phase.

Vase with roots (approx 10″ high, 4″ at widest point):

2016-08-09 18.32.55

Walls of Oaxaca (approx. 6″ high, 10″ wide):

2016-08-09 18.32.34

 

 

 

 

This is a common sight in Oaxaca. A wall with several layers exposed: paint, stucco, brick, stone, adobe. It’s like a telescope that looks into the past. It sees the history of that building, and also the earth of which it was built.

IMG_6978

The adobe in particular is fascinating, being made in part of straw that grew during the season when it was built, and pebbles that were made by the earth of that place millions of years before.

IMG_6977

Today we were back in the ceramics studio–we get there about once a week–and I finished the basic shaping of a coil-built bowl that is going to pay homage to these walls. When I’d done that, I had about half an hour to begin carving the outside of the bowl. It will have the textures of brick, mortar, stone, adobe–all these inhabitants of Oaxaca that are never out of sight for more than a block or two.

IMG_6976
I was so tired during the afternoon that I told Joy and Munchkin to go to the studio without me. I would stay and sleep, I said. But I got a breath of second wind and decided to go along. I was very glad I did. Working on the clay woke me up.

Yesterday we went back to San Martin Tilcajete for its fair of alebrijes. About twenty artists had booths all around its center, and in the middle, people sat at a long table painting alebrijes. Munchkin asked if we could do it and we said no, we wanted to go to San Bartolo before the end of the day and anyway, we were already planning to go to a four-hour alebrijes-painting workshop the next day (today, Sunday). She asked again later. By then, we’d given up on the plan of going to San Bartolo, so we said yes, reluctantly. Ten minutes later I told her it was a fantastic idea. I was painting. The soreness in my shoulder disappeared, Donald Trump vanished from my mind, and it was just me, a paintbrush, and this sea turtle.

IMG_7197

Munchkin made a penguin and Joy made a flamingo. Pretty good for our first foray into this art form!

IMG_7198

And yes, we are about to go to a four-hour workshop and do it some more. Munchkin also wants to learn how to carve them, but that opportunity is harder to find.

Apparently, the craze for these beautiful little sculptures is causing deforestation of the copal tree. We will have to help plant more.

The part-of-a-house we’ve rented is in a really good location in a quiet neighborhood, it has a lot of outdoor space, it has a cistern that guarantees a steady water supply in Oaxaca’s uncertain water system, and the rent is cheap (about $450/month–sorry, San Francisco folks–don’t faint). But it was kind of dismal, to use Munchkin’s word the day we looked at it. She had begun to picture us in the other place we were on the verge of taking, and doesn’t take kindly to these last-minute changes, so she was predisposed to dislike it, but I had to agree. Dirty curtains, drab stained paint, rusty metal, insufficient light, “serviceable” (i.e., ugly) linoleum. Luxurious by Oaxacans’ standards (yes, some houses here have gorgeous tile floors–but plenty of others have dirt), and a perfectly fine place to live, but still . . . a bit dismal, yes.

IMG_7053IMG_7049IMG_7048IMG_7060

The long buffet would be better in the kitchen, we thought, and the television would be better hidden in a closet; watching telenovelas (soap operas) would be good Spanish practice, but otherwise the TV serves no function. The plaid sofa and its matching thing, which we call The Thing because “incomprehensible, overlarge combination of coffee table, side table, and armchair” is too long, were probably going to be here to stay.

This was the munchkin’s room. I’ve seen cheap motel rooms that were cheerier.

IMG_7055IMG_7054

I did not take pictures of the cockroaches, but there were several our first couple of days, some dead, some alive. Shudder.

However, the landlord offered to paint it any colors we chose, which was huge. We told him it was due for fumigation and he got on it. Lightbulbs, lamps, sheets, and curtains are easily acquired, and we hired someone to give it a top-to-bottom cleaning. So the transformation began.

We told Munchkin we’d get her a desk (her first) and a bedside table, and confirmed with the landlord that she could paint one wall with a mural (he is really a very easygoing guy). She picked colors for her room . . .

IMG_7050

. . . and soon the desk was ready. It looked even better against a purple wall. (The left wall got plain white to prepare for the mural.)

Inexplicably but serendipitously, this pasta poster was on sale at the Museum of Philately. (She liked the curtains that were already there. I don’t, much, but it’s her room.)

IMG_7162

We requested yellow and orange paint for the living room, purple and yellow for my and Joy’s room, and blue for the hallway. This is Mexico–no one blinked. We got these pretty striped curtains for two small windows, and Joy had the great idea of jazzing up the drab ceiling-to-floor curtains in our room with ribbons (we’re going to buy more). The hummingbird alebrije was a birthday present for Joy.

IMG_7161IMG_7183IMG_7182IMG_7160

The painter forgot to touch up the rusty spots in the kitchen, so yesterday, Joy did it. And she and Munchkin painted the little shelves we got for art supplies. They, the desk, a big table for doing art on, a smaller table for our room and computer time, and two new chairs cost a total of about $265. (This is sounding like a Better Homes and Gardens article. “She turned a corrugated plastic shed into a nursery for her triplets for only $350!”)

Some tin animals for the walls, a tablecloth, one handwoven rug we’ll be taking home to San Francisco–visible in the background here–

IMG_7096

–a few plants, and the crowning touch that I put up yesterday, several strings of papel picado (cut paper), and the de-dismalfication process is complete. It’s quite a cozy, pretty home now.

IMG_7180IMG_7178

Even the plaid sofa and Thing look rather charming in their new context. Katy, as the munchkin has dubbed our Catrina alebrije, rules over the realm and she approves.

IMG_7173

I made a thing! I’m learning how oil pastels work. They seemed like the right medium for this saturated color and light, seen in the Don Cenobio Hotel in the town of Mitla.

IMG_7155 cropped

Enter your e-mail address to receive e-mail notifications of new posts on Sermons in Stones

Follow me on Twitter

Links I like

%d bloggers like this: