Mexico Regreso: 3-9 Mayo 2005

click here for the '04 narrative.. and here for the '05 preliminaries!
as of 15 May; this will mutate as time goes on and more memories reach my fingertips!
& apologies in advance for any misstated Spanish; willing to try & able to fail..

3May - Survived check-in & luggage-scanning at 10AM; it turns out I had a 70# limit, not 50 - too bad! I was tempted to rearrange my daypack by dumping more stuff in the big bag, but decided not to play that game in mid-airport. Picked up a much better (mex-)spanish phrasebook, also sunglasses & 1.75 readers just in case (2 for $20, such a deal!). At Houston, the gate# changed but thankfully just a little. I choked down the apple my folks gave me to avoid declaring it as an import in Mexico.. & choked on it nearly all the way to Oaxaca! The flight to Houston was mcloudy, to OAX dim; this limited the views out the window until the stars came out. Venus is on the western horizon; out the port side is Jupiter, Corvus.. and the Cross rising!
The plane landed late after circling a few times, coming to rest about 10:10PM. Ana and Carlos were there; so was the customs stop, and the young women staffing the desk did not believe this was merely a $200 scope! At last they let me pass, though, and we were back on the bumpy and dark, yet strangely familiar, side-streets that lead to Ana's home in the country.

4 May - Slept fitfully despite my exhaustion, due to the as-yet unfamiliar sounds of animals locusts &c, then visited Ana (and her baño), her menagerie and tasty breakfast-table. Later I returned to my casa next door to recreate a telescope from a tube and a pile of wood; Ana soon came for the books & boots that I brought for her. Two of the niñas (Jasmin and her sister) stopped by with many questions - and suddenly Ana gasped as she found a scorpion in one of the book-bags!! Shocking to say the least, definitely to me but more so to her! Jasmin took it out and crushed it for us. [No, I wasn't clear-headed enough to think about a photo.] Everyone went their separate ways again, so I went back to work. Soon it was a telescope again, ready for action! I visited Ana & received a much-needed shiatsu treatment and a fine lunch. At 2pm Carlos taxied up for Ana's trip to Tule with her limping dog Mayapple. She dropped me in the center of the village at Ambrocio's door with a few minor tasks; my mind failed and I nearly blew them all! I struggled with my Spanish until Ambrocio reminded me that slow English was just fine.. now what night was I supposed to tell we were possibly visiting Oaxaca city?? If that was Friday, therefore sky-viewing tomorrow (Thursday) and again Sat, then (me at least) back to Oaxaca for the Mon am flight. I then visited Alicia, who remembered me from last May (mayo pasado) especially when I mentioned Ana. I told her (as best I could!) that I would be back: tapete por mia madre, gorgeous pillowcases, and a (she says not a serape but a .. borroncho?) for medianoche under the stars. I bought a Coke con citra, then visited the artisans square; my poor Spanish comprehension was compromised further by a car-mounted megaphone that blared nearby. Next was the local Internet shop (also anti-perspirant; I reeked in my polyester shirt at 90 degrees and high humidity!). Then to the casa con tortillas, another task from Ana.. but what was the baker's name? After 2 knocks on her door I remembered: 'tia maria, hola!'. I got in and out with tortillas and trudged up the hill in the heat. I toyed with maps & scope a while, then when she returned from the vet I joined Ana for conversation, Irish tunes and a fine chicken dinner as towering cumulus clouds shot skyward all around us around 6PM. Pretty - but not good for astronomy! Both Danú (an Irish band CD that I brought Ana) and the Bothy Band were excellent musical talents, but it was odd hearing Gaelic tunes in a Spanish enclave (mostly Zapotec, in fact!). [She would like to see Ireland in the near future, and I would like to see it again with at least three weeks for it - so who will get there first? The race is on!] At dusk we wandered to my rental-home with niñas Juana y Alejandro, and caught a few moments with Jupiter before nubes con relampago (lightning) and finally lluvia drove us all to shelter. Rusio told me he might drop by mas tardes if skies clear while he is awake.
12:30AM knock knock: he really meant it!! Rusio and Esther joined me as clouds regathered, but still we caught decent views of Jupiter and the star clusters (grupo estrella) M4, 13, and omega Centauri - finally the clouds reclaimed the sky, and I returned to bed.

I believe this was the night that Oaxaca city was severaly pounded with hailstones and heavy rain, which killed at least seven people and filled storm drains with a foot or more of ice! Thankfully the storms had worn out before they found us.

05/05 - Cinco de Mayo began with several loud explosions! As it turned out, that was as much celebration that I noted the entire day. After another fine meal courtesy of Ana we both decided this was the best day for me to visit the ruins at Yagúl; she decided not to go but expected a full report upon my return. I applied sunscreen to everything but my arms and went town, to meet either bus or taxi to see me part way there. I ended up walking the 4km to el crucero (the cross-roads - were buses perhaps on holiday routes today?), caught bus to Mitla .. er, to Tlacolula? The bus said "MITLA" across the front, the driver asked "Mitla?" when I got aboard, yet at Tlacolula he threw everyone off there, speaking mucho mas rapido for me to comprehend - and there I waited for well over a half-hour before a Mitla bus finally appeared. This took me to the Yagúl junction, where again I began walking - uphill this time - toward the ruins. My sunscreen tactic to catch a bit of tan did not include so much exposure, and I had not even reached my destination yet!! The ruins were incredible, though, and included floor-plans and decorations that are not seen elsewhere in the region; also the largest ball-court this side of Chichén Itzá! After seeing the primary ground-level ruins (including the wildly complex palacio des seis patios), I climbed up the slope and saw the many refuges built high on a nearby hill, apparently for defense purposes. A family was climbing as I came down, but they knew the paths better and reached the parking-lot before I did. Soon they passed me in their car and offered me a ride; I asked for the cross-roads, but they were heading for Oaxaca so I upped my request to the further cross-roads; in the end they drove me to the center of my village! I thanked them profusely in both languages (refraining from tossing in any German by accident.. I think), then stopped at Alicias for my pillowcases. While there I met Sonny from Vancouver Island, CA, who was buying local products for export to his country for resale. I visited for quite some time before heading for home, stopping along the way for .. well, nothing. I had spoken to a shopkeeper earlier about mescal but didn't see him now, and Tia Maria was not making tortillas today.. so I came home home to siesta. Mas nubes intervened for a second night, but many locals appeared anyway! Minimal views of Jupiter & Saturn, but they left happy anyway. I went to bed at a decent time, but awoke at 2am to see that skies were estupendo. I was still recovering somewhat from a three-week illness that had delayed this trip a month, however, so I simply could not stay awake for the early-morning views.

05/06 - A quiet morning, eggs & potatoes por desayuno before hitting town. I was exhausted from the previous day's work, and my arms were decently though not drastically sunburned. Our first stop was quite sad; a family I had met last year is losing its father to cancer. I remembered his friendship but not his appearance; he had kindly allowed Ana and I use his telephone for a few minutes. Other than "lo seinto machismo" y "me hable el Señor por su familia" I can't say much. Put el tapete por mia madre on layaway, sent more e-mail, then bought a corer-camino (road-runner) design tapete from the father of one of Ana's students. Next, yet another layaway for a algodon/lana serape/borroncho, plenty to pick up mañana when I am carrying more money.. but today I bought the mescal before going home to wash my polyester shirts. We shifted the telescope from my yard to Ana's so people would get used to its new home. Taking the short-cut to Ana's gave me a jumping-cholla pain in the knee; I did not feel the burr until I brushed it with my hand! She has salad-tongs that extracted the stickery beast perfectly with minimal pain and no complications. Another fine meal, then a hike to her favorite local Place before dark with great views of goats in the grassland and tortoises in the water. Skies were clearing when we returned, and soon we had visitors! Both Jupiter & Saturn were in clear spots so high-power (166x) views were excellent.. then mas nubes for a while. Still, 8-10 people were enjoying the views & asking me tough questions; processing en Español was taking its toll! More clearing came soon after the crowd left, so after tortillas con queso Ana & I picked out M13, 5, 4 and finally Omega Centaruri in dark skies! Estupendo - especially since it gave Ana the opportunity to learn about the telescope without people hanging about waiting for the next view. Soon I would be back home and it would be entirely up to her to make the telescope work, so this was very much a good thing. I showed her on the map a few objects I hoped to see, then pointed the scope and showed her the result. We captured the odd Centaurus A galaxy and another nearby, using the maps for guidance. I am certain that she will see as much as she wants to with this instrument, but I tried to refrain from imposing my predispositions; this is a hobby that captures each person differently, and I do not want her learning-curve overwhelmed by too much "stuff" from me!

05/07 - More shopping, or more precisely paying for what I had already agreed to buy: the Mothers-Day rug (the US would celebrate tomorrow, Mexico on Tuesday), the serape/borroncho.. but wait! 2 camisas, descuento! I had not brought extra money for the sale, so Ana graciously paid for the second pretty shirt for which I reimbursed her. The Oaxaca fund that I had dedicated for mandolin-shopping is starting to thin out! We worked in a second shiatsu massage, after which I unwound still further in Ana's comfy hammock. Her friend Roberta arrived in the afternoon, and we three spent time getting acquainted. Not surprisingly, as darkness descended the locals appeared again to see what could be seen; I saw something that I had never seen before, lightning-bugs! As a lifetime Pacific Northwest native, I had only seen such things on Disney rides - but here were the real thing, drifting through the yard as I tried to focus on the skies. A few meteors from the Eta Aquarid shower flashed by, but since I had no decent way to express this in Spanish I watched them in relative silence. Far more airplanes than meteors passed by, but we took in a few more sights before we all turned in.

5/08 - Roberta had driven to Ana's place, which was an amazingly pleasant thing for me: it meant a ride back to Oaxaca today, no lugging a suitcase full of rugs and clothing into town for the second-class bus-ride! All three of us were heading for town: me for the early-morning plane home the next day, Ana and Roberta for the music recital in town that evening (to which I was invited). We stopped first in Tule (home of the famous huge tree) for breakfast in a spot that Roberta had discovered, then we visited the village of Huyapam east of Oaxaca city where she is contemplating some property for her future casa. It was a very cute town with a pretty church and many fine flower-gardens. She then took us to Casa Arnel with its bargain rooms (Ana had stayed here many times in the past). Roberta then went about other tasks; after lounging a while in Arnel's top-floor hammocks, Ana and I strolled through town, seeking first a mandolin bargain (good but not tremendous prices, so no deals made) then a high-speed Internet shop for flight confirmation and a third note to the family. I then headed for the museum adjacent to the Iglesia Santo Domingo, agreeing to meet Ana later at Arnel before heading for the recital. The museum was quite impressive, although a nosebleed partway into the place was rather distracting. I reached the conquistador era and began to speed up, then decided I should return to Arnel since it was 4PM and (as best as I had gleaned) we would meet with Roberta before 6 by Santo Domingo.
When I returned to Casa Arnel, I found nothing to be as I had hoped - no room set out for me, no evidence I had been there (other than my bags, still piled in a corner), and no Ana! I spoke with the woman who ran the kitchen, but after about a half-hour she had done nothing to assist me. I then summoned a few more bits of Spanish and told her that I had no llave, no habitación y no Ana. She found me a room, asked for payment (I had paid Arnel himself around noon, but the rooms were not yet available which is why I had no key); she understood and showed me my room. I then fretted a bit, worried that without Ana I was going on an educated guess that being near the front of Santo Domingo around 5:30 was the plan.. I should have paid more attention! I then noticed that the clocks were not agreeing on the current time, so at 5:20 I headed out and soon reached what I fervently hoped was the rendezvous point. It was in fact the right place and time - Ana appeared within five minutes, having met someone she had not seen in some time and could not justify dashing away from to reach Arnel. Roberta joined us five minutes later, and soon under muttering storm-clouds we went inside (under cover, thankfully!) for the piano recital. The four players were extremely talented and played a wide selection of music from Chopin and Mozart to Bartok and many others, accompanied at random by strong thunder or church bells. Roberta then took us to a fine establishment, Temple, where I gladly treated all to a meal; I again ordered pollo con lima y .. er, garlic (same as last year at cafe la Olla) with a fine white wine. We then parted, Ana & I walking 'home' to Arnel. Since I was departing via a 6:30 taxi, we said our goodbyes before bedtime. For a second year she had been unceasingly generous with her time and energy to make me as comfortable as I could be in her wonderful remote environment; it was again hard to take leave of her fine company. After a farewell embrace I went to my room, where I failed to get a good sleep - I kept thinking that my alarm might not work.

9 May - detours and complications! We had negotiated a 6:30AM taxi for me from Arnel, and despite my concerns I was up on time. As Arnel unlocked the gate the doorbell rang, and soon I was at the airport with time to spare. Less than I thought, though: I was diverted to a last-call flight to Mexico City via Mexicana, as Continental Express had canceled its Houston flight! Many others joined me, including a young woman returning to Amsterdam; we saw each other several times in MX City while jumping through the hoops. Before departing I picked up small tequila bottles & cool shot-glasses.. but my visa gold failed as payment?!? In Houston at last, I found a huge baked potato for lunch & a cool NASA space-shop (where the visa worked, to my relief!), and also my first soy mocha in several days. I called my parents, who informed me that none of me e-mail messages had reached them, although one where I replied to my brother's note did get through - so they knew nothing more than that I was (probably) where I should be. For the second time in a row (actually fourth consecutive if one includes the non-flight!) my gate was changed.. but I was off at last, after yet another Houston runway delay, into 'fair' skies. The Colorado Rockies were visible, but the Northwest was getting wet - our descent into Portland was very moist and a bit late but otherwise uneventful. My mom waited for me as I waited for the luggage carousel to reveal my bag formerly filled with telescope parts, now essentially full of wool and cotton (and those hot polyester shirts). Finally I had everything in hand, and by 9:45 (that would be 11:45 Oaxaca time) I was ready for bed in a familiar place. Although I would be up early and back to work by 8AM (Pacific Time), those thoughts did not dampen the memory of a fine trip to Mexico. It was great to see Ana again, get reacquainted with her and her community, meet Roberta and see more Zapotec ruins. I also knew that Ana's new telescope would be very popular, and would likely see more action than any of mine (which as I type this are sitting in the garage as clouds and rain obscure the sky).

Current weather in Oaxaca