Long Distance Call


Thursday night, I took the Little Businessman and Co.: Mateo and Cecilia (Sissy) and Augostino (Tin) and Julio (nene) and Cristobal to Café Brujula to use their internet to call M. We looked like a crazy parade as we walked down the smooth concrete pathway up Alcala. Brujula was closed, but I begged for them to let us sit inside, and they who’d delivered a latte with a heart earlier in the afternoon, agreed that it was probably a good idea, but we needed to keep it short. Of course.

We called M; he gave the kids a quick tour of the yard, the cats, the living room, the kitchen. They wanted to know where this place was and why M was speaking English and why I was speaking English to him. They didn’t want to wait for any sort of translation delay. And all of our six heads were struggling to see the phone to get a word in in any language.

M said to Augostino, “Da me un peso” (Give me a peso) This is how I first met the whole family, Augostino was demanding spare change. But Augostino heard, “Da me un beso” (Give me a kiss), He kept kissing at the phone.

They also wanted some sort of assurances about when we would all be together again. I said maybe Christmas, definitively sometime next summer. Our friendship would last through six month or a year of absence; it has before.

Everyone waved into the phone and offered an adios. The real goodbye comes tonight. We are all dreading it. Augostino even got cross with me as I was leaving last night. He said, “If you have to go, go then!” in this sharp voice I hardly recognized, and then he laughed and tried to tackle me.

Running out of Time


I was starting to get a bit anxious about all of the things I ought to do before I leave here early Saturday morning:
Take photos of the Arrazola folks’ new artists’ cooperative
Return books to the library
Find the graffiti Mari told me about
Explore the Reforma area more
See another movie in Spanish
Eat at some of my favorite places
Print our group photo for the Little Businessman and Co.
Return to San Martin Tilcajete to see Airyn
Say goodbye to my announcer friend
Go to the organic market by the church
Translate more letters
Taste the six or seven (depending on with whom you speak) regional moles
Write a few more poems
But this morning as I saw a line of school children dressed in beautiful traditional attire (as if they might perform a miniature version of a Guelaguetza) and I remembered that this – whatever I am doing here is good enough—and more—for me right now.

I will say goodbye to Café Arabia. Then, I will dash to the Llano tianguis with my camera. Mari and I will celebrate one more Taco Friday. I will meet friends in the afternoon. I will bring Miguel some potato chips and a beer. And, then I will stay with the Little Businessman and Co. on the Zocalo for as long as I can.



As I was going to the posada, I saw an elderly man walking toward me on the uneven sidewalk. He didn’t notice me. He was reading the newspaper.

As he was about to trip, I gasped because I did not have words enough in Spanish or English to warn him. He caught himself as his foot hit an uneven part of the concrete, and laughed out loud, saying, in Spanish, “Look at me reading the newspaper.”

No Ordinary Salad


Oaxaca is known for its gastronomy, and there is good reason for the reputation; the food here is real, it is fresh, and it tastes like I remember food tasting when I was a child. The inside of an egg is yellower here and the onions are sweeter; the corn does not taste like candy, and the oranges and grapes have seeds.

I had a salad today that was extraordinary for the brilliant flavors and colors in it. It was if the lights were turned on and the volume turned up on the tomatoes that tasted red, on the crisp leaves of lettuce and spinach and the jicama rectangles that all crunched loudly in my mouth, and on the creamiest cubes of avocado.

I wanted Cecilia to taste this pile of greens and try to capture the sensory details in one of her videos.



As I child I loved hand-me-downs. Maybe it was because I was the oldest and they were a rare occurrence. Maybe it was because the girl whose mother shared garbage bags full of things liked a lot of color. Regardless, Cecilia also likes the bags of things I bring to share with them. Tonight I had two bags, one of things like extra soap, washcloths, lotion, Kleenex, etc. The other was a bag full of fruit and vegetables: onions, tomatoes, avocadoes, apples, kiwi, apricots, and carrots.

Cecilia was in charge of the bags and decided who would get what. She pulled a kiwi out of the bag and demanded to know what it was and how it ought to be eaten. I told her its name and showed her how to peel it with her fingernails. She gave up and I peeled hers, Augostino’s, and another for a boy named Coco who had joined us. Mateo wanted to make sure there was one for him later as he was eating one of the apples. I assured him there was. He didn’t know what an apricot was. Now he does, even though he insists it is a little peach.

I promised another bag of hand-me-downs tomorrow night. Cecilia put in an order for grapes (uvas) and blackberries (zarzamoras).

Free Doctor’s Visit


I skipped down to the zocalo as soon as I could after returning from Tlacochahuaya and grabbing a bite to eat. Tired, I wanted to see the Little Businessman and Co. and buy them some ears of corn before I came home to download pictures and write a little, but they had other plans. Since I only have tomorrow and Friday left with them, they wanted to have ice cream and take pictures, and when I went to take my leave for the night, they said that their mother had a couple of sore teeth and needed my help to get some medicine.

With only 150 pesos in my pocket, I told her I’d see what I could do. I went up the pedestrian street, Alcala, to a pharmacy I remembered, Ahorro. I told a very nice lady that there was a woman on the zocalo with tooth pain, and I asked if she could recommend something. She said she could, but since the medicine wasn’t for me and she didn’t know if the woman had diabetes or high blood pressure, or God forbid something else, she suggested that we go to the free doctor at the Ahorro on Higuera. It was 9:05; we had until ten to get there and be seen.

I returned to the Little Businessman’s mother to tell her the great news, that there was a free doctor and the doctor could see immediately. I asked her if she thought it was good, and she agreed we should go find the free doctor. There were three women in line ahead of us, but the appointments moved swiftly.

When it was “our” time to go in, I expected to wait outside, but Rosita (as I finally found out during the consultation) wasn’t going in without me.

I learned a lot about her (beyond her name). She is from Chiapas; she doesn’t know her own birthday, how to spell her name. And, she has no idea how to use a pen. I wrote for her; when it came time, her thumbprint was her signature.

The doctor was a VERY pregnant woman who was all questions and advice. She looked in Rosita’s mouth, banged her sore teeth a couple of times with a tongue depressor (probably enraging the angry teeth even more), and efficiently wrote out a prescription that we could fill right next door. She said that there was pus and an abscess; she said that, even if it hurts, Rosita needs to brush. She said that the gold crown she has now may need to be replaced or that she might lose the tooth/teeth altogether. Rosita was not happy about this, but she promised to go to the dentist (even if the prospect of paying was more painful than the throbbing in her mouth).

We filled the prescription (145 pesos for an antibiotic and pain medication), and I worried that she does not have a watch and cannot read, so it will be impossible for her to know when eight hours have passed and which of the two bottles of pills she should take when. I gave the instructions to Mateo, but what does eight hours mean to any of them?



Last Class in Tlacochahuaya


The last class in Tlacochahuaya was smooth. We caught the direct bus to town (hooray), beat the rain, had some time outside on the lawn before the ginormous drops started falling. We ran under the metal roof for cover, and we played games until the rain stopped and it was time to go home. We were praising the perfect timing of the rain’s disappearance when the bus came early and swept us back into dry for the rest of the evening Oaxaca.

When we were under the loud metal roof, we did a post-test that shows we are starting to recover our knowledge and add to it. For successfully completing this, we earned a yoyo on a way short string and some candy.

Because we could hardly hear anything anyway, we played telephone. A phrase such as, “The weather sure is nice today” became a jumbled and garbled mess, and by the time it came around the circle once, we had something like: glock wock woogie. Of course, some of this was sabotage, but most of it was the foreign sounds of these thick words in our mouths.

We triumphantly went around the circle of more than ten only twice. One of the successful sentences was: “I like yoyos.”