Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daily Life Part I

I realized today that I've spent so much time recapping all of our different activities that I never had a chance to talk about some of the daily quirks of life here in Oaxaca. I love traveling because it makes you see things with new eyes and notice the tiniest little differences from life at home. So, here we go...



Topes or reductores are basically speed bumps. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are just a series of small round object all in a line. The difference is that they are not painted, just marked with a sign off the side of the road (and sometimes not marked at all!), so you can't really see them coming. When we are sitting in the back of the Tanque de Guerra, you basically fly about a foot into the air. It's not that pleasant.

Torrential Downpours


So, I guess this is the rainy season in Oaxaca, because every morning when we wake up, the sky is blue and beautiful. then, around 4PM or so, we get torrential downpours. I'm talking serious rain here. Plus, the drainage in Mexico is really bad, so there are huge lakes in the street after it starts raining and for several hours afterwards. The photo above was taken literally about 2 minutes after it started raining. No joke, that's how hard it comes down.

Limited Water
Despite the rain, the state of Oaxaca actually has very little water in general, much less potable water. The house we live in is supposed to get water three times a week from the city, but last week they only delivered it once. There are rumors that the government is in cahoots with the water company; if you use more water than what is delivered, you have to buy it from the water company. So, the rumor is that the city fails to provide the water, so you have to buy more, and the water company will provide a kickback to the city.

Anyway, we've already run out of water once, due to a running toilet. That means we weren't able to use the toilets, showers, nothing. Kind of sucked. We got water delivered the next day, and thank god no one was sick during that time or else it would have been a bad situation. Also, there are a number of failure points in water delivery. For example, even if we have water in our tank, it needs to get pumped upstairs, where the rooms are. We've had a couple moments were we thought we were out of water but we just needed to turn on the pump. Also, we ran out of gas once in our water heater so there was no hot water for showers. We just went over to the hotel whenever we wanted to bathe. Even when everything is functioning correctly, water is a scarce resource around here, so we take very short showers about once every other day, and we've been "letting it mellow" if it's yellow.

Fireworks and Policia


As I said in a previous post, we arrived just in time for guelaguetza, which is an annual celebration in Oaxaca. It is typically held the last two Mondays in July, and for pretty much a week, there are fireworks going off at all hours of the night. They're very loud so some it's not so great when someone down the street starts setting them off at 4AM.

There is a lot of civil unrest surrounding this cultural celebration because it used to be a celebration by the people for the people, but the government has taken it over and now only the "pretty" cultural groups get to participate and only tourists go to it. As a result, some teachers in Oaxaca banded together to put on an alternative guelaguetza which they call "guelaguetza popular".


Anyway, last year, there was a lot of violence at the government's guelaguetza, and i think it actually got canceled. This is a big deal because this is the single most touristed event in Oaxaca and the city lost a lot of money as a result. So, there are cops EVERYWHERE. And, if you are driving, there are tons of checkpoints going into the city. It's kind of scary sometimes because you are not sure if the loud booms coming from outside are fireworks, bombs (there were bombs last year), or thunder (see Torrential Downpours). I'm happy to report that there was no violence with the guelaguetza this year. in fact, we didn't even leave the house on guelaguetza night because if there was any violence, it was going to be that night.

Street Food and Veggies


We Americans have notoriously weak stomachs. We have to be very careful what we eat here in Oaxaca because not only are we in danger of getting food poisoning, but we can get amoebas. Yeah, I said amoebas. Basically, any vegetables that we buy, we have to soak them in purified water and these disinfecting tablets for half an hour. That means we're not really eating too many salads around here. Also, we can eat street food, as long as all the components are cooked. They put lettuce in the tacos and quesadillas here so we have to ask for our food "sin verduras." Also, we can only eat fruit from the market if it has a skin we can peel off. Otherwise, it gets the same treatment as the vegetables. The one exception is the organic market, which happens on Fridays and Saturdays only. We can eat any of the food sold by the vendors there (like the fruit cups in the photo above) because they go through the whole purification treatment. Additionally, there are all kinds of wonderful aguas frescas at the market, which are also off limits to us, since they usually consist of fruit juice and water...and you know what happens when we drink the tap water here. Our friends the amoebas come to visit. We've had our fair share of aguas frescas, however, and Dona Ofelia makes a new delicious drink every day to accompany our lunch.

It's worth mentioning that when I say "market", I mean a big outdoor market with different vendors selling vegetables, food, and other items. I am not sure where the supermarket is in Oaxaca, but it's nowhere near us. So, we have to buy our food fresh from the markets if we want to cook at home. So far, I only know of the market at Abastos (Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday--more on that in the post about Saturday), the organic market on Fridays and Saturdays, and the market in Tlacolula (about 1/2 hour away) on Sundays only. So, you have to plan ahead if you want to cook at home.

OK, I think that's enough for this post...I will definitely continue this series. Stay tuned for huge beetles and dogs on the roof. ;)

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