A Day at the Pyramids

I was quite worried about Nathan this morning. He has been off his
food and was notlooking to great. However after a chat I determined
that he was just homesick and not actually sick So we talked about
having a good day out today and then we will be packing to go home

We went off to change some money into pesos at the Western Union. We
were surrounded by expensive jewelery and guards! We then went
underground to the Metro. We were enveloped by a seething rush of
humanity, almost overwhelming. Nathan had never seen anything like this
before so he was quite excited. We only had to pay 2 pesos (20c) each
and we could go anywhere on as many trains as we needed to. So we took
3 to get us to the Central bus station.Then we found the bus to
Teotihuacan. It was about an hours ride. We felt like we were in a bus
sandwich as we were leaving the Central. The buses negotiate so closely
to each other and other traffic, can´t understand how they don´t hit
each other. Also, driving through the city is fun, as you wait at
lights there are people constantly walking between the vehicles selling
stuff like ice creams, newspapers, yogurt, drinks, I honestly don´t
know how they survive. The traffic here does not stop for pedestrians.
Nathan loves the lights because the pedestrians have a countdown of
seconds tolet youknow how long you have to get across the road. There
are also woman traffic controlers at the busy city centre
intersections, blowing whistles and moving the traffic. There are
traffic lights but they seem to need the whistles to get the traffic
moving along. Just more noise to add to the rest!!!

As we travelled further from the city we passed hillsides covered
with houses, obviously a very poor part of Mexico. We had been told
that as the prople move here they build houses out of what they can
find and often do not have electricity or water. From there we saw rows
and rows of housing, all the same, like tenement houses. Then areas of
maize crops. Because tortilla are a main food here corn is a major crop
and it grows everywhere. Even up on the mountain sides.

We arrived and walked past the market area. Everywhere here there
are markets selling all sorts of stuff they think the tourists will
like.We began at the bottom of the Avenue of the Dead. It is a 40m wide
avenue stretching about 2km to the Pyramid of the Moon. The first area
was named the Citadel by the Spaniards. It was small in comparison to
the other areas. But it must have housed a temple at one stage. It was
originally stepped and quite ornate but it had been covered up in later
years as the architecture of the times changes, nothing new really
eh?  It is surrounded by stepped walls and on each wall is another
smaller stepped pyramidic structure which also house smaller temples.
They sure liked their temples back then!

After that we tried to find some food for Nathan but nothing doing
so we wandered along the avenue towards the Pyramid of the sun. He was
not at all keen to climb both of the Pyramids and I said he didn´t have
to. To just choose one. All the time we were constantly being hassledby
vendors trying to sell us souvenairs. Whistles, statues of gods,
jewellery, rugs, etc it was quite a challenge to get rid of them, they
were a bit like sandflies, you had to keep brushing them off! We sat at
the bottom of the Pyramid of the Sun and drank water and ate chips, had
to get Nathan to eat something. Nathan is fascinated by small things
and while we were eating our chips he was having fun watching the fire
ants trying to tow away the bits of chips we had dropped.

After that we had a bit more energy so started the climb up. It was
70m high and quite a steep climb in several stages. There were signs
saying not to climb if you had a medical condition and there was a Red
Cross caravan nearby, so I guess they must have accidents at
times.  We got to the top, quite a while after Jesika, but we made
it!! It was a great view from the top – you could see all over Mexico
City. Nathan & Jesika made it down before me and went
toinverstigate a musical instrument that Nathan & I had seen one of
the vendors selling. It fascinated Nate so Jesika managed to haggle a
good price. Nathan then decided he should go busking and earn some
money – he is learning a lot from the vendors here!!

We walked further up and down steps, the Aztecs sure loved steps! We
found an area that had had a mica floor. There was a small part of it
still there and it was boxed in to keep the tourists from destroying
it, a man was there and was happy to explain to us all about it.
Apparently all the flooring was covered in sheets of mica at least10cm
thick. It also covered the top of the Pyramid of the Sun so must have
been really very bright as it reflected the light. It would have been
beautiful at the time. However when the Spaniards arrived they thought
it was gold and stripped it all and took it away. They had already
fleeced the gold from Colombia and were looking for it here in Mexico.
The mica came from Monte Alban near Oaxaca. I was really fascinated to
see it in such quantities and to hear this story because I buy it in
small quantities to use in my art.

We walked along the Avenue, still being hassled by vendors, and went
to see the Temple of the Jaguar.It is underground and has some very old
murals which they are trying hard to preserve. The stone work all along
the way was interesting. It had many patterns and changed a lot, many
photos were taken! After a nice cold ice cream we decided we had enough
energy to climb the Pyramid of the Moon. It is much higher. I stood at
the bottom and said to Nathan – how on earth am I going to get up
there? He was so encouraging, ´´Just one step at a time Mum, and then
have a rest when you need to. Just zig zag across the steps because it
is easier.´ This is the lad who didn´t want to climb the pyramids and
was ready to hoon up the 2nd one for the day!!!

So We climbed 49 very large steep steps, then 37 smaller but just as
steep steps, then another 27. Each lot seperated by a flat area. Then
we had to scramble up a rocky incline to get to to the top. The view
was great as you looked straight down the Avenue of the Dead and could
see all the places we had already explored.

After this we decided it was time to climb back down and catch the
bus back to the city. It wa a reverse of this morning but rush hour
traffic so we were crammed in the Metro like sardines at times. We were
so hot and sweaty that we had to return tot he hostel to freshen up and
dump all the excess baggage. Then we went for a walk to find some food.
We had decided to shout ourselves a decent meal as it was our last
night in Mexico. We eventually found Cafe el Popular- and it was
popular and good. We all had a big piece of beef. Nathan commented that
he really needed some meat! So after that with full tummies we wandered
back to the hostel.On the way we watched the guys performing their
acrobatics again. Then a large loud vehicle came zooming around the
Zocalo – an army truck full of soldiers. There were a cluster of
policemen on the corner so we asked if we could take Nathan´s photo
with them – it was ok. It is very common to see them standing around
the streets fully armed in their bullet proof vests.

Well, I have to go pack now as we leave tomorrow. We have just had a
hilarious converstaion with a couple of guys who were here visiting
from another hostel. One English and one Dutch. The English one may
just come and wwoof. We have had a lot of interest from folk that we
have met so could see quite a few visit us in the future.

Nathan is a lot happier tonight. He had a good day. So hopefully
after a good dinner and a better sleep he will be okay tomorrow.

Our Tour

Well, our room mates, 3 young lads from the UK decided to finally come to bed at around 5:30am this morning. They had obviously been out on the town – the recked of alcohol and smoke. I was having a good sleep till the woke me!

When we had had breakfast and were waiting downstairs for our tour to pick us up I asked if we could change to another room, I had over heard the guys talking and knew they had booked another 2 nights. That was absolutely fine so we are now in the next room, alone at present.

Maricela, our tour leader collected us at 9:30am and we joined a French Canadian woman, Helene for our tour. It was such an interesting day and Maricela was so informative. She had studied Anthropology and Art at university so was very passionate about all she was showing and telling us. First we were taken to Frida Kahlo´s home – The Blue House. It was where she was born and raised and then came back to in her later years. It is really lovely and is full of her paintings, artifacts that she had collected and personal items such as her bed and the corsets she had to wear after her accident. The garden was lovely, a real oasis. Her father was a Hungarian Jew and reasonably well off, hence them affording such a lovely house. Her mother was native Mexican, and Frida obviously took after her. Both parents were very radical for their times much into supporting the underdog, she was exposed to the communist way of life and was totally enveloped by that way of thinking all her life.

Then we were taken to the house that was built for Diego Rivera and the adjoining one for Frida which they lived in after they were married and had came back from the three years in America. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman – architect and artist – itwas a very advanced style of building for those times. It is very simple. No unecessary stuff, all very functional. Compared with the other houses being built at that time such as the ornate hacienda styles it was very very different.

There was a display of sculptures and art by Bracho. It was wonderful to actually see in the flesh. I had never been aware of him as an artist but being able to see and feel his sculptures has made me really appreciate his work. The are all so full ond voluminous figures and so beautiful. Diego said that he was the first Mexican to represent prehispanic culture in his art AND he discovered it in himself while in Paris!!

We then went to the Xochimilco. It means ´the place of flowers´. This is an area based around the 200km of canals that were originally built to make the city of Mexico. When the Aztex arrived they had been told by the god to look for the symbol of the eagle with a snake in its beak. They found it on a small island in the middle of a large lake here in the valley surrounded by mountains. So to be abediant to their gods they went ahead and devised a method of reclaiming/building islands. They put long branches down into the water to form a fence, they plant ttrees along this with long reaching root systems. They then dug out soil and put it behind these fences. It was a massive undertaking but very effective. These islands have supported extremely heavy pyramids etc all these years. Only today in our modern times with so many people here now, the water underneath these floating islands has been all used up so everything is sinking. They are having to do some very skillful work to support the huge churches and towers. The Angel tower was sinking at 3m a year!!

The canal boats, called chalupa, are so colourful. There are literally hundreds of them. We spent an hour being poled up and down the canal, being serenaded by various mariachis (musicians), and other smaller boats coming along side trying to sell us food, rugs etc. It is so hard here to look at things because if you show the slightest interest the seller has the whole shop spread out in front of you in seconds and is showing you everything that they think you might like to buy. I tend to steer away from those ones and enjoy talking with the more non pushy ones. We had to bevery firm with them as we literally had no spare money and also no room left in our suitcases to fit anymore weight. We tried some of the corn mixed with cheese and corn. It was very yummy. The type of music here which is atypical is musica ranchera (ranch music – literally country music!!!) There was also small chalupa with men playing marimba (large wooden xylophones) which originate from Veracruz.

A few facts and figures that we have learnt are –

1321 – foundation of Mexico by Tenochtitlan

1521 – conquest by the Spanish

1810, Sept 15 – Independence from Spain and today is their biggest celebration of the year.

1847 – American invasion after which Santana sold New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and part of California to the USA to pay off the debts that Mexico owed. Hence his unpopularity today by many Mexicans!

1857 – Seperation of the church and the state

1865, May 5 – Battle between France and Mexico

1910 – Revolution led by Emilio Zapata and Pancho Villa. They are very much heros today because of this and in todays political situation we are seeing many pictures of them.

We had a wander around the markets at the entrance to the Xochimilco and found some beautiful wall hangings that were light enough and cheap enough to bring home one. A lot of their art work here involves the Aztec gods so even though it is very beautiful we just could not buy it to hang on our walls.

We then left and were taken to the Univsidad Nacional o Mexico (the National University of Mexico) It is a very big university, and is used by people from all over South America. It has beautiful grounds. There were students strewn all around the grassy areas. There seems to be no worries about displaying passion in this country. Couple embrace and show very demonstrative affection anywhere!

We wandered around the university grounds as Maricela showed us the huge murals and explained about them. There are 3 important murealists from this 1950´s era – Diego Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. The three murals by Siqueiros were huge, one was totally mosaic. In all his works he involves movement, volume and socialist elements.

Then the major mural which covers the four sides of the library is enormous and took 6 years to complete. It is totally mosaic. The building and murals were designed and completed by O´Gorman.. The same man who designed Rivera´s house.  It represents the history of Mexico. It is amazing. I said to Maricela that it was comparable to Michaelangelo´s works and she said that in fact it was stated in one of the art museums here that is was comparable with the Sistene Chapel!!

We then were dropped back near our hostel. We got side tracked from actually going back there straight away as there were a couple of young street performers in action. They were real characters. We went on around to see the inside of the Metropolitan Cathedral, once again amazing architecture. Outside were so many beggers. One guy was in a wheel chair which had one complete wheel and the other was just spokes, no rim. He had only one leg and that leg had no foot, just a bloody mess at the end of his leg. There are a lot of blind beggers here too.

We walked around to see the model of Mexico as it was when the Aztecs had first developed it. Just behind it are the ruins of a Mayan temple. We came back and watched the two young guys for ages. Jesika videoed them. They were absolutely amazingly strong. They were preforming a mix of acrobatics & dance, machete and fire juggling.

We got back late and had a quick dinner and went to bed. Nathan not too wonderful. Off his food but not sick.


We are now in Mexico City

After a very short night of wakefulness, I knew we had to wake early to I checked the clock a couple of times during the night and as well, there were explosions going off frequently so when I finally woke at 4:13am I decided to get up and get organised. I woke the others at 5am and Manuel ordered the taxi. It came at 5:20am and got us to the airport just a few minutes before it opened. It is amazing how much faster the traffic moves at night!! We checked in and read our books until we boarded and flew out of Oaxaca at 7am. It was kinda sad to go but we were looking forward to new adventures.

We got to Mexico City 40mins later and spent nearly an hour walking the whole length of the airport looking for where to collect our bags, of course gate 12 was at the opposite end to where we had disembarked!! Loaded them on to a baggage trolley because they were quite heavy only to find we couldn´t take the trolley past the barriers. So Jesika went and phoned the hostel and they told us to meet the driver at Gate 6, so we had to manhandle them all the way back the length of the airport again! Great way to waste time and keep fit.

While we were waiting we saw dozens of people in brown army like uniforms. Couldn´t work out who they were so wondered if they were the Federal Army on their way to Oaxaca – I think not! The taxi driver arrived and took us to the hostel. It was 9am so rush hour and heavy traffic. Took ages. The hostel is right in the centre of the city, only a few blocks from the largest cathedral in Mexico. We had to carry our bags up to the 3rd floor to our room. It actually is the 4th floor – I think it is named 3rd to make you feel not so bad about having to walk up so many stairs, and NO! there is no lift! We stashed our bags quietly as there were 3 English guys still sleeping in the room. Nathan found the mens bathroom was on our floor BUT the womens is on the floor below. Totally bizzarre.

We got some directions and decided to go for a walk. The city is more city like than Oaxaca. Less of the culture, although it still comes through in many ways. There are more normal shops with glass frontages but as well there are still the pavement stalls which block the walk ways and make it very challenging to get anywhere fast! Once again there are quite a few people begging, it is very pitiful and here in Mexico they are usually very genuine, unlike in SF where they get govt help if they want it.

We went down to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It is the most beautiful piece of architecture that I have seen in a long time. I saw some pictures of how is was constructed – entirely metal framed and covered in marble. It has beautiful carved statues representing the arts plus out in the four corners of the courtyard in front there are 4 black statues of Pegasus. We were disappointed that the Mexican Cultural Ballet was not going to be on until Sunday night because it looked great.The Vienna boys choir is performing there at the moment but we didn´t feel like paying $60US to see them when we wanted to see Mexican culture.

We then paid 50pesos each to go up to the top of the Torre Latino. You go up 37 floors and then up another lift to the 42 floor and then you can walk up 2 more flights of steps to the very top. It is outside with a heavy mesh frame around it which makes you feel much more secure. The view is incredible and gives you an amazing feel for Mexico City. It is sitting in a huge hollow surrounded by mountains, only they were really hazy because of the fog. We were allowed to come and go up the tower as many times as we want until 10pm so we went for a walk down to see a monument that Nathan could see from the top and wanted to seemore closely. On the way we found an Oaxacan Nieves – ice stand so we had to have one. It was delicious.I had mexcal and lime – delicious

There are tents set up everywhere around the streets, some blocking off entire streets, with music and loudspeakers. The elections are still in process. It just reminds me how automated ours are in NZ. On election day we have computerised results coming in almost immediately whereas here they come in slowly until the final day on Sept 1st. So there is lots of political activity still.

Jesika had been asking about music shops, she has been looking everywhere during our travels for flutes to replace the one that was stolen. We have had no joy in the US so thought to try here. The girl at the hostel directed us to a street that is totally music shops. So we found our way down there. She was right. I have never seen so many musuc shops in one place. Jesika remarked that it was almost an overkill! One thing we have found here in Mexico is that they believe in safety in numbers. They do not scatter their shops around the city, they seem to keep all the same type of shop in the same areas. Makes comparisons more easy too!! So we spent quite a while going in and out of shops looking at flutes. Nathan and I were very glad to find some seats

She found some names she had never heard of so we decided to come back to the hostel and investigate them on the internet.After that we crashed out on our beds and slept for a couple of hours. Jesika woke at 5pm and walked to a supermarket to get food for dinner. I was so tired that stayed put and Nathan decided to do the same. I felt pretty stink about letting Jesika go on her own but my body just didn´t want to budge.

I poured with rain while she was out but she returned not too damp and Nathan helped her to cook dinner. I just could not rouse myself. After dinner the rain had eased so we decided to go back to the tower and see the city lights. It really was worth it. It was beautiful. Lights for miles. It was so cool being way up there – you can hear all the noise and bustle but you are seperated from it, Mexicans seem to love noise. Horns tooting, traffic police blowing their whistles, people hollering, music blaring…. While we were up there we also saw fireworks displays in the distance, then lightening and thunder began and the rain closed in again. We waited for it to ease and then walked back.

On the way we found a bakery which was sellign some delicious pastries. We went into buy one and there was an old man hovering in the doorway with his can waiting for money. I so felt for him, his eyes were darting from the food in the window to the people inside and his wee mouth was working so I got Jesika to buy a bun for him too. She gave it to him as we walked past and he seemed very happy to get it. After this we walked over to see the huge cathedral as it waslit up, but as it was shut we went back towards the hostel.It was drizzling but was quite enjoyable as it freshened the streets. By this time I had stopped bothering trying to keep my feet dry as I had gotten into so many puddles along the way. We passed the old man and he gave us a nod of thanks and Jesika commented that she felt bad now because she hadn´t gotten any bread for some of the other beggers.

Along the road fromt he hostel wecould hear the chants of protesters and see the lights of police cars so we decided it was time to come inside and go to bed.

We are hoping the rain will hold off tomorrow so we will get in our tour of the canals and Frida Kahlo´s house.



Last day in Oaxaca

We have had a very busy day here but a most enjoyable one.

We left the hostel around 9am to get our photos copied onto disk and some printed to send to Jesus with Heather. But, once again the Mexican idea of time didn’t align with the European!! The shop that told us yesterday that yes, they would be open today never opened at all!! So we went and changed some money and then found another photo shop that was open. It proved to be rather expensive to get the photos copied on to CD’s so we just got a few photos printed off.


We then walked a bit further and found the La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Oaxaca (Evangelical Baptist Church) that Heather goes to. The biggest percentage of churches here are Catholic so we were glad to know of this one which was close by. It was quite a long service and of course all in Spanish. Heather sat with us and translated the sermon for me. I found the songs quite easy to sing along to as we had the words. I can deal with the Spanish if I can see the words so it was fun. The sermon was interesting. The church has quite a few missionaries who work in the outlying pueblos and today one of them was visiting and preached about God’s blessings – his base was from Genesis and when God sent Abram out and told him of the 6 blessings he would receive if he moved out in obedience.

We gave Heather the photos, she will deliver them tomorrow when she visits the Project. We look forward to keeping in contact with her, she is delightful and keen to visit NZ in the future.

After that we walked up to the Santo Domingo church and spent some time at the museum Regional de Oaxaca which is attached to it. There were more security guards there than I have seen police in the streets! It is huge, all in Spanish and we didn’t want to pay the 50 pesos each for the audio tour. So we just cruised about looking and guessing what everything was!! It covered a lot of archeological artifacts of the Zapotecas, the history of the Conquistadores, and on through time. The architecture was magnificent but the best part were the gardens. We looked down on them from many big windowless windows, you are not allowed to go into them without a guide because of the risk of damage. Nathan thought they were the absolute best part of the place.

We were all pretty hungry and tired by then so we went across the square to an Italian coffee shop and had iced coffees. The area around Santo Domingo is quite touristy so there are a lot of more European style eating places and things are a lot more expensive. I have been talking to the guys here at the hostel and they tell me that there are a lot of Americans who are coming here, buying run down buildings and rennovating them and then use them just for private hotels for rich Americans. These people fly in, live totally in the hotels, with their swimming pools and open interior courtyards and restaurants, never leave them to see the real Oaxaca because they don’t like to see the poverty. Sound familiar?? They sure miss all the fun

We went to the supermarket at the Zocalo to get some rice for dinner and spent quite some time choosing some mexcal for a gift. It comes in some many shapes and sizes of bottles etc. The shop owner was very interesting to talk to so that took more time!!

We came back to the hostel, it is far easier to come back here to use the bathroom than to find any around the city. If you do find one in the markets they cost 2 pesos. Someone sits at the doorway, takes your money and hands you a measured piece of toilet paper!!

By this time it was mid afternoon, so we lightened our packs, refilled our water bottle and headed down to the large Central market. Jesika had warned me that it was huge. Well, it sure is. It is like a maze but the shop keepers know exactly where things are. We passed stalls with naked chickens spread across the counters, meat stalls, veges, fruits, chillis dried, chillis fresh, clothes, leather goods, basketware, pottery, toys, woven mats, hammocks, blankets, jewellery, you name it – it was there!

Nathan had been wanting to try fresh coconut so we found a stall and got the girl to cut one for him. He and Jesika stood there drinking the milk with a straw from the coconut and I took a photo of them with the girl. She was pretty good with the machete! Anyway, after I took the photo her mother popped up from behind the stand and was trying to tell us something. I thought at first she wanted me to pay them for taking the photo. But no! She wanted me to take a photo of her and her 2 daughters. So I did, then found out their names – Abagail was 5 months old, Josefina in her teens and the mother´s name was so pretty, Alejontria. I had to laugh though when I found that she had the baby lying in the cupboard under the stand.

I have seen baby´s in all states in all places!! Saw one having its nappy changed on the shopcounter, another crawling about on the dirty concrete pavement by the stalls, many being breastfed where ever the need arises, sleeping or playing in the cupboards at the back of the stalls, crawling about amongst the produce etc etc.

We then went and found some veges for dinner, and then asked for directions to the craft area. Because it was Sunday a lot of stalls had closed already but we found enough open to occupy us for a while. We then tried to find our way out of the market, ended up at a different exit and walked around in a huge circle and ended up back were we had started!! Jesika said she wasn’t lost, but I had to steer her in the right direction. She is shocking with directions. I think she is a bit directionally dyslexic. We stop someone on the street to ask for directions, they tell her to go down her, turn right there etc etc, and then she repeats it to me in English and tells me we have to turn left – I mean to say at 27 I expect her to know the difference. So now Nathan is telling her to go port or starboard!

Anyway, we eventually manged to get to the Artisanes Market that we had visited yesterday. A lot of the stalls were closed but we found the ones we wanted. We then walked all the way back to the hostel. It was getting late, 7pm-ish and we were tired and hungry, but after showing the guy at the counter the chocolate mixer we had bought at the market he told us where to buy the proper chocolate to make it with, he assured us the shop would be open till 8pm so we left Nathan playing on the computer and took of down the street at a rate of knots. Jesika was very skeptical that it would be open  and sure enough it wasn’t! So we bought a packet of chips on the way back to curb our growing hunger pains! Jesika cooked up the rice and veges and then we sorted and packed all our gear. Well, actually Jesika packed it all very carefully so nothing will hopefully get broken in transit.

Jesika has been getting very tired, it is hard to sleep here because the traffic noise begins early in the morning right outside our room, the hostel is busy and has music going till quite late, then there are the loud speakers from the teachers protests, the fires and explosives that go off during the night. Apparently the protesters use noisy fireworks to alert the others when the police are coming. The police do not wear uniform at night, they are plain clothed with balaclavas and have weapons, the protesters have no weapons. Three protesters were killed by police last week.

Anyway, I had a chat with Jesika and Nathan this morning about how we were getting to the end of our trip and we were all tired and we had to be more accommodating towards each other and not so short tempered. Nathan vowed and declared he was not tired. He couldn’t be tired because he just could not go to sleep at nights so how could he be tired. Well, tonight we were all sitting a the table eating our dinner and he disappeared into our room, I called him back to see what he was looking for and to get him to eat his dinner because it was getting late. He had been looking for something to cover his nose with because people were smoking and he didn’t like the smell, He was getting very tearful – obviously not tired!! – so I said that he could take his food into the bedroom. It is really hard to cope with the smoking. It is so much more in your face here, some Mexicans but mainly the German tourists. It is quite unlike NZ so Nathan is unused to dealing with the problem. I am glad he hates the smell – I hope he always does, long may he never smoke!!

He is ready to go home, although he said he really loves it here in Mexico and wants to learn Spanish and wants to come back again when he is older. It is easy for Jesika and I to forget to include him in the decision making, so we have to constantly remember to sit down and explain to him what is happening and how plans have changed etc. Once he knows he is happy and copes well.

It has been really interesting talking to the people here about the political situation. It is really of major concern and very much in your face. We have also been learning a lot about the history of the country. About Santana and how he sold out to USA. I never realised that he sold New Mexico, Texas & Arizona to the USA. Zapata however is a hero to the poor people as he fought for their rights. Che Guevera is being used as a revolutionary figure here now, and the people do not realise exactly what he did, they just use his face and ideals. Also learnign about the different people groups. It was not just Mayan and Aztecs in Mexico. There were many different but similar people groups in the various areas. There is great cause for concern as the election counting will finish on Sept 1st and then they will know which man gets in. If it is the wrong one the teachers will really flip. They have been striking since May, I couldn’t believe that they are still being paid despite not working. But apparently when the govt stopped paying them they got really violent and began burning things so their pay began again!! The people support the ideals of the strike but it is affecting them badly. Oaxaca depends on the tourists and they are not coming here so much now, wages are very low, jobs unstable, poverty is escalating.  The children have not been in school since May but the teachers are still signing their certificates. So when they graduate next year to the higher classes they will have certificates but no education. It is a very crazy chaotic time for them and I feel  for their uncertainty. A lot of people are almost expecting a revolution. Certainly a place and time for many prayers. As I sit here typing an explosive has gone off just outside the hostel so I guess there will be activity around this area tonight. The barricades move nightly so each morning evidence of fires etc are in new places.

We are leaving for Mexico city in the morning, in fact our taxi is booked for 5:30am. I am not too sure what the internet situation is at our hostel. I will update when I can.

Hasta la vista

An interesting day

This morning just after we had gotten up I was using the internet and Jesika was in the shower, when I felt a tap on my shoulder and behind me was Jesus!! What a wonderful surprise. He had come to say goodbye in private. He was going down the the coast today to visit his relatives before heading to Guadalajara.

It was so good to see him and then when we went outside to see his motorbike there was his father. So a double surprise and a really good start to our day. We had breakfast after he had gone and then went down to the Zocalo area to change some money. Most said they opened at 10am but we found one that said 9am. It was 9:20 so Jesika went in and they said come back in 10 mins. So we went and sat in the square and watched the world go by. Then we went back and they still were not ready – typical Mexican!! So we wandered about and found another place a few streets away that was open AND was ready to serve us!!

From there we walked down to the Central where all the buses and taxis congregate. It was really busy, people and vehicles everywhere. It is really hard to describe it all, the sights and sounds and smells are so diverse. The traffic is incredible, the cars and buses just seem to converge and push and shove until someone manages to get ahead, the buses sometimes are squeezing down narrow roads almost cheek to cheek, in fact you often wonder if there is room, they also drive so fast, I cannot believe there are not more accidents. The funniest sights though are the buses. They have a driver plus another guy who stands in the doorway leaning out and yelling their destination to entice customers. The drivers are paid by how many customers they take each day so have to drum up business. When they stop the extra guy hops out and yells down the street and stands beside the bus banging steadily on the side to make the driver aware that there are still people getting on or off. When all are in or out he gives two quick bangs and hops in fast as the bus zooms off again! The busses go past the stops, there are no timetables, you just go to the stop and wait till you see the bus with the destination on the front that you want then you wave your arm out for it to stop. They are usually quite obliging. Nathan has quite got into the hang of this and has caused a lot of hilarity because he will see a bus coming and wave it down even if it is not the one we want!! He loves the buses. We never us public transport at home so this is a real novelty to him and he is adapting well. Reckons it is way better than the bus system in San Francisco!!

The side walks are very narrow so you are constantly avoiding oncoming people, ducking onto the road to pass or avoid banging into others and then avoiding being hit by the cars. They are also very uneven so you have to have eyes in all directions. Ahead to keep up with Jesika, behind to make sure Nathan is still with us, around to not knock into others, down to avoid tripping or walking into unmentionable stuff. Then there are the smells, one minute you are being gassed by exhaust fumes and the next overwhelmed by fresh bread being sold from tricycles or basket vendors. As you walk you pass in quick succession shops selling modern clothes, arts and crafts, cell phones, unisex hairdressers, traditional clothes, meat, photography, computers, tortillas, hardware, carparts, basic eating places, breads, flash restaurants, fruits and vegetables, – there is no order, there are no large glass windows displays, the doors just open to let you see what is inside. Most shops are very small, barely big enough for one or two customers.

There seems to be no order to any part of Mexican life. It is a total mix of chaos, and yet there is order in amongst it all, there is dirt and rubbish and yet it is clean, noisy but peaceful, – I love it!!!

Heather had given us directions as to how we could be to San Agustin, a small place near Etla. So we went in search of a collective taxi to take us there. Collective taxis are very cheap, ie 10pesos per person as opposed to 80-100pesos in a normal taxi. But in the collective taxis you share the cab with any other folk who may be going your way.

We couldn’t see the Etla sign and were begining to think we would have to take a normal taxi, we didn’t want to ask any passing taxi driver because they will just try and get you to hop in their cab whenther that is where they are heading or not!! So we asked a man on the street where to find one. He then lead us across the street and thru some markets and there were a heap of collectives. He then told the driver what we wanted and sent us on our way. We are finding that the loacls are very helpful and hospitable and will go out of their way for us if we need help.

It was a lot of fun heading out of the city. We saw for the first time the severity of the blockades, the main entrance to the city had burning logs, barbed wire, tyres and rocks etc and many people across it so all the traffic has to divert. They don’t seem too violent at the moment. The driver was very chatty and told us all about Etla. It is a lovely town with very good water supply, I think it may supply a lot of water to the city too. There are many Americans and other foreigners living there, it is an area of artists. When we got to Etla he said he would take us all the way to San Agustin for another 30pesos so we agreed as it was 5km further. He took us to the first paper factory. It was all open but no-one around. It was also not the place Heather had told us about. So he took us up the hill further to a large white church. Beautiful surroundings and pools. He went and asked someone where the place was we were wanting to go and then said he would take us there. We pulled up outside a large wooden gate and knocked on it. We were met by Alberto. The driver said he was happy to wait so he did. We went in and had a fantastic time. Alberto was so interesting. He and his wife Anna (who unfortunately was not home) run this organis paper making business. He used to be a biologist and about 9 years ago met a Finnish couple and he became interested in discovering ways of making paper that is not detremental to the environment.

He spent ages with his assistant Pedro, who spoke as much English as Jesika does Spanish, and they explained all the different things they use to make paper complet with a very scientific brekdown on the ways these plants are made up. He showed us bark, cactus fibres and cotton as examples. The bark consists of cellulose and lignun, the cactus consists of cellulose and carbohydrates and the cotton just of pure cellulose. The different consistancies give different results and make the process times different. It really was a very fascinating science lesson for us all but poor Jesika was really struggling to interpret as she  doesn’t have the scientific background. It was really funny though because even though I don’t speak Spanish I could pick up what he was meaning because a lot of the words he was using I remembered from my high school biology classes. So I was understanding while Jesika was struggling to work out what they were meaning. It was very educational for us all in many ways!!! We also discussed the natural colours they use. Purple comes from a snail, reds from the cochineal insect that burrows into cactus leaves, different dirt and rocks give interesting colours as well. Copper based rocks make greens. He also said that they do not use caustic soda to break down the fibres like the commercial paper makers do as it is destructive to the environment.

After this Alberto decided that they would give us an example of how they make paper from banana leaves. Pedro took us around the garden and showed us each step. First the leaf – the main part of the leaf is used in a Mexican dish called Tamales, so the thick centre stem is discarded. This is the part they use. They  soak it in large barrels. It fermants and begins to break down. Then the mush it with a basic machine they got from Japan. They then cook it for a few hours depending on the toughness of the fibre. They then wash it very thoroughly to get all mildew and mold out of it.

He had a large tin bathtub size container full of water and some cotton fibres so he showed us how to take the sieve and plunge it into the water and bring it up vibrating it gently to settle it in the frame. Then you have to turn it out onto a large piece of felt giving it just the right amount of pressure to squeeze out the water. He got Nathan and me to have a go, we both did really well although Nathn was a bit more violent with his vibrating so had to do a 2nd dip!!! I asked if he made larger sizes and he showed us the large sieve. So he got Nathan to have a go. It was very heavy to bring up through the water but Nathan managed to do it with a bit of help from Alberto. Once the paper is dried a bit they hang it on cardboard supports and leave it to dry overnight.

He then took us through to his display area and showed us what the women make with the papers. They make such cool books, photo frames, envelopes and note papers. His dream is to not only research and find new ways but to teach the younger folk how to do it and also provide work for people. At the moment it is only a small business but a vision unfolding. He was so interested in finding out about New Zealand, our farming, home schooling etc, we could’ve talked for hours. But our taxi driver came in and asked how long we wanted to be because we had already been 2 hours!!! So we quickly sorted out papers to buy and hopped into the taxi for our return trip. On the way through Etna he stopped to pick up two more people, we were wondering where he was going to fit them when he got Jesika to move across beside him and sit on a cushion in the middle. We were quite glad he never stopped to pick up anyone else!!!


We came back to the hostel to unload and then walked down to the Mercado de Artesanias – the craft market. It was fun to walk around and see everything, it is so hard to look at things though because if you show the slightest interest the stall keeper is bringing out all the wares and showing you everything they have. We bought a few things we liked and decided to head back to the hostel tounload. Then we walked to the Santo Domingo church. It is a huge church with a beautiful courtyard.  We went inside to have a look, although it is quite foreign to us to have such ornate paintings and statues in a church we had to admit that it was an amazing work of art. The whole building is decorated to the max! But it also is hard to balance the opulance with the poverty we have witnessed outside the church.

There were people ariving dressed up in their totally best clothes, we wondered if there was a wedding but no, the lady at the church said it was a school graduation. We went downt he street a wee way and found a Crepe restaurant that had been recommended to us. It was upstairs and we had a table on a small balcony so we could watch the world go by on the street below. My first thoughts when all three of us crammed out onto the balcony were that I hoped that it was a lot stronger that the Cave Creek lookout!!!

The meal was superb, and as we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast we all enjoyed it immensely. While Jesika was paying – (I leave her to sort out the pesos, I haven’t got my head around them yet!!) – Nathan & I went down to an art market we had seen across the street. Some of the paintings were really good. I was taken by a painting of 7 children all dressed in the regional costuimes representing the 7 areas of Oaxaca. So when Jesika arrived I bought it. The artist spoke good English and was most appreciative that I had bought the painting because he hadn’t sold anything all day. The tourist numbers are way down so business is very slow for everyone. He gave me is business card so I can email him if I have any more questions about the costumes. I got him to write on the back of the painting which was from what region.

We got back to the hostel a bit earlier than usual for us so had time to book a couple of tours for Mexico city as we only have 1 more day here and don’t want to waste our time up there by missing out on the 3 specific things I want to do.

Hasta manana

Sad farewells and new beginnings

We were all very tired this morning after our big day yesterday. So
we were a bit sluggish when Heather arrived at 9am. Rosia and Jesus
arrived soon after and we all walked down to the large central markets.
We were early so a lot of the stalls had not yet opened but we were
able to wander through and find things we wanted. The mission was to
take Jesus shopping for clothes etc as he is leaving on Monday for
university. The market is huge and apparently we only saw a very small
part of it in the few hours we were there. It is like a rabbit warren
with stalls crammed in selling everything you could think of. Jesus
found shoes he wanted, then we went looking for pants and shirts. He
was a very willing model, we were laughing at the poor lad having 4
women telling him what we all thought of the clothes he tried on, plus
Nathan was always trying to be helpful and picking out the most
inappropriate things. He got upset when I kept telling him to put them
back on the racks, because he was only trying to help!!! He finally
chose what he wanted.

We then walked back past the Central area, which is the main place
for the buses and collective taxis. It was quite wet underfoot so we
had to walk carefully. There are train tracks running right down the
centre of the road which are pretty old and neglected and people sleep
on them. We caught a bus to the Project and spent a hour or so talking
with Rosario. It was very interesting as I asked her to explain to me
how the whole sponsoship thing worked and how the money gets to benefit
the children. She got out many files and explained to me in great
detail how it all functions. Heather sure earned her money interpreting

The money that we send each month gets sent from NZ to the head
office in Colorado, then to Mexico city office. From there it is sent
out to the Project it is for. There are 52 Projects in Mexico. 4 in
Oaxaca. The total sum of money is used then to run the Project. The
sponsored children benefit from this in many ways, subsidised medical
& dental treatment, use of the library and computer training,
educational classes etc. Any money that we send seperately from the
basic sponsorship which is specifically marked for the child –
birthday, school needs, Christmas etc – gets given directly to the
child. There were several specific projects which Rosario showed us
that had been undertaken by groups of sponsors. It shows how many
people who pool their resources can acheive so much.

One was the supplying of machinery to set up a bakery from a
Canadian group. The mothers run the bakery and the proceeds go towards
the Project and also pay them a wage which helps their families. The
2nd one was a group of sponsors from the USA who provided money to buy
heaps of large black water tanks. There are many many people who do not
have water at their homes or anyway to store it and they have to cart
it by buckets from quite a distance. They pay 30 pesos towards a tank
and the rest is covered by the groups donation. Rosaria explained that
they don´t make everything free because if there is a cost, no matter
how small, it makes the people appreciate it more. And it is important
for their own esteem to be able to contribute towards these things. So
things like these water tanks and the dental care have a minimal cost
which is manageable. Once they have the tanks installed then the trucks
can come and fill them with good water so they no longer have to cart
it, plus it reduces the risk of bad water and disease. Another project
had been to provide cement to give to the people whose houses only have
dirt floors then they can concrete their own floors.

We left the Collonias around 2pm and walked down to Jesus´home.
Maria had made lunch for us. She made the Oaxacan specialty Mole served
over fried chicken and with rice and fresh tortillas. It was delicious.
The mole was just spicey enough to be enjoyable. It has many
ingrediants which combine to make a delicious dark gravy like food.
Maria told us what was in it but there was so many things I cannot
remember. The whole time we were eating the thunder was threatening
rain and we were waiting for it to deluge us. We were just under a
tarpaline which was not too waterproof!! However it did not happen so
we were okay, no drowned rats today


We had a lovely time talking with her but finally had to move
ourselves from her table. Jesika wanted to take me next door to visit
Estella, Carlos´sister. She and her family live in the deceased parents
home. The section is a lot larger than Maria & Carlos but full of
trees and plants in pots, a volkswagon car (which had squeezed 8 in
last time our children were visiting!) and building materials etc. She
also has a well in the middle of her house. Estella showed it to us –
it is about 40´deep and bricked all the way down. Must´ve been a real
mission to dig. It has been there for 20 odd years. The water is really
good becuse it comes from a subterranean spring.

Marian comes from and family of nine and Carlos from 5. Most of the
families live fairly close so there is a lot of interaction between
them. Maria was telling us that her nieces and nephews often come to
visit her. In fact they will see which house is providing the food the
prefer and they will go there in preference to going home!!! She often
has little ones there, her wee niece Monique is a very cute 3 year old
and she will come and help make little tortilla on a small press while
Maria is making hers. Monique came to visit while we were there and
went to sleep on Maria´s lap. She was very much at home. It was so
sweet to see Jesus carrying her home to put her to bed. He is very
close to his family so it will be hard for them when he leaves on
Monday. Maria said it will be sad and happy – bitter/sweet. He is such
good mates with his little brother Sergio, but they all know he is
going to achieve study for a better occupation. It can only help the
family. His brother Carlos has always wanted to be a doctor, and with
his sponsorship that will be possible also.

Maria walked us down tot he end of the street, we all had a good
laugh when a man strode past us very fast talking nonsense flat out, he
was obviously intoxicated, probably with mezcal!! It was really hard to
say goodbye, but as I said to Maria we are no longer sponsors, we are
friends. She told us the remember that her casa will always be our
casa, and she will look forward to our return in the future.

We went back to the Colonias. In the morning we had asked Rosario if
we could choose another child to sponsor so she had given us a pile of
files with photos of the most needy children on her list at present. We
had all chosen a little girl called Eva. She is nearly 8. So while we
were at Jesus´ home Rosario had arranged for Eva´s family to come and
meet us. It was the first time a sponsor had been able to meet a child
before the sponsorhip had begun, and we found out later against the
rules of head office but as Jesika said, we are here so please let us
meet her. Her mother Nellie has 5 children and Eva is the middle one.
The 2 youngest were Yessica 2yrs and Uriel 15months. They were obviusly
very much in much need, but the children were so gorgeous, we told
Nellie we wished we could sponsor them all. I hope they will find
sponsors soon as the family desperately needs assistance. I think
Shoshannah and Mahalia will enjoy writing letters to Eva. Nellie got
Eva to say a big thankyou to Jesus for allowing us to now be her

When they left we then had our final time with Jesus. It was getting
harder and harder as the time for us to leave got closer. We had to
write in the visitors book and the Rosario took us to see the bakery
and gave us some of the hot very fresh sweet bread. Then we walked down
to wait for a bus. It took ages to come along so it really prolonged
out farewells, I was so close to tears. But Jesus said that he will
plan to come and visit us in NZ as soon as he is able. We joked that we
would keep our airstrip open for him, he is such a lover of speed and
stunts that it would be just the right place for him to land his

Heather came back to the hostel with us and we had a lovely time
chatting with her. As an interpreter she had been great. Jesika
commented that she was way better than the one they had last year. She
goes to a Baptist church near here so we will go visit it on Sunday and
see her again. We are not supposed to exchange addresses with her but
she has become such a good friend that we broke another rule!!

There were a few more folk back here at the hostel. Had a chat with
two German girls and our French friend Celine. Decided to have an early
night tonight as we will have our last busy day tomorrow. Only 2 days
till we leave and still so much more we want to do. A good reason to
plan on returning 

A rather wet day!!

Heather came and collected us at 8:30am and we took a bus to the
Colonios, the bus which had been blockading our streets had been moved
in the early morning so the traffic was busier in the street and we
were able to take just one bus the whole way. Rosia and Jesus met us at
the office and we walked down to the family home. Maria had made
breakfast for us. First she served us large bowls of
delicious frothy hot chocolate with sweet bread, which they break
and dunk into the chocolate before eating. It was very yummy and we
glady accepted a second bowl full!! Then she gave us a different
type of tortilla, smaller with thicker folded edges and she had put a
smooth bean mix on them with melted cheese. The cheese here is very
white and stretchy, sorta like mozzerella but milder. She had a bowl of
guacamole and one of a very very hot chilli salsa. She had left that
for us to put on as she knew I couldn´t cope with too much hot stuff.
They are also very tasty and filling. Just as we had finished Jesus´
father Carlos came home to meet us. He was a delightful man, a builder
– from what I could make out he does everything from building,
electricity, plumbing etc. At the moment the strikes are affecting him
and he has not got much work so is just doing odd projects here and
there. He was very interested in us, our family and New Zealand.

We also found out more about the water supply system. There are
trucks travelling the streets constantly tanks full of water which they
get from some resevoir. The go to the houses and fill peoples tanks.
For some reason they don´t use the rain water. In the suburbs houses
like Jesus´ family have don´t get the water delivered as often as ones
closer to the city centre. They don´t have any running water. The
toilets are flushed by tipping buckets of water in. Often there is no
toilet paper, we have learnt to take our own with us, and you never
flush it down the toilet, the plumbing can´t cope with it. There are no
showers or baths. The wash in the concrete room by the toilet by taking
a bucket of water and using a small bowl they tip water over
themselves. If they have time they may heat the water first but not

I commented to Heather that the houses often look unfinished, there
is re-enforcing steel poking out the tops of most houses, as if they
are still building. She said that is often the case. They work on
Mexican time and build what they can afford with the money they have at
the time. So if they run out of bricks it just stays like that until
they can afford some more. Nathan has been fascinated by the broken
glass that they also add to the tops of their buildings to prevent
uninvited guests!! He thinks it would be a good thing to add to his
huts at home. As you walk down the streets you often see dogs roaming
or sleeping and there are always dogs running around up on the roof

Carlos and Maria have lived in their house for 18 years now and it
still appears to be unfinished.  Maria has planted many trees and
flowers. When you arrive at the end of the street there is are fences,
often made with tin. Their gates are wooden and open into a dirt
floored area. the yard and house flow into each other. Maria cooks down
the back of the yard. There is a large concrete tub of water beside a
fire with a large clay plate for cooking the tortilla. All cooking and
washing is done here, the clothes are hung randomly around the garden
to dry. The house is made from grey concrete blocks. The only parts of
the house which have permanent roof are the bedrooms and dining area.
It is very flexible as to where you sit to eat, depends on the weather
and time of day. For our first meal we were seated in the kitchen, but
today the table had been moved out into the yard nearer to the cooking
area. It is all delightfully relaxed and time free. I did ask Maria
what time she gets up int he morning to get everything done and she
said normally at 5am! It is certainly different with no automation in
the house. Mind you I think because we have all the time and labour
saving devices we cram far more stress into our lives. Maybe we are not
the ones who are better off ,-)

While we were all talking Nathan disappeared. We eventually realised
he was outside playing a ball game on the street with the boys. They
were having a great time. He described it as a cross between baseball
and soccer!! It was quite hilarious watching them, everytime a ball was
kicked toohard it would land over the fence in a school ground, so they
would go get another ball. When they finally ran out of balls we
decided we should get moving as we were running out of time to go to
the petrified waterfalls. We caught a bus to the outskirts of the city
and then another bus to Mitla, that took about an hour. The landscape
was changing so much along the way. The buildings change as you leave
the city centre, they seem to have a real distinctive look about them
in the different areas. Outside the city there is less graffitti and
rubbish. It is also funny because you see the small traditional shops
tucked away and then a large more modern glass fronted ones scattered
amongst them. Once we got to Mitla we bought some extra water as it was
quite hot and then found a driver who would take us to Hierve el Agua
in his double cab ute. He had a canopy/cabin thing on the back for
extra passengers. The 6 of us managed to squeeze into the front seats.
I had to sit forward to fit in so was perched on the edge of the seat
the whole way up the mountain. We drove up the zig-zag dirt road for
about an hour. The views were amazing, there were crops being grown
high up on the slopes and small ´houses´here and there. The road as it
is now has only been made for 2 years. It was very much like our road
at home. The people that live up there bring their produce down to the
weekly markets to sell. We saw several people with horses and donkeys,
many dogs and also large bullock type cattle which I presume they use
to plow.

When we got over the otherside of the mountain we drove into a small
settlement called San Ysidro and the driver stopped to show us where
and how mexcal is made. It is what they call here Oro del Oaxaca –
Oaxacan Gold.Ít is made from corn. First they put it in a very large
fire pit in the ground and cook it. Then it is soaked in big barrels
for 14 days. They basically ferment and then distill it, We tasted it
and it reminded me of whiskey. It is VERY potent! Jesika told me that
when we were travlling in the first bus in the city she was sitting
near the window and saw a sight that she had never seen before in all
her travels – a man was lying stretched out in the middle of the
pavement, totally out of it, and stark naked, people were just walking
around him. Obviously under the influence of mexcal!!

We then went a little further to the petried waterfalls. It was very
hot there and the driver was quite anxious for us to get moving as he
could see rain coming. So he took us downt he track to the top of one
and then down to the bottom of it. By this time the rain had begun. It
seemed to be fairly light so we weren´t too worried and then down it
came, the heavens opened, the thunder crashed, the lightening was
flashing about the hills around us. By the time we walked back up the
steps we were absolutely drenched to the skin.

It was actually really funny and we couldn´t do anything but laugh
because we were all so wet. The guys stripped off their tops and rung
them out but we just stood and shivered. Nathan thought it was really
funny to get even wetter!

When the rain eased a bit we dashed back to the truck and headed
homewards. Jesika, Jesus and Nathan sat in the back cabin and froze.
They did have lots of fun talking and laughing. Heather, Rosia and
myself sat in the front cabs and soaked the seat covers. As the driver
was also wet he wasn´t worried. We crept slowly back up the mountain
and down the other side. I reckon he didn´t go much over 20kph the
whole way. By the time we got to Mitla we were all so cold that I
decided we need some hot Oaxacan chocolate to warm us up so the driver
dropped us off at a market and we found a lovely lady to make us some.
She served it with sweet bread which was devoured as we were all so
cold and hungry. While we were at the market we bought some veges and a
papaya for dinner.

We then had to phone Rosario to get permission to take Jesus
shopping tomorrow. The public phone system here is really funny. You go
to a booth were there is a man sitting with a phone. You give him the
money and the number and he calls it, when it is answered he tells you
which phone booth to go to and he directs the call to that phone so you
can talk in private. By the time a bus came by and we got into the city
it was dark and nearly 9pm. We sent Rosia and Jesus off to find their
bus home and we caught one to the hostel. So once again we had a very
full and adventurous day. It was full of laughter and learning. Nathan
is really enjoying learning new Spanish words, although his
pronounciation often leaves a lot to be desired. It does cause much
laughter all round and once again we have found folk that want to keep
him. Maria wants him to stay with her – she reckons we have enough
children and wouldn´t miss one!!! His favourite words are Adios Amigo.
Mine are mas rapido – because they all walk so slowly and we never seem
to get anywhere fast.

Hasta manana!

End of a great day!

We have just gotten back to the hostel after a long but really great
day with our sponsor child Jesus. Actually he is no child – he turned
18 in July and is leaving on Monday to go away to university in another
province. So we have visited him just in time as his sponsorship will
finish now. Because he is leaving Oaxaca we cannot continue to sponsor
him. I am really thrilled though because he is going to go to
university to study to be a pilot. I am glad we have had the chance to
help him to achieve his dream. He has to study theory for 3 years and
then practical for 4 years.

We were collected this morning at 10am by Rosio (from the
project) and Heather (the interpreter, a 25yr old girl from San
Diego who has been working here teaching English for a year).  We
did try a taxi but it was charging 80 pesos – Heather said they were
more expensive at the moment because they were taking advantage of
the strike!! So we opted to try and find buses. The buses are running
it is just that where they can go in the central city is limited
because of all the barricades. They are more fun anyway. If there are
road rules here I cannot figure them out, and brakes are imperative
cause they tend to drive fast and right on the tails of those in front,
they cut across roads and hope that the opposing traffic can stop in
time. We managed to find 2 buses to get us to the Project centre. There
seems to be 2 types of buses, the cheap ones are old and not so nice
and then the more expensive ones which are newer and have doors that
close etc! They cost either 3 pesos or 3.50 pesos each. The last bit of
roading felt like were driving over constant judder bars. I found out
later when walking that the roads are concrete and they make ridges in
them because they can get very slippery in the wet.

The area is very poor, the buildings very basic with heaps of tin
and delapidated clay and brick walls. Buildings that look unfinished.
Lots of foliage which is nice. Things like the sanitation are very
basic, I feel I should be shocked but as it is all part of the place it
all seems very natural. At the hostel we have the luxury of flushing
toilets, but we have to put the toilet paper in bins, and we have hot
water. Whereas at centre, and I imagine the houses, the toilets do not
flush, you have to tip a bucket of water down it when you have
finished, the toilet paper is scarce, there is no hot water in the
taps. There was no running water at Jesus´s home, the water is in a big
concrete tub and they dip water out to wash their hands, to mix the
food with and I presume to do the laundry.

We walked to the Project and were met by Rosario who runs it. She is
a most delightful woman who has been there for most of the 18 years it
has been running. She is there from 10am until around 8pm Monday to
Friday and then 10am – 3pm on Saturdays. I can see her heart is with
the mothers and children she is working with. They work with around 750
children from the neighbourhood but only 625 are actually sponsored.

Rosario was fascinated that I had 10 children and still looked so
young. She wanted to know how I stayed this way because here in Mexico
the woman that have many children look really old with broken bodies,
or they die young from birthing complications. It also has become
common here for women to have ceaserian births. It is being used as a
form of birth control because the powers that be have determined that
they can only have 3 ceaserians, so they make them more normal and
hence the smaller families now.

The project centre has grown slowly over the years – poco a poco
(little by little) as funding allows. Today we saw they have their
office area with all the childrens records, they also have a library
and computer room with 9 computers which have recently been funded by a
government grant, they have a dentist and doctor who work there too,
they have groups each afternoon/evening – mothers come with their
children from babies through to around 18 years old. The mothers have
classes in building self esteem and how to avoid or escape the violence
that often seems to go hand in hand with poverty. The younger ones
learn to draw etc at the play group, the older ones have dancing
classes. It was so fun to watch them all learning their native cultural
dances. Jesus loves to dance and showed us the cultural costume that he
wears. The head gear is huge and very elaborate. Made from turkey
feathers woven somehow onto a frame made from something like bamboo.
The feathers are dyed and the whole thing is very colourful and
extremely heavy. He danced for us for a few minutes and built up quite
a sweat so after an hour he must get pretty exhausted!

This is
Nathan after Jesus had dressed him in the native male dress – Nathan
decided it was too embarrassing to be seen and wasn’t too sure that I
should take a photo cause his big bros would probbly laugh at him!! I
thought he looked pretty cool!

We talked for a long time in the office, mostly about the politics
of the organisation. The rules for visitng have been tightened up so
much. Apparently we should have only one day with him. However we were
allowed 2 because we had come so far, Then we learnt that it was now
against the rules for us to visit Jesus´ home. We were so disappointed,
so Rosario made a call to head office and they made an exception for us
this time. Jesus is also not allowed to know where we are staying and
we ar enot allowed to exchange addresses. It is all so frustrating. But
I am sure once he has finsihed with the project we will be able to
reinstate contact somehow. He is such a cool young man. He has charisma
and is utterly charming. Totally delightful and so happy to have us
come.We could see he was thrilled to have Jesika back again and was
quite relaxed about meeting us, unlike last year when he first met our
three children and was quite shy to begin with.

After we had spent several hours at the centre we all walked down
the street to his home. We were met by his mother Maria and his 2
brothers Carlos 15 and Sergio 12 ( who is barely up to Nathan´s
shoulder, Nate is not 11 yet!). Maria and a friend were cooking
tortillas so we got to see how they make them and helped press some.
Maria then treated us like royalty and set a table for us. We were
served beans, rice and a chilli stuffed with chicken and then fried in
a type of batter. We ate that with the fresh tortillas. So delicious. I
found the chilli a bit hot but managed to eat it all. We had cold Coke
to wash it all down. I don´t usually enjoy coke but it all seemed to
work well together!! Then Maria´s sister-in-law Estella from next door
came with a plate of grapefuit wedges dipped in chilli and salt. It was
so good. She had her two wee children with her Monique and Diego. The
boys then began climbing Maria´s fruit trees, causing a lot of hilarity
along the way, and got us cumquats to eat. They are very like loquats
that we used to grow at home.

Jesus also likes break dancing so he showed us some of his moves. He
is a very flexible young man and it was hilarious to watch him spinning
on his head and running up the wall and doing back flips. Most
entertaining. He has boundless energy. We enjoyed chatting with his
brothers too. Carlos likes to play soccer and Sergio plays basketball
and enjoys fishing. He showed us his new tackle box and fishing rod so
he and Nathan had something in common. He fishes in a lagoon nearby so
the fish he catches are very small compared to what we are used to but
they do eat them.

Heather had to leave around 5pm so we stayed a while longer and
coped with Jesika as a translator. Good for her Spanish! We had
presents for Jesus, the only thing we had botched was the shoes were a
size too big. They fit Nathan so they won´t go to waste and we will
find some more for Jesus. At 6pm we walked back to the centre to watch
all the children at their dancing classes. There are several age groups
so it was a lot of fun. Jesus joined in with the older ones when I
encouraged him to show us his dancing. He is very good at it.

We finally left around 7pm as we wanted to be back at the hostel by
dark. Rosio and Jesus took us to the bus stop and made sure we got on
the right bus and instructed the driver to let us off at the right
stop. Once we were back in familiar territory we went to the market and
bout some sauce and eggs to have with our rice for dinner. Jesika
cooked it up and she and Nathan have gone off to bed.

Before dinner though, Nathan was having a swim and he came into us
and said it was raining. Sure enough it was pouring down. The hostel is
very typical Mexican and has a central courtyard which is open to the
sky with the rooms all around the edges and at the moment there is rain
pouring in and lightening flashing. Rather refeshing to the atmosphere
actually. I was talking to the guy at the desk as he was dropping all
the umbrellas and hammocks in the courtyard, I asked him if this was
normal to have flash rain storms. He said No. I then asked when the
rainy season was, and he said now! So I then said well, why is this
unusual and he said with a big smile that they had rain last week and
thought that was enough for a while!!!


    Well, we spent the afternoon wandering about the local area.
Jesika was feeling quite at home because she reaslised very quickly that she was not far from where they stayed last year. We were introduced to Nieve – Mexican fruit ices – in fact we sat at the same table they had all sat at last year when spending their last hours with Jesus. They were very delicious, more icy than creamy which I prefer.

We followed Jesika down this alley, through this door, around this corner……..she seemed to know exactly where she was going, I was totally lost. The smells and sights were so diverse.
You walk along and pass meat markets, clothes stall, cell phone stalls, food shops all mixed up. Quite incongruous really. Nathan was having a hard time with the smells and we had to get his nose out of his tee shirt as it looked rather rude! I coped fine until we walked past the end shops of the meat market and there were piles of tripe and other offal and I told Jesika right then I was becoming vegetarian on this trip!! It is quite unbelievable, the meat is out in the open, being cut up and draped over rails in front of you, there are huges baskets of chillis of all sorts, fruits I have never heard of before. All mixed up with clothes, trinkets, leather goods and even the good old Japanese plastic trivia.

There is a teachers strike going on here and in Mexico City right now. It is huge, way worse than last year when Jesika was here. This time they are furious because a leading politician who has just won the election is spending all the money allocated for education on election expenses. So they are all camped out in the streets, the streets are barricaded wityh tin fences and big buses parked precariously across streets just where ever they have fel inclined to leave them. There is graffitti everywhere – we have seen no violence yet but have been warned that there could be some – did see a large graffittied sign today saying Tourists Go Home!

Anyway, we had no idea that this strike is also crippling the public transport system. But tonight we were waiting to have pizza for dinner at a nearby hostel cafe – it was a hostel the children stayed in last year – a German girl asked us how we were planning on getting out of Oaxaca. We had no idea what she was talking about until she explained that NO buses are operating.

We are being picked up in the morning at 10am to be taken by the Childfund folk to meet Jesus and his family. So we will find out then how we are going to be affected because last year they were taken by bus.

I had better get to bed, it is late and we have had a long day.

Before I finish though, I must tell you what Nathan said to me a couple of days ago.
He commented that he thought this was sposed to be a holiday and he was getting exhausted from all the walking we were doing. In fact he said he was sure that hsi legs were going to be at least 8¨shorter when he gets back home!!!

He is doing very well though, for a young man of 10 he is coping admirably with everything and is absolutely delightful with the folk he meets. He is gorgeous with the little children, there was a wee person tottering about outside the theatre yesterday and he was going to off to babysit so his mother could go to the bathroom. He and Jesika are having some sibling fun. Playing games of pokey pokey, slappy slappy keep themselves in training for normal sibling stuff.

Right I am off to bed
watch this space for updates on the situation here…..


We headed into SF early as we were booked to go to Alcatraz at 9:30am. Got there in plenty of time to find a car park. Alcatraz was great. Really interesting. I could´ve spent at least another hour or so there. But Nate was tired and Jesika was cold so we went back over to SF. It really was a cold SF day. There is a well known quote by Mark Twain ´The coldest winter I ever spent was a summers day in San Francisco´! We have found that to be so true. Not too sure why we get indoctrinated by the movies into thinking California is hot & sunny – the central coastal regions surely are not. They are constantly foggy, it makes you feel claustraphobic and so wanting to be in sunshine. After several days I was actually missing the desert – for me that is amazing as I am not a ´hot´person. The other thing is that San Franciscan´s are so proud of their trade mark fog!!! I must admit it is pretty – to see once!


We spent the afternoon walking around SF, found the Disney store. What a cool shop. I so wanted to get Azzan a pirates costume but they were $70US so settled for some more practical garments instead!! We then tidied up and found another carpark and walked to an Italian restaurant ´Sadinos´ where we met Bryan and eventually John & Ruth. Had dinner with them, then went back to the hostel. We were all feeling very ready to go home. Tired of SF, ready to leave.



We cooked up all our food and had a huge breakfast as it was our last in Montara. It was sad to leave as we really did enjoy our time there, and the people were so lovely. There was a bit of drama though before we left as one of the guests had had his wallet stolen. Apparently, there had been a rather unreputable guy sharing his room so the police were there getting info. We went to Half Moon Bay to return Nate´s book. We also got some extra cash from the bank as our cards won´t work in the machines. This time I made sure I took my card with me!!

We left our excess baggage with Bryan then parked the car and went to the Metreon. Would´ve been good to see the Titanic exhibition but was quite expensive. So Jesika went to see ´Acceptance´while I took Nate to the IMAX to see Superman Returns. It was a very loud big movie and I am very sure that I DO NOT want to ever see it again! It was good to experience it though, but I found it rather exhausting and tiresome. Nate enjoyed it but did find it too loud too. We then drove out to the airport. Left the car at Herzt depot and took Airbus to airport. Had plenty of time to go through security. Man, they make you nearly strip to go through now. Shoes, belts, coats off even my hairclips had to come out and go through their machines.  They were on Orange Alert, hate to think what Red Alert would be like – might be sight – can just envisige the naked masses being herded through the xray machines

We had pizza and pastries to fill our tummies and fill in time and then went down to wait. Jesika & I both had books to read but Nate didn´t so he spent his time going up and down the escalators!!

We finally boarded and left at 11:30pm. Nate slept soundly and when we arrived at 6am was rather dozey. I didn´t realise it but we had lost 2 hours. So it really was only 4am – our body clocks are getting a hammering over here. We had to wait a wqhile for the plane to Oaxaca – it was working on Mexican time and was quite late leaving. Nate went back to sleep in his chair. Then on the hour flight here he went out to it so soundly I couldn´t wake him. When we were descending I managed to wake him to have his drink, I knew he was thirsty before he went to sleep, he drank it and then went straight back to sleep.  Managed to get him to wake to get off and go thru a very shambollic customs. Jesika changed some money into pésos and then we got a shuttle to the hostel. The hostel Mezkilito is really nice. Clean, comfortable beds and nice facilities. We made our beds and then collapsed on them and slept for 3 hours. Have spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on emails while the hostel is quiet, Nate went for a swim but said the water was too cold, he has been watching Mexican TV while Jesika slept a while longer.

We are about to now, go out and find some food and water. Have to buy all our water here – too risky otherwise.


I have now caught up on the past 4 weeks. – Great! From here on in I will try and fill you in on a more regular basis. I will load photos when I get home.

Am off to find dinner – I am starving, the food on the plane left a lot to be desired. I was sure glad we had had the pizzas at the airport!!