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First Days in Morelos

August 5, 2010

Saludos!

Well, here I am at a cybercafe in Cosolapa, Oaxaca. Today I´m feeling a little "blue" and tired, didn´t sleep so well last night. There was a torrential rainstorm most of the night; I´m sure the rain gauge I brought would have overflowed multiple times were it installed in an appropriate place!

The dogs and Hemingway are fine. This is a big adventure for them, too. They love going for long walks (so far I've been taking them along the road between Morelos and Cosolapa) and smelling all the new smells, and I can enjoy their company more easily here, because the rusticity of the house doesn´t demand a very high standard of housecleaning, and because the doors have direct access to the outdoors; no carport in between.

Strangely enough, when Alberto and his father Antonio brought me the old cooler (an old soft drink cooler they weren´t using anymore in their little storefront in Cosolapa), Maggie quickly adapted to the loud intermittent noise it makes (just a few feet away from my bed). Of course she was totally freaked out at first, and spent two or three days trying to run away from this terrible machine, but soon she realized that she preferred hanging out on the cool concrete floor to being outside all day in the heat, and now she seems to have adapted. They like to come in and sleep under or next to my bed at night, too. Me, I have to wear ear plugs. A nice quiet refrigerator would be better, but who can argue with the economic sense of accepting this big cooler for free?

Since my arrival, Alberto and Antonio have already poured concrete steps down the path to the front door, and a big concrete patio on the other side of the house. Pretty soon they will begin more improvements: A smooth concrete finish to the presently very rough concrete floor, and a water tank with a direct connection to the village supply--which means that instead of having to fill two big barrels every other day with a hose via my next door neighbors (Alberto´s uncle, aunt, and cousins), I can have a faucet for the kitchen sink and the bathroom, and a shower, and if I wanted it, a flush toilet.

But I aim to set up a "humanure" system instead of using the water toilet. Also they will enclose the sides of the staircase and cover the rough open stairway so that people don´t trip catching their feet in the presently open spaces. But if I want hot water, I'll have to heat it myself, either on the little two-burner gas stove, or outdoors once we build the Lorena stove (you can look up Lorena stoves on the internet to find out more about them).

Still haven´t gone up into the mountains to see and/or work on their land. It's been very rainy this year and they haven´t been able to plant their corn yet. But the banana plantation is doing well and believe me, you have not known bananas until you have tasted these!

And people are continually regaling me with fruit: papayas, mangos, mamey, nanche, guanabana, etc. Right outside my house are two huge avocado trees, which have been bombarding the roof and surrounding grounds with avocados. I'm told avocado season is about over, though, for this year.

People depend on seasonal availability here, but the market and individual stores in Cosolapa bring in stuff from all over the country. So you can get apples, pears, avocados, peaches, watermelons, pineapples, all kinds of green vegetables, herbs, etc. etc, pretty much throughout the year.

The Morelos corn mill is about two "blocks" from my house; to make tortillas, you can take your own corn already boiled and steeped overnight in water with "cal" (calcium hydroxide) to soften the hard seed coats, and have the miller lady grind it for you in their big machine, or you can just buy the masa made with their corn for 7 pesos a kilo (less than 50 cents a pound).

Fresh ready-made tortillas (and fresh breads) are also available twice a day via vendors who travel around on motor scooters, but the ready-made tortillas are apt to be made at least partly of corn flour (masa harina) instead of the freshly-ground masa (nixtamal). Most people prefer to grow and use their own corn if at all possible. Aside from other quality factors, this is also the best way to avoid transgenic corn.

Freshly killed chicken is also available most mornings at the mill. Usually the miller lady has to tell me to come back in half an hour because they haven´t killed the chicken yet, or because they haven´t finished plucking the feathers. This fresh fresh chicken has a totally different quality compared to the stuff you get in supermarkets in the USA. It is still warm, it has no odor, it feels different to the touch. And they will sell you a whole chicken or any part you ask for. Today I got a little more than a kilo (it goes for 36 pesos/kilo, or about 1.65/lb.) of pieces, to keep a little supply on hand for the animals and me.

The cooler keeps everything at about zero degrees Celsius, and seems to be fine for fruit, masa, and meat, but I don't know yet if it will work for green leafy vegetables; it might be too cold.

Getting to know people here is tremendously rewarding. They are so kind and friendly and open, especially here in a little village like Morelos. You don´t really have to lock your doors when you leave the house, your close neighbors are your friends and they watch out for you, and vice-versa.

Unplanned socializing seems to be integral to daily life, and when I pass by their houses, I say "Buenos dias" or "Buenas tardes" as the case may be, and often they invite me to stop and have breakfast, or a cup of their own homegrown coffee, or a freshly-made tamal, or a hot homemade tortilla spread with a sauce made of toasted dried chiles softened a bit in water, then lightly fried in a bit of oil and seasoned with a pinch of salt. And we talk talk talk. This is the relaxation and the entertainment, the recuperation from the very very hard work of making a living from scratch every day of your life.

And the natural environment here is stunningly beautiful, inspite of serious problems of contamination (out of contol garbage and water pollution in the more urban or industrial stretches of major rivers).

Most of the Georgia countryside is very pretty, but it rarely offers a dramatic panorama. Here, the contrasts are much sharper between lowland fields and mountains, and in spite of the huge population growth in the cities, their remain enormous areas of open countryside, both cultivated and wild. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go up into the mountains soon, because that´s where the environment remains most intact and uncontaminated.

Well, that´s about all I can write for the moment. Hope to see you all HERE sometime in the near future!

:) Myra

 
 

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Comments

Interesting story and amzaing that her bias against capitalism persists even though her cooler, the wonderful fresh chicken and corn meal, and the tractor that rescued her are all the good results of capitalism! Hopefully, all of us can have many deep realizations about living a simple, clean and pure life filled with gratitude.

Dr. Kim, Thanks for posting these updates from Myra. My family absolutely loves Mexico -- Oaxaca especially! We dream of moving there someday and living a simpler life that is much, much closer to nature. I'm always fascinated to learn more about this beautiful country and all of its native fruits and vegetables that I've never had the pleasure to discover first-hand.... yet!

Hello everybody, I was very happy reading Myras's comment because she is in a town near my town in Veracruz, where we have a house to go for summer.
I would like to encourage you to visit that area, plenty of green landscapes, rivers, and a lake in Temazcal , Oaxaca, through which you can have access to the Soyaltepec's Island. A town where you feel like in another time in history, surrunded with friendly Mazatec Indian people and wonderful sights.