March 27, 2011
As I write, a guitar strums in the background. The air is warm and I am filled with bbq'd pollo and the best mint helado ever (with pieces of mint leaves!) The food has been amazing: chilies, pozole, guacamole, and tortillas in an incredible number of forms. Art galleries, mercados, and museos are around every corner. I have actually been meeting other travellers, and no longer feel like the only foreigner in town!
I met Grace at a cafe and we set out to the Sunday mercado in Tlacolula, about 30 minutes out of town. The aisles were pleasantly wide and endlessly long, filled with vendors selling modern tshirts, traditional woven fabrics, carved bowls, coconut-cinnamon juice, chocolate, coffee, vegetable seeds, frutas, grasshoppers spiced with salt and chili, honey, and the list goes on. Especially fun was sampling all the different kinds of mezcale (liquor made from the agave cactus)!
Cooking class with chef Alberto: Rachel and I learned how to make mole rojo (a red mole sauce), flores de calabaza sopa (squash-blossom soup), and stewed guavas. In Oaxaca, there are 7 different kinds of moles, each one a complicated mixture, traditionally made for special occasions. Chili peppers, sesame seeds, hazel nuts, plantain, onion, and of course chocolate are just a few of the ingredients. After frying everything together, we were sent on an excursion to follow one of the cooks carrying our bucket of mole. Completely clueless as to where we were going, (because the class was all in Espanol!), and still wearing our aprons, we end up at a shop with machines that blend it all into a smooth paste. It was fried again, thinned with broth and poured over chicken. Then we ate our 3-course creation.
March 25, 2011
Heading Eastbound, the plazas now seem to be called zocalos. Puebla's is muy grande, always filled with bands playing, couples kissing, and handfulls of bobbing balloons in the shapes of Bambi and Snow White's head. Most interesting, was a circlular, wooden, installation inside another circle. Made of wood and painted white, it was laser (or hand-cut?) in the shapes of tall, leafy trees like the real ones in the zocalo. So from one side, you can see buildings and people through 4 layers of organic holes.
The city is filled with many museos, zapato (shoe) stores, different types of mole (sauces made with chocolate, chili, and various spices), and ceramic tiles on almost every building. It's amazing how quickly the loud bustle from the streets disappear by only walking a few feet into the interior of a courtyard. Sometimes they contained a fountain, an art gallery, a restaurant, or the oldest biblioteca I've ever seen. More than 4000 libros from as early as the 1500s were arranged perfectly in their old, wooden shelves. No fotographias or touching of the books were allowed, so I tried to engrave in my memory, all the intricate patterns and beautiful calligraphy on the aging spines.
March 21, 2011
I'm in Magic Town! For the last half hour of the twisting bus ride, I jumped from one side of the bus to the other, trying to photograph the perfect view of Taxco. It just had to be around the next corner! Finally after a full day of various buses, the city of white casas emerged, glowing in the late afternoon light.
It is another old mining town which is now full of shiny, silver, jewelry shops. Just south of Mexico City, it is a trendy vacation spot on the weekends. Santa Prisca is a baroque-style iglisias which sits on top of a hill and is an excellent way-finder. The plaza is full of balloons, fireworks en la noche, and people eating ice cream and popcorn. There are bonita vistas everywhere but I have to leave before I buy too much plata!
One of my most amazing days ever! This tiny little town is the closest base to the El Rosario Reserve where the Monarch butterflies migrate each winter. Many have already started to fly back North, but I arrived just in time to see the tail-end of the 80 million mariposas that fill the sky, 4000 feet up in the fir trees.
First there was one, then a pair, then several monarchs fluttered around the sputtering bus as we slowly accended the steep, winding mountain. From the entrance, it was another 45 minutes to walk up (including photo breaks) until the trail opened up to a yellow grassy area full of flower bushes. Butterflies sat on the branches with the sun shinning through their orange wings. Above, the perfect blue sky glinted with bright flecks flying in every direction. They let the wind carry them, falling like leaves until it's necessary to use their own energy. It was as magical as sitting under cherry blossom trees when the white petals shower down.
Another 10 minutes up, and I truely felt like I was among the millions. Swarms flitted above my head and all of their shadows swept across the ground. Some barely missed my face, their soft flutters the most amazingly beautiful sound. Mating couples dropped infront of me. The remains of dried up wings covered the path. In the distance, a massive, orange wave descended from a tree--I couldn't believe how many I was seeing at one time!
Back in quiet Angangao, I had a lot of time to meet some of the locals. Last year, the town suffered a tragic flood that ran 4 feet deep along it´s main road down the mountain. It completely wiped out 2 villages and 20 people died. The sadness still lingers and is evident in every padlocked door and broken wall. Many people left to find work elsewhere, but the people who remain are working hard to rebuild the town. Francisco survived being pulled down the river and lives every day like it's his last. Him and others in the town are pushing to officially name Angangao Mexico´s 5th Magic Town. Muchos luck y wishes!
March 16, 2011
The main attractions in this small, quiet town revolve around two large plazas. Each block is made up of one, long, continuous white building with rounded, clay roof tiles and wooden columns which to me, have a Japanese flavour. Instead of signs, the name of each store is hand painted on the walls, above old doorways. Considering how few people I´ve seen, there seems to be an unusually high amount of dentistas!
Patzcuaro is known for it's neive de pasta (cinnamon) ice cream and a large blue lake. The view from the temple at Tsinsonsan was muy bonita. Pero, my favourite moments were in the market and around the plazas where I was truely tested on my spanish skills. Most people don´t speak any English at all but I probably met the few who do. And many amazing interactions even with the ones who don´t.
Jasmine lived in California and made an excellent beet-carrot juice. While eating a heaping serving of steaming carrots and pollo, a seven-year old girl whispered to her mom and then slid across the bench to stare at me. I spoke some spanish, she spoke only spanish, we didn´t understand each other at all, but shared some laughs! Fernando cannot fix my computadora, but I make a new amigo and we eat helado by the statue. In the morning, I'm handed a forkful of carne and end up eating delicious steamed beef and drinking spicy meet juice for breakfast. The guy beside me pointed saying ´that is the cow's mouth´ (good thing for my neutral poker-face!)
The most colourful city I have ever seen, Guanajuato is a maze of old buildings and plazas stacked on steep hills. Sometimes the streets become so narrow, the buildings almost touch. The roads are the complete opposite to Toronto´s grid--street blocks are a jumble of odd triangles, aligning with nothing. Every time I made my way back to the casa, I got lost in nuevo adventure.
From the balcony of my hotel, we had the perfect vista of the cuidad, which looked like a three-dimentional mapa. I made an attempt to draw the complicated puzzle, until the sun went down and the lights turned on.
March 07, 2011
The past week has been full of amazing friendships. Even though they only lasted for a few hours or a single day, they are meaningful connections that I will cherish from San Miguel.
I bumped into a few people in a photography class, getting some shots of the evening sun in El Jardin. Explaining how I found it hard to capture both the dark shadows and the bright colours, they agreed. Their maestro (teacher) happened to be the same person having an exhibition that night, where I was making my way to! We slowly walked together, taking photos of each other and the shining cobblestones. (Above is Tom in the hat).
I met Christine and Edwardo in my pencion, and we all took the same class together. We watched each others pieces of silver evolve from a scrap of metal to a shiny piece of jewelry. We shared personal opinions of our hopes for the future. And walked back and forth several times trying to find the organic market, but enjoying the adventure along the way.
I spent every morning for the past 2 weeks learning Spanish with my maestro, Luis. His energy, encouragement, and sarcasm made the class absolutely enjoyable. I could laugh at myself everytime he translated my loco mistakes.
Saleta, the owner of the pencion, has been learning English. We talked every day, correcting eachother´s words and sentences during her home-cooked dinner, sitting in the courtyard, and our final breakfast at Buenos Dias. Thank you.
As well, Rae, the spiritual healer from London, good luck using your new art supplies! And the two little girls who asked for their fotographia. Geraldo Ruiz, the amazing sculptor and etcher, who showed me the process.
Todos los amigos, muchas gracias y muchas gusto!
March 02, 2011
I take the most photographs between 5-6pm. All the colours become even more alive--brighter yellows, warmer oranges, and glowing reds. Dark shadows make strong contrasts compared to the strips of light that stream between buildings. The stone eaves carved into animals, jut out from the tops of buildings and create dramatic, angled shadows across walls. My new method (to get people shots) is wait patiently, with a perfect backdrop framed, and snap when gentes (people) "accidently" walk into my fotographias. Passing through the strips of light, little do they know how vibrantly their shirts glow in the low sunlight.
My first jewelry class revealed many more tones than what I expected from silver. After sautering 2 pieces together, there were layers of warm, flame textures. Then, after hammering some shell-patterned indentations, the soaking process revealed rosy pinks. As I continued to cut and file, it gradually transformed again, like it was coated in white. My hands (on the other hand) only turned black! Silversmithing is an exciting art form, we'll see how the pendant turns out tomorrow.
Hoy (today) is the dia I gave up on trying to eat at every recommended restaurant in San Miguel's Walking and Shopping Guide. Way too overly ambitious!
This morning I walked next door and ordered my warm breakfast through a window. A stroll around the corner, is a plaza surrounded by churches, outlined with benches, filled with locals, watching un nino (boy) run around a fountain, in the centre where pigeons bathed. I chose a bench where everyone else sat, on the sunny side. The chilly morning was offset when I unraveled the corn husk around a hot tomale de pollo (chicken tomale) and sipped a warm tasse de leche fresca (cup of strawberry milk). Simple and delicious and only 12 pecos! (Photo: Mr. Allende in the same plaza as the fountain)
At lunch, a woman grilling gorgitas caught my attention. A thicker style of tortilla, stuffed with garbanzo beans, a bit of queso y arroz (cheese and rice), and a side of chopped avocado y tomato. Fresh and satisfying and only 25 pecos!
At dinner I thought I had ordered soup, but ended up with a quarter chicken, arroz, y ensalada. mmm...