Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Trip - Part Five, We Go Sightseeing

It’s Saturday. We’ve been here a week now.

My cousin Hector took us (my mom, my uncle and me) for a ride. I’m told we’re going to Nochixtlan for breakfast followed by some local sightseeing.

Uh, not exactly. At some point we left the paved road for a grueling two-hour trip on an unpaved, hairpin turn, mountain road.

I thought we were going to die. It was one nasty road, covered with huge rocks and frequently with a steep drop-off on one side.

Finally, we have breakfast in the community of Santiago Apoala. The town is known for its local springs. After breakfast, we head for the cave.

 Uncle Urbano, Mom and Cousin Hector under the bougainvillea after breakfast in Santiago Apoala.

Once there, we park near a lovely river. There was a small hotel and a small sweet dog.

Then we hiked to the cave. At the time, I wasn’t sure what possessed Hector to take two elderly people on an adventure that included steep uphill climbing.

Upon entering the cave, one descended into darkness, while supporting oneself on a guide rope.

It is unclear how slippery the ground was but it certainly wasn’t something my mom wanted to do. I wasn’t keen on burning my hands on the rope and she didn’t want me to go anyway. So I didn’t.

Everyone survived the boulder-strewn hike back down to the river.

I headed back to the truck, assuming we were all ready to leave. We weren’t. Hector lay down along the riverbank, under a tree. He napped. Eventually, my mother stretched out in the grass, under the sun. She, too, napped.

My uncle struck up a conversation with a local goat herder.

I made friends with the small, sweet dog (of which I have no photo).

Finally, they were all ready to leave. We head back along the treacherous, rock-covered road for another two-hour drive. This time I’m a little less terrified.

At one point I check my watch. I haven’t changed it from Los Angeles time. I calculate that it will be 71 hours until touchdown at LAX.


On the way back, we stop in the city of Nochixtlan. My uncle runs off to a store to buy a bag of oranges. We wait outside a store that sells poultry, living or dead.

The city looks like Baghdad. Same cinder block buildings – flat facades with steel doors – wide-open fronts showing off wares. Same dusty, unpaved streets, same old trucks and cars rumbling through dusty streets. Above the city are the adobe homes. They too have steel doors. Or curtains. Doors are either steel or cloth. Nothing in between.

The city, the entire country, seems to have been abandoned by any governing authority except for rifle-toting police that are everywhere. The people seem to be on their own, left to fend for themselves. I’m not saying that’s the reality, just how it appears on the surface. But to look at the buildings, there appears to be no organization, no building codes, no urban planning. It looks like anyone can build a building just about anywhere. There are no architects. Sidewalks start and stop for no apparent reason. The whole place is one giant personal injury lawsuit waiting to happen.

There seems to be no middle-class here. At least there’s no middle-class that we would recognize. I cannot imagine where the “nice” homes are. Everything is either cinderblock or adobe. And square. There is no aesthetic. There is only square. And all doors open to the exterior. All of them.

I want to go back to my life. I want to read without appearing lazy and useless. I want temperature control. I want privacy. I want Internet.

Saturday still – The evening

Yesterday I read Wallace Shawn’s play THE FEVER. It is brilliant – a one-person theatre piece of 39 pages on (roughly) the subject of hollow liberal guilt and our relationship to the poor.  Among the points he makes: we offer the poor gradual change, which is no change at all.

The play, of course, is a slap in the face to me and to all my elite, liberal kind. We think we are artists out to effect social change. We are no more than poseurs. I really want to do this play. I want to do this play because yes, I am a poseuse, posing as an artist out to effect social change. If I perform this play or if I don't perform this play, there will be no change, no effect at all on the poor. But if I do it, I will feel as if I’ve done something. And that is part of Shawn’s message.

Saturday still – Later in the evening

When we return to the ranch, they’ve begun serving the meals as part of the festival celebration. Although the actual fiesta isn’t until Sunday, the meals start with tonight’s dinner. I don’t know why. I don’t know anything. All I know is that as soon as we arrive, we’re invited to take a seat at a long table and we’re given food. I’m not sure, but I think I was given black beans and eggs and the special fiesta bread. Didn’t write it down. I do remember that it wasn’t the tastiest meal I’ve had. Not as tasty as the quesadillas with the squash blossoms or even the quesadillas with the cactus – all accompanied by fiesta bread. I think others may have been given meat. I’m not sure. But they know I don’t eat meat of any kind and my aunt has been especially gracious about preparing non-meat meals for me. If I were vegan though, I’d just have to starve. Give up cheese here and there’s not much left.

After dinner, I have a paper napkin to dispose of. I start to go into the kitchen to toss it into the wastebasket. My cousin, Rosa, comes out, as I’m about to go in and she insists I not enter. “Too smoky” she says. Her urgency seems a bit over the top. I’ve sat in that smoky kitchen before. Hector offers me a plastic bag for my trash. There are only crushed Coke cans in the bag. “But this is for recycling, “ I say. He says it’s ok. I toss the napkins in.

I don’t think they want me in the kitchen.

Saturday still – Still later in the evening

Tomorrow there will be a Mass at 10 am. Will I go? If my mother goes I’ll go.

At 10 am tomorrow it will be 59 hours until touchdown.

Another cousin comes to greet me. I cannot keep track of them. There are so many of them and they are all too beautiful, like Mixtec dolls. I wish their lives could be easier.

Saturday still – Later still

Late in the evening, I’m alone in the room I share with my mom. She’s in with the others, having coffee. They all like to have a nice cup of coffee at about 10 pm every night. That would explain a lot about the scheduling here.

Anyway, I’m alone in the room, reading, when I first caught a glimpse of it in the corner of my eye. It was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in my life walking across the floor of the room where we sleep.

He disappeared under the other bed. Then reappeared out the other side. I think I might just pass out. Remember, I have a hard time dealing with things with 6 legs. Eight legs is out of the question.

The spider stands in front of the door. Now I have no escape (but at least he’s not hiding under the bed.) I grab a plastic cup from the shelf. I know I have one shot at this. If I try to cap him and he escapes, I am going to freak out. If I try to cap him but in doing so I catch one of his legs with the edge of the smallish cup, I am going to freak out.

Do not freak out. Do not freak out. Do not freak out.

I successfully cover him with the cup in one shot. Thank you, Jesus.

Fortunately, Hector is just outside the door. I call to him and I'm surprised when the word for “spider” comes to my lips. He rushes to my aid, scooping up the horrible beast and carrying him away with a promise that he won’t kill it.

How many hours until touchdown?

Next – the fiesta.

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