Friday, March 16, 2018

Monte Alban

When you are Monte Alban the scope is almost beyond imagination. You are 6000 meters and the stairs up the temples feel differently now than they did at 20 years old....but we climb everything. When we first arrive, I hear Russian ahead of me on the path---it is a group of wealthy folks, someone, also Russian is guiding them. I think they must be part of the Byelorussian Bolshoi doing Swan Lake here this Friday. As I attempt to overhear them I realize I've ruined my Spanish comprehension for a few hours and for the rest of the day almost say "da" instead of "si" and "moya" instead of "mi". As we have lunch later in the small café, I say "da, da" to the waiter and he looks at me like I'm crazy. We also see our "friends" from the hotel with the 'quiet" 9 year old and bolt as quickly as possible in another direction. There are overwhelming views of the valley in all directions, little pieces of necessary shade throughout, often inhabited by little viejos selling handcarved jade figurines and such that are similar to actual Zapotec creations we've seen in museums. They are a bit pushy, but often if you stop, acknowledge them, converse a bit, the encounter is sort of pleasant. Often we are asked where we are from---and we say, Washington DC, home of the pendejo telescopico, or casa de la carbon, and they respond hilariously with even more profane terms for the moron who now inhabits the white house. It is a great way to make friends----they often describe their own Pena Nieto as an ass----un burro. Mexicans en masse detest both but we are happy to insult our own President often. We haven't heard his voice in 6 days now and it is heaven.

Around 1pm we descend to the parking lot to meet our Miguel and taxi #855. He is happy to see us and recommends another more obscure site a few kms away called Atzompa----it is a less excavated and more middle class Zapotec ruin on a hill to the north. We affirm that we'd like to go and the uphill drive begins---more topes, little villages, colorful schoolyards. The countryside is reminiscent of southern New Mexico, just different cacti and flora. We arrive at the gate and it is locked, Miguel wheels the cab down a small dirt road that indicates parking and we come to another locked gate. I am thinking we have been stymied but he honks and there is a stirring from a small guardhouse 30 meters up the road. A fellow comes out dressed in official khakis, smiles, opens the gate, and points us up a hill. Miguel finds shade for his car and we set off. More climbing, but this place is cool too. We have the whole place to ourselves and it is free.....there are huge ball courts, living quarters, partially excavated temples, what is described as a bakery or pottery firing oven. Once I look up and there is dude under a tree on a hill observing us---one of the laborer restorers I think. I point the camera at him and he vanishes. We come upon another guy snoozing in the shade of a ball court and we realize it is siesta time. After about an hour in the sun we descend to the parking lot and ask our man to drive us back to the hotel----we stop at a cajera automatic---very secure and air-conditioned ATM to make sure we have his fee....about $60 for the whole day for our own personal chauffeur. I think this must be middle class indulgence huh?

That evening we walk north through the center of Oaxaca to a real actual deli(sorry). Janet eats a delicious turkey sandwich with pickled broccoli and I have a homemade sausage plate, both of us drinking Bohemia claro. We also have lunch there on Friday(today).

Oaxaca at night is amazing. Everyone is out, chatting, eating, dancing in the zocalo. It is a feast for the eyes, ears, and nose. I can't help but thinking of my fellow Americans, glued to reality TV, while this earthy, close, convivial culture is out en masse, actually living.

Wednesday is a lazy day. We have some late morning pool time then I drop Janet off at the Textile museum here for an hour or so while I wander and take photos. We shop a bit---Oaxaca is heaven for art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, all of it hip, original, and not much pushiness. That night we end up in a little eatery near by and dine on chiles rellenos and chicken with what I think will be New Mexico style chicharrones---but here they are pork rinds. We order Liquor 43 for dessert and get a pithy comment from the waiter about how we should be having mescal. You know, he says, Oaxaca is known for its mescal. Yeah? I'll drink what I want.Mezcal is great but not really our thing I say. Deep frown.

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