Setting Up Housekeeping

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October 29th 2010
Published: October 29th 2010
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- Sue -

Bob and I arrived in Oaxaca early Monday evening after a four and a half hour bus ride. We don't particularly like the bus company ADO, but it's the only good one that services the area east and south of Mexico City. Unlike the other first class bus lines we're familiar with, Primera Plus and ETN, ADO does not give out free water/soft drinks or a sandwich and snack. Once the passengers have boarded, ADO sends someone onto the bus to sell drinks and snacks. On
ADO's service, passengers provide their own food and drinks no matter how long the trip is. After being spoiled on the other bus lines, we felt cheated. Anyway, we arrived safe and sound.

A taxi brought us from the first class bus station to our apartment to meet with the woman who would give us the keys. After waiting almost an hour, a man who runs the small cafe through which we access the apartment gave us keys.

Setting up housekeeping in Oaxaca has been both fun and a chore. Our furnished apartment came with one roll of TP, one bath size bar of soap and one 5 gallon bottle of water. Although we have to replenish our supply, I thought that was a nice gesture. The kitchen came with minimal dishes and pots and pans. We found a kitchen sponge but no dish soap and no coffee pot, storage containers or condiments what so ever.

I started a list of items we would need. Oaxaca, being an old and good sized city, doesn't have places like our supermarkets close to the city center. Small individual shops sell particular types of things. So, off we headed with list in hand to stroll the city center looking for shops.

We started at the block-sized Juarez market. This is an under-roof place of many small shops that sell just about everything - or so we thought. It was not to be, and we left empty-handed. We found clothing, CDs, dried chiles, mole sauce mixes, shoes, meats, cheeses, some fruits/veggies, liquor, toys, and textiles, but nothing on our list. After asking a vendor about kitchenware, we headed out and up the street.

About half a block away, we found a large store that sells kitchenware, toys and Christmas stuff. Leaving the store, we checked a couple items off our list. Two items down and many to go.

It's now Friday, and the list hasn't been completed yet. However, we have what we need and are getting by just fine. We finally met the woman who runs the apartments and asked her for a coffee maker, which she provided.

I've cooked one dinner and Bob has cooked one breakfast so far. The chicken for dinner came from a fruit/veggies/meat market nearby. We watched as a chicken vendor chopped up a whole unrefrigerated chicken, feet included, to get us a double breast. Eggs for breakfast came from a small shop and were gathered from a flat of unrefrigerated eggs that were placed in a small plastic bag. We only broke one, and that was this morning getting the bag out of the refrigerator.

Raw chickens here have an orange tinge that, according to our neighbors, comes from mixing marigold petals in the chicken feed. I don't know why they do that, but maybe I'll find out some day.

I haven't been out taking photos yet since I caught a cold on Monday and have been under the weather. However, we got reservations for two outings this weekend - Day of the Dead celebrations - that we're really looking forward to. They occur after dark, but I'm hoping to take some interesting photos by setting my camera's ISO to very high levels. Wish me luck.

- Bob -

The specific goals we have for renting an apartment for a month in Oaxaca is to experience living, not just traveling, in Mexico and to develop our ability to communicate in Spanish. I checked out a language school but wasn't certain that the value was there. I don't have any problems making a fool of myself (surprise?) attempting to talk with people but I want to develop my ear so I can understand their replies.

I have hired a University Professor from here to work with me on this. Using a guide book to Oaxaca written in spanish, I read a section out loud followed by his reading the same section back to me. The idea is that he can correct my pronunciations and I can hear a native speaker saying the same thing. I don't translate and in fact don't really know all the words but I can read and speak. In fact, I get the gist of the material if not a precise understanding.

I am using 3 books to guide me. Barrons Spanish Verbs which is a compendium of conjugated verbs. Larousse Student Dictionary which has large type (for old eyes) along with clear examples of usage and a book we have had for all three trips to Mexico: Essential Spanish Grammer by Seymour Resnick. For someone who is looking to cut to the chase on speaking the language I highly recommend the grammar book.

Today was the first session. I had asked him how much it would cost and he said it woudn't be much. The school I checked out wanted $18/hr US. Professor Inti charged me 100 pesos for the hour, about $8 US. I think this will work for me.


29th October 2010

Hey Guys: I haven't read the last two blogs, yet. Been kinda busy. I'll read them today, tho'. Sounds like you are having quite the adventure. I'm so spoiled by WalMart, I think I'd be a little flustered to have to go to multiple stores for essentials. But, hey, when in Mexico! I'm impressed, Bob, that you're so committed to learning (sorta) the language. Muy bien! Michael was discharged (again) last night from the hospital. He was taken by ambulance on Monday to S.F. to have the experts drain the pseudocyst that's engulfing his pancreas. He still has pancreatitis and still needs to have is gallbladder removed. In the meantime, he's here. He's a mere shell of himself, since he hasn't really eaten food since Aug.23rd, when his pancreas exploded. I'm getting quite an education, mostly on hospital policy. Arghhh! Got good news this week when UCDavis 'pardoned' his tab, which was ~ $400,000. That was for 4 weeks. He was in Sutter 6 (more) weeks,. That stay is covered under his CMISP insurance. He's the million dollar man$$ Well, back to work. Have fun kids!!!!
30th October 2010

Keep those stories and details coming!
Hi. I love having a mission--like specific stuff you want to find: kitchen items, bandaids, toilet paper, special rocks (I like rocks)--when you're away from home. Gives you a reason for some real interactions with the locals. I really like the way you are improving your Spanish with the private tutor, Bob. Congrats on making it more economical, too! Hope you are feeling better, Sue. Isn't it fun to settle into a neighborhood in a foreign country, and pretend you live there? I know it has been that way for me in Paris. Happy Day of the Dead! Guess you have heard, the Giants have won the first two games of the World Series, rather decisively. That's BIG news here. Love, Elinor / Iz
31st October 2010

Your beautiful pictures
I'm enjoying so much your vivid descriptions of your trip. But I particularly enjoyed the pictures of the dancers. Did you take the pictures yourself? If so, I'm really impressed. Love, Mom
1st November 2010

The Photos are Mine
-Sue- I'm glad everybody enjoys the photos I'm including with the blog. I've probably taken almost 1000 photos so far and spend a bit of time selecting the ones I post. I didn't bring any great photo processing software with me, but I do have a program I can use to crop and resize what I want to post. I try to take my camera with me when I have the energy and, of course, when I'm going somewhere photogenic. A Day of the Dead blog will be arriving on your doorstep soon along with a great set of photos (hopefully).

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