Saying hola to Mexico

As I write this column, the lovely Roselle – a born travalista – has dragged me to Oaxaco (pronounced Wahaka) in Mexico where the temperature rises above eighty every day and goes down to around sixty at night. By chance, our friends from nearby Woodbury, Connecticut are here and we have eaten with them twice. The food has been superb and while these are among the top restaurants in Oaxaca, the prices are lower than what we would pay at home.

Roselle, of course, has to see everything so in order to preserve our marriage, I have invoked rule number one: “I will go with you but only do one event per day.” This means that we have the mornings together and she can have the whole afternoon to herself and maybe visit a collective art gallery featuring a group of left wing artists who also serve coffee or a textile museum. I can spend the rest of the day sipping limeade (sparkling mineral water with limes), reading and sleeping. Someone told me that you can’t find a lemon in Mexico but limes abound, which is okay with me – I love them. Being a good person, I use no sugar but the concoction of lime juice and “agua con gas” is quite refreshing.

By the time the week is up, Roselle will have visited every church, every fabric place and every market. One day she so overdid it that she came home with a miserable headache. Having forgotten her Ibuprofen, she took a few baby aspirins but I remembered that you are not supposed to take aspirin and Ibuprofen at the same time. Concerned and armed with my high school and college Spanish, I found a pharmacy. The young pharmacist motioned me to an office a few doors down and there, in a shabby little consulting room, sat a “medico.” I tried to ask him if the baby aspirin/Ibuprofen combination was and he gave me something I had never heard of before. When I looked it up online it said something about seizures so I called my wonderful doctor friend in the states who gave Roselle the go ahead to take her Ibuprofen. Her headache went away. What a good husband I am.

It’s really interesting how many people from Oaxaco have worked in our part of the world. Almost everyone we spoke with said they had worked somewhere in the states for several years. Many of them sent money back home and have greatly improved conditions for their families. When I announced our Oaxacan vacation, many people were aghast because of the Mexican drug wars but in Oaxaca, Roselle told me, “No such thing.” Thus, I wondered why pickup trucks containing armed police officers with big rifles were racing through the streets. It turned out that the week before, there had been a rock-throwing incident prompted by the visit of the President of Mexico and the governor of the state of Oaxaca.

The WAMC crowd seems to feel that because we were abroad when 911 happened, it is unsafe for us to leave the country. I deny that. Of course, on the third night we were here there was a small earthquake (level 5.) “Nothing to worry about,” everyone said. Oaxaca is known for its fine crafts including black pottery. The people seem very kind and always seem happy to help you out. Interestingly, while many people we know have been here, the Americans we saw all seemed to come from the left coast.

When I was in high school, there was always this question on the New York Spanish Regents exam asking you to write a composition. One of my teachers made me memorize one composition in five tenses and no matter what the question was, I always wrote on “My Trip to Spain.” So you see, my friends, I’ve more or less done it again.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 3/5/11

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