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Lessons from the Hot Tub

I was in Florida for work.  Pulled a muscle in my back getting dressed (yes, you can do that.) Decided to hang out in the hot tub during the pre-dinner break.  It was cloudy, no one was swimming, and I chose the hot tub that was empty.  Relaxing in the heat, water pounding against my back was heavenly.

I was in the area marked “Adults Only,” but when the man with his young daughter appeared and asked if I minded if they joined me, I didn’t mind at all.  The little girl was maybe 3, curly blonde hair, pink bathing suit, pink plastic sandals, still wearing her little inflatable life vest.  She was shivering.

“The pool was too cold for her, ” the dad says as he slides down into the heated whirlpool.  “Here honey,” he says, “Get in, this is warm.”

But she pulls back, shakes her head, “no, no, it’s too hot.”

He shakes his head.  “It’s not too hot, come on, get in.”

I laugh, “Like Goldilocks, that pool’s too cold, this one’s too hot – where’s the ‘just right’ pool?”

Dad continues to urge little Goldilocks into the pool, until she agrees to sit on the side. She dips her feet, still encased in little pink plastic sandals, in the water, then pulls back, “no, too hot.”

“No, it’s not,” Dad insists.  “Just try it.”  He grasps both her ankles in one hand and pulls her feet into the water, holding them there.

From the other side of the hot tub, I’m at eye level with her feet.  I can see her resisting at first, trying to pull away, but he holds firm.  He doesn’t release her ankles until she relents.  Then he lets go.

“See,” he says, “It’s not too hot.”  She doesn’t say anything.  She’s still shivering, even though her feet are in the water.

Goldilocks’ grandfather comes by.  “You should get in there,” he says, all gruff.  “Go ahead, get in!”  She shakes her head.

Grandmother comes to join us.  “It’s too hot for her in here,” she says, looking at me rather than Dad.

I smile, “And she knows that!  That’s why she’s not all the way in.  She already knows it’s too hot.”

Grandmother agrees, “She’s little bitty, she doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her, it’s too hot for her.”

Dad ignores us.

Mom, holding a baby, comes to sit on the edge of the tub.  We chat a bit – where are we from, how long are we staying, and yes, the water is really hot.  Goldilocks is still sitting on the edge of the tub, feet in the water, shivering.

“Are you cold?” says Dad.  Her teeth are chattering, she nods.  “You should get in,” he says, “Want me to put you in?”

She shakes her head, “No.”

“Hot,” she says.

“Come on,” he says, “I’ll just dip you to the waist.”

“No,” she says, softly, but the head shaking is a bit frantic.

“It’s not too hot,” he says, and he begins scooping water in his hand and pouring it over her legs.

Remember, I am at eye-level with her feet and legs.  I watch him pour water on one leg while she pulls it up, trying to move it out of his range.  He switches to the other leg, and she pulls that one out, shaking her head, “No.”

She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t protest loudly, she doesn’t have a tantrum.  She is a good girl, our little Goldilocks.  But she keeps trying to get her legs away from the relentless stream of water that feels too hot to her.

I leave the hot tub.  I can’t stay and watch her Dad – by all other evidence, a kind and loving Dad – I won’t stay and watch him teach her that how her body feels doesn’t matter. That her saying, “no,” is pointless.

In a wildly inappropriate moment, I want to ask his wife, “Is he like that about sex.  Does he try to talk you into it?  Does he keep doing stuff you don’t like while he tells you, yes, you do like it?”

Ok, time to go.  There are three hot tubs in this hotel.  I don’t have to give up my hot tub pleasure, I just move to one that’s empty.  And from that distance, I ponder.

I may be oversensitive.  The election of our racist, misogynistic President has heightened my already acute awareness of how we control female bodies.  That Dad wasn’t “abusive.”  He wasn’t scalding her.  He wasn’t even mean about it.

And he gently and relentlessly showed her that how her body feels doesn’t matter.

It’s not like he was making her take medicine, or get vaccinated.  No health or safety reason to override her need to be comfortable in her body.  He ostensibly wanted her to enjoy herself.

The women around her acknowledged that she was right – that her body was right – they agreed, the water was too hot for her.  But they didn’t offer any help.  They could have brought her a beach towel.  She could have sat on the edge, quite cozy, wrapped in a big fluffy towel.  I don’t think it even occurred to them.

Maybe I’m making too much of it.  But I keep seeing her skinny three year old legs, pink plastic sandals still on her feet, trying to pull away from the water.

And I keep thinking that somewhere in this story is the reason some of those white women voted for Trump.  If you learn that it doesn’t matter what your body wants when you’re three, if you learn not to trust your own best instincts at three years old, when do you learn to trust yourself?  How do you know that it matters?



Cerro Hermoso, Ghost Town, Oaxaca

On the way to Puerto Escondido, which is a “tourist trap” according to my daughter and Conan, we stop to visit the Reformas’ and stay at a hotel right by the beach.  Yes, the one where the crab climbs the wall in my room.

We spend an afternoon on the beach, Cerro Hermoso, {Beautiful Hill}, relaxing in the shade of a thatched roof, with ocean breeze, cold drinks and more food.  Here we are.

{Yes, a flash on this picture would have been nice.  But it sure shows how well shaded we were!}

Looking back, I realize that I’m a bit cranky by the time we get to the beach.  The journey up had been challenging.  Lunch at the Reforma’s was great, and completely outside my comfort zone.  We hadn’t checked into our hotel yet ~ and the whole time I was there, I never knew what was going to happen next, and ~

Yeah.  I might have been feeling a bit cranky.

As soon as we get to the beach, i race to the edge of the water and walk for a few minutes.  That helps .  One wave out runs me, and soaks me to the thighs – but it’s still too hot to stay out there for long.

Senor Reforma strings this hammock up for me and suggests I relax and watch the ocean.   Oh, yes, thank you.

I ignore the conversation at the other end of the hut ~ which I don’t understand anyhow.  I lose myself in the roar of the waves, the ocean smell, the gentle rock of the hammock…


When it gets cooler, Paulina and I go for a walk on the beach, climb the rock jetties at each end of the area, and pick up a couple of shells.   She shows me some kind of little crabs, almost invisible in the sand, that run like mad when you step near them.

She talks a little bit, and I only catch a few words, but it doesn’t matter.

The sun is starting to go down ~ even though you can’t tell here.

That’s Arturo in the middle, Paulina on one side, Senor Reforma on the other.  Huge, beautiful waves in the background.

This is me, Arturo, Lucia, Paulina, and Julia.

The waves are too big to swim in, and I didn’t bring a bathing suit anyhow.  But the hotel has a lovely pool.

The next morning. I enjoy a cup of coffee, with milk, just the way I like it, in the hotel dining room.

Notice anything unusual about these pictures?


There’s no people.

We have the beach to ourselves.  No one at the pool.   There are other restaurants and stores, but they all look like this ~ chairs tilted against the table, empty, or actually closed.  How strange…  where are the people?

Eventually, I ask.

Senor Reforma and Arturo explain. They say, this used to be a thriving resort area.   Surfers in the beach, and a recessed area where the water came in and created a swimming area with “soft” waves, gentle enough for children.  Lots of tourists, stores, restaurants and two hotels.

In 2003, they say, the government started a project to “improve the beach.”  I’m not clear on what they mean.  But   rock jetties were built on either side of the bay.

The area that had been safe for children, disappears.  The water no longer fills it.  Now, it’s just sand.

And the waves in the other part of the beach are too strong for swimming or surfing.

Arturo and Senor Refomra are angry with the government for not fixing it back.

So is the author of this blog site, who has a video/slide show about it, and a description, in Spanish.  I did an on-line translation of the written part, you can read that at the end of this post.***

There are pictures from 2004 on this site.

But it seems like the government must have had some benign cause in mind when they started the project.  Dee and I try to piece together information from the internet.  I learn this about Cerro Hermoso:

There are about 166 people, 82 men, 84  women.  Seventy-seven are minors, six are over 60 years old.

Six of the residents speak an indigenous language as well as Spanish.

There are about 44 households, 28 of them have an indoor bathroom.   One is connected to public water.   Thirty-eight of the homes do not have floors.  About 24 of them have one room only.  36 have access to electricity.

None of them have a computer, 7 have a washing machine, and a whopping 23 households have one or more televisions.

Twenty-two people 15 years or older never went to school; 57 didn’t finish school.  Ten residents have some college education.  The medium education level is 5 years of school.

This is on the way to the beach, next to the hotel.

In my internet roaming, I also find this:

In Cerro Hermoso, there is a bocana (river mouth) where the sea exchanges waters with the lagoon. Due to the presence of a seawall, a giant salt water pool is formed where you can enjoy a good swim without danger.

So that was the pool they were talking about, the one that isn’t there anymore.   Here’s where the pool used to be:

Dee and I are speculating that maybe the government built the jetties to keep the sea water from going into the river?  Dee says you wouldn’t want sea water in the river, and that makes sense, I think, but  I don’t know.

If you know more about it, or decide to research it and find something that explains it, let me know.  What I know is that the tourists are gone, leaving 166 residents, a hotel, restaurants and some stores in a Ghost Town Beach.


*** {Here’s a poor translation of what the Professor says on the website:

In 2003, through deceit, they were built in the bays of Cerro Hermoso Tututepec Oaxaca, a few stone jetties, dial a project of Government that benificiaria to all the inhabitants of that place, but they were not built according to the project, or with the approval of all the inhabitants, but that aprovechandose of political power and alliance of some few corrupt place, did his misdeed… took maybe a year or a little more, but after this Bay is cerro, leaving instead of water only sand… that triztesa that to date the Government has not supported for open bar… and coming new elections and certainly began campaigning, deceptions and promises…    Author: Prof.  P.S.

The Roads of Oaxaca

I know, we talked about the road to Juquila, and you were impressed with the curves and the reductors designed to slow you down.  I thought that was a trip.  Little did I know.

We had plans to go to Puerto Escondido, which is a resort beach town.  That’s where Dee and I were planning to fly into, and stay, when we go to Mexico, hopefully in February, when I’ll be so sick of winter I won’t be able to stand it.  So I wanted to go visit it and get some feel for what it’s like and where we might want to stay.

I had no idea what I was asking for.

After all, it’s just a two and a half hour bus ride.  Ok, maybe three hours.

But Conan and Julia and Paulina start talking about maybe not being able to go because it’s been raining ~ well, privileged U.S. visitor that I am, I’m baffled.   How could rain keep us from going?  It’s been raining part of the day every day since I got to Juquila ~ how does anyone ever get to go to Puerto Escondido?

But I tolerate the uncertainty, fingers crossed, because what else can I do?

The day before we’re scheduled to leave, Conan advises us that yes, we are definitely going.  He has bought tickets for the bus leaving at 9 a.m.  We need to leave the house by 8:30.

Packing my backpack ~ we’ll be gone at least three days ~ is a challenge.  Juquila has been colder than I expected, and damp.  I’ve been living in my hoodie.  I can no longer remember what it feels like to be hot.  And Paulina says it’s been raining in Puerto Escondido too, so I’m sure it will be chilly.

I pack and unpack and pack again.  I’m sure whatever I take will be wrong.  With a shrug, I assure myself that if I need something different, I’ll just buy it.  My backpack is overflowing, and it’s time to go.

We take a cab to the bus station, which is a tiny room packed with people waiting for the bus.  Well, the truck.  It’s not a bus at this point, it’s a truck.  Like this

Women ride in the front ~ there is an extended cab ~ men ride on the benches in the back.

Soon after we start, i realize why they were concerned about the rain.

The first 45 minutes or so, the road is mud.

With a sheer drop off on the side.  I keep taking pictures out of my window because I really want to be able to convey what it’s like.

Yes, it is a little scary sometimes.

But if the truck gets stuck, some of the men in the back jump out and push.  I’m not in the truck that gets stuck, as you can see.

We also pass a bulldozer, and I make some comment about working on the roads.  I think they’re getting ready to pave it, but Julia and Conan laugh at me.  Gently, but they’re laughing.  Here’s the bulldozer.

I know some of you are thinking, well, what about seat belts?  You’re wearing seat belts, right?

Mwahahahahahahaha… Seat belts?  There are no seat belts in this truck.  Are you kidding?

Of course, at our top speed, we’re going maybe 20 kilometers an hour.  Kilometers, not miles.  And if we go off the side of the mountain, I’m pretty sure seat belts aren’t going to help anyhow.

I can hear some of you tsking from here.   Before you get too comfortable with that, ask yourself if you’ve ever put your child on a school bus.  Or know people who do.

Just saying.

The road is also incredibly beautiful.

I can’t actually get a picture that does it justice.

And after a while, we switch from the truck to a van, and the roads are paved again.  Maybe a little curvy, maybe with a few pothole, but a huge improvement.

And before too long, we’re in Rio Grande.

Where Arturo is going to meet us with his truck, and we’ll be on the road again ~ headed to the Reforma’s house and their amazing hospitality.

The Virgin of Juquila

In 1633, the church in Juquila caught fire.  The Virgin ~ represented by this statue ~ did NOT burn.

Clearly, it was a miracle.

People noticed that prayers made through her were answered.  As the word spread of her miraculous powers, people began to make pilgrimages to her.  And Juquila became a tourist town.

The church in Juquila is dedicated to her, of course.  It’s a beautiful church (although I failed to get a picture of the outside of it.)  Here is one of the chapels inside.

I didn’t take a close-up of the main altar, nor of the people approaching it on their knees.  Here is the scene from a distance.

People approaching a shrine on their knees is not so common in the US, at least I don’t think I’ve seen it.  It’s not unusual in Mexico and I vaguely remember it from  my childhood visit.   There is something immensely touching about it.

At the church, there is also a place where people “go under the cape” of Mary as part of the ritual.  In preparation for that, they wash and tidy themselves carefully, and then ascend here.

I didn’t do that, and I didn’t take pictures of them preparing or lighting candles before this phase.  It just seemed too invasive.  They were there in a sincere belief that their illness would be cured, their desire for a child, for education, for other needs would be fulfilled.  It seemed rude to take pictures as a spectator ~ and I didn’t see other “tourists” there.

In addition to the church, there is a shrine to the Virgin of Juquila, about a half hour’s drive outside of town. Conan’s friend ~ the one whose father does the beautiful woodworking ~ took us there.

Outside the shrine, I’m holding the flowers I bought from the most persistent of young saleswomen.

Here is the entrance to the little church

You take the flowers inside and leave them.

And I can’t resist taking a picture of the chicken between the pews.

But there are additional steps if you have a request for the Virgin of Juquila.  You have to make a symbolic representation of your request in clay.  So if you want a baby, you mold a baby in a cradle.  A book, a house, a vehicle ~ whatever your particular need , you make a clay figure to represent it, and leave it there.

When you leave, you are supposed to act as if your request has already been granted.  So if you want a baby, you leave singing a lullaby, a herd of goats, and you leave whistling for them to follow you.  I guess you have to be creative to act out some of the requests, but you get the idea.

The scenery, of course, is gorgeous, and we are truly up in the clouds.

It’s really difficult to get a good picture of just scenery, it’s so vast.  Here’s a panoramic view from my bedroom window.

And a closer shot of the horse I sometimes saw right outside my window.

In the town of Juquila, there are countless little stalls with souvenirs of the shrine and the church.  I don’t have pictures of them, because it just seemed intrusive.  But here’s a picture of some people selling containers for holy water outside the church.

I know lots of people who would laugh at this, scoff at the whole idea of making a pilgrimage to Juquila, maybe part of it on your knees, creating the clay image, and so on.  I can’t laugh.  I have such mixed feelings, I’m not sure how to express them.

I don’t believe that God, if there is a God, works like that ~ kind of like Santa Claus, right?  But there is something powerful and sacred about the space where people believe so strongly, with deep sincerity, in something beyond themselves.

Laughing at it would feel so cynical,  but it would be easier in a way.  Instead, it makes my heart ache for them, the wants and needs they bring with such trust and devotion.  I hope that they all get what they want, that all their dreams come true.

The Juquila Library and Miscellaneous Cool Stuff

We go to the library in Juquila, just briefly, Julia needs to take back a book.   It is, as you would expect, one large room, with books lining the walls.  And I don’t try to take pictures to show you how small it was ~ I think that would have been kind of rude.

In many ways, it is just what we would expect from a library in the summer.

There’s are kid activities and a colorful bulletin board.

And they’ve been doing projects.

See them up above the shelves?  Here’s some flowers in a different part of the room:

And my favorite, the Don Quixote’s.

There were probably 20 of them.  I particularly like these two.

When I win the lottery, I think I’ll donate a new room of books for the Juquila library.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Along the same lines of “just cool stuff,” here are some of the wood carving that Conan’s friend’s father does.

Here’s Conan’s friend, holding a baby Jesus his Dad made.

Yes, that’s Julia in her cute cap in the corner…

Here’s the wood carver himself, with a crucifix he’s made.

Pretty amazing, huh?

Nothing particularly poignant or different today.  Just cool stuff I saw.

Here’s some coconuts in a tree.

Well, I guess that’s a little different from what you see in Kentucky…

In Oaxaca City, as I’m drinking my morning coffee, I look up to see hundreds of bike riders turning the corner into the square.  Don’t know what they were doing.

National Bike Day, maybe?

Also in Oaxzca City, we go to a little store that sells mezcal, and sample a number of varieties.  The display of their wares looks like this.

It looks like a shrine, doesn’t it?  Yes, of course I bought some.

Compare it to this:

Ok, that’s not really a shrine, they’re selling souvenirs too.  Maybe it’s just the shiny colors that made me think of this, which is at the shrine.

I’m downloading the pictures off my camera in the next day or so, so I’ll be back to talk about the roads and some stuff about the beach we went to in Rio Grande.  But today, I’m going to the State Fair with my sister.  We’ve been doing that every year for ~ well, just about forever.

I LOVE the fair!

Food in Oaxaca

I am not the type of person who looks at unfamiliar food and says “Ewwwww…”  My mother was a “try three bites of everything” kind of parent, so I’m not afraid of experimenting.

And I already have a “food in Mexico” story from when I was nine.  We spent a month in Mexico then, and I remember going to a nice restaurant , where I ordered fish.

When it arrives, the waiter presents it to me with a flourish.  In an oval dish ~ at one end, the tail almost hangs over it.  At the other end, is the head ~ the eye staring straight up at me.

I gulp.

The waiter sets the plate down, beaming.

My mother waits til he walks away to explain that in many cultures, the head is left on while cooking because it enhances the flavor of the fish.

I just keep looking at the eye, which is looking back at me.

And then Mom asks me if I want them to remove the head before I eat it.

With great relief, oh, yes, please, and thank you very much!

She says something to the waiter about people in America being funny about things like the head, and asks him to remove it.  He is clearly a bit surprised and baffled, but very nice about it.

I eat the fish, head removed, and it was delicious ~ I still remember that too.

So I’m not surprised when Senor Reforma serves fish fresh from the ocean with head and tail still attached.  He serves it battered and fried one day, baked in the wood burning oven the next.

His wife, Senora Reforma, makes fresh tortillas for each meal,

She places the batter in a wooden press,

presses them flat

removes them carefully

and bakes them on the wood-burning stove.

We serve ourselves the fish, from platters.  It is not filleted either time, and this is not a surprise either.  You just open it, remove the backbone, other visible bones, and eat carefully.

I deftly avoid taking any of the head.

It is delicious.  Absolutely delicious.  Forks are optional.  We eat by tearing off pieces of fresh tortillas, still warm, and wrapping them around pieces of fish, making our own tiny tacos.  They are better at this than I am, managing to eat daintily, while I eat more like a five year old.

We can eat our salad the same way.  The salad is lettuce, tomato, lots of avocado, and onion.  Rather than salad dressing, we squeeze fresh lime over it.  I watch Senor Reforma unwrap the limes from the green leaves around each one ~ that’s how fresh they are.

Unlike Mexican restaurants here, not every meal comes with beans and rice.   Sometimes that’s part of it, often not.  Meat is a big staple though ~ chicken, pork, beef, and so on.  Senor Reforma serves seafood, Paulina serves meat from the local farms, or Arturo brings her some from places he goes that have good meat.

We have meatballs at Paulina’s, that her sister comes over to make for us.

Pasta and potatoes are not staples.  Everything is served with tortillas, tostadas, empanadas or tacos.  A friend of Conan’s stops by with some creviche for us to try.

It’s in the plastic cups with spoons – ignore the flowered cup with my coffee.   I’m familiar with shrimp creviche, so I learn that “creviche” refers to the way it’s fixed.  It’s a little spicy, but not too hot, even for me, and I like it.

The afternoons we spend at the beach include snacks ~ tortillas with melted cheese, then you can add bits of other food to ~ shrimp, meat, diced tomato, onion, avocado.  Lots of avocado, which I love.

I have shrimp cocktail, which is cut-up shrimp, mixed with onion, maybe, and some avocado, I think, and served in a glass cup with a kind of cocktail sauce.  Delicious.

Everything is fresh.  I don’t know if Paulina has a can opener.  There are no cans in sight.

Here’s Emmanuel with some sugar cane.

You can peel it and slice it, and chew on a piece, sort of sucking the sugar out of it. That’s what he has in his mouth.

In Puerto Escondido, I order shrimp soup.  It’s very tasty, and comes with probably 10 or 12 whole shrimp in it.

Yes, whole.  With the head.  I hadn’t thought about it, but realize it when they bring it and I see the thin, red feelers from the one of the heads hanging over the side of the bowl.

For just a minute, I sigh. Damn.

But that’s ok.  I scoop  each one out, remove the head, peel it, and enjoy some delicious, fresh from the ocean, shrimp.  Life is good.

Paulina tells a story about Emmanuel that amuses us all.  He was eating some fish, with the head on, and she says to him, “Hey, Emmanuel, are you going to eat that eye?”

He grins and says, “No, because I want him to see me eating him.”  Or something like that.

I laugh, even though I’m pretty sure I don’t know get the context of why they think that’s funny.  I  laugh because it’s the exact opposite of the way I felt at nine, confronted with that fishy eye looking up at me.  It reminds me that so many things we think are “the way things are,” are really just the way we’re used to things being.

Meet Emmanuel

The first time I take Emmanuel’s picture, he is too thrilled for words.

He is four.  His mother, an older brother, younger brother, and younger sister live next door to Paulina.  His mother is expecting another baby.

Emmanuel, however, has adopted Conan’s parents, Paulina and Arturo (Conan’s step-dad.)

Emmanel started just spending time there, when he was younger.  Hanging out with Arturo in the store that Paulina owns, below where they live.

He watches for a while.  Just hangs out.  At some point, he begins to climb into Arturo’s lap, and falls asleep.  When it’s time for bed, Arturo would carry him home.

I don’t have a good picture of Arturo downloaded yet, but here’s a picture of them together with Lucia.

Arturo has a good aura, and a gentle way with him.  Paulina is warm and nurturing.

After a while, Emmanuel begins to ask for food.

When Arturo goes away for the day to collect and sell coconuts, Emmanuel sometimes goes with him.  They get home late, but Emmanuel’s mother doesn’t mind.

When people talk about Emmanuel’s mother, there is a lot of tsking.  I won’t do that here.  I don’t know her, but I’d guess that, for whatever reason, she’s overwhelmed and not able to take care of her kids as well as they need, probably not as well as she’d like to.

Emmanuel is welcome with Arturo and Paulina.  Paulina feeds him and makes him take a bath and go to bed at a reasonable time, and when he falls and bangs his head really hard, she takes him to the hospital.

Arturo is a role model.  Emmanuel wants to grow up to be just like Arturo.  He plans to work with him when he’s old enough, and refers to him as his papa.

One day, Emmanuel picks up a knife and is trying to cut something, Paulina takes the knife from him, saying, “Do you want to end up like Arturo?” referring to the work accident that left Arturo missing a finger.

“Si!” says Emmanuel passionately, “Si!  I want to be just like Arturo,” as Paolina gently takes the knife from him and deftly cuts the bread he was hacking away at.

Paolina gets him an activity  book and he carefully writes the numbers and does the elementary math with great pleasure.  He doesn’t like school, he says, but he’s thrilled with the coloring book I bring him.

Little by little, he spends more and more time at Paolina’s house.

One day, he brings a little bag of clothes over.  He uses the kind of bag potato chips come in.

Then another.

It takes him 3 trips with his little bag, but he brings all his clothes to Paolina’s house and stows them under the bed he sleeps in.

That night, when Paolina tells him, “It’s time to take a bath, go home and get your clothes,”  he says, “No ~ look!!  I have them right here already.”

He begins sleeping in an extra room.  Paulina talks to his mother, who is ok with it.

Here he is with us at the shrine of  Juquila, holding the flower I bought to leave there.

With Julia and Conan at the shrine.

He calls Conan “mi hermano,” my brother.  He was a tad worried about Lucia at first, but is content now that he’s sure he won’t lose his place in the sun, and greets her happily in the morning – Lu-tia!”  which amuses everyone.

Here he is when we go to visit some people – a man who does some wonderful wookwork, which I’ll show you later.  Emmanuel finds a little tricycle and rides around happily.

Here, he decides to insert himself into the picture I’m taking at the shrine.

But by the end of the trip, I’ve taken so many pictures of him that when I pull my camera out again, he flops on the hammock and moans a bit, as if to say, “Really?  Again?”  Just like my kids used to do.

Resilient children.  Children who are born into difficult situations and manage to thrive anyhow.

Often, they have a feeling, early in life, that they don’t belong in their family.  And they have at least one other adult in their life who is a positive influence, who is there for them.

Emmanuel certainly has both of those.  As he told Paulina, having successfully transferred his belongings to her house, “Soy arriva!”

“I have arrived.”

A Trip to the Dentist ~ in Juquila

I have been having a slight dental problem – with my gum, actually.  I won’t go into detail, cause who needs to hear all that, right?  Suffice to say, I had a pretty good idea what the problem is, and have been treating it myself, but have been worried that it would get worse.

It hasn’t actually hurt, it’s just a little annoying.  And a bit worrisome.

Conan and his mother both offered to call his cousin, who’s a doctor, and see if he would look at it or see what he recommended.  Or there’s a dental clinic down the street I could go to.

But I don’t like going to the dentist at the best of times.

So I put it off.

Today, I decided to be a big girl and get it checked out.  Conan made the phone call to his cousin, who recommends the dentist down the street.

No appointment, no phone call, we walk down the street (in the rain.  It is Juquila.)

Office hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – every day, I think.  There’s no receptionist, but the man in the pharmacy next door, which is connected by an open door, makes a quick phone call.  He advises Conan that the dentist isn’t there, but will be in about 40 minutes if we want to wait.

My Seven Counties friends will recognize this as “just-in-time” scheduling.  I was glad they’d see me without an appointment, and didn’t mind having to wait.

We decide to walk home and come back a bit later, which we do.

Here’s the street we walk down:

I actually took that earlier from his mother’s 2nd floor balcony.  It’s the street at it’s busiest, because there’s a full size bus right in front of the house and a truck and a van behind it.  The other cars are parked.

Here’s the street a few minutes later:

Yes, that’s a burro next to the taxi.  He was in the picture before, next to the white truck, eating grass on the side of the road, before he decided it was time to mosey on.

Here, a woman passes with a tray of desserts balanced on her head, like the Kizito cookie lady, only it’s not uncommon here.

When we go back to the clinic, it’s another five or ten minutes til the dentist arrives.  He is young (to me, anyhow) and soft-spoken.  Of course, he doesn’t speak English, and poor Conan has to translate for me.

It’s an odd feeling, being at the dentist and not being able to communicate.  I was worried.  I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk to my dentist, and I worried about what I would do if he wanted to pull a tooth or something radical.

But Dr. David is gentle.  He goes slowly, and puts me at ease.  He is reassuring.

Some of it doesn’t need translation ~ he tells me he’s going to lean the chair back, which he does slowly, and gestures for me to open my mouth.  He examines my mouth, talks to Conan, Conan translates.   What the dentist says confirms that what I thought was the problem, is indeed the problem.

He assures me it’s nothing to worry about, and says he thinks my distress about it may be making me feel worse.  He makes some reasonable suggestions about what I can do to resolve the issue, at least until I get back home.  Recommends a particular mouthwash and continued Ibuprofen.

I’m sitting up by then, and I ask ~well, Conan asks for me ~ how much I owe him.  He smiles and shakes his head, responds in a few words.

Conan translates, “He says, ‘Nothing, he didn’t have to do anything, and we had to wait a long time.”

I say, “But you did, you looked at my mouth, and told me what to do, and it wasn’t long to wait.” I feel bad, that’s not reasonable, he came in to see me and it did help… but he just smiles and says no, there is no charge.

So I tell him I will come back to the United States and tell everyone I know what a wonderful dentist he is ~ because really, what else can I do?  It is not just that he didn’t charge me, although that was kind, but everything he did was considerate and ~ intentional.  I felt that he was present for me, was focused on me, if you know what I mean.

I  buy the special mouthwash and a package of 800 mg. ibuprofen for about $8 American dollars at the pharmacy.  No prescription necessary for the 800 milligrams.

Dr. David, that’s his name, and if you’re ever in Juquila, and you need a dentist, look him up.

The Kindness of Strangers

We go to visit the Reforma’s – friends of Paulina and Arturo, Conan’s mom and step-dad.

The Senor Reforma and his wife live near a place called Rio Grande, out in the country.  We visit a lagoon while we’re there, and spend time relaxing at the beach, and it is an adventure in many ways, but just one story for now.

{As I write this, I’m waiting for someone else to wake up so they can find the matches so I can light the stove and make coffee.  The matches are usually in a lovely little bowl by the stove – but not this morning.  And my best searching skills didn’t uncover them.  I know there are more somewhere, I just don’t know where.}

Anyhow, we visit the Reforma’s, where we eat the best fish ever, and have a wonderful time.  The first night, we stay in this hotel that’s very nice.  The people who own it are friends of Arturo and Senor Reforma, and the rooms are very nice, and there’s coffee in the morning, and it’s lovely.

But, it’s about a 15 minute drive from the Reforma’s house.  And there’s another hotel that is just up the road from them.  So the second night, we leave the Reforma’s place, full and happy and tired, and decide maybe we want to stay at the closer hotel.

So we stop and check it out.  In many ways it’s beautiful.  And it has air conditioning.  But it’s so close to the lagoon that there are lots of mosquitoes and other flying creatures, and we decide, no, better to go back to the first hotel.

So we make that drive – this is part of the road:

I’m taking these from the car window as we drive along – slowly.  Not that night, because it was dark then.  Um, obviously.

Anyhow, Arturo, and people who live there, know when the water’s too high to cross by certain rocks at either end ~ if they’re covered, you can’t pass.

So it’s perfectly safe, and it’s just a small part of the road, and really beautiful.  This isn’t at night either, it’s just real shady in the middle part.

Back at the hotel, they’re all just about ready for bed themselves, I think, but they get up and make sure our rooms are ready, and we all have a beer to celebrate, and go to bed.

I take a shower, which feels wonderful even though it’s cold water.  It’s very hot in Rio Grande.  When we left Juquila it was maybe 65 or 70 degrees, but an hour later, it’s at least 90.  Quite suddenly, like passing through a doorway and WHOOSH, it’s hot.

So I’ve been living in 90 degrees for two days now, and am getting used to it, but a cold shower is a wonderful thing.  I go to bed feeling safe and cozy and content.

The next morning, I get up and dressed, and am trying to do something with my hair {don’t ask me why, it’s really hopeless.  Fortunately, the water is soft, so it’s not as bad as it could be.}

Anyhow, I brought a curling brush, and am pretending there’s some point to using it, when I hear this odd noise.  It’s a kind of ~ thumping?

I look over, and it’s ~ it’s some kind of CREATURE crawling across the floor.  Ir’s so big, I can hear it walking.


I don’t know what it is!  It might be ~ is it a huge crab?  Maybe, I guess it could be.  I don’t know!

As I watch, it makes its way across the room and begins to climb the wall.

Do crabs climb like that?  What if it’s not a crab?  Omigod, what if it’s a spider?  Dee said that Alix had asked him if I’d had any trouble with spiders ~ what if this is it?  My first one!! Omigod.

I scoot over to the door, keeping my eye on the creature, and look out in the hallway, but no one’s up yet.

Omigod, omigod.  What am I going to do now?  It’s all the way up in the corner of the ceiling, by the curtains.  It’ll probably disappear into some crevice or something, and no one will even believe it happened.

No, wait, I’ll take a picture of it!  Then they’ll believe me!

So I grab my camera and shoot this:

Do you see it?  It’s up in the corner.  I didn’t crop it down because I wanted you to have the perspective of the curtains and the wall.  But it’s huge.

So I think, no it’s too big for a spider.  But  I’ve seen some huge spiders out in the country in my Mom’s basement, what if it’s some kind of killer Mexican spider?  What if it starts a web by swinging down from there, and OMIGOD, what will I do then???

And I go back out in the hall, and this time, there’s a woman out there, she’s knocking gently at someone’s door, apparently trying to wake them up.  I think at first she’s one of the owners, but she really wasn’t, she was just a neighbor.

At that point, I’m not even worried about it, I approach her and start trying to tell her about the killer creature in my room.

She thinks maybe I want a tortilla?

I’m like “No, No, non tortilla, es ~ es ~ AH!”  And I make the universal sign for “Wait,” and rush back to my room for my phone camera.  Triumphantly, I show her the picture of the killer creature on my ceiling, which at that point is crawling behind the curtains.

“Donde?”  She says, which ~ aha ~ I know means “where is it?”  And I gesture and she follows me and of course it’s disappeared behind the curtain.

Fearlessly, she moves the curtains, and finds it clinging to the back of the curtain.  Smiling, she peels him off and shows him to me.

I know, it’s weird lighting, but there it is.  It is, indeed, a crab, not a killer creature at all.  And I was so scared!

Well, not totally scared.  Just a little anxious.  Right?

And thanks to the nice lady, I’m totally reassured.  By that time, the owners are up, and I give up on my hair and go downstairs to find coffee.

People are awake here too now ~ that means matches… and coffee!  Yay!

The Road to Juquila

Early morning in Oaxaca City, I’m drinking a really pretty cappucino in a clear glass cup and watching the city wake up. People walk briskly, dressed mostly in jeans and a wide variety of tops. Sweaters, hoodies and boots are not unusual.

I wander around the square a little, careful to stay within sight of my hotel. Drink another cappuccino in another cafe. Finally, connect with Conan and Luis (in the middle of a third cappuccino) collect my luggage, and load Luis’s SUV.

Then we go shopping. A big store first, like a Meiers. There is a Walmart,  but Conan says things are more expensive there. Julia has sent a list, Luis has a list, we shop and shop.

Then a department store, we look at cribs and other things, Luis picks out some clothes for his infant daughter. More stuff to load in the SUV.

Lunch at a little cafe type place ~ not sure what it was, but it was tasty.

Finally, we go pick up the flowers Luis’ mother had asked him to get. When we are through loading, the SUV looks like this:

And like this:

And at last, we are on the road to Juquila.

It’s off there in the mountains somewhere…

Juquila is a town of about 5,000 people. It’s a tourist town, not for foreigner so much as for Mexican people. The Virgin appeared to some children here, and continues to perform miracles. So people who have a request for a miracle make a pilgramage to Juquila, where there’s a special church and shrine, all of which I’ll talk more about later.

According to google maps it’s about 100 miles and takes about 2 and a half hours to get from Oaxaca City to Juquila.  This is a joke.

Even on a map, here’s what the last part of the road looks like.

All those little jagged edges are curves, many of them hairpin turns.

There are special obstacles too – REDUCTOR is a warning for the speed bump.  And they’re frequent.

Luis, experienced on this road, knows exactly where each one is ~ even the ones that aren’t marked.  This is a very good thing.

I wasn’t able to catch a picture of the two dogs, trotting merrily down the middle of the road, but that’ll slow you up a bit. And the ones who sleep in the road wait until the last moment to get out of the way. As soon as we pass, they go back and lie down in the same spot, as if to say, “This really is my road, you know.”

So it is a five, five and a half hour drive, for sure. On a good run, we hit 30 or 40 kilometers an hour, about 20 or 25 miles an hour. Google maps, hmpf.

We pass “wild” horses and cows and an occasional pig.

We pass small town after small town.

We stop often.

We stop for food or drinks.

Or to use the bathrooms. Conan keeps a close eye on me, which is good. Culture shock abounds.

The bathrooms cost three pesos.

In fairness, I remember when public toilets were pay toilets in Italy, although I don’t know if they still are. And I have a vague recollection of some bathrooms in department stores here that cost a dime to enter the stall. So I don’t feel too superior or anything, this will change here in time, I’m sure.

But. I don’t have any small change, so I have to ask Conan for the three pesos. I enter, with only a little fumbling, head to the stall ~ oh, wait, no toilet paper. I move to the next one ~ no, no toilet paper in any of them. Not even a roll where it would be.

I go back to see if there’s a roll of paper towels by the sink, and I see it. Toilet paper – for a peso.

Laughing, I call to Conan, on the other side of the barrier, “Can I get another peso from you, please?”

Luis hears me, and says, with a grin, “What for ~ does it cost two pesos to get back out? Welcome to Oaxaca!”


In reality, I have to say that I haven’t felt like I was getting victimized by tourist stuff ~ or not any more than you would anywhere else.  Probably less…


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