Trip Start Jul 29, 2012
21Trip End Aug 01, 2013
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I’ve written a fair amount about our Oaxaca highlights. Now, I’d like to write about the more mundane, or rich, depending on your perspective, parts of our daily life here.
I just got back from paying our water bill. Forget paying the bill online, sending in a check, or calling a number to pay with a credit card. I took the bill to our local grocery store and paid the bill in cash. It works the same way with the phone bill and the electricity bill. The electricity bill does offer the potential for higher tech payment - a kind of energy company ATM. Drive up, scan the bar code on the bill, insert cash, get a receipt and drive off. If the gas tank at our house needs filling, we call up the gas company and make an appointment. They show up (usually not on time) with a big truck, run a hose to our tank, fill it up, and accept either cash or credit card on the spot. There’s something to be said for the simplicity of it all.
While I buy much of our food at markets and mom-and-pop stands, I also make weekly trips to more conventional supermarkets. There are two supermarkets that I use regularly, and they are not much different than supermarkets in the States. That’s where I buy things like milk, butter, cooking oil, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and the like. One of the supermarkets I frequent also has a section of imported items such as hummus, pickles, bleu cheese, wine, artichoke hearts, and mozzarella cheese. They have a bakery, a deli, a butcher, and a small in-store cafeteria. I can pay with a credit card. Much the same.
When we first arrived in Oaxaca, Leah and I were overwhelmed by the drivers. Anytime we walked along streets with Micah and Zola we held their hands tight. Slowly, I’ve begun to understand how things work around here, and have become much more comfortable with traffic. Much of this understanding has come via my own experience driving in Oaxaca. I’ve reached the conclusion that it is next to impossible to not be paying attention when behind the wheel. While we have problems with texting and driving in the States, I can’t even imagine a Oaxacan driver attempting to text while driving. Not only is the driving often faster paced, but there are countless numbers of obstacles a driver needs to be on the lookout for – potholes, speed bumps galore (also known as sleeping policemen), stray dogs, stopped cars, tight spots, unmarked road construction…
I was driving home a few weeks ago when I noticed a bus backing down our neighborhood cobblestone street toward me. So, I, too, started backing up, as did the car behind me. It turns out that some people had decided that they needed to do some work that entailed digging up a section of the road up ahead. They had put a couple of buckets on the road to indicate that the street was now impassable. There were no detour signs. There were not dozens of fluorescent orange pylons directing traffic to turn. There was no flagman. But, we just rolled with it, as people here do. If someone is driving along a busy road and can’t find a parking spot, they may just double park, put on their hazard lights, and run into a store to do a quick, or not so quick, errand. Never mind that the busy two lane traffic is then bottlenecked into one lane. That’s just how it’s done. I’ve seen some occasional road rage, but most drivers just seem to take things as they come.
Walking down the street can be an interesting experience as well. On our walk to school, the kids often enjoy meeting cows, goats, and donkeys along the way, sometimes without any guardian nearby.
A few weeks ago, our landlady called to tell us that our shared neighbors were going to be celebrating their 15-year-old’s birthday. Now, this is a big deal in Mexico, but I didn’t realize how big. Our landlady said she and her husband were going to spend the night in a hotel. I thought, “How bad could it be? She must be being dramatic.” Well, when Leah and I returned home after a wonderful date in downtown Oaxaca (Micah and Zola were at a sleepover with their friends), we learned how wrong I was. It was 11 p.m. and as we approached our house we looked at each other in amazement.
We’ve now had our first experience with the medical system in Oaxaca, and it was as smooth as could be. While at our friends house, Micah was walking atop a five-foot dirt wall when a rock gave way and sent him tumbling down the wall. He was banged up in a few places, but the worst pain was coming from just above his right wrist. The pain was manageable, so we decided to wait until the next morning to assess the injury and decide what to do. After he was asleep for the night, Leah contacted our friends in Oaxaca and got some referrals. Micah woke up early and said the pain was still there, so at 8:30 a.m., Leah called the office of a pediatric orthopedist given to us by our landlady/neighbor and was able to make a 10 a.m. appointment. We dropped Zola off at school (not the easiest drop-off we’ve ever had, as Zola was feeling pretty vulnerable herself), drove to the doctor’s office, and walked in the door at 9:45. We were greeted by friendly employees and sat down in a no-frills reception area. Less than two minutes later, we were ushered in to see the doctor. The friendly doctor spoke to Micah in Spanish, and threw in some English words when Micah seemed confused. The doc looked at Micah's wrist, said he didn’t think it was broken, but asked us to get an x-ray to be sure. As if writing a prescription, he wrote some x-ray instructions on a piece of paper and directed us to walk down the block and around the corner to a radiologist, a separate business.
One more story. This doesn’t fit into the theme of the blog, but it’s too good for me to pass up. Micah and Zola have been enjoying Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, which we are able to check out at our local lending library. As one might guess, their play with one another reflects this interest in mysteries. One day, while I was cleaning up after breakfast, a note slid under the kitchen door that leads outside to our laundry area. Now, Micah has been reading and writing more and more, and isn’t shy about trying his hand at tricky or unfamiliar words.