Sunday, 12 August 2007

Back in Tepalcatitla

I've never had a beach house, but it felt more like coming back to a familiar second home than a foreign adventure, packing for 5 months away and then arriving here at Tepalcatitla 39 in Coyoacan after 2 years away. The papier mache cow greeted us from the living room, albeit less warmly than Slippers and Jesse do when we arrive home in Melbourne, but the space, the quirky locks on the door, the lovely paintings and artesanias decorating the apartment felt very familiar and welcoming after 27 hours en route. And of course it is only 3 weeks since Barry left, so the larder is well-stocked and there were a few disgusting things in the fridge to be turfed.

Unpacking revealed a shortage of hangers, so that will have to be addressed, and I reorganised the wardrobes and got most things put away before going to bed at a reasonable hour to acclimatise to the new time zone.

By the time we got up , had breakfast and left for an excursion to the supermarket, it was afternoon. The quality of the fruit and veg at Superama (a branch of Mexican Walmart) is less good than it was 2 years ago, but the prices seemed OK. I am going to miss my rocket again, but you can get most other things I am used to, and of course I brought my own vegemite. The selection of Asian sauces seems a bit better than 2 years ago and there seem to be more staff circulating about the store with samples of things for you to try. And the check out staff (whom you must tip: this is how many school kids pay for their text books) seem less fazed when given reusable bags to pack than they were then. The comparable baskets of goodies are still there at both major supermarket chains, showing how much you would save at Walmart compared to Mega and vice versa, of course based on their weekly specials, but they do take competition seriously.

After a snack and organising the fridge and cupboards (where I encountered a mystery object - I will take a photo and ask you all what it could be), we went off to get a SIM card for my phone, which was achieved without any paperwork whatever. Last time we did this there were many forms to be filled out, and I wonder how the anti-terrorist forces of Mexico will cope with the number of untraceable SIM cards? At least if I leave it with someone, say a second cousin, it won't be readily traced back to me.

There was a lot of traffic about, and it turns out that it was the National Day of Indigenous People: as is usual on days of such celebrations, there was a festival set up in the Plaza Centenario, one of the two central squares in Coyoacan, and we went for a wander through the stalls, listened to some of the performances and watched a bit of some others, and re-acquainted ourselves with the beautiful handicrafts and regional foods on sale. We shared a tlayuda, which is like a large tortilla, spread with frijoles and sprinkled with the Oaxaca cheese which shreds as it is very stringy. It is then folded over and toasted on an open grill. The most toasty bits taste a bit like matza but are a bit less crunchy. A version is also served with marinated meat, but we stuck to the vego version with the less picante of the salsas on offer, which still packed quite a punch . Barry accompanied his with an agua de jamaica, a very typical drink made with jamaica flowers (I think it is a variety of hibiscus). The drink is usually too sweet for my taste, and it must be laden with sugar so I try to avoid it anyway, but the underlying flavour is quite sharp and refreshing. It rains every day at this time of year, usually between 4 and 6, but with umbrellas we negotiated our way to the square and the stalls were under cover. It was only light showers, fortunately, unlike Sunday when there were massive thunderstorms and a long power cut as a result in the neighbourhood we were in.

On Sunday we went to Tlalpan, another interesting neighbourhood with a central square with market stalls and street performances, and checked this out as well as the market with its many food stands, abundant fresh produce and flowers. The square abuts the Town Hall, with an entire wall of murals depicting the history of the region from 1000 years BC - pre-conquest and pre-major volcanic eruption about 2000 years ago which led to abandonment of the region for quite some time. We walked to our friends' house at 2 as invited, but typically we sat around for at least 2 hours drinking tequila and other things and eating snacks (goat's milk cheese is very popular and the Spanish olives are lovely) while others arrived much later. I really don't function so well on this eating pattern, I am always too hungry to wait for lunch at 4 and eat way too much of the snacks, and often have a couple of drinks so I won't look like a wowser, which adds to the eating. I am pretty good at making sensible choices at restaurants, but eating in people's houses is a lot harder on the waistline!

I did find, however, that I am comprehending a lot more of the Spanish than I was 2 years ago, which is probably due to the Spanish courses I have been taking at home. Still, I hardly can speak: by the time I think of something to say and figure out the grammar and vocabulary I need, the conversation has moved on. On the odd occasion I manage to get something out everyone stops to listen and I feel extremely small and foolish. Makes me realize how much I underrate all the migrants at home who do so well in English - it really is quite an accomplishment to be fluent in social situations in a language other than your mother tongue.

I am editing this in the wee small hours - jet lag compounded by a lack of serious exercise has me up when I should be sleeping. I think I will save this as a draft again, then I must find out how to notify people that I even have a blog! And How to find a photo on this Mac: I have been trained to think like a PC and don't know how to find things here, so though I have looked up how to post a photo, I don't seem to be able to locate it!

1 comment:

Aviva said...

Sounds like "Welcome home" time!

What happens if you ignore grammar for a while and just blurt your comments in Spanish? Doing that (though not in Mexico) I found people get used to hearing you speak, answering you, slowing down, and assisting. They also feel quite chuffed you're speaking their lingo however clumsy you feel. You'll probably pick up speed that way, get used to speaking and the grammar you've learned will fall into place automatically with practice. You'll pick up more grammar and vocabulary along the way.

Marvellous to have this experience!

Happy travels, happy stays.

Love to you and Barry