Sunday, May 13, 2012

Que Chido!

I love the unique cultural stuff like que chido! Meaning how cool! The vocabulary for saying nice things is extensive here. In Costa Rica the style was all about the diminutive . . . everything was referred to as little; “Look at the cute little dog with the little lady walking down the little street.” Here it is “Please look at the sweet-pleasant dog with the amiable-kind lady politely walking down the enjoyable-lovely street.” You think I’m kidding? It’s true, this is the nicest city I’ve been to. During communion at the Cathedral, the Boy Scouts stand at the steps to assist all the ladies and the elderly. All meals finish with lavish praise to whoever cooked it or served it, followed by “Buen Provecho” (which basically translates to ‘It’s for your providence/good health’).

Most nights are pretty magical here. We often walk down to El Centro. One night, as we were walking, we came across a group of teens. About fifteen of them got up and came towards us. In the back of my mind I thought of all of the warnings about how dangerous Mexico is, even though I knew better. I was a bit embarrassed when they lined up facing each other and started dancing the traditional dances of Oaxaca. We sat and watched them practice for awhile. We saw this spontaneous dancing occur several times throughout our stay here. The traditions are so important to them. 16 distinct languages are spoken and they even have a huge fountain with statues of the 8 major old religions practiced here. It’s a surprisingly diverse place, but the Virgin Mary is everywhere. My favorite is the painting of her on a tree on a street corner.

But let’s go back further in time to about 500 years before Christ. A community of scientists and religious leaders began to form on the top of a mountain in the valley of Oaxaca. They became incredibly powerful, ruling from this complex city of 40,000 for 1,200 years. What drove them off their mountaintop remains a mystery. I’m guessing it was drought. Now it is called Monte Alban. As you approach the ruins the usual playing field is the first stop. From there the city is barely visible, but it beckons to you. As you step to the rim of this majestic man-made valley the history feels as though it is surging upward and wrapping itself around you. The archeologists did a good job of clearing the massive field where the market would have been. The palace and the bizarre boat-shaped astrology building are beautifully preserved. Joe and I sat under a thick tree in the shade and imagined the bustling community, the light glittering off the glossy walls of the palace, the pyramid-like steps leading up to the temples, and the ever present vendors set up on the grassy fields. After climbing to the other rim we could look down on the humbler dwellings of the surrounding city ruins.

Back at Oaxaca City we stayed at a small hotel with a pool and air conditioning. We stayed in the pool or the room for 24 hours! A large family from Puebla dominated one end of the pool, and we had the other end. That didn’t last long. The family ring leader, a 4 year old little girl, named Frida, came straight over to us and made the introductions. “That’s my cousin, and that’s my other cousin, well they are all my cousins except my parents and sisters.” She sat on Joe’s lap and petted his arm as she talked. Finally she told him he was going to be her pony and made him turn around so she could climb on. Her family was in hysterics. So after speaking Spanish to her for 30 minutes, she says “How come you don’t speak Spanish? Are you from China?” Ahh . . . out of the mouths of babes. By Sunday evening we were refreshed and ready to go again. Monday morning we were back to school to try to learn Spanish J

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