Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wha' Happened in Oaxaca: Day 4

From March 10th until the 20th, I was part of a delegation of Land Stewardship Project members, organized by Witness for Peace, who met with farmers and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. I'll be posting a recap of each day on this blog.

I was awakened at 2am by an upset tummy. (I use the term “tummy” purely for comic effect. It’s not a regular feature of my lexicon.) The rest of the night I was in and out of consciousness, sleeping only fitfully.

My stomach pain wasn’t that bad, just enough to keep me up. It didn’t get bad until I god have more of that sweet yogurt from the day before, but the closest I could find was some avocado sauce that didn’t help.

I was riding waves of nausea during the Check-In, which was too bad, since it involved one of the highlights of the trip. Eric, the avid birder, admitted to falling in love with Graciela, our guide at the mezcal distillery, within 10 minutes of meeting her. (Full disclosure: I thought she was pretty darn cute too.) That broke up the crowd. He went over and gave his wife, Debi, a hug. Then she admitted to falling in love with her too, and the circle was complete.

I didn’t think my stomach could handle the visit to the Center for the Orientation of Migrants (COMI), a migrant shelter, so I told Maggie I’d be staying behind. She understood and gave me directions to COMI in case I felt better.

Once people knew I was sick, they leapt into action. Nolan started rifling through his bag of drugs; it looked like he was prepared for any malady. He found an anti-nausea medication, but I opted for Charlie’s recommendation of Coke with lime juice. (This should not be confused with Coca-Cola with Lime, which, according to Wikipedia, was “introduced in North America in the first quarter of 2005 before being quietly discontinued in 2006.” You may not find that tidbit edifying, but I’d been wondering what happened to that flavor.)

Charlie went to the guy at the front desk, Felix, who did a lot of our cooking, and asked him to get the Coke and lime for me. Felix came back after the group left, went to the kitchen and squeezed 3 lime halves into a little plastic bottle of Coke (smaller than I’d seen in the U.S.). He flipped it upside-down (slowly) and handed it to me.

I paid him 10 pesos, insisting he keep the extra 3 pesos for his troung, inconvenient habit of using the dollar sign for peso amounts. I wonder if they call it “the peso sign.”)

Almost immediately, I felt better. This Mexican magic had an immediate effect. I was very touched by my fellow delegates’ concern for my health and wanted to thank them at the next Check-In. Unfortunately, our next official Check-In wasn’t for 6 days, and I lacked the initiative to do it on my own, so my formal expression of gratitude to the group was delayed.

I was chillin’ in the atrium, looking up the news on Democracy Now! and getting a little freaked-out about the violence at the Trump rallies in Chicago and Kansas City. It felt like things were coming apart in the U.S. in our absence, to the point that I wondered if we’d be safer in Oaxaca than back home in a few months.

I kept sipping the Coke with lime and letting it work its healing magic on me. I wasn’t sure when Charlie suggested Coke with lime if he knew about its medicinal properties or if he’d just seen Reservoir Dogs. (After googling that song, I can confirm that it goes, “You put the lime in the coconut,” not in the Coke. I wasn’t sure. Also, I didn’t know that was Harry Nilsson!)

I wrote some true Morning Pages (the stream-of-consciousness exercise) in my diary. By the afternoon, I was feeling well enough to take a cab to COMI. I tried out some espaƱol on Felix at the front desk: “¿Puedo llamar un taxi en esta calle?” (“Can I hail a cab on this street?” I think.)

He assured me I could, so I caught one with a friendly cabbie who tried to help me decipher Maggie’s directions. We got the basics and were most of the way there when I finally decoded the final word that unlocked the secret. We had a nice chat about the relative climates of our respective homes. He charged me 50 pesos, which may’ve been exorbitant for the ride, but that came to about $3, and I enjoyed practicing my Spanish with him. I told him about my upset stomach, thanks to some vocab I’d just picked up from Maggie (tener nacios = to be nauseous).

I was let into COMI through a substantial gate. The courtyard was dirt. Next door was a construction site or a building in a late stage of collapse. Everyone was chatting over the remains of lunch at folding tables outside. I met the most casually dressed priest I’ve ever seen, like no one I’d encountered in my Catholic Lite upbringing.

Maggie had warned us the day before that listening to the migrant’s stories tends to be emotionally intense, but only one person was crying, so they seemed to have weathered the storm. I snuck into the group picture before we piled into a bus and went out to the country.

Our destination was an amaranth farm run by Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (“Bridge to Community Health”). Amaranth was a staple in pre-Hispanic times but was outlawed by the Spaniards. It’s being encouraged now as a substitute for corn and beans, traditional crops that are no longer profitable.

We listened to the farmers near a big bush, which offered some much-needed shade. But I was feeling a bit weak and dizzy and seeing tracers, so I sat on the ground. The others went out to inspect the fields, while I stayed behind, lacking the energy or interest level to pursue such knowledge.

City hall (?)
Thence, we drove into the local town to see a museum of indigenous artifacts and rituals. It was quite stuffy in there, almost stifling. I slipped out before the tour was over and joined the folks chillin’ in front of the town’s lovely, classic city hall with a basketball court in front.

Paul talked a big game about hoopin’ it up and taking on all comers whenever we came across a basketball court, but he never seemed to have a ball handy. (For the record, I would’ve gladly had his back in such a scenario. I think he would’ve been quite pleased with my Larry Bird-esque game.)

Liz and I bought some water and Coke for the ride home from an old man running a tiny, hole-in-the-wall store near the steps to the city hall. We sang some random pop hits on the ride back into Oaxaca City: John Denver, Milli Vanilli, that one Buffalo Springfield song no one could remember the name of. You know, the standards. It was a smaller, hotter bus than our usual ride; that may’ve encouraged a greater esprit de corps.

For the first time in what must be years, I went a whole day without eating. (Unless you count the avocado sauce, which I don’t.) But eating held no appeal for me that day, so I turned in early and slept very well.

No comments:

Post a Comment