[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Sunday, September 11th, 2011|
|Friday, July 22nd, 2011|
|Saturday, May 1st, 2010|
The Thai movie crew is gone for now finally. Simon and I are sitting in the lobby (which is more of a dining room/computer area/hang out area) waiting for the proprietress to come back and take us to get a pedicure with her. I haven't really talked about this guesthouse, I think. Barney found it for us. The woman who runs it is an artist, and her art (and that of others) is all over the place. She is very friendly. Speaks limited English, but still way more than I speak Korean, and I'm usually pretty decent at figuring out body language. She has two teenage sons, who she says are both artists, and we can hear them practicing piano very beautifully every day if we're lucky.
Barney hopes to help out with translation in exchange for a free or reduced rental rate here, which would be cool for him. This is also a pretty artsy neighborhood.
It is SO much nicer for us here in Seoul since the sun came out a couple of days ago.
OK, she's back.
|Wednesday, April 28th, 2010|
I'm pretty sure that yesterday was Tuesday. Whether or not it was, here is what I did: woke up very late, decided that the most important thing for the day was replacing the E string on Simon's violin that broke when I foolishly tried tuning it, had the Canadian guy whose name is Rob but goes by Don because it's hard for Asians to say Rob (Robin is even harder, but I don't have an alias) and who I call David Bowie but not to his face, offered to take me and Simon and Simon's violin out on the subway to the music section. He did. We got a new E string installed. Then David Bowie said he had to get back to work that the subway was *that* general direction, have a great day see you later!
All I had to do was change some of my American dollars, then buy a couple things. Eventually we found a money changer, after being gestured 'that way. cross. then turn that way,' by a guy rightfully proud of his English skills who had called us over to ask if I'd ever seen anything like what he was making, which either I had or I hadn't. I don't remember. It was a sort of pastry thing, or possibly noodles, probably made out of rice flour. In the money changer's stood there hopeful for a moment then saw sign that said 'the law commands us to see your passport before we change your money,' knew I'd taken my passport out of my purse just that morning and decided the whole shopping excursion was doomed and that it was best to head home. The shopping excursion, by the way, was intended to rectify our warm Taipei-centric wardrobe with one more geared toward the bitterly cold wind and rain that has overtaken Seoul and requires me to blowdry my shoes every night. But! No money! Also, Simon was hungry. My shoes were already wet. It was very cold. We found, cleverly, the subway, found our way back very close to home/the guesthouse, whereupon I realized that I had absolutely no idea what it was called, what street it was on, or how to get there. My landmark 'Hyundai' storefront turned out to be a farce since Hyundai is everywhere and the first thing I did was trot delightedly toward a Hyundai gas station and lose track even of the subway stop. Eventually, yes, I found my way, but not before realizing that my phone, which I'd brought with me more as a portable camera/contact list than a phone since I can't get a signal in Korea, had a dead battery, so I couldn't call the only person who could help me: Barney!
Then we got back and dried off and had some ramen and eventually Barney came over and we went to a place where you can pick a DVD and go in a little fake living room and watch it on a huge screen with nobody but the people you brought with you. And food if you brought that, but we didn't.
Today's highlight: going to another 'public bath' which phonetically-ish is the 'gymjoban' (like the DVD place is the "DVDban") whereat Simon played with his new legos, I got a massage and a couple sauna trips and a big floaty bath and felt very tall and very pale. Also we finally got some warmer clothes for Simon, or at least more waterproof layers, and tomorrow it's possible that I will get some shoes that will keep my feet warm and don't have to be blowdried and that I like.
Over and out.
|Monday, April 26th, 2010|
We stayed out in the country in a town called something like Gwyeok for two days. On the way out, we took a train for about 5 hours, then instead of taking a bus for a couple more hours, decided to stay in a motel first. The motel we found offered rooms by vending machine. We got three, as we were traveling with one of Barney's ex-pat English teacher friends, Mark. The room that Simon and I ended up in was a little sketchy, and since I didn't like the idea of not being the one in charge of whether my door locked or not, I moved all our stuff away from the door and next to the bed, then while I was at it looked around the room for possible defensive tools (Korea apparently has almost no crime and even less person-on-person crime, but still!) and ended up putting the aerosol hairspray and lighter next to the bed so I'd have a makeshift flamethrower, which obviously I didn't end up using.
We didn't spend much time in Gwyeok, and most of the second day we were there I had to spend working, but it was beautiful, and we ended up all going to the public baths, which I should probably write about in more detail, but I'm tired and just trying to sort of catch up a little bit since I feel like I keep leaving all the really cool stuff out.
So then back to Seoul, busing it all the way, we got in about 3 in the morning and checked into the guesthouse room Barney reserved for me and Simon, which is where this morning I slept until almost noon, and finally ventured outside only to meet the propietress who offered me an umbrella (it's pouring right now) and directed me to the lobby area which is where I am right now. It's awesome, well-lit, has various foods including peanut butter, jelly and bread, which are hard to come by! And a nice computer that I'm on right now. And coffee, which is basically necessary for life.
Barney came over after that and we sort of wandered around soggily, went to the doctor with him where he got a diagnosis of 'allergic oversensitivity' and a couple of shots and a couple days worth of pills all for $13 then into and out of an overpriced store that I thought was known for being underpriced (H&M) then more soggy wandering -- oh, somewhere in there we stopped for espresso and hot chocolate and Simon dared me to use the bidet and thusly I sprayed my pants which put a damper (haha!) on my mood. Then into the subway wherein Barney found a coffeeshop and attempted to study and Simon and I walked around looking for dry clothes that we might be interested in buying, and my shoes stayed soaked, but I ended up buying a pair of jeans in definitely the strangest jeans-buying experience of my life, which I am too tired to relay right now, so I'm signing off bye.
|Saturday, April 24th, 2010|
[Note: I wrote this yesterday morning]
We're sitting in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee shop in the university district in Seoul, having spent last night in a well-appointed 'love motel.' Simon is drinking iced strawberry juice and I am having an iced coffee. Unless I misunderstand the exchange rate here, which is entirely possible, these 2 drinks cost almost $9, which would be shocking in Portland and is extra shocking coming from Taipei, where $9 can get 2 people a good dinner and a cab ride home.
The 'love motel' is apparently a consequence of the fact that many young adults live at home with their parents. So it's more a place to spend some quality time with your boyfriend than to bring a lady of the night. Our room had 2 computers with Internet connections, a huge flat screen TV, a deep bathtub with the double shower I think is typical in Asia, and a separate commode area with a heated toilet seat and electronically controlled bidet. A bidet is pretty much the most hilarious thing ever if you are a 6-year-old boy whose entire humor repertoire revolves around the toilet. Is that redundant?
We're sitting here with our bags instead of exploring Seoul because we had to check out of the love motel at noon and Barney is in class (learning more Korean so he can qualify as a translator) until after one. We have no place to put our bags -- Barney lives in a tiny room on a budget since he plans on not working for the next six or so months while he's in school himself, which is why we're not staying with him, and we can't go to his room without him. The plan for the day is for Barney to meet us here after class and then head toward a train station, where we'll take a train out to a small town in the countryside (where he lived for a year teaching English until very recently) and stay in a house belonging to a friend of his. After a few days, we'll head back to Seoul and probably rent a guest house of some sort for the week before we fly back to Portland.
Last night, we spent a little time walking around looking for dinner. I was struck by the fact that nobody was wearing face masks, something I didn't mention is pretty common in Taipei. Also, while there are a few motorcycles here and there, it is definitely not the intensively scooter-riding metropolis that Taipei is. We ended up at what Barney described as a run-of-the-mill Korean restaurant, where we sat on cushions on the floor at a short table. Water came in a cold pitcher (water in Taipei is almost exclusively available warm -- not room temperature, but warm -- which I don't exactly mind, but Simon can't stand to drink) with little metal cups. The chopsticks were also metal, which I ate with for awhile and then put away when I thought about the consequences of biting down on them accidentally.
Dinner was... I'm not exactly sure what it was. But it was delicious. Vegetable-heavy, lots of tiny little dishes of things, some soup, a really good vegetable pancake/pizza thing of some sort, and rice. Rice was, somewhat unsurprisingly, the only thing that Simon ate.
I can't post this now because even though there's a wireless connection here, I can't figure out how to connect to it.
|Sunday, April 18th, 2010|
I stopped having 4 hours to kill between waking up and having it be a reasonable time to do anything, and I stopped writing on here! Yesterday we slept till about 8:30 in the morning and today until 6:30, and if that isn't interesting to you, you probably don't have children.
Last night we went to a 'rooftop party' several stops down the subway line. Before that, we went to a miniatures museum, which we all enjoyed. Some of my favorite miniatures were the ones depicting folktalkes and children's stories, like Pinocchio and Fairy Land. Some of the exhibits had stamps for the supplied museum 'passports,' and Simon enjoyed collecting every one. Cindy told me that stamp collecting along those lines is a Taiwanese hobby, even for activities such as hiking.
The day before, Simon and I went out to the Longshuan Temple, and also explored the shopping mall underground near it. (I think there are a lot of shopping malls in the subway tunnels. Ralph, Cindy and Simon are out at one right now, as I had to spend a few hours working this afternoon.) Then we wandered around a different section of the city, down a few alleys. There were many items for sale in little booths packed together in apparently no order, one of which was a pig's leg sitting on a table. The dirt in its hoof agitated Simon, who couldn't understand why it hadn't been cleaned. I told him we were having quite an adventure, seeing things we'd never seen before. He said that he had seen a pig's leg before, and when I asked him where, he said, 'Well, ON a pig!'
|Thursday, April 15th, 2010|
When I imagined adjusting to the time difference, I thought I'd have a hard time waking up and would be staying up till the wee hours of the morning. The night markets sounded like a great idea to me, because surely I would be awake by the time the opened! As it turns out, I haven't been able to stay awake past 8 p.m. or -- and this is the truly shocking part, if you know me -- stay in bed much past 4 a.m. The sun is just coming up now -- I can tell because the sky is getting lighter, not because there is any actual sunshine or color apparent -- and we're already breakfasted and coffeed. Not dressed, because what's the point!
Yesterday morning, I left Simon here (not alone, just with sleeping adults) while I made my first and so far only solo trip out into the giant world in which I am functionally illiterate. At least in Mexico, even before I'd taken any Spanish, I could recognize the letters if not figure out the gist of the words. Here, not so much. I just wanted to find some espresso, but by the time I finally tracked down a place that I'm pretty sure had it when it was open, which it was hours away from being, I wasn't sure how to get back. I went into a 7-11 (the most frequently recognizable thing here so far), bought a container of milk to have coffee at home, and a can of Mr. Brown coffee, which I've had before, so trusted.
Before I left the apartment, I took a picture of the address plate outside the front door, and the front of the building, so that if need be, I could show the photo to someone and possibly get some advice if I looked confused enough. I also had my phone with me, which I haven't used while here, but it appears to be active on a roaming network (don't call me, it would cost $2/minute!) so that I could call back here for directions if need be. See how organized I am? Not organized enough to do something simple like count the number of blocks I've walked, or corners I've turned, though. I found my way back to the apartment entirely by feel, with only one wrong-turn-and-retrace-my-steps-moment.
Later, Simon, Ralph and I went to the market to pick up some food. Simon saw a bucket full of ... something, and asked what it was. The vendor told Ralph, who told Simon that it was strips of shark skin. Simon said that he would write it down in his travel journal, in answer to the question, what do they eat: "Strips of shark skin. Blech." All of the fruits and vegetables looked vibrant and healthy. Ralph didn't want to buy meat, there, though, so we went to a supermarket. I love grocery stores. Grocery shopping was one of my favorite activities when we stayed in Mexico, and I found it just as fascinating here. The checker gave Simon a little packet of dried seaweed strips, which he later had with his lunch of rice, in his own little homemade 'sushi' 'rolls.' Ralph was struck by how friendly she was to Simon. He said he's seen her probably 20 times and never even seen a smile. Simon gets a decent amount of attention here. There don't seem to be many children, for one thing, and the ones we have seen all appear to be Taiwanese. We definitely stand out as foreigners, but Simon is way cuter than I am, even when collecting racist comments like 'little big nose,' as Ralph said one woman directed (affectionately?) at us.
Later, we thought we might go to the 101, but Simon obviously needed a nap before venturing out again. He was unable to fall asleep, but the hours it took trying to make him sleep took away from the possiblity, plus I didn't really want to take him out in that state. It's exhausting for me because he requires so much of my attention. Ralph didn't think Simon seemed that tired, though (Ralph does not have much experience with children, for the record. Although it is really wonderful to see Simon and his dad's brother hanging out together. They get along pretty well.) and I decided to power through something. We went out to a big mall of some sort, in search of its children's bookstore, which we found. It had exactly the kind of selection of translated children's books I would have wanted to find, but Simon was by this point losing his ability to focus. He decided to buy "Shrek Forever After: The Novel," with part of his '200 dollars!!' then dragged himself through the stationery section insisting that he wanted/needed/hated everything there (didn't get him anything), then we decided to take him to eat dinner instead of making him wait any longer (as originally planned, so that we could eat dinner with Ralph and a friend of his at 7). Simon wanted noodles, broth and chicken, and we pieced it together at a restaurant, then left Ralph there and walked back to the apartment. Simon was asleep within 20 minutes, and by the time I roused myself off the couch enough to carry him up to bed and go back to sleep myself, it was still only 9 p.m.
Today the 101? I should probably crack my Lonely Planet Taipei book and see what else I'd like to do while here!
|Wednesday, April 14th, 2010|
I just deleted an entire boring paragraph about the details of our sleep, but the gist is that we both took a nap yesterday at 3:30 p.m. and finally abandoned hope of staying in bed till dawn just recently, when I came downstairs to a note saying that if we were hungry we should eat the salmon in the refrigerator. Thanks to eHow, I cooked it up and it was actually pretty good with my substitutions of orange juice and soy sauce for the recipe's lemon juice, salt and pepper. I think it's after 5 a.m now, but I'm not sure.
Yesterday, Simon and I ventured outside with Uncle Ralph, looking for coffee and lunch. We hit the dead zone between lunch and dinner times, so many places were closed. I wanted some espresso to help me make it through to bedtime, which you already know didn't happen, but I did find espresso. I ordered it myself! In English, I asked for a double espresso and was told they didn't have espresso. OK, coffee? I asked before I noticed that one of the few English words on the sign was "Americano," and asked if they did have Americanos. Yes, they did. OK, I said, what about an Americano with no water? No water? But we always add water. Can you make it with no water, I asked, and held up my fingers to indicate the amount of liquid I hoped to end up with. Ah, you just want espresso? Yes! The espresso was good, too, better than I've found in, say a strip mall in the U.S.
We then found a place to eat. Ralph ordered a vegetarian sandwich for me, which ended up being lettuce and mustard on bread, but it was a lot of lettuce, and the bread was OK, so it worked. Simon got a waffle, and Ralph told us that waffles are actually a Taipei specialty, which is something I wouldn't have guessed, but it was quite good.
We walked sometimes on the sidewalks and sometimes in the middle of the street. We seemed to be about as likely to be in the way of a car or scooter either way.
Today, I'm thinking that we're probably well-rested enough to attempt something farther afield, maybe the 101 building which I believe is the second-tallest building in the world and sounds very impressive.
Here we are in Taipei! Simon and I flew out of Portland just after 2 p.m. on Monday, and after an interminably sunlit flight to Tokyo, we had a brief layover then another 5-ish hours to Taipei. The sun finally set while we waited in the Tokyo airport, and I think that's why I was finally able to fall asleep when we got on our second plane. I was asleep before we got into the air, and only woke up when the pilot announced we were a hundred miles from Taipei.
Simon has been an amazing traveler. He has helped carry his own bags (we did the trip without checking anything, so we had 4 bags: one with our clothes, one with my netbook and passports, a Simon-sized backpack with colored pencils, notebooks and some puzzles to keep him occupied on the flight (oh, and his smallest 'Calvin and Hobbes' book), and then Simon's little violin, in a travel case that we were lucky enough to pick up for free (the zipper tabs are broken and some of the lining has pulled away, but it has backpack straps) at his music center), been good-natured, cooperative and helpful the whole time. About 8 hours into our first flight, he told me he was having a wonderful day with me, and when I asked why, said it's because we got to be up in the sky together.
We took some homeopathic jet lag prevention tablets every couple of hours, but I'm still too tired to know whether or not I'm jetlagged. We got into Taipei about 10 p.m. Taiwan time (7 a.m. the day before Portland time), were met by Simon's Uncle Ralph, and rode a bus (while drinking a few sips of the beer Ralph brought for the trip) to Ralph and Cindy's downtown flat. Cindy made some noodles for us and set us up with "Lassie Come Home" on the TV. I didn't think I was tired, but after taking a shower realized I was, and Simon and I went to bed at about 2 a.m. Sometime around 6, Simon woke up and began demanding/pleading I wake up and make him breakfast. I put him off for over two hours (hours I would have preferred not to spend in 5 minute batches of crashed-out sleeping interrupted by Simon and his bizarre insistence that I wake up just because the sun was up) then, half an hour after I promised him I would get out of bed if he would just give me five more minutes, I finally dragged myself up and figured out the stove enough to scramble a couple very orange eggs and cheese.
We're spending a leisurely morning/afternoon all in the living room here. Simon watched 'Lassie' again, Cindy is doing some voice editing, Ralph is on his laptop, and I'm fighting this netbook (which I now plan absolutely to return when we get back to Portland -- the processing power is ridiculously low, to the point that Simon wasn't able to successfully watch the movie that I'd downloaded for him from iTunes the night before we left). My basic plan for today is to make it through to a reasonable bedtime, possibly insistin
|Tuesday, August 29th, 2006|
After slacking on my photography for the last few weeks, I took over 300 pictures in the last 24 hours in a burst of La Paz memorabilia.
We went to the beach One Last Time today in the car which doesn't seem so expensive when I think of it as eight cents a minute. On the way back I slowed down to look at an incongruously gutter-punked Mexicana on the side of the road, and found myself stopping to let her in. She guzzled the half-bottle of water I had in the car and proceeded to talk and talk, though she spoke no English and didn't possess the skill of knowing which Spanish words I would be likely to understand. I think she was high, and I started imagining the moment when the knife would come out and she would demand all the money she'd seen me toss into the back seat when she got in. I'm not sure exactly when I became so stereotypically adult
I'm incompletely packed and waiting for Simon to be solidly asleep so that I can finish. My plane leaves at 2pm, I want to get to the airport no later than noon, I'm not sure how long it will take to turn the rental car in (when I picked it up, I got a walkaround of this shining spotless car as the agent noted every nearly microscopic tick in the paint. I assume that when I turn it in, another agent will walk around and add charges to my bill for each new blemish), and I've been told it's a 3 hour drive from La Paz to the San Jose del Cabo airport if one drives slow, which I plan to do because I don't have faith in my police-bribery skills. That three hours doesn't allow for wrong turns, which I feel that I should budget in to my itinerary. So it seems reasonable to me that we leave La Paz around 8am, and the only possible sticking point is that the office to which I need to bring the house keys doesn't open until 9am. If there's a mail-slot, I'll fling the envelope through it and drive away; I hope I don't end up having to wait around for another hour.
I took Simon down to the malecon to watch the sun set over the ocean one last time, and stopped to talk to one of the musicians. I asked a question about directions out of La Paz, and he told me to call him in the morning. He will meet me and lead me out of town and toward Cabo, which is incredibly kind, though probably unnecessary, and I would have preferred being told what the applicable highway sign would say.
|Monday, August 28th, 2006|
We will be back in Portland in about 48 hours, and I am trying to pack. This packing involves throwing out Simon's toys when he is not looking, since I don't have room or desire for empty containers of bubble mix, even if they are shaped like a cartoon character and part of a necklace, fancy-scribbles on construction paper, watercolors and finger paints, random crappy plastic toys.
I've got stuff I don't want to throw away or bring home with us: the bathroom stepstool, inflatable wading pool, duplo blocks and accessories, plastic beach sets, the stroller, and I hope I can enlist some help in getting it to an orphanage, which is apparently the only place in town to bring used kid stuff.
I came down here with a giant rolling suitcase I'd bought used. It looked to be in perfect condition until I discovered the split on the zipper seam, a split which I carefully patched with duct tape (black. to match the suitcase. because I'm classy) and then packed carefully and with the assumption that the same would tear open to its fullest extent. The suitcase made it through baggage and customs, but really only barely. I'm considering leaving that here, too, and replacing it with a duplicate of the expandable standing duffle bag on wheels I bought this morning for all the extra stuff I seem to have. Isn't this fascinating?
Then I still haven't decided how or when I am getting to Cabo with my child and all our baggage. I thought I'd settled on the driving option, but so far it seems impossible to find a somewhat reasonable price in conjunction with a car I can pick up in one city and drop off in another. The one I did find that meets my criteria doesn't appear to have any cars available and nobody is responding to my email. The one that only meets the 'yes, you can rent in La Paz and drop off at the SJD airport' criterion charges nearly a hundred dollars for that privilege, on top of the rental and insurance fees.
I don't know if I am being too paranoid by wanting to get to Cabo the night before my departure and I'm not sure I can do it at a reasonable cost. I don't know if I can rely on the bus scheduled to get me there in time (noon at the latest, the flight is at 2pm), or how hard it will be to navigate with my kid, my laptop, carryon bag, carseat and two (possibly one, if I can cram everything into the first duffle) pieces of luggage.
|Saturday, August 26th, 2006|
I suppose it had to happen eventually.
I met an American this morning who wasn't a loud asshole. Unsurprisingly, he's from the Pacific Northwest, and is a bicycling, yoga-doing EMT. He said 'hi' to me this morning when Simon and I were getting coffee, and I actually enjoyed talking to him and did so for about half an hour. We sort of made plans to meet tomorrow at the same place and time.
He's not the first native English speaker I've met here who didn't suck. Other than him, there was a young couple from Ireland and a family from Los Angeles. The family was Mexican-American, though, so I'm not going to count them as an exception.
I almost can't believe we're leaving in only 4 days. I still haven't figured out how we're going to get to Cabo in time for the plane. Renting a car was my first choice, but there's a $65 (US) fee for returning the car to a location other than the one I pick it up from and I'm not sure I want to do that, as even a one day rental would be over $100 under those conditions. I still might, though if I end up taking the bus it's only about $20 for me and Simon would be free (I assume. I don't have to buy a ticket for him to take the bus to the beach.). Still, that's a lot of crap to carry on the bus with a kid.
Simon is definitely ready to return home. He knows that we are going to go to Cabo, take a plane to San Francisco then switch to another pland and fly to Portland where his grandpa will meet us. I ask him who we're going to see at the airport in Portland and he says 'GRANDPA!!!'
Despite his excitement at seeing his grandfather, it's become clear (not that it wasn't already) that his favorite non-mommy person is his paternal grandma. He picks flowers and draws pictures and tells me 'this is for my grandma,' and never says that about anyone else. Sorry, everyone else!
Simon's been talking about daddies lately. There is a big turtle in a book that we read fairly frequently, and every time we turn to that page, Simon asks me if I remember going to the acuario and when I say yes, reminds me that we saw the 'daddy turtle' there. I don't know why he thinks it was a daddy turtle, I didn't say anything about that to him. Tonight on our way home, he said through the stroller canopy, 'I miss my daddy,' and I stopped and asked him what he'd said. He said it again, then a minute or two later asked, 'Do you miss my daddy, too?'
He will also talk to his dad on his toy phone, tell him about his day and then tell me what his dad said to him, which is usually along the lines of, 'I talk to my daddy! He says you are wearing your flipflops.'
|Monday, August 21st, 2006|
Regreso a clases. School started today in La Paz, and the effect is striking. The trampolines are gone. The toy vendors are gone. Most of all, the hordes of children are gone, presumably tucked into bed at a reasonable hour for the first time in months.
I'm leaving in nine days. During those 9 days I plan to attend a Catholic mass (though the hours aren't posted on the cathedral, making it difficult to plan), visit the beach at least twice more, and possibly spend a day in Todos Santos. My plane leaves, not from La Paz, but from Cabo, 3-4 hours away, and I haven't yet decided whether to ride the bus or rent a car. If I rent a car, I'd like to drive to Cabo a day early so I can spend at least a little bit of time there, if only to say I did. I'm also concerned about getting to the airport in time, and I'd prefer to start that day in the same city.
When I put Simon's shoes on his feet, I tell him which is his left foot and which his right. Earlier this week, he started giving me the correct foot for shoe-placement when I asked for it. I was pleased that he generally seemed to know which foot was which, but that was as far as it went.
Sometimes Simon will take an extra-long nap and wake up older, bigger and/or smarter. He had one of those naps today, after which, when I put his sandals on, he held up left foot with extra alacrity upon request. I decided to teach him that not only did he have left and right feet, but left and right hands (izquierda and derecha, as I'm sure you're wondering). I held his left hand and said, 'This is your left hand.' I held his right hand and said 'This is your right hand.' He clasped his hands together for a moment, staring down at them in wonder as, pardon the cliche, the lightbulb went on.
He picked up his coloring book and pointed at an animal, first one paw, then the other. 'Lef!' 'Right!' He then turned to the television and tried to capture hopping cartoon dog with his pointing finger. 'Right!' 'Hey...!' as the dog vanished to make room for the next character, which Simon then labeled correctly. He pulled on his ears one by one and labeled them. He picked up a drawing I'd made of Dora the Explorer and told me which was her right hand and which her left, which her right foot and which her 'lef'.
It was beautiful to see.
And here's the thing. He's wrong. About everything but himself, Simon is labeling in reverse. I'm not correcting him, I think that he is too young to understand perspective and reflection, and I think if I added that layer of education to his recent breakthrough it would serve only to frustrate him. So every time that Simon squeezes my right hand and says 'lef!' I proudly tell him he is correct.
|Sunday, August 20th, 2006|
"You don't look American."
"Oh, I know, I look French. Everybody here says that."
"You don't act like an American."
"Thanks. All the Americans I have seen here make me embarrassed for my country."
"Well, all the Mexicans I see in the U.S. embarrass me! Stereotypes. There are beautiful people in every nationality, in every country."
A brief ending: We finally made it to the aquarium. It had been so sunny (what an innocuous word) that I hadn't noticed any sweat until I stepped into the shade, at which point I was coated with it. I didn't cool down for half an hour or more. It reminded me of what it used to feel after a summer track event.
We met the guy who had started the aquarium and he gave me a list of books that would teach me the meaning of life, strengthen my soul and make me happy. He was Mexican-Japanese (I asked if he was Japanese and he said 'My parents were from Japan.') He told me the philosophies that have led him to open this and six other aquariums in Mexico. None of them charge admission. 'I do this to give the children dreams. Some children have been here 100 times. If I charged admission, even ten pesos, twenty pesos, they would come once, maybe two times.' He said he is currently constructing an international aquarium, an aquarium on a ship that will go to the children of poor countries, Guatemala, Mozambique...
Simon loved it. I loved it.
I asked about calling a taxi and the Japanese-Mexican man told me to wait, and to straighten chairs and tables, and then his assistant drove us home. He stopped first at a juice stand and got Simon a drink (I can't remember what they're called) of shaved ice and strawberry syrup.
|Friday, August 18th, 2006|
I bought Simon another Spanish kid book and a puzzle at the educational store here the other day. The guy who was working said that his wife had told him I'd been in before: 'the beautiful gringa with the beautiful son,' and he said he'd give me a 10% discount if he could take some pictures of me holding the tourist book that he publishes. He was very proud of his English, and when I didn't understand something that he'd said in Spanish and tried to figure it out, he got upset and said 'I speak English! Don't speak Spanish to me.' Overall, he was very nice at first and got progressively creepier.
Before the creepy part started, when he told me Simon was beautiful and I said that of course I agreed, he told me that in Mexico, mothers' belief that their children are beautiful is called 'having raven eyes.' He also told me, when I asked for activity suggestions, that I should go to the aquarium. He showed it to me on the map in his tourist book, told me it was open daily from 10-2, and had been started by some Chinese, or Japanese people, or, he didn't know, but they definitely had squinty eyes, which he modeled for me (this is when the creepy started). I asked if I could walk to it or if I would need a taxi, and he said I could definitely walk to it, just to follow along the malecon. He said it was past the end of the finished malecon and that there was more that was under construction but that I could still walk it.
The next morning (yesterday), Simon and I started out by going to the grocery store for coffee, yogurt, people bread and pigeon bread, went to the square to eat our breakfast and feed the pigeons, then set out toward el acuario. I stopped at Breeze Mart, a new super-convenience store, after walking perhaps 3/4 off a mile, and bought two bottles of water. I had thought I would buy sunglasses (mine are scratched up and I didn't bring them since you can buy sunglasses everywhere), but it was too busy and I didn't think it would be a big deal. Right next to the store, I discovered a PLAYGROUND! I was so excited, especially since there were actually some trees there, and it was still early enough in the day for them to cast shadows. One of the slides was burning hot, but the other was in shade and Simon climbed up and slid down again and again. I looked at my phone when we left the playground and noted that it was 11.15.
Then off we set. The malecon ended. The construction began. We kept walking. Kept walking. Asked a guy laying mortar where the aquarium was, and couldn't understand anything he said but he gestured quite a lot and was pointing in the direction we had been going, so we kept going. And going. Following the arrow on a sign, we left the malecon for a sidewalk across the highway. Soon there was a hill with broken sidewalk. I finished my first bottle of water (Simon had his own which I brought from home) and kept walking. We were in beating, direct sunlight, with no shadebreaks (well, Simon wasn't, because of the stroller canopy, and he was slathered in sunblock) and kept walking. We walked up and up and up. I started to feel like I was going to die, but we'd walked so far already I couldn't bear the thought of walking all that way back and kept telling myself we had to be closer to the aquarium than we were to home. My head was throbbing and I thought I might get heatstroke. I decided that I had misinterpreted the toystore guy's intentions and that clearly what he had had in mind was killing me (walking without shade between 10am and 2pm?). My previously comfortable flipflops started to tear blisters between my toes.
We did finally reach the aquarium, and I will continue this story later since Simon just finished watching Dora the Explorer.
|Tuesday, August 15th, 2006|
When we get to the door of the grocery store, Simon hops out of the stroller and hightails it down the first aisle. When he reaches the glassed-in butcher case, he turns around, leans against it and yells back at me 'Te aaaaaahhhhmo.'
This morning, though, he only made it as far as the donut case when he stopped and looked back at me. I heard a scuffle and thought for a moment it was some kids horsing around. When I made it up to Simon, I looked to my right and saw a crazed man being held back by his arms by two policemen, flailing and sweating and trying to get away. He was perhaps two feet away, and the direction he was trying to go would have been through my 2-year-old.
Before the situation registered, I pulled Simon up by one arm and carried him away, hanging in the air while he squawked 'I want a donut! I want to get bread for the pigeons! I want a DONUT!'
My skin was tingling and my heart beating a little faster while we chose our produce and then walked over to the other side of the store for milk and toilet paper.
When we left, the man was sitting in the bed of a police pickup truck, with two police standing over him, one wiping off his face with a wadded up baseball cap.
|Monday, August 14th, 2006|
Things I am looking forward to in Portland:
Driving. Anywhere I want, whenever I want.
Having the mornings of even very hot days be totally bearable in direct sunlight. (here, even the mornings -- it's only 82F right now -- are comfortable only in the shade)
Movies, books, newspapers, magazines... in English.
Grass. Growing in the ground.
Friends and family.
Breaks from Simon.
Ability to call US-based 800 numbers at all, or any number in the US for less than 16 pesos/minute.
Registering for fall classes.
Espresso drinks that coincide with my order.
The Oregon coast, though I will miss the warm ocean.
The feeling that there are actually things that I need to do and the ability to do them.
The rest of my clothing.
Being able to have conversations that don't involve long long pauses as one person searches for the correct word. No longer having to say 'no entiendo' while being giggled at.
[La Paz, redux: always having help to carry the stroller over steps, having doors opened for me, offers to take photos of me and Simon when I struggle to do it myself with my camera at arm's length, the friendliness and attempts to assist me with whatever problems I have or directions I might need, the holas and buenas dias and buenas tardes and buenas noches and smiles and chin tilts of acknowledgment)
|Saturday, August 12th, 2006|
Things I will miss when I leave this hellishly hot city in 18 days:
Sitting in the backyard and hearing the thunkthunk of limons falling out of a tree.
The patio music at this one particular restaurant on the malecon. Especially the Samoan-looking singer with a guitar and beautiful voice.
The malecon at dusk, with all the people socializing and playing and jogging and bicycling and playing volleyball, and little kids jumping on trampolines on the sand by the ocean at night.
Watching the sun set across the ocean.
The food, in particular the fish tacos, oaxaca cheese, homemade yoghurt and avocados. And the food carts with their tacos, hot dogs, enchiladas, empanadas...
Cheap groceries. I walk to the store a few times a week and fill the underbasket on the stroller for always less than $20, usually much less.
Having a maid.
The oddly haunting music broadcast from the water trucks. 'Sierra azul...'
The beach. Sure we've only been a few times, but it's gorgeous and wonderful.
The adoring gazes and comments and hair-tousles and casual cheek-stroking directed at Simon.
Mexican people who have not been beaten into an underclass.
The distinct lack of creepy people.
Listening to people speak Spanish.
Just being entirely surrounded by a different culture and knowing that can only be positive for me and for Simon.