Friday, August 5, 2011

The Dead and Unburied (Guanajuato, Mexico)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The bus ride from Queretero to Guanajuato is only about 2.5 hours long. Long enough to sit through multiple episodes of a TV series called "Mental," which I find entertaining, if far fetched, and better than some of the usual bus-movie fare. It is followed by a raucous French version of "Puss In Boots" that teeters between brilliance and obnoxiousness.

In the taxi up to K's house, I realize that I've left my sweater on the bus. Oh, well. One less thing to pack and carry.

The cab takes me through a tunnel, along the Panoramica, past two topes (sleeping policemen), and drops me off in front of the blue and white storefront, behind which stairs wind down to K's door.

I ring the bell and she opens the gate. I meet Nikki, from New Zealand, a fellow couchsurfer who's staying in the patio-level apartment. K leads me to the second floor, gives me keys and the same, lovely bedroom I stayed in last year, shows me the eggs and juices (watermelon, grapefruit, guava, and clamato), and leaves me to settle in, while she goes to tutor English to a young man (who never shows up). When she returns, we sip red wine, while she throws together a delicous Asian-style soup with beef broth, noodles, zuchhini, and onion.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I walk down numerous steps to the fetid-smelling river, turn left, and find a place to breakfast on huevos a la mexicana, coffee with hot milk, and warm bread that is so delicious I scarf up the entire basketful. Stomach full, I meander through the center of town, past the Quixote Museum, into and out of a crafts and jewelry shop that K thinks might be a front for money-laundering drug smugglers. I stop and go into other, less impressive shops with more reasonably priced merchandise, into churches, and past the theatre, market, parks, beautiful restaurants, and hotels. I continue my walk out of the more touristy sections of town as I go up, up, up to the Museum of Mummies, the one site my Guanajuatan students always recommend that I visit when I find myself in their hometown.

The mummies, including two French doctors and the world's smallest (fetus) mummy and its mommy, are 100% naturally preserved, all but one in wooden caskets, by the minerals present in the soil of the cemetery in which they were buried. Exhumed and exhibited years later, when no family member claimed the bodies, they are either prone or standing up (strone?), protected within glass showcases. (When some of the earliest ones were displayed, viewers made off with souvenirs (sp?) -- clothing and body bits. So, museum staff no longer take the chance that we will look and not touch and take out.)

Even leaving aside the purple-tinged fellow who died of asphyxiation, the man who was shot to death and whose deadly hole is gapingly apparent, and the woman whose raised and crossed arms prove she was buried alive, none of the leathery, papery corpses look pleased to be the subject of my and others' curiosity and scrutiny. Most of the eyeless faces bear anguished, pained expressions. They are definitely not resting in peace.

I come back downhill. Coming to a doorway where clothing and some ceramics are displayed, I step inside the little shop. The prices are reasonable, so I figure that I will replace my lost sweater. Half an hour later, I emerge still sweaterless, but with five new blouses (for less than $5.00, total).

Next stop is the market. It's lunchtime. A seafood soup bursting with shrimp, clams, oysters, fish, octopus, potatoes, and carrots is garnished with chopped onion, cilantro, and slivers of avocado. Accompanied by a crusty, fragrant roll, the fresh, but dead seafood helps bring me back to the land of the living and the hungry. I want to lick the bowl clean but remember my manners.

The climb back to K's house is exhausting. My panting and breathlessness prove that I am not quite as aerobically fit as I thought. I am relieved to know that 20-something Nikki finds the uphill hike equally challenging. She joins me on the second-floor terrace, and tells me about the decision she faces upon her return to New Zealand. Will she go back to "uni" to study biotechnology or wine science? (I know which one sounds more appealing to me!}

K joins us and we climb the stairs to her third floor digs, where the sun won't beat down on us with such furor. From her living room, an even better view of the brightly colored houses that dot hillsides and hilltops unfolds. K gives me a tour of her bedroom/office with its walk-in closet and promises that we'll go up to the roof at some point, to see the 360 degree view. Eventually, she'd like to put a structure there that will withstand substantial winds and rain and offer protection from the sun -- a perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass or two of wine, whatever the weather.

It's the rainy season, but it has not rained. The clouds look ominous and we hear thunder, but the much-needed downpours that will keep water flowing through pipes and revive the stinking river do not come.

K and I drive to an Italian restaurant she's been wanting to try. We share ravioli with mushrooms in a rich, rosemary-scented cream sauce and ziti with shrimp and (unfortunately, canned) black olives in a tomato sauce. With glasses of wine (she goes for white, I opt for red), we are quite satisfied.

It's still early when we arrive back at the house, but we retire to our rooms. I am looking forard to doing some reading and getting a good night's sleep.

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