Friday, December 14, 2007

Moving back on the boat

I'm too old to do this ever again. But it's weirdly good to be where everything more or less has a place and is usually in it. We now have:

A child. This is what Adam would look like if he were a little baby girl:

Bookshelves. Adam made these out of primavera with ipe accents. Nice.

A natural latex mattress--or what passes for a mattress after the sleeping bags from Wal-Mart in Astoria that we were using after I insisted that we remove the ancient foam that was there before.

"Walls" in our "bedroom." Very lovely work by Adam. Note book-matching on the perrota planks.

A new bathroom!

Diaper free and lovin' it.

Newly varnished spars, plus a freshly painted hull.

A leather sock on one of the anchor's feet.

Thoughts on fruit

We found a double banana in a bunch that Adam bought at our local abarrotes. Apparently they’re not uncommon. But then Armando showed Adam a triple banana. “Have you ever seen one of these?”
Adam also returned home recently with a limón chichona, which means “nipple lime.” They’re unusual. You have to sort of know someone. It was green and round and very pale orange inside. It had an herbal scent, maybe a little musky, vividly citrus. Exactly like Earl Grey tea, come to think of it. I suddenly realized that this fruit was also known as bergamot. I’d never had the urge to see a bergamot, but holding it I was captivated. I wonder what other unsuspected experiences will emerge from this unforeseen life, this crossroads.

Adam met a man who dries organic fruit in solar dryers. He also collects worm pee from three different kinds of worms that he keeps in separate plastic vats and sells as fertilizer. In other containers around his yard various studies are being conducted using various worms at various stages. There was a campfire with a big vat on top of it full of brownish yellow liquid. He dipped his finger in it and told Adam that it was organic pesticide, a combination of minerals including sulfur. He assured him that when it dried it didn’t smell too bad. Leaving the yard, Adam noticed a model of a pyramidal building made mostly of glass. It was the man’s dream to construct it. He had posed action figures in different rooms. Spiderman was sitting on a toilet.
Wednesday was the día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, though we didn’t realize it until we took the bus to the neighboring town of Melaque to buy a card for our cellphone and some cat food. We arrived just as the parade was about to start. Juan, the poor indio, rode in the back of a pick-up truck, hands upturned in supplication, farmacias and ice cream and inflatable turtles dissolving as he gazed at the apparition of the virgin. A young girl in a sky blue shawl with folded hands and downcast eyes humbly blessed the Mexican church with its own miracle. Boys were Aztec warriors with peacock plumes. A wailing song drifted down the street, the singer unseen, the verse repeated, echoing in the voices of the onlookers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

There she sits, blurry and alone. But not for long. Today, after more than five months of showers, refrigeration, and beer-drinking neighbors, we will be back in the belly of the Wolf. We bring with us new-found knowledge of entomology and a renewed appreciation for life at sea. And a three-month-old baby. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Por acá


Our local coconuts

Discovering a sign on a nearby house that reads (in both Spanish and English), “I am home between 2 and 4. I hope you are too” has got me wondering about the secret life of Barra. I’m looking for overgrown alleyways, rumors and misinformation. Adam comments that the largest coconut plantation in the world is right here—“I heard that somewhere.” One evening we visit his friend Armando, who lives on a dirt road at the edge of town in a shed filled with wood and tools. A profusion of basil grows up around an abandoned hatchback near the tarp that covers the entrance. The shed verges on an expanse of grass and tall coconut trees. When we arrive, Armando is out hacking down weeds with a machete to reduce the mosquito population in his living space. This evening he is given to sudden, apparently incongruous suggestions. Would we like some fresh bread—very fresh and hot? Turns out he’s heard the approach of the minivan that brings pan dulce and bolillos through the barrio. As dusk falls, we eat rolls and drink milk from plastic cups. When he was a boy, Armando worked husking coconuts—before all the turistas and jubilados (which means retired people!), coconuts were the main industry around here, and their husks were used for charcoal. Armando says that he hears coconuts fall in the night. He machetes some open for us and makes a spoon with the husk to lift out the meat. “Give me this baby and make yourselves another one,” he says tenderly as we consume our coconut, holding her posed in the crook of his arm. The conversation turns to milk, and what happens when cows get into the chiles: leche chileada. I start thinking about the possibilities. Then I wonder if the cows don’t get really uncomfortable. Armando considers the question and offers that if cows find some limes, they won’t eat just one, they will eat a whole tree. So chiles probably don’t bother them either. Later he hikes out into the green and finds the coconut he heard falling last night—a young one, right where he thought it would be.

Doors made by Armando, appreciatively documented by Adam

How do you say...?


What time is it?



The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven—


El frutero! Me asombra usted!
No conozco ningún frutero.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Family vacation

We're not in Canada anymore!

Group cannonball
Jicama asserting squatter's rights. Its continuous, notorious and hostile presence means there's a real possibility we will lose title to our fridge. Our current plan is to urge the coconut and vitamins to DO SOMETHING!

A cry for help is answered.
Glow-in-the-dark San Lazaro presides as an angel rushes in where fools fear to tread.

Is she giving us the finger?

On the move

In big ways, and little ways.

"A very comfortable exercise for mother and baby is to put baby in a sling-type carrier and walk for at least one hour every day."
--The Baby Book, William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.

They say this like it's normal and anyone can do it. So not true!

I’ve resorted to walking down the street nursing. Discreetly, of course—sort of. Probably the construction workers I pass know exactly what I’m doing. On the beach near the hotel that marks the border of Villa Obregón, I noticed that the bottom half of the baby’s body was hanging out of her carrier. I was tempted to keep going. “Just a little bit farther!” I remember the time my mom went into the grocery store in Lake Oswego, Oregon, to pick up one thing, leaving my screaming sister and I for the peace of misted fruits and vegetables, the soothing expanse of cereals. I still remember the cart full of big paper bags that finally came squeaking back to the car. I remember walking up and down hardware store aisles, the smell of lumber, metal, and new plastic, while she bought roof tiles or sandpaper or 1 1/4 inch nails. I stop. The baby has a wet diaper. Naked on her blanket, she looks happily up at the sky and listens to a crow in the coconut trees that surround the hotel parking lot, then grabs a fistful of damp morning sand. Suddenly, sand is all over both of us. She needs to eat. I lean back against the chain link fence to feed her, realizing that I’m wearing a really short skirt. Several young men are walking in my direction. She starts to cry, exactly as if we were back at the apartment—I hesitate to call it “home.” But for her, I realize, we are home. I am home.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

We return from Guadalajara on La Linea más Cómoda. The little girl in front of us keeps coughing extravagantly without covering her mouth (I never really cared about this before!) while her little brother screams. The man behind us coughs in a lower register. We don't know it yet but we're getting what they have. Somehow I feed the baby while we’re swinging down the curving highway above Manzanillo. Back in Barra, mosquitos fall on us joyfully. A hurricane passed through while we were away. We open the door and find mold growing on the bed. It’s on kitchen utensils and the big pot we cook pasta in. There are probably four different kinds of ants living in our room. I think they were all here before, but now they seem to have asserted the inevitable rights of the natural world over the veneer of human habitation. A giant black and yellow beetle and a huge spider crawl along the tiles.

Somehow a bug has drilled through this can of pineapple, acquired in Bahía Tortugas, halfway down the Baja peninsula. At the time I wondered why Adam would buy canned pineapple in Mexico. Some vestigial memory of life in western New York, where his mom bought canned pineapple at the Shurfine, and he would eat the acid sweet rings right out of the can?

And this stuff is still here. All the way from Berkeley. It sounds innocuous—Sunflower seed butter, kind of weird, but no red flags. It tastes like sweet dirt--forget that, it puts the butt back in butter, this stuff is NASTY.

We have new neighbors for a week. They're Canadian. They hang out in the palapa drinking beer and chainsmoking. I hear the woman shout at her husband, "That guy saw you and he fell on his ass laughing!" maybe ten times at the end of a long day of tequila and cerveza. Tourist Mexico at its best.

The baby keeps them up at night.

Burping is hard.

When they leave, everyone goes outside.

Except me. I've spent over a week being cooped up in this apartment because I can't figure out how to use the damn baby carriers and plus it's like a million degrees out there. I remember shortly after she had her baby my friend Kathleen said, "I just want to go to Starbucks." I really want to go to Starbucks--though downtown Barra will do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guadalajara, week three

Friday, August 31-Tuesday, September 4
Are you ready for this?

Labor sux.

I keep reminding myself that at least I'm not having a leg amputated without anesthetic on a Civil War battlefield.

After three days, baby is born. She doesn't look like either one of us...this leads to some recriminations on both sides, but our relationship will survive.

Nuestro equipo a las tres de la mañana--pediatrician Dr. Franky, OB José Luis, and midwife Joni. These people are completely amazing, and I do not say that lightly. We consider it an honor to know them. And you can too:

Gender stereotypes, Mexican style!

Tallulah's birth certificate doesn't have her name on it, but I get a new name--Jessica Adams Byrd--since in Mexico, as we were told, "the women count." I dig it.

Celebrating with some warm Widow, our first alcohol in months.

Wednesday, September 5
Everyone sleeps off their hangovers.

Thursday, September 6
My mom arrives.
She immediately stakes out the name "Abuelita" and starts her own line of chocolates.

She spends an entire afternoon on Skype trying to extend her stay for a couple of days.

She soaks up some local culture. Sitting upstairs on our bed, we hear a conversation in two languages--my mom talking to the woman who cleans the rooms. I know that this lady doesn't speak any English, and that my mom doesn't speak any Spanish. When Adam goes out to try to help, mom says cheerfully, "We're communicatin'!"
The church around the corner has a sign that says "Confesiones" with an arrow and green flashing lights. Time to confess!

Monday, September 10
Look. Organic food! After baby's first visit to the pediatrician Adam and I enjoy a well-deserved lunch. We have successfully: hailed a cab with seatbelts, strapped baby into the cab in her carseat, and managed not to suffocate her on the ride over. I have breast-fed in public and walked a couple of blocks without collapsing.

Tuesday, September 11
At the Registro Civil, Tallulah becomes a Mexican national.
Our witnesses--the security guard and a random man.

"nine hiccups and a sneeze"/gratuitous baby blogging