Scattershot Blog el Segundo

Trip Start Jul 29, 2012
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Friday, May 24, 2013

First, a progress report on Leah's book. With just over a month to go in Oaxaca, she has completed all of the "substantive" chapters of her book and the introduction.  She’s now working on cleaning up citations, adding some footnotes, and hammering out the bibliography.  Her final step will be to write the conclusion.  Amidst all of that, she’s going to be “shopping” a proposal to publishers in order to set up meetings with them during the annual conventions of the American Sociological Association in early August.  In other words, everything is on track.  Leah is amazing. 
Having read and marked up every chapter, I can tell you that it’s a good book – well written, engaging, and insightful.   I asked her a few days ago whether we might eventually be able to find her book on bookstore shelves.  She explained that at this point in her career it makes the most sense for her to publish the book with an academic press.  So, no, we probably won’t be seeing it on bookstore shelves.  She also told me that the book will not make us rich. Ah, sigh… If things go as planned, all of you should be able to find the book on Amazon, or via whichever university press picks it up, in a year and a half or so.

While finishing her book, Leah has also embarked on her next research project, which looks at the children of deported U.S. immigrants.  In many cases, the children hold U.S. passports and speak perfect English.  They identify as Americans.  BUT, when their parents are deported, they end up going with them to a foreign country (Mexico), where they themselves are, ironically, illegal immigrants.  Because I am out and about more than Leah, I’ve been her eyes and ears and have connected her with a handful of future research subjects.  I’m sure it will prove to be an interesting project, and may bring us back to Oaxaca.  

Our family got to witness something really cool a few weeks ago.  We were over at our friends’, Andy and Blancas’, house enjoying some food, drink, and conversation when Andy called for everyone to look into their neighbor’s yard out back.  A mamma donkey was lying on the ground, having contractions.   Andy told us he had just seen her water break.  Some of us went up onto the roof to take in the scene.  Others peeked through windows or over walls.  We watched as the two hind legs emerged; then the body; and finally the head, with a fluid burst. 

Drama hung in the air as we all waited for the mother to help her new baby rid itself of the afterbirth.  Now that the baby was no longer inside its mother, could it suffocate inside of its own protective sac?  It didn’t.  Eventually, it made its way out of the afterbirth and we all remained at our perches to see it try to get up on all fours and take its first steps.  About an hour later, the owner of the donkey, a boy in his teens, helped the newborn donkey stand.  We watched it wobble around … and remain standing.  Micah and Zola returned to Andy and Blanca’s house a few times over the next two days to see how it was doing.  It’s still doing well, and getting bigger by the day.

On the subject of animals, we continue to be amused by the fact that Micah and Zola’s school has a pet pig.  “Pepe” the pig.  One day per school week, Micah is in charge of feeding and watering Pepe and cleaning up his droppings.  On weekends, families volunteer to stop in to do the same.   Our family collects all of our food scraps for Pepe.  Normally, he gets cucumber peels, fibrous broccoli stems, banana peels (his favorite), papaya skin, stale tortillas … you get the idea.  I’m sure he was in hog heaven (oh, I just couldn’t resist) when we recently brought in most of an overripe pineapple.


May 1 was a big holiday in Oaxaca – the Day of the Worker/ Labor Day.  As such, workers marched and celebrated in the center of Oaxaca, and the main square in San Felipe del Agua, just a few blocks away from our house, was the site of a big fiesta.  I was told by a number of friends that I really should take in a “castillo”, a spinning tower of fireworks, before leaving Mexico.  The fiesta in San Felipe seemed like the perfect opportunity.  When would the castillo be lit, I asked?  One reliable source told me 11 pm.  At 8 o’clock, I was ready for bed, but I decided to rally.  Shortly after 9 o’clock, I walked over to the town square.  On the way there, I ran into an acquaintance who suspected it wouldn’t be long before the castillo was lit.  Fantastic, I thought. 
This has the potential to be a long, drawn out story, so I’m going to rein it in by jumping to the punch line and then filling in some of the details.  The castillo was finally lit after 3 am.  I was there to see it, surrounded by hundreds of people, still partying away.  In the six hours between when I left our house and when the castillo was lit, I did the following:  I ate street food; I hung out by carnival booths with friends and watched kids wielding unattached bb guns try to knock down targets to keep cheesy music playing; I went over to Andy and Blanca’s house to have some quiet conversation; I tapped my toe along with two big, loud bands; I watched and plugged my ears while dozens and dozens of people, one after another, danced around with fireworks exploding directly over their heads; I drank tequila with a Mexican friend who wouldn’t let me get away; and I people-watched.  I’m sorry to report that, while cool, this particular castillo was underwhelming and I was very tired the next day.  But, it makes for a good story. 

Oaxaca boasts a triple A beisbol (baseball) team known as the Guerreros (Warriors).  Our family took in a game one Friday evening.  The stadium is beautiful and seats about 7,000. The kids got in for US$.40 each, Leah got the half-price ladies discount (US$2), and I paid the full price of US$4 … for prime seats directly behind home plate.  Most of the seats were empty in the first inning.  By the fourth inning, the stadium reached its half-full occupancy for the night.  Our family got into the game.  We learned the team rallying cry, laughed at the team mascot, rolled our eyes at the dancing eye candy between innings, learned to identify some of the players, and vowed to return again.  Whatever you think about baseball, it’s hard to beat sitting outside on a beautiful evening, spending time with family and/or friends.  I’ve since returned to four more games and we have been following the Guerreros’ results online. 


Mother’s day in Mexico was the Friday before Mother’s Day in the States.  As such, the kids’ Mother’s Day program at school was the real deal.  We had been instructed to arrive at the school at 11:30 am for the festivities.  Our friends and neighbors from Bozeman, Zac, Sarah, Skye, and Parker Morgan-Edwards were paying us a visit, and were invited to attend as well, so we picked them up at 11:20 and headed to the school.  When we arrived, the gate was locked and there were no other cars around.  At 11:40, scratching my head, I called my friend and fellow Papalotes parent, Mark, to ask if I had misunderstood something.  No, 11:30 was right, he said.  You’d think that after nine months in Oaxaca, we might have figured out when 11:30 meant 11:30 and when 11:30 meant 12 noon or later.  Oh well.
When other parents arrived and the gate was opened, we walked down the gravel path to the new classroom, where Leah and Sarah each received homemade flowers from Zola.  We milled about for a little while and then took our seats for the big show.  Of course, the presentation was awesome.  Micah and Zola knew their roles well and we enjoyed watching and hearing all of the kids.  After the show, Micah and Zola brought Leah some homemade Mother’s Day gifts, which made her eyes misty.

Then the party started.  Wheelbarrow races (with mothers steering their husbands).  Musical chairs. Egg on a spoon races.  What a riot.  Musical chairs took an interesting turn when there were three mothers left, including Leah.  The music stopped and she and another mom got into a musical-chairs-flipped-on-its-head kind of an exchange.  We couldn’t hear all of it, but I imagine it went something like this: Leah- “Please, you sit down.”  Margarita - “Oh, no.  You were here first.”  Leah -“Really, the seat is yours.”  Margarita - “I wouldn’t dream of it.”   Meanwhile, our kids were shouting at Leah to take the seat quickly (“Vaya, Mama, Vaya” – “Go, Mom, Go”) and the onlookers roared with laughter.  I’m sure those of you who know Leah well can imagine the scene.
The games were followed by lunch and socializing.  Sandwiches, fruit salad, and juice flavored with hibiscus flower.  We were really happy to have gotten to share Mother’s Day, and a lot more (swimming, hiking, sight-seeing, eating, shopping, an adult night out…), with the Morgan-Edwards family.  Zac and Sarah, thanks for making the trip down to Oaxaca.  It was awesome!

During our time here, I have given updates about the new creepy crawlies we've been exposed to in Oaxaca.  One of the things we've seen a lot of recently is called, my sources (Micah and Zola) tell me, a rhinoceros beetle.  Not Leah's favorite, but nowhere near cockroaches on her "ugh" scale.  Check out the picture and you'll understand how it got its name.  We see hundreds at a time on our walk to school.  
Not to be outdone by Micah, Zola lost her first tooth and received her own visit by the Tooth Mouse.  She was thrilled.  Micah has now lost three bottom teeth.  As Leah and I watch their teeth coming in, we are preparing ourselves for some visits to an orthodontist.  Oof.

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Jennie on

Congratulations on your book, Leah. I'm sure we WILL find your books on the bookstore shelves someday and I look forward to reading them. And congratulations to you, Steve, for managing to stay awake until 3 a.m.--that's a feat, too! How cool for the kids to see the birth of a baby donkey. They'll be able to write their own book about their experiences in Oaxaca. We look forward to your return to Bozeman--when are you coming back? Love, Jennie, Mike, Isaac and Elena

srbruner on

Hi Jennie and crew - We'll leave Oaxaca on June 30, spend the month of July with our families in the Midwest, and move back into our house in Bozeman on August 1. We're definitely looking forward to being home.

Uncle Bob on

Leah, honestly, your book is quite an accomplishment. I've written my share of books and can assert that writing a book requires peace of mind for a sustained period of time. Is taking your family to Mexico a recipe for that? I suspect that you and Steve have found it a bit distracting. Anyway, much admiration to you!

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