Winding down

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

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Monday, June 17, 2013

With two weeks to go in our Oaxaca adventure, we have turned some of our attention to trying to experience all of the things that got pushed down our priority list earlier in the year.   We've also begun talking about the things that we’ll miss when we leave … along with the things we definitely won’t miss.  We’re really trying to embrace our final days here. That said, it’s hard to not simultaneously look forward to getting Stateside and back home.  We miss you, our friends and family.  Still, there’s much fun to be had in Oaxaca, so … onward.


A couple of weekends ago, I dropped Micah and Zola off at their friend’s house for a birthday party in the early afternoon.  Before leaving, I asked the parents when they’d like me to return to pick them up.  They said, "Oh, around 7:00."  That meant five and a half hours of free time.  Cool!  When I got home, Leah was hard at work.  I told her about our window of opportunity and suggested we go on a date to visit the archaeological ruins at Atzompa.  She was game.  With hats, sunscreen, and water in hand, we hopped into our car and drove about forty minutes to the recently-opened Atzompa archaeological zone, a kind of archeological suburb of nearby Monte Alban.   

In addition to a 1,100 year old burial chamber, the site contains a 45-meter-long, I-shaped ball court, as well as numerous buildings and work areas.  It was really cool to see that the pottery which fuels the economy of the modern day city of Santa Maria Atzompa has a direct link to the archaeological ruins on the nearby mountaintop.  Knowledge about pottery has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

We had a very nice visit.  The only glitch came when we left the site and drove down the mountain the way we had come up, only to find that a gate at the bottom had been locked across the access road.  We drove back up the mountain and eventually found another way down, via the back side of the parking lot.  There were no signs.  We’re used to that now. 


Leah and I had wanted to visit the Sierra Norte mountains for some time, so this past Friday, we made it happen.  I had done some research on our options and honed in on a community that is part of a network of ecotourism sites high up (over 8,000 feet) in the mountains.  On Friday morning, I visited the ecotourism office in Oaxaca to reserve a cabin and pay the entrance fee to the communal land.  We picked the kids up at school, and with a small duffel bag packed for one night, we drove two hours to the community of Latuvi. 

The economy in Latuvi, population 600, is driven by subsistence agriculture.  Coffee and fruit trees make up a large part of the local landscape.  I’m not talking about fruit that eventually makes its way up to the States.  These organic fruits – peaches, pears, apples, oranges … - are small and blemished, but taste great.  They are sold and consumed locally.  After reaching our cabin and exploring the town on foot, we enjoyed Tlayudas for dinner at a small comedor (not quite a restaurant).  We shared some wonderful conversation with the comedor's owner/chef/waitress, and she invited us to participate in a ceremonial procession by the local Catholic church. We were honored by the invitation. When we arrived at the makeshift ceremonial room, we were ushered to our seats where we awaited the procession.  It then dawned on us that we were about to partake in a Catholic mass.  We were so proud of Micah and Zola, who sat for an hour without complaining or getting antsy.  They did better than I did, as I started looking at my watch after twenty minutes.  Leah followed everything that was said, and was impressed that many of the messages were about family, community and social justice. She sensed a strong liberation theology base to the mass.

We fell asleep with a fire crackling in the fireplace. 
It was chilly in the morning.  Perhaps that’s why Zola woke up earlier than normal.  She and I spent some quality time together outside our cabin, watching the mountains wake up and listening to the sounds of roosters, turkeys, and song birds.  After a breakfast of eggs, beans, tortillas, and hot chocolate, we met our guide for the day, along with his two horses.   Micah and Zola rode horses while Leah and I walked with our guide.  The first two thirds of our hike were on a dirt road, which leads down the mountain to a trout farm.  We all enjoyed seeing the trout swimming around in their manmade pools fed by the river.  Two of them would later be our lunch.

From there, we all proceeded on foot, on a path through the woods, to some beautiful cascades.  It is clear Micah and Zola have become accustomed to walking a lot during our year in Mexico.  They handled the nearly three mile round-trip hike without any complaints.  When our guide showed us how to play a particular plant leaf like an instrument, Micah was hooked.  He had mastered it by the end of the hike.  A big highlight for me was getting to swim in a pool at the base of the cascades. 

The kids were excited to re-mount their horses back at the trout ponds.  Back up the mountain we hiked.  Waiting for us at the little restaurant by our cabin were four bowls of trout soup and two whole trout – one done with garlic and the other stuffed with cheese and herbs in a light tomato sauce.  Delicious.  Bellies full, we loaded ourselves back into our car and took a scenic dirt road to the town of Benito Juarez, then down to Teotitlan, where we stopped for some amazing yogurt-flavored “nieve” (a cross between ice cream and a snow cone), one of our favorite treats in Oaxaca.

March and April were really hot and dry here.  The mountainsides turned brown.  The air was hard on the lungs.  No precipitation fell.  Nada.  Then in May, we got our first rain storm of the season.  Relief.  Through May, the rain was sporadic, but it signaled the end of the dry season.  It’s now June, and things have greened up quite a bit.  The rose bushes in our yard are bursting with blossoms.  The chicharras, two-inch-long flying insects that we’ve heard pining for water for the past month or two, are quieting down.  Colors are reemerging around the landscape and cityscape.  Ahh, relief.

With the rains has come more pleasurable running for Leah and me.  One of our standby routes for running during our entire time here has been the Libramiento Norte, or bypass highway.  I don’t know the whole story behind the Libramiento, but the short of it is that we have a six-mile-long stretch of deserted road in the mountains above our house that gets used by bikers, runners, and burros and cows, sometimes solo and sometimes being led by their owners.  I like running the trails that spur off of the Libramiento as well.  It’s been a fantastic resource.  I ran a 5K trail run on some of those trails last weekend and am happy to report that I came away with my first outright win in Mexico.  The prize was a US$40 gift certificate to a local outdoor store, which I used it to replace my missing Swiss Army knife.  A nice way to cap off running/racing in Oaxaca.


I officially finished up language school and did my last Spanish-English language exchange this past week.  I think it’s safe to say I’m marginally proficient - kind of like a kid who has just learned how to ride a bike and seems on the perpetual verge of falling over, only to regain balance and continue on.  I stumble through conversations, but, hey, I have conversations.  My experience at the language school Amigos del Sol was fantastic.  Meeting twice a week with Martha Quiroz, who is working on her English, was also a fun way to practice.  We had a similar world view and enjoyed some very engaging conversations.


Throughout the year, Micah and Zola have had numerous play dates with friends.  When we host their friends at our house, Leah and I are treated to something really special – listening to our kids play in Spanish.  Many of their friends are from school: Kian, Liam, Yerrick, Raul, Alex, Sofia, Bruno, Pablo, Yannick, and Chiara.  They also enjoy getting to play with older, English-speaking kids, Oli and Braden.  It’s fun watching Micah and Zola grow up.


Recently, Leah and I have been hearing our kids mumble in their sleep.  Last night, Zola was obviously dreaming about something and talking in her sleep.  Leah and I were close by, and listened.  Smiles spread across our faces as we both recognized that the goings-on in Zola’s head were happening … in Spanish!
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Patricia A. on

I was about to log off for the night when your link came through. I love reading the stories and seeing the pics. It looks like you are having a great trip! My favorite this time was Zola dreaming in Spanish. :)

Kreutz Crew on

We love reading about your adventures and looking at the pictures! Micah and Zola have both grown so much...we are so sad we won't get to see you when you return to Bozeman. Enjoy the last two weeks and soak in as much as possible. I want Abby and Reilly Rose to dream in Spanish!

Diane Rushing on

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful adventure with us. What a wonderful year you all have had!

Hunt on

Thanks Steve for these blogs!! I love the bit about Zola sleep-talking in Spanish. What a great time youve had... look forward to seeing you soon!

Katie on

Love the dreaming in Spanish-you have given your children a treasure that will last a lifetime with your year in Oaxaca!

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