Disadvantages of Oaxaca (English version)

(I wrote this last week as a Spanish assignment. The Spanish version is here.)

Mookie loves Oaxaca, but she misses her friends. I would too. It’s easier for me and Mookie’s Mommy; we each brought our best friend along, and many of our other friends are people with whom we usually communicate by phone and internet even when we are in San Francisco, so we don’t miss them more than usual. It’s different in the case of a nine-year-old girl who is accustomed to seeing her friends daily in person, not on Facebook.

She was hoping that at least one of her friends would come for a visit, but the summer went by, and now they have returned to school. At first, when we suggested that she chat with a friend via Skype, she said no–clearly, Skype doesn’t come up to standard. She wants to play together and show them her current house. But we set up some Skype calls anyway, and now she really likes seeing her friends that way.

Mookie also misses Japanese food. For one dinner, I made miso soup (free advice: nori cannot substitute for wakame–it falls apart), and Mookie made sushi for another dinner, but they didn’t come out like they do in a restaurant. But yesterday, Joy found a Japanese restaurant here in Oaxaca! We are going there for lunch today.

Desventajas de Oaxaca (versión en español)

(I wrote this last week as a Spanish assignment. The English version is here.)

A Mookie le encanta Oaxaca, pero ella echa de menos a sus amigas. Yo haría lo mismo. Es más fácil para mi y para la Mami de Mookie; nosotras dos trajimos a nuestra mejor amiga, y muchos otros de nuestros amigos son personas que nos comunicamos usualmente por teléfono e internet aún cuando estamos en San Francisco, entonces no los echamos de menos más de lo usual. Es diferente en el caso de una niña de nueve años que esta acostumbrada a ver a sus amigas en persona cada día, no por Facebook.

Ella estaba esperando que al menos una de ellas viniera para una visita, pero el verano pasó, y ahora han regresado a la escuela. Al principio, cuando sugerimos que ella charlara por Skype con una amiga, dijo no–claramente, Skype no cumplía el nivel exigido, porque ella quería que ellas jugaran juntas, y quería mostrarles su casa actual. Pero organizamos unas llamadas por Skype en todo caso, y ahora a ella le gusta mucho ver a sus amigas de esa manera.

Mookie tambien extraña la comida japonesa. Para una cena, yo hice sopa de miso (consejo gratis: nori no puede sustituir al wakame–se descompone), y Mookie hizo sushi para otra cena, pero no salieron como los de un restaurante. Pero ayer, ¡Joy descubrió un restaurante japones aquí en Oaxaca! Vamos a ir allí para el amuerzo hoy.

(Muchas gracias a Lázaro Rojas Rodríguez de la Spanish Immersion School)

More tattoos!

This time our henna tattoos started fading much faster and we almost didn’t document them in time. Mookie has the dandelion turning into birds, and I have the yin/yang and sun.

We had the nicest conversation with the artist while he worked. I’m looking forward to the next one, a couple of Fridays from now when these have faded completely and we head to the market in El Llano again so that Mookie can go to the Minions bouncy house they always have there and we can get new tattoos.

Rey de las abejas

On the last day of Mookie’s curso de verano (day camp) at a local Montessori school, she was in a patriarchal little production about the king of the bees. Why do people insist on thinking about bees as male (I’m looking at you, Jerry Seinfeld)? The choosing of the queen, now that could be a matter of some drama. The choosing of the king bee, who then gets to depose the old queen by choosing a new one? Not actually a thing.

Despite all this, we were proud that our Mookie had the role of the king bee. This was particularly impressive since she was the only child in the program for whom the production was not in her native tongue. On the other hand, it appeared that she was also the only one who’d been in plays before, so her familiarity with saying one’s lines loudly and slowly and facing the audience at all times might have landed her the part.

Here, the king-bee-to-be sits reading as court dramas unfold all around him:


The staff insisted that the costumes not involve anyone buying anything. Now that is economic equality in action–though of course, some people have more costume-appropriate stuff at home than others. There were many, many tutus and butterfly wings in evidence. Being far from home, we didn’t have any of those things lying around the house, but Mookie fashioned an excellent crown decorated with bees–not pictured here, since she hasn’t been crowned yet in this scene–and the costume she is wearing was put together by the kids and staff.

I love this picture:


The talk, chapter 4

We have had “facts of life” talks at least three or four times before. This time I was the one who brought it up, noting that if Mookie’s school is like mine, this is the year when the girls have a session on menstruation, which Mookie may miss since she won’t be back until after Christmas. Mookie was stunned that this comes along at such an early age, but I explained that while it’s not likely that she’ll get her period when she’s nine, some girls do, so we don’t want them to go to the bathroom one day and be terrified. She got all that, and has in fact known for several years that monthly “bleeding” is normal and painless. (Explaining cramps can come later.) So that launched another conversation. Mookie wanted to know why on earth this happens when she has no intention of having a baby for a looooong time. Actually, she is quite firm on “never,” but she does grasp that some women would like to be ready for this project eventually–but why at 9, or even 14?

I think I should produce an animated film using my approach, since it amused Mookie, especially when I offered a comparison with the usual way these things are explained.

Usual way, in pamphlet from Playtex with a soft pink cover:

Meg and her mom had a long talk over a cup of cocoa. . . . “But why does it happen?” said Meg. Her mom said, “When a girl is becoming a woman, her body makes a special place for a baby to grow” . . . “This is called a sanitary napkin, or ‘pad’ . . . ” (They’re always big on pads, which no woman outside the Playtex marketing department has ever called a “napkin.”) “Thanks, Mom!” said Meg, hugging her.

Feh. My way:

We’re animals, right? And one of the things animals are geared to do is . . . make more animals. Cats: Let’s make more cats! Jellyfish: Let’s make more jellyfish! [Producer’s note: Can’t you envision the animation here? Very Finding Nemo, right?] Humans: Let’s make more humans! So when it’s mature enough, your body says, “Okay, time to make some more humans! Uterine lining . . . ready to go! Whoa, no baby this month? Okay, out it goes. We’ll do it again next month. It’s next month now, still no baby? Okay, bye bye lining!” You’re right, it’s completely crazy. There really ought to be an on/off switch. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I only wanted one baby in all that time! And you’re it–no more babies–and it’s still happening! Yeesh!

Mookie asked a very reasonable question that’s on everyone’s mind but that the pamphlet doesn’t think a fourth grader needs to hear about: What do you do if you don’t want to have a baby? The abstinence-education-only folks would be pleased to know that the first thing I said was that if you don’t have sex, you won’t get pregnant. They would be less pleased to know that I included the all-important phrase, “with a man,” and that the conversation went on from there. Not with a lot of detail; we didn’t figure she was really interested in the full list of Ways People Keep from Getting Pregnant, and sure enough, she was content with the basic fact that there are a bunch of different ways.

Joy joined in to explain abstinence-only education. Even Mookie, who is nine and thinks the whole idea of wanting to do this stuff is a little odd, grasped that other people do want to do it and that telling them “just don’t” is about as helpful as saying “just don’t eat chocolate.” She also understands something the abstinence-until-marriage “educators” don’t: that once married, people still need to know how to keep from having babies. Unless they take the easy route and marry someone of the same sex.

Monster management

Yesterday Mookie was putting the clean dishes away, which required her to be in the kitchen alone. She came out and said, “Mama, there are scary monsters in the kitchen.”

I sighed and yelled into the kitchen, “If there are any scary monsters in there, you’d better be helping put the dishes away. If not, get out!”

She went back in and we could hear her instructing the monsters on where the various kinds of dishes go. I swear, this child raises herself.


We had a day of serendipity today. The Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s huge, multi-week annual fiesta, is underway. Joy and I had planned on picking Mookie up at her day camp and going on to a mole festival–that’s the distinctive sauce for which Oaxaca is famous, not the small burrowing rodent–and carried on with the plan even though it was starting to drizzle. But the festival was sold out. Instead, we tried out a Chinese restaurant (rating: adequate enough that we’ll go back), visited a couple dozen artisans’ booths, saw a couple of things we might not be able to resist buying even though they’re expensive–an alebrije of La Catrina, a really gorgeous traditional dress for Mookie–and happened on a terrific parade, with floats on flatbeds and people throwing candy, plastic toys, gourd bowls, and olives into the crowd. We know about the olives because Mookie was tossed a bag of them.

And in the Friday market in El Llano, a.k.a. Juarez Park, there was a booth selling jewelry and henna tattoos. Mookie and I both said “ooh!” Three years ago, when I got one at a fair, she didn’t like it at all–she disapproved of my changing something about myself, the way she does when I henna my hair–but this time she led the way. She chose a twining vine with butterflies and I chose a lizard. They’re not actually blurry, but this was attempt #17 with my left hand and enough was enough.

IMG_7097One day she will probably get a real tat, unless fashions have moved on and there’s some other form of body alteration that grabs her instead. And I will cry. (No, I’m not anti-tat; I just have a strong attachment to her body the way it is and don’t want to see it altered. It’s indefensible. Never mind me. Just hand me a hanky and move along.) But I will have only myself to blame.