It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood/Es un buen dia en la vicindad

Really, most days I don’t climb mountains or obsess about cobblestones. Really. Most days I just get up and rush off to school. And today you can see what I see during that crucial first hour of the day. Want to walk to school with me? Ok, but don’t dawdle!

My apartment-my monkeyMy apartment-my iphone alarm clock

The roosters start crowing across the ravine from me sometime around 6am. Yes, roosters in a city of half a million people! Mr. Monkey starts playing his marimbas to wake me up at 730. Remember when we had to pack a travel alarm clock? So old school. Who needs one now with an iphone?

My apartment-my bedMy apartment-souvenires

My eyes creak open and one of the first things i see (besides the foot of my bed) are the reproductions of these two funerary sculpture from the island of Jaina in the Gulf of Mexico. I like the high-ranking lady’s off the shoulder dress, and the little musicians giant horn-it dwarfs him. I hope to visit Jaina someday but right now you need to get a permit from the government to visit the island-it’s largely unexplored and they are trying to protect it from the looting that destroyed so many sites.

My apartment-bathroomMy apartment-shower

How does my bathroom stay so sparkling clean? And the floors in my dressing room so polished? I owe it all the Senora Esperanza who comes every Tuesday to clean my home. Her fee is included in my daily rent of $22 a night. Yes, I know, insanely cheap.

My apartment-dressing roomMy apartment-dressing room closetYou’re probably wondering who owns this fine home that is mine temporarity. Senor Santiago Scotto is the owner and lives parttime upstairs from me. He’s a very nice man, though i seldom see him. he’s a retired history professor, currently a psychologist, owns the local Pemex gas station and has been renting my apartment to students from my school for over 20 years.

My apartment-living roomMy apartment-view thru french doorsMy apartment-view from my windows

Insanely cheap especially when you look at my enormous living room, so much bigger than mine in Seattle, or when you throw open the french doors and breathe in the fresh air (ok, it’s a polluted ravine so I kind of went overboard with the fresh air thing…).

My apartment-kitchenMy apartment-refrigeratorMy apartment-packing my schoolbooks

The other students at my school are staying with host families, but I opted to have my own apartment (enough of the homestay 30 years ago in Austria when I was an exchange student). What’s in my mexican refrigerator? (In Spanish, “Refri” for short). Salsa, huevos, queso cottage, tortillas, yogurt, BeLight. Ok, how many words did you translate correctly. I totally gave it away with the “queso cottage,” didn’t I? I pack my lunch into my new REI Odyssey backpack (almost pickpocket prooft – zippers only on the part nearest your back. Just try to steal my homework!).

My apartment-seating areaOOh, I really wish that i could sit here on these comfy chairs but I’ve got to get to school. it doesn’t operate on “Tiempo Mexicano” or Mexican time, and I’ve already gotten the reputation of having adapted totally to that relaxed approach to punctuality!

Out the front door and up these steeeeeep stairs. Walking to CETLALIC-I go out my front doorOuWalking to CETLALIC-and go up the stairs

Walking to CETLALIC-pass through the gardenWalking to CETLALIC-and leave the house through the front gate. Yes it's made of bamboo.Walking to CETLALIC-I cross the street.

Santiago is adding a garage to the house right now and the garden i pass though has lots of construction materials ready for the next project.Did you ever read about Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. she believed that if work never stopped on her San Jose home, she would never die. So workers kept hammering away for years and years. That’s a bit like the way most home construction happens in Mexico, I’m told. Build a little now, stop when the money runs out. Build a bit more when you’ve got more money. That explains why so many houses seem half completed or half falling apart, I can never tell which.

Walking to CETLALIC-but first I look to the right up Calle AcaciasWalking to CETLALIC-then I look to the left Pedestrians’ Rights in Mexico: 1. To run when the car is heading right at you. 2. To survive when the car hits you. So, first I look to the right up Calle Acacias, or Acacia Street. Then to the left. Then I cross – a car may still dart out from Street of the Artist!

Walking to CETLALIC-and pass by the first little store.Walking to CETLALIC-i pass by the 2nd little storeWalking to CETLALIC-i pass by the 3rd little store on my block

I pass by 4 different tienditas or “little stores” on my block. Yes, 4, and they all sell Corona, but the first one also offers pet food in big containers on the sidewalk, and the second one is pushing push brooms, mops and and other cleaning necessities. The awning on the third one i always forget is coming up and I’ve hit my head because i’m so busy taking pictures of interesting cobblestones.

Walking to CETLALIC: today must be garbage day in my neighborhood.Walking to CETLALIC-last week the power company trimmed the trees so they wouldnt touch the power lines, but no one has come up to clean up the mess

Garbage day – not yet. But when it does come, it reminds you that the old exists side by side with the new in Mexico. As the garbage truck drives slowly down the street, the driver rings a copper bell hanging outside next to the sideview mirror. Clang Clang Clang – last call for garbage!

Our American love for grassy front yards has not made it to Mexico. No, they build their houses behind high walls that line up right up to the sidewalk, sentinels guarding the secrets or luxury within. Maybe I will buy one of these 3-bedroom, 3-bath condos and find out what life is like on the other side of the wall?

Walking to CETLALIC-I like this dome on the house.Walking to CETLALIC-like these orange houses.Walking to CETLALIC-condos for sale - maybe I should buy one?

Walking to CETLALIC-approaching the crowded El Tunel intersectionWalking to CETLALIC-getting ready to dodge traffic crossing El TunelWalking to CETLALIC-my friend the policeman stops traffic every morning so I can cross

When was the last time you saw a cop directing traffic? Me neither. But without the men (and the one lone woman) I’d never make it across the El Tunel intersection (see above: Pedestrians’ Rights in Mexico).Remember the bridge they call the tunnel? I finally learned the true story about this misnomer…El Tunel is a tunnel running UNDER the bridge, diverting the water from the river above into the resevoir below.

Walking to CETLALIC-I turn onto Calle Francisco MaderoWalking to CETLALIC-and arrive at the CETLALIC front gateWalking to CETLALIC-first i have to ring the bell so they will unlock the gate

Well, our walk to school is over and i hope you enjoyed seeing the sights along the way. All we have to do is ring the bell and Jorgito will let us in. We made it with just seconds before the 9am class begins…just enough time to head down the back stairs, into the kitchen, say hi to Francisco, grab a cup of 5-peso coffee, maybe a piece of pan dulce (mmmmmm) and run to class. Hasta muy pronto!

Walking to CETLALIC-then i climb down the backstairsWalking to CETLALIC-then I walk into the kitchen where teacher Francisco is washing dishes, and I buy a cup of coffee


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