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Oaxaca #3, La Sierra Mixteca continued

Oops, I didn't mean to send that last post. I hadn't finished it yet or edited it so please forgive the spelling. Here is the continuation of that last post

Javier had already walked up to the home so I headed up to find him. It was a larger complex of a extended family with a couple of homes. I waited outside of the one of the kitchen structures for Javier and the family to emerge. I great them and was already more comfortable with this smaller group and would have no problem taking pictures. The mans son about 7 or 8 showed some interest in me so we entertained each other while his father and Javier figured out what additional supplies he would need. The. young boy wasn't hesitant at all to interact with me. we worked around the language barrier as he showed me his plastic figurines collection. He was a little hesitant about having his picture taken, but as I was taking pictures of his dad and Javier he became a more interested. And didn't seem to mind when I would turn and shoot a quick picture of him.

Javier and I head into the Village and to my surprise one of the little girls from the group shoot I had taken about an hour ago greeted us. Her parents owned the store in the community. She introduced me to her little brother and insisted that I take more pictures of her. Javier again meet with the men to talk business but this time with a much smaller group. This, our second community must have been only one twentieth the size of the previous one. As Javier and the men meet I split up my time taking pictures of them, the environment, landscape and the little girl who loved to have her picture taken and look at the images on the back of my camera. She couldn't get enough.

As we headed back to the first Village Javier explained that we would be returning tomorrow morning to help build a clean efficient wood stove for one of the families.

Javier and I joined the Odila, Penina and Merium as well as large chunk of the women from the community and their youngest children in the clinic for lunch. We all sat around as one big group and ate rice, beans and some sort of stewed meat and potatoes that I'm pretty sure was pork.

After sitting around for a while letting the food settle Javier informed me that he had a twenty minute meeting with a couple of leaders from the community and then we would be building a stove. Before the meeting I joined Javier in delivering some of the supplies he had sold earlier that day.

I had some time to kill while Javier was in his meeting. So in addition to taking more landscape photographs I watch some of the men from the community play basketball. Already the meeting was running late when a young man of about 13 sat down next to me. He had a goofy smile on his face I kinda thought he might have come over to entertain his friends, a group of boys/young men sitting together about twenty feet away. He asks where I was from and if I like basketball and if I play basketball. Instead of just saying yes I attempted to tell him in spanish about how I used to play a lot until I was eighteen and that a knee injury had prevented me from playing very much over the last 10 years. I have no idea weather he understood me. He asked if I would like to play with them. I hesitantly agreed to play. I knew what was comming next. The tall american show up. A good four to six inches taller then the tallest man in the community. Sure enough, they wanted me to touch the rim. I hesitated participating in this game, knowing that they would expect me to dunk the ball next. But I gave in and touched the rim. Seconds later, from what I can tell they were asking me to dunk. I tried to explain to them that I couldn't dunk. By the way, I'm pretty sure those are 9-9 1/2 foot rims because I can't remember that if I've ever gotten my wrist to touch rim. We shoot around a while. A few of them challenge me to one. They where having a lot of fun. They wanted me to play a game of 5 on 5 with them but i explained that I was waiting for Javier to finish his meeting and then I would have to leave to build a stove. Instead I took pictures of the mountains as the sun got lower. But once their game had finished and Javier was still in his meeting I gave in and played a full court games with gang.

It turns out that the gentleman we would be helping to build a stove wasn't all that interested. Manos e Vida really wants the participants in their projects to care about them so they are sustainable and can be passed on. They arnt giving hand outs or building your stove for you. They ask the individual to participate so they know how to repair it if something should happen.

So instead of building a stove I spent the next few hours attempting to play basketball, full court at 7000 ft. It was rough I could barely make it up and down the court. I basically had to chose to play one end or the other. Which wasn't all that bad because these kids loved a good fast break.

Once it got dark I called It quits but some of the kids kept playing at one end with small flood light. I ventured down to the clinic where I found Javier and all the younger kids crowded around a tv we had brought watching a made for tv movie. I took a few pictures and watched for a few minutes. I have no idea what was going on. I got board an went outside to take picture of what was left of the sunset and the stars.

A couple of boys joined me. I tried to explain to them that I would have to take very long exposures because there was no light. Them seemed to understand. Even when an image took 20 minutes they stuck around to see the end product on the back of my camera. I also tried to explain why the stars became lines with a long exposure like. I'm not sure if I successful conveyed that or not. While we waited for each exposure we made shadow puppets with my flash light on the steep slops next to us.

We finished up just as the movie ended. Afterwards they had a brief question and answer period talking about the moral of the story. The kids were definitely interested and I can tell that very few of them ever get to watch tv. After a quick game it was dinner time.

The 5 of use from Manos de Vida wandered with flashlights in hand over to one of the homes in the community. They were all shocked that I wasn't freezing with just a longsleve shirt. They were all bundled up and parkas and still shivering.

They started with nes-cafe and bread. I opted for the warm milk because I wasn't sure about the water they were using. We ate a simple meal of fried eggs, beans and tortillas. And of course their is always some sort of salsa. This was all at about 9pm. Dinner is eaten a lot later her then in the states. Lunch is actually their big meal. Dinner is usually lighter. So right after we ate it was of to bed.

The next morning Javier an I got an early start an where out the door to the second community by 8am. One of the men from the community was waiting for us at the community building and invited us to breakfast at his house. We followed him up the hill to his home. As we entered the kitchen hut, who did I see but the little girl from yesterday who loved to have her picture taken. She was eating breakfast with the man daughter who predictable was her cousin. In these small communities extended families often build their home around each other.

The girls finished their food and made room for Javier and I. As Javier and I drank some Starbucks VIA ready brew that I had brought with me, the mans wife heated tortias with beans and quesillo. She left the pig fat grease off of mine. We are all still a little unsure about what that would do to my system. The man returned with fresh produce from his garden to show Javier. He had some very nice lettuce and green tomatoes. Which is no small feet for an airred climate and limited water. I realized at that moment that I had never seen a green tomato because I had not idea that they grew with a light husk around them. The man sat and drank coffee with us as his wife prepared breakfast. The two little girls sat sharing a chair in the corner playing and giggling. It turns out that this was the first energy effician clean stove that Javier had built. It was still working great. The chimney was bringing all the smoke out of the kitchen hut and the three "burners" or cooking surfaces were working well.

The people of this area have been cooking with wood stoves for thousands of years. They burn open fires in their kitchen huts without ventilation. Ths has lead to very high rates in respiratory diseases. Many kitchen huts are black from all the smoke over the years. A group of engineers designed an easy to build woo stove that uses less wood by channeling the smoke into two additional chambers with heating plates for pot and pans. The smoke them exits the kitchen hut through a chimney in the roof. Manos de Vida's clean stove project makes a huge difference in these communities and hopefully these stove building techniques with be passed on an around the community.

After breakfast and before we helped build a stove Javier had some business to take care of with other members of the community. While that was going on my two new little friends and joked around as I took more pictures of them.

There wasn't much for me to do during the building of the stove. They had more then enough hands. It managed to help a couple of times shoveling sand and mixing cement, but otherwise was useless. I set up my tripod in a permanent location and continually took pictures from that location to document the building of the stove. I also took a lot of hand help shoot using my flash to balance the harsh afternoon light.

The stove's simple construction of bricks and cement only takes about two hours to build. Afterwards Javier, the other two men who helped build the stove and I walked to two more homes to check up on their stoves.

Javier had a little more business to take care of with other community members and so I played some soccer with las ninas. A little while later we headed back to the clinic and loaded up the truck to head home.

It was a nice but bumpy ride out of the mountains. I thanked Adam for not comming when we got back to the office. It can't say for sure but I probably wouldn't have had quite as unique of an experience if he had been their to be my crutch. This was a great experience. It was great to see how these small communities although struggling and absent of support from their government survive and maintain many of their ancestors traditions. They still speak their indigenous tongue as a first language. These are the Mixteca.
That night to celebrate Adam and Dulce to me to another one of their favorite street vendors. I call is Quesadilla sin quesadilla but really is a Quesadilla sin tortilla. Its a delicious mound of fried quesillo with meat and some onions inside. You use small tortilla to eat it. it was awesome.