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Oaxaca #3, La Sierra Mixteca

A McMexiMuffin isn't a bad way to start a morning. These were almost perfect but they where missing Adams key ingredient, quesillo. We substituted mexican crumble cheese instead. This was kind of a comfort breakfast Adam made for us. The breakfast sandwich being an American classic, but now with a Mexico twist. Top Secret Recipe sorry. This comfort breakfast was great, I had now idea what I would be eating while I was in the mountains. My options would be limited and I might have to avoid some items.

After arriving at the office I helped Javier load the truck and introduced myself to the women going with us. Odila, Manos de Vida's community health coordinator to the mountains , Penina, Odila's assistant and also a nurse, and Miriam, an art teacher. Many of the women in the communities they visit are hesitant to talk about health issues. Working on art projects has worked as an ice breaker as well as teaching the women a craft they could potentially sell in their communities.

Our plans for a trip to the mountains change shape a few times. At first Adam and I would be joining the team, then their was only room for one, so it would just be me. The night before the trip Javier informed Adam that their would be space for him because the veterinarian had canceled. Adam decided not to go with us anticipating he would be able to get a lot of pending work done. I was disappointed but later realized that I was better for me. He's been my crutch and by not having him their I was forced use more of my spanish and intuition. I'm pretty sure he new this and is another reason head opted out from the trip.

The beginning of the car ride was a little awkward. I was a stranger that had kinda forced my way into their trip not to mention that I would be hard to communicate with and potentially a burden. However Javier was excited to practice his english and I help me with my spanish. It turnout to be a great situation. He would talk to me in english and I would try and respond in spanish. The awkwardness with the ladies faded quickly as well. We stopped at a grocery store for supplies and some snacks for the car ride. Once we were on the road again they realized I could understand quite a bit of spanish and they started playfully calling me guero, which means white boy, while offering some of their snacks.

I mentioned in my first post that I had just been on the most winedy car ride of my life. We'll, the ride in the truck up into the mountains was by far the most bumpy. And this wasn't some old crappy pick-up. This was a new quad cab dodge ram. The drive into the mountains was beautiful. Even with the bumpy ride I managed to get some nice landscape shoots from the truck. As we drove higher into the mountain we became surrounded by more trees. The geography is very similar to Eastern Oregon in the summer. Its very dry and very dusty. Sometimes the soil is a red clay and seconds later its a white compact sand. Both of which are used for construction of homes. Adobe style bricks are made from the red clay and the sand is mixed with cement.

As we wind our way up into the mountains their is always a sheer drop on one side of us. It amazes me that some many people has chosen to settle in these difficult places. We pass dozens of communities on our way up. All of witch turned out to be bigger then towns we would be helping out in. The last large community before we reach out destination amazingly has a town center, although it was still under construction. This was also where the schools where for all the kids in the communities we where heading to. Some of those kids had to walk up to two hours to get to school. For the next two days any time Javier and I were driving somewhere we would pick the kids up off the side of the road and drive them as far as we could.

As we pulled up to our destination word must have gotten out because all of the men where ready to help unload the truck and start getting down to buisness. I was a little intimiated for the first couple of hours. I didn't want to just asume that people would be ok with me taking their pictures. Many of the weman joined our weman at the clinic just down the road. Nearly every man from the community was up at the offices where Javier was selling fupplies for rabit an chicken coops as well as lamanates which can be used for almost any structure. These are large pieces of recycled tin, used for roofs,walls and sometime doors. Manos de Vida splits the cost of the material with the vilagers. They are animate at not just giving out hand out. If the community invest into these projects they are more likely to be sustained. Manos de Vida offers labor from youth groups and Javier also provides expertise on all projects ecological latrines, eficient and clean wood stoves as well as building rabit and chicken coops and protecting their natural water sources. Manos de Vida finds community members to maintain the projects and pass on the knowledge once they leave.

As the men stood around doing business I felt intimidates by the shear size of the group and couldnt introduce myself to everyone at that moment becuase they where all involve in business. I decided to take landscape and invirermental shoots instead of portaits. I would work on my way into those later as the people became more comfortable with my presense.

Javier rapped up businees in our first community and we headed to our second village. We stopped just before their community building for our first home visit. Javier would be consulting on the construction of a rabit coop and selling the man aditional supplies for the structure. As we'll rolled up we were greete by three little girls. As soon as they saw my camera they asked to for me to take their pictures. I showed them the pictures, they giggled and ran off towards the village.

Javier had alreay walked up to the home so I heade up to find him. It was larger complex of a extended family with a couple of of home.The mans son about 7 or 8 showed some intrest 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. He showed me his plastic figureen colection. He was a little hesitant about having his picture taken, but as I was taking pictures of his dad and Javier he became a little more interested.