Settling into San Cristobal

A couple of days ago, when I was walking down Avenida Diego Dugelay, toward Calle Tapachula, I saw a sign advertizing, among other things, tacos and tarot. I thought that would be a good summary of San Cristobal de las Casas. This is Mexico—to the max—but there are things here that one may not find in another Mexican town. Because of the large extranjero population, there are services such as tarot readings, vegan cafes, tattoo parlors, and yes, yoga studios. However, this presence in no way overshadows the indigenous and ladino majority.
As I walk down the street, or pass through the market place I hear mostly Spanish, but also Tsotsil, Tseltal, and a sprinkle of European languages mixed with a little bit of English. English. The only time I speak English is when I am talking on the phone to someone back home. My previous grasp of Spanish has done me well, but I still have a lot to learn. Little by little it is getting easier and easier.
When I first arrived, late January 4, I was taken by taxi from the airport to Dona Teresa’s home. She gave me a cup of chamomile tea and tucked me in. The next morning I woke up to chorizo and eggs, and made my way to the language school, La Casa en el Arbol. I still have in my mind the vision of the purple wall of one building joining the yellow wall trimmed in green of the adjacent building, as I walked along a sidewalk barely wide enough for two people to pass, that alternated between cement, stone, and dirt, past cell phone stores, bakeries, clothing shops blasting music, women wearing furry black skirts and ornately embroidered satin shirts selling burlap sacks full of pine needles or moss.
The very next day I found an apartment to rent. Well, I found two apartments and had a very hard time choosing which one to stay in. Both were about the same price, one is a little ways out of town, which means it is quiet, and peaceful. The other, the one I chose to rent, is centrally located, so very convenient, but also noisy. The first week I was here I was moving into and in between two apartments, attending classes at the university for the first time, and taking Spanish classes in the evening. With all of the newness, swimming (well doggie paddling, but at least not drowning) in the deep waters of a foreign language, and the incessant rumble of muffled traffic and other city sounds, I thought my head would explode. The first three or four nights in my new apartment were filled with regret for not choosing the remote location of the contending apartment. I may not have slept at all those nights if it weren’t for the restorative yoga postures I have up my sleeve, and the Art of Flying collection I have in my music library; the sound of David’s voice singing sweet lullabies couldn’t have been more soothing. I also have a book by Ruth Lauer-Manenti that Jayne gave me which reminded me of what Patanjali says in The Yoga Sutra: “if we listen to sound without the chitter-chatter of the conditioned mind, free from our labels, if we listen to it as pure sound, then we will hear a symphony. We will hear AUM.” That is what I aspire to, but in the meantime, I learned the word for earplugs and the farmacia hooked me up with a good night sleep.
I am now weaned off of the earplugs and content with my little city apartment, which is enclosed in a lovely courtyard garden shared with two other apartments. My neighbor in one is a Czech woman working for UNICEF here. Two couples—Spanish and Argenitian– live in the other apartment. I am sitting at a small desk near a vase of jasmine flowers. I just received a load of wood for use in my little fireplace on chilly evenings. I get my drinking water in five gallon jugs from the trucks that pass by at least once a day—I just have to listen for the “raindrops are falling on your head” jingle, then run out to the street with my empty bottle to exchange for a full one.
The photos here are of the corner of my street where I walk up the hill to the bakery, and the market place where I but my fresh tortillas, beans, fruit and vegetables. Mostly, I am eating at home and enjoying the variety of fruits, fresh cheeses, herbs, chocolate, and bean tamales.
And, the whole reason I am here is to study, right? Yes. I just finished week two of university classes. I am taking four classes: Interethnic and Intercultural Regions, Cultural Projects, Oral History and Tradition, and Indigenous Social Movements. Other than the fact that they are all conducted in Spanish, the classes are pretty basic anthropology courses, but very interesting because of the context of this region. Studying in Mexico creates a bridge between my Southwest studies and Andean explorations, making for a well rounded embrace of the Americas.
Speaking of which, time to hit the books. I have about 100 pages to read by Monday and it takes me about twice as long to read in Spanish as it does in English. Also on Monday, January 23, I am happy to say, I will be spending my 41st birthday in the country of my birth. The key ingredient missing is my friends and family. Still, I am happy to be here doing this, and look forward to hearing from you via email, or phone (I have a Verizon plan which allows me to receive and place calls between the US and MX w/ no roaming charges! 575-776-7866).
Each day feeling more settled, and by the time I really start to feel at home, it will be time to go home! Lots of Love and Gratitude for this opportunity and all the support I have received. XO Sonya Luz

On the way to the panaderia


beans and umbrellas

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sonya! Thanks for this wonderful sharing of your exciting adventure! I am so happy for you having this fabulous opportunity to learn and expand both your knowledge and your heart.
    Sadly though, our paths miss again… Isn’t it odd? I’m at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos for 3 months of a painting residency- through April 23. I was really looking forward to seeing you!
    Suerte y fuerza!
    Con mucho cariño,

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