My 30 minute commute to work in the morning first dueled as exercise and companionship for my host mom, Evila, then some solo walking observation time, then car rides with my host dad, Samuel, complaining about the abnormally lengthy rainy season, and most recently have converted to 15 minute bike rides. That's right, I'm the proud owner of a magenta mountain/rode bike covered in "Mundo Ceiba" stickers. Mundo Ceiba is the equivalent of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, except it is literally ONE person (Ruben). What work he has set out for him! Running a non profit promoting bicycle awareness in a driving culture with no respect for pedestrians, let alone cyclists.
And since the rains have stopped the last few days, Oaxaca has now welcomed me with sunny mornings, a chorus of barking dogs and those trucks that inch by with loudspeakers. They wake me up and say "Teresa, it's time to descend that metal spiral staircase outside, eat some beans and tortillas at the kitchen table, tell Evila about the weird dreams you had, and hop on your new magenta bike!"
After I zig zag my way through the neighborhood I arrive at Calle Abasolo which directs me straight down to the city center. On my right I pass on old cemetery that Samuel claims he doesn't like to drive by after dusk. Above the main gate, the phrase "La Eternidad Empieza Aqui" (Eternity Starts Here)is painted in black. Sometimes, old women sell flowers outside for visitors. Calla lilies are in season here, just like the ones in the Diego Rivera murals.
I always slow down and observe the mornings by the cemetery: the family member(s) entering with their fresh bouquets, so lively and colorful but in remembrance of such a somber occasion. I think about how people buy flowers for life and death and every thing in between. There is always a brown rusty bicycle locked up to a tree near the cemetery gate and I wonder if in my morning routine, I cross someone else's. Or maybe it's been neglected for a couple weeks, who knows.
Two blocks later, I pass my friend Maria's house on the right, always with an urge to ring her doorbell. But because of my somewhat ridiculous haste coupled with the fact that she doesn't even have a doorbell to ring, I have yet to do so. Another two blocks later the roads change- a sign that I've arrived closer to the center. Instead of uneven pavement, I'm crossing cobbled-like streets.
I'm awake now! If it wasn't the "exercise," it was the honking, the car exhausts, or the careful maneuvering of the uneven pathway below and traffic to the left. Soon I'll pass an old church with pastel yellow steeples, burnt red trim, and faintly sea foam green colored rocks, covered in old age and pollution- perfected with time, like my Spanish (NOT!!). Across is a long plaza with little booths being prepared for the day's market.
I've smelled the tamale stands, noticed the navy uniforms and passed by the students drinking their morning juice from a straw in a plastic bag, and now the hill up Calle Porfirio Diaz become my day's first challenge.
(This is when living in San Francisco comes in handy.)
And as I triumphantly shift gears and arrive to the top, there's an old Mexican man there with a smile to say "que dura que eres!"
I'll miss these bike rides when I move into a place of my own next week closer to work. But they've taught me an important lesson. Rather, they have REMINDED me, because I think everyone realizes this: mornings are so beautiful!
Maybe this realization has affected me physiologically. I've been getting up without an alarm which if you know me well means I'm either going to bed at 8 or have (finally) carved out for myself a normal sleeping pattern. (!!!!)
Either way, I think Oaxaca is starting to turn me into a morning person. I've already made plans to go to yoga on Saturday at 10 for the second weekend in a row. Will I ever return to the days of waking up just in time for a late lunch? (I think it's a definite possibility).