So where did I leave off? Saturday?
Alright, so after I finished the last entry, we went to the gallery to see Mary Ellen Mark. She showed us work that had never been exhibited in the United States before along with a video. The photographs and video were about a boy named Alexander in Iceland. He is severly disabled and goes to a special school. The photographs featured many of his classmates, while the video focused mostly on Alexander, his parents, and his grandparents and also had interviews with the teachers at his school.
Sunday was a busy day. We all packed into vans and roamed the Mexican countryside. First we went to see the Tule Tree which is a giant tree that has the largest base in the world (I think). Our professor was all about the Tule Tree during class throughout winter quarter and since my big sister is kind of a tree hugger, I was getting a little excited. It was pretty impressive. After we wandered around there, we started wandering through the town. Some of my classmates probably have more pictures of the town's stray dogs than the tree itself. Also, right near the entrance to the tree, there was a little store that sold mezcal, a liquor similar to tequila. They had it straight but they also sold it mixed with all sorts of flavors (crema de mezcal) and they had some samples. Unfortunately, the lady working didn't know English so unless you knew the translation, the only way to know what flavor it was was to taste it. Passion fruit and coconut were my favorite. My roommate really like the coffee one.
Our next stop was Tlacalula. We went to another market there. Unlike the market Saturday where there were lots of buildings, this one only had one building and lots of people set up on the street with tarps strung up over the street. The wind was really strong so we kept getting bonked in the head with tarps. Also, since this was a much smaller town than Oaxaca, more people were reluctant to have their photographs taken.
From Tlacalula we drove to Teotitlan de Valle, a town that is famous for its rugmakers. We stopped in at a place to get a demonstration of how the wool is made into yarn. First it's washed then brushed (he let people try this...it was hard) then strung (Kyleen and I got to try this...we broke the string) then dyed. Then he showed us the rug he was working on and a rug a woman was working on. If the pattern on the rug is a picture, it is first drawn onto the strings of the loom but if it's just a pattern, it's usually in the rug maker's head. Many of my classmates including myself wound up buying rugs. My first choice rug was $2100 pesos so I didn't get that one. I found this other one I was in love with (navy blue and gray) but it was made from a different type of wool and was MUCH more expensive. I finally picked out a navy blue and purple rug with a pattern that represents the cycle of life on it.
We wandered around Teotitlan for a bit after that. Joanna, Caitlin and I were invited into an elderly couple's home. We took photographs of them, their home, and their belongings. They were really cool and asking about us and telling us about themselves. The husband was a school teacher at the elementary school. Apparently, this couple was not unfamiliar with random photographers running around town. When we asked for his address, he showed us an envelope full of prints that some other photo students sent him from three years ago.
We thought we were done after this...it was already dark out! But we had one more stop...a small factory and shop where mezcal is made. Learning about the process was really interesting, but our tour guide had to interpret for us. Later, they gave out more free samples (luckily this was nearly twelve hours since the last!) and more people bough some mezcal as souveniers or gifts.
Monday was our first free day which was nice after that busy day. We were supposed to have meetings with our professors, but Caitlin and I hadn't edited our work yet so we spent most of the day doing that and going shopping for souveniers. We visited a chocolate factory and watched chocolate being made. That was really cool...people could order custom chocolate right there. They would mix it all together in one machine and then put the mixed-liquidy chocolate into another machine. We would have gotten chocolate from there, but they give it to you in plastic bags which would not have been good for the plane ride.
Yesterday we took vans up to Monte Alban, a site once inhabited by Zapotec Indians. There are all these pyramid-type structures that were built about two thousand years ago. We climbed to the top of some and then wandered around an area the Zapotecs had somehow flattened themselves. Afterwards we split into two groups. The first took the van down the mountain to Arrazola, a small town. The rest of us hiked down the mountain. I say us because I was one of the ones that hiked. It was hard at some parts...areas that sort of just dropped...but I made it! When we got about halfway to Arrazola, we were out of the trees and you could look up and see Monte Alban. We had to walk through another town to get to Arrazola and this was probably the poorest area we had been through. By the time we FINALLY made it to Arrazola, one van was leaving for whoever wanted to go back to the hotel. The town looked pretty dead...most people were home eating dinner, so Caitlin and I went back. We fell asleep so early last night!!
Today is another free day. I was going to sleep in, but Caitlin woke up early to go with one of our professors to some small town and inadvertently woke me up. That's fine by me, it means I can get some stuff done before I go out to eat and shoot. I have to empty my memory cards and start packing...I leave to go home tomorrow!!
Now for some pictures...
Caitlin and I at dinner at the Camino Real
The trunk of the Tule Tree
Me in front of the Tule Tree
Shinay on a see-saw in front of MOUNTAINS.
Shinay and I trying to take a jump picture
Caitlin and I at Monte Alban
Caitlin and I on top of a pyramid
The mountain I hiked down. At the very top you can just barely make out the beige pyramids. Barely.