Friday, February 16, 2018

Food for the Heart, Body and Mind!

Phew:  divergent geometry where parallel lines meet; the tempered scale of 12 notes- is it a mathematical or algorithmic scale?  It's an exponential scale that the Greeks, with their obsession with astronomy, probably brought it about. Einstein physics goes back to the isosceles triangle and the Pythagorean theorem.  My head was spinning and I had to leave the breakfast table to catch my breath!   As Loren said, "The noise that you may hear is a lot of minds being stretched (happily)!!!"

It's only the first day that Emil and Judy have been here.  I always look forward to the discussions even though many of them are way beyond my ability to comprehend.  I just marvel at the minds at work.  Emil works for the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and has been to EVERY county in the world!  Last year I asked if I could see his passport which was very large and very thick with lovely visas stamped throughout.  Judy is a mathematician who until a year ago worked for the National Science Foundation and was very instrumental in establishing a very famous telescope in Chile.  One couple brought a world map down with them that was blank.  The challenge was to write in every country of the world.  When we posed this challenge to Emil he was undaunted.    When someone raised the possibility of getting all the "istan" countries correct, Emil said no problem!  There are 195 countries in the world and it's mind-boggling to me that I know someone who can name them all!!

It was Valentine's Day and the Zocolo was hopping with couples going up on a stage in the middle of the square and then people stated chanting, "Beso, Beso, Beso" and the couple had to kiss!  We surmised it was sponsored by some TV show.  There were heart balloons all over the place.  It is also Ash Wednesday, but there were more balloons than ashes!

Natalia always goes all out for Valentine's Day and she didn't disappoint this year.  The table was decorated with beautiful roses and for dessert, she created a gorgeous heart cake.

Last night we discussed David Brooks' NY Times Editorial called, The End of the Two-Party System.  I found it to be very interesting.  He contrasts the big news items of the 1990's: the reunification of Germany, the Oslo Accords, the end of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa - all things that Brooks says are part of "an abundance mindset" - to the financial crisis of today, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan politics, the protective borders of 2017 which Brooks describes as the "scarcity mindset.  Trump as the leader of this Scarcity mind set has embraced the Warrior style of governing.  Anyone who isn't with him is against him.  In describing what this style of governance is doing to the country he says, "Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than they ever imagined. "  We had a very interesting discussion about this and I highly recommend you read the piece.

I just finished the book called The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner.  It's a fun read.  In addition to spending less than one hour watching TV, access to natural light, living near nature and owning a dog among other things, having 4-6 servings of fresh fruit adds to one's happiness quotient. There are actually several components to happiness that occur naturally here in Cuernavaca and the abundance of fruit is only one of them.  Every morning we have a platter of fruit passed around the table with mangos, papayas, bananas, grapefruit, pears, pineapples and watermelon.  Then often our dessert for lunch has fruit in it.

I loved the other day when a whole, peeled mango appeared stuck on a fork for each of us to eat like a delicious lollypop!

I will leave you with a poem that my son, Arthur, sent to me and which I brought down to share with this diverse political group in Cuernavaca.  Hope you enjoy it.

written by Brian Bilston

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Changing of the Guard

Well it's been a week since we arrived.  Oddly, it seems like we've been here much longer; as if it's where we belong!  Three couples have departed;  a new couple has arrived, and another is due in today.  Over the years we have met so many of Fred and Kat's special friends and are always delighted to find we will be overlapping with them, although it's always fun to meet new people.

This is such a unique experience and one reason is that we have the privilege of being here for a whole month, so we see the coming and going of a variety of people.  Each departure and arrival changes the tone, the energy, and the discussion.  It's sort of like signing up for four weeks at Chautauqua and getting four different experiences.

We had a very interesting discussion the other night.  Fred proffered that the two fields where we are seeing the most important advances are Physics and Astronomy.  As proof he said, "the number of electrons that can go through the head of a pin in a second is the same number of drops of water that go over Niagra Falls in one hundred years, and it takes 8 minutes for light to reach the Earth from the Sun;  it takes 100,000 years for light to reach the Earth from the farthest star in the Milky Way (of which the Earth is a part.)"

The discussion continued as we realized that electrons are much large than nanotrons and whether we have any understanding of physics, we certainly know that electrons are ubiquitous in our lives.  I like sharing my computer story of when, right after college, I went to work for Pan American Airlines in the Pan Am building in NYC.  Pan Am had just acquired their  Panamac computer which took up the entire 47th floor of the PaAm building.  We used to go up to see it- hermetically sealed in a room with airconditioning to prevent it from overheating;  enormous reels turning.  I was told not too long ago that my iPhone has more computing power than that computer, taking up the entire  47th floor had in 1967!!

All we could do was marvel and wonder what kind of a world it will be in the not so distant future.

Fridays are Natalia's days off, so that's when we take Fred and Kat out for lunch and dinner.  Last Friday we went to my two favorite places.  We had lunch at Las Mananitas which I have featured in many of my previous Mexican blogs.  It's where the albino peacocks roam freely and the parrots talk vociferously.  It's also where we imbibe margaritas before lunch which really takes its toll for the rest of the day!

Then for dinner, we go to Gustos.  It's a delightful small hotel not far from our house with an excellent restaurant and an amazing staff.  Fred and Kat really like this place so I am hoping that we will go back every Friday before we leave as there are so many things I want to try on their menu.  Last Friday I had a delicious corn soup that came in a hollowed out gourd.  Then for my main course, I had salmon that had a guava sauce and it was delicious.  In addition to being scrumptious, the food is also presented in such a beautiful way.  The Caesar salad is made at the tableside as well as many other dishes.  The favorite dessert is figs prepared in a delicious sauce that is flambeed at the table and served with a dollop of cheese ice-cream.  Yum!

And you might be interested in the exchange rate.  I think it is the highest that I remember:  about 20 pesos to the dollar.  There were ten of us for dinner at Gustos- a really beautiful, classy restaurant.  We had margaritas and drinks before dinner.  Many had appetizers and everyone had a delicious main course.  Most had wine with their meal and there were several shared desserts.  Just think about that and ponder what a meal like that would cost you in the states.  The bill for an exquisite dinner for TEN people came to 5000 pesos - equal to a bit more than $25.00 a person!!

I also went to buy some shampoo and creme rinse at Woolworths and the bill for both bottles was 64 pesos.  That's about $3.50!!  For both!!

I was a Trump junkie before arriving here in Cuernavaca, but I have been amazed at how easy it has been to wean myself from my daily dose.  We briefly discuss the Yahoo and AOL headlines that we see on our computers such as the First woman to do a triple axel at the Olympics, or Netanyahu's possible indictment.  But the discussion rarely goes further than an acknowledgment as we have no talking heads or panels of professionals feeding our habits.  We were a bit more curious about the Obama's Official portraits, and Fred has sent us all David Brook's editorial about "The End of the Two-Party System" which we all plan to read and discuss tomorrow night at margarita time.  But I highly recommend, as an experiment,  turning off all your news feeds for a day or so.  I think you'll find you haven't missed much of anything and your life just might be more interesting!

A real luxury of Cuernavaca is the ability to read without interruption.  As I mentioned before, there is a table where people place books thaey have brought and they are up for grabs to anyone who might be interested.  Here,  I have discovered Donna Leon.  I had heard about her from many friends, so I picked up her 10th book, A Sea of Troubles and have delighted in her writing, thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of Venice,  and found a new friend in Brunetti, her charming and cunning detective.  Not sure what book I will pick up next!

Well I think I'll send this on for now.  Stay tuned as I sense there are some very interesting discussions coming up.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018- Back In Paradise

When I dislocated my hip three weeks ago, one of the first things I said to Loren as I was writhing in pain on the kitchen floor was, "I'm going to Mexico!"  Nothing was going to stop me, as, after only one full day here, I know why.  It's just glorious!  Fabulous people, amazing food, impeccable weather and invigorating conversation.  I am calling it my "Cuernavaca Rehab Center" and it's better tonic than any doctor could have prescribed!

We were given what Fred refers to "the bridal suite" although "that's putting the cart before the horse," he was quick to remind us!  I retorted that "Sorry Fred, but that horse is already out of the barn!"  Here is a panoramic view of our bedroom:

 And lest you forgot... here is what we are calling "home" for the next month!

Our political talk has been almost nonexistent.  We only get Fox News here on TV which is so awful that we haven't been watching it.  We'll get an occasional update from someone who saw that Nancy Pelosi talked for over 8 hours in 4-inch heels, but then we all seem to shrug and continue on with other conversations.  Some of the topics so far have included a recounting of hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, a two-week walking tour from the east coast of England to the west coast, Ruppert Murdoch, the quirkiness of birding, a lot about the political and art scenes of Chicago and many more.  The "book table" contains a wide variety:  Donna Leon's latest detective story from Venice, a number of Economists, The Elements of Typographic Style, Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, and Architectural Digest.

There is a lovely American couple who live next door.  Gail and Phil George have an incredible house that was once in Architectural Digest and that Fred and Kat had rented for two years.  Gail & Phil invited us all over for cocktails on Wednesday afternoon.  I wish I had some pictures to show you as the home is indescribable.  It was really fun for me, as it brought back many memories of when we had stayed there.  The house is modern with an overall white motif.  But the artwork, furnishings, and murals are astounding.  Phil had been in the CIA before becoming an architect himself.  He created the design for the old Braniff Airlines terminal.  Gail is a gracious and energetic host, and Sergio, a key member of their staff, makes killer margaritas!  We had a lovely time and returned home just in time for Gilberto to announce that dinner was "listo."
 Fred and Kat Hickman, Gail and Phil George sitting in the front row with the Hickman guests behind.

One couple, Judy and Lester, have made a tradition of bringing something for the group to read in preparation for a collective discussion.  One year they brought Thurber's Secret Life of Walter Mitty, another year it was a Garrison Keillor piece.  This year, for some reason, they decided to challenge us with a section of a book called Aging Thoughtfully by two very erudite professors from the University of Chicago.  The piece they selected for us was Aging and Friendship written by Martha C. Nussbaum, a doctor of philosophy.  She crafts her thoughts around a large collection of letters written between Cicero and his friend Atticus.  Lester opened our discussion asking us if we wanted to emphasize form or function.  I was already out of my element.  We were a little shaky with the Cicero/Atticus conversation, but there were some wonderful exchanges about friendship and aging when we allowed ourselves to get personal:  The older one gets, the more important friendship is;  there needs to be some shared values but differences can strengthen friendship; the ultimate friendship involving trust and forgiveness is found in a marriage;  our culture tends to make older people feel invisible;  some were reluctant to reveal their age in public fearing they would be dismissed as not having anything to contribute.  It was also revealed that having obvious physical difficulties like walking made one constantly being helped and aided without being asked when in fact we'd really like to do most things ourselves and keep our independence even if it might be at a slower pace.  The discussion ended after dinner while we were all having coffee in the salon.  Judy quoted Cato from our handout:  "Old age is honored only on condition that it defends itself, maintains its rights, is subservient to no one, and to the last breath rules over its own domain."   She then continued to say how the assembled group perfectly exemplified this quote.  Fred and Kat have the most incredible social network around them that they have nurtured over many years;  we were active people traveling, volunteering, getting involved in civic and art programs, painting, singing, attending classes and in so many ways staying alive and well.  We ranged in age from 70-90 and we decided, at least for our short stay in Cuernavaca, we weren't old!

Enough for now.  Hasta Luego.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cuernavaca Calisthenics!

I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our Cuernavaca Fitness Class that was established on day one!  We arrived the evening of February 14th - Valentine's Day.  The dining room table was set formally with roses and candles and in front of every woman's place was a long tubular gift wrapped in festive paper.  When we opened them we were surprised to find a solid rubber tube - a gift from Judy Munson!  It had the words "THERABAND/FLEXBAR" written across it.  Judy told us she would show us how it worked the next day after breakfast.

The next morning after breakfast, five ladies gathered on the veranda and Judy, in her calm quiet, peaceful voice led us in exercises using our new Valentine's gift and then moved us on to work with scarves followed by some yoga poses and stretches.  Judy had a knack of making even a reluctant participator like me feel as if I were doing a great job.  We did these exercises every morning for a week, and it got to be something I began looking forward to; it was even kind of fun.

After a week, our core group was down to two:  Kat and me!!  Kat, who will turn 90 this year, was the instigator.  She was the one who showed up after breakfast and said, "Come on, Nancy, it's time for our exercises."  We took turns counting to ten and then back again.  I kind of led the scarf exercises, and Kat took over for the Yoga poses and stretches.  Whenever we needed a rest we called out, "Mountain Pose" (something Judy had taught us) and we stopped to take some deep breathes.

Then Jan joined us;  first just to watch, but then, on her second day here she brought her scarf and was swaying and stretching right along with us.

Now the big question is will I continue to do these when I get home without Judy's calming voice or Kat exhorting me to do them?  I hope so!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Many Problems; Few Solutions

I'm not sure if I can explain it, but there is something that changes when you put some geographic distance between you and the USA.  It is also significant that we don't watch television and our only source of news is old newspapers guests arrive with (usually the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune) and what we get on our AOL and YAHOO email feeds.

So we all knew that Trump was addressing Congress on Tuesday evening.  But margarita time is always at 7:00 pm followed by dinner at 8:00.  When we finally retired to the salon for after dinner coffee it was almost nine o'clock.  I asked if we might see if we could get the speech on our one tv English network- FOX!  So we turned it on, and there he was looking very serious and restrained.

Now it's important to know the composition of the guests right now.  One couple is very liberal; one is extremely conservative; then there is Fred & Kat who are moderate conservatives - and finally Loren and me!!  So I would say there was a "guarded" sense as we watched the address.  Shortly after we turned on the TV Trump began talking about Navy Seal Ryan Owens and the camera focussed on his widow who remained seated while the entire Congress gave a standing ovation.  Then Trump continued about the mission and how Ryan had been a part of a very successful raid and his comments were followed by an extended ovation with his widow standing this time toking upward with Ivanka standing stoically next to her.
I have never seen anything like this.  My heart ached for this young woman and wanted her to sit down, but the prolonged applause kept going and going.  When it finally died down, I didn't know what to make of Trump's off script comment that Ryan had just made a record.

But there was no discussion afterward.  The pundits on FOX were ecstatic and stated that there were far more "we's" than "I's" - something worthy of note.  When the Democrat from Kentucky began his oration, we turned the TV off.  And we haven't talked about it since!  Is it worthy of our conversation?  Did we miss something big?  If we had been in the US, in San Francisco, listening to it on PBS would we have a different "alternative" view?  It came and went and life in Cuernavaca has not changed.  I have to say I'm okay with that!!

We had a lively discussion last night about education.  David was a superintendent of schools in a Chicago district while his wife, Susan, taught history at a public high school in the suburbs of Chicago for her career.  The grandson of one of the couples was attending a charter school that required an admissions test which only admitted the brightest students.  These kinds of schools, called selective schools, are among the several choices in the Chicago public schools.  In addition to those that have admissions requirements, there are magnet schools emphasizing a certain area such as the sciences or the arts, and there are neighborhood schools which comprise most of the choices.  Then of course, there are a number of private schools available to the wealthy.

It was generally thought that public school teachers get a raw deal.  For the most part they are dedicated and work very long and hard but are disrespected by society and are rarely recognized for their work.  I was unusually silent during this discussion for the most part.  I did mention the fact that teachers can get tenure in California only after two years and they really don't need to do anything to earn it which I think tends to feed the lack of respect in the general population.  Then, if they perform poorly, it is almost impossible to fire them.  Both David and Susan countered that immediately.  David, as a superintendent, said that he needed to fire a number of teachers and was not encumbered by their tenure status.  So here is someone on the front lines saying that the accepted "facts" out there are wrong- is this another example of "alternative facts?"  I'm beginning to worry about how and where I am to go to get at the truth of things!

I think the reason I didn't join in much of the conversation is that I am uneasy about my opinions.  I taught only in private schools where class sizes were never more than twenty.  I finished my career at Castilleja where I have fifteen in a class and only had four classes.  Susan told me she had 190 students in her history classes in suburban Chicago!!

When I retired, I didn't miss the correcting or the faculty meetings or the administration or the parents, but I did miss the kids.  So I volunteered at The James Lick Middle School in Noe Valley in SF.  Noe Valley is a predominantly white upscale neighborhood of SF, but the local school is comprised of Latino and African American students who are mostly bused in.  I went every Tuesday and Thursday to help students with their writing in a 7th grade English/history classroom.  The teacher was a dedicated, young African American, but I couldn't help wonder how she could keep coming every day.  In a private school, almost every student in that classroom would have either been asked to leave the school or at least been sent out of the classroom to the principal's office.  Chaos erupted every five minutes with students jumping up or talking or running around or talking on their cell phones.  During my first week, I had given a writing prompt and most students had begun to write something.  I saw one boy with his head slumped on his desk doing nothing, so I went over and sat down next to him and said, "May I help you get started?"  He slowly raised his head, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Why don't you fuck off lady."

In over thirty years of teaching that had never happened to me.  I stood up and walked away.  There was another student, Arthur, who was probably the worst behaved in the class, but there was something about him that drew me to him.  I later asked the teacher what his story was.  She told me that Arthur's mother was shacking up with some guy who hated Arthur.  So everyday, when Arthur went home, he was never sure if the door to his apartment would be bolted or not.  If the boyfriend was there, Arthur would do his homework in the hallway, go with out dinner and sleep on the floor outside his apartment.  I was appalled that a mother could actually allow that to happen, and I never looked at Arthur the same way again.

For about ten years I had recited a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay to all of my students.  My best friend and I had always started the Christmas season reading this poem together, so when she died, I committed the poem to memory and had a poster made up that as illustrated by a friend who was an illustrator for children's books.  I recited the poem and then gave each one of my students a copy of the poster.  Since this was the first year of my retirement, and I no longer had students of my own, I asked the teacher if I could recite this poem to her class.  She was delighted.  So I told these young 7th graders about my friend and how I had memorized the poem after she had died and recited it to my students.  I thanked them for listening and allowing me to keep the tradition going.  Then I recited The Ballad of the Harp Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  There was silence in the classroom;  every eye was fixed on me.  When it was over, I handed out the poster to each of them.  Arthur raised his hand and said, "I never heard a poem that long before."  When the class was over and the students had left, every poster had been taken.  In my private school classes, there were always several who left their "gifts."  Although many of my private students appreciated the poem, I never felt it was anything special to them.  The next time I went to the 7th grade classroom, Sequoia came up to me and said, "You know the picture you gave to me?  Well my Mama tacked it up to our living room wall."

I stayed with that 7th grade class for the year and it was a wonderful experience for me, but it also made me sad to see the state of our public schools.  I don't know how long I would have been able to sustain my enthusiasm as a teacher.  Class sizes were huge, supplies were low, behavior was unacceptable.  It's almost as though our society tells teachers to run in to a burning building, knowing there is no fire truck available to come to their aid.

So what is wrong?  Where do we pin the blame?  I read the the United States spends more money per capita on students than any other country in the world.  Would more money help?  Certainly in California when Prop 13 destroyed the tax base our schools went "From First to Last."  We also know a young person who gets paid $49,000 a year and his sole job is to take a paraplegic to school everyday and be with him in each of his classes to help him get the education he is promised.  We know another student who is asthmatic and has a registered nurse in class with her at all times just in case.  There are students in California who are so unruly that cannot be kept in a normal classroom setting and need a "lock-down" high school.  Since there are no lock-down schools in California, they are sent to Nevada at the cost of $100,000 per student per year.  We have a law in this country that says EVERY child has the right to an education, and we must provide that education regardless of the circumstances.  This is laudable, but is it practical?

Many blame the families.  When you step just outside of San Francisco to Marin or the Peninsula, there war fabulous public schools.  If a music program is cut, parents have a fund raiser and reinstate it.  Parent involvement is key.  So how do you reach Arthur's mother to help her understand how she is influencing the future of her child?

Since leaving the James Lick Middle School, I am now volunteering in high school classes through Dave Egger's 826 Valencia Program.  Every public high school in San Francisco has guards at the entrances.  Violence in our schools is an issue.  There are over 72 different languages spoken in the pubic schools of San Francisco.  Most of the students with whom have English as a second language.  Their writing skills are very poor; way below average for their grade level.  But their stories are amazing.  For the most part they want to succeed and are very grateful for my help to improve their writing.  I love working with these students one-on-one, but again, I have tremendous respect but also feel very sorry for the teachers who are trying to help these students.   How can you possibly help 190 students, most of whom don't have a grasp of the language, to succeed.  I don't know what the answer is.  I had a very privileged life as a teacher in private schools.  I seriously doubt I would have lasted in the burning buildings of public schools.

I guess I can't leave this discussion without bringing up Betsy DeVos.  The liberals, in general, think she's totally unqualified and will be disastrous for our public school system.  The more conservative thinkers have a wait-and-see attitude thinking that school choice could bring more competition to the system and the good schools will thrive and the bad schools won't.  Fred, our always thoughtful, deliberate moderator points out that the Secretary of Education really doesn't have a lot of power and that it is the states who make the important decisions around education.  That could be, but if the states are given more authority, and if charter schools are less regulated,  what's to prevent religious schools from teaching only creationism, or a southern school extolling the confederacy, or a Muslim school condoning honor killings?  I certainly don't know the answers to these very complicated questions.  I know there are some wonderful success stories coming out of public schools, but I also see the problems first hand as I volunteer in San Francisco.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Viva Zapata!

1810- Mexico declares independence from Spain, 1910- the Mexican revolution declares Mexico for the people, 2010- Mexico declares war against drugs which takes more lives that the eleven year revolution in 1910.  These are important years in Mexican history, but yesterday we took a Viaje de Zapata and learned quite a bit about the revolution of 1910.

It turns out that at this time Pancho Villa was the hero in Northern Mexico while Zapata was considered a bandit.  In the south- especially in the State of Morelos where we are staying, Zapata was the hero and Pancho was the bandit!

Our first stop was Emiliano Zapata's birthplace in Anenecuilco, a rural village that produced corn and sugar cane.

In 1876 Porfirio Diaz became president of Mexico, and although he ran local elections as a semblance of democracy, in reality he was running a dictatorship favoring the wealth land owners of the haciendas.  Zapata's parents were farmers, and the local people of Anenecuilco were active in trying to redress the seizure of their lands.  So Zapata was raised from a young boy in the art of rebellion.

His house was being "renovated" and a big fence had been erected in front of it.  But we were able to see it as a small modest place, especially when we discovered that Zapata was the ninth of ten children.  There was also an elaborate mural depicting the life and death of Zapata.

The house where Zapata was born

Our next stop was the the site where Zapata was killed:  The Hacienda de San Juan, in Chinameca.
Here we saw a big statue of Zapata on his horse on the exact site where he was gunned down.  Purportedly there are the original bullet holes in the walls surrounding this statue.  He is quoted as saying, "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

There was also a museum in the hacienda explaining the revolution.  It was all in Spanish, so we didn't get it all, but it was very clear that Zapata fought long and hard for the poor farmers and was very successful in getting much of the land out of the hands of the wealthy owners and back in to the hands of the farmers.  There is a statue showing Zapata signing the Ayala Plan which was the most radical reform plan of Mexico.  The Plan of Ayala called for all lands stolen under Díaz to be immediately returned; there was considerable land fraud under the old dictator, so a great deal of territory was involved. It also stated that large plantations owned by a single person or family should have one-third of their land nationalized and would then be required to give it to poor farmers. It also argued that if any large plantation owner resisted this action, they should have the other two-thirds confiscated as well.  

Mural at the Hacienda de San Juan showing the lives of the working people

Statue of Zapata at his headquarters inTlaltizapan

After leaving Chinameca, we drove a fair distance to a rather large house in Tlaltizapan which was the headquarters for Zapata during the revolution.  Here we saw the desk where Zapata worked, some of his clothing and guns, and the bloodied pants he wore when he was gunned down.  Although the revolution happened more than 100 years ago, Zapata continues to have an influence, especially in Southern Mexico.  He fought for Reform, Freedom, Law and Justice - things the people are still fighting for.  He believed "If there was no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government."

There is a sign in Morelos that says:  "You are in Zapatista territory in rebellion, here the people command and government obeys."

And the local Zocolo in Cuernavaca where we go everyday is called the Plaza de Armas and is dedicated to Emiliano Zapata, 1879-1919. 

There is a very large statue of Zapata in Cuernavaca showing him with a machete rather than a military sword.

PS:  (Much of the information about Zapata I have taken from an article in Wikipedia.)

We ended our viaje at the Hacienda Vista Hermosa for lunch.  This was an amazing place- huge in scope and splendid in grandeur.  Ending our trip here was a bit ironic and I couldn't' helming but feel for the poor peasants and workers when I realized that this place was once inhabited by a wealthy landowner and his family.  The swimming pool says it all:

One of the most enjoyable parts of our trip was driving around the Mexican countryside through little towns and passed sugar cane fields.  It is so unlike the United States where one town melts in to another and all the McDonalds and Wendy's and Subways look the one another.  Since it was a Sunday, the village squares were crowded as well as the street markets which seemed to crop up along the road sporadically. 

We asked our driver to let us off at the Zocolo because every Sunday at 5:00 there is a band who plays music in the bandstand.  I took a video of it, but don't know how to get a video in to my blog.  But the Zocolo was crowded with people.  The old ones sitting on benches enjoying a corn-on-the-cob with chili powder;  the young ones holding balloons and scurrying around on their skate boards.  In front of the post office there was a group of "elderly" people dancing to the music from a boom box.  They all seemed to have gotten dressed up for the occasion, and although we weren't sure about it all, Loren and I couldn't help but to join in for a dance or two.  They seemed to be receptive to our joining the group.

Walking to catch a cab home, we stopped to listen to a mariachi band play to an appreciative audience.  The Mexicans are a happy people who like their music, food and camaraderie.  It was a day full of history, and it was fun to be out and about in a world unlike our own.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Our Mid-Mark

It's hard to believe that we have just about hit our mid-mark in our three week visit.  I don't ever take this place for granted, but time is flying by too quickly.

We had a delightful day today;  we went to the zoo!  I think it might have been about seven or eight years ago when Annie was last here in Cuernavaca with her younger sister and brother and we took everyone to the zoo and had a wonderful time.  I thought maybe Annie, at seventeen, might be too old or sophisticated for the zoo this time, but was delighted that she wanted to go back, especially to see the rabbits in the petting zoo!  I found the zoo much more lush and beautiful than the Borda Botanical Gardens.  There is a beautiful waterfall and a rapid stream that stretches the length of the barranca and we had a delightful walk down and back again.

 Annie is quite good in Spanish and was able to get us to and from the zoo, buy our tickets and translate the many signs we encountered.  The tickets were $.50 each for Annie and her mother and Loren and I were free because of our senior status!!

Reading is a favorite pastime down here and there is a wonderful exchange where book sharing is encouraged -although there were more books available in past years before the Kindle became popular.  I just finished reading Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson, who after graduating from Harvard Law School went down south -specifically to Alabama- to help victims on death row.  It is an amazing inside view into our justice system - wonderfully written, hard to take at times, but I highly recommend it.

Now I am reading The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis who also wrote Money Ball, The Big Short and The Blind Side.  It wanders quite a bit but is a fascinating look in to how human beings make decisions.  It tells of the lives of two rather incredible and unique Israeli psychologists who collaborate on a study together.  I just finished reading about how an algorithm can go horribly wrong if the sample being taken is too small.  So I asked our resident mathematician how was it that the pollsters like Nate Silver, could have gotten the election results so wrong.  She said that people asking the questions underestimated the anger in this country.  The polls had worked for many years reliably well.  This year it wasn't so much that the math or algorithm was wrong, they just weren't asking the right questions.  I found that quite interesting.  It was also thought that many people weren't giving honest answers to the questions.  Many people who voted for Trump didn't want to say so.

We had an interesting discussion about the use of drugs.  We all know lives that have been ruined by drugs or young people our children's ages who are struggling with addiction.  Very few of us remembered any drug use while we were in high school.  In my youth, drugs were something that people in the inner cities or gangs used.  We asked seventeen year old Annie who goes to a very well respected pubic high school in the Chicago area about the use of drugs in her school.  She said there was definitely marijuana but actually more of her friends drank than smoked.  She did tell us a very interesting thing that none of us had heard about:  Did you know that there is a nail polish that young college women wear that when dipped in to a glass of wine will turn a certain color if the wine has been spiked with something.  We all thought it is a sad world where something like this is necessary;  but it's also a great thing to have to be safe.  If only it were available for Bill Cosby's dates!!!

It's Friday and Natalia's day off so we'll be going out for lunch and dinner.  The consensus is that we will probably go back to Las Mananitas for lunch so Annie can see the birds and it's unanimous that we want to return to Gustos for dinner.

I didn't think I'd have anything to report as we went to the same wonderful restaurants today as we did las Friday... but I was wrong.  When we all had finished our delicious meal at Gutsos ( I had a pork dish from the Yucatan which was amazing) our waiter told us that since the Hickmans were such loyal customers, the dessert was on the house.  They proceeded to clear the table, taking everything off -even our water and wine glasses much to our protests!  They assured us that we would get everything back.

When the table had been cleared, two waiters came and put a white oilcloth on the table and then they began to dab and smear and paint with a variety of sauces:  chocolate, coconut, berry, fruit.  We were fascinated by the process.

After the table was arrayed, they presented each of us with a spoonful of avocado mousse, a small sugared banana cake and a truffle.  BUT WAIT!  DON'T BEGIN YET!  The Head Waiter came out with what looked like a bowl.  He held it over the table and DROPPED IT!  Crash! it was made of chocolate and filled with berries and nuts.  It broke into pieces int he middle of the table!

Then we all began dipping our truffles and our banana cakes into the various sauces.  We used our spoons to scoop up some red sauce to put on our avocado mousse.  There was a bit of the feeling we all had in our youth when we were finger painting.  What struck me was the silence around the table.  No one was talking;  we were all so entranced by the experience.  

And when it was over, we had had quite a time!

We asked if this dessert had a name and were told:  It's called The Jackson Pollock!

Another day in Paradise!