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Do you think these ice cubes are purified water?   Click to view Shit Gringas Say Part Uno.

Zapatistas are so hot!   Click to view Shit Gringas Say Part Dos.

Why do they put chili on everything???

I had a blast writing and directing these shorts with the amazing improvisational actress Megan Martin. Enjoy!

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I have a confession to make. I made a deal with my daughter when she was still on the inside. I wrote her a letter and told her that I knew she could beat her brother’s time. You see, Max is like a super Flash Ninja baby. He came out on his due date in a record 5 hours 15 minutes. I told baby girl if she could beat him, if she could get here swiftly, like super duper fast with no complications, I would give her a little more leeway in the teenage years. I’d forgive her if she stole my car or raided my liquor cabinet or lied to me and went to see a boy instead of sleeping over her best friend’s house. I assured her that I wasn’t trying to promote any kind of bad behavior or competition between she and her brother, but I wanted her to beat him. Cause girls can and do beat boys. Cause she’s my little rock star and she’s gonna rock it right out of the park. And boy, did she ever. Here’s how it all went down.

It was a Wednesday. A perfect Wednesday morning. Miguel, Max, belly and me woke up just like any other day in the Oaxacan countryside: roosters crowing, donkeys hee hawing. The normal chaos of morning had us tripping over wooden blocks, rushing to get ready, pack bags, feed kid.

After dropping Max at preschool, we head down to Oaxaca’s center. Sunny blue skies stretch out over Santo Domingo. We find a shady spot and eat breakfast under the Jacaranda trees. Then we move to our favorite coffee shop. Computers back to back, coffees side by side, we work. A few hours slip by and it’s almost time to pick up little man.

On our way to the bus stop, I impulsively stop. “Hey Papi! If we take a taxi instead of the bus, we’ll have time to hit my favorite photography museum… Please?” It doesn’t take much to convince him. The space is all ours. Sparse rooms house beautiful black and white portraits of Oaxacans taken by Oaxacans. We pick our favorites, then snap a few shots of our own and we’re off.

When we get to Max’s school, head teacher asks me if I’ve had any contractions yet. “Nope, not yet!” Ironically the very moment I say this, I feel a strange, more intense than normal tightening of my belly and think, ‘Hmm, this isn’t the standard ‘baby breakdancing in there’ feeling I’ve been having. Could this be it? Naaah. Couldn’t be.’ I don’t mention any of this to Miguel as we moto-taxi to the bus stop. I suppose I don’t want to psyche him out.

We board a rickety old bus circa 1995. The ride is bumpy. The aisles are crowded. The sky has turned a deep grey now. It feels like it might rain. Miguel gets a seat in back and Max falls asleep in his arms. I half-sit half-squat over my metal seat up front. I don’t want to sit down, as I’m convinced that the massive potholes in the rocky-dirt road will toss me and belly hard enough to break my pelvis, or tailbone, or some other really important body part on landing. So I hold myself there, like a surfer – bracing, balancing. I try not to entertain thoughts of, “what if my water breaks right here on this little old farmer’s sandals?” and instead lose myself out the window as city turns to country.

Just before our block the driver suddenly stops the bus and gets off. No need to worry, Oaxacan bus drivers sometimes do this. They usually go to get a Coke or chat/fight with another driver. I think ours went to take a look at his tires, but who cares because – how appropriate – Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns and Roses just came on the radio and I have this urge to sing it. Loud. I’m a pregnant Gringa and I can do that if I want. Nobody’s gonna stop me. Ooooooo yeah heaaah. I control myself at a normal Karaoke level and we get off just before I’m able to break into the air guitar solo.

Back home I realize that I better get napping if I’m gonna make it to Pre-Natal Yoga. Damn, I love Mexico. This siesta thing rocks. Papi puts Max in his room to continue his nap and we lay down together. It’s 3:15. As we snuggle into place, Miguel hugs me tight and says, “I just want you to know I’m ready for little lady to come. I’m ready to hug her and kiss her and change her diaper…and…” “Yeah yeah, I’m sleeping,” I mutter.

A few minutes pass and I’m juuuuuuuust about to fall into a deep sleep when all of a sudden I’m startled awake. VVVVVOOOOOMMMMM. An INTENSE rush of indescribable pain surges through my pelvis, belly, being. I sit up, scared, out of it. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Miguel literally jumps out of the bed. Are you alright? Que pasó? Was that it? Is this it?!! He smiles giddy, bouncing around with excitement.

I’m still sitting on the bed. I’m nervous. Is this it? Nah. This can’t be it. Can it? That was a really intense feeling. I know that feeling. Man, I HATE that feeling! That shit hurts! Okay, no worries. Let’s just get up slowly, go get a glass of water, walk around the house. I move into the hallway and VOOM. There it is again. Oh no. Back to the bedroom. On all fours, on the bed. FUCK.

All of a sudden the phone rings. It’s Miguel’s mother who always starts the conversation these days with, “Ya? Is she in labor yet?” Miguel says yes, but I tell him, No! We’re not sure yet. Tell her you’ll call her back! The contraction subsides. I try to get back to that glass of water, but SON OF A MOTHER! There’s another one! I rush back to the bedroom. Damn, they’re coming fast.

I resign myself to the fact that this is it. It’s actually happening. I’m having. another. baby. Right now.

Miguel lays my yoga mat on the floor next to the bed. I kneel down and take myself back in my mind to the last time I was in labor. I remember it vividly. I spent a long time in the beginning resisting the pain, fighting it, clenched jaw, clenched fists, but not this time. I’ve decided that I’m going inside the pain from the start. I place my palms and fingertips slowly, purposefully on the mat. Okay baby girl. We got this. I lean over and let my forehead come down to touch the mat between my hands. Here comes the next wave. I breathe. I chant. Open open open. Come fast come fast come fast. I see myself from the outside for a moment; I look like a Muslim woman praying, bowing, folding towards Mecca. The wave passes and I slip into Child’s pose to rest.

When I open my eyes, I see them. Under the bed. Jesus, they’re everywhere. Dust bunnies. Migueeeeeeel! He runs into the room. Que pasó mi cielo? Are you alright? Papi there’s a lot of dust under the bed! I can’t look at that while I’m in labor! Can you sweep? He laughs, shakes his head and reappears with a broom. Man, I love this guy.

Just as he’s finishing up under the bed, Little Maxwell is startled awake. My bad. I’m pretty loud. Poor Miguel tries to tend to his cries and mine at the same time. After Max calms down a bit, he comes to see me. He pushes me over, plops himself down on the mat and says, “Yoga with Mommy?” God he’s adorable. He looks up at me and puts his little hand on my cheek, understanding that I’m going through something. “It’s okay Mommy?” I hug him tight and think how lucky I am. This pain is without a doubt the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life and I shudder just thinking that it’s coming back in a minute, but now I understand the payoff. And when I look into my kid’s eyes, I honestly feel that it’s all worth it. That said, here comes another wave and he can’t be here. I need to focus. Miguel takes him out of the room and I’m left alone.

I brave a few contractions sola, and soon feel the need to shift positions. I drape my upper body over the side of the bed, my arms stretched out and my knees on the mat. I’m in a constant conversation with myself to NOT TENSE UP and LET THE PAIN COME. I’m trying to stay open but it’s really hot in here and it fucking hurts and I wish Miguel were by my side but he can’t be here cause he’s gotta get Max’s bag ready, install the carseat in his folks’ car and keep little guy calm.

I try to find peace in the moments between contractions. I tell myself that I’m not alone. I remember, like last time, that 235,000 other women are doing this right now at this very moment. I close my eyes and imagine the woman physically closest to me. I drift up the Oaxacan hills to a small adobe hut, where I find a woman with long black braids, on her knees just like me, braving the waves. I salute her. We can do this.

It’s 4:00pm now, about 40 minutes have passed since my first contraction. Max is on his way to the grandparents’, and I’m happy to see my midwife Lauren. “How’s it going?” she asks with a hug and a smile. “It fucking hurts!” I tell her. “Well, you’re the one who wanted a fast birth!”  She and Miguel pull up some floor and offer support as the contractions build in length and intensity. I’m breathing heavy and sweating A LOT. I should probably take off Miguel’s thick hoodie, but I don’t want to. It makes me feel secure.

When my water breaks, Lauren reassures me that it’s all good. I’m so thankful I chose her. She knows just when to offer reassurance, advice or a wink. And Miguel. There he is, on all fours, right next to me, literally holding me up, my right arm braced over his shoulders. God I love him. But I need a break! The contractions are coming so fast now. It seems like there’s almost no time to rest in between.

At one point, Lauren asks me if I’m pushing. I respond in a very strained Nooooooo (but I guess it sounds like I am pushing.) I explain that, No, I’m not actively pushing – it’s my body, not me! I mean, I’m not helping it, it’s just happening! You know, like Ina May says – Sphincter law? Is that okay?  Of course, she says, it’s fine – your body knows. During this little exchange, I realize that I don’t even know how dilated I am, so I ask her. She replies, “Yeah you’re almost there, almost done, just a few more pushes now.”

Wait, I’m sorry, WHAT?  Did you just say I’m ALMOST DONE? Miguel and I look at each other in utter disbelief. What do you mean I’m ALMOST DONE?! I JUST STARTED!! “Well, I can see the head now, so just a few pushes…” Holy mother of all that is good and gracious, HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE??!! I laugh and smile and stare at Miguel in awe. “Miranda, are you kidding me? No manches! You’re amazing! How is that possible? How did you do that??!”  I don’t know, I can’t believe it! I can’t fucking believe it!  Really? This pain is about to be over, and I’m getting my birth AGAIN??! I can feel the adrenaline rushing through me. I’m shocked and humbled and overjoyed and euphoric.  “Papi, Kiss me!” I tell him. And we lose ourselves in the most perfect kiss.

When we’re done making out Lauren reminds Miguel,  “Hey, if you want to catch the baby, you’ll need to come over here by me.”  He had wanted to catch Max but it didn’t happen, and he was really looking forward to receiving Lola, but he said when it came down to it, he felt like going “over there” was a mile away, and he didn’t want to leave me. He looks me in the eyes and says, “No I want to stay here with Beth.”

Just knowing that I’m close gives me a massive boost of strength. I take a deep breath. I’m on all fours, knees on the mat, left arm on the bed, right arm over Miguel’s shoulders. I’m ready. Lauren reminds me that she can see the head, so when the next contraction comes, I should welcome it with a deep breath and push s-l-o-w-l-y. Okay, slowly. (For a change.) Got it.

I do what she says. I trust her and I trust my body. I brace myself, focus and breathe in. I push once. The head is out. (Ouch Ouch Ouch, HATE that the head is out and I have to wait for the next contraction to push again.) I breathe in. I push twice. Wait, something’s weird? Maybe I’m not positioned right? Breathe in. LAST PUSH. I give it all I’ve got, and I feel the need to stand, so I follow my instinct and push myself up. As I do, I feel a shift and our daughter spirals out into the world.

Epilogue

She’s here, but this all just started a minute ago. Okay, not a minute ago – 1 hour and 30 minutes ago. Our second midwife didn’t even make it here in time. How is this possible? We can’t believe it, but we’re thrilled. I’m in awe of my body and the transformational power of birth. And I’m in love with this little lady. I can’t wait to tell her how awesome she is.

Miguel goes to get us some water, and as he looks out the window, a little yellow bird flutters towards him, perches on a wire for a moment, then flies off into the Oaxacan hills.

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When we came back to Oaxaca this past September, my husband and I were set on one simple idea: we were going to find a cute little flat in the city center – close to coffee shops, galleries, laundromats and restaurants. You see, we’re city folk. We like the conveniences. We like the parks and cultural events and being able to walk or bike everywhere.

But this time around it seems Oaxaca had something else in store for us. After an exhaustive apartment hunt in various barrios around the center, we realized that the best deal by far was a quaint little country house in the hills of San Felipe. Way cheaper rent, a patio, a washing machine (!) and a lovely view all beckoned us to the outskirts of town. It has been an adjustment, but a really good one.

Here are some observations:

In the city my two year old runs to the window to watch the street sweeper go by, screeching: Stee Steepuh! Fssshhh! Fssshhh!
In the country my two year old runs to the window to watch the donkeys walk by, screeching: Donkeeeeey! Hee haaaw, heee haaaw!

In the city we take evening strolls down 5th Ave.’s perfectly paved sidewalks.   In the country we take evening strolls down the dirt path next to the cornfields.

In the city we get Pizza, Sushi, Chinese, Tacos or Thai for dinner.
In the country, we get whatever Mami is cooking for dinner.

In the city a breath of fresh air is hard to come by.
In the country the air is so fresh it’s sometimes overwhelming.

In the city you’re forced to make peace with pigeons, rats and roaches.
In the country you’re forced to make peace with spiders, scorpions and slugs.

In the city the cacophony drowns out your thoughts.
In the country you can sometimes hear your heartbeat.

In the city bumping into friends everyday is a given.
In the country you can only hope that friends will make the trek out to see you every once in a while.

In the city you choose between an indy flick, a gallery opening or a new restaurant.
In the country you choose between a book, a DVD or the World Wide Web.

In the city you walk outside and spend 20 bucks in less than two minutes.
In the country, your wallet remains buried at the bottom of your bag.

The city is definitely for me. I love it, and I’ll happily return to the hustle before long. But the country is not so bad after all. I’m actually really happy that my newborn daughter gets to spend her first months breathing in fresh air, and soaking up mountain vistas. Viva San Felipe! Viva el Campo! Viva Oaxaca!

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Dear Oaxaca,

Bright yellow Oaxacan walls

Hey love, how have you been? Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I’m back. I don’t know if you noticed but I took a little spontaneous trip to see New York a few weeks ago. I know, I know, I’m cheating on you again. But look on the bright side – I was faithful to you for an entire year without so much as a weekend fling with my old flame.

Forgive me, cariño. I don’t want to hurt you. You’ve been so good to me this year. I feel like we’re closer now than we’ve ever been. You’ve shared so much with me. And you’re so easy, relaxed, laid back. Sure, you’re not very punctual or organized and sometimes people and politicians take advantage of you, but I’ve got nothing but love for you. You’ve shown me so much patience and grace. Above all, you’ve been so welcoming and wonderful to Max. He’s yours, you know. We came here so that he would be a part of you, and so you would be a part of him. And he’s had such a fantastic first eight months growing up with you.

Okay, I’m sure you know where this is going, so I’ll just get to the punch.                 I’ve decided that I’m leaving you and I’m getting back together with New York.   Please don’t be mad. It’s been a really tough decision to make.  New York is completely the opposite of you. All crazy and busy and go, go, go, never stop. But whatever I do I just can’t seem to break it off with her. There’s something about her, her edginess, her confidence, that I’ve always been drawn too, you know?  (The Bagels and Pizza and amazing community of old friends doesn’t hurt either.)

Anyways, I didn’t want to just up and leave you without warning, so I’m giving you some notice. I’ll be leaving on the first of July, so that gives us one last month to live it up and enjoy each other. You’re so good at living in the moment that I’m sure we’ll have a great time these last few weeks.

25 minutes from Oaxaca City, up in the mountains.

And I promise you that this is by no means the end of us. We’ll maintain the long distance thing (like we always have), and before you can say Guelaguetza, the holidays will be here, and we’ll be together again.

I don’t really have anything more to say except thank you. Thank you for everything, mi amor.

Love always,                                                                                                             Miranda.

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First I’d like to apologize for having neglected my blog for so long. On my due date, Sept 23rd, I woke up totally convinced that my half-Mexican kid was NOT going to arrive on schedule. Accordingly, I started a blog entry entitled, “Ahorita: (NOT) right now, or how I came to understand Mexican time.” But before I was able to finesse and put up the post, to our surprise, the little guy decided to make his debut! He was only one hour late – and he’s had me pretty busy since his arrival… But I’m back now.

Virgin Guadalupe, Patron Saint of MexicoAs for my Labor Day, I’ve come to the conclusion that Guadalupe IS there and I must have done some serious favors for her in a past life, because my birth experience turned out to be absolutely INCREDIBLE. Not only was my labor super short (5 and a quarter hours total!) but the whole scene ended up looking and feeling the way I had wanted. (Actually, the feeling part I couldn’t have imagined. Pushing a baby the size of a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon is a pretty daunting task. Okay, it’s the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life, and task is probably the worst synonym I can come up with for labor, but I did it.) It was amazing, inspiring and empowering. And I know now, without a doubt, that I would do it again in the same way. But let’s go back to the beginning…

I had always thought that the day I gave birth I would wake up knowing, “this is the day.” Wrong-O. On my labor day, I got up just like it was any other day. I spent a good part of the morning at the market and then made a huge pot of chicken soup (talk about a random motherly thing to do – my Jewish mother would have been so proud.) While the stock simmered, one of my midwives, Cristina came over. We chatted for awhile, and after a quick check-up she told me I was 1 centimeter dilated. Since it often takes women days to get from 1 to 10 centimeters,  Cristina assumed babe wouldn’t show up until the weekend… So, Miguel and I went about our day. We lunched with a friend. We attempted to take a siesta, but couldn’t fall asleep. We planned to see Soderberg’s CHE Part I at a local theater that nite after my Prenatal Yoga class…

Fast forward to early evening. There I am, stretched out in Warrior Two, breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth, tightening and releasing, working the pelvic floor muscles. I’m feeling great. After about an hour of exercise, it’s time for relaxation. As we all lay still in the dark, our Yoga instructor Lauren (also one of my midwives) makes her way around the room and puts a little dab of essential oil on the back of our necks.  When she gets to me, she puts her hand gently on my neck, and all of a sudden I feel this intense CRACK in my pelvis. Then a ridiculous rush of pain runs from my womb straight up to my head and through my whole being. ((Shudder)) Oh. My. God.  This is it.

OM I keep my game face on for three long OM’s.  The rest of the Pregnant Yogis bid me farewell with smiles, suertes, and you can do its. Out in the courtyard, Miguel is waiting for me. It’s about 7:45. Despite my having what I think are four contractions right there outside the studio, we decide that we should still try and go to the movies, because, well, early labor is supposed to take a while and you should do normal things to pass the time. So we start walking to the theater.

Not five minutes into our walk, we’re in the middle of Jardin Conzatti, one of my favorite green spaces in Oaxaca, and there I am  – hanging onto a tree for dear life. Yep, in labor, I’m an all out tree hugger. When the pain comes, I MUST MUST MUST get to a tree. Hold the tree. Put my hands up and grab onto those limbs. Pull down hard. Breathe fast. Whoo Whoo Whoo.  After a few rounds of this Miguel realizes that passersby are staring, and we should probably get out of there. Besides, the contractions are 5 minutes apart at this point.  (Miguel called our midwife, Cristina, who said to time them and call her back.) Wait – five minutes apart? Are you sure, Miguel?  Isn’t that the “cue flight of the bumblebee” moment in the movies when the ladies rush off frantically to the hospital to scream their heads off?  Why, yes – it is. My instinct tells me – go home. Go home. Go home. Che will have to wait. So we make our way home.

To get to the spot where we always hail cabs, we have to traverse a few blocks, another park, and (OOPS!) make a quick stop at a mini-market – (there are a few supplies we just realized that we haven’t got for the home birth).  All the while I want to be hugging trees. I hate anything not naturesque. I’m  pissed when I have to go through a contraction up against a graffiti covered concrete wall.  I don’t want to be around people either.  Just Miguel. Miguel and nature. Oh, and I want to walk in the grass.  F the “keep off the grass” signs. There’s a nicely designed spiral grass formation in the middle of the park and I want to walk around and around it. I brave two contractions in the spiral and we jump into a taxi. The cab driver wants to bring me to the hospital, but, nope – we’re going home.

parque llano

When we walk in the door, Miguel and I lose each other for a bit.  He’s busy trying to fill up the birthing tub which we installed a week before. I’m busy trying to load two video cameras, (the small family one and my big professional one.)  I need to load the tape, mount a microphone, set the timecode and white balance- but I keep on getting interrupted by these darn contractions!  Come on, I tell myself, you’ve done this a million times – but I’m super distracted.  In the meantime, Miguel realizes that we don’t have enough water to fill up the tub.  (You see, unlike in NYC where there is a seemingly  infinite stream of H2O coming from who knows where, here in the Global South, you have this tank of water on your roof. Every three weeks or so, you run out of water and have to pump water from a bigger underground tank up to the littler tank.  This takes some time, and usually the first batch of water is sandy and silty – not optimum for a birthing scenario.) Miguel tells me we have to let go of the water birth possibility. I realize I have to let go of the big camera possibility. We agree. I load the smaller camera and get back to my contractions.

I want to change. It’s hot. I want to wear one of Miguel’s white button down shirts, the one from our engagement party. I want to be on all fours, on the floor in our bedroom with a pillow under my knees and my hands on the cold tiles.  I need water.  I think of my mother in labor with me, on her back in a hospital bed for 11 hours with no water. I can’t imagine how she did it.  If someone tells me I can’t be on all fours, I’ll strangle them.  I can’t believe how often these waves are coming. I also can’t believe how the pain goes away completely in between. I realize that this is the miracle of childbirth, that I get real bonafide BREAKS in between contractions. It’s not like other pain – which starts strong and persists.

I want Miguel to be next to me for every contraction. I call out to him. He comes right over, falls to his knees with me.  He breathes with me.  I love him. I nuzzle into his neck. I hug him.  I can’t believe this is actually happening. He brings me mango and water. The mango is sour and not yet ripe, but it’s delicious.

Our midwives, Cristina and Lauren are here now, it’s 9:30 or so.  I hug them.  Their smiles are warm, welcoming and reassuring. They make me feel safe and strong. They have suitcases and set up lots of equipment.  They check me, and realize I am 8 (!) centimeters dilated.  They can’t believe it.  They remind me, “This is what you wanted, Miranda! You’re getting your birth!” I’m excited, but the pains are so intense that I can’t really go beyond this wave that is happening right now. Miguel says, “you’re almost there” and I say, “don’t say that, don’t say that, don’t say that.” Maybe I don’t believe it.

I want to take a shower. The warm water feels good. It helps me relax. My legs stop shaking. I feel like I’m high, there’s so much adrenaline, serotonin and oxytocin rushing through me. Soon the hot water runs out and I get out of the shower shivering. When I grab my bathrobe, I discover the terrycloth belt which is part of the robe. This is perfect! I think to myself as I fling the belt over a hook in the bathroom, pull down and brace myself for the next wave.

I love this belt thing – I fling it over doorknobs, fall to my knees and pull down. At some point, I try the birthing chair but I don’t really like how it feels – it’s too big for me. I don’t want to sit. I go back to the bedroom. I’m on my knees and I drape my upper body over the foot of the bed.  I clench the mattress edges and tighten my fists when the contractions come.  I shouldn’t do this, I know – I’m resisting the waves, I have to let go and channel the rushes down. Lauren guides me, she tells me to put my head down so my neck touches my chin, and to let go of my upper body, release the tension, channel the pain down, down, down. When I let go, I can feel the difference – I can feel my body opening. I can feel him moving down.

The next two hours blur together. I’m my most instinctual ANIMAL self. I crawl around on the floor on all fours like a cat. I moan low, deep moans from my core. I hug Miguel for long moments. Film me, I tell him. I fall asleep completely in between contractions.  I call out to my son, Come baby.  I feel the Goddess, some other energy, there. I tell myself that 200,000 other women are doing this right now, and I can do it. I want to cry, because it hurts, but I can’t summon the tears, and here comes another wave. Motherfucker, I say. I can’t do this.  “Yes you can” says Miguel.

At some point, the midwives tell me that I should try to go pee, because an empty bladder will make more room for baby to move down. I go into the bathroom with Miguel. I’m standing above the toilet. I go through three intense contractions there. I feel how gravity is helping.  Poor Miguel, I pull down really hard on his neck.  At the end of the third contraction I feel a new pain. A different pain. The ring of fire. I’ve been told about this. It’s the burning sensation, the stretch when the baby begins to crown.

I walk out of the bathroom and tell the midwives about the new pain.  I want to sit on the birthing chair now. I’m in the hallway. I’m about to give birth on the floor in the hallway. Cristina looks me in the eyes and tells me, “Your baby is coming now.” She takes a mirror and shows Miguel that the head is crowning. Both midwives ask me if I want to touch the head, but I say no. No. No. I don’t want to touch the head. I believe you.

I tell Miguel to set the camera up so that we can film this moment. He tells me that he wants to be present.  I insist that he go and put the camera on a table in front of us.  “How’s the shot? Can you see me?”  There I am, producing my birth, after all. The camera is rolling. Miguel comes back to me. I brace myself, my hand on his knee. He is right there by my side. I’m ready.

I push. Once. Twice. Three times. And our son joins us.

lafamiliasun

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I think it’s safe to say that approximately 32.6% of my decision to move to Oaxaca was based on the fact that we’d be living around the corner from my one-of-a-kind mother-in-law, Carmelita. Not only is she the most outgoing, entertaining, happy-go-lucky Oaxaqueña I have ever met, she’s also retired and DYING for a new grandkid (her other three grandkids are 7, 13, & 15.) On top of this, she loves me to death.

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Every time I go over to her house she has some wonderful little surprise for me. For instance, yesterday, Miguel and I decided we would lunch with the folks, and when we called them to let them know we’d be coming over, Mama asked us what we wanted to eat. I said “Tinga!” (Tinga is a delicious chicken tomato onion stew goulash that you eat with tortillas.)  Of course it takes about two hours to make Tinga, and since we called them right before lunch, it wouldn’t have been possible yesterday. Fast forward to today, just before lunch, Carmelita calls us to let us know that (SURPRISE!!) my Tinga is ready and waiting for me. And that’s only the half of it.  For real…

What, it´s too hot in here, Miranda? Oh, let me get you a fan… You’re thirsty? Oh, let me get you a lemonade… You’re not feeling so well? Let me rub your back. You want to go to Yoga? Let me pay for that. You want to use cloth diapers? Oh, no problem – I’ve already bought the material and sewed 50 for you… I know it sounds like I´m a spoiled brat, but, well, I am. And I am loving every minute of it.

carmelita and me.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I feel a little guilty and have to put the brakes on, like when she “steps in” while I´m doing my laundry and wants to finish it for me. Or when she IRONS the baby clothes. (Seriously, who IRONS baby clothes? Totally unnecessary.) But it’s the love that I can see in her eyes, when I walk in the door, when she gives me a big hug and rubs my belly, that makes me feel unbelievably blessed. There’s just something so wonderful about having a motherly woman doing motherly things for you in such an unconditional way. I think that this is one of the reasons I´m supposed to be here now- to be on the receiving end, to know and feel what it’s like, and to really understand what it is that I will one day offer my own child. 

Everyday in her actions, Carmelita teaches me another lesson about offering up unconditional motherly love.

Last week, she told Miguel and I that we’ll have to get a petate soon (this is basically a straw mat that you put on the floor) because she will be sleeping over a few times a week after the baby comes so that she can help us. Really? A 58 year old woman (who lives 5 minutes away) is volunteering to sleep on a straw mat on the floor so that she can wake up to baby’s cries and help us do dishes, clean the house, cook and change dirty diapers?  Now, that’s love.  Unconditional, motherly love.

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Okay, I don´t know how to say this, but living in Brooklyn for the past nine years has turned me into an all out food snob.  And I’m realizing that being pregnant and living in Oaxaca is not helping me resolve this situation AT ALL.

It always starts out great.  Miguel and I get here and immediately load up on all of the wonderful Oaxacan delicacies we can´t get in NYC.  Real, bonafide Oaxacan mole.  Quesillo.  (I´ve probably eaten enough string cheese by now to stretch from here all the way back to Brooklyn.)  Oh, and don’t forget the Tlayudas.  Memelas. Estofado.  Potato filled Tacos.  Fresh tortillas hot off the comal.  Salsas.  Mmmmm salsas!  And all the fresh mango and avocado you can imagine.

comal ladiesAnd so it goes.  We enjoy the local cuisine.  We eat mom’s Mexican home cooking. We go for breakfasts at our favorite food stands where ladies serve the same things their grandmothers served before them, under the shade of the same old colonial chapels.  About a week goes by.  Then another week. Then another.  And then… I start craving stuff. Stuff I can’t get here.  

I can’t get just made, still hot sesame bagels with scallion cream cheese here. I can’t get Thai spring rolls with tamarind dipping sauce. I can’t get a mini-mountain of fresh wasabi to smother all over my crunchy inside out spicy tuna roll.  I can’t get Greek yogurt with honey. I can’t get Gloucester cheese with chive and onion. I can’t get vanilla rice milk or chocolate soy milk.

But here’s my real dilemma.  I can kind of get some of these things. I know, for example, that I can get veggie burgers and Soba Noodles at Sam’s Club. (Read: WALMART.)  And I can get Organic, Pesticide Free Milk and even some Organic Valley Cheddar Cheese at Chedraui, better known as Super Che.  Yes, Sam and Che (not uncle or Guevara ) but the two biggest box stores in Mexico, work their hardest every day to import and distribute all sorts of delightful products to the Mexican masses. 

me and samBut wait.  Are my cravings that important?  And how organic is my Organic Valley hunk of cheese if it has to travel like 5,000 miles to get to the store? Where do I draw the line? 

To me, just the fact that Sam’s Club/Walmart exists in Oaxaca is horrible. It’s contemporary colonialism at its worst. It cuts out all all the middle men and severely limits the abilities of smaller, local businesses and merchants to compete.  Also, we all know Walmart has a terrible track record when it comes to allowing employees the right to organize for a fair wage.

IMG_4612CHEdraui isn’t much better than Walmart, but there aren’t like, whole movements against the store, or extensive documentaries and books being written about the bad stuff they are doing in the world. Regardless, I know Chedraui is not good. And upon entering the Super Che Market in Puerto Escondido, instead of breathing a sigh of relief as I hit the wall of air-conditioning, I watched as my conscience and stomach battled it out…

Conscience:  “What the hell is wrong with you? Have you so quickly forgotten about the eco-cide?” 

Stomach:  “Oooohhh, but I see those super crunchy Asian rice crackers over there! And smoked salmon! Lox!  And didn’t you see that amazing infused olive oil in aisle three?  Let’s just go over to the dairy section…Come on…forget about the ecocide for a second…”

Conscience:  “Okay, ‘mother to be‘ if that’s what you want to teach your unborn kid.”

Stomach:  “I hate you.”

And so, my conscience wins and no matter how many foods I find that I love and want to break open and devour at that very moment, I can’t stop thinking about “the incident.”  Let me explain. 

You see, there’s a massive square block of Oaxacan land about five minutes from my house in Colonia Reforma. I walk by it all the time on my way to the center.  Some say it was a “natural reserve” where rare breeds of bird and other animals thrived for years.  Others say it was privately owned and subsequently sold to the Chedraui corporation.  Regardless, one night about a year ago, Chedraui’s owners decided that they would begin construction of yet another store using up the entire block. 

The weird part is, they started “construction” without notice to the locals, in the middle of the night.  They sent an army of men with chainsaws and bulldozers to clear the green swath of land as swiftly and “quietly” as possible.  You can imagine the chaos and scandal it caused in the community.  Here’s a video about the incident.  Of course after much outrage by various eco-groups, the city ordered that construction cease. By then, it was already too late. Hundreds of trees (some over 300 years old) were brought down. Here are some photos I took on my walk to the center recently. 

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Sigh. 

So you see my internal conflict.  With all this stuff in mind, I think I have no choice but to do my best at being a “localvore.”  I´ll keep shopping at the Pochote Organic Market and El Mercado de Abastos and some of the other specialty stores where I can get some of the stuff I want.  

My mom sent me a recipe for bagels the other day.  Maybe I´ll just have to make my own. But if anyone wants to send me and Miguel some Kashi Go Lean Crunch or a bottle of Pom Blueberry, please feel free.

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