Handmade in Oaxaca Group Sale, December 19 + 20, 2014

This Friday and Saturday, December 19 and 20, the plaza at the corner of Calle Rufino Tamayo #800-C and Xolotl across from the Stone Cross — Cruz de la Piedra — will come alive with an exhibition and sale representing some of Oaxaca’s most talented young artist designers. Here you will find all handmade textiles, clothing, furniture, jewelry and ceramics. Artist list below. Don’t miss it!

 @ La Tiendita del Barro by 1050 Degrados

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Post Knee-Replacement Surgery and Return to Oaxaca

You haven’t heard from me since Thanksgiving, two weeks ago.  That’s because I’ve been flat on my back recovering, calmed by a drug-induced stupor from ample doses of powerful pain medications Oxycontin and Oxycodone.

I can’t remember ever having such surreal dreams, supercharged, electrified, day-glow wonders.  My mind took me to worlds I’ve never been, to the middle of a lightening storm of a Fourth of July fireworks show, up in space surrounded by the sounds of a rock band amplified for the universe to hear in one blast. No wonder there’s a black market for these meds.

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It was then I realized I was hallucinating, I was on an emotional roller-coaster and needed to get off the drugs as soon as I could. As I sat in the hospital bed posing for the post-op glamour shot in my last post, I had no idea that moving through the recovery would be so difficult. And, I expected to be driving a car after two weeks.  Huh!

Today, I get the staples removed. My plan is to return to Oaxaca just before Christmas. We shall see.  Meanwhile, I’m down to one oxycodone a day. I must say I could miss that dream I had last night, being somewhere amid an extravaganza of indigenous Oaxaca clothing at an expoventa the likes of which I have never attended before. Gourmet chefs in the adjoining hall prepared the most dazzling buffet of roasted root vegetables, squashes, corn, blue tortillas. The colors were a palette of freshness, goodness, deep magenta, ochre, spring green.  Perhaps this is a signal I’m getting my appetite back!

It’s what Blanche DuBois said,  “…. I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  Well, not exactly. I’ve been in the wonderful care of dear friends Chris and Jeff in their home. Cindy rescued me for outings when I thought stir crazy is a permanent state of mind. Dear Oaxaca and North Carolina friends called, emailed, visited and sent flowers. My Facebook friends gave me incredible support and lots of value advice. My family connected from California regularly via FaceTime. This helps immensely. Being alone, physical or virtual, during this type of recovery is not recommended.

Even with my partial knee replacement, great physical therapy sessions from Phil, and an excellent Duke Medicine orthopedic surgeon Rhett Hallows, M.D, the discomfort is real. But, the medications put a heavier burden on the body than I expected.  Here is my advice:

  • Talk with your care team before you leave the hospital. Understand the power of the medications and how to taper off the use of them before the Rx runs out.
  • Don’t go cold turkey. Don’t let the Rx run out without making your escape plan.
  • See when you can begin substituting Tylenol or acetaminophen instead of the Oxycodone to wean yourself off.
  • Take the laxatives prescribed regularly, your body shuts down with the drugs. Drink lots of water.

Most people go home from this “half knee” surgery in two days. I wanted to stay three. I was not allowed because insurance would cover it.  I’d say right now, I’ve turned the corner and by New Year’s Eve, perhaps I’ll be ready to dance again.

Today, I’m walking with one crutch, climbing stairs to a second story and eating breakfast.

And, by tomorrow, I will have quit the drugs completely!  Hurray. When I will have something else to say, I don’t know.

 

 

Sleek, Functional Contemporary Oaxaca Pottery with Classical Influences: Innovating Tradition

Oaxaca’s cultural identity is defined, in part, by her ceramic arts. For thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, indigenous artisans were giving shape to local clay to form functional cooking and eating vessels, images of dieties for worship and jewelry for personal adornment.

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Now, after six years of operating from various temporary locations, La Tiendita del Barro/1050 grados and Innovando la Tradicion recently opened a gallery to promote its ceramic arts cooperative and new eco-tourism program. It is located at the corner of  plaza de la cruz de piedra, Rufino Tamayo 800-C and Xolotl, near the 16th century aqueducts and Calle Garcia Virgil.

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I want to say that this is social entrepreneurism, activist art. The program, developed by talented young Oaxaqueños, is committed to sustainable development.  Here you will find stunning pottery that satisfies both a classical and contemporary aesthetic. The work is sculptural and refined, smooth and simple. Emphasis is on form followed by function. The result is timeless beauty. The cookware and serving pieces are lead-free and can be used over a gas burner or in the oven.

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If you’ve never seen a Oaxaca potter at work, here’s a video of a traditional technique:

Rufina Ruiz haciendo una chilmolera from Innovando la Tradición on Vimeo.

Innovando la Tradicion is organizing half-day public tours to various villages, where visitors will meet potters, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and have an opportunity to buy directly from the artisans. Artisans receive 50% of the participant fees that go toward improving their workshop/studio space. The rest goes toward program administration.

                 Join Norma’s Pottery Tour with Innovando la Tradicion                                 Monday, January 5, 2015, Cost: 629 MXN pesos

I can’t participate in any of the January public programs already scheduled and I really want to go on this tour.  So, I’m inviting YOU to join me for a private tour on January 5.  Are you interested?  Send me an email. All the funds go directly to Innovando la Tradicion and I will send you registration information as soon as I hear from you!  Space for 5 people. Reserve before December 15.

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Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop starts January 30. Join us!

Thanksgiving and Frida Kahlo, Hospitals and Recovery

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2014. I’m at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina recovering from knee replacement surgery in a hospital bed that reclines to any position at the touch of a finger. In the past twenty-four hours, Frida Kahlo has often entered my mind.

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Mostly because she did such a miraculous job of hiding her pain and her deformity when medicine at the time did not offer sophisticated drugs or surgical techniques. She adorned herself in jewelry and costumes to focus attention to her upper body.

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Mostly because I want to look “normal” just like she did. Friends will come to visit today with good cheer, turkey and mashed potatoes in hand. My bandaged leg is under a blanket, my lipstick is applied.

Mostly because having surgery is a solitary experience, even surrounded by flowers, accompanied by Facebook, family and friends who are with me in this virtual world. Frida did not have Facebook and WhatsApp to connect her. She had her imagination and insights.

She reached out to connect by looking in the mirror that still hangs above her recovery bed in Casa Azul, paintbrush and canvas in hand, sketchbook and pencil in hand, to express her feelings about life, death, politics and Diego.

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I have my knitting at hand, my dreams rumbling around in my mind and my plans for the new year formulating.

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When I left Mexico City last week to return to North Carolina for this surgery, I kept the image of Frida on her bed with me. Her effigy was draped in an indigo shawl reflected in the mirror above.

My knee will heal and the pain will subside. This is more than a hope. It is knowledge that my care team led by Dr. Rhett Hallows, a Duke orthopedic surgeon, is expert. Afterall, I did interview four surgeons in September!

Today, one day after the procedure, I used day-glow pink, duct-taped crutches  to walk my first three hundred and one steps down the hospital corridor. The goal was three hundred, but my friend Mary Ann said, go on, you can do one more. So, I did.

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I am reclined in my hospital bed ready to welcome visitors. I give thanks for the gift of life as it presents itself each day, each moment a different experience and not as I predicted.

It is a perfect day for giving thanks, to my family and friends, to the strangers who care for me, and to Frida’s memory, a woman who endured hardship and pain. Frida is a model for what it means to transcend, create and live large.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful you are a part of my life.

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Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Study Tour, April or July 2015.

Update: How to get a visitor’s visa to come to the U.S. from Mexico

As many of you know, it is not easy for family members to come to the United States for a visit. In fact, it’s almost impossible.  I get lots of questions from readers about how to get a visa for a mother, grandfather, brother or sister to come for a visit based on two posts I wrote in 2010:

  1. How can someone from the U.S. get a tourist visa to the U.S.
  2. Hillary Clinton, where are you?

Since President Obama’s plan to reform the immigration system is top of the news, now is the time to revisit this topic.  Immigration reform will make a difference for undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S. It will not likely make a difference for those wanting to visit and then return.

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In 2006,  I was successful in helping Zapotec weavers from Teotitlan del Valle get 10-year visitor’s visas to come to the United States? Why and how did this happen?

All are artists and artisans. They had letters of invitation from United States cultural arts organizations, museums and universities to come and present their work.  We had a schedule of events organized and arranged in advance, along with planned arrival and departure dates from the United States. I worked through my local Congressman’s office in the district where I live to help alert the U.S. State Department Embassy in Mexico City, providing the date of the visa interview, Mexican passport number, and complete name of the person applying.

I have also been unsuccessful. In 2010, I tried to help a family attend a sister’s wedding in Santa Ana, California. The entire family planned to attend  — a young mother, father and two small children. They were denied, even though I went through the process of alerting the Congressman’s office and providing a letter of invitation. You can read about this in the blog posts above. They paid the application costs for four people.

If you want to pursue getting a family member to visit you in the U.S., I suggest you first find the office of your elected Congressional representative in the city/town where you live and make an appointment for a visit. You must be a U.S. citizen to do this. Ask if they can help you bring your family member to the U.S. for a visit. There are congressional aides who can help with this process. This is your first and best approach.

  • It costs over $125 USD for a visa application.
  • It costs travel dollars to get to Mexico City for the interview.
  • You must make an interview appointment months in advance.
  • If your visa application is denied, your application fees are not refunded.

This is a difficult process, something I am not proud to report in the way people are summarily dismissed when consular officials don’t even open and read their documentation. This is a subjective process. It is painful and shameful how separated families can never see each other because of this broken system. I have heard many stories from family members who have not seen their loved ones in ten or twenty years.