Monthly Archives: June 2011

Oaxaca Photography in Teotitlan del Valle

What an incredible photography and cooking class day with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz at her family home. El Sabor Zapoteco is the cooking class program. And we did so much — photographing each other doing the food preparation in the traditional ancient Zapotec way, making mole rojo, the traditional fiesta mole of Teotitlan. The photography expedition is an extraordinary cultural immersion experience. Sam and Tom Robbins provide great coaching and instruction.

Oaxaca Breakfast with Carina Santiago Bautista

Carina Santiago Bautista prepares desayuno (breakfast)

I landed on Saturday and have been breathless ever since.  After two nights and days in Oaxaca City, visiting friends, shopping, sightseeing, and walking up and down hills, we have now settled into the pueblo of Teotitlan del Valle.  Here it is fresh, calm, peaceful, a rural village a mere 30 minutes outside the city and a different world, a quieter pace.  Stephen and I decided to have breakfast at La Tierra Antigua, the restaurant operated by Cari Santiago Bautista and her husband Pedro Montano Lorenzo.  We hopped on a tuk-tuk (moto taxi) and landed in paradise where their stainless steel, commercially equipped kitchen is the foundation for preparing delicious local foods.  We ordered more than we could possibly consume for the full-taste experience and Stephen asked for “para llevar” — to go.

Fruit plate with homemade jam at La Tierra Antigua

Cari preparing homemade hot Oaxaca chocolate

Vegetarian omelet

Cari’s vegetarian omelet uses two eggs (fresh from her own hens), stuffed with quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese), salsa fresca (tomatoes, peppers, onions) plus sauteed onions, served with a side of nopales (cooked cactus) — very high in vitamin C, and refried beans.  Stephen had his with chilequiles (dried tortillas soaked in black bean sauce).

Cari with basket of fresh eggs from her hens

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Behind Cari and Pedro’s home is a large tract of land that they will plant with corn, squash and beans — the traditional Zapotec milpas.  The nutrients from the roots of each plant give just the right mix of fertilization needed for an outstanding crop.

This is planting season.  The earth is rich and fertile. The farmers are in their fields, oxen yoked with ancient wood to plow the fields into deep furrows.  Along wooden rod extends from the yoke to make the furrows.  One can smell the history, the steamy loamy earth.  In the distance, a curl of cloud embraces a mountain peak.

Everything that Cari serves is organic, include the incredible whole bean coffee she grinds that comes from Hidalgo.  We had three cups and were definitely ready for the day.  Breakfast lingered and the multi-course meal plus conversation took about three hours — a luxury where we live, part of life here.  One reason that we love it so much in Oaxaca!

Restaurant Tierra Antigua, Av. Juarez #175, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Tel (951) 166-6160, email:

Global Entry Interview at IAH: Get Through Immigration Faster

Finding the place for the Global Entry interview with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was the hardest part of the process. The office is located on the lower level of the international terminal E in the far corner next to a small Starbucks kiosk. The signage is very small. The problem is that there is a Starbucks everywhere, so I went to the wrong one first and lost about 15 minutes. Fortunately, there were some customs officers waking the concourse and they offered to guide me. See GOES website for application details.

If you are flying in to Houston from elsewhere you need to leave the secure area and take the stairs or elevator down to the area where the international flights arrive. The office is tucked into the corner. Of course, you need to make an appointment online in order be interviewed, which is the second part of the application process and requires approval.

So, I walked in and sat down in a small area with two officers at a desk. I was acknowledged immediately, checked in, signed a form, and provided my passport, driver’s license, and preliminary approval letter. Then, the officer asked me to watch a video that walked me throughout the Global Entry process at the airport. He then called me to his desk, took my photo, fingerprinted me (4 fingers on each hand and 2 thumbs), chatted me up about my travels to Mexico, entered the final approval into the system, and I was on my way in less than 30 minutes.

The second downside came when I had to re-enter security, taking off shoes, removing laptop, etc. All in all, a very streamlined and pleasant experience, other than the finding of the right location and getting back in to the airport. If you are going to do this, I would make sure you have a long enough layover and leave yourself 60 minutes.

The airport is packed today. The officer said that the busiest time in Houston is between 1-5 pm when all the international flights arrive. I am hoping this special pass will speed my re-entry when I come home from Mexico.

Travel and Time, Time Travel and Packing for Oaxaca

This is my travel to Oaxaca day!

It’s 6:45 a.m. in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and I have the luxury of an 11:15 a.m. flight from RDU to IAH, then a 5 hour layover until a 6 p.m. flight that will deposit me in my beloved Oaxaca at 8:22 p.m. tonight. During the layover, I have my appointment with the federal government to complete the process for my Global Entry application to streamline reentry to the U.S. for international travel.  I’ll write more about that after the fact.

Packing Tip: Use a rigid basket for protection

It is said that time was invented by the Mayans.  Their “cousins” the Zapotecs have their own observatory on the top of Monte Alban — now an archeological site — dedicated to the calculation of time.  I have had a discussion this week with our B&B hosts in Teotitlan del Valle about whether our workshop schedule will be in “Oaxaca time” or “puebla time.”  Oaxaca city, 30 minutes away, goes on verano (daylight savings time).  Time in the village never changes. Thus, one hour separates the village from the city, and we enter into a constant zone of confusion during the summer months — what time is it?  And if one is late, this becomes a perfect reason.

As I travel through time and space today, I have packed in preparation for my return trip.  I have taken photos of my packing method so you can see for yourself.  This is the perfect way to keep fragile items from breaking.

1.   I bought the BIG suitcase in 1994 for my trip to China.  I use it as my personal shipping container!

The REALLY BIG suitcase

2.  Inside is a large, rigid bamboo basket and a bag of packing materials that I will use to protect anything fragile that I may buy and bring home.

3.  I’ve got my big sun hat — you’ll see that I have stuff packing material into the crown so it won’t get squished.

4.  Shoes, gifts, and special orders from friends make-up most of the rest of what’s in here along with materials for our upcoming photo workshop.

5.  I’m in at just under 50 lbs.  — 49.4 to be exact!

Suitcase as packing crate!

The big deal is that when I pack this way and have the rigid basket, I don’t have to worry about buying shipping materials or paying $100+ for shipping costs.  I’ve only had one broken item in all the years I’ve been going back and forth!

Buen viaje a todos!

Mexican Culture Lesson: The Long Drawn Out Telephone Goodbye from Lesley Tellez

This is so YES and true, and funny and perfectly mirrors life in Mexico where the subtleties of language are embedded in every response.  Hidden meanings and messages are everywhere — a cultural norm — and as a Gringa in Mexico I stumble and fall constantly.  Be sure to read the comments.  They are wonderful! Thank you, Lesley, for your insights, warmth and vulnerability.