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Archive for the ‘Casita Colibrí’ Category

Two weeks ago, as the sun was about to sink behind the mountains to the west, I glanced up from my desk.

Light and shadow highlighted the Mexpost pink of the bougainvillea against the backdrop of a Frida Kahlo blue wall.  Ahhh…

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Many thanks to Surviving Mexico for considering “View from Casita Colibrí” a blog about Mexico worth reading! The feeling is mutual, as I continue to enjoy reading about their “adventures and disasters” living in Mexico. 😉

Surviving Mexico

Shannon writes at Casita Colibrí, another long-time favorite of mine.

IMG_5418_2What brought you to Mexico?

Even though I grew up in California, my first trip to Mexico was in 2007, when I came to Oaxaca to visit a friend. I immediately fell in love with Oaxaca, returned a couple more times, and considered eventually retiring there. The privately funded library where I’d been the director for almost 13 years lost its funding and closed in spring 2009.Full-time jobs for librarian/archivists in the San Francisco Bay Area were almost non-existent. Faced with the choice of working multiple part-time and substitute jobs to barely keep my head above water, versus renting my house and moving to Oaxaca to live a downsized and simplified life, in a culturally rich, full of life city, I opted for the latter.

What was the inspiration behind the name of your blog?

Casita Colibrí is…

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Late yesterday afternoon, it looked like a night blooming cereus blossom would burst open for it’s one night only orgy with the pollinators of darkness.  I’m guessing the hours-long torrential tormenta that thundered over Oaxaca put a damper on the action.  This morning found only an ever-so-slightly opened blossom.  So here, in black and white, I bring to you, up close and personal, cereus reproductive organs in waiting.

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If you slept through the birds and the bees unit of high school biology (or it was too long ago to remember) and now you can’t tell a pistil from a stamen or the stigma from the anther, check out this cool little graphic  (also in black and white) from the American Museum of Natural History.

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A razor wire (aka, concertina wire) frame for an African Tulip tree blossom.

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The rainy season not only brings lush greens, it brings the brilliant red-orange of the Árbol de tulipán to Oaxaca.

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This morning, sun and blue sky welcomed the Solsticio de verano in Oaxaca — a beautiful way to begin the longest day of the year.

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View from the terrace:  Templo de San José, founded by the Jesuits in 1559, on the left; Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude), constructed between 1682 and 1690, on the right; and the green mountain in the far distance between the two is Monte Albán.

Happy Summer Solstice to all!

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What could be called, A terrace transformedPhase 4, is currently underway at Casita Colibrí.  A highlight is the addition of several trees, including a guava (known here as, guayaba) already bearing fruit.  I see pitchers of agua de guayaba in my future.

Branch with leaves and ripening guava fruit

Once this phase of my growing garden is finished, a blog post will no doubt result.  Stay tuned…

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… from my rooftop garden in the city.

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Opuntia – April 2017

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Lizard on the terraza – June 2017

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A feathered friend watching from a distance – June 2017

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Hibiscus flower this morning – June 2017

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Along with much-needed rain and sparkling green cantera, tropical storm Beatriz also brought the one-day-a-year appearance of chicatanas (aka, tzicatana, tzicatl).

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What, you might ask are chicatanas?  They are giant flying ants that emerge with the first rains of the season — and by giant, I mean about 4 cm from the head to the tip of the wings for the females.  (As in much of the insect world, males are smaller and wingless.)  Known by the Nahuatl long before the arrival of the Spanish, they were mentioned in the 16th-century Florentine Codex which talked about the tzicatana living below ground and cultivating fungus to eat.

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By this morning, the rain had stopped and when I returned from an early errand, I found chicatanas — queens (wings) and soldiers (wingless with vicious front pincers) — crawling around on my terrace and balcony.  There were probably many more earlier, but I had been in a hurry and hadn’t noticed.  By 10:30 AM they were gone.

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Oh, and have I mentioned that they are a delicacy and a great source of protein?  I’ve had chicatana salsa and chicatana mole several times.  Below is Mole de Chicatanas I sampled during the Mole Festival in 2014.  It’s from the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca and made with chicatanas, pork ribs or loin, chile costeño, peanuts, and much more.  It was yummy (and I was a picky eater as a child!), so I had it again at last year’s festival.

If you won’t take my word, check out this Bizarre Foods episode set in Oaxaca.  (Chicatanas start at 1 min. 40 sec.)  By the way, these are the dreaded leaf-cutter ants.  However, it is the much smaller workers who can strip a tree overnight and are the bane of gardeners here.  At least their queens and soldiers are good for something!

Post script:  On a somber note, tropical storm Beatriz also brought flooding, mudslides, more downed trees, collapsed roads, and a current death toll of three.

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A word to the wise, be careful what you wish for…

After almost two weeks of 90º+(F) temperatures, late this afternoon lightening flashed, thunder rumbled, gusty winds replaced still humid air, and on Tlaloc’s command, torrential rain and hail pounded Oaxaca city.  Water began coming in closed doors and windows, plants and chairs overturned on the terrace, an empty concrete bag flew up and over a ten foot fence and across the forty-five feet of my terrace landing at my doorstep, and power went out for almost two hours. 

This evening, at Casita Colibrí, plants have been righted, chairs have been retrieved and stacked, and flooded floors have been mopped.  However, in other parts of the city, there are reports of trees and power lines down, massive flooding, and a roof collapsed at Central de Abastos.   Initial news reports (en español):

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This morning there were three…  And, when I came out to greet my night blooming cereus, they looked wistful.

3 night blooming cereus flowers

Remembering last night’s splendor?  Or, reflecting on how fleeting their glory?  Me?  I’m appreciating their presence in my present.

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I have to chuckle every morning when I turn on the fountain — within seconds the birds begin arriving.  Apparently, there is a pecking order for bathing.  The chain link fence provides an open-air waiting room — a perfect perch for keeping an eye on the bathers below.

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Some, like this little guy, are more patient than others.

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Friday night, around 9:45, I went out onto the terrace to turn on the security lights.  But, who needs lights when my cereus was glowing in the dark, beckoning bats and other pollinators of the night?

By 9:30 on Saturday morning, the curtain and petals had begun to fall.

Saturday night, oblivious and readying for the dawn of daylight savings time, I turned the motion sensor lights on early and never gave the cereus a first, let alone second, glance.  However, at 7:45 AM on Sunday morning, with coffee in hand, I went out on the terrace and couldn’t miss the show my night blooming cereus had staged while I slept.

Three hours later, the latest extravaganza had drawn to a close — but I see tiny buds waiting in the wings.

[There are] many other small joys, perhaps the especially delightful one of smelling a flower or a piece of fruit, of listening to one’s own or others’ voices, of hearkening to the prattle of children. And a tune being hummed or whistled in the distance, and a thousand other tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life.

My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys, and thriftily save up the larger, more demanding pleasures for holidays and appropriate hours. It is the small joys first of all that are granted us for recreation, for daily relief and disburdenment, not the great ones.
Hermann Hesse on Little Joys

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Yesterday, as my BFF and I sat outside drinking our morning coffee…

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…we were joined on the terrace.  Nothing like that first sip of the day!

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A plumeria (aka, frangipani) blossoms on the terrace…

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During this, the middle of a very dry, dry season, a perfumed promise of primavera.

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‘Tis Nochebuena in Oaxaca and all is well.  The sun is shining and goodwill is felt on the streets and in the mercados.  Casita Colibrí is festooned with seasonal decorations both outside and in.

Tonight, posadas from throughout the city will converge on the zócalo with Josés, Marías holding baby Jesús, and angels on flatbed trucks; pinwheels, sparklers, and fireworks will light the night sky; brass bands will play; and China Oaxaqueñas will dance.  I can’t wait!  In the meantime, may Ernie Villarreal’s version of Pancho Claus by Chicano music legend, Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, bring the gift of joy to those near and far.

Pancho Claus

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa
Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.

The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard, there arouse such a grito,
That I jumped to my feet, like a frightened cabrito.

I went to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world, do you think que era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came, and this little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre.

¡Ay, Pancho! ¡Ay, Pepe! ¡Ay, Cuca! ¡Ay, Beto!
¡Ay, Chato! ¡¡Ay, Chopo! ¡Maruca and ¡Nieto!

Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.

He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,
For none of the children had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.

And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,
Merry Christmas to all, And to All ¡Feliz Navidad!

May you all find peace and joy every day of the year.

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