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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Bay Area’

I’m a California girl.  I grew up in earthquake country —  the San Francisco Bay Area to be exact.  I was raised on my grandparents’ stories of the day the Earth Shook, The Sky Burned in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.  A favorite was of my 8-year old grandmother bringing jugs of water to refugees, whose homes had either collapsed from the violent shaking or burned in the fires that broke out.  They were camped out under tents and tarps in the Masonic Cemetery, where her stepfather was the manager — and the thought of the living, living with the dead was captivating to my 8-year old self.  Perhaps another reason why Oaxaca feels like home.

The first earthquake I remember was in first grade.  I gripped my desk, as it rocked back and forth and watched, wide-eyed, as the massive row of windows that lined one wall of my classroom moved in and out, distorting the trees and pink house across the street.  I’m not sure if we were directed to get under our desks, but I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Chase (one of the best teachers ever!), in her comforting, calm, and very competent way, conveying a sense of safety.  Our 1938 wood-frame house, on the side of Mt. Tamalpais was fine, save for several cracks in the lath and plaster walls.  Years later, I learned that it was built on bedrock — a good thing!

Several more earthquakes ensued as I grew up and raised my family in the Bay Area — and I learned to be prepared.  We kept earthquake supplies in the basement — enough water and food to last three days, flashlights, battery-powered radio, etc.  My car was always stocked with bottles of water and protein bars, a sleeping bag and flashlight, sweatshirt and old gym shoes, and a first aid kit.  Luckily, we didn’t have to use any of them following the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.   However, our eyes were glued to the television.  Before the earthquake hit, we had been about to gather in the living room to watch the “Bay Bridge” World Series — the San Francisco Giants versus their across the San Francisco Bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.  Instead, we watched part of the Bay Bridge collapse and houses built on landfill in the Marina of San Francisco collapse and then burn due to ruptured gas lines.  We were fine, but nerves were shattered and for days after, every aftershock had me ready to bolt.

During my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007, I awoke to an earthquake — that dreaded, but familiar, feeling flooded my body but it was small and all was okay.  Thankfully, I was in the USA for the 8.2 earthquake that devastated parts of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas almost two weeks ago.  However, I have experienced several smaller ones since moving here, including the March 20, 2012, 7.4 earthquake.  Walking up Macedonio Alcalá, I didn’t feel that one, but heard windows rattle and people cry, “terremoto” as they streamed out into the street.  There have been many aftershocks from the Sept. 7th earthquake since I’ve been back, a couple at 5.6 on the Richter scale, but I haven’t felt them either.  Giving thanks to Roberta French and her degree in structural engineering from MIT for building such a sturdy, well designed apartment complex on bedrock!

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It was the same yesterday.  Blogger buddy Chris and I were walking up the Alcalá on our way to Las Quince Letras for the traditional Mes de la Patria (celebrating independence from Spain) dish, chiles en nogada.  We were talking — catching up after my six-week trip.  As we turned onto Abasolo, we noticed cars stopped at all intersections and people milling around on the streets.  A blockade was our first thought.  After all, this is Oaxaca!  We soon discovered, it was a 7.1 earthquake (epicenter near the Puebla/Morelos border) that brought traffic to a halt and people out of buildings.  This latest earthquake has taken lives (currently more than 200 people, in 6 states) and destroyed buildings, especially in Mexico City — but we didn’t feel a thing!  Apparently, the shaking was felt all over Oaxaca city, just not by us walking along the cantera (stone) roadbed of the Alcalá.  I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon and evening glued to the news out of Mexico City — and I continue watching and reading in horror as the destruction unfolds.

I’m fine, my friends in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Chiapas are fine, my apartment is fine.  So, why am I writing this?  A catharsis, perhaps….  But also to say to those who are new to or have no experience with the earth violently shaking:  You never get used to it — you never take it in stride, as you never know when that stride will be broken as the ground begins shifting beneath your feet.  And, you always anticipate — it’s one of the reasons, I keep my cell phone and keys with an emergency buzzer in my pocket and a bottle of water and a protein bar in my purse.  In addition, like hurricanes, people and their governments must pay close attention to, and strictly regulate, where and how buildings are constructed — greed and corruption should not trump lives — and a priority should be placed on early warning systems in earthquake countries around the world.

To satisfy my inner-librarian, I recommend to you a few articles to begin to understand the whys and hows:

 

 

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I grew up and lived most of my life twenty minutes from the Pacific Ocean.  I learned to drive on the road up over Mt. Tamalpais out to Stinson, Muir, and Bolinas beaches.  Needless to say, countless trips followed and continue!  So, yesterday I made my regular “Bay Area visit” pilgrimage to the beach.  Even on a foggy day, the sights, sounds, and smells of Stinson Beach are magical…

Alas, it’s 6 hours by car up and over the long and winding roads of the Sierra Madre del Sur to reach Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca’s closest Pacific Ocean beach.  The alternatives:  10+ hours by bus (by way of Salina Cruz) or a short but costly flight.  Still waiting for the long-promised highway that is supposed to cut auto travel time to two hours!!!

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I’m again in the San Francisco Bay Area, visiting family and friends and taking care of the odds and ends of still maintaining a presence here, while living in Oaxaca.  We’ve had clear blue skies and sun and, except for the high-speed pace and exorbitant price of food, it “almost” feels like home.  Hey, I even bought some resin chairs for my son’s backyard and ate some of the best Mexican food ever (in the USA) at Doña Tomás in Oakland.  (FYI:  The Callos con Sopa de Elote — puréed corn soup with seared day boat scallops and fingerling potatoes, roasted poblano chiles and cilantro, served with arroz achiote — was divine.)

To also keep from getting too homesick for Oaxaca, there are a currently a couple of exhibits in San Francisco I plan to see while here.  I found out about The Magic Surrealists of Oaxaca, Mexico from the Oaxacan surrealism hits the SF Mexican consulate article in the SFBG, which explains…

Aquatint etching

Francisco Toledo’s aquatint etching “Self Portrait”

The Zapotec identity … is one of the unifiers of the exhibit, which contains the works of not only [Rufino] Tamayo and [Francisco] Toledo but also artists who were inspired by their work like Justina Fuentes Zárate, she of the reclining mermaid and arresting red dress. Perhaps the works don’t look similar, but they represent the diversity and breadth of the work to come out of the surrealist Zapotec tradition in Oaxaca.

And, then I read the NPR story, In Mexico, Mixed Genders And ‘Muxes’, about a Galería de la Raza exhibit.

Parade of Muxes in traje of Juchitán

Photo from the exhibit

Searching for Queertopia revisits the experiences of Alexander Hernandez’s participation and Neil Rivas’ visual documentation of what is called, the Vela de ‘Las Intrépidas.’ This event, a 3-day celebration, is held annually in the town of Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, México, in honor of its Muxe community.

Hmmm… maybe I’ll take the ferry over to “The City” tomorrow.

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