art in action

Snapshots from Oaxaca

I just returned from Oaxaca, Mexico, where I worked with volunteers on the new Simply Smiles children’s home, deepened our relationship with individuals who live and work at the Oaxaca City garbage dump, and spent time with the first two children who live at the children’s home to further their education in the city. I also got a chance to reconnect with one of my favorite humans (hey, Gaby!) after not seeing her since July 2015 and witness all the amazing work that she’s been able to implement as the program manager of Simply Smiles’ Mexican operations. There’s been a marked transformation in the facility from my last trip in March to now, which is really cool to see.

Because it was only my second trip to the region, I soaked it all in and had no problem playing tourist. I climbed some of the Zapotec ruins at Monte Albán. No big deal. It’s seriously an incredible place, with structures that force you to wonder how people were able to build such vast, massive structures. We also visited historic downtown Oaxaca, with its colorful buildings, striking cathedrals and museums, vibrant wares and culture. And, of course the food - the food! Lots of avocados, fresh mangos, pineapple, and other non-New England fruits and flavors, quesillo (think of slightly saltier mozzarella cheese, but better), tlayudas (Oaxacan street food - sorta like a quesadilla or a very, very thin crusted pizza, but like 10 times tastier), mole, drinking chocolate (cocoa, crushed almonds, cinnamon, other spices), chapulines (grasshoppers...chill out, they're surprising good and I only ate two with guacamole), and real tacos with pico de gallo and other incredible salsas. I could wax poetic about the food alone, but I’ll spare you. The warm temperatures weren’t bad either. Here’s a glimpse:

(1) (2) Doors of Coyotopec. (3) Life lesson/rules posted at a children’s home: no head stomping. (4) Phoebe the cat. (5) A view from the top of the trash mound. Now, another community has been formed on the other side of the trash mountain. (6) A literal mountain of trash, supported and secured by tire walls. (7) Mezcal, four ways. (8) A rather over the top nativity scene, in honor of Three Kings Day. (9) Chandelier at the Oaxaca Cathedral (the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption in the Zócalo. (10) Many peppers and spices at the central market. (11) - (15) Zapotec structures, buildings, and temples at Monte Albán. (16) Up in the mountains at the ruins. (17) Close-up of the wall details at Monte Albán. (18) Agave, etched. (19) Borage. (20) Graffiti (21) loyal Señor Botas (I added the “señor”) (22) Advertisement for agricultural fertilizers (23) Teatro Macedonio de Alaca, an opera house/theater in downtown Oaxaca (24) (25) Displays that are part of the exhibit de la relación entre la tierra y los seres (of the relationship between the earth and the beings) - which, included, of course, a discussion of food and many green growing things - at the Centro Academic y Cultural San Pablo in downtown Oaxaca. (26) patchwork quilt (27) The gilded interior in downtown Oaxaca’s Iglesias de Santo Domingo, a Dominican church, built in 1575 (28) Art made out of different beans serves as the outside arch of a restaurant doorway in downtown Oaxaca.

Must see: "Watermark"

From the site of photographer Edward Burtynsky:

Watermark is a feature documentary from multiple-award winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, marking their second collaboration after Manufactured Landscapes in 2006. The film brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use. We see massive floating abalone farms off China’s Fujian coast and the construction site of the biggest arch dam in the world – the Xiluodu, six times the size of the Hoover. We visit the barren desert delta where the mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean, and the water-intensive leather tanneries of Dhaka.We witness how humans are drawn to water, from the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, where thirty million people gather for a sacred bath in the Ganges at the same time. We speak with scientists who drill ice cores two kilometers deep into the Greenland Ice Sheet, and explore the sublime pristine watershed of Northern British Columbia. Shot in stunning 5K ultra high-definition video and full of soaring aerial perspectives, this film shows water as a terraforming element, as well as the magnitude of our need and use. In Watermark, the viewer is immersed in a magnificent force of nature that we all too often take for granted- until it’s gone.