Monday, July 2, 2007
Finding peace in ice cream
Oaxaca is surprisingly noisy. I thought I was leaving the biggest, baddest city in the world, to come to a place that was almost rural and definitely simpler. But Oaxaca is really, really noisy.
I’m living now in an apartment that faces the street. It’s not a major thruway, but because it’s on a slope, every car has to rev its engine to make it up the hill, and the ones that want to go fast are as macho as any motorcycle. Are there no decent mufflers in this town? There are also rockets or fireworks that go off almost everyday. I first started to hear a spate of them on June 14, the anniversary of the government’s first failed attempt to expel the teachers demonstrating in the zocalo, but apparently, today’s rockets were let loose by the multitude of churches that cluster downtown to celebrate, I don’t know, the saint of fireworks? If I close the windows, it’s much better though by no means quiet, but that means I give up the night breezes that give us all hope during the heat of midday.
I’m starting to feel the annoyance of life again. It was so easy not to have a cellphone, and as much as I missed living alone during my homestay, it was also so easy not to cook or to clean or to think about anything like where to get drinkable water. I miss my Brooklyn block, which only has three early-morning motorcyclers and your occasional loud party down the block. I miss my friends, who are all friends of choice, not of convenience. I wish I had taken that other apartment in nearly suburban Colonia Reforma. My God, if it’s this noisy on a Sunday, what will it be like tomorrow?
So I have to focus on what is good and right: strawberry ice cream at the Mercado Organico.
It was only during my third trip to the market that I noticed the vendor selling sweet rolls and hot chocolate was also selling freshly made ice cream. I had been getting ready to leave, having already consumed a delicious, chewy piece of pizza-flatbread and the best cup of coffee in Oaxaca, but then I saw a man walk by with three blue dixie-cups filled with ice cream. It called to something deep in my soul and I practically ran back to the stall.
It was fresh. Creamier than most “nieve,” the sorbet-like ice cream most available in Oaxaca, it was studded with fresh, tart strawberries and pecan bits. It was being kept cold in a wooden pail packed with ice and salt, but it wasn’t just the romance of the old-fashioned ice-cream making that made it taste so good. It could have come out of a high-tech, stainless steel freezer and I would still have been rolling my eyes to heaven. It’s rare and magical when ice cream hits that perfect balancing point between rich and fresh, sweet and tart, creamy and yet refreshing.
The ice cream will be the subject of my meditation every time I feel like screaming because of the noise outside my windows.