Friday, August 10, 2007

Mi casa es tu casa

My sister wanted to know where I was living, and I don’t have much to report food-wise, as all I’ve been eating is amaranth (more on that to come).

I’ve moved to a smaller apartment, further into the building on Calle M. Bravo and away from the street, and it’s changed my life. My friends who were living in other apartments in the same building didn’t understand at first why I complained about the noise. “Our place is noisy too,” they would say, until they spent an hour or so in mine.

The landlady refused to lower the rent, even though my new place is half the size of my old place, but I didn’t care. I thought briefly about getting worked up, about being righteously angry or strategically firm, but even just thinking about it took more energy than I wanted to expend. In any case, I do like the new apartment so much more. It’s not just the noise, it’s the space. There must be good feng-shui.

It’s always been a beautiful building. Like many old-fashioned buildings in Oaxaca, the apartments are built around a central courtyard. The outside is a feeble sort of peach color, but the inside is a deep brick-red with very clean, fresh white columns and ceilings. Inside the courtyard, you can find a slim yet tall lime tree, an empty fountain, a dark pink bougainvillea just directly across from the front gate, and a riot of potted plants. I find my landlady so frustrating, it’s hard to reconcile her with all the plants gracing her courtyard, but nearly every courtyard I’ve seen is overflowing with plants so perhaps a love of greenery is a general Oaxacan characteristic, and not a sign of individual character.

Onti, the man who owns the sporting goods store facing the street, lives with his family in one group of rooms on the eastern side of the courtyard. There a bit of a tin roof over his portion, which makes me so happy every time it rains, and it rains everyday.

The rest is divided into 6 apartments, three in front and three even further back, quieter but not directly on the courtyard. Since Calle M. Bravo slopes steeply westward, the three in front on the western side of the courtyard are on a raised platform. These apartments were obviously designed to be short-term tourist apartments, as none are big enough for families and all are decorated to accord with Western ideas about home décor, but they’re lovely, if spare, with Mexican tiles in the bathrooms and kitchens and solid, dark wood furniture.

My apartment is just two rooms, a kitchen with a mini-fridge, a little table, and a small couch. You walk up three little steps to the bedroom, which has a built-in desk and a closet and then just enough room for a full-size bed with a little space to walk around it. It's very small, just big enough for me, but it makes me feel more secure than the other one. If I were a dog, I'd be the kind that likes to hide under the bed.

All the souvenirs I’ve bought as gifts and for myself fill the apartment and make it homey, while they just rattled around in the cavernous rooms of the other apartment. I like having a little table instead of a counter and barstools. I don’t mind having less counter space, I don’t even get mad when I see ants walking on the little counter space I have. I just kill them calmly and drink my tea. The woman living here before was complaining how she had requested 3 separate rooms, but she's clearly from California. If it were in Manhattan, it would be advertised as a one-bedroom (with closets!) and the rent would be $1600.

And now that I’m not so pissy and edgy from the street noise, I can actually appreciate how charming the courtyard is. Every morning, I go outside with my breakfast and drink my coffee sitting in the big green chair by my door. The mornings are so beautiful here, with enough sun to warm you without a jacket, but with just enough breeze to make you almost, just almost wish you had one.

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