Days 13 and 14: In Sickness and in Health, But Mostly in Sickness

I’ve been holed up in the house with a cold the last two days (and by “holed up” I mean sitting in the sun on the terrace, sipping fresh squeezed orange juice and reading celebrity gossip on the Internet). Today, as I sat on the tiled patio, a hummingbird with a beautiful red body flew past my ear and hovered over my head. I took it to be some kind of a magical sign. In fact, the Aztecs of Mexico prized hummingbird talismans as being emblematic of sexual potency, energy and vigor. On second thought, I think this hummingbird just had the wrong address.

I was completely out of food yesterday, so I did venture out to the tortilleria, the mercado and the grocery store to pick up enough to eat for a few days. The nice lady at the fruit and vegetable stand where I’ve become a regular (if 10 days makes a “regular”) laughed when my purchase came to the exact same 22 pesos as it had the day before. Apparently I have a knack for buying 22 pesos worth of fruits and vegetables. Twenty-two pesos here equals 10 mandarin oranges, two chile peppers, four tomatoes, an onion and a lime. Not bad for $1.77.  I’ve been buying 10 mandarinas every time I go shopping, which makes two nice glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice, and adds enough weight to my trip back up the hill that I feel like Ivan Drago training in the Siberian mountains in Rocky IV.

Being sick, my shopping trip yesterday completely wore me out. Today I didn’t have the energy to venture forth, knowing I’d have to make the trudge back up the hill at less than full strength. Luckily, I don’t have to leave the house for entertainment — there’s always the nightly fare at the plaza just down the hill. Last night it was loud Mexican versions of Beatles music, with lyrics that in no way resembled the original lyrics. Tonight it was some sort of foklorico dance group.

On my walk yesterday, a group of teenage boys were hanging out at the end of the callejon giving each other buzz cuts with an electric razor. They tried to convince me to let them buzz my hair, but I declined with a smile. If I’d been feeling better I might have gone for it. What better souvenir then a Mexican faux hawk.

Other excitement in the neighborhood, as viewed from the terrace, has included a man carrying a car battery along the callejon, nightly Navidad processions with candles and singing, and a fair number of opportunities to watch the courtship rituals and post-coital pillow bark of local dogs.

There are dogs everywhere here, vaguely wild, barking and howling at all hours, all across the city. Bob Barker would be spinning in his grave if he were here, and if he were dead. This week leading up to Christmas also appears to be fireworks week in Guanajuato, so there are fireworks going off in the neighborhood at all hours, each of which sets the hundreds of neighborhood dogs to a new round of barking. 

I have only seen the occasional cat (perhaps owing to the dogstravaganza). While walking down Calle Tecolote yesterday a pretty gray cat sat in a doorway regarding me with the typically cat-like mixture of curiosity and suspicion. I knelt down to pet it, talking in a low, soothing voice. This thought flashed through my mind: “Why are you talking to the cat? It only speaks Spanish.”  The lack of oxygen at this altitude may cause brain damage.

Last night was the eclipse, which of course was spectacular here as there have not been any clouds in Guanajuato since 1937 (estimated). I had gone to bed at 10:30 p.m., but awoke around 1:30 a.m. and was able to see the eclipse through most of its cycle. It was a transcendent and magical sight, dampened only slightly by the barking of 24,398 dogs (estimated).

Today’s big excitement (and this should offer a window into what it’s like to hang out with Andrew when he’s sick) was shaving with a blade for the first time in, oh, 25 years. I had brought my electric razor with me, but neglected to bring the charging cord, so it was inevitable that the shaver would eventually run out of juice. Like the miracle of Hanukkah, my shaver hung on for a whopping 12 days of shaves, but on the 13th day, lo it did creepeth to a halt. Thus I faced the choice of either going unshaven for five says (not unprecedented) or going down to la farmacia and getting myself a razor blade and some shaving cream. I decided I didn’t feel like playing the part of the scruffy, unshaven American backpacker for my last week here, so I dutifully lathered up and took a clumsy but ultimately successful whack at shaving off two+ days of stubble. I have to say, my face is now baby smooth, much more so than achieved by my electric shaver. I could get used to this. I want to find the teenagers at the end of the callejon and see if we can get a shaving party going. I’m probably going to get myself deported.

Although it’s been kind of dull cooped up at home with a cold, I do feel that I’ve already done my share of touristy stuff, so the last couple days have been a good opportunity to slow down and just “be” in Guanajuato. I’m glad that I planned enough time here that I don’t have to frantically rush around trying to see and do it all. A big part of my master plan was exactly that: just being somewhere without having to play tourist all day.

It’s past midnight as I write this. The wind is blowing outside and every so often I hear voices outside my door as someone walks up the steps that lead past this casita to other houses higher up the hill. I have two more full days here, and then I fly home on Friday. There are a couple other things I’d like to see in town if I have time, perhaps a few more souvenirs to buy, but I feel as though I’ve gotten what I came here for: Some peace, some sun, and a chance to explore what it’s like to work away from home for a few weeks during the dreariest part of the Pacific Northwest winter. I’m ready to go home, but I’m glad to have been here.

The moon rising over Guanajuato, hours before the lunar eclipse.

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