Monday, March 23, 2015

Fresh Is the Best

Another early morning outside in the still-darkness with my father avoiding smoke and enjoying the carne asada prepared fresh over an open fire had my day started with a full stomach. About an hour later my Uncle returned to pick us up, and together the three of us traveled to Atango for some fresh queso. 
Queso is spanish for cheese, but it is also a type- you'd recognize it sprinkled on top of your frijoles in any Mexican restaurant. It's a soft, crumbling cheese that tastes, well, muy delicioso! My father had spoken of this farm before, and I was looking forward to seeing the operations ran by a husband and wife team. You never know what your future holds, and milking cows could be a talent of mine someday!
Bumping down the road out of town, I couldn't help but notice that the ears of these brothers are shaped the same, so I tried to capture that on camera but my pictures are not as good as I hoped. All that bumping! It will be interesting to look at my daughters features when I return home and notice more similarities to my side of the family perhaps. Turning off the main road, we traversed maybe a mile or two of a downward sloping dirt road enclosed on both sides by another of those made-from-a-million-rocks walls, or fences.
After parking our SUV in the couple's yard, we walked down to where the two of them were hard at work on thier milking stools squeezing out steaming hot fresh milk. I could practically hear Ray begging for a glass, but warm milk has never had any appeal for me so I was glad they did not offer lol. I've stated my fair share of no me gustos and no, gracias' while here already and it has only been a few days. We were soon joined by their daughter, Veronica, and her brother. 
Veronica has the same beautiful green eyes of her mother, with strong, Frieda-ish eyebrows to frame them. Black silky hair hung down her back in a ponytail and I gathered that we'd be taking her to school! I hadn't noticed but apparently she was very upset at being late for school to start, but once she found out she had a ride, she nearly skipped into the house for her things and bounced into the back seat behind me. 
Enthusiasm for school? So un-American!
Following the rio into the heart of Atengo we could see the rounded tops of the church long before the bridge crossing the river. Now, if there was a walking bridge and a driving bridge, wouldn't you use the walking bridge? Especially if the driving side had only one lane? Well if you said yes, you must be American lol. I saw five people with armfuls of items crossing with hardly enough room between their loads and the rear view mirror of my Uncle's truck. Not a single soul on the walking bridge though! How strange.
After delivering Veronica to her school we hit the dusty trail (literally) again back for the farm and the promise of that fresh queso. By now the milking was almost done but the cows still had to be let back into their pen. I noticed a lot of them didn't seem to have been milked completely, but I understood once they got in the corral when all the babies came running for mama. Wincing for the moms as their kids headbutted their swollen udders, probably a trick to get the milk going. Every nurser seems to have one (Sunday).
The river we had been driving beside had done considerable damage to the stone farm walls surrounding the pasture, and I was told that the price for repair comes to about $5/meter about 5 ft high... Sounds like a pretty good price if you are interested in shllepping rocks yourself. The week before I came there was a freak rainstorm that had lasted something like 38 hours before letting up, raising the river up over it's bank with the swirling force strong enough to demolish the unprotected pasture wall. 
 I headed down to investigate the river bank and found a small clam shell... it may be illegal but I have a few treasures to take back. There is a beautiful purple flowerering tree that only blossoms before Easter; the locals say that it represents Christ's crucifiction and resurrection. Between the pages of my spanish/english dictionary I pressed a few of these fallen flowers, as well as the red ones my father handed me one night after visiting a freind. This shell, a smallish heart shaped rock, even a ball of my grandmother's hair, to complete my collection! 
I know the last one is kinda gross, but I guess I just want some tangible way to stay connected with her. One of the first times I left, Saturday afternoon, she was getting her hair down up by a lady living nearby, and I always loved getting my hair done, doing my own daughter's hair, etc. I can only hope that before my trip is over I might get an opportunity to fix up her slilver strands myself. 
Well after a few pictures down by the riverside, we all headed back to the house. Here was my chance to see how real "country" folk live around here. Hmm, pretty much like every where else I guess, aside from their open air, wood burning cook stove and the stack of wood to go with it. Green Eyes showed us the beautiful wood cabinets and wardrobes her brother had made. Her son showed me the bird coop, where I recognized a few of the same varieties we house on our own little "country" farm. 
Placing the fresh, still wet cheese in a cooler between layers of plastic wrap and paper towels, we bid our hosts adios and returned to the house.
One of my favorite feelings is when ever I return, mi abuela turns towards the sound of my call and her whole face lights up as her arms reach out to embrace me before I am even close enough to hug. It's a lovely way to arrive! Guess what she made for us while we were away? Fresh menudo! Talk about lovely, right {yeck}. So I wasn't too upset to learn that we'd basically be turning right back out the door to go help round up a calf outside of the town of Juanaxactlan, about ten miles from here. It could be ten kilometers... ¡no se! Far enough away from the menudo lol.
Passing through the main part of town, I learned that this is the place that the family of my sister's mother come from. I also learned that it is where an old friend of my father's, who had come to visit he and my mom while they were living together in Tacoma, I'm thinking before they had me. Turning onto another dusty road, ahead in the distance loomed a large enough hill that it had it's own cloud on a cloudless day. This may actually be a mountain! And yes, it was confirmed that there are actually two mountains, right next to each other- hey another qualification, this time, it's a ridge lol. The one whose top is covered with snow is the one that has the cloud above it. However, it's sister is actually a live volcano know to still shoot sparks and fire into the sky. 
Later, as we tromped through the tall grass pastureing  the steerlings we'd come to rope up for ear pierceing, I was surprised to see what looked like a small dark grey cloud rising from the active volcano... as I wondered, my father called out that indeed, the volcano had just had an eruption. What the what the? I confirmed the vision, and had to laugh as I ran back to the truck, chagrined that he had to tell me to, go get my camera! 
So far I have not followed through with my intention to seek out the jogging park in the mornings, but I sure got my exercise as I high stepped back at sprint, until I got to the barb wire fence. My friends who've been through boot camp would have been proud of how quickly I dropped to the ground and rolled under the wires (I was pretty proud myself). Still racing time, I grabbed the cell phone and took off again, choosing a different path. Surprise, another barb wire to roll under, but I sprang up and leapt across the field, snapping pictures as I went. The color of the rising cloud had changed to white, but the whole experience was so intense I just continued to take picture after picture of what could be another once in a life time experience.
After all that excitement, it was somewhat of a let down not to have anything to do while the men continued to visit. Well, like any American of my generation, I figured it must be time for a selfie (check out my new facebook profile). I'm totally diggin that ranchera look lol. You can't even see the grass I found in my hair later on haha. I'm sure that only enhanced the look though right? And, I got to "roll in the hay" on vacation hahahahaha.
Thanks for joining me for another partial day's recap!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

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