Category Archives: dog

Aqui estamos!

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The airport in the daytime.

This evening, we arrived at the Xocotlan Airport in Oaxaca.  There were quite a few of my colleagues on our flight, and we were met at the airport by Dr. Stephanie Wood and Yasmin Acosta-Myers.  We all climbed aboard a couple of collectivo taxis and made our way into town.  The airport is about a 20 minute drive from our part of town.  I can’t wait to see everything in the daylight.

Last time I was in Oaxaca, it was 2003 and I came with my father and my husband.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, and mostly stuck to the center of town – with one trip to Monte Alban.  I look forward to living here for a month as a resident!  Our apartment is very close to where most of my classes will be, and that is why I chose it. There are, I think, two other NEH fellows staying here, too.

It’s a nice apartment, but there are a few things we found out this evening when we got here:

  • There is no microwave – that’s okay, but it’s strange to see when most hotels these days (I know, in the U.S.) have them.  The stove is gas.
  • The first big bottle of water is free.  After that, we pay by the bottle.
  • Same thing for the toilet paper.
  • If a third person uses the futon in the living room for sleeping, it costs $10 per night outside of the $695 we have already paid.  (I actually found out about that before we came)
  • There are no screens on the window, and you should close them when you are gone to avoid “visits by the cat”.

Here is the floor plan – we have one of the one story apartments in the little complex of 6 apartments.  Isn’t it cute?  And that little closet looking thing between the bedroom and the kitchen?  It’s just a “hole” in the building where they put the water tank, I think.  I had thought it would be a pantry.

Tomorrow, my husband wants to go right out and find a way to get cell phone service here.  A lot of other people have done it, so it is possible and supposed to be not too expensive.  We also are going to the market to stock up on food and supplies like toilet paper and Diet Cokes.

Our opening reception is on Sunday evening, and apparently Dr. Wood (call her Stephanie) and Yasmin are doing a lot of cooking for it!  Can’t wait!  On Monday evening, my nephew from Louisiana is coming to stay with us for a week.  He’s been taking Spanish and has only been to Cozumel, so I really am happy to be able to welcome him here in Oaxaca!

My dog is the one on the right. But they will both miss me!

Oh, our dog is being cared for by my in-laws in Atlanta, who have a great back yard and two children who are excited about having a dog visit.  That is so great of them, and they were awesome to offer.  It really makes a difference, knowing that she’s in such good hands.

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Raoul Dufy Exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi

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Last weekend, I went to Jackson, Mississippi to see the Raoul Dufy exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  I also invited my mom and my sister to come – kind of a girls’ weekend.  As usual, nothing could be that simple.  First of all, Mom decided to take advantage of some days off to precede the rendez-vous with a visit to my sister’s family in Covington, Louisiana.  That, in itself, is not a problem:  Covington is about 2 1/2 hours south of Jackson, so Mom and Sis could drive up and meet me, then I would take Mom back to Atlanta.

My husband, in the meantime, had an opportunity to go to NearFest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania that same weekend.  That meant coordinating dog boarding not only for my dog, Lupita, but also for my mother’s dog, Poppy, because we were also taking care of her while Mom was in Louisiana.  I keep Lupita at Man’s Best Friend up here in Norcross, so I just had to make sure her shots were up to date and drop her off.  Poppy was a bit more tricky.  She’s only about 7 months old and has never been boarded.  I had already made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn in Madison, Mississippi and they do not accept pets.

I hesitated to also board Mom’s baby at MBF because they have a bit of paperwork to fill out.   Also, Poppy is only a 10 pound puppy (and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – princess…) and she could not just stay anywhere.  So, after a brief websearch, I found the Chateau La Pooch just down the road from the hotel in Madison.  Perfect solution!  So, Poppy was going to ride with me to Madison on Saturday and stay at the CLP for two nights, then ride home with Mom and me on Monday.

The drive over was 6 1/2 hours – I had my trusty Garmin GPS to guide me.  I really only stopped a few times – picked up a book on CD at Cracker Barrel, and did drive-thru for lunch.  I didn’t want to leave Poppy in the car – even in the shade – for long because it was HOT!  This wasn’t a problem until I got to the Mississippi Tourist rest stop and decided I wanted to look at a map – one thing about the GPS is that it doesn’t give you the big picture.  Surely we were almost to Jackson!  So, after walking the dog, I picked her up and walked into the Welcome Center to find a Mississippi map.  After I did that, I walked back out.  Her feet never touched the ground, although I did try to get her to drink from the water fountain (which she declined to do…)

As I walked out, the kindly security guy came up to me and said, “Ma’am, we try to keep the dogs out on the grass…”  So, I looked at him pleasantly and explained my dilemma:  Leave a puppy in the car and have someone report me for animal cruelty, tie her outside (where someone might snatch her – I didn’t say that), or carry her in just for a moment to look at the map.  He told me that Jackson was not far away – I knew that already… and we said our good-byes.

After I dropped her off at the “chateau”, I went to the hotel.  Mom and Sis were not coming until Sunday, so I had the evening by myself.  I used my laptop to search for shopping options (if there’s a Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, TJMaxx, or Tuesday Morning in the area, I like to check it out.), and drove out to shop.  I didn’t find too much, but stopped at a Stein Mart and bought a dress and a new top.  Then, after searching up and down the frontage road of I-55, I decided to try Raising Cane’s, a chicken finger restaurant.  Then, I went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Part Two later!

Day Off

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This morning, my husband had an endoscopy, so I missed school to take him in.  It was early. We got back in at around 9:30.  He’s going to be okay.  I came home, made rice for him to eat, and a little Jello.  Then I took a nap.  Since the weather was so nice, I took the dog for a walk at my latest favorite place – The River District development in Berkeley Lake.  It’s only partially developed right now, and it’s on the Chattahoochee.  I just wish I had a horse to ride.

After I returned, I finally put together the three utility shelves I bought during the summer to add to my garage storage.  I think I can fit two more in there…  I know, this is fascinating.  Oh, I made baked tilapia with brown rice using my fabulous new artichoke tapenade I bought at Costco…

CSI Dog

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I was just sitting on my back deck, talking to my Dad on the phone, when my dog came around the corner with a knife in her mouth!!!!!

Okay, let me back up a little.  Our townhouse is in the middle of two other townhomes on a cul-de-sac of our neighborhood.  We share a common back yard with those two houses, and – in theory – with all of the people in our community.  To our left is the back of an apartment complex, and to our right, the parking lot of an industrial park.

For a while, we had Latin American guys using our back yard as a short cut between the two places, sliding under the other fences and walking across.  Our home association put in black hurricane fencing about 3 years ago – so that doesn’t happen any more.  But there are parts of the fence that do not meet the ground, allowing enough space for a dog to get back there.  Connolly, my other dog, had found that out pretty early and we had to keep an eye on her to keep her from wandering off.

Behind our house, on the other side of the fence, is a thickly forested triangle of very rugged terrain and possessing a lovely swamp area when it rains.  I only tried to walk back there once, and found it too much of a pain to traverse.  The dogs seem to love it, though.  Lupita found her way back there earlier this year.

I suppose that you have guessed by now that I am one of those people that lets her dog out in the yard without a leash.  Yes, I am lazy.

So, today, she came trotting alongside the opposite side of the fence, holding something in her mouth.  I walked down with my cell phone to have a closer look.  She had dropped the object a couple of times and picked it up again, and I saw that she was carrying a steak knife by it’s handle!!!!.  I rang off and started escorting her to the place in the fence where I know she exits to return to our yard.  Halfwy along, she dropped it.

She doesn’t seem to have anything wrong with her mouth, so I called Dad back and went back to where she dropped the knife.  It was just within reach, so I put my right hand through one of the fence squares and pulled it close, bringing it the rest of the way with my left.  I brought it into the house to show my husband, who wondered aloud if it could be a murder weapon.  We have obviously been watching too much CSI: Miami.  But still…

Oh, we are going to run the knife through our dishwasher to sterilize it and keep it – it’s a pretty good knife!  Now, I wonder if she could bring me some nice flatwear.

Going Home

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I think that we still have 2+ hours left on this – the longest flight in the world.  Ten hours!  I know that people who travel to Asia think that’s nothing, but it’s pretty long from Europe.  Still, we are very happy to be on the plane, going home.  The flight is not too crowded, so I was even able to snag a row of 3 seats to make a bed!
I have never been able to do that – just too slow on the pick-up on my other trans-Atlantic flights.  By the time I make my way to the bathroom after the meal, I realize that other people have taken advantage and are already sacked out.  Apparently, there is no such thing as sleeping in shifts, either.  I tried to get my husband to move, too, but he is able to sleep in a smaller space than I am.
Still, sleeping’s tricky.  There’s the adjustment of those three little pillows they give you:  I finally stuffed them into my sweatshirt and that seemed to work well.  Then there’s still a lot of turning and arranging clothing and underwear and the thin blankets they put out for you.  I slept about four different times, getting up for lunch, and for bathroom breaks.  I slept through the Haagen-Daaz, though.  Bummer.
When we get off the plane, and after we go through customs, we get to go and pick up my rental car at Enterprise at the airport.  My husband is such the technical genius – I used Skype to check on my car – and it’s still not ready.  I don’t remember whether I mentioned I was in a car accident two weeks ago.  My little car is laying disassembled at the mechanics, waiting for the insurance adjuster to come and approve more damage found once the bumpers were removed.  It may not be ready for 2 more weeks!
Lucky for me, I was able to contact the guilty party’s insurance company and they hooked me up.  Good thing, too, because we didn’t really have a ride home from the airport.  As soon as we pick up the car, I will drop my husband off at my mom’s place to pick up his car, then go to the kennel and pick up my doggie!
My husband had made some contacts regarding a Bob Moog Tribute Concert that will be going on in February.  He works as a volunteer for the Bob Moog Foundation –  see the link for more info (it’s too much for me to explain) – and thought that he would get in touch with the organizers to see if they would make a plug for them here in Spain.  We finally got one of the guys on the phone, only to have him babble on in panic about not speaking English and insisting that we take the phone number of another organizer that did.
We called him and made arrangements to go up to his suburban recording studio in Terrassa.  The ride up was interesting, and we found his studio without much trouble.  He understood more English than he spoke, so I was along for translation.  He apparently has this big collection of vintage analog electronic instruments, and teaches classes in playing them.  He also sells recording equipment from his shop.  He gave us a DVD of Bob Moog’s visit to Barcelona in 2004, and called yet another electronic music guy to see if we could visit him.
After that, for my fee as translator, I insisted that we eat out.  We ate at a little restaurant called Frankfurter.  Yep, it’s just what it sounds like – sausages on buns.  We had the Tiroleana, an herbed Bratwurst on a bun.  And a Diet Coke, of course.  It was good.
During the afternoon, we took the metro to Montjuic and walked through some of the 1992 Olympic grounds.  Then, we made our way to the Poble Espanyol.  The Poble Espanyol was built for a World Exposition in 1926 or so and is a conglomeration of all of the architectural styles found in Spain.  The complex houses all sorts of gift shops and artesan shops, as well as as several restaurants.  It’s pretty touristy, and costs 8 euros to get in.  Being a Tuesday afternoon, it was pretty dead, but I enjoyed walking around (the weather was in the upper 60’s) and making my husband take pictures of things.
After we went to Montjuic, we had a tiny snack – I bought better bread for my sandwich later – and headed over to meet the other Moog fanatic.  We were advised to take a taxi, because it was “just 10 minutes away” from our hotel, and there was no direct subway line to get there.
When a Spaniard tells you that something is “just 10 minutes away” take it with a grain of salt.  They also seem pretty quick to suggest a taxi, even though they are not cheap!  Whenever you get into a taxi, the charge is already set at 3 euros – do they charge you for their time to get to you?  Then, our driver took two minutes to look up directions – charging us for that time as well.  Lucky for us, we got a ride back to the nearest Metro station on our way back.
Joan, the guy we were meeting, has an even more extensive collection of electronic equipment behind his official store, where he sells computers.  We were led through two doorways into what we joked was the Bat Cave.  There, he shared with us the impact that Bob Moog had had on his life.  He has met Bob a couple of times, and has visited his home.  He also was involved with bringing Moog to Barcelona in 2004.
Bob Moog’s death in 2005 hit him hard, and made him take a look at the way he was living his life, he told us.  Moog and his wife lived very simply (they were not rich, contrary to opinion) and Joan decided to a simpler life.  He has sold some of his instrument collection to benefit an orphanage in Chernobyl, for example.  He was a really nice guy.  He gave us many MANY of his CD’s – he also composes and records music – and offered any help he could give.
So, it is experiences like that for which you travel.  Everyone here has been so nice.  Hey, even the waiters that were robbing us blind were nice!  😉  Still, I will be glad to be home – I miss my doggy and my house – but not the cold!

Update on the “House”

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I have gotten most of my house cleaned – the living room, the dining room (including rolling up the oriental carpet and turning it around), and our bedroom.  I spent most of yesterday dusting my bedroom and doing 5 loads of clothes while watching “House”.  I am on Season 3 now and am almost caught up.

If you could wrap Anthony Bourdain and Hugh Laurie up into one big bundle, that would be my ideal man right now.  Yes, I know that says a lot about my taste in men…  Yikes!

I went to see Juno a couple of days ago – it was the perfect movie for a rainy day.  Very funny and very unpredictable.  I went by myself – I had a coupon for a free small popcorn that I upgraded to large.  I do not necessarily plan on eating two large buckets of popcorn.  It’s just that the quality of the popcorn can often be unpredictable.  If I get a stale batch or popcorn that I don’t deem worth the money, I just dump that out and go back for my free refill – specifying that I want a really good batch this time.

I also went to see Walk Hard (with my  husband) last night in lieu of doing anything too strenuous for New Years’ Eve.  It was a predictable film.  My mother had warned me ahead of time of the gratuitous frontal male nudity.  It was really not necessary – but who am I to give advise to people who make lots of money making stupid films.  They obviously know more than I do.  I was happy to see Jenna Fischer from the “The Office” playing a successful movie role, however.

I brought my popcorn bag home with me with the hopes that their free refill would be good today when I go to see Enchanted again with my mom.  I know, I have a popcorn problem – which is why I don’t go to the movies so much.  That, and the $10 ticket price! But I promised Mom I would go because I went to see Enchanted without her the first time.  Bad daughter!

While we are at the movies, my husband is going to spend some time at my mother’s condo with our dog, Lupita.  He would like to try and find some way to make it so that Mom can keep Lupe while we are in Spain.  She tried to keep her while we were in Mexico, but got too many complaints about Lupita barking when left alone in the condo while Mom worked and pursued her busy social life.  I think it is a waste of time and am already prepared to fork over the $200+ to keep her at Man’s Best Friend for the 10 days we are away.  I checked out all sorts of possibilities – like Mom leaving her in Doggie Day Care while she is at work.  But all of the boarding places and doggy day care places near where she lives or works would cost just as much as paying for 10 days boarding at MBF.

Okay, time to get up and eat and fold the last load of clothes.

Now I’m back!

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It’s good to be home again. I have mainly been sleeping, although yesterday my husband and I went to pick up our dog, Lupita, and then waited around on the other side of town for Mom’s dog to be ready. While we were there, I went to Wendy’s and ordered take out (Wheat is not eating right now – more about that later.). Then we went over to the polo fields out by where we used to live. Then I went to Bruster’s for ice cream.

Lupita seems none the worse for being separated from us for 5 weeks. In fact, I was kind of disappointed that she did not erupt in yelps and fling herself at us. It’s sort of like worrying about your child’s first day of school, only to find that they didn’t really want to come back home afterward!

We had just gotten home, and I had settled down on the fold out sofa down in my office (with the dog), when my Dad showed up. I was expecting him to come back on his return trip from Virginia, but I did not expect him so soon. In his defense, he did call my cell phone and our home phone and leave messages, but Wheat and I are so used to being without phone that we didn’t bring one cellphone with us when we went out. It was all I could do to make myself get up and be social.

I love my family, but there are times when I have to just be alone and vege out. It is part of the gift and curse of being tri-lingual (even bi-lingual). I am usually the person put in charge of communicating with the outside world in a Spanish or French-speaking country, so the past couple of days of travel have been very busy for me. I really want nothing more than to stay alone in my house and be silent.

I am also fortunate to have made two more sales from my Etsy site – so I need to make those crosses. I plan on hitting E-Bay pretty hard, too – selling some things that I bought in Mexico, as well as my own art. I have two more weeks until school starts!

Estamos en Morelia

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Well, we got here yesterday without a hitch – oh, once I retrieved my $660 passport.  It also turns out that the young lady at the airport office was a former student!  I taught her 6th grade Exploratory French or Spanish.  She´s 20 – no, I don´t feel old… 

We made our connection in Houston, customs in Mexico City took no time at all, and our taxi got us to the Poniente bus station in time for the 2:00 bus to Morelia.  We arrived there at about 6:15, after taking a nap during an old TV movie about the O. J. Simpson trial and watching another movie called Shattered Glass (it was in English with Spanish subtitles – we are not officially in Spanish mode yet). 

When we got to the address of our apartment, I couldn´t get anyone to answer the doorbell, so I was afraid we would need to go to the Posada de la Soledad after all.  Turns out I wasn´t pushing the button in hard enough.  Wheat rang and the son of our new landlady finally answered and showed us to the apartment, which has a separate entrance.

The apartment is fine, with two bedrooms, a large kitchen/living room/dining room area, and a bathroom.  Originally, we wanted to bring our dog, but there is no way Lupita could have made it up the iron spiral staircase that leads to the apartment!  The steps are strips of metal with 1/2 inch to 3 inch spaces between them! Crazy!  There is also a little rooftop terrace, but we haven´t taken advantage of that yet.

Today, we woke up and met our landlady, Rocio (either her first or middle name is
Celeste).  She took us to the mercado, which is very near us.  We looked around a bit
with her, then separated.  We went to eat a big breakfast in the square – we had
dinner at another restaurant last night. We decided to go to WalMart to get a lot
of stuff, like cereal and tequila, and went back to the market afterward.  It was
about closed down, but we bought some fruit and vegetables. 

Sra. Rocio told us that there is a solution to put in the water you wash vegetables
in – it´s basically iodine.  We have a big bottle of water which is changed by someone
else.  It´s all pretty cool.  At the moment, Wheat and I are at an internet cafe
– wireless is free, but I felt we needed to buy something.  I am on an 8 peso/hour
computer while Wheat is on my computer.  We were told by the Baden Powell people
that there is no wireless internet available at our apartment, but there is a wireless
connection.  I asked if we could gain access to it, and Rocio said yes, but she
didn´t sound very enthusiastic.  My husband has this whole speech prepared (that he wants ME to deliver) about how trustworthy and computer savvy he is, but I don´t think we will have to go that far.  It sure would be handy, though.  We start classes tomorrow morning and will have internet access and wireless there, but it would be great to be able to write and blog from the apartment.

I will try and post tomorrow – time to walk back home and get ready for our first day of school.

Thank you, Homeland Security…

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This is a follow up to my post about my missing passport. I spent most of the day yesterday going over my office and bedroom with a fine-toothed comb. No luck. I got an e-mail from my mother, who is in a less dire situation: she just realized that her passport expired in June of 2006. After being assured by the members of her art class that there was no way that the airlines would let her fly to Mexico without a passport, she started researching solutions on the Internet.

This morning, while reading the New York Times, my husband found the passport problem to be front page news. He was going to send it to Mom, but I suggested he hold off. She was going to find out about the delay soon enough.

During breaks from combing through all of my file folders, I had been doing the same thing. I read a reassuring entry in the FAQs at this website, I was feeling pretty good. It is obvious that I am an American – I would bluff my way through with my driver’s license and my Costco card. Then, I called a representative at Continental Airlines and asked exactly when they would be asking for my passport (we will be changing planes in Houston). He assured me that it would be checked in Atlanta, and that I would not be allowed to board without it.

I continued to search, until I got an e-mail from my mother. She had done a text chat with a Passport expediting company called the International Visa Service. The nice lady told her that next day service would cost $499 plus $127, and we needed to be there by 1:30 in order to get the passport with a 24 hour turnaround. By then, I was pulling things out of my office drawers and moving my shelves aside in a last ditch effort to turn up the passport. With the threat of having to re-book our trip – or at least my part of the trip – I finally became resigned to paying the money and getting the expedited passport.

We got to the office – we had managed to find my official birth certificate as well as a couple of passport photos that I had taken for my old passport. I officially looked like hell, so I was grateful not to have to be photographed – as I didn’t have time to shower or anything. There were a lot of people there already, but I worked on my application online, printed it out in duplicate, and went to complete my paperwork with a lovely Brazilian woman.

Typical of the way this day was going, I realized that I could not use the passport photos. Although I was wearing the same shirt in both pictures, they were actually taken at different times. I did get a lot of compliments on the pictures – the passport guy said I looked like Meryl Streep (usually I used to get Andy McDowall or Bette Midler – there’s a picture for you!). But instead of a lovely photo with my hair and face made up and my smiling face, I now have a passport photo that looks like I got pulled into a jail in Tijuana and photographed for my mug shot. Oh, I am smiling, though.

After this, we were instructed to take the application packet to the nearest U.S. Post Office to be affirmed by the Official Passport person. We were at the post office for over an hour, along with a family going to live in Cambodia (I assume on missionary work), and another more affluent family going to Kenya on vacation – among others. After that was done, I paid an additional $30 to the nice man, and we trotted the forms back to the expeditor’s office. Then we went to Chik-fil-A.

But my adventure was not over yet. Now, I had to deal with the fact that my passport may not make it in time for my 8:30 flight Saturday morning. After consulting with both Travelocity and Continental Airlines, I was assured that the least expensive option would be to just wait until check-in at 6:30 that morning and if I still had no passport, then Continental would work with me on booking a later flight.

My husband, my brother-in-law and I conferred on the phone, and were coming up with plan B (Wheat would just fly in ahead of me and either go on to Morelia or book a hotel room in Mexico City and wait for me). We needed to go and get a phone card so that we can call each other in case we had to be separated. And on and on.

Then, my sister (who was praying to Saint Anthony – patron saint of lost items – like a good unofficial Catholic) sent this news story from Yahoo:

The Bush administration is poised to suspend a major post-9/11 security initiative to cope with increasingly angry complaints from Americans whose summer vacations are threatened by new passport rules.

A proposal set to be announced as early as Friday will temporarily waive a requirement that U.S. passports be used for air travel to and from Canada and Mexico, provided the traveler can prove he or she has already applied for a passport, officials said Thursday.

Great. But I will probably still have to have some sort of receipt to prove that I applied for the replacement, so I am not going to worry about the EXORBITANT price I just paid. Oh, and the visa lady assured me that I would probably have that passport by Saturday morning, if the 1 day turnaround service works out. So, yippee.

In an effort to defray costs, my brave mother has agreed to give dog sitting a try. Pray for her, please. My dog is not bad – just young.