Monday, November 29, 2010
Just three more weeks to go until my return to the US. At this point I’m counting down the days. Things have been going pretty well here the last couple of weeks. My work is wrapping up and will be finished on time. Excavations here at Oconahua are underway, which gives me a nice distraction during the day when I want to take a break and also gives me much more company. I’m still living in the house alone, but at least there are a few people around from time to time during the day, so I’m not completely in isolation anymore.
This weekend I had all sorts of adventures. On Friday I went with a friend to a small conference in Michoacan, a neighboring state about a 3-4 hour drive from here. It was nice to meet some archaeologists who are working on other projects and hear about what they are working on. Friday evening I got back to Guadalajara too late to get a bus to Oconahua, so I ended up spending the night at a hostel in the city. The last bus that will get me to Oconahua for the night leaves before 6pm. I had been thinking about returning to Guadalajara the next day anyway, so wasn’t too bad being stranded there. It saved me several hours of travel time and cost me about $10 extra.
The reason I was thinking of coming back was an annual event in Guadalajara called the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Festival). It is a huge event with publishers from all over the world setting up booths to show their books and try to make deals with book buyers. There are lots of people making big deals to buy many books, but it is also open to the public. For under $2 anyone can attend for the day and wander through aisle after aisle of booths to look at (and buy) books. There are also things like book signings, talks by authors/illustrators/publishers and cultural performances. There is even a huge room set aside as the kid’s zone where they have games and activities for kids (and bigger people as well). I like to go to the FIL to look for archaeology books that I can’t find easily in the US. Most of the schools in Mexico send books from their presses there to display and sell, so there is a good variety there of scholarly work. Sometimes they are even available at a good discount from list price. This year I didn’t end up getting too much—I got a packet of several older books for about $7.50 and got a few back issues of Arqueologia magazine. It was fun spending a few hours wandering around looking at all the booths and books, as well.
Getting to the festival and back home were an adventure. The central part of the city (where I was staying and where the bus station is) spent much of Saturday slowly closing down the streets for a parade of some “monos gigantes” which I never saw, but assume are some big walking doll costumes or something similar. I just missed what turned out to be the last bus from my area of downtown to the Expo center where the book festival was being held. After waiting nearly an hour for another to show up, I gave up and walked about a mile to another bus route. It turned out that the buses there didn’t exactly go where I wanted, but got within a few blocks. My bus driver was very nice and let me know the best place to get off the bus and gave me directions on how walk the rest of the way there. After the festival, I had to take that same bus route back since most of the other routes going downtown were using alternate routes or just skipping downtown. That left me walking a couple of miles to the bus station, where I thought I was quite fortunate to find out that the very next bus leaving was one of the few each day that go to my town (instead of going to the closest large town and requiring me to wait up to an hour for the next bus to my town). It turned out to not be so fortunate, perhaps. About half way into the trip home, we hit a solid wall of traffic from an accident that had closed the road. We happened to be near a turn-around that could take us to an alternate route. The driver attempted the turn, and the bus died in the middle of it and wouldn’t start again, even with the help of a passenger who was a mechanic. The bus that left Guadalajara 15 minutes after ours came by soon, and we all got on it. It was full before we got on and our bus was full, so we were all crammed in very tight as the bus had to drive backwards for a long time to get to the alternate route and the passengers then had to try to help the bus driver pull out into the road across a couple lanes of heavy traffic since the driver couldn’t see anything because of all the people. The alternate route was some pretty small, windy, and not always paved roads through the countryside. I would have enjoyed seeing the new route if I could have actually had a good view of a window through all the people. After another hour or so we’d finally gotten rid of enough people so that we could almost all have seats, when we met another bus that was disabled and had to take on all its passengers as well. Our poor bus driver (of the second bus) was supposed to end his route at about 6:30 in Etzatlan, but ended up having to take those of us from his first disabled bus pickup to Oconahua and those from the second disabled bus pickup to San Marcos, which I think is the first town in the neighboring state of Nayarit. He got us to Oconahua at about 7:30 and left us at the edge of town to walk the rest of the way. My day was filled with lots of bus delays and rerouting and lots of walking as a result, but I did have a nice time at the FIL and eventually made it home safe and sound.
One photo this week is from the book festival. It shows a tiny part of this huge event. Probably the funniest arrangement of booths was in the “religion” section. On one side of the aisle was a Catholic publisher selling things like calendars, book marks, prayer cards, and lots of books for Catholics. Across from it were Pentagram press with a variety of books about the occult. Next to that booth was one about “futbolismo” or “soccerism.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a photo to capture that fun juxtaposition, so the photo I’m sharing is a more generic one of some other publishers’ booths. My other photo is of some buses and people (including my parents) at the New Bus Station in Guadalajara. I almost always use the Old Bus Station, since it serves the areas and routes that I travel most often while I’m here. It is much more crowded and dirty than the New Bus Station.