Wednesday, February 25, 2009

¿Por qué hay palomas gigantes en todas partes?

Week three in Guanajuato and we're starting to feel a bit at home here. There are restaurants we're tried twice now, shop owners who recognize us (it's not hard - we're the two gringas browsing the silver shops constantly), people on the street whose faces look familiar. We're also definitely improving our Spanish by leaps and bounds: I can buy a bus ticket, pose questions, chat about the weather, describe what I did yesterday (learning one of the past tenses has been the academic highlight of the week so far - I'm no longer stuck in the present, which is a linguistic relief), and even - with a bit of thought and some referral to my notes - ask someone what medications they take and if they're short of breath or having chest pain, which is honestly much better than I expected after 13 days of classes.

This week has just been beautiful so far - the sky has been this unbelievable clear blue that makes me wish I painted. I've had to settle for taking lots of photos of flowers.

Speaking of flowers, I don't think I've mentioned the bourgainvillea that grows like a weed here. I don't think I'd ever known what bougainvillea looked like, before; I seem to associate it with jasmine and the fictional verandas of 19th-century literature set in the tropics. But it grows everywhere here, from little pots on the roof of the school to great vines that cover walls and buildings.

This is one of the potted varieties living on the roof of the school - which, like many of the roofs in Guanajuato, is the equivalent to the backyard of an American house or building. The school's thick stone walls of the school are certainly very insulating, so between classes, most of us walk up to the roof to warm ourselves in the sun for a few minutes. (The hibisicus bud, blurry in the foreground, was actually what I was trying to photograph against an out-of-focus bougainvillea background, but my little point-and-shoot camera was not quite up to the task.)

Yesterday, Kristen and I visited the Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato, which was another 90 minute endeavor, but was again really interesting. The upper levels of the museum showcased artwork - we think - from all over Guanajuato state, beginning with anonymous pieces of religious artwork from probably c. 16th century (nothing was dated) to painfully postmodern deconstructionist works from the local university students. (There were series of photos of Guanajuato's plazas filled with giant pigeons and men in tutus, a close-up painting of a woman in lithotomy, presumably postpartum from the gore, and (our favorite) a photo of a fork with all but the middle tine bent down, entitled, in English, "Fork You!".)

The near-modern artwork was the best (including some beautiful stained glass windows either designed by or commemorating Siqueiros , but the museum itself was gorgeous, too, with the typical open-air courtyards:

(framed here by antique wrought-iron fences):

and a chapel, adorned with some omnipresent cacti:

The first floor of the museum is dedicated to miniatures, apparently a longstanding artistic tradition in Guanajuato. We saw copper pans and tea kettles that were maybe 6 mm across, all sorts of animals and people less than a centimeter high carved from wood and bone or woven from corn husks, entire dioramas of homes and shops that fit in boxes maybe two inches by three. Some pieces were so small they were displayed in their cases behind microscopes, in order to actually be able to see them.

Before we went into the museum, though, we wandered up the callejone next to the university, where we saw this truck parked:

We were amused by the hand-lettering that designated its officiality. We also ran into the callejonadas again last night; they're university students who dress up in period costume and lead tourists around the city, singing. We had been under the impression they only did this on weekend evenings, but they were out in full force last night. It may just be that the burro carrying the wine they give out only accompanies them on the weekends.