Sunday, January 31, 2016


Well, it's literally the end of January already, sort of rather actually quite late for a year's end reflection, right? But a fantastic trip to Oaxaca that straddled the entry to 2016 – plus loads and loads of work – made it impossible to write about 2015 before the year ended or even shortly after that. But... Chinese New Year is coming (February 8th), so I've still got one fair last chance for a year's end reflection! Otherwise, I'll have to wait until Rosh Hashana in October? Nope.

Anyhow, I really like these yearly exercises, a looking back, putting some order in what in my mind is usually a chaotic mix of memories and experiences, appreciating what the year offered, processing the more difficult lessons... Though this blog started as – and remains – a way of sharing with friends and family spread world-wide, this is one of the few posts I write mostly for myself. So if you're not into this, feel free to stop reading right HERE.


Still seeing the world!

I made three trips with the habib, and it's no exaggeration to say that all three of them were impossibly good. I got to see Mexico under a very different, indigenous-heavy, culinarily-surprising, tradition-rich light both in Yucatán and Oaxaca. Like, truly eye-opening! And on top of that we visited South America! My first trip ever down there! And to Rio de Janeiro no less! That was one of our best anniversaries ever, for sure! We also visited the town of Cuernavaca, the kind of experience that is enlightening through its ugliness (though we definitely spent some quality family time there).

And then, because of work, I got to visit Seoul once more! And I think I actually had an even better time than the first time. Love that place. And if that weren't enough, I managed to spend some fantastic hours in San Francisco with a dear friend. 

And I even got to spend a romantic weekend with the motek in San Miguel de Allende and Atotonilco, and one in Mexico City (our version of "Acapulco en la azotea" or "Khul baaretz", a staycation). Both showed me more of Mexico, through a new set of eyes.

So I guess I would have to be out of my mind to have any complaints on the travel front, right? Sure, no amount of travel is ever going to be enough, but 2015 was really outstanding in the diversity of experiences I had. Pretty cool.

And it was also a year of exploring and experiencing aplenty in this immense megalopolis called Mexico City. We visited former little towns now engulfed by the city and saw very peculiar traditions, like the Día de la Candelaria. We visited the neighbourhood where my dad grew up, and enjoyed some Russian culture while there. We discovered what was to become our favourite ruins in the city - Tlatelolco! We discovered fantastic vegan places for brunch and milkshakes, awesome and authentic Korean, Japanese and Lebanese food. We kept finding precious gems hidden in the historic centre, like squares where people dance on weekends.

Also, on a kinkier vein, I had my first Pride ever in Mexico City! And it was a lot of fun! Though a bit disorganized, it was amazing to see such a diverse and young crowd marching on the streets and partying in the historic centre. Very, very cool. And a feminist porn festival in a former convent? Superb! And on a Jewish-y note, I think I saw all the Israeli-Jewish dance I needed at a couple of festivals, and of course there was also film, which sort of linked me back to Canada, not just because that's where we first started going to Jewish Film festivals, but also one of the movies was set in Toronto! Sure, the pace of our exploring has diminished a bit, we've sort of found the places we enjoy the most and keep going back to them. But it was indeed one good year of getting to know this city better.

It was a year of friendship, too. Two very dear friends from Canada visited, and spent a couple of weekends with us. And we did our best to show them our city. And I think we did great, and enjoyed their visit immensely! And a friend from Russia (living in the US) also visited! After not seeing each other for who-knows how many years! It feels so good when you can sit down with a friend, after such a long time, and carry on as if no time had passed. So good. And we became real good friends with some neighbours! A first for us, by the way. Hell, such a good friendship we were even invited for New Year to Juchitán (that amazing trip to Oaxaca I mentioned before).


I had the amazing experience of seeing indigenous languages actually used on a daily basis in Yucatán and Oaxaca, something I cherish immensely. I even managed to learn the odd word in Maya (thanks to a colleague of mine) and Zapotec (through the friend that invited us to Juchitán). But that was it pretty much for 2015 – too much work, too little free time. But still, the indigenous language experience was so unique!

Happy everything!

2015 was one year full of celebrations! I don't think we've ever tried to do so much! Christmas, Hannukah, Rosh Hashana, Chinese Spring Festival, Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival... And lest you think we don't honour our stay in Lebanon with some specific celebration, please remember we put Lebanese Christmas songs for Christmas, OK? And like few times before, we celebrated most of these with friends. Home. We're becoming better at being hosts! Yay!

Work! Work? Work...

What learning I may not have done language-wise, I made up for in many other areas. Like work, where I keep learning tons. Tons. I guess the highlights would be a successful – despite numerous unexpected circumstances – big event we organized in September, plus being entrusted to be the one and only representative of my team in Seoul in November.

On the other hand, near the end of the year I had some epic professional stumble that left me wondering whether I wasn't in the wrong job. Which forced me to sit down and reflect. And of the 5 most important things I reasoned I wanted from my job, I concluded I am indeed getting each of them but one (due to the "hiccup"). Overall, it's been one intense learning marathon.

Some crazy surprises

I might have mentioned a family research project I have. It's something that's taken me some 10 years, because information was scarce, scattered, fragmented, and in old versions of other languages. But a chat with a historian friend of mine, plus a sympathetic public officer that found my story interesting, led me to discover some files I was not aware existed, a wealth of fascinating new information, plus some fact-changing details regarding my mom and my grandfather. The links of my family to "the tribe" – and to the circus! LOL – keep getting stronger and stronger.


Now, 2015 was one wonderful, rough, exhilarating, painful and reaffirming year love-wise.

With my habib, a relationship I've been in for almost 15 years, things were sort of roller-coaster-y for a few months. We had amazing trips. I mean, truly wonderful ones! And we've explored so many nooks and crannies of this city, tried all sorts of food, got closer to friends and family... But... But in those 15 years the habib hadn't seen me develop as long and as intense a relationship as the one I did with the motek. And that put my own relationship with the habib to the test. Apparently simple theory had to face the overwhelming reality of complex feelings and of specificities nobody could have foreseen. It was a rocky and difficult process, but we came through a better and more solid couple, and my habib proved himself, yet again, as one incredible, frank, mature, committed, steadfast, caring and loving partner.

And then, of course, the motek. I am thankful for having had in my life someone so giving, honest, fun, interesting and willing to give difficult me a chance. I owe quite a bit of my experiencing of this city and this country, in their crazy complexity and multiple layers, to the motek. Alas, like the Chinese say, 有緣無份 (yǒu yuán wú fèn) - there was fate, but no destiny. So there is no motek in 2016 no more. Painful. Very. But then again, almost a year and a half of a very good thing? The pain will ease away, and only good memories will remain.

There. I needed that. A very good year. Despite a couple of kick-balls-y things. Lots of learning. Loads of many good memories. Lots of learning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Seoul and San Francisco - recap

After posting my entry with all my Oaxaca posts, I realized I never did the same for my Seoul trip! So, in preparation for Chinese new Year, and since I haven't finished editing the photos of my next posts, here's a long-overdue house-keeping post on that short but fantastic trip to Seoul and it's little but also meaningful side-hop to San Francisco! Just click on the titles to go to the blog posts.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Guidxi Binnizá – the people of the clouds

Last, and most definitely not least by any measure, the binnizá, the people of the clouds, the Zapotec. Our experience of Oaxaca, but rather specifically of Juchitán, cannot be understood without talking about the local culture and language. 

Though native languages are spoken by some 10 million people in Mexico, their real political and social weight varies immensely from place to place. Zapotec is spoken all over Oaxaca, and the differences between different geographical varieties is similar to the differences between Romance languages – like between Portuguese and Spanish, French and Italian, Spanish and French, Romanian and the others; sometimes it's small, sometimes it's huge, but there's always a relationship. And in this Zapotec-speaking universe, Juchitán is one very special place.

We heard Zapotec in the market. I was told Zapotec was used for a sarcastic comment at a wedding. The (Spanish) poems of a poetess who also writes in Zapotec had a markedly different quality from her not Zapotec-writing counterparts at a poetry event we attended... 

At the anniversary of a movie club at the main square, over half the songs were in Zapotec...

In a documentary shown at that same anniversary, Zapotec was spontaneously spoken by a number of interviewees.

Many places had Zapotec names. Youth that didn't learn Zapotec from their parents – due to a temporary perception of the language as a negative asset – are learning it on the street as a code language. People who want the slightest of chances at politics in Juchitán must speak Zapotec, at the very least for the openings of their speeches. Zapotec is written, spoken, broadcast. It's an essential and vital part of this region's culture, and I'm convinced our cultural experience would have been very different if the local language had succumbed to the massive onslaught of the omnipresent Spanish language.

I consider myself very privileged for having this experience, not long after our trip to Yucatán. This, the indigenous side to Mexico's fabric, is something I had barely had a chance to have a peek at. And this experience (and Yucatán's) has deeply enriched my understanding of Mexico. Like I said, I consider this a privilege. I'm honoured. And grateful.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Guidxi Binnizá - beach of crabs

We're almost there! These are the last two posts! I've saved the best for last, OK? First, Playa Cangrejo (I know I've translated it as Beach of Crabs, but Crab Beach just doesn't sound nice in my opinion). We visited on December 31st because traditionally, people in this area go to bodies of water on January 1st. Which means it can get incredibly crowded, and you might have to drive for hours in traffic. It being December 31st, we pretty much had the place to ourselves after a leisurely drive with beautiful views of the countryside....

Once we got there, the habibi and our friends got ready to just sit down and eat, or lie in a hammock and enjoy some peace. Me, I was itching to move! I had spent too many hours sitting down at meals, celebrations, cars... and the weather was perfect - the wind was blowing, it was early, and so it didn't feel too hot.

I grabbed my camera, and told everybody I'd be back, eventually, after a walk on the beach. With no mobile signal there, it was  nice to simply disconnect and enjoy a walk by myself in nature!

Parallel to the beach there was a lagoon system...

And the beach was full of surprises, like jutting tree trunks, the odd fishing net, lots of birds and even a big group of them feeding by the water!

About halfway through, I came across another lagoon, with gorgeous views of the hills, some cattle, birds...

Further on there were more nets, birds, fishermen...

At the end of my walk, the wind was blowing white sand across brown sand, creating beautiful moving patterns. Of course, I couldn't capture that with my camera. 

I jogged all the way back to my people - I felt so invigorated! In fact, after I explained what I had found, the habibi decided he wanted to go have a look too! But by then (I had been away some 3 hours?) the skies had cleared and the sun was shining really strong, so I actually had to put on my trousers and a t-shirt (my previous walk I had worn just a swimming trunk and nothing else), 'cause I was sure I'd toast myself to a crisp if I didn't, sunblock and all.

Anyhow, it was a lovely walk back to the last lagoon I had visited. 

And, once there - and after a very painful run on scorching sand - the habibi decided to explore one of the sides of the lagoon. So glad we did! The views changed completely! It was just so unbelievably pretty! And not a soul in sight!

And then, as on many occasions, inspiration struck and my habibi decided to do a Butoh improvisation, and asked me to take photos and film. As usual, here are a few images, since the video is not edited yet. I must say, what a perfect place for a Butoh performance!

Finally, with everybody in high spirits thanks to the beauty of the place and to the super fresh fish they had eaten, the habibi and one of our friends had a round of capoeira on the beach. 

Oaxaca gave me plenty of experiences, but this encounter with nature definitely ranks among the top ones!