A new year, one filled with changes.

Tuesday, January 7th, 1997

jueves 9 de enero de 1997

Yes, that does mean the ninth of January, and I extend a Happy New Year and Feliz Año Nuevo to all of you. From where I sit, which today is in front of an annoying Windows-based machine at the Instituto Tecnologico de Oaxaca, it’s hard to tell what day it is, let alone where I am on the planet. We’re about a month and a half into our three month visit to Oaxaca and other places in Mexico, and I’m hanging out at this fancy institution of higher learning to discuss offering a short course in graphic design. I mean, well, why not? And since I’m typing this on a Windows NT machine with a Spanish-language operating system, on a keyboard complete with those ñ and ¡ keys, It’s been a challenge. In fact, it was a challenge just to get the damn auto spell check off so that it wouldn’t keep flagging every word I typed (since, of course, every word I typed was in English, and this machine couldn’t make sense of any of it.) And how do I get it to stop sticking in those smart quotes? At least I’m getting used to typing CNTL-G to save (‘guarder’) the document (‘archivo’).

At this point in our visit, all of our holiday guests–Kevyn and her kids, Kelley, Sammy`s parents, and Gordy and Karny have come and gone, and what we’re left with are the memories, which, thanks to our fancy video camera, are available here for viewing on the World Wide Web, or as they say here, the Red Mundial.

This means it’s a new year, time to go to work, and for the most part, that means Sammy’s work, although I find myself quite occupied by the various computational needs of the various folks we know down here. I’ve got a web page to design, a newsletter to do, and, well, maybe this course to teach. And somewhere in there we have all the tasks of A Normal Life, including grocery shopping, putting gas in the truck, going for 5.3km walks in the morning, and general grad-student-working-on-her-dissertation support. And did I mention that the upstairs and downstairs toilets leak in the little place we’re renting? El lago de sanitario.

There are women in this room cleaning the keyboards of these IBM machines by actually taking every key apart and washing them. That’s a good thing, but the one they swapped out on my machine a moment ago had a not-quite-working space bar. Let’s see. I have to formulate the sentence for quite a while in my head: “El clave de espacio no funcionar bien.” Well, close enough. Folks here are very patient with vistors who mangle the language, and since I’ve never studied Spanish, I subsist on a lean diet of nouns, indefinite verb forms, agreement problems, and a variety of sweeping hand gestures (I’m conscious of the fact that I don’t gesture much up in the states, but down here, it’s one big game of charades.)

Because I’m entering these words using the big and scary Microsoft Word, I don’t have my usual HTML tools and I find myself face-to-face with typing all those damn codes in manually. Ah, well, it’s good exercise, good practice.

Every day we’ve been down here contains plenty of what I’ve heard called The Contrasts of Mexico. Staggering poverty next to satellite dishes. High-tech schools next to garbage dumps. Incredible precision and quality of work done on a timetable that can be charitably called subject-to-change. It’s Chinatown, Jake. It’s Oaxaca, John.

So far, we`ve been very pleased with our PowerBook 5300–in many ways, the fanciest machine around, and a heck of a lot of computing power to be toting around as casually as we do. The one thing I wish for (and occasionally borrow down here) is a color screen, (gee, why would a designer want to work in color?) but that will have to wait until the next extravagant purchase. The irony is, I’m doing all kinds of color work…I find that I’ve more-or-less memorized the color values I use all the time. Boy, have I been doing this design stuff for a while.

So if you have a moment, jump on over to the other server I use and take a look at some images from our trip.