Magdalene’s Tortillas

It was early morning, the light was just pearly golden and Magdalene was already in the kitchen cooking. Her routine was simple, get up and cook food. I got up at seven and am in the kitchen just in time for the making of tortillas, the food that no meal is complete without. I would drag a chair in off the porch and perch on it in the slightly dim space, drinking my black instant coffee and watching Magdalene mixing one kilo of white flour, agua caliente, vegetable oil and a pinch of baking powder. She would turn to me occasionally and ask about whether Eric and Esther were novios (boyfriend and girlfriend) or if I went to church. A great many topics were breached while the dough was mixed. The minute she started to pinch off and roll balls of the sticky, cream mass I would set aside my coffee and light the stove. The dance which comes is carefully choreographed. Magdalene would roll out the tortilla rounds and I would quickly take two and cook them on the hot griddle. Each tortilla was flipped three times, with my fingertips slightly scorched the first couple of times. Magdalene would look at my nails, exclaim over how short they were and hand me a spatula.

La Ciénega de Santa Clara

“Bienvenidos al la Ciénega de Santa Clara” Juan Burton’s voice is deep and measured. He is totally at peace here, in his life’s work, the preservation of the Colorado River Delta salt marshes. He describes the scene, in which he found the salt marshes, “At firs after the river went away, there was only dust. Everything was dry, salty, ground, like the rest of that.” He gestures with his arm to the border of the biosphere preserve. “Then one day we were running out here, and there was mud! I was so startled I fell on my back!” This is said with a grin. “Everyday, every week there was more water, until everything was filled up. Now we have the Ciénega. It is the lifeblood for several endangered species, including a fish thought to have died out the death of the river.” Now the cienega flourishes, home to several species of fish and birds, including the Double Crested Cormorant, Eurasian Coot and the Caspian Tern. Juan was rueful about the motor boat we went out in, saying “The motor scares off the birds, a canoe would be better.” And yet, the birds visible were the best any of us had seen in ages.


The Fence

My first impression of Mexico was a tall black fence, that appeared like an apparition in the distance. The car zoomed closer and closer, until the white spaces gave us glimpses into Mexico. All of us in the Van were somewhat nervous about the border crossing. How long would it take? What about passports? These sort of questions run through my mind. We reached the crossing point and the border agents took one look at us, with our rack of backpacks, and said “Search it.” And onward to secondary we went, to pull down all of our packs and explain what was in them. Monica had the hardest time, she had wheatgrass tea and Shitake Mushrooms right on top. We explained that they were for soup, but it took pulling out the miso soup bags from the previous night. Everything ended well with the guards exclaiming that the smell of soup had made them hungry, gifts of grapefruit being given.


Fixing the Van

So I haven’t written anything here in quite awhile, but I am now. In early February a group of us met a Dev’s house to start the next phase of the gap year: Packing! Food was dug out of the root cellar and put in boxes. Tents and tarps appeared from their winter hiding places and found their way into the back of the van. Backpacks were tossed up and attached to the top of the van. And in the blink of an eye everything was packed and tucked away for the journey to Mexico.