When I was in my early 20’s, I lived in Israel for several months. I recall one day my mother calling me with a frantic tone in her voice. Watching CNN, she had seen scud missiles being dropped on that tiny country and wanted to know if I was O.K. Earlier that day, I had been working at my waitressing job on the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves while schlepping hummus and drinks to the customers. I assured her that I was perfectly fine and had no idea that anything that alarming was occurring around me. I learned a very valuable lesson that day… media is often used as a tool to keep people in a state of fear, and while it was quite possible that a scud missile was dropped somewhere in a far corner of that country, it had in no way affected my daily life. While I am sure this view of the media is a generalization, I have seen it happen time and again during the past 25 years of my international traveling forays.
So, here I sit in Oaxaca, southern Mexico, in the midst of teacher protests that are growing more heated by the day. In the past, our family vacations consisted of traveling to several locales over the span of a few weeks. This summer we chose to stay in one place for a month to experience daily life. And experiencing it, we certainly are! In addition to sightseeing and getting to know café baristas so well they know our names when we walk in the door, we are also dealing with daily issues such as running out of fresh water and what to do with our garbage when we miss the weekly garbage truck. (As we discovered this morning, you just lug it to a busy street corner and dump it with the other bags.)
Regarding the mounting civil unrest, my first clue that something was awry was when I saw the piles of burning tires in the streets last Sunday morning. Then, of course, there was the astonishing amount of federal police officers with heavy weaponry at the airport. I brushed that one off as the police merely taking precautionary measures. Next came the staggering lines into the gas station that snaked down several city blocks. I recall telling Marty that I had a sneaking suspicion that something big was about to go down. Low and behold, the next day I read that the protesters were blocking the highway that led from the Pemex petroleum plant into the city, and gas shortages were a real possibility. Yesterday I woke to the din of incessant police sirens that seemed to last the entire day, and yesterday evening when we finally ventured outside, the streets were practically deserted. Our waitress told us it was due to a combination of being Sunday, and of course because of the teacher protests.
So now I am more paying attention. The news said that six protesters were killed yesterday in a small town outside of that gas plant and that if the blocking of the petroleum plant continued much longer they would shut down the entire plant. This of course would mean no gas in Oaxaca… and no jet fuel to get us home. Apparently there were rumors that the Zócalo was going to be cleared of protesters last night… undoubtedly using force. He said that with the rise in use of Twitter and Facebook, equal amounts of positive and negative information gets spread very quickly and most of it never actually occurs. As it turns out, the incident at the Zócalo never actually happened. I am trying to stay rational as really we have not seen any violence nor felt the affects of what is happening around us. Honestly, if I weren’t reading the news on the Internet, I would not really know what was going on. It’s just that I am a worrier by nature and I like to be prepared for whatever comes my way. I have already been strategizing possible escape routes if the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Other than riding out of the state on bicycles, I am sort of drawing a blank.
Talk about an amazing teaching moment for our children.
I am optimistic that all will be well and this thing will clear up soon. If I am wrong, we will deal with what comes our way and figure it out. Until then, we will continue our adventures and have one heck of a story to tell when we get home!
An hour later…
Ok… now I am freaking out a bit. Just after writing this, the language school had a mandatory meeting to explain the current political situation to the students. Turns out, the only way out of the state is by plane. They allayed out fears, and then we walked out of the hour-long meeting only to find a huge protest occurring just outside the school gate. The fireworks… I hope that’s what they are… are deafening and the gates are now locked. So at the moment, we are trapped in the school waiting for the protest to dissipate, which it doesn’t look like will happen anytime soon. The protest is simply a long parade of people yelling for justice and apart from the loud booms of the fireworks, it appears to be peaceful. As I age, I think I might be getting tired of such adventures! Oh, and I’m ready for lunch. 🙂
Sorry Mom for freaking you out too.
Another hour later…
The protest has moved passed us, the gates are open, and it looks as if nothing ever happened.