Peter Kuper
Oaxaca-New York Journal
It has been seven months since we returned from Mexico and I’m only just feeling like my feet have settled back onto the North American soil. The difficulty of going away for two years is transitioning back. Fortunately the siren call of Manhattan remains music to my ears, but during this return odyssey I’ll admit to feeling strapped to a mast. The combination of our sinking economy, sky-high prices and the gosh darn reality of having to beat the pavement for work again, made me wish I could just get back on the ship and sail away.
Though the list of what I miss about Oaxaca is so long it would take up my remaining space, what I don’t miss is easier to recount.
Today I killed my first cockroach in months and realized how rarely I've wrestled with insects, especially during this long frigid winter. If I were in Mexico, every morning would have involved some sort of standoff with ants, flies, cucarachas, scorpions, spiders and wasps. The only wasps I’ve been stung by in Manhattan have been on Fifth Avenue. And another thing… one word, “plastic” .The headache-inducing smell of burning plastic was a daily threat during our time in Mexico. Though, now that I think of it, it stirs fond memories of friendly people waving from their yards as I walked down sun-dappled cobblestone streets lined with violet Jacaranda trees. Well, I certainly won’t miss the um… street dogs. Their incessant barking regularly woke us carried on the warm night breeze mixed with the fragrance of mango trees and a sweet distant salsa rhythm.
Ahh, Oaxaca, sigh.

So why, you wonder, did we come back? Well for one thing we didn’t want to lose our apartment in the city. Our landlord took the opportunity of our temporary departure to begin eviction proceedings. As I discovered during my recent deposition, they had placed a camera outside our apartment door to try and catch us with illegal tenants! If the photos had been better it would have made a nice family album, as it was, it felt like a Bush era end to privacy.
Which brings me to another reason I’m not sorry to be back in the good ol’ US of A. Obama! I wouldn’t have wanted to miss being with the crowds dancing down 125th street on election night in Harlem for the world. Joy like that during any US election is something I don’t expect to share again in this lifetime.
It has been interesting to note the dizzying changes that have occurred in our landscape over a mere two years. Two hideous skyscrapers now block our kitchen window view and favorite stores and restaurants have reconfigured to accommodate more banks, drug stores and “store for rent” signs. On the plus side, my newfound understanding of Spanish that has made me aware that every other person in the neighborhood speaks the language as their native tongue, so I still get plenty of practice.

As spring begins to smile through this winter of our discontent, the thought a walk down Broadway with friends, a stroll in Central Park with my wife and daughter, or a visit to the Modern Art Museum with my sketchbook cushions this difficult return.
And yes, I have made good on the commandment:
“Draw in your sketchbook everyday, religiously!”
 Just like I did in, sigh, Oaxaca.


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