Thursday, March 30, 2006

Oaxacan Black Pottery

I have admired and bought Oaxacan black pottery in the past, but I’d never heard the story behind it. When in Mexico we not only heard the story, but saw a demonstration of how it is made.

Dona Rosa was born in the early 1900 and died in the 1980s. She, like many Oaxacans, made pots and sold them at market for her living. Then plastics came. Mexicans fell in love with the bright colors, lightness, and cheapness of plastic and stopped buying the pottery. The Mexicans and Zapotecs who depended on selling pottery for a living were in dire straights, not to mention the danger of the art of making it being lost.

Rosa signed the pottery pieces she made by rubbing the pattern of a rose into it using a piece of quartz. One day she mistakenly rubbed a whole pot, and then only left it in the kiln 6 to 8 hours instead of the customary 12 to 14. The pot came out a beautiful shiny black, instead of the dusty grey they normally were, but it was useless because it wasn’t cured enough to hold water.

She stuck it off to the side until a tourist noticed it and insisted on buying it, though Rosa protested because it was worthless. That was the beginning of the Oaxacan Black Pottery as we know it today, and the saving of the potters’ livelihoods.
Rosa’s son gave us a demonstration of the making of the pottery. He did no use a wheel, but only his hands to get the clay close to the shape and size he wished. He uses a few tools, handmade from gourds and bamboo, to shape the pottery piece more perfectly. Then it is wrapped in plastic and put in a dark place to begin the drying process. After three days it is taken back out and a mouth or neck is added.
Eight days later a pattern is added, if wished, in one of three ways. It can be stamped with bamboo tools, “pats” of clay can be added to create raised flower patterns, or a knife is used to cut out patterns. Then the pot is rubbed firmly with the quartz rock, and the pressure causes the surface to become shiny.

Now they make all kinds of the black pottery in every size and shape imaginable, from large pots, to tiny detailed vases, to adorable animal figurines.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Grandpa is home now! His hip replacement surgery went well. Now the hard part--recovery. Thanks for your continued prayers.

My sign language skit went well also! It turned out so neat. It was the story of two girls seeing the miracles of Jesus. One of them (my character) was skeptical, and found the preaching to be exceedingly boring. But at the very end, when Jesus walked up, alive, right in the middle of a conversation about His death, my character recognized His Godhood. As the time for Jesus’ “approach” grew near, my skit partner would get a twinkle in her eye. The end was a goosebump moment every single time we did it.

On the other hand, my novel isn’t going quite as well. I got a chapter written today, but I’m not terribly happy with it. The story just isn’t flowing. Normally when I’m writing a story all I have to do is guide the words a bit as they tumble out. This is feeling more like I have to extract each word.

Please pray for me that either the story would start flowing, or that I would know now is not the right time for this project.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big Day

My grandpa is in surgery right new to get a hip replacement. I’m so glad that he finally agreed to have the surgery. He is in good health, but has been in constant pain and can no longer get around much. I am really disappointed that I’m not able to be there at the hospital for him and grandma today, due to a bad cold.

This evening my sign language partner and I are performing our skit in class. We’re really excited about it! It is a skit I wrote about two girls seeing Jesus’s miracles. Yesterday when practicing, we got the giggles. Uh oh. LOL I’m praying it will go smoothly today.

Monday, March 20, 2006

More steps forward!

As most of you know, I've been organizing and working on a sci-fi book with a group of other Christian writers from FaithWriters. Well, we have finished the rough draft!!! Wow! This has been quite an adventure and the story turned out awesome! It's hard to believe we are all done with the weekly sessions.

I still have a long road of work ahead on the project, though. I now will begin to edit and smooth it out, and convert it into a radio drama format. I'm excited, though, be on to this next step. Yay!

Also, a very respected author on FaithWriters has issued a challenge to be done in this three-week break between quarters of the FW weekly writing challenge. He said that if any of us will write an outline and the first several chapters of a novel, then he will critique them. I was planning on continuing to work on my Biblical fiction collection of short stories, and begin the research phase of my novel. But this isn't an opportunity that comes everyday, so I am going to dive into the novel on Thursday of this week (my Spring Break begins then). I'll only have a week and a half left of the three-week challenge time, but I shouldn't have trouble writing a couple of chapters in that time.

That is, as long as I can get started.... So far I'm feeling a little stuck on opening ideas... and we all know the first line is the most important. Good thing we can edit later. ;-)

I know you're all wondering what my first novel is going to be about. :-) Maybe I'll post a little of it here....but for now I'll just say it's about a young girl waiting for a kidney transplant, and about organ donation--Issues that are close to my heart.

I'd love prayer as I embark on the next step of both of these projects.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Whisper of the Mangroves

[Author's note: On Friday, March 3, 2006, a group of us went on a boat ride to a lagoon in Mexico, to see the birds and flora. The dense mangroves had facinating little trails leading deep inside them. These trails called to me.

The FaithWriters' challenge topic that week was "enter", and the boat ride provided me with the perfect story. Here it is with pictures of the real things!]

Whisper of the Mangroves

The whisper was the most insistent on days like this, when the sun was dipping near the horizon and the full moon already climbing the sky. The deep trails of the mangrove trees beckoned, enticing, “Entrar. Enter and discover our secrets.”

Each day Joél joined his father fishing in the Mexican Manialtepec Lagoon, bordered by mangroves. The trees grew tightly together, their long trunks rising out of the water, leafy branches mingling to provide the dense groves. But here and there an animal trail would make a slight opening. And each one they passed whispered to Joél in a language that even he did not quite know.

Today, today Joél was answering that call. Anticipation cut through him even as his oars cut through the green of the water. The deep burping sound of the thin black cormorants echoed around him as he paddled far into the winding lagoon. Nests of Wide-Billed Herons filled the trees, the heavy weight of termite nests covering the trunks below them.

Then he reached it; the pathway that whispered the loudest. The sun was hovering above the horizon, a red path streaming across the lagoon. The water at the mouth of the mangrove tunnel danced with flecks of red among the deep blue and green.

For a minute Joél thought the boat would not fit. Then he was in, bits of the sky peeking through the branches, tangles of vines and trunks all around him, rustling with the movement of the birds.

The tunnel opened wider. He felt suddenly that he was in a tiny cathedral, created especially for him by the hand of the Creator.

He clambered out of the boat and balanced on two spindly mangrove trunks. Turning his head upward, he let his soul open to the Creator. Here, far from civilization, surrounded by nature, Joél felt more of a connection to God then he had ever felt before.

The bits of sky had darkened to a royal blue when Joél slipped back into the boat. The tunnel led beyond the cathedral, though he had a bit of a time forcing his boat into the opening. It was challenging work to weave his way further into the grove, and the growing darkness did not help. But still the mangroves called to him, enticing him.

A long shadow moved across the water in front of him, and Joél felt the first tingle of fear. The boa constrictor paused briefly to eye the boat, and then disappeared among the roots.

Joél shook off the seriousness and paddled deeper into the grove. The path twisted and turned in a delightful way. After a bit it narrowed even more, and the boat would go no farther. An idea crept into his head and Joél hesitated. But he pushed common sense away and slipped over the edge of the boat.

The water was cold here and Joél shivered, unused to cold swimming. Roots grabbed at his legs. Promising himself he wouldn’t go out of sight of the boat, Joél moved forward, but when he turned, he found that the boat was already lost among the darkness. Night had fallen in earnest now.

Suddenly the water churned in front of Joél. A dark shape moved. Joél found himself facing the consequences of his own foolishness. He did not stop to verify that it was a crocodile, but turned swiftly back toward the boat.

That is, he thought he was headed back to the boat. Surely he should have been there by now. Joél wondered then if the whisper had not been so innocent. The whole place seemed sinister, bent on his destruction. His breath came fast.

“Dear Lord, save me from my foolishness. Help me find the boat.”

A faint splash echoed behind him. Joél wondered if he would die out here in the middle of the mangroves. Then he bumped into the boat. With his head. Hard.

Somehow he managed to grab it, spluttering hard. Rolling himself into it, he lay shivering on the bottom. The moon crept into his field of vision, bright and peaceful. “Thank You.”

As Joél passed back through the “cathedral”, he knew he would return. Next time he would be wiser. He would stay in the boat.

The water glowed with green phosphorescence where his paddle disturbed the surface as he entered the lagoon. He turned back toward the opening of the tunnel, answering the familiar whisper.

“I’ll be back.”

© 2006 Amy Michelle Wiley

Happy Belated Birthday, Mom!

Mom's birthday was last week, and I didn't get a blog post done yet, so here it is a bit late.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

Mom, you have done so much for me over the years, I can only brush the tip of what you mean to me. It is largely because of you that I am writing today--because of your dedication to help me through my learning problems, and because of your encouragement. It was you and Dad who taught me to love the Lord with all my heart and soul; who showed me what it means to walk by faith; who showed me how to live life to the fullest--and have fun doing it.

It was you who taught me how to learn and study, how to discover things on my own, and decide for myself what I believed about them.

Thank you, Mom. I love you!

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Thursday, March 2nd

Can we say “hot.” Ug. Ah well, I found some breeze. I slept half the day and no one seemed to be around when I got up, so I brought a book and ordered some food in the hotel’s restaurant overlooking the ocean. It catches a nice breeze there and is so pretty.

Unfortunately when my family did come around, they didn’t think to look in the restaurant for me and got a bit worried….

Right now I’m sitting in a little covered section near the hotel lobby, listening to the palm leaf roof rustle in the slight breeze and watching hummingbirds flit among the flowered bushes.
I’m thinking a paleta sounds really good, hehe. I’ve been eating lots of paletas and wonderful, freshly-made fruit juices. Paletas are a frozen popsicle of sorts made either “con leche” (with milk) or “con agua” (with water). They come in pretty much any fruit you could want, with real chunks of the fruit in it, or in chocolate. Yummy!!!

[prayer requests: as mentioned, a number of people are sick, and a number of us are having trouble with the heat.]

In the evening….
I spent a few hours body surfing. Once I figured out to hold my nose so it didn’t feel like the whole ocean was trying to force its way into my head, I had a blast! The water was so warm I almost got hot playing out there. It was lovely. My knees are complaining at me, since they got scraped up from the sand, but it was worth it!

Hello Porto Escondito!

Wednesday, March 1st

We got up very early and flew in a little 15-person air plane from Oaxaca to Porto Escondito. That was so fun!!! I’ve been in smaller planes, but never one that size. I sat right behind the pilot and next to a window. My dad’s cousin, Monte, got to sit in the co-pilot seat and even got to wear the ear phones. I got an awesome picture of it. :-D I think I'm going to enter it in the county fair.
This picture was taken from the airplane. :-)

Several of us are not feeling well, my oldest sister and my Aunt Lynn are feeling particularly badly. It is soooo HOT here, so lots of us are having some problems with the heat. My poor five-year-old niece got dehydrated and was really out of it tonight. As we walked back from dinner she says, “I feel like there is a wave ride here on the street.” Poor thing was dizzy.

I took several naps today, hehe, and plan on sleeping a lot tomorrow. Then I’m gonna rent a boogie board!!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Goodbye Oaxaca…I’ll be back.

March 1st

There are only two places in the world where my heart feels at home. My home in the Pacific Northwest, and Oaxaca, Mexico. This is only my second visit to Oaxaca, but I’ve grown up hearing tales of Dad and his family’s adventures there, and he has a close friend there, David N.

I’m curious to see if Oaxaca has any part in God’s plans for my future.

Monte Albán

Tuesday, Feb 28th

Today all of us (except Mom, who stayed home to rest) took a tour to Monte Albán. The guide was the same who took us on Sunday, a brother from El Buen Pastor, the Oaxaca church. Monte Albán is the site of a Zapotek city that was established some thousands of years before Christ.

A common question we asked was, “Why are the steps of the pyramids so tall, when the people were small?” Our guide told us it was because they were not only steps, but also seats like bleachers. The pyramid-like cathedrals were not built like now, where one can walk inside, but instead they were tall places where religious ceremonies could take place close to the heavens and where all could observe. Some of the pyramids were sacred, and only the priests could climb them.

Monte Albán was built on the top of a mountain that they figure took some 800 years to flatten the top so that the city could be built.

Here you can see what they call the “Zapotec Dancers.” There are a number of theories about what they signify, but the most recent is that the Zapotecs used them as a warning. It was said that the Zapotecs would take their prisoners of war and dislocate their wrists and ankles.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Is everything okay out there in cyber-space? I seem to have lost most of my readers...or at least my commenters. Only a few of you are left. I do have my blog set up so anyone can comment. Anyone at all...


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Interviewing Amy

(I inturrupt this Mexico report to bring you a special announcement from home...)

I had the privilage to be the feature author in this month's FaithWriters' Magazine. One of my shrot stories and an interview of me appears on the front page here. Thought you might enjoy it. :-)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Hot and sick

Hi from Porto Escondito! We are supposed to have wireless at this hotel, but it comes and goes on whim, and is gone more often than not, so is almost worthless.

Anyway, I had a blast yesterday body surfing in the very warm ocean. It was a great break from the hot, hot weahter here. It was especially enjoyable after I started plugging my nose. ;-) I didn't much like the feeling of the whole entire ocean trying to force its way into my head. LOL

Today, though, I am sick. My oldest sister and her girls were quite sick yesterday, and AJ is still not feeling well. We are scedualed to go on a sunset cruise to see birds and flora, but we'll see if I'm feeling up to it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Leisurely Day

I spent most of the day leisurely shopping. Those who know me, know I don’t much enjoy shopping, but somehow with family and friends in Mexico it’s a bit more fun (though my feet did get sore). First, Wendy took Mom, Aunt Lynn, cousin Cathy, and me to a row of jewelry stores. I saw a number of very pretty things, but decided against each of them.

Then we wandered around the Zócalo (town square) for a while, people watching. Most of our group wandered by at one time or another. Wendy told us that Oaxaca’s Zócalo has recently been redone and is now one of the nicest Zócalos in Mexico. It is quite lovely with a large gazebo for musicians in the middle. Wide paths lead out all around the gazebo, crossing around flower and tree planters with concrete block borders just the right height for sitting.

Mom and I had a long, quiet lunch in the Zócalo. We each ordered soup and nonchalantly added the sides of avocado, onion, etc to them. Oooops! Mom has orders from her doctor to only eat fruit and vegetables that she has seen washed (in purified water) or from a safe place. Praying neither of us, especially her, get sick. At least it was a yummy lunch!

In the afternoon we could see camera and sound crews setting up their supplies in the courtyard of our hotel. Turns out they were going to film a TV show there! It was a singing group that goes all over Mexico, to churches and all sorts of places. I thought I was going to be able to watch from the perfect vantage point of my balcony window right above the courtyard, so I was quite disappointed that our family dinner was scheduled elsewhere right in the middle of the time. I didn’t get to see any of it. But, the restaurant we went to actually served me meat with no spices, because of my allergies. Usually they say they will leave off the sauces and spices, but when it comes I will see that the meat was already marinated in it or something…

Before dinner we went to the market in search of a dress and skirt for me. I bought two blouses and one skirt in about 45 minutes!!! Now mind you, most of the rest of the women in our group would have spent, at very least, hours shopping for those. LOL Indeed, we bumped into my oldest sister, AJ, in the market, and she was also looking for a skirt and blouse outfit. She had been there a few hours before I got there and she still doesn’t have anything. :-p

When we arrived at the restaurant Aunt Lynn and Cathy called to me down the long table, “Did you get a pink or purple skirt?” When I answered “purple” they cheered and gave each other a high five. “We guessed right!” LOL