The chicken hut of Zen. The shack of calm. The shorter-than-normal cement blob of tranquility. Thusly one must describe the “Chuj,” in which all of the people of San Mateo bathe on Wednesdays and Sundays to prepare for the next morning’s market.
One dresses strangely in towel, slippers, and coat, preparing to brave the 40-foot walk through the dirt, up the stairs, past the jumping Wendy-dog, and to the hut.
One removes coat, sandals, and glasses, placing them atop the hut so as to prevent the Wendy-dog from absconding with them.
One awkwardly squats down in an attempt to enter the hut through the three-foot-tall door without falling backward onto the chilly cement or forward onto the pile of searing hot coals in the corner, which Doña Ana has lovingly prepared for the last few hours by stoking a fire beneath them. The fire burns. The smoke exits. The heat remains. The gringos enter.
One sits and absorbs the calm, softly inhaling wisps of wood smoke and steam.
One fumbles around for the small bucket, because the candle has probably gone out already.
One dips the small bucket into the hot water, which has been heating next to the coals. One pours the hot water into the washing bucket. One then mixes in the cold water until he has reached the temperature of his choice.
One is greeted by Eulalia, the pixiesque daughter of Don Jesús and Doña Ana, who is assured by one’s affirmative answer to her question, “¡CHAAAAT! ¡¿ ESTÁS BIEEENN?!”
One then washes and rinses, enjoying every stream of hot water down his back as if it were the first few seconds of a much-needed hot shower.
One awkwardly falls out of the doorway into the cold, humid air, so thoroughly warmed that he does not notice that he’s steaming.
One returns from the Chuj, refreshed in body. Refreshed in soul. Refreshed in knowing that Eulalia is looking out for the well being of all of us here at the Fundación Ixtateca.