Zocalo and the Guelaguetza Festival!
07.25.2008 - 07.30.2008
After three wonderful months in Asia with my mama my new adventure has begun and it’s time to get moving again. I thought it would be easier to leave this time, but I was wrong. This is a completely different kind of trip; I’m not with my mom, or anyone else for that matter. This time, I’m off to the homeland, alone. All alone. Woah, that’s heavy. I am dying to get to know my country. I’m curious as to what I will find, what I will learn, who I will meet. I'm getting my new business off the ground (importing all the beautiful things from all over the world to the U.S.) My plans go as far as getting to Oaxaca for the Gueleaguetza festival and then see where the wind blows me. This is both incredibly exciting and a bit daunting, but I'm looking for a bit of adventure, a lot of culture and some luck to find me.
Secretly I doubt that I have what it takes, whatever it takes, to head off alone to Mexico. In light of this, my determination to go seriously puzzles me. Why now? Maybe it’s a feeling that if I don’t do this now, soon I will wake up trapped in my future, wondering or wishing or regretting not doing this. Sometimes I seriously believe that in all my years of work and study, I’m not sure I actually learned anything. I gained intellectual skills and tools, yes, but what did I actually know? I want to throw myself into an experience that is too big for me and learn in a way that cost me something. This is going to cost me something…
I'm in Oaxaca, staying at Mezcalito Hostel. A colorfully painted, hammock hanging, open aired place five minutes from the Zocalo. I am staying in the girls dorm with 7 other girls. I arrived a few of days ago, a little nervous to be travelling by myself, with the question I got from several people before leaving looming through my head “do you know anybody in Oaxaca?” I would shake my head no, but silently, in my head, I said “but I will!” My one great travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody. This is why I’m not afraid to travel to remote places of the world, as long as there a people there to meet. I spent my first day on my own and on the second day here I met a group of travelers, all traveling on their own as well, that have all adopted each other and we've been enjoying this town like you wouldn't believe.
I love everything about this city. The smells, sounds, streets, food, perfect warm weather, the energy...every turn on any given cobble stoned street leaves me wide eyed at what I find.
Santo Domingo Church
We've found the way to Oaxaca's heart is the zocalo. It is, besides one of the most beautiful central squares in Mexico, the life centre of Oaxaca. The leafy, cafe-lined area has a little of everything. There are couples canoodling, shoe shiners, occasional demonstrators, street clowns, xylophonists and persistent peddlers selling hand-carved combs, shawls and hammocks. I've spent a few hours sitting here, watching all the people sitting at little tables in the restaurants and cafes, deep in conversation, from very early in the morning, until late into the night. The conversation can be accompanied, depending on the moment, by the famous Oaxacan chocolate caliente (yum!), cafe de olla, Mezcal (double yum!), tequila, fruit juices, or Mexican beer served with lots of lime and salt.
Imagine this: a stroll down any one of the cobblestoned streets leads you to walls lined with brightly hued colonial facades, arched windows, gorgeous churches, food to die for (this is the land of seven moles), unique art galleries filled with dreamlike paintings, great museums, some of the best shopping in Mexico and so much more. At night, there is nothing better than the late-night food market or street stalls where vendors dole out my new favorite, gigantic and cheap tlayudas — hugely oversized tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, salsa and carne asada then folded in half and grilled. All for about 20 pesos!
Typical Street at night
Our little group is fabulous and we get along like a little family on vacation - always happy, laughing and can't get enough of each other. I couldn't ask for better instant friends. There is Javier, Luis and Zuri - a trio that continuously keeps us cracking up, who are professional dancers from Mexico City; Pepe, an outgoing and energy filled DF-eno that now lives in Chicago. Lydia, a beautiful smart girl inside and out, from London. Ryan, a smart gringito who is fully bi-lingual (surprised me!) from Connecticut and me. We have gone picture crazy and spend a lot of our time in gorgeous places, posing for funny shots. I love it.
Our familia posing with Pedro Infante
I’m bad, or rather lazy on researching a place before I arrive there. I tend to just show up and see what happens. What this normally means is that I end up standing at the bus, train or airport station, staring blankly at my guide book, wondering which direction I should head to find a place to stay. Thankfully, on this trip, I am traveling with a couple of planners and I happily follow the group without making many decisions that to me are unimportant.
We have gone around town and back again, visited several historic places, great restaurants, even better street vendors, fun bars, went to a fabulous outdoor play, hitched rides on the back of a pick-up truck to surrounding pueblos like San Martin Tiljate, felt privileged to see the Galeagetza and the list continues. The culture in Oaxaca is endless.
San Martin Tiljate, mini Galeagetza festival
I’ve learned that sometimes when you are traveling you keep yourself in a sort of “bubble”, seeing what you should see while there, following a crowd or a guide book. We have popped that bubble these last few days and does it feel oh so good!
Monte Alban's (Awesome Archeological Site)
I'm loving this city and feel blessed to be here, surrounded by the beauty that only a Mexican town like this can bring and great people to share my experiences with.
Adios for now.