Finally Leaving Oaxaca

OK – here are the pictures

I’m finally getting ready to leave Oaxaca, probably Sunday morning. This will probably be my last post for a while, so Enjoy.

My next destination is going to be San Cristobal de las Casas, which is supposed to be a wonderful town. From there, I’ll go to Palenque, (which is supposed to be fantastic) and on to Guatemala. Between San Cristobal and the border, there is a town called Las Margaritas. I’m gonna have to check that out. If it’s what I hope it is, I may never leave. What are the chances it’s the magical land of Margaritas, where all the women are barmaids, and the drinks are free. I was certainly disappointed in Casa de Peyote.

I’m feeling antsy because of the unemployment situation, which is detailed in my last post. I still intend to spend some time looking at ruins, and spend a few days on the beach in Costa Rica, working on my tan. One thing I didn’t think about is that it’s more fun to do things with someone else. That could mean looking at ruins, laying on the beach, or trying to get help after breaking a leg. What I wouldn’t do for a dinner with someone in English. I’d even buy.

Since I’ve been camped out there two weeks, I’ve learned a lot about the family I’m staying with, Oaxaca, and Mexico in general. If these things aren’t written down, I’ll forget them, and remembering my trip is what most of this blog is about.

First, a couple of generalities.

Every toilet I’ve seen, the seat doesn’t stay up on it’s own (the lid does, but not the actual seat.) How in the world does that happen. Don’t the men of this country realize there is a better way? Puzzling and annoying. I hope the rest of Central and South America is better.

In private houses, you’re not supposed to FLUSH the toilet paper. The pipes and sewers aren’t set up to handle it, so beside every toilet, there is a waste basket for the toilet paper. Don’t like that one bit.

There are no traffic laws. It puzzles me when I see someone pulled over. I wonder what they possibly could have done – kill somebody?

Oaxaca has the largest moths’s I’ve seen. First morning I went to take a shower, and there was one in the bathroom close to the size of my hand. I’d estimate it to be 4-5 inches across. As luck would have it, these two tiny Japanese priestesses started singing, so it flew away.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been puzzled by the standard of living here. There are a lot of monopolies (Gas, Cellular, Telephone, by proxy, the internet, since it goes over the telephone lines, and others I can’t think of right now.) I think for the average Mexican it’s harder to live because of the cost of these things. I was reading an article on German companies in Mexico, and it said that energy prices are higher than in the EU. Some things are cheap, but a lot of stuff is about what it would cost in the US. Having said that, Mexico is supposed to have one of the highest GDPs in Latin America. It has the fourth largest number of billionaires of any country, after the United States, Germany and Japan. This data is from almost 10 years ago, but I think it’s still relevant.

I’ve found out a lot about the family I’m staying with. Apparently, the Mother met a man many years ago living in another city. She didn’t know he was married, they had kids, and come to find out he had five sons in Puebla. So she has pretty much raised her three kids on her own. She hates men, I’ve come to find out through her english speaking daughter, which has got to be rough on the daughters, but especially rough on her son. All in all they seem relatively well adjusted, but then again I can’t understand about 98% of what they are saying. There are occasionally crying jags downstairs, but it could just be the way people deal with stress.

What’s important to focus on though is how well she had done in raising the family. Both of the daughters have degrees (I don’t know if they are equivalent to Community college or to a full University degree) and everybody seems to be pretty nice and well adjusted. The grandmother lives with them, as is the custom it appears in Mexico. She lost her leg to Diabetes a couple of years ago, so she’s confined to a wheel chair, but she doesn’t seem any worse for wear. I wish I could speak to here and find out some of her stories, but that’ll have to wait for a more fluent period in my life.

The house, and most of the houses in Oaxaca are either some sort of weakly made brick covered by stucco or concrete. This particular house is concrete, and all the doors are made of metal. They look like they should be protecting a storage unit rather than a bedroom or bathroom. And all the doors are like that. The doors on the front of the house that let you in off the street. The doors that let you into the house. All of ’em. Now the weird thing is that probably 85% of the houses I’ve seen in Oaxaca have the same doors (at least the ones leading to the street.) I assume there must have been some sort of door monopoly too.

This house, like all houses, has a high solid wall separating it from the street. There isn’t any yard. You walk into the door from the street, and there is parking for a car (or motorcycle) and a small patio. The wall is 10-12 feet tall, and topped with shards of broken soda bottles. Once you are inside, it’s a relatively open floor plan. The front part of the house has a large dining room, with a part of it used as a living room. There is a small kitchen off the living room. Behind the small dining room is an outdoor area also used for food preparations, and behind that there are bedrooms. In the main part of the house, above the dining room, is where the bedrooms used for visitors are located. The floor is covered in a speckled marble that we used to have as a child. When I see it, all I can think about is that taste you get in your mouth when you hit your head on the floor. I did that a lot as a child. You never get used to it.

Oaxaca itself is a really interesting city. There are a lot of old churches and buildings (I’ve been meaning to find out when Oaxaca was founded, but haven’t been able to yet. ) A lot of the building look like they aren’t really fit for people to live in. Yet at the same time, there are some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen here. The Camino Real Hotel at the old Santa Domingo Convent is one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever seen (and $200/US a night.) Last night I went to coffee on the roof of a refurbished building. In that building you could see two huge cathedrals, and had a great view of this amazing city. On the first floor of this building was one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been in – Las Danzantes. I didn’t eat, just looked around. Simply amazing. I might eat there tonight. Big fun by yourself, eh?

There is a lot of high quality art to be found here. Not just traditional arts, but most of what you can think of. There is a lot of textile arts, which aren’t quite my bag, but it’s better than glass art, which I’m not a big fan of. On almost any random walk you’ll come across an art gallery.

I found a coffee shop next door to the language school I attended that makes one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. It’s all locally grown. Simply fantastic. There is also a rich culinary tradition here. There are a huge number of fantastic places to get “nouvea oaxacan” food, along with great vegetarian, organic, French and Italian restaurants. Of course, the prices can be close to what they would be in US. Most are cheaper though.


  1. Hi Greg. Thanks for calling me this morning. What was all that noise that forced us to end the call so quickly? It sounded like you were sitting on a busy streetcorner….

    Afterwards I met Erin for coffee at the corner market and we sat outside for half an hour. Erin says hello, she was out in the yard when you called her this morning. There were two girls at the next table and occasionally I would overhear their conversation: “…most of our friends have married late so it’s not just us…” So they were single. I waited for my chance, they were going to leave soon and I hadn’t made contact. Finally I overheard one saying that she likes her job but shares her cubicle with someone else. I saw my chance! “Excuse me, did you say you shared your cubicle with someone else?” No, in fact she has her own office with a view of the ocean. She’s just visiting from Santa Barbara. Needless to say, nothing happened.

    Anyway, my point is, it’s tough enough to meet people when you both speak english. :)

    Thanks for posting the photos. I was curious what the Japanese nuns looked like.

  2. Greg
    From what I know Oaxaca was founded in 1521 or so by Cortes who was searching for gold, it was origninally called Antequera by the Spanish and I belive it is the third oldest colonial city in the Americas.


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