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Published: July 21st 2009
Is been an interesting few days in Oaxaca (pronounced o-wack-a).
Firstly, the noise: the Guelaguetza has been getting into full flow, and this mostly means, from our hostel where we have been getting in pretty knackered by about 9pm each night to sleep at 10pm, we start to hear the fireworks going off from about 10.05. When i say fireworks, I'm talking serious explosions here, that sound as though your garden has just been blown up. I imagine this is a little like what it must feel like to be living in a city under siege, but without the fear. Then the car alarms start, then the bank alarms go off, then Gigi and family get back from their celebrations and talk loudly until they go to bed. Safe in our little cocoons (Mum and Dad, those birthday presents were the best, am LIVING in my mosquito net...) we just about manage to sleep through it...
The illnesses: Jas'stomach has refused to settle down the whole time we've been here. I seem to be going to breakfast on my own more and more to ask in my rubbish Spanish for mint tea and a banana (I stupidly said
"hablas bananas?", thinking hablo means I have in Latin, but which means "Do you speak banana?" in Spanish...damn Latin word meanings taking over!) It gets better over the course of the day but we can't work out what's causing it. i know exactly what's causing my own discomfort though very, very stupidly I borrowed some of jas'coca butter lotion as my legs were bone dry from all the insect repellent and sunblock. I woke up in the night with my legs on fire, abotu seventeen little pin-prick lumps all down the backs of my legs. these have, in normal fashion for me, developed into massive, lumpy sores thatwill, in no time I expect, start weeping delightfully before they finally disappear. No, not a nice image, but there we are. I won't be so stupid again.
But, then there are:
The town: we spent the first day, a Saturday, pottering about in Oaxaca, looking at the beautiful and colourful colonial buildings, marvelling at the spontaneous parades that seemed to pop up on the hour with music and fireworks, eating the best coconut icecream ever tasted, looking through the Monte Alban tomb treasures in the Oaxaca museum, and hanging about
in the Zocalo, people-watching the people who were watching us. It´s a far more relaxed and organised-seeming place than Mexico City, obviously far smaller, and far prettier. The men don't cat-call as much. It is a hive of industry, with people seemingly at work everywhere: directing traffic in their shiny boots, guiding tours, cutting grass, planting plants. It gets me thinking that we could do with a bit of that in the UK; getting people back into jobs thatwe take for granted are automated now, and perhaps giving them a spiffing uniform and shiny boots like they do here to make them feel better about it.
The people: Bamba had problems on the Sunday morning we were meant to be picked up and taken for our sightseeing tour. the problem was us: we weren't picked up, and we rang poor Arturo about four tmies in two hours to ask whatwas going on. He, in Mexico, was as clueless as us, and, bless him, worked his butt off to find out and get us on our way. The real problem we discovered much later was that the Guelaguetza started early on Sunday morning, and the streets were packed. Why was
this a problem when it happens every year? Ah, well, another phonecall later had discovered, this year there were protests about the Government's taking over of the festival, and these protests were stopping all traffic from getting n and out. In the end, the tour was cancelled, but to make sure we didn't miss out on some sort of trip, Arturo sent us an Angel, literally: a sweet little man called Angel (our second so far) came to take us to Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec ruined city above Oaxaca. he also came to make bad jokes thatdidn't sound like jokes and rather worried us, like the one where his car was broken and we'd both have to go on the back of a motorcycle. Still, over the course of the day we had rather warmed to him especially when in lieu of wanting to eat out (Jas'stomach again) he took us to a supermarket, which was an experience in itself; you have to check your bag so you can't steal anything, then go in and buy literally anything you can think of! We bought hot food in little plastic cups, like a Waitrose salad bar only with actual food
in it. Evidence of people eating this while shopping then leaving without paying eas sadly evident. We also bought cocacola to make Jas'stomach feel better, and a tube of Pringles for Angel to say thanks.
The next day, Monday, brought us to Angel's bother Eduardo's tour company to finally take us to the sights we missed the previous day. Here Eduardo asked if i likes football, and seemed pleased with my answer of "No...because I'm a girl", and called me honey when we left. We then met our tour guides, Ivan and Victor, two terribly interesting chaps with fun personalities and American accents when they spoke English, who gave us a great time on the tour and seemed sad to see us go.
There were also the Belgianswe can't work out why all the other folks on our tour seemed to be Belgian yesterday, despite not actually knowing eachother, but it was an experience. Boy, they can drink. And get lost.
The sights: I've left myself almost no time to write about the amazing things we've seen, and might have to elaborate at another time. First, Monte Alban. The site has so much peace about it, despite it
being absolutely full of people the day we went, mstly Oaxacans on their day off, daytripping with families. It's nice to notice the pyramids all have different artwork, showing the city startes all really were very different.
The tour day we saw El Tule, the biggest tree in Mexico (very beautiful), and went to two traditional Zapotec family factories to see how they make weavings (amazing stuff learned here about Cochineal, the bug-squishing ink we saw at Teotihuacan, which is alsoused as a dye and can be changed in colour with lemon jiuce or salt..."like Harry Potter" the woman said) and Mezcal, an agave-produced liquer like Tequila but less strong, and which they let us drink rather a lot of...
Then we saw Mitla, another beautiful set of ruins...and the Hierve al Agua. It is a crying shame I can't upload pictures right now because ths is the most amazing thing or place I've ever been or seen. Petrified waterfalls high up in the mountains and pools full of water...and the most amazing view of the mountains you've ever seen. I think I can die happy now...although I hope I don't!
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