Oaxaca Dreams II

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North America » Mexico » Oaxaca » Oaxaca
December 13th 2007
Published: May 12th 2008
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The Zocalo The Zocalo The Zocalo

A Sea of Red
Feliz Navidad

December 13th, 2007

Wow. This place brings out the Catholic in me. I have already bought a manger and lights. “Away in a manger, nooooho crib for a bed…” At the church near my casita women sit surrounded by greens making gorgeous handmade barn/mangers made from twigs, covered in moss and flowers. Now gotta find Jesus. He probably thinks so too.

Abimael was at the airport with bells on to greet me. He is on a mission to teach me espanol and had a Spanish lesson book he’d bought for me, written in Oaxaca. He carried my heavy suitcases down the street to my apartment, got me settled in and took me to the zocalo before he had to run off to work. I was awestruck entering the zocalo; it is filled, and I mean filled, with thousands of poinsettias. These Mexicans know how to do a party.

My apartment is a large three-bedroom place with a full kitchen, clean and comfy. I am in the “hood” for sure; very Mexicano. Amazingly, I am in a different neighborhood but this time I have my bearings. The owner is muy amable (very nice) and
Feather DanceFeather DanceFeather Dance

Teotitlan del Valle
her maid and servicemen, Manuel and Manuel, are great. The bonus: a big, golden, tail-wagging dog named Ramses to greet me, lick my leg and potentially eat my shoes.

I found my favorite waiter at a different restaurant and had lunch there, then went back to the casa to take a much needed nap (Houston sucked again) but the phone rang. It was Samuel asking me if I wanted to go with him to Teotitlan del Valle for the Feather Dance of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He came to fetch me and off we went.

Samuel’s Mum had just made lunch. He told me the Zapotec diet is healthy and mostly vegetarian. We had freshly picked alfalfa and orange juice, soup of ground pumpkin seeds, beans and avocado leaves, with avocado and corn tortillas. The feather dance was beautiful and I was most surprised to see a transvestite at the festivities in the little conservative village of Teotitlan.

It’s super busy here now, including more foreigners. I guess Christmas is Christmas here too. Good for Oaxaca.

Had my huge Mexi-breakfast and two cappuccinos for $7.00 this morning. Now that’s more like it. Maybe I am just a big El Cheapo Grande (that’s completely incorrect Spanish, by the way). It’s evening and I am having a Corona where there’s Internet (can’t get the apartment internet connection yet). They’ve served me, as a snack, fresh roasted peanuts with a wedge of fresh lime and roasted chiles and garlic. Cool.

So all’s well here. Shoulders are still around my ears from tension but I am sure it will release in another day or two. Lighten up Francis!

December 14th

Had a “first” last night. I was hit on by a young guy and his well dressed and cute but precocious little girl. She first started asking me questions in Minnie Mouse Spanish while I was trying on shoes - say what? Then they came out to where I was sitting in the zocalo. He spoke rapidly (no English, as is the norm here) but I caught most of the questions: How long are you here? Are you married? Do you have children? What are you going to do for Christmas and New Year’s Eve? Have you ever thought of finding a Mexican, maybe a Oaxaqueno?

Do I look like a potential Mommy? I suppose it is a nice compliment.

Tonight I am feeling more relaxed and opted to stay in and fell asleep reading when I returned from my city walking for the day. I brought Love in the Time of Cholera to read at the recommendation of my chiro. I am interested in reading a book by this Nobel Peace Prize winner to discover what makes him win such an honor.

I went to one of my favorite restaurants, La Olla, for lunch today. Love the late lunches here. The Menu del Dia was great and Pilar’s food is so fresh, healthy and delicately flavored. The finale was a lemon flan, which I’ve never had before and it was orgasmic.

I’ve booked myself a massage for tomorrow at Namaste’s once again.

December 15

I stayed up too late reading the book last night. The author writes pages and pages about the most trivial things yet his writing is so amazing that you can’t stop reading.

December 16th

Last night the zocalo was filled with activity and assorted bands and parades. It was colorful and festive and I opted to have a late dinner at a posh hotel restaurant along the edge of the square.

My apartment has no TV and feels quiet. I realize when without that I use the television for company and as a sedative and I am having a little withdrawal.

Think of the devil and he appears. Venustiano, the nutty, cheap lawyer who invited me for a beer last trip then asked me to pay “invited” me out again for a beer. I would have said something but did not want to embarrass him in front of a woman on the bench next to me.

I love children’s innocence. I asked a shopkeeper how much his cards were and he said 7 pesos. His little boy piped up, “NO! Esta 5 pesos!” God I laughed.

I don’t believe it. My neck was feeling great; I’d totally forgotten about the treatments for whiplash for the minor fender-bender I was in. As I am sitting here writing, the wind whipped up in a whirl and a large umbrella hit me in the head.


I have been writing like a mad fiend all day. May as well while inspiration strikes. My revisions on The Cuban Chronicles

Love is in the air...
are endless. I don’t feel like going out - it is chilly tonight. I’ve got candles going in my room and am sitting under the covers with chamomile tea and debating about running down to the corner store for a snack…

I ran out but only bought some yucky “health” cookies. Although this neighborhood is more run down than the other, I like it better for the fact that the streets are a little more populated at night and it’s better lit.

December 17th

I’ve already lost track of what month it is and wrote September 17th.

I easily fall into the habit of staying up late then waking late which makes me feel slothful when everyone is buzzing around outside. However, last night I was glad I wasn’t in a dead sleep when the fireworks and the Oompapa band began playing at 12:30 a.m. outside the apartment. Only in Mexico.

So far I have been shat on twice by birds, sat in bird poo, been hit in the head with an errant, flying umbrella and came within inches of being taken out by a crazy motorbike rider today. I hope that’s the end of that. Isn’t a bird shitting on you supposed to be good luck?

Mateo, the artist from last trip, has written an email to meet up.

December 19th

Yesterday I went out to Teotitlan del Valle alone - what a production.

My Day: First, walk five miles to get to taxi/bus for Teotitlan. Massive congestion of buses, taxis, people. No Teotitlan taxis. See bus to Mitla so grab it because Teotitlan bus comes every seventh hour or so and I can get off along highway. Wait for taxi collectivo on highway crossing to get into town. Translation of taxi collectivo: how many Mexicans (and one gringa) can you fit in a taxi. Wait in scorching sun. See taxi. Two Mexicans pop out of bush and grab my seat in taxi, schoolgirls giggle past gringa. Wait fifteen minutes for next taxi. Get to church. Walk to Samuel’s to get translator. Nobody home. Walk through town and up steep hill to medicine woman. “Oh…she’s not in today!” Guess phone call to confirm her hours meant nothing. Husband says he’ll find her…wait here. Two hours later, she refuses to see me. Now I think I am nuts.

Fun and games at the museum
HE slowly makes forty bags of the bruja’s tea. Wait for bus by church. Full out, horn honking rush hour traffic crawling through Oaxaca. Walk another three miles to get home. Full day event.

That was yesterday.

Tonight I’ve returned from another full day event, however, far more enjoyable. I took my cooking class at Susan Trilling’s famous Season’s of My Heart School beginning with a market tour in Etla. We taste tested everything in the bustling market and then had lunch, which I hadn’t anticipated after my big breakfast. I purchased some weird and wonderful things from the natural health stand, one being mamey oil for hair to make it shiny.

The school is in an interesting, rustic building in the country with the most beautiful, huge traditional kitchen I have ever been in, complete with old world clay pots and an outdoor oven/grill thing called a comal. We were a large group and I was teamed with a friendly girl from Vancouver making tamales and chile/tomatillo salsa. We had a huge meal with garlic, squash flower blossoms and cheese soup, herbed rice with plantains, green mole with chicken and tortillas, a pumpkin bread pudding and
Market WomanMarket WomanMarket Woman

Lime for Tortillas
my favorite thing being the salad with pineapple, jicama, avocado, cilantro, pecans, etc. I am completely stuffed. I bought two bags of specially spiced Mexican chocolate for hot chocolate and a wonderful passion fruit mescal that we sampled with the chocolate and vanilla. Also, there was an 86-year-old couple, who carve and paint little traditional animals, quietly sitting and waiting for sales so I bought a dog. The school’s students are their only source of income. Our gift for graduating was a wooden “tool” with a chunk of chocolate that is used for frothing the milk for hot chocolate so I can make it authentically. Susan’s story is fascinating and I wish I could have talked to her all night.

I had the driver drop me far off at someone else’s hotel so I could walk and digest the meal. Abimael warned me three times to be very careful; across the street from my apartment is a cantina, which is a men’s-only bar. Of course, it only makes me want to look inside.

December 20th

I spoke with Mateo this morning and understood something about another exhibit in San Bartolo Coyotepec and a celebration for his nephew,

whom he is godfather for and then he sang “Happy Beerfseday” and then Las Mananitas, which is a much prettier happy birthday than ours. We are meeting for one of his infamous late dates tonight for dinner. One of the men in the cooking class, a Oaxaqueno, is playing tonight at a bar so I told Mateo to meet me there.

The cantina was already rocking at 11:00 this morning.

I met with Abimael for a great class at Amaranto’s in the zocalo. He sang me Las Mananitas too and recited a grand wish for my life. He thinks my Spanish is better but I didn’t tell him that last time I was too lazy to speak to him in Spanish because he was one of two people I could speak English with.

I seem to have overdosed on mole and maiz - the corn for the tortillas and tamales (didn’t think that was possible) so had fruit for breakfast and Italian for lunch. I was actually thinking about a burger.

I discovered at the class that I have not been eating true Oaxaqueno style. The authentic way is four meals a day:

1) Early
Pilar's BreakfastPilar's BreakfastPilar's Breakfast

Huevos Divorciados
breakfast with protein (but this would require rising before 9:00 a.m.). If done traditionally, it would be eaten in one of the markets or small cafes and would some days consist of soups with assorted, unidentifiable animal parts and tortillas or eggs of some kind or tamales of all types.

2) Late breakfast or brunch would be bread with chocolat (hot chocolate) - or something light.

3) The full meal deal of three to four courses as served in many restaurants as Menu del Dia and is served between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm.

4) Evening meal is very late consisting of something light and no self-respecting Oaxaqueno would eat mole this late in the evening because the chiles are not good to digest while one sleeps and can cause nightmares (Ah ha! So that is why I had the devil chasing me around my room the other night.)

I think I am consuming quite enough in three solid meals a day, never mind four.

December 21st

I am only now starting to feel the magic, which has everything to do with my own constricted energy. Yesterday, the old Zapotec man who spoke with me last time found me once again in the zocalo. He spoke of the same things, as old men will do.

I went to the bar Nueva Babel to see Fernando the singer and some of my cooking group were there along with his girlfriend Maria and her friends. He is a serious type, a philosophy major, and sang his own music with deep explanations before each song. He dedicated a song he written in English to me much to my surprise, and the lyrics were incredibly appropriate for my life.

We were all gathered in a circle in lively discussion when Mateo arrived and he knew Maria’s family. He took me out to the beautiful restaurant la Toscana and bought me a small bouquet of flowers. Boy, can he talk (as my head spins to translate it all). I got home at 3:00 a.m.

December 22nd

I sat drying my hair this morning in the living room, admiring my flowers. I purchased for myself two dramatic bouquets, one of humongous, fragrant white lilies, the other, a large bunch of lovely white alcatrazes (calla lilies) with large tropical leaves to accent them. I have hit a critical, long overdue point of revelation and Mateo has been a catalyst. Being far away from home and alone sometimes brings these revelations. They are painful but important for growth and happiness.

Abimael is meeting me this morning for a lesson and is late as usual but I don’t care.

Last night three of my classmates, two sisters with their father, stopped in at La Olla for dinner serendipitously and joined me. I had a wonderful time with them and talked their ears off. They gave me a great lead on a driver-guide who is reasonable and knowledgeable whom I will call.


I was rescued from some potentially serious brooding this afternoon. I left my breakfast café due to the endless stream of vendors one minute after another, which is extremely irritating when you are writing. I wanted to first attend the museum’s silent auction exhibit then go to Café Royale for tea and quietude.

There was a great ruckus at the museum with a large adult piñata party and I was invited to be blindfolded and give it a try. Afterward, one of the artists excitedly invited me to join their

Earnings: 1.50 per pot
group for afternoon cervezas at the zocalo.

It was rather ironic that I was surrounded by Mateo’s peers, one being the director of the museum in San Bartolo Coyotepec where his exposition is showing and that they, at one point, discussed his work.

One senior artist who is well renowned, and whom they call Maestro, was a most interesting character. The group was the first generation of serious, academic Oaxaqueno painters and the conversation was impossible to follow with jokes and idiomatic phrases I don’t understand but it was great fun. The only woman was a rough talking but friendly (quite possibly lesbian) communista⎯I felt like I was in the movie Frida.

By the time I left the group, I was desperately hungry, to the point of feeling sick, and I am just now starting to feel a bit better. The way I eat here, I don’t know how I can possibly get to the point of feeling starved.

Samuel has emailed and hurray! I have a date for Noche de los Rabanos - Night of the Radishes, the biggest Christmas event. He is going to stay at my casa tomorrow night because it is so difficult to get back to Teotitlan del Valle. No kidding.

Christmas Eve Day

It was a full moon for Night of the Radishes and Samuel and I cruised around town afterward. We went to Abimael’s restaurant for live music and I guess I hate smoke more than I love dancing. So that’s a lot. We had a late night tamal at a small café, stopped in at a weird bar and then went home.

I am the zocalo to meet Abimael but I anticipate he will be even later today because his restaurant was so busy last night. The food is not that good but it’s packed and I think it’s like downtown Earl’s in Calgary - kind of trendy and cool to be seen there.

A cute police officer with a cheery smile chatted me up yesterday while I was sunning myself by the gazebo in the zocalo. He wants to do an exchange practice of languages.

I finally found out what the herbs and the eggs are for on the tables in the markets. I was told these were special for las brujas (the “witches” or medicine women). They are used in a Zapotec cleansing ritual. Candles are lit and quiet prayers are said asking for a cleansing of any negativity or bad feelings. The herbs are rubbed all over your body and head, scented water is sprinkled and the egg is run all over your body. The egg is the finale and it is meant to draw out the bad. Afterward, the egg is cracked and put into a glass and reveals what needed to be removed. The egg has milky “legs” in it and a senior shaman can allegedly read the egg. Sometimes the yolk hardens (anger) and sometimes the egg white is extremely murky with heavy with strings in it if much needs to be expelled.

Christmas Day

I took advantage of a lazy morning today lying in bed reading with tea and eating yogurt with grains. It was a good decision because firstly Gregorio the cop called for a date and next my family called for a Christmas chat. Lana thinks she should bring the boys here for Christmas next year and I think it’s an excellent idea. They would love all the activities and color and foreign-ness plus there are a thousand kids to play with every day.

Yesterday I’d hoped to find a Christmas date⎯in Canada this would be a hilarious notion thinking you could find a date in the day for that evening, especially at Christmas. First a young student of veterinary hit on me but I had to dismiss him. Then at the Santo Domingo church a nice fellow named Antonio asked me out but wanted to know how long it would take me to know if I wanted to marry him!

Next I went to La Biznaga for lunch. It is gourmet deluxe⎯I’ll be back. I then went for a walk along a new route and I discovered a different type of market, more like the designer Farmer’s Markets at home but of course with Mexican stuff.

After a shower and change it was off to el zocalo to watch the festivities. I sat in the gazebo area for a short time and I heard “Wanda!” It was Gregorio the cop. Most of his family went to another town to visit relatives and he came down by himself to see what was happening. We watched the parade and party and then had drinks and I had sweet and sour turkey (hmmm, not sure about this one) on the zocalo. Back at the gazebo the kids were all spraying each other with foam, throwing water on each other and spinning long sparklers. It was cold out so we were chilled so he walked me back to my apartment and said buenas noches.

I ended up with my Christmas Eve date after all.

December 26th

I’m having a big breakfast and cappuccino and then will take my tour with the recommended guide out of town to sightsee for the afternoon.

Abimael enlightened me about the wages of the common man here the other day. He has been working eleven to twelve hours each day during Christmas. His wage: 96 pesos. That is $9.50⎯less than one dollar per hour. He was tired the other day and said that three large groups of over twenty people each gave him nothing as a tip, and I’ve watched him work. He runs circles around the average waiter anywhere. This is when he finds it difficult. He says the waiters have a trick for making more money but he can’t bring himself to do it. They give you the machine-tallied bill, forgetting one dish or drink (that you have in fact eaten) and then add it by hand. This they can pocket. A good tip here is 8% so us who are used to paying 15-20% must be a real boost to their incomes.

I went out again at 8:30 pm and the streets were abuzz. I had dinner at Pizza Rustica but I wasn’t hungry enough to eat the huge breast of chicken so brought it to Abimael for a late snack. The music was great at his restaurant so I joined a solo guy who flagged me down to dance. I lucked out. He was an excellent dancer and if I understood him correctly, actually teaches dancing.


I am back from a full day of touring. I went to Ocotlan, Jalieza and San Martin Tilcajete and the highlight, which sounds strange, was the knife maker’s place. He makes beautiful, handmade knives with recycled materials, bones and antlers. He apparently creates some for movies. I have never in my life owned a decent knife so bought one that is being inscribed with my name on one side and one of my poems on the other.
I also bought a few as gifts.

The driver suggested an excellent restaurant and I wasn’t really ready for lunch but I knew he was so agreed. I saw one of Mateo’s paintings in a prestigious gallery and recognized it immediately.

December 27th

I have another Mexican cold. I went out for chicken soup (which I really don’t like all that much) to try the Jewish cure all, walked around the zocalo and came home.

Abimael and I have a little routine; we say we’ll meet at 11:00. I get there at 11:00 and order breakfast. By the time I finish, he arrives. He is finally going to have a day off next week and wants to spend it with me to go wherever I wish to go. I want a companion to see the sunset over the ruins in Monte Alban but didn’t want to go with a tour group.

This afternoon I spent my writing time engaged in a long conversation with a girl from Paris who now lives in Vancouver married to a Canadian. She is well traveled and told me a lot about Sicily. Ironically while rereading Eat, Love, Pray at lunch afterward, I read the same descriptions of Sicily as the French girl’s.

December 28th

The world certainly looks different when your head is stuffed and pounding, your nasal passages are ablaze and your body aches. Snot-colored glasses are not nearly as nice as rose-colored ones. I seem to have contracted the identical, virulent bug as last trip so I made the executive decision to self-medicate with antibiotics today. Of course it will not work if this is viral and I guess I’ll find out in a few days. I can’t blame the late nights with Mateo like last time. Maybe the pollution here really drags down my immunity. The city is nestled in a valley with beautiful green mountains surrounding it (not high like the Rockies but still mountainous). The problem with being in the valley is that the pollution gets trapped. They have ancient buses that spew diesel fumes and it bothers me a lot. They are also suffering from a water shortage at this time; the river has dried to a trickle and the hot water is limited at my apartment as it is in restaurant washrooms. Mexicans honk incessantly as soon as traffic stops and today I was ready to scream from the noise.

My knives have just arrived. I waited two hours last night and my delivery was a no show so I am glad to see them. The engraving is far more beautiful than I would have expected. Unfortunately a word is missing from my maxim. I guess that’s par for the course when someone is writing in another language. It’s still a lovely work of art.

Last night I did a street eating tour starting with a hamburger from a popular stand, a great salad from a little health food corner joint and then freshly made, hot potato chips with chili, salt and lime. The streets are teeming in this season so lots of good people watching.

December 29th

Abimael was feeling emotional this morning and just wanted to talk and tell me about his past. But he is doing well now. We discussed forgiveness and the scars that remain on one’s heart no matter how we try to flush it of its hurts.


I’ve just returned from Café Royale after a late dinner and am wondering why I haven’t eaten there before. A Frenchman owns it and it was delicious. I had a lovely salad with apples and nuts and a Roquefort dressing and a light vegetarian crepe. It’s a nice change. I never have hot chocolate at home but I am enjoying the Mexican version because it is done with natural ingredients and cinnamon and not as sweet.

The monkey mind can really wreak havoc. With no phone messages awaiting, not many emails right now and no TV, I am alone with only my thoughts and my computer. My mind has not yet come to the point of shutting up, of quietness. I remember while living in Vallarta when each time I would finally reach that point⎯I am not sure how long it took but when it happened, it was wonderful and peaceful.

December 31

I sure hope my New Year’s Eve picks up. I stayed in last night hoping to feel better this morning but feel worse and had nightmares. You’d think I’d give up on travel altogether.

January 1st

The city is very quiet this morning, much quieter than Christmas day and it is the first day of cloud cover and wind. The zocalo is full of the remnants of last night’s party.


I feel a teensy bit better tonight. I had another marriage “proposal” in the zocalo today and afterwards lunch ran into Antonio. He wanted me to hang out with him and I agreed to. He loved my photos of Canada on my computer and wanted to see everything: my paintings, family, friends. Being a campesino, I can understand the simplicity of his conversation in comparison to the complex conversation of Mateo but he is not nearly as interesting. He is handsome though.

I swaddled myself in five separate layers and wrapped a scarf I’d bought for the table around my neck to keep warm this evening out in search of food. Gina called the other day from Vallarta and said it is ridiculously cold there too. Their cold front has come down this way today. I ended up at Abimael’s restaurant for another unusual (for me) meal of Aztec soup and hot chocolate, which he treated me to. He is a doll.

January 3rd

Abimael was to meet me today to go to Monte Alban but he is sick as well. Everyone is sick here with the changes in temperature. Late afternoon yesterday, I had to buy a big winter scarf. A scarf in Mexico!
I almost bought a jacket but I could not force myself to wear a puffy jacket, those down-filled looking things. I tried a few on but ended up laughing hysterically at myself. I haven’t worn one since I was in grade three and I can’t be seen in one now. I ended up opting for macaroni and mushroom soup, the only thing I had rather than go out in the cold.

I met with a girl this morning to look at her studio apartments for my next visit. She owns a new apartment complex with sunny little studios and lovely décor. The largest one has an excellent view on the second floor and although it is even further from the zocalo, the little neighborhood is cute.

Even though it’s still cool, the sun has decided to grace us today. The new arrivals at the apartment were none too pleased with the weather today. My head is still feeling fuzzy and cotton-filled.

January 4th

I went to the gazebo in the zocalo yesterday after writing and sat on a bench to soak up the sun. A nice fellow came over and I spent the entire day with him. We ate lunch and went out to Atzompa to buy clay from a potter woman for therapeutic purposes (where I peed in the backyard al fresco with the burro neighing at me and the dogs barking at me and an old neighbor woman stopped to ask me why in the hell a guera was peeing in her neighbor’s pee patch! - you had to see this place). Then we came back to my place for tea then out again for a light dinner and hot chocolate at the French Café Royale. I could become addicted to the four cheese crepes. It was most enjoyable⎯maybe because we have the exact same birth date and are a lot alike.

Abimael joined me at breakfast this morning. He has four types of bacteria in his stomach from eating bad meat and has to take twelve pills a day. He bought me three lovely, well thought out gifts.

I met with Adan, the fellow I met yesterday and spent the whole day again with him. He is living in Oaxaca now to help out his ailing father but owns a home in California and is very nostalgic about his old life in the USA. We went for hot chocolate in the zocalo and a walk and then for a fun, authentic late, late lunch at the market. We bought a few movies for me to watch tonight and a Mana DVD (love this group).

There is a volatile (I think communista) group called APO who have wreaked havoc in the state and they were the ones who have all but destroyed tourism with the striking and violent riots of 2006. That is when I had my ticket and had to take a last minute detour to Cuba and I am ever so glad I did. I found out from Adan and Abimael just how serious the situation was. The city was under siege with buses being burned, streets blocked off by rioters and Abimael was robbed and chased a number of times and Adan was mobbed and semi-beaten by rioters claiming he was a police spy. An American journalist was shot and killed in the zocalo. Many people were injured. Because of this, tourism, the main source of income, is down by 90%. Many restaurants and businesses have gone under. One beautiful hotel on the zocalo was closed for a year because it was used by the police for stakeouts. The economy is suffering greatly so I have a skewed vision of Oaxaca; it seems non-touristy which was not the case a few years ago. Also, it just seems so peaceful that it’s hard to imagine all of this and I am glad I never saw it. The government is trying desperately to attract tourists back and that is why they offer so many free concerts and entertainment now.

January 6th
Dia de los Reyes
(Day of the Kings)

Today is the big wrap to Christmas and the children receive gifts again from the Three Kings that arrived bearing gifts for Jesus. Yesterday the toyshops were abuzz and I found the cutest store with hand-carved wooden toys. A Mexican man asked me on the street the other day where the wooden toy store (en espanol) is and I hadn’t seen it before.

“Don’t you live here?” he asked. I guess I must be blending in, as best as a guera (fair with blonde hair) can.

I’ve taken to a little family of children vendors and promised to buy them gifts before they leave for Chiapas. Imagine spending your childhood Christmas vacation selling everyday for ten or twelve hours each day, although Adan tells me he was a child vendor in Mexico City and had fun doing it. Many of the small children come to me most days on the patio of Amarantos while I am writing to look at the pictures of Oaxaca on my laptop and they have fun identifying each place or event.

I had toys in my pack the other day and was vulturized by other kids seeing the gifts for my little family. One boy, Paco, my favorite, was missing but the mothers of some little babies (the toys were inappropriate for babies!) hounded me so much I gave everything away. When Paco came to me later to get his gift I had nothing. You should have seen his little face. I went to the wooden toy store and bought him something extra special. They went somewhere else yesterday and told me they would be back for one more day on Sunday. He found me right away today and was pleased with his gift. I bought a few more trinkets from his older sister before they left.

I was going to go to the best restaurant last night but the place was full with reservations so I went back to La Biznaga and had the most delicious shrimps with a sweet & sour tamarind sauce with chipotle peppers. It was fantastic. The waiters here could use some tips from the Vallartan waiters to increase their tips.

I met with Abimael for a class and then after a writing lunch, just meandered around and shopped a little. Today we are supposed to meet for Monte Alban but we shall see.

January 7th

The weather has now turned hot, hot so the new arrivals will be happy.

Abimael made it for the bus to Monte Alban. We took the last bus out to watch the sunset but discovered the ruins close at 5:00 pm. I loved it there. It is on a mountain and the view is spectacular. It would be an awesome place to have a picnic.

I bought him dinner afterward since he’d missed his work fiesta lunch on account of me. We went to an off the beaten path no tourists restaurant. The quesadillas were delicious but the paella a little too rustic for my tastes.

I went out for a while last night to buy music in the street market.I can share these with the girls at home since we’re always looking for new music. It doesn’t matter how early I come back to the apartment, I always stay up late with something to amuse myself.

January 9th

I am on my flight winging it back home to Calgary. I wondered around to my favorite spots on Tuesday for my farewell to Oaxaca: the zocalo, Santo Domingo church, had one last goat & brie cheese crepe at Café Royale and picked up Oaxaca string cheese and roasted peanuts (with roasted chiles and garlic) at the market with a last tour of all the weird and wonderful food.

I spent my last evening with Adan. We went to La Biznaga and he really enjoyed it. I had chicken stuffed with cheese and mushrooms and a nouveau mole that had, I believe, gooseberries, in it. He had a chicken stuffed with bananas and a guava mole⎯really innovative. I hope he makes it back to his home in California one day.

This morning Abimael met me for my last breakfast at Amarantos and then came to the airport to see me off. I sat and absorbed the sights and sounds of the zocalo and the people of Oaxaca. I always leave my Mexico with sadness even though I know I will always return.


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