Oaxaca Mexico: What Had Happened Was…pt. i


I lurve this picture. I don’t know why, but it makes me smile. We called this woman “Rose Lady”, because we have a talent for pointing out the obvious. She just radiated a beauty and contentment that was contagious. But it could have been the rum/mezcal/beer.

I took your questionable advice and headed down to Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka) to catch up with Jorge, Andrea and Magnus (10 hours, $77 US, First Class). I couldn’t leave until after my cooking class in San Miguel and I couldn’t leave San Miguel de Allende (SMA) without checking out the botanical garden El Charco Ingenio, and of course I had to have a celebratory margarita because SMA was a new city for me, so I didn’t get into Oaxaca until 5am on Sunday morning. It was pitch dark and I was beat from a whirlwind 24 hours in SMA. I wasn’t worried about arriving in a foreign city in the middle of the night. I knew where Jorge and Andrea were staying and Oaxaca is a pretty safe place. I arrived at the Hostel, Casa Arnel and woke up the owner who showed me a sparse little single room with a shared bathroom for a whopping $12US/night. It was (as I will mention again) pitch dark and this dude didn’t want to turn on any lights, so I couldn’t get my bearings. He confirmed that Jorge and Andrea were there, allowed me to slip a note under their door and showed me my room. He wanted me to pay first but I wanted to see the room first and he finally obliged, why I was haggling like I was ACTUALLY going to POSSIBLY go somewhere else at 5:30am I do not know. Anyway, I hit the sack at 5:50am ready to settle into a nice slumber, excited about what Oaxaca would be like and happy to know my friends were so nearby once again. I never learn do I?

I was jolted out of a deep slumber about an hour and a half later. There was an ungodly screeching, cawing and whistling and the voices of happy people and the clattering of silverware. I got up and slipped into some clothes and opened the door to see this not 15 feet from my window. Apparently Arnel’s wife is a bird aficionado and they have literally dozens of parrots, cockatiels and parakeets on the property (not to mention two of these fugly dogs. I saw these outside of Mexico City at the Olmeda Museum. They are Aztec dogs and cost $5000 each and ownership is restricted by the government. But they are supposedly great house/guard dogs, great with kids and strangers). The birds sing and “chat” all.day.long prompting several of us to dare one another to catch and roast one of the little terrors. After my other run-ins with birds in Baja and Xochimilco, I was close to taking the bait. The hostel is set up courtyard style so all the rooms are around a main courtyard which in the morning light turned out to be beautiful and the exterior courtyard (that is a little library building there in the middle where you can check out books or take one book if you leave two), terrace and hammock deck made up for the sparse bedrooms. I was informed that the lady of the house uncovered and set out the birds every morning around 7am and that the hostel served breakfast from 7am to 9:45am daily. The birds and the breakfast nook were both less than 20 feet from my window. The prospect of this waking me up every day made me contemplate pulling my hair out or ripping the flesh from my face with my own fingernails, but I decided to roll with it and sleep with my earplugs in. Since I was up, I organized my gear, read the guidebook on all the stuff I absolutely had to see in Oaxaca and then had breakfast.

I hunted down Jorge and we caught up for an hour before realizing that Andrea was upstairs in the Hammock deck (this turned out to be where we would ALWAYS find Andrea). They wanted to show me around since they had been in town 3 days already and we walked to the Zocalo (town center). The walk was about 1.5 miles and though it was pretty, it was deserted, cobble-stoned and hot and sunny. I was thinking “they dragged me down here for this?” and gave them the benefit of the doubt because it was Sunday. We walked and laughed, peeked into alot of the art galleries (Oaxaca is known for its cuisine and art) and jibber jabbered the way we three have come to do in 1/2 english, 1/2 spanish. We rounded a corner past the Teatro Alcala and I almost stopped dead in my tracks, the Zocalo was beautiful! tree lined, shaded, fountain filled, and at that moment host to several hundred people enjoying a classical music concert on the last day of their May festival. Here’s some video of the concert. We ate lunch at one of the four main restaurants on the Zocalo and enjoyed the breeze and music. I had a traditional Oaxacan dish of Cheese and Chorizo ($11US with coffee, diet coke, huge salad and appetizer) baked deep dish style. I eschewed the tortillas (not realizing they were probably flour) and dug in with a knife and fork and it was heavenly-gooey-goodness. We had to walk those carbs off, so we went deeper into the heart of the city and checked out the various types of markets and bought some Mezcal! Finally, the drink I’d heard so much about, the kinder, gentler cousin of tequila and with a worm in the bottom to boot!  We decided to balance out our hedonistic tendencies with some culture and headed to the Museo de Palacio on the South side of the Zocalo. Now I have to warn you that in Mexico, alot of the museums are free to locals (and usually everyone) on Sundays, this makes it the WORST time to visit anything unless you are on a bare bones budget. We sucked it up and wandered around checking out dinasour bones and archeological artifacts and I had to restrain myself from elbowing kids out of the way so I could see some of the interactive/3-D exhibits. There was also a mural that was 2 stories high that was supposedly done by a student or contemporary of Diego Rivera. I felt kind of bad because I didn’t think it was all that great, but I kept my mouth shut since I’m no artist. However I did read later that this particular mural is widely considered “mediocre” so I didn’t feel so bad anymore. 

After the Palacio, we hunted down some Pineapple juice for the Mezcal Blanco (white mezcal) and some playing cards so we could wile away the afternoon on the terrace at the hostel. When we got back to the Casa, on the way up to the terrace I heard someone say “hey, don’t i know you?” i turned around to see Mikkel! Remember him from Guanajuato? So, though we didn’t catch up with Magnus, we were happy to have Mikkel with us to round out the quartet and to prove that the gringo trail is alive and well. We hooked up the tunes, put the drinks on chill and found some people to play cards with until it got too dark to see the cards anymore. My last thought before going to sleep was: “Today couldn’t have been more perfect.”  And it was true.

Stay tuned to find out: who were the 4ft tall people? Who is the object of Funchilde’s crush? and what happens in a Mexican discoteque on Hip Hop night?

**A friend (In Real Life-IRL) asked me recently if I have managed to stay in my $50/day budget and the answer is generally yes, it evens out. For example my room for the whole week at Casa Arnel, 3 breakfasts, 2 loads of laundry and internet time was a jaw dropping $118 US. Now the beer, rum, mezcal, water and pineapple juice for the week? $4,343. But hey, you only live once right?

3 thoughts on “Oaxaca Mexico: What Had Happened Was…pt. i”

  1. Awesome post! That whole nightmare with the parrots – WAY TOO FUNNY. I was laughing my ass off over that.

    (Re: 4 ft people – can’t wait to hear that one – lol)

  2. I have had that happen to me too many times in cheap hotels to find it funny – I hope the ear plugs work. I do like your tradition of celebrating every event with a margarita – Woo hoo, got out of bed: margarita! Saw mural: margarita! Also, why is Mizzel standing like he has a really really bad sunburn?

  3. EII: I’m glad someone was laughing, because I really was like “you have got to be kidding me”. one thing about hostels is that they are NOT quiet places in general and i keep pretending it’ll get better!

    E: Earplugs did help a bit, also margaritas help ALOT. Mikkel looks crazy in that pic because he is pink from the sun, but i caught him pushing in a chair at the table so its a little akward looking. But he’s so sweet and such a cutie pie!

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