Sunday, August 5, 2007

La ciudad con garras

Esta es Oaxaca!

As most of my friends are probably already tired of hearing, I've been planning a trip to Latin America for the last several months. I'll be teaching in Cuenca, Ecuador for 6 months beginning in October of this year. But first, I'm back in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, where I studied last summer, and where I became inspired to return to teaching as a means to travel this hemisphere and see for myself some of the places my friends have described to me over the years.

This year I'm studying at Ollin Tlahtoalli, a language institute partnering with SIT, a school dedicated to training teachers of English as Second Language. I'm staying at a very nice posada:

My friend Andrea stayed here last year. I remember coming up to her posada for a few minutes last summer and wondering how she got a place as nice as this. She got into a little trouble con la senora de la casa for bringing strangers into the house, but in the end I think la duena would thank Andrea, as I'm now staying with her for the next six weeks and posting pictures of her amazing home downtown for others who might be interested in staying en el centro de Oaxaca para una semana o mas. If you are, drop me a line and I can tell you more.

I flew to Oaxaca on Monday, July 30. Actually, I didn't make it here to this city until the next morning, seeing as how my flight from Phoenix to Mexico City was late, and I missed my connecting flight to Oaxaca that night, which meant that I spent the night on the tiles of the Mexico City airport, sleeping little and poorly. Then, physically exhausted, I needed to negotiate with the various airlines involved with my flight to determine who, besides me, would be footing the bill for my new flight to Oaxaca. It took some walking and labored discussion in Spanish, which I hadn't had to use functionally for over a year, but in the end I got on a plane that afternoon and made my way to Oaxaca at last.

I did get to Oaxaca much lighter than I left the States, however, my checked baggage having been lost in the transition. I thus spent a couple more days a little unkempt and without change of clothes, all my toiletries and laundry still somewhere besides my new home away from home. A couple of times each day I called an 800 number from a payphone to figure out where my things were. Each day, no word, until finally one morning, yes! Now my bags were in Oaxaca, at the airport. The airport, miles outside of town, was a cab ride away. A cab, upon inquiry of the first taxista to come along as I walked down the street from the payphone, was cien pesos. Demasiado, en mi opinion, especialmente on such a beautiful day for a walk.

So I chose instead to begin my walk towards the airport, determined at the very least to shave some of that cost by going at least halfway to airport on foot. In the end, I walked the entire distance, one that took about 3 hours to traverse, and in the journey saw sides of Oaxaca I'd never seen and doubtfully would have otherwise. Of course, once I had my baggage, weighed down heavily with 9 months worth of my favorite possessions, I decided to take a colectivo.

Since then, I've been wandering the streets of Oaxaca, each morning arbitrarily selecting a destination some distance away and walking, not necessarily as the crow flies, either there or some other location that might have appealed to me in the meantime. On the way I've already met a lot of great people, from the states of America or Mexico, and more than a few from New Mexico, as it turns out, including my housemates. My meandering has already earned me a reputation amongst my acquaintances for choosing strange routes from place to place, including Omar, the director of Ollin, who told me - after a circuitous journey led by me to a lunch spot - that he was thinking -pinche Brian, he's lost! Lost? I always know where I'm going, I just don't always know how I'll get there.

As a result, I've also seen a few more of the many faces of Oaxaca than I had in the past:

Yesterday I had my orientation at Ollin Tlahtoalli, met the small group I'll be studying with for the next month, and shared a meal. Now I find myself writing to you all sitting in a cafe with Sari, one of my new friends and fellow students. She works at a Mexican restaurant in New York City and is trying hard not to proscrastinate on our homework, and I'm doing my best not to distract her while I write. I, for once, did my homework early, which might have something to do with the fact that it's election day in Oaxaca and there's no beer for sale. I have a feeling, given the fact that we were given binders close to half a foot thick for our impending courseload, that the opportunities to procrastinate and luxuriate will be pretty slim this august. I'll let you know before long.