The sun is up around 6, heralded by several roosters- one of which has a serious throat ailment making his crow more of a croak, but it’s effective. The neighbours are already up, doing chores and puttering about. We overlook about 5 small houses, one of which is undergoing construction. (Probably for years.) A loud mooing comes from somewhere and I go out onto the porch to look for a cow. The mooing is followed by a garbled announcement from one of those cartop bullhorns: “ MOOOOOOOO!!!! ……. blabarabbablabba OAXACA!” Turns out it’s the propane guys selling gas. Good local advertising at 6 AM …..and appropriately, it’s about gas!
I put on the coffee, help myself to eggs and fresh mango and read some articles on the area. The variety of flowering shrubs around our outdoor kitchen are almost too pretty to be real and I find it hard to concentrate. Ivy and cactus decorate the walk. Blue, pink and white blossoms tumble over the wall separating us from the house next door. We are asked to keep the water we run before getting into the shower and pour it onto the plants. Even in the rainy season, there’s never enough water, and yet these plants bloom with joy.
The biff is a long tiled room with an open shower in the middle. A curtain separates the flusher from the douche which is next to the sink. An interesting and functional configuration which Kate and I find easy to share. It’s so dry here that everything evaporates fast. A wet floor is dry in minutes and laundry is ready to wear almost before it’s on the line. While Kate gets ready, I take out a bucket of agua and dump it on the grateful plants outside.
Around 9:00 Alana and Fran meet us upstairs and we head off for a look at the city of Oaxaca. Alana is comfortable driving the truck down the steep incline into polite but unruly traffic. Turn signals are not as effective as thrusting your arm out the open window and gesturing your intentions. Oaxaca is a large, sprawling city with a glorious mix of new and ancient edifices. A nightclub with a car embedded in the wall above the entrance is not far from terraces that were built before Columbus showed up. Kids with cell phones chat to their friends while walking among women in traditional clothing, carrying produce in baskets on their heads. Along the tree-lined streets, people sell cool drinks and fresh pastries. Candy made from coconut, tamarind and cactus are delicious and we stop to buy a sample of each one.
(Image: Local Greengrocers')
(Image: Street Vendor.)
Asphalt pavement gives way to cobblestone streets where carts are pulled, bicycles ridden and a social order is kept with cheerful greetings to all. We feel welcome and knowing enough of the language to have a conversation is a blessing. I think the language barrier is the one thing that keeps us all from getting along. Culture is part of it, religion, too…but if you know how to greet someone on the street and wish them a good day, eyes light up, smiles happen and you feel at altogether home.
The ancient town square is ringed with restaurants and we choose one for a snack and a cervesa. This is where the annual radish festival takes place. Fran tells us in detail about the festivities surrounding the displays, the carving, the artistry, the fireworks and the competition involved. We contemplate the act of radish carving. Are they soaked first, how long do they last, are they eaten later, is there a national radish carving champion?? This is one more thing I want to see before I die.
After lunch, we continue up the street past a group of demonstrators. Hanging over an entranceway is a large cloth on which is printed the graphic image of a woman with her throat slit. It’s hard to understand just what the message is…but the picture is worth a few words. In a place so full of beauty and history it’s hard to understand how something so violent can be so casually displayed. (Emphasis added by DC2 to highlight willful ignorance of author.)
There is a large indoor market nearby and we go in. Stalls filled with spices and piled with peppers are separated by curtains and thin wooden frames from the meat sellers and cheese merchants and people selling flowers. Seated in rows alongside the stalls, ladies sell home made tortillas. They look delicious. Feeling like a local, now, I buy a bag full of carrots and some broccoli. Suddenly remembering my camera, I take a photo of a huge pile of hot peppers and then a lady seated on the floor selling limes. OOPS I forgot to ask her permission. This is a real breach of etiquette and I sincerely apologize. I give her a 10 peso coin which she accepts, but it is evident that had I had the courtesy to ask first, she’d have been pleased to oblige.
(Image: Close-up of selection of local produce.)
Outside, merchants sit behind displays of clothing, jewelry, dvd’s , cotton candy and all kinds of nuts. Roasted grasshoppers are also for sale and I’m tempted, but need a shot of tequila first. Babies sleep in baskets under the displays and a blind man plays the guitar so well, I want to stop and listen. His friend passes a hat and we’re glad to donate.
Back at the B&B, we go through our purchases as Al and Arlene bring out the wine. Fortified with local brew, I volunteer to make dinner. Cooking is easy when it’s done with whatever you can find in the kitchen. Outside, the noises of the night begin; peeping toads, dogs barking, fireworks and mariachi music. We settle into our nest. It’s been a truly great day.
Again, Mexico is treated as an exotic backdrop for a bored Anglo to while away her time and spend her money doing tourist stuff; treating the inhabitants as if they were as good as she is or taking their concerns seriously is beyond her.