OAXACA MEXICO

February 2009

View of our street, Panaoramica

The kitchen, door to the bath

Living Room

Other direction

Big Bed Room

FEBRUARY 26nd, LOG #1

Well, we MADE IT in one piece.  We arrived in Oaxaca City, Mexico, Monday, Feb. 16th, after 34 hours, 3 flights, an over nighter in the LA airport, plus several hours in the Mexico City airport.  Gotta love the convenience of those free Alaska Air Miles!   Only Alaska Airlines can turn 9 hours of flight time into a 34 hour adventure.  Hey, but the flight only cost $20 so we can’t complain too much.  Although after the over nighter in the LA airport (can you believe they turn off the heat at night?!) we are rethinking the over nighter planned for SeaTac on our way home.

 After renting our apartment over the internet (you know how deceiving those photos can be, not to mention what some of the real estate is like in Mexico), we were pleasantly surprised to find our apartment is ALMOST perfect.  It’s a second floor, two bedroom apartment with a small kitchen that has a refrigerator, a microwave, stove top burners and, of course, the indispensible (in Mexico) blender.  We have a nice eating bar between the kitchen and the small living room.  Very large windows open to the street in the living room and our bedroom.  With our windows open most of the time we hear all the goings on of the residential neighborhood which is sometimes good and sometimes not.  We don’t actually need an alarm clock because once the morning “traffic” starts, well…………………  The most important features are hot water, a good mattress and the convenient location to town, on Panoramica de Fortin overlooking the city (gives us a hill to walk up a few times a day).   And we’ve only seen TWO very small cockroaches so far!  The only real bummer is the internet connection, continual lack of, which the owner is working with us to resolve.

Anthony, the owner of the apartment, is American, a contractor, and in his early fifties.  He’s married to a Mexican lady and has lived here for ten years.  He owns the larger apartment above us and used to live in the “penthouse” unit above that until he built another home close by.  The fact that he is American is great for us because we can communicate well with him and he does not just throw up his hands at the first sign of a problem (the internet situation).  We’ve gotten to know him and find him to be an interesting and nice guy.

Having spent several days in Oaxaca five years ago (although we were at the RV camp in a different area of town) we were familiar enough with town to find almost everything we needed to stock our apartment within the first few days.  Plus, there is curb side service in our neighborhood for many necessities.   Aguuuuuuuuua, aguuuuuuuua being yelled is a sure sign of bottled water being delivered.  When I heard several cow moos, for a second I thought there was a stockyard close by.  My next thought was leche (milk) being delivered.  Turns out the mooing truck delivers cylinders of gas.   I don’t get the connection, but hey, this is Mexico.   There’s a guy who comes through the neighborhood at night cooking bananas on a portable grill and tops them with cream.   Haven’t tried those yet.  Numerous women come down our street selling pan (bread) of all kinds, food they have prepared at home, and whatever else will sell.

 Several small grocery stores line our street and between them we are able to purchase just about anything we need.  Reminds me of the two “little stores” on our street where I grew up.  Mom would often send me the couple blocks down the street to pick up something she needed for a meal she was in the middle of preparing.  The difference here is that groceries seem to be less expensive at the neighborhood stores than they are at the big supermarket.   19 pesos/$1.50 U.S. buys  4 avocado , 4 mango, 5 guava, 1 tomato, 1 onion and a bunch of cilantro.  The neighborhood tortilleria is a couple blocks down and serves up hot tortillas by the kilo from morning ‘till evening.  We pay 3 pesos for a quarter kilo.  Very convenient to send Dan down for tortillas while I am setting out food for a meal.  The availability and cost of good produce and handmade corn tortillas makes a person at least CONSIDER living full time in Mexico.

There are so many Mercados, markets oriented to mercantile activities; we haven’t begun to find them all.  Most of these markets that service the city’s lower and lower-middle class are full of and surrounded by small vendors that sell produce, meat, herbs, spices, chilies and some utilitarian items.  Then there are the Indian markets Wednesday through Sunday, each day a different village (most less than an hour bus ride from Oaxaca City and a cost of 5 pesos each way), and full of produce, food and craft vendors.  Soriana is a supermarket chain with a couple locations we have discovered so far, one just down the hill from us.  We use the supermarket as our last resort if we aren’t able to find something in our neighborhood or at a city market.

 We are enjoying organic shade grown Oaxacan coffee at several local cafes and taking home freshly roasted ground beans to brew at home.  I can’t even begin to describe how fresh and sweet the fruit and veggies are which make up a big part of our diet.  We’ve found homemade yogurt and granola and even low fat cottage cheese.  I haven’t cooked any meat yet.  We don’t have an oven or outdoor grill, just stove top burners, but we have found picking up a whole roasted chicken works for a variety of meals and lasts us several days.  We’ve also been trying the NUMEROUS restaurants, eating outstanding Oaxacan food, but are pacing ourselves and eating at home much more than out.  After all, we’ll be here for a month, PLENTY of time to try lots of good restaurants.

We discovered a very nice English bookstore on our visit five years ago and are delighted it is still open. The bookstore and the Oaxaca Lending Library (newly discovered by us and a gathering place for expats) have both been good resources.  We are able to purchase used books at both and are still looking for a place to trade books.  We brought as many paperbacks as we could fit in our luggage, but are reading like crazy.  Dan brought his photos from our Egypt trip to work on and I brought two knitting projects, but having the time to read seems like such a luxury, I am taking advantage of it.

Guess that pretty much covers our first few days of getting settled in.  Just when we thought we were having way too much fun, by Saturday it got even better.  More about that in the next installment.  Until then, rest assured we are enjoying sunny weather with temps between 83 and 89 degrees and loving it!


Clay sculptures

Texting before I can spell

The Park had free wifi

Santo Domingo

MARCH 3rd, LOG # 2

More from Mexico……..through the Lending Library we learned of the exhibition "Oaxacan Popular Arts in the New Millennium: Nurturing Young Artists of the State of Oaxaca", at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a 45 minute bus ride from the city.  The exhibition will remain at the museum through March 25th then travel to New York in 2009-2010.  In conjunction with the exhibition, a tianguis (fair) of folk art work from various artesano families was scheduled at the museum.  This was a great opportunity to see the exhibition, visit with some of the artists and purchase some gorgeous one of a kind craft directly from the artists.  I had immediately fallen in love with the giraffe alebrije (carved and fancily painted wooden animal) that adorned the postcard announcing the exhibition.  I KNEW I would not leave the craft market without one of the brightly painted animals.

 The giraffe looked huge on the postcard and I was determined not to fall into the same predicament I did last year at our Family Fiber Fest in Albuquerque.  Ya right!  As part of our FFF we spent a day in Santa Fe at the International Folk Art Festival.  Whoa…..it was unbelievable, with craft booths from around the world, full of every folk art craft you could image.   There was one booth (beaded animals made by a group of artists in a women’s cooperative from South Africa) I particularly fell in love with and KNEW I would surely get into trouble there.  The hundred or so beaded animals in the booth were ALL incredible, but Lucy was the fairly large beaded elephant that caught my eye.  I told myself there was no way I could get her home in my carry- on luggage and I didn’t want to check luggage.

Robin, my FFF partner in crime, did little to help convince me I was correct, saying something like “we’ll find a way”.  Not that it mattered, because I already had my heart set on Lucy.  Getting ready to head back to Anacortes, I packed and repacked I don’t know how many times, but alas could not fit Lucy in my luggage, and she was so absolutely wonderful (and big) that I didn’t want to chance carrying her on.  When the lady at the Mailbox place told me it would cost $43 I was so shocked I almost blurted out something inappropriate.  Anyway, long story long, Lucy was well worth the cost.  She’s made her home in our entry and I enjoy her every day.   So now she’ll have a friend.   I did end up purchasing  a wooden giraffe about her size so at the end of our stay in Oaxaca I will, yet again, be trying to figure out how to carry an animal  home!  And Robin, Dan said “WE’LL FIND A WAY”. 

Back to the exhibition which represents a selection of 46 works created by an outstanding group of folk artists residing in the central valleys of Oaxaca.  It focuses on five artistic traditions: ceramic, weavings, woodcarving, decorative painting of woodcarving, and a general category, “other modalities.”  Works in the exhibition were selected by an international jury of leading Mexican folk art experts.   The exhibition includes the work of both emerging artists and established masters.  Objects by masters in each folk art tradition exemplify both the previous generation’s talents and their connection to the creativity and evolution of the work of younger artists. Both the museum (new and beautiful) and the exhibition were wonderful.  San Bartolo is the ancient center of black pottery production where the pottery continues to be made by hand in family workshops.   The museum has an outstanding collection of the exquisite pottery.  What a grand day!  Unfortunately, Dan’s computer program ate all the photos he took at the museum and fair.  No way was it operator error!?  But this gives us an excuse to head that way again on Friday.  We plan on going to Ocotlan de Morelos for the Friday market and stop by the museum on the way back.   We’ll include some of those photographs in a future travelogue.

As if that wasn’t enough fun for the day we still had the evening to look forward to.  JoAnn, the travel agent working with Anita on our fall trip to Kenya and Tanzania, and her husband, are living in Oaxaca for five months.  Tom is putting together a book of photographs on the Mixteca village of Miramar.  As the crow flies, Miramar is about 60 miles but actually takes about a day and a half to get there by car.  It has been nice having them as contacts here.  They invited us to an open house to promote El Circulo de Mujeres (The Circle of Women), an organization formed to support the women of Oaxaca in building healthy and viable communities.   The Mixteca Weavers project is a microenterprise project of organization.

 The open house was held at a home (of an American couple) that also functions as the office for the organization.  It was fun to see the inside of a home in Oaxaca.  Due to the colonial style of architecture, about all you can see from the outside is wall, but inside is a far different story with many having gorgeous courtyards.  This house was small with three stories, two bedrooms, an office, and decorative features including a couple of flowing shallow water features and a covered courtyard.  Tom had a slideshow of his photos taken in Miramar running on his computer while a lady from Miramar was weaving on a back strap loom, and wine and beer was being poured.  There must have been thirty Americans in the house, many of them from the Seattle area, but also a big contingent from the Chicago area.   Turned out to be a fun evening, visiting and picking up tips of places to see and things not to be missed in Oaxaca.  As all this was going on, we wondered how overwhelming this must seem to the lady from Miramar as this was her first trip out of her small village in the mountains.  During the evening the group learned about The Circle of Women and had an opportunity to purchase rebozos (shawls) woven by the women Miramar.  Each rebozo had a tag with a photo and information about the artist.  We chose an incredible rebozo and were pleasantly surprised to learn it had been woven by the lady that was there weaving that evening.   Very cool!  Sadly, the photos from this interesting evening were part of the photo meal eaten by the computer and unfortunately there is not an opportunity for a redo.   I’ve included a photo from The Circle of Women website.  The Circle of Women partners with the weavers, selling the weavings throughout the U.S.  If you are interesting in learning more about The Circle of Women and the weaving project, check it out at "thecircleofwomen.org."

Adios for now!


Yolanda in the market

Nuts, spices, chilis, brown sugar

The market

Tamale Lady

Having Lunch in the market

The kitchen & classroom

Salad makers

Cooking the
MARCH 7th, LOG # 3

As you all know, we are so into eating good food it made sense to sign up for a cooking school.   We did five years ago, had a blast, learned lots and adapted some of what we learned to how we eat at home…….lower in fat and SIMPLE.    We did some research on the internet before we arrived, found a few different cooking schools, and had a hard time choosing.  We settled on Seasons of My Heart for a one day class that ended up being FAR more than just a day of cooking.   It was more like an all day ADVENTURE that started with a group of 16 people at 9 a.m. loading into a van and being transported to the Wednesday market at Etla (about 20 miles north of the city).  There, we were met by Yolanda and guided through a tasting tour of the many exotic treasures of the market.  The Indian markets can be very overwhelming with the crowds of locals mixed in with the tourists, surrounded by all sorts of produce and food, some of which you have NO idea what it is and wondering if it will make you ill.  You have to be careful what you eat and drink at these markets, but with Yolanda selecting food and drink for us, we were free to try lots of things without concern.  Yolanda was a wealth of information that we find ourselves using daily here in Oaxaca.

After the tour of the market we all crowded onto benches in a small café inside the market for a light lunch.  This gave us a chance to try more market food and visit with members of the group.   Two couples (around our age) were from the Seattle area, one young guy in his early 30s was from London (had become disillusioned with his job in derivatives, quit, was traveling the world for seven months and was extremely interesting), an older couple was from St. Paul, one gal was from Milwaukie and so on…….a very diverse group. 

After lunch we were back in the van heading to Rancho Aurora, a hillside farm overlooking the pueblo of San Lorenzo Cacaotepec, Etla that houses the Seasons of My Heart Cooking School. The kitchen was HUGE and one of the most beautiful we have seen.  Yolanda gave us a lecture on Oaxacan cuisine and a presentation of the day’s ingredients.  With much of the prep work already done (gotta LOVE having help) by the staff, we spent the afternoon creating a five course meal; working together, laughing, visiting, tasting Mexican chocolate and washing it down with Mescal,  and drinking Mexican cerveza.  Now that’s the way to prepare a meal!  Then we sat down and enjoyed eating what we had created, which was incredibly scrumptious.  While we were eating, the staff cleaned up (even better).  After receiving our diploma with a molenillo (traditional wooden beater for mixing a hot chocolate drink) and Mexican chocolate attached, we were delivered back to town around 7 p.m., tired, full, content, and quite possibly even a little drunk (no, not even close, but feeling pretty good)!  WOW, what a FUN day!  So much so, we decided to sign up for another cooking school while we are here.  With all this instruction we should be able to open a Mexican restaurant when we get home.

Because we were somewhat limited at the Etla market when we were there with the cooking class, we decided to go back the next Wednesday.   Dan wanted to take more photos and we both wanted to see all of the market plus eat a couple more of those handmade tamales we had tasted during the market tour.  This time we decided to take a collectivo, taxi that provides inexpensive collective services.  This means squeeeeeeeezing 5 people (many not small) plus the driver into a small Nissan car.  This put me in-between the two front seats, between the driver and Dan.  Luckily, I wasn’t straddling the gear shift or it REALLY would have been a WILD ride.  At the market Dan found the locals were not at all excited about having their photos taken and often turned away, unlike the day we were at the market with Yolanda.  By early afternoon it was getting way too hot so we decided to head home.  We saw a group of locals gathered waiting at a corner, a sure indication of an unmarked bus stop.  We decided to take the bus back instead of the collectivo, our sense of adventure disappearing in the heat.

In our next travelogue we’ll tell you all about the Friday market in Octolan and the Sunday market at Tlacalula, our favorite!

Adios for now!


Black pottery

Way too Day of the Dead

Painted Wood Animal

Painted Wood Animal
Classy Day of the Dead

Painted Wood

The above goose in in the basket on his back

And My Favorite

I'll Buy Latte's Mam
MARCH 9th, LOG #4

We made it back to the State Museum of Oaxaca Folk Art.  Here are photos of pieces from the exhibition “Oaxacan Popular Arts in the New Millennium: Nurturing Young Artists of the State of Oaxaca”.  Hope you enjoy them.


The Tlacolula Market

Fruit

Painted gourds

Rug Booth

Scarf display

3 saddles

3 aprons

Ribbon in the hair

Apron maker and buyer

Street musician
MARCH 11th, LOG #5

Market days in Oaxaca are among the most famous in the country.  Open air markets are moveable feasts traced back for centuries. They are often called tianguis, an expression going back to the open air markets of the Aztecs. I recently learned that the tianguis is different than the established markets, mercados, where vendors sell their wares each day.  Market days are social events for people coming into town from far away.  Tlacolula, approximately 45 minutes southeast of Oaxaca, hosts a great market on Sunday where we’ve spent the past two Sundays.  It’s one of the oldest in all of Mesoamerica and it is the largest in the Central Valleys.  Of the Indian markets we’ve been to, this is our favorite.  Stalls line the main street from the bus station to the 16th-century church, the Capilla del Santo Cristo, and down the side streets.   All sorts of plastic tarps are strung across the streets to provide shade.  Tall people need to duck under the clotheslines that hold up the colorful tarps.  The market is full of families and the atmosphere is festive and friendly. 

The first Sunday we went to the market at Tlacolula I was on yet another mission.  Since arriving in Oaxaca we’ve seen women wearing the most beautiful mandils, aprons that are made of plaid cloth and adorned with bright embroidered flowers.  There are several different styles; some adorned quite simply, others with lots of embroidery.  When we were at the Etla market with Yolanda I looked for one of the heavily embroidered mandils.  NO LUCK.    Yolanda suggested the market at Tlacolula would have so many I would have a hard time choosing.  YAHOO, was she ever right!  Talk about a fun time having a hard time choosing.  Dan, my personal shopper, helped with fit and length (none of these stalls have mirrors).  I ended up purchasing two and probably supporting a Mexican family of eight for a month.  Then purchased another one last Sunday (just needed one more color), of better quality and for less money, from a lady carrying a handful of mandils she had made.   We’re talking 180 pesos ($12 U.S.) verses 250, but still.  I have a hard time bargaining when I couldn’t fathom making the apron for ANYWHERE CLOSE to that price with the amount of time the embroidery takes.   I’ll NEED these three aprons to wear when we open the Mexican restaurant in Anacortes, as soon as someone volunteers to fund it!   These mandils are way too gorgeous to wear in the kitchen, and since I’m hardly in the kitchen enough to put on an apron, they’ll make splendid vests. 

Now don’t think the market was all about me shopping for mandils.  Dan and I both enjoyed tasting different types of Mescal at a few stalls at the Friday market at Ocotlan and at the Sunday market.   You can’t imagine how many varieties of Mescal there are and the difference in quality.  You’d be amazed at how much you can end up drinking from those little sampler cups, given enough samples!  And, of course, we ended up purchasing a few bottles.  Who could resist?! 

We’ve also eaten some good food at the markets; everything from Tlayudas (large crisp tortilla topped with a variety of different ingredients) not fried in grease but rather cooked on a comal (clay plate used over a heat source) to empanadas filled with pina (my favorite), leche (cream, Dan’s favorite) or coco (coconut, another of Dan’s favorites).    Many tourists are afraid to eat street or market food, but we’ve found it to be some of the best.  You just have to be observant and careful in your selections. 

We’ve  spent hours at the markets walking around and sitting in the square, Dan taking photos.  Last Sunday we visited with a 21 year old kid who had lived near Ocotlan all his life except for three years he spent in Chicago going to school and working.  He is a graphic designer by trade and was at the market helping his uncle sell athletic shoes.  It was the first time he had ever been in Tlacolula, even though it is less than a half hour from where he lives.

What an environment the markets are for photos!  The fruit, the vegetables, the courtyards, the old buildings, the faces of the old men and women, the COLORFUL clothing………..such a treat.  These women know their color theory and embellishment style (same as mine) ………..more is never enough!  It doesn’t matter that many are old, short and stocky.  Their faces show the character of years of experience.  They are beautiful, proud and dress like they have this one day to wear everything in their closet (they probably don’t even have a closet in their small shacks with dirt floors).  It is truly enough to take your breath away.

Enough for now.


Cooking Class

Appitizer

Brahma team

Goat market

Sheep, Goats, & People(not for sale)

Wonderful Lady and her goat

Ah the pig

The horse that stood still

Delivering that bed

MARCH 13th, LOG #6

Tuesday we splurged on another cooking class (you’d think we actually cooked at home), this time from Pilar Cabrera of La Casa de los Sabores, and it was PERFECT.  The maximum class size is 12, but there were only four of us so it was like a private class.  Kind of funny, the other couple in class had seen us a few days earlier at La Biznaga, a popular local restaurant, and asked us what was good…..small world, small Oaxaca.  Pilar's class is not an all day adventure, but rather a relaxing, calm morning of shopping for the ingredients at the neighborhood market and an afternoon cooking dishes that are simple to prepare and have incredible flavor.  GONE is the saturated fat of the dishes we prepared at Season's of My Heart (except for what’s still left on our hips).   Mexican food can be cooked without all that pork fat!  Simple but scrumptious recipes we will use at home with few modifications.   We learned lots and had so much fun; we just might take another class from Pilar next year.  Continued education for that restaurant we’re opening soon!

Thursday we took a short bus ride south to Zaachila for the Indian market.  It is much the same as the Sunday market at Tlacolula, but smaller, and includes an animal market where people bring their goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys, horses and Brahma bulls to sell.  It features pairs of Brahma bulls trained to the plow.  Having had several years of experience raising animals in     4-H, I was amazed at how well all these animals were kept under control in such a small area.  The different species of animals were separated by area, but not by corrals or fences.  The animals were tethered and the owners kept throwing down small amounts of feed to keep the animals occupied.  My favorites were the kids and piglets, the one gigantic sow (probably several hundred pounds) in the back of a truck (held in only by the tail gate with an additional board placed across the back), and the large pig wallowing in the mud (water provided by some very thoughtful owners).  I was in awe at how well trained and gentle the Brahma bulls were.  Dan wondered in and out of the crowded stockyard taking lots of photos, wishing he could find a higher location to shoot from.

Before heading back on the bus, we were resting on a bench having a cold drink when we observed a horse drawn two wheeled cart pull up across the street.  The driver got off and talked to several people then walked down the street leaving his cart and horse unattended.  Despite the traffic and activity beside the cart, the horse never moved.  When the man returned, he brought back nails so the carpenter could finish putting together a bed a lady had purchased.  Once the nails were hammered in, they loaded the bed on the cart, roped it in place, and he took off to make his delivery.  Hope she has a BIG door to get that bed through!

As you know from reading our travelogues, we’ve taken several trips on second class buses.  They are cheap to ride and the more “second class” (tired) the bus is, the more interesting the ride (and some are much more “second class” than others).  We love the buses full of Mexicans and free of gringos (except us, of course).  We’ve ridden with locals taking everything from a HUGE bundle of floor mattresses (just barely made it through the door of the bus) to a couple of live turkeys to market.  They’re crowded and hot and normally take the longest route and make the most stops…….all the better to see the countryside.  Often, both Dan and I have been so hot and tired after a day at the market, we have fallen sound asleep and are lucky we haven’t missed our stop.  The second class buses make it very cheap and    

easy to get to the villages outside the city.  And remember, it’s an ADVENTURE.  No way would we want to miss it. 

More in our next travelogue.  Adios for now.


San Agustin Etla

Setup for one day celebration

Zocolo concert

Big people

SrPato competition

Painting with string

Santo Domingo

Street scene

Mime
Balloons for the kids

MARCH 17th, LOG #7

I suppose you think all we’ve been doing is eating and shopping!  OK, OK yes, we’ve been doing lots of both, but we have been also been cooking at home, splitting meals when eating out, walking miles every day and taking yoga class twice per week in the hopes we will NOT gain a bunch of weight.  Actually, in the hopes we will lose some, but that will be a stretch (for me at least).  The first few yoga classes we attended were pretty basic, starting with free form dancing as the warm up.  Then the instructor went out of town for a few days and WOW we had a much better teacher as a replacement.   No contest there.  We decided to change instructors and are now attending an earlier class (BUMMER that we have to get out of bed earlier), but it is worth it.   Now we are truly getting something out of yoga.  In fact, we wish we had a yoga teacher this good at home.

We’ve been visiting the numerous museums around town and have enjoyed not only the collections but the buildings that house them.  Most are old renovated colonial homes with gorgeous courtyards.  The new Textile Museum of Oaxaca, inaugurated in April 2008, is an outstanding museum (including a textile library TO DIE FOR).  One day last week Dan took his computer down to the museum to work on his photos while I looked through the African textile books in their library (a little prep for our trip to Africa in the fall).  What a great resource.  I plan to spend more time there next year enjoying the books, the quiet, and the cool temperature of the building (cool even on very hot days).   Three textile exhibits currently showing are diverse and amazing.  In Nov., thanks to The Circle of Women and their efforts to promote the Mixteca women’s weaving project, the Mixteca weavers of Miramar will have an exhibition of their rebozos at the museum.

We spent most of a day at Barrio de Vista Hermosa, San Agustin Etla (about an hour north of the city) visiting San Agustin Arts Center and the Paper-Making Workshop.  The arts center is an art school offering workshops taught by renowned artists in numerous media.  It’s a little different than the norm in that it seeks to integrate art and ecology, and all its classes operate in an environmentally positive way using only non-contaminating materials.  The once–renowned Vista Hermosa thread and textile factory built in 1883 has been reconstructed to house the center.  It is worth the trip just to see the magnificent building!

The Belber-Jimenez Museum is a small intimate museum featuring a personal collection of jewelry, folk art and textiles of Federico Jimenez and Ellen Belber.  Oaxacan born Federico and his wife began collecting in the 1960s and amassed superb examples of jewelry dating from pre-hispanic to modern times, a diversity of Oaxacan textiles, and an eclectic sampling of handicraft, much of which is no longer produced.  The collection is fabulous.  We enjoyed both the collection and the building it is housed in, another old renovated colonial home. 

  

We’ve also spent many hours at the Zocalo (town square); relaxing, people watching and enjoying the free entertainment.  The Zocalo is a gathering place for locals and tourists alike.  Almost every evening some kind of entertainment is going on there.  We’ve seen everything from traditional and modern dance to Mariachi bands and mimes.  There are always vendors selling balloons, trinkets, candy and everything else you can image.  The cool thing is that entire families are out enjoying the Zocalo during the day and the evenings.  The hottest part of the day is between 2 and 4 when many businesses close and the locals enjoy comida (late lunch and the main meal of the day).  This is a time when the Zocalo fills with locals relaxing on the benches and along the flower filled planters.  The same is true of the numerous parks around the city.  These people TRULY enjoy their families, the parks, and being outdoors in the wonderful weather spending time together.  It’s great being on “Mexican Time” right along with them!

  That’s enough for now.  Hasta manana!


One of the nicer 2nd class busses

Check out the windshield

Typical sidewalk

Another sidewalk

Luis's Rodeo street shack

Rodeo

Taco's Pastor

Grilling Tlayudas

Tlayudas

Makin' money

MARCH 18th, LOG #8

Well, this is the FINAL travelogue of this trip.  This evening we fly to Mexico City to spend a night before heading home on Thursday.  It’s been a relaxing, enjoyable stay here in Oaxaca, but it is starting to get HOT.  It’s been too hot for Dan in the last few days so he’s more than ready to get home, ALTHOUGH that may change when we arrive home to cold weather and snow flurries.   BUMMER! 

Just a few miscellaneous things to mention before we head out…………………………..

We’ve heard some great Mexican music while riding the second class buses.  Those drivers have real class, and it’s NOT 2nd class.  They also know how to negotiate the tight spots.  We had a request for some photos of the second class buses so here are a couple.  Sorry we didn’t get more ‘cause this bus is in pretty good condition compared to some of the others we traveled on.

 Apparently a man in our neighborhood was hired as a bus driver because for the past three nights the bus has been parked right across the street.  He even washed it and cleaned it out the first night! 

On one of our first couple of days in town, three people working together attempted to pick pocket Dan.  Luckily, Dan was on his toes and foiled the attempt.  That’s the first time in all our travels that has happened. 

In the U.S. we have all these wide sidewalks that aren’t used nearly enough, while this country has narrow sidewalks that are used to the MAX.  Egypt also has nice wide sidewalks but everyone walks in the street. 

 Returning to Oaxaca after five years, we were pleasantly surprised that our favorite street food vendor still has his stall, the Rodeo, across from the first class bus station.  We’ve walked out there for dinner several times during our stay.  We always have Tacos Pastor, simple and the best food in town.  The price has gone up a bit in five years to 60 pesos, but still a great value and definitely the BEST ambience in town.  We ate Tacos Pastor in Tlacolula (not quite as good as Luis’) for 30 pesos, but hey, that’s the big city verses the little village, for ya.

While looking for the location of the cooking school late one night, we ran into an interesting restaurant by chance.  There was all this who ha going on along the sidewalk and 14 taxis were double parked in the street so we wandered over to see what was going on.  Turns out it’s this restaurant that opens at 9 p.m. and stays open until 4 a.m. or later, maybe 8 or 9 a.m., depending on how busy they stay.  Everything is cooked directly on coals out on the sidewalk in front of the building and they have a limited menu.  It was a festive gathering outside the restaurant and the Tlayudas looked mouthwatering.  We decided to try to stay up late enough one night to eat dinner there.  On the night we showed up for dinner, we arrived 15 minutes early.  We sat on benches along the sidewalk and watched them set up.  A taxi showed up and a lady got out with a stack of tortillas 14 inches high to deliver to the restaurant.  Then the taxi driver brought in another stack that high.  As we watched, there must have been 10 stacks delivered.  That’s a HECK of a lot of tortillas!  Our waiter, a young kid, was the third generation owner of the family restaurant.  The wild and crazy atmosphere, smoke pouring into the restaurant through the open doors, our waiter working hard to speak English with us, and the incredible Tlayudas, made for a fun night.  We haven’t been back since because that’s WAY TOO LATE for us to eat.  We’d probably be better off going there for breakfast!

 Well, that about does it for this trip.  We look forward to returning to Oaxaca next year and plan on staying a month and a half next time.  We may start looking for a casa to purchase if the weather in Anacortes doesn’t improve!! 

Sr Pato must be improving his guitar skills or else he’s found a better location.

Adios!