[Note: One problem with writing in present tense is it sounds silly when you post a week later. I'm not in Oaxaca anymore.]
I'm in Oaxaca. The language school I am studying with (Amigos Del Sol
) arranged a homestay for me with secure parking for the bike and wifi. Here is my new family:
As soon as I sat down, they offered me chapulines
, an Oaxacan delicacy. This picture was taken at a market but you get the idea:
The crickets are purged of digestive matter and then deep fried and served with chili and lime. The taste is not unpleasant, but a couple handfuls were enough for me.
I've been studying Spanish for the last week. I had three years of Spanish in high school but that was over fifteen years ago and my last handful of trips to Mexico were not long enough to recover any significant skill. The class, however, is working wonders. Here are my instructors and some students:
The city of Oaxaca is not quite what I expected it to be. It's not exactly cute, but it's certainly not ugly. The zócalo and surrounding parts are nice but not awe-inspiring. The populace is busy but the city doesn't crawl with people the way Guadalajara does. I like it here but after a week I'm ready to move on.
Part of the problem is my homestay. It's about 30 minutes walk from downtown, so I can't just pop in and out. While I have been practicing my Spanish with the family, I'm not making friends the way I would if I were staying in a hostel. The school is very small; most of the other students are either Japanese or retired. I'm having a good time, but I feel rather isolated.
Part of the problem may also be that Oaxaca itself has fallen on hard times. Somehow I missed this news item at the time, but two years ago there were major riots here. It decimated the tourist industry, which is the core of the economy here. It's slowly recovering, but on a smaller scale; many Mexicans had to move elsewhere to find work and businesses like the language school I'm studying with had to move to smaller buildings.
Nevertheless, Oaxaca has some great things to offer. For one thing, the food is *excellent*. I have started to notice that there really isn't such a singular thing as "Mexican food"; the different regions of Mexico have distinctly different culinary traditions. Oaxaca is the "land of seven moles", including the famous chocolaty mole negro. I will post more pictures of food soon.
Oaxaca has a large number of very impressive Zapotec and Mixtec ruins, some dating back thousands of years. The grand prehispanic city of Monte Albán looks over the entire valley. I will make a separate entry for my trip there.
Few Oxacaños speak English. This has forced me to develop my speaking skills.
My homestay is actually fairly nice. It has a nice little room on top of the roof, reachable by a spiral staircase: