Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oaxaca, Mexico - Leaving is Hard

Sunday, November 16 – 10:40 p.m.

Totally off topic, but a fun factoid: I'm told that if your house is in course of construction here, you don't have to pay taxes on it. So, there are a lot of houses with rebar sticking out of the top in preparation for “adding another floor.” Or whatever. Makes you chuckle, no?

We are all packed up and ready to go in the morning. It was cold today as our hosts Tom and
Wendy and Ronny and Susie took us touristing to thank us for our hard work. I hope to get a
chance to write all about it on the plane, but must get to bed now.

Monday, November 17 – 3 p.m.

We're on the plane in Mexico City, bound for Los Cabos and Sacramento. The air quality in
Mexico City leaves a lot to be desired. The beautiful, snow-capped peaks aren't even visible
from the ground...and they aren't that far away! The city is covered with a thick brown blanket of smog. In the daylight, it's incredible how expansive the city is. It is huge, and it's surrounded by mountains. I guess there is nowhere for the air pollution to go. [Perhaps it is only like this at certain times of the year. That's my hope, anyway.]

So, yesterday, we got to see the Oaxaca that the tourists see when they come. Mitla is a lovely village in the mountains with ruins right in the middle and tons of vendors selling their wares ( Little shops and boutiques, very clean, very picturesque, very tourist-friendly, with nice little hotels and things. Quaint would be the word.
Photo by Chris. All Rights Reserved.
The weather was beautiful, though blustery and cold. By “cold,” I mean a light sweater would be nice, or a long-sleeved shirt. On the drive up to Mitla, there are lots of places where Mezcal (or Mescal), tequila's cousin, is made, and it looked WAY more prosperous than the villages we've been in, I'll tell you what. It was sort of like driving through the Sonoma Valley wine country, but with a high desert landscape and more modest construction. The countryside is rugged and beautiful and romantic, just like in the movies. I half expected to see desperados riding over the hills with pistols firing and bandoliers flying and sombreros flopping. Or at least Clint Eastwood. Or maybe Antonio Banderas. Okay. Don't get me started.

We then went to “old town” Oaxaca to go to the indoor market there. That particular area looks very European/Spanish colonial. We went to the plaza, where there is a huge and impressive Catholic church. There was a festival going on, with lots more of those French tourists. Sidewalk restaurants and cafes, expensive shops, nice hotels. Dancers on the plaza in traditional garb, dancing to...mariachi music! Special for the tourists!
Photo by Chris. All Rights Reserved.
We had a delicious dinner at one of the restaurants and made a few last-minute purchases. For some of us, those purchases had to do with staying warm. I have a quite beautiful and soft alpaca wrap that I got that night from a street vendor. Well, they said it was alpaca, and maybe it is. Or maybe it isn't. I love it anyway.

We remarked that this is the Oaxaca that you see on travel-logs. It really is very lovely, charming, romantic, and all that.

If you visited Oaxaca, you would be picked up at the airport, whisked to your hotel, encouraged to wander about the plaza with the lovely architecture and the majestic church. You might go on excursions to Mitla and Monte Alban, and maybe you would spend a couple of days at Puerto Angel (the beach on the other side of the mountain range). You would have a wonderful time.

Leaving, maybe you would spot a not-so-great neighborhood with lots of graffiti (because when you landed it was night-time, but now it's mid-day), and you would say to yourself that every city has places like that...tsk, tsk. But you could overlook that; because, all in all, Oaxaca would make a good impression on you. You'd love to come back someday and see more. You'd be getting your pictures ready to show your friends so they could drool. And who could blame you?

But you wouldn't have seen the Oaxaca our team saw. Nope. Not even if you were that very nice suntanned couple from New Zealand that I met at the airport today on their way to Mexico City for the third leg of their fabulous vacation.

And so the mission to Oaxaca was over, and we all made our way back to our homes and “real” lives. But the experience stays with you, and you are a different person when you leave than you were when you arrived. It's all about perspective. With great appreciation, I thank all of you who were on the team. It was a superb team. Tom and Wendy Hogan, thank you for your hard work in facilitating transportation, arranging meals, and all the different logistical nightmares that came up. You were up to the task each time. What a blessing you are! And to the people of my church, The Gateway, thank you for your support and encouragement and prayers. I couldn't have gone to Oaxaca without you!
Leaving Oaxaca.
Photo by Chris. All Rights Reserved.

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