Hey Oaxaca… we need to talk
I would have thought your name was pronounced oaks-ah-kah but no, as usual there is a massive curve ball. As you know, your name is pronounced wah-ha-kah.
So, Oaxaca City is the capital of Oaxaca state, kinda like New York City is the capital of New York state? That’s cool. I like that. Although if I lived here I bet people would always ask me “where are you from?” and I’d be like “Oaxaca” and they’d be like “oh cool, where abouts?” and I’d be like “Oaxaca“. I can see that becoming a little annoying.
The local townsfolk are, on the most part, lovely. I say ‘on the most part’ because I found one particular group to be quite strange. Congregating around the largest of the local churches, these funny looking fellows did not offer much in the way of conversation. Sure, my Spanish is rubbish, but I literally got nothing from these guys. Nothing.
I would have been better off asking a priest where to find a good nightclub. Or a homeless person where to find an IKEA. Or showing a dog a card trick. Or taking a blind person to a museum. Seriously, I got nothing from them. Not even a response. I just wanted directions. They’re like statues.
Then, of course, I sobered up and looked at them in the clear light of day only to realize that they ARE in fact statues.
But this isn’t really all that surprising when you look at the rest of your streets, Oaxaca. You are rich in art. Even you’re graffiti deserves to be in a gallery. Every token, touristy shop that looks predictable from the street seems to be hiding the fact that in a back room or down a corridor is a subtle exhibition, antique shop, art studio, tapas bar… etc…
We spent arguably the most romantic day of the year together–Valentines Day. And how romantic was it? Very. Salsa dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Trying to anyway. For a dance that only has four steps (forward, together, back, together) it was deceptively hard.
Let’s talk food, Oaxaca. You’re gonna make me fat. I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. Street food is nuts. Not literal nuts, like peanuts and stuff, although I guess you do have them too. No, I mean nuts as in completely bonkers. Even a simple quesadilla is not just a simple quesadilla. What extra ingredients did I feel like? Oh you know, just you’re standard squash blossom (flowers). No worries. Extremely good.
Shall we go up a level? Tapas bars. Nuts. Complete with house cured leg of ham hanging from the rafters. No biggie. Home made chorizo. Yeah. Best olives I’ve ever had in my life (because Mexico is famous for olives all of a sudden? Me thinks not.. but maybe it should be). Nuts.
Top tear? I’ll admit, this was not an intentional experience. Kinda stumbled into the fanciest place I’ve ever eaten (bare foot and shirtless of course) and was too embarrassed to acknowledge my mistake and walk out. Didn’t understand the menu because it was proper fancy and in spanish. Ordered tacos because I figured that it was a safe bet. What could you possibly do to fancy up a taco? Maybe risotto had a little more scope to be made fancy. The food was… wait for it… nuts. The food was nuts.
Gelatin taco shells, seafood cerviche filling, flowers and leaves as garnish and the obligatory swipes of chili powder and paste. Perfect seafood risotto needs no explanation, but the square gelatin sheet perched on top of it was a nice touch, as were the flowers as a final garnish. Ridiculous. How much, you ask? Less than $20 including 2 beers and tip.
Forgetting something? Fast food. Yeah, I ate at your Burger King. In my country they say the burgers are better at Hungry Jacks. Whilst that may be true, the burgers are certainly bigger at Burger King. Accompanied by a litre of coke and a stupid amount to fries. I mean, fast food is fast food is fast food is fast food, but sometimes it’s required and it’s nice to know that you have it. Well played Oaxaca.
I went from getting ruined in beach towns to visiting ancient ruins on the outskirts of your town. It has been a happy change and one that I needed to have. The ruins of Monte Albán were amazing. I enjoyed them immensely. Thanks for that.
Now, I know that this has nothing to do with you but sometimes when bad things happen to me I attach bad memories to places and it alters my perception of the place. So I don’t blame you for what happened to me but I am finding it difficult to separate the incident from the place.
I got toothpaste in my eye.
Not a big deal? Try it and get back to me.
Where is the warning on my goddam Colgate that dental hygiene and alcohol do not mix? Where?
I’m trying my hardest to find faults with your lovely city but I’m having limited success. This is what I came up with so far.
The roads are bumpy. But this is because they’re cobble stone, which really just adds to the vibe of the city in a positive way and is much better than the speed bumps that seem to litter so many of the other streets in Mexico. I can’t really use bumpy roads as a negative thing.
I got toothpaste in my eye. Again, not technically your fault.
To be entirely honest, I am clutching at straws to find even minor faults with you. I love you Oaxaca. I know it’s early for me to be saying that, but it’s true. You’re amazing. You’re beautiful, both aesthetically and the people who call you home. You’re rich in culture, you’re streets lined in colonial churches, art galleries, street art and installations. You have amazing food; both modern and traditional. Your nightlife is enough to have a good time but not so crazy that I hate myself every morning/afternoon when I wake up.
So why am I writing to you like this?
It’s not you, Oaxaca, it’s me. I’m just not quite ready yet. I feel as though I could quite happily put my bag down, burn my passport and grow fat and content suckling on the ample bosom of your sophisticated city. But that would be rash. Especially the ‘burning my passport’ part. That’s just completely unnecessary. I guess love makes you want to do crazy things.
It’s true that I’ve been town hopping since I left Melbourne, sleeping in a different bed every few days, and no, I’m not proud of that fact. But at this point in time, right now, I’m not ready for anything serious and I feel as though I will start to get too attached if I stay any longer.
I really hope I can come back soon to visit, and if I still feel the way that I feel now then I will certainly stay for longer. Who knows, maybe forever, if you’ll have me.
I’ve decided to go and visit some old friends that I met 5 years ago whilst traveling. The first friend is San Cristóbal de las Casas high in the mountains. After that I will head into Guatemala, Belize and then back into Mexico. Most of the towns I will visit, I have been to before. I’m not looking to find any new places while I still have you fresh in my mind.
It’s been real Oaxaca. It’s kinda been unreal too.
By the time you read this I’ll probably already be gone.