Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oaxaca 1

May 6th to 9th June

We decide to take a break.
We've been on the move constantly for 8 months and some 12,000 kms now all the way from Vancouver, Canada.
Oaxaca (Wa-ha-ca) seems like a good place to sloooow down and really get to know a Mexican city. Oaxaca is famous for it's food and boasts a huge number of restaurants and bars. It's also a beautiful place, well located in a bowl shaped dip between pine and juniper covered mountains with some stunning gardens and old colonial style buildings.....

There are some great Spanish schools here so we rent an apartment for a month and book some classes to try and fix some of the damaged lingo we've picked up on the road. You can pretty much pick and choose how much or little you do and we take 4 hours each morning. It's more than enough for unused brains, rusted solid on the road.

These are the guys from "Spanish Magic" and if you are looking for a school in Oaxaca - this is the place to go. Professional, informal and tailored to your level, they will also arrange accomodation with families and informal English/Spanish chat sessions with Mexicans wanting to practice English ....

Maestros; Lili, Jessica (our teacher), Alberto, Flor - the school's director and Miguel. Jessica is brilliant and we had a lot of fun in a class of just her, Sue and I.

The other students were great as well and it's a pretty social way to learn. School nights out at the baseball....

Yeah - Mexico is pretty big on baseball and it was a real surprise to watch a game there. Not really knowing what to expect we turned up at what turned out to be a really smart stadium to see a pretty good standard of play. Well Puebla were a pretty good standard. Oaxaca always lose, apparently. This was a close game though, level after 9 innings and going into extra time and the crowd was getting tense, sensing a rare sniff of victory. It was not to be though as Puebla smacked 3 home runs in the 10th winning 9 to 6.

Great atmosphere though, largely helped by the huge numbers of food and beer vendors who keep a steady supply coming. You never even had to leave your seat!

Lili (one of the Spanish teachers) dances in a salsa group and invited us to a club where she was performing. A few of us from the school went to watch and this being Mexico, a show starting "around 10ish" finally got going around midnight. It was worth the wait! After the show, the dancers gave way to a salsa competition for regional dance schools. The standard was incredible and the dancing went on for well over 3 hours, before cups and trophies were awarded. A great night out....

There was no way this leaden footed gringo was going to stomp his unco-ordinated stuff on the dance floor after that display, despite numerous attempts to drag us up there. Mexican's can move!

And all the while we were testing the quality of the food.
It definitely passed!
There are so many good restaurants that any lack of quality means an absence of customers. We find a backstreet favourite charging 35 pesos (3 dollars) for a 5 course set menu and it was still excellent. Pushing the boat out for around 10 dollars gets something truly exceptional!

Oaxaca definitely has a lot going for it; there's always something going on! A Saturday afternoon and the main street comes to a stand still as an exuberant wedding procession takes place and the atmosphere is carnival. The bride and groom wear traditional oversize costumes and are noisily followed by a 25 piece brass band and their well wishers....

It's a political city as well. Streets are frequently closed or blockaded by protestors with a variety of causes from labour reform and pay disputes to amnesty for political prisoners. In 2006 there was a large riot when teachers went on strike over pay and their protest was forcibly broken up! The teachers are apparently involved in spearheading many minority causes now as they have credibilty that some groups lack. After 2006, the authorities are more cautious in their methods of restraint with teachers and they are seen as a useful mouthpiece for other organisations. Protestors camp out in the main square outside government buildings to help free a political prisoner....

May is the start of the rainy season in Mexico. Mornings are blue skied, bright and hot, but by mid afternoon the clouds have gathered and skies become leaden and angry. The humidity rises and the air becomes thick and soupy, heavy with moisture from the juniper and pine trees that cover the surrounding mountains. After a few oppressive days, the threat of storms materialises spectacularly and the rains are biblical in their ferocity. Drainage systems overflow and peoples yards are washed out onto the now sand covered streets. Hailstones the size of coins smash down and the nightly deluge lasts several hours....

It's a nightly routine, and the next day dawns bright and clear; the skies blue and innocent - for now.

And we settle into our routine - school in the morning, followed by lunch in another great restaurant, homework, then more food with storms raging outside, then maybe a couple of drinks - but not too much. Not on a school night.


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