|To begin with, the bus ride from San Cristobal to Oaxaca was abominable. Our bus left at 10:00 p.m. and traveled through the night, arriving in Oaxaca at about 10:00 the next morning. The driver was psychotic and insisted on traveling the mountain roads from San Cristobal at break-neck speeds, which did not help the whole concept of sleeping through the night. I rarely get motion sick, but on this trip, Sam and I both planned and re-planned how we would run to the bathroom at the back of the lurching bus without spewing vomit on the passengers. Fortunately, we had a retchfree trip, but once we got to our hostel in Oaxaca, we both slept for three or four hours.
(Rewind just a bit: our dinner prior to boarding the bus to Oaxaca was pretty hilarious. We got a tip from the woman working at the Internet center that there was a good restaurant behind the bakery around the corner, so we wandered over to check. When asked whether it was possible to have dinner in the dimly lit area behind the bakery, the owner looked at us somewhat strangely, smiled and said of course. A glance at her menu suggested that she typically only served breakfast, but couldn't pass up the chance to serve some dinner as well. When asked what she had, she rattled off a few things, then dug in the fridge to rattle off some more things that she encountered within. Sam had some chicken mole enchiladas, as always, and I had some chile rellenos from some past meal. As the owner cooked, her husband came in and brought up the lights and put some mood music in the boom box in the corner. The music was all the classical composers put to a fresh Casio beat, and after a few short minutes, I recognized the tunes as one "Hooked on Classics" from when I was kid. When questioned, the owner produced the CD case, and sure enough, it was Hooked on Classics (or Trapped on Classics in Spanish, hmmm). This started off a pretty fun conversation that ended with a request for a post card from Oregon and him offering to visit us in Oregon. I wonder if this day will ever come?)
Oaxaca was sort of a roller coaster of emotions for both of us. We've been in a few cities as of late and are getting to the point where we might need some country time. And I'm not talking about the lemonade. Oaxaca is quaint to a fault with all sorts of little galleries and trendy spots to eat that attract tourists from near and far. This is always a difficult point for Sam and I, because we are also TOURISTS; however, we both have a very hard time with places that are SO designed for tourists and tourist money that they start to feel prefabricated. Perhaps it's my imagination, but the locals in these tourist hubs don't seem too excited to talk with a foreigner, and one reason we enjoy traveling is to talk with people and get a feeling for life in the area we're visiting.
Any which way, we arrived in Oaxaca Sunday morning and both felt pretty much ready to leave by the next day. But we didn't. Sunday night we wandered past the churches and the giant zocalo (city square) and listened to some VERY cool music on the steps of the zocalo cathedral. The zocalo was an awesome place to people watch and listen to the roving mariachi bands as well as the crappy band playing Kenny-G-esque songs and drowning out the better music. The zocalo was also one of the first places where Sam experienced the sexy slurping noises that many men directed at her to suggest "Hey, come here you cool drink of water." (Rough translation). She really liked this a lot.
Monday was reasonably lazy. We ate a lot and spent three hours at a restaurant sucking down coffees and reading. We also stopped at a pretty cool bar called Fandango in the slightly dingier area where we decided to stay away from the hubbub. One reason we chose to stay away from the hubbub was so that we might sleep in peace, but aside from our room in Xela, this was one of the loudest places we've been in. Cars with seriously crippled mufflers. Dog fights at any hour of the night. Gas and water salesman screaming "Gas" or "Agua" starting at five in the morning. Friggin' amazing.
One bit of salvation for Oaxaca came yesterday with a trip to the ruins of Monte Alban, an Olmec/Toltec city high on the peak of a mountain about 30 minutes from downtown Oaxaca. The site was gigantic (comprising three mountain tops) and the vistas to the valley on all sides were magnificent. There is archaeological evidence that Monte Alban was inhabited at early as 100 B.C., and many buildings show signs of building in multiple epochs. We got to the site early and stayed for most of the day, thus getting time to see the entire site and sit around quite a bit taking in the views. It was awesome to wander down a path and be totally free of people for a bit with no sounds but the birds. Plus the mountains were spectacular. We brought along a picnic of sorts (if one would call olives, mozzarella, bread, apples and fake Oreos a "picnic") and sat under a tree and it felt like we had the place to ourselves. I think this trip was exactly what both of us needed - we could almost feel the stress drip off of us with each bead of sweat.
So, after Monte Alban, the city of Oaxaca felt so much more manageable. The city is known for its chocolates and moles, so we stopped at a couple of chocolate shops by the market and sampled some chocolate, then made our way to an Internet joint where we began the ascent of one of our last emotional hills in Oaxaca:
SAM GOT NEWS THAT SHE WAS ACCEPTED INTO HER PROGRAM AT OSU!!!!!!!!!!!!
We both are SO FRIGGIN' excited about this, since we now have a reasonable idea of our plans come June when this little sojourn comes to an end. This news deserved some celebration, so we headed to a local taco joint down the road from our hostel that was recommended by the owners. I tried a dish called pozotle (a very chunky soup) and had my first taste of lengua (tongue), and we sipped on a few Coronas. After the taco joint, we moved to Fandango for a few more beers and a free screening of Million Dollar Baby that the owner had pirated. We will never get those two hours back. Clint is such an expert at creating CRAP. Did that really win best picture or are we part of a complex set of propanganda being spread in Mexico to make Americans look like melodramatic wanks?
And after that we "slept" in our loud ass room and woke up for our 7:00 a.m. journey to Puebla at about 8:00. Not very motivated, I must say. We wandered to the bus station about 9:45, discovered that the next bus was at 11:00, chowed on some breakfast burritos from a nearby restaurant and then . . .
. . . we were off.