Before we even arrive at our hostel, we recognize this place. Though we’ve never been here before, so much is completely familiar. The design of the buildings, crumbling with age, fresh paint covering recent concrete repairs to the exterior walls; the way semi-existent traffic rules are only sort-of followed, yet everything seems to flow in perfect smoothness. Upon arrival, we exit the airport taxi, and the familiarity is immediately amplified. The evening air is heavy, and even though some heat still radiates from the asphalt, it’s a comfortable cool. We’ve felt this many times before. Next, it’s the smell that really hits, and that’s when we both know we’re in the right place: a curious mix of diesel exhaust and open sewers, meat grilling over charcoal, and rotting fruit. It doesn’t sound pretty, but it’s glorious. Our senses are telling us that this is any one of dozens of places we’ve been in the past, but it isn’t. This is Oaxaca.
A couple of stray dogs run past. We’re home again.
In the early stages of planning this trip, although Central America was always the starting point, we hadn’t actually expected to start in Mexico. This was actually a much later decision, and I’m pleased to say that it was most definitely a good one! We’ll definitely be spending a while around these parts.
We arrived at the hostel quite late at night, after a fairly long day of travel (which included our fully loaded airplane sitting at the gate for almost an hour an a half). All we could manage was a quick snack at a restaurant on our street, before a long, deep sleep. Over the following couple of days, the changes around town were obvious, and gaining momentum quickly. One of the main reasons we decided to start the trip when and where we did, was because Oaxaca, being one of the cultural centres of Meixco, hosts one of the biggest festivals in the country. As for the festival itself, I’ll get to that in a separate post. For now, I’ll just stick to our introduction to this fantastic city we’ll be calling home for the next little while.
Normally, when we begin a new trip to the developing world, there’s a short period of adjustment, which often includes a combination of jet lag, culture shock, and digestion issues. This time around, we’ve been affected by none of the above, we awoke the first morning as if we’d lived here for years. The jet lag is an obvious non-issue, as there have only been a couple hours back and forth since we began. The lack of culture shock I can fairly confidently attribute to the fact that we’ve spent so much time in similar conditions in the past, that we’re not only used to these surroundings, but comfortable in them. Regarding the internal processing of food, while it’s possibly just luck, perhaps the food here (knocking on wood now) is just that well done.
Speaking of food, aside from the festival ongoings, the majority of our time during the first week here has been spent getting our bearings, learning our way around the city… and most importantly, finding the best places to eat. And there are definitely some great places to eat! The food here is beyond anything we could have anticipated, and our expectations were very high. We’ve primarily stuck to either vendor markets, or street carts, and I can confidently say that much of what we’ve eaten over the past week rivals some of the best we’ve had in all our previous travels. Sorry Bangkok, you’ve got a serious contender, better keep on your game! Over the next little bit, we’ll be putting together a separate post specifically for the street food of Oaxaca, because it’s only fair to show it the respect it deserves.
While our first week here was a great introduction to the city, the festival overshadowed much of the regular vibe of day-to-day life around Oaxaca; so at the end of our first week, it was a fairly easy decision to rent a place for the next month. So now that we’re all settled into our new place, and the town is getting back to it’s normal self, we’ll be able to really dig in, and see what she has to offer!
I’ll end it here for now, as I have a sweaty beer to finish while the sun goes down. It’s been a while since we’ve felt that odd feeling of home in a new place, but it’s a feeling we know and love. We’re back in the life, and there will be plenty more to come very soon.
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”Robert Louis Stevenson