Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eating Grasshoppers in Oaxaca?

After hemming and hawing over my next destination (ghost town in the mountains? beach?), I took the advice of many different Mexicans and headed to Oaxaca. The Americans all said Real de Catorce and the Mexicans all said Oaxaca. Since I was tired of Americans, this is where I came.

I rode the bus for 12 hours - 6 on the deluxe luxury bus with reclining seats with leg rests so you feel almost as if you are in a recliner, earphones for the movies, and drinks service - and then 5 on the 1st class bus- I was spoiled after the deluxe bus... they played Terminator 3 very loudly while people behind me listened to the radio that they had brought with them. The airconditioner went at full blast as the windows began to fog up. We climbed over the mountains heading south from Mexico City and every 30 minutes, an alarm signifying something would beep incessantly for about 20 minutes. Thanking God that I brought my ear plugs, I did manage to sleep a little (which I needed as the drunk American teenagers in my hotel in Guanajuato were up to 5am giggling with some loud American boy about going out to get tacos...)

I arrived in the rain in Oaxaca and didn´t see much of the city. However, when I woke up, the sun was up. They serve a complimentary breakfast on the roof of the hacienda I was staying at and as I drank coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, I watched the teenagers at the school next door practice dancing. The big folk festival is coming up next week and the teens (in a mixture of their school uniform and long full floral skirts) were practicing a type of waltz. It was lovely.

I wandered the city down to the Zocalo (town square) where I encountered the teacher´s strike. As it turns out, teachers in Oaxaca (one of the poorest states in Mexico) have been on strike for several months. They are living in tent cities throughout the main square and communist graffiti, populist slogans, and graphic photos are everywhere. In June, the police swept through the crowd and killed some children and teachers to try to drive them out. The union was calm during the elections but i guess the main party (the former party that reigned over Mexico for the past 50 years or so) won in this state and the governor that they all hate (rata! assasino!) won again. I did get to see my favorite sign of all time - Yanqui Go Home.

Last night, I went for a walk, the lovers and old people who normally sit in the zocalo moved down to Santo Domingo - the seat of the Dominicans in Mexico. Oaxaca has a very strong indigenous presence and reminds me of Guatemala to an extent.

I found a very hip bar where good looking young Mexican students were hanging out and went in. I ordered a beer and they put some mix of peanuts in front of me. I was very nervous about eating the peanuts. In Oaxaca, they eat grasshoppers (chapulines) as a delicacy. These were spanish peanuts with the skin on and some of them looked a little suspiscous to me. I picked through them carefully and resisted the temptation to put my glasses on and move the candle closer. I also met a guy named Victor who told me all about his ambitions to be a waiter in Cancun. "There´s no town there and nothing to do if you work, but you make more money than you do here. If I am lucky here, I make about $14 a night." he told me. His English was good and he helped me with my spanish as we talked about the pros and cons of bartending for a living. He invited me to go drinking mescal with his friends that night. however, after my experience at La Cucaracha (and the fact I hadn´t yet organized my lodgings for the next day), I passed.

Instead, I bought some gardenias from a woman selling flowers from a basket on her head and sat in the garden of the church for a while. The temperature was a little cool, with a breeze coming down off the mountains and I watched the clouds drifing in front of the full moon. After a while, I returned to my hotel where I had a beer up on the rooftop garden before heading down to sleep.

Only two more days left on vacation... Tomorrow, on to Puebla and then to the airport...

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