Monday, August 20, 2007

Still in Oaxaca, not Chacala

I went ahead and wrote these posts without photos,
and then when I got home I wrote the above posts from memory.
This is my sixth day away from Chacala, and right now I want to stay around Oaxaca for a long time. But I am probably leaving to go back to Chacala on Wednesday.

I am taking lots of photos, and deleting about 90% of them. I have developing a few photo themes. One is banos/bathrooms. From absolutely disgusting to sublime. I have been dropping in on nice hotels and asking to see the rooms, and taking a photo of the bath, if possible. There are some really lovely rentals in Oaxaca. And cheap too. Some very nice hotels in the centro area have beautiful rooms for $25-40US a night. Of course, I suppose this is the low season.

Another theme is all the lovely little details everywhere. Little (or really big) artistic touches are everywhere. From door handles to benches, to lightning. I love it.

Another thing I like is the oddly located gardens: on roofs, all over the place. It´s not lush here, like in San Miguel de Allende (where many of the houses seem to be owned by wealthy folks), but there are still plants all over Oaxaca.

I loved the market in Ocotlan. I was nervous, a little, about getting the right bus at the 2nd class station, but it was a snap. The bus left three minutes after I got there. An Indio lady sat next to me, and she walked me to the market, and to her selling spot. She was selling woven things. I went back to her spot later, with some lunch (comida) things from the restaurant she said she liked. We sat there and ate lunch and visited.

Her little daughters showed up and on of them took me to find some shoes. My flipflops finally failed. We looked at a bunch of the leather sandal booths, but my feet seem to be too fat for Mexican sandals. So I ended up with more flipflops.

Tlacalula is another large market, with lots and lots of stuff. I met a nice family that I am visiting in Teotitlan tomorrow. That´s a small town where the main crafts industry is woven thing. Rugs, etc. I am thinking that if I really move here, I might like a small town within a 20 minute ride or so from Oaxaca. Where there might be some chance of making local friends. But who knows? Not me. I don´t have a clue if I would really move here, but I am really enjoying day dreaming about it.

There is a lovely church in Tlacalula. I went a service there, because of the music. They had a band playing in the church. And then there was lots of singing and chanting. I loved it. I felt mesmerized by the church itself, and the singing and music.

I saw a couple of gringa women at the church yard, and then about six of them at the Mescal (like Tequila, I think) store. They really stood out.

I have visited most of the museums and craft markets around Oaxaca. My favorites so far at Manos de Magico (Magic Hands) where they sell very high quality handcrafts things. Really beautiful in a beautiful setting. Also, MARO, which sells woman-made craft items only. And Casa de Artisans, and another similar place around the corner, which seem to be cooperatives where the artisan is selling directly. My favorite museum so far was created by a very famous Mexican Artist (I think Rufino Tamayo). It´s all pre-hispanic art from 500BC up until the Spaniards invaded Mexico.

I had the strangest experience there. At that Museum. All my life, since I could hold a pen, I have doodled these specific, sort of formal, designs. I have been doing these designs my whole life. Mindlessly. Sometimes people would tell me they looked Alaskan. And I kind of thought so too. But that culture never resonated with me.

But now that I have seen the carved-in-stone designs here in Mexico, I think that´s what I have been trying to draw. The designs must be imbedded in the back of my brain somewhere. Or maybe my Mom took me to an exhibition of Mexican early art when I was an infant. Or something. Anyway, it was very pleasant and satisfying to see the carvings. I felt right at home. I can imagine this sounds really loco, but I don´t think I will delete it.
I had the same experience at Monte Alban. The stone cravings seemed so familiar. Looking at them, I remembered my struggling to get the doodles "right", and never quite suceeding.

A young German couple at the hostel showed me how to move photos from my camera to a CD. I was hoping they could show me how to save to Picasa or Flickr but they didn´t know either. I am editing my photos every night, trying to keep only the better (in my opinion) photos so I won´t fill the memory card.

Last night at the hostel, all four beds (two bunkbeds) in "my" dorm room were full, for the first time. I didn´t much like the feeling of someone moving around overhead, on the top bunk. But I slept 10 hours, so it wasn´t that much of a problem, I guess. The other women were Australian, Isreali, and French. They all spoke English though.

This afternoon I am going to take lots of buses all over town, so I can see the neighbors, colonias, of Oaxaca. It seems unbelievable to me that 250,000 people live here. There are three valleys heading away from Oaxaca, where many small villages are situated, back in the mountains and fields. People tell me many people in the state of Oaxaca don´t speak Spanish, only their Indio language. I have noticed lots of woman and girls wear their traditional dress. They don´t want you to take photos of their faces. I don´t blame them at all.

Before I came here I had a hard time trying to explain to people I know in Chacala what I feel that I am missing in my lifehere. But now I think I know what it is. Being around people for whom art is an everyday part of their lives. People living in an area for many many generations. Where even the plants have meaning in their lives. Where some people are paying attentin to the impact of their lives on their environment.
I am glad I now feel pretty comfortable being in Mexico, and speaking Spanish (poorly) and knowing how things like the bus system works. But I think I am ready to move on, further south, and further away from the U. S.

Anyway. Who knows what I will do. But I am loving thinking about my next step.

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