I am on new a plane these days. Not a plane that flies through the air, although I did take one of those. It brought me Mexico City on May 2 and was followed by multiple buses –to Zipolite on the pacific coast, San Jose Del Pacifico in the mountains, and finally to Oaxaca City (pronounced Wah Hah Kah) where I am now. It’s true I’m traversing new streets, streets often lined with colorful murals, ladies selling tamales out of cloth-covered baskets, and old churches some of which I am told were built upon sacred Mayan grounds. But these streets, these people, it’s like I am watching it from afar. I am here and not here.
Entering our second year of covid restrictions, I find myself changed in ways I don’t fully understand yet. No longer enthralled or impressed by infinite manifestations of culture, everything is just another visual display, sight, and experience. Sometimes I think I am jaded, that nothing can impress me after the Giza Pyramids, great desert sea of Siwa Oasis, inanity and wonder of India, and deep history of Jerusalem. But it feels like something more. Something deeply human and real. I don’t know where I belong in the world and I am ok with this. I couldn’t have said this a year ago.
The truth is that as I have moved around the world these past six years, guided by signs and flow, I always believed that one of those towns would click and I would stay for a long long time. But it didn’t happen. Then covid hit. As the days and hours crawled by, first in India and then in Denver, bereft of the joyful diversions I normally sought out, I found myself finally able — forced maybe — to sit in it, the truth of this thing, that maybe this place doesn’t exist. Needless to say, this realization cascaded me into some pretty dark ruts. But time moves on, as it always does. I have accepted “good enough” as perfectly acceptable. Or at least the way it is.
For now I have an apartment. No one bothers me there. The landlord is helpful. I sleep well on my good-enough bed. There is a stove and food in my refrigerator. Many markets, mercados, are within walking distance and filled with all manner of fresh vegetables and fruit. Did you know they eat cactus in Oaxaca? What about grasshoppers? lol Yes it’s true. You can even get them on pizza and in chocolate. My new favorite fruit is the fruit of the cactus, aka prickly pear cactus fruit or tuna as it is called here. It’s my favorite not so much for the taste but the novelty of it. The red ones can be cut in half, eaten with a spoon and inside are tiny black seeds that give the mushy sweetish fruit a crunch which I find delightful in some inexplicable way. I guess some aspects of the adventurer in me are still alive and kicking. 🙂
One of these days I am going to be at Santo Domingo Church when there is a wedding happening which from pictures and videos I have seen may even compete with the splendor (if not inanity) of Indian weddings, replete with dancers, musicians and giant umbrella-like things. In the meantime I started taking Spanish lessons, an absolute necessity here, and have organized my first language exchange with four people tomorrow. We plan to meet at a roof top restaurant called Gorozi that has a great view of the mountains that surround Oaxaca City and where I expect to not understand three quarters of the menu. lol. I have taken to asking the waitperson for recommendations, recomendarios, but all too often they just shake their head looking baffled. When I’m not feeling tired it’s funny; this muddling on. Twice I have gotten on the wrong bus and it didn’t phase me at all. I just got off and regrouped – taxi? walk? ask someone? go back home? If I’m not too tired walking is definitely the best option, sure to offer charming discoveries that could include cute cobblestone streets, colorful murals, occasionally (if I’m really lucky) live musicians as well as cute little shops with odd hours that happen to be open and selling local honey products or mezcal (local alcohol made from agave plant) or a hundred other things.
That said, I miss the days when I knew what I was doing — or at least thought I did! — maybe muddling is the new normal. I like this quote from Brent Spiner, an American comedienne who played Data on Star Trek Next Generation: “I try not to make plans, even the best laid plans etc. etc.” Ha! Yes so true. The more I understand the less I seem to know. Etc. Etc. All I can tell you is that I am reporting from southern Mexico. It is somewhere. The food is good (usually) or at least interesting. I am alive. And each day is a new day.
weaver Oaxacan textiles
ladies knitting in the mountains, San Jose Del Pacifico, famous for magic mushrooms!