Ocho Semanas en Oaxaca: Episodio 1

Yep! I’m spending eight weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico. My friend who lives here is currently galivanting around Chicago for the summer, so I am subletting her place for a couple of months. It’s one of the great advantages of working remote. I can work wherever I am, so currently, I am in Oaxaca. It was a tough debate to get myself on this adventure, but it’s such an opportunity. I’ve been working on my Spanish for two years and I feel like I’ve hit a wall. I need the immersive experience to really get where I want to be. And I love exploring other cultures, especially the food.

I debated whether to do one long post on this adventure but decided that would just be too long, so I’ll break it into episodes and post along the way hopefully. I’m currently just through my first week and I’m loving it. The flight down could have been better, but that is my own fault. I chose to fly Viva Aerobus and they are just terrible. I mean, you MUST, upgrade to first class because the seats are so awful, but even if you do, they are pretty terrible. But I got here and that was the real goal. I’ll fret more about how terrible they are when it’s time to fly home.

The airport food was not as good on the way down this time. I flew through terminal 1 instead of 2 in Mexico City and I haven’t really found great food there. I did have some tacos and got a pretty decent espresso. After I arrived, my pre-arranged private taxi was a bit late, but he did stop by a cellphone store for me to purchase a charging cord because I realized in the airport that I’d forgotten mine. The lady who cares for the grounds met me at my bungalow and got me all settled in with clean towns and dish soap and anything you could think a person would need right away.

For dinner that first night, I went to a taco place just down the street that Kelli had told me was not very good. She did not lie. The tacos were so bad that I only ate 1 1/2 of them and vowed not to go back there. I picked up some snacks and wine at the mercado and settled in for a quiet evening.

Luckily, I arrived on a Thursday and there is a farmer’s market in town on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I hit the Friday market and was amazed. I picked up strawberries (fresas), avocados (aguacates), tomatoes (tomates), onions (cebollas), a jalapeno, cilantro, and some apricots (albaricoques). I also got some crema and bread for toast from the local cheese shop. Many mornings have been toast with crema and fruit. And Friday afternoon when I realized I was going to be working pretty well into the afternoon, I ran up to the meat shop down the street and picked up some chorizo and tostada shells. Friday’s lunch was a nice chorizo tostada with crema and guacamole.

Friday night I took the bus downtown and wandered around the Zocalo, which is like the town square. There are lots of shops and stands and such and restaurants surrounding it. I also managed to find this area of stands that I really like and pick up some more pants. They have these very flowy pants that they sell that are just incredibly comfortable. I wanted to eat at one of the outdoor stands, but they were pretty full up, so I ended up going to a little restaurant that sells tacos. It was delicious, but damn, they brought a lot of toppings! I caught a ride back with another lady that was coming this way in a private taxi. It was a bit adventurous of me, but it felt safe.

On Saturday, I finally made it to the meat hall again! I love that place. It was so busy and I ended up seated in one of the booths with one large family. They were very social, especially the dad, so I got to practice my Spanish a little. They were from Veracruz, Mexico and were here on holiday. The food was, as always, excellent. I had tasajo and chorizo and got some nice pico, avocados, and hot sauce to go with it. In hind sight, don’t forget to order the limes!

Prior to going to dinner, I rode the bus just to see where it goes after Centro. I ended up at Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart here looks slightly different and has less selection, but I was able to pick up some items for the kitchen. Kelli doesn’t cook much, so I needed a few extra things.

On Sunday, I hiked around the San Felipe area. I was trying to find this restaurant that is up the hill. Unfortunately, it was not open. Google lies about whether things are open here or not, fyi. So I wandered around and back down the hill to town, checking a few other places that were supposed to be up that way. I finally ended up going to the hotel down the street and eating at their restaurant. The breakfast wasn’t great, but it was edible. However, I went back there Monday night for dinner because I worked pretty late and had a virtual Spanish class and the dinner was terrible. I ordered mole verde and the pork was tough, and the sauce was a color that I usually only see in sci-fi shows. It was not the mole verde I’ve had here before.

On Tuesday morning, I went back to the market. Tuesday mornings are apparently when all the little restaurant owners shop. It was a madhouse! But I managed to get some potatoes (papas), more avocados (aguacates), tomates, cebollas, cilantro, kiwis, and some chicken thighs (musclos de pollo). I later hit the mercado and picked up some other ingredients, including squash. I made some nice chicken with a tajin sauce and some potatoes and squash sauteed with onions for dinner.

I had also picked up some fresh tortillas for breakfast on Wednesday. This did not work out as well. I’m not sure if it is just those particular tortillas or all fresh tortillas, but that fresh factor was gone by morning and reheating did nothing to help it. So, I had some nice scrambled eggs and chorizo with pico for breakfast.

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the Zocalo to meet up with an expat who had offered to have people join her on a trip to Santiago Apoala this weekend. Well, it turned out she is a tour guide…and crazy. After listening to her conspiracy theories about covid for two hours, I decided to forego that trip. However, I then went to a nice restaurant above the square and had some oysters Rockefeller and some prawns that were pretty delicious. I had way too much wine in all of this and ended up taking a cab home. New rule: no more than two glasses of wine when out by yourself in a strange land. I made it home fine, but I am just not comfortable doing that again.

I pretty much stayed around the house Thursday and Friday. I ate a lot of fruits and veggies. I had planned to go to the market again on Friday, but I just wasn’t up for it and I had plenty of leftovers and fresh produce to snack on.

I did hit the market again on Saturday. It is a much bigger market than during the week. They even have sit down dining you can partake in. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that so early in the day this week, but maybe next week. I just picked up a few things to replenish my tomates y aguacates and some other veggies. I also got some tasajo meat for making at home. And I stopped by the convenience store on the way back up the hill and picked up some black beans (frijoles negro) and some rice (arroz).

Saturday afternoon, I went to Reforma, a neighborhood of Oaxaca to explore. I found a pretty new hat (sombrero) and a couple of new bras (brassieres). It’s a long story, but I’ve needed them for a while and didn’t make it prior to the trip to go shopping. I had a very nice lunch of shrimp a la diablo which would later set my intestines on fire. I then found an adorable spice shop. I picked up some onion powder (cebolla molida), garlic powder (ajo molida), cumin (comino) and a bulb of garlic (ajo). On my way back, I picked up some wine (vino blanco) from a little shop.

I was hot and tired when I got back to the house, so I didn’t feel like cooking. I ended up going to a little stand near the house and having some amazing tacos and talking with a very nice couple who live in the area. More Spanish practice! And this place was crazy inexpensive, so it may become my go-to place. The last time I was here, I frequented a place we lovingly referred to as the “secret bar” because it was kind of a hidden gem. However, that place doesn’t seem to be open anymore and this place is so close to me!

Today, I am mostly spending a lazy Sunday at home. I got up early and went to Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, which is down near Centro. I didn’t really need much, but I’ve been wanting to go back there. I got some Brussels sprouts and lemons and limes. I also picked up more sugar for my coffee. Kelli left her espresso machine and I’m getting pretty good at using it. I did stop and eat at a nice little restaurant where I had memelitas tipicas. They are small corn tortillas with refried beans and cheese and they give you salsa for them. I also had some hot chocolate. Oaxaca chocolate is amazing. I walked up to LLano park which was interesting. I then came home and took a nap and have pretty much just been blogging since.

I might make up the steaks for dinner. But I might also go to the little stand down the street and let the steaks marinate another day. Nothing is really open on Mondays here for food. Although I could head into the city as there are things open in Centro tomorrow.

I’ll try to keep these posts pretty regular, though I am not really setting a schedule on them. Some may cover a week or some may cover a really full day or two. And who knows, if I gain enough confidence, some may be in Spanish!

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