Ocho Semanas en Oaxaca: Episodio 3

Well, when I finished episode 2, I had every intent of trying to post more frequently than this, but life sometimes gets in the way. As I mentioned in my prior post, I had some friends come visit for a few days. That was a very busy weekend and very fun, but from there, life happened. But first I’ll tell you about our weekend.

The friends were my long-time good friend M (name omitted to protect the innocent) and her mom. They arrived late on Thursday evening of Memorial Day weekend. We did so many amazing things while they were in town. We ate, we shopped, we explored. It was fantastic.

We explored Mercado Benito Juarez and Mercado de Artesanias. Mercado Benito Juarez is a huge market with booths that sell just about anything you can imagine. There’s food, clothing, crafts, spices, chocolates, and more. You can find just about anything there. Heck, I even went by the market last week to find an umbrella. The clothing and many other items are handmade by locals.

It turned out that the private taxi driver my landlord had recommended for getting from the airport to San Felipe del Agua was also a tour guide and so M booked him to take us to Huerve el Agua. Huerve el Agua is this place where these amazing natural rock formations look like giant waterfalls and there are all these natural springs. It’s beautiful. I guess the newer road to get there was closed due to a local territorial dispute, so we had to take the older one and that was a bit terrifying. You are driving up a very steep mountain road that is also very narrow and you don’t see oncoming cars until the last minute. And the entire time, you are looking out of your window at the steep drop into the valley below and it feels like you could just fall into it. But it was worth it for the views at the top.

He also took us to Mitla, Tlacolula, El Tule, and a Mezcal distillery. Mitla is an important archeological site for the Zapotec culture and is situated in the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Amazingly, our tour was in Spanish and yet I understood most of it without having to ask Maria to translate. It helped that our guide was careful to speak slowly as he knows I am still learning. But walking through the site, you could feel the history. We learned that Mitla literally means “place of the dead”. It was a sacred burial site.

In Tlacolula, we were given a very nice presentation on the process they use to make beautiful handcrafted woven rugs and other items. They explained the process for turning the raw material into the yarn they use and the process of how they make they various colors. All of the colors are still made from natural materials such as flowers and insects. I had not expected to be impressed with this part of the tour, but I was. I also ended up buying a fairly expensive rug and having to explain that to the husband.

We saw Arbol del Tule in El Tule, the most massive tree I have ever seen. I swear this thing would take up an entire city block. It is said to have the stoutest tree trunk in the world. It looks like it’s more than one tree, but I guess scientists have examined it and its DNA and determined it is the same tree.

Our last stop of the tour as a Mezcal Distillery. It was beautiful. We got a tour of the facility and were educated on the different types of agave plants as well as the distilling process. I was amazed by the vast agave fields.

I had also booked us a tour with Me Encanta Oaxaca, a great tour company I had used on my first visit to the area. M was not feeling well, so just her mom and I went on this one. I had scheduled this tour before we knew what Saturday’s tour involved, so our first planned stop was another textile factory. We were prepared to be bored doing it a second time, but they really surprised us. This tour was much more in-depth and we got to see more of the yarn dying process, including getting to watch them actually dye the yarns in their workshop and getting some hands on experience at weaving the yarn. This time I resisted buying another rug, though truthfully, I may order one from them later.

We went to a candle making demonstration. This was located in another textile factory, which was interesting. The process for making the dyes they use is similar to the textiles, though the plants have to be processed more to get the purer colors. The girl doing the demonstration explained to us that even when making the same flower style candles, every candle maker’s flower is just a bit different. We again got some hands on experience and got to make our own little wax molds.

The Mercado in Tlacoculo is no joke! People were not kidding when they said Sunday was the big day for this market. The place was filled with vendors and it covered what felt like the entire town. We tried the barbacoa. I have to say that it is not my favorite thing. I enjoyed the tasajo we also ordered with grilled onions more. We tried something called tejate and pulque. This is an ancient drink made from the agave plant that is later fermented, so like pre-mezcal stage. Pulque is good and could get someone in trouble because it tastes like you’re just drinking fruit juice.

Life got fun from there. On Tuesday, after returning to Cancun, M tested positive for Covid. I spent about three hours fretting and then went to the lab to get tested. I was negative. However, on Thursday evening, I started having a lot of nasal drainage. I woke up feeling terrible on Friday and so I went back to the lab. This time the test was positive. Luckily, I only needed to alert my Spanish teacher as he was the only person I had any close contact with during those few days. Fortunately, my symptoms only lasted about 24 hours and I have been fine since and the teacher did not get it. The worst part about the whole thing was that my husband had to delay a planned trip to visit.

However, I decided to go with the current CDC guidelines at the time and I spent 5 days in total quarantine and then continued to wear a mask for another 5 days. In reality, the only places I went were places that I could pick up take out and stay outside. I just couldn’t stand the idea of sharing, even if the possibility was remote.

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