Oaxaca: A Love Letter
I have already started to catalogue the things I will miss most about leaving here. Today I paid rent for my apartment here for the last time, and I walked home hyper-aware of the clumble of cars across the cobblestoned streets, the sky, heavy with clouds behind the rounded church domes and the street carts selling elotes, tacos and tlayudas to people patiently waiting for their buses after a long day. It feels weird to think that soon my everyday life will be completely different.
No fumbling for the right word and the right tense in conversation, no daily conversations with the family in the market who make my favourite tamales, no early wakeup call as the gas truck rumbles past my door playing its repeating reminder – Gas de Oaxaca! No more futile attempts to avoid the hot afternoon sun by walking down the shady strip of pavement, or by hiding inside adobe walls, no random visits to the zocalo or various parks and churches, just to see what is going on.
I will miss the food, the friendless and unhesitating generosity of people- in terms of conversations, help and in spirit; Oaxaqueños are some of the most inspirational and generous people I have ever known.
I am going to miss my life here.
Don’t forget these things
The way the central city changes personality after 8pm. People walk slower, the tourist streets are emptier, the food streets busier. Couples of all ages walk hand in hand, heads inclined in their own personal bubble. The bright lights of the food carts are like lifeboats in the darkening sky. In the distance you can hear drums and trumpets of a street parade marching down one of the streets from Santo Domingo.
• The friendliness of strangers. The ease of a “buenos días” as you pass in the streets. The willingness of locals to take time to assist with directions or to show you their work and how it is made, and to answer questions – even if it’s the same question every time.
• Weekly grocery shopping for under the equivalent of $20, and a 3 course lunch – soup, chicken, mole, rice, beans, and desert with a side of freshly made agua de fruta or agua de jamaica.
• Hailing a collectivo, only to find I am person #5 and must share the front seat. Wedging into the car and knowing the only thing stopping me from sliding out onto the road is the fact I locked the door, and am now literally stuck to the passenger next to me who is sitting on a cushion placed over the handbrake.
Speeding off down the road accompanied by a soundtrack of Mexican lovesongs, the bobble-head Virgin Mary on the dashboard nodding along to every line.
• The soft skies, heavy with clouds before a storm in purples and greys and blues, then the violent rain, bouncing back up from the street to knee level as people shelter in doorways and other people rush past wearing clear plastic bags as protection from the wet.
• Children carried on their mother’s backs. Children carried in their fathers arms, head tucked into neck as the family continues on their way. Children stretched out asleep under tables and at the back of tarpaulin-covered stalls, bathed in blue light as their parents work above them, the comforting hum of conversation their white noise.
• People passing by churches in the city, cross themselves with their hand and then kiss their thumb in a mark of respect. It doesn’t matter whether they are driving or walking. Mothers will drop the hands of their children so both can genuflect as they walk together on the narrow footpaths, holding hands again several steps past the entrance.
I won’t forget my year spent here.