This is our fifth week in Oaxaca (what!?) and I am absolutely head over heels in love with this country. Sure, there are some things I don’t like about it (the blatant corruption in the education and justice systems) and a few things I hate (the treatment of animals) but overall this is such a wonderful place. It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been hard to adjust though, and I’m by no means completely comfortable here. The first few days were a struggle as I got my bearings – I get lost so so easily, and not being able to speak the language to ask for directions stressed me out so much that I just didn’t leave Guy’s side. In addition to that, I had to get used to the attention from men – the staring and occasional sleazy comments. It doesn’t bother me much at all now, but initially it made me feel really uncomfortable and on edge.
Now, I feel pretty confident navigating the streets, my Spanish is rapidly improving and I’m spending all my free time sampling the many Oaxacen delicacies. Life is pretty good. So here’s a roundup of my favourite things about life here in Mexico.
I feel a bit squirmish writing that but it’s honestly one of the things I love about this part of the world. In New Zealand life is so much more expensive, and although we earn more than enough money to get by – we’re always budgeting, and often we don’t do something we want to do simply because it’s too expensive. Here we eat out at least once a day, don’t think twice about picking up some beer on the way home, and happily leave tips for our people. Don’t get me wrong we’re still on a pretty tight budget ($50 a day) but it just goes so much further here it often doesn’t even feel like we are.
Every day I am won over by the Oaxacenans for their kindness, humour and sweet-natured personalities. Unlike in other parts of the world we don’t feel like we’re walking ATM machines here, nor do we feel like we get taken advantage of with a tourist price. Instead, we are treated with respect and generosity that I can only hope is mirrored in New Zealand to newcomers. I wrote a story about one such moment of kindness here.
Just when I thought I had tried all the delicious food here I find something else. Last week it was the empanadas de flor de calabaza (squash flower empanadas with quesillo), and this week it was the tuna nieve (a raspberryish fruit made into a sorbet). Next week I’m looking forward to trying a paleta (Mexican iceblock).
I am a self-confessed sun worshipper which made living in Wellington during the long winters difficult, and the cold also gave me problems with asthma and food allergies. Here, the sun shines every day (it’s only rained two days out of the month) and it’s lovely and warm during the day but cool enough at night to sleep, and all of my icky healthy problems have cleared up! I swear it makes my skin and hair healthier too.
Learning Spanish has been a roller coaster of emotions, some days we love it and other days we want to quit and move to an English-speaking country. It is getting easier though and the more we learn the more we enjoy it. There are some really fun words too, like how you can add ito/ita to the end of anything to make it small; Pipita (small Pippa) or viejito (old man), and then are words that are just plain fun to say like emborracharse (I got drunk) and tiquismiquis (fussy).
Am I the only one who doesn’t think of Mexico as being a gorgeous, lush country? Even after having travelled here before I still have my breath taken away nearly every day. We walk the same streets each morning and afternoon, yet somehow they always look different. A building I’ve never noticed before suddenly appears, or the clouds part to show the top of a mountain in the distance.
I don’t want this to read that everything is perfect here. We’re still having a tough time. Today we left our language class desperately needing a strong drink, and on Sunday our plans to live with a family and work in a cafe in San Agustin Etla fell through because we suspect that they are drug dealers (seriously), so now we’re trying to find something to do for the next month that is fun and free. We miss our friends and family a little bit, especially since we haven’t really made any friends here yet (or they’ve gone traveling to another part of the continent), and Guy’s still really missing his job. Each day brings its own struggles, but overall we’re adjusting to life here in Mexico and absolutely loving it.