index.htmlTEXTStMlhv>c "i Mexico Journal

OAXACA - MEXICO

This is my journal of my Mexico trip, for the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) Festival--juicy parts edited out to make it even more boring for the reader! I tend to be quite wordy with irrelevant babble, so I warn this may put you to sleep. Also, I have this annoying habit of inserting the spanish version of certain words--don't know why. I have included some factoids down the left for your entertainment, however, you may wish to scroll through and just look at the pretty pictures (don't tell me you did this though--I would only feel more pathetic.) Aside from dribbling text, all typos and bad grammar are mine, brought to you by the Glendale Unified School District. And as always everything is copyrighted (like you'd actually even think of using any of this!) Please enjoy my pictures, and then drop me a line going on and on about how you think I should be a writer--especially you writer friends of mine! Did I mention my gullibility and need for praise? Enjoy . . .


Dia de Los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and is especially
vibrant in Oaxaca. The celebration of All Saints Day takes place on November 1st & 2nd and is a time when the deceased can return to earth and celebrate with the living the earthly delights of music, food & drink.


Wednesday, Oct 28, 1998

The shuttle van arrived and I'm off to the aeropuerto. Once there, I slipped into this Asian restaurant for an eggroll--I know that's a weird way to start off my day, but there wasn't many options there, especially in the morning. A man from my shuttle van was in there too, so I ate my eggroll with him and he said he'd like to hear about my trip when I got back so he could convince his wife to go to Mexico with him.

My flights with America West, to Phoenix and then Mexico City, were on time. The first leg was pretty uneventful, as was the second. However, on the second leg, the sky was incredible. At one point there were four different layers of color in the sky: grey and 3 different layers of orangy pinks. Soon after, the sky was such a florescent orangy pink, that it made me think of Orange Sherbert. At one point we were totally engulfed in this orangy pink color, nothing else to be seen. Later, Erin told me that Orange Sherbert was EXACTLY what she had been thinking too.

During my travel, I kept thinking "I hope my flights don't get cancelled, or miss the second flight. I have Erin waiting for me in Mexico City!" Well as it turns out, Erin's flights were totally screwed up. First one canceled, rerouted to LAX, thusly missing the second flight and rerouted again. She still got there before me, though. When I came out of Customs, there was Erin waiting for me. I was relieved, and I'm sure she was relieved it was over too.

We went to the Taxi desk and purchased official Taxi tickets for the ride to our hotel, the Hotel Segovia Regency in the Zona Rosa area. I think our taxi driver was Mr. Toad. It was a crazy dramamine ride to the hotel, and seemed like it took forever.

Finally, we got to our hotel and there were guards outside wearing bullet proof vests--which will prove to be a common sight for us through out our Mexico stay. We got our room, and then went down to eat in the hotel lounge, where I had tacos (what we call taquitos in the states--Mexico doesn't have tacos like we do) and wine.

After we ate we went back to our room, watched American TV/movies with Spanish subtitles. I tried to follow along with the subtitles, thusly missing what anything was really about. We called it a night.

 


Thursday, Oct 29, 1998

I didn't sleep well. We got up and got ready and left the hotel. We checked out, but left our luggage in check so we didn't have to carry it around til our flight to Oaxaca. We had Erin's map of Mexico City and head out looking for Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporaneo Internacional.

We walked in the direction of the big park, Bosque de Chapultepec, by the big fountain and the big golden angel on the pillar, Monumenta a la Independencia. At the angel, there was a trilingual speaking older police officer, who had much hair on the lobes of his ears. He tells tourists where to go and how to get there. He kept trying to get us to go to the Market. We passed. He pointed us towards food and the museo and we were on our way. We ignored his suggestion for food--no atmosphere.

We stumbled onto the park by accident. Through out the walk ways, there were lots of people with booths of goods and food for sale. We thought it was kind of redundent to all be selling the same things, but what the heck, it's a different country.

I saw Mexican Wrestling masks and committed the world's oldest mistake.."Oh, I'll get one on our last day in Mexico City," which NEVER happened.

I also had my first incident with the language barrier. I tried to purchase a Coke from this old woman. I didn't understand her or know how much it cost so I handed her 50 pesos and waited for change. She kept giving and giving change (but to Erin!) I was amazed. I thought a coke down there would cost me more, like 3 bucks (USD) but it only cost us 8 pesos (about 80¢ USD).

Continuing on to the Rufino Tamayo Museo, it took forever to find. We first found the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology) instead. We kept going, only to finally find the Tamayo Museo closed until November 1st. We went back to the Anthropology museo and had lunch in their cafeteria--our first meal of the day (aside from my Odwalla bar). After eating we only had an hour to look around the museo before we had to return to our hotel to make it to the aeropuerto on time. There were a lot of great things at the museo, but all the wall plaques were in Spanish, so we didn't really know what we were looking at. We said we'd return there on our last day too, which also never happened.

We headed back to hotel, where we saw and talked to our hairy eared police man again--still pushing the Market. At the hotel, we got our bags out of claim check and arranged for a taxi to the aeropuerto--Mexicana Air--and then to Oaxaca, our main destination.

When we got to the aeropuerto, we found out flight changed to an hour earlier, thus we'd missed it. We had to wait 2 more hours for next one. We waited in this horrible room with construction going on, til we ventured out and found the real gate areas. This room we were in was a waiting area to find out what gate your plane would be arriving at. Apparently they don't have this planned out well in advance. We waited our time in the aeropuerto lounge.

Once on board our plane, Erin made friends with Jody, the woman next to her. Jody had been to Oaxaca many many times and was telling Erin all about it, with advice and suggestions. She made Erin promise that we would look her up and do something with her--again, we didn't, but not without good intentions.

We shared the cab (a VW bus) with Hody, Rona & Lisa (two girls Jody had met in the aeropuerto). Erin and I were dropped off first. When the bus stopped on our street, I kept thinking "Please don't let this be us." It was dismal and scary looking.

Our hotel was the Posada de Chencho. The courtyard was very cool and full of plants and flowers. Our room was great, and it had a two huge (dead) Mothes in there that Erin said was a good omen.

Encencion (Chencho), the owner, said he tore up our reservation that morning because he never received the deposit via Western Union (attempted scam?) and assumed we weren't coming. We showed the receipt of us sending it, and it was never an issue again.

I was starving, so I ate at hotel--awesome soup--while Erin joined me with a beverage. We met Michael and some of her group. She's a woman of about 70-75 (so we were told) who has been coming to Oaxaca for over 30 years, and tour guides groups of people. I believe they were there for the Day of the Dead festival, just as we were.

After eating, we a bought bottle of wine and took that up to our room, then took our wine outside for deep conversation. We started out in the court yard with metal white furniture, then tried the soft benches up front, by the office. Whoever was in the room we were by, slammed their door or window, so we moved back to the hard white furniture. We went back to our room, talked a bit more and went to bed.

 


Friday, Oct 30, 1998

I slept a little better but it was DIFFICULT. Dogs barking all night. Roosters going off too early, like 2:30am. Men pushing carts of water down below our window yelling at the top of their lungs.

We had breakfast at the hotel and were joined by Rebecca and Billy--who incidently were the people who's window we were under last night.

Before breakfast, Chencho talked to us about options during our stay and what days were good for what. He hooked us up with another couple, Mike and Debbie, for a day trip with a hired driver to a number of villages outside the main city.

After breakfast we met Debbie and Mike. Rogelio was our driver. He took us to Ocotlan (with the big Cathedral and the big Friday market), Santo Tomas Jalieza (weavers village), San Martin Tilcajete (wood carvers village) and Coyotepec (black ceramics village).

In Ocotlan we split up. Across the street from where we parked was a veterinarian's office, with a stuffed calf on the steps. It brought to mind people telling their pets, "This could be you if you don't behave!" Very strange. As we rounded our first corner, there laid on the steps of a shop a pile of fresh hides. Lets just say they weren't cleaned and dried yet.

Erin and I went on to the Cathedral. It was big and looked promising from the outside, but it was not what I expected on the inside. All the big icons were incased in glass. They were dirty from neglect. One glass case was lying down and I wondered if there was a mummy inside it--there wasn't.

We walked through the Cathedral plaza to the market. To me, it was disgusting. It was too crowded, meat hung in the open air without protection from flies and bugs, the ground was wet and dirty, and women were walking around with live turkeys upside down. There were many tarps and ropes that hung low overhead. I could just fit under them, but Erin, who is much taller than me, had to duck a lot. A man and two elderly women were crowding Erin and I on purpose and made off with Erin's sunglasses that were in her bag. After our first pass through the market, we had had enough.

Ocotlan Cathedral and MuseoWe walked into the municipal building which was covered in paintings by a local famous artist (Rodolfo Morales?) Then into the museo which was previously a convent, and before that it was a jail. There were beautiful paintings in this one room, both originals and restorations. Amazing.

Erin and I separated while she did some sketches. She especially loved one of the two blue rooms. We had run into Rogelio so I spent the remainder of our time there talking to him alone.

Among other things, we talked about drugs and how they were viewed in our different countries, because in the US, Mexico gets so much flack for drug smuggling. In Mexico he says they are more concerned with drinking and fashion. Only the rich (and excessive) use pot, cocaine and whatever else, most do not.

We also talked about the traffic in Los Angeles compared to Mexico City. He says they are both crazy, but I'm inclined to think Oaxaca is too. Later, someone and I decided that we all just drive by different rules and don't understand the others.

We all met back at the car and were on our way to the weaving village, Santo Tomas Jalieza. There I could finally use a bathroom since leaving our hotel. And let me tell you I was MOST GRATEFUL I had my roll of toilet paper with me!!!

The little public square is where all the villagers had set up their weaved products for sale. It was a permanent place and very clean. This tourist woman gave some kids some toys. It was kind of odd. I knew that it's suggested to bring toys for the kids, but in some strange way, it seemed kind of condesending.

We ate Hiccama (sp?) with chile powder and seasonings on it. Seemed everytime we turned around, Rogelio was putting something in his mouth--I teased him about it, he says he eats a LOT!

As we were leaving Santo Tomas Jalieza, there was a sleeping dog on the edge of this bongalo style house with another little dog pacing back and forth around him along the roof's edge. Very cute!! I'd say they were terrier type dogs. It's interesting, but dogs (animals) are looked at much different than they are in the US. Most dogs in Mexico run around stray. I saw very few dogs actually wearing collars, showing that someone owned them. They all had this depressed look about them.

Next was San Martin Tilcajete, the wood carving village. The village was a long dirt road with homes of artists along it. We went into serval rooms off the road that were the carving showrooms.

One of the wood carver's home

Mike and Debbie spent a lot of time looking for stuff for them and friends. We found one home that had something that caught Mike's eye. It was a huge Tree of Life--quite funny! Debbie really didn't want it and kept saying it wouldn't go with their room. It took so long that even Rogelio was giving me funny looks and rolling his eyes. We left the shop so that Mike could think about it and come back if he wanted. After cruising the rest of the street, we came back and Debbie finally said, "You want it so bad, just buy it!" Poor guy, I teased Mike about that the rest of our time together.

Also in the village, there was this one little girl who befriended Erin, and then me. She said her name, I said mine, then she took my hand and dragged me into one of the shops. She must have been on commission!

Onward to Coyotepec, the black ceramic village.

We parked right next to some shops and I found myself a black Day of the Dead skull in no time.

The altar for Dona Rosa, I'm assumingRogelio asked if we were all interested in seeing a demonstration put on by the shops, by the son of the woman who invented this shiny black ceramic technique, Dona Rosa. Erin said that this technique has been around for hundreds of years and this woman didn't invent it. But she probably invented it for her area. Funny, in the shop there was a statue of her, and both Erin and I noticed that it was made of Bronze and not of her own black ceramic.

We didn't spend a great deal of time in the black ceramic area, so we were on our way home. We had to stop at a check-in spot when leaving the city limits, so we had to honk and wave on our way back into the city. There were much more severe check-in spots just outside the city limits. They wore complete uniforms with bullet proof vests, and large sandbagged posts for protection. It was very surreal and scary.

When we got home, we paid Rogelio (only $7USD/hr.) and then arranged for him to dropoff Erin and I at Abastos market, and Mike and Debbie at some restaurant.

Erin with her fabulous flower purchaseAt the market I was very disappointed. I had hoped to find lots of Day of the Dead stuff, which I was low on so far. I had been told that this market would have a lot, but was also told and then later realized, that it was a supply-type market, thus meaning candles and sugar skulls and such like that. I bought 3 (tallow?) candles in the traditional paper wrap, and Erin bought a huge armful of flowers for less than 3 bucks! Everything is CHEAP! We decided quite easily not to spend any more time there. We headed back home with our goodies via taxi--our first solo trip without official intervention.

After dropping off our stuff, we shared a taxi with Michael and Ruth to a restaurant where we assumed they were inviting us to join, but as it turns out they weren't. They tried to get us to get our own table and stay, but we weren't very impressed with the atmosphere--too closed-in and stuffy.

We walked to the Zocalo and picked a place with a balcony. I believe it was called El Asador Dasco (sp?). I had an excellent garlic soup and stuffed pasta with spinach. I drank a coke (always a safe bet) and we shared a bottle of red wine.

After dinner I was stuffed!!! Erin convinced me to walk around the Zocalo with her a couple times to help my digestion, then we would take a taxi home. Oh the irony in that one! Three separate taxis would not take us. We can only assume it was because the distance wasn't worth the fare at that time of night. We attempted to walk home on our own, using the map that Chencho had given us at the hotel. We believe that map is for a different Oaxaca because we got extremely lost, and other people complained about that map later on as well. It started to get dark and we got frustrated. Occassionally men would come out and make whistles or such at us making us even more uncomfortable. We probably got as close as one block from the hotel but then started away from it again. We spotted a taxi and begged him to help us--"Por favor! We're lost!" We gave him the address and he probably drove us all of 4 blocks. Figures! And he still charged us more than it would have cost from the Zocalo. But we were grateful all the same!!

 


Saturday, Oct 31, 1998

We had originally decided to go straight to Monte Alban, but Rebecca and Billy convinced us we should go during the sunset. So we decided to go to the Zocalo area and find my Day of the Dead stuff, and then go to Monte Ablan in the afternoon.

Santo Domingo CathedralWe had our taxi drop us off near the Santo Domingo Cathedral, where we found excellente shopping. Got all the Day of the Dead stuff I'd hoped for, plus more. I think this was one of the most exciting parts of my trip--finding all my treasures. One woman even gave Erin and I little Day of the Dead bread with a piece of chocolate when I bought the little diablo and skeleton with the spring legs.

The time of day was beautiful, and the lighting was incredible. Unfortunately, we didn't have our cameras with us at the time.

A Day of the Dead skeleton procession sceneWe found the artist's community and it felt so much better to both of us than everywhere else we'd been so far. Then we went to the Tamayo museo. Rufino Tamayo and his wife collected artifacts of the country, mainly so Mexico's history wouldn't get sold off and be lost forever. The museo is located in what used to be his house. Most houses have this O shaped building with a courtyard in the middle, as did his.

We ate lunch at Flor de Loto, a cafe two doors down from the museo. After lunch, we went back home, dropped off all my purchases, fetched our cameras, and headed back to photograph the area (but the light wasn't as good).

Later, Michael and her group were having a show-and-tell on the patio, we tried to join but were not into it--old people thing. We sat on counches near office and met up with Rebecca and Billy.

We decided to go to the cemetery together for the all night vigil, and they invited us to join them for dinner. We went back to the restuarant we did the night before. I had the garlic soup again, but kept it to just that. After dinner, we were never given our bill, so we left. We even asked for it 2 or 3 times, before we gave up.

The all night vigil at the cemeteryThe Mexicans believe the children spirits/angels come in at 3pm Oct 31, and then leave 3pm Nov 1st, at which point the adults come down for the next 24 hours. they keep the children company in the cemetery through the night.

We met the driver at the corner of the Zocalo and we were off to cemetery right outside the town area (Sounded kinda like HoHo Cemetery). Extremely COOL! There were so many tourists, it was obnoxious. Some were not respectful of the event--taking pictures and crowding people and walking on graves. Probably most were okay though. There was so many people, it was difficult to get around.

One of the graves at the cemetery, moderately decoratedThere was this one group of men singing by the ruins. It was so cool. There was an old ruin that used to be a chapel built in about the 15th (16th) century, made from adobe.

The second cemetery (the newer one) was totally crazy. They had people selling toys and food within the cemetery itself. There were all kinds of vendors outside the doors. There were firecrackers going off, and bombfires. I was really disgusted with this, but was told later that was all a part of it. Still, I could have done without the vendors!

One of the graves there was so cool. A flat bed of flowers: marigold background, with bright magenta heart in the middle, with white cross on heart; burning candles around the border spaced out. (Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this, but am hoping to have one shared with me from Billy.)

After we headed out looking for our driver, my stomach got extremely upset. The physical downfall begins here.

We found our driver, and he had brought his wife with us in car ride home. 6 people in one tiny car--he, his wife and Erin in front, me, Billy and Rebecca in back. He pulled over down the block from our hotel to let her out, before he dropped us off, so that Chencho wouldn't see that he'd brought her.

Erin and I stayed up til 2 am talking about the cemetery and the emotions around it. We talked about American vs Mexican Catholic, amongst other things.

 


Sunday, Nov 1, 1998

I was sick and exhausted. I couldn't go along for the day, so Erin went with Mike and Debbie and Rogelio to the Mitla ruins, and a wool rug village. Erin later told me that she was bartered for a case of Mezcal. Unfortunately for the man with the boasted 21 children, he did not win her.

I hung around the hotel. Wrote notes (this stuff). Talked with Chencho about Day of the Dead, death ceremonies in general. Favors from the cumunity and paying them back. Weddings. Responsibilities in villages--not in cities due to taxes. Kids not getting married as young as they used to.

After talking with Chencho, I shared a taxi into town with Rebecca and Billy. I forgot the all-important-useless-map, so I copied the priceless address off theirs. I joined them in a couple of stores and then parted ways.

Shopped around solo a bit. Bought a few items. Walked to the Zocalo and from there I tried to find the Abastos market. I walked all the way to Periferico (the main circle street) and decided I was no where near it, walked back to the Zocalo and took a cab home. Turns out the part of Periferico I was at was close to hotel. Figures!

Got Home, looked at my new book--a little Day of the Dead book I picked up. Tried to nap and laid there forever. Finally got to sleep and probably slept for 3 hours. Woke up when Erin got back about 6ish. I was grateful for the extra time to sleep.

Rogelio waited downstairs to see if I wanted to go house-to-house with him and a couple friends. I was exhausted and passed, but I REALLY wanted to go and was/am disappointed I missed it. [They go house to house, tell jokes about the living, eat chocolate, bread and drink Mezcal.]

Erin had bought a bottle of Mezcal and shared it with Debbie, Mike and Rogelio. They tried to get me to drink it too, but I wasn't going to take the chance. When they finished, Rogelio left.

Michael's group was having an of trip party, where they had a band and everyone was welcome. We ate from a buffet (which Chencho pronounced with an "et" rather than an "ay") and drank margaritas. Sat with Mike, Debbie and were then joined by Martha and Patrick who live in Wallingford (Seattle). (BTW, Debbie's sister lives in Capitol Hill.)

There was a man at our hotel with a big bushy beard (had friends there from Finland, and I think he was too) whose wife's birthday it was. They all sang Happy Birthday to her, and later in the eveing found out about Erin's and sang to her too. This man sang SO COOL.

He later showed us 3 paintings he did. An altar with flowers on the floor and people praying; him in a small box room with a huge rooster "cock a doodle doo" and boots "thump thump" and dogs above--we loved this one; and can't remember the 3rd one.

After the party, Erin and I went back to our room and proceded to pack everything for the trip back to Mexico City manana. That was a tough chore. And, I had given one of the girls in the hotel my laundry earlier in the day asking if it would be done today. She said si, and I believed it would work out. Turns out I never got my laundry all day. I panicked and told Chencho. He promised he would get my laundry back by the morning but it may not be finished.

Our altar we created in our room in Oaxaca Atlar at the Posada de Chencho

 


Monday, Nov 2, 1998

Erin and I had breakfast with Debbie and Mike, joined my Martha and Patrick. I paid Chencho, finished up our packing, got my laundry back (thought it was finished, only to discover later that night it was still a little damp.) We were picked up by Rogelio, and off to Monte Alban.

Me, Rogelio & Erin

Observatory building at Monte AlbanFinally bought postcards. Did the ruins, which Rogelio gave us a lot of history. Drove to the aeropuerto. And we were off again, in flight.

A sundial at Monte Alban

Catedral MetropolitanaWhen we got into Mexico City, we got a taxi to our hotel, the Hotel Majestic, which used to be someone's home/mansion. We checked in and got our room--we gleed in excitement.

After getting excited and organizing our stuff, we ventured out and walked about the Zocalo (Plaza de la Consitucion) and the Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana).

In the Zocalo, there was an altar with a huge black and white painting of skeletons, and a huge mural on the ground made of sand. We found out that this was to honor the recent flood victims in Mexico City for Day of the Dead. It was very cool.

Dedicated to the recent flood victims in Mexico for Day of the Dead

Around the Cathedral were many people selling goods, and ritual dance performances. There were also ruins beside the Cathedral. We walked in search of something to do, see, eat or buy. Seemed like anything worth looking at was closed. There was no where to go. We ended up back at our hotel, and went up to restuarant to eat where we had a great time. Back to room and got all my stuff ready to go so in the morning I wouldn't have to do anything. We watched Cartoon Network in Spanish--Pinky y Cerebro! I LOVED IT!!! I fell asleep and slept my best yet. Unfortunately, Erin slept her least.

 LANDSHARK!!


Tuesday, Nov 3, 1998

Got up at the crack of dawn. My flight was shortly after 7am, so we had to get to the aeropuerto at least an hour early, plus the time it took to take the taxi from the hotel. We got our wake up call at 5:15am.

LANDSHARK! Shuttle from gate to planeI checked in and Erin and I separated from there. The guy at the desk said I had to be at my gate by 6:15, which I did, but sat there doing nothing til 7. Lame. I took the Landshark shuttle from my gate to the plane, and shortly thereafter we were on our way to Phoenix. On the plane I made notes for my journal on a plane "barf bag." I love doing that--don't know why. Went through customs easily enough. Then onto my next flight. Finally pulled into Seattle and was grateful to almost be home, and yet sad too. Norma at the Shuttle Express set me up for a shuttle home and I was on my way!

When I got home I unpacked my toys, and then had to rush to McDonalds. I know it's bad, but I wanted generic American food SOOO BADLY! I ran into my buddy Steve on my way there and he joined me to McDonalds--not without protest ofcourse. He came back to my house afterwards to see my toys, where we discovered bugs on my grave wood carving. Ugh. He left, I talked to my mom on the phone, then Jeff showed up. He returned my keys from cat sitting, and got the basic lowdown on my trip. After that the night was mine, I put away some stuff, checked email and I went to bed early!


What I brought back with me:
key hook holder - bar scene diarama without sides
black ceramic skull
sugar skull
skull necklace
3 paper wrapped tallow candles
diablo w/spring limbs
skeleton w/sping limbs for Steve
rug sample
pig bowl
cat for mom
love box scene (diarama) - man serenading woman
mask with horns
mini incense burner & incense
diablo and angel wood carvings
grave wood carving


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