If you ever travel to Mexico, then you have to stop by in the enchanting town of Oaxaca. I stayed there for a couple of weeks trying to find work teaching English, but I ended up working at the bus station as one of those annoying people who try to get you to stay at a hostel. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but I just wanted to live in a place for a while. Here’s the first short story of my time in Oaxaca.
|Not a bad place to chill for two weeks!
Photo of the Zocalo in Oaxaca by Big Dubya
I’d become stale in the hectic capital and the six-hour bus journey to Oaxaca gave me fresh hope. The trip began on a long straight motorway through dry landscape until we ascended the mountains on a thin curved road. Overgrown trees blocked the views, but occasionally mountains flashed by. I’d never been as high up before, nor as close to the mountain edge, and I felt giddy looking down. The roller coaster ride ended when we reached a peak and descended into the delightful valley of Oaxaca. I felt energized and hoped I could find work teaching English.
I was expecting Oaxaca to be more laid back than the capital, but the sleepy city was the ‘Joey’ of Friends. A welcome sign saying ‘How you doing?’ would have been appropriate.
The Oaxacans must have been taking a siesta to escape the heat because the streets were deserted on the stroll down from the bus station. The red and yellow houses and joyful kids playing and laughing, reminded me of Coyoacan. Some shouted ‘hello’ and waved as I trundled past. Kids never greeted me in the capital. Even the centre of town was quiet for a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps Oaxaca United was in the Cup Final and everyone was indoors watching the match.
After checking into the cheapest and most cramped up hostel I could find – there were fifteen beds in the dorm – I went to see if the final had finished. The game must have gone into extra time because it wasn’t for another thirty minutes, while I sat on a bench in a shaded part of the Zocalo, until the Oaxacans emerged from their hideouts.
|The Cathedral in Oaxaca…
great place to people watch at night.
Photo by RussBowling
They must have won because everyone was smiling. Children and teenagers bounced along first, giggling and chasing each other round the white circular podium in the centre. Young parents strolled from shop to shop, or stopped for a coffee outside one of the many cafes. The older generation waddled about, resting their wary legs on the benches, and gossiping about the game.
Oaxaca appeared lively and jovial. There were enough intelligent-looking young Oaxacans walking about to suggest that learning English could be in fashion. I was about to go for a stroll when a familiar voice interrupted.
“Hey Barry, you made it then?” said a large, stout, and scruffy haired traveller.
“Blimey, small world,” I said. “I’ve only just got here. It’s Uvlad, isn’t it?” We’d had a beer at the hostel’s rooftop terrace in the capital. He’d mentioned that he was going to Oaxaca.
“Yeah, well remembered,” he said. “This plaza is unique. I love it here, so pretty.” He plonked down on the bench, which rocked slightly.
Uvlad was Israeli and was heading to Belize for a diving course before returning home to finish a Science degree. First, he wanted to chill out in Oaxaca for a few days. By coincidence we were sharing the same cramped dorm, which, according to him, was a ‘dump’.
“Who are you travelling with?” I asked.
“I know what you’re thinking. It’s not normal for Israelis to travel alone, but I can’t stand travelling with other Israelis; they think they own everywhere. Other people see us as problematic.” I was yet to meet an Israeli so this was news to me.
I’d planned on being alone for the evening and not spending much money, but Uvlad seemed like a decent chap so we went for a beer.
I was glad I met Uvlad. He was funny and had an extremely positive outlook on life.
“Travel is one of the best things you can do in the world. Trust me, when you’ve been travelling for a few more weeks, you won’t want to go home.”
I explained that living in another country appealed to me more than just travelling.
“I’ll help you find a job, don’t worry.” We clinked our bottles of beer and toasted to Oaxaca.
Oaxacans piled on to the streets, enjoying the cool evening, and strolled around the Zocalo.
Mariachis serenaded the crowd who gathered in front. Oaxaca was growing on me; maybe because of the beer and good company, but I had a sneaky feeling that I would be staying for a while.