I can’t believe one week of the trip that I have been anticipating for months has already passed. This week has been full of learning, exploring, and getting to know the city that I will call my home for the next two months. I already love the Oaxacan people and their laid back culture- counter to popular belief, I have found no “bad hombres” here.
I arrived in Oaxaca Saturday afternoon and my program director Eva took all of us to our respective host families. My host mother’s name is Anita and my host brother’s name is Chucho, he lives ten feet away from us. They are awesome. Chucho is a famous artist and makes paper mache calacas (skeletons), which is an ancient art form of Oaxaca. Anita cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for me everyday. Also, apparently lunch is not almuerzo here, it’s “la comida”, so basically my life is a lie. However, I have gotten to try so many traditional Oaxacan food: memellitas, chapulines (crickets), cactus, el agua de tuna, tlayudas, tacos, sincronizadas, Oaxacan chocolate, el nieve de mangos (mango ice-cream), quesillo, and a ton of salsas and tortillas. The food is great here, but it is definitely not the fried chimichangas covered in queso from El Rio Bravo that I was expecting. Everything here is made from scratch and my mom never writes down her recipes, but I am trying to watch and learn so that I don’t starve in the fall.
On Sunday we went on our first excursion to the Monte Alban ruins. Monte Alban is one of many famous archaeological sites in Oaxaca. The history of the ruins and the Zapotec people that used to live there is incredible. I couldn’t breath by the time I reached the top of the pyramids because I felt like I was doing high knees all the way up, but the views were definitely worth it.
After we went to Monte Alban we had lunch at a restaurant called “El Jardin de Sofia”. The food was great and I discovered my favorite drink ever there: El agua de tuna. It sounds nasty, but it is not the tuna you are thinking of. La tuna is the flower/fruit of a cactus called tuna. It is so sweet and delicious; I really hope I can find it at Jungle Jims. I also got to make my own tortilla at the restaurant, so basically all of my dreams came true.
On Monday we had our first day of classes. I am currently taking Advanced Spanish Grammar. Our class is separated into two sessions, the first hour and 40 minutes we learn about all the grammar rules and the last hour we practice speaking what we learned. There is only 3 people in my class including myself. It is awesome to be able to have a lot of individualized attention. Classes here are a lot more chill, but better than at home because they are more focused on our participation rather than the teacher lecturing. I also met my intercambio 3 times this week, which is a language exchange partner. Her name is Wendy and she is the best. Our intercambios are students at our university that are learning English, so we hang out and are able to both practice our target languages. Wendy has only studied English for 6 months, but I love teaching her new words and phrases; having to explain what they mean in Spanish has helped me improve my fluency a lot. I also signed up to volunteer to teach English to little kids every Thursday. They are so cute and so full of questions.
This week one of our cultural activities was a tour of the museum at Santo Domingo. The museum and church are very iconic land marks of Oaxaca City. The inside of the church is so elaborate- everything is covered in Gold. On my first night Anita and I got to watch a quinceañera there. Quinceañeras celebrate the 15th birthdays of Mexican girls and they are very fancy events. The other cultural event that we did this week was a dance class. The dance class was hilarious because no one in my group could dance. However, what is even funnier is that the dance instructor invited my friends and I to go with her to a Salsa club called El Candela last night. I was actually really scared to go because I cannot dance at all (except I can do the worm), but it was so much fun. Interacting with the locals here is great.
Today I have a free day, so I am going to explore the city, but tomorrow we are going to the Tlacolula Market and Teotitlan Artisan Village. I am super excited to learn more about the rich traditions and ancient art forms of Oaxaca.