Friday, January 28, 2011

Danielle’s Take on Our Trip to Oaxaca

Day 1
After we finally finished watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we left our apartment hotel and walked down to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. We looked around and saw a family tree of Santo Domingo de Guzman painted on the ceiling and gold painteIMG_9562d walls, pillars, and altars. The newest part of this church was the altar in the chapel from the 1950s.

Next, we went into one of the many galleries lining the narrow streets. There were sculptures and paintings. Then we headed down to the Zocolo and went to a restaurant called La Primavera, definitely not the best (the hot chocolate was disgusting and the quesadillas were rubbery). I’m excited for wood burning pizzas tonight.

Our first of two museums was in one of the government buildings in the square. There we saw evolution evolving, felt (or tried to feel) the earthquakes Oaxaca gets frequently, and played some games. The next museum on our tour of the town was in the church and taught us about Mexico’s peoples throughout time. The cool thing about this museum was that it was in an old convent, so when we listened to the audio, we were told what the room we were in was used for. This convent used to house 7,000 people!

After all this walking, my legs were getting tired, so here we are now, back in the apartment.

Day 2
Today we learned moreIMG_9622 about the history and culture of Oaxaca. To start off, we went to the market in Ocotlan. There we viewed the hubbub of market day in this town half an hour from Oaxaca. Live turkeys were being held by their feet and others were tied together. As usual, the smell in the meat section made me want to barf. We bought bread in the main building, not the best-of course, and fresh fruit in one of the many stands. Mom kept on saying it reminded her of the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. To finish off with our market experience, we followed a truck with at least 30 goats stuffed inside and landed up in a special designated area for selling live cows, goats, bulls, and horses.

On our way back to Oaxaca City, we stopped off at two pottery places. The first was owned by three Agular sisters and wasn’t very impressive at all. Dona Rosa’s family owned the next. Dona Rosa was the woman who invented a way to make pottery shiny without using paint. The traditional way before her accidental discovery was to let the clay turn a chalky black. But, Dona Rosa rubbed quartz on her pottery and this made it shiny. We all got to watch a demonstration and then tour the gallery and purchase a souvenir.

When we arrived back in Oaxaca City, we stopped to catch a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Café Olla. Unlike La Primavera, this restaurant was delicious. I’d love to go back there again.

The last stop of the day was at Benito Juarez’s house. There we learned about the history of Mexico, the time of his presidency and the political issues in his time, and what it might have been like to be living in the 1800s.

I really enjoyed today and the last three stops were my favorite so far in Oaxaca.

Day 3
After a lazy morning in which Harrison and I watched Despicable Me (as you can see, we’re really stocking up on movie time), we left for an art walk. With me as navigator, we went to an art museum with really weird art. I prefer the galleries.

Next, we were supposed to go to a bagel store, but it was closed, so instead we went farther down the block to a gallery. In this gallery, we saw a full sized lion made completely out of twigs.

Then, on our search for lunch, we walked to an artisan store consisting of the works of 80 families. My favorite piece was a skull, that was enlarged, and was painted with a desert landscape.

The next stop, that all four of us were excited for, was lunch. This restaurant specialized in vegetarian options. I had a vegetable crepe with cheese that was DELICIOUS, Dad had a stir-fry, Harrison had an amazing veggie burger, and Mom had the vegetarian menu combo option.

We then left for a museum with prehistoric art. The museum was set in an old colonial house. The art was a collection of an old famous painter named Rufino Tomayo. I felt that I’d already seen enough prehistoric artwork and that this museum was a bit of a waste of time.

We walked to another artisan shop that was made up of 300 women’s artwork. There were dresses, tin decorations, and the black pottery we learned about yesterday.

After we’d been told to check out this mescal shop, we followed Dad there. My parents tasted three different traditional mescals, and all four of us tasted the cooked agave, the plant from which mescal is made. Harrison and I also got to play with the owner’s dogs, Tesla, a male border collie, and Poopa, a female black German Sheppard. The coolest part about this shop was that we got to taste grasshoppers. They were salty, spicy, and crunchy. IMG_9646

Now we are about to leave for a restaurant that we have a reservation for. It’s supposed to be very good.

Day 4
Day 4. Starting off with Harrison as navigator, we drove to a bookstore, but sadly, it was closed. After stopping off at a coffee shop, we drove to a town known for its artisan works. There we went into many different shops looking for something for my parents to get. I really liked the hummingbirds in the flowers. They ended up getting a three-headed dragon with bright, vibrant colors. Then we went across the street and got presents for our friends in California. We wanted to get unpainted wood animals and acrylic paints, but that would’ve been a big investment.

After a quick lunch in the car, we drove off down a narrow road that ran through a river. Following, or going in, the river was going to take us to a place called Monte Alban. IMG_9663 On the way, a car, while it was passing us on this narrow road (if you could call it a road), broke down while towing another car. After this, we’d realized that we’d gotten lost. After a lot of confusion (and laughter), we finally reached Monte Alban.

Monte Alban is an old Zapotec city with very famous ruins much like the Mayan’s. Here, we saw temples, pyramids, tombs, tunnels, and residential areas. IMG_9679The Monte Alban civilization was very advanced in that they flattened out ground, dug into hills, came up with a calendar, clock, and writing system, and were said to be the first civilization to have written.

After dropping the car back at the apartment, we went to dinner at a very good pizza restaurant. There were incredible pizzas and pastas.

I enjoyed the ruins a lot because I love learning about the way people lived long ago. I always wonder what people in a thousand years from now will think when they look at our ruins.

Day 5
After getting into the car at 11:00 and listening to my parents yell, we left for another town with many artisan woodcarvings and went to a place that gave a demonstration of how they were made. The cool thing about this shop was that the paintings were of small Zapotec symbols made with natural paints. We got to see them carve the pieces, mix the paint, fix the pieces, and paint the pieces. Harrison even got to carve a turtle. IMG_9759 My parents bought an armadillo painted with green, red, orange, yellow, white, and black. The process to make it would have been long because it takes two weeks to carve a piece, nine months to dry the wood, probably a week to fix and sand it, and five weeks to paint it.

We left this shop at 3:00 and went to a place where women make woven goods and sell them. They used a special method called back-strap weaving by using a loom called a back-strap loom. IMG_9788 We got to view their gallery and watch them weave. They even let us try to weave!

Having committed to be back at the hotel by 6:00 and it being 4:30, we had to hurry to pick up groceries, go to the bank, pick up mescal at two places, and get back.

We have now been at the hotel for an hour, having successfully run all our errands and gotten back by the right time (early, in fact). Now getting hungry, I can’t wait to go and eat something good for our last night in Oaxaca.

Day 6
Today was supposed to be the day that we drove home, but obviously there had to be some distractions.  The first stop on the way out of Oaxaca was at the weavers.  This place was known for its woven tapestries and demonstrations.  Here we learned how they spun the wool, dyed the yarn, and wove the blankets and tapestries.  I got to spin some wool (which was very hard), but wanted to try to make some dyes.  My parents ended up getting a tapestry/rug of the tree of life.

We then left to go to a place called Mitla, also known for its ruins with stone mosaics.  Here we went through multiple tunnels, saw the amazing stone work, and even ventured into some tombs!

We needed to check some things using the internet, so we stopped at a gas station.  By the time we left, it was four o’clock and going on a seven hour drive through a really windy road was unrealistic.  So instead we went to a town up it the mountains on a ridge and got a cabin there (with a fireplace!).

Going to Oaxaca was a wonderful experience and I’d love to look forward to many more of these inland trips.

-Danielle, back in Huatulco

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a trip! I had to take a nap in the middle, I got so tired...
    And what??? Eating grasshoppers???? Did you check with your chumash to see if it's even permitted??? UGH! I can't believe you!
    Oh well, I still loved every minute of your excursion - and great writing!
    x x x love you...