Yesterday my plane landed back in Atlanta after a 9 day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico and Mexico City, Mexico with a study abroad group! While I have been out of the country before, I have never been in one where I did not speak the language (I do understand a lot of spoken Spanish though because of this). It was both humorous and anxiety-inducing when I was in the airport and the ticket booth lady couldn’t understand how I was even saying Oaxaca.
WHERE WE STAYED
First of all, our hotel in Oaxaca City was absolutely beautiful! We stayed at Parador San Miguel hotel which was only about 2 blocks from the city center which included cute markets, beautiful churches, and really nice restaurants! The town square also had ginormous trees that were truly amazing! The hotel had rooms that faced an open courtyard full of beautiful song birds and exotic plants. House keeping always left cute animals made out of towels on our beds and the hotel’s restaurant was excellent.
WHAT I LOVED
Something I was really amazed about on this trip is how colorful and beautiful Mexico is. I didn’t realize how many mountains were in the area, and I found myself reminiscing a lot about my time living in Utah and visiting my husband’s childhood home of Arizona. The weather is pretty arid, the altitude is high, and even though I had concerns about the Zika virus initially… I didn’t really see any bugs the whole trip (I still bug sprayed though). March ended up being an ideal time because the weather wasn’t too hot, and I felt very comfortable the entire trip.
I was pretty amazed by all of the artisan touches in Mexico from all of the crafts to the murals that showed up everywhere. My favorite art was probably a building that had corn and beans placed into concrete to make a beautiful mosaic of women.
The people were very patient in Oaxaca with my Spanish. It was a really easy place to practice, and I definitely haggled over prices in the market. Numbers were definitely hard to get sometimes when people were speaking, but people readily wrote numbers on their hands to help with the buying process.
WHAT WE ATE
My favorite part of Oaxaca City, Mexico was hands down the food. Something I observed the whole trip (not just exclusive to here) is that every time you order a drink, it comes bottled. Refills aren’t automatic so I often found myself ordering 2-3 bottles of mineral water every time I ordered my food; I knew I would need more than one bottle to drink. Something else I learned is that if you ask a waiter to bring a dessert later, you will have to order it again because the waiters don’t actually bring it out later (this happened to me about 3 times). The food though was extremely good in Oaxaca and the portion sizes are huge- I began sharing meals with people there. (Edit: 4/6/2016: I asked some students in my classroom why this happened with the desserts and they explained that “later” was a polite way of rejecting the dessert. So noted!)
I don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, but a huge export from Oaxaca City, Mexico is Mexcal alcohol which is made from the agave plant (the same plant that makes tequila too). My friends said it had a very smoky flavor and it burned a lot going down. Oaxaca cheese, the yummy whitish yellow cheese that comes with your chips at Mexican restaurants, also comes from Oaxaca. A feature I really loved about Oaxaca is the open courtyards in restaurants, our hotel, and buildings; it made for some pretty romantic settings and I definitely wanted Devin there with me more than once :). This would be such an adorable place for a honeymoon!
CULTURE SHOCK MOMENTS
While in the markets, my group was targeted, and I had my phone (which I had been using as my camera) stolen in the market; I ugly cried because I lost some of my favorite pictures of the trip and the $200 to replace the phone, but people in my program were nice enough to share a lot of photos for the blog (@AshleyEkers on instagram- look her up!). I will be sharing some general travel tips I learned for future trips to Mexico that I think will help other people too in a future post!
The first day, it was really shocking to me how people would follow us around to buy things. I would be polite and engage, but I found that it seemed to lead people on so I began just saying “no gracias” without any eye contact and kept moving.
Also, not going to lie, the first few days of watching driving in Oaxaca City was not for the faint of heart. The driving style is very different and has a lot weaving.
As a study abroad group, we visited Oaxaca because it is extremely linguistically diverse which is pretty interesting stuff as an Applied Linguistics graduate student :)! There are over 16 indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca and that doesn’t even include the languages’ dialects. It was amazing to see the architecture and warmth of the people. Even with my experience in the market, I found people extremely kind to tourists and very helpful. Most people in our study abroad group said that Oaxaca was their favorite place we visited because it really was incredibly charming!
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my trip and getting back to regular blogging programming! In the mean time, viva Mexico!