After Guanajuato, I spent the night in Mexico City with my friends Cinthia and Perla before catching a morning bus to Oaxaca. The 7 hour bus ride would be my fourth this week and I was exhausted from traveling around so much. I decided I would stay in Oaxaca for a week and take a Spanish and cooking course. In addition to rest, I needed a little more structure to my day and I also desperately wanted to improve my Spanish.
Just as I was about to doze off on the bus a rock was thrown at one of the windows! It immediately shattered into a million little pieces. Everyone quickly moved to the other side of the bus as the shattered pieces of glass began to fly into the bus. The bus driver knew the window had been broken but didn’t stop. I’m not sure if it was because there was no where to pull over or if it was because he didn’t want to stop anywhere near the person who had broken our window. Welcome to Oaxaca…?
Despite the scary bus ride, I fell in love with Oaxaca immediately. I had heard nothing but good things about this city and was not disappointed. The streets are cobblestone and lined with old colonial style buildings. The homes are painted beautiful reds and yellows and public art is everywhere.
There are two fabulous markets in Oaxaca, Benito Juárez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre. At Benito Juárez you can find amazing produce, meats, cheeses and just about anything else you could possibly want for your Mexican cocina. Mercado 20 de Noviembre is my favorite because it’s filled with delicious places to eat. There are several vendors where you can actually pick out what meat and vegetables you’d like and they’ll grill it up right in front of you.
The Spanish school I attended is called, Oaxaca Instituto Cultural. It was set on the most beautiful compound with several buildings of old Spanish style architecture. My teacher Herman was wonderful and we played many Spanish games in his class. Most of my classmates were in their 60s – it was great to be in an environment where everyone was edger to learn.
In cooking class, we learned to make Gorditas, Azteca Soup and Tlacoyos. Gorditas are thick tortillas that are cut open to put meat, cheese and whatever else you want inside. Azteca Soup is a delicious chicken soup made with crispy tortilla strips and avocado. Tlacoyos are long oval shaped thick tortillas made out of blue corn that are filled with lima beans and topped with cheese, meats and whatever else your heart desires. Slowly but surely I was becoming more and more Mexican everyday.
By the night of U.S. presidential election, I had been in Oaxaca for two days and in that time only made one friend, Adan. I met Adan through Couchsurfing, he shared with me that he believed the hormones in food were what made people gay – I decided it was time to make some new friends.
There were tons of people gathered on the outdoor patio of my hostel watching the election so, I decided to join them. I met Helena from Austria, Naomi from England, Allison from Seattle and two guys from Detroit who’s names I can’t remember. All of the women were traveling alone as well.
After we realized Trump was most likely going to win Helena, Naomi and I spilt off from the group and decided to grab a late dinner.
Oaxaca is famous for their food. Each state in Mexico has their own unique style of Mexican cuisine. Oaxaca is known for chocolate – particularly a sauce called, mole. Mole is made with chocolate and about 24 other ingredients that can go on top of anything from chicken and rice to enchiladas.
Oaxaca is also known for its famous Tlayuda. It’s a giant crispy white corn tortilla that is either made open face like a pizza or folded into a sandwich of sorts. Inside you will usually find refried black beans, Oaxacan cheese (which is similar to string cheese), your choice of meat, and sometimes avocado, lettuce or tomatoes. They are quite delicious and usually only around $40 MXN ($2 USD).
Naomi and Helena hadn’t tried one yet so, we went on a Tlayuda hunt. It was about 10pm on a Tuesday night and not too many places were open. We’d ask one street vendor where we could find them and they would direct us to another street vendor who, would direct us to another street vendor. We had been wandering the streets for about 20 minutes yelling Tlllllaaayyyyuuuuuudaaaaa until we finally found them.
The Tlayudas were delicious as always – it was a good end to a good day. I felt like I had made the right decision in deciding to travel South instead of up North. It was good to make new friends and enjoy delicious Oaxacan cuisine, despite the horrific results of the election.