My plane left me behind. I am tired. My boarding pass is not downloading. Not even Delta can access it. I would like to find a hot sandwich and maybe some ice cream for supper. I have decided against the fancy restaurants we inhabited as a group last week. The places where the food comes on large plates, small servings with sauces drizzled over top in fancy designs. 

I followed the directions of the desk clerk to take a left and then go six or seven blocks straight ahead to a nice informal place. Several blocks translates to the same type of thing as a “Mexican minute.“ I walked until I came to a large, very busy highway. Six lanes packed with late afternoon traffic streamed in front of me. I had to make a choice. Did I want to eat at the recommended place or die? I turned around.

From last week’s hike around the block, I knew there was a little mini mall that might prove helpful. I am glad I speak Spanish. I asked a woman coming out of her car park and she directed me to go around the corner. At La Casa Elf, a young man served me a hot grilled beef sandwich with caramelized onions, pico de gallo, and a cranberry lemonade with lime slices. It was delightful to be off the tourist track.

On Sunday evening, while foraging for chicken-rice soup topped with a Oaxacan cheese, I came into the city center. This is the place for free entertainment, especially on Sundays. The balloon sellers, the indigenous women carrying shawls for sale over their shoulders, the children selling their artisan kid painting or individual gum make for a human river flowing past me, seated at an outdoor restaurant.

Before I found my soup, I followed the music to the center of the Zócalo. A three-piece band played salsas and cumbias. The band leader shouted out for unmarried women and unmarried men to raise their hands and find a partner. 

A young woman next to me motioned me out of my shell to join the crowd of mixed ages and races. Why not? 

Some 2,000 miles to the north, hunters were sitting in trees in my back 40. They were dressed in orange, carrying their rifles. They were looking forward to fresh venison and a shot of whiskey. These diverse events try to be compatible inside my brain. I decided to just be happy. I have both worlds.

Tomorrow, I will be at the Mexico City Airport. By the end of the day, I hope to be in my little house in the woods. Contrast. Culture clash. 

Today it is 80° in Oaxaca. I sat inside a cathedral to stay cool. I’m never sure what to do about all the gold leaf, the Saints brought in by the Catholics and the statues of a tortured and bleeding Christ in the glass casket.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán side altar from 1572

Back home, a small buck hung from a tree. Snow began to fall. Winter is coming, but not all will be frozen! Maybe by Christmas, my Oaxacan exit will be mellowed memories.

North or south, the choice is to look carefully for what serves you, and enjoy it despite the trials. I’ll remember the young dancing girl, the kindness of the desk clerks, the chambermaid who is also named Janet, and those that smiled back.

Hope to be home by the time you read this!

From Oaxaca, with love