It was advice given to me on my last night in New York before flying out. I should have listened right away. Mexico just gets better and better (and cheaper) the further south you go. I was charmed by Oaxaca. As soon as I arrived I signed myself up for the first tour. I was tired of do-it-yourself and wanted to be escorted around a bit.
Despite being one of the most popular times to visit Oaxaca (Day of the Dead) our tour was not the embarressing tour bus group of 40 people or so led by a shouting woman holding her umbrella high to make sure her ducklings were following. A van picked me up at the hostel with a mere 6 others and our visits to the ruins of Mitla, the Tulle tree (possibly oldest in the world) and a textile weaving cooperative were uncrowded and all worth it. I found fast traveling companions in the two germans in the backseat with me and two older ladies from the West Coast in front.
Delighted by the cheapness and relaxed tours I decided to do more. I signed up for a cooking class and a visit to Monte Alban, some of the best ruins left in Mesoamerica. I was delighted to find myself the only one signed up for both.
The private cooking class turned into a hangout session with the young chef´s friends that worked at the hostel. While learning the 20 ingredients that go into mole, I also learned about the life and times of being young in Mexico. The eldest girl had recently married. She and her husband were in school studying sustainable tourism. In order for her to share his scholarship they needed to be married. So, he had proposed over the phone and they were married the next day. It was fine, but not what she wanted. She also longed to be out of Mexico City, away from the pollution, but that is where all the good schools and jobs were. It´s not the first time I had heard the story, my host in Mexico City also had had no desire to get married and have kids and wanted out of the city. Mexicans all don´t fit our preconceptions.
The rest of the time, I wandered the old colonial streets and spent my evenings gawking at Dias de los Muertos festivities -- now a strange blend of indigenous belief that the dead come back for a night to commune with their families, the Christian celebration of All Saint´s Day, and the American tradition of dressing up scary and partying. Here the celebrations last 4 nights, with people getting dressed up, multiple bands in the streets, and alters honoring the dead everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean the entire Zocalo, every hotel, every store, every restaurant and school.
My fourth day I tried to get an early bus to Puerto Escondido, but found tickets sold out until 8:30pm. No matter; I spent one more afternoon wandering, catching a cultural tour show on the plaza and then steeled myself for what was supposed to be a 5 hour bus ride to the coast. . .