One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
In December, my travel partner and I went to a little place called Tule near the city Oaxaca in Mexico.
We had just spent the day sightseeing at nearby pyramids, villages and markets in the unending sun and dust. The last place I wanted to go was Tule, to see their touristically delicious “World’s Stoutest Tree.”
“When’s the next time you’ll be here?” my partner said then. “We have to go see it.”
I reluctantly went, and it was everything I expected – a big, wide tree surrounded by people with cameras.
After a turbulent three months in Ottawa – which did not feel like three months in the least – I’m back in Mexico.
And I just saw that wide-wide-wide tree. Again.
In fact, I’ve been seeing a lot of things that I didn’t think my eyes would touch upon in this lifetime, both again and for the first time.
* * *
My flight from Toronto to Oaxaca seemed quick compared to the four weeks it took me last time to travel between the two places.
It was an odd feeling, flying over the states that I visited last winter.
Virginia. Mississippi. Alabama. Louisiana. Texas.
When we were taking off, I cracked the aged spine of Brave New World. By the time we landed in Mexico City, the book was closed. (As a side note, it was an interesting read for me, headed to the Mexican state known for its mezcal and thriving indigenous populations.)
A hop-skip-jump later, I was touching down in Oaxaca. It’s a beautiful place where I spent three days just before Christmas 2010. The weather is hot and sunny with the occasional storm, and the mountains jut up around flat valley lands.
Cobblestone streets take people from brightly-painted building to brightly-painted building.
The building I live in is painted beige-yellow, with bright purple flowers hanging from the roof.
The “unit” has two bedrooms, a bathroom, an outdoor kitchen and a courtyard/outdoor dining room. Everything is connected by the outdoor “hallway.” The actual house is owned by a lady and her daughter, but we only see them when we pass through their separate courtyard to leave the premises.
* * *
Here in Mexico, I’m volunteering for an English tourist/ex-pat newspaper called the Oaxaca Times. I’m supposed to experience all sorts of touristy things and write about them. It may not be up to my accustomed journalistic standards (I am expected to sell ads?!), but it’s alright.
When I first arrived, I was sent almost immediately on assignment to Cafeina, to review their mussel mousse on crustinis with sesame-citrus dressing and yerba santa-incrusted tuna with apple-green tomato compote.
Today, I was sent to a temezcal, a type of indigenous sweat lodge in Mexico. After experiencing the private little lodge and sweating out a storm, I had to endure their full-body massage.
Tough life, I know.
Yesterday, the newspaper owner took me to Mitla – “place of the dead” – to see Zapotec ruins. And Tlacolula to see the wonderful, big mercado domingo they have there. And Teotitlán, where I sat through a lecture on how to weave a rug in the indigenous way, from making natural dyes like indigo to winding the ends of the carpets.
Then to Tule.