HING KONG by Shaun Sundholm

Today is a super shitty day for many reasons but mainly because we put an openly partisan, blatant liar and multiple sexual harassment accused, king of high school turds everywhere, on the Supreme Court. So fuck the patriarchy lets harken back to time, oh say 4 weeks ago, when we still had hope that maybe one Republican Senator had a heart.

In early September a surprise freelance job took me back to Hong Kong for what was to be a week of work before returning to Oaxaca to work remotely. Well advertising had other plans and decided a month in Asia was a better idea, so I spent 3 weeks in Hong Kong and a week back in my most recent ex-hometown, Shanghai. The entire time my phone kept autocorrecting Hong Kong into Hing Kong so I just went with it. #thanksobama

In addition to exciting advertising related curveballs the largest typhoon in over 40 years, Typhoon Mangkhut, slammed almost directly into Hong Kong before heading on to the Mainland. Naturally it was a both exciting and terrifying experience, where learned my lesson not to go out before a storm is really over when a massive window frame fell out of a skyscraper into the street where I had been standing 30 seconds earlier. Fun! Stay inside, stay safe. But exploring the damage afterword and observing how fast the city repaired itself was humbling.

Luckily with my extended timeline I had a few weekends and was able to get out of the city and visit Lamma island and the famed Choi Hung Estate basketball courts. The photos here are from the former, next week I’ll put up the renowned rainbow courts.

Thanks for looking.

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Taco Should Be a Verb by Shaun Sundholm

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Less than a week ago legendary food critic Jonathon Gold died suddenly from pancreatic cancer leaving a massive hole in the food critic community. He was a tireless champion of what he called “traditional food” and was constantly advocating the exploration of food cultures other than the ones you’re comfortable with.

It was in this spirit that I was inspired to design this piece using a quote from the 2015 documentary City of Gold, 

When done properly, taco should be a verb.
— Jonathan Gold
 Initial pen sketch

Initial pen sketch

 

 

It was an aside on how tacos are almost always better when they come from a truck and the motion from cook to hand to mouth is continual. Rest in peace J. Gold. 

 

 Scan and revisions in photoshop

Scan and revisions in photoshop

A portion of the proceeds will go to Al Otro Lado and the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.

Donate directly to his family at GoFundMe.

Mercados de Oaxaqueños by Shaun Sundholm

I was halfway finished writing this post when I woke up to the shocking news of Anthony Bourdain's passing. I don't recall ever being affected by a celebrities death like this, sure I've been shocked before but this one somehow feels different, heavy, crushing. He was such an inspiration and an actual role model in a world mostly devoid of them. One of the few people I that I really looked up to as creator, traveler, eater and enthusiast of life. He did so much to show that the "other" is not something to be feared but to be sought out and learned from. I can say with certainty that he helped stoke my curiosity about other cultures and I probably wouldn't have followed this path that I'm currently traveling on without his prodding and inspiration. I'm at a loss of words at the moment, so I'll leave this here and try to finish writing this in honor of one of the true greats — RIP.

If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.
— Anthony Bourdain

This first week of June marks seven weeks of traveling and living in Mexico and it's really starting to feel like home. As I'm settling into my little apartment here in Oaxaca, at least once a day I think about how difficult it will be to ever leave or return to — quote-unquote — real life. But until then there's markets, and tons of 'em, big ones, small ones, regional weekly ones and day-to-day ones, each offering it's own unique slice of Oaxacan life.

 Local bus station, Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Local bus station, Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

In the last month I've tried to visit as many markets as possible in the surrounding areas, there are still a few on my list but it's become an almost daily obsession. Each day of the week plays host to a different market(s) in a different puebla or section of the city, the exception being the big markets in Cuidad de Oaxaca which run daily but also claim Saturday as their BIG day.

It breaks down like this: Sunday is Tlacolula de Matamoros, the largest and perhaps best, Monday is in Teotitlan del Valle, a nearby weaving village, that I've only visited on off days, Wednesday is La Villa de Etla Market famous for it's queso, Thursday is the market in Zaachilla, a wild affair with livestock and a more rural vibe, Friday is Ocatlan, famous for it's art and massive church and another smaller market in Cuidad de Oaxaca near the baseball stadium, known for it's carnitas and food stalls. In addition there are several organic markets in the city that are a mix of food stalls and fresh vegetables and other goods, the weekend Mercado Organico Pochote is especially great.   

 Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Most of these markets are Tanguis, pre-hispanic markets and traditional community meeting centers, running continuously for hundreds of years. The massive Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros, eating up over 8 city blocks and located about 40 minutes east of Cuidad de Oaxaca by bus, is one of the oldest continually operating markets in Mesoamerica and my running favorite for the sheer size and audacity of it. The general rule is, if it's small enough to carry away you can find it at Mercado de Tlacolula.The small town also boasts a beautiful 16th century church that features a rare "Black Christ" said to perform miracles and an insanely, ornately decorated chapel.  

 Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Mercado de Tlacolula is the largest open air market in the state of Oaxaca (outside of the massive wholesale market Central de Abastos) and draws purveyors from all around the region selling every kind of craft, clothing, household item, meat, vegetable and flower imaginable. Many of the vendors and visitors are indigenous people wearing traditional dress unique to their village and speaking in dialects of Zapotec.

 Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Another reason to visit is the smoke filled food hall, broken into two areas — one side is a sort of grill your own meat market and the other side is a locally famous hall of barbacoa, filled with stalls shilling the intensely flavored goat stew to tables packed butt-to-butt with hungry market-goers. I'd been hearing about the barbacoa for weeks and finally made it out there a couple weeks ago. And the hype is real, it was hands down the best version of the dish I'd ever had, chunks of succulent goat meat served in bowls brimming with a rich red broth along with heaps of cabbage, radishes, cilantro and lime. Tortillas and salsas are served on the side to make your own tacos between slurps of soul fortifying soup. If I don't try every stall before I leave Oaxaca I will have failed miserably at life. 

*editors note: there is no photo of aforementioned barbacoa, it was gone before anyone had a chance to capture it. 

 Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Mercado de Tlacolula, Oaxaca

The market in Zaachilla is a completely different experience, much smaller and for lack of a better term, "local". It's a half an hour south of the city by bus and when you enter the market directly out the the bus station (gravel parking lot) you're immediately confronted with a street full of live turkeys and other fowl all ready for your Sunday dinner. It immediately sets the scene that this market is a bit different from the rest where it's not uncommon to see teenaged girls casually walking around with 3 or 4 live turkeys. 

 Mercado de Zaachilla, Oaxaca

Mercado de Zaachilla, Oaxaca

While much smaller than the massive Tlacolula affair it makes up for size with a certain air of festivity and liveliness. Maybe its the proximity to the weekend or just how Zaachilla does it but it was brimming with people eager to move their wares or tempt you to try whatever delicious thing they were selling. 

 Mercado de Zaachilla

Mercado de Zaachilla

I visited this market one sunny Thursday morning with my Spanish teacher, Estefania, it was a sort of real world language lesson we like to do instead of class once a week. After circling the market a few times inspecting the excellent local woodworking and stopping to buy honey and taste the local tepache, a fermented drink somewhat similar in taste to kombucha, we headed in to the inner sanctum, the prepared food area in search of the Zaachilla take on barbacoa.

After passing what felt like dozens of nearly identical stalls lined up on the street under massive blue tarps, we settled in at the one my Maestra said was the best. I trust her. This time we skipped the bowl of soup and opted for tacos de barbacoa enchilada as we were short on time and long on hunger. These aren't what you think of as tacos back in the states but massive plate sized, fresh tortillas filled with unctuous goat meat in a rich red sauce. Before we could even finish the first round of massive tacos Estefania was ordering a second round from the woman handily manning the double cauldrons of barbacoa enchilada (red) and blanco  while the man of the operation was passing out little plastic cups of mezcal, gratis as is the custom, in between taking the money and it was only 11:30am. When in Oaxaca...

 Cal for treating comals used to cook tortillas - Mercado de Zaachilla, Oaxaca

Cal for treating comals used to cook tortillas - Mercado de Zaachilla, Oaxaca

One thing I've noticed at these markets (and in homes and life in general) is that they are run by and almost totally staffed by women — selling, cooking, making, ordering, you name it. The men, if even present, are usually there to help in some menial task like guiding people to open seats or handling the money. Women run this country and it's awesome. Coming up this summer are the national elections in which a record number of women are running for senate seats and the first Indigenous woman is running for President. I can only think that if the men would get out of the way and let women really run this country at the governmental level things would be in a much better place. 

 Mercado de Zaachila, Oaxaca

Mercado de Zaachila, Oaxaca

I got the plug in Oaxaca... by Shaun Sundholm

¡Hola, bienvenidos! I'm writing a thing, it has pictures. Is it a thing? Is it a blog? Do blogs still happen? What is even real anymore? Who knows but we're going to find out.

 Playa Panteón - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca 

Playa Panteón - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca 

I recently returned to Oaxaca to finish out my sabbatical/premature retirement/gap year wandering the globe, doing an intensive Spanish immersion course and homestay in Oaxaca, Mexico. Coincidentally Oaxaca is where I was vacationing when I first learned of the job that would take me to China for four years. So I kind of felt it was fitting to finish out my year here and see what comes next.

 Playa Principal - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca

Playa Principal - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca

These photos are all from my first week back in my favorite state in this beautiful country, the soul of Mexico and home to many regional cuisines and folk art, from the Centro district in downtown Oaxaca de Juarez to the southern-most tip of Mexico in the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Ángel. 

 Playa Principal - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca

Playa Principal - Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca

I felt like the time and place to dust of my old Olympus XA2 35mm camera and use up the last couple rolls of film I've been dragging around the planet. I had shelved my multiple film cameras early into this journey realizing that the realities of traveling for a year with gobs of film, multiple cameras while finding decent developers was going to be more of a challenge than I was up for, especially after a processor in Bangkok ruined 6 rolls of film my first month in.

 Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

So I did what any sensible person would do and I limited myself to one emergency film camera and purchased my first digital camera in over 10 years – a Ricoh GRII, the best and dumbest camera I could find after a brief fling with a much fancier Sony model. I've documented most of my journey on the Ricoh and my plan is to slowly start processing the tens of thousands of photos and putting them up here. Don't hold your breath.

 Colonia Reforma - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Colonia Reforma - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

It's been really enjoyable getting back behind the plastic viewfinder of the XA2 again, with the knowledge that every press of the shutter counts and without the knowledge of if you got the shot or any shot at all. It's also been very enriching to return to this region of Mexico, there's just some magic here that I can't put down in words but perhaps I can try to capture on film.

My first full weekend back in the city I set out to explore the Colonia Reforma neighborhood, a slightly upper-middle class barrio that's a mix of well kept casas, bustling cafes and trendy restaurants. The purpose of my mission was to locate this tiny tienda I had heard stocked a local kombucha. It was quite a jaunt but I found the little organic shop and was successful in my gut positive purchase.

 Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

On my way back down to Centro, where I stay, a thought randomly popped into my head — Baseball! Years ago I had attended a game here and it was a crash course in Mexican slang, swearing and terms of endearment for the opposing team's mothers, in other words, a hoot! I found the website of the Guerreros, Oaxaca's professional team, and they were playing, better yet they were playing a double header and it was right in the path of my walk home. Sixty pesos later (roughly $3) I had two tickets (it was buy one get one free day) so the older gentleman behind me got in for free. ¡Yay Mexico!

I managed to catch the final three innings of the first game, a shutout 10-0 in favor of Oaxaca. Then after a lengthy intermission, a Guerrero dog a local cerveza and some shared laughs over my terrible Spanish it was time for the second game. It was also time for the daily thunderstorms. Within minutes it began pouring buckets and the wind whipped up so furiously, blowing the tarp all over the place, the field crew couldn't even get the bases covered. The entire crowd ran for the exits where we all huddled together wet and steamy in the stairwells and entranceways waiting out the storm. Unfortunately the storm had more patience than we did and after about 45 minutes the crowd was mostly gone. I eventually went too but I assume at some point they played baseball late into the night. 

 Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

On my way home, slightly tipsy from stadium beers, baseball and a long day in the sun, I happened upon the end of a wedding at the main cathedral in town, Templo de Santo Domingo. If you're not familiar with Mexican weddings, they are a blast and weddings in Oaxaca are some of the most spectacular fiestas I've ever seen.

After the ceremony and reception the entire boisterous crowd spills out onto the plaza in front of the church replete with musicians, fireworks, giant papier-mâché dolls called Monos de Calenda and seemingly the whole town in attendance for what becomes a parade through the entire city. I joined in with parade as it was taking up at least three city blocks at a time with uncles and friends of the newlyweds handing out local mezcal to anyone who looked thirsty or brave enough to try. 

 Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

Centro District - Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

After soaking in the good vibes for quite a few blocks I turned off towards home relishing the feeling that I'd just witnessed something quite special and knowing that Oaxaca had dug its claws in me a little bit deeper. In the week that followed I decided to find an apartment and stay for at least the next month and possibly the whole summer. Who knows if I'll ever get this chance again so I might as well take advantage of it. Reality will always be there, for now there's Oaxaca.