¡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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.