Pete and I decided that it would be sensible to learn some basic Spanish before we embarked on our trip to South America, so we registered online at the Oaxaca International Spanish Language School in Oaxaca City (pronounced – wah-ha-kha). I was a tad skeptical because it sounded too good to be true – inexpensive Spanish lessons, a home stay including two meals per day, an airport pick-up, and no upfront payment? No deposit? No online placement test? However the reviews were top notch, so away we went.
The flight from Mexico City was one of the best we’ve had – easy check-in, plenty of places to charge our devices, free wi-fi, lots of eateries in the terminal, smooth boarding and a complimentary beverage of our choice. I went for a rum and coke which turned out to be ENORMOUS. I was a tad tipsy by the time we landed.
We collected our bags, and walked out into the arrival hall. I was convinced that when we got there, we’d be taken hostage and driven to an ATM where we’d be forced to withdraw all of our money, before being dumped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere – my overactive imagination running wild as per usual – so I relaxed as soon as we were greeted by two ladies holding up a sign with Pedro’s name on it. One introduced herself as Maria, and the other Juanita, and they looked like mother and daughter. It was quickly apparent however that they spoke zero English at all, which made for an awkwardly silent trip from the airport.
We drove through Oaxaca to the casa, and took in the sights and sounds. A lot of colourful buildings, one-way streets, and yellow flowered trees. We weaved in and out of residential streets until we arrived at what would be our home for the next three weeks.
The house has a very interesting layout – the entry is off the street into a carport with a detached living area and kitchen to the left. We were shown up some stairs to the right of the carport which opened up into a generous sized living area, with two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms on either side. Our bedroom has a double bed (it’s like sleeping on a cloud compared to our bed in Vancouver), plenty of storage and power outlets, a window onto the street, and another which over looks the patio downstairs, and the ensuite is clean and modern.
We unpacked, grabbed a set of keys from Maria and went for an explore.
Oaxaca still confuses me two weeks after we first arrived. The streets are roughly in a grid, so it should be easy enough to navigate, but the majority of the streets look exactly the same. At first glance they all look residential, but when you walk past, doors open into doctors offices, hair salons, convenience stores, jewelry stores, laundrettes, restaurants, computer repair stores, mezcalerias. There is just rarely any signage other than some handpainted words on the external walls. But it is one of the reasons I love this place. Sometimes doors are open, sometimes they are closed, so strolling around the city (feels like a village really) is a lot of fun because you never know what you’re going to find.
I would describe it as cheap and cheerful. Yes you have the uneven footpaths, graffiti covered buildings, bad smells, run-down neighbourhoods outside of the city with piles of garbage dumped in off places, and loud noises early in the morning (GAS DE OAXACA *MOOOOOOOOOOOO* and the off fire-work). BUT the weather is glorious, the people are gorgeous, the food is arguably the best in Mexico (I’ll discuss that in a separate post), there is plenty to see and do as a tourist, there are bars / restaurants / cafes / markets for every taste and budget, the Zocalo always has free entertainment of an evening, and there are old VW Beetles EVERYWHERE which is kinda cool. I am really glad that we decided to call Oaxaca home while we attempt to learn some Espanol. More photos to come!