I Moved To Oaxaca

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

We had kind of planned to take Dale out to see Monte Alban Sunday, but Leticia, Greg's Spanish teacher, said there was a field trip out to a puebla on Sunday, so since Dale said he's seen plenty of ruins we decided to join the school on the excursion to Huamelulpan. We didn't know what was on the agenda, just that Huamelulpan is a traditional pueblo in the northern part of the state. Fine with us!

Aside from our trip down Hwy 175 to the coast, the only other trips we've taken outside the Valley of Oaxaca have been up the cuota and out Hwy 125, once to Pueblo Viejo and another time to see the big church in Yanhuitlan. So naturally it follows that the road to Huamelulpan is also along Hwy 125, which I'm growing very fond of, mostly because it travels through the Mixteca Baja, a part of Oaxaca state that I find very pretty and alluring. And this time we used one of the city's many servicios turisticos, or 16-passenger vans that run folks from point to point in the state for around 40 or 50 pesos. So I got to look out the window for the 2 1-2 hour trip instead of focusing on the road.

The van, which was full, dropped us off at Leticia's request where the road to the pueblo dead-ended at Hwy 125 so that we could walk the half-mile into the center of town. I immediately took off at my own pace instead of strolling along with everyone else, and got rewarded for my brisk pace with another caracara sighting, and a chance to sneak a few cookies while waiting in the zocalo for the rest of the party to show up. And lucky me, instead of going into the community museum right away we waltzed over to the woman selling tamales and atole and got some snacks. Mmm. While people ate a couple of us entertained ourselves feeding the stray dogs and puppies bits of tamal and atole. I don't know what the señora thought about that, but I'm thinking of Moonstruck while I write this.

Nice little community museum with artifacts from the ruins underneath the town, and a little section on community healers and medicinal plants. After the museum we started walking up the hill behind the zocalo but instead of going to the ruins, we went to a house. The house of one of the community healers! The señora was 87, and came up to Greg's elbow, but she invited us to sit down in front of her house while Leticia translated her explanation about what she does. She asked if anyone wanted a cleaning, and four of us said, sure!, so we followed her while she gathered herbs from the margins of her fields, and from her beautiful garden, then we sat down on her palm-front tapeta and plucked the leaves from the big pile of branches. Then we went inside her house -- adobe walls, dirt floor, a wood-framed roof holding up clay tiles, and a couple of pieces of furniture -- while she prepared the herbs by grabbing big handfuls and twisting them into pieces. It was like watching someone rip apart a phone book. She put the shredded herbs into a jar of cane alcohol, added some camphor, and started "cleaning." First William's knees -- his comment was how strong her hands were. Then Rebecca, who asked for a "find-me-a-boyfriend" cleaning. The señora told all the guys to sit outside, then had Rebecca strip down to her skivvies and lie down before rubbing her all over with the herbs and chanting. After she'd stuffed a big handful of herbs down the back of Rebecca's underwear she told her to get dressed, wrapped her in a patchwork blanket, and had her sit and keep warm. Then she cleaned me off but good to get rid of my sore throat -- my undies thankfully stayed herb-free -- wrapped me up and set me down, then had Marcos come in. She made poor Marcos, a 23-year-old from Manchester, strip to his skivvies, too, but in front of all us ladies before giving him the herb treatment. Poor guy -- it was his first experience ever with any kind of massage. Then she stuffed his shoes full of herbs so that he would find a girlfriend. Not something he requested, but something apparently the señora felt was necessary. In addition to the embarassment, of course. We then drank a nasty herbal tea, said our goodbyes, and off we went, this time up to the top of the hill to explore the ruins. Pretty fun, with a great view of the town and the countryside, and the local church. This one had a pyramid with tombs in the base connected by a passageway passing just behind the front stairs, so it was a fun tomb-crawl, especially since it was wasp-free. Wasp-free is always a good thing. Then it was down the hill, back through the pueblo and down the road to the main road to catch the mini-van back to Oaxaca.

Again, I was way out front only this time Dale was with me too as we were heading downhill. We were almost to the road when we saw a mini-van pull up, so I went racing down the road to flag it down. No luck, so Dale and I stood on the carless road ... then it started to rain. We ducked under the eaves of a house next to the intersection and waited. It really poured. Soon enough, Greg, Leticia, and the rest of the group came walking up, totally soaked, and stood under the eaves with Dale and I. Twenty minutes later a mini-van went by. And kept going; totally full. Then another one. The third one stopped but was pretty full, and it looked like only half of us would fit -- especially since William needed to sit in the front in order to avoid having to learn the Spanish word for "puke." But, no, people squeeze and scootched around until we all fit, even though Dale was sitting on the wheelwell.

By the time we got back to Oaxaca we were famished, since the last thing we'd eaten were the tamales in the morning and a couple of cookies each on the walk back to the road to await the van. So as we walked down the street toward the zocalo, when I saw a restaurant that had rotisserie chickens, in we went. Ah, yummy. I mean, it wasn't good enough that I would go again to get a chicken, but starving, yeah, it was great.

I think Dale passed out as soon as we got home.


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