You can find Oaxaca roughly 285 miles (460 km) away from the hustle and bustle of one of the largest cities in Latin America, Mexico City. An easy six hour drive to reach an enchanted land full of the most delicious food, and the warmth only a small walkable city can provide. 6 hours sounds reasonable, right?! How about a 9ish bumper to bumper drive in a packed to the max car in holiday traffic sound? AMAZING! I shouldn’t complain because It actually wasn’t too bad. Most of the ride, I passed the time by teaching my roommate’s cute mom how to properly use English cuss words and discussing her dating life! I am clearly a relationship expert, duh! I in turn learned some very vulgar words in Spanish. She’s a cool mom! haha
We finally arrived to my roommate’s cousin’s house, tired and despite eating some gas station quesadillas and chips 2 hours before I was hungry as hell! I made my way to the center of town in a sketchy ass taxi (because obvs no Uber) that cost almost the same amount as the gas to get us the 285 miles. I met with my friend Heidi for a fancy dinner at the critically acclaimed Los Danzantes near the Zocalo. I think I’ve really evolved into a big city girl, having spent most of the last 12 years in Denver, but these trips to small villages really fill my heart up. The cocktails, dishes and my company were great at Los Danzantes but I tend to find that the food at the rundown, hole in the wall spots to be sooo much better. Ya know? The walk up, market stalls where you’re not really sure what you ordered and definitely can’t confirm if the lady behind the counter has washed her hands at all that day. Oaxaca was no different. I think that I was partially biased though, because this magical town reminded me of Antigua, Guatemala, where I spent about 5 months getting a TEFL certification and teaching english for a bit. These small villages lend a vibe that you can’t find just anywhere. The people are so friendly, life moves at a much slower pace and you can see the history in every building. I enjoyed time just wondering the streets, and drinking coffee in small cafes. We also had fun visiting a few great museums, and attempting to see some weird, crazy radish festival called “Noche de Rábanos. It was hot as balls, so while Heidi waited in line for like 45 minutes, I retreated to a nearby bar for a cocktail and ceviche. I saw some of the exhibits from outside but a girl can only step so far out of her comfort zone, ya know!
All of the museums and wondering kept me pretty busy so I was happy to catch a chill, late brunch with an acquaintance (Rose) from none other than good ol’ Antigua, Guatemala. For whatever reason we hadn’t really connected back in Guate, but it turns out that we had so much in common. One thing we really bonded over was that we would be spending Christmas eve and Christmas alone this year for the first time ever. We went through all the emotions, discussing our sadness and anxiety about being by ourselves this holiday season. Last year, I was away from my family, but I had my Guatemala crew to ease the pain. Shout out to those crazies! This one was going to be a little different, and I had suspected a little bit more difficult. We drown our sorrows by flirting with other travelers, allowing lonely locals to make us feel like the Kardashians, and getting in a fight with a sassy gay guy at the hot dog stand after the club. Whewwww… we had fun!
Which made it even more difficult to leave the next day. After opening up and spilling my guts and connecting with her I couldn’t imagine leaving her in a hostel, and heading home to an empty apartment. Before I knew I would see her in Oaxaca I unfortunately made a plan to catch a flight back to Mexico City on Christmas Eve. Because Christmas for Mexicans is a very family oriented holiday, my logic was that if I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and leave my apartment, there would be much more open in the big city. So after a quick breakfast and nieve quemada con tuna (which is this delicious creamy sherbert ice cream stuff) I hailed a taxi, hugged her tight and was on my way to the airport.
I’m sure you can just imagine Oaxaca is a small town, therefore the airport is pretty tiny too. It took me all of 5 ½ seconds to get through security and make my way to my gate with a couple hours to spare. There was I think maybe 10 gates or so in one medium sized room. I browsed Instagram for most of the two hour wait, called Erin and Carter, my sister, nothing too crazy. So, when the screen in front of me said there was a 40 minute delay, I didn’t think anything of it. But there was a slight confusion when it was time to board, and my ticket read zone C and the signs above said Zone 1, 2, and 3. I was just like oh whatever, little mistake. I’ll just wait for everyone to board, and then I’ll board. After all it is just a 1.5 hour flight. WELL, WELL, WELL…. I was at the WRONG FREAKING GATE THE WHOLE TIME!!! AND my real flight had left 40 minutes prior. My shock was unimaginable. I have probably flown like 100 times a year for the last decade or so. I AM a seasoned traveler, an expert airport aficionado!!! And last time I checked I can read, and have 2 working ears. Apparently, none of that came into play when they called my name 5 times. Some people have suggested that maybe I didn’t understand my name in Spanish but at the very least I know what my last name sounds like! It’s the same in English and Spanish. After coming to the realization that there were no other flights out that day, and that I was such an idiot, I grabbed a taxi back to the center of the city. I had tears in my eyes, from shame, and embarrassment and also because Rose, Erin, my sister, or Katelyn weren’t answering their phones to hear about my mega fucking fail! But then it dawned on me! I wouldn’t be spending Christmas Eve or Christmas alone anymore! Something of a bigger power made me miss my flight! When Rose finally called me back, I cried telling her what had happened and that I was immediately coming to her wherever she was.
We were reunited at a pizza place near the zocalo, and even though the pizza sucked, my Christmas carpaccio and bottle of Lambrusco (and her presence) really soothed my sad heart!! We were together and it felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be after all. We watched the sunset, finished up dinner and set off to find some life, and boy did we find some! It turns out that Christmas eve in Oaxaca is actually a huge party! At first we ran into a small parade of locals celebrating with mezcal, huge puppets, and the most adorable girls dancing to Mexican music. So we followed for a little bit, and the crowds just grew and grew. One parade merged with another and before you know it there were thousands of people following the procession through the streets of Oaxaca. We didn’t dare leave the gentlemen with the huge baskets full of fireworks on their heads. Things were definitely going to get lit real soon! The firework shows were CRAZY! Not only because they were cool to watch but also because you feared for the man’s and your own life. There were many times where I took cover because there was so much fire shooting in every direction! It was quite the site to see though, and I could definitely feel the Christmas spirit in the air.
Pictures by: Rose Gasperini 🙂
I even got a bacon wrapped hot dog from a street vendor to commemorate the occasion. All day my mind was doing over time going between being upset, sad, and relieved and really just missing a familiar place and face so at this point I was emotionally exhausted from the day. We got some hot chocolate and headed home, and I was relieved to have an entire hostel dorm room to myself.
Christmas day, after a delicious quesadilla and jamaica in the local market for lunch, I made the trek back to Mexico City on a greyhound bus. Once I arrived I realized that SANTA DOES COME even if you’re 1,600 MILES AWAY FROM HOME! Oaxaca, and Rose were my Christmas gifts this year, and I am so thankful!! Oaxaca, Oaxaca you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind, Oaxaca! Hey, hey Oaxaca!