I Can't Believe I Almost Didn't Go to Oaxaca

Lorenza Seldner

 
© Copyright 2018 by Lorenza Seldner

 

Photo of Lorenza at Santiago Apoala.

While I was working in a Manufacturing Plant at my hometown, a close friend and I decided to utilize our upcoming holiday to take a trip to Oaxaca. Although neither the companionship nor the trip itself turned out to be what I'd expected (especially since Oaxaca was considered a violent place at the time), I cannot help to smile each time I reminisce about the short period of time spent down there. 


I have a minor intervention to be performed; don’t be scared it is not serious but the doctor doesn’t want to wait... and I … definitely can’t go to Oaxaca with you”

My girlfriend called me one week before our departure to Oaxaca; she had persuaded me to go, we had everything planned, booked, paid. I had permission from work… I could not believe it. I almost did not go to Oaxaca.

Oaxaca had never been my first holiday choice; with a pool of options in Mexico to choose from, electing this currently conflicted location did not appeal me 100%. But everything was ready albeit I definitely did not want to go by myself.

You know how we all have that friend than will go to the end of the world with you? Despite the timing, circumstances, her own agenda… I do too. Her name is Raquel, and she’s lived in the States since we finished High School, but we managed to stay close and keep in touch.

My fingers were trembling whilst dialing her number. I made the proposal. “Is it safe down there”? Was her only question. Flashes from the news about violent riots in Downtown Oaxaca went through my mind: angry teachers fighting against the police and civilians. “It is a hot zone” the newscaster said with an overemphasis. “Sure, 100% safe”. She made the reservations and 7 days after, we landed at Oaxaca’s international airport, also called Xoxocotlán. Oh yeah everything in Oaxaca has an “X” involved. It’s quite the challenge to pronounce anything, even for a Native speaker such as me.

Our hotel was the quintessential Mexican hacienda located two blocks from the historic downtown and the Santo Domingo church. It was Holy week, so the plaza was packed. Sellers were displaying their best artisanal work hoping to lure the tourists. A few parishioners were helping an artisan organize and distribute the lent palms he was arranging and tying up. Breathtaking smells where coming from everywhere and I felt almost sorry that I was wearing flip flops when a tiny 5 year old offered shoeshine service for $15 pesos.

We spent the next several days touring the “must do, must see” sites: we climbed and admired the Pyramids at Montealban; we learned how to knit wool in Teotitlan, which is impressively hard and requires considerable strength and precision; we went to a Guelaguetza performance and of course, we tasted about 12 flavors of mescal at a Distillery.

We did the “Hierve el agua” tour, which takes you an impressive petrified salt waterfall. The driving took a while and it became overwhelming to listen to many languages spoken in the minivan that took us. French, Japanese, English and Italian are the ones I recognized.

It made me realize people from all over the world knew about this place and wished to travel to. So far I was more than satisfied, my senses had no reproach: the views were stunning, the flavors and scents from the food were exquisite and people had some special charm about themselves. Maybe it was the way they’d look at you without a hint of judgment in their eyes, or the calm smooth tone in which they spoke, which seemed in no hurry to make its point.

There’s not a tourist place we left undone. But my friend seemed a bit disappointed; she desired to be awed; to stare at landscape and have her jaw dropped; I felt guilty for having dragged her and not being able to fulfill her expectations. There had to be something that would make her appreciate the effort to come down here…

I am tired, sleep deprived and loads of documents reclaim my attention. The telephone rings nonstop and as I battle between falling asleep on my desk or call it a day I slowly close my eyes.

We’re back there, going downhill, 400 natural steps. At least we are climbing down and my lungs do not feel as threaten as they felt pedaling 40 LONG kilometers to get there. My legs are burning; I am praying for the cramps to leave me alone so I can keep up with the crowd. Suddenly a unique sound makes me believe that my physical ordeal will be rewarded. We are finally there: She does not let us down.

We stare directly into her and she fulfills all the beauty and force promises that locals and foreigners come to admire.

All pain and tiredness evaporate from me and I climb further down as fast as my legs allow; several rocks scratch my feet but my sense of urge is such that I begin to wonder how can something and not someone can make me feel this way, I am on the verge of tears.

I don’t care about anything else; merely I need to penetrate her which I do. Piercing cold stingers scream to me that water is below 45 Fahrenheit; although all I can hear is the strong clamor from this natural beauty that no human could possible had designed, planned or built. The strength with which the water falls reminds to me a barrier, frail enough to let us admire it from up-close yet strong enough to not let you touch it.

Reluctantly I get of the water; my skin gradually recuperates its sensibility. I sit a bit far from the crowd, still mesmerized and taking pictures. I wrap myself in a blanket and read the small dingy sign on top “Santiago de Apoala”. I ignore who you are, what you did and why such little piece of heaven carries your name. For whatever the reason I am grateful for you, Santiago. I turn to see Raquel taking her lasts photos; she turns to me with a pleased face as I read her lips: “Thank you”

I open my eyes and look at my surroundings and the crowd is gone; there’s no water, no rocks, no trees, no 400 natural steps. I am all dressed up, in front of a packed desk; my phone keeps ringing and someone informs me we’ve been called for an urgent meeting.

I inhale deeply, take a sip of my lukewarm coffee and I stand up with a smirk on my face thinking: “I can’t believe I almost didn’t go to Oaxaca.”

I am an ESL teacher and tutor, currently taking time to raise my 2 toddlers. I live in a paradise-like small beach town called San Carlos in northern Mexico with my beloved husband and 2 wonderful kids.


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