Oaxaca after a few days

Started wondering this morning if I’d have enough money. So I went to a bank to test a particular card. Near the end of the process the ATM announced the cost was $17.50! I nearly had conniptions until I realised! Yes! Divide by 10 (really, 12-16) to convert into $ A or $USD. So cost considerably less than it seemed but it’s very disconcerting to pay$15 for a small bag of tomatoes or avocados or for a head of broccoli until you divide by 10 (imprecise but a more calming approach).  

I love how so much on the streets, eg freshly cut up fruit, or in the markets, vegetables, costs $15.00. No bargaining. Happily. 

One American cultural phenomenon that should have been kept at home is obligatory tipping. Yes, the type of tipping you get stuck with when you find is added to the quoted price or, equally bad, you are obligated to pay a tip to someone through social compulsion.

When I arrived here I found an envelope in my room requiring a weekly tip for the woman who works here. She works hard and, seemingly, long hours.  

She is lovely and does a great job. Told me not to wash up that that was her job. Similarly, she cleans and tidies every day bar Saturday. I didn’t catch which church but she has an obligation to attend it on Saturdays. 

Anyhow, I’m expected to tip her each week. I was told the going tip is $US12-15 each week. Strikes me it is paying extra for the quoted room price, and is designed to supplement the wages paid by an employer. 

Will I pay it? Little choice but I resent it. When I leave I’d be happy to leave a tip as she is great but a weekly obligatory ‘penalty’ is hard to fathom. I’ve been caught like this before at places where Americans are the largest tourist group. I’m out of my depth and once again did not expect it and feel trapped. And no, it’s not the amount of money but the automatic expectation, the compulsory nature of a ‘reward’ for good service. The sort of imposition the mafia used to make businesses when they required an obligatory payment to ensure the business wasn’t burnt down! 

If anyone can explain why the need for wage supplementation of this type is not indicated as part of the tariff, why its not something you give in response to excellence, I’d be happy to listen. Note, the issue is expected room servicing versus services beyond that. 

Odds and ends

A women sidled up to me while I was sitting in the sun, between classes, this morning. Seemed odd, I thought. Then she asked me where the meat market was! Surprised she asked me, so obviously a foreigner. I wish I could have told her where any markets are but I still get confused despite the wonderful layout of the central area: put simply, symmetrical squares with colourful one story buildings. And yes, it’s because of earthquakes. A more sensible approach than in Mexico City also with earthquakes but also taller buildings.  Despite this, I re-find bits of the market daily. 

And to think, on my first day here I thought ‘oh, what have I done signing up to accommodation here for a month. After a good sleep the next day looked better. A few days later and it looks much better. I like my accommodation, the school and the gym all very much. 

Weather here is very changeable at this time of year. Clouded over this morning when I went to school. Sun came out at 11 for 3 hours and then it rained at about 3 and currently may rain or be sunny. Either seems equally probable.
Two groups in my apartment block today, one with a small child. It’s very well designed as I can’t see the guy sitting opposite me. The vegetation around the pool screens it beautifully. 
Changing money is interesting. The daily limit here is USD$300. Was more in the Mexico City airport so I’m not sure that rules are consistently enforced anywhere here. And, the wad you get even for $300 is fat. However, clearly the USD is still going up. 

Have to decide how to get to Mont Alban on Saturday. I can get a tour or catch the local bus. Tour comes with a guide and other places after Monte Alban, the big archaeological site near here. Maybe a tour and if I need to go back again I can go with a local bus. 


Imagine, 4 hours one on one with someone pushing and encouraging you to learn. What I need. I get impatient with myself and have to learn to be more relaxed about it.

Have still paid for this week only. Will pay for 2 more, leaving the third in abeyance for a couple more. So far the teaching is very constructive and helping me fill gaps.   

Hopefully I’ll continue to be the only person in my class. I like the approach, the repetition, corrections of my word selections and accent. A big difference from how I speak is you pronounce all letters in Spanish words, except some! 

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