Oaxaca, Mexico: Ocatlan mercado

Ocatlan market, Friday

A weekly market is held in one of the small town of Ocatlan, about 35′ south east of here. Marco and I caught the small van, considerably faster and more comfortable than the big bus. More expensive but only $m100 return, for us both (about $a10.00).
On the way to the market we stopped at a most interesting pottery place. The woman is ingenious, the way she represents many facets of our lives. She had one of Frida Kahlo and a friend with their hearts showing on their chests and with a shared connecting artery plus blood. And a few versions of the naughty female figurine used on the Day of the Dead and always scantily dressed and with a cigarette, alcohol and other signs of ‘wickedness’ in a woman. Think her name is Catriona, she’s a common image, in pottery and albrijes (the colourfully painted wooden objects). I liked many of her figurines but found one very challenging: 3 ‘doctors with skull faces overseeing a woman giving birth to a baby, actually a skeleton. A sign on it said ‘No abortions’. Redundant. The sight of the last stage of labour but with the woman pushing out a baby/skeleton strongly supported her very negative message.

The market is large, built beside a church, and has daily and weekly-only sections. The church is very old and interesting. The outside looks like a Wedgewood design.

The designs on the ceiling and walls are very different from other churches I’ve seen here.

 There is a very stark wooden cross on one side. Its very plainness makes it so stark and interesting. Very impressive.

And finally the type of Christ I’ve been expecting to see here. Blood, wounds, makes an impression.

 Outside the church, a beggar. Clearly old and poor.

 So, into the market. We didn’t buy a goat, a turkey or a chook. But I tried some interesting foods: roasted grasshoppers (a bit acidic, once only was enough, creates a rapid release of saliva),

  a roast root vegetable with the consistency and taste between that of a sweet potato and a roast chestnut. It’s eaten with honey. Even the honey tastes differently here, very nice but, different.
 Small green tomatoes are sold everywhere. Thanks to Marco I now know what they are and how to use them. Will cook them with tomatoes and eat with avocado or guacamole. They are about half the size of a Roma tomato and much rounder.

 Two types of potatoes and of onions are grown locally. A surprise as I thought they’d have many more of both. For potatoes its big or small and onions, mainly white with a few purple (Spanish) as well.

The bread and rolls are typically sweet here. What is nice are the maize based tortillas and tostadas (a dried, crisp version of tortillas). Tostadas come in three colours, depending on the type of maize: whitish, yellowish and blackish.

A surprise to me: you need to buy lumps of calcium to break down the outer shells of the individual bits of maize. This is essential prior to grinding it for flour used for tortillas, tlayudas etc.

For lunch I bought an empanada, which Marco and I shared. A mix the look of a runny peanut butter covers a large tortilla. This contains crushed maize and I don’t know what else plus we had chicken on top. It’s then folded and cooked on a hot plate. I liked it much better than the empanadas I had in Spain. Much.

The many green and dried herbs on sale included rosemary and, seeds for many things including carrots, different types of pumpkins, etc. Everything to start a good garden. One woman offered me a rooted plant to grow my own herb but, explaining the likely response of Australian customs is hard in a country that’s not long been an isolated island.

 As always the peanuts are smothered in salt and have strong dried chillies among them. Takes me ages to reduce the salt to an acceptable level. Maria Antonio must wonder what I do with the tea towels. The shop keeper today told me I could use water! Ha ha! Doesn’t really work. Softens nuts as it does remove the salt.

Thinking of salt: another new taste, worms dried and crushed in salt. The resultant pinkish powder is fairly expensive and wasn’t tempting although I liked the underlying taste of chilli. Interesting looking worms, only a cm or 2 long and, I think, they live in the vegetation of an otherwise unused type of tree.

The one thing I didn’t buy in the market was quesillo, my favourite cheese here. The strange ropey, stringy salty stuff.

 And both Marco and I forgot I had his fresh coffee in my bag, a birthday present for his brother today. I don’t have his email or number, know he is teaching tomorrow at 9, at the uni, but not precisely where.

After the market we looked at the murals in the adjacent government building. Interesting. One odd one was a series of nude male cyclists and their bikes. Too dark to photograph. A different topic from the usual mural here.

And of course! What market would be without a last supper for the rats!

Interactivo School 

Three weeks more until I leave Mexico. I’ve booked into school for all three. So next week both Marco and Alfonso will have me for a 2.5 sessions each. Each session is 4 hours. Same the week after. For my final week I’ll be one of about 6 students! I have been so lucky. Three weeks so far of one on one. And two to go. I’ll manage the change!

If you want to learn Spanish there is a lot to be said for the Interactivo school. Not only is the size of groups limited to three but, the classes are interactive, as the name indicates. Even better, there is a very systematic approach to teaching with underlying sets of periphrases, connectors, pronouns, carefully selected verbs etc all listed and used. A very impressive system. As I noted earlier, the timing is great for me as this approach intersects with that used in my Spanish school of Don Quijote where I fear my progress was slowing!

Would I return to Oaxaca, to Casa Murguia and to Interactivo Escuela? Yes. Like a shot. I’ve got three weeks to go and now have confidence in the school and its system of teaching.

Casa Murguia

This is a great place, not just the pool but everything. Mary Jane has just had the Internet upgraded. I love getting service at 24-26Mb/s. Not something Telstra lets me experience in Australia. At home it’s barely 5Mb/s. Rarely more, sometimes less.

The weather is cooling and the pool, today, was only 28C! With the cover off and more sun it should reach 30C. I hope. And I hope Santa will give me a 25m lap pool this year. I’m begging. Hard to see where to put it without removing a 2 car garage, for a start. The thought of moving? Not a priority! Noooooo. So I guess the best Santa can do is a small plastic one. THE dog, Jim, might like that.

Anyhow, back to the present: no one else staying here for the past week but I think it’s changing soon and I’ll have a neighbour or 2. If they are as nice as either of the last lots I look forward to them coming.

No, Maria Antonio said this morning that she thinks the next guests are due on 19 October, a week after I go.

I showed her a cactus flower I’ve been waiting to see bloom. Apparently the flowers open at night, at about 9. Given its been there for a week she said it’s probably a bit late. And yes, we discussed the problems of the lemon tree with its infestation of black spots, ants and aphids.


The equipment continues to fascinate me. So old and with a light rust cover in places. I take a washer, usually white when I leave here. After mopping my brow the washer looks like someone with a lot of makeup on has used it. The steppers are foot platforms with very basic pistons connected to the top section. Very basic. Little space and no real space or place to do mat exercises.

My favourite there is the guy who I’ve finally realised must be a personal trainer. He sits near the front desk most times I’m there. I asked for help once as I could neither find the pin nor lift the weights on a machine. He was very obliging but his training sessions seem to be very strange. Sometimes he shows a guy how to lift a weight and then returns to his seat and magazine. No standing around checking their technique or the weight lifted. No. Nothing. A different style.

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