Phillip Smith

Mexico: Week four, living vs. traveling

Hotel California, Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Phillip Smith

I was thinking about pizza last night. I was thinking that I wanted to have pizza for dinner. Then I said to myself, “that’s silly, I just had pizza a couple of nights ago,” but – in fact – it had been seven days since David, Moravia, and I ventured out to Casa Maria Lombardo to share a pie. All that to say that the last two weeks feel like a bit of a time warp: I barely remember them, it’s mostly just a blur.

The culprit, of course, is Spanish class.

I haven’t studied (or spoken) Spanish since living in Argentina. I try not to think of the grumpy face that my previous Spanish teacher, Maria, would make if she heard how I’m currently butchering the language that she took much time and care to teach me. All this time, obviously, I should have been practicing my “Erre con erre cigarro; Erre con erre barril. Rapido corren los carros, Cargados de azucar al ferrocarril.”

Alas, it’s back to the basics for me.

Needless to say, fitting in fifteen hours of language study every week, on top of work commitments, regular exercise, and the occasional evening out has been not been without some challenges. But here’s the thing: I made a commitment to myself that I would finally learn enough Spanish to be able to speak and write effectively and, if possible, I’d like to get that done before the end of 2012. So here goes nothing, and everything; here goes being in some radical acceptance of a situation that is entirely my own creation.

As I flip through my trusty notebook, trying to come up with some bullet points for a much-overdue blog update, I notice that the pages for the last two weeks – pages that at first were lists of people I’d met and places that I’d visited – are now filled with very different kinds of lists. Grocery lists. Errand lists. To-do lists. Lists that have very little to do with “traveling” and everything to do with living.

Noting that, I’m reminded that once or twice a week since I departed Canada in January, I’ve received an e-mail from a friend that says something like “I didn’t know you were on a trip” or “are you still traveling?” or “hope you’re enjoying your vacation.” I get a chuckle out of these notes, to be sure, but the truth is I don’t like traveling or trips or vacations. I simply like to experience living somewhere else, somewhere other than “home”, because I believe that there is lots of time to return to the places where I grew up.

So, as I settle into life here in Oaxaca, Oaxaca is also settling on me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve realized that Oaxaca is the kind of place that people visit, and then never leave. Most of the people I’ve met here recently have been living here for years. Many of them say that they didn’t intend to stay so long. I’m not sure what it is? Perhaps the Tejate or the Chapulines?

They say that if you try the Chapulines and like them that you’re going to come back to Oaxaca. I haven’t tried them yet. But I have fallen for Tejate (it puts a new spin on “breakfast of champions”).

In hindsight, I did have some notable little adventures other than Spanish class these last couple of weeks, but those will need to wait until the next update.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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