JohnHallman's Travel Journals


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Cross-cultural Experience: 2011: Cultural Observations in Oaxaca

Mexico Oaxaca, Mexico  |  Jun 09, 2011
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 Overall, my cultural experience in Oaxaca has been amazing. 

Welcome to my first journal entry from Oaxaca! So the first thing I would tell people about the city is that while it is nothing like I imagined, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. When I left the United States, I expected little in the way of modernity to be waiting for me in Oaxaca. I couldn't have been more wrong. It's a bustling and busy maze of streets and stores, where buses and taxis cram around street vendors and pedestrians. Many people say that life is slower in Mexico, but from what I've seen, everyone seems to be in a hurry to go somewhere. Nonetheless, the people of Oaxaca are some of the friendliest and helpful people I have every dealt with. They are always willing to offer directions or be patient with my broken Spanish. The hustle and bustle of Oaxaca is not much unlike that of most cities back in the U.S. The weekend nightlife is always hopping, and the festivals here are second to none. On weekdays however, the city seems to be early to bed, early to rise. Strolling down the streets past 11 p.m. is a lonely voyage accompanied only by taxis, stray dogs, and the occasional late-night tamale vendor. Although similar to cities back home in many ways, the attitudes and perspectives of the people are what make Oaxaca so different. Religious iconography is on everything from bus windshields to t-shirts. The churches are filled with people regardless of the day, yet everyone here seems to have their own traditions, beliefs, and superstitions. The first morning of my stay in Oaxaca, my stomach already was feeling the effects of a new environment. I spent most of the afternoon in bed after throwing up, but the nice woman who owned the hostel in which I was staying offered me energy healing. She asked me to rate my discomfort on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst. I said 5. After tapping my fingers, body, head, and other "points of stress" I told her my discomfort went down to 2. This example of unconventional healing wouldn't be the last I'd see. People here are very confident in their tested and true home remedies. More than once I was lectured on the stomach-settling properties of Coca-Cola, and the universal healing properties of Mezcal, the local liquor. "Para todo mal, Mezcal. Para todo bien, tambien." "For everything bad, Mezcal. For everything good, also." Nevertheless, this is all a testiment to the caring and helpful nature of the Oaxacan people. My first ever baseball game abroad was a very interesting experience. Los Guerreros de Oaxaca, or "Warriors of Oaxaca" are the local professional team, which competes against teams from other Mexican states. Being inside the stadium was like entering a portal back to the United States. The scoreboard is in English. Most of the baseball vocabulary is carried over straight from English. The team has a mascot, cheerleaders, and hecklers, just like back home! Although, I was a little weirded out when the vendors were squirting salsa into the bags of potato chips. Overall, my cultural experience in Oaxaca has been amazing. The food is incredible, the music is fantastic, the people are awesome, and all the stereotypes about Mexico give it a totally misconstrued image that I can only hope other people get a chance to correct for themselves.

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    SusannahRigg has read JohnHallman's journal and gave it a thumbs up Wed Jul 6, 2011
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    This is such a wonderful summary of Oaxaca! You have truly summed it up!
  • Cross-cultural Experience: 2011: Cultural Observations in Oaxaca

    June 09, 2011
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