Day 49 of self-isolation. What are you reading?
Before I get started on the details of my trip, I absolutely loved Oaxaca. It’s such a small, beautiful city in the mountains of Mexico, and nearly everything is accessible by walking. The bright colors of the buildings, the cobblestone roads, the bustling markets and park squares — all of it was a refreshing reprieve from the hectic routines and stresses of New York (and, well, America in general).
As I had wrote before, I flew down there for Brett and Vi’s wedding, and although it was great traveling and hanging out with friends, I found myself more relaxed and more emotionally-rejuvenated when I wandered by myself: in the mornings, before any of my AirBnb housemates woke up, I’d wander the city alone.
I’d stop inside the cafes, sit with a cup of coffee and often a breakfast sandwich, and just watch people get along their morning business. I’d break off from the group and take photos, one time searching all of Oaxaca by myself for a camera store that would sell 35mm film.
I flew into Mexico alone, renting a hotel in Mexico City for a 13-hour layover (who knows if I’ll write about that part, but I do have some good photos of Mexico City at night). Although I ran into some mutual friends and Brett’s family at the airport, by the time I reached Oaxaca I was left alone for a few hours; my other friends who I was sharing an AirBnB with were at a mezcal tasting, so I just walked around the city for a little bit. With the temperature reaching the 80’s, my first goal was to find cold brew coffee (hint: go to Cafeto & Baristas).
After a while I was tired of wandering and admittedly catching Pokemon, and I returned back to the AirBnB, climbed up onto the roof, and discovered an array of hammocks that our host generously provided. I tried taking a nap in the largest hammock and listened to A Funny Feeling Podcast while I waited for my friends to return from the mezcal tasting.
When they arrived a few hours later, we dressed up, wandered through the dark streets of the city, and gone to Criollo. After our dinner, we met up with the rest of our mutual friends — many of whom were familiar faces from New York and old friends from Chicago — and went bar-hopping.
One particular bar, Bar Ilegal, happened to be a regular spot that my friends and I frequented during our stay in Oaxaca (side note: apparently Ilegal Mezcal had a pop-up bar here in NYC). They had live music one night, and I think our friend Juan bought a bunch of bottles of their house mezcal to drink in the streets. The other night, he essentially bought the entire bar a round of drinks.
There are two things that I absolutely loved about Oaxaca: the food and the artisan crafts. During my short week in the city, my friends and I visited several artisan shops and markets. It seemed a lot of the shops were located in modestly lavish mansions or houses with their own outdoor courtyards.
I definitely wanted to bring some stuff home for my apartment and backyard, and some of the craft prices ranged from ridiculously expensive for Mexican prices to super cheap, comparative to the US. For instance, I figured a table runner would be nice for my table: some shop had one at about 65 US dollars, but at another one it would cost 3 (needless to say, I bought the $3 one). I managed to get a lot of drinkware for when I have backyard barbecues and little dog-looking knick knacks for what I hope would one day amount to a collection of all my international travels.
The other thing that I loved about Oaxaca was the food: I love cheese and I love spicy things, and luckily Mexican cuisine manages to satisfy those two cravings.
I learned about tlayludas, which are essentially fried, large, flat tortillas with a shitload of toppings — much like a pizza. I also learned about memelas — thicker corn tortillas that are fried but smaller and slathered with sauce, beans, and cheese.
By the time I got back in New York, I probably gained 20 pounds. I’m fairly certain my cholesterol and blood pressure was also raised.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be an international trip without photos of the local dogs. I swear, I would have easily taken one of these strays back to the US with me.
While in Oaxaca, the entire group visited Hierve El Agua, a set of petrified waterfalls several miles from the capital. The streams from the mountain ridges calcified over thousands of years, leaving what looks like a cascade of stone waterfalls perpetually falling from the cliff.
A few of us wanted to hike the downward trail (which, of course, meant hiking back up). As someone who’s been more active lately, quit smoking, and lost some weight, I figured I’d be healthier to climb the steep steps back up without losing my breath. Holy fat hell, was I wrong. By the time I got back to the main area at the peak, I was sweating like a pig on trial. Might I mention, the air is also comparatively thin in Oaxaca (at least to the US), and it was in the 70’s and 80’s in the middle of January. Perhaps, despite all the hard work I’ve been putting in, nature and the fact I rarely hike got the better of me.
Luckily, at the top of the main cliff was a natural pool of mineral-rich water. It suitable for swimming, and it was nice to actually wade around (legend has it the water has healing properties, too — so bonus). Now I still don’t know how to swim and the middle was deep, and I had to tread water around the edges.
By the end of our trip, we all gathered at the parking lot where vendors sold food, drink, and souvenirs. I bought myself a Piña Loca with mezcal, a spicy cocktail served in a whole pineapple. I managed to get a pretty good selfie that I should use for some dating profiles.
A little exercise, a dip in a pool, and a cocktail (and even a stray dog) – all in all, a good way to spend a day in Central America.
Here are some more photos:
It was appropriate that the last of my weddings (13 weddings in 1.5 years) was a destination wedding. Vi and Brett invited family, friends, and me to celebrate their nuptials in Oaxaca. They threw a calenda, a traditional ceremonial parade where celebrants carry giant, paper mache puppets of the bride and groom, and everyone dances across the streets of Oaxaca. A part of it could appear like cultural appropriation, but if the citizens are more than willing to take the money, do it, and be happy — more power to them.
Anyway, the mezcal kept flowing, and we danced in the streets. I must admit, I found some joy that we blocked both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Out of our way, we’re fucking dancing and drinking.
While circling around the tiny city and back to Santo Domingo Church, I trailed behind and scoped out several stores where I can pick up souvenirs to bring back to the US. I’d be spending the next couple of days in Oaxaca, so I might as well take some photos and buy a lot of shit. There was also a rumor – a legend, even – that a famous stray dog would join the parade, however I heard it got adopted (yay). Still, there certainly are a lot of stray dogs in Oaxaca, but I can get into that later.
Aside from the parade itself, the best part of my trip was seeing so many familiar and old faces. Friends from Chicago, friends who moved away, moms who are big fans of me and Nico — the gathering of people I care about was perhaps thing I liked the most about this particular vacation.
Here are some photos of the wedding itself:
I went to Artechouse at Chelsea Market with Alex the other day, where Turkish digital artist Refik Anandol had a projection/data visualization exhibition called “Machine Hallucination.”
Nearly the entire boiler room underneath Chelsea Market was illuminated by several 16K laser projectors, displaying a dataviz algorithm-driven video made up of 100 million social media photos of New York City — essentially, “Machine Hallucination” is an abstract movie made of shapes and colors derived from what users post about New York. I loved the concept, and it could have easily been one of my class’ thesis projects (if they had a ton of money, that is).
Although the visuals of the video and the idea were very cool, the overall experience was a little underwhelming: one entire side (the entrance down to the boiler room) had no projections whatsoever, and the pillars and sharp corners of the room didn’t make the projections as seamless as they could be. It didn’t feel as immersive as I had hoped it would be. In my opinion, if they somehow curved each of the room’s corners (including the floor), the overall projection — and thus experience — would have been more exciting. Edges are just so restricting.
The fact that I had to pay a $25 entrance fee also kind of hindered the fun.
Nonetheless, Artechouse was indeed worthy of being visited and photographed (the Instagramabilty of this place factors very high). The exhibition and Artechouse itself was hardly publicized, so it wasn’t too crowded. Would I recommend going to any of Artechouse’s future exhibitions? Sure, but make sure you’re comfortable paying that much.
Here are some of my photos: