Lessons Learned

The 2011 Life Long Learning tour is ending with the emphasis on learning … that’s for sure!

Lesson One: Mystery abounds…When we arrived last Saturday night, Jorge and I headed downtown… found a table at one of the delightful restaurants that ring the main plaza. Sure enough… as ALWAYS happens here, it took only a short time for our great friend Cliff Hinderman to come strolling by.  He looked pleased to see us but not surprised. He’s used to running into us in the oddest places. Without ever planning a get together, we seem to find one another. And this is indeed one of life’s wonderful mysteries.

Lesson Two: Saints DO walk the earth… Our friend cried out, “What are you kids doing here?”  For starters, being addressed as a kid is very good for the soul. Sitting just five minutes with Cliff is better yet and after an hour’s worth of catching up, Jorge and I felt as soulful as we possibly could. Our friend runs a drop in center for Oaxaca’s poorest street children and to hear his stories is a gift. (Soon I will do a special entry featuring this center)

Lesson Three: Life is so diverse… Sunday and Monday were spent in and around Oaxaca and its environs. We enjoyed the archaeological site of Monte Alban, the city’s many museums and churches, shopping in markets and in Atzompa for green pottery. Eating in delicious restaurants and just hanging out at our wonderful “home away from home” – Hotel Casantica.

Lesson Four: Romance Never Dies… Several of us dined together on Valentine’s Day… in short it seemed a perfect stay.

Lesson Five: Never let down your guard… Then a group member had her purse stolen – literally right out from under her feet! So on Tuesday, while Jorge, Sergio and the rest of the group toured Tule, the weavers’ studio, a mezcal factory and splendid Mitla… I accompanied my fellow traveler to the Canadian and American consulates, the police station and the photography studio. Without any ID, she’ll need to get a temporary travel document.

Lesson Six: Make the best of it… I loved her attitude though and that of her partner. They agreed that things could be worse and hoped that whoever had ripped them off REALLY needed the spoils. A good friend once told me, “Don’t cry for anything that can’t cry for you!”  And these two sure took that message to heart.

Lesson Seven: Yes Viginia, efficiency does exist … The whole process was greatly eased by the experienced and kind people at both consulates, the police station and at the photography studio. They all did their utmost to see that we got the necessary filing, phoning, photographing and faxing completed in half a day. Our eternal thanks…  Feeling pleased with ourselves for having navigated the bureaucracy, we decided that lunch (and a margarita) were definitely in order!

Lesson Eight: Some things are very difficult to explain… As we sat on the second floor balcony of a sweet restaurant, we noticed very big time police activity. Literally 1,000s of officers (in full riot gear) ran towards Santo Domingo Church. “The president is in town,” our waitress explained. Still a bit anxious, we continued to watch as the 1,000s sped back the other way. Then we heard explosions and smelled smoke and gas. What was going on?

Lesson Nine: And some are so difficult to accept… My friend returned to the hotel but I stayed on to speak with Henry, the owner of “Amate Books”.  As the afternoon wore on there was a definite escalation and Henry closed his big wooden doors. “You’ll be best to stay here for a while,” he said. I was grateful to have refuge. After a couple of hours, I got escorted back to the Hotel Casantica and heard all about the violent protest in the Main Square. Vehicles were burned, rocks hurled, people hurt…

Lesson Ten: This was NOT the best solution… It is now 11 pm. A couple of hours ago, Jorge and I walked with Cliff to the battered Main Square. A lively place full of romantic Valentine’s Day couples less than 24 hours ago; tonight we found it nearly deserted and surrounded by police (still in full riot gear). The vendors are gone, the restaurants closed, there is no music.

Protest is a human right and protected by Mexico’s constitution. Destruction is the handiwork of thugs. I pray that the organizers of these ill conceived manifestations will take stock and turn to other means. There are so many fine, hard working citizens in Oaxaca and my heart hurts for them.

A closing thought… In a few hours, we will leave Oaxaca, richer for the wonderful… and thoughtful  about the not-at-all-wonderful.  But I for one will be back. I refuse to let a misguided minority ruin my very positive impression of incredible Oaxaca.

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10 Comments

Filed under Vida Latina

10 responses to “Lessons Learned

  1. Jody

    Hi Joanna

    I thought you might be interested in a short first-person account of that day from your friend (and mine), Henry. Read the February 19th post at:
    http://oaxacanyear.blogspot.com/

    Lloro por Oaxaca. If Cüe can fix this, he’ll be a hero.

  2. It seems like Oaxaca is perpetually up in arms about one thing or another. Alas.

  3. Gosh, such bad luck to be in Oaxaca at such a time.

    Now I get to play “Edit Joanna” again. LOL You wrote, “I pray that the organizers of these ill conceived manifestations will take stock and turn to other means.”

    Unfortunately, you fell into the old “false friend” trap!

    Unless your readers know that in Spanish a “manisfestación” DOESN’T MEAN “the act of 1. making clear or evident to the eye or the understanding, 2. showing plainly, OR the act of 3. proving, 4. putting beyond doubt or question, OR 5. an outward or perceptible indication, a materialization.” like the common uses of the English word “manisfestation”.

    But know it DOES MEAN “demonstration”, an obscure English definition that is definitely NOT commonly used. Only the few folks who know this definition in English (NOT most of us) would know what you meant, but most would have to puzzle out the meaning of the sentence.

    I hope you never get caught in another “manisfestación”, as even the tame ones can be pretty scary if you are not a participant.

    • Thank you David, as always you have a point… but so do I. Had you been there, you would have found no other word to use but the one on everyone’s lips. That word was”manifestación”. The only alteration I could make was to exchanging a “t” for the “c” and drop the accent. Now, was I unfortunate to have been there? It was unfortunate that the manifestación happened… I felt responsible for others so I was concerned for their safety… BUT, being there strengthened my convictions about a few things, so in that sense, it was not unfortunate that I witnessed the “manifestación.”

  4. I’ve been watching the teacher demonstrations and the police response on TV.
    I’m so happy you all are safe. Hurry home.

  5. Mary E. Moore

    Joanna,
    How very sad I was to read of the theft and then, even worse, the violence you encountered at Oaxaca. Two friends and I were there a few days before you were, and we had only positive experiences. It is a lovely city, and I hope its (mostly) gracious and honest people will be able to reclaim their town and restore its reputation. I fear that their tourist businesses will be harmed grievously by what happened.
    Mary

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