We take modern air travel for granted, but it still seems like a miracle to leave Chicago in a late night snow storm and arrive a mere eight hours later in tropical Oaxaca, Mexico. Our 22 intrepid Ancona 8th graders flew through the night and then waited a sleepy 90 minutes in the Immigration line as dawn broke over Mexico City.
After the short second flight to Oaxaca, they tumbled out into the bright morning sunshine and walked confidently off with the Oaxacan parents who met us at the airport. Our adventure had begun.
After settling in at their new homes, getting some much needed sleep and having their first meals with their families, the students gathered at a cafe on Oaxaca’s famous zocalo. It was time to become acquainted with the city that will be our home for a week. Our students were gradually making the switch to Espanol. Sarah reported that she had spoken Spanish accidentally, and even in the airport, Julian said it was fun to try to order food in Spanish.
Oaxaca is a riot of color, filled with myriad new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. We learned from Lucero, the owner of Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca, that Oaxaca is a completely colonial city, founded by the Spanish, and filled with beautiful colonial architecture.
Lucero took us to the great Cathedral on the zocalo and then for a long, slow walk on the Alcala, Oaxaca’s pedestrian mall. We paid a visit to the Santo Domingo Church where we’re going to return later this week to tour their botanical gardens. We gradually made our way to El Llana, a wonderful park several blocks long with fountains and plazas where, along with many Oaxacan families out for a Sunday afternoon, we watched children drive small motorized cars, petted puppies and just enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather with each other. Senora Christina remarked that with no money to spend (we hadn’t been to an exchange), everyone was able to be truly present instead of thinking about what to purchase. (Maybe we should never change money too quickly?) And we saw nary a cell phone as we settled into being in Oaxaca.
As if to prove the point, Olive asked if she could buy an elote with her change from an airport snack. For the uninitiated, which included yours truly, elote is roasted sweet corn sprinkled with lime juice, spread with mayonnaise and dipped in parmesan cheese. As Lucero walked us to her favorite elote stand, Senora Christina spontaneously decided on elotes for all. It was a fitting cultural cherry on the top of quite an amazing day. Elotes in hand, we trooped to ICO, the Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca, and as the kids went off for evening with their madres y padres, a stunning, deep orange full moon rose in the East .
- Dona Angelina’s Elotes
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