Category Archives: Oaxaca, Mexico

Time flies!

Wow, has it really been a whole month since my last post?! Whoops! I have been working hard at Go Overseas on some big projects and also working on moving this site over to my own domain. I decided to switch from WordPress to Drupal to get some new site building experience. Stay tuned for the new site soon!

In the meantime, it’s been ONE YEAR since I was in Oaxaca, Mexico. Check out some of my posts from last year 🙂

https://katieeelaine.wordpress.com/tag/oaxaca/

Guest post for Tripping – Destination Guide: Oaxaca, Mexico

Destination Tips: Oaxaca, Mexico (originally published on Tripping)

Katie volunteered in Oaxaca, Mexico in fall 2011 after studying public relations at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and is now working as the Volunteer Director at Go Overseas. Go Overseas is the Yelp/Trip Advisor for programs abroad including listings of every volunteer, study, teach & intern abroad program in the world, with ratings/reviews and more. Follow Katie on Twitter: @VolunteeReviews and read about volunteer abroad opportunities on Go Overseas.

Oaxaca, Mexico is unlike any other place I’ve traveled to – the combination of old and new, indigenous and European cultures, family life and the bustling city, all of which go together well and make Oaxaca the amazing destination that it is. (Don’t let the name confuse you: Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico. Oaxaca city, the capital of Oaxaca state, is located in the Valley of Oaxaca.) Oaxaca is the fifth largest state in Mexico, and number one in biodiversity. I spent an amazing 2 months volunteering in Oaxaca and here is a list of things not to be missed while in Oaxaca!

santo domingo church, oaxaca

Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca

Monte Albán – Monte Albán, the most important Zapotec ruins, is one destination every visitor must see. These archeological ruins are one of the oldest pre-Columbian cities, which housed more than 30,000 Zapotec people around 500 BC. Located atop mountains just outside of the city of Oaxaca, Monte Albán had great religious and political importance in its time, with temples, tunnels, a grand plaza, and a ball court to explore. You can discover the views of the Valley of Oaxaca on top of a temple from this historical and cultural site, visit the museum and gift shop, and picnic in the beautiful gardens. Just 15 minutes outside of town, tourists can easily get a ride and a tour at Monte Albán.

Visit the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán

Visit the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán

 Mitla – The ruins of Mitla are just a 25 mile taxi ride outside of the city of Oaxaca. Although Mitla is much smaller than Monte Albán, it comes in second as the most important Zapotec archeological site – not to mention that more of the ruins and detailed mosaic designs are still intact. Mitla is even listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Katie at the Mitla ruins

Katie at the Mitla ruins

Markets – As with many other areas of Latin America, the markets of Oaxaca are a huge attraction. Throughout Oaxaca, you will find traditional markets where locals do most of their shopping. These are great places to buy souvenirs to take home. Bartering is common but keep in mind that a few extra pesos may not matter as much to you as it does to those who make a living at the markets.

Hierve el Agua – Hierve el Agua, which translates to “the water boils,” is a natural wonder like no other. Just an hour or two outside of Oaxaca City, Hierve el Agua is made up of natural rock formations that resemble huge waterfalls. These “petrified waterfalls” have formed from a small amount of water over thousands of years. The region is also the site of an ancient Zapotec underground irrigation system. Above ground, there are a number of large pools (natural and artificial) where visitors can swim, relax, enjoy the views of the green mountains and valleys, and hike for the day.

View of the pools at Hierve el Agua

View of the pools at Hierve el Agua

Food and Drinks – Oaxaca is sure to please any palate. When it comes to food and drinks, my advice is to try everything – even chapulines (grasshoppers). It may sound strange but fried grasshoppers are a traditional delicacy. It’s said once you try chapulines, part of Oaxaca is with you and you are sure to return again. Other must-haves of Oaxaca’s cuisine include: cheese, tlayudas, mezcal and hot chocolate.

Volunteering – While in Oaxaca, why not find a way to immerse yourself in local culture while giving back at the same time? There are infinite opportunities to volunteer in Oaxaca – from orphanage work to health care campaigns to agriculture, find something that suits you.

Hijos de la Luna orphanage – Oaxaca, Mexico

Hijos de la Luna orphanage – Oaxaca, Mexico

But wait…there’s more! Art shows, plays, movies, festivals, churches – You will never run out of things to do in Oaxaca. The downtown center, called the Zócalo, always has something to do – from people-watching to browsing street vendors to eating and drinking. The capital city itself, along with Monte Albán, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. There are many national parks, beaches, and festivals to keep you busy. For a list of current cultural events like movies, festivals, art shows, and more, check El Jolgorio Cultural and Oaxaca Calendar.

Oaxaca is a perfect place for anyone who is interested in traveling to a lesser-known Mexican destination full of life, culture, history, and more!

All photos by Katie Boyer

Oaxaca Memories: Mazunte

Our long weekend trip to Mazunte (the coast) was one of my favorite parts of my volunteer trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Volunteering and taking Spanish classes was so great but also tiring, not to mention trying to think, speak and understand Spanish all day. Mazunte was perfect for relaxing, reading, napping, and doing nothing. It was warm and sunny; we had amazing and cheap food and drinks; it was burning hot and under-crowded. It’s hard to express how beautiful, peaceful and natural the beach was so take a look at some of these photo highlights!

view from posada arquitecto in mazunte, oaxaca


hammock outside of our room


mazunte turtle center


dolphins swimming by our boat


katies on the boat!

Bicycling in Mexico

My followers here may know the story but here’s a new take on my Mexican bicycling adventures on MuchBetterAdventures.com. Check it out, great website, big thanks to Tom at Much Better Adventures.

Bicycling in Mexico

Cooking adventures with vegetarian mole enchiladas

Gee, it has been a busy few weeks! Even so, I have managed to make mole con enchiladas twice. My cooking adventure was inspired by my trip to Oaxaca, the Seasons of My Heart cookbook I got (highly recommended) and the mole paste I brought back from Oaxaca. Yes they were vegetarian and they were great!

I never had mole before my trip to Mexico but it was great. I bought authentic mole paste at a market and it will last months. I used Seitan (wheat gluten/fake meat) and marinated it in red mole cooked from the paste with veggie broth, tomatoes and spices. Then made that into enchiladas with refried pinto beans and pepper jack cheese. Hot sauce and avocado optional too. Next time I’ll take pictures.

Tlacalula market

My last full day in Oaxaca was spent visiting the famous Tlacalula market, the biggest one in Oaxaca. With the women’s group from the Centro de Aprendizaje, we took a crowded bus out there. Many people travel from the city to sell at the huge market once a week. We talked with young girls and women too about their jobs there and roles as women in general. It was a great place to spend my last day, very authentic feeling. I even tried chapulines (grasshoppers) for the first time!

Chapulines for sale at Tlacalula market

 

 

 

16 yr old selling desserts

 

 

 

Oaxaca Street Art

Food: Comida de Oaxaca

WARNING: THIS POST MAY CAUSE HUNGER.

Oaxaca is know for its food. Most of the amazing food I were home-cooked meals prepared by my host mom. Here is a taste of my food experience (no pun intended, ha). Note: I am vegetarian (but fish is an exception I make), so this post would probably be a lot different if I ate meat.

I had never had mole before my trip to Mexico but it’s a specialty there. It is usually poured over chicken, enchiladas, or some other tortilla combination. The most common type is mole negro, the sweetest, is made with chocolate. I brought home red mole, which I haven’t tried yet, but it’s supposed to be spicy so I’m excited! We’ll see how I do cooking with it though.

homemade mole sauce on tortillas and cheese

Nacho-like meal we had at home.

 

Homemade tamales...woke up to Magda husking corn and that afternoon we had the best tamales ever!

Ceviche on tostadas, homemade of course

stuffed zucchini and rice

Grasshoppers are a traditional delicacy in Oaxaca. They are sold on the street in traditional markets and in restaurants sometimes too. It is said that once you try “chapulines” you are connected to Oaxaca and will return someday. I had been putting it off my whole trip but my last day I was at Oaxaca’s biggest market in Tlecula, and one of the girls I was with bought some to share. She couldn’t believe I hadn’t had them, she snacked away on them like potato chips. They are fried and crispy. The flavor isn’t bad, especially when seasoned, but feeling the legs and body crunch in my mouth kept me from eating more than one, but I did it!

selling grasshoppers in Tlecula

close up on grasshoppers snacks

Culture Shock Goes Both Ways

When you talk about culture shock, it is usually about going to a new country. While I definitely experienced a more obvious type of culture shock upon my arrival to Oaxaca, Mexico, I am also experiencing it back home now.

Easy example: putting toilet paper in the toilet confuses me every time I go to the bathroom, and I’ve been back for almost 3 days now! In Mexico, and most of Central and South America, the plumbing isn’t good enough to take toilet paper and all toilets have a wastebasket next to them for your toilet paper. It seems gross at first  and it can be weird to get used to but after a over a month of doing it, changing a daily habit again can be hard.

So, yes, I have made it back to Oakland, CA in one piece. I spent my first day back catching up on sleep and food I missed: mac and cheese and deep dish pizza at Zachary’s. (Mac&cheese was a big one because cheddar cheese, or any kind of yellow/orange cheese, can’t be found in Oaxaca.) Just going out to dinner in Oakland, I felt a bit of culture shock. Cute, trendy, clean-cut shops like on College Avenue in North Oakland compared to Oaxaca’s trendy cafes are drastically different.

Not to say that Oaxaca’s shops and restaurants don’t have their charm, it is just a completely different kind of charm, a kind of charm that I prefer actually. There are many little ways I can see that Mexicans put different value on different things than we do in the U.S.

I miss Mexico already…but looking at my surroundings in the Bay Area in a new way is definitely beneficial and I hope to continue to reflect on and learn from my experiences in Mexico.

Dia de los Muertos photos

No time to write but here are some photos!

 

skeletons at Casa de las Artesanias de Oaxaca

more skulls at Casa de las Artesanias de Oaxaca

altars at Casa de las Artesanias de Oaxaca

skeleton ladies at a parade

The Katies with the candles at the cemetary

one of the many parades

graves decorated at panteon general

skeleton!

Amazing sand art at Plaza de la Danza and traditional music

 

Check out more photos on ProWorld’s Facebook of us making a traditional altar!