Monday, November 3, 2008

In Which: I've also clearly got Baggage!

Since I got my luggage and had a nice outfit, I decided to go out last night. To a very nice restaurant, for a very intense chicken mole negro – mole sauce is made from chocolate, chiles, peanuts, and a host of other secret ingredients. It’s tasty, though perhaps not quite to my taste, and well, not very well aligned with the comfort of my digestion. It is a famous local dish, though, so I wanted to be sure and try it.

Travel is an odd thing. It forces me to stretch my boundaries, try new things, struggle with a foreign tongue, and have new – and often uncomfortable – experiences. At the same time, I find that I snap quite firmly back into my most comfortable and reliable habits, those things that make me feel most safe and normal. For example, one of the first places I found here in Oaxaca was the English-language lending library. Such institutions are frequently found in arty, temperate, ex-pat filled towns like Ubud in Bali and, apparently, Oaxaca here in Mexico. Counting the plane trip, I’ve gone through at least five novels, and turned down several polite offers to join other travelers at dinner, preferring to sit alone and read. I am an introvert at heart, and it just feels easier to sit alone and eat really good food and read than to try and make conversation and find common ground with complete strangers – even if they do speak English.

I’ve also found a really good Italian restaurant and eaten pizza – the same pizza, a small one with mushrooms, pepperoni and ham – for at least three meals. Even though eating pizza generally gives me sort of a cheese/wheat hang-over headache and makes me so tired that I sleep 12 hours. It’s still comfort food. And I seem to want to (need to?) sleep a lot, even though the bed is very tiny and you could break rocks on the pillow. It seems I need a lot of “down time” when I’m so stimulated by all the amazing sights and sounds and colors . . . and occasionally even new tastes, like crickets and mole.

It also makes me want to laugh when I do venture out into the wonderful warmth and sun, encounter other human beings, (as I did earlier today) and something like the following happens. Which it invariably does.

I meet an older American couple wearing almost identical straw hats. We are all trying to visit the Botanical Gardens, but a guard is standing just inside the open gates, wearing a gun, frowning and pointing to a sign (written in Spanish) and repeating several phrases, quickly and firmly and clearly without argument (also in Spanish). I’m starting to put the pieces together when the couple says to me, “You have to have a guide to enter, and the only English guides are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“Oh.” I say. Cleverly.

“You have to visit the church, though,” she says. “It’s lovely.”

“I haven’t been inside the church yet,” I say, “It was closed when I tried to go. But I have heard that’s it’s wonderful. But the cultural museum next door is amazing – have you been?”

“No,” he says. “It looked closed. How do you get in?”

“Oh,” I say, “It’s closed on Mondays.”

“Well,” she says, “That explains that!”

“Will you be able to go tomorrow?” I say, thinking that that they have to say the exhibit with the almost life-size Day of the Dead-inspired drawings of skeletons in village scenes. I have been thinking of returning, just to get the book of illustrations from the exhibit.

“No, we leave for Puerto Escondido tomorrow.” She says, glancing at him, and he nods. “We only have a few days.”

“Oh, yes, the beach.” I say, “I’ve been thinking of going for a few days,” but I’m not sure if I’ll really have time to make the 10-14 hour round trip just to dip my toes in the ocean.

“Are you traveling alone, not with a group?” She asks, putting the pieces together, and looking at me in wonder.

“Yes,” I say, offering the fact that my boyfriend gets very little time off from work as a kind of explanation.

“Oh!” she exclaims, “You’re very brave!”

And I smile and laugh and wish them a good trip and secretly hope that I haven’t just given away the goods to a couple of very cleverly disguised con artists. I know how very unbrave I am, reading books alone at dinner and eating pizza.


Susan Lute said...

Hey Bridge... I think you're brave too :) I'm loving your description of the town, museums and adventures. The pics are fabulous!

gl. said...

heh. i eat alone when i travel, too. i love trains but i dread the dining car which pairs you up with random people.

the mole sounds amazing, though. sorry it didn't agree with you. it makes me want to make something adventuresome for dinner tonight...

Dayna Collins said...

Pizza, eh? I've eaten my share of that! Today we found a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Milan and it was such a delightful change from all the pasta and pizza I have been eating.