I haven’t done a great job leaving the core of Oaxaca city on my past few visits. I’ve found it’s too easy to slow down to a halt while I’m there, and then not be motivated to push outside the historic center. In previous visits, every time there were plans for an adventure outside the city, I felt like I was missing out on another greater adventure in the city, (I suffer horribly from FOMO if you didn’t know). This year, I was less worried at “missing out” because I’m feeling more comfortable in the knowledge that I’ll be back again. A few options were tossed around this year, but we chose the Friday market in Ocotlan in the end. I’d been to the Octolan on my first visit to Oaxaca back in 2008. I remembered the sensory overload of the day, and was excited to return. I am amazed at how far I’ve come in the past 8+ years of travelling. Up to that point, most of my travel destinations were “safe” and my adventures, “clean”. Then I went to South East Asia and I had to tackle my fears of uncleanliness and smelliness. I can’t say I was wholly successful on that trip, but I know that with every travel challenge I’ve faced following, it’s made me a better traveller. Even now, the excitement of a foreign market adventure is somewhat tempered by my quiet thoughts of overly pungent aromas, dirty washrooms and other quirky things I know will make me uncomfortable. But I’ve learned to not drink too much water on these days and being a dragon boater means that I’ve gotten used to less than ideal washroom situations as we’re never treated with great facilities on race days. For the other things? I’ve learned to keep focus on all that excites me about going to the market rather than dwell on the things that are outside my comfort zone. Travelling is really all about learning to overcome your fears. While most people fear things like being robbed, getting lost or not being able to understand what’s going on. My fear has always been smelliness and dirty washrooms. Various travel methods were bantered about to get us to the market and back, but in the end, it was decided that taking a taxi was best.
We were dropped off at the main plaza and we made our way into the huge outdoor market from there.
The market spreads out for many blocks and under colourful tarps and you can find anything from housewares to clothing, and primitive to basic all the way to modern. We spent most of our time at the market concentrating on the areas where they were selling food in all forms. We entered into an area where live turkeys and chickens were being sold. It felt like we walked over a block lined with people holding turkeys in their arms. I wasn’t sure if they were buying or selling, but I knew I wouldn’t stop to linger long. My loathing of live birds extends to poultry as well, (yes if you’ve taken note, you may have noticed many of my aversions being listed here… This is why markets challenge me). I love the character in the faces of the women that shop the market. I have learned to be cautious when I take photos of the people in Oaxaca. I understand there’s the old feeling of not wanting to have your soul stolen and I want to respect that. I’m also respectful that many people just don’t like to have their photographs taken (I know I don’t). So the photos I’ve posted have been taken and chosen with care. One of the great things about the gang I’m with is their ability to communicate in Spanish. It adds to the my experience as I’m able to be an engaged bystander while others interact with the purveyors.
As we wandered around the market we nibbled in different things here and there. My ability to be comfortable in this is an example of where my adventurous food travel level has blossomed. In the past, I wouldn’t have been comfortable eating bits of things handed to me by strangers or eating from stands where I wasn’t sure what they were serving, but I’ve learned that being adventurous is rewarding. My 2 favourite bites came at the end.