Monday, November 7, 2022

2022 11 Oaxaca With Michael deMeng Dia Uno and Dos

deMeng de Los Muertos

Michael deMeng

Oaxaca, Mexico

October 26th - November 4th, 2022

It has been since 2018 that I have been able to journey to Mexico with Colleen Darling and Michael deMeng. Here is the description of this year’s trip: “Dia de los Muertos is one of the most beautiful celebrations in all of Mexico, and Oaxaca is one of the best places to experience it firsthand.  Oaxaca, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a vibrant, welcoming, historical and culturally rich city in southern Mexico.  Oaxaca is evolving into a world class destination. Pick up any travel magazine and they will have lists of the 10 best things to do in Oaxaca…from eating and drinking mezcal, to the archaeological sites and artisan villages for a visit. It is home to some of the finest artists in the world and abounds with ceramics, textiles, tin, woodcarvings, jewelry, and more.  There is also a prolific contemporary art and photography community based here. The restaurants, luscious food, and friendly people make Oaxaca an amazing place to visit. Throughout our 8 days stay, people around the city will be getting ready for Dia de los Muertos, one of the most beautiful and treasured celebrations in Mexico. The Covid-19 pandemic postponed some of the normal activities for the last 2 years, but Oaxaca seems to be returning to its normal festive self. Many homes and businesses are setting up ofrendas and preparing for the feast. Every day and night the city is buzzing with excitement that spills onto the streets.   The photo opportunities are endless.  Each time you head out the door for the Zocalo or just a walk around the neighborhood something new will catch your attention. Flowers on the street corners, students competing in school ofrenda competitions, comparsas (parades) winding through the streets with traditional dancers, village bands and so much more!”

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I was up at 5:00 a.m. (CST) to begin this journey. The goal was to catch the Coach USA bus to O’Hare Airport in Chicago at 7:10 a.m. at the 13th Street Terminal. Denice was nice enough to get me over there in time to start this journey.

O’Hare proved to be no challenge at all today as I got through United check in in about ten minutes and practically walked through TSA as I am pre-approved.

On all 6 of my previous trips to Mexico with Michael I have flown through Mexico City. This year the plan is to fly to Houston from Chicago and direct to Oaxaca. My flight out of Chicago left on time and got me to Houston with a three hour layover.

The flight out of Houston was delayed when two British traveler’s failed to make the plane but their luggage did. That meant we had to sit there while they unloaded all the bags to find theirs. Despite that half-hour delay, we were still in Oaxaca around 7:30 p.m.

I got my Collectivo Taxi ticket and we were off to Zone 1 in Oaxaca. There were about five drop offs before I was the last one to be at the hotel.

And that’s when this happened: I went to the back of the van and my big suitcase was there—but the carry on left was not mine. The driver did not speak English, I speak pigeon Spanish, but after making it clear that was not my carry on, I offered the idea that we needed to circle back to the hotel where a couple had been left off. My thoughts was that they were the only people with multiple luggage items and the most likely to have not been paying attention when they unloaded.

The driver circled back to their hotel, called the manager who came out and said, “Identical.” He then had me bring the carry on that was not mine and busted into the couple’s room as it turns out they had let the hotel carry their luggage up while they went out to eat. When the door opened, there was my carry on.

Man—I never want that to happen again. Evidently neither did the driver as when we finally settled into the van to return for the second time back to our hotel, he grabbed his chest and said, "Aiii--mi corazone (Oh, my heart!).

Eventually we got back to the Holiday Inn Centro Historico, our home for the next ten days. Colleen, who usually is very faithful in greeting her participants had already gone to bed so my night was unpacking and getting to bed so that tomorrow can be a fresh and hopefully less adventurous day.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Today was a fun breakfast day as I was up at 7:00 a.m. when I met my great art buddy Marilyn Werst and her husband John. We were eventually joined by Colleen Darling and Michael deMeng and then pretty much everyone who is already on site. There was much hugging as it has been four years since I have seen some of my good art friends.

Wall art found in Oaxaxa

As much as I enjoy Michael deMeng's project and workshop time, I also enjoy doing walkabouts and taking photographs. I especially enjoy finding wall art and it is abundant in Oaxaca. 

Immediately after breakfast I headed over through the square to the local mercado to stock up on food supplies. When I returned from that I went for a walk with Marilyn and John to find an ATM. It is a little odd in Oaxaca to visit the ATM because I standard withdrawal is somewhere between $3000 and $6000 pesos. The exchange rate is very simple to figure out this year: take the peso amount (3000), move the decibel point over one (300) and divide by 2 (150). On top of that, things just do not cost that much in Mexico compared to the USA. A bottle of Diet Coke out of a vending machine in our hotel is less than $1 US.

We next headed to two different art stores in search of some basics. At the first we found Gesso but nothing else. At the second we go acrylic paints and brushes. At both stores, matte medium was a struggle even with pictures of the USA product with a Spanish label. I am not sure why it is unknown in this world but we bought some things that we think are similar. 

Walkabout #1

When we returned to the Holiday Inn we set up our tables in the workshop. Then I went for my first solo walkabout: up above the hotel, across the Pan-American Highway and into the Xochimilco neighborhood. 

Walkabout #2

Street Art Under Construction

I found an artist creating one of the wall art subjects

It is really hot here right now so by 2:00 p.m. I was worn out by the heat. I headed back to the hotel for my siesta before joining everyone for our first comparsa (parade) of the week.

Walkabout #3

My first sighting of an ofrenda

 A Tiliche dancer

My art buddies Lois and Joanne

After the parade we all headed to a remodeled shopping mall very near our hotel that is becoming ground zero for our group. It includes the new Clubhouse (our nickname): La Terraza de Barro.

Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep because tomorrow the class officially starts at 10:00 a.m.

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