I had only one day to spend in Oaxaca before meeting up with my friends Tim and Barbara-Lee Glessner who are missionaries in Puebla, just over 200 miles to the northwest, or about a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride.
I arrived early in the morning after an all-night bus ride from San Cristóbol de las Casas. The bus station was quite nice and had a few things that would make possible a great one-day visit to this lovely town. The first thing that it had was a secure place to store all my luggage. It would have been impossible to enjoy the sights while lugging all my things around, so I was quite pleased with this. After leaving my things and getting a receipt, I paid to use the restroom, then proceeded to the second important feature of the bus station—a tourist information center. The info dude gave me a map, which had myriad churches to visit (as you have probably gathered if you’ve been reading this blog for very long, I love taking photos of these old churches!) and other points of interest. I asked if he could recommend anything particularly noteworthy, since I had only one day to spend in the city. He did say there was supposed to be a concert that evening and marked the location on the map.
With that, I headed out. The first order of business was breakfast. I was hungry and needed fuel for the day. Just across the street from the bus station, I found a small restaurant which was called Comedor La Estancia and was open for breakfast. I had a tlayuda, which is a crispy tortilla with your choice of meat (I got beef), cheese, avocados, and tomatoes. Price? 25 pesos. Not bad.
Post food, I took out my map and began to wander around, visiting churches, parks, and other landmarks. Each landmark—church or otherwise—had a nice little sign on it, describing what it was and giving its history. They were definitely prepared for tourists. A quick snapshot of each sign made it easy to get all the pertinent info.
I swung by the location where the concert was to take place a few hours early (mid-afternoon) just to make sure I knew where it was and to make sure it was still on. When I first got there, setup was well underway. A stage had been assembled and the sound system was put together and a sound check was in progress. I wandered around the neighborhood a bit longer, but didn’t go far. Returning to the concert location at around 5:00 PM, I snapped a few photos before the concert started and watched the singers test the mics and work out the last few kinks in preparation for the moment of truth.
The concert was put on by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and was really the first time it felt like Christmas to me, despite the fact that Christmas was only 4 days away. The concert was very well done and featured some very talented groups and soloists along with your typical mediocre folks (gotta start somewhere, right?) and children’s groups. The leader of the main vocal group seemed a bit bossy and arrogant—doesn’t every church have one?—but they were a top-notch ensemble. I quite enjoyed it, as did the group of hundreds of locals that had gathered. The church folks were all very friendly and after the concert was over, they loaded Christmas punch into cups from giant aluminum tubs and passed it out. It had big chunks of fruit in it and was excellent. I was grateful and it felt good being included, the gringo just passin’ through.
After the concert, I swung by a burger cart in the street nearby to get some grub. While I was waiting my turn, Juan, a librarian from UT, El Paso, said hi and bought me dinner. We met up with some friends of his—a writer and a husband and wife from The States—and went to a restaurant where they got some food and we all sat around and chatted for a bit. The main thing I remember is their belittling me for thinking George Bush was an okay guy and for having voted for him. That really surprised them. Apparently, they thought everyone was liberal.
From the street in front of the restaurant, I said goodbye and made my way back to the bus station in the dark. The bus was to leave quite late, so I got my items from storage and just hung out for a while. We left around 11:30 and arrived in Puebla at about 4 AM. My friend Tim had given me his address which I had written down on a piece of paper and had put in my pocket. I had a taxi driver take me to the general vicinity of Tim’s and Barbara-Lee’s house, but he couldn’t find it—Tim had warned me that it could be difficult to find. I also had written down Tim’s phone number, so I borrowed the cabbie’s cell and rung Tim. He explained to the driver how to get to the house and we arrived within minutes.
In typically gracious fashion, Tim welcomed me despite my having arrived at the pre-butt-crack of dawn. I slept until about 9:00, then got up and officially began a very pleasant Christmas stay with the Glessners in Puebla, Mexico.