Leaving Oaxaca

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I never intended this blog to be a diary—I already have a diary and it is not online—but it seems appropriate, at the end of my four months in Oaxaca, to answer some personal questions I know people are going to ask.

Will you miss Oaxaca?

To be honest, I didn’t love Oaxaca. I think the places we most love are the places where we have happy memories. Oaxaca will always be the place where I went to think, to be alone, and thus to be lonely.

Being lonely when you’re traveling has a different flavor than being lonely at home. You feel strong and brave, like someone who is doing something no one else has ever done before. The mere act of eating, of reading, of walking through the streets feels full. Everything is bright. You can almost look at your loneliness in your hand and marvel at it. This is why you left, to be alone.

But it’s still not a happy, giddy feeling. I’m grateful to Oaxaca for being a wonderful place to be alone, with people so warm and generous I never felt like a solitary freak. I’m overwhelmed by all I’ve learned about Mexican and Oaxacan food, more than I ever would have learned during a two-week vacation. But I miss New York more than I ever thought I would, and I would kill for some sushi.

What are you going to do now?

I’m going to Spain! I’m flying back to NY next Wednesday for about a week, to witness the nuptials of a good friend, and then I fly to Spain for 7 weeks. I’ll travel with friends for the first 3.5 weeks, through Madrid, Barcelona, and a couple towns in Andalucia. Then I’m on my own. I’ll probably wend my way up the western end of Spain, through Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela, ending up in the Basque Country and San Sebastian, a small, coastal city with as outsize a reputation for great food as Oaxaca.

And then what?

And then I go back to the U.S. to spend Thanksgiving with friends, and then I’ll spend the month of December in Korea with my parents. I’ll be back in Brooklyn right after New Year’s 2008.

But seriously, what are you going to do when you get back?

Ha ha ha ha! Ask me in January, por favor. Rather than look forward, I’m going to post a very subjective “Best of Oaxaca” guide over the next couple of days.

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