Our next stop after spending Christmas with family was Puerto Escondido, Mexico. We chose this town to ride out our time until we were slated to volunteer at Anarchapulco in Acapulco in late February. Our Airbnb vetting process was the same as previously mentioned - sort by price, email about Internet speeds. The map below shows where Puerto Escondido is (the heart), along with Acapulco (the mustache), and San Jose Del Pacifico (the very small planet), where we took a short trip. It looks very close on the map but took all day to get there, remember the size of Texas for scale.
A Chance to Show off My Spanish
I arrive at the Puerto Escondido airport alone this time as Daniel was coming separately from Oregon. It was finally my chance to practice Spanish unassisted, and I had a layover in a smaller airport in Mexico where barely anyone spoke English. I was excited to flex my skills, and rehearsed all my lines in my head. Now, as I write this a year later, I still am not entirely fluent in Spanish, but I will stress that I was mainly using Duolingo up until a short while ago. Duolingo is great for introducing new vocabulary and for, well, memorizing specific phrases. But, nearly every screen has English on it, which doesn't make for very good use of a concept called "comprehensible input." Even as an English teacher, this took me far to long to figure out. I now mainly use listening activities that use no English and that show the story in pictures and context and my ability in conversational Spanish goes up about three times the amount it would in the same time spent on Duolingo. Let's just say, I had a tight connection, an unknown water bottle deep in my bag, and very friendly and understanding staff at the airport who spoke no English whatsoever. I did my best. I also cried.
I took a taxi from the airport to the BnB, which was also a small restaurant and bakery. It was run by a husband and wife with a baby. The wife was super nice and brought me an egg scramble off the menu for free and chatted with me quite a bit in a mixture of Spanish and English. We practiced replying to each other in our second language and these kinds of experiences are where your Spanish can really grow. The apartments were two story with a balcony and a shared kitchen in the center. Here are some pictures of the courtyard and balcony.
Yes, those bikes were included with the rental so we didn't have a pay anything for short term travel. The terrain was quite hilly, so the upper balcony was level with some first stories and some roofs. One of the first things I noticed on the taxi ride was how clear and sunny it was. Again, we were right near the beach, Playa Zicatela. It was about a five minute walk downhill and uphill coming back. On the way to the beach one of the first people we met was a Austrian guy with a camper van and a juice stand. We would grab some juices and healthy energy concoctions from him occasionally. He sometimes had cocos, fresh coconuts for the water. In Costa Rica they were called Pipas, and people would ride around on trailer bikes selling them from the jungle. They were a little harder to find here, and the juice guy only had them occasionally from a truck that came by sporadically. Right next door, there was another "store" that had cocos more consistently. Despite having a counter open most days, one day I needed a lighter and assumed they were open, but the guy (assuming the son?) who opened the door just scrounged around until he found an old lighter and sold it to me. There was a myriad of assorted holiday decorations and it seemed like multiple people slept there. Here is a view from the balcony and our door.
The room was made of concrete with a small window so we left the door open the majority of the time. No A/C but it got pretty chilly at night and we didn't have a problem with the weather. I'm not sure it rained a single time for the 6 weeks we stayed. The bathroom had one of those showers that just showered onto the floor with a drain, with no distinct shower boundary. There were multiple farms with roosters nearby, and despite having grown up always thinking that roosters crow at dawn, these roosters actually crow around the clock and seemingly never sleep. In this time zone we were getting up for work sometime between 3 and 4 am, so our sleep hygiene here was a nightmare. When we could get some hours, the roosters would wake us up. The other aspect was that this was a studio that we booked before we knew the details of our work situation. We tried the first week teaching in the same room, but our students could hear the other class going on, so we had to eventually... drumroll... book another place on top of it. Yes, indeed, the second double booking.
Double booking in Mexico Like in CR, we decided to go on foot and ask around. There were plenty of places with signs out, and soon we found a place right across the street owner by an Argentinian who was out of the country but managed by a nice surfer on site. We tested the internet, and it was a winner. It was another studio apartment with an outdoor shared kitchen, so close to the first one that we could shout to each other. The only problem it had was mosquito swarms at night, even when the entire studio was drenched in lemongrass oil and incense. The kitchens were about equal, so we traded off nights. Eventually our hosts at the first place started acting weird and closed the restaurant without explaining it to anyone, so we started cooking more at the second place. The second place also had some cool resident dogs. Stray dogs have a life of their own in Mexico. Many people will loosely take care of them, or stick collars on strays that they want to stick around.
There was a grandma down the street that sold fresh corn tortillas, about 8 of them for the equivalent of 20 cents. We got those a bit and also could get fresh fruit and vegetables at a big marketplace without venturing too far. There were ample amounts of taquerias where we could both get fed for under $5. We needed to go into town sometimes, and we would take the collectivos, which are not like taxis at all the way they are in Costa Rica. They are more like caravans, or covered trucks with enough room for 10 or 20 people if you stand up. They would cost the equivalent of 50 cents or so for a 15 minute ride into town that could be quite unpleasant on foot. You basically just stand on the roadside and flag one down.
Among other places we went on foot, the main Zicatela strip was a really good spot. There was another Selina there, so we went looking for yoga classes again. We got some passes and were able to go a few times a week. There's a really big arts scene, specifically with jewelry and precious stones. There were really experienced metal workers with apprentices. I also answered a flyer looking for a creative intern and helped a dutch lady in town make a really large crocheted dreamcatcher, about five feet in diameter for a local restaurant. She showed me her studio and gave me lots of business advice in return! She also let me ride on her motorcycle and that was a highlight for sure!
Puerto Escondido is known for being a surf spot, any we would spot groups of surfers at all times of day. The best place to go surfing is La Punta, a nice spot a little bit farther out from town from Zicatela. We biked to La Punta a few times to check it out, and found a really nice sub-community there. There were lots of small business owners with independent storefronts, many international surfing schools, and a nice cluster of organic stores. We were able to get some nice snacks and bulk foods, and enjoy the view of the big rock that's the center piece of La Punta and where many find the breaking waves ideal for experienced surfers.