Dropping out of the mountains of Chiapas into the coastal plains of Oaxaca, we were slapped in the face by two things: 90-degree Fahrenheit weather and some of the sweetest mangos we’ve had on the whole trip. Our first host in Oaxaca was a Warmshowers.org network member named Rodrigo, a high school English teacher with a strong conviction to host travellers. Rodrigo believes that if a person has something and doesn’t share it (a nice house, knowledge, etc.), they are selfish. When he heard about Warmshowers.org and Couchsurfing.com, Rodrigo literally spray-painted a sign on the Pan-American highway passing 200 meters from his house that directs a stream of bike tourists and backpackers to his home. During our short stay, we had lunch with a backpacker from Israel and were later joined by two German backpackers travelling through Mexico. Hundreds of tourists stop at the house every year and are greeted by Rodrigo’s energy and smiling face; up to seven different cyclists had stayed at his house at one point in time. We certainly commend his hospitality.
Heading west along the Pacific, we passed through a region that multiple people had warned us about; winds passing across the isthmus of Mexico were so strong that one cyclist had been blown onto his side. Luckily we passed through on a “calm” day, but the side wind was strong enough to keep us riding slowly, three abreast. We even saw two semi-trucks drafting alongside one another. Hundreds of windmills scatter the region and provide more than 1350 megawatts for Mexico. Turning south toward the end of the day, we enjoyed a strong tailwind that pushed us and our smiling faces briskly at a 33 km/h pace through what is considered by National Geographic to be the windiest place in the world (in this article).
That afternoon outside of the municipal building we met Alejandro, a finance worker, who invited us to his home after talking for a bit and hearing our piso y techo libre spiel. Alejandro was a culturally-minded indigenous descendant who introduced us to Zapoteco, one of several indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca. He told us that with the arrival of the Spaniards came the change of many indigenous pronunciations of words and placenames. For example, México was once pronounced with an “sh” sound,Meshico. The word chocolate comes from the Nahuatl language of the Aztec, who pronounced it, chocolatl. To our delight, Alejandro worked previously as a chef, and we enjoyed a simple but flavorful meal of pureed beans, salsas, quesedillas, and tamarind juice before watching the only 30 minutes of Winter Olympics that we’ve seen this month and retiring to our beds on the open-air porch.
Leaving the coast meant climbing back up into the cactus-covered Oaxacan mountains, which proved to be a challenge due to the hot sun and mountains taller than what we experienced in Chiapas. On the first day of climbing, we ran out of water with about 20 km to the next town. But the provision of God carried us through, and a woman in a small tienda on the side of a mountain gave us some water to get us over the cordillera. That night in the small town of El Camarón, a family invited us into their home for fresh orange juice, barbecue and tortillas. Gracias a Dios por todo que nos ha dado.
Here in Oaxaca we have throughly enjoyed our time with the Matias-Ryan family. Levi got to know the family through Hope Fellowship, a Mennonite intentional community that Levi’s sister attended in Waco, Texas. We won’t forget the night of poesia y fogata, poetry and campfire we shared with the Matias-Ryans. Joining with the many young adults invited, we grilled a traditional Oaxacan favorite, tlayadus. Crispy tortillas the size of manhole covers were slathered with beans, lettuce and Oaxacan string cheese and roasted on the fire. We loved hearing poetry and playing praise and protest songs with the talented group late into the night.
The family’s strong Anabaptist background and musical interests have made us feel right at home, and the father Luis has cheered us with stories in Spanish and English. Luis is a dreamer, and has ideas swarming through his head. He is currently constructing an Anabaptist library on the house’s third floor, wants to record historical commentaries of Oaxaca in English, Spanish, and Zapoteco, and is in the process of planting a church that meets here in the house every Sunday morning. As Michael mentioned in church this morning, we are grateful for moments along this trip when communities such as this take us in and treat us like close friends. It is an example of God’s community expanding outside of cities, states, and borders of countries.