We have left the city of Oaxaca and are now in the mountain community of Ixtlan, which suprisingly is very cool and green. Nights are very cold and days are quite hot! We wake up and debate getting out of bed for many many hours, as we are all deciding when we want to freeze!
Ixtlan is a special community within Oaxaca as it has a cooperative agreement. Land ownership does not really exist, and to get property a person must petition the community and display how their service or business will better the community.
Our first day we visited a trout farm. This farm was started by several men after they retired. A series of unfortunate events forced the group to start their farm three times over – it is now very successful! They teach young people how to farm trout and these people start the farms on a smaller scale in their communities.
The farm was exceptionally clean and the man who spoke to us took great delight in sharing his story. The men were able to study with people from all over the world to develop an effective system for trout. I do not tend to like to eat fish but found on this day it was quite tasty!
Yesterday we hiked down from the top of the mountain to the small center of town. The hike was incredible and made many of us feel like we were in Colorado or another mountain community in the States.
Learning the customs
Later in the day we had a Zapotec language class, where we learned to speak a few phrases in the indigenous tongue. “Paduishi” means hello in the Zapotec tongue of the area we were in. Our teachers were an elderly couple who have lived in Ixtlan their entire life. They have ten children, seventeen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
After a bit of free time we had a dance class to learn Mixtec dance – it was much more difficult than any of us would have thought. The local children play in a band and we were given an ad hoc performance of some of their band music. Our dance class was full of a bunch of jumping up and down – we were all worn out afterward.
We have been going to bed very early, as when it gets dark in our cabins we are left with limited entertainment and have gotten to know each other QUITE well. All of the girls share one cabin and the boys share another.
Today we were lucky enough to get to go to a University that just opened in Ixtlan. We sat in on and helped teach the English classes all students are required to take. The professors were mostly from the United Kingdom and one was from Minnesota – it was interesting to hear the stories of how they ended up at this small school.
The school is just three years old and will celebrate its first graduation next year. It specializes in forestry, computer science and other life science classes. Students are admitted after attending a harsh summer session, and usually about half of the students who begin in the summer will actually enroll. School is free to citizens of Oaxaca, and they only pay fees (about $100 US Dollars) and for books.
The campus was pretty and everyone was well received. We were asked to sing a “famous American song” and could only come up with “My Girl,” so we did a short version of the song – I do not think we will be forming a music group anytime soon!
We have some free time in Ixtlan now before another dance class later, so I am sending this from one of the internet cafes where it is 3 pesos for an hour of internet use. We are going to one more community on this side of the mountains tomorrow, then visiting the poorer west side of the mountains before one more night in the city.
It is incredible to think we have already been here two weeks!