Amy’s T1D Adventure: Oaxaca City (Part 1)

[Here’s a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 27-year-old ex-advertising executive who recently swapped her NYC apartment for an oversized backpack to explore the streets of Latin America for six months. Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years and tries her best to balance blood glucose levels, marathon training and a high-carb raw-vegan diet. Now she has thrown travel into the mix. EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy is a performance athlete and consumes a high carb diet. At One Drop, we believe that a low carb approach to food reduces the risk of hypo and hyper glycemic incidents and can effectively reduce blood sugars. However, we want to share a variety of personal experiences so we can all learn how other people live their lives with diabetes. Always consult your doctor before making changes to a prescribed regimen.]

On to Oaxaca!

Better blood sugars after some fresh fruits and veggies - via One DropAs I left Mexico City I was excited for my next destination — Oaxaca. The 7-hour bus ride was stunning. I took in the vast landscape of desert shrubbery and mountain ranges as I munched on dried fruits and apples — my blood glucose was relatively good throughout!

I had only heard incredible things about Oaxaca — a large indigenous population (over 30 indigenous languages are still spoken there), old historic buildings, friendly locals, unique culture and arts, and the food.

I arrived to the town in late afternoon, dropped my bags off at the 400-year-old house I was staying at (it was beautiful!), and headed straight to Benito Juarez Mercado. I stocked up on some super fresh fruit and veggies — papaya, bananas, zapote, spinach, tomatoes, chilies, sweet peppers and everything else I could physically carry! I had made a pledge to go back to high carb, low fat, raw vegan after my  T1D turmoil in Mexico City.

And dinner was a winner!!

From the outskirts to the city center

Street art in Oaxaca CityMy first full day in Oaxaca started off with a morning run through the streets — sometimes the best way to see a different side of a city. Logged 5 miles and got to check out some great street art.

I had my day roughly planned out and my first stop was an organic market on the other side of town called El Pochote. Not that I needed any more food, but I was curious to see what they had (okay, so I bought some kale!).


Santo Domingo ChurchOn the way back into the city center I visited the famous Santo Domingo Church — stunning, both inside and out. I am not a very religious person (meditation is more my thing), but the energy from inside the church was unique. I sat down and paused for a couple of minutes to soak it all in.

As I walked outside, a group of young local girls approached me and started asking me questions in Spanish. They wanted to ask me some questions in English about my visit to Oaxaca and film it for a school project! I answered their questions in English, slow and steady. I hope they pass!

Photo museum - Oaxaca City

I wandered next door to the Cultural Museum and tried my best to focus on the art even though everything was in Spanish and my blood glucose dropped more than once in the 90 minutes I was there — a combination of walking and my transition back to high-carb/low-fat. Some honey and a banana later, I made some short detours to some art galleries and photo museums before lunch. In the evening I headed to a famous chocolate spot where they make hot chocolate with pure cacao, water and a little bit of sugar. Wow — tasted so damn good!

The zocalo (center of town) was buzzing by 7pm. Balloons, candy and souvenirs lined the sidewalk and there was plenty of entertainment from clowns to bands and people dancing. I got in the spirit and watched a local salsa band play until 9pm.

Art, Warmth, and an “Insulina Bomba”

Another morning run to get my heart pumping and boy did it have to work! Already at high altitude I decided to run up many many stairs to the city’s auditorium that overlooks the town. So out of breath I had to stop and walk on occasion. But the views were worth it! After a fruit fueled breakfast, I thought I would have the usual insulin resistance post-run high blood glucose, but what — I had a low instead! No fat in my diet works a miracle with my blood glucose, and sometimes a little too much. On my way to my next adventure I got a cup of papaya from a street vendor and gobbled it down.

Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca is the most magical place — a beautiful botanical garden designed by a famous Oaxacan artist, Francisco Toledo. Francisco Toledo had invested a large amount of his personal money into the gardens to stop a hotel and car park being built right in the center of Oaxaca city. He was dedicated to keeping the authenticity of Oaxaca alive when big companies tried to come in and monopolize — he got McDonald’s kicked out and opened a free public library along with many art galleries and museums.

Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca

As I walked back along the cobbled streets feeling full of knowledge about this beautiful town, there was a procession of people, dancers and music! A wedding celebration was happening in the middle of the street! So much color – wow! With a sense of warmth inside my soul and a smile on my face I headed back to my room for a bite and to skype my family in Australia. Even though I felt at home in Oaxaca, it’s always nice to see a friendly face and familiar voice.

Before the day was over I decided to do something that I never would have done 5 years ago: head to a local communal steam bath for some much needed sweating and detoxing. Baño la fuente was full of local women of all ages from a small girl no older than 4 to women my age and some beyond that of my grandmother. Fully naked, sitting in a small dark steam filled room, not speaking the same language, I felt at peace and a sense of community with these women who were total strangers. A young woman started talking to me in Spanish as we sat there, getting up occasionally to cool ourselves with aqua frio (cold water). She was 30 with two young boys and was surprised when I told her I was in Oaxaca by myself, traveling solo and didn’t have a boyfriend. She also asked what my insulin infusion site was (my insulin pump was disconnected). I explained, “Yo soy diabetica, insulina bomba,” i.e., “I am diabetic and that’s an insulin pump.” And she gave me the warmest smile. What a perfect way to detox not only the body, but the mind and soul too — sharing a unique experience with unique women. Just what I needed.

Dancing in Oaxaca City zocaloWhen I thought my day couldn’t get any better or more random, I headed back to the zocalo in the evening and was at the very back of a large crowd watching a clown entertain the local children with jokes I couldn’t really understand. Somehow, the clown found me (I blame my height) and, using his limited English, he found out that I was from Australia. He pulled me into the middle of the crowd and acted out a wedding scene, while the crowd laughed, cheered and clapped. Blushing and laughing the whole time, I enjoyed the humor and 20 minutes of spotlight. It was like a warm, embracing welcome by the people of Oaxaca City.

When I got back to my apartment and into bed, I could feel my soul glowing from the warmth and generosity I had received from the people and the city since the moment I arrived. I couldn’t wait to see what day 3 had in store for me.

Tlacolula market, and cruisin’ colectivo

Sunday morning I had big expectations for what lay ahead. Tlacolula markets were some of the biggest markets in Mexico and only 40 minutes from Oaxaca. A local had suggested that I catch a colectivo from the main road to the markets. A colectivo is like a small van or taxi — people pile in and get picked up and dropped off in random places along a certain route. I jumped in a colectivo with three people in front and four squished in back, including a woman breastfeeding her baby.

Vegan-friendly burrito was good for my blood glucose levels

The markets were incredible — everything from socks to electronics to fresh produce to chickens (dead or alive – take your pick!). There were herbs and spices of all kinds! I wandered around for almost 4 hours. I found a bite to eat at one of the many food stalls — sin queso, pollo, cerdo, crema, carne o huevo! This lovely woman made me a burrito of sorts with mushrooms and beans! So delicious — but I prepared for a rise in my blood glucose!

Great day of blood glucose levels viewed via One Drop I tried my best to get a few photos to capture the beauty of the markets and the people who showed up every Sunday to earn their living. Caught another colectivo on my return to Oaxaca, dropped my bags and headed out for an afternoon run in balmy 90 degree heat. I enjoy sweating and feeling like I’ve earned my workout, so sometimes exercising in the heat feels good. Back home, I showered and got ready to see whatever entertainment was in town that night. My blood glucose had been pretty darn consistent all day — a welcome surprise after the ad hoc lunch! Insulin coverage is always a random guess when I mix carbs and fat.

As I walked into the town’s center that evening, I saw a large stage and a salsa band playing. I stayed there in front of the stage bopping along to the beat and falling in love with the songs even without understanding the lyrics. Before I knew it, it was 9:30pm — time to sneak home.

Tomorrow, I’ll hit up the Monte Alban ruins and plan out some fun activities for the rest of the week! Look out for my next post to see what I got up to!





Amy McKinnon
Amy McKinnon

Amy McKinnon is a One Drop user, marathoner, ex-advertising executive, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Amy is currently exploring the streets of Latin America for six months.