Hunting an apartment in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
No superhot landladies, no horrifying cesspits to generate hardcore traveler cred, no impromptu parties, no death-defying escapes.
Right up until the word tinaco was uttered, my apartment hunt in Oaxaca had been shockingly tame, even boring. Nothing I could stretch into an amusing lie, er…story had happened.
I was nostalgic for the days when my rickety Spanish required that I resort to pantomime to communicate.
I was just…talking to people. I was talking Spanish, so it was cool, but still. I was standing around like a bearded potato wedge…talking.
I’d made appointments with people who showed up on time and acted normal. I looked at apartments. Most were okay, but none had everything I wanted: a terrace to do yoga on in the morning, a nearby laundromat, a taquería within easy walking distance.
So, when Jony, my potential landlord said I would need to keep an eye on the tinaco, a sharp thrill went through my body. I had no idea what tinaco meant. Animal, mineral, vegetable? Bloodthirsty saltwater mutant?
Couldn’t tell you!
An arboreal cousin of the capybara?
Jony explained the tinaco was on the roof. This only raised my hopes that something cool was about to happen even higher.
Maybe the tinaco was an arboreal cousin of the capybara, but instead of being calm and sweet, it was vicious and unpredictable and possessed sharp claws, long, serrated fangs, and a particularly virulent form of rabies.
I was about to find out.
Jony and I climbed a narrow set of stairs to what is now my terrace and then proceeded up a ladder bolted to the side of the building to the roof.
A gentle breeze greeted us. I looked out over the flowering trees and colonial buildings of Oaxaca to the surrounding hills. I plucked a ripe avocado directly from the branches of the tree overhanging the roof.
“This is the tinaco,” Jony said.
Turns out, a tinaco is a water tank located on a roof.
If I didn’t make sure to keep the tinaco full by pumping water up from the cistern every couple of days, I wouldn’t be able to take showers, and my toilet wouldn’t flush.
Good to know, but not exciting.
The word itself is cooler than what it means. Tinaco combines the Spanish word tina, meaning “tub” or “large container of water” with the Nahuatl suffix –ahco, which means “up” or in “the high part.”
I dig that kind of linguistic cross-pollination.
And even though filling the tinaco every 48 hours wouldn’t be an adrenaline rush, I took the place.
The terrace is sweet, there is a laundromat next door, and I don’t even have to leave the compound to eat awesome grilled meat. I’ve been here 10 days now and the place is a solid win.
Even if I’ll probably never get attacked by a slavering arboreal rodent or execute a death-defying escape from a superhot landlady with rabies.