Saturday, December 31, 2005

Families Camping in Chacala

This is New Year's Eve day in Chacala, and there have been lots of campers here since the day after Christmas. I was kind of dreading camping with so many people crammed in around my little camp. But it turns out to be very nice. The people that have been camping next to me are very friendly and I am enjoying their presence. In fact, all the people, maybe eight families in this area, are friendly and open and nice to be around.

One thing that is very different about families that are camping here in Chacala is how nice they are to each other. I have camped all over the US, and generally speaking there is alot of yelling (mother's to kids, kids to other kids, big kids to little kids, etc etc etc). Here in Chacala I don't remember ever hearing any yelling between anybody here on the beach. And I never here the sound of babies or children crying.(except when they fall down).

People seem to camp in family groups and everyone takes care of the kids. The kids are alway watched over and it never seems to get to the point where children are crying for any reason. And the kids run around playing all day, in and out of the ocean, and on the sand, without anyone overtly supervising them. Of course, the adults are always watching them, but there doesn't seem to be " Pablo, stop hitting your sister!", or "Lupe, be careful!!". The big kids love the little kids and seem to always be playing with them and helping them and including them in what they are doing. I think it is true in Chacala in general too. Big brothers and sisters take alot of responsibility for the little ones, siblings and cousins, etc, and seem to be happy about doing it.

Most afternoons the little kids that actually live on this part of the beach come over to draw and paint at my table. Ages 2 to 11 over so. And they all help each other and there is never any bickering or arguing or problems with sharing. It's really quite amazing. I keep thinking, they are just being polite in front of me, but it's been a month and they still treat each other with kindness and respect.

I just draw with them or do whatever I was doing. They even tidy up when they finish. A very nice experience for me.

It's been very cold the last few mornings. 65 degree F. Of course, in the US I would have considered it to be warm, and pleasant enough to sit outside to eat breakfast and read the paper. Sometimes I really miss reading the morning paper. Lately people have been bringing down the NY sunday Times for me, and I take a week to read it and do the crossword. I love it. I try to ignore the news part and read the travel and books sections mostly. And the magazine.

But I think my body must have gotten used to being warm all the time and I felt really cold when I got up this am. I washed my only long-sleeved shirt yesterday and it's still wet, so I couldn't wait to get out in the sun and warm up.

This is New Year's Eve, and Susana and Poncie are out partying, so I have their house (Casa Pacifica) and computer to myself for a few hours. I got a ride up here in the collectivo, and hardly had to walk at all. I did personal emails and now I am going down to Chico's for their friend and family type New Years Party. Last year it was the best New Years Eve I ever had, so I am looking forward to it.

This afternoon I had very nice time. Four of my favorite winter people came down to sit around at my palapa and talk , and to sunbathe on the beach. It was really nice for me. There are some very nice visitors here this year and I am really enjoying their company. Some of my favorites left today, and I know I will miss them.

My probably broken toe still hurts alot and walking up to Susana's and back is really annoying. But this morning a taxi came by just as I got onto the main beach road and I got a ride to Susana's. Hooray. Good taxi karma I guess.

The unending problems with maintence and maid services at Casa Azul finally reached a peak this week, and they are no longer taking reservation. The people who had reservations there are being offered other options.

The beach is much cleaner than last year, and so are the town streets. Even with the hoards of tourists from Guadalajara, etc. The day after Christmas there were 50 buses of tourists.

But by tomorrow they will basically be gone until Easter week.

If you read this blog regularly and would like me to know about you, please e mail me. It has been interesting to meet people who had been reading this, and it makes me curious about who else is reading it. My email is I have had other email addresses listed here and I check them everyday too.

Remember, if you are thinking of coming to Chacala, you can check out Chacala budget rentals.

I don't charge the people who own the rentals or the renters when I find a match. I am doing the little website to help the landladies who have no way to advertise in English, or even to advertise, and to try to payback Chacala for offering me such a lovely place to live.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chacala Version, Mexican Time

After two years in Chacala, I think I have finally figured out the up-side of "Mexican time", the phrase generally used to refer to people showing up when they feel like it, or whenever it works out.

Yesterday someone visiting in Chacala keep pressuring me to give a specific time when I would finish working up at Susana´s. And of course I had no idea because all kinds of things can happen where ever you go around town. I could see how frustrated she was as she tried to pin me down
so that we could get together later in the day. And I not only couldn´t give her a time, and realized I didn´t want to.

I have found out just taking things one minute at a time, and not making time commitments or even having a strong agenda for the day works much better for me than having "appointments" and specific detailed plans for the day. I usually wake up with some ideas about things I want to do during that day, but it´s certainly not written in stone, or even in any particular order. I might want to go up to Susana´s, find the water jug guy and ask him to bring me water, ask Esparanza to wash some beddings, ask Beto if he has a drill he or I could use to repair my new bed, hang out with Dona Lupe and with the people at Chico´s, make sure Concha remembers a guest is coming later today and get some info from Aurora about her prices for a long-term renter for June, and get some bread and tortillas and a couple plastic garbage bags for Esparanza and see if kids are living at a particular puesto, and visit with some of the visitors here that I especially enjoy and go the the correo (post office) in Las Varas because I think I have a package there (because one of the taxi drivers gave me a note from the correo sayings had a package). And wash my clothes, eat breakfasst and lunch, tidy up my camp, and probably spend some times with the neighborhood kids drawing and painting on my table. Those are the things on my mind. And by the end of the day I probably did some of those things and probably did a bunch of other stuff: take a walk with someone, help Trini with her new website, visit with somone, go to the hot springs, get a ride to La Penita, or whatever. Many things happen serendipitously here. I am walkind down the road and someone stops and offers me a ride wherever, or comes by with something I was hungry for (Marta´s apple pies), or ...รงรง

Actually, it´s hard to describe, but I call it ¨Chacala time". But really I think it´s leaving your life and your ideas about what you "need" wide open. And to not get strongly connected to a certain version of how things need to happen.

I think in my old life, pre-Chacala, I almost always had a full calendar and definite ideas about how things should happen. And that I probably missed out on lots of opportunities and adventures, and chances because I was so busy following the end of my nose (and calendar book) that I forgot to notice what was going on around me and turned down interesting opportunities because I had to keep to my schedule.

It used to really annoy me that the collectivos run whenever they want, and fiestas start hours after the announced starting time, and people rarely show up when they said they would. But in all those cases it works out fine even if at a different time. Other fun stuff happens while you are waiting, and it is okay to do stuff inpromptu (ly) because that´s what other people are doing too.

There´s plenty of time to hang around and visit and learn something new from someone, or help someone out.

I think it´s sort of connected to how nice it is to be in a camping place here. I am surrounded by big families this week. The kids are never crying, babies are happy, no one yells are kids or anyone else. People hang out all day talking and visiting and eating and cookings and enjoying themselves. Dads and moms and grandmom and dads, and aunties and cousins and brothers and sisters send the days together and I am jealous of how much people seem to like each other and the lovely sound of happy voices all day long. Maybe I am missing ugly comments and undertones etc, but I don´t think so. The families seem to like being together. I wish I had a family like that.

Yesterday morning I was helping Luis, Aurora´s uncle unload some stuff into his puesto (I was just walking by on the way to Susana´s and stopped to visit and help) .I commented that I hadn´t gotten a Chacala shirt yet and we were looking thru his shirts for an X large for me but he didn´t have one. And anyway I didn´t want to spend money on a tee shirt. Then last night I was at Chico´s hanging out and clearing tables and having a filete and making sure some new visitors I like were all set for dinner. Then Narcisa, the owner, handed me a present for Christmas, a new Chacala tee shirt in my size. And she and Luis hadn´t talked about it or anything. She had had it since the night before. I like that. When stuff you were thinking about just happens. Like my bed last week.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Chacala

This is Christmas Day. Generally it's not my favorite day in the year, but this has been a very nice Christmas. I had dinner last night with Aurora's family, and slept all night. Got up and had a great breakfast and then slept half the morning away.

Someone brought me today's Sunday NY Times. Heaven is lying in my hammock alternating between watching the ocean and reading the Times and doing the crossword.

Had a nice lunch and read in the hammock and visited with people coming by to say "Merry Christmas". My favorite Scottish Doctor and wife team, David and Emma, came along with their kids, Dougal and Hamish, and we ate peanuts and visited. Very nice people and I love seeing their kids little blonde heads at the beach. Quite a contrast. David is voluntering at a clinic in Las Varas for about five months, before the family returns to start a new medical practice in Scotland.

Chacala is sort of empty compared to last year. Empty of masses of celebrating people from Guadalajara, etc, but full of gringos. Full being 8 boats, 10 motor homes, and five vans, and about about 50 from the US and Canada stayiang around town. (coorection, Monday morning. People starting arriving late last night, and the town appears to be filling up for the local school vacation period).

As I write this, Susana and Poncie's Christmas potluck is starting up on the terrace upstairs, and it's been a very nice day. It was in the low 80's all day. Clear and beautiful sky with green ocean water and kids playing and families picnicking on the beach.

Everyone else is dressed up at the party and I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt, but I brought a shirt that is slightly better than a tee shirt. Oh well.

I hope everyone is having a nice day today.

(Followup: the dinner was great. Excellent food and nice company.- I had kind of been dreading a kind of cocktail atmosphere level of conversation, and it wasn't like that at all. I think Chacala attractions some very nice and interesting people.

Although I like the summers best here.

If you are looking for a van or taxi pickup at the airport, or a boat ride to surfing or whale watching, be sure to check out airport pickups and boat rides

Friday, December 23, 2005

Chacala and Christmas

Yesterday morning I woke up in my tent, thinking I wanted a bed, that my nice 4 inch foam mattress on the ground just wasn't enough. So I went up to Susana'a and did reservations, thinking about finding a bed somewhere. On my walk home I noticed an old guy was hauling stuff out from behind Patti's place (orange house across the road from Concha's). And there was my bed. I got it for a few pesos, partly because it is kind of old and the wood was kind of crummy. And missing a couple of bedboards. Then I walked on the Chico's restaurant. I was having a Coke there and resting my foot with the broken toe, and telling the owners/waiters, cooks etc about my "new" bed. Chicha (the owner) asked me where the bed was, and then said something to one of the waiters. He hopped up and headed out to the parking lot. Then he turned and sayid, "come on, we are going to get your bed!!!". So we went up and got the bed and took it to my beach camp. When Esperanza saw the bed and the missing boards, she disappeared somewhere and came back with three boards that fit perfectly. Boards made out of wood are precious here, and very expensive, so I was very lucky.

So now I have my smaller tent as a bedroom with a real bed, and all my stuff and my desk in the bigger tent. The smaller tent has a better view. This morning I watched it get light lying on my bed looking out the screened tent window. The waves were huge!!! Every solstice they get big for a day, and I guess this was the day. Beautiful big, crashing waves.

There are three kid Christmas parties here this year, plus the nightly posada. Yesterday afternoon the county-level officials came down to Chacala to give the town an reward for being cleanest town in the certain category, or maybe it was third place. But, in any case, the award seemed to be $1000USD and a regular sized pickup for collecting local trash. There were also four wooden life guard towers standing there, at the party, but I don't know who brought them or where they came from. I think there has been food and pinatas before I wandered by, and there were large rubber balls, big bags of candy and a yoghurt drink for every child.

Today is the party the EBACH (scholarship kids) but on for the little kids, and then this afternoon the people that made a house out of the restaurant next to Las Brisas (from San Diego) are having a party. I think they are some kind of evangelical Christians, and I have the idea the party is related to that, but hopefully I misunderstood about that. Las Brisas is having a $15USD dinner on Christmas Eve and Casa Pacifica is having a potluck on Christmas Day early evening.

Being a very Grinchy person, I plan to have a quiet day on the beach, drawing, reading, and writing. We'll see.

The nightly Christmas posada, which goes to a different house or business very night, is still going on. Last night the kids sang going to Coco's, and seemed to be having a great time.

The circus is in town. Not the gypsy circus, but a bigger one with a big tent. I am not expecting to get any sleep til after midnight. They are parked in the field out behind the beach near Esperanza's. Last time they were here they has a big parade, plus the loudest loudspeaker you ever heard going around town on the truck all day, advertising the circus.

This is the Friday before Christmas, and so far there are not alot of Mexican campers here, which seems kind of unusual to all the shopkeepers, etc. They are thinking maybe people will are arriving today for the whole next week. Who knows. Three police have made the street a one way loop thru town, hoping to avoid giant traffic jams (two buses and a small pickup can cause alot of traffic problems on a 12 foot wide road.

Anyway. I am still loving the beach, especially with a bed. There are lots of very nice visitors here, including alot from Vancouver Island, for some reason.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Peope Who have Read My Blog Coming to Chacala

Something I had never imagined has been happening the past couple of weeks. People who have been reading my blog about Chacala, this blog, have been actually coming to Chacala, and introducing themselves to me. I am usually at Casa Pacifica in the morning, and people coming for breakfast at the Cafe upstairs come by to say hello. Or come by my camp on the beach to visit.

It's been very nice for me. I have been having email converstaions with some of these people because of the blog, and others have just been reading it. It's really nice to meet people and talk with them about Chacala and their reactions to being in Chacala after reading my impressions.

One interesting thing, at least to me, is that it is not apparent to many people who are reading the blog what gender I am. That is interesting to me, and when I get a chance I am going to go back and re-read things with an eye to identifying my gender. A man told me that since I was talking about grounding the electrical system at one of the houses that he assumed I was male. Whatever. And apparently I mentioned my son and ex giving me a tent for camping and people read that both ways. As I said, I am going back to take a look.

Anyway, Casa Pacifica is having a Christmas Day potluck at 5pm for people visiting Chacala, etc. I don't care for Christmas and usually ignore it, but I might come to that. There are alot of nice people around, and how knows, they might have some good books or magazines.

I will probably be going to Chico's Christmas Eve, but who knows. I think we have going to have a little campfire tonight at Esparanza's (where I am camping) and I like that idea. People will be arriving today and tomorrow for the holiday season and I am half dreading the noise, etc, and half looking forward to it.

Some people were over at Las Cuevas yesterday and saw very large manta rays out where they were swimming. Apparently they don't have stinging tails, but it kind of scares me. Next time I can get a boat ride over there I am going to look.

Chacala is Getting Very Busy

Chacala is starting to see the Christmas crowds, both US and Canadian tourists and Mexican families from Guadalajara and other places in Mexico where it's cold this time of year. I am writing this on Thursday, a few days before Christmas and most of the rentals are full, but not all. There are places that don't advertise, but are listed at Chacala budget rentals it you are still thinking of coming down this holiday season or later in the year.

Living on the beach has been wonderful for me. I love hearing the waves all day and night, and being outside all the time. I just finished reading a wonderful book called Lizabeth and Me. It sounds like it would be depressing, becauses it's by a man who what homeless for three or four years. But I really enjoyed it.

And it made me think that in someways I might be considered sort of homeless in Chacala, but I don't feel homeless at all. I have been moving every six months or so, (always to houses) but now I am camping. But I have electricity for my fridge, and two light bulbs, a real bed with foam mattress, and showers and toilets about 100 feet away, so I feel pretty comfortable.

One thing that's different about camping here in Chacala is that the camping spaces that are for rent are much smaller than I am used to in the US. They are usually the size of your palapa, about 15 by 35 feet. Mine in right at the edge of the beach, with a very low wall of rocks separating me from the actual beach. My floor is sand with a rock patio buried underneath the sand. The water is about 15 feet away during high tide and about 40 feet away during low tide. It's great. The water is just beautiful. This morning three young local men were surfing right out in front of my camp, and they looked so lovely, dancing around on the waves.

I seem to have broken one of my smaller toes a few days ago, tripping over a piece of tile on a sidewalk in Las Varas. It hurts enough to make me stay at home. I think it will start feeling better in a day or two. It's kind of nice to be home and have visitors come by. Lots of interesting people in Chacala today. This morning a nice woman gave me Sunday's New York Times. I am in heaven. She also has two New Yorker's she will leave for me.

Mishwa, a long-term Chacala visitor and some-time resident, is here for this Christmas vacation. She is camping in the next site, and last night she told me about a "survey" she is making around town. The question is, is Chacala better now than it was before yachts started arriving, MardeJade was built, the paved road and gated community put it? Those events started about 20 or more years ago. I will report on the answers in a few days.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday Morning in Chacala

I woke up at 7am this morning, late for me. The sound of the waves usually seem to wake me up at daylight. But I puttered around and cooked breakfast, a bacon sandwich and some grapefuit and watermelon. The ocean was a beautiful green this morning.

As I walked up to Casa Pacifica a little later, quite a few people seem to have hangover-headaches this morning. The big fiesta/grand opening yesterday for the new hotel offered lots and lots of free cerveza and tequilla, and food, and the loudest music I have ever heard in Chacala. There was a ten-man band with an incredibly loud speaker system. I went for a few minutes around 5pm, and there were alot of people there. Almost no local people. And a large table of local Americans and American/Canadian vistors. I loved watching the dancing, especially Guillermo and his wife Lupita, owners of Casa Chacala, who were dancing up a storm.

Espraranza's campground had a full complement of kid campers this weekend. A group of sixty kids and some adults from a pentathalon (not spelled right) sports club in Guadalajara. They walked over to Las Cuevas yesterday. A nice group.

I was surprised how territorial and invaded I felt when I came back to my camp after dark and found it surrounded on two sides by tents, and herds of roaming kids. The first night was kind of annoying. My laundry was knocked onto the ground by someone, and my water jug spilled over. And kids fell into my tent twice that night. But it calmed down by 10pm, and in the daylight the kids were more careful about where they were walking.

The moon is still pretty full and the nights are beautiful. It's still a little cold at night, but tourists are still wandering around in shorts and tee shirts at night, so I think I have just gotten accustomed to being warm all the time.

Susana and Poncie are hosting a Christmas Day potluck at their Cafe at Casa Pacifica and Las Brisas is having a Christmas Eve dinner at the restaurant. Everyone is expecting a big influx of Mexican tourists in the next few days. The puestos (little shack-like stores on the beach road) have been opening up the last few days. The big EBACH (scholarship program run by an American for Chacala kids) Christmas party for Chacala kids is on Wednesday, I think. The EBACH kids do a great job.

Koko Bongo's store is carrying more and more grocery items. It's a nice clean store and I like supporting a Chacalaen-owned store.

The ocean water feels chilly for a minute, then it's fine. I haven't seen any whales this week, but I know they'll be along again soon. The days are warm and sunny and lovely. As soon as I finish this I am back to my camp to loll around and relax. I am buying a hammock next week, and I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More Building in Chacala

There is another new building going up on the second tier of lots in from the paved road into Chacala, going north from the new hotel. They have been creating a road to the back lots the last few days. I don’t know what is being built but, it appears to be more that a one-lot construction site. P.S. (written later, it turns out part of that road will be an access road to the back of the new hotel.) And access for the houses to be built on the second tier of lots on the uphill side of the paved road.

The is also a new road being built in Chacala from the paved road down to the beach road. At the beach road it will come out between Koko Bongo’s and on the paved road it starts just in front of Augustine's the first of the four buildings on the downhill side of the paved road, right before the corner where the cobblestone road goes down to Juan’s tienda and the beach road. It seems like a pretty steep location, and I guess it will add value to the lots on either side of the road. One of the lots Leo of Koko Bongo’s is selling is on the slope on the north side of the new road. Probably a decent view lot.

The lot directly downhill from Gordon’s and across the road to Casa Pacifica now has an ugly (in my opinion) motor home parked on a bare dirt fill lot with no trees, plus a bright red truck with a gold camper parked next to it. It looks like a junky trailer park. Just what Chacala needs. A gringo slum.

The people with the motor home are still camping next to the beach. It sounds like they paid up and then refused to pay for any more nights because soon the Christmas vacationers will be in Chacala and camping around them so they shouldn’t have to pay. I was told that in Spanish, so I may have misunderstood. I haven’t seen if the police returned yet or not.

I spent 15 minutes picking up their garbage this afternoon. They and the guy from the US who is squatting in a shack on the beach, have been leaving plastic shopping bags of garbage next to the road. Of course, the dogs were tearing open the bags and spreading the garbage all around. Chacala is entered in a clean town campaign right now, with prizes, and their litter was the only trash on this whole section of the road. Sometimes it’s really embarrassing to be an American (or in this case, I would be embarrassed if I was French-Canadian).

If you would like to look at other websites about Chacala this website might interest you.

The Ocean in Chacala is Phosphorescent

I am not sure if phosphorescent is right word, but the last two nights every wave on the Chacala beach had a beautiful sort of fluorescent glow. It’s just beautiful. Three of us just been an hour sitting in the dark watching the glowing waves It was so beautiful.
It’s still going on but I came inside to sleep, But I couldn’t sleep so I am writing.

Two of the three bike riders are still in town, camping down the beach from me. They have just finished a semester of studying Spanish in Guadalajara and are very fun to visit with. Will, one of the bike riding boys, and Mishwa, both think the glow is from some kind of algae. It is so amazing. I opened the tent window so I watch while I type. It is just so beautiful. The foamy part seems to be what is glowing, and maybe the almost full moon is adding to the light. Every time a wave crashes light bounces all around. Another lovely part of Chacala, and probably up and down the coast.

The traditional walk to the shrine for Guadaloupe did not actually happen last night. By the time they gone to every shrine in Chacala (built especially for last night and today), and had eaten some special foods at each place, it was 2am and everyone was too tired, or had to go to work, or to get the kids ready for school. So they are going tonight. A few minutes ago the fireworks went off and the church bells rang, letting everyone know it was time to met at the church and start the walk.

Oops, Mishwa just came back from the walk to the shrine. She said it was lovely. There were about forty Chacala people, including lots of teens. They sang beautifully the whole way carrying candles and she was really glad she went.

It’s kind of cold in Chacala tonight. 70 degrees F at 8pm. It’s very dewy in the morning these days, even away from the beach. I don’t remember so much dew from other years.

They seem to be more whales coming through again.

New Hotel in Chacala

The new hotel on the paved road, just north of Aurora and Lupe's Techos, is opening on Saturday afternoon. Big grand opening. Apparently everyone invited, but many local people have told me they aren't planning to go becaue they haven't been invited personally. The owner, Luis, is an Mexican/American from Palm Springs, and his family has a cement company there.

It's scary to think of that big hotel up there, 15 rooms, six with kitchens. And a restaurant with bar and a pool.

Oh well.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Guadalupe in Chacala

I am writing this just before daylight in Chacala. I am sitting on my bed in my lovely tent. I can see it’s getting light in the east and can hear the sound of the ocean.

Last night I went to bed about 7pm, planning to take a nap for a couple of hours and then get up and go up to the iglesia, the Chacala church, for the special festivities for the eve of the special day honoring Guadalupe (December 12th). Which is actually today, but the event starts the night before with a kind of Mass with lots of singing, and a hot drink made with vanilla, and visits to small home shrines to Guadalupe. And the a midnight walk to the Guadalupe shrine about a mile down the paved road.

We had walked up to the Chacala church just before dark, and it was decorated beautifully, with special flowers and decorations around the lovely statue of Guadalupe.

There are several special decorations around town yesterday, in honor of Guadalupe. At Dona Lupe’s restaurant, Fonda Lupe, there is a beautiful collection of framed paintings, and flowers and special Christmas lights. And Maria/Palila and the house next to Sarai's little grocery/school both had beautiful decorations. Don Enrique's restaurant had music AND decorations.

It just occured to me, maybe the Guadalupe decorations are like Christmas decorations in the States. They sometimes get kind of competitive.

Last night, and every year, lots of people from Chacala walk together on the road to Las Varas, to the shrine for Guadalupe. It was originally built about ten years ago on a special tree trunk, and then when the new road was built about six years ago the people of Chacala made a permanent shrine out of cement. People walk there a lot, and often leave flowers. When the collectivo drives by the shrine most people cross themselves.

I have been invited to two birthday parties today, one for a baby girl named Guadalupe and other other for my former landlady, Guadalupe. I didn’t put it together until last night that most of the women who are named Guadalupe are named that because they were born on her day, December 12th.

I am continually amazed at all the things I don’t know about life in Chacala. It’s handy for me to know most, if not all, Guadalupe’s were born today. Easy to remember their birthdays.

Anyway, I never woke up from my nap, and missed the whole thing. I love the idea of walking together in the night, but maybe next year.

Last night at dark the police (five of them) showed up to tell the people that didn’t want to pay the rent for their campsite that they had to pay or leave immediately. Apparently the non-payers are leaving this morning. Don Beto said the police told them they would be arrested if they hadn’t left Chacala when by the time the police returned today. I guess every tourist town attracts people who think they deserve a free lunch.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch In Chacala

Don Beto, an older, long-term Chacalean stopped me on the road today near my camp today. He has a little campground next to his son’s campground (where I stay). He was so upset he was shaking. He was upset because some middle-aged French-Canadians in a very fancy small RV with motorcycle and bikes had parked in one of the areas he collects rent on (and provides toilets and showers and picks up the trash) had refused to pay $4 a night to camp there. He said they had stayed in the same spot the year before for weeks and had left during the night to avoid paying their rental fees. He wanted me to talk to them. So I tried.

I had met the women, an artist, the day before. When I went over to their van, I saw they were hanging out at a house where an American has been squatting in a house on the beach for awhile, and lives sort of next to the camping spot. He and I have been friendly, but we disagree about a lot of things, and one of them is the rent issue. So after we said hello, I said Don Beto had just asked me to talk with them about paying rent on their camping spot.

I was kind of nervous, stepping into the situation, but I did it anyway, partly because Don Beto was so upset, and partly because it makes me sick to see people with lots of financial resources coming to Chacala and enjoying its beauty, and not wanting to pay anything (or complaining about the little bit they are asked to pay) for their use of such a beautiful place.

If you are looking for a place to stay in Chacala, go to RENTALS in CHACALA.

Anyone who is staying in Chacala is using the resources of the town, The water, the sewage system, the electrical system, the roads, phone lines, the trash pickup and disposal, and possibly the internet place/English library at the Bibliotecha.

The beautiful clean beach would not be beautiful if someone wasn’t be paid to keep it clean. When the holes in the paved road get too horrible (generally caused by giant contractor trucks speeding to the Marina Chacala gated-community), the town men go out and with shovels and wheelbarrows, and fill the holes. When the stream the town water comes from gets to filled with silt, the people from Chacala got out there and spend days bucketing out the mud behind the little cement dam. When the roads get so rutted from the rainy season, people from town fill the ruts.

In my opinion visitors to Chacala should try to carry their weight here, and take their share of the load of maintaining this beautiful town and beach. Perhaps that share is contributing to the economy of the entire town by paying a small, token rent.

Why should well-off people vacation on the backs and the work of the local people? Why do they think they should be able to come to a beautiful beach, park their ugly little motor vehicles in a primo spot, and not pay a cent? Who do they think should maintain this beautiful place for them, so they can have a beautiful spot for free? I think they are getting a really good deal for four bucks a night. And if they used the toilets here they wouldn’t be tempted to go empty they toilet tanks of the side of the road in the middle of the night, as some do. Or dig a hole in the sand and dump their black water there.

I guess if they don’t understand there’s no such thing as a free lunch by the time they’re middle-aged, they never will. It makes me sad. And mad. Oh well. Sorry for the bitching.

If you are interested in seeing a list of Chacala websites you can go to Chacala Websites for info.

Update on Sunday: no rent paid yet.

Ten-speed Bicyclists in Chacala

Tonight, just before dusk, three young men from PA and CO came riding into Chacala today on their very spiffy bicycles. It’s the first time I have seen bicyclers visiting Chacala, and they caught the eye of everyone on the street. Polo, of Polo’s famous Tacos, asked me to go tell them to come eat taco’s at his stand, and one of the local kids and his dog went running alongside them. The bikers didn’t notice Edgar but they did notice me, and they stopped to talk.

They wanted to know about camping on the beach, and I pointed out the place where the road goes through the opening in the fence. I explained that I thought there might be some areas that no one collected rent on, but I didn’t know where. I also mentioned that when they used toilets and showers in town there was a charge. I also said that if everyone who camped on the beach defecated in the bushes no one could stand the smell. They looked embarrassed, and I hope they think about what I said before depositing their bodily wastes in the sand somewhere.

Anyway, they seemed like nice young men, Who knows. They had been studying in Guadalajara after college, taken the bus to Tepic and riden their bikes to San Blas, and then down the coast to Chacala. As the sun was going down they said they thought Chacala was the most beautiful beach they had seen.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sunsets and Kids Surfing in Chacala

Another nice thing about living right on Chacala beach is watching to sun going down. The sunsets are often really spectacular. It is happening right now, as I type, and the red on the clouds is amazing. The exact spot the sun goes into the ocean is gradually moving south right now. I guess the place it sets will start moving north at the equinox on the 21st. I think I have that right.

I had noticed other times that the boys from the families I am renting my camping ramada from are out surfing in front of this campsite every late afternoon. And sometimes early in the morning, before the sun is up. They seem so fearless. Two of the boys are in their late teens, I think, and I am pretty sure these same two boys have been surfing this spot for at least two years. Another younger boy, maybe 10, seems to be learning by trying to surf about twenty feet away.

Some of the waves are pretty big, and occasionally they coming crashing in so closely together I can’t imagine how the boys survive. But they do. When the waves are at their biggest I hold my breathe and count heads after every wave. I guess I will get accustomed to their expertise after a few weeks of watching them.

I am getting nervous about more visitors from the US/Canada arriving in the next few weeks. I like it here better when I know, at least to recognize, almost everyone in town. Oh well. Tourism is a big part of the economy here, so it’s stupid for me to regret it. After all, I am a visitor too.

If you are thinking of coming down, please look at Chacala Budget Rentals for ideas about places to stay, and so on. As a kind of volunteer, I help make reservations for some of the cheaper rentals in Chacala. I have listed all the contact info that I have for all the rentals in Chacala.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

To Be of Use (in Chacala)

Lately I have been thinking about how people who visit Chacala experience the poverty and social inequities they see here. Living here, I get to observe the different reactions visitors have when they came face-to-face with everyday life in Chacala, as compared to what they expected or whatever it is they are accustomed to at home.

Some visitors seem to believe that the access to jobs, education, medical care, and financial security they have enjoyed in their lives is the result of their natural, personal superiority (some kind of birth right, I suppose), as opposed to the good luck to have been born into a wealthy nation. They seem to feel that the entitlements they have enjoyed makes them smarter and wiser than local people.

In any case, people with that perspective are generally very willing to share their instant solutions to Chacala problems. Their comments generally start with “if only they would….”, and are generally offered within a few days of arriving here.

Other people fall in love with the town, the natural setting, and (sometimes) the people, and want to find a way to live here. Sometimes their idea is that someone should pay them (preferable at high wages) to do something here (teach something, offer massage or medical care or something) that will allow them to stay here. It’s not clear who would be paying them, or why local people would prefer to hire a non-local person to do work a local person does. Or they want to start of business that will provide them income, without much concern about the impact of their business will have on the local infrastructure, economy, environment, etc.

Some people, or sometimes the same people, say things like “I want to help the people here”. Sometimes I ask, help them what? Make more money? Have a nicer family life? Improve the local school system, the water system, the waste water treatment system? Electrical service? Practice birth control? Deal with substance and alcohol abuse? Have better marriages? Be better parents? Save enough money to live in some other wonderful place? Change the political system? Deal with the everyday corruption?

I am very curious how these people think they can “help” people here, considering what a terrible mess the US is. In all the above areas. I wonder how it is that people think they have solutions to problems here when they apparently aren’t part of the solution to the same problems at home. Or maybe they are part of the solution and didn’t like how it turned out. Like voting for Bush and then seeing what they got for their trouble.

Of course there are people who came here, saw a need, and jumped in and dealt with that need. Dale Reinhardt, Susana Escobido, Jose Enrique De Valle, all did just that. And in a big way, with very little in the way of personal resources. It appears to me that each of them saw a need: a physical location for education and community (Dale), a structured community-based program for using that building (Susana), and the funding for those buildings and programs (Susana and Rotarians and other individuals), and housing with a source of income for some of the poorest families (Jose Enrique).

Pretty amazing what some people can do. And how wonderful they are able to draw other volunteers into their dreams, and to allow them to be part of their solutions to Chacala’s problems.

I think I am in some other category that’s hard for me to see. I try to step back and observe myself and what I am doing in Chacala. It’s very hard for me to figure out what I am doing. I tithe with my money always. But it’s kind of random. Every month that little pile of cash gets doled out in response to whatever needs present themselves to me. Sometimes the need is so obvious I don’t even think about it. If I think a little cash will help, I just hand some over. I have a few small projects I share my cash with regularly, but mostly it’s just whatever need I notice, or tugs at my heart strings, or whatever. And I have a couple of small, regular contributions I make to families with kids in Kinder.

I don’t think my small efforts are going to make any difference in whatever happens in Chacala. But they make me feel good and part of things. I am kind of proud of helping some Techo owners get a few more renters, and maybe I will be able to help some of the small tourist-based businesses grow a little. But really both those efforts are basically for my own pleasure, my attempts to find a way to be part of things here and be of use.

I get so much pleasure being here, living my life here. So many people have been kind and friendly to me. People are very observant of each other around here. They just step right up and help out. Carry your package, give you a hand, a ride, whatever. A smile, a friendly welcome, a quick lesson in Spanish pronunciation, a joke, and invitation to a party.

There is a lot of non-verbal communication here. It’s been very good for me to become more aware (but not very aware yet) of how other people are reacting to me. I am getting a little better at noticing when I am rude, and sometimes I can see that I hurt someone, and I have a chance to apologize. I think, like in all small towns, people here know they have to keep living together even if they don’t like each other very much, so they find ways to “get over it” and go on interacting.

There is lots of eye contact here and lots of little expressions and hand gestures and so on that go on all the time. Some of it is directed at me, and I loved feeling included and connected here. Lots and lots of jokes and laughing. I can even make jokes in Spanish that get a laugh, at least sometimes. Or maybe they are just laughing at me, not with me.

I know I am getting more than I could ever give to people in Chacala. My little efforts are nothing compared to the warmth and welcome I feel here. People talk to each other so much more here than do the people I lived around in the US. Families and friends spend hours just talking and eating together. Here lunch is at about 2pm and goes for a couple of hours, often with a nap thrown in.

Enough rambling. You’d think I actually like my life here or something.

Camping in Chacala

One of the high points of my day, was I rented a Coke table from Dona Lupe. A Coke table, as in a small four-person table with wooden legs and a red metal top advertising Coke. For some reason I have coveted those tables since I first saw one. No one really owns them. They are for people who sell Coke (half the town probably), and the Coke guys take them back when you stop selling Coke. So Dona Lupe probably isn’t supposed to be renting it to me (for 30pesos/2.80 USD a month), but I am really glad she did. I am using it in my kitchen area.

I set up my old tent this morning, crammed in next to my new tent. I think I am supposed to stay within the boundaries of my palapa roof, which is about 18 by 25 feet, maybe. I don’t think they care if I go out toward the beach/water. I am about 10 feet from the high tide line.

So anyway, now I have a tent for my stuff, like clothes, and this and that, and then my big new tent has my bed and a table and chair for my little office. With my favorite drawing stuff, Spanish lesson books, and my notebooks for lists, and space for my computer. I love sitting in the tent looking out at the ocean and the palm fronds. And now I night I think it will be okay to compute, without the bug problem I hope.

Oh, the other high point today was that the little neighbor boys, six year olds Carlos and Ricardo came back again today to color with my pens. They really do nice drawings and they love the colors.

And I love sitting there with them drawing and watching the ocean, and boats, and pelicans, and people walking back and forth to Mar de Jade, a local small hotel/retreat center.

Here’s another interesting (to me anyway) cultural difference between gringos and Mexicans in Chacala. Mexicans always look and smile and wave when they walk by, even teenagers (unless they’re lost in love). However, guests at Mar de Jade (participants at a Zen retreat this week) seem to either sneakily look and pretend not too, or ignore us sitting here. If we wave they never wave back. I’ll take that back. One lady did wave back and then quickly looked away. I don’t know what they are thinking (maybe not wanting to invade our/my privacy or something.

One way Mexican tourists in Chacala and Zen retreatants are alike is none of them pick up the plastic garbage on the beach. Yesterday a plastic cup was lying on the beach all day and probably 60 people ignored it. Today it was a large green plastic 7-up bottle, and even more people ignored it.

View from the south end of Chacala Playa

Sometimes I am just amazed by what other people think. Then, sometimes, I remember that I have misunderstood almost everything in my life at one time or another, so who am I to judge.

However, this one thing sort of floored me. Twice this week people staying at the local retreat center, doing a Zen retreat (apparently a silent retreat, more or less) have been amazed to hear that there are very affordable places to rent in Chacala by the day, week, month, and year. And that where they are staying is NOT the only option. The retreat center is definitely the most expensive option for a room and bath, but not the ONLY option.

Last year a woman who has been coming to annual retreats for nine years didn’t believe there were places to rent here. I asked her where she thought the US/Canadian-looking people were staying and said she didn’t think there were any tourists like that in Chacala.

Of course, I know I don’t understand about 90% of what is going on around me here. This morning as I walked from my camp to the north end of town, and I had four different conversations with people where I still am not sure if we were talking about the same thing.

The vegetable truck guy arrived here at about 6:30am. He called me by name, which kind of surprised me, although I have been buying from him for a long time. Then, when I reached for some grapes he pointed out some newer ones, saying “major”, better. First time for that. Then he and Esperanza, my new landlady, started making jokes about money, which I didn’t get at all.

The water truck man came up a few minutes later. He launched into a long explanation of (I think) why he didn’t leave me any change the last time he dropped the water bottle off. I am guessing that’s what he was saying because he didn’t want any money this time.

I can understand some people’s Spanish really easily, and with some people I don’t have a clue. Kids are the best. They just go slower and slower until I get it. The kids are very helpful little Spanish teachers. Very patient with me and, I think, kind of amazed I am so ignorant (about Spanish).

This afternoon, when I got back from “work”, Carlos was waiting for me so he could draw with my pens. Then within about 10 minutes there were six little kids around the table drawing away. They were here for about an hour. They have come every day so far.

I really like it, but I like my privacy to, so I am trying to structure the drawing thing to one session each afternoon, beginning whenever. I am assuming the thrill will wear off soon and the paper will run out and that will be that.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas is Sneaking into Chacala

Christmas is Sneaking into Chacala

I knew it was going to be a long walk from my beach camp to the far north end of Chacala (Casa Pacifica, and even Trini’s) but I was really tired by the time I finished by rounds this morning. I went to Dona’s Lupe’s to finish packing up my stuff, cleaned the quartos for Cleve’s arrival here in 10 days or so, visited with Aurora, used Susana’s internet connection, visited with a bunch of people around that end of town, bought an extension cord, and visited here and there on the way back into “downtown” Chacala. I stopped at Polo’s and Berta's taco stand for a Coke break. He has the first serious/permanent banner across the street for his Taco stand, in addition to excellent tacos. I imagine in a month there will be twenty of them across the street all the way down the beach road.

It looks like the new construction on the tiny lot going uphill toward the school is a house for Juan (of the Joker tienda, his wife Mime and their baby Jesus). Paul’s (the one who is building some rentals and planning to open a surfboard/gym place in town) construction is really moving along fast now. The Canadians house back off the paved road is looking very nice, and a lot of it is plastered with cement now.

The Xmas spirit is creeping around Chacala, house by house. Lights here and there, a few shrines, and a lovely (artifical) tree at one of the houses near the hardware store. The "owner" of the the motor home campground, is creating another large Christmas tree-like creation in front of the Delphin Restaurant. It’s made of lights wrapped along ropes that go at least twenty-five feet high up a palm tree.

There are some days honoring Guadalupe coming up next week. Guadalupe seems to be very important around here, with night pilgrimages, and special events, etc. This is only my third Christmas season in Chacala. The first year I was here I only saw one house with Christmas lights. Last year they were everywhere, and this year all kinds of Xmas stuff is popping up. Guadalupe with blinking colored lights and tinsel around her portrait for example. Poinsettia plants (called Nochebuena) are showing up. Sam’s Club had real Christmas trees last week. Kind of creepy, really.

Don't forget to check here to look at budget rentals if you are thinking of coming down.

My New Chacala Neighborhood

I am just starting to see some of the advantages of moving to different houses in different Chacala neighborhoods every six months or so. I get to see families from a different perspective.

I have been meeting new kids everyday. Last night Carlos drew at my table til dark, and Jessica (who is a relative of this family is lives about four places down the beach) stayed practicing her English/Spanish vocabulary list. I am learning more words every day. My new landlady, Esperanza, and her son Carlos are both teaching me words all day. My mind is boggling with new vocabulary. And Esperanza’s daughter-in-law is pregnant and due in five days, so maybe I will get to hold the new baby later on.

Yesterday when I was looking for someone with a truck to move “my” new Coke table to my camp, I noticed Cheeto’s green and orange truck at Martine’s (Chilango’s) restaurant. It turned his wife, the mother of my favorite two year old, Hector, works at Martine’s (Chilango’s) restaurant. Never knew she worked outside the home before.

I noticed one of the little puestos (shack/store) on the beach road has been lined with a nice screen of small diameter bamboo sticks. The lady there said her son had collected the sticks for her. I like the look.

Another couple, about my age, and part of the Chico’s restaurant family in some way, have turned one of the puestos into a vacation home by putting a large tent inside and adding some nice chairs and tables for lounging around on. They have a light, and this morning I noticed a nice bouquet of flowers on the table. I think they use the facilities at Chico’s, and I know they eat there. They are here til February.

Yesterday morning I went by Chico’s to do glucose tests for Aurora and her dad, Chico. In the two years I have been testing him his blood sugar has dropped from 300 whatevers to 157, which is amazing to me considering he is a very serious consumer of tequila and doesn’t take any medication. It’s still not normal but it’s a lot better than it was. I am thinking of trying his method, but I think the tequila is more expensive than my diabetes meds. Besides, I can’t stand the taste. I ended up testing five people at Chico’s, and all but Chico had normal fasting blood sugars. Excellent for Mexico, where diabetes is the number one killer, ahead of heart disease and cancer.

I have started doing as much grocery shopping as possible at Koko Bongo’s newly expanded grocery. I want to support the families that actually live in Chacala as much as I can. My closest tienda is now Francisco’s. That family lives behind the store, so that’s pretty local.

I am writing this from my big tent with all the window rolled down, screens only, looking at the beach and the ocean and the sun moving across the tree covered point to the south. I am in love with the rhythm of the waves breaking on the beach and at night the white surf of the breakers rolling in. I can’t wait until the moon is full again.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Life on Playa Chacala

I can’t believe I waited so long to start living on the beach at Chacala. I think I was afraid to try camping in such a new environment, and with no Spanish. But I have loved camping all my life, and I should have moved onto the beach in Chacala sooner. In the US I camped on mountain lakes and on slow rivers in canoes and kayaks. This is very different, and I love it.

I’ve been in Chacala two years next week and it finally feels like I am in the right place. I am camping under a palapa at Esperanza and Leovardo’s, and right now I am the only camper here. My lovely son and ex bought me a very nice tent and a foam mattress, so I am living in total comfort. I am starting to look for a new hammock, but it will be awhile before I can afford one.

This morning I was sitting at my little table under the palapa, kind of mesmerized by watching the waves, when I realized the sea was alive with fish jumping around. Then a pelican arrived, landed right in the middle of all the fish turbulence, and the fish scattered in a second. The pelican kept diving but he finally gave up.

Then a minute later a fisherman walked out into the water to about chest high and started casting for fish. Didn’t hook anything and the waves started getting pretty tall, and he finally got knocked over and came in. Then a dog came by and found a dead fish and had a great time tossing it around until it fell apart into pieces and the dog wandered off.

I love going to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing. I love the smell of the sea. I love being outside all day. I love watching the ocean, and the sun moving across the sky, and the family here. Lots of kids. I played futbol with Carlos, aged 6, this morning. I love swimming whenever I want to, all day. What a life.

Moving Again in Chacala

In mid-November I moved from my summer housesit casa (a long walk from the beach), back to Dona Lupe’s (two blocks from the beach), and now after a couple of weeks, I am moved onto the beach. Last night was my first night in my new tent, and I went to sleep with the sound of the waves. I felt so content and at home. Really, the first time I have felt just right about my space.

My move to the beach took a couple of days (well, two trips over two different days). I can’t believe how much stuff I have accumulated. I arrived in Chacala with two suitcases and a small backpack. And it took two small-sized truckloads to move my stuff down to the beach. I have accumulated a fridge, three plastic tables, six plastic chairs, a cooler, a tent, a mattress, bedding, and miscellanous kitchen stuff. And art supplies, and laptop and related equipment, extension cords and a light, etc etc etc

I am having a harder time working out how to do internet stuff since I moved down here. For quite awhile I have been spending five or six hours some days on the computer. I have my own Prodigy connection now, but I still have to find a phone line to use when I what to go online. Right now I have five families who seem to be okay with me using to their phone lines, so I kind of rotate around, trying not to wear out my welcome.

So far it’s working out okay, but living on the beach is different. People say I shouldn’t use this laptop when the air is moist or breezy because the salty moisture and sand-laden air is hard on computers. I think I will try hiding out in the tent with the window flaps zipped up. Then do my normal walk to someone’s phone line to go on-line.

There are more tourists from the US and Canada showing up – seven motor homes on the beach and two boats on the water this morning. Five of the motor homes were from Quebec, which doesn’t bode well for the local entrepenuers, at least if the rumors about French-Canadians who travel in motor homes are true. The rumor being they are very, very careful with their pesos and generally don’t spend any money in Chacala. I have only met a few French-Canadians and they were very nice, and I don’t know if those rumors are true or not. But it is interesting that local business people would be so aware of the differences between the different nationalities of gringo tourists.

I have been having a good time helping people find a place to stay in Chacala. Things are filling up but there is still room at a few places. The less expensive quartros at Aurora’s ($25 a night with bath, two double beds and covered patio), and Concha’s ($20 a night for a room with two double beds, shared bath and patio) are still open for Christmas. They are both near the beach, stores and restaurants. Check Chacala Budget Rentals or email me at for more info.