Monday, January 30, 2006

Chacala Days

I had a very nice day today. Today is Constitution Day and it's a bank and school and postal holiday and lots of people are here on the beach. First thing this morning Gilberto, a four year old neighbor boy came over wanting to "pintura". Some wonderful people, Lonnie and Carolina, had just brought three really nice sets of watercolors down, and Gilberto went crazy went he saw the brand new paints. He is very careful not to mix colors and is a great with doing beautiful color washes with really nice colors. He worked quietly for more than an hour, and then we glued his pictures to the palm trees that hold up my palapa shelter (his idea). Nice morning. He arrived about 7am, and we shared some bananas while we worked.

The cold nights and cold early morning have abated and it was very comfortable and warm at 7am. And it's about 7pm and still nice.

This is the week of the big fiesta in Las Varas. No one seems to know which night the town of Chacala marches in the parade but lot{s of people are planning to go. There are lots of booths and bands and food places and a talent show that goes on and rides like bumper cars and special masses after the parades each night. It's really fine and it's hard to believe it's Las Varas, it's so full of booth and people And fireworks every night.

Something happened that I am interpreting as another sign of Chacala growth as a town. Government growth, or a sense of authority, and an attitude that seems to be like "this is our town and we are taking responsibility for keeping it clean and protecting it's citizens."

In this case, some sort of scuzzy looking young people arrived in town a few days ago. People noticed them arrive, and noticed that they didn{t have any possessions with them. So when they started walking out of town later, carrying a bunch of stuff, including a stereo, some citizens noticed and stopped them. After some conversations they confiscated the stuff and took it to Juans (the new Juez). Meanwhile, Juan the painter went home to Ana's house up the hill from town and realized his stereo was gone. He went to Juan's to report it, and there was his stuff. Pretty good I think.

I course, this is mostly second hand, so I may have it completely wrong. But I like the story. And I think if it's true it bodes well from Chacala. Some people believe that the governor's promise of a real water source for Chacala by April might be true. Hope so.

Speaking I misunderstanding what is going on....which happens to me all the time. Today some people arrived and set up one of those huge oil filled vats where they deep fry pork producsts of a big gas burner arrived at one of the palapa´s at Esperanza's. Somehow I jumped to the conclusion that they were going to open a restaurant or food stand and I quietly freaked out. Then I left to run errands and came back and saw that it was just a family party. A nice quiet family party, mostly women and kids.

It's a beautiful Monday, about 85 F degrees mid afternoon. It was about 62 degree at 7am, which is cold in my opinion. The ocean is perfect and a lovely green blue color. Pretty guiet around town.

I am still waiting for my computer to get repaired and brought back down to Chacala. I miss it alot and can't wait to get it back. I am looking for someone to bring it down from Seattle. There are a couple of wireless areas around town now, but you would have to hunt to find them. The broadband hookup at Koko bongos is working well and open all the time.

The new hotel is still pretty empty, with not very many guests and the pool seems to be greenish lately.

There was a tour bus of people unloading yesterday, moving into Mercede's place (the new place with the small blue pool, across from Casa Azul. It appeared that 8 and 10 people were staying gin each of the 6 units. Not my first choice for a place to stay.

I am happy and busy. The Sufi's are at Mar de Jade. For the tenth or eleventh year in a row, I think. One of the Sufi's told me there were sixty Sufis staying there, some in the massage rooms at the new spa, which is very nice.

This is all discouraging news, I guess. The good news is there are alot of very nice visitors this week and its very fun to meet them and hang around with them. But my favorite thing is still being at my camp doing my things that I like to do.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friends of Chacala blog

It looks like the Friends of Chacala blog is being used. Jared has posted a wonderful map of Chacala, and some beautiful photos.

And some people have discovered they are on the same flight coming down here. Remember that you can arrange an airport pickup by emailing trinimoya2 (at) Please use the symbol @ rather than (2) when emailing Trini.

There is also a description of travel options for going from the airport to Chacala at of these addresses are active, youhave to type them in yourself.

Chacala Building Update

Chacala is continuing to see new building stuff going on. And apparently the building permit people are getting more serious, or someone didn't bet paid off or something. Because the new (new this summer) roof on the place across the street from the Deposito has been torn off. Apparently some officials required the removal. I don't understand the explanations I hear, but they seem to include words about permits, etc. It actually looked poorly designed and welded, so maybe it was dangeruos. Don't know. It had steel uprights, steel beams, rebars for holding the palapa branches. It was sort of a restaurant, but mostly a great meeting place for town meetings, open, public, and shady.

There was a big meeting of the cuesto (little shack type stores/restaurants on the beach road) a few days ago. Lots of cars and trucks and people. And a long meeting. I have no idea was the agenda was, but of course I am curious.

Juan, of the Joker, is building a small house in town, two lots down from the school on. It's almost done.

I am still worried about the swimming pool at Mercede's nice new rental units across the street from Casa Azul. It's about six feet from the front doors of the units to the swimming pool, with no fence or barrier. I am not so much worried about drunker aduults falling in, as little children wandering outside and drowning.

The new place kitty-corner from Paco's and Elizar's, right below the paved road is still being worked on, but the construction seems to have slowed down. The new rentals right across from Juan's tienda is still being worked on, but the construction also seems to have slowed. Apparently someone poured gasoline on some of the palms the new owner of that lot had planted in the sand on the beach next to his lot.

The owner of the new surf shop is renting surfboards, but the shop isn't actually open yet. You can contact him by asking for directions to his house at the Koraney hardware store, right up from "downtown". His name is Paul. His new house, next to his shop, looks like its finishing up quickly.

If you are interested in staying in Laura Sura's new Techo rental, which is located right next to the gate into Chacalila, you can email me and I can put in in contact via phone. Laura speaks English and her new unit is very nice. One window hasn't had a screen put on yet, which is definitely a drawback (at of 3/6/06).

Most of the other construction projects around town seem to be on hold at the moment. Maybe people are busy earning money for more construction. The place right up the paved road from the Chacalilia gate is for sale. It's about half built. There are rumors of more building projects around town. Who knows.

Also , the eijido land drama continues on, with many rumors. For those who own eijido lots, I don't have any facts, but it looks like the situation might be coming to a head.

Rod, of Ayala Realty, has opened his Chacala office lately. Mostly weekends I think. He said he is focused on selling lots in Chacalila. The Marina Chacala is it{s official name and it has a website. Same name.

That's all I can think off. Oh. Except for one thing. Jose Manuel is no longer working at the Delphin campground where motor homes park, and I know people miss him. A number of motor home people seem have taken to burning plastic again. When I walk home at night I walk by their little campfires, and you can see and smell it. I have no clue what they are thinking. They also continue to dig holes in the sand for their sewage lines. Lovely. Obviously I am no talking about every motor-homer, but still....

Chacala Days

A few days ago I left Chacala and headed into Puerto Vallarta . It was one of those days when everything goes right. Except that I forgot my glasses at home and had to buy a new pair of readers. I went to three different places, but no one had more than a few weak pairs, and I ended up at Walmart, not my favorite place. But I had to have glasses.

When I started out in the morning for PV, I walked down to the main beach road and then walked out toward the paved road. Leo, who owns Koko Bongo restaurant, picked me up right away. I got out at the Crucero (the fruit stands where the Chacala road meets the highway) and within a minute the La Penita collectivo-combi picked me up. Then we picked up some other people on the way south and everyone was in a good mood and there was lots of teasing the driver, etc. When we got to La Penita the Pacifico bus has just pulled up, and I got on, and we took off. This is a new way to travel for me, catching the collectivo for La Penita at the Crucero, and it's the cheapest ride. Leo wouldn't take any money, the collectio was 10 pesos, and the bus was 50 pesos, total of 60 pesos, as compared to my old route, Chacala collectivo, 10 pesos, and then 76p for the Pacifico from Las Varas, for a total of 86 pesos. Pretty good deal. I only take rides from people I know, which is alot of the people who drive on the Chacala road, so it seems safe to me.

The little puppy seems to be gone. I am watching for him around Las Varas this morning. No luck so far. I am typing this from Las Varas, and I went to the tsangui, Friday street market, on my way to the internet place.

Got two plants Esperanza said she wanted: a malva ( her name for geraniums) and a coleus. 10 pesos each. We ( E., her 14 year old sone Jorge, and I) have been looking at English and Spanish gardening books and magazines at night. A few days ago I gave her a Spanish language gardening book for Mexico and she has been studying it avidly ever since. And identifying her plants. Yesterday I went up to Aurora's house where I have left my plants from Gordon's (where I summer house-sit), and got a bunch of cuttings for Esparanza. I had some little pots there and a little dirt, so we have a good start.

When I stopped by Dona Lupe's restaurant on the way home, she say I had the plants and she took be back behind the restaurant where she has a nice little garden (which I hadn't noticed before) and gave me cuttings from two succulent plants. Very nice. I am going to keep some plants around my camp, but I think the direct salt air might be too much for them. Esperanza keeps her garden on the side of her house away from the ocean, which seems to work. We'll see. I have alot to learn from E. She is helping me with my Spanish and teaching me about the plant's needs.

The people who have been renting "Luis'" room are leaving (previously planned departure) in a few days. Apparently Luis arrived in the middle of the night and caused a big ruckus about "his" room. Dona Lupe has asked me to continue to look for a new gringo renter for that room. It's downstairs, with a shared bath, two windows, two beds, very very basic, for $100/1000 pesos a month. With electric all the time, and hot water some of the time. Two blocks from the beach with a nice view. Let me know at if you are interested in more info.

The weather is lovely, hot days, highs of 84 or so, nice evenings, low 70's and beautiful incredible sunsets most nights. Sun in on my camp about 7:15 am and it's dark about 5:40pm now. Light at about 6;15am.

Not many gringo tourists, or Mexican weekenders . The gringo tourists who are staying in town generally seem to be very nice. The Alaska homeschool kids left yesterday. Nice bunch of kids and staff. The going away party at Chico{s was fun to watch, with the kids dancing away. David and Emma, the Scottish couple with two little boys, left town on Thursday. They had been at Mar de Jade for about five months while David, a physican, volunteered at the clinic in Las Varas. They are lovely people, and I know we will all miss them. They hosted a nice going away dinner at Chico's a few days before they left and it was really fun for me. The staff from the clinic was there, Toecha, and Socorrco and the clinic admisrator/tech, whose name I don't remember, and we had fun catching up. I love the long meals here, the parties, where everyone is talking and the kids are running arounds, and we eat and eat. And some people drink and drink. It's nice at the restaurant, with my feet in the sand, under the palapa roof, with shade with a little breeze , and the ocean thirty feet away.

My latest slightly strange experience with motor homers involved BC people camping between Esperanza's and Don Beto's "campgrounds". They were in Don Beto's area and paying him the nightly fee for camping and the toilets. However, they were repeatedly using E.'s toilets in the night, and not paying. She believed they were sneaking in, because they weren't using them during the day. They were also hanging their garbage in plastic bags from the tree. And leaving them there, even when the garbage truck came by. They left this morning. Leaving a week's garbage hanging from the tree. You can see why most of the Chacaleño's treat us like curiosities, because some of us are certainly strange.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chacala, My Favorite Place

Chacala has warmed up again, after several weeks of cooler than usual nights. It's back to shorts and shirts in the evening after a period of long sleeved shirts and long pants. People are still enjoying campfires on the beach, in front of their motorhomes.

One of the young women who lives right near my camp, ánd who is the daughter in law of Esperanza, and two babies, also has a lovely little dog whose Spanish name I don't really understand. But the little guy, with white curly fur and very small, is still a puppy. He has been a little ball of weeds and seed pods and has been dirty since I moved here. But a few days ago I spent a couple of mornings cleaning him up. He would happily lay on my lap while I picked stickers and twigs and gum and god knows what out of his fur. I ended up trimming him a little because some of the crud was not removable by finger. Anyway. Esperanza suggested I wash him. So he took a shower with me, and I sácrificed my least favorite towel to drying him off and then brushed him out with a little hair brush I found. He looked cute as can be, curly and white and clean.

And a day later he disappeared. I asked every I could find if they has seen him, and two different Canadian couples told me a family has just driven off with him. After playing with him on the beach. I went around again this morning looking for him, but he is gone. I feel really sad and also guilty. If I had left he filthy dirty no one would have wanted to steal him. He was clearly an owned-dog, with a new collar. Oh well.

I am really appreciating wheelbarrows again. When I used to live on a farm, for many years, I used one all the time. And I am starting to use them again. I have been wheelbarrowing my 24 empty glass bottle / plastic Coke carriers up to Dona Lupe's restaurant, where she trades them in for me for a crate of full bottles. The Coke truck still doesn't come south on the beach road, but this works out okay.

I have been "decorating" my campsite with shells and rocks and stuff, plus some beads I brought with me from the US. I like how it looks, and probably the people who walk on the beach think I'm nuts. The chickens come around all the time, so I don't have to worry about bugs because they work pretty hard at digging things up. The dogs wander thru too, but never stay long. Except for Jose Enrique and Carmen's dog, Jose Carmelo, who often spends the morning under my table, resting his head on my feet. A nice dog. And if I needed my feet warmed, I'd hire him for the job.

This is Monday morning, and I had an errand to run in Las Varas, and didn't want to take a cold shower at Esparanza's. Her shower is warm from about noon on. So I went to Las Brisa's and had a steaming hot shower for 15 pesos. Definitely worth it. Then I rode into town with the school kids on the 7:30am collectivo ride, and took care of business and caught the La Penita collectivo back to the Crucero de Chacala (the turn off the highway to Chacala, where all the fruit stands are) and then caught another ride back home. It took an hour and fifteen minutes. A record for a Las Varas trip for me.

The town is really quiet early Monday mornings, and just a few people on the streets until later than usual. Today they are removing the metal framework for the roof on the newish restaurant across from the Deposito. I don{t know what was wrong with it, but they are removing it piece by piece.

Dona Lupe has been renting here downstairs room, where Luis, her son, used to live. It is a shared bath, private room with private entrance. $100 a month. A couple has been staying there the last couple of months, but they are leaving today.

The new town garbage truck is zipping around town most days. It was own in the trash contest. The garbage situation continues to improve. The driving little vehicles on the beach, and jet ski s has been happening, but there is talk of inforcing the ban on beach driving, and maybe banning jet skis. Alot of other towns are doing it. Maybe Chacala will too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cold nights in Chacala

Chacala has been pretty cold again in the very early morning. Maybe 60 degree F. I am considering buying another blanket, but the minute I do it will be too hot for a blanket at night. Oh well. The days are lovely and just right, low 80´s F and clear and nice. Good sunsets. Dark about 5:40pm, light about 6:15am. Esparanza´s boys were surfing right in front of my camp yesterday morning. The early morning waves were pretty big and looked very scary for surfing. Those boys, Javier and Chuy, are amazing out there on those little boards, with the sun just starting to shine across the water.

Since I have been here in Chacala, I have been thinking about personal boundaries and how different they are for different people. Different cultures. For example, at campgrounds in the US the camp sites are usually set about twenty or more feet apart, to give the semblance of privacy, but here the campsites have zero lot lines and it´s very cozy. Mostly it´s kind of fun to be so close, sometimes not. But I have noticed that given the chance, even the campers from Guadalajara, etc, like a little space, and try to leave an empty space between families. I think I am getting more relaxed about people being so close, even walking right through what I think of as my living room, but it's still kind of hard for me sometimes. I often wake up early in the morning to a little face staring at me thru the tent screen door. It´s Markito or Jasmine, aged two, just looking at me, not saying anything. They usually want to paint or cookies. And I actually kind of love waking up to their little faces. Another little boy, Gilberto, four, likes to come and stand right next to me when I am reading or sleeping in my hammock. He puts my hand of his head. He was a buzz cut and he seems to like me to rub in head.

I get so much more physical contact here than I ever did before coming here. (Except when I used to take care of kids, and my son). But now, here in Chacala, I get hugs, and one-armed hugs, and handshakes, and hugs from the back while sitting down, etc, all day long. I really like it alot. And people always offer welcoming smiles and words when we run into each other. I feel so lucky to be here. Plus I get to hold babies and little kids.

My landlady, Esparanza and her son Jorge, about 14, and I have been looking at my English language gardening books the past few nights. They are for tropical plants and succulents, many of which grow here, so we have a good time recognizing plants. Today I am in PV, and I got E. some gardening magazines in Español, which I hope she likes. I gave her a pair of my reading glasses a few days ago, which she really likes.

This morning I got up and had a very very cold shower and ate and walked out to the beach road and got a ride with Fernando (otherwise known as "moola", I think because he speaks some English and wants to be rich). He is the youngest son of the owners of Chico's, and he is very nice to me. His little girl, 16 month old Fernanda, is one of my favorite kids here. He took me right to the bank this morning, on his way to the Las Varas laundry to pick up clean tablecloths for the restaurant. Then, as I was walking across the highway, the combi to La Penita, the next town south stopped for me. And at La Penita, I immediately caught the big bus to PV. Not a minute of waiting anywhere. Not that I am in a hurry, but it´s sort of fun when not to have to wait. And I saved 25 pesos going this way.

There are some old hands returning to Chacala the last couple of weeks: Michel and Cheryl, and Emily, and Anna the singer, Cleve, and Eden, and probably other people I can´t think of right now. The motor home area is pretty full, mostly French Canadians for some reason. The beach campgrounds, including where I am are pretty much empty except for Sunday picnikers.

I have been reading some history books about Mexico, and am amazed about how much the US is the "new kid on the block" compared to the rest of the Americas. There are lots of towns here that were built in the mid 1500´s, when the US was nothing. And the weather in most of the US is so un-user-friendly. Too cold (or too hot) to survive without serious protection and a source of heat, for many months of the year. No wonder no one wanted to be in New England until all the other good spots on the hemisphere has been colonized.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Chacala Update

The water pumping station at the main corner in town, across from Juan's tienda, has been painted white, with some signs, and a cement floor and driveway installed. I think it is a kind of town office, but I have been wrong before. It looks very nice. And a sign has been posted about the possible cost of installing a better water system has been posted. I don't know who or what is the driving force behind this, but I suspect Guillermo, of Casa Chacala hotel, the little hotel on the paved road, is involved. He is on the water board and I know he instituted the new effort at financial transparency, the monthly water expenses and income report, that everyone gets. I also heard that you can pay your water bill directly now, rather than waiting for the water lady to come around.

After the coconuts fell on my tent I asked again about someone cleaning up the two palms right over the palapa I am renting, but nothing happened again. But then a heavy, green, pointed coco fell thru the palapa and landed a foot from where Markito, the darling two year old grandson of my landlady was standing. I showed Esparanza and Marco, the dad, the split open coco and Markito's tiny and distinctive footprints a foot away, and the next minute Marco was in the tree clearing away the loose cocos. There were about two hundred. Markito and Carlos, aged eight, spent the next hour loading the cocos into a wheelbarrow and hauling them to the burn pile. Very precious. It's moments like that that I wish I had a video camera. But what woud I do with the video. Anyway, I feel much safer.

The Habitat people are gone now. Some of them worked in the area for three weeks, in El Capoma and Las Varas. Hard work and besides their travelling and living expenses the volunteers each make a sizable financial contribution to cover the cost of materials. I am really impressed by their dedication, particularly that of Dean and Dick and Joyce, but many others too.

I love the door-to-door services available at home here. Water jugs, fruit and vegetables, ice cream, bread and pasteries, coco balls , peanuts, delicious little tarts , and tamales, and orange juice, and tiny banana bread loafs are available every day, right here at home. And clothes washing. And that doesn't count the jewelry, hammock, etc vendors, who are very polite and not at all persistant.

GYPSY UPDATE: It turns out that apparently the gypsies, who visited town again that week, lived up to their reputation as thieves. I was very disappointed. It turns out when they arrived in town, they were told by the new, elected leader Juan (of Concha and Juan) that they couldn't do their movie shtick this year. They hung around the south end of the motor home parking area for a couple of days and then left. Apparently taking with them a bunch of restaurant chairs and tables, a video camera, a cooler full of beer, a water pump and some other stuff. They apparently were confronted as they left but not searched nor the police called. Apparently they were told never to return again. I personally take this as a sign of the people in Chacala's quickly developing sense of ownership andresponsibility. I think the kid's winning the $10,000 peso prize and trash truck is a sign of the times and pretty neat.

Anyway, I am just an observer and often I misunderstand or misinterpret what I am seeing, so who knows.

I was hanging around on the beach yesterday afternoon, and saw Dona Lupe and Euloia0 carrying the supplies for a mini pineapple restaurant they were setting up on the beach for the day. They work so hard with so little return. But they keep right on trying. Always thinking of new ways to make a little cash. Cooking desserts and tamales to carrying around to people on the beach, for exampe, is one idea they seem to have done okay with.

One of the people who is staying in Chacala for the winter got hit by a big wave breaking in very very close to shore. He was thrown down and broke his wrist hitting the sand. Those kind of mini-tsumani waves (they suck the water out of the beach right before the hit, and are very very quick) are very very unusual here. I have never seen one. But it pays to keep your eyes on the waves when you are in the water. Constantly. Most of the Mexican tourists who come here do not know now to swim and that's not a good situation, obviously. I have been thinking about offering swimming lessons over on the muelle beach next summer, when the water is really warm and local people swim. Some of the local young men who surf are really good swimmers, but many people aren't. I know I grew up on the beach in California, but I actually learned to swim in the pool. Much easier that way, I think.

One of my favorite sights around here is the fence posts that grow into trees.

Majahua, the local mini resort with spa and restaurant, is offering belly dance shows again the winter. They have also had a wonderful wonderful tenor or soprano sax player from Chile here for the past few weeks. He plays beautifully, and it is the most beautiful sound. Last night I loved sitting out in the jungle on the restaurant patio, surrounded by the moon and stars listening to the sax, and watching the dancing. One of those very special moments, especially the music.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My Chacala Campsite

A coconut fell thru the roof of my tent, rain fly and tent. The coconuts here have a pointed end. Luckily. I wasn{t in the tent at the time. It fell on my bed. I can{t seem to figure out how to repair it so I took that tent, the little tent, down. And then moved the bigger, new tent, over so I can see the beach and water and palms and hills from my bed thru all three windows. This is a kind of a long tent, and you can hook up a little divider and have two rooms.
So one room is for my bed and the other for my stuff.

I am getting rid of some of the stuff I have collected, mostly by accident, and things are seeming clean and neat and tidy. I am happy with the new arrangement, partly because I have two tables outside now, one just for eating and the other for drawing and playing with the kids, and they are both in the shade all day. Before I had to move the one eating table back out of the sun about 1pm. And when the kinds came to draw I would have to move the food stuff. It is very nice.

This is the full moon. The waves are back to normal now, and very managable. The water is very clear and green and beautiful. It{s still a little chilly at night, but the days are warm and lovely.

The gypsies arrived last night, and are going to start showing movies at full volume, that is, you can hear the movie all over town, starting tomorrow night. They show the movies on a big tarp. ugh. oh well. I can"t hear to loud sounds too much with the sound of the ocean waves drowning everything out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Nice Chacala Day

Today was a very nice day. After breakfast and fooling around picking up trash and finding seashells on the beach, I walked into town to do some errands. First was checking up on Blanca. Last night she was running a fever and had pain in her right side, and I was worrying that she had appendicitus, but when I came by she was up and around at Dona Lupe´s restaurant, with no fever. Her Dad, Euloia, asked if I wanted him to bring me another 24 bottle container of cokes. Ít´s too heavy for either of us to carry, so he brings them over in a wheelbarrow. I buy cokes from Dona Lupe now because the Coke truck doesn´t go down the beach road toward Mar de Jade. Too rough I think, or no stores probably.

Then I got plastic bags and toilet paper from the little store at Koko Bongo´s, and discovered Koko Bongo´s restaurant now has BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS , open everyday, all hours, and on the weekend. Same price as bibliotecha computers used to be. I don´t know if it´s true, but someone told me that the bibiliotecha fee a are donations now. But the bibliotecha isn´t open on the weekends, and is open erractically on weekdays, so I am very pleased.

Went up to Aurora s to check on the plants she is babysitting for me. Probably permanately.

Got I ride back to Chico´s restaurant, and hung out there for awhile, visiting and playing dominoes.

Went home and finished tidying up. Something seemed odd about my camp, and finally I realized all my dirty laundry had been washed and hung up around my place. I had given Esparanza, my landlady a towel and my 8 white teeshirts to wash when I left, but she had come over and found my other dirty shirts and shorts (which I was going to wash myself) and washed them. At first I kind of panicked because I thought she wanted me to pay for the washing (at 50 cents an item) , and I didn´t feel like I could afford it. But when I went over to see her she had a big smile on her face and said it was a gift. It made me very happy. Really happy. What a nice thing for her to do.

After tidying up all my stuff in the big tent, I drew all afternoon, with little Carlos and Markito for company. Every once in a while I could see a shell dropped by the receding tide,and would run down to get the shell. The boys helped me. They thought I was nuts I think, and they are afraid of the water. When it occured to me thatI had never seen any of these kids down on the beach, except for the surfing boys. I hoped that I wasn´t encouraging them to be on the beach in contradiction to the families rules about safety. But Esparanza said the little kids don´t go in the water until it´s warm, in Julio. and I have noticed that very few Chacala residents swim, except in very warm weather.

Anyway, right before sunset Esperanza came over and sat in the hammock and the boys were still drawing and we had a nice visit. Little Jasime came toddling over and played with the little pottery turtles I like and it was very nice and peaceful. I am the only camper in their camping area right now, and it´s quiet. Went swimming right at sunset and took a shower. The shower water is warmed by the sun and was perfect.

Walked into town again to get milk and bought bread rolls from the bread truck that comes around every night. At Juan´s tienda, another Juan, the painter guy who lives in Ana´s house up the hill, was playing the guitar, and teaching the two Koko bongo boys how to play. He was singing "Guantanamera", my mom s favorite song, and he was singing it beautifully. Made me sad and happy. I think she would have liked this life I am having here. I sat there holding Jesus, Juan and Mime s six month old son and listening to the music, sitting in a plastic chair in the street.

Walked down to Chico´s and helped close up and then watched part of the novela, soap opera, they like, and visited. Then I walked home along the beach, had a bowl of Cheerios and bananas and milk and read for awhile in my cozy tent and went to sleep. A very nice day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Chacala Morning

The mornings on the Chacala beach are some of my favorites times in my whole life. I usually get up a few minutes before the sun starts shining out on the water, and the sunlight gradually creeps toward me, sitting at my table watching the ocean waves. Some of the waves are very big right now, and you can see right thru them just before they crash. The fish are easy to see thru the water as the wave peaks, especially at sunset, when the sun light comes right thru the waves.

I usually walk down on the beach first thing, and the only foot prints are mine. I carry a bag to pick up the plastic litter, which is the worst on Sunday evening and Monday morning, after families from Guadalajara spends their day on the Chacala beach. Yesterday a family spent the day under one of the palapas near mine. I noticed they were throwing trash all around, and was not surprised when they pulled out leaving several bags of crap all over. Esperanza and her son Ginko and I picked it up in just a few minutes. It was interesting to see how nothing seems to faze Esperanza. She is sort of a buddha, always watching, never seeming to judge. Of course, I really have no idea what is going on in her head. That's maybe a good thing.

Her family kind of swirls around her all day long. This area where I am camping has four family homes right near each other. The grandparent's home is kind of separate and I don't see them over here very often, but Esperanza and her husband, and six of their eight kids are all living here. Two kids are currently at university, and come home off and on, and two of the sons are married, with two kids each, and one wife with another child on the way. The two married sons live within 15 feet of the family house, and people are going in and out and back and forth all day long.

When I am cooking or reading in my hammock or drawing at my table, or fixing up my campsite I see lots of things I haven't noticed before. Like how intricate the fishing nets the men weave are. They tie the ropes between the trees around the place, and then weave the actual netting with what looks like plastic fishing line. And they cutting down coconuts, anda couple of the boys surf many evenings and some mornings. And Esparanza does laundry for various tourists, including me. She does my sheets and towels and white tee shirts for 50 cents US$ an item. I do everything else myself. It's too hard to wash sheets and towels in a bucket, and she gets my tee shirts whiter than white, which I like.

They clean the campsites, pickup trash, pump the water for the toilets and showers up into a water tank set up high enough to make some water pressure. They keep the toilets really clean, which I appreciate. Today, after I finish writing this in Las Varas, I am going to buy my own personal toilet seat. I can't wait. They don{t have very many toilet seats in the public facilities around Chacala. I don't know why that is.

They are six little kids currently in this family area, Carlos, six, Markito, about 2, Jasmine, about two, Paulina about 7 and her brother about 5 and the new baby, three week.
They play around and keep busy all day, doing this and that. But they never go near the water, the ocean. And they come over and visit me, which I love.

Volunteers in Chacala

Chacala is having a beautiful, sunny day, and the ocean is a beautiful green today. Haven´t seen any whales from the shore lately, but everyone who goes out in the launchas seems to see them.

I have been getting some interesting emails from people saying they would like to ''volunteer" in Chacala. I have been thinking about that alot, and remembering what I was thinking about when I first started thinking about coming to live in Chacala. And trying to imagine how I could be of use here.

It's hard to get back into my mindset then, but I think I thought that because I was from a wealthy nation, and had the "advantages" of education, etc, that I was in the position to offer my expertise or experience, or knowledge to people in Chacala. And I don't think it occured to me that what I had to offer could possibly be damaging or disrespectful of the culture or families here.

Now I wonder if maybe people who come here with the idea of "helping" people who live here are often unaware that there is a strong culture and set of values here about which they, as gringos, have little knowledge of. That it would be hard to "help" here until you have learned about what is already happening here.

And that maybe the first step to "helping" here is to learn about the history, culture, language, values, and mores here. Like what is polite behavior in this society. Maybe try to make some friends, and observe what it going on. Or at least learn how to be polite here.

Well, for me it has turned out that I have been learning from Chacaleans since the day I arrived and the learning and lessons haven't stopped after two years.

For example, I have been learning Spanish, (although not very quickly), and how to garden here, and how families can spend time together and get along, and how kids are happier being surrounded by adults and siblings and cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles , as opposed to going to daycare. And that there are lots of plants that can help relieve the symptoms of various illnesses and injuries. I have been learning to pay attention to the body language of other people, and to make eye contact, and to say "buenas dias" first, before speking, and to acknowledge everyone I run into around town. And I am seeing how polite people are in Mexico and Chacala, how talk to each other, greet each other, offer to help, etc etc. And how to make jokes, and what is an appropriate gift and how various holidays are celebrated. And how births and deaths and marriages are experienced. And how to deal with my picky eating habits and to try not not offend people because of them.

Sometimes I think coming to Chacala is giving me a chance to learn or re/learn all the social skills I didn't learn or understand before. It's pretty humbling to realize that alot of the "givens" I brought to Chacala are not "givens" for people here. And that it works better if I try to pay as much attention as I can to how people are reacting to me. I hope I am getting to be a more respectful and nicer person since I came here. Who knows. I hope so.

I am trying to figure out how to say what I am thinking, but it's hard. I have been watching how different people approach coming to Chacala, from the Habitats and Rotary groups, to gap/year type volunteers, and particularly, to people who seem to think they know what's best for people in Chacala

I think there are alot of visitors who seem to think that people here need to be just like them. I think generally gringos don't realize that very few people here want to be like gringos. That they are often seen as rude, selfish, pushy, not generous, and disrepectful, etc.

I think the main upside for Chacaleans from gringos coming to Chacala is when they bring and spend money in Chacala. And, unfortunately there are lots of people that come here with the idea that they will enjoy the beautiful setting, the beach, the sunshine, and spend has little money as possible.

If you are interested in arranging for whale and dophin watching tours, or boat rides to the surfing beach, La Caleta, go to boat rides for more information.

And, I can't help wonder about any project here that bypasses parents as valued and respected participants. Any activity that tends to reduce the strength of positive family bonds probably should be reconsidered. Or maybe revaluated in terms of the impact of a project on the family structure and the culture.

Blah, blah. I think I am tired of hearing visitors expound on Chacala and the people that live here. And here I am doing the same thing.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Chacala Visitors

Chacala has had a bunch of nice visitors the past few days, and a couple of really interesting ones. And the Alaska kids are arriving, today maybe, for a two-three week stay. They don't really inter-mingle in Chacala very much. Generally seem to be very closely supervised, and mostly sticking together in groups and "official" activities. Nice kids though.

A lovely couple camped next to me for a few days and we had a couple of very interesting conversations. They both spoke Spanish, English, German, and he also spoke Portuguese, having been raised by a German father and Portuguese/Brazilian mother in the eastern-most point in Brazil. He teaches Economics, especially Environmental Economics, at the big Catholic Science university in Guadalajara. She was also very interesting. And I really liked her. They met in Germany, but I didn't hear all the details of that. Another couple is staying at Concha's for a few days. They are living in San Luis Potosi while he consults about community relations issues at the local university there. The parents of the Scottish couple that have been spending the past week at Mar de Jade. They are really fun to visit with. I can see why they daughter is so much fun.

Of course, the best visitors are the whales, who are here daily right now. The weather has finally warmed up into the 70F at 6:30am, with a nice warm breeze blowing and huge!! waves very early this morning. Calmed down before I left my camp.

Several people have expressed interest in camping down here. I thought I would mention some details. Several families/restaurants offer camping and use of toilets/showers and sometimes electricity. For campers it starts at about 50pesos a night, about 4.50USD. Slightly less for long term campers, more with electricity. There isn't much juice and they kind of dole out who gets use of it (gets to plug in). I have a small electric fridge and a light bulb that I move around from tent to tent and to the kitchen table. It's a bring-your-own extension cord situtation. The camping end of the beach doesn't have town water and all the water is trucked in in black plastic tinachos in the back of pickups. The shower was is stored in the same type of tank. Where I am staying there are little booths with "doors" for the showers and toilets. There are four toilets, with no toilet seats. They are flushed by dipping a small bucket of water from a tank in the middle of the toilet and shower area and pouring the water into the toilet. Except under periods of extreme use, the toilets are clean and tidy, with plastic cans for toilet paper. I am not sure about the other camping toilet/shower facilities. You buy your drinking water from the water truck, in five gallon jugs for about a dollar.

Where I am camping there are five double (two camp sites) flat roofed palapas ( shelters with flat roofs covered with palm fronds and about 8 feet high). There is nothing provided. The palapas are set in a small palm grove so there is shade from the trees and the palapas. The first row of palapas is right at the edge of where the sandy beach starts. There is a low piles of rocks, a little barrier against the higher tides I think, all along the beach, with little paths into the camping area. I have a hammock between two palms, and two tents, one for sleeping, a bed with foam mattress, and four plastic tables, for my kitchen, eating table, and "office". and same chairs. I brought everything with me. During vacation periods and weekends, campers are kind of shoulder to shoulder but so far it's been very nice, every with close company. Sometimes my landlady has chairs and tables to rent, but at a daily rate only and it's kind of expensive.

The five-gallon jug water guy comes most days, and the fruit/vegetable, tortilla, bread/pastry and ice cream trucks come by everyday. The coke truck and gas trucks don't seem to come down to this end of the beach.

Anyway, that' s it for camping from my perspective.

Today is Three King's Day, the day for gifts in most of Mexico, and then school starts again on Monday. The little puesto booth that has plastic figures to paint is here again and there are always kids and women working away there. There is also a temprary booth with video games this year, 1 peso a game. Full of boys and young men of course.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chacala and the Whales

This morning at dawn there were whales frolicking right inside of Chacala Bay. Tail banging and leaping in the air and everything. There are lots a whales around now, especially out a few miles. Very impressive.

The weather is still cool at night, about 65 and lovely during the day, mid 80's and clear.

There are Habitat volunteers here now, for three weeks total, working on a house in Las Varas. A really nice group. I think only a few are here for the whole three weeks.

Two different couples, Angela and Gil, and Vicki and Herbert, brought gifts for the Kinder in the last couple of weeks. Any school and crafts materials or picture books in Spanish are really nice for the kids. Money too. The Omaha/Shawnee Rotary groups (I think) are building a new classroom and the parents are talking about collecting money for the furnishings.

The Cafe at Casa Pacifica is really the hot spot for American/Canadian style breakfasts, 8-10am closed Sundays. Good place to meet people and arrange various excursions

I am the only camper in my "campground" now, and I love it. It's so nice sitting there looking at the water, etc. The only downside is that the palm trees surrounding my palapa are dropping their coconuts right thru the roof of the palapa. I have moved the table and chair.

The landlady, Esperanza, keeps saying in the afternoon or tomorrow when I ask about cutting the coconuts down. I am looking for a hardhat but there don't seem to be any around here. There are some hard headed people however, mostly in motor homes.

I'm wearing shorts and a cotton shirt and flip flops, for those of you in the snow and rain.