Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More Views of Chacala

This little cutey (NOT little and NOT cute) lives around this area, and is pretty fearless. One came up on the porch of this house repeatedly last summer, leaping in the air to claw at my garbage bag, which was hanging about six feet in the air from a hook. Kind a scary and a good reason to sleep in a house. Thanks to Ann C. for the photo, taken in Sayulita. But this one's cousin lives in Chacala. Can't remember what it's called. Gretchen says it's a coati mundi. I thinnks she is correct.

I am still learning about doing photos on Blogger. These are pictures Karim took last winter from the southern end of Chacala beach.
The top one is from Majahau, looking down from one of the restaurant terraces, and the other one is from in front of Mahajua's beach club area. The tables and umbella's and shade trees are to the right.

One of my small attempts to offer something back to Chacala in return for my being able to stay here and enjoy the town, the setting, and the people, I help landladies find rentors for their rental units. I have a blog, which I have mentioned before, http://chacalabudgetrentals.blogspot.com, where you can look at photos of Chacala rentals.

This time of year there isn't a lot of interest in visiting Chacala (Chacala's not really thought of as a summer vacation destination, at least for Anglo's, I guess). Anyway, during May I helped four (sets of ) visitors find places to stay here. A couple of month-long (or more) stays and a couple of short stays.

The main thing I noticed when I chat with Chacala visitors, is how many things I just take for granted about Chacala, and don't even think of mentioning when I am emailing with people about rentals here.

For example, there are very few sections of streets that at lit up at night. The paved road is totally dark from the new hotel on, going uphill, and quite a few of the other sections of dirt road have just the interior house lights on after about 9pm. Same thing from the palm grove south along the beach road to Mahajua and MardeJade. Of course, the moon is very bright for about two weeks a month, and flashlights are handy gadgets.

Also, the cobblestone sections of the roads around town are kind of hard to walk on, plus, Chacala is built on a sloping hillside, so unless you are staying right on the beach you will be walking up and downhill alot.

At least I usually remember to mention that generally there is only instant coffee served here, and you should plan ahead if you are a coffee addict. People usually don't know that it's considered a good thing in Chacala if dogs bark at night, and they do, because they are considered guard dogs, and let you know if someone unexpected is coming to your place.

And most families here eat their main meals from 2-4pm and a lot of places in Las Varas and a few in Chacala are closed for an hour or two at lunch. And generally the collectivos don't run then either. Although nothing about the collectivo's schedules are written in stone.

Also, there are a number of comments on various websites about Chacala mentioning that it used to be hard to get a taxi after dark. That's not really true now. In fact, last week someone was actually picked up by a taxi in Las Varas at about 3am. He was dozing in front of the Pacifico bus terminal , figuring there wouldn't be a taxi untild dawn, and one came driving up. I wouldn't count on that though.

On a different subject, there is a new dentist, a new woman dentist in Las Varas. Her office is right behind the main Pacifico bus terminal and is newly painted an olive color. Looks good. Some visitors here told me they made appointments with her to have their teeth cleaned, for $20 US (200pesos) each. Don't know if that includes x-rays. I have had a one-shot x-ray here, at Ramon's, and it was $5 (50 pesos). I am thinking I would like to check her out and see what her other charges are like, what the equipment looks like, cleanliness, etc.

My wonderful son sent me a Mother's Day package, mailed on May 6th. It arrived in Las Varas today( May 30th). The bike-riding mailman came up to me on the street in Las Varas and told me my package had arrived. Pretty good. Anyway, I was looking at the wrapping and the package hadn't left the post office in Olympia until the 22nd. 16 days after he paid $24US to mail 4 pounds of sketching paper and a great set of pens. I can't help but wonder why it took 16 days to get the package out of the PO and on it's way. It actually took less than 8 days of travel time to get here, which is a record I think.

I re-organized my work area this morning. It had been outside, on the terrace, but now it's inside, with my pens and papers and drawing stuff all neatly organized on a big table in front of the large window. When the rain starts I will have to rearrange things again, but for now it's great. From this window there are palms, mango trees, bouganvilllas and trees and plants I don't know the names of. Right now, I am sitting at the table and looking at hundreds of ripe mango hanging in the trees about 25 feet away from the window. As soon as it cools off (that would be in November - just kidding) I am going to collect some for a salad. Fruit salad with pineapple and melon. And oranges and bananas. Plus there is a palm, about 25 feet tall that is gradually opening it's palm frond branches as I watch. I can't even think of how to describe how a palm frond opens up.

Some of the older people in this neighborhood like the mangos, which are still ripening, but have a hard time collecting them. Of course, I am an old person too, but I have a good ladder to use. Yesterday I made a net mango-collecting sack on a long bamboo pole that I am going to try to use to pick the highest, tree-ripened mangos. With lime juice from the tree on this very patio. Aurora, Lupita, and Luz were out in the little mango orchard next to this house last night, just before dark, trying to gently remove the mangos that were hanging about 20 feet in the air. All the lower ones have been picked by the Mango Boys, the workers leaving Chacalilla every night.

Making myself hungry, time for lunch.

Chacala Photos, maybe

Here here is a nice map of Chacala, showing the locations of many of the rentals, etc. Jared Hooper is the creator of this map, and also maps of other Mexican towns, including La Penita, and I thin, Guayabitos.

This is a view from the palm grove where the RV's park in the winter and campers from all over Mexico camp the rest of the year. The palapa to the left is a previous version (pre Hurricane Kenna) of one of the beach restaurants.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Plants in Chacala

Here is a view of Chacala from the back of my tame pelican. Just kidding.

I made two trips last week, looking for plants, soil, and pots. Went to the two nurseries just north of La Penita, and to the Thursday Market in La Penita. I ended up with 14 new plants, four packets of flower seeds, 10 buckets for pots, and one gunny sack of soil. Not enough soil or pots, and not enough money for another trip, so I am kind of cramming plants together. And trying to figure out how to make some pots. I have a plan about making pots, but haven't figured out the details yet.

It's a little tricky to get soil here, because the sacks are to big and heavy to handle on my own and I have to get someone to drive me home with the sack. Last week Jesus, my neighbor drove me down and back. That worked out great for me, but a little expensive. 200 pesos, which is cheaper than a private taxi. The other times I have gotten a ride to La Penita or a collectivo, and then bought my stuff and walked out to the highway with plastic sacks of plants and some buckets. The collectivo drivers don't seem to mind. They have room behind the last seat to put stuff.

Now I am planting stuff in pots and trying to keep all my little starts alive and well. This morning I moved all the pots arounds trying to shade the pots with baby plants with the bigger hibiscus. The lemon tree planted a year ago has lemons. Or limes. Very neat. All the plants we bought for this house last year look great. I had to trash the gardenia. It was very very infested with two different things (insects and some fungus) and I finally gave up on it.

Some of the seeds I planted 10 days ago are up and looking good. Nasturiums, coleus, and sunflowers. It's hard for me to guess what will grow well here, so I spend alot of time looking at other people's gardens and asking questions. Vinca, which I would have thought wouldn't have liked the humidity and heat, seem to grow freely and easily without any help.

This evening I am walking down to Esparanza's and hoping to dig some soil up from around there. The thought of carrying a bucketful of soil home is not very appealing, but chances are I will get a ride. With the road between the beach and paved road closed, all the traffic is on the beach road mostly. Handy for me. More chances of a ride.

Tomorrow I am going into PV to meet someone at the airport, and I am hoping to take the collectivo's around to some of the local nurseries. I have keep articles about PV nurseries that have appeared in the local English language PV paper, and hope I can find some of them.

I am especially looking for succulent-type plants, but who knows. I don't have any plant pictures yet, but here are a couple of Chacala photos, just to keep in practice.

Later: I just got a nice email from someone who has sent me some Chacala photos (I think photo at the top of this post is from him). He is going to be in the area in a week or so and said he could bring me some dirt, maybe. Sounds great to me.
Sunset from my camp on Playa Chacala

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Saturday in Chacala and Chacala Kid Blog

One of these photos is the view from the table of my camp at the beach, and the other is of my camp at the beach, with me, Esparanza, Henia (on the right), Jasmine, and Carlito(yellow shirt), and my laundry. The ocean is about 15 fifteen behind Henia's back. Of course, I am now living in a house, but I miss the beach alot and like looking at these photos.

Had a nice Saturday morning in Chacala. I was kind of anxious last night because right after I went to bed I remembered I was helping Rodrigo (an American who sells real estate in this area and lives in Chacalilla) help some of the EBACH kids set up a Chacala blog this morning. Rod has been teaching this Saturday morning class most of the winter, I think.

Anyway, I got up again and set up stuff so that if the water, garbage, and Coke trucks came while I was gone, everything would be taken care of. And, hurrah, when I got home a few minutes ago, after a morning at the bibliotecha, all was well.

The water guy brought water at 7am while I was still home, which was handy. I had left the water jugs, with the pesos plus a little tip, on the patio wall so he could see I wanted three water jugs (full). He wanted to see the view from the new part of the house so he came in and was really impressed. When I was living on the beach he liked to sit for a minute at my camp and visit, but it's a little different here, in a regular house.

Then, when I walking down to the road, I realized the money I had left sitting on top the plastic garbage can I had set in the middle of the driveway was gone. And the garbage was gone too. Excellent. Then, when I got home from the Bibliotecha, the Coke truck was just pulling away, having found my empties with the cash clothes-pinned to one of the Coke bottles. A good morning.

Click here to look at the rough draft of the new Chacala website the kids are working on. It has some pictures, and more to come.

The American/Canadian population in Chacala has dropped again. Three visitors, four long-term residents, and possibly some people at Mar de Jade. Of course, I may have missed some visitors. Plus, I noticed a kind of fancy looking RV on the beach yesterday, which could be from the US.

While we were at the Bibliotecho this morning I got to see an incredible video of the days right after Hurricane Kenna, October 25, 2002. The destruction was really amazing. I was here in Chacala for about 10 minutes after a week later and things were still bad. But by mid-March, five months later, you had to really look to see signs of damages. They re-built really quickly.

The video scenes that really caught my eye (and heart) the most were the total destruction of Chico's. Even the remaining small building was only a shell, with the cement floor washed away. There was a lovely section with of Narcissa, owner of Chico's, and her son Francisco and his wife Angelica, sitting in plastic chairs, eating hotdogs, I think, in middle of total destruction. Narcissa had a lovely smile. They looked so everyday and normal.

Another sad scene was Jorge's Deposito (telephone calls, beer, and ice cream store), where all the walls were completely washed away. And the south end of the beach, but not as far as Mar de Jade, where all the homes were completely gone. Just piles of stuff, no buildings that I could see.

Quite a video. This morning when I was walking over to the Bibliotecha, I was noticing that I had not seen a scrap of litter all the way over, for maybe three blocks. What a huge change from only a year ago. It is really amazing to realize how fast this town has moved from a few palapas and stick houses at the end of a horrible road, to some nice houses and a "good" road (which is being destroyed daily by the huge trucks speeding/rolling into the gated "community"). Water to most of the houses at least a couple of times a week, electricity to most houses. Many families with vehicles and small businesses. TV and or phone at a number of houses. It's sort of confusing to me, but I guess it's progress.

I read somewhere lately that about 85% of people in Mexico do not have access at their homes to potable water. And in some cases the "potable" water is only potable by Mexican, not international, standards. That's very sad for a country with the incredible natural resources Mexico has. Of course, I don't know what that statistic is for the US.

Yesterday was pretty humid and it looked like it like rain last night, but no such luck. It's just another gorgeous day in paradisse/paraiso.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Maybe More Chacala Photos

I am still learning how to move photos onto this blog. Here are a couple of snaps of the Church, but not very good ones. I can't remember who took them and sent them to me. It might have been Jared or Rob, or, oops, can't remember the other names right now.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Chacala Update in Late May

Here's a shot walking from the Bibliotecha toward Trini's and Beatriz's and Laura Sura's and Paul's new "Satoy" rental units (with blue tiled pool).

It's starting to warm up here in good old Chacala, home of 50,000 dump trucks a day speeding their way into the gated "community", Marina Chacala. That's only a small exaggeration.

It's been 85F most of the day, with some humidity. I have been sleeping under a sheet and the ceiling fan the past few weeks, wearing a cotton tee shirt and boxer shorts. The ocean water is perfect: warm enough to be comfortable and cool enought to be refreshing. There have been jellyfish two afternoons this past week. I don't know if there is a season or what, but some people believe they float into Chacala on winds from the north. It's sort of hard to imagine that, but who knows? Everyone is waiting for the rains to start, but nothing so far. Probably mid-June.

The mangos are ripening quicker than people can pick them. But the animals come in at night and feast on the fallen fruit. A couple of tejones (?) like to use the steps the side of my house as seating in the Mango Cafe. When the Las Varas laborers leave the gated community after work every night, they have to get off the pickup trucks they travel back and forth in, and walk thru the gate with their ID's. Nowadays the workers detour into the little mango orchard between this house and the gate and try to get mangos out of the trees. They (the mangos, not the workers) are so delicious. Lately I have been having mangos and cantaloupes fruit salad. I love the melons here. They are soo flavorful and delicious, probably because they are picked ripe, or almost ripe. The mango are wonderful, especially with a little lime.

There are workers in all the mango orchards along the road between Chacala and Las Varas. I am still amazed at how much fruit is grown right in this area. Melons, watermelons, pina, mango, papaya, jacko, limes, oranges, bananas, and lots of fruits I don't even know the names of. People go off somewhere and walk back into town with a huge stalks of bananas. On the collectivo this morning someone was sharing the most delicious little minature bananas. And people offer me bites of fruit I don't recognize at all.

Tobacco and a number of vegetables grow in fields around here, and there are greenhouses south of town. And there are small and large ranches with cattle, and small holdings where people raise pigs. Even one of the local dentist farms. One of the taxi drivers, Chicho, raises "porkos".

I think one of the great treats of life is eating food right off the tree or vine or plant. Nothing in the world like walking out to pick my morning mango, except in the good old-bad old days when I used to walk out to my garden in the US for a handful of strawberries or a sunwarmed tomato.

Last week it looked like maybe the Federal land around the palm grove had been sold, but I guess it was another false alarm. Not that I would really know what was going on, one way or another.

The powers-that-be are tearing up the road between the paved road and the beach road, for the third time this year. This time it's to install the new water line, which has been buried (apparently) all the way to the new pump station which located is about 2/3's of the way to Las Varas. The line seems to be being buried on the Concha and Juan's side of the road, on the side opposite the pump station.

There are lots of conflicting stories going around town about how the new water system will work and when it will work. We'll see the day the water comes thru the pipe I guess. The old water system is a mystery to me. This house hasn't had town water for months, but some houses right near here get water twice a week. I guess it depends on where you live or something. Who knows.

The "new" small town garbage truck, which Chacala won in the County-wide "clean up your trash" contest last winter, has been worked hard for months, collecting garbage all over town almost every day. The crew keeps changing. I have heard that's because the pay is low, but I don't really know. Right now the driver is Luis, son of my old landlady Dona Lupe, and another guy, can't remember his name. Town looks so much cleaner.

The County (?) grader and trucks are moving dirt from up that the northern end of the paved road down to the new road between the paved road and the beach road. It is being built just south of Augustine's new upstairs rentals, which is two building's down from Guillermo and Lupita's Casa Chacala hotel and will offer a new way to get from the paved road to the beach road.

The same crew (I think) is also working on the new road that runs parallel to the paved road, starting right above the new hotel and the motor home garage, heading north for about 12 lots. (that's my estimate). It sounds as though the electric lines will follow once the road is in. But you never know about the installation of power poles and electric lines around here. The first person to request and get approved for electric power in a new area seems to pay the most. However, I might have that wrong.

Not many people of the US/Canada here now, but more than were here this time last year.
Two Canadian couples were/are here for most of May, making arrangements for their house building projects. Both the projects look very nice. The inside of one of the new houses is being painted this week and the bathrooms are being tiled. Great colors. Very beautiful. Juan "The Painter" is hard at work and doing a great job. He's a very careful and artistically-minded housepainter.

There is a new building going up on Gracia's lot. Apparently the downstairs will be a place for her step-daughter's family to live and the upstairs will be another rental. Viki's house has a big one-story addition out behind the kitchen, and Marta, next door, is building something onto her place. I thought she was renting, but I guess not. Another gringo from San Diego (I think) is building a 1/2 house on a 1/2 lot sort of overlooking the Malecon between the northern end of the three white houses no one every stays in and the old store just south of Casa Azul. Not a very good description of the location. A couple from North Dakota who were here last winter are buying (or have bought) another lot in that part of town, I am not sure where. The big white palace on the paved road just north of the new hotel and across the street is almost doen I think. Swimming pool on the top floor and rooftop patios, etc. I am starting to think it is some kind of nightclub instead of a house. It has a very strange layout for a house. But who am I to know what they are doing?

Photos of Chacala

The photo left is the older kinder building, and the one on the right shows parts of the new kinder(garten) building in Chacala. It is connected to the older building from the bathroom side and is about twice as big as the old space.

The kinder program is supported mostly by the parents of the students, and they always need school materials, school equipment, and craft supplies. Classes at 9-12 M-F and school ends the first week of July and starts up again the 3rd week of August. If you bring some supplies down, try to take them directly to the kinder during the morning. Otherwise, take them to Sarai's, who lives next to Trini's, and she will make sure they get to the kinder.

Several Rotary groups have done a wonderful job building, repairing buildings and providing playground equipment and fencing and leveling the school yard. Some of the parents of the students talk about when they were in kinder in Chacala, which met under a palapa (palm frond roofed shelter). Quite a change!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chacala Miscellaneous

This is my sixth day living in a regular house, and I am starting to feel comfortable here. Yesterday I walked down to Esparanza's with some stuff for her. She and one of her daughter-in-laws were sitting in the shade collecting money from people using the toilets (5 pesos) and showers (9 pesos). I felt kind of homesick, probably because someone was camping in my spot. But I got to sit with them for awhile and hold 4 month old Wendy and visit. The boys weren't around, but one of the dogs, who used to sleep under my table all the time, came running out to greet me and wouldn't leave me alone. Which was nice. I swam for a bit, and then finished doing my errands at Chico's, Aurora's, Dona's Lupe's Beatriz's and little Maria's.

Aurora called early yesterday morning. It was my first phone call here and I ignored it. Then someone called about 10 minutes later and I answered because I realized the phone had Caller ID, and that it was Aurora. She invited me to come down to the muelle (little harbor) and go to La Caleta and Chacalilla with them in Beto's boat. I grabbed up my stuff and hurried down and then waited for a bit. Sat with Beto, and Aurora's brother Huitchol and some other guys, all relatives of theirs,d I think. A large turtle had died right next to the fishing coop building and the smell was pretty bad. Rotting flesh in 88 degrees can stink. Beto eventually tried to cover the body with rocks and then we left, thank God.

Lupita, who has Casa Chacala, and her mid-twenties daughter from Monterey (also called Lupita), came with us. No kids this time. The were 18 surfers (all gringo I think) in the waves at La Caleta, plus another 10 or so on one of the two launcha's there, and on the beach. There were a couple of little blond kids on the beach, and later someone told me there was a gringo family camping there under the big new palapa. New last year.

We didn't want to swim on the rocky beach at La Caleta, and came back down to Chacalilla. It was lovely. The water was clear and just the right temperature. There were lots of shells on the beach, mostly what someone called "Chinaman's Hats". I collected shells, and we ate, talked, walked, and swam. Then I walked home up the hill directly to my place. The security guy didn't know I had moved back, and offered me a ride to Las Varas in the am. He works 8am-8am, 24 hour shifts, which is handy for me, since he is always offering me rides. I pay him 10 pesos, or sometimes more, same as the collectivo.

A couple arrived here in Chacala a couple days ago, first time visitors from the US, planning to stay at Casa Pacifica for six months or so. When they came thru immigration at the
(Mexico City) airport, the officer asked the person in front of them how many days he wanted on hihs Tourist Visa, and gave him the requested maximum, 180 days. When this couple got to the desk the officer didn't ask, and just quickly gave them 20 days, and wouldn't change it when they requested 180. Said they would have to go to immigration. My suggestion is to keep your Tourist Visa form (the one you fill out on the plane) securely in your hand until you have negotiated the length of your visit with the officer.
A few days after their arrival they went to the PV
Immigration office (located directly south of the dock where the cruise ships come in (upstairs in the building-ask around for it). The immigration people told them to come back five days before their 20 Tourist Visa runs out, and gave them a form and a handful of papers to fill out. Copies of passport, something about copies of some bank thing, and I can't remember what else. Kind of a pain, but nothing like what Mexicans go thru to immigrate legally or illegally to the US.
Just a suggestion.

I have been pruning, spraying with soap, waterings, and generally fiddling with the plants at this house. All but a few are ones we planted last year, and they mostly look okay. I just found an incredible new website www.diana'sdesertbaja, shoot, I can't remember the address.
Anyway, I will add it later. Beautiful photos of desert plants around where Diana lives in Baja.
Really amazing. I am inspired.

I have been trying to find someone to drive me down to the new Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden/Nursery, about 1/2 hour south of PV, so I can get some succulents and other plants that are hard to find in the nurseries here. But so far no one wants to go to the nursery, so I am taking the bus later this week. I was trying to avoid busing back with plants, but I guess it's unavoidable. I am really excited to the see the Garden. I have seen some great reviews of it, but haven't met anyone who has been there yet.

There are still some short term visitors here, maybe five or six, plus some visitors here for some months, maybe three or four, plus two couples that are builidng on lots off the paved road (herre for two or three weeks this month) and about five long-term residents. I am talking about people from the US and Canada here. One or two yachts a week.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Living on the Northside of Chacala

Saying "the northside of Chacala" really makes Chacala sound like a big place. Of course, when you are walking from one end (Casa Pacifica) to the other (Majahua and Mar de Jade) it does seem pretty far but it's certainly less than a mile (I think).

I have been living in the Orange house, on the north end, for three days now. I still miss the beach a lot, but I am starting to feel at home here again. I am kind of moved in, after carefully cleaning sand and dirt from everything I had at the beach. Tomorrow I am going to set my tent up on the terrace here, and scrub the dirt and dust off it. Get it ready for next winter on the beach.

This house has the best hammock I have ever laid in, and I love it. A Canadian woman, orginally from Eygpt, sells them at her hammock shop right at the north end of the street market in La Penita. She makes special orders at a Mexican hammock factory, choosing the colors and styles. Really really comfortable. I fall asleep almost everytime I start to read in it.

One thing about living up here that was worrying me was that the grocery stores in Chacala are all down at the beach, and it's a long walk to the stores, and then it's uphill going home. But, lucky for me, Frank, son of Chico and sister of Aurora, has opened his second market, right near the school, next to where Pati has her aerobics classes. Much handier for me and no hills.

Visited with Trini and Maria (little Maria) today, and arranged for a second reservation in just a couple of days for Beatriz. One is a month reservation starting in a couple of weeks, and the other is for two months starting early January. Her rates are going up, $350 a month for multiple month stays, and $400 a month for one month stays. (Those are the winter rates summer rates are seriously less). I can't remember her nightly rate. She is still one of the cheapest stays in town, mostly because most landladies would rather have nightly rentals, at least in the winter. Dona Lupe's is open right now, for the long or short term. She is asking $250 a month for the summer, going up to $300 a month in the winter. That's a very good deal, in my opinion. She also has a basic room, shared bath, for $100 a month. Really basic.

Anyway, it's kind of nice to be back in this neighborhood. Lots of friendly neighbors. When I was walking over to the store this afternoon a gang of little kids were picking up plastic again.
Boys on bikes and girls actually carrying the plastic, I noticed. I also noticed a jetski in the back of a truck parked near one of the houses. UGH!!!! I have been invited to two little girl birthday parties this weekend. Time is really flying. I remember both of them being born.

Maria has dyed her hair a kind of henna color. She used the leftover dye to dye the heads of her filthy little dirty (really dirty!!!) white poodle dogs. They look really strange.

The pool (blue tiles) Paul (a gringo from CA) is building in front of his very nice two rental units, each two bedrooms, is almost done. So is the downstairs unit. Really nice job.

I really really miss looking at the beach from up close (twenty feet from my tent) and personal. And I miss the kids hanging around with me all day, and my landlady, and being on the south end of the beach. Much easier to visit Chico's and Fonda Lupita, and to get rides into Las Varas. Oh well, I plan to be back there in November. And I probably will have alot more privacy here, although I have had a lot of company here these first few days.

It's kind of strange to have a telephone again. Since I have been in Mexico I have had a phone for six months (last winter at this house) and it's kind of handy to make calls on, but I hate the phone ringing. Not that it rings that much. It's nice having internet right here at home though.

I left a chair down on the paved road, at the end of the driveway from this house this morning. I clothes-pinned a note on the chair with "COCA" written in BIG LETTERS and then wrote how many I wanted (in glass bottles). I had asked a couple of people down the road to ask the guy that drives around town every other day taking Coke orders to stop at my place. That guy takes your order and the next day the big Coke truck drives around town delivering Cokes and taking your money.

I went down to get the chair late in the afternoon, thinking I had missed him, or he hadn't stopped, but he had stopped!! He had clothes-pinned my receipt onto the chair. Neat!!! At the beach I had to work out a deal with Dona Lupe to get my Cokes. because the Coke truck driver doesn't like the crummy beach road. She would buy them for me, and I would pay her extra and then wheelbarrow the Cokes to the camp. Sometimes her husband would help me, for a small tip. Not that having easy access to Cokes is really a good thing for me.

This morning the water guy came up to see if I wanted water. I have had the same water guy (the blue five gallon jugs) everywhere I have lived in Chacala, although I have noticed there are other water trucks. Maybe he has dibs on my business. And the vegetable truck guy came up to the house too. He comes to Esparanza's on the beach at first light in the morning, but he got here about 11am or so. It was fun buying fruits and veggies on the beach. All four women (including me) who lived right around where I was camping would stagger out to the truck, straight from bed and in jammies or whatever, to buy his stuff. Plus he always remembers my name, and I like that.

It's getting warmer here now, but still okay. Low and mid 80's with some humidity but not bunch. Nice breeze all day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mother's Day in Chacala

Yesterday was Mother's Day, May 10th, in Chacala, and it was really a special day. I got and gave gifts to other mothers, and had mother's day cake at three homes, (smaller pieces each time), and got lots of hugs and "Felicidades La Dia de al Madre".

I know there are all kinds of difficulties in having large, close families, but it's one of the things I like best about living here. Yesterday at Chico's there was a large pile of nice gifts for Narcissa, Aurora's mom, and a special lunch and down the road near Jorge's Deposito there was a band playing in the early evening. Esparanza, my now former landlady when to Compostella to visit her mother's grave.

She's now my ex-landlady because yesterday I moved back to the house I have housesat each of my three (so far) summers in Chacala. That's for about six months or a little longer. This is the house of someone who is only in Chacala in the winter. In return for free rent I take care of various problems, clean house, and take care of the plants. The housecleaning aspect is takes much more time and energy than I would have guessed. This is a various nice house, with kitchen, dining area, bath, bedroom, living room, front porch, large terrace (partially covered) and then a downstairs "friends and family" apartment. I spend about an hour a day doing straight cleaning, not particularly related to my being here. Mostly cleaning floors, walls, ceilings, window screens, and trimming the wildly invasive greenery once the rains start. Things get very dusty here very quickly, and the dead bugs pile up very fast.

But it's such a nice house is is very satisfying to keep it nice. Each year so far there are been some problems with the building itself which required workman to be here. That's been very interesting. Watching the work techniques and working styles of the local guys. Different construction techniques and different workstyles.

Sometimes watching these guys makes me want to build my own house, just so I could design it and choose the colors and stuff. But I couldn't swing it financially. And besides, I think pretty soon Chacala will be pretty different, and probably not a place I where will feel contented and at-home. But, we'll see. I suppose the economy of the US could collapse or something. Not that I am wishing for that.

I am still struggling to get comfortable being around people who are coming to Chacala to make a buck, and who generally seem not to give a hoot about this town or the people who live here. The kind of people who seem to think it's too much trouble to learn some Spanish so they can talk to their future neighbors. Whatever. I am trying to lower my level of judgmentalness, but I am not doing very well with that. If one more visitor tells me on their second day in Chacala that "if they would just....." about some problem, I will probably throw up. Not really. I guess I think people could be focused on BOTH making the big bucks and learning from this culture and giving something back for getting a chance to live in this lovely place.

A couple of my favorite visitors left yesterday, heading for home. This was their third visit here. They have been coming about once every six months, and staying for two or three weeks. He fishes with the local friends he has made here, or from the beach, and she visits with her new friends. He didn't speak Spanish when he first came but he has learned alot. They have done a great job of just fitting into town, and finding ways to help out. And they are very generous. Regular people, not alot of money, but alot of heart and kindess. And they are very fun to be around. I will be glad when they come back.

I miss the beach so much. Last night was horrible, no sounds of the ocean waves crashing, just cars tooting at the Chacalilla (Marina) gate. Some idiot honked maybe ten times in 15 seconds last night about 10pm. I guess he/she must have had some really important business in the gated "community" to disturb the whole neighborhood. And of course his honking got the dogs barking. Oh well.

This house is really comfortable with a great hammock. The best hammock I have even used.
Plus it has an oven. I have hardly been cooking during the last six months of camping on the beach. Used a little gas camp stove every other day or so. But today I bought flour and yeast for making pizza (NOT like Pizza Hut pizza) and chicken breasts to bake, and carne for making fajitas and tacos.

It's late afternoon and I am about to go let Beatriz know her deposit for a June visitor is here, and offer her a two month reservation with some very interesting sounding jpeole who want to come down for the first time in January and February.

It is getting kind of scary to realize that sometimes people are making the decision to come here after reading this blog, or taking my advice about where to stay from reading the rental blog. I know that most people coming here don't even know either of the blogs exist, but still, it feels funny. A nice guy who is in Chacala now, thinking about staying, keeps telling peopole he came because of my blog. Scares me.

That's it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sunset at Mahajua in Chacala

I am writing this from the lower terrace at the restaurant at Majahua, in Chacala.
Majahua is located at the south end of the Chacala beach, and you have to walk along the beach and up a wide path to the restuarant.

Majahua is also a small hotel with big ,big rooms and an incredible spa. The phone is (011 52) 327 219 4054. The parenthesis is for calling from the US.

Majahau also has a website at www.majahua.com.

If you are staying in the area sunset dinner at Majahua is incredibly beautiful. You have to call ahead for reservations and order your dinner ahead.

I can't think of a better place to have a special dinner.
I am watching to sun go down as I type, and it gets more beautiful by the second.

As an item of disclosure, I often borrow the wireless from at Majahua to type this blog, but the owner, Jose Enrique De Valle has no idea I am writing this.

My Life in a Hammock with Iguanas and Plants

My lunch today was my first meal since I got sick a couple of days ago (Wednesday) . I haven’t really gotten my appetite back from my episode of TD (Tourist diarrhea,) but I had V8, celery, and peanuts for lunch and it settled in all right.

I love living mostly outdoors, a few feet from the sea, and in the shade of palm trees and my ramada. After lunch today, eating with my toes in the sand, I relaxed in my hammock, strung between two palms right next to my ramada, daydreaming and feeling so lucky I am to live in Chacala.

It’s amazing to me how many people in Chacala know how much I like Coca Cola. I have had at least ten people tell me the last two days “No more Coke”. People around town, gringo and local, seem to know lots details of my everyday life. The upside is, lots of people seem to know I am moving and I have had lots of offers to help move my stuff up to the new house. Pretty nice. Lose some privacy and gain some help and support. It’s worth it for me. At first I had a hard time here with having little or no privacy, but I have gotten used to it. It seems normal now. And I had lots of visitors the past couple of days, checking to see how I was doing. The gossip mills is really, really fast here.

Back to the hammock.

While I was lying there I was kind of meditating, sort of, on the amount of animal life that surrounds me here. Three raven-crows birds were pecking away on my sandy floor, two of the dogs that live at Esparanza’s were sleeping on the reed mat in front of my tent door, and a little cluster of baby chicks and their mom were running around under the table. Lots of little crabs run out in the morning and evening, and the palms are full of singing birds. Also scorpions and rats. At least that’s what people tell me. I haven’t actually seen any.

Then I noticed the three iguanas that live in the rocks in front of my campsiwere perched up on the rocks, enjoying the sun, and maybe watching me in my hammock. I went over to my fridge and got a piece of old melon and put the pieces on the rocks near the iguanas, and then went back to the hammock. In a few minutes the iguanas were out and eating away. When they finished the melon pieces they disappeared the rinds and sat there looking at me.

Then Euloiao, my old landlord, came around selling fried bananas a few minutes later, and I bought one. I tried to palm it off on Esparanza’s and her daughter-in-law, but neither of them were interested so I put it on the iguana rock. Soon the three of them were gobbling it down. I hope the grease didn’t upset their stomachs.

Right now I am watching the iguanas from my tent as I type this, and I think they are watching me back. Probably thinking “When will that dumb waitress get her act together and bring out the main course?”

But, really, I am going to miss being on the beach. The sun, the sky, the moon and stars, swimming every day, the sand, the ocean, the families right here, the hot water in the showers (hot from the sun), the shade of the ramada and the palms, and the kids.

And my plants. I can see my little plant garden from the tent and the hammock. I just gave E. all my plants (with buckets and dirt) except two Desert Roses and some succulents. I will start over in a few days. I walked up to Susana’s today and she gave me a ride home. I was really glad. It was my first outing since I was sick, and I felt very tired and didn’t want to be walking in the heat of the day.

Anyway, when we went by Aurora’s I noticed how lovely the plants she and I planted two years ago are looking. They look so pretty. Especially the bougainvilleas. She has done a great job and adds more plants all the time.

When we arrived at Esparanza’s Susana noticed how much nicer E’s looks. She and I have been working on keeping the junk and trash from being piled up in front of her flower garden, and have added a whole bunch of plants. Its looks really nice, especially compared to six months ago. She is a great gardener. She has three areas of plants now, and there are lots of blossoms. The favorite special plants with gardeners in Chacala seem to be roses. Which I would never even bother with in this climate, but they seem to do okay for awhile. E even has some blossoming hydrangeas, which seems kind of amazing to me. The plant lady who sells plants from a truck around Chacala gets her plants in Tepic, which is in the mountains. Tepic has no saltwater laden-air, and is cooler climate without much humidity. So roses and hydrangeas do okay up there, but they don’t seem to last long in Chacala. Look nice for awhile though.

I am going to take my daily siesta now, and then when the sun goes down a little we are going to take the wheelbarrow over to the arroyo near Mar de Jade and get some dirt, and look for some sprouted coconuts. The Semana Santa people (deliberately?) killed half our new palms, even thought we had built little rock walls around them and watered them everyday so people would see they were not weeds or something. Oh well.

Changes For Me in Chacala

Four or five days from now I expect to be moving to the house I have lived in for the past two summers, actually six or seven months each year. It’s a great house, painted a kind of soft orange, and owned by someone who goes north for the summer. The only drawback for me is that it’s a long walk to the stores, the beach, and my favorite people in Chacala. On the other hand, it will be nice and dry when it’s raining and it’s well screened and secure. I won’t have to worry about my computer or wallet and passport for awhile now. And some of my other favorite people will be much closer and easier to visit and be visited by.

The owner of the orange house had all the outside locks changed last week, so I think everything should be okay, theft-wise. Chacala has had a rash of burglaries, break-ins. Not particularly focused on places gringos live. Also restaurants, homes of locals, etc. I think it may be over with, at least for now. The police have taken people away three times, and they all seem to be young adult males from Las Varas who use drugs. Of course, this is an situation where I will never know the whole story.

Anyway, it will be a relief not to have to worry about keeping my stuff in the tent, but I will really, really miss the beach life. The kids wander in and out all day and they are so precious. Today they were drawing, making sort of airplanes from paper, kicking a two liter Squirt bottle around, and putting new batteries in one of those keyboard things they make for kids. We had a lot of fun with the keyboard, dancing around and singing. The keyboard has a microphone, which was a big hit. I don’t know where the keyboard came from , but it was great. It had all the English kids songs and I guess some are also known in Mexico because the kids where singing along too.

Speaking of the diarrhea, Ron, a long-time resident of Mexico who just visited Chacala for a few days, brought me a box of the latest antibiotic for diahrrea, which is sold in Mexico without prescription, as Flonorm/Refaximina. In the US it is called Rifaximin/Xifaxan. I read in a travel magazine that it is not as hard on your body as Cipro, which is apparently systemic, as compared to this new drug, which apparently stays in your intestinal track.

Anyway. I was glad to have it. I had the name written in my little green book (my substitute for having a memory) and I was really excited when Ron showed up with it. He said he was a bit of a hypochondriac, but having the right drugs on hand seems just plain sensible to me.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Making a Profit From Chacala

It looks like more and more of the new breed of visitors (and possible residents) are starting to show up in Chacala. That is, people whose interest is Chacala is in making money thru real estate. Chacala real estate. I guess Chacala has been lucky for so long in that it attracted people that have some respect for the town as it is, and don't see it as an "opportunity" to get rich. In the past most of the visitors have been volunteers of some kind, like Rotarians or Habitant for Humanity people or bird watchers, or Spanish students, or people interested in the environment and the Mexican people and culture. Not this new group. Or people volunterring thru Mar de Jade or the Bibliotecha program, or Techos de Mexico.

It's very scary, and bound to happen. People make money destroying one town, and take their profit, moving on to destroy another town. Lovely. And totally ignorant.

These people are showing up more and more often. Full of opinions, which almost always start with the phrase "If they (meaning Chacala residents) would only......". A couple days ago a woman who had been here about 24 hours started lecturing some of us on the topic of trash in Chacala, without having a clue about the wonderful things that have been happening here regarding managing the trash/tourist problem. She had no interest in hearing about it either. Just wanted to find out if there was a way she could make alot of money here.


Someone I really enjoyed visiting with was just in Chacala, on his way south. He has a lovely blog, called Dancing Dog. It's about Patzcuaro, but really about life in Mexico and it's great, with really good photos too. Definitely worth a look if you are curious about life in small town Mexico.

Not Such a Good Day in Chacala

Had my first bout of Mexican "Tourist Diarrhea" this week. That phrase seems to be the current phrase for describing various forms of diarrhea and vomiting. I have been concerned about getting diarrhea in some awkward situation ever since I got here, and everytime I left Chacala I took a little kit of meds and a change of clothes, just in case. Of course, the day it actually happened I had left my little emergency kit at home because my small backpack was full of books and magazines and I didn't have room. And I though, well, nothing has happened for about 2 and 1/2 years, so....

So I went into PV to get books and some other stuff, and had lunch with some friends from the US who were visiting PV. They wanted to eat at Pizza Hut, of all places, so I thought "what the hell" and said okay. I think that's what made me sick, but of course, I will never know.

A couple of hours later I was on the Pacifico bus coming home, and as the bus pulled into Mezcales, the first town north of the airport, I suddenly knew I was going to vomit and got off the bus just in time. I was vomiting and vomiting, and had diarrhea at the same time, filling my shorts and running down my legs. A lovely image. The driver and a man who was waiting for the bus got my stuff off the bus for me, and the man carried by things over to the little bus ticket office. I used the bathroom, no toilet paper or seat of course and came out, not knowing what to do. Covered with shit and a total mess.

Then a taxi driver came up and asked if he could help me. I said, I am too dirty to get in a taxi and he said, that's okay. He found some stuff to cover the seat and opened all the windows and helped me into the car, like a true gentleman. He said he would take me to Chacala for $40, a real bargain considering they usually want jfrom 60-80USD.

But by the time we got near the Sayulita turnoff I knew I wasn't going to make it to Chacala. the driver took me to the IMSS hospital in San Pancho. I walked in the door and started vomiting and having diarrhea again and the receptionist pointed me to the bathroom. Of course no toilet paper or seat. I ended up washing my shorts out in the sink and washing by legs by slashing water from the sink. Luckily there was a big drain in the middle of the floor. I went back out into the "lobby" and started vomiting again and someone handed me a wastebasket filled with bloody something. Then they had me lay down on a gurney and put in an IV and with something to stop the vomiting, and an antibiotic. I kept vomiting and etc for a couple of hours and it finally stopped. In between bouts they took my name, age, and the town where I live. No medical history or anything like that.

They also asked if I wanted them to call someone, and I did. I wrote down three phone numbers of people in Chacala that I thought might help, had a car, and spoke Spanish and English. Luckily, Trini, my first choice, arranged for Cundo to come down to San Pancho and get me. At least I think that's what happened, but I was kind of zonked out and mostly was sleeping. Cundo was wonderful. He went and for some pants for me when the hospital wouldn't let me leave in a hospital gown, and then went and got change somewhere when the hospital didn't have change for a 500 peso bill. My bill was $26 USD for six hours of care, IV with drugs, stool test, and use of the bathroom. Extensive use of the bathroom. No charge for the toilet paper since there wasn't any.

My bed was right under to air conditioning vents and I was freezing because I was wearing my rinsed out shorts. Everytime they got soiled, I rinsed them out again they got dirty. It was a dirty job and I got to do it. I'm really glad there was a sink there.

They wanted me to stay overnight but I really just wanted out of there, and Cundo had already waited for hours, so we paid and left. Or rather Cundo took care of everything, including taking the prescription slips etc. And we headed home. I was still freezing because the windows were open, but I finally realized I must have stunk to high heaven. I slept all the way home and only had to get up once in the night.

So that was my adventure. I was really lucky people were so nice. I don't know what I would have done if the taxi driver hadn't approached me and offered to help. I could see there was a hotel down the street but I don't think they would have let me register, covered with shit.

And Cundo was incredibly helpful and nice.

So, I hope it never happens again. But now that it's over, I guess I could handle it again. I hope I don't have too. An no Pizza Hut. Ugh!!! I usually eat at home anyway, and rarely eat out, even in Chacala.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chacala Development, sort of

On this lovely Chacala morning I had breakfast at the little rooftop restaurant at Casa Pacifica. I guess it’s a sign of the times that it’s still open in May. Usually it’s closed before Semana Santa, late March or early April. But this year there are still visitors coming down to Chacala to visit, and often nowadays, to look for property in the area. Today at breakfast there were a couple who are purchasing a home in Chacalilla, a woman looking to see what was available, a younger retired man looking at Chacala for a longish stay, and a young family who are building a little place near the Chacalilla gate.

It’s actually kind of scary to me, but bound to happen, I guess. Chacala doesn’t have a lot of land that is available for purchase. And there are limitations on the land that is available. For example, most non-Mexicans can’t purchase land within 30 miles of the ocean or, I think, 100 miles of either border. Land can be purchased thru a bank trust or by establishing a Mexican corporation. There are lots of message boards and websites on the issues about buying land in Mexico. www.rollybrook.com is very good, and he has suggestions about other places to look for information.

Most the land immediately surrounding Chacala is either Federal or eijido land, which is generally not available for purchase by individuals. The center of Chacala has been regularized (changed from a squatter town to having regular lots with titles, etc). Those lots can be bought by foreigners, but only thru bank trusts. Or some illegal machincations like having your Mexican friend hold the title for you. There are also lots and houses in the gated community, Marina Chacala (which has a website). Very expensive and lovely. Susana Escobido, owner of Casa Pacifica, has been helping people find and purchase lots and houses in the Marina. And in Chacala too. Also, Rod, of Ayalos Realty (Sayulita), who lives in the Marina helps people with purchases there. They both have websites, etc.

I don’t why I am even writing about this, since it’s not to my advantage to have more people coming here and prices going up. Places that could be rented for $150/200USD last summer around now $250/300, because of demand, mainly. And landladies are reluctant to take monthly renters anyway, because they can make more in fewer nights with day-to-day renters.

Another worry is that Chacala will outgrow it’s very basic infrastructure quickly. Sewage and water delivery mainly. The electric and phone systems seem to be able to meet Chacala’s needs so far. But many people are afraid Chacala will have problems like Sayulita, where there are serious pollution problems caused by overdevelopment. These problems, that is, the level of pollution, is rarely discussed with tourists coming to Sayulita. Of course, one difference between Chacala and Sayulita is that Sayulita has a real river (sewage filled) running through it into the ocean, while Chacala has only an old (usually dried up lagoon) and a (normally) dried up creek bed running thru Mar de Jade. Into the ocean. Much less chance of surface pollution, although the problem of underground sewage pits under the restaurants and motels remains, and may or may not be addressed in the near future.

Depressing. On a more cheerful note, some very nice people are choosing Chacala as a second home, or to live here. If they have to come to Chacala, I am glad it’s nice and interesting people who are coming. This has been a nice week for me. The end of the Semana Santa and May Day crowds (and trash), nice weather, as usual, and nice visitors.

I am expecting to move into my summer home (third year there) in the next few days, but don’t know for sure exactly which day. I have some people lined up to help me move my stuff. And some of it is staying here, at Esparanza’s. Like my wooden bed and maybe my fridge, which I won’t need this summer. I offered E my tent for a little private place for her this summer, but she said she would be afraid to sleep in a tent away from the house. But then she said she would think about it. I expect to come back to the beach in late October, but, of course, you never know. The beach is empty today, and there was not one camping, motor, car or truck anywhere along the beach. I think there are about 10 Habitant volunteers still in town, working in El Capomo, plus six or seven long-term visitors or residents from the US/Canadian and two yachts, and about eight visitors. A lot for May, considering the previous years, with almost no one visiting in May.

I am going swimming in a second, as soon as I close the computer down. The water is green and looks very tempting. And empty.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day in Chacala

Chacala has been jammed with people this three-day weekend. Today is MayDay in Mexico, the 1st of May, and it's a big beach holiday in Mexico I guess. I wasn't really prepared for another big weekend so soon after Semana Santa, but were we are. And next weekend with Cinco de Mayo, which isn't very big here, luckily.

The weather is perfect, sleeping with a sheet and light fleece blanket in the tent. Beautiful starry nights. The ocean water is very very comfortable, warm but not too warm. Very nice. I am swimming two or three times a day, in preparation for moving off the beach to my "summer home", which is up near Casa Pacfica and a long walk to the beach. It is near Chacalila beach, so I might start walking down there again like I did the first year I was at my summer place. Last year there were too many tall grasses and shrubs and there was a new fence, so I didn't bother.

All beaches in Mexico are public, legally, but some are more public that others. The more money you have the more privacy you have, same as Malibu, in California.

The occasional idiot motorbiker on the beach has been joined by a drunken idiot with his truck. Last night he and his lovely family partied right in front of Esparanaza's until 3am. Juan called the police and said they were coming, but I don't think they did. The truck was still on the beach this am. I was hoping for a high tide, but no such luck.

Neither of the moto's had license plates, and when I flagged the driver's down and told them the truth, that the police would confiscate their bikes if they didn't have plates, they both got off the beach. We'll see what happens next. Luckily, I don't plan to be on the beach in a few more days. I want to move because I like not paying rent for the summer and I hate the teenager loud music at Esparanza's, but I love the beach and the kids and being down there. I expect I will move back in November or so.

If you want to take a look at the rentals in Chacala
take a look.