Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lost Souls in Chacala

Yesterday I had my second visit by a scary young man, who carried a donation can with him, asking for support for a treatment facility. He also carried a fake handmade ID that explains nothing. He came by last week, and unfortunately, he caught me while I was sitting on the patio, waiting for Chicho and Berta to come by to pick up me. It was the day we were headed for the plant nurseries. So Mike/Miguel told me his story, or version #1 of his story, which involves prison, drug addiction, deportation, etc etc etc.

I started getting uncomfortable with his being at this house, because he asked if I was alone, or married. I said, yes, "I am married", which I have never done before in Mexico. I said I am waiting to go to La Penita in a few minutes. Then Chicho showed up and Mike/Miguel assumed he was my husband. Chicho is very handsome about about 37 years old. More likely to be my son. Or grandson. So Mike/Miguel disappeared in a blink, and I was relieved.

Then yesterday morning, here he is again. I stayed in the house and talked to him thru the screened window. I said "we" were really busy, and he left. Ugh. Makes me uncomfortable. First time in Mexico I felt kind of exposed or something.

Then this morning E., a middle-aged Mexicana orginally from DF, now from Las Varas, came around, selling tamales. I went on out the patio and visited with her. She speaks some English. She has kind of followed me around Chacala for the last year or so, as I move from place to place. Telling me her tales of woe.

Finally told her I was working on some writing and had to finish. And off she went with her buckets of tamales.

My back still hurts from the falling hammock, but not as much as I expected. The weather is lovely. Clear and breezy, but too hot and humid to be outside, except in the shade.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Falling Out of the Wrong Side of the Hammock, in Chacala

The big news at htis house is that the government electrical people are here, installing the permanent electrical hookup. Two men are digging the four holes for the two huge cement power poles. They are digging the holes by hand. Two holes are for the guy-wires and two for the actual poles. The holes are about eight feet deep. It's amazing what is done by hand around here. I was very relieved to see them using a crane to lift the poles into the holes. Even so, I had a few scary moments watching the poles dangling and swinging in the air, very close to the house. But, no problem, the poles are in and some of the hardware is attached. Monday is the big day I think, when the actual electricity will arrive.

Spent the morning cleaning house, dusting the window screens, saving a green lizard from Death by Chiquita, and miscellaneious other pleasant and satisfying tasks. All went well until I fell out of the hammock and landed flat on the bottom of my spine/tailbone. Luckily I have quite a bit of padding back there.

Actually, I didn't really fall out. I re-arranged the veranda today, as planned, and moved the hammock to the other end of the shady area. Somehow, one of the metal hanging brackets collapsed, and I fell straight down onto the tile floor. Smack!!! I couldn't tell at first if I had cracked by tailbone or something. I don't think I did, but it's very sore and it's painful to move.

I read and puttered around for about three hours, waiting to see if maybe my tailbone was cracked. Don't think so, but it does hurt. Luckily I have small stash of a strong pain relievers. But I think they are starting to be too old. So I took two. And I can definitely tell they are working. I still hurt, but I feel kind of distant from the pain. I sort of did a mini-whip lash to my neck as I fell, and my neck is sore too. It happened so quick it's sort of hard to remember.

Right before I fell, I was looking up at the metal hangers, making sure they had settled into place on the rafters. And I flashed on my only other hammock-to-tile floor experience, which was in Huatulco. I was in a patio that had very high walls, and a locked door to the outside world, and as I lay on the floor, I thought, oops, I might be here all night, until the maid comes in the morning. But I was fine that time.

And I probably am this time too, but my lower back is pretty uncomfortable. The pain medication feels great though. If I was going to be an addict, I would go for pain pills probably. As it is, I am stuck with Coca Cola. Doesn't do anything for pain, but tastes sooooo good.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Talking to G and K

I have been fooling around with using Skype and SkypeOut for about a year, off and on. Currently I am using SkypeOut, where I type in my friend's phone number on the computer, and my friend answers on his phone. For the person being called it is a normal phone call, and it costs me, on the other end of the line, (using my computer and headphone with mike) about 1.5 cents a minute.

The downside is is works much better if the computer is hooked up to a wireless or high-speed connection. This house has dial-up, and usually I walk over to a neighbors if I was to make a Skype call or download something large. Mildly inconvenient for me, but it's really nice to be able to talk to friends on the phone.

Last night my brother, my sister-in-law, and I, talked for a long time on Vonage. They live in Seattle. We tried the SkypeOut but there was too much of an annoying time-lapse. It was so nice to talk to them. They always make be feel good. Saying nice things about this blog and the gardening one too.

They are both very artistic, especially with decorating their apartment in Seattle. It's wonderland of clever things, recycled things, my brother's artwork, all kinds of stuff. You have to go there many times so see all the little special touches. And they are the nicest, sweetest kindest people you can imagine. When I used to go to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show I could sleep on their couch. It was so much to lie there and see so maybe special little surprises, all over the place. It makes me feel so good to talk to them. And, of course, I was the world's crummiest older sister. It makes me sad to think about what a jerk I was to Gus.

We talked some about what it would be like to live in Puerto Rico, mostly because it's US and Medicare works there. If you have Medicare, that is. I like the idea that Spanish is the primary language there, and that it's an island. I looked at PR alot when I was thinking about where to live. Never went there though. It's got the same drawback as Hawaii. If you to have alot of money to get there (on a plane).

But it's something to think about and I appreciate the idea of living next to family more than I ever did before. ( The importance of family in) Mexico must be catching.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rainy Rainy Chacala

View from Las Brisas, looking south on Playa Chacala
Noticed a few new things around town today. Besides the flooded roads and the lake between the paved road and the little beat-up beach stores and restaurants. People say crocodile is back in the little lake, but I haven't seen it yet.

The small construction road that briefly served the new yellow house is no more. Filled in with dirt, and a new house foundation has been built next to it. And right next to Benjamin and Aurora's little cement block house with garden. Aurora said her father-in-law with a fat wife was going to be living there. But hopefully I missed some crucial piece of that conversation, because that sounds bad. We, Aurora and I, agreed to do a plant trade tomorrow. She has a nice hanging plant with purple under the leaves and sweet little blue flowers. And she wants a Desert Rose. Happily, I have some. Aurora and Benjamin seem to have one of those lovely Mexican relationships where she is isn't allowed out of the house without him, unless, of course, she is going to work. Whatever.

Haven't gotten the latest Telmex phone bill yet. It's usually hand-delivered by one of the kids. The bill for this house is paid automatically, but I want to make sure I didn't go over the 100 call a month Telmex limit. This bill will be the first bill that covers dates I was actually staying here. Telmex has a two month lag in billing.

Tomorrow is the weekly floor scubbing day at this house. Luckily, the owners have a little floor cleaning machine, like a vacuum cleaner. I am dreading it thought. The machine is fine. It's moving all the furniture back and forth that gets old. It has to be done though. The bug-guts really stick to the floor and sweeping isn't enough.

This past week or so I have had a bunch of contacts from old friends who I haven't connected with for a long time. Partly at my instigation, and partly out of the blue. The internet is amazing for finding old friends you have lost touch with. Nice to hear about other peoples lives, and makes me a little sad. I am having a brief moment of missing my old life and old friends. But I wouldn't go back to that life for anything. This is a much nicer life for me. More my style, I guess.
It's amazing to me how my expectations get in the way of my life. The bread truck vendor (sweet rolls and white bread rolls that I like for making little pizzas) didn't have any plain rolls when he came by last night. The driver, Lalo, has this new horrible horn that sounds like a European ambulance. So tonight, when I was waiting around for him to come by, I was listening for the horrible horn. But he just did the regular horn, and by the time I realized it was the bread truck, he was too far away to catch up with. Rats. No little fake pizza.

But if I had kept in my mind that he could use either horn, I would have had time to catch him. I should have known he wouldn't use it at this house because I was giving him a hard time about how loud it was when he came by last night. Never assume. My friend that lives in Patzcuaro says that alot. And it's true. All my stupid little assumptions tend to get in the way of what it really happening.

Chacala Recyclers

Cathedral in Pititall,
a small town now engulfed by Puerto Vallarta
I added this photo, because seeing it reminded me that there some nice buildings in the Puserto Vallarata area. It's just had to see them, what with parking garages and giant hotel complexes.

It's pretty easy to be a recycler in Chacala. For one thing, your neighbors always keep on eye on your stuff. I use transluscent garbage bags now, so people can see if they want something in my garbage. Like if I accidently put an aluminum can, so something made from foil, or a nice big can, or whatever, in the garbage, it can easily be removed by whoever wants it.

When Juan Manuel comes around to collect town garbage, house-to-house, he have five or six separate bags hanging along the side of the garbage truck, so he can sort as he goes. Pop cans, plastic, etc etc etc.

Whenever I have something I think someone my want (broken, or whatever) I set it down by the side of the road. Either after the morning work crews arrive by the truckload to go into the gated community, or after they leave in the evening. Because I want my reclaimed stuff to stay in Chacala. I even hang clothes (shirts mainly) on hangers by the side of the road. Those disppear immediately. Never really see who takes things, but often I see my extra stuff at someone's house.

I have the impression everyone knows what everyone has. I think it is very new in Chacala to lock doors around here, and very unusual. When people visit they are comfortable poking thru things and looking around. I keep a few things tucked away. Things I don't want to share. Otherwise, it's fun to see people's reactions to stuff. Like my ten photos of my family and my old garden, in the US.

People come to where ever I am living, looking for this and that. Like glue or sissors or a big ladder or little ladder or a table or an extra oilcloth, or........ . Or a bandaid or cream or a nail or something.

It's nice for me to have something someone wants. I used to have this cute little stapler I got at Office Depot. For 10 pesos. One time I was showing someone how to use it. I could see she wanted it sooo bad. Didn't say a word, but it was obvious how much she wanted it. So I handed it to her, and we made a joke that I might borrow it back sometime.

Every restaurant in town has someone that comes with a truck everyday to get their edible garbage for pigs or chickens or whatever. Sometimes twice a day, when things are busy. I have gotten several emails and some visitor comments suggesting that Chacaleans should compost.

Now when that happens I ask people exactly what would they compost if they lived here. There isn't much that isn't used here. Chickens and dogs live off food scraps. Fish scraps. The garbage here is basically manufactured stuff out of plastic, like pop bottles and broken plastic chairs. And restaurant trash (plastic plates and the containers food comes in). And napkins.

Unless used toilet paper could be composted. Ugh. Now it's burned, and I prefer that solution.

Artists in Chacala

Looking down the hill in Chacala,
from the paved road toward the beach road.
Concha's Techo de Mexico rental is on the right.

I was just sitting down to do some blogging, here in Chacala heaven. Sun shining, breeze blowing, and surround by green. Then I heard a different noise outside. Sometimes that means someone has arrived and is letting me know she is here. Other times is some surprising activity going on within hearing distance.

Like the day the absentee owner of the lot next door brought men in from Las Varas to herbicide his lot, which includes palms and shrubs and trees and bananas and mango trees, and my bouganvilleas and other plants. Managed to stop him that time, and he only killed one bouganvillea. Anyway, I never know what is happening when I hear new noises, and I always investigate.

This time it was Butcho. It turned out he was planting melons along the other side of the driveway. Using a tall stick, and carrying his melon seeds in a half a coconut shell, which had a string threaded thru holes in the side, so he could carry the seeds with his hands free. The string was some kind of fiber he had twisted together to form a string. Butcho is always making something out of nothing. I love hanging around his and Maria's place, seeing all their different things. They actually have a little cement block house, about twice as big as a double bed. But they really live outside, under a crummy-looking ramada that seems to work for them.

They used to be spread out all over two lots, one Maria's and the other belonging to another absentee owner, this one from Compostella. I think maybe he is related to the gringo who is building just south of the Chacalilla gate. Anyway, about six or eight months ago the owner came and told them to get their stuff off his lot. And they did. Animal pens and gardens, and little structures for washing and cooking and eating and watching TV and whatever where all moved or removed. Actually it looks a little tidier now.

Anyway, the advantage of having two lots was besides having lots of space for their 9 dogs, jillions of cats, kitchens, ducks, etc etc, and three garden spaces, there was room for all their collections. Plastic bottles and glass bottles and aluminium cans for recycling and other stuff for clever, and free, inventions. Like the seed carrier. Maria is always making beautiful things, often from colored tissue paper. Like those decorations for parties that are strung from tree to tree. Of displays for Guadalupe day, or pinatas. Maria has been making bolsas (shoulder bags or purses) from whatever. Lately it's been kerchiefs. But also from fabric she has embroidered on, and scraps of this and that. She comes around every few weeks looking for artist-type stuff I might give her, and a little cash for tissue paper and glue and other things. She asks for 20 pesos.

Many of the ladies in Chacala have shrines at their homes. Everyday shrines and special shrines. Special shrines for Guadalupe or whatever. Some are just beautiful. Esparanza had a lovely shrine for about three days, and then it disappeared. Don't know what happened. Dona Lupe has a shrine in the room she and her husband and adult daughter, Blanca live in. And another one at her restaurant, Fonda de Lupita, on the beach road. Dona Lupe's is always clean and neat, with candles lit and flowers. Maria always has a shrine, but for Guadalupe's day she goes wild with decorations and embellishments. Very clever and inventive.

Now that I know about the shrines, it's easier for me to find gifts for people. Now I can look for religious photos and pictures, special candles, and little medals and boxes with Guadalupe or Jesus or Mary on them. Morelia has a street 20 de Noviembre, which has about 30 or 40 religious stores. And when I was in Patzcuaro I found some very nice religious-objects stores. One store, especially, had very artistic, with beautiful things. Some of which I could afford.

My favorite thing in one of the stores was a pin about as big as a quarter, with a little photo of Guadalupe in a gold metal frame with glass. You clip it on your blouse thru a prong on the back. Like my old Girl Scout medals. Those pins were a big hit when I got back. They were only 5 pesos (50 cents) each and I got 10. I gave five away immediately and then people asked me about them and I gave the rest away in a day or two. I wish I had gotten more.

Maria's pin ended up in one of her creations hanging in her garden. Every day there is something new at her place.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quick Trip out of Chacala and into the Nursery

Desert Rose
Rosa de la Desierto
Adenium Obesum

When we went down to the vivero (plant nursery) a few days ago, Benjamin, the owner, showed me some some Desert Rose cuttings, about 8-10 inches tall. I wanted Berta to go to back in the far corner of the vivero to see them, but she didn't feel like it. While I was trying to convince her to come look, planning to buy her some of the plants, Benjamin dropped the price from 10 pesos to 8 pesos (80 cents). I thought about that price and those sweet little, well-rooten plants for the next few days.

And I woke up this morning, wanting to head for hursery. Which I did. Jumped up, ate, showered, brushed my teeth, and took my sack of laundry (sheets and towels) and a plastic chair down to the road, to wait for a ride. Sitting in the chair, rather than standing or walking, is my new technique for waiting when the sun isn't up very high yet. I only waited about three minutes, when my neighbor, Jesus, came by and gave me a ride to the lavanderia in Las Varas. It was so early Lulu wasn't opened yet, but she must have seen us drive up, because she came hustling out of her house and unlocked the lavanderia for me.

Headed for the ATM and the Correo. The book my friend sent at the end of May still isn't here. I am always surprised by how little money I have in the ATM. Walked over to the La Penita combi stop, and the combi was just leaving. Rode down to the vivero, got my plants, went back out to the highway to wait for a combi. Lucked out. The combi I flagged down was the same combio, headed back to Las Varas. Got off at the Crucero de Chacala and a minute later Juan, the electrican came by, heading to Chacalila and going right past my house. Perfect. He has an old 1976, I think, sedan, that he's had for 20 years and it very proud of. I enjoy running into him. He is always friendly and calls out my name, and offers me rides.

Took my plants out on the veranda to let them get used to their new home. Cleaned house, entertained various visitors, computed for a hour, petted Chiquita, and microwaved some popcorn, and had popcorn and Cokes with the Coke truck guys.

Now, siesta time, and then time to plant the new plants. I feel so rich with plants and dirt right now.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Overcast in Chacala

Not sure who took this, maybe Ramona H.
I am struggling with the idea of getting a digital camera. Which I clearly can't afford. Besides, I probably couldn't figure out how to take photos with one, or how to download pictures onto my trusty little Mac. But I keep thinking of pictures I could take. One of the young adults in the computer group that has been working on the Paraiso Chacala website has a camera now. I am hoping he will take some pictures for me. And will know how to download them.

I was hoping he would come by yesterday, but he never did. Everyone else in the world did. Well, not everyone. But two visits by Maria, two by Juan, one by Juan Luis, one by Trini, one by Berta, a (very creepy) guy begging for a rehab center, Maria's husband, looking for aluminum cans, the garbage guy, the Coke truck, and on and on.

Nice day actually. I set up my tent (the one I used last winter, camping on the beach) on the veranda. I was hoping the rainstorm would clean it up, and it did, sort of. I scrubbed it with the plastic brush today. But two of the longer poles are useless now. One snapped where the metal channel corroded thru and the other one won't fold up. I have used a can of WD40 on the poles and zippers. The zipper are continuing to build up salts, every when the tent was put away in closed container. I am re-lubricated all the parts, hoping it will be okay for next winter. This tent came from Mexico Walmart and it was made by the Swiss Army (knife) company. It's a piece of sh.... They sold a bunch of them because you see them all over the beach. With poles broken and zipper doors stuck open. Zippers not working. Nice layout though.

Berta and Chicho and I went to the plant nurseries near La Penita yesterday, and Chicho did a few errands in Guayabitos and La Penita. I was a nice ride. And I got two sacks of dirt and some very nice plants. I am a happy camper. And if I had a camera, I could take pictures of them. I am going to go at Consumer Reports or something and see if I can figure out what might be good enough and cheap enough. A new playtoy for me.

I was surprised how hard it was to have something valuable (my laptop) when I was living in a tent on the beach. Had to figure out what to do with it everytime I left camp. But I love it to death and don't care how much responsibility it is. These new cameras are little enough to put in your pocket I think. And then there's the corrosion issue too, I suppose. Oh well, it was a good idea while it lasted.
One of the boats Cundo's group uses for
taking surfers to La Caleta,
fisherman fishing
and tourists whale watching
families to deserted beaches for picnics
I think this photo is taken by Ramona H.
Chiquita, the little neighbor dog, is here all the time now, except when she runs home to eat. I don't give her food, but I do have water for her. Whenever she returns she drinks a whole bowl full. She's a very smart little Jack Russell, and I really enjoy her company. I don't know why she isn't staying over at her house, but I am guessing she prefers to avoid little children, and thare some staying there for the summer.

I can't believe how many bugs there are here every morning. Dead bug and moth bodies all over the floor, and on the patios under the windows too. Probably two big dustpans full every morning. I don't walk around barefoot because the dead bodies stick to the bottom of your feet. And because I am nervous about stray scorpions. I have to wash the floor every few days to remove the residue from the dead bodies. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I am brushing off the moth wings off the window screens, using a plastic bristle brushy, maybe three windows everyday. It's too disgusting to do more than that.

I am still thinking a lot about going somewhere else next winter, if I can afford it. Sometimes I have a strong desire to be in a more stimulating environment. Of course, lots of the visitors to Chacala are VERY interesting, and I really enjoy meeting them and talking. But they are usually only here for a week or two. I guess I will ignore the where to live next winter question for now. I do have my name on a lot of housesitting websites, so maybe something appealing will come along. So for I have no interest in going back to the US. Although I am curious about Puerto Rico (colony of the US).

I am thinking I might use the tent for an extra bedroom for me if I have any company this summer. My first summer, when the bugs were driving me crazy when I tried to read at night, I slept in my tent, with the light outside the screened windows. That worked pretty well. If it gets much worse with the mosquitoes and whatevers, I might try it again.

I am keeping very happily occupied, with lots of projects besides plants and housecleaning. I have been making little notebooks with little covers I have drawn, and painting and decorating (with religious pictures mostly) little wooden boxes. I got the boxes in Patzcuaro, but I think they were made in China. Strange thing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Blog Commenting on My Chacala Blog

I just had the very odd experience of reading someone's impression of this blog, written on a blog called "Mexico-in-English". The writer quoted a comment I made awhile ago regarding the concept of volunteering here, in Chacala.

And the issue of my gender came up, again. I keep meaning to go back and do some re-reading, to try and see why it is so unclear that I am a woman. Of course, I have always been kind of what used to be called a "tom-boy", so maybe that quality shows up in my writing. Strange experience anyway.

I enjoyed reading the blog, and I am going to put it on the links side-bar.

This poster was found and scanned by DD, with many thanks.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Message Boards for Gringos in Mexico

Flowering plant on the patio of one of Aurora's Techo de Mexico rentals
(photo courtesy of Nicole M.)
Since I moved to Mexico, I have gotten a lot of help from the various Message Boards available to English-speaking people living or travelling in Mexico. Thorntree/Lonely Planet, Mexico Connect, Mexonline, TomZap, Vallarta ..., Jaltemba Bay Folks, even Trip Advisor are all very helpful.

These boards, and several others, have members/posters who are very helpful people, with lots of really good information about life here, including everything from hostels to bus routes to visas to buying property, and answers to whatever questions you might have.

I would caution anyone, however about "joining" the Morelia Connect board. This is a Yahoo-supported member-only Board which provides not only information, but spamming, trolling for customers, and a very personality-disordered member.

Pinata time in the churchyard, for Daniel's birthday party
(photo courtesy of Nicole M.)

Chacala: The Upside and the Downside

Bouganvilleas, one of my favorite plants in Chacala (courtesy of Sparks)
One nice result of my trip to Morelia, and to the Patzcuaro area, is that I now have some other places with which to compare Chacala. Nice places. Up until this trip I had only been to tourist-type towns on the Pacific coast. Plus time spent in the bus stations of the towns between Nogales and Tepic. Neither Tepic, the Nayarit State capital, or Puerto Vallarta and environs have never appealed to me. But both Morelia and Patzcuaro have a lot going for them, and seem to be places I might like to live.

I am not sure where this interest in checking out other parts of Mexico is coming from. Partly, maybe, it's the weather here in July, August, and September. Hot and humid. And for the past week or so, since it finally started raining, there are millions of very blood-thirsty mosquitoes. Hard to go out during the day (from say 9am to 6pm) because of the heat, and in the early morning and early evening because of the mosquitoes.. I am fortunate enough to spend the summer months in a well-designed house that is almost always liveable. Good cross venilation, three ceiling fans, and screen-only windows (no glass to slow down the breezes).

I have also noticed how much I am dreading the thought of being here next winter. I am starting to think that "culture" here in the winter is something I would do well to avoid. And I am going to try somehow to do that this year.

I guess Chacala isn't the only town in Mexico with a strange social atmosphere among the non-Mexican residents, winter only and/or full-time. I have been meeting more and more people who live either live full-time or for six months a year in other Mexican towns. It sounds like my concerns are pretty common in other towns too. There was even a Post today on Thorntree, the message board for Lonely Plant Travel Guides, mentioning Alamos as a place where gossip, or "social intrigue" is the number one activity among gringos. I am not good at staying away from that kind of interaction, so I need to figure out a solution for how avoid this kind of activity. I just don't know what that solution is yet.

So I am going to keep looking for other places to visit, and maybe live in. But I guess I better face up to the fact that I will be taking me, myself, and I along on the trip, where I go. And that how I experience and react to things probably won't change much in a new town.

But a larger town might be nice, where there may be access to activities in intellectual, artistic, spiritual, literary, and political realms, is very appealing to me. I love Chacala, but in some ways it is very limited, similar to any small, small town in the US. Of course, only tourist towns like PV seem to offer access to English language books, magazines, and newspaper. And I am still pretty attached to those items.

Now that the language barrier isn't quite as high, I am starting to think I would like to be around people with broader interests and experiences than I have generally found here. That doesn't sound very nice. But I don't mean it to sound disrespectful. Chacala has been a wonderful place for me about 8 or 9 months of each year. But maybe it's time to look around for another place, at least for the winter months.

And maybe, in a new town, I will be better at staying under the line of fire during the tourist season. Be better at keeping to myself regarding people I don't hit it off with. And just enjoy some of the many, very nice, short-term winter visitors. The last three winters I have met some of the nicest people when they came to Chacala for a visit. I hope I will stay connected with some of them for a long, long time.

Of course, it's possible I won't be able to find someplace nicer than Chacala, and will just have to learn how to deal with the stuff I don't enjoy in Chacala. And with myself.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lovely Photograph of Morelia and Patzcuaro

If you want to see some beautiful photos of Morelia, check out this blog.
It's really worth looking at.
These photo are part of a blog written by Emily and Sergio,
who are living in Morelia.

If you want to see some wonderful photographs of Patzcuaro,
take a look at the the Dancing Dog blog,
Wonderful color photos and nice essays.

More pictures of Patzcuaro and Mexico
can be found at
They are taken by Mike, who lives in Patzcuaro.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leaving Patzcuaro, Heading for Chacala

I really like Patzcuaro and the little towns around here. They surround a big lake, Lago de Patzcuaro. The countryside is really beautiful, green and lush right now, in the rainy season. Today we drove around to some of the little towns and to a stone complex built by the predecessors to the Spaniard´s, called the Tarascara's (I think I spelled that right). It´s on a treed, grassy area overlooking the lake, and it really interesting to look at. I guess is was a combination fort and religious complex.

At the ruins near Tzintzuntzan, overlooking the Lago de Patzcuaro
Photo courtesy of DD

There were some beautiful trees at the ruins. Some of them looked just like eucayluptus trees, with the leaves and peeling bark, but they didn't have the lovely aroma or the cute little buttons. My friend thought they might be some kind of willow.

I love it that there are so many layers of history, with buildings still standing, in Mexico. The Basilica here is my favorite Cathedral-church so far on this trip. My posada is right across the way from it so I can go there all the time, and I do. There is a big outdoor market right in the front yard of the church.

This is a great town for shopaholics who like the relax after shopping by sitting at a restaurant overlooking the plaza and talking and visiting. This is a very pleasant town to visit, and maybe a nice place to live. I would worry about satisfying my addiction to English language books and magazines though. I did find copies of the Miami Herald, Mexico edition, in English, but that was it.

Have to stop writing. I am meeting my friend here for dinner over across the plaza. I am going to have to use my umbrella because it´s really really raining. Luckily there are covered walkways most of the way.
Stone structure at the archeological site at TsinTzunTzan
(Later: it turned out a very nice poster from Morelia Connect, a message board for gringos living in the Morelia-Patzcuaro area, left me a message suggesting we get together. At my invitation, he showed up at the restaurant and the three of us had a nice dinner at Surtides, a nice restaurant on the larger plaza. ) It's fun to meet people you only know from message boards. I look at the Thorntree-Mexico board alot, and have met four, no, five of those people when they visit Chacala. Or in this case, when I visited Patzcuaro.

I am taking the midnight bus to Guadalajara tonight, expecting to get home to Chacala mid-day Saturday. When I signed in at museum guest registers, I put my name, and wrote Chacala, Nayarit, for my address. It felt good.

From Patzcuaro to Guadalajara to Chacala

The bus ride back home, from Patzcuaro to Chacala, was mostly interesting and okay. The downside was the road from Patzcuaro almost to Zamora was pretty uncomfortable for about two or three hours. Very, very curvy, and going up, up, up, and down, down, down. It was the middle of the night, and there were many abrupt, brake slamming, near stops as the driver came up on slower vehicles as we went around corners, or tried to pass on a curve and met a bus coming the other way. Very exciting. Children were vomiting and packages and cartons were flying around.

It was impossible to leave your seat to go to the bathroom, because you would be thrown all around. But nobody was trying to leave their seats anyway, becaue the aisle was waist high with cartons of food and various items for sale. Mostly straw and wool woven items.

When I arrived at the Patzcuaro bus terminal about 9:30om, I had a two hour wait. After spending some time re-packing, so that when they wanted to put my rolling pack under the bus I would be okay, I was looking around for something to do. Then one of the bus ticket sellers wanted to practice his English on me. He was from Colima and told me all about how wonderful it is. Finally, after using the toilet, which was free (no water to flush with and no toilet paper, but lovely toilet seats) because the bathroom lady guard had gonebhome, I wandered outside to where the buses arrive.

I was amazed. There were about 40 old Indio ladies (looked old anyway) and a few younger ones and a couple of men, and about 200 or 300 hundred containers of all kinds of food and god knows what. Apparently half the women/vendors were going to markets in Mexico City and the other half were coming with us to Guadalajara. When the bus finally arrived the ladies and their helpers and the bus baggage people spent about 45 minutes cramming everything under the bus. And then, after we were all seated, they filled the aisles with whatever was left over. Glad I went to the bathroom before we left, because there was no way to get to the back of the bus.

I loved watching the ladies organizing up the loading. They all seemed to be tiny, wearing many layers of skirts and shawls (rebozos). While we were waiting for the bus the ladies were mostly curled up on the cement floor, sleeping on blankets next to their piles of sales mechandise. Some were embroidering and other were visiting or doing child-care. Two of the ladies sat next to me on the bus, and kept smiling at me. We shared a bag of cookies, and they went to sleep. They didn't wake up until we reached Guadalajara. The mom and little girl behind me were among the vomiters, which wasn't pleasant.

It was sweet to see how quietly everyone (almost all women) worked together to load the bus. No loud discussion, just quietly organizing and stowing things away. And when the vomiting began, no one made a fuss and then was no loud talking. People just helped each other clean things up, sharing toilet paper and plastic bags to deal with things. I guess everyone expected the vomiting, because everyone seemed to be prepared.

When we got to Guadalajara I was the first person off, since I was sitting right behind the driver. A perfect location for observing the driver's daredevil driving style. Sitting there, I had a chance to prepare myself for the brake slamming because I could see the trouble coming. Other people didn't have that opportunity, and there were some pretty loud thumps and crashes in the back.

I was hurrying to catch the 5:00 bus to Las Varas (which was four Modules (little terminals) away, so I didn't get to see the unloading process. But I bet it was just as quietly and politely managed as the loading process.

I love how people here just quietly take care of business. No one much fusses about waiting or changes or whatever. They just keep and eye on what's going on, and chat and visit and sew or whatever while thet're waiting for whatever it is. Nice accepting attitude, one I am trying to adopt. With some success.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Patzcuaro, not Chacala

Two different shots of the Basilica de al Salud, in Patzcuaro
(Lower photo courtesy of DD)

My favorite parts of Patzcuaro are the squares and churches, especially the Bascilica de la Salud. I spend quite a bit of time, morning and evening, enjoying being inside this building.
I was drawn here repeatedly during my short stay in the Posada across the street.

But the wonderful street markets that start right at the edge of the smaller plaza and run all over town, are just amazing. Beautiful fruits and vegetables and just about everything you could imagine needing or wanting. Well, not everything, but lots of things. They are also vendors under the portales around the plazas. The covered wide walkways that allow you walk out of the sun or the rain, depending on what's happening.

We took an evening walk heading away from the Plazas, and into a quiet neighborhood. Our goal was a small church, which was lovely from the outside. I could easily imagine myself living in own of these neighborhoods. On the walk I finally noticed that all the building in the main area of town where painted deep red on the bottom, and white from about waist-high up. I asked my local friend about it, and he said the red was iron-oxide, and that it's a tradition in much of Michoacan to paint buildings this way. He also pointed out that all the building signs were written in the same script, and in black. Except for the first letter, which is always written in deep red.

It's a little deary for my taste, but it does make for a nice appearance. Especially when you are sitting in one of the plazas. Everything looks sort of calm and orderly. In some areas of the smaller towns we visited the color schemems were what I think of as "normal". Colorful paint jobs on every building. At least two colors usually. Red tile roofs are the standard here. They really look nice when you are looking down on the town from the various viewpoints.

I love all the colors in the crafts in Mexico. At least in Michoacan. The pinatas, and smaller art pieces, and even the table clothes, and especially the oilcloths, and the pottery.

When we drove over to the Lago de Patzcuaro, we drove by towns specializing in specific crafts. There were examples of stone and wood carvings lining the highway near the towns where those crafts have been made traditionally. Other towns have mask, and copper items, and I don't know what else. Very interesting. I was able to resist the stone and wood carvings because I didn't think I could get them on the bus. And didn't think the drivers would like me tie them on the roof. Although, you never know.

We walked around the town of Quiroga, and had lunch in the plaza, sitting on one of the shady benches. My friend had a sandwich of pulled-pork (park hacked off a big clump of roasted pork meat). It looked delicious and the taste of the pork was perfect. I tried an ice-cream cone later, but it turned out to be the kind of ice-cream that stays solid with being kept at cold temparatures. Some kind of gelatin is added, I think, and it tastes really strange. There is a good ice cream place with "real" ice cream right betweeen the two plazas in Patzcuaro.

The lovely church in Quiroga, near Lago de Patzcuaro
(photos thanks to DD)
We spent time at this lovely small Cathedral (or church maybe), right in the middle of town, but surround by trees and a park area and a big street market.

The Lake as four or five islands. The islands I saw each had a steep hill in the middle, with the houses built right up the hillside. Reminded me of pictures of islands in Sicily and Greece. One of these islands is famous all over Mexico for it's celebration of the Day of the Dead, the last day of October. Thousand upon thousands of people come from all over Mexico for the festivities.

Doing my Laundry in Patzcuaro

Last night I had dinner with my friend here. He has a really nice Blog about Patzcuaro with wonderful photos. He has been living here since Springtime. And has lived here other years. Before we walked downtown he showed me his lovely little casita. The compound he lives in is right next door to the Posada de la Salud, but you would never know anyone lived there. From the street there's just an old wall and some beat-up wooden doors, but when you get inside there are two patios and about eight rentals. Some apartments and some B&B type set-ups. Really private, with lots of flowers and vines and beautiful pottery and glass things all around.

We walked down to the small town square and ate outside, across from the park, at the Gran Hotel restuarant. Chicken enchiladas. Very good, and good company too. I love sitting around eating and talking and people watching in Mexico. In Mexico it seems like there is always stime to just relax watch the world go by. There are lots more indigenous people here than around PV, and some of the faces are so beautiful. I was picking out some Guadalupe cards at the religious objects store, and the lady thought it was really funny that I wanted dark-skinned Guadalupe's instead of gringo-looking ones. But she went in back somewhere and found some for me. She also had a couple of Christ with dark skin, which I haven´t seen much of in Mexico.

I found the shop when I was walking back to the lavendaria, where I had left my dirty clothes this morning. I was a long ways away from the lavendaria when I realized I had left my umbrella in the laundry bag. I got really really lost trying to find the lavenderia again. Finally found it, and found the religious objects place too. So it all worked out.

I had breakfast sitting outside eating rolls spread with butter and jam. I got the jam from the Hotel Gran. They have those little packets, and they wouldn´t let me pay for a few of them. And I got some bananas and nectarines (ripe and delicious) from the very large outside fruit and vegtable market.

So I sat outside in the larger plaza eating and watching a political demonstration going on in the plaza. There were about 300 people listening to a younger woman with long, dark, wavy hair talking about something. There were women and men with signs too, but I don´t really understand what side they are on. I am assuming it´s about the corrupt election process issue. There are a bunch of soldiers at the Elections Board place, with guns, etc. I guess everyone is worried about demonstrations.

This internet place is set so I can watch out the door and keep an eye on the demonstration. And it is definitely growing. I am on my way to walk around the markets until my laundry is ready. Then I am going to start looking thru all the craft shops. There are some amazing things, and some things I would love to buy. But moving to different living spaces every six months doesn´t work well with collecting objects. So I will probably resist, except for little gifts. And hopefully some succulent plants.

I am meeting my friend later for dinner and more exploring. Tomorrow we are going driving around Lake Patzcuaro. There are little villages all around the lake, and most of them specialize in one particular craft, like pottery, or copper or something. I have been reading a little about Patzcuaro´s history, and it is very interesting. But I won´t go into it here.

At the moment Chacala seems far, far away, but I know it will feel good to be home. Warmer too, probably too warm.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Missing Chacala, Loving Patzcuaro

I got to Patzcuaro mid-day today. I got a lovely room at the Posada de al Salud. It´s more pesos than my place in Morelia, and it´s really nice. $20USD, and I am here for two nights, then leaving town on the third night on the 11:30pm bus to Guadalajara (arriving there at 5am). The bus is $17, and it's really comfy buses with reclining seats and leg rests, so it should be all right. Plus I have the earplugs Nancy brought down last fall. They have been lifesavers, especially at the hostel, where people come and go early and late.

It´s kind of chilly here, but I have a fleece vest, so it´s okay. I even have socks if it gets really cold. My room is about two blocks from the two town squares, which are really beautiful, with trees and benches and grass and lots of people. And this a town for shoppers. There are things to buy everywhere. I am resisting so far, but it´s very tempting. I have brought gifts for all the people in Chacala that have brought me gifts when they went on trips. Payback time. I am still really liking Guadalupe stuff, and have gotten nice cheap things that I really like. And lots of plain little wooden boxes that I am going to decorate. And some oilcloth, my favorite "fabric" at the moment.

I have a friend here, who was in Chacala last winter when I was staying on the beach. He is here for four months I think, and lives right next door to where I am staying. We are going to get together later. He has a car and I think we are going to doing some driving around tomorrow or Friday. There´s a big market Friday morning here, and I am looking forward to wandering around. This is a big tourist town for Mexican families on vacation and it´s really fun to sit at a table and watch the kids being kids.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Missing Chacala, Loving Morelia

Cathedral in Morelia, Michoacan
It´s 8pm and I am interneting at a great spot with brand new flat screens and very fast computers. And a little breeze. No rain today. Nice comfortable weather. Met some people who are friends of my friends who left Morelia yesterday, and we spent some time at the Casa de la Artisans, which has lots of beautiful, very tempting, objects to purchase.

First thing this morning I took my dirty clothes to the they-do-it-for-you laundry. While I waited I walked next door to the biggest fruit and vegetable market I have ever seen. I had, for breakfast, a banana (tiny and sweet), a banana (large and regular tasting), two peaches, one nectarine, and a yoghurt. And an apple juice. Managed to put off my morning Coke until 11am, when the caffeine headache hit like a bomb. Took my nice clean clothes back to Hostel Allende and met up with my friend´s friends. The husband is Cuban, the wife from the US, and they have lived in Costa Rica for a long time, and now live around Morelia. Really nice people. Had a good time with them. Did some more museums and little shops.

Everytime I see an open door along the street I peak in, and take a look into the central patios. The inside patios are so beautiful. So are the museums. Incredible old buildings being put to good use in the "modern" world. It makes me especially happy that the building down at the Chacala dingy beach is being put to good use. All the old parts are still showing, plus they are now protected, and the building is useful, instead of being an eyesore and trash collection area.

Anyway. When my feet got really tired I got on one of the¨"Red" collectivos. There are six different colors of collectivos, which indicate where they are going. Of course, I had no idea where the red one was going. I just got on because by feet were tired and the front seat (my favorite) was empty. We drove a long ways, dropping people off mostly, and then ended up at the garage place. The driver took me over to the other driver, who was taking another collectivo back to the center of town, the Zocalo. This driver pointed out every single point of interest all the way back in, and even swung out of the way a couple of times to show me cool buildings.
Another view, same Cathedral
When we got to the center of town, which is built around two plazas and a cathedral, he wouldn´t take a tip. Really, really wouldn´t. Not just being polite. So I paid less than 80 cents US for about an hour and a 1/2 tour of Morelia´s colonias (neighborhoods).

I am tired and going home to bed. Tomorrow is Patzcuaro, which is a much smaller and very beautiful town. Today on the way to the Internet Cafe I ran into three Chacala people, who are in Morelia on a subsidized trip for the scholarship kids plus a few other people who can afford it. It was really nice to see them. I was so surprised when someone said "Hola Andee" to me on the street.

Just my opinion, but it´s starting to look like the gap between resources available for kids in Chacala in the scholarship program, and those who aren´t, is widening. I hope my understanding is incorrect. Hard for me to understand what´s really happening anywhere in Chacala. The family interconnections and small-town history are pretty unknowable to new residents, gringas in particular. And of course, no mattter how kind and generous peoples´ intentions are, there are always unforseen consequences to any generous act. It seems as though some of those consequences are starting to become more obvious in Chacala.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My (short) Life in Morelia

Well, at the end of the last post I was looking for a ride to the Pacifico Bus Terminal early Sunday am. I found Miguel Angel, the collectivo driver who makes the first collectivo run of the day at about 6:30am, and he agreed to come up and get me at the house in the morning, which was great. And he actually showed up right on time. I had only been waiting at the end of the driveway for about two minutes, sitting in a plastic chair. I threw it in the bushes when I saw him coming. I will retrieve it upon my return.
The three photos on this post are
the Santuario de Guadaupe
Before I forget, the rainy season started Tuesday night, and it has been raining real rain, not sprinkles, every evening, pretty much. Saturday night, when I was looking for Miguel Angel, we had the first flooding, drenching, wet, wet wet rain of the year. Streets running in red muddy water, kids jumping up and down in the water pouring off the roofs and houses and stores, and the streets turning into lakes within minutes. Rivers flowing down the streets.

Got to the Pacifico Terminal at 7am, and the same thing happened again: two times the Guadalajara bus didn´t stop. The five us us who were waiting ended up going to Tepic and then Guadalajara. A total of 5.5 hours/230pesos instead of 3 hours and 150 pesos. Very annoying. Pesos to dollars is about 1:10, sort of.

Got to Guadalajara on a nice Pacifico bus. It was a strange ride. Could have been almost anywhere in the US. Familiar freeway-style roads and signs, and toll booths with rest areas with baths rooms and places to get stuff to eat. There was a whole busload of women and girls waiting in line for three toilets, so I wandered off into the buses to take of business. No one seemed to notice, I hope.
When we got to G. all the Morelia buses seemed to be full. Couldn´t find room on any of them. Went to all the Modules (terminals) and finally I tried Amarilla Flecha, which is part of Primera Plus, and they had room for me. On a bus leaving in 10 minutes. Perfect!!! The actual bus was a Primera Plus, which hadn´t had room for me at their reservation desks. Oh well.

And when I was chatting with the lady sitting next to me we compared our tickets. It turned out I paid 170 pesos and she paid 230 pesos. Same seats (reclining seats with extended legs rests), same built-in cup holders, same two-layer sunshades, and the same "included" bag lunch. First time I rode on an "all-inclusive bus".

I feel like I rarely "get" the whole picture about what's going on here in Mexico. It isn't the language issue so much as constantly making assumptions based on my past experiences, instead of remembering to look and ask, don't assume.

At the Morelia bus terminal I got a taxi for $2.50USD for about a 15 minute drive downtown, to where I am staying: the Hostel Allende. $13USD a night. Small room with bed and nice bath. Two windows, very clean and a decent overhead reading light.

I have been touristing today and am waiting out a rainstorm in an internet place. There are so many beautiful buildings here, and so many places to shop, and so many parks. I love it. Last night I walked the six block to the zocalo (town square at the Cathredral) and watched a concert and the people and had two delicious chocolate chip cookies. From guess where? Subway. They have Subway here, right on the Zocala, and Burger King too. It was weird to see it, and even weirder to buy something there. It's kind of creepy but the cookies were great. American cookies are different from Mexican cookies, and I always seem to prefer the taste of food like my Mommy gave me. Not that she ever made chocolate chip cookies. But Mexican cookies taste different, not familiar.

Anyway, the rain has stopped, and I am Museum bound. This am was Cathedrals and (churches), and now I will museum until I drop.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mixed-up Day in Chacala

Waldo swinging at the birthday pinata
Well, I woke up still feeling kind of out-of-sorts and crabby about yesterday. After worrying for awhile about how to get to Las Varas in for 6:30am bus to Guadalajara, I talked to my neighbor, Jesus, about something else, and then starting thinking maybe he wouldgive me a ride in this afternoon, and I could spend the night in Tonala/Guadalajara and go to the famous Sunday tianguis (street markets) in the am and still get to Morelia at a reasonable time of day.

Jesus said yes, he would pick be up between one and two so I could catch the 2:30pm bus. i offered him $10USD. He drives back and forth Las Varas all day long, for whatever reason. Anyway, I packed up and tidied up and showered and found three cheap convenient places on the internet, where I could stay in Tonala. Then I waited, and waited and, at 2:45, Jesus was still a no-show. I walked over to Juan's and asked for a ride. It ended up his brother, Arturo, showed up in about four minutes later to give me a ride.

We were in plenty of time for the Guadalajara express, which comes on the every half-hour(2:30, 3:30 etc) but it turned out something was going wrong and there was no bus at 2:30, 3:30, or 4:30, and the 5:00 bus from another company that was supposed to stop in Las Varas didn't stop either. So I caught a ride back to Chacala. I didn't want to arrive at the bus station in Guadalajara at 10pm. There are 3.5million people in that city, and I have never been there before, and I don't want to arrive way after dark.

So, here I am again, trying to figure out how to get into Las Varas before 6.30am on Sunday morning.

Interestingly enough, while I was waiting for Jesus to pick me up, my brother made his annual telephone to warn me that if I left on my trip before mid morning tomorrow I would have lots of delays. How weird. He reads this Blog and was concerned by this trip stuff.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Kind of a Bummed out Chacala Day

Well, here's some Chacala updates.

Last night the folks at the new huge white building with the swimming pool on the second floor had some kind of live (I think) music until 11:30pm. It's quite a ways from this house, and sort of buffered by the landscape, but it was so loud I couldn't hear the phone ring or much of anything. This morning I asked my neighbors where the noise was coming from, and they all covered their ears. I'm not sure if someone forced them to turn the music off at 11:30pm, or what. Usually that kind of noise goes on til 2:30am or so. Thank god it stopped sooner. We have been making jokes around town that it's a casino, and I think it might be true. The inside certainly does not look like a house. It's right across the paved road from the new hotel. I don't imagine their guests will love the noise if it's going to be a regular thing.

Of course, when the hotel opened last Christmas, they played the loudest music I ever heard until 2:30am for three nights in a row. And there were no guests in the public areas the second and third nights. It was so loud you could here it at Mar de Jade.


The hardware store is finishing their second floor. I have been told it's the family living quarters.

The little white rental that used to have a big hole in the front yard, called Casa Serena last I heard, is getting a second story. Staircase it up. It's right next to the huge white place. I pity the owners of Casa Serena if the noise continues from the new place.

I didn't realize the big wedding down at Delphin's last weekend was for one of the son's of Chilango and Sofia, the 3rd daughter of Leo, of Kokobongo. She is fifteen and he is sixteen. Apparently, the couple is living at Delphin's.

The little house on the corner of Gracia's Techo de Mexico lot is almost done. It's for Salvatore's daughter's family. Small with very little natural light or cross venelation, but with some nice touches: tiled eating counter and tiled bathroom, for example.

Some of the local kids playing on the basketball court (fiesta spot, schoolyard, paradeground, volleyball court, graduation ceremony location, tricycle racing rink, dance floor) at the primaria (elementary school)

The ex-restaurant just south of Las Brisas'seems to be putting a second story on one of the buildings. I noticed on Susana's website that the owner wants to rent the outstairs unit for $150 a night. Probably not during construction though, but who knows.

I guess Posada Guadalupe, a three or four unit motel with a restaurant space, is for sale for $350,000USD. Noe has been doing some kind of building project down there for months. I'm not sure what it is, but probably some more rental units.

Another place on the beach is getting a second story, but I can't remember which one, maybe Tres Hermanos.

The other day I after swimming, I took a look at Om´s lot. The one in front of the dingy beach, where Om is having a building created behind the sort-of-famous stone column surrounded by a strangler figs. There´s alot of photos floating around the internet about the stone column. Luckily, Jose Enrique, Om´s brother, and owner of Majahua Resort, had designed a lovely building that sits back behind most of the stone columns. It looks so nice.

I think Chacala is luck to have it´s one older "structure" saved from vandals, picnickers, and the weather. (Added later: And I appreciate how Jose Enrique designed the building even more, now that I see that in Morelia they are doing the same thing. Saving the oldest pieces of the town by building kind of around them, often protecting the special places with roofs, to keep the rain off the older pieces.

Chad, of Casa Tortuga, and his Dad Wayne, and some guy friends are here for a few days. They nicely gave me a ride into Chacala from the Crucero yesterday. Juan was driving them up from airport in one of his families Taxi/Van's. Brothers Cundo and Juan do airport pickups and take tourists on trips, like to San Blas.

The two other building projects near the church are moving quickly. One is a rental and I think the other is a vacation home for a family from the US.

This afternoon/early evening was a wonderful graduation ceremony and fiesta honoring all students in Chacala, particularly the 6th and 8th grade graduates from the Chacala primary and telesecundaria school. It was put on mostly by Trini and Aurora, with help by other people, including Leo and the EBACH kids. Large turnout, more than a 150 people when I left after the ceremony and entertainment. There was going to be dancing, and beer, and soft drinks were being iced when I left. I don't know how things went, but it started raining heavily about 8pm, and I can't hear the music, so I don't know what's happening. I don't think they would keep all the music speakers outside in the thunder and ligthning, but who knows.

Sunday early am I am leaving for a short (in days) bus trip to Morelia and Patzcuaro, seeing friends in both places. I am really looking forward to the trip. I haven't figured out how I am getting into Las Varas in time for the 6:30 am bus to Guadalajara, but I know it will work out.

I had a kind of crummy day yesterday and today. Still working on my social skills and my "avoiding the bad guys" skills I guess. Or getting some instant karma. Oh well, I'll probably feel better tomorrow. Henia and her sister and their kids are coming up in the morning to make chocolate cake from a mix. A much planned event that keeps getting put off.

Remember Trini and Cundo´s new website, Chacala Escape has detailed information about airport pickups, boat rides for whale watching and surfer trips to La Caleta, and tourist trips to special places in the area, like Alta Vista.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chacala Kindergarten Kids

This year's crop of Chacala's kindergarten kids has their graduation ceremony and fiesta late this afternoon. Eight of this year's kids are moving onto the first year of Primaria, some going to school in Chacala and others in Las Varas. It was a wonderful event, and the kids were very precious and sweet.

The event was held at Mingo's, and was supposed to start at 4-m and actually started at about 5:30. The subsirute teacher form last week had taken the CD with the music for the ceremony home and then didn't show up for the ceremon, so we waited for awhile. Meanwhile Lalo and some other kids were trying to fix the microphone. I don't think anyone minded. It was a little breezy, and very shade at Mingo's and everyone sat around talking and visiting. Finally things got underway, with Julietta as mistress of ceremonies.

I can't remember the whole event, but first the retiring Kinder teacher, Julietta, gave a nice talk to the assembled group of maybe 120 people. There was an opening ceremony with the children doing some kind of hand gestures and then everyone stood and sang a song with the words "Mexico" and "Nayarit" in it, so it wasn't the National Anthem. Maybe the state ong. All the school kids sing that song on every occasion, whatever it is.

Then the eight graduates, four boys and four girls did a kind of formal dance, kind of like a very slow-motion square dance. There were speeches by the town's Juez (kind of sheriff with no authority) and a couple of other of lthe town's self-appointed officials. The teacher gave a nice little speech, saying something about each child and their parents. There was a skit with the Kinder's in costume, but without the music it didn't workj too well.

My favorite part was when each child came up to get their diploma and a gift bag. It was very sweet, especially when I realized it was the god-parents who came up with the graduating child. Just like at baptisms and First Communions. It's the godparents who stand up with the child. I really like that idea. That there is definitely someone besides the parents who feel responsible for the child (at least in theory). I noticed two of the little kids didn't have godparents, in fact, they only had their mother to stand up for them.

Anyway, it was a wonderful afternoon. The little boys all wore linen-ish Mexican wedding style shirts with turquoise pants, and the girls all wore full-length cream-colored satin dresses with jewerly, make-up and high heels. That was the part I didn't appreciate very much, dressing up babies in sexy women's clothing doesn't work for me. But they all looked beautiful (the girls) and handsome (the boys) and they knew it. They were so proud of themselves they could have bursted.

Think about it. They were way more than a hundred adults there, watching eight little kids graduate from Kindergarten. All family and godparents and a few friends (like me).

I left while everyone was still eating. It had been a very hot day and just wanted to go home and take a shower. But it was a nice afternoon.

I think one of the things I especially liked is that I have known six of those kids for two-and-a- half years, and it's really neat to see them grow and change. And to know their parents, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins too. Not all of them, but quite a few.

Dead Cow in Chacala

This is the lot next to Chata and Isreal's and across the street from Casa Tortuga.
The lot overlooks the ocean on two sides,
and has been for sale for at least three and a half years.

People who visit Chacala often notice a beautiful tall white-barked tree located right where the paved road turns toward the Chacalilla gate. People like to take photos of that tree and another tree in the same area, one with smooth red bark. It looks like a madrone.
but who am I to say, not knowing much about the trees in Chacala.

Anyway, the white barked tree is located right next to a cattle holding pen which has a water trough in it. The trough is filled by a truck occasionally. The white tree often has 80, 90, a hundred, or even more vultures sitting high on it's branches. I always though they hung around there because of the water trough.

But today, when I was walking home from the Kindergarten graduation, I noticed there were even more birds up there than usual, and they flying around very actively. I was thinking they were probably thirsty because of the current drought-like conditions. And hoping they weren't plotting to have me for dinner.

But as I got closer I saw there was a dead cow lying next to the water trough. Legs sticking straight out, bloated, but not smelling. The vultures were taking turns dancing and hopping around on the cow's swollen belly, but it looked like they hadn't actually pecked into the body yet.

I was standing there, looking things over, when a pickup drove up. The driver said "Buenas tardes" to me, and pulled over and parked. Then he saw the dead body, and got really upset for a minute. Then he said something about dinner, "comida", and pulled out his cell phone and called someone.

I walked on home, but kept an eye on the cattle pen. In a few minutes two other trucks pulled up with some other men in them. With machetes, of course. Who would go anywhere without a machete. After awhile I wondered if they were hacking up the cow. Couldn't see what they were doing. And then they left. I don't know if they were really butchering it. And if they were, was the meat for human consumption ?

The vultures were very active and kept flying down to the ground after the trucks left. I am not inclined to walk over there and take a closer look. Maybe tomorrow.

Another time in Chacala were I have no idea what was going on, but I feel free to make up stories to fill in any gaps in actual fact. Like maybe someone is barbequeing a cow's worth of beef tonight. Or maybe the body is still lying there and the men were just checking it out.

Wish I had a photo of a dead cow, maybe tomorrow.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Too Too Hot in Chacala

I think this is a poiciana tree, but who knows.
It's still blooming around town.

It's too hot in Chacala, and the general opinion seems to be it's because we have only had a very few, very light sprinkles so far in this "rainy season". It is so very hot and humid. Maybe like Washington DC and New Orleans. Everyone finds different ways to cool off, mostly involving getting in the shady spot with a breeze. Lying down is good too. In a hammock, on a mat on the ground, or using two plastic chairs as kind of a lounge. I am lucky because this house is very well designed to catch breezes. And no glass to get in the way. Only screens. I think it's the coolest place in town most of the time. Ignoring the gated place which seems to generally have air-conditioning available in most houses.

After finding shady breeze, the next best way to get cool is to get in the water. Half the town is either on the north end of main beach or at the dinghy beach every evening. It's too hot to be on the beach until after 6pm or so. Although there are always people in the water. I think they are mostly vacationers. The shower works wells too. Or watering the plants and myself at the same time. Nothing like a nice wet tee-shirt to keep you cool for awhile.

I am thinking about taking a trip later this summer. Right now I am thinking of Colima and Patzcuaro, looping back thru Guadalajara on the way home. But it has just occured to me that my shorts, cotton shirts and flip-flops might not cut it in more conservative areas. In fact, my clothes don't even meet the dress standards of Chacala. For one thing I am not a big fan of underwear. But people seem to just ignore me and what I wear. And alot of times when they are teasing me I don't know what they are saying.

I do have two pairs of long cotton pants. I have worn one pair several times in the last couple of years. And I have a fleece vest and a jacket if it's cold. Oh well, one of my favorite things about living here is not having to even think about clothes and what to wear, and I guess I just won't start thinking about it now.

There's a website that has weather reports for everywhere, and I'm going to start taking a look at it, just to get an idea of the weather in the mountains of Michocan.

I have been totally focused on blogging for a week or so. I tidied up my typo's and errors and added Links to Friends of Chacala, started Gardener in Mexico, and cleaned up and added photos to Chacala Nayarit, and added some photos and tried to tidy up
Chacala Budget Rentals. There is something seriously odd about the hmtl's for Budget Rentals and I haven't figured it out yet. Looks sort of okay though.

I am still practicing placing photos here and there. I can't find my list of who I got different photos from, so I can attribute the photos to their owners. Somethings I think it would be fun to have a digital camera, but I probably couldn't figure out how to take the pictures or download them so I could post them.

Zipped into Las Varas this am. Lucked out with the Collectivo coming by as I walked down the driveway at 8:30am or so. Got into town, went to the PO looking for a package that I expected to arrive weeks ago (a LonelyPlanet book that somehow ended up in the US). Got some packets of microwave popcorn, toilet paper, drinking water, and some little favors for the kindergarten graduation party. I was also looking for a present for Alexis, one of the kindergarteners. Couldn't find the right thing. Don't know what I will do about that. Got home before 10am, before it got unbareable to be outside.
This an old photo from maybe three years ago, when the church was just finished, I think. No windows fans, doors, a few benchs, and no real altar or religious decorations. It looks very nice now,
but my favorite part is still the arched brick ceiling.

In Las Varas I got some little notebooks to mess around with. I have been putting my drawings on the covers of little notebooks and then covering them with that clear plastic sticky film. Looks neat. I keep my passwords and weather records, and other stuff in little books, and these are turning out pretty well.

No water today, but I don't need any for awhile, so that's okay. The sun is about a foot off the ocean and I want to run down to Aurora's so I am stopping for now.