Thursday, August 31, 2006

Practice Photos Taken in Chacala

Chiquita, doing her sad and pensive look,
as she waits for her true caretakers return to Chacala
I am learning how to use my new camera, and how to move photos around differently.
Hurricane Juan slowed down and drifted out into the ocean right below Chacala, so we had no hurricane, no winds, and very little rain. All of the adrenaline and none of the mess to clean up.

We collectivo-ed into Las Varas this morning. I wanted to get some new flip-flops after mine self-destructed last night. And we went to the tianguis to check out this weeks plants. Then my son had a torte/sandwich while we waited for the collectivo. I got a bunch of practice snaphots in, and am starting to feel more comfortable with the camera. Daniel, who runs the little taco/torte stand next to the collectivo stop, has an email address, so I am sending him the photos I took of him, his wife, and the shop.

While we were waiting (forever) for the collectivo to show up and take us home to Chacala, we had tortes at Daniel's Taco stand next to the collectivo stop. Daniel and his wife and worker were (I think) willing participants in my taking photos with my new camera.

Now, back at home, we hosed off the veranda and pulled the plants back out onto the veranda. Now I am spending the day putting everything else back in place.

I Guess Juan is Almost Here in Chacala

Well, it's 1 pm here, MDT, and it's still, with occasional drizzles. Changing, as I write, to a heavier rain. The sky is overcast, not cloudy or stormy looking. The birds are still singing and workers are still working. People in Chacala seen to be hoping the storm will continue to stay over the ocean and not get any closer to land.

A neighbor was just here and she thought having all my plants pushed up against the house was ridiculous. However, people in Chacala have strong memories of Hurricane Kenna, four years ago. And there are bits and remmants of its destructive force all over town.

At this moment, it's hard to imagine a big storm arriving, but it seems clear it will be here in a couple of hours. We are packed for a quick escape, but it would probably be to late to leave by the time we decide it's necessary. The rain is definitely getting heavier as I write.

I spent the morning learning how to take photos with my new digital camera, care of my son and my ex. Distracting myself.

People writing me from the towns south of here, where Juan has already passed thru, are saying it was not too bad . Lots of rain and wind, not much else, so I am optimistic.

Hurricane Juan is about 10 Hours Away

The weather sites are saying Juan, now a hurricane I guess, will be here by late morning tomorrow. Thursday. They don't seem to know if it will stay out in the ocean or how close to land it will be when it passes over 22 degree N latitude, the latitude where Chacala is located.

My son arrived today and we are watching the internet reports that come on-line every three hours. From way south of PV to north of San Blas is on Hurricane Watch, meaning they expect a Hurricane here within twenty-four hours. And southern Baja too.

It's hard to know what to do. There is the house and stuff in it to protect, concerns about flooding along the north side of the house, which is already a problem, our personal possessions, household items. Etc. And should we stay at the house or take the taxi, car, bus or whatever somewhere. People are saying a hurricane has a radius of 60 miles, which covers alot of ground.

What to take if we only take the most important stuff, and what we can carry? What is it like if a hurricane winds come close to a house with lots of windows with screens and metal security grates? Does everything get tossed around in the house? Is it useless to put things in plastic bags? Does the refrigerator fly thru the air. In any case the power and phone lines will probably be down, because they are always going down.

And maybe all this is kind of a false alarm, and the storm will veer away from land. But apparently another hurricane called Krista is to the west of Juan, keeping Juan close to shore.

I will hate myself if I don't prepare enough and things get ruined or losy, or if I prepare too much for nothing, and have to un-do all the preparations. It's hard to sleep so I am just rambling on. My current thought is to close up the house as much as possible at dawn, take the stuff I really care about, and get out of here. My son kind of wants to stay and see it thru. I am ambivalent I guess. But by 6am we should know what's going to happen. And can decide then. If I could just relax and go to sleep.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Maybe a Tropical Storm is Heading for Chacala

Monday 9pm
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Someone emailed me a few hours ago, saying a tropical storm, a #3 turning into a #4 was moving up the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and expected to reach this latitude on Thursday afternoon. It appears it will probably be far out enough in the ocean to just bring very heavy wind and rains, possibly with some flooding. I am following on of the weather sites, just to keep myself nervous.

No one around town seems to be the least bit concerned, saying the TV says it will be out to sea before it gets this far north. It's near Alcapulco now.

We just had a brief, heavy rainstrom a bit ago, and now the moon and stars are out, and I am dripping with sweat. Chiquita is outside attacking the wild dragons at the top of her lungs. This is probably her last day at my house. Her caretakes are expected back tomorrow or the next day. I will miss her but will be glad to see her go. It's been hard not to feed her, and to convince to go to her house for meals.

I am going down to PV to meet my son at the airport tomorrow. Very excited to see him.

I guess I am going to need to take my tent down and move all the plants up under the veranda roof and next to the house if there's really going to be a big storm. Wouldn't you know. Of course, if there's an actual hurricane, this house will be a mess. Or maybe not. I am pretty sure the walls and roof are okay, and the wind can just blow right thru the house. Scary thought. I'll worry about it tomorrow.

I just started using Photobucket today. I am so proud of myself. I set up the account, and uploaded photos onto it from my laptop. And then loaded a couple of pictures onto my Gardening in Mexico blog. Very smooth learning curve, except I couldn't seem to set up my Album with separate sections. Maybe tomorrow.

Sometimes it's really scary how much we count on these websites. Blogger is having trouble now, with a Beta project, and I think many us are scared that we'll lose all our work. Or something bad will happen to our blogs. And I guess it has happened to some people. I have had lots of problems this last week with Blogger, but everything seems to be okay now, except for occasionally not be able to sign on.

Now I am going to try to bring a sunset with boats photo over from Photobucket, just for fun. We had another incredible sunset tonight. Just unbelievable, and it went on for quite awhile.
Well, if the winds blows Chacala away, thanks for the memories. Just kidding.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Living with Neighbors in Chacala

Hector and his son Hector Adrian
I am sure I have made lots of social mistakes since I came to Chacala. It's hard to be a good neighbor here in Chacala. It's a different culture and a different language, and things can get tricky. Especially if you assume that your assumptions about what's going on around you are correct.

People in Chacala are often so polite, that sometimes it's hard to realize when you have been rude, or culturally inappropriate. I have been lucky in that, at least sometimes, folks in Chacala have found the courage to tell me when I have done something that's not okay.

For example, one day, a few years ago, when Tony, Marta's previous little boy was a baby, I said to Marta how beautiful Tony was. It turned out he got sick that night. Marta believed it was because I complimented him without touching the top of his head. If you don't touch the top of the baby's head, the "evil eye" will find the baby (by following your complimentary words) and make the baby ill. So I have been careful. Just smile at the baby. But, I am really glad someone told me about that. After I was told, I asked someone else about it, and they confirmed it that it's a common belief here.

I think if you do or say something contradictory to the culture or religion here, it is assumed you are doing it on purpose. Many people in Chacala are only familiar with their own culture, right here in Chacala. Just like most gringos think the way things are done in the US/Canada/Europe is the ONLY way to do things.

Sometimes what Chacalaeans see on the TV soaps and other programs widens their views of the world. But usually, I think, they view the soaps (called novellas here) are seen as fantasy land, or science fiction. Nothing real.

People in Chacala are often incredulous when I say I am not a Catholic, or a Pentecostal, or Evangelical. Most people can't believe you aren't at least some kind of Christian. They often appear to be mystified. Or they stay something like, "But you are so nice". As if only Catholics are nice, and every one else is an evil heathen. I am exaggerating a little, but not much.

Another thing about living in Chacala is that it that appears to be very scary for people here if it appears that the "power's-that-be" might being coming after you. There is no higher authority to appeal to usually. And it can get pretty bad if someone in authority decides to come after you. Especially if you don't have the protection of a more powerful friend. Or lots of money to pay whoever off. So, when someone deliberately tries to cause problems for a person with the authorities (whatever kind), people don't forget. It is very frightening for them and they usual feel (and probably are) powerless to protect themselves. And they hold a serious grudges.

I can't guess what the motivation might be when someone new to Chacala, particularly a gringo, deliberately tries to make problems for a neighbor. Seems a little short-sighted. People are very dependent on each other here. Maybe causing neighbors grief on purpose comes from youth and ignorance. Or maybe it's never having lived in a small town before. Or maybe some newcomers don't realize that there are no secrets in small towns.

Probably the principal that what comes around goes around applies in every culture. I think that's why some people try to follow the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you). Everytime you treat a person with disrespect (especially in Mexico), that person doesn't forget. Not for a long time. And neither does his family or his friends. Getting along with your neighbors is really important everywhere, but especially in a small town. Everyone can see how you handle yourself. They see how you treat people, and if they can trust you. If you are rude and disrespectful, pretty soon no one will deal with you, except to make money, maybe. And there are construction crews here that won't work for some people. Because of how they treat them.

None of the above is meant to infer I don't make lots of social errors here. But I am trying to understand how things work . And what people are thinking, and how they are reacting to me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Walking Thru Chacala

Chacala trinket shop, with little visitors shopping for souvenirs
A kind of cloudy, overcast, and slightly cooler (88F) day in Chacala. I have changed my daily routine, and have been going out first thing in the morning, while it's still "cool" outside, to do my errands.

This morning I had a new reservation for Concha, and I took the information down to her. Concha had replanted the Desert Rose she got from me the other day. It's got two blossoms on it and looks great. She brought back the empty pot I loaned her the next day. I like that. Just like in the US, some people returns things immediately, and some people you have to keep asking. Oh well.

While I was at Concha's we looked at her calender for the winter and she realized she needed to talk with Aurora. So I joked around with Concha's son Juan, who speaks English and is a car mechanic. Then Concha passed the phone to me and we talked about two reservations Aurora has coming. One person is coming on Wednesday and the other at Christmas time. I am so surprised that I can converse adequately on the phone in Spanish with some people. It's very handy, being able to use the phone, I mean.
A woman came over to Concha's selling local lottery chances while I was there. I had never met or (I think) seen her before, but I knew immediately who her adult children were (Marcella and Lalo). Exactly the same face. I guess I have been here for awhile if I can recognize familial facial characteristics. The chances were for a refrigerator. I didn't get what it was a fund-raiser for, but maybe for the church roof, which is leaking.

Got some vegetables from the veggie truck, in preparation for my son's arrival. I don't like onions or peppers or garlic and he does, so I got some, and some cantalupes. And then I went over to the tienda for beer and small water bottles for him, and bananas for me. Saw Esparanza's son, Alphonso, riding around in the back of a truck with some guys, including one of his brothers. They were doing something at Lalo's fish store. A. came into the tienda looking for me. He knows I will probably give him 10 pesos for a treat. He doesn't ask. He just grins at me, and tilts his head, and raises an eyebrow. And of course, I fall for it. He bought a chocolate milk and a bolillo (like a french roll).

Alphonso is one of the three adults in Chacala I know of who have some kind of problem. Developmentally delayed, or whatever. He lives at home with his Mom, Dad, and two of his brothers, and right near his five other siblings, when they are in town. Three of his siblings are currently at University, with the support of Laura de Valle, at Mar de Jade and Dale. He fishes every morning with his Dad or brother and works with them doing different projects. When his brother Marcos was doing the town garbage route, Alphonso was the guy on the back or the truck, dumping the garbage. He is always cheerful, and funny, and loves to clown around. I often wonder how he sees his life, and what he thinks about the differences between his life and those of his siblings. I guess I will never know. But I am always glad to see him.

I wish people like Alphonso were accepted in the US the way they are here. I am sure he has been teased by his peers, and not just because he is different, but because there is lots of teasing going on here, all the time. A. has a role here, and he knows his physical strength and ability to work are needed and valued by his family.

A few days ago when I was waiting for the collectivo at Prieto and Ventura's house, Ventura showed me some great snapshots of Luki, the sweet little dog who died last week. We both sat there with tears on our faces for a few minutes. Then she showed me one of Luki's babies. Their female dog had them about four weeks ago. One of them looks exactly like Luki and another one ACTS exactly like Luki. Prieto showed me that the little guy rolls over and begs for a stomach rub just like Luki. Plus he stands on his hind legs and kind of dances around when he wants something, just like Luki. I am not getting a dog, but I am tempted by that little cutie pie.

Yesterday I put up the tent on the veranda. I am plannning to sleep there when my son is here. And I found another broken pole. I am going back down to the hardware to find a piece of tubing or something to fix it. Then add a bed and foam mattress, and an extention cord for a lamp. And maybe a fan. Last night there was a middle-of-the-night wind and rainstorm, and I am wondering how the tent will hold up to another night like that. It never rained in the six months I used it at the beach, so I don't know how rain-proof it is..I can always move inside if it gets too wet.

When I went walking down the road this evening, heading to Frankie's tiendas, and visiting along the way, I got waylaid but another lottery sales lady. This fund-raiser is for a quilt and the proceeds go to stuff for the town's celebration of St. Rafael Day in late October. He is the patron state of Chacala. It's a big deal, processions, Mass, huge potluck with grilled fish, and a dance in the evening on the basketball court at the school. Last year Maria made the paper decorations that are strung from tree-to-tree in the church yard.

Anyway, 15 pesos (1.50Us) for a chance. The saleslady has a folder with a several pages of numbers with a blank space after it. You write your name in the space and they draw a number for the winner. I couldn't use my usual (never lucky) number, 13, so I used my ex's birthday number, 36 (the year of his birth) which has been lucky for me before. Not that I believe in luck. Anyway. The quilt looked very nice, and I plan on winning it. I am going to give it to Chicha or Lupe or Esparanza. Or me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday Morning in Chacala

This is a computer design created from a photo of a succulent leaf.
The name of designer disappeared when I loaded this, and I will add it later.
Thanks to the incredible Blogger genius, La Gringa, couple of my most irritating Blogger publishing glitches appear to be solved. Also, the Goggle Blogger Help Group has been fantastic in helping me work my thru the current semi-disaster, as Blogger tries to implement an apparently ill-prepared Beta product. Oh well, I think all the LITTLE glitches are fixed on this blog, for now anyway.

My son is coming in a few days. I have all these ideas about arranging things for our mutual comfort. At the moment I am planning to set up my lovely tent on the veranda, and move a bed and mattress in there. With the reading light OUTSIDE the tent window screen so thousands of fried and living bugs won't be landing on me when I am reading. My son will have to tough it out with the inside bugs, I guess. Experience the real Chacala, bugs and all. I love the idea of sleeping out there, and it will give us more space in the house.

But I've gotten sidetracked into re-arranging the plants on the front patio and the veranda, which is on the ocean side of the house. I am picturing the hammock being surrounded by tropical plants and hummingbirds, and butterflies (or flutterbyes, which is someone here told me was English for Mariposas). A little haven. So far it's just a little wilderness of plants. I have 42 pots out there now, and it's getting a little strange looking.

I had to come inside a minute ago. When I started to move the card-table sized plastic table out on the patio, in preparation for rinsing it off and bringing it inside for a workspace, I was semi-attacked by a swarm of wasps who had created a largish nest attached to the underside of the table. I got a little sting on my hand, and they went after Chiquita, but didn't bite her. So I am inside for the moment.

Cundo offered me an excellent deal to pick my son up at the airport, and I am taking him up on it. Easier that way, and I will have a chance to stock up on some groceries at Commerciale. It's hard to figure out what food to buy for meals when my son is here. I eat so strangely, it's hard to think of what would be nice for him. He's a great cook. When I have stayed at his place he cooks Canadian Bacon (my favorite favorite) and blueberry pancakes or waffles or whatever for breakfast. Orange juice. Real Maple Syrup. Nice memories. I know we will eat at Chico's for fish and at Tres Mars for this and that. And probably at Las Brisas for watching the sunset and eating something.

Next Sunday is the birthday of my little favorite kid from the beach, Markito. I got him a couple of little presents, and, at his Mom's request paid for his new black shoes and black (strange, but true) underpants for his 3rd birthday Mass. His Mom said the 3rd birthday is special, and kids always have a Mass for that birthday. I learn something new everyday here. (True or otherwise).

I was visiting Maria this morning. She has been feeling bad for about four days now. I have been bringing her clear apple juice, which she prefers. She forced some herbs on me for my indigestions or heartburn or whatever it is. I don't actually know what heartburn is, but it's a good description anyway.

We are having a beautiful day, clear, sunny and breezy. The wasps are loving it. Hot and not too humid. Of course, I haven't been further outside beyond the covered patio and veranda, so for all I know, it's awful out in the sun. But I don't think I'll got out there and find out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another Thursday in Chacala

Surfer at La Caleta, a few minutes by boat up the coast from Chacala
I went to the street market, the tianguis (ti-an-ghe) today and saw something for my "strangest objects for sale in Mexico list", which I just started. There was this cute little baby puppy standing in the middle of a display of objects for sale. The objects were spread out on a blue tarp on the ground, and I saw the little guy out of the corner of my eye. I was thinking "I wonder how they keep him so still?", when I realized it was a stuffed 6 week old pig. Standing on it's little stuffed legs, with a very poignant expression on his face. Every strange. The guy didn't want to sell it. Not that I would have bought it, but I was curious about the asking price.

Trini and I walked down to the south end of the beach just before the sun went down, in order to take photos with Javier's new digital camera. Javier is one of the younger group of Chacala-born surfers who surf many mornings and evening on the south end of the beach. The boys, including Trini's son Gustavo, wanted Trini to take photos of them out on their boards. The waves were very, very, very large, and she almost got washed away trying to take the pictures. They're going to try again when the waves are smaller.

In the collectivo this morning, the one between Las Varas and La Penita, an idiot passed us going south just before a small hill. Small, but big enough to block the sight of the Coke semi coming toward us in the other lane. It was my closest call ever in Mexico. The van driver was incredible. He saved our lives. I, of course, was in my favorite seat. The passenger seat, otherwise known as the death seat. The driver got us out of the way by pulling off to the right, at 50 mph and somehow staying upright. He killed the engine, and we just sat there for a few minutes, hsaking and giggling. The men got out to pee. I had a cold Coke in my bag, and took it out for a delicious drink. Everyone else had some too and they finished it off. It was one of those moments. My "last" thought was "At least I'll be dead, and won't be lying injured and in pain in a Mexcan hospital without a adequate pain medication".

It's 9pm and no thunder, lightning or rain yet. I think this might be a storm-free night. I won't have to move the furniture away from the rain blowing in thru the screens sideways or dripping from the ceiling. Good news.

My son emailed yesterday to have me check on the model and serial numbers on my Mac laptop. It looks like mine is NOT one of the recalled Intel batteries. Even if it was, I guess Apple or Intel is back-logged 6 or more weeks for the free batteries to replace the batteries that may catch on fire. Lovely. I lucked out I guess. With the computer battery and with my thoughtful son.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Very Small Change in Consciousness in Chacala

This was a very typical Chacala "stick" house
until just a few years ago.

And there are still some around town being lived in.
Mostly with blue tarps added.
Well, it looks like I have partially traded in my (too expensive in Mexico) magazine addiction for reading garden blogs online. By the hour. There are some really great ones, for anyone interested in gardening. Garden Voices has a new sample of posts everyday from a variety of different garden blogs. At the moment my favorites are La Gringa and Golden Gecko.

I was planning to go plant hunting at the tianguis (street market) in La Penita today. And someone even offered me a ride. But I counted my pesos last night, and I think I had better just focus on propagating my own plants for now.

I noticed I have been slowing down on how quickly I go thru the used English-books I get in PV. I got to the "Pagina in the Sun" used bookstore and delicious eating place with outside patio about twice a month now, but it used to be every week. I am reading less and visiting, going on-line and gardening and drawing more and more now. That's good. It's hard to find books I am glad I read when I finish them. They are mostly just dumb mysteries, etc.

I just glanced up at the big screened window here, because some movement caught my eye. It was a pretty big beetle-looking thing, about 3 or 4 inches across. At first I thought it was on the outside on the screen, and ignored it. But it was inside. It took me a minute to find the flyswatter. I have used books to kill bugs when I couldn't find anything else, but then I can't stand to touch the book cover. Even after I wash the bug guts off.

If I don't sweep the dead bug up, within about 20 minutes the any army will have come into the house and will dissecting it bite-by-bite. I have no clue how they know there is a new dead bug available for snacking on.

I have noticed I am undergoing a change of attitude on a small social issue. Or maybe not so small. Yesterday I did some errands in Chacala in the cooler, early morning, and then stayed around the house all day. I was expecting: Chicho with three sacks of dirt, the CFE to hook up the power, and a local friend to share some plants. Etc. And that Trini would call about some stuff. I wasn't really staying at home because I was expecting these people.

I didn't really need to be home for Chiccho or the CFE. They have already be paid and they didn't need to come in the house. And no one is offended here if your plans change and you have gone off somewhere. It's just not an issue. So I knew X wouldn't be annoyed if I wasn't here. Well, I wasn't sure if she would or not. She is a complicated woman, and I am just starting to get a feel for her complexity.

But anyway, I noticed a growing annoyance within me by the late afternoon, when none of these people had come by. And by then it was a pouring, roaring, crashing lightning storm. Too much lightning to be outside, visiting. So I was feeling kind of crummy. But really for no reason.

It appears to me that in Chacala it's fine to show, no show, come early, come late, whatever. I think people are more in the moment here, more attuned to the here-and-now, with very few plans made ahead of time. I like it this way. Life is much more fun. But I DO notice I have moments of wanting things to be just so. Schedules and meetings held to. Etc. No more.

It's hard to break the habit of trying to organize up your life and tighten things up so you can't just do what comes up. Making plans are all based on what you needed or wanted to do at sometime in the past. Firm plans kind of lock you in to whatever mattered to you yesterday. Sometimes you still care about the same things today as yesterday, but often you don't. At least I don't. Of course that's probably because my memory is getting worse.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Stuff I Brought to Chacala

This is a Coral Vine, antigonon something or other.
It's bursting into bloom all over town
I can't remember what I was thinking when I was packing to come to Chacala. I did know I was only bringing two rolling carry-ons and a small backpack. But I don't think it was clear to me that I might be here, in Chacala, for years. I think I just knew I wanted a different life. But didn't know where that would be, or how I would get there, or even what I would need.

But, it turns out I am pretty satisfied with what I brought. It took quite awhile to pack. I knew I had to get rid of everything I owned, except what would fit in my bags. But it quite awhile to figure out my packing strategy.

First time round, I was thinking about clothes and towels and sheets and that kind of stuff. Then, it finally clicked that I should only bring stuff I couldn't get in Mexico. Even then I knew you could get the basics here. Even the same brands of sheets and underpants and tee shirts. So during my next round of packing, I dumped a lot of stuff.

There are a few things I wish I had kept. Like my Land's End cotton, long sleeved dress-type shirts. White, blue, yellow. I only brought one, a yellow one. I use it a lot. It's hard to find 100% cotton stuff here and it's pretty expensive. Oh well.

By the fifth or sixth round, I decided to mainly bring things that were precious or important to me. Like: two gardening books about tropicals and succulents, my pruners and trowel, a favorite enamel dinner plate and french ivory forks. A good knife. Some special little boxes, an envelope of photos. Six months of diabetes medication and my glucose testing meter. Some antibiotics and pain pills. Two Spanish dictionaries and a LP travel book. Mt. Analogue and Natalie Goldberg's "Living Color". And two big pieces of special fabric and about 8 smaller pieces that I really love. Some little pretty things. A box of glass beads. And a couple of sets of pens, some good water colors, and good art paper my son and ex gave me right before I left. And some clothes. etc. A bunch of packets of my favorite floss, just in case.

My choices turned out okay. I think I brought the right stuff. I love having some of my favorite things from my old life here with me. Feels familiar and homey.

If I could shop in the US (and only be there for 3 hours or so), I think the only thing I would really like would be some heavy sandals that would protect my feet when I am gardening. They have lots of shoes here, but Mexican feet are shaped differently. Is that possible??? Anyway, the only shoes that seem to fit my feet here are rubber flip-flops. And I don't like walking thru calf-deep vegetation wearing them.

And my son and ex have brought me all kinds of great stuff when they come to visit. Kind of filled in the gaps. Really great stuff. It's sort of odd that other people (my family) are so good at noticing what you want and like. I am a terrible gift selector and can never think of the right thing. I am sooo lucky to get such good gifts. Stuff I really want or need.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Magazines and Other Imported Stuff in Chacala

Another Guadalupe painting, during a procession on December 12th, her day.
Most of the time I don't actually want or need stuff from the US. But magazines and a few food items seem to be exceptions. And of course, PV has places like McDonald's, KFC Subway, Burger King , Pizza Hut, Domino's etc for those really, really desperate moments. The only one of those that occasionally attracts me is a grilled chicken sandwich from Mcdonald's. Which I could just as easily make myself at home. But the fries are really good. And Mexican Cokes are so much better. They use a different sugar and it's delicious.

But access to English language magazines is difficult and expensive here in Mexico. I have always been a magazine lover/addict/fanatic, and had tons of subscriptions. To architecture, house, gardening, Buddhism and travel magazines mostly. There are lots of magazines in Spanish here. Although the first two years I was here there were no magazines (Spanish) for sale in Las Varas, or Chacala. Now there are a few yucky ones in each town.

The airport in PV has the most English-language magazines in the area. And PV is the closest town with English magazines, as far as I know. They arrive weekly, on Wednesday. So if I am going to make a shopping trip to PV, I go on Wednesday. Hit the airport first. The magazines all have all $3-5 US dollar surcharge, I guess for shipping. But at least we have magazines. Plus there's about four other places that carry some US magazines, and possibly some of the big hotels do too. But all the magazine selling places have been cut off for the last couple of months. Well, most of them. Don't know for how long.

When I first came to Mexico they didn't have peanut butter, and now they do. The sugar kind. But they did have SaraLee. Which they rarely have any more. Cashews are a big hit here, for about the same price as the US. They come and go. Once Comerciale, a big Mexican chain, had Neutrogena Clean shampoo, a favorite of mine. I bought all five bottles for about $2.70 US each. Never saw them again, and the bottles I got are long gone.

Anyway. Shopping is certainly an adventure. I stock up on stuff that I want, because you never know when you will see it again. Once some PV market had those tubs of Betty Crocker creamy chocolate frosting. about $3.50 US each. I bought three and never found them again. Chocolate chips are the same way. Now you see them, now you don't. People still ask me if I have any more of that frosting. It was a big hit around here.

The biggest shopping problem for me is getting stuff home. If I shop in PV every second or third week, it is very difficult to carry my groceries, plus my new-used books and some magazines, usually. I can only buy as much as I can carry, which is hard.

Once I leave the final store of my big shopping trip I can either walk across a large, no-shade, hot parking lot and across a terrible highway to the bus stop, or take a cab. If I take the bus It's very difficult to manage my stuff, plus it's a block walk from the bus stop to the long-distance bus terminal. The taxi used to be $3 US a trip and now it's $5. Then I take the bus to Las Varas (2 hours) and then I have another choice. I check as the bus drives by the collectivo stop and see if the collectivo is there or it looks like there are Chacala people waiting. If it looks good I take the collectivo. 90 cents. But that requires walking three blocks back to the stop with all my stuff. Usually someone helps me though. Or, I spend $6 and take a taxi home and the driver helps me with my stuff from right at the terminal. Expensive choices.

Chacala Chacala Chacala

It's almost 10am on a gorgeous, sunny, hot and humid day in Chacala. Again. How boring. No, I love it. I didn't even wake up until 8:30 this morning. Very late for me. The sunshine was pouring in the window onto my bed and my head. So I finally got up.
I bought three new pot/buckets yesterday, but don't have any dirt right now. Moved my two 24 bottle crates of Coke empties out onto the driveway so the Coke truck guys will see I am home and deliver my Cokes.

This a an eight piece tile set showing the town of Taxco, the famous silver city.

The town water came on this morning. But since my tinacho, the house water storage tank is almost full, I turned the hose down really low, and started watering some of the plants on the south side of the house. Had Cheerios (a basic Mexican food staple, just kidding) with milk and bananas (the little short, fat, sweet kind) and then a grapefruit and my pills for breakfast. Avandia for diabetes, B Complex for health and as a working mosquito repellant, and a mutli.

Chiquita showed up after a night somewhere else. Bouncing up and down and barking. Saying hello in the sweetest way. She helped me sweep off the patio and veranda and the floor of the house. She noses around inspecting the larger dead bugs for me, making sure they are dead and not edible I guess.

I have a few errands for later. A rental question for Aurora. Checking on a friend who is very sick and in pain. I can't do anything for her, but I ask whoever is sitting with her if she needs something from the store or whatever and get it for her.

I read a scary article in the Guadalajara English weekly. It said that in Mexico, according to the newspapers, when a hospital patient is in excruciating pain, the emphasis is on keeping the patient quiet (when they are screaming in agony). So they give them heavy doses of benzodiazipams (anti-anxiety meds) to keep them quiet. They are still in agony, they are just too medicated to move or scream. Lovely. Scares me to death.

A woman in town is having an (her first) episode of herpes/shingles. Whatever. The names are different here. She is in so much pain she can't sleep, at all. They offered her aspirin. One of the neighbors told me pain is natural. I said tp her that pain is a sign to you that your body needs help (in my pathetic Spanish). It is not curative. She insisted that a priest told her God wants you to feel pain. That healing requires pain. I hope she misunderstood him, but probably not.

I hope I don't have any pain here. I can't imagine. However, the hospitals in PV serving gringos with insurance apparenttly have real pain managment protocols and use them. And local people are starting to know that if you have the money your pain will be treated at by doctors and hospitals that treat gringos. So maybe things will change faster than I imagine.

One of my little goals for today is to move all passwords and blog titles and etc etc I use on my computer from three little notebooks to one slightly larger notebook. At this point I have to go thru three different notebooks sometimes to find a phone number or password, or whatever. I have been making some nice little notebooks, using my drawers for the covers (and then putting that stiff plastic film over the pictures. I like how they are turning out, and people seem to like them. It's something to do with my little sketches and designs.

Still waiting for the electric people to come finish hooking up the permanent power to this house. Oh well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Meeting Guadalupe in Chacala

I had never heard of Guadalupe until I came to Chacala. Well, I had heard the name, but didn't know her story. Or that in Mexico it is Guadalupe who revered, similar (I think) to how Mary is revered by Catholics in the US. Never having a been a Catholic, I am a little loose of the details, but I was aware of Mary, and people saying the Rosary (Hail Mary, full of grace,.....). I don't know who people say rosaries to Mexico, but I think I will ask someone.

But, somehow, I have become attached to the image of Guadalupe. Not even knowing anything about her except the famous story of her appearing to.......can't remember to details, but it involves roses and building a cathredral. Anyway. Somehow, here in Mexico, I have some kind of fascination with photos and figures and candles etc, related to Guadalupe. And when I go somewhere I tend to buy Guadalupe stuff, or at least look for it. It's kind of a mindless addiction.

Yesterday I was walking around town, doing errands, and I ran into Isreal. Isreal is a gardener and helps his wife run a small rental operation (six units) called Mirador, here in Chacala. I doubt he is would appreciate the "helps his wife" description. But anyway, he was all spiffed up, looking freshly showered and hair brushed. It was obvious he has taken special pains with his appearance.

After we exchanged greetings, he showed me the flyers he was delivering around town. It was an ad for a revival for charismatic Catholics. I am not sure what they are, but the event is taking place in Las Varas ,and is a big deal, at least for Isreal. He kept telling me to come. That his family (1/3 of the town) would give me a ride into Las Varas. First, I said that my Spanish isn't good enough to understand the Priest. He said it would still be a good thing for me to come.

Then I said that I was sorry, but I wasn't a Catholic. A Catalico. He looked stunned and surprised. It took him a few seconds to pull himself together. I don't know what was going thru his mind but I suspect it was something like this: If she isn't a Catholic she must be with the Devil. But no, she is nice and helps us get renters and loves my little grandson, Adrian. Probably isn't with the Devil".

So he smiled, and said I should come anyway, and he would leave a flyer at my house. Chacalaeno's are almost always polite, not matter what they are thinking about you.

I have had that reaction before. About not being a Catholic. Even though the schools are no longer run by the Church in Mexico, the culture is so Catholic that the schools are full of Catholic ideas, history and so on. And people are rarely exposed to the idea that there are only a few Catholics in the world. And I think Catholics here feel sorry for the rest of us poor fools who are going to Hell, or maybe Purgatory. Who knows, maybe of few of us are. I think think of a few candidates for that trip. To hell I mean.

Anyway, I am continuing with my fascination with the image of Guadalupe. Not her story. Just the image. Weird. Probably a sign of old age.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chacala: Land of Hummingbirds and Mosquitos

Artistic fruit vendor in Chacala during Easter Week
One of my favorite parts of life in Chacala is the hummingbirds who visit me when I'm reading (and napping) in the hammock during siesta time. Sometimes I feel a funny little breeze and open my eyes, and a little hummingbird is inspecting me close-up and personal. Sometimes it feels like they are trying to talk to me. I am going to try to figure out a safe water feeder for them. This morning I realized one was trying to drink water from the container of water I am trying to root oleanders in. Which is known to be poison (oleander water that is).

I read in another blog, to be named later, when I remember the name, that B-Complex turns mosquites off and they leave you alone if you take it every day. There are millions of mosquitos out when I am socializing around town at dusk during the rainy season (now). And even though they are always buzzing around me, I haven't had an actual mosquito bite this whole rainy season.

I had never heard this urban (rural?) myth about mosquitos until today (from the same blog I mentioned above). However, I started taking a good B-Complex last May. Some friends brought me from the States. Maybe the B-complex is why the little bugges aren't stinging me. They are definitely checking me out, but not bites. Very strange. Very good, actually.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Small Town Life in Chacala

This little guy is called a gecko or something else, depending on who you ask. There are a number of them living this house. Everyone says not to remove them, becaue they eat little bugs and things. So I ignore them. But when the population is more than two, plus babies, I help them find a new home on the terrace or patio. With the help of a broom. They live on the upper walls and ceilings, so far they have never fallen or crawled into my bed, so I guess it's okay to share the house with live-in bug eaters

I was hoping the CFE (electric commission) workers would be back today, to do the final hook-up for the permanent power line to this house. But, rats. No show. A neighbor has been kind enough to allow the homeowner (and indirectly, me) to enjoy the benefits of hooking up to the local power system thru her meter. With the knowledge of the CFE people. My homeowner pays the total electric bill for both houses, in return for this favor.

Had a couple of peculiar gossipy type conversations when I was doing errands around town this morning. One was a gringo telling me another gringo guest has left town owing rent money. I hope it's not true, since I facilitated his arrival in Chacala. It's kind of a scary thing to help people find places to stay in town. Your never know who they are, or what's going on with them. In this case, I am assuming it's some kind of misunderstanding. Until I know different.

UPDATE!!! I heard some strange voices down on the road this afternoon, and Miss Chiquita Banana started barking, so I went outside to look. Four guys were standing on the road watching one guy doing something to the transformer on the new pole. Four other men were sitting in a unmarked and crummy looking van, with some tools in the floor. No uniforms or name tags. All kind of scroungy and sweaty looking.

At first I thought they were the "gypsies", who were run out of town a couple times last winter. I thought it might be them because they are known for hooking up to power anywhere they want. They use a long wooden pole with a metal hook and and an electrical wire to get power to their camps. But they didn't look like the regular gypsies and there were no kids. A sure clue they were workers. But who knows. I wrote down the license number anyway. Just in case.......

I am really enjoyed a new gardening blog, about gardening in Honduras. I can't remember if I mentioned it before or now.
The muelle, little harbor, where the Fishermen's Coop building is located
and the fishing and tourist boats are moored.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

School's Starting in Chacala, One Week to Go

This is Juan, waiting for the collectivo in Las Varas, the town next to Chacala. Juan paints houses and everything connected with houses (metalwork, insides, outsides, wood furniture, etc) He also paints words on signs and boats and anything you can think of. He is meticulous, neat, hardworking, and has a great color sense. He is usually busy painting gringos' houses these days.

Notice the comfy stools available for your sitting pleasure.
When the afternoon sun hits this side of the street the waiting area shifts over to the shady side. No tree stumps over there though. This is the collectivo stop for Chacala, Alta Vista, El Capomo, and another town I can't think of right now.

I had a nice fast trip in Puerto Vallarta today. A gringo family: father, 5 year old son, and 3 year old daughter, all blondies, got on at San Pancho, on their way to have a day in the big city, including a movie. I haven't seen a movie down here, but mostly because there would be no way to get home at night after a movie.

Anyway, they have been in San Pancho for three years, and the wife has been very involved in setting up a kids program with art and English classes and I don't know what else. And a large Spanish language library. And, according to her husband, she also has books in English.

By coincidence I actually went in the place a few weeks ago when a friend of mine with a rental car drove us to San Pancho for lunch. I walked back to the car from the beach restaurant and noticed an interesting looking shop and went in and looked around. Didn't see any humans though, so it was nice to meet the family. I am hoping to meet the wife sometime when I go down to San Pancho. It would be nice to get books without having to go to PV. Replenishing my supply of books and magazines in English is really my only reason for going down to PV these days. Nice kids, very well behaved. And very cute. It was fun to see little towheads on the bus. They really stood out.

Coming home a man and little (6 years?) boy dressed in cowboys outfits got on the bus to entertain us. The man played the guitar and sang. And the little boy sang with his Dad for the choruses. What a voice! It reminded me me Brenda Lee, if anyone is old enough to remember her. She was about five feet tall and had a truly powerful voice. Anyway, the little boy was darling, and knew it too. Very sweet.

As soon as they got off in Mezcales, another singer got on the bus. I was reading a new "Economist" and didn't notice him get on. And when he started singing I thought it was the radio. And that the bus had stereo, because the voice was coming from behind me. (ridiculous thought). Then I noticed my neighbors were looking toward the back of the bus. I looked too. It was a slight man about 40, with a lovely, lovely voice, like Nat King Cole or someone like that. He sang beautiful love songs (and I could understand almost every word!). It was the nicest ride from Mezcales to Brucerias I have had so far. He only had time to sing five songs, but it was wonderful. Everyone clapped, which is very unusual on a bus. I think it's only the second time I have been on a bus when people clapped for a bus performer.

While I was gone the CFE (Federal Electric Commission) came to the house and installed wires and miscellaneous hardware on the pole right up to the pole across the "driveway". Maybe they will return tomorrow or next year and finish the job. The electrical contractor also dug the holes today for the giant cement poles going in for Rick and Margaret's and for the Quallie's. Pretty impressive. When I walked up to the poles to set what was happening, three little kids, Alexis, Caeser and W(B)(V)aldo were climbing in and out of the holes. I distracted them from caving in the new holes by fixing the chain on Alexis's.

Alexis, and his cousin W/B/Valdo are starting 1st grade on Monday. He was all excited about getting a haircut tomorrow. I helped Alexis get his new school clothes last week. Going to school is very expensive here. There are special school outfits, more than one, and books, and school supplies, and lunch. And for kids going to Las Varas for school, there is the cost of the collectivo. And miscellanous stuff, constantly. I think the scholarship program in Chacala budgets $70 a month for each kid going to junior or senior high in Las Varas or La Penita. I might have that amount wrong though.

Some of the people who support the scholarship fund for Chacala kids are really incredibly generous. David and Linda are now helping their third child from the same family. She is starting 7th grade next week. Which reminds me, I was telling the man on the bus about the Techos de Mexico program in Chacala, and he seemed interested. Who knows, maybe it will spread some more.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Latest Fashions in Chacala

Painting on the wall of the smaller Kinder building

When I first came to Chacala, I was surprised to see men walking around town with their teeshirts rolled up and kind of tucked up under the armpits. The bare-belly look. And some of the bellies were pretty big. Eventually I got used to the style, and mostly stopped noticing it. Except occasionally, when a gigantic smooth, round, brown belly would catch my eye.

Then today, as I was tidying up around the house, I realized I had rolled my tee shirt up and tucked it up too. Without even realizing I had done it. And my naked (large) belly was nice and cool. Of course, this is not an appropriate fashion for women. Women and girls here wear cropped tops and tiny little blouses, etc. Always with a bra, always. But no rolled-up tee shirts for women of any age. Oh well, I was always a tom-boy anyway.

Flip-flops are another fashion statement around here. Most men seem to wear them, except for dress-up, when cowboy boots are cool. Even construction workers often were flip-flops. But even within the last couple years I have noticed more guys wearing boots, or even tennis shoes.
I guess they aren't called "tennis shoes"anymore, but I don't what they are called.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Patzcuaro and Morelia is most people seemed to carry umbrellas most of the time, even men sometimes. For the sun and the rain. Sometimes within minutes of each other.

I was supposed to start walking with Gracia and Narcissa every morning at 6:30, but I cancelled out last night. Too early, especially since I am still on rat patrol. This morning, just before light, Chiquita went nuts barking, and when I let her out she tore around to the back, after the rat. I saw his fat, ugly tail from my window. Ugh.

This morning I went down to the hardward store and bought some 1/4" hardware cloth from Leonora. She is very handy with the cutting tool. We sort of shaped the piece to fit the curved top of the window. My intention was to reinforce the mosquito screen, which is soft and pliable, so the dirty rat can't push his way through. Which is apparently want happened. Plus I removed the metal cage for the garbage cans, which had been installed right under the rat's favorite window. There was rat dropping on the cage. Anyway, it looks pretty good now. Juan came by to see if the weeds were dead, and we tucked the hardcloth cloth in even better and kind of reinforced the edges.

It's funny. I don't like Chiquita sleeping in the house, but I started letting her do it about a week ago. Mostly because she kept barking when she was sleeping on the porch. Now I am wondering if she was barking at the rat. Last night, and the night, before she slept in the kitchen, in guard dog position. What a little sweetie.

She hasn't gone home to eat the last few days. I think she is going to start losing weight if she doesn't go back to her house to eat. She knows I am not going to feed her. But, of course, she watches me eat with her eyes just begging me for a snack. No way, Jose. I don't want to own a dog. Having a friend-type dog is just right for me. I don't want to own one.

A man named Alan wrote today, after reading this blog. He told me about a very nice Yahoo Group, called SMAcoollist. I liked the posts I read. People talking about how to be in Mexico respectfully, how to be polite here, stuff like that. I liked it. He also mentioned bringing school supplies down for the Kindergarten next winter, which pleased me no end. Even a little cash is good. They have to pay the electricity and buy light bulbs and toilet paper, etc.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Rats in Chacala

It's midnight and I can't sleep. My big drama for the night was a rat invaded the kitchen. A big one!!! I was just going to sleep and heard a loud crash. Chiquita went tearing into the kitchen and the rat was on the stove looking at us. We (C. and me) tried to find it, but I was too scared. I walked down the road in the night to Aurora and Beto's to ask for help.

They had some friends visiting and we joked around about if it was really a rat or another, larger, animal, that people apparently eat. I was horrified and everyone thought it was funny. Beto to come back with me. We scared it (the rat) out from under cover. And Chiquita, my chubby little hero, chased it out the front door. Which I immediately slammed. Chiquita stayed out there for an hour guarding the door, I guess. Aurora called right after the rat left, inviting me to spend the night, if I was too scared to sleep at home. It just amazes me I can have phone conversations in Spanish. Where I actually understand what the person is saying to me.

Afterwards Beto told me it was just a rat. Apparently the other animal is MUCH larger. I can't imagine. If I was ever going to have a beer to relax, this would be the night. But I would rather have a Coke anyway.

Sorry, no "Rats in Chacala" photos. Maybe next time.

But I think I will sleep okay. I hope so. This was not my favorite day. There were two scorpions in the kitchen this am. One of the counter, and then one came out from behind the refrigerator when I was sweeping behind it. Smashed them both.

And then I think of how lucky I am to live in such a nice, tight house during the summer season of scorpions, rain, mosquitoes, cangrudos,and rats. The rat apparently broke in thru the screen over the stove. We tried to seal it up. But tomorrow I will have to figure out something more permanent.

When I Feel a Little Lonely in Chacala...

Looking toward the beach from Concha's Techo de Mexico rentals
Sometimes I start to feel sort of lonely here in Chacala. The good thing about the house where I have been staying in each summer, is that it's sort of isolated. So I have alot more privacy than when I was camping on the beach or renting from Dona Lupe or Aurora and Beto. But the isolation has it's downside too. Mostly it's just about right for me here. Quiet, private time in the morning and visiting in the late afternoon/early evening. Although some days I have visitors all day long. Usually it's shorter visits, so it works out okay.

But today I hadn't had any visitors except the water vendor. And a neighbor's son returning something. And some kids wanting to buy a Coke from me. That last was because they saw my sign down at the end of the driveway. It's for the Coke truck, letting the driver know I want some Cokes. But usually a Coke sign about here means you are selling Coke, so the kids came up for a Coke. So I ended up giving them some Coke in plastic cups because I didn't want them to run off with the glass bottles. You have to pay a deposit on.the glass bottles.

Anyway, after lunch, siesta, and doing some drawing, I started getting ancy and decided to take Chiquita for a walk to smell dogginess all over town. And to take me for a walk to Frank and Angelica's tienda for toilet paper, bleach, drinking water, and liquid cleaning soap. And Maria asked for "pan" when she heard I was going to the tienda. "Pan" in this case meant "pan dulce", sweet rolls.

When we got to Lupe's (mom of Cundo) I remembered I had a Guadalupe medal for her from Patzcuaro.It was very sweet. A little photo of Guadalupe behind curved glass, in a silver-colored medal thing. Tiny. She really liked it. She had to put on her glasses to see it. We joked that she, her husband Butcho, and I are all old and wear glasses.

Got to the tienda and Frank and I practiced some English and made a plan to meet at the tienda on Monday for an English "class". Gracia, who lives sort of right next door to the tienda, and her step-daughter-law, Berta and Berta's 6 year old, America, and I visited for awhile and gossiped about this and that. They, along with Narcissa, are going to come by the house and pick me up at 6:30am Monday morning, So I can join them on their daily walk. I must be nuts.

On the way back I visited with Paul, who has the new Satow duplex rentals with pool. He and his wife had just come back from the party for the wedding of Mingo's son(?). Which (?)maybe took place at Mar de Jade. A couple people had mentioned it to me before, but it didn't click that it was today. I have never been much of a party person and the loud music at parties in Chacala is too much for me. I have the impression the more, the bigger, speakers you have at the party, the cooler you are. Or the richer, or something. Oh well.

At the moment, as I write this, the horribly loud music from the new hotel on the paved road is going full blast. People living in houses in the middle of town can't even hear themselves think with the music so loud. I hope they do something about that noise before gringo tourists come back to town.

And I ran into Berta and her adult niece, Balin, has they were strolling down the road to Casa Pacifica. They always make me laugh.

Just as I got to the Chacalilla gate, a big truck loaded with wooden boards and building forms came lumbering (joke) down the road and stopped next to me. It was Beto (who built this house) and some of his work crew. He is such a nice friendly guy. He has taken me to see his very nice house, and has brought it wife and grandson down to visit with me. I really enjoy him and his wife. Friendly and kind, and lots of laughing. He said he was coming by next week to check on the roof and the new addition at this house. That will be fun.

Now I am home, hoping the pan truck (regular bolitos/white bread rolls) would come by tonight, but it's almost nine, so I guess he's not coming. I though I heard him awhile ago, but it was the roasted-corn-on-a-stick truck instead.

So, I was feeling kind of lonesone or something before I went walking, and I came home satisfied, having had just the right amount of human contact. And Chiquita is passed out. Sound asleep. Good day.

Stuck Inside of Chacala with the Tailbone Blues Again

This is La Caleta, the next beach up from Chacallila.
It's got a place to surf, which is hard to see in this photo.
It's on the lower right hand corner, and the normal waves aren't showing.

I'm not really, really, stuck in Chacala. I just didn't feel like traveling. My tailbone is still pretty sore from the hammock falling, and pulling my rolling suitcase seems to be especially uncomfortable. So I will just wait a bit and head out later. My wonderful son is coming down in a few weeks, and I can't wait to see him. It's so strange to have an adult son. Sometimes I mix him up with my brother. Their voices are exactly the same. Almost.

After my aborted trip to the PV nurseries last week, I got another chance to go to PV yesterday, and got to go to the nursery I hoping to see before. This excursion turned out very well. I got five plants for $110 pesos, about $10USD, more or less. And three of the plants were ready to be divided, so I ended up with 3 new Bird of Paradise plants (from one plant), 11 new 4/5" plants (I am going to go see if I can find the official name in my little 3 volume tropical plant library), and 3 cacti, one a really beautiful aloe or agave with a purplish tint. Of course, the purplish tint might be a sign of trouble, but I like how it looks right now.

I got a nice "Comment" on my gardening blog from a woman gardening in Honduras. She has also been looking for people trying to garden in tropical-type climates. She has some nice photos. I am guessing she must be in the mountains. Of course, I don't even know if if there are mountains in Honduras. I am going to read up in my old worn-out Lonely Planet book.

I have been feeling kind of crummy lately. I think it might be the heat, but who knows. I wake up feeling kind of beat-up and headachy. Then I start feeling better in an hour or two. I have been reading in bed in the morning lately. Partly because I am waking up about 6am, and it's still dark outside at that hour.

It's amazing how many birds are singing in the early morning. Saying hello to each other, I guess. I have gradually become a little more aware of birds after listening to Kathy, Ron, and Sue, who led bird walks last winter in Chacala. I never went on a walk, but I read a book Sue lent me. It was about people compiling huge lists of the birds they have seen in one year. Can't remember what it was called, and didn't think I'd like it, but I really did.

I rearranged the hammock setup on the veranda this morning. Each end of the hammock now has three separate connections to the rafters. Now there are two backups at each end, in case one rope breaks or something. I am not using the metal hooks at all now. I put a sheet under the hammock, and then a nice solid four inch foam pad on top of that. I was afraid to try the hammock out without some protection for my poor bottom. Read out there for an hour or so until two hummingbirds kept swooping around, trying to get to the Mandevilla blossoms next to the hammock.

I love my life here. Some days are so lovely. Even this morning, when the first thing I saw was a small yellowish scorpion relaxing on the kitchen counter. Everyone says they are the most "deadly" of all the scorpions. I just killed it. Fast. I am saving some on this years scorpions for the homeowner here. He insists there aren't any scorpions in this house. It's just a little welcome home gift. Don't misunderstand. The scorpions are dead, and saved in a plastic bag. And he is a great landlord.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Petroglyphs near Chacala, at Alta Vista

This is a little promotion for the petroglyph site near Alta Vista. Many people come to Chacala without knowing about this wonderful opportunity. Although Chacala is by no means considered an important historic site, it does as a long history, as the first and closest port to Guadalajara.

A trip to the nearby Alta Vista petroglyph site is an amazing experience not to be missed by anyone interested in the pre-hispanic times in Mexico.

The field trip from Chacala to Alta Vista takes about 30 minutes. In a river bed in a small valley near Alta Vista, the Tecoxquines created thousands of petroglyph believed to be part of thier religious experience. These petroglyphs were created more than 2,000 years ago. The site offers explanatory signs in Spanish and English. The trail is just a trail, and not a good walk for those with mobility problems. It's shade most of the walk, and the streambed contains water during parts of the rainy season. The last part of the drive can be tough, especially during the rainy season.

Alvaro, a Chacala resident who speaks English, offers a inexpensive guided tour, using either your vehicle or combi. It is difficult to find the location without a guide. There is usually an elderly local gentleman at the site, who is the caretaker, cleaning up after visitors, etc. One is expected to offer him a small tip.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Trip Away from Chacala

Maybe my ride out of Chacala (courtesy of Tuffala)
I am spending hours at a time looking at a map of Mexico some nice people left for me last winter. They were camping next to me on the beach, and were kind of enough to leave me a large, clear map produced in Germany. Written in English, luckily for me. I don't know if I could read the German names for Mexican towns.

I have been looking at the towns to the north-east of Guadalajara, including Tonala, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Jalpan, Cadereyta, Las Pozas mostly. But last night I realized that it might make sense to make a run to Nuevo Laredo, the US border, since I would be in the neighborhood anyway. Sort of. So now I am looking at the websites for Monterrey and some other towns on the way north.

At the moment I am just collecting information: cheap places to stay, botanical gardens, etc, distances/buslines. I think I will just take off to Guadalajara in a few days, timing it so I can check out the Tonala street markets on either Sunday or Thursday. Coming or going. But probably as my first stop.

My birthday is Sunday and that would be a nice birthday present to me. I am especially looking for a nice gift for my sister-in-law, who mentioned being interested in Mary/Maria/Guadalupe etc. So that will be fun to look for. Plus, I like those things for myslef too. And something for my brother. My son is coming down in a few weeks and he could take those things back for me. Rather than chancing the strange ways of the the Mexican Postal System. Not that the US system is anything to be proud of.

I have been asking people if they have noticed anyone selling plants at the Tonala markets. It sounds like you could walk forever and not see everything. And I have been looking at photos of the cactus/succulents at Cadereyta. It sounds like you can buy plants there. And I am curious about the old missions near Jalpan. Also curious about Guanajuato and SMA, but will probably skip those places. Maybe not.

I am inclined to just take off with my map and Lonely Planet/Mexico book and follow my nose. Someone I lent my first LP/Mexico guideblook to tore out all the Guadalajara pages, and then someone gave me another, new copy. I lent that one to someone else who abandoned it in someone's car. It ended up near Detroit. And has been in the US/Mexican postal systems since the end of May. I am hoping it will get back to Las Varas/Chacala before I leave on this little expedition, but I am not very hopeful. I am thinking about asking my son to bring one down by they cost $26 and I don't want to spend the money. Maybe another one will show up. Stranger things have happened.

Friday, August 04, 2006

If You are in Chacala, Mexican Laws Apply To You

I read and ask questions on some of the "living in Mexico internet Message Boards. There are some very knowledgeable people who answer questions on the those Boards, and I consider myself to be lucky to have free access to such a valuable resource.

Lately, however, I have become aware of comments/posts on Message Boards that I hadn't noticed before. That some visitors or part-time residents appear to believe that the laws of the country of Mexico somehow to not apply to them.

Well, the bad news is that all Mexican laws regarding immigration, customs duties, employment/employer rules, taxes, motor vehicles regulations, traffic,drug, and criminal laws, all apply to visiting or resident U.S. and Canadian citizens. And ignorance is no excuse. It is your obligation, as a visitor, part or full time resident or whatever, to find out what the laws are, and obey them.

Examples of this kind of behavior/thinking include:
1) complaints about being stopped by the police after breaking (knowingly or not) a traffic law
2) attempts to avoid the legal consequences for overstaying a Tourist Visa
3) questions about how to avoid paying custom duties on items brought into the country (or bragging about avoiding duties/customs inspections)
4) efforts to work or volunteer (replacing a paid Mexican citizen) in Mexico without an appropriate work Visa
5) efforts to avoid meeting an employer's legal requirements regarding Mexican employees
6) advertising on Message Boards to get someone (laughingly called a "mule" to bring whatever into Mexico, generally in order to save money/avoid customs, whatever.

One really good thing about many Message Boards is that often the knowledgeable, regular posters inform other posters of the potential illegality of their behavior, ideas, plans, etc.

Some Boards seem to encourage this behavior, and people seem to be proud of themselves for acting as if they are above the law in Mexico. People leave long strings of requests for "mules" (their word) to bring whatever it is they want to Mexico. Like it's some kind of clever joke to break the laws of the country that is gracious enough to provide a wonderful place for them to live.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Description of Chacala

Map of Chacala
The little beach is Chacalilla and the big beach is Playa Chacala.
The wide line across the top is the paved road.
You approach Chacala from the middle of the top of the photo.
I had occured to me lately that it isn't just people who have visited Chacala who read this blog. Andthat it might be helpful to have an idea of the layout of town. So I am going to describe the lay of the land a little. And my version of some of the history.

At the north end of Chacala is a smaller beach called Chacalalli. The smaller beach and a large section of land between the two beaches was appropriated by a former Govenor of the state of Nayarit (who went to prison for other deeds), and eventually ended up in the hands of the current developers.

Now the history of Chacalilla has faded into the past, at least for the new landowners in what is now called Marina Chacala, and high-end development. The entrance to the walled, fenced, and gated "community" (to use the term loosely) is at the north end of the paved road to the Marina (also built by the Govenor during his term of office). Large construction vehicles, truckloads of workers, and the residents entering and leaving the Marina (not a marina, there is no marina) honk their horns all day and most of the night, in order to get the "security" guards to let them in.

All beaches in Mexico are public property, and open. But the Marina owners, like owners of other rich people developments have blocked public access completely, except from the ocean side. So local people now come to Chacalilla beach by boat. Works for me.

Okay, next, at the north end of Chacala beach is the muelle. Or little harbor, where the local fishing and tourist boats tie up to a large cement dock that is also used to load and unload large shrimp boats that show up occasionally. The Fishing/Tourist coop has a building here. There is a little sandy beach here, with no waves, and lots of families with little kids, and local folks, swim there.

Then then is a Malecon, a wide pedestrian, dirt path that goes around a small headland to the larger part of Chacala beach. Casa Tortuga, Isreal and Chata's Mirador rentals and home are here, as is Casa Azul, a new gringo mini-house, and four vacation homes owned by people from Guadalajara or elsewhere in Mexico.

Once you are on the main beach, you will see Alvaro's ( expect on the petroglyph's and Huitchol tours) house. Then Mingo's (former) restaurant, and open space where fishermen load and unload their boats to repair and paint them. Then there are a string of restaurants about a third of the way down the beach.

Then there is the coconut grove area, claimed by El Delphin's, where people camp (RV's block the area off in January and February), a couple of more restaurants, and about six small, jerry-built homes. Most of these places offer camping spaces and toilets/showers for campers.

Then down at the south end of the Chacala beach is, first Majahua's shady beach club area, then Mar de Jade (a hotel and retreat center/spa) and then, about 20 feet up from the beach, and tucked into the jungle, the small Majahua resort, spa and restaurant.

My version.

Adventures on the beach, walking to Majahua, Chacala

I have used this photo before, but I love it so much, I couldn't resist.
Feeling the need to download Mac updates on my little laptop, I decided to walk over to a neighbor's early this morning. I left the house about 7am, with Chiquita as my guard dog. When we got down to the beach road we cut over to the beach, joined by Luccki, Ventura's dog. Lucci used to be tied up all the time, and I would take him for beach walks. But he doesn't need me anymore, so when he sees me he runs up and says hi and gives me a lick and tears off again. I am so glad to see him on the loose. There was quite a bit of plastic on the beach in front of the restaurants, of course. And in front of the big camping area too.

It was the perfect time of day to walk to Majahua. From the house where I live this summer to Majahua is the longest walk in Chacala, and I love to walk when the sun is shining on the ocean, but not yet on the beach or the road. The sand was soft and squishy and the water was so warm I didn't even notice how warm it was until a larger wave came out of no-where. There was a little family sitting on a little sandy ledge, and we all got surprised. I was carrying my laptop in my little backpack, so I'm glad I didn't get knocked over. Chiquita was neck deep and paddling like crazy, being dragged out into the ocean, when I noticed her and snatched her up.

When we got down toward Mar de Jade the sandy beach is still all washed away. So we picked our way through the rocks to get to the path to Majahua. As we approach Mar de Jade both dogs came out, and I picked up Chiquita because one of the dogs sounded very agressive. He was very agressive and I was scared. Someone up in Mar de Jade started yelling at the dog, but he was circling us and trying to nip at Chiquita, who was not a happy camper. I finally reached over for a rock and the dog backed off. I don't remember being attacked by a dog in front of Mar de Jade before. I couldn't remember if it was the same old dog or a new one.
I read a Mac magazine at the airport yesterday, and one article really emphasized doing updates regularly. But on my dial-up connection it can take three or four hours. Ugh.

Majahua is looking especially beautiful right now, lush and green. I looked at their website the other day, and there are a bunch a nice pictures of their lovely new spa. I am definitely a fan of Majahua. Too bad it's a little out of my price range.

I walked back down on the path that goes through Majahua jungle and then alongside the back of Mar de Jade and down to the Majahua parking lot. There is a brand new addition to the Mar de Jade property. A six foot tall chain link fence with another three lines of barbed wire above the chain link. The whole (very long) fence is built on a knee-high new stone wall. Very striking and very, very ugly, and out of place, in my opinion.

I'm not sure what the goal of the long fence is. But my best guess is that it was built in reaction to the flurry of break-ins and burglarys that took place last spring. I was really surprised to see the fence though. It must have cost a fortune. Very ugly. Very ugly fence. The jungle is already starting to cover it up. And in one place the wire has been pulled and bent down. Prbably it will be covered with vegetation in a few months.

About the beach in front of Mar de Jade. I don't understand the rhythm of it, but seasonally ( I think) within a few days all the sand disappears on the very south end of Chacala beach. Leaving solid rocks and no place to swim. And then, sometime later, (days, weeks, or months) it all returns, very quickly. And there's a lovely, sandy beach again. It's a new phenomena to me. Last winter the sand in front of my campsite started to disappear one day, and then about three days later it all came back. But in front of my camp only some of that sand washed away and it was still fine for swimming. Very strange.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Blogs about Mexico

Waiting for a whack at the pinata
I have spent a number of hours the last couple of days reading other people's blogs about Mexico. I got started after looking more closely at Mexico-in-English . That's the blog that just had an article about this blog. The author, Ellen...., has a nice list of all the blogs she has reviewed. Some of them I was familiar with, but a bunch were new to me.

If you like reading about gringos in Mexico, take a look. My two favorites at the moment are (1) about a family making a extended exploration of Mexico with their kids. And (2) living in San Miguel de Allende. This one isn't actually a blog. It's a website about living in San Miguel de Allende from the point of view of a couple of women living on higher-end Social Security.

Or some long, lonely night go to Rolly Brook's website. He includes everything you ever wanted to know about Mexico, including a list of websites for gringos. And blogs. A great job. Information you can count on.

Just found another living in Mexico blog, about Life in Guaymas

Glorious Green Day in Chacala, with Snakes

An echevveria I am searching for tomorrow, on my bus ride to plant nurseries around PV
It's early afternoon and I have spent the morning puttering around, being careful with my back, which is recovering from the hammock collapse a few days ago.

The weather is perfect. Hot and breezy. Everything is fresh and green from the two hour thunderstorm last night. The rain was so heavy and loud I couldn't have heard anyone talking. Fortunately there was no one in the house except me and Chiquita at 2am so it didn't matter.

There is a point in the center of this house where you can see outside in every direction.

To the south, the paved road is now covered by the palms, mangos and other lush greenery. Can't see the Marina gate. A blessing. Still hear the horns beeping for the gate to open, of course.

To the west is the sky, the ocean, and lots of green stuff. The ugly little concrete block blunker built by the man with a red pickup/gold canopy shell is almost blocked by the trees and shrubs. Hoorah!!

To the north, the construction moonscape is covered over with grass, vines and shrubs and to the northwest, the view of the neighboring large house, and the endless sound of people talking and babies crying is buffered somewhat by all leaves.

And to the east, all the trees and shrubs are growing fast, and soon I won't be able to see the paved road. I hope.

The sun is bright and the air is clear and the sky is soooo blue. Perfect day to stay on the veranda and putter with plants. Too hot out there. Nice to look at though.

The main drawback to being visually isolated from the few houses at this end of town, is that the varmints in the neighborhood feel free to wander right up to the house. Last night C. and I were walking up the driveway just as it got dark, and she went nuts. Barking and trying to climb a big shrub. I got close enough to see what looked like a small wildcat with a sharp pointy nose, sharp looking teeth, and a big tail. Dark and light colored fur. Snarling and hissing. Chiquita wasn't scared a bit, but she should have been. When I opened the front door, it took a minute for her to decide to come it, but she did.

A few morning ago C. was doing something out of the gravel driveway when I went outside. It turned out she was torturing a long, skinny snake. Which was still alive. I left her to her business.

I don't know anything about snakes in Chacala. A couple of weeks ago someone told me a story about when she was pregnant. She dreamed a giant snake was in very belly. She was very upset when she woke up and told her family. Finally someone when over to the bed and found a giant giant snake coiled up in the mosquito netting hanging over the bed. She said she thought it wasn't poisoness, just horrifying.

I only where flipflops here, so it's a little scary to walk off paths and driveways and roads. In fact, I don't do it. Too many creepy crawlies. It makes it hard to weed around the house, but I will probably find someone to help me. It's not so scary when someone else is right there with me.

I'm kind of waiting around for the electric people to return and finish putting in the wires, etc. But, no one has shown yet.

Invasion of the Blog-Snatchers

One of the Henspetter's with her dinner
A few weeks ago I got a strange, threatening-appearing email from person who lives in Chacala. When I saw the email I was in Morelia, and not on my own computer. It was clear from the title (and the person's address was right there, on the "from" line), that it was not a friendly email. So I deleted it and trashed it without reading it. At the time, I was glad I didn't open it on my own computer, in case it has some virus in it, or something else.

But, it turns out I probably should have saved it. Because since then someone/something has been messing around with this blog. It doesn't show when you are reading it, but it is very destructive, and may result in the blog crashing and burning.

I reported the problem to Google, Yahoo, and Technorati, via email, not really expecting any help. Surprisingly, within about an hour of my "help!!" emails, all three had responded. Actual human beings, with names, and email address, responded to my plea for help. Amazing.

Apparently what is happening to this blog, is the latest thing in weird "spamming" efforts. And all three companies are apparently hot on the trail of whoever is doing this kind of stuff. They wanted to know if anything weird had happened lately in my emails. I told them about the threatening email I had deleted, and also that I had received three odd emails to the same address about a week later. The computer identified the emails as spam. They seemed to come from someone I knew, but they didn't look right. I deleted them, but hadn't emptied the trash yet.

The Google people actually came into my computer from outer-space, with my permission, to recover those emails. What a weird thing. I feel like I am in a science-fiction story. One of them had already wrote me that they think it is coming from Southern California. Oh well, what can you do? Just wait and see what happens, I guess.

Blogger on a Hot, Tiled Patio

Okay, here's my list of handy hints for life the Chacala.

1) Keep your garbage in the freezer section, neatly compressed while it's in the kitchen, to avoid ants and other pests. Take out the frozen packages to the trash can when the freezer is full. Those plastic shopping bags work well for garbage. If you are too tired to wash a dirty dish or pan, stick in the the fridge overnight.

2) Keep a spray bottle of 50% white vinegar/50% water in the kitchen, for spraying the counters.

Orange juice lady, early one mornig
during during Easter week

The ants don't care for it, and go belly-up and croak when you hit them with it.

3) Keep a broom right outside all external doors, so when scorpions, cangrudos, or lizards, or whatever, try to come in to visit, you can easily give them a good whack. Good for rude neighbors too. Just kidding.

4) Make sure the water in the shower is running BEFORE you put shampoo on your hair.

5) If you are too cheap, like me, to keep the gas hot water tank going when it's never colder than 75 degrees, keep a garden hose (attached to a hose bib) rolled up and hanging on a sunny wall for a daylong supply of hot water. I have mine next to where I handwash clothes.

6) There is NEVER a good reason for running out of toilet paper. It goes on the top of every shopping list. I suppose this hint is good for where ever there's an as........... to be kept clean. Another bad joke.

7) Everything will rust, remember that.