Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mike and Debbie Visit Chacala

A couple of really nice visitors just left Chacala this morning (via collectivo and Pacifico Bus to the P.V. airport) after a 10 day visit.
Mike has been here before, last year. And he came this year with Debbie, his "novia", girlfriend.They seemed to have a good time, although Debbie hurt her knee halfway thru her visit and had to use a hand-created came to get around. Didn't seem to get her down.They still seemed to have a great time, staying at Aurora's, and checking out all the restaurants in Chacala. Very nice people, and lots of fun to visit.

Plus, THEY BROUGHT ME DARK CHOCOLATE. Ten bars, which I managed to finish off before they left. And some much appreciated reading material.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Revolution Day in Chacala (out of date order)

There are many people swimming in the ocean this afternoon, the first day of the three day weekend for the Revolution Day. First time I have noticed so many swimmers enjoying the water this season. Of course, I have only had this nice view of the beach for the last week.

And I think I have been functioning at less than 100%. It kind of feels like I am waking up or something. Maybe I whacked my head a little harder than I thought.

I have been sleeping here, in my new place, for six or seven nights. And today was the first day I cooked something more than toast in the toaster. In fact, this was the first time I figured out how to light the new double burner gas hotplate my landlady got from somewhere.Some of the primary girls practicing
a dance routine afterschool at the Bibliotecha.

My landlady also got big blue tank for propane. Before there was a little propane tank about the size of a soccer ball. It had to be filled every couple weeks. That involved listening for the gas truck’s music, which sounds like the start of a horse race. Then running down to the road and asking the driver to take the tank to the Propane Station near Las Varas. Then he returned it filled in a few days. The driver can’t taken the money up-front, and somehow I was never home when he brought it back. So a neighbor would show up with the filled tank, and I would pay the $2 bucks to the neighbor.

But this big tank should last for a long time unless it blows up or something. There is also a large blue tank for the hot water heater, down under the stairs. It feels like it’s empty, so I will get it filled when in gets cooler. Many mid-December. Meanwhile, I just use the tinaco water, which is pretty lukewarm. Works okay.

Anyway, my big cooking experience took awhile. First, I had to figure out how to turn the gas burner on without blowing myself up. I actually looked up the two words printed next to the dial. One meant “close” and the other meant “start”. Pretty good clues. And then I dug around in my boxes and found my dishes and silverware and two pans. One for frying and one for heating/boiling. Which were somehow in the ice chest.

The town water came on while I was searching for things, so I filled the big plastic tub I just bought for washing clothes. My old one cracked, so now it has plants in it. It was 30 pesos. ($2.70US) . Then I filled the big garbage can my landlord uses to water the plants when the town was doesn’t come on. Finally I filled my three nice translucent 4 gallon plastic buckets for doing dishes and stuff. All these buckets have to be carried upstairs, but having the town water running for four hours or so most days is great.

Washed all the dishes, which were dirty from being moved, and silver, and decided what to keep packed up, and what to use. Organized one table for eating, one for washing dishes, a plastic chair for holding the clothes washing tub, and a large table for the stove and food, etc. Looks okay. Oilcloths over the plastic tables. If I double up the plastic chairs, it makes the line-of-sight over the teraza wall just high enough for seeing the ocean. I keep every bit of food in the sdplastic boxes my son brings down, filled with good stuff for me. And in the fridge, and in zip-lock bags. I don’t want ants or wasps here. It’s nice to be back to cooking outside. I like it a lot.

Once I got the stove going, and dishes washed, I made six hard-boiled eggs. And then I had celery sticks, V-8 juice, watermelon and 3 hard-boiled eggs for lunch. That’s sort of a cooked lunch, right?

I will have either Cheerios/banana/milk or quesadillas with tomatoes for supper. I have keeping an eye on when someone is cooking fresh tortillas in one of the restaurants and buy a couple. Warm off the grill. I never knew how good a tortilla could be until I started eating them just-cooked. Ummm good!!!

It feels good to be settled in. I want to go swimming, but I think I will wait until my stitches are out. Tomorrow I think.
My landlady's restaurant,

Rsparanza was my landlady at the beach last winter.
Esparanza, her daughter-in-law Vero,
and her two granddaughters, Dahlia and Jasmine.

Dinner at Tres Mars and Other Things

This is the upstairs, three unit, rental place owned by Tres Mars restaurant.
$36US a night, very nice, private, with a large shared patio and three hammocks.
I had dinner at Tres Mars tonight. Delicious quesadillas with cheese and beef. Made to order with no cilantro or onions. I ate with a visitor to Chacala, who is staying next door, at Aurora’s. He is Swiss, and is visiting small beach towns around Nayarit. He was very interesting and has traveling a lot. Including quite a bit of time in small villages in Guatamala. We visited and joked with Marta and Martine and had a nice dinner. He said Honduras was really, really cheap. He liked it there. Are you reading this La Gringa? Adrian, who started cleaning this sink at Mirador, on his own, while his grandmother, Inez, and I were visiting. This is the primo, upstairs with kitchen on the patio, unit at Mirador.
I have been struggling lately with how to interact with some of the returning gringos. Those that come down for the winter, and in several cases, have homes here. I don't seem to have much in common with many of them, partly because I don't drink alcohol very often, and partly because of my world-view, and probably mostly because of my personality. But, luckily for me, there are lots of nice short-term visitors here, so I get to socialize with people I enjoy.
There are lots of really nice people who live in Chacala, and I feel honored to be able to live here, and to enjoy the friendships I have made here.

Tejones Visit my House in Chacala

Crystal, on her way to the Primeria
Last night I was just falling asleep when I heard some scrabbling sounds out on the teraza. That's when I remembered I had left the bag of roasted peanuts in the shell on the table. I started out the door to go out to put it away. And make sure the garbage was secured, hanging in the air.Alexis and Osvaldo heading off to school, via the tienda.
One animal ran right in front of me as I opened the door. It was heading for the stairs. I couldn’t tell if it was a tejone or a big cat. But then another one ran by, and another one. I closed the door and thought for a minute. I was kind of scared one of them would run into me, and maybe scratch or bite me. Then I put on my flipflops and opened the door again. A fourth tejone was sitting at the top of the stairs, looking at me. I banged my hand on the metal door, and he/she ran down the stairs.

These guys are sort of like large badgers, very furry and big fluffy tails. Kind of tan colored. Sort of cute but kind of scary too. The first time I lived at this house, three of them were on the teraza as I came up the stairs one night, in the dark. One came barreling down the stairs right by me. Almost knocked into me. The other two flew off the cement railing and through the air. About a 15 foot drop. And ran like h…..Color scheme for the new paint job at Mirador.
But this time, they were fast, but more casual about leaving. Kind of like, “Oh rats, she wasn’t asleep yet.” They had gotten on the eating table and torn the bag open. And had shelled maybe half the peanuts. Clever little guys.One of the buildings at Majahua.
This morning I walked over to the Koranay, the hardware store, and bought a piece of hardware cloth, a stiff piece of woven wire with a ¼” grid. Now I will wedge it between the cement walls near the top of the stairs of this place. Every night. I guess I’ll know if it slowed the little buggers down in the morning.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Water in Chacala

Frankie and another little boy in Chacala, with their big cousin.
Today I was washing clothes, keeping my washing buckets full with my new “plumbing” on the teraza, when the pipes popped apart for the millionth time. It’s not to do with my new system, which runs off a metal facuet. It’s old black plastic pipes lying out in the hot sun and getting stepped on and bent. The pipe brings to water from the street facuet up to the copper tubing and the hose bibb/facuet on the side of the house. Itt’s actually about six sections of pipe, hooked together with connectors and clamps. Usually the pipe splits open, but sometimes the connections pop.

I heard the pipe pop this morning. I was really annoyed since I thought I had fixed every bad section of pipe in the two weeks since I moved in. Replacing clamps, sections, and connectors. But the pipe is just rotten. And too short for the distance. Luckily I had already watered, and pretty much finished washing clothes. And the tinaco was almost full.
And also, luckily, Guillermo, the Water Master, came driving by just at the water went over other the place, into the air. He came over and we tried to jerry-rig a fix from the parts we had, include sections of pipe thrown in the bushes from some\earlier attempts at fixing the water line.Guillermo finally called his “helper” Julio on his little radio phone, and asked him to bring some more pipe. The Guillermo and I sat in the shade of the house and drank water (him) and a Coke (me). Guillermo and his wife seem to be the only Pepsi drinkers in Chacala.
While we waited for Julio, we talked about Guillermo's small hotel, Casa Chacala, which he owns with with wife, Lupita, and his brother, Valentine. It's really very nice, new, six units, each with a perfect view of Chacala, plus a pool, and a nice breezy patio with hammocks and chairs.

When Julio showed up he was in kind of a bad mood. He had brought some blue flexible pipe and we showed him where we needed a new piece . I showed him that one of the problems with the waterline is that there is an area where the pipe is under a lot of pressure, hanging in the air. I tried to convince him to cut a longer piece to take the stress off the line. I never know if it’s machismo (no woman is going to tell me what to do) or stupidity. Or something else all together. So, of course, he cut the piece to short, tightened the connections, and drove off. And two minutes later the connections came apart.
So I went over to the hardware store and asked for 10 meters of piping. The clerk/owner said the truck would bring it over to the house in a few minutes, because it was up at the bodega (storage area). I bought some connections and new clamps and walked home. That was a noon, and about 1:45pm I realized the pipe was delivered yet, and the store was closing for the weekend at 2pm. I went over to my neighbor’s house, and she called the hardware store. Claudia said it would be here in a minute. Of course, it never came. And the store is closed for the weekend. Whatever.

Thinking About My Life in Chacala

I just got a really nice email from a fellow blogger who also lives outside the U.S. Some of what she wrote was about feeling lonely. Especially right after having a nice interaction with some new friends or acquaintances. I am very lonely here in Chacala sometimes. Probably most of the time, but I don't really notice it.

And there are also some people here I really love to be around, and a few even speak English. And I love being known here, and having people know my name and approach me. But it's really different than me friendships I used to have. People I have known for years and years, with whom I share a history, and a life. I miss that alot sometimes. But I am still glad I chose this life.
This morning I was bursting with the pleasure of the sunshine and clear, clean water, and washing my clothes on the teraza. I felt so rich and happy and content.And right now I'm computing from Majahua, sitting at a table overlooking the water, about fifty feet from me. And Bamboo and Jose Carmello, the two dogs that live here and sleeping on my feet and the sun will be going down soon. Sometimes I feel so blessed. Lonesome but blessed.

I have been getting a little better at paying attention to what’s going on with me when emotions build up in me, and I get upset or feeling out-of-place or something. Usually I am just upset internally, not at other people. I’m not good at paying attention to my headspace I am just getting a little bit better at taking a deep breath. And trying to get into a different headspace when I get sort of worked up about something.

One thing that seems to start emotional turmoil in me when I am in the space of feeling like what I need is Important, and I want whatever right NOW. It started happening today when the water pipe didn’t show up when I expected it. Then I took a deep breath and thought of all the reasons it might not have come. Like, they didn’t have enough pipe, the driver took it to the wrong house, he ran out of time before the store closed, the truck broke down, etc etc etc. Nothing to do with me, nothing personal, just life happening. My wanting the pipe was probably a little side story to some other drama I know nothing about.

And I remembered that the tinacho is full, and I have two five gallon jugs of good water, and it’ll be fine until Monday. And if the town water does come on tomorrow, I put the crummy pipe back together and hope it lasts for an hour or so. It’s not like I HAVE to wash clothes tomorrow anyway. It’s just a habit.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trip into Las Varas, Near Chacala

I went into Las Varas first thing this morning, on the collectivo. It arrived just as Aurora and I got down to the tienda/collectivo stop. It was the bus that takes some chacala kids to the private primary school in Las Vara
I had to go to the Post Office/Correo. A week ago I mailed a rental receipt to someone in the States. And yesterday it arrived at my place, hand delivered by a taxi driver. Apparently the Post Office clerk had not charged enough (13 pesos), so I had to take it back it for the new charge.
I got off the collectivo at the Health place and walked by the Correo/Post Office. Which wasn’t open yet. And then over a block to the bank/ATM place. Got some cash. An older gentleman was very confused about his card, but a lady and I helped him. The ice cream store wasn’t open yet, 8am, but people were wandering around town already.
So, when I got back to the Correo it still wasn’t open yet, but this armored truck was there. Waiting for the door to open. Finally the driver climbed over the little fence and yelled in the window and the clerk came around and opened the door.I was thinking, “How weird they would have an armored truck for a place you have to bring your own change to because they never have any money”. But it turned out the truck was delivering the mail. Another example of my thinking I know what is going on, and it turns out I don’t.

I went on in after the armored truck left, and showed the clerk the letter. He said is was 13 pesos and 5 centavos. About $1.20 US. Rather than the 13 pesos I paid the first time. Plus I had to re-address a new envelope, which is included in the price. Whatever.
This cooking set-up is in front of a Carniceria (meat shop for beef and pork, I think). This large metal pot is filled with cooking oil, and pork is deep fried, using a gas heating element underneath. It seems to little dangerous. And kind of disgusting. But my Mom didn't cook like this, so it's not culturally appropriate for me, I guess.

I checked out the new automatic self-serve Laundromat. Open every day at 8am and it costs 1.50US a load for the washer and I don’t know how much for the dryer. Looked very nice.
This is one of the many, many little doctor's offices around town.
When over to the tianguis, the Friday street market, and got two grapefruits and a hand of small bananas, a bag of limons, and some grapes for 20 pesos. And then a kilo of peanuts roasted in the shell, for another 20 pesos.Got two portulaca plants for ten pesos. Jesus, an ex-neighbor who has a used clothing stand next to the plant stand, came over and said he would bring my plants home later if I wanted. But my plants were little and easy to carry.Went to the pharmacy and the clerk helped me look on their computer for a different diabetes med. Apparently Avandia, which I have been taking for about four years, sometimes causes retinal bleeding. Which scares me to death. But most of the diabetes drugs here include Metiformin, which my intestinal system reacts extremely poorly too. Requiring staying within 20 feet of a toilet at all times.

So, we couldn’t find anything that the CMV pharmacy chain carries. But I will explore more in PV in a few weeks, when I have some more cash. I am scared to take the Avantia, and scared not to be taking a diabetes drug. Plus my glucose meter is acting crazy and I haven’t been able to get Skype to work so I can call the Accu-Chek number and get help for that. Rats. Oh well. One of those weeks I guess.

When back to the collectivo stop, and shared peanuts and Coke (for Miguel Angel, the driver) and Ginger Ale ( for me, the passenger), while we waited for more riders. Nice relaxing wait in the shade.

This is Markito playing with his dog. His dog was getting ready to tie up the dog and instead let Markito play cowboys with the dog.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thankful for My Home and Life

I just realized tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Not that I have been much of a celebrator since I left the farm. In those days we had a pretty big dinner, with lots people and music into thenight.Good old/bad old days. I don't know if there's anything going on for Thanksgiving among gringos this year. I am trying to stay out of the social loop, which actually isn't very difficult. I have seen about a dozen strange faces around town, so there are probably more who I hven't seen.

As I am writing I realized I could actually have my own little dinner. I have a nice big double breast piece of chicken, and potatoes to mash, with butter con sal, and celery, and cabbage, and olives. And stuff for fruit salad. It also sounds like I would enjoy cooking tomorrow. I might.

I really like my new home. It feels much different than it did two winters ago. For lots of reasons, I think. For one thing, I am loving the nice clean, white walls. Another is that I feel much more competent to take care of water problems, and the problems seem to be more manageable too. And the wild-child young adult downstairs seems to have grown-up and is now a good neighbor. And my things laid out just like I like them.I have some mats up on the sides of the patio that get the morning sun and an unnecessary view of a neighboring home. They are blocking the view and keeping the sun off the fridge. Two biggies for me. Still haven't figured out how to block the late afternoon sun, which is very very strong.I am full of appreciation the last few days for all the neat things my son has brought down to Mexico when he visits. He brings a big black rolling suitcase with two or two plastic storage boxes filled with good stuff. Then he leaves the suitcase too. Which are great for storing stuff. Everything he brings is great. Like all these different plates and bowls. Excellent cooking knives, and the best plastic dishwashing tool I have ever seen. And it's also stuff I end up needing. He is alot like his Dad, being a great gift giver. Very observant and creative. Almost all these photos are things he has brought down. And Benydral, which is not available in Mexico, ecen as a generic. And all kinds of stuff. I love it. He is such a great son, and person. The mats are tied up with nylon cord he brought. And the cord was cut with knives he brought. The cord comes with great little velcro straps, which I am using to make a shade for the fridge.I like having a table for my computer, etc stuff. Hopefully I will be able to afford a phone/internet hook up sometime soon. Right now I am begging and borrowing my internet connections from other places. Luckily there are starting to be some DSL connections in town that I can borrow.

I keep forgeting to mention a high-light of my last trip to P.V. Both the Las Varas and Puerto Vallarta Pacifico Bus Terminals now have a few toilets with real toilet seats. At least on the women's side. I don't know about the men's side. Great improvement. Toilet paper can still be a problem.

Monday, November 20, 2006

20 de Noviembre, Revolution Day

This is the first big tourist season weekend of the year in Chacala. It's a 3-day weekend, celebrating the Revolution with Pancho Villa, etc. This is Markito, grandson of Esparanza. He is in costume for the big kids parade this morning. All the pre-Kinder,Kinder, Primaria, and Telesecundaria kids will march with flags, etc , in school uniforms, from the road in front of Chico's to the Primaria. I am missing the parade because it started latish, and I wanted to come up to Majahua to do some computing. I ran into Pancho Villa on the way up. Lots of people are here in Chacala, camping and staying in various places. The new hotel, Paraiso Descondido even looks pretty busy. All of Aurora's units are rented, and I think most other places are too. The weather is gorgeous, clean and a nice breeze. The water looks so beautiful, especially from up here. Unfortunatley the moto population sems to be increasing, at least on the roads. Mostly people from the gated "development". There are more that a dozen gringos here this weekend. 8 at Aurora's and I have seen more around town.
There are a few yachts and a power yacht, or whatever they're called, parked out on the water. The first shrimper of the year (at least that I noticed) was here yesterday.

Leo and family, owners of Koko Bongo's are also managing one of the nice rental units, overlooking Chacala beach and the ocean. With a private bath down to the Malecon. There are two bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, and kitchen, and two patios and two yards for visiting, and socialzing and eating. There is secure parking for two cars. Email me at alatawah@gmail.com or see Leo at Koko Bongo's for more info. To see more photos of the rental go to Vista del Mar

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Happy Sabado in Chacala

I am all moved to my new place, and settled in, more or less. I ran out of white paint before I finished painting the inside walls. So one wall of the bathroom is still half pink. But I got some more paint and will finish the wall off soon. I have enough to paint part of the teraza too. I used one of the expanding closet poles to make a place in the bathroom for some on my stuff.This place has a largish bedroom/workspace and a nice bath. The floor is tiled and the ceiling is the kind I like, with little arches made of brick. The two large windows are opposite each other, with glasss, screen, and bars. The sun comes in the room as it rises, and shines in the other window as it sets. I like that. My bed is under one of the windows. I don't have a clean and sanitary place to store the twin foam mattress I bought for my tent bed last winter. So it's on top of my landlady's mattress. I looks strange but it's pretty comfortable.The teraza has a roof, which is too high to keep out the morning and afternoon sun. I am trying for figure out how to keep the afternoon sun out. It makes it too hard to cook, plus the sun hits the refrigerator, which is struggling enough as it is.

The view of the ocean, beach, and surrounding green hillsides is really nice. I am feeling very happy and content. Still have lots of organizing to do. I have too much stuff again.
My landlady, who had just washed her hair. She loves this photo.
I am either going into Las Varas is morning to get my stitches removed from my head, and to buy some plant pott/buckets, and some other stuff, or I am going to keep working on things here, at my home. (Actually I ended up using my dial-up connect at the summer house, for the last time.

I know it will be a long wait at the Seguro (clinic) and I don’t think the stitches are ready to come out anyway. Of course, I can’t see them, so who knows. Almost everyone else in town has seen the stitches though. My head is an object of curiosity. It’s kind of fun for me. Not the headache, but the friendly attention.
The water guy, Lorenzo, just came by. He didn't have change for a 50peso bill ($5US), so I have a credito for three more jugs of water. Works for me.Yesterday four local ladies helped me clean and tidy but the house I have been house sitting the past the summers. The owners are expected back any day, although I have not heard from them for weeks.

We had a great work-party. Luz, and her daughter Cheliana, did the downstairs unit and Gracia and her step-daughter Berta did the kitchen and bath. And we all did the main rooms, and inside and outsides of the windows and the patios. In three hours we did a great job. Those women really know how to work, and to clean. I had to insist we take a little break and have pop/water/tea.

It was so nice. I really didn’t have to do any supervising, except when we were moving the furniture back into place, since I was the only one who know how it was supposed to look. The town water wasn’t running, so my main job was keeping the water buckets full from the tinacho, using a little electric pump, and then watering the plants. Every satisfying and easy-going morning.

I went back later and cleaned the fan blades, which I had forgotten in the morning. I had borrowed the ladder from that house while I was painting the new place, and I had to take it back. I was hoping someone would drive by and give me and the ladder a lift, but no one came by. But then three little boys came running up to help me. “Little” as in four and six year olds. So we all carried the ladder, which actually worked pretty well. Then we walked to the tienda and they got treats for helping me.