Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kayaking from Playa Chacala

Yesterday I was walking home along the beach, and I saw these guys kayaking out from the beach in front of Mar de Jade and Majahua. They were guests at Mar de Jade, and using kayaks from there. The wife of one of the guys said they were heading for the rock island at the south end of Chacala Bay. Getting out thru the waves was probably the hardest part of their trip.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Going to the Frontera, the Border

I just realized I will need to leave Chacala for a few days, to go to the border again. Sometime in March.I have to get a new tourist visa. I have been hearing about some really really cheap night flights from PV or Guadalajara to Monterrey (two hours from the border). So I am looking into that. Otherwise it's the bus. I am thinking that if I bus it, I might go through Queretaro and visit the strange garden, Las Posas. But who knows. I am on a really tight travel budget, and I love seeing different parts of Mexico. I am hoping I can visit Oaxaca and Chiapas this summer, and maybe Colima sometime soon, but who knows. I think wanting to travel around Mexico, and eventually Central America is the first time in my life I have been really motivated to try to save money.Guadalupe shrine on the paved road, between Chacala and Las Varas.
The weather is wonderful in Chacala these days. Coolish (75) at night, warm during the day. low to mid 80's. There are lots of nice visitors here now, although some of my favorites have left already. More people seem to be making reservations for next year. It seems kind of amazing to me.
Lots of returning visitors are commenting on the new buildings around town. And people are also saying that Chacala seems really clean this year. I think it's true. Partly because the town kids pick up trash on the roads every Saturday morning.

I am starting to hear local gringo's reactions to the L.A. Times article that was published on Sunday. There are actually 4 different sections on the internet LA Times website. And 12 extra photos. So far I have heard fairly positive reactions. Of course, I think all us visitors here would prefer no one else knew about Chacala. But the rental owners will probably reap some benefit. I am more afraid of gringo real estate investors and Mexican developers who eyeing the Federal beach land than I am off newspaper articles. And the currrent plans to build condos on the beach. But who knows what the future will bring.
Chris Reynolds, LA Times reporter,
interviewing Aurora on the patio of one of her Techos de Mexico rental units.

The reporter seems to have mixed up Aurora and Concha, Techos rental owners, in one of the articles. Actually Aurora was the Techos owner who paid off her loan in three years, in 2004. Concha also paid her's off, a few months ago. And it's Aurora's husband who is a fisherman, while Concha's was a construction worker. I guess it doesn't really matter, but ........

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Computing in Chacala

I do my computing on a nice Mac laptop my son and ex got for me. I love it. It’s just the right size for carrying around. It came with a nice little carrying case with a handle. But I eventually got a small backpack that seems to be made for small laptops. It has a special padded slot with Velcro straps to hold it in place, and four outside pockets for my power/charge unit, and mouse and various connectors (for dialup and 2/3way converter and this and tha). And there is room inside for my camera (another gift ) and for a ziplock where I carry my little notebooks with all my computer info and records for rental deposits, etc. And pens, and a book to read when I get stuck someone with no one to talk to. Very handy little pack with padded straps and a place to tuck the straps away if I want to just it like a little carry-on.
g.The beach a few days ago
Today I looked at this blog on a big screen monitor and I was surprised to see how different the photos look on a big screen. Much nicer than on this screen. I really liked a few of the photos. Especially the ones with the young guys in the waves.The Bibliotecha, home of gringo and community-supported
activities and projects for kids in Chacala
Tomorrow I am going into Las Varas with four CD’s full of photos. I will run them thru the Kodak machine there and decide which ones to print out. I accidently deleted a bunch of photos from the fiesta in Las Varas last week. People have been asking me for prints of the photos I took of them. They cost 3 pesos (about 30 cents a print, and I don’t want to spend the cash until Wednesday. So tomorrow I will order the prints, and then pick them up on Wednesday.

This is the time of the month when I have all my sheets, pillowcases, bedspreads and towels washed at the laundry. So tomorrow I will be carrying a bunch of stuff down to the collectivo stop. But I am crossing my fingers for a ride from right in front of my house.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sailing in Chacala

This morning I was idly staring into space from my patio. Actually, I was staring at the ocean. A sail caught my eye. Hardly anyone sails into Chacala, they almost all motor in. I think it's because there isn't much wind, but who knows? And the sailors don't usually put up their sail(s) until they are way out toward the horizon.

So it was pretty usual to see a sail up. I knew the people hadn't sailed in this morning, because they arrived last night. But I really like seeing the sail billowing in the wind.I had trouble getting a clear shot because of the power lines between my place and the ocean. But it was still fun trying to take the pictures.
A few minutes ago the couple that own this boat (yacht?) came up to Majahua, and had a beer. They told me they had the sail up because they were fixing something. The man said there is often not enough window to sail along this part of the Mexican coast. He said they are often on motor power.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Food in Chacala, Part 2

When I first moved to Chacala I really struggled to find things I wanted to eat. I think the first month I mainly ate Sugar Frosted Flakes, milk, banana, pineapple, melons, lime water, Coke, peach and apple juice, tortillas, mozzarella cheese, cabbage, tomatoes, eggs, tostados, saltines, white flour rolled called boletos(?), And when I was really desperately homesick for familiar meals I would spend $5US for a big breakfast at a local place that catered to gringos
Fruit vendor in Las Varas
Very few of my everyday favorite food were available here. At least not in Chacala or Las Varas. When I first arrived in Chacala I couldn’t find pancake syrup, but now it’s everywhere. Same thing with peanut butter. I like to make French Toast on Sunday morning from chunks of the fresh rolls that are delivered to the store everyday. And sometime during the second year there were occasionally black olives in some of the stores. I love olives. Most of the time my lunch in Chacala is a little cold plate, with olives, celery, cabbage and tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs and a little cheddar cheese. And if I have some cooked chicken, a little chicken. And fruit for dessert. The pineapple and mandarin oranges are my favorites at the moment.Narcissa, owner of Chico's Restaurant, and a wonderful wonderful person
And, ridiculous as this sounds, friends brought me some fajita spice packets from the U.S. (at my request) and I make beef/cheese/tomato/and chopped up celery “tacos” many days. I cook up a batch of the spicy up beef and use it for three days or so for lunch.ThThe main meal in this part of Mexico is about 2-4pm. People eat something light at night, like pan dulce (sweet rolls) or bread and milk. Or fruit. Or leftovers. I like cooking my main meal during the day because I can see better, and the bugs that circle the electric light bulbs at night don’t fall in my food. And it seems healthier to eat in the middle of the day.
Soon after I arrived in Chacala I started making bi-monthly food runs to P.V. . I found chicken and beef in P.V. And celery. And sometimes (sugary)peanut butterAnd sometime after I moved to Chacala, some of the P.V. stores started carrying sugar-laden peanut butter. And Cheerios. And eventually I found the butcher shop in La Penita that sells excellent bacon.

And once in a while one of the big superstores in P.V. had Sarah Lee stuff (like cheesecake and chocolate cake) in their freezer section. For about $8.00US. (Alas, no more Sara Lee these days). And now they carry cream cheese, and I can make my own special desserts. And sometimes there were Cashews (for about $10US a pound). And eventually there was Ragu pizza sauce. I would make little tortilla pizzas with the sauce and mozzarella, in a frying pan with a lid.Marcello, who works at Chico's, gathering wood and other chores
Now I make a food-run about once a month. I used to carry a cooler down on the bus, so I could bring back meat and cheese and bacon, and so on. But it got to be too much trouble, so I just bring a couple of plastic bags with me to the market, and buy a bag of ice. I put the frozen and refrigerated food in the plastic bag, fill it with ice, and put the whole thing in a plastic Mexican shopping bag and head home of the bus. It seems to keep things cold enough. At least I haven’t got sick from the food. Yet.

I have figured out the Mexican substitutes for some foods I was buying in P.V. my first year. Like local cheese. And rolls for sandwiches (tortas), And the local stores in both Chacala and Las Varas are carrying a lot more items, especially fresh fruits and vegetables than they used to. I used to really miss Wheat Thins, but now I am used to peanuts and tostados, and sometimes microwave popcorn. Which I had for the first time in Mexico, and am now addicted to.The pool/hot tub at Paul's Satow duplex rental in Chacala 011 52 327 219 4111
And the weekly street market in La Penita has homemade whole-wheat bread during December thru February. And the superstores in P.V. now carry Orowheat bread. A very expensive treat. I make grilled cheese sandwiches with it, and French Toast, and BLT’s (you can now buy lettuce all the time here), and other goodies.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Finding Food in Chacala

Even before I started my life in Chacala, I was always a “picky” eater. I think it was a strategy I used to deal with my Mom. A strategy I never outgrew, even when it became a problem for me in my adult life. It’s hard to go out to dinner at someone’s house when you don’t like lots of foods: like onions and garlic, for example. Or coconut, or pasta. This is an ex-governor's house. He went to prison for various neferious activities.
The building is for sale, if you are interested.
And it's even harder in Mexico. But I never really thought much about being so picky about what I ate, or about what is was like for other people to deal with my ridiculous food issues. It wasn’t like I asked for different food at dinner parties, I just didn’t eat what I didn’t like, or thought I didn’t like. That was rude and unappreciative of my friends cooking efforts, but I never saw it that way. And it never occurred to me I could broaden my food preferences. Some French people are travelling with this cute little trailer.
Actually, there were many foods I didn’t like to eat, but which I had never actually tasted. I don’t know how I decided I didn’t like food I had never tasted, but I did.
But things changed for me when I got to Chacala. Not only were most of my favorite foods unavailable, but even worse, people kept offering me food I didn’t want to try.

Refusing food offered by a friend in Mexico is rude. Much ruder than in my previous life. Partly because sharing food is a very generous act here, where most people in Chacala remember very clearly not having enough food. This is Francisco, who owns two grocery stores
in Chacala with his wife Angelica
It was hard for me to not want to eat some of the food that was offered to me. And sort of strange, I think, for people who live here. OftenI didn’t usually eat what I was offered. It was usually Mexican standards that were offered: rice, beans, posole, tamales, occasionally enchiladas, and food with onions and garlic. It was very awkward and I didn’t handle it very well. I know I didn’t make a very good impression with local people. Most of the concrete mixed in Chacala is mixed by hand.
But there is the occasional cement mixer.
At Chico’s, the only restaurant I ever ate at during my first few years in Chacala, they knew what to cook for me. Fish filet and fresh tomatoes or cheese quesadillas. It took awhile for them to realize I wasn’t going to eat the white rice or beans. But they eventually got used to my weird eating habits. And I finally started reconsidering how my life-long stance as a “picky” eater was limiting my life and insulting my new friends.

I gradually am taking more and more chances with my food choices. When people offer me bites of food, I almost always take a bite now. Except for onion and garlic-laden food. And sometimes I really like it. Someone offered me a bite of a sweet dessert thing a few days ago, and I really liked it. And several months ago I ordered a chicken quesadilla at Mars Tres. I didn’t expect to eat it, but felt I had to order something for some reason. But I took a bite and really liked it. They didn’t onion it up, and it tasted great. They cost 16 pesos, and one fills me up. So when I eat out now, it’s usually at Mars Tres, except when I have delicious grilled fish at Chico’s. A Chacala family
My food trip is gradually changing, and I am taking more chances, and I am glad. I was embarrassed about being so picky, but I couldn’t seem to help it. I am still really picky, but I am more flexible about food than when I first came to Chacala, and I am glad.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Night in Chacala

The nuelle, small harbor for fishing boats, at the north end of Playa Chacala
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day in Chacala and the rest of the "civilized" world too, I imagine. Valentine's Day is huge is Mexico. For friends and family and lovers. Lots of gifts, flowers, and candy. Lots of hugs and nice conversations where we thank each other for our friendships.

Las Brisas had a special dinner last night, shrimp or filet mignon (Mexican style) for maybe 150 or 180 pesos, around $16US. I didn’t go, although I had an offer a free dinner. Too many people and not really my thing.

I had dinner (actually had a Fresca and tostados) with Nicole and Sheri and Fred at Chico’s. Fred has just arrived from California, but Nicole and Sheri have been here for almost a month. They are a great family and we laughed a lot. We have been talking about making a new garden bed for Aurora, with sun plants. The whole family in involved in their landscaping and nursery (succulents) business. I love being around them. I have lots of plant babies to offer up for the new Aurora project.My favorite gringo gardening family
Last night, later in the evening, spent some time at Mars Tres, visiting with the reporter from Washington Times, who is back in Chacala with his lovely wife. I really enjoyed meeting her and talking about this and that.

And then I visited with Carol and Lonnie. This was their fifth or sixth stay in Chacala.
This time for three weeks or so. They left early this morning on the 5:30am Pacifico bus to Guadalajara. Martine drove them into Las Varas at 4:30am. They are from the east side of the U.S., and apparently sometimes it’s cheaper to take a flight to Guadalajara and then the bus to Las Varas/Chacala.Lonnie and Carol (behind the flowers) in the Las Varas perinigracion last week
I will really miss them. Lonnie comes to Chacala to fish, twice a day, with a local fisherman. It’s really work/fishing, not sport fishing. Commercial fishing. And Carol helps out at Mars Tres. It’s really nice for me when they are here. I really enjoy hanging out with them and Marta and Martine and Marcella. And Carmen and Manuel.

I walked by Koko Bongo’s on the way home, after visiting Don Lupe, who had fallen and hurt her knee badly. Some gringos had organized up a Valentine’s Dance at Koko Bongo’s, kind of spur of the moment, I think. It looked like fun, but I was too too tired and not really in the mood.

I am trying to sleep in a little later in the morning. For the past three months I have been awake before dawn, sometimes way before dawn. So I am ready for a siesta by 2pm and for bed by 8pm. But I am trying to sleep in now, until the sun comes over the hills behind Chacala, about 7am. And I succeeded this morning. I had a good nights sleep, all night long.

I had fruit for breakfast, and then some of the bread they are starting to carry down at the tiendas. It’s a round, white bread loaf, with a sort of sugar/crumble topping and it’s really good. Especially as toast with butter.

Then I walked over to Israel and Inez/Chata’s with Aurora. She had some business with someone and I had some stuff to take care of. I love hanging around with Chata. She is so lovely. And Israel and his whole family, including 3 year old Adrian. They are the nicest people. We figured out the details of a long stay for someone next winter.On the way home I visited with Kathy and Kevin, who are staying at Nuevo Espana (place with the small blue pool in front of the old Casa Azul) for three months ($800US a month, or a little less). They have adopted a little grey kitten that is (I hope) coming to live with me in a few weeks, when they leave town. It has lovely yellow eyes and a nice soft personality.

I got home just as the water came on, so I did some laundry and dishes, and started cooking some chicken breasts. I accidentally defrosted my little fridge last night, so the chicken was ready to cook.

I am waiting around the house for the Coke guys to show up. So I gardened for awhile, until the sun got too bright, and now I am writing this. In preparation for going to connect up with the internet. A very nice morning for me. I am working hard at keeping my negative comments to myself, and made it through the morning pretty well.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chacala Night in Las Varas

Tonight is the final night of the big annual fiesta in Las Varas. It runs about 10 days or so, and is primarily a religious event. Representatives of of all the towns surrounding Las Varas, including Chacala, attend a religious walk thru town to the large church, where a Mass and blessing are held every night.

Every small town in the area seems to have it's own walk and service. Four or five towns a night. Chacala's was Saturday night, and many Chacala people attended, walking the the street in dress-up clothes and carrying candles.

On Saturday night, Chacala's night to walk in the parade in Las Varas, I rode into Las Varas with Aurora, her husband Beto, and their two daughters, Letitia and Erika. This is the first year Beto has had a truck, and he was loving driving into Las Varas. Usually he and his family are passengers in the vehicle of another family member, so this was a big night. We were in line with about twenty other Las Varas trucks and it was really nice, and warm enough not to need a long sleeved shirt.The parade includes young girls wearing special outfits who are dancing a special dance. And at the end of Chacala's perinigracion there was a huge float, with religious scenes front and back. Local young men acted out various stories. Standing still, and posing. It was very beautiful and amazing for me. I have attended this event for four years, but this is the first time I saw a float with the Chacala group. I think they had a band too. Can't remember.
Other towns had their walklater in the evening, and some of them including floats to.

On the ride into Las Varas on Saturday night I was riding in the back with of Beto's pickup, with a young couple, Galen and Elizabeth. Along with Tom Carter, from the Washington Times. He is the latest reporter to visit Chacala. At first he seemed to be writing about the Techos, but then I think it turned out he was writing about retiring in Mexico. I don't think he was actually on assignment. Anyway.Anyway, we walked around town together, getting oriented and finding things to eat.

Las Varas is transformed during the fiesta week. Booths all over with food, clothes, and every kind of stuff you can imagine. And candy, and desserts, and alcohol, and cakes and strawberry desserts. And cakes, and dried fruit and hot dogs and hamburgers and pork tortas.The owners of most of the booths go from town to town, attending the various fiestas. The plaza has a bunch of food booths, and my companions got tacos or something and we sat on the plaza watching the bands and rides. There were bumper cars and bungee jumping of short people and a bunch of rides.

There were lots of bands on the plaza, with the guys all dressed up in their satin shirts. Notice the bottle of something in this guys pocket. He and his friends though my taking this photo was really funny. The all posed with their butts facing me. Luckily it didn't turn out.Aurora told me the band are auditioning to be hired for various family parties, and restaurants, and other events requiring a musical accompaniment. There were many, many games of chances, where you could win (theoretically) all kinds of stuff. But especially baskets of food.

These following photos are some of the religious scenes portrayed on large floats. Local people portray the various characters. I didn't understand the scenes, but one was about Isaac. Men stand beside the low electric lines with long poles, ready to lift the wires over the floats.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Morning in Chacala

This time of year in Chacala, I am usually I am awake about 5:30am. I read in bed and putter around inside until it gets light outside. I'm up and out on the patio cooking my breakfast, and doing whatever by 6:30am. I enjoy the quiet and the sound of the birds and watching the sunrise.
The sun is starting to come up a little after 7am this week. About the same time the construction workers arrived in the neighborhood, radio going full blast.

Chacala is full of vacationers this time of year. Usually vacationers aren't interested in being awakened before 7am by the sound of radios and saws. Luckily I have earplugs and I am an early raiser.
Anyway, I left about 7:20am to take care of some rental stuff on the internet. As I was walking down the beach I saw a family group boogie boarding in the waves and having a great time. The waves are different every day here. And they change from one end of the beach to the other.
At the north end, near most of the rentals, the sea is pretty calm, with nice little waves and great for kids. As you go south the waves get bigger. Big enough that the local boys are often surfing in the early morning and just before dark.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Reading "Works&Conversations" in Chacala

This morning I was sitting in a plastic chair in the shade in front of my neighbor, Aurora’s, bodega. I knew someone I wanted to talk to would be coming by in the next little while, and I wanted to make sure to catch that person. I had a small message to deliver. Not relevant to this post. .Berta, a lovely, hardworking Chacala woman
The sun was shining, and the sky was clear and blue. I was kind of day dreaming and, at the same time, reading a wonderful article in Works& Conversations. That’s my newest favorite magazine, out of Berkeley CA. The article was an interview with Godfrey Reggio. Who, among other things, has created a trilogy of films, the “Qatsi Trilogy”. Doug, the photographer who came to Chacala with the L.A. Times reporter.
The interview was very engaging for me. My first favorite quote is Reggio talking about the Dalai Lama, who was quoted as saying the most important thing to pay attention to is “routine”. As in your routine of daily life. Reggio says “Because what we do is what we become”. There’s much more there too.Then the conversation turns to a discussion the Hopi word “powaqa”. I think it refers to people “who consume the life force of another person in order to further its own”. And by “operating thru seduction and allurement”. It means predation. And the example in this world is the “developed” world plundering the rest of the world. And it’s about the concept of “progress and development”, and its attendant promises of a “higher standard of living.” There’s a real joke.

I was sitting in my plastic chair, feeling the summer on my legs, and watching a cloud of butterflies circling around me. And smelling the new blossoms on the shrubs near me. I was thinking “How lucky I am to have this life”. Jaime and his dad, Manuel, making fishing nets for sale.
I have the time and space in my life to try to pay attention to what I am doing and saying. And to explore and maybe become aware of the consequences of my behavior, my everyday routine. Slaves of the workforce and consumerism are often too busy keeping their heads above the flood of consumerism to question the results of their daily activities. Particularly the societal and environmental consequences of their paid employment. And their consumerism.

I can hardly make sense of what I want to say here. But I know it’s all mixed up with seeing the clash of culture, class, and lifestyle in this area of Mexico. And the arrogance of some visitors here. If I understood enough Spanish, I would probably have the same feeling about upper middle class Mexican tourists in Chacala as I have about gringo visitors. Chris Reynolds, Travel and Art Reporter from the L.A. Time.

Anyway. I really recommend this magazine and all it’s back issues.
Conversations & Works