Monday, April 30, 2007

Cement Boys in Chacala

Two young men arrived at daylight this morning to plaster the walls of one of the downstairs rooms with cement. The walls have been bare brick up until now. But bare brick is very hard to keep clean, and bugs love to hide in the little hidey holes in the mortar. And it's hard to paint brick.So my landlady hired these guys to plaster the walls. They work on a regular crew up in the development, and this is an extra project for them. They arrived at daylight and left at 8am to go to their real job.Guys who work in cement/concrete around here usually do everything by hand. They carry the sand and bags of cement up from the road, and use water from the big garbage can .Where the water is stored where the water used for flushing the downstairstoilet is stored. And they mix with a hoe, of course. You see very few cement mixers being used on most projects around here.
The concrete is mixed on the floor. In the middle of the room. Very handy. When they left for their other job a few minutes ago, I was afraid they had left the unused mortar to dry on the floor. Because sometimes the workers here leave the concrete in the cement mixer at the end of the day, rather than rinsing it out. Or on the floor. Apparently that’s so someone will have a job in the morning, chipping out the dried stuff. I have seen that happen, at the new hotel construction, so I know it’s true. At least occassionally. The works just took off for their day job a few minutes ago. And left a sort of tidy work area. No piles of drying piles of mortar on the floor. Just three piles of sand, and various small piles of drying cement scattered along the walls and where they mixed cement. Could be worse. I guess someone will have the job of chipping the dried stuff off the floor in a few days.I hope what I am seeing right now on the walls is the first coat, because it’s really rough. If you rubbed up against the plaster the way it is right now, it would probably rip your skin right off. But they probably do some kind of finish coat, I hope.The workers introduced themselves when I came down to see if I could take some photos. They are Francisco and Jose. Very unusual names around here. Probably only one in 8 men around here are named Francisco, and maybe one in 4 are named Jose.

Breezes and Sunshine in Chacala

I spend most of my waking hours in Chacala outside. Wearing shorts, and shirt, and flip-flops.
I cook, eat, and wash my dishes and clothes outside. And read, and compute, and work on projects at my table. And, of course, I garden outside. And walk around town, going swimming, shopping, interneting, taking photos, and visiting. Visiting almost always occurs outside, under the shade of a palapa or ramada.

I think mostly being outside makes me more aware of the natural sounds around me. Birds singing, frog-like animals croaking, dogs barking, cats fighting, and the various wild animals doing their thing. And of course, it’s hard to miss the sounds of the monster dirt trucks, loudspeakers, “music”, and people talking and kids playing.

The sounds of the ocean waves breaking is probably my favorite sound in Chacala. You can always hear it, day and night. And I love walking around town by the light of the full moon. I hardly ever use a flashlight here.

I now feel the wind and the breezes are around us all the time. I think I used to just not notice the breezes. But here, the breezes are what keeps you cool. And you notice where they are coming from and when it changes. And the wind can be pretty exciting. Even on ordinary days with small breezes I have to pay attention to how I put things down on the table. Magazines can get torn to pieces by even small breezes.

I dry most of my clothes on the drying line I have tied around the three open sides of the patio. With a nice breeze and the sunshine, clothes can dry in an hour. But mostly I dry things out of the direct sunlight. Mostly because that’s what my neighbors seem to do. White stuff is okay in the sun, but colors, never.

I love the sounds of the birds early in the morning. Right now I can hear maybe a dozen different bird sounds. Yesterday in the late afternoon I wake up from my siesta to really loud bird calls, lots of them. I went outside and all kinds of birds were flying around like crazy, calling to each other. They were flying from tree to power lines, to the roof to shrubs. Finally I looked up and saw there were a half dozen large birds flying around. Cruising back and forth. They had kind of crooked, bent wings. I think all the little birds were very upset, maybe terrified. The chatter and zooming around finally stopped when the big birds left.

Where and when the sunlight comes into my living space is much more important to me than it ever was before. Even though in my old life we were very aware of solar gain, and the angle of the sun. I had an attached greenhouse in two of the places I lived in the country, and where and when the sun hit the greenhouse walls made a big difference.

Here in Chacala, my inside workspace inside gets the direct morning sun for a couple of hours, and I make sure my computer and camera and some other fragile things are never left in the sunny areas of the table. I love the sun shining onto my pillow when I am waking up, and if I shift my bed a little I can almost always have that.
The reed mats I have hanging on the east side of my patio are there to block the low morning sun. I want my little refrigerator to always be in the shade, so I shift the mats slightly to accommodate the sun’s movement, season to season.

And in the late afternoon, when the sunshine comes pouring in the ocean side of the house, I slide a blue plastic tarp to block the sun from my eating table, and the fridge. If I know I will be gone in the afternoon, I move the tarp before I leave.I am looking for one of those reed roll-up shades for that side. Usually there are young men wondering around Chacala regularly, selling those screens. But now that I want one, of course, there are no screen vendors in sight.The moonlight seems to be very bright in Chacala. I hardly every use a flashlight here. I guess my night vision has improved, because it’s never dark enough to need a light. Of course, the addition of street lights on the beach road has really changed the ambient light level around here. Ugh. I liked it much better when there were only a couple of lights on all night.

The Circus in Chacala

Last night I walked over to the field where the Circus, "Circo", is set up in Chacala. The circo is set up in the field right before the entrance to Mar de Jade/Majahua. In the big field that now serves as a socceer practice field for Chacala teams.

These boys kept me company while we inspected the animals and the premises. I never did go to the circus, mostly because it looked depressing, but also because the people who have gone said there were to trapeze acts. So.....
This pink building is a semi-truck/trailer.
The pink flaps unfold across the bottom and at either end to make a bigger presence.
The circus folks arrive in trailers and small motor homes. And park in a big circle.

I like this little goat. He looked very clean and well care for. I'm not sure about this animal. The noise from the circus has been horrible. For two or three hours each night. And for several nights that noise was followed by the "disco", at Acela's. Ugh!!!!

Playa Chacala in Late April

This weekend is a holiday weekend in Chacala, celebrating Worker's Day on May 1st. Today. The Playa Chacala has been buzzing with campers, picnickers, swimmers, banana boats,and vendors of all kinds.These young girls are renting large inner tubes for 20 pesos ((1.80US) an hour. They are from Las Varas, and this is one of many of this families businesses. I love the entrepenurial spirit around here. And seeing the children learning customer skills and responsibility while they are very young.
This is a local couple, from Las Varas, who waved me over to take a photo. They were really enjoying the beach.
This is the camping area at Esparanza's. The palapas have been back with campers and picnickers all weekend. These folks around about 10 feet from the high tide line.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Walking Around Las Varas, Again

This morning, before I left Chacala for Las Varas, I checked on a reservation for next February with Concha. While I was at her home, she invited me to come to Fair (I think) in Las Varas.

Concha teaches the state-funded weekly class for local moms with young kids. They use the kinder play yard for their classes every Wednesday. Anyway, Concha had a whole box full of toys that parents can make for their kids with just stuff around the house. Musical toys, an airplane, a kite, and a bunch of stuff. I think the Fair tomorrow, at the Plaza in Las Varas, will be for all the teachers and families who attend these classes in this area. At least I hope that's what it is. It's a great concept. The classes and the toys. This photo is the Las Varas plaza, recently re-painted.

Even though Las Varas is five miles from Chacala, somehow this week I have been there more times than I normally go there in a month. It's not like I can just jump into my personal vehicle whenever I have a whim to go to the big city (12,000 souls and 5,000 ATVs). I either walk down the road or wait at the store for one of the collectivos, which runs on their own random and erratic scheudles, or I hitch a ride with someone I know who is driving by. Then, generally I have to wait up to an hour for the collectivo for the ride home.

Anyway. I took my sheets and towels to the laundry and left them there. Then to the bank/ATM, where hung out with Terry, my favorite Las Varas dog, for awhile. And met his owners granddaughter and family. Terry is a great little dog with a horrible big collar. Then on to the internet place and then to the Kodak store to drop off the CD of photos from yesterdays birthday party in Chacala, then to the market, back to the Kodak place, the laundry.

On the way back from the laundry, I met some lovely horses, tied to a tree in front of a house. Notice they don't have bits in their mouths, only a rope halter. Very nice. I love the colors these buildings are painted. They are nice and bright and cheerful.

This is a shot of the interior plaza of this house. Almost all the nice houses in :as Vars seem to have these hidden plazas that the room are built around. Often the inside of a large block of buildings has two or four separate plazas inside. I love it. I don't think they get much in the way of breezes, but they are usually full of flowers, and tables, and chairs. Everyday life seem s to mosty take place outside, except for watching TV.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Exciting Week in Chacala

There is all kinds of excitement around Chacala these days. Another big birthday party for a five year old. With lots of family and friends. And, today the circus arrived in town, for a three day stay. There are more gringo tourists here than there were this time last year. Maybe a dozen. And the weather is great: warm but not humid, with nice evenings and comfortable nights.The birthday party was late yesterday afternoon. I think there were five piñatas, and lots of very well behaved kids, watched over by their moms, aunt, and older cousins. And sometimes by Dads, uncles or granddad. There were piñatas to whack, and games to play, and treats to eat, and lots of visiting,The birthday Mom asked me to take photos, when she thought the real photographer wasn’t going to show. But he did show, thanks goodness. I would hate to have someone depending on me for photos of their five year old’s birthday.The photographer and a videographer (the birthday child’s aunt I think) and I were all busy photographing everything. And sometimes each other. I found it really hard to take photos with so much going on, and people moving around constantly. I am afraid some of the photos are going to turn out blurry because I took them for across the party area. Normally a parking lot under the palms.I took about 550 photos, and narrowed them down to 115 by getting rid of the obviously poor photos. And the ones that weren’t directly about the birthday party. Like nice portrait photos of people at the party that weren’t close friends of family.I think I mostly know who were friends and family at the party, and who were neighbors. Not always, but a lot of the time I know who’s who.Then this afternoon the Mom and I went though the 115 photos and picked out about 35 to print. I hope they come out okay. It’s kind of potluck. It’s amazing how different some photos luck on the computer as compared to when the are printed out.Two trucks hauling cages filled with sort of sad animals were circling around town tonight, just before dark. I was having pizza at Victor’s Pizza place (now open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, later in the day) when they started circling thru town.This will probably be the 7th or 8th circus thing I have missed since I moved to Chacala. I don’t like seeing circus animals, and in Mexico it seems to be even worse. But people have been telling me the acrobatic acts and clowning stuff is good, so I might go tomorrow night.There were two ponies, a monkey, and two lion-like animals in the cages. It was kind of sad to look at the animals and imagine what kind of life they might lead. I took some photos, but I don’t know if I will publish them.Last winter, when I was camping at the beach, the circo was parked in the field across the road. Early one morning most of the animals escaped and were roaming around. It was mildly exciting. No one seemed to be taking the prospect of lions and cats roaming around Chacala very seriously.

Trip to the La Penita Tianguis/Street Market

I went to the tianguis, the street market, in La Penita this morning. La Penita is the next town south of Las Varas, and during the tourist season it’s filled with gringos. I haven’t been there since last December, so it was kind of startling to see how empty the plaza was. There were many a dozen vendors selling tourist-type stuff. And it was pretty empty of gringo tourists too. I got there about 8am, and there were only local people around, but as I was leaving an hour later, some gringos were starting to show up.I am amazed how accustomed I have become to darker skins and brown eyes. Gringo’s look sort of pale and unhealthy to me now. Blue eyes do too. There is a older man from Zaculpan (about 10 miles from Las Varas) who rides the combi to Chacala sometimes. He is 78 of so, and looks kind of like Paul Newman. Blue eyes and all. He looks so unusual in a small Mexican town. He likes me taking photos of him, and then I usually I make a print for him. I don’t know what he does with them.Anyway, I was looking for some cheap photo albums. I have been taking lots of photos of a couple of little girls here, so their grandmother can send them to their Mother, who is in the U. S. right now. I have enough photos to make a little album for the older girl’s birthday next week. And I though I would make another one for the littler girl. I found some albums for 10 pesos each, (90 cents). I am wondering how the humidity and the plastic photo sleeves will interact. I guess this is an experiment. How photos last in a humid climate, I mean.I also wandered around a little, and visited the woman at the Hammock Shop. She is originally from Egypt, and lots of fun to talk with. Went over to the new Jaime and Hinde restaurant and left some hardback books there. And traded for a couple of paperbacks and a new Smithsonian magazine. Went to the internet place to check on reservations and bought a large Jasmine vine for 30 pesos (2.70US).The woman selling the Jasmine vine has a vivero/nursery at her house in Las Ayalos, and she drew me a map, so I could come visit. I think I will. It would be three or four combi rides each way, but I think it would be interesting. I caught a collectivo back to Las Varas. There were 18 of us in the combi. Luckily I was in the front, with the driver, a large woman, and her 8 year old boy. And my bag and the Jasmine plant. My personal record for surviving a crowded collectivo ride is 23 people, including 8 smaller children and babies. I was in the very back of the bus that time. I was afraid I was got to have a claustrophia attack. Or something.I went to the Kodak place in Las Varas, and Samuel printed up a CD of photos I made last night. It was all the photos I still have of the two little girls I wanted to make albums for.Then, while we were waiting for the Chacala combi, I started putting the albums together, and everyone helped me with the photos. Passing them around, commenting, etc. I was very fun for me. And I think the little albums came out okay. If the grandmother seems to like the little albums I might make one for her too. With all her grandchildren who are around Chacala.
Later: I took the photo albums down to the girls, and I think they were really a hit. And the grandmother and aunts liked them too. I am taking photos of the girls with their various relatives, to add to the albums. I have one more album, and I am going to make one for the girl's little cousin, who are next door. I am pleased with how they turned out, but I am kind of worried about the humidity and plastic, etc. We'll see.