Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monster Trucks Driving Thru Chacala

Don't read unless you are interested in my opinion about speeding monster trucks and other similar topics

I got a "Comment" about yesterday's "Day of the Dead" post.
The author identified him or herself as a resident of the gated development just north of Chacala. The one with the 12 foot cement wall around it, built to keep out the riff raff. Like the local Chacaleno's who formerly lived there.
I believe this Post could be called a "Rant". That's means it's more intense than a "whine". That's what the "Comment" my blog fan wrote about. The author was tired of my "whining" about the giant trucks filled with topsoil, boulders, or gravel, and speeding up and down the paved road 15 hours every from before dawn and into the night.It seems pretty likely to me that some local child, or some family, is going to die from being smashed by one of those speeding, overweight trucks.It's bound to happen. Children and mothers and dogs and workers and even fishermen and school kids and surfers walk up and down that road. All day. Almost everyone who lives or works in Chacala uses that road. It has dangerous curves. Truckload after truckload of workers coming to work in the gated place drive up and down that road every morning and every evening.In my opinion, the situation is a disaster waiting to happen. And I'll probably keep "whining" about it.
It's funny, but I sort of assumed that people understood that reading my opinions about things in Chacala is not compulsory. If you don't like it, don't read it. Simple. But if you want to inform me, or start a dialogue about things in Chacala, that would be great.But calling my concern about a very dangerous situation "whining" seems sort of ignorant to me. Just my opinion, of course.

The Most Pathetic Footwear in Chacala

I started this post with a complain about people drivering Hummers, but I decided to delete it, notwanting to take a chance of someone chasing me down the road in a Hummer.

Anyway. Speaking of expensive things. Or in this case, the lack of espensive things.

Here are the kind of shoes I have been wearing around Chacala since the shoes I brought down from the US fell apart. Maybe three years ago. I came down with a pair of tennis shoes, a pair of flip-flops and some of those hiking-type sandals. With a strap around the ankle and tire-tread looking soles. None of the three lasted long. And I ended up with locally purchased flip-flops very quickly. I have been struggling ever since to find some kind of footwear that works for me down here.
Slip-on-and-off, leather, no raised heel, wide enough for my chubby feet, and cheap enough to buy.

Never found any. Have been to maybe 50 shoe places. I keep ending up by rubber flip-flops. Either the strap-between-your-toes, or strap-across your arch style. They cost about $5 or 6$US and last 4 to 6 weeks before extensive repairs with fishing line and duct tape are necessary. My last two pairs didn't even last 3 weeks before I started in on the repairs.

The strap-between-the-toes style can be repaired with fishing lines three or four times before the sole falls apart. The only thing that works with the strap-across-the-arch version is repeated layers of duct tape. I always carry an piece of cord with me, for making emergency repairs until I home from wherever.But today was just too much. I was finally down to two repaired, non-matching sandals. I decided I would have to bit the bullet and get some shoes whether I liked them or not. I was spending too much money on sandals that disintegrate under my very feet.So off I went to Las Varas wearing this attractive pair.

I went to all 8 shoe stores in Las Varas. Or 10, The salesmen all appeared to be appalled at what I was wearing. Some rushed to help me find some sandals, and others quickly disappeared. Either I hated the look of everything I saw, or they didn't fit my feet, or they had heels or whatever. Mostly they rubbed my toes wrong. And hurt.Finally I returned to the store with the least-worst pair of shoes that I thought might work. For $18US. I hated the white stitching. But they were slightly adjustable, and I took them. Wore my raggedy shoes home because I was afraid the new ones would hurt. When I got home I "dyed" the white stitching brown. I don't know if it will last. I think I am going to keep wearing my ratty rubber sandals around Chacala, and save the nice shoes for town times. I can break them in around the house. I hope. I probably shouldn't publish this post. It's just too pathetic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Early Monday Morning in Chacala

I am really enjoying early mornings in Chacala this week. With no more Daylight Savings time, it's light around 6am, or even before. And the sun is up before 6:30pm, at least at my place.

I like to get up and roam around Chacala first thing in the morning. Especially Monday mornings. Monday is kind of a day off for some of the tourist business and restaurants in Chacala. After a busy weekend full of tourists from the inland cities of Mexico, everyone starts the day slow. Many places are closed up, that is, their tarps stay down all day.It's nice and quiet first thing in the morning. Parking lots are empty. Deliveries seem to start later on Mondays. I don't know why that is.The beach is beautiful. And usually empty.
Jose Manuel, who picks up trash 4 or 5 days a week all over town starts before 8am.And the fruit and vegetable guys gets to the center of town about 7:30am.When I lived on the beach a few winters ago, he arrived at my landlady, Esparanza's, my just as it was getting light. We got first dibs on the fresh stuff. That was great. Now I just get lucky sometimes, and run into him on the street. Today I got a cantaloupe, 3 plums, 4 tomatoes, and a 1/2 a kilo of red grapes. 25 pesos. about 2.20US. I don't know if that's a good price or not, but everything tasted good.
Koko Bongo's Restaurant, pool hall, internet station, and grocery store, looked all fresh and bright, but not yet open for business. The beach road looked empty, no delivery trucks or tourist buses.
I walked up to Mirador, a favorite rental in Chacala, to do an errand.The view from Mirador's guest and family palapa is one of my favorites in Chacala. And I stopped to admire these Ixora blooms on the way home.

Friendly Faces Around Chacala

Quite a few people in Chacala seem to be okay with me taking their pictsure. About once a month I print out about 30 shots of people. Photos of people that I think zzthe person might like. I am learning lot about what kind of photos people like of themselves. One thing is for sure, very few older women know how beautiful they are. Of course, almost all men think they are the most handsome things on earth.

Greedy US Banks, not in Chacala

New from Lonely Planet/Thorntree/Mexico Message Board:

Just saw this today on my statement, looks like it will affect those with Citi accounts that pull funds out of Banamex:


Effective January 26th, 2008 we will impose a fee equal to 2% of the transaction amount
(including credits or reversals) on all ATM and/or POS Debit Card transactions
(U.S.or foreign currency) that you conduct outside the 50 United States or Puerto Rico.
This fee will apply to transactions made at Citibank and Non-Citibank ATMs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Portulacas Growing in Chacala

One of my favorite things about gardening in Chacala is that I can grow succulents year-round here.

Some of them go semi-dormant during the rainy season. Like my favorite, (below) Adenium Obesum. But they live thru the rain and start blossoming as soon as it stops. Like Portulaca's. I have always loved Portulacas, ever since the very first time I saw one. In one of the greenhouses at Manito Park, in Spokane WA. I love to able to grow them year around here in Chacala. Or, maybe I should say, I love it that I get to admire Portulacas growing year-around in Chacala. That's because I have almost nothing to do with how well they grow here.Local ladies come by for pieces, cuttings, of the plant. If they see a new color blossom, it's time for a new cutting. I love it. It's so nice to have something to share. And they just stick the pieces in a pot and ignore them. They almost aways take.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Corruption (not in Chacala, hah, hah)

This (below) is an article from this week's New York Times.

I offer it here to remind gringos who complain about corruption in Mexico from whence they came: probably from the most deeply corrupt government in the world.
October 23, 2007

NYT: Telcos seeking immunity held fundraiser for Rockefeller:

Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.

The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports.

The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio.

Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged last week as the most important supporter of immunity in devising a compromise plan with Senate Republicans and the Bush administration.

A measure approved by the intelligence panel on Thursday would add restrictions on the eavesdropping and extend retroactive immunity to carriers that participated in it. President Bush secretly approved the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Rockefeller’s office said Monday that the sharp increases in contributions from the telecommunications executives had no influence on his support for the immunity provision.

“Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. “He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee’s careful review of the situation and our national security interests.”

Wired's Ryan Singel broke parts of this story last week. More from Spencer Ackerman.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Schools in Latin America,Including Chacala

The Miami Herald had an interesting article this week. The topic of Andres Oppenheimer's column on Latin America is the poor showing of students of all social classes attending Latin American schools.

This is the link to the article.

One of his comments was that it is very possible to make it all the way through University in Mexico without ever being required to pass an admissions test. He also states that Mexico, and all but two other Latin American countries refuse to test their students using international tests. These tests would allow students in Latin American countries to be compared to students in other countries.

He also suggested that there is more interest in building schools (building contracts are political plums, same as in the US) and in enforcing attendance that in quality of education itself. The Federal Teacher's Union in Mexico is extremely powerful and wealthy at the national level. Politicians don't mess with them.

And in most Latin American countries, including Mexico, primary education is NOT free. Student's families are required to pay for supplies, special clothes, books, required lunches, etc. 18% of students in Latin America finish high school. Compared to 44% in East Asia. And finishing high school doesn't necessarily mean the student received an education.

Interesting and depressing article. Children in the Chacala primary school appear to actually be in class about 2 1/2 hours a day. At most. It's a four hour school day, but P.E., lunch, and other non-academic activities take up a lot of time.

About 1/3 of Chacala's primary, and many junior high age, school kids go to private schools in Las Varas. Their parents are hoping for a better education there. I hope it's true.

Time Shifting in Chacala

My blogging friend, Wayne, in Isla Mujeres, just mentioned that tonight is the night to fall back to Standard Time. It's Mountain Standard Time (don't know how to write that in Spanish) in Chacala. But Guadalajara ( 5 hours away) and Puerto Vallarta (2 hours away) are both in the Central Time zone. Which leads to confusion for some tourists.The Tourism officials in Nayarit (Chacala's state) and P.V. (Jalisco) are trying to get the boundary changed between the two time zones. Right now the time zone changes from Central to Mountain a few miles north of the P.V. airport. Some tourists change time zones without realizing it, and are occasionally late for their flights home.My first real visit here was in early Spring of 2003. My visit overlapped with the start of Semana Santa. I didn't know about Easter on the Beaches of Mexico, so I was amazed to see the beach, camping areas, stores, restaurants and rentals fill to over-capacity almost overnight.

But the oddest thing was that I one hour off time-wise most my three week visit to Chacala.
First, I didn't realize I should turn my watch back an hour for the Time Zone change. Got that straightened out after a week or so. And then, a week later, it was time to turn it an hour forward for the start of Daylight Savings Time. I found the whole thing confusing, but it didn't matter in the least. I wasn't wearing my watch anyway, and it didn't matter was time it was anyway.

I only thing on my schedule was breakfast at Poncie's restaurant. I was one of the few customers since it was the end of the tourist season. But he and Tom, another visitor, cooked my breakfast anyway, whenever I showed up.When I first came here many people didn't wear watches. And the church bells rang out for important events, like Mass. And they still do. The collectivo's tooted their horns as the arrived in town, so there was usually time to run down and catch one before it left. Not that they have ever been on a schedule anyway, except for the school runs to Las Varas in the morning.

I have hung around the Chacala primary school early in the morning, for photos. Kids and their Moms seem to start arriving about an hour before school theoretically starts. I think they just get up, wash up, change to school outfits, eat, and come to school. I don't think there is the "hurry up, hurry up, you'll be late" thing going on here. Although there probably is for the kids going to school via collectivo, in Las Varas.I like it that when a specific time is mentioned here, it's more of a suggestion than a goal. At first it drove me crazy, but now I like. It's easier to stay in the present (which is a nicer way of life in my book) if you can avoid deadlines and "have to's" as much as possible. And that's really possible here. Unless I am trying to be to P.V. before noon, I just do things as they come up. And the only reason I get going by 8:30am or so to go to PV is so I be sure to catch a friend of mine for an early afternoon lunch.

Atfirst it was difficult for me when people didn't arrive when they said they would. But now I get it. The times people would mention were just an estimate, or intended to cater to my gringo-time-rigidity disorder, or whatever.It's interesting how different Latin cultures are from what I grew up with, in terms of time etiquette. I like the Chacala version best. Your life isn't a series of little discrete boxes or activities. Things kind of overflow and blend together. And you can take care of things as they come up. Not when they are scheduled.

Friday, October 26, 2007

High Season in Chacala

Well, it looks like the "High Season" (mid-December thru mid-March) is creeping up on Chacala, and me. For rental owners the "high season" means lots of renters and some income.
And lots of work.

For me, it means lots of gringo visitors. Many of whom are really fun to be around. Interesting people to talk with, and share ideas with. Nice people who love being in Mexico, and in Chacala.

And it also means the return of people I have a hard time being around. I know, my boring petty gripes about things I don't like. As if my opinion counts. Actually, now that I think about it, those people are already down here. So, what's my problem?

But aside from that, I am looking forward to winter in Chacala.

It's not (very) humid in the winter.
It's usually in the low-to-mid 80's during the day. Or slightly higher.
You can sleep with a nice cozy blanket at least part of the night.
There aren't nearly as many flying insects at night.
The ocean water is not so bathtub warm, the plants are bursting into bloom, the dolphins and whales will be returning.
There's a nice energy in the air.
And it means Guadalupe Day is coming.
And new books-in-English start floating around town.
And it's fun to talk in English with people with whom I share interests and concerns.
There might be phosphorescence (spelling?) in the ocean waves one night.
People I like being around with be returning, some for long stays.
And it's fun to meet people I have helped find places to stay.

So, the "High Season" is a mixed blessing for me. But mostly I am looking forward to it.

Dinner at My Place, in Chacala

My new little gas oven and 2 burner stove got a good workout this past week. And today I am going to make brownies from a package my son brought down. The customs guys in PV must not have known what it was, or they probably would have disappeared it.When my son was here we had actual meals every day. Well, at least one meal a day anyway.The main ingredients were the same. Corn tortillas, cheddar and/or mozzarella cheese, cut up tomatoes, and then chicken, beef, onion, or whatever else.Here is my modern method of defrosting a chunk of frozen beef. As soon as it slightly defrosted I cut the meat in fajita strips. It's pretty fun to cook with someone else. I am used to cooking solo, so it's different. And nicer.
Erik sharpened all four knives with a handy knife sharpener he brought down. this isn't knife sharpener, it's Erik's hands modifying an electrical outlet for a 3 wire outlet. The knife sharpener wasn't confiscated at customs or the TIA or whatever it's called. In Seattle they took stuff like sealed, unopened glue. I guess one of the inspectors had a craft project going or something.
Washing to dishes isn't so bad with a view like this. I feel so lucky. They weather is perfect again today. Sunny, breezy, warm but not baking. Very little humidity.
After some confusion and running around to Concha's and Aurora's, I made three reservation this morning. All for right around Christmas. All made before breakfast or a shower.

I did do my glucose test before doing the reservations. I have having some trouble with my blood sugar right now. Thanks to my friend Cleve, a Chacala visitor, I have a new glucose monitor with a bunch of chem (testing) strips. And another one coming. I am really happy. He mailed the strips to Erik and Erik brought them down.

I am so lucky. I love this life. My place is a mess, with all the wonderful gifts from Erik. And with re-arranging everything. But I am tidying everything up today.