Sunday, September 25, 2016

Queretaro in My Rear View Mirror

The saga began ten days ago.  While leaving the Friday Lunch Bunch group, a new path home was my plan.
Someone at lunch had talked about a short cut to avoid the traffic at the roundabout or "glorieta"as
we call it.

Usually one just zips around the glorieta where four different roads intersect.  But starting about noon on Fridays and through the weekend, it can be a nightmare.  Avoidance is the trick.

Off I went to the short cut.  I was amazed to see the steep, gravel covered incline to the libramento which is a road around town.  Ahead of me were two cars.  One with Mexico City plates was at the head of us.  As
he got near the top, he started "fishtailing" and then started careening back down the gravel covered road.
Of course this caused the car right in front of me to quickly start reversing down the incline....which you can
imagine caused me to do the same.  In fact I tried to move over to the right so that if they were going to hit me, it might be a side swipe.

It was a sideswipe all right, but on the right side of the car.  For some reason there was a wooden pole in the ground, on the road and not only did my car sideswipe it from back to front, it  broke my side mirror and cracked the casing of the thing that holds the mirror onto the car.  Oy vey.  What a mess.  I just sat there with no one behind me for a second or two.  I was so stunned at what had happened in a matter of seconds.  Nothing like this had ever happened to the car.

I eventually went home slowly, got out the duct tape and covered the mirror and casing until I could get it replaced and repaired.

A person never realizes how much they use a right hand rear view mirror until one does not have it.

I was already scheduled to get new tires on Monday.  When the owner of the tire shop saw my duct tape mess, he told me his shop could get the mirror and fix it, but it would be later in the week.  Ok, well, later
is better then never.  I did get four new tires.  Good deal.

The tires were purchased when they were because I had agreed to take a friend to Queretaro to buy upholstery fabric to have her sofa and chair recovered.  Queretaro is about a forty-five minute drive
from San Miguel.  My mechanic had told me my tires were so bad that I could not leave San Miguel
with them.  Hence, the new tires. I had been procrastinating for months.

Off we went to Queretaro last week.  Beautiful drive with wildflowers blooming for as far as the eye could see.  That was the first part of the trip until we got up on the six lane highway - three lanes one way and three lanes the other  to Queretaro.

It had been about eight years or so since I had been to the area where the fabric store was located.  In my mind I could recall the landmarks.  Amazingly we drove right to it.  No one was more amazed then I.   Thankfully I had my friend Jennifer along because getting off a freeway on an exit to the right is a bit tricky without a mirror.  She was great.

We pulled into the parking garage of the center with no problems, parked, took the escalator up to where there had been an exit to the fabric store.  There was no longer an exit!  We could see the building, but not how to get to it.  Weird.  Aha, a security guard was watching us so we walked up and asked him how to
get to the Bayon Fabric store.

Then he told us it had moved the week before.  It had moved to the other side of the freeway and we would have to walk across a bridge.  So, Jen and I went out the front of the building to look at the bridge!  No way could I have walked up that high and walked across that thing.  No way.

So, we got the car, took the lateral road (feeder road to you Texans) and managed to take a turnaround and get back to the "other side".  All went well when we finally found the fabric store, bought forty meters of fabric and with it firmly ensconced in the back of the Pathfinder headed back to San Miguel.

We decided, wisely, not to take any more side trips but head back to two lane roads and MUCH slower traffic with polite drivers.   Lordy those people in Queretaro drive like demons!

We made it back safely.  I was holding my breath most of the way because of the lack of the mirror.
I couldn't get the car to the repair place fast enough the next morning.  This is what the side of the car looked like after they removed the casing and the mirror and the interior panel of the door.

To me it is fascinating to see that a car this old was so well built and was so clean inside the panel.  I don't know what I expected but nothing so orderly.

The car still has no mirror.  Over the weekend the shop was too busy to reinstall the mirror.

Rest assured that tomorrow morning the car will be at the shop first thing so it can be put back together and I'll be driving, wherever, with the ability to see as I merge to the right.

When will I be driving back to Queretaro?  Maybe another eight years.  But, I did see as I was zipping along on the highway a Tony Roma's restaurant, a Dairy Queen and of all things, a Chuck - e - Cheese restaurant for kids in a new center called Uptown spelled in English!  My goodness, the times and area is changing....a lot.

Who would have ever thought all these companies would be moving into Mexico.  There were lots more, this is just a few of what we saw.  My oh my.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oh Me, of Little Faith - Expecting a Day of Quiet in the Jardin

It would seem that the Monday morning after all the hoopla of four days of celebrations from the Celebration of Independence for Mexico would be very, very quiet.  There had been parades, dance groups, upteen thousands of visitors, tour buses, more parades, fireworks on a daily basis - morning, noon and night.  So, it WOULD seem that Monday morning would be very, very quiet.

Arriving in the jardin relatively early, ten a.m. the scene was very quiet.  There was a group of about eighteen people who were in the Patronato Pro Ninos Walking Tour group.  Visitors to San Miguel.
Not a large, boisterous group at all.  Besides these people there might have been another five people, including myself, sitting on the benches.  Ahh, the serenity of San Miguel.  It was what I wanted to see and hear.  It appeared that I was going to get my way.

Within five minutes of that thought sirens, fire alarms and the sound of emergency vehicles filled the air.
Some employees of businesses came out into the public area in front of the jardin with yellow tape signifying some kind of emergency.  I continued to sit where I was, totally dumbfounded and wondering what the heck was going on.
 The next thing that happened occurred when all these teeny, tiny little school kids in their school uniforms streamed down Hidalgo street from their school and were instructed to quietly sit on the ground.
Right behind them were an older group of kids.  The numbers were so great that they extended about three quarters of a block down Hidalgo.  They too were told to stand quietly..........

Then, the sirens, alarms, and all the other stuff stopped and they quickly and quietly walked back to whence they had come.  Just like that!

The jardin returned to its previous tranquil self.  No one yelled.  No one said what was going on but I did hear two theories later on that day.  One was that it was a disaster drill.  The other was that it was in memory of the earthquake that hit Mexico City September 19th, 1985.  In my humble opinion, it probably was the first scenario.

By the time I left the jardin at 11AM, people were streaming into the jardin.  Amazingly, all kinds of noise, sirens and a fire truck with little pre-school children came marching into the jardin and surrounded it.

Here are a few pictures of kids dressed like nurses, policemen, firemen and other assorted characters.

 By now I was sitting with the Coffee Klatch group.  None of us could figure out what was happening.  Of course there were no signs or anything to indicate what it was all about.  Just another dose of cuteness
 for all of us to appreciate.  Somehow we did decide it might have had something to do with the Red Cross or........who knows?

It was a GOOD day, but surely not a QUIET day!  Viva Mexico.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Saga of a "Precious Package"

The saga of the "precious package" actually began in 2004 after my daughter, Jennifer's passing. 

Among the few things that she left, photos were so precious to me that I saved them to give to
her son, Christopher, who was 5 1/2 at the time.

When moving to Mexico, they traveled in the car with me so as not to get lost in the shuffle.
Since then they have been in a special place.

Once I asked Christopher if he would like for me to give him the photos along with other items
that had belonged to his mother.  He said to wait and save them until he was out on his own so
nothing would happen to them.  I did, obviously.

This is the year that Christopher was turning 18!  In July the items came out of their special place
and planning began to put the photos in a special album so they were all together in a way that
would be easy for Chris to take them with him when he went off to college or whatever.

The work on the album began in August so I would have it ready to mail to him before his
birthday on September 4th.

Finished, I took the album to my mail service here in San Miguel to send the box UPS so I would have a tracking number.  I did not want this precious package to get lost and not arrive.  I paid and left the package after being assured that it would leave that day at about noon on August 24th.  There were a lot of people
crammed into this little office where I pick up or mail things so I left it with a person who I trusted to make sure it would go out that day.  At the time I had no worries.

The following Monday I went by to get the Tracking number.  Imagine my dismay when I was told it did not
go UPS but rather was taken to the border and the "girls in Laredo" would be sending it out on Tuesday.
I again vigorously asked that it be sent UPS.  Upon calling the next day I was told it went out regular mail
but would be in Houston no later then Friday, September 3rd.  Needless to say, no package on the 3rd or the 4th or to this day.

Calling every day to check to see if they, the mail service, had found the package in Laredo or San Miguel, it was apparent after my last phone call with the owner on September 14th - three weeks later - that something that I had protected for all these years is gone. 

To tell you that I have had many sleepless nights and a few times of crying over this would be an understatement.  I'm crushed for my grandson who received no gift on his birthday.  But, more then that,
the fact that the photos of him and all the special photos of he and his mother are gone.  Poof.

Luckily I did photograph the pages of the book before mailing it, but of course, I should have scanned each photo as well.  Unfortunately it did not happen.

Here are the photos.  Many have very special meaning as well as being a photograph.  When Christopher
looks at these, I want to be able to tell him the circumstances of the photos when he was little, little.  No,
this method is not ideal but at least there is this.

This was the FIRST time in all these years in San Miguel that I mailed a package North.  I've always given things like this to someone who was responsible, that I knew well and knew they would make sure the package was mailed properly.  My granddaughters, Jessica and Hannah received their albums on their eighteenth birthday because of the kindness of friends.  The lesson I've learned from this is - always depend on the kindness of friends and not the mail service in San Miguel.  Of course I still wonder where this lost "precious package" is sitting. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'm With Her - Hillary Rodham Clinton!

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that this is not a site for rants and ravings.  It is not a site of negativity or something to take you down for the day.  My thought has always been that you can get that
somewhere else.

Hence, there have not been any or maybe one, political post.  Here is the second. 

Having been raised a staunch Democrat, it has not been easy.  Especially when we moved from Chicago when I was a child to north Louisiana at the age of 10.  Oh my, we were pariahs.  We were Democrats,
Catholics, from the North and my Dad was in the beer business.  There were kids who could not play with
me!  Seriously.

It did not get any better when we moved to Baton Rouge for a few years or even when I finished high school in Alexandria.  Nope, politics was not a topic of discussion.  To say I was in the minority would be an understatement.

However, at the age of 28 when we moved to Houston, it was a pleasant surprise to find an open, liberal attitude toward politics and life.  Very refreshing. 

One could have a civil discussion about candidates, about voting, about who you supported without threats.
It caused me to get involved in the local and national political events in Houston.  After all, those were the
days of Molly Ivins, LBJ, Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan.

Sadly, those days passed and the scene in Texas has been dismal.  Houston has always remained liberal as has Austin, but statewide it has been a major embarrassment during the Perry era and now with Abbott.
Don't get me started.......

After recently reading a book on the beginnings of Hitler and then the activities of his "campaign", the Brownshirts and how the people reacted in fear by not confronting the situation for fear of retaliation which happened often, I decided it was important to speak out about the current situation.

To say I find it abhorrent would be an understatement.  It would be impossible to tell you how often a speech has been on TV that I was watching that caused me to sit and shake my head.  So much of it reminds me of
things said and done racially back in the 50's and 60's in Louisiana and Mississippi about African Americans.  Now it is about Hispanics, Muslims and mostly anyone who is not a WASP - a White Anglo Saxon Protestant....male. 

So, today, for what it is worth, it is important for me to say that I support Hillary Clinton.  It's not a snap judgement.  I've kept up with her and her work for others since she worked for the Children'' Defense Fund.  I read a book during the time of her husband's governorship written by a Pulitzer Prize writer that told a lot about her and her work for others.  As Secretary of State, I did not always agree with stances that were taken but admiration and support always won out.  Her work with both sides of the aisle as NY Senator showed her working style better then anything, I thought.  Always, always, with dignity.

It feels now and always has that I understood her core.  She's from the Midwest where your work and your integrity were paramount.  If you said you were going to do something, by golly, you did it - sick or not.
You always had a sense of need to do for others, first and foremost, be they family or fellow citizens.

You see, I was raised the same way.  We could not sleep late.  We had to be responsible for our room, our actions and for how we treated others.  The Golden Rule was THE rule.  We were expected to give back to the community as well as our family.  It has been my path.

Even the "sick" thing this weekend made me smile, sort of.  An example of my behavior is that once I was working on a hotel design project.  Needed to fly to El Paso to meet with a vendor, even though I was so sick that I was afraid my ears would explode on the plane, BUT I plodded forward.  The meeting was held and by the end of that day I was so sick, that the vendor had to drive me to my hotel where I spent two days in bed sicker then a dog.  During those two days all I could think of was the work that needed to be done.  That is just one example of many where I put myself last, while family and work came first.

That is not my lifestyle any longer.  But I certainly can understand Hillary's story. 

I was beyond proud the day that Obama was elected the first time and cried with joy.  I was astounded and thrilled at his second election.  I sincerely hope that our country makes the right move on election day in 2016 and elects a woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton as President of the USA.  I have great faith in the "silent majority".

It would be a day that would be a culmination for all of us women who have quietly worked to make life better for our daughters and granddaughters along with our sons and grandsons and all of the World!

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Mexican Embrace

There are never two days alike in San Miguel.  Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, without watch or earrings on, I decided to head to the jardin for a little "bench" time.  Sitting on the bench always reminds
me of why I moved to Mexico.

As usual, as I came around the corner to the jardin, "something" was going on.  There was music, flowers, officials and uniformed kids with musical instruments standing at attention.  Everything usually ends with

Here are a few snapshots that I took as I strolled by.

Initially I had no idea what this little ceremony was about.  Two huge wreaths were laying against the bandstand so it was, I assumed, probably somewhat important. 

A friend walked by and said it had to do with the death of the children in Chapultepec Park eons ago
during a battle.  Sorry, I know there is a specific name for this event, but I did not do the research to
put it in the post.

What always touches me though is how they honor these events with officials, sometimes, but always the
children and the children who play music. 

As the speeches ended and the dignitaries exited, the wreaths were picked up and they all paraded around the jardin, leaving the wreaths at a former home in centro.

Photographing some of the children made me stifle a chuckle.  Some were very attentive, but the little guy below, who had his hat on backwards and who had more then a few looks from his instructor, looked like
he wanted nothing more then to escape and go play somewhere.

After the "event" was over, and, as I did my bench time, the "embrace" began.  A Mexican man who once worked for me came by and talked for a while.  Then, a friend who was heading to Guatemala stopped by
to chat and talk about her trip.  Another friend came over to tell me after all these years of only spending
a few months a year here, she had finally sold her home in Florida and is now here full time. 

Then a man, who I did not know, sat down and the three of us talked about various subjects such as ear plugs, traveling in Wales, the heat of Florida, where else to live in Mexico along with a myriad of other subjects. 

My point is, that one never, ever, needs to be lonely or not connected to the community of San Miguel or Mexico.  One is embraced in many ways that might seem insignificant, but which truly, truly enhance and enrich one in  life.  There is no disconnect in Mexico, it seems to me. 

I call this  "The Mexican Embrace".

Saturday, September 03, 2016

A "little" Adventure in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The microwave died in the guest house last week.  The current tenant only uses it to heat her coffee in the morning, but I realize it would be an aggravation to have to pour it in a pan to heat off I went
to look for a new microwave on Monday.  At La Comer, they were big and expensive.  Check.

You see in Mexico, unlike the USA, there is not a place on every corner or strip malls or Target.  Here we go to the grocery store to see what appliances might be available. 

Since La Comer (previously called Mega) did not have what was needed, the next day I went off to Bodega Aurrerea which is the low end of Walmart.

This is what greeted me.  A "wall" of shopping carts protecting the newly striped area of the parking lot.  There was a tiny place close to the tree to pass through.  It made me smile to myself because it was an
effective way to keep people from driving on the stripes without orange cones.  The ingenuity of the people of Mexico always delights me.

Inside the store I found a Daewoo that was the right size and right price of microwave. Making sure to get a box that had not been open and then finding someone to get it into the cart was the beginning of the adventure.  Mission accomplished.  Microwave checked out and paid for.  Now to get the thing loaded
in the car.

The only person I saw who could possibly assist me in this transaction was a man sweeping the parking lot.
I asked if he could help me and he came over to do so.  The only change I had for a tip was 20 pesos which
is about one US dollar and I gave it to him.  The broad smile and look of disbelief on his face stayed with me
all the way home.

Then of course, getting the thing up a flight of stairs and into the guest house was the next hurdle.  Luckily, Javier the gardener was here.  He lifted and transported the box into the guest house and I hooked the thing up to make sure it worked.  Well, I thought it did............

A couple of days later I found out that, in fact, it did not work.  The door would not stay closed and it would not turn on.  Oy vey!  The box had not been saved........a BIG deal in Mexico!  In the past when I have needed to return anything, if the original packaging was not brought, it was a "No Deal" as to a return, even with the receipt of purchase.

No words can describe how I dreaded taking the microwave back to the store yesterday.  I was braced for disappointment and frustration.  I fully expected to have to buy a whole other microwave for just a little less
then $100USD!

In I went to the Service Desk.  Of course no one speaks English which always makes me nervous that my Spanish will not stand up to the test.  In fact, usually I practice in my mind what I'm going to say before I get
there and what they are possibly going to say in return.  I was ready. 

The girl behind the counter understood my Spanish, thankfully, and called for someone to come to help me get the microwave out of the back of my car.......without a box, of course.  Out came the man who I had seen a few days prior.  When he saw me, again, he grinned and greeted me with a big smile.  Turns out he spoke some English!

The saga continues with a young man from the Electronics Dept coming to stand and look at the microwave and leaving.  No, he did not plug it in to prove that it didn't work.  He just left.  Then I asked if there was a
manager.  Ahhh,  a "jefe" to help.  And, voila, eventually, the manager of the store, Bruno, appeared and could speak some English.  He listened intently, as we spoke in English and Spanish.  He called the young man who had disappeared previously to come.  He told him to get a new microwave in a box and to check it in the store before I took it home.  (All of this was in Spanish, but, amazingly, I understood it all). 

This happened!  It was brought, checked, and loaded in my car without anything else needing to be done.

Driving home, after this little adventure, I was relieved, happy and realized that Customer Service has finally come to Mexico!

Another "little" adventure has been successfully completed.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jennifer's Garden - Then and Now

Gardening has always been a cathartic exercise for me.  It brings peace and tranquility for hours at a time.  The world just fades away.

Even though I can no longer get down on my knees to dig and move in the garden, I can still move plants and plan the space.  Javier, the gardener is my helper in these endeavors now.  I move the plants to exactly where I want them and he digs the holes and plants them for me.

But, back in 2004, shortly after my daughter passed on, one of the main gardens on the property became an obsession and filling it with the flowers that my daughter had loved became the aim of the project.  There was no Javier back then.  Just me, the dirt and the plants for hours on end.

Planted at that time were butterfly lilies, azaleas and various annuals to add a bit of color.  The butterfly lilies
bloomed a lot.  Not so much though, did the rest of the plants.  The rather small at the time aloevera bloom
in October with huge spikes that the butterflies love.  They have grown and bloomed without any help from me or anyone else.

Everything had doubled and tripled in size.  It was time to prune, move and redesign.  It helps for me to do this during the rainy season.  The dirt is easier to dislodge and the new plants have a better chance of settling in with plenty of rain before the dry season is upon us.

Here's a "before" photo of the garden two weeks ago.  Okay, but no symmetry or organization.  Still it was a place that I liked to sit to drink coffee and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds swooping and darting, especially in the early morning.
Everything was removed except for the monster aloeveras in the back!  But they form a nice backdrop and
a divider for another private garden behind them!

All the butterfly lilies were grouped together in front of the aloes.  The azaleas that were kind of lost in all the foliage are now grouped together at each end of the lilies. Plants that bloom only once a year with light purple blooms now surround the little boy statue.  Everything in the garden now is in shades of white, lavender and purple.  A nod to Jennifer's favorite colors.  Previously it was all in whites.

Here is the redesigned garden.

Interestingly, in the past the shape of the stone retaining wall was not much of a feature.  Now it really stands out as do all the different flowers.  (You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail, if you wish)

Now, this has just been planted and it will fill in in a couple of months so the dirt is not so noticeable.  But I love the mixture of the hydrangeas, daisies, lavender and pansies.  I don't know what the more intense purple plant is in the back near the hydrangeas, but I do like the texture and color of it.

Of course, not only is the little boy statuary in the flower bed.  He's been part of my life for about twenty-five years, but also a few cantera angels are peeking out from here and there.

Since completion last week, I cannot begin to tell you how much joy and happiness this little change of plants and flowers has brought to me and others.  Just to give you an idea of how inexpensive plants are in Mexico, all the purchases did not even add up to $50USD. Close to fifty new plants were planted.

It truly is the little things in life that bring much joy!