Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Before They Pass Away!

On Sunday evening on CNN, of all stations, there was a semi-documentary about a man traveling to places that are difficult to reach.  Because of that difficulty, in many instances, the indigenous are left alone to live the lives with the customs from "forever before".

The man commentating on this segment was Bill Weir.  The man with him was the photographer Jimmy Nelson who has made it his mission in life to document the indigenous tribes of the world in their best ceremonious ways for posterity.

On this segment they had traveled to remote islands of Vanuato.  Traveling by plane, then boat and then planchas or dug out canoes, they reached some tribes that I have never heard of or seen.

I too have always been entranced by the indigenous of the world.  I've read whatever I could get my hands on.  Along with that I have traveled throughout Mexico and Guatemala and even the USA to see tribal ceremonies.  At some of these ceremonies there have been only a handful of spectators.  One near Durango, Colorado comes to mind.  I sat in a tall grass field for hours and hours and hours.  It was mesmerizing.

This series on Sunday talked with some of the people who were the tribesmen and women of the various areas.  The question relayed at one point, as they talked about how tourism will change their life, was  what will you do with all the money that you make.  One man wanted solar panels.  Another wanted a freezer to
keep all the fish they catch.  They all said they would use the money for the collective good of the inhabitants of their area.

The book that Jimmy Nelson has had published from his worldwide travels is called "Before They Pass Away".  Amazon has it for a price slightly over $100USD.  Doubtful I'll be able to afford that, but still its
so wonderful that those traditions and ceremonies have been documented.

In my forty years of traveling around Mexico, I've seen many traditions fall by the wayside in favor of changing them to attract more tourists and therefore more money to help impoverished villages.  It makes
me sad.  I could tell you story after story after story of traditions that no longer exist.

In fact, right here in San Miguel in the last few years, I've seen a change in the tradition of the Day of the Dead.  It is one of the most spiritual and solemn ceremonies in other places in Mexico.  But, here in San Miguel, since they turned it into a La Calaca Festival, it has become something for tourists, not the solemn spiritual tradition.  In fact, they have even introduced the giving of candy to the children in the jardin.  Do they not realize that Halloween has nothing to do with Day of the Dead?  Now adults dress up as skeletons and parade and carouse. The whole thing is a distortion for the benefit of tourism.  How sad since the traditional ceremonies that you see at the cemeteries in and around Patzcuaro, just to name one place, are so authentically spiritual and beautiful that they give one so much more to take home in their hearts and memories.

So thanks to Bill Weir for this new series and especially to Jimmy Nelson who had the forethought to begin his quest of photographing for posterity a long time ago.

I'm grateful that I have seen the ceremonies that I have as well.  Heading to Chiapas next week and hope to be able to photograph and visit with the Lacondon in their area of the jungles that they call their home. They are still nomadic as are the Tarahumara and Huichols, among others.

"Before They Pass Away" can be reviewed on Amazon.  Enjoy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Need to Check The Weather!

All one has to do is be in the jardin on the days that the charity, Patronato Pro Ninos does walking tours and the size of the congregation of tourists will tell you how bad the weather is up north!

This year we have been inundated with tourists.  Those that come from Canada usually come January through March.  This year, however, we are getting more short term tourists just trying to get out of
the frozen tundra called the USA.

In the above photo the group was so large I could not get all of them.  They numbered about forty people or more.At other times of the year the gathering is usually much less then ten.

The money raised from these tours funds programs for healthcare in the campo for the children. It is a wonderful and good cause.  You can put Patronato Pro Ninos in your search engine if you want to know more about the program.

But, back to the tourists.  Yesterday morning I went to meet a friend for breakfast at Cafe Monet, my favorite breakfast place.  The best oatmeal I've ever had anywhere.  The place was packed with people at 9AM.  Sheesh.  Luckily my friend had arrived earlier and gotten a table.  Even when we left an hour later it was still packed.

I asked my usual question of the owner.  Who are all these people?  And he replied, "Snowbirds".  Wow.

Of course, come April 1st, the great sucking sound will happen as it does each year.  The rental properties, of which there are many, will empty out.  The restaurants will have servers standing at the doors looking for customers, the number of cars on the streets will diminish greatly and those of us who live here full-time will say "Aaaah".  The "high season" will have ended.

We will return to village life with empty benches, empty restaurants and few participants for the walking tours.

It doesn't last for long.  By mid-June, the "sweatbirds" will start arriving and they stay til mid - August.  Then again we have no one sitting on the wall until mid September.

With temperatures here now in the low 80's and humidity in the low to mid 20%, people arrive and start grinning.  They find it hard to believe.  

Yes, if one wants to know the weather North of the Border, just check out the wall in front of the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende.  I find it very humorous.  What about you?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last Week Was "Birthday" Week!

It was a week of activities getting ready for Matilda's birthday parties last week.  What with wrapping, baking, picking up, dropping off and the parties, it was a chunk of GRAND times and sweet memories.

Matilda got a lifesize Barbie doll.  Sebastian has decided that he is married to that Barbie.  His comments
are hilarious and precious about "his Barbie".  At five, you wonder where they get these ideas.

So, on Saturday off we went to the skating rink/playground/bowling alley.  The place had just opened the week before and already it had held three children's birthday parties!  Yup, it's going to be a success.

The bowling alley was full of people as well!

As the kids arrived, first they played in the playground area with a slide that was about three stories high.
I would have been afraid to go down it, but the kids were fearless.  With lots of jungle gym things to climb on and play on, a good time was had by all.

Then it was time to eat.  Pizza, fruit juice and the cake was saved for last.

Off to get skates, helmets, arm and leg pads, they went with glee.  Parents and grandparents helped to outfit the kids to minimize any falls.   I watched.  Nope, I didn't skate or even go out on the floor.

Here are some cute photos of the kids with their dad.  By the end of the skating period, they were doing pretty good.  A few more times and they'll be whizzing around!  Aaah, I remember those days of skating and dance skating with my big brother.  What fun!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nectar...........a.wonderfully delicious dining experience.

On Friday, for lunch, a group of us gathered at Nectar on Correo, inside Camino Silvestre'.  After having had lunch there the week before and been duly impressed, when everyone wanted to know where to go,
I suggested Nectar.  It is in a little courtyard with hummingbirds zipping from hummingbird feeder to hummingbird feeder.  Quite an enchanting experience.  Camino Silvestre' sells decorative hummingbird feeders worldwide, wholesale and retail.

Not only was the food delicious, but the friends and conversation were magnificent.
 Here is the Nectar salad with goat cheese along with carrot soup with ginger and slivered almonds.  Oh my.
                             A salmon sandwich with seasoned new potatoes on delicious bread. To  drink all                                                           kinds of  flavored teas or traditional drinks.
                                                                   Seasoned tomato soup.

Identifying left to right, Angie, who has lived in San Miguel for 20 years.  She came from Haiti prior to that and is an artist of international repute.   Jennifer who now lives in Seoul, South Korea but still owns a house here in San Miguel.  Carolyn who has a place here, but also a home in Nashville, Tenn where she comes from.  Carolyn had an antique mall in Nashville for a very long time.  Here in San Miguel she handles estate sales and just enjoys life.  Lastly is me with that happy and grateful expression to be part of the group.

Conversation centered around Jennifer as she left on Saturday to return to Seoul.  It was fascinating to hear about South Korea, their customs, culture, business climate and the fact that there are 25 million people in Seoul!  Who knew?  Prior to being involved with a treaty group of 38 countries in Seoul, Jennifer was in Mongolia with Mercy Corp.  As we all sat and talked, it occurred to me that at Jennifer's age, 52, the life experiences and opportunities she has experienced would not have been imaginable to my generation in the 60's or 70's.  How wonderful that she is having these amazing career opportunities and life experiences.

In addition, the fact that I know so many interesting, intriguing people here in San Miguel certainly livens up
my life.  What a life!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Matilda Isabella's Seventh Birthday

Now that Matilda Isabella, my youngest granddaughter, has turned seven on Thursday, it seems that the parties last several days.

Thursday, THE day, she had a little party at her school.  Then that evening, off to Pollo Feliz we went since that is where Sebastian and Matilda wanted to go.  The reason, of course, is not the food, but the play area!
Smart company.

The mix of customers is very interesting.  Lots of business people in suits!  Suits are unusual to see in San Miguel.  Large families eating together and we were the only small birthday party for a child, even though there were other children in the restaurant.

The last time we were there was for my son's birthday.  We ate, we had cake that I brought and that was that.

NOT this time!  I did bring an angel food cake with whipped cream frosting that I made for Matilda.  It
was a family tradition when I was growing up in my family.  Then it became a tradition for my children.
The little girl statue that is put in the middle of the cake must be 60 plus years old!  I also have a little boy
one that will be used for Sebastian next year.

We ate chicken, salad and fries.  I was seated looking out the windows so couldn't see what was happening behind me.  Imagine all of our surprise when we were swarmed  with boas, beads, hats and a frame!
 I didn't know what to think.  You can tell by the faces of the kids that they LOVED it!  Even their dad did too.
 The manager was there to make sure that all went well.  He even had a candle and a match to light  for the birthday cake!
                                           Matilda wanted a photo of the two of us together.  FUN!

 Then the manager put this frame in front of us while the staff sang Happy Birthday or Feliz Cumpleanos actually.  It was something I had never experienced before - the frame and the knocking it on the table!
While everyone was singing, including the manager, he was also encouraging Matilda to stick her face into
her piece of cake and whip cream.  She did with gusto!  That too is a tradition, I'm told.  Hmmmm.

The whole thing was surprising, fun and unique.  The kids sure had fun.

Today, Saturday, there is a roller skating party at the new facility that I wrote about a couple of days ago.

I left after the kids had played in the big play area for about an hour and eaten pizza.  They were attempting to roller skate when I left.  I presume by now gifts are being opened and another cake, Tres Leche, is being eaten by all the kids and parents.

I'll write more about that later with photos.  Whew, if there is this much going on at seven, can you imagine all the excitement at seventeen?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In my wildest imaginings, I would NOT have thought of this!

An invitation last week came for a "soft opening" of a new business in San Miguel.  It was a great surprise!

In my wildest imaginings, I would not have thought of the possibility of this business opening in San Miguel.
Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, yes, but San Miguel, no.

What is it?  Take a look!
                                                              A multi-lane bowling alley!
                                                               Great new equipment!
                                                         A play area for the littlest of kids!
                                                         AND, a roller skating rink!

A trifecta of fun for kids of all ages, even my age.  It has opened at the Luciergna Mall on the outskirts of town.  It is located at the end by Soriana and the Consulate office.  It is called 300Bowling.  For further
information and to speak to the manager, call Adriana at 044 415-101-0411. 

The designer of the interior space was Paco Rosendo.  I was impressed with his choice of colors and finishes.

I'll be there Saturday for Matilda's Seventh Birthday party.  I'm sure I'll be posting more photos with people roller skating or possibly bowling as well.  Note:  You will NOT see me roller skating.  Those days are over.

But, as a kid in Chicago, when my parents and big brother and sister were avid bowlers, I went to the bowling alley with them from time to time.  It might be fun to see if I can still get a ball straight down an alley....and not fall over.

Only time will tell.  In my humble opinion, although I would never have thought of this in San Miguel, it will be a very fun thing to have available here.  It seems it will be a "slam dunk" or "rolling good time" success. Congrats to the people who came up with the ideas.

See you there. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February - A Schizophrenic Month

In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the town referred to as the place with "eternal spring", often, that is not quite true.

To me, the chilliness begins in October with one or two dips toward the 30's at night but warm during the day.  Then November the same might happen.  We ALL know that December and January can be nippy to
put it mildly.

Many of us leave and head for the beach the month of January to save us from cold hands and frost tipped noses.  Temps can dip down to 26, 27 or 30 at night.  That's okay if it is sunny the following day to warm up
the stone walled houses.  If not, it is multi-layered clothing until the next day when the sun usually is out.

I try to leave as often as I can in January.  This year that didn't happen.  I contented myself with the pipe dream that it would turn warm on February 1, as it has sometimes in the past.

More often however, the weather the first week or so of February can be dicey.  Candelaria happens and the vendors sleep under their tables at night!  I've often, over the years, felt so sorry for them when the inevitable rain comes for a night or two.

Back in 2010, I documented the rain of all rains for five straight days the first part of February.  I wrote about it in a blog on February 5, 2010.  Here are the photos.

Now we haven't had that much rain since last Thursday when our cloudy skies and off and on rain began, but it was kinda miserable.  Not feeling well on Thursday or Friday, I finally succumbed to closing the drapes and ignoring the world.  It worked.  Finally on Sunday a tad of sun appeared.

That photo of the abandoned hotel in the second photo was a project begun in 1982 by Club Med to have a facility in San Miguel for people to visit archaeological sites in this part of Mexico!  Quite forward thinking, as the Pyramid at Canada did not even begin to be explored until the early to mid 2000's.  There are several other pyramids to explore over near Irapuato and north of here now that are open to the public.

Club Med stopped construction in 1983 and now our very own ruin sits there disintegrating bit by bit, year after year as the water flows through in our not very frequent floods.

This second photograph was so amazing that people from all over town came to stand on the cliff in awe and amazement.  I too was awed and amazed.

Most of us who have lived here for a long time know not to even think to attempt to have an outdoor event in February because of this schizophrenic weather.  Some years its perfect, but when it isn't, it REALLY isn't!

Sadly that is what happened last week at the Writer's Conference where at least 75% of the activities were in tents on the grounds or on the grounds themselves.  It certainly dampened the spirits, I'm sure (pardon the pun).

Today as I write this, I turn and look out the window at not azure blue skies, but no clouds, thankfully.   We all hope the weird weather is over and the warmth is returning.

Forecast for the next ten days is in the high 70's to mid 80's.

Bring it on!