Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Changing Times in Colonia Azteca

There is a great advantage to living in a small colonia on a hillside away from the hustle bustle of the town's centro and the exhaust fumes from buses.  Having done the hustle bustle before I moved here and breathing in the exhaust fumes from the buses was one of the main reasons that when I found a place to live in this
little known area that I jumped at the chance, over sixteen years ago.

Not much happens in this colonia other then the primary and kindergarten kids coming to school day in and day out.  They are well behaved kids.  The only sound heard from either school is at recess and after school.
It is not enough noise to bother anyone.

Recently, there are some boys at the primary school practicing their ability to play horns and drums.  I chuckle every time because it is so bad.  Wondering how long it will take for them to be synchronized.

At the kindergarten the only sound is the children singing.  Every now and then I recognize a U.S. song
such as the Monster Mash sung in Spanish and again, I chuckle.

Back in the beginning when I moved here, the excitement of the day was when the shepherd who was
crippled and walked with a cane would bring the goats up from the canyon about 5PM. At
first they would all stay together until they got near my house and then pandemonium took over as they
would rush to see who could eat the most flowers on my wall.  This sent the shepherd into apoplexy
as he tried, sometimes in vain, to gather them and herd them into the house down the hill by the motorcycle
shop where they spent the night and were milked until the next day.

I LIKE the peace and serenity along with the simple routine.

That ended a few months ago when it was announced that the area outside my living room and dining room windows along the canyon ridge was going to be developed into a plaza.  Not much information but one trusts that they know what they are doing.

The motorcycle parking lot has disappeared - not a great loss as it was a terrible eyesore among all the natural beauty.  However, all the wildflowers and trees were all bulldozed down as well along the ridge.  Never did any of us imagine that the side of the mountain was going to disappear as well!  There has been a bulldozer and more dump trucks then I could count for a month out there loading rock and dirt which is then hauled off to who knows where.  Astounding to me, as I would assume this canyon probably has been here since the beginning of time or at least a very long time.  I know the aqueduct and the little stone building go back to the 17th century when the canyon floor was an area for tanning.  Tomorrow I will provide photos of what has happened so far.........

On another front, there is a new principal at the primary school.  To say that she is whipping the building into shape would be an understatement.  It had looked tired and worn, but now it is sparkling and much, much safer for the children.  The old rickety iron grilled stairs from one level to another have been replaced with an angled ramp.  All the interior walls have been painted as well as the outside walls.

Just last week an incredibly talented artist who does murals with spray paint began a mural for the school's namesake.  Montes de Oca.  Here is the mural in various stages until it was finished yesterday morning just in time for a big celebration honoring the mural and the school.

 This wall is ready for another patriotic mural.  Mexicans have very great civic pride in their history.
 Here is the muralist working on refining the faces of the boys who died at Chapultepec defending their country.
 Luckily as I was taking photographs, it was my great pleasure to meet the new Principal, Nancy.  She had come out to check on the progress. 
                                                         The finished mural
 And, the celebration with tubas and horns and drums playing in honor of the completion of the updating of their school.   That is one of the childrens'playground areas.  Those trees in the foreground were little bitty
sickly looking trees when I moved in.  It was astonishing yesterday to see how much they have grown over the years.

Our colonia is changing and growing.  It is still a wondrous place to live.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Angel Food

Something happened Sunday morning that got me to thinking about many things.  The first was some memories of my Mom.  I'll elaborate in a minute about that.  It also got me to thinking about how naive
children can be.  And, lastly about how little things that happen in childhood can have such an impact on
a child.  Totally unbeknownst to all the adults around......

Up early on Sunday, as I began to bake an angel food cake, suddenly, the memories of my mother doing this very thing flooded my memory.  Many details - how she had to break thirteen eggs, then separate the yolk from the white part because you only used the white part in the cake.  Imagine trying to do that thirteen times.  I bet it took fifteen or sixteen eggs to accomplish the first part of this endeavor.  Back in those days, "mumblesomething" years ago, there was no such thing as cake mixes.  Everything was made from scratch.

The fun part of these memories is that Mom only made angel food cake if it was a really special event, like someone's birthday.  It was a rare treat.  Therefore, I guess I watched intently at least ten times, if not more in my life.  At the end, after the cake is mixed and baked, it needs to be inverted on a coke bottle or some kind of a glass bottle that will fit in the hole of the center of the pan.  Back in those days that was not a problem.  Today it is a problem as I discovered since I had NO glass bottle and had to rig up a
totally different system.  I do remember, vividly, the time Mother went to flip the cake over onto the bottle and the whole thing, somehow, came flying out of the pan!  Oh what a mess.  To this day, I have no idea how Mom managed to recapture or rebuild the cake or what, however, we did have Angel food cake that next day.

The other memories that came flooding in as I thought about angel food was Sister Barbara.  So help me, that was her name!  She was the nun in my third grade class at St. Henry's in Chicago.  I even remember the day that changed my life forever.  Sister Barbara was talking to another nun about what she ate for breakfast and she said that she had had Cheerios for breakfast.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  Real food?  What?
Truly it was a momentous event. 

Rushing home that afternoon, I confronted my Mom about what had happened that day.  In shock and awe, I shared with her the whole episode.  She probably was trying hard not to burst out laughing.  My whole life I had thought that nuns and priests, did not eat human food.  How naive...........Today it certainly occurs to me that children are not as naive as we were in my generation. 

It was the generation when TV had just begun and the only shows that I remember were nothing educational.

That day where I learned that nuns and priests did not eat angel food marked a day that my naivete took a hit and it is still imprinted in my psyche as the day that reality caused me to start questioning many things.

ALL these thoughts went through my brain on early Sunday morning while I was baking a birthday cake for Matilda for her ninth birthday. The frosting is whip cream with food coloring so it is her favorite color, pink.  The little girl on the cake is about seventy years old!  It was used on my cake and then on the cakes of my daughters and granddaughters any time I made the cake.

Here's a photo of us singing Happy Birthday to Mati.  Notice Sebastian with the maracas adding a little musicality to the song.

Life is definitely an adventure, isn't it?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Epiphany of Sorts

Seldom do I ever use the word "writer" to describe myself because I have never thought that I am that person.  I hem and haw about the fact that I write a blog in a somewhat apologetic way as though it is not
a serious endeavor and does not have much meaning other then enlightenment about Mexico and humor at

Whoa.  Yesterday at the San Miguel Literary Festival and Writer's Conference, the Keynote Speaker was
Mary Karr.  She is a writer that is a joy to read.  Not only her fiction/non-fiction but her poetry as well.

Her accomplishments and accolades are far reaching.  This from a girl who grew up in East Texas in one
of the most dysfunctional families that I have ever read about.  She now lives in NYC and is and has been
a Professor at Syracuse University for a long time.

Remembering reading Liar's Club twenty or so years ago was a seminal moment for me.  It was written as a Texan with all the crazy names and situations that only seem to happen in Texas.  Extremely humorous in parts.

She spoke of those things yesterday as she teaches memoir writing among other things at the University.
The more she talked, the more I realized that the blog is a form of a memoir for me.  Now, there ARE some things that at this point in my life still cannot be written about, but even this morning I'm thunderstruck to
realize that for the last ten years this blog has been a legacy of sorts to my children and grandchildren.

It is so darn much fun to sit down and write that it has not been something that has been a serious endeavor.
Not sure if that will change, but it will sure be something that will be written with more care in the future, maybe, ha.

The conference was packed to hear Mary.  She did not disappoint with her humor and Texas colloquialisms.
What a character!

Last evening the speaker was Judy Collins, the singer, activist and amazing woman.  I had a ticket but did not
get there.  I heard that the entire room sang Amazing Grace with her.  Can you imagine how moving that was
for all that were there?  Sorry I missed it.

Tonight is Billy Collins, poet and former Poet Laureate of the United States.  Yes, I have a ticket and hope to be there.

The conference goes on until Sunday evening when Naomi Klein is the final speaker.  There are workshops and all kinds of other activities going on this whole week.  Some are open to the public.  It was astonishing yesterday to discover how many people had come from foreign countries besides the USA and Canada.
Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, England and others to just name a few.  This twelve year old conference is growing by leaps and bounds.

Congratulations go out to Susan Page and her staff and all the volunteers who work all year to make this event the only multilingual writers conference in the Americas!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Traveling the Roads of Mexico

It will be two weeks tomorrow since I made the drive back from my "home away from home" each year when the weather is cold in San Miguel.
 One of my favorite views from the house that I stay at are the fishermen who come every single morning to the Bay of Cuastecomate to check their nets and pull in the fresh fish to sell that day on the shore in Melaque.  You could set your watch by what time they arrive.  It is usually 8:15AM and they place the nets the previous evening before sunset.  A long work day for them, but a beautiful sight for me.......
I've been so lucky many times to have the right wing of this house to stay in and to enjoy the large palapa where I can sit and lounge or eat and enjoy all the activities in the bay as well as farther out in the ocean.

That is where all my whale sightings have happened in the past.  Yes, I'm a lucky lady to have a good friend
who enjoys my company for about a month every year.  He and I have been platonic friends for almost forty  years.  The best kind of friend to have in your life.

Usually I pine for the beach when I return to San Miguel, but, not this year.  I had a wonderful month and was ready to come home.  The weather has been so exceptional that it has been possible to have the doors open since it has been in the 80's until the sun goes down.  Joyful.

Here are a few more photos of my month at the beach or my drive back home.

 On January 6th while staying La Manzanilla, many groups of Mexican families were celebrating Three Kings Day.  That holiday is a big deal in Mexico.  School, from the Christmas break, starts right after that so the families who have spent their holiday at the beach pack up after this day and head home. 
 Here were some tourist kids playing on the beach.  It reminded me so much of all the times my children and grandchildren played in the sand in Galveston.  Many many years worth of fun.
 Usually as I pass the Volcano of Fire in Colima, the sky is not clear nor is it blue!  In fact this volcano spewed many times in December and people had to be evacuated and air quality from ash and who knows what was not good.  Usually there is a little cloud right over the opening.  Truly, I was amazed to see the sky so clear on the last day of January as I drove by this immense volcano.  There is a webcam of the volcano if you're interested in watching it when it blows.  Just google it for the website address.
 As always, the Pilgrims heading to San Juan de los Lagos were walking beside the road from all over Mexico.  Estimates are about two million people make this pilgrimage every year.  A little information that
I found out that I did not know is that the Virgen is prayed to for dangerous illnesses or when someone is in mortal danger.  A couple of other interesting bits of information is that there are six artworks in the Basilica in the town by Rubens.  They are behind the main altar.  And, the first miracle attributed to the small statue occurred in 1632! 
 Seven to nine MILLION pilgrims, or peregrinos as they are called in Mexico, make the trip to this site annually.
Truly, I am always humbled by their devotion and dedication along with their persistence and long walks to live their religion.  These last two photos were taken not that far from San Miguel near Celaya.  I had been driving for over three hours at 80 MPH when I spotted these groups as I pulled off the highway onto a smaller road to SMA.  Can you imagine doing this?  I cannot.

One never knows when you get on the highways of Mexico what sights you will see.  I'm NEVER disappointed.  I wish that everyone could drive through Mexico and see all the diversity of the terrain and all the sights that I have experienced.  This country and its people are a treasure.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

El Tecuan - The Abandoned Paradise

One Saturday while staying in La Manzanilla, I decided to drive around Tenacatita Bay to see what had happened at Tenacatita since my last visit there.  A few years ago there was a "land grab" by a wealthy and prominent attorney from Guadalajara.  At that time, he not only bulldozed all the existing palapa restaurants, but also the homes that had been built by Canadians and Mexican nationals.  A few hotels were lost in that massacre as well.  Then he fenced the whole area with chain link fencing and posted guards!

I had driven down there shortly after when the guards were there but one had to leave your drivers license in order to go to the beach and so I went no further and left.

None of that is there now.  The fencing is gone, but a few wandering guards, both private and for the government to oversee the private guards wander around, listlessly.  No one approached me or my friends
who rode along with me.

Along for the ride was a delightful couple that I had recently met from Oregon.  Recent retirees from teaching school, they were intrepid travelers and open for a mini-adventure.
Julie and I at the beach at Tenacatita.  Notice, no buildings, no restaurants, no banos - nada, sadly.

After we took more photos and wandered around, I asked them if they would be interested in going further down the road to a place that I have wanted to check out called Tecuan.  They said, off we

El Tecuan is about 9 kilometers off of Hwy 200.  The road has been in disuse for the last eight years since the owner, General Barragan died.  The road, the buildings, the airstrip are all in a great state of decay and destruction.  Onward we went, however, on the road heading toward the beach until we came to a fence
and a guard shack.

We asked to enter and were told "No", that it was private property - all 900 hectares of it.  The guards were very polite and seemed apologetic to say no.

I, of course, am driving my old Pathfinder with the Texas license plates.  As I began to turn the car around, I leaned out my window and said I was so disappointed as I had come all the way from Texas to see this beach.

Never did it occur to me that this would have an impact on the guards.  And, as I turned, one talked to the other and voila, they waved us on in and said we could stay in there til 6PM.  It was now about 1:30PM or so.  Woo hoo, off we went after thanking them profusely.

Oh my, it was an undisturbed paradise of mango trees, freshwater ponds, cattle, all kinds of unknown and exotic birds along with a tarantula the size of a bread plate that was walking across the road in front of our car.

We continued to drive until we got to the ocean.  Off to our left was the former thirty-eight room hotel, tennis courts and swimming no way usable built in the 50s or 60s. 

It seems from what information I've been able to find that General Barragan was rewarded by the President of Mexico in the 1950's for distinguished service in the military with this magnificent piece of land.  When the General passed on, his son inherited the property and had no interest in maintaining or doing anything with it but to use part of it for farming.  It appears that Christie Real Estate has the listing of it for sale.  I could not find a price or any more information.  There are more photos on the listing page.

We took lots of photos. The first photo is looking south down the beach.  The second photo is looking at
 the abandoned buildings from a distance.

The rest of the photos are on the laptop computer that I had at the beach.  I have tried and tried and tried
to transfer them to my desktop computer and the Picasa program on this desktop, to no avail.  Sadly, because the beach looking north with big boulders was extraordinary.

As we rode around we just kept exclaiming, "Wow" and "Isn't this incredible?"  Among other things.
Up north we came to a backwater pond from the ocean and in it was a roseate spoonbill, just one, and other creatures both flying and crawling.  What a beautiful sight.  You'll just have to take my word for it unless someone shows me how to get those darn photos from one computer to the other some day.

After a couple of hours or so, we headed merrily back without a care in the world.  We had seen a beautiful abandoned paradise.

Up ahead, as we came around a little curve heading to the gate, there it was, LOCKED!  I  could not believe my eyes.  Nope, no one around.  Not a single person, except us.  Where the fence and gate were was surrounded by a deep ditch filled with water and who knows what else.  Let me assure you, none of
us would have gone into that ditch.  So, I did what I've done before when out in the middle of no where
and needing assistance, I HONKED the horn of the car for quite a long time.  I knew someone, somewhere would hear it - we had passed a village about 10 kilometers out on  Hwy 200.

Just about that time a car drove up on the other side.  They wanted to be where we were - inside the gate - and we of course wanted to be where they were - free.  They were Canadians wanting to go to the beach.
We explained the situation to them but they were more intent on getting to the ocean then offering to assist
us so I went back and honked the horn again........loudly.

In a few minutes I heard a putt-putt-putt, a little motor bike with a man who was inside the fence on our side.
Immediately I noticed a twinkle in his eyes as he slowly got off the bike and started to walk over to the big lock on the gate and shook it for emphasis.  Then he looked at me as I asked him if he had keys.  No answer at first but then I saw the beginning of a teeny smirk as he pulled them out of his pocket and in perfect English said that he had keys.  We all laughed, in relief.

It turns out he had been working back in the mango and cattle area on a tractor and heard my horn.

Otherwise, we might have sat there for many, many hours or sent the tourists on the other side to the village to find someone to get us out.

The savior of our little threesome said he was heading to his home in the village for comida.  The tourists on the outside wanted him to let them in so they could go to the beach but he said no and they were not pleasant about their disappointment.

We thanked him profusely.  I tried to hand him some money and he would not accept it.  He just grinned at us and smiled.  Of course, in retrospect, I would like to know his story and how he ended up living in this area and working on this land.  Maybe another trip.

El Tecuan was worth the adventure.  To see such a pristine, unspoiled part of the Pacific Coast of Mexico....was a great gift that I'll never forget.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Should I? Should I not? That was the Question.

After driving for eight hours, I reached my friend John's house to drop off some groceries and items that needed to go into the fridge until my return there two weeks later.  John has a lovely big kitchen with a stove with a big oven, so its fun to cook for him and myself when I visit.  I find it easier to just bring things from my home as the shopping in that area is limited.

Usually when I arrive, I'm greeted by a couple of horses and a few dogs.  No horses this time but I was greeted by a new acquisition, Mia.
A giveaway puppy from someone who did not want it......she sidled up to me and sat down on my foot the minute that I got out of the car!  Oh my.......Of course I had to pick her up and she just cuddled in my arms.
Uh oh............

Luckily I was only going to be there for a little while before I headed on to my destination of the village of La Manzanilla where I would be staying for my first two weeks.

Whew!  Saved.  I cuddled her some more and left.

 Of course, upon my return two weeks later Mia had grown some, but, was still cute and following me around.  To the point, that I had to look down to make sure she was not right by my feet!  Or laying right next to my chair.  Just about as close as she is to Tank, the bulldog, who was at the house last year.

Tank was pretty lonely as his great boxer pal Guapo another boxer disappeared in November.  I swear you could tell that Tank was sad and lonely by his hangdog expression.  He was very perky last year.

Mia is half boxer and half pit bull with baby blue eyes.   Tank was very protective of her - even when she was biting him and barking at him and climbing all over him.  Since they are not related, I found that very interesting.  He even deferred to her at food time since they ate out of the same big bucket!

Mia is already a very smart puppy and definitely already knew her name, when it was food time and not to go out to the road where the surfers and beach goers park their cars.  Quite a pup.

I toyed with the idea of taking her home with me until I looked at the size of her paws  and knew that she is going to be a BIG dog.  Also, what a wonderful life she has at the end of the dirt road with acres and acres to run and play on, Tank to play with, and plenty of places to sun her little body.

That would not have been her life back here in San Miguel.  So, even though I was encouraged to bring her home with me, the final decision was not to do so.  She has a GREAT life right where she is! 

Whew.........that was a close call.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Magic in the Bay of Cuastecomate

It seemed while I was gone to the beach that not much happened, however, after reflection of all that happened in a month, a lot DID occur.

First off, I did NOT get lost in Guadalajara on my trip over.  I was calm, I was determined and I made the correct turn on the first try.  You see, if you do not make the turn at the right time, you're "dead in the water"
as there is no way to go around the block on the freeway around the city.  It is a wasteland of signage that
is placed in advance of the turn or is so far ahead of the turn that you might drive ten miles before the turn
happens, but, with no signage.  Anyway, I made it correctly heading to the beach - not so lucky on my way
back through the city heading home.  I immediately flagged down a taxi who led me for what seemed forever until we got to what is called the Periferico Sur.  The cost $2.50USD.  A bargain!

The drive either way, even allowing for being lost is eight hours, door to door.  It is 411 miles for those of you who like precise information.  In my humble opinion, driving to the US border is nine hours but much less exhausting as there are no cities to drive through!

Whales and Yachts Happened.........

The beach was restorative as always.  I spent two weeks on the Bay of Tenacatita in the area called Costa Alegre then two weeks on the Bay of Cuastecomate.  The Bay of Cuastecomate is much more compact and secluded then the first bay.

It is where I always see whales - every year.  Sometimes they are right in the bay and this year they were a bit farther out in the shipping lanes of the ocean, following the currents.

Quite a sight to see a whale jump out of the water.  No one could ever tire of seeing a sleek, giant creature
hurl itself that high out of the water.  A visual treat.  Never do I have a camera handy as I'm too busy looking through the binoculars to make sure what I am seeing is real.  Up and down the coast, friends went out on boats to see whales, but I've always just sat either on a balcony or a pool deck and watched them from shore.

My expectations are to see whales.  Amazingly, on this trip I saw something sleek, but white come into the Bay of Cuastecomate.  It was a yacht.  A mega yacht that I estimated to be about 350 ft long!  But, I was wrong, it was bigger then that - it is 453 ft long and the sixth largest in the world!  At a cost of $300 million dollars, can you imagine how magnificent the sight was to see?  Named Rising Sun, it is owned by David Geffen who was the music producer for the Eagles, Aerosmith and a host of others.  Geffen's net worth is $6 billion dollars, hence a yacht such as this.  In fact, he owns another one of equal cost but it is in the 300+ range!  Geffen sold Geffen Productions and has donated much money to UCLA and other institutions in the LA area.  I found this information out on Wikipedia and the website of Rising Sun, the name of the yacht.

 This photo was taken as the yacht was coming into the Bay of Cuastecomate.  I was leaving the house that I stay at and just jumped out of the car and took this photo as I doubted it would still be there when I returned later that day.
 This magnificent floating  ship anchored right in front of the house that I was staying at and was still there when I returned that afternoon.  It was a magnetic sight.  If anyone wanted to go ashore, they used a tender
to take them to the tiny village of Cuastecomate.
  As you can see, they stayed overnight.  Lit up like a gem, we were astounded at its beauty.  There was a party in the tiny village of Cuastecomate that night.  I would have loved to have crossed the bay and actually seen all the people.  We do know that it travels with a crew of forty-five in thirty cabins and the guest count can be sixteen staying in eight cabins.

Of course we knew none of this information while we were sitting and wondering whose yacht it was, and all the details.  I went online in Melaque the next day with just the name on the back, which was in very small print, and voila, here was all the information.  In fact, one can track the location of the boat by going to its website and checking the radar!

When I awakened at 7:15 the next morning it was gone.  Just as though it had been a dream - but, what a lovely dream.........

Much more to share in the next several posts..........