I’d like to introduce you to my newest endeavor. I’ve been working with 2 friends here to start this organization and bring together 3 different but similar ideas (we were each thinking independently about our own idea – and came together to make it ALL happen!). I recently posted this in our local online discussion board and thought I’d share it with you guys!
To educate and empower the local community by introducing eco-friendly alternatives to plastics in our daily lives and working together to clean up beaches and seabeds.
1. Eliminate the Use of Straws in restaurants and homes through intensive campaigns and sales of re-usable straws. (Miriam’s passion)
2. Eliminate single-use plastic bags by making and selling re-usable shopping bags. (My idea)
3. Clean up the beaches and sea beds by organizing on-going community volunteer events. (Joao’s forte – he runs a local dive shop and has a panga)
We hope to become self-sustaining through the sale of sea-glass bracelets, locally made with reclaimed materials, and the sale of re-usable shopping bags in various locations around town. We will also need to rely on donations, sponsorship and volunteerism in our community.
Joao, Jennifer and Miriam
PLEASE HELP US! We are trying to raise funds to cover the expenses of our first event on Sept 24 – We need 4,400 pesos (around $250 USD) !Click Here to Donate Any amount helps!
SEPTEMBER 24, 9:00AM on the pier – OUR FIRST EVENT!
We still have space on the dive boat – there will be an underwater clean up for certified divers, and a beach clean up for those who aren’t. Please message me if you are interested in participating. We will also have bags and t-shirts for sale there.
ALSO Zihro Plastic needs START-UP funds for:
• Printing of information and placards for restaurants (awaiting quotes)
• Printing and distributing information about our organization
• Buying materials to make re-usable bags
• Buying tools and equipment for bracelet production
When I returned from Mexico City and started school again, I expected a pretty quiet month. My level 3 Spanish class had disbanded, so I jumped in with a level 4 class – definitely a good challenge for me! I was attempting to finish the level 3 book as well so I could be up to speed with the women in my new class.
I awoke early on the first Saturday morning in May, contemplating my day. I saw something online about a surf contest happening in Saladita. I still hadn’t been up that way, it was farther north than Troncones or the Ranch, surf spots we had gone to on Summer last year. I decided I was going to find my way there (there had to be buses/combis, I figured). So I got up to get ready, determined to have an adventure. As I was taking my trash out, I ran into Andrea, my next door neighbor. I was pretty excited about my loose plan, and I mentioned to her “I’m going to Saladita today!” She said “I AM TOO!”. Well it turned out she had a much more solid plan than I did. She actually had friends and a ride. She said they were going in a bus of some sort, I couldn’t quite understand (I thought maybe they’d rented a van?). She thought they were spending the night. I asked if I could get a ride there with them – figuring I’d just get there and see what the scene was and figure out some way to get home if not spending the night. She called her friend and got the OK to fit me in. I was REALLY excited now!
I packed only a small backpack, not really sure what I was in for. It turns out the ‘bus’ was actually a VW bus… After collecting a random assortment of food and vegetables, a stop at OXXO to get snacks and water, pick up another dog and a guy (who were not together, by the way), stopping at the Pemex (where we all threw money at Disco for gas), we were on the road – Just me, 3 Mexicans, 1 Israeli, 1 Egyptian, 3 dogs, 2 surfboards and several holes through which you could see the ground. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Adventure, here we come! The owner/driver of the van and I realized pretty quickly that’d we’d actually met before – he was Disco – a friend of Page and well-known bartender at everyone’s favorite place, The Fishing Hole (it’s not my favorite place by a longshot, but that’s another story – I just go for the people).
It was a fun ride and when almost to the beach, the bus began making some sputtering noises. It died in the small town area just before the beach and we couldn’t get it restarted. Roy (the Israeli) went and bought us all ice creams while we tried to figure out what to do. In the end, everyone pushed, except me…I was at the wheel steering as we went up one hill to the top of the long downhill toward the beach. Everyone hopped back in and Disco was (after a fashion) able to get it jump-started as we rolled on down to the beach. We somehow managed to slow down enough to pull a disabled old man selling gum aboard – and gave him a lift so he could sell his wares down on the beach.
When we arrived, we were at the camp of Roy and Guy (another Israeli) – and we were all invited to stay the night, there were even a couple extra hammocks. It was about this time that I realized “I’m part of this group now, I didn’t just get a ride here, I’m actually HERE with everyone!” OK, this is pretty cool. I’d wished I’d brought my tent or jungle hammock…oh well it’ll all work out somehow…
We hung out and settled in and enjoyed the beach. When it got later, all that random food we’d bought got transformed into a delicious meal cooked in the fire in foil – it was amazingly good and simple. I was happy to be in the sand and with these happy people. As the night wore on and the tequila and rum came out…we finally decided to walk down the beach to the huge beach party going on at the surf competition headquarters. There was a band on a stage and all kinds of happy people dancing. It was so much fun to dance in the sand – I’m pretty sure I danced with everyone in the entire place. I had a great time with Noora, Andrea and Estefania and I think they had some laughs watching me have a good time, too. At some point I ducked out to find a private spot to relieve myself and I realized…”I’m done”… I didn’t have another dance in me, so I wandered back to camp. Roy, Disco and Juan Carlos were still there. I realized that I needed to eat something before finding a spot to claim for my sleep. Disco kindly made me a steak sandwich – with meat charred over the fire on a big bolillo – it was black and full of sand and probably the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
It was getting quite chilly and I only had 2 sarongs with me. Noora let me borrow a sweatshirt, which probably saved my life. I wrapped myself up and crawled into a hammock and attempted to sleep. I guess I did a little, but it was one of the coldest nights of my life! I awoke early, feeling surprisingly good for the lack of sleep and far more alcohol than I’m used to having. The sun came up and I started to thaw a bit.
We swam, we ate and soon it was time to trek back to Zihua. We left Roy at his camp with Guy, and the rest of us piled into the van – waving good bye and grabbing pieces of watermelon that they’d cut for us as we pulled away. We ALMOST made it to our destinations. The van started acting up again and making a funny noise. It got us into the middle of Zihua before pooping out again. Again, everyone pushed and I steered and we got it parked on a safe, quiet street. There was no starting it again. So we all got our stuff and walked to our respective homes (it was at this moment I was glad I didn’t bring a lot more things!).
I really feel like this weekend was my “rebirth”…as in, I’m BACK, I’m ME and I’m ready to have some fun again. I was so glad to have met Noora and wanted to spend more time with her. I invited her over one day and we made these delicious drinks, called Painkillers… with fresh pineapple, coconut milk and fresh squeezed orange juice, topped with nutmeg dust. Oh, and a bunch of dark rum. They were delicious! Noora’s boyfriend, Victor came over (and it turns out I’d met him before, as well) and we got Andrea and another friend over. We played “Joking Hazard” the Cards-Against-Humanity-esque game that Becky had brought me. Lots of laughs.
I finally arranged a time to invite Yasmin, my friend who owns the organic shop that I love so much, over for dinner. I made us a pizza and she brought wine, salad, her 4 year old and her niece (there’s always an extra person and it’s always fine!). We had a nice evening, at the end of which, she casually mentioned she’d gotten engaged the day before! Very exciting for her and now I will be attending another wedding later this year.
I very much enjoyed the month of May and it was also the final days of being able to expect any sort of cool weather.
At the beginning of June I had planned a 3 week trip up to the Canada, the US and then back to Guadalajara area in Mexico. I had a ‘last night out’ with Noora, Victor and friends and I was on my way.
It was cheaper and easier for me to fly into Toronto than to the US, so I got to spend a great 3 day weekend with Becky. We did a whirlwind, non-stop-go tour of Toronto. It was loads of fun, and we seem to have recovered the weight we gained and the trauma I caused her cat (I’m severely allergic, so not only didn’t I ever show him any hands-on affection, he always was cruelly disallowed from crawling up into my air mattress and belongings). Becky was a great hostess – she made me a delicious roast beef (something I can’t ever seem to get down here) and had a bus pass for me so we could travel the city at will. And did we ever! Toronto is a wonderful city, even if I was still a bit “citied-out” from the CDMX trip.
A bird shat on my head. For real. I was laughing SO hard. Becky flew into action cleaning me up -right after snapping this pic.
On the day I traveled to New Hampshire, it was the coldest on record for that date. Lucky me. I was grateful that Mom brought me some socks when they picked me up at the bus station!
Spaghetti and Meatballs first night meal…always <3
I spent the next couple weeks helping my parents prepare for the monumental physical and emotional task of preparing their home of over 30 years (hand built by my Dad) for sale. Not an easy thing to prepare for on any front.
We did have some fun outings – a day to Vermont and St. Gaudens National Historic Monument with longtime friends Kathy and John. I was marveling at how clean and fresh smelling everything is out there – and how quaint.
We had a fun day in Portsmouth as well – meeting up with cousins Donna and Scott for a delicious lunch overlooking the water.
After out lunch, I was left to meet up with my old friend Scott, and his new girlfriend Adriane. When I was waiting to find them, I came across the strangest scene…apparently some sort of fundraiser with men racing in heels…and dresses…and such. Very fun to watch.
It was a fast but really fun visit – always great to catch up with Scotty and I just adore Adriane now, too! I may have even liberated a pint glass as a souvenir from my favorite brewery from back in college days…
The trip back to Mexico was far from uneventful. Apparently, there were some weather systems…As I was confirming my flight the morning of, I found out it had been cancelled! I called in and they were able to book me on another flight, but it left earlier and I had no time to take the bus down to Boston. We quickly mobilized and my parents drove me all the way to Boston – something they are NOT at all interested in doing (hence the bus). But we made it in time and they dropped me off. As I went to check my bag, I was told that my new flight was also cancelled. I had to wait in a long line to see what was going to happen. They ticket guy did his best and decided to put me back on my original flight, which was not actually cancelled, they just didn’t think I’d make my connection in Atlanta. So I agreed to run really fast off the plane to try to make it. Unfortunately, the plane was then delayed considerably – we sat on the runway for ages. The plane landed in Atlanta, 1 minute before my connecting flight took off. I had to talk via phone to the Delta reps to figure out how to get me to Guadalajara.
I was heading to Guadalajara to renew my passport before going 45 minutes south of there to visit with Lee and Parke in Ajijic on Lake Chapala for a few days (Lee is actually my friend Scott’s Mom and I’d helped them plan their first trip to Mexico—we’d not met in person before!).
I was told I’d have to spend the night in Atlanta and not make it to Guadalajara in time to renew my passport… Not only that, I’d have to pay for it all, since it was weather related and not the fault of the airline. Paying for a hotel in the US was not acceptable to me, so I asked them to get me to Mexico as soon as possible and I’d figure the rest out. They were able to put me on a flight to Mexico City in 30 minutes, but still the connection to GDL was too late for me to keep my schedule. I went for it, figuring at the very least, a night in CDMX was going to be cheaper than a night in Atlanta. I managed to get wind my way through the huge airport and get on the flight before it left. By the time I arrived in CDMX it was after 11pm. I looked online and found a 5:00am flight to Guadalajara, which gave me plenty of time to make the passport office (you could only go there from 2:00pm-2:45pm). I had to buy this ticket, an extra $100 – but my reasoning was that if I’d missed this renewal opportunity, I’d have to plan an entire other trip to do it – either to GDL or Acapulco, which would require bus fare, hotel and food, plus the time to do it during the week. Seemed like the most economical choice. Sleep schmeep. There was no point in getting a hotel for 5 hours, so I toughed it out on the cold floors for a while and eventually crashed out for a bit on the sagging couch of a rental car office (no one seemed to mind). The main airport area had no seating or good places to hunker down – but plenty of people had. It looked like a refugee camp. Oh – but I forgot to mention, I did not have the inconvenience of lugging my suitcase around with me, because it got lost somewhere. Even though they assured me in Atlanta that it would be checked through. Of course, it would end up on a much later flight than I was taking, since I booked on a different airline. All that would have to be sorted out somehow.
I found a dark hallway to try to sleep in…
As I lugged my heavy carry-on through security just before 5:00am, I had to unpack my load of silverware and pottery that I was carrying (my checked luggage was so heavy that I had to carry on other heavier items…one of which being my entire set of silverware that I had stored at my parents’ house – it’s a 1929 silver plated wedding set I’d fallen in love with years ago and couldn’t bring myself to sell when we moved to the boat. I love the art deco pattern! Now that I’m not washing with saltwater, surely I could have it again!?!). Well the security guys in Boston deemed it safe enough to carry on, since the knives were not serrated. The Mexican security guys must’ve thought I was planning to hijack the place with my butter knives and started fishing them all out to confiscate. NO WAY…I took them all back and promptly went to check the bag (so some of my pottery plates cracked, but I was able to glue them…and I still have my silver set intact!).
I arrived in a domestic terminal and got my checked bag, but there was no way to go to the international terminal to try to make a claim with Delta about my suitcase. It was too early in the morning to get anyone on the phone. I was sick to death of airports by this time and decided just to take a cab into the city.
I had also booked a room at an AirBNB place, and the guy was very accommodating – he said I could come early morning shower, rest and leave my stuff while I went to the consulate. It was still too early to meet up with him, but I went to the area and found a restaurant to finally have a real meal. I’d been missing Mexican food! My chilaquiles hit the spot. I was exhausted but relieved to be there and happy about the choices I’d made, however temporarily exhausting and inconvenient.
It was nice to shower and try to nap, and spent an hour or so on the phone trying to locate my luggage. I gave the address of where I would be staying in Ajijic in hopes that it would be delivered to me down there.
I completed the almost-painless passport renewal. The part where I wasn’t allowed to bring my phone, sunglasses, charger or memory stick into the consulate was vaguely understandable, but the part where they told me to bring it all to this restaurant across the street was kind of disturbing. They told me “They will take your phone for you” I said “I’m sure they will…”. A very nice woman put my belongings into a ziplock bag and gave me a scrap of paper with the number 6 written on it. I walked away, hoping for the best. After the appointment, I went back and was given my belongings for a mere 20 pesos.
When I was in NH, coincidentally I ran across the name of a high school classmate I’d not been able to find previously on Facebook. Carmen was a Mexican exchange student who spent her senior year with us. I reconnected with her only to discover that she lived in Guadalajara! I told her I was going to be passing through and she offered to give me a ride down to Ajijic! She picked me up at the AirBNB right after my consulate errand. It was fun to see her – she’s doing quite well and has become a lawyer. She took me to a delicious birria restaurant and we had some of the best meat I’ve tasted. I’m pretty sure it was beef, but it could’ve been goat? We finished our meal and found our way through the tiny streets of Ajijic to Lee and Parke’s luxurious rental compound. Carmen left me and I met my hosts and their friend Mari. I was beyond exhausted at this point, a bit worried about my suitcase and trying my best to be sociable. They were such wonderful people and when I could keep my eyes open no longer, I tried to retire. Before I’d dozed off, I heard a doorbell ring… I got up to see what was going on and sure enough, a couple nice men were dropping off my 50 lb. suitcase!! I was able to dig out some ear plugs, brush my teeth and finally get some sleep.
I had a lovely couple of days getting to know Lee, Parke, Mari and the adorably fluffy Sandy. We checked out the market and had a nice lunch. I did some exploring around town while everyone had a siesta in the afternoon (I should’ve siesta’d too, but…there was a town to explore!). We had a delicious dinner out and a nice early night. I was out bright and early the next morning.
Best view of any skate park in the world!
An hour long taxi ride to the bus station in Guadalajara to catch my 10 hour bus ride home. I had booked ahead, so was able to get the front seat on the upper level of the bus – nothing but view! No seatmate, either, so it was quite a nice ride. The luxurious Mexican bus did not disappoint. I could’ve flown, but there was no direct flight, and with a layover in CDMX and all the air travel hassle, I was quite looking forward to just relaxing on one bus for the day, only a few hours longer really, then a flight would be in the end.
It was upon my arrival in Zihua, being hit with the much-missed heat as well as humidity, that I determined once and for all that I prefer the humidity to the dryer climates. Yes, it makes it feel hotter overall, but the skin benefits make it all worthwhile!
A warm welcome home from Andrea, who visited with me as I unpacked and a good night sleep in my own bed… I was a happy camper!!
I was ready to settle in and brave out the summer, do some work, have some fun with friends. I was not planning to go on another trip for a very long time! Page had been gone since May, Andrea left for Portland, Noora left for St. Thomas…it seemed things were getting awfully quiet…
This is me, turning 47
Up Next – who? me? Not going anywhere?? My trip to CALIFORNIA!!!
‘The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.’ – Lewis Carroll
I’m really only behind on these blogs. The rest of life is right where it should be, I suppose. Highlights of the past almost-2 months, Becky was here, I went to a fun wedding, I took a trip to Mexico City, I went beach camping and met some great people, and have been having some good times with said great people. Some school and work, too, of course. This is a long one, so you maybe you won’t read it all in one sitting…or maybe you just want to look at the zillions of photos. You’ve been warned.
Twenty years ago this past February, Becky and I ditched our respective boyfriends (whose names both started with “E”) on Valentine’s Day and took a wild week-long trip to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. The reunion visit dredged up some old photos of that trip that were fun to see (many of those photos are still “classified” but there were unclassified for release here:
Of course we communicate frequently (not exactly all day, everyday…well, sometimes…) so it wasn’t like we had a ton of catching up to do. Although it was great to talk in person. We were able to get right down to the business of going out and having fun. We hit all the beaches, walked all over town, cooked some great meals, ate out for some great meals, hung out with friends and even did a little work. We packed an awful lot into that week! Becky’s an amazing photographer, so you might want to check out HER PHOTOS of our adventure – way better than mine….
I said goodbye to Becky on a Friday afternoon, and then immediately prepared to attend the wedding of Diego and Anahi.
What an experience that was – there was a very long and involved church wedding (which I didn’t fully understand) that even included a 7 piece mariachi band! From the church we all caravanned to the fancy hotel and then there was a ‘civil’ ceremony – like a whole ‘nother wedding, overlooking the ocean. We had a beautiful sunset, drinks (piña coladas and some tamarind drink, which I was misinformed about as being non-alcoholic and I drank it too fast and it clearly WAS alcoholic. Let the good times roll). The only real let-down here was the balloon ceremony. As soon as I saw the giant bouquet of balloons, my heart sank. I knew what was going to happen and it took every bit of strength I had to keep myself from trying to stop it. They weren’t just regular helium filled balloons, no these balloons also included a flashing LED light. They were passed out to everyone who wanted one. I made sure to get one…so I knew at least there would be one that wouldn’t kill a sea-creature… When the countdown to let them go happened, I popped mine and threw it in the trash. And watched with a mix of awe and nausea as I don’t know how many mercury-filled, battery powered LED flashing balloons meandered up into the sky and out to the ocean.
I was soon distracted by a fireworks show that concluded with a flaming A+D exploding on the beach. I do love fireworks. After all this everyone paraded into the hotel banquet hall that was lavishly decorated and ready for a big party. Each table got a bottle of whiskey. Interesting choice. There was no wine or champagne or other drinks aside from water and apple soda. Whiskey and apple soda isn’t half bad. There was a wonderful slide show of Anahi and Diego’s life. Dinner was delicious when they served it at around 10:30 pm. Then the music really let loose and the dancing got wild. There were all kinds of fun rituals and what I assume are traditional wedding activities. At one point 2 groups were holding Diego and Anahi on their shoulders and women jostled around Diego and men around Anahi, seeing who could knock them down first. There was a bouquet toss (I refrained) and a few other thing I could only half follow. Sometime much later, Diego was terrorizing the dance floor, wearing what looked to be a backpack type pesticide sprayer device, only it was filled with tequila…he was going around spraying it into people’s mouths. There was the traditional Zihua iguana dance, among others, and other liquors being served to us as we danced (I think it was coffee liquor?). My feet were killing me, but otherwise I was extremely grateful to have participated in this happy 9 hour event. I mostly hung out with the crew from school (which included one student I knew). We had a great time and Alex bussed a truckload of us home sometime around 2:00am. I’m sure the party went on and on (Diego had told me he planned to dance until at least 3:00am!).
The wedding was the first day of the school break, marking the Semana Santa and Easter holidays. School was closed for 3 weeks. After a couple weeks of working, kind of missing my schedule, and watching my little town get busier and busier, I decided I needed to do something. I need a shake-up, a distraction, something to keep me from going to dark places when tempted think about “what am I going to do with my life without Jonny and Summer?”. I knew going to the beach was less and less of an option, because almost every person in Mexico goes to the beach over Semana Santa holidays. That’s the last place I wanted to be! My friend Yasmin, who owns my favorite tienda organica, had earlier planted the seed that it would be a great time to visit Mexico City. She said 40% of the city leaves (and I think half of them came here). I realized I was coming up on a year of living in Zihua! I peeked into the options for going to CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) and it turns out there was a new flight just created from Zihua to CDMX and it was being heavily promoted. I was able to get a round trip ticket for less than a round trip bus ticket to Guadalajara! (around $70). I looked into accommodations and decided it was time for me to give AirBNB a try. I got a room in a good neighborhood for $11/night. Five days in Mexico City, here I come! I also ended up buying an iVenture card, that allowed me to choose any 5 tours/events/services from a big list (most of which I wanted to do/see). It ended up definitely being worthwhile, although not without its challenges.
My late-night plane flight left more than an hour late, with no explanation whatsoever (they didn’t even admit it was late – the screen never changed its “on-time” status or updated the departure time. Huh. OK. I got a cab from the airport to my AirBNB place – it was a VERY quiet and empty neighborhood and it was around 2:00 am by the time I arrived. My cab driver was a super nice guy – we chatted the whole ride and he waited outside the cab while I rang the bell and made some calls to try and wake up my hosts (they were expecting me, but had accidentally fallen asleep!). The place and room were not exactly as advertised, but my host was a very sweet woman (also not as advertised…it’s her daughter that does all the posting and responding online) but for the price, I didn’t have any complaints. I had my own private room with a lock on the door, in a building separate from the main house. I’m not sure how many rooms there were in this building (5? 6?) with other AirBNB guests and we all shared a couple bathrooms. It was extremely quiet and I’m sure I would’ve slept great had the bed not been the worst saggy, springy thing I’ve ever slept on. Plus, I was FREEZING!
I got up as early as I could the next morning and tried to get oriented. There was no food offered (also not as advertised) aside from coffee or tea (neither of which are my cup of tea). But Clara got out a map and shared some helpful information with me (where to get the bus to get to the metro, not to take the metro after dark, etc.). It’s always a little disconcerting getting on a bus in a strange city when you aren’t really sure where it’s going and where you are supposed to get off. I asked the driver if it was going to the metro and he said yes. He was kind enough to remember and let me know when I should get off – he also made sure I knew which way to walk to get into the station. Very helpful! I had a destination to find – the tour office where I was to pick up my iVenture card. I figured this would be a good exercise to start learning my way around and once I got there I could get a little more help for the next phase.
The women at the tour office were really nice and answered all my questions about the things I wanted to do and see. I headed out to find the ‘hop on, hop off’ tour bus, figuring my first day would be well spent seeing as much as I could at once and getting a ‘lay of the land’.
One thing I didn’t know and wasn’t at all prepared for, was the fact that Mexico City is at 7,400 feet in elevation. I couldn’t figure out why I was getting so winded going up stairs! My plan had been to ride one bus loop to the main Zocolo square, see that, and then take another bus loop where I could get off in Coyoacan and see that area and head home (I was staying in Coyoacan neighborhood). Well, these buses take hours and hours. By the time I got on the second bus I realized it was going to be like 4 hours before I got where I wanted to get off! I was also started to get a migraine and feel very tired and a little sick. Elevation! Who knew?!
I finally asked the tour woman where I should get off to take a cab to Coyoacan, because I couldn’t handle the bus anymore (also I had gotten a little too much sun, riding on the top open-air part of the bus (great views though!). I dozed off for, I don’t know, maybe an hour? In the lower part of the bus. Eventually we were someplace and the tour woman said that is where I should get off. I staggered down off the bus, blinking around a very quiet park in quaint neighborhood with cute shops and cobble stone streets. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to look around a bit before finding a cab, right?
The neighborhood was called San Angel and turned out to be my all-time favorite spot in CDMX. It has meandering cobblestone streets, beautiful parks with fountains, wonderful shops and one of the most beautiful church courtyards I’ve ever seen. I never wanted to leave. The first old building full of shops I wandered into had an incredible gourmet chocolate shop. I snagged a couple goodies and then asked for a dark chocolate-covered caramel – very expensive. A young man wearing white gloves served it to me on a piece of mirrored glass and I’m sure he enjoyed watching as I stood at the counter and closed my eyes, making lots of yummy noises as I slowly devoured it. There, that felt better! The next shop I happened upon was an Eco-Butik. Did they know I was coming or something?!?! I went a little crazy in this shop, procuring a little goodie bag of things I simply can’t find in Zihua. After that I found another lovely little shop full of beautiful, handmade gift-like things and artisanal treats. I had a wonderful time chatting with the woman who owned it and she gave me a chocolate covered almond (first one is free…then somehow a bag of them found their way into my goodie stash). I decided I was going to have dinner in San Angel – there was a restaurant that intrigued me, and an ice cream shop that intrigued me even more.
I explored the cobblestone streets and had a nice rest in the tranquil churchyard until it started to get dark and it seemed like dinner time. I went back to the restaurant that had a sign saying they make ALL traditional Mexican foods. It was very nice, but not super expensive fancy. I was the only one there and the waiters were very friendly. I ended up ordering chiles en nogada – an incredibly complex and delicious treat that is traditionally only made for Independence Day (and that is the only time I’ve tried it – and loved it). It’s a chile stuffed with a meat and fruit and spice mixture and covered in a walnut cream sauce with pomegranate on top. It’s wonderful and I couldn’t believe they serve it every day of the year. I was expecting it to not be as good as the homemade dish I first tried, but it WAS! Delicious! I was a bit too full for ice cream, but I’m a trooper and after a short walk I was ready to give it a go. Just a small cup. Sufficiently stuffed, and relaxed, I decided it was finally time to find a cab and head back to my quiet little room. I had NO idea where I was, but finally caught a cab out on a main street (the first cab I hailed started to pull over and then took off. Why?). The driver had his phone mounted on the dash like a GPS and took me home like a pro (and sadly the last one I would encounter…).
I could hardly wait to revisit my little goodie bag when unpacking from my day. There was no bag! Where was it? Did I leave it in the cab? No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. Why wasn’t it in my pack? For some reason, I’d decided to carry it separately. I remembered stopping on my way out of the ice cream shop to buy some yogurt I noticed in their cold case (so I could have breakfast in the morning). I must have set the bag down when I paid and then walked out without it. So stupid!! The shop was closing when I left, so I’d hoped it would still be there in the morning, if only I could find their phone number (it was not on my receipt) and call for them to save it for me.
I was due to be up early the next morning for a tour I wanted to go on. I had to take the bus to the metro to Zocolo. I was out the door and bobbing along the metro in plenty of time to catch the 9:00am Frida Kahlo (museum and neighborhood) and Xochimilco (boat ride through floating gardens) all day tour. Aside from the pyramids, this was the one thing I was most excited about! The tour company said I couldn’t go because they didn’t have the machine to read my iVenture card! What?!?! We went round and round, me trying to problem solve (how can we get me on this bus?) and them being less and less helpful. I finally reached the end of hope with these mean tour women and tried to call the tour office (which didn’t open till 9). I got some woman from some corporate office on the line who was very nice. In the end we finally figured out that there were 2 tour bus companies running the exact same tour and I should’ve gone with the other one (who wasn’t open/set up when I arrived, so I only saw 1, advertising the exact tour I wanted…). By this time all the tours had left and there was nothing I could do. I decided to go back to San Angel and retrieve my goodie bag, and then do my own tour of the Frida museum and Coyoacan area, maybe even get all the way down to Xohcimilco? (dare to dream). The woman at the ice cream shop located my bag and said she would have it waiting for me (yet another experience with me being a dingbat and folks being honest).
I got the goods and had my yogurt in the adjacent park. A fearless squirrel tried to get a taste. I decided to walk a bit more in my new favorite area and when I was over it, I’d catch a cab to Coyoacan and find the Frida Kahlo museum.
I visited a great little gift shop and treated myself to a beautiful pendant (I haven’t been able to wear my usual necklace since it broke and I got a new chain that was too big for my old opal and shell combo). I couldn’t believe it was only 100 pesos (around $5). The shop also had a collection of t-shirts with very strange sayings in English on them. It turns out they are common Mexican sayings that have been literally translated into English and they are just hysterical! I had the girl explain each and everyone one to me. She was very patient and it was great fun. Farther along, I happened upon a cute little salon and popped in to check the prices on a pedicure. I don’t get salon pedicures unless I’m with my Mom these days. But it was super reasonable (around $12) and I decided to treat myself (hey, I’m on vacation, right?).
The women in the salon were very excited to have me use their special computerized tool to help me pick my color. I didn’t really need any help choosing a nail polish color, but I couldn’t take away their fun. I answered a bunch of silly questions, the first being “what is your favorite color?” and they finally brought me a ring full of colors that were supposed to all be good choices for me. I choose a nice blue. I settled into the fancy massage chair while they put a heated neck pillow on me (did I mention it was downright cold up there?? Was grateful for the warmth!). It wasn’t until I’d fully relaxed and settled in before I noticed the name of the salon. “Manura”. Hmmmm… I asked what it meant in Spanish. No meaning, just a name the owner made up. I did not have the heart to tell them what kinds of images “manura’ conjured up for me. It was hard not to tell them, really, but they were so sweet and I didn’t want to bum them out (afterall, they had to keep working there). As the woman was trimming my toenails she was really digging in and cleaning them out. Turns out I had a lot of sand embedded in my cuticles. It was more funny than embarrassing. Yep, I live on the beach!
I got to Coyoacan with another friendly cabbie, in time to find some lunch. Another really adorable area with super funky and cool shops, kind of a hippie place, featuring a huge square with fountains and restaurants. Very lively place.
I ended up at a sort of organic and natural kind of deli place. Good wifi and a delicious turkey sandwich. Just what I needed. I relaxed. Perhaps a little bit too long? But I did find out how to get to the Frida museum. It took me even longer to get there as I kept making unscripted turns to check out this street, take that picture, duck into this shop… By the time I got to the museum, it was around 3:30. There was a line to get in and I could not see the end. I was told it was about an hour-long line, and the museum closed at 5:00pm! I was in no mood to wait on line that long and probably miss out anyway. It was around this time that I started to lose it for the day. I got a bit lost/turned around and I was tired of walking. I knew I was not that far from another organic market I wanted to check out, but I just couldn’t get the direction right. So I hailed a cab. A very old man who did not turn on his meter. I didn’t say anything because I knew we were close-by and I kind of wanted to see what was going to happen. He didn’t know where he was going but ultimately we got there (thanks to my phone GPS). He asked me to pay a ridiculously high price and I scoffed and we finally agreed on something more reasonable. Smarmy fella. I had a hunch about him!
The Green Corner was a wonderful store, but there wasn’t much that I needed, mostly just wanted to see the organic options available. I was downright beat. I got a juice and just wanted a cab to take me home for a nap before I figured out what to do for dinner. Three, count ‘em THREE cabs refused to take me home!! The first said he didn’t know where I wanted to go and made me get out, the second said he didn’t have time to go there (or something along those lines? My Spanish still isn’t great you know!) and the last guy said something about not being allowed to go to that area? It was all very confusing and a bit upsetting. One of my friends had warned me not to take cabs in CDMX because I was going to get kidnapped. HA! I couldn’t pay them to take me!! I knew it was only about a mile walk, so I trudged on. I was so tired, so cranky, so disappointed and possibly near tears (and yeah, heavily, heavily PMSing…). But I finally made it back. I stripped off my clothes and climbed into bed and had a blissful hour-long nap. I got cleaned up and refreshed and headed back out to the happening area of Coyoacan to hunt down a meal. The main square was packed with hundreds of people out enjoying the evening. I ended up at a wonderful Italian restaurant with a fountain view. I even splurged on a glass of wine. I ate ALL the herbed butter they served with breadsticks and general indulged myself to the max. Vacation, right? I really have a ridiculous amount of fun by myself. It’s just a little embarrassing when I make myself laugh, though.
Another struggle to get a cab home. One cabbie finally told me that I couldn’t take the pink and white cabs where I wanted to go and needed to look for a red and gold one. Then a pink and white one insisted he could take me. He had NO idea where he was going and we drove all over hell and of course I had to pull out my phone GPS. It was so frustrating and weird, and then he made me pay full fare even though he had no clue what he was doing. I was too exhausted to argue. I tend to believe his cluelessness was for real and not just a ruse to up the fare, but maybe I’m wrong. No tip for him, either way!
The next day I had planned to go to the Anthropology museum and whatever else I had time for in the area. I was starting to feel like a pro with the bus and metro system. You can ride the metros for hours and they don’t even cover the entire city. Walking from one line to another in a transfer station can take 30 minutes. But the metros are clean and efficient and only cost 5 pesos to ride (that’s like 25 cents)! Crazy cheap. Everything in that city is just on a massive, massive scale. I guess with 21 million people, it kind of has to be.
The Castillo de Chupultepec was in a huge park-like area, close to the Anthropology museum, and the whole area reminded me of San Francisco around Golden Gate Park. It was a green, flowery beautiful and artsy sprawl. When I passed through on the tour bus I could hardly wait to check it out. I spent 5 hours in the Anthropology museum and I didn’t even get up to the second floor! I took a lunch break halfway through and realized if I saw the whole museum I’d see nothing else that day. So I resolved to see the rest of the main floor and then head over to find the Castillo.
It was quite a walk up to the top of the hill where the Castillo was situated. My feet were definitely getting a work out on this trip (in the end it was over 32 miles of walking in 5 days!). It was late in the day and I didn’t have much time at the Castillo, so I did a quick run through and had a rest in the garden area (I was exhausted!).
After the castle closed and they kicked us all out, I kept wandering around the park area that went on and on.
I knew I was on the side of town somewhat near the Cheesecake Factory – and I was determined to get there. I know, I know, you’re thinking I should be doing all this Mexican culture-y stuff, but come on! I live in Mexico, and in a place were I can’t get many things that the big city has to offer. One of those things being Linda’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, which is only my favorite chocolate cake in the world, and it’s only at The Cheesecake Factory. I know, I don’t believe it either, but it’s just true. Being “near the Cheesecake Factory” meant walking to a metro stop, taking the metro up 5 or 6 stops and then taking a cab from there. I had guessed from maps what stop I should go to, and popped out in a completely unknown area. It looked safe and I had a vague idea of the direction I wanted to go, so I hailed a cab and off I went. Yet another super friendly cabbie to chat with. He dropped me right in front of the big, shiny restaurant, which happened to be a cornerstone of a gigantic mall. It was still light out and I wasn’t feeling dinner quite then, so I had a spin through the mall, just to see what was what, and because, you know, I needed to walk more. Every fancy mall store you could image from any big city in the world beckoned. I marveled at it all, but felt no pull whatsoever to enter any stores. I didn’t shop in these places when I lived in the US and I certainly had no interest in them now. I have no doubt everything was just as out of my price range there as it is in the US.
The number of chain stores and restaurants I recognized in CDMX was overwhelming – pretty much everything! I even saw a “Hooters”. My mind went to imagining how the initial meeting went, when the US based businessmen met with the Mexican businessmen to pitch the concept of Hooters… Were they in a meeting room, with a board and a pointer with a picture of a typical Hooter’s waitress? And he’s saying “You know…the waitresses have great… “hooters”…that’s why we sell thousands of WINGS!” And the Mexican guy is scratching his head and finally, “OH! Is that why the owls are endangered?” (yeah, that’s one of those things that makes me laugh when I’m all by myself…maybe it’s best if I kept it to myself?).
I finally went and got my buzzer to wait my turn for a table at the world’s best chocolate cake place (am I the only person who goes to the cheesecake factory for NOT cheesecake?). I’m not usually one for chains, either, but the times I’ve eaten at these restaurants have always been pleasant and fun. I’m sure it’s not the healthiest place to eat (nor is it the worst in the realm of chain food), but I was on vacation and I was going to eat whatever the hell I wanted and enjoy it! The prices almost made my eyes pop out of my head. I think they were the same as US prices. Yikes. I almost faltered in my resolve, but I stayed strong to order whatever the hell I wanted. I had a credit card. I had the signature lemonade, the cheesy spinach dip and a steak Diane dinner. I only ate half of the dip and dinner and got the rest to go – lunch for the bus ride up to the pyramids the next day! That made the high price seem what less painful. I was too full to eat my cake, and I always prefer to have my fancy cake late at night in bed anyway…so I ordered it to go. I might have had a taste before putting it into my to-go bag with the other treats. It looked and tasted exactly as I remember – I had some doubts as to whether it would be just the same, and ohhhhh it was!
I again had several cabs turn me down before I finally got another friendly but clueless driver to take me home. Had to pull out my phone GPS to give directions. The city is just so ridiculously huge that I guess even the cab drivers don’t know all of it. I only ate half my cake and felt quite satisfied and ready to crash into my horribly uncomfortable, but now-familiar bed (with the extra blanket I found in a cupboard somewhere. Did I mention it was COLD up there?)
The next morning I had to be up early and make my way to Zocolo for my much anticipated trip out of the city to Teotihuacan, site of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. I arrived plenty early and was first in line to get my wrist band and stand waiting for the buses (waiting and freezing, I might add!). I hadn’t quite paid too much attention, but the tour also included a stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned on the bus that this was the church that was built near the hill of Tepeyac where Our Lady of Guadalupe supposedly appeared to Saint Juan Diego way back when (1500’s). People have been making pilgrimages to this spot since the 1500s and it’s a whole giant holiday just before Christmas where people make pilgrimages/parade to their local churches.
One of the tour guides on our bus spoke English and took on those of us wishing to be shown around in English. That turned out to be me and two Germans (who of course spoke excellent English). We seemed to have similar sarcastic comments to make and I was instantly pleased with my group. Our guide Miguel was also wonderful, he gave us the lay of the land and let us have about 45 minutes to wander around on our own. Marc and Kristian were a great surprise for this day and I enjoyed having companions. They were pretty easy on the eyes, as well. At first, I thought they were a couple, but then I learned they were co-workers on a business trip, taking a day trip before the work week began. We saw the grounds, the old church and we rode the moving walkway to view the miraculous shroud that the image of the Virgin had appeared on, after she made a rosebush appear (not just any rosebush, but roses normally found only in Spain! Proving of course, it was a miracle perpetrated by the virgin).
Back on the bus, we had about an hour to ride up to Teotihuacan. I had 2 seats to myself and was very happy to look out the window (with periodic narratives from Miguel over the speakers). I enjoyed my Cheesecake Factory meal yet again (complete with cake) and was ready for adventure.
I spotted the first pyramid off in the distance, like some run of them mill landscape feature. I was somehow in disbelief and nonplussed at the same time. It seemed unreal, but there it was, just sitting there surrounded by regular life!
At the beginning, Miguel oriented us and took us through some archeological sites and explained a number of things to us. It was great to learn how the archaeologists reconstructed certain areas and how they clearly differentiated between original and reconstructed – it made it easier to know what to be in awe of!
The city was built around 100 BC, coinciding with the Mayans (and before the Aztecs). But the Teotihuacanos were a culture unto themselves, somewhat mysterious, possibly even a multi-cultural group. These pyramids are some of the most architecturally significant of the era. The surrounding city and monuments were systematically destroyed around 550AD.
We were told what time and where to meet the tour bus and set free to climb pyramids. The Pyramid of the Moon was our first climb- we were only allowed to go halfway up on this one, so it seemed like a good warm up. The steps were extremely tall and very steep and narrow. You had to walk up kind of sideways and it was quite a work out. When we reached the middle stopping point, I looked back at all the evenly spaced shrines and the layout, and I became convinced that it was actually an ancient circuit training course. The pyramid we just climbed was clearly a stairmaster. I may have been a little out of breath (we were still at almost 7,500 feet elevation before climbing!), but the view was breathtaking at any elevation!
We all made it down without any face-plants and walked the main promenade toward the pyramid of the sun. That one we were allowed to go all the way to the top and the three of us were eager to do so. There were a LOT of people, like swarms of ants crawling up that pyramid. But it wasn’t until we got to it and walked around the side to find the entrance to the climb that we realized just how many people… it was quite a long walk just to get to the beginning of the line that wound back and forth, herding the masses to the base of the pyramid. We were cheerful and joking until we got about a quarter way up and realized we were crammed in the middle of this mass of people moving slower than molasses…and there’s no way we were going to make it to the top and back down again and make our rendezvous point in time. Marc and Kristian were a little nervous and trying to find ways we could get back down. There was a middle point where you could cross over to the down lane if you wanted to. I didn’t want to and I honestly didn’t care that much about the meeting time. I felt sure that this was not the first time this had happened and that the bus was not going to leave us. They had clipboards with our names, afterall! But, knowing that I tend to err on the side of too much risk-taking, I didn’t push my opinions. I pointed out the options of turning back, but finally when pressed, I had to admit that I was not the right person to be asking about a safe and responsible decision here. I wanted to go to the top of the pyramid. I swear I didn’t push anyone into it, but the guys heard my logic about how we were unlikely to be left – and look! There’s 2 people from our bus way behind us in line! It was decided…schedule be damned, we were going to the top! I pointed out how going so slowly was keeping us from getting all sweaty. Kristian said, with a somewhat accusatory tone: “You’re one of those people who’s always positive, aren’t you?”. Who? Me?
The views were really cool from the top, even if the top itself wasn’t all that. We took our pictures, looked around and then quickly joined the downward trudging masses. The sole of my leather Teva started coming off and was flopping dangerously as I was packed in the crowd going down the steep steps. I thought “oh no, what if I fall?” And then I started laughing hysterically because I envisioned the domino effect of 300 people falling down the side of a pyramid. I was glad to have someone to share my reason for laughing, so this time I didn’t look like a lone lunatic. When there was a bit more space, I took my shoe off and hobbled half barefoot and finally pulled the sole all the way off and just wore my sole-less sandal.
When we arrived at the meeting point, there was no bus. But there was the other tour guide woman waiting for us. She said the bus had taken everyone to the restaurant and was going to come back for us. See? I knew it would all work out. We didn’t have much time to eat at the restaurant (and I didn’t eat anyway, still full up from my fancy leftovers), so I just had a limonada. There were a couple of guys performing some traditional dance for us, which was fun to watch.
We were soon hurried off to a nearby compound to learn how agave plants are grown and taste some mescal and tequila. Right at the start of the tour, I realized that in the hustle and bustle of leaving the restaurant, I never got my change from my drink. It was kind of a lot! I ran back to the bus and found Miguel. It wasn’t that far, so he said he’d walk me back to the restaurant. Although I missed all of the tour, I got my change and a whole lot of interesting information from Miguel. I got to try a sip of pulque and then we were whisked off to the gift shop for a spell. I just wanted to buy some gum as I had a brilliant plan to re-attach the sole of my shoe…(it didn’t work).
Back on the bus, it looked like I might make my reservation at the Bellini Restaurante – the revolving restaurant at the top of the world trade center building. A meal there was one of the options on my iVenture card, and I figured, what the heck! I loved the revolving restaurant in San Francisco. In the tour bus bathroom, I changed into some nice jeans and a black shawl to replace my grubby sweatshirt and I was ready for a fancy dinner. I told Miguel where I wanted to go and he had the bus let me off somewhat near a metrobus stop (not to be confused with the metro, the metrobus is an above ground line, but on a track, not a loose bus). I got a little lost but eventually found it and got my plastic card and climbed aboard. I wasn’t sure what stop to get off at and I tried asking people but eventually got pretty close searching on my phone. I ended up getting off one too far and walking back. Then it turns out I didn’t actually know which building was the world trade center. I thought it I did but the top didn’t look right! No revolving restaurant that I could see. I finally located it and getting to it and inside was a whole ‘nother challenge! The city is like a jungle! In the end, I was only about 20 minutes past my reservation and it was no problem. The view was incredible, although it was kind of overcast (it was actually raining when we were coming back on the bus).
The waiters were friendly, if somewhat perplexed as to why I was alone. I had the set 4 course dinner, which was kind of lousy, except for the creamed corn soup. But I was mesmerized by the view and the slow-motion rotation. I sat for a couple of hours just enjoying myself and also because I was too exhausted to face the ordeal I knew was coming – trying to get home.
But I finally rode the elevator back down to earth and wandered a little. I figured it’d be safest to take the metrobus again, since I knew right where it was and I could get a little closer to my destination before having to find a cab. All this in-city long distance travel was getting expensive!
I had no idea where to get off the metrobus and I was a little confused and turned around. I knew I went in the right direction at any rate. I finally just got off and figured “whatever” I’ll get a cab. It was pretty late and I was kind of at a huge confusing intersection. I didn’t really know which way to go for a cab. I waited and waited and there just were none (the couple I saw coming got snagged by other people). I didn’t feel unsafe in my surroundings, but I was tired and Just wanted to go home! I decided to try another street. I finally snagged a cab and the young driver was great, but yet again I had to use my phone GPS to direct him. It was quite a ride, but we got there and I got to practice my Spanish conversation for yet another long stretch.
Monday was to be my last day in the city before my late-night plane back to my tranquilo Zihua. I was feeling ready to be out of the city and back home. In truth, I’m not a city-girl. My city instincts and metro-riding thighs all came back, but the fast pace, crowds, and dropping wads of cash at every turn, really wear on me. I was supposed to be going on an electric bike tour, but I never received the email about where to go, and I was relieved (I did, however, receive an email 2 days later asking me if I’d enjoyed it). I wanted to just chill, maybe ride a tour bus again and try to organize a ride to the airport (yet another iVenture option).
I made my way back to the office where I got my card to see about arranging the airport ride. I had also seen a LUSH store I wanted to check out (“Fresh handmade cosmetics” a wonderful store I first discovered in Scotland back in 1998. I didn’t have time to stop the day before as I was trying to find the metrobus stop to the world trade center). The woman who spoke English was not in the office, but we managed to get it sorted out. She said the driver would not go to Coyoacan, but that I could get picked up at a hotel. She helped me to figure out how I was going to get to the hotel –I would take the bus to the metro to the metrobus and then it was a short walk to the hotel. No problem!
I realized I’d forgotten my ticket for the tour bus, so there’d be no riding around on that. I didn’t really mind. I was mostly just ready to get home. I had a fun visit to Lush. I had planned not to buy anything, well, maybe ONE thing…but it was too much fun and I was so deep into my “Treat YOSELF” (name that show) vacation…I came away with a little bag of goodies. I did a bit more wandering and then decided to make my way back to my place to relax, eat and get my stuff ready to leave. I had PLENTY of time. All I had to do was find the metro station. I took the metro bus to the stop nearest the station I was aiming for. It’s around here that things got a little wonky. I guess I lost my bearings? It was a busy part of the middle of the city and I finally got a map on my phone and was heading for what seemed to be the right place (each neighborhood has all the same street names and there are a lot of neighborhoods. It’s a little confusing). I was walking through some interesting parts. I even came upon a Chocolate Museum. I very nearly bought a ticket to go in, afterall, I still had plenty of time, right? But something told me I shouldn’t dally, so I forced myself to only visit the gift shop and get on my way. I still wasn’t sure exactly where I was or if I was going in the right direction or to the right place. I was having a lot of trouble with my vision and my tiny phone map, having to stop often to take out my reading glasses, take off my sun glasses, try to get oriented and figure out which way to turn next. I was getting a wee bit frustrated, but I pressed on. I thought I was almost there and the street I was on dead ended at an unpassable spot (city ravine?). I finally stopped to ask someone. While I’m very capable of asking for directions, it’s understanding the answers where I get tripped up. I can usually get the first part and set off in the right direction and then have to ask someone else. I don’t know how many people I talked to from there to the metro, but it was a lot, and they were all super friendly and helpful. There was some construction around the metro entrance, which didn’t help things, but I finally was making my way down into the tunnel. About 50,000 other people were also making their way down. It was the most crowded I’ve ever seen pretty much anything in my life. OH Right! It was Monday, Semana Santa was officially over and 40% of the city’s population was now back to work.
I was extremely grateful I don’t have claustrophobia or panic attacks, because this situation would surely have set me off. I was in a sea of people getting swept down to the metro. A train was just coming in and everyone crammed onto it. Well, not everyone, maybe half of everyone, and then the cars were jammed packed and people were trying not to get clipped at the doors closed. The rest of us would just have to wait for another train. I managed to squeeze my way into the next one. Luckily all of the metro stops have a little icon specific to each stop. I had begun to memorize the pictures that went with my stops, because, the aforementioned vision issues also affected my distance sight (it was really apparent in the city) and I couldn’t read the maps posted on the topsides in the metro cars. I got off at my usual stop, realizing I’d only ever gotten on there and had never taken the bus BACK to my place. I swam through the masses, assuming it was all going to work out. I had NO idea where I was supposed to get off or where the bus was taking me. Luckily, I recognized a bakery in my neighborhood and was let off right next to it. Perfect, I thought, I can get a rotisserie chicken for lunch and maybe one of those gigantic bimbuñeulos I had seen on my first day (I can never resist browsing through a pastry shop).
I was looking forward to relaxing for a bit and eating and then heading out to catch my airport shuttle. When I got back to my room I realized I had NO time whatsoever and had to grab my stuff and run. It had taken me hours just to get there! Did I mention how huge Mexico City is?
I turned in my keys and said goodbye to Clara. She walked me out to the street to catch the bus back to the metro and gave me a hug, like I’d been her visiting niece. Too bad we didn’t get to visit more. Back to the metro, one transfer and then try to find the hotel. When I got off the metro, I sat down outside to try to see if I could figure out which direction to walk. I couldn’t, but I knew it was only a 2 minute walk either way! I sighed in desperation and rolled my eyes to the sky. OH! There, towering above me was the hotel! I had to laugh at myself, relying on the stupid phone when all I needed to do was look around. I got to the hotel and had some time to relax on a fancy lobby couch until my driver arrived. I hadn’t realized it, but I was heading to the airport at rush hour. Glad I wasn’t driving. My driver was wonderful and again I got to practice my Spanish conversation, this time for more than an hour.
Finally, I was safely checked in and just waiting for my flight. I had time to get a salad (and put some of my rotisserie chicken in it). The bimbuñelo didn’t survive the trip. I had a few bites on the bus, but it got decimated and I tossed it. It was a fun idea anyway. I spotted a Krispy Kreme donut shop, and while I am not a big fan in general, I was intrigued. While Mexico produces some top notch pastries, I’ve never once had a satisfying donut in this country. Couldn’t hurt to get ONE, right? I was messaging with my friend Page in Zihua and I mentioned it to her…she said “bring me some!!!”. How could I resist? I managed to get 6 of them home.
The flight again left more than an hour late with no explanation whatsoever. The airport is so ginormous that when you go through your gate you are not actually going to a plane. Your gate takes you to a bus, which then takes you out to a plane. Ours was several miles away, it seemed. I joked to a fellow passenger “They’re driving us to Zihua” (actually what I said was “nos estan manejando a Zihua!”). It’s fun to be able to make people laugh in a different language.
At last on board, in my seat, with no one next to me. I blissfully dozed for the short hour-long trip. Being clever and savvy as I am, I knew to leave the airport and walk out to just off the airport property, where I could get a cab for quite a bit less than the airport rates. I went straight out there, anxious to just get home already. Not savvy enough… the taxis and buses give up on that venue late at night. There was nothing out there, just me, in the dark with my bag and Krispy Kremes. I trudged all the way back to the ghost-town airport and got in line to get a cab with the rest of the poor schmucks from my flight. I opted for a shared cab, which costs much less and I was the second one dropped off. It was after midnight and I couldn’t be more grateful to fall into my own bed.
I know I’ve been way behind on getting a blog post out and it’s been bugging me now and then in the back of my mind, and even been on a list or 2. But when I start getting spam comments on the site that say “I see you need some fresh content” offering me writing services…well, that’s a pretty big wake up call, no?
I’m not even sure where to begin at this point. Let’s just take it one month at a time, shall we?
My amazing and beautiful friend Shannon came to visit me for 5 weeks. We had an incredible time together – filled with laughing, playing, working, napping, healing, cooking, eating, swimming, walking, biking and zumba’ing. I also dragged her along to look at apartments, as I wanted to find a less expensive and more comfortable space for when Jonny returned. We looked at a dozen place, don’t know if I would’ve had to strength to go through all that by myself and was so grateful for Shannon’s support.
Just before Shannon left, I found “the one”. A beautiful, large apartment for about 30% less than I had been paying. Also, it has an oven and wonderful, large kitchen.
It got the Shannon stamp of approval and I put a deposit down to move in mid-Nov. I moved all by my lonesome, which was kind of a bummer. I really am great at moving, but for some reason, this move was extremely difficult and stressful for me – even though I have hardly any stuff and I wasn’t moving very far. I did hire Fernando (Adriana’s handyman) and his truck to take all my stuff (which fit in one load) the 4 blocks to my new place and help lug it up the 3 flights of stairs. It was well worth the 100 pesos and open bottle of vodka. I had a lot to do to settle into my new place. It only had a couple minor furnishings (bed frame, dresser, night stand, built in cement couch w/ no cushions). Not mattress, mirror, closet or curtains in the place. Seeing as I had been living in a fully furnished, fully equipped place, I had a lot of little things to replace. Between that and school and client work, I was pretty busy.
Geared up for my school’s Posada (the Christmas parties most workplaces/homes have for employees and friends). I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I had to dress up. I was kind of looking forward to it, as it had been years since I got dressed up for anything. I was hoping Jonny was going to make it here in time to go with me and meet everyone. I was also looking forward to hanging out with all the school staff – they are always so busy I never get to just talk to them much. Sadly, days before the party, I got horribly sick. I haven’t been that sick in years. Also, it didn’t look like Jonny was going to make it in time to go with me. I rallied the night of the party and made a short appearance – I really wanted to wear my new red dress and I knew I’d probably not get the chance again until maybe the following year, if that…
Jonny stopped at Isla Grande – about 10 miles north of Zihua – just a quick bus ride for me. Reuniting with Jonny while still feeling sick, was not at all how I pictured things. But we forged ahead. I went out there to meet him for the weekend. I had no idea how it was going to feel to be back aboard Summer. I wondered if I’d become a landlubber afterall? Not to worry, I felt instantly back at home. It was so nice, I loved being onboard and sleeping at anchor was the best sleep I’d had in months. My hacking cough was not super attractive, but Jonny and I were happy to be together.
We spent Christmas in my apartment and back on the boat for New Year’s. I think we had Christmas shrimp, Chanukkah latkes and Thanksgiving turkey all inside one week…
We had a lovely short trip down to Barra de Postosi, which was beautiful and peaceful. I was hoping it would become our getaway spot with Summer – away from the ‘city life’. There are no jet skis or banana boats. It was great to sail again and hang out watching dolphins ride our bow wake.
Shortly after Jonny landed in Zihua it became apparent he should take care of renewing his tourist visa. I helped him find a flight to LA for early January (it turns out there’s a nonstop from here and it is quite affordable). He was able to turn a visa renewal trip into a visit the family trip, which was great for him.
We were able to have a fun day out on Summer with Diego (my teacher), his fiancé, Anahi and his sister, Dilian and her daughter Eva. They are all teachers at my school, so I see them all the time and help out with their English classes, but we don’t often get to hang out socially. It was a fun day!
One day we finally went to snorkel out at Las Gatas and see the sunken Jesus statue there. I made this video:
Somehow, I got horribly sick AGAIN – which was so annoying for someone who hasn’t caught anything in over 7 years (not counting chikungunya or ear infection). I think it was all the gringo germs coming to the area, as tourist season was really picking up. I had started noticing the place just crawling with white folk!
Before Jonny left for LA, we celebrated his 6 month anniversary of sobriety with a nice dinner out, and a bottle of wine (just kidding!!! Wanted to see who was paying attention).
Since I have a nice roomy apartment, Jonny wanted to invite his dear friends, Cliff and Dee down for a visit. They jumped at the chance and arrived for a weeklong visit the day after Jonny returned from LA. We had a busy and fun week with them. They were the perfect houseguests and so nice to be around. We were sad to see them go.
On a very sad note, my very dear and beautiful friend Karine, passed away at the end of January. She fought valiantly for many years against her second bout of cancer. It was painful not to be able to talk to her as we knew the end was coming. But I know she was surrounded by family and loving friends on her final days.
A very fast month. In the beginning, we participated in the annual SailFest activities. It’s a big event that draws a lot of cruisers. It’s a fundraising event to benefit children and schools of Zihuatanejo. There are a number of festivities all week (auction, chili cook-off, things like that) and cruisers volunteer to take guests who purchase tickets out for a ride. We volunteered for both sailing events – a fun race out to the rock, and a boat parade to Ixtapa to salute the Port Captain. We had a different couple for each of the days. Both couples were from Canada (not unusual down here, most white folk are Canadian). We enjoyed it all far more than expected. For the ‘race’ we were extremely surprised about how well Summer did! We were sure we’d be dead last, being one of the smallest boats. But out of 18 or 19 boats I think we crossed the finish line 5th or 6th. We were never able to get the final results. I also haven’t been able to get a copy of the picture of us crossing the finish line, wing on wing. It was very exciting though! The parade day was a lot of fun as well. After lapping the bay a couple times and sailing out to Ixtapa to salute the Capitania de Puerto, we took our guests on a whaling mission. We succeeded in getting some great sightings and having a wonderful sail!
After we recovered from SailFest activities, February was filled with Jonny doing boat projects and surfing, and me trying to work on new business ideas and ways we could afford to stay together in Zihua for the summer. Peugeot got a new cover – Jonny spent an entire week, all day every day, sewing this beauty up. This should last a while!
We were also supposed to figure out where Summer would spend the summer – because it’s just too stormy and lightning-y to keep her in the bay all summer and the marina here is prohibitively expensive. No decisions were ever really made. Jonny never really found a groove in Zihua, he was fearful of the cartel violence that is often taking place here and never really grew an affinity for the town. He was not looking forward to living on land in extreme heat for the summertime, with no obvious opportunities for earning money. He was far more excited about possibilities for earning money in other places. I was not interested in leaving my stable and comfortable life here to couch surf and struggle to work in the very expensive United States. I was also not ready to move back onto the boat again, when we hadn’t resolved a great number of issues that needed resolving. Somehow the months just vanished behind us and we had made no progress.
March brought Zihua’s 2nd “Fest”… GuitarFest. People come from all over to play and listen to, guitars. There were a few that caught our ear and we spent several nights sitting on the sand next to the main stage (the free seats), listening to some amazing performers. My two favorites were Lipbone Redding (yes, he could make his mouth sound like a trombone… and he was super funny) and Jossey Gallegos (local woman) who had an incredible voice – she even did some opera. I did also like the quartet from Argentina that played a mean acoustic cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. The final night was a great treat as we got to see ALL the performers separately, and they called upon others to join them here and there. The finale was all of them at once performing a great montage they put together. All the performers stay at the same hotel and get to know each other and collaborate on ideas and songs – it sounds like great fun for them! It was certainly fun to hear them play together and see the respect and admiration they all had for each other. We got to hear some original music that will never be heard again by anyone else!
After that week Jonny spent a week off on Summer surfing a good break near Ixtapa. I met him out there for a weekend, just like when he arrived. But this time, we came to an impasse. Given financial limitations, geographic challenges and personal needs we realized it just wasn’t going to work out for us. We were both deeply disappointed, but it was clear that separating was the right thing to do. When we embarked on the cruising life, we knew we would run out of money in a couple years and we knew we’d have to figure something out. We just didn’t know it would be this.
The next couple weeks, Jonny prepared to leave Zihua, with plans to put Summer up someplace safe in June and seek his fortune, and I hope happiness, somewhere for the summer/fall hurricane season. I’m not really sure what he will do, but all his energy was heading north and away from here. I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride here. There’s so many great people and my Spanish is improving every day. I’m still very taken in by the challenge of living in a different culture. I love my apartment and how close it is to all the beaches and markets. My virtual assistant business has picked up and I’m doing a variety of interesting work for some very nice people whom I may never meet in person. All this means the best way for me to earn money is to stay put and work. I’ve also started a new themed blog and affiliate marketing endeavor. Writing about something I’m passionate about (healthy food/cooking and exercise) and providing shopping links to healthy products I approve of (and receiving commission on sales I send their way) is something I hope I can make a go of. These things take a minimum of 6 months of hard work to make them viable, so we’ll see what happens. It’s www.fitnessandhealth.space if you’re interested in checking it out.
So. That’s all for now. Another tearful good-bye and Summer sailed away. I have no idea what is going to happen next. I’m just gearing up for surviving another sweltering summer, which I’m oddly looking forward to, as the town becomes a sleepy little place once again.
I did get Jonny to leave me with my beloved Mini-P. I’m tricking her out for shady trips out to the bay to swim and relax when it’s too hot to do anything else here.
Next week, my first cousin and best friend (and partner in many crimes we will never confess), Becky, is coming down here to spend a week with me. 20 years ago this February, Becky and I took our first solo vacation to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. It was a pretty wild trip. I doubt we will be doing tequila shots and dancing on tables at Señor Frogs (I’d probably pull a hip muscle), but it will be fun to hang out together nonetheless!!
In April, I’m looking forward to attending the wedding of Diego and Anahi. I’m sure there will be some great cultural experiences on top of seeing these amazing people get married.
Until next time…find the beauty that is everywhere…
I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is starting off 2017 happy and healthy.
I know, I KNOW…I’m more behind than ever. A real blog is forthcoming, I promise. But a few fun and exciting things in the meantime…
Please enjoy my latest video creation – snorkeling the sunken Jesus statue in Las Gatas beach in Zihuatanejo. That song was playing in my head the entire time, and well, I couldn’t NOT make this video. Jonny and I just spent some great time together aboard SUMMER. Real blog. Soon. Really! For now:
I’m making CALENDARS! I know, I should have thought of this a couple of months ago. But here it is. Who wants a 2017 Calendar? Please email me and let me know so I can order one for you. They will be $19.95 which includes mailing to you (in the continental US only–more for elsewhere). Next year I will start early and make different themes (sunsets, sea critters, etc).
“Life’s roughest storms prove the strength of our anchors” – unknown
Jonny and Summer have been passing hurricane season up in Banderas Bay – La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta area. We’ve kept in touch and recently had been talking more and more. We realized that we were not just ‘getting over’ each other and in fact missed each other more with every passing week. Jonny has also had some great realizations and has been working very hard to remove obstacles to personal growth. We decided to get together and see each other in person. Meeting someplace new and neutral seemed like a good idea.
I’d been wanting to see Guadalajara for some time – everyone says it’s such a beautiful city. I had planned to take a trip out there when I had a 3 week break from school, but so much other work materialized that I didn’t have time. We decided to meet up there – somewhat geographically in the middle of our locations. I found us a hotel and we checked out bus schedules and made a date. It was pretty exciting and a little bit distressing – all the worries and anxiety of “what ifs”. But finally, I was on my bus for an 8-hour overnight trip.
The buses here are quite amazing. When I was buying my ticket, the woman asked me “arriba o abajo?” Now, I understood the words to mean “up or down” and I was really confused why she was asking me this. She finally pointed to a picture of the bus – it was a double decker! Of course I picked the front row up top– even though I was supposed to be sleeping the entire time, the full front window seat was too good to resist. These buses are the height of luxury. Each passenger gets their own TV with headphone jack and USB port, comfortable leg rests and reclining seats, spotlessly clean and stocked bathrooms, and a goody bag as you get on with your choice of water or other drinks, snacks and a pair of headphones. I got the tiniest bag of Sabritas I’ve ever seen.
Luckily no one was seated next to me and I was able to toss and turn and probably get more sleep than I thought I did. I had ear plugs and eye shades, I was serious about getting a good night’s sleep. Given that the buses are highly air conditioned (i.e. freezing cold), I reasoned I’d probably get a better sleep than I have been at home recently (SO hot, waking up around 3 am just miserable and not being able to go back to sleep…). I removed my eyeshades to check out the time and discovered it was light out already and we were just a few minutes from the bus station! I guess I DID sleep, because that 8 hour trip went by awfully fast.
In the Guadalajara bus station, I paid 5 pesos to use the bathrooms and brush my teeth and ready myself for a cab ride to the hotel. There was a ticket booth for cabs, where you bought a ticket for the sector of your destination and the prices were all set. Not possible to get ripped off by a cabbie with this system. I was a bit tired and had my usual early-morning stupidity going on (one of the downsides to being immune to caffeine), so it was probably for the best that my driver was not very talkative. I did try to strike up a conversation, always wanting to practice my Spanish, but he was clearly not a morning person, either. He did bring me right to the door of my hotel, where I was told they could let me in my room at 10:30 am – which was really nice since check in was not supposed to be till 3:00 pm. I had a couple hours to kill, so I decided to walk around a bit – making sure to just stay on one street and not wander around and get myself lost. I had been wearing a sweatshirt on the bus and sometime later I realized I was still wearing it. YES, it was MUCH cooler there – a good 15 -20 degrees cooler than Zihua. It was wonderful to walk around and not be drenched in sweat!
I ended up at a huge square with fountains and churches and beautiful buildings surrounding it. Jackpot! I enjoyed the scene and found a croissant store that appeared to be famous for the chocolate croissants – how could I resist? It was probably the worst croissant I’ve ever had. Not only was the bread-y part thick and horrible, but I also discovered there actually IS such a thing as “too much chocolate”. I was resting on a bench, trying to get through it, when man with an adorable little girl sat down next to me. Oh great, here it comes… Yep. He wanted to talk to me, and hit on me, with the classic, stereotypical Latino man characteristic: he wanted to “fix” all my problems, he wanted to tell me how to do everything, even though I didn’t actually HAVE any problems. He didn’t know a thing about my hotel, but he suggested I should change hotels and move to one on the square. He suggested I needed to hire him to promote my yoga business, he told me how I should be doing all sorts of things and it really just started to annoy me. I politely said my good byes and found myself actually muttering out loud as I was walking off “can’t I even just sit on a bench by myself without some creep messing with me? And who is he to tell me what to do? I don’t need his help! Rawr rawr rawr…” it was kind of funny – but I realized how my response to someone trying to ‘help’ me or tell me what to do was probably very typically “American” – so strong-headed and independent… I wondered how Mexican women put up with this nonsense, and I realized that they probably simply ignore it, because they are the ones who truly run the show anyway. Men blab a lot while the women are quietly, serenely, getting stuff done. Maybe I can learn to be more gracious and grateful, without feeling the need to actually listen or follow unwanted advice??
I finally got into the hotel room, realizing I was a lot more tired than I thought. All I wanted to do was take a shower and lie down. Upon entering, I immediately realized the room did not meet my expectations of a ‘luxury king’ room. It was certainly not what the internet showed (what? The internet lies??). It was dingy and dark, the only window lookd out into an air shaft. The shower door was cracked, the floor could have been cleaner and the giant bed was less than inviting. I contemplated going and asking if there was another room, knowing how disappointed Jonny would be and fearing a negative reaction. While I was truly disappointed, I wasn’t feeling like making a scene – and besides the hotel was under construction and I think they gave us the room farthest from noise. I was far too tired to figure out how to make a scene in Spanish and thought maybe I’d have a shower and lie down first (not entirely realizing how dumb that was if I really wanted a different room). But that’s what I did and the room was dark and cool and I tried to rest. I could not. So I went out exploring again – still a few hours to wait for Jonny’s arrival.
I wandered down to the area with the large central mercado and had a quick look around. It sure was huge! The food court area was one cleanest and most well-lit of any mercado I’ve seen. And it is actually the largest market under one roof in the world! I was making mental notes of all the things we needed to go back and see and paying careful attention not to get lost (I know this sounds like a no brainer, but for me it is not, I have been known to gleefully wander for hours before realizing I had no idea where I was…let me tell you about Paris someday…).
I made a detour while wandering back toward the hotel and I found these guys in a park, drumming for a gathering crowd. Their drums were 5 gallon buckets, water jugs, pots and pans and their talent was out of this world! One guy’s ‘seat’ was his bike as it lay on the ground. I watched for as long as they played and I dropped coins in their bowl more than once.
Finally, it was time to go back and meet Jonny. As I sat in the hotel lobby, I realized that the hotel itself was just lovely, even if our room wasn’t all that. Sunshine was streaming in through the glassed roof and birds were chirping happily in their cages (wait, were they really happy? I mean, they were all trapped in cages! It sounded nice though). I tried to wait patiently and not fidget too much…It was an odd combination of feelings. It was not like the giddiness of meeting someone at the beginning of a relationship or the excitement of a new love. There was certainly some anxiety, but not too much. When his cab pulled up and I watched him paying, I felt calm. I didn’t rush over to him even though we hadn’t seen each other in 4 months. There was no awkwardness at all, it more felt like a giant relief to have Jonny wrap his arms around me. It was like my missing piece was finally moving back into place. And yet, so many things had changed and we had to navigate some unfamiliar waters. Luckily we have some experience in that realm.
I watched as Jonny was disappointed with the room and I resisted the urge to run downstairs and try to get us a different one, trying to diffuse a horrible reaction, trying to smooth over a possible fight…and then I watched as he miraculously decided not to make an issue. I hoped it would not come back to bite me later – and just as miraculously, it didn’t. He even said towards the end of our visit “I’m glad I didn’t make a big deal about the room”. Whew. Me too!!! Yeah, it wasn’t the room of our dreams, but it served its purpose and if something had to go wrong, I’m glad that was the only thing. I actually slept better there than I have many months before or since (probably not related to the room or the metal springs poking me through the board-like mattress…).
We had numerous conversations, breakthroughs, laughs and cries. We found the beginning of a new relationship that was filled with love and honesty and devoid of alcohol. I also felt more relaxed than I had in many months. As every woman knows, when you’re walking around all alone, there’s a certain level of alertness and awareness that’s ever-present, as we constantly have to monitor the status of our safety. Being able to grab onto Jonny’s strong arm and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing I was perfectly safe and I could let my guard down was a surprisingly comforting feeling – one I didn’t even realize I’d been missing.
In between serious, important talks and quality time, we also did something just as meaningful – we remembered how to have FUN together! (Believe me, I know how ridiculous it is that we had so little fun living on a sailboat…).
We did a LOT of sightseeing! Guadalajara is indeed a very beautiful city. In 3 days we walked around 16 miles. Guadalajara has amazing architecture and history, plenty of old churches and over 100 colleges and universities.
On the last day we simply didn’t want to walk another step, so we hopped on a double decker tour bus and saw far more in one afternoon that we possibly could on foot.
On the last morning we had a very early and less-than-romantic goodbye outside the taxicab at the bus station. After I was dropped off and he continued on to a different bus station. We rode our luxury buses back from whence we came. But everything was different now. We had a plan, of sorts, or at least a commitment to give it all another go. When hurricane season ends, Jonny will make his way back down to Zihua and we will figure things out. There is a lot that remains to be seen, the only solid thing is our commitment to each other and our desire to be together. Just like setting off on Summer – we know what port we are heading for, but we have no idea what we are going to find along the way. We are both up for this new adventure, weathering the storms and enjoying the beautiful moments. And…I can’t wait to see my girl Summer again!
In the meantime, as I await Jonny’s arrival, my life continues to be full and busy. I am moving into a far less expensive apartment, which is also about 3 times bigger! And most importantly, it has an OVEN. Oh yes. (Thanksgiving, anyone?!)
I continue to drum up work as I can, work on making www.ziyoga.com happen, go to Zumba classes, go to Spanish classes and help out at my school and hang out with friends. My wonderful friend Shannon was just here for a 5 week visit – but I think that might have to be a blog entry by itself. Stay tuned!!!
l feel more and more at home in Mexico with every passing day, and before I get so comfortable I don’t notice these things anymore, I thought I would share a number of things I’ve observed, pondered and compared to life as I knew it in the U.S. This is just a random collection of some of those things with my observations and thoughts.
A perfectly acceptable form of product marketing is to record a short, repetitive ‘infomercial’ and blast it from loudspeakers attached to a moving car, or car parked in a residential neighborhood, a scooter or a bicycle. They also can happen while you are riding on a bus – talk about a captive audience.
Other vendors and services also have audio cues to announce their presence in your area – the garbage truck rings a bell and has a cute little tune that plays just before the singsong announcement of “La Basuuuuuraaaaaa”. That one really gets stuck in your head. You walk around all day singing “The Garbage”. The propane gas trucks all have their own tunes and “Global Gaaaaaaas” announcement. I’ve found each town has a slightly different tune for this. Of course there’s the ice cream truck, the cart selling sweet potatoes, bolillos, and some other things I haven’t figured out yet.
Water: I remember hearing all my life “don’t drink the water in Mexico”. In fact, when I was a kid and my parents took me to a Mexican restaurant for the first time, I refused to drink the water I was served. I’m sure everyone had a good laugh at me before clarifying. It used to be you had to be careful about ice in your drinks and the water served to you in restaurants. This is no longer the case – no one here drinks the tap water. All ice and drinking water is purified, usually through reverse-osmosis. In every home there’s a 5 gallon just of drinking water and water deliveries happen multiple times per week. When I need a new jug of water, I just tell Adriana and the delivery guy will bring it to my door, or if it’s not a delivery day, I can just get one of the extras she keeps on hand. A jug lasts me just over a week and costs me 30 pesos (under $2) This is rather high; if I wanted to lug a 5 gallon jug through town, I could get one for 10 pesos. But I prefer to get my exercise through Zumba (and I can barely get one of these jugs up my stairs without hurting my back…) so I splurge on the luxury.
The craze that’s sweeping the nation…it’s SWEEPING. That’s right, I’m pretty sure that sweeping is Mexico’s national pastime. At any given point, there are at least 18 million* Mexicans sweeping something. Sweeping parks and pathways, sweeping streets, sweeping sidewalks, sweeping dirt, sweeping water, sweeping with brooms, sweeping with palm fronds.
There’s always something to be swept up – around here it’s due to all the flowers and trees constantly abscissing (ex-foliageating? deciduating? Seems like there should be a word for “losing leaves”). Zihua employs a large number of people who wear dayglow vests and sweep the bike/walking path by my house every day. My neighborhood is extremely tidy, there is always someone out there sweeping the street and/or sidewalks every morning. Anywhere at any time, you can find someone sweeping (ok maybe not during siesta time, but, no, even then. I’m sure of it). *this statistic may be inaccurate or completely made up
Paying, Rounding and change – things are often priced at odd amounts – like 82 pesos or 63 pesos, etc. Oftentimes if you don’t have exact change, they just round down – if you give 100 p for 82 pesos, sometimes you’ll get a 20 back. Also, I’ve found most vendors, stores and restaurants often do not have sufficient change and frequently have to borrow from their own pockets or go next door to get your change. A 500 peso note is roughly $27 USD, but they are extremely difficult to spend as almost no one has change for that much if the bill is less than 200 pesos. It’s quite odd that businesses seem to not stock coins and smaller bills. Unlike in the US, where we often end up with jars of coins, I find I am always struggling to have enough smaller coins on hand, and when I am someplace where I think they could make change easily, I use the biggest bill I have in order to get it broken down. The ATM machines spit out 500s and I often go into the bank and have them broken down to smaller bills, I rarely bother to try to spend the 500s anymore. At any rate, 500 p is like a week’s worth of groceries! And just for reference, a day’s wage, on average, is around 200 pesos.
Paying for things is always an adventure in bigger stores/fabric stores/department stores. In fabric stores, you find what you want and the person helping you takes it and give you a tag. You take the tag to a cashier and pay. The cashier gives you a receipt. You take the receipt to another place and exchange it for your items, which magically ended up there and in a bag. But, when you go to a doctor or dentist, when they are finished treating you, they tell you what you owe them and you just hand it right to them. But of course going to the doctor doesn’t cost much more than buying some fabric… Bigger grocery stores are similar to those in the US – you go through the checkout process and pay – but here you always tip the baggers a peso or two.
Laundry is probably one of my favorite things to do nowadays. There are 4 laundry shops in less than ½ mile of my place. They all charge 16 pesos / kilo. There are no do-it-yourself laundromats that I have seen around here and I do not have access to a washer and dryer. So, every two weeks I lug all of my laundry to TurboLaundry in the morning and by 6:00pm it’s clean and folded for usually around $6.00 USD. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Politeness: I have to say Mexicans are some of the politest people I’ve ever known. I think they are politer than Canadians and maybe even, just maybe, politer than the British. Here are a few things I constantly observe: when getting on a combi (the small little busses that take people around), nearly everyone says “Buenos dias” when they get on, and most everyone greets them in return. I have yet to see people arguing anywhere, I have never seen road rage or heard car horns honked in anger and annoyance. Since I have become aware of this, I pay more attention. Car horns are used constantly, mostly by taxi drivers to kindly let you know they are there in case you need them – just a friendly little toot-toot. The other day, for the first time I heard a horn really blare and I stopped to see what kind of altercation was about to ensue. Turns out the guy in the car knew the guy crossing the street and they waved excitedly at each other.
In Zumba class the other day there was a woman I don’t remember seeing before (maybe once?). While we were all working out, every few minutes she went and looked at her phone, even sat and texted a number of times, and when she did join in she wasn’t really doing what the rest of us were doing. It was pretty strange – and kind of annoying to me. Now she wasn’t being very polite, I thought, but NO ONE so much as looked at her sidelong, no one made a snarky or sarcastic comment, not even the teacher. It was interesting to observe, because I am sure if this happened in the U.S. SOMEONE would say something – or at least point to a sign posted on the wall telling people not to use their cell phones in class (there would never be such a sign here – except at banks, I’ve seen a cell phone in a circle with a line through it once). It’s possible I was the only person who was even annoyed by it (I’m still an uptight American to some extent, I guess!).
A friend invited me to attend a birthday party for someone I didn’t know. Of course I went along. That was a fascinating experience (if somewhat awkward for me). We arrived to the house, where the party was set up -in I guess what would be considered the carport area? Many homes have a large patio type area in front that is gated and you could drive a car into it to lock up if you wanted, or you can use it for hanging out/having a fiesta. There was a long table with presents and chairs lined up along the walls. We sat in some chairs and were brought drinks (I finally got to try agua de tamarindo – tamarind juice – it was delicious!). I watched as other people arrived and nearly everyone who arrived went along the chairs and greeted everyone else. They even greeted me and introduced themselves –which is when I realized that a lot of people there didn’t know each other – it’s just common custom to say hello and greet everyone. When people left they also went around and said goodbye to everyone, even the people they did not know (often with the customary cheek-kiss).
We eventually moved to the long table and had some delicious pozole (it was a pozole party) and talked with some people. When we finished the pozole, we left the table and went back to chairs to talk with other people, leaving the table open for others to enjoy some pozole. There was music and children and dogs, but in general it was a very mellow scene. I can’t imagine a party here where anyone would ever suggest you don’t bring your children. I think every event is always family friendly. Of course after the children go to sleep, many adults will keep the party going to the wee hours of the morning, but I’m pretty sure you will never, ever find an invitation here that says “no children”.
Littering: In the U.S., littering is actually a crime, punishable by large fines in some places. But more than that, it is ingrained in nearly all adults today as something quite heinous, so awful, that if you do it, you will make a Native American on a horse cry…and if you “gave a hoot” you wouldn’t pollute. Well, Woodsy and Iron Eyes Cody didn’t make it down Mexico way. I see people throwing litter down all the time without so much as a second thought. Of course I get angry and wonder how people can simply not care or even think for a second that maybe using the nearby trashcan might be a better idea. I got an interesting perspective on this when talking with a local person; in many places it is someone’s job to clean up trash – therefore, by throwing your trash on the ground, you are helping to keep someone employed. Given the amount of trash that doesn’t get picked up, I don’t know as if this is such a solid argument… Although, like many things in the US, while many citizens are greenwashed into feeling like a criminal if they litter, the hypocrisy is strong with corporations and oil companies committing heinous acts of environmental destruction that often go by with little or no punishment, let alone guilt. I don’t really know what the corporate behavior or policies are like here, except to say I know they have rules, regulations and enforcement.
Violence/Crime: While I try to avoid a lot of news, I get some news from the U.S. on a pretty regular basis about senseless acts of violence happening more and more frequently. It’s appalling, really. I wonder what y’all are doing up there sometimes… The violence in Mexico is far different. While I don’t want to call it “sensible”, you pretty much never find yourself scratching your head in sadness and disbelief when you hear about a shooting here. The people who shoot and the people who get shot are almost entirely drug cartel related. While it’s not unheard of, it is very rare that innocent people are getting shot here. Now it just so happens that at the time I began to write this, one cartel in another state is trying to take over the one here in my state (I’m keeping this vague because I hear it’s not good to talk too much about this sort of thing…tends to make one no longer “innocent” ?). At any rate it’s been a number of years since an innocent person was caught in the crossfire, but a few days ago it happened. Apparently there was an all-out mini war not far from my house, in an area I walk through almost daily – in a spot one of my friends walked through 10 minutes prior, and other friends would have been walking through had an email not distracted/delayed their departure from home. An innocent woman (known by people I know) driving in her car was killed and her passengers injured. The chase and shootout began near my street, I was home working and went out to see what I could see when I heard a lot of gunfire (which I always try to kid myself is maybe just firecrackers…there was no mistaking it this time, in broad daylight). I realized I probably should just go back inside. I later learned about what went down a little farther away towards town.
Now of course this a little scary, but honestly I am not afraid. The only time I ever felt fear in my own home what just prior to leaving Santa Cruz, when a crazy person was shooting cops and threatening people near my house and I hadn’t heard they apprehended him. I heard some noises in my yard that night (probably raccoons) while I was brushing my teeth, and I felt sheer terror and was so jumpy I got toothpaste all over myself. Here, yes, it’s awful what happened and there will in all likelihood be more happenings of this nature until one cartel ‘wins’ and things will settle down. There has been a huge amount of beefed up security in town – police and military with huge guns are a common site all over the place now, and to be honest, it is a little comforting to know they are keeping an eye on things (police wrongly shooting innocent people is not a big concern here, they all seem to be very professional and well trained and I’ve not ever heard of it happening). The news papers and tv also often show pictures of victims – it doesn’t seem to be at all taboo for people to post and show dead bodies. It’s a little eerie, but there is definitely a different connection to death here that I’m still trying to understand (looking forward to my first Dia de los Muertos!)
At least when there is violence, there’s some logic to it, an explanation as to why it happened. People also have ability to make decisions that will most likely keep them out of harm’s way. In general, Mexicans do not own, or want to own guns. The “bad guys” and the police and military have the guns and use them for the most part only on specific other ‘bad guys’.
No one goes out randomly shooting up a post office, office building, night club, school full of children… I doubt the news of the violence here would make it to the US since their news is too busy with all their own violence and death and terrifying political scenes…but I know some people are paying attention and have the gall to suggest Mexico is a dangerous place to live. I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at that – much like most of the things I hear from the US these days… Not being immersed in the culture in the US any longer, and only hearing the worst of the news (of which there seems to be quite a lot lately), I am starting to get a clear understanding of why other countries have such a negative view of the US.
As with any place in the world, there are good people and bad people. And as with all the previous world travels I’ve experienced, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience here. I feel a great affection for this place and the people I have been getting to know.
I know many of you were probably expecting this blog to be about my trip to Guadalajara and the weekend I spent with Jonny (which was wonderful!)….sorry to disappoint. Next time, I promise!!!
I have a new post in the works, really, I promise!!! But today I wanted to announce my latest and very exciting adventure/venture.
My friend Page and I have started a yoga retreat here in Zihua/Ixtapa. I got the idea to do this shortly after meeting Page, who is a yoga teacher. Long story (and a whole lot of work) short, we are planning our first retreat in November. Please check out my new website for Zi-Yoga
Share with your friends! Pass it around! And if you have the time and inclination to post flyers in your local yoga studios or around town, let me know and I can send you one to print out.
We’re so excited to have our first retreat in November. We’ve been working really hard on putting everything together to make it a really fun and relaxing time for our guests. The place we are having the retreat has a wonderfully huge kitchen and I am going to be in charge of breakfasts for everyone each morning -I’m pretty excited about that, too. We are hiring a chef to help with lunches and dinners and are planning some healthy and delicious meals. We have so many fun activities to share with people, we had to scale back our first plan because we realized it was going to exhaust everyone! I think we have a great plan and I know we have a great place (check out the website for photos of our gorgeous Retreat Oasis. Maybe we’ll see you there!!
A real blog post next time, I promise!!! I’m going to Guadalajara next weekend, so I’m sure there will be some adventures there.
PS – Sorry for the weird notification emails. I should have that sorted out now – next time should be perfect!!!
Well it appears living on land, with constant wifi access hasn’t improved my ability to get blog entries posted more frequently. I’ve been keeping notes from time to time of my observations and things I would like to write about. Now I have five pages of random things to sift through; I don’t think that has really helped our cause here.
I’m just about four months into living here, sometimes it seems like far longer, sometimes like I just arrived. Every day I appreciate the things I already love about this place, and most days I find more things to appreciate.
One thing has become exceedingly clear to me as I’ve struggled to figure out ‘what’s next’ and what my life is supposed to look like. When I left California, it was with a very clear purpose and idea of what I wanted my life to be like. The main thing there was simplicity. We sold all our ‘stuff’ and moved into a very small, very self-sufficient home that had low impact on the world. Above all, that’s still the very life I want. Knowing this helps me with things like “should I try to buy a car?” Absolutely not! Why would I want all that complication and expense again after what I went through to get rid of it before? I can walk or ride my bike or take a bus anyplace I want to go and there are also the thrilling times when I go places with people in their vehicles. Do I need more stuff? Furniture? Cookware? No! I am doing just fine with what I have. Ok the over-abundance of inexpensive, used clothing shops that I pass by daily makes it hard to avoid the occasional tank top…but for the most part I still feel like I have what I need and I don’t wish to complicate my life. I have gotten used to living indoors again and even began to really enjoy the air conditioning.
I also keep things simple by saying “yes” to most everything, even when I’m not sure entirely what I’m saying yes to. And then I resign myself to just ‘going with the flow’ and seeing what happens.
Of the things I’ve said “yes” to, with only the vaguest notion of what I was really agreeing to: Going out to lunch with Raul, the kind old gentleman from the museum, going to a birthday party for a stranger, going out on a late-night panga ride, going to an elementary school graduation ceremony, attending soccer practice (I thought I was going to a game. This was super boring, but the coach was nice to look at and it was fun to watch the other bored families) and trying a wide variety of food and drinks I’ve been offered.
One of my favorites was going along with Adriana and her friends visiting from Acapulco – 2 couples, each with a daughter (young teen age). We went to breakfast at a friend’s taco stand (I love me some steak quesadillas for breakfast) and then we were going to a church on the way to her mother’s place. I thought it was the old, historic church in Petatlan that we’d talked about stopping to see one Sunday –as I’d heard it was something to see. They were a fun, happy bunch, laughing and talking. I tried my best to keep up, but was hopelessly lost in their rapid Spanish most of the time. We stopped at Comercial Mexican (big grocery store) I think so Leticia could get a ‘real’ coffee, (as they only had instant at the taco place) and everyone could buy snacks and use the restroom. We finally herded everyone back out to their cars and headed out. I was a little confused to hear we were not going to Petatlan, but rather a church in San Jeronimito (where Mama lives/has the hotel). As we parked and everyone started going toward the church, I heard the church bells clanging and suddenly the awareness washed over me – we were not in fact going to site-see at an old, historic church… I was about to attend Sunday Mass. I had to try not to laugh out loud at myself.
We took our programs and sat in pews off to the side of the main area – greeting Mama on the way in (one of these days I’m going to get her name again, I can’t remember it and it’s just gone on too long to ask now…) – she was dressed in a smart neon green pants suit with a beautiful matching hair piece. I was a little concerned at my attire: jean shorts and a nice tank shirt – but I noticed that there was a wide range of clothing styles going on there – shorts and tank tops, elegant dresses, flip flops, towering high heels, smart casual and what I call “the prostitute look” (more on this later – but I’ve noticed that what is considered “professional attire” and “dressed up” for women here, is more akin to what is considered “prostitute” in the US). So, I didn’t feel so out of place, aside from being the only white person.
While I didn’t understand most of what was being said, I did have my program and some things were read verbatim from that, so I was able to follow along, and it was quite a good Spanish lesson. There was a lot of standing up and sitting down, which I dutifully did, but I didn’t know how to cross myself or sing along. So instead I just became very observant of the scene. It was actually pretty amazing. There was one woman breast feeding her baby in the pew, there were numerous other infants making lots of noise, and either being left to do so, or being carried around by helpful Dads and Moms (mostly Dads). No one was scowling or giving stink-eye to anyone, this is simply how is it when you have children, and I’ve noticed for a while now that Mexicans seem to have far more tolerance and patience with children than I’ve observed in the US. These children were not forced to sit uncomfortably in pews and be quiet. They were just allowed to be children. Two little boys, probably about 3 years old, became friends in the open space in front of me – and proceeded to run around and play games under the watchful eye of one of the Dads. They were SO adorable, I watched them for a long time, they were being relatively quiet but running and playing in the tiny space to their heart’s content. No one gave so much as the remotest dirty look.
I notice again and again that in general, people are far more patient here, accepting of what is simply life, rather than complaining or railing against it. It’s refreshing and peaceful and people generally have a tranquil and calm demeanor, often smiling and laughing. I have yet to see people angry and trading harsh words in public (or private for that matter). People tend to readily to laugh at misfortune far more than they wallow in sorrow and pity. I enjoyed my church observations and tried to follow along with my program as best I could. I got a little sleepy, but all the standing up and sitting down kept me from nodding off. It ended fairly quickly (maybe less than an hour?) and afterwards everyone piled outside where there were carts selling ice cream and fresh fruit waters. People socialized and had treats and I just kept on observing. Then I saw a man driving a huge, new pick-up truck up to the church gate. The father came out with his bucket and wand and threw holy water over a number of people and on the insides and outside of the truck. It was only when it was all over that I realized the truck belonged to Adriana’s Mom! On the way back to Mama’s place, Adriana told me the father said the blessing was for the truck and everyone that rides in it. But the blessing is only valid up to 100kmh! After that, devil may care, I guess.
Back at Mama’s place, champagne was uncorked and dumped all over the truck to christen it. It was very festive! We had a lovely sit-down lunch with appetizers and barbacoa (chicken and pork) – it was delicious! Again, I rarely understood the conversations that were going on around me, but I tried to listen attentively and understand what I could. A few times they slowed down to include me, for which I was very grateful. We had my cheesecake for dessert, and I think that’s when the Acapulco crew finally decided they liked me… They invited me to visit them anytime in Acapulco, provided I brought a cheesecake.
My Spanish classes continue and I’m so glad to be learning more and more, but I’m still frustrated that I don’t just wake up fluent every morning. My teacher Diego is great and my one classmate, Linda and I enjoy our lessons. Although I’ve been hearing tidbits here and there from other people that Linda hates me because I’m the teacher’s pet or something (maybe it’s because it’s a beginning class and I really should be in intermediate, but there wasn’t one at the time I went in, so it’s all a bit easier for me). But outside of class Linda and I have become friends.
On Friday nights there is a gathering of expats at a particular bar in the touristy zone. I was invited to join in and now I’ve met a whole group of folks who have retired to Zihua – most are at least 20 years older than me. Linda and her husband Gordon are among this group and they are in the process of building their retirement home with a group of other folks on one property. After I got through the rounds of painfully explaining to each new person “How I Ended Up in Zihua”, it was much more enjoyable for me to hang out. Conversations, which are always in English (a rarity in my weeks!), usually revolve around what people are buying for their homes and what’s going on with their architects and contracts, etc. etc. Not really topics that are of interest to me, but it’s a pleasant enough group of folks and they’ve been very welcoming to me. I don’t make it down there EVERY Friday, I do drop in occasionally to say hi and have a limonada (I realized after the first time that it wasn’t necessary to drink alcohol just because everyone else was…and I enjoy limonadas much more and feel better the next day).
On one Friday there was a ‘younger’ woman there and we immediately took to each other (turns out she’s 4 months older than me). We exchanged numbers and soon after began hanging out together. Page has been living her for 8 years and is fluent in Spanish (unlike most of the others in that group). I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and it’s great to have a girlfriend down here!
As we get into the thick of the rainy season, it’s been interesting to watch the hillside and everywhere get thicker and greener. It mostly rains in the nighttime – loud and violent thunderstorms flooding everything, leaving only tell-tale puddles in the morning.
Rainy walk home
Sometimes it rains in the day time and traversing the streets can be a bit tricky. Everything simply floods due to less than optimal sewer systems. I learned quickly to not wear nice shoes on rainy days! I procured myself an umbrella and am prepared for the worst.
The rains are also bringing mosquitos. While I don’t have any troubles inside my apartment, sitting outside or going out to eat often leaves me with a large number of bites on my ankles and legs (why they mostly go for my ankles, I have no idea). It didn’t seem like a big deal. One Saturday I was feeling pretty lousy. I felt achy and feverish and had a horrible headache. I had NO idea what it was, but it definitely felt viral to me. I decided to take some of my Chinese herbs that I use for anti-viral/flu symptoms. On Sunday I woke up feeling much better and thought it was maybe a short lived something or other. I felt pretty good when I woke up on Monday as well, that is, until I looked in the mirror. My face horrified me (more so than usual). My eyes looked puffy and my face was red and blotchy. Then I noticed the rest of my body was also covered in a red, spotty rash. I hoped it was temporary and went off to Spanish class. On the off chance it was somehow related to my Chinese pills, I stopped taking them (although I’d never had trouble with them in all the years I’ve taken them). On Tuesday I woke up feeling horrid again (I guess the pills had been helping afterall?) and I was still covered in the rash.
I decided it was time to seek professional help. A few blocks from me is a doctor’s office with a big IAMAT sign on it – International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers – a nonprofit I had been a member of for many years (great org that provides a network of English speaking doctors around the world). I figured that would be the easiest place to go. I got there a few minutes before they were supposed to be opened and sat on the curb to wait. No one came to unlock the gates, so I rang the bell and I tried the phone numbers on the sign. No luck. I was feeling pretty delirious and didn’t want to sit there any longer, so I wandered off to another area nearby where I thought I had seen a doctor’s office. Sure enough, there it was, the “Cristo Medico del Dr. Sotelo” office. No English spoken here. Oh well.
I knocked on a door and a girl came out and said the doctor was out having coffee and she went to get him. The doctor came back shortly- a fairly young guy – and ushered me into the blissfully air conditioned tiny office. I showed him my rash and told him what I’d been experiencing and he immediately opened his computer and typed something into his translator to show me – “You have a disease caused by mosquitos – Chikungunya”. Apparently it was all over town, he’d treated five cases just the day before. Chikungunya is kind of like Dengue Fever’s little brother. I told him several times my rash wasn’t all that itchy. He wanted to give me a shot, which I assumed was going to help with the disease, even though I didn’t know what he was giving me. I wrote it down, along with the name of what I had, and let him inject me with whatever it was he was injecting me with. He then gave me a list of prescriptions to pick up.
I immediately went home to research everything. Of course the shot he gave me was more of a steroid that should have helped the itching (which I didn’t really have), so that was unnecessary (it did nothing but keep me from sleeping that night and made me crash hard the next day). The first drug he prescribed was an antibiotic – for a VIRUS…Hmmm, apparently doctors here don’t know that antibiotics don’t work on viruses??? Wouldn’t be getting that one filled. The other drugs were also unnecessary – a high dose of acetaminophen and basically an allergy pill. I got the acetaminophen to help with my headaches/achiness and just thought it would be a good thing to have on hand in the future. Not that it’s hard to get any drugs you want here – I could’ve bought all of them even without a prescription at any one of the many farmacias around here. All told, the doctor visit, the shot and the pills, came to less than $30 USD.
I began taking my Chinese pills again and took it easy for a few days, but I never missed my Spanish or English classes. I was mostly tired out for another week afterwards, but my rash finally went away and I began to feel a bit more normal again. I missed a full week of Zumba. I had achy hands and a number of headaches for another week or 2 after that, but all in all, I think I did fine. I’ve heard horror stories of this dragging on for many months. I can only hope that all the work I’ve done building my immune system had something to do with my quick recovery.
Aside from the rain, mostly it’s just constantly HOT. The temperature doesn’t vary much from around 90 degrees.
I’ve become accustomed to having rivers of sweat running down my body anytime I go out anywhere. Showering and changing clothes a few times during the day makes me feel a bit better. I slowly but surely began creeping up on my air conditioner usage. I got to the point where I was turning it on in the hottest part of the afternoon and letting it go till morning (if I was staying in). I began to love my chilly nights snuggled under my comforter. But in just over a month, I discovered the repercussions. While all my utilities are included in my rent, Adriana just about had a heart attack when she got June’s electric bill. She showed it to me and had a talk about AC usage. Apparently the prices / kilowatt go up exponentially with greater and greater usage. While my previous bills had been around 200 pesos, June was up to 1600 pesos! I realized that it was already well into July when she told me this, and I know that I used a lot when I was sick in the beginning of the month. So I’ve resolved to try to not use it at all for the rest of July. In desperation, I turn it on for a couple hours before sunset. That’s when it seems to get unbearable in my oven. I mean apartment. It begins to cool a tad outside, but it never cools inside – and it’s like my walls are just emitting heat. But I’m doing well enough sleeping at night. I train my big fan right on me and I’ve been putting my soft water pouch used for camping – in the freezer- I take it out at night, wrap it in a towel and voila! A frozen teddy bear to snuggle up with.
I’ve got lots more observations and ideas I’ve been ruminating on about this life in Mexico, but I think they will have to wait for another time when the inspiration is right. For now, what you have here is what came out when I decided to write a blog entry. That’s kind of how things go these days and I’m OK with it!
I’m pretty sure if you go back and read my first blog entries, I said something about how easy the transition to living aboard Summer was. I guess I expected some sort of difficulty adjusting, some ‘learning curve’ time period for my body and mind to go through a shock of moving from a house on land with all the comforts and ease, to a small, confined space out at sea. It never happened, I felt like it was just how it was supposed to be and there was no shock to my system. Living on Summer felt like the best, easiest transition ever. I had no desire to ever leave. So, when I moved off of my beloved boat, well, THEN you’d expect some sort of shock, difficulty in transitioning, right?? Nope. Nada. Oddly enough it was just as smooth slipping in to this new environment. Clearly living on land is leaps and bounds easier than living on a boat, and I certainly noticed and appreciated the ease – freshwater showers anytime I wanted! Leaving the house takes literally just a few seconds – walk out the door and close it. Bam. You‘re done. How easy is that? Forgot a veggie for dinner? No problem, walk down the street and buy one. Don’t feel like cooking dinner? No problem, walk down the street and buy it. Need laundry done? Bring it to one of the 4 laundry shops in close range – it’s clean and folded by the afternoon. It’s ridiculously easy to live on land – especially here.
The one key that I haven’t fully adjusted is that every time I put something on the table or counter, I push it far away from the edge, or put it somewhere more secure. Then I remind myself that my table and counters are not going to unexpectedly tip side to side and my things are not going to crash to the floor or become dangerous projectiles. I still feel a little nervous when something is close to the edge.
The first few weeks were definitely difficult in many ways. I couldn’t look out at the bay and boats without crying. I was used to having someone to share all the details of my day. I was used to having to think about someone else’s needs constantly. Now all I had to do was take care of myself. What did I want to do today? Wow. What a concept. I didn’t really do a whole lot at first. My place turned out to be just perfect for holing up and getting some good alone time – thinking, processing. I wasn’t really feeling like being very social; going out in the evening was just so foreign to me that I didn’t even consider it until very recently (and still, at this writing I’ve only been out 3 times after dark in 2 months!).
My first task upon returning from my trip to NH, was to complete the Temporary Residency visa process that I had begun at the Mexican Consulate in Boston. Luckily, the immigration office was a short walk from my place. A kind clerk gave me a form to fill out, a payment form and a web address where I had to fill out a form online and print. She had a sheet of instructions and she went over it thoroughly with me and highlighted everything I needed to do – I followed along as best I could, but was grateful for the list so I could translate it at my leisure. She showed me the website online and the path to navigate it, and she wrote down the navigation path for me, as well as listed everything I needed to bring back with me next time. It seemed pretty easy – especially for someone who happens to be good at doing paperwork. The fact it was all in Spanish was just to keep it interesting.
I filled out my online forms and got my photos taken and had everything printed and photocopied per the instructions.
Prior to bringing all that back, I was supposed to go to the bank to pay. When I went to pay I noticed the amount on the payment sheet was different from what I thought needed to pay – I thought maybe there was something else the bank would give me to make it the total amount. The bank guy had no idea and suggested I might want to ask immigration, since the only amount he was going to take from me would be on the form I had.
Immigration was inexplicably closed that day so I had to wait.
I went back to immigration with my completed paperwork and the payment form just to ask about the discrepancy in the payment form. Turns out I had been given the wrong payment form. I got a new, correct one AND the woman went through ALL my paperwork, correcting every mistake I had made (in my Spanish, and tweaking my info). She gave me new blank forms that I could fill in with all her corrected information – I felt like she was removing any possible obstacle for me to make my application process hiccup-free. She also went online and re-filled out that entire form for me (as I had left out my middle name) and printed it for me – that saved me a huge amount of time and hassle. Unfortunately, they would not accept my photos, as I have some small hoop earrings I never take out – I had to get new photos without the hoops. The instructions DID say no earrings allowed in the photo, but they are just tiny hoops and very difficult to remove/put back, so I was hoping I could get away with them. That was entirely my bad – 100 peso gamble that didn’t work out. I had to get them redone at the professional (and air conditioned) 1-hour photo studio near the central market. While I waited for my photos, I tried out the Cucina Economica nearby – for 50 pesos (less than $2.75) you get a nice big plate of chilaquiles with chicken and beans, a fresh fruit plate, fresh squeezed orange juice and a hot crusty bolillo (roll)- and it’s delicious!
The next day I went to the bank and paid with my correct payment form. I got a receipt and took it along with all my forms and photocopies and new photos to immigration. They guy I saw (my third clerk so far) went over everything very thoroughly and verified all numbers and information and double checked my email and that I was in fact “soltero” and knew that meant single (why do they keep verifying that?!)… After double and triple checking everything, he stamped all my papers and gave me a page with my temporary number and info on how to check online to see the status of my application. He said it would take about a week, and then I would get an email and need to go back in to give my fingerprints. And then they would be able to make me a card.
In less than a week, I received an email telling me I should come to the immigration office within 3 business days. I went to the immigration office, showed my passport. They got all my paperwork, verified some information (again), finger printed me (twice – each and every finger), and had me sign in a box that would be the signature on my card. The signature did not look exactly like the one on my passport, so I had to keep practicing it (about 8 times) with the clerk checking each and circling the loops or parts that were not like my passport. I eventually was able to forge my own signature from seven years ago…and got the form signed to her liking. She gave me a document (in English) explaining the rules and bad things I could do to lose the right to my card. I waited about 10 minutes and I was given my card – and yes, it is green. I now have my Mexican Green Card!
What this means is that I don’t have to leave Mexico every six months anymore. I can stay up to four years, and I can get health care and open a bank account. I can also register a car if I ever chose to get one. I haven’t yet checked into the healthcare deal, but someone once told me that if you are considered to be living in poverty, it’s free. And they also said poverty was determined by whether or not you own a TV, Car and Washing Machine. I guess I’m living in poverty.
All in all I found this to be a rather simple and smooth process. Nothing like all the horror stories I read about online and heard from others. The office was extremely efficient and thorough and everyone was super professional and friendly and way more helpful than they had to be. Overall quite a positive experience, I’d say. Glad I never paid a lawyer to help me (on someone’s advice I tried to contact an immigration lawyer here, but they never got back to me, so that was a good thing).
I spent time getting to know my neighborhood and taking lots of long walks. The more I saw, the more I liked. Zihua is such a beautiful and wonderful town! There is even a huge municipal sports center nearby with an Olympic sized pool, basketball and volley ball courts, a gym (which anyone can use for 10 pesos / day) and baseball field.
I rode my bike several times a week on the path by the canal. I stopped and exercised on the machines posted in several places along the way. It felt good to be exercising again, and given how hot it gets, I had to get up and out really early – which was good for me. A number of times I noticed that, across from the workout station I went to, across the canal, was a house with great music playing and a big banner out front advertising Zumba classes. I had a look at it one day and decided that I would eventually get up the nerve to go try one of those classes. The sign said they were $10 – which meant 10 pesos – around 60 cents!? Yes, I could afford to try a Zumba class.
I finally got up the nerve and left early enough to make an 8:00 am class. I really didn’t know anything about Zumba except that it was a form of exercise and people said it was fun. The first half of the class was a lot of aerobic type exercises that I’d encountered at various points in my exercise career. Kickboxing, step, various strength training stuff…yeah, I got this! I was drenched with sweat in no time (it’s an outdoor class, on a cement patio).
The last half of the class, well, that’s when things got real Zumba-y. Apparently Zumba is a dance fitness program that was developed by a Columbian dancer and choreographer with roots in merengue, salsa, cumbia and samba. Oh boy. I’m not the most coordinated dancer. Well, that’s not even true; I’m not a dancer AT ALL (unless you count flailing to rock and roll). So, here I am, the only gringa in the class, surrounded by these Latina women who all seem to know exactly how to swivel their hips and shake their shoulders. And of course the instruction is all in Spanish (yes, I know what “arriba, arriba!” means and I know how to count, but some of it I just had to watch and figure it out). I felt like a huge, lumbering klutz and sometimes I’m pretty sure I looked like drunk leprechaun (thankfully there are no mirrors). It was an amazing workout at any rate – I figured out later we were doing “Aero- Zumba” which explains all the hard core non-latin dance stuff we do. All the women were very nice, but I didn’t talk to anyone. It’s difficult to jump into a conversation when you have no idea what the people are talking about. I vowed to return. I did the mon-weds-fri routine and actually began noticing firmer thighs (on me!) in a few weeks. If you’re not familiar with Zumba – check out this video to get an idea of some of what I’m doing…and try not to laugh too hard picturing me doing it. I AM getting better!
Most of the women in my class drink Herbalife drinks provided by the woman who runs the show. Lots of women in Mexico are into Herbalife. I noticed a lot of Mexican women in California were into it as well. To be honest, I never knew exactly what it was, but I instinctively avoided it. Well it wasn’t long before a women in my class announced she was inviting everyone to a talk on exercise and nutrition. I tried to understand what she was saying, and in the end, everyone pitched in to try and make sure the gringa had clear directions to the place. I wasn’t sure if it was a home or office, and the woman said “my office” and pointed to her Herbalife hat. OH. Well, as keen as I was to go to a gathering of women and maybe make some friends, I was hesitant because I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be of interest to me. I went home figured I better look up what this Herbalife stuff was once and for all – maybe it wasn’t as bad or unhealthy as I imagined? Well…it was far worse on all counts. Not only is it a “meal replacement weight loss program”, in which the first ingredient every single product is fructose (i.e. sugar) and a number of equally anti-nutrition-type substances, followed by a bunch of vitamins (no doubt conceived in a lab). As if that weren’t all bad enough, it’s also a multi-level marketing scheme. You know, like Amway, a pyramid scam where you only make money off it by getting all your friends to buy it and sell it to all of their friends. The only ones who truly benefit are those at the very top. Well, I certainly couldn’t play along with that kind of scene, no matter how badly I wanted to make friends. I knew even the language barrier wouldn’t prevent me from opening my fat mouth about how awful this stuff is… so I did not make it to the meeting. Now I just feel terrible everytime I see these poor women who are working so hard, sweating it out in Zumba, and then completely negating the value by sucking down these sugar drinks. On the upside, apart from the meeting invite, no one has tried to get me to drink the Kool-Aid. When I asked my landlady, Adriana, what she thought about Herbalife – she made a terrible face and said she had tried it and it made her really sick and gave her stomach problems.
One week I took a bus adventure down to Pie de la Cuesta (which means “foot of the slope”). It’s an interesting strip of land just north of Acapulco with the ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other. It was a good trip to scope out the bus system and consider bigger trips out and about. The buses here are quite nice – cushy seats, bathroom, air conditioning and movies – and affordable. It was only about $10USD for the 5 hour trip down to Acapulco. I stayed at Villa Nirvana – a wonderful little hotel right on the beach. It was a nice change of pace and nice to be on the ocean – and to have a beach scene I could look out at without crying… There were only a couple other guests staying there – being the off-season and all. The owner, Greg, an American guy, was super nice and hospitable – and had quite an interesting story of his own. We bonded a little over shared recent break ups and finding ourselves living alone in Mexico. He gave me the best room in the place – right over the ocean. There is huge, intense surf down there, and when it crashed, it shook my bed! One of the days I was there, Greg took me down to a beach – Diamante – just south of Acapulco. It was crowded but fun to have a beach day to just chill and be a tourist. I loved sleeping over the ocean with cool breezes all night. While it was an absolutely lovely, true vacation, after a few days, I was looking forward to getting back my beautiful new home. Luckily I hadn’t bought my return ticket from the start (it’s not cheaper to buy round trip, so I figured, why not wing it?). Four days was just perfect.
I resolved that I needed to learn more Spanish. I had connected with a woman who runs an English school who connected me with some of her students to have conversation exchange, but that simply wasn’t enough for me. I really wanted to get more fluent much faster. It was getting really frustrating not to be able to have conversations and understand what people were saying. I wandered in to one of the English schools I had seen that I knew offered Spanish classes as well. I talked to the main teacher (and owner? Manager?) and discovered that class was affordable, especially if I got a 30% discount by volunteering to help with the English classes. I was to begin the next morning, and there was only one other person in the class. So now I had myself booked 6 mornings per week, between Zumba and Spanish Class (had to change Zumba to Tue/Th/Sat). Although I’m not nearly as busy as it sounds.
My landlady, Adriana, is just wonderful. She invited me to spend a day at the beach with her and her 10 year old son, Diego, and I have an open invitation to spend every Sunday with them at her Mom’s place.
Her Mom owns a small hotel about 20 minutes south of Zihua. It’s a lovely oasis with 2 swimming pools and a jungle of exotic plants.
Locals pay a small fee to come and spend the day there and use the pools. I’ve spent the day relaxing there, chatting with Adriana’s niece, Andrea, (who works there for the summer while waiting to begin college in the fall) and enjoying food and drinks and the pools and hammocks. As lovely and relaxing as it is, I return home exhausted – spending an entire day trying to speak and understand Spanish takes its toll. After my first Sunday, I realized it would probably be appropriate to bring some food – since I was fed quite well and really enjoyed it. Not having an oven, I’ve had to get creative. I discovered a no-bake cheesecake recipe, and that has been a big hit. I even, finally, got around to making my own caramel. YUM.
I’ve heard from Jonny a few times. He had a rough bash up north and is planning to spend the summer in and north of Banderas Bay. He has a number of surf options, and safe places to go if the weather goes bad. He finally got around to making dinghy chaps for Peugeot and sent me a picture.
Otherwise, I have re-started my organizing business in a “virtual” way and am working with people remotely – feel free to check out my website and pass me along to anyone you know who might need help: www.multipleorganizing.com
That’s it for now. Much much more to share, it’s just been slow going, but Zihua is beautiful and the more I get to know it, the more I love it. I’m realizing this blog will be less of a chronological accounting and probably a lot more random…but I hope it will be a fun ride!