3 Countries in 3 Weeks and Other Adventures

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).

Disco and I took this one for Page, who’s up in Alaska
DREAM BIG

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.

Not the shirt I left home in…good trade
Noora wearing the shirt I left home in. No idea why Victor was doing laps

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.

The things you miss when you can’t get them… biscuits and gravy!!!
Cool mural, real flowers.
Yay! Becky!
What pretty money they have up there. Too bad it disappears so fast…
A little afternoon snack. Best cherry pie EVER!
A Toronto Institution…closed down, sorry I missed out.
Another thing I’ve missed dearly (besides Becky) – Vietnamese Food (with Jason, too!).
Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
So much fun in the Korean grocery store
Again with the Korean grocery. Wish I’d bought this.
Just a teeny, delicious beer. We were tuckered out from so much walking and seeing.
Walnut cake production! They were yummy.
“While U Wait” Still contemplating the alternatives…

Art Gallery of Toronto! Wasn’t allowed to take pix in the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit.

Dim Sum!!

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.

REAL BEER!

 

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.

The Pool Hall

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.

Now that’s a LOBSTAH!
Family of Canada geese at the bank by the lake
Upholding the pedicure tradition

   

We had a fun day in Portsmouth as well – meeting up with cousins Donna and Scott for a delicious lunch overlooking the water. 

Lobstah sushi!!
This is where the State Street Saloon and the apartment I lived in last year of college used to be…it’s all gone now, big fire! Sad to see.

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.

Is it wrong that I find him attractive? Sadly, I didn’t get to meet him.

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…

70s Flash Mob!
This was a little before I threw my drink all over myself…
Luckily Scotty had an extra shirt for me. Why do I always end up wearing other people’s clothes when I go out?

    

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.

At the 50 lb limit exactly. Can I pack or what?

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.

Mari, Lee, Parke and I – another tasty meal with great company!

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…

Noora left us to take a job in St. Thomas. Miss her!
When there’s not work, there’s always this
Andrea’s first apple pie!
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. YES, I made fudgesicles AND hot fudge sauce!
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. YES, I made fudgesicles AND hot fudge sauce! (and ice cream, too)
The package of sticky googly eyes I brought back from Canada have proved useful.
more googly eyes…who did that?!?!
Andrea’s last night…she left us to go to Portland for a couple of months.
Big sail fish seen on the street one day
Joao introduced me to a new place with a great view!
Joao and Ellie

This is me, turning 47

 

Up Next – who? me? Not going anywhere??  My trip to CALIFORNIA!!!

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “3 Countries in 3 Weeks and Other Adventures”

  1. Glad to see your traveling and posting your adventures again, I still have my Petrel ship in Ventura and have been working throughout the USA doing survey work, God Bless, Captain Bill and Petrel

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