Wednesday, December 19, 2007
From the top: Nativity scene in the plaza at Valle de Banderas; handmade pinatas on a side street in Valle de Banderas; Dan and Jim cradling our new pinata for the ride home; our Christmas pinata; papel picado for Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging on our patio
We have had a busy and joyful month: in mid-November, our wonderful friend Jim came to spend two weeks with us. He was the best kind of guest, who helped me to see our new home through his delighted eyes. Two days after he left, our friends Susie and Dan arrived, along with new friends Shari and Jim. It was great fun showing them around our beautiful Bahia de Banderas: the pictures above were taken the day we went to Valle de Banderas, the small town that is the seat of our municipality. As we were leaving town, we drove down a small side street, and in front of a very modest home hung an array of colorful Christmas pinatas - all painstakingly crafted by the family that lives there. Susie bought us a beautiful big Christmas pinata for our home - too big to put in the cab of the truck...no problem, Jim and Dan were riding in the back, Mexican-style, on lawn chairs and held it carefully all the way home.
Just before they returned back to Portland and Tacoma, daughter Justine arrived to spend almost two weeks. We spent lots of time enjoying her visit with our friends - going to dinner at the little restaurant we call "Tacos under the Trees", shopping at the new Liverpool shopping mall in Vallarta and simply resting on our back patio. I tearfully put her on the plane this afternoon, and now we have time to reflect on the many happy memories of the past month, as well as prepare for our Christmas celebration.
On Sunday, we were invited to attend a Christmas "posada" at our neighbor David Velasco's viviero (nursery). Friends Harold and Sue and Joan and Dennis came with us - we were the only "gringos" in attendance. There were about 200 people there, all sitting at tables nestled under the towering palms and beautiful flowers. Bunuelos were served (fried flour tortillas with a honey syrup) and delicious tamales. As I sat there in the warm afternoon sun, watching the children taking turns at hitting the colorful Christmas pinatas, I heard "O Come All Ye Faithful" sung in Spanish by young and tender voices. I realized that we are beginning to find a new Christmas.
It's not the one we have cherished in the past: the fun and frenzy of shopping amidst the sounds of Christmas Carols, decorating a fresh and fragrant Douglas fir, lighting candles throughout the house to chase away the winter gloom. This one is full of sun and light and warmth and more simple pleasures. We'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with our friends Joan and Dennis, Harold and Sue, Bonnie and Brian. We will all miss our friends and family who are not here with us, and we may reminisce about Christmases past. But we will surely remind each other that we are all so fortunate to be spending our Christmases in this friendly, sunny country that is our new home. Feliz Navidad to all.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Top picture: Noelle and Virginia
Bottom picture: our Thanksgiving feast, served on the patio. The picture above shows my sweetheart Jerry, Linda, Jim, Sue and Harold. On the lower left corner - a plate of homemade pork, corn and cheese tamales.
As we mark our second Thanksgiving in Mexico, we have some sadness and some happiness - one of the goats has been sold. The vivero manager Pepe came to our house early one morning about a week ago and said that the owner has ordered him to get rid of the goats...they are starting to eat the palm trees. So Pepe talked to Jerry and offered to give us one (of our choice). Jerry chose Virginia. Then, he said that we could also buy Noelle ($500 pesos, or $50). But June (the biggest one - and the one we named after Jerry's mom) had already been sold. So someone came and got her. It was very hard to watch her being captured and taken away, and the little ones cried and cried.
Jerry made a trip to the ferreteria for fencing and to the feed store for hay - we are now sharing our yard with Virginia and Noelle. Not exactly what we had planned for that space, but we are happy to have them, and they seem to be figuring out that they have landed in a good place.
Our Thanksgiving celebration this year included some special treats - our good friend Jim Grant joined us from Portland, and our friends Linda, Sue and Harold also shared tamales with us. Jim, Jerry and I put them together the night before and had a great time. They did not look perfect, but they tasted heavenly.
It goes without saying that we have much to be thankful for this year, as always. Our friends and family in Portland remain in our thoughts and we miss you all. But.... you CAN come and visit. Ask Jim - doesn't he look like he is having a good time? Book that flight!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
In the midst of much happiness and accomplishment, some sadness occurs. That is the full flavor of life, and we must taste it all. One of the goats who live next door to us has died.
If you read this blog, you already know that Jerry and I have a deep affection for the goats that share our world. They live in the vivero next to our house, and since their owner is absent most of the time, we care for them, i.e., feed them, make sure they have water, have conversations with them, take pictures of them, etc.
A few days ago, the pretty little goat we call "May" became ill. Over the period of just a few hours, she simply lay down and died. Her owner, Raul, did try to give her some medicine, but his attempt to make her better failed.
Her amigas miss her terribly. Poor June, the other grown goat, just stands and stares at the place where she died. She is not even interested in a tortilla snack. Her kid, Noelle, cried all night the first night. Virginia, the other kid, has been very kind and nurturing to Noelle, and she seems to be doing better.
Although Jerry's family kept goats when he was a child, I have never had any exposure to these sweet animals. They have such gentle spirits - who knew?
May was the most gregarious of the group - always the first to come over to be petted, always nudging her way to the front of the group when snacks were offered. We will all miss May.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
all this and Chinese take-out, too?
The gorgeous yellow-flowered bush (we don't know what it is called) pictured above is actually a pretty good metaphor for our experiences and attitudes toward our adopted country. About eight months ago, we admired a beautiful bush with abundant yellow flowers that was growing in a vacant lot a few blocks away from us. "Could we take a cutting?" we wondered. We finally decided that it would probably be OK, but when Jerry went down the street to get a cutting, the bush was gone. Not only had it been chopped down, the whole lot had been burned to clear all the vegetation. A tiny little blackened stump remained. Jerry dug it up and brought it home.
He planted it in our front yard and then we forgot about it. A month or so later, we were wondering what the new foliage in the front yard was - oh, could it be that poor dead bush? It grew and grew. It got REALLY tall and started crowding out the other plants, especially the bamboo. The bamboo fought back and also got bigger. But the bush still had no flowers. Then, a few days ago, they all seemed to appear at once.
Mexico is an amazing and magical place. Things are not always what they appear to be...there are hidden treasures and surprises waiting for us in unexpected places.
A month or so ago, we were visiting with our friend Jorge, who is one of the first people we met when we moved to Bucerias. He owns a lovely gallery, Casabor, that is full of wonderful paintings, sculptures and art objects. We drop in often to see what he has added to his inventory, and we have bought some very nice pieces from him to adorn our own little casa. I mentioned to him that "I (uh) have some (hmmm) paintings I've (uh) done," and asked if he would (hmmm) mind taking a look at them and giving me some (umm) advice on whether I could sell them, and if so, how could I best (hmmm) accomplish that. He generously agreed.
Yesterday, we picked up 16 paintings from the frame shop, and Jerry suggested that we stop by and show them to Jorge. I was a little reluctant - I did not want to presume on our friendship. But I thought they looked pretty good matted and framed, so I was feeling brave. As Jorge helped us unload them, he began to exclaim "I love them!" As he looked through them, he was full of encouraging comments. He liked the colors, the style, the clean lines. He began walking around the shop, planning where he would hang them. The bottom line? He took them all to hang in his gallery - minus one I had already sold and the mer-kitties, which I want to keep.
I was stunned (still am!). This is a dream come true for me. So much better than my original plan - a show in conjunction with the Bucerias Art Walk (which has now been postponed until November). I have been painting (almost) obsessively for several months and I am overwhelmed that someone besides Jerry and me and our family and friends thinks they are good. I am almost ready to call myself a real artist.
NOW - the icing on the cake:
We are very grateful for a growing circle of friends. Last night, we went to a party at a friend's house that was attended by about 25 other expats. All of them interesting and friendly people - some we have known almost since we arrived, others who are new acquaintances. The occasion? An expat couple who have lived here 18 years has decided that the thing Bucerias needs most is (drumroll)....Chinese takeout! YES!
Richard is Chinese, and he and Denise used to own a Chinese restaurant. He is a wonderful chef, and he brought dish after dish for us to sample. It was all delicious: dumplings, egg rolls, shrimp rolls, Kung Pao chicken, cashew chicken, beef and broccoli, on and on and on. Oh gosh - and THEY DELIVER. Wow.
PS - Oh (in case you are wondering) Oscar and the vanished workers have not returned. It looks like they probably won't. Not ever. Oscar has given up and is taking a job in a car wash in Vallarta. So we have hired our friend Jeno, who is a masonry "maestro" to finish the stucco. He is doing a beautiful job. Then we will ask our friend Alfredo to finish the plumbing and electrical work. And Pancho, a very talented metal worker, has already been here to measure for the gates and windows. Bit by bit (poco a poco). That is the way things happen here. And that is fine with me.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
She is a bit aloof and dislikes being held, although she loves to be petted. Last year about this time, we took her to the vet in Vallarta and had her fur trimmed back because of her thick and fluffy coat and the hot and humid summer weather. She didn’t care much for the process, but she was happy with the result.
This year, we took her to one of our most cherished Bucerias resources, Dr. Wencesla Lopez, the veterinarian who practices just down the street and around the corner from us. Uncharacteristically, Puff LOVES him.
Earlier this week, we took her in about 10 in the morning. She hopped willingly into her cat carrier, anticipating a visit to Wencesla (used to take two of us to get her in, and she always drew blood.) When we arrived, she started to purr, and he was happy to see her as well. He took her to the grooming table to begin (yes, he does the grooming himself), and we knew that she was in good hands.
When we returned to pick her up a few hours later, he said, “No, she is sleeping. When she wakes up, I’ll give her a bath.” We could see her snoozing on the grooming table behind him. She lifted her head, gave us a disdainful look, and went back to sleep. We were sure that we would return to find poor Wencesla’s arms cut to ribbons. A bath? You must be kidding!
When we returned later in the day, he crooned to her as he picked her up “C’mon Baby.” She looked and smelled wonderful and there was a spring in her step that was not there earlier in the day. “She loved her bath,” he reported.
The cost for this full day at the Wencesla spa? All that personal attention, schmoozing and nurturing? $150 pesos – less than $15 US dollars.
Is there a Wencesla ANYWHERE in the US? I don’t think so. Another reason to love Mexico.
Monday, August 13, 2007
(1) We invited the goats in to mow the lawn for us, but they were more interested in the plumeria and the bamboo! From left, May, Noel, June and Virginia. The handsome old billy goat behind Virginia is Jerry, of course.
We have finally begun working on our upstairs addition, and it should be completed within the next month or so. We’ll have a big bedroom (12’ X 19’), a bathroom with a BATHTUB (hooray!) and a small extra room we’ll use as a little kitchenette (so that we don’t have to go downstairs to make our morning coffee). There will also be a large patio in the front and a stairway to the NEXT level that will hold a private little terraza. From there, we can see actually see the bay, all the way from Yelapa at the south to Punta de Mita at the north. We are very excited!
Yesterday (Sunday) started out cool and quiet after a very dramatic thunderstorm the night before. Lightning crossed the sky from one horizon to the next most of the night, and we lost electricity about nine o’clock in the evening. Gets a little stuffy with no ceiling fans, but the rain cooled things off a bit and we slept fine. Got up the next morning (still no electricity) and cooked a package of our hard-to-find breakfast sausages from the freezer because they were thawing...our friends Cheto and Beto came by and promised to return in the afternoon with our friend German to mix up some cement and get the ceiling poured for the bedroom addition on the main floor. German arrived about five with his three sons and three more friends to help...only took about two hours to haul all that sand, gravel and cement (four BIG bags) to the roof, mix it on the spot and pour it. By that time (still no electricity), more meat from the freezer had thawed and we had LOTS of carne asada tacos for everyone. Almost had to cook by candlelight (thank goodness for the gas stove), but the electricity finally came back on about 7:30 pm. Another beautiful day in Paradise, made perfect by good friends and good food.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Those of you who have visited know that we have four goats (chivos) living next door to our house among the palm trees in the vivero (nursery). Even if you haven't visited, you can probably guess that we've grown very attached to the chivos and hope daily that they will not end up in a stew pot as birria. They actually belong to a neighbor of ours named Raoul, but he has apparently figured out that we will take care of them, so we don't see much of him. Jerry makes sure they have water, and once a week, goes to the feed store to buy them alfalfa hay. They love it. You can see their reaction in the pictures above...
BTW, we have a new look - I was getting tired of the old layout, weren't you? And if you want to see what I have been up to (drawing and painting), I've posted some of my pictures on flickr, http://flickr.com/photos/casabucerias/ .
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
So, I'll give you a rundown on the last 24 hours: yesterday afternoon, Jerry worked on the addition to the bedroom and I worked on a picture I am drawing of the terra cotta warriors. In the evening, we met our friend Harold (his wife Sue is visiting Patzcuaro and Guanajuato with another friend) at a little restaurant we call "Tacos under the Trees". The real name is Tacoz Itzel, and it is really just a few plastic tables in someone's backyard. Chickens, dogs and half-naked children run underfoot. There are tarps strung from the trees overhead to protect us from the sun and the rain. The food is delicious - muy rico. Big fat enchiladas and burritos and tacos filled with carne asada (grilled beef cut into bits), puerca (seasoned pork) or pollo (chicken). Wonderful salsas come with your meal - avocado, ranchero (hot) or verde (green tomatillos and chiles). They also have tasty agua frescas, juice drinks. Sometimes pineapple, sometimes horchata ( a rice drink with spices), and last night they had jamaica, which is an iced tea brewed from hibiscus flowers. It is deep red and tastes like cranberry juice. We all had huge enchiladas and drinks, and the bill came to $120 pesos - less than $4 a piece. Yummy.
We came home and had coffee with Harold on the patio. Jerry spent some time on the computer and I did a little painting before we went to bed. This morning - a repeat of the coffee on the patio as we enjoyed the coolest part of the day...it is getter hotter each day and is 93F right now as I write this. Then we went to a meeting of the Amigos de Bucerias, a nonprofit organization of Mexican and foreign community members that works to make our town a good place. The Amigos have distributed trash cans all over town, and have also started a very successful recycling program that Jerry volunteers for every Thursday. I am the secretary of this little group, so I was there to take minutes. If you want to know more about the group, go to Amigosdebucerias.org. There is a good newsletter to read....
Then we paid bills - to Telmex to pay the phone bill ($640 pesos - about $60 for phone and DSL) and to CFE to pay the electric bill ($604 pesos for three months' service). You don't mail your bills here - just pay them in person, in cash. We came home and I made a chicken pasta salad for our dinner tonight and put it in the refrigerator to cool. Then we had some lunch: toasted bagels with ham and cheese, delicious watermelon and limonada (limeade). Now, it is time for a little siesta.....Jerry is already snoozing away behind me.
Our life is calm, peaceful, productive and good. We have made some fine friends and feel very lucky. We are beginning to feel like a part of our community. The only thing missing is YOU - whoever you are, reading this. Come and visit!!! We miss you!!!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
- Seeing my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren! I haven't seen them for nearly a year, and Amelia (10 years old) and Josie (8 years old) have changed so much. They are a lovely family, and they are having a grand adventure.
- The 2,000 year-old terra cotta warriors at Xi'an. Any traveler to China should not miss this amazing sight. My first glimpse brought tears to my eyes. There are nearly 12,000 warriors and EACH IS UNIQUE. They are guarding the tomb of the first Emporer of China, along with their horses and chariots, and were excavated serendipitously by two farmers digging a well in 1974. Xi'an itself is a beautiful city of 3.2 million people, and is the only city in China with intact city walls. There is a very picturesque Muslim market (did you know that there is a substantial Muslim population in China? I didn't.)
- The Great Wall of China. Wow. What can I say? I could hardly believe I was there. I will never forget the sensation. What a privilege.
- The city of Wuhan, with its impressive Yellow Crane Tower and East Lake Gardens.
- Riding on a sleeper train from Xi'an to Wuhan...so many people!
- The ultra-modern city of Beijing, with its towering buildings and stylishly dressed people. They are busy preparing for the 2008 Olympics. Jeff and I had Peking duck at a historic restaurant there - it was SO delicious. Which brings me to.....
- the food! I ate spectacularly tasty food everywhere I went. (I had to learn to use chopsticks very quickly, and I was powerfully motivated to do it efficiently.) We ate Mongolian hotpot, wonderful noodles, dumplings, potstickers, lots of yummy chicken, rice, unusual vegetables....sometimes, I was not sure what I was eating, but it was ALL good.
This trip has provided me with so much material for drawing and painting; I am already at work on it. There are spots of breathtaking beauty and color, in the midst of enormously crowded and busy streets. The traffic is even worse than Mexico's - I would never attempt to drive there! Despite the setbacks under Mao, the country is lively and bustling. It was a wonderful adventure and I am so grateful for the opportunity.
Friday, April 06, 2007
We have had both challenges and delights that we could not have anticipated...the Mexican bureaucracy is difficult to navigate for native Spanish speakers. For those of us with rudimentary Spanish, just getting your utilities connected can be very daunting. We chose to live in a Mexican neighborhood, away from the tourists, and find that none of our neighbors speak English and none of the storekeepers we deal with daily speak English. So learning Spanish is not only good manners, it is essential.
But one of our most pleasant surprises has been our wonderful Mexican neighbors, who have made us feel welcome here and included us in their family celebrations. And it is wonderful to live in a small town again, where you meet people you know every time you walk down the street. We have begun to feel that we are really at home here.
As we prepare to celebrate our first anniversary here, we will make a more definitive list of pluses and minuses to publish. But the conclusion we have reached is no secret. We have no regrets. We look forward to living out our years in the warmth and beauty of Mexico.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Seeing our home and our community through the eyes of a visitor is great fun, and we also have the opportunity to act as tour guides. It is difficult to determine the most important things to show our visitors – always a tour of the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta with its stunning and accessible public art, then a walk on the Isla Cuale – an island in the middle of the Rio Cuale that divides Puerto Vallarta north and south. This is a great place to shop in the public markets and have a wonderful lunch at the Bistro Jazz Café or the River Café. Sitting along the river dining on chicken and squash blossom crepes and sneaking a peek at the iguanas that live in the large trees along the river is awesome (I know the word is over-used, but it is true. )
Right now, the weather is perfect – around 82F during the day and 58F at night. THIS is why we moved to Mexico! Humidity is very low and the mosquitoes are at a minimum. Jerry is working on several house projects and I am spending my time painting and drawing for the most part. Just lovely.
I haqve posted a new set of pictures on http://flickr.com/photos/casabucerias.