Friday, September 04, 2009

How we are spending our summer vacation...

Poor little Maggot the day we rescued him.
Ten days later, feeling much better.Lucky and her babies.
Diego, all grown up, playing with Milly. who doesn't think so.


The long, lazy and humid summer is punctuated by moments of drama. Our next door neighbors, who have had their share of problems, are probably the extreme worst example of the difference in the way people from the US regard their pets and the manner in which the average Mexican views pets. Most likely an artifact of the difference in socioeconomic progress, Mexicans generally do not treat their pets as members of the family, like we do. Our neighbors, who take excellent care of their children, seldom feed their two female dogs, and even in the long dry season, do not provide them with water. So Jerry has taken in upon himself to make sure these poor doggies get fed and watered. One of them, after all, is Diego's mom.

In the last month, both dogs have had yet another litter of puppies, about a week apart. No shelter was provided for them, despite frequent torrential rains. The property has no fence, wall or gate, so the dogs live in the street. Then, a few weeks ago, the couple decided to part. He moved to Puerto Vallarta; she moved in with her parents, leaving the dogs and puppies behind. We could hear the puppies crying and Jerry went to investigate. It was a scene of true horror. Most of the puppies that were born most recently were being killed by the mother of the first litter.

The next morning, following a heavy rain, we could still hear some puppies wailing. In the yard next door, Jerry found three puppies from the first litter that had been abandoned by their mother, lying in a puddle of water. Two were near death and we put them out of their misery. They were completely infested by maggots that had burrowed deep into their skin, and they were screaming in pain. One little puppy seemed reasonably alert, especially after we fed him some cold milk through a syringe. We washed him thoroughly, flushing away thousands of maggots. He had one area near his neck that had been breached through the skin and we had to purge it clean of maggots. Off to the supermarket for baby bottles and following an internet search, we put together a puppy formula.

Maggot (what else could we name him? I know, we have a dark sense of humor.) turned out to be a fighter. He thrived on the formula and has doubled in size in just two weeks. Never having raised children himself, Jerry has learned what it is like to feed a baby with a bottle every few hours and he turns out to be a great dad.

Out of 12 puppies, three remained alive. The neighbors were nowhere in sight. A neighbor around the corner took one of the larger puppies home to care for him. The mother of the first litter appeared to want to care for her remaining puppy. And we were taking care of Maggot. Then yesterday, Jerry walked to the corner store for some milk. When he came back, he was holding a puppy, saying "Missus, I found this puppy at the tienda. Can I keep her?" This little 4-week old puppy had wandered away, almost three blocks from home, and was stumbling around in the street. Guess her mom decided not to care for her after all. We named her Beatrice, and now we have another puppy. Life is never dull here>

On a happy note, our little wild kitty who was born in the nursery next door had two baby kittens about a month ago. She won't let us touch her, but did trust us with her babies, who were born in the bottom drawer of our armoire.

And Diego and Milly are growing fast. We'll find homes for Maggot and Beatrice, as well as Lucky's kittens, and life will return to normal soon. In the meantime, we found out more about ourselves and each other as we struggled to protect the young lives.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Why we don't have a garden...

Bananas from our own tree, hanging to ripen from the lichi tree in the back patio

Fresh, clean vegetables delivered to our door for about $3 USD

Friends and family back in the states have asked us why we don't have a garden. Certainly, everything grows here very quickly...and we do have several tomato plants growing this year. But our region has abundant truck farms, with tomatoes, beans, chiles, corn, pineapples, bananas, papayas, mangoes, guavas, on and on and on....So the availability of fruits and vegetables that are fresh and vine/tree-ripened is amazing. They are sold in the open-air markets, in the corner tiendas and in the supermarket. But best of all, is our vegetable seller Ricardo, who peddles up to our front gate on his bicycle weekly, with his basket full of fresh, clean, delectable vegetables, like the ones pictured. The mixed vegetables have corn, carrots, beans, chayote, nopal, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. I will mix all of the pictured vegetables together in a casserole tonight to take to a potluck...other friends are making meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes and blackberry cobbler. And we are meeting at our friend Marlene's house, which is right on the beach. We will have a feast, for the tummy and for the eyes. Life is so good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

A section of the new patio Jerry is building in the front/side of the house
Our neighbor Demetrio covering the conduit in the upstairs bathroom
Mael and Ismael (cousins) installing the new breaker box. Why do they seem so happy
about cutting a BIG hole in the wall?
Little Millie/Milagra on alert in the front yard. Hiding behind a bag of cement.

Diego is growing up...he considers a treat from Papi

Our life here lately has been a study in contrasts: as the long, humid summer season develops, the tourists here have always become scarce, and residents of our sleepy beach town learn to pace themselves,always wearing the ubiquitous "sweat cloth" over their shoulders and drinking lots of water. But this year, the slowdown was sudden, as the entire country of Mexico ground to a halt to combat the spread of H1N1 influenza. Schools, government offices, restaurants and all nonessential businesses were ordered closed for several weeks. No movies. No soccer matches. No church services in this Catholic country. Checkpoints were established at both Nayarit and Jalisco state borders, which we pass on our way to and from Vallarta. All cars were screened and passengers were questioned about their health status. Do you have a fever? Are you having any pain? Information was distributed by state health personnel wearing masks.

These extreme measures were effective: we never had a confirmed case of flu in our state of Nayarit and their were only two or three in Vallarta. Mexico has been applauded by international health authorities for containing the outbreak so well. But the Mexican people paid an enormous cost. From business owners like Carlos Slim who lost millions, to the ordinary working people who suddenly lost their incomes, all of Mexico is suffering. Cruise ships have stopped docking and airlines have stopped coming here. The streets of our tourist town are empty. The beach vendors, even the time-share salesmen, have given up.

But at our house, the air is filled with the sounds of hammers and chisels. Cement is being mixed and carried upstairs in huge buckets on the sturdy shoulders of our neighbor Demetrio. Our modest attempt to stimulate the local economy consists of re-wiring our entire house and continuing work on our upstairs addition, including - yippee! - electricity! The wiring is complete, the lights are installed and the plumbing is in place. The bathroom is tiled and the bathtub is where it is supposed to be at last. Because all construction in Mexico is cement and bricks, in order to lay electrical wires, grooves must first be chiseled, the conduit placed in the groove, the wire pulled through the conduit and the channels refilled with fresh cement.

At the same time, you can hear the sounds of "Como se llama?" and "Vivimos en Bucerias" and "Caminamos a la plaza cada dia." Four mornings a week, our friend Sean holds his Spanish classes on our patio. And in the midst of all this activity, we actually had a courageous and most welcome houseguest for a week.

I continue to find some time to paint and Jerry is busy laying bricks for the patio that will cover most of the front and side yards. Our papaya trees are heavy with fruit that is as sweet as honey and we have just harvested our first bananas. Diego and Millie are growing fast and delighting us each day.

It is becoming to warm to cook ambitiously, so last night, we enjoyed chorizo and carne asada (grilled beefsteak) tacos at our corner tacqueria, along with some wonderful fresh agua fresca made from guayabas (guava). We join friends at Tacos Itzel at least once a week for Alejandra's wonderful pollo enchiladas con mole. Justine continues to flourish in the warmth and serenity of Mexico and works with our friends Patricia and JoAnn at their bookstore.

Life continues to be unbelievably good for us while our friends and neighbors face a long and difficult summer. PLEASE consider a trip to Mexico: it is absolutely SAFE here and we need your company.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dice "hola" a Diego (say "hi") to Diego!

After losing our sweet dogs in December, we have been reluctant to become dog owners again. There is no shortage of needy dogs here in Bucerias - every few days, it seems, someone tells us about a dog that needs a home. This time of year is especially difficult - many of our Canadian/US "snowbird" residents are preparing to fly home as the weather warms up, and they often leave behind the dogs they were caring for while they were here. But we have said "no" many times and waited for the right dog. Now, we have found him.
Diego was born to a dog that lives right next door. She had eight puppies and he was the last remaining puppy after seven were given to new homes. Jerry has had his eye on Diego for several weeks - we like his markings and think he will grow up to be a handsome dog...not too big, either.
Diego is a sweet puppy who learns very quickly. He adores Jerry and follows him everywhere. He gets along (pretty) well with the cats. Bienvenidos a nosotras casa, Diego.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Discovering the diversity and beauty of Mexico

From the top: (1) My handsome caballero in the doorway at Starbucks in San Miguel de Allende - in a 300-year-old building! I defy you to find a more beautiful Starbucks. (2) the monument to Father Miguel Hidalgo in Dolores Hidalgo; (3) The MUMMY MUSEUM in Guanajuato; and (4) the beautiful homes on the hills of Guanajuato.

Despite our best intentions, we have not traveled much within Mexico, mostly because we quickly acquired so many pets to care for! Now that we are down to three cats, we found a friend who would house-sit for us, and took off on a bus tour to the central highlands of Mexico - a trip with our friends Harold and Sue (and 28 Canadians!) to Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende. We discovered a very different and enchanting Mexico.

Our first stop was Guanajuato, high (6500 feet) in the arid hills of Central Mexico. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Guanajuato means "hill of frogs" in the language of the indigenous people there, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Mexico. It is a colonial town, settled in the 1500s because of rich gold and silver deposits. It is a sister city to Ashland, Oregon, my home town!

The city is built on rock, and was originally built over two rivers, which flowed through tunnels underneath the city. However, after years of raising buildings to accommodate repeated flooding, in the mid-twentieth century, engineers built a dam and redirected the river into underground caverns. The tunnels were lit and paved with cobblestones for automobile traffic, and this amazing underground road network carries the majority of cars driving through the city today. It is one of the most notable features of the city.

While it is famous for many things, especially the site of the first revolutionary battle, most people who knew we went to Guanajuato asked us if we saw the Museo de la Momies, or mummy museum. A bizarre place - these mummies are here because their families failed to pay their burial taxes and they were disinterred. A few were added as recently as 1984! Some are wearing tennis shoes!

From Guanajuato, we traveled to Dolores Hidalgo, about an hour's drive. This is the true birthplace of the Mexican revolution, where Father Miguel Hidalgo made the first cry for freedom (el grito - a practice which is now repeated at midnight every September 17 in every town in Mexico by the town's mayor). Dolores Hidalgo is also famous for ice cream, colonial architecture and talavera pottery. We had only a few hours here, and it is a place we yearn to return to for a longer stay.

Just 15 minutes away from San Miguel de Allende, we stopped at the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, another UNESCO World Heritage site. This extraordinary spot has been a place of pilgrimage since colonial times. The church was built between 1746 and 1810. The walls and domed ceilings of the church are filled with 18th Century murals depicting the life of Christ, which are in the process of being restored, a process that has already taken 12 years. Many milagros (miracles) are attributed to this beautiful place, which is a treasure often missed by tourists.

We then proceeded to San Miguel de Allende, another breathtaking colonial city. Following WWII, a core of US veterans settled in San Miguel to attend the art school there, and it has been attracting "gringos" ever since. About a tenth of its 95,000 inhabitatants are foreigners, which makes for a rich cultural mix. The town is full of winding streets and tiny shops and restaurants, begging you to explore them. The colonial architecture feels just like Europe, and the climate (unlike Bucerias) is cool and dry.

We are already planning additional trips to this magical part of Mexico...and considering how we might stay in San Miguel or Guanajuato during the hottest summer months....

Saturday, January 17, 2009


OK folks, time for some GOOD news. On my birthday (January 15) a little miracle (milagra) came into our lives. Some friends found a tiny starving kitten in the middle of one of the busiest streets in town. They knew we needed some new pets in our lives and called us...we went right over and brought her home with us. She is very small and malnourished, but full of spunk and affection. She loves to snuggle and purrs like a little motorboat. Just what the doctor ordered. Isn't she pretty?