Monday, April 28, 2008

one road....

Had to write again!

While Robert is across the street in Zihua having really good tamales (and I´m not the least bit hungry tonight), I just HAD to hop on the internet to point out that, hey, I´m really not all that far removed, if at all, from the techie world! Through the net, which is available right on the beach for US$5/hour (versus US $1.00 in Zihua), I´ve just been tuning in with friends around the world (NZ, Vietnam, Slovakia,and east to west coast USA, for instance). and I could if I wished tune into all the music and books and podcasts which I´ve put on my iPod. As for a cellphone, we´re talking awfully seriously about getting one....

...which is for a reason y├íll might get a kick out of, actually. You see, we cannot SEE the sea from our house and even though we may hear waves THUNDERING AND CRASHING from our house, that doesn´t necessarily mean the waves are big at the break. Its a beeeg beach-front and the waves we hear could well be on the rocky shore on OUR side of the river. SO.........

.....if we had a cellphone, we could call our favorite friends who live right there AT the break and ask what´s going on and of course, furthermore, they could call US to get our buns and boards over the river and through the coco'grove PRONTO. Robert´s eyebrows went up at that thought...

All our villagers, pretty much, have cellphones by the way. For instance, there I was DEEP into a huge coconut grove with a man and his wife who were slaving away with machetes in the heat, and among the men climbing up the trunks like monkeys to lower down whole, um, bunches(?) of coconuts ("Isn´t this a loverly bunch of coconuts..."). The wife pulled out her cell phone and called her kids back in the village to come out here with a big pitcher of water with ice, and some crunchies.

Oops. Robert just finished his tamale, so I will sign out of the digital world and return to our little wired village. Soon (and especially after THIS town trip where we bought all we need for it) we
will have our own electricity and by extension, an operating iPod without wearing down the batteries.

By the way, in preparation for stringing up all the wire (which we must provide) and setting up the boxes etc (which we must buy), this very morning, before we left for town, Robert mixed cement in the wheelbarrow and poured it down the tall circular forms which he had created and then wired together. These will be the poles to carry the electric wires up the hill to our house. We have to do everything ourselves, as you can see.

Two roads diverged in a yellow world and it´s apparently possible to take both.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

¡¡Hi, homeys!!

So, we were walking down our winding dirt road through our little village one dark evening, and as we passed by a gathering of the older kids (teens and 20s), one of them said quietly to us, and in a friendly way, "¡Hi, homeys!"

Say what?

So, L.A. is arriving in our Little Salty Place ( the name of our village, translated into English)... For those of you who know our friends here, it was another one of Omar´s many uncles... a guy who JUST got back from a number of years in L.A. There has been a bit of a rush on returns here, lately. Each of them smiles, and says they came back because they like it better here.

That sweet little surprise was one of the cherries on the end of one helluva great (WORK) day. It´s a day to be remembered for the uncommon amount of activity...

It began at dawn. We had barely crawled out from under our mosquito netting when Ramon ambled up our hill for a friendly cup of coffee on our porch... It was a cool morning, so after coffee, I grabbed a machete and a stick and headed out to our front yard to begin the great clearing of the jungly overgrowth (we were absent from here for 10 months this time, so our property is buried in such growth).

My clumsy slashing was too much for Ramon. He grabbed a machete and a stick and came out there with me. His help was much appreciated, but alas he cut down two (2!) of our baby lemon trees as well as the humongous weed trees. Anyway, Robert also got inspired, grabbed his machete and stick and took off down the hill to clear where we will build a tower for our electricity pole (yahoo!), and along came Guillermo (dear friend and incidentally the mayor and father of our little shadow, Ariana), with HIS machete and stick. There´s much more clearing to do, but this particular morning made a great dent in it...

....Ches and Kevin, your tent will be there in the newly cleared yard. Anyway, when the sun climbed a bit higher, that was enough of that.

Along ambled Omar up our little hill, with a big bandage on his toe. There I was with a big bandage on my thumb. Both of us, it seems, had cut off the ends of our respective digits. Neither of us could go in the water -- so! We grabbed the wheelbarrow and a shovel and some bags and headed down to the river and dug up rich black earth, brought it back up our hill and created a beautiful vegetable garden, complete with high wooden walls and chicken wire over the top (keeping out the pigs, cows, chickens, whatever). Robert and Omar planted rows of spinach and mesclun (mixed greens), and the little plantlings popped up the VERY next day in long rows!

High noon. Folks disappeared to cool shady places, and I worked on my next children´s book about the ants...

Same day, a bit later, Robert tormented the little kitten with de-flea-ing and de-mite-ing it which was not a quick operation... The kitty got so tired of objecting that by the end, he actually fell asleep while the process went on.

Next! All right!! WATER! We never know when water will begin flowing through our hoses but there it was. Immediately, we filled up both of our brand'new water tanks (gosh, ease in bathing with buckets, ease in washing clothes and dishes.... WATER!).... and there was such a quantity pouring in that all the kids -- who had by then returned to watch the gringos and of course to play Jenga, and play with whatever other toys I always bring down for them -- well, they all decided to wash our brown car and find out what color it really is. It´s a greenish-blue. Who knew?

Time for a break. Break out the watermelon. Great feasting.

Gringo soup (hecho por Roverto, who is a GREAT soup'maker) was shared by all. The kids actually really like Robert´s cooking very much.... But then they go off for the tortillas and whatever else their moms are making -- and off they went.

In the cool dark of early evening (if 9pm is early---well, in the village it IS early, though to Robert and me, it is legal to go to bed) -- anyway, in the cool dark, we decided to spend the next 2-3 hours visiting with Jesus (hay-SUS) Pompa and Francisco...

These two men gather every single evening to sing all the old corridas -- long story'songs of the Mexican tradition -- in the style of "Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican maid..." -- really beautiful heart-tugging songs. Jesus is a tiny and old, bent man with a cane for whom walking is a painful necessity. He plays a beat-up old guitar, his bent'up old fingers running all over the keyboard, and he sings the sweet high harmonies. Francisco is much younger, probably a good many years younger than me, and formerly a scuba diver for fish, all along the west coast of Mexico, now happily retired in the village. He has a beautiful, haunting deep voice that gets so very tender at times it can bring tears to your eyes.

It was on this short sweet walk in the dark from our house to that of Jesus, that we were greeted by the young folk: "!!Hi, homeys!!"

By the way, the waves have been really really big and great even for boogie'boarders.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is something retrograde somewhere?

Apparently SOMETHING is retrograde. Our friend Matilde can recount a similar list of, um, mishaps. I'll make it quick and in order:

* I got swimmer's ear my first and only day in the water, which to the uninitiated, feels like you have some severe infection in your brain that is tunneling in deeper and deeper. Easily cured once you get the proper, easily available drops. We have them now. It is cured.

* The next day I cut off the tip of my thumb while cutting down strangling vines from one of our mango trees. It is healing nicely, no infection, but the tip-flap is pure white so it will be interesting to see what I get when it is all finished. Keeps me out of the sea, though.

* Our playful little boy-kitty gets confused as to just where he's supposed to go to the bathroom so he needs watching just now...

* By the way, the worst news is that cappuchinos now cost MORE for LESS than you get in Durango. Nothing wrong with drinking instant Nescafe with instant milk, I always say.

* The dramas in Gringolandia/Beachside are too much like a soap opera with an ever-changing cast of characters.  Not worth the pixels.

Enough!!  I hear the waves are great.  Lots of people on 'em.  Time to head back to the beach.  I can at least wade, and cool down, til my thumb heals.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cha-ne-ke/Latin Soul/Anthropology

(1) CHANEKE (pronounced "cha-NEHkeh")

Okay, it just happened, okay? We didn't ask for this.

Our second night here, we were sitting in the gentle twilight on our porch and little Ariana (our perennial shadow) slipped in through the gentling darkness and slowly lowered something into my arms.... something warm and fuzzy.

So now we have a new kitten. This little guy looks almost exactly like our lost Corazon (see posts "The Very Heart of Christmas" and "Alas, Corazon) and is in fact, a descendent -- a nephew of Corazon., the son of Corazon's littermate.  Tiny little loving creature, he even has a heart on the same side that Corazon had a furry patterned heart!  And, he has an unmistakable heart in the coloration of his nose, too.  He fit right into our lives, discovered all the same safe hiding places around our house that Corazon used to use, loves the same toys (knotted plastic bags, wood chips, a suspended string with a knot). And we plan to bring him back, of course.

We named him Cha-ne'-ke (cha-NAYkay) -- a delightful name that makes all the locals laugh with delight. The Chaneke are little Leprechaun-like creatures that live along the waterways of Mexico. Some people are afraid of them, but from the laughter, I think most folks get a kick out of the idea of them. Our Chaneke was born on the beach.

As for Latin Soul! Love it. There I was, surrounded by kids on our porch all involved in the various projects I've collected for kids (drawing, Jenga, building blocks, 3-D projects...) and two young girls were with me wanting to sing.

I reminded them of the French cathedrals round from last visit and we did a few rounds of that and I noticed the words were changing from "Orleans" on to "Vendome" and becoming: "Tenedor, Cuchara, Cuchillo para cortar, Un Vaso, Un Vaso" --(fork, spoon, knife for cutting, a glass, a glass) --and by then, they'd had ENOUGH of this "pinche gringo" music --

.....and burst into a rousing round (complete with body dancing while still suspended in hammocks) of "La Cucaracha" only again, the words were changed:
"Roberto loco, Roberto loco, no se puede a nadar, porque no tiene, porque le falta, tabla para surfiar!" (Crazy Robert, crazy, Robert, cannot go to swim, because he doesn't have, because he's missing, a surfboard for surfing)

I'm glad I'm not still bound by the tenets of first'year anthropology where you visit a foreign culture and do not interfere but simply coolly observe... but I'm working out how to, um, intervene a bit. One morning a crew came over, and one mom along with her 18-month old son, Damian. Damian has been here without her, in the arms of older siblings, and all has been calm... But THIS visit really took us both by surprise....

There was a minor altercation between Damian and our Shadow, Ariana . The MOTHER picked up Damian,carried him over to Ariana and told him to HIT her and to BITE her! Numerous times she instructed him, and he obeyed. She was laughing all the while and Robert and I watched in hidden horror....

I thought of saying something, but don' want to undermine a mother.... so my solution is simple. In fact, I'e already set up the mood for it.... I keep a conscious awareness of the energy among the kids, and maintain a sort of Buddhist calmness in the air. This works.

One catch-phrase that spontaneously came out of my mouth to intercept a snooty interchange between the boys and the girls was "Cuida su corazon..." -- "Watch your heart...."

Oh... and the waves were GREAT for the first few days. We're in a bit of a lull just now, so today is a town trip. Adios, amigos....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Del Rio, TX > La casita...

Let us now sing the praises of a border town!
Who knew, when we were stopped at the Mexican customs for missing papers for our CAR, that we would enjoy what has always looked to be a hellacious strip-town of malls and cheap tourist shops . We had at least a day/overnight waiting for FedEx'd papers (which did come promptly, thank you SO much Terry and Char).

The name TELLS us that the town has something to offer -- (by the river) -- and thanks to their Chamber of Commerce we spent a most mellow, cool day sleeping on picnic tables under vast spreading branches of cool trees, birds calling gently overhead, and then wading in pure cool water only some yards from where it pours forth from the earth.

There are, in fact, TWO pure fresh-water springs bubbling forth a short distance apart, so there are TWO little rivers flowing side by side... one is great for wading, and the other is where the brave teen'aged boys leap and dive from rather high bridges. It is a community park, all locals relaxing and laughing and picnicking -- and us.

Of the museums we did not bother to visit, one stands out for its uniqueness... A museum to one bodacious quack doctor who said he could perform a simple operation that would totally restore the virility of men -- and performed it often... If I recall correctly, he did indeed insert the gonads of goats into the gonads of men. The leaflet that advertised the museum continued with all the other quackery performed by this wealthy fake -- but never mentioned whether or not the potency of his patients was improved --nor did it mention whether or not they even survived...I would have thought that such would be of prime interest to readers.

Sing praises also to the iPod -- our latest concession to the digital age. Still no cell'phone but we really love how tiny the iPod is and how much music and how many books'on'iPod it can hold and still be only a quarter full. NO huge container of CDs at my feet anymore.

And sing praises to our vecinos en nuestro pueblo... our village neighbors who DID water our bugambilias (Spanish for the French bougainevilleas), and the Copa de Oro flowering plants --and planted MORE flowering plants around the porch. We were greeted with so much color...

...and ten months of dust and dead flower petals blown into our casita. THings are in order, just need unpacking and cleaning up. Whew.

Only one small biting ant nest, easily stamped. One small nest of our favorite spiders --terrifying to look at-- but devourers of cucarachas. For those who haven't seen our photos of the Madre Alacran, these spiders are, with legs normally positioned at least 8" across. Her body is also big AND she sports huge arms like those of a Praying Mantis, spikes and all!! (Mother of Scorpions is what her name means) Both her mouth and her armtips contain poison when they close on you.

We have never even felt threatened by them. They hide under things, on walls, wherever, and are ferocious hunters. Robert has entertained himself from time to time by wounding a cockroach and putting it, on the tip of a spear, where the Madre Alacran's (12") feelers can find it. What an incredible drama ensues. The moment she feels/senses food she goes into a crouch and very stealthily makes her way in a circular pattern towards her prey -- one feeler always pinpointing its location. Once within striking distance --WHAM-- the prey is grabbed by the claws, stung, and pulled to her mouth, stung again and immediately devoured.

We were in the ocean by late afternoon and the wave were perfect. And spent the evening among friends in the village. Simpatico...

One thing to comment on is that the recession is here in Mexico, too. The father of our favorite family is the mayor of the town as well -- and he said that for the past four months, there have been NO FISH in the sea. Our village is a village of fishermen. They are all hurting, seriously. And there's not much building going on, so no alternate income. The mayor pulled the pockets of his shorts inside out -- no dinero/no money. And it was obvious that everyone is having a hard time. On the road to our shopping town, too, we see empty lumber yards and other businesses nearly empty, too.... We can help a little, hiring local friends to help build our outdoor kitchen etc...

And there is just a lot of camaraderie built from years of friendship among us. Glad to be here.

love to you all, Sarita y Roverto