Thursday, November 24, 2011

Of Crocodiles & Soccer Games & Other Sundry Things


I have now EATEN crocodile. Pictures will be posted sometime in December. Crocodile is a white meat (who knew?). It is a light, pleasant meat. It does not taste like chicken. It tastes like a good fish (which means it is not rank, not chewy and stringy, but delicate and pleasant to eat). The Mexican barbacoa sauce was also excellent. I ate a section of the tail, which is considered a delicacy both here and in the southern US States (US$50/plate I hear). Robert is soaking the skull in some water in order to put it on display along with various other unusual skulls he is collecting. I will make more, oddly esoteric, comments when I post the photos of the crocodile shortly after it was taken from the sea. It was a young and beautiful creature.


I toyed with titling this one "traffic jams" because that is what was going on. Imagine if you will, us driving our rig from our humble abode in the village and then across the river at our customary low-water crossing (nothing resembling a bridge) -- and our rig being PASSED mid'stream by not one but two little golf-cart like things with a gringo couple in each---coming from OUR village-side of the river (say what?). Then, where the one-lane dusty track narrows with fences and thick jungly growth on one side and a cornfield (Guille's cornfield of slingshot-and-raccoon fame), we all were stopped in our tracks by several small trucks of villagers coming the other way.

A really-truly traffic jam!

That gave us time to chat with the gringos -- the who/what/why kind of thing. Turns out, they were returning from, ahem, a GIRL'S SOCCER MATCH in our village, out in the field on the far end of our village (far from us who live on the other far end). It was our village girls (we have a TEAM??!?) versus the girls from the village across the river.

I have never seen any of the girls in our village in soccer gear, nor kicking a ball around the dirt road that runs through this long village. Never heard of any practices, nor of any games.

That just MIGHT be a partial explanation why our girls lost 0 - 20.


THE HUNTER LAMENTS...for instance.

Here is this tidbit about the Great Slayer of Raccoons, Crocodiles and All. The other day, Guille (pronounced with a HARD "g" as in "good" -- GEE-yay) came to our porch from where he was slashing undergrowth. In his hand he held a very large pupa of a butterfly. He was gentle, and quietly lamented that he had not seen it in time. It cannot grow now, he said sadly, and then he lay it softly down among the flowers by our porch.

It was the pupa of one of those magnificent very large all-white butterflies that enchants us whenever one passes by. Alas, that us gringos refer to it as the Kleenex-butterfly but then it DOES look like a flying Kleenex.

But the point of this Sundry Thing, is how gentle, and sorry he was for destroying it.

Quietly, to myself, I also simply lament the systematic destruction of this overgrown weed-tree patch that is our backyard. It had been abandoned for 18 years when we bought it, and remained almost untouched since we moved here in 2004. But now, we are slowly cutting it back--almost by 1/3 at least by now -- and replanting it with very desirable trees. We thin out the weed trees, leaving just enough to shade the newly planted ones, so all is not clear-cut.

My quiet concern is that all this time, I have enjoyed the utter wildness of this untamed over/undergrowth.... so filled with chattering birds, home to so many fluttering butterflies, refuge of small animals cruising by.

What becomes of the wild flutterers, and the ground creepers? Said Omar to me, in response to this question, "Oh, they'll just go somewhere else." but extinct is where they go in the end.

Slowly but surely, as the village population grows and as tourism grows, all these patches are being cleared... Where will the Dios Mio bird flee to? That is my name for a very surprisingly large, remarkable woodpecker, that is also quite shy. Because of the now-extinct "Oh My God" woodpecker (Ivory-billed Woodpecker, destroyed by development in the southern US), I named this bird similarly. Where WILL it go?


I had this playful email conversation with a friend who lives in Panama (and previously Costa Rica) about what the roosters say! After all, we each live among them, and they are very present in our lives. So, among the many things I hear, one thing is an insistent "Happy BIRTHday!!" My friend mentioned that where he lives, among many things, is an insistent "Put the drink DOWN!!"

So I asked Guille if the locals heard words amid the rooster-squawks. Why yes, they do, he reported with a grin. "Levanta-te YA!!" (getyourselfUP!!) and "Estare-durMIda!" (I was SLEEPing!").

What do YOUR roosters say!


Oh never mind. Who wants to talk about four hours of really bad (excruciating?? I wouldn't know personally but it sure looks like it is excruciating) pain? Instead, let me end this whimsy with....


My delightful Victorian Era Grandfather Ransom (William R. Ransom, who was born in 1876, when Billy the Kid was still alive, and who remembers when Lizzie Borden took that axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, and 41 to her father ...ooh, but I digress) --anyway, THAT Grandfather delighted us all in many ways and among his numerous books, wrote his string and paper tricks into a book, but I digress again. He deserves his own full biography, such a wonderful character he, with his cape, and his cane, and his wonderful graying, pointy goatee.

In his 90s, when I last visited him, he would greet me at the breakfast table, gently make a few fist-poundings upon the table and exclaim a number -- such as "16" or "24" or the like.

He was reporting how many morning-glories were open upon his trellis that morning.

So now, here in our humble Mexico abode, we have large, beautiful jamaica plants just beside our porch stairs. Like morning glories, their newest flowers bloom with the morning sun and then fade away (later to become the fruit that we all make into delicious cool drinks).

In his honor, I go out and count how many blooms there are of a morning, and report.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Past Has Passed

Somewhere in the vast pile of notebooks sitting somewhere in a room back in Durango, are the essays I wrote, whilst swinging in a hammock, describing our very first days of living in the Little Salty Place village here in Mexico...

One poignant entry, as I recall, simply listed all the services that literally come to you -- even as you swing tranquilly in your hammock. These are the traveling salesmen, walking the long dusty roads from the highway, each of which leads to little villages tucked away near some freshwater springs or rivers or beaches. Our little place, for example, is close to five miles in, with only one other village halfway between.

Without that list, what I can recall is that these wares include the likes of fresh baked bread, fresh-killed chickens and iguanas, eggs, home-made cheese rounds, woven mats for your floor, hammocks, silverware and dishware, clothes for all ages, furniture of all kinds and sizes, blankets, bolts of cloth....

One poignant story glows in my memory...

Here was a sweet little family of three -- young mom, young dad, and their son of about five. Together, they had been pushing their wheelbarrow of wares all this way from the highway. Piled precariously atop were handcarved and handwoven child-sized chairs -- little rocking chairs.... Something for which we had no use.

But ah, Robert had something for them!

With a flashing grin, he winked at the little boy and brought from our storeroom a child-sized bicycle! "Para ti," he said as he gently pushed the bike towards him.

As you can imagine, they could not believe what Robert was offering. They said they had no money to buy it. Robert replied that it is a gift, at no cost, to them. The wife looked at me, woman to woman, and whispered, "Is this a joke?"

But no, it was not a joke.

You can well imagine their beaming faces, and the bouncing gait of the little boy as he wheeled his bike around to a level place where he could mount it. Zooooom!!!!

For years, we had been bringing down bicycles of all sizes -- which Robert would spruce up and then give out to the various kids in the village and nearby. We no longer do that for a number of reasons, but the most telling reason is the border crossing. For reasons important to the border guards, we are now required to pay a rather hefty fee for bringing any such gifts into Mexico (clothes included.... we also used to bring several boxes of clothes for all ages).

Ah, but I digress.

The era of such traveling salesfolk trundling up the path to our porch.... has ended. Oh, occasionally a local villager will stop by with perhaps a round of cheese or a fresh-baked bread (from their home-made horno), but it is not the same.

An era has ended.

But you know what!!?? There's a new service I just noticed... as I lay in my hammock one morning, I saw it happen.

This is a big deal, folks. No more seeking out waste cans in town, wherein we surreptitiously cram small bags. We now have a weekly garbage pickup. Just set your trash bags out by the road, and this big old rumbling truck comes by and heaves it into the back. Every Tuesday, at about 9:30am. Gratis.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Living in the Stone Age...

Yeah, well... we have gone and joined the Stone Age.

Last night, we each picked up a baseball sized stone to carry around in case we need to throw it at something. Guillermo is our inspiration.

We had just enjoyed a lovely sunset over on the ocean side of the river, followed by a cool surf video with our gringo friends. Now it was full on night. With just our one headlamp between us, and each of us armed with our big stone, we wended our way through the darkness... down the narrow jungly mud'road to the river (along which lurk numerous kinds of poisonous snakes and , well, you know), then we waded across the river still nearly knee-deep with a recognizable current, and then we were stepping gingerly alongside the river, next to the lagoon where dwells (ta-da) the crocodile (cocodrillo).

All the while, Robert scanned the surrounds with the one beam of light, looking for any reflection of yellow eyes. We were ready to pelt with our stones whatever threatened us. For how many millenia have vulnerable humans made this kind of journey, armed with only sticks and stones?

Not yesterday, but the day before yesterday, our reliable friend Guillermo had been back in his field patrolling for 'coons (mapache). You may recall previous entries where I describe the way he dispatched most of the wild animals he encountered -- with a well aimed stone. (NOTE--I have gone back and corrected my essay on his recent foray with the crocodile, because his stone did NOT miss the croc, but instead, hit it directly on top of the head, and the croc turned tail back into the swamp. Guille had, however, been aiming at the side of the head, which is more vulnerable to cracking open... Guille had barbacoa in mind).

But I digress. There was Guille on patrol just the other night, when he encountered an armadillo (armadillo in Spanish, of course). It took just one well-aimed stone...

....and so the very next day, which was just yesterday, we were all gathered around their table and dining on the creature. Do armadillos taste like chicken? No. This one tasted like delicious home'made spicy salsa, with fresh corn tortillas. What I did notice, is that the meat was well-cooked and not stringy or difficult to chew. (All this from a woman who would far prefer to remain vegetarian, but who recognizes that as an anthropologist/villager, it behooves me to cheerfully share the food they offer.)

Surf, you ask? Oh, that!!

Nothing for this boogie-boarder who has been in the sea only ONCE this entire time... too much basura (huge logs, small sticks, dirty crud) along the shore and floating in the water. For the surfers, however -- Robert has that same shit'eating grin on his face each time he returns from a session.

What is also sweet, is the regathering of the local clan of surfers from wherever we scatter to. And the stories and the adventures to share... There is this GREAT tale about a surfing competition where the surfers are actually dogs, down at Huntington Beach, CA.

And, since I have a rather lot of time on my hands, I now have a really cool found-driftwood piece that I turned into a really cool sculpture, carefully painted and mounted. I will post a photo upon our return to the States.

All is well here, tranquillo y amable, despite, ahem, the Troubles.