Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"meant ta killya" no more

I am SO grateful to have the new countertops that appeared while I was away in Texas. Butter yellow tile. That sounds better than "mustard" or "gold," right? Anyway, that's what I'm calling it, because butter in Mexico doesn't turn me off anymore. (I could inject a "more's the pity" comment here, but will not stoop to the low and obvious.)
Mantequilla is the Spanish word for butter. "Meant ta killya" we joked in my childhood. Dairy in Mexico was something to be avoided at all costs. Got leche? Yech!
No more. That carton of Nestles yoghurt on the counter there tastes just like the yoghurt we get in Switzerland, the stuff that converted my vegan friend Cynthia back to evil animal exploiting ways. Far from being a USDA approved feast of chemical preservatives and gelatin, yoghurt here has a list of ingredients that read (in Spanish) "milk, fruit, sugar." What a concept!
So I sing the joys of dairy from south of the Tropic of Cancer. Just a sampling....
crema -- which is not sour cream, but more like the French creme fraiche. According to Larry, it goes on EVERYTHING.
Butter, butter, butter. (Have you heard the one about the woman standing over the coffin at a Mexican funeral wailing "Por qué? Por qué?" And the coffin lid lifts and a voice says "mantequilla!" Hint: You have to have seen the old commercial for Parkay. Evidently it ran in Spanish, as well.)
Cajeta envinada -- Also known as dulce de leche. It's goat's milk boiled and boiled and reduced to a creamy caramel sauce. You haven't had a banana until you've poured cajeta over it.
licuados -- that's fruit run through a blender with milk and ice. Strawberry is my favorite, but just about any fruit will do.
And just a warning.....there are more ice cream shops here per block than there are Starbucks in San Juan Capistrano. (That's four and counting for those of you far afield from Southern California).
Are we fat yet? Who cares??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm back!

And I have absolutely no more plans to travel for a long time! It's been one trip a month to the States ever since we got down here and I'm ready to settle in and stay put for a while. My sisters and I spent a week in Lubbock putting stickers on things we'd like when Mom moves into her new apartment, which is about the size of the living room she has now. All of us are wondering how Emily plans to get a grand piano to Alaska....

I brought Mom back for a month, and while she's back on her feet and motivating along pretty well, we used a wheelchair in Houston and again on arrival in Puerto Vallarta. Weekends are when tours arrive and leave in PV during the high season (like NOW) The airport was an absolute zoo when we got in Saturday, but with the wheelchair it was like magic. Whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzed through customs! There's always an upside to every situation.

Our friends Chris and Ken arrived here on Sunday, that was yesterday, and last night we all stayed up and watched the Oscars. I'm up early now thinking about breakfast and plans for the day. It's not confidential info that C&K are looking for a place in Mexico and we'd love to have them close to us. I'm in the plotting and finagling mode rather than the creative writing one ...... so-o-o-o I'm going to refer you to my across the street neighbor's blog which she started just as I left for Texas. Jeanette is the one with the iguana perched on her shoulder in one of my earlier posts, and she's been pouring it out pretty steady about life here in Guayabitos. Lots and lots of pictures. And I'm learning so much from her posts! So go have a visit with JJ at and find out more about where we live!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I know what boys like

Destroying things! Larry and Chano were busy tearing the old tile out of the kitchen this morning. I am promised brand new countertops and backsplash on my return from Texas. That will be one week from today. Again, I'm writing this blog instead of getting ready to go. In just a few minutes Larry will be tapping his foot and pushing me out the door.
I am carrying a big suitcase with another suitcase, a carry on, and a duffle bag inside. I'll either leave them at Mom's house or carry them back (along with Mom herself) full of ... stuff. My sisters are meeting me in Lubbock and we're going through years and years of .... stuff .... because, I suppose, that's what girls like.
Is this a sexist entry or what? Yes, Sweetie, I'm on my way! Just finishing up here.....
PS -- Randy -- Guaymas is a corruption of the Yaqui word for Guayima, meaning Queen of the Sea. Adios for now!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A corner of heaven

There's a very special place we like to go, usually on a Sunday afternoon. It's called Rincon del Cielo -- Corner of Heaven. The turnoff to get to it is only ten minutes down the road from Guayabitos. You go through a little town called El Monteon and then up and over a short mountain. Ascending on the inland side of the hill, you have fantastic views of the agricultural fields spread out over the valley. The descent on the ocean side is pure jungle, where you may startle a flock of brilliant yellow and black birds that flutter around your car like Monarch butterflies.
Juan and Maria live there all the time. That's Maria in her jungle kitchen. There is no electricity and no menu, but she does magical things with the two entrees that are offered: shrimp or dorado. Fresh. Go for the dorado. It's got some kind of fresh ginger/garlic glaze and comes with little fresh veggies on the side sprinkled with sesame seeds. Wash it down with deep red agua de jamaica, which Juan brings to the table in a big pitcher.
It takes a while to prepare the meal, so poke around the grounds, graze on some guacamole, read the prayer flags they have hanging around, talk to other guests, relax in a rocking chair, read a book, or go down and explore the beach. It's worth the wait, and the wait is most of the fun.
But don't wait. Come down and enjoy this place soon. That shot I took from the beach, looking back at the restaurant.....just to the left there's a new cyclone fence with a security guard installed. Fonatur (the same government agency responsible for Cancun, Ixtapa, and Los Cabos) is poised to open a mega-resort there within the next four years. This corner of heaven is getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Creative Impulses

I've got paint under my fingernails. That's why I haven't been typing on the computer. Hector is an artist from Guaymas, and he's been in town painting murals in our neighborhood. This one is across the street.
When I saw him working on a wall mural facing the street on Los Flamingos several days ago, I got all inspired and set up a workspace down in the basement. The colorful tables belong to my friend Jeanie. It's more fun to paint when you've got company. She's thinking about what else she wants to put on them. The big screen is mine, and I finally finished it today...maybe. At least I moved on to a lampshade with the paint that was left over. I refer to my art as "encouraging." People look at it and think, "Shoot, anybody could do that!" And they do. And that's what's fun.
In a few days I'll show you the finished products -- Hector's and mine. Don't know about Jeanie's. She's still thinking.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Things indigenous and colorful

I just finished catching up on Luke and Emily's blog. It's fantastic! They're in Guatemala, and reading about their adventures brings back so many memories of our time there....WAY back in 1974. That was the first trip that we all took together: Larry's parents and my parents and siblings. Mom and Dad had been on a trip to South America, and on the way back, when they landed in Guatemala City, the pilots went on strike. They ended up spending a week there right before Easter -- Semana Santa.

They fell in love with the place, and urged us all to go for Christmas. We did, and a tradition was born. I am SO grateful that Mom and Dad and Hank and Chloe (Larry's folks) became such good friends. Over the next years we had family holiday travel adventures in all sorts of neat places. But Guatemala was the first and the best.

Larry and I lived in Odessa, Texas, back in those days -- not exactly a garden spot of the world. When I saw Lake Atitlan I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. There was a head-high hedge of poinsettias (nochebuenas) separating the little inn where we stopped from the lake. When I went back to the office after Christmas vacation, there was one droopy poinsettia on the receptionist's desk. I looked at and almost burst into tears, I wanted to go back so bad.

I remember the strong scent of copal being burned everywhere. It's a woodsy sort of smell, and I bought some incense sticks of it just the other day at our market here. It's a lot like piñon in New Mexico. Guatemala means "place of the pine tree" and the smell of the woods came right into the heart of the city.

There was also color. The streets of Chichicastenango were awash in a sea of short Mayan bodies clothed in every strong color there is in the palette. I can't wait to see the pictures Luke and Emily post. In fact....down in the basement....I know I have a box of slides from that trip we took. Anyone know how to get images from slides to digital? (This blog is definitely a learning experience for me!)

Speaking of color, last Wednesday Larry and I went down to Sayulita to look for some handpainted tiles. We found them at Galeria Gypsy near the beach. Have a look at their website and smack your lips! Kelly owns the store, but her mom, Connie, is the buyer. She and her husband Barry (transplants from Santa Cruz, CA) had just returned from Guatemala the day before. They brought back a lot less stock than they'd planned because of that Quetzal crisis that Luke and Emily refer to. She said it was heartbreaking. They could not get printed money anywhere enough to pay the villagers, and the villagers had so much to sell!

So, Luke and Emily, Connie and Barry -- I'm thinking seriously about heading down to Ryan and Jessie's wedding in Antigua April 14. Larry rolls his eyes with that "so you're on the road again" look he gives me....he's invited, too, but the gypsy spirit is not in his blood. I'm going to call Connie now for the name of that pension near the coffee shops and bookstores in downtown Antigua......

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Flat Stanley and the mermaids

Earlier this year we had a houseguest. He was no trouble at all -- ate little, slept a lot, and when we were tired of his company, we threw him in the trash.

He's a friend of my nephew Jean Paul, who lives in Port Ludlow, Washington. Flat Stanley's friends there in the second grade at Chimicum Primary School send him all around the world to have his picture taken. It's a neat way for the kids to learn about different places and different cultures. I thought you might enjoy Flat Stanley's adventures here on the local scene. I still haven't learned how to put a lot of photos on my entries, and I don't know how to make them go where I want them. So here is a series of little short entries on Flat Stanley's visit.

We enjoyed having Flat Stanley come to visit us in Rincón de Guayabitos, Mexico. We are on the West coast of Mexico in the State of Nayarit. Flat Stanley loved looking at the warm blue Pacific waters, but he really enjoyed playing with some mermaids he found hanging out in our guestroom. Down here they are called sirenas.

Mermen are called tritonos, and the big news around here is that a tritón showed up on the beach at La Peñita. Flat Stanley read about it in the local paper, and said he thought his sirena friends were much prettier.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Morning Lift Off

Sounds like a caffeine-laden breakfast drink. But those are the words that came to mind when I opened the back door this morning and about forty egrets took flight out of the guayaba tree. (I've talked about those birds in a previous post. I said there were about thirty. I was wrong. There are over a hundred who sleep there every night. They're on the other side of the tree which faces the estuary -- and a neighbor across the water who waits each evening for the "National Geographic moment" when they come to roost. We've just seen the low rent group who face our house!)

Watching the egrets is one of the rituals around here. Routine, ritual, whatever. I've just finished re-reading Kathleen Norris's little book The Quotidian Mysteries: Liturgy, Laundry, and "Women's Work." It's a gem. She compares the daily work that must be done, and redone, and done once again -- like laundry and cooking, mending and cleaning -- chores that in the past have traditionally been the province of women -- to the rituals performed in churches and in the course of daily worship. It's the little rituals, she says, that keep love alive and the community intact, whether the community is one of family or faith. The morning kiss, the cup of coffee, the laundry done on time. It's the ritual that saves us, that comes to our rescue when things get tense and challenging. It's in times of crisis that the words of prayers uttered perfunctorily day after day, flare into beacons of comfort and hope. All of a sudden we're listening and cherishing every word. Ask any widow or widower what they miss most. It's the routine.

So in my foundering around down here in Mexico, talking about "leaving church," I have to consider what exactly it is that I want to leave behind. I'm still working on that. In the meantime, I can rail on about the Christian Science "culture" I was raised in. I can smile indulgently at the "cultural" Catholicism I see around me now. But more times than not, culture provides comfort. It's "comfortable" knowing what to expect. Whether it's the well-worn beads of a rosary, or the certain knowledge that the Lord's Prayer comes here in the service, rituals may be considered "empty, " -- until someone starts tinkering around with them.

Journeys of the spirit and of the body can be rigorous. When I was bouncing around the world on airplanes I found that landmarks, touchstones, are important: East bound flights on American Airlines start taking breakfast orders in first class from the front of the plane; west bound from the rear. (Took me several years to figure this out....several years of being stuck with Special K sitting in seat 6F out of Orange County.) The Hampton Inn has soft pillows and they have eggs on their breakfast buffet; the veggie pizza at Applebee's is available, even if it's not on the menu. Provided with the essential "comforts," I could pay attention to "what mattered." I'm not sure "what matters" now, but the comforts definitely matter.

It matters right now that I hear Larry back from his morning walk with Kody. That he'll come in and ask me if I want another cup of coffee. And I'll ask him if he wants breakfast, and he'll say, "sounds good." It matters that the garbage man comes today, and that Hilda and Chano come tomorrow. And it matters that those egrets feel safe and secure in the tree out back.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

We're now seated -- and private

OK, I'm talking about the house once more. Some people - like my Mom - want to see how we live.
We've almost completed the major projects. Our furniture arrived. Our neighbor Ally put together a communal order at the end of last December, and it came it last Monday. That's Larry checking it out. We now have a dining room table with chairs on the verandah, and two big chairs with footstools in our middle "tower" room. If you look back on previous posts, you can see how this room has evolved from pretty bare space into a comfy library.
We got curtain rods and curtain rod holder-uppers (what DO you call those things?) the same day. Leo, the man who made the grill work for our windows and doors, made them in his shop in La Colonia. Nice heavy iron work, enough for six windows and doors. He and Osvaldo, his helper, were here until 8:00 that night, drilling holes into solid concrete walls. We spent Tuesday cleaning up.
Now here's something really ironic (sorry, really bad pun): we also paid our property taxes last Monday. Price for the curtain rods and installation: 1,700 pesos. Price for a year's property taxes: 1,750 pesos. Knock off a zero and you're close to the U.S. dollar amount.

Ya gotta have friends....

And we do. This is our friend Jeanette, and her friend (for a short while), the iguana. The iguana was her next door neighbor until the pile of concrete blocks he was living in was taken down. Jeanette and Bruce live across the street from us, and they are great friends. Too bad that they're here only six months of the year. Come mid April they will head back to Canada and the cool. Both places they live on the beach.
I've been thinking a lot about beach friends today, because I finally found the composition notebook that we had at the going away party George and Carol gave for us with the beach crowd last August, where we said to everyone -- Here! Put down your contact info so we can be sure to keep in touch!
And then I put it in one of those very safe places so it wouldn't get thrown away or lost.....or least until just the other day. So I've spent a good part of today updating our address book in Yahoo. Each entry brings up faces and places and fond memories. Beach friends. Unless you've been a part of the culture at San Onofre it's hard to describe. No wonder Larry had a bad moment when we were headed south on the 5 on our last trip out of Orange County before we moved down here. But he's been keeping in contact with some of his buddies since, thanks to the wonders of Vonage, we still have our old San Clemente phone number.
(And incidentally, a lot of those buddies should be in El Salvador this weekend, greeting Steve Boehne with a surprise 60th birthday party -- Happy Birthday, Steve! Sorry Larry couldn't make it.)
It's a little different beach culture here. For one thing, that surf I hear right now is NOT a surf break. There's an island offshore which sort of keeps things calm. The waves are fun for boogie boarders and kids riding big plastic dinosaurs. So what Guayabitos has in common with Sano is that it's definitely a family affair. All ages, shapes, sizes and genders having the time of their lives. The closest good surf is about 30 minutes away in either direction -- Sayulita to the south, or Chacala to the north.
So I'll send out another e-mail to let our beach friends know about this blog -- and tell them we miss them, and we hope the pictures and stories about living down here will encourage them to come down and visit. Hasta la vista, amigos!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Tortillas are terrific but Larry still likes white bread

And so do a lot of gringos. Maybe I should have made this shot a close-up to show the bread, but I wanted to show the line to buy it. Yesterday was market day in La Penita, and as usual, Larry and I made the first stop at the bread lady's. One big loaf of soft white for him, and sometimes a big long baguette for me. This stuff is as good as what we've had in Switzerland or France. She also has wonderful whole wheat (which despite our best intentions, usually spoils before we get through it....we are SO white bread), donuts, little open faced pies, raisin bread. Sure beats Bimbo!
P.S. If you click on the image, you can make it bigger and get a better look at the bread. You can also see that the woman in the door behind is drinking something -- from a plastic bag. Didn't I tell you? (see previous post in January: Paper or Plastic?)