Monday, October 29, 2007

Dana Point Harbor -- our "old" home town

People have been asking if any of the fires in California were close to where we used to live. I opened email this evening and found this photo sent from a friend in South Orange County. Our house would be up the hill on the far left side. So I guess you'd say, yep, they were pretty close. This was the fire which raged over Camp Pendleton, just to the south of San Clemente. We hear it stopped right at the city limits. This shot was probably taken from the gazebo about a block from where Larry used to work every day. I've walked every inch of that harbor.

Our hearts are close to our former neighbors and friends. Priscilla and Mario were here today, and I sent lots of hugs and love to pass around when they return.

International coverage for La Penita

This is a short entry today. Check out the link "Profile of La Penita" that I've put over there to the left on the sidebar. It's an article which appeared in the Montreal Gazette, and was reprinted in a Puerto Vallarta paper.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Catching up....

I've done the L.A. Times crossword puzzles on-line, and I think it's time for a newsy Sunday afternoon blog entry. I've started a number of entries, but somehow these days I keep getting sidetracked. I've been catching up by telephone with some of you readers, and sporadically answering emails from others. I beg forgiveness, please.

This is why I've been incomunicado: all of a sudden we have a social life! Hooray! Two birthday parties this weekend, one at a beach restaurant and the other up the hill with a view. Gringo friends and neighbors are coming back south. The white bread lady has returned to the Thursday market. Hala has opened her hamaca shop. The Italian restaurant on the plaza in La Penita is once again serving French press coffee and veggie omelettes on market days. The six foot high vegetation along the highway is being weed-whacked back and any day they should be re-striping the road. Sometimes in the morning there's actually a chill in the air. I'm out walking then -- Kody, too! The "season" is starting up again, and once more I'm falling in love with where we live.

I'm also busy reclaiming some ceded territory. Like my linen closet. For quite a while there, I didn't really care what color the pillowcases were or whether or not they matched. Just so long as the sheets were washed and changed. Hilda did it faithfully, for which I am very grateful. But she did it her way.

I am now sorting through sheets: queen size, king size, California king, fitted and not, matched and not, as well as stacks of pillow cases that vary from high thread-count crispy white ones to a dilapidated Little Mermaid slip left behind by -- well who knows? Maybe a little mermaid, judging from the pervasive damp smell I found clinging to all of the above. And all of the above was stuffed willy-nilly on to shelves that in what seems another life I had carefully labelled both in Spanish and in English as to just what went where.

The question now is: What's the difference between being a control freak and a good housekeeper?

That issue isn't limited to the linen closet. Sweet husband Larry seems a little taken aback these days when he finds me doing things for myself -- like rearranging the furniture on the verandah, going out in Hummercita without him, or carting loads of laundry between here and the basement. He's happy to see me doing it. It's just that he was doing it before.

Interesting dynamics we're working with here. Borders have been redrawn over the past year or so. For instance, I used to joke that Larry knew the PIN number to the ATM and not a lot more about our finances. Now I'm the one learning where the pesos are, who we owe, and who owes us. Cobbo has done a great job! I wonder: Just how much of ceded territory do I really need or want to reclaim? Maybe I should push onward into something new and different. One thing is certain: we're both growing into talents and capabilities neither one of us realized we had! It's just so great to care about life again!

So what's on the agenda tomorrow?

  • Yoga down the street at Mona's at 7:30 AM.
  • Javier and his crew will be here early to start about a two week stint of treating the roof, getting rid of the lama, sealing the brick work and painting the house. We're thinking about going a little crazy with some color. More on that later.
  • Larry begins his new duties as head of maintenance for the Zona Residencial. He's got a crew of men who will clean the beach all this week.
  • Our Southern California friends Mario and Priscilla will drive up from Puerto Vallarta for a day visit, and we'll either feed them here or go up to Vista Guayabitos.
  • In the evening, we're going to see if we can catch Lucy in the dance review at The Decameron Los Cocos Resort. (We may have to sneak in, as it's a "guests only" sort of deal.)
It will be Lucy's last night in Guayabitos for a while. She is out of our guestroom and into a hotel with her vacationing Mum and Auntie Carol. Tuesday she's headed for two weeks back in England where she will walk across a stage in cap and gown and collect her degree from Oxford, which will make her the most highly educated chorus girl the Decameron has ever experienced. She collected her stretchy clothing out of the freezer (better to preserve the lycra), but left all sorts of strange British things in our fridge. Marmite? What's that? I'm going to miss her!

Other news: We're out of municipality-supplied water until the water company pays its electric bill and the pumps start running again. It's the end of the fiscal year, so they're out of money. They'll start collecting and offering discounts for early payment here in the next week or so. In the meantime, we'll buy a truckload/tankload to fill our cistern. That's another thing to take care of tomorrow... Happily dawn comes early now, because we changed to Daylight Savings Time this morning. So for one week only, we're on California time.

It's only taken me all afternoon to make this entry. The sun is now down. We've had a walk into La Penita to see what's going on (nothing), and Larry is watching what will probably be the last game of the World Series. I'm headed for a (very fast) shower. And bed is looking pretty good! Love to all, and goodnight!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Watching and waiting....praying

Sweet friends in California. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

And I will continue to maintain that nothing can destroy what is good and true. It will re-emerge in a brighter, fresher form. The all-encompassing, ever-present Life force that is the essence of creation may change the way it appears, but it never diminishes or disappears.

It was October 2003, that Larry and I were in the south of Portugal -- a countryside that had been devastated by rampant fires all through the previous summer. Every night on CNN, we watched similar fires raging through San Diego County. But all around us there in Portugal, the evidence of life asserting itself, people rebuilding, repainting, renewing and reconnecting in the middle of blackened landscape was like a preview of the benediction that waited to bless our friends back home.

That benediction is present NOW, right in the middle of this firestorm. I will claim it every moment for you and yours -- for OURS -- with a fierce and fervent affection. We are lighting "backfires of Love" down here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shama LAMA ding dong. It's ALIVE!

My new word for today is lama.

It's what grows on things that sit around for any length of time in unairconditioned conditions during the rainy season and have any hint of organic matter on them -- even a trace of body oil or sweat. When lama grows on things inside it's blue and fuzzy. That's the kind I've been wiping off books, belts, shoes, leather jackets, our equipale furniture and rustica cabinets, clay dishes, and the handles of my Revereware pots and pans. Even the steering wheel on the jeep down in the basement was trying to reincarnate as a cashmere sweater. This just after six weeks away.

Outside lama is deep dark green, almost black -- except when it's fresh bright green, like right after a rain. Either way it really stands out white walls and red brick. It's even more, hmmmm - interesting, thriving in the gutters and on the sidewalks. I've been tempted to alter our street sign from "Golondrinos" to "Petrie Dish Drive."

Our friend Javier the housepainter assures us all will be made bright and pretty once more. Just "two more weeks" of rain. The dry season will begin. Things will cool down. We're "first on the list." We'll get a power wash, a good scraping down, and a crew of painters. This looks like it might be an annual event.

Meanwhile on our streets, the gray and black cobblestones stand out against the green moss growing between them, piles of trash left on vacant lots have been reduced to anonymous non-descript mounds of vegetation, and the tree Chano cut back to a stub on the lot next door because "it was shading the swimming pool" is shading the swimming pool once more. In the winter I planted thumbnail size cuttings of orejas de bruja (witches' ears) at the base of the potted ficus on the verandah. It now looks as if a baby elephant is emerging there, ears first.

So everything is growing like kudzu in the South and the iguanas are fat and happy. Two more weeks.....I'm counting.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Adventures in Immigration (Emigration??)

Larry left for Puerto Vallarta yesterday morning and I didn't have to drive him! Our Alaska Airlines pilot neighbor carted him along to the airport, even though that would put him there reeeeally early. Good thing. He needed every minute.

If you're a foreigner living in Mexico for more than six months at a time, you need an FM3 visa which is renewable annually. You're supposed to present it every time you leave or enter the country. That way they can keep track of the aliens in their midst. There's an immigration office in PV, and every year all us gringos head there to spend a day going through the renewal ritual to prove we live here and are not being a drain on society. It's a big fine if you let it expire. If you don't get it renewed, you are in the country illegally and are subject to a bigger fine and jail time. (I know this is like throwing red meat to hungry dogs for a lot of you. I'll leave the judgements to you guys. I'm supposed to stay calm, tranquil and stress-free these days.....oooohmmmmm).

I've never had a cashier cut up my credit card at the register, but Larry had a similar experience at the airport. The immigration folks confiscated his FM3. It had expired! Somehow in all the stuff that's gone on these last few months, we let that little "to-do" item slip right through the cracks! (Honestly, we thought they expired at the end of October, but turns out the clock started running from the time we hit the border for the first time -- a full month before we actually moved here!) He was told he couldn't LEAVE the country until he got the situation straightened out. Talk about a glitch!

He talked to the airline, and they called the immigration office in PV, which had, of course, closed for the two hour lunch break. But a supervisor there said they would write a letter giving Larry permission to travel this once, if he promised to take care of things when he returned. He hopped in a taxi, got there, beat on the doors, was waved away repeatedly until somebody tumbled to the fact that OH, this was the guy the phone call was about. Letter in hand, he made it back to the airport, through security and on to the plane just as the door was closing.

Then he ran into Homeland Security in Houston. They saw the Mexican visa taped into his passport indicating we are residents down here. They asked for his FM3 They DID NOT like the suspicious-looking letter presented instead. It was in SPANISH. They don't read Spanish. Had to find someone who DID read Spanish. And, by the way, Homeland Security people are pretty suspicious, as well, of Americans who choose to live abroad. Larry was the guy holding up the line until someone could be found that said -- yeah, it's a letter giving him permission to travel without an FM3. Under squinty-eyed scrutiny, he was admitted to the land of the free -- and made another mad dash for a plane whose door was closing.

So this coming week, while Larry is gone I'm heading to the immigration office to renew my FM3. Hospital bill in hand, I hope to prove I was "indisposed at the time of expiration." Does that sound right? Think I'll just leave it as written. Sounds like a good excuse to me!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The end of the tunnel.... at Sam's Club! And Walmart! Oh frabjous day! Shopping! Saturday we walked all over and bought produce, canned tomato soup, and tons of paper goods. Then we came home and I disinfected, peeled, sliced and put away. Mona is relieved of her duties keeping me fed, and we are set! Or at least I am. I'm feeling good enough that Larry is returning to the States this Thursday to take that motorcycle ride he had to postpone when we headed back south. How about THAT???

We also stopped by Amerimed Hospital to say hello to the many friends I made there. When we parked it was right by the emergency entrance. I KNOW what the other end of THAT tunnel looks like. I had a room right at the end of it. That's where tourists who over-do their fun or traffic accident victims get put back together again. I spoke with the guy who was in the room next to me for a while. He had come in with his arm practically severed from falling through a plate glass window. I'd heard the ruckus a few nights before. He was in awe of the surgical talent and the treatment he'd benefitted from. He was going to have total use of his hand and arm.

It's a very small hospital (six patient rooms) and just 11 years old. It was started by an American doctor who came on a traffic accident, rendered aid on the scene, and found that the care he had given was all the trauma care available at the time in PV. Those days are long gone.

OK, I write. Lots of people just don't, like the guy with the arm. He just didn't strike me as someone who would write a testimonial. And Mexicans won't ask for one. But it's a story that needs telling. Too often I hear a kind of dismissive sneer from people north of the border asking about Mexican health care, as though the term were an oxymoron. As if, as if! Please don't get me started. . .

It was my pleasure to write a testimonial to the care I received from Dr. Carlos Olivares (gastroenterological surgeon) and Dr. Fernando Marquez and all the good people at Amerimed. You can find it on a new website: Health Travel Guides. And it should appear shortly on the Amerimed website, as well.

It's kind of long and detailed. Written about nine days ago from inside the tunnel. A story I'm not going to post here...'cause I am OUT of that tunnel and dancing in the light.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love....

I saw Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday on Oprah. I'd set an alarm to see her, because I read her book, I think it was in San Antonio, or some place in between. She's written about her spiritual journey where she ate in Italy, prayed in India, and loved in Indonesia. And I'm doing it all right here in an air-conditioned bedroom in Guayabitos! Not in exactly the same flamboyant style as Liz -- certainly not in the style that would sell millions of books -- but those are the basic essentials of life right now.

There are a few off the charts highlights. Yesterday (or was it the day before....time flies when you're having SO much fun) I spent about three hours with the "Private Access" folks at trying to reset our PIN number which we somehow inadvertently blocked. Neither Larry nor I could remember the answer to the security question, or even remember being asked in the first place. WHOSE first pet are they talking about, anyway???? Let me tell you, I feel a whole lot safer about the security of our funds. Like I say, three hours, three agents. But at least we can pay bills once more. The thing about it, is that I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF THE EXPERIENCE!!! Which tells you how desperate I can get for outside company.

So that's why I've been quiet. Hang in there with me. Something I'll feel like sharing is bound to happen soon.