Friday, January 20, 2017

Hot Off The Back of a Truck

One of the unique occurrences in the small Mexican Pueblo of San Pancho is hearing a recorded or amplified recording advertising what is being sold off the back of a truck at it slowly drives around town stopping for customers: fruit and vegetables, furniture, shrimp, mattresses, coconuts, watermelon, propane, 5 gallon bottles of water, and more. The reason the items are hot is because in San Pancho it is 88 degrees and sunny every day.

Another thing you hear prowling the streets on the back of a truck or car are announcements for upcoming event, parties, or political tirades. Most often, at least to my ear, the announcements are incomprehensible. Now I am fluent in Spanish but for some reason when the Spanish is being translated into loud, sing song, static it is very hard to understand.

This post was motivated by a recent announcement heard drifting in from Calle Latin America which runs out front Jill and Lincoln's guest house, while I was sitting on the patio next to the pool,

I imagined it sounded something like this: "Pigeons. Pigeons. Fresh Pigeons. Hand fed, family raised pigeons. Get them while they're fresh to eat, to peck your children, to serve as a toy for your cat, bite their heads off just for fun. Pluck their feathers and use them to pick your teeth. Pick your teeth. Pigeons. Pigeons. Fresh Pigeons. Two for 350 pesos. Get them before they are gone or dead. Pigeons. Pigeons.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sunday I Went To Church

Sunday I went to church. As I lie in bed, hoping to get a few more winks, the church bells rang (should I say clanged) some dozen or two times (I lost count,) then paused and rang one more.

I rolled over and went back to dreaming until I heard the clangs again, the pause again, and then two more. Second call to come to church.

I got up, got dressed, and was having a cup of coffee and some toast when the third call to prayer rang and I took off for the 12:00 service to the Church of Saint Francisco, located a short two blocks from the guest house.

When I arrived, the church was already filled and the procession was about to begin with the participants lined up outside. I quietly slipped past and found a seat against the wall at the back of the church. Some people had on their Sunday finest an others had on everyday clothing including shorts and t-shirts.

The organ struck up a hymn and the procession began. It was led by two young boys in street clothes, one carrying a wooden cross mounted on a pole and the second a candle. Next came an older woman (Church Elder) carrying a bible and then a father and mother holding between them the hands of a two or three year old girl who was dressed beautifully in a frilly purple dress that was wider than she was tall. Next came the parish priest and finally the guest priest who was visiting from New Jersey.

A few short seconds after the visiting priest entered the church, the procession finished with three dogs: eagerly, bouncingly, running in, circling, finding their owners' pews, and settling down at their owner's feet.

The place was filled to capacity and people were also standing along the walls, behind the last row of pews, and outside on the steps. One young family stood out for me as they sat together crowded into one pew including the mother, the father, and five children in descending age. Around the church the many children were well behaved while at the same time active, quietly chatting, and being generally "antsy." Discipline, if any, was gentle.

One boy, five or six years old, who was with his family who were sitting near me in the back of the church was playing with the holy water which was contained in a bowl which was part of a concrete statue of Saint Francis. He would dip a finger and cross his forehead, then he would dip another finger and cross the forehead of the statue, then he would just dip his finger and make water waves in the bowl. His mother would gently admonish him without using any words, he would stop when he was doing and then return to his water play when mom looked away. This went back and forth three or four times, without any escalation in anger, emotions, or discipline and finally the child went and sat by her taking her hand in his.

The service was in Spanish, of course, and I was pleased that I was able to understand most of it. Voices were strong during responsive reading and full during singing. When everyone stood for parts of the prayer, the elderly continued sitting as did many of the children. The priest was pleasant and expressive. 

Outside the church a table was set up selling home baked items and drinks. What a wonderful experience it was for me to be so immersed in the community. When in Mexico, how can one NOT go to church on Sunday?

Hotel Cielo Rojo : Red Sky Hotel

San Pancho, while a small, fairly undiscovered fishing village that is not overrun with tourists, it does have some of everything you might desire. Below is pictured the restaurant at the boutique Red Sky Hotel. The restaurant features healthy, organic, foods well cooked. I had a mushroom, spinach, and feta cheese omelet which was served with gently fried rosemary new potatoes and slices of avocado. My friend had a fresh green salad with goat cheese and a side of sautéed fish. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I ❤️ 🇲🇽

What is it about Mexico that so entrances (fill someone with wonder and delight) me? After a five-year hiatus, due to complications of Gregory’s Alzheimer’s, I am back in Mexico and it continues to entrance me and invoke my corzón Latino (my Latino heart!)

In the past, over a period of ten years, we spent up to one month in Puerto Vallarta at Susan and David’s Casa de los Arcos, up the mountain from the old town. Puerta Vallarta is a large, bustling city of 500,000 not counting tourists and boasts all the activity and businesses any large city would have as well as a multitude of bars, dance clubs, souvenir stands, guest houses, small and large hotels, condos, restaurants, the beach, and more.

This time, I am staying in San Pancho with Jill and Lincoln, friends from Evanston, who live in Mexico for half the year. San Pancho is a small fishing town of 2,000 permanent residents and others who come for short or long periods of time. For the most part it consists of one main street, running from the main highway to the beach with shops, restaurants, businesses, local houses, condos, small hotels, and guesthouses.

The two cities are quite different yet both entrance and I wonder why I feel so at home here. I am not ready to give up my U.S. citizenship and move to Mexico full time but the people, the culture, the history, the food, the Catholic religion, the sense of family … all beckon me.

One thought I had today is that maybe it gives me the sense of living in a different reality, one with which I am not familiar, and I find this challenging. Being in Mexico presents a reality I cannot take for granted, cannot understand fully, one I must study and process, and one which continues to surprise me with each observation, experience, and interaction. Perhaps it makes life bigger, or renews, and at least refreshes my reality.

Mexico seems to live “closer to the earth,” a more basic, simple life in which each day matters for what it is and where little is taken for granted. People are friendly and seem rely on and truly care for each other. It is easy to stop on the corner when encountering a friend or neighbor and spend time catching up or sharing the latest news. People are easy with their smiles and their waves, even to seeming strangers and visiting “gringos.” Passing strangers on the street make eye contact and share an easy a “Buenos Días: or Buenos Tardes.”

The air carries Mexico like radio waves broadcast from the studio of life. Smells, sounds, music, birds and animals conversing, flies buzzing, trucks driving slowly down the street advertising an upcoming event or the sale of shrimp or water or natural gas off the back of a truck. They all compete for your attention if you allow yourself to slow down enough to listen. Right now, I hear waves, several conversations, a rooster mis-crowing dawn, chickens clucking, birds chirping, and “Gringo the Cat” softy mewing for something to eat (she is a beggar!)

During my massage today, as the therapist put more cream on my back the odor of the neighbor’s frying bacon filtered in through the open brick fretwork, along with the families conversation at lunch, confusing my senses a bit before I was able to separate the lavender cream from the neighbor’s bacon. Open wood and coal fires add the fragrant flavor of food cooking as well as the pungent smell of smoke. Even if you have just finished your meal, the odors tempt you to eat a little more and cause your stomach to yearn for whatever delicious it is that you are smelling. Sometimes the scent of sewage mingles with the cooking smells. YUCK you may say (or think) but one eventually is able to accept this unexpected combination as part of MEXICO!

Often people ask, “Are you worried the dangers of being in Mexico.” My observations lead me to believe that the “hype” of a dangerous Mexico are overplayed in the U.S. I feel no more in danger in Mexico than I might in Chicago or New York. If I was a member of the drug cartel, a pusher or user, I might get myself into hot water, but I am neither.  I have only once felt threatened when a cab ride in Puerto Vallarta seemed to be taking me into a “dark” part of town one night when I was seeking a particular restaurant. Turns out I gave the cab driver the wrong address and when he realized I was looking for the restaurant “Tapas Barcelona,” he was able to get me to my destination without my help!

Leaving all my belongings at home and “distilling my life” into one suitcase and one “carry on” is a challenge but once in Mexico, nothing at home is missed or craved, except maybe a good hamburger! And if you forgot to pack enough clothing, you can always buy a close substitute. If you run out of a medication or personal care item, there is always a facsimile available at the pharmacia where the person behind the counter, who is professionally qualified to prepare and dispense medicinal drugs, can look up your need on his computer and see the Mexican look-alikes he is able to provide.

The food in Mexico is not like food from Mexican restaurants in the states. Chicago’s restaurants are more authentic, Tex-Mex isn’t (which you would think should be more authentic if only because of the close geographic relationship of Texan and Mexico – but in my opinion isn’t.) The food in Mexico is Mexican, is all I can say. At times it can cause Mr. Montezuma to visit, at times the food seems to take a toll on my system; but even with that, the food is delicious and tastes “like more.”

In all honesty, many of the same comments can be applied to my travels in Italy, Spain, Paris, Hawaii, and Canada. My style of travel is to be in a location for at least two weeks and more, desirably for a month. I like to do the tourist things but more I like to submerge myself in the culture of the location I am visiting.  I like eating at the local joints, I like shopping at the local food stores, I like sitting at a table on the street and with my coffee, watching the world go by as translated and informed by a culture not of my own.

But in all fairness to Mexico, it continues to be my favorite place to spend long periods of time. I love using the language. I remember the first time in a college Spanish class when I realized that I was thinking in Spanish and no longer translating. Eventually, to my amazement, I found myself dreaming in Spanish. The final arrival at being literate in Spanish was being able to tell a joke in Spanish to a native speaker and having them laugh at the punch line!

Bienvenidos a Mexico.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Market Revisited The Next Tuesday

Are those Tamales de Pollo I smell in your bag?

Are you sure you don't have any treats for me?

PLEASE leave a comment or some acknowledgment that you have been here. It can be totally anonymous. You do not have to leave your name. You could use your first name only, your initials, or nothing.

Under each new post you will find the word COMMENT. Click on it and a window will open where you can leave your comments.

It asks you to SIGN IN, but you can also click on ANONYMOUS.