Where in the world do I begin? How about Santa Cruz, California where this event began to take shape. Wait. Actually, it might have been New Zealand or maybe it was Costa Rica. Somewhere in the world while fantasizing about grand adventures, Scott and I opened up what turned out to be a lengthy dialogue about our existence here on earth. Several years later (we managed to talk about other things during that time as well), we decided to take action. I credit my hubby’s profundity, “Are we going to be the kind of people who talk about doing something like this, or are we going to be the kind of people who dosomething like this?” Gosh darn it. We are going to be the kind of people who DO something like this.
Nutty. I know. At least, that what we kept telling ourselves. By we, I mean me and by ourselves, I mean my different selves. Scott was on board before I was even born.The decision, itself, was much easier than all the layers of activity that were required to execute the plan. Be forewarned: The exercise of accomplishing the ex-pat-simple-living-plan is not for the faint of heart and is not-so-simple. Stress, struggle, a dose of chaos, and a complete reframing of mind were the precursors to this life change. Add to it a few minor disagreements that, upon entering our new home, evaporated into thick air quickly becoming a distant memory sprinkled with humidity much like that found in the Tropics.
From regular runs to Goodwill and the recycling center, to selling many of our worldly possessions (let’s just say we would’ve received the Second-hand Sales of the Year Award if that were a thing), to digitizing our lives thus eliminating about 8 massive recycling bins of paper and recycling thousands of negatives and slides (I still have a few years of photos, but for the most part I can carry my life around on my Mac), to organizing all of our records, to months of research (Scott did most of this as I wrapped up some work stuff), to keeping the house sparkling for prospective renters, to managing logistics like someone who, well, manages logistics for a job, we kicked relocation’s butt. But then we had to figure out how to relocate Stella and all those little details for transporting a dog to another country (our team’s top research analyst did this too). When it comes to bringing a furry companion into Mexico, it is similar to Europe. Stella needed special documentation, a special crate, a year’s supply of heart and flea stuff, and our confidence that she would arrive safely. We were relieved to know that Alaska Airlines has a special cargo section for animals that’s temperature- and pressure-controlled.
So, why did we move to Mexico? If I had a peso for every time we were asked this question, I could buy the taco stand down at the corner.
Some may surmise we were experiencing a shared existential crisis. Well, not really, but kind of. We are, after all, in that stage of life contemplating our existence and our purpose n’ such. But I’ve been doing that since I was about seven. This decision was based on many desires including but not limited to: experiencing a different culture, learning a new language, moving away from the typical, mainstream, US life of wanting and needing more and more, to live more simply and with less, and certainly to live more affordably but in a beautiful beach town. Not to mention that we both love burritos, salsa, and guacamole. AND I’ve wanted to write, really write and do some painting. I haven’t afforded myself those luxuries for many years, because work always took precedence. I fully plan to have big pockets of time disconnecting from the outside world to pursue these passions.
The journey (as in the flight part) was not at all painful except for the part where Stella busted out of her crate at the Baggage Claim. But we weren’t there, so it was likely much more stressful for Stella than it was for us. Thank goodness for the Customs Officers who were able to catch her and put her back in there safely. Oh, and there was the long detainment at the Customs areas where they confiscated our year’s supply of heart worm and flea and tick stuff because we didn’t declare it. Many have suggested that this particular Customs guy probably had a dog.
But otherwise, we, our six pieces of luggage (including a bag of art supplies and other essentials that weighed 90 lbs), the dog crate, the dog, and a heaping pile of hopes found our way to a large taxi that managed to get us to Sayulita alive.
Paul, the property manager, at Rancho Zen awaited our arrival. He gave us a tour and left us to find our way. Scott found his way to the market and purchased our first six of Pacifico. Moving to this new place for me was like learning to read Braille. I wanted so badly to digest everything at once but had to take my time feeling my way through it. Each bump offered a new hope and a potential obstacle to conquer. I’m still figuring it out and have embraced the essence of taking my time and slowing down.
Our first week was not about exploration as much as it was about decompressing and finding our core selves again. We felt like a gigantic pile of dirty laundry that had to be sifted, sorted, washed, dried, folded, and then put away. Absorbing this new reality was not difficult but it also didn’t come with great ease. Imagine racing in a Maserati on the autobahn and then having to switch to a mountain bike on the Appalachian Trail. That’s how slowing down felt to me. And it’s a surprisingly different mind-set when you move somewhere like this, as opposed to going there for vacation.
Our first night we went to Calypso and had salads. The very thing people tell you not to do in Mexico, eat salads in a restaurant. Scott even went as far as getting a Margarita with ice cubes. He’s a rebel. Thankfully I brought a large supply of Jarrow Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS to ease the angst of Montezuma. At Calypso, we met a lovely young man named Daniel (our 17 year old waiter) who spent about 30 minutes chatting with us, mostly about his scholarly pursuits (he wants to be a doctor), and soliciting our advice and wisdom on life. He was so intent on learning from us that we felt like old-world scholars taking this new protégé under our wings. When we mentioned that come December we would be looking for a long-term rental (not a vacation rental as one is easily distinguished from the other according to cost during high season), he left and returned with information on a house his father was renting in the Tamarindo. Turns out his father, Fidel, was also working at Calypso that night. Welcome to small town Mexico. I find myself continually tickled by the community here and the familial familiarity.
Unfortunately, upon further investigation and a visit to Fidel’s home, we found it unsuitable. It was simply too far from the beach and prone to less breeze. The walk to town would’ve been a challenge over time as well. Given the 90 degree++ temperature and 147% humidity, we discovered that we must have access to some wind. It would’ve otherwise been a fascinating place and mostly because it was right there in a Mexican neighborhood not surrounded by gringos but with locals, lazy dogs, freely walking and clucking chickens, a dirt road, a tortilla factory the size of a corner market, and Spanish. Lots and lots of Spanish. The language I fully expect to learn.
On our second day, we walked to town for groceries and encountered our two new friends, Shana and Tom from Portland, who were walking up the hill that is locally referred to as Gringo Hill. Gringo Hill is a steep, river stone covered hill lined with palm trees and rich, green, vegetation. Bougainvilleas and other such vibrant flowers welcome the weary, sweat-soaked walker. It’s very welcoming except for the piles of horse poop and the occasional dog-induced ripped garbage bag with litter oozing out.
There’s a reason locals call this hill “Gringo Hill” ex-pats have taken over. Most of the houses are owned by white folks, and by houses, I mean hoooooouses. Some could be considered mansions.
We stopped and chatted with our soon-to-be new friends. Shana and Tom offered many awesome suggestions about the best places to shop and eat. Most importantly their neighbor has an avocado tree and ripe avo’s were dropping like bat guano on a mosquito-ridden night. I use the bat guano reference, because among the many interesting critters here, we have a tree full of bats just outside our balcony.
Sometimes when we’re sitting out there each evening enjoying a Negra Modelo or other such spirit, they are flying just a foot above our heads. Pretty awesome assuming we don’t have any mosquitoes in our hair. Speaking of mosquitoes. For the first week, my skin looked like candy buttons on paper tape. The bites have decreased, and I don’t know if it’s because my body is acclimating or if because Scott’s special garlic-filled salsa is keeping the mosquitoes (and probably the vampires too) at bay.
Later that day, we found two of the biggest avocados I’ve ever seen on our front stoop. Okay, how cool is that? Our new neighbors stopped by and dropped off a gift that Mother Nature offered them. Since that day, we were brought another offering of plantains and limes, from an UNKNOWN benefactor! Upon receiving confirmation from Shana that they, indeed, didn’t bring us those natural treats, the generous gifter remains anonymous.
Another salad on the second night at Don Pedros as we weren’t yet ready to cook anything for ourselves. Don Pedros is on the beach and offered a reprieve from what was about to be the potentially most stifling two weeks of my life. So hot and humid was it, that any movement brought about a sweat storm resulting in several changes of clothes a day ultimately resorting to wearing very little clothing at all. Picture me with a bucket of water dumped on my head. My new, short, hair and aging skin haven’t felt this good in a long time, but the rest of me was feeling rather oppressed by this climatic difference.
And on the third day we went to San Pancho. Given that we don’t have a car here (part of our Simply Living plan), we took the taxi. Man. 20 bucks for a taxi – ok, it WAS round-trip. There are some aspects of Sayulita that aren’t nearly as cheap as we expected. But San Pancho was so worth it! It’s such a cool little town. Much like Sayulita only smaller and even less busy. The beach is much cleaner and there are fewer vendors haranguing the tourist to purchase their goods. We spoke with some realtors with the high hopes of finding a rental here starting in December. Two San Pancho trips later and an offer from Ramon, a very sweet realtor, to rent the upstairs of his home, we decided to stay in Sayulita. Ramon’s place was nice, yet it was completely open, as in, the kitchen and living area were outdoors. The bedroom and bathroom were basically the same room. While I like the idea of being a person who likes that kind of living arrangement, I am not that person. We have since found our new abode, so come Diciembre, we will be living with Helga in her lovely home Casa de los Perros. Helga likes dogs.
And on the fifth day, we ventured to the Mega in Bucerias. That may very well be the first and last time we go to the Mega in Bucerias. It wasn’t the 40-minute bus ride adventure (only 15 pesos!), nor was it the sweltering heat and humidity. It wasn’t even the long walk through town trying to find the Mega (one would think a place with such a name would be more easily found). The Mega, where we thought we’d discover many of the finer things in life (well, food life), was indeed huge, and yet was filled with choices between mediocre, routine, and average. Like a Safeway, but bigger, that offered you the choice between “Lady Lee” brand, “Honey Bee” brand and “GMO Farms” brand. Yuck. The little tiny stores, tienditas, here in town may be 10% more expensive, but if you go to enough of them you can get most of the really important things – organic veggies, whole grain breads and rice, organic peanut butter, and ripe pineapples for the nightly piña colada. Most of this last paragraph was written by my guest blogger, Señor Pepper.
I just heard the local horse walk up our street. And the living room gecko chuckling at us for being mere humans. Speaking of geckos. For the entire first week I shared a closet space with one of the most curious and potentially creepiest spiders I’ve ever seen. Turns out it’s called a Tailless Scorpion. Now, I only see a gecko in there. I’d like to believe that adorable gecko had the feast of his lifetime, but I find the prospect hard to digest.
Given that we’ve been here a month now. Here is the abridged version of the last three weeks:
During the second week, I went to CVIS(Costa Verde International School) to inquire about Spanish classes for adults, namely this adult. After connecting with an uberly cool woman, named Nancy, I found myself, one evening, reading Well Earth Well Me! to two different ESL classes for adults. That was really fun, and I learned some new Spanish words as they learned some new English words. Orange, Naranja. Fabulous, Fabuloso. Radish, Rábano. Carrot, (this is a hard one) Zanahoria.
When we return in Diciembre from our trip back east, I’ll be reading to the little ones. Can hardly wait. Most of the second week was spent swimming in the morning with Scott and Stella and cleaning up my computer during the day. It was the kind of organization that I only dreamed about. Add to it, I’m finally coalescing some book promotion ideas. Slowly slowly slowly I’m chipping away at old tasks and opening up my life to new experiences.
Scott made his famous batch of Mexican beans that week, so we were in business to have our typical dinner of burritos. Without the fancy Garden of Eden chips, we’re bound to take off a few pounds (collectively, after all I wouldn’t want to misrepresent). We’ve been eating less not just because of the oppressive heat which makes the notion of eating barely palatable, but because there are simply fewer options at the market. Besides, we’re embracing frugality as a means for maintaining and hopefully extending this adventure. Frugality = oatmeal or cereal for breakie, PB on bread for lunch, and burritos for dinner, with the occasional dinner treat in town. I’m SO okay with all that. The restaurant Tacos on the Street is about the cheapest and best in town, but otherwise restaurant meals are not so cheap.
I found myself in the back-to-work mode by the third week after accepting a virtual training gig that required content development. That put a cramp in my fiesta style despite the fact I welcome the income. But the best part of this week was my Intensive Beginner’s Spanish lessons from 9:00-11:00 every day. Servando, my maestro, was awesome, and I shared the class with Dianne, a lovely English woman living in Vancouver and Nate, a bright 14 year old from Washington state and/or Oregon. He claimed to be homeless as he and his mother were taking time out of life to live in Mexico and Poland. I learned a lot of new things during my class (like Tengo una caminetta negra or I have a black truck), but mostly, I made an awesome connection with the school. I will soon be meeting with the Principal to discuss some possible options of my doing some OD (Organizational Development) type work there and in exchange for Spanish tutoring and translating my book into Spanish. How utterly awesome is that?!
On the fourth week, I made a trip by myself to Puerto Vallarta to check into a hotel so that I could deliver my class without the worry of losing power or Internet. Turns out, due to the intense thunder and lightening storms, the power and/or Internet in Sayulita is a bit fickle and unpredictable at best. I couldn’t afford (literally, I was paying for WebEx hosting rain or shine) to cancel the class. I spent two hours that evening looking for a headset for my new Mexican cell phone. After many wrong directions, or rather incorrect translations, I found the TelCel store. A young man who was seemingly blind sold me a headset and changed my cell to show the words in English instead of Spanish. That was very helpful especially for someone who couldn’t see. I then walked along the Malecon and stumbled upon a Starbucks! Okay, I didn’t really stumble. I knew it was there somewhere. I brought my reusable coffee mug and filled ‘er up for tomorrow’s class. Such a delight to have my Grande decaf, vanilla latte with soy and seven pumps of vanilla.
But go figure. The hotel in PV had Internet issues the morning of my class. After losing a night of sleep worrying about the potential issues of delivering a virtual class in a foreign country, I had issues delivering a virtual class in a foreign country. Kind of makes me wish I had slept. With a 15-minute late start, it all worked out despite the ding to my reputation of my being insanely prompt. I decided to teach next week’s class in Sayulita. No need to spend the time and money getting to and staying in Puerto Vallarta if the one issue I hoped to avoid by going there was the one issue I had while there.
Dia de los Muertos
And here we are on the dawn of our fifth week. Last night we went to Tacos on the Street and spent about 130 pesos (10 bucks) for a delicious meal. Arturo and Lupita own the place, and they are sweet. Arturo brings water and treats for Stella. We then walked around the plaza admiring the stunning and touching altars that were created for Dia de los Muertos. One woman whose altar included a photo of her best friend, her tia, and her perro, MacGyver, shared some stories about loved ones.
Most interesting was the sad story about how MacGyver died. They never found his body, but he, along with other local dogs, went missing when the circus came to her hometown several years ago. Rumor has it that local dogs were used as lion food. And yet another reason to NEVER EVER EVER go to a circus.
All of the altars had photos, personal belongings of deceased loved ones (mostly clothes), favorite meals, and glasses of water or beer bottles so that come November 2, returning spirits had sustenance after their long journeys.
We were later entertained by the native dances of Huichol Indians wearing the most impressive headdresses I’ve ever seen. I still felt sad for all those birds and secretly hoped they were synthetic feathers.
Two adorable ukulele players followed the drumming, thumping, and dancing of the Huichol. Singing traditional Mexican folk ballads, we felt like we arrived. We really arrived. We then ran into Shana and Tom. I say that, because I think it’s cool. Hanging out with hundreds of people at the plaza, we ran into people we know here in our new town.
Thar ya go. That’s my Sayulita update. And, oh, we actually don’t know how long we’ll be here. We were originally contemplating a full year but now question our ability to sweat out the summer here. We’ll cross that bridge puente when we get to it.
And as far as my Trimalleolar goes, all is well.
After my hardware removal, which was on July 12, 2012, almost one year to the date of my ORIF (surgery). I began bearing weight after 11 days even though I was initially told it would be 4 weeks. I went to one crutch (surgeon suggested I use the one crutch for two weeks but to use my pain as a guide either way) on that 11th day and within the following week (about 16 days post-op) was without any crutches at all. It’s so liberating to put the crutches away, stand on my own two feet, and carry things or carry on.
I attended PT 3 times a week, saw a chiropractor to deal with the other parts of my body that have been compensating this past year for my ankle injury, and also saw an acupuncturist/massage therapist. Besides some tightness (my body has a tendency for adaptive tendon shortening) around my ankle, I am very pleased with this decision.
I began noticing a positive difference early on -within days of the surgery. And besides not having the internal discomfort of the metal, I have so much relief to not actually feel the screws and the plate when I touch the outside of my ankle. I can now massage the external scar tissue (thus helping to break down the internal scar tissue). I avoided touching that scar this past year, because I couldn’t stomach feeling the screws through my skin. To my delight, I have no discomfort, no swelling, and on many days forget I had a serious injury. I am healing, and outside of feeling occasional hangs of vulnerability, especially walking on these cobbled stone streets here in Mexico, this may very well be the last you hear of me and my Trimalleolar.
A bat just flew into our casa and with the same stealthy swishing of his wings, he departed. It’s a jungle out there.
And with that, I bid you adios. May all of you living in the East Coast be safe and sound. May you heal through the agony of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, and may peace and comfort embrace you. Peace.
*Photos and stuff* Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.
This is Mexico Post #1, to see the other Mexico posts, click click click away
Mexico Post #1, Me and My Trimalleolar go to Mexico with my Husband and our Pooch
Mexico Post #2, Dos Americanos y Su Perro en Mexico
Mexico Post #3, Feliz Ano Nuevo 2013
Mexico Post #4, Ballenas, Ballenas Hermosas
Mexico Post #5, Una Visita Morelia
Mexico Post #6, Mariposas Monarcas!
Mexico Post #7, Los Pueblos de Patzcuaro, Paracho, y Tzintzuntzan
Mexico Post #8, La pintoresca ciudad de San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #9, Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Mexico Post #10, Back to Sayulita and Jaime Visits!
Mexico Post #11, Semana Santa y Semana Pasqua
Mexico Post #12, Semana de Animales
Mexico Post #13, Semana de Amigos y Amigas
Mexico Post #14, Frida y Diego
Mexico Post #15, Adiós Sayulita
Mexico Post #16, Living and Grinning in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #17, Puddle Jumping in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #18, Guanajuato International Film Festival
Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul
Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico
Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor
Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #23, Viva la Independencia!
Mexico Post #24, Adios San Miguel
Mexico Post #25, Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán
Mexico Post #26, Ciudad de Oaxaca
Mexico Post #27, 50 Shades of Green: On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas
Mexico Post #28, San Cristóbal de las Casas
Mexico Post #29, Almost Halloween Ed.: Dark Mountains, Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles & Shamans
Mexico Post #30, Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos
To see all the posts in the trimalleolar series, click away! Things DO get better!
Post #1 Me and My Trimalleolar: A Life-Changing Tripulation
Post #2 Me and My Trimalleolar: Transcending the Funk
Post #3 Me and My Trimalleolar: Tiny Bubbles of Progress
Post #4 Me and My Trimalleolar: A Healing Ankle
Post #5 Me and My Trimalleolar: Talus All About It
Post #6 Me and My Trimalleolar: A Week of Firsts
Post #7 Me and My Trimalleolar: Cast of Characters
Post #8 Me and My Trimalleolar: 9 1/2 weeks…
Post #9 Me and My Trimalleolar: The Screw, Some Scars, and a Busted Uvula
Post #10 Me and M Trimalleolar: Walk a Mile in My Screws
Post #11 Me and My Trimalleolar: 11 Months and Moving Right Along
Post #12: Me and My Trimalleolar Go to Mexico…with my husband and our pooch