After a whirlwind tour of the Mid-Atlantic and Florida visiting friends and family and several school readings (thanks to my Mom and best friend, Marie), we returned to San Diego for one night of rest, and then back to Mexico on Dec 2. This time, with a rental car, we made a stop at the Puerto Vallarta Costco to load up on necessarios while saving a few pesos. We also made a stealth mission to the PV Starbucks for one final frappo fix. (not surprising that Grande Decaf Soy 7-pump Vanilla Lattes are kinda hard to come by in more “modest” towns…)
Arriving at Casa dos Perros just after 7:00 PM, the door was open, ambient light filled the floor with a warm glow, and Helga, our new landlady came down to greet us. Helga, who lives upstairs, is a lovely, petite, white-haired, sparkly blue-eyed, articulate, well-read, spry, sweet, low-key, worldly Austrian-born, woman. Helga’s two dogs, Crissy and Tlaloc (son of Crissy, named after the Aztec god of rain and fertility) are beautiful Mexican hound mixes that have a badass reputation in town for being let’s just say, confrontational. Scott and I were fortunate to have seen both sides of these dogs, and we now enjoy their sweeter side. Stella, not so much.
We spent the better part of this first week cleaning, organizing, and figuring out how to carve out our space in this new place. I found myself with a lot of angst and not feeling the joy that I thought I would, could, or should have. At one point, I asked myself, “How would a person with a better sense of humor look at this situation?” Really, how would a funny person think and behave? I really really thought about it and tried to envision the way a funnier person would think. Finding something to laugh about at that time was like finding a gourmet meal in a compost pile. Slowly, I’m coming around and trying to think (thus act) in a more light-hearted way about things that I may otherwise find irritating, aggravating, or annoying. After all, I’m livin’ the dream in Mexico.
Okay, just momentarily, I’m going to whine before I share the divine.
The Whine Section – aka the Dark Side of Living in Paradise
Living Outside, Critters, Varmints, and other Curious Creatures
Our new home only has three walls and part of a ceiling. While this is very exotic, it lends itself to the feeling of being at a permanent Girl Scout camp in the wilderness. I mean, the outside is RIGHT THERE. Wasps and mosquitoes make themselves at home in our home. Curious critters of all shapes and sizes crawl, fly, walk, wobble, and amble in. The other day, I saw a spider that would win freakiest –ever Pokémon award. The HP on this thing would’ve blown all the other Poképeople away.
Okay, ants are walking on my computer right now.
I digress. This spider had spikes emerging from her black, spherical, body. I could see her white eyes. She was like a cross between a sand crab and a UFO. And the ants…There are ants basically everywhere we look. All over the counters in the kitchen and bathroom, Stella’s food bowl, and probably other places that I dare not look. I found one on the end of my knife just before I dipped it into the peanut butter jar. There’s one in the salt jar right now. If I sit still too long while working on my computer at the kitchen counter, they crawl on me. Fortunately, they are those tiny, fast ants and not the red biting ones.
It’s not like the bugs have forced entry or are even trespassing for that matter. The OUTSIDE is INSIDE and vice versa. Surely their argument would be that they were here first.
With the outside being RIGHT THERE, leaves, twigs, and other outside dirt-like things…
O.M.G. Another ant ON. MY. ARM.
…find their way into the living and dining area. I can see that Scott and I will have to redefine the meaning of “clean” and lower our standards. [or put another way, she can bring her standard down to mine ;)-sp]. I think that’s the only way we can thrive in this environment. It’s not like we can dust the outside.
Within a matter of seconds, I can go from a full-on sphincter clench watching a creepy, red, wasp swarm around the bed, to a full body exhale witnessing a Blue Morpho lazily, effortlessly, and gracefully fly in and out of our home.
There is a dead critter-like insect in the kitchen covered with ants. I refuse to move it.
Gecko poop is rust colored and will stain your clothes as such.
I guard my food from flying varmints like a mama bear protecting her cubs. (OK, that’s just a bit outrageously exaggerated…sp). Who asked you? (ks)Sometimes I use the handle-side of my toothbrush or a comb to scratch the bites on the part of my back I am unable to reach.
Surprisingly, I found myself downtrodden to discover the spindly and seemingly innocuous spider in the bathroom has died (of natural causes). I was just getting accustomed to having her around. RIP Charlottita.
Plumbing n’the like
The bathroom…I was in denial for two days about toilet paper, septic systems, and flushing. Helga confirmed that no, indeed, I am not to flush toilet paper. I foresee using three times as much TP so that I can wrap up what I’ve used to wipe. I am simply not the rugged, nature girl that I would like to think I am.
The bathroom smells a bit like a latrine now, but then again, sometimes I get confused by the smell of our bathroom and the horses that live across from us. The fresh manure scent seems to collect in the entrance to the bedroom/bathroom. Speaking of which, Stella has discovered the street-side culinary delight also known as horse crap. Yesterday on a walk, I turned around to find her with a chocolaty nugget hanging out of her mouth. She froze. Motionless. As if she were trying to make herself invisible. If she had words, they would’ve been, “If I don’t move, she won’t see me, and therefore won’t see that I found myself an undeniably delicious treat. Must have.”
Noise Noise Noise NOise NOIse NOISe NOISE!
Man, I thought the Italians had the market on being loud. As a half Italian, I feel at liberty to acknowledge this truthism about half my people. The Mexicans win hands-down compared to the Italians (here my judgment is based solely on short-term empirical evidence). I mean, the Mexicans seem to really like loud booming noises. I don’t know if it’s an incessant desire to celebrate life (which is not by any means a bad thing) or to reenact (kind of like the Civil War reenactments in Gettysburg every summer but more on a full-time basis here) the war in which they won independence from Spain or what. And no disrespect. There is a hint of admiration in my voice.
The morning brings about a symphony of sounds. I can say that – symphony – now that it’s 3:24 in the afternoon. At 5:00 AM it feels more like a cacophony.
In all fairness, I will separate the organic from nonorganic sounds with the organic being my noises of preference.
- Construction – all day every day and sometimes until 9:00 or 10:00 at night
- Neighbors’ music – many days in sporadic moments
- Cars (infrequent given that we live on top of a hill with few folks coming up this way)
- Shoveling of dirt
- Cannons (since we arrived there are cannons firing three times a day in honor of the upcoming Virgen de Guadalupe day Dec 12 – Stella has developed a fear of this sound)
- Honking horns – usually it’s Victor the water guy to let us know he’s outside with water if we need it
- Things being hammered
- Machines of various assortments – saws, hammers, n’ such
- People’s voices
- The Soni gas truck
- Wooden flute (this is the knife sharpener who announces his present via hypnotic and musical expression)
- Wind chimes (I kind of like these)
- MUSICO! While one may tire of hearing music coming from the plaza night after night, one would also be hard-pressed to not feel even a tiny bit festive given the celebratory nature of the music. Brass instruments, singing, drumming, tambourines. Cool.
- Birds- seriously, about sunrise the world is wild with bird sounds
- Barking dogs (though sometimes that seems inorganic especially during the night when trying to sleep)
- Our next-door Donkey braying
- Yellow-winged Cacique (these birds make about six different sounds)
- Clicking hummingbirds
- Gecko’s clicking
- The chicken, pheasant-like bird (name unknown) with a VERY distinct and unique sound
I smell things burning. At least once every other day people are burning trash or brush. When I get an instant headache, I am fairly certain the smoke has something toxic in it, like plastic or some type of chemical. It’s most bothersome first thing in the morning or at night while trying to sleep.
It is a bummer to do an entire load of laundry, mind you, this is a process that requires some effort. It’s nothing like taking a washboard down to the river. It’s a process by modern-times terms. But the bummer is not the actual washing (despite the fact that we have to babysit the washer which stops every few minutes) as it is the process of hanging all the clothes and sheets to dry only to discover the neighbor has decided to burn that afternoon. With no other place to hang our clothes (remember, we kind of live in the outside), we are subjected to what man and nature provides us. Frankly, I’d much rather have gecko poop on the clean clothes than the choking stench of burned things.
Horse crap – all day every day.
Cleanliness or lack thereof
While on vacation, I am rarely disturbed, by anything. Take cleanliness, for example. On a trip, I think, “Not to worry, in a couple of weeks I’ll be back to my sterile, microbe-free, environment – clean shower, clean body, clean home, clean car, clean dog… Just enjoy the adventure.” But now I see our situation from a more permanent perspective. And while six months, really, is a relatively short period of time in the big scheme of things, it’s very different from the fleeting vacation. Living in the tropics, specifically in a place where the OUTSIDE is essentially INSIDE, one (I) must shift her (my) thinking and commensurate behaviors. Now I take showers with an acute vigilance as to avoid getting a mosquito bite on the butt. Just today I was lathering up and one of those furtive critters snuck up on me when I let down my guard. I slapped my frothy hands together in an attempt to extinguish his blood-sucking life only to get AWOL-suds in my eyes causing me temporary soap-blindness. With my current disability and attention withdrawn from the scene, the winged-perpetrator attacked me from behind. Pun absolutely intended.
Blowing my nose results in a once-white tissue coated with a brown dust.
By the end of the day, my fingernails resemble that of a professional gardener.
Each night before bed I have to wash my feet because they are in a perpetual state of filth. I convince myself this ritual will eliminate the sheet skeeve.
I am in the process of a total paradigm shift. I look forward to looking back on this and thinking, why were you getting your intestines all in a twist over this?
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
I take comfort in knowing one can be weak and stupid and still survive. Thank you Charlie D.
The Divine Section – aka The Light Side of Living in Paradise
SO many cool bird sounds. One has to be here to truly appreciate it. I will try to get some audio. There’s a bird that sounds like the Skype ring-tone.
It’s relaxing to hear the wind in the palm trees. It sounds like…like wind in palm trees on a windy day.
Almost every morning, beautiful, purple flowers have fallen from the second to our floor. This is because we have no ceiling over part of our home, and the OUTSIDE is INSIDE. Despite the ever-present leaves on our floor, it’s kind of cool to have flowers falling from above into our home. This morning there was one single, crimson, petal from a tropical flower. I heard a little happy tune (in my head) when I saw it. It was like there was a miniature mariachi band in my heart rejoicing at the beauty of nature.
Yesterday, a bird flew in through the living area and out through the front door. This is because the OUTSIDE is inside. It’s RIGHT THERE.
Today a BLUE MORPHO flew into our home and then out again. That was a total delight.
A hummingbird feeds off of a bougainvillea plant that is IN THE LIVING ROOM.
I have never in my life seen so many species of butterflies co-existing. I will try to photograph as many as I can to document. In one sitting, I can spot seven or eight different species. I will add in their names as I figure out each one. I’ve also seen on several occasions the evasive White Morpho. Much like it’s bluer cousin, this largest of butterflies glides through the air with the ease and grace of a turtle in water.
When things aren’t burning and when the wind is pointed the opposite direction of the horse ranch next door, the air smells delectable. A hint of ocean breeze with a dab of fruity something, a tone of floral bouquet, and fresh, moist, earth.
She is adapting. She did great at the doggie ranch while we were back east. The owner, Melanie, loved her so much that she joked about paying us to watch Stella.
Since the one very loud thunder boomer back in October, Stella has developed a fear of loud noises. This must be torturesome for her given all the cannons and firecrackers here. The other night we were watching one of the daily evening parades leading up to the Virgen de Guadulupe festival (December 12). A man with a bull mask amused himself by scaring her, and people were lighting firecrackers. I think she has PTSD now. Otherwise, she’s enjoying her daily walks and is becoming a very good swimmer.
She doesn’t like it when Scott and I go into the water without her, so she tries to tag along only to find herself getting overrun by waves. She swims out, sees a wave coming, turns around, (unintentionally) catches the wave back to shore, and starts the process all over again.
90% of the time we go downtown, we run into someone we know, and we only know about nine people who live here. But we are meeting new people almost each day. Some of the local shop owners along with some neighbors are becoming more and more familiar. I’ve never before met so many sweet people in one place. And while the locals seems to be some of the hardest-working folks I’ve ever encountered, I would be hard-pressed to not see a smile when passing by. Taking the time to stop and chat feels like such an indulgence until I remind myself that my new, slower, life allows for such luxuries.
We also have our friends Jim and Kate along with their kids and another awesome family in town this week. While they’re staying a hike away at the north end of town, we’ve been able to enjoy their company almost every day. We also happened upon a turtle release while walking back from their place one evening. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me. I can describe it best in a few words – 40 precious babies scrambling to the sea…
O.M.V.D.G (Virgen de Guadalupe). There are so many colors. I don’t even know where to begin. Violet? Periwinkle? Hurt-your-eyes vibrant red? Greens so lush that I envision bursts of mint deliciousness were I to bite into them. Everywhere I look there are stunning colors. The flowers, the butterflies, the birds, the people. I can hardly stand it. This is better than eye candy. This is like eye hugs and kisses from all your favorite people at one time.
Well…thar ya go. That’s all I have for now on the Divine Section.
I think the main reason the Divine Section is smaller than the Whine Section is because I’m tired and want to get this thing posted. Also, I just don’t have as much energyaround the Divine Section. The divine aspect of living in Sayulita calms me. I feel at peace. Writing about my inner peace is boring.
Summary of a weekend day in the life of a Sayulitan foreigner
Saturday, December 8, 2012
- 5:00 am Booming cannons to awaken all Catholics and a peacefully sleeping dog who promptly jumps into bed finding five inches between us to hide herself from the lurking dangers.
- 5:10 am Booming cannons as a kind of snooze button to get all Catholics out of bed
- 5:20 am Booming cannons to catch the stragglers and make sure they drag their Catholic asses to the 6:00 AM Masses.
- 5:30 am Crowing roosters.
- 5:45 am Braying burrow.
- 6:00 am Barking perros.
- 6:01 am Barking perros barking at former barking perros.
- 6:02-6:05 am Barking perros who haven’t figured out the other barking perros have stopped barking.
- 6:13 am Crowing roosters (this carries on for most of the day).
- 7:00 am Try to fall back to sleep after two hours of booms, crows, brays, and barks.
- 8:00 am Drag self out of bed wishing the last three hours hadn’t been lost to aforementioned noises.
- 9:00 am Walk Stella all around the neighborhood twice. Meet and greet local dogs and residents. Take photos of butterflies while the poop bag I’m holding bounces off my face as I struggle to stabilize camera in same hand.
- 10:00 am Consume Bowl of cereal and rice milk (that we procured at Costco in Puerto Vallarta).
- 10:00:30 am Feel creeped out by ants that are trying to walk on me while I’m eating my cereal.
- 11:00 am Walk 4 blocks (Scott says its four blocks, but it’s really 64 steep steps, then a steep hill, then two blocks) to the beach and swim.
- Noon-3:00 pm Catch up on household chores, emails, facebooks, shower, shave
- 3:45 pm Walk to town to audition for the Vagina Monologues.
- 4:00 pm Late for audition due to finding friends to gab with downtown.
- 4:30 pm Read I Love Hair at the audition and have a blast meeting very cool women folk.
- 5:45 pm Walk with husband to North end of town with a six-pack to meet our friends Kate, Jim, and their kids who have flown in for a week. Drop off the six and slowly retreat from the first-day-at-a-new-vacation-spot chaos, and walk home via the beach.
- 6:00 pm Stumble upon a turtle release and watch the most precious babies in the world struggle their way down the beach to the beckoning sea.
- 6:30 pm Grab a beer with hubby at a seaside bar and enjoy the very last remaining rays of light admiring the perfect sky.
- 7:30 pm Relish in my husband’s infamous bean burrito.
- 7:35-bedtime pm Dodge, duck, and hide from mosquitoes who want droplets of my exquisite-tasting platelets. Swat various other things out of my face.
- 8:30 pm Put on an episode of Treme and mourn for the people of New Orleans post-Katrina while enjoying their music (along with the music we can hear from the plaza).
- 10:00 pm Become surprised with a fireworks display that we can see FROM our sofa because the OUTSIDE is INSIDE.
- 10:01 pm Feel very happy to be alive and on this adventure
- 10:30 pm Go to bed and hide from insects beneath our hot but protective mosquito netting. Stare at the insect corpses caught in the net above me. Hope their decaying bodies don’t fall through the little holes and into my mouth while sleeping.
Here’s Scott’s version of what a regular weekend day should be, Once Upon a Time in Mexico:
- 6:00 am First rooster wake-up call; let Stella in bed and fall back to sleep.
- 8:00 am Rise slowly, go to the missing wall and see how green my valley is. Make coffee and read the news, catch up on email and facebook.
- 10:00 amWalk down to the beach and take a swim; if lucky, catch a few waves. No wetsuit needed!!!
- Chat with new friends and acquaintances.
- 12:00 pm Back home for a shower and lunch. Practice guitar as long as possible.
- 2:00 pm Read a book. Drift off if necessary or convenient.
- 4:00 pm(this space reserved for a future community service activity)
- 6:00 pm Walk with my beautiful wife and dog to town, grab a couple Pacificos at the local store, and find a nice spot on the beach to watch the sunset and the animals (including the human variety).
- 8:00 pmFix another batch of magnificent beans-rice-cheese-avocado burritos with chips & salsa, setup camp on the couch facing the missing wall, and watch downloaded movies or TV shows on the 13” mac.
- 11:00 pmAnother day is done…quiet descends on the hilltop. Sleep.-sp
Yesterday was my birthday, and I want to thank my wonderful husband for working so hard to make it a very special day. On Thursday, December 13, I declared that our couple is starting a new birthday tradition: From this day forward, I proclaimed, we will have a five-day celebration that begins two days before and again after the actual birthday. Little did I know that he had a surprise dinner scheduled that very night with our visiting and local friends. It’s not easy to surprise me, because I’m well, nosey. But he did it. Well done, lovah.
I want to thank everyone who helped make my day special. I would be remiss to avoid the obvious…there has been a lingering sadness in my heart because of the Newton violence that ended the lives of many innocent people, mostly children. I awoke on Saturday with what would have otherwise been a lot of excitement about having another birthday. My mind was, instead, occupied with the thoughts that hundreds of people- parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts – awoke with the soul-numbing realization that their innocent babies died at the senseless and inexcusable hands of violence. My heart had (has) sadness. I imagine all of our collective hearts have sadness. Too many lives have been and are being destroyed either directly or indirectly from violence (be it at the quiet suburban town of Newton or daily in some urban setting), and this unshakable truth sprung up (and continues to) and haunted me on what would’ve or could’ve been a strictly, fun-filled day.
Hopefully you hugged your dear ones deeply this weekend despite the fact no one should require this type of reality check to express appreciation for those we love.
*Photos and stuff* Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.
This is Mexico Post #2, to see the other Mexico posts, click click click
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