Simplicity

22 09 2015

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We’re in Mahahual, Quintana Roo – practically the southern-most point of Mexico before entering Belize – working with a little piece of beachfront bliss I’ve had for over 20 years.  (Tales to tell once this project is complete.)

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There’s a reason August-September is “low season” in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Costa Maya areas – hot, muggy with an abundance of mosquitoes and other biting insects. But the peace, beauty, tranquility, and lovely people are unsurpassed.

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This charming chapel sits at the town’s exit to the south….

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It seats 10 – 12….

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Rather than gilt and gold, this chapel of the people features pottery and plastic.

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Gifts from those who have few possessions but much devotion and love….

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Clare Boothe Luce





The Road Less Traveled

11 08 2015

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Jerry Seinfeld

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Bumpy. Circuitous. Infinitely more interesting than direct-and-smooth. Through blind trust – or dumb luck – on our road trips throughout Mexico, Peter and I have experienced unforgettable gems– routes familiar only to the local farmer or sheep-herder.

Peter is addicted to his GPS. We have Gladys the Garmin – who delights in guiding us through the center of cities during rush-hour traffic — and Tobias the TomTom who directs us onto paths even he doesn’t recognize. “Unknown road” or “No route possible” should be a clue.

DSC_9848A side note to anyone using a GPS to drive in Mexico. Don’t trust it. If you don’t already know how to get where you’re going, along with a detailed paper map, you’re in deep trouble. Mexico Maps on both Garmin and TomTom are incomplete at best. Worse than its not knowing the roads is that the device will decisively turn you onto a road, then after a few miles demand, “Make a U-Turn.” Don’t trust it!

Driving home to Guanajuato from the Guitar Festival in Paracho, Michoacán (touted as Mexico’s most dangerous state according to the USA’s mass media), we’d passed through pueblos named Aranza, Rancho Seco (Dry Ranch), Carapan, and then entered a slightly larger town named Purepero.

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Ahead, I spot the green highway-directional sign for La Piedad, toward home. Tobias, in his computerized English accent, directs us to Turn Right, although the highway sign clearly indicates straight ahead.

¿Por que no?Why not?

So we turn right onto a cobblestone street, curving through neighborhoods….

and through more neighborhoods….

At last, we arrive at the edge of and then out of town.

A semi-surfaced road. Should have been yet another clue.

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We drive….

And drive.

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Bump along.

The road narrows.

According to the compass, we’re headed south.

Unfortunately, we should be headed north.

Again, the road narrows. Dirt and ruts, now.

Cross a river. Literally – the road takes us through a river.

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And into picturesque, adobe and bouganvilla-laden pueblos.

When the road improves, we can tell we’re approaching a town (of sorts).

Villa Mendoza. Then Acuitzeramo.

Again, the road deteriorates to dirt ruts.

We cross a cattle-guard.

Pastoral vistas. Cows. Goats. Sheep. Donkeys. Horses. Dogs.

We wave at the occasional vaquero/cowboy and shepherd with his flock.

And. Yes.

We eventually and safely exit onto the highway to La Piedad and Irapuato

and home to Guanajuato.

Ah, yes.

Life.

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Perhaps not the most direct route, not the most smooth, not the most trouble-free –but an adventure of challenges, bumps, and beauty – and I wouldn’t trade any of my learning-journeys for smooth, uneventful, destinations.

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The journey is the reward. An appropriate gift from my daughter and grand daughters….





Publicos Baños

25 01 2015

Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.

Kurt Vonnegut

For the past year or so, Peter and I have been traveling across Mexico – driving from Sonora, the northern-most state, south through Sinaloa and Nayarit to our home in Guanajuato in the central mountainous area…journeys to the artisans of Michoacán…Puebla…Oaxaca…through Tabasco, Campache and Chiapas…across Yucatan and to my other home in Quintana Roo on the eastern coast. Are some of these areas “dangerous”? Yes. According to “national alerts,” and certainly if you listen to USA mainstream media. We travel in daylight (usually) and stay “aware” of our surroundings – sometimes on the major highways, yet more often on the minor roads, bouncing across the frequent topes (speed bumps) through countryside and villages. DSC_5218 Most recently, we traveled from Guanajuato to the southern coast of Oaxaca: Bahia de Santa Cruz. About a 20-hour trip. Our route took us through the Colonial cities of Puebla and Oaxaca; Matatalan, famous for mezcal and pulche; San Martin Tilcajete, world-renowned for exquisite alebrijes; and mountains thick with evergreens juxtaposed against stands of bamboo and banana trees, washed-out roads, and beautiful people.

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Trip Route

I haven’t been blogging. But now…time to share –

The beauty of this diverse country.

The idiosyncrasies.

The people.

My impressions.

I hope you enjoy these journeys, as well…. From the Only In Mexico department –- Peter and I are driving through Tlacolula, a small pueblo in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, when we smell roasting cocoa beans before even seeing the Chocolate Shop….

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We’re looking for a restroom, and, conveniently, Tlacolula has a well-manned Baños Publicos. Definitely “well-manned” — three men, waiting to collect my 2 pesos (about 14 cents), dispense the allotted paper squares, and – get this –present me with a printed receipt. Building. Attendants. Electric lights. Running water. Allotment of necessary paper. And. Printed receipt. All for 14 cents.

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I love Mexico!





The Camote Man

9 06 2014

“Enjoy the little things in life,

for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Kurt Vonnegut

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Peter and I had about given up on seeing The Camote Man again – when – while enjoying each other, wine, and emerging stars following a pink-sky sunset– an unmistakable screech penetrates the far-off cacophony of barking dogs and the occasional enthusiastic drummer .

“As the lights come on in Guanajuato they are reflected into the night, and we call them stars….” Dennis Pekus

As the lights come on in Guanajuato they are reflected into the night, and we call them stars….
Dennis Pekus

Each Mexican entrepreneur has his own distinctive marketing technique – The lute of the afilador who sharpens knives at your doorstep. Clang-clang on the tank by the gas company rep. “Aaaagggguuuuaaaaa” sings out the water guy. And – amazing to us – is not only listening but watching these men effortlessly heft their wares throughout the severe slopes of Guanajuato, over 6000 feet above sea level. How does that wiry little guy carry four of those five-gallon water garrafónes?

One of many callejones of Guanajuato.

One of many (steep) callejónes/alleys of Guanajuato.

This night, The Camote Man is obviously below us on a better-populated street: Calle Sangre de Cristo. We live far above, near The Panoramica which encircles this historic city. Will he venture this far? We start whistling and yelling to the universe — and anyone else who’s listening: “Arriba! Arriba! Up! Up!”

It was a couple of months ago when we first experienced the taste sensation – not to mention, the visual delight – of a camote (sweet potato) wood-fire-roasted in a Stanley-Steamer-looking device — coals glowing — pushed amidst the callejónes.

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We are in luck this night. The whistle intensifies. Adults and children emerge from darkened doors, 20 pesos in hand, to receive a steaming camote dripping la leche condensada azucarada and canela. We pass on the sweeten condensed milk but request extra cinnamon – then retire inside to slather on mounds of butter and pour more wine.

A delectable camote for only 20 pesos -- about $1.50 USD.

A delectable camote for only 20 pesos — about $1.50 USD.

 Life is grand. We are grateful.

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Brown

7 10 2013

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine,

but because people refuse to see it.

James Michener

If I lived in this dreary town I’d invest in paint.

Me.

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Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

Capital of Mexico’s second-largest state: Sonora

Eight hours south of Phoenix

June.

112 °F ~ 44°C

Summer, I’m told, has not yet arrived.

Brown.

Desert. Dust. Adobe. Dirt. Bricks. Rocks. Cobblestones. Concrete. Boulders. Heat waves. Grit. Grime. Muck. Chaff. Weeds (dead). Dreary. Desolate. Bleak. Barren. Gloomy. Wasteland. Hot. Hot. Hot. Dry. Dry. Dry.

Brown.

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I’ve been a bit reticent to walk Hermosillo’s dimly lit streets at night. This is a “city,” not a village like my home of Puerto Morelos or even Morrison, Colorado.

But Hermosillo, like cities everywhere, is constructed of “neighborhoods.”

At dusk, I reluctantly ventured out my El Centro apartment as the day cooled to approximately 110 and a dusty breeze swirled an errant plastic bag from the curb. My camera captured adobe breaking through cement and crumbling bricks. Tired, hundreds-of-years-old buildings. Ancient arches. Graffiti. Dead weeds. Cactus. Brilliant bursts of bougainvillea. Neighbors filtering into the streets. Sitting on curbs. Leaning against trucks. Chatting. Relishing the “cool” of the evening, the descending dark, the ascending nearly-full moon.

There’s something going around the corner?? A pig. On a leash. Named Chuletta.  Chuletta, translated: Pork Chop. I do love Mexico.

Chuletta - Pork Chop

Chuletta – Pork Chop

This, however, is not a tourist town – and in the night, I’m not totally comfortable as the Lone Gringa. At the upcoming corner sits a gaggle of men about my age, beers in hand — one perched on the tailgate of his pick-up-truck, picking guitar. Should I turn back? Question answered as they clown for my camera. Conversation ensues. Well — with my barely-Spanish, it kind of ensues. But I accept their offer of a cervesa –  international symbol of camaraderie — and enjoy the one song my musician is obviously pleased to know in English – Hotel California.

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This is the oldest neighborhood in Hermosillo, they proudly proclaim. Most of these guys work at the University of Sonora – an engineer, a doctor, a couple lawyers, citizens of the World. We dance. My partner, however, was born with that Latin Salsa gene of which I am sorely lacking. Laughter, however, is universal.

They ask if I like Mexico. “Mexico have good people,” the musician proclaims. “And you are good people,” he adds, touching my heart.

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Brown.

Eyes. Faces. Hands. Hair. Smiles. Laughter. Kindness. Joy. Understanding.  Delight. Friendly. Helpful. Honest. Warm. Welcoming. Bronze. Beautiful.

Brown.

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Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.

Carlos Castaneda

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

14 08 2013

WordPress, my blog platform, puts forth a weekly Photo Challenge. Following is my interpretation of One Shot, Two Ways:

Mexico is a hallucinogen, snaring me in a massive hug of subtle hues, intense scents, raw intensity of Life….

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Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, writes:

“In the afternoon when the sun lights the stucco buildings across the street, it’s possible to count a dozen different colors of paint, all fading together on the highest parts of the wall: yellow, ochre, brick, blood, cobalt, turquoise. The national color of Mexico. And the scent of Mexico is a similar blend: jasmine, dog piss, cilantro, lime. Mexico admits you through an arched stone orifice into the tree-filled courtyard of its heart, where a dog pisses against a wall and a waiter hustles through a curtain of jasmine to bring a bowl of tortilla soup. Steaming with cilantro and lime. Cats stalk lizards among the clay pots around the fountain, doves settle into the flowering vines and coo their prayers, thankful for the existence of lizards….”

The Lacuna ~ Barbara Kingsolver

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Mexican baseball. It’s all about the food.

16 05 2013

My first Mexican baseball game –the Quintana Roo Tigres.

I now know all about Mexican baseball.

It’s all about the food.

Well.

And the people.

!!!And the fun!!!

 I understand there is also a competition called baseball.

Not only beer, margaritas, hotdogs and burritos - but flan! And a baseball game.

Not only beer, margaritas, hotdogs and burritos – but flan! And a baseball game.

Entering the Cancun stadium is not unlike any sporting event in any part of the world — theme-adorned Fans, venders hawking tacky toys, candy, food booths, team wares. Testosterone. Feminine energy. The raw vitality of Anticipation.

And Tigres games are affordable. Ideal seats. Four-rows up, behind home base: 95 pesos (about $8.50 USD).

Whadda ya want? Just beckon, and your gastronomic desire arrives pronto. Beer. Chiladas. Michaladas. Plumaros (a massive margarita-like concoction of tequila, sprite and salt). Rum-and-coke. Sodas. Aracherra (beef) burrito with guacamole. Hot dogs.  Weiners splayed open, then deep fried (let’s maximize the grease factor) with French fries, of course. Fried bananas. Salchiccha. Chorizo. Pork chop. Chicken wings. Kibis and bolsas (Kibis are a deep-fried eastern Indian dish Mexicanized with habenaro and marinated red onions. Bolsas seem unique to the Ball Game: small-portion kibi balls served in a plastic bag.) Elotes and esquitas (My personal faves, even though they’re Montezuma’s Revenge waiting to happen. Elotes: corn-on-the-cob on a stick. Esquitas: cut off the cob and in a cup. Slathered with mayonnaise, cheese, crema, chili and lime. YUMMM!) Flan. Candy apple dipped in a tamarindo goo and rolled in chili. Neon-pink cotton candy. Deep-fried churros with your choice of chili or chocolate.   Fried crepe stuffed with Nutella and cheese. Did I mention there’s an abundance of “fried”? What’s not to love about a ball game?

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And the people!  Moms. Dads. Babies. Kids. Grandparents.  Great-Grandparents. Hombres in droopy shorts and backwards ball caps escorting bejeweled girlfriends with five-inch heels, cleavage, and rhinestoned hair. And a few of us gringos.

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Of course we have the requisite scantily-clad cheerleaders, bouncing out from a canary-yellow sports car, coaxing the Tigres to Victory. These dark-eyed lovelies not only gyrate as expected but mingle throughout the stands.

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Alas. Chacho, Tigre’s popular human-in-tiger-costume, was absent this night.

I was particularly attracted to the dead-pan-mime clown who periodically changed costume. My fave was his North-Dakota-style ear-flap hat and saggy pants. His star act? Munching a sandwich, then sharing bites with eager children.

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There was also the crazed fan affectionately referred to as Pollo (Chicken) based on his memorable costume: What else but a vivid red-and-yellow chicken suit? Pollo’s a staple at every game, rousting chants from the crowd, strutting the chicken dance and leading each Section in The Wave. Now how did this possibly happen? There’s a lull in the game. I’m out of the way, lounging by the tunnel, people-watching and minding my own business. Suddenly.  I’m Pollo’s dance partner.  ?A gringa? The crowd goes wild.

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This night, Tigres defeated the Merida team 3:1, including two home runs. Each hit was applauded by the enthusiastic band, heavy with drumrolls, and punctuated by the crowd’s exuberant cry: Tigres!

Did I mention (could we ever be more wonderfully politically incorrect?) that the batboys are dwarfs? The Merida team had one, but Tigre fans lament that “Mexico City stole ours – we’re looking for another.”

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Yes.

Mexicans know how to eat.

And how to dress.

And how to fully enjoy An Experience.

They create Amazing Fun.

Thanks to my partners-in-crime for including me in their regular sojourn to support and enjoy the Tigres: Ken and Kathy Ouellette, Amber Pierce-Schultz and Caden, Ed Murphy, Kim Temple, Anne and Steve Lowen with her mom Joan, Rob and Joanne McKinnon.

Thanks to my partners-in-crime for including me in their regular sojourn to support and enjoy the Tigres: Ken and Kathy Ouellette, Amber Pierce-Schultz and Caden, Ed Murphy, Kim Temple, Anne and Steve Lowen with her mom Joan, Rob and Joanne McKinnon.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust