Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Poem by Om

Sun Woman
To see you there
Walking on a beach
In your island sundress

I see the heat surrounds you
Like the history of the world
You appear through light
Confident and alone

How does your silhouette walk through time
In such silver
With a land behind you
And tides at your feet?

Perhaps the oceans are your sidewalks
And the light you step out from
Are the dreams of others
To see you there
Walking through time

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

So Much More Than Just a Tan

I arrived home on March 20 which I took to be a good omen -- the first day of Spring. In reality though, Spring seemed very far away. On the morning of leaving Chacala, as a last thought as I was heading out the door of Aurora's, I cut a stem of flowers from the terrace, wrapped them in some damp paper towels, and placed them in my suitcase. When I awoke that first morning home, I started to unpack and found them. It was a sweet surprise as I had totally forgotten I had done this. They were just as fresh as when I picked them. I had a little piece of Chacala right here at home on my kitchen table and I was thrilled!

I also had another surprise when I arrived home. My daughter, who was away in Alberta seeing her boyfriend off to Firefighter school, left me a little Easter surprise. Thank you Meagan!

Easter weekend turned out to be quiet which was a dramatic switch from the festivities of Semana Santa in Chacala! It was a welcome change though. I needed some quiet time to get adjusted. We did celebrate Easter the following weekend when everyone was home. Meagan made a gourmet feast as usual. We dined on Coq au Vin (sp?) with all the fancy fixings. Yum. In honour of my trip, she also made some homemade salsa as an appetizer which was the best I have tasted.

I can't believe I've been home 3 weeks and have not written a word. I do apologize to anyone who has been checking my blog on a regular basis. Thanks so much for your interest. I guess I needed some time to reflect on things and it took all of my energy to make the adjustment back to reality again. It ain't been easy folks. It is getting better now that the sun is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. I am returning to Chacala, hopefully as early as next fall. I am working to achieve that with everything I do. Every decision is based on that. I hope to stay for the whole winter next time. Other people do it ... and so can I!

My trip home was as smooth as could be. No surprises. Cundo (Trini's husband) picked me up as scheduled at 8 am in the airport van. There was an accident near Alta Vista and the traffic had slowed to a crawl but we made it in plenty of time. On the way to Chacala the first time, I didn't know what I was looking at out the window and only saw it as Mexican jungle. I was so pleased that Cundo explained everything that was growing at the side of the highway, ie. mango trees, banana trees, coffee, tobacco, papaya, etc. I didn't have time to feel sad at the airport. The flight was on time and by the time I checked in and went through security, it was time to board. Puerto Vallarta is so beautiful from the air. I was feeling emotional as I looked out the window. It hit me suddenly and I started to feel a bit choked up that I was leaving this beautiful paradise. The pictures never do it justice, especially with the wing of an airplane in the way.

My son, Ryan and his girlfriend Christine made the trek to Detroit to pick me up at the airport. Thanks so much Ry and CK!

I took some photos of some of the people who I got to know in Chacala. Trini and Cundo were really great. Whenever I had a problem, usually a communication problem, I went to see Trini who was always so gracious and helpful even though she was busy with her own things. She is due to have her baby in June. I left a little baby gift behind to show my gratitude. Trini mentioned that she read my blog so if you are reading this Trini .. thanks once again for all of your help.

Below is Juan, Cundo's brother, with his new baby son. Juan picked me up from the airport when I arrived in Chacala. Juan stayed with me that first night when I discovered I was to be homeless. We drove around until we found a vacancy at Casa Iguana. I saw Juan off and on in town throughout my trip and he was always so friendly and made sure he always stopped his van to see how I was doing.

I took this picture of Aurora a few days before I left as she was talking on the porch to some renters from Montana. She's such a lovely woman. I will forever remember her on the last morning I was at Casa Aurora. I had gathered up my suitcases and placed them on the terrace. Being the spoiled gringa that I am, I fully expected the driver to help me transport these bags to the van, which had grown considerably in weight since my arrival. Aurora picked up the heaviest suitcase and lugged it down a flight of stairs and out to the van. I was amazed at the strength of this woman! We had some trouble communicating but still managed to understand each other on a different level. I will definitely stay at Casa Aurora on future visits and I highly recommend it. Aurora was a very good friend of Andee's as was Trini.

These two women (and many others) are highly respected in the community and work hard towards making it a viable, thriving place to live. Aurora was featured in a CBC radio documentary last November about the Techos de Mexico program. She spoke about her family's decision to join the program and they have since had great success with it. The program was looked upon by locals with pessimism and skepticism at first but the wonderful landladies have proven the naysayers wrong. You can listen to the program through this link. Scroll down to the program named "Making Ends Meet in Mexico." There is a tranlated audio portion of Aurora being interviewed which is very good.

Andee posted in her blog about the program as well. If you want to read her report on the show, go to Andee's mylifeinchacala blog:

Please let me know if you have trouble with any of the links. I had trouble finding them.

Apparently, Andee's post about this subject raised some ridicule by one reader, who disagreed with the fact that she was encouraging people to visit Chacala and staying at the Techos de Mexico lodgings. Their thought was that many tourists would ruin the tranquility of Chacala. In typical "Andee" fashion, she defends herself well and explains why she is promoting short term visitors. It's an interesting read if you are inclined to find out more.
While I'm on the subject of Andee's blog, since I've been home, I've been reading it and am surely seeing it with new eyes. I recognize some of the faces in the photos and know a good number of the the places she speaks of. I started to gain a perspective of what it would be like to live in Chacala long term when I first starting reading her blog over a year ago. Now I know first hand what it would be like. Everyone spoke so well of Andee there. She is very much missed and I am certain that the numbers of tourists she brought to the town will drop as almost everyone I spoke to found out about the rental they were staying in from her blog. She was not a fan of having her picture taken which gave her writings a certain mystique. I often wondered what she looked like, and I'm sure I was not alone. If not for her, I would never have experienced this journey of mine. As a reader of my blog and Andee's (Maggie) suggested, I placed some flowers in the ocean in front of Chico's the night before I left. I only wish we had become amigas. Her presence was everywhere in Chacala. I could imagine her wandering the beach and the streets of Chacala with her camera. Thank you, Andee, for sharing the richness of your life in Chacala and in turn making my visit there so fulfilling. Even more than I had ever imagined. You were so right about everything. If there are spirits in the blog world, I hope you will forgive me for posting this ... :)

Andee ...
It took several tries but I finally managed to get a family photo of Kate and Luis, owners of Casa Monarca (the place that will forever be remembered as "The place where I found my mind!" Great, wonderful people. Can you imagine having this view every single day?! I highly recommend this place too. It was a great comfort to be there and I felt very safe. For some reason, a lot of ideas which pertain to my future, were sprouted at Casa Monarca.

When I first returned home, that first morning, I was struck by how dark everything seemed in my home. Well except for my yellow bathroom with the really great window. In Mexico, everything is about colour. I guess my eyes just needed adjusting. But it really did strike me. I have already replaced the living room curtains with a lighter colour. I think it was making the adjustment of having brilliant sunlight fill my room every morning at 6 am. There was still a lot of snow around. That was rather depressing. It's not so bad when it's fluffy and white and it's almost Christmas but this stuff was the leftover storm snow that was dirty and ugly.
I miss walking the beach every day but have been keeping up with my walking at home, although I miss a day here and there. I am determined to keep the weight off that I lost so effortlessly in Chacala. But walking here is walking for exercise. There's hardly anyone out on the street and if there is, they never make eye contact. There's nothing beautiful to look at. Of course, the pre-Spring season is pretty dismal in Ontario and I had to keep in mind that soon all of that would change. There are no leaves on the trees yet. It will get prettier soon. I miss the people greeting me everywhere I went and watching the activities of life in a small town in Mexico. There are more people walking around there for some reason. Everyone here drives.
I missed my family and friends here and it was nice to catch up with everyone. I missed my orange pekoe tea! Wow ... did I enjoy that first cup of tea when I got home. I didn't miss having to put my toilet paper in a garbage can rather than just flushing it down. I missed brushing my teeth right under the tap water and even drinking the tap water.
I have kept up with my yoga practice and have joined a class within walking distance from home. When I told the yoga instructor that I had been practicing on the beach at sunrise in Mexico, she was pretty blown away. In fact, the last class I attended, she announced that she was taking a vacation to Florida and was planning on practicing yoga on the beach there. I guess I inspired her more than I realized! The yoga here is not the same either. It is much more structured and well ... less fun. But it is good for me all the same.

Perhaps the biggest bonus about being home is the fact that everyone understands what I am saying and vice versa! I have registered for conversational Spanish which will make things a little easier next visit.
I must tell my scorpion story ... YES ... I did see one! Two nights before I left to come home, I was blogging and I saw something out of the corner of my eye, on the wall, where the baseboard would be if baseboards existed in Mexico. I got up to have a closer look and sure enough .. scorpion. Luis, from Casa Monarca, who knows about such things, told me that it wasn't likely I would see one since they came out of hiding in the rainy season. They were under the ground when I was there. Well, that particular evening, it actually did rain for about 5 or 10 minutes. It was so unusual for that to happen in March that everyone in town was talking about it the next day. So Luis was absolutely right! So what did I do about it? I smashed it to bits with my shoe! Just like that! I thought I would be more freaked out seeing one but I just did what had to be done. I was quite proud of myself too .. for not being a wimp about it. That night I did check my bed sheets but nada. I wish I had taken a picture but it was the last thing on my mind at that moment!

To this day though, I still check my shoes in the morning out of habit! I wonder how long it will take to stop doing that?

I have been proactive about my job search since I've been home but I am calmer than I thought I would be about being unemployed for the first time in years. I have always dabbled in various writing projects. Just before I went to Chacala, I had a short play produced which was staged at a Playwright's Cabaret here. That gave me a lot of confidence in my writing skills. Blogging is fun writing but I can write in various styles. I can lose myself in writing ... in a good way .. so I've decided to pick up some work doing it. I've been wondering if a person could make an income with blogging and my research has told me that it can be done. Apparently, blogging has become very popular and there are many opportunities. So if you are so inclined, I will post from time to time with links to what I am doing with my writing. I will be started a new blog on various topics of interest soon under the name of "Char Writes" at:

I have been thinking of writing an in-depth article about the Techos de Mexico program as well but not on a blog. Hopefully I will find a suitable publication that is interested in it.
In time, I hope to make a somewhat decent living at writing but am still looking for some part-time "no brainer" type of work to sustain me until that happens. Hopefully, if I get enough writing assignments on a regular basis, I could work from anywhere ... like Chacala for instance? :)

I have a business idea "brewing" for Chacala when I return in the fall and have made a very good contact there who supports my idea. I will write more about that in future as the plans come together. Let's just say for now that I am immersing myself in learning the art of roasting, grinding and brewing Nayarit coffee. The town is surrounded by rich, low-acid, coffee beans growing and not a cup of prepared coffee can be found!

As for my spiritual journey ... it continues. I read Allan Hardman's (Joydancer) book "The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book" and have found that it makes a lot of sense to follow this way of life. He is hosting a "Summer Celebration of Life" gathering in West Marin County, Ca in August and I am considering attending. You can find out more about this and order Allan's book at:

There are some lovely "lovers of Chacala" among this group and I can now fully understand what the attraction is, and how this place can feed any spiritual yearnings a person would have. It is finding the tools to continue with this feeling that is challenging. That is why I have decided to join this group. It just feels right for me. It's all about acceptance of self and believing in yourself .. and so much more that I have yet to discover.

Recently I have noticed an ad campaign about "Shreddies" cereal. The concept they are using to sell this time-honoured product sits well with me and my way of thinking since I've returned. They are marketing it as "Diamond-shaped Shreddies." It's the same pieces of cereal but if you turn them around and look at them at a different angle, you see something new and exciting!

I gained a lot of confidence from taking this journey. I listened to my instincts and they never failed me. I felt safe in Chacala and I let my guard down in so many ways. It makes sense to live there but for now I will make the changes that are necessary to make that a reality. I have a lot of work to do but I don't feel a lot of anxiety about the changes and work to be done.
Some days though, I feel as dark and gloomy as the weather but that is just life I guess. The sun gave me so much energy in Mexico. But most days are filled with light and promise. Please keep in touch and take good care amigas and amigos. Feel free to comment and make suggestions about anything I have said. I need all the encouragement I can get! I leave you with a few images I took from Aurora's on my last days in Chacala ...

Buenos Noches everyone ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dodging Bodies at the Beach and Casa Aurora

The vacationers have clearly arrived in Chacala. I still have been walking the beach but it's a bit of an obstacle course. I am the only gringa there it seems. I'm pretty tanned now so I fit in. I guess everyone else went home or they are hiding out in their casas.

I'm settled in at Casa Aurora's now and it's a perfect place to spend my last few days. It's very relaxing here and the view is gorgeous. The patio is a little piece of heaven. It's situated above the town so I can sit and look out and hear all of the action in a peaceful space. I am so lucky. I'm on an upper floor for the first time and the breeze up here makes things a little cooler. Almost too cool. Today is was frio! I think just in the low 70's but it was overcast and breezy so it felt quite cool. Last night it was really cool. I wore my hoodie and warm pants to bed and used the extra blanket. It's cool again tonight too. I feel kind of sorry for the people down on the beach camping as they probably planned their vacations for months and now it is unseasonably cool. This is a totally open air space except for the bedroom and bathroom. There are screens on the open windows but no windows. (Know what I mean?) At one time I don't think there were screens at all. I think they just put them up for the touristas.

There are no vacancies now. I took this picture yesterday.

Here's my view from the patio and a few pics of the inside. I love my little cocina (kitchen) ...

There are three rental units here and Aurora and her family live in a separate unit, right below me. That's my patio above. Isn't is amazing?

And here's the one that shows the whole property. There's a unit on the main floor and one above on the right. I walk up a set of stairs entering between the two buildings around the back. I will have to spend more time here on another trip. I'd like to support the "Techos de Mexico" program fully next time, now that I know more about it. The plants are so well cared for. It's easy to grow things here. Just plant and water. And Aurora is a sweetie.

The noise from the disco last night was deafening. I woke up several times in the night and suddenly remembered I had brought ear plugs! After 2 am or so, I finally fell asleep and they were still going. I can't believe this is the same Chacala. It's 7:30 pm and they have started again but it sounds like a live band tonight with lots of brass instruments. Kind of almost like "oom-pa-pa" music like you would here at Oktoberfest. I'm liking the sound of it and may wander down there later just to check out the action. The whole town is alive with sounds and sights. It's kind of exciting ... just so different than what I have been used to.

I bought some fresh camarones (shrimp) today and will be cooking them up soon with some homemade salsa. I found a great little stand at the beach that sells jikema, which is quickly becoming my favourite fruit. They insist on putting that hot sauce on it but I just order it with lime and no mas (no more). I am going to try to smuggle some home in my suitcase. When it's cut up into slices, it doesn't take up too much room. Here's where I bought some today ...

I told that boy to say "queso" (cheese) ... and he did!

And low and behold, I do have a wireless connection at Aurora's. I asked her today because I tried to get online and it showed there was a network but I needed the password. She gave me the password later today. I went over to Kate and Luiz's Casa Monarca this morning and used their rooftop but I won't need to be doing that now. I am still going over to take a family photo before I leave. Luiz gave me one of his original art pieces before I left. He used to paint and sell his art before he met Kate and had a family. How sweet that he gave me one. I have it hanging in my bedroom at Casa Aurora's. Here it is decorating my "clothes closet" .. It will be framed and hung when I get home.

I've moved around a lot since I've been here but I've enjoyed the different experiences I've had in each place. It takes at least a day to get set up and get your bearings each time though. I wake up that first morning thinking "ok, where am I now?" I've been having the most vivid dreams since I've been in Mexico. I've written them out in a dream journal. A lot of them are things that I am dealing with from the past. Freud would be fascinated, I am sure!

I was walking the quiet road today, and Pancho drove by in his truck and stopped to talk until the traffic got so busy behind him, he had to move. He will be in town for a few days so I hope to see him before I leave. He has a new job taking photos for a website so isn't doing the yoga anymore. Thanks for telling me Pancho. I went to the beach at 7 friggin am for 3 days!

It's camerone time amigos (I don't know why this suddenly showed up in italics but I think I will leave it just as it is.)

I am so hungry now ....

See ya at home. I miss my hija and hijo, Meagan and Ryan.

Buh bye for now......


Side note to the above: the music changed drastically since I wrote about the oom-pa-pa. It's back to the thumping disco music of last night. Where are those earplugs? :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Semana Santa - Just the Beginning

Well, quiet little Chacala is changing rapidly. Semana Santa has hit town and according to those who know, this is nothing yet. Supposedly next week, says Luis, "will be a nightmare". It's hard to find a clear path to walk the beach. The nerve! :) After having the beach to myself practically. Families from Guadalajara, Mexico City, Tepic and other inland towns and cities have set up their tents and are ready to relax and have a good time. I don't feel comfortable going up close to the campsites and snapping pictures of families but they have sure made themselves at home with propane stoves, coolers and all the fixings. It appears they are here to stay for the duration of the holiday. The Policia were parked in the campground today and I realized it was the first time I had seen them. There is no crime in Chacala that I've heard of.

Just beyond where the regular little tiendas are, there was a strip of stalls that remained dark and closed for most of my stay. Now they are alive with colour offering various fruits, tacos, beach souvenirs and extra banos for the campers I would imagine. Victor's pizza stand has been transformed into a cerveza stand!

Mmmmmm ... Mantecadas (muffins) .....

The kids are having a blast on these boogie boards ...

People are building little shelters along the road above the beach in anticipation of more folks arriving and needing a place to stay. What ingenuity.

It doesn't take much to make a home in Mexico.

Speaking of home, or my second home, I am leaving Casa Monarca tomorrow afternoon and moving to Casa Aurora. Aurora and her family have been long term residents in Chacala and have added to their property with rental units. This has been made possible by the "Techos en Mexico" program, which is government funded. It is a great way to add to the family income. There are many "Techos" home in Chacala which are rented at reasonable rates. I am looking forward to interacting a little closer with a local family. It will be a great way to end my stay here. I am a little sad to leave Casa Monarca. I have felt very much at home here.

A new fruit I have discovered is jikema (hee-ka-ma). What a delightful taste treat! I've been buying it at the roadside stands where they cut it up for me and offer to put hot sauce on it but I have been declining the hot sauce ... no gracias. It is mild in flavour and is kind of a cross between an apple and pear taste. It's crunchy and looks kind of like a turnip and has a similar texture. It's low in fat, and it loaded with potassium and Vitamin C. I think they are a little heavy for my suitcase ... too bad. Eating a steady diet of fish, vegetables and fruit and walking around town and the beach all day long has benefited my weight immensely. I have lost a substantial amount of weight and can feel it in my clothes. Wow. Amazing.

Tonight I went to a concert at Casa Pacifica on the rooftop. Paul Swan was playing again, who I mentioned in an earlier post. This time he had friends though. Someone printed out songbooks and we all had a great time singing our hearts out. It wasn't meant to be a St. Paddy's celebration but with the singalong happening, it kinda felt like it. In this picture, we are singing along to "Downtown", that old Petula Clark tune. It was a lot of fun. The guy in the hat claims all songs originate from Green Bay, Wisconsin! You had to be there, I guess. He was quite the ham and very entertaining.

I won't have internet access at Casa Aurora's but Kate and Luis said I could use their rooftop for access for the rest of my stay. I may or may not be blogging before I come home or if I do, it will be brief (if such a thing is possible.)

I have so much more to share! I will have to catch up when I get home.

Happy St. Paddy's Day everyone. I wonder what the equivalent to the Blarney Stone is in Mexico?

I have a massage booked on Tuesday at Majuaha with Carmen. I just couldn't resist that place. It will be a nice way to relax my way home.

I have been cooking up some pretty good business ideas here and have a lot of people's encouragement and support. More on that later ...

Tonight just around dusk, I noticed chickens up in the trees! I didn't know they could fly up that high. Some kids told me that's where they go to sleep.

There was a very strange creature walking along the wall at Casa Monarca tonight. It was something I had never seen before a little larger than a cat and long and skinny with a pointy nose and long tail. Now I am hearing fierce sounds outside, similar to raccoons at home, and I have locked my door and have no intention of going back outside until the morning!

Every moment here is a little adventure. Oh .. I will so miss this place (sigh). I've been wondering why my attitude has changed so much since I've been here. By attitude, I mean how I feel about life, how I feel when I wake up in the morning. I know I'm just on vacation. My feet are solidly on the ground about that fact. But I think the difference is the beauty that surrounds me everywhere on a daily basis. It gets into your soul. There are many beautiful places at home too but I guess I'm so far away from them that I forget the beauty until I make an effort to go somewhere peaceful and beautiful. In my own city, I don't see much but traffic and shopping malls on a daily basis. I guess we don't realize how this affects our attitude over time. I'd like to hear other people's thoughts on this as well ....

Tonight I was speaking to someone about this at the concert and he said being in Chacala was like being in the womb. It's safe ... it's warm ... and you feel cared for. I kinda liked that analogy.

It is now Palm Sunday (since I am editing this in the morning) and I'm going to church which I could throw a stone to. Kate tells me they have really big palms fronds here! Then Kate is giving me a ride to Aurora's but not without getting a family photo first! And then who knows? Someone said there's a transvestite show at the beach tonight. How's that for changing the subject drastically?!!

It's only 8 am but the fishermen are driving up the road from the ocean with their catches of the day. There have already been several trucks driving through town announcing something or other on their loud speakers. I did recognize camerones (shrimp). It's a little overcast but that blue sky and sunshine is peaking through. How can every single day be so beautiful? I would usually be going for my daily morning walk along the beach by now but I'm thinking I will forego that today with all the people jamming the water's edge. Besides I want to get packed up and ready for church. This time I won't have sand on my bum and feet when I get there. :)

Good thoughts to you. Thanks for reading ...


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Everyone's Leaving But I'm Still Here!

This entry is dedicated to the good people I have met during my stay here and a few iguanas ...

Leon (left), Magda (centre) and Allan ( (right) are enjoying their last night in Chacala at sunset. Leon just arrived a week before from Montana to apprentice with Allan but Magda has been here since December and Allan has been here since November. Allan asked me what I was going to write about in my blog once I got home. I didn't consider this until he suggested I post my thoughts on my "Re-Entry" into my old life again. I welcomed that idea. Allan had a good idea of how to maintain ties with Chacala. He bought a house the day before he left! Magda and Allan have been so kind since I've been here. Although I didn't officially study the teachings of the Toltec, I bought Allan's book and have been immersing myself in it on the beach since he left. Being in the company of people who live a truly joyful existence does have a way of sneaking into your soul. They hosted a fantastic farewell dinner party last weekend.

Here's the best fish dinner I've had in Chacala ....

Cooked on an open fire out back of El Faro by Leon the master chef.

While the women drank wine, munched on homemade salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips and chatted ...

I hope to get to San Francisco this August to attend Allan's summer gathering. Magda lives in Prague which is a city I've always dreamed of visiting. The beauty of travelling and making new friends is that sometimes these friendships are maintained and opportunities to visit new places present themselves. They are all welcome to visit me in Canada ... in the summer! I will miss these good folks. And I hope they enjoy being the stars of my blog ... :) Allan, if you're reading this ... I hope you had a safe trip back to Santa Rosa and thanks again for everything. As a side note, Leon stayed in my old place at El Faro. He too co-existed peacefully with the geccos who reside there. One of the little critters found its way into his box of Raisin Bran which he discovered as he was pouring it out into a bowl for breakfast! Yikes! That would have had me running for the hills! The good thing about staying though is that I was the lucky one to get Allan and Magda's leftover food ... including organic almond butter and real whole wheat bread and almost real mantiquilla (butter) :) The mantiquilla in Mexico is quite awful. It reminds me of that bright yellow stuff that came in gallon pails that we ate as kids and it tastes just as bad.

I am missing my orange pekoe tea too. The bag I brought is gone now. I told Kate that the other day and she was sweet enough to pick me up some black tea in Puerto Vallarta which is close but still not Red Rose. Only in Canada, eh. Pity.

An earlier story told about the grande tour of Las Varas I gave two ladies I met on the collectivo. Well, our paths did cross again in Chacala. This is a very small place after all. Lindy and Amy are from Port Townsend, Washington and stayed at Casa Aurora's, the place I will be moving to in a few days. We met on the beach at sunset and became fast friends. It was nice to meet two women friends for a change and not feel like the third wheel. Amy went through a similar experience of taking stock of her life and realizing how unhappy she was in her job. One day, she threw caution to the wind and quit. She said it was terrifying at first but has turned out better than she ever expected. She really gave me a lot of encouragement and hope about my decision. Muchas muchas gracias Amy. They both have such a warm, positive vibe that even though it was a short time, I feel that I have made two very good friends. They both are in love with Chacala too. Funny how some people come into your life and you just click. We went out for breakfast one morning at Majahua, which I wrote about previously. BUT! Did I ever miss a lot of Majahua the first time around. We discovered a path that went up into the jungle where Majahua expanded into a spiritual prayer centre, a wonderful spa, an outdoors art gallery of sorts and the whole place is kind of carved into the jungle. Whoever created this place is some kind of magical architectural god! We spent a lot of time there just kinda going .... ooooohhhh .... ahhhhhh .... wow look at that ... you get the idea. Here's a little glimpse but the pictures really don't do the place justice.

Amy in front, Lindy behind ...

Ummmm .. me thinks a massage booking is in order?

I have discovered more iguanas in the rocks along the path down to the beach. I really find these creatures quite fascinating to watch and they don't creep me out in the least.

And where there's one, there's always more. I had to be really still and quiet to take these and it took quite a while to catch them. The least little movement and they are gone. Am I becoming an iguana stalker?

There's a marina that I pass by every day where the fishing boats dock. These good fishermen give us the mouth-watering fish at the restaurants every night.

This guy is waiting for his fish dinner too ...

I finally found out when the church service was and attended Mass Tuesday evening. It was a spontaneous decision. As I was walking back from the sunset after meeting Lindy and Amy, my butt and feet still full of sand and the bottom of my pants still rolled up, I heard singing coming from the church and decided to just join in. I must be really relaxed eh? I didn't understand a word but the same rituals of a Catholic service took place and I found myself genuflecting, saying Amen and making the sign of the cross all at the right places. The communion host is still received on the tongue here but it is dipped in wine! Viva Mexico! "Peace be with you" is said as "La Paz". I even knew a few of the people in the congregation. I left when I thought it was over but as I was walking home I heard everyone singing so I guess I left too early. They really sing their hearts out too! They need to cushion those kneeling benches though. Ouch.

I just stepped outside for a break from writing this and saw a shooting star. I thought of the words of that Blue Rodeo song, "And in that second of a shooting star, somehow, it all makes sense." Somehow, this place does make sense. It does for me anyway. There was music playing from somewhere too. There's always music playing wherever I go, serenading my thoughts and dreams. I am grateful and feel blessed for every moment I spend here.

Everyone in town is gearing up for Semana Santa, the two-week Easter holiday. Schools are closed for two weeks and all the Mexican families who live inland come to the beach towns to celebrate. The little tiendas are packed to the rafters with food supplies and cerveza. There are little palapa stands showing up along the beach that weren't there yesterday. I can't imagine what it will be like yet but I hear it is pretty much time to party here. Someone told me today that a few discos will be set up with live music this weekend. I guess I will be able to get my dancing shoes on before I leave after all.

Es todo for now ....

La Paz to all friends near and far.


Update on Semana Santa ... this morning I walked the beach and one bus load had already arrived. Families are setting up tents and kids are playing in the waves. I will keep you updated with pictures as the festivities progress.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Feeling Less Like a Vacationer and More Like I'm Home

Here at Casa Monarca there's a resident iguana who hangs out in the drain pipe on the rooftop next door. Kate tells me she appears there on a daily basis because they feed her flowers which have fallen from various flowering plants. Kate assumes this one is the female because the larger male iguana is never far behind. Isn't he a beauty?

Here's Kate feeding Mrs. Iguana with a long pole ....

The other day on my way to Las Varas on the collectivo, I struck up a conversation with a couple of women from Washington State. It was their first trip into Las Varas and it turned out I gave them the grand tour with stops to the most important places like el banco, the internet place, the fish market, and the phone card store. Locals folks nod and say buenos dias/tardes/noches and we are getting familiar with each other. I guess I must look pretty comfortable around here because the fresh crops of newly arrived gringos approach me and ask me questions. I guess I look like I know stuff!

I thought this (photo below) was an inventive way of collecting change from collectivo passengers. It's a painted coconut with the top cut off decorated with colourful marbles. It sits beside the driver on a little stool. Sorry it turned out a little blurry but I loved the creativity. A far cry from the buses at home where you must have the exact change and your ticket or money is placed in standardized holders that beep. Ahhhh ... gotta love Mexico.

I've been getting into some serious relaxation at Casa Monarca. There's a sense of peacefulness here that has been really good for me and has given me a chance to reflect on some of things I haven't been happy with back home. One of those things was my job. Those of you who know me will attest to the fact that I dislike the job that I've held for 8 years. The last few months before I came to Mexico I was sick all the time. I would recover from one thing and a few days later, something else would start. I think I took 11 sick days off from work last November. I had a lot of sinus problems and my doctor set up an appointment for a specialist at the end of March. I haven't had one sinus problem since I arrived here. Stress that accumulates in a person's body can lead to serious health issues over time. Having said all of this, as my departure date of March 6 drew closer, I had a serious look at my options. I have 4 more weeks of vacation owing so I emailed my manager and asked for 2 more weeks. That was denied so I was forced to resign. I am actually relieved. I am feeling positive about new opportunities when I get home. I have asked around here for employment but there doesn't seem to be anything unless you can speak Spanish. You never know what will happen though. I've made some good connections so I'll just wait and see. There are opportunities to teach English. That is something I may consider down the road. Spanish lessons are definitely in order before I come back again.

So I extended my airline ticket, which really wasn't a problem and am staying until March 20. I will be here at Casa Monarca until the 15th and then I spend my last few days in Chacala at Aurora's which is owned by a local Chacala family. Very sweet people. More on Aurora's later ..

I've been settling in with my job decision for a few days now and considering options. Everyone at home is behind my decision. My daughter is confident that I will find something that will make me happier. When I asked my son if he thought I had lost my mind, he said "no, I think you have found it." Here's a few more photos of this lovely place.

Someday, I will look back at this and realize that Casa Monarca was where I found my mind. :)

I have gotten to know the folks from Boston in the next bungalow ... Dave, Jessica and their two girls, Vivian (4 years) and Maya (6 years). The kids are having a blast in that pool! We all went for breakfast at Casa Pacifica a few days ago and here's a pic ... Kate joined us too but her girls were in school. They are leaving to go home tomorrow morning and have had a wonderful time.

On Friday, I attended a "Meet the Students" open house at the school here in Chacala. The students who attend this school are a part of the Cambiando Vidas (Changing Lives) program which is sponsored largely by Americans and Canadians. The school is staffed by volunteers. True teachers who are answering a calling, not just going through the motions. Many children here never make it past grade school due to lack of money. This is a wonderful opportunity for them. Many of them have gone on to university. They are bright and full of hope for the future. The kids put on quite the entertaining show for us on the grounds of the school. Some of the sponsors were in the audience. It was really touching and very funny at times. Here's a few pics to share of the festivities.

Singing ...

Modern dance ...

A contortionist (man this kid was good!)

These kids were watching the festivities and I think are also students here. They were mentioned as part of a group of kids who go around and pick up garbage on a weekly basis around Chacala. Bravo! One of the classrooms is shown in the background.

Traditional dancing ... Ole!

These kids were terrific!

If the spirit moves you, you can offer a donation to this program or even if you want to find out more about it, go to ...

I find the water system in Mexico interesting. Here is a picture of a tinaco (tee-na-ko) which sits on the rooftop next door. All of the homes have a tinaco on the roof. The water is pumped up from the town water system to the tinacos and when a tap is turned on in the casa, a valve opens and the water flows to the tap by gravity.

I'm no engineer but this system appears to work quite well. Someone told me they are put on rooftops as a safety measure in case of hurricanes. The last hurricane which hit here was around 2001 and it apparently did a lot of damage. Luis told me his monthly water bill is around 160 pesos ($16 Cdn). I think I heard that right? I just paid my water bill for last month and it was $80!

I saw Allan and Magda on the beach the other day and Allan caught me again with that camera of his! Don't I look unhappy to be here? :)

The roosters are crowing but it's just after 11 pm. They will be back around 4 am and then again at 6 am. I have no idea when they sleep. While I was writing this, I heard someone practicing guitar from a distance but it was with an amplifier so I could hear it quite clearly.

It was another busy Sunday with the beach full of families. Everyone is gearing up for the upcoming holiday Semana Santa (Easter) where not a room will be found to rent in the whole town. Families from inland all flock to the beach towns for this holiday and the beaches are jammed with campers. I hear it's a lot of fun but a bit crazy for about 2 weeks. I will be leaving just before that happens. I think I am thankful for that but who knows.

Buenos Noches amigos and amigas ... sleep well. We now can enjoy an extra hour of daylight. I hope all that snow I've been hearing about will be melted by the time I get home!