Thursday, January 31, 2008

San Miguel de Allende

Ok ... I am diligent and have done some research. Research pays off in the end. Without it I wouldn't have found Andee. And I wouldn't have found out about San Miguel de Allende. During one of my many research nights dedicated to finding out about Mexico, I discovered the magical colonial city of San Miguel de Allende. I read about a woman from the US named Caren Cross who made a documentary film entitled Lost and Found in Mexico. She and her husband visited San Miguel for a week's vacation and were so enamoured by the spirit of the place that they made the decision to make it their permanent home and retired there shortly after. After reading her story, and viewing the captivating images, I was compelled to order the documentary. A few days after I ordered it online, I received an email from Caren Cross, thanking me for my interest in the film and asking me how I came across it. I explained I had seen a link for it online and told her a little about my upcoming plans. She wrote back immediately, telling me that "I had made a very good decision and that I had a great adventure ahead of me." These are the kinds of occurrences that just kind of make you go "hmmmm, I really am onto something here." She also told me that she was going to Toronto during that time to promote her new project and that I should try to attend. Unfortunately, I didn't make it but I was so impressed that she took the time to introduce herself and share her positive feelings about moving to Mexico. I have watched Lost and Found in Mexico many times and listening to people's stories of how this charming place stole their hearts always leaves me full of curiosity. The place is a kaleidoscope of colour and apparently it is not just a few chosen scenes. From what I've seen of San Miguel on film, the whole city is alive with vibrant colour. And it is blessed with a perfect comfortable climate, without the high degree of humidity. It's easy to see why many artistic minded people take up permanent residency there. The interesting thing about Caren is that she wasn't a documentary film maker when she arrived there. She was actually a psychotherapist in the States. She was so inspired by her surroundings that she wanted to share it with others. The stories strike a chord and make you question why you play the game day in and day out, without thinking much about it. After spending a little time there, people find themselves asking what they really want out of life. Caren found herself in San Miguel. And she was not alone.

I haven't quite figured out just yet how far Chacala is from San Miguel. This map doesn't really give an accurate idea, but I do know that it will take a few hours to get there. I can't make this trip without spending a few days there. Perhaps Caren and I will meet up after all. I will certainly make the effort.

Caren website is for those of you who want to take a peek.

It's a beautiful film alive with captivating images and the soundtrack in itself will have you moving in your chair. It's the next best thing to being there.
Peace and light ...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Know They Mean Well

As my departure date draws closer, I am hearing the concern in some of my friends and family's voices. Things such as "you will be keeping in touch, I hope" and "will you be safe on the buses there?" and "you know, people simply disappear and are never heard from again when they do things like this." Or I see the look of horror of some people's faces when I tell them about my trip. People who would never leave a resort in Mexico for any reason. Yes, it is true. Mexico has had some very bad press in the last few years. Like the couple who were killed at a Cancun resort. Or the young man who was killed in a hit and run accident. And of course, the couple from Grand Bend who were walking home from dinner and the wife was hit by a car and killed. Yes, all true stories. My heart goes out to these people's families. But are people not murdered in London, Ont? Are people not hit by cars on Wellington Road, a block from my home? This will be my third visit to this area in 2 years. The native Mexicans I encountered were all very kind and friendly and would go out of their way to help me. I am going to a remote place, where most of the people live a very simple life and they all strike me as good family people. I can honestly say that I have felt more threatened walking in any large centre at night here in Canada. Of course I will be taking normal precautions to protect my safety, just as I do at home. As far as I know, there are very few violent crimes where I am going. There are some robberies but that could happen anywhere. I will have a phone card and will phone home on a regular basis. I will also communiciate by email from the internet cafes. I understand it is the fear of the unknown that people are feeling. And their concern touches me. I just wanted to post to everyone not to worry about me. I know I am going to a safe place. I have spoken about my friend Andee from Chacala. Let me tell you a little story about her. She moved to Chacala with just a tent and a sleeping bag and camped on the beach for many months before she found a house to live in. In fact, she often said that she preferred the camping, but that it became a little uncomfortable. She was a woman on her own. I have never heard her speak about any trouble she had with anyone there. I read a book called "Midlife Mavericks - Women Re-inventing Their Lives in Mexico" (Karen Blue) which inspired me to try this. Karen interviewed many women who have made Mexico their home and I can't remember one story that was negative in any way. So just to alleviate everyone's fears, I will be ok. I wouldn't be doing this if I felt in any way threatened. I think most of you know me well enough to know that. I do appreciate your concern. It might be appropriate to mention one fear I do have about this trip. SCORPIONS! I have never encountered one yet, but they are lurking around. I know to shake my bedsheets out every night before I get in and to check my shoes in the morning before I put them on. If I do have the misfortune of getting bit by one, contrary to popular belief, I will not die. And there are good medical facilities in Las Varas. Let's hope they stay away!
Peace and light,



In May of 2007, I visited my friend John in Sayulita, and he took me to Carricitos beach shown here. It was about a half hour walk from town and the main beach, along a dusty winding road. Carricitos has a natural beauty that was missing from the main beach where all the surfers and the tourists went. What a gem he had found. We walked all around this beach, climbing rocks and peering into the water for sea creatures. We stood in front of the rock where the waves are crashing and I noticed hundreds of little crabs resting there on the rock, some moving, some just basking in the sun. They were well hidden as they took on the colour of the rock but it was their movement that suddenly caught my eye. I watched them for a long time. As I stood there, watching the crabs, feeling the mist of the crashing waves, and enjoying the warmth of the sun, the power of this place brought tears to my eyes. We stayed there until sunset. The sunsets in Mexico are quite different than here. I love a Lake Huron sunset, don't get me wrong; they are beautiful in their own right. It must have something to do with being closer to the equator. You have to be alert and watching every minute because as the sun sets it turns into a bright orange ball seemingly floating on the water, and then suddenly it disappears into the horizon so quickly that if you turn your head, you miss it. Here's what the sunset looked like that day, before it turned bright orange. The rocks were over to the right.

Carricitos will always be a special place for me. I plan to return there this trip.

I neglected to mention the exact location of Chacala in my previous posts. Chacala is about 2 hours north of Sayulita on the same glorious coast. I can easily travel to Sayulita by bus along Hwy 200. I am looking forward to this journey. I had originally planned on staying in La Penita but my plans changed. There's an open market in La Penita every Thursday which I will be taking in during my stay. It is renowned in the area and locals travel there each week to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. So I will get to see La Penita after all.

I'm getting very excited now. Two weeks tomorrow I leave for Mexico.

I did receive a very welcoming email from Allan (Joy Dancer), the Toltec master who lives at El Faro. I am still considering joining the "Relationship Workshop" for Valentine's week, but haven't decided for sure yet. It might be too overwhelming since I arrive only the day before.

I will be taking a private taxi from the airport with Trini. My blogger friend Andee helped me make this connection before she passed away. Trini has been reading my blog here and seems very sweet. She has lived in Chacala all of her life and also teaches Spanish. I know I will feel comfortable in her company and I will get to know another resident of Chacala which will be good for me when I arrive.

Until next time ....

Peace and light,


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sad News from Chacala

The sunset here is one of the hundreds of beautiful images captured by my blogger friend, Andee. I have been reading Andee's blog for over a year now. You can read her blog at

The sun has set on dear Andee's life. I received news today that she passed away last Sunday from a probable stroke. Andee has given me the courage to take this wonderful journey and has lessened my fear of travelling to an unfamiliar destination on my own. She is the reason I chose Chacala. I am so disheartened to not have the chance to meet her. We have been corresponding on a daily basis these last few weeks and I have been reading her blog for over a year. The last email I received from her was on January 11/08, two days before she passed away. She was replying to me about my question about ATM machines in Chacala. She helped me find my accommodations, El Faro. Once I had secured El Faro and wrote her about it, she replied that I should now arrange my travel from Puerto Vallarta airport and was prepared to help me with that. She has been an unending source of support and inspiration. I feel like I know Chacala so well even before I set foot there. She had a wonderful honest way of expressing herself in her blog. She saw beauty in the children all around her. I could picture her wandering around the dirt roads with her camera and delighted in seeing the images she posted. She lived her life as she chose. She delighted in the simple things in life. And was a happier person for it. She was environmentally conscious, picking up the litter from the beach and out front of her home on a daily basis. To the chagrin of many residents in Chacala, she felt that the development of gated communities in the area was disgraceful, and wasn't afraid to express her opinion about this. She wondered why people would ever need a pool when they have the ocean to enjoy. I have to agree with her. She spent tireless hours helping people from all over the world find suitable accommodations and answering any questions they had about the area. She loved her gardening. She travelled by bus to many interesting places, picking up flowering plants and transferring them to her garden. She was an avid reader; she couldn't get enough to read to satisfy her curiousity about things. I had planned on bringing some photography books for her as she was continually striving to improve her skills. Her images were outstanding. I couldn't understand how she thought she had to improve them. I think she appreciated the beauty in everyday things and the image didn't quite capture it the way she felt when she saw it. This is evident in her own words, posted a week before she passed away:

(Andee) So I am usually on the beach around sunset. I get to practice sunset photos a lot. Lately I have mostly been noticing how the light of the sunset shines of people and things. I don't really know how to take good photos of this phenomena, but I really enjoy how it looks.Especially when the sun is shining on kids and on people faces.

I think a camera lens can only capture what you see in that moment. The photograph explains it. What you feel in your heart as you are looking out at that sunset, or being fascinated by the way the light plays on faces, can only be felt in the heart. I think that's what Andee sensed was missing in her photos. I am so very sad. I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. I am grateful that I had the chance to connect with this remarkable woman. She will never know just how inspiring she has been in my life. She has reinforced my thinking that everyone should do whatever it is that will make them happy. And not just talk about it. And not let fear stop you from doing it. I received an email from Andee's son while I was writing this. He tells me this:

(Erik)I will be spreading some of her ashes in the water in front of chicos as of a come as you are wake so when you get here grab coke and stand on the beach and think good thoughts.

Andee loved her coke. I will be standing on that beach and thinking of her, you can be sure. I will post a few more of her beautiful sunset pictures here now. There are endless delightul photographs to enjoy in her blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Peace and light,


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Less than 30 days to go but who's counting?

Greetings Folks! Thanks for visiting my first blog post. On the left is a photo of "El Faro", the casita I have rented for a month beginning February 10/08. I explain more fully later in this post. To begin at the beginning ... how did I arrive here? Well I have an exciting adventure ahead of me and being a writer, I thought I would like to record my thoughts and experiences and share them with any of you who are interested. If you are thinking of taking a similar journey, I have one word of advise. Do it! Already I know it is the right choice for me and I haven't even left yet. So how did I arrive at this decision? Last year I visited a friend in Sayulita, Mexico which is off the beaten track, some 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. Sayulita has grown from an small fishing village to a world class destination in a very short period of time. The town's infrastructure has suffered along the way but the people who decided they wanted to stay have risen to the challenge and made the necessary changes and the town is thriving. I had planned on returning to Sayulita for an extended holiday in 2008 but discovered that I could no longer afford to stay there. Yes. The old adage, paradise comes with a price, had never been so true. The new sewer system had to be paid for somehow. Sayulita holds a lot of charm but practicality sent me north, to a place called Chacala.

I found Chacala from reading a blog written by a American woman who had settled there for the past 4 years. Reading her blog became a daily part of my life and came to give me a smile, even when I was having a very bad day. Her photos and experiences have been very inspiring. I saw something in her daily life that I was missing. I approached her by private email and told her I was looking for longer term accommodations in the Chacala area this winter and she made a suggestion to link with an online newspaper called "Jaltemba Sol." It turned out I did find a small casita on the ocean in La Penita, a town 30 minutes south of Chacala. I made arrangements to rent the casita for the month of January 2008 with the possibility of staying for February. My life here took a few turns and I was unable to depart as early as January and I lost the opportunity to visit La Penita. I contacted my blogger friend in Chacala with this news and she helped me find "El Faro" -- "The Lighthouse" in Spanish. I prefer to think of it as "House of Light." Being down to wire with just a little over a month until my departure, I was running out of options as many of the suitable rentals were spoken for in high season. I truly believe none of this was an accident. I spoke to the owner of "El Faro" who lives in California. The unit had been spoken for during the period I wanted to rent it, but for whatever reason, he made it happen for me. He told me about Allan, who had been renting the back unit of the casita since November 2007. He told me about Allan's website called and explained that he had been on a sabattical to finish a book he was writing. Allan is a Toltec master and follows the traditions and teachings of don Miguel Ruiz, author of "The Four Agreements." Oddly enough, I owned this book and was very much impressed by its teachings and wisdom, but had placed what I had learned from this book on the back burner a few years ago. From reading the website, I learned about a "Relationship Workshop" that was taking place in and around the beach in Chacala, the very week I was to arrive! During Valentine's Week, no doubt. Apparently it was to change the way we think about relationships in a very positive light. Things haven't been exactly rosy in this area of my life for several years now, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to jump in, especially since I was familar and in total agreement with the teachings of the book. I have written to Allan, expressing my interest and to date haven't heard back yet. At any rate, I'm sure we will have more than a few enlightening conversations once I arrive. Sooooooo .... suddenly .. this solo journey wasn't so scary anymore, given the prospect of joy dancer, a fellow writer, sharing my accommodations, my blogger friend just down the street, and my long term friend just down the road in Sayulita. My daughter will be visiting for a week toward the end of February to celebrate her 23rd birthday and to immerse herself in authentic Mexican cooking. She is at the crest of starting her own catering business and this experience will only enhance her qualifications. During my search for accommodations, I found it was common in Mexico to only be provided with a hot plate for cooking. "El Faro" has a full cooktop stove and oven. Of course! When I visited Sayulita last winter, one of my favourite things to do, besides watching the sunset every night, was preparing delicious meals, with the freshest available vegetables and seafood every day. I had never seen shrimp that big! And they were caught that very day and were so affordable. On that note, I will leave you with an authentic Mexican recipe for Salsa that I prepared when I was in Sayulita:

By the way, Salsa is just another word for a sauce or gravy of any kind, but we tend to think of it as something that only goes with tortilla chips. And for anyone who watches Seinfeld re-runs, people just like saying that word! S.A.L.S.A. It rolls off the tongue in a most agreeable way. :))

Salsa Fresca

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

2 Serrano chiles finely chopped for medium hot

(remove seeds and veins if you want a mild spice)

1/2 tsp salt

juice of one lime

1/2 seeded cucumber finely chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve, mix before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, in tacos, or over fish. Do try this at home!

You’re just as likely to come across it referring to salsa, the dance. Originally from Latin America, this style of music includes many different rhythms and melodies, from mambo to rumba to chachachá. What they all have in common is that the rhythm is essentially Afro-Caribbean.Some people claim that the name comes from a Cuban song - Échale salsita Put some sauce on it - which mentioned the songwriter’s favourite type of sausage, which needed some sauce on it! The term really took off when a New York record company marketed it in the sixties as a way of describing a popular style of Latino dancing. It is now, of course, a worldwide phenomenon

Side note: Things to look forward to in Chacala. Roosters crowing outside my window at dawn, dogs barking down in the street, the essence of the sea breeze, spectacular sunsets, the warmth of the sun. If you are thinking of taking this journey, make the decision and make it happen. The universe in turn, will cooperate.

Peace and light,