Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Good Stuff

As I strolled the beach this afternoon, I reflected on the events of the past few days and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I think this image adequately expresses how I was feeling ... Calm, contento, happy.

Today is my baby chica Meagan's 23rd birthday!! We thought she may have been able to visit this week but plans didn't turn out that way. I broke open my phone card and called her at home this afternoon. She's having a fun birthday so far by the sounds of things and knowing her, the celebrations will go on until the weekend. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEAGAN!! Sending a big Mwahhh and hugs!

John came to visit on Monday. For those of you who don't know John, he's originally from my city of London, Ont. and we have been dear friends for 15 years. We actually just figured that out the other night. It was a bit of a surprise because he emailed Monday morning and decided to visit that afternoon. He has lived in Sayulita, Mexico for about 7 years now which is about an hour down the highway. I visited him there last year. There's a lot that has changed about John since he lived in London, but there's a lot that will never change. For instance, when he used to visit me at home, he always brought treats from the best homemade bakeries around and when he arrived on Monday, he did the same. Sayulita has a new bakery and those cookies were delicious. For the whole time I knew John, I don't think I ever did the dishes. It turned out he did the dishes the whole time he was here too. Here he is after our lovely fresh shrimp dinner at the casa.

Meeting up with John was yet another one of those mystical Mexico experiences. Will they ever end? We planned to meet at the bus station in Las Varas. I waited and waited and waited some more .... no John. I decided to do a bit of shopping and started to walk toward the main street. A truck pulled up curbside and there was John as a passenger and Pancho the yoga/massage/sweat lodge master was driving! It turned out that John knew Pancho when he lived in Sayulita and Pancho had seen him walking in Las Varas and picked him up. Pancho drove us back to Chacala and was on his way. John and I have done a fair bit of travelling together. We once took a road trip from Vancouver (when he lived there) to northern California. John has a way of finding all the back road treasures and is always knowledgeable about the most remote places. He's a tutor in Sayulita and now that people are finding out about him through word of mouth, he can't keep up with the student demand.

It was decided that I couldn't smuggle John home in my suitcase because it would kill him to ever return to London, Ont. But the bond will always be there between us, no matter what the distance.

After John left on Wednesday, I was invited to Pancho's sweat lodge. He is proud of this newly built structure which is on the grounds of Casa Pacifico. Larry and Carlee were up for the experience so I met them there. For those who aren't familiar with a sweat lodge, it is simply a domed structure built of wood with a central pit dug into the ground for hot rocks. They can vary in size but this one was small with enough room to fit 6 people comfortably. It is open to the sky until the canvas cover is put in place. They began centuries ago with the Native North American people and are used for spiritual ceremonies. Here's Pancho preparing the rocks in the fire before the ceremony, one of the sweat lodge with the canvas over it. and Larry and Carlee preparing to go in.

After the rocks are heated in the fire, everyone is seated on the ground on grass mats in a circle. You enter clockwise and exit counter-clockwise. When you enter the lodge, you say "All my relations" in honour of our ancestors. Pancho led the ceremony and another participant retrieved the hot rocks (volcanic rock from this area) from the fire one by one carried into the pit with antlers (I think deer but not sure?) The rocks are sprinkled with cedar. When the canvas is closed at the puerto (door) and it is dark except for the glowing rocks in the centre. Pancho then poured water over the rocks filling the lodge with steam. More rocks are brought in after each session. The sessions honour family, past and present, friends and self. The participants are encourged to speak about who they would like to pray for but there's no pressure. Each participant passed a gourd, which rattled, shook it before they began to talk, and then again as they passed it to the next person. After the circle of prayer is complete for that session, Pancho poured more water over the rocks and sang a chant which sounded native. The chants call to the powers that be to help the participants find an answer to problems or concerns. The lodge of course gets filled with more and more steam. And yes, it is intensely hot in there by the end of the 4 sessions.

Initially, I almost backed out. Those of you who know me, know that I am mildly claustrophobic and one look inside the sweat lodge had me wondering if I would enjoy it. I talked to Pancho about it beforehand, and he said I could sit at the door opening, try one session and leave if I had to. He really encouraged me to try and said that it would really help me. After the second session, there was no getting me out of there and no shutting me up! :) Pancho and Carlee kept checking on me the whole time. I trusted the universe which hasn't failed me yet since I've been here. I am so glad I tried it. After the ceremony, we drank water and shared kiwi fruit and watermelon and threw cedar into the firepit as gratitude to the powers that be. I felt lighter, cleansed and strangely calm when I left and slept like a baby that night.

Note: This is a simplified explanation of this ancient form of healing ritual. There are many parts of it that I cannot even begin to explain due to my inexperience. It really deserves a blog entry of its own, but I am playing catch up again.

Ahem... to change the subject drastically ... onto Victor's 36 hour pizza! Most of us expect a pizza in less than 30 minutes or it's free. Right? Well not in Chacala. Victor, the caretaker of the casa also has a little pizza stand down on the beach road. He's not there very often though. I noticed him setting up shop on Wednesday morning and asked if he would have pizza later. He answered that he would have some about 5 o'clock. I walked down at 5, no Victor, no pizza. After the sweat lodge, we walked over and Victor was there but no pizza was ready. He said to come back tomorrow at around 4 pm because he had to pick up cheese in Las Varas. I came back at 4, Victor wasn't there but "Dust in the Wind" was blaring from the speakers inside. There were signs that activity had taken place though. The little pizza stand was looking very nice with a planter on the counter and even a little table to sit at with a bright red tablecloth. He had hung an interesting painting in a frame above the planter. But still no pizza and still no Victor. After Chico's I went back and there was Victor, the aroma of fresh baked pizza wafted into the air. The place was hopping with 3 people sitting at the table, 2 people waiting on the bench, and 2 people waiting at the counter. I ordered 2 pizzas, one Mexicana and one pepperoni which I decided on after he brought out each one and had me inspect them to be sure. Trouble was, after all this waiting, I had no dinero with me to pay for the pizza! No trouble .. I will give him 25 pesos manana ...

Here's a glimpse at Victor's little pizza shop and his newly decorated counter.

I love the spontaneous creativity in Chacala, even if it takes longer, the end result is ultimately satisfying..

Today I bid goodbye to Larry and Carlee who are headed back home to Denver. We had breakfast this morning at Majahua, an oceanside hotel and restaurant. This gem of a place is expensive but it is undeniably special. Meals are relatively inexpensive though with breakfast totaling 210 pesos for 3 of us. Here's the view from breakfast in paradise.

And one of the seating areas with the stone steps leading the way and me and Carlee ...

I was sad to see them go. Such good people. We promised to keep in touch by email. We spent most of our breakfast talking about Canada's free health care system. I still can't believe the US hasn't caught onto that yet.
Manana is moving day! I will be saying goodbye to my sweet little El Faro and moving on down closer to the ocean to Casa Monarca for my last week in Chacala. I will be posting lots of pics of my new digs soon. I'll have to walk my suitcases one at a time but it's not too far.
And I really know that I've been here a long time when I tell you that I'm going away for the weekend. A vacation from vacation! :) John told me about a place called San Sebastian which is a few hours inland from here. It's a mountain town, one of the oldest in Mexico, nestled into the Sierra Madres surrounded by pine trees. The temperatures are a bit cooler there so I'm glad I packed my jeans and hoodie. There's lots of historical buildings, cobblestone streets and authentic Mexican living. We are trying to figure out a bus route there but it hasn't been easy to get information. We're considering renting a car since we don't have a lot of time. I'm looking forward to this little excursion very, very much and will be posting lots of pics soon!
Hasta luego good people.
Love to all ....


Anonymous said...

Hi Charmaine

I am so enjoying reading your blogs and seeing pictures of your adventure!!

Maureen S.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charmalita: Loved your adventure so much, what are your plans now? Are you going to return to Mexico or somewhere new? What are working on in the meantime? I miss your blog......

A good friend as close to you as next door!