Category Archives: Travel

Boom!! End of San Andres Fiestas

Boom! Final night (November 30)

Each night of the San Andres festival is sponsored by a different group. My understanding is that the group foots the bill for the bands and fireworks on their night. The last night was sponsored by “Hijos Ausentos,” the children who have left their wonderful homes here on Lake Chapala in order to earn more money up north (US and Canada). (I won’t make any comments about how simultaneously sad and happy this seems to me.)

The hijos austentos did it up big.

This last night featured a large group of traditional Mexican singers and then a big (16 people?) modern band with very sharp-dressed musicians. Most excellent music all around. The plaza was packed. Not uncommon are small groups of young folks with a bag of ice, a bottle of tequila, one of Squirt, and some plastic cups. A good time is had by all, I must say.

Procession on its way to the plaza

Camotes (sweet potatoes)

Special treats for sale

Singers

We were in the church-yard around 10 p.m. in anticipation of the fireworks. A big structure is built each day to hold the fireworks. Each section is lit off separately and the propulsion from the rockets spin the different designs around — a fish, a parrot, Donald Duck, the holy eucharist. I have no idea how they build this thing and make it work but it provides the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen. After all these spinners are finished, the top is lit and spins around and then fireworks are sent up into the sky.

Woooo!

Eucharist

Notice the guy on the tower!!!

Fireworks!

Wow

Boom

If you ever have a chance to visit Ajijic during the San Andres festival, do it. Really.

Boom!!

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Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Yesterday we made our first visit to “Super Lake,” a grocery store catering to ex-pats. I found the American-style brown sugar I hadn’t seen at the other stores we visited. And I was overwhelmed by the narrow aisles crammed with expensive imported goods. Need Bob’s Red Mill products? They’ve got you covered. Tillamook cheese, vegan mayonnaise, Irish steel cut oats, Pop Tarts, Red Rose tea, Gold Medal flour, Prego spaghetti sauce, every kind of cracker you could want. Anything you are craving from NOB (North of Border), they’ve got it if you’re willing to pay. The prices shocked me. I think the steel-cut oats were the equivalent of about $15 and the Red Rose tea (my usual go-to), about $8 a box. I won’t be buying any of that stuff, I can tell you that! I am happy with the Mexican brands of flour, oatmeal and tea sold at regular stores.

My husband completed his first home improvement project with the assitance of the landlord’s handyman and a very very very tall ladder. He installed a pulley (which he had brought with from Oregon) on the rooftop deck so we can raise and lower our laundry to be hung on the line, a bottle of wine, binoculars, snacks etc. Seeing him climb that ladder made me scared, but the basket system sure is nice.

Last night, we woke to a big lightening storm. It went on for quite some time. Maybe the next time, I will get up to the roof to watch it!

As we settle in and interact with other ex-pats, I observe that some move here with very little (or no) experience of Mexico — what it’s like, customs, legal rules, the language. Seemingly, they see a price tag for their lifestyle that is less than what they are paying, and decide to move. I believe this leads to an expectation (and then disappointment) that things, people, places will be the same as they are used to in the U.S., only for less money.

This country has so much to offer. I want to learn more of the history (hoping to find a child-level Mexican history book), more of the language, more the customs, more of the food, the religions, holidays, beliefs. I want to be respectful. I don’t expect locals to speak English and I greatly appreciate their patience with my Spanish. I don’t expect stores, restaurants, systems, foods to be the same as they are in the U.S. If I wanted things the same as in the U.S., I wouldn’t be here.

That said, who’s perfect? I will probably duck into Super Lake for brown sugar when I want to bake some cookies.

Pantry: today, so not prepared for the Armageddon

If the big Cascadia earthquake comes this week, we’re in a world of hurt. Of course, we would be in a nightmare anytime an earthquake came. But now, after having eaten or given away all of our pantry, we’d be in a particularly bad way. Usually we have a good quantity of dried beans, canned beans, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, garlic, soy milk, home-canned tuna (and salsa and pickley things) olive oil, coconut oil, spices, oatmeal, flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips — pantry staples. Now, we are down to nuts, dregs of various vinegars, a few cans of beans we might in the next few days, some minimarshmallows and rice krispies (can you guess why?) and a box of crackers. The freezer went to the storage unit today so we have no help coming from there.

This winnowing down of our pantry has made me think a lot about how I cook and how I am potentially going to cook differently in another country/another climate.

Now, cooking usually goes something like this: what’s plentiful in the garden right now, and how can I center a dinner around it? Winter squash? Beets? Tomatoes? Kale? Cauliflower? Eggs? Grab it and then look into the pantry. Can I use my produce with rice or pasta or beans? Can I make it into a pizza? Can I roast it in the oven or make it into a soup or curry with a can of coconut milk?

Moving, we won’t have a garden. We won’t have our own chickens. There will be no dinner inspiration provided by something from the yard. We’ll have weekly produce markets (hooray) and stores. And it also seems like most things are in season all the time in Mexico. We will be able to eat the faw-away-from-Oregon foods (mostly fruits?) we don’t eat frequently here: bananas, pineapples, avocados, mangos, papayas, warm-from-the-factory corn tortillas, who knows what else? A new pallette/palate. I’m eager to experiment, to cook differently, to perhaps rethink the well-stocked pantry.

We’ll see.

In the meanwhile, we have no provisions for an emergency. Must be time to get out of here!

In a box to the left

Things are getting emptier at our place, including our chicken coop. Our four Buff Orpingtons went off to their new home and we are down to the last few of the home-layed eggs.

We have taken several Subaru-loads of items to our new storage unit. As I pack, I am thinking once again about “needs” and “wants.” What do I need to pack for a year in Mexico? How many T-shirts do I need? What kitchen stuff? Are most of those things that will sit in the storage unit for a year “wants” vs. “needs?” When we come back, will I wish we had gotten rid of more things or will I be happy to be reunited with the art we love, my winter coat, my few pair of impractical-for-cobblestones shoes, my colorful 1960s Pyrex bowls and our juicer?

I’m starting to have anxiety dreams about packing the car — what if the things we want to bring won’t fit? What will we jettison to the storage at the last minute? Not my running shoes, golf clubs, art suppies, or kitchen knives, I can tell you that.

 

Sorting, decision-making, boxing, moving.  Busy days here.

Soon, we will be driving … and then sitting on the plaza in Ajijic…where a person might see a great band of school-aged kids who can really play.IMG_1385

Dutch oven mac and cheese

Another camping adventure.

We are getting our camping system down to a system — what to bring, how to set up and take down, cooking and dishes. Most recently, we headed out to a camp ground along the Pacific Crest Trail. Having the PCT there made for great hiking! The weather was clear and we saw lots of mountains. We camped next to a tiny lake. It was quiet, with only a few other camping parties.

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Lakeside

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A tidy camp is a happy camp

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The SIsters

Cooking-wise, we tried out the dutch oven mac and cheese. It’s a keeper. We had a little miscommunication about the temperature for the dutch oven (my husband thought I wanted it as hot as for pizza, but alas, I only wanted 375 degrees). Luckily, the recipe calls for opening it and stirring after 30 minutes so were able to salvage our dinner. The burnt crust at the bottom was actually quite good too. I looked at a zillion recipes on the internet and zillion minus two all started with pre-cooked macaroni. Who wants to deal with that on a camping trip — either bringing cooked pasta with or cooking in camp? Not us. Continue reading

Travel Planning

The summer is all about gardening and hanging out in the Pacific NW. The Olympic track and field trials. A little camping. Bike rides. Ball games. Foster dogs from the shelter. Canning salsa. Golfing with friends. Drying apples. Making fig jam.

And travel planning.

Looks like we are going to spend two months in Mexico this winter and I can’t wait. It will be our longest trip to date. Yes, I get anxious leaving home for that long, but soon after the plane takes off, I put it behind me and turn toward the adventure. We are planning to start our trip near Ixtapa with some (scary for me) surfing lessons administered by an encouraging long-time seldom-seen friend. Following Ixtapa, we will take an 8-hour bus trip to Guadalajara to spend time in Ajijic, a town on Lake Chapala. That will be followed up with some more nights on Lake Chapala, either Chapala itself or Jojotepec, or the hot spring spa at San Juan de Cosala. After, we will board the bus to Puerto Vallarta and the boat to Yelapa.

Love that Yelapa place! I look forward to seeing friends, playing croquet, relaxing on the beach and eating well.  We will spend a month there and I will still be sad to leave.

After Yelapa, not sure, but likely a car rental and drive down to the Mayto/Tehuamixtle area for a few days of super-quiet remote beach time. Or a a spell in the mountains (via bus) in Mascota and Talpa. We will finish up the trip with some big-city activities in Vallarta and head home to springtime in Oregon.

It can be frustrating to try to figure out logistics — where to fly in, which places we can go by bus, what fits in before and after our Yelapa reservation, searching AirBnB and other lodging sites. It’s also fun and exciting. We enjoy our enjoy travel three ways: planning and anticipating, the trip itself, and then the memories. A way better payoff, to my thinking, than a buying a big screen TV or a fancy car or a bigger house or cable TV or more stuff.

Says the woman who bought a new dress last week …. (See prior post)…

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Stuff vs travels: struggles of a minimalist wannabe

I have been flirting with minimalism (voluntary simplicity, living with less, whatever) for years. We (I) don’t need so much stuff. I learned that from clearing out 80 years of my parents’ stuff when they passed. We live in a small (by American standards) house; we don’t have new cars or new furniture; and I try to resist the lure of consumerism. This lack of buying and debt helped us to retire early. When I do have the urge or need to buy, I head for the thrift store or online used-clothes shopping. I prefer travel, experiences, decent wine, and donating to charity. Though I have a long way to go, I try to walk my talk. (And luckily, my husband has the same values.)

This past winter, in Mexico, I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I had thought it sounded too cutesy for me but a friend recommended it. And now I recommend it. After our Mexico trip, I “Marie Kondo”d my closet and started on the rest of the house. I got rid of half (or more) of my clothes. I got rid of boxes of books and other stuff.

Marie Kondo says to pile up ALL of your clothes in order to sort and tidy. I did it -- it works.

Marie Kondo says to pile up ALL of your clothes in order to sort and tidy. I did it — it works.

Not pretty! But I did it!

Not pretty! But I did it!

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