Tag Archives: Jalisco

16 de septiembre

The holiday season has begun here in México. 16 de septiembre is Mexican Independence Day and the festivities are a blast. Someday, I guess, I will live here long enough that I can’t rouse myself for a 10 minute walk to see lovely things and have fun. But now, I’m al in.

Ajijic has an annual Regata de Globos — a hot air balloon festival. These aren’t the kind you ride around in; they are smaller. They are made of tissue paper and sent aloft with flames creating hot air. The event takes place in the fútbol field and is well attended. There are food and drink vendors and many teams making and launching their globos. Some go off without a hitch, after a lot of hard work, and sail up until you can no longer see them. Some fly for a while and then start on fire and drop from the sky. Some go aflame right there in the campo de fútbol. It’s a wild time and beautiful to see the handmade creations take flight. It’s sad, exciting, and funny when they don’t.

The day before Independence Day, kids’ games are held — running races, sack races, the greased pole climb, and one game where kids try to pry coins off a comal with only their mouths.

The night before Independence Day is the Grito de Dolores — a cry by Miguel Hidalgo that roused the people to fight for independence. It took place in the town of Dolores, which you may know now as Dolores Hidalgo. The grito commemoration at 11 at night. In Ajijic, the time leading up to it finds the plaza full of people watching ballet folclórico (the troupe included some very tiny girls who could really whirl their skirts around), mariachis, and a local singing contest (the crowd votes the winner with applause and the prize is a bottle of tequila). This year, it was a mighty close decision between an older man on crutches (who sang “Mi Lindo Ajijic”) and a tall young bearded hipster-y guy who the female MC asked to turn around so the ladies could admire his backside. In the end, the older man won and crutched off the stage with his bottle. Many of the singers this year were reading lyrics from iPhones, making us think of karaoke nights.

The local bellezas (beauty queens) were present with their intricate up-dos, perfect makeup and expensive gowns. A group of runners from Guanajuato arrived with the flame of independence— they had been relay-running for several days. They looked tired and so proud and patriotic. Touched my heart.

Earlier in the evening, we saw some high school aged kids in uniforms practicing their marching. They were the ones who marched the flag to the stage at the opportune moment. Someone read the Mexican declaration of independice, of which I understood more this year than I had in the past. Lots of stuff about the Catholic faith in there; who knew? The national anthem was sung (it’s long). The local delegado made the grito (cry) of Independence and everyone responded “VIVA! VIVA!” And then there were fireworks. The plaza was packed, many folks toting a bag of ice, a bottle of tequila, and plastic cups. A band would play long into the night/morning, long after we tottered off to home and bed.

On the actual Independence Day, a parade wound through the narrow streets consisting mainly of groups of uniformed school kids (all ages, with varying abilities to stay in formation), and horses. I love watching this, seeing the kids’ pride and that of their hovering parents. The horses? They’re big scary animals, okay? But some are pretty and have nice braided manes.

Other holidays will follow: Revolution Day, San Andres Festival, Dia de los Muertos, and then on to the Christmas season and the new year.

We’re ready. Bring it on.

Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa, and back home

Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa, and home again

We spent about two weeks in Yelapa and Puerto Vallarta. We aren’t proud of our croquet performance in this year’s tournament but we had fun and largely ignored the croquet-related drama. Who knew that adults, most over age 60, could argue childishly in two different languages about rules, with words like “puta madre” and “asshole” being bandied about? That said, there were some amazing shots by novice players that unified the spectators and reminded us about the real pleasure and spirit of croquet.

I ran several mornings while in Yelapa, around the same time as the kids were going to school. The sky seems sheer and luminous before the sun reaches its full force. The paths are mostly quiet, the beach empty except for restauranteurs setting up for the day, few boats making noise. Chachalacas scurry around the paths and fly-hop to perches in the trees.

We ate well at some of our favorite restaurants: Tacos y Mas (fish quesadillas fo me!), Los Abuelos (chimichangas!), El Pelon (chiles rellenos), Ray’s (Ray’s special salad), Rogelio’s (beachside tuna-stuffed avocado), Pollo Bollo (vegetarian burritos) and Cafe Bahia (which has risen from the ashes of its fire, like a fenix, serving the same fresh California-esque food with a grand view of the bay).

We spent a lovely day at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, wandering with friends and scoping out plants we might want for our garden once our house is finished. We had the most exquisite cocktails there, most notably the vanilla bean mojito (vanilla is grown there at the Gardens).

We found Vallarta’s Romantic Zone to be getting exponentially taller. It seems that many charming one, two and three story buildings have been razed to put up condo towers. A small hotel that we really liked, Casa Fantasia, was among the casualties and is now a flat spot with construction machines on it. There is still some charm left to the this old-town zone but it seems to be fading fast. It makes me sad.

On the home front, our house is coming right along. We are hoping our special-order tile from the town of Dolores Hidalgo will arrive in a timely way and not delay the completion. The subcontractors have the cabinets, doors and windows largely finished and things should start to come together quickly (we hope). Currently, the garage and front wall/entry are being completed and the fireplace is underway.

I am still happy to wake up in Ajijic every day, despite some recent incidents of violence. Most days I am out of the house around eight to exercise. The village is quiet then, some folks are going to work, a few running are to stores in their pajamas to pick up eggs or milk, dogs are searching through garbage, birds are singing, the tortilla factory is churning. One day a boy of about three was headed purposefully across Calle Ocampo, barefoot, with a 20-peso note in his hand, no doubt to pick up a missing breakfast item. We smiled and exchanged “Adios” greetings.

Los Muertos Beach, Puerto Vallarta.

Yelapa, boats in the lagoon.

Tacos y Mas restaurant, Yelapa.

Croquet at Yelapa Oasis by the River.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens.

Our fireplace under construction.

Globos and goats

A few weekends ago, we attended the annual Ajijic Globos Regata and took a tour of a small goat farm.

Our first Globos event was fun. We met up with friends at the futbol field/stadium where the event (a tradition since 1951, evidently) is held. The stands were full, and groups were set up on the field — beer and food tents and various teams who were assembling and launching their globos. The globos are hot air balloons — smaller versions of the kind people ride around in. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some launch uneventfully and gracefully float for miles. Others crash and burn (or even ignite before launching!). That is when the excitement really begins — kids run toward the flaming globo pieces and stomp out the flames and some flaming parts hit the walls, canopies or even the power lines! HEADS UP, PEOPLE! This is excitement!

Ooops!

No flaming debris fell from the sky on our goat farm tour the next day. The small farm, Galo de Allende, is located near the tiny town of Mezcala.  We had a fabulous view of the lake. The goats are well taken care of by the young owners/cheese makers. They eat a diet of grass, moringa, and plum tree leaves and are curious and friendly creatures. We fed and petted them and a few intrepid volunteers tried their hands at milking. We ate goat yogurt and cheese and had an altogether lovely time.

Baby goat!

Are we returning to the States?

“When are you coming back?” has changed now to “Are you coming back?”

When we embarked on our year in Mexico, our idea was to experience all the seasons and explore a place for future snow-birding. Our other idea was to get out of the US for a while, but I will leave my political opinions for another time.

For some months, we kept saying, “Yes, we are staying for a year.” And one day my husband looked at me as we were sipping gin and tonics on the mirador, and he said, “Is there anything we DON’T like about living here?” We thought about it, and the answer was: no, there is nothing we don’t like.

After that, our discussions revolved around the logistics of finding a long-term rental, or whether we should buy a house here. We talked at length about whether to keep our house in Oregon as well and continue renting it out, or whether to sell it. We talked about how much time we would want to spend “up North” every year, and where we would want to spend it.

After all these discussions, after going to countless “open houses” and looking at houses with a realtor, I was finally persuaded to my husband’s idea of building a house. Given the hot real estate market here, we never saw anything in our price range that met our needs — walkable neighborhood, nice kitchen, small but nice outdoor space. We started looking at lots and talking to builders.

And on August 15, ground was broken for our new house. Two bedrooms, two baths, and a lap pool, in a central walkable neighborhood. We are excited.

I am sad to leave my friends, my garden, our neighborhood, and our wineries (!) in Oregon but being landlords long-term isn’t for us. Neither is owning a house that we only use a few months of the year — it’s not financially feasible and also seems like a waste of the planet’s limited resources. We will have our new home here in Ajijic and find temporary nests in Washington State when visit the US.

For those who asked “When are you coming back?”, the answer is: sometime in October. For those who asked, “Are you coming back?”, the answer: is not really, or at least not now!

Christmas and the New Year

Christmas and the New Year

Having never spent Christmas or New Year’s outside the US, I wondered if I would get homesick. I will say that I didn’t miss the constant societal push to shop, shop, shop, buy, buy, buy. I didn’t miss the plague of advertising. I didn’t miss the cold weather or the rain or snow.

Instead, I watched the live scenes of the “five mysteries” outside the church. I hung up a piñata my husband bought me. I saw all the families sitting outside their houses on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), eating, drinking, making merry and sitting around glowing bonfires. I gave some envelopes of pesos to the trash guys, the police, and the house cleaner. I had brunch with new friends on Christmas Day and cozy dinners with my husband. I saw a Christmas that seemed different than that NOB (North of Border) — one where no one was busy shopping and people got together to enjoy each other’s company.

I did, to some degree, feel homesick. I missed having a Pacific Northwest fir tree, decorated with ornaments from my parents and my life. I missed the days of baking I usually do — my mom’s recipes, mostly. I missed our house adorned with festive lights. I missed entertaining, having a Solstice party, having folks to dinner, and going to friends’ houses for get-togethers. I missed (really) good wine.

New Year’s was fabulous. We caught any early play reading at the Naked Stage, Nora and Delia Ephron’s “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” Have you seen it or read the book? I recommend. After, we had a great pasta dinner with friends in their lovely century-old hacienda-style house. The Ajijic malecon then started up with music and we danced a gringo version of the cumbia on the concrete walkway along with tons of other people who were enjoying themselves. Midnight, the fireworks which blasted off from the pier to the sound of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

We walked home shortly after and saw a group in the Seis Esquinas plaza. Adults were hoisting piñatas on a rope over the tree limb and kids were taking turns whacking them with a decorated broomstick — rushing forth to claim the candies when the piñatas burst. At the corner near our house, a large family group was gathered at tables, with their bonfire, and were playing some kind of gift exchange game. From babies in arms to the elderly, everyone was having a blast commenting on who should give a gift to whom. I have no idea of the rules, but a good time was had by all and the gifts seemed to be accompanied by kisses.

Piñatas

Our neighborhood also evidently hosts Ajijic’s New Year’s Day parade, which started around 1:00 p.m.. Leading the parade was a local cowboy and his horse, following by “Wonder Woman” on her horse, a banner proclaiming the parade a gift to Donald Trump and a bigger-than-life-size Trump effigy being carried by guys dressed as Lucha Libre wrestlers. On Trump’s backside was a “hit me” sign and many gringos from the crowd happily obliged, greeted by cheers and laughter. Many of the parade floats were themes from the movie “Coco” (have you seen it? You must!). And there were bands. Bringing up the end were a host of folks dressed as expertly-painted loteria cards. Better than the Rose Parade, at least in my opinion!

But then again, I am biased, and am so loving the holidays and culture I am experiencing here in beautiful Jalisco.

Beach trip

A brief trip to the beach

Chilly weather here at Lake Chapala motivated us to take a 4-night trip to the beach. It was about a 4.5 hour drive to Barra de Navidad. The scenery included berry farms, sugar cane harvesting, huge dry lakes, mountains, volcanoes, and cities.

Stayed in Barra de Navidad and visited the other small beach towns of Melaque and La Manzanilla (not to be confused with Manzanillo, a big port city with huge container ships coming in and out). We enjoyed all three towns and decided that the best beach was La Manzanilla, flatter and calmer.

We visited the crocodile reserve in La Manzanilla too. It’s a self-guided tour on a wooden walkway, with some swinging bridges, over the swampy habitat. We got to see a small crocodile eating a bird, although he was obscured by the mangroves and the photo didn’t turn out. The man at the entrance gave us a safety speech — no running, pushing people, leaning over…and no swimming.

We took a boat tour out of Barra de Navidad — firsst, we went through the back bay which has houses on canals, a fancy hotel (Grand Bay Isla Navidad), golf course, a small town, and seafood restaurants. Then we went out into the big bay where we were fortunate enough to see a whale breaching very near our boat. How fortunate we were!

We ate some delicious food including ceviche, seafood cocktails, and fish tacos on the beach in Melaque and la Manzanilla, and excellent breakfasts at Bananas Restaurant (Barra). And a fancy dinner of molcajetes at Manglitos in Barra.