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Week 4 – Mexico Dispatches

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I always find myself on the same street regardless of how many left and right turnsI take. Here I am again on Lazaro Cardenas. I say hola to the family with the colourful woven bags. I am relieved to see that someone is caring for la ninas and ninos so they don’t have to tough it out on the cement in the heat. How uncomfortable must that be. I’m happy the bags don’t scream destination, even though they really rather do. I just want one that’s bigger but I’m beginning to think anything would be better than my backpack. Kicking myself for forgetting my practically theft proof roomy shoulder bag at home. 
It is a holiday. Something to do with the revolution. I’m try to find new accommodation for the end of December (not staying at the Cactus which was my original plan) My background noise is punctuated with a regular series of what sound like explosions. Every one of them stops me for a moment. I would blame that for ruining my flow, but I’ve just been hanging out with that old friend ‘lack of motivation and discipline’.

Stomach tells me it is time to make my way out. Nice breeze. Temperature cooler? Here I am again, walking past familiar buildings, businesses and landmarks. Hola to the hat guy. I end up buying another, a white one, a totally impractical. Now I own 5 summer hats, all of which I scarcely wear. Still, it’s polite to say hi. The 80 pesos ($4) isn’t a great expense. Really would like a coffee…thinking about Panino’s, beginning to think of a ham and cheese croissant. Really, how N. American can you get? A girl and I exchange Holas and then she gestures me into a place I’ve passed many times before. I’m credulous about whether there is a restaurant in there or not because the most prominently stated business on the signage is ‘Yoga’ being the business conducted inside. I am led through, past some tables, through the shop…keep going. Around a juice bar, oh here is where they must do yoga. It’s a big empty space, but there are two discrete small dividers and I’m seated at the lone table in the “top” of the restaurant. I am the only person in the place. It is airy, with smatterings of filtered sunlight creating dancing patterns around me. I get a satisfying cup of coffee (and it’s free!) and a delicious meal of Chicken Tinga. 

I check into hostel early so I can get the bus to SPCA. My luggage and other stuff stowed away. Sense of relief washes over me. Professional! 1464 pesos for 9 nights. A kitchen, tick; a cozy sofa, a place to relax, tick. No pool. Didn’t use pool at Hotel Cactus anyway, and it’s the reason I’m here, having cut short my stay.  It wasn’t an inviting pool anyway. It had that concrete compound feel, even with the funky slide. Methinks the place has fallen a bit into disrepair and only the bare minimum is being done to maintain it. It is more shower and bed sort of place, for cheap. Only one of my roommates has arrived to the hostel and apparently he and I are the only two there just yet. He’s a young guy, 21, from Mexico City working at a local restaurant. I didn’t ask him why but I am curious. Could he not have gotten this kind of job in Mexico City? The conversation turns a bit extentialist, him thinking that he should be in university and further along in his life and he’s already looking back at the choices he’s made. The coulda, woulda, shoulda, road not taken and all of that. I am a bit envious at how self-aware he is and also feeling a bit like if he tries to hurry up and speed his life forward to where he thinks he needs be, he may find himself regretting himself not savouring important moments.I told him about ‘Waking Life’ which was heavy on the existentialist theory, or at least so it was in my brain. That’s how I remember it but I could be wrong of course. I recommended the movie with this caveat. It also reminded me that I wanted to see this one again myself. My other roomies arrive but they aren’t English speaking, all Mexican. It seems they are working as well. Our small room is packed. Perhaps I should have booked sooner to get a semi-private one. At any rate, it’s all good.

Coffee Au lait & a version Jamon y queso croissant at the Frenchly named cafe right next door, handy. I hoover it up. I’m starving. The last night’s dinner at the Cactus was microwave popcorn. The view is hardly pastoral 8 lanes of morning traffic hurtle to and fro. But I am satisfied with my stiff caffe. Who cares!! I sip my coffee reading storefront signs and attempting translations; trying to work at developing some kind of Spanish muscle. I get one right away ‘barato’. Cheap…I heard this one shouted at me at the beach yesterday and one other occasion. I suppose it was in response to the fact that I would’nt buy what was being offered, a massage. I now only patronize Nikko’s tent and I tell every massage hawker this. There is one who ignores this and massages my shoulders as he talks to me; half flirting and half soliciting. 

I observe the obviously American and Canadian people go about their regular lives consisting of yoga, fancy dinners etc. with one simple difference: Constant sunshine. I can hear the barking instructions of the spinning instructor at the fitness place next door. Everyone calls it the Marilyn Monroe fitness club, there’s a giant colour Marilyn Monroe statue in front of it, dress flaring up in that famous image of her over the sewer grate; only in their depiction it is a red dress. It is a great landmark. I always look for it when I’m on the bus. I know this is where I need to get off.

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Mexico Dispatches – Week One

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Just arrived. Day 1. That walk into the heat is almost like walking into a warm dense body of water. At first it’s wondrous and then you just start sweating. I packed a couple of handkerchiefs just for this purpose. My host Mario contacted me by imessenger mostly to ask about my arrival, but it impressed me.  I found out later he is the manager of the small property for an absent owner. 

Nikko and Linda picked me up and the airport and we detoured slightly to La Condessa, a roadside open air bar. Nikko ordered us all giant mugs–almost a litre–of beer apiece. I chose Negro Modelo, my favourite dark Mexican beer, which I happily tucked away, drinking it down like water. It soothed and cooled in the 35+ degree heat. We ordered two kinds of flavours of wings I’ve never had before, Lemon and Parmesan. I think I’ll have to get back. d., It’ll mean a bus ride! We drove for awhile seemingly lost trying to find my hotel. It seems the addresses don’t follow any convention at all odd and even on the same side and the address numbers are mixed, larger and smaller as you drive up the street. There’s parking out front and the smallish sign is a bit faded and set back. We finally found it, and Mario was there to greet me on the street, probably wanting to get home because it was after the checkin time of 6 but he greeted me warmly and grabbed my suitcase, hoisted it onto his shoulders and carried it in for me. 

The suite is even better than the pictures. He upgraded me to a 2 bedroom from a single twin and it feels almost palatial compared to my lowest expectations of what it might be.  I’ve got a full kitchen, with a stove and everything. Not that I will use it but I might. The bathroom shower delivers a slightly punishing jet of water, which is very welcome after sweating it out during the day. The a/c in the bedroom delivers on its promise and cools to a temperature perfect for sleeping. If I keep the door open and both ceiling fans going, it also cools the living space. Perfect. Later on I heard rain pelting down. I couldn’t resist going out and sitting out in it, a lonely soul by the pool. The warm rain soaked me to the skin in minutes. I couldn’t have been happier to be in a rainstorm.

Day 2 in Bucerias. Doing a little dripping and detective work I discover I am the only person here so far. It’s a strange feeling and it’s pushing the notion of solitude a bit far. The Netflix and wifi is phenomenal so I’m able to amuse myself in solo quiet pursuits. I was wanting to play some Spanish television in the background to help my ear for it, but that I can’t seem to make that happen. 

I revisited the Casa Tranquila for a stiff cup of coffee…or two…My route there was circuitous and I know for sure i was lost for a moment, but I knew it wasn’t uphill and headed down toward water. I found myself on the next street over, Col. Lazarena, familiar with it from the last trip. I hit the beach and followed the shoreline until I saw the familiar sloped entry to the beach that I had walked many times before. 

I got a recommendation for cheap breakfast which is definitely in order. The last proper meal was on the plane yesterday. I also got a lead on a beach, which again, I’m not sure of its location. Something Blanca. Apparently the beach is lovely white and it is not touristy. Sounds like it is on my list of places to visit for sure. It’s a trip on a bus and then a very long walk from what I gather, because there are no buses that travel to it. Samantha, mum to lovely little Belana (who I played a short game of I drop you pickup) told me to just hail down any passing car and they would take me there. Not sure about that. Never was a hitchhiker so that might be a stretch. 

I walked to beach bar El Chivero, had a couple Negro Modelo’s and wrote journal entry on napkins–forgot my travel journal (yes a travel journal!) at hotel and no wifi meant no wordpress. The only vendor of the few selling their wares I succumbed to was Alejandro, who sold me a bracelet like one I’d lost last year. 

Since my room has a kitchenette, I decided I could do with some. supplies so I decided to make my way to the big local grocery store Chedraui. First order of business was to find a bus stop. But first to find it. Then I saw a casual grouping of people waiting at a corner. What tipped me off is that they all checked their phones and were definitely waiting for something.  All I could summon up was just one word “autobus”, and an older man didn’t really confirm it was a bus stop but did say it was “tarde”; apparently an international malady and I asked the cost. 7 pesos (50 cents) to get as far as the bus goes; in this case Puerto Vallarta. The local city buses are really cargo vans with the seats reconfigured. A narrow space was made for me at the back. As I sat there I wondered where this store was and how i was meant to let the driver know where I needed to get off, but when the familiar destination rose up on right I jumped up and made way to front. It seemed to do the trick. Whether this is right or wrong I have no idea, but  This is apparently the way to do it, because there is  no calling out of stops, stops are anywhere you need to go or anywhere people are standing and waiting. I have to say I rather prefer this to the Canadian way of doing things.

Back at the ranch I had trouble getting in the gate, a lot of trouble. Under the heat of the sun, I felt a river of sweat begin to run down my back and brow. I was reminded of that game show where you had to try keys to open doors to win prizes. I only had 2 keys and one entry. This is not an auspicious beginning. While I sat at the little table outside my room, a man appeared at the gate and then a small wizened woman joined him and we had this conversation across the pool. Well, conversation is pushing it. They spoke in rapid fire Spanish and I said “no se” a bunch of times until I finally decided to plug into my translator the question “are you looking for Mario?” Problem was I couldn’t respond to anything she said after that. I couldn’t pick out any familiar Spanish words in the torrent that followed. In the end I defaulted back to “no se” (I don’t understand) a bunch of times and she wandered off.  I think the learning of a tad more Spanish is in order. Da 

Day 3. What did I do on day 3? Oh yes,…Linda and Nikko, his daughter and her “princessa” Carla came to pick me up. He dropped us at El Chivero, we didn’t leave until dark and I’d spent 500 pesos, Enough said. 

Day 4. I did a bit of wandering along the beach, but then I sought cover under a palapas when I found the rays of the sun a bit too hot and punishing. After my wander I attempted to push through but perhaps too much wandering in the sun earlier or too much beer AND sun the day before meant it wasn’t happening. Mario came and replaced my water and I asked him about the place next door. I wasn’ ambitious to go any further. I asked him also why a cab driver would get on the short drive here. He explained that the numbering convention is nothing like what we’re used to. The development of Bucerias has been even more haphazard than most places because in some cases people would simply choose numbers they liked for their homes. In navigating it, it is more crucial that one pay attention to the landmarks. Other streets that are much more well known are still a bit of a crapshoot. I know now that the dead end we encounter is Las Palmas and Avenue Fibba the cross street, but better yet I’d be more served by saying it is in the Golden Zone. “Zona Oro” maybe at Las Palmas by Royal Decameron. Still not really sure about that or if it is some construct of a hotel owners wanting to make their place seem like it’s in a more luxurious area. There are a lot of luxury condos and bungalows hidden behind tall walls in the area and a dearth of restaurants. At first I couldn’t  exactly figure out how to get to the ocean from here except for some circuitous route through Royal Decameron resort. In there, I passed a pool the size of the average jacuzzi on the left with kids playing in it.  The smallish pool to my right was full of people doing water aquatics.  It is a huge resort and this was just one block. Meanwhile at the oceanside Mexican children frolicked in the surf of the ocean, delighting in the ebb and flow, being pulled out pushed in. Older people swam out beyond the breakers and bobbed in the gently swelling deeper water. 

A biggish flying bug found its way into my room through the gap of a narrow door in my bedroom. Not good with insects, give me one of those geckos I hear so much about.  It creeped and crawled around for a bit and then flapped and flew to who knows where. Great the roommate no one wants.

Day 5. Slept in super late, who cares.  I’m going to leave beachcombing at dawn to another day. I am meeting Linda at the Casa for lunch with a friend of hers. It’s 30 degrees…feels like 41. Ouch. Definitely going to be walking on the sunny shade of the street on my way there. As I went about my morning routine I realized I haven’t had to use any night meditation or medication to fall asleep. The whir of the air conditioner and the fan combined sing me the lullaby I need. My room is plenty cool at night and I sleep under a sheet and light Mexican blanket. Lots of pillows!

Day 6….Hmmm…..

November 6…that whole day thing was starting to mess me up. Perhaps it is day 7 today. Let’s call it 30 feels like 45 too hot for the beach right now. I did a little binge watching last night so my solid 8 got me waking up at 10am. My bedroom is at the back so I don’t hear the sounds from the street, or movement around the bungalows to wake me up. There was an older Canadian couple staying in the one just opposite the night before but only for 2 nights, long enough for her to get preliminary dental work done; a common reason for a Mexican holiday. They were gone when I woke up, so no more idle chit chat near the pool. I noticed a younger couple around yesterday but there’ve no amiable “holas” as we pass each other. Ask but no answer if you know what I mean. I’m writing this from a bar near the Royal Decameron resort called Barchelatas. Because I slept in too late I missed a swim in the water before it got too hot. I’m going to wait until the sun wanes a bit before heading to the beach, maybe. Besides along with having some solid wifi, this place is cheaper and I’ve got a fan blowing a relative cool into my face. There’s NFL and CFL football playing simultaneously along with regional Mexican football. You can tell that a lot of foreigners visit here because only one screen of 6 is devoted to the soccer. 

Got busted by Royal Decameron security trying to get to the beach. No special obnoxious obvious orange wrist band. I guess they don’t want the unwashed masses lounging around in their rarefied amenities. I read somewhere that all beaches are under the purview of the Mexican government but big resorts co-opt them for themselves. So it is with big corp. how can one amiga really ruin it for all those sunshine revelers? Really. I would have allowed him to follow me all the way through to the playa, which is what I wanted, certainly not to be put through my paces in a session of water aerobics. I can do that back home. I also didn’t want to walk 2 blocks out of my way just to get to the beach.

It was another do nothing day. I set my alarm to be up earlier to be sure I could walk on the beach in the morning. A little shopping and then to the beach I think! Another one of those creatures was in my room last night. I plugged up the gap in the door there and trapped it…I think under the side table that is closest to the door, the one  on the opposite site of the bed I sleep on.  It doesn’t fly, at least i don’t think it does, so that’s a bit of a comfort to me. I searched the internet looking for an answer and the only thing I found was a few references to flying cockroaches. Creepy crawly bugs is one thing but give them flight…ugh. I discovered it had escaped to the bathroom where I got a better look at it, exploring and lurking in the shower stall. I tried to take a picture of it but there was no way I was getting close enough to get a good one. Two-tone brown, an inch long, 6 legs, long seeking antennae. Of course my camera needed to be charged so I couldn’t document it.

So….. That was enough for me. Full blown case of the heebie-jeebies. I left the lights on, pulled on my sleeping mask over my eyes and pulled the sheet up and concentrated on the white noise of the fan and a/c, with a little guided meditation for good measure, and woke up to morning light and  the sound of my alarm.

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