Thursday, December 31, 2009

Feliz Ano Nuevo

We were just starting to get all fussed up and pretty for our first New Years out in years when we heard a commotion on the street. So, up to the terrace on the roof we went and what a surprise ... we have a van, unloading speakers .... many many speakers, very large speakers.

However, we are now veterans and I have found my ear plugs. This could be fun - not just the 'boys in the hood' with the music turned up really really loud in the van - but a real, serious, street party. A very loud street party. This is New Years Eve .... we're going out .... and I can't wait to tell you what the rest of the night is like!

We have also made up the bed in the Casa downstairs, just in case!!

Feliz Ano Nuevo!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Fish Dinner

It just poured rain 2 days ago - rained through most of the night and off and on all morning. And then, just when we were beginning to wonder if we should start working on the Ark again, it stopped and the sun came out. It is quite unusual to have rain in December, and this has been, I think, our 3rd rainy day this month. However, it does stop eventually and everything is still lovely and green so we're really not complaining too much about the occasional damp day. To be honest, if I was here for a 2 week holiday, or just in for the day on a cruise ship I would be upset, but we're here for almost six months, so as I said, we just sit back and wait for the sun to come back.

Our very good friends, Jerry and Diane,

had promised us a fish dinner, and even though it was pouring rain they headed out at 8 a.m. in the morning to pick up our main course. They spent several months last winter in La Paz, and while there cooked a few 'morsels from the sea' and are working on perfecting their technique.

I did mention that they are very good friends? It was just pouring!

They had made arrangements the day before to pick up a 2.5kg Pargo, (red snapper), however the storm made fishing a bit difficult and instead they came home with two Sierra (mackeral). Mike waited patiently while they worked their magic.

As far as we are concerned, they have it pretty much perfected. Jerry was right to become emotionally attached but it was too late! As Jerry said, "Holy Mackeral!"

The Sierras were cooked to perfection - crispy on the outside, wonderfully moist inside,and as far as Mike and I were concerned were every bit as delicious as anything we have eaten on the beach.

We've suggested that if they run out of cash, and want to stay a bit longer, they might want to apply for positions as chefs at one of the local palapas.

We ate it all - fish, salad, roasted onions, and of course, Jerry's world famous jalapeno poppers.

As Julia would have said, "Bon Appetit"!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Peace on Earth

For all my fretting, we actually ended up having a lovely Christmas! I was apprehensive at first as this has been our first Christmas away from home. It was the first time that we would spend the day without our son, Jeff, who couldn't make it down for the holiday. I worried about my Mum as my Dad passed away this summer, and this was her first Christmas alone without him. We didn't have a tree. And then we had no sleep at all on Christmas Eve and I caught the dreaded Mazatlan cold that everyone seems to have.

Christmas is Christmas however, and we ended up having a wonderful day! We had long telephone chats with Jeff and my Mum and they were both fine. Jeff assured us that he had attended to all the important Christmas details. He had a tree and the fridge was stocked with mandarin oranges, egg nog and Christmas cookies! What more could a young man need? We had a truly wonderful dinner with friends, and marvelled once again at the beauty of their home. As well as a lovely Christmas tree, they even had their own angel, who appeared on one of the cut branches on their palm tree.

The presents we decided to exchange at the last minute were perfect. Mike's new shirts fit him perfectly and I found a book for him by one of his favourite authors. He bought me earrings that match the dress I plan to wear for New Years and also a picture by one of my favourite artists.

Santa gave us both gift certificates for a massage. Santa also gave us a star, which we have hung in the Casita, below the one that was already here. We'll bring it home with us in the Spring and find a special place for it there.

Even Abi enjoyed her day, and her special treat.

We are now resting up, getting ready for the big New Years Eve party. I've found my ear plugs. All is right with the world.

Except that I might soon run out of kleenex!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Enough is Enough

Right now I am NOT filled with the Christmas Spirit. Last night, Christmas Eve, around 10:30 p.m. a pick up truck roared up the street, music blaring, and parked just past our place. Several of the neighbours joined the driver for what appeared to be an impromptu street party. I gave up trying to follow the movie we had been watching as I couldn't hear the dialogue and went to bed. At 3 a.m. they switched to banda. It is now 6 a.m., December 25th, and they are still at it. The music is roaring (at 5:30 they turned it UP) and they are all just hooting and hollering out there. I don't care if street parties are part of the custom and the culture of Mexico, as far as I'm concerned this is just rude and inconsiderate. I have been awake most of the night. I did bring ear plugs, but I can't remember where I put them, and I'm too tired to look for them. I don't understand it - there are people on this street with children, this is Christmas morning, why don't they say something to these idiots. Usually I laugh off these moments, but not now - I am just very weary and very angry. I know that after time, this could be amusing, but I doubt it. Enough is enough. I hope Santa puts coal in their stockings and the reindeer poop on their heads.


I wrote the above several hours ago. I am still awake, and annoyed (!) and also somewhat amazed. They are getting louder, people are joining them. They haven't even started to fade. Why hasn't anyone put a stop to this? We can't be the only family on the street who didn't feel like partying til sun-up!

I have decided, that since I am up anyway, I might as well be somewhat productive, so I've started to make home fries to go with our Christmas morning omelet, washed up the dishes left over from last night, and I'm doing my nails. I'm going to look really tired (make up can only hide so much!) but at least my nail polish won't be chipped.

Feliz Navidad everyone! I'll let you know if we managed to stay awake long enough to enjoy Christmas Dinner!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I really really hate Banda music. I still love Mexico, but I hate banda, a lot. I'm not too thrilled with some of my neighbours either. Like I said, coal and poop.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hace Mucho and the Star

Earlier this month, Mike and I attended a sale of restored and rebuilt furniture and artifacts at a local business called Hace Mucho. The sale was held at the home of the owner, just around the block from our casita, at the corner of Belisario Dominques and 21 de Marzo. Casa Azul is one our favourite houses along Belisario Domingues - the old homes are magnificent, and so are the trees!

We were hoping to perhaps find something just a little different to bring back to Canada with us, something that would remind us of the beauty of Old Mazatlan. There were so many lovely things, especially some of the larger pieces of furniture. One in particular, an armoire, was beautiful, but there was no way that was going into the car for the trip home!

We were thrilled when we stumbled across the Star. A very very long time ago, the Star formed part of the ironwork in a window of a home somewhere in Centro. It is rusted, the paint is chipped, it weighs a ton, and it barely fits into the truck of the car. We have no idea what we will do with it when we get it home. And we love it!

Hace Mucho, by the way, is pronounced 'ah-say mucho' and means "way back when".

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Time Flies

I realized this morning after receiving an email from a friend at home that it has been awhile since I have posted anything on mexicoatlast....

Well, what excuses can I come up with? None really, other than the fact that we have been busy, doing stuff. What sort of stuff, you might ask?

The days just seem to fill themselves. We get up, earlier than we would like to some days (dogs, roosters, mufflers - or the lack thereof, music...) but the mornings are lovely and who really needs to sleep anyway. We have breakfast (the yogurt is delicious by the way), walk the dog, check our email, make the bed, the usual stuff of day to day life. Sometimes it's a long walk, and then Abi just needs to rest.

And then it starts. We are trying to pace ourselves - if we know we are going out at night, we stay home more during the day. If we have a busy day, we just get comfy for the evening.

We shop at the Market several times a week for fresh produce. We do hit some of the bigger grocery stores every few weeks to stock up on the bulk items and were quite excited last week to stumble upon Heinz Relish. Real relish .... Mike was thrilled and we rushed home to barbeque hot dogs for lunch. If we had been thinking we would have bought several bottles - could probably have auctioned them off and made enough to pay for groceries for at least a week!

I have started volunteeting at the library Mondays from 11 til 3. We usually meet with friends afterwards, for drinks and an early dinner. Mike is also taking bridge lessons on Monday mornings. I was going to take lessons as well, but decided the library would be a lot more fun... just my opinion here! I think perhaps in the New Year I will try to fit in both, go for lessons and then leave and head for the library.

We attended a wine tasting party on the 6th which was a definite do-again. The hosts have recently moved into their new home on Lookout Hill, which is the other hill in Centro. Their view is amazing - should be the perfect spot to watch the fireworks during Carnival. We all brought wines from California and an appetizer. The next tasting will be early in January, Spanish wines this time. The January hosts live in the Golden Zone and they also have a view of the ocean. I have to tell you, it's a tough life!

We attended a baseball game a few weeks ago, with friends from San Francisco, and it was an adventure. We ate, and ate and ate - tostadas, ribs, wings, hotdogs, peanuts - the food was great and our team won! The Venados have made it to the playoffs. We would like to think it was because of our very enthusiastic support, so have another baseball evening planned, between Christmas and New Years. We don't want to let the boys down! Mike and Don were quite enchanted with the Pacifico girls ... wonder why?

We attended a party at the Old Mazatlan Inn, a combination Anniversary/Christmas celebration. I truly wish I had taken the camera as there were Pinatas everywhere, and the Christmas tree was huge. We also had the pleasure of meeting Amy Roloff, who is the Mum on TLC's Little People Big World. Amy really is an amazing person. It was a pleasure to meet her and we're hoping to get together again on one of her future visits.

We went to an early Christmas get together at Canucks, listened to some lovely Christmas music and ate the best chicken soup we have ever had. After that we wandered out to the Malecon to listen to a concert. The concert was presented by Cultura Mazatlan, the group, Radaid, was from Guadelahara. It is so hard to describe the music - a mix of Celtic, Indian, you name it, it was there. The lead singers had truly amazing voices and the light show against Icebox Hill was spectacular. We bought their CD, but I've found them on Youtube - worth a look up if you're so inclined. Once again, no camera. Oops!

Are you bored yet? We have dinner with friends several times a week and I had a great 5 hour lunch with a friend on Thursday. Mike was ready to send out a search party for us.

We've finished painting the inside of the Casita and I'll send some pictures along soon.

We are still working on our Salsa - this is a work in progress - but we have another class tonight so hopefully it will all start to come together. We are much better at Merengue, but Merengue is a lot easier!

And yes, it is starting to feel a little bit more like Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe

There are shrines everywhere you turn in Mexico, especially those celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to a peasant at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. Legend says she identified herself as the Virgin Mary and requested that a church be built on the site. The Virgin of Guadalupe has symbolized the Mexican nation since the Mexican War of Independence. The armies of Miquel Hidalgo, Emiliano Zapata and Subcomandante Marcos all marched beneath flags bearing the Guadalupan image, and Our Lady of Guadalupe is generally recognized to be a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans. The Basilica of our Lady of Guadaloupe in Mexico City was apparently the most visited Catholic Shrine in the world in 1999.

On the drive down we passed several images of Our Lady of Guadaloupe painted on the sides of mountains and there were dozens of small shrines along the sides of the road. This shrine was at a Pemex (gas) station.

We pass these shrines everyday.

This was discovered at the Old Mazatlan Inn, the little boutique hotel where our friends Jerry and Diane are staying.

The Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12, and the day is considered a Holy Day. This very large shrine is 2 blocks from the casita and has been decorated for the occasion.

And that's the end of today's lesson!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is it starting to feel like Christmas?

Usually at this time of the year I'm rushing about, trying to find the perfect gift so that I can finally say the shopping is finished, while wrapping the gifts that have already been purchased. As we're decorating the house, I'm also mentally revising the menu for Christmas dinner and reworking the grocery shopping list. There are lists everywhere. I'm famous for my list making, a trait I inherited from my Dad! It`s the usual pre-Christmas panic and it happens every year. But no matter how stressful it is, I still really enjoy it and love everything about Christmas, crowded shopping centres and all.

Things are just different this year.

Mazatlan is filled with Christmas. Christmas trees have been available since mid-November and many of our neighbours have had their houses decorated for weeks now. We have seen some houses that have life sized nativity scenes, as well as Santa and the Reindeer, and several Nutcrackers standing guard at the front door. All the bases are covered. There are wreaths, coloured lights and garlands everywhere. The school down the hill has been playing Christmas carols every day while the children are on the playgound for recess. People are wandering around wearing reindeer ears. I've even seen a car with ears.

It should feel like Christmas, but it doesn't.

This is our first Christmas away from home, and I think perhaps I just can't get my head around the fact that it's warm here, and sunny. Christmas is supposed to be cold, right? It feels strange not to be shopping (I bought gifts for family at home before we left in October). Our son won't be with us this year, for the first time. It's been a few years since he spent the whole day with us, but I've never had a year that I didn't see him at all. I know he'll be fine, he even said he was putting up a tree, but I'll miss him. I hope he goes somewhere for dinner, even though he said he's given up meat - he could always eat the veggies. I wish he could come here. We don't have a tree this year, another first. I did bring a box of decorations (31 Santas!) which I put out on the weekend. But I miss the tree, and the shopping, and wrapping paper, ribbons and bows ....

However, that is just enough whining. We are spending winter in Mexico, something we have dreamed about for years and we are having a wonderful time. We have so much to do we have actually found ourselves with 2 or more things scheduled for the same evening. We had company for dinner last night, and then spent the day lounging by the pool with friends, soaking up the sun. We are going to the baseball game tonight, something we`ve wanted to do for ages. I've started volunteering at the library. We`ve finished painting the casita and it looks great. (The Santas are a nice touch!)

I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. Just because this is different, it is still Christmas!

Tomorrow Mike and I are going shopping to buy a gift for a little boy from one of the local orphanages. He`d really like a sports watch, a remote controlled car or a transformer. Then we`ll come home and wrap it all fancy! We`re going to the Christmas Open House at the lovely little boutique hotel over the hill on Saturday and are attending 2 Christmas `concerts` next week. We plan on spending an evening at the Plaza Machado admiring the sights and sounds of a Mexican Christmas evening. We have been invited out for dinner on Christmas Day which I am truly looking forward to. They are a lovely couple, their home is beautiful, and we will be sharing the day with friends, old and new.

Maybe it is starting to feel a little bit like Christmas.

The Ring

I really don't do a lot of shopping in Mexico anymore. Really, it's true, don't listen to Mike! We've been coming for years and for several years did the shop til you drop thing. It was so much fun. I don't care what anyone says, I love beach vendors. Over the years we've amassed a fairly sizable collection of Mexican 'favourites'. I loved the colourful pottery, Mike found the replicas of Mayan gods and goddesses of interest, we collected a wonderful series of photographs which we have framed and hung at home. When Jeff was young he always brought home one of the ironwood carvings. We bought paper mache parrots, glassware, beach blankets, the list goes on and on. The list also, of course, included silver, lots and lots of silver.

I am not denying it, I have managed to collect a fair amount of Mexican silver over the years, a lot of which I still wear, on a regular basis. One of my favourite bracelets was purchased in Puerto Vallarta about 15 years ago, and I still love the ring I bought in Manzanillo shortly after that. I even have, and wear several times a week, bracelets that I found in Taxco our first trip to Mexico which was somewhere around 1975. I do have to confess that some of the things that I have picked up on trips have been 'regifted' .... quite often after I have looked and looked for something unique to give as a gift and have finally turned to my own jewellery box.

We just don't shop that much anymore. We had a recent quick trip when we astounded the folks at customs when we told them we have nothing to declare - we even forgot to pick up a bottle of Kahlua. Usually, however, we will pick up something interesting for the house and I confess that I do pick up the odd personal thing here or there (read into that earrings, or silver ....)

Recently I dropped into a local jewellery store at the Plaza Machado (they're giving away free bracelets – we're all wearing them). They have lovely things. I just took a quick peek – and found 'the perfect ring'. Which I have to have, except that every time I go back, they are closed. I even made a special trip to the bank to get cash (up and down the hill). I have been there 3 times – they are always closed. Today the cruise ships were in. I was sure they would be there. I would never shop on cruise ship day, but they already know I live here. So I went twice. They were closed. That was twice, up and down that darned hill. They were closed. I managed to tie the trips into the market and the pharmacy but to be honest they were trips really made for 'the ring'. And they were closed. They often seem to open in the evenings. Guess where I'm going tonight? I admit it, I have become obsessed. I have worn out shoes, trekking up and down the hated hill. I don't care how much it costs (okay within reason). I want the ring. I will haunt this store until I get it.

And I promise, Mike, I won't buy another thing the whole time we are here.

Maybe. I think I need more shoes.


I wrote this awhile ago, but never did get around to posting it. I did get the ring, that evening, and for a darned good price I should add. I also managed to acquire several more 'free' bracelets, which I shared with a friend!

I'm still looking for the shoes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Silencio, por favor

Oh, how I wanted to yell those words out of the bedroom windows at shortly before 6 a.m. this morning!

The neighbours were out in full force. After repeatedly gunning and revving their car engines, they proceeded to have a good old neighbourly chat while the cars warmed up. Now, its already close to 20 degrees outside so I'm really not sure why exactly they feel they need to idle for a good 10 minutes every morning. Both these vehicles need to have their mufflers replaced. Both are parked about 3 feet from said bedroom windows, which of course, are wide open, because, as I said, it's 20 degrees outside.

However, I am visitor to the 'hood, and customs are customs. So, instead of bellowing out the windows, I got up and shut them, hoping to minimize the sounds of the voices and revving motors (and to keep the exhaust fumes outside where they belong). I do have to confess that I shut them firmly, hoping perhaps they would take the hint. No luck there, so I gave up, got up again and made myself a cup of tea.

The early morning hasn't been a total waste. I decided to catch up on emails. We're having company for dinner so I got the marinade ready for the pork tenderloin and made the dressing for the salad. I've painted my nails. And, the sunrise was spectacular!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Salsa Saturdays

Shortly after we arrived I mentioned to a friend that I would love to learn how to dance the Salsa, and wouldn't it be fun if we could find an instructor and get a class going. Well, Cecilia loved the idea and next thing I knew she had the whole thing set up - she found the teachers and made the arrangements at Canucks (a local restaurant/North American Community Centre) for use of the facility on Saturday evenings. We e-mailed back and forth on a regular basis while arrangements were being made and met for lunch to discuss things, but really, she did absolutely everything and all I had to do was show up last night for our first class.

Mike and I are both just a wee bit stiff this morning and we both need to do a lot, and I mean, A LOT of practicing before next Saturday, but it was so much fun! Mary and Oskar, our instructors, taught about 20 or so of us how to do the basic Salsa step (out-in-out-in-move those hips-just the hips-out-in-out-in-keep those shoulders still-move those hips-keep your head up-feel the rythym-out-in-out-in...... by this point we're all laughing ourselves silly and the waiters and bartender are killing themselves! There were one or two people who were actually dancing the Salsa but they fessed up and admited they's had lessons before. There were also a few who looked they were doing the Salsa, but they were cheating - their heads and shoulders were moving and that's a no-no.

If we can manage to move enough today, we're going to strap imaginary broom sticks to our backs to keep them nice and straight, turn the music on really loud, and practice. Or maybe we'll just listen to the music, and practice tomorrow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dinner at Donia's

We've all had a craving for shrimp, and friends suggested rather than cooking at home we pick up our shrimp from the Shrimp Ladies and then just take in across the street to Donia's Restaurant, where they would cook it for us. We've been busy painting the casita all week and were a bit tired, so that certainly worked for us. We all met at Edgars (our favourite cantina) first, for a 'planning' session and then headed up Aquille Serdan to pick out our shrimp It was a short trip around the corner and into Donia's where we marvelled at our 3 kg bag of shrimp the chefs and then again at the finished product We ran into Natalia, a very good friend and we were entertained by yet another Banda Band. This was when I decided that sign language should be taught in all schools! The music didn't seem to disturb some of the patrons in the least. Dinner was delicious and we all had a marvelous time. Can't wait to do this again!

Safety Issues

I was just getting ready to post another message, and stopped to read a few comments on previous postings. I realized that there was one that I really wanted to discuss in more detail rather than just a responding to as a comment.

One of the things that we love about Mazatlan is the wonderful feeling of safety that we have here. We try to walk everywhere we can, partly for the exercise, but also because it is a whole lot easier than attempting to manouver through the maze of narrow, one way streets in Centro! It's also a great deal more interesting when your feet are one on one (or is it two on one?) with the pavement. We've found the greatest little shop selling pinatas, several marvelous bakeries, a shop that sells nothing but beads. We know the people in our neighbourhood, the teenagers who cluster in a group on the stairs at the top of the street, the eldery gentleman who runs the arcade tucked into a room in the ruined building at the corner, the ladies who nod to us and smile at Abi every day on her walk.
The owners of evening taco stands wave to us now as we stroll by on our way up the hill after a night out. We have even met one young man of about 10 years who surprised us one day by calling out to us in flawless English (turns out his family lived in the States for 8 years and have just moved home). We have also met a little while poodle, named Chicita. Chicata has hot pink toenails, and seems to wear a different sweater every day. It also seems like every where we turn in Centro we run into someone else we know. There are many times that we do not know their names, but they don't know ours either. However, we all nod out heads and say hello, knowing that we could perhaps be neighbours, or could all be at the same party one day, at which time we will be 'formally' introduced. Many times we will stop to chat, one thing leads to another, and voila, we have new friends!

We have spent countless hours walking around, just admiring the elegant old ruins and the amazing resoratation work.

Even the sidewalks themselves are unusual and something you definitely must pay attention to.

Some are flat but some tilt every which way, the curbs can vary from inches to 24", sometimes there are steps to the street, sometimes there are ramps.

Some of the walks are still suffering from damage caused by the last big storms that passed through the city.

I have finally developed a sense of direction and quite often head out on my own. I volunteer at the library one day a week so that walk I do alone. I also go to the market, the Plaza, the fabric store .... just like at home. Every day that we are on the streets somewhere we discover something new and wonderfully interesting.

However, all is not always perfect, and we do use a great deal of common sense. We have heard comments about the number of police officers seen in town, or the number of army patrols who rumble through the streets. They are here for a purpose, keeping the streets safe in town and the roads in the countryside safe as well and we welcome their presence, just as we would at home.

To be honest, there are parts of Winnipeg that we avoid at night. I think every city has areas like that. Mazatlan does too. We just don't go there.

Perhaps because we avoid trouble spots we are living with a false sense of security, but I really don't think so. So far, the biggest hazards to our health seems to be the streets themselves. We have all learned to walk with one eye to the ground to avoid tripping on the cobblestones, and one eye upward to watch for the air conditioners, many of which seem to be mounted at forehead level. This is very difficult to do while gawking at the buildings, flowers, people, etc. which is why we keep a supply of bandages on hand, for scraped knees and stubbed toes!

Sometimes comments made on this blog make me stop and think about things and one made recently reminded me how lucky we are to be living in this marvelous area of Mazatlan. So, I would just like to say, "Thank You!"