Monday, May 25, 2009

Almost Time

Well it had to happen. We arrived on March 10th and now it's almost the end of May and we have to think about going home. We've started to get organized, have made the phone calls home to make appointments with doctors and the dentist and have made arrangements to have the phone reconnected and the newspaper delivered.

It will be wonderful to be home again - I can't wait to see my son and it will be great to reconnect with all our friends. We've booked flights to fly east to visit family in Ontario in July. Mike is anxious to get out to the golf course and is hoping to play at least 5 games a week until we leave again in mid October to head back to Mazatlan.

Only problem is, we're not quite ready to leave yet! There are still so many things we haven't done, or seen, or eaten!

I'd love another trip to Stone Island. I wanted to walk the length of the Malecon and haven't done that yet - wasn't strong enough when we first arrived and now it's too hot. I'd planned on going to Church one Sunday (I'm not Catholic, but the churches are so lovely, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind). I would love to spend the whole day at Playa Bruja, just watching the waves roll in, and then spend another afternoon at a palapa on Playa Norta. The afternoon would of course include a grilled Red Snapper for lunch. We wanted to have another roasted chicken from the vendor by the Market, with perhaps another roasted sweet potato to go with it. We have several more shrimp recipes to prefect.

There are still pictures to be taken - the huge hibiscus tree we pass every night when we walk Abi, the flowers growing out of the cracks in the sidewalks, Alfredo's store on the corner, inside and out .... the list could go on and on.

We've met so many wonderful people since we've been here, but in so many cases there just hasn't been enough time to get to know them well.

However, we will be back, on November 1.

It will be so much easier this time. We know where to get the gas tank for the barbeque filled, I've found a place to buy wonderful flowers, we have our favourite taco stand, the list of things we have learned goes on and on. I just wonder what will happen next visit, what else we will learn - every day so far has been an adventure!

JJust for fun I've attached a picture, just because I like it! No explanation, it was just there.....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Street Party

Banda is a style of music typical of this part of Mexico and is hugely popular. It is always played loudly, very very loudly, with lots of trumpets and trombones and the odd drum or two.

When the schools were closed during the swine flu outbreak, a group practiced in the empty beauty school on the corner. We went out a lot. This evening, we decided to stay home to watch a movie.

However, it's Saturday night and the guys up the street have decided to have a birthday party, with music, banda music, loud banda music. They started earlier in the evening with recorded music, but a band has arrived and has set up for a live performance. They are right outside the door (and our bedroom window). There are about 10 guys in the band and they also have an announcer, with a microphone, who is singing and telling jokes. Which we can't understand of course, but everyone is laughing so I assume it's jokes he's telling. He could be talking about us! We have closed the windows, turned on the air, and turned up the volume on the TV. It's not working. Abi is going to start howling any minute. Mike has gone outside to watch the performance - we can hear it quite well from inside! The crowd is growing - they really love this stuff.

I'm going to be honest here - I just don't get it. It all sounds sort of the same - they play for a little bit, then everyone stops,they re-tune their instruments, then they play the same song again. Well, it might be a different song, after awhile they all sound the same. Mike just came in and said he thinks he might be starting to like it. Perhaps it is time to go home for awhile!

We took this picture at the school the other day (you got it - another banda band!) He was having a great time, all by himself, not a girl in sight!

This is going to be a long night - glad we both had a siesta today. Now, where on earth did I put those earplugs?

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Queen

Our neighbours, Chuy and Lori, told us yesterday that their grand-daughter, Alejandra, was being crowned as the Queen of her elementary school, which is just down the hill from the Casita. Not wanting to miss the chance to meet royalty, Mike and and I were at the school bright and early this morning to witness the coronation. The music started playing at 7 a.m., loudly, so we didn't have to worry about sleeping in.

It was so much fun - they had food for the kids (hot dogs and also fish cerviche which is something you don't see served in Canadian schools), everyone got a balloon (even us), and the music was provided by a local group who played typical music from this part of Mexico - loudly. We were the only non-Mexicans there but I think some people recognized us and we certainly felt welcomed. I'm sure they wondered why on earth we were there!

To be honest, we're not really sure how the queen is elected - Chuy originally mentioned something about collecting empty pop cans, but I think he must have been referring to something else. His English is better than our Spanish but we all do a fair bit of guessing during our conversations.

It really is a huge deal to these girls though - no matter how they are chosen. The dresses are spectacular, they have all had their hair and nails done, and the make up is expertly applied. Plus, the Queen of Carnaval is there, in person, to crown the Queen. Wish you could have heard the cheering when she arrived - especially from the boys!! I`m sure every little girl in Mazatlan dreams of being Queen of Carnaval when she grows up.

The boys looked pretty good too!

The newly elected Queen even had a dance with her Dad - poor Grandma Lori was in tears at this point! Chuy, by the way, stayed at their Taco stand, which is on the street beside the school. He climbed a ladder and watched the whole thing over the top of the fence!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sometimes they fall.....

We met this old guy when we moved into the Casita. He spends time on the roof of the building next door, but to be honest is not much of a guard dog. He wanders over to the edge periodically and sort of 'woofs' a few times, stops to have a good scratch and then heads back to the shade for a nap.

Unfortunately, he either has a really poor sense of balance, or absolutely no depth perception, because he fell off the roof a week or so ago, about 2 floors down, to an empty lot, filled with rocks and rubble, for what we have learned is the 4th time!

He's a tough old guy. It's two weeks later and he's back. He still 'woofs' once in a while, in his deep old dog voice, and continues to deal with his itches. He does seem to be staying a bit further back from the edge of the roof however.

Who says you can't teach on old dog new tricks!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Walk to the Library

Monday was hot, overcast, and postively dripping. Not rain, just humidity. However, there were things we needed to do.

I needed to go to the library and then we had planned to meet friends for lunch at Puerto Viejo, one of our favourite lunch spots on the Malecon. Off we went, camera in hand, to record the somewhat damp trek. (It's really only 15 minutes, but with several stops, it took at least an hour or so). We wore our lightest clothing, but it didn't help - by the time we made it to the library, we looked like we had been to the pool.

We paused several times as I needed to bond with a few of my favourite ruins, and then there were the other buildings that just needed to be recorded for prosperity as well.

We also needed to say Hola to the ladies - all dressed up but nowhere to go!

We stopped in at a small Museum near the Plaza Machado, a restoration of a typical upper class home in the 1800's. We've been meaning to go for ages and today seemed like as good day as any. It was fascinating but hot! Next time we'll pick a day with at least a bit of a breeze. Note to self - don't complain - in the 1800's women wore long black wood dresses, with corsets, and stockings!

We decided after this we needed a refreshment at Fish Taco, our usual drop in spot at the Plaza Machado, with of course, a few more pictures on the way.

Now getting closer to the library, more pictures, then a quick stop into the Art Gallery (gorgeous, and air conditioned).

After the gallery, it was across the street to the Library, which is run by ex-pat volunteers. I picked up 2 more books to read before we leave. I bought them from the 10 peso pile ($1.00) and will add them to the library at the Casita.

Finally, the Peurto Viejo, a well deserved Marguerita and lunch.

We lucked out - our friends drove so we got a ride home.

By the way, I took 81 photographs on the way. No wonder it took so long to get to the library!

Not your basic Neighbourhoods

I love it when people comment on something or ask a question about something they have read on mexicoatlast. In response to a query about some of the pictures I sent ...... Mazatlan is a city the size of Winnipeg, and I'm not even going to try to pretend that I've been everywhere in the city, so will only mention the areas we know fairly well.

From what we have seen, houses in Mazatlan rarely have front yards, however, behind the front door, there could be a beautiful courtyard, hidden from public view. In some areas of the city, the walls appear to be blackened and unkempt – this is often caused by the rain and himidity in the summer months, and also by the effects of being beside the ocean. It is not uncommon to see a building where the front wall, facing the street, has been freshly painted, while the side and back walls not visible from the street are left to weather. We've also walked past homes that are so small, and very sad and shabby by our standards. However, it also not unusual to see the owner, out with a hose, cleaning off the sidewalk, or sweeping up garbage from the curb. Then again, there could also be a whole family living in a house that appears to be totally deserted, with no effort made to tidy up, anything, at all. It`s a totally different culture.

We live in an area of the city called Centro and we are very close to the area referred to as the Historical area. It is not uncommon to see a total ruin beside a house that has been completely restored. Quite often, these ruins are just shells, and all that is left is the outer wall of the home. If the house is being restored at times a totally new house is built inside the shell of the original property. However, the exterior, when restored, must retain the original appearance and even the colours are regulated by the Historical Society – just like at home. The restored homes and buildings are spectacular and truly lovely. The ruins are truly beautiful in their own way; I find them fascinating. We overlook one from our patio and I have spent many hours staring at it and would love to know it's story.

It can be very tricky walking in this area. There are so many stunning buildings to look at but it is also a good idea to keep your eyes to the ground as the sidewalks are very uneven (often change in front of each building) and because of the hills, quite often have stairs – also uneven. We have also learned how important it is to keep an eye out for the air conditioning units mounted on the side of buildings, overhanging the sidewalks, often at forehead level. Ouch. You really need to have a third eye when walking the streets of Centro!

There are areas in the city where the houses are brand new, and the streets look very similar to those at home. Friends live in one of these areas, Las Gaviotos. This is where we stayed when we used to come down for our 2 week breaks from reality before we retired and if we weren`t in love with Centro, this is probably the part of town we choose to live in for our winters. It`s very pretty – the streets are wider, the sidewalks somewhat more manageable, and the houses are of course much newer. There have certainly been changes over the years. Wanda and Tom have just moved into one of the new high rise condos which have been built right on the beach. We`re looking forward to seeing the finished product as we first saw this as a huge hole in the ground. Brenda and Wayne have moved to an apartment just down the street, across from the beach. Their street has trees and also houses with grass!

We`re amazed by the amount of growth a little further north, in the Marina area. Mandy and Don live in a beautiful condo over looking the Marina, another building that didn't exist when we first started coming here. The high rise towers are sprouting up everywhere in this part of the City, and also same rather glamourous looking gated communities. I don`t know this area well, but it doesn`t really appeal to me – it just doesn`t feel like Mexico. However, who knows, after years of tripping over the curbs, an elevator could look rather enchanting. Never say never!

The Ruins

Ok, this is my favourite part. I can't help it, I just love these old buildings. These were taken today on the walk to the library. It's extremely humid and therefore quite overcast, but the grey skies or not, these lovely old relics are still beautiful.

The Condos

I realize after I started this whole thing that I really don't have great pictures of this area - will have to work on this. These were pictures that we took from Wanda and Tom's condo - the 21st floor - and the view was amazing. The new construction goes on for miles. We're going for a swim this week in their pool - will try to come up with something better then to show how brand new and modern these buildings are! But in the meantime, enjoy the view....

The Suburbs - one block from the beach!

These are a few of the homes on the street where our friends Brenda and Wayne have rented an apartment. No ruins in this neighbourhood!

Drippingly Hot

It is 8:28am, Monday, May 18.

I have just checked the weather forecast for the week.

Right now the temperature is 25 but it feels like 35. The humidity level is 83%. The other site I checked said the humidity was 96%. At these levels, they both feel much the same.

The high today will be 34. I wonder what that will feel like as it already feels like 35? The low will be 25.

Tomorrow the high will be 35, the low 27. The rest of the week is more of the same.

Last night the power went out - too many air conditioners running, too humid, too hot.

We are now averaging 3 showers a day, not counting time spent underwater in pools. Most of the pools are unheated in Mazatlan. Now we know why. When we got here in March they were like ice water; now they feel like bathtubs. We no longer turn the hot water on to shower as the water coming from the water tank on the roof has heated to the point that the hot water is completely unnecessary.

We love Mazatlan. Would we ever consider selling our home in Canada and living here full time? Nope, never.

Oh well, at least we don't have to shovel this.

You'll have to excuse me, I'm heading off to shower, again.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Year Later

Michael and I went out to dinner tonight, to celebrate. We retired one year ago yesterday, but our first year of retirement hasn't been quite what we had envisioned. We didn't go out to dinner last year. I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and we were reeling somewhat, and really didn't feel like celebrating anything. The big concern one year ago today was just getting through it all; mostly at the time, really just dealing with the fear of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

It has been a year I hope never to repeat, but as dreadful as it has been, I have also learned so very much. I have learned to treasure the good times and to try not to dwell on the bad (or at least to try to erase them from my memory).

I have learned is to treasure my husband, who has been my pillar of support and also my best friend. I guess the wedding vows meant something - you know, for better for worse, the good times and the bad, sickness and health. I truly pray that we never have to test our vows like this again! By the way, we left out the obey part, which is just as well, because I still ignore him sometimes (wear your hat, stay out of the sun .....)

I also realize how special friends can be. I have been so very lucky to have had a wonderful support group, some very special friends, some old, many new, and we will always be so very thankful for their presence in our lives. There were many times when it was hard to be cheerful and positive and it helped so much to have them to be there to pick up the pieces. It also gave poor Mike a break.

So, last night we went out to dinner, to celebrate. Everything. Retirement, health and good friends, both old and new.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sun Rises and Sun Sets

I woke up early yesterday morning, just couldn't sleep, and found myself out on the patio at 6:30 a.m. This was the sunrise.

We spent the evening visiting with friends, Wanda and Tom, at their lovely new condo in the Golden Zone. Their unit is on the 21st floor, so the view is spectacular. So was the sunset.