Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Helloooo?????



Abi asked out this morning around 6:00 a.m. and then we went back to bed for an hour or so. It was early, I wasn't really paying attention to much of anything, and the fog didn't register until we got up again, at 7:15. There was a cruise ship out there, somewhere, I could hear it. But we certainly couldn't see it!

Some other sights around town (without the fog!!) ....

We took friends to Loco Lupes for lunch on the beach yesterday, their first experience. The boys decided to share an order of oysters first. We had our choice of fish and chose the dorada (the large one on the left) and 2 of the red snappers. Delicious, as usual!





Before having lunch, we made a quick trip to the Golden Zone to run a few errands. Well, truthfully, it wasn't all that quick as the traffic was crazy. It's Semana Santa right now, spring break in Mexico, and everyone is out having fun. We've decided to stay closer to home for the next week and to definitely only drive if we have to!

As part of the city improvement programme, trees are being planted along Cameron Sabalo, the main street through the Golden Zone. This, of course, doesn't do much to aid in the traffic flow, but it will be lovely once they are all in place and growing.





Mentioning growing, the plants continue to bloom in Mazatlan, including the bouganvalia on our terrace, the one we were sure was dead. It has virtually no leaves but every day more flowers appear on the bare branches.



I found a great store - sure wish I needed to buy some furniture!



Just your average day in Mazatlan!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Through the Windows


Everyone must be getting tired of my ongoing fascination with ruins, but I simply cannot help myself. I lived in Europe for 4 years as a teenager and it was the same there, except at that time the ruins in question were castles.

This grand old house was certainly not a castle, but it must have been a magnificent home in its day. The exterior has been painted recently and I noticed that most of the debris has been removed from the interior.






The young men painting the exterior of the building across the street were quite amused as I tucked the camera between the bars on the windows to photograph the interior of the ramshackle old building. Silly gringa!

I can't help but be curious about these lovely old structures. Who lived there? When? Why did they leave? And what did it look like, all those years ago???

Saturday, March 27, 2010

LET THEM EAT CAKE

The only problem was, I didn't want cake.

I wanted bread, bread from the new bakery that a friend from the Library told me about. I especially wanted bread from this particular bakery as the piece she showed me was part of a sandwich, a sandwich with real roasted ham. She also mentioned that the baker used whole grains, and made a mean foccacia. I was hooked. I don't eat a lot of bread, but this had now developed into a craving, for bread with lots of taste, texture and flavour.

However, we are all a bit directionally challenged here in Mazatlan, me included. We seem to rarely give directions that involve a street name. Our directions usually involve words like "it's the green and blue building, a few blocks up, on the right, across the street from the bank" and most of the time it works. Except this time. I knew where that darn bakery was, I understood the directions completely, but I missed it on the walk home. I'm going to blame Mike, he distracted me, we were on the wrong side of the street, etc. etc. Whatever. I missed it and as I said, I really wanted some of this bread.

So, when I woke the next morning I decided to post a query on one of our local forums thinking that surely someone could tell me where this place was. I could have phoned my friend, but the directions she had given were pretty clear, and I didn't want to admit that I hadn't found it. I was praying that she didn't check the forum that day.

Thanks to many of the wonderful folks who live here in Mazatlan, I now know exactly where the bakery is (on Belisario Dominguez, just north of the insection with Constitucion, kitty corner from "The Bullfighters Bar", beside the old pharmacy, across the street from the bank) and I also know the name (Molika). I realized after reading several of the responses to my question that I had noticed the new sign on the way to the Library in the morning, but it hadn't registered that it was a bakery, perhaps because I didn't notice the smell of baking bread. I might have been too early or distracted by a fresh coat of paint on a wall, who knows!

The only worry was that I had alerted the rest of the city to the NEW BAKERY and I was a bit concerned that everyone would dash down and clean the place out before I had a chance to decide which shoes to wear on my expedition to purchase the perfect loaf!

Luck, however, is on my side and Hector seems to be baking enough bread for everyone. We have purchased bread to take to friends for dinner, we have eaten there for lunch (words cannot describe how good that sandwich was) and also stopped by one night after dinner at the Plazuela Machado with our friends, Nancy and Paul. We were full after our delicious dinner at Il Musto, but couldn't resist stopping for dessert at Molika.



I didn't have my camera with me, but Nancy is always ready and recorded our selections, before they were devoured. Mike and I followed Nancy's blog, Countdown to Mexico, for several years before we came to Mazatlan, and it was a wonderful surprise when we discovered we were neighbours.

I still feel the need to share, so we have invited friends for lunch at the casita. We plan on serving a selection of Mexican cheeses, a chilled soup, and, of course, BREAD!

Bon appetit!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Give Up




This little fellow, who goes by the name of Happy, or maybe it was Mappy, is the pet of the museum caretaker at Las Labradas. We were enchanted - he was just so darned cute.

Mappy/Happy greets everyone who arrives at the musuem and when bored, wanders over to the hammock for a swing. He has sharp little teeth but did no more than nibble gently on the odd toe. I think he was more interested in what we had in our coolers. He joined us for lunch - the potato chips were a big hit, as was the piece of cantelope. He was not as impressed with tuna or cheese and balony sandwiches and is defintely not a fan of carrots. I know you're not supposed to 'feed the animals' and we are very strict about what we feed Abi, but his owner said it was fine, so ...

However, the caretaker speaks no English and unfortunately our Spanish is still quite weak. We speak pretty good restaurant Spanish, and our grocery store Spanish is getting quite fluent, but when it comes down to details, as in, "what on earth is that?" we are at a loss. We were told by another visitor that he was a 'dejon/dajan/deejuun??' and she also mentioned that there used to be a rather large colony on one of the small islands visible from the beaches of the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone).

I have googled every variation of the word and have had no luck at all. I've tried to find a picture, on-line, with a name. Still no luck.



Mappy/Happy is about 18 inches long and probably weighs around 20 pounds. He has a long nose, somewhat like a dogs, but his nose is very 'perky'. His tail is long, over 2 feet and usually sticks straight up. He has very dainty hands, with longish claws, and holds his food like a squirrel with he eats. He looks a little bit like a racoon, or a possom, or maybe a bit like a wombat (this suggestion from the Australians who were admiring his antics).



So, anyone have any ideas?

The Boys in Blue

I just knew that Patty and Gary would ask me about the security at the beach on the weekend! I've been wanting to say this, but wasn't sure how to bring up the subject and knew I could count on their help.

By the way, Patty and I have been friends since high school in Zweibrucken (3 Wing), Germany. Our Dad's were both in the Canadian Air Force and we were lucky enough to be stationed there for 4 years during the 60's. Okay, that would be a good math question - just how old is she anyway? Patty will remember that I had a very healthy respect for the very (very very) large German Shepherds used by the Military Police on the base. Their kennels were right beside the track where we went once a week or so for Phys Ed and I was terrified of them! The dogs, not the Police!! I think it had something to do with the teeth, and the snarls. I've never been a great runner, but I did pick up speed on the section of the track that bordered the kennels.

Patty and I were actually VBF's; that's "Very Best Friends" and what people were before someone invented BFF's! We both eventually moved back to Canada, Patty to Ontario, my family to a base in Nova Scotia. It was harder to stay in touch those days - no email, no facebook, very expensive long distance telephone, just good old writing paper and stamps. We were a bit lazy but did manage, through the end of high school and 'higher' education for both of us but we eventually lost each other when we were in our early 20's, both living in Toronto! It was many years later (more than 25) when, unbeknownst to me, my mother mentioned an article she had read in the Ottawa newspaper to my husband. Through that article Mike was able to 'find' Patty for me. He gave her to me for my birthday that year. More math.

We have only seen each other twice since we reunited as Patty lives in Southern Ontario with her family and Mike and I are in Manitoba, but we talk regularly on the phone and Patty and her wonderful husband Gary comment on almost every posting on mexicoatlast.

So, this is for Patty and Gary!

Yes, the local constabulary are a bit intimidating - you should see them roaring down the streets, standing in the back of their trucks, weapons at the ready! There are usually several of them on 'active' duty when the ATM's are being loaded with cash, and they also travel with the Pacifico and Tecate beer trucks when they make their deliveries. Question - are they guarding the money in this case, or the beer?

The police, and army, are a much more visible presence now, ever since the drug cartels have been attempting to move into Mazatlan and other areas in the State of Sinaloa. There have been dreadful incidents in recent months, and members of the security forces have been injured and some have lost their lives. We hear about the corruption within the police force and then we look at these poor men on the streets, defending us. Yes, there could be corruption, there could be payoffs. And yes, the men standing on the beach on Sunday, in full uniform on a day when the temperature was 30C, deserve our respect and admiration.

There are many people who are having doubts about the safety of living in Mazatlan and who are questioning their plans to return. There are those who are choosing not to come at all. On the other hand, there are also those who bemoan the presence of the military in town, and the increase in the visibility of the police. I guess you can look at the men in uniform as a threat to our peace of mind if you wanted to, but I do feel more secure having them around. We have police at home, they are just not quite as visible!

We have been blessed and have not been a witness to any of the incidents we have read about. My heart goes out to those who have been hurt, and also to those who have been traumatized by anything they have been misfortunate enough to have seen.

We do not feel that visitors to Mexico are being targeted. So, we are planning to continue doing what we have always done. We will pay attention to our surroundings, and avoid situations that could become tense. We keep our doors locked at the Casita and take only as much money as we need when we leave the house. Just like at home. We also wave at the boys in blue when they drive past us, and say hello to those we pass on the street. They need all the support they can get.

And, we will be back next year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Equinox


Today is first day of spring and we drove back to the beach at Las Labradas to witness the celebration held each year on the date of the Spring Equinox. We went with friends who had never been, so we took some time when we arrived to climb the rocks in search of petroglyphs.



There are over 300 at the site, so of course we found ones we had not discovered on our first visit! The actual celebration was held a bit further down the beach and it was a fascinating mix of ancient Indian culture and Catholicism.



We lined up to be blessed by the Shaman (for want of a better word), surrounded by the smell and smoke of burning incense.

The blessing however, also involved the holding of a rock, which we surmised has special, magical, properties. Roses were dipped into scented water, and these were used to annoint those being blessed. One of the roses broke as I was being sprinkled- apparently it was an omen, of what we're not sure. I'm going to think positively.

There were half of dozen dancers, varying in age from middle age to early teens. It was quite interesting watching the dancers prepare themselves - this young man actually protected his legs with newspaper before wrapping them with shells, a luxury the original Indians had to do without!



This little guy didn't move too far from the side of one of the musicians. I'm guessing he was Grandpa.



There were actually two sets of musicians, and plus one man who played the flute.



We're not sure how the fireworks tied in, but this is Mexico, and it just isn't a celebration without them! There were no colours but they were loud and we all oohed and awed, and several of us were tempted to cover our ears. We noticed just after our arrival that we were being protected, however even our watchguards were temporarily diverted by the displays.



Of course, the day was also about the dancers and they were fascinating. Pictures don't really do them justice, so just hit the arrow on the left hand side and enjoy! We were thrilled to see the traditional Dance of the Deer, which we have seen before on a short video prepared by the Government of the State of Sinaloa to celebrate Mexico's Bicentennial.

video

video

The site I mentioned is 'sinaloaunmundomagico' and it really is magico! The video quality is also somewhat better than ours!

We had the opportunity to participate in a rite of spring that has been celebrated for thousands of years and It was a wonderful experience. The sun shone, the beach was stunning, we were with good friends, and were surrounded by the lovely Mexican people who never fail to make us feel welcome.

What more could we ask for?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Colours





The City has recently implemented a programme to improve certain aspects of Mazatlan. As well as the on-going campaign against the recent increase in crime, they are also working hard to improve the physical appearance of Maz. Teams of city employees are gathering in various neighbourhoods to literally 'clean the streets'. Trees are being planted, and dead or dying ones are being removed. Sidewalks are being repaired, or, in some cases, being installed. This is an old city, and it will take time, but improvements are being made.

I'm not sure about this, of course, but I have heard that the major focus will be in the 'tourist' areas, the Zona Dorado and parts north. This does make sense as Mazatlan is hoping to become a major tourist destination in the very near future. Sigh.

However, we live in Centro, and Centro will hopefully always be Centro! We have noticed the odd new building appear that does not 'fit' but we all hope that nothing too drastic will happen to destroy the character and charm of the historic centre of the city.

Spring Cleaning often leads to remodelling ...



and to painting. Several of the old ruins have been "spruced up" recently. The interiors remain the same but many have had their exteriors returned to perhaps a touch of their former glory.





The camera and I went for a long walk this week, just to enjoy the city and to look at the flowers, and it was impossible not to notice the colours, everywhere!











Yes, there is litter in the streets and the walls are often covered with graffiti. You do have do be careful where you step because not everyone 'scoops the poop' when they walk the dog. Of course, the street dogs just make themselves comfortable, anywhere! The sidewalks are crooked, and the curbs can definitely be a challenge.

But this is such a lovely city - all you have to do is look up!!