Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


View from living room...yesterday

It’s been a busy week here. Had dinner down at beach last night, Bocana, a favorite spot. This is where the Copalita River empties into the Pacific. It’s a beach that changes by the hour it seems, but it is one of the more popular surfing beaches, and the waves were awesome yesterday. In the past, this beach was also famous for it’s mud-baths, as at the river edge a lovely mud is deposited. Literally bus loads of people would go down to the beach for the mud, then jump into the river to clean it off, or head to the ocean and take a swim to wash it away. The Copalita River has been handling a large volume of water lately, though, and the mud-baths have gone to the wayside for a while. The river is also a great white-water rafting spot, especially now. Bocana is in the throes of development, and it isn’t the lovely, quiet, charming little hamlet these days. I suppose we have to take the “progress” with the good. Great little restaurant down there though. Lucy, the owner, makes the most delicious traditional food. Sat back with locals and new friends, and talked and sucked up seemingly a lot of beer, watching the waves in the moonlight, stars blinking, and children playing in the street long after they should be in bed. It was one of those nights.

I’m glad to have a computer again. Our friend Pam kindly risked a bit of trouble to bring it in. Mexico only allows one computer in per person. She travels with hers, and slipped my new Mac into her carry-on with hers. No one batted an eye in customs. You just never know what goes by customs and what doesn’t. We asked our niece to bring some veggie and herb seeds down when she and her husband come, and I told them to scatter the packages between the suitcases and carry-ons just in case. We are always plotting it seems. Mexico frowns on seeds of any sort coming in from another country. A friend of ours lost peppercorns recently, because even though it is an herb, it’s a seed. Aagh.

We keep up with movies with the computer. Thank Steve Jobs for Itunes I suppose. We just watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and loved the film version. I knew the next one was coming, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and hated to think we’d be off to Costa Rica, before we could see it. The books were wonderful by the way, if you haven’t caught up to the frenzy, read them.

We are heading out to Costa Rica in a couple of weeks. The eco-tourist capital of Latin America, Larry wanted to take a look at how Costa Rica handles it’s rich environment compared to Mexico. Southern Mexico is awfully close to what Central America is like, but they do have animal life not found here. We get Tejons (which are large, about the size of a small goat, alien-like creatures with the tail of a monkey, which our little beach is named after), and the usual big cats, including jaguars, but not those beautiful Macaws or the monkeys. Chiapas, just a few miles south of us, benefits more from it’s logistics to Central America, and has more of a variety of birds and monkeys. Hard to believe, but we shall see. Larry’s brother Ron, and his truly significant other, Helen, are working on a Habitat for Humanity project outside of San Jose.

Snowbirds are starting to trickle in, and Fonatur (the local government agency that guides our lives here) is busily repairing streets, and shoring up landslides. Must be the dry season. Changes are even happening on our favorite street in town. Our friend Ulysses has opened up a bar/antijito place across the street from Mama Mia!, our local Italian hang-out, and a delightful breakfast-lunch place that used to be in Santa Cruz, has moved next door to Ulysses. Max, the owner of the breakfast place, makes cinnamon rolls like no other, and serves them with a espresso that reminds me of Italy. Hemingway's Cafe is on the corner, and you can find great music, food and drinks, in mellow surroundings for a laid back evening. We teach English on this street, and on the days we are down there, it takes us forever to get back home. The people, food and drink are vastly superior on this particular street. It even has the best little comida corrida place we have ever eaten at.

And so it goes. Weather has been a steady 85ish, and the nights still incredible. I am up walking more, and am now using just the walking canes. Finally. I thought I would never get off crutches or the wheelchair. Just in time. We are looking forward to the Day of the Dead here, such a lovely, moving experience. Wish you all could be here at this time, it is magical.....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Birds, autumn in Mexico, and street food

The parrots are in full force here this week in the neighborhood. They hang out for a while and then move on to better places to eat, but when they are here, they let us know it. They are loud and chatty and fun to watch. In June and July, there was a flock of about 20, now with the babies and new recruits I'd say there were about 100. They take over entire trees and talk, talk, talk. They talk while they are flying, they talk while they are resting. Loud. I told Larry it feels like we live in an aviary sometimes, between the parrots and the chatty cockatiel behind us. This morning we woke to the cocatiel imitating, we think, a long lost dog friend. The bark sounds like one of those little dogs that bark all the time. Guests always ask where's the dog, we laugh. Then it moves on to a crying baby, whistles a little tune that is a fragment of some sailor-type song, and then on to imitating all the other birds around here, and especially the parrots. The cockatiel loves when the birds come.....

It is already turning orange and brown, but the flowers are blooming. Two weeks without rain and Mexico moves into instant autumn, or I should say summer. Really only two seasons here. Leaves are already starting to drop. But the flowers are blooming like crazy, and the colors are brilliant!

But the weather is still perfect. Had friends for dinner last night. We sat out on the patio watching the sunset, listening to the birds (parrots) quieting down, and the frog/cricket population picking it up a notch. Miss Maggy (our guest cat) snagged a bat, and chased down a toad..our usual evenings. Change of weather funny enough lead to a conversation about food. Street food to be specific, as our guests being from the Isthmus, filled us in on the how some of our favorites are made.

One of the truly great treats on the street are the coconut tortillas. They are amazing. Crunchy, slightly sweet, coconut flavor, so good with coffee. Claudio explained that they are cooked underground, like in a tandoori oven for those of you who know Indian food. They slap the tortillas on the wall of a ceramic oven, in the ground, and are cooked until crisp and slightly browned. Naturally as we were talking about them, we had to have one, even after a grilled steak dinner, with pear tart for dessert, out came the tortillas...that good. Then we switched to moletes.....

Moletes here are amazing. They are prepared by mashing plantains, cooking them, forming them into a sort of meatball shape, and stuffed either with a salty cheese (our favorite) or meat/salsa, then deep fried. We buy them off the women on the streets, still hot, and oh so delicious. Claudio's wife, Adriana, is an excellent cook, and has promised to lead me to the proper method of cooking them perfectly. But that first bite, slightly sweet, slightly salty, is unbelievable.

And speaking of seasons, it is elote (corn) season now. For fans of corn on a stick, dipped in mayonnaise, sprinkled with local cheese, and chile, it is heaven. I held out for two years on this street food before I would eat it. The mayonnaise ingredient had me worried. But last Day of the Dead, up at the pantheon, a vendor was selling them, and I gave in, had to try it, illness be damned. Oh my G!!! It is soooo good. Larry still refuses to go there. He waited for me to get sick after I ate it, and nothing happened. Everybody eats them though. Whole streets of people walking around with corn on a stick, glee in their faces.

We sometimes buy our cheese on the street here as well. The local Oaxacan cheese is a bit like mozzarella cheese, sold in a big ball, and pulls apart like string cheese. Mild, slightly salty, it is so good in quesadillas and tlayudas (another street food treat, a large tortilla, piled with beans, cheese, and other things depending on the vendor). Friends here are doing cooking/food classes for the tourists who come on the cruise ships, and one of their classes is local cheeses paired with local mezcals. Now there's a class. Pairing cheese and mezcal. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it (for those of you in wine country). Mezcal is a story unto itself, and we have tasted a lot... When Will and Dan were here at beginning of summer, we did a bit of tasting and found another mezcal called Tobola...still made from maguey (different from Tequila and usual mezcal cactus, but a maguey), that now has turned into a favorite. Everyone has a favorite mezcal though, and like wineries, there are 100's of versions (as I have written before, the mezcal road to Oaxaca is full of “tasting” rooms).

At any rate, we have come to appreciate the street food a lot more than restaurant food here. I don't think there is a bad cook to be found in Oaxaca, from tasting various vendor's food and accepting any invitation for dinner from a local. When we say this, locals laugh, and agree. Then they will tell us of another vendor who does tacos like you have never tasted.... and we are off to another foody moment....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The jungle has taken over!

It has been so beautiful here this week, I hate to even mention it. The mornings have been cool, in the low 70s, and the afternoons have been in the mid 80's, and the nights breathtaking. This is January weather in October. We have been sitting out watching the sunsets (spectacular), counting the stars and smelling the sweetness of evening scented flowers, and watching fireflies filling the trees as if it was Christmas Eve, with sparkling displays of flashing lights. We have begun to dry out, and the local wildlife is coming out of the jungle shaking off wings, basking in the sunny afternoon warmth, and coming around to see what we might have to eat. A new iquana has moved in with us, a lovely large, dark green female. She has been sunning on our solar panels (for the waterfall in the pool), and generally hanging around the kitchen, keeping an eye on us.

We have a guest cat staying with us (Miss Maggie), who can't seem to get enough of all the wild life she can chase. Centa (who is not even acknowledging Miss Maggie), has been chasing a few frogs and lizards herself. Can't keep an eye on them all the time, but I swear they both seem to be always eating something these days. The dark side of cats I suppose.

Larry ready for the dead.
You know it is October here, not just by the change of weather, but I see the days leading up to the Day of the Dead already starting (the special bread has come into the markets). For Oaxaca, Day of the Dead (actually 2 days), is a big deal. I have written about Day of the Dead before, this being a major holiday in the lives of Mexicans, similar to Halloween, but far more spiritual and beautiful here. There is anticipation in the air. Everyone goes to the pantheons/cemetaries, bringing gigantic boquets of marigold flowers, and food, to share with the ancestors. It is two days of food, music, prayer, all on top of the graves in the cemetary. In the evenings most of the graves are lighted by candles, that lends an otherwordliness to the cemetary. The city of Oaxaca is jammed with people during this time, as no one seems to do it better than the Oaxaqueños.

We are now also seeing the gearing up for "the season". The cruise ships have already started to come in, and a few early snowbirds have been sneaking down as well. In another month we will once again turn into a tourist destination, as the hotels and restaurants are in the throes of improvements, revamping, and just plain getting ready. For our snowbird friends, well we can't wait to see you too!

We'll be heading to Costa Rica next month to hook up with Ron and Helen (in laws and outlaws), for a couple of weeks, ending up back in Oaxaca City for a few days with friends. We are flying in and out of Oaxaca right now, as the airline thing (Mexicana went bust, Continental/United, or whatever it will call itself, isn't coming in here until Dec we hear), and it costs a bloody fortune to fly out of here to Mexico City right now. Like we're suffering.

Good time to come if anyone wants to see a beautiful place, without tourists though. The beaches are empty, the water looks good, lots of surfers are coming in we hear. The flowers are blooming; the blue morning glories have taken over everything in sight, lovely.