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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Turtles and Valentine’s Day

In Mexico Valentine’s Day is a very romantic day, but it is also a day of friendship, when friends shamelessly express love for dear friends.. Amistad (friendship) is mentioned often on this day -- encompassing more than amigo -- a deeper connection, and is said with such heartfulness. This is also the season of the sea turtle hatchings on our beaches, and Valentine’s Day warns us to be careful when we go to the special beaches that still host these magnificent females. Those little ones will be hatching and heading for the sea any day now.

A few months ago, word among the people living south of us on the beaches had spotted a leatherback turtle. Old timers have said they haven’t seen the likes in 35+ years. Friends out on a boat at the same time, spotted a leatherback as well. She was spotted waddling up the beach and laying eggs in front our friends house. It was such an event that they notified the environmental guys immediately, and now the hatchings are imminent. We are waiting for the phone call. This is almost as exciting as when I was with my sister when she gave birth to her sons. Almost.

The leatherback is the 4th largest modern reptile, and largest sea turtle out there (thank you wikipedia, a forum I once banned from research papers as a source), and is on the endangered species list. Like really endangered. The environmental guys will be there when they hatch as well as the community around the area, to ensure the babies make it back to the ocean. This has to be the most reverent experience I have almost ever witnessed here in Mexico. When you speak of the leatherbacks being back, people get a look in their eye, and a shift of mood occurs, a spiritualness if you will, because everyone knows this is a grand and blessed happening.

We will be kicking our own butts if we miss this. Larry and I head up to Mexico City next week for the big adventure. I haven’t been to Mexico City since I was 18...let’s not count those years... For Larry it has been about 35 years. We are meeting our dear friends, Karen and Ed, for a week of exploring. They have not been to Mexico City for 35+ years as well. I expect we will have a grand time. We have researched the museums, archaeological sites, murals, and nearly the most important thing of all, the restaurants (and Costco). We’re ready.

But I will be thinking of those turtles, and hope they can hold off until we get back. It would be so amazing to share this with friends. And that is what Valentine’s Day feels like here. Sharing those incredible days when the possibilities are limitless, friends abound, and we are helping the leatherback babies make it back to the ocean. And one day, 35-50 years from now, another will waddle up, lay eggs, and bring friends together once again, to help those babies back to the sea. Amistad.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Living in Mexico

The most frequently asked question, when Larry and I return to the US (and recently even in Costa Rica) is “aren’t you frightened living in Mexico?”. I know all of us who live here full time or part time just want to roll our eyes when we answer ‘No!’. We counter that it is safer here than our home stomping grounds (the San Francisco Bay Area for us). I’m just about ready to start carrying a page of statistics on violence in the US and Mexico, to do a comparison, when the occasion arises (as it always does). It’s a stupid question. Duh. We still live here, does it look like we have a problem with Mexico?

To be fair, Oaxaca, as well as other southern Mexico states, have been spared the troubles of the North. I was cruising through our hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, the other day, catching up on the Mexico Mix forum, just to see what others were saying about their recent experiences. What struck me was that Huatulco was never mentioned. Never. How is it that such a beautiful place is not even mentioned? I have mixed emotions about this: the happy part says “good!” no one knows about this part of Mexico yet (except seemingly the Canadians, and how is that??) , and sad, because the economy of this region could use the boost of those tourist dollars that are going to other parts of Mexico.

I read through the articles on tequila (yes, quite good), the mezcal (an acquired taste to be sure) the chocolate (well, we’ll talk), safe travel tips (those lonely, dark, less travelled roads), medical tourism (for those of us not insured, or looking for cheap, but effective alternatives, this is a plus), and living here. Ah! Living here. How can you not love Huatulco or Oaxaca overall. It boasts one of the prettiest cities in Mexico, and the loveliest coastline anywhere in the world, surrounded by the Sierra Madre Sur. Ok, the roads slightly-to-mostly suck (and the topes don’t help).

We were out at Hagia Sofia (http://hagiasofia.mx/english5.htm) the other day, and were struck once again about how unique this area is. It is 1/2 hour trip up the mountain from the beach, on the road to Pluma Hildalgo (coffee). To be fair, Hagia Sofia is unique, a former coffee plantation run by Germans who bailed 50+ years ago when coffee prices slumped, has been turned into a tropical botanical garden, with fruit trees and flowers from Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia. It is a project developed by Armando Canavati-Nader that is meant to celebrate Oaxaca, and provide jobs and economic opportunities for local communities.

It is also such a Mexican experience, in that we were made to feel immediately at home upon arrival there, greeted with a breakfast quesedillas, and fruit and juices from their organically grown trees. We sat around having great conversation with Armando and his staff, and after a hearty little walk through an incredibly beautiful preserve, we were served a lunch that celebrates local cooking, a taste of the local mezcal (because there is always a local mezcal), and a dip in the waterfall pool.

This excursion followed an evening with friends on the beach in El Mojon, where we had a bonfire on the beach, and counted constellations in the most brilliant night sky we have almost ever seen. Astronomy 101 was never so easy. All of this in our own backyards, so to speak. The people of Oaxaca are lovely, warm cheerleaders for their region. There is always something to see and do, new foods to try (because with at least 7 distinct regions in Oaxaca, you have ample opportunities to taste something delicious and unique), music and art to soothe the soul, and the best weather (except we all agree May can be left out of the year here) most of the year. Even the rainy season, which transforms Huatulco into a tropical rain forest, is beautiful, and no one even comes during this time of the year. Just as well. Those of us who live here love to see our seasonal friends come (and go), but we get this place the rest of the time all to ourselves....